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The End of VHS

It was announced this week that the Funai Electric Company will stop producing VHS video cassette recorders at the end of July. “Who on earth still owns a VCR?” I hear you asking.

Well, I do.

I installed a capture card in my computer and connected a VCR to it that allows me to convert video tapes into computer video files. Yes, I’ve tried those DVD/VCR combo units, but I like the freedom and options that this system affords me. I can edit them easier that way, and half the time I’m just capturing them to send them to YouTube anyway, so it saves me a step (and a blank DVD).

I actually owned a cheap Funai VCR a few years ago. When it stopped working, I was under the delusion that if I opened it up, I might be able to fix it. My first warning should have been that the entire thing seemed to only weight a couple of pounds, a far cry from the old VCRs that took two hands and a pile of muscles to move. After removing half a dozen screws, I found a motor and a small selection of permanently mounted chips. Into the trash it went.

When I went to find a replacement VCR, I couldn’t find new ones for sale. Again, this was a few years ago. Walmart has several VHS/DVD combo units for sale, but no VHS-only units. I guess the demand just isn’t there. I was leery of buying one from a garage sale or thrift store, and didn’t want to spend the money on ordering one only. Fortunately, my mom came through (she had a spare one in her garage) and I’ve been using it ever since.

I personally don’t have any interest in movies on VHS tape that have since been released on DVD, but like I said, lots of movies (thousands) never made it to DVD. Occasionally if I’m in a thrift store or garage sale and run across one such movie, I’ll pick it up and convert it from VHS to MP4 when I get home. I also really enjoy finding old VHS tapes from the 80s (and less so, the 90s) with recordings of television programs, mostly for the commercials. I’ve ripped almost 200 commercials from thrift store tapes I’ve purchased this year, and created a YouTube playlist if you want to watch them all.

VHS tapes (by design) won’t last forever, and some would argue that at least when it comes to tapes containing McRib commercials, that’s probably okay. And maybe they’re right, I don’t know, but I enjoy doing it. It’s kind of like a little treasure hunt, looking for old tapes that contain old commercials that I remember from my childhood. When I mention hobbies like this to Susan she shrugs her shoulders and says, “people are bored.”

I know two people who have large collections of VHS tapes — kids movies, mostly — and still have VCRs hooked up in their living rooms. Again, yes, most if not all of those movies have been released on DVD (and they both own DVD players), but if you have a collection of VHS tapes, why not let kids watch them until they wear out?

While I know there are others, VCRs are a technology that came and left during my lifetime. It’s weird to see kids today not know what a VHS tape is or how to use a VCR (my kids were aghast when I explained to them the concept of “rewinding” something). Even though VCRs served us well and and had a fruitful life, it’s still a little sad to read news like this.

PS: My friend SteveW recently recommended the documentary Adjust Your Tracking: The Untold Story of the VHS Collector, a film about the hobby of collecting VHS tapes. I can only imagine the guys that appear in this film have a spare VHS or two (or a dozen) stashed away.

Kevin Durant’s Exit: My Two Cents

The world needs another article about Kevin Durant’s decision to leave Oklahoma City for Golden State like the Warriors need another three-point shooter, but regardless, now that I’m back from vacation I feel compelled to write something.

As an adult in my forties, I don’t believe anything any celebrity says, ever. When you’ve watched the President of the United States lie to the entire country on television under oath about not having a sexual relationship with his intern, why should we believe anything anyone else has to say? Musicians routinely cancel concerts due to exhaustion (read: drug overdoses) and “happily married” Hollywood couples get divorced every day. I put as much stock in the evening news as I do the National Enquirer. Entertainment reporting has always been more about entertainment than reporting, and once you reach my age, it’s not even that entertaining.

Ever since the Thunder spectacularly imploded during this year’s playoff run (blowing a 3-1 game lead against the Golden State Warriors), rumors began to swirl that Kevin Durant — our hero — might leave Oklahoma City. These rumors sparked a lot of online speculation and local watercooler talk, but for me personally, it caused my two kids — one of whom has his entire bathroom decorated in Oklahoma City Thunder memorabilia — to ask me what Kevin Durant was going to do.

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Now of course I don’t own a crystal ball (and surprisingly my tweets to Number 35 went unanswered), but I did have some good information to go on. Based on what I know about Kevin Durant, what his teammates said about him during their exit interviews, and what I learned from watching the evening news, reading articles, and listening to podcasts, I was 99% sure Kevin Durant was staying put here in OKC.

On October 15, 2008, Susan and I attended the very first pre-season home game of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Back then the Thunder were ranked 30th out of 30 teams, dead last in the league. Despite being “nothing,” the Thunder never gave up, and only lost by two points to the Los Angeles Clippers (98-100). Durant may not have been the team’s de facto leader back then (Nick Collison, Nenad Krstic and Desmond Mason were all crowd favorites at the time), but the team went down swinging. They fought like hungry, scrappy dogs.

They weren’t quitters.

April 1, 2014 was Thunder Appreciation Day. Season ticket holders were invited to a special event at the Chesapeake Arena. Among other activities, my kids were invited to go down to the court and shoot a few baskets with Thunder players.

Here’s Morgan, shooting shots with with Russell Westbrook.

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And here’s Mason tossing up a wild two-handed shot after being fed the ball by Kevin Durant.

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After the fun and games were over, the team’s big four — Durant, Westbrook, Ibaka and Collison — took to the stage. The quartet was asked a series of questions through a panel moderator. The final question was a tough one. Someone asked Kevin Durant if he planned on staying in Oklahoma City or leaving.

Kevin picked up the microphone and said, slowly and deliberately, “I will retire as an Oklahoma City Thunder player.”

The crowd went wild.

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I know you can’t hear it, but this is a picture of Kevin Durant saying those words. I heard it, my kids heard it, and the 10,000 Thunder fans who came down to the Chesapeake Arena to support our local team heard it. So when my kids came to me and asked if Kevin Durant was going to stay in Oklahoma, I told them I knew he would.

Because he told us he would.

Kevin Durant’s decision to leave Oklahoma has affected more than just sports fans. Sure, Thunder fans were upset and disappointed that he chose to leave, but others were affected as well. Between volunteer work, donations, and community outreach, Kevin Durant has done a lot for Oklahoma off the court, too.

There’s an Oklahoma ethic that’s hard to define but easy to see. Drive around town and you’ll having complete strangers smiling, greeting, and waving at you. Walk into any restaurant or store and you’ll have someone hold the door for you. During times of crisis — the Murrah bombing and tornado destruction come to mind — Okies band together. They help one another. They rise to the occasion. They don’t quit, they don’t take the easy road, and they don’t walk away from a challenge.

“But Rob,” I hear you say, “Kevin Durant isn’t even from Oklahoma. He was born in D.C. and went to college in Austin, Texas. He’s not an Okie!”

Exactly.

While maintenance personnel was busy peeling posters of Kevin Durant’s face off the windows of Chesapeake Arena and whoever manages the social media accounts of KD’s restaurant were busy squelching sarcastic Yelp reviews and deleting hateful tweets, Tim Duncan announced his retirement from the San Antonio Spurs. Drafted in 1997 to the third worst team in the league, Duncan spent his entire career — nineteen straight years — in San Antonio, helping his team win a total of five NBA championships. Like anyone who spends two decades playing in the league Tim Duncan has accomplished a lot of amazing things, but perhaps the most amazing one is that he helped build a nearly last place team, and lead them to the finals every year. I wish he had shared with Kevin Durant what that felt like before he left.

Then again, comparing Tim Duncan and Kevin Durant is unfair. At 40 years old, Duncan, like me, is a member of Generation X. Durant, age 27, is Generation Y. According to Jason Dorsey, an expert on Millennials, here are three of the defining characteristics of Generation Y (people born between 1977 and 1995, like Durant):

– Gen Y often has a feeling of entitlement.

– Gen Y loves instant gratification.

– Gen Y is known for having big expectations but not always knowing or valuing the steps involved to reach those expectations.

When discussing Millennials and the workplace, Dorsey adds the following: “Gen Y is the only generation in the workforce that has never expected to work for one company their entire lives.”

Maybe I didn’t need a crystal ball, after all.

At the end of the day, “sports is sports.” Players (and sometimes franchises) come and go. Sometimes as fans, we feel like our loyalty to a team somehow translates to a player’s loyalty to that same team. It doesn’t. Players are frequently lured away by promises of mega-million-dollar deals and promises of championships. I’m not so delusional as to think hobnobbing with the rich and famous in Hollywood isn’t more fun than cow tipping in Oklahoma. While I can’t blame my kids for taking down their tributes to Kevin Durant, I hope he finds in California what Oklahoma couldn’t offer him.

I just hope he doesn’t tell anybody he’s an Okie.

Dealing with Doo Doo

So our rented RV has two waste water tanks: one gray, one black. Water that goes into the sink and the shower ends up in the gray tank. Anything that goes into the toilet ends up in the black tank. All of it eventually ends up in a hole in a ground. The owner (or renter, in our case) of the RV gets the esteemed honor of putting it there.

As I mentioned yesterday, there’s a panel inside the RV covered with switches and little lights that allows you to control and monitor features of the vehicle. This morning, after eating a bowl of oatmeal and drinking a large mug of coffee, I retreated to the RV’s luxurious 3’x3′ bathroom and pooped. I’ll spare you the details, save for the part about how I ended up with one leg in the shower, with toilet paper in one hand and a can of air freshener in the other. And when I was all done, believe me, try as that little vent fan could, I sure wished I was not in that tiny hot poop closet.

When I walked out of the bathroom, a new light was blinking on the wall. The black tank was now full.

For the most part we’ve only been doing “number ones” in the RV while saving “number twos” for rest stops, restaurants, and bath houses. I have no idea how big the black tank on this RV is, but … this is all science I just don’t know. I don’t know how much waste comes out of people on average and how big the tank in this RV is to hold it — math was never really my strong suit — but at the end of the day, you don’t need to know any of that.

When the light comes on it’s time to empty the tanks, and that’s all you need to know.

Every RV campground (I’m assuming?) has a place where visitors can dump their tanks. If you were hoping for a high-tech solution here, you will be disappointed. Dumping your tanks involves connecting one end of a big black hose to the RV and sticking the other end down into a hole — far enough that it won’t pop back out, but not far enough to touch “anything” that we all know is down in that hole. Once you are absolutely sure the hose is properly connected, you pull the black handle first, followed by the gray handle. The black handle dumps all the poo poo and pee pee out of the black tank into the hole in the ground. The gray handle dumps all the sink and shower water through the same hose, ostensibly also flushing out anything that was left in the hose. There’s no motorized suction thing performing any of this magic — it’s just you, a (thank God not transparent) hose, and good ol’ gravity.

Oh yeah… and, your nose. The black hose may be liquid-tight, but it sure isn’t odor-tight, I can tell you that. Plus, the other end is literally plunged down into a hole full of other hombres’ caca. There’s no seal around that end at all. I’m sure with a flashlight you could see things that could never be unseen down there.

Aaaaaand… that was pretty much it! With the tanks empty we drove the RV back around to our parking spot, hooked back up to power and water, and set out in the rental car to explore Santa Fe!

(Also, Santa Fe business owners, if you saw us using the restroom in every restaurant and museum we visited yesterday, now you know why.)

RV Adventures!

On Wednesday, Susan, the kids, and I rented an RV and headed west.

Specifically, this RV:

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Neither of us have ever driven or even ridden in an RV, so this is my first impression: after watching a couple of YouTube videos (“your model may vary”), we picked up our RV (our model most definitely did vary). In about 5 minutes we learned about the generator (it runs pretty much any time you’re not parked and plugged into A/C), there are water tanks (black and grey), a water pump, two slide outs (“slide ’em out far, not too far, but far enough, just right”) and a slew of other things.

The generator has been the biggest learning curve. If you want power to the “box” (the back of the RV), you either need to be plugged into an A/C outlet at a park, or the generator needs to be running. Even when you’re driving, the generator runs, and uses approximately one gallon of gas per hour. It also uses oil, so you have to check the oil every 8 hours. Also, because it’s the summer and it’s hot, the generator can overheat. When that happens, all you can do is wait. While you wait, nobody in the back of the RV has power. Or air conditioning. Also, the generator can run the air conditioner, or “everything else,” meaning if you’re sliding out the slides, making coffee, running the microwave, or anything else, if you don’t turn off the A/C, you’ll kick the breaker.

On day one we stopped in Amarillo after four hours of driving. Boy, were we glad to get away from people!

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This morning I learned that campers like to talk to other campers. Next to us were Fred and Millie, a retired couple from Houston who had spent ten days at Lake Texoma. Millie saw me eating Spam and commented that her grandmother used to cut up Spam and put it in their macaroni and cheese. Fred had a good time fishing, but there sure were a lot of snakes out this time. By the way, I never asked Fred and Millie a single question — this is all information they offered up simply because I was outside at the same time they were.

Eventually most of the other campers left and we had the place to ourselves. It was nice.

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This morning we drove from Amarillo, Texas to Santa Fe, New Mexico — another four hour drive. So far we’ve spent approximately $200 on gas. The RV, aerodynamic she is not.

We’re now set up for the next couple of days. Mason can’t get the Wii to work right with the TV in the RV and the remote is dead so Susan and the kids are off to the store to buy some batteries and whatever else we’ve forgot.

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Three Years with the WRX STi

It’s been three years since my wife bought me a car on her birthday. It was a weird and wacky thing to do.

We’re weird and wacky people.

Today is my final maintenance appointment covered under warranty. I’m getting my fluids changed, tires rotated, and a few small items repaired for free for the last time. As the mechanics do their thing, I have a few minutes to reflect and do mine.

The Subaru WRX STi is a fun car to own and drive, there’s no denying that. Some of the big boy V8s will kill the STi top end, but with a sub-5 second 0-60 time and a low 13 second quarter mile, it can hang with most of them around town. Throw a corner or two into that track and the Subaru will leave them all in the dust — or rain, ice, or snow. I’ve found it almost impossible to separate the tires from the road, even when intentionally attempting to do so. To “burn rubber” you’ve got to disable a series of electronic safety systems, but the one time I disabled the all-wheel drive, shifted the power to the rear wheels, disabled the traction control system and popped the clutch, I quickly found my car facing in the wrong direction, wondering what had happened. Those soft rubber racing tires the car comes with don’t help. They may look like tires, but I suspect they are little more than layer upon layers of super glue. My dream of taking off ramp curves in sixth gear is finally a reality.

Based on how I drive the thing (which is “as fast as possible from stoplight to stoplight”), the car has held up amazingly well. I haven’t had a problem with anything under the hood so far. The one part that hasn’t stood the test of time is the dash-mounted “Turbo Boost Gauge” that shows the driver how much air pressure is currently built up within the car’s turbo system. It’s useful if you’re turning the boost levels of the car (which would void your warranty), but provides no useful real-time information to the driver, which is good news as mine has failed three times. The first time, the gauge literally fell apart into two pieces. The dealership obviously reassembled the gauge with glue — the same glue that melted and drooled out all over my dash the following summer. Since then, the gauge has completely stopped working. Again, it’s not like a fuel gauge or speedometer — everytime I look at the gauge I wonder, “What am I supposed to do with that information?” — but seeing the needle point to 0 all the time irks me.

The car also has a few door dings, thanks to Subaru’s attempt to shave every possible pound off the car’s overall weight by wrapping it in metal that compares to that of a soda can. The heft of the car’s doors (or lack thereof) reminds me of the doors that were on my Ford Festiva. I’ve done my best to always park the car away from other cars whenever possible, but almost every time I’ve been forced to park next to another car, I’ve pulled away with a ding on the door. If you’re planning to recreate Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again” music video, I cannot recommend the WRX.

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The STi is a car-enthusiast magnet. I can’t count the number of nods and thumbs up I’ve received from “my people” — not guys in Corvettes or business suits, but mostly younger guys, driving Honda Civics with loud mufflers and covered in primer and racing stickers. Not everyone knows what the STi has hiding under the hood (occasionally I show them) and simply see the car as a blue, four door hatchback. But my people… my people know.

So do the police. I haven’t been pulled over in the Subaru yet, but I’ve been followed more than once. My personally theory is that when they see a 42-year-old man driving the car (and not someone twenty years younger) they move along, but I’ll definitely say I’ve seen more “interest” from black and whites in the STi than I have in my Avalanche. And if they happen to catch me at the right place and the right time, my monthly insurance payment could quickly rise to match or even exceed my car payment.

Susan recently asked me if I was ready to sell the car. “Not yet,” was my reply. The STi has been a fun car. I don’t know that it’s a “forever” car to own, but it’s still fun, so for the time being I’m keeping it.

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That Time I Got Stuck on a Roller Coaster

According to multiple news reports, yesterday Frontier City’s Silver Bullet roller coaster got stuck and eight people had to be rescued. The roller coaster stopped just shy of the first drop around 4:30 p.m., and the final eight passengers remained trapped on the coaster until 5:55 p.m. While they waited, emergency personnel served them cold bottles of water.

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The reason those passengers were trapped and could not exit the coaster is because the emergency stairs only go to the very top of the hill and not past it, where the first few cars were located. Ask me how I know this.

BECAUSE I HAVE BEEN TRAPPED IN THE SAME PLACE ON THAT SAME ROLLER COASTER!

The year was 1990. Jeff, Andy and I all had our drivers licenses and decided to purchase combination Frontier City / White Water passes for the summer. We had a blast.

One hot summer day, Jeff and I visited Frontier City together. (Andy had to work.) Like those people yesterday, Jeff and I boarded the Silver Bullet and said to ourselves, “What could possibly go wrong?” We even got the front two seats — how exciting! The coaster chug-chug-chugged its way up the first big hill and, just as our car passed over the top of the hill… everything stopped.

“Maybe it’ll start up again?” we wondered, but it didn’t. Five or ten minutes passed before employees began making their way up those same emergency stairs. If I recall correctly, there were two cars (ours and the one behind ours) that had passed the point of no return. After half an hour, everyone else was evacuated from the ride. That left Jeff, myself, and a few others to hang out in the August heat and twiddle our thumbs.

No emergency crews or news reporters showed up to save us that day, and nobody served us cold bottles of water. The way I remember the story, a breaker on the coaster had tripped, nobody at the park had the authority to reset it, and we were stuck up there until someone was able to track someone down who could approve it. I don’t know that that’s the truth, but I know that’s what we were told. We were also told that they were unsure if the coaster would make it through the loop with only a few of us sitting in the front of the ride. I always thought that was baloney until a few years ago when a flight attendant told me I couldn’t change seats on a plane because it would throw off the balance.

After a long time (we both went home with sunburns), someone reset the breaker, the coaster clicked forward, and the eight of us sitting in the front two cars set off on our own personal roller coaster ride.

(We made it through the loop.)

Again, nobody served us cold drinks, and our little incident wasn’t covered by the Australian news. It was just another story that we got to stick in our back pockets.

A Cloudy 11th Birthday

Sometimes when it rains it pours — both figuratively and literally.

Morgan’s 11th birthday party was last Sunday. The weather report for the past two weeks (and the next 2 months) was “dry and hot.” Literally, our local weatherman said, “It’s going to be hot and dry for the next three months.” So we scheduled a pool party for the end of June for Morgan, and an hour before the party was set to start, storm clouds rolled in.

Again — in Oklahoma, in the middle of summer, in the middle of a heat wave.

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You just haven’t lived until you’ve tried to explain to twenty kids in bathing suits that they can’t swim in the city pool you rented. The danger of course was not the rain itself, but lightning. Each time the lifeguards spotted a lightning strike off in the distance they reminded us that no one could swim for 30 minutes. After several false promises, it was determined that there would be no swimming at all. We made the best of things by eating cupcakes, opening presents, and playing games, but it was all a bit anticlimactic.

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Even though the kids seemed to have a good time, it was still a little disappointing that nobody got to swim. But, since Morgan’s birthday was really Tuesday, we had another chance at making things great.

Then, this happened.

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No, that’s not Morgan’s collarbone — it’s Mason’s. Mason had a friend spend the night and asked if the two of them could ride the golf kart. “Yes, just don’t do anything dumb,” were my exact words. When the two of them returned, all I could say was, “your definition of dumb differs from mine.”

The hospital confirmed that Mason’s collarbone was broken, not in one place, but two. They scheduled us for a follow up with an orthopedic surgeon, and said to expect “surgery for pins and plates,” although that has since changed. Because Mason is still growing, the surgeon suggested we wait a couple of weeks to see if the bone manages to heal itself first.

With Mason in pain and changing doctors appointments, we weren’t sure if we were going to be able to have Morgan’s birthday dinner or not. Ultimately we did, even though Mason’s pain medication wore off about the time we arrived. He’s being a real trooper.

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So, a belated 11th birthday to Morgan, and a “get better soon” for Mason. Mason’s injury has cast a cloud of doubt on our swimming and snorkeling vacation next week.

A New Audio Jack?

Rumors continue to fly as to whether or not the next generation of iPhone will contain a 3.5mm headphone jack or not. As the owner of both an iPhone and some pretty good headphones, I’m not thrilled about this.

The larger version of the headphone jack — the 1/4” or 2.5mm version — was invented in 1878 for telephone operators. You probably remember seeing them those old movies where operators were manually moving cords around to connect people’s phone calls. This same plug is still used today on things like microphones and guitar cables.

I couldn’t find an exact date and when the mini version of the connector (1/4” or 3.5mm) was invented. All the articles I found simply said that they became popular on transistor radios. It seems to me that, at least in the 1970s, electronic equipment that stayed at home (like console stereos) used the larger, original size while portable electronics adopted the mini version. As time went on, more and more items adopted the mini-standard. The first Macintosh computers (1984) used the mini ports for both microphones and headphones, as did my first home stereo, purchased circa 1985. The audio plug on the rear of my Amdek computer monitor also used the mini plug.

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My first handheld radio came with a 3.5mm plug and a single, mono earphone that looked like something you would stick into your ear to keep water out while swimming. Audio quality improved with radios, the Walkman, and the Discman, but the plug never changed. I could take my wife’s Bose noise cancelling headphones that she got for Christmas and plug them into any of those other things and they would work perfectly.

It wasn’t until I started messing around with audio recording that I discovered the wonderful world of audio adapters. In the mid-90s I purchased a small mixing board that used RCA connections for all its inputs and outputs. My guitar had a 1/4” jack, and my computer’s sound card had an 1/8” one. The solution to this problem was as close as the nearest Radio Shack. Years later, I now have a shoebox full of dozens of adapters — RCA-to-mini, ⅛-to-¼, two-to-one adapters, you name it. I didn’t purchase them all at one time but rather as they were needed, but over time I’ve needed them all.

Now, Apple has a history of nudging people along in the “right” direction (or at least what it considers the “right” direction to be). They were the first ones to release a computer without a floppy drive, for example. The difference, of course, was that by 1998, the writing was already on the wall for floppy disks. Yes, many of us still owned and used floppies on a regular basis, but there were alternatives available — namely, the USB memory stick. When the average mp3 is around 5 megabytes in size, a 1.44 megabyte storage container is relatively useless.

Unfortunately for me (and thousands of people like me), just because the industry says a storage medium is dead doesn’t mean it is. Underneath my computer desk is a set of plastic drawers that contain more than 1,000 5 1/4” floppy disks, containing Commodore, Apple and IBM-PC software. I also own an FC5025, a USB interface that allows me to connect an old IBM floppy drive to a modern PC. I also own a Zoom Floppy, which allows me to directly connect an old Commodore floppy drive to my PC via USB.

For accessing 3.5” floppy disks, I have a couple of USB floppy drives.

At my small writing desk here in the living room, I spy seven things with a 3.5mm audio adapter: this laptop, my iPhone, a tablet, my daughter’s ASUS Chromebook, a handset adapter that looks like an 80s phone handset, and two retired iPod Touches (one with a cracked screen). All of those items are within 1’ of my person, right now.

Apple claims two things — that the 3.5mm standard is old and analog (true) and that it’s preventing them from making thinner devices. I own an iPhone 6+. When it was released, some customers complained that they were bending in their pockets because they were so thin. I know that it’s difficult to see into the future when it comes to technology, but I just find it hard to believe that the future of cell phones is being slowed by the thickness of a 3.5mm jack. I suspect this is less about the thickness of their phones and more about greed. Apple’s new proposed audio jack will be proprietary, which means several things. It means new headphones will cost more because companies will have to pay money to Apple to license their audio plug. It also means, if Apple gets their way, that every pair of headphones I own — and I own many — will be obsolete.

In reality what I think it’ll mean is that we (iPhone users) will all end up buying an adapter — probably $20 — that converts “old-style” headphones (read: the ones that have been working fine for the past 50 years) to Apple’s new jack. We’ll all need one and we’ll all grumble about buying them and we’ll all own them, or we’ll all buy different phones. And I’ll have to buy four, one for each iPhone in the house.

For someone who has seen this before and has been buying adapters for decades now, this is nothing new.

300 Keyboards

I’ve scanned in 99% of my old photographs, but every now and then I run across one that slipped through the cracks. This is one of those.

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I’ve told this story before, but right around the year 2000, a co-worker of mine and I attended a local auction for a computer store that was going out of business. At the auction there were large cardboard boxes full of computer keyboards. The opening bid was crazy — something like $20 per box. My friend Don and I chuckled at the price and stopped paying attention. The auctioneer tried restarting the auction at ten dollars per box. Then five. Then, a dollar.

When bidding got down to 50 cents per box, I decided to bid on one. No one else bid and I won (or lost, depending on your point of view). What I didn’t realize was that the auctioneer had changed the auction to a “times the money” format, meaning I had just purchased thirteen cardboard boxes full of monitors for a total of $6.50.

Without a dolly at our disposal, Don and I searched the parking lot and appropriated a shopping cart. The two of us spent the next hour carting keyboards from the store out to Don’s extended-length van. In the end there were something like 350 keyboards, although once I had tossed out all the ones with missing keys and unknown connectors, the number was closer to 300. At some point we called Susan, who arrived just in time to cram the remaining keyboards into the trunk and passenger seat of her car.

The keyboards were all relocated to my garage. They were stacked down the right hand side up against the wall. The stack was roughly four-foot tall and ran the entire length of the garage.

I sold one keyboard to a co-worker for $10, turning an instant profit. I pulled out a few heavy-duty old-school IBM keyboards from the collection, which were heavy and loud and my favorites, and used them for a few years. I tried giving keyboards away to everybody I knew. After everyone I knew was sick of hearing about or seeing keyboards, Susan and I hauled them over to my dad’s house and set them out in a giant pile for big trash pickup.

For another year or so, occasionally we would find a random key from a keyboard in the garage or in Susan’s car.

NBA 2015-16 Rundown

The 2015-16 NBA season was a good one for Oklahoma City Thunder fans. With first year NBA coach Billy Donovan at the helm, the Thunder finished the regular season with 55 wins and 27 losses, placing them third in the Western Conference. In the first two rounds of the playoffs, the Thunder muscled their way past two aging but solid Texas teams: the Dallas Mavericks and the San Antonio Spurs. In best of seven contests, the Thunder beat the Mavericks in five games and San Antonio in six to make their way to the Western Conference Finals to face the Golden State Warriors.

The Golden State Warriors finished the 2015-16 regular season 73-9, besting the previous record held by Michael Jordan’s 1995-96 Chicago Bulls and claiming the best NBA regular season record of all time. The Warriors shattered the previous best undefeated streak of 15 wins by going 24-0 in the beginning of the season. Golden State shattered dozens of records this season, mostly in part to the “Splash Brothers,” Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Curry made 402 3-pointers in the regular season, smashing the previous season record of 286 (he held it). Thompson made 276 three-pointers (the second most in the league) and won the three-point contest held during the All-Star Weekend. This season Curry tied the record for the most three-pointers made in a single game (12) while Thompson broke the record for the most made in a playoff game (11).

Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and the rest of the Oklahoma City Thunder surprised sports fans by going up on the Warriors three games to one. When presented with the odds of coming back from being down 1 games to 3 in the conference finals, Warriors coach Steve Kerr replied, “I don’t think most of those teams were the defending champions.” He was right. Over the next three games, the Thunder imploded spectacularly on the world’s biggest basketball stage, losing three games in a row to end their season and send the defending champs back to the finals.

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Believe it or not, the biggest implosion of the finals was yet to come.

Not so quietly in the east, a legacy was brewing. In the summer of 2010, during a news broadcast so infamous it has its own Wikipedia entry, LeBron James left Cleveland and signed with the Miami Heat. While Cleveland fans were busy burning his jerseys, James won two titles with Miami before returning to Cleveland out of either remorse or obligation. James promised Cleveland fans a championship. “Get on my back,” he said, “and I will carry you.”

The Splash Brothers made early work of the Cavaliers, putting them in the same 1-3 position they themselves had been in against the Thunder. And then… Cleveland — and specifically, LeBron James — came to life.

Winning NBA teams have deep rosters these days. The days of winning a championship with only one superstar are over. Now, it takes two or three to get deep in the playoffs. Golden State’s bench is particularly deep with multiple guys they can count on to score, but one they didn’t count on was LeBron James and his promise to his city and the country.

The 2015-16 finals were strange in regards to fouls. At times it seems almost nothing was called; at others, the slightest grabs made by superstars were whistled. At the end of game six, Curry got so frustrated after fouling out that he threw his mouthpiece and hit a fan, which got him ejected (after he had already fouled out — the first time I can remember that happening). When the three-pointers were dropping, Curry and Thompson looked (to quote the Beastie Boys) “as cool as cucumbers in a bowl of hot sauce.” When they weren’t, the two pouted on the bench, unsure of what to do next.

No team has ever come back from a 1-3 game deficit in the NBA finals… until last night. With the game tied with less than a minute to do, a three-point shot by Kyrie Irving combined with a single free throw point by James put the Cavaliers up by 4 points. The Splash Brothers were helpless to come back, making only six three-pointers combined, tying Draymond Green’s own six from downtown.

As the buzzer sounded the end of the game and LeBron hit the floor crying, it was the shot of Curry sulking on the bench that told the story. After avoiding elimination three times in the Oklahoma City match-up, the Golden State Warriors — a team that broke records by raining down three-pointers and beating every other team in the league at least once during the regular season — couldn’t get it done.

The story this morning is the spectacular demise of Golden State. Soon, it will be the legacy of LeBron James, and how one man was able to lead a team into victory.

In ten days, the story for Oklahoma City Thunder fans will quickly become “is Kevin Durant staying in Oklahoma City?” We’ll find out around the time all the confetti has settled in Cleveland.

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