Monthly Archives: October 2008

Self Censored

Someone asked if blog burnout has been a problem for me. I thought about it for a minute, and after some thought, realized I have “burned out” of at least three blogs in the past. Interesting, but their follow up is what threw me for a loop.

“What contributed to the burn out?”

Well… Self Censorship. Whenever too many people close to my personal life start reading my blog, I stop having as much fun with it. I don’t hang as many opinions out there, I start to avoid stories because I’m afraid it will cause tension. I stop writing what I feel. And usually those things that I’m afraid will rock the boat are the ones that gnaw at me.

A blog is a way to talk about the things you can’t talk about in person. It’s a way to rock the boat without losing your job. And once you start closing the valve on that outlet, it’s very easy to become burned out on it.

SOMEBODY THINK OF THE CHILDREN

This is news, a child sleeping in a bedroom near some plants. This is news, a house full of cultivation supplies for a non-addictive fungus. (ps, bonus points for how fucking stupid it is to say that it’s “unusual” to find psychedelic drugs in Portland Fucking Oregon) But if they went into a house and found a kid sleeping in a room next to a loaded, unlocked gun, that shit wouldn’t even make the police report, much less the fucking news. And how many kids are being pulled out of homes with meth labs or distributors without so much as a peep?

Fuck you, and your idiotic views of marijuana.

At least it wasn’t the Ohio flag…

All I can think of when I read this is this.

Honestly. It’s 2008… and we’re still chasing fake giant nigger bogey men? Brad said something earlier about how all this really highlighted was how calm and tolerant arabs and blacks have been in the states, and I think he’s right. If white people got treated with the same blend of condescension, fear, loathing, and suspicion that black people get treated in this country, we’d have riots DAILY. There’d be one nonstop white riot that spread from Sonoma California to Salt Lake City Utah to Boulder Colorado. Yes, black people rioted when the Rodney King verdict came down. Yes, black people rioted in 1965 over some poor treatment of another black motorist. But let’s face it, white people riot when their football team loses. Shit, we white people riot when our football teams WIN. All it would take is one Manhattan Starbucks refusing to serve white people on a Monday morning and by Saturday the aftermath would make Katrina look like a sprinkler was left on too long.

And as for this story, my initial reaction was that it had to be a spoof. I assumed that this was going to end with Howard Stern laughing about how he put one over on the cops, or something like that. Let me just put it in real simple words for you – Criminals don’t give a fuck about politics. A person who is gonna knife you for $60 at an ATM doesn’t have a huge stake in how many seats the Dems hold in the Senate. They probably don’t know what the Senate is. They probably don’t fucking care. Their main goal is gonna be to stab you and take that $60 away. The only place where criminals have strong party affiliations is in the fevered brain of a straight up bigot. And it’s amazing how that affiliation is always the opposite of theirs.

In short, if you believed this woman’s story, you need to analyze where those feelings came from. Is there a giant negro in your head, raging, ready to kill you and take your precious white-person stuff?

Cleaning Up

I’ve never been fastidious. My natural state is somewhere around two loads of laundry on the floor and two days stubble. It’s a sink half-full of dishes, or a lawn just on the overgrown edge of shabby. A car that hasn’t quite reached “write wash me in the window grime” level. But recent events took my house from my comfort zone straight down into filth. I watched as it slowly but surely edged into one of those houses that you’d see on a forum thread or watch on a TV special about compulsive hoarders. There was stuff… everywhere. Every horizontal surface was covered, and if a space was ever cleared, it was to put down yet another object. It was a constantly shifting ocean of junk and it bothered me every time I knocked something off a table or had to move stuff to set down some groceries. The computer room was just a massive dumping ground, every object large enough to not be OK on the dining room table, or ready to be ignored for huge lengths of time was just set on whatever patch of floor was available, slowly encroaching all the way to the door. In order to get to the back, you had to pick your way slowly across the floor from one tiny patch of carpet to the next, occasionally crushing some errant computer part or having your foot stabbed by a screw. And you couldn’t even close the door to hide it.You know that hypothetical question : If your house were on fire what would you save? Turns out you have to be able to get at the items if you want to save them. If your memories or valuables are stuck back in some closet under eighty bags of old clothes, you’re never going to be able to save them. In my house, I wouldn’t even know where to START looking for valuables.

Something had to give.

So I decided to clean it up and organize my life. I figured I should blog this for anybody who has had their space consumed by stuff, because fixing this is very simple, but very hard (much like anything worth doing). I’m calling this the “crap snowball” method (many thanks to JD from Get Rich Slowly who introduced me to the Debt Snowball, which has been one of the best ideas I’ve ever been exposed to).

Here are the basics.

  1. Do one room at a time.
    • If you find stuff in that room that needs to go to another room, just take it to that room, and make no attempt to organize it yet. Just put it in the room and leave it there, go back to the room you’re working on. I usually pick the room that is the “cleanest” to start with, that gives me a quick feeling of progress, and it also gives me a clean room to stage things in for Step 2. Don’t designate a junk room, or use your garage for that. If you’re going to be storing stuff, have a storage area planned.
  2. Clear the slate, don’t do it halfway.
    • Clear everything out of the room you reasonably can. This will get easier with each room you conquer. Clearing the things out of a room makes it much easier to clean the floors and walls, and make sure you didn’t miss some box that was just laying under a bed. If you can’t get everything out, at least take all the stuff that isn’t furniture. Take it all out and put it in your staging area.
  3. Trash, then sorting, then trash again.
    • Take everything that is visibly just junk, and throw it away. I made two large rubbermaid bins my “trash” zone (I ended up with much more than two). One was for garbage, the other was for stuff to give away on Craigslist for scrap. Make these bins larger than you think you’ll need, nothing is lamer than having to stop midway and find another bin.
    • When you have the obvious trash out, start going through your mess one bin or shelf or pile at a time, sifting into piles. Here is an example of me sifting through the computer room. I would take one tub, and begin going through it. If there was anything that was obviously just trash (like an old box or piece of paper) it would go into the trash. If it was some computer thing that I knew I would never use but thought somebody might (like an old ZIP drive or a special SCSI cable), it went into the scrapper bucket. If it was a computer thing I needed and/or wanted, it went into a designated pile on the floor, separated by type. When I got to video game systems, I did the same, sorting them into piles of PS2 stuff, piles of Xbox stuff, piles of Gamecube stuff.
    • When I was done with all the bins, I went to the piles, and this is where I found the non-obvious trash. How many PC power cords do I need? You get a new one with every power supply, so basically you just need enough for the computers you have, anything else that uses that type of cord, and then one or two spares. I did a quick inventory, decided on six, and threw the rest into the scrap bucket. How many 1/8″ male to 1/8″ male audio cables could I possibly need? Two, rest go into the bin. And on down the line, dividing useful objects from worthless ones, and then paring down the number of useful things to a reasonable number. This took a lot of time, but it also gave me a chance to designate stuff to sell. Playstation 2 that hasn’t been plugged in in a year? Sold. Gamecube that I haven’t touched in three years? Given to my sister.
  4. Organize it.
    • This part was surprisingly easy once I had the stuff sorted out by type. I could see exactly how much storage room I needed for each thing, and I could allocate drawer or bin space accordingly. Make sure you label it, because you’ll be back later with more stuff and you don’t want to have to reinvent the wheel each time. I just zip tied every cable that needed to be tied, and began putting it away. This was extraordinarily satisfying, and now my stuff is organized in an intuitive, useful way. It lets me look at the items on hand, and decide what I can sell or get rid of without having to muck through anything else. The two shelving units that were once woefully inadequate to hold all the items are now only partially full, and there’s even MORE stuff I can get rid of. This was also a great chance to find things that are broken and get rid of them, I spent some down time testing a stack of 10 hard drives that were being kept around. Nine were broken, so they go into the pile for scrapping (there’s a guy at work who disassembles them to recycle the aluminum bodies).
  5. Rooms, then piles, then rooms again.
    • When you get to the next room, you repeat your piles for the stuff you find in there, taking stuff that goes into other rooms there, to be sorted as a new pile. Don’t go back to that old room yet, keep your focus on the room you’re working now. Finish your trash/piles/trash cycle for this room, make that your priority. Once you’re through this room, then you can go back into those other “completed” rooms and sift through their new piles.

That’s it, in the short strokes. Select a room for cleaning, move EVERYTHING out of it. And then analyze what you want to go back in. It sounds ridiculous that this was so hard for me to figure out in 30 years, but it was as if a light bulb turned on. I finally have a system that has enabled me to take back my house. It’s exhilirating freedom to walk into a room, be able to quickly assess where an item you want is, and go straight to it. It’s a relief to be able to walk in and see my coffee table. If you have a room full of junk, you owe it to yourself to fix it. If you have a house full of junk, you don’t know what you’re missing. It’s taken a lot of evenings and weekend hours to get my house back into shape, but now it will only take a few hours a week to _keep_ it in shape.

This is not even mentiontioning the money I made. I sold off old game systems I haven’t touched in years, video cards that won’t even fit in a computer I still own, an old paintball gun I never looked at again after buying, and now I have enough cash for a couple trips to the grocery store, and a night out at the movies. All with the added benefit of having less stuff in my house to clean, store, move, or maintain.

Next stop : The great outdoors.

The election

Without getting into the details here, this is the fourth election I’ve followed with much interest (Bush I vs. Clinton was pretty much the earliest election I was fully aware of, and I wasn’t much interested at the time), and by far the most divisive one I’ve seen or heard about. One of the things that I like about the internet is that you can catalog the claims someone makes and fact check them (to greater or lesser degrees of accuracy) by yourself. But if you are lazy, like me, you can also just let CNN do it for you. In the past I’ve had little good to say about CNN but this is a very very good feature. What would make it a great feature is some real attribution and maybe even a link or two to the articles it’s pulling data from, but hey. They’re probably lazy too. I’d like to see more news outlets doing shit like this, basically a post-mortem on speeches, claims, wild gesticulations, and other shenanigans which are now the bread-and-butter of American politics.