Saturday, February 21, 2009


I felt like I should post something today, but I can't really think of anything linear. Therefore, I thought I'd do some random bullets. It's a technique used by many bloggers, I'm sure, but I'm copping it from one of my favorite blogs Miss Zoot.

  • I recently did a post about a couple of my favorite shows. However, I omitted one, "Burn Notice" on the USA network. I think it's one of the best spy dramas in quite some time.
  • The company at which I'm employed is very big. It's a multi-national. However, I'm continually amazed at how homey it feels. I get the same sense of community there as I did at my last company. It was a small textile company.
  • I've recently been invited to play guitar with some guys from work. This past Wednesday was the first time out. It was the 1st time I'd played in a group in five years or so. It was the 1st time in more than ten years that I played guitar in a group. I played bass in the last group. It's still fun. :)
  • Recently, an old Air Force buddy tracked me down via facebook. We lost touch and I hadn't heard from him in quite a while. Technology is amazing some times.
  • I'm wondering when the construction crew will be coming back to finish their work on this building. It's been almost 2 months since they last did any work on my apartment. It's very frustrating.

That's all I can really think of for now. I think I can expand a couple of those into full-blown posts. Thanks for tolerating my rambling. :)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Great TV....

I'm sure many of you have heard that old adage that, "TV is a vast wasteland." At times I'm inclined to agree; especially when it comes to a lot (make that, most) of the "so-called" reality shows. However, in the past two seasons I've found a couple shows that I feel are real gems. Both are dramas; both are "cop" shows, and both deal with "Life." :)

The 1st of these is the NBC show "Life" starring Damian Lewis. The show debuted last season, and the premise is that Lewis portrays an LA police officer who is wrongly accused & convicted of the grissly murder of his best friends. After 12 years of hard time, his conviction is overturned, he's freed, he wins a multi-million dollar wrongful imprisonment lawsuit, and he asks for his old job back (which he gets). The reason for getting his job back is so that he can find the real killers & bring them to justice. Of course, part of the subplot is that while in prison he was brutally beaten (due to his cop status) by other inmates. He did his share of retaliations (or at least we are led to believe he did), made some good allies, and found inner peace through Zen.

Now that he's out, he find wonder in the advances in technology since he's been away. He also loves fresh fruit so much that he's seen eating some at least twice each episode (is was constant in the first season). He also has a "conspiracy wall/room" in his extremely sparsely furnished mansion, in which he has photos of those he beleives were "in on" his frame-up & the murder itself.

Initially, I wasn't sure I'd like the show. I'd seen Lewis in a couple of films, and he always played the heavy (bad guy). From that, I wasn't sure if I could believe him as a good guy. However, his acting is so good that I'm totally sucked in during each episode. Often I find myself disapointed when the episode ends.

The other show is ABC's "Life On Mars." It's also a cop drama, and it's on the same night as "Life," therefore you'll probably need to set your TiVo for them both (that's what I do). This show debuted this season, and it's premise is that NY police detective Sam Tyler is struck by a car while pursueing a serial killer on foot. He then wakes up in a vacant lot to find himself in the year 1973 (instead of the present). He goes to his precinct, the 125, and finds that he's supposed to be the new transferee to the unit.

Now I don't remember the name of the show's star (who portray's Tyler), but other cast members are the beautiful Gretchen Mol (from "Rounders" & other films), and heavy-weight actor, Harvey Keitel. Actually, I initially watched the show just because of Keitel's involvement.

A lot of the show is Tyler dealing with being in '73 (when he was actually only 4 years old). He runs into his Mother, and the Father that abandoned the family in that year. He also meets a cops who will later become his mentor on the force. Other situations with which he must deal is the rampant chauvanism still present in the department, the kick-backs that are part of "business as usual," and the lack of modern technology & detective skills that he's used to using.

This show is also well written, and I find myself hating to see its episode end as with "Life."

There are other shows I feel are "can't miss" television, but I think this is enough for now. Be sure to check them out; I think you'll enjoy them as I do. :)

Sunday, February 8, 2009

A Myth is Dispelled.....

I totally cop to being an old fart. I'm just three years shy of 50 (as of last month anyway). So when I started listening to music seriously, when I was around 11 or 12, there were a few formats you could get, vinyl LPs, vinyl 45s, 8-track tapes, cassette tapes, & reel-to-reel tapes. Actually, when you examine those options, there were really only two choices, vinyl & tape. I was in my early 20s when CDs were introduced. Since that time there's been a debate about which media has the better sound quality. A lot older folks, around my age, will say vinyl while others tout the clarity of CDs & mp3s. However, I'll tell you a secret; they're both wrong. Furthermore, the adage that vinyl promotes better sound quality is a total myth. Before I explain my previous statement I need to make sure everyone has the same knowledge about sound & audio technology. This will only need a pretty simple explanation, so bear with me.

First you need to know about two things analog & digital. Think of digital as a light switch in your home. You flip the switch one way & the lights are fully on; you flip the switch the other way & the lights are fully off. That's digital; a switch that's either on or off, no in-between. Digital is usually represented by either a 1&0 or by a line or square/rectangle.

Now, think of analog as replacing that light switch with a dimmer switch. This time as you turn or slide the switch the light goes from being totally off to very dim, then brighter & brighter until the light is fully on. When you move the dimmer the other way, the reverse happens until the light is fully off. That's analog; a state that's continually changing between two base values (on & off). Analog is usually represented by a curved symbol that resembles an 'S' laying on its side.

Any sound that you hear (birds, traffic, TV, etc) reaches your ears as an analog signal. Sound is analog. CDs, MP3s, & DVDs are all recorded in a digital format. Digital is great for these because it takes up much less space. The problem comes (in my opinion) when you want to make sound (analog) a digital signal. In that conversion from analog to digital & then back to analog (so you can hear it) parts of the original sound are lost forever. I'll show you what I mean.

In the picture I've provided, the green line is a sound you can hear as an analog signal. The sound is changed to an MP3 by digitally sampling the analog signal at various points. This is represented by the green & blue rectangles. Note the bits of pale yellow showing between the green wave & the green/blue samples; those are bits of the wave that are not picked up by the conversion to digital. Now granted the signal is actually sampled at a very high rate, so the missing bits are very, very small, but there are still bits missing. Part of the original sound was never picked up. Some will say that the signal has been cleaned up; I don't agree.

There is still more to be done. You want to play the sound back later. Your ears only hear in analog, so the digital signal has to be converted back to analog. This conversion back to analog is represented by the red line in the drawing. So now the signal has been stripped once in a conversion, and even more has been lost in the conversion back to analog.

Back to the myth of vinyl. When people say vinyl LPs have better sound quality, it's true... but only for LPs that were recorded in an analog format. That hasn't happened since around 1990. Therefore, if you have a vinyl LP by, say, Coldplay, it has the same quality as a CD or MP3 of the same album. So it's not the vinyl that has the better sound quality, it's the analog recording itself. Of all the formats I mentioned before (LP, 45, 8-track, reel-to-reel, cassette) vinyl is the best because tape tends to have a hiss that can never be taken out.

To sum-up, vinyl LPs are not better than CDs or MP3s, etc. It's the analog signal that's better than the digital signal. This is not only my belief. I was saying this as far back as 1986, but no one would listen to me. Then around '89 I read an interview with Neil Young in "Spin" magazine. He said that he started recording all of his stuff in digital instead of analog. He said that he did this because he couldn't stand to hear the difference in the recording anymore, so he just went to digital right off. That way he always heard it in digital, and thus, didn't hear any differences. I was vindicated then.

Oh, there is one great thing about vinyl LPs that CDs & MP3s will never have; liner notes. I know that there are liner notes on CDs. However, you have to have a magnifying glass just to read them. On the LP you can just read them. This is more of a factor for me as my eyes get older.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I must say that I love my CDs & MP3s. It's very hard to carry a vinyl LP or 45 in your jacket pocket. :) By the same token, I still have a working turntable & about 200 vinyl LPs. I'm currently working on putting all my vinyl onto my computers hard-drive.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Old Habits Die Hard (if at all)...

I was once a smoker. I started smoking in high school. However, I didn't really smoke that much then, just a butt here & there, mainly with friends. When it developed into a habit was when I went into Basic Training with the Air Force. That was 1980.

Back then, there was no ban on tobacco in the military as there is now. I started smoking in earnest because smokers were given smoke breaks. Those who didn't smoke had to stay in the barracks & clean, shine shoes, make beds, etc. I wanted an extra break, so I took up smoking. By the time those 6 weeks were done, I had a regular habit. I was smoking about a pack a day.

So it continued throughout the rest of my stint in the military and beyond. I pretty much leveled out at 2 packs a day, which at the time was about $4 a day. After about ten years of it, I started thinking about how much I was spending on smokes each week. It was close to $15, and at the time that seemed to be a lot. I was thinking that I wanted to quit.

Then, one day my Dad needed me to take him for his annual MRI at the time. The night before, I smoked the last cigarette in the pack. I hadn't decided to quit yet. I remember thinking that after I picked Dad up the next morning, I needed to stop & get a pack of smokes. But Dad was running late the next day & I had to drive like crazy so he could make his appointment. The cigarettes would have to wait.

After I got him to the MRI place, I asked the receptionist where the nearest convenience store was. It wasn't within walking distance, and I didn't have time to drive there before Dad was finished. So, I was going to have wait until we were headed back home to get my cigarettes. But, Dad wanted to go straight home, and we started talking so I completely forgot to stop.

To make a long story short(er), I went the entire day without a cigarette. The odd part was that I didn't realize it until about 7pm that night. When I did remember, I thought, "Well, let's see how long before I really crave one. When I get a real craving, I'll buy a pack." I never got a cigarette craving. Somehow, I had quit smoking without even trying. That was back in July of 1990.

Why am I telling this boring-assed story? Because about 2 months ago, I started having cravings for cigarettes. I don't know what's causing this. The strangest part came last Saturday. I was in a convenience store buying a soda; when I went up to the counter to pay, I came within an inch of asking for a pack of Camel filters (my former brand). It almost popped out when I put the soda on the counter. It was really weird. Even now the thought of having a smoke is actually kind of nice. But, I don't think I'll be having one any time soon. I'm just wondering why these cravings are coming back now? I'll be damned if I know....