In Which Curmudgeonhood Is Expressed

Yesterday evening was interesting. Came home to dinner (pot pie) prepared by Eldest Daughter, which was quite good. Afterwards, I told her to get her shoes on, and that we were going to stop by the church, then head up to the Tractor Supply Store with a stop off at Walmart.

The mention of the TSS was a ruse, of course. While the place is absolutely fascinating for me (So. Much. Neat. STUFF!), it's anathema for her teenaged mind. Who in the world could possibly get excited over trailer hitches, galvanized tin tubs and fence hardware? Aside from her Old Man, I mean. The TSS is located near Walmart, though, so heading in that direction wasn't a total falsehood... and, if we ended up with some extra time at the end of the trip, I was absolutely going to stop there, anyways.

Because Neat Stuff!

The TSS wasn't our intended destination, though. First was a pit stop at the church, which has a nice, big, and (most importantly) empty parking lot.

Yep. Driving lessons!

She was thrilled. Spent about half an hour letting her toodle around the lot, just helping her get a feel for driving the car. We practiced turning, backing up, pulling into parking spots, making use of turn signals, using high/low beams on the headlights, the critical difference between the brake and the gad, and stopping without causing Dad to bang his head off the windshield. Essential skills, in other words.

I'm pretty sure I only got loud once or twice. In my defense, while the parking lot is nice and big, and was very empty, it also has a rather large drop off on one side. I made sure to keep her well clear of that part of the lot, but one of the "No, that's not the brake, kiddo" moments came as we were oriented to go straight off the edge of the lot and down the hill on the other side.

I think, in those circumstances, a loud "BREAKS! STOP!" (or two, or three... maybe four) was not only allowed, but called for.

Afterwards, we did head to Walmart to look for a set of cheap speakers for my workbench. What I has in mind was something I could plug into the wall, dock my iPhone into, and enjoy some tunes while I'm puttering about.

I mean, that's got to be a pretty common thing that people want, yeah?

Apparently not.

Walmart had an array of (a) unbelievably cheap, battery powered speakers that used Bluetooth, and (b) unbelievably expensive, battery powered speakers that used Bluetooth. Some of which would let you dock an iPhone, but - and no, I am not kidding - would only play music via Bluetooth.

As far as I'm concerned, Bluetooth is a ravenous, phone battery devouring monster of a wireless network. YMMV, but turning off Bluetooth on my phone seems to have helped my battery life considerably. I might want to spend a couple of hours puttering, after all - that's what a workshop is for. Having my phone cut out after 45 minutes because it had to stream music over a wireless connection was a no-go.

Not to mention the whole battery powered speaker thing. I mean, really? Yeah, I understand - that makes them portable. In my situation, though, I know exactly what battery-powered Bluetooth speakers would would mean:

  • Head down to the workshop Saturday afternoon, puttering in mind.
  • Turn on Bluetooth on my phone.
  • Watch the battery percentage on my phone start dropping like a stone.
  • Try to turn on the oh-so-portable battery powered Bluetooth speaker.
  • Realize the speaker batteries were dead as a doornail.
  • Hunt for good batteries.
  • Find dead batteries that somehow, inexplicably, migrated into the good battery box.
  • Finally locate good batteries.
  • Replace the batteries in the speaker, get it powered up.
  • Realize that my phone was now dead, because Bluetooth.
  • Curse modern life, swear off technology, move out west and raise yaks.

Now, as the lovely Mrs. Robb isn't all that into yaks, the end game here is not someplace that I really want to end up. So I flagged down a pleasant clerk in the electronics section, and explained that I was looking for something simple - an inexpensive AC-powered speaker that I could hook my iPhone up to, avoiding Bluetooth. Ideally, one with a dock, so the phone could charge while it was playing.

I may have ranted a little bit. Just a smidgen. A little touch of curmudgeonhood. "I mean... I mean... all I want is a speaker. That plugs into the wall. That I can plug my phone into. No. NO BLUETOOTH."

In the end, what I ended up with was... this. Yes, Dancing Water Speakers. Think of is as an analog equalizer display using LED lights and little water streams. Kitschy as all get out, but dead cheap, and if they came with a little show, well, who cares? Cheap. USB powered, but with a wall adapter. I could plug 'em in, hook up the phone with the stereo cable, and listen to music. Wouldn't charge the phone while I was playing, but since I wouldn't be using Bluetooth, eh - I could live with that.

Got home, plugged 'em in, hooked 'em up... and the lovely Mrs. Robb was enchanted by them. Absolutely cheesy, but she thought it was cool. Me?


They were kind of neat, but the whole "dancing water" thing was run by a little impeller in the speaker enclosure that was... loud. Not horribly loud, but noticeable. Whenever it kicked up the water, you'd hear a little "ksssh!"

I played Jethro Tull's "Fire at Midnight", and... well, here's what it sounded like:
I believe in fi[ksssh!]res at mid[ksssh!]night [ksssh!]
when the do[ksssh!]gs have all been fe[ksssh!]d.
A gol[ksssh!]den toddy on the man[ksssh!]tle ---
a bro[ksssh!]ken gun ben[ksssh!]eath the bed.[ksssh!]
Bleah. Probably not an issue if you were someone who was going to play everything at full volume. For me, though, it was annoying, and not something that I thought I could get used to.

So, down to the workbench, for some puttering! A screwdriver, a pair of wire cutters, and some electrical tape... and I now have a couple of Non-Dancing Water Speakers. At some point, I'll get some rigid plastic and make a new top for them, so I can ditch the heavy and now completely useless water-filled LED light show attached to the top of the speakers. For the time being, though - eh. They were cheap, I made them do what I wanted, and I can haz music when I'm working.

I'll call it a win.

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