Operation Empty: How to Waste 28 Gallons of Gas in 96 Hours

scam (n): a fraudulent or deceptive act or operation

Last month my truck was involved in a minor fender bender. After a month-long investigation, Geico determined that I (the guy who was stopped at a red light) was not at fault, and agreed to pay for the damages.

I took my truck to Service King in Oklahoma City. I like Service King for three reasons. First, they do good work. Second, they text me updates instead of calling me. And third, both Geico and Enterprise have representatives co-located there. It’s a one-stop shop; you drop off your vehicle and before you know it, a Service King employee is examining your car while Geico handles the paperwork and the guy from Enterprise hands you the keys to a rental car.

Scams, by their very definition, are designed to trick people into paying or doing things they wouldn’t normally do. When the guy from Enterprise sold me on the idea of letting them fill the car (a Toyota Camry) up with gas, he mentioned that Enterprise only charges $1.69/gallon for gas. What he didn’t mention (until I had signed the agreement) was that they would charge me for an entire tank of gas, regardless of how much I used.

Everybody I mentioned this to said, “oh, that’s how it works.” So, lesson learned. Also, when someone charges me for an entire tank of gas, I will use every drop of it and return your car on fumes. Because “that’s how I work.”

Saturday morning I received a call that my truck was ready to be picked up. Sorry fellas, I had plans. Operation Empty had begun.

Saturday began with lunch at Panda Express. I could have gone inside to eat, but instead I ordered my food to go and ate in the rental car with the engine running and the air conditioner on full blast. Brr!

Unfortunately, Panda Express is only about five miles away from my house, and the Toyota Camry doesn’t use much gasoline while idling. With most of my large lemonade remaining, I drove over to Lake Overholser to enjoy the view while finishing it.

Lake Overholser is a nice place to go if you want to sit inside a rental car with the engine running and enjoy the view. But after a few minutes I thought to myself, “You know what’s missing here? Boats!” That’s when I decided to drive back north and park at Lake Hefner instead. If you know Oklahoma City at all you might be wondering, “why would Rob drive 7 miles south from the Panda Express on NW Expressway and drink half of his drink, only to turn around and drive 15 miles back north to drink the second half?” If you’re wondering that, you’ve missed the point.

And you’re right, that’s not exactly what I did; because while I was at Lake Overholser, I thought it would be nice if I had a squeeze bottle for some water. The first place I thought of was Big Lots, and there’s one pretty close to there in Yukon. So instead I drove to the one off of NW 63rd and May and bought a 99 cent squeeze bottle. Again, let me assure you that if you’re not familiar with the city, this makes absolutely no sense.

THEN, I went to Lake Hefner.

I made a few other trips that afternoon. When it came time for dinner I asked everyone, “Who wants to go to Pops?” Not because the food is great, but because it’s 30 miles away!

Mmm mmm mmm! You know what goes well with bottles of soda pop? The smell of gasoline, baby.

Sunday morning was Mother’s Day. I drove the Camry to pick up breakfast, and later we took it to go visit my mom.

That afternoon, we drove it to go have lunch. That evening, we drove it to the movies. Monday, I drove it to Edmond.

Monday afternoon, I received a call. “This is Geico. We are calling to inform you that this is the last day we are paying for the rental car.”

Sorry, I can’t hear you, Enterprise.

I won’t lie. We discussed putting the car on jack stands and letting it run, or siphoning the gas out into an army of gas cans. You charge me for a full tank of gas, I don’t screw around.

With an embarrassing “79 miles until empty” message mocking me on the Camry’s digital dashboard, I returned the car Monday afternoon, letting the engine run the entire time I was inside signing the final paperwork. If only it hadn’t been Mother’s Day weekend, I could have returned that thing on fumes.

I think the takeaway from this story is that Toyota Camrys get really good gas mileage.

We All Scream for What I Paid for These Geni Ice Cream Cone Cups

That escalated quickly.

Six months ago, after years of searching, I purchased an ice cream cone drinking cup similar to one I owned as a child. The one I found was very, very similar to the one I had owned, but it wasn’t 100% identical. I spent close to ten years looking for one of those cups, so “very, very similar” was good enough for me at the time.

One week after I purchased that cup, my mom found a second green one for a quarter at a garage sale exactly like the ones we had growing up. With a white one and a green one, I was content. I was thrilled. I was done buying ice cream cone cups forever!

Hardy har har.

The one thing that needled me was this picture of the same cup but with a scoop of strawberry ice cream with strawberry (instead of chocolate) on top. That meant there were more variations of the cup out there than what I knew.

Then, someone sent me a link to this eBay auction. Five cones. Strawberry, peach, vanilla, lime sherbet, and chocolate! With chocolate, marshmallow, and orange on top! Now it all makes sense!

(Nothing about this makes sense. I’m a grown-ass man buying ice cream cone cups.)

You can see what the auction went for. Between this and the other cups, I could have bought a lot of ice cream. But what would I eat it out of? Some crappy ol’ plain bowl? I don’t think so!

The greatest thing about that auction was that it finally put a brand name to the cups: GENI. That information’s not particularly helpful in tracking them down unfortunately, as it’s not printed anywhere on the cups themselves. The cones were advertised as being made from “space age plastic.”

The last thing I needed for my cups were some festive straws. We joke about what we would tell ourselves if we could go back in time. There’s no way the younger me would believe that in the future you can just sit down at a computer and type “send me 100 festive straws” and have them magically show up 48 hours later. But that’s what happened.

So now I have six Geni Ice Cream Cone cups made from space age plastic, one Walt Disney-branded cup that’s really close but not exactly the right thing, seven festively-striped straws, and 93 more straws shoved into a kitchen cabinet.

Life is good, man. Life is good.

Thanks to all my Twitter pals who tipped me off to these auctions, and mom for finding the green one at a garage sale. I couldn’t have done it without you guys!

Thank You For Stealing Our Ram Skull

Last week, Susan noticed the ram skull that sits in our front flowerbed was missing.

When someone steals something from your lawn, it’s not always easy to tell exactly when it disappeared. When neighborhood kids broke into my truck at our previous house, I came out the following morning and found my truck door ajar, my battery dead, my glove compartment open, and my GPS missing. I knew exactly what had been stolen, and when.

Lawn ornaments — of which ram skulls are a subset — are different. It’s not like we kept our spare house keys in the ram’s eye socket, or greeted it every day when we came home from work. We have no point of reference as to when the skull actually disappeared. It’s just gone, and it disappeared either last week or six months ago.

In the front yard of our old house we had a large concrete horse. It belonged to Susan’s grandpa, and when he passed away we inherited it. It stood 3-foot tall and weighed roughly the same as a real horse. One day when we came home from work we noticed one of those fly-by-night lawn service trailers parked in front of our house instead of the neighbor’s. The next day, we noticed the horse was gone. I hope whoever took it hurt their back carrying it.

There are several things that bother me about the disappearance of the ram skull. First, unlike the horse from our last house, you couldn’t see the ram skull from the street. Whoever stole it must have seen it while walking up to our front door. That doesn’t mean it was somebody we know — it could have been the mailman, the UPS guy, the pizza delivery guy, or any number of solicitors who ignore our “no soliciting” sign and knock anyway. But it wasn’t someone who noticed it while driving past our house.

Another thing that irks me is that we bought the skull from Rhonda McCanless, an old neighbor of ours who has since passed away. I don’t know why that makes the theft seem more egregious, but it does.

I guess what bothers me the most is that I have four security cameras mounted on the front of my house. The system stores slightly more than a month’s worth of video. If I had the time, I could watch a month’s worth of video on Fast Forward and try and spot when it disappeared. I haven’t completely ruled it out; I just haven’t had the time to do it. It pisses me off that having a bunch of security cameras is not enough of a deterrent.

A Rough Semester Comes to an End

Wednesday, January 18, 2017, was the day I realized I had made a mistake. It was 9 p.m., and my third class of the evening had just ended. I was exhausted, and I still hadn’t eaten dinner. That day, and every Wednesday for the next four months, I woke up at 5 a.m., started work at 6 a.m., worked eight hours, left work and drove directly to Norman, ran to make my 3 p.m. class, sat through three back-to-back-to-back classes until 9 p.m., and then made the hour-long drive back home. As I stepped out into the cold January wind that Wednesday evening, I decided two things — that ten hours of graduate school is too many for an old man with a full-time job to take, and that on Wednesdays, I should start bringing a protein bar with me to school.

Mondays were easier — I only had two classes on Mondays — but boy did I grow to loathe Wednesdays. And Thursday mornings, for that matter.

Yesterday, with the click of a button, I turned in my final assignment for the semester. (It would have been more dramatic had I dropped a thick stack of papers on someone’s desk, but almost everything is electronic these days.) I’m a free man, until the fall. I’ve got eight credit hours left to complete, and I can’t imagine them being as grueling as these ten were.

As I neared the end of the semester, I ran out of steam — not just for school, but in life. Last month, I collected a milk crate full of electronics from upstairs that need to go out to the garage. It made it to the front hallway, where it’s been for weeks. My home office is a disaster. I need a haircut, and probably a shower. My blog, ,y podcast, and all of my writing projects outside of school, have been neglected. Tonight, with a beer in my hand, I let the stress of a long semester flow out of my body and look forward to having a few months away from school.

Below is a list and brief summary of the classes I took last semester. I did the math earlier. I was writing in journals outside of class 5 hours a week, watching 1 movie per week, and read approximately 16 books (9 fiction, 7 non-fiction). Add in the work spent on assignments, and I’d say I was approaching that golden number of spending approximately 2x the amount of time outside of class working on projects, which meant 10 hours a week spent in class and 20 hours a week spent outside of class working. (The 4 hours a week spent driving to/from Norman is not included in the equation.)

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Writing Young Adult Fiction (3 p.m. – 4:15 p.m., M/W)

In this class, we read and learned about Young Adult (YA) fiction. In YA stories, the protagonist(s) are teenagers, and the stories are told from their point of view. Modern examples of YA franchises include Twilight, Hunger Games, and Harry Potter. Here were the major assignments from YA class:

  • Read seven YA novels
  • Maintain a reading/watching journal (1 hr/week)
  • Maintain a writing journal (3 hrs/week)
  • Write and revise a YA short story
  • Write 1/3 of a YA novel

    This was my first class of the evening, and a warning of what was to come. We only ended up reading six of the seven novels, which were Six of Crows, Three Dark Crowns, The Thousandth Floor, This is How it Ends, Salt to the Sea, and The Sun is Also a Star. I moderately enjoyed a couple of them. For each book we had to write two pages worth of notes, and come up with writing examples for the class.

    I enjoyed the writing assignments more. The writing journal became a chore after a few months; the reading/watching one was more fun. Writing the short story and the final project (the first act of a novel) were quite enjoyable.

    Writing the Screenplay (4:30 p.m. – 6:20 p.m., M/W)

    The title of this course pretty much says it all. Here were our major assignments:

  • Write the “story of your story” (about your screenplay)
  • Script Outline
  • Writing Journal
  • Annotated Filmography
  • Act I
  • Act II (with Act I revisions)
  • Act III (with Act I and II revisions)

    When a syllabus contains the underlined phrase “This is a work-intensive class” you should believe it. Unlike some classes where there are little assignments and big assignments, this class mostly consisted of big assignments. For the Annotated Filmography we were required to watch 10-15 films, provide detailed ploy analysis for three of the films, and discuss the rest. The original outline of my script took a while to complete, which I might as well have thrown away as my final script barely resembles it. The final version of my script came in at exactly 100 pages. Even though there are less words per page on a script as compared to a novel, I found it took just as much time to write. I had never written (or even read) a script before enrolling in this class, so it was fun to try something new.

    Theories of Professional Writing (6 p.m. – 9 p.m., Wed)

    The goal of this class was to familiarize students with professional writing from multiple eras. The class started with a section on Shakespeare’s Hamlet before before moving into modern genre fiction.

  • Three reading response papers
  • Three analytical papers
  • Two presentations
  • Four articles submitted for publication

    When I imagined what college would be like, this is the kind of class I imagined. In “Theories,” we watched The Lion King, Star Wars and two episodes of the original Star Trek. We discussed Hamlet. We read excerpts from Stephen King’s book about the horror genre, Danse Macabre. During the semester I read and wrote papers over Alas, Babylon, The Amityville Horror, and Rosemary’s Baby. It was the kind of class that gets your creative juices flowing.

    In addition to all the other in-class assignments, we were required to write articles outside of class and submit them for publication. This shouldn’t be limited to students in a single class; everyone in the professional writing program should be required to do this every semester, in my opinion.

  • What May the Fourth Means to Me

    Today, May the Fourth, is Star Wars Day — you know, as in “May the Fourth be with you”?

    Prior to all this “May the Fourth” stuff, the day I most closely associated with Star Wars was Memorial Day. After all, the first six films were all released on Memorial Day weekend (1977, 1980, 1983, 1999, 2002, and 2005). The only other date that remotely reminds me of Star Wars is Christmas, which is when I got the majority of my Star Wars toys. But nobody likes it when I show up for Memorial Day cookouts or Christmas family gatherings wearing my Darth Vader helmet and swinging a lightsaber, so this May the Fourth thing works out better for everybody.

    (I am aware of “Revenge of the Fifth,” but May 5th is already Cinco de Mayo, and a day of Star Wars followed by a day of tacos and cerveza is okay with me.)

    Two week sago in my Theories of Professional Writing class, we watched the original Star Wars film (the “mostly” unaltered version from the 2008 DVD release). It’s been a while since I sat down and watched any Star Wars film on DVD, without commercials or interruptions. Having studied story structure for the past two years, I watched the 40-year-old film with fresh eyes, holding the story’s structure up to Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, James Scott Bell’s Super Structure and the Four Act Film Structure. Forty years after it was originally released, I watched the entire film in a dark room on a big screen, and you know what? It still holds up. It’s a great movie; damn near perfect, from a plotting point of view. The beats are where they’re supposed to be. The characters do what they’re supposed to do. The story, regardless of what else Lucas had in mind, had a beginning, a middle, and an end.

    I was disappointed to discover many of my younger classmates did not share my opinion. Although a couple of students vehemently defended the film, the overwhelming class consensus was that the film was simply “meh.” Once a few drops of criticism leaked through, the dam broke. The effects were dated. The story moves too slow. Luke whines too much. They’re spending too much time in the desert. This film is no Harry Potter.

    I never thought of Star Wars as being a film you “had to be there” for, but maybe it was. In 1978 by the age of five, I already had a TIE Fighter, an X-Wing Fighter, a Land Speeder, and all of the action figures Kenner had released to date. Every one of those toys — every single one of them — are sitting on shelves ten feet away from me right now. And that makes it hard for me to to disassociate myself from Star Wars “stuff” and simply discuss Star Wars “the movie.” It’s hard to extract the nostalgia associated with the franchise and discuss the film rationally when you have a mini-museum in your home and had a Star Wars-themed groom’s cake at your wedding.

    In the long run, what made Star Wars really great is also what ruined it for a lot of people. If you were born in 1990s, you didn’t experience that fifteen year Star Wars drought, the years where Star Wars was largely referred to in past tense. When new toys began appearing in stores in the mid-1990s, it was exciting, especially to those of us who remember seeing rows of Star Wars action figures hanging on pegs in toy stores the first time around. Unfortunately, those toys led to more toys, which lead to more more more toys. After a while it didn’t feel like we were being rewarded; it felt like we were being marketed to, and in some cases, being taken advantage of.

    But that viewing of Star Wars a couple of weeks ago took me back. There were no toys, no magazines, and no memorabilia nearby. It was just me, and the movie, and a few students who had to suffer through me whispering every single line of dialogue in the film. (I’m not talking about lines like “May the Force be with you” — I’m talking about lines like “Oonta goota, Solo?” and “”Ukle nyuma. cheskopokuta klees ka tlanko… ya oska,” Greedo’s first and last lines. I may have seen that film one too many times.)

    For me, the fun thing about May the Fourth is that it’s one of the few things that wasn’t created by LucasFilm as a way to market something to fans of the franchise. There’s no limited edition May the Fourth figure (yet), or thing you have to buy to participate. There’s nothing corporate about it at all. It was created by fans, for fans — not just to share their love of the Star Wars, but to share what Star Wars means to them.

    Sun Valley Garage Sale Leads to VHS Gold!

    Last Saturday was Sun Valley’s annual neighborhood garage sale day. Rain or shine, whether we’re looking for anything in particular or not, we always go to garage sale, because it’s a tradition. Susan, the kids and I arrived at dad’s just before seven a.m. and had doughnuts and drinks (coffee for some, chocolate milk for others) before venturing out. (Note to self for next year: most of the garage sales didn’t open until 8 a.m. — wait until then to go.)

    This year’s garage sales were kind of a bummer. There were a lot of clothes and a lot of furniture and not much else. I had just about given up on buying anything when I stumbled across a box of VHS tapes — mostly store bought ones from the 80s, with cartoons like the Muppet Babies and Dino Riders on them. The tapes were marked at a dime each and instead of counting them out I offered the sellers $5 for the entire box.

    A few minutes later, Susan informed me that she had spied a large box of VHS tapes at a different garage sale. I asked her to go back and offer them $5 for the entire box. They accepted the offer, and now my office looks like this:

    After we got home, I grabbed the first tape from the box and threw it into my VCR. (My VCR runs through my computer, which allows me to take screen shots.) The tape began with a home movie of two girls, each pretending to talk into a telephone, began lip-syncing to Randy Travis’s “I Told You So,” released in 1987.

    In the second clip on the tape, a young man both lip-syncs and sings along with Bobby Brown’s “Roni,” released in 1988.

    What I had found, apparently, was two hours of someone’s home movies recorded in the late 1980s.

    I wanted to celebrate, but there was no time. After sitting through more lip-synced performances of White Lion’s “When the Children Cry” and Chicago’s “Look Away,” a later clip appeared with three girls and “mom” (?) singing and dancing to “My Prerogative.”

    I am here to tell you, this is the greatest tape I have ever found at any garage sale, anywhere, ever.

    Susan thinks it’s creepy that I watched 2+ hours of strangers singing and dancing to hits from the late 80s. I can’t explain how amazing it was to watch. It was like getting invited to the ultimate 80s party!

    Despite buying this tape in the neighborhood I grew up in, I don’t recognize anyone that appears in the videos. I think they must be a couple of years older than me, but other than that I’m clueless. In one skit the teens can be seen reading from an issue of The Watchtower (a magazine for Jehovah’s Witnesses), but that’s my only clue to their identity.

    I tried uploading the clip to YouTube and due to all the music it was flagged immediately for copyright violation. I guess if you want to watch the video in its entirety, let me know and we can have an 80s party of our own!

    The Criminal Case of the Treacherous Trespasser

    In February, Mason made a poor decision and decided to leave his closed campus school for lunch, along with ten of his classmates. (Juniors and seniors are allowed to leave for lunch; freshman, like Mason, and sophomores are not.) When I was in school, kids who left campus usually did so to smoke. Not my kid. My kid got caught going to Little Caesar’s.

    The kids’ path led them out the backside of the school and through an adjacent parking lot, where a police officer was waiting for them. To teach the kids a lesson, the officer cited each of them for trespassing — again, for walking across a parking lot. And when I say “teach the kids a lesson” we know the kids are not paying this fine.

    Trivia Fact #1: A ticket for trespassing in Yukon, Oklahoma is $325.

    Trivia Fact #2: $325 x 11 = $3,575.

    When Mason came home that evening with his tail between his legs, Susan took a look at the ticket and noticed that it had the wrong address written on it. The kids had been at west Vandement, but the ticket said they were trespassing at east Vandement. This was our ace in the hole!

    Trivia Fact #3: Once, after receiving a ticket in high school, I threw myself at the mercy of the court. I told the judge that I couldn’t afford the ticket, much less a hike in insurance rates. I told him I was sorry, and that my parents had already grounded me. I believe the judge’s response was, in not so many words, “Who cares?”

    Susan and Mason went to court in March. Mason pleaded not guilty, and the judge said “come back in April.”

    On April 11 (Tuesday), Susan and Mason returned to court, along with dozens of other Yukon teens, including ten others who had been cited for trespassing.

    When the judge asked if Mason or Susan had anything to say, Susan asked to have the ticket dismissed based on the fact that the address on the ticket was incorrect, and listed a location Mason could not possibly have reached on foot during his lunch period.

    I believe the judge’s response was, in not so many words, “Who cares?” The officer then attempted to immediately amend the citation.

    Trivia Fact #4: Having the wrong address on a trespassing citation does not automatically void it in Yukon, Oklahoma.

    When the judge asked if Mason had anything else to say for himself, he said that he had already received detention from the school, been grounded from his motorcycle, and had to do a week’s worth of yard chores around the house. The judge said “I think these things are better dealt with at home,” found Mason guilty, and dismissed the fine.

    All’s well that ends well, I suppose. I can’t help but think back to all the times I remember kids skipping school when I was a kid. Kids talked about the truancy officer as if he were a bogey man in a suit capturing kids with a giant butterfly net. I remember kids leaving campus and walking across the street to Dairy Queen to smoke and bum cigarettes from customers. Back then, when kids got caught doing this they were either slapped on the wrist or dragged back to the school by their ear. I don’t remember anyone ever getting a $325 citation for trespassing.

    Fender Bender on Main Street

    My family and I were stopped at a traffic light (facing south) last Saturday evening when the accident took place. First, a tan SUV collided with a blue pickup. A white SUV then slid into the blue truck, while the tan SUV bounced off the blue truck and hit my black truck before coming to a stop. All of the other vehicles were, I think, traveling east and west on Main Street.

    I say “I think” because the whole incident unfolded in less than five seconds. As I told one of the officers on the scene, we weren’t 100% sure which direction the tan SUV was traveling, or who was at fault in the accident. It makes you feel really stupid to have to explain to a police officer that an accident happened 10 feet in front of you, and you have no idea what just happened.

    The driver of the tan SUV (we’ll call him “Billy”) was badly shaken, so I did my best to comfort him while waiting for the police to arrive. Billy works at a local fast food restaurant and had just got his SUV out of the shop. Based on recent events, I’d say it’s going back.

    While we were waiting for the police to arrive (which took less than 5 minutes), a well-meaning man pulled up and began barking orders at me. “Make that kid sit down!” he yelled at me. Then he handed me the glass of ice water he was drinking and told me to give it to Billy. “He’s in shock!” said the man. “I was in the Marines, I’ve been shot three times!” I may have been in shock myself as I hard time following the man’s logic (“I was shot years ago; therefore, you will drink from a stranger’s water cup.”) but it must have made sense to Billy because he took the glass and drank it down.

    The blue truck and the tan SUV took the most damage. The blue truck’s front end was so crumpled that the driver’s side door wouldn’t open, and the tan SUV’s airbags had deployed. Nobody appeared to be seriously hurt, and there was no blood. The white SUV had slid into the aftermath of the original accident and didn’t appear to have much damage. My front bumper got dinged and bent, but nothing too major.

    After exchanging information and making a statement to the police, we were back on our way, able to weasel out between the remaining police cars and tow trucks that had begun to arrive. The Avalanche is still perfectly driveable, so I’ll continue to do so until it’s time to take her in for repairs. We spent the rest of the evening chatting with friends about how lucky we were. That’s the O’Hara luck for ya — being lucky in unlucky situations.

    1581 Reasons

    Although I used a Commodore 64 as my primary computer for several years in the 1980s, I didn’t own all that much hardware for it. Two floppy drives, a printer, a modem and a joystick were just about all needed to keep myself entertained for more than half a decade.

    People occasionally ask me if I ever owned a hard drive for my Commodore 64. I didn’t, but not because I didn’t want one. The most popular hard drive for the Commodore 64 was the Lt. Kernal, which held 10MB and cost $1,000. It would have been nice to store hundreds and hundreds of floppies on a single hard drive (instead of in multiple shoe boxes, which is how I did it), but the logistics of buying a hard drive that cost the same as my first car were impossible.

    My friend Justin owned a 1581 disk drive. It was the only disk drive made by Commodore for the C64/128 that used 3.5″ disks instead of 5.25″ ones. While traditional, single-sided Commodore floppies held 664 blocks (170k) of information, a 1581 could store 3,160 blocks (800k) per disk.

    I always wanted one of those drives. Earlier this week, I bought one.

    The 1581 wasn’t terribly compatible with either of Commodore’s other floppy drives, meaning it wouldn’t load most multi-load games and would only run the simplest of programs. Only a dozen or so commercial titles were ever officially released on 3 1/2″ disks, and most of those were utilities. The drive was designed more for storing programs than playing them. Because of that, lots of BBS sysops ended up purchasing them (that’s what Justin used his for).

    There was, at one time, a way to read and write disks designed for the Commodore 1581 disk drive on an IBM with a 3.5″ disk drive. This requires a physical drive controller on the PC (a USB 3.5″ drive won’t work), which rules out most modern PCs.

    At a Commodore convention I attended in 2006, a attendee was selling used 1581 disk drives for $100. “I’ll wait until the prices drop,” I said to myself. I haven’t found one cheaper since… until this past weekend. I paid around $80 for mine, and as you can see, it’s just about as mint as a guy could hope for. The 1581’s box was wrapped in plastic, surrounded by bubble wrap, and submerged in Styrofoam peanuts. Even if the drive hadn’t worked, I feel like I got my money’s worth in packing materials.

    Inside the box, the manual was still sealed inside its plastic container. I spent a few minutes pulling the drive out and hooking it up. Everything works A-OK. Thirty years of sitting inside this box didn’t hurt it at all.

    From what I have read, newer DSHD diskettes (1.44MB) will work with the 1581, but aren’t as reliable as older DSDD (720KB) ones. I’ll have to keep an eye out and pick some up in the near future.

    I do, on occasion, get requests from people (sometimes complete strangers) asking if I am able and/or willing to convert their Commodore disks over to usable disk images. I can, and will. Once, I had someone ask if I was able to read data off of some old 1581 3.5″ disks. Back then I couldn’t. Today, I can — another feather in the nerd hat.

    One Page at a Time

    Stacks of books

    Last week, I read two books: The Sun is Also a Star and The Amityville Horror.

    The Sun is Also a Star was written in 2016 by Nicola Yoon. It is the story of Natasha and Daniel, two seventeen-year-olds living in New York who meet and fall in love.

    The Amityville Horror was written in 1977 by Jay Anton. It is the (probably not) true story of George and Kathy Lutz, two thirty-somethings living in New York who move into the world’s most haunted house.

    I mention them because these are the eighth and ninth books I’ve read so far this year. For some of you, that might not sound like a lot. For me, that’s a lot. According to my records, in 2016 I read nine books, total. Of those nine, seven were biographies. Of the nine I’ve read so far this year, only one has been a biography. Seven have been fiction.

    The more I read the more I kick myself for not reading more, and not having read more. The list of books (especially classics) I want to read is growing. Most of what I’m reading right now is for school, but when May comes, I’ll have a fat queue waiting for me.

    Thinking about all the time I spent not reading fills me with sadness. I hope I have enough time to catch up.