Crazy Summer

Crazy Summer

PERSONAL

Crazy Summer

I don’t even know anymore…

Matt “Doc” Perry, Creative Geek, Texas

September 7th, 2018

As I sit here, at my desk, in my house, I think about how easy those words are to type, but a year after Hurricane Harvey, how hard they were to actually make a reality again. Last week was the one year anniversary of when our home flooded. I can still remember to torrential downpour of rain that blanketed the roof all day and all night. There was hardly any wind, the electricity stayed on (for the most part), and we were glued to the local TV weather report. We were watching Channel 11 (KHOU) as the TV station flooded and THEY evacuated, which was an ultra-surreal moment.

At the time I was comparing it to one of those Sci-Fi movies where you hear the “news coverage” in the background of the aliens landing and then suddenly there’s screams followed by nothing but static. You see that in a movie and you’re thinking “that’s crazy, the news wouldn’t just go off the air like that, that’s cheesy”. Then it happens in real life and that little voice in the back of your brain, the irony-center, starts screaming at you to pack up your crap and run.

The mad scramble to put stuff on on tables and in closets is what I remember most from the actually night it started. The amazing “tetris” zen that comes over you when you’re trying to stack your entire existence onto a dinning room table, or as high in a closet as you can put things.

I’ve covered what happened next already. The Cajun Navy boat ride. The dump truck journey across town. The shelter. The helpless feeling.

Then the recovery, and the help we received, and the love we felt. That’s still very real a year later.

Throughout the entire repair process, even when stuff was going all pear-shaped with contractors, when things weren’t working out, when things were delayed, we always had people willing to help. Especially towards the end, when it was coming down to the wire.

The moving back in was a mix of glorious triumph and back-breaking labor. Contractors had delayed and delayed and kept pushing things off. We drew a hard line and said that the 4th of July is our drop-dead date. We were moving in. We scheduled the movers for that Friday (the 6th). As of the 5th, they electricians, the plumbers and the painters were still all not finished. They were painting my living room until 4pm on the 5th. At 5pm I had a friend come help me and we put down laminate flooring until 1am. The movers came at 8am.

Since then it’s been a weird mix of finishing little things (like weather stripping and door thresholds, and unpacking as best we can. It’s taken most of the summer and we’ve only just put a good dent into it. We’ve unpacked about half, but also reduced down quite a bit, and donated most of what we don’t plan on using going forward.

I’m sure it’ll be months until the final boxes go away, but we’re comfortably moved in and unpacked enough that we’re really not missing much. Except the crockpot. I still can’t find the damn crockpot, lol.

Cards

As for cards, there’s really not a ton to say about 2018. I didn’t have anywhere to put them for most of it, so I just didn’t buy any. Don’t get me wrong, I ordered a couple team sets here and there, but I cut way back on ebay and comc orders and hadn’t bought a retail blaster until Optic this month. Sam brought me a couple nice cards the couple times we got to hang out this summer. A really sweet 2017 Museum Collect Rick Porcello tri-relic and an awesome 2006 Papelbon/Breslow duel auto he said he found for $2 somewhere and couldn’t pass up. He also brought me the two photo variation SSPs from 2017 Flagship, Ted Williams fishing and a Mookie All-Star game photo variation. I’d scan them, but the scanner is at my office, which also flooded, which is an entirely other insane story for another time.

As far as major sets go, 2018 was pretty disappointing. Not because I missed out on a set, but because I didn’t really want them in the first place. Maybe it was my overall mood for most of the year, but I just wasn’t in a happy place collecting-wise. When you get right down to it, I just had more important stuff to do.

Flagship is, well, flagship. Heritage was boring except for the inclusion of the B&W “deckle edge” photos, Donruss took a step backward from it’s high-point of reinvention last year and even Diamond Kings was kind of washed out and boring. Stadium club looked nice but I literally never found any. Bowman Platinum was a WM exclusive again and so I never found any of that either. Ginter is “meh”, Bowman is “meh”, and Chrome just came out but 4 cards per pack has always been downright insulting.

The real highlight, for me at least, was Gypsy Queen. I like the design, and the inserts were top-notch this year, but I just didn’t have the funds to try and put a whole set together. So, I got the teamset complete and I’m pretty happy with that. I wouldn’t pass up the chance to build it (anyone have like 400 dupes?), but I’m not going to lose sleep over it.

Games

I did try and keep my sanity with a little digital entertainment this year. I picked up a tiny handful of games for the PS4. I bought God of War and The Show 2018. The Show is an unmitigated disaster and I’m quite honestly done with the franchise. They managed to ruin something basic like a baseball game in the same way Call of Duty has slowly ruined the FPS genre. Micro-transactions, points, coins, DLC, features locked away behind achievements and GRIND to get even little things. Unholy amounts of grinding for levels and games and unlocks. In The Show it’s all about the “Diamond Dynasty” mode and unlocking cards for players to use on your team. Oh, did you want to use Nolan Ryan as a pitcher? That’s take 4000 strikeouts and 500 games as a lesser pitcher, just so you can unlock him. I’m sorry, maybe I’m more “casual” gamer now, but that’s just not going to happy.

God of War on the other hand, was probably the best game I’ve played in years. Complete story, not too many mindless quests, plenty of game area to explore, awesome characters, breath-taking graphics. It was a complete gem and the best $20 I’ve spent in forever (found it on sale somewhere).

I also played Destiny 2 for all of an hour and was very happy it was given away for free this month and not something people are having to spend money on. Wow, has Bungie ever fallen. It’s that bad.

Art

The plan for the “art studio garage” is working it’s way toward reality. As I mentioned above, we’re about half-way unpacked. The rest of those boxes are sitting in prime studio space, so we’re planning a massive garage sale for later this month or early October. Hopefully with a combination of that and more donating/purging stuff we don’t need, I can be putting together a working studio by the end of the year. I’m really really looking forward to it, not just as a goal, but as a creative outlet. Working IT this past year has been interesting, but my heart will still always lean towards creative endeavors.

The end goal is to really make a push into using the creative space for the things we enjoy doing and using extra money from things like custom cards or cut vinyl or photography or painting to fuel the things we’ve always wanted to do as a family. If I can have fun and support my family with a little side-business, then it’s all worth it.

I’ve played around with a few customs as well, just to keep myself busy. Nothing really noteworthy for the moment, but a couple re-do’s of products this year that were a little weak, and a couple fun takes on classics. I’m sure I’ll show those off at some point.

I don’t really have too much else. Just a busy, crazy summer. Just glad to be home.

I’ll just leave this here…

I’m still alive

So, last post I made back in May was about changing hosts and servers. That was an entire ordeal and a drawn out fight with with the old hosting company. In a nutshell, they tried to hold me hostage and told me my stuff was un-movable. They lied, I moved anyway, they can go pound sand. It’s the makings of a more detailed post later on. All in all, it took most of June. The site was up and down, moved, etc. Wasn’t really any point in posting while it was still up in the air.

In July WE MOVED BACK HOME! So, naturally, I’ve been way too busy with that to even think about posting something. Now it’s August. We’re still unpacking and settling in. I don’t know when normal posting might resume, but I am in fact alive and just really busy, in the best possible way.

Be back soon-ish.

2000th Post

2000th Post

That’s an insane number, especially for someone who blogs fairly sporadically and without consistency. It’s funny, I was staring at this blank post editor for a couple days now, not knowing what on earth to write about. There were so many negative topics: birthdays (I don’t like mine), not being in the house for Christmas, this time of year in general and stressful holidays, money, taxes, net neutrality. I could go on, but I won’t. I don’t want to talk about those things. I don’t want to be sad, or depressed, or angry, or whatever the heck this is.

I choose Joy.

I have so much to be thankful for. My wonderful wife and child, the support of our friends and family, an awesome church, a place to stay, a good job. I’m also thankful for this. This little white box I’m typing words into. Sometimes it’s the little things we take for granted. The opportunity and privilege I’ve had to have an open forum to speak my mind for years now is not something that should be taken lightly. Even if no one reads them, these 2000 posts are something cathartic for me personally. I may not post every day. I may not post every week, but when I do it’s at least something I feel like I needed to say.

Sure, some of those things might just be stupid pictures of baseball cards. That happens. Not because baseball cards are important, but because they were important to me at the time I wrote about them. It’s that sense of accomplishment, about collecting, that’s part of me. So, it’s not posts about cards, they are posts about me. That’s what we’re all doing. We’re not writing about things. We’re writing about things in our lives. Things we find interesting. It’s a little slice of our personalities.

So, if it’s a post about me, there’s only one thing I want to talk about.

I just want to say thank you.

Thank you to every person who read a blog post these past few years. Thank you to every person who listens to me ramble in real life. Thank you to our friends who love us and support us. Thank you to my father-in-law, who’s home we’ve taken over these past couple months. Thank you to my company for the time off and the gift-cards to help out. Thank you to my co-workers for being supportive. Thank you even to the government agencies who are trying to help. Thank you to two random guys from Dallas and their awesome fishing boat for coming to get us. Thank you to the local police department and fire department for setting up shelters and driving dump trucks through high water. Thank you to my friends in Dallas, who brow beat me until I accepted their charity, lol. Thank you to everyone who worked on our house, who did demo, ripped out sheet rock and pulled up carpet. Thank you for making us meals. Thank you for every message, email and card you all sent. Thank you to anyone who’s ever sent me a baseball card. Thank you for praying for us. Thank you for everything.

Thank YOU for reading.

 

Resistance

Resistance

I’m trying very hard to resist the urge to go to Target at the moment. Why? Because I have a weakness for shiny cards that I absolutely don’t need. So far I’m winning, but it’s been a struggle this morning. Anyone mind if I vent a little this morning? Cool.

At the top of my rationale for not going to Target is the fact that they won’t have anything I want in the first place. I have three Targets within driving distance, 2 “super” Targets and one smaller original Target. None of them get any of the retail exclusives allegedly available these days. The only retail exclusive I’ve seen in the past THREE YEARS was Bowman Platinum at ONE of my 5 Walmarts within reasonable distance. So, there’s not really any point in going, which of course leads me to believe that “retail exclusive” cards are a giant joke in the first place. What’s the point? Honestly, the card industry is so completely backwards it’s almost, several times, lead me to throwing up my hands and just giving up.

What’s the point in collecting anything that’s impossible to collect? There are no stores I could go to that carry these products, 99.9% of my entire collection has been purchased online on the secondary market. People collect lots of stuff, in a wide variety of categories. People collect watches, and there are watch stores in every mall. People collect action figures and/or vinyl toys, and there are dozens of places to buy them (Hot Topic, Box Lunch, Barnes and Noble, Target/Walmart, etc). People collect books, music, video games, movies, dishes, gadgets, sunglasses, shoes, debt, you name it, it’s collectable. All those things have stores where you could find something you’re looking for. Even the broader category of “sports memorabilia” has stores. I went to the largest mall in Houston over the weekend: The Galleria. It has a hockey rink, 4 floors of shops, a hotel and a dozen restaurants. It has TWO sports memorabilia stores. TWO. You know what both of those stores don’t sell? Cards. I can buy a $2000 Tom Brady signed helmet, but I can’t buy a $2 pack of cards.

So, I ask you, what the hell is the problem with the card industry? It has multiple companies in it, who produce all different kinds of products. You’d figure someone, at some point, would have said “you know, we should probably put cards where people can buy them!”. Gas stations and convenience stores, book stores, sporting goods stores, big box stores, anywhere and everywhere a kid (or a kid at heart) could possibly be enticed into buying a $2 pack of cards. Sure, you don’t want a hobby box of National Treasures at a gas station, I get that, but 2/3rds of both Panini’s and Topp’s product lines would do fine in multiple retail locations.

It’s almost as if they don’t want people to collect stuff. It’s like a club that’s so exclusive you can’t find it, and that’s ok because they don’t want you there anyway.

Just look at the “print on demand” bullshit. They don’t want you buying a pack at a store. They don’t even want you buying a box. They want you buying your cards, from them, for $10 a piece, and that’s just insane.

The entire point of collecting something REPRESENTING something else, is that you like that “other” thing and want to capture a little piece of it. In this case it’s baseball. I love baseball. I live and breath baseball. It’s in my blood. I played, my brother played (and was going to get drafted), my father played, I coached, he coached, we were all involved. It’s enjoying baseball itself that lead me to cards. They were a physical representation of the players I enjoyed watching, and one that I could “keep” long after the season was over. I have never heard anyone say “Man, I love baseball cards, but I just can’t stand watching them play, I hate the game itself”.

Baseball cards are not a commodity, like stock, that you can short, or capitalize, or monetize. They’re not fine silver or gold. They don’t stand separately in value outside of the player and moment represented on the card. Otherwise, a lowly bench player would be worth the same as a superstar. Let’s all face it, a piece of literal cardboard is not and will never be worth hundreds or thousands of dollars.

Fake rarity is also an abomination, and is their solution to their dying industry. 1/1, 1/5, 10/10, gold bordered, red bordered, strange foil patterns and colors do not change the value of cardboard. Red cardboard is the same as white cardboard. Foil stamping does not inherently make something valuable. When you print 10,000 cards, and color one red, you haven’t created something ultra rare. You’ve created 10,001 cards. It’s people who put the value on something. People who decide what something is worth. Wouldn’t you want to put those things into peoples hands? Wouldn’t you want to increase the number of people who think your products are neat, and that they might have value? Why would you then destroy your distribution channels and limit your options?

The only logical answer is that they’re scared. They nearly lost everything by “going big” and pushing cards on the general public. The junk wax era nearly ruined them and they’re scared of a repeat. So, instead of making their products better, and controlling production, and choosing sensible distribution, they’ve decided to change the narrative instead.

If we say something is “rare” then it is, right? If we create a fake supply problem, people will think “hard to find” must be valuable as well. There’s nothing wrong with their printing presses. There’s nothing wrong with their distribution model. This is what they want! Instead of finding new customers, they’re whipping the customers they have left into frenzies. They don’t look down on the secondary market because the secondary market LITERALLY drives the primary market forward. They’ve created a system where the initial market is so bad, it creates demand on the backend.

Imagine if any other product did that. Ice cream for example. If Ben & Jerry’s just up and decided that their ice cream was going to be sold exclusively in Vermont, and no where else, it would create an entire B&J black market. People in Vermont would be buying dry-ice, styrofoam shipping boxes and mailing that stuff everywhere for crazy prices. Real B&J fans would pay anything for some of the good stuff. The rest of us? We’d just pick whatever was in the freezer case at the grocery store and move on with our lives. That would put Ben and Jerry’s out of business, while making the secondary market temporarily rich.

Baseball cards went all high-end / specialty shop / online retailer, and the general public has turned away as a result. They’ve decided to live in their niche rather than break out of it.

Just yesterday I had a good friend tell me that his boys have been super excited about baseball after the World Series. I asked the boys if they wanted any cards and they kind of looked at me funny. Why? Why would they? They can’t afford to buy more. Their dad isn’t going to “hunt” for them in stores, and the retail options they have are disappointing to say the least. When your Target only has two boxes of NASCAR cards on the shelf, next to an ENTIRE WALL of pokemon junk, you’re not going to go out of your way and find baseball cards and start a new hobby you can’t possibly sustain. Right? If I gave those boys cards, where would they get more?

What if baseball cards were back at the checkout in grocery stores? What if they were in convenience stores? Maybe people would buy them, maybe they wouldn’t, but there’s no way to know unless something changes. It doesn’t even have to be all the products. Why not just flagship Topps, or Donruss for Panini? If there were packs of Flagship next to the gum at the checkout line, I would buy a pack each and every time I went to the store for something. I would. I also know that it’s a gateway product. Maybe I buy a pack here and there and all of a sudden I’m interested in buying more for “my team”, or maybe I want to buy the set now. Maybe I see what other products are out there. Maybe I become a collector. Maybe THEN I end up online, or in a specialty store.

It just seems like an industry that’s in desperate need of fresh blood should be doing everything it can to get at least a gateway product in front of new customers. Otherwise they’ll be stuck with a bunch of old grumpy dude trading slabbed and graded Aaron Judge cards online until the industry finally dies.

Computer Conundrum

Computer Conundrum

So, I’m at a bit of an impasse in regards to rewiring the technology in our house. I was hoping some of my tech professional friends could offer their $0.02 and point me in the right direction. Here’s the deal:

With the house/walls open and with me switching rooms in the house for my study/man cave, it’s the perfect opportunity to do things like run Cat-6 everywhere, wire for speakers, and set up a “proper” server closet. Running the actual cables I can do, I’ve done that before. The server configuration has me a bit perplexed though.

The set up I was using prior to the flood was: 2 PCs, 2 TVs with Roku boxes, 2 game consoles, and 1 older PC with FreeNAS installed acting as both a file server and Plex media server, and average coverage (from the AT&T box) wifi. The PCs, TVs, consoles and Roku boxes were all hard-wired within the network. I did drops of Cat-5e when we moved in. There were two 8-port switches on the network as well.

My immediate goal is to upgrade 1 of those PCs (my personal machine), as well as the server (storage), and to wire the house for anything and everything I might need in the future.

Here’s what I have at the moment for hardware to either use or to gut and Frankenstein something together with:

  • 3 older (2008) Mac Pros (Snow Leopard and Lion)
  • 1 slightly less old Mac Pro (mid 2010 – Quad Core Xeon) running El Cap (10.11.4)
  • 1 super old Dell (Precision 690 – older Xeon)
  • 1 slightly less old Dell (Optiplex 960 – Core 2 duo), might be dead from flood
  • 1 older custom PC (Intel z77, older gen i3, 8G DDR3)
  • 1 newer (wife’s) custom PC (newer gen i5, 16G DDR3)
  • 1 ultra old Frankenstein PC (Athlon 6400?) – Current server
  • 2 8-port Netgear Pro GS308 switches
  • 1 Netgear Nighthawk Gigabit wifi router (new!)
  • 1 very old 24-port Linksys rack-mounted managed switch (10/100 only)

I bought the Nighthawk just last month to accommodate us at my in-laws house while we’re staying there. Their house is a dead-zone for cell signal and their old wifi only went about 20ft. The Nighthawk covers half the neighborhood. It’ll come with us back to the house when we’re done, so I’m not concerned about the wifi at the moment.

The question is, do I use the last PC I built and turn it into a server (the older gen i3) and add storage, or given it’s age and that it was built for gaming and gives off tremendous heat (much more than your average Xeon or HTPC), do I just retire it and built not only a new PC, but a server as well? I could stuff the thing with IcyDock hard drive trays and hope the heat doesn’t kill them.

Or, if I build a server, what’s a good (and current) option as far as hardware, given that it’ll be literally in a closet? Do I build or would something like a Synology NAS also work? I need something to run cool and silent but have enough horsepower to trans-code 1080p to the TV in the living room. It’s primary job will be as a Plex server. I also want to do things like setup a PiHole, DD-WRT and/or possibly a VPN, Sonarr, Radarr, Couchpotato, and be able to access OwnCloud or SyncThing from the outside. Would any of the old hardware work for those things? Should I built a server box that can handle all that, or use specific older systems for specific tasks?

I also want to run Cat-6 to at least 6 rooms, if not more, with multiple lines per room. The living room for example, will need at least 4 lines (TV, Roku, game console/bluray), or 1-2 lines and a switch. I’m thinking I’ll need at least a 24-port switch in the closet. Any recommendations on panels, or ways to organize all those cables coming into the closet?

Lastly, I’m planning on venting the soon-to-be server closet with a ceiling mounted “silent” bathroom fan, but I’ll need some way to store all these things in a small hallway closet. I do, technically, own a rack. It’s an old 8ft HP cabinet, got it at a yard sale, no joke. Should I put a rack in a closet, or just use shelves?

Any thoughts, ideas, configurations, tips, etc. would be very very helpful at this point. Although I dabble, network configuration is not my forte. I tend to “cobble together” what I have sitting around, and for once I’d like to do this properly and future proof it a bit. HELP!

 

 

Where did October go?

Where did October go?

Where the heck did October go? I swear it was just September and I was posting about cleaning out soggy drywall from the house. That’s moving slowly by the way. I know I haven’t been updating because, honestly, it’s kind of a bummer to think about as it’s happening. We’re still a long way off from being back in the house. Funding has been secured though and we’re moving forward with bids and estimates from contractors. The plumbing work has begun in earnest. It needs to happen first before walls get closed up. We decided to do a whole house re-pipe. Every wall we opened up exposed more and more old galvanized pipes. They were deteriorating pretty badly, some nearly rusted through. It made more sense to do it all while the walls were open than to put drywall back only to have to tear it out again if we had a leak or a plumbing problem down the line. The same goes for the electrical. The house has old 14-guage un-grounded wiring. It makes more sense to do that now rather than risk a fire (or something just not working) later on.

So, when people ask “are you done with the house yet?”, and I just kinda laugh and say “no”, they get confused. Most people are thinking it was just a matter of putting sheet-rock back and moving on with our lives. Nope. While we could have, and did contemplate that, it made more sense to do all these actual repairs and improvements. Yes, it will take ten times as long. Yes, we won’t be back into the house for at least another two months. Yes, it’s expensive. It’s also getting all those “remodeling” projects that people do over their lifetimes completely out of the way all at once. Seriously. I won’t have to re-tile a bathroom, update a living room, repaint a bedroom, refinish a cabinet, or any of those other weekend DIY projects FOR DECADES. That’s kinda neat.

There’s other projects that have a higher chance of actually happening now as well. A home server rack for example. While I haven’t decided if I’m going “rack mounted” or “old PC in a closet”, there’s going to be some network upgrades happening for sure. I’ve already gotten the ok to take over what was the wrapping paper closet in the hallway, and I’ve been looking up ventilation solutions (hint: silent bathroom fans, who knew?!) and wiring ideas. If anyone has any expertise in that, I’d love to pick your brain.

The other thing that’s kinda neat is that I might be able to “finish out” the garage. We’ve already gotten it sheet-rocked and last weekend we installed a window A/C unit to keep the room cool. We’re using it as storage for the furniture that was salvageable. So, it’s filling up quickly, but it’s cool and dry, and after all is said and done, it’ll make a great work space for all sorts of other fun stuff. I’ll have new walls, A/C, and I’ll probably epoxy the garage floor when we’re done with it.

So, where does that leave us? Well, we’re about a mile or two down a very long road. Lots and lots of hard work ahead. We’re trying to save money any way we can while getting the most out of the remodel. So, that means things like sanding, cleaning, demoing, putting down laminate floors, putting up drapes, painting, etc, will all be done by us. The harder stuff like plumbing, electrical, AC, tile and cabinets will get handled by our collection of professionals.

I feel weird posting about stuff other than baseball, baseball cards, BBQ, and everything else I normally enjoy. There just hasn’t been any time for that stuff. It’s going to be a long, tiring winter. We’re up for the challenge. It just might not make for interesting blog posts. Hopefully we’ll get back to normal soon. Fingers crossed.