Getting My Old VCR Tapes to Play Again

A Simple Fix for an Old VCR Cassette that Won’t Rewind or Fast Forward

Yes, some of us still have VCR’s (I also own an abacus and a slide rule and I know how to use them). My tape collection includes some wonderful stuff that might not even be available any more — I have videos from a survey of martial arts masters in China that includes internal energy demonstrations and kata from styles no one here in West knows. I have taped lessons from Russian Spetnaz experts and retired cops, tapes of all sorts of interesting things. Video tape doesn’t last forever, though, and currently I’m trying to transfer my collection to DVD and hope that media doesn’t go out of vogue as quickly as the VCR did.

I’m finding some of these old tapes to be a little cranky the first time I try to run them. Heat, cold, humidity and who knows what else makes them reluctant to unwind. Sometimes the first try yields nothing but static, then magical things happen and shattered sequences poke through the haze, and if I can get the tape to fast forward and rewind just once it’s usually ok.

Other times, such as today, the recovery method fails. Today’s project was a study of the 18 Lohan Set developed by Da Mo. I got it all the way through the fast forward part of the fix, but then it jammed and wouldn’t rewind. For awhile I thought my ancient VCR had broken, because it refused to play other tapes I’ve played recently, but I remembered my technical training. I turned it off. I turned it on again. Suddenly the good tapes played — some mysterious cog inside snapped back into position during the reboot.

My problem tape, however, still wouldn’t work. The tape wheels would not turn at all, so I decided what the hell, might as well take it apart and see what’s in there. Five Philips head screws hold the case together and the windowed top of the case lifts off easily if you don’t miss screw number five like I did. By the time I did see the recessed center screw I’d forgotten to lift the top off and instead lifted the bottom of the case first.

Don’t do that. Little pieces fall out and suddenly the tape isn’t threaded properly through the rollers any more. I compared what I had to a cassette that was still functional and combining that with my recollections of running the school projector in eighth grade I got everything put back. Wheels turned, I spun a little ways into it manually to see if something was sticking, and nothing was.

Two anchor pawls at the mid point of the case lock both geared tape wheels in position for storage. Inside the VCR tape compartment you can see an upright metal tab that pushes a recessed button on the underside of the cassette when it settles into place. I suppose that the tape was so sticky that when the pawls locked down the tension on them prevented the button from releasing the pawls when pushed. It’s not a tight fit between button and case, and the push tab is thin metal, so it was probably just slipping off.

So the next time this happens I won’t bother taking anything apart. I will just take the point of an ink pen and push the button on the bottom of the cassette. That will release the tension of years of poor storage and then, if I remember to turn the VCR off and then on again, I’ll be back in business.

I found lots of advice online, but I didn’t find this simple fix described anywhere.

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A Creepy Tale of Halloween Shopping at Creepy Hollows

public domain dragon image

What I did not get at Creepy Hollows

Every year I do three stupid things. I can’t help it, that’s just the way I am, I will make three stupid decisions annually and most of the time they have to do with buying something. That’s the least harmful decision I can make, so I try to consciously control at least two of my mistakes just to limit the damage. This year an acquaintance of mine online recommended Creepy Hollows as a good place to buy fairies and dragons. I had been unaware such things were available for purchase at all, but when I checked the site out I thought the prices seemed fairly reasonable, around $40 on average and with the new customer discount the price went down to approximately $20. This seemed like a wonderful opportunity to get rid of what I hoped was the last stupid financial decision I made in 2014, and it might even turn out to be fun.

I’m open-minded about magickal things. You can’t practice martial arts and meditation for most of 60 years without coming across some odd stuff. It’s not hearsay when you’ve devoted your life to these practices; it’s direct experience. When you start reading the books that masters of the internal martial arts and ninjutsu have written, you run into some very odd statements. It’s not uncommon for such people to have direct contact with what the modern world now describes as “aliens.” I’ve had my share of that, and in the old stories of faeries and dragons I see much of my own experience reflected, although I don’t regard it as being precisely what the old magi thought it was. When someone says they sell such things — or actually, amulets magically connected to the spirits of deceased beings from long ago — I am immediately skeptical. In the traditions I’ve studied, involving money in this is a great way to lose that connection and spiritual allies are not something that can be sold. Some interesting things happened when my friend sent her fairy to visit, though, and I decided to take the plunge and buy an entity of my very own. Maybe a dragon, I thought. It would be kind of nice to have a dragon around. I’ve often thought of getting an iguana, but the house is too cold in the winter for tropical reptiles and anyway at my age I worry what would happen to a pet that outlives me. Iguanas and parrots live longer than people do and I have maybe twenty years left if I change my sinful ways and live right, which isn’t actually going to happen. A pet that’s ethereal and already dead, that seems nice. I wouldn’t even mind if it were completely imaginary. I could still have fun introducing it to people.

Shopping at Creepy Hollows quickly turned into a Halloween horror story. I found page after page of information on various types of dragons, all of whom have different specialties and needs. Some are diurnal and some nocturnal; some fight with flame and others with poison; some are small enough to fit in your hand and others are bigger than my house. Some don’t tolerate winter temperatures happily, and I didn’t want to hook up with a dragon that gets cranky for half the year. I spent hours sorting through the listings and afterwards wished I had taken notes, because Creepy Hollows pads everything with a lengthy chunk of repetitious general information and hides the details someplace inside it. If you don’t copy and paste that stuff to your notepad, along with the page link, you’ll never find it again without going through all the listings one more time. Once I acquired my research headache I decided to look for other options, and found something that seemed perfectly designed for someone like me: the Creepy Hollows Reverse Adoption.

If you go for the Reverse Adoption at Creepy Hollows, you don’t have to plow through hundreds of pages of misleading and contradictory product information. You let the spirits choose you, and you might be surprised by what you get (I certainly was). You might get a Djinn, or a Fairy, or a Dragon, or a Vampire, or even a Succubus! or a being from several other categories of ethereal companions. (I had already considered the succubus option but thought the price was a bit high). All the options sounded interesting so I placed an order and included a brief description of myself and my spiritual path just in case the spirits involved needed details. In fact, it seemed unfair to the then 297 spirits available that any of them might connect to me accidentally. I’m known to be trouble. From reading accounts on the Creepy Hollows Forum I knew that most people had limited experience with the entities they purchased. In fact, you could easily attribute all that happened to imagination and circumstance. If you just bought a fairy, you tend to interpret every odd thing that happens as fairy mischief. I’m not like that, odd stuff happens in my house and my life even without a Creepy Hollows amulet around my neck. When I work with spirits, we do actual things, and any spirit that volunteers to work with me might be in for a rough ride.

So I went one step farther, and meditated upon attending the summoning and binding ceremony personally (in astral form). I figured that being there would help ensure a correct choice. Maybe I could meet the candidates beforehand and we could get to know each other, like at one of those Russian bride conventions in Moscow. I can understand if you’re skeptical of this approach, but Shaolin monks can walk through walls. Happens even if you’re a layman, if you work at the kung fu for long enough. I had confidence in myself.

In a couple of weeks, the people who do the magickal things at Creepy Hollows got around to my order. You can choose different options for the binding, and a stainless steel amulet seemed appropriate for me. They did get that part right — the envelope that came in the mail contained a small stainless steel pendant in the shape of an axe. That really seemed like an inspired choice. I have a collection of axes and have used nearly all of them. My blog has a section devoted to them, and I’ve reviewed axes professionally. I did not sense any remarkable energy connected to the amulet, unlike many of the people on the forum who said their packages arrived simply humming with power. I was disappointed, because I’m somebody who will buy a crystal if sparks jump across to my fingertips when I reach for it. I like strange things.

The shipment included a description of the entity to whom I was now connected, and immediately as I read it I felt there had been a huge mistake, because the description was an expanded version of the personal information I included with my order. I wondered if I had misunderstood it, looked for an explanation online and couldn’t find one, and wrote to the support email address to complain. Later that day I realized what probably had happened. I took the amulet off from around my neck and tossed it into the Wooden Bowl of Useless Junk and Dominoes that I keep on top of the bookcase. A few days later I wrote to Creepy Hollows support again, asking that they either redo the order or send me a refund, but I haven’t heard from them and do not expect a reply. They make it as clear as anything else on their site (and by this I mean their policy on refunds and product effectiveness is muddled and confusing) that you ain’t gonna get your money back.

Some people really do have gifts, in a psychic sense, and the person who did my spiritual adoption might be one of those, because apparently this person picked up the vibes of my visiting astral self and assigned me to me. I have adopted myself. I wish the conjurer assigned to my order had taken a few minutes more to let the visiting dragons and fairies and succubi assemble, had allowed us to shake hands and introduce ourselves and discuss possible projects, because something really nice might have happened if the people at Creepy Hollows weren’t so intent on filling their production quota. I guess we only had about 30 seconds, not even long enough for me to explain why I was there. Now I’m bound to an amulet I can’t return because they might sell me to someone else and I’d have to throw balls of light through someone’s house at night and make the floors creak. I’m no use to myself as a spiritual guide, seems redundant. Maybe redundancy is the real thing you buy at Creepy Hollows.

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The Simple Way to Use KeePass Password Safe

keepassWith Russian hackers cracking the secure files of every major website in the country every few weeks, and starting to work on the smaller guys, too, if you haven’t been using KeePass Password Safe it’s time to start. It’s free. KeePass stores your passwords in encrypted form and lets you copy and paste them into logins without using any keystrokes. That prevents keyloggers from stealing your login information. When disaster strikes and suddenly you need to create and revise a long list of important passwords, KeePass does much of the work for you with a simple password generator and automatic features for updating password files.

KeePass provides so many advanced features that upon opening the program for the first time, the average user might find it very intimidating. The website offers two versions: Classic, a simplified version suitable for the home user; and Professional, the one with all the bells and whistles. Either one gives you the best password security available, and is equally simple to use. If you go with the Pro, you’ll get options you probably will never look at, but it’s interesting to poke around in them just for fun.

The simple approach to using KeePass involves nothing more than Right Click, Left Click and some straightforward menu selections.

Start by choosing one master password that’s easy enough to remember, that’s the one you will use to open Keepass. Write it down and keep it someplace at home just in case you forget it.

When you open KeePass, a menu of password categories appears on the left, like “Internet”, so you can organize your passwords. Right click on a blank space in the menu box to create a new folder you can name, or change the name of existing folders by right clicking on the listing.

Left click on a folder to see what’s in that category. On the right hand side of the program you see a list of passwords you have filed, or an empty box if you haven’t done any. Right click on the open space to get an action menu and select “Add Entry” to start a new one.

Choose a name for it; enter your user name; and either enter your current password or create a new one for updating an existing account. Click on the box with “…” to the right to reveal the password. When it’s revealed you can copy and paste and it won’t delete it from the clipboard on your computer until your machine does it’s housecleaning or copies something over it. For best security, work with it when it’s concealed behind the string of …….. You can copy and paste the password by highlighting the dot string and using right click/copy. Keepass gives you a brief interval to paste it to your updated login page and then deletes it from the clipboard automatically. All the data is encrypted until you actually paste it in the account.

Below the “…” box, see another box with a key in it. Click on that to use their password generator. KeePass already made a new password for you when you opened the entry box, but here you can choose a new one that’s also randomly generated, and you can tailor the rules to fit the account you are working with. If the account wants less than 16 characters, a number, upper and lower case and a special character, you can set those rules here. I always use the first option, “Generate from Character Set”, but you have other options here that will make things even more random. So, set your rules, punch OK, and KeePass creates and enters the password in the Add Entry box.

Enter the URL of the login page.

Click OK in the Add Entry box and your new password file shows in the folder space.

Left click on an entry in the list and the details come up at the bottom of the program box. Click on the URL link there to open the login page in your browser.

Right click on an entry in the list to get the working menu. Here you can copy either user name or password and paste them someplace new, then KeePass deletes them from the clipboard after that short space of working time. Here you find other essential options, so you can view the entry details, edit the entry to change the password, etc.

KeePass includes important failsafe features for saving files. If you edit a password, create a new one, and your account won’t take it for some stupid reason, you can get the old password back by closing Keepass and saying NO!!! when it asks if you want to save changes. If you don’t save then the next time you open the program and go to that entry, you’ll get the old password. KeePass will always ask about saving changes when it closes, if you change any of the stored information, and unless you save manually first, you can still get your old info back. I’ve needed that several times.

When you update passwords, a neat feature called “Derive from old password” tumbles the character string of the old password into a new random sequence, ensuring that your new choice abides by the rules of that login site. Pretty handy if the account has stupid rules. One I use allows every character except comma and apostrophe and it can take me several tries before I read the fine print and figure this out once again. If I scramble the old password, it eliminates trouble.

Best thing, KeePass creates encrypted passwords that are too hard to remember mentally and remembers them for you, so all you need to do is copy and paste. You’ll only need to remember the master password for KeePass to get quick access to everything else.

KeePass will print a hard copy of all your user names and passwords if you want something that won’t fail when your computer does. Or you can copy the encrypted KeePass password file and store it online or on removable media. The KeePass website offered a free portable version for those who want their passwords available on USB sticks.

Practice on something not very important first, but KeePass isn’t hard to learn. There are tons of things in it that you don’t need, but the stuff you do need is pretty simple.

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