Home Theater

When we started looking at finishing the basement at our house, I really wanted to put in a home theater. Eventually we ended up with a 6 seat theater with a 12 foot screen and surround sound. The total cost was less than you might pay for a large screen television and it was a lot of fun to setup. Now instead of going to the theater and paying $6 to $8 per ticket, we rent a video and have friends over to the house. Here is how we set things up.

Yahoo has a credit card that earns points that can be redeemed for SuperCertificates that can be redeemed for Amazon.com gift certificates that can be redeemed for Amazon merchandise. It is rather round about, but we were able to get our projector for free using the method. It took 2 years of saving our points, but we weren’t in a hurry and it was a lot easier to justify the projector when we got it for free.

InFocus X2 Multimedia Projector ( PC / Mac )The projector is an InFocus X1A DLP Multimedia Video Projector. I believe it has now been replaced by the InFocus X2 Multimedia Projector which is a little brighter, but very similar. Both projectors have a theater mode that helps keep the color realistic like film. Many “business presentation” projectors distort the color in order to make a brighter image so they don’t look as good for watching movies. The X1 can handle a wide variety of inputs making it idea for a budget home theater where you may want to start with your existing components and upgrade in the future.
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The Amazon Credit Card

Over the past 5 years I have ordered the following items from Amazon.com and received them for free:

My wife and use a credit card for most of our purchases. The credit card earns points that can be redeemed for merchandise at amazon.com, so every time we buy gas, groceries, pay for tuition, or go to the movies, we earn points that we can eventually redeem from Amazon. We keep track of our spending, and pay the entire bill at the end of each month, so it functions almost like a debit card and we don’t end up accumulating debt.
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Can you see it?

If you stare at the block long enough you should eventually be able to make out a giraffe. This is because of the special optical properties of files known as animated GIFs. :)

I sent this to my mom and somehow it got converted from an animated GIF to a static TIFF. She claims she stared at it for 2 hours before she gave up.

Violino Piccolo

While looking through the score of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto’s I ran across an instrument I had never seen before. It was called the violino piccolo and appeared to be written in a key other than C like the rest of the stringed instruments.

Evidently the violins were not very easy to play in the higher registers. The violino piccolo addressed the problem. The instrument was about 13 inches long and looked very similar to a child’s 3/4 size violin, but it was tuned a 3rd or 4th higher. The higher tuning allowed musicians to play the same notes as a violin lower on the fretboard which made it much easier to play. The smaller size and higher tuning gave it a brighter sound in the higher registers

As the design of the modern violin evolved the fretboard was extended toward the bridge. Better technical construction and new playing techniques eventually pushed the violino piccolo out of common use and violin piccolo parts are now played by normal sized violins.

Actual Conversation on Amtrak

I took a train from Grand Rapids to Chicago to pickup a car. This is an actual conversation that took place two seats in front of me on the ride down:

Lady: …. this is my first train experience …
Ticket Man: Well then we will make sure it is a miserable one. Can I get you anything else?
Lady: Coffee?
(They don’t serve coffee because the pots might tip over)
Ticket Man: (Sarcastically)I wish. It’s pathetic.

I wonder if this is why most of the train was empty?