Stages Part 4.5

In previous posts on this subject, I’d been advancing my home stereo towards some goal of having big, energizing, musical sound.  The "final" step in the process was buying tower speakers for the amplifier.  I’ve come up with a step in between.

I was skeptical of the claims made that putting your bookshelf speakers on stands would improve their sound dramatically.  I was proven wrong.  The change was highly noticeable.  So much so, that it made me wonder if I really needed tower speakers.  At the very least, it would delay their purchase for a while.  The improvements got better when I separated the speakers from the stands with silicone buttons and added the floor spikes to the stands.  Both are things that audio fetishists go crazy over.  Not as much the spikes, but to read about the "isolation" and "decoupling" of the speaker from the stand using (only) sorbothane balls or brass spikes gets a little weary.

And I thought I had taken things about as far as I could with what I had.  One of the improvements I got with my changes was improved bass.  I could hear the bass and slightly feel it, too.  And you know, once you get a taste of something good, you want more.  That was going to be taken care of by the tower speakers, when I bought them.  But I wasn’t ready to buy them yet, because I liked what I had.  Well, I guess I wanted to like what I had more, so I had a choice to make.

That choice was whether to add a subwoofer to the system for the extra bass.  I read a lot of articles.  I researched a lot of products.  I reviewed my budget.  In the end, it felt like a "fuck it" decision anyway, so yeah.  Subwoofer it is.

Here’s the catch.  Based on what I’ve been reading, having a subwoofer is just not enough.  A very well-written article by a generally polarizing individual explained the technical reasons for subwoofer use in the 60’s, 70’s, then 80’s and beyond.  And that article, along with other higher-end articles stated pretty simply: you need multiple subwoofers.  At a minimum, you need stereo subs, because although it’s popular to say sub=bass is mono, it really isn’t.  But as long as you’re entertaining the idea of multiple subwoofers, having four is not out of the question.

Now, four subwoofers was not and would not be my plan.  But, while researching products, the subwoofer model that I settled on (due to price) did not have stereo inputs.  That would mean that I would have to buy a cable to merge the left and right channels to go into the sub.  I’m not a fan of that idea; it just seems wrong.  So the evidence is stacking up for getting two subwoofers.  The budget doubles.  So which one (or which two)?

You can get subwoofers with speaker sizes of 8", 10", 12", 15", or even 18".  I start small, looking at 8".  I need two of them.  The more I look at them, the less I am convinced.  My bookshelf speakers already have 6" drivers, and the tower speakers I was looking at for the future have multiple 6" drivers.  Is an 8" really going to provide the depth I should have?  So, I look at the 10".  That’s about as far as I will go.  There’s no way I can reasonable justify having two 12" or larger subs in my little listening room.  I wouldn’t even have room for them.  I’m already looking at compact subs because of space concerns.  But, if the future means I have a larger room for my listening hobby, then the 10" subs will be able to handle that growth.  If I do go with the tower speakers in stage 5, the subs will complement them as well.

So the retail price difference between 8 and 10-inch is $229 vs $344 – $115 dollars to upgrade to the larger sub with the bigger amp.  Because of sale prices, the prices are now $126 and $189 -  a bigger discount on the bigger sub.  Now, the upgrade cost is $63.  Still, I need two.  And after looking back and forth and back and forth at numbers in both my web browser and in MS Money, I reached the "fuck it" point and bought two 10" subwoofers.

Fortunately, the subs do come with cables, but I did need to buy two splitter cables, to send the low-level output from my pre-amp to both my bookshelf speakers and the subs.  And what have I ended up with?

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Also new in this picture is a switched power strip mounted below the amplifier, which turns all four speakers on and off.  Since all the controls for the subs are on the bottom of the units, and I was getting concerned and also annoyed by pushing the power buttons on the speakers each day, a single switch should help everything.

Now, how does it sound?  I started my test with all knobs set to the minimum and put on Rush – Signals as my first test.  I went through a few tweaks, raising the crossover, raising the input level, lowering the crossover, and back and forth between the different possibilities.  The result was nice, but not earth-shattering, nor room-shaking.  I was underwhelmed.

Then I thought maybe my choice of album wasn’t that great, so I put on Edgar Meyer – Dreams Of Flight.  Holy shit.  Now I was shaking the walls, which was actually hilarious to see the cat repeatedly alerting on the sound of the pictures vibrating on the wall.  With that album, I did a few more tweaks and lowered the levels a little.

The next test was Tom Petty – Full Moon Fever.  Being produced by Jeff Lynne, certainly this album would have a lot of things happening everywhere in it.  And I wasn’t disappointed at all from the results.  My expectations were being tempered by reality.  Where I expected kick drums to hit me in the chest, that’s not how (decent) albums are mixed.  But what I wasn’t expecting was the loss of the shrillness.  When I would turn up the stereo before, I sort of had to grit my teeth and suffer the high end to get any power.  With the subs hooked up, It was like the high end was tamed.  I don’t want to say "lost", because I don’t think it sounded any duller, just less piercing.

The last test was Iron Maiden – Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son.  I didn’t get the sound I expected, but the sound I got was excellent and very engaging.  My ears weren’t ringing at the end either, which was a blessing.  And it seemed like I was able to go louder than before, probably because I wasn’t getting ice picks in the eardrums.

I’m actually thinking there may not be a stage 5 now…

Is Being Old A Liability?

I’m not actually talking about people getting old and the risk that comes with that.  You know there’s plenty of risks for old people, health, financial, mental, and on and on.  Everything is dangerous.  That’s not what I’m talking about.  I am talking about corporations.  Is it now a liability to be old?

Traditionally, it has been a great thing to have a business that’s been running for 50+ years.  Some running for over 100.  Amazing, isn’t it?  To be that ingrained the fabric of America, to have that sort of name recognition, to have seen it all and weathered everything that came along.  That last point: to have seen it all and weathered it.  That is the liability – to have been there.

This train of thought is fairly new for me and is obviously based on current events, but the idea I’m basing it on was actually born quite a while ago.  I was at a Dairy Queen, eating lunch one weekend.  Dairy Queen is one of those long-standing institutions I’m referring to.  I believe them to be generally well-loved, but every business has its detractors for some reason or another.  That’s not important for the moment.  What is important is having a history and being proud of it.

Yes, so Dairy Queen is an old company.  They are quite proud of their early beginnings and how they’ve grown to a massive corporation that is, if not the leader, then the most recognizable company in their field.  So, they want to highlight the humble beginnings of their company to, I don’t know, inspire others?  And I’m sitting there at lunch eating, and on the wall are old black and white photos of early Dairy Queens with the old cars and crowds of people lining up for ice cream.

And as I studied the pictures, my thought was, "That’s a whole lot of white people, there."

Now at the time, things weren’t as crazy as they are now, but race relations were growing tense.  They must have been for me to focus in on that aspect of the pictures.  And further studying showed, yes, no black people present.

Let’s not jump to conclusions here.  There’s lots of reasons why a bunch of photos just all happened to not show a single black person getting ice cream from an old Dairy Queen.  Local demographics is a perfectly valid reason.  BUT.  Racial tensions are not about reason, they are about emotion.  And anything that reinforces a perception… well, it’s not good, regardless of whether the perception can be explained or not.

To cut to the chase, I am wondering if it is worthy of consideration for a company that existed in the less-than-ideal era for black people to simply drop their company, drop their history, and start fresh with a new company.  Radical?  Yes.  Beneficial?  Maybe.  Harmful if not done?  Well, it is leaving an avenue of attack open.

I can foresee the arguments.  Attack?  That’s not fair.  This company did nothing to foster divide or hatred back then and that nonwithstanding, this company is a diverse, fresh, modern company that is committed to blah, blah, blah.  Right.  And you can see how effective a defense that is.  Compare that to:  This company was formed and created in 2020, the year of social change, established right from the beginning with equality, inclusiveness, and equal representation in every level of management and policy.  Blah blah blah.  Both are corporate non-speak, but one has the distinct advantage of no historical baggage.

A company that was around in the 50’s, even if they weren’t actively employing racist policies, was still operating in the norms of the time, which is to say, likely racist.  You would have to be considered extremely progressive, even radical, to have a company back then like companies are today.  If you want a real eye-opener, watch the old movie 9 to 5, from 1980.  At the climax of the movie, the old boss returns to the office and sees handicapped people working there and learns of many employee benefits that have been implemented in his absence.  He’s furious, of course, insisting he will undo everything right away.  Watching the movie now, those major advancements are like the bare minimum today.

So, if you were operating in the 50’s, you were a part of the problem.  Your only excuse is that the social norms at the time didn’t consider it a problem.  And that’s a problem for your company.  You can say how committed you are and how changed and all that happy stuff your company is, but your company has old bones.  And an old brain.  And memories, posted in black and white photos on your walls.  You can’t escape that past, without completely starting over.

Watching The Races

I’ve been keeping an eye on the COVID race for a few months now.  The players I watch are all standout players:  FL, TX, PA, and GA.  Those are the places that have people that I know, so I watch their progress.

I remember when FL was the star, I seem to recall it was in the top 5 for a while.  But PA put forth a massive effort and shot right up the charts.  TX was a slow starter, but it’s been doing pretty well lately.  GA has always been mediocre, which I suppose is a good thing, honestly.  But FL is recently finding its mojo and is climbing in rank again.  Go, FL!  Obviously, no one is going to take the crown from NY, and NJ is probably always going to be second to NY (in everything), so there’s only so far you can go.

For three of my players, I watch their personal progress dashboards.  Two of them, FL and TX, use the same software, so it kind of gives some equal comparison of the numbers.  But in both cases, they use graphs that are misleading.  Well, they aren’t if you understand the data, but for casual observers and those that don’t want to put the minimal effort into understanding, the response could be either, "this isn’t so bad", or "this is great" when the reality is neither of those sentiments.

Take a graph from FLs dashboard:

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Wow, that’s impressive.  Deaths are falling, and dramatically at that!  This is all behind us, let’s go party!

But there is a small disclaimer below the chart, for those that care to read: "Death data often has significant delays in reporting…".  That means that those low numbers in the near term are low because there’s no data yet.  Those numbers will rise as time goes on, but that’s just fine, because there will be newer, lower numbers to report as time goes on as well.

Here’s a graph from TX’s dashboard.

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This is just dumb design: plotting two values, one that will constantly increase, and one that will remain relatively constant on the same scale.  This will have two effects.  First, the number of deaths per day (in blue) looks like a really small value.  And comparing 20 to 1,698 does make 20 seem very small.  But as the total number grows, and it will, every day, the scale is going to eventually have to be adjusted, and the daily value is going to be insignificant.

TX does the same charting with the number of cases, with the same effects.

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Maybe its incompetency that made these charts, but in the current political climate, and judging that these two states have pushed very hard to justify their reopening plans, it might not be a stretch to think this is just propaganda.  The numbers don’t lie, they’re not telling you anything false.  It’s just being presented in a way that looks most favorable.

Stages Part 4

In the previous post on this topic, I discussed the stereo buildup to the point where I had a good listening system.  The next transitional step would be to physically prepare it for the tower speakers, which will be stage 5.  I had made another post about the fortunate timing of my speaker stand purchase, which saved me around $50 or almost a third of what I had budgeted.  So the items have come in and are ready for implementation.

The first piece that came in was the stereo rack.  All black glass and chrome, it allowed each component a shelf of its own, but I still kept the amplifier and equalizer together.  Quality-wise, the stand is a big meh.  I didn’t pay a lot for it, so I can’t be disappointed, but I expect at some point, I’m going to be getting a better rack.

The next day, the speaker stands come in.  Heavy steel plates and posts, which are supposedly the key to keeping bass and separation.  No disappointment here.  We’ll have to see how they perform.

I disassembled my setup and moved the current table out of the way for the new pieces.  While behind the system, I did a little wire management for tidiness sake.  This is what it looked like.

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What did it sound like?  Well, I don’t want to get into all the audio snobbery adjectives, but I will say it sounded better.  Significantly better.  Of course, maybe it’s a placebo effect, I’m not going to rule that out, but I tested out two different CDs, with widely differing musical styles and both sounded more impressive to me than I remembered before.  So I will call it a success.

What’s stage 5 again?  Tower speakers.  Well, that can wait for some time now.  I’m going to have to get tired of this new sound, which could be a little while.

Collection Completion And Expansion

I want to start off by mentioning that CDs are collectables.  There is one irrefutable reason I can make this claim.  That reason is the irrationality of the pricing of any particular CD.  While it shouldn’t be a surprise that any particular thing can be collectable and priced unreasonably high when it becomes scarce, sometimes, the outrageous prices set a particular expectation when researching and shopping.  In this way, I suspect there are a lot of dealers of collectables who will list items at outrageous prices to get people’s expectations set, then actually sell an item (maybe even as a different vendor) at a price less than that expectation, while still being somewhat unreasonable.

So anyway, this is about the last CD in a series that I need for absolute completion.  I’ve been satisfied with what I’ve had so far because those that I have are all of the retail versions out there.  The one I have been missing is a promo-only copy.  Not only a promo-only copy, which could include retail copies with a "Promo, not for resale" sticker or stamp on it, this is a promo-only version.  Obviously far less available and made in much lower quantity.  All this time, there has been one seller of this disc, offering it for $50 plus shipping.  The guy knows the scarcity.

Very recently, a new seller popped up, selling it for $30.  This guy knows, too.  And he’s looking to make a sale based on the one and only one person who has this CD in his wantlist (me).  And you know what, he almost had me.  I was getting ready to buy it when I decided to do a quick sanity check on eBay.  eBay has never had that CD before, but you never know.  And amazingly, it’s on there now.  And only $10.  It’s an immediate buy for me.  Sure, I just paid a decent amount for a used CD, but it’s been unavailable for years and has had an unflinching price of $50.  And now, my collection is absolutely complete.

Do I have other discs in my collection like that?  Yes I do.  Will I be fortunate enough to reap the benefits of scarcity when I sell?  Collectors don’t sell.  That was a trick question.

So, like I said, that completes the collection.  The IRS NoSpeak series is now complete.  The original CD collection that got me into being a completist was the MCA Master Series, which I’ve posted about many times.  Out of curiosity, I did a search to see how much of that series was available for sale on eBay right then.  That would give me an idea of the scarcity of my collection.

I would say it was maybe 50% available and of those, many were double-digit prices, so that’s actually pretty promising, from a value perspective.  But as I was browsing the results, I didn’t have any category filters set, so I was seeing CDs, cassettes, and vinyl.  But there was another product that was in the results – a promotional poster from the record label for the MCA Master Series. 

Well, now.  There’s a product you don’t see very often.  In fact, I’ve never seen one ever, nor heard of it existing.  And that would be understandable.  Posters are given to record stores and other record label contacts, are hung up until they fade or rip (or the label goes out of business), and are discarded.  No one keeps promo material like that.  But here was a surviving example.

I’ve posted before about my big artwork project of scanning, printing, framing, and hanging all of the MCA Master Series album covers as art in my house.  There should not be any doubt whatsoever that this poster must belong to my collection.  And so it became.  I don’t buy a lot of posters.  I don’t really know how much they go for.  But I got this poster for $16 shipped.  Considering the thing is over 30 years old… I don’t think that’s too bad.  It’s a decent size, also:  28" x 26".  I have a place picked out and expect I’m going to spend the big $$$ on a professional framing job.  Once stores open again, of course.

In all, this has been a spendy weekend.  But, a lot of stuff is changing in my music room.  Now stands for stereo speakers and components, a few new CDs are on the way, and a neat poster to hang in there.

It’s Never Been A Better Time To Buy…

…from someone other than Amazon.

It was about a year ago I had made a post about how I’ve wanted to try and reduce my dependency on Amazon.  For the most part, I feel like I’ve been successful.  Sure, there are still things I buy from the empire, usually quick-need things or small trinkets that they’ll ship free where other places couldn’t be bothered with such a small order.  Seriously, I’m buying an electrical wall plate for $2.50 and you’re going to drive it to my house, tomorrow, for free?!  That’s just dumb.  But I’m sure they’re getting it back somehow.

Anyway, since everyone is stuck at home, Amazon is the place for supplies now, right?  And everyone is also trying to scratch their consumer itches, too, so there’s Amazon, again.  But, if you do your research every time, you might just find that there are other options that are just as good and many times better than the empire.  Let me illustrate.

Example 1.  I’ve been without a microwave for quite some time now, maybe 8 months.  How I’ve survived without my dedicated popcorn maker, I don’t know.  But I figured enough is enough.  I want popcorn.  So I went on the hunt for a microwave that was simple and basic-duty.  The options: Amazon, Target, Sears, and Lowes.  Because I’m a brand whore, my preferred brands were Panasonic and Kenmore, which ended up excluding Target and Lowes.  But would you guess?  The winner was Sears.  Sears!  And get this – no free shipping!  But, even including the shipping (a whopping $15), the price was the same as Amazon and I still got it in two days.  Who says only Amazon can do that shit?

Example 2.  I’ve had some stereo speaker stands on my Amazon wish list for some time, just waiting for the right time to make that move.  Today, I decided to make that move.  The stands are made and sold by Monoprice, and sold through Amazon (as well as through their own website).  The stands on Amazon?  $76 each.  The stands on Monoprice?  $55.  Both with free shipping.  I work at a company that sells some product through Amazon and I know it’s not exactly a win-win to make a deal with the devil.  You may gain a lot of eyeballs, but your profit margin is going to suffer greatly from the cut they take. 

And that leads me to example 3.  eBay has become my primary Amazon alternative.  Just some simple hair product purchased today.  $18 at Ulta, $12 at Amazon, and $10 on eBay.  Ok, so I’ll get 3-day instead of 1-day delivery from eBay, but this isn’t a need-now product.  More importantly, I think it’s important to buy from eBay because it’s smaller retailers or even individuals doing a hustle.  You’re more likely to be helping people than a company.  And while eBay is a company and yes, they do take fees for their service, it’s not a egregious as the empire.  Plus there’s the whole flea-market atmosphere which has a slight appeal to me.  There’s less Ai involved, so when you find something you like and a great price, it’s because you’re smart, not because the empire’s computer knows everything (fucking EVERYTHING) about you and tossed you a biscuit.

And speaking of eBay, I need to go now and buy the stereo stand that is also in my Amazon wish list.  Same product, same price (actually 9 cents cheaper on eBay), free shipping.  Why not patronize the little guy?  Make them happy in these bleak days.  Amazon is going to do just fine.

The Unexplainable Terror

Following on the heels of the other dream post, last night I had a nightmare.  I know, most people’s nightmares are pretty realistic and usually grounded in some sort of reality.  An event that could potentially happen.  No, not me.  The things that scare me to death are just… weird.

In most of my dreams, they play out kind of first-person, kind of third-person.  More accurately, it’s like I’m a cameraman in the dream.  I may interact and be party to the events going on, but there are also a lot of wide shots or overhead shots, or views that I could not physically have if I was there.  It’s actually quite typical for the astral plane, which is not bound to any concepts of the physical plane.  But I digress.  I’ll come back to that in a bit.

The part where the dream centers on is where myself and a few people have been placed in a remote location.  Not exactly barren, but there’s no civilization there.  We more or less know each other but we don’t know why we’re there.  We are informed that a nuclear explosion is expected to happen.  It’s not absolutely certain, but it’s highly likely.  The time frame is also unknown, but it’s expected to be soon.  It’s assumed to be an attack from outside, not something we’re doing to ourselves.  Despite this, no one is really freaking out over it.  It’s all delivered and received very matter-of-factly.

This is the unexplainable part.  After being told that essentially we’re all going to die soon in a nuclear blast, it is explained that is not exactly how we’re going to die.  When the first nuclear explosion happens, we will utilize a different weapon for retaliation.  Not much detail is given about this weapon or technology, but when asked about its effect, the explanation is "time will go backwards for about 30 seconds."

That statement still creeps me even now.  I can’t explain why, but I’ll try in a little bit.

Our group passes the time, inexplicably, playing music together in a band format.  We’re figuring out songs that everyone knows and surprising each other with our musical knowledge and breadth of experience.  During one song, me being cameraman, I have a wide shot of the group playing and suddenly the music stops and everyone has been knocked to the ground.  In the distance, a mushroom cloud starts forming.  The time has come.

As cameraman, still, the scene pans to the left to an open field where I know the special weapon is.  Out of the ground, small (like really small, maybe an inch in diameter) metal tubes rise up.  The number sticking in my head is 60, but there were no way 60 in the scene, maybe 8-10.  And they each shot a small cylinder high into the air.  No huge explosion or report – I’m not sure how they were propelled.  A few seconds later, the payloads came back down to the ground and submerged into the ground.  Again, no explosion, they just buried themselves into the ground near the tubes they were released from.

The weapon then started and it appeared like the payloads got sucked back out of the ground and arced back to their tubes, but the motion was choppy and sequenced.  Not all the payloads came back out and the ones that did made a very clear whooshing/shh-ing sounds as they came back out.  And then.. nothing.  Stillness, a freeze-frame.  And I woke up.

I woke up absolutely terrified.  And what I was scared about was not death or dying, but this concept of time going backwards.  As I’ve spent the day pondering why that is so scary to me, the best I can come up with is that in my dream, the smart people have theoretically devised a destruction method that transcends all life.  A nuclear response is simply not enough.  Destroying all life on Earth isn’t enough, even physically destroying the Earth itself isn’t enough.  This weapon has to destroy the entirety of existence, everywhere.  Because no one knows what would really happen if you could reverse time.  The best theory we have is the event horizon of black holes where time slows to nothing and matter is ripped apart at the atomic level.  What could happen if you went beyond that?

And even that explanation doesn’t satisfy me.  It’s assigning a bogeyman to the concept, but it’s the concept itself that scares me.  One of my post-waking thoughts was a consideration of how supposedly everything in our universe is simple vibrations.  Denser matter (the physical) vibrates at a slower frequency and you move into the astral and higher planes of existence the vibrations become higher.  And my mind thought that a sudden shift in time from forward to actual reverse, would disintegrate our beings by disrupting the vibrations in a way that we could not rematerialize again.

That probably doesn’t make any sense.  Let me try and give it some context.  In esoteric philosophy, there is the belief that at our core, we are a soul (an ego, an id) and we present ourselves on different planes of existence by forming bodies of material native to those planes.  Those bodies would be of the vibrational frequency native to the plane.  As you move up in divinity, you shed each denser body to begin life in a higher-frequency body in the higher plane.  Follow that so far?  So now, what if your ego/id/soul was ripped apart even at its highest frequency?  You would no longer exist, period.  Nothing, no one would exist anymore.  It’s the real end-times.  Not just the end of the physical world, but the end of all planes of existence, the end of existence itself.

But, that’s just a weird, funny, unexplainable idea.  I mean the planes of existence concept isn’t even widely considered valid, and no one even knows what time is all about.  Some sources say we’re a unique species that is bound by time, where other, higher forms do not have that constraint.  Oh well.  I guess time will tell what comes of this.  It’s just a dream, right?

That Dream When I Was A Friend

A few nights ago I woke up from a dream.  In the dream I was a Friend.  I was on the Friends sitcom and my brain was writing an episode for me.  This is what I remember from it.

Rachel was complaining about how every time she goes out to eat at a restaurant, the experience sucks.  Her food is never prepared right, the service is bad, everything.  Phoebe, Chandler, and I decide to go to a meal with her to see this first-hand.  At the restaurant, I notice that Rachel is getting some covert attention from the men and I suggest to her that maybe people are just intimidated by her looks.  She says she doesn’t get it.  I say, "maybe you’re too attractive for the public good."  Chandler of course takes the opposing viewpoint with sarcastic comments and Phoebe makes a non-sensical comment.  So far, my brain isn’t working all that hard at developing a script.  This is the standard Friends formula.

The waiter takes our orders.  Phoebe, then me, then Chandler, and as Rachel starts her order, the waiter starts collecting our menus and only partially paying attention to her.  When she is done, the waiter takes off without even acknowledging her order.  Rachel makes a "see?!" motion and we all mutter in agreement.  So it turns out that attractiveness is not Rachel’s problem.  We determine it’s that she’s just too particular about her order and the staff can tell she’ll be a high-maintenance customer and tune out.

Towards the end of meal, Rachel brings up the point about her attractiveness and her intimidation factor and gets an idea.  When the waiter comes back over for refills and is helping everyone else and ignoring her, she demands his attention. 

"Hey, what’s your name?"

"Matt," the waiter replies.

"Matt, I’m Rachel.  Would you like to go out on a date tonight?"

The waiter is startled and embarrassed, but sheepishly agrees.  Rachel writes her phone number on a napkin and says, "Call me after your shift."  The waiter takes the napkin and immediately refills her water and leaves.  Rachel motions to the water glass and to the waiter with a "See?" expression.  More muttered agreement.

The next day it is learned that Rachel and the waiter did go on a date and hooked up.  Rachel makes a cringey comment about "service."  Rachel, Joey and Chandler decide to go to the restaurant the next day, assuming the service will be good.  At the restaurant, Matt is not working.  However, Rachel is getting excessive service from all the male staff – bread, water refills, "everything ok?" checks.  And everyone that stops by to help her is sure to mention their name clearly.  It’s clear that Matt has spread the word to everyone how he hooked up with her.  Rachel is enjoying the attention, oblivious as to why, but Chandler is being very suspicious and is especially wary about the head waiter in particular who he describes as "Stalker-pro".  Chandler makes his point in Chandler fashion by reiterating his observations five different ways.

Rachel gets up to go to the restroom and stalker pro comes over to the table.  He strikes up a fake conversation and casually asks what Rachel’s name is.  Joey answers, "Rachel" and Chandler gives him a fierce look.  Stalker pro is called away by another waiter and Chandler hisses at him that this guy is definitely stalking Rachel and don’t give him any more information.  Stalker pro comes back and apologizes.  He clarifies her name is Rachel and asks what her last name is.  Joey starts to say, "Gree" and Chandler kicks him under the table.  Joey pivots and finishes with "Greetings".

"Her name is Rachel Greetings?", Stalker pro asks.

Chandler and Joey both confirm it, to stalker’s confusion.  Just then Rachel returns from the bathroom and stalker welcomes her.  "Hello, miss… greetings."

Rachel looks a little confused and replies, "Greetings." and Joey and Chandler both exclaim, "Greetings!"  Stalker is as confused as ever and leaves.

At the end of the meal, Rachel is thrilled by how everything has been perfect and how much attention she has gotten.  When the check comes, delivered by stalker, she offers to pay.  "I’ll just put it on my card."

Stalker looks a little victorious and says, "May I see your ID?"  As Rachel starts to instinctively look for her ID, Chandler interrupts, "No, we can’t let you pay for this meal!" And what follows is formula Friends – Joey and Chandler making up a reason why Rachel can’t pay for the meal that of course makes no sense.

And that’s when the dream started to fall apart.  Probably due to the lack of anything interesting coming out of my brain.  This stuff sort of writes itself.

A Long Time To Decide

The quarantine finally got to me a couple of days ago and I had to go out for a drive to get some dinner at a place about 90 minutes away.  On that drive, I had a CD by The Good Rats and a song came on, Victory In Space.  This song is somewhat about NASA buying hookers for astronauts, but it’s also the germ of an idea I had for a NaNoWriMo novel.  The story idea – all I had – was about an intergalactic hooker in an erotic comedy genre.  That’s open to just about anything I could think up.  So when I heard that song come on, it got me thinking about the story again.

NaNoWriMo is still 6 months away, so I have plenty of time to commit and begin planning, or just let the idea waste away for another year.  Last night as I was falling asleep, I gave some consideration to the idea.  NaNo doesn’t care what format you write in, as long at it has a word count.  So I started thinking out of the box.  First I considered something like a series of blog entries.  There’s lots of ways I could present that.  First person, like a journal of the hooker; or third person, writing about her.  But blog entries always have this "newer is first" problem that makes reading a story difficult.

While thinking about the navigation aspect of such a story, it led me in a different direction.  Maybe I could write a choose-your-own-adventure story.  Hypertext and links are the perfect medium for presenting a story like that.  However,  a story like that could be a massive undertaking and while it’s literally unlimited in scope and plot, that’s also its downfall as many paths would be unfulfilling.

Considering those issues rekindled yet another memory of mine, where I would imagine I was a movie director.  My magnum opus would be one movie with at least 4 different plot lines in it and each had different endings based on the result of a climax in the second half.  The first half would reuse most of the scenes in each of the plots, but there would be some differences between them, like being shot from a different perspective or in a different place at the same time, showing extra info about the other potential plots.  The goal of the movie would be to cause a bunch of confusion at release time with different reviewers writing about the story and their reviews all conflict with each other as to what happened.

With that in mind, what if I did something similar with my adventure story where as you progress, you might end up in a different plotline depending on when you navigated to the next page?  But who would ever notice something like that?  You’d have to make it known at the beginning to watch out for it, which would just spoil the whole concept.

And all this is just thinking right now.  I’m not even sure I want to commit to another month of writing non-stop.  And if I did, it would be a planned story instead of my usual figure-it-out-as-you-fuck-it-all-up style. So that could slow me down anyway.  We’ll see…

Stages (Parts 1 – 3)

Being cooped up in the house with the COVID stay-the-fuck-at-home orders has led me to express my shopping needs in other ways.  The subject at hand is my stereo system.  An earlier post reminded me that I’ve had this goal to recapture the stereo excitement of my youth for quite a few years now.  And that’s not to say progress hasn’t been made – it definitely has.

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It started with a cheap thrift store stereo, a tape deck, and headphones.  Then a CD player was added.  Then another CD player was added.  But still, very little listening was being done.  Then the milestone of having a dedicated room for listening was reached and I cobbled a new and different stereo system together using my powered studio monitors and a new preamplifier to handle inputs and volume.  A dedicated listening chair completed the arrangement.  This setup has worked very well for over a year.

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But I’ve been envisioning the real stereo experience, with a powerful amplifier and full-size speakers to go with it.  However, in these uncertain times, I don’t want to blow a wad of cash all at once, so I’ve planned out a phased approach to get there relatively quickly.

The primary hardware to complete the goal is really only two items: the amplifier and the speakers.  There’s also some ancillary bits as well, including furniture for the hardware.  I’ve kind of been stalled on progress because I didn’t want to buy the amp and the speakers all in one go, but I didn’t want to buy either one and just have it sit unused until I bought the other.  Then, I had a revelation, which came late, but probably at a better time.

If I buy an amplifier, it would be a waste until I bought my speakers, because my existing speakers have built in amplifiers without any way to bypass them.  My revelation made me realize that although the amplification in my speakers can’t be bypassed, the amplifier circuit in the right model of amplifier could be.  That would reduce the amplifier to only preamplifier functions, just like the preamplifier I currently own.

The search was then on for a receiver that had preamp outputs on it.  And the critical decision needed to be made: do I go vintage or modern?  In my original plan, I had current, modern products picked out and a pretty large budget for them.  And now, after experiencing a number of vintage CD players, I’m not sure I need anything more modern than them.  So vintage it is.  And in keeping with my nostalgia, I’m going to choose the Technics brand.  Justly or no, Technics has a bad reputation for their 80’s gear.  There are fans out there as well, but they get shut down often by "the ones who know better".

The model I picked was the SU-V98, which has the required preamp outputs and will also be suitable for my future speakers with 110 watts per channel.  That’s actually pretty respectable as many of the amps I had been looking at were 30-50.  As luck would have it, a listing just popped up on EBay selling one for $70.  Others were priced in the $150 range, so the purchase was made.  Step one complete.

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Now, the last step in the transition will be the purchase of the speakers.  I’ll be able to run everything right the way I have it now, simply substituting my preamp for this new Technics amplifier.  But, it’s not going to be a viable long-term option.  See, my stereo setup is on a long Ikea table.  Ikea stuff isn’t known for its durability and even with only a couple of CD players sitting in the middle of the span, I can see the slightest bit of sagging happening.  Adding a 15lb amp to the table isn’t going to make that any better.  So step two in the mid-term is going to be new furniture.

Replacing the Ikea table will require a new stereo rack and stands for the studio monitors.  In the final stage, the studio monitors and stands will be replaced with tower speakers.  Since the speaker stands are only temporary, I can skimp out on them, but I should get the stereo rack with the goal of having it be suitable for the future.  However, when shopping for speaker stands, there is a clear distinction between "good" and "good enough".  That difference is the size of the mounting plate on top.  In most all affordable stands, that plate is 5"x5".  My speakers are about 8"x10".  Balancing those heavy, expensive speakers on a tiny platform 32 inches off the ground doesn’t sound appealing to me, especially with cats in the house.

That alters my plans a little bit.  It essentially doubles the budget for the speaker stands.  But, to remain positive, the stand quality will be excellent and the speakers are already excellent, so there won’t be any unnatural need to rush to the last step and buy the tower speakers.  There will be time to enjoy and appreciate the configuration as it is. 

And that’s really the plan:  to enjoy the upgrade journey.  Sometimes when you get the end result all at once, you can’t appreciate al the elements involved, because you have no history of change to compare it to.  This is really the best way to grow a stereo system.  Will it ever end?  For a lot of people, it never does.  In fact, I do know one more step I can take after "the last step".  If I find my amplifier doesn’t sound as good as I think it could, the preamp outputs in the SU-V98 can be used for what they were designed for – running an external amplifier.