Sandra Turcotte and I have a sort of symbiotic relationship. Among other things, she helps me make
stuff go away. That's often a harder task than you might expect, especially when you have a life
that's chock full 'o servers and network equipment.
Being a terrible packrat doesn't help a bit and, to make it worse, so many of these servers are just so darned
cute. Keeping a few around as spares can work as an excuse when you're talking about two
or three times as many as you actually need, but having ten times as many is definitely starting to stretch things.
I hate throwing stuff away when there's still that lurking glimmer of hope that somebody could use it...and fortunately
Sandy has a talent for finding those elusive somebodies.
Plus, I do have a lot of nonprofits and charities that I work with already, which also helps a lot. At least that
gives me a head start when it comes to finding a home for some stray equipment that has overstayed
its welcome at my house.
Last week I'd gotten a call from Alex Weimer at the Bug Theatre
looking for some video equipment, and he was kind enough to come out and help me clean a vanload of older video gear
out of my closets. They even wanted one of the extra turntables I'd accumulated. That was a surprise, since I've gotten so
used to people looking down their noses at the fact that I have several hundred vinyl LPs and three of my stereos do include
turntables. Personally, I'm sure I have worse faults than an enduring attachment to vinyl, so I think I'll just keep hanging on
to my record collection, no matter what they say. I also managed to get some more equipment hauled off to
Little Voice Productions, so that helped to get me some extra space
in my closets and in the home warehouse.
I have tried other approaches to housecleaning. Garage sales, for example, but those haven't worked out too well.
I think the fundamental problem is that there just isn't enough drive-by traffic these days looking for an old Vax 11/750 to take home.
I think that's because nobody wants to decorate their homes in traditional DEC color schemes any more. I bet if I could
replace the side panels with plexiglass and add some flashing multicolored LEDs onto the main blower, then there'd be lots of
people wanting to take it off my hands.
Well, maybe. It's a thought, anyway.
(Trying to clear out the garage a bit)
Most nonprofits aren't all that accommodating about taking hardware that's older than most of what's in my
fridge. Quite a few will only take donations of new, current model equipment,
which isn't generally the sort of thing I'd be giving away. Or they'll have specific requirements that don't make a lot
of sense, like the program I was setting up with computers which didn't have any working computers at all, but they
also weren't allowed to accept any donated computers that didn't meet a long list of criteria.
Most of their list wasn't hard to accommodate (it just required checking the model numbers of all the component parts
and verifying that they did meet the minimum standards on their list), but they weren't allowed to accept
computers if they didn't include speakers. In order to be allowed to donate computers to this particular program, I
ended up running around town the night before, trying to locate a store with a reasonable sale on computer speakers.
It got handled, but it still strikes me as silly that the powers-that-be who make up these rules would rather have had the
program continue with no computers than have computers that didn't include speakers.
With Sandy, on the other hand, I can just point to a large pile of computers and she'll find a way to get them out
to nonprofit groups and individuals, even if they don't all include speakers. Pretty amazing, and lots less work
on my part.
I do manage to scare up things that she's looking for, too, like these portable CD players for her Christmas
program. This way I can have the fun of finding stuff without always having to worry about what I'm going
to do with it or where I'm going to put it all.
A few weeks ago, Sandy accomplished the near-impossible. I'd had about a dozen office desks to dispose of, and
absolutely nobody would take them. Even the places that keep calling all the time to say that they're going to be
in my area and would I like to schedule a pickup wouldn't accept office furniture. They'll take desks, but they can't be
office desks. Somehow, though, Sandy was able to locate some places that would accept office desks, miscellaneous
office supplies, and the rest of the assortment of chairs and stuff I needed to make go away. Took a whole day of
driving around (and a bunch of gas) on my part to get them delivered, but after that they were gone. Whew!
Now, the latest oddball problem that Sandy helped me take care of was all because standard rack-mount hardware is 19 inches
across. Doesn't matter whether it's a server, professional video gear, or audio equipment, the front is 19 inches wide.
Some telecom stuff is 23 inches, but I don't deal with anywhere near as much of that. Shipping boxes, at least at the
local stores that carry such things, tend to be 16 inches or 18 inches wide, just too small for anything rack-mountable.
Which usually means I either reuse boxes or order them in from Uline, which does carry suitably-sized boxes, but what
happened this time is that I got a call telling me that a place up the highway wanted to get rid of a whole lot of unmarked boxes that were
a good size for shipping rackmount hardware. I don't usually go driving around in search of cardboard boxes, but
this time I did.
But it turned out that there was a catch: they were unmarked brown shipping boxes all right, and they were perfectly well-suited
for rack-mount equipment shipping purposes, but they were full. Not full of something bad like gerbil droppings, live
spiders, or Windows Me documentation; no, these boxes were filled with new, individually wrapped granola bars. (Which was
much better than if they'd been used granola bars; trust me on this.)
So, I found myself with a whole truckload of shipping boxes and a few hundred pounds of granola bars. Now, I don't know
if you've ever had to deal with a few hundred pounds of granola bars before, but, having had the benefit of this experience
myself, I can now tell you with a considerable sense of certainty that even one hundred pounds of granola bars is a lot.
| ...There's no proof, to be honest, that the food disappeared into Jackie.... |
I could have availed myself of the obvious solution, which would have been to use the boxes in question while merely
eschewing the use of packing peanuts in favor of granola bars. While tempting, this did, nonethless, have the drawback
that granola bars are significantly heavier than packing peanuts. Though they are also somewhat larger, the difference in
size is not sufficient to make up for the difference in weight. For that matter, we are getting towards the summer months
and maybe that's not the best time to be nestling one's network equipment in anything that includes chocolate chips among
Quite some years ago, I knew a woman named Jackie who could have helped out with a problem like this. You see, if any
form of food was left in the same building with Jackie overnight,
all instances of said food save one would be gone by morning. It didn't matter what it was or how much there was of it: if
you started the night out with a cake, there'd be one piece left in the morning. If the evening saw a gallon jar of pickles, the
dawn would greet a gallon jar of picklejuice and one lone floating pickle. This never caused Jackie to gain any weight, at
least as far as I could tell, and the food didn't disappear while anyone else was awake and watching, so the whole thing was
really quite mysterious. There's no proof, to be honest, that the food disappeared into Jackie. Nevertheless,
disappear it did. I'm sure that if I could but have located her in time, the granola bar problem would have diminished to a
single bar by morning, which wouldn't be much of a problem at all.
But I really have no idea where Jackie had gotten to in the intervening years, which brings us back to Sandy and her miracle
powers of making stuff go away. As always, she was happy to oblige, and the process of loading the granola bars into her car
while leaving the plain brown shipping boxes behind had a further added benefit, which was that it made the cabinet under my
kitchen sink accessible again. (Why do I save plastic grocery bags anyway? I'm sure I couldn't have been anticipating a need
to bag hundreds of pounds of granola bars all this time. And now that I can see the pipes in there again, why am I going right
back to my old habits of filling it up with plastic grocery sacks? We may never know the answers to these questions; but, then again,
we may never care either.)
So we transferred all the granola bars into the grocery bags and piled those into Sandy's car. Fortunately, we even had enough
room left over in the car for Sandy herself, which made the next phase of our plan (Sandy driving away) that much simpler.
And so it came to pass that Sandy got the granola bars distributed amongst the good people of southern Colorado and I ended up
with a large supply of shipping boxes suitable for rack-mount gear.
...and then I came back from an afternoon of stunt practice to find the door to the sunroom was blocked by boxes of stuffed animals
that had been dropped off while I was away.
oh, um, Sandy! Could you come back here for a moment?