Being present

Last Friday night my wife and I had a rare occasion where she was off at night and the next morning. Typically as a theater manager her weekends are shot. Having a night off meant one thing: date night. We don’t get too many of those these days. Must be reaching that age.

We dropped the kids with grandma and grandpa and assumed they were going to be spoiled with candy and toys. We’d be back the next day to pick them up. Having zero plans we decided dinner was best. It was early on a Friday, perhaps around 6:30 pm but being December it was already dark and cold as hell.

Rolling towards downtown Cincy we chose the Moerline Lager House for dinner. I can’t recall the last time we ate there but it has been quite a while. We were seated immediately and the place was maybe half full. To my annoyance there was a table right next to us with a super loud kid.

I have kids, I understand that you can’t truly control them when they are little and in high chairs. However, having said that, this kid was screaming and throwing things since no one was paying attention to him. His mother (I am assuming) was with her friend and they were comparing instagram photos or some thing on their phones. The whole time this kid just threw a loud tantrum and at one point even nearly hit me with a flying toy. My wife asked me “aren’t you going to give him his toy back?” to which I replied NO since he obviously didn’t want the toy that struck my foot 5 feet from him.

So we settle in and order our food. I made a super conscious choice to leave my phone in my pocket so I could spend time with my wife. She chose to check Facebook and keep showing me updates on something happening at her work. It made me a little sad but I chose not to pester her about it. It gave me time to crowd watch, beyond the little brat to my right.

All around me were people sitting at tables within sight, and if they were not eating, everyone had their faces in their phones. It was quite a realization the extent of the problem. I totally admit that I have a problem not goofing on my phone too. But it was sobering to see it in that moment. All this potential for humans to talk and catch up, and instead a see of cell phone screens.

I quietly munched on the appetizer of a trio of dips like hummus and artichoke. It was wonderful. After that I had a “totally not good for you” burger. I swear three animals went into making this burger. I don’t care. Every now and then you just gotta eat an unhealthy meal ha ha.

Afterwards we didn’t know what to do with our earned freedom and ended up just going home for some tv time on the couch with a blanket. Pretty low key night all and all.

I am at least happy I didn’t give in to the temptation of my phone at dinner. Yay me.

The hardest part of a new project is just starting

I noticed at work the other day that the hardest part of a new project was just getting started. I am not talking about assigned work, or daily general tasks, but real long term complicated projects. In reflection I can see parallels to my personal life too. Every time I sit and think of a new project that delay at the beginning is the hardest thing to overcome.

Surely some planning is always a decent idea, but sometimes in life, very much like a cold swimming pool the best method is feet first and sudden. Just get it over with and put some progress on the board.

Food for thought on a Tuesday morning.

VCR borrowed and returned!

This is a continuation to the previous blog post where I was trying to find a VCR.   Enjoy:

In an amazing plot twist, my father in law found out I was looking for a VCR through my wife and he showed up at my door with one. Not only did he bring a VCR over, but he also had a good old fashion VHS Tape Cleaner kit too!  I can’t make this up.

I dug out all my VHS tapes this weekend and waded into the project. At first I thought I was going to spend 10+ hours capturing video off tapes but after some gentle scrubbing though the footage it only ended up being about 1.5 hours of actual stuff I wanted to save.

I relived some of my high school days, watching some old marching band performances, English class projects where we recreated an entire episode of Cops, and even found footage of my garage band. Man did we suck, but we had fun and that’s all that counts.

I captured everything easily enough into my pc using this $8 device I bought off Amazon.  I am glad I read the reviews and saw that someone commented “When you get this device, first thing: throw the CD away that has software on it, then use any free screen capture software. I loaded up OBS, which is free software. After adding the device as a video capture card (literally no driver or configuration needed) it loaded perfectly and I was recording VHS inputs in less than a minute of effort. It honestly took me longer to plug the VCR in than it did to setup the software.

I only had about 8 tapes to copy.  I made it through the pile easily and even chopped the video into short segments. Now I need to archive them and make a backup before I get rid of the VHS tapes.   Part of me thought of keeping them just because they were on a Blockbuster tape, but nostalgia aside it is now a useless item.

Moving on in this project I also found a Mini DV tape which my brother brought over his old camera. Ironically after all the effort to find a Mini DV player, the entire tape was useless stuff so it was a bust. Oh well, can’t save them all Hasselhoff.

I am returning the VCR this week.  I will have to buy him a 6 pack of his favorite beer for bringing it over.  Pay it forward peeps.

The epic quest to borrow a VCR

I decided to make this amusing blog post and promise followups as the story unfolds. I have a simple problem:

I have a small box of VHS tapes that I want to digitize to my computer, in order to save the video content indefinitely (ish, lets be real about codecs and file types).  I don’t have a VCR.

Sounds simple right?  Just borrow a VCR from someone.

First angles of attack: ask my parents. I know for a fact my parents have a VCR. What I wasn’t expecting in return is that they still use it. I am a full time IT professional and basically build infrastructure. Every day I play and use stuff that is the internet. Hearing that my mom still uses her VCR every day to “record [her] soaps” is downright embarrassing. Furthermore unplugging her VCR would result in a catastrophe from “WHY IS IT BLINKING 12:00?!” phone calls followed by messed up timing schedules on precious Days of Our Lives.

One would argue, “Why don’t you just go to your parent’s house and hook up a laptop?”.  You see, as a tech guy, that invites endless tech support for everything else that is ailing them. When I stop over for dinner, I typically have to fix antiviruses, apply windows updates that somehow defy automation, and worst: show them how to use their iPhones. Its endless tech support. Is it worth a home cooked meal? Someday’s no. It is not. I love my parents, but wow are some of their tech issues endless and bizarre.

The in laws I think have a VCR but we see them less. Similar issue about using their VCR at their house. I end up doing Android support for my brother in law (who is a great guy) but can’t use his Android. I own and have always owned an iPhone. I feel horrible when I have to help him with his phone since I even have to google the answers.  They visit us very rarely so having them bring a VCR over is probably out of the question.

My two brothers are in similar states as I, having rid themselves of a functional VCR years and years ago.

My coworker, who is native to India mind you and here on visa, laughed when I told him I couldn’t find a VCR. He asked if America is that developed that it doesn’t have one I could buy. There in lies part of the issue too: I don’t want to pay money for a VCR.

I read an article once from some minimalist who says he “rents things from Craigslist”. IE: he buys the item outright like a chainsaw for example, then resells the item after he is done to someone else. This sounds practical in theory, basically shuffling stuff from person to person or perhaps to a hoarder who doesn’t need it. But after doing my 101 Things challenge I detest using Craigslist for anything other than me buying something I really want or need. The thought of having to resell a $1 VCR to strangers makes me almost suicidal. I’d rather smash it in the street for a laugh on YouTube than go through the process of reselling a VCR on craigslist. But even then I don’t want to buy something just to use it one weekend and throw it away. Such waste and then that Native American from the littering commercial shows up on my door step with his single heart-piercing tear.

No, I am committed to borrowing a VCR! Someone somewhere HAS to have one I can borrow with a reasonable amount of effort and travel.

I will post a followup blog post when I find one. Until then: adjust your tracking and be kind rewind!

Reasons to enjoy this Monday

Today so far has been a great day! Its the first day back from Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Everyone is mostly back to work this morning. I noticed that a lot of people wander in like zombies. Almost bitter to be back in the office. Instead I chose to take the high road and celebrate today. So many reasons I can think of just from a quick list:

  • I woke up perfectly happy, with a good sleep. My wake up light alarm clock slowly and peacefully started my day. I didn’t hit snooze once!
  • I ate a quick breakfast and still had plenty of time without rushing.
  • During breakfast my son who typically is a pain to wake up in the morning wandered down and ate some cereal too. We had a few laughs at my new automated Christmas tree.  (Don’t ask)
  • After breakfast I pounded out the last thousand words on my NaNoWriMo novel! Woot. Winner winner chicken dinner. Done with yet another novel. I will make a separate post about these in the future.
  • My commute to work, despite being drizzly, was easy. No issues at all.
  • At work my work computer for some reason wouldn’t let my type the letter “p”. Most people would lose it on a Monday morning but I had a good chuckle at crafting emails all day that didn’t have a P in them. A simple reboot and re-seating all the cables seemed to have cleared up that amusing ‘roblem.
  • I cleared a few tasks off my to do within the first hour of the day
  • I drank this killer cup of tangerine / assam black tea. It smelled so good, and was the perfect temp to sip during an hour long phone conference call.
  • So far, each hour of the day I have gotten up and taken a short 1-2 minute walk. My Apple watch seems happy with me right now, and that’s all that’s important.
  • Despite being the one sole guy working last week, everything kept running and there were no IT fires. Woot!

So, I am going to keep up the momentum into the afternoon too.  I looked up my company’s cafeteria menu for this week and decide which days I want to pack. I already picked out some healthy choices for lunches.  No last second decisions leading to terrible choices.

My watch is reminding me it’s time for my 11 am walk. Peace out.