Vagaries, Bits and Bytes versus Shiny Plastic

With: Some music.
Without: A CD.

The vagaries of the music retailing business eh?

Inspired by this post at the lately infrequent but always excellent Loft and Lost, I thought I’d check out the Fairport Convention album, Unhalfbricking.

Quick detour away from the main point to say: Who Knows Where the Time Goes has assumed the position of current Best Song I’d Never Heard [TM] (ah, note to self, learn how to do superscripts in WordPress!) – it’s just beautiful. And the singer’s name is Denny (well, Sandy Denny, but someone out there will know what I mean), so what else is there to be said? Well, only that I have no worries about being considered a hippy, I’ve always considered myself a hippy actually. But you know, apart from how their personnel overlapped with Steeleye Span – a favourite from my youth – and Pentangle, in that weird triangular folk-will-eat-itself construct that was British folk music of the sixties and seventies, I’ve never really known a lot about Fairport, much less listened to much of their music. A blind spot.

Anyway… I buy all music electronically these days – who wants to have stuff lying about the place? Yes, I know there are sonic considerations, but really: all music I listen to is played through some kind of digital device, be that a phone, laptop, or “mp3” player (scare quotes, because we’re mostly an Apple household, so “AAC player” would technically be more accurate).

So, I bought the album from iTunes, where it sits somewhere in the cloud, Apple very kindly hosting it for me and ensuring that I don’t actually own the thing, but that suits me fine, since it’s one less thing to move next time we change homes.

But…following on conversation with someone at work about the relative pricing of Amazon and Apple for music downloads, I thought I’d check it out there too. Needless to say, as I’d suspected, the Amazon and Apple prices for a download version only were the same – not too surprised by that.

But what did surprise me is this: at Amazon, a CD of the album, with free mp3 download of the same material, costs £6.38; the mp3 only download of the album, from the same retailer, costs £7.49…

Amazon, in effect, wants me to charge me £1.11 (oddly neat looking amount) to not press a CD, print a label, put them both in a plastic case, put that case on a shelf, pick that case from a shelf, put that case in an envelope, put the envelope in the post and deliver it to my house, forcing me to deal with an item of clutter around the house. Humph! This is corporate cluttering! That sounds a bit conspiracy-theorist, but really, there are similar anomalies in the Kindle world too, with actual paper books – albeit generally with no ebook version – costing less than the Kindle version. I get that the main cost of intellectual property like books and music is, well, the intellectual property and not the paper or plastic that the carrier of that property is made of; but really, charging more?

For your convenience, you have been charged a premium to not receive anything…

External links:
Loft and Lost
Wikipedia | Fairport Convention

Bin Rage

It’s time to talk about bin rage.

This concept is, it’s fair to say, a bedrock of life for me and Waawo-ette senior. Well, being on the lookout for it, and avoiding it all costs.

What is bin rage, I hear you cry?

Well, bin rage is the rage you fly into when you realise you’ve got to empty the bin again. It’s what causes you to speak to your partner the way you’d never speak to anyone else. Snide, sarcastic remarks. Passive aggressiveness.

I’ll just do the washing up should I?

Bin rage seems to stem from the fact that a lot of people are together who really shouldn’t be. This hooks back to the last post too, because it seems like a lot of people not only can’t get along with themselves, they can’t get along with their significant other either.

Why not leave them? Really, just leave. Over on Mumsnet’s AIBU [“Am I Being Unreasonable?”] and Relationships forums, an oft quoted motto is “LTB” for “Leave the bastard” – so much so that it’s become a running joke. But the LTBers are right in a way. So many of the posts on those forums are describing classic bin rage – and there really is no way back.

From the first signs of bin rage appearing, it won’t be long until you can’t stand the way your partner eats, talks, breathes – how can anyone enjoy a life of such constant misery? Some people just don’t get along – but for whatever reason, are bumping along together, whether it’s because of kids, houses, or just convenience. Many years ago I remember a professor of behavioural science expounding how most people are with the person they’re with because they were with that person yesterday… and the day before… and so on and so on, for years, lifetimes.

Such a depressing thought.

Some examples of really bin ragey behaviour:

  • Organising work nights out specifically to avoid spending time with your partner;
  • Spending an inordinate amount of time and money on hobbies that don’t involve your partner;
  • Spending your time at the opposite end of the house to your partner.

There are loads more. The thing is, it’s been seven years since I was in a bin rage relationship and I’m actually having trouble remembering any.

You might, of course, put off the critical phase of bin rage. Long winded planning for an extravagant wedding is one way. Having a baby, buying a new house – all potentially will stave off encroaching bin rage. But be warned: nothing works forever. If you’re saddled to someone you don’t like, the truth will out. And please don’t suggest counselling (but that’s another post, for another day).

[Picture: the actual bin that inspired the name “bin rage” – although this was in a shared house when I was single, so oddly enough it wasn’t classic bin rage that I was suffering through then.]

And no, nothing to do with wheely-bins! (I’ve just googled, who knew green and black bins with wheels cause so many arguments? Although…)

I’ll just put the bin out then should I?

External links:
Mumsnet
Mumsnet | AIBU
Mumsnet | Relationships

1. Too much stuff, too many things

Well, here we are at post number 1 (of one hundred, you’ll recall). I wasn’t sure what I was going to write about, until serendipity sent this post on Becoming Minimalist my way.

To begin with, a quote:

“All of man’s difficulties are caused by his inability to sit, quietly, in a room by himself.” —Blaise Pascal

Yep. That’s a lot of what I want to talk about right there. About how important it is to be, as I say, “happy inside your own head.” I know lots of people – easily the majority – for whom time spent with no book or music or television or phone or whatever, some distraction or other, is just the most deadly time of all, to be avoided whatever detriment that might cause. “Oh, I couldn’t wait an hour, I didn’t have a book with me!” Well, hello, actually you could easily wait an hour, you’d just have an hour to spend all to yourself, with just yourself and your thoughts for company. It feels like a lot of people just don’t know how to sit and think, without being, in effect, told what to think about. The post I’ve mentioned here is specifically aimed at meditation, and that’s not something I feel like I do as such: except, maybe sitting and thinking, alone and quiet, is in fact meditating. Whatever, that’s just nomenclature – whatever it is, it’s something I’ve always done.

Instead, their lives are molded by the voices that bombard them each day from the Internet, television, radio, magazines, and celebrities.

(I’m not going to quote the whole piece by the way, breath a sigh of relief!)

This struck me though. I know this is something that youngsters seem to be afflicted with – although I wasn’t, even as a child – but it also seems to be more and more common among adults. And it’s related to the Pascal quote, and also just to habits in general. People need this stuff, these things, this noise, to fill the void that they think exists in their heads. Once people get into the habit of filling the quiet with noise, it becomes just that: a habit. Impossible to imagine life without it. Like all habits, life is then arranged around it. And you know what? Soon one noise isn’t enough to still that dreadful silence. No, now we need the TV and the phone. Now the TV, the phone and a quick check of email. And so on. And on.

Their desires are ever-changing and are quickly swept away by the newest fashion, most recent technology, or opportunity for financial gain.

Yes. I’ve been there. A lot of tech-desire can fall into this category. It’s like a double whammy in fact: the noise around the whole desire, research, buy, obtain, configure, tweak, upgrade cycle; and also that the end result of a lot of tech is to open up yet more channels to more noise. Whereupon, once the noise level from that channel has settled, it’s time to desire yet another object, and begin the whole cycle again.

A society built on the foundation of consumerism must attack gratitude—only if they can sow discontent in our lives can they sell us on their new product or latest version with new improvements.

Yes! This thing, this desire to consume, to own – where does it come from? Not from within us, that’s for sure. When I see the (less than two year old) Waawo-ette Junior running around the place, she has no innate desire to own the latest thing. Oh, for sure she might want something right now: it’s the bright red thing she can see atop the cupboard; or the noisy thing on the floor; or the furry thing purring its way around the lounge. But she doesn’t wake up feeling the need for the latest building block upgrade. This all comes later – right around the time peers, and school, and competition are introduced. If we let it of course. One of our biggest goals is to bring up Waawo-ette Junior to have a deliberate, mindful, or as Joshua says, an intentional life.

I love the image of society actually attacking gratitude. For our western society is so deeply built on consumerism, this idea of need and want becoming interchangeable, or the same thing, is powerful indeed. It takes a real effort of will to keep out the forces of marketing and advertising, so cleverly designed to separate us from our money and, in an awesome feat of collateral damage, separate us from what really matters in our lives.

Last quote:

It is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy. And that gratefulness quickly leads to a satisfied, simplified, focused life.

Just the thing we’re after. Satisfied, simplified, focused – these things are not just means, and not just ends – they are both at the same time, intertwined through our way of living life and what we get out of life.

Oh, definitely the last quote:

More meditation. More gratitude. Better living.

Which I would paraphrase as: More being quiet. More joy. More contentment.

Enough for today – I’ll try to be less rambling next time!

[Picture: the Waawo-ette Junior, decidedly unconcerned about what block version she’s on!]

External links:
Becoming Minimalist

100 things in a, you know, 100 other things

So: one hundred posts in one hundred days. Inspired by the never less than entertaining 23thorns – a site I’m sure I’ll be mentioning again – I’ve decided to try to emulate the one hundred posts thing. Not for any real readership – because there is none – but just to build up a body of work on this site and to get into a groove, a rhythm, a reflex, a habit. Studies these days seem to suggest sixty-six days is what’s needed to build a habit, so this should get the job done. I have no idea what these one hundred posts will be about, there’s no master plan; I expect most will just be rants of one kind or another. But hopefully rants that lead to somewhere, illuminate something, or at least make me laugh. If not, they’ll at least be a kind of long long long journal entry for the coming three months and a bit.

External links:
23thorns

Coding Congratulations

Just for a giggle, I completed one of the “hour of code” tutorials at code.org – specifically, this one in the beginner’s section. And lo, the certificate of completion duly arrived:
Congratulations
Joking aside, this is a great resource for kids and adult beginners – and the coding “game” used in this example, which allows “coding” through dragging and dropping programming constructs, is remarkably similar to MIT’s Scratch, as used in RC50x.

External links:
code.org
Scratch

Packing List – Postscript

Thinking about yesterday’s post – a packing list for a holiday – it occurred to me that it might be interesting to see what’s changed between then and now. How is this journey towards less stuff going?

* Laptop + PSU – yes, I still own a laptop (I’m typing on it now), but I never take it with me (except for work) – iPhone and sometimes iPad fill in nicely.

* O2 phone + PSU – long gone, just my iPhone now.

* Orange phone + PSU – long gone, just my iPhone now. In fact, this HTC phone was “loaned” to the older Waawo-ette senior, who promptly lost it. Remote control de-cluttering!

* HDD + PSU + USB Cable – gone. There are mirrored 2TB HDDs permanently on storing our video media, we just copy stuff to our phones when we want to travel anywhere. Other stuff is in the mythical cloud, courtesy of Apple and Amazon.

* MP3 player – still somewhere about, but never used. iPhone has taken over.

* MP3 radio thing – gone. It was rubbish anyway. Bluetooth is the way to go.

* West Wing DVDs – well, we still have the DVDs in the loft, but never play them. In fact, we don’t have a DVD player anymore.

* Maps – still got lots of OS maps…

* Cabin details – not exactly relevant anymore, but figuratively, I’m in the habit of sending details like this to myself on email so that I can just access them on my iPhone…

* Camera + PSU – still have the camera (a Canon DSLR) but I hardly ever use it, just use the iPhone camera now really.

* M. Mills book – still have this book, but it doesn’t have any great significance as an object, so like so many others it will eventually be replaced by a Kindle version.

* Tobacco + Papers + Lighter – neither of us smoke anymore.

* Chilli stuff + Pan – still got the pan, it gets used almost daily so was obviously a good purchase.

* Wallet – I’m on a different wallet now, but only have one these days, where I’m sure I used to have two.

* House keys – well, until remote locking for houses becomes commonplace, these aren’t going anywhere soon.

* Pants x 9 – obviously a change in approach, I very rarely wear pants these days, never at home, and so don’t now even own 9 pairs.

* Socks x 9 – no idea how many pairs of socks I own these days, I’d have to count!

* Jeans x 3 – well, I have three pairs of jeans still.

* Shirt x 3 – lots more than three shirts, although it would be interesting to keep track of how many actually get worn (except for work shirts).

* Dressing gown – yep, same one.

* Towel – it’s been replaced, we treated ourselves to new towels.

* Toiletries – yep.

* Coat – the black coat has been retired but is still in my wardrobe. I have precisely two coats that actually get used.

* All-Stars – currently have (I think) four pairs: black leather; blue canvas; red canvas; pink canvas (wedding shoes).

* Animal hat – lost somewhere or other. I have a new hat, a (faux) fur lined number with ear flaps that’s mega warm. And a new new hat, a black woolen one that was a Christmas gift this year, that the youngest Waawo-ette junior has taken a real shine to.

So altogether, not bad. I guess the main trend is a lot of convergence of technology into one device and greater use of online and cloud services for media. Certainly there’s a lot less wired stuff to carry around the place.

Packing List

With: Happy memories.
Without: A calendar.

While de-cluttering I came across this anonymous looking piece of paper:

photo (14)
This is my packing list for a peachy holiday in Scotland in 2009 – the first time me and the Waawo-ette senior went on holiday together. We went to Scotland to a little cabin alongside a loch. At the end of the week, we were like, “There’s a loch?” 😉

Some explantion of the items:

* Laptop + PSU – this was for playing video mostly (since we weren’t expecting any kind of mobile phone signal and hence no email, and we were right); the laptop was an old Dell D630 which I gave to my dad once I no longer needed it and I believe it’s still in use.

* O2 phone + PSU – back in the days of multiple phones and multiple charger (pre mini-USB), I had this Samsung phone with PAYG O2 sim for contact with the Waawo-ette senior, I can’t really remember why I couldn’t just use my Orange phone though. Since we weren’t expecting any coverage, and I only used this phone for talking to Waawo-ette Senior who was in the cabin with me, I’m not sure why I bothered packing it.

* Orange phone + PSU – at the time I worked at Orange and I had a HTC Windows Smartphone which seemed great at the time. See comments above about lack of coverage. Although we were travelling a long way and our only satnav was Orange Maps on this phone.

* HDD + PSU + USB Cable – a 1TB HDD which had a lot of movies and lots of episodes of The Apprentice (UK) in mp4 format.

* MP3 player – well, for music!

* MP3 radio thing – for playing MP3 music on the car radio during the journey. Turns out we didn’t use this, I’d burned some CDs instead with an epic playlist of 500 songs.

* West Wing DVDs – we’re still watching The West Wing! Just last night in fact we bought The West Wing Season 2 on Apple TV – the umpteenth copy we’ve bought between us over the years. Watching In The Shadow Of Two Gunmen, Parts I and II all over again, I was struck by how they don’t feel almost fourteen year’s old. The existence of West Wing is a factor in why Waawo-ette senior and I are back together after all these years, but that’s a story for another time and another post…

* Maps – well, they didn’t get used much, since we had Orange Maps on my phone. The satnav was very basic – and we called her Morag – and had an irritating habit of just shutting herself down rather than recalculating the route if you ignored her instructions too much. She also had an unusual trait of taking us to places but by slightly inconvenient routes, such as a mid-week emergency shopping trip to Oban, where we ended up on the road next to the giant store, but the other side of a high wall from it, necessitating much to-ing and fro-ing.

* Cabin details – how to get there and stuff.

* Camera + PSU – I didn’t take a single shot the entire time we were there!

* M. Mills book – I can’t actually remember which Magnus Mills book this was, but I suspect The Restraint Of Beasts – his first novel. I loved (and still love) Mills’ quirky worlds and characters. Didn’t read a lot during the week though (although we do read a lot to each other now).

* Tobacco + Papers + Lighter – ah, the halcyon days when we both still smoked!

* Chilli stuff + Pan – I made possibly the first meal I ever made for Waawo-ette Senior, just chilli and rice (or did we have chips?) but it was yummy. There’s a photograph somewhere of me cooking it, I wonder where (I suspect it was taken on WS’s phone…)

* Wallet – well, for money and stuff.

* House keys – er, so that I could get back into my house?

* Pants x 9 – I guess we went for nine days, so I assumed nine pairs of pants. Ha! I think I wore pants travelling there, on our emergency shopping trip, and travelling home. The rest of the time was spent mostly in a state of undress…

* Socks x 9 – ditto.

* Jeans x 3 – ditto.

* Shirt x 3 – ditto.

* Dressing gown – now this did see some use, we both smoked at the time and it was a non-smoking cabin so we had to go out onto the stoop to do so. Given the typical Scottish weather – cold grey and raining the entire time – something was needed for warmth!

* Towel – I still have this urge to take a towel with me even to places I know there will be towels, like hotels and such like. I have to train myself not to, it’s such a waste of space and weight, especially on a plane trip.

* Toiletries – hm, funny thing is, I can’t remember the shower or bath in the cabin at all, I assume there was one though.

* Coat – probably that black coat, of Hayling Island fame (another story for another post).

* All-Stars – the shoes! Still wearing All-Stars, although not the same pair!

* Animal hat – duller than it sounds. Just a beige hat, of the Animal brand, with the word “Animal” stitched into the front. WS liked it though.

And that was that. Not exactly a heavy packing list, especially when you consider how many of the items are tech/media related. It would be very different today I expect, what with Waawo-ette Junior in tow!

Suffice to say the time away was fantastic: in bed, cooking and eating, smoking and drinking, watching TV, and listening to music. Repeat x 9 days. Drive home. The best holiday I’ve ever had, because we were just enjoying each other and the moment so much. No interruptions by anyone. Truly, LWoK! (An acronym to be explained in another post I guess…)

Suffice to say, it’s a piece of paper that isn’t going to be de-cluttered!

(Oh, in case anyone is wondering about the calendar: we were our usual slothful selves about ordering a new calendar, so I had to make a page for January 2014 and stick it on to last year’s…)

External links:
Cruachan Cabin

Paperwork II

With: A great sense of progress and satisfaction.
Without: Paper, paper, paper…

Massive paperwork tidying up splurge completed! All paperwork filed away, and the very small amount of stuff my lovely accountant needs to fix my tax return is ready to go off to him. And a tonne of stuff (may not be literally true) that’s no longer needed has gone to the great shredding heaven.

[Quick update: tax return stuff is even now winging its way to my accountant…]

De-cluttering is *good* :)

filingfinished

External links:
Just Pure book-keeping

Paperwork

With: A possible end in sight.
Without: A huge bundle of paperwork.

One of reasons I started this blog was to document – ironic choice of word – a decluttering journey, a general dis-accumulation of stuff. Do a simple search around the web and you’ll find no end of sites describing how stuff just clutters our lives and make everything much harder than it needs to be. I’m not a hoarder, never have been, but I do have a few blind spots, and one of them is paperwork.

Those of you paying attention will recall how a few days ago I had to turn the house upside down looking for my driver’s license. I resolved at the time to sort out the paperwork, and tonight began to do just that. There’s an additional incentive, which is that I need to sort out a few financials for my tax return (eek), so the time as they say, is now.

First step: get all the paperwork relating to me into one pile. Check.

Second step: get all of the envelopes and other obvious rubbish into a pile and into the recycling bin. Check.

Third step: get everything for scanning and shredding into one pile. Check. This is a big pile:

20140115-065018.jpg
This is all paperwork that has identifying details and therefore, in the interests of avoiding identify scams, needs to be shredded. Some of this needs to scanned first before being shredded. The scanning and shredding is a job for tomorrow!

[Quick update: it’s done! Some things scanned & shredded, most just shredded. Gone forever (from my physical world at least).]

Fourth step: get all academic certificates into a pile and sorted into date order. Check. They then went into the certificate book:

photo
This book holds certificates going back 26 years, including (charmingly) a GCSE certificate (B in Welsh!), which seems ever so irrelevant now.

Fifth step: everything else is in a pile, ready to be sorted and filed in a not-shiny not-new but empty filing box:

20140115-070523.jpg

This is stage two, tomorrow night!

[Quick update: it’s done!]

Just to give an idea of the scope of some of the other decluttering that’s got to be done, here’s a shot of the inside of our “work” cupboard, where the laptop and a couple of other bits of pieces are supposed to live. Only now they’ve been joined by quite a lot of other stuff:

20140115-070627.jpg

Eek! That’s yet another job for yet another day!

External links:
365 less things
Becoming Minimalist

Land’s End

With: Wind in my ears.
Without: Any more land to walk on.

Quick pre-work trip to Land’s End. Never been here before, and was only ten miles away so thought I’d just take a bit of a, er, detour.

The tourist “attraction” clinging to the end of Cornwall looks truly hideous. Even without a billion or so tourists milling around. On a cold grey wet January morning it’s pretty bleak, but I can just imagine the money grabbing hell this place is on a sunny August Saturday. So no more to say about that.

The end of Cornwall? Windy, rugged, awesome. Look in one direction only please. Dodgy horizons on these pics.

landsend1

landsend2

I’ve also got a mad crazy idea to walk from Land’s End to John o’Groats. Why? Because I can I suppose. Edges, end to end, all of those things – although a little bit of thinking makes me realises that it’s probably 850 miles out of 875 total from which the ocean won’t be visible. Hmmm.

External links:
Land’s End – The Attraction
Land’s End – Wikipedia
Land’s End to John o’Groats – Wikipedia
Land’s End to John o’Groats with Mark Moxon