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I was out and about last Saturday, getting things done. While I was out I had the choice of going home or doing something else. So I, get this, went to the movies. My travels led to the door of Flix Brewhouse so I figure, “Hey, I haven’t had lunch, either, so now I can have lunch and a movie!”

I can’t say I’m a huge fan of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Mars books. I’ve read some of them. I’ve liked them, given what they are and when they were written. I’m glad to see at least one book made it to the big screen, so I got a ticket for John Carter. Originally, and better titled, John Carter of Mars, which is based on the first book, “Princess of Mars.”

Flix Brewhouse is kind of like Alamo Drafthouse in that they play movies and serve food and drinks (including alcohol). Flix Brewhouse is a bit different in that they make their own beer (and they’re a lot closer to me). I had 45 minutes to kill before seating started so I ambled over to the bar to see how their beer is.

To me, beer is like art: I don’t know anything about it, but I know what I like. I had their Satellite and found it quite pleasing. That was all I had at that point because, as I’ve pointed out numerous times before, I’m not really a bar person. Oh, silly me. Yes, there is a bar in there.

So, anyway, the point is I was sitting in a theater, ready to eat, and ready to watch a movie. There was only one bad thing: 3D. Movies in 3D used to be a big thing in the 1950s. And then it died a horrible death and hasn’t been seen until the “future” arrived. The technology is way different for viewing a movie in 3D these days. Back in ancient times movies were in black & white, today they are in color. Back then you had to wear a pair of cardboard glasses with a red lens and a blue lens, whereas now you have to wear a gigantic pair of plastic glasses with two grey lenses. I’m waiting patiently for this “technology” to die a horrible death — again.

I’m not a fan of 3D movies. The first problem is that the grey lenses act as a low-level pair of sunglasses. If the movie is dark, it’s going to be darker. This is bad news for Batman movies. Another problem is that for me, at least, watching a 3D movie is like watching a bunch of cardboard cut-outs. You know, a bunch of flat people moving in front of a flat background.  Usually it would end there but I have to mention that because the 3D glasses are so big, it cuts off all peripheral vision. That makes it hard to eat in the dark and watch a movie at the same time.

What I remember of the movie it was pretty good, if taken for what it is: a 1930s-style pulp sword & sorcery sci-fi story. Unfortunately, it was a dark movie and I was interrupted trying to shove a Cuban sandwich into my face. But, once I can see it at home in crappy old 2D I think I’ll like it quite a bit.

When normal people want a new computer/laptop/tablet or whatever they think, “I want a new whatever!” Then they start comparison shopping, figure out what they want, and then, eventually, figure what they can spend and buy one.

Not me. Nope. For starters, I’ve never bought a new, complete, computer since the early 1990s. That was the Atari Mega 2 ST and I didn’t have a choice since you couldn’t purchase the parts and then put it together. I build my computers from parts. Once upon a time it was the cheaper way of doing things. Not anymore, though. I don’t get the discounts and stuff like Dell, HP, or whoever do.

When I comparison shop it’s not just for a tower system, it’s for: computer case, processor, memory, power supply, and hard drive — at a minimum. Some things I’ll re-use if they’re still viable, like a video card or lower capacity hard drives.

I make a spreadsheet with the items I’m looking for and prices from, currently, Newegg and Amazon. Then I plug in the prices and tally them up and see where it would be cheaper to get things. Generally, prices are all the same these days and people have sales at the same time so things are similar in price, if not exact. But then I have to tally in shipping from Newegg, since I have Amazon Prime (which has paid for itself) and don’t pay for shipping from Amazon.

When I finally see a total, which is usually over $1,000, I go, “Whoa!” Because there’s no way I’m going to spend that much in one chunk. I’m still in the mindset that I’m poor and to spend that much at one time gives me the pips. So I figure I’ll break it down and buy one or two things this payday and additional items every payday thereafter.

I try and decide if I should get the higher priced items now or the lower priced ones. When I can’t decide I try and base it on what’s least likely to change, which is nearly impossible. I mean, who would have thought hard drive prices would skyrocket when a natural calamity hit Taiwan? Finally, I think what if I need that money for something else?

Week after week I track the prices of everything and think, “Okay, this is the week I get whatever!” But the prices have dropped a dollar or two. If I wait until next week maybe the prices will be even lower. What if I buy the hard drives now and tomorrow Newegg sends me an email saying the processor is on sale? What if I don’t buy the memory now and another disaster hits Taiwan and memory prices shoot up? Worse, what if I buy a solid state hard drive now and the price plummets? What if I buy an 8-core processor today and they come out with a 12-core tomorrow? What if? What if?! That’s the problem with buying parts piecemeal: I’ll never even buy one thing because something else may change.

The other problem with buying parts in drips and drabs is that you have new stuff lying around doing nothing. Nothing! So, once I start I usually end up getting everything else in one big flood, anyway.

In the end, I do nothing. I justify it to myself because I really don’t need another computer. I don’t even have a good reason for upgrading the one I have. It’s just something I like to do.

People ask me if I have a hobby and I usually tell them I don’t. When asked why I say it’s because hobbies are expensive. But I guess I do have a hobby and it’s building computers. And it is expensive. Yet, so are any other hobbies, such as RC cars, planes, helicopters, and… whatever else people do. Even scrap booking can be expensive if you use machines like a Cricket.

Now that I think about it, $1400.00 isn’t that much to spend on a new computer, especially given the components I’ve selected. I’m keeping costs down by re-using some bits from the old computer, and that’s good.

But it really all comes down to justifying it to myself. What other things could I use the money for? Totaling it up and then putting it aside? Buying a piece of exercise equipment? What would happen if I spent the money and I needed that same amount for some kind of emergency?

It’s not about the computer. It’s not about spending money. It’s all about justification.

For instance, the case I want is a monster of a case. It costs more than any other individual part. It’s not exactly pretty; certainly it’s not as ‘wow’ as my current case, but it is huge and it’s made with the idea in mind that you can route all the cables underneath the motherboard. With this case I probably wouldn’t need a new one for generations. It could, quite possibly, be the last computer case I would ever need.

A case so big and black, people would be afraid I would start hitting them with leftover chicken bones.

Upgrading components inside would be easy as pie without cables routed all over the place. And dust? I’m a dust magnet and this would make it easier to keep clean. And it’s got air filters. And it’s got hot-swappable hard drive bays in the front so I could upgrade or change hard drives without opening the thing up. It’s perfect.

But as long as we’re going dust-free, what about the fan and heatsink for the processor? Those are always getting gunked up with smoke,dust, and cat hair. If only there was a way to keep the processor from getting gunked up.

Liquid cooling: it's not just for dorks anymore.

Oh, wait. There’s a liquid cooling system. See? That round bit sits on the brain and the fans are big and easier to clean. Plus, there’s no heatsink fins that need to be scrudged out. It’s perfect!

And I could go on all day telling you exactly why part X would be perfect and is needed. Then I would go over my spreadsheet and wish some of those numbers will go down so I’ll look around for alternatives. I managed to get my list down from a total price of $1,350.00 or so to $1,430.00 that way.

I’ll fantasize about it, too. I will. I’ll sit there and look at all this stuff and think, yeah, I’ll get the case first. Then I’ll buy bits and add them into the case. I wouldn’t have all the parts, so there’d be no reason to rush. Just get things together slowly and perfectly. Yeah… That’s totally unrealistic, though. It would kill me to have a case, motherboard, processor, memory, hard drives and no power supply just sitting there.

On the other hand, this is the first time I’ve been able to spec out a computer using pieces I want rather than having to settle for. If I went ahead and did this it would be the first computer I put together that wouldn’t be dictated by what I had to leave behind or replace for something cheaper. Something I didn’t really want but “it’s OK, I guess. ”

What I’m waiting for is someone to tell me not to do it. And I don’t think anyone will. Even my boss told me that it was my “professional duty as an employee to a tech company” to go ahead and be ridiculous.

There you have it. A little trip through my brain and how I make life so much more difficult for myself for no apparent reason. I hope you enjoyed it.

It’s been a tough week. As I write this on Friday I still have a full day to go and my weekend will be sort of busy again. That’s better, though, than not being busy at all I guess. I’ll run a few errands and maybe, just maybe, drop in at Frys and take a look at this big monolithic case I’m interested in. Perhaps I’ll even lose my mind and get it because I really want that case. Even if it means transferring all my old stuff into it.

Or, maybe… Maybe I’ll put myself on a reward system. Get something done that I’ve been putting off (like cleaning off my kitchen bar-counter-thing, or cleaning off that one chair that’s been accumulating junk, or straightening up my bedroom as best I can with what little space I  have or getting a shelf to put all my computer crap on to free up some space to make it easier to clean up). Then, I could buy another piece every time I strike something off my to-do list. Or exercise! A dollar for every mile. Or something. That might work if I feel like I’ve earned it.

I write like
William Gibson

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