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John Sciacca Writes...

Features, Reviews and a Blog by John Sciacca

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Random Thoughts (Blog)

I love my Saturday delivery!

Posted on August 29, 2010 at 11:58 AM

Besides awesome wordsmithing and a tendency towards being sulky and broody I do share something else in common with John Mayer. (And no, that isn’t dating supermodels or double-douching on two Bluetooth headpieces simultaneously or smoking weed in no-smoking President’s Suites at the Marriott or basically having any musical ability at all short of listening.) That thing that we have in common is our love for Fed-Ex Saturday delivery. (Read Mayer confess his love for Saturday deliveries here from the Charleston show I saw back in Feb... )


So, I’m reviewing the new Sooloos music server now and, well, it’s pretty much awesome. One of the things that it can do is play high-res audio files which get you like 5 steps closer to being there when the actual recording was taking place. Unfortunately, I don’t own too many high res files myself. So, Mike at Sooloos hooked me up with like 10 albums worth. Some Diana Krall, Sting, Steely Dan, John Coltrane, Fleetwood Mac, etc. My best description for the difference in sound quality is kind of like when you first saw HD for the first time; you’d sit there and watch nature programs (can I get an “Amen!” from those who remember watching the endless loop which was “Texas Wild”?) of snakes slithering over rocks just because it looked so darned amazing. 96/24 audio is a bit like that; you find yourself listening to things that you might not otherwise care about because it just sounds so darn amazing. (I’m sure that Meridian’s digital black magic and secret sauces aren’t hurting the process either.) I sat through this album of cello music the other night that sounded way less like cello and way more like razor blades on piano wire and faint moans emanating from purgatory, but there was just so much depth and space and air to the recording I couldn’t wait to hear what might come next. (Sadly, all that came next was more scraping and moaning. But, damn! It sounded good!)


So, I’m home yesterday and the doorbell rings. And it’s Fed-Ex. On Saturday. With a package containing my new high-res audio files. Sweet! My razor blade listening days were over! Seriously, John Mayer is right. Saturday delivery is pretty frickin’ sweet. It just surrounds you in the warmest of fuzziest, “They cared enough to send it on…Saturday!”

Then I had another project planned for the day. I am going to be reviewing Lutron’s new Radio RA2 automated lighting system for a publication, so earlier in the week I received a big care package full of Lutron dimmers and switches; all told 17 devices to install. Now, I do NOT like working with electricity. It is hateful. And, well, you never hear about them *killing* anyone with audio wiring. (OK, I guess you could choke someone to death with it and speakers might have gotten a bit of a bad rap down in Gitmo for some minor psychological bombardment by blasting super loud metal at the terrorist prisoner for 24 hours a day, but still, very rarely fatal in its natural habitat.) So, since Dana’s dad is down visiting, I thought, “Perfect! He loves projects and he can totally help me put the switches in! Sweet!” He does home improvement for a living, so it seemed like the perfect synergy. I mean, this was EXACTLY home improvement. It couldn’t be any more home improvement. And more importantly it was my home. (Well, probably for help’s sake, it's better to say, “it was his daughter’s home." ) Being improved by lighting control.


So, when he got here on Thursday, I was under the impression that he was going to help me put these switches in. You know, twice the hands make the work half as light and all. Also, I was kind of under that impression because I said, “Hey, would you mind helping me put these light switches in?” and he said, “Sure.” So you can see where I would get that idea.

So, switch installing time comes, and here I am. Alone. (In his defense, he DID help me install the LAST switch. And, he *might* have been outside the entire day building Lauryn a new slide for the swing set he previously built  So, it wasn’t like he was just laying out by the pool reading my book and fanning himself with my iPad. And, let's be honest, I'm not sure exactly who has higher priority between Dana and Lauryn in the projects request list, but I know that I'm fourth. )


Now let me tell you, installing 17 lighting devices absolutely confirmed one thing: I never, ever, never-never-ever want to be an electrician. There is nothing good about electrical work. NOTHING. (Well, being done with it is good, but I'm guessing "This job is SO hateful that you'll be incredibly happy when your done!" isn't on the job description.)


First, there is the possibility of being, you know, killed. I headed this off by cutting the appropriate breaker to the outlet I was working on. But several of my outlets have circuits from different breakers, so you’d flip one but the other half would still be hot, like a super-electrified rattlesnake that is just sitting there all hidey in the bushes, but plotting the perfect unsuspecting moment to zap you. (Spoiler alert: I made it through the whole process without getting zapped. So if you are reading alone waiting for that moment where I grab a switch and start toe-tapping like that guy in the Pixar short, Presto, sorry... )


Second, you are working in a wall box that is CRAMMED with stuff. Black wires, white wires, ground wires, wire nuts, drywall giblets, crumpled up notes full of threats from the previous electrician.. Every outlet is like trying to pour a 2-liter Coke into a 12 ounce glass.


Third, the wire. Oh, the wire. It is stiff and unwielding and pokey and thick and unbendy and jabby. My fingers are so torn up from screwing around with that wiring that my fingerprint reader on my computer won’t even recognize me now! (Note to self: This is the perfect time for all of those crimes you’ve been thinking of!) (Side note: Dana is actually unfingerprintable. Like she went to the FBI for her airline job and they could NOT get a usable fingerprint. With her in their office. With their experts manipulating her fingers onto the pad. So,kind of makes you wonder how accurate thins like CSI are when you watch them practically pull prints out of puddles of water, if they couldn’t ID Dana under optimal circumstances. So, if anyone needs a set of untraceable prints on something, we’re willing to discuss... )


Plus, there were several lighting legs that I had to literally wire and rewire like 4 times trying to figure out the completely random and nonsensical way that the original electrician had used to make them work. Do you know what a neutral wire and a traveler is? Well, I do. And I don’t feel especially enlightened now because of it. I learned more about 3-ways and 4-ways yesterday than I EVER wanted to know. Which, for the record, was nothing. (And not one of them involved Keira Knightley or Courtney from Survivor.)


So, the next time you see an electrician, go up and thank him. Say, “Sir, I realize that you have one of the most hateful jobs there is, but I love being able to read by lighting and watch TV and listen to music and all the great things that electricity brings. So, thank you for doing the hard things that the rest of us don’t want to do!”


But, now all the switches are in. And, even more importantly, they are all working! The lights go on and, equally important, they go back off again! And, I did 16/17th of the work. And there is a level of satisfaction to that that greatly redeems the dull ache in my fingers. And now…Let there be LIGHT!

Categories: August 2010, Electronics

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