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Audio Greyhounds Holiday Letter

Adios, 2020

Adios, 2020. What a year. One for the record books even without the US Presidential Election.

Ahoy, all. Its been a crazy year. So far, I’ve missed the plague but my list of pre-existing conditions is getting longer. I hope the year finds you healthy and looking forward to a better 2021.

Tleilaxu Eyes

The year started off with cataract surgery. I now have Tleilaxu eyes and Warby Parker readers. It is nice having good distant vision and not needing glasses for most tasks. I have aspheric prosthetic lenses that correct my astigmatism. So fancy lenses and laser surgery Medicare wouldn’t pay for. The interesting bit is that laser incisions heal more quickly and have lower complication rates. Should be the standard of care CMS.

Laser Eye Surgery for Cataracts

The laser gadget is interesting. It relies on a map of the retina scanned during the pre-surgery exam that it uses to orient the incisions. The quality of this map is the key to a good outcome. My surgeon was particularly fussy about the guide points clarity and position so the laser could find them to make the cuts.

The laser is just swung over and self-aligns optically on the eye. Then the magic does the rest. It actually takes much longer to get a good map of the retina before surgery than to do the actual procedure. The surgeon reviews and marks the cut point. The laser pulps up the old lens for removal and it is removed by suction. Normally, the surgeon has to hand section it for removal through the circumferential cut used to insert the lens using an ultrasonic tool to homogenize the original lens. Placement of this cut is key to getting the prosthetic lenses correctly positioned in azimuth for the astigmatism correction to be correctly placed. It takes about 2 weeks for the incision to heal.

Introducing Rocky

Last year, Father Time caught up with Lord Nick who left us in December. By March it was time for another so I joined the cue at James River Greyhounds up in the Richmond area. Nice folks out in the country south and east of Richmond. They were doing their own dog hauls from sources in Alabama and Florida. I was entrusted with a Pandemic refugee from Orange in the Jax area. Nestor had 95 starts and 8 firsts so he was a bit of an under-achiever (should be 1 for 8). He came out of the rotation in March and went straight from the track to me.

On ZombieSquadHQ Patrol

He is a 29 inch 85 pound excitable boy. “I won’t grow up, I won’t grow up, …” But he is slowly. He’s lost most of the rough edges and has important things like recall, house manners, table manners, car manners coming. He’s Rocky now and learned his name in less than a day. Bright boy. Especially when there is food.

I haven’t figured out how to get him to sit. He occasionally sits spontaneously but not often enough to put it on cue. And he’s too big to fold and a bit snappy. So that’s not a plan.

ZombieSquadHQ

Rocky and Missy have their own twitter handles and are proud members of ZombieSquadHQ, making regular patrol reports and other silliness. Dog Twitter is great fun. The first rule is “Stay in character”, The second rule is “Stay in character”, the third rule is be nice, fourth rule is have fun. First and second rules preclude politics.

Between Rocky and Missy, we have 1700 followers and they are following 500 or so. At the moment, several of the hounds we follow have people who have COVID-19. Some have had an easy course. Others are having a rougher course.

Given the size of the population we are following, several dogs pass away each month so some compassion is in order as transitions occur.

Low Grade Bladder Cancer

I’m officially a bladder cancer survivor. In 2019, I developed bladder polyps that were removed in March 2020. The originals were benign so scheduled for 6 month surveillance. At the fall surveillance, they were growing back and looked gnarly. These were low grade cancerous. Just the bladder lining affected. So now on for quarterly surveillance and next snip will probably include chemotherapy with one of the mycins. So far, not a big deal. These are endoscopic procedures so no incision is needed and recovery is quick. It takes a few days for the sphincter to settle down after catheterization and about two weeks for the snip to heal and the urine to clear up.

A college friend and fraternity brother has had the bladder cancer deluxe version. His disease was stubborn and had penetrated into the muscle so his bladder was cut and patched a couple of times and later removed for replacement with a neobladder made from intestine. He had a rough time from initial presentation until his bladder prosthesis. So far, an unlikely prognosis for me.

Gifts from “Aunt Nancy”

I spent Aunt Nancy Pelosi’s economic stimulus check on a pair of Maggie LRS speakers shown below.

Rocky and Missy listen to afternoon jazz
Listening to Their Master’s voice

I’ve moved them closer to the walls as stereo image was a bit crowded in my odd room. I’m in the corner of 24×24 open plan living, dining, and kitchen. Sound is glorious on small ensemble jazz. Gawd, are they fast! Cymbals are like live and tuned toms are rich and detailed. Bowed bass is really throaty and growly as the bow slips and sticks on the strings. Even electronic music is surprising. I caught a live show of Elephant9 playing Big Ears and Norwegian Jazz that had some strikingly placed synth notes from one of the compact MOOGS. Really amazing.

Yet More Schiit Audio

This summer before the Maggies came, more shit happened. Ampzilla went into thermal runaway. $2500 to have him rebuilt or $700 for Schiit Vidar?

Vidar courtesy of Schiit Audio

I opted for Vidar and I’m glad I did. Vidar is a much faster amp. Same basic design philosophy, basically a power op amp — full complementary symmetry dual differential 70’s throw-back design. But modern parts. Microprocessor Q-point control, thermal management, and overload protection (Elephant9 and the Stones have scored). Got to watch compressed rock and mid-life crisis synth players. The important bit is that the input and drive stages have regulated supplies. The output stage is on the unregulated bulk DC. The modern capacitors have lower series resistance than the beer cans in Ampzilla so the supply can discharge stored energy fast enough to keep up with tympani whacks, etc. Transient sound is noticeably improved.

Vidar has difficulty with electronic dance music, organ works of the thunderous sort, compressed rock (Stones Let it Bleed tripped the protection). But between Vidar and the LRS, most things are glorious and a lot of old throw back records find new sparkle and definition. Give Magical Mystery Tour a listen. Even the original George Martin stereo mix is stunning. No Giles Martin mix of that one. EMI remix is flat.

Things that were hard to play before like Blues Project’s Projections record are clean. First track is bright but that is the guitar tone picked for the lead. Its a bitch but a listenable bitch with Vidar and LRS.

So the house is full of Schiit at this point (schiit.com) with Vidar, Gumby, Modius, Modi, and Magni and Roon endpoints everywhere.

Rocky and Missy listen to afternoon jazz
Listening to Their Master’s voice

I have Modius connected to the TV by TOSlink. Wow, big upgrade in TV sound. WHRO TV sounded “like ass” through the preamp’s built in DAC. Moving to an external DAC helped. Moving to Modius and LRS and WHRO-TV is listenable. Even the in-house promo production is now clearly articulated.

My 10 year old Cambridge 851 DVD player sounds like ass. A friend’s record didn’t digitize so I put it in the disk player and let it roll. I didn’t make it though the first track. Pulled the disk, cut to FLAC with XLD, reindexed the Roon library, and listened via Gumby. Greg’s sax was spot on. My Cambridge and your OPPO are basically the same machine. Time to consider replacing the audio path like I have. The TV deals with surround sound and sends stereo to the HiFi via TOSlink.

If you’re a tinkerer, Allo Digital does pretty good (allo.com) with Digi One Signature Roon endpoint to Gumby via coax and SPDIF (AES-3 derivative protocol, differences are minor). Anyway, sweet. Just pick up a Gumby (expensive) or Magni 3 Heresy ($100) and connect to the coax out on your disk player. No need to go full Roon or build a streaming box. These are really arduous 🙂 Raspberry Pi projects involving screw drivers, machine screws, and tiny nuts. https://roonlabs.com/ and https://allo.com/

Vitamin D and COVID-19

Are you supplementing Vitamin D? The peer reviewed literature is full of very interesting observations involving Vitamin D deficiency and COVID-19 severity. Basically, those deficient in D are the most likely to be hospitalized and have a rough course with the disease. The more deficient, the rougher the ride. There are lots of peer reviewed research reporting the observations but no placebo controlled studies. Interesting video here https://youtu.be/ha2mLz-Xdpg is a medical profession continuing ed program featuring an endocrinologist who is also a hospitalist and ICU qualified. He goes through the literature. He makes no recommendations, viewers are not patients.

Live Music in the COVID-19 Era

Joshua Bell is playing Dismal Manor in a couple of hours. Mandolin.com broadcast quality live streaming. Acts are a who’s who of small ensemble music including Chris Thile and Aoife O’Donnovan, Punch Brothers, Taj Mahal, Straight Up – No Chaser (a cappella choir), Joshua Bell, and others. Artist selection is growing as bands are Jonesing to play gigs again. Tickets are about 1/2 live show cost. Many acts are $25. And live stream remains on demand for a few days after the event. Good for too much turkey. Today, AirPlay to AppleTV. Next week, Raspberry Pi 400 and VLC directly connected to the TV via HDMI and audio over on the TOSlink.

I’ve found Mandolin.com to be a pleasant way to hear live music during the pandemic. It’s not the same as in the hall live. More a radio concert. Just the performers and video camera folk are in the hall. So far, production has been better than YouTube quality. But, there is no crowd to vamp with and nobody plays encores so far, not even Chris Thile. The bands are happy to perform together as opposed to having yet another rehearsal. And little Calvin will have a Christmas.