Tag Archives: buy buy buy

What I’ve Heard Thus Far

I had mentioned in a previous post that I had a thing for buying cheap CD players, the reason for such was to compare the sound of each and see if I was able to hear any real difference between makes and models.

Well, this is what I’ve got in my collection right now:

IMG_20200111_211611

From top to bottom:

  1. Technics SL-P330
  2. Scott D980
  3. JVC XL-V311
  4. Onkyo DX-701

Of these four players, the ones that get the most play are the Technics and the JVC.  The JVC has a little bit better bass and the Technics, in the opposite way, has a brighter sound.  The other two, the Scott and the Onkyo, have a similar sound, which I feel is a little dulled.  The Scott has an additional handicap in that the display can display either the current track or the track time, but not both simultaneously.  All but the Onkyo have support for indexed tracks, and the JVC will show the current playing track and index.  I have yet to find one of my CDs that has indexes, though.  Still looking…

All four have headphone jacks; the Technics and the Onkyo have headphone volume controls, which is great.  All but the Onkyo can be run by remote control, and I purchased remotes for the Technics and JVC.  In both cases, the remotes were twice as much as I paid for the player.

And on the subject of cost, each player cost me less than $10, and each player was originally $150-$300 when new, so this is not an expensive endeavor.

Spending Money On A Silly Idea

One of the more dangerous things in this world is a man with extra time and extra money.  A danger to himself and to the world at large.  If it’s not an actual, you know, danger, then it’s just stupidity – a different kind of danger.  Semantics aside, I have some extra time and some extra money and wanted to get an answer on something.  With the entire knowledge and experience of the Internet failing me, or at least failing to convince me, I set out to get my own answer.  Am I going to change the world with my soon-to-be-found knowledge?  Fuck, no.  It’s so trivial, it hardly even matters to anyone.

To even appreciate what I am seeking, you have to be pretty involved in my hobby of CD collecting.  If you’re not, then the rest of this post won’t even really interest you.  Further, you have to be fairly experienced with technology and computers, otherwise, this won’t really make much sense.  So, warnings provided, now for the explanation.

In the early days of CD manufacturing, some CDs were pressed with “pre-emphasis”, which is a special equalization.  CD players as part of their manufacturing specification had to be able to detect pre-emphasis and apply a reverse equalization (de-emphasis) when playing back these early CDs.  Sounds pretty simple, right?  Over time (actually very quickly), pre-emphasis use was discontinued, so all CDs today don’t have pre-emphasis anymore.  That’s fine for the general public, but somewhat of a nuisance for early CD collectors like myself.

Now that you understand the situation, here is the problem in a nutshell: CD players – and especially computer CD-ROMs – do not have the capability to detect pre-emphasis anymore.  So if you play back an early CD, you do not get the corrective equalization applied to the music, which makes it sound thin and harsh.  This also applies to CDs that you rip on your computer.  There are software plug-ins that can apply de-emphasis to the files after they have been ripped, so the problem can be somewhat mitigated.  But aside from using your ears, because the CD-ROM cannot detect the pre-emphasis, you can’t know for sure if the CD you ripped has pre-emphasis.  Again, not a problem for anyone but early CD collectors.

And so what I am looking to know is:  I want to be able to detect pre-emphasis on CDs in my computer.  Thus, my project.

I’ve discussed the CD history, now for the computer history.  Early computer CD-ROM were literally mini-cd-players.  They had a headphone jack and a volume control and some even had a play button in addition to the eject button.  Additionally, on the back of the drive, there was a jack to run the audio from the CD drive to the computer’s sound card.  These old drives played audio CDs in analog.  They had build in DACs (digital-to-analog converters), but you can be pretty certain they were not of the quality found in home stereo CD players.  Still, because they were doing the digital conversion, they also had to support handling pre-emphasis.

As technology moved on, pre-emphasis was no longer a concern and also, Windows began reading the audio from CDs digitally.  So drive makers dropped the headphone jack, dropped the DACs and dropped analog output completely.  It made the devices cheaper and audio could be read at the drive’s full speed instead of the 1X speed of analog.  Technologically, a great step forward.  But in the process of simplifying the device, they removed the capability to read pre-emphasis at all – it wasn’t needed.

But now, I want to get an old CD-ROM that has a DAC and analog output so I can hopefully detect pre-emphasis when ripping a CD.  The problem is that all those old drives use the IDE interface, which is long, long obsolete.  Computers now use the SATA interface.  But that’s only a stumbling block because of course someone has made an IDE-SATA interface converter.  So, technically, everything is still possible.  I don’t have to go to the extreme of building an old Pentium computer from parts salvaged from the 90s, thank god.

Naturally, EBay is the order of the day.  Because this project is only for curiosity, I’m buying stuff as cheap as possible.  For $16, I have a 19-yr old CD-ROM and an interface kit coming by next week.  Then it will be a challenge to see if I can get my computer to see the new (old) drive, then it will be a challenge to see if the ripping software will talk to the new (old) drive, and if it does, will the drive report the pre-emphasis information to the software.

So, there’s still some unknowns.  For the $16 I’ve spent, I’ve purchased a lottery ticket for either frustration or a jackpot of, “oh, neat.”  What will I do with this incredible information?  Well, obviously, I’ll share it whenever I can.  It will be a good data point for my posts on Relative Waves and I’m sure some other collectors would like to know which CDs have pre-emphasis.

Road Trip In ATL

Over the weekend, I made a road trip up north to Atlanta to see some friends and explore some shops for CDs.  Before I left, I did some research on places I wanted to visit.  As is my default, I used Bing.  A lot of people dismiss Bing as useless, but it’s probably for the same reason that I dismiss Google – I just don’t use it.

Bing Maps has a neat feature where you can save places into an itinerary, and it will create driving directions automatically from the list.  This is what I came up with for Saturday’s run.

image

The downside to using Bing Maps is that it’s not part of Android Auto, which is how I do the navigation in my car.  In the interest of being fair about the routing capabilities of Google vs. Bing, I took a look at Google maps to see if I could have done the same thing there.  What I found was that you can make a custom list of places, but you can’t automagically turn that into a multi-waypoint drive.  I suppose you could keep the list open and work your way through the items, choosing each in turn as the next destination.  So, it’s just a different way of accomplishing the same goal.  I’m not going to say "Google sucks, Bing rules" because that’s just stupid and we should all be more adult about this.

On one of the stops at CD Warehouse – a chain store that has been bankrupt for almost two decades; I have no idea how these ones are open – I found a CD to purchase.  It was a Japan pressing of an Eagles compilation.  I identified it as purchase-worthy because of the smooth case that had "Patent Pending" embossed on it.  These are some of the first CDs manufactured, when the jewel case was still a new invention.

I took the CD to the counter, paid and left the store.  After leaving, I snuck a peek at the CD and realized it was a common US pressing.  I was disappointed but unsurprised.  CDs can certainly migrate between cases, especially in a store that probably has a dozen of each title at any time.  I chalked it up as a buyer-beware failure on my part and moved on.  Later in the evening, I was looking at my whole day’s spoils and realized that the Eagles album was not in a smooth case.  I had been given a totally different CD instead of what I chose from the rack.

So I began debating if it was worth the effort to go back and demand the item I had chosen.  Would it still be there?  Would the staff just roll their eyes and say, "fuck off"?  Would I get the replacement and have it be no better than what I already had?  Was it worth the drive anyway?

I decided it would be worth the effort, and planned to go before driving back home on Monday.  My friends convinced me it would be better to try on Sunday because of workday traffic and were willing to sacrifice some of our day together to accomplish this.  So, with the store’s closing time quickly approaching, we set out for the store with the replacement.  We made it in the last 15 minutes.

I went to the rack and quickly found the same smooth case I had originally picked – they had simply put it back after I left.  I went to the counter and plead my case.  I had been rehearsing how to explain that I wanted this specific CD and not just any CD and had planned to try and be technical without being condescending.  At the most extreme, I would have to show them my Relative Waves website that explained the difference in CD masterings.  In reality, I was pretty awkward about the whole explanation, saying that I got a different CD, but it was the same, but it wasn’t the same.  Good job, Dave.  Way to explain it.

The guy at the counter said, no problem.  He went to the computer and scanned the old CD and my purchased CD, then retrieved the actual disc that was supposed to be in the case.  As he placed the CD in the case on the counter, he said, "there you go, Japanese pressing."  And at that point, I knew that he understood.  I didn’t need to say anything more than thank you.  And I left with my early pressing album.

Also on the list were some antique malls.  In my area, people seem to treat antique malls as consignment shops and as such, you can find people selling their personal CD collections (which technically could be antiques).  However, in this area, antique malls are filled with actual antiques.  Not of any benefit for CD hunting, but still a fun and interesting experience.  I did find some tiny décor items for the house, so it wasn’t all bad.

And finally, the thrift stores.  This is actually my second round of thrifting in Atlanta.  The first time was a long series of disappointments and this one was generally a shorter version of the first.  It just makes me more grateful that the thrifts in my area have some decent selection of CDs.  Maybe there are more collectors in Atlanta keeping the thrifts bare, who knows.

But the trip was not supposed to be about me and my hobbies anyway.  It was about the company and the experience.  In that respect, it was top-notch.  There’s plenty to be grateful for in spite of any success or lack of success in my hobbies.

One More Reason To Hate People

This is a problem I’ve been reading about with increased frequency.  A person will buy some thing, then fill the box with something else and return it, getting a refund and keeping the original thing.  In the cases I’ve been reading about, it’s hard drives.  A person will buy an external hard drive, open the case, switch out the large hard drive with a small hard drive (working or even not working) and return it to the store.

What happens is the store looks inside the box (maybe), sees everything is there and puts it back on the shelf for someone else to buy it and discover they got a tiny hard drive instead of what they thought they were getting.  That customer brings it back to the store and the cycle repeats.

This is very lucrative for some people, for people that lack morals, anyway.  But this happened to me on a less lucrative item, although no less infuriating.  I purchased an outdoor LED security light.  It wasn’t super cheap, in the $30 range.  I got it home and when I opened the box, inside was your typical two-light incandescent light mount, probably under $15.

Now, I am faced with a bunch of bullshit.  First is the wasted time and travel to return and replace this item.  Second is the thought that the store doesn’t really know that I wasn’t the one that made the switch and am trying to pull the scam off myself.  Third is the thought that the store may not actually take any action on this and put it back on the floor to repeat the cycle.  Clearly, something must be done here.

It’s easy to put the blame on the store, and I’m mostly in agreement.  I can understand the customer service part of no-hassle returns and wanting to make the customer happy, but they still need to verify the item being returned is the same as what was purchased.  And I think anything returned should be flagged with a label indicating it is not “new stock”.

And while this sounds great, reality says there’s actually very little stopping thieves from doing whatever they want to do.  How about the stories of people using self checkout to buy expensive things and ringing them up as bananas?  How about the rule that “loss prevention” is actually not allowed to engage with a suspected shoplifter?  Just keep on walking, they can’t stop you.  They literally can’t stop you.  And when shitty people learn this stuff, they just do it.

I had the thought that night that if I had used self-checkout, the mismatched product would probably have been caught because it would have a different weight.  The register would have said something like incorrect item in bagging area.  That’s great, but you know what really would have happened?  The clerk would have just overridden the register and I’d be on my way with the wrong item anyway.  Again, it comes back to the store, but they’re just doing whatever it takes to make the customer happy, because self-checkout problems are a sure-fire way to piss people off.  If you’re making the customer do the work, you had better make it easy for them.

But let’s just make it clear, customer service is a poor term when the customer is not even a customer, but only a thief.

A Christmas Burden

As a collector of CDs, sometimes I fantasize about coming across an old collection that’s up for sale, one with lots of old and rare CDs in it, along with CDs that I would also want to listen to.  I’ve read about people having experiences like that – they’re not common at all.  But Sunday, I was fortunate enough to have one of my own.

I had planned to visit my local flea market that day to check out and maybe buying a dart set for fun.  I have a board set up in my garage, but I don’t seem to have any darts anymore.  So I visited the booth with the darts and because there was only one set available, I decided to hold off another week until he got his order with different models.  My flea market doesn’t have a resident “CD guy”, so I don’t stop in very often.  But I did feel like getting some walking in, so I wandered the halls.

I found a couple of temporary sellers with CDs, but their selection was terrible and in poor condition.  Another seller had like 10 CDs out.  Sigh.  But, leaving that seller’s stand, I saw a booth across the hall with a couple of larger CD racks.  I went over to see what was there.  Within 10 seconds of browsing the rack, I could tell this was a personal collection.  There were items there that I never see anywhere else.  In one rack, there was almost the entirety of the IRS NoSpeak series, something I had completed this year.  I could have saved quite a bit of money, here.

Alas, I didn’t find anything in the two front racks, but when I stood back up and actually looked in the booth, there were six more racks and a couple of boxes of CDs.  Oh my god, if it’s all the quality of what’s out front, I’m in trouble.

And without dragging it out, yes, it was and, yes, I was.  There were two criteria I was working with at this booth.  The first was looking for stuff I wanted (duh).  The second was looking for any smooth-sided cases, which would indicate early CD pressings.  In the first criteria, I found maybe 6 CDs.  However, when it came to smooth cases, this collector was seriously an early adopter.  I was pulling out CDs 2-3 at a time and stacking them up into multiple piles.

The total at the end was 62 CDs.  The lady charged me a whopping $55 and even was willing to take a credit card when I explained I didn’t have enough cash to cover the purchase.  I was willing to do PayPal or some other method to avoid her getting a fee, but ok.  She was very happy to move so many of the CDs at once, and I was very pleased with what I had pulled out.

Back at home, I stacked the CDs all up and began cleaning the cases.

img_20191215_151223

After cleaning them, which took a little over half an hour, I had to step away to let my mind think about what I had to do.  I broke the incoming items into three piles: things that were duplicates of what I already had (and might be upgrades), things I definitely wanted to add to the collection, and the rest was going to have to be evaluated to see if I wanted to keep it.  I ended up with 20 definite adds, 6 or so dupes, and the rest was left for later.  Then I had to take another break.

What we’re talking about here is listening to 50+ albums.  Even being really aggressive about it, listening to one CD on the way to work, one on the way back, and maybe one at night, we’re still talking almost a month of new music.  And listening to an album once isn’t always fair when choosing to keep it or not, and I do want to be fair.  That means a whole lot of music has been dropped into my life.

And that quantity of music is overwhelming.  Believe it or not, I haven’t listened to any of it yet.  You would think I would have immediately popped in a CD coming back from the flea market, but I was too shocked at my fortune.  When you have over 60 albums to listen to, where do you start?  The genres are all over the place, so I could get anything, really.  What a first world problem.

I pulled out the 20 albums that were on the must have list and got them logged into my Discogs account.  It put my collection’s Max total over $20k.  Obviously that’s highly optimistic, but it’s still a milestone.  I compared the dupes in my collection to the newcomers and only swapped one out.  The other 5 have to get compared and posted on my other blog.  So I have plenty of things to do ahead of me next week.

Revelations

It was almost 3 years ago that I really started to rebuild my interest in having a home stereo again.  I had purchased a cheap stereo from a thrift store.  That stereo only had a cassette player.  Then, I followed that purchase up with a $10 CD player from another thrift shop.  At that point, I should have been done, and should have been happy to spend so little money on a stereo.  The alternative I had planned was a new system – amp/CD/speakers – on the order of $1200 or so.  My cheap CD player, paired up with the powered studio monitors I’d owned for many years, was a really good sounding little system.  At least that’s what I thought.

In the time since, I have bought other cheap CD players at thrift stores.  The reason for this was for experience.  One experience was the restoration and repair of the devices.  Of my purchases, one repair was successful, one wasn’t, and the latest one didn’t need any work at all.  The other experience was more audiophilic.  People that review stereo equipment have the ability to grade and rank such equipment and that’s really something the average person can’t really do.  No one goes out and buys five different CD players at $300-$500 just to compare how they sound.  But if the players are $10 each, well, that reviewing experience becomes just a fun little hobby.

The first player in my collection is an Onkyo DX-701.  It was made in 1992.  Being the first in my collection, it was my unofficial standard.  When I first set it up, I was thrilled with it.  It did exactly what it was supposed to do: play CDs.  For $10, it was all I needed.

The next player I got was a Scott DA980, in April 2019.  It cost all of $7.  There’s not a lot of information out there about this player, but its manufacture date is June, 1989.  It appears to be a Yamaha-manufactured device rebranded by Scott.  Unfortunately, it needed some work and I got my first experience repairing a CD player.  Comparing it to the Onkyo, I really liked how smooth and silent the loading tray was.  But what I should have really focused on was whether it sounded better.  To be honest, I couldn’t tell.  And that really disappointed me.  I thought I would be able to notice some difference, but I didn’t.  So at that point, I assumed that “digital is digital” and all decent CD players sound the same.  So then, I wouldn’t really need to focus on sound quality, but more on features.

Then, this month, I found yet another cheap CD player.  It was a Technics SL-P220.  It was marked at $16 and I happened to buy it on a 50% off day, so it cost me $8.  My luck in CD player purchases is remarkably consistent.  This player didn’t need any repair, just some cleaning.  Well, some of the cleaning was technically repair because the control buttons were intermittent.  I am a fan of the Technics brand.  It was the brand of the stereo system in my youth.  This player came out just about the time CDs were hitting the mainstream.  Just about the time I experienced my first CD at my friend’s house.  This is the oldest of the three players (June, 1987) and being that old, it would be expected to have the least refined technology for decoding digital audio.

When I did my first test play with the Technics, it was kind of a surreal experience.  It sounded different.  Way, way different, in a good way.  I put identical CDs in the Technics and the Onkyo and played them together, then switched back and forth to determine the difference.

And here’s where the difficulty begins.  When you read stereo reviews, you will usually find yourself rolling your eyeballs at the descriptions the reviewers use.  In fact, you will probably internally smirk at anyone that tries to describe the qualities of sound.  It’s just something that can’t really be done.  In my case, the first thing I thought of comparing the two is that the Technics was “brighter.”  And that’s a fair description.  Most people can determine bright sound vs dull or flat sound.  This is probably also what experts mean when they say “digital-sounding”.  But who knows?  What does digital sound like?

So, I had a word that I could use to describe how the Technics sounded better to me (that’s important).  But as I listened to it more, there were more differences and those were more painful to describe because it made me sound like a pompous high-end stereo reviewer.  I’ll not get into those descriptions and just say it sounded much, much better to me than the Onkyo.  As I always do when I get a new piece of equipment, I search for anyone talking about it.  And I found only two mentions of the SL-P220, one saying it was great and another saying they replaced it with something that was substantially “better”.

Here’s the thing for me.  This latest player has changed my interest in listening to music.  I’m now excited to hear music from it.  It has the same magic as when I first heard the albums decades ago.  This is something the other two players didn’t do for me.  It’s revelatory.  I’ve read over and over that you have no idea what you’re missing until you hear the music you love on a good system.  But… this is an early player and even at that, isn’t a top-end model, just standard-grade.  It’s a $300 player back in the day which was average.  And, considering what I hear and what experts say, this is an example of poor early-era digital reproduction – tinny, thin, bright, “not analog sounding”, blah blah blah.

So fucking what!  The Technics sounds incredible to me and when I try listening to the Onkyo afterwards, it sounds dull and lifeless.  So if I like the sound of bright digital, why should I be ashamed of it?  So yes, I have a new favorite CD player and it’s my new benchmark.  It’s not going to stop me from buying more cheapo players and comparing them.  Maybe I’ll find something even better.

Judged By The Company You Keep

In my state, you just cannot live without having tinted windows on your car.  Unless you actually want sunburn or cancer, that is.  When I got my MX5 nine years ago, I was dying during the few days between when I bought the car and I had my appointment for window tinting.  I had to keep a towel in the car to cover my forearm from the sun blasting through the glass.

Almost a decade later, I have a new car, a much bigger car, and this one also needs the tinting treatment for my own comfort and safety.  Maybe a bit surprisingly to me, the same shop that did the windows on my other car is still there.  Well, maybe it is.  It has a new name, but the logo is mostly the same, and the original name is now used by another shop elsewhere in the city.  Partnership gone sour, maybe?  Diversification?  Whatever.  They did a great job the first time, so I’ll go back there and generally hope for the best.

With services like window tinting, isn’t hoping for the best all you can do?  It’s not like it’s a service you utilize on a regular basis, so you build a level of trust in a company.  It’s highly likely you’ll use the service once before they go out of business (or change their name).  And it’s not even really about the business, it’s the quality and skill of their installers.  I doubt the same installers are there that did my first car.  So, it’s always going to be a crapshoot as to what you get.

Tint shops are sort of paradoxical. It’s kind of hard to find one that isn’t ghetto in some way.  I mean, window tint shouldn’t be anything illicit, but you know, it can be.  And those shops usually augment their business with stereo installs, which again, are not illicit, but stereotypically…  And that’s terrible that such a perception exists and that they seem to actively exploit it in their marketing and image.

But the paradox is that this is just the place you want to go.  Quality work comes from practice, so you want a shop that has done a lot of jobs, even if they are on ‘76 Malibus and Cadillacs.  Sigh, more stereotypes.  It’s kind of like certain dive restaurants that have incredible food for really cheap not only because they are more focused on the food than their image, but because they’re so busy with their cheap regulars that they are masters at cooking that food.

Back to my statement about not using window tint services often enough to build a relationship.  That statement was a little short-sighted.  Maybe you do utilize that service frequently if you’re in the cycle of buying $1000 cars and burning them out every 6 months.  I mean, that sounds horrible, but it’s the same as having a $200/mo car payment, right?  Seems almost legit.  Except you would have to get your new car retinted twice a year.  And those customers keep the installers well experienced.

So when I go in with my 2019 model car, the quality I receive could be built off the backs of people who don’t have the credit or ability to buy a car less than 10 years old and are in a constant cycle of upgrades.  Maybe not, but maybe.  What’s the alternative?  Find a high-end shop where they, for whatever reason, would not service those repeat customers?  Which is the greater evil?  Why did this post get so heavy?  I just want to not roast in my car.

You Get What You Pay For

In posts leading up to this one, I’ve been talking about my garage and new cars.  Well, I finally got the new car and got in it the garage, only barely.

img_20191023_185442 img_20191023_185500

And I mean barely.  And with that car in the garage, there is no room for the other car.  I’m supposed to have a 2-car garage, and even so, I would classify the MX5 as a half-car, but still, there’s not enough room.  So that’s that.

Now, all about this new car.  As you see, it is a station wagon.  There’s only a handful of wagon models you can buy new in the US right now, and this particular one, a Buick Regal TourX, gets zero marketing and has zero recognition.  I saw this car once on display in a mall back in 2018, and have never seen one since.  So suffice to say, this is a rare vehicle.

The TourX is rare because it’s really low production volume.  There’s aren’t many buyers for wagons, so dealerships don’t order many and so no one ever buys them and the cycle feeds on itself.  When I decided on a car to buy – a wagon – I looked at my available options and this one was the most economical.  Well, it was economical for reasons relating to its unpopularity.  Dealers wanted to sell these things and not so they could order more; they just wanted rid of them.  In my own research, I saw that the 2020 model is coming soon and there are still 2018 models being sold new.

I haven’t purchased a car in nine years.  This time around, I utilized a car buyer service – a person who would search for my car, negotiate a good price, manage all the paperwork with the dealer and basically make the process as easy as possible for me.  When I first got started, I laid out all my criteria and within an hour, he had found me a car.  When he ran the numbers, I was pretty underwhelmed.

The TourX can run up to $40k with all available options, and that is what this particular car had.  So, $40k MSRP and with all discounts and haggling, I could get it for $35k.  After all the taxes and fees were added in, I would pay $38k.  I don’t know… I understand taxes and stuff, but a final price only $2k less than MSRP didn’t do it for me.  And it was about $6k more than I was willing to finance anyway.  So I turned it down.

The buyer went back to work and found another car with fewer options (but all the ones I wanted).  The MSRP was $38k, sale price of $31k, final price of $34k.  That was doable, so I agreed to the offer and we went through the complete sale process, which wasn’t all that bad.  The car was transferred from one dealership to another where I would actually make the purchase.  I gave it a brief test drive and no red flags were raised, mechanically.  The car did have roof racks, which I didn’t want, but I determined I could just uninstall them.  And after two hours at the dealership, I went home with a new car.

It’s been a couple days now, and some of the reality is hitting me.  The first weird thing I experienced was a warning popping up on my dash: washer fluid low.  Ok, whatever,  I can buy a $3 jug of fluid and top it off.  I would have assumed the dealer would have checked all that stuff during the “dealer prep” or whatever that BS service is.

When I popped the hood to fill the washer fluid, I was left aghast.  There were leaves all jammed up under the cowl.  Not just a few leaves, literal handfuls of leaves.  And the plastic shrouds throughout the engine bay were not just dusty, but had a layer of dirt on them.  This hood had not been raised in many, many months.  Yes, the exterior of the car had been washed and the tires glossed up, but there was no detailing of this car in any sense of the word.

As I was pouring the washer fluid in, my astonishment grew.  It just kept taking it.  I poured the entire gallon.  All of the washer fluid in the reservoir had evaporated in the time this car was sitting on the lot.  And the mass of leaves reaffirmed just how long the car was sitting idle and suggested it was not even stored on the primary lot, but in a grass lot back by a tree line.  I found out where the original dealer was located and did some quick math on the mileage for transportation and my test drive. I then determined this car had never been driven once.  It left that original dealer on its way to me with probably about 10 miles on the odometer.

This poor car.  It came to the dealer and was completely neglected for its entire life.  Yeah, yeah, of course cars don’t have feelings, but everything deserves a small level of care.  And a dealer should care for each and every vehicle in their possession.  These are going to be in someone’s family soon (or not soon in cases like this), and they deserve to be treated well until that time comes.

Now, I feel a little conflicted.  I mean, I got a great deal on a car – $7k off sticker price – and I didn’t have to deal with salespeople or haggling.  It was a very low-effort transaction and I can recognize it was probably a low-profit transaction for the dealer.  But at the same time, I still would expect one of the two dealers involved would have opened the hood and at least noticed the mess, or checked the fluid levels.  The bottom line is that I feel like I purchased a car from auction and not from a dealership.  Was I expecting to build a relationship with that dealer?  No way; they are 40 minutes away from my house.  I have dealerships closer to my home and my workplace I would utilize first.  Did I still expect to be wowed by the “new car purchase experience”, where I can show the car off to everyone?  Sure.  I mean, doesn’t everyone pop the hood and show off how clean and new everything is (instead of dirt, leaves, and a post-it note that says “do not turn off”)?  Show off every feature of the car like the power liftgate (which would reveal dusty and dirty rubber seals)?

But, I got a good deal, right?  Now I just need to spend some personal capital on a detailed cleaning of every inch of the vehicle.  Then the TourX will be mine and it won’t need to dwell on its miserable early life alone in a back lot.

The Second System

Last month, I upgraded my primary computer and one thing that sort of disappointed me about that event was that the old computer was still quite serviceable.  Aside from the need to support larger hard drives, it was perfectly fine.  After I finished the new built, I boxed up the old parts and left them stored for some unknown future day.

While I am still in my personal rebuilding phase, I’m playing around with a lot of ideas.  Most of those ideas are things from my past.  One specific one is music – playing, recording, etc.  So as I mulled this over, I considered the setup plan.  One thing I wanted was to not use my primary computer for the audio recording, as I had always done in the past.  While all computers are powerful enough to multitask like that now, I just didn’t want the clutter.  And that’s when I remembered I had a whole other quite serviceable computer sitting in a box.  All it needed was a new case.  That makes the idea much more reasonable from a cost perspective.

I got to work shopping for a new computer case, which was easy and not easy at the same time.  I wanted a desktop case (horizontal orientation), but it seems they just don’t make those anymore.  Too old fashioned, I guess.  So I shopped for the smallest tower case I could find.  And since this was a secondary system that would be limited in purpose, I bought the cheapest thing available.  And I bought a cheap power supply to install in it, too.  Maybe a total spend of $60.  Everything else I already had ready to go – monitor, cables, drives, RAM.

The case arrived the other day and I wanted to get a jump on things by installing the motherboard in right away.  Upon opening the box, I saw that all the front panels for the drive bays had popped off.  Then I noted the front panel was also popped off.  This gave me a bad feeling.  After extracting the case from the packing material, I was left with a collection of plastic tabs all over the table.  It appears the box was dropped or mangled in some way to basically shear the front panel straight off.  Every plastic tab that held the front panel to the case was broken off.  Not a single one was spared.

I’m not going to go through a bunch of RMA bullshit for a $30 case, but I’m also not going to just pitch it or give up on it.  I went to the garage and got my big box of miscellaneous screws and permanently attached the plastic panel back to the case with sheet metal screws.  That’ll show ‘em.  And without further incident, I installed the motherboard, video card, and hard drives in the case.  Now I just had to await the arrival of the power supply, which would come the next day.

This computer would be one of those unheard of systems that runs off-network.  No updates ever; first install-last install.  File transfer and backup would be via USB drives to my primary computer.  Ah, the good old days.  Time will tell if Windows 10 can even survive in this environment.  If not, well I suppose I could drop back to Windows 7.  Windows 7 is near end-of-life with security updates being phased out in January 2020, but on an unnetworked computer, what’s security?

Next up, software.

Making The Good Even Better

I hate my kitchen sink.  I have hated it for a very long time.  The thing I hate the most about it is that the sides are so curved, you can barely put anything in the basins.  Any glass I put in there topples over.  It is infuriating to me.

So finally, I made the commitment to get a new sink.  Not only that, but I was going to get a hot water dispenser, a filtered water dispenser, a new garbage disposal, and a new, fancy, pre-rinse spray faucet.  I began my search online and was immediately overwhelmed by the potential options.  I mean, there are a LOT of sink options out there.  Eventually, I settled on a 50/50 split sink.  In the process, I learned a bunch about sinks.  One thing I learned was the gauge of the steel.  You can get anything for 16 to 22 gauge thickness.  16 is probably overkill and you don’t really want more than 20, so 18 is a great target point. 

Also, the thicker steel will reduce some of the tinniness when banging items around in the basins, but that can also be mitigated by sound deadening material.  I looked at my existing sink and it had something like a spray-on sound deadener all over the bottom.  When I bought my new sink, it said it had sound absorption as well.

When I got the sink and unpacked it, I saw the deadener on the sink.  It was a 4” square pad on the bottom of the basins.  What good is that going to do?  I knocked on the sides of the basins and the gong was obnoxious.  Sigh.  This is fine.  I can fix it.  The fix idea isn’t mine or even a new idea at all, you can see plenty of examples of the technique online.

When I was installing my stereo in my car, I used a material called Dynamat, which is essentially the same deadening material that is stuck on the bottom of my sink (although much thicker).  When people deaden their cars for improved audio quality, they usually go overboard and cover every exposed bit of metal.  But the key is that you really only have to cover the areas that resonate.  Corners?  No.  Large flat panels?  Yes.  Cover them entirely?  No.  Cover about 50% of the area?  Yes.

So I made a small purchase of Dynamat online, about $18, and applied it to the edges of the sink.  Each of the flat walls got a treatment.  I made a short video of the before and after effects of the treatment.