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April 03, 2018


What is this "customer service" of which you speak?

This is not something I am familiar with.

JanieM, I'm a huge customer of Amazon, and actually have grown to like it a lot.

I know, it's an unpopular view.

Not sure about the stuffed animal issue. Depends on the stuffed animal and the amount I paid, and how the leg "came off", but not sure I would have complained about it. That's just me.

The Washington Post was our "local" newspaper when I was growing up, along with The Washington Star. My father lost a lot of his cognitive ability but still insisted on having The Washington Post every day. I, for a time, began hating The Washington Post for its neoconservative writers, although I recognized that some of its reporters were exceptional.

But you know what? The Washington Post under Bezos has undergone a renaissance. The Washington Post has the best domestic political coverage out there. I'm so invested and loyal to them .

I also love Whole Foods (also everyone hates that about me). But, yes, they label the ingredients, and try to cultivate humane meat sources. Sure, they're not always right. They're "flawed" (where have I heard that before).

I stand with Bezos. Is he a jerk? Maybe. No contest with Donald Trump.

I mentioned my father, and his love of The Washington Post. I should state (have stated here) that my father was a WWII hero, but also a progressive Democrat. One of the most humane people one could ever meet. I miss my parents a lot - they're gone, and the Nazis are back. We are so undeserving of their legacy.

byomtov -- as I thought I made clear in the post, I've had pretty decent customer service from Amazon itself, if not always from its sellers. E.g. a while back I bought a pen of a kind that I like but can't get locally. It came without a cartridge. Now, how do you take a picture to prove that a thing isn't there? The seller didn't reply to my inquiry, and Amazon just gave me my money back.

At the other end of the cost spectrum, my brother bought an electric bike via Amazon a couple of years ago. Very fancy item. It came slightly dented, but he would have ignored that problem. The trouble was, it didn't actually work right; you couldn't get up any speed on it. Amazon required him to work with the seller to try to fix the problem, which wasn't easy because 1) my brother isn't big on using the computer; and 2) the people he was expected to deal with were in China, 12 times zones away, and their English was maybe not quite as good as in the quote in the OP while his Chinese is non-existent. Anything mechanical my brother would probably have been able to fix himself, and would have been willing to try. But the electronics were a different story.

In the end, though they all tried, the bike never worked and Amazon had my brother send it back for a refund.

P.S. mostly I was delighted by...well...it's not Chinglish exactly, but the combination of language and attitude embodied in "But sometime there still will be a little problem with it. You can sew it by yourselves" is priceless.

P.S. mostly I was delighted by...well...it's not Chinglish exactly, but the combination of language and attitude embodied in "But sometime there still will be a little problem with it. You can sew it by yourselves" is priceless.

Yes. That is charming, and I misinterpreted it at first.

I bought something recently to do DYI projects, and have joined a Facebook (facepalm!) group who does this thing. It's an international group and, yeah.

I sent my first three Kindles back when they cracked. The third time the customer service person got a little testy, but I always got a replacement. Then they changed the design and started making them sturdier. I like to think I was their produt tester.

wonkie's comment reminds me to say that although I'm sort of defending Amazon (I don't use them all that much but my experience has been pretty good), in general I'm more with byomtov about customer service. The cracking kindles reminds me of bad times with Best Buy in relation to one piece of junk printer after another...suffice to say that I am for the moment done with Best Buy. And then there's Verizon Wireless.........

cheap printers are always a bad bargain.

If you spend a few hundred more for a well-reviewed laser printer, it will last nearly forever, and real laser printers are very economical with their (expensive) toner cartridges.

I'm looking at an HP 2100 that I bought eighteen years ago for almost $700. It got the girls through middle school, high school, and community college on $300 worth of toner, and has never needed to be fixed.
(It's so old it has a parallel-port interface).

Every time I've bought a phone in the last decade it has failed within 12 months. When I've bought the handset through my network provider, I've had to send it back to the manufacturer, who make me wait 2+ weeks, declare it's water damaged (cos a sticker inside has changed colour) and that they won't repair or replace it.

Since I started buying phones off Amazon, whenever one fails, I've been able to send it back for a full refund with no questions asked and order a brand new phone that arrives the next day.

They really ought to stop dodging their taxes (like every company), and they treat their workers really fucking shitty (ditto), but at this point I wouldn't buy any piece of electrical equipment from anyone else.

Amazon has retained my order history for me to reference all the way back to 1997.

Something you've all seen many, many thousands of times throughout your life, but probably won't be able to describe correctly:

at this point I wouldn't buy any piece of electrical equipment from anyone else.

for electronics I like B&H Photo.

What is this "customer service" of which you speak?

if they really wanted to get the customer service thing right, they should have included a needle and thread for us to "sew by ourselves" with.

Sewing by yourself sounds so lonely to me.

Amazon has become more a marketplace than a store and that's an issue that should give anyone pause. There's a lot of shady sellers selling shoddy and/or knockoff goods.

That said, I still buy a lot of stuff from Amazon. Amazon Prime is a great deal and free shipping for everything means I often buy small things I could just as well drive down to Target and get because I don't need them right this second and I'd rather not bother with a trip to the store.

I buy little enough on Amazon that instead of having Amazon Prime I just wait until I want more that $25 worth of stuff and get free shipping that way. For a while they raised it to $49, and that was a bit more of a challenge, but now it's back down again.

Funny about buying small things you could get at Target -- I get the convenience, and I know have friends who do that too. I do the opposite -- I mostly buy stuff on Amazon that I can't get locally, because I want to support local stores staying open, esp. bookstores.

On the other hand, local bookstores -- esp. in a small-town place like where I live -- can't possibly stock everything. I used to love to go to Borders in Portland (gone now) instead of B&N locally, because Borders for a few years had a huge section of computer-related books. When I needed to learn C+ (yes, it was a while ago), I could go to Borders and look at 8 or 10 books and pick the one(s) I liked best. Ditto with grammar/usage books.

Very much ditto with computer peripherals. I have been fighting off borderline tendinitis and other aches and pains for a long time, and changing peripherals has helped a lot. But a local store can stock only so many keyboards and mice and monitors (much less fancier stuff like the gizmos that let you raise and lower your workstation for standing vs sitting), and I want to put my hands on something like that before I decide to buy it.

What I'd really like for a lot of things is neither a store nor a marketplace but an emporium where they have just one of everything and you can try stuff out, and pick out the one you'd like delivered to your door from the warehouse a few days later.

Recently bought two built-to-order lamp shades from a company that also sells standardized sizes/fabrics through Amazon. Had to go directly to their own Web site in order to specify all of the measurements. Got an e-mail every time the order changed status: order received, arrived at production, finished production, packaged and shipped. The whole process including delivery from Wisconsin took a week. Perfect match. Not inexpensive, but not outlandish. I was quite impressed.

JanieM, the Large Computer Company for which I work provides the Kinesis Freestyle 2
to those whose wrists hurt.
Everyone I know who has one loves it.

For wj -- Latest ranked choice developments.



Something you've all seen many, many thousands of times throughout your life, but probably won't be able to describe correctly

That was fun, Nigel. I'm happy to say that I picked out the right one immediately. But then, I've spent the past year wading thru images of the Latin alphabet and its variants. Whether I could have pulled it off previous might be another story....

"Sewing by yourself sounds so lonely to me."

Yes, that sentence ... "You can sew it by yourselves" ... priceless, as Janie wrote, especially with free shipping, struck me as a great first line in an existential novel, perhaps by Sartre, maybe a Samuel Beckett play, which grabs ahold of a stray thread unwinding itself toward the fathomless loneliness but mysterious pointlessness of the universe, a sweater sewn by an unknown cosmic seamstress that comes apart in your hands the more you pull on the thread.

Or maybe Dashiell Hammett. Read it in Bogie's voice:

"She was blond, with a disarming winsomeness belied by the tiny crow's feet around her probably once stunning, but now world-weary eyes, and she swept by my receptionist ... herself a bit of a cipher when off the clock, but never mind ... without so much as a by-your-leave, and placed the envelope stuffed with C-notes on my desk and said she represented the International Council of Independent Home Seamstresses, which sounded like a libertarian front for off-the-grid sweatshops in grimy fire traps, if you ask me, which she didn't, not that it mattered.

She spoke with the trace of an accent, unidentifiably foreign but fake, like a B actress trying to pass herself off as Slavic .. or maybe Russian.

Things were, as they say, not as they seamed.

(Ugh just docked me three points for inappropriate punning)

I've been taken as a chump before, but if the fee is paid upfront, take me, sweetheart, has always been my policy.

I sat back in my chair and gave her a look up and down and she met my eyes and said "The sheep is made from cotton", with a slight leer and a quick sling of her pelvis that let me know I was dealing with more here than mere mutton, because I've counted enough sheep to know the wool was being pulled over my eyes and the up and up was something other than up."

Points will be donated to a good cause though

Thanks, Janie. Looks like the Courts are declining to be gamed by politicians trying to stall on giving the people what they want.

Brilliant, Count! Just f*cking brilliant.

Brilliant, Count! Just f*cking brilliant.


Something you've all seen many, many thousands of times throughout your life, but probably won't be able to describe correctly.

Cool. I could pick the right version given four choices automatically, but couldn't have drawn the glyph from scratch.

I have spent more time on typography than I should. I have written a piece of JavaScript for my browser that runs over pretty much every Web page I download. It does its best to re-render all the text using the Noto Serif font, with line height at 130% and character spacing corrected by -0.015em, and a very limited number of font sizes (monospaced text all gets Courier). My view of the Web is much more consistent than most people's.

What can I say? I needed to learn more JavaScript and I was tired of trying to read content on pages where I wanted to ask, "Did you go to school to study ugly and unreadable, or are you just naturally talented?"

The last headphones I bought, I bypassed Amazon and other retailers and ordered them directly from China for about half the retail price.

"Did you go to school to study ugly and unreadable, or are you just naturally talented?"

My kids' school's website has the phone numbers at the bottom of the page in black text on a dark green background. It's almost as though the numbers move just enough to avoid your eyes' focus when you try to read them.

phone numbers at the bottom of the page in black text on a dark green background.

You gotta admit, if you want to be able to say "we provided contact information," while avoiding having to actually answer the phone, it's a great approach. I suppose it depends on what you are trying to achieve....

i tried to buy a little plastic mat to put under the cat food bowls, on Amazon. it cost $7, and took literally two months to be delivered, from China. when the package arrived, it was two items, neither of which were what i ordered.

Brilliant, Count! Just f*cking brilliant.

Thirded. Wow.


Ugh, thanks for the Letter from Birmingham Jail link. The picture alone is haunting.

phone numbers at the bottom of the page in black text on a dark green background.

Crappy web page design (and for that matter, magazine page design) gets its own chapter in the Annals of Modern Life. ;-)

My own experience with Amazon has been fine. I use it fairly often, and have not had to send much back. The one or two times I did it went fine.

My question was a more general one. Who has not spent hours navigating a phone tree, only to be put on hold and then have the line disconnect?

Plus, these call centers lie.

"We are experienced unusually high call volume."

No. You are not. You merely refuse to hire enough people to handle the wholly predictable call volumes at a reasonable rate.

And while I'm at it let me second Joel Hanes on the subject of printers, and add that all-in-ones are to be avoided like the plague.

Printers are like razors. They're sold at near cost or less in the hope that you'll buy a lot toner.

Some years ago counterfeit HP toner cartilages were being slipped into the supply stream. Whatever they were putting in them, maybe Kool-Aid, could destroy your printer.

Brilliant, Count! Just f*cking brilliant.

Fourthed! That made my day!

Fifthed, Sir Countme.

John Cole with a story relevant to this thread. My laugh of the day.

“How the hell would I, John Cole....”

I don't want to paste the whole thing and ruin it for everyone, but that was great.

under the heading of mis-directed deliveries...

Lucky Thompson was an excellent but more or less undersung jazz saxophonist. He was born in Columbia SC, moved with his family to Detroit when he was quite young as part of the great northern migration.

His mother passed away when he was around 5 years old, and he spent most of his childhood raising his siblings. They had no money. He really really wanted to play saxophone, so he worked and saved up enough to buy a saxophone instruction book. No horn, just the book. He then drew keys on a broom handle and practiced, from the book, using the broom handle. He could read music before he had an instrument.

As the legend goes, one day a delivery company dropped off a tenor sax to Lucky's house in error. And that's how he got his first horn.

You'd think that's how he got the nickname, but that actually came from a jersey his father gave him, which had "Lucky" stitched on it.

If it ain't true, it oughta be.

My wife once ordered an Ella Fitzgerald CD from one of those clubs back in the day. They accidentally sent a Napalm Death CD. I still have it. (Fear, Emptiness, Despair - very uplifting...) They didn't ask for it back, but still sent the one my wife ordered after she complained.

Few households would welcome that particular mistake, I would imagine.

A few months ago my wife ordered a kitchen table online (not Amazon). When it arrived, the box had obviously been opened and then resealed with box tape. At least one of those seams had busted open. There were multiple punctures in the cardboard. She took pictures of the damage and sent them to the company. The company's response after a couple of days was that they had refunded our money and talked to UPS. If UPS did not show up within ten business days to collect the box, it was ours. UPS didn't show, so we opened the box. The table had sustained only very minor damage, but it wasn't the right color finish. OTOH, it was free.

I'm still trying to decide if a free wrong-color table is a good deal.

I'm still trying to decide if a free wrong-color table is a good deal.

How would you benefit from deciding that it is not? Rationalize like a normal person, dammit!

Joel Hanes:

The printer in my office is an HP Laserjet 1300 that is at least 15 years old.

Still works perfectly.

It’s hooked to the desktop that I don’t use for work. Reason being: the drivers are so old, they’re practically impossible to install. This machine, which is perfectly functional, is my printer interface/iTunes library.

Not that there is anything wrong with that.

I have the impression thqat lots of people like IKEA but I will never by anything from them again. I am too traumatized to tell the whole story but it involve sending the right furniture but no days I had specifically said I could not be home to receive the order ( it was not left) and then sending the wrong stuff and expecting me to pay for the returns and me screaming at customer service people...and ultimately getting my stuff from Mayfair.

Oh and the deluge of bulbs. I was plagued all summer with bulbs, hundreds of them. It started with a modest order of bulbs for my garden but that small order was followed by the deliver of over four hundred bulbs which I had not ordered ( what would I do with four hundred daffocils?) I sent them back, but that was not the end of it. I got billed for the hundreds of daffodils over and over all summer and into the fall--until I started threatening to file consumer fraud complaints. I kept demanding that they take me off their mailing list, but they never did. I also kept demanding to speak to a manager, but they would not let me do that either. Brecks, in case you are wondering.

I know it sounds odd, but our experience over the years has been that, for publicly-traded companies, calling investor relations can sometimes get a problem solved. Customer service apparently pays more attention when the complaint is coming from the finance people.


Old computers can be useful that way. I have an old laptop that I also use for iTunes. I run a cable from the headphone jack to my stereo - yes, I still have a regular old-fashioned stereo, preamp and all - with some kind of adapter, so it makes a nice jukebox.

All it lacks is a coin slot.

you are clearly on the leading edge of "tulip bulbs as a hot investment"....why, just look how your investment is multiplying!

Might be safer than the stock market, with insane greedheads calling the shots.

After (according to my notes) 20+ years of having a household server running Linux providing access to assorted peripherals -- printer, scanner, dial-up modem for internet, cable modem for internet, storage, etc -- I gave up on using old PC hardware a couple of years ago. I've got a $35 Raspberry Pi doing that job now.

Have to hang a USB audio dongle of some sort on the Pi; the on-board audio is a kludge and is relatively poor quality.

our experience over the years has been that, for publicly-traded companies, calling investor relations can sometimes get a problem solved. Customer service apparently pays more attention when the complaint is coming from the finance people.

This instantly puts me in mind of some work experiences. I used to make recommendations for performance and tuning changes to applications. It could be a challenge to get the programmers to work my changes into their already over-full queue. But, because we had a chargeback system, the business side got to pay less (out to their budget!) if things were tuned. If I went to them, I could get a LOT of leverage to get my changes some attention.

In short, money talks. The challenge is to figure out how to get it to say what you want.

I have an old laptop that I also use for iTunes.

i did that for years. holy crap do i hate iTunes.

eventually, i just bit the bullet and went all Sonos.

I'm not in love with iTunes myself. But I have it, and decent speakers, and a small enough place that having speakers in lots of rooms, connected by wi-fi, would not be that valuable.

Besides, the system reminds me of my youth, when we worried about stereo equipment, and a decent system was one of the first purchases when we started getting real paychecks.

i do feel sad about putting my beloved Boston Acoustic speakers in the closet. i've had them since i graduated college, in 93. they're one of the first things i bought when i got my first real job. they still sound great. but i don't need them for anything :(

When you get old enough, the Fletcher-Munsen curves are a brutal reality. So that *most* of what you hear when you listen to your favorite music is the music that your memory plays for you, in your head.

Sounds better that way; and it's one of the reason that the youngins' music isn't as good; plus that they should get offa yer lawn, also too.

*most* of what you hear when you listen to your favorite music is the music that your memory plays for you, in your head.

I'm 61 and have had hearing impairment since I was born.

I currently run a pretty good digital signal chain. It's more or less the digital equivalent of the good old component systems of our youth.

File server -> streamer -> DAC -> tube pre-amp -> power amp -> speakers. All hard-wired, no wifi.

It sounds really really good. There is a difference. You can hear it, if you're inclined toward hearing stuff like that.

My wife and I listen to mostly acoustic music, which is a big factor. If you listen to mostly modern pop music, it's already noisy.

If you like to listen to more organic, analog sources, it can be night and day.

Somewhat related to the F-M curves...

As I have aged, my hearing has deteriorated: one ear rings, I've lost an octave off the top, and the dynamic range between where I hear everything clearly and where it hurts has gotten a lot smaller. For the car, I burn CDs (or CD-ROMs) that flatten out the dynamic range a lot. At home, I tend to listen to media that I can play through VLC because it's one of the few players with dynamic range compression. Not the Android version of VLC, unfortunately.

Tubes, Russell?

Sounds like serious business.

What is the difference between your setup and running the signal from the computer into the (non-tube, sorry) preamp?

Since Russell hasn't answered, I'll note that the quality of the DAC can make a difference. When CD players were first a thing, some manufacturers were notorious for using crappy DACs.

Just getting the DAC out of the computer can also make a difference. Back in the day, I designed boards for telecom test equipment that had both digital and analog on the same board. There are lots of subtle ways to do things wrong that impact the quality of the analog signal.

I don't know what Russell paid for his DAC; certainly it's easy to spend >$2K. That kind of price buys a lot more/better design and engineering than anything you get built into a computer.

Just like the "blind spot" that we all have in our eyes, the brain will fill in audio that "should" be there that our ears aren't hearing.

There's a well known phenomenon of "virtual pitch", for example.

I'm glad that music sounds really, really good to russell, from whatever source.

Pro tip: you want that 'tube sound', inexpensively? Just add a 100 ohm resistor in series with the speaker and turn up the volume a notch to compensate. Spectrum analyzer says they're the same; double blind listening tests say they're the same.

OK, time to get our audio nerd on!!

bernie - the main difference between my rig and serving up audio from a computer is that computers do lots of things besides serving up audio, so there's opportunity for noise and distortion.

The tube pre I have is a Quicksilver line stage. We don't have a turntable anymore, so we didn't need the phono stage. Quicksiver is basically one guy, who is really into tube gear, and who has been cranking out rock-solid handmade components for realistic $$$ for a couple of decades now.

Our DAC is by Metrum, a small Dutch company that specializes in non-oversampling DACs. The non-oversampling thing is about minimal signal processing, at the expense of some higher frequency artifacts. They measure mediocre, but sound very natural. I got a demo model of one of their entry-level DACs, retails for about $1200, I got it for $700.

Speakers are Ohm Walsh Tall 1000's, which are a non-directional tower speaker. Our "listening room" is the living room, which has features that make the normal two-boxes-at-the-end-of-the-room arrangement problematic. The non-directional design works around that.

The Ohm's like power, not so much lots of watts, but lots of *current*. We were running a good old Rotel amp, but have just swapped in an amp made by some guys in CA. So far so good, although it runs warm.

To Bernies's question, we have some other gizmos that store our music files and stream them in appropriate formats to the DAC.

We've ended up gravitating to components made by small companies, in some cases one or two guys, who are basically straight up audio nerds. they are in business to make a living, but they're just really, really into what they do. it seems like a sweet spot in the quality for price equation.

opinions vary about the tube thing. i find an audible difference, so i use the tube pre. the behavior of tubes under distortion is actually different than for solid state, in a pleasing way, and I just like the sound of having an analog source in the signal chain.

big fun.

another brief point on the tube thing.

i'm not an EE, so i'm not in a position to dispute snarki's comment about tubes vs a 100 ohm resistor.

what i will say is that a spectrum analyzer is probably not going to tell you the whole story about what you're going to hear.

details of timbre and timing, the ability to distinguish individual voices and instuments within an ensemble, the location of performers in space. the overall sense of liveness and weight. articulation and dynamics. i don't think that stuff shows up in a spectrum analyzer.

double blind stuff depends as much on who's listening and the circumstances in which th test is done as it does on the technology.

i had this conversation with my wife before we invested in our system. are you even gonna be able to hear a difference, she asked.

music has been a very keen interest of mine for 50+ years now. if you devote yourself in whatever way to things that are of great interest to you for decades, you learn to notice things.

i've read a fair amount about this stuff, i understand the technical debates, but ultimately it is a matter of what you hear.

i hear a difference.

Old definition of an audiophile: someone who listens to the noise, not the music :^)

I would never offer that as an insult, since I have the same problem with video. I spent too many of the early years of digital video doing work on compression algorithms, and still have a tendency to get caught up looking at the artifacts rather than the cinematography.

If you can hear the difference, russell, more power to you. Time has not been kind to my inner ears. Most of my listening these days has been run through some sort of digital signal processing to compensate -- and often lossy compression somewhere along the way -- so the quality of the final amplification and the speakers is of much less importance.

There's a music program at some university that has been putting incoming freshmen through A-B comparison tests for different recording technologies for decades now. Speaking broadly, kids who grew up with vinyl tended to prefer it to CDs. Kids who grew up with CDs preferred it over vinyl and MP3s. Kids who grew up listening to low bit rate MP3s preferred those distortions over CDs or vinyl.

Kids who grew up listening to low bit rate MP3s preferred those distortions over CDs or vinyl.

I'm no audiophile, but that's f*cking insane. I could see not minding (too much) the distortion stemming from a low bit-rate audio, but preferring it? Yikes.

It's all in what you're used to....

I wonder if, if you had those kids switch over to a better medium for a while, they would eventually prefer it and find the MP3s less pleasing if they go back to them.

Kind of like food: it's very very hard to change bad dietary habits, but (at least in my experience) once I've made the change and gotten used to eating better, the old foods seem pretty crappy. I might be tempted by them if I'm really hungry, but I'm never happy after the fact if I eat them.

Old definition of an audiophile: someone who listens to the noise, not the music

Not to belabor this, but I'm not interested in the noise. That's why I built up the system I built up.

I want the gear to get the hell out of the way, so I built up a system that mostly does that, within the constraints of what I could afford.

Different people notice different things. Different people have the wiring and inclination to notice different things.

My wife can identify voice-over actors with uncanny accuracy. She's also an interior designer, so she notices colors textures and the physical arrangement of things in a room to a remarkable degree. You probably see everything she sees, it makes an impression on you in some way, but you don't *notice* it. You can't point to the things that create a certain impression on you and explain why they do.

Painters notice color and line and shape, and the interaction of all of those things. Clothing designers notice fabric texture and weight and hand, and the construction of a garment and how that affects how it hangs. Engineers notice whether the design and implementation of a solution, in whatever medium or technology, is well executed and is appropriate to the problem it was intended to solve.

We all have our thing.

I find that I notice stuff in music other folks don't notice. Not just while listening to the stereo, but in general. I'm not a genius or a prodigy, I'm just interested in it and I like it and I pay a lot of attention to it. So I notice it. I may not even necessarily be hearing anything you aren't hearing, but I may be noticing things you don't notice. Because I want to, because I enjoy it.

The watershed moment in all of this, for me, was when I got my first pretty good stereo. Typical "first thing I bought when I had a little money" thing.

I put on a Sonny Rollins side, and I could hear his breath, I could hear how he was working the reed to alter his attack and timbre. I could hear the subtle mechanical noise of the keys on his horn. I got a palpable sense of the force with which he was blowing, now more, now less.

Same notes, different insight into what was going on. It was freaking amazing. It expanded my world.

Stuff like that either knocks you out and makes your day, or it doesn't. It's no biggie either way, everyone has their thing. That's mine.

I hear that kind of stuff, because I listen for it. Because I dig it.

To each their own.

Different people notice different things. Different people have the wiring and inclination to notice different things.

There’s a Maine singing group called Schooner Fare that I’ve been following since about 1981. For decades they were a trio: Steve and Chuck Romanoff (brothers), and Tom Rowe. Tom died some years ago, but Steve and Chuck still perform and record together.

My son was exposed to Schooner Fare’s music from, well, the very beginning (i.e. prenatally). He went to his first concert – amazingly, he slept through most of it – when he was a few months old. Because he couldn’t pronounce the letter “T” when he was learning to talk, he called the boys “Steve, Chuck, and Commie.”

But before I get lost in reminiscence, the reason I’m bringing it up is that even at maybe three years old, my son could listen to records and tell Steve’s voice from Chuck’s. Sometimes he did this even when I had to concentrate very hard to realize that he was right. It was kind of uncanny.

i have the voice recognition talent, too. annoys my wife when i figure out who is doing the voice-over or cartoon character voice and i just mumble the person's name to myself.

I wonder if, if you had those kids switch over to a better medium for a while, they would eventually prefer it and find the MP3s less pleasing if they go back to them.

It's happening. Encoders have improved. New lossy algorithms (HE-AAC, Vorbis, Opus) have improved. Higher bit rates are much more common -- pirate sites, for example, seem to be mostly either 320-kbps MP3 or lossless FLAC these days. The days of truly bad MP3 encoding (crap software, 64- or 96-kbps bit rates) seem pretty much over.

These days, I am very hard pressed to tell the difference between original two-channel material and 128-kbps Opus (using max complexity/quality). russell probably can, and I envy him his hearing.

FWIW, most of what I listen to is either ripped from CD using XLD on a MacPro, or is from my wife and my ITunes libraries.

The stuff that's been ripped is in either FLAC or WAV, I forget which. It sounds pretty darned good, and XLD is easy to use. It's on the slow side, but that's probably as much due to my aging Mac as anything else.

The ITunes stuff is just whatever ITunes uses, which is OK but not really that great. Some stuff is audibly grainy, certain instrumental timbres are not as true. Violin and upper-register of the piano, most notably.

I replace the ITunes stuff with ripped stuff as time allows. We have something like 10K tracks, so it takes a while...

New stuff I will probably buy as some kind of HD.

Chances are I'd be hard pressed to distinguish between original 2 track and 128-kbps Opus. I probably would be able to tell the difference between either replayed on my system vs other systems.

My hearing per se is probably only about average, it's a matter of intention and listening. I like my system because it messes with the information on the recording as little as possible. It's not perfect, I can hear flaws, but it's pretty good and I didn't have to cash in my 401k to buy it. :)

If I could do it all vinyl, I probably would, but that's just not practical anymore.

I believe iTunes currently downloads 256-kbps HE-AAC. Older stuff was at much lower bit rates. I seem to recall reading that Apple would replace old low-bit-rate stuff with the current version for free if it's still in the catalog. All the algorithms struggle at the top frequencies; since my hearing rolls off pretty sharply above about 6 kHz these days, I simply no longer hear a lot of the problems.

When I finally got an iPod however many years ago (the nano I still have), I started off ripping CDs and keeping the files at their full bit rate. It’s only a 4 gig, so I was filling it up pretty damned fast. I decided to compress a couple of songs and listen to them to see if I could tell the difference. I couldn’t, at least not enough to justify completely filling my iPod with a quarter (or fewer?) of the songs it could hold if I compressed them. It was mostly for working out, anyway, not serious listening.

I’ve never owned high-quality audio equipment. Ignorance is bliss. (I used to like Yellow Tail wine, and I ruined that by drinking better stuff. No need to make the same mistake with audio. ;^) )

Thanks for the explanation, Michael and Russell.

I don't think I would hear the difference myself, especially since I'm often guilty of LUI.

I do recall the DAC debates when CD's came in and the arguments of vinyl lovers as well. All pretty interesting, but useful to those with better ears than mine.

Well I am goig to tell Oil Can Henry to buy me a new oil pan tomorrow. If they don't I wil lfile a consumer fraud complaint. Five hundred bucks for a new oil pan and I almost lost my care engine.

I'm no sound engineer - more of a hobbyist - so apologies in advance if this schematic from my early days departs from industry standards:

Clock Radio -|- Cassette Recorder

Now, the key to this was to engage the 'Pause' function whist having the 'Play' and 'Record' buttons already depressed, so as to minimize "Intro Truncation". Nothing you could do about bad mixing or the DJ talking over the end of the song but wait for it to come around in the rotation again in a few hours.

The discerning eye may have noticed that this was a tubeless configuration, as there was really no need to gild the lily. And the occasional "Dinner is ready!" ghost track already came with an inherent, if inconvenient, warmth.

One season of lawn mowing later, when I was making real money, I upgraded to a boom box that would record directly from the radio. So in no time I was "Shocking the Monkey" all over "Electric Avenue".

Unfortunately, this rig was not without its vulnerabilities. As you may recall, one could pop the tabs out of the cassettes to prevent re-recording. This, in turn, was simply defeated by re-covering the holes with scotch tape or something, but that was too much of a hassle. So with limited yet disturbing frequency, my rocking-out would be interrupted by abrupt clicks and bangs followed by "samples" of my little brother singing along to his Mary Poppins record. One minute, "Temples of Syrinx". The next, Dick Van Dyke chim-chim-cherooing.

It really kinda undermined my whole rebel mien.

if you want to hear crappy compression, give XM/Sirius radio a try! the highs are all pressed into an incoherent swirl. i think they do something like 64kbps, variable.

It seems Pete and I have similar history as regards audio equipment. I did almost exactly the same thing in the same order, though I had the luxury of putting my cassette recorder in front of my parents’ 8-track/tuner stereo unit. I would sometimes re-purpose my stepfather’s management-seminar cassettes, with the scotch tape over the holes.

pete wins the thread, with hairshirt a close second.

i think tom waits used that "cassette player recording from 8-track playback" technique in mule variations.


i hadda put a smiley so you'd know i was joking, because who knows, it could be true.

Yeah, Pete's lyrical 7:22 AM was EQ'd perfectly to my ears.

Any time you can reference "Shocking the Monkey" AND Dick Van Dyke in one post, I wanna hear more.

It reminded me of some of pollo muerto's early drop D offerings.

And I'd like to know if pollo has flown the coop permanently, by the way.

I didn't even read this article (yet), but the headline alone is worth a link:

If the First Amendment Means Anything, It Means Advertisers Have to Lavishly Fund a TV Show Where I’m a Jerk to High Schoolers.

I believe in conspiracy theories on alternate Tuesdays. Having decided that today is an alternate...

The NBA officials are torturing me. With six games to go, the Nuggets needed to win out to guarantee they make the playoffs. They've won five in a row now. The officials in game six will make sure the Nuggets lose in the closing minutes.

Cohen knows where too many bodies are buried. Look for him to die of poison gas, or disappear a la Jimmy Hoffa.

The best explanation for Jeff Sessions is that he has irrefutable dirt on Trump that would lead to impeachment, 20 years in prison, and that Pence would be personally unwilling to pardon. Jeff doesn't care what Trump says, so long as Jeff stays on as AG so he can roll back the VRA and restore the war on drugs.

Except that, whatever additional dirt Cohen might be able to supply, having all his files is likely to be sufficient. They would have had to not only disappear him, but wipe out the files as well, in order to get the job done. Now, it's probably too late.

It's just so hard to get competent help these days. (Especially when you treat your employees like garbage.)

my conspiracy theory is that nobody in trump's orbit has any skill set beyond the grift, and no idea whatsoever about what they've gotten themselves into.

the rules for sleazy NY real estate developer, reality TV show star, and walking talking human brand identity for "classy" vulgar excess are different than the rules for POTUS.

live and learn.

cohen could probably go down just for the taxi medallion BS. for a prosecutor, he is no doubt a target rich environment.

i just make popcorn and wait to see where it all lands.

Thanks for the kind words! I have enormous respect for the writing, writers, and commenters here, so it means a lot.

"i just make popcorn and wait to see where it all lands."

I can't supply a WRS on this here:


There will be savagely violent Civil War.

We're already under Martial Law:


Wall Street is mp's fucking monkey, it's neck in an iron ring and its testicles hooked up to a car battery.

Watch it quiver and jump at every shock.

And it likes it.


I'm sitting here wondering what would happen if He, Trump tweets "Mueller, Rosenstein, you're FIRED" tonight, and Rosenstein and Mueller just ignore the tweet and show up for work as usual in the morning.

What would He, Trump do? Tweet at the FBI to go arrest them? Do FBI agents take orders through twitter? How about Secret Service agents?

I'm serious. What exactly are the mechanics of "you're fired" in the federal government?


Armed security, the only kind of federal employee conservative vermin halfway appreciate, arrives at your desk and hustles you off the property.

It's all pretty straight forward.

I think it would be great if Rosenstein and Mueller, given their solid conservative principles .... no, they are not fucking pussy Democrats .. opened fire with concealed carry on their fascist pre-emptors and we can finally get this final solution to the republican bug that has crawled up America's exceptional ass off the ground.

Armed security ... arrives at your desk and hustles you off the property.

On their own initiative? As ordered by their immediate boss? Or what?

Repeat the question for the boss's immediate boss. How many links in the chain of command between the armed security guy and the Tweetter-in-Chief?



There is plenty of precedent set by previous subhuman, anti-American, traitorous conservative republican filth and their dead mothers.

Like any big bureaucracy, the Feds got "procedures and processes." In particular, HR procedures. Sure, your boss can just tell you "You're gone." But until HR spends a few hours processing you out, you're technically still employed.

Now your boss could come to your desk, with a guy from Security to escort you out. Of course, if you're not at your desk, and don't answer your cell phone (say because you're in a meeting and you've got manners), it could take a while to get it done.

And even then, if you're not an "at will" employee (and Mueller isn't) and you decide to contest your termination, getting you gone could take days; more likely weeks. And showing cause could be . . . problematic.

And while Trump is distracted by all that, the rest of the guys just keep cranking along. Because, unlike operations Trump is familiar with, the Special Counsel's office isn't a one man band that just stops when the top guy goes. (Quite possibly Trump doesn't even realize they're still at it. Until the next indictment comes down.)

mp will kick their asses out of the building and for good measure will instruct the right wing fascist contingent of the FBI ... as opposed to the hippie chick Wavy Gravy liberal contingent of the FBI that stinking filthy lying conservatives are telling you are running the show ... sent to disappear and kill democracy, to NOT allow Mueller and Rosenstein to leave with the photos of their families arrayed on their desks, because that's how Mussolini rolls.

The Mussolini, and his family, and his thug consiglieres, including Mattis, and his 62 million-strong base, who will end their lives hung upside down from meat hooks in public squares bleeding out like next Easter's hams.

any trip to Mueller's desk would have to run a gauntlet of principled Republicans blocking such lawlessness in the name of Justice.


All of us will soon be incinerated anyway.


It took mp 90 minutes to learn all there is know about nuclear weapons. He knows more than anyone.

And what he knows about it is that he wants his mug plastered all over the buried records of the coming nuclear holocaust so that whatever alien bug civilization, as opposed to the insect republican party version Earth is hosting now, that finds the records eons from now will proclaim him, Donald Trump, the Great Murderer of the Human Race.

Look what I did!, with his orange killer ape face against a backdrop of nuclear mushroom crowds.

I Willed This with these tiny pig hands.

He'll fire Mueller first as the missiles launch and then deny him a slot in the Federal nuclear shelters hundreds of feet underground.

Look what you have done, republicans!

The more Americans who republicans and mp murder, the better their election chances, not that there are such a thing as free elections in pigfucker America:



Think the rash of republican retirements, or as Moe Lane at Redstate slimed it when Democrats decided not to run in the past .. cutting and running ... is because they are afraid of not being elected?

No, the millions in crooked money republicans will now make in the "private sector" as a result of the bankrupting tax legislation they gifted themselves is why they ran for "public service" is the first place.

That's all they wanted.

Fuck the country, fuck the government, and fuck the rest of us.

Ryan can hire others, but not the Others, to do his keg stands for him now while he watches from the limo.

While Trump and minions could possible fire Mueller (and the rest of his special counsel investigators and prosecutors), he CANNOT fire the Grand Juries.

If I were on one of those Grand Juries, I'd be voting out a "True Bill" indictment of Trump and everyone connected with him, for Treason, Corruption, Bribery, Sexual Abuse of Minors,...the whole 9 yards, within a hot microsecond.

Trump would wish he was a ham sandwich, he'd get gentler treatment.

something i didn't know...

Cohen was a 'national deputy finance chairman' of the RNC.


that swamp is so drained.

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