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Tag Archives: hobbies

Holding On

I read a recent post by AK that flew right in the face of a hobby I’ve been cultivating.  It’s something I’ve been doing for a little while and is really only one facet of the other side of the Letting Go story.  The hobby (and obsession for some) is “archival”.

First, I’m no stranger to purges and I feel the same satisfaction from downsizing as anyone with too much stuff would.  However, sometimes, regret comes back to haunt me.  It’s not the loss of a blender or a stack of towels that I miss.  It’s usually something less utility and more historically significant, which usually carries some emotion with it.  When I say historically significant, I don’t mean like a piece of the Berlin wall, I mean something that represents a period of your life.  And even though there is emotion and significance behind it, there is also a strong element of uselessness.

I ‘ve read a little on the KonMari method and internally nodded my head up until I got to the point where it was explained that we hold on to things for two main reasons: the future and the past.  In the case of the future, we don’t want to get rid of something because we may have a future use for it.  That’s a rational argument, but I usually tackle that by reminding myself that when I need it in the future, I can buy the latest and greatest version of what I need.  (Ironically, the latest version of most things will probably be made shoddier and overall be worse in quality, so…) That kind of mindset would make older generations freak out.  How wasteful! 

In the case of the past, which is where my archivist neuroses kick in, you are afraid of losing a bit of your identity.  The modern philosophy is to live in the present, which, expressed in outrageous terms, is hedonistic.  If you disregard your past and do not plan your future, what is life?  A day-to-day experience with no permanence. 

And, many would agree, the past is highly important, on a personal and societal level.  I’m not going to go to the levels of psychoarchivists who want to preserve absolutely everything, but I do believe that you need to have a record of your past in more than simple digital records.

I have a box in which I keep all my ephemera.  I have items going back to my teenage years, which I believe are personally socially significant.  One of the most useless things I have is a rubber hand with formable fingers.  Yes, at the time, it was usually used to flip people off and it has literally zero value today, but it’s a part of my part and is a useful prop when sharing my life story with someone.  Everybody loves props.

I have an old horoscope paper which used to be sold in little plastic tubes back in the day.  I have memorabilia from past jobs – old name tags, signs, magnets.  You could find some of these things in thrift shops and consignment stores and that is where the great disconnect happens.  People think these things have value.  They only have value to the person who acquired them.  You can’t buy a memory from a store.  I would never try to replace anything from my memory box from a store.  Like a child’s replacement teddy bear, it’s not the same.

So back to the KonMari method.  You might surmise that I would keep everything in my memory box because it gave me joy.  That’s not entirely true.  It rekindles a memory.  And more importantly, the loss of not having those items is greater than the cost of keeping them.  There is a time in a friendship where you finally feel comfortable baring yourself for another person, and that is when the memory box comes out and is shared.  To not have a physical record of your personal highs and lows would be a shame.  You can flash all the photos and videos on the screen that you want, but to be able to touch someone’s past is unique and special.


Bringing It Back

A couple of months ago, I picked up a new keyboard at a thrift shop.  As the holidays were approaching, I only had a few moments to spend any time with it.  I did a quick cleaning and test of the device and found it was… weird.  Something was really odd sounding about the patches when I played them.  I don’t have perfect pitch, but I can hear well enough to know when something is out of key.  And that’s what the problem sounded like.

The phenomenon was very weird, because as I would play songs that are completely familiar to me, I would screw up while playing them.  Not because of any sloppiness or difference in the keyboard action, it was because my ears were hearing a different pitch than I was playing on the keyboard, so my fingers would try to compensate for that and stretch to the wrong next key.  Like I would play a C and know the next note is a D, but my ear hears a B and my fingers think I have to stretch over an extra key to get to the D.  Just a mess.

I did try some repair on the keyboard a little bit afterwards.  After opening it up, I found the pitch and mod wheel cable was disconnected, and it looked like something had been spilled inside.  I pulled the keys that looked like they’d been affected by the spill and cleaned them.  The contacts looked fine.  And then, right in the middle of that procedure, the holidays came back, so I had to close the keyboard all up and store it again.  Along the way, I found I had lost 4 springs for the keys I had cleaned.  Not lost, but they had fallen out.

The other night, I pulled the beast back out and set about some trial and error troubleshooting.  During a previous round of testing, I had discovered there really was a pitch problem and my primary suspect was the aftertouch ribbon.  So after I replaced the missing key springs, I did a quick test with the aftertouch cables disconnected.  Perfect sound!  I reconnected the pitch and mod wheel cable and it still worked fine.  Things are looking up!

I considered the restoration project a success.  I had a functional 88-key keyboard for $100.  Who could complain about that?  Well, maybe I could complain that I had nowhere to set the thing up.  And having this massive electronic device made me miss the even bigger electronic device I nearly gave away.  That one was a real monster:


Maybe one day I’ll write about the experience of trading this killer keyboard for a little tiny mixer.  Maybe it’ll include the confrontation with the sales guy at Guitar Center.

I have some desire to do some music.  To have all these devices and not make use of them is a shame.  And  ridiculously, I have some desire to recollect my original keyboards, maybe in rackmount form, so I can have my original inspiring sounds.

Things were different back then.  Things were more simple and also more difficult.  But the difficulty didn’t matter at the time because there wasn’t any other option.  You had to be daring and involved and willing to expend effort.  Now, expending the effort is rather a big deal.  I have a lot of software to set up, some hardware to configure, patches to configure, and eventually some audio routing will be needed.  These things aren’t conducive to creativity.

As I’ve been rebuilding my playing stamina and relearning some of my old compositions (which I’m very saddened to find I’ve forgotten a lot), I’ve been debating putting some of them online.  I actually have some old video of my playing from 2009 but I doubt it’s usable.  Production values have skyrocketed since then, so I’d probably need to record the video and audio separately, then mix them together to get the best quality.  More setup, more effort, less creativity.

Additionally, I’ve got yet another future audio project that is going to require the full recording setup effort, so maybe it’s happening sooner than I think.  Here’s to 2018 having a more diverse creative output.

Christmas Night 2017: An Evening Of Poor Decisions

As my previous post mentioned, I, along with a couple of cohorts, put luminaries throughout the neighborhood.  Unfortunately, it rained overnight and about 80% of the bags were flat in the morning.  So collection of the luminaries began a day earlier than expected.

I don’t have a big neighborhood, but it feels a lot bigger when you have to make trips to and from your house over and over, carrying about 25 pounds of sand each time.  And, while I was grateful to have all the extra help putting out the lights, it’s probably pretty well known to event organizers that cleanup is a lonely task.

It took about 3 hours and according to my MS Band, which has come out of retirement today, it was over five miles of walking, stooping, standing, and carrying.  The Band does not have a monitor for self-pity, but even if it did, I wouldn’t want to see the results.  A maxed-out chart is uninteresting anyway.

My self-absorbed activity absorbed most of my day and resulted in me skipping substantial meals.  I snacked on shit and salad (got to be balanced), but after the luminaries collection was finished and the tea lights separated from two trash bags full of crumpled paper bags, I was ready to eat.

On Christmas day, your dining options are limited.  So, fault me for not planning ahead and having food of my own to eat at the house (just shit and salad).  Of the available options, I chose IHOP, because they have a sirloin tip dinner that isn’t half bad (It’s close to half-bad, but not all the way there).  The roads are pretty empty going there, which is positive.  But then I found out why the roads were empty.  Everyone was already parked at IHOP.

Sometimes, you can tell when a restaurant is fucked right when you walk in.  I got that.  Sometimes, you can tell why a place is fucked, too.  Mmmm, probably the party of 12, would be my guess.  I don’t know why this is not common knowledge that as the size of the dining party grows, the time and effort to service that party grows exponentially.  That’s for another blog post.

I did eventually get seated and got my food.  It was good, but it wasn’t enough.  I know, right?  You want more shitty food?  A little shitty food, actually, a normal portion of shitty food isn’t enough?  Yes, that is what I am saying.  But, me, being the courteous customer, keenly aware of the long line of people waiting for their opportunity to eat shitty food, I got out quickly.  But I was still hungry.  For what?

Convenience store hot dogs, that’s what!  I was mentally prepared to purchase and eat two roller dogs, so I made my way to a nearby Circle K.  Unfortunately, they had two hot dogs on the grill.  Also unfortunately, they were “jumbo” hot dogs, which isn’t something I’m into.  It has nothing to do with any intimidation or personal inadequacy, it’s a mathematical law – the meat-to-bun ratio.  This is also a post of its own, but in summary, the amount of meat has to be balanced with the amount of bread, just so, otherwise, it’s shit.

Despite the out-of-whack ratio I was facing, I made my move on the dogs, which were spinning slowly in front of me.  Did they think they could escape, confusing rotational motion for forward motion?  I was just about to take down my first dog when the counter lady said, “Oh, you don’t want them.  They’ve been there since about noon.”  But, but, these are the only spinning meat sticks you have.  I think I do want them.

She talked me out of one more poor decision for the evening.  Undeterred, I went to another Circle K down the road.  This store had an array of jumbo dogs, but they were all corralled behind a sign that said “still cooking”.  I sense a poor decision coming on…

And so it was made.  I left the dogs undisturbed and instead bought a cup of boiled peanuts. And a coke.  And pretzels.  And since this is probably my last night on earth, a Powerball ticket.  Once in my car, I make another excellent decision – eat the peanuts here and now.  If you’ve never had fresh boiled peanuts, just understand that these things are soaking in brine for hours and hours and hours (and hours and hours and hours more if no one’s buying them).  In that time, they absorb liquid.  And when you go to free the peanuts from the shells, that liquid is expelled in the most messy way possible.  It’s like popping zits of brine (oooo, a new band name for AK).

After realizing I had nothing to wipe my hands or vehicle interior with, I shuttled the peanuts back home where I ate them hastily.  My stomach protested loudly at every bad decision I had made in the last hour or so.  This led to finishing off some ice cream, straight out of the carton.  Why not?  Gonna die.  Or get some serious shits.  But know this about me:  I do not puke.

And all of that leads me to my final poor decision of the night and possibly my life – writing this post.

Anyway, Here’s The (Wonder)Wall

When I went to bed last night, the word counts for my NaNoWriMo buddies were 539, 447, and 0 (granted, he’s west-coast, so I may not know).  Me? All of 78 words added.  Beginning week 3, Sustain week, the grind.  And judging from all our performances, it’s the wall.

Speaking on my own experience, I opened up the document, looked at the outline, which ended with “Chapter 33 – Lin And Steven Negotiate”, typed “Chapter 34 – ” and stopped.  I had no idea what the next chapter was going to be.  No idea whose perspective it was from or any sort of plot.  After a couple minutes of staring blankly, I walked away from my computer.

It’s not like I couldn’t write.  I was inspired to do a blog entry that day, when I was expecting to go dry for a while.  And I’m writing this blog entry now.  I’m doing all of this instead of working on my novel.  Recently, I commented on how writing the novel wasn’t really fun anymore.  And I gave that emotion some thought and had another realization.

My NaNoWriMo profile identifies me as a “Pantser”: writing with no planning and flying by the seat of my pants.  And that has worked out very well for me.  I am always excited to see where my characters want to go.  I only have detail in my head for one future scene and how to get there, and I have various long-range events that may or may not ever come to fruition.  They all depend on how the short-term scenes play out.

However, lately, something has changed.  In prior weeks, I would always be thinking about the story and what was coming up next.  These last couple days, I haven’t given a single thought to the story.  Yesterday, I only had my thoughts about the upcoming scenes from a few days ago.  Today, I sat down and I had nothing.

So, how did I get over that?  I chose to do some editing.  I jumped back three chapters and read what I had written.  In the process of doing that, I learned that my story isn’t actual shit, which I was increasingly convincing myself it was.  I fixed some basic typos, changed some phrasing, and ended up with an additional 78 words for the day.  More than that, I encouraged myself that this is a story and the story isn’t over yet.  These characters still have things to do.

Today will be a long day at work, but when I get home, hopefully I will have the refreshed energy to take on another two chapters.  Verbum Vomite!

The Envelope Please

Yesterday, I picked up a new keyboard.  I found it at a thrift shop.  I suppose most people would be like, why would you want a grungy old keyboard?  Just go to WalMart or Best Buy and buy a new one.  Well, this keyboard was $100.  And your reaction is probably, what the hell keyboard costs $100.  And I’d keep feeding you clues.  It’s 20 years old.  Is this some sort of vintage IBM mechanical clicky monstrosity?  The kind that annoy everyone in the room?  Nope, it’s a keyboard.  An Alesis QS8.


A picture doesn’t do this thing justice, only because you have to pick it up to appreciate it.  The case is solid steel.  The ends?  Solid oak.  55 pounds of wood and steel.  88 keys of weighted piano action.  It’s a monster.

It’s not the first monster I’ve had.  The predecessor to this Alesis QS8 was a General Music Equinox Pro.  Another 88 key steel anchor.  I have a whole story about the disposal of that anchor that will probably never get posted, but it did involve me getting very belligerent with a sales person at Guitar Center.

Although the news that I now have a second 88-key keyboard is cool, that is not what I really wanted to post about.  I had a revelation tonight.  I may have mentioned I am participating in NaNoWriMo for the first time this year.  This is week 2 and I’ll be honest.  It’s not as much fun anymore.  And that led me to my revelation.

If you have ever programmed a synthesizer, you probably know about the ADSR envelope.  If you have ever participated in NaNoWriMo, you are living through an ADSR envelope.  If you’ve done both, you are probably nodding right now.  For those that don’t know what an ADSR envelope is, I will explain it very quickly and it will make immediate sense.

This is an ADSR envelope:


ADSR means: Attack, Decay, Sustain, and Release.  And these four points of the envelope correspond to the weeks of NaNoWriMo.  You’ll need to replace “Amplitude” with “Daily Word Count”.

You have your first week, where you are full of energy and ideas, so your word count skyrockets.  The second week (where I am now), your output drops to a more realistic level.  Week three is the grind (I’m going to expect this will be true), where you have to force yourself to keep going although you are sick of seeing words on a screen.  The final stage, if you make it, and if you’ve plodded along consistently, is coasting to the finish line, putting in filler text and additional dialog that fills in the blanks until you collapse at the finish line with one word left to go and you find that one character who never had a line of dialog and make him say, “Fuck.”  Just because.

So, welcome to Decay week of NanoWriMo.  Next week, we all Sustain.


Whenever you go to an local art or music exhibition, there is a greater than normal chance you are going to be faced with disappointment.  Further, you may be slightly offended that such works of art are foisted upon the unsuspecting public.  And they have the audacity to proclaim themselves as art!  Whenever you encounter one of these events where you must provide your feedback and insight into the quality of the presented medium, there is a simple compliment that you can give that softens the blow.  The art/music is authentic.

I am one of those artists that will offend your finer sense of artistic quality (doing it right now!), but you cannot deny the artistic integrity on display.  And here is a point I want to make about how I approach art.  I create ignorant art.  That is, I do it using my own inherent skills and skills I am able to pick up organically.  In other words, I don’t want to be taught – or more accurately, told – how to do art.

I signed up for NaNoWriMo this year because, you know, I can write, and moreso1 because AK is the great persuader.  What’s the first thing I get in my email when I sign up?  A bunch of help resources.  Thanks, but no thanks.  I’m going to succeed or fail on my own, you just watch.

And the help never seems to stop.  It’s kind of the same thing with music.  There’s a never-ending list of resources for how to do something.  It’s the case for anything creative, really.  Here’s how to be creative.  You know what?  You either have it or you don’t.  If you don’t have it and all you do is follow how-to’s, you are simply a clone of your teachers.

I’m not saying there’s no room to learn and grow.  I’m saying you can’t be taught how to be creative.  I know that no one can teach me how to have an eye for visual design.  It’s not an ingrained skill for me.  I could have sworn I’d written on this topic before, but I can’t find it.  My memory is a post about how my music compositional style is unique and that uniqueness owes itself to not being formally trained.  The memory also made a point that many musical icons had no training and became genre-defining because they broke the norm.

So, in that spirit, I am beginning a novel with only a plot concept and a couple of characters.  I have no idea how it’s going to end and what will happen between the beginning and end.  At a minimum, I expect it will cause me a lot of trouble with pacing, since I don’t know what will happen and when.  It would suck to unexpectedly get to the end of the story at 20k words.

But, as bad as it may potentially turn out, I can say that my work is authentic.  It will have no influence from “better, more knowledgeable” people whose writing credits are filled with how-to articles.

  1. Moreso: from – “…continues to appear despite the disapproval of usage authorities and of spell check.”  Yeah, fuck you, authorities, and you too, spell check.

Farewell / Dream On

Yesterday, I learned is closing.  I had one day of notice, essentially.  I had just purchased two things the previous day.  How did I not know this beforehand?

Today, I’m searching for news stories about the closure.  There aren’t any stories of significance.  Maybe 2 or 3 in second-tier tech news sites.  Then there’s a few stories about 6 months ago when the announcement was first made.  Included in those stories is a posting about someone who only found news of the closing in the help section of, and no contacts at half or eBay would confirm the closing.  How weird.  Supposedly, the sellers were notified of the closing, but for whatever reason, the users and buyers were not.

So, the expected plan is for everyone to move their listings to eBay.  But as far as I can tell, eBay is not designed for the sale of media.  The whole design of was that you searched for media, then you see who is selling it.  On Ebay, you would search for media and you get a bunch of listings selling that media.  Every listing would be created by each person, so there would be little to no consistency between them.  Amazon is better suited for sales of that nature, since they have a product, then they have sellers of that product.  It’s the same way that Amazon is not well suited to sell things that eBay excels at, like collectables and one-off unique items.

At some point in the future (not near or far future, somewhere in-between), I was planning on opening an online presence to sell my excess CDs. was the frontrunner.  Now I have to choose between eBay and Amazon.  Or maybe Discogs, but I think the buyers would be more discerning there, which would require more effort.

Well, in the meantime, I have plenty enough going on to not worry so much about it, but it is sad to see one of the few physical media marketplaces close down.  You know what would be cool?  What if… Barnes and Noble, who isn’t doing all that well themselves, resurrected the Borders brand (which they bought in bankruptcy court) and re-launched it as a used media outlet. (I hate the word outlet in this instance, but juggernaut is a word that has to be earned).  I’m going to call this idea “Boarders” to prevent any confusion or lawsuits.

So here’s how I would see it operating.  We have to recognize that used media, whether it be books, CDs, DVDs, VHS, or cassette, has a low value – except to collectors.  So, understanding this, margins will be low across the board, no one is going to make a real killing at this.

So you’d start with an online store, structured mostly like  That’s the cheapest way to get things started.  People make their listings, sell their products and life goes on.  Admittedly, getting the momentum started so it looks like you have lots of items will be difficult.  To help in this, the tools to create listings will have to be top-notch.  Something like having a pre-populated database of UPC codes with product descriptions and stock photos.  Maybe have automated imports of structured files to batch add items.

That’s all well and good, but it’s just another vanilla ecommerce platform.  How’s that going to be an Amazon?  So let’s go to phase two.  Amazon is already at phase two, so nothing earth-shattering here.  Phase two is having Boarders warehouse the inventory.  The sellers use the site’s control panel to create a shipment of product to the Boarders warehouse.  This submision includes the item and the price at which they want to sell the product.  Then they box everything up with a printed submission sheet and send it.

When the shipment arrives, the warehouse worker scans the code on the submission sheet, then begins scanning barcodes on the incoming products.  The items get added to the sellers listings immediately.  I’m no logistics expert, but I’d assume the warehouse manages the inventory in the most efficient way.  The warehouse also gets notified when items sell and would ship them out efficiently as well.

I’m not going to downplay the expense of shipping and processing hundreds of books or CDs or DVDs for both the seller and Boarders.  That’s something that would need to be overcome by the beancounters.

Since we’re still having fun with this, let’s move on to phase three.  Phase three is physical storefront.  These could be built into existing B&N stores or could be standalone.  Stuff that was sent to the warehouses is bundled up and sent to various locations.  Why would the seller care where the product actually is?  All brick and mortar stores become warehouses.

Since these are low-margin sales, you need low-margin maintenance.  You also need to know your potential customers.  So for CDs and DVDs, what is needed is a clamshell container that holds the CD/DVD case and the disc separate, so they can both be inspected for condition without needing an associate to assist.  I would have to think about how books would be handled because buyers would want to see inside the book.  But anyway, back to disc-based media.  You also don’t want to have cashiers deal with opening clamshells and ringing customers up, so you would have a self-checkout machine that accepts the clamshell in a slot, scans the barcode, completes the sale, then releases the unlocked clamshells for the customer to remove and bag up their purchases.  The money goes off to the original seller and life goes on.

It’s just kind of a pipe dream.  Realistically, there isn’t enough potential profit to engineer a checkout machine like that, plus manufacture tens of thousands of cases to hold media that is selling for $1.00 or so.  Not to mention the cost of processing other people’s inventory and shipping it to storefronts.

Or maybe there is, somewhere.  Or maybe, there can exists a company that makes enough money to survive, and doesn’t have to make its owner a multi-billionaire.

He Who Controls The Spice

This weekend, I picked up a couple of other CDs from my prime musical era: the 80’s.  It would probably be interesting to poll people and find out what they consider the best music of their life.  Based on anecdotal evidence I’ve seen, it would be the era in which a person became an adult, about when they were 18-21.  But that’s not really the point of this post. 

The thing I have discovered is that although we have all these eras of music: 50’s/oldies, 60’s/hippy, 70’s/classic rock, 80’s/glam/pop, 90’s/depression, and onward, each era has so much more than those generalizations I just assigned to them.  And even when you explore those other genres, they are still consistent with other genres of that era and also different than the same genre in other eras.  For example, Jazz in the 70’s sounds different than Jazz in the 80’s.  But Jazz in the 80’s still has that production sound of pop music the 80’s.  So the point I’m trying to make is that you can explore many genres within your prime musical era.  The amount of music just within your preferred era is staggering.  Believe me, I’ve been getting more and more daring and buying artists I only had a faint memory of.  The best way to describe the result of that effort is like filling in a puzzle of the entire musical landscape of the 80’s.  You see (hear) each album all in context and relation to the others and the era as a whole becomes more defined.  But that’s not really the point of this post, either.

I had to put those thoughts out first because I am curious abut the future (and a little about the past).  The 80’s could be the premier music moment in recorded music history, all due to the creation of the CD.  Because of the mad rush to upgrade past recordings to CD, then because of the eventual low cost of CD production, there is an overwhelming amount of music physically available on CD, both past and present (present meaning 80’s).

However, as we know, streaming is becoming the new standard.  Proponents of this format claim that it will encompass everything, where any music ever made will be available at a moment’s notice.  But will it?  It’s been shown many times over that an artist can simply refuse their catalog to be offered on a streaming service.  Not only an artist, but maybe an entire label.  If a label goes bankrupt, where do the rights go?  The music is only available when everything is working perfectly – and I wasn’t even meaning the technical bits working perfectly.

With our massively analytical society and our ROI-driven corporate environment, what are the odds that a streaming service would look at some particular music and see it isn’t being accessed enough or isn’t generating enough revenue, so it is just removed from the service.  It’s no longer available.  It’s not lost, just unavailable, which is pretty much the same thing to an end user.  I have seen news that some albums are no longer being released on a physical medium, therefore there is no way to own a copy of the music.  If this pattern accelerates, then there will come a time in the future where music can be lost.

Of course, none of this matters to me, because I’m still filling in the gaps of my era, but future generations will end up having a very spotty image of what music was like in their prime.  That would be a shame.

It’s Good To Be A Coder

While driving over the weekend, I had a humorous thought that I think I can stretch out into an extended joke.  The base premise of the joke is simple, just recaptioning an old comic strip to change the context of the comic and the dynamic between the characters.

So, to begin this, I need the original comic strips so I can deface them and make them funny in a different way.  I found the website that was hosting the comics and looked into what effort it would take to get these comics.

Here’s a small lesson in image thievery on the internet.  The most pedestrian way to get an image off the internet is to do a screen capture with something like Snipping Tool.  That route will burn you out in a matter of minutes.

The better way is to right-click the image and choose Save As.  This preserves the original image dimensions without any possible variance from lassoing.  However, web developers have gotten smarter about this technique and will do protective coding to prevent the unwanted downloading of their files.  One way to do this is to capture the mouse’s right-button click.  Other way is to overlay a transparent image over the other so when you right-click and Save As, you save the transparent image instead of the one you really want.  The most effective way is to show the image as a CSS background.  However, the truth is, if it’s in your browser, your browser requested the file and you can do it too.

To get around these tricks, you can use the developer tools built into most browsers.  They will allow you to look at the source code and find the URL of the actual image you want.  That is the path I originally took, finding the image tag, copying the URL into a new tab, then downloading/saving the image.  That lasted for about 7 images before it was too much effort.  Coders are lazy, and they write programs to do the work for them.

Looking at the URL for the image, it was a dynamic URL, not a static one.  It was similar to:

At first, I was discouraged, because the file parameter just seemed to be a string of random characters.  There wouldn’t be any way to turn that into a reliable sequence to cycle through.  But the more I looked at the URL, the more familiar the text seemed.  I took a guess that the string was Base64-encoded, and my guess was correct.  Decoding the string resulted in another URL, although that URL was not accessible from the internet.  It was a page that “content.php” had access to, though. (Just as an aside, this programming design screams “security issues!”)

The decoded URL had a very understandable structure that would allow cycling through comics based on date.  It’s just that I would need to construct that URL, encode it in Base64, then pass the encoded URL as a parameter to the content.php address.

I fired up Visual Studio, added a datebox and a button.  I wrote 4 lines of code to construct the URL based on the date in the datebox, then download and save the image. Then I set up the button to decrement the datebox by a day and process the image.  Now, All I had to do was click a button over and over and the images would dump into a folder.  If I wanted to, I could set up a loop to cycle through images and I wouldn’t even need to click the button at all.  This was less than 15 minutes of effort.

And that is yet another example of the power that comes from being a programmer.

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.