My Workspace

When the former Controller retired, I spent the first week sort through all the files to get familiar with where things are and what was important.  What I found was that much of it was very old and should have been put in storage years ago as evidenced buy the dates on these boxes:
Ever the dedicated employee, I stayed a little later after work on Friday to get my desk in order. I had started with the original configuration she used which was to face the wall in the right.  This limited the amount of desk space I had for my key board.  There was a keyboard tray, but it was flimsy and had to be moved every time I needed to write something.  I decided to shift everything to the left and face the corner, not because I ma naughty (though I am) but because I a better work flow at that angle.  


One last thing, I have tried to stream line, simplify and declutter my personal life as well as work.  However, I do hold onto a few things that have meaning to me.  Three objects I keep on my computer are a Bakelite ox, my Chinese Zodiac I found at a flea market, a Homey joker from my time at TDI and a two rough links of a chain I found on a walk during a time my DW and I were having trouble.

End of an Era

I wrote earlier about selling the last of my comic collection.  Today I am mailing out the last set.  I tried multiple ways of selling including going to a local comic swap, posting the entire collection on Craigslist and finally putting the books in 6-10 book lots and selling them on eBay.  The swap netted me about $80, though I practically gave some great books away.  I got one nibble from Craigslist to buy the collection (700 books) for $400.  That is a steal at about $0.57 per books that sell for $3-4 not to mention older collectables worth many times more.  In the end, selling on eBay after all the fees, I netted slightly more with a whole lot more hassle. 

I was asked if I was at least a little sad to be selling the collection I had worked so hard to put together.  At first it was a littler hard, but it got a lot easier as I stared at the stack of boxes I had no intention of opening.  Whatever I might have lost in the buying and selling process I made up for by enjoying the books I had, getting a little money back and gain a lot more space.

My Little Space on the Web

Many, if not most, of us who access the internet on a regular basis have accumulated a number of sites we visit and profiles to maintain. After a while our digital selves are scattered all over the place. Like a chaotic home or work environment, this can cause us stress. Sites we never have time to look at call to us. Profiles we need to manage also need attention. We need to get our digital house in order, decide who we are out there and get rid of things that are not central to those goals.

The first thing I did was go through my bookmarks and see what all I had. I had signed up for various social and other sites I thought sounded interesting at the time. I collected and bookmarked the areas I felt were important to keep. The rest, I deleted my profiles and accounts.

During this process I decided who I was presenting. You can be who you want and present your best. It was a good exercise that has had a little overlap with the physical me.

To gather my digital self together, I decided to get my own domain name. You can find me at Surprisingly, to me at least, .com, .net, .org, etc were all taken. You can register the name you want and many sites. I started at since it was so well known, but in my search for where to host that site, I came across which let’s you register and host cheaper than many others.

Running your own website is not as hard or expensive as you might think. I am using to host my site since it is simple and economical. Creating the pages was as simple as typing a text document. Putting the site up was a little trickier and took some trial and error but once I understood it, getting it out there was a breeze.

So, this is how I’ll present myself to the world at large and keep different areas of my digital self in one place.

Update:  Did you notice the name on the Blog? is mine.

Closet Project

Returning to the original purpose of the blog, here is a project three years in the making.  Our house was built in 1961 before central A/C became popular.  As such, when they built them, they did not have a dedicated space for the HVAC like contemporary houses do.  When the A/c was put in here, they put it in the master bedroom closet which also happen to be right on an outside wall between houses.  The drawback of course is you loose a closet.  There is a hall closet, probably originally designed for linens, that was modified for holding clothes.  It had one bar along the top and random shelves and hooks.  The shelves left me about 4′ for all my things.  It’s ok, but all my clothes get bunched in so tight I can barely get them in or out.  I simplified as much as I could, but I still needed space.  

When we had the A/C replaced, I asked if it could be moved to the attic so I could reclaim my closet.  Again, unlike the contemporary homes, the attic space is tight, so the A/C was left in the same spot.  I had a similar problem in our last home and I cured it with two stacked hanging bars, one for pants one for tops.  I have spent more time and effort creating organizing “systems”, but for my purpose here, simple was best.  The materials needed were pretty minimal.  I needed two bars since the one that was in there was too short.  They compensated by stacking wood, but that’s ugly and not near as strong.  Next I needed paint to cover up the flat, stained(?) white and places where I took out the old shelf railing.  Finally, a small light so I can see whats in there, one that required no wiring.

2 – 5′ lengths – 1-1/2 in. Pine Round Dowel – @ 2.17/ft
1 – Can clearance paint – $5.00 Behr one-coat eggshell some version of off white.
1 – package Moon Lite – $9.49
4 – 1 X 6 X 27 wood – to hold rails – stock reclaimed from pallets.
1 – Tie and belt rack gift from X-mas
reclaimed rails and shelves

Project Total = $39.17
The whole project took about 4 hours.  

  1. I removed all the contents and placed them on the bed.  
  2. Next, I took out all the rails, shelves and left over nails, making sure not to poke holes in the sheet rock and keep the rails as intact as possible to reuse.  
  3. I patched the holes with plaster compound I already had and did a quick sanding once it dried to get a relatively smooth surface.  
  4. Once that was all done, I put in the pole supports and railing for the shelves.  I placed them at 39″ from the floor and the other pole so there was plenty of space for my longest items.  
  5. When all was in and I was sure it was the right size, I put down some plastic and painted.  The stuff was enamel and in a small space, so the fumes were pretty strong.  Thankfully, I was not in there long.  
  6. I took a nap, went to the park with the family and when I got back made sure t was all dry and started filling.  At once I realized I had not completely accounted for the hanger sliding under the shelf.  Rather than remove everything, I just cut out a notch with a hole cutter.  
  7. Everything was put back and I put the light in.  
  8. When I was happy with that, I added the tie rack in the back and snapped pics of the final project.
Now all my clothes fit, there is a small light that won’t wake up the girls if I turn it on to see what I’m after and the hanging stuff is no longer dangling from the door making noise when I open it.  I plan on doing something with that old nasty floor at one point, but for now I’m done.

Saying Good-bye to Old Friends

This past weekend I went to a comic show, not as a buyer but as a seller.  I have seven short boxes (Exterior L 15.75 X W 7.5 X H 10.75) full of comics, six of which are just the premium books I kept after the last sell off two years ago.  I also had/have about 100lbs of Magic the Gathering (MTG) cards.  I use pounds since I have no idea how many there are, just a lot!  I had made the decision to travel lighter through life, not to be defined by my things as a good friend put it so eloquently.  So I took some time, got it all organized and headed to Dallas on a cold Sunday morning to see if I could find them some new homes.  

I had resolved to get rid of them “no matter what”.  I had a little sign saying “make me an offer”.  I was ready to go.  As one would expect, one of the other sellers there was the first to come by and eventually make the first purchase.  What I was most surprised at was the slightly queasy feeling in my stomach as I was handed the cash and I handed over the books.  Wasn’t I mentally and physically prepared for this?  I mean, the darn things just sat in my closet for the last two years doing nothing for me.  I have not read them or even taken them out to look at them.  

As the day drew on, very few people came through, but I did have one guy with a spiral bound notebook.  carefully detailing all the Wolverine comics he had and what he needed.  As luck would have it, that is the character I had specialized in for my collection.  I had a very complete collection including the entire regular monthly series, many of the mini and key appearances.  The gentleman pulled a few books, we haggled.  He left, came back and he walked away happy.  I even overheard him speaking with the event organizer about how happy he was that the show had been done and what a great deal he got (he really did).  I was relieved at least that those few books were going into an appreciated collection.

Of all the people there, I probably walked away with the most cash.  Not because I am a great salesman, but because I was willing to let it go regardless of my personal loss.  Driving home, I was pretty exhausted even though I was sitting the entire day.  After thinking about it, it made sense.  I have invested a lot of time, energy and money into the collection.  It has defined me to some extent.  Letting it go was hard.  It still is since I have most of the collection to sell.  But I feel better about it.  As I am going through with my decision, it is getting easier.  While I cannot understand fully why so many people hang on to so much stuff, I do understand that getting rid of things can be emotional, at least of some level, and that makes the whole exercise both that much more difficult and rewarding. 

Best. Decision. Ever.

I have been a fan of comic books for many years.  Somewhere around 14, my cousin Mike got me an X-Men graphic novel (collected comics in book form) and I was hooked.  I recall liking one character in particular: Wolverine.  Not sure what drew me to the Canuck, the fact he can be hurt but not killed, the ability to heal quickly, sharp claws or mysterious past?  I made a trip to the local comics store and found he had his own title.  After reading it, and others, you learn Wolvy always takes up for the underdog and the lost cause he defends the weak and forgotten.  I collected other titles, but Wolverine was my title.
Fast forward many years, I have sold off most of my collection but held on to this title.  Being inspired by great organizers, thoughts on simpler living after much thought, I decided I wanted to lighten my load, get rid of things and replace them with meaningful objects and experiences.  I had already decided to get rid of most of my Magic the Gathering cards when I went to my closet and saw the six short boxes of comics I had not opened in a while.  I knew they all had to go.  They were tying me down, holding me back, taking up a lot of valuable floor space.
What are my options.  One person suggested I toss them outright.  This person missed the fact I have been collecting them and the emotional attachment I have to them.  I ma willing to let them go, but not seem them destroyed.  I could send them to a great comic shop, Newkadia, but between the shipping and the fees, I’d get almost nothing.  I have seriously considered giving them all to charity.  I get a take write off of the fair market value (which I likely could not get if I sold them) and I can help a good cause.  The trouble is finding an organization I like that will take the comics and the time to sell them and get the cash.  There is always ebay and serendipitously, there is a comic show coming to Dallas in the next couple of weeks.  $50 for a table and 9 hours of people looking for what I am trying to get rid of.
I think I will do a combo of all three.  Go to the comic show and sell what I can of the MTG cards and comics.  With a little luck an enterprising comic dealer will buy me out and I’ll be done.  When that does not happen, I’ll take the comics and try selling them in lots on ebay.  Whatever is left is going to charity.  The whole thing requires a lot more effort (and some money out of pocket) but the chance for reward is greater.  So if anyone out there has some comic related stuff dying to be sold, maybe you can make the trip with me.

My Minimalist Christmas

I realized recently that I have almost everything that I want.  In fact, I have more than I really want of some things.  So I have been trying to clear out things that I no longer want to make room for the negative space.  Then there’s Christmas.  I don’t any stuff.  If you feel strongly about getting me something, I will gladly accept homemade gifts.   My preference this year however is for you to help your local library or make it personal and help mine:

Euless Library Foundation

201 N. Ector Drive
Euless, TX 76039

I love libraries.  I can get almost any book I want.  The girls and I use ours regularly for music, books and movies.  The one thing they are always short on is funds.  Oh, and if you know anything about websites and you’d like to donate your time and talents, please contact my library.  The foundations site is simplistic, incomplete and not user friendly.
For those on my list, it’ll be simple.  I don’t want to add to your hoard anymore than I want you to add to mine.  Also, let’s face it, we’re all pretty broke, so let’s do ourselves a favor and not just trade resources.  I am not trying to be a scrooge here, I just know how quickly the feeling of excitement fades and how disappointment can set in.  I love you all and you don’t need a special occasion to show me or for me to show you.   

Mountains of Music!

I am finally organizing my music collection.  For many years I have just been ripping and downloading (legally of course) music and just letting Windows Media Player put it wherever.  At some point, I used Media Monkey to “auto-organize” it which put it into numerous folders.  I also used MusicBrainz Picard to tag some of the albums.  When I started, I guess they had not perfected tagging and the music libraries were still a work in progress.  Add to that a couple of PC transfers and you get 7,195 files for 41.8gb and this is *after* I have been working on it a bit.
To get started I needed a clear idea of what I wanted so the files would be consistent, slim down the space I am using and make it easier to find and sync what I want to listen to on my nifty pocket computer.  I decided the file name should be:

(Artist) – (Album) – (Track Number) – (Title).  

This makes a million subdirectories unnecessary, makes files organizing and searching easier and helps locate duplicates.  Though I rarely go to the file itself, but access it through a player, it still needs to be tidy.

I am using three programs for the whole process.  Media Player is adequate for ripping only.  I try to steer clear of Microsoft if I can on principal, but no one has made a player quite as simple.  The trouble is the tagging.  WMP wants to tag your songs automatically,  save the album art somewhere else and generally rename your collection without asking you.  I originally though it was doing a good job, but I have had to go back and repair much of the damage done

I am using Media Monkey for its more powerful organizing tools.  It has the ability to locate duplicate files by name, length, size and their e-signature.  I’m not real happy with the playback since it seems to have trouble quickly locating the files I want to play.  Though that may have something to do with all my organizing, WMP is having no trouble.  Also, the tagging in Media Monkey is funky.  It pulls up some really strange suggestions.

My preferred method has been to use MP3TAG to tag all the songs.  It uses MusicBrainz and Amazon databases for the album info and the tags include the album art which seems to stick.  So far, the process is going well and I am getting reconnected with my tunes.  It is great to hear some songs that flood me with old memories.  Of course, it has also given me the opportunity to weed out junk I don’t want or even remember ever liking.  I guess some of my wife’s stuff got in there. ;^)

Update:  After many hours updating music tags, I thought I would just go back through the collection and make sure the cds were all ripped.  Turns out, I was really picky when I did it the first time.  I have found at least half of the cds were not in my library.  Maybe I started when memory was tight or I was just being really choosy.  I don’t know, but I have been adding them in over the weekend.  It will be a little while, but I’ll have the entire collection searchable before too long.

Facebook back off

I’m pulling my Facebook account *way* back.  I have already pulled off most of the pictures, backed off lots of “friends” and pages I had “liked”.  Now I’m pulling off my “notes” and posting them to my blog.  So expect a few pieces with comments if they had some.