Friday, January 30, 2009

IN WHICH JFRO TRIES TO BRING HER AUDIO INTO THE 21ST CENTURY

The summer of 1987, I was living in a house with a bunch of other college students. One of them had an elaborate set-up with the stereo connected to the TV. This was when TV shows broadcasting in stereo was a new thing, as was having a real soundtrack for a mere TV show with songs viewers had heard before and enjoyed. I was amazed every time Crime Story came on how awesome it was to hear "Runaway" in stereo. Of course, I didn't have a real stereo then, just a boombox, so I couldn't create it myself (I had this funny portable record player where you put the LP in sideways).

In 1990, I finally purchased a stereo system, a Sony receiver and dual tape deck and a Technics turntable. I didn't start buying CDs until I got a computer for grad school in 1995, because I objected to how much more expensive they were than LPs. Then I hooked up my computer to the stereo. I only had a cheap crappy CD player for a few years until it died, then just used my DVD player after I got one in 2000.

So, last year I got a HDTV and Apple TV and learned about some new cables like HDMI (Apple TV) and component (DVD player). This made my receiver seem a little shabby, not to mention having to get up every time to adjust the sound for all these different machines. So I used Consumer Search, which I like because it summarizes different consumer web sites and magazines like Consumer Reports to pick the best product in different categories. It told me that the Onkyo TX-SR204 was the best receiver in the cheap-ass category.

It took me a while, but I finally have my DVD player, Apple TV, tape player, record player, and HDTV hooked up and emitting the finest audio they are capable of. Well, technically I need 3 more speakers and a sub-woofer, but I'll work up to those a bit at a time. In preparation for the miracle of 5.1 sound, I bought a couple of optical audio cables for the DVD and Apple TV. These are so powerful, they come with little plastic condoms over the ends to keep the awesome from leaking out. As this was not mentioned on the packaging, it took me a little while to figure out why they weren't fitting into the holes. The LG TV manual also neglected to mention anything about audio. Apparently, they think you should watch HDTV while listening to their crappy internal speaker. Finally, I found a tiny hole with a teeny black-on-black picture of a headphone on it (because people are really gonna put their face five inches from the TV and listen to a show with headphones).

The Onkyo can also be hooked up to my computer, so I was psyched try to digitize more of my 300 or so LPs, but now my turntable is giving me trouble. It's always something.




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Now playing: Groove Radio
via FoxyTunes

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

99 THINGS

I saw this in 2 places, so I guess I can't deny it anymore. Here goes:

THE 99 THINGS MEME

Things you’ve already done: bold

Things you want to do: italicize

Things you haven’t done and don’t want to - plain font

1. Started your own blog.
Yay me!

2. Slept under the stars.
I assume they mean like a tent. If so--of course, I grew up in the Midwest. It didn't take, though. If they mean literally sleeping with just a sleeping bag protecting them from the elements--no, that's just insane. What kind of magical fairyland do they live in where that's a good idea?

3. Played in a band.
No, but I played cello in the orchestra for a while--badly. I was thanked on the liner notes of an obscure demo tape for setting up a gig in my sister's basement.

4. Visited Hawaii.
Nature--not for me.

5. Watched a meteor shower.
No. Leave me alone already with all the nature.

6. Given more than you can afford to charity.
That's just silly. Do they mean, "more than you think you can afford, but you can really afford it if you don't buy a really big TV?" That's the only way it makes sense.

7. Been to Disneyland/world.
Yuck. I've been to Great America in San Jose, I'm more of a Warner Brothers than a Disney person.

8. Climbed a mountain.
I think it was a mountain I climbed in Yosemite, but it couldn't just been a high plateau by California standards. Someone came down on a stretcher due to walking too fast in high altitude conditions, that's enough for me. Needless to say, we went verrry slowly.

9. Held a praying mantis.
Probably, I had a bug petting zoo as a kid.

10. Sang a solo.
Sooo not a good idea, unless you count the shower.

11. Bungee jumped.
Isn't that so 90s?

12. Visited Paris.

13. Watched a lightning storm at sea.

That would be cool, as long as I wasn't steering the boat or involved in any way other than as a passenger.

14. Taught yourself an art from scratch.
How is art defined? As a child of the 70s I learned so many crafts --macrame, decoupage, papier-mache, latch hook, string art, making "knitted" potholders with that plastic square frame thing. My high school art classes were mostly just places for stoners and ESL kids to hang out, so I learned about perspective and figure drawing from books.

15. Adopted a child.

16. Had food poisoning.
I think I had stomach flu, but I could be wrong.

17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty.

There's just so many more interesting things to do in New York. The Met, the Fricke, the Whitney, the New Museum, the Cloisters, PS 1, 100 art galleries, looking for street art. And that's just the art scene!

18. Grown your own vegetables.

When I was a kid.

19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France.
I missed the Louvre because I was having money issues. The Musee D'Orsay was really cool, though.

20. Slept on an overnight train.
I think it was Amsterdam to Vienna.

21. Had a pillow fight.

22. Hitch hiked.

23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill.
When I was a healthy kid, I could do that. Now I'm sickly and middle-aged, so I have to save my sick days for when I'm really ill.

24. Built a snow fort.

25. Held a lamb.

I'm sure I petted one in a petting zoo.

26. Gone skinny dipping.

27. Run a marathon.
You can't see anything interesting while you're running. It sounds very boring, and life is too short to do boring things.

28. Ridden a gondola in Venice.
I just spent the day there, so it wasn't an option.

29. Seen a total eclipse.

30. Watched a sunrise or sunset.
Well, I have a balcony, so it's not really out of my way. I don't really stare at them for hours or anything, though.

31. Hit a home run.
Ugh, this list is very jocky. What about something like painting a picture or writing a poem, something that could actually add beauty to the world in some way?

32. Been on a cruise.
I dunno, I like the idea of being on a big boat, but the idea of stopping at ports and never staying anywhere very long doesn't appeal to me.

33. Seen Niagara Falls in person.

I've seen falls. How many falls does one have to see?

34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors.

35. Seen an Amish community.

I've seen Amish people and been in Amish stores. Are you allowed to come and hang out with them? I'd feel weird.

36. Taught yourself a new language.
I've taught myself a few phrases in Czech and Italian, not really a whole language, though.

37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied.

Sometimes.

38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person.

39. Gone rock climbing.
Why? I mean, I can go down to the river and walk where it's rocky, so I don't see the point in making a special trip.

40. Seen Michelangelo’s David in person.

41. Sung Karaoke.
I went to Punk Karaoke on my birthday and sang back-up, but I haven't done a solo.

42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt.

43. Bought a stranger a meal in a restaurant.

44. Visited Africa.

45. Walked on a beach by moonlight.
I have a feeling this is one of those things that sounds cooler than it really is, but I'm willing to give it a try.

46. Been transported in an ambulance.
I had pneumonia as a baby, but I don't remember it.

47. Had your portrait painted.
I've done self-portraits in mezzotint, oil pastels, and monoprint, seems close enough.

48. Gone deep sea fishing.
I don't really like seafood that much.

49. Seen the Sistine chapel in person.


50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

One again, so many cooler things to do in Paris. What is this weird obsession with climbing to the top of things? I did climb to the Foshay in Minneapolis, but it's more fun to see a city you actually know.

51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling.

52. Kissed in the rain.
In the Midwest, storms and hail and other unpleasant things often accompany rain, so a Hollywood-style smoochfest is not always in the cards. I'll put it on my list, though.

53. Played in the mud.

54. Gone to a drive-in theater.

55. Been in a movie.
Not that I know of. I made a stop motion movie in 6th grade (5 minutes long). I'd much rather make a movie than be in one.

56. Visited the Great Wall of China.

57. Started a business.
Someday I'll have my kung fu drive-in/Chinese restaurant/punk rock venue.

58. Taken a martial arts class.
Female Eclectic Martial Arts for 3 months, and a little Tai Chi. I'm too clumsy to be really good at it.

59. Visited Russia.

60. Served at a soup kitchen.

61. Sold Girl Scout cookies.
Yes, and it convinced me that sales are not for me.

62. Gone whale watching.
When I went to the New England Aquarium. Didn't see any, though.

63. Gotten flowers for no reason.
A (married, female) coworker one gave me some from her garden, but I didn't know where to put them as I have no vases. Plants should stay in the ground where they're supposed to be.

64. Donated blood.

65. Gone sky diving.

Are you crazy?

66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp.

67. Bounced a check.
Once, and it traumatized me.

68. Flown in a helicopter.

69. Saved a favorite childhood toy.

My mom saved some of my Breyer horses, and the old doll house that I wired for electricity.

70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial.

My dad's from DC, so I've done everything there except the White House.

71. Eaten Caviar.
Just that Greek fish egg dip.

72. Pieced a quilt.
Well, we gave a quilt to which each person contributed a square to a coworker for her baby shower, but I think I just sewed something pre-made on it.

73. Stood in Times Square.
In order to get half-price tickets to Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Not in my top 1000 of places to be in New York. It might've been cool when they still had kung fu and sexploitation movie theaters.

74. Toured the Everglades.

75. Been fired from a job.

76. Seen the Changing of the Guard in London.

77. Broken a bone.

Strangely not, considering how clumsy I am. I tore a ligament, sprained a toe, bumped my nose many times, innumerable scrapes, scratches, and cuts. My friend broke a wrist at this roller skating party I had.

78. Been on a speeding motorcycle.

My third cousin had one.

79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person.

That would be cool, but what else would I do in Arizona?

80. Published a book.
I have tiny entries in The Overrated Book and the Rock Bible, but not my own book.

81. Visited the Vatican.

82. Bought a brand new car.
I'd be OK with never having a car if I can manage it. They're just big money sinkholes that can incur $1000s worth of damage at any time.

83. Walked in Jerusalem.

84. Had your picture in the newspaper.
Not that I can recall, but going on a trip to Europe can get a picture in my home-town paper.

85. Read the entire Bible.
Just the kid's version.

86. Visited the White House.
Once again, really just some guy's house, and our presidents unfortunately didn't accumulate loads of loot like the Popes.

87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating.
Once, I couldn't think of a thing I wanted to do at camp, so I just sat and pretended to fish.

88. Had chickenpox.
In junior high, when I really needed more blemishes in my life.

89. Saved someone’s life.

90. Sat on a jury.

I've heard librarians are considered good jury members, and I work 2 doors down, so it's just a matter of time.

91. Met someone famous.
My grandma was friends with Jessica Mitford, so I met her a couple of times.

92. Joined a book club.
I don't have time to read all the books I want to, the last thing I need is assigned reading.

93. Lost a loved one.

Grandparents.

94. Had a baby.
Being an aunt is enough for me.

95. Seen the Alamo in person.
I'm not really into famous buildings unless they have beautiful architecture or some art or cool objects in them.

96. Swum in the Great Salt Lake.
Sounds uncomfortable.

97. Been involved in a law suit.

98. Owned a cell phone.


99. Been stung by a bee.
I put my hand in my purse once and felt a stinging sensation which could have been a bee or a wasp that got stuck in there, but I never saw it.

Now it's your turn, sucker!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

THINGS I PAY FOR ONLINE

This I ripped off from library guru Walt Crawford, who got it from SF author and uber-blogger John Scalzi. From whom I learned that AOL still exists and that there is a paid version of LiveJournal. Who knew? And why Rhapsody? Who are these people who are willing to pay every month to rent music that could be taken away from them at any time? Those who don't want the option of making a mix CD or tape do not love music in any way I can understand. I was glad that some of Scalzi's commentors mentioned library subscriptions. Don't pay for any online encyclopedias or magazine articles if you can get them free with your library card, people! The free Encyclopedia Britannica subscription for bloggers is also awesome.


1. IpHouse for Internet with Qwest DSL. I could save by bundling with Qwest and get msn.com email (ugh!), but IpHouse has given me such great support over the years and I can always get someone on the phone right away.

2. Netflix (4 movies-at-a-time grandfathered account). I watch a lot of movies, so it's definitely worth it, and it keeps me from being tempted to get cable. What with TV shows on Netflix, from the library and on Apple TV, I can barely stand to watch commercials any more.

3. Flickr Pro. I consider it a backup option for my photos. I have over 1700 on there right now, so going back to the 200 limit on the free account would be hard.

4. Amazon Prime. It pays for itself over the holidays.

5. GoDaddy web site for $10/year. So no one else can ever have Badassjfro.com. Branding, baby!


Things I used to pay for, but dropped:

1. Live365. I listen to most of my Internet radio on AppleTV now, and there's no way to get the subscribers-only no-commercials version of Live365 radio stations on there (that I know of, at least).

2. Mac.com/MobileMe. I don't need a fancier web page than Blogger can provide, and I can access files away from home with a flash drive. We Macies pay more for a better computer, we should get this service free, dammit!


Things I might pay for in the future:

1. Librarything. It's only $25 for a lifetime membership, and I'm nearing the 200-book maximum for a free account. I really like the way they organize my library, just wish there was as good a catalog for music and movies.

2. I plan to donate to some of my favorite Internet radio stations like Radio Nigel and Japan-A-Radio, don't know if that counts.