My New House, Lacie Mobile Hard Dive, Simplyfing Life, Paper Organizers, iTunes TV, Brain Age, Gray Wolf, Fountains of Paradise

by Mike Shea on 25 June 2006

After two months of mental, physical, and financial work, I am officially a home owner. I now live in Vienna, Virginia - the third best place in the country in which to live. I went from a 690 square foot apartment to a 2400 square foot townhouse. Michelle, my fiance, will be moving in throughout July (although her PC and her dog are already here).

There is something extremely therapeutic about throwing half of your stuff away. If you're planning to move, throw as much away as you can possibly stomach and start fresh - don't carry all that baggage around with you.

Michelle and I now have a great two-person computer room with desks and chairs and wireless internet and everything that two nerds need to live in Cyberspace. Today, in our huge house, we have the two of us, her dog, and my cat all living in harmony - life is good.

I went from having three PCs and four monitors to just a single PC - my Shuttle box - and two monitors, a 24" 1920 x 1200 res Dell widescreen monitor and a little Viewsonic 15" 1024 x 768 email monitor.

Yesterday I replaced my huge Western Digital 160 GB external backup drive with a tiny Lacie 80gb mobile drive. The drive is very small and powers off of a single standard mini-D USB plug. I have Everquest, Warcraft, and My Documents all being backed up to it every night using xcopy to update it with just the newest modified files. All of my music, documents, and websites are backed up as well, making this a true "Life Drive" - a single hard drive that holds ones digital life. I stuck an FTP and HTTP server on it as well so I can upload, download, and serve files remotely straight to and from the drive. I like the Lacie drive but it will be a year before I will know if its reliable.

Constantly and continually simplifying ones life is a great and useful daily activity. Like editing a story, one can constantly remove all of the unnecessary bullshit and just focus on the most important things. This is as true with PCs as it is with anything else.

I've been continually simplifying my PC - stripping it down to an iMac-level of efficiency. I don't have any desktop icons except the Recycle Bin and S-Delete, a file shredder with 3x overwrite (if you think deleting a file gets rid of it, think again). I use the quick launch bar on the task bar to launch my most required applications - currently about eighteen programs and folders. All of my data goes in My Documents and this folder is backed up to two other drives every night.

There's a good Boston Globe article about technologists who shun PDAs and go for pen and paper replacements like Moleskines. They mention a site called that lets you build tiny notebooks from single sheets of paper with weekly, montly, or yearly calendars, sudokus, check lists, and all sorts of other useful things. You can print them out, fold them, cut them, and then stick them in the back of a Moleskine. I made one with five weeks of weekly calendars, two sudokus, and a yearly calendar on the back. This, a Moleskine, and a Uniball 207 (my $1 replacement for the Pilot G2) are all anyone should need for a good organizer.

The Memory Hole hit a snag. Any large archive above about four or five megs will time out on download. For the time being, I am going back to a single text file for notes instead of the funky ATOM feed version. ATOM was a bit heavy for just writing out big piles of text so I took my notes perl script out of mothballs and now I'm back to a single big remote text file. Simple is good.

In the process of moving to our new house, we decided not to get either a land telephone or cable television. This saves us about $70 a month. Instead of a land line, we just use our cell phones.

I'm now a big fan of iTunes and the system it uses to broadcast television shows. I really only watched about four regular shows: Battlestar Galactica, the Shield, the Daily Show, and the Soup. I can get three of those shows for about $22 a season or $10 a month - far less than the $50 a month that cable costs. The episodes are downloaded straight to my PC, no tuner cards or extra software needed since I already have iTunes for music. Sure, I'm a slave to Apple's hideous DRM, but I never really keep the shows more than one or two viewings anyway, so I am not too worried.

I picked up two new Nintendo DS games yesterday, Brain Age and the New Super Mario Brothers, after trading in twelve old xbox and PS2 games. Brain Age is an excellent mental exercise game with all sorts of fun short-duration puzzles. I find myself playing it a whole lot. Mario is also a lot of fun but I realize that I suck now at platformers as I did before. Still, its a great game for a great system. Nintendo sure knows how to do a good game system.

Two nights ago I finished a 12,000 word short story called "The Gray Wolf". It's my attempt at a deeper character-driven story based on Unforgiven, History of Violence, and other tales. I did a lot of background on each of the main characters and the settings but I didn't drive too hard with the plot. I didn't know who would live or who would die, I just let the pen run with it and it turned out ok. Sad, but ok.

I'm reading Arthur C. Clarke's Fountains of Paradise. I tell you, I will never get tired of Clarke describing first contact with an alien species. He does it over and over again in stories like 2001, Childhood's End, and the Star, but I never get tired of it. He really thinks the whole thing through.

So my life has turned upside down over the past two months, but I moved out of my old place and now live in a new one. My hands still ache from building Ikea furniture, but I love the results. Happy days.