Anachostic

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Tag Archives: moving on

A Ghost Of Christmas Past

Last night, the GF and I were eating dinner at home, a rare occurrence, and my phone chimed, also a rare occurrence.  We were both surprised by it.  Who could it be?  My asshole brother?  AK?  T-Mobile?  I don’t get a lot of texts from anyone, and especially later in the evening, so I was curious.  I went over to the counter and got my phone, then opened up the messages app.  It wasn’t any of our original guesses.  It was an unexpected contact.  It was my ex-wife.

When I first saw the name, I was shocked.  I read the message, but it didn’t really sink in.  I read enough individual words to make out what it was about.  The message was benign.  She didn’t care about me or wish me a happy holiday or life or anything.  She just wanted to know how the cat was doing and maybe get some new pictures of her.  My immediate reaction was, “Nope.”

I have not had a single communication with this woman since I got all her shit out of the house 18 months ago.  I will admit, I had a morbid fascination of following her DUI trial through the online clerk of court records, but that wrapped up in March of this year and I haven’t cared since.  Life has been excellent ever since I got my house back and never had to think about her again.  Yes, I still get mail addressed to her, but that’s no different than getting mail for the house’s previous owners, which also still happens.

There’s countless ways I can handle this situation, and I’ve thought through quite a bit of them.  There’s plenty of replies that could be made.  I could say fuck off.  I could say, “who are you?” and pretend my phone number is no longer valid.  I could say the cat died just last week and make her feel terrible.  I could say the cat died last year and make her feel bad for not checking in earlier.  I could put her number online and let the Internet have its way with her.  All these different ways of retribution for contacting me out of the blue on such a stupid premise.

But, despite the schadenfreude of seeing her life go down in flames from a DUI conviction, I am not a vengeful person.  I also actively avoid conflict.  And, as I’ve mentioned recently, I’ve found myself to become a minstrel, always focusing on the positive.  So, after recovering from the shock of being contacted by an unpleasant memory of my past, I try to empathize.  She is probably not having a happy holiday.  She is probably alone.  She is obviously having nostalgic memories of her former pet.  So, her life is certainly not as good as mine is.

So, should I cheer her up and send her some recent pictures of the cat?  Be a Santa Clause and brighten her day?  Be the better person and engage in holiday cheer?  No.

While all of those things are laudable and good and kind, every person has an obligation to self-preservation.  And in this case, opening up a line of communication and engaging would threaten that delicate bubble of happiness I have in my life right now.  The received message alone was like an incoming projectile that rattled the defensive walls I erected over a year ago.  Why would I open up the gate and lower the drawbridge?  Likewise, why should I fire back?  The best course of action is simply to not respond. 

Nowhere is it written that says you have to sacrifice your happiness for another’s happiness.  In fact, it is a common truth that providing happiness for another should provide happiness for yourself.  If that is not what is happening, you need to re-evaluate.  This is the Christmas holiday and there is a lot of pressure to spread joy and happiness.  But, if you can’t do it without causing yourself grief, you should scale back your glad tidings.

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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.

A New Era

Over the weekend, I bought a house.  I’ve been working on this purchase for a long time, something like five years.  But now it’s finally all mine.  And now the story can be told.

To quickly summarize, back in 2005, my then-fiancée and I bought a house.  The marriage lasted about 5 years and we divorced in 2010.  Finally, 5+ years after that, I’ve bought out the ex-wife’s equity in the house.  It sounds ridiculous and it sort of is.  When we divorced, the real estate market was cratered and neither of us wanted to sell at a loss, so we remained equal owners of the property.

Now that’s where it gets ridiculous.  As the ex-wife moved on with her life and pursued new career interests in another part of the state, all her stuff remained at the house, presumably as a safety net to fall back into if everything went south on her.  And then, she stopped paying her agreed-upon obligations – taxes, insurance, and lawn care.

You might imagine what kind of resentment this caused.  I was now paying for the house completely, but I couldn’t make full use of the house because it was filled with her stuff.  I couldn’t get rid of the stuff, nor could I bar her from the house as she was a co-owner.  On top of that, everything I paid into the house and any improvements I made was simply equity for her.  It really hindered my happiness, to put it mildly.

At the beginning of 2015, I made a strong effort to get her to sell her share to me.  Because of lawyer difficulties and finger-pointing, the year went by with no resolution.  Near the end of that year, I attempted to get her to cooperate on refinancing the mortgage so at least I could save money, which I would use to move into a new place on my own.  That plan was stonewalled as well.

At the beginning of this year, I made an ultimatum.  Accept this offer or a Partition action will be filed.  Partition is a very expensive legal action that results in a court order that essentially forces the house to be sold.  Magically, the offer was accepted.  I suppose the timing was right.  The ex had secured a stable job and was ready to move on.  It’s a shame I was forced to wait in limbo until she made that decision.

The purchase contract provides 60 days for the ex’s personal property to be moved out, and the clock is running.  I’m working on refinancing the mortgage, which is going to be a huge improvement for me – from a 30yr (10 years paid into it) at 5.6% to a 15yr at 2.75%.  A lower payment and 5 years shaved off.  Making the same payment, I’ll save another 10 months, if I keep the house that long.

I have to give an incredible amount of gratitude to my girlfriend, who remained with me despite the unnerving effect of seeing my ex-wife’s stuff year after year.  The arrangement had been difficult on our relationship and it’s going to be very liberating to be able to have at least a partially clean slate.

But it’s not all awesomeness.  I have a list of over 30 things I want or need to do to the house.  Some of which are simple ($10 dryer vent cover), some of which are difficult ($8000 pool resurfacing), and some of which are pipe dreams (redo kitchen/baths).  But the thing is… it’s mine.  As Last Crack’s Energy Mind says appropriately – “To build or destroy, only you decide which joy.”

Upon Death

There’s a lot of people who are a little or maybe more than a little disturbed by my acceptance of death.  It’s just not a fear of mine and I have no issue with its eventuality.  I’m not even going to try and avoid it.

With such a straightforward view of death, it would make sense that I approach it in a straightforward way.  Everyone keeps harping on the point that you have to have a will.  Yes you should have a will if you own any significant possessions, and of course I do have one.  But there’s another document you need and I imagine many people don’t think of this.  It’s the “Upon Death” document.

Quite simply, this document explains what needs to be done after you die.  It’s like a corporate succession plan.  It can be the document that makes your departure much easier to bear for everyone left.  Think about it, aside from the feeling of loss of your company, what’s the biggest worry people are going to have?  They’re going to worry that they don’t know anything about you and don’t know where to begin to fill your shoes.

The Upon Death document needs to clearly spell out a few things to get people up and going.

  • Your mobile phone PIN and all your passwords
  • All your financial accounts/insurance policies
  • Where to find more documentation
  • Non-family members (business clients) that need contacted
  • How to do things that you did exclusively

Passwords

If you’re doing it right and you are using a password manager, this one is easy.  Just give the master password to your password manager file.  Otherwise, you are going to need to list out all the username and passwords for the sites you visit.  At a minimum, you’ll need to provide your email account password so your successor can reset passwords on other accounts and access your email to complete the process.  Also, don’t leave out your phone PIN, if you use one, and your username and password to your computers.

Financials

Again, if you’re doing it right and you use a Personal Finance Manager (PFM) like Quicken or Money, you just direct people to that file.  It should have all your account numbers in it, ideally with contact information also.  Most PFMs don’t have good support for insurance policies, so include any policies in the document.  Don’t forget many banks have a small life insurance policy on their account holders, so check and see who has them and who to contact for them.  Your employer may have a life insurance policy as well.  Help your successor as much as possible here.

Contacts

If you have contacts outside your family, let your successor know what needs done now that you are gone.  Maybe you work for an organization and you have some of their property or equipment.  You need to get that back to them.  Maybe you are a consultant and you may have uncompleted work for them.  You need to get the latest work to them.  If there’s anything some needs to take over, your successor has to pass along that info.  You need to tell them what must be done and how it is to be done.

Training

This one is open-ended.  If there’s stuff you did that no one else knows about or you know some tips or secrets that need passed on, here’s where you do it.  Maybe the A/C unit freezes up and you’re the one that always fixes it.  That needs explained.  Maybe you manage the home network.  A basic overview can be of help here.  Maybe you can give suggestions as to who would be best to handle tasks in your absence.  Maybe one friend is good at mechanical issues and another is good at computers.

Finally, let someone know this document exists.  Keep it with your will.  If you have a safe deposit box, keep it in the envelope with your will.  Banks will let next of kin do a will search on a safe deposit box, where they can take the will out, but can’t get anything else until they can claim ownership of the account.

In summary, this document is filled with the things you would say from the afterlife if you saw your family and loved ones struggling to figure out everything that you did for them when you were there.  Everyone says, “I don’t want to be a burden” when they are living.  Few people think of how to avoid being a burden after they die.

The Benjamins. Yeah… About Them

Jobs are like a second life.  In this second life, you have work to do, you can have relationships, you can have good and bad “existences”.  I’ve seen co-workers come and go in all different manners.  Some people are squeezed out and their departure is no surprise, some leave suddenly, voluntarily or not.  Some people you want to go and some you want to keep.  And in every case of departure, as with a departure in the first life, there is some soul-searching and some situational evaluation.  Very recently, some news was broken that one of our work family members was leaving.  My reaction to the details of the departure  was unlike others I had previously.

This person had come to us less than 6 months ago.  He came from a job he disliked and he fit in with us very well.  Moreover, he was a hard worker and had excellent skills.  In my opinion, he was going to go far in our company.  This all ended when he put in his two weeks notice.  In IT, there’s always new opportunities and new challenges to take on.  Developers are eager to apply their skills in a new environment, and many cases, fellow workers wish them well, because they understand the excitement of going off to tackle new problems and come up with great new solutions.

But not this time.  This developer was going back to his old job.  Why?  Because they offered him a boatload of money.  That’s the only reason, and it’s the only reason I need to write him off completely.  He knows he’s going to have to work harder, because the dev team at his old job has mostly quit.  He knows he’s going to have to sacrifice his personal time to be on call.  He knows he’s going to be working with the same management he didn’t get along with before.  For what?  Money.

I can forgive job hopping for money when you’re in your 20’s and 30’s, because there’s lots more time to find the company that’s right for you and you should get good and bad experiences so you know what to look for. But this guy should be old enough (my age) to know a good thing when he sees it. But he sees nothing but money.  He’s a whore.  That designation fits very well since he’s commented about putting in a year and getting $x more.  Giving up an incredible job at an incredible company to plan to leave another company in the lurch after a year after pocketing their generous offer.  Don’t come back knocking when you’re done with that one.

I’m taking his decision very personally.  In a sense, I feel like I’ve been used.  Like I’ve been the best boyfriend/girlfriend ever, and six months in, was told, “You’ve been great, but I’m going back to my old boyfriend/girlfriend because they make more money.”  “But they beat you!”  “Yeah, but it’s not that bad, and I can buy nicer things.” 

Money won’t buy you happiness, and I’m looking forward to the day he realizes that.  I’ll give him about three months for the reality to settle in.

Leaving the Best Behind

It’s with a heavy heart that I make the announcement that I’ve given up on the Opera browser.  I’ve used Opera for many years now and was a pretty ardent supporter and evangelist.  Things have changed recently and after much research, I’ve settled on a new browser.

Why did I give up on Opera?  The last release, 12.x, was a total disaster, and sent a lot of people, including me, running back to older versions.  It’s been getting more and more common that new major releases have serious problems and I kind of reached the point of saying “why am I dealing with this?”  Another reason is that I got tired of sites not working with Opera, usually financial websites.  When I have to switch browsers just to pay my bills, why not just switch altogether?

The other reason to leave came to me during a technical seminar on mobile application development.  The presenter showed a graphic with a 1:1 mapping of operating system to browser.  iOS=Safari, Android=Chrome, Windows/Windows Phone 8=IE.  There was no Opera there.  There is no chance that Opera is going to enjoy deep integration like these browsers.  It will always be an app, not a part of the operating system.

I was pretty entrenched with Opera.  It had some features I really enjoyed and some things I had to have.  I began my initial migration process by converting a lot of my specialized functions into bookmarklets.  This allowed them to work in any browser.  But there was a feature in Opera that kept me from moving: the ability to launch an application from a custom menu item.  I did tons of research and study of developing plug-ins for each browser.  In the end, I found a way to do what I needed.  And my new browser of choice?

Internet Explorer.

It’s surprising, even to me.  The browser mocked by the whole internet community is now my choice of browser.  And you know what?  It’s not all that bad.  It’s been quite a while that all browsers were acceptably fast and people began arguing about milliseconds of difference.  People would get involved with arguing over support of obscure protocols, which I never used. But what I did use, and IE supported, was the custom menu and the launching of external programs.

In retrospect, I guess I could have made that feature work with Firefox, but FF suffers from the same non-integration as Opera, it also has a significant reliance on 3rd-party plug-ins, which slow it down and require regular maintenance.

The biggest thing I’m missing from Opera right now?  Per-site settings, like custom CSS, JavaScript, and plug-in disabling.  And I’m finding that even IE isn’t invulnerable to poor website coding.  But on the other hand, no viruses.  You surf the Internet with a bit of intelligence and you’ll be fine.  Even in Internet Explorer.

No More Forever

A question about a perceived increase in divorces got me thinking today.  I’m not really interested in doing research and finding hard facts about if the numbers are rising.  It’s personal experience.  When it happens more frequently in your circle of friends, it seems like it’s happening everywhere.  And it generally all seems to happen around the same time, whether the marriage is 5, 10, 15 years old.  It’s somewhat age-dependent, and even more experience-dependent.

Our modern culture allows us to experience so many things that previous generations could not.  This allows us a much greater chance of finding things that we really want to experience that are not compatible with our partner.  This can result in either a separation of activities or resentment if those activities are denied.

Our social industry is constantly bombarding us with messages to "just do it", "why not", and more to make us choose to not deny ourselves; to indulge every wish; to really live life.  It’s no surprise that we respond to this by wanting to do more things.  We can research online and find communities of people that enjoy activities that you enjoy or want to enjoy.  You can build a bond with these people on a common interest that you don’t share with your partner.

A couple generations ago, there wasn’t a great amount of these diversions, especially among the middle class.  You’d hear about some millionaire getting divorced on occasion.  Maybe because the millionaire felt limited in his relationship and had many opportunities to do other things with different people.  Average people would stick around their home towns, maybe travel one a year, had a smaller circle of actual, physical friends and stayed on the same wavelength without temptations of novelty.

And these activities are novelties.  Sure there can be some long-lasting hobbies that form, but a lot of things are for the experience, and then you move on to the next one.  It’s somewhat selfish and hedonistic, which are accurate descriptions of our current society as a whole.

The younger generations are proving the trend out.  They are developing even more relaxed relationships, with brief intimate relationships forming between friends, then with friends of those friends.  Even the new design of social networking shows this fragmentation of relationships.  With Google+, some “friends” go in one “circle” and others go in another “circle”, with no intention of them ever meeting.

Certainly not to say that friendship used to be an “all or none” prospect.  There’s always been “layers” of friendship, or if you want to visualize using the modern metaphor, it would be circles, but those circles would be concentric, as opposed to the modern star topology of friendship.  For example, it used to be assumed that if you were going to have sex with someone, they would be classified as being in one of the most inner circles of friends, with the same trust level and access to emotions as family.  But with the new, disconnected model, you could have a circle of sex partners that don’t have the same trust levels as close friends that you share your personal secrets with.

So to wrap this all up, as we discover more things we want to do, create circles of friends that share these activities, indulge our fantasies without recrimination because of the social barriers we define as circles, it’s no surprise that soon you have more interests that don’t involve your partner than interests that do.

And when that happens, you’re just friends.

See Yourself in Pictures

I don’t consider myself a photogenic person.  I don’t particularly like looking at pictures of myself.  Every once in a while, there will be a picture I find acceptable, but most pictures of me I’d rather ignore.  Despite how I see myself, I do have friends and those people look at me every day.  They don’t seem to mind what I look like.  However, my friends don’t really take a lot of pictures in general, so there is a dearth of pictures of me.  I wouldn’t have thought it was such a bad thing, but I’ve recently felt a need to change that.

At one end of the spectrum, you have people that love to see themselves, love to take pictures of themselves, and love to have other people see them.  We all know someone like this and usually they fit a certain personality stereotype.  It’s not necessarily a bad stereotype, but one nonetheless.  At the other end of the spectrum is where I was – no pictures to speak of,  and the ones I had didn’t really show me as I wanted to be seen.  This lends itself to a different personality stereotype, mostly a negative one.  You can say “I’m just private”, but the actual message is “I don’t do anything worth sharing with anyone.”  That needs to change.

Just to be clear, the only people I will show my face is to trusted people – that means only my selected friends on Facebook.  I’ve made the mistake once of showing myself to the Internet and it didn’t end well.  So, by choosing the audience, there’s a certain level of acceptance already.  The next thing to do is to get some good pictures.

The secret to getting a good picture?  Get a couple dozen bad pictures.  Seriously.  For every picture I post, I toss at least ten that don’t look the way I want.  That’s what the pros do; why shouldn’t I do the same?  I’ve discarded every picture from a shoot because I didn’t like any of them.  When you take a picture, don’t take a picture, take a dozen.  Move slightly in each one; different expressions; angles; hand positions.  As ridiculous as it may seem, you have to learn to be a model.

As you build these mountains of photos, you may initially hate all of them.  Then you may see one that catches your eye and makes you stop.  That is your new base standard.  Now you don’t have to waste any time on anything that doesn’t look as attractive at that one photo.  Things then get a little harder from a composition standpoint, but easier from a review standpoint.  And as you do this exercise more and more, you will begin to notice the features that are unique to you and what makes you attractive – because everyone is attractive in some way, otherwise, you wouldn’t have any friends.

And here’s the number one secret for photos if you are self-conscience: couple shots, and to a slightly lesser degree, group shots.  Let’s say you and/or your significant other hate having your picture taken, but at the same time, you find your partner very attractive and would love to have his or her picture.  You simply take a couple shot.  Upon viewing, each of you will only look at the other person, because that is where your attraction is.  Don’t have a significant other?  Get in a group.  And look like you’re having fun, even if you’re faking it.

Breaking Up is Hard to Do

Everyone always is concerned about the kids during a divorce.  No one ever considers the computers.  What happens to all those files, both shared and personal?  The remote access? The hardware? The user accounts?

In my specific case, there is a domain, shared network drives, centralized email and backup, and a terminal services gateway.  The ex’s computer is on the domain, storing email and personal files on the server that get backed up nightly, and is accessed remotely through the gateway.  This all needs to end, so like the dissolution of a business entity, a teardown plan must be designed and drafted.

First consideration is what to do with all the files.  The workstation only has a 80GB drive, about 50% utilized.  Moving all the data back locally will exceed the available drive space.  This means the hard drive must be updated, hopefully with a spare I have lying around.  So, there’s going to be a cloning step and moving all the extra files.  This includes exporting the email from the server to the workstation.

Then, it’s a matter of configuring the email to be retrieved by the workstation instead of the server.  Then, setting up the remote access software and backup.  This should be easy enough with TeamViewer and the built in backup in Windows.  One of the external USB drives can be dedicated to holding the backups.

In an ironic parallel to the end of the relationship, then there will a break from the domain – both computers and user accounts. And in the end, the server will be decommissioned since there will be no more need for shared services.  And even in technical networking terminology it is clear: we have gone from a trusted domain model to a peer network model.

Doors Close and Doors Open

Look at this, the supporter of the underdog has Facebook and WordPress accounts now.  What a sell-out.

Well, my programming blog finally shut down and Live Spaces is being shut down.  I thought I could just do without any long-form composition.  Coinciding with my purchase of a new Windows phone, I opened a Facebook account and thought it could be a blogging platform.  It can’t.  I don’t pretend to have a whole lot of anonymity online, but I figure if anyone wants to take the time to map my online handle to my real name, they must have some sort of interest in me.  So still, I’ll be keeping some more interesting thoughts and ruminations in this space, not under my real name.

And with WordPress comes a whole lot more functionality and configuration of the blog.  That’s a bit much for this first attempt.  I’m just pleased with the successful transfer of all my posts.  someday, I have to go through and remap all my images and get them off the Live servers.

I just haven’t posted much since I got the notice that Live Spaces was shutting down.  It didn’t make much sense.  But I’ve still had ideas and had some angst about where I’m going to put those thoughts.  I guess this is my answer.