Cleaning up computer shit

In addition to cleaning house, I’m also cleaning computers. I’ve tossed a bunch of CDs with useless software and I’m cleaning up my portable hard disks because I’m even a worse digital pack rat than I am a physical pack rat. This was triggered by finding a pair of 20 meg MFM hard drives and a pair of SCSI 9 meg drives. –My phone has more storage than that. Heck unless it’s analog, everybody’s phone has more storage than that.

It took a massive effort to get myself to think of it this way; just how often are you going to need programs built for Windows XP? So why the Hell do you keep them? Because they’re “good junk.”

I don’t know about you, but these days my biggest problem comes from almost unlimited storage. Even this laptop has two 1Tb drives. Then I have two towers with at least 3TB each combined with the half a dozen 2Tb portable drives I use for backup and something like fifteen or so still functioning flash drives I’ve used over the years to backup and transport small amounts of data.

None of these are properly organized. It felt like they were; right up to the point that I needed a specific image. That’s when reality reared its ugly head and I discovered that I have shit scattered over several directories across several drives. An unsorted 3 gig directory labeled images is a bitch unless you named every image, which of course I didn’t.

This is the pile of various drives I still have to sort.
cleaning HDs and flash drive -sorting pile

I even went so far as to toss my old copies of Windows for Workgroups, DOS -all versions, and my original copies of Win 95 beta from back in the day when it was code-named Chicago. It came on a stack of 3 1/2″ floppies and wouldn’t boot.

I even found some programs on cassette tapes from my Commodore 64, some 5 1/4″ floppies from my old Trash 80, and a couple of rolls of punched tapes from high school.

Back in the day, when good software could be tough for a computer geek to get his hands on, this hoarding behavior was a survival trait. Now it’s just shit junk and crap that fills drawers, and hard disks, but has no real value in the modern world.

Does anyone else remember when “sneaker net” was your lifeline, not to mention a way to acquire all that neat shit you couldn’t afford? Well if you join the right newsgroups, make the right friends and learn the right servers you can acquire pretty much anything; complete with cracks. Although, it’s getting tougher, what with everything being remotely hosted and all.

Things change, and I’ve found that the more crap I throw away the better I feel.

Maybe I’ll even be able to use my couch as a couch. But until then it’s a place to put the things I’ve decided to keep until I get around to sorting them.

House cleaning chaos

House cleaning chaos. Now that’s an appropriate title.

I started to write about how I’ve been feeling since the business I worked for for 17 years was sold and I was shown the door. In fact, the original draft was titled “Depression:

Here it is in it’s entirety:
I’ve been dealing with occasional bouts of depression as far back as I can remember. Sometimes it’s situational -caused by events beyond my control- and sometimes it just a general funk, but since I was forced into retirement, it’s gotten worse.
I’m not suicidal, I just don’t want to do anything. I comfort eat, I take lots of naps, and I don’t want to leave the house.
My psychologist is a female clone of Dr. Phil. (She gives simple answers to complicated questions.) Her sessions are all “give” and no “take.” Her process is to zone out while you talk, put you into her preselected pigeonhole, and move on to her next appointment.

Well, what did I expect from an HMO?

Now I’m back among the living, even if I am refusing to leave the house without a damn good reason.

I was killing time binge-watching old shows on Netflix and Amazon until I started hating the sight of the remote.

I’ve known people who sit in front of the television all day, but it’s no wonder they’re always depressed. Have you seen what’s on tv?

At any rate, I decided the first step in getting back to normal -or as normal as I ever was- was to clean house. This may sound simple enough, but I come from a long line of packrats and have 30 or 40 years worth of “good stuff” to deal with along with a bunch of shit, junk, and crap that seems to have appeared out of nowhere.

Most of which hasn’t been vacuumed or dusted since; god only knows when.

Believe it or not, this mess is actually a good sign. It means I’m moving shit that hasn’t seen the light of day in about a century.
house cleaning chaos
Those chairs used to sit about a foot and a half closer to the bookcases because I needed the walking room. Well, fuck the walking room. I’d rather be able to get to my books.

Now, unless you’ve had to deal with it yourself, you cannot imagine what kind of mess it was, or how long it took to move 10 years worth of dust off that many books, shelves, and assorted clutter. –It’s a simple job really, all you need are a paintbrush, a vacuum cleaner, a rag dampened with End-Dust, coffee, and a heavy dose of antihistamines.

In the last few days, I’ve moved a bookcase from one wall to another and moved a couch so I could move my secretary across the room, all to make room for my drafting table. You read that right. I’ve been rearranging my entire house just so I can put a drafting table in my living room. And somewhere a woman is reading this and sticking pins in a voodoo doll. Hell, my own mother would have helped her. –What can I say? Some women are like that.

Meanwhile, I also had a mess to deal with in the garage. That drafting table had been down there since the 70s, first as a drafting table, then as a bench for my ham radio, and finally as the first available flat surface.
old drafting table with light

So far I’ve moved things like my miter saw out of the living room, but this required moving a ton of stuff out of the garage to make room. As a result, this 96-gallon garbage can is always full.
96 gallon garbage can

In the last few days, I’ve loaded enough junk into this can -well over 100lbs- that I thought the wheels were literally going to fall off. But at least I don’t have to worry about the garbage men complaining because this is how they empty the cans.
automated garbage truck
They just roll up alongside and this huge pincher picks up the can and lifts it into the truck. Which means a couple of hundred pounds is nothing. –If you ever have to dispose of a body, this system is my new first choice.

As I write this my power is out and the beeping from one of my uninterruptible power supplies is making me crazy, so it’s back to work on this neverending project.

Blog stats

Blog stats. They give you an idea about the best direction to take your blog. But they are not the be-all, end-all. For instance, I’ve taken this blog from a few thousand hits a month, to around 40 or 50. -That’s not thousands, that’s literally 40 or 50. (That number is so far beyond merely “not good” that my oldest friend asked me why I bothered. Well, it’s because I can. End of story.)

In the meantime, the number of subscribers to my RSS feed is sitting around 100. Still embarrassing, but that’s twice as many as my web stats show.

    Side note:
    I’m glad I wrote that bit about RSS because I hadn’t checked it in months. What I saw made me question the stats, so I deleted it and started fresh. -I’m sure that messes with subscribers, but people that know me should be used to that sort of thing by now, and everyone else can just get over it. –And that boys and girls is how NOT to build an audience.

Having mumbled about all that, believe it or not, I do know how to increase my audience. All I have to do is focus on a single main subject, regardless of what that is, and post at least twice a week.

What I’m saying is, if you post about belly button lint -be sure to include pictures- long enough you will develop a substantial following.
(FWIW bellybuttonlint.com is taken. -I checked and it’s nothing but a parking page, but it does exist.)

The name bellybuttonlint.com reminded me of something a friend said a few years back about wanting parsnips.com, so I immediately ran out and checked parsnips.com and it’s available… for a mere $48,620.00 US dollars. –$48k??? Okay, lady, whatever you say.
(Parsnip.com -singular- is also taken, but doesn’t have a webpage of any kind.)

Now that I’ve gotten the domain names BS out of my system. It’s back to the subject.

Instead of relying on your site’s admin page, login to your Google Analytics site and take a good look at things like bounce rate, time on site (avg. session duration), pages/sessions, and returning visitors. These will tell you a lot about your viewing audience.

The bounce rate is how many people visited your site’s first page and didn’t go anywhere else. Which, according to Google, is not necessarily bad. It means that they read your first page, but didn’t go exploring. For a blog, this isn’t all bad. But combined with a short session duration it could be.

Your stats are important, they tell you about how your audience interacts with your site. You need to understand these sometimes confusing numbers. Fortunately, Google is more than happy to explain things.

One last bit of advice. Use a spam filter, allow comments, but approve them before you allow them to be post, use a contact form that doesn’t expose your addy to spam bots and check that email every day. People like to feel like you care about them and their opinions.

Writing for National Novel Writing Month

National Novel Writing Month, sounds like fun. No? Well, I gave it a go, and it was a mother.

The object of NaNoWriMo is to write a 50,000-word novel in one month. That’s not a lot when you consider that the total number of words in Tolstoy’s War and Peace has 587,287. Of course, he wasn’t fighting a 30-day deadline. To write, edit, rewrite and end up with a reasonably coherent story, all in 30 days will leave you positively twitchy. Trust me, I bailed on day 28.

Having said all that, if you have some uncontrollable urge to listen to me whine about the NaNoWriMo, I’ve got a couple of posts over on Some Old Dude.

I thought I’d put down a few things I took away from that masochistic exercise.

Everybody has their own way of writing, and if you try to copy them exactly it probably won’t work nearly as well for you.

There are plotsters (planners), those are the people who plan every meal, clip coupons, go to the grocery store, and don’t buy anything that’s not on their list. You can always spot one of these the minute you step into their office. They have a place for everything and everything is in its place.

Then there are pansters, those people who write out a list, leave it on the kitchen counter and wander the aisles trying to remember what the heck they needed. With them, every meal is a surprise. They have notes and notebooks scattered everywhere. For instance, my office looks like somebody dropped a small tactical nuke.

I use a laptop with LibreOffice, others use MS Word because it’s almost universally accepted in publishing circles, but some people; okay, one person I actually met, use devices like this Neo2, which is nothing but a minimalist word processor capable of displaying four to six short lines at a time.
neo2 word processor

If you’re going to write 50k pages in thirty days you need to have your research in order…. in advance. I wrote a thief but had to research locks, alarm systems and any actual crimes using the basic mo and how they got away with it. And where the heck do you sell documented diamonds.

You need your basic character profile (character arc) written down. –My protagonist had a sea change, from a crook with a heart of gold, to a self-centered bastard.

You need the major points in the story (story arc) written down. –Mine went from stealing some diamonds to a murder mystery.

All this points to a need to get organized. Don’t keep notes in several notebooks, don’t use more than one program, keep focused on the task at hand.

It’s only thirty days but sometimes it feels like forever.

Car title loans 101

“Car title loans.” How’s that for a change of pace?

Okay, so I’m talking to this dude, and out of the blue, he asks what it takes to get a title loan.

It seems that a while back I mentioned that I worked IT for Pioneer Loan. Therefore I must know all there is to know about title loans. Including the details of how each and every one of the competitors operates. Right?

It’s not like the guy is stupid, he just has no clue about how it all works, and he’s trying to get the best deal he can. –You can’t blame him for that. But, at the end of the day, he didn’t know what a clean title was, and the bank still owns his car. So he’s screwed.

At any rate, I helped keep the Pioneer Loan network up and running and spent time talking to the loan officers, so yes, I know a little about title loans; at least in the state of Nevada. And after having to explain title loans to this otherwise bright guy, I decided I’d get up on my soapbox and explain a little about how the world works.

Before I start let me say that I not only worked for Pioneer Loan, the owners are close friends. I’m not going to sugar coat anything because of that, I just thought I should be upfront about things.

So here goes:

A title loan means that the company holds your title until you pay them what you owe them. A lot like the bank that held on to the title until you paid off their loan.

If you don’t own your car, stay home.

If a company willing to give you a “title loan” on a title you don’t have, there’s something very wrong. –There are exceptions, but most of the legit exceptions are nothing more than refinancing your loan so some other bank owns it.

    Here are the basics of car title loans:

  • As stated above; you need to have a clean title.
    –Which means no leans.
  • The title must be in your name.
    –You can’t get a title loan on your mother’s car. I don’t care how often she lets you drive it because it’s still her car.
    -It’s like this: Just because your mother put you in her will and lets you live in her basement rent free does not mean you own the house.
    (Trust me; after talking to clients, and listening to the loan officers, this is not nearly as stupid as it sounds.)
  • If there’s a second name on the title you can still get a loan, but they need to come in and do their share of the paperwork.
    –If someone else is on the title and they don’t come in the title loan company runs the risk of becoming a casualty in a messy divorce.
  • The car also has to be in running condition so you can bring it down and they can look it over.
    –After all, at the end of the day, a new Mercedes that was t-boned by a semi is just so much scrap metal.
  • You have to be able to pay the loan back.
    –Why would anybody loan you money if they knew you couldn’t pay them back? In fact, the state wrote that bit into the law.
  • The company doesn’t want your car. They want your money.
    –Just like the bank or that friendly dude at the bar who offered to loan you the cash at a rate “he wouldn’t give his own mother.”
  • If you’re in the military or are a dependant they probably don’t want to give you a title loan, because the Military Lending Act caps the interest that can be charged at a rate that is, in many cases, less than their cost of doing business.
    –Employees have to be paid, insurance has to be paid, the electric bill has to be paid, and for some odd reason, the landlord wants the rent.
  • You have to be old enough to sign a contract. In Nevada, the age is 18.
    –That also means you can get yourself into serious debt, but you can’t gamble what little money you have in the hopes of hitting Mega-Bucks or try and drink your troubles away like a grownup.
  • Title Loan companies are not in the used car business.
    They really and truly don’t want to repo your car. They will, but when they sell it they can only get the amount of the loan, plus some state approved fees and any costs associated with the repossession.
    –Not a real profitable process is it?
  • The interest on title loans accrues every 30 days, not yearly.
    –7.99% sounds good, but that’s every 30 days, so you’re looking at right about 96% per year.
    Now I bet your credit card interest doesn’t look so bad.

I’m sure I missed a bunch of stuff, but to me, the bottom line is this.
Only borrow money you can actually pay back.
Only use title loans as short-term money, not as a second source of income.
Because, in the long run, the people loaning you money are not doing it out of the goodness of their hearts, They’re doing it to make money, the longer you owe them the money the more interest you pay, and if they must, they will repo your car. –Business is business. No?
(As far as I know, that bit about not repoing your only method of getting to work only applies to the IRS.)

There’s a FAQ on the Pioneer Loan website.
–Read it, then call them with questions. They really are a friendly bunch.

Climbing down off my soapbox, running to the head, then getting more coffee. LRR