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The Strategy of Acquisition

Posted on November 29th, 2016

Dave!Yesterday I talked about the regret I have in accumulating so much "stuff" in my life. There's just entirely too much crap piled around my home, and most of it... the majority of it... I really could have done without ever buying in the first place.

And yet there's still stuff I have to buy. Even in the middle of culling my possessions. Which is kind of counterproductive... and a a bummer. But not nearly as big a bummer as having to shop for the stuff. Because I really, really don't like shopping.

Which is why I hold off as much shopping as possibly for Black Friday & Cyber Monday. Because the only thing I love more than not shopping is a bargain. And this year I found a lot of bargains. Just ask my credit card. Which probably won't be paid off until February. :-(

Still, it's all stuff I needed. And it was pretty great that I ended up paying half (actually less than half) of what I would have paid any other time of year for the same stuff...

  • Tools. I got an amazing deal on a telescoping ladder ($90 regular $160!). I've never owned a ladder before, having always borrowed them when I needed one. I never intended to buy my own, but it was the "telescoping" feature that made me pull the trigger. I've got a stairwell that I want to hang things in, and I couldn't manage it with a traditional ladder. This one makes it a snap. Plus it's compact when condensed, so it fits easily in my garage. Plus it's easy to move around. Plus I have a ladder whenever I need one now. Probably my favorite purchase. And the most useful.
  • Storage. I loathe to spend money on containers and stuff like that when you can get cardboard boxes for free, but the boxes I've been using to store the crap I'm going to keep are falling apart and I needed something more permanent. Storage bins were on sale for ridiculous prices, so I snapped some up. They're much nicer for keeping things organized. I also bought a second Milwaukee Jobsite Organizer, which I got on sale at Home Depot for $20... the first one I bought has been one of the handiest purchases ever, but it's gotten full.
  • Music/Movies/Games. I buy most everything digitally from the iTunes Music Store, so I leapt at the chance to get some gift cards for 20% off. I also picked up LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens for cheap... and found Guardians of the Galaxy on 3D Blu-Ray for $12! I don't much care for 3D in the theater, but I am really digging it at home for some reason.
  • Tech. Amazon had the Echo Dot on sale for $39 down from $49... and you got a credit for $10 if you ordered through Echo. $29 to extend Alexa upstairs seemed like a heck of a bargain. And so very cool.
  • Luggage. My small carry-on that I use for 1-3 day trips was pretty much shredded, so I took advantage of a 50% off sale at Samsonite to get a new one at a great price. Probably my most-needed purchase.
  • Furniture. I needed a nice chair for my guest room but could never afford it because whenever I found one I liked it was $250... minimum! Finally found one on Black Friday closeout for a crazy $80.
  • Travel. Alaska Airlines always has really good Cyber Monday sales... if you can be flexible in your travel. I managed to get a trip from my small-town airport for less than I usually get the same trip out of Seattle... which is fantastic savings.
  • Clothes. I hate spending money on clothes. Which is why I pretty much shop for them only when they're on sale. Black Friday is the best time for this, and I put aside money all year long just to shop the sales. This year I bought jeans, shirts, hats, and underwear... all at really great prices. I was particularly happy to get some new Boston Red Sox hats from '47 Brand at 30% off. Mine are about worn out.

And there you have it. More crap to clutter my life.

How much of it will I be wanting to throw out five years from now? Probably all of it.

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The Rules of Acquisition

Posted on November 28th, 2016

Dave!Unless I am very unlucky, my life is more than half over.

This realization doesn't come cloaked in sadness or despair. Nor does it fill me with depression or fear. If I were to be completely honest, the fact that it's all going to end some day is more... comforting?... than anything else. More and more I am just "done" with life in general, and am ready to move on to whatever is next.

Even if that ends up being nothing.

Not that you need to put me on suicide watch, mind you. I've got cats depending on me and all that. It's just that there's a certain peace that comes from making peace with your life.

And eventual death.

If pressed, I could probably come up with all kinds of regrets, but I've worked very hard not to live with regrets so I can make the best of what is. Because that's all you can really do, isn't it?

Except...

After having moved house earlier this year, I can honestly say that I seriously regret all the senseless crap I seem to have accumulated over the years. Well, senseless now, but it undoubtedly meant a great deal to me at the time I acquired it. Like my massive comic book collection. Sure it's fun to look back through them from time to time, but right now I'd just like to find somebody with a stack of cash to make me an offer and haul it all away. One less thing to worry about. One less thing to burden whomever is going to be stuck disposing of my possessions when I shuffle this mortal coil.

It doesn't end with comic books. I've got a staggering load of DVDs, CDs, albums, books, gadgets, travel souvenirs, and other garbage piled up in my bedroom, office, closets, and garage. And for every box I get rid of, there are dozens upon dozens more to work through.

So... note to Younger Self...

Don't be so obsessed with acquiring crap.

It's just going to hold you down and be a pain in the ass to your Future Self.

And none of it is as important or necessary as you think it is.

None of it.

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Stuff I Bought Week: iPad Pro and Apple Pencil

Posted on April 2nd, 2016

Dave!When Apple came out with the iPad Pro, I was intrigued. Not because we were getting a giant iPad... but because it was accompanied with "Apple Pencil," which is what Apple calls their touch stylus.

So I went to the store to give one a try and ended up taking a pass. Not because of Pencil, which was amazing (as you'll see), but because the iPad Pro was just too big. I like drawing/painting/sketching while laying on the couch watching TV, and the big iPad felt like it was more of a table-top tool.

Fast-forward to earlier this month, and Apple announced that a smaller model of the iPad Pro would be released on March 31st.

And it's glorious...

Apple iPad Pro 9.7

There are a lot of iPad reviews out there, so I'm just going to give a quick run-down on what matters to me...

  • The Apple Pencil stylus is incredible. I've used a lot of display tablets over the years, including the high-end Cintiq Wacom models, and this is the best I've ever seen.
  • Seriously. If you're an artist, go to an Apple Store and try out Pencil.
  • The glass is so thin on iPad Pro that it's more like drawing directly on the tablet instead of drawing above it. This is a huge step forward, and makes all the difference.
  • No. Lag. None. Even when rapidly scribble-shading, it keeps up.
  • The sizing is perfect for couch-drawing. I admit that there are times I'd like to have the larger drawing surface of the original iPad Pro model, but I'm ultimately happy with the smaller model.
  • iPads and iPads have genreally had shitty sound. All that changes with this model. You get four speakers to orient stereo sound in either horizontal or vertical orientations. And it's really good sound!
  • I'm not one to take photos with an iPad, but that may change. The camera on this thing is awesome. Low light performance is quite good. Not as handy as my iPhone for quick snaps... but it's nice to know I have iPad as an option if I need a shot.
  • Apple's "TrueTone" sensor evaluated room lighting and adjusts the display tint to fit in with your surroundings for a more natural visual. I didn't think much about it, but tested how it works under the Edison vintage lights in my dining room which are very warm... sure enough, it's a noticeable (and welcome!) improvement.
  • I never bought an iPad Air model, so I wasn't prepared for how thin this thing is. It's very nice, and the weight it comfortable to hang onto.
  • The multi-tasking is a nice addition, but it doesn't seem terribly practical for the 9.7" model as opposed to the larger 12" version.
  • The Apple Smart Keyboard is a better than trying to type with the on-screen keyboard... but not by a lot. The only real benefit is that you're not obscuring the screen with the keyboard. Otherwise it's just too cramped for easy typing, and almost impossible to use unless it's sitting on a sturdy flat surface.. This is where the 12" model with its full-size Smart Keyboard is a better choice if you're doing a lot of typing.
  • The Smart Keyboard does not protect the back of the iPad. You need a separate piece for that.

For the most part, I am very, very happy with the iPad Pro... and ecstatic when using it with Apple Pencil and an app like ProCreate that can take advantage of it. This is easily, hands-down, no-bullshit the best stylus tablet experience I've ever had. The fact that it's not tethered to a computer is just icing on the cake. If you're an artist who is considering going digital... or are already a digital artist looking to upgrade, stopping by an Apple Store and checking out the iPad Pro is a no-brainer.

   

Stuff I Bought Week: Milwaukee Work Box

Posted on April 1st, 2016

Dave!As I become more and more invested in woodworking and building stuff, I've accumulated a lot of tools. At first I kept them in a plastic Ziploc freezer bag. Then I moved on to a cardboard box. Then a plastic bin. After having my tools keep dumping out of the bin, I finally decided to invest in a toolbox. There were quite a few to choose from, but I'm kind of addicted to Milwaukee brand stuff, so I decided to take a look at their offerings.

Turns out they have two.

The classic 26" rectangular box was nice... rugged and comfortable to carry... but there wasn't a tray to organize stuff. So I ended up getting the 13" Jobsite Work Box instead. It had a tray and a caddy insert that looked handy...

Milwaukee 13

Milwaukee 13

Milwaukee 13

It's a tough box and works great as a stool. There's a slot on top if you need a surface to cut pipe or something that might roll off a table.

In theory, it's a great design.

In practice? Not so much...

  • The fact that it's so deep makes it tough to find smaller tools that get dropped to the bottom. It also wastes a bunch of space unless all your tools are tall.
  • The small tray that fits in the top of the box is easily knocked out when removing tools, as there's no way to strap it in place.
  • The caddy insert is frustrating as hell. It's difficult to place in the slot for storage and the cavities are too shallow to keep taller tools from flopping out.
  • There's a spacer to help keep your tools in place so they don't slide into the caddy slot, but mine keeps catching on tools when I pull them out, so it's pretty much useless unless you want to glue it to the bottom of the box.
  • It's a bit of a hassle to get into. The handle locks the lid in place if you push it one way... unlocks it if you push the other. Half the time I get it wrong.

Overall, this is a regretted purchase. The design makes it difficult to use, and I don't think it's very efficient or handy for storing tools. I'll probably replace it soon and just use it to carry power tools from one place to another.

Milwaukee really needs to come up with a more tried-and-true box that makes tool storage and access easier instead of more difficult.

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Stuff I Bought Week: casa pura Stair Treads

Posted on March 31st, 2016

Dave!For decades I've been vowing that if I were to ever get my own place, I would never have carpeting again.

This was only confirmed when I pulled out the carpeting in my new home only to find that massive amounts of dirt were sitting beneath... belying the clean appearance of the carpet from above. It's pretty heinous... even if you're got a power vacuum like a Dyson.

Anyway...

The problem with hardwood is that it makes for some slippery stairs... especially if you have kittens that struggle to climb them and need something to grab onto. This means buying some stair treads, which is easier said than done, as there are a number of hurdles to overcome. First of all, decent stair treads are really expensive. I've seen them as high as $50... per stair! Second of all, I am picky in that I want something which blends in with my flooring as much as possible... but still stands out enough so people know they're there. Since I couldn't find them local, I had to best-guess while shopping online, which is always dangerous as the color you see on your display rarely matches reality.

Amazon here I come.

There were a few options that caught my eye, but the one that really stood out was the treads by casapura...

  • Most important, the "chocolate brown" color looked to be a good match from what I could tell in the photo.
  • There were 15 treads... exactly the number I needed... when most sets only had 13 (I only have to order one set!). As a bonus, you also get a mat!
  • The reviews were really good.
  • They had a "London" design which was rounded to show off more of the wood, which I liked much, much better than big rectangles that covered everything.
  • They were among the cheapest treads available... just $89!... which meant I wouldn't be out too much money if I didn't like them.

So I ordered them with my expectations kept in check.

Imagine my surprise when I opened the box and found that they were absolutely perfect. The quality. The color. The shape. The size. Everything. They look far more expensive than $89, and work perfectly for my kittens to navigate the stairs safely...

   
Jake and Jenny kittens on casa pura stair treads!

If I have one complaint, it's that quite a few treads didn't have the pattern perpendicular to the edge. It's not hugely noticeable, but for somebody ADD like me, it does drive you a little crazy. Other than that, I'm very happy with the casa pura stair treads... and even happier that I only had to pay $89 for them.

When it comes to installation, it's pretty straight-forward. There are adhesive strips on the back which keep the tread securely positioned. Some people in their Amazon reviews complained that it wasn't strong enough, but mine have been holding just great. I was sure to carefully clean and dry each step to get the best adhesion, so maybe that's all it takes. I did remove a tread to see if it comes off cleanly, and it did, but I don't know if that changes over time.

A helpful hint: After measuring my treads and stairs, I found that they centered with 4-1/2" gaps on each side. In order to make sure they all lined up perfectly, I found a small box that was 4-1/2" wide to set them against...

   
casa pura stair tread installation.

This made installation a snap.

You can find the casa pura treads over at Amazon... though, ironically enough, the "chocolate brown" color I purchased is no longer listed.

   

Stuff I Bought Week: Scatmat and Ssscat

Posted on March 30th, 2016

Dave!The thing about cats is... they're cats.

Cats... and especially the two kittens I have... are curious by nature, and want to get into anything and everything they can. They're always looking for adventure, which can be problematic when it comes to keeping them safe.

If there's one room I don't want them adventuring in, it's the kitchen. Too many opportunities for them to get into trouble once they're able to jump high enough to get on the countertops. Also... that's where the front door is, and I don't want them running out into the street.

The first thing I tried was putting "Scat Mats" in front of both entrances. These are plastic sheets with conductive wires running through it. They're hooked up to a battery and deliver a small shock when your pet (or you!) make contact with two wires...

Scat Mat!

The mats seem to work as advertised. It just took a few attempts before Jake and Jenny stopped trying to go into the kitchen. When I make their breakfast in the morning, they stop short of entering and wait patiently.

At least they did.

Maybe my cats are geniuses or something, but they just started jumping over the mat on day three...

So...

Not the best solution for keeping cats out of a room. Probably works great for keeping cats off of something though. If that's what you're after, then they might be worth picking up. The only thing that really bothered me with the product (other than them not working for my intended purpose) was that they tell you to store your mat rolled up... but it arrives folded. Which puts big-ass creases in it. They say you can use a hairdryer to smooth them out, but not even an industrial hairdryer would remove mine (as you can see in the above video). Kind of stupid they don't come rolled, as suggested in the instruction book!

After the failure of Scat Mat, I turned to another solution... Ssscat!

This is a can of compressed air with a motion sensor on top. When something triggers the motion detector, it releases a blast of air that scares any cats (or humans) who come within range...

Ssscat!

It's a great idea.

Except mine doesn't work.

Even with two changes of fresh batteries, it doesn't activate when you get near it as it should. Sometimes it will go off with motion, but there's no rhyme or reason to it and it's worthless 99% of the time. I don't know if I got a bad one or what, but it's an even worse failure than the Scat Mat.

Oh well.

Hopefully a solution will come along that actually works.

Until then, there's always "NO!"

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Stuff I Bought Week: Lightsaber Room Light

Posted on March 29th, 2016

Dave!My new home has an utterly bizarre design choices. It's a nice place but, logically, rooms are positioned strangely, walls don't align as they should, and absolutely nothing is centered. Some of this I was able to address in the remodel, but other things ended up sticking around because there's just not enough remodel money to deal with all my ADD issues.

One of the areas that my new home's quirks made especially challenging was decorating. Since nothing is lined up and nothing is centered, placing pictures on the walls is a maddening struggle.

Take, for instance, my upstairs hall.

I decided I wanted to decorate it with movie posters. One wall has two small windows above a stairwell (off-center, of course), another wall has bizarre angles cut into it, another wall ends in a desk nook that's off-center from two bedroom doors. And, as if that wasn't bizarre enough space to try and align some wall hangings, the far wall comes out of a stairwell and has the HVAC vent return! It's enough to drive you crazy.

For this wall I decided to put a couple Star Wars posters (A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back... the only two that matter) and have them line up with both the stairwell and the upstairs hall. This left a big gap in the middle that needed filling.

I decided a light saber might be cool.

Only to find out that replicas are insanely expensive.

And then I happened across a "science kit" from "Uncle Milton" that featured a "Build Your Own Lightsaber" style room -light... for just $25! SOLD! I liked the design of Darth Vader's lightsaber best, so that's what I went with.

Opening the box had me bust out laughing, because it's not actual-size. It's a mini-saber that's tiny, tiny, tiny...

Light Saber

As if that wasn't funny enough, the "Darth Vader" lightsabers come in a box with a picture of Kylo Ren!

Light Saber

Even though it's billed as a "room light" it sure doesn't glow bright enough to light up a room... even in total darkness. But it does make a lightsaber sound when you turn it on, so I guess that's something. It comes with a remote control, but the remote doesn't turn the thing on, so I have no clue what the hell it's for (you have to push the button on the hilt to get it to "activate"). The description at Amazon said that the blade changes to eight colors with the remote, but the Darth Vader blade only glows red.

Ultimately, a big disappointment, as this is not the lightsaber you're looking for... move along.

Eventually maybe I can find a decent FULL-SIZE replica with a glowing blade that's affordable. Until then, a mini-saber it shall be.

May The Force be with you.

Always.

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Stuff I Bought Week: Obol

Posted on March 28th, 2016

Dave!You know how when you dig into a big bowl of cereal how the first two or three bites are utter perfection? The cereal crisp... the milk cold... and no sogginess to be found?

Then, like the inevitability of death and taxes, the milk starts to permeate your Cocoa Puffs and they grow increasingly less crunchy with each new bite and you'd give anything to get back to those glorious moments of cereal perfection?

"Only every single morning!" you say.

Well, there's an invention called Obol that aims to fix all this...

Obol

Obol

As you can see in the above photo, your cereal is kept high and dry in the top portion while the milk is safely waiting in the lower section. When you want to take a bite, you just push a spoonful of kibble into the milk and chow down with crunchy perfection.

And while Obol doesn't have a cooling unit to keep your milk cold, it does have kind of a "handle" on the bottom so you don't have to wrap your hands around the bowl and have your body heat warming your milk.

If you are a cereal fanatic like me, Obol is a must-purchase. It's a little pricey, but oh so worth it.

Unfortunately, I think Obol is going out of business or something, because most of the colors/sizes are out of stock and the pricing is weird at Amazon. If you're interested, I'd act sooner rather than later...

Medium Single Serve obol: $14.95, Large Double Serve Obol: $14.99

   

Missing

Posted on October 25th, 2013

Dave!While I was in Vietnam, my credit card went missing. I hesitate to say it was "stolen," because I just don't know, but I generally keep pretty close track of where my cards and wallet are... especially when traveling... and it seems strange to think that I would have just left it somewhere.

Nothing was charged to it before I realized it was gone, so no harm no foul, I guess. The only bummer is that I didn't earn any airline miles on my purchases but, since the entire trip was pre-paid back in April, I only ended up spending about $70 on a couple meals I ate outside the tour and what few souvenirs I bought, so I guess it's no big loss.

What's been surprising is the number of automated charges that have been set up on my credit card over the years.

Almost immediately after reporting the card missing and having the number canceled, the emails and calls started pouring in. My cable TV. My phone. My online backup. My Adobe Creative Suite subscription. My web hosting. My automated charity donations. My weekly Graze snack box. The list goes on and on and on. I must have at least twenty automated payments coming out of my card. If you had asked me how many I thought I had, I would have said "five or six" so this is kind of embarrassing.

What's worse is thinking that I really need to cut out a lot of these expenses, but then not finding any that I would be willing to give up.

I suppose that's exactly the kind of danger signal I need to illustrate why I should be cutting my expenses in the first place. My attachment to all this crap can't be healthy for body, soul, mind, or spirit.

It's convincing myself that I'd be better off that's the trick.

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