Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The high price of bad coffee!

I'm sure when pundits talk about how we need to return to good old fashioned values, this is exactly what they mean.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Callithump! New issue! New website!

New issue!The latest issue of Callithump! is now available in the Lord Hall entryway. This time it's totally buttons, at a special 50%-off price of 25 cents! Why all buttons? Lots of reasons, but basically, because we love buttons. I also wanted to challenge myself to see if I could come up with 1,000 different designs in a short period of time, and the 7/8" button format was a fun medium to work in. Yes, I can come up with that many designs, I'm happy to say, but it did require incorporating a whole lot of public domain work. I'm pretty happy with the results. You should check them out yourself at the Art Department in Lord Hall at the University of Maine in Orono.

To celebrate the launch of the new issue, we also have a new website, Callithump.org. We're finally breaking down and letting people buy Callithump! content online, so people who aren't near Orono or Belfast can get in on the fun. The store doesn't have much in it right now, but it will!

Coffee protects the brain!

This just in from the BBC:

Coffee may cut the risk of dementia by blocking the damage cholesterol can inflict on the body, research suggests.The drink has already been linked to a lower risk of Alzheimer's Disease, and a study by a US team for the Journal of Neuroinflammation may explain why.A vital barrier between the brain and the main blood supply of rabbits fed a fat-rich diet was protected in those given a caffeine supplement.UK experts said it was the "best evidence yet" of coffee's benefits.

Read all about it here.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Best Audio

Up until the 70s, the efforts of home audio manufacturers focused on creating the best quality sound possible. Since then, the efforts of the mainstream have focused on making things smaller while adding more and more features. So now you can get something the size of a pack of cigarettes that holds months worth of music on it, lets you watch movies, make phone calls, check your email and so on. All that's fine, and I'd have an iPhone if Belfast was in the service area too. At the same time, I can't help but feel a little disappointed. For all the advances in technology, sound quality has actually gotten worse.

There are alternatives, though. There is the audiophile route. While most of the industry went towards making things flashy and small, a niche market of audiophiles have continued to try to make the best sounding equipment possible. So it's still possible to find audio equipment that sounds incredible, that will make you realize that the music you're listening to on your MP3 player is just a pale imitation of real music. There are problems with this approach, though. First, you have to deal with audiophiles. There may be some audiophiles out there who aren't elitist jerks, but I haven't met them. Secondly, audiophile gear is expensive. There are speaker cables that run into 5 figures! Of course, you don't have to spend that much to get great sound, but the problem that to determine what is inexpensive and good vs. what is cheap crap, you have to talk to audiophiles. Further complicating things are unscrupulous companies like Bose, who sell cheap crap at enough of a markup that the people who buy it think it's good. It's not. It's awful plastic garbage.

A much better alternative is to go retro. Keep your eye out at yard sales, pawn shops, flea markets and you can still find pre-80s stereo gear. I've found vintage receivers for $2 that blew away anything you could get at BestBuy for hundreds more. It was a very different design paradigm back then. Technology was an investment you expected to be using for decades. If something broke, you'd get it repaired. So pre-80s equipment can still be going strong, while we only expect to get a few years of use out of what we buy today. The reason that people put this stuff into yard sales is usually not because it's bad, or stopped working. They just want something smaller. But if you have the space for it, you can pick up something that sounds fantastic for a few bucks!

In general, when you're looking at old gear, there are two things to look for. As a rule of thumb, the heavier it is, the better. If you pick up an old receiver and it's heavy enough to warrant the "lift with the legs, not with the back," rule, chance are it's got some solid state equipment in there. Secondly, look for "real" materials. Things made out of metal, instead of metallicized plastic, or wood instead of laminated wood grain veneer, will sound better than things that aren't.