Inspired by Derek Sivers, this page includes a sample of what I’m thinking about and working on right now. Last updated August 18, 2023.

I’m trying to update this page at least every couple of months, but my last change was in May, so I’m not quite there yet.

I’ve been putting a lot of mental energy into work, and that has left little for writing. I have hardly taken any time off recently and while others have gone on summer vacation, I’ve just kept coming into work every day. To be honest, I’m going a bit cuckoo. I’m still blogging, but posting shorter pieces these days (or at least it feels like it). Despite my cognitive energy resevoir being a little bit low, I have been getting more into audio and music lately.

Wannabe Audiophile

I bought a CD player with good upsampling and a steller on-board DAC. When I put on some CDs that had been in the closet for years and heard how good they sounded on my new gear, I became fascinated with upgrading my listening experience in different contexts. I have to replace the stylus in my turntable, because records are sounding a bit muddy these days and it’s time. Right now, at least, my CD player sounds better than my turntable, so I started buying CDs again instead of vinyl. CDs are cheaper and hold up better. I busted out The Cure Wish CD that I bought 30 years ago and has been well loved, and it sounded better than ever.

personal CDs and records
CDs and records

Now that I’ve become accustomized to higher-fidelity sound, I started looking for it in various places. That led to a search for some decent headphones, which I didn’t have. My current cans make my voice sound soft for the first minute or so on Teams calls, and people comment on it almost without fail. They don’t have noise cancelling, either, so I’ve been wanting a pair with that capability for years. When I read that the new Beats Studio headphones featured support for lossless audio through USB-C, I got my heart set on them. When I actually convinced myself to shell out the cash for a high priced set like the Beats I went to Best Buy and got a pair. I sold two records for $150 a piece to almost cover the cost. The Beats were really well tuned and sounded as good as I could expect. However, I didn’t find the noise cancelling to be that great, and the set wasn’t comfortable to wear for any significant length of time. They kind of pinch your head and ears. After some internal debate and research, I exchanged the Beats for a beautiful Airpods Max set. The Airpods Max were on sale, but still far from cheap. They sound as good as you would expect when easily paired and switched between Apple devices.

I hadn’t spent long with the lovely Airpods Max when I realized that they wouldn’t work well with any traditional stereo equipment, like say, a headphone amp hooked up to my CD player. There is no headphone jack, and the cable to adapt to such a jack does digital conversion. In the case of the CD player with a headphone amp, the signal would be converted from digital to analog, then back to digital again (which is inherently lossy). In fact, despite the fact that Apple has been hyping lossless audio through their music service, the Airpods Max don’t even support lossless audio through your Apple device. This was bothering me and I really wanted to be able to get a good experience out of my headphones, no matter what device I happened to be using. Also, I kind of liked the idea of having a power button so I could turn the headphones off when I wasn’t using them instead of having to rely on strategically placed magnets in a case that looks to the world like a bra to put them into low-power mode (which I noticed was still subject to battery drain).

I trudged to Best Buy once more and bought the Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones, which I’ve found through too many hours pouring through reviews on my iPad seem to be the most consistently praised and the most balanced. Best Buy has been great about my exchanges, making it easy to try products until I got the right one, though I’m pretty sure my wife thinks I have a legitimate pathology (and she might be right).

So far, I’m loving the WH-1000MX5s, despite the clunky name. They have a useful feature that allows you to cup the right ear and switch to ambient sound mode with lowered volume on the music, so you can have a conversation. It’s brilliant. They also have the ability to recognize your voice when you are talking and pause the music. This has unintended effects, though, as more than once I started singing which then caused a mood-killing mute of the music. Don’t ask me how I know that even a mid-range belch will cause your music to stop, either. However, that latter feature is easy to turn off (which I will be doing).

I haven’t wired the new headphones in yet, but through Bluetooth, the sound is magnificent. Like many reviewers, I had to turn down the bass a bit to get the sound I was looking for, but another advantage to these headphones is the ability to tweak EQ settings. I’ve been able to tune things to just the right levels for my particularities and I’m loving the results. Highly recommended.

The Fast of Dormition

I just got done with fasting for the period of The Dormition of the Theotokos. It has been good to eat meat again and satiety has been welcome. During this period, I was attending 3 worship services a week, which was incredibly spiritually nurturing. This period has been inspirational and it always amazes me how much I miss worship when I go back to doing it once a week after one of these periods of intense religious activity.

I hope that those who are reading this are well in all manner of things. If I bored you too much with my headphones war stories, I beg your pardon. Thanks as always for reading Canned Dragons.

Current Reading

Cover for DominionDominion
by Tom Holland

Cover for The Nineties: A BookThe Nineties: A Book
by Chuck Klosterman

Cover for Thinking OrthodoxThinking Orthodox
by Eugenia Scarvelis Constantinou

Canned Dragons by Robert Rackley
Made with in North Carolina
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