Post-Flea Thoughts

My friend Mar­ty at the MIT Flea
Orig­i­nal­ly uploaded by andyi.

We got up ear­ly on Sun­day; about 6 AM. We had packed our VW Bee­tle to the roof the night before. Pam got on line with­out me (there was­n’t enough room for a pas­sen­ger) in the long line of cars and trucks in the park­ing light as the sun began to rise. We got our usu­al spot, on the sec­ond floor of the park­ing garage, and Pam did most of the arrang­ing of our ‘mer­chan­dise’. At 8:00 the mar­ket opened to the buy­ers. For awhile I was wor­ried that we would­n’t be able to sell our bulki­est items (a print­er stand, 2 mon­i­tors, and the beige G3 Pow­er­PC). For­tu­nate­ly, we found new homes for all of them. My friend Andy got the print­er stand, and a fel­low from the Cape got the G3. The only things left over at the end of the day (or rather, 2 PM), were a lot of books, LPS, soft­ware CDs and some music CDs.

What else did I see at the flea?
Let’s see:

  • Two Tes­la Coils
  • The Enig­ma Guy, there again
  • Tons of old CRT Mon­i­tors, but not a sin­gle small LCD Mon­i­tor, which we are in the mar­ket for (more about that later)
  • Sev­er­al friends
  • USB cables, old Macs, old PCs, old lap­tops, tons of old desk­top PCs
  • Old radio equip­ment, cam­eras, clocks, circuitry
  • Tons of the geeki­est peo­ple you’ve ever seen. Well I should talk.

In fact I will geek out (warn­ing, if this sort of thing turns your stom­ach, skip to the last paragraph):

Since the Mac Mini (which replaced the old G3) now con­trols the house­hold lights (and poten­tial­ly the ther­mo­stat, if I want­ed to start mess­ing with that at this late date), and is now mon­i­tor-less (or as they say head­less) because we sold the big, heavy, black mon­i­tor we got to set it up, I took some of the pro­ceeds from our sales and got a small, light, and rel­a­tive­ly cheap 15″ LCD mon­i­tor for it. It works per­fect­ly and mir­rors the aes­thet­ic and scale of the Mini; The whole set­up is ele­gant and unob­tru­sive. I think it’s a per­fect exam­ple of a what a home serv­er will be (although I doubt it will be as pret­ty — it will more like­ly be some­thing that peo­ple put in the base­ment on the wall next to their cir­cuit break­ers and alarm sys­tem mas­ter unit.)

After we move I’m going to task the Mini with some oth­er duties: per­haps cap­tur­ing audio from the Inter­net on a sched­ule, or with the RadioShark, a USB-based ter­res­tri­al radio tuner, grab­bing some local CBC pro­gram­ming to lis­ten to either lat­er over the home stereo or on my iPod. I’m also inter­est­ed in get­ting the web serv­er run­ning so that it can inter­act with the oth­er tasks. Per­haps I could have access to that media via the web serv­er so that I can lis­ten to radio that I’ve cap­tured while away from home! I cer­tain­ly want to be able to con­trol the lights from the web serv­er (as I did before with the pre­vi­ous set­up), but first I’ll have to find out a way for the UNIX part of the Mac OS run­ning the Apache web serv­er to talk to the off-the-shelf appli­ca­tions (like the X10 con­trol soft­ware, Xten­sion), which is usu­al­ly done with Apple­script. Two worlds that don’t talk to each oth­er much, yet.

OK, OK. I’ve got­ten all of that out of my sys­tem. Now we have to clean up the house because it’s now on the mar­ket. That means clean­ing up the piles of papers and oth­er debris on my office floor and desk. I’m about halfway there, but we have the first prospec­tive buy­ers tromp­ing though tomor­row! Can you say: Hide-it-stow-it-put-it-out-of-sight!!!!

The MIT Flea

Mak­ing a major move also means that you will prob­a­bly not be mov­ing every­thing you own. Unless you are like Beethoven, who was known to load up all of his valu­ables in a horse-drawn cart and then drag them to his new abode on foot (and the cart got piled high­er and high­er with each move, until it tow­ered above the street), you usu­al­ly end up get­ting rid of a lot of your accu­mu­lat­ed items to avoid mov­ing them.

I’ve lived in Boston for near­ly 20 years, and togeth­er with Pam in this town­house for 15 years (in June). That’s a lot of time to col­lect lots of stuff. I know I sound like George Car­lin (who did a long riff/rant on stuff in Brain Drop­pings, I believe), but I know I have too much stuff. There’s this house full of stuff, and a stor­age room (our most recent one is in Lynn, MA), where we keep things like Pam’s bicy­cle, all of our lug­gage, and var­i­ous oth­er junk that would show up in our garage, if we had one. My office is one big pile of stuff. Com­put­er stuff, music stuff, book stuff, Walden School stuff, CD (both ROM and Audio) stuff, soft­ware stuff and worst of all, paper stuff. It’s get­ting bet­ter, but it still has a long way to go. I’ve got papers every­where. It was worst when I moved my office stuff from my cube at Fideli­ty (where I had already man­aged to amass a year’s worth of stuff) back home. Some of that stuff went to the afore­men­tioned stor­age unit in Lynn, and some of it just went into this office. I’m going to stop list­ing all of this, because I’m sound­ing not only like George Car­lin, but also like Andy Rooney, and we would­n’t want that.

So we are in jettison/divest mode. Get rid of it. I don’t care if you give it away, throw it away, or sell it, just get it out of our lives before the move. I’ve writ­ten about sell­ing the piano, which I think we’ve found a buy­er for. That’s a big first step. Now, this com­ing Sun­day, we’ll be going to the first 2005 MIT Flea mar­ket. If you haven’t been to the MIT Flea, you are miss­ing the chance to come face-to-face with the tech­nol­o­gy sub­cul­ture in it’s purest and most ven­er­a­ble venue. Start­ed by the MIT Radio Soci­ety in the dis­tant past (they start­ed the Radio Soci­ety in 1909, so in a few years it will cel­e­brate its cen­ten­ni­al!), the Flea is every 3rd Sun­day of the month from April to Octo­ber and takes place in a park­ing garage near Kendall Square bound­ed on all sides by BioTech behe­moths, much in the way that Willy Loman’s house was sur­round­ed by sky­scrap­ers in Death of a Sales­man. It’s a fas­ci­nat­ing holdover from the days of radio tubes (yes, even before transistors!).

These days you’ll find every­thing from flat screen mon­i­tors and tele­phone equip­ment to odd­i­ties like Col­or Mac Clas­sics, NeXT Machines, DEC-VAX’s and those are just the com­put­er junk. You’ll also find some of the most eccen­tric geeks on the plan­et. One fix­ture of the flea is a guy with an orig­i­nal (and still oper­a­tional) Enig­ma machine — that’s a code-break­ing mechan­i­cal device from WWII! I’ve got­ten CDs, phones, portable fans and flash­lights, speak­ers and head­phones, as well as all kinds of odds and ends like cabling, USB Hubs, pow­er strips and Lin­ux releas­es. We’ve sold there too, and this time we’ll be bring­ing in a cou­ple of mon­i­tors, a beige G3 Pow­er­Mac from the mid-90’s, a caller-ID dis­play, a cou­ple of old X‑10 com­put­er inter­faces, a Microsoft opti­cal mouse, a ton of old Mac soft­ware, a cou­ple of stacks of books, and a bunch of old music CDs and LPs.

See, I told you we had a lot of stuff. Hope­ful­ly this will light­en our load some­what, as well as bring in a lit­tle cash.