Preserving my past

As I mentioned in a previous post I have a box of slides that need to be digitized and converted into a better form for viewing.  As I’m discovering, 35mm slides aren’t the easiest thing in the world to work with.  Modern printer/scanners aren’t really all that good when it comes to them, because they’re not print media (pictures), they’re transparent, so they don’t scan very well.  One needs a dedicated piece of equipment to work with them, and the better ones are expensive.

When I first got the slides, I used an app on my Android phone called ‘Lightbox’ which basically did what it says, backlit them so that I could take a picture with a second phone, in order to see the slides as if they were in a projector.  Of course, that’s a quick and dirty method, I need something that can be used to doing the same thing, but with a bit more clarity as well as finesse in bringing out the natural colors and nuances of the slide in question.  I knew that there were dedicated machines to do the work, as well as businesses that are skilled in doing it, but many of the businesses are still in their infancy, charge an arm and a leg for the work, and there’s the bugaboo of sending your memories out to a 3rd party, and you might not get them back.  US Mail has never been an exact science.

20220311_075021[1]When I got home, I had more opportunity to seek out a machine that could do the work and do it efficiently for an affordable price. Oddly enough, I found one that had good reviews on Amazon, and it had a familiar name.  With a little digging, I discovered it wasn’t really made by the company emblazoned on it’s chassis, it was just being used because it was familiar to consumers, but sneakily enough the company name was actually being used in a legal sense.  (Kodak had gone through bankruptcy in the early 2010s and sold off many of it’s lucrative patents) The nuance wasn’t really lost on me, as the company that had processed the slides, made the original film and even produced the camera that originally took the pictures were all one and the same, but it’s definitely a different world.  The Kodak building might still be in Rochester, NY, but it’s most definitely NOT the company it once was.

Even so, after purchasing the unit through Amazon, it took a little trial and error before I could use the unit efficiently.  It has a slider that one can load and push through the unit, which is set up to receive slides of different shapes and sizes, one just has to find the right one and it works pretty well.  I wouldn’t say that it works professionally, but certainly way better than the clunky way the Lightbox app operated.  I was able to hook up the unit to my computer via USB and instantly copy the scanned slides to my hard drive, once I had adjusted the slide for size as well as being sure the slide wasn’t in the unit backwards.  Several times I had to look at a slide to be sure that it wasn’t reversed, going back in my memory about how a certain piece of furniture or light switch was situated in my parent’s house, so as not to give the reverse impression of the items in the slide.

I have about 700 slides and all in all it took me about 3-4 hours to process them.  I did have to scan some of them multiple times in order to be sure they were done properly, since some of the slides weren’t in the greatest of shape after having been stored in various places over the years.  Certainly some of the really old ones (1950s) were completely oxidized and useless, though for the most part they showed people I’d never met and had no idea who they were.  Since my parents are deceased, I can’t use them for reference, and my cousins don’t live close by, so it’s likely they wouldn’t recognize them either.  Who they are will remain a mystery.  Such is the way of historical records sometimes, without proper annotation, it’s just a picture.

But, I’m pleased to have them in my possession, and for the longest time they were just sitting in my brother’s attic, unused, unseen and unknown.  Now I can share them with him, with my cousins and for a new set of eyes, my birth mother, who missed out on my youth and all the adventures I had.  She’s been very pleased and intrigued by the images.  So I’m happy it all worked out.  Thanks Kodak.

Borrowing against the end

I had a little trouble coming up with a suitable title for this entry.  “Borrowing against the future” didn’t make a lot of sense, as you’ll soon find out, so I went with the other ‘side’ for lack of a better term.  You’ll see why as I get further in.

I’ve been paying into a life insurance policy since about 1995.  At that time I’d been working with my last previous employer for about 2 years and for whatever reason they contracted with the company Mass Mutual and sent in a rep to talk to all the employees about life insurance.  Specifically about buying a whole life policy that would have the payments taken monthly out of our paychecks.  Certainly it seemed at the time a harmless venture, the policy wasn’t going to be used for at least 40 years (or more hopefully) and as long as I kept up the payments, I wouldn’t have to be concerned that there was going to be a lapse and I’d lose the policy entirely.  So I, like many of my co-workers, signed on.

Going ahead fifteen years, when the company got into financial straits, they decided to part ways with Mass Mutual and everyone that still had a policy got a letter in the mail saying that if they wanted to continue their relationship, the payments were no longer going to be deducted monthly from our pay, that we had to come to some sort of arrangement with MM to have the payments come from our personal checking accounts or some other method of payment.  So I went with a quarterly which wasn’t terribly inconvenient and continued paying into the policy religiously.  At some point, I apparently took a loan against the policy for about $800, but never paid it back.  Every quarter I’d get a statement in the mail, letting me know the current payment was being deducted from my checking account and on the back it informed me that a paltry sum was being added onto the loan I’d taken out many years ago.  The loan interest was merely 3.5% per year, so the interest was never very large on what remained.

Over the last ten years, I’ve been incurring credit card debt.  And like so many people I’ve been interested in getting out of that debt and have been attempting to use the ‘baby-steps’ method created by a guy named Dave Ramsey many years ago.  The only problem is, I haven’t been able to curb my spending enough to stop using the damned cards that caused the debt, and many of them have such crushing interest rates that the amount I’ve been plowing in for the last couple of years is always offset by the interest that is added on at the end of the month.  So (for example) if I pay the minimum on all cards and then the rest of the amount I’ve set aside on the one card with the largest interest rate, the interest on all the smaller cards adds up again and negates that balloon payment on the largest one.  I just don’t seem to get ahead.  If anything, for the last six months or so, I’ve been backtracking incrementally.  And when you’re in hock for 5 figures, that adds up over time.

So, getting back to the insurance policy, I hit on an idea.  Even though I’d started paying off the loan again, the amount of payments I’d made into the policy was fairly substantial.  Considering I’m currently paying about 5 times what I’d be paying in interest on a loan against my life insurance policy, it made sense to max out the loan possibility and pay off almost all of the credit card debt at once.  I’d end up with about $1800 on the lowest rate card, and I could have that paid off in about 2 1/2 months.  At that point, so as not to decimate my good credit score, I’d start cancelling the larger interest rate cards I have, and just keep the lower ones.  Then I could be paying the money I’d set aside for CC debt into the life insurance policy and make damn sure I didn’t get into hock again.

So that’s what I did.  It took about a week for Mass Mutual to send me a check, and another week for my credit union to clear it.  As of this morning, I’m going to be setting my plan into motion.  I just have to make sure not to get into any miscues in the meantime.  Fingers, toes and eyes crossed.

Scurry!

It may have not been the first day of summer, but man did it feel like it.  Sunday mornings are busy to begin with, what with the new ad breaking, and there is inevitably someone shopping early.  Of course that morning was the eve of a day that was forecast to be in the 80s, with possible thunderstorms in the afternoon.  Perfect day for grilling, so we were going to need to have as much product in the displays as possible to offset the hungry hordes.

Except the fact that the person entrusted with ordering a lot of the sale items, forgot to.  Can we say “oops”?  Yes, we can.  Though that didn’t help the people later in the afternoon who were irate and unhappy and making it known not only to myself, but my manager, HIS manager and so on.  It was just a miasma from 6:30 am to 3 pm and I was literally running my behind off for the majority of it.

As a rule I don’t take breaks in my job.  When I was with another company and worked in their bakery, I didn’t take breaks then either.  There were actually times (too many to mention as I recall) I went to the time-clock, punched for lunch, and went back to work, setting a timer in the department so I’d know when to go back to the time-clock to punch back in for the ‘official’ continuation of my shift.  Highly illegal from a labor rules standpoint, but oftentimes when you’re pressed for time, you have zero help, you do what you have to do and hang the consequences.  My department manager knew about it, but she just shook her head and let me.  Because she knew if I took my required breaks during the day, the work wouldn’t get done every night.

Now that I’m with this company, I take my required lunch break every day.  Because I’m required to.  Only because in this job, I’d get terminated if I chose to repeat the above history.  Breaks are a different manner, at least in my labor contract.  They’re optional.  If I don’t wish to, I don’t have to take them.  By and large, the vast majority of my co-workers do.  Seeing as they’re younger, and usually of a different generation, they seem compelled to take them.  And by all rights would take more of them if they could, I suppose.

I was very glad when the end of my shift happened to roll around.  Even so, as I’m writing this, there were a couple of things I didn’t get to.  And I know, (boy, do I know) no one else in the department did them after I left.  So they’ll be there waiting for me when I get back there Monday morning.  Seeing as this is going to be posted on Tuesday, this will be technically ‘yesterday’ for those keeping score.  Scheduling posts is a wonderful thing, but it does make you have to think about what time frame you’re referring to.  Tomorrow is yesterday, a penny saved is a penny earned.  Today is a gift, that’s why it’s called the ‘present’.

Yup, I’m getting punchy.  Time for bed.