May 30, 2005
Saturday night, Shannon & Yvonne slept over and this morning we went to FanimeCon 2005. We ended up getting into the Convention Center at around 9:30am and left at 2:30pm. There was the usual dealer room, where I purchased a number of items, and the art booths, arcade games, and programming. I didn't pick anything up from the art booths, although we did walk around there for a while. Nor did I play any arcade games or go to any of the programs. For about half of the time, Yvonne went with Cecilia and Kathy, who arrived at the same time we did.
We saw a bunch of cosplayers, and I took pictures of many of them. However, some of the pictures came out kind of blurry. Naruto was by far the most popular cosplay choice. I saw the same short redhead girl in the white furry costume as last year. Kathy dressed up as a Naruto character, although Naruto is also one of the easiest choices. The Prince of Tennis cosplayer I took a picture of was appropriately sexually ambiguous.
I also learned a new vocabulary word: glomp v. to attack someone with a hug. A few people were walking around with signs asking for or offering glomps. I did see a few people participate in glomping. Yvonne also told me that she saw a pair of guys offering to perform "yaoi-ish" activities for money. Something new I saw this year was three fat guys walking around with a cheap cardboard sign saying "Fanime Girls Gone Wild" and a video camera. I don't think anyone participated in that one.
Here's what I bought: the grimrock! Mix Evangelion Ayanami Rei & Sohryu Asuka Langley figurines, some larger plugsuit Ayanami Rei and Sohryu Asuka Langley figurines (can't find a link; made by SEGA), a copy of the new Appleseed movie, Appleseed figures of Deunan, Briareos, and Hitomi, and two volumes each of the Battle Royale and Tuxedo Gin mangas.
I saved a bunch of money on the Evangelion figurines, but I overpaid for the Appleseed ones. I also overpaid for the Appleseed movie. I could have ordered the special edition for the same price online. I was hesitating on the movie, but decided to pick it up anyway. The Appleseed figurines I don't mind having paid a few dollars extra.
Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith
On Saturday, I saw Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith with Jeanne. I can understand why people think this one is the best out of the first three episodes, although I think each has its own merit. Episode III is easily the most emotional of all the Star Wars movies, because the conflict that destroys Anakin Skywalker and gives birth to Darth Vader comes to the forefront. The thing is, you cannot believe Anakin to be evil until the point he snaps, simply because he tries to do what he believes he must, and the deception, betrayal, and mistrust from within and without makes him lose his way.
May 27, 2005
Two Baby Tiger Barbs?!
I went to feed the turtles (and indirectly the fish who eat the turtle crumbs) and I think I saw two baby Tiger Barbs! But then they swam into the artificial plant so I'm not entirely sure. I didn't see two after that. One of them was about half the size of the other. It would be cool if there were too of them.
Final Fantasy X-2 Froze
I was playing Final Fantasy X-2 (about 40% of the way through now) and during combat the game froze. Music continued to play but no commands were going through and the picture froze. At least I saved shortly before that happened.
May 26, 2005
Baby Tiger Barb!
When I went down to feed the fish and turtles this morning, I discovered a baby Tiger Barb! It's tiny. Less than 1/2" long. The adults are about 2" long. There's only one that I can see, so I guess the others that may have hatched didn't survive this long. I hope this one will be around for a long time.
SV Subwoofers Exchange
When I received my new 16-46PC+ subwoofers, I noticed that one of them was not moving as much air out of the top ports as the other. The difference in air flow was very large; placing my hand over the port of one would create a loud chuffing sound, while doing the same over the other would have no effect. However, he generated SPL levels appeared to be the same for equal gain settings. Anyway, SVS has decided that the best thing to do is exchange the one that is not moving as much air so they can figure out what is wrong. A replacement 16-46PC+ is on its way to me now.
May 25, 2005
Giant Pricker Bush
I cleaned up more of the backyard today, creating a huge pile of vines and other stuff in the street. The pile of vines is about as long as a car, and almost as wide. But only about 1.5' tall. During this backyard cleanup, I started running into pricker bushes. And there is one giant pricker bush that I had to use the hedge clippers on. Unfortunately, this one had grown so big I could not pull out the roots, especially with all the prickers on the trunk. I tried wedging out some of its roots using the hedge clippers, but ended up just bending the blades.
I sold off some of my home theater components, now that I purchased newer and better things. The first was the Monster Cable MonsterBass™ 400 subwoofer cable I was using with the Velodyne SPL-1200II. The second was my JVC XV-SA602SL region-free DVD player. And the last was the Alesis DEQ830 I had only recently purchased.
I moved the Velodyne upstairs after receiving my new 16-46PC+ subwoofers, and when ordering subwoofer cables from Blue Jeans Cable I ordered a replacement one for the Velodyne. So I sold off the MonsterBass 400.
The JVC XV-SA602SL was of course replaced by the OPPO Digital OPDV971H. That JVC model is currently selling for $100 refurbished online region 1 only. I sold mine for less than that, so the purchaser got a real good deal.
And I finally decided to sell the Alesis DEQ830, because while I did like having thirty bands of 1/3-octave EQ, I felt the benefit was outweighed by the raised noise floor and ground loop hum. Especially since my Yamaha RX-V1400 provides seven bands of 1/3-octave EQ. As a side-effect, I returned the Hosa interconnects I purchased, and am using RCA-brand interconnects instead. I only had six of those, so I'm actually using one of the RCA-brand component video cables for the center channel, now that I'm using DVI for the video. Interestingly enough, the noise floor with these cables is lower than when I had nothing on the Outlaw Audio 7100 inputs.
May 22, 2005
Yesterday, the local chapter of SWE held an event called Designing Women for the Girl Scouts of Santa Clara County. About twelve girls showed up, and the "scientific" activities were supposed to get them interested in science and technology. I was working a table with Rita and someone I don't know named Albert making ice cream. It was lots of fun.
When I picked up the Kodo album, I also changed upon the debut album of Susie Suh. I took a listen and found her voice and songs amazing. She has the sultry voice of Fiona Apple but with a more acoustic sound. Her primary instrument is her voice, with a guitar accompaniment. The lyrics are soulful and sung from her heart.
My only question would be whether or not she can be successful with more of the same. I think the potential is there, but it's easy to get stuck when you are this kind of singer. Perhaps if she is careful to work just as hard on her second album as her first, it will happen.
Kodo - Ibuki
Since getting my 16-46PC+ subwoofers, I wanted to hear something that would really make good use of the new low extension. Taiko drums are one of the most impressive performances, and the use of their huge drum produces body-shaking bass. So I picked up Ibuki by Kodo, a famous Taiko group.
There are some very nice Taiko pieces on the Ibuki album. And Kodo does indeed have the low-frequencies I am looking for. But I fear to turn it up to true levels because that pushes the SPL higher than 85dB, which can cause permanent hearing damage. At safe listening levels, the floor does vibrate. Having heard Taiko drums up close before, I know that 95dB may be considered an accurate SPL level, at that distance.
Friday night I finished the epic graphic novel Bone by Jeff Smith. The collected series is a massive 1300 pages in a single volume, spanning thirteen years of work. This novel is, in my estimation, a hallmark work in the graphic novel genre, deserving to be alongside other works such as Maus and Blankets.
Bone is the story of three brothers from Boneville who find themselves run out of town and into the most fantastic adventure. The characterization is strong because of Jeff Smith's artistic skills and the effort he placed into the dialogue. The artwork is both simple to view but deep in its use of lines and contrast. Unfortunately, the single collected volume is in black and white and the color version would be much more enjoyable to read. I also found a wonderful dash of humor throughout the book, and did find myself laughing out loud, which is a rare thing for me.
I did have a very hard time putting down this book, which is a necessity given the length and weight of the volume. It's excellent and I highly recommend it.
May 20, 2005
SV Subwoofers 16-46PC+
I just received a pair of SVS 16-46PC+ subwoofers. These two are replacing a single Velodyne SPL-1200II subwoofer. The Velodyne is going upstairs into the video game setup to be coupled with a pair of Castle Avon speakers. The two 16-46PC+ subwoofers are together in the same price range as the single Velodyne. But they perform at least an order of magnitude better.
The 16-46PC+s are extremely large. Each subwoofer is approximately 17" in diameter and 4' tall. The basic construction is a single cylinder with a down-firing 12" driver at the base, and three flared ports at the top that are tubes down the length of the cylinder. The driver is protected at the bottom by a solid base, which also serves to make sure the sound is produced correctly regardless of your floor material.
They are covered in a very nice black cloth, and the construction appears excellent. The top ports are protected by a nice metal grille that fits snug, but can be removed to plug one of the ports to tune the subwoofer at 12Hz. At the base is the SVS logo.
The back of the integrated amplifier contains all of the inputs, outputs, and dials you might want. Some nice features include full-range phase control and auto-on. There are both line-level outputs and speaker binding posts if you need them.
SVS packages their subwoofers nicely, using stiff styrofoam, and the entire unit is protected from the elements and dirt during transit by a sealed bag. The bag is reusable. You will want to save the boxes, but of course the boxes are huge. I had to rearrange some things to fit them into my closet.
I have them tuned at 12Hz, and removing the top grille is easy once you realize that is what you're supposed to do to access the ports. The port plugs fit very tightly in the ports with moderate compression, so they are doing their job right.
During calibration, I discovered just how impressive subsonics can be. I was playing 10Hz through these subwoofers, feeling it come out, and hearing the house respond. I've discovered new things in the room that will rattle, including the sliding glass door to the backyard.
I am extremely pleased with these new subwoofers. The impulse response played back during my calibration seemed perfect. The Velodyne did not recover as quickly from this same impulse response. While playing sources with low frequenices, I am not hearing any harmonics that I don't think should be there.
On a side note, I also had a very nice experience with UPS when my packages were accidentally delivered to Ultimate Control this morning. The customer representative, delivery center, and driver were very friendly and helpful.
May 18, 2005
There is quite a bit of hard science in his novels, but there is a significant human aspect as well. Much more so than some other hard science authors. Which is something I appreciate. This last book was a little odd because of the jumps in time, but those jumps are important to how the characters of his world live. Plus, the two times are clearly separated and so the parallel story-lines are not confusing. The way in which the two bridge together is very satisfying and engaging.
May 15, 2005
Yet More Vines
I pulled even more vines out of the backyard today. There's a pretty big pile out by the curb, and I only cleared off about 30 square feet of the backyard. Probably about another 100 square feet to go. I also pulled out some vines from one of the three trees next to the driveway. The vines were starting to climb up the tree and that probably isn't healthy for the tree.
May 14, 2005
OPDV971H DVD Player
I bought a new DVD player yesterday, the OPPO Digital OPDV971H. This player scored 94 on the DVD Benchmark, second only to the Denon DVD-5910. But the 5910 is over fifteen times the price. After hooking up the OPDV971H to my Hitachi PJTX100 via a DVI-D cable, I calibrated the picture and watched the Avia reference videos. The picture was a step-up, much like going from S-Video to component. I also tested the player's audio side with a DVD-Audio copy of In Blue from The Corrs. The audio was just as excellent as the video.
The OPDV971H allowed me to get an excellent level of sharpness. I was unable to reduce the sharpness enough on my previous player, the JVC XV-SA602SL. The edging on diagonals is much smoother. And the de-interlacing and upscaling to 720p features allow me to send a native image to my PJTX100.
The unit was packaged extremely well, and enclosed in a fabric bag. The front is slim, stylish, and minimalist. The LCD display is very clear and displays feedback for any button pressed on the remote. The back is well laid-out, all connections are clearly labeled, and there was absolutely no flexing as I pushed cables into it. The remote is just as slim as the player and has a brushed metal face. There is a remote button for just about every function the player provides. And the player provides an excellent number of features. More features than I would expect from any player at any price.
I actually picked up the player by driving to OPPO's office in Mountain View. This let me save on shipping, not have to wait for a delivery at home, and also to get the player right away. I spoke there with Sally Li, about the player, their products, and why I decided to purchase their DVD player. She was very friendly and helpful, and that was also a nice side-benefit of picking up the player in-person. OPPO is very responsive to feedback, and my interaction with Sally only made that even more clear to me.
I also asked them about the lack of support for 2-2 cadence, as tested by Kris for the benchmark. The other guy there informed me that the 2-2 cadence flag only applies to certain older PAL sources that have been converted to DVD. So I don't have to worry about it for watching NTSC 30fps video sources.
The Ring 2
Last night I went to see The Ring 2 with Alla, Georges, Jeanne, Ellen, Rita, and Hung. I normally don't like seeing scary movies but Jeanne persuaded me. But it turns out this sequel is not as freaky as the first one. The first one had a lot of psychological scariness, but in this one there really wasn't any of that. When you expected something bad to happen, either nothing did or it was too obvious. There also wasn't as much background development in this one as the first.
Before the movie, we ate dinner at Giorgio's Italian Food & Pizza. It was good food but a little pricey. We finished dinner with about an hour left before the movie started, so we went to Mervyn's and Alla bought socks and a swimsuit. I think Jeanne bought some earrings.
May 13, 2005
AV123 is having a raffle with all net proceeds being donated to The Jimmy Fund. In case you are interested in supporting it but also would like the chance to win a nice prize. Raffle ticket sales are non-deductible. The tickets are found on their Rocket by Onix page.
May 12, 2005
More Yard Work
I worked on my backyard a little more today. Finished pulling out all the weeds from the main dirt area, and started pulling some of the vines away near the edge of the side area. The vines have taken over the side area, which is partly the cause of my banana trees slowly dying. Also because I haven't watered the backyard ever. Maybe one or two more days to get rid of all the remaining vines in the side area.
May 10, 2005
More Weed Wacking
Last week, I bought a weed wacker and used it to clear out some of the tall grass in my backyard. Today, I did some more, and finished up the area around the greenhouse shed. I also started pulling out some of the weeds that have grown in the dirt area behind the house. I figure a few more days of this work, and all that will be left are the stubs of all the vegetation. Then I can buy the plant killer stuff and spray everything back there.
I had a termite inspection today by Larry Gulling from First Choice Termite Control. They are the ones who fumigated my home before I bought it about a year and a half ago. I called them because there were some pellets on my windowsill and I thought I saw a flyer. Turns out termites are much larger than the bug I saw; people had told me they are small but I guess my definition of small is smaller than everyone else's. Anyway, doesn't look like there are any termites here.
Larry was very friendly, courteous, and professional. We actually talked about my home theater for a bit. He's looking into buying an HDTV in the near future to watch sports in high-definition. After explaining to me what termites actually look like, and describing things about the previous inspection and fumigation to me, he was kind enough to caulk up the crack around one of my windows with clear latex. This way, if I see new pellets on that windowsill, it will have to be from new activity.
If anyone in the Bay Area is looking for a termite control company, I would highly recommend First Choice Termite Control.
May 9, 2005
Star Wars IV, V, VI
Shannon and Yvonne slept over last night, but didn't get here as early as we wanted to watch all three of the original Star Wars trilogy: A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. So we watched Episode IV and half of Episode V last night. Yvonne fell asleep during Episode V though. And then we watched the rest of Episode V this morning before I took Yvonne to her Japanese class in Fremont. While we were gone, Shannon started watching Episode VI, and we got back to see the second half of it.
We also started watching Gettysburg, but Yvonne and Mei-Ling both fell asleep. Shannon wasn't interested in it at all, so she played Metroid Fusion. Since Yvonne wasn't watching anymore, I stopped it and went up to play Final Fantasy X-2. I'm about 27% done now. Yvonne worked on her science homework while I was playing, and asked me questions about nuclear fusion.
May 7, 2005
I visited Karen Kapur today. We had some Thai food for dinner and then rented Closer after not being able to find a good independent film in local theaters. The film really only has four characters, played by Julia Roberts, Jude Law, Natalie Portman, and Clive Owen. I thought it was very good, though Karen just thought it was decent.
The film starts of relatively light and engaging, and then quickly becomes intense and engaging. The characters' love lives and emotions are presented in a very raw and honest fashion. On one hand it is hard to believe that people go through what the characters went through, but on the other hand it is entirely plausible and I am certain there are many people who can relate to their situation. While the plot and behavior is very clear, there is a lot of depth to these characters. And there is always more going on in each scene if you take the time to think about things carefully and thoroughly.
I think the greatest strength of the film is that at no time does it ever feel like a character is being anyone other than who they are. There are no attempts to do the right thing, or to be a good person. Instead, each person is simply making decisions and acting on those decisions however they are compelled to at the given moment. Some of the strongest but most difficult human emotions are portrayed this way: love, guilt, suspicion, dependence, cowardice, selfishness, spite.
The musical score was very well done. Perfectly moody and emotionally complementing throughout the film. It became an essential part of each scene, when music was present. At no time was it ever overwhelming.
May 6, 2005
Szu-Huey's Hair Cut
Yesterday Szu-Huey gave me a hair cut. She was afraid to use the electric clippers the whole time, so she mostly used the scissors until the end when I wanted to back and sideburns cleaned up. It looks pretty good.
Everend and I watched National Treasure on Wednesday night. It was about what I expected. A decent movie, but nothing spectacular. The clues seemed a bit contrived, but it is easy for me to suspend my belief. Overall, I enjoyed the movie and its approach. It wasn't dumbed down, but there was hand-holding going on to make sure the audience could keep up.
Romeo + Juliet
Earlier this week I watched Romeo + Juliet, which is by the same person who later did Moulin Rouge. This film interpretation of the classic play is probably much closer to original bawdy and impassioned Shakespeare, than the sterile stage and film version that were common in recent history. And one of my favorite movies. I've watched it a few times and it is always great.
One thing that did surprise me this time is the gunshot of Juliet's suicide at the end actually made me jump. I don't know if it was the audio changes I've made, or the big screen, or both, but I guess I had really gotten pulled into the movie this time.
May 2, 2005
I mentioned earlier how adding the Outlaw Audio 7100 and Alesis DEQ830 introduced some hum. Well, today I grounded all the component chassis to each other and the wall using 12-gauge wire, and replaced the flimsy Pyle 1/4" Male to RCA Male interconnects with some Hosa CSS-800 snakes which seem better constructed. The ground loop hum is reduced but not completely gone, and the sound seems clearer and more distinct now.
May 1, 2005
Me Talk Pretty One Day
While I was in North Carolina on business, I read Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris. Karen Kapur gave it to me for my birthday. It's one of those bestselling books that critics label literary genius while the common folk just say it's great.
Karen and the person quoted on the back of the book said they were laughing on every page. While I was amused by the book, I wasn't laughing out loud. But then I do have a very specific sense of humor, and amusement for me is typically equivalent to hilarity for others. Each chapter is basically an inane presentation of what is probably an everyday sort of life. Sort of like how Seinfeld turned normal things into the ridiculous. Each chapter also tends to stand alone, meaning while there is a greater thread tying things together, you can view each chapter as its own little story.
The only part I found a little disconcerting was how the chapters did not always proceed through time in a sequential manner. Sometimes I would realize that what I was reading happened before what I read just earlier. Or that this chapter was happening a decade after the previous chapter. In that way, it might be easier to digest each chapter individually instead of sequentially.
Outlaw Audio 7100 & Alesis DEQ830
I purchased a couple of new components for my home theater setup. The Outlaw Audio 7100 is a seven-channel 100W power amplifier. The Alesis DEQ830 is an eight-channel 30-band digital graphic equalizer with constant 1/3 octave Q. Now my Yamaha RX-V1400 is connected to the DEQ830, which in turn is connected to the 7100. I also removed the tweeter meshes from my Monitor Audio S8s and SLCR, as suggested by some people.
Since the Yamaha Parametric Room Acoustic Optimizer is an auto-calibrating equalizer with 1/3 octave Q, running the YPAO equalization several times allowed me to transfer the adjustments from the RX-V1400 to the DEQ830. Thus giving me what is equivalent to a 30-band YPAO. By the end, YPAO was only listing one or two adjustments per channel, and for some channels, absolutely no adjustments.
The end result is a much nicer frequency response, although the warmth I was hearing from the speakers doesn't seem to be there anymore. YPAO also decided that it was okay to lower the subwoofer crossover from 100Hz to the THX standard 80Hz. Playing through some audio CDs and my reference Moulin Rouge, vocal separation and clarity was very much improved. The bass response was more apparent. I was able to hear a lot more of what was previously inaudible or muffled. Ambient noises and minor sound effects was clearer.
I haven't actually measured the resulting frequency response though, so it is quite possible that the new plot is actually not great in some places. But overall I'm pleased with the result and I have some faith in the YPAO system for picking up what it can.
Unfortunately, I am hearing some noise from both the 7100 and even more from the DEQ830. Turning off the DEQ830 lowers the noise floor. Placing the DEQ830 on the same circuit as the RX-V1400 and 7100 actually produces a loud hum. So it is on a separate circuit right now. I will probably have to purchase a power conditioner to reduce the noise.