Done with Thrifting

I don’t like thrifting; There are hordes of rude people, narrow isles, people in my way (how dare they!), crowded parking lots, (Saturday is half-off day, so it’s packed) traffic, etc.

So why have I been doing it? My dad and I go (went) every week and also stop for lunch at our favorite restaurants, such as Culver’s or the Wishbone. That’s always a good time, and I have to admit, with thrifts, the thrill-of-the-hunt is a big draw, something that helps me deal with all of the annoying things that thrifting inflicts. There are so many good books, cds, and DVD/Blu-ray out there, and one never knows what one will find. Sometimes, there’s nothing, but often, there are some fantastic deals on items I never would have run across anywhere else.

But after maybe about five years of this, (was it longer than that? Maybe?) I’m just out of room. I’ve purchased some fantastic libraries, which is great, but the next step is to start stacking books on the floor. I’ve done that before, and I really don’t like it. Books should be on shelves, not in boxes or stacked on a floor. I already have a few boxes of cds on the floor of my office, which isn’t something that I want going on. But there is literally nowhere else to put them. And every week, I’m getting more in that I have to catalog and sort, and that is time that I’m not using to actually enjoy what I have. This constant thrill-of-the-hunt finally has to come to an end. Which is sad. But my libraries are at a very good place, with plenty of varied options to read, hear, and watch.

It was a good time for a long time, but now we’re just going to go out to lunch and take care of errands on Saturdays. And then home for a quiet Saturday afternoon of reading, instead of dealing with the new acquisitions. I read on Saturdays now, but it’s going to be nice to be doing less at my computer in cataloging new buys when I could be reading on any given quiet Saturday afternoon.

And I will also admit that I very much understand why people pack their houses with collections of stuff; that thrill-of-the-hunt is a lot of fun, but at some point one has to stop and assess where their boundaries should be with collecting.

When I was a kid, I used to have this stack of comics that I would read every day, and when I read the comic on top, I’d transfer it to the bottom, and so on until they rotated back to the top. Every once in a while, I’d get a new stack of comics at the flea market, and that was always a huge deal; my point is that I didn’t have much, but I really used what I had.

And video games back in the day; I didn’t have an Atari, everybody else did. So any time I could get playing a friend’s Atari, Colecovision, Odyssey 2, or Intellivision, that time was gold. When I did get my Atari, the Nintendo was released, and although I could play it all of the time at my cousin’s (good times!), he only had a few games, so we played those over and over, even if we couldn’t get anywhere with them. It’s what we had. And it was a good thing, because we’d have never beaten or eventually enjoy them if we’d been inundated with lots of choices. Again, the point of that story is that one doesn’t have to have a great big library; it’s nice, and there’s nothing wrong with having a good library, but what good is it if you don’t use it? It’s just stuff on a shelf if it’s not used.

Everybody should be reading a book on Saturday afternoons.

Frasier, again.

I watched Frasier when it originally aired back in the day, recording it on VHS every week. Eventually, I pieced together the entire eleven-year run on DVD from local used media stores and watched them all again, and then perhaps about five years ago, went through them yet again. And then last year. This sounds like a lot, but it comes out to once every five years.

I’ve recently been under-the-weather, and at the same time, the NHL playoffs have been on cable, something I stopped watching entirely back in October. I needed (and this is part of why I’m not watching cable anymore) to flip to something during the numerous commercial breaks, and Frasier was the only thing even vaguely appealing, even though I watched it last year. I got hooked again, as I had to stop watching the commercial-ridden, logo-obstructed, soft quasi-HD offering and instead started up my DVD copy of the show.

Which is the beauty of physical media; I can watch this whenever I want, commercial free. Although the video quality isn’t that great by today’s standards, it is better than the current cable option.

Going through and watching my favorite shows again on DVD/Blu-ray has been a good time, and it feels great to have the control over what I’m watching, not wasting time flipping channels, recording, going through menus, etc.

I have a buddy who is a big Cheers fan; but he won’t even try Frasier, much less Wings. Which is too bad, because Frasier isn’t just a continuation of Cheers, it keeps getting better since it is mostly the same people involved, and they have all of that accumulated experience making these shows.

And while I’m not a writer or an actor, I can tell that the writing on this show is so much better than everything that is new these days, and that is before Kelsey Grammar’s fantastic portrayal of Frasier Crane with all of his eccentricities. There’s nobody like him, or his character. Actually, the show has double the Frasier Crane, since his brother Niles is so much the same, yet different enough to compliment the character of Frasier and make Frasier more interesting.

It’s just a great show. And I’m getting so much mileage out of my DVDs. Most physical media, if ever used at all, gets watched once and then becomes part of a collection or library, forever, because the thrill of the hunt for new things to watch totally wastes what is right in front of a person; something they know they like, that would be fun to watch again, but no. Gotta go find some new stuff.

When at thrift stores, looking at the DVDs, it is really interesting to see how many of them are still in their shrink-wrap, some of them decades old and never used. Most DVD’s at thrifts are in perfect condition; there are plenty of scratched-up ones, but the majority are like new. I often see great series like 24 or Frasier there, a season for just $1.50-$3.00. So much great entertainment for practically nothing, but they just sit there because people overlook them in the search for the newest thing, and usually that newest thing is quite sub-standard in comparison.

Anyway, I’m having a blast re-watching Frasier yet again, and I highly recommend not just this show, but your own favorite show, whatever it is, that you already own; don’t let it just sit around, give it another watch! Because if you don’t, you might as well give it to the local thrift.

Ultimate keyboard

My first non-standard keyboard was the Datadesk Smartboard.

It was just over a hundred bucks, back in 1997 or so. Maybe even more than that.

This keyboard was fantastic, especially coming from the standard, straight boards. The keys felt and sounded great, it was fairly compact, was comfortable, and was everything I’d hoped for.

So, thinking it was safe to do so, and being someone who is enthusiastic when I find something good like this, I bought three more, since I used three computers at home and one at work.

I’d had some hand issues, so this was just perfect. Until it wasn’t.

One after the other, each board started typing the wrong thing. I had absolutely no idea how to fix it. So I got in contact with Datadesks’ customer service, and shipped all four off to them for repair.

I never saw them again.

I got this run-around from them, and I know they were delivered. It does make sense though, that a product with a selling price of about a hundred bucks like a keyboard wouldn’t be something anybody would bother to fix, but still. They told me to send them for repair…

But this turned out to be a good thing. I discovered the Microsoft Ergonomic Natural 4000, a better keyboard. The keys were good, more of a standard, membrane keyboard instead of switches, but still good. Not ortholinear like the Datadesk, but it had a better hand-wrest, specialized and programmable audio keys, and eight programmable application keys which were incredibly helpful. A zoom key and two directionals for web surfing were added extras.

Even better though, in the next twenty years, they never, ever broke down and if they did, all one would have to do is buy another one at the nearest office supply store. They were common, unlike the Datadesk board.

But, of course, something bad had to happen.

About 2013 or so, Apple increased their security protocols and Microsoft wasn’t willing to go through the effort of writing updated software, as it apparently was too difficult. For Microsoft. A company not exactly known for secure, safe and solid software in the field of operating systems. I’m sure there’s a good story behind all of that.

But after a year or so, I had to go to the command line in OSX to override the new security protocols so that the keyboard would function normally. And I very much depended also on the Command-Option-Control keys on both sides of the space bar for navigating Adobe programs, my bread and butter. Without any software, the board worked, but Command and Option were backwards on one side. Very annoying.

Shareware and freeware, even paid programs that all claimed to be easy to use, were ineffective in simply swapping those two buttons. Eventually I had to use the Microsoft board along with an Apple board, just for those three keys.

I was optimistic that someday they’d release an updated version of that software for the board… they sold a ton of those keyboards, and time changes things… but it never happened.

Around the first of the year, I finally found a board with the right ergonomics, updated, modern keys, and Command-Control in the correct order on the right side of the space bar… no Control key on that side, but I could make that work. The rest of the Logitech ERGO K860 was excellent, although the extra keys the Microsoft board offered weren’t there. It was still an improvement over using two boards at the same time.

My job had changed, and the logistics of bringing two different boards to work every day, especially a big ergonomic board, that was worth the trouble, but it was trouble.

As of a week ago, I am now using an expensive, but excellent two-piece, fully programmable and adjustable ortholinear LED keyboard. And what an adventure it is!

Learning to type ortholinearly again, but with the hands farther apart, is difficult. And with every key being customizable, and up to thirty-six layers available for customization, one week is not nearly enough time to become fluid typing on this thing. The company, ZSA, recommended not ‘tenting’ the keyboard until the user is acclimated to the board in the flat position, and this was excellent advice.

After one week, I’m still moving key assignments around, experimenting, learning. I actually pulled a few physical keys and re-arranged them. Assigning the individual key LEDs is incredibly helpful in remembering where certain keys are, in addition to the on-screen keyboard layout which responds to every key-press. I’ve got five different layers, and am trying to keep it as simple as possible, but the key ecosystem keeps getting better and better. Lots of learning.

The ZSA Moonlander wasn’t cheap, but it is just what I needed… it’s very portable, too, being in two halves and coming with a portable carrying case. It’s been an adventure learning how to use it, but it’s been paying off, and I’m only on the first week. It’s going to take some time to really know it backwards and forwards, but considering how much I’m at my computer for work and personal tasks, my productivity and hand-health is going to be better than ever.

I also upgraded from the Kensington Expert Turbo Mouse Trackball, which has worked well for twenty-five years, to the Kensington Slimblade, it’s evolutionary replacement. Along with two Apple Magic Trackpads, (Great for scrolling) it is the best setup possible!

Of course, only now do I find a board that is under a hundred bucks that has those precious three keys on both sides of the space bar… I have the name written down somewhere, but it’s a moot point when I have a board like the Moonlander.

To sum up, it’s important to have a keyboard that is functional, good on the hands, and flexible in everything. Something that can be depended on to work, that can be depended upon to change as change is needed. No software that can be subject to bad computer issues or corporate decisions. It’s going to be an adventure learning, and using this board, but finally after all these years, it’s here. I can even change the actual key mechanisms to one of many choices in resistance, sound, and feel! I can even mix-and-match them! When I ordered the Moonlander, I chose from one of at least ten choices!

Also, I’m going to transition from QUERTY to Workman or Colmac once I’m acclimated to this board. Querty isn’t being used, like the layout and basic design of most keyboards, isn’t being used because it’s optimal. It’s being used because people aren’t willing to change to something that is proven to be better. No risk, no effort… no reward. With Querty, the strongest fingers are wasted and the weaker fingers work more than they have to. And with normal keyboards, fingers have to move more than they need to, unlike ortholinear boards.

And rest assured, when I do make the change to another layout from Querty, I’ll have no issues re-arranging the keys!

ZSA Moonlander

RISK / Stratego

I bought these for $1.25 each, quite a deal! The RISK game appears to be complete, but the Stratego is missing two pieces. Not a big deal, I’ll just buy another set and then I can have interesting games by switching out pieces, new rules!

I’ve always wanted to play RISK for years, but never had the game.

It’s a mystery as to where our original Stratego is, and where our Battleship game is. Along with LIFE, Monopoly, and a few others. The attic? Who knows. But at least replacements are cheap… really cheap!

Also, I might buy a few Monopoly sets just so that I can have a lot of extra money, I remember running out of different denominations.

And I also have a newer release of Stratego with pieces like the classic, but lost version we used to have. Modern, recent versions have the numbers on the pieces backwards, whereas the most powerful piece used to be “1”, it is now “9”. No way. I’m not playing it that way, it’s just wrong. Why did they change it?

050921 • Movies / Television

Jurassic Park III • All of these movies are such fun (except for the teenager escaping a raptor by using gymnastics in the second one… ugh.) This one is that last Blu-ray copy I needed to have them all on Blu-ray, and it took forever. I was always coming across copies of every other one in the series except this one!

Iron Man 3 • Just like the above (and also a #3) it took literally years to find this Blu-ray at a thrift!

Glory • This is just a great movie: and I say this without any virtue-signaling, which is so automatic these days. I have always liked this movie for the same reasons that I like other good war movies.

The Drew Carey Show • Six selected episodes, I don’t have any others on disc as it is. And this is signed by Craig Ferguson!

050921 • Books

Here are my finds for the past few weeks. I’m going to stop commenting on every single book since my preferences and interests in each one should be fairly obvious by now.

Brad Thor: Use of Force • Finally! Out of the twenty books Thor has written, I have read fifteen or so of them, and was missing the newer ones… and this is the last of those new ones that I needed! (Only $2.50!) It’s taken forever to find it at a thrift, being a newer book (2017). Now I can finally begin reading the series again, and when I’m done re-reading the first fifteen, I’ll just continue through into the newer ones such as this book. What’s also great is that my Vince Flynn series is in the exact same situation, as far as how many I’ve read before and new ones that I’ll be reading for the first time. These series are great to read and re-read.

Great Photographs of World War II • I have a separate post about how I came across this book…