What I Miss About Old Computers (Part 5: Welcome To The Information Age)

If all my computer experiences before this were anything, they were the foundation in which I would interact with computers from this point forward.  Because once Windows 95 was out, and I was a part of it, like for many people, it became the environment that I would live in and evolve with until the present day.

It was 1997 for sure.  I remember it well.  I was 15 years old.  The year before we had just gotten the N64.  Then the next year, we got a … brand new computer!  I was freakin’ JACKED.  The specs of it I can’t really recall for sure.  It was either a 133Mhz or 166Mhz AMD K2 processor.  16MB of RAM at most.  Hard drive?  You got me.  But it had one.  And a floppy and CD drive.  What a time to be alive.

The early days were mostly just poking around.  Checking out the software that either came with Windows, or also some Word processory sorts of things.  I’m sure there was a spreadsheet application in there somewhere.  I don’t really remember playing too many games on it, though I’m sure that I did.  I’ll have to dig a bit deeper in my mental archives to see if anything pops up.

The funny thing about this machine was all the problems we had when we first got it. My parents had bought this machine assembled from a local computer shop.  I don’t know if was the same guys, but this shop was at least at a different location than we’d taken the old Apple IIe to.  I want to say this shop was on 2nd Street downtown in Dodge City.  I scrolled through Google Maps, but I couldn’t find for sure the place, but a couple that it may have been.  The funny part, was when we took the computer in after we just couldn’t stand the freezing anymore.  While they took it into the back to check it out, we were able to freeze absolutely every floor model PC they had on display, just by clicking around in Windows.  Whether they gave us a different PC, or our money back… only my Mom could say.  But I know we ended up getting a new machine one way or another.

The new machine still crashed.  But nothing like the old one.  You know, the standard Windows 95 just decides it’s done crashing.  But oh man, Windows 95.  In the way that the Original Super Mario Bros. game made it seem like there was a whole world hidden inside your TV that just begged you to come explore… Windows 95 felt like more than the machine it was on.

I want to try to draw the distinction as clearly as I can.  My old computers, it was all about what your computer could do.  What were it’s limitations.  With Windows 95 it was more like where could this computer take you?  You could meet new people, learn new stuff, make things, sell things, share things.  It was absolutely insane how it networked people together, made forming communities possible.

Our ISP that we used in Ingalls was United Telecom.  Or “ucom” for short.  Even just typing “ucom” brings back memories.  You’d dial into the actual local number, hear that all too familiar modem handshake.  And boom.  You were Connected!  Ucom in retrospect was a fine enough ISP.  Like a lot of places it was them, or nothing.  They definitely weren’t cutting edge.  We started out with 14.4kbps.  To put that into perspective that would take you 8 seconds to download this picture of a dial up modem.

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As slow and clunky as it was though, that internet was something magical.  Just talking to my friend next door on ICQ felt completely awesome.  Building my first website on Geocities really did feel like sticking my flag in the ground of this new digital homestead.  When I got my first email address of my very own, not shared with the family, it was a huge part of establishing my own identity.  I feel so fortunate to be there for the birth, the wild west of it all.

It’s crazy to think about how far we’ve come.  Every device is connected now.  Phones, thermostats, game consoles, TVs.   But back then, you had one.  One portal to this online world.  Full of insane ideas, and honestly great people.  I remember having to share computer time with everyone else in the family.  I remember having to get a second phone line installed in our house because literally no one could call us or use the phone.  It’s definitely a thing I take for granted now, having the internet wound into so many places of my life.  It’s my calendar, it’s my work flow, how I take notes, how I take pictures, you name it.  But those old machines… Slow.  Noisy.  Unreliable.  The things they could do still impress me today.

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What I Miss About Old Computers (Part 4: The 386 and AOL)

This will be a brief entry as this was a pretty brief moment in time.  Like all of the other computers, we got an old 386 laptop way past its prime.  I say we, but I’m pretty sure this was the first computer I bought with my own money.  Also saying it was a 386 makes me think that what I thought was a 486 in my previous post was actually a 286.  I may have to go back and edit that.

This 386 laptop came installed with Windows 3.1.  I wish I could remember the model of the laptop, or even the brand, but for as much as I can retain, those details are lost.  I just remember it had a black and white backlit LCD screen and a pretty compact form factor.  Its size is really the reason I bought it because I thought it was a slick looking little laptop.  I did a little searching around and I couldn’t find anything that looked exactly like it.  But it was similar in size of what you might call a netbook these days.

The reason I bought it though was because of Windows 3.1.  Windows 95 was a thing already, so I was keeping the idea of running hardware a generation or more behind.  But the OTHER reason I bought this was because… it had a modem.  Windows 3.1, and a modem and I suddenly entered the arena of being compatible with the thousands upon thousands of AOL floppy disks you got in the mail, at the grocery store, pretty much everywhere in the 90’s.  So I picked one of those bad boys up with what I remember being 40 free hours.  By the end of the 90’s AOL was begging people to come over with like 700 free hours.  But 40 is what we had… so.

I remember setting this laptop up, literally on the telephone stand in the living room at Ingalls.  Went through the installation and of course at the end, you have to choose a phone number to dial into.  Well as you can imagine, in Ingalls, Kansas there were no local AOL numbers to call.  So we ended up having to call a Wichita number.

“Is that long distance?” I remember Mom saying.

“Yes… but we won’t be on very long!” I said.  Heck we only had 40 hours.  haha

We logged in, hearing that crunchy modem beeping and buzzing away.  Several long seconds later, the screen slowly refreshed to reveal the classic AOL starting page with all the different channels for news and fun.  All in glorious monochrome display for me though!

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The amount of “things you could do” was a bit over whelming right off the bat.  So my friends and I went straight to the darkest corner of the early internet.  … Chat Rooms.

This was 1995 or 1996. So the internet was still “new” but it was catching on to the point that everybody kinda knew it existed.  The things you could do.  So we also knew the rules.  Don’t give people your real name, don’t give out your location.  You’d be proud to know that I lied on every A/S/L request that popped up in those chatrooms.

I’m sure you didn’t have to go far to get into the real nasty chatrooms, and while they all were somewhat coarse depending on who was online at the time, for the most part, everyone was there just to goof around, waste time, and have fun.  Or argue…  I don’t remember ever seeing anything that was absolutely shocking in a chatroom back then.

We popped around, we played some games.  But honestly we didn’t spend too much time on AOL.  Didn’t even hit those 40 hours.  It was just too expensive with the long distance charges.  Luckily soon enough we were entering the Windows era, and ISPs would make the internet available whenever we wanted it!

What I Miss About Old Computers (Part 3: Macintosh)

Few words feel as stuck in time as the word Macintosh.  Of course “Mac” was used to refer to these Apple machines even back in the 90’s before Macs were just Macs.  But it’s actually against the law to call any contemporary Mac… a Macintosh.

I never owned a Macintosh.  In my youth, everything was black and white.  Nintendo was better than Sega.  Chevy was better than Ford.  And PCs were way better than Macs.  But of course we all used them still.  Because they were the defacto computer to be used in education.  From sixth grade until I graduated, there was at least one Macintosh in every classroom.

Oh!  But before that… I should probably talk about my first Macintosh experience.

My friend Paul’s dad had a Macintosh… I think Performa something or other.  I can’t remember the model.  I would have only been like 10 years old at the time.  He kept it in his home office and I remember Paul and I hanging out in his Dad’s office, watching music videos on TV while we waited for his dad to finish installing… something.  I remember feeling like his dad was just swapping out discs and restarting over and over to keep us from playing on his computer.  It was this day that the legendary Macintosh startup chord was burned into my memories.

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Never underestimate the determination of 10 year olds, however.  Eventually, probably when Paul’s dad was exhausted, we swooped in and got to play some Myst!  Talk about the most cryptic and impossible game for small brains… I don’t remember really doing anything other than wandering around the island.  The visuals were pretty cool though compared to anything else you could see at the time.

Now, back to school.

In sixth grade, I remember powering through the assignments because if we got done early we could play on the computers.  Not really a great way to encourage thorough work probably.  But between those assignments I was able to build some pretty epic Sim City 2000 Cities.

These were LCII machines, which looked like the same form factor as the Performa above.  I think the LC machines were targeted towards the education market, but I’m not sure.  I’m far from a Macintosh expert.  The neatest thing to me, was how the games were all installed right on the hard drive.  This was something pretty uncommon in my experience, my hard drive at home on the 486 was only 40MB.  So only the most basic programs were installed.  Nothing as rich and detailed as Sim City 2000.

The time that I was in school was right around the time where “typing” classes were becoming “computer” classes.  We spent time learning the proper way to type.  Rules I still don’t abide by (screw you right shift key).  But we did a lot of exercises then on what was then the Macintosh Classic.  The little black and white all in ones that are so iconic and, I admit, adorable.

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Most of the teachers used newer Performa all in ones.  These are they style of Macintosh I would like to get someday.  I always, even then like the aesthetic of the whole computer contained in one piece.  These days I think that probably makes working on them, or expanding them a pain in the butt, but I’m not too worried about expansion.  And tearing it all apart and getting something working again is one of my passions, so I wouldn’t mind finding one of these, even broken and taking a shot at getting it working again.

One of these machines inadvertently taught me a lot about how CRTs work… we were playing with some magnets one time in class.  My friend Walter and I noticed that if we got the magnet near the screen we could distort the image.  Well these were pretty strong magnets and one of us, I can’t remember who, put the magnet right on the screen.  When we pulled it back, there was a permanently dark and distorted spot that stayed on the screen.  We tried everything to make it go away, but we damaged it permanently.  I think over time it slowly got better, but our poor teacher had to deal with that until she got a new computer.  I still feel bad about that over 20 years later.

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We were kinda turds back then.  At one point, one of the teachers removed all the games off the computers.  Well we copied them to floppies from other machines.  Put them back on the hard drives, buried them in obscure folders, and renamed the executables backwards.  We got good at looking up “pobeeb” and “mortselam” for some quick fun when the teacher wasn’t looking.

I remember only one Macintosh in school that had a CD caddy drive.  These kinda blew my mind even back then.  CDs were still new and cool, but I also was pretty used to seeing tray loaded CD drives on everything from stereos to computers.  So the caddy was pretty interesting.  You’d stick your CD-ROM inside a jewel case sized caddy with a little sliding metal strip.  Push that into the external drive, and viola!  You were in the future!

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Towards the very end of my time in high school the iMacs hit the scene.  Apple took pretty much everything to the candy colored scheme.  From the all in one iMacs, to the Power Mac G3s tower and the iBooks.  I thought they were pretty cool at the time.  And I still would like to have one to remember them by.  But if I had to choose, I really enjoy that classic 90’s off white style of the LC and Performa computers.

After high school, I never ran across Apple too often.  I did always enjoy their design, but as a college kid working at Arby’s, they were definitely way out of my price range.  I’ve thought about going back and picking up a decade old Macbook or something like that, but before that, I think I’d really rather dive into some of that pre-2000 hardware and relive some of those After Dark screen savers and filling up that trash bin.

What I Miss About Old Computers (Part 2: The DOS Years)

So some time after moving to Ingalls, so at least 1994, my parents brought home a pair of PCs.  One was a Tandy 1000.  It was again already fairly dated by the time that we got it.  It still had the monochrome green screen monitor.  I remember thinking it was an old thing, but still very well put together and very useable.  It didn’t feel slow or anything, it just couldn’t run more modern software.  Figuring out of a piece of software would run at all on your machine in the 90’s always felt like such a gamble, but more on that here in a bit.

I never found myself using the Tandy a whole lot.  It did have a pretty awesome music composer that I remember playing with.  I had fun taking themes from different shows or games I was into at the time and arranging them in chiptune form.  Nothing impressive or anything, or worth listening to today, but it’s probably what I spent doing the most on that machine.  I wish I could remember what it was called.

(Quickly searches youtube)

Holy crap!  Of course everything already exists!  Here’s a video of that exact software!  Not the best video, but dang, this was exactly my experience!

The biggest reason that the Tandy got neglected is because we also had at the same time an unbranded 486 PC clone that was… sorta… modern?  It’s hard for me to remember really what would have been cutting edge, and I can’t for certain say when we got these machines.  I really don’t think they were new at the time.  Pretty sure we acquired them in a similar fashion to the Apple IIe we’d gotten a few years before.  I don’t know if my parents got these 2 PCs in a package deal… but true or not… I recall them showing up at the same time.

Getting a new computer has always been magical to me.  People now ask me how I learned so much about computers, well it’s experiences like this.  Getting something new and I just wanted to learn everything I could do with it.  When we first got the 486, it sat on our dining room table, which sat in the living room at the time… so the more I think about this, it had to be around the same time we moved into the house in Ingalls, because I don’t think that we had the table in the living room for too long.  Anyway, just me reminiscing.  Just interesting because I specifically remember not only the computer itself, but how the room looked and everything.  Crazy.

Eventually we got a desk for it and set up what became the “computer room”.  We had all three computers in there at one time.  North wall by the hallway was the Apple IIe, left from there on the west wall was the Tandy 1000.  And then left from there, the 486right next to the door that went to our bathroom.  That room was… pink… I think.  Crazy.  So if you’re wondering how I became such a nerd… here you go.

With the 486 it was definitely the most capable computer we had ever owned.  It had this menu matic software installed that it would boot to automatically.  It came bundled with a few productivity apps, a word processer, an infernal spreadsheet, things like that.  It also had a pretty decent file manager system.  This definitely wasn’t windows, but it did make the PC quite useable if you weren’t comfortable with command line.

Using the command line became a necessity though soon after I spent my hard earned allowance money on my first ever PC game.  “Test Drive: The Duel”  I remember my excitement putting the disk in, hearing the heads buzzing, searching, loading, then seeing “Not enough memory”.  We tried everything to get that darned game to work.  According to the box… we had enough memory.  So why wouldn’t it run!?  Vaguely, I remember my parents taking it to a computer shop and they actually got it running!  So it was possible!  From what I remember at the time, they wrote a “special script” that freed up more memory so the game could run.  Knowing what I know now, the Menu Matic software took up enough memory, that it wasn’t possible to launch the game from Menu Matic.  So you had to close Menu Matic, or prevent it from executing on startup, and then the game would run.  So the only way I could get Test Drive to run, was to start it from Command Prompt.  And from there I started learning a lot more about what the PC could do and how it worked.

I feel like I used that PC a lot.  But I can’t really remember anything specific I did or software I used.  I want to say I started a journal that I kept on 3.5″ floppy.  I spent a lot of time just messing around with DOS.  Doing things like prompt Press ANY KEY to delete all files.  And then walking away waiting for the next person to use the computer.  Haha.

There’s just something that I really miss about launching software off of a floppy disk.  Maybe that’s why I’m still clinging to physical media on my game consoles to this day.  It’s very satisfying to hold the ‘thing’ in your hand that has the software on it.  I miss the mechanical buzzes and hums these old computers used to make.  You really felt like things were happening.  It felt magical… but believable.  I carry a smartphone in my pocket now that does so much stuff, does it silently and I feel like no matter how much I learned about it I’d never understand all of it.  But with these old boxes, I feel like you don’t have to go far to get down to the base hardware and how it all works, and understand it.

This was really our first and last DOS era computer.  We’d soon move on to Windows and a world where every house had a computer.  But this time period before is a pretty magical one.  PCs weren’t really mainstream.  You definitely didn’t need to have one.  But they were so foundational for what would be to come later.  I’m so glad I got to experience this chapter of technology, and I really feel like I need to get an old 486 PC, and CRT monitor.  Not a monster or anything.  Something that was probably just as low end as I had back then.  It’s something that you can really recreate 1:1 the way it used to be back then, unlike any retro PC that would have been connected to the internet at the time.  A real time machine.  Someday… when I have a room I can have 3 complete computers set up… just like the olden days.

What I Miss About Old Computers (Part 1: Apple IIe)

I’ve been feeling really nostalgic lately.  More so than usual, which if you know me, I exist as a fairly perpetual statement of the past through my life choices.  I mow my yard with a 40 year old lawn mower, listen to 25 year old music, type on a 35 year old keyboard and drive a 20 year old truck.  If anyone has done a good job in keeping the past alive and kicking in the year 2019 it’s me.

I’m super glad I live when I do though.  It’s so easy to go back and relive so many things that may otherwise slipped my mind, lost from my own personal reality.  I’ve been following some guys on YouTube (LGR and The 8bit Guy) who spend time taking old 80’s and 90’s computers and get them running again.  It’s a nice way to re-experience some of those feelings, and let them carry the burden of physical space that all of those old machines require.

Our first proper home computer was an Apple IIe.  I remember going over to my dad’s Boss’s house to look at it before my parents bought it.  This would have been the early 90’s, so the IIe was already outdated by then, but I knew what it was from the elementary school computer lab, and I’m sure that my parents thought that it would be a good educational thing for me and my sister to have in the house.  Maybe they had dreams of printing out family newsletters to stick in Christmas cards, I don’t know.  I just wanted to play some Oregon Trail.

Early on my parents expanded the memory in it.  I can’t remember if they expanded it to 64k… added 64k…  I don’t know.  I just vaugely remember there being some discussion about whether or not it was worth the cost.  I guess it was, because I still remember where that old computer store was on Gunsmoke in Dodge City where we had it installed.

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We had that computer for a long long time.  Almost all through the 90’s.  I remember playing games like Wheel of Fortune, Card Sharks, and more.  The thing came with quite a bit of software, and I remember going through every single disk to see what it was and being baffled about what anyone would use a spreadsheet for.  My aunt actually worked for MECC Software, so we got hooked up with all the good stuff.  Oregon Trail, Odell Lake, Number Munchers, and like four or five other titles.

But probably some of my fondest memories were with The Print Shop.  I would print out thank you notes and birthday cards on paper that you’d fold in quarters to create a little card shape out of a single sheet of paper.  Or we’d print out banners on that constant feed perforated paper with the holes on the side you’d tear off.  You’d listen to that printer just hammer away on that paper for like 15 minutes to crank out a banner, and hope that your ribbon didn’t run out of ink halfway through.

Old computers like that where so mechanical.  The drives whizzed and thunked away.  The keys had long travel an ca-chunked on every stroke.  The printer rocked the entire desk.  You really felt like you had a machine that was DOING something.

I even remember taking the old color Amdek monitor with me to college because I didn’t have a TV and I could hook my N64 to it!  Whatever my folks paid for that Apple IIe… I think we got our money’s worth out of it!

 

You Can’t Do It All

I’m a firm believer your happiness comes from where you find value.  Doing what you love, and loving what you do aren’t always mutually inclusive though.  In fact, mostly not.  More often you’ll find yourself doing the things you have to do, instead of the things you want to do.  Or for whatever reason, you can’t do that thing that brings you joy, at least not at the moment.

For the spaces in between, comes gratitude.

In the last several years, really since the kids were born, I’ve struggled with contentment.  Kids do this strange thing to you in that you feel like you have to pour all of your resources into giving them a great life.  It is truly what you want.  You want them to grow up in a safe place, have all sorts of memorable experiences.  You want to make sure that you give them the opportunities to succeed.  To find out what they like, what they want to be.  Watching them develop their own likes, and hopes, and dreams, and then stoking that fire and enthusiasm is really one of the most rewarding parts of parenting.  And somewhere in the middle of all that you find about 3 free seconds of time to wonder… what used to make ME happy?

This is a bit of a dark path to follow though, because it leads to feeling like you’ve missed out on your own joy.  You can convince yourself that you sacrificed everything to your family at the expense of yourself, and even to the point of developing resentment.  I can’t say I’ve ever resented my family, the sacrifices have always been worth it, but I totally understand the feelings and emotions that can bring a person there.  And I’ve definitely spent time in the pity party stage of thinking about everything I could have done that I didn’t get the chance to do.

And that’s really the thing.  The sacrifice can always be worth it.  And you can still come up short.  Not even limited to kids, it’s just a fact that the world is a bigger place than we can exist in all at once.  Every thing we do, even if it’s nothing, comes at the expense of what we could have done instead.  I run into this a lot when I hear people say, “I wish I could [swim/play guitar/knit/whatever].”  The thing is, you can.  It’s super easy to look at other people and think they have it all.  But they don’t.  You’re just seeing the one thing you don’t have that they do.

The real difference in whether or not your happiness comes from what you did instead of that.  If they are things you’re proud of, things you found joy in, then you shouldn’t be upset you never learned how to play guitar, because you would have had to give up so many great things to have it.  So it’s okay.  You have to be able to be happy without having it all.

That’s kinda where I am now.  I don’t regret not having projects done, or not getting to play a game, or not being where I thought I’d be in Spanish, because I feel like at least recently, I’ve been able to do a lot of things I’m really grateful for.

Gratitude and contentment are both things that I think can be exercised.  By which I mean you can focus on those feelings, and get better at them.  There’s way more stuff that you don’t have, or didn’t get to do, than what you do have, or did.  And the world around us is programmed to show us everything we don’t have and to make us want it.  So you have to spend energy on saying, no “this story I’m being told isn’t true”.  It doesn’t always come from the media either.  It comes from people we care about and respect.  “Why haven’t you finished school?  Why don’t you trade in that car before something bad happens?  Why are you moving to Toledo?”  All at minimum inferring what you should be doing instead of what you are doing.

But keep practicing.  The more you do, the more the hard stuff gets easier.  You’ll get used to watching people chase whatever the cool fun thing is and still be unhappy.  Listening to people be critical of your choices.  And it’s all fine, because what they don’t understand is that “I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to do what I did, and that this is enough and I’m thankful to have it.”

 

 

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

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The new Animal Crossing game just debuted at E3 this week.  Animal Crossing: New Horizons.  I think I almost always hate every new title when it comes out, then it starts to grow on me, and I suppose this one will too.  At first glance, I wasn’t too impressed, but the more I’ve watched of what little info is out there, the more I’m warming up to it, and the more it’s starting to definitely look like the best Animal Crossing game, even if it will fall short of what I’ve always hoped the game could be.

In all the entries in the series that have come before it, they all kinda start out the same way.  You’re new in town.  Tom Nook hooks you up with a place to stay out of the kindness of his heart, until you find out your his debt slave for the next year or two of your actual real life.  In New Horizons you start out on a deserted Island.  I was a little skeptical of this as I really enjoy the town atmosphere of the Animal Crossing games, and I definitely don’t want to lose that.  It’s something that really holds Pocket Camp back from feeling like a real Animal Crossing experience.  But there are tents, which I assume grow into huts, and maybe then houses or whatever.  I think it will be okay.

One of the biggest pains in the butt has always been inventory management in Animal Crossing.  The touch screen made that easier, but still currently the only way to know what an item is, is to select it.  This doesn’t seem like a big deal, but after you’ve gone through icon by icon just looking for one specific pair of socks… it starts to get annoying.  At least now it looks like you’ll have a better visual representation of the item when you’re looking through your inventory or pockets.

Crafting is here.  Which is… fine.  I don’t hate crafting.  As long as most of the materials can generally be sourced pretty easily.  It’s when you have to have super rare materials, or materials that are incredibly expensive that it becomes annoying.  There’s no word on how all that will play out, so for now, yeah… it’s fine.

Some of the little visual details they’ve included I think will really make the game even easier to get sucked into.  The way the ocean water breaks against the rocks, clouds passing overhead leave shadows on the ground as they go by.  And generally, it all just looks very well polished and put together.  The world they showed was pretty empty, but that’s how all the Animal Crossing games start out.  It’s up to you how you want to fill that space.

Honestly, if it’s just kinda of “quality of life” improvements, I’m okay with that.  But Animal Crossing has always had the potential to connect with your real life friends and family at a really fun level.  But Nintendo is always very cautious when it comes to allowing people to communicate with each other.  And you can’t really blame them.  Humans are the worst.

My dream is an Animal Crossing place that is always there, online, living even when you’re not playing.  You can send mail from your town to your friend in another town, or you could get a friendly message from one of you fictional in game villagers on your real life phone to make you smile.

But let’s be honest.  Nintendo doesn’t have to do much to Animal Crossing to get me to buy it again. 

See… SEE!

I told you.  I told you in the last post.  Be careful what you wish for.  I was so excited to get the last of the floor wrapped up, the Jeep put back together and be done with projects for a while.  Then what happens?

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The biggest flood since 1993.  So more projects!  Yay.  All things considered, we didn’t get it that bad.  Sooo many people around us got it so much worse.  We didn’t have any of the nasty floodwater come into our home, but we did get lots and lots of crystal clear ground water bubbling up through any nook or cranny in the basement.

It started on Friday.  It’d been raining for probably 2 weeks at this point and the flood was already forecast.  At the beginning, it was just some wet spots in the carpet.  By the end, the whole floor was drenched.

So gutting the carpet and dry wall quickly became a project on necessity.  It took a few days, but with Andrea’s help, we got everything moved out of the basement.  All the wet stuff cut out, and loaded up on the trailer.  Later today I get to make a run to the landfill… if it doesn’t rain.

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I’ve never experienced a flood first hand before.  And I think my town has to be the absolute best place to have to go through such a thing.  We live in a very small community, so everyone was pitching in, helping each other out.  Checking on each other.

Once all the sandbags were stacked, everyone as prepared as you could be for such a thing, there was just this errie calm that fell over the town.  Up and down the streets, everyone was just sitting out on their porch, waiting for it to roll in.  What else can you do?  There was an attitude of indifference about it all no matter who you talked to.  So we fell in line, pulled up some chairs, and waited.

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For Luke especially, this was an event I wanted him to see and take in.  There’s not a ton of stuff a person remembers when you’re seven or eight years old, but this is something that I bet he will remember for the rest of his life.

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It’s going to take some time, but we’ll be fine.  It’s been about a week and water is still coming into the house.  Our sump pump keeps pumping it out non stop… after it runs across the floor of course.  So it’s not like our basement is filled with water.  All the mold friendly spaces have been cut out.  So now, we just wait.

The stress hasn’t got too me too much… the only annoying thing is having half of our belongings stacked up in the garage taking up space.  Well that and all the water in my basement.  But 6 months or so from now, we’ll be back to normal.  This is just temporary, and will definitely be an experience we’ll never forget.

Careful What You Wish For

At the beginning of this year, I wrote an entry about how I wanted more projects in my life.  How I wanted to create things.  So far, mission accomplished.

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We finished our shelves down stairs.  They turned out pretty great I think.  We’ve already run out of room, but I have no regrets, as this was about as big as those shelves could fit in there.

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After that I started tearing into the Wrangler, which is still up on jack stands in the garage.  I have the feeling this is either going to end up being an easier… or much harder project than I have anticipated, but since the Wrangler is a bit of a toy, it’s been put on the back burner as we fired up all sorts of other things after it got started.

The biggest one has been the new floor, which has been pretty well documented on my Twitter feed @kartmaster.  I’ve helped putting down flooring like this before.  That snap together stuff.  But I’ve never been the dude in charge before so it was a bit intimidating.  Mostly because if I screw it up we have to live in it and look at it every day.

Sometimes people will say to me things like, “You should do that for other people and make some money.”  Here’s the thing.  This took me like a month… working after work.  Taking a day off when I just didn’t feel like it.  Getting mad.  Nah.  There’s a reason people pay other people to get this done.  And if I were to fall one way or the other from the DIY fulcrum, it would definitely be the customer side.

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We also sold the Cutlass and the red Jeep here this year too!  I’ll got into some more detail about the emotions behind all that in another post, but selling things like that is work.  I hate selling stuff, putting up with the people.  Wasting your time on the flakes.  But it’s done and I feel pretty good about how it all ended up.

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Selling those led to getting a truck.  I’ve never really needed a truck especially since we got the trailer.  Almost everything we’d need to do could be hauled around there.  But when we started riding ATVs, and as Luke gets older and we’re looking at getting a gas powered one for him, logistically it is going to be a lot easier to put his ATV in the truck, and the other two on the trailer.  Even with his little power wheels one now, loading up is a two person job to get Andrea’s beast turned sideways on the trailer.  So I’m looking forward to spending more time riding, and less time loading!

Of course days after buying the truck I was already diving into a project there.  On the test drive, I knew right away the first thing I would have to fix was going to be the seat.  It would slide around as you were driving like you were sitting on marbles.  It lead to feeling really not in control, haha.  “How hard could it be!?”  Turns out, actually, for once, not that hard.  I cobbled together some scrap pieces from around the shop, built some new bushings, put it all back together and it works great.

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I’m thankful to be able to do these sorts of things.  Thankful for Youtube mostly.  No matter what my problem, I’m NEVER the first person to have it and there’s almost always an ingenious way to fix it that I never would have thought of myself.  I’m thankful to have a wife like Andrea that trusts me to take these things on.  She used to ask me, “Are you sure we can handle something like that?” back in the day when I’d bring up a project.  Now she knows that… it may not go like we planned, but we’ll figure it out.

To be honest though, I’m ready for a break from some projects for a while.  I’m ready to get out and play.  We haven’t been riding at all this year except on the dirt roads around the house.  I have tools and piles of wood, or tires, or supplies everywhere.  I need to return to a normal resting state of existence for a while.  Careful what you wish for I guess.

My Love Letter to the Switch

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I still remember back to that moment that I got hooked on Nintendo.  I was 6 years old, we were visiting one of my Mom’s friends that lived on Avenue C in Dodge City.  The boy that lived there had an NES in his room, and we were playing Super Mario Bros.  I couldn’t believe there was this whole world to explore inside the TV!

Eventually we got our own NES at home, and I could play whenever I wanted.  Except when I had to go to school, or to the store with Mom, or to Grandma’s house, or any time anyone else wanted to watch anything at all on the TV.  In the 90’s the Gameboy was a thing, but the experiences were always so much more limited that you still kinda wished you were playing NES.  Now, exactly 30 years later, my dream is finally realized.

As I’ve grown up, gaming has waxed and waned as one of my great passions in life.  How I remember being a 15, hopelessly a slave to the N64… Mario Kart 64 Time Trials, GoldenEye Fests, 120 Star runs in Super Mario 64.  Then I said to myself, “No matter what happens, no matter how old I get, gaming will always be important to me.”  It brought me so much joy, it really did, that it was hard to imagine life without it.

That is life though, isn’t it?  Right when you think you can’t be any more happy, or any more miserable for that matter, life shows you a whole new level of it you never thought existed.  The hard part is I think we as humans have a tendency to throw ourselves at whatever the new shiny is.  At times to the extent of saying that nothing that has come before could possibly compare to what we have now.  And by extension, that what we had before must be “crap”.  I don’t know why we do these things.  We get rid of things we treasure because we are convinced that something newer is better, we will mistreat the people we love in order to win the love of new people who are basically strangers.

I don’t think that’s a fair way to treat ourselves.  It’s not fair to look at all of your past choices as mistakes or shortcomings, because of something new that you never saw coming ended up happening.

When I got that NES back in 1988…  It was wonderful.  Beautiful.  And that is an experience that I don’t feel like should be diminished because experiences now are so much richer and complex.  To extrapolate, that the feeling of holding that gold Ocarina of Time cartridge in my hand for the first time isn’t an experience I shouldn’t value, because how could it possibly compare to the birth of my children.

Unequal and valid.

So far the Switch has been becoming this common point that so many of the things that bring me joy intersect on.  It’s a place where I can play 2 player Super Mario Bros. with Lucas.  I can team up with Andrea in Rocket League.  Re-live the cookyness of Final Fantasy X-2.  I can play Ice Hockey with Dad in a hotel room.  I can re-visit old places from Ocarina of Time in Breath of the Wild.

But that’s not the best of what the Switch brings to my life.  Switch makes gaming fit into the nooks and crannies of life.  Switch doesn’t make me choose it as the most important thing.  It’s the master key that magically takes the shape of whatever you need it to be.  If I have 5 minutes before work, an hour over lunch, a 6 hour window on the weekend.  In the living room, in the car, at my desk.  It can find a way to fit, without having to push aside family, responsibility, or any of those other adult realities of life.

This “adult life” though is up to you what you make it.  You could let your responsibilities carry you away without having a choice, or live life completely to your own whims to the detriment of those around you.  Contentment is a bit of a moving target that always exists somewhere between those two extremes.  And I’m thankful that all along that spectrum, the Switch is always available to keep a part of me that brings me joy near.