Will baseball cards ever be valuable again?

“Will baseball cards ever be valuable again?” someone asked me recently. The answer is that it depends. Not all cards were valuable in the first place.

Part of the problem is there was a time when 90% of boys collected cards. Now they don’t. Prices dropped due to simple supply and demand.

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Don’t make your whole IRA contribution in April. Or January, for that matter

Lifehacker says it costs you money to make your IRA contribution all in April. Unfortunately, their advice to contribute in January is an oversimplification. Don’t make your whole IRA contribution in April, but don’t do it in any other single month either.

Contributing all year gives a better result.

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A penny-book author’s take on secondhand sales, physical and digital

There was talk on Slashdot on Friday about reselling digital media, and typical sky-is-falling predictions saying that secondhand sales will drive down prices and drive artists out of business. “Look!” some say. “There are used books on Amazon that sell for a penny!”

Yes there are. My book was one of those, until Windows 95 became old enough that retro computing enthusiasts became interested in it. Now when I want to buy a copy, I have to compete with those hipsters. But you know what? Copies of my book selling for a penny never bothered me. I’ll tell you why.

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Applying Ezekiel to 9/11

I was reading Generations, a book that tries to predict the future by looking at history’s cycles, just last week, reading about how certain generations have reacted in the past to crises–because, like it or not, every generation faces one, if not several–and wondering.
Yesterday morning, I was minding my own business, driving to work, noticing that traffic was annoyingly heavy on I-270 and mad at myself for not being in the far right lane where I can make the snap decision to exit onto Tesson Ferry and wind myself back to work over back roads. It seemed like a typical, ordinary day in St. Louis. The only thing unusual about it was that the sky was actually blue, rather than Missouri Gray. Then the DJs on the radio station started acting really weird after traffic. Something was going on in New York. I gathered that much. None of them seemed very eager to talk about it.

The details were sketchy. A plane hit the World Trade Center. They were trying to evacuate the building. The only detail was that it was a twin-engined plane. That could be anything–it could be a relatively small civilian plane, a cargo plane like a Beech 18, or an airliner. They didn’t seem to know. Then they started talking about baseball. I flipped the station. More details came in.

As I pulled into the parking lot at work, they started talking about another plane.

You already know the rest. My day at work was probably just like yours. We didn’t get anything done, we got our news accounts however we could; the big boss got on the intercom and briefed us on the situation (I already knew those details and a few more–I had better sources than he had) and he said a prayer (maybe your boss didn’t) and he told us he knew we were distracted because he was distracted, just get done what absolutely has to get done, and pray a lot. Actually I think he said we could pray constantly if we wanted. My big boss is cool like that.

He didn’t mention this, but as all of this was unfurling, I thought of Ezekiel 22. The story of Ezekiel 22 basically goes like this. God’s chosen nation had gone astray. (Sound familiar?) God went looking for a few men who would turn from their wicked ways and stand in the gap, providing leadership and praying for their nation. (Sound familiar?) If someone would stand in the gap, the nation wouldn’t be destroyed. (Sound familiar?)

No one stood in the gap.

I hope that part doesn’t sound familiar.

Then I recalled that when Abraham was having a little chat with God about a couple of towns that were situated where the Dead Sea is now, Abraham asked God if he would spare Sodom and Gommorrah if he could find a small number of righteous people there. God said yes. Then Abraham started nickeling and dimeing God down, until Abraham talked him down to 10. “What about 10? Will you spare those cities if I can find 10 righteous people there?” And God said yes, He would spare those cities for the sake of 10 righteous people.

Now, I’m pretty sure that Abraham could have talked God down to three–his brother-in-law Lot and his two daughters. But Abraham wasn’t that bold.

Late in the afternoon, one of the elders from my church called and asked if I knew about our prayer service that night. I’d heard. He asked if I’d be there. I said of course. I told him about those two passages. Then I pointed out that there would be more than 10 people there. We needed to stand in the gap.

Incidentally, there were closer to 800 people there. And a large percentage of them were under 30. So I have an idea now how my generation reacts to a crisis, and I’m glad to say I’m impressed.

And that’s why I don’t really know what to say now. Not because I’m impressed, but because I was too busy standing in the gap. And no, I’m not sorry. And no, I don’t really give a rip how many people I’ve just offended. Some of you won’t be back. Others of you will try to sabotage this site, because some of you have tried in the past when I’ve used the G-word for something other than swearing. But I can live with that.

Oh yeah. Jesus loves you.

Yes, I know there are many who will say that praying doesn’t do any good, it won’t make our problems go away, God is dead and no one cares and if there is a hell I’ll see you there and more garbage like that.

But I’m gonna go back to that stand in the gap thing for a minute, just in case I haven’t annoyed you enough with it yet. There’s no sin in the United States of America? I can’t stand to turn on the blasted tube because that’s all that it fills my living room with. The only useful purpose my TV serves is to give me something to set my stereo on. And since I know God will forgive me for saying something blasphemous just to make a point, I will. Let’s say it doesn’t matter that it hurts God. Fine. It hurts us and it hurts those we love. Or should love. I argue that if we truly loved our spouses we wouldn’t do half the things we do to them. A big part of me is really glad I don’t have a spouse because I know living with the awful things I’ve done the last few years would have hurt her more than any human being should be hurt.

But what’s that have to do with foreign terrorism on U.S. soil? Everything. With friends like us, who needs enemies? We treat each other like the stuff we scrape off our shoes, and we treat foreigners even worse. Dmitry Sklyarov is a political prisoner, under house arrest in California by special interests, being persecuted (yes, persecuted) under an unconstitutional law. Folks, we are no better than Red China, who held our servicemen for no reason. I’ll say that again. The sin of the United States of America is just as bad as that of Red, Pinko Commie China.

Now, if this is how we treat Russia and Russian citizens, then it’s likely that we’ve offended other people. Well, we know Europe hates us. We bailed the Allies out of World War I and then we came in and won World War II, and we even paid for a lot of the rebuilding effort, and they still hate us. We must have done something really wrong somewhere. And the Middle East, well, they don’t like us because we acknowledge Israel’s right to exist. But they’ve probably got some other grudges against us too.

Regardless, somehow, at some point, knowingly or unknowingly, whether we’re in the right or in the wrong this time, we offended someone to the point that he decided it’d be a really good idea to hijack some airliners and crash them into some high-profile buildings.

That ought to give us some pause and make us examine ourselves a little bit. Chances are we’re right and this guy’s wrong. But it helps to be sure. And a little reflection puts us in the right mindset.

And let’s face it. Even if you’re not so sure there is a God, if you’re willing to admit even the slightest possibility that He does exist, He is all powerful, and He does care about us, isn’t some small part of you glad there are people who want to seek Him out, and make sure He’s on our side this time?

A few words of St. Paul seem really appropriate here. “Each of you should look out not only for your own interests, but also the interests of others.”

If we all did that, we’d make heaven obsolete, folks. We’d have it right here.

I’ve got just a few other things to say, then I’ve got an overdue appointment with my pillow.

Yes, there needs to be retaliation, once we know who perpetrated it. The retaliation must be swift, effective, and harm as few innocent people as possible. What happened yesterday was a tremendous atrocity. Taking the high road isn’t enough. We need to take the very highest road.

We’re unified. Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, home of one prime suspect, there was firebombing last night. Benjamin Franklin’s wisdom behind his Join or Die cartoon holds just as true today as it did some 225+ years ago. We need to stay unified. We’ve become a nation of special interests ever since the end of the Cold War, and we’re the worse for it, in every possible way.

This will not destroy our country. We will do a fine job of doing that ourselves. I love to fly, but right now the idea of hopping on board a commercial jetliner has negative appeal to me. My first thought after this happened was that we need to have two or three, or two or three dozen, armed Marines on all domestic flights, under orders to shoot first and ask questions later. Countries who resort to similar tactics don’t have problems with hijacking.

We can arm this country to the hilt, and we’ll have very few problems with safety. Police states have their problems, but safety generally isn’t one of them. We can trade our freedoms for safety, but in 20 years we’ll be wondering what happened to our Republic, or what’s left of it.

This is not the apocolypse. Don’t get in the gas lines, don’t rent a U-Haul and then go to the grocery store and try to fill it up with milk and toilet paper. People in St. Louis today were acting like the disaster had happened here. Nothing has really changed. A terrorist with limited resources crashed a bunch of our resources into some of our other resources. There is no direct connection between this and the supply and demand for gasoline, milk, and toilet paper. The U.S. economy will keep on chugging away, if anything, at a better rate now that people are thinking more about survival than about how to turn 20 bucks into a million by investing in the right technology stock.

I’ve only got one other thing to say. God bless you, and God bless the United States of America. He knows we need it. Desperately.

12/18/2000

Fixing a troublesome hard drive. Some time ago, one of my church’s staffers handed me a 10-gig Western Digital hard drive he couldn’t get working. “When you have time,” he said. I took it home, set it on my desk and promptly forgot about it, until yesterday, when I was helping someone out with setting jumpers a WD drive and I remembered I had a recent WD drive…

So I threw it in my Dual Celeron-366, which has sort of become my testbed system, to see what I could get from it. The system detected it fine. Good. Try booting… I find that EZ-Drive utility that everyone installs, even though with a plug-in UDMA card (and I know they use those) there’s no need for it. With a recent BIOS there shouldn’t be any need for it, unless you’ve got flaky BIOSes like me. But we won’t go there. But it doesn’t boot. Boot off a floppy, run FDISK, and I find a 9.7 GB non-DOS partition.

I call to verify whether the drive has any valuable data on it. None? Low-level format time.  I download Western Digital’s utility suite and run its quick test. It passes with flying colors. WD doesn’t offer a true low-level format, but the utilities can zero out the drive. Close enough. That’ll get rid of EZ-Drive.

And now, an editorial statement, if I may. Western Digital makes the most overrated hard drives in existance. I’ll daresay Western Digital hard drives are the most overrated piece of computer hardware, period. In my experience, I’ve found Quantums and Maxtors and IBMs to be faster, and I’ve had less trouble with them.

And speaking of EZ-Drive, do the manuals that come with new retail-packaged hard drives tell you you have to install it? I confess, I usually buy bare OEM drives since they’re cheaper, and the last couple of times I’ve bought retail kits for work, I did the stereotypical male thing and didn’t read the instructions. Seeing as I could have written the instructions, I didn’t see the need. Come to think of it, I almost never read the instructions unless I’m just totally out of my league (like when I was learning Linux). I learn more that way.

As I was writing this, the zeroing finished, no bad sectors, and I partitioned the drive and SYSed it. Good deal.

Optimizing Windows. Curtis Horn writes in that Amazon’s selling it (to him at least) for $7.50. No one’s making any money at that price, but hey. It might be Amazon experimenting with supply and demand again, who knows. But if you’ve been putting it off, now’s a good time to get it (assuming the price is still good and shipping doesn’t end up being 20 bucks). The link’s to the left, as always.

Computer Shopper UK. Chris Miller warns me that features don’t stay up there forever, so if you want the first installment of the “Optimise Your PC” series, I suggest you get over there quickly and print yourself a copy.

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