Archive for March, 2008

Allergy Season

Saturday, March 29th, 2008

When I was a kid, I had horrible problems with allergies; so much so, that I ended up getting shots to help deal with the agony of springtime.

Fortunately, as I got older, I got over it. By the time I was in my early 20’s, I rarely had problems with hayfever. My theory is that over time, my body got used to the pollen in the air every spring and it stopped bothering me.

Unfortunately, now that I’m in California, there’s all new, improved pollen that I’m not used to, and I’m having hayfever problems again. Thankfully, they’re not anywhere as bad as when I was younger. But I guess that it’s going to take a few years for me to get used to California pollen.


My, that was a lot of exposition just to lead into an orchard picture ;)

Barbary Ball 2008

Saturday, March 29th, 2008

Thursday night I drove up to San Francisco to go dancing at the 9:20 Special. This is something I rarely do, even though it’s probably the best weekly dance in the Bay Area – I’m a big wimp and like to be in bed by 9:30 at night during the week.

But I made the drive because George Gee and his band were in town from New York.

And. I. Had. A. Blast. It’s been years since I’ve had that much fun dancing. There’s something about dancing to an honest-to-goodness Big Band…

Photos are up on my Flickr page.

My new speakers…

Thursday, March 13th, 2008

I have a bad habit…

Actually, I have lots of bad habits. The one I want to deal with today is that I will not replace something I own unless it is completely broken.

For example: right now, my digital camera is somewhat broken. If I try and change the lens aperture to anything other than wide-open, the camera will lock up. Additionally, the auto-focus doesn’t work anymore. Yet it’s not a candidate for replacement, because I can still take pictures with the lens wide open if I focus manually.

But this isn’t about my camera. This is about my speakers.

When I moved to California, I did a severe pruning of everything I owned. Many things that I had been hanging onto because they “still worked, sorta, sometimes” got tossed into the dumpster. And four such items were my stereo speakers.

I’d inherited my speakers from other people over the years. None of them were very good to start with. Two of them were about fourty years old; the other two were probably only about 30 years old. One of them had blown drivers, so that it only produced midtones. One of them added static. The other two were okay, but not great. Yet I hung onto them through half a dozen moves because they “still worked, more or less.” Not this move. Off they go to the great dumpster in the sky… er, parking lot.

And this week, I went shopping for speakers.

I spent a bit of time at various audio websites, reading reviews, and eventually decided, more or less, on Polk Audio Monitor 50 speakers, which consistently got good reviews. The one downside that stuck in my mind was a comment by a reviewer that they were “perfect, other than the fact they’re not Polk Monitor 70 speakers.”

So I went to Fry’s electronics, which has rooms set up with different amplifiers, speakers, etc, and spent some time switching back and forth between the 50 and 70. The 70’s definitely sounded much, er, fuller than the 50’s, but was the difference in sound worth the difference in price?

Click. Half the price.

Click. There’s a real difference there.

Click. Double the price.

Click. Is it worth $399/speaker as opposed to $199/speaker?


Eventually, I decided it was worth the extra price, especially since I’m getting a bonus at work this month. Having steeled myself to paying $800, I went to find a salesperson.

Darren: I’d like to buy a pair of Polk Audio Monitor 70’s.

Droid: Great. They come in black or cherry finish – which do you want?

Darren: Black. It matches my new TV stand, my new bookcase, and my new sofa.

Droid: Well, we only have cherry.

Darren: Grrrr. Okay.

So the sales droid went into the back for a while, and came out a while later with two shopping carts, each containing a speaker.

Droid: All we have are ones people have returned, so we’ll give you $20 off each.

Now, not getting the color I want was a minor problem. Not getting brand new ones was a minor problem. I could deal with one problem… But getting used speakers in the wrong color was too many problems. So with apologies, I said that I wasn’t going to buy them.

The next day at work, I was telling my friend Anurag this story, and he asked if I had checked online. So, off I went and checked And guess what I found…

The speakers I wanted. In the color I wanted. And almost 40% cheaper. And no sales tax. And with free shipping.

I find it funny how two small problems ended up saving me over $300.