Christmas Toys

Ooooh, new toys. Yup, got myself some new toys to write about. To go with my iPod Nano, I decided to invest in a pair of Shure E2C’s. For those that don’t know, these are “noise isolating earphones” that basically sit deep in your ear canal. A little like hearing aids, but don’t help you hear external noise.

What they do instead is give you a much better sound by having a large “driver” that gives you plenty of bass as well as good all round coverage of the frequency range… but these are kept outside of your ears, and the sound is directed through a small tube into your inner ear.

So how does this all help? Well, quite frankly it would all be for nought if it weren’t for the ear seals. Basically what these do is hold the tube and seal your ears up so that essentially they cut out all external noise and allow you to hear the music better.

Do they work? Oh yes indeed. The package comes with three sizes of three different types of ear seals. Yes, that means there are 18 of them in total. Sheesh! Anyway, the three types are;

  • Rubber Seals: These are clear and slightly hard. they last well, and some may find the comfortable. I personally don’t, but that’s my ears for you.
  • Gel Seals: These are black, and are a lot softer than the rubber seals. I use these for daily use. They don’t last quite as long as the rubber seals, but are more comfortable in my opinion for daily use.
  • Foam Seals: Anyone who’s bought ear plugs from Walgreens or Boots (take your pick depending on country) might be familiar with those foam earplugs you squeeze and push into your ears. I have some for biking… and these seals are just like that with a hole through the middle. Not tried these with the E2C’s yet though.

These three types come in small, medium and large. It takes a little experimentation to get a handle on which seals you personally prefer, but once you find a good comfortable fit you then will rarely change seals… at least from what I hear from friends.

So how do they sound? Well, the first thing that struck me is how much lower I have the volume now compared to with my earbuds, or even with my noise canceling headphones. I now keep the volume on my iPod around 70% instead of 90% with my earbuds or 80% on my headphones. Why? Well, the earbuds you need to overcome the background noise… and the headphones are physically larger and therefore you need to overcome the air between the headphones and your ears. The E2C’s work by sitting inside your ear canal, thus they have a very low output speaker… and because you’re not trying to drown out external noise you don’t need to turn them up as much.

The ear seals cancel external noise pretty significantly… but like ear plugs you do become aware of “body noise” if you’re doing anything such as walking or eating. However, I have to say I’m amazed at the quality of the sound. I can hear things in the music I never heard before with any other type of headphones or earphones. The amount of bass seems a little lacking compared to my really ancient Sony ear buds, but a quick tweak of the EQ on my iPod soon put paid to that.

There’s a slight amount of discomfort at first… you have to reject the feeling that you’ve got your pinkie finger stuck in your ear, but once you get used to it (takes only a few minutes to get comfortable), then you can hear great quality sound. Now, because of the size of the ear canal, it is quite easy to get the earphones turned around slightly so that you can’t hear it properly… but a little fiddling gets you comfy.

At first the sound is quite disconcerting; you can’t hear any background noise except for quite loud noises… but the music comes through loud and clear. The negative aspect of this is that I’m now more aware of the “pop” between songs on my iPod… and I find I’m playing with the volume control more to get the perfect sound.

Now the ultimate question though; are they worth $100 retail? Well, that depends. How much is your hearing worth? Because you perceive higher volume due to little background noise, you don’t need it turned up so much. As a result, lower sound equals less hearing damage. Earphones and earbuds both cause hearing damage… these I don’t have facts and figures on-hand but I have to believe the long term damage will be less.

To me, my hearing was worth spending more than twice that on a good aviation headset. So yes, to me they’re worth it. YMMV.

Happy new year to anyone reading :)

Oopsy

Yeah, thanks for the emails guys!!! It’s gratifying to know that someone actually reads my prattlings on occasion :)

I had it pointed out to me by email that the Asian tsunami actually occurred in 2004, not 2005. Still, despite that my rant yesterday still should convey the same message; the American media still tends to ignore world events in favor of those which have occurred at home. I know that the American media is not solely guilty of this, but does it not strike people as odd that in a world that is so connected and where information is so readily available, the news media which to some is the source of all their knowledge seems to actively ignore the rest of the planet?

Personally, I’m avoiding the common media like the plague this week. The last thing I need at the end of the year is a bunch of vapid talking heads speaking unintelligently about the same old (fluid) numbers of those killed by Hurricane Katrina. It’s not that I don’t care; I do, but I just have no care for the way the media latches onto a story and sucks it dry in the name of ratings. Hmm, sound like leeches, don’t they?

Rant done :)

Gallery Updates

To all, I’ve updated my galleries today. I’ve basically added 98% of all the pictures I took during my vacation to England in October.

So what happened to the other 2%? Well, quite simply some of the pictures were personal, some of them I felt quite uneasy putting online… and others just weren’t to the quality that I felt was required to put them up.

So, at http://www.nodecaf.net/gallery/ you can now view the “Full UK Gallery”. Enjoy… post comments… let me know if you decide to use an image. That’s all I ask :)

Ciao.

2005, We Hardly Knew Ye

I know, the monthly and weekly rags will start publishing their own “retrospectives” on 2005 today or tomorrow. By the end of the week we’ll all be sick of hearing about how wonderful 2005 was, how it sucked, and hearing again about all the things that happened in the world that we don’t really want to hear about again. Undoubtedly, only a few words will be dedicated to the hurricanes that ravaged huge tracts of land in the Southern part of the United States, barely a sentence will be written about the Asian Tsunami… but there will be copious amounts of speculation about Britney Spears, her love life and her kid. What a messed up country we live in sometimes.

Seriously, have you looked at the national and local media lately (in the US)??? It’s so American-centric that it’s almost a parody of itself at this point. Sure, that’s always been the case to a greater or lesser extent, but it’s become ridiculous. I take it as a sign of the times, and a sign of the world attitude toward Americans (and their attitude toward the rest of the world).

Don’t misunderstand me; I love living in this country and have no immediate plans to leave. Hell, I’ve built a life out here that’s really none too bad all things considered. Sure I could have had a similar life in Britain… and might one day return if the mood takes us (Rebekah and myself)… but I love it here. However, I feel that this country has become increasingly isolated from its peer countries during the last few years. I believe that the American attitude toward the world is skewed, somewhat naieve… and I don’t see a good way to fix it.

I’ve done my best. I talk to my friends… and I tell them about what’s going on in the rest of the world, but still the media that surrounds us every day is so saturated with the message that the entire world revolves around America that it’s sometimes difficult to get my message across.

This isn’t necessarily a new phenomenon, either. It started long before Sept 11th 2001, but since that time it has become an epidemic. It seems that the American public as a whole has looked at the rest of the world and thinks that the problems of the rest of the world will go away if we just stick our fingers in our ears and yell “lalalalalalalala…”

It pains me.

That’s at least in part what my comment about keeping an open mind meant yesterday. Don’t believe everything the US media feeds you; you are force-fed their vision of the world, their opinion. Get “out” a little more; get your news from multiple sources in multiple countries. I find the most independent news media I can find is New Zealand and Australia… though they do tend to “tow the company line” of the current administration. Since that administration is at the polar opposite of our own though in many ways, using that as a foil against the US media gives you a more balanced picture of the world. The BBC is a good source also, though as always the UK media sometimes devolves into believing that the UK is the 51st State of the Union.

I ask all my friends, and even casual readers… never take anything as gospel. There’s no such thing. Keep an open mind, read the news in multiple countries… make sure that you’re not just a drone of the media.

So my views on the year that is in its last week? Nothing much that doesn’t just affect me personally. My thoughts go out to all those who have suffered in the world this year, to all those who have lost someone or know someone who has. My feeling go out to all those who are posted in foreign lands fighting for their country. While I may not be a supporter of Bush’s foreign policy or his reasons for the war, I support the troops themselves. Some of them are my friends.

My thoughts personally tend to go back to my trip in October. That, to me will be a defining moment for this year because it was such a major event in my life and one I will not be able to repeat for some time. My thanks go out to all those who supported me, and those who made it possible. Too numerous to list here, just know that you are all thought about.

For 2006, I approach it with hope, and some trepidation. There are some of my close relatives I was glad to see in Belfast who may not see the end of 2006. There is another reason I was glad to return; to see those relatives one last time. Still, it’s something we all must face.

And finally, in closing I will just say that I hope 2006 treats all of you well. I hope you will get everything you need, and some of what you want. I hope that you’ll still be checking into this blog a year from now and reading my prattlings about 2006. With luck, I’ll find some more time this week to write more about the year that was.

Quote of the Day

Merry Christmas… Happy Hannukah… whatever. Just celebrate, be with your loved ones… and eat too much of stuff that’s bad for you.

But don’t forget to spend a moment thinking of those who can’t be with their loved ones today… those who are fighting a war on foreign soil that seems more and more questionable every single day. Think of those who will die before it is over… and those who may never walk again.

And while the Western world is awash with the feelings of Christmas, take a moment to think of how you are going to behave next year. Think of how you’re going to cope with the political rhetoric, the platitudes and the ideals of those in power. Think of how your perceptions might change next year given that Bush has now admitted to spying on the American public in the name of terrorism.

And my quote of the day? I love this quote…

“Beware the leader who bangs the drums of war in order to whip the citizenry into a patriotic fervor, for patriotism is indeed a double-edged sword. It both emboldens the blood, just as it narrows the mind. And when the drums of war have reached a fever pitch and the blood boils with hate and the mind has closed, the leader will have no need in seizing the rights of the citizenry. Rather, the citizenry, infused with fear and blinded by patriotism, will offer up all of their rights unto the leader and gladly so. How do I know? For this is what I have done, and I am Caesar.”

-Julius Caesar

Keep an open mind… but be wary of those who claim to be your friend.