Monday, April 27, 2009
$1 billion a day for stimulus
Posted: 12:59 PM ET
From CNNMoney.com Senior Writer Tami Lubhy
A CNNMoney.com analysis of the program's financial reports shows how difficult it is to quickly inject billions of dollars into the economy.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - The federal government has made available more than $75 billion for stimulus projects in the 10 weeks since President Obama signed the $787 billion recovery package into law.
Not all of that money has hit the streets, however. So far, $14.5 billion has been spent, nearly all of it to help states cope with rising Medicaid costs.
A CNNMoney.com analysis of the program's financial reports shows how difficult it is to quickly inject billions of dollars into the economy. Experts interviewed said they are not surprised by the pace of spending, though they had mixed views on whether the effort would boost the economy.
"There's a natural tension between using taxpayers' money in a prudent way and getting the money out the door quickly," said Isabel Sawhill, a Brookings Institution senior fellow.
The massive recovery package was designed to stimulate the economy and create jobs, as well as assist states and people suffering from the recession by providing funding for education, Medicaid and other public services.
The federal government is now tasked with putting $499 billion to work in coming years. The remaining $288 billion consists of tax relief, the signature program of which, the Making Work Pay credit, began earlier this month.
Best Buy Co. is rapidly expanding its private-label electronics business in a gamble to gain a key competitive advantage over rivals such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Amazon.com Inc.
Best Buy believes it can prosper in private-label electronics -- an area that has historically flummoxed U.S. retailers -- by using the mountains of customer feedback it collects from its stores to make simple innovations to established electronic gadgetry. The move comes as Best Buy's position in the consumer electronics market has strengthened in the past year following the liquidation of former rival Circuit City Stores Inc.
Monday, April 20, 2009
Apr 19, 2009 10:11 PM, By Ellen Lampert-Greaux
Tharon Musser, the dean of Broadway lighting design, passed away at the age of 84. "After a long illness, Tharon passed away comfortably in the company of her long-time partner Marilyn Rennagel," reports Steve Terry, who worked with Tharon on the Tony Award-winning production of A Chorus Line in 1975. "
For those of us that knew Tharon, this is not unexpected news, but still very, very hard to hear."
Musser, who was born on January 8, 1925, won the Tony for Best Lighting Design for A Chorus Line as well as Follies (1972) and Dreamgirls (1982). She designed over 150 Broadway shows, garnering another seven Tony nominations. Considered a pioneer in the field and the Dean of American Lighting Designers, she was acclaimed for her groundbreaking work on A Chorus Line, the first Broadway production to utilize a completely computerized lighting console instead of the manually operated "piano boards."
She received an Eddy Awards from Entertainment Design in 2000, with a panel discussion by the original production team of A Chorus Line. At the 2007 United States Institute of Theatre Technology (USITT) conference in Phoenix, Arizona, Musser was honored with a tribute to her long and impressive career. To celebrate this event, USITT published a detailed book honoring her life, artistry and remarkable career as an American lighting designer.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
California plan would put squeeze on big-screen, flat-panel TVs
Apr 14, 2009 8:53 AM, By Phil Kurz
The California Energy Commission is considering a proposal to prohibit retailers in the state from selling all but the most energy-efficient televisions.
A draft report prepared by the state agency’s staff warns that without the action, the demand for electricity throughout the state will continue to grow as consumers purchase larger flat-screen televisions to replace their existing analog sets. Currently, the electricity consumed by Californians to power their televisions, recording devices and other connected peripherals accounts for 10 percent of the state’s total residential power consumption, the report said.
The proposal would establish a two-tier power consumption standard. The standard would become effective Jan. 1, 2011, and cut energy use for televisions by an average of 33 percent. The second tier of the plan would begin in 2013, and, when added to the first, would reduce power consumption by an average of 49 percent, according to the state commission.
The Consumer Electronics Association objects to the plan, saying it will reduce state sales tax collections by $50 million and reduce California jobs by 4,600. The association April 2 released a study, conducted by consulting firm Resolution Economics, analyzing the impact of the plan.
According to the analysis, if the proposal were to be adopted, consumers would go online to find the TV models they desire, sidestepping retailers forced to remove non-compliant televisions from stock as well as reducing state sales tax receipts and retail jobs.
Pointing to the second tier standard, the analysis contends televisions that have proven to be popular among consumers will become unavailable. In particular, LCD TVs ranging from 30 to 34in saw a 70 percent increase in sales last year. However, 83 percent of LCD TVs between 24 and 34in meeting the existing ENERGY STAR specification would be eliminated by the 2013 standard. Furthermore, 80 percent of current 35 to 39in LCD televisions and all current plasma TVs larger than 60in would be eliminated by the 2011 standard, according to the analysis.
However, the California regulator’s Web site claims that the proposal’s energy savings would be significant. Once existing stock of televisions is sold, the 2011 standard would save 3831GWh, and the 2013 standard would save an additional 2684GWh — a total of 6515GWh, enough to power 864,000 single-family homes for a year.
The CEA counters that the voluntary ENERGY STAR program in 2007 produced energy savings from all electronics, including televisions, of more than 23 billion kilowatt hours of electricity — enough to power San Francisco and San Diego counties.
How Does Listening Room Acoustics Affect Sound Quality?
by Michel Leduc — last modified April 12, 2009 19:15
Unfortunately, where sound quality is concerned, the acoustics of the listening room is rarely taken into account. Indeed, most people opt for expensive, top of the range sound systems in an attempt to reach the best-possible sound quality. But they often ignore one essential thing: the acoustics of the listening room itself. As a sound system is used in an enclosed space ‘a listening room’, the acoustical conditions of that room will inevitably take control over the sound quality.
This first article focuses on the main acoustical problems of the listening room and on how they deteriorate the perceived sound. In the next articles, each of those topics (acoustical phenomena) will be developed and will be accompanied with practical advice to improve the acoustical conditions of a listening room.
Acoustics: an integral part of the reproduction system
In a medium-sized room, furnished in a usual way, but which is not acoustically treated, the critical distance is of a few meters only – generally 2 meters. The ‘critical distance’, measured from the speaker, is reached when the reverberant sound level equals the direct sound level.
The direct sound is the sound that comes directly from the speakers, without any reflections. So, at that distance, 50% of the sound is the result of the reflections on the room’s boundaries.
These reflections cause various problems such as: phase, frequency response irregularity, loss of definition, aggressive highs, blurred image and low frequencies that are resonant, have holes in them and lack tightness. Going beyond the critical distance means reducing the direct to reverberant ratio, thus the quality of the sound deteriorates even more.
In other words, the acoustical environment should be considered an integral part of the reproduction system.
Quality and price
Contrary to what one may think, acoustical improvement constitutes one of the most efficient and economical ways to enhance the performance of a sound system, since all the various listening parameters can be improved in a very significant way. For the DIY, it is possible to treat a room with affordable semi-rigid fibreglass panels. From these panels, we can build everything we need to control acoustical problems in the listening room: acoustical panels to absorb mid and high frequencies, distant absorbers to control low-mids, lower frequency absorbers that reflect high frequencies, pressure gradient traps and bass traps.
For the aesthetics, we cover the panels with sound transparent fabric, like Guilford of Maine FR-701. All the acoustical material needed to treat a room will cost between 300$ and 600$. Fees for an acoustical consultant vary.
What are the acoustical specifications for a good listening room?
Researchers, audiophiles and sound engineers have conducted many experiences to establish listening room criteria. The ITU, the l’EBU and the BBC publish some recommendations about this. Here are some of them, with some of well known acoustician’s. Those requirements are precise and are not less important than the audio system’s specifications.
Speaker positioning: according to ITU BS-775-2 recommendation
Room frequency response: +- 3 dB, from 250 Hz to 2 kHz.
Space between axial standing waves : > 5 Hz, < href="http://www.saecollege.de/reference_material/pages/Reverberation%20Time%20Calculator.htm">http://www.saecollege.de/reference_material/pages/Reverberation%20Time%20Calculator.htme_material/pages/Reverberation%20Time%20Calculator.htm
Lateral reflections create phantom sources outside the speakers, enlarging the stereo image. By doing so, they also contribute to enlarge every sound element distributed between the speakers. The result is a blurred image that lacks precision.
Direct to reverberant ratio
Early reflections are those which reach the listener within a delay of 15 ms relative to the direct signal. The retarded sound creates phase problems by combining to the direct one. The result is numerous dips in the frequency response. This phenomenon is called comb filter.
Frequency response with treated and untreated first reflection.
The phenomenon does not produce itself the same way at different locations in the place. This is why low frequency response vary from place to place in a room.
Three methods are used to solve standing waves problems. They will be discussed in the next article.
Standing waves can be calculated with the following tool:http://www.bobgolds.com/Mode/RoomModes.htm )
A listening room’s acoustical conditions are therefore key factors of the final sound quality because they affect several parameters in a very significant way. The objective here is not to have a ‘dead’ room, but a neutral room. Some people falsy believe it should be necessary to have a listening room whose acoustics have some characteristics of that of a small concert hall. It would be a mistake because the recording already contains the reverberation and the acoustical ambiance of the room where the concert took place. We don’t want to change this. I occasionally recorded the sound reproduced in an untreated listening room with the aid of very high quality microphones. Believe me, the sound signature of such a room brings nothing positive and considerably degrades the perceived content.
Graphs courtesy of Ethan Winer of Real Traps
For more information search for “acoustic AND room” on these websites:
Audio Engineering Society: http://www.aes.org/e-lib/
Acoustical Society of America: http://asa.aip.org/map_publications.html#0
Michel LeducAcoustics professor, Cégep of DrummondvilleResearcher, Musilab, CCTT sound technologies Acoustical consultant, SONART ACOUSTIQUEListening room and recording studio design
Wednesday, April 8, 2009