Personal

Stop! You Can't Use that Camera! It's Illegal!

Here's a small example of why I have grown to dislike government and its greed for ever-increasing regulation.

Let's say you want to record an hour long video. What kind of camera would you choose? Well, you could simply use the camera in your smart phone to record an hour of video. Or, you could use the WebCam in your laptop or desktop computer to record an hour of video. You could use a camcorder, which arguably is the easiest method. Or, you could get very fancy and use a professional video camera along with a professional video recorder. You're free to choose all of those methods.

But, you cannot record an hour of video on a DSLR, even though the camera is capable of recording hours of motion picture quality video.

Why?

Well, it's not a technical limitation with the DSLR.

It's the law.

I'm not joking, I'm not making this up, it is the law.

You see, in the United States it is against the law for an imported DSLR camera to be able to record video for more than 29 minutes and 29 seconds. Regardless of the technological capability of the camera. By the way, DSLRs sold in other countries around the world can record hours of video. That includes the same models sold in the USA.

Let me bring this home to you: the only reason a DSLR sold in the USA cannot record more than 29 minutes of video is because of government regulation.No technological limitation exists. The cameras are perfectly capable of recording hours of vide. The only reason they can't is because of an arbitrary, completely unnecessary, government regulation created out of thin air by an unelected, faceless bureaucrat.

Why? Who does that benefit? Not me. Not you. But I bet some big campaign donor benefits.

So, you see, our unenlightened government doesn't believe you should have the freedom to record an hour or more of video on a DSLR camera.

Now, I understand this is not a vitally important event. I bring it up because it goes to show the attitude of our government toward us, the citizens of United States. We, the government, will decide how you can record an hour of video - you don't have the freedom to choose what you want.

Now step back and think of all the other small, everyday freedoms that excessive government regulation has taken away from you.

Tell me, why I should support any politician who will not increase our personal liberty by curtailing this monstrous factory of neverending regulations that we call the United States federal government?

The Smple Project That Became Un-Simple

Here's the latest on my Dual 1218 restoration project. On initial inspection, the mechanism was frozen solid. With these older 1200 series, that's usually just dried out lubricant that's become rock hard - a straightforward if tedious project. Remove all lubricants, which requires disassembling the mechanism; clean thoroughly, replace lubricants, reassemble then enjoy music.

Well, the more I get into the project the more I find wrong. It's been victim of prior repair attempts that created more problems than they solved: bent shafts, stripped threads, incorrectly assembled torsion springs.

Now the latest: missing parts. Yes, the previous owner lost several parts and used one that is the wrong part. Grrrrrr.....

I'll get it going, that's not in doubt, but what could have been a simple project became a major effort. I'm not really complaining because I'm delighted to be able to resurrect one of these classic turntables.

The lesson: when you attempt to service a vintage deck, take your time. Get a service manual.

Don't force parts together - if they're stubborn there is a reason, so stop, look and think. Find an expert on the particular turntable and get their advice.

Take photos every step of the way so you don't forget what to do or lose your place.

Keep every part! Repeat - keep every part. Nothing is superfluous.

Don't just use any oil you have: Dual used specific lubricants. Substitute them and things won't work correctly.

A Visitor's Guide To Kansas

Basketball, Cessna aircraft and Martin-Logan electrostatic loudspeakers have their origins in Kansas. This should suggest something to you about life in Kansas.

Cow tipping is encouraged in Kansas. You should tip a cow 20%, or only 10% if you are lactose intolerant.

The lyrics to the song "Home On The Range," the unofficial official song of the Great State of Kansas, is sarcasm. This also should suggest something to you about life in Kansas.

Tornadoes from foreign countries are illegal in Kansas. The government insists that all tornadoes are to be locally made.

Kansas is often referred to by elitists, intellectuals, television commentators, and politicians as "flyover country." Kansas is grateful for this. Keep 'em flyin'!

Kansas is best known for Dust In The Wind, Dreamweaver and Fire With Fire. Unfortunately, this has nothing to do with the state.

26 Notable Kansans include abolitionist John Brown, children's advocate Arthur Capper, aviation pioneer Clyde Cessna, automotive legend Walter Chrysler, public health reformer Samuel Crumbine, artist John Steuart Curry, former Vice President Charles Curtis who served with Herbert Hoover, former Senator Bob Dole, famed aviatrix Amelia Earhart, former president and military leader Dwight D. Eisenhower; railroad restaurateur Fred Harvey, founder of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad Cyrus K. Holliday, former Senator Nancy Landon Kassebaum, electronics pioneer and inventor of the microchip Jack Kilby; politician and oil baron Alfred Landon; cattleman Joseph McCoy, psychiatry pioneer and sociopolitical advocate Karl Menninger; sportsman and inventor of basketball James Naismith; temperance movement activist Carry Nation, photographer Gordon Parks, native American leader of the Kiowa and treaty negotiator Satanta; immigration commissioner C.B. Schmidt, minister, peace activist, and education pioneer Charles Sheldon; paleontologist George F. Sternberg, journalist and author William Allen White; and tornado rider Dorothy Gale. If you know most of these names, you're probably not from Kansas.

A Twist of Fate

by Johnnie Neslett; as it appeared published in Tune In Magazine, June 1945.

For the beginning of this story, we must go back to a warm summer's day half a century ago. In a crystal -clear lake, in the Scotch highlands, a small hoy from London- vacationing in the Scottish moors -goes for a swim. The day is hot, the water cool. And the boy, all alone, splashes about like a puppy.

Suddenly, he is seized with cramps, and -with that innate instinct for self- preservation -he screams loudly for help. In a nearby field, a Scottish farm boy hears the cries, drops his plow and runs for the lake. Plunging in, he swims rapidly to the struggling swimmer and tows him hack to shore.

And so it is that a young English boy owes his life to a poor Scotch lad from the highlands. The years pass slowly, inexorably. Some years later, the English boy again visits the land of the purple heather .. . the same community where the Scotch youngster saved his life. His parents, wealthy far beyond their own needs, want to express in some tangible way their appreciation for the farm boy's courage and heroism.

And so the English boy's father visits the humble cottage where the Scotch youngster still lives. Smiling broadly, he speaks quietly to the shy young man: "I know well enough, my lad, that I can never really repay you for saving the life of my son. But, I would be most grateful if you would allow me the pleasure of preparing you for a career --a profession of some kind. Speak up, lad ... is there anything you would like to be ?"

Gulping, the young Scotchman manages to blurt out "Right ye are. There is, sir. If -if it please you, sir .. . I-I'd like to be a doctor." Yes, for years that poor farm boy has wanted to study medicine -and here is his opportunity.

The gentleman from England makes all financial arrangements, true to his word, and the boy from the Scotch moors enters medical school. Graduating with high honors, he embarks on a career of scientific research. And the results of his work have shown that the help given him by the English boy whose life he saved was beneficial, not only to him, but to the entire world.

For the Scotch lad, who might never have been able to study medicine had he not saved a London lad from drowning, is the scientist who found that germs cannot live in a certain vegetable mold, thus discovering a drug that has saved -and will save- millions of lives.

For, you see, the one -time Scotch farmer boy is the illustrious Dr. Alexander Fleming, who discovered ... penicillin!

But what of the London boy whose life Alexander Fleming saved? Let's go back a few years ago to the time this English boy, now a man of renown and distinction, makes a journey to the Near East on a mission of world importance. While there, he is stricken seriously ill. So great a personage is he that his death might affect the fate of his country, the future of the whole world!

But penicillin -the drug discovered by the farm boy his family had educated -is rushed by plane to the sick man's bed .. and the miracle drug saves his life. Yes, twice Alexander Fleming saved the life of that Englishman ... once when he was an English schoolboy on a vacation in the misty Scottish highlands ... and the second time when he had risen to such prominence that he was one of the most famous men in all the world.


And So the Story Goes -this strange story of the whim of chance that threw together two men who ordinarily would have lived and died worlds apart. If an English boy had not nearly drowned in a blue lake in Scotland, Alexander Fleming might never have discovered penicillin. And, if Alexander Fleming had not twice saved the Englishman's life, the world today would lack a great and courageous man.

For, you see, the Englishman -twice saved from death by Alexander Fleming -is ... Winston Spencer Churchill.

Time For Changing Times

Yikes.

Times are changing.

As some of you know, since the late 1970s I've recorded interviews for broadcasts, oral history archives, and spoken word tapes. I've used the same equipment all these decades as well, a variety of AKG and ElectroVoice microphones connected to Uher 4000 Report series or Revox A77 analog tape recorders, depending on the venue. I can practically do the recordings in my sleep because I'm so accustomed tot he equipment.

The Uher 4000 Report series are battery-powered reel-to-reel machines designed specifically for recording interviews. They're so good at it I can forgive their poor ergonomics, nearly-useless level meter, and their tendency to be fairly maintenance-intensive compared to other analog recorders.

The rugged, crystal-clear Revox A77 is a classic that has a loyal following all these years later. They're one of the few audiophile stereo tape recorders that was so good that more studios and professionals bought them than did audiophiles. They’re practically “unfuckupable” with regard to getting a great recording. It makes the job just so easy.

The catch: You need to find an AC mains to plug the Revox A77 into. No battery. Revox seems to think that if you put a handle on something that makes it portable. "Oh, here's a great idea -- let's make a portable full-size reel-to-reel. All we need is a nice handle. Just ignore its hernia-inducing 52-pound weight."

But, with the passage of time, I’m finding that a great audio tape of an interview isn’t enough. It’s the YouTube era, and “video killed the radio star.” So, I have to go video.

Eek.

So, being an audio guy first and foremost, I needed a small camera with great audio. An affordable small camera. The only one I found is the Zoom Q8. It has XLR inputs and a super-wideangle lens. I hate the lens. And I hate the cheesy X/Y microphones that stick out from the back like a deformed scorpion stinger. But the audio from the XLR inputs is okay.

Nasty surprise though: many of my 1970s-era ENG microphones don’t interface well with the Q*’s microphone preamplifiers, XLR inputs notwithstanding. The Q8’s microphone inputs are impedance-bridging, my ENG microphones need impedance-matching inputs. You try connecting a 50 Ohm ElectroVoice 644 or Altec 638A, or (worse) a transformerless-200 Ohm AKG D900 to the Q8’s 1.8K inputs. Sounds thin.

But my ElectroVoice 635A and 660, and the Shure VP64 and SM59 microphones seem to connect adequately enough. The SM59s always draw comments and attract crowds. They were once popular with game show hosts, televangelists and The Gong Show.

That’s something to start with.

It's a bit of a shock making the transition. The touchscreen, and its tiny bargraph meters take a bit to get used to. And that super wide lens makes everything look like one of those phony “virtual reality” scenes out of a B-grade science fiction movie directed by Roger Corman.

Oh well.

Stayin’ Alive.

Trends, Status Symbols & Me

One thing that I have been criticized for is that I don't design trendy products. Over the years, I have turned such products down.

It's a valid criticism.

Trendy products come and go. I prefer to spend my time to perfect my designs, with the confidence I can then produce those designs for years, even decades. I'm the slow, methodical type. I don't like rushing my work.

Yes, from time to time my designs have to be freshened up with new styling, or with changed features. This is a necessity to reflect the new preferences of end-users or market shifts. But underneath those surface changes is a design that is just as good decades from now as it is today. A design that will stand the test of time, to borrow a cliche.

In contrast, designing a trendy product is a treadmill. You rush through your design, then get it off to the market as quickly as possible, only to have the product abruptly quit selling once a new trend hits. You then have to repeat the process.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Ugh.

Trendy products just do not interest me. Certainly I can make them, but it just doesn't interest me.

You know what happens to trendy products? They end up on eBay, or in the trash. They're often laughed at years later. They're seldom valued or respected.

I don't want my work ending up in the trash. And I certainly don't want my work laughed at. I want my work to last, to be as valued years from now as it is today.

And that's why I don't do trendy products.

I have mixed feelings about status symbol products. Personally, I don't buy status symbols. Occasionally, something I bought is a status symbol, but it's a coincidence. I did not set out to buy a status symbol.

Status symbols are supposed to reflect a level of achievement, of discernment. It's the visible, ostentatious way to say, "I've arrived. I'm a success."

The reality is, for most people in the United States, that status symbols are an attempt to buy acceptance, esteem, and position among their peers. It's a way to make yourself look successful, discerning, and in-the-know.

That always seemed empty to me.

If someone looks up to me or respects me simply because of something that I've purchased, then they don't truly respect me, they're merely intimidated by something I bought.

It's a mentality that leads to the proverbial "keeping up with the Joneses." No matter what status symbol a person buys, someone can buy a more expensive status symbol.

So what?

Anybody can find the money to buy a status symbol. I've never seen that as a real accomplishment.

Perhaps that makes me a reverse-snob, but there it is. I said it.

Recently, I found out a couple of my designs have become status symbols. This actually bothers me. I'm flattered, it always feels good to have your work valued, especially if it's valued highly.

What bothers me is that I do not want someone to buy anything that I make because it is a status symbol. In fact, if I thought someone was buying one of my products merely as a status symbol to impress others, I probably would refuse to sell it to them.

I want people to buy what I make because they genuinely like it. Because it makes the music more fun for them. Because it lets them get more out of their music. Because it makes them feel good. Because they enjoy it. Because they enjoy it for what it is. Because, in some small way, it makes their life more fun, more peaceful, and has enriched the experience of their life.

Otherwise, I don't want someone to buy what I make. I don't my work to become an ego trip, someone screaming, "Look at me, I have one and you don't - Nyah Nyah Nyah."

This means I'll probably never be rich, but that is secondary to me.

The quality of my work, and how it affects those who buy my work is what matters most to me. The money is merely a means for me to do what I want to do, it's a tool, just like a drill or a hammer.

The Canyon

I awoke.

Grogginess slowly cleared from my mind. I looked around. A deep, angular canyon wound jaggedly for as far as I could see in either direction. The walls sloped away at a 45° angle. Every so often, an enormous boulder clung precariously to the wall of the canyon.

I try to determine in what direction the canyon traveled by looking at the angle of the sun. But this proved an impossible task. Bizarrely, the sun spun continuously overhead like a disco light. Worse, the light was a strange color. Not the warm yellow we're accustomed to, but a garish, harsh light.

As my eyes grew accustomed to the light, I saw that my canyon was a uniform black color. None of the strata, the variegated colors you often see in canyons, but a faceless, monotonous, black. Black. No other color. Just black.

So I was faced with a choice. Climb out of the canyon, or walk along it until I found another way out. I thought perhaps it would be quickest to climb out of the canyon.

As I began to climb, I was presented with the strangest sensation of all. The canyon walls felt, for all the world, like plastic. Despite the 45° slope, the canyon walls were slippery. There were no projections, no footholds. This was going to be a tough climb.

So, I stopped and once again stood at the bottom of the canyon.

As I stood pondering what to try next, I began to hear a distant rumbling. Before long, the rambling became distant, muted music. It was music from a classic album that had been popular in my youth. I smiled, because I had enjoyed that album.

That settles it, I would follow the canyon to the source of the music. That would bring me to civilization.

So, I slowly walked off toward the sound of the music. Walking proved to be tedious, as I often had to step over or around boulders at the bottom of the canyon. The slippery floor of the canyon didn't make matters easier either. Worst of all was the constantly undulating path of the canyon. It was as if the creator of this place abhorred the concept of a straight line or a gentle curve.

As I walked, the loudness of the music grew. Perhaps it was my imagination, but it seemed that the music was growing louder too quickly.

The music was loud now, but the source of the music was not in sight. I continued to walk toward the music. But with each step, with each instance, the music grew ever louder. Soon, the music was unbearably loud. Still, the source of the music did not come in the view. And still the music grew louder, becoming literally painful to hear.

I sank to my knees, overwhelmed by the power of the music. My hands over my ears, nothing could withstand the unimaginable loudness of the music.

I felt a breeze, and my body began to vibrate in sympathy with the music. I looked up in time to see it.

Racing down the canyon toward me was an unimaginable sight. A smooth, colorless mountain, upside down, descended from the sky. Its tip rested against the walls of my canyon perfectly, creating the illusion that the upside down mountain was traveling along the canyon walls.

But it wasn't an illusion. The upside-down mountain was indeed riding along the walls of my canyon, rushing headlong toward me.

Nothing could stop it. The upside-down mountain was nearly upon me.

I froze.

I screamed. My scream was inaudible to my ears, consumed by the solidity of the music.

Meanwhile, John was enjoying his favorite music on a vinyl LP. He smiled with satisfaction. It wasn't just the music. And it wasn't just the superlative sound. It was the accomplishment of setting up the delicate turntable and its fiddly adjustments.

John leaned forward. He heard something in the album that he had never heard before.

A scream.

He had never heard a scream in that particular track before.

A Night At The Lake

Those who have known me for many years are familiar with my passions for nighttime activities, fine-quality film cameras, and analog tape recorders. So, an evening that combines spending time on a lake, at night, with an analog recorder to capture the keening of nighttime insects, and a fine film camera to capture the glow of the distant city lights is as close to a perfect day as possible.

And so it was I found myself at a small, secluded lake outside Lee's Summit, Missouri, nearly midnight, July 7th, 1984. The lake belonged to a friend, and was a favorite place of mine to visit. A private getaway, without having to travel to an exotic location.

The still night was made more pleasant by the refreshing 70-ish degree Fahrenheit temperature.

The solitude of the lake was ironic in the presence of the loud chorus of insects and frogs, punctuated by occasional cries of unseen nocturnal fauna. A distant aircraft thrummed, adding an oddly harmonious undertone that gradually faded away.

The moon lent its cool glow to the lake. Gentle waves shimmered in a relaxing motion. The nearby trees were starkly outlined in sharp relief.

A lunchbox-sized Uher 4200 Report Stereo analog tape recorder, fed by a unique JVC binaural microphone, freed of the necessity of AC power by its battery pack, was capturing the acoustic ambience. A small folding table held the recorder, while, several feet away, a mannequin head atop a crudely-made wooden stand held the microphone six feet above the ground, far enough to avoid the noise of the camera.

In no particular hurry, my back to the lake, I prepared to mount a Pentax MX 35mm film camera on a well-worn, but still-rock-solid, Tiltall tripod. My plan was to photograph the patterns of light that gave that particular night's sky a melancholy beauty.

Suddenly, silence erupted. As if an invisible finger had flipped a switch, every insect, every frog, every creature of the night stopped. Startled, I turned toward the lake, with a sense of dread, and froze.

I strained to hear. Anything.

The silence was so complete that I began to question whether I had gone deaf. As I continued to concentrate, I was relieved to hear, to just barely hear, the electric hum of the recorder's motor.

I relaxed.

The moment I began to turn back toward the tripod the night was pierced by two, glowing, red spots above the middle of the lake.

Two glowing red eyes.

Two close, glowing red eyes.

Two close, glowing red eyes that were moving toward me. Rapidly.

Instinct shouted down reason. I threw the camera into the car. My next memory is of the car leaving a trail of dust, the lake far behind.

I stopped. The recorder, the microphone and the tripod were back at the lake. I'd abandoned them all without a second thought. So now the choice. Return for my equipment or continue my flight? Was it worth the risk? By now, they're gone anyway, right? Or smashed and worthless, right? No point in it, right?

Drat.

Okay, I just can't throw away expensive equipment. And I had to know what really happened.

So, I went to a friend's house nearby and related the events of the lake. He agreed, with some cajoling, to return with me to retrieve my equipment. His face bore eloquent rebukes for my overactive imagination. Glowing red eyes indeed.

The presence of my equipment still intact brought relief and astonishment to me and another of "those looks" from my friend. Three hours had elapsed, yet everything was as I left it. The lake was as noisy as ever. It was the most normal scene you could imagine. Yet, the normality was almost unnerving.

I packed the microphone away, then folded the tripod into its case. Lastly, I picked up the recorder by its handle and switched off its power. The motor sighed and fell quiet. The level meter flicked briefly as the audio amplifier let out a parting thump. Oddly, it didn't feel right. Something was amiss. Setting the recorder down on the back seat of the car, I saw that the tape was missing. That was on its own, because, other than the missing tape, nothing seemed to have been disturbed. Yet the tape recorder was considerably lighter than it should've been.

I turned the recorder over, and remove the bottom to access the battery compartment. There was no battery. There was no battery yet the recorder had been running when I picked it up and switched it off. How? After replacing the bottom cover, I turn the recorder right side up and switched it on. But it didn't turn on. How could it, it didn't have a battery? But it had been working when I first picked it up.

Somehow, I didn't want to know. I just wanted out of there. As quickly as I could leave. I dropped my friend off at his house, and bid him goodbye, profusely thanking him for his assistance.

Over the next several days, I pondered the strange events at that lake. I never again visited the lake. I still have the recorder, and it has never worked without a battery since that strange night on the lake with two glowing red eyes.

And so, dear reader, concludes my tale of high strangeness. Ponder this Halloween those inexplicable occurrences, those things that can't happen yet do. Ponder what lies beyond the unexplained.

But relax. In the end, it's all just a ghost story.

Isn't it?

The Small Business Owner Then & Now

I was speaking to one of my friends who also owns a small company and we began talking about how life as a business owner has changed over the decades. I began my first rather feeble entry into the world of running my own business in 1976. No, I wasn't any good at it, as I was still in high school. But hey, you have to start somewhere.

Consider: the Top Ten Small business challenges in 1976 versus 2016.

1976:
  1. The national economy.
  2. Your competitors.
  3. Market perception of your product.
  4. Word-of-mouth publicity.
  5. Trade unions.
  6. Taxes, fees, and permits.
  7. Government regulation.
  8. The world economy.
  9. Supply chain issues.
  10. Employee absenteeism.

2016:
  1. Predatory activists.
  2. Government regulation.
  3. Taxes, fees, and permits.
  4. The world economy.
  5. The national economy.
  6. Hostility and adverse publicity generated on social media.
  7. Market perception of your product.
  8. Your competitors.
  9. Supply chain issues.
  10. Trade unions.

It's a very different world today.

Never Truly Obsolete

I was thinking the other day about all the obsolete technology that we still use, even if it's a niche market. For many people, newer isn't always better. There's a few that I was thinking about:
Manual mechanical typewriter: From their beginnings in the late Eighteenth Century to their near extinction in the 1990s, the typewriter is undergoing a revival mainly among hipsters and old fossils like myself, these cumbersome devices have one huge advantage. They force you to refine your writing because they lack the ability to efficiently edit documents or easily correct errors. Some say this makes you into a better writer because the process forces you to write well the first time around.

Analog disc recording: since 1888, when it was invented by Emile Berliner, analog disc recordings in one format or another have been in continuous production. Sales of the modern analog vinyl LP disc record have been soaring in recent years. The sound and the experience of the analog disc ensures its continuing popularity for the foreseeable future.

Magnetic analog audio recorders: beginning with Vlademar Poulsen's Telegraphone wire recorder of 1898, magnetic analog audio recorders became the standard audio recording technology for recording studios and Minnie amateurs in the late 1940s. Digital audio gradually replaced magnetic analog recorders in recording studios during the late 1980s and in home audio systems in the late 1990s. Nevertheless, magnetic analog audio recorders have made a large comeback in recent years, especially reel-to-reel and cassette formats. Hipsters, audiophiles, musicians and professional audio engineers every discovered the appealing sound of magnetic analog audio recorders.

Dynamic microphones: 1923 brought the Marconi-Sykes Magnetophone, the first practical dynamic microphone, to professional audio. Despite becoming technologically obsolescent by the 1970s, dynamic microphones are still commonplace. Their reliability and reasonable fidelity has made the dynamic microphone an indispensable part of every PA system and recording system. They'll be with us for the foreseeable future.

Moving coil cone loudspeakers: Edward W. Kellog and Chester Rice developed the modern moving coil cone loudspeaker in 1924, changing audio forever. Their design was straightforward, reliable, easily manufactured yet capable of high fidelity. Since then, many newer, higher technology loudspeaker designs have been invented, some of which should have obsoleted all previous technologies. Yet, none have achieved the ongoing commercial success of the traditional moving coil cone loudspeaker. It is hard to imagine anything else playing our music at any time in the foreseeable future.

Revolvers: whether you see handguns as the embodiment of senseless violence or a necessary self-defense weapon, it's hard to deny the continuing popularity of the revolver. First introduced in 1814 by Elisha Collier but popularized in 1836 by Samuel Colt, the revolver remains one of the most common weapon technologies. Despite ongoing advances in firearm technology, the revolver's simplicity, low cost, unmatchable reliability, and relatively simple training requirements guarantee that it will remain a commonplace firearm until mankind becomes enlightened enough to no need weapons no longer.

Oil lanterns: No one knows when and where the first oil lamp lit up the night for ancient mankind. The oldest known oil lamp was found in a cave near Lascaux, France that was inhabited 10,000 to 15,000 years ago. It still works. Today, oil lamps should be museum relics but they're still lighting campsites, remote locations and our homes during natural disasters and electrical power outages. No modern or future technology can ever outdo the oil lamp. Long after the incandescent light bulb has faded into history, long after some future technology has replaced LEDs, the oil lamp will endure, its warm glow piercing the night.

Horses: humans have been riding animals for transportation since before recorded history. Modern motor vehicles still haven't replaced the joy and romance of riding a horse. One hidden advantage of a horse: you don't have to trade it in for a new model every few years.

Vacuum tube amplifiers: Once the mainstream amplifier technology beginning in 1907, the advent of affordable transistor circuitry during the late 1960s spelled the end of vacuum tube amplifiers. Well, not so fast. More than a century later, the unique sound of the glowing amplifiers still delights musicians and audiophiles alike.

Film cameras: The versatility and instant photography afforded by digital cameras arguably should have entirely swept away film photography into museums. Since its cumbersome beginning in the 1820s, film photography has suffered from one serious drawback: the film has to be chemically processed before the photograph can be viewed. By then, if the photograph isn't good, it's too late to do anything about it. Regardless, photographic film has an aesthetic quality that ensures a loyal, utterly-devoted following. Film's chemical process itself is a fascinating and satisfying pursuit for millions.

Gliders and Hot Air Balloons: powered aircraft rendered unpowered gliders and balloons obsolete, right? For military, commercial and general aviation, yes. Practicality isn't everything, though. The exhilaration of unpowered flight will keep it alive for as long as mankind craves a good adrenalin rush.

Listen to The Music

Hit the PAUSE button of your life.
Take a moment. Think of someone, think of a great moment in your life.
Then, with that as the backdrop of your mind, put on an album and enjoy some music.
I mean, truly enjoy some music.
Don't just fill the background with tinny sound, but find the best-sounding audio setup you can find.
Put on your favorite album (or two), sit down, and enjoy it. Let the music wash over you and fill your soul.
Learn the lyrics to the best song. Find a cool riff or a unique cord progression and learn it. Listen to the album again,and find things you didn't know was there: some instrument doing little something in the background that - now that you know it's there - add that special something to the song. Or listen to how the vocals bounce off the echo to provide a counter-point. Second guess the mix -- what could they have done better?
Then forget all that, and just listen to the music. Become the music. Cry when the music stops because you feel the loss!
Music is a unique art. Photographs and paintings hang on the wall, static, to be contemplated, admired or ignored. Sculptures sit on their pedestals, silent, expressing meaning but finding none.
But not music.
Oh no.
Music is made wholly from its very sounds. Whether live or recorded, it’s an artistic mayfly: as fleeting as the strum of a string or the hit of a stick on a drum. Music springs to life, expresses its art, then passes away. Music is for only as long as you listen to it. Music’s beauty flourishes only with the intensity of your listening. Music revels only if you participate, whether as audience or musician, with your rapt attention. Music has meaning only if you let it inside your soul, and respond.
Music droning on in the background, largely ignored, both wastes the music and diminishes the listener. It’s a moment lost.
Listen to the music. Really listen to the music.

And another one bites the dust!

Those who have followed my career over the years know that, at one time, I was active in several online forums and Facebook groups, but quit because the posts in those groups became progressively more poisonous over time. Life's too short to give of one's time and experience only to have that generosity rewarded with insults, defamation and the written abuse. 

Online forums and discussion groups have become a toxic environment for small businesses. As I've chronicled before, I've seen products have their reputation destroyed in social media by persons who have never seen or used the products they're denigrating. Personally, I've had three products destroyed by social media. So, I tend to avoid discussion groups assiduously. Why subject my business to unwarranted negative publicity, let alone myself to unneeded aggravation that I'm not being paid for?

Occasionally, I've had criticism for being "thin skinned" or incapable of handling criticism -- usually from the same abusive authors.

Well, it's not just me.

Below, I've copied a message on the DIYAudio forums left by Markaudio, an innovative manufacturer of high-quality full range loudspeakers. (I've used Markaudio components in my designs, and have found them to be of excellent quality. Markaudio's proprietor is a pleasure to deal with. He's knowledgable, eager to help, long-suffering and amiable.)

I can imagine the never-ending acrimony Markaudio has had to endure for the past several years, and I admire his resolve. But, as you'll read below, he's finally had enough. 

Online forums can be a source of knowledge, but this source has dried up over the past decade as the genuine experts quit the forums, driven off by the poisonous environment. I am saddened to see DIYaudio lose a valuable member like mark audio, but it was inevitable. 

To those who enjoy insulting, mocking and demeaning those who post messages in online forums, thank you for snuffing out the few luminaries who once shone so brightly online for all to benefit. 

And, with no further adieu, the parting message left in DIYaudio from Markaudio. 


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

"Hello Members - Guys (and girls - there might be some)

"I'd like to take this opportunity to heartily thank all those that have supported Markaudio. Sadly its time for Markaudio to leave Diyaudio. The climate on Diyaudio has changed over recent times making no longer a suitable place for a lone small driver maker. 

"Over the years, many of you have kindly given your input, feedback and wonderful support. Its been fantastic and possibly a unique journey. A journey where a maker and end-users joined together to shape and re-shape the design and operation of a full-range audio driver brand. Far as we can tell, no other loudspeaker driver collaboration has been attempted on this scale. 

"On a personal note, my huge thanks to all those that supported me and encouraged me to carry on working through my illness. Colon cancer is a life changing experience, not all bad news. Much good has come from it, including the formation of the new Markaudio Loudspeaker company. Thanks to enthusiasts Steve Cheng, Norio Nakajima, Evan Yu and some members on Diyaudio, the CH and Alpair series driver designs will live on. 

"In the meantime, I'm talking to Jason (diyaudio site owner) to allow me time to say my "goodbye's" to member friends over the next week or so before entirely closing down this section of diyaudio. 

"New Markaudio continues (Markaudio) with its own site developments that will upgrade support for end users in the coming weeks.  

"For continuing support, please feel free to email: support@markaudio.com

"I sincerely hope members who use Markaudio drivers will continue to enjoy them. For those interested in using Markaudio drivers in the future, watch me on www.markaudio.com and other places!  

"Bless you all

Mark"

Meme About Past Prices.

A meme is floating around the Internet with prices from 1970. It purports that the cost of living then was less than in 2015. It is a good example of why memes should be ignored - it is inherently misleading. The meme fails to account for inflation, and doesn't define the product described. Below is a better set of prices that shows the cost of living in the USA during the 1970s was actually just as bad as today, overall.

Prices from the 1970s for typical products adjusted for inflation, as of June 2015. All prices in US dollars.

US Postage, 1st class letter, $0.06, which equals $0.37

Minimum wage, per hour, 1970 - $2.10, which equals $8.20 in today’s money!

Sugar, 5-pound bag, 1970 - $0.39, which equals $1.52

Milk, per gallon, 1970 - $.62, which equals $2.42

Movie Ticket, first-run feature, national mean, 1970 - $1.55, which equals $6.05

Coffee, per pound, commodity-quality brands, 1970 - $1.90, which equals $7.42

Eggs, white, per dozen, Grade A, 1970 - $0.59, which equals $2.30

Bread, ordinary white, per pound loaf, sliced, 1970 - $0.25, which equals $0.98

Gasoline, regular octane, per gallon, national mean, 1970 - $0.36, which equals $2.20

Rent, two bedroom apartment, Kansas City metro area, 1970 - $447 per month, which equals $2,725.77

Color Television: Tabletop, 1970 Motorola: $349 (16”), which equals $2,128.17

Color Television: Console Models, 1970 Motorola: $599 (23"), which equals $3,652.65

Dual 1249 turntable, 1975 - $275.00, which equals 1,078.68

Shure V-15 Type III stereo phono cartridge, 1975 - $75.00, which equals $292.82

Chrome bias cassette tape, C90, 1977 - $2.50 to $5.00, which equals $9.76 to $19.52

Vinyl LP, single disc, 1977 - $3.50 to $9.00, which equals $13.66 to $35.14

Pentax K1000 35mm camera, 50mm f2 lens, 1977 - $299.50, which equals $1,169.33!

Kodak Instamatic 304 camera, 1971 - $45, which equals $262.89

Roll of Kodacolor II 126 Film, 1971 - $1.75, which equals $10.22

Developing of 24 exposure color film (110, 126 or 35mm) with prints, Fotomat or One Hour Photo kiosk, 1971 - $4.00 to $6.00, which equals $23.37 to $35.05

McDonalds meal: Quarter Pounder with cheese, large fries, medium Coke, 1977 - $1.75, which equals $6.83

Cigarettes, Kansas City, from vending machine, single pack, 1977 - $0.75 to $0.85, which equals $2.93 to $3.32

Cadillac DeVille, base price, 1970 - $5,880, which equals $35,855.72

Chevrolet Impala, standard tudor hardtop, 1970 - $3,250, which equals $19,818.22

House, Mansfield Ohio, 3 bedroom ranch - $23,900, which equals $145,740.11

House, Los Angeles, California, 2 bedroom ranch - $27,000, which equals $164,643.63

House, rural Wisconsin, 3 bedroom ranch - $9,000, which equals $54,881.21

AKG K240 stereo headphones, 1977 - $90.00, which equals $351.38

Revox A77 reel-to-reel tape recorder, 1977 - $1,600, which equals $6,246.84

Studer A80 24-track 2” studio tape recorder, 1977 - $33,000, which equals $128,831.04!

TASCAM 80-8 small format studio tape recorder, 1977 - $3,800, which equals $14,836.24

Neumann U87 studio microphone, 1977, $899.00, which equals $3,509.94

AKG D190E dynamic PA/studio microphone, 1977 - $65.00, which equals $253.78

Studer 369 mixing console, 24-inputs, 1977 - $24,500, which equals $95,654.71

TAPCO 6200 PA mixer, 1977 - approximately $300, which equals $1,171.28

Klipsch Heresy stereo loudspeaker or JBL 4310 studio monitor, one pair, 1977 - approximately $450, which equals $1,756.92

Typical AM/FM stereo receiver, 40-Watts, 1977 - $200 to 1,000, which equals $780.85 to $3,904.27!

Stereo cassette recorder, 1977 - $75.00 to $1,200, which equals $292.82 to $4,685.13!

The Rumor Mill

Firing Up The Rumor Mill!

It’s time to confirm or deny some rumors floating out there. Okay, so here’s the truth (if you dare) about various rumors regarding my work or products.

RUMOR: I have only analog studio recorders.
FALSE. I prefer analog recorders, but also operate digital recorders. I save the analog recorders for only the best musicians because of the high operating cost of analog tape recorders. Also, analog recorders cannot effectively mask or enhance a bad performance, whereas digital can, so only the best musicians can be recorded on analog. That said, some quite excellent projects are better suited to digital recording, so I use digital where it is most appropriate.

RUMOR: I record only established bands.
FALSE! I look only for talent, commitment, honesty, a strong work ethic and a willingness to experiment. In some ways, I prefer to work with up-and-coming musicians and bands. It’s more fun to help someone “make it.”

RUMOR: I do not make traditional electric guitars.
FALSE. Although I promote my exotic Acoustron guitars the most heavily, I also make electric guitars with traditional control layouts. No one guitar design is best for all styles of playing, so by offering many different guitars I can serve every musical style.

RUMOR: I make vintage reissues of classic vacuum tube guitar amplifiers and audio processors.
Both TRUE and FALSE. I am still making vacuum tube audio designs that I first made in the 1970s, which, technically, today would be regarded as vintage reissues (so, TRUE), but I do not make vintage reissues of other companies’ designs (so, FALSE). All of my electronic products are of my own design.

RUMOR: I won’t work on any guitar other than my own designs.
FALSE. I do a brisk business restoring and modifying all brands of electric guitar, and a few acoustic guitars are well. Because of the scarcity of parts, some brands may take a while to finish.

RUMOR: I don’t design affordable audio equipment, my work is only high-end.
FALSE. I have designed quite a few affordable, yet high-quality amplifiers, preamplifiers, loudspeakers, studio equalizers, processors and other audio equipment. Unfortunately, I have been prevented from bringing these products to the marketplace because of the extremely high tax rates, and the excessive (and stifling) regulation of businesses in the United States. Combined with this present government’s hostility toward small businesses generally (or any businesses other than those giant corporations who contribute to politicians’ campaigns and cronies), I could not hope to break even, let alone make any profit from any product line other than the high-end models. Profit or wealth is demonized, then punished, by the rich politicians who rule the United States, unless you’re one of their cronies or major campaign contributors. My only other alternative is to have my affordable products manufactured in China or other Asian countries, which I refuse to do. If I make it, it will be made in the United States only by proud workers who are legal American citizens.

RUMOR: I’m creating a line of audiophile loudspeakers, amplifiers, accessories and turntables.
FALSE. I left the audiophile market in 2010, and have no plans for producing audiophile products. All product development projects for that market were terminated in 2009. I was planning to create a turntable for archival re-recording and serious record collectors, but increasing business taxes and regulations made the project impossible. So, instead, I restore and upgrade vintage turntables.

RUMOR: I’m creating a line of home theater loudspeakers.
TRUE. They’re scaled-down versions of my harmonic-structure-accurate, time-aligned commercial theater loudspeakers, but built to the same demanding standards. I’m confident they will raise the bar for home theater loudspeakers.

RUMOR: I’m creating a new line of studio loudspeakers.
TRUE. This is a core product line.

RUMOR: I’m creating a new line of sound re-enforcement and PA loudspeakers.
TRUE. This is a core product line.

RUMOR: I’m creating a new line of music instrument loudspeakers.
TRUE. This is a core product line.

RUMOR: I’m creating a new line of home audio loudspeakers.
TRUE. I recently decided to bring back two of my favorite designs from “back in the day,” the “Ten-Two” and the “Bookshelf 8.” Both are derived from “old school” stereophonic loudspeakers and recording studio monitors.

RUMOR: I repair cameras.
FALSE. I have a dear friend, Clarence Gass, who is a master camera repairman. Over the years, I’ve picked up a few tips but that hardly makes me a camera repairman.

RUMOR: I collect cameras.
TRUE. I do collect Pentax K, M, A and L cameras, along with Graflex, Minox and various oddball or turn-of-the-20th Century cameras that catch my eye. Collecting cameras is far more fun than collecting dust or traffic fines.

More news later!

An Homage To Toes An Homage To Toes An Homage To Toes

I admire toes. They get stepped on all day long yet they won't leave you. You can walk all over them but they won't get angry at you.

Toes understand you perfectly because they have literally walked a mile in your shoes.

You can count on your toes. Truly, you can count on your toes.

Leica and the Jews

The Leica is the pioneer 35mm camera. Leica cameras have the deserved reputation of being superlative cameras against which all others are compared: precise, minimalist, and utterly efficient. Made in Germany beginning in the late-1920s, they were part of that country’s all-out effort to create excellent,innovative products and thereby end the world’s perception of German goods being cheap, shoddy and imitative.

Behind Leica’s worldwide acceptance as a creative tool was a family-owned, socially-oriented firm who, during the Nazi era, acted with uncommon grace, generosity and modesty. E. Leitz AG, designer and manufacturer of Germany 's most famous photographic product, saved its Jews from Hitler’s death camps. Ernst Leitz II, the steely-eyed Protestant patriarch who headed the closely held firm as the Holocaust loomed across Europe, acted in such away as to earn the title, "the photography industry's Schindler. "

When Adolf Hitler was named chancellor of Germany in 1933,Ernst Leitz II began receiving frantic calls from Jewish associates, asking for his help getting them and their families out of the country. As Christians, Leitz and his family were immune to Nazi Germany's infamous Nuremberg laws,which restricted the movement of Jews and limited their professional activities.

To help his Jewish workers and colleagues, Leitz quietly established what has become known among historians of the Holocaust as"the Leica Freedom Train," a covert means of allowing Jews to leaveGermany in the guise of Leitz employees being assigned overseas. Employees,retailers, family members, even friends of family members were "assigned" to Leitz sales offices in France, Britain, Hong Kong and the United States.

Leitz's activities intensified after the Kristallnacht ofNovember 1938, during which synagogues and Jewish shops were burned acrossGermany. Before long, German "employees" were disembarking from the ocean liner Bremen at a New York pier and making their way to the Manhattan office of Leitz AG, where executives quickly found them jobs in the photographic industry.

Each new arrival had around his or her neck the symbol of freedom - a new Leica camera. The refugees were paid a stipend until they could find work.

Out of this migration came designers, repair technicians, salespeople, marketers and writers for the photographic press. Keeping the story secret, the "Leica Freedom Train" was at its height in 1938 and early 1939, delivering groups of refugees to New York every few weeks.

Alas, with the invasion of Poland on Sept. 1, 1939,Germany closed its borders. By that time, hundreds of endangered Jews had escaped to America, thanks to the Leitz' efforts.

How did Ernst Leitz II and his staff get away with it? Their corporate reputation was the key. Firstly, Leitz, AG was an internationally recognized brand that reflected favorably on the resurgent Third Reich. Secondly, the company produced cameras, rangefinders, binoculars, telescopes,gun sights, microscopes and other optical equipment for the German government and military. Thirdly, the Nazi government desperately needed hard currency from abroad, and Leitz's single biggest market for optical goods was the UnitedStates.

Nevertheless, members of the Leitz family and firm suffered for their good works. The Nazis jailed a top Leitz executive, AlfredTurk, who helped several Jews. He was freed only after paying a large bribe.
The Gestapo imprisoned Leitz's daughter, Elsie Kuhn-Leitz after catching her at the German-Swiss border helping Jewish women cross into Switzerland. She eventually was freed, but endured harsh abuse during her questioning, a common Gestapo behavior. She also fell under suspicion when she attempted to improve the living conditions of 700 to 800 Ukrainian slave laborers, all of them women, who worked in Leica’s factory during the 1940s.

After the war, Elsie Kuhn-Leitz received numerous honors for her humanitarian efforts, among them the Officer d'Honneur des PalmsAcademic from France in 1965 and the Aristide Briand Medal from the EuropeanAcademy in the 1970s.

Why has no one told this story until now?

According to the late Norman Lipton, a freelance writer and editor, the Leitz family wanted no publicity for its heroic efforts. Only after the last member of the Leitz family was dead did the story of the"Leica Freedom Train" finally come to light. It is now the subject of a book, "The Greatest Invention of the Leitz Family: The Leica FreedomTrain," by Frank Dabba Smith, a California-born Rabbi currently living inEngland.
 

Star Wreck

I admit, I never was much of a Star Trek fan. The only time I watched it was when friends came by and wanted to turn it on. I never had the heart to tell them it turned me off.

The premise is ridiculous: you send the Captain and the most senior officers into the most-dangerous situations first. Nope, that's what Ensigns and Second Lieutenants are for, guys.

The various “Next Generation" series are embarrassing. I actually feel sorry for the actors doomed to appear in it. Each of the characters are juvenile, the officers throw tantrums and lose their cool routinely -- just one instance of such behavior is a career-ending event in the real world -- and everyone sits around whining about every little trivia of life. The villains are one-dimensional parodies based on pop culture stereotypes: warmongering Klingons, Cardassians and other species; xenophobic Romulans, greedy Ferengi who are a snaggle-toothed, big-eared mockery of business executives; Neo-Nazi robot-conversions of humans (the Borg) who seem a bit too much like Doctor Who’s Cybermen, but far less interesting. Worse, the series disgraces the memories of the truly brave Maquis with their pale imitation, obviously written by someone who never lived in an oppressed nation and whose knowledge of freedom fighters comes mainly from World War II-era black-and-white movies and episodes of Hogan’s Heroes. Add to the nauseating mix a goo creaturee whose face looks like a melted mannequin, another character who is a bad imitation of native Americans ripped from the pages of stale 1950s-era B-Western movie scripts, and an overwrought imitation of Lost In Space without a fun robot, loveable-yet-conniving passenger and kitschy 1960s smoke-and-sparks special effects.

Meanwhile the android does a hippie-like navel-searching self-indulgence for his "humanity." Dude, you're an android with a bad paint job, you'll never be human, give it up: just network with the toaster and tell it to make mine dark but not burned!

The whole franchise felt to me like it was written by twelve-year-old boys.

Have a shot at a thot!

Herein you can visit the inside of my mind, if you don’t mind. Herein are my “thots.”

A “thot” is a shot at a thought. A thought shot, if you will. Or even if you won’t.


I don’t mind.

This blog is a mindfield, or minefield, of “thots” great and small. Thots of interest to none or to all.

So click your keyboard, don’t be bored, and skip all ads for anything you can’t afford.

Art should ... but does he?

• Art should make us feel more clearly and more intelligibly.
• Art should give us coherent sensations which we otherwise would not have had.
• Art should be unique and individually irreplaceable.
• Art should be hand made, not mass-produced.
• Art should spring from your true self and your deepest aspirations, not from your desire to impress others, make money  or to be better than someone else.

Artness

Artwork is more than just painting, drawing, or sculpture that you hang on a wall or set in a museum and think to yourself, “That looks pretty.” Art is the recognition of aesthetic, the recognition that an object is more than its obvious purpose. Although some animals create tools and build structures, humankind is unique in that our creations both serve functions and evoke emotion.
All of humankind’s endeavors can become art; indeed, they are art, a reflection of their creators. The most humble object can be imbued with “artness” when its designer and its maker recognizes the aesthetic of the object, seeing the object as something more than its innate function. One only has to look at the Bauhaus movement for excellent examples of the perception of the mundane object elevated to “artness” while retaining its essential function. The “artness” of an object enhances its function, creating an emotional bond and a desire for the object that makes the object more desirable, more valuable.
It has been said that art evokes emotion, and that is certainly true, yet art is more than crass provocation. When the designer and maker elevates a mundane object to become art the emotion evoked by the object cause the passerby to want to possess the object. Thus a cup can become a treasured heirloom, a piece of decoration within the room, and a moment of pleasure — all occurring simultaneously.
I posit that art sometimes has an obvious function, yet the function may also be to beautify your surroundings, to stir your emotions, to cause you to desire, to make your life more pleasant. Enjoy!

Social Networking Sites: The Online Satan Sandwich?

I haven't been online much the past two years or so, largely because of my eighty-hour-plus work weeks. Don’t cry for me, this is not a complaint, because my work has been exciting. But now the business has grown enough that I can cut my hours back and start enjoying other activities. I now have spare time for the first time in years, which is spent in the countryside taking photographs, or going on "sound safaris" with my Nakamichi 550, or to a custom car show, a NASCAR event, art show or Maker Faire. I'm thinking of redoing one of my Nakamichi 550 in steam punk style. I love steam punk! No, I actually won’t -- I like to preserve equipment as original as possible.

But, I have to admit, another reason I’m rarely seen online is the increasingly toxic environment of online discussion groups and social networking sites. You can count on at least one loud individual to smear you and your product, often with great success, even if they have no firsthand knowledge of you or your work. A complete lack of facts doesn’t stop them. But it’s precisely these individuals who often put themselves forth as the ultimate authority loaded with facts.

When that isn’t going on, most discussions in these groups rapidly devolve into “us-versus-them” squabbles: analog-vs-digital, tube-vs-transistor, Brand X-vs-Brand Y, and so on. Then there are the individuals who start arguments just because they like to argue, even though nothing will be accomplished by the round of arguments. It’s just fun for them to be the center of the attention their rancor creates.

Into the tintinnabulation that so unmusically wells. From the bells, bells, bells, bells, Bells, bells, bells - From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells of the ever-present braggarts, the guys who have to contradict everything anyone says just so they assert themselves, and the blowhards who have to pepper their writings with off-the-wall allusions or references to things and places utterly extraneous to the topic in an attempt to make themselves appear worldly, knowledgeable, or one of the elite cognoscenti. I’m not condemning those who genuinely are correcting an error someone else made, or who are adding to the base of knowledge or the substance of the topic, by the way; these are the few who contribute something affirmative to the discussions.

True, many online groups are treasure troves of excellent, often unique, knowledge shared by those with genuine expertise and unique experience. But the good signal is drowned out by the noise.

Let me cite a few examples from my own experience.

Recently, I found out that I, my business and one of my interns was being defamed by a person on a tape recorder collector discussion list. This person had been one of twelve candidates with whom I entered into negotiations with to either become a partner or to form a joint venture. He did, in fairness, present many excellent ideas, as did the others I interviewed, but I eventually chose not to enter into a business relationship with him. I've subsequently discovered that he truly resented my rejection, and still holds to an attitude that only his ideas will lead to success and that I have no chance of success because I rejected him and his ideas. Strange attitude, yes? By the way, it's precisely that condescending and insulting attitude which he displayed during our talks as the prime reason I made my decision not to go into business with him. Seriously, would you go into business and entrust you livelihood to someone who can’t even treat you with respect and has to spend all his time insulting and demeaning you, your ideas and your past work; then goes around defaming you in public, trying to persuade others that all he had was your best interest at heart and was only trying to ensure your success but you’re too arrogant to go along with him? (Phew! Run on sentence!) Not me!

For the record, all the other twelve candidates were found to be unsuitable partners too, so my rejection of this man as a business partner was in no way personal, yet apparently from what I have been hearing he is still bitter about it. Such a pity, but this person was able to persuade others to his way of thinking.

Similarly, a few months ago some individuals on another discussion group were condemning the cassette tapes marketed by my company, KVG Laboratories, as being over-priced, as looking fake, and as merely re-packaged tapes made by National Audio Company. All of these claims are untrue. Yet these individuals felt quite confident to make these accusations without ever having heard our tapes or contacted our company to confirm their beliefs.

Talk about fake! Try a list of persons condemning something they know nothing about, that they have had no direct experience with, nor had any contact with anyone involved in making the product. How’s that for fake? The bad news is that tape sales were needlessly damaged as a result of these persons’ false accusations.

I’m sorry, but I’m weary of this recently-arisen phenomenon and truly just do not want to spend my spare time enduring the slings and arrows of the outrageous fortunes of today’s amateur-oriented/enthusiast-oriented online discussion groups and social networking sites.

Fortunately, there are online discussion groups and social networking sites run by professional organizations to which I belong and in which this sort of misbehavior almost never occurs. That’s because these groups are closed to outsiders, peer-reviewed for the veracity of what is written in their discussions, and have rigid enforcement of cordial behavior and proper decorum.

Stop The Routine

I am not a "routine person," I hate doing the same thing every day. So my days are all different, but consist of performing my ongoing research, making studio equipment, music instrument amplifiers, guitars, basses, speakers and other related products. Then, on some days I do the sound system installs for a local hot rod shop one of my friends owns, using my amplifier and speaker designs whenever possible, of course. I had been doing turntable repairs, guitar repairs and all the studio recording services, but most of that work is now done by trusted technicians and engineers. I get involved only when needed.

Borlaug's Hypothesis

I'd like to salute Norman Borlaug, 1970 Nobel Peace Prize winner, 1977 US Presidential Medal of Freedom winner, 2006 Congressional Gold Medal winner, who is best known as The Father of the Green Revolution; and Monsanto. The unanimous Act of Congress states, "Dr. Borlaug has saved more lives than any other person who has ever lived, and likely has saved more lives in the Islamic world than any other human being in history." 

The Nobel committee estimates that he was personally and directly responsible for saving over One Billion human beings in the Third World from starvation. How did Dr. Borlaug achieve this feat? Through pioneering the use of hybrid and Genetically Modified crops, which created new strains that could thrive in arid conditions where pesticides or herbicides are unavailable. 

He's also known for "Borlaug's Hypothesis": The best way to reduce deforestation is to reduce demand for new farmland by using our best existing farmland to its maximum potential. He understood that GM crops do this. Among the crops he designed, with help from Monsanto and other biotech firms, are several strains of GM rice, such as IR36, introduced in 1980, which resists pests and grows fast enough to allow two crops a year instead of just one, doubling crop yield in the same acreage. In 1990,  more-advanced genetic manipulation techniques led to IR72, which far outperforms IR36. Dr. Borlaug's Green Revolution, thanks to GM crops, saw worldwide crop yields explode from 1960 through 2000.

In 1980, I had the privilege of meeting Dr. Borlaug, albeit in passing. He and his altruism helped persuade me, gradually, to stop viewing GM crops as some sort of hideous plague and as a literal lifesaver. Thank you, Dr. Borlaug! 

Thirty years ago, I did oppose this technology. Back then, my only source of information on the topic was from anti-GMO crop activists, although I didn't recognize the uncompromising bias inherent in those groups. They do write such effective documents, usually wrapping their ideas with emotionally-charged rhetoric, with class-warfare-based appeals to take financial actions to hurt "greedy" big corporations. This is an old, time-proven tactic among activist groups: Push a negative hard enough, so it will push through and become a positive. Pick the target, (usually Monsanto), "freeze it," personalize it, then polarize it. Isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people, not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions. 

We see this sleazy tactic routinely used by anti-GM crop activists. They incessantly spew hate toward Monsanto, sow fear toward GM crops, and viciously demean persons who support GM crops as "greedy" or "ignorant of science." Eventually these negative positions become accepted as facts and it becomes seen as positive to hate Monsanto and to oppose GM crops. Eventually, those who join (or sympathize with) anti-GM crop activists see themselves as champions of the environment, morally superior, altruistic and more enlightened than those who do support GM crops. Hating Monsanto and pro-GM crop persons is made cool.

Dr. Borlaug has said, "Some of the environmental lobbyists of the Western nations are the salt of the earth, but many of them are elitists. They've never experienced the physical sensation of hunger. They do their lobbying from comfortable office suites in Washington or Brussels. If they lived just one month amid the misery of the developing world, as I have for fifty years, they'd be crying out for tractors and fertilizer and irrigation canals and be outraged that fashionable elitists back home were trying to deny them these things."

Unfortunately, the GM and Monsanto haters demean Dr. Borlaug's achievements, usually with a cheap shot along the line of "starving people with eat anything." while ignoring the unassailable truth that those One Billion persons have lived full lives because of cheap, readily-available safe food; these same persons would have died horrible deaths from starvation otherwise. 

To Be Or Not To Be

So, I've been asked recently why I don't design home stereos, audiophile equipment, or home theater audio systems. I can give you several brief answers.

Firstly, it's a straightforward business decision because of the tax and business regulatory environment in the United States, I would not be able to offer home stereos of the quality I would be satisfied with and be able to make enough money to stay in business.

Secondly, in all candor, designing home theater and audiophile stereo equipment isn't enough of a challenge to be of any interest to me. It's just too easy, especially when compared to the studio and music instrument equipment I am designing and building. Recording studio equipment has to handle extremely wide dynamic range signals while maintaining extreme clarity and high reliability. Music instrument equipment also has to handle signal levels and operating stresses that would damage or destroy any home stereo or audiophile system. Home stereos, home theater audio systems, and audiophile stereos handle only signals that have limited dynamic range because of the compression and peak limiting inherent to commercial recordings and movie soundtracks. Therefore, those systems are easy, straightforward design projects.

Thirdly, my professional experience for more than thirty years has been studio, sound reinforcement and music instrument equipment. It's a stable market where a good design can sell for decades yet still be highly regarded as excellent, modern, and even necessary; a truly well-engineered design can adapt to changing needs and trends, ensuring near-immortality for the product. That's something I enjoy and have enough experience to do intuitively. Home audio (in all its flavors) flows from fad to fad, style to style. It’s a treadmill of the never-ending pursuit of The Next Big "Must Have" Product. Nothing lasts long, and today’s greatest product is quickly perceived as "yesterday's news" by the market. At least, until decades after the product leaves the market. Then it attains legendary status, and buyers eagerly scour the market for used derelicts to restore, tweak and brag about owning. By then it no longer matters to the company who made the product. The ephemerality of home stereo means that the time spent designing the product will receive scant return.

Fourthly, I have no problem selling professional audio and music instrument products to those who understand audio, or at least can appreciate fine quality sound. Good engineering, explained clearly and succinctly, with short demonstrations of the product's sound are enough to achieve sales success. Not so with home audio. The first things that all-too-many prospective buyers seek when they examine your product are technical trivia: brand of capacitors, the kid of wire, whether resistor leads have steel content, and the use or absence of feedback circuits. Next, they look at the equipment's dress components, and read whether your sound is "fast" or is "kinder and more polite" than another brands. Oh, yes, don't forget the ability to reproduce bass "with authority, pace and timing" and the "liquid midrange."

Bloviation, reinforced by dubious scientific and technical claims, must be liberally indulged in to be able to compete. Failing that, cloning some older design also seems to be a key to success in home audio. I'm sorry, but the audiophile equipment sales climate that has arisen in recent years just isn't for me. I'm not interested in writing the pseudoscientific jargon and flowery prose expected of audiophile equipment advertisers, and I don't make other people's amplifier designs. I don't look to other designers for my success and I don't write science fiction. I have spent my life perfecting my own designs, and I want them to succeed on their own merit, not because I've used silver wire, some trendy capacitors and a pretty cabinet.

Nevertheless, on occasion when I am asked to build a home stereo or home theater system, I will agree to do it. Then, I adapt my professional audio designs to the situation. The result is superb sound, bloviation free.

Has success killed art?

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My How Things Have Changed, Part 1.

Since I began my recording career in 1974, I've seen a great many changes -- the rise of digital audio being only one of many. The one change that actually disturbs me the most if the fall of barriers to entry into the profession. When I began my career, my training was an intensive apprenticeship combined with a very diversified formal education. One aspect of this was that you were expected to be able to design, then build (or modify), practically every piece of equipment in the studio: microphones, all the various electronics, loudspeakers, recorders, the acoustic treatments, even music instruments. No one took you seriously as a truly expert engineer unless much of the equipment in your studio was designed and built by your own hand. Buying equipment was seen as a convenience, often to create a degree if compatibility with another studio in your syndicate. Yes, I do use a Crown D75 amplifier (along with my own designs) because I was so accustomed to hearing it that I wanted to have one as a convenient cross-reference, so to speak.

Today, people try to impress me with the equipment they bought for their studio. Sorry, I don't mean to come off snobbish, but nothing you can buy will impress me, but if you built it that gets my respect.

Do you want to set up the best studio in your area? Don't buy, build your own equipment. Build as much as you can. Don't buy some else's monitors, save the money you would have spent on that Telefunken mike and build your own! Buy a ready-made mike preamplifier? No! Learn electronics and build your own!

Now, that said, I do, of course, make custom-engineered equipment for other recording studios to buy.

Hypocrisy?

I can see that, but hear me out: I have unique expertise and over thirty years' experience in studio equipment design. After consulting with you on a custom-engineered product, you'll have something that, in essence, you really did design, and that is unique to your studio. I and my staff simply saved you some time and effort, but the end result is the same -- you didn't buy some off-the-shelf product anyone else can buy. Instead, you envisioned an entirely new and unique sounding piece of equipment and I simply realized your vision, saving you time and research-and-development money.

So what's my job?

I see my job as having three main aspects. Firstly to discover new knowledge, if nothing else to find better ways to do things. Secondly, to make practical applications of that knowledge by designing products that satisfy the listener's tastes. Thirdly, to provide leadership in the audio industry by introducing new products or techniques that reflects what I feel is the ideal, in other words, the new standard of perfection or excellence to which we should all strive. This means I have to walk a fine line of avoiding risks by introducing products that cater to known listener preferences, yet taking risks to introduce new products that take listeners out of the comfort zone of the familiar. Also, I want everyone to be able to enjoy the pleasures of their music reproduced or recorded by the finest audio systems, so I have to balance the real-life need to earn a reasonable profit while making as many products as accessible to as many listeners as possible by keeping prices down. I love the challenges these seemingly-conflicting situations bring. What a great job this is!

Early in my career, I had to learn how to create equipment that reflected not my tastes but of that of others. This was quite difficult at first. The first thing I had to learn was that my opinion (or anyone else's opinion) of what is the best sound isn't the only opinion, and that other people's tastes in sound are as valid as my own. There is no such thing, I had to learn, as a "tin-eared person," or, arguably, a "golden-eared person." Audio is inherently subjective because you're dealing with one of the human senses: hearing. It's just as much a matter of taste as one's choice of fashions or favorite foods. I'm always astounded when someone criticizes another person's opinion on sound as "subjective" and acts as if the word "subjective" somehow marginalizes the other person's opinion. I don't expect anyone to have the same taste in audio that I do; in fact, it isn't necessary at all. What is necessary is that I match the sound to your taste. This experience has given me the unique ability to design sound that appeals to anyone (regardless of whether I enjoy it personally), and the ability to recognize when a piece of equipment sounds excellent, even if I myself don't particularly care for it. That's why I'm not worried about being able to make something that you'll truly enjoy.

Most designers create a piece of equipment that reflects their personal tastes, then set out to persuade you (or, worse, cajole or intimidate you) into accepting their opinion of what is the "best sound" -- then buying their equipment. I have too much respect for each persons' individual tastes in music to do that to someone. It's more important to me that you have the most enjoyable stereo possible instead of agreeing with me as to what the "best sound" is. That's why instead of designing only what I think is the best sound, I design what you feel is the best sound. If I can't design something to your taste, I'll tell you so and refer you to some other brand that I think will match your tastes, The last thing I want is for someone to have something from me that they do not like the sound of because that benefits no one.