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    Ludovico Magnocavallo
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Urban Headphones

20 gennaio 2004

Koss 'The Plug'

As I mentioned in a previous entry I am now the happy owner of a Sony Ericsson P800 which I use to listen to mp3 audiobooks while going to/from work by subway and bus, which are unfortunately very noisy. After a while I got fed up with trying to shield my ears from the noise, and started investigating possible solutions to this problem.

My first thought was to look for a headphone amplifier to raise the volume of the P800 audio output. It turns out that pocket headphone amplifiers are not too common. Apart from a DIY project which I have no skills (and no patience) to complete, the only one I was able to find (via Dan’s Data) is the Boostaroo, which looks like a nice little piece of hardware. Unfortunately the Boostaroo isn’t available in Italy, making it a bit too expensive. And of course, what’s the point of having a smart phone if you have to carry other stuff around to use it?

My next thought was to find a pair of portable noise-reducing headphones. After reading a nice review on cheap headphones on HeadRoom I decided that a pair of Shure E2C would be perfect to shield my ears from the surrounding noise, knowing perfectly well though that I would never be able to find them in stock somewhere around here.

Sennheiser PX200

So today when I got out from work I went shopping, hoping to find the right pair of headphones for my needs. My first stop was a well known HI-FI store, where despite the snobbish clerk (apparently you should enter that store only if you’re interested — ie buying — esoteric and very expensive HI-FI components) I bought a pair of Sennheiser PX 200. Then on my way home I stopped at FNAC to buy a 3.5-2.5 jack (while I wait for my PC-Mobile SP8AA adapter to get here from Hong Kong) and, surprise surprise, they have a cheap version of the E2Cs, the Koss “The Plug” earbuds. Obviously I couldn’t resist and I bought them too.

My impression so far is that the Koss earbuds are perfect for my needs: they’re (relatively, at least in Italy) cheap, very light, and they block most of the outside noise. The Sennheisers on the other hand are a bit too big to carry around comfortably (they fold in an eyeglasses- size case), but they’re beautiful, very very comfortable, and a wonderful piece of design. So I’m glad I bought both, and I guess I will use the Koss earbuds with the P800 while the Sennheisers will go in my laptop bag, or come handy at home when E. is working in the same room where I am (she needs total silence, except when she feels like chatting which is very often). =)

update: it turns out that the Koss earplugs are not as comfortable as I thought, inserting them well is pretty hard, and they are almost painful; on the other hand the Sennheisers are wonderful, very very comfortable and with very good external noise reduction, so I’m using them as my day-to-day headphones.

What a waste

17 gennaio 2004

I skimmed over the Return of the King movie today, and though I did not think it was possible, it’s even worse than the previous two episodes. The characters are all wrong (Denetor for instance is too young and looks like a butcher not like a high noble and the lore master of Gondor, Aragorn looks like a biker, etc.), the architecture and the costumes are all wrong (the palace of Gondor is a romanesque church, Gandalf’s staff looks like an art deco object, Pipin should have worn Gondor’s uniform with a silver winged helmet and a black vest with the silver tree, the cloak of the Nazguls’ Captain — who used to be a king and is Sauron’s most powerful servant — is in tatters, etc.), the music is awful, the directing is pompous and empty (no more birds-eye shots, please).

What a waste, thinking that these will be remembered as the Lord of the Rings movies. I may be culturally biased here, but having seen the first two Harry Potter movies, I think the LoTR should have been produced in the UK, with a british director and british staff. Or they should have hired a real director, like Ermanno Olmi (maybe a bit too gloomy to be successful, but have a look at The Profession of Arms to see what I mean). The Jackson movies look too much like a long, boring, and badly made rock videoclip.

Luckily there’s the beautiful unabridged Audiobook narrated by Rob Inglis which I am listening to these days.

P800, Christmas, A Change of Language

9 gennaio 2004

Charlie

Not much traffic here lately. I’ve been a bit tired due to my usual lazyness, then I went away for the Christmas holidays. I’m also beginning to feel nauseated by computers, and after all these years it feels quite strange (although this may be partly due to my job focus switching from Linux/Unix to Windows). I also find the time to scan all my grandfather’s letters from the First World War (more than a hundred letters), as a Christmas gift to my father who had never seen them. I also have lots of old photos and negatives from the late 1800s and the early 1900s (some of them on glass not film), from my mother’s family, and lots of other stuff at my father’s sister from the Second World War (letters, pictures, etc.). I hope to have the time to scan and arrange them in the near future as they’re a fascinating piece of my family’s history, and a fairly complete historical portrait from the last hundred years or so.

My computer nausea is making me feel more and more like writing about real life stuff (politics — which around here mean TV and huge financial disasters, life in general, etc.), so I may switch to Italian for my non-technical entries. And I’d like to start writing a bit on architecture, which after all I studied (and practiced) for quite a few years. I’m planning to buy a digital camera soon (analog photography and scanning take too much time, with only average results compared to digital), and take pictures and write short pieces on interesting buildings in Milano and its environs. I’m particularly fascinated by so-called fascist residential architecture, ie architecture from the 1920s up to right after the II World War, and Milano is a good place to research it. Another architectural fascination I’ve always had is on family mausoleums and funerary architecture. Family mausoleums are a kind of perfect built architecture, as they have very few practical or technical constraints, and a huge stress on symbology, meaning, and representation.

A little before Christmas I had the chance to find a used SonyEricsson P800 at a very cheap price (200 euros, with a scratched screen but perfectly working), so I asked my parents to buy it as my Christmas gift. After a couple of Palms and an iPAQ (and a few cellular phones), I have found the (almost) perfect electronic device.

Ebooks are readable (thanks to Handy Read), audiobooks are a joy (thanks to Unreal Player), IMAP/GPRS work very well, and though the P800 camera is very crappy, it comes in handy in a lot of situations (both pictures in this entry have been taken with my P800).

Charlie

The first picture is of our older dog, Charlie. She’s a crossbreed between a Pastore Maremmano (a sheepdog from Central Italy, renowned for its fierceness and toughness), and a Siberian Husky. She’s a very intelligent, affectionate dog who has been with us for the past seven years, since she was only 20 days old. She has a very strong character, and she is our first dog ever, so after a few months we had to go to a dog trainer. We had the luck of finding an excellent person, a German former World Champion trainer who retired from the world and lives in the hills near Biella, training only when and if he likes the dog and its owners. We learned a lot from him, and not only about dogs (though Enrica says I did not learn much, and I spoil our pets).

This summer while in Greece for a short holiday, I brought home another dog. She’s a crossbreed between a Spinone and something else, possibly a Bassotto (Dachsund). Greece is full of stray dogs (it’s really sad), most of which are very beautiful and all of which are friendly (all the ones I met anyway). Lili, our dog, was the smallest dog in the village and the youngest one too. She’s very intelligent, and cunning, and obedient. Managing two dogs and three cats in an apartment is not easy, and very time consuming (and I’m the one doing less, since I’m working at the office full time), but it’s a joy and I wish I could give a family to more stray dogs and cats.

I think animals find you, not the other way around. And our dogs run circles around most pure-breed dogs we meet, they’re so much more lively and intelligent.