Spring Break

I ended up taking off this week from work for Spring Break. It has been great to be around the house, getting the yard ready for summer, etc. I’ve also caught up on a lot of podcasts, and earlier in the week we played horseshoes with a set I bought. Because of the rainfall over the past few months, we haven’t been able to try them out until now.

Horseshoes are challenging. The regulation setup means that you have to pitch a 2.5 pound metal horseshoe 40 feet. At first, I fell into throwing them end-over-end, hoping to loop the stake. But then, we looked it up and found an interesting ESPN video that breaks down the way one of the world’s best horseshoes competitors throws. We’ve been trying his method, but it is very difficult to impart the slow rotation he achieves. I think we’ll get it eventually. His method seems to be the canonical one, judging by other horseshoe competitions you can find online.

The last two days have been spent cutting bushes, weeding, trimming, getting the grass to be more uniform (even though most of what’s growing now are wild onions). It’s looking more like respectable people live here now.

I’ve been reading/thinking a lot about two topics lately – artificial intelligence and the blockchain. I’ve come up with nothing revolutionary yet. I taught an intro data science course last semester and it was really great to have to learn all the various AI and ML techniques well enough to explain them to a class of kids from diverse academic backgrounds. I especially took a lot of time to learn how various kinds of artificial neural networks work. I am looking for something practical to use for experimenting with ML. I’ve found readily available libraries like TensorFlow that work in Java. If I use Java instead of Python it will be much easier to take something from the experimental stage to production. Stay tuned.

Finally, I think I had my first migraine headache last night. I have some co-workers who have migraines, but I haven’t ever experienced one. Last night, though – wow. I think I probably got a little dehydrated doing yard work or maybe it was my sinuses. Whatever the cause, I’m glad that’s over.

Alright, dear reader. Hope you are well. I have no idea if anyone is reading this blog. I’ve been blogging for more than 20 years. Probably should have accomplished more in that time that I have, but slow and steady wins the race. If you’re not already following me on Instagram that’s a place where I sometimes post small musical performances. I also post photographs of the hilarious crime report section from the Port Gibson Reveille – a newspaper from the town where my dad grew up in MS.

Post Construction Garage

I really enjoyed watching this contractor’s video. It’s relaxing to see someone do a great job using the proper tools. You can see where he invested his capital in things that result in faster, better work. Take the scissor lift that is long enough to install long ceiling sections — that couldn’t have been cheap, but I’m sure any other company in his space that didn’t have one would take much longer to build a building and get paid for it. He never has to erect scaffolding, and the design of the building required very little cutting of boards or waste.

As a kid, I “helped” my dad build a large open-sided equipment shed in Hermanville, MS and then later I worked on a house with a painting crew in Carriere, MS. Those were the only “new construction” experiences I’ve ever had. For our current house in Starkville, MS, we did tons of renovation (the house was an “as is” sale) but it has all been with existing limitations in place – corners that aren’t square, older building styles, etc. Watching this video and how easy it was for them to install a window was pretty attractive. On our current house, I’ve installed a sliding patio door (where previously there was just a wall) and a large casement window (where previously there was a tiny window.) In both cases, building the new header and straightening up the window was not easy. In addition, I had to take a lot of precautions to seal around the opening and wasn’t working with a house-wrap type environment.

Fishy Auctioneering

This weekend I placed a bid on an old cassette-format multitrack recorder at ShopGoodwill.com. I was beaten by exactly one dollar. It feels fishy to me. I understand how bid sniping works, I guess, but it feels like the person who won had insider knowledge:

Screenshot of the Bid History for the Item

Notice that I bid 43 bucks near the end of the auction, then I got nervous and bid something kind of odd – 107.35. This way, I thought I would be sure to win. It looked like I was going to win and then a bunch of other people put in last-minute bids up to 41.00. And then the winning guy bid exactly one more dollar than my bid – notice above that the “bid amount” and “item price” are the same. He didn’t bid 200 bucks just to ensure a victory, he beat me by one dollar and got it at that price. Now, how on earth did he know to bid 108.35?

Either the Goodwill log above incorrectly states the price of his bid or he actually bid that amount. If it’s the former, they need to fix their website to maintain the appearance of propriety. If it’s the latter, somebody is either a really good guesser or they have insider knowledge. If they are bidding at the last minute based on insider knowledge, then I think that’s probably illegal.

By the way, the device was a Tascam 424. It’s a famous multitrack recorder that was immortalized in the amazing song “Me and My 424” by John Vanderslice. Check out a live performance of it here.

I suppose it goes without saying that if any of you dear readers have a working cassette-format multitrack recorder, I would love to rent it from you. I have some old masters that I recorded on a VestaFire MR-10 and I’d like to convert them to digital before they die. The VestaFire had dbx, so if your player has dbx, that’s a perfect fit for me.

The same guy beat me on an auction for another four track a few days ago – that time it looked more honest:

Bid History Where the Same Guy Cleaned My Clock

Update 3/7/2019: Hey, I managed to win a 424 at shopgoodwill.com at a great low price. I just had to wait ’til the last few seconds to put my bid in. Also, my nemesis wasn’t bidding on this one, so…