Anachostic

My tagline, let me show you it.

Collecting, For The Eyes And Ears

A co-worker of mine has recently fallen into the rabbit hole of sci-fi novels.  Every day, it’s read, read, read.  And because of that, it’s also become buy, buy, buy.  He does his research.  He knows all the prominent authors, their styles and topics and their bibliographies.

Recently, he’s been talking about “collections” and first editions with increasing interest.  As we discussed the viability of being a sci-fi novel collector, the parallels between his book collecting and my CD collecting became ever more obvious.  Here’s some of the connections I made:

  • Novels will move around between publishers.  Albums will also move around between publishers.  In both cases, the publisher determines the quality of the end product.  The artwork may be different between different publishers.
  • First editions of popular novels are just like first pressings of albums.  They are desirable by those that care and can command higher prices.
  • Both books and albums are reprinted in special collector’s editions, which collectors of each can have a great interest in.  Because the content is usually the same, the improvements are usually better packaging and bonus material (extra songs for albums, drafts or letters or forwards by the author’s peers for books).
  • Both can be turned into compilations and churned out for quick bucks by publishers.  Although I don’t know for sure, I suspect the royalties to the writers suck in all cases.
  • You can “remaster” a book with the same expected results as remastering an album.  You’ll have purists that hate the changes and progressive modern types that embrace the changes.  In the book world, they call it “revised and expanded”.
  • The collecting of this “old technology” is a mystery to the majority of the public.  The details of the versions and editions are lost on them.  “It’s all about the music”/”It’s all about the story”
  • You can find used copies of either at specialty used stores and save a lot of money.
  • You can also find digital copies of either for free (legality aside), but for a collector, this is insufficient.  The physical product is paramount.
  • When a collector starts “talking shop”, it sounds exactly the same; only the authors/bands and titles/albums are different.  They all have exclusive details and timelines and history, but they are completely interchangeable.

On the topic of money, he and I have both been doling it out.  Him maybe a bit more because he’s been buying new, where I buy used almost exclusively.  Yesterday, I gave him the opportunity to validate himself.  I asked if he wanted to visit my usual CD haunt during lunch.  I warned him it could be dangerous for me because the last time I was there, they had some very hard-to-find albums I wanted.  Being hard-to-find also means hard-to-justify-the-price.  I’ll spend up to $10 for a used CD I want, with gold CDs being the rare exception.

We get to the store and all the CDs are still available.  Six of them, priced between $18 and $25 each.  I ask him if I really want to do this, because it’s not gonna be cheap.  He replies that he is the wrong person to ask for support.  For both of our entertainment, I ended up buying them.  As the cashier rung up my $144 purchase of CDs, my co-worker, red-faced and grinning, beamed with delight that someone was behaving just as irrationally as he does with his books.

Grow On…

A while ago, I had done a mega-run on thrift stores (28 of them!).  Last Saturday, I made another full day of shopping – 8+ hours.  Unlike my previous run with netted 4 CDs, I ended the day with, oh… 35.  Ok, wait.  Let me explain.  Of those, I really only wanted less than 10.  The majority of them were purchased for their cases.

The CD jewel case is, in my opinion, a wonder of industrial design.  The fact that its design has gone relatively unchanged in 30 years is testament to its perfection.  However, it has changed over the years.  The primary change has been to make it lighter by using thinner plastic.  A modern CD case is pathetically thin and brittle, which does little for the case of presenting a CD as a premier product.  The thin, cheap case instead affirms that CDs are cheap and disposable.

Early CD cases were heavier and instilled a sense of quality.  You can identify these cases because they have smooth sides instead of the ribbed sides of cases today.  Of course, you could also easily tell just by picking up a case.  It is a noticeable difference.

So, that’s what I was after.  The first stop was a pawn shop where I found a couple of CDs I would enjoy.  I asked how much they were. “25 cents.”  Well, that changes things.  I’ll take every smooth-sided CD there, including Willie Nelson and Ray Stevens.  That was all of $2.75.  At a later thrift store, I pulled out 10 smooth cases, mostly of classical music, for $1 each.  I was a little bummed because they offered 50% coupons on a mailing list and I didn’t have one.  Maybe next time?

The final stop to end my day was at a non-thrift store – my local used record store.  I treated myself to a collectible CD, a 24k gold disc for $20.  You usually can’t go wrong with these because they typically sell for $$$.  This CD has two current listings online for $94 and $133.  They haven’t sold for that amount (I’m not dumb), but still.

Sunday was spent cleaning cases and swapping out some of my more prized CDs into smooth cases.  My fingers are so sore from using my nails to pry apart cases.  Then the ripping and cataloging… My new CD tower from not too long ago is filling up at a dangerous pace.  Soon, I may need to bring the old one back into service.  And, I also need to start selling the CDs that have been replaced or upgraded to better editions.  I must have about 30 of those.

Jokebook Notebook

I often have a lot of random ideas and I typically forget the details of them later.  I should be carrying a small notebook to jot these things down.  Like this morning, I saw a billboard and a commercial idea started forming in my head.  The great thing about writing commercials is there doesn’t need to be a lot of dialog (unless that’s the joke) and it’s over in as little as 15 seconds.

So, I came up with a brief sketch for a iced tea brand.  It involves the talent of Ice-T (of rap and CSI fame), Mr. T (of 70’s A-Team fame), and Master Shake (of Aqua Teen Hunger Force semi-fame).

(At the scene of a fancy outdoor party, mingling guests on a wide lawn, white party tents and small white bistro tables set up through the area.  Ice-T is standing alone and somewhat bored at one of the tables and someone approaches.  He looks up and sees Mr. T)

Ice-T: Hey. (extending hand) I’m Ice-T.

Mr. T: (shaking hand) Hey, I’m Mr. T.

Ice-T: Huh. Nice to meet you.

Master Shake: (interrupting, not in scene) Hey, I’m also a beverage!

(Ice-T and Mr. T turn to look at Master Shake, annoyed at his interruption.)

Master Shake: I said… I’m also a beverage.  You know, like a drink.  Speaking of drinks, I could use a drink.  Nothing but teas at this place.  Iced teas, Mr. T’s  – HA!  You see what I did there?  Seriously though, I could drink like a couple dozen Fuzzy Nizzles, you know what I’m saying, dawgs?

(Master Shake continues rambling on while Ice-T and Mr. T awkwardly stare at the table, trying to ignore him.  A waiter walks by with the promoted iced tea brand on his tray and the camera follows him away from the scene Master Shake is making.)

“Promoted Tea Brand – not always inappropriate”

That idea led me to a sequel. 

(In a music studio, Ice-T and Mr. T are sitting at the mixing console listening to some of Ice-T’s new music.)

Mr. T: I can’t imagine doing this for a living.  This is awesome.

Ice-T: It’s a great creative outlet.  You can really connect with people through music.

Master Shake: I connect with people all the time.  Because I have the connections.  You guys wouldn’t know about that. You got no connections.

(Master Shake is standing in the back of the studio mixing room, not really talking to anyone.  Ice-T and Mr. T stare blankly at Master Shake)

(Master Shake reaches for something on a shelf and knocks everything off onto the floor, including awards and memorabilia.)

Master Shake: Yeah, that’s what I think of you, tchotchke’s! You can stay down on the floor, because you’re nothing.  Nothing! (Realizes Ice-T and Mr. T are staring at him angrily.)  Hey, I got this idea for a song.  A rap, if you will.  (Master Shake starts making beatbox sounds and moving in jerking motions like he’s dancing.)

Ice-T: Talking cup, you are so white.

(Shot of Master Shake freezing in place with mouth agape.)

“Promoted Tea Brand – not always inappropriate”

I have an idea for another sequel involving Carl fanboy-nagging Mr. T about his A-Team exploits, too. But since these would never see the light of day, no need to develop it.

That Thing I Don’t Use

I can’t believe this.  The last post about my motorcycle is over three years ago.  Three Years.  And you know what it’s been doing in that time?  Sitting there.  Sitting outside.  I am a bad, bad owner.  And I’m not the only one who feels that way.

Today, I thought I would clean up the bike and maybe take it out for a ride tomorrow.  I had taken the bike’s battery out long ago (apparently very long ago) to prevent it from draining and dying (been there, done that).  But the battery still has a 95% charge, so I should be good to go.  I grabbed some rags and headed out to do some cleaning.  The bike is in understandably bad shape, having been left out in the elements for years.  I cleaned leaves out of various areas and then I found a hard-stop to my riding plans.  The fuel line has rotted and leaked gas out all over the place.  Sigh.

As I’m inspecting this issue, my neighbor comes over and asks what’s up.  I explain that I was going to try and clean up the bike for a ride and he tells me he’s noticed I haven’t been riding or taking care of my bike in a long time.  He wonders if I’m interested in selling it.  Apparently, he’s had multiple people ask him what’s up with the motorcycle in the driveway that never moves.  We chat a bit more and get talking about the fuel line.  My neighbor inspects it closely and says, yeah, it’s pretty much gone, you’ll have to replace that.  Should be pretty easy.  Then he pulls on the fuel line and finishes the job, breaking it off.  Well, I guess I have to fix it now.  Thanks.

As this is going on, a kid of one of my other neighbors comes over to see what’s happening.  Thankfully, the kid helps me get everything disassembled and disconnected (his dad has a motorcycle, too, so the whole family is handy).  I bought a new fuel line and it’s prepped for reinstall.  I’m leaving the bike all disassembled for now so I can get into every corner and clean it up.  There’s wasp nests all through it – wonderful.

On the topic of selling the bike, I threw out a random number to my neighbor.  The number is less than half the price I bought the bike for, which, given its current condition, is probably fair.  I don’t exactly want to sell the bike.  I love its styling.  It’s all paid off, registered and insured for the year, so it’s nice to have available should I want to use it.  But I haven’t used it for years.  Riding is generally a hassle because of the whole ceremony of getting ready and finishing up.  It’s not jumping in a car and leaving.

So, I’ll still attempt my cleaning and reassembly tomorrow.  We’ll see how I feel after a short ride as to keeping the bike or not.

As I finish this post, I just realized that the fuel line was only damaged at the one end.  I could have trimmed the hose and continued to use it instead doing of all this disassembly and replacement.  Maybe it’s for the best the whole fuel line was replaced.  Maybe I’m just an idiot.

Return to The Wasteland – Executive Summary

Just returned from a trip to the homeland – PA.  I just spent about a half hour researching when I was there last.  According to credit card purchases, it was July, 2011.  That’s a pretty long while, I guess.  But there’s a good reason for it.  There’s nothing good there.  To quickly summarize this trip:

  • There’s far fewer people there.  It shouldn’t be surprising, but the magnitude of it is.
  • There’s far fewer young people there.  Old people work everywhere.  I thought FL had a lot of old people.
  • The hills and clouds make everything dark.  It’s depressing.  Even the stores are so poorly lit they always look closed.  The good thing is that it’s so depressing, and the bar for happiness is set so low, you can feel good about the most meaningless thing.
  • There’s so much nothing that it’s 30 minutes to do anything or go anywhere.  That’s probably why I have no issue driving 30k miles a year, but it was annoying to drive so far for so little all the time.
  • People are friendlier there and kids can wander the streets without requiring adults hovering right beside them.  Small town advantage.
  • Another small town advantage is everything is within a couple square blocks.  Everything.  The disadvantage is that “everything” is a very small selection.  If you’re happy with fewer choices, great.  if you want more, tack on an extra 30 mins of driving, at least.

But, I have content for more posts.  Plenty to bitch about.  I’m set for another five years, for sure.

Not What I Wanted, But…

In my last similar post, I picked up a cheap “vintage” stereo system. It was going to just a holdover until I released the major funds for a new full stereo system.  That release is probably being held up by the future planned redo of the living room.  And that’s a few rooms later, where I’m currently stuck in the master bathroom.  But anyway…

The new cheapo stereo ($28 to buy and $30 to repair) gave me radio and cassette tape capabilities.  To get any use out of it, I had to start buying cassettes.  That’s not really something I wanted to get into, but there I was.  I really wanted a CD player and had been looking for one that would match the style.  It needed to have a silver face to match and ideally have plenty of buttons.

That search was not as fruitful as I’d hoped, so I compromised and said I’d pick out a stand-in player until I found what I really wanted.  Today, I finally made that purchase.  It was all of $10, the same price as the tape deck.  It was a brand that I’d heard was well respected in that era, but one I’d never experienced before.

This is my new-to-me Onkyo DX-701, circa 1992.

WP_20170222_19_47_17_Pro

I have to say, when I first powered on the CD player and the display panel lit up, I grinned like an idiot.  It had been so long since I’d seen old-school digital displays like that.

vlcsnap-error979

That might have even exceeded my fascination of playing cassettes and staring at the level meters.

Untitled2

But, back to the CD player, the thing is built solid.  I’m sure everyone is used to the CD tray in their computer, a flimsy piece of crap.  The CD tray on this device is smooth and wobble-free.  It’s substantial.  The whole player was a little dirty, but I cleaned the heck out of it.  I took the cover off and found the insides to be completely dust free.  This was not a neglected piece of equipment stuffed in a closet or garage and I’m glad to give it a new life.

One little thing of note is that all three of these devices have physical power buttons.  You know how everything now is a soft power button – push it and it toggles the power, no tactile difference between on and off?  These devices all physically move metal contacts in a switch to toggle power on and off.  You feel the detent when the button is on (it remains in) and you feel it spring back out when you power it off.  It’s a minor thing, but it’s also something you don’t experience anymore.  It feels like quality.

Sonically, it’s incredible.  If I plug into the headphone jack on the player itself, dead quiet.  My MCS amp has an audible noise floor, but to its credit, I can’t turn the volume past about 5% without serious discomfort.  With great power comes a great hissing noise floor, apparently.

So, at this point, I can relax and wait for the right silver-faced CD player to cross my path.  And, where can you get a full stereo for under $100?

Rabbit Hole To Finality

A few days ago I found my ZuneHD.  I thought I lost it over a year ago and I was so happy to have found it again.  I charged it back up and went to sync some of my newer music so I could take it to work.  The sync failed with cryptic errors.  I thought maybe there was an issue with the device, so I erased and tried again.  Still, nothing would copy.

A little bit of internet research indicated it was due to the Windows 10 Anniversary Update.  Since that update, the Zune software would no longer downsample music for the players.  That change effectively made my devices unsyncable and thus unusable.  At first, I wasn’t ready to concede defeat.  I installed Windows 7 in VirtualBox, but wasn’t able to get it to see the Zune device.  Then I figured I would try using Microsoft’s Hyper-V virtual machine for once.

While I was setting up that machine, I gave some consideration to how I would access my music files.  In VirtualBox, I would map a network drive to the host machine.  With my hyper-V machine, I didn’t see any simple way to set up networking and if I remember correctly from previous attempts to use Hyper-V, it was generally a PIA. 

That gave me the idea to have a separate virtual hard drive with my music on it.  That could be pretty interesting, I leave it attached on my main machine until I need to sync something, then I detach it from the main machine and attach it to the virtual machine.  All the files still remain in one place.

So that was a big project, copying 300GB of music to a VHD.  And at this point, I still don’t know if the VM is going to see the Zune.  I spent all day yesterday cleaning up album art in my VirtualBox VM and it was all for nothing since VirtualBox wouldn’t see the Zune.  I definitely have little problem with wasted effort.  however, I think the compartmentalized VHD of music will be a nice modern advancement.  I am praying that VHD files are resilient.  You know, that’s a single file containing 14k files.  The digital equivalent of putting all your eggs in one basket.

The Windows 7 virtual machine was a bust.  I guess Hyper-V is optimized for Windows 8 and better, so… reinstallation time.  The Windows 8 install appeared hung up, so I restarted the VM.  That resulted in an endless loop where Windows said the computer restarted unexpectedly and to click OK to restart and continue the install.  It was all for naught anyway.  Reading up on this solution, I learned that Hyper-V has even less support for USB devices than VirtualBox.  Pretty un-fucking-believable. 

What are my remaining options?  I have to have a physical machine that is running a Windows version less than 10.  What good does that really do me?  I’ll have to access my entire music library over the network – inefficient.  The move of all my music to a VHD file has turned out to be pointless as well, since I have nothing to share it with now.  And, since my music files are now moved the a new drive, Zune had to rescan everything again, wiping out over half my album art.  I literally spent hours yesterday cleaning up the album art in my VirtualBox install and now I have to do it again??

It looks like my time with Zune is at an end, with both devices and software.  It’s a real shame considering how much Zune equipment I have and how it still works so well.  I don’t know where to go from here.  Using Groove on a phone isn’t as pleasant of an experience as the Zune was.

I guess this is where I’ve been slowly headed for a little while now, back to physical media and good old stereo systems.  Maybe in a few months I’ll be saying how great it is to not have all my music at my fingertips and being less distracted by the massive amount of choices available to me at any time.  Time will tell.

Prognosis: Guarded

As I previously mentioned, I bought a vintage stereo and one channel in the receiver was dead, which made having a stereo that couldn’t play stereo pretty worthless.  But I had only spent $10 on the receiver, so what.

Well, I contacted my local vintage sound establishment, selling vinyl, CDs, 8-tracks, even reel-to-reel music, as well as old stereos and speakers.  They have a repair tech on staff, which is pretty awesome.  I explained my situation to him and what I had done so far.  He said if my initial diagnostics were correct, repairs of that sort usually ran $75-$125.  Hmmm.  There’s a bench fee of $25 whether or not I choose to fix it.  Hmmm.

So here I was in a position that could have me spending over 10x my purchase price to have a functional stereo receiver.  Hmmm.  I have a small problem with admitting defeat, especially if success is attainable.  I like the stereo quite a bit and admittedly, I have the funds I could spend on it.  But that’s exactly why there is a word called “spendthrift”.  Blah blah blah, ROI, foolhardy, 10x expenses.  But I like it, doesn’t that account for anything?  And what of waste and our disposable society?  Shouldn’t I make an effort to repair instead of replace?

To convince myself… actually, I was already convinced.  To make myself feel better, I thought up an analogy to my situation.  What if you found a kitten and took it to the vet.  The vet charges you a bench fee to look at this kitten, then says it looks like your kitten has worms.  If it does, you’ll need to spend about $100 in meds to get it back to health.  What are you going to do, put the kitten down?  Throw it away?  It’s perfectly repairable and would provide years of happiness.

Yesterday, I took my kitten to the shop and today I got the diagnosis.  It was just a blown fuse – a cheap fix.  Totaling about $30, nearly all of which is covered by the bench fee.  The doctor offered a warning, though.  Fuses usually don’t blow without a reason, but being a 30-yr old device could play a part.  Fuses guard electronics against larger damage.  So a blown fuse may indicate a bigger problem, which may manifest in the coming months of regular use.  If that’s the case, it will require further troubleshooting.  Or, I can just keep changing out fuses until I get sick of doing that.

So, hooray for me.  Now I begin the hunt for an aesthetically compatible CD player.  I have a couple options, one of which I just saw yesterday.  If it’s still there, I’ll snag it until I get a better one.  The other, better-looking choice is much less common.  I’ve seen it on Ebay for $100, but I can hold out for a cheaper opportunity if I have a workable system for the near-term.

What I Wanted, Not What I Expected

On a thrift store run, I had a disappointing experience searching for CDs – nothing of interest at all.  On the way out, I dropped in to the electronics section of the store.  I scanned the shelves for nothing in particular until a cassette deck caught my eye.  It was totally vintage, probably from the 1980’s.  It had buttons and switches and analog level meters.  Very cool.

I’ve planned to get a stereo for a while and I have picked out the stereo components I want already.  But for a while, I had considered going the vintage route.  Not so much for the sound quality, which could be hit or miss for its age, but for the aesthetics.  It’s an early era of “wow! technology!” that originally morphed into visual insanity before being left behind in favor of minimalistic design (thanks, Apple).

While I was ogling this vintage tape deck, I realized, I didn’t have anything to plug it into.  And, I only had one cassette tape in my house.  So, why bother.  I put it out of my mind and kept on scanning the shelves until my eyes bumped into a stereo receiver – the matching component of the tape deck.  That device was even more vintage looking, with rows of buttons and sliders.  This receiver solved the problem of having nothing to plug the tape deck into.  Soooo, after verifying I could afford all this equipment, I bundled up both pieces, paid for my treasures (a wallet-busting $18), and cheerfully packed them up in the car.

Before I made the purchase, I did a cursory check as to whether the components were even worthy of owning.  The brand is MCS, an acronym for Modular Component Systems, which is a house brand of JC Penney.  The internet indicated a small appreciation for MCS because the components were manufactured by reputable Japanese brands of the era like NEC and Technics.

WP_20170202_21_05_08_Pro

The receiver I picked up is an MCS 3237, which seems to be made in 1986 or after.  It’s got a digital AM/FM tuner with 16 presets, seek, and scan. There’s a good number of inputs: phonograph, tape, video, and auxiliary.  It’s got buttons for High filter, Low filter and Loudness, and sliders for Bass, Treble, and Balance.  It can drive two selectable sets of speakers, which is neat.  This supposedly is a 35W amplifier, which sounds weak when you hear about 800W home theater systems now, but owners report a very good sound from those watts.

WP_20170202_21_06_43_Pro

The tape deck is an MCS 683-3543.  It doesn’t have any fancy features like auto-reverse and only has Dolby B noise reduction.  But it does support Chrome and Metal tapes, which I would think elevates it above the lowest consumer decks.  However, more research shows that it suffers from poor speed accuracy.  Entry level specs at best.  Luckily it’s not meant to be the centerpiece.  I’m still sticking with CDs.

Without any speakers, this stereo will be used with headphones, which should be a pleasant experience.  I should be able to find a silver-faced vintage CD player to mate up with the system to complete the setup.  I won’t be getting into vinyl, so I have no need for the phonograph input.  With a planned budget of a little under $1000 for my future stereo system (that doesn’t include speakers), it’s kind of ridiculous that I can get some sort of satisfaction for under $20.

WP_20170202_21_07_43_Pro

I get the devices home and do a thorough cleaning on them.  They’re in pretty good shape.  I plug them all in and grab a set of headphones.  It took me a while to find the only cassette tape I had for testing.  All systems go!  Wait, no.  One of the channels is dead.  No sound from the left side.  Output meter is indicating nothing.  Also, it seems the tape deck is dropping signal on one channel randomly.  Ugh.

I don’t have electronic contact cleaner, so I grab a can of CRC Mass Airflow Sensor Cleaner and shoot all the switches and dials and buttons.  (MAF cleaner is pretty much the same thing)  The volume knob is amazingly smooth now, but it made no difference to my output problem.  I’m not a person who can troubleshoot electronics, so my choices at this point are pay to have it fixed, or pitch it.

I ran the tape deck through my mixer in my office (I guess I did have something to plug it into) and got no channel drops for the entire duration of my test cassette.  Very odd.  When I was listening though headphones, the output dropped and the VU meter fell, too.

I guess I’ll start with the amp.  At least get a quote and see how much more than $10 I’ll need to have a working system.

A Nose For News

Update: Now with even more noses!

Before I updated my phone to Windows 10, I used the Microsoft Money app for news.  It had a glitch where if a photo was a certain size, it would zoom in on a smaller portion of the photo.  This resulted in an article thumbnail image that really had little to do with the story.

I don’t have this app anymore, so I present to you: My archive of noses:

wp_ss_20160412_0002wp_ss_20160413_0001wp_ss_20160414_0001wp_ss_20160429_0001wp_ss_20160503_0001wp_ss_20160525_0001wp_ss_20160227_0001wp_ss_20160323_0001wp_ss_20160324_0001wp_ss_20160329_0001wp_ss_20160330_0001wp_ss_20160330_0002wp_ss_20160403_0001wp_ss_20160407_0001wp_ss_20160412_0001wp_ss_20160720_0001wp_ss_20160527_0001wp_ss_20160527_0002wp_ss_20160606_0001wp_ss_20160609_0001wp_ss_20160613_0001wp_ss_20160628_0001wp_ss_20160630_0001wp_ss_20160706_0001wp_ss_20160714_0001wp_ss_20161107_0001wp_ss_20160811_0001wp_ss_20160816_0001wp_ss_20160819_0001wp_ss_20160823_0001wp_ss_20160823_0002wp_ss_20160826_0001wp_ss_20160829_0001wp_ss_20160905_0001wp_ss_20160913_0001wp_ss_20160914_0001wp_ss_20160914_0002wp_ss_20160916_0001wp_ss_20160922_0001wp_ss_20160922_0002wp_ss_20160928_0001wp_ss_20160928_0002wp_ss_20160929_0001wp_ss_20161004_0001wp_ss_20161006_0001wp_ss_20161006_0002wp_ss_20161010_0001wp_ss_20161012_0001wp_ss_20161020_0001wp_ss_20161028_0001