Archive for the ‘Stuff’ Category

I’m not supposed to care …

January 20, 2021

So as I mentioned quite a while ago, I really like the Gordon Lightfoot song “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”, from way back when if I recall correctly we studied it in school as an example of a ballad in English class (I think it was later, but that in a different English class — at university this time — was what got me interested in “The Lady of Shalott” and Loreena McKennitt).  At one point I came across a collection of Gordon Lightfoot songs on CD, bought it, listened to it … and decided that the only song on it that I liked was “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”, and didn’t listen to the CD anymore.  I copied the song off onto cassette to listen to with a bunch of other of my favourite songs — including a version of the Imperial March — and put the CD aside.

And then my CD player gave up the ghost.

I had a very, very difficult time finding a replacement for my 5 CD stereo, and so eventually just gave up on that.  I bought a radio that could run on batteries in case I lost power — and, soon after, actually did lose power for several days where listening to the news let me know what the heck was going on — and then decided to convert some CDs to MP4s and supplement that with some game soundtracks for music that I could listen to at work and at home in my multiple MP4 players (a Blu-ray player and multiple PCs/laptops).  And then not this past Christmas break but the one before that I decided to actually go through all of my CDs and burn them all to USB drives to listen to, and managed to make use of them for about the month before the lockdown happened and TV became more useful (and, also, I had left them at work).  In the summer, I got them back and the TV was becoming less interesting, and so I started listening to them more.

Now, a bit before that I had bought and assembled a TV stand thing to put on the wall in my living room where nothing else was, and then mostly for decoration I picked up one of those replica Victrola radio/CD player/record player (yes, record player)/cassette things.  And when I tested out the radio it was set to a radio station that played a good mix of songs and a lot of the songs that I remembered from my childhood.  And since while I was off in December listening to songs on my computers was less convenient than listening to the radio, I listened to the radio a lot, and indeed tend to keep listening to the radio when I’m working on things like the blog in my room because it’s a good mix of music and isn’t filling the room, and isn’t taking up computer cycles.

And that rekindled my interest in Gordon Lightfoot.

I think they were playing other songs of his as well, but one that I heard the most was “Sundown”, which I remembered from my childhood again, and remembered that I had liked it.  And so I decided to give the CD another try in the slack time between the end of my current disk of “Doctor Who” and the time “Super Password” comes on and/or I quit for the day to go do “Ring Fit Adventure” and my afternoon/evening stuff.  But I wasn’t sure if I would be able to take it, so I mixed it in with some Enya (which I either was or thought I had been introduced to by a suite mate in university residence my second year) and since I always put Windows Media Player on shuffle I figured I’d get a good mix (this will be important for later).  The set always starts with “Orinoco Flow”, and Windows Media Player is being balky and so hasn’t downloaded the information to tell me what each song is.  This will, again, be important later.  Also, I don’t remember that song from university, but instead from a TV commercial for a local mall that happened to align pretty well with the “sail away!’ part of the lyrics.

Anyway … I like more Gordon Lightfoot songs now, and don’t think that CD only has one good song on it.  The one I actually remember is the one that provided the title for this post.  But while I’m not going to claim that I like all of the songs, I don’t really remember one that I absolutely hate, which is thus a far cry from the impression I had of it when I first listened to it.  Has my musical taste matured over the years?  Unlikely, since the song that spawned my recent interest in Gordon Lightfoot was one that I was interested in because I liked it as a kid.  Could it be just that the CD was front loaded with songs that I didn’t like, and by the time I was past them I had given up on the CD?  Possibly, especially in light of the thing that all of those previous notes were hinting at:

I have no idea if “Sundown” is actually on my collection of Gordon Lightfoot songs.

I don’t recall hearing it, but Media Player’s shuffle doesn’t create a random list of songs, but instead shuffles mostly in place, so there’s no guarantee that it will pick that song, and I only listen for about an hour or two and so it might not have picked it.  I also listen to it while working and while doing other things so it’s entirely possible that it did come on and I didn’t notice it.  I can’t check to see if it’s listed on the CD’s listing in Media Player because, again, Media Player is being balky in identifying them (I really have no idea how it decides when to load them and when not to).  And I can’t be bothered to dig up the CD to check.  Eventually, I will settle this, but for now it’s a strange puzzle.

Anyway, after at least deciding that I didn’t care for Gordon Lightfoot, I have now discovered that I at least kinda do.  Make of that what you will.

Accomplishments Update

January 12, 2021

So, it’s again about three months since the last one, and a new year is starting, so let’s see how things worked out in the fall.

As usual, I did pretty well with DVDs, even though my pace was a bit slower than normal.  I’m committed to watching the same show in the evenings every day, and so focused on new shows and not rewatches, which will continue for the next month or so at least.  In that time, I finished “Rat Patrol”, and then moved on to “American Horror Story”, “Haunting of Hill House” and finished it off with “Hunter”.  I also kinda rewatched “Pretty Little Liars” as noise while I was working, which works pretty well.  I planned on rewatching “Charmed” now that I’m back at work, but discovered that it’s from Paramount which rarely gives a “Play All” option on its DVDs, and so it won’t work since the whole point of the rewatches is to avoid having to think about what I’m going to watch next every hour.  So I’ve ditched it for this week and am going to figure out what I’ll do for next week.  The key factors are that it has to be something that I like to watch but that isn’t so distracting that it takes me away from work, and something that if I have to turn the sound off for a meeting I already know what will happen and so won’t miss anything.  It also needs to be a longer series since I can watch almost two seasons a week and so if I go for something shorter I’d have to figure something else out in a couple of weeks which is annoying.  So candidates are “Dallas”, “Transformers G1” with “Beast Wars”, “Pretty Little Liars” again, and possibly some others.

Books went all right.  I managed to get through a few Feser books in preparation for a comment on Laird’s “The Unnecessary Science”, which I also finished.  I also read many of Zahn’s Star Wars books from Legends (and will comment on “Survivor’s Quest” in the near future), most of which I had read before.  Right now, I’m re-reading the X-Wing series of books.  I also started reading some books on Deep Learning but that … isn’t working out as well.  I may need to reconsider that.

Video games went all right as well.  I played a few games on my two vacations and finished off a character in The Old Republic and started a new one.  I’ve shuffled my schedule around to keep both TOR and another game active, which right now is Dragon Age Origins.  This is due to my schedule changing in the winter, as in the winter I have less things to do Saturday mornings (unless it snows) and so can slot TOR into there.

On projects, I played a little with Twine, but also managed to work through Bob Seidensticker’s Silver Bullet arguments as well as some comments on Feser’s Scholasticism, which may or may not count.  In other news for the blog, I’m actually well-ahead — into February — on commentaries on horror movies, with a pretty decent backlog to write up over the next few weeks.  I kinda have a push to get through the ones I have as much as I can over the next little while, which is why I’m so far ahead.  Let’s see if that works out.

2020 in review

January 9, 2021

The year started off slowly, but improved as the year went along, possibly because a couple of references — mostly notably by Shamus Young — let people know that I existed, although the posts on Edward Feser’s stuff spawned from a discussion on A Tippling Philosopher created the most comments, meaning that I also had more comments this year than ever (I never really had many comments).  Ultimately, this was my best year ever, with the most hits and the most visitors.  My hits per visitor dropped as it has for the last couple of years, but that’s not a bad thing, as it means that my hits are being driven by more people reading some things rather than a smaller number of people reading more things one shot.  This also might be influenced by my continuing to post once a weekday (I missed one Friday not too long ago which technically broke the streak), which means that more people might check in once a day instead of waiting for the week to end to get all of my posts.  Posting regularly also has been working for me, without making me feel overwhelmed.  No, it’s the longer philosophical posts that can overwhelm me at times, but they’re also the ones that I most want to get out of my head, and so I have an incentive to make time for them.  However, the really detailed ones can take me two to three hours to write, which does eat time.

At any rate, I don’t plan any changes this year and thanks to everyone reading and commenting.

Losing Sports Showed Me … Just How Much Available Entertainment Sucks

January 5, 2021

So, there’s an article from Stephen Brunt entitled “The year we lost sports showed us just how much they anchor our lives”.  Well, I might only be a causal sports fan, but from the early comments there are lots of people that are essentially saying “Speak for yourself!”.  For the most part, for me when sports went away all it meant was that I had to find other things to do or watch, and when they returned I drifted back to them when convenient, and when they ended I, again, found other things to do.  And when they were on, I didn’t care that they were in empty stadiums or with any of the changes.  In fact, some of the changes were better because they ran more often during the day when I could actually watch, so that was a nice difference.

Due to the pandemic, I ended up working from home, and whenever I do anything at home, at least, I need noise.  At work, I tend to use noise to drown out the noise around me when it gets distracting, and so use music and SF Debris for that.  If I go into work when no one is there — my normal early start time or on weekends — then I don’t really need to have noise and can enjoy the silence.  But at home I don’t like the silence, and so need to have something on to generate some noise.  And my experience with game playing has demonstrated that I like to have something that I can look up at when I don’t need to pay attention to the screen, and so that means having the TV on (my main desk in the office is set up so that I can see the TV from there, although at times if I’m playing a louder game I can’t hear what’s happening on the TV).  And early on in the process, I was looking for there to be something on TV to watch and adjusted my cable packages and the like to try to get stuff like that, because when I’m working the last thing I wanted to do was change the channels every half hour or even every hour, or have to enable the next episode.  What I want is something that I can leave on for a couple of hours at a time, which is why I ended up watching Lifetime-style movies like “Arizona”. 

And, at times, the TV itself was working.  Sure, I watched a lot of game shows and a couple of movies that were average at best, but for a while I could watch TV for good parts of the day.  When hockey and baseball came back, they actually fit neatly into the afternoons and so worked really well for what was indeed their primary purpose for me:  something that I could half-watch at times while working or doing my personal afternoon stuff after work that gave me noise and something interesting to look up at on occasion.  After they ended, what I ended up doing was watching game shows until 10 am and then switching over to music until I watched more game shows after noon, which worked out pretty well.

And then the schedule changed and there was nothing on that I wanted to watch in the mornings.  At all.

Now, I kinda had this problem at the beginning, but I took it as an opportunity and ended up rewatching my old DVDs that I had always wanted to rewatch.  So early in the year I rewatched “Dark Shadows”, “Smallville” and “Charmed”, along with some shorter ones like “Duck Dodgers”.  So I sighed and went back to that idea, and rewatched “Pretty Little Liars”.  But that pretty much left me looking at my cable hookup and wondering “What in the world do I have you for?  You never have anything on that I really want to watch anymore!”.  I even found myself listening to music — especially when I was on vacation — instead of bothering to watch even the few shows that I could watch in the morning.  And no, a streaming service wouldn’t help here because most of the streaming services I’ve had experience with get you to select one episode at a time, which is precisely what I was trying to avoid.  So I ended up rewatching movies at lunch on weekends, and listening to the radio or watching a DVD series in the mornings while working, and leaving on in the afternoon some basic game shows that were mostly tolerable but at times only worked because I wasn’t paying attention at all.

So, essentially, I went back to the state I was in when I ditched cable the first time, except that there weren’t even any sports on to make it worth my while to keep it.  And the fact that I had been able to find other things to do and watch and didn’t even really miss curling, and the fact that when sports went away my sports channels, in my opinion, handled the lockdown very badly left me with the knowledge that, yes, if all of my sports went away and even if I cancelled my cable subscription I’d still do pretty well just with the DVDs I have and perhaps some new DVDs that I could buy through Amazon (although I still hate browsing through them).  So it turns out that if it wasn’t for game shows I might not watch anything on cable at all, and I could easily skip the game shows and have indeed skipped them if I wanted to watch something else.  So, again, I have come to the conclusion that the available entertainment out there is … less than entertaining.

Still, I’m going to keep what I have, because sometimes it’s really, really useful.  But, yeah, losing sports and giving up on TV shows in annoyance has proved to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that, yes, I can live without them … contra to Brunt’s comments.

The Christmas Tradition that Survived

December 25, 2020

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to the reader of this blog.

Don’t you mean “the readers”?

Nope, WordPress still says it’s pretty much just the one.

Gonna do some writing …

November 8, 2020

So on my recent vacation I sat down and redid my schedule.  And one of the big things that I wanted to add to it was some time to write some fiction.  I’ve been meaning to write for, well, many, many years and rarely managed to do it.  They say that the best way to get good at writing is to do lots of it, and I do very little.  I also have a lot of ideas running around in my head and would like to get some of them out there.  So I really wanted to put it onto my schedule.

So, it’s set for Sunday afternoons.  What I’m going to try to do is sit down and write for a couple of hours and get some stuff down.  What I’m starting with is a rough horror-type story referencing some horror stuff I’ve been watching, divided up into chapters.  There is an overarching story to it.  I don’t know how that’s going to wrap up yet.  I also plan on simply writing it out and doing minimal editing on it.  So I might write myself into a bit of a corner that I’d have to address the best I can (I can already see one issue that I may not be able to address).  But what’s good about this is that I have no real attachment to this.  If I write it and people like it … well, as Shamus Young says, that’s your problem.  If people don’t like it, then it’s practice.

A story won’t come out every week (in fact, I’ve been trying to write this post for two weeks already [grin]).  But by posting it publicly I’ve given myself some extra reason to stick to it.  I am pretty much immune to peer pressure, however, so it isn’t that much extra reason.  So we’ll see how it works.

Accomplishments Update …

September 28, 2020

It’s been almost three months since the last one, and as my schedule is changing and I’m heading into my main vacation period which plays havoc with schedules anyway (my manager was trying to make sure that people took their vacation time and after reminding them of it said “And who wants to take vacation in November anyway?”, to which I replied “You keep forgetting that I’m in this group”, to which he replied “But I know when you’re going to take vacation two years in advance”). it’s probably a good time to see how I’ve been doing on this.

With DVDs, I changed my split between new and old where I watched new shows during the week and old shows on the weekend (I think. It’s been a while) back to watching one thing at a time and having that be an old or a new show depending on my mood. I also gave myself more time to watch them (at the cost of other things that I’ll talk about later) for various reasons. While it doesn’t seem like I was that successful with it, it actually went relatively well. I managed to finish off “Charlie’s Angels” as far as I was going to go, and then made it through “Pretty Little Liars”, rewatched all seven seasons of “Star Trek: Deep Space 9”, and then watched both seasons of “Doom Patrol” and am now working on “Rat Patrol”. The first two of those are pretty long so it is pretty good to have managed to get through all of that in 2 – 3 months.

I felt disappointed with how books went, until I sat down to figure out what I’d actually done. I hadn’t been really reading any of the philosophy books or the chess book that I had to read (although I’m finished the chess book now) and so really felt like I wasn’t doing anything with the more formal reading. And then I thought that if I counted the “Pretty Little Liars” books and the hockey books — since not only was I not just reading them just for fun I in fact stopped reading books that I was reading for fun (the “Heroes in Hell” series for the former and the Star Wars books for the latter) — then I wouldn’t have done too badly. And then I looked back at the philosophy books and noted that I finished one Kant book, one book on Kant, and one Hume book, which isn’t all that bad either. Still, I’m probably not going to be reading anything explicitly philosophical for a while because I don’t have a slot for that anymore. If anything, I’ll want a book that I can just read when I want to read things and philosophy does not work for that (you have to think too much about it for that to work). I might get into some literature but right now the plan is to just read for fun for a while.

Video games suffered because of my focus on watching TV shows. My success with them at the previous update came because I was playing them on the console after work. With TV shows taking up that time, I didn’t have time to play them in that slot anymore. I was also at times busier at work which ate into that time even more. When my evenings started freeing up again, I thought I’d try to stuff projects in there and move video games to weekend afternoons. That didn’t really work for either of them. Still, I managed to play “Knights of Pen and Paper +1” and start another game of “Wizardry 8”. And now that my gaming machine is fixed up, I’ll be playing The Old Republic again as well as some other games on that system in the weekday afternoons timeslot. So it wasn’t great, but might get better.

As usual, I did nothing with projects. I hope that I’ll be able to do something with them on my vacation and weekend afternoons, although blog posts tend to slot into there an awful lot.

So, that’s how things have been going … mostly the same as usual.

The Music’s Back

August 28, 2020

So I’ve been working from home since March. What I had noticed is that I wasn’t listening to music at all, even while working. There were a few reasons for this. The first was that while I generally listened to music at work to generate noise, at home I tended to do that through the TV since it also gave me something to look at. The second was that to generate that noise I was watching TV shows like Dark Shadows and Smallville, and running them well into the afternoon, so I didn’t have that much time to listen anyway. The third is that setting up music to listen to while working from home was more difficult than it was otherwise, because I had generally listened to music with headphones on from a USB drive but the docking station at work had more slots available than what I have at home, so it would be more of a problem, and I certainly didn’t want to be using headphones while sitting in my office. The fourth is that at the time I didn’t really have any other good way to listen to music, as I didn’t have a place to put my own laptop and my DVD players and consoles didn’t do shuffle that well and my CD player only played one CD at a time (I did do it briefly with a Kylie Minogue CD and the radio, but not for any length of time). And finally, I had left the USB drives that had almost all of my music on them at work, leaving a decent but impoverished selection of music on USB drives at home, reducing me to CDs that I could listen to one at a time.

But recently, things changed.

The first thing that changed was that in July I picked up a replacement laptop and reorganized the room where I work and keep all my computer stuff. I cleared off an old desk that I had and bought a small monitor to put on it. This let me keep one of my own computers there while keeping my work computer on my other desk. It also allowed me to take the two speaker sets that I had for my computers and set one up on each desk. So now I’d have a set-up that could play music even while I was working and had the work computer set up. The second thing is that we had an all-staff meeting and the person handling the facilities for us commented that if we needed anything to just ask, so I asked them to ship my USBs here, meaning that I had pretty much my full set of music back in a form that I could play on the computer. And finally, various sports seasons started up again and had games in the afternoons, which meant that putting on a show and running it until 3 or 4 wasn’t going to work as well since I’d definitely want to stop and watch the hockey game (mostly).

So I’ve ended up with a new routine: in the morning, I watch a few game shows that I want to watch or at least can tolerate watching until they run out (at about 10). Then I boot up my old laptop — which is the one that typically sits on that other desk — and start listening to music from it until some point in the afternoon or evening, at which point I stop and usually watch DS9. This sometimes even carries on through the weekend, although less so because I spend less time simply sitting at a computer on the weekend and so TV works a lot better (there are more cases where I really want to stop and look at things).

So I’ve gone from almost never listening to music to listening to it pretty much every time, and enjoying it. How quickly things can completely change for me.

It’s happening again …

August 19, 2020

I’m starting to run out of content again.

“Pretty Little Liars” generated quite a bit of content, given the TV show and the books, and there’s still a little bit there. But with hockey starting up again, I decided to watch Deep Space 9 again instead of starting something new, and there isn’t that much I can say about a show that I’ve already watched three or four times. I also, as you might be aware, haven’t had a lot of time to play games, so there’s nothing really there to slot in. While I’ve been doing better with philosophy than normal, there’s only so much of that I can fit in a week (meaning only so much out there to inspire me in a week). I’m keeping up with horror movies but haven’t had a lot of time to watch them either and so that stack is getting pretty small as well, with me having to make the time to watch to keep it from running out. I’d be willing to let it run out except that I don’t have anything else to slot in in its place, and it’s one of the easier things to watch and write about. And after finishing “Pretty Little Liars” for general reading I want to re-read my Star Wars books again, so books won’t fill in the gap either.

So, ultimately, my media commentary is getting thin, while my philosophical commentary can’t fill the gap. I’m already pondering returning to the “Philosophy and Pop Culture” series to fill in some time, but realistically that gets me about one extra day. I want to keep up the “every weekday” schedule, but am again getting a little concerned about having content for it. Along with my being busy, expect shorter posts and probably more frivolous ones for the next little while.

Like this one, complaining that I don’t have a lot of talk about on the blog right now [grin].

They’re Back

August 7, 2020

So, sports are back. Baseball started first and is back for however long it will manage to stay running now that two teams have had about half their players test positive forcing the cancellation of a number of games, and now hockey is back and seemingly doing well — there are more issues with actual injuries than with positive tests — and basketball is also back which is … a sport that I don’t watch at all and so it isn’t really relevant to me other than my having some mild interest in the one Canadian team — the Raptors — doing well.

I had pushed to finish “Pretty Little Liars” before the NHL qualifying round started in earnest because they were going to have a lot of games on during the day when I could watch and I didn’t really want to have to decide between the two of them. Now, after getting through a long weekend of games and one workday of games, plus the earlier baseball games, what I can say about sports is this: for me, it’s nice that they’re back because it gives me something to watch or use as noise instead of having to decide which TV series on DVD I would watch, but I didn’t actually miss them that much. If baseball has to shut down, I’ll be okay with it. If hockey doesn’t manage to get the next season started, I’ll be okay with that, too. Curling is already not going to be back on until next year, and I’m okay with that, too.

This is actually interesting for another reason: the main reason I have cable is because of sports. But during this time I proved what I, well, already knew, which is that if I don’t have sports to watch I do still have lots of other things to watch and so won’t miss it that much. I had settled into a rhythm of other things to replace the big one that I watch at this time of year, which was baseball. So could this be setting me up for another round where I cancel cable again for four years?

I don’t think so. I was starting to run out of things to fill in my weekend afternoons, and being home means that I need something for noise and I have a couple of game show channels that work pretty well for that. Plus I started getting into “The Chase” and “Masterminds” with Brooke Burns, which I will return to once they aren’t competing with hockey again. And it’s still nice to watch sports — even the classic games that fill in when there are no sports — at times. Plus, that’s also my streaming service. So I get enough out of it to keep it, at least for now. But, yeah, not having sports pretty much showed that I don’t really need sports.

But I knew that already. And I also still like them. And so I will keep watching them for as long as they manage to last.