Today’s Tidying Report or: Beta Was Better

I realized today that I have close to 100 cassette tapes, VHS tapes, and Betamax tapes. Not one of them sparks joy. Time to get rid of them!

I thought about donating them. But I don’t think anyone shopping at the Goodwill store would be interested in taking home my old mix tape cassettes from the 1970s or my Beta tapes of thirtysomething.

Since they cannot be recycled, I was about to throw them all away. Then I realized that parts are recyclable.

Each cassette tape has a paper insert that is used to write the contents of the tape. This is where I wrote what was in my mix. This part is definitely recyclable. Also, the plastic outer case can possibly be recycled.

The VHS and Beta tapes all come in a cardboard case, which can definitely be recycled. And they all have paper labels inside, many of which have not been applied and are still loose. Recyclable!

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So I spent the better part of an hour separating the recyclable and non-recyclable parts of the tapes and cases. All the recyclable packing material and labels went into the recycle bin. The tapes went into the trash bin. I felt accomplished!

Now I just hope the waste management company doesn’t pick it all up and dump it into the same bucket.

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A Night at the Park or: How I Learned to Start Worrying

I went to the Lake Forest Sports Park tonight to walk. Since I already had 5,000 steps, I decided I would walk two laps on the trail around the perimeter of the park, that is, two miles, so I could get my 10,000 steps for the day.

On the second lap, I noticed a young boy going in the opposite direction. He was five or six years old, he had a little helmet on, and he was on his little bicycle, without training wheels. He had a look of joy on his face.

A few minutes later, there was another, younger boy, maybe three of four years old, riding a scooter, with the same look of pure joy on his face, peeking out under his even littler helmet. You really had to see it. There is no way for me to express in words the happy, carefree looks on their faces.

A few feet behind the boy on the scooter was his father, running to keep up, quite probably energized by anxiety about wanting to keep his son safe.

It made me wonder when in life we lose the ability to experience pure happiness from simple pleasures, without having to worry about life, work, relationships, and the world. It must be at quite a young age, because I don’t remember how it felt before.

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Merchandise Inflation

I was looking through some of the online stores for the various presidential candidates. There are some nice items: T-shirts, bumper stickers, buttons, sweatshirts, even environmentally friendly re-usable shopping bags.

I’m not expressing any opinion here about my preference for a candidate, and I always try to keep my blog apolitical. That said, I think Kamala Harris has the nicest looking merchandise.

Check out the hat.

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And the T-shirt.

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Look, a hoodie!

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Here is the tote bag.

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And of course, there are the old-fashioned button and bumper sticker. And what a beautiful bumper sticker.

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But look at the damage for purchasing each of these items. Here is a price list.

Hat: $29.99
T-Shirt: $29.99
Hoodie: $59.99
Button: $4.99
Tote Bag: $24.99
Bumper Sticker: $4.99

Wow. I remember back in the days when the campaign people drove down our street and gave this stuff away for free. All I had to do was sit on the stoop in front of the house to collect free merch. Like this fine 1972 McGovern/Shriver button, which still sparks joy.

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Why must we pay for the privilege of advertising for candidates who now routinely collect over a billion dollars in donations?

The New Tenant

logos.png A short while ago, Jo-Ann moved from its location near Planet Fitness to the former location of Old Navy, right between Hobby Lobby and Michaels. They’ve started construction on what will replace the old Jo-Ann, and I’ve been eagerly anticipating, hoping for a new restaurant, or perhaps a Trader Joe’s.

Yesterday, I saw a sign in front of the new construction announcing the new tenant! New restaurant? Maybe the Old Spaghetti Factory that I’ve been waiting for? Or a Green Tomato? Veggie Grill? Nope. Hoag Medical Center. Boo!

Obviously, they need the new medical center to treat all those housewives who have developed carpal tunnel from too much crafting.

Tidying Report or: Does Vinyl Still Spark Joy?

I’ve been on a tidying kick for quite some time. Today I won a major victory by getting my daughter to join in. She went through her bathroom and filled up two bags of stuff to be discarded. Yay!

Tonight, while sitting in my entertainment room after watching a movie, I glanced at my vinyl collection. I wondered if it was time to do something bold: Get rid of all my records.

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I know how audiophiles always say that the sound from vinyl is superior. So I decided to do a scientific test to help me make my decision. I would listen to one of my favorite songs on vinyl, then on compact disc. If the vinyl version sounded far superior, I might want to keep my records. If I couldn’t tell the difference, or if the CD sounded better, then yay, lots of records to discard.

I had to select the right song for the test. I didn’t think about it too much, and I chose “Here Comes the Sun”, by The Beatles. I have this song on both vinyl and CD versions of the album called “1967-1970”, also commonly known as “The Blue Album”.

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I decided to listen to the version on vinyl first. Of course, I had to go through all of the ritual. First, I took out the album from the shelf. I pulled out the sleeve, and the record slipped out, because the paper had come apart. Yeah, I remember that. The record sleeve is far from indestructible.

I put the record on the turntable, cued up the tone arm, used my velvet dust brush to make sure the record was pristine, and finally lowered the tone arm onto the record. I noticed that the strobe indicator showed that the speed was off. The record was going a bit too slow. So I adjusted it until the speed was exactly 33 ⅓ revolutions per minute. Or as close to it as I could get.

Now it was time to listen. The record sounded OK. Back in the early 1980s I had played this record a lot, and as happens with vinyl, the grooves had worn down and the sound was a bit flat. But it still sounded good. No crackling or skipping. I had taken good care of my records.

Next it was time to listen to the CD. I had to remind myself how to use the CD player. I hadn’t used it for a long time. There was a way to select a single track and optionally tell it to repeat. I didn’t quite remember how to do that, so I just decided to select the track and hit play. First, I had to look at the CD box to find out what the correct track number was. Eight. The track number on the Blue Album CD for “Here Comes the Sun” is eight. On disc number two.

Just a few seconds into listening to the CD version was enough to convince me what I needed to do. To my non-audiophile ears, the CD sounds was far superior to the vinyl sounds. Goodbye records!

Then something happened. About a quarter way through the song, the CD player started playing “Come Together”, the next track. Track number nine. What happened? I thought maybe I stepped down on the floor to hard and caused the CD to skip, so I tried again, restarting “Here Comes the Sun”, track eight. And it happened again! I realized that it would be impossible for me to listen to the entire song on the CD. The CD was not scratched or anything, Just by sitting on the shelf all these years, the CD had deteriorated to the point of making it unplayable.

Boo. It seemed that all the money that I invested over the years in CDs was now sunk. I didn’t even want to try listening to any of my other CDs, for fear of being disappointed again.

Apparently, CDs are an inferior technology. A record could get scratched, maybe crackle a little, but at least, unless you really abuse it and scratch it deeply, the whole record will play. My father has old 78 rpm records from almost 100 years ago, and they still play (if you can find a turntable that plays that speed). But a CD, just because of its age, becomes a circular brick. It seems that entropy is not kind to CDs.

So, I think I won’t be discarding my vinyl collection just yet. Or maybe the answer is to dump all of the physical discs, both vinyl and compact, and just stream my music. Alexa, play “Here Comes the Sun”.

Alexa > Siri

I got some bad news today, and I needed cheering up. After work, I got into my car, put my phone in the dashboard holster, and started to drive home.

“Hey Siri, listen to happy music.”

Siri thought about it for less than a second and said, “To do that, you’ll need an Apple Music subscription.”

Boo. Not helpful. So I tried something else.

“Hey Siri, start Amazon Music.”

Amazon music started. Good.

“Alexa, listen to happy music.”

Alexa: “Here’s a playlist for happy music. Feel-good classic soul, on Amazon Music.”

A song called “Barefootin”, by Rufus Thomas came on. Not bad, but I don’t know the song. I needed something familiar to cheer me up.

“Alexa, listen to different happy music.”

Alexa: “Here’s a playlist for happy music. Happy modern pop, on Amazon Music.”

Before the song by Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa even started, I knew what I had to do to get her to play something familiar.

“Alexa, listen to happy music from the 1970s.”

Alexa: “Here’s a playlist for happy music. Happy hits from the 70s, on Amazon Music.”

🎶

“Well, you can tell by the way I use my walk

I’m a woman’s man, no time to talk

Music loud and women warm, I’ve been kicked around

Since I was born

And now it’s alright, it’s okay

🎵

Okay. The Bee Gees weren’t exactly what I had in mind, but it was cool. And it got better. The next song was “Tiny Dancer” by Elton John, and then “You’re My Best Friend” by Queen. I was starting to feel better.

I think it’s just a matter of time until Apple takes away the ability to channel Alexa from Siri.

A Single Man Has No Use For a Fireplace

Yesterday, I was on a hike with a friend when she mentioned that she would like a house with a fireplace. I replied that I have a fireplace and I don’t use it. In fact, I don’t even remember the last time I used it. It’s been years. All I remember about the last time I used the fireplace is that I was in a relationship at the time and using the fireplace was the woman’s idea.

My friend asked if I wouldn’t like to curl up in front of the fireplace on a cold day. Perhaps to read a book. And I said no, if I get cold I’ll turn up the heat. And I wouldn’t even have to do that, because I have a smart thermostat that already knows how warm I like it. She said that’s such a man’s mentality!

I have to agree. Someone at work this week mentioned over lunch that most of the new homes these days don’t come standard with a fireplace. You can order one as an option, but a lot of people choose not to. In fact, someone he knows bought an older house and removed the fireplace, because the extra wall space was more valuable. I can imagine a young couple buying their first house and arguing over whether there should be a fireplace or a wall.

I can think of lots of things I could do with the extra wall space that would be more useful than a fireplace. A larger TV. A better sound system. More speakers to go with the new sound system. More seating so more friends could watch the big TV. Add-ons to my Beatles Rock Band. The list is endless.