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Another Piece in the Audio Puzzle: The Marantz CD6006

maratntzCD6006

While being very happy with the sound of my recently purchased stereo system there was an obvious weak link in the chain; It centered on my old and reliable Sony Blu-ray player. There was nothing overtly bad about it and since I was unaware of the difference a good DAC can make I’d have been content to leave things as they were.

However, following a look at various YouTube videos (sadly, very little “real” content on the Marantz CD6006) and researching various reviews of a number of systems I thought I’d “gamble” on the Marantz. It was a logical choice to pair it with the Marantz PM6006 amplifier I had bought. To my mind, I thought it only logical that the Marantz engineers would have built the two units with the idea of joining them in concert as it were (pardon the obvious pun).

So to the question, does a dedicated CD player provide better sound than a Blu-ray player? Well, in the case of my older Sony Blu-ray and the 2016 Marantz CD6006 the answer is an unqualified yes!

It’s quite surprising the difference in quality – but it’s there and you can definitely tell. Many years ago when DVD’s began replacing VHS tapes a skeptical friend came over and asked to see the new technology I had purchased. Basically, he expected to be underwhelmed and ready with a “I knew it was all snake oil”. But, he was genuinely impressed. He could see the improvement himself.

While admittedly less dramatic than the jump from VHS to DVD video quality the audio equivalent is apropos.  You can hear the difference! Now, I am the first to admit that my system is far removed from the crème de la crème of high-end fidelity BUT it certainly qualifies as a solid entry level system to the world of high-fidelity. I am more than satisfied.

whathifi

Highest marks earned from What HI-FI? and a 2016 Award winning product

Head over to What Hi-Fi? for a more technical and detailed review of the CD6006

The first CD baptised in the new system was the 2017 Mono mix that came as part of the 50th Anniversary Sgt. Pepper Deluxe Edition. I always play the Beatles first whenever I am about to break in a new sound system… and it’s always the Beatles (or a John Lennon solo tune) that I like to play as the first song I hear to greet a new year.

The bass and overall audio presence was raised more than a few notches with the improved performance brought in by the CD6006. I followed up the Beatles with Klaatu’s 3:47 E.S.T. 40th Anniversary Edition, The Cure’s Greatest Hits, The Yes Album (remastered), Who’s Next, and Abbey Road. My age places me comfortably in the Classic Rock period and it is that genre of music that most frequently finds its way onto my CD player.

Pepper6

Two ends of the production spectrum – the lovingly (reverently) remixed Sgt. Pepper (2017) and 1989’s The Ventures All-Time Greatest Hits. The Marantz CD6006 serves them both well. 

For fun, I threw on a cheap discount CD just to see if the Marantz could make something of it. I chose for this purpose The Ventures All-Time Greatest Hits (released on CD in 1989).  Even here, I could hear the separation of the instruments and enjoy the straightforward production afforded their 1960s recordings.

My son is purchasing the Fleet Foxes new album,  “Crack-Up” released yesterday so later today I’ll reluctantly turn control of my system over to him for a few hours.

Finally, I should add that I purchased all the components and wires for my setup from Victoria, BC’s venerable Sound Hounds. I have bought all my very best gear from them since the 1980s. Their customer service and product line is first-rate. I recommend them as Vancouver Island’s “go-to” hi-fidelity source.

Thanks as always, Sound Hounds team 🙂

soundhounds

Sound Hounds @ 1532 Pandora Ave, Victoria, BC V8R 1A8 (courtesy of Google Streetview)

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Book Review: The Complicated Geography of Alice by Jules Vilmur

The Complicated Geography of Alice by Jules Vilmur

The Complicated Geography of Alice by Jules Vilmur

In the early years of my transition from male to female I was a daily participant on a few select gender identity boards; notably the Transgender Canada Forum and the apparently defunct “GID forum” based in the U.S. I also flirted with “Twitter” and although my account is all but dormant these days (for the morbidly curious I post as CanadaGirl58) it did afford me the opportunity to connect with Jules Vilmur. Under the name of “@Laurustina”, Jules allowed some of us on Twitter to view selections from a book she hoped to publish one day. That book of course turned out to be “The Complicated Geography of Alice”.

Jules’ memoir of her daughter, Alice’s own journey from male to female is a harrowing, out-of-control ride into the depths of drug abuse and chronic addiction. You’ll want a pharmaceutical lexicon to keep track of the seemingly endless list of chemicals young Alice managed to consume. The book is brilliantly written and Jules’ struggle to understand her daughter’s conflicted, and decidedly complex psyche becomes the reader’s own.  There’s a real temptation to try and “fix” Alice and the author’s frustrations with a chronically ill-informed medical profession shackled by assumptions and prejudices too numerous to mention will have you shaking your head.

Despite opposition from various quarters— including members of their own family, Jules and Alice find a measure of support, (some of it simply outstanding) from members of the GBLTQ community. Religious prejudice plays a role here but the author rises above it and treats “spiritual” opposition to her daughter’s transition with a notable lack of rancor and a healthy dose of grace. The book features a colorful cast of supporting characters but at the center of it all is the person of Alice.

Fortunately, you cannot help but love the cocky, stubborn, willful— yet sensitive and fun-loving, mercurial mix of iron and clay that is, Alice. The author masterfully communicates her roller-coaster emotions of rising hope and optimism followed by gut-wrenching fear, concern, and despair.

This is an intensely personal book but one that will resonate strongly with people from all walks of life by virtue of its fundamental humanity. Its essential truth reveals a story fueled by a mother’s unquenchable love for her child. I smiled, I winced and I cried… a lot… but the book is compelling; and yes it will stay with you long after the last page is turned.

A modern tale of a modern family that manages to transcend by far the boundaries of Transgender biography. 

Available for purchase at Amazon.com

TITLE: The Complicated Geography of Alice

Product Details
Paperback: 332 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (December 1, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1503021769
ISBN-13: 978-1503021761
Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
Shipping Weight: 1 pounds

Follow Jules Vilmur on Twitter @Laurustina and on Facebook: Laurustina.com

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My System: How I lost my excess weight

Tools of the Weight Loss Trade

Tools of the Weight Loss Trade

As the old saying goes: “Your mileage may vary” so this particular blog entry is a highly individualized description of what worked for me. Obviously, it will work for anyone but vegans will cringe at my routinized use of “Lean Cuisine” dinners and others simply hate jogging or long distance walks.   Nonetheless, I’m hoping a specific description of how I dropped from 235 to 180 lbs may prove useful for others fighting the battle of the bulge.

Disclaimers: I’m not a fitness or diet specialist in any way shape or form. I’m simply sharing the ways and means by which I tackled my own weight issues. I am also not endorsing any of the products or brand-names I used in obtaining my weight-loss goals. Again, I am simply identifying them for the sake of describing exactly how I was able to drop my excess weight.

HOW I DID IT

The first step was identifying the problem. Not so much the issue of “Am I overweight?” (that was obvious) but rather “Why am I overweight?” In my case the problem was simply a lack of portion control combined with a sedentary lifestyle. Of course, recognizing the problem was just the beginning. Somehow, I had to find the motivation to do something about it. In my case it simply boiled down to a question of “is this bothering me to the point where I want to do something about it?” Fortunately, the answer was a resounding “yes!”

So what to do? Well, I recognized that portion control was a BIG (pardon the pun) problem. For breakfast, I loved having bacon, eggs, hash browns and toast. However, none of this was measured out. So I found myself eating maybe 4 slices of toast and eating as much bacon as I deemed it necessary to feel full! Hash browns (frequently, a pre-packaged McCain’s brand) were a particular treat and I would return to the pot as often as necessary to scoop out another cupful or more! Admittedly, those days where I consumed bacon were infrequent at best but the eggs, hash browns, and toast were pretty much a staple.

Dinners frequently consisted of pasta or rice and much as I had done with breakfast, I’d find myself returning to the pot 2 or 3 times to scoop out more pasta or rice. The other issue was my lack of physical activity. I would invariably sit for hours at a time glued to the chair in front of my computer. Changes had to be made!

PORTION CONTROL

The first thing I did was to reign in my out of control food portions. Much as a child will enjoy the extra-stability provided by training wheels when first learning to ride a bicycle, I had to have some restrictive measures enacted to rope in my out-of-control appetite. To help me out I purchased a meal replacement drink for breakfast. I chose “Ensure” [high protein] see: http://www.ensure.ca/. It comes with a few flavour choices, notably,  Strawberry, Chocolate, and Vanilla. Fortunately, they all taste good to my palate. The great thing about the meal replacement is that I can easily go 4 hours before experiencing any hunger following ingestion. Moreover, because these replacement meals are so accessible I never miss out on having at least something for breakfast. And yes, a single cup of coffee with milk and sugar remains a constant at breakfast too.

Lunch frequently takes the form of a cup of homemade Lentil Soup and two pieces of toast and butter. It lasts a good long while in the fridge and is tastefully delicious. For Dinner, it’s frequently a green salad with 1/2 a tablespoon E-V-O-O (as Rachael Ray would say) and 1/2 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar along with a tablespoon of unsalted sunflower seeds. The salad compliments a microwavable Lean Cuisine Dinner see: http://www.leancuisine.ca/. Lean Cuisine comes with a number of choices and chicken-“something” (pasta, veg, rice) is a frequent choice. I also average an apple or two a day as part of my “snacking” choice as well as hummus on a low cal cracker.

DOING THE MATH

I hate math! But I had to suck it up as well as my expanding gut in order to lose weight. Like so many of us these days, I am tied to my cell-phone. In fact, I don’t even own a land-line anymore. However, my cell-phone or rather “smart-phone” has been a huge help in my quest to lose weight and keep it off thanks to a wonderful free application called “Lose It” see: http://www.loseit.com/ 

This “app” is the coolest, easiest to use, thing you can imagine. It even has a built-in bar code scanner that you can use to read the nutritional data off of most commercial food products. If it fails to find the item in question you can easily create an entry from scratch by simply recording the nutritional information available from the product label ( calories per serving, fat percentage, protein, carbohydrates, etc…). Nonetheless, pay attention to the numbers. Occasionally, there will be a discrepancy between Lose It!’s data and the nutritional information on the product’s label. Fortunately, you can quickly edit any information in Lose Its database and adjust the numbers accordingly. It also records your weekly and daily nutritional intake.

Perhaps, best of all is that it calculated the amount of calories I needed to drop in order to reach my goal weight. In my case, that amounted to a daily intake of 1,409 calories in order to lose 2 pounds per week. Of course, men have the advantage in that they can consume 200-500 more calories than women can on a daily basis in order to reach their target weight.  Other factors such as age and height are also factored in.

There are a number of free-to-use weight-date calculators available on the World Wide Web. In my case they generally calculate approximately 7 months in order to go from my initial 235 lbs to my 180 goal weight. I began all this on December 2, 2012 so somewhere towards June/July 2013 I’ll have obtained my goal. At the time of this writing I am at 205 pounds. I’m happy to report I’m 30 pounds down with 25 more to go! Once I reach 180 pounds I’ll be in a position to reassess things and decide if more weight-loss is required.

Finally, I replaced a teaspoon dipped in the sugar bowl with an actual measuring spoon! In fact, measuring spoons and cups can be found throughout my kitchen sitting in receptacles for various food items. It takes all the guess-work out of wondering how much food I’m ingesting and a quick touch of a button records it in my iPhone’s Lose It! app in order to maintain an ongoing record of my progress. It’s simplicity itself.

EXERCISE

Once again this is a highly personal issue. My advice is to find a staple exercise you enjoy or “somewhat” enjoy and make that your “go-to”. In my case this takes the form of jogging. Well, to be honest, for about 6 months it took the form of walking. However, as the pounds dropped and my strength grew I eventually turned my walk into a jog. Once again, my Lose It! app came in handy as I was able to record my daily exercise referencing the approximate calorie burn provided by the activity.  On days where I simply couldn’t muster the energy and/or motivation to get out there I supplemented with an alternative.

I purchased a set of 5 lb free weights (dumb bells) which are heavy for me and incorporated them into a series of exercises I found on Youtube. In order of when I incorporated them; they are:

Even now, these are not my preferred or go-to exercise routines. I much prefer my jog— still, I try to get some weight training-cardio in to build strength, and to up my metabolic rate.

My jog features a scenic 13k summer route and a truncated 8k version I enjoy for the winter months. Sunscreen, sunglasses (yes, they invariably steam up) and my ubiquitous headphones are standard equipment for my daily outing. I’ve become a familiar sight in my local area and people frequently recognize me from my jogging excursions. I created a specific playlist on my iPod for my workout featuring some up-tempo syncopated magic to help keep me moving at pace. If anyone reading this has a fave song or 2 that helps them move during their own workout please drop me a line or comment with a recommendation. I’m always on the lookout for more tunes to move to.

Two scenic views frequented on my daily jogging route

Two scenic views frequented on my daily jogging route

Final Thoughts

I’m probably a bit OCD when it comes to weight-loss which isn’t entirely a bad thing. I’m constantly going to the scale and looking for that tenacious pound to drop. Again, this kind of behaviour will likely drive some personality types to the edge but it works fine for me. I’m aware that all this scale minding is short-term and is basically a by-product of such close scrutiny of my weight-loss goal. However, I’m never really discouraged by the numbers that somehow seem to stay the same or even go up on occasion! I know that ultimately they must fall. I also take advantage of my measuring tape keeping tabs on the inches lost around my waist, arms, boobs, and thighs. It’s really encouraging seeing the numbers fall as my dedication to my weight-loss goals are realized in the flesh so-to-speak.

The only real math needed to win the diet war is this simple equation:

BURN MORE CALORIES THAN YOU TAKE IN!

That’s a mantra we all need to memorize. Regardless of what diet or program you adhere to the end result boils down to that simple equation.

Oh, and forwarned is forearmed as they say. Be prepared to encounter and overcome weight loss PLATEAUS! These are awful things. Basically, you’re dieting and exercising, staying the course, and yet impossibly you seem to be stuck at a certain weight. Rest assured, the math doesn’t lie. If you burn more calories than you take in you will lose the weight. So far I’ve encountered two plateaus on my way to 180 lbs. I encountered one at 220 lbs and a second at 210. In both cases, I helped propel myself forward by upping my calorie burn by adding in further exercise. However, I didn’t see the results over-night.

It’s important to remember that losing weight isn’t a 100 yard dash it’s a long-distance run. So be patient, settle-in and stick to whatever program is working for you. Honestly, I have learned to control my eating much as I learned to control my cigarette habit. I was a pack and a half a day smoker for close to 30 years. I quit 13 years ago coming up this May 13th. It was difficult but I did it. However, I remain vigilant and simply internalized the truth that I can never again afford the luxury of having even one cigarette. Should I fail in that goal I’d be right back smoking a pack and a half a day in no time at all.

My portion-control issues are the same. Measuring cups and spoons are here to stay. For me they are not an option. Perhaps in time I may be able to let go of my handy-dandy “Lose It!” side-kick; but I wouldn’t bet on it. And my daily jog will likely devolve towards a daily walk at some point. We all get older. However, my commitment to physical activity must be a daily ongoing affair. If I’m fortunate enough to reach my golden years. I wish them to be truly golden as opposed to infirmity and poor health— a fixture in some old folks home unable to move or think with any true purpose.

Hopefully, some of you may find my own experience helpful and this particular blog entry of some use. Once upon a time I weighed 254 pounds! Perhaps even more. Ouch! When I finally reach my goal I promise to post a picture of me then with one at my goal weight. The contrast should be interesting to say the least. 🙂

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Filed under Diet and Exercise, Transgender