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Back At It

I took / edited some pictures recently (these pictures, how about that) – it was nice.

Over the past year or so, I really fell off the photography wagon. I stopped taking pictures, I stopped editing pictures, I stopped planning pictures; I basically quit altogether.

It wasn’t an overnight thing, it just kinda… happened:

🙁 I don’t have the free-time to waste and mess around like I used to, when cool pictures just seemed to happen.
🙁 🙁 All my friends whom I used to take pictures of have moved away.
🙁 🙁 🙁 My camera is kinda-sorta old and kinda-sorta broken and kinda-sorta doesn’t like to focus so much anymore (kinda-sorta english = A+).

I didn’t intend any of this to happen. Heck, I even bought a bunch of flash heads and related stuffs last March. I just feel like I have lost it. So, I am resolving to start taking pictures again (for fun, not money [yet]).

First, I should start looking at photos and making mood boards again (and not hate everything and give up because my photos will never be as good as the photos in my boards). Since I don’t have as much time to just “do whatever”, this will help me come up with stuff do actually do.

I should try to find new / other / more people to take pictures of. Olivia enjoys getting her picture taken. Katie… tolerates me at best (which is hard since she has a nice smile and… shape). Isaac has no idea what is going on.

Most importantly, I desperately need to start goofing around with the new flash stuff I have and see how it “works”. I have avoided flash photography at all costs because I see AN OFFENSIVE AMOUNT of pictures that just look downright bad because of the flash*. Also because I couldn’t afford the setup. I know that flashes can open up worlds of new awesome stuff – photography is all about the light after all. I know how they work from a function/menu level, I just don’t know how they feel.

I’m not going to lie, having equipment I don’t know and equipment that is old and failing does feel like a bit of a headwind.

*The photographer is probably the culprit, since the equipment only does what you tell it to.

Not a Charity Case

The other day I was at physical therapy for my elbows/forearms (long story [it’s actually a really short, stupid story]), and the doc overheard my no car / no plan / surprise CC debt status and refused to accept my copay for that visit and gave me my forearm bands for free. I told him that I have the money, I had budgeted to pay him for all of it and I insisted four or five times that I should pay him. He wouldn’t take it and neither would his front desk people. They said I should have a good weekend and they knows that every little bit helps. THE NERVE OF SOME PEOPLE!*

I have been trying my best to not sound like a charity case when people ask about my car. It isn’t that bad, and we have been making due just fine. So many friends and family have stepped in offering rides or loaning vehicles it is almost overwhelming, and that is making it much easier.

Is it inconvenient? Sure. Is it uncomfortable at times? Yes (Walking down Neal road at night [No sidewalks, no shoulder, no lights. Just 40mph traffic, drainage ditches and deer.] is just slightly terrifying). 

If we needed a car RIGHT NOW, we could finance one. It isn’t that we can’t afford a car loan, it’s we don’t want to have to afford another car loan. Our plan right now is to save cash for a few months and see where we are at. We have a hard deadline of summer since my schedule changes and I won’t be able to take public transit to work. Most importantly though, it is having faith God is there and going to take care of it.

*For the record, I truly appreciate their completely unexpected kindness.

OH COME ON

Last 30 days:
We just paid off the SUV.
We just got out of debt (excluding the house).
We just started our saving toward our real emergency fund.
We were just starting to get ahead.

Then…

Last 3 days:
The engine seized in my car. (Anyone wanna buy a car? Only needs a new engine!)
Overdrew the checking account. ($40 check, $34 fee.)
Katie’s Fitbit band broke. (Don’t even have the money to replace that!)

“Bonus”: We had JUST paid for our vacations for the year (some of the tickets, all the lodging) to the tune of like $2800, then later that SAME day my car was pronounced dead. Some are non-refundable, some are refundable for a percentage.

Grrrrrr…

Skintenna

I recently finished a post-apocalyptic dystopian book series where the denizens had these things called Skintennas – basically communication devices – implanted in their spines. The owner can do things such as send text/voice messages to other people, listen to/broadcast music and view camera feeds. It can operate independently short range (1 kilometer) or use a larger network to function over greater distances.

Being the telecommunications freq I am, this has me fascinated and all I am thinking about is this technology:

  • How do the subscriber units (devices in the people) work?
  • How are the subscriber units powered?
  • What band does it use?
  • What kind of muxing does it use?
  • Is it simulcast or multicast or both?
  • Is it encrypted?
  • How does key management and escrow work?
  • How do the sites work?
  • Are the sites sector based like modern cellular systems?
  • What do the antennas look like?
  • What kind of antenna connectors do they use?  (A very particular fascination of mine – go DIN)
  • What is the backhaul?
  • How do the network and switching systems work?
  • How are the controllers arranged?
  • How does OSS and provisioning work?

The thing I love/hate about futuristic (or in the case of StarWars, ancient) and science-fiction stories is they are always thick with near-magical technology that never gets detailed, so I am left inundated with questions and my imagination. With no end in site I might add.

GAH!

FWIW, any book to goes into great detail over small details is less of a novel and more of a textbook or service manual and probably not a good read.

A Banner Day

Baby Step Two done!!! On Monday, the last payment for our SUV posted and thus marks the end of being in debt (past the house). We were putting every little bit we had extra toward it. When we started, it felt like it would be forever until we would be done. It is a super-great feeling to be free of all that debt and able to focus on saving. On to Baby Step Three y’all!!!

As you are probably well aware, I lost around 25 pounds. As you can imaging, some (most) of my clothes don’t fit anymore. This is especially true with ALL my pants and what few nice shirts I had. So recently I have been “getting” to buy new stuff. It is kinda neat being able to start over and replace your wardrobe / change your style all at once from the start. It is also expensive – so I am basically buying everything from eBay (Hey, just because I can’t spend lots of money doesn’t mean I can’t have designer jeans!). I now have some new pants that are nice and some shirts that make me look like I give a darn. My ($250) clothes fund has run dry and since the holiday season is approaching, I (probably) won’t be adding to my new-wardrobe-that-fits anytime soon.

We sold off a bunch of stuff we had laying around. Katie sold lots of baby things and some furniture on consignment and I sold off a bunch of radio stuff I no longer needed/wanted. Katie put her spoils toward the SUV. With mine I bought some Christmas presents, put some into my “I Need Clothes That Fit” fund (still feel kinda selfish about that) and sent the balance to the SUV.

Finally, my childhood best friend Jesse is coming to visit later this week. Super excited!!!

Hustle & Flow

It has been a month (and then some)!

I had a small (virtual) pile of books I have been meaning to read. Once I started, I had them all finished in like 2 weeks! I would start a book around 9pm and the next thing I knew, it was 2am and I was half way through it – don’t you hate (and kinda love) that!? Now I have nothing to read (except the Bible, but that doesn’t feel like it should count since it is an ongoing thing).

Oh, oh! This is cool. My keyboard suffered some… “liquid”… damage. I contacted the manufacturer, Nektar, and in honest, full disclosure told them what happened whilst holding my 4 month old above it and asked if they sold replacement parts – namely a new keybed. No, they don’t sell parts so instead they sent me a new keybed for free since it was still in warranty. That part was damaged in shipping, so then they offered to repair my LX88 keyboard in their facility for free. I mailed my keyboard to them and it ended up being damaged in shipping too. Nektar opted to replace my entire unit for free – including shipping. Nektar is awesome. They make awesome keyboards. Justin who works there is awesome and they have me for life. They should have you too. Seriously.

Katie has been going through all the baby and maternity stuff she has and will never need again to put in a consignment show. As of right now, she has around 325 items at a little over $1000 in value. Our living room and shop out back both look like they had bombs filled with baby stuff and maternity clothes go off in them (admittedly, the shop is where the clothes that have already been tagged and placed onto clothing racks are – so more of a well-organized bomb there).

Speaking of consignment, we put our bedroom furniture on consignment too. We recently installed closet systems, and now we no longer need the dressers and stuff. (Fun fact: we put them on consignment at the same place we bought them on consignment.) Now the bedroom is really open in a meager, where-did-everything-go sorta way; the only real furniture left is our bed with a couple night stands, and that all takes up less and ¼ the room! Katie is excited she has a big open place to do yoga now away from the children. We are also going to move the desk in here so we have a quiet place to work.

A got a new repeater (in a configuration I have never owned before no doubt)! After a few buddies and I installed it, we discovered our antennas are shot and need to be replaced. They sweep like crap, are 15 years old, physically damaged and have propagation patterns that are all out of whack. We are now waiting on confirmation we can have the tower crew climb up and replace them. It still works, but not nearly as well as it should – we are probably getting around 50% performance. So yay new repeater, boo bad antennas.

This week was the start of fall semester. I get to campus early enough there weren’t many people there yet. I kinda had forgot about it, so when I walked out around 9:30am to 15,000 people, I basically had the reaction “Who the hell are all these kids and why are they on my lawn?”.

Month of Money Meh

The past month or so has been kinda sucky as far as money goes:

A: We had a few unexpected costs come up in July and spent like $1000 more than we budgeted.
B: The radiator in my car cracked and was $600 to replace (in addition to the $1000 above).
C: My keyboard was the unfortunate victim of a spit-up attack. As such, everything below C4 stopped working. The manufacturer sent me a replacement keybed for free (which was awesome) but it was damaged in shipping. My option now is to pay to send it to them for repairs. It is currently sitting on my floor in a couple pieces.
D: My camera started having a couple problems:

  1. It has started refusing to focus. It doesn’t even try to focus; it just flashes the little “Unable to Focus” icon right out of the gate. I have to power cycle it to get it to start working again.
  2. It has started to give me the dreaded Error 99 every 3-10 shots or so, which is Canon’s generic, we-don’t-know-what’s-wrong error. The error causes the camera to lock up and you have to power it off/on again to reset it. It is so old Canon won’t repair it and I am unable to find a camera shop that will even look at  it; most don’t even respond and of the few that did, only one said maybe starting around $1000.

To add insult to injury, I bought new lighting equipment earlier this year but haven’t been able to use it (except 2 times) and then all of this is happening. A new camera is like $6000; the model a step down is still $3000; none of which I can afford at all.

E: I broke a tooth on the first day my dentist was closed 10 days for the 4th of July. Thankfully, it didn’t hurt and my copay was only $100 or so.

I’m all done – can it be back-to-normal budget time? Also, could my camera just be working again? I don’t have the money to replace it. I have faith it’s all part of the plan and will work out (since it is completely out of my control to resolve), just kinda discouraged right now.

Anti Social Networking

Over the last few months, I have been on this crusade to rid myself of as much social media as I can.

To start with, I work for a university and I noticed that many/most people there basically live staring down at their phones; lost in Facebook or Instagram or Snapchat or Twitter or [INSERT SITE HERE]. I also noticed, to a similar extent, I was doing the same thing. To top it off, I was checking my phone an awful lot when it didn’t even alert me to anything! I disgusted myself and vowed to change. Here are some of my reasons for closing (almost) everything:

  • I didn’t like how much of my life it commanded. I would incessantly check it; I used it like an addict or a slot machine. My entire day was peppered with its presence. My time was fragmented around social media.
  • Since my time was so fragmented, I stopped creating stuff as much. Most of what I did manage to create was rather blah, so I didn’t publish much of it. It is hard to put quality time into something if you keep stopping to do something else.
  • I hated the subtle, always-there background anxiety. I don’t feel I had FOMO, but there is something to be said about only seeing the polished, intended-to-be-seen profiles of all your friends and family; kinda brings you down when you inevitably do the comparisons.
  • I wasted countless hours being entertained with it. With all the other sources of entertainment I enjoy, mindlessly looking at people’s selfies is a pretty poor substitute.

 

At first, I closed things I knew I would not miss. After those were gone, I removed the smartphones apps for everything that I suspected I may miss. Turns out, once I removed the app I basically forgot they existed and had no hesitations closing those accounts a month or so later.

Exception: Facebook. For a variety of reasons*, I don’t plan on killing it off just yet, but I am severely pruning it. I only have the messaging client on my phone and have limited my interactions with it to specific, productive purposes. Additionally, I am going back and cleaning up/abridging my profile.

I can happily report that since closing everything (vice Facebook):

  • My mood has picked up. I don’t have the same restlessness and always checking in to just “kill some time” and “see what’s new”. Things are a little sunnier.
  • I have reclaimed my “free” time for learning and creating. I have spent more time tinkering in Photoshop (improved on some methods) and playing the piano (not really any better, but it’s the journey or something that counts, right?).
  • I completely re-edited my entire “professional” photo portfolio and revamped my photoblog. Collectively, I removed about 92% of content; the remaining 8% is some of my best work. Since mixing up said photoblog, I have received more hits/favs on the new material in the past two weeks than I did in the previous year.
  • When I want to be entertained, I choose something I want to watch/do enjoy instead of just turning to social media as a convenient way to waste time.
  • I still easily communicate with family and friends.
  • I see my family and friends more now.
  • I am still breathing.

 

That’s all I have for now – we will see how another month or two go.

*One reason being you probably saw this post linked through Facebook. ^_^

Post-Christmas Productivity

Katie and I have had a productive post-Christmas week!

Monday: Purged a couple black trash bags worth of stuff from the closets / dressers. Worked on a website I have been developing.
Tuesday: Did all the “down the hill” errands and shopping. Cleaned up the house. Did a bunch of programming.
Wednesday: Purged a SUV-full of stuff. Drove said SUV to a local thrift store to donate it all away. Had a friend over for dinner.
Thursday: Spent a couple hours repairing a computer and made $150. Worked on a song in Logic.
Friday: Went to Costco. Finished everything on my radio to-do list. Worked on a song in Logic.
Saturday: Did all the “on the hill” errands. Took down and put away Christmas. Cleaned up the house. Did laundry.  99% finished with that song in Logic.

Additionally, I also finished going through around 200GB worth of backups dating 2003-2008. I discovered:

  • I had* questionable friends.
  • I had* a questionable “taste” in music.
  • I had* a questionable “taste” in fashion.
  • I made** questionable life choices and purchases.

 

*probably also still have.
**probably still would be if I didn’t have a wife to veto all my “great” ideas.

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