When to call it quits and get a new(er) computer

Mom’s computer is fading fast. I built it in 2002 or so, but I used stuff from her old computer, including the operating system, which dated to more like 1998.

I’m tired of fixing it. There was a time that I might have enjoyed it, but she needs something reliable, and I don’t have that kind of time anymore. Windows 98 was anything but rock solid when it was new, and this is a 10-year-old build. And do I know for certain that all the hardware is perfect?

It’s cheaper and easier to just start over.I didn’t find any earth-shattering deals at Compgeeks.com, although I did find some stuff that would have been usable. I wandered over to Craigslist and found the usual myriad of people selling their old home PCs. I decided to just do a search for something I knew would work. My wife and I have had a Compaq Evo 510 for about two months now and everything about it impresses me. So I went looking for another one.

I found one. It’s a 2 GHz P4 with 256 MB RAM (I quickly upgraded it to 512) and a CD burner. It even had a fresh install of Windows XP Pro on it, and a certificate of authenticity so it’s legal. I paid less for it than I charged the last time I had to fix someone’s computer. Actually, I paid less for it than a copy of XP Pro sells for. So it really was like getting the hardware for free.

XP isn’t perfect but it’s a lot more stable and reliable than Windows 98 ever was or will be. While this hardware isn’t new, it’s newer than what Mom has, and it’s built with quality components. It’s a business-class machine, and in my experience, business-grade hardware isn’t flashy but it’s very reliable. As long as you feed clean electricity into it, the only thing that’s likely to go wrong is a hard drive crash, and those can happen no matter what you buy.

There is a ton of former office equipment on the market now that’s perfectly usable, replaced only because corporate policy mandates that computers get replaced every three or four years. As long as the hard drive gets replaced, or at the very least reformatted and Windows is freshly reinstalled, these PCs will make very good home computers for a very long time.

They make terrible gaming rigs, although with a better video card you can do some light gaming with them (my Evo 510 runs Railroad Tycoon 3 and Baseball Mogul 2008 just fine).
For word processing, e-mail, and web browsing, they’re all you need.

I put a better video card in it anyway, to free up the memory that the onboard video was using. I put in a $10 Nvidia TNT2 card in it that came out of an old IBM. I got it off Craigslist too.

If anything, I’m more comfortable with Mom having something like this than I would be with her buying a new Compaq Presario or HP Pavilion because it’s made with better components.

If you have an aging Windows 98 computer, this is a good time to upgrade to something a little bit newer. You should be able to get a former business computer with a 2 GHz Pentium 4 running Windows XP for less than $200. It will be money well spent, in any case.

Mom will be happier because she’ll have a much faster and more reliable computer. I’ll be happier because if I play my cards right, I’ll never see Windows 98 again.

Dvorak is at least partly right about the gaming industry

The big-time gamers are all up in arms over John C. Dvorak’s assertion that the game industry is dying. But he’s right an awful lot more than he’s wrong.

The games aren’t nearly as original as they used to be.Let’s track the evolution of the first-person shooter. Games where you run around in a maze and shoot everything that moves aren’t new. Castle Wolfenstein was a huge hit for Muse Software way back in 1981. The premise was simple: You’re trapped in a castle full of Nazis and your job is to shoot everything that moves and escape. Simple enough.

Was it the first game of its type? I don’t know. I don’t even know for certain that it was the first popular game of its type. But it at least proves the idea is is at least 24 years old as of the time of this writing.

Eleven years later, Wolfenstein 3D was published and released. It took the same premise and put it in a 3D setting. Its inspiration was obvious. And like its famous predecessor, it pushed the limits of the time: You needed a pretty advanced CPU to play it, and the better your graphics and sound cards were, the better gaming experience you got. In the early 1990s I remember people bragging about the slowest computer they managed to get to run Wolf3D.

A year or so later, Doom was released. It was considered revolutionary. The graphics and sound were better, and it required a better computer, but as far as a plot went, all one had to do was replace the Nazis with monsters and give the main character a larger assortment of weapons.

And that’s pretty much where we stand today. There is no revolution here. Each generation adds more eye candy and another layer of complexity, but the basic premise isn’t really changed since that 1981 game. Some people like that kind of thing and others don’t. Dvorak clearly doesn’t. I never really got into it much either. Once I got over the initial wow factor of seeing a computer-generated 3D world, I found I just didn’t enjoy it. I had a brief fling with a 3D FPS called Redneck Rampage. It used a recycled game engine, just replacing the original setting with a backwoods theme and replacing the characters with rednecks and aliens and playing off every stereotype in the book. I enjoyed the game mostly because I thought it was funny. Once the jokes wore off, I quit playing.

Whether this genre has been worked over to death depends on whether you like this sort of thing, I guess. And maybe that’s where Dvorak is wrong. Neither he nor I see the originality, but people enjoy the games and keep buying them. I don’t see the originality in country music either–to me, the songs pretty much sound alike, and the words are all about pretty much the same thing–but the country music industry is huge and it ain’t exactly shrinkin’, y’all.

Hrumph.

But maybe this is just a sign of a mature industry. One of my high school writing teachers was fond of pointing out that Shakespeare never wrote an original plot in his life. But the stories seemed new when he put new and compelling characters in new settings along with those tired old plots.

Some people will get bored with the FPS games and move on to another interest. Others will keep at it, no matter how bad or unoriginal the games get. The only question is whether the audience will grow or shrink as a whole over time, and if it shrinks, how profitable the genre will become.

I think part of the problem for both Dvorak and me is that we’re both old enough to remember the early 1980s, when new games would come out and the new games really did seem new. All told, a total of about 900 games were released for the Atari 2600, and of those, about 100 were really common. (Of the remainders, a very large percentage of them were knockoffs or sequels and some of them were so bad that they sold terribly, so nobody saw them.)

Most of us who lived through that time and were really into technology saw those 100 or so games and enjoyed them.

There’s another difference too. Those games were a lot simpler. That’s both good and bad. A really avid gameplayer will probably master the game too quickly and get bored with it. But a more casual gamer can pick it up and learn it and enjoy it.

A really good Civilization player will probably enjoy Civ3 more than the original because it’s more challenging. But I’ve come to prefer the first two, because I can still pick up the original and play it well. If I spent ten hours a week playing video games, it might be different.

The gaming industry hasn’t completely lost me. There are still a handful of games I enjoy: the Civilization series, the Railroad Tycoon series, and the Baseball Mogul series. I haven’t bought the new Pirates! yet, but I’m sure I will if and when the price comes down because I loved the original.

But I only pick up one or two of those games per year anymore, and I probably don’t play them for more than a few weeks when I do.

Since my fiancee enjoys racing games where the two of us can race, if I’m ever out somewhere and I see two copies of a cheap racing game that looks decent and offers network play, I’ll get it and a couple of USB steering wheels. I imagine she’ll want to play a lot at first, and then it’ll become something we do occasionally when we might otherwise go to the movies.

The gaming industry changed, and in doing so, it lost John Dvorak and it’s probably written people like me off too, because I only spend $50 every two or three years on games.

Dvorak seems to think the gaming industry needs people like him. And that’s the only point he makes that I’m not wholeheartedly ready to agree with. The gaming industry is very different now than it was when I was 15 and playing games a lot, but it’s also a lot bigger.

Why my ramdisk techniques don’t work with XP

I got a question today in a roundabout way asking about ramdisks in Windows, specifically, where to find my instructions for loading Win98 into a ramdisk, and how to do the same in XP.
I haven’t thought about any of this kind of stuff for more than two years. It seems like two lifetimes.

The original instructions appeared in my book, Optimizing Windows (now in the half-price bin at Amazon.com), and instructions to use DriveSpace to compress the disk appear here. You can get the freeware xmsdisk utility this trick requires from simtel.

These techniques absolutely do not work with Windows NT4, 2000, or XP. Despite the similar name, Windows NT/2000/XP are very different operating systems than Windows 9x. Believe it or not, they’re much more closely related to IBM’s OS/2 than they are to Windows 98. Since there is no DOS laying underneath it all, there’s no easy way to do the trickery that the bootable ramdisk tricks use. What these two tricks do is literally intercept the boot process, copy Windows into the ramdisk, then continue booting.

There’s a $99 piece of software called SuperSpeed that gives the NT-based operating systems this capability. I haven’t used it. I imagine it works using the same principle, hooking into the boot process and moving stuff around before booting continues.

The downside, no matter what OS you use, is the boot time. XP boots in seconds, and my book talks about the trickery necessary to get 95 and 98 to boot in 30 seconds or less. But any time you’re moving a few hundred megs or–yikes–a gig or two of data off a disk into a ramdisk, the boot process is going to end up taking minutes instead.

Is it worth it? For some people, yes. It’s nice to have applications load instantly. A lot of things aren’t CPU intensive. You spend more time waiting for your productivity apps to load than you do waiting for them to do anything. Web browsing and e-mail are generally more bandwidth- and disk-intensive than they are CPU-intensive (although CSS seems determined to change that).

But a lot of games aren’t especially disk-intensive, with the possible exception of when they’re loading a new level. So loading the flavor-of-the-week FPS game into a ramdisk isn’t going to speed it up very much.

Of course, XP is far, far more stable than 98. Windows 9x’s lack of stability absolutely drives me up the wall, and for that matter, I don’t think 2000 or XP are as stable as they should be. Given the choice between XP or 98 in a ramdisk, I’d go for XP, with or without speedup utilities.

I’ve made my choice. As I write, I’m sitting in front of a laptop running 2000 (it’s VPNed into work so I can keep an eye on tape backup jobs) and a desktop PC running Linux. I have a 400 MHz Celeron with Windows 98 on it, but it’s the last Win9x box I have (I think I had 4 at one point when I was writing the aforementioned book). Sometimes I use it to play Baseball Mogul and Railroad Tycoon. Right now it doesn’t even have a keyboard or monitor connected to it.

I guess in a way it feels like hypocrisy, but I wrote the first couple of chapters of that book with a word processor running in Red Hat Linux 5.2 (much to my editor’s chagrin), so I started down that path a long, long time ago.

Baseball season is here, and so’s Baseball Mogul 2003

The Kansas City Royals wised up on Friday and gave Mike Sweeney what he wanted. Well, at least enough of what he wanted that he signed. So Mike Sweeney is now $55 million richer, and the Royals have him locked in for five years, as long as they manage to reach .500 in either 2003 or 2004.
Personally, I wish they’d signed him to a longer deal, but it could be that the second-greatest Kansas City Royal of all time didn’t want more than five years.

To celebrate, I headed over to Sports Mogul to see if there was a new patch to fix some bugs in Baseball Mogul 2002. And I found that Baseball Mogul 2003 is out. I downloaded the demo and played around with it. The free-agency model seems to be more realistic now, and the players aren’t as rigid in their contract negotiations, which may or may not be realistic. The computer GMs offered trades, some stupid, others inspired.

The game crashed as the July 31 trading deadline approached. My Royals were in second place, thanks to a couple of shrewd acquisitions. Predictably, with one more really big stick in the lineup, Mike Sweeney and Mark Quinn hit a whole lot better. It crashed as I was wheeling and dealing, looking for a catcher with a little bit of pop in his bat and maybe a veteran starting pitcher. I’d signed Bret Saberhagen and David Cone as free agents for old times’ sake, but they had nothing left.

At any rate, for 20 bucks, why not get the full version, I figued, especially since I could plunk down the credit card, they’d ship me the retail box in mid-April, and in the meantime I could download and install a 75-meg package?

I like the new version better than the old one. And of course the old one was good enough that I once deemed it a necessity of life. The new one adds a few features, like letting you set prices for concessions (so I guess I can do a 10-cent beer night like Bill Veeck did one year in Chicago), and it adds play-by-play, which is tedious during the regular season, but great for watching games like the All-Star Game and the World Series.

What can I say? For a baseball strategy nut like me, Baseball Mogul is really hard to beat. It would be nice if it would do some more statistics, so you could do lefty/righty platoons. These days, there are managers who decide who’s playing based on whether there’s a right- or left-handed pitcher on the mound, whether it’s a day or night game, home or road game, and whether the game’s being played on turf or grass. You think I’m kidding.

The other feature I wish it had was hirable managers. The only game I’ve ever seen that had that feature was Earl Weaver Baseball, which was popular more than 10 years ago.

But even with those shortcomings, it’s still an incredibly addictive game. I haven’t found a better baseball sim yet. And despite its bad first impression, it’s less buggy than its predecessor.

Back to the old grind again.

You are my addiction
My pleasure and my pain
You’re my infection
Disease, you burn my brain
–Pale Divine
That song was either talking about a girl or about cigarettes. I’m not sure which. But my addiction is something else. You’ll understand in a minute.

Conversation with Gatermann. “Something big came out this week,” I told him.

He took a few shots in the dark. Ridiculous things, like Windows XP.

“What are the necessities of life?” I asked.

“Women–“

“More important than women,” I said.

“More important than women!? What’s more important than the advancement of mankind?”

“You’re getting warm,” I said.

He stumbled around a really long time. He even said the settlement with Microsoft, which really got me going. Microsoft deserved to be run over by a steamroller. Very slowly. What they got wasn’t even a slap on the wrist. It was more like a warm caress. Excuse me while I gag. I dropped hints so he’d quit saying such repulsive things. It involves a computer but not an operating system. It’s not hardware, it’s software. Unfortunately, it only runs under Windows for the moment. Finally he started getting warm.

“Something to do with Railroad Tycoon?” he asked.

“Railroad Tycoon is indeed one of the necessities of life,” I pontificated. “You’re getting close.”

“More important than women and Railtycoon…”

“No, on par with Railtycoon,” I said. “And I’ll give you another hint. It’s not Baseball Mogul.”

He stumbled around some more.

“C’mon, Tom! What other games do I play?”

The answer is, of course, Civ3. I remember when I bought Civ2. The cashier was female, a year or two younger than me probably. “I love this game,” she said as she checked me out. Er, as she rang me up. I don’t know if she checked me out or not.

But because I’m a real dipstick, I didn’t propose to her on the spot. I didn’t even ask her out. Yeah I know. I coulda dated someone whose idea of a good time was a Civ bingefest.

Other stuff. If you ever put a parallel scanner on an NT4 workstation and run into all sorts of problems like bluescreens and service/driver failures at startup, check to make sure your parallel port and your sound card aren’t using the same interrupt. Better yet, get a real–I mean SCSI–scanner and use parallel ports for what they were designed. That’s printers, not Zip drives. If the interrupt’s free, the scanner will work, but you can forget about any other process getting any CPU time while you’re scanning.

I found a nice groupware app at www.phprojekt.com. It requires PHP, Apache, and MySQL. Not quite an Exchange killer but the price is sure right. And Exchange sure hurt Notes, because it’s cheaper, even though Notes is completely in another league.

And if someone complains about banner ads on your corporate intranet, check and see if Gator is installed. Then slap the hand of the dolt who installed it. (Probably the same dolt who went and bought a parallel scanner at CompUSA for 25 bucks and came in and told you to make it work.)

It’s October…

October…
When the trees are stripped bare
Of all they wear
Do I care?
October…
When kingdoms rise
And kingdoms fall
–U2

I didn’t do a whole lot this weekend. I laid around a lot, I did some dishes, and Saturday night I went out with some friends. More on that later. I can’t tell the story properly right now.

Linux as a diagnostic. I remain convinced that compiling Linux is the best system-wide diagnostic in existance. Case point: I lost a drive in a Windows 2000 box a while back. I gave up on trying to get the data back; all I cared about was my Baseball Mogul stats, but I started another game, built up another dynasty, so I don’t care about it anymore. I reformatted the drive and put Sorcerer Linux on it. First things first, an all-SCSI Linux box with a fast CPU really rocks. The most time-consuming part of the boot time is bringing up the SCSI interface. That takes about 15 seconds. The rest of the process is literally instantaneous.

Well, there’s no point in having a great system without recompiling everything specifically for it to take maximum advantage of it, right? So I started recompiling. The controversial 2.4.10 kernel came down and compiled without a hitch, and yes, the system does run very nicely with it. The simpler packages that provide most of the standard Unix utilities came down and compiled quickly and easily. Then when it came time to recompile the monstrosity that is glibc (the key library of any Unix system, and it’s a 16-meg bzipped tarball–this thing’s huge), the system’s weaknesses showed up. The drive failed again. I got sector errors and the system crashed hard. I reset and tried again. It came back up, Reiserfs quickly fixed everything, and it looked good, so I recompiled. This time, I reached the end of the compile process, but when it came time to copy the files into place, files that are there stopped being there. The drive failed again.

So, I’ve either got a heat problem or a power problem. The drive’s kinda crammed in a spot where it doesn’t get much airflow, and I’ve got a PCP&C power supply, so I suspect it’s a heat problem.

Nothing stress-tests PC components like compiling an entire operating system. Besides, even under regular use Linux tends to push hardware harder than Windows, even Windows 2000, but I see that as a good thing. I paid for the hardware, so I want my OS to squeeze it for every ounce it’s worth.

A nice Labor Day.

Yesterday was nice. I got up late, then bummed around all day. I did a couple of loads of laundry, and I put a different hard drive in my Duron-750. Then I ignored my e-mail, ignored the site for the most part, and installed Wintendo (er, Windows Me) and Baseball Mogul. Around 6 I went out and bought a CD changer. My old 25-disc Pioneer died around Christmas time and I never got around to replacing it until now.
I knew I didn’t want another Pioneer. I’ve taken that Pioneer apart to fix it before, and I wasn’t impressed with the workmanship at all. And current Pioneer models are made in China. So much for those. I looked at a Technics and a couple of Sonys. Finally, swallowing hard, I dropped $250 on a 300-disc Sony model (made in Malaysia). I still suspect it’ll be dead within five years, but maybe it’ll surprise me.

I am impressed with the sound quality. It sounds much better than my Pioneer ever did. It’s really sad when you can tell a difference in sound quality between two CD players, but I guess that just goes to show how many corners Pioneer cut on that model. Next time I go CD player shopping, I’m going to bring a disc or two along to listen to in the store so I can hear the difference.

Anyhoo, I played two seasons of Baseball Mogul and guided Boston to two world championships and a boatload of money. But something happened that made me mad. I noticed over in the AL Central, Tony Muser’s Losers, a.k.a. the Kansas City Royals, were above .500, with essentially the same team that’s looking to lose 100 games this season. Well, there was no Donnie Sadler, Muser’s secret weapon, currently batting about .137 (which also seems to be about Tony Muser’s IQ, seeing as he keeps playing the guy). So the Royals minus Muser and Sadler were a .500 club. That’s nice to know.

Then, for 2002, Kansas City went and got the biggest free-agent bat they could afford. They also didn’t trade superstar right fielder Jermaine Dye, and they re-signed shortstop Rey Sanchez. And what happened? Well, the first round of the playoffs was a Boston-Kansas City affair, that’s what. I’d used the previous year’s windfall to buy myself an All-Star team, so I rolled over Kansas City in four games. I felt kind of bad about that, but it was partly because of my record against KC’s rivals that year that they made it that far, so not too bad.

It’s all I can do to keep from e-mailing Royals GM Allaird Baird and asking him why, if Tony Muser insists on playing Donnie Sadler every day, he doesn’t consider letting the pitcher bat and have the DH hit for Sadler instead.

And shocking news. HP is buying Compaq. I didn’t believe it either. Compaq’s recent problems, after all, were partly due to its purchase of Digital Equipment Corp. and its inability to digest the huge company. The only benefit I see to this is HP getting Compaq’s service division and eliminating a competitor–Compaq’s acquisition of DEC made more sense than this does.

I think I’m going to take a couple of days off again…

There’s an old Oasis lyric that I’ve hated for most of the past four years, mostly because of the memories it conjurs up, and now it really bugs me that it seems appropriate: “‘Cos I need more time just to make things right.”
The other fragments of the song that have survived my efforts to blot them out also seem fitting. “Don’t go away… Say that you’ll stay… Forever and a day…”

So, to ward off those perpetual rumors/fears/whatever that I’m hanging things up, I’ll just say this. I’ve “hung it up for good” before. The longest it ever lasted was 6 months, and that time was due to serious injury. Right around that time, someone insinuated that I should hang it up. We haven’t spoken since that time, and I’m better for it and I don’t give a rip about how he feels.

I fully expect this break to last through Saturday, then run out of gas sometime late Sunday afternoon.

I’ve overextended myself the past month or so. I’m tired. My Web server is running fabulously (it never hiccups, so long as Union Electric keeps the power flowing) but I haven’t come up with an effective way to upload content to it or add new features. I can live with that.

Meanwhile, my mail server’s a royal piece of… Nah. That doesn’t go far enough. My mail server is a Backstreet Boys Fan. It runs like a 16 MHz 386, and I can’t tell if it’s a configuration problem or if it’s just overwhelmed with spam. No matter. I’m overwhelmed with spam. On a good day I get 7. On a bad day I get 60+. I got 38 copies of the same spam message from some stupid online casino Tuesday. I absolutely have to get some spam filters in place, and some priority filters in place.

So the mail needs to be archived, a bare-essentials mail server built (Linux 2.4.8 kernel, sendmail, IMAP, fetchmail, procmail, and whatever else those five things force me to install so they can run, all built from the newest sources of course, using the most aggressive compiler settings known to man), then the archives restored, then spam filters put in place and run. Then I will have regained my ability to communicate and will be able to do something about my guilt over having week-old e-mail sitting around unanswered because it’s buried in worthless spam.

I need to tend to my servers. I need to rebuild a couple of workstations. I really ought to try to salvage the Baseball Mogul season that’s sitting on the corrupted hard drive in one of those workstations… (Though I hesitate to call anything that runs Microsoft Wintendo 2000 a “workstation…”)

Meanwhile, a couple of other projects need to get done, and I just realized today that I haven’t talked to Gatermann in more than a week and for all that group of friends knows, I’ve run off to the ends of the Earth only to find an Internet cafe, so I continued posting. I need to do something about that too.

I’ll be back. I have the same love/hate relationship with writing that most writers have. It’s like breathing after running a couple of miles on a brisk day in early March. I always hated breathing after that, because it hurt so badly. But no matter how much it hurt, I couldn’t stop.

Computer stuff will be back soon…

I did very little this weekend, since I actually had a weekend this time around. Saturday I read a lot and slept and played Baseball Mogul, Sunday I got up early and did some laundry, went to church, read a lot, caught up with a couple of old friends I hadn’t talked to in a little while, and I ran Disk Administrator on my Duron-750, the system bluescreened, and now nothing can read the drive and I’m hacked off that I’m going to miss a chance to watch Greg Maddux make a run at 300 wins, Pedro Martinez make a run at Walter Johnson’s old strikeout record (Nolan Ryan was still a long way away), and Mark McGwire make a run at Hank Aaron’s 755 career home runs.
Expect to hear more on my data recovery efforts this week. There’s no shortage of tricks I can pull. But supposedly,

Church scared me. Much of the service reminded me of Pepper and Friends, a really corny children’s TV show in Columbia, Mo. Haven’t seen Pepper and Friends? Be glad. Be very, very glad. Imagine Richard Simmons, but even more hyperactive, riling up bunches of kids. Ugh. And now I know what the traditionalists are scared of. As long as it’s just once a year, at the end of Vacation Bible School, I’m fine with it, but now I understand the fear of bubblegum, substance-less church services.

True Confessions of a Male Mercenary. And I found myself playing Older-and-More-Experienced-and-Ever-So-Slightly-Wiser Brother this week. I was talking to someone, and he was telling me about this girl he knows and talking about wanting to ask her out… in a few months. That’s a strategy I’ve successfully used many times in the past… to fall flat on my face. My problem was that as I waited for that opportune moment, whenever that might be, my mind was absolutely racing in the meantime, creating grandiose images of the woman I was pursuing that often turned out to be mere fiction. And what’s the girl thinking as all of this is going on? Let me consult my quote wall:

“The best part of a relationship for most people is when it’s just beginning, and they can make this person in their own mind into this creature that doesn’t exist.”

Ouch. Aimee Mann said that in an interview, years ago, and I just had to write that one down for the wall. She knows a little bit about bad relationships because she was in several of them.

Besides frustrating the girl, we end up investing far too much emotionally in her, and when she fails to meet our expectations–remember, we’ve just spent a good deal of time making her into someone else who exists only in our very vivid imaginations, so it is a matter of when–we fall hard.

So my advice to him was to spend some time with her, now. That way instead of imagining things about her, he’s learning what she’s really like–because, after all, that sweet, innocent-looking thing could be an axe murderer for all he knows–and he’s giving her a chance to figure out what, if anything, she wants. Otherwise she just has to guess–and since the guy is usually expected to make the first move, she can afford to be cautious. Am I the only one who’s noticed girls are a whole lot more likely to say no than guys are?

And if she does say no? Then you haven’t spent months investing emotionally in someone who isn’t going to return it. And you can get on with life. Trust me. Until he finds The One, a guy can transfer all those emotions almost at will. Some scumbags continue to do it even after they find The One. After all, how many songs say, “it’s not cheating if she reminds me of you?” Of course she reminds him of her–guys know what they like, and they naturally go looking for more of it. (For me, it’s usually dark hair and a past.)

I think most girls at least suspect we’re mercenaries like that; none have ever seemed terribly shocked when I’ve admitted we have the ability. They live with it; they have deep, dark secrets too.

Enough waxing philosophical about life. I’m a fixer, not a philosopher. I’ll try to fix something today–a machine, not a person–and tell you all about it tomorrow.

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