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.

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.

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.


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.