Friday, February 09, 2007

Catching Up, Part 1: The End Of 2006

Unannounced posting sabbaticals are a bitch, especially when they are unannounced to me as well as anyone else out there in Internets Land who has been wondering where the hell I've vanished off to over the last five months.

To sum up, I'll start with The Short Version: life was actually Good (and thus largely unremarkable) until the very end of last year, at which point came The Return Of Drama. Goody goody. A few weeks later, here I am banging away on the keyboard at 2 AM, posting new missives into this forum for the first time in eons. Maybe I need some drama to get the writing glands working again, eh?

Anyway, a belated Happy 2007, everyone. It's been a while, so let's do some catching up on current events, eh? We'll start way back where we left off ...


Even considering the amount of data CD-Rs I keep behind me, I'd been battling with data storage issues for most of 2006. By the middle of summer, my copious use of various bit-torrent sites was beginning to outpace my ability to keep up with the backing up of data. This situation is made trickier by the fact that in order to keep a decent share ratio going (and thus your account) on said bit-torrent site, you have to let your downloaded goodies sit on the hard drive for a while (say, a week) so that others can nibble data off of you until you have given back roughly what you have taken. The problem here is that when you are starting to grab a lot of full-res DVDs (4+ gigs a shot), you start to run out of space on a 60 gig internal hard drive really damn fast.

It was while leafing through electronics circulars at my parents' house one weekend that a solution appeared before my eyes in the form of a Western Digital External Hard Drive. Sarah then gave me one as a birthday present a short while later, and suddenly I had what felt like a limitless ocean of 250 gigabytes in storage at my fingertips. Ahhh, much better.

Of course, time and circumstance rapidly changes that perception: I clearly remember a 5 gig hard drive on my computer at the end of 1998 felt like a hell of a lot of space, too. In order to keep things relatively open on this new external HD, I finally upgraded from a CD-RW to a DVD-RW drive, and promptly started planning on eventually shrinking down my collection of 700 burned data CD-Rs to about 100 or so DVD-RWs (which would also require a couple of additional external hard drives to amass the data before re-archiving and oh Christ what a colossal headache this is going to be ...).


For about a month and change, this new setup your read about above was fine and dandy (especially when combined with my new flat screen monitor ... I now hate CRTs and wonder why I waited so damn long to upgrade), but a few issues with the new DVD player started to bother me in short order. Firstly, the thing never seemed to play things back in suitable fashion, with audio and video jitters plaguing the experience right from the start. It was also very difficult to burn DVDs without errors while working on something else at the same time, and the amount of memory left on my computer while this rigorous task was going for an hour and change finally started me thinking seriously about a new computer.

It had been about 4-5 years (?) since my last upgrade and aside from the DVD issues, it was becoming clearer over the course of the last couple of years that it was time to play some catch-up ball. Making this decision a bit easier was that I was a bit flush with cash at the time (this was about a month in the wake of settling up my medical bills at the time), so I felt that a snazzy new gadget would be a nice way to celebrate Life being Good again.

My new computer ... or a reasonably good facsimile, at leastIt was on the last Monday in September that I made the trek down Route 91 to the MicroCenter location in Mayfield Heights on the advice of Dave M., a longtime friend, ex co-worker, and local computer guru (he built the first two PCs I ever called my own). If you've never been to one of these stores, I certainly recommend stopping by, though you might want to leave your credit cards at home as a preventative measure: it's hard for me to imagine a more drool-inducing toy store for grownups.

Walking into MicroCenter that night was kind of like what walking into Toys R Us was like when I was a kid. Temptation was everywhere and it never looked so good. But, I was on a mission, and I had a couple of predetermined machines to check out and compare and ultimately make a decision on. After a half hour of thinking and looking each choice over carefully, I opted for the guy you see above and to the right: a PowerSpec 6650: Pentium 4 HT processor, 1 GB of memory, 200 GB internal hard drive, and a dual layer DVD-R/RW drive (which immediately relegated my recently purchased Sony to storage).

A couple of days followed in which everything of vital importance on my old PC was copied over to the external HD for installation into the PowerSpec, and it took two full installs to work out the tics/"bugs" in the new system and get used to the way this thing worked in comparison to the old PC (whose dessicated husk was unceremoniously junked a week or so later). Since then, save for the usual perplexing behavioral quirks that PCs develop when running various programs in tandem from a dozen different designers and companies, it's been smooth sailing.


Brian has been onto me for about two years to get with the program and watch Sci-Fi Network's Battlestar Galactica show, and I had been fiercely resistant to the idea, largely out of the considerable sentiment I have for the original 1979 ABC TV series. I won't lie and say I was never interested: when the idea was first announced, I wondered if this was the long-talked-about return of the show initiated by original series lead Richard Hatch back in the mid 1990s. When I found out instead that the Sci-Fi Network's new series had nothing to do with Hatch's continuation of the original series and was instead a completely "reloaded" take on the concept, I was pretty taken aback. Things weren't helped when I learned of the switching of my favorite character on the old series (Lt. Starbuck) from a man to a woman role and that the new Cylons looked like they walked off the cover of last month's Cosmopolitan, I lost interest in a hurry and let the show pass me by.

More new friends and otherwise.Brian kept up the attack on me to just give the show a chance anyway, and it wasn't until a copy of Season One landed in the used bin at work that I decided to do just that. I finally got around to watching it around the middle of last month for the first time and was immediately drawn into the show, to my considerable surprise. (I might even say that I was blown off my feet, except that I was sitting in this very chair watching all of it, heh heh)

Christmas intervened with my introduction, and I am still midway through Season One as of this writing. I'm feeling the massive temptation to start it over again and have Sarah watch the miniseries premiere at least and see if she wants to continue onwards, though she has her hands full staying caught up with House, Rome and Good Eats (hosted by Beaker's loquacious offspring Alton Brown). So, with or without accompaniment, I will likely re-view the first half of Season 1, and then move onwards (I have all of season 2 awaiting me on DVD and what has been broadcast of season 3 so far sitting on an external hard drive). More discussion to come later.


Considering this was quite possibly the lamest release slate in the music industry in the last two
decades (during this Christmas season, it seemed like every "hot" item was a repackage or re-imagining of something previously available), we managed to nail our numbers at the store and finished off 2006 with a flourish: the best December in our current location to date, not to mention 2 or 3 new best one-day sales totals, best yearly total, et cetera. Good times.


Say hallo to mah noo frien...If there is one thing I have come to dread with the onset of fall, it's our annual dealings with the City Of Willowick and their insanely exacting Buildings Code. Unlike last year's tag-team blitzkreig inspection that was over in about 1 minute, this year's was a much more leisurely poking around by a lone Inspector Scene that wound up injecting the first tiny amount of drama back into my existence (if you count nearly a dozen minor building "issues" to be dealt with as "drama," anyway).

In a fit of pique, we had delayed dealing with any of these "issues" until the last couple of weeks (i.e., when he'd finally had enough of waiting around and called the landlord to ask what the hell was taking so long). The landlord came by Monday evening and we managed to get the entire list taken care of, though apparently not to Inspector Scene's satisfaction: the reinspection this past Thursday left a couple of "issues" still unresolved: one I can probably fix with a single half-twist of a freakin' wrench, the other with a visit from an electrician and some new bathroom tile.


Judging from the media coverage of Christmas at the retail level this past season, I'm pretty sure that I was not the only person who wasn't in the mood for it this year.

Bah, humbug.Mostly thanks to the incredibly and unseasonably warm weather which parked over Northeast Ohio around early December (and lasted until about two weeks ago), it just didn't ever feel like Christmas this year. As a result I didn't even start my shopping in earnest until the middle of the month as far as online goes, and on the 19th as far as actually walking-into-stores was concerned.

Making matters even weirder was that this was by some stretch the easiest Chistmas season I have ever worked. In effect, the entire pre-Christmas surge as we used to know it was compressed into about 3, maybe 4 days before the holiday (a couple of Saturdays early on, and then the last Friday and Saturday before the holiday itself). The rest of the time (including Christmas Eve), it felt almost like any other month of work in a business sense, though what made the difference is that everyone in the store was actually buying something instead of poking around and leaving empty-handed.

With this weird non-frenzy that characterized most of December at work combined with my late start shopping, I remember quite clearly feeling like this Christmas had just flown on by while I wasn't looking. I'm not saying this was a crappy Christmas by any stretch, because it wasn't ... but it certainly wasn't my ideal kind of holiday season, you know?

All of the above also meant that I could barely be arsed to put up lights this year, yet alone wage my dreaded annual battle for Christmas Tree supremacy with Moe. I think it was on December 20 that I finally gave in and set up the tree, while picking up a couple of new fiber-optic light fixtures (on clearance sale, too ... sometimes it's good to wait 'til the last second, eh?) for Sarah to put in the front window in lieu of standing the tree in front of it as has been our custom in year's past.

The reason for these new fixtures was strategic: I had a plan to keep Moe from getting into the damned tree this year, and for the first time since he joined this household, I can claim total victory in this department. Instead of filling the bay window with holiday cheer, the tree was placed in the corner of the living room and the entire underside was blocked off with a couple of overlapping Scat Mats. The curtains next to the tree were then pinned to the wall to block off any access from the window ledge, and what do you know: these two moves actually kept Moe out of the tree for the entirety of the season! Yeee-ha! Victory at last!

A green ChristmasDue to the work schedules of the second-tier store staff (and the inexorable bouncing of the holiday into regular week days), Christmas was not the same two-day holiday I'd enjoyed in 2005 and 2006, but a sole island of relaxation in a long and busy work schedule. Ah well, those were nice while they lasted. This was also a very green yule, right smack in the middle of what felt like was going to be a green winter. Aside from the incredibly glum outdoor setting, it was still a very relaxing holiday, which saw me carting home some new pairs of my favorite wool socks ever, some gift cards, new books and DVDs, and a couple of supposedly-reversible fleece crewneck sweaters from (which are remarkably warm, whether the tags come off or not).

I clearly remember one point during that afternoon sitting in my parents' kitchen, doing some residual shopping on my mom's laptop while the rest of the house napped, exhausted from previous late nights and today's early morning. I was filling in some blanks, basically, cleaning up the wish list a bit and picking up a few items on sale and a few others that had been on my list for a couple of years that I'd decided to move on before they vanished. It was a very pleasant time: quiet and thoughtful and now tinged with a bit of regret as this kind of carefree indulgence is something I currently wish I hadn't done (though the amount I spent wouldn't have made much of a difference in the end, anyway). We'll tackle why in my next post ...

NP Various Artists The Complete Stax/Volt Singles, Volume 1

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