The Potato Guardian… a reading

Yesterday I came across an opinion piece in the Washington Post written by Alexandra Petri, about Trump’s comment to farmers regarding the need for strong second amendment rights to guard potatoes. I’m not making any comments here about the politics, that’s not what this is about. What I am doing is sharing a dramatic reading of the opinion piece (recorded hastily last night, and yes I know I need a pop filter), which features the story of a potato guardian, watching over their charge….

Quick Review: Anker Premium Stereo Bluetooth Speaker

I’ve been wanting to pick up a little Bluetooth speaker for a while, mostly for when we’re sitting in the driveway next to the fire. Some of the original renditions of speakers were pretty bad, with lacking lows and metallic highs. My friend Michael recently picked up a portable Bose that he uses with our bike group, however, I didn’t want to spend quite that much. After a bit of internet sleuthing I decided to try the Anker Premium Stereo Bluetooth Speaker. It has been getting decent reviews on Amazon, and the YouTube comparisons I watched between it and it’s slightly cheaper cousin sounded pretty good.

It arrived earlier this week and I finally had a chance to sit in my driveway this afternoon and give it a shot. The first thing I noticed about it when I fired it up is that it’s loud. It more than meets any expectation I have for volume, and when I first fired it up I had to quickly press the volume buttons to avoid shocking the neighbors.

The second thing came to my attention was how nice the low end was. If there’s one area where this speaker excels it’s in the bass. It’s rich and luxurious (for a portable Bluetooth speaker), and it really helps add depth to every track I played. It didn’t sound overly thump-y or distorted, but was very smooth and clean.

For as much as I love the bass, the high end was only adequate. There was a slight hollow tone to it that wasn’t as sharp and defined as it could be. I wish the mid to high range notes could be crisper and less muddled, especially compared to the nice lows. However, having said that, I wouldn’t consider the sound unacceptable at all. I realize that Bluetooth, and the size of the speaker, mean that there will always be some compromises. For what this speaker is trying to be, I’m thoroughly  impressed. There’s obviously some in-speaker sound enhancement going on to give a bit more life to the dull sound that usually defines Bluetooth audio.

Setup of the speaker was a breeze, and I’ve paired it with multiple devices with ease. My only issue is that I can’t lock it to a single device, putting me at the mercy of my friend Michael and whatever playlist he decides to hijack the speaker with (he mostly makes good choices). I’ve also tried multiple genres of music with the Akner, and every one of them has come out sounding really well. Everything from classical to hip-hop is very solid.

Finally, the real winner with this speaker is the price. It’s currently just over $50 on Amazon, and compared to some of the more expensive competition out there, I can’t find a reason to complain. It’s got some great sound, at a great price, meaning it does exactly what I needed, and it’s battery life is close to 8 hours. If you have need of a small Bluetooth speaker solution I’d highly recommend the Anker Premium Stereo system. I don’t think you’ll be sorry.

Wireless Headphones

At work my desk is set up with my laptop off to the side, and my main screens and keyboards right in front of me. This means that using headphones at my desk can be somewhat difficult. I could use wired headphones, but I would need a very long cord. My desk also is equipped with a wireless headset for my phone, but the audio quality is meant for voice, and so music tends to sound like an AM radio.

I decided to try out some wireless headphones that are meant for music, and tonight I picked up some JBL Everest 100 wireless earbuds. The sales person at Best Buy really liked this model, and said it was worth giving a try. I usually shy away from earbuds, as they don’t fit me ears very well. However, I can say that the JBL’s fit much, much better than any other earbud I’ve ever worn. They hook into the form of the ear, and come with different sized attachments to get just the right fit.

Once they were comfortable, I paired them with my laptop and put on some music. The quality was not bad, with solid range, though they could use more on the low end. I’ve listened to a few different types of music that I normally listen to, and they performed adequate across the spectrum, from rock to classical.

In addition, because of how tight they fit the ear, they cancel out external noise incredibly well for an earbud. It’s almost a little creepy how well they block outside noise. I would certainly never try to run with these, as they block out too much of the environment.

I’m going to spend the next few days with them to see how the fit feels after an extended period of time. I have 15 days to make up my mind if I want to keep these or try something else different. I’ll be sure to report on what I finally decide, or if I try some different models.

Upgraded the old receiver

I used to have a really nice surround sound system that I used with our main TV, but over the years, divorces, moves etc., it was whittled down to just a receiver and a couple speakers to the right and left. The receiver that I used was a really nice Sony ES receiver with excellent sound quality. However, because it was before the HDMI days it has become more and more obselete for use with today’s video components. With tax return season upon us I decided to hit up Best Buy today and pick up an upgrade.

One of the main reasons I looked into this now, is that we’ve run out of HDMI inputs on our TV (only 2) and I don’t really like the idea of having to un-plug and plug things in every time we want to switch the device. So my main item on my checklist was a receiver that could handle many different HDMI inputs to allow us to switch inputs easier.

I ended up going with a Pioneer model that has 6 HDMI inputs, and also has network connectivity for Pandora and remote control apps on your phone. Got it all hooked up and tried it out, and it seems to work as advertised. Getting Pandora logged in without a keyboard was a major pain in the butt, but it did work, and I was able to connect up to my stations without a problem. The box had an AirPlay logo on it as well, but I need to check into how to make that work.

I haven’t had a chance yet to crank the volume and see how it sounds, but without a big investment into some new speakers it’s probably not going to win any awards to quality. For what we use it for however, it will serve it’s purpose well and for the price it’s more than adequate.