Tag Archives: life balance

Nobody Is Winning

As far as I can tell, this is a shit year for everyone, and I don’t mean that in a blanket sort of way.  It seems everyone is getting dinged here and there very specifically.  I mean, yeah, there’s this global thing going on that everyone is getting hit by, but some people are getting hit by it in a more direct way, or in an absolute direct way.

But that’s not everything that’s going on.  All the other things, whether minor, major, or catastrophic, are happing, too.  And some are direct and some are specific.  I certainly don’t want to classify whatever things I’ve been having happen to me as the same as someone who’s been through more than one of the, what, 30+ tropical storms this year, or wildfires, or earthquakes, or god knows what else.  But with everything that has been happening and we still have a month and half left to go in the year, I’m just out of fucks.

My gripes as of lately, as I’ve implied, are minor.  They’re just annoyances, but in a year where all you hear about is shit, it’s enough.  A flat tire here, internet going down multiple times after years and years and years of rock-solid stability.  It just seems like everything is coming to an end.  Maybe I wouldn’t have even given those issues a second thought in another year, but there is no good news to really balance it out.  Everything is bad.

And now we have half the country pissed off they can’t be as openly racist as they want and the other half is pissed that the other half exists.

I don’t even know where I was going with this post, but it’s relevant to the times.

Some Digital Housekeeping

Today’s random project is de-duplicating a set of files from a 2008 backup.  This is an old archive of five ZIP files built from five old DVD backups of my files from my computer back in 2008.  And what these ZIP files contained were personal files and work files and programming projects from all my jobs up to that point.  Some files go back to 1993, back when floppies were the primary storage medium.  The starting point for the effort is:  20.6 GB in 40,286 files in 4,072 folders.

That sounds like a pretty daunting task.  And it’s not the first time I’ve considered cleaning it up.  I know it needs it because these ZIP files have ZIP files inside of them which have even more ZIPs inside of them.  It’s a Russian doll of redundancy.

Step one is to expand the first zip files into one folder.  Then, I will use the freeware tool SMF (Search My Files) to find duplicates.  Eliminate the dupes, which hopefully includes some ZIP files, then expand the next level of ZIP files inside the folders and repeat.

The first run, it found 28k potential dupes – I assume that’s based on filename.  In 7 mins it created hashes for all those file, then quickly identified 16k dupes.  I worked my way through the biggest files, getting down to 1.5MB files and after that first trim, the cleanup folder was: 19.6 GB in 40,105 files in 4072 folders

So that effort saved me about a gig of space.  Worth the effort?  Probably not.  Am I going to work through the other 15k files?  Absolutely not.  What I discovered I needed was a duplicate folder finder, which would check to see if all the files in two different folders were the same.  That would involve creating a checksum at the folder level as well as at the file level.  By deleting some files from one folder and not others, I was not helping the duplication problem and actually making it worse by now having two folders, each with incomplete file contents.

Ok.  That was a total bust.  The more I dug into ZIPs, the worse things got.  That was about 90 minutes of effort for no good results.  So I deleted it all and extracted the original ZIP files again.  This time, I’m going to break out the files into the different sources.  I have 2 or 3 different work archives, plus my personal stuff.  One of the problems this may solve is when I copied work files to home and now I had two archives of the same stuff.  Then at some point, I’ll have to resolve archives of different time periods.  I would probably want to keep the newest version.

An hour or so into the organization process, I’m feeling pretty good about this attempt.  I manually identify some dupes and immediately wipe them out.  Then I use the dupe checker utility to look at smaller folders, so I don’t get hit with tens of thousands of dupes.  The result of this effort?  19.3 GB.

At this point, I’m pretty satisfied with where the archive is at.  Moreso, most of the files have been unearthed from their nested ZIPs, so I can find the dupes and delete them.  So this was more of a cleaning exercise than anything.  There’s some talk on the internet about being a hoarder of digital data and how easy it is to do that because it seems so lightweight.  But if you open up your “archive” folder and immediately close it because it’s too overwhelming, that should be a warning sign.  Physical or digital, stuff serves no purpose if it can’t be found and accessed with minimal effort.  That’s been the biggest satisfaction for me from this task, that at least things are a little more in order, even if they’re not perfect yet.

The Next Generation Of Tortured Musician

The other day I went to Guitar Center to buy some cables for my stereo.  Maybe it’s just me, but the store was just depressing.  It wasn’t all that busy, which may be a sign of the times.  Do people play music anymore?  One of the things that really irked me was seeing that their on-display studio monitors had the speaker cones pushed in.  Who the fuck does that?  No, seriously?

You are in a store with only music stuff.  So probably, you are a musician.  This is gear you might want to own.  And if you owned it, you would probably take care of it.  But these are not your speakers, so you feel you can damage them?  I just can’t understand it.  It’s like, “Wow, that is a beautiful car.  We should let the air out of the tires.”

I might have had the answer to my question right there with me.  As I was looking at all the different equipment in the department, I could hear someone playing a keyboard – badly.  It was the same melody of maybe 4 notes over and over, with some attempted backing chords that were either mangled or in the wrong key.  But as bad as it was, it was intentional.  It wasn’t just trying out a keyboard’s sounds or action or whatever.  It sounded like someone… practicing.

Now this wouldn’t be the person damaging the display products.  This is a musician (to apply the term loosely).  However, this person brought along a couple of friends, and they were not of the same type.  The one kid was shouting, “My boy’s droppin’ an album this week!” and “We’re gonna Instagram Live this!”  Why he’s shouting, I have no idea.  I steal a glance at this group and they’re a pretty pathetic bunch.  The keyboard player was an awkward, chubby, doofus.  His two “friends” were stoner/grunge types.  These two, I have no doubt, would have zero issue with damaging merchandise.

I bought my cables and as the 4 note melody repeated over and over behind me, I said quietly, “I couldn’t survive here for a single day.”  The cashier replied, “I can’t say I’m surviving, but I’m still here.”  I nodded in acknowledgement and quickly left the store.

Once outside, I thought a bit more about that situation.  This doofus kid, he clearly has an interest in music.  He convinced his non-musician friends to go to Guitar Center with him.  He’s playing something original, albeit badly.  God knows, I’ve been there.  What’s his story?  Does he not have a decent enough instrument at home to practice on?  Does he not have one at all?  And his friends, they don’t really seem to be really supportive of him, except in a mocking fashion.  I was surrounded by other musicians as a teen, so my environment was more enriching and inspirational.

There was a part of me that wanted to talk to the kid and ask about his situation.  You know, I have an extra keyboard I’m not using, maybe it would give him something to work with at home?  Or maybe if I knew of some non-profit arts group that worked to encourage music exploration and ability, I could make a referral.

In the end, I did none of that, because I have a very hard time executing on ideas.  But hopefully the kid manages to break out of his unsupportive circle of jerks and keep up his practice.

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.

Keep It Going

Happy After-V-Day.  So, how did it go?  Did you brave the crowds or stay home?  Did you feel yourself up or were there others involved?  Doesn’t matter.  The day for that is past, now it’s just normal life again.  Well, except for the bros out there just tapping their feet waiting for Feb 21 – Steak and Blowjob Day.

Me, I spent a lot of it in airports and in the sky and on the road.  My V-Day dinner was alone at Wendy’s.  Not really alone, there was a family there.  I’m not sure if there were celebrating V-Day by fighting or arguing or disagreeing or just having an intense conversation.  Everyone has their relationship rituals.

But, there a secret that the marketing firms don’t tell you about V-Day, and it’s not that there is such a thing as Steak and Blowjob Day.  It’s that you don’t have to wait until February 14 (or 21) for you to get your candy, flowers, attention, steak, blowjob, or arguments.  You can do it as often as you wish, every day even.  Buy a bag of gummy bears.  Every day, eat one, give a blowjob and have a fight about it.

Or you can be normal humans and just care about each other every day.  Or whenever you feel like it or whenever it is required or appropriate.  Do it in your own way.  Some people show love with food, some with fighting, I guess?  Here’s a few random ideas for you and your partner.  Stupid kids who have no relationship experience like to call bullshit like this #RelationshipGoals.  Don’t make it a goal, just do it as something.

First off, have a movie night.  But give it an edge.  Make it slightly dangerous.  Go to a pawn shop.  Wait, hear me out.  If you haven’t been to a pawn shop before, you would be floored at the number of DVDs they have.  And they want to get rid of them, badly.  They are cheap as hell.  It’s cheaper to buy than to rent.

And when the price is so low, there’s no emotional investment in choosing a good movie.  The emotional investment should be with each other, anyway.  So here’s the deal.  You each choose one or two movies each and you must watch them to the end, together.  You’re going to find some weird stuff at the pawn shop, for sure.  If the movie sucks, have sex while it’s playing, it still counts as watching.

Maybe movie night is an all-day thing, maybe not.  But here’s an idea for daytime.  Do you think you’re well-grounded in reality?  Do you think you’re pretty run-of-the-mill normal?  Do you want to challenge those impressions of yourself?  Maybe have a fierce battle with inadequacy?  Well, this date idea will do it.

Go on a model home megatour at some housing developments.  Maybe you’re not living in a place that has a lot of real estate booming going on.  That makes it even better, drive to one and you’ll be able to resist the siren call easier.  But if you haven’t been home shopping, it’s like going shopping for Maserati’s.  See, because no one makes cheap homes anymore.  Cheap homes are used homes, older homes.  Builders can’t make money on starter homes.  Even if they could, and maybe they would try, they are not going to make a model house show you what you can get for bottom dollar.  That’s not how things are sold.

So tour a bunch of model homes.  You’ll see excess and grandiosity and features and fixtures that will leave you shaking your head.  When you get to the 4,000+ sqft house with multiple game rooms and a bathroom that could be a studio apartment in itself, you will have a new appreciation for the simple life and a fresh disdain for the metaphorical Joneses you’re supposed to keep up with.  And hopefully, if your partner is of the same mindset as you, which I would hope so, you will walk away collectively stunned and grateful to have each other and that you share the same values.

Finally, and this idea is simple, generic, and simply honest.  Do something together that exposes a vulnerability.  You always want to show your best side to your partner.  You always want to be perfect.  But, it’s healthy to let your guard down occasionally.  Let your partner know you really are human and can do embarrassing things, or can fail to do something correctly or well.  Couples painting?  Wall climbing?  Ice skating?  Karaoke?  These are things that don’t have to wait for V-Day or Steak/BJ-Day.  You can do them whenever and as often as you want.  And it’s perfectly fine to suck at them, because those things are not your relationship.

How I Do Love Thee

Welcome to February, the month of lovers, where survivors and castaways of Dump Month find new hope.  Also, half home to Aquarius, despite whatever the fuck those people that think they can change the astrological calendar think.  In the spirit of this month, I wanted to do something a little XKCD-y, which was predicated on my wandering thoughts on the simple question, “Do you love me?”

“Do you love me?”  This question is more polarizing than say, “Are you a Trump supporter?”  Whereas an answer to the latter will give you a pretty good indication of how well your relationship is going to work out, the former simply brings up more questions.

First, let’s list through some context scenarios.  In no case is any answer a safe answer.  Consider if any of the following came up to you and asked, “Do you love me?”

  1. Friend
  2. Co-worker/colleague/superior
  3. Significant other
  4. Family member/pet
  5. Stranger

I say that there is no correct answer in any case.  That is because yes and no are absolutes, while love is not an absolute.  There are limitless types of love.  Here is another helpful list of potential love types:

  1. as a fellow human
  2. as someone whose company you enjoy
  3. as a friend
  4. as someone you want to see happy
  5. as someone you want to see naked
  6. as someone you only want to love you in return

For the sake of brevity, I kept this list short, but I did order the list in least to most creepy.  And when you map these simplified types of love to the context of the requester, things get a little tricky.  Please note that “yes” could mean “as a fellow human” as well as “I want to own you exclusively”.

1 2 3 4 5 6
1 Good Good Good Good Weird Bad
2 Good Good Good Weird Bad Bad
3 Bad Good Bad Good Good Bad
4 Bad Good Good Weird Bad Bad
5 Good Bad Bad Weird Weird Bad

And even that mapping doesn’t tell the whole story.  And part of that is because the list of love types is not exclusive.  Multiple types can be valid at once.  When you get into that, you have to start assigning points for goodness/badness/weirdness and sum them all together to determine if the end result is good, bad, or just weird.

And after all that analysis, maybe that’s the only types of love there are.  Good love, bad love, and weird love.  But, the asking of the simple question, “Do you love me,” can result in the exposure of which of those three types your relationship is then based.  Unless you lie.

Where does lying get you?  Let’s go back to a simple yes/no answer for this, because if your answer is, “In what way?” you’re immediately in the weird zone.  Unfortunately, the most logical response, “Why do you ask?” puts you in the bad zone.  The most rational response, “Yes, of course!” is also the most risky.  To which I repeat, there is no safe answer.  Ok, maybe answering a stranger, “No” might be valid, but who ever wants to heard they aren’t loved, especially when they asked the question?

Congratulations, One Way Or The Other

January is officially ending.  January is unofficially “Dump Month”, so either congratulations on making it through and keeping your relationship intact, or hats off to you for making the decision to move on and have a better life in the future.

January is classified as Dump Month because no one wants to ruin the December holidays with a breakup, but no one also wants to try and fake it with Valentine’s Day.  And hey, new year, new you, right?  Resolutions and all that stuff.  And if you’re the one who didn’t make the choice to end the relationship, fuck that other person.  You were being held back anyway.  2018 is going to be the best year yet, and you are going to be the one responsible for it.  There is no loss, here.

But, if you are happy in your relationship (as I have been for a great many years), or if you aren’t in a relationship at all, go ahead and get smug.  If you are paired up, love your partner.  If you’re more than paired up, love them all.  If you’re not paired up, love yourself.  For all of you, the only thing you have to worry about is taxes.

In just a few days, everyone is going to be losing their mind over valentines and candy and hearts and pink and OMG, the special dinner that you can’t get reservations for anymore because there’s so many fucking people now and they all want to make things perfect for their SO’s when a certain number of them are probably thinking, “I missed Dump Month again this year and now I’m stuck paying for Filet Mignon for two.”  So, you newly single and not-newly single can get your smug on in just a couple of days.

In the “research” I did for this post, I learned that January is also Slow Cooker Month, which is a stupid name contrived simply to avoid using a trademarked name.  It’s fucking Crockpot Month, people.  And for those with crockpots, you should make a dump meal in honor of this event.  A dump meal is a stupid name also, because poop.

I also learned that the film industry has “dump months” where all the shit movies are released because expectations are lower.  January is a dump month for them too. 

See, it’s all about getting rid of the junk.  Whether shitty plotlines, shitty actors, shitty leftover food, or shitty partners, January is the month to dump them.  There’s still time left.

Personality Reorder

image9Times have changed and so have I.  A recent reassessment of myself via personality profile informed me of such.  It was just a very simple personality test, one meant to be simple and easy to administer, but useful enough to apply in a workplace environment.  The test is called Kingdomality and the results of the test will map your personality to a particular role in a self-sufficient medieval village.

I had taken this test back in about 2010 and I’m somewhat surprised I don’t have any past posts that discuss Kingdomality or my results.  I know I have discussed it in another blog, but apparently, not here.  So then, why not now?

image10In my earlier results, I was classified as a “discoverer”.  This was the person in the village that would leave and go in search of great things and bring them back to the village for everyone’s use.  And that’s pretty much what I did in my work life.  I would find new technologies and techniques and present them to everyone, then I’d be off again.  It sounds like every team would want one of these people, but you also have to understand that discoverers are hard to pin down and may have trouble focusing on current tasks because they would much rather be exploring.  And that’s pretty much what I did.

image11In my most recent test, my result was a “dreamer-minstrel”.  I think their role is to encourage and cheer everyone up, like a wandering minstrel.  I never really thought of myself as encouraging at work.  I’ve been pretty cynical for quite a while and have a slightly bleak outlook on the company’s future.

In the time between tests, the world changed.  For one, I grew very weary of the rate of change in the software development world.  Because of that, there was nothing I felt like discovering any more.  If I did discover something, would it still be around in six months?  Secondly, at my job, things are pretty stable.  There isn’t a pressing need to get with the latest technology.  That need was there when I first got hired, but we’re pretty good now.

Over the weekend, it finally dawned on me why my results changed.  It’s my relationship.  When I first took the test, I was single (well, almost divorced) and was plowing all my effort into my career.  This time around, I’ve been in an excellent relationship for many years.  And one of my primary functions in that relationship is cheerleader.  The GF had made a deprecating remark on something and I immediately reframed the issue for her in a positive light.  I should have noticed that behavior earlier because I do it somewhat frequently.

I’m not going to say I’m always good at it (“God damn it!  Things are not that bad!”) nor will I say I do it for everyone (“Excuse me miss, I overheard your comment and I wanted to say that I think your hair looks great.”).  There are very few people in my inner circle, which has the benefit of not exhausting me from being supportive.

Trying to extend that into the workplace means that I try to understand the positive reasons for the crazy business decisions we have been making as of late.  And even if I don’t understand or agree with them, I need to try and promote them as good for all of us.  Is it lying?  No, it’s just focusing on the positive.  That wall of water approaching?  Well, it’s been pretty hot lately and it will cool us off.

The CubeRoof

At work, some time ago, we had contractors doing a build-out of new offices right beside our cube farm.  This got me thinking, why can’t we all have offices?  Along with this consideration, I am always hearing from the vampires in my group about how horrible the lighting is.  Everyone wants the light to be cut to 50% or less.  I’m not in that group.  I like light.  I brainstormed a new product idea to help us all.

Why does a company build cubicles and not not all offices?  Some reasons could be:

  • Cheaper
  • Layout flexibility
  • Increased communication, for better or worse
  • Increased oversight

Why do employees want offices and dislike cubicles?

  • Increased privacy
  • More environmental control (light/temperature/décor)
  • Sense of ownership

So what’s the difference between a cube and an office?

  • Door
  • Walls to the ceiling
  • Windows or lack of windows
  • Basically, enclosure. 

So let’s completely forget about convincing management to let their subordinates shut themselves behind a door.  I walk a tight line between being controlling and liberal, and with the co-workers I have, allowing a closed door is simply an invitation to sleep all day.

So if we can’t have doors, we can create enclosure by raising the walls to the ceiling.  This, however, would create serious issues with lighting, temperature, and airflow.  So, my idea is to lower the ceiling to the cube: CubeRoof.

The biggest design point of CubeRoof would be the modular, minimal pieces involved in the system.  Taking cues from both IKEA and ClosetMaid, the CubeRoof system would be cheap and easy.

The first element of any roof is the truss.  The truss is comprised of three straight elements and three angles.  To simplify the system, there are a small number of extendable aluminum beams, similar to “cargo bars”, in varying maximum lengths.  This comprise the angles of the truss and the support beams between them.  Then, there are adjustable angle brackets that connect the beams.  The adjustability allows any peak or pitch of the roof.  The angle brackets have a lip for attachment to the top of the cubicle wall, and a post to accept another beam to connect trusses.

Finally, the roof material is simple nylon fabric sheets connected to the trusses and to each other with Velcro.  Having different lengths, widths, and colors provides for an endless combination of roof styles.  Light color fabrics for diffused light, dark colors for light blocking.  Inset screens for ventilation and panels for adjustable “skylights.”  Aftermarket and customizing possibilities could be large.

I would estimate one CubeRoof requiring three interconnected trusses, which would be eight straight bars, nine angle connectors, and two properly-sized roof panels.  Of course, I’m not going to build it.  That would be for someone much better than me, if you believe in the power of capitalism.

Coming Soon, Housing Crisis 2.0

This guy I know, well, I know him because he’s the one who used to own my house, but anyway, he keeps me around to do computer work for him.  And I do it.  And I get compensated handsomely, despite me telling him I don’t really need the money.  Well, anyway, I was at his house the other night doing computer stuff and he and his GF were having a conversation in hushed tones.  But I was right there beside them, and I was the only other one in the room, so I don’t know exactly why they were talking like that.  Except, I kinda do.

But let me first say this about the guy.  He’s successful.  Quite so.  He runs his own business in a subset of an industry where there is little to no competition and he is sought out for that skill and expertise.  He’s down to earth, but at the same time, he’s got plenty of money to spend.  You name it, he’s got it.  Boat, Corvette, camper, truck, huge house on a large plot of land, huge TVs everywhere.  Just got a divorce and is swallowing multi-thousand dollar alimony payments without slowing down.  Has someone who runs over right away when he has a computer problem and pays them much more than necessary.

And he’s pretty business smart.  I mean, he has a very successful business of his own, but he also had the sense to buy the land his house was built on when it only had a couple of trailers on it.  He now rents out the trailers and that pays his mortgage and then some.  So, I guess you would say he’s a successful landlord as well.

But now, in whispers, he’s talking to his GF in front of me about an opportunity to become a house flipper.  He has heard of an opportunity to buy a distressed house and he thinks he can flip it without investing any time or effort and learn how to do it correctly.  He may be right or he may not be.  But when I hear, “I just want to be the middleman”, it kind of rubs me the wrong way.  Maybe he’s been watching too much Flip or Flop.  Maybe he’s been inspired from stories from his GF (who’s a property appraiser).  Maybe he’s just got too much cash lying around (what a problem to have). 

The thing is, experts say that when the rabble starts acting like experts, it’s time to make for the exits.  I’ve been reading stories about the increase of flipping and I’ve seen the HGTV shows that are promoting this more and more.  It doesn’t seem like it was that long ago that we were here.  But here we are.  I’m going to have to get myself prepared for this.