Archive for Květen, 2012

6 Questions with Assembly Candidate Michael Cacciotti

Čtvrtek, Květen 31st, 2012

Michael Cacciotti, one of five candidates for the 41st Assembly District, has worked for the state of California for more than two decades.

First, he served as Deputy Attorney for the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and then Deputy Attorney General with the State of California Department of Justice handling consumer fraud.

He says this experience combined with four years working for former Speaker Pro Tem of the California Assembly Mike Roos has given him the institutional knowledge to excel as an Assemblyman.

Cacciotti is also a passionate environmentalist, who serves as a board member on AQMD and Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy. As a city council member of South Pasadena over the past decade, he has helped save the city thousands of dollars in conversions like compact fluorescent light bulbs, drought tolerant plants and hybrid fleets.

Patch: You began serving as a councilman of South Pasadena in 2001 and are on your third term as Mayor. What do you feel is your biggest accomplishment while in office?

MC: Turning the city around fiscally. When I got on the council, there was no money being spent on infrastructure. There were millions being spent on fighting the freeway, which you have to fight the freeway—but in a smart way.

It’s a great council, and we have worked together to embark on a massive infrastructure program—basically rebuilding the entire city from scratch. The leases—stuff like that is very important. Cities have these concessions in municipal leases where at the state level, here’s what I can do:

They did an audit just last year, and the state has thousands of leases, and they only audited about 32. They found out the state was losing tens of millions of dollars by not reviewing—like we did here in the city [of South Pasadena]. There’s potential for hundreds of millions of dollars in savings.

Patch: Let’s talk about your stance on Caltrans homes. What do you feel the state could gain from selling the approximate 500 homes it owns along the 710 corridor?

MC: When I worked at Caltrans, I’m the one who did all that stuff with eminent domain. I handled a lot of lawsuits when people tripped and fell at those properties; the state got sued for a million dollars—because someone was electrocuted or [there was a] faulty wire, an explosion … a roof caved in …that costs us millions of dollars a year, so the savings there would be in the millions. … in staff to oversee that, litigation in the legal department and then the sale [would put] $500 million to a billion dollars in the State Treasury for transportation projects. The cities and municipalities will get that tax increment back, which was lost for the last 40 years. Everyone wins all the way around.

Patch: You are the only candidate who has been a teacher. How would this affect your role as Assemblyman if elected?

MC: I’ve been in classrooms. My first year, most classes were 25 students, but some were over 35, [and in those classrooms] I was a babysitter almost. I couldn’t teach. Class size is very important. I experienced it personally. It was a nightmare for teachers and nothing gets done for the students. I know the importance of technology and resources.

If it were three years ago … I worked for the state three years ago, I knew the snap shop then when we had a billion dollar budget, and I wouldn’t have supported a tax increase. In those three years, we’ve cut to $700 million. We’ve cut jobs; we’ve furloughed people. My caseload went from 40 to 80 cases.

6 Questions with Assembly Candidate Michael Cacciotti

Čtvrtek, Květen 31st, 2012

Michael Cacciotti, one of five candidates for the 41st Assembly District, has worked for the state of California for more than two decades.

First, he served as Deputy Attorney for the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and then Deputy Attorney General with the State of California Department of Justice handling consumer fraud.

He says this experience combined with four years working for former Speaker Pro Tem of the California Assembly Mike Roos has given him the institutional knowledge to excel as an Assemblyman.

Cacciotti is also a passionate environmentalist, who serves as a board member on AQMD and Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy. As a city council member of South Pasadena over the past decade, he has helped save the city thousands of dollars in conversions like compact fluorescent light bulbs, drought tolerant plants and hybrid fleets.

Patch: You began serving as a councilman of South Pasadena in 2001 and are on your third term as Mayor. What do you feel is your biggest accomplishment while in office?

MC: Turning the city around fiscally. When I got on the council, there was no money being spent on infrastructure. There were millions being spent on fighting the freeway, which you have to fight the freeway—but in a smart way.

It’s a great council, and we have worked together to embark on a massive infrastructure program—basically rebuilding the entire city from scratch. The leases—stuff like that is very important. Cities have these concessions in municipal leases where at the state level, here’s what I can do:

They did an audit just last year, and the state has thousands of leases, and they only audited about 32. They found out the state was losing tens of millions of dollars by not reviewing—like we did here in the city [of South Pasadena]. There’s potential for hundreds of millions of dollars in savings.

Patch: Let’s talk about your stance on Caltrans homes. What do you feel the state could gain from selling the approximate 500 homes it owns along the 710 corridor?

MC: When I worked at Caltrans, I’m the one who did all that stuff with eminent domain. I handled a lot of lawsuits when people tripped and fell at those properties; the state got sued for a million dollars—because someone was electrocuted or [there was a] faulty wire, an explosion … a roof caved in …that costs us millions of dollars a year, so the savings there would be in the millions. … in staff to oversee that, litigation in the legal department and then the sale [would put] $500 million to a billion dollars in the State Treasury for transportation projects. The cities and municipalities will get that tax increment back, which was lost for the last 40 years. Everyone wins all the way around.

Patch: You are the only candidate who has been a teacher. How would this affect your role as Assemblyman if elected?

MC: I’ve been in classrooms. My first year, most classes were 25 students, but some were over 35, [and in those classrooms] I was a babysitter almost. I couldn’t teach. Class size is very important. I experienced it personally. It was a nightmare for teachers and nothing gets done for the students. I know the importance of technology and resources.

If it were three years ago … I worked for the state three years ago, I knew the snap shop then when we had a billion dollar budget, and I wouldn’t have supported a tax increase. In those three years, we’ve cut to $700 million. We’ve cut jobs; we’ve furloughed people. My caseload went from 40 to 80 cases.

Audi Planning to Eliminate Rearview Mirrors in Le Mans Cars

Středa, Květen 30th, 2012

One feature that automakers have teased us with and even installed on concept cars is an LED screen and camera in the place of the old-style rearview mirror. With all of the cameras placed all around cars these days, like Subaru’s EyeSight system and the various backup cameras, we are surprised this hasn’t become a reality. The assumed reasons for rearview screens not taking the place of rearview mirrors are NHTSA and DOT regulations.

Honestly, we don’t see why the NHTSA and DOT would think a hunk of glass glued to the windshield is safer than a crisp LED image from an HD camera. Then again those two government offices – as with all government offices – make strange regulations. Apparently an LED screen and camera are plenty for Audi’s future Le Mans cars, as the automaker has just announced, via a press release, that its closed LMP prototype will run with an AMOLED screen in place of the mirror and a rear-mounted camera feeding the images to the screen.

The main reasoning behind this is that the LMP prototype’s cabin is fully closed, with exception of the front windshield, so a rearview mirror would display nothing but the rear wall of the cabin. So, if this technology is good enough for racecars, why are we not seeing it installed in street cars yet? Well, we just very well might, as you likely do not remember, but the rearview mirror was not used on motor cars until Ray Harroun’s Marmon “Wasp” used one in the first Indianapolis 500, in 1911. It later became standard per NHTSA regulations for all cars to come with this item, thanks to its overwhelming success in racing.

“This gives us a whole host of benefits,” stresses Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. “The operation of the mirror is weather-neutral. By contrast, when using outside mirrors, heavy water spray severely impairs the driver’s field of vision when it rains. For the new digital mirror, we worked out various day and night driving modes. Even when a rival approaches from the rear with high-beam headlights the image is superb and not just a glaring light spot.”

This has only been made possible by the latest diode technology. Instead of conventional light-emitting diodes an active matrix OLED (AMOLED) display is used. Its name has been derived from organic semiconductors. Their major advantage: Like displays, AMOLED screens can show multi-colored images and offer better resolution thanks to particularly small pixels with diameters of merely around 0.1 millimeters. Outstanding image quality and short response time are further positive properties of AMOLEDs. “Therefore, even at 330 km/h we’re achieving a totally fluid image flow in real-time transmission,” says a pleased Dr. Ullrich.

At this speed, the Audi R18 covers a distance of 92 meters within a single second. As these new types of screens are freely programmable, Audi uses them to display other data as well. Information on the gear that is currently engaged, the slip level of the tires, and specific warning lights have been integrated into the central instrument.

“I’m pleased to see that we’ve managed to make another contribution to active safety through this technology,” emphasizes Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. “We’ve previously achieved major effects not only with basic concepts but also through detailed innovations. The introduction of a tire pressure warning system in the 2001 season in the Audi R8 is just one case in point. Our drivers came to highly value the digital rear-view mirror right on its premiere at Spa.” At the second round of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) Audi achieved a one-two-three-four victory.

Toyota Auris XR HSD review

Úterý, Květen 29th, 2012

When people are asked to think of a hybrid vehicle, the first name that invariably pops into their heads is Toyota’s iconic Prius. But the Japanese carmaker is intent on making full hybrids — cars that can run solely on a battery-powered motor or a petrol engine or a combination of both — available across its range of passenger vehicles in the next few years.

The Auris is the most recent Toyota line-up to get the hybrid treatment, with the cheaper Yaris model next in line for later this year.

Hybrids are increasingly capturing the imagination of motorists not only in SA but worldwide as fuel prices continue to spike higher. Promising lower fuel consumption and, in most cases, reasonable performance, we’re seeing more of them on our roads.

Detractors will say that a turbo diesel is just as fuel efficient — and perhaps more so — and cheaper than hybrid competitors. But nothing beats the delight of starting up a hybrid and pulling off without the fuel-driven engine engaging. In fact, it can be driven in electric vehicle-only mode for several kilometres, provided you’re not accelerating up a sharp incline or going faster than 50km/h.

TechCentral spent the past week putting the top-end Auris XR HSD — list price, R299 600 — through its paces. There’s also a slightly cheaper XS HSD in the range, but it comes with smaller alloys and fewer of the creature comforts in the XR.

What we discovered in the XR was that below its rather plain-looking exterior (which is not necessarily a bad thing given the odd and somewhat controversial looks of the more expensive Prius), the fully automatic Auris is, for the price, a well-constructed technological marvel.

Before we get into the geeky gadgetry in the Auris, though, first a little about what’s under the bonnet. The XR HSD — which has the same full hybrid powertrain as the Prius — has a 1,8l petrol engine that delivers 73kW of power. The electric motor delivers a further 60kW for a combined 133kW with maximum acceleration from 0-100km/h of 11,4s. Torque is rated at 142Nm from the petrol engine and a further 207Nm for the electric system.

The rear-view mirror is a treat, too, featuring an integrated, full-colour display connected to a rear camera to help you into and out of tight parking spots when you put the car into reverse. This, used in conjunction with park distance control that warns you when you’re nearing an obstruction by beeping ever-more quickly, is particularly useful for tricky parallel parking. It’s the sort of feature that’s usually an expensive optional extra.

The rear-view mirror also uses “electro-chromatic” technology and filters out the harsh headlights of thoughtless drivers who leave their high beams switched on.

The car also features windscreen wipers that switch themselves on automatically when it starts raining. And the headlights also switch themselves on automatically — if this setting is engaged — when it detects that the light is fading.

There’s no integrated GPS in the Auris, which is a pity, but given that would have probably pushed the price well beyond R300 000, it’s perhaps not surprising Toyota hasn’t thrown in the kitchen sink on this model.

Though the Auris XR HSD doesn’t offer some of the features you’ll find in more luxurious cars, it’s one of the best kitted-out cars in its segment and for its price. If you’re a geek at heart and also want to tackle forever spiralling fuel prices (and reduce your harmful carbon emissions in the process), it’s well worth a look.

A sign of utter tech illiteracy

Pondělí, Květen 28th, 2012

Twenty bright green rubber tiles will adorn one of the outdoor walkways at the Westfield Stratford City Mall, which abuts the new Olympic stadium in east London.

The squares aren’t just ornamental. They are designed to collect the kinetic energy created by the estimated 40 million pedestrians who will use that walkway in a year, generating several hundred kilowatt-hours of electricity from their footsteps. That’s enough to power half the mall’s outdoor lighting.

It isn’t just the French and the Guardian any more. It’s us Brits, and supposedly sciencey publications like Nat Geo.

Just for reference, then: even if the vast Stratford City mall uses super-economical LED exterior lighting, just a single light can be expected to require energy supplies of more than 900 kilowatt-hours in a year. There’s no prospect whatsoever that “several hundred kilowatt-hours” could provide half the massive facility’s outdoor lighting - this much is obvious straight off the bat.

The Stratford City mall, we learn from an informative article in the CIBSE journal (pdf), will be supplied by a combination heat/electricity/cooling plant which will be capable of 46.2 Megawatts of heating, 39 Megawatts of cooling and up to 3.34 Megawatts of electrical power. It will not be running at maximum in all three categories at once, but even so we can see that the Stratford City mall’s power consumption over time will run in the several tens of megawatts - for annual energy consumption of a few hundred thousand megawatt-hours.

Contrast this with “a few hundred kilowatt-hours” and we can see that the footfall generators will provide roughly one millionth of the energy the mall requires. They will not “reduce its carbon footprint” at all. Even if the whole place was tiled with footfall generators and every person on them generated 7 Watts constantly … you would have to pack more than half the population of London in there, five million people all walking around without pause, just to keep it powered up. On a really cold or hot day you might need millions more.

This is the same “Crowd Farm” idiocy that came out of the architecture faculty at MIT a few years ago. By this stage, of course, regular Reg readers would expect this sort of technological illiteracy from architects.

In fact of course Pavegen’s business model has little to do with actually generating power. It’s about marketing and green imagery:

Higher profile gigs loom. Pavegen has partnered with Siemens, the German technology company … large, sponsored installations are planned for a major London train station and an Athens shopping mall this summer.

Siemens at least has plenty of people who know full well that human beings’ muscles cannot supply any significant amount of the power required by a modern civilisation. But nonetheless they intend to sponsor public foot-power installations with their name on them, intended no doubt to suggest to the public that they are a green company making every effort to reduce carbon emissions (and thus that they deserve the large public subsidies and stealth taxes which sustain the green industry).

But if you understand what’s Watt you realise just how stupid and pointless a public treadmill installation is … and you realise that Siemens knows all this … and your perception of green industry and imagery changes somewhat. You might find that Siemens’ assumption that you the pedestrian are so ignorant that them sponsoring public treadmills is a good idea tremendously insulting.

A head in the clouds

Pátek, Květen 25th, 2012

The master bathroom at 10 Via Aragon in The Dominion luxury-home subdivision has a bathtub, shower, toilet and the requisite lighting to shave your whiskers — but not likely of the ilk to which most mere mortals are accustomed.

The home of neurologist Braden Neiman, his wife, Traci Neiman, and their children is a Zen-like idyll throughout, but nowhere is the concentration of fine woods, luxurious stone, tile and other exotic finishes more pronounced that in that salle de bain.

A $10,000 crystal chandelier, suspended from a marble-tiled ceiling and cloaked by a circular wall of sparkling miniature tile melds its lighting with natural sunlight from high-set, castle-like windows. Calcutta gold marble covers the floor, bath and countertops. A clear-cherrywood dressing room (a closet on steroids) off the bathroom has scads of shelves underlit to make the otherwise mundane activity of shoe selection spectacular.

A mini-fridge is at hand — indubitably for champagne-and-caviar dreams.

For the price tag of $3.5 million, the home should be a looker, and it will indeed get lots of looks this weekend as the 2012 Greater San Antonio Builder Association’s Parade of Homes includes it on the latest incarnation of aspirational homes. More than 40,000 people are anticipated to attend.

The home in the Aragon at The Dominion in the southernmost area, orchestrated by builder Kyle Lindsey, features “some of the most expensive materials that we’ve seen in a long while – a lot of it applied in unusual ways,” said Lindsey.

A $17,000 coffered ceiling, 20 feet high, in the family room (one of several gathering areas) caps cool grey walls concealing eight stereophonic speakers for the sound system, supporting an indoor-outdoor theater created by retracting Nano doors that lead to a travertine patio, pool and swim channel.

Lindsey, conducting a preview while workers bustled all around, pointed out an where a small patch of carpet had yet to be installed in the study, said, “I don’t know what the carpet looks like, but I know it’s expensive.”

A home electronics system makes the environment controllable from near (via an iPad in the wall) or far (from the owners’ iPhone).

With such surroundings, one might expect its occupants to be, well, on the uppity side. Not so, judging by the down-to-earth aura emanating from the woman of the house, who says she will be doing the hands-on house chores herself.

“Scrubbing the soap scum!” Traci Neiman said brightly. “If you’re like me, you’ll be doing it.” Hands on has been her motto on the entire home-building process, she said, noting that she has scoured both bricks-and-mortar stores as well as the electronic marketplace for materials and furnishings.

“It has been a very fun process. We’re really excited. We’ve had two homes and never sat in one of our dining rooms,” she said, explaining their decision to turn a formal dining space into a wine lounge.

Not to worry about the family’s nutritional requirements, there are two other dedicated dining areas.

She fought against the Tuscan trend that is so entrenched that the word trend is now passe. No oil-rubbed bronze finishes here, she said, opting instead for polished chrome.

Guy Wins Motorcycle USA Custom Honda Fury

Čtvrtek, Květen 24th, 2012

Delivering the mail will soon be a whole lot funner for Guy Fernandez of Berthoud, Colorado. Why you say? Because Guy, a Postal Service worker, will soon be rippin’ around his hometown on a sweet customized 2011 Honda Fury courtesy of Motorcycle USA. Fernandez was lucky enough to beat out thousands of other entries in a random drawing to win the custom Honda cruiser we gave away in conjunction with the Ultimate Builder Custom Bike Shows held at the International Motorcycle Shows (IMS). Thanks to our gesture, Fernandez is our new “No. 1 Fan.”

But it wasn’t an easy process. The custom Fury traveled to all 12 stops of the IMS, culminating in the Ultimate Custom Builder finals in Daytona Beach. Thousands of people who saw it entered to win by voting for the “People’s Choice” while others, like Fernandez, entered the giveaway via traditional snail mail. Envelopes arrived in the Motorcycle USA office from all around the country. After spending months on the road traveling around the country, the custom Fury is temporarily back in our hands but soon it will be heading to Berthoud to meet its new owner.

Motorcycle USA’s custom 2011 Honda Fury has crazy cool gold metal flake paint and pinstriping applied by the crew over at Cutting Edge Illusion, insuring that it’s one of a kind. Low and Mean also helped us set the Fury apart from the crowd by sending over more aggressively cut fenders and by helping drop the rear with a lowered rear spring.

Accutronix sent over a set of industrial strength Diamond “Night Series” forward controls and front rigid pegs to add to its ill disposition while Cobra Speedster Swept Pipes and a PowrFlo Air Intake System give it a meaner growl and more go than a stock bike. Small details like an Accutronix sidemount license plate and a Low and Mean LED brake light strip give it more custom street cred. The final touch was applied by Burns Auto Upholstery who stitched a Motorcycle USA sprocket logo in the middle of the leather seat. We’ve sampled it and the Fury is a lean, clean hard-charging machine.

Fernandez couldn’t believe his stroke of good luck, especially since it will be the first real motorcycle the professed scooter rider has owned. Granted, a 1312cc V-Twin is a big step up from a small step-thru scooter, but the father of two is both excited and nervous about the proposition. But we helped assuage his worries by pointing out the easy going nature of the Honda Fury, from its smooth handling to manageable power. Now he’s got a new topic of water cooler conversation when talking to his buddies who ride Harleys. And considering he’s got two daughters in grad school, a new motorcycle is a just reward for a man who apparently has done his role as father well. It also means he’s an empty nester, which means he’s got a little more time to enjoy some of the incredible roads in his neck of the woods in Colorado.

Motorcycle USA officially congratulates Guy Fernandez, winner of our custom 2011 Honda Fury giveaway. We’d also like to thank everybody who entered the contest and caught the Ultimate Builder Custom Bike Shows at the IMS.

New trends at Lightfair 2012: Fine motion control and incandescent-like dimming

Středa, Květen 23rd, 2012

At Lightfair 2012, Lighting Science Group (LSG) demonstrated how the company is integrating controls and LED products across its product lines. “We’re taking controls and intelligence packages and wrapping LED products around them,” said Jim Haworth, chairman and CEO of LSG. One example of this combination is the company’s recently launched Forefront LED luminaires, available in area, flood, high bay, pedestrian and wall-mount versions, which can be controlled using PixelView occupancy sensing and video processing.

In a demonstration at Lightfair, David Henderson, chief development officer of LSG, showed how PixelView camera-based motion sensing can be programmed to sense disturbances in a specific area. “In the past, we used passive infrared, but what you find in different applications and in very cold or very hot climates, you can get dead zones where performance drops off,” said Henderson. Instead, PixelView uses a CMOS camera, similar to that used in automotive applications, and the motion detection can be confined to any part of the camera’s field of view. For instance, if the user wishes to program the camera to ignore a heavily trafficked area and instead focus on an area around a car, PixelView can be programmed to do that.

Each Forefront LED product is designed as a one-for-one replacement of 100-750W HID fixtures, requiring 50% less energy usage. The flood luminaire features lumen output up to 23,000 lm, and can be used for facade, sign, landscaping or architectural lighting.

Also at Lightfair, LSG recently introduced its RoadMaster LED street light, which is designed to be a low-cost replacement for HPS fixtures. Approximately 4000 100-150W HPS fixtures are currently being replaced in Puerto Rico.

Lighting Science Group is also preparing to roll out a solar-powered street light that will be capable of 3-day autonomy. Named FreeLED, the luminaire will contain all power electronics in one unit and will use a next-generation lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) battery, which offers better thermal and chemical stability than other lithium-based batteries. According to Lighting Science Group, the LEDs used in this luminaire have an efficacy of 133 lm/W.

Both Osram Sylvania and Juno Lighting introduced LED lamps capable of incandescent-like dimming at Lightfair 2012 to serve the needs of residential and hospitality environments.

Sylvania has released its Ultra PAR38 with CCT dimming, which allows dimming from 3000K to 2000K by using a combination of blue phosphor-converted LEDs and amber LEDs, according to Ellen Sizemore, product marketing manager for Osram Sylvania. She stated that if this incandescent-like dimming proves popular, Sylvania will make the dimming available on all its product lines.

Juno Lighting’s Chris Walsh, vice president of product management, explained that the company’s WarmDim recessed downlight received Lightfair’s Technical Innovation Award for the most forward-thinking advancement in LED lighting. WarmDim uses an on-board microprocessor to dim from 3000K to 2000K and is available on 4, 5 and 6-in downlights. The 600-lm downlight uses 14W of power. The downlights are available in retrofit or new installation versions.

Terese Garrett-Miller wins Rising Star award from Alliance of Women Owned Businesses

Úterý, Květen 22nd, 2012

Terese Garrett-Miller, owner of Bella Kitchen Essentials in Uptown Gig Harbor, has been declared the “Rising Star” among women-owned business in the South- and West Sound area by the Alliance of Women Owned Businesses (AWOB).

The announcement was made at a gala “Crystal Star” banquet on May 17, where Garrett-Miller was presented with the Rising Star trophy by fellow Gig Harbor resident Julie Tappero, AWOB founder and owner of West Sound Workforce.

The Rising Star was one of two awards presented by AWOB at the event. “The Rising Star award acknowledges the achievements of a new — under five years —woman-owned business,” Tappero said. “The award is to applaud her early success and accomplishments and to encourage her ongoing efforts.”

The other award — the “Crystal Star” — was given to Lisa Chissus, owner of CFM Consolidated, a plastics manufacturing business in Fife. The Crystal Star salutes “an inspiring, successful entrepreneurial woman who has been in business longer than five years” Tappero said.

This was the first time the awards have been given by the two-year-old AWOB organization. “We had more than 30 candidates that came from as far away as Indianola in North Kitsap and from all over Pierce County,” Tappero said. “The judges narrowed them down to 14 semi-finalists, and then to three finalists in each of the categories.”

Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson, who was one of the judges, introduced the three finalists in both the Rising Star and Crystal Star categories. Several — but not all — of the finalists were AWOB members.

In describing Garrett-Miller, who opened Bella Kitchen Essentials in 2010, Anderson said, “Terese is an example of how a woman can rise above bad circumstances and be a success. Shortly after she opened her business, her husband was diagnosed with a very serious illness, but Terese persevered through those hard times and listened to her customers and grew her business.

“Her customers said they wanted a cooking school so she added a cooking school to her store and soon she will open an online store.”

In accepting the Rising Star award, Garrett-Miller singled out Evie Lynn as her mentor and guiding light. “If any of you women here needs an example to follow, Mrs. Lynn is the one.”

She noted that her husband Howard and their two daughters, Alex and Lauren, were all present. “One of your servers tonight is my daughter, Alex. One thing I taught my daughters is how to work,” she said with a smile.

She called the award “an extraordinary honor. This room is filled with stars. And you all know that it’s impossible to succeed without a team of good people, family, friends and vendors to work with you.”

Garrett-Miller’s thank-you list included her bank, the management of Uptown, her “magic man” store manager Scott Johnson “and especially my customers.”

Other Rising Star finalists were Cheryl Iseberg, owner of Blue Zone Consulting in Fircrest and Mary Lou Guinn, owner of Point of View by Lou Photography in Gig Harbor.

In addition to Chissus, the Crystal Star finalist were Julie Thompson, owner of Family First Adult Family Homes in Gig Harbor and Monica Downen, owner of Monica’s Waterfront Bakery and Café in Silverdale.

Sony BRAVIA KDL-55HX853 3D LED TV

Pátek, Květen 18th, 2012

The TV’s four HDMI ports are more than enough for average home use — we don’t expect many living rooms to have more than a Blu-ray player in them these days, especially since most TVs (including the Sony HX850) can record TV shows, making a PVR redundant. The HDMI ports are distributed across the side and bottom panels of the HX850’s rear.

An optional break-out connector lets the Sony HX850 receive analog composite and component video. There’s also a built-in analog composite video port on the TV’s rear facing outwards, along with two of the three total analog audio inputs.

There’s an Ethernet port on the bottom panel and two side-mounted USB 2.0 ports for Internet and external media connectivity respectively. NTFS file systems aren’t supported over USB, so you’ll need to make sure flash drives or hard drives are formatted using FAT. We had no problems playing MKV, AVI, MP4, MP3, WAV, JPG and BMP files on the Sony HX850 through either USB port off an external hard drive.

Wi-Fi is built into the Sony HX850, with 802.11b/g/n supported. The HX850 has Wi-Fi Direct, so content can be directly streamed to the TV from any compatible laptop, smartphone or other mobile device.

Like older Sony BRAVIA TVs, the HX850 supports an optional USB Skype camera which, in conjunction with a Skype app, turns the TV into a big-screen Web video phone.

The Sony BRAVIA KDL-46HX850 is the 46in version of the HX850 Series LED TV. There’s also a 55in KDL-55HX850, which comes with a $700 higher pricetag of $3999.

The 46in screen of our test Sony BRAVIA HX850 is, as you’d expect, a Full HD 1080p one with a 16:9 aspect ratio. The HX850 is equipped with Sony’s X-Reality Pro picture engine for a range of real-time picture quality enhancements like edge sharpening and dynamic contrast.

The backlight of the BRAVIA HX850 is made up of white LEDs arranged around the bezel of the TV. Being an ‘edge-lit’ LED TV the HX850 is reasonably thin compared to most plasma and LED back-lit TVs.

Sony rates the HX850 as a ‘MotionFlow XR 800’ TV. This means it’s a 200Hz panel with backlight scanning, which strobes the LED backlight in between video frames to help smooth out motion. This is the approach taken by most LED TV manufacturers. While the 200Hz mode’s overly-smooth effect may be too smooth for some viewers, having the option is a good thing for those that want it.

After adjusting the BRAVIA HX850’s various video settings — generally lowering colour gain and bias for individual colour channels, raising the colour temperature, moderating brightness and sharpness — we found that the TV’s picture quality went from good to excellent. We would strongly recommend getting this TV professionally calibrated if you purchase it — some minor adjustments can make its picture quality significantly more impressive than straight out of the box.

Colour performance is very good for an LED TV, with plenty of detail and fine gradation, and little to no crushing of detail in heavily saturated areas. Black levels are quite good — not as deep as a good plasma, though — and we didn’t notice any significant clouding or backlight bloom in dark scenes.