Anachostic

Another attempt

Tag Archives: simplify

My Non-Concern For The Coming Robot Apocalypse

I’ve heard the warnings.  I’ve read about the myths.  They say a vampire can’t enter your house unless invited, and one would surmise the same would apply to robots.  But I have added a new automatron to my brood, without consulting its natural-born enemies, the cats.  It’s a new Roomba, my future Terminator.

Since I’ve recently replaced all the carpet in my house with laminate, I now have all hard-surface floors, which is a virtual playground for a Roomba.  I’ve considered buying a roboto vacuumo a few times in the past, but, damn, they were expensive.  Now, it seems you can get the older tech pretty cheaply, so I was able to justify the purchase based on the lack of interest I had in cleaning my floors and the amount of stuff that was on the floors.

With two cats, the biggest things I have to deal with are: cat hair, cat litter and the dust that comes with it, and shredded cardboard from their scratchers.  I suppose I shed a lot of hair, too.  But, without kids or dogs, I don’t really have to deal with wet things: puke, slobber, drinks.  So a Roomba to pick up all the dry items blowing around like tumbleweeds is perfect for me.

But, back to the idea of extinction.  I’m certainly not afraid of robots killing us off.  Even watching Boston Dynamics nightmare videos doesn’t do it.  I have no fear because really, robots actually suck pretty bad.  I mean, they work, but they’re in no way autonomous.  It’s also why I will never own a self-driving car in my lifetime.  Autopilot?  Mmmm hmmm.  Sure.

My first experience with the Roomba was when I set up the charging base and set the vac down on it.  It lit up and started charging.  I went off to read the manual and I heard something talking.  The robot was talking to me.  I have no idea what it said, but when I came back, it was blinking a couple of lights at me.  They looked like alert and battery lights.  I assumed it was because the battery was run-out dead and needed to get an initial charge, but an hour later, they were still blinking.  I pushed some buttons and it spoke to me again.  “Charging error 1!”  Ok.  Research says this could mean a failed battery or a poorly-seated battery.  I took the vac apart – and to iRobot’s credit, this is extremely easy – and pulled the battery and reseated it.  The Roomba was now charging.

My next experience was when it was on its maiden voyage around the house.  I was satisfied with how it was behaving and the cats were generally spooked by the same.  I went out to dinner and in line for my food, I get a message on my phone. “Clean roller brush!”  Yeah, this vacuum can complain to me remotely.  How wonderful.  Since I’m away from the house, I am unable to serve my robot’s demands and have to wait until I get home.  I find that the little death machine has sucked up a washcloth and became inoperable.  I’m so worried for my life.

The last experience of the night was when I was winding down for bed and the Roomba was wandering around under the watchful eye of the little cat.  I heard it bumping into things over and over and over.  I looked across the house to see it had gone into the bathroom and shut the door, trapping itself in the room.  I’m sure the floor is pretty clean in there now, but again, I’m not worried that robots are going to figure out every potential way a door can be blocked in order to get through.

And that’s my first night with my new Roomba, the T-671.

Junk

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

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

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

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

image

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

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

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

Getting By Giving Back

A while ago, I was reading a forum thread about why record stores keep closing.  The majority of commenters posited that it was either Amazon killing them off or that physical media was dead and gone.  But among the “hear hear” for the majority, there were a few anecdotal stories of local stores that were doing well and those voices were defiant.  They made the point that a well-run record shop is a prize to the community, nearly on par with a library, as they both serve the artistic needs of a town.

I am lucky to have a very robust music store in my general area, with two locations that constantly have new stock to browse through.  My downtown used to have a used CD store, which closed, then another opened, with a half-hearted selection, then closed.  Recently, another music store has opened, which I have visited occasionally and each time, I do find something to buy when there.  That’s a pretty good sign.  Their CD selection was relatively slim, but always had interesting items.

So after reading a lot of these posts about how your local store is to be treasured and valued, because honestly, they do have it rough, I decided to stop by my local shop after work to browse around and maybe throw some money.  When I got there, I saw they had greatly expanded their CD section, which was good for me.  I ended up picking out a few albums.  As I was browsing the CDs, I was reminded of one of the sub-topics discussed in the forum.  If a store’s inventory becomes stagnant, the store is not going to make it.  They must have fresh new inventory to attract return customers, and there needs to be enough diversity of existing inventory to capture new customers.  It’s a difficult balance to keep.

While considering that, it dawned on me that I could help this store in more ways than just buying from them, I could sell to them and increase the quality of their inventory (I’m actually a modest person).  On one of my other blogs, I do comparisons of different CD masterings, which necessitates duplication.  I have a few duplicates in my library from that side project.  As I paid for my new CDs, I asked the owner where she sourced her CDs from.  She replied that it was just people selling their collections.  So I told her I would bring in my dupes for her to evaluate.

Today, I took them in.  Probably about 80 CDs in a large canvas grocery bag.  She pulled out the first handful and flipped through them.  I said, take what you want, skip what you don’t, I won’t be offended.  After the first handful, she said, this is a very good start.  So I left her to see the rest and browsed the CD racks.

Shortly, she calls to me, “I’ll take all of it for $80.”  I said, there’s nothing in there you don’t want?  I’m thinking, you really want 3 copies of Van Halen, two copies of Heartbeat City and that other unknown stuff?  She said there was some stuff she didn’t recognize, but that was fine.  The price was more or less a dollar a disc, which is actually much more than I expected.  I would expect a buck for the well-known stuff and maybe 50 cents for the unknown or hard-to-sell stuff.  So we had a deal.  I walked out with $80 (Well, I bought a $3 CD anyway) and an empty bag.  I said I hope they move quickly for you and she said it wouldn’t be a problem, there was a lot of great music there.  Intentional or not, it made me feel good about my collection.

And I do hope they sell.  The prices at that shop are usually $3-5 for a used CD – a fair price, so she has the opportunity to make a few hundred in profit if she can sell them.  And I couldn’t have made a dollar a disc on EBay with all the effort of photographing, posting, mailing and the materials and postage.  It should be a win-win for everyone, and I supported a local business in the process.

It was a good day.

Hopefully I Remember When I’m Senile

After reading: http://ascii.textfiles.com/archives/4825

I’m actually not sure how to present this idea because in today’s hyper-sensitive world community of “activists”, anything can be construed as evil, manipulative, or exploitive.  So, I guess I will have to say that this is my idea for myself, but if anyone else thinks it’s a good idea and can run with it while dodging whatever arrows are fired by the SJW’s, have at it.

So the premise of the article is that there is an unbelievable amount of data that needs archived into some non-degradable, digital format for preservation.  I’m certainly not opposed to it, despite whatever posts I’ve made about “anchors”, “baggage”, “simplification” and so on.  And it’s something that I would like to help with, but right now, I am in a generally busy part of my life.  This is a very labor-intensive task, and it has a degree of drudgery.  Maybe 20 years ago, I would have been able to devote large chunks of time to the cause, and maybe in 20 years I will have that opportunity again, when I am retired.

That’s when it hit me.  There are a lot of people out there that are… hmm, have to be sensitive about this… underutilized.  Those people could find a purpose by contributing/donating labor to the archival project.  In the spirit of my previous post, they could do archival work.  Maybe (hopefully) they might find the work fulfilling and be driven by the same purpose.  Then they could be archivists.  For many of the people in the demographic I am envisioning, the archival process could also be a nostalgic endeavor.  This could be a potential source for metadata in the archives.

It’s a pretty well-known fact that people who end up in retirement homes fade away quicker because they lose a sense of purpose, the knowing that you are needed and the feeling that your contributions have value.  So, what if archival stations were set up in some retirement homes?  Give some of the residents training on use of the equipment, let them know the benefits their efforts are providing and let them do as much as they wish to do?

The hardware is certainly not a problem.  Hardware is cheap now.  It’s the labor that is  expensive, unless that labor is donated.  I hope I can remember to do what I can when I am too old to contribute in the fast lane of technology.  Just get me off the highway and into the rest area with a bunch of data for slow processing and I’ll do what I can.

Storage Plans

Today I started doing some housekeeping on my computer in regard to storage.  Storage is a thing that has become somewhat of an afterthought nowadays, because it’s so damn cheap.  You can easily pick up 3 terabytes of storage for under $100. So why not have everything on your hard drive?  Or why not add additional drives and put everything and then some on there?

Me, I’ve gone back and forth on these concepts and this go-around, it’s time to set some rules and stick to them.  I don’t pretend to believe that my rules would work for anyone else, but consider doing the mental exercise to determine what works for you and what you really want from your computer.

First consideration is storage availability.  When I first installed Windows, I moved all my data files off the C: drive and put them on a separate, larger hard drive.  Then I changed the mapping of Documents/ Music/ Pictures/ Videos to the folders on the new drive.  This gave me the room to expand if I ever needed to.

Next consideration is storage reliability.  This was accomplished by mirroring my data drive.  This is easily done right in Windows.  I’ve tried RAID controllers and NAS units, but the built-in functionality works just as well, I’ve found.  Along with that level of reliability is file backup, for which I use Window’s File History, writing to an external USB drive.  So: redundant hard drives and an external backup.

Then, to the details.  I gave some consideration to the data I was keeping.  I classified it according to access frequency.  I had files I accessed or needed to reference daily or frequently, files that I may need to refer to but aren’t currently active, and files that I probably won’t look at again but can’t delete.  While I was making these determinations, I also made the decision that any video files that I also had on DVD would be removed.  Video isn’t something I play frequently, so the time spent getting the physical disc isn’t a huge inconvenience.

I partitioned my data disk into two hard drives, Data and Archive.  On the archive drive, I enabled Windows file compression, to make the most of the available space.  Normally, I wouldn’t do that on a data drive, but in this case it’s most appropriate because the drive contains files I won’t be accessing frequently.  Then, I planned a third level, which would be external hard drives detached from the system.  Those would hold files that won’t be used much anymore.  Consider it post-Archive.

So the lifecycle of data on my computer would start on my Data drive, move to the compressed Archive drive, then get mothballed onto an external drive.  In this way, I shouldn’t need to keep up with the Jones’ in the drive storage arms race.  My current working set of data isn’t going to grow exponentially, my archive isn’t going to grow forever, and my drawer full of hard drives holding ancient files is not really a concern.  I think it’s a workable system.

As Windows 10 nears, I’m going to make another attempt at using an SSD as my boot drive.  I recently had my work laptop converted to SSD and the speed is addicting.  I didn’t have such good luck with my Windows 8 install on SSD, so here’s hoping for the best. 

Birthday Wishes

On a popular image site, I saw a captured text message thread of a person who was receiving texts for a wrong number.  The texts were wishing him a happy birthday and asking what he wanted for his present.  Deciding to prank the real recipient, he asked for a bunch of One Direction merchandise.  The result could be taken as funny or cruel, depending on your sympathy for random strangers.  Some say his birthday was “ruined”.

There’s where I perk up my antennae.  I remember the day my birthday was “ruined” and I never celebrated my birthday since.  In hindsight, it was pretty ridiculous that I got all upset over the situation, and at the same time, I now feel it was ridiculous to make a big deal out of my birthday anyway.

There are some people that think their birthday is some magical day and they put a whole lot of effort into it and have very high expectations.  Since I’ve given up on that celebration, I don’t see the value in it.  It definitely increases the chance of disappointment, and why would you want that to happen on a day that you hold in such high regard?  Not to mention, this belief puts undue stress on the people who have to make your day “happen”.

It’s kind of my personal philosophy to stay out of everyone’s way and not be a burden on anyone.  That makes me sound like a hermit, and I’m not exactly opposed to that label.  I’ve become generally self-sufficient.  When asked what I want for my birthday (or Christmas, for that matter), I don’t have an answer.  There’s nothing really that I want or need that I can’t get for myself.  So the incredibly few people who insist on celebrating these events with me are always struggling for ideas.  It reminds me of me trying to buy gifts for my dad.

Bagtastic

The Internet is great for shopping, except in two specific cases, when you want to touch something and when there’s too many choices for an item.

Recently, I was in Target and in the checkout line, I saw they had reusable shopping bags.  They had the typical fake-cloth bags, and they had a canvas bag as well.  I picked up one of those canvas ones and the cashier was like, “No, those are $5. the 99 cent ones are the red ones.”  And I was thinking to myself, “but I like this one…” And I ended up buying it.

It’s a really nice bag.  It’s soft and roomy and it has a hook loop for hanging it up and it has eyelets that I just realized would be used to hold it upright in a bagging rack.  It’s a good design.

So I thought I would try to find some others like it to replace my cheaper, branded grocery store bags.  And this one is branded, too, so it’d have to be a Target-only bag.  I’m a little weird about using other people’s bags in a store.

Well, thank you Internet for giving me so many choices.  Add to that the deceptive descriptions.  Search for “cotton” and you get cotton-poly.  Search for “canvas” and get plastic canvas.  Search for “tote” and get purses.  Search for “shopping bag” and get a ton of marketing and printing company ads.

And on top of all that, I have no idea what the quality is like.  You can’t feel the fabric, you can’t see the stitching, you can’t make any quality judgment from a picture.  This is just one of those cases where you need to buy it in person.  But of course whatever store you are in is going to sell their bag with their brand on it.

So I did something quaint and old-fashioned.  No, I didn’t go to a physical store.  I searched for a company that specialized in cloth bags instead of just relying on good old Amazon.  I found a company that manufacturers cloth shopping bags and their prices are completely reasonable. 

Now, I have the dilemma of choosing to spend money when I am still in austerity mode.  Like I keep reminding myself – it’s something I want, not something I need.  And that’s something that takes real effort.  “Oh, it’s only $25.”  And I’ve used that rationalization about things for much more and much less.

Revamp

In the continuing theme of rebuild and reinvent this year, I took the sledgehammer to my website.  It’s something that has been needing torn down for many years.  The idea of a website going without an update for… 10 years (?!) is unheard of.  Unless the site is truly dead.

But I’m not dead yet.  And I decided to redo the website in a much simplified version.  Gone is the whole “About Us” page, making me seem like some big firm of developers.  Gone are the Software and Support sections that really only had a couple of items in them.  Who was I trying to impress?

Back when I started, there was this pressure to always seem like a consummate professional and always like a huge organization, because no one would take you seriously otherwise.  As time and experience went on, I realized, I didn’t need any of that validation.

Now I’m down to two whole pages, but I have links to other whole websites I’m doing, so that makes my site more what it should be: a portal to my other work.

And part of that website is another blog, so maybe that will get revived as well.  Let’s see last post was…October 2012.  Sigh.

Genres, Generalizations, and Generations

Continuing my quest for ripping and metadata-izing my whole CD collection (currently midway though the D’s – getting through one letter a day).  And I’ve come up against the dilemma of assigning genres.

There seems to be 3 camps: don’t use genres at all, use a limited number, or go all in and use hundreds.  I’ve read a few interesting schemes as well, one being to use a limited number, then subcategorize using playlists.  That was going to be my plan, until I kind of realized something.

Looking at the Rock genre, there is a very large collection of sub-genres under it.  For example: Surf, Hard Rock, Hair Bands, British Invasion, Rock & Roll, etc.  Reading this list made me realize that the “genres” are actually few and far between, but the sub-genres can nearly be classified by release year.  Right?  Rock is different in the 50’s, the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, and on and on.  Yet, it’s all Rock.  It’s the same with Heavy Metal.  The metal of the 70’s is nothing like the metal of today.  70’s metal is many times tamer than modern rock.

So I guess my plan now is the same as it was, keep a very limited number of genres and the classify things further with playlists.  But with my new insight, I can create smart playlists grouping by Year and get a pretty close approximation of a specific sub-genre.

In an semi-related topic, I had a hell of a time ripping one particular CD: The Digital Domain: A Demonstration.  This is one of those CDs that you almost need to have in lossless because its entire purpose is to demonstrate the capabilities of digital audio.  For some reason, every single track resulted in a read error when ripping with Exact Audio Copy.  I got the great idea that I could copy the disc to ISO as data instead of as audio, then mount the ISO and rip from that.  The first tool I tried, ImgBurn, hung during track analysis, so I ended up using Daemon Tools Lite, which I had installed already.  The rip from the ISO went off without a single issue, and it was fast.

Reboot & Graduation

I saw an online forum post recently with a request on options for backing up photos.  The person had a recent scare where they thought they had lost their hard drive and all their photos and was looking for something more.

This thought led me to remember the loss of all of my email some time ago.  When was that? …wow, three years, almost to the day.  You know what?  I don’t miss it.  I mean, there may be some times that I think about it, but as a whole, I don’t need it.  That was a different person.

That made me think, what else don’t I need?  And what else could I and others be hanging on to that are really unneeded.  Things that could be keeping us in a rut, keeping us from reinventing ourselves, from really progressing.  As I’ve said before, these things are an anchor.

Wisdom comes with age, they say.  Not sure it’s wisdom, but I sure wish I had some of the thoughts  that I do now when I was younger.  Then again, maybe I was incapable of those thoughts.  Back when you’re young, you’re just struggling to get ahead in the world, and damn if that isn’t so much harder now then it used to be.  So any idea of me dropping everything and starting from scratch is a little biased.

I think I’d be better prepared for rebooting my life as a young person because I’d have the energy and drive and not a lot of baggage that comes with being an established adult.  But I would be missing all the knowledge of how to get ahead that I’ve gained in my years.  Things like business knowledge, common sense, handyman skills, social skills.  All these I wouldn’t have available back then.  Yeah, things seem easy now, but I’ve been doing it for a long time.  The only thing I lack is youth.

But how appealing that sounds.  Just to have a schedule of every three years, you sell everything, move somewhere new, ditch all your friends and start over.  You could take on a totally different personality, have totally different interests, and through making new friends, experience things that would be completely incompatible with your previous life.  In a sense, it would be like experiencing reincarnation within one lifetime, with the benefit of keeping the memories of your past lives.

Oddly, that has been a very strange recurring thought for me – what will my next life be like?  I think about the missteps I’ve made in my current life and what I have learned in this life that I hope I recognize early enough in my next life to really make a larger impact on the world.  A bigger impact than I can do here and now.

Could I completely start over right now?  Doubtful.  Although it’s a very appealing thought, I feel that I am laying groundwork for something bigger in the future.  Learning patience and tolerance.  Developing empathy and recognizing evil… not evil exactly, but getting a good read on people and their motivations.  Seeing how selfish motivations are fleeting while sacrifice and sharing give much greater results.  Nowhere is this moral exercise more on display than in modern politics. 

So, this life is simply a study session.  I feel like I’m in my Junior year, and just like traditional school, the Senior year is going to fly right by and then you get to graduate.