I watch a lot of television. Because of that, I see a lot of commercials. Over and over again, I see the same commercials. Little by little, they drill their way past my disinterest to lodge brand names in my forebrain.
The worst of them are the drug commercials, with their happy people living happy lives. It’s rare that you can actually tell what condition a drug treats from the commercial alone- there’s a lot of couples walking on the beach, a lot of people playing with their children, a lot of people biking and hiking and dancing.
The mystery of what the drugs are for isn’t what got my attention though, it’s the names of the drugs. The names in these commercials are so multisyllabic and ridiculous that I started to play a little game with myself: Is this a drug from a pharmaceutical commercial, or an alien race from science fiction?
I think this is really funny, so I started to keep a list on my phone. I got this far along before I stopped:
The really ridiculous part is that I made this list a few months ago, and I’ve actually forgotten some of the alien species I added to the list.
Several of the other Nano Poblano participants this month have posted entries which led me to respond with comments about the set of rules that I have taken to calling my Prime Directives. Yes, that’s a nod to Star Trek, because of course it is.
Obviously I have to obey certain rules and customs to get along in this world, like wearing clothing to the grocery store and so forth. “Thou shalt not give people involuntary haircuts.” Aside from the basics, I don’t have a lot of rules though.
Being an adult with no real requirements on my time besides work and basic existence means I can pretty much do my own thing, and that means I get to set my own rules for getting along in life.
That’s where my Prime Directives come in.
This may not be a complete list- sometimes I add or remove directives on the fly, as they occur to me. I might also have forgotten something as I write this up.
For this precise moment in time, at least, and in no particular order, this is my list of Prime Directives.
Rule the first: Be kind.
This means exactly what it says. I try to be kind to other people, and I hope very much that when most people think of me, they think of me as a kind person.
Sometimes I’m bad at this one. Very few people in this world have seen me truly angry, but those who have seen my anger know that I can be a spiteful, vindictive, cruel bastard. I have Bruce Banner’s problem. It’s always there, the rage, right under the surface. I try to negate that as much as possible by choosing to be kind whenever possible.
It seems like the thing to do.
Rule the second: Never eat anything bigger than your head.
This one is lifted from a 1976 B. Kliban book I read when I was a kid. When I was little, it was funny to me, but as I got older, I realized it’s actually really, really good advice. I have stomach issues, and eating too much is a trigger for Very Bad Things to happen to my digestion. Plus I could make some earnest noises here about moderation being good for you, I guess.
Rule the third: Share the music.
Music is life. Music is very often the one thing that truly saves what’s left of my sanity – if I don’t listen to it for too long, I get cranky. It calms me, reduces my anxiety, helps me concentrate, and elates me.
If I had to choose, right now, between a life without delicious food or a life without music, I would say “sign me up for the cream of wheat, and then let’s go to a concert.”
It’s precisely because I love music this much that I believe it’s important to share it. When I was in high school, I made mix tapes. Later in life, I made mix CDs. Even now, sometimes I’ll put together mixes to share with people- the method changes over time, but the goal is always the same: “Let me play this amazing song for you! I hope you love it as much as I do!”
Music is life. Sharing the music means sharing life. It’s that simple.
Rule the fourth: Embrace your whimsy.
I am a silly, silly man, and don’t you forget it.
My second favorite thing to do with other people, right after sharing music, is to make them laugh. I’ve said on numerous occasions that my resting state is whimsy, and I think that’s basically true. If I am drained of my other emotions, and free of anger or ennui or despair, then what remains is just pure unbridled whimsy.
Leaning into my own whimsy helps me keep things light. Embracing my inner Muppet keeps me balanced.
Rule the fifth: Never wait longer than 70 minutes for a theme park ride.
This one is just good common sense for logistical planning. No ride is worth standing in line for more than an hour and ten minutes when you’re surrounded by the entire rest of the theme park. Especially when the entire ride only lasts five or six minutes. Just go do something else instead of waiting in line. You’ll definitely have more fun that way.
A Questionable Rule the sixth: Nothing good happens after 2 AM.
While I never heard this one articulated until I was watching “How I Met Your Mother,” it’s an often true statement. I can think of many, many times that I’ve stayed up late on the off chance that something cool would happen, only to have nothing happen, or worse, to have bad things happen instead.
I marked this one as “questionable” because I can think of a handful of times that I’ve had really cool stuff happen well after 2 am. Only a handful, though. Most of the time, it’s just better to go to sleep.
Everyone says you should get enough sleep, right?
Rule the seventh: Family is important.
I am fortunate to have a fairly close-knit family. My siblings and I get along really well, despite all the times they’ve tried to kill me. This extends to more than just that first ring of family, too. Just last week, I had lunch with my cousin because she’s not far away and I enjoy her company. It’s important to me to try to nourish those relationships when I can. Speaking of which- Happy Birthday, Older Brother! (Even though I’m positive you’ll never see this blog post.)
Obviously this Directive doesn’t work for everyone- I have loads of friends who don’t speak to their birth family or have disowned parents or siblings over long and sustained pain. That’s why this isn’t just limited to families of blood. Families of choice are important too.
The people you choose to thread through your life are another kind of family. I have friends all over the world, and many of them are, in my estimation, a type of family. There are people in Germany who are dear to me, and people in Orlando, and people in Long Beach, or in New Orleans, or in South Florida.
Family is important, whether you grew up with them or added them on later in life.
Allllllllll the way back on the second day of Nano Poblano, Anyes posted a “Let’s get to know each other” entry on her blog, and it posed a few questions that I thought would be fun to come back to.
What’s the #1 most played song on your playlist?
When I saw this posted by Anyes, I checked the play counts in my iTunes app, and found that “Undisclosed Desires” by Muse was at the top of the list. Well, a non-musical binaural sleep track filled with white noise was actually the most played item, but Muse was right behind.
Here are the top five played (musical) tracks in my iTunes library. It is undeniably a fascinating cross-section of some of the music that makes me tick.
There’s a problem with this list, though. Several problems, actually. First of all, I suffered a library glitch with iTunes on October 5th, 2008. All the data was reset on that day- no song in my iTunes library has a “Date Added” later than 10/5/08, and any plays from the years before are gone. I started using iTunes with my first iPod back in 2003, so that’s five years of play data gone.
Secondly, this question doesn’t specify which playlist. I have many, many, many playlists. Or even which audio source- there is still a CD in my car’s deck, although I’ve forgotten which one- but I used to spin it a lot. Before that, there were mix tapes and soundtracks that got played until they were practically worn out, and I’m confident some of those had more plays than the count on that Muse song at the top of this post.
Third, this question doesn’t take into account things from streaming sources like Spotify, Pandora, and Amazon Music- and you’d better believe I use all three.
Music is life.
I checked my Spotify account, and while I can’t find actual play totals, I can tell what the two most played songs on my Spotify account are. The first is Shriekback’s “Nemesis,” which I love in part because it’s a dance-floor banger and in part because they managed to squeeze “parthenogenesis” into the lyrics and it totally works. The other one is Sam Palladio and Clare Bowen from Nashville singing “If I Didn’t Know Better,” which is an absolute smokeshow of a song.
Clearly, the most played song is flexible, frangible. It can be changed by time, or mood, or salinity, by life events and tragedy or triumph.
Sometimes I just like to hear certain harmonies, certain orchestrations.
I strongly doubt that this has helped you to know me any better.
What is one of your favorite quotes?
I have loads of favorite quotes, but the first one that came to mind when I was writing this post was-
“Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.” The words were Yoda, but the delivery was Frank Oz. This line is from a four minute long scene on Dagobah in The Empire Strikes Back which contains a heap of Yoda’s most famous lines: “Do or do not; there is no try.” “Judge me by my size, do you?” “That is why you fail.” These are all lines from the same scene, but the one that always gets me is this one. If this movie is playing on television and I happen to be walking through the room, I will stop dead in my tracks for this line.
I feel like my explanation for why I like this quote so much is inadequate. I do believe in the shining potential of most people, though, and I think it sums that up pretty well.
What sound do you love?
Anyes already claimed rain, so I can’t use that as my answer. I guess I’ll have to go with the sound of a rolling suitcase moving over sidewalk- that roll-click-roll-click-roll-click sound.
My apartment in Germany was less than half a kilometer, about a third of a mile, from the city’s main train station. People would walk past all the time with those rolling suitcases. Since I had no air conditioning, I kept the window open through most of the year, and that rolling thumping noise became very soothing to me.
Now that I think about it, all the other sounds of the train station are soothing to me as well. On a clear, quiet night, the announcements on the platforms were audible from my apartment. I could hear the sounds of trains rolling in or rolling out in the distance.
I loved all of it.
Now it’s your turn. Care to answer any of these questions?
Last night, about an hour after I finished working a longer than average Monday shift, I opened up Plex to finish watching an episode of Night Court that I had started the day before, and I waited. I waited some more. Then I waited a tiny bit longer.
After a while, I realized that Plex wasn’t going to load my video, and I went into troubleshooting mode- it took me less than a minute to realize that I couldn’t connect into my little NAS in any way- not through a web browser or a shell program. A NAS, for you non-techie folks, is network-attached storage. It’s basically a little computer with a bunch of disks that holds a bunch of my crap. In my case, I had been using it as a storage location off my main computer for everything that needed long-term storage- photographs, important documents, and more.
A moment later and I’d gone to investigate the machine physically- all the lights were solid except one drive light which was rapidly blinking. I let it sit that way for a few minutes, and when I saw no change at all, I tried the usual thing- turning it off and on again. The fans spun up for a second, then the power light started flashing blue and the drive lights all went amber.
Cue the frantic Google research to figure out what the hell just happened, and a short while later I was certain that it was completely dead. There was a design flaw in the Atom chips used in this particular model, and they burn up and stop working over time. Like Roy Batty, my little data robot had always had a finite life-span.
It’s my own fault, I suppose- I had been contemplating upgrading to a newer model for a while, and I guess my little NAS got jealous. It pulled a full Ophelia and basically just jumped in the nearest river.
I am, of course, kidding. This demise was foretold years ago– I just didn’t know it until yesterday because Synology is garbage at notifying their customers of fatal design flaws. The frustrating part of all this for me is that because of the world’s Pandemical issues, it’s a little bit harder to get the replacements that I need to get back up and running. I’ve ordered the main piece that I need- a new host body for my disks. With a little luck, I’ll have it within a week.
My data, on the other hand- that’s a big question for me. It should be ok- the drives were RAIDed so that they protect against data loss. In theory, I should just be able to plug them right into the new console when it arrives and pick up where I left off. The settings, user profiles, and the like will probably need to be set up from scratch, but my data should be safe.
If, for some reason, the drives are scrambled and the drives are unreadable, then I’m still not completely dead because I back up EVERYTHING. I’ve been burned before. In September of 2003, my Windows XP machine crashed and burned. It was bad, people, really bad. I lost nearly sixty gig of personal data. Old photographs, e-mail correspondence- things I will never recover. That crash is why I don’t use Windows for a personal machine anymore. (Well, one of the reasons, at any rate.)
Ever since then, I’ve been fastidious (and perhaps even a little paranoid) about backing my shit up. Each of the volumes on my NAS is synced to a cloud backup service- all my personal data, the photos from trips to 28 countries, the video files stored in my Plex server, and most importantly the music.
Most especially the music.
I lost some of my music collection in The Great Crash of ’03 and ever since then I’ve been hypervigilant. My music collection is, unarguably, the most important data on my machine, and it’s stored in no less than five different places around the world. I will not lose the music again.
So that’s where I am now- waiting patiently for the new shell to put my drives in. The Ezri to host my symbiont now that Jadzia is gone. (I’m kidding again; I did not name my Synology after a Trill, but now that I’ve made the joke, I’m madly tempted to name the new one Ezri.)
Have you ever lost important data to a computer crash? What did you do?
Let’s call this an Appendix, for the technically minded folks who may be curious about some of the technology discussed in this post. Here are two quick notes:
The failed NAS is a Synology DS415+. The flaw was in the Atom chips used by that model. I’ve chosen to replace it with a DS918+. While the DS918+ has the same number of drive bays, it will have eight times as much RAM and built-in support for a virtual machine, which I’m excited to play with. And before you ask why I’m not going to FreeNAS and playing with ZFS – while ZFS is undeniably awesome, building my own kit is expensive and time-consuming and it has no interest for me now. I used to assemble Frankenstein-computers from pieces-parts when I was younger. Nowadays, I slave over a hot server all day at work, and when I’m off work I don’t want to tinker. I just don’t.
I use a variety of backup systems for my data, but the two most important ones are designated as most important because they’re off-site. If my apartment were to fall into a sinkhole right now, my data would still exist in the cloud. (And let’s face it, that happens a lot in Florida for some reason, almost like we’re on a Hellmouth.) There are several great backup services out there, so do your research. I personally use Backblaze for my main computer and Backblaze’s B2 Buckets for the individual volumes of my NAS. I’ve had Crashplan in the past, and the Java app was unwieldy. I find Backblaze to be simpler to use and leaner on my computer.
During a recent group conversation on social media, a group of my friends decided to exchange non-Internet contact info in case of emergencies. After phone numbers and other details were swapped around, one of the people in the group said to me, “I FINALLY have your phone number!”
I would have been happy to give this friend my phone number at any time in the preceding year, had I known that she didn’t have it. Alas, we were caught in that weird social conundrum where you’re missing some piece of information about your friend but you feel like you’ve waited too long to ask.
This happens to me all the time, as it happens. Usually, it’s people’s names. I try very hard to remember the names of people who are introduced to me, but I don’t always get it with the first meeting. Or the second.
With that in mind, I’m declaring an amnesty on all questions. If there’s anything at all you want to know about me, even if you’ve known me for years and you’ve just been too polite to ask them, now is the time. I will answer, within reason, any question asked of me.* If your question is suitably interesting, I might answer it in the form of another blog post. You can ask your question as a comment on this post, or in an e-mail if you’d prefer to ask me something privately. The e-mail address is on the blog if you need it, to the right of this post.
* – If your question is dickish or WAY too personal, I might decline to answer, but I’ll be nice about it.