Thursday, July 19, 2012
I've had a bit of experience in the online dating world, and I've learned a few things along the way. The most obvious thing I have learned is that people are less than honest about how they represent themselves in their dating profiles, and with a bit of knowledge you can do a much better job of interpreting what some of these key terms actually mean.
Bubbly Personality: If you read a profile that indicates the person has a "bubbly personality" it probably means they won't stop talking for more than 20 seconds at a time - even while eating a meal. These are the types of people who feel that the number of words coming out of their mouth is actually more important than the words themselves. In short this is like dating someone who acts like they have drank six cups of coffee and slammed two Red Bulls within the last 30 minutes. Much like alcohol and fast food, these are the types of people who are best in moderation.
Athletic: This is a tough one. This can often mean that a woman is referring to her build rather than the type of activities she is interested in. In many cases it means they like to shoot pool or play darts, and they have been known to go bowling, but in other times it simply means they are stocky and look like a softball player... even though they don't play softball. What it does not mean is that they are the type who works out five days a week and has a washboard stomach nor does it mean she is known to wear sports bras and go for a nightly run. Keep dreaming.
Enjoy being treated like a lady: This simply means she has no intention of paying for any dates, and you had better be prepared to go to a nice restaurant, so scratch Applebee's off the list. This also means she will most likely need to get her eyebrows waxed every three weeks, her nails done at least once a month, and she very well may have a membership to a local tanning salon. In short - she is high maintenance, and she knows it. Be prepared to open a lot of doors and don't be shocked if a date gets ruined due to a broken nail at some point.
Fun-Loving: As much as you may want to think this means she enjoys ice skating and trips to Disneyland, it really means her idea of a good time involves a small town bar, a karaoke machine, and numerous rounds of stale tap beer. There is also a high probability that she has had the same friends since high school, and they have a strong desire to talk about their high school classmates even though they graduated sometime in the 90s.
Drama-Free: This typically means her last relationship included a lot of screaming and yelling and perhaps at least one visit from the local police after neighbors called in a possible domestic disturbance. She assumes because they broke up that there will be no more drama and she assumes the former boyfriend and/or husband was the problem. Oddly enough she claims three of her four last ex-boyfriends were all responsible for untold amounts of drama, and if you end up dating her you can anticipate a fight that results in her either threatening to kill herself or one in which she is sitting in the driveway blocking your car as she cries her eyes out and tells you how special you are. Run. Don't even think about engaging her in conversation... just run.
Goal Oriented: This typically means she attended a reputable College or University and earned her degree and/or is currently pursuing a degree, and that she has goals. The goals typically include having anywhere from two to four children, driving a Lexus, and marrying someone who either has a trust fund or currently makes at least six-figures. Oh yea... and they also want to travel to Europe and/or vacation in Mexico at least once every other year.
Goal Orientated: See "Goal Oriented" above, and instead of a college degree from a reputable College or University just assume they attended (or possibly graduated from) a local Community College.
Carefree: Chances are she has at least three collection agencies looking for her, and she hasn't been tested for STDs since the Clinton administration. This is the type of women who might be fun to date once or twice because that is about as long as she will remain interested.
Shaped like women should be: There is no nice way of saying this... if a woman brags that she is shaped like women should be, it simply means she is overweight. Worse than that, she won't admit she is overweight and thus she feels society should adapt to her version of "normal" even if it means her BMI is somewhere north of 30. She will try to fit into clothing that is far too small and she will insist on wearing pants that are so tight that she will have a permanent muffin-top spilling out from her waist. She will also be known to exceed the tensile strength on most of the fabrics she wraps around her body and it isn't unheard of for women like this to carry safety pins and duct tape to address various wardrobe malfunctions if and when they do occur. If you do decide to date a woman like this, I'd suggest wearing eye protection anytime she wears something with buttons because a button under pressure is like a ticking time-bomb and can seriously injure someone when it lets go.
Curvy: This can be a couple of different things. In rare instances, this could be a very average sized woman who is not entirely comfortable with her body. In other cases, it could be a thin woman who has had breast implants and who is very proud of them, but in the vast majority of the time it simply means the woman has a very large backside and instead of trying some targeted exercises to tone up, she is more interested in buying bras from Victoria Secret that will push her breasts together with such force that it can create an optical illusion that tricks the viewer into thinking her breasts and behind are in direct proportion to one another. Let there be no doubt, curves on a woman are sexy, but there is a difference between legitimate curves, and the type of woman who waves hello and her arm stops moving six seconds after her hand.
There you have it - just a few tips to let you know what you might come across. There are many others of course, but I can't possible cover every scenario here, but it should give you a good head start. Above all else just remember that when it comes to online dating, people are generally liars, and it is in your best interests to remain skeptical about almost anything that comes out of the mouth of the other person until you have time to verify it for yourself. Online dating profiles are a lot like print ads for fast food places... they look nice and peak your interest, but the real thing is often a disappointment.
Monday, July 16, 2012
A: "He was always so quiet and he kept to himself"
Q: What is the most common phrase uttered by a dog owner after their dog ends up biting, mauling, injuring, or even killing someone?
Q: What is the most common phrase uttered by a dog owner after their dog ends up biting, mauling, injuring, or even killing someone?
A: "He was always so kind and gentle and great with children"
Sometimes things aren't always as they seem, and idiotic platitudes don't really change the facts. Like it or not, some dogs are capable of doing much more damage than others. Temperament might have something to do with it, but when a small dog bites someone, chances are the damage can be addressed with a band-aid rather than a trip to the ER. Due to the jaw structure and power of some larger breeds, they can easily result in massive injuries or even deaths.
Check the statistics surrounding dog bite fatalities, and you will soon find that Pit Bulls (and their associated mixes) as well as Rottweilers are responsible for a vast majority of the deaths. This isn't opinion, but rather it is supported by hard evidence, including several studies on the subject as well as government data.
Since numbers without context are meaningless, lets ask ourselves if we find it feasible that these same breeds make up the vast majority of dogs in the US? I think most people would agree that isn't the case... in fact per AKC registrations, where Labrador Retrievers are consistently the most popular dog, and Bull Terriers come in somewhere south of 50th most popular, these statistics SHOULD alarm everyone. What we should see is Labrador Retrievers being responsible for the most dog bites simply due to statistical averages. However that isn't the case, and when speaking of significant injuries and/or deaths the numbers are even further skewed.
The facts are that certain breeds of dogs have a higher propensity to maul, injure, and kill. We can blame this on humans for a lack of training, we can blame it on the breed, or we can blame it on specific dogs, but the facts are the facts. If you read the actual reports from many of these dog bite fatalities, you will find that in many cases the owners had never witnessed any hostility from the dogs in the past, and at one point the dog(s) just snapped. I dare say no matter how well trained they are, almost any dog can still revert to their instincts in some situations, and in some cases those instincts can result in significant injury.
When you boil it down and remove the emotion to simply look at the statistics and the facts, you soon realize that it is an indisputable fact that Pit Bulls and Rottweilers are dangerous when compared to other breeds. That isn't to say other dog breeds are never dangerous, or that other dog breeds aren't responsible for injuries or deaths, or that certain Pit Bulls and Rottweilers aren't the gentle and peaceful dogs that so many owners claim they are... it is just a fact that as a whole, these dogs are more dangerous.
It is like comparing a modern Volkswagen with 10 airbags, ABS, stability control, crumble zones, and active head restraints to a 1950s Volkswagen with no seat belts, no crumple zones, no airbags, and doors that were less than three inches thick. One of these is clearly more dangerous than the other, but it may never be obvious until it is too late.
Now I should note that I am not sure breed bans actually work, thus I'm not sure they are the answer. Some people who are very much opposed to such breed bans are quick to point out that some people will go out of their way to get a dog that is banned because they think it makes them part of some secret club. I imagine these types of people are also the type of people who like to carry around concealed, unregistered firearms and who do whatever they can to show others that they don't follow the commonly accepted rules that society has instilled upon itself.
The reality is there is always going to be a certain type of person who is attracted to Pit Bull type dogs because they want to have that "wow" factor and they want to be seen as a rule breaker. Just walk though the more "colorful" parts of any city and you are bound to see countless examples of how certain types of people attract certain types of pets. Everyone knows areas like this - these are the areas where you find people with a tattoo to limb ratio above 3:1, and people standing around the street corners wearing their flat brimmed hats over their ears. When these people are out walking their dogs what breeds do you think are most common? I'll give you a hit... it isn't a Yorkie or a Chihuahua.
So yes some people might help contribute to certain breeds having a bad reputation, but when a dog is bred to do certain things, those traits can come to the surface even if they aren't desired, and characteristics that were bred into a dog over the course of hundreds of years don't just disappear in a few generations. For many of these dogs, a certain aggressiveness is their nature, and I hope many of the same people telling us how sweet and innocent and kind their Pit Bulls are never have to experience an event that would make them change those opinions.
Perhaps we should simply mandate anyone who wants to have one of these dogs registered within city limits needs to be bonded for any potential damage it may cause. The size of the bond needs to be tied to the risk factor... which shouldn't be too hard to obtain since insurance companies already have a pretty good idea of which breeds are more likely to result in their claim payouts being higher (and oddly enough some insurance companies won't offer homeowners insurance to a person who owns a Pit Bull type dog). If someone is found to not have their dog licensed or bonded, then that dog needs to be confiscated from them and they need to be fined at a level which would prevent them from ever doing it again ($500 to $1000).
Finally, I'm not the type of suggest we euthanize any dog which has not shown aggression, but if and when a dog does bite or maul someone it should be put down no questions asked, and again the owner should be held responsible via fines (and likely a nice civil court case from the victim or victims).
Clearly there are other ways to address the concerns with certain dog breeds other than breed specific bans, since people find clever ways of getting around such bans in the first place. The fact is, unless a city is going to perform DNA checks on dogs, it is difficult to prove that a dog is primarily a banned breed rather than a mix with only a small portion of that specific breed. However, I dare say that as long as people remain ignorant to the facts surrounding dog bites and the breeds most involved, and as long as people continue to make claims about how these very same breeds are gentle and loving and would never harm a fly... well then we will continue to see articles in the paper and reports on television of people being maimed and even killed by these same breeds time and time again.
Sunday, July 1, 2012
My father's "hi-fi" system also included an old cassette deck and even an 8-track player that I fondly remember using from time to time. I don't recall the brand name of the speakers (I'm thinking perhaps RCA) but they were the large cabinet type that provided a lot of noise when asked although I'm sure they produced just as much distortion as they did music.
When I was a bit older, for Christmas one year I was given a small tabletop stereo of my own. It had dual tape decks AND a turntable, so clearly I thought I had something. The speakers were those small cabinets connected by what appeared to be paltry 24ga wire, but at the time I thought they were pretty amazing. I played all types of records on that system and I made more than my fair share of mix tapes from the radio as I listened to American Top 40 with Casey Kasem.
Eventually my interest in audio led me to expand and improve upon what I had. In college I upgraded to what I thought was high end audio equipment at the time - or at least high end in my particular budget range. That setup included a Sony receiver that had surround sound, a Sony CD changer, and a set of Bose 201 speakers. They weren't necessarily bad components, but knowing what I know now there are much better options for the price. I do still have the Bose speakers and they are still capable of producing a good sound although I am the first to admit Bose is a lot better at marketing then they are at producing audio equipment.
My current receiver is an Onkyo which is paired to an Onkyo disc changer. I'm well aware this is nowhere nearly "high end" audio, but it is capable of producing clean sound and it didn't require me to take out a second mortgage to purchase it. I've used a number of different speakers over the years, but I'm the first to admit even when looking directly at the nameplates on the speakers my ears are hard pressed to discern a difference between a $500 set of Klipsch towers and a $3,000 set of Definitive Technology towers.
Throughout the years I've stayed fairly well informed as to the new technologies and I've paid attention to what works versus what people think works. I've read magazines and comparison tests, and in the past I've subscribed to magazines devoted to audio equipment (I recall a subscription to Stereo Review back in high school which was always one of my favorites although it has since been renamed to Sound and Vision).
I won't claim to be an audio snob, but I have been known to research what type of power supplies are found in various receivers and I've taken the time to research the various THD (Total Harmonic Distortion) levels of amplifiers. I'm not an electrical or audio engineer by any means, but I do have experience in electronics and at one point I was a Certified Electronics Technician and a Certified Broadcast Technologist, so I like to think I have a pretty good understanding of the science behind audio equipment and electronics.
This is probably why even to this day I simply cannot stand when a self-proclaimed audiophile brags about his (and they are almost always men in my experience) ultra high end audio equipment. These are the types of people who brag about their McIntosh tube amplifiers without having any recognition of the fact that the tubes in these amplifiers are notoriously noisy and require a lot of circuitry required to clean up their signals. Even with that said the THD level of a high-end $5,000 McIntosh tube amp might be in the range of 0.50% with a signal to noise ratio (SNR) of 100dB. Compare that to a off-the-shelf receiver from Denon, Onkyo, or Yamaha and you are likely to find a THD level of something like 0.08% and a SNR of 106dB.
This is the part where I need to try and explain what THD and SNR are and how they relate. Obviously anyone who cares can read detailed descriptions elsewhere on the Internet, but I'll keep it simple by simply saying these are two of the most often cited specifications provided for audio equipment. THD is simply a way to measure how much harmonic distortion exists in a particular device. A lower THD is better, and the lower the value, the better that device is at reproducing the original signal. So this tells us that the THD of a cheap receiver purchased at Best Buy or Radio Shack is much better at reproducing the original input signal than a "high end" luxury tube amplifier which costs thousands of dollars more.
SNR is, as the name implies, a measurement of the difference between the original signal, and the noise added by the power supply and circuitry of the device. In this case a higher number is better. It may not appear a difference of 100dB and 106dB is significant, but because dB is measured on a logarithmic scale, this is actually much bigger of a difference than it may appear. I don't want to get boiled down in the technical aspects since this bores most people to tears, but the bottom line is as far as audio quality goes and in terms of how faithfully a musical recording can be reproduced, a modern and inexpensive amplifier will almost always outperform a much more expensive tube amplifier that many audiophiles seem to worship.
There is a reason that tube amplifiers cannot pass the testing process to become THX Certified even though a $400 receiver from Pioneer or Onkyo can, and it all boils down to faithful rendition of sound. If these audiophiles would simply admit they prefer tube amps because they like the faint glow of the tubes and they think they are "pretty" I might cut them some slack... but I don't see that happening anytime soon.
The next component that annoys me greatly is the turntable. I like listening to records as much as the next person, but the reason why I like records is due to nostalgia... not because they are a faithful rendition of the original recording. The fact is, audiophiles often claim records "sound better" and that they create a "warmer" sound, but they are actually listening to the scratches, pops, and crackles created by the needle running over the grooves in the record itself - none of which would exist in a live musical performance or in a studio recording. There is a reason why modern sound stages and recording studios are all digital and why they don't burn things directly to a record these days, and it all has to do with how faithful the recording can be to the original performance.
The fact is, an uncompressed digital format such as a CD will always outperform something like a vinyl record when it comes to the faithfulness of the original sound when compared to the recording. The same is true for analog formats such as a cassette tape or reel to reel tape. That isn't to say some people won't prefer the sound from a tape or from a vinyl record, but if they are interested in reproducing the most faithful sound possible... a record or any other analog source simply will not do.
Audiophiles are also the same people who will spend thousands of dollars on connecting cables from brand names most people have never heard of. Many technical people will openly mock people for spending money on Monster Cable or other more expensive name brands because these people understand in the digital era, connecting cables are not nearly as vital as they once were... yet to an audiophile, even something as overpriced as a Monster Cable connecting cable would never suffice. These are the types of people who will spend $2,800 for a single pair of connection cables, or $5,300 for a set of six foot speaker cables.
$150 for a cryogenically treated audio grade receptacle with rhodium plating (because gold or silver would just be too mainstream I imagine).
The amazing thing here is that some snakeoil salesman not only convinced these people that they needed these high-end receptacles, but they turned the dial up to 11 and convinced the idiots that they needed high end power cables to plug in to their high end receptacles. Did I mention that these power cables can range from several hundred dollars to almost $7,000? Yes you read that correctly... audiophiles have been convinced that spending $6,900 for a power cable will improve the sound quality flowing out of their speakers.
Yes seriously. I'm not making this up... I'm just not cynical enough to fabricate a story like this.
Spending thousands of dollars on cables which perform no better and produce a sound no different than those which can cost less than $10 is bad enough, but these self-proclaimed experts will go so far as to claim they can actually hear the difference. The problem is, aside from the fact they are willfully displaying their ignorance as to how traditional AC power works, they aren't able to hear any differences when subjected to double-blind testing. Whether the testing is done by people involved in the audio equipment industry, or done in magazines such as Stereo Review in the 1980s, or even tests where name brand speaker wire was compared to ordinary disposable wire coat hangers, it seems even the most ardent supporter of this woo is unable to support their beliefs (and their own ears) with hard, replicable data.
In fact, notorious skeptic James Randi went so far as to offer $1 million to an audiophile if he could prove that a pair of $7,250 speaker cables sounded any better than a pair of off-the-shelf cables from Monster cable that cost around $80. However when push came to shove, even the company that sells the $7,250 speaker cables wasn't willing to put their reputation on the line, so they backed out from the challenge. It seems there just aren't any audiophiles willing to put their reputations on the line in order to support the very claims they make on a daily basis.
This is why I hate audiophiles - because they cannot support their beliefs with any type of legitimate data or science. It is almost as if they are begging to be openly mocked and yet they don't care, because they assume if they have tens of thousands of dollars worth of audio equipment then their ears must be able to tell the difference as if having a bigger bank account somehow suggests your ears are more sensitive than the average person.
There are so many flaws in their logic I'm not even sure where to begin, but I wonder if these people ever stop to realize that their high end $150 receptacles are connected to the rest of their household wiring with the same traditional unshielded copper wire everyone else uses. This wire runs back to a breaker panel and through a meter which is fed power from the same source as everyone else, through the same transformers, the same substations, and from the same grid. Do they really feel a silver plated or gold plated or rhodium plated electrical receptacle is going to improve the sound quality? What is next... sucking the oxygen out of the air and replacing it with helium to allow the sound waves a cleaner path from the speaker to the listener's ear? Granted the listener will be forced to wear an oxygen mask when they want to listen to music... but hey - anything to get the cleanest sound possible right?
When it comes to speakers, things get even worse. It is not unheard of for an audiophile to have speakers that weigh hundreds of pounds each and which measure over seven feet in height. These speakers are often hand built with exotic materials like rare hardwoods and carbon fiber, and they can cost more than $50,000 for a single pair.
I'm not naive here and I do admit there can and is a difference between a cheap speaker and an expensive speaker, however there comes a point of diminishing returns. I'll go on record and openly state I'm convinced if you take a quality set of speakers priced in the range of $2,000 and you perform blind testing against a set of speakers costing ten times as much, that most people (audiophiles included) will not be able to state which is the more expensive set of speakers with any consistency.
In fact, I recall years ago reading an article about a blind test that involved several sets of speakers behind an acoustically transparent curtain. A sample of music was played using each set of speakers in random order enough times to eliminate selection biases. In the end, a set of inexpensive speakers was selected as being the "best" although none of the speakers in the test was statistically superior to the remainder. So in essence, when the supposed experts can't see what they are listening to, and when they no longer see the expensive name brand cables or the dim glow of a tube amplifier or the movement of a turntable these minor nuances they claim to be able to hear seem to disappear. I find the irony that audiophiles who are often seen listening to music with their eyes closed seem to rely so heavily upon their vision when they are performing comparison tests.
The entire concept reminds me of a professor who acts smart and seems to know so much about the material, but at the end of the semester you realize the only reason they knew more than you was because they had the book with all the answers printed in it. Take away the book and the notes you are left with nothing more than a nice tweed jacket and a laser pointer.
Now I realize it probably seems a bit harsh to say I hate audiophiles. I should clarify I don't actually hate the people, but rather I hate their (lack of) logic, their reasoning, their biases, and their tactics. In truth I probably hate the companies and snakeoil salesman who fool audiophiles into believing that they need a $7,000 power cable or a $150 audio grade receptacle much more than I hate the audiophiles themselves, however for the sake of simplicity I'm focusing on the audiophiles since they seem to be so vocal about their superiority.
Part of the reason I feel this way is because of how audiophiles can be presented with evidence proving their equipment is simply overpriced, and yet they make claims about how they can tell a difference. As mentioned previously we know they can't prove it, but that doesn't wipe the smug looks off of their faces nor does it remove the undertones of superiority from their voices.
Take for instance Michael Fremer who just happens to be senior contributing editor at Stereophile magazine along with contributing to a number of other audio publications. Needless to say he is heavily involved in the audiophile community and could perhaps be one of the most influential or well-known audiophiles on the planet. Fremer has hundreds of thousand of dollars worth of audio equipment in his listening room and he will even make claims that he can tell the difference between a $2,600 power cable and a $4,000 power cable claiming the more expensive cable produces a "warmer, fuller sound".
In some cases, audiophiles like Fremer will even go so far as to make excuses for the hisses and pops coming from their tube amplifiers and turntables as if to suggest they don't matter. Really? The very same people who will spend tens of thousands, or perhaps even hundreds of thousands of dollars on audio equipment and cables and even little pucks to prevent their precious turntables from having to sit on a hard surface claim it doesn't matter? If these annoyances don't matter... then what does matter? If the sound itself isn't a priority, and if the faithfulness of the sound is secondary, then what is the point? Frankly aside from talking around the issue with fancy words and cliched phrases I'm not sure most audiophiles have any idea.
boggles my mind how someone can claim to care about sound quality when he has a room full of junk surrounding him. He has stacks of records leaned up against the walls and on the floor. He has pictures hanging on the wall that are covered in sound-reflecting glass. He has hard surface walls and furniture and stacks of equipment with wires running every which way. Does this sound like a place someone could detect minor subtleties in an audio track? Not likely.
Better yet, if the ultimate audio clarity is really what they are after, a quality set of headphones will outperform practically every set of speakers known to man. Headphones all but eliminate reflected sound and outside interference, and you don't need a padded room to be able to get the best possible sound. Aside from John Cusack's character in High Fidelity, I can't say as I've seen many audiophiles sitting alone in their listening rooms or dens with a set of headphones atop their heads.
The fact is, in the real world people don't really have rooms with ideal acoustics. In the real world most music is listened to in a room with windows and doors and hard walls and furniture where acoustics are an afterthought. Most home audio systems - even those owned and operated by audiophiles - reside in less than acoustically ideal rooms. Speaker wires are often laid next to or routed on top of power wires which could create inductive coupling (electromagnetic interference) and a slight buzz or hum, HVAC systems blow air through ductwork, and dust finds its way onto vinyl records.
Yet to an audiophile, they likely will ignore the rushing sound of conditioned air or the fact that their patch cables are incapable of transmitting a signal with as much accuracy as a $5 optical cable purchased from Amazon or Monoprice... not because they haven't thought about it, but because they simply don't appear to care. The excess noises produced by a record needle are just part of the experience apparently. As Michael Fremer says, "It's like when you go to the symphony, and the old men are coughing—same thing". For an audiophile to use this logic is probably what tends to frustrate me, because it is almost as if they don't even try to hide the flaws in their reasoning.
Another aspect of audiophiles that tends to annoy me is the way they speak when talking about sound. They use phrases like "a dimensional and rich presentation" or a "euphonic sound experience". They speak about the color of music and the flavor of the sound. They talk about a sense of openness or space and how dark or bright the sound is and they make comments about the dynamic envelope, the ambience, or the subtlety of the tones. It seems they try to rely heavily upon personification as if the sound can reach out and touch someone or that it embraces the listener.
Even worse they rely so heavily upon cliches such as "jaw-dropping" and "tonal texture" that you can swap out the product names in most of the equipment reviews and nobody would notice. The entire concept reminds me of a hipster who turns a simple three line Haiku into a 40 minute discussion about what the poet was thinking when they chose to use the word "crimson" as opposed to just saying "red".
Try as they might, all the fancy wordsmithing and pretentiousness used by these audiophiles doesn't change the fact that the man behind the curtain is far from a real wizard... and in this case the wizard not only refuses to admit he has been outed, but he claims removing his curtain doesn't really matter in the first place.