Friday, January 21, 2011


Years ago when my family owned a stereo store, we used to go to the Consumer Electronics Shows (CES) where all the new electronic products for the year was introduced.  It was one of the highlights of being a stereo dealer.  To get consumers to buy, manufacturers used to exaggerate their specifications.  For instance, they would combine the wattage of a stereo amplifier's left and right channels and call it a more powerful amp.  A 100 watt per channel amp might be touted as a 200 watt amp simply by adding the two channel's power specification together.

"Specmanship" is a term we gave to those products that pushed the limit of specifications.  An amplifier can be 100 watts per channel or it can be said to be perhap 250 watts per channel.  How?  Well, if you push that amplifier so that the distortion is moved up as well, you can get a lot more power.  Granted, it is "distorted" power, but it's power none-the-less.  "Specmanship."  Not good.

Today, I'm noticing some companies are doing this again.  A five channel receiver that has 100 watts for each of its channels (used in a 5.1 surround sound system) might be said to have 500 watts of power.  Come on!  That's specmanship once again!

I recently saw some powered speakers used for PA systems (public address systems) that had 500 watts of power going into the woofer and 500 watts going to the tweeter. Now there's no way a tweeter would need 500 watts.  You'd burn out the tweeter well before you would hit 500 watts going into it.  Yet, the powered speaker was advertised as a 1000 watt powered speaker!  While you might have the ability to have two amps running together, I'll bet that tweeter amp is never going to reach the bi-amp'ed 500 watts.  "Specmanship."  Not good.

So years ago when the electronics industry had cracked down on manufacturers misleading the public with specmanship, it seems once again, this practice is out there to make products appear more powerful than they actually are when in use.  I'm disappointed.  :(

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Beach-front Property

I've always wondered about beach-front property.  Here's one along a beach in Fort Myers Beach, Florida.

I've wondered if it is a hassle having people hanging around your property all the time since they too share the beach.  Of course it's convenient for you to head out to the beach by just going into your "backyard" and having it there.  But would you get used to all the strangers hanging around your property?

The weather in Fort Myers Beach, Florida today is 80 degrees.  That sure beats the cold of the north!

Photos taken with a cell phone camera.  Be sure to click on each image for a closer look.

Monday, January 17, 2011

A New TV

Four years ago, I purchased a Vizio 47" LCD 1080p TV at Costco... and then to the exact day four years later, I returned it for a full refund, back onto my American Express card.

The Vizio TV had "popped" when I changed channels on the remote, effectively killing the machine.  While it would still power up, it didn't have any other features working.  You couldn't even turn off the TV after turning it on.  So I decided to invoke Costco's old "Free exchange for life" warranty that had been in effect for our set.

Just a couple months after we bought our TV four years ago, Costco stopped their "free for life" electronics warranty.  But we got "grandfather claused" because we purchased the TV before it became in effect.  The requirements were that you must return everything that came with the TV, including the box.

Since we knew that one day, we might need to do this, we decided we would keep the huge TV box in our garage.  It was a good thing we did that because four years to the day, we had to return the TV.

To their word, Costco returned my purchase price (just over $2000 with tax) directly back onto my credit card!  So with the returned money, I purchased a 46" 1080p, 120 Hz LCD Samsung TV in its place for about $900 plus tax.  It even has internet capabilities via WiFi.  While the new edge-lit LED screens are the latest development in flat-screen TV's, we found that this particular Samsung model actually looked better than many of the LED TV's, so we decided to stick with the older LCD technology.  The new LED models have a potential for leaking some of its backlighting causing some "cloudiness" issues on some models and we found one Sony model that did just that.  So we were fine with getting the older LCD model Samsung instead.  Plus we found that the Samsung actually looked much sharper and cleaner than the Sony screen.

So now I have a new TV with better capabilities for about half the cost of the old TV and essentially, I had the free use of a 47" TV for four years.  Not bad!

Today's Costco policy offers 2 years of warranty, still not a bad deal, but the old lifetime warranty can't be beat. I suppose I can't blame Costco for changing their policy, but I'm glad I had the old policy in place for that old Vizio set!  Thanks Costco!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Question 67 & 68

This is another one of the videos from our Chicago Tribute Band performance back on October 1, 2010.  It was from the rehearsal just minutes before the actual performance.  We had never played this song together before this recording.  The vocal was sung one octave lower than the original from Chicago because I can't sing that high!  I think it loses a lot of the dynamics of the song, but oh well...


Monday, January 10, 2011

One Of My First Wedding Clients - Nearly 20 Years Ago

2011 marks my 21st year photographing weddings!

I decided to take a look back at some of the old images I shot on Medium Format film and found these 5x5 proofs of some studio shots I did of one of my first clients in the San Diego area.  I don't remember their names or when their wedding took place as it has been so long ago.  I would guess that this was probably 2 or 3 years after I started photographing weddings because of the studio lights.  Also, I remember this session as I didn't have that many wedding clients who brought their own props with them!  Since the groom was a firefighter, he brought in an old-styled fire extinguisher and also a small fire alarm box!

I remember that the bride was the first bride who actually got into her dress while I was in the room.  I am not normally in the room with the bride as she dresses (usually just after), but I was specifically requested to be there to document her getting into her dress.   You don't forget that kind of request!  I'm not shy about that and neither was the bride apparently.  Over the years, I've seen a lot of things at weddings, so nothing really surprises me any more.  Well, ok, just last year, I helped photograph a wedding with another photographer and that was the first time I had someone pull out a Sig semi-auto 9mm handgun and fire off several rounds of bullets into the air.  That surprised me a little since I was about 6 feet from the shooter.

Anyway, as for this San Diego wedding, I used to take studio portraits of my clients the day after their wedding.  I had a studio set up in my garage back then (it was a 3 car garage that had fully finished walls) and I'd make the bride and groom come to my place to take their shots on Sunday mornings.  We had to do it then because the groom usually had to return his tux on Monday.  Plus, if they went on a honeymoon, they'd either leave later on Sunday or perhaps on Monday.  So Sunday morning, bright and early, we'd get these shots done.  Believe me, all of us were usually tired when we were taking these photos because they had been partying until at least midnight and I'd been working all day as well at the wedding.  Still, we got some pretty nice shots considering the circumstances.

Today, I don't offer the studio photo option the day after any more because I don't have a location to do that any more.  My office is only set up for meetings.

These photos are scanned images of the original 5x5 proof prints.  Be sure to click on each image for a closer look.  Remember, these are scans, so there are dust spots and the resolution is only as good as the actual 5x5 print.  Still, it's not too bad.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Kirkland AA Batteries

You can buy "name brand" batteries, or you can buy private label batteries.  I prefer to save a few dollars and buy private label for certain items and AA batteries are one of them.

I don't buy "Heavy Duty" AA batteries as they aren't nearly as good as alkaline batteries.  Some devices won't allow the use of heavy duty batteries unless you want to void your warranties.  But alkaline batteries are a safe bet if you buy ones that do the job right... correct voltage, long lasting while being used, and long lasting shelf life.

The Kirkland brand is Costco's brand.  I picked up their 48 battery pack for $10.99.  That's about $0.23 per battery.  Compared to brands like Duracell, that's about half the price.  Not bad!

I checked the batteries on a digital multimeter and they read 1.625 Volts each.  That's pretty good.  AA batteries are rated at 1.5 Volts.  Getting a little more out of the battery to start is a good thing.

In the past, I have purchased batteries from Rayovac, which is a name brand.  Still, in general, I found that Rayovac tends to be less expensive than Duracell and Energizer as well and they have always held up well too.  But these Kirklands are even less expensive and seems to do a good job too.  So why not?

Some online reports have also confirmed that the Kirkland AA batteries do a fine job.  Click here for one of the reports.

The photo of the batteries were borrowed from the internet.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Testifying In Criminal Court - A Repeat from 2008

Back on Dec 6, 2008, I wrote about how to properly testify in court.  The subject came up again recently and so I thought it might be good to repeat it here.  I'm recycling information on my blog! Never thought I would, but this one is good to know in case you ever get called to testify in court. Pay attention!

As an expert witness, it's often asked of me... "What's it like to testify in court?"

Well I can tell you, it's pretty easy (if you are not the defendant) and not like what you see on TV! You need to be very specific when you answer in court. On TV, I see so often how witnesses add information that they really shouldn't.

For instance, if the question is, "Mr. Lowe... Did you take a photograph of the victim on December 5, 1993 at 123 Main Street in San Diego California?" The answer should either be, "Yes" or "No" or "I don't recall." That's it.

But on TV, this is what I usually hear, "Yes, and it was done with the best camera I have too." Way too much information given!

Or how about this one, "Mr. Lowe, did you dust the gun for fingerprints?"The answer should be either, "Yes, I did" or "No, I did not" or "I don't recall." But on TV, this is what you'll hear, "Yes, I did and I used a special silver colored powder that works better on black surfaces of guns." Again, way too much information.

The tendency is to offer more information, but that's not the proper way to answer in court. As an expert witness, answering the question with only a Yes or No is better. Should the attorney want more information, he'll ask for it.

For example, "Mr. Lowe, did you dust the gun for fingerprints?"Answer... "Yes, I did." Attorney... "And Mr. Lowe, what type of powder did you use?" Answer... "I used a special silver colored powder designed to work better on black surfaces like guns."

Here's another type of answer that is not correct... Question... "Mr. Lowe, what time of the day did you take the photograph of the victim lying in the street?" Wrong answer, "You know, it was dark that day so it was hard to take a good photograph." This answer would most likely be objected to as being "non-responsive" because it never answers the original question! The attorney objecting would most likely motion for the answer to be "stricken from the record." The proper answer should be, "I took that photograph at 4:00 PM" or, "I do not recall."
Is it easy to testify in court? I think so. But you need to listen closely and only answer what is asked. No more, no less. If the attorney is doing his/her job properly, an additional question will be asked if needed to help clarify. Oh, and don't forget to address the judge as "Your Honor."That's always fun! :)