Anachostic

My tagline, let me show you it.

Wish Fulfillment

Within about the last year or so, Carrabbas has become something of an obsession of mine.  Well, both me and the GF, but I have the opportunity to obsess more.  And somewhere around a year ago, Carrabbas started being open for lunch.  And that’s when the obsession intensified.

I have a great liking for soup.  It’s probably from growing up in the north, where hot liquid is a treat in its own right, but flavorful hot liquid is even more so.  Carrabbas chicken soup is pretty much at the top of my list, and two of their three available salads are favorites of mine, too.  While I can and do eat their spaghetti on occasion, I can get by with just soup and salad.

Over the last year or so, I have been getting by on just soup and salad.  But here’s the problem.  If you order the “soup and salad” entrée, you get a cup of soup and a half salad.  No way is that enough for me.  So, over time, I’ve settled into getting a bowl of soup and a side salad.  This is filling (usually), but the price is rather heavy as well.

Because of my continued financial discipline to log all my receipts, I am able to accurately identify how frequently I visit Carrabbas and how much I spend there.  If I have lunch there, I spend $19.02.  That’s a pretty expensive lunch.  I have wanted to try and cut back on that cost, but that soup!  In the past, I’d considered trying Olive Garden for their endless soup, salad and breadsticks lunch, but I don’t like any of their soups.  And now, after eating Carrabbas so much, I can barely stomach OG’s food anymore.  It’s like someone put their food into Photoshop and went overboard.  It’s an oversaturated representation of what food should taste like.

So, Olive Garden was not an option.  And I continued spending $20 a lunch usually once a week for myself at work, then the GF and I would eat there for lunch together again on Sundays.  Here’s a kicker: Carrabbas has a rewards program where you get up to $20 back on your 4th visit.  But a visit only counts if you spend $20 or more.  So, my single lunches at $19.02 (after tip) aren’t counting to that reward.

I distinctly remember commenting to the GF, “Can you imagine if Carrabbas had an endless soup and salad option?”  I dismissed the possibility, because their chicken soup was so rich, they couldn’t afford to make it endless.  But, here in September 2018, it has happened.  An endless soup and salad lunch special for $8.  I may never eat lunch anywhere else again.

How incredible is this for me?  First, I can have as much chicken soup as I want.  They bring it out in cups, but there’s always more for the asking.  In fact, this is much better because the soup is always hot, instead of having a bowl go cold as you work on your salad.  And also, I like two of their salads.  Before, I was tied to only having one.  Now I can get one of each and enjoy them for their differences.  Finally, that price!  That’s almost half of what I was paying before, and I get more food than before.  And, if the GF and I want to eat there for lunch and just do soup and salad, we’ll break the minimum for the rewards.

I’m singing the praises of this new promotion and secretly already dreading the day it is retired.  I’m not sure if it’s my age or the current consumer environment that makes me think of contingency plans as soon as something new enters my orbit.  Aside from the fear of not having this deal available anymore, the only other negative to the lunch is that it takes a long time for me to get filled up.  I have always eaten slowly, and as I get older, it’s getting worse.  My lunch today was longer than normal.  I sloshed myself out the restaurant door and made it back to my desk in 90 minutes.  I have so much liquid in me, I’ve probably altered my natural buoyancy.

One final observation.  I don’t know what communication network old people use, but the lunch special announcement made it to them early.  I used to eat lunch at my Carrabbas nearly alone every time.  Now, the place is flooded with old people.  They say that old people are good for two things: finding good food and finding good deals. 

I’m an old person.

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Hooking Up With A Previous Love

A recurring story on my blog is my relationship troubles with iced tea.  Maybe it deserves its own tag at this point.  To quickly recap, I had a very long relationship with Nestea mix, but it changed, so we had to break up.  I rebounded with Publix mix before settling down with Lipton, who was very good to me for a long time.  Then one day, Nestea completely disappeared and while that was a little upsetting, I found Te Bustelo, which made me dump Lipton immediately. Man, that makes me sound like a horrible person.

As in other relationships, the fickle one gets their due, and Te Bustelo ended production, leaving me a widower.  I had purchased a case of the mix – the last available – to get me through the next couple of years.  Well, it’s been almost three years now and I’m down to probably a few last servings in my last container.  I was probably avoiding the looming reality by not attempting to find a replacement.  Still mourning, maybe?  Today, I finally sucked it up and decided to find out what my options are.  Off to Amazon, source of everything.

Searching for iced tea mix, I got results dominated by Lipton, with a few other brands scattered here and there.  One of those brands was Nestea (trying to avoid eye contact).  You know, maybe I wasn’t completely with my head in the sand about my future tea product because at one point I did consider buying unsweetened tea mix and adding my own sugar.  And you know, Nestea does make an unsweetened mix…

This is what Nestea looks like today, the same it’s looked for many, many years.

Nestea Sweet Mix Iced Tea, 45.1 oz

As I’m working through the results, I see this.

Nestea Sweet Iced Tea Lemon Mix 90.3 Oz

Whoa, what is that?  That is a different package with a different logo.  And another thing – I am extremely sensitive to names, because of my trauma from “sugar sweetened tea mix” morphing to “sweet tea mix”.  This canister says “sweet iced tea mix”.  That is different.  That must mean it is different.  I click the link and look at the ingredient list on the package.

Sugar, Citric Acid, Instant Tea, Maltodextrin, Tricalcium Phosphate (prevents caking), Natural Lemon Flavor

Oh my god.  This mix changes out Sucralose with Tricalcium Phosphate, in the same way Sweet Tea Mix changed Fructose with Sucralose.  If I haven’t used the word enough yet, let me try some more.  Sucralose is why I had to stop drinking Nestea in the first place. It’s an artificial sweetener that hurts my stomach. Suckralose.

I actually couldn’t handle this revelation at the time, bordering between excitement and disbelief, so I return to my search results.  I scroll a little further down and I see this.

Nestea Original Canadian Lemon Iced Tea Mix Jumbo Can 2.2kg 122 Servings Imported from Canada

WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON, HERE?  I click this item and look at its ingredient list.

Sugar, Citric Acid, Instant Tea, Natural Flavour, Silicon Dioxide

This mix, I read, is the Canadian version of Nestea, named “Original Lemon Iced Tea”.  A second Nestea mix with no sucralose.  Where the hell has this stuff been for all these years? (Canada, apparently.)  And while I have no regrets over my special time with Te Bustelo, maybe it’s a sign that I should get back, even if it’s with the exotic, foreign cousin of my original love.

Still reeling a little from this sudden discovery, I make a fairly dumb decision to buy both of these items right away.  They’re not exactly cheap, since one is a giant container and the other is a giant container imported from a foreign country.  So, $60 in tea will be at my house on Tuesday so I can then see if there is still a spark between us.

Hope springs eternal.

From The New To The Old

Looking back, the last couple of years has been actually a pretty big upheaval in my media consumption world.  Starting it off, on Black Thursday in 2016, I got televisions.  For ages, I had an old tube TV I never watched.  And that was interesting for a while.  I never did much with it.

A few months later after getting these TVs, I got a game system – a Wii.  Snicker all you want, but it was, and occasionally still is, fun.  If nothing else, it gave the TV a reason to exist.  A few months after that, I bought a couple of Roku sticks, which I plugged into the TV, giving the TV more reason to exist.  Finally, this year, I implemented the Plex server on my network, so I can stream music to the Rokus that are on the TVs.  And all this time, I’ve had a old home theater system with a 5-disc DVD changer and VCR, with 5.1 speakers.

Despite having all this possibility, things are kind of a mess.  The biggest problem is the sound system.  If I watch the Roku or listen to Plex through the Roku, I can only get sound through the TV speakers.  If I watch a DVD, I have to mute the TV speakers because it doubles the HT 5.1 system.  If I play the Wii, I have to turn on the HT system and mute the TV.

The root problem is that the TV needs to be the center hub of all video and audio and the audio from the TV needs to be routed to the HT system.  Because the HT system is downstream from the TV, if the HT system is serving audio and video back to the TV, it will short circuit the audio path and playback will perform as expected.

So, evaluating my options, I have two older components that need integrated with a newer component.  In this case, the TV will be the hub for audio and video, but the Wii and the HT system are only analog.  This affects the signal path in two places.  I only have one analog input to my TV, so either the Wii or the HT system will have to have the signal converted from component (RCA) to HDMI.  Then, the only audio output from the TV is digital optical, so I need another conversion from optical (SPDIF) to RCA.  Upconverting one direction and downconverting the other.  Ridiculous.

Finally, I’m not entirely sure the digital output from the TV will be unmixed, meaning that if I turn the TV speakers off, or mute them or turn down the volume, will the digital signal still be sent or will it be muted?

The optimistic end result is that audio from all sources: Roku/Plex, Wii, and DVD will all go through the HT speaker system’s Aux input.  When a DVD is played, the HT system will still play through the speakers and when the DVD is not played, it should return to Aux.  Maybe I’ll have to change the input on the HT remote.

Fortunately, the converters aren’t very expensive, less than $15 each.  Here’s to hoping it all works…

Another Brick In The Closet

Last year, before the holidays, I found a nice, massive keyboard sitting unloved at a thrift store.  I assume it was still sitting there because anyone that tested it would have found it to be broken.  I, however, am foolish enough to buy things without any consideration of functionality.  So I brought this keyboard home, discovered it was broken, and proceeded to fix it up enough to make it work.  And it’s been sitting in my closet ever since, waiting for its moment of glory.

On this most recent holiday, I saw something else at a thrift shop – a nice, tiny keyboard.  The price was right, so I bought it – untested as is my way.  As soon as I got the device to the car, I realized it was broken.  One of the controller knobs was completely snapped off.  Oh well.  The price was right.  Let’s get it home and see if it even powers up and makes noise.

I got it home and it powered up and made no sound.  Well, it made a buzzing sound, sometimes.  I started doing some online research and learned that this particular synth has a well known issue with that control knob failing (not sure if being broken off is considered “failing”).  So replacements are generally easy to get.  At this point, I don’t even know if that’s the actual problem.  But let’s take a step back and look at this thing.

This little bugger is the Alesis Micron, which is an analog modeling synthesizer.  It originally sold for $400 back in 2004.  It still sells for about $200 on the used market.  I got it for $7.50, half-off the original $15 price.  So you see, it was worth the gamble.  I’ve spent far more on far less (which should be my life’s motto).

When I saw “analog modeling synthesizer” on it, I got really excited.  The only synth of that type I’d really known about before dropping out of the music scene was the Nord Modular, which I remember being a 4-figure keyboard.  These types of keyboards emulate the older synths of the 70s and 80s. and they typically do it very well.  They also have a lot of the features of older synths like arpeggiators (for playing Who Are You) and vocoders (for playing Mr. Blue Sky).  There is a video on Youtube of someone playing Mr. Mister’s Kyrie live and solo on the Micron. But before I can have that kind of fun, this device needs repair.

I have a couple of options.  I can just replace the knob (a potentiometer, if you want to sound cool), which requires some soldering work.  The part costs less than $2 (plus shipping), and of course, I’ll need a new knob button to cap it off.  Yeah, that’s one option, or I can buy a whole new control board with knob for $40.  That’s the plug and play option and the one I opted for.  That and the cap were about $50, so if this works out, I will have a really neat new synth for a little under $60.  And then, it can sit in my closet, too.  How stupid.

It is dumb, but I have a lot of fun rescuing junk and making it (or trying to make it) usable.  I should consider myself fortunate this desire is just for musical equipment and not, say, cats.

The parts are currently being shipped and I should have them next week.  Let’s hope I have as much success with this little Alesis as I did with the huge Alesis.

Marketing 101

There is an idiom from the the 1800’s: “hang out one’s shingle” which means to put out a sign saying you’re open for business.  I suppose that was a sufficient way of doing things when the world was small and everyone you knew was right around you.  Plus, there was much less competition back then, too.  You had your town doctor, lawyer, barber, woodworker, etc.

That is not the world anymore.  Now there is much more competition and you must stand out from the others that would take your business.  You should always put your best foot forward (another idiom) to represent your business.

So why, why, why, do people make hard-drawn signs for their business?  Specifically, I am referring to a sign I saw over the weekend that gave me the chills.

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That’s not the only time I’ve seen something like that, but it’s the worst example of its kind.  Now, aside from the spray paint stencil lettering that looks nothing like blood splatter, there’s the important information, like contact info.  It’s written in tiny letters cramped along the bottom.  How are you supposed to read that from your car?

Then there is the issue of legitimacy.  If you can’t see it, the sign says they are “License”, complete with quotation marks.  I don’t know if it’s worse that they don’t know that the correct term is “licensed” (which, btw, I followed a truck this morning that said “License and Insured”) or that they don’t know that putting things in quotes makes those things questionable.  In either case, I don’t think I would trust their intelligence to supervise children.

But let’s recap the idea of hanging out your shingle.  I’ve been involved in some business ventures.  It’s not easy; I’m not cut out for it.  But, I think if you’re going to go into business, you have an obligation to everyone to be professional.  You know, that sign on the side of the road doesn’t only represent you, it represents all of your customers as well.

Let’s say you personally don’t have an issue sending your kid to a place whose signage suggests it is a house of horror.  And if someone asks you for a recommendation, you say they have the sign out by the stop light down the road.  That person’s impression of blood-sign marketing may be disgust, which then alters their opinion of you.  As they say, you will be known by the company you keep.  Always align yourself with reputable associations.

If you’re going to go into business, do it right, or please don’t do it at all.

It’s Happening Again, In Reverse

Back in 2011, I wrote a post about how my savings account with HSBC had reached a point of uselessness.  There was a steady stream of email notifications saying my interest rate had been cut.  I left that account a long time ago and went with Ally Bank.  Ally has been really good to me.

Although it is a symptom of the times, Ally continues to be good to me, sending me frequent emails that my saving interest rate is getting better.  That’s a lot more pleasant than HSBC’s emails, which were, honestly, a product of the times as well.

My old post about HSBC spanned about 3 years, where I’ve only been noticing the more frequent emails from Ally for a couple years now.  Like my old post, I’ll summarize the changes I’ve been notified on.  Enjoy.

4/24/17: …And in the spirit of doing it right, we wanted to let you know that your rate just went up. 1.05% APY

9/7/2017: This just keeps getting better. The rate for our Online Savings Account went up again! 1.20% APY

10/31/17: It’s happening again. The rate on your Ally Bank Online Savings Account went up even more! 1.25% APY

1/23/18: It’s time to celebrate! The rate on your Ally Bank Online Savings Account went up again! 1.35% APY

2/12/18: With this increased rate on your Online Savings Account, it’s a great time to stash more cash.  1.45% APY

4/27/2018: At 20X the national average, your rate gives you greater earning power – so every penny is working harder. 1.50% APY

5/11/18: Now, with another increase on a rate that’s already more than 20x the national average, you won’t just be saving money – you’ll be making it.  1.60% APY

6/15/18: Good things are happening again with your Ally Bank Online Savings Account. The rate just increased so you’re now getting more for your money. 1.65% APY

6/29/18: We’re back with another rate increase for the 6th time this year! Within the last 6 months, the Online Savings Account rate has gone from 1.25% APY to 1.75% APY, which means your money is working even harder.  1.75% APY

8/3/18: It’s only been a little over a month since we raised the rate on your Online Savings Account, and we’re already back at it again with another increase.  1.80% APY

8/31/18: Celebrate our 8th rate increase of the year by maximizing your savings so you can earn more. 1.85% APY

This sounds awesome and all, but if you’ve looked at my HSBC post, you’ll see my savings account there started falling from 3.50% APY.  We still have quite a way to go.  What I have a slight nagging worry about is that the stock market is floating in space with not much support under it.  A lot of the gains are from corporations buying back their own stock to reward executives and stockholders.

So either the companies are taking out loans to do these stock buybacks or they are spending their mountains of cash built up during the recession.  If it’s the former, well, we have rising interest rates.  If it’s the latter, well, that money could have been spent in other ways – just sayin’.

So yeah, the thing I’m worried about is another market crash and recession, but without the extreme efforts taken by the Fed last time with regard to interest rates.  So what we’d have is another episode like the 70’s where home and auto loans were like credit card interest rate levels.  I was too young at the time to be impacted by the “Great Inflation”, but I have read a nice summary of the event.  And they say history just keeps repeating.

Falling From Grace

In this here blog, I have alternately praised and condemned Burger King and their food.  And for the longest time, I didn’t eat there.  A long time ago, I might randomly drop in to remind myself why I hated it so much.  Wendy’s is another place I stopped going to regularly, also documented in this here blog.  I would rarely stop in and when I did, I would leave full and disappointed.

These two places are what I consider third-tier dining.  Over time, I elevated myself to places I consider second-tier.  Conveniently, in the current economy, you can simplify this scale of mine into how many $10 bills it takes to get a meal.  Third-tier meals typically cost less than $10.  Second-tier is $10-20/meal, and first-tier is over $20.  So, yeah, I suppose my business-class, expensed travel meals that were something like $70 rate about the same as a meal at Kobe.  That kind of sums up how refined my palate is.

But anyway, it was early sometime this year that I had made the comment, “I’ve eaten at Wendy’s more times this month than I have in the last few years.”  I can’t really say why Wendy’s fell back onto my list of viable dining places.  I think it was an alternative SadMeal™ at the time and it kind of stuck with me.

Today marks the second time within a week that I’ve eaten at Burger King.  One of my biggest gripes with the place is that the double cheeseburger is hardly worth the effort to eat.  But on the random decision to eat there one day, I saw on the menu (which was totally different than I last remember it), they had a thing called “Double Quarter Pound King”, which looked essentially like a double whopper with cheese, or, to my excitement, a larger-than-old-times double cheeseburger.  And I bought it right away.

The taste of the burger was awesomely nostalgic and the fries even seemed to be better than I remember, too.  I left that day with a surprisingly positive impression.  Today, when I went back for a repeat visit, the smell in the restaurant took me back to my hometown.  (Fun fact: When I was much younger, I worked at that BK for two weeks and two days.  On my second day, I decided I didn’t like working there and put in my two-week notice – and fulfilled it)  Today’s experience was slightly marred by an undercooked patty, but I ate around the pink (heh) and was still satisfied at the end.

Despite the unmistakable smell of a Burger King that surprises me when I get inside, the other thing that surprises me is the way the place makes me feel – sad.  For a very long time, I’ve held the impression that BK is probably about as low as you can go in the burger world.  I know that’s not absolutely true, because I’ve been to a Krystal once, which resulted in me coining the term, “meat pringles” to describe their burger patties.  But anyway, watching people buy and eat BK food fills me with pity, that they may not have better options available to them.

I’ve always thought the only reason I’m still alive today is because I was able to elevate myself to eating at second-tier restaurants, where the quality of food is higher (possibly only marginally).  So, with that personal impression, maybe it’s a little weird to regress and start eating less healthy options.  But, at the same time, as I get older, the more I want to just enjoy the current moment.  (Fun fact: when I was much younger I always thought going to the bathroom was such a waste of time, like I had so many other things I’d rather be doing.  Now, going to the bathroom at work is a chance to actually relax and savor.  It feels like the only time I can be alone with my thoughts)

The non-point of this post is just to document a moment when I might just be slumming it in the dining department, or it may retroactively identify that 2018 was a turning point in my dietary standards.

You Shall Be Known By Your Stars

A while ago, I had read a post online by a music collector where he had just completed a goal of listening to and rating every song in his library.  It only took him five years to do it.  Bravo for that level of effort.  The consideration of doing something similar for myself led me to attempt to define what a rating system would look like for me.

The “for me” thing is the most important part.  Ratings are entirely subjective, and still at the same time, they must be well-defined and rigid.  That feels weird to me, “this is precisely how it must be… for me.”  But weird or not, in order to begin rating my albums (and/or songs), I need to have a stick to measure with.

In my consideration of rating my music, I determined that there’s two levels of ratings, at the song level and at the higher album level.  These two ratings more or less correspond with the way I would listen to the music, either absorbing an entire album at a time, for example, playing a CD while driving, or, listening to a playlist while sitting at a computer or through the Plex server.  So, having the two different types of ratings is moderately important.

A 5-star rating applied to a song is pretty straightforward.  How much do I like the song?  That’s an important question because the question is not, how good is the song? That open-ended question carries with it every sub-question imaginable, summed up as, how good is it by what metric?  So, every song would start at 3 stars, being neutral, and the likelihood I’d want to hear it again adds or subtracts one or two stars.  But, I don’t plan on rating every one of my songs in any near future, so I don’t feel concerned with this scheme.

Albums, though, would get rated on a totally different scale and I thought hard on this.  The answer lies in the composition of the songs on the album.  My scale is as such:

5 – A top-notch album.  Any song could be played individually in a playlist and the album would be enjoyed played beginning to end.

4 – An excellent album. Most songs could be included in playlists, but the album is stronger than the individual tracks.

3 – A good album.  Some songs could be included in playlists, and the album could be played beginning to end without feeling the need to skip any tracks.

2 – An album with some good songs.  A few songs could be included in playlists and some songs would be skipped when playing as an album.

1 – Few to no good songs.  Very unlikely the album would be played except to hear the good songs (if any).  It might be a curiosity or kept for completist reasons.

Here’s the problem with rating things.  People want to love things more than they really do.  They tend to ignore the flaws and focus on the good.  That’s great in the world of human relations (although it’s just as unsustainable as in any other application).  So, in rating my music, it was important to have a clearly-defined way to avoid excessive 5-star ratings.  Once it was absolutely clear that 5 stars was highly-rarified territory, and that it wasn’t through any fault of the artist, the pressure of saying an album is “the best of the best” subsides.

To explain, consider an album that has some segue between songs, presented as another track.  It’s unlikely you would include the short 30 second clip in a playlist, thus – excluded.  4-star max.  Or you have an album like Jethro Tull’s Thick As A Brick, which has two 20-some minute tracks.  It’s not likely you want your playlist to be stalled for 20 minutes.  Same for Rush’s 2112.  Alternately, maybe a long song is chopped up into multiple tracks.  The song would make no sense played on shuffle in a playlist.  These examples explain the emphasis on “album” for the 4-star rating.  The album is designed as a linear experience, and there should be no shame that it is capped at 4 stars.

The interesting aspect about that rating system is that mediocre albums can be 5-star.  If there’s an album – I can think of a couple of jazzy instrumental albums – where every song stands on its own and could be played individually, but it’s not an album that particularly excites me.  So all the songs would be rated as 3 stars, but the album itself would be 5 stars.  These would be cases where I would add an entire album to a playlist instead of individual songs.

Along with the stress of wanting to rate albums higher than they belong is the admission that an album is not strong as you want it to be.  Tastes change, so that shouldn’t be an issue, but you know, I used to play that album all the time!  I am curious to see how many low-rated albums I really have.  I would guess it’s probably higher than I would expect, because I have been branching out into lots of different artists simply because it’s so cheap to buy CDs.

But the bottom line is, the baseline rating is 3 stars.  Would I put the CD in the car and listen to it all the way through?  If I would skip tracks, it drops to 2 stars.  I probably wouldn’t even take a 1-star album in the car. *cough* Spin Doctors *cough*

The Superior Feeling

To somewhat paraphrase that Shania Twain chorus, “God, I feel like a God today.”  I’ve mentioned before that being a programmer is the best thing in the world and it’s the closest you can get to being a god.  Parents, you may think you get to play god, too, but there’s a little issue with deleting your creations when you’re done with them.  So, being a programmer is still the best.

I’ve mentioned before that one of the best things about programming is the ability to automate.  Taking what would be an insurmountable task and making it simple.  And that is what I managed to do today.  As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve set up a music server in the house, Plex, and in prior posts, I’ve talked about my digital music collection.  Occasionally, I mention that the metadata in the files needs improvement.  And that is also what I’ve done.

Metadata in digital files can be as extensive as you want them to be.  At a minimum, you want the artist and song title to be in there, because most players display that important identifying information.  You can go further and add the album release year and genre, so you can sort and group things that are of similar values.  You can go further still and embed artwork in the file, usually the album cover, so your music player can display that, too.  You can go even further than that and put the lyrics for the song in the metadata so some players will show you the lyrics while the song plays.  That is where I am at and it is what I have done.

There are utilities that let you edit the metadata directly, so you can create a new tag and paste in the lyrics for a song.  But, is that even fathomable to do with over 15,000 songs?  There are tools that will let you look up the lyrics to a song and create the tag automatically, but still, song by song.  I never got to the point of finding utilities that would process a whole album at one time, because I realized I could do it better.  I could do it exactly as I needed it to be done.

With Plex, there is no support for embedded lyrics in the metadata.  Instead, they use what’s called a “side-car” file, which is the same file name, but different extension.  So you have your .flac file and a duplicate .txt file with the lyrics.  Ok, that’s pretty crappy, but I can do it.  But, if I’m going to go through the trouble of getting all these lyric files, why not embed them at the same time?

So I did a quick search online and found a code library that would read and write FLAC metadata.  That’s the only thing I couldn’t do on my own, so I was golden now.  I learned of a website that had a simple means of downloading lyrics through their website, as long as I stripped out everything else from the webpage.  A simple RegEx statement accomplished that.  Writing to a text file, recursing through directories,  all that is simple stuff.

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So, I process each artist in a batch, which enumerates all songs for all albums.  One button click to retrieve all the lyrics for all the songs, then a review of any songs that had no matches.  Correct the titles for the non-matches and get lyrics again.  Then a button to process the lyrics which both embeds the lyrics in the FLAC files and also creates a sidecar text file with the lyrics.  So, if all goes well, one double-click on the artist folder, click on Retrieve Lyrics, scroll to confirm that all lyrics came in, click Process.

So, yeah, I do have to process a little over 500 artists, but that is substantially better than thousands of albums or many thousands of songs.

Junk

A quick recap of my life in my house.  I bought the house with my then-fiancee in 2005.  We got married, then divorced in 2010.  I took full ownership of the house in 2016, and that was the end of that.  But you know what refuses to end?  My ex’s mail.

Mail is a pretty well-protected delivery medium, in theory.  In practice, it’s hardly protected at all, with theft and whatnot.  But anyway, you’re technically not allowed to do anything with another person’s mail.  And for a very long time, I was living alone in my house, with all my ex’s mail still being delivered.  I filled up five large garbage bags of her mail for her to collect when she would return.  As you would expect, nothing came of that.

And even after the house became mine, she never filled out a change of address form, so I continued to get her mail.  Technically, I can’t throw it away.  Technically, I can’t contact the sender and tell them to stop sending to this address.  Technically, I can’t fill out a change of address form on her behalf.  There’s really only one allowed course of action: Return To Sender.

So back in April, I finally took action and purchased a rubber stamp:

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And I have dutifully been stamping every piece of her mail and putting it back in the mailbox to be sent back.  A couple of days after I started this, I got some pieces of that mail back (with my stamp on them!) and I learned this can happen because the automated postal systems read the barcode below the address for delivery.  So I started blacking out the barcode with a sharpie.  And since then, the mail has been tapering off.

The mail coming in could be classified as three levels of importance.  The top level would include bank statements and government correspondence, like the State Department of Revenue (you have no idea).  These mailings stopped after the very first return to sender stamp, as you would expect them to.  The next level would be things like bill collectors (you have no idea).  These did stop after being returned, but it’s also a game of whack-a-mole because there’s always some new collections company buying up old debts.  So, I may be living with these for some time.  The lowest level is presorted junk mail.  These have been sent back countless times and it’s very difficult to get them to stop.  I hope they will at some point.  My guess is they just throw all the returned pieces into a bin and process the addresses whenever they have some free time.  And most larger companies have multiple independent lists, so each department has to get a returned piece and process it at their leisure.

I’m hoping to get to the point of zero mail for that addressee, but you know, there will always be the companies that sneak it in with “…or Current Resident”.  Maybe that’s what they mean with the “’til death do you part” stuff.  They’re referring to junk mail.  But even that’s not true.  I get mail addressed to her dead father, too!  “Not at this address”, indeed!