On Physical Media

There is particular joy in physical media, whether it is music, games, even software. In the last couple days alone, I have seen kids playing cassette tapes, and a child poring over the box and instruction manual of a PSP game, and calling out the various items of note from the manual. Not playing the game, but reading about it. And reading about the associated things from the game.

That’s been lost with so many modern things. People love actually touching vinyl records, the sleeves, and picking something to listen to by moving through. The paradox of choice is real– i have Spotify, which has essentially All The Music, I have a personal collection of MP3s somewhere in the 50 gig range, and yet it’s the 25 records that get the most play time, at least the play time that involves the whole family.

Endless choices are paralyzing, and the EASE of just typing in “whatever” is less fun that actually looking at pictures on sleeves and making a choice, removing the inner slip case, and putting the record on the platter.
I’ve had conversations about physical media vs streaming with a friend who thinks I’m out of my mind, but he made the connection between listening to vinyl and driving stick.

In most modern cars, there are zero advantages to driving a manual transmission. It used to be more efficient, it used to be faster, but none of those pros are still accurate. But I still drive a manual transmission. It’s less boring. It makes me feel more a part of the journey.
And maybe that’s the point with vinyl. It brings the other senses into the aural journey. It’s not just your eyes, but your eyes and fingers get involved as well. (And your nose, depending on the age and previous owner of your records.)
There was a time that old video games came with maps, manuals, explanations and descriptions and items you could touch as you journey through a game. Even perusing a shelf and picking a game or album is different than a list on a screen. I don’t know the neurological reasons as to why it’s different, it’s a tactile feel. And as everything moves more and more to shiny screens, to interfaces that exist only a screen, maybe the ability to have something that is a Real Button is a good thing.

The newest Teslas has no buttons (other than for the windows,  I have to assume?) Not even a knob for your AC or heat, just a slider on a touch screen. I have been listening to music on the go with an iPod mini lately, and even being able to reach down and push ‘Next’ without having to look but just FEEL has been not only fun but satisfying.

It’s possible this is simply the manifestation of Curmudgeonhood, but maybe I’m on to something here. As technology progresses at a lightning pace, maybe it’s time to reconsider the feel (and the smell) of things.

Waiting For A Habit

Bad habits are hard to break. Everyone knows this. Eating poorly becomes a habit. Not exercising becomes a habit. Looking at porn becomes a habit.

Immediately flipping to a new tab during a progress bar / compile time / rendering becomes. a. bad. habit.

I write this because I know this. Knowing, while being half the battle, is only the first half.

Just like losing weight, everyone knows how–you eat less, you work out more. But when you actually DO lose weight, you get asked a lot…”So what’s your secret?”. Every one of us always hopes for an easier way, some Way Out that we didn’t know about, so we don’t have do the Work.

I kill my own productivity because a few times in a row a set a bad precedent. And that precedent set into a habit.

My blithe internet time wasting is a way to avoid waiting for a bar to cross the screen. Guess what? Waiting is not a bad thing. The Age of the Smartphone has made our little brains very bad at waiting. Got a free a minute? Pop open the phone, check social media, get a quick dopamine “i saw something new” hit. Standing in line? Pop out the phone. Sitting on the toilet? Same deal. It’s every where.

We’ve created a habit for ourselves to never be bored. We never actually wait for something to happen.

The DMV, the post office, lunch break, during our kid’s activities, there’s no patient waiting. We have tracking numbers so we know when packages are coming, and still, when that status says “Out for Delivery” we get impatient. Instant info is all around, yet the wonder of technology is lost on us, as we’re too buy staring at our phones. So we don’t have to stare out the window.

Not ingesting new information is how you have ideas.

By constantly checking the phone (or whatever internet device), you rob your brain of creative energy. Why bother coming up with ideas when reddit can provide a thousand ‘new’ things every minute?

If you don’t stop and think, you’ll never produce.

If you’re not making anything you’re just consuming what others have made.

The Best “Thing” You Probably Already Have

There’s an old Depression-era saying, “Use it up, make it do, or do without”.

Americans aren’t used to that any more. There’s always something slightly more advanced, something better than what you already have. The siren song of new ‘n shiny is hard to resist. Distilling the problem to it’s essence will allow you to find out if you really need something else to upgrade.

Personal example: I’ve been looking for lawn mower baggers, or lawn sweepers, as my current mower is a mulch-only. However, in the barn, I have a broken  bagging lawn mower. If I take the time to fix the old one, there’s no need to upgrade. But first I have to fix it.

What am I trying to solve? I’d like to clear grass clippings off my yard, as well as have easy access to mulch or scratch for my chickens. I can solve this problem with a rake and some time, but that’s not nearly as fun as shopping.

Now, my own grandfather would say “The right tool for the right job,” and that is a maxim that is also true. There are absolutely repair projects that are nearly impossible without purchasing or getting ahold of the tool that you need.

When shopping for big(ger)-ticket items, ask 2 questions:

What problem am I really trying to solve?

and

Can I solve this problem with something I already have?

Owning more things comes with a cost, from maintenance and storage and consumables, or simply the mental overhead. Our brains are finite, and there is a capacity issue with having more Stuff. Shopping, comparing and searching for deals are additional costs on our attention.

LED Bulbs and hot rooms

I don’t have any data beyond my own entryway, and I can’t find much information out there. I have had several PAR20 LED bulbs go bad well before the promised years of life.

My woodburning stove is in this room, and the room can get pretty warm. There is a thermometer in the room, so I know at times it gets up to maybe 80 degrees Farenheit. Probably warmer in the ceiling and enclosed bulb spaces. However, it doesn’t seem to be the bulbs closest to the stove that go bad more often.

My theory is that the LED bulbs don’t take the extra heat well. The halogens I used to use lasted just as long as these LEDs have, if not longer. I’ve started writing the install date in sharpie on each bulb as I put it in.

If You Stop Looking…

If you stop looking, you won’t find it.

It’s so painfully obvious but I just can’t seem to learn this lesson. I have a hard time staying satisfied with what I have.

Really, I want for nothing; my ancestors would be ashamed. I live in the West; any food or entertainment need I have can be quickly satisfied. But I shop. I get fixed on something and just keep shopping.

I owned a giant luxury car for a time, and I miss it. The power, the comfort, the ‘solid’ feel of driving. The little inflated sense of pride that comes when unlocking the door or when passing someone with power to spare. (You’ll note I have a harder time recalling the 18 mpg, or the repair costs)

I want another one. I don’t need one. No one really needs such a thing. But I want it.

And I feed my own problem. Not just feed; the entire issues is completely self-created. You won’t find great deals if you’re not looking. Craigslist doesn’t come to me, I go to Craigslist. If I don’t seek it out, I remove any and all turmoil. There’s no panic of  ‘There it is! How can I make this work?!’

Yet the most obvious lessons that don’t seem to stick.

Found myself a luxobarge, not far away, with the interior color I dream of. To what end?

Life must be lived intentionally, with focus. “Does this purchase get me closer to my goals?”

How much is Enough?

Tomorrow I’ll Be Better

Procrastination is an eternal struggle. I hate to even admit it here, but everyone knows it. Being self-employed doesn’t really help. There’s always something more interesting than work just waiting out there to be looked at, something that I need to know how to fix.

I realize I need time away from a screen, to actually have time to think. I know this, but I rarely do it. Reflection is so important to get things processed.

It’s so simple to just pick up the phone (well, or tablet) whenever there is down time. Waiting in line? Bored no more. Waiting for anything? You never have to stop and have your thoughts to yourself.

Being able to have the time to let your mind run is a luxury these days, and I believe we are poorer for it. We distract ourselves because if we stop and think for a minute we realize how empty our lives are. How devoid of purpose. If I only had that One More Thing! Then I would be satisfied.

Until I get that one more thing, then there’s always another.

 

Jon Del Arroz on Marvel Comics the past few years

Mr. Del Arroz puts into words some good points about Marvel lately here: http://delarroz.com/?p=655

The whole thing is well worth a read, but point 3 stands out:

3. Social Justice. It stems from the editorial down to the writers, and they’re al the same lockstep of trying to force a left wing social narrative on everyone trying to relax and read Hulk beating up bad guys in a pure rage. Your overall audience aren’t hipsters in New York City. We’re spread out across the country and are probably split mostly along the way they country’s split. Recognize that. I couldn’t find any book that looked like the iconic characters any longer. Everyone is a gender swap trans muslim whatever gimmick of the month to virtue signal how diverse they are. And it suffers from the same problems as the first two points I made about the industry. When this was done once or twice, it was something different. It was cute. It made news headlines. Marvel got a quick sales bump. They went for that cheap gimmick on repeat rather than maintaining excellence in storytelling. It’s not making something new, it’s using a marketing gimmick for what would have been a single issue of What If? 30 years ago. A bigger problem is it isn’t to evoke the same sense of What If? fun and wonder, it’s 100% completely for the virtue signal. That intent shows through, it annoys people. No one wants it, for real.

I realized the newest comic I’ve read was Mark Waid’s Daredevil, and that ended in early 2014. Part of the trouble with the constant stunts of comics is Event Fatigue. When I read headlines lately about Captain America is actually a member of Hydra, in the past I would have been somewhat curious to determine what really happened in the comics vs the news stories.

Now I mostly roll my eyes and don’t bother reading up on it.

I’ve recently gotten some Marvel Masterworks collections of the first issues of Amazing Spider-man from the 60’s, and while things are a bit dated and plots often are solved by MAGIC SCIENCE OUT OF NOWHERE (scientia ex machinia or maybe Deus ex scientia), there is a sense of fun, wonder and possibility. And my kids love them. I love them.

Comics haven’t been “your father’s comics” (like headlines often say about some new hyped change) for about 30 years. It’s time to have fun in four colors again.

Fixing Insurance

The so called “Ryancare” bill failed this past week. Health insurance in America continues to be a mess. (Note that I said insurance, not care. The care available in America continues to be amazing….if you can pay for it. The confusion between the two is part of the problem, I believe).

What boggles my mind is how it seems there is s simple way to make changes to the way insurance works in this country.

Unbundle from employment.

All the hue and cry about preexisting conditions would be significantly lessened if you could simply purchase insurance on your own instead of through an employer, and receive the same tax benefits as an employer does. This would allow someone to purchase insurance, and keep it, prior to any preexisting conditions…and then not be concerned about losing it if the job changes.

Keep in mind, the entire reason we have this goofy employer-based system is because during World War II, there were wage controls in place, and the employer providing insurance was a benefit to help attract talent. Even Wikipedia acknowledges this.

Imagine if you were afraid to change jobs because you might lose your car insurance. Imagine if you could get car insurance after you were in a car accident. Imagine if people demanded that car insurance covered oil changes and new tires and routine maintenance. It would be ludicrous. That would cease to be insurance and be some sort of prepaid maintenance plan.

And yet that is where our “insurance” system is right now, and it’s not getting better.