Has anyone tried a book scanning service for Kondoization or pre-move preparation?

We have a lot of books that aren’t quite important enough to pack and move from Maskachusetts to the Florida Free State, but that don’t seem ready for the dumpster. For example, some rarely used dessert cookbooks (they were great when I was a 16-year-old and could eat 6,000 calories per day! Note that Maida Heatter lived to 102, dying shortly before coronapanic.) Also, the textbooks that I was using at the same time as these dessert cookbooks. What if one day I want to look at an intro calculus text that doesn’t approach integration from a social justice point of view nor remind the reader that Taylor series were developed by a woman (if Brook Taylor identified as a “man”, why did he/she/ze/they call him/her/zir/them-self “Brook”?)?

Paging through these tomes with Adobe Scan on one’s phone would be tedious indeed. There are, however, some companies that specialize in inexpensive scanning of books. In a process that should delight Marie Kondo, the physical book is destroyed in the process (Kondo doesn’t have anything to say on the subject of digital clutter). The binding is cut so that the freed pages can be automatically fed into a scanner. 1dollarscan.com seems impossibly cheap. At 300 DPI, they say that they charge $1 for every 100 pages and the price triplesfor 600 DPI. OCR is an extra $1/100 pages. As is changing the PDF file name(!). So a 400-page cookbook at 300 DPI could be only $4 (OCR it yourself if you’re an Acrobat Pro subscriber; open it up and then change the filename).

USPS has pretty low rates for shipping books (“Media Mail”). I’m wondering if it would make sense to send 50 percent of our library to the dumpster, 30 percent to a destructive book scanning service, and 20 percent to the Florida Free State where the books can serve as a background to people staring at phones.

Readers: Has anyone tried 1DollarScan or a competitor?


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Longest terms and conditions document for consumers? (177 pages at National rental car)

Signing up to the National Emerald Club since the U.S. is mostly out of rental cars and Hertz, Avis, and Enterprise are no longer sufficient….

How long are these Ts & Cs?

Is this a record? Here’s some of the stuff that I’m supposed to read now and remember perhaps a few years from now when it is time to visit Nicaragua:

On the other hand, maybe it will be sooner. The ruling party there seems to realize, as we do, that preventing citizens from hearing opposition voices is the best path to stable government: “Fifth presidential candidate detained in Nicaragua; 15 opposition leaders now detained in total” (CNN, June 21). Certainly, Nicaragua can teach us a lot about how to control COVID-19. As of June 22, the country had suffered 188 COVID-19-tagged deaths in a population of 6.5 million. Compare to New Jersey: nearly 26,377 deaths in a population of 9.3 million (Census 2020, though it is unclear if Census documents account for the undocumented.)

Readers: Who has ever seen a longer terms and conditions document from a company offering goods or services to consumers?

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I love AOC even more now

Some folks have harsh words for AOC, plainly America’s greatest living political philosopher. Even if you don’t agree with her economic and social plans for the United States, you will, I hope, agree with me that she is a huge success as an electrical engineer.

The AOC 1601FWUX makes it easy for those fleeing the COVID-plagued Northeast to work from a laptop computer. For only $180, the device doubles the amount of screen space available when working from a laptop. The 15.6″ IPS display gets both power and signal from the laptop’s USB-C port, which means that you don’t need to carry another power brick. It worked immediately with my 2017 Dell XPS 13, which has been a spectacularly crummy laptop in nearly every respect.

The included magnetic stand lets you position this second monitor in either landscape or portrait mode (ideal for reading a PDF while typing at a word processing document on the main laptop screen).

This is the perfect gift for anyone who travels.

Readers: Who has used a similar device? I think that ASUS pioneered the segment, but their current product is compromised in brightness due to a desire to have it work from legacy USB-A ports that can’t supply as much power.


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PODS versus PACK-RAT for moving and storage

For the move from Massachusetts to Florida we decided that it would make the most sense to use at least two containers and a dumpster. Container A for the apartment we’re moving into. Container B to a storage facility near the apartment for eventual delivery to a house when we become stupid enough to purchase one. Dumpster for everything else.

We looked at the market leader, PODS, first. They wanted $4,770 per container (16x8x8′) for the move and $265/month per container for rental or storage. The container is wood, steel, and fiberglass and can hold up to 4,200 lbs.

PACK-RAT does not have as large a service area, but they cover West Palm Beach and Boston. The container is the same size, but all steel, like a standard container for a container ship (suitable for jamming into the Suez Canal!). The price for the container/storage is about the same, but they’ll move three containers to Florida (all fit on one truck) for what PODS charges to move two.

A typical cluttered house will require three containers. We’re hoping to trash a lot of stuff, but we also have some aviation gear currently stored in hangars.


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Order your backup generator now (36-week waiting list for the part and one year for the install)

An aviation friend runs a sizable business installing backup generators here in the Northeast. Media coverage of the outage that afflicted Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, has driven demand to an all-time high. That high demand combined with coronapanic-related restrictions at the Generac factory have resulted in a 36-week lead time when he places an order for a whole-house standby generator. “We also have to get permits and install and, like every other business,” he said, “we can’t compete with $600 per week from the government so we can’t hire anybody. I tell people that if they order now we’ll install their generator in a year.”

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What to do with 2000 mostly-classical LP records?

About 15 years ago a polo-oriented friend was showing a teenage polo champion from Argentina around Cambridge. I invited them for a gathering that would today likely be illegal and the rich teenager happened by shelves holding 2000 mostly classical LP records. She asked “What are these?” I explained that they were “LP records”. She followed up with “What are those?”

I am thinking that our children would not be excited to inherit these, although classical music has been terribly served by the streaming services. The “classical” radio stations play tracks at random from CDs classified as “classical.” So you’ll hear the third track from a string quartet followed by the first track from a three-movement piano sonata followed by the fourth track from a symphony. There are some annoying American NPR classical stations (constant interruptions with chatter even when they’re not fundraising). The European stations are better, but the sound quality is not ideal.

What to do with these? It does not seem that it will make sense to bring them with us when we move from Massachusetts to Florida (August). There are probably 200 jazz, rock, and pop albums mixed in that could conceivably have collector value, but I don’t have time to sort through them.

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Tesla Solar Roof (the price is not the price)

Back on December 9, 2020, I signed what I thought was a contract with Tesla for them to install a solar roof within 180 days (by June 9, 2021) and two Powerwalls for a total of $71,533. Somewhat more than a regular roof, of course, but we’d have bragging rights, would be saving the planet, would have backup power in the event of a grid failure (a regular event here due to trees plus an apparent unwillingness to put the powerlines underground), and would have the joy of maintaining yet another household system (not like those dumb people who rent and let the landlord take care of everything that breaks!).

After months of silence, on April 23, I received an email:

We have increased the price of Solar Roof and have added adjustments for individual roof complexity. Learn more 

We’d like to offer you one Powerwall at no additional charge when you proceed with your Solar Roof installation. You will receive an email when your new agreement is ready for your review and acceptance before moving forward. Please make sure to keep at least one Powerwall on your order to take advantage of this offer. If you have not already done so, please complete any outstanding items in your Tesla Account.

On May 5, 2021, I received a text message telling me to check the web site, which shows that the price has gone up to $84,137. Battery prices are supposed to be on a downward trend, but it looks as though Powerwalls have gone from $7,000 each to $10,500 each?

One interesting aspect of this design is that there are power-generating tiles on both the north and sides of the house:

(the legend is a little confusing, but I think the tiles surrounded by white are the solar tiles; the top of the drawing above is the north-facing side of the house)

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IKEA spare parts

Back in 2012, I paid IKEA to deliver and assemble some furniture. That led to the following Facebook post:

“You didn’t build that” (Ikea came to assemble some stuff starting yesterday at 1 pm. They left at 9 pm and here is the state of affairs…)

The two guys returned today at 945. We will see how far they get! So far I have not had to do anything other than watch in amazement at how much work is entailed even for two experts.

Friend: I don’t get it. Been buying IKEA stuff all my life. Always put it together myself, never any missing parts and always quick to do. A couple of hours at most for a complex wardrobe. Maybe these professionals aren’t that at all; bunch of random guys plucked off the street to go put together stuff for people?

Me: The guys seem to speak Portuguese better than speak English, but I wouldn’t say that this impairs their ability to unbox and slam the stuff together. They have electric screwdrivers and they have done enough of these before that they need not refer to the instructions in most cases. On the other hand, they put a Besta wall system door on a Stuva kids’ bookcase.

Folks: To close out this epic tale… IKEA sent two Mandarin-speaking recent immigrants from China back to the apartment today with a few boxes of spare parts. They were able to fix the remaining issues that I had not managed to fix on my own/with friends. IKEA customer service is amazingly well trained. I would call them and wait in a phone queue for about 45 minutes. The person who answered would invariably make me feel like the most important customer in the world. They’d promise to call back or send someone out. They never did these things, but I didn’t mind calling again because I felt so good after every conversation.

(One thing that I did learn from the experience, after attempting to sit in a dining chair after the two-day visit of the Brazilian crew, is that there is apparently no translation into Portuguese for “torque that bolt down”.)

Currently I’ve got a set of six IKEA chairs and enough hardware for perhaps three chairs. M4 and M6 machine screws/bolts have fallen out over the years and were apparently thrown out by the cleaners. I found an IKEA replacement parts site where screws and bolts are sent out “within a few days” for free, but it seems to be only for customers in the Netherlands. [Update: the Google couldn’t find the corresponding U.S. page, but a reader posted it in the comment section below.]

A lot of IKEA hardware isn’t standard. Where does one find replacement bolts for out-of-production IKEA stuff?

Separately, we visited IKEA recently. The 68 governor’s orders so far here in Maskachusetts have been boiled down by IKEA to “wear a mask at all times, even when outdoors and more than 6′ away from anyone else”:

(I personally disagree with this interpretation of what our laws would be if the Legislature had passed these restrictions as laws. The very latest from MA is that masks are not required outdoors unless you’re closer than 6′ from another human.)

The good news is that you can “do your part”:

Looking up an item’s warehouse location requires waiting in line to use one of the terminals that hasn’t been decommissioned, thus forcing you to spend more time in a crowded indoor environment (but bandanas and simple paper masks will prevent viral transmission!).

The CDC says that COVID-19 is not spread via surfaces, but the restaurant is closed for three days per week for a good scrubbing:

You’ll wait roughly 1.5 hours in the middle of the afternoon to be seated for lunch at this restaurant, from which many tables have been removed and the remainder are mostly vacant:

They’ve made special multi-tray trolleys so that a single authorized person from each group can go up to the cafeteria line.


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Soundproofing for an air conditioner/heat pump (success story)

We had a Princess and the Pea situation in our house in which a moderately quiet A/C condenser next to a bedroom was deemed too loud, especially when clicking on. This is a high-end Carrier-built unit, so it is somewhat louder than a Japanese split-system, but quieter than almost anything else U.S.-built.

We were able to eliminate the annoyance with a blanket from Acoustical Solutions that we hung on the wall adjacent to the condensers (quilted part facing the A/C unit; smooth part against the wall). We also wrapped one that was roughly the same height as the condenser around the side so as to block transmission to a window. It would be a lot more attractive it we built a wooden hutch around it, but it is highly functional just hung on a metal fence U-post (less than $10 from any hardware store).

We bought the ABBC-13 two-inch thick “AudioSeal” blankets, one 96″x54″ (custom made to have the grommets on the long side) and one 54″x54″. Total cost, including shipping and Maskachusetts sales tax, was $890. We’ve had them outdoors through one New England winter and they still look good.

Leaving this here in case anyone is searching for a similar solution.

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What is a good 32-inch 4K monitor?

Five years ago I purchased two Samsung 32-inch 4K computer monitors for $1300 each. These UD970s boasted “99.5% Adobe RGB and 100% sRGB Color Compliance”, which I thought would make them good for editing photos. They’re also reasonably bright, at 350 nits. Unfortunately, one now has a vertical line permanently stuck to cyan, about 1/3rd of the way in from the left. The other one has a flaky power supply and turns itself on and off at random.

I can’t go with a fashionable curved monitor because I had a treadmill next to a chair and, in theory, want to be able to drive setup from either the left or right side of the desk. So it needs to be a primary and secondary monitor of roughly 32″ in size.

One thing that might be interesting is a monitor with built-in speakers so that I can clear the speakers and amp (optical digital in to speaker-level out) off my desk. It is rare that I listen to anything where high sound quality is required.

Here are some ideas, based on Amazon ranking:

  • LG 32UN500-W (includes built-in speakers), VA panel rather than IPS, $350 (“Amazon’s Choice” but maybe that is based on gaming performance and I am not planning to game). 350 nits. No USB ports! In a world where everyone needs a webcam for Zoom-during-lockdown, how does it make sense to exclude the USB hub function from the monitor?
  • Samsung LS32AM702UNXZA (built-in speakers), which has “Wireless DeX” that promises “a full PC experience, without any PC” (put phone applications on the big screen), $400; see “Mobile Phone As Home Computer” (2005) for why this is close to my personal dream. Possible deal-killer: only 250 nits (also a VA panel). Three USB-A ports and one USB-C for keeping the desktop clutter-free.
  • LG 32UN650-W (built-in speakers), IPS panel, no USB. $500.
  • LG 32UN880-B (built-in speakers), IPS panel. $650. Comes with an “ergo stand” that clamps to the back of the desk, thus freeing up desk space for additional clutter. Has a handful of USB-A and USB-C connectors on the back.

After I get at least one new one, I could maybe have some fun with the kids trying to assemble a single working Samsung out of the two broken ones (panel from one and power supply, etc., from the other?).

Here’s a question for genius readers? Why aren’t there OLED computer monitors? Problems with burn-in, you say? You’d have pixels burned to standard user interface elements? What if the monitor were 10 percent oversized horizontally and vertically? Have the 4K image slowly float among the corners, which would ensure that the pixels along the edges got some completely dark time. (LG already seems to do a weak version of this with its OLED TVs; they call it Screen Shift.) What about central pixels? Have the monitor and/or video card watch for extended periods of constant illumination (maybe it would be white since so many documents have white backgrounds) and do some selective dimming as necessary.

The LG “Ergo: design”:

Update: It wouldn’t have been simple to mount the Ergo on my particular desk, so I got the LG 32UN650-W (a $500 IPS monitor). The built-in speakers far exceeded my expectations… for tinniness. They are unusable for music, YouTube sound tracks, etc. I guess they’re a good emergency backup in case my external amp (Nuforce DIA, purchased in 2012 and now discontinued) or Audioengine P4 speakers fail and I need to be on a Zoom call. I never calibrated the Samsung monitor (the one that still works, but has a stuck line), but photos appear brighter and bluer on it. Comparing to the iPhone 12 Pro Max, on which the photos originated, the LG is a little closer.

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