Sunday, August 31, 2008

A Beautiful Cumulonimbus Cloud

During the flight from Washington to Denver late yesterday, we passed by this spectacular cumulonimbus cloud. The object at the bottom of the photo is the left wing of our aircraft. At the time this was taken, we were cruising at about 40,000 feet and somewhere over the state of Indiana. As you can see, the sun was low in the sky and illuminated the right-hand section of this cloud, giving a nice 3-dimensional perspective. The top of the cloud was quite a bit higher than we were flying. I enjoyed seeing this as we flew by, wondering if there was an active thunderstorm occurring below us on the ground.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

So Many Captions, So Little Time

Well, it's back in Colorado tonight after a drive from West Virginia to Washington, DC; followed by a flight back to Denver International Airport. We got LOTS of road geekin' photos that I will be processing and posting, but this one that was taken this afternoon, cannot wait.

This sign is on the George Washington Parkway in Suburban Virginia across the Potomac from Washington. The humor is obvious, and there are so many possible captions. It is truly oxymoronic to see the name George Bush and Intelligence mentioned on the same sign! Even though I am sure this is named for the current Decider-in-Chief's father, it was too good a photo to let get away.

Friday, August 29, 2008


Here is another interesting photo from our approach into Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. On the hill you can see the Custis-Lee Mansion. In the lower part of the photo is the main entrance to Arlington National Cemetery. The prominent area between the two contains the gravesite of President John F. Kennedy, to the best of my recollection. In 1964 when I was 11 years old and lived in Newark, Delaware, I saw the grave when it was just a temporary setup, bordered by a white picket fence and the ever-present eternal flame. I have also seen the permanent grave, but it has been many years.

The Custis-Lee Mansion, also known as Arlington House, was built as a memorial to George Washington by his adopted grandson, George Washington Parke Custis. Custis' daughter, Mary Anna, married her distant cousin, Robert E. Lee, and they lived there for several years until Federal troops took over the property following the secession of Virginia from the United States in 1861.

Tygart Lake From The Air

Tygart Lake in West Virginia from 35,000 feet

As I previously mentioned, I have always been pretty good at picking out landmarks from the window of commercial flights. On the flight last Saturday to Washington, I noticed quite a few significant towns and landmarks where the clouds were not obscuring the view. The photo above really needs to be seen at the large size (by clicking on it) to get the effect. It is a picture I took of Tygart Lake from our Frontier Airlines flight from Denver. Last November, I posted pictures of this lake taken from the ground.

This picture is rotated 180 degrees from how I took it, to match it up with the inset picture from Google Maps of the same place, for comparison. North is approximately to the top of the photo now, and just to the north out of view is the town of Grafton. The curve on the ground to the left side of the photo is a stream with duplexed US 119 and US 250 running beside it to the east of the stream.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Maryland Road Trip

Last Saturday after landing at Reagan National on the Virginia side of the Potomac near downtown Washington, we rented a car and started our trek to the home of the lovely spouse's parents. Our journey took us up the George Washington Parkway; the Washington Beltway (I-495) for a short distance; then up I-270 to I-70 to I-68 west to Morgantown, WV; then US 119 south to Grafton. As I was driving, the LS became my photographer for some of the photos, all the while saying she doesn't know how to use my camera. Still, we got some decent pictures, a few of which I have prepared to show here. Click on any of them to see a larger version.

The pictures start on 270 North. This highway was once I-70S before the powers that be began to eschew numbers and letters for numbering Interstate Highways, a stance I agree with. One noticeable thing is that Maryland is using some pretty big reassurance shields on this stretch of highway. There is also a stretch of I-270 in Denver, running between i-70 near Aurora and I-25 and US 36 (Boulder Turnpike).

The next photo is at Exits 10 & 11, and displays good examples of the Maryland state highway shields. One thing that 270 has is inner express lanes with exits to outer local lanes. The express ones have exits only every several regular exits. The local lanes are where traffic can get on and off the highway without slowing down the express lanes. An oddity on this particular sign is the mixed font sizes used.

As we approach the end of I-270 at I-70, the last exit before the merge is Exit 31B, Maryland 85 South to Buckeystown.

In advance of the I-70 junction, we see that the main lanes of I-270 will continue northward as US 15, on the Frederick, Maryland and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. We can exit and go east on I-70 to Baltimore, or west to Hagerstown.

As we approach the exit, we get to the gore point, and are in the proper lane to merge onto I-70 West.

Once on the exit ramp, we get to another decision point.

From here, we travel west through Hagerstown. As we get close to the eastern terminus of I-68, we get advance notice of its exit. The alternate route west is an free alternative to staying on I-70 to the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

A little bit farther down the road, and we have a giant-sized trailblazer for I-68.

And getting closer to the start of 68 . . .

Now we are at narrowest point in the state of Maryland. Here the Mason-Dixon line where Pennsylvania and Maryland touch almost cuts Maryland in two, since the Potomac River is close to the south. Here is the last I-70 exit in Maryland. We will be taking it toward Cumberland.

Here is the actual exit. As you can see, US 40 is duplexed with I-68. As this is the eastern terminus of I-68, you can also see my photo of the western end of this highway taken last November, by CLICKING HERE.

And here is the first set of I-68 / US 40 reassurance shields. This freeway largely replaced old US 40. When it was first built, it was new US 40, then it was designated as US 48 from 1975-1989, and finally gained Interstate status as I-68. There is now a new US 48, which runs between I-81 and I-79 in Virginia and West Virginia. I still recall vividly how old US 40 ran through the Western Maryland mountains and that it took quite a while to get to and from Cumberland. This new road, also known as National Freeway, opened up a vital link to both Cumberland and Morgantown.

Maryland Wildlife . . . deers and bears...oh my!

Here is a mileage sign on 68. People sometimes don't believe there is a town called Flintstone. Here is the proof.

"Flintstones. Meet the Flintstones. They're the modern stone age family!"

The next shot shows Sideling Hill straight ahead, complete with the cut through for the highway visible to the left side of the picture.

Now, we are approaching the cut through Sideling . . .

Sideling Hill Cutout below. Old US 40 used to run about a mile or so toward the south, reach the summit, and come back to the north as it winds its way down. This cutaway reduced travel time significantly, and gave a four-lane freeway alternative to the two-lane, winding road. This is the eastern face of Sideling Hill, which is in Washington County. The opposite side is Allegany County. The building on the right of the freeway is a visitors center, with information about attractions in the area, as well as a history of the road cut. I have never seen a center dedicated to a cut through a mountain before, but here is one. Somewhere in Maryland, road geekdom must prevail!

As we get to the bottom of the other side, we cross Sideling Hill Creek and find an official MDoT Allegany County line sign.

And following that, is a fancier sign welcoming you to Allegany County.

Old US 40 is MD 144 as we get into the Flintstone area.

Cumberland city limits!

As we approach the heart of Cumberland, the county seat of Allegany county, we approach the Hillcrest Drive exit. Allegany County, Maryland is pronounced the same as Allegheny County, Pennsylvania (home county of Pittsburgh), but is obviously spelled differently.

Now we are at Exit 43C, which we will take into Downtown Cumberland to meet up with my friend Bob on our way to my in-laws. Bob and I worked together in radio back in the 1970s right here in Cumberland.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

West Virginia Hummingbirds

Food ahead! - click on the photo for a large version

Hummingbirds are fascinating creatures. Their ability to hover in one spot, then suddenly pop over to another place and come to a stationary hover is a lot of fun to watch. My mother-in-law has several feeders for these amazing birds, and has attracted up to 20 at once, all looking for some sweet nectar. Since they use so much energy, hummingbirds must consume a lot of food. They can be quite aggressive with each other in their quest for sustenance, with some birds continually chasing others from the feeders.

As you can see in the second photo, wasps also love the sugar water in the feeders. We had actually hung a couple of these type of feeders out at home, but had to take them down, as all we were attracting were yellow jackets. Still, this photo shows one of the birds coming in for a landing on the feeder and a sip of sweet nectar.

Hummingbird closing in on a feeder

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Cumberland Byways & History

A West Virginia highway trailblazer sign in Maryland

Cumberland, Maryland sits along the Potomac River, and the other side is a piece of land that is in West Virginia, and juts nearly into the heart of downtown. When I lived there, WV 28 came up a very narrow road on the edge of a tall hill, and many accidents occurred along the stretch. Ultimately, that stretch between Ridgeley and Fort Ashby were re-designated as Alternate WV 28, and the main highway was diverted to South Cumberland at Fort Ashby, ultimately crossing into Maryland near the Cumberland Airport.

The picture above was taken on Greene Street, which is the routing of US 220 through the west part of Cumberland. You will notice that although the sign is in Maryland, it is a West Virginia highway sign. I examined the back of the sign to see if it was a MDOT or WVDOT sign, but there were no asset labels on it.

A few feet away is the next sign, which gives directions to various highways in the area. Again, a WV highway shield is indicated, and is correct. There is also an I-68 shield on this sign. Interstate 68 extends from Hancock, Maryland at I-70, and goes west through Cumberland, Frostburg, and Grantsville, before entering West Virginia and terminating at I-79 in Morgantown.

Directional sign on Greene Street (US 220), Cumberland

If you look to the right at the traffic signals in the photo above, you will see the so-called "Blue Bridge" that spans the Potomac and connects Cumberland to Ridgeley, WV.

The Blue Bridge

Once you go across the Blue Bridge, you are in Mineral County and the town of Ridgeley, West Virginia. Looks like they did carry through with getting rid of the silly "Open for Business" signs I blogged about last year.

Welcome to Ridgeley, West Virginia

Ridgeley used to have a sign that speed limits are "Electriclly Timed", and it was indeed misspelled like that. At least that sign has been removed. When I first met the lovely spouse back in 1973, she was a high-school student who lived just outside the Ridgeley town limits on the south end of town. In the distance of the picture above, you can see a West Virginia historical marker. A closer look below shows that this was the site of Fort Ohio prior to the American Revolution, and the completion of Fort Cumberland back across the river in Maryland.

Fort Ohio Historical Marker in Ridgeley

Walking back over the Blue Bridge to Cumberland, I got a nice picture of the clouds and trees reflected in the waters of the Potomac.

Potomac River between Cumberland & Ridgeley

Another place of historic interest at this juncture of river, roads, cities, and states. On the Maryland side of the Blue Bridge is a small cabin that served as headquarters to General George Washington during the French & Indian War, and again as United States Commander-In-Chief. Fort Cumberland sat on a hill diagonally across the street from Washington's headquarters. Today's city of Cumberland derives its name from that fort. A church now sits on the hill, and is noted as a part of the famed Underground Railway that helped slaves escape from servitude prior to the American Civil War. In this part of the country, there is history all around us.

George Washington's Cumberland Headquarters

Flight to Washington

Yesterday, the lovely spouse and I took a flight from Denver to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport via the new Colorado plane of Frontier Airlines. It was a terrific flight, very nice aircraft, and a smooth ride. For most of the way, the clouds were blocking the view of the ground, which is how I usually can tell where we are, since I know the layout of the highways, towns, and landmarks over most of the United States. This flight had a GPS map on the screens, which gave us precise locations, so it was easier than ever to find landmarks if one knew where to look.

As we approached Indianapolis, I saw the Interstates coming into the city, but downtown was under a thick blanket of clouds. When we got near the cities of Marietta, Ohio and Parkersburg, West Virginia, the clouds opened and I was able to see both cities clearly, with the Ohio River winding between them.

As our ultimate destination was to drive from Washington back to Grafton, West Virginia, I started visually following US 50 coming out of Parkersburg toward Grafton. As we got to Clarksburg/Bridgeport, I saw Interstate 79 coming toward us from Charleston, and was able to snap a photo of the Harrison-Marion regional airport from 35,000 feet above. Last year I did a blog entry on WV Highway 279, known locally as Jerry Dove Drive. It is a very short state highway that runs by the airport between US 50 and I-79. I have added labels to the photo to point out the major landmarks. South is to the top of the photo. This gives you a view of WV 279 in its entirety, from end to end.

I also continued to watch US 50 as we approached Grafton, approximately 20 miles east. The town ended up being directly under the plane, but I did get to see and photograph Tygart Lake from the air.

We actually started a gradual descent into DCA as I snapped the airport photo, even though we were about 250 miles to landing. As we approached the runway, I got this photo of The Pentagon from my airplane window. As always, you can click on the photos to view a larger version.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

An Unusual Lunch

Today on the way back to my office from a meeting off-site, I decided to grab lunch at a place I have eaten at on and off over the last 14 years. The place is usually wonderful, with food grilled over mesquite wood. They specialize in fish and seafood. They also have gyros that are unlike any I have ever had. The meat isn't shaved from a rotisserie, but is in chunks that melt in your mouth and have a fantastic flavor.

So anyway, I was savoring the thought of those gyros, and had ordered a cup of their Manhattan Clam Chowder. Well, as I got to the bottom of the chowder, I felt a crunchy ingredient when I bit down. I knew something was amiss. Sure enough, it was a long, skinny black bug, with a thorax, one wing, one leg left, and a head. YIKES!!

I reported it to the waitress (who owns the place with her husband), and she was shocked. Probably not as much as I was, but shocked nonetheless. She said my meal would be at no charge, but I told her I didn't feel like having it now, and suggested they toss the entire kettle, which she agreed with.

Now I know bugs can get into the food, even at good restaurants. But I gotta say, it may be a while before I go back there. I won't name the establishment here, as it was probably a fluke that won't be repeated, and I don't want to damage this little business that usually is fantastic.

Now I know that people eat bugs in other parts of the world, and that Americans do on Fear Factor, but it isn't an appetizing thing for me. So I left, and composed my mind and my stomach. What happened next will wait until a later post.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Got A Used Bomb Shelter I Can Buy?

I guess we had better get ready for another Cold War. The Russian Bear is awake and growling.

MSNBC is reporting that Russia is freezing all military ties to NATO, following its incursion into the Republic of Georgia. It has also made noise about dire repurcussions of the United States' agreement with the Polish government to deploy US missiles in the former Warsaw Pact nation.

In my opinion, the Polish issue should never have been pressed by the U.S. Do our leaders think we will maintain the peace by tweaking the Russians in their own back yard? Isn't this somewhat akin to what the Soviets did in Cuba back in 1962? Will there be a redeployment of Russian missiles on that Caribbean Island? If there is another standoff, this time we don't have JFK, but instead we have George "Wanna Buy Some Wood" Bush at the button. If that doesn't scare the begeezus out of you, nothing will.

Our government continues to ignore the maxim regarding sauce for the goose. I just hope it isn't humanity's collective goose that ends up being cooked. Not that the United States is primarily to blame, but we sure haven't helped matters. President Kennedy's admonition of "Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate" should be followed by our current crop of politicians. Russia is acting irresponsibly. They should be brought to task over it. But with our invasion of Iraq, we have lost our moral authority on the matter.

At the rate things are going, it won't be long before school children will be watching new versions of Duck and Cover, and we'll see a revival of Conelrad. Remember to tune to 640 or 1240 on your dial.

Anyone know where I can purchase a good bomb shelter to install in my yard?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Hurricane Season and Key Largo

Since we are in the midst of Hurricane season, I may have to dig out one of my favorite hurricane movies. That would be John Huston's 1948 Key Largo, starring Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Edward G. Robinson, and Lionel Barrymore. If you happen to live in hurricane country, this always makes a good one to watch while waiting on the storm. What better plot could you ask for; the owners of a small hotel in the Florida Keys and his friends and family welcome some men to wait out the impending hurricane. The guests turn out to be mobsters who end up holding everyone hostage. High drama with the added element of nature's fury. If you haven't seen this one, you should add it to your "must see" list.

And of course, this film was the inspiration for a 1981 hit song of the same name by singer Bertie Higgins. CLICK HERE to watch the video.

Friday, August 15, 2008


Graphs can visually demonstrate a lot of things. I found this site called GraphJam where people submit their funny ones, so of course I had to make one myself. Here is mine. Thanks Coolio!

Sounds Good Enough?

About a year ago, and shortly after I got my car that has an integrated XM Satellite Radio tuner, XM did some processor upgrades that greatly improved the sound quality on their music channels. With the built in radio in my Hyundai Santa Fe, they even sound downright good. The talk and information channels are another story altogether. The traffic and weather channels are barely listenable, but that doesn't bother me since they are not meant to be listened to for more than a couple of minutes at a time; and they don't have a Denver station anyway.

So, I have to wonder, what will the newly merged Sirius XM Satellite Radio service do to XM? Will the quality go in the crapper? If it does, I likely won't resubscribe, as why should I pay for junky sound? I will say, I loved having XM during April's trek across Texas on the road trip to Houston. Even in the middle of nowhere, I had 170+ channels of reception as good as I get in town. Also, the leftie political channel was a welcome relief, as finding something on the order of Air America in the heart of Bush's home state over the air is an exercise in futility.

But lets get back to sound quality. I believe that rather than even knowing what quality sounds like, Americans are getting used to "good enough" sound. Yes, there are conveniences to compressed MP3 files, compressed satellite radio, voice over internet protocol services (ala Vonage), and iffy cellular phone services. It appears we are willing to trade audio quality for ubiquity and convenience. To some extent, so am I. However, I am wondering if there is a place left for the audiophile. A harbor for someone who knows what an analog recording pressed on high quality vinyl and played through a quality amplifier and speakers even sounds like? Even with the inevitable pops that happen when a record gets scratched, there are no bit sample rate issues with analog, which renders a perfect waveform. After all, our ears are analog, not digital. And do the younger folk of today even know where the idiomatic expression, "He/She sounds like a broken record" comes from? (Of course, this way of describing someone who repeats themselves incessantly comes from a scratch or break that causes the stylus to jump back to the previous groove and constantly replay the same loop).

Am I the only one who misses the experience of pulling a pristine vinyl 33-1/3 RPM record album out of the cover, smelling the fresh vinyl, and reading the liner notes that had ample room on the cover of those 12" disks? Even the manufacturing process was quite an amazing thing. An analog wave was cut into wax which was used to mold a metal "mother" disk. The mother had grooves that were ridges standing up, and when pressed into hot vinyl, could replicate thousands of freshly-minted recordings. One groove could contain stereophonic sound since each side of the groove contained one channel of information, and the stylus cartridge could detect the difference in motion as the surface of the record passed by.

This also makes me wonder if there are very many radio DJs left working in the business who remember queuing up a record on a turntable. You would spin the turntable to find the point in the groove where the music started, then back off a quarter turn so that the table was up to its play speed before hitting the first note after you hit the switch. How many would even make sense of the neophyte mistake and horrifying sound of queuing up a record at the wrong speed and not noticing until it went out on the air?

During the Arab Oil Embargo of the early 1970s, many records began to be pressed on cheaper plastic rather than quality vinyl. The material was more like Bakelite than vinyl, as it was hard, brittle, and overall poor quality. Usually it was the 45 RPM singles that had this issue. These records were very susceptible to "queue burn", or scratching up the record where the music started during the queuing process, causing the song to start with an audible scratchy background. During this time, it became more common to copy a fresh record to a broadcast tape cartridge, or cart. I remember having to go out and buy new copies of hit records at the music store due to queue burn.

Now where did I put my Spirit of '67 album by Paul Revere and The Raiders?

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Edwards Affair

Now that some of the initial media buzz over former Senator John Edwards extramarital affair has gone by, I'll play the pundit and give my analysis of the situation. The "what ifs" and repercussions of this are interesting to ponder. I will preface this with the fact that I was a John Edwards supporter, and was quite dismayed when he withdrew his candidacy for the Presidency of the United States.

I am amazed that Edwards has the gall to say it was his own feeling of self-importance and narcissism that let him to think that the affair would not be discovered, and that he could do anything he wanted. Really? A man as intelligent as John Edwards saw how Bill Clinton's dalliances dogged him throughout his years in office, but didn't think it would happen to him? Did he really not have an example of what could happen? Did he really think you can run for President and this kind of thing remain under wraps? Did he not see the crash and burn of Gary Hart's candidacy because of a photo of him and a young girl on the aptly-named boat, Monkey Business?

Also, he claims to have told his wife, Elizabeth, about this shortly after it happened two years ago. Would she have not counseled him to not embark on a run for The White House? Somehow, I get the feeling that she didn't really know until recently either, despite the public claims otherwise.

I also don't get why it matters if his mistress' daughter was fathered by Edwards. He is denying it, but so what. He has admitted to the sex, what does it matter if she got pregnant. Plus, if the girl isn't the offspring of the former senator, and if the affair was 2 years ago, why in the world did he visit her and the child in Beverly Hills 3 weeks ago? Did Elizabeth know of this visit in advance?

I don't believe any of this negates the message of Edwards campaign. A flawed messenger doesn't cancel the attributes of the message. The message is one that needed, and still needs, a voice. The problem is that John Edwards, despite his charm and winning smile, was not the right messenger. What a dilema for the Democrats had he actually won enough delegates to be the nominee.

I don't believe that any of this would have made Edwards a less qualified President. It would have made him less effective, as the nation would once again be distracted by the sexual activities of it's chief executive. The fact is that as thoughtful and rational as human beings can be at times, we are also consigned to live out our existences in bodies shaped by evolution to be largely driven by our libidos. That fact will never change. I am liberal and open minded about whatever personal arrangements people may have, but the fact is that most people in America have a vicarious fascination with sex. They love a scandal.

Power is intoxicating, and as Edwards has proven once again, once you believe you are living on a plane where the rules don't apply to you, a downfall is sure to follow.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Fighting Finch

The finches love the seeds I put in the feeder for them. Every morning and afternoon, there are several partaking of the free meal. In the crowd is one selfish little guy who chases away all the competition he can. He'd better be careful...payback can be hell!

Monday, August 04, 2008

The New Olympus LS-10

So much has changed in the world of technology, This is particularly noticable in the realm of portable recording, or as it is called nowadays, mobile recording, or mobrecording.

When I was about 12 years old, I had a small reel-to-reel tape recorder that used 3" reels. That was when I was infected by the recording bug. I also found out that I could take a cable that had two alligator clips on one end, and a mini plug on the other, and record directly off the air from my clock radio. I did this by clipping the alligator clips to the speaker terminals inside the clock radio, and plugging the mini plug into the microphone input jack. I remember wondering if I could record TV by doing the same thing to the back of a picture tube. Good thing I never tried that! Of course, this was 1965, years before home video recording became available.

Back in the 1980s, I was a reporter at Houston's leading news-talk station, AM 740 KTRH. When we needed to gather audio recordings in the field, we used professional-level audio cassette recorders, much like the Marantz PMD222 seen here. These were far sturdier than the typical consumer model, and had features such as half-speed record and playback for instances where you needed to extend time. Most of the time, normal speed was used, as this yielded the highest quality sound. These machines had a solid feel to them not found on any home model, and came with a leather carrying case and strap for the reporters use in the field. They also had a large VU meter, and when coupled with a professional microphone, produced really outstanding analog recordings.

Once back in the studio, you would dub the sound from the cassette onto a large reel-to-reel tape recorder for editing. Of course this introduced a generational degradation as the reel tape picked up not only the original recorded sounds, but also any background hiss from the cassette. To get the sound ready for broadcast, you would then play the reel tape until you found where you wanted to start and end the playback, mark the tape at the playback head with a white or yellow grease pencil, place the tape in the groove of a splicing block, and put the pieces together with splicing tape, making sure to trim the edges with a razor blade to prevent adhesive from the splicing tape from gumming up the recorder's heads. Then, when the edits were complete, the reel tape was dubbed to a broadcast continuous loop tape cartridge, or cart, for use on the air. Again, this introduced another generation of degradation, but the result was perfectly fine for use on AM news radio.

Splicing tape to edit the old fashioned way

How things have changed! Today, there are field recorders that fit in a shirt pocket that can record full fidelity in stereo. Editing is done on a computer, using a variety of sound editing software; no splicing tape involved. And the end result is not only a perfect copy of the original digital recording, but it can be digitally enhanced and any extraneous noise removed from the recording prior to final broadcast.

I have occasionally thought about buying a reel-to-reel deck off of eBay, but the lovely spouse always responds with "Why would you want that?" I think it would be fun to have one, and I do have some recordings on such tapes still stored away. It would be good to see what is on them. But truly, the LS is probably right.

So all this leads up to the fact that last week I picked up one of the lastest generation of the "studios in a pocket" recorders, the Olympus LS-10. It's good reviews, features, and quality made it stand out over the competition. In addition, I have been very pleased with my Olympus E-500 Digital SLR camera, so I knew the company puts out a great product. The LS-10 can be used for everything from making a stereo recording of a symphony or band, to radio news gathering, to documenting meetings, to recording sounds of nature. It's form factor is not that unlike the size of a typical cellular telephone.

Olympus has put some features and quality into the LS-10 that puts it above competing recorders, many costing much more than the $399 manufacturer's suggested list price (I paid considerably less using online pricing and matching). First of all, it has an aluminum body that gives it a professional look and feel, as well as adding to the durability of the unit. The built in stereo microphones come with wind screens in the box, along with a carrying case, a wrist strap, a USB cable for connection to a computer, and stereo dubbing cables. It also has a capable sound editing software package for Windows and Mac OSX, but I haven't used it yet, as I find that the free and open source program Audacity fills the bill for me. While Olympus says the LS-10 recorder is supported on Mac and Windows, it works perfectly fine on my Linux box as well, appearing as two external hard for the internal 2 GB of memory, and another for the SD Card (if you have one in your recorder). Yes, that's right! Unlike most recorders like this, the LS-10 comes equipped with a generous amount of internal memory AND a SDHC slot for using memory cards up to 16 GB in capacity. This gives you hour after hour of room for recordings in various resolutions and formats. The LS-10 can record in uncompressed WAV format, as well as MP3 and WMF (Windows Media File) formats. Another fact I like, is that the LS-10 uses two standard AA alkaline or rechargeable NiCad batteries. This means no charging or charger to tote around, as well as being able to grab a couple of AAs anywhere, anytime. The machine is rated at 12 hours of recording on a single pair of batteries! This is probably why the AC adapter is an extra purchase, but I think that most people will not need it.

Both the recording level and playback level controls are thumbwheels marked in units from 0 up to 10. The screen has all the information you need, clearly displayed in monochrome LCD with a soothing orange backlight that can be set via menus as to how long it stays on, or if it lights up at all. This little gem is totally intuitive if you have ever used a recorder at all. Despite its diminuitive size, the LS-10 neither crowded or hard to use. In fact, it can be operated with one hand. To record, you punch the record button once to see and set the recording levels from the VU meters displayed on the LCD. You then punch it again to begin recording. Subsequent punches either pause or unpause your recording, and you hit the stop button to end the recording. Simple, eh? It also has an earphone jack so you can use a set of headphones or ear buds to monitor your recordings as they are made. It also has a tiny pair of stereo speakers on the back to field check recordings. They are not high fidelity at all, but suffice to be sure you got the sounds you thought you did.

I have all kinds of ideas on how to make use of this great little recorder. The frequency response and quality of recordings of this is stunning. You can also put it on a standard camera tripod for stability, as it has a tripod threaded hole in the back. For controlling it from a distance, you can also purchase a remote control unit for the LS-10. Expect to hear samples of my recordings on this blog from time to time. This should be fun!

Olympus LS-10 Portable PCM Audio Recorder In Summary

A great tool for the musician, reporter, podcaster, or recording enthusiast! With included batteries and internal memory, it is all ready to go straight from the box!

  • Stunning recording quality
  • Quality build with aluminum body
  • 2 GB internal recording memory
  • SDHC slot for additional memory
  • High quality stereo mikes with jack for external mikes
  • Includes carrying case
  • Tripod mountable
  • 12 hour battery life with 2 AA alkaline batteries
  • Built in enhancements such as zoom mike, audio enhancments, reverb, auto level
  • Record in uncompressed WAV or compressed MP3 and WMF, at various bit depths
    • WAV tops at 96kHz, 24 bit (Better than CD quality)
    • MP3 best quality at 320 kbps
    • WMA best quality at 160 kpbs
  • Includes windscreens, which attach solidly to the mics
  • Includes audio editing software
  • Includes first set of AA alkaline batteries
  • Supported under Windows & Mac, works fine with Linux
  • Can be used as an external hard drive to move computer files

  • AC Power Supply not included (don't need it with long battery life)

Highly recommended

Right-hand side showing low cut switch, mike sensitivity switch, record level adjustment, external microphone jack and line in jack.

Left-hand side showing earphone jack, SDHC slot cover, playback level adjustment, USB port cover, and hold/power slider switch.

Back of LS-10, showing mini speakers and threaded tripod connection, and foam wind screens.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Mourning Dove

One of the various feathered creatures we have inhabiting our yard are the pretty, gray mourning doves. They have various spotted markings, and are a welcome addition to the wildlife around Douglas County. These pleasant birds have a soothing, yet mournful "ooh OOH ooh ooh" sound when they sing. I will try to capture their song with my audio recorder, and if successful, will post it to this blog.

This particular dove was enjoying the aspen trees in the front yard when I snapped its picture.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

New Speed Zone Warning Signs

Last April while driving to Houston from Colorado, I noticed a new type of warning sign. These were placed along US 287 just before coming into various towns along the highway. Rather than the rectangular white signs proclaiming Speed Zone Ahead, or Reduced Speed Ahead, Texas has placed diamond-shaped yellow warning signs with a standard speed limit sign and an arrow in their place. I found these to be much more helpful than the older signs that gave no idea how much you had to slow down.

I have since learned that these signs are part of a new standard outlined in the MUTCD, or Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices published by the Federal Highway Administration of the Department of Transportation. The states have until 2018 to fully deploy the new signs.

Uniform road signage is important to safety, as drivers can readily recognize and act upon information relayed by the signs. Imagine if you were driving from state to state, and every jurisdiction has their own sign conventions and designs. It would be pretty confusing, wouldn't it? This is why the MUTCD is important.

So anyway, back to the new speed zone warning signs. I noticed them popping up on Interstate 25 in Denver. There is also this one that I took a picture of today on Park Avenue in Downtown Denver. Behind the sign is Coors Field, home park of the Colorado Rockies baseball club.

Below is an image from the MUTCD that gives specifications for these new signs. This is one innovation that actually improves upon the status quo.