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Musings of a dad with too much time on his hands and not enough to do. Wait. Reverse that.

Month: July 2018 (page 1 of 3)

Music to drive by, Part 3

In a couple of previous posts, I proposed a couple of ways to easily copy all or a portion of your music library to a thumb drive for playing in your usb-enabled automobile.  You can check out my solution at my Github page.

Recently, though, I encountered yet another frustration: my “copy” script iterates through a JSON file of the inventory of my music.  In the file, my music is listed in alphabetical order by the artist.  So, I copy my music to my thumb drive in alphabetical order.  Which means I’ll get Aerosmith on my thumb drive, but will likely never get ZZ Top.  Bummer!  So, I came up with a great solution: Get-Random!

All I need to do is alter one line in my “copy” script:


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# apply my selection criteria and get a list of the songs to copy over to the flashdrive
$mp3s_to_write_to_drive = $mp3_col | where {$genres_i_want -contains $_.genre} | where {$bands_to_skip -notcontains $_.artist} | sort {Get-Random}

I just need to pipe my $mp3_col collection object to “sort {Get-Random}”.  This will sort the mp3 files randomly such that they’ll be copied to my thumb drive in a random order.  Cool!

I’ll probably not update my script in Github with this minor change, but just tack this little command at the end of the line in your downloaded copy of the script and you’ll be set.

Reduce image sizes

Suppose you want to drop an awesome image like this on your blog post or document to truly convey the fine nuances of your prose.  Problem is, that image is just too darn large!  Well, here’s one quick-and-dirty way to reduce the size of that image to something more reasonable.

Step 1: Download your image to a folder

Step 2: Launch Microsoft Paint

You can launch Microsoft Paint in a number of ways:

  • in your Start Menu, you can scroll down to Windows Accessories and find “Paint” nestled under there,
  • you can type “Paint” in your Search Box, hit <enter>, and find it in the list of results or
  • you can launch the Run Window by hitting your Window Key+R, then typing “mspaint” (without the quotes) to launch the program

Step 3: Open your image in Microsoft Paint

Here, you can click File > Open in the menu and then navigate to where you downloaded your image to load it into MS Paint, but the easier option is to simply have both Microsoft Paint open next to an open folder with your image and drag the image from the Windows Folder to the MS Paint canvas.

Step 4: Resize

Find the “Resize” button in the Home menu bar and click it:

Step 5: Resize accordingly

Clicking the Resize button opens the Resize dialog box.  Here, you’re presented with a variety of options to resize your image.  I usually select to resize by pixels and then set either the height or width to the particular specification I need.  What’s nice about this resize option is that Microsoft Paint automatically adjusts the other property so that you image stays proportional.

Step 6: Save your changes

Once you’ve resized appropriately, click the OK button.  Your image should be altered accordingly in the MS Paint canvas.  The last step is to save your changes.  You can either overwrite the original image or “Save As” to create a new image with your changes.

And that’s it!  A quick-and-dirty way to resize those large images you have to deal with from time-to-time.

What’s the return on a college investment?

In a previous post, I took lots of notes of a short podcast series I found on planning for college. I think I’m going to continue doing that as the host drops valuable nuggets of information in each episode he’s recorded. Here are my notes on his “Return on Investment” episode.

The first part of the episode seems to be a recap of his previous one–which I haven’t listened to yet. He speeds through a number of questions the student should ask himself when deciding on college and career:

1. For what you want to do, is a degree even necessary?

The host references a finding by The Center for College Affordability and Productivity that asserts 48% of 2010 graduates are working in jobs that don’t require a four year degree. Later in the podcast, he points out efforts by Mike Rowe and others to sway people from the “credentialist arms race” that college has become to less debt-riddled paths.

2. What will the job pay?

As I’ve told my child, consider your current circumstances: nice house in the suburbs, a couple of cars, summer vacations and so forth. Do you like that lifestyle? Do you want an even better one when you’re on your own? Then you’ll need to find a job that can support such a lifestyle. The host suggests visiting Payscale.com which apparently has tools to help you find a college that meets your budget and will even give you a projected income for when you graduate.

3. Will your income support the cost of your student loans?

Sure, you have lifestyle expectations that your future career will need to support, but you’ll need to add to that the cost of paying back your student loans. Will your career support both? To get an idea of what those student loans might look like, the host recommends visiting FinAid.org which has a calculator to help you estimate your potential, monthly student loan bills. He also mentioned two other tools for estimating your potential costs that look to be pretty good:

4. Is your chosen degree too general?

A degree in “business” may be too general for your intended career. Here is where more research is warranted where you start with your chosen career and work backward toward the degree(s) that best feed that career.

5. Does the brand name school really matter?

Occasionally, attending that elite school may be the path you need to take for your chosen career, but, chances are, the degree is more important than the stationary it’s printed on. Again, your research should bring such points to light.

6. Does the college itself have a lot of debt? Will it stay in business?

I thought this point was interesting and one I’ve never considered. What would happen if you received a degree from a college that went out of business? Would that negatively influence your standing with potential employers? I have no idea. As I think about it, I recall hearing about some for-profit colleges going out-of-business, but I don’t recall ever hearing about a traditional school closing its doors.

7. Inquire about the college graduation rate, the average number of years to graduate, the percentage of students that graduate, and the student loan balance.

All great questions you should ask of a potential college. He also mentioned Wallethub’s 2018’s Cities with the Most & Least Student Debt as a good resource for identifying what States (and likely State schools) pose the most risk for high student debt.

After his recap, the host then dove into the main points of thinking about your Return on Investment for the cost of your degree. He called out four important considerations:

  1. What’s the total price of your intended college?
  2. How much student loan do you plan on obtaining?
  3. Consider the income potential of your chosen career field. Is it worth the investment?
  4. Consider if the income you make will cover your loans and expenses.

You can increase your ROI by decreasing your up-front costs. Consider these ways to save “thousands” on your tuition bill (for both parents and student):

  1. Parents should set limits. Set a limit to the total amount you’ll contribute each year. Set a limit to the total number of years you’ll contribute to your child’s college journey. He noted, sadly, that due to the fact that parents are the usual co-signers to federal and private student loans, people in their 60s are now becoming the largest demographic paying back student loans.
  2. Apply to the FAFSA
  3. Explore scholarships and grants
  4. Get in-state tuition. Even if the student attends an out-of-state school, there are ways to still pay in-state prices.
  5. Look into CLEP exams and test out of subjects you’re already familiar with to reduce your costs.

Great series of podcasts for those of you, like me, looking at that bright light at the end of the tunnel.

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