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Tag Archives: simplify

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:

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.


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.


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. 

Watch Out.

I mentioned in a past post that I have a small watch collection.  I say it that way because recently, I considered collecting watches.  I thought I had a fair collection – isn’t more than one a collection?  I had one valuable watch handed down from my dad, four watches all of the same make, just slight variations, then two gifted watches that I didn’t care for.  My plan was to start collecting watches I like.

A little bit of research online showed that that’s not what “watch collecting” means.  Watch collectors are, put bluntly, fucking snobs.  There seems to be only a couple of ways to garner the respect of a watch collector.  Either already have a collection of high-end timepieces, or if you  are starting out, ask for advice and say your budget is something like $5,000.  So, my “collection” of sub-$100 watches is probably an insult to their art.

I had mused on collections in a really old post and came up with the decent conclusion that a collection really only has value to the owner, not to anyone else. (like hair, I said.  Crazy.)  I thought a bit more on it and considered the absurdity of the concept of collecting. Here I am buying $70-100 watches and there’s a whole lot of people out there that couldn’t (or wouldn’t dare) buy a single watch for more than $20.  In that regard, I am very fortunate for my situation, but I certainly don’t have the audacity to look down on someone because they don’t see some perceived value in watches that I see.

And that’s kind of the point.  Why do we collect things?  The high-end watch collectors must be smitten with the amazing craftwork in a watch, and I can understand that.  The issue is that the appreciation of the complexity of the watch is not what is conveyed to a potential fellow collector.  And someone that is buying a watch for a new collection (with a budget of $5k), clearly can’t appreciate the device at the same level.

Really, after all is said and done, a watch tells time.  A $20 Casio digital quartz watch is just as accurate as a Rolex, and doesn’t come with a regular maintenance schedule.  If you’ve never known about luxury watches, yes, they do need to be serviced regularly.  Pay a lot up front and keep paying on schedule.  So, the argument “That watch will last for your lifetime,” loses its charm a little when you have to effectively pay the cost of a new watch every few years.

Given all the thinking I’ve done on this now, I am going to go ahead with my “collection”, although it’s not going to be classified as a collection.  I’m not sure what else to call it.  It’s just a set of watches that I like looking at and wearing and that have the expected purpose of telling time.  As part of their purpose, they match my wardrobe and match the activity I have planned while wearing them.  That’s a balance of practicality and fashion. 

Maybe someday, I will have the desire to own a device with an amazing internal structure and will find the cost of owning it to be worth the reward.  But that day is not today.

Out With The New And In With The Old

I guess it wasn’t meant to be.  I am back using “the tank”  – my old keyboard.  I gave the new slimline KeyTronic keyboards a fighting chance.  but I’ve ruined three already – not a good sign at all.  The first one, something happened under one of the keys, so I pried off the key caps to fix it and wound up breaking the spring on one of the keys,resulting in the key being stuck down.  I RMA’d that keyboard and I think I had to pay shipping.  Its replacement, I spilled a very little bit of Coke on it, and the Delete key started sticking.  There was no way I was going to pry off the keycap to clean it!  So I lived with the sticking delete key for quite a while (and I use it a lot).  The keyboard I took to work has actually failed from use.  The left Control key sticks randomly.  With all the key commands I use every day: Ctrl-X/C/V – cut/copy/paste, Ctrl-E – Execute query, Ctrl-S – Save, Ctrl-A – Select All, Ctrl-Z – Undo, it just couldn’t handle the stress.

I’m taking the other tank to work and will start using it there again, too.  I have some new co-workers, so I suppose they’re going to be ridiculing me for my ancient technology.  Laugh if you want, but it is damn good technology.  They don’t make ‘em like they used to.  When I started typing this post on the old keyboard, I was surprised at how much better the action felt than the thin, low-profile style.  It’s much more forgiving.

I still have one of the slimline keyboards.  It’s still new in the box and I’m unsure what I even want to do with it.  I think it’s going to be donated to a junk sale.