Thursday, December 25, 2008

15 CDs for 1 cent!

Remember Columbia House? You know, that mail order CD and cassette giant that used to put those stupid little card stock fliers in TV guides, newspapers and just about every magazine under the Sun. Oh yeah and the other company, BMG.

They are like nobodies now, but they used to be huge! Columbia house would offer you more free CDs or cassettes than your heart could ever desire, if you just sold your soul to them. OK, it wasn't exactly the price of soul. They made you buy between 6 and 12 more titles at full price over the course of two years. The catch was the "full price." It was like double what you'd pay in the store. It was printed in the size 2.5 pt font at the bottom of that card. Contrasted with the large print "15 CDs FOR THE ONE CENT," it was basically invisible.

But all that can be forgiven. At least there was a contract you *could* have read and nevermind that, you signed that card to get the CDs. The unforgivable part... That was their blasted lettering scheme for ordering CDs and cassettes. What was it you ask? You don't remember? Well, I can't beleive you don't remember how friggin stupid it was. Here it is, ready? C for cassette and, wait for it, *T* for Compact Discs. Yes, that's right, 'T." Retarded.

No one called cassettes, "cassettes." They were called "tapes." You have no idea how many times I meant to order a CD and I got a *tape* instead.

Columbia House sucked.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Self Serve

We're all familiar with the term "self serve." It's a lot like the phrase "help yourself." Why is it that some people just can't figure that out? Of course, I'm not talking about those that are physically incapable. I'm talking about a healthy, average member of society that just can't take the time to stop and learn how to interact with the world around them.

I don't know how many times I've seen someone standing at a kiosk in Sheetz or the self checkout aisle at Walmart pounding on the screen like a chimp gone wild. The typical problem I see at Walmart is impatience. Wait the five seconds after you place an item in a bag for the scale to weigh and measure it. Pushing on the scale, and banging on the screen is not going to help you, or anyone else in line behind you.

If you can't participate in the modern world, please use the normal checkout line and leave the self serve checkout aisles to those of us that *can* help themselves.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Trash or Treasure?

In my spare time I enjoy playing photographer. There is something about photography that has always intrigued me, though I think it has always started with the "coolness" factor of the newest camera technology.

That said, during the recent purchase of a new (to me) camera I've read a multitude of articles discussing the quality, specifications, and performance of current and past camera models. One thing I've noticed is the seemingly universal dismissal of older technology. We all know how quickly technology advances these days. A personal computer from more than about 4-5 years ago is considered completely worthless to some. The same is true of other electronics and especially cameras.

There is a plethora of used digital photographic equipment out there that can be had far below, literally fractions of the original retail price. Most people know this, especially if you shop at garage sales or on eBay. The camera I recently bought was about two years used, and about 1/3rd what it cost when new. Some people might say I'm crazy for buying a used digital camera from a few years ago, when technologically speaking, it's a dinosaur.

True, the camera is definitely old and will continue to be outpaced as newer cameras are released. That said, it still takes fantastic pictures. Alternatively, if I took every penny I spent on the used camera, and bought the newest technology I could today, I would have other trade offs. These trade offs would limit my speed or artistic freedom, and if I don't get the picture I intended on taking, was it worth it to have that quality? Absolutely not.

Used technology has it's place. I've seen computer servers doing the same job they've been doing for 20 years, and doing it well. Cameras are the same way. A used film camera from the 1960s or 70s can still take great photographs. True, film has a lot more resolution than even the newest digital cameras have, but the camera itself is old, and probably doesn't get every last ounce of performance out of the film that a newer film camera and newer lens might.

Great photographs don't have to be taken on the best film or best, camera, nor do they require the latest and greatest technology known to the world. They require only skill and artistic ability. The worst crime would be if they were not taken at all. So find a camera that lets you do your job and do it well. If it happens to be a used camera, oh well, just don't pay a lot for it.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Ginger Bits

Ok, first let me state that I love Starbucks. Can't get enough, addicted, spend way too much money there all that stuff.

But just let me say, the Ginger Bits they put on some of the lattes and also on the Holiday Gingerbread loaf, are awful. Literally, terrible. DO NOT eat them. They should put a warning on these things. They might just be the worst things I've ever tasted. Woof.

You've been warned.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Christmas Music

I'm one of those annoying people that likes to start listening to Christmas music as early as possible. What can I say? All music is good, but there is something nostalgic about those holiday tunes.

I pride myself on the diversity of my collection which spans stuff from Glenn Miller all the way to The Barenaked Ladies. There are so many classics like Home for the Holidays from Perry Como, It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year from Andy Williams, and White Christmas from Bing Crosby. These joyful gems represent some of the best of Americana in celebrating the holiday season.

I'm very partial to a couple of albums that I consider to be some of the best Christmas music ever recorded. The first of which is something I grew up listening to, Kenny Rogers' Christmas which blends Mr. Rogers' country style with some great spiritually uplifting hyms These come alongside other more secular classics some with a strong gospel influence. After decorating your tree with this album playing in the background you can't help but be thrown head first into the spirit of Christmas.

The second album that I find myself listening to over and over during the months of November and December is The Carpenters Christmas Portrait. Karen Carpenters' textured alto singing is very pleasing to listen to, and the arrangements are wonderful reflections of many different eras and genres of music. I really can't recommend this album enough, everyone can find something to like on this album. I've actually found that over the years, many of the renditions of the songs on this album have become my "standard" to which others are judged. It's interesting how that happens over time.

If you are a Christmas music fan, or a fan of music in general, check these two out. You won't be dissapointed.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Ctrl-Alt-Del for Automobile Industry. All is not lost.

As of late the big new buzz word in Washington, on TV, throughout the web, and around water coolers is "bailout." I'm hear to tell you, you are going to have to get used to it. Why? Liberal social entitlement spending agendas are exactly that - a bailout. Arguably, we have just taken the biggest step towards socialism in over 230 years of our nations history, the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 was passed - a bailout. And lastly, we have three of our countries largest corporations, Ford, GM, and Chrysler asking for US$ 25 Billion in "relief" - a bailout.

Loans are one thing, but bailouts of this kind are pretty much wrong any way you cut it. It is a especially wrong to award one to an industry that has ignored all the signs in the market. It's not that there was an attrition in demand. But if you claim to be a supply-sider... Well, no better example than the energy industry right? Government that favorably rewards any segment of industry over another should not be tolerated. No one thinks about the all the jobs that Americans have working for foreign auto makers in the states neighboring Michigan, Ohio and the like. No one thinks about the unfair advantage these corporations are going to receive, while other competitors who, arguably, are doing just as poorly, may have to layoff workers due to their decreasing market share.

This is not to say that the alternative, a chapter 11 or worse yet, a chapter 7 bankruptcy will be any easier to swallow. A lot of experts agree that a pre-packaged chapter 11 that would look favorably on any of the big three is a long shot. The biggest challenge there will be the unions, and the support they will receive. One should not forget where that support will come from. The very people that fostered this mess will most likely block any attempt of the big three to break union contracts. Certain congressmen have long had the ear of the innocent auto worker unions, whose hands are clearly inculpable in all their doing. At least one of their brethren, Representative John Dingell of Michigan, will no longer be chairing the House Energy and Commerce Committee. To that, we can all say good riddance.

None-the-less, there is no miracle awaiting Detroit's auto makers. It is pretty easy to look at the industry playing field and point at the lack of hybrid technology from American manufacturers, but even Toyota's sales are down 30% this past September. Everyone is hurting. Fear and doubt are the root cause of this mess.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A Slippery Slope toward Socialism

Tomorrow the American public will begin a new journey... For some the journey will be a seemingly blissful and easy one, for others the journey will be a battle for the very ideals that founded this country and one resisting a path toward socialism.

Socialism comes in many camouflaged forms but this election has presented one that has been undeniably obvious. Americans have made this choice knowing all the facts. They have been presented with the senatorial records of the candidates. They have been presented with the tax plans. They have been presented with the public service records. They have chosen.

It is not often socialism is forced on it's constituents. Only in the case of an extremely powerful nation invading and annexing neighboring countries, are a people given no choice at all except maybe the choice to fight to the death.

The American people have chosen socialism and tomorrow the slope will steepen and will be lined with the grease from the pork barrel spending. Hold on it's gonna be a wild ride.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Cell Phones Cause Death

Did you know that cell phones are the spawn of the devil? Well, you better believe they are. Government bans on cell phone usage while operating vehicles are on the rise. Currently five states ban hand held cell phone usage (California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and Washington) as well as the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands (See 1 below).

The mainstream press would have us believe that cell phones are evil. We are continuously bombarded with news stories about cell phone use causing more and more accidents. Our state and local governments seem to endorse this fear mongering by enacting bans on cell phone use.

Of course, that's all a bunch of crap.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) traffic fatalities have actually gone down over a ten year span from 1994 to 2004 (See 2 below). Over that same time frame, cell phone usage has grown about 400%. Worldwide revenue from mobile phones has grown about 3.5 times over the period of 1997-2004 (See 3 below). Fatality rates have continued to fall since then (See 4 below).

The truth is, the media and government protectionist machine feeds on our fear, the same fear perpetuated by organizations within each. Additionally, while talking on a cell phone may be distracting during the operation of a motor vehicle, it is no more distracting than talking to a friend in the car, eating a bagel or drinking a soda. Something nearly everyone does on a daily basis.

This is the reality. There are good drivers, and then there are bad drivers. And everyone on the road is human. Mistakes happen. We are left with a fatality rate of 1.46 per 100 million vehicle miles driven. And lets face it, banning cell phone use doesn't change the owner of fault in an automobile accident. Unless they are going to ban eating a granola bar while driving, I'm willing to take my chances without cell phone bans.

1 - State Cell Phone Driving Laws - http://www.ghsa.org/html/stateinfo/laws/cellphone_laws.html

2 -Traffic Safety Facts - http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/809911.PDF

3 - Key Global Telecom Indicators for the World Telecommunication Service Sector - http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/ict/statistics/at_glance/KeyTelecom99.html

4 - Pennsylvania Fatality Rates - http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/departments/nrd-30/ncsa/STSI/42_PA/2007/42_PA_2007.htm

Monday, September 29, 2008

It's Too Loud

You know what I'm tired of hearing? "It's too loud."

I'm a sound guy. Yep, I'm the dude that sits behind all the knobs and buttons and faders that control how a band sounds. Over the last five or so years I've been doing it, I've found that old saying to be 100% true: Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one. For nearly every person that I get that tells me to "turn it down," I have someone else that says "hey, turn it up!"

Mind you, most people have NO idea what loud is. This band is loud. I was at that concert, behind the speakers. Under the the control of a certifiably insane pilot, I listened as they came out of the gate at 126 decibels A-weighted, or dB(A), SPL. At 0:20 in the video there, when the singer screams... I got the nice "ear tickle" standing BEHIND the speakers. It was LOUD. The measurements were take out front, 100 feet away from the speakers by a good friend who was providing the sound system for this band to play through.

Typically I mix the same band weekend after weekend. And typically, I never make it over about 98 dB(A) SPL. Most shows hang around 95 dB. If the band is REALLY rocking out, at a public concert, we might hit 100. To give you and idea of the difference between 126dB and 95dB compare standing by a major highway as cars and trucks go at 90-95dB and Standing 100 feet from a Jet engine at 120-130dB. Every 10 dB increase is a perceived doubling in loudness. Every 6 dB is a doubling in sound power. So 126dB is over 8 times louder than 95dB, and over 32 times as powerful.

Mind you, I'm not asking that I be allowed to run concerts at 126, 120, 115, or even 105 dB all the time. I'm asking that people leave the sound guy the hell alone. We know what we're doing, and if people are plugging their ears and leaving, we'll adjust, don't worry.

This past weekend I was mixing at a moderate 92dB and I was asked to turn it down. I complied, because we were guests of the festival. But after I said "OK" I was subjected to the following comment "because it is just ~SOOO~ loud." Really, it's "Soooo loud." Give me a break.

This all happened as I was carrying on a regular conversation with a friend... neither of us having to raise our voices much at all. It's just silly. People that like the music they are hearing, want it turned up, and if it's just not their "style" they want it turned down, and 5 dB is just not enough... for them, it' needs to be off.

I also love the people that come up to me angry, literally indignant, that the guitar isn't at the exact right level. Or the keyboards are "buried." Or the vocals are too quiet. Which is it? How can the keyboards be buried and the vocals too soft? Then I get a former drummer that says "turn up the kick!" It never ends; people and their damn opinions.

The next time I it happens, I'm just gonna mess up a buncha knobs and when the audience turns around, I'm gonna point at you and walk away. Let's see your opinions mix a 8 piece band on 32 channels now Mr. Smarty Pants.

Monday, September 22, 2008

BW3, DJ

You may find that some of my posts are a little... spiteful. Even hateful at times. Screw you. Keep reading and you'll see why I get this way.

A few years ago I was in Morgantown, WV with a friend of mine. We were "DJing" his cousin's wedding reception. I put that in quotes (yes, I used air quotes) because I normally don't "DJ." I "DJed" when I was 16. I'm 29 now, so I'm over that. If you are 40 and you still DJ. Get a life. Go learn an instrument and try and play in a band. Or, try running sound for a band. Its infinitely more complicated. Sound guys "DJ" on their breaks.

Anywho, we were setting up to "DJ" this wedding reception and after we're done, I start to get pretty hungry. The lady working behind the desk at the hotel kindly informed me that there was a BW3 down the street that had "grill" type food and wings. So two blocks and a stoplight later, here I found myself and my friend entering the hell that was Buffalo Wild Wings. (And yes, the nickname is BW3 because it used to be called Buffalo Wild Wings and Weck.

After waiting a short line, I was greeted with a girl at the counter that took my order. Little did I or anyone know, it would be MY LAST ORDER EVER at BW3. My order consisted of a Chicken Sandwich, Fries, and a soda. ("Pop" for those of you in the Midwest and you losers out in Pittsburgh that INSIST on using that word). How hard could that be? A chicken sandwich, fries, and a soda. I was also forced to choose a "flavor" for my sandwich. I wanted plain, but apparently that wasn't acceptable. More on that later.

After fifteen minutes, my friend received his order. Not quite fast food speed, but not terribly long either. I even gave them a little extra time seeing as they were *moderately* busy. Nothing like the place I usually go to for lunch, a little Mexican place, where they feed 100 or more people inside of an hour, without breaking a sweat. But, being the nice guy I am, I gave them another 10 minutes. I was after my friend in line you see.

After 30 minutes elapsed, I saw 2 or 3 people behind me get their orders, so I politely asked the girl behind the counter how much longer my order would be. She told me 5 more minutes. Not really thinking anything of it at this point, I wandered back to my corner, and stood quietly. Mind you there was no where to sit by this point as a surge of people had come in. After about 10 minutes (100% longer than I was told I would have to wait). I asked again about my order, and if I could at least get a cup to get some Coke. I was informed to "please wait my turn" as they were very busy." I asked how much longer I should wait as I had been there some 40 minutes at this point. I was told 5 minutes. At least I was given a cup. When I went for some Coke, the machine had no ice, no Coke (just Sprite, yecchh), and my cup was a non standard size which none of the lids fit.

Sigh... after *another* 10 minutes, I returned to the counter, I asked where my food was. One of the cooks in the back proceeded to yell out "Hey man, can't you see we're very busy here." And then all hell broke loose. I said, "LOOK, I've Been here for damn near an HOUR and you people have done nothing but give me a CUP that I could put WARM soda in with no lid. I would like my Sandwich NOW, or I would like my money back." This was returned with more whining and arguing. It also conjured up a worried look on one of the other cook's faces as he had realized he over looked my order on their chicken sandwich assembly line.

I was told it would be another 10 minutes. I said, "f*** you, I'm leaving." And I walked out.

Now, that may or may not have been the best thing to do. But by that point my blood pressure was so high, and I was so hungry, it was either that or possibly a brain embolism. I chose what I thought would cause less of a commotion.

I proceeded back to the hotel where the reception was and found that there was a snack shop in the hotel lobby that had pre-made sandwiches at their deli counter. I bought a tuna fish on wheat, a bag of M&Ms and I was pretty happy at that point. Had I known that existed in the first place, I would have gone there instead. I actually like tuna fish sandwiches.

About 10 minutes later, my friend shows up with my sandwich. I decided I would taste the sandwich that took over an hour to make, because if it took that long, there must have been a lot of care put into it.

One bite... - "UGHHH, YECCCHHH. WTF!?!?!"

Curry.

Let me tell you people, if you don't like curry, there is no way you can force it down. In my haste to choose a "flavor" for my chicken sandwich at BW3, I chose "Carribean Jerk." Which a trip to their website confirmed had CURRY as one of the main seasonings.

The moral of the story is there are things that are so simple that you'd think any idiot could do them but you'd be wrong. One is DJing. Any moron can play dance songs from a computer and fade in and out between songs. But how many weddings do you go to and the music just sucks or sounds like ass. In the same vein any idiot should be able to make a chicken sandwich in under 20 minutes. Hell, I can make f**ing chicken piccatta in that amount of time. But you'd be wrong. Just go to BW3 in Morgantown, WV and see what happens.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Books are dead

You know what I'm tired of hearing about? Books. Everyone says, "go read a book" or "the book was better" or "you know what society's problem is, we don't read enough books."

Bullshit.

Books are dead. They are an antiquated form of communication. Outdated in method, synchronous, and not very efficient. I can get 95% of what is in a book in a two hour documentary, 30 minutes Googling the info I need, or in about 2 minutes of someone explaining what I need to know. Film, the internet, and phones have books by the balls.

Sure, there are you "fiction" readers. I hate fiction. What does fiction have to do with real life? Nothing. It's a waste of my time. Sorry for those of you that like well penned prose. My suggestion? Find a few intelligent blogs to read. Your time would be much more well spent.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Vitamins

Know what a Vitamin is? They are good for you right? But why?

A vitamin is something that is required for your body to continue to live, but that it can not synthesize on it's own from the carbs, fats, proteins, and minerals it takes in. You have to ingest vitamins one way or another.

You've probably heard the term for a British sailor "limy." Folk lore has it that sailors used to often get Scurvy on long sea voyages. Many guesses at the cause were made, but at some point someone learned that citrus fruits cured Scurvy. (In reality, a lack of vitamin C causes Scurvy, and citrus fruits have plenty of it). So, from that point forward British vessels were stocked with limes. And British sailors smelled of them, so they were called "Limy."

Cool huh?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Lazy coffee drinkers

A show of hands, who hates lazy coffee drinkers? You know the type. They take the last cup of coffee or leave a 1/4 cup burning on the Bun-o-matic at work. Who's with me? You? -- Well YOU can kiss my ass.

I don't give a shit what people do with the 2nd to last cup of coffee or the last 1/4 cup in the "community" pot. They could dump it in the fake potted plant next to the break room for all I care, I ain't drinkin someone else's leftovers. Who knows how long that has been sitting there. It could be from yesterday, how do I know?

I am NOT a lazy coffee drinker. I make my own pot every morning. It's the good stuff. I brew it, pour it into a stainless steel vacuum lined carafe, and then I take it back to the lab where I work for my coworkers to enjoy. Every morning I do that, yet someone left a note implying that *I* was a lazy coffee drinker.

I guess through blazing a trail in my *good* coffee drinking glory, I have left some people soured in my wake. They leave the nasty notes because, apparently, when they saw my pot brewing, they thought there'd be more free coffee for them to drink on their way back through. Well, they were mistaken. That coffee had one purpose; to make my coworkers and I in the lab happy from 8AM to about 2PM when we kick the pot. Which, by the way, stays hot all day because said pot is a stainless steel vacuum lined carafe. Did I mention that?

That said, it is those nasty-note-writers that are the lazy ones. They NEVER make their own pot. They rest on the laurels of us early-birds that ALWAYS make the first pot of the day. And yes, I used to make two pots every morning. The first, the aforementioned pot that goes back to the lab, and the second, for the rest of the normal non-lab workers. Granted, I use the good stuff (coffe de jour from Starbucks) for us lab rats, and the normal run of the mill 5 year old "pencil shaving" flavored coffee, for the non-lab rats. Hey, I pay good money for the 1 lb bag of crack laced Starbucks coffee. SO, if I don't get to drink a cup from the pot, no one does. However, the two pot mornings stopped when the nasty notes started.

The lazy coffee drinkers think they are being clever by saying "make a pot for the next guy, it's the nice thing to do." That's bullshit. Because nine days out of ten, when I walk by that Bunn-o-matic at 4:55PM there is 3/4 of a pot cooking itself to oblivion. That is just wasteful, and ends up leaving a nice stain ring in the glass urn that is nearly impossible to get out if you don't have that magic blue stuff the cleaning ladies leave behind.


Lazy coffee drinkers, kiss my ass.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Automobiles and energy

Everyone and their brother is talking about hybrid vehicles. "They are amazing, I'm saving all this money." "They are so efficient," "they save all this carbon." Yadda, yadda, yadda.

Well I'm here to tell you that there is nothing miraculous or special about hybrid cars. Wanna know why they are so great? Regenerative breaking. Yep, that's it. Think about it for a little bit. The brakes on your average run of the mill car are just another type of engine. They convert one type of energy (kinetic) into another type of energy (heat). Friction brakes are actually very good at this. In fact, brakes are about 10 times more powerful than your actual gas engine. Generally speaking, an average car can stop 10 times faster than it can accelerate to a given speed. Now take city driving. One of the reasons cars are so terribly inefficient in the city is they have to start and stop a lot, and all that idling. Every time you stop, you just throw away all the kinetic energy (moving car) as heat produced by your breaks. If you could store all that kinetic energy somewhere when you stop, and then re-use it when you pull out, there would have to be some efficiency gain right?

Well, the answer to that is a simple yes. I won't belabor the point which is that it shouldn't be mystifying that hybrid cars are more efficient because they use regenerative breaking.

So, yeah, don't get all excited about it.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The iPhone sucks

Yeah, you f*ing heard me. The iPhone sucks.

Why? Cause it doesn't have a QWERTY keyboard. If I'm gonna spend that much money on a phone I wanna damn keyboard with REAL keys for texting. That's the ENTIRE POINT of a phone like that: texting, browsing the web, email, etc. It all requires typing.

I'm 6 foot 1 inch. I have pretty big hands. They are not huge, but bigger than a munchkin's for sure. Try typing on that stupid "virtual" keyboard on the iPhone's screen for more than like 3 and a half seconds with my fingers and you will go mad. Insane I tell you.

The iPhone has a lot of cool things going for it, but Steve Jobs needs to realize that not everyone has thin fingers like he does.

I opted for the Samsung SCH-i760. It has a slide out keyboard, a REAL dialing pad on the front, and a touch screen. Yeah it runs Windows Mobile. Nothing is perfect, but at least I can actually use the thing.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Google rocks.

I, like just about everyone else in the world, love Google. I'm not even talking about the search engine... I think that might be a fad. What I love is all the stupid free crap that Google gives away for free. Google maps. Free. Google Picasa. Free. Google Earth. Free. Google Desktop Search. Free. Google Toolbar. Free.

I LOVE IT. Free stuff, yeah! The best part, is they are actually VERY useful. Picasa is probably one of the BEST photo organizers I have ever used. It's rock solid stable, has a few simple photo touch up features, and you get 1GB of free photo storage on there website to share your photos. Check mine out at http://picasaweb.google.com/ryanlantzy


Google Earth is just cool and fun to play with. You can look at the roof of your house from a satellite view. It's sweet.

I use Google maps constantly on my phone to find nearby businesses like liquor stores, strip clubs, and bars churches, grocery stores, and gas stations. I don't know what I'd do without it. (Truth be told, I'd probably just prepare more before I left the house)

Google Desktop Search is cool for several reasons. The one I like the most, is that it was the first tool I found that would search and index the contents of PDF files. I have several hundred PDF user manuals for different types of live sound gear on my laptop. I'm constantly having to find out how something works, and GDS was a godsend for me in that regard.

So, yay Google!