Looking back on it, 2004 was a pretty eventful year around The site has seen a significant amount of traffic (at least for a humble site such as this) as well as some nice additions to the content. Aside from the site itself, we took possession of our new house around noon on new year's day 2004, and it has consumed a significant portion of our time and energy over the course of the year.

I've had this domain since the late summer of 1999, and the site has been up and running in some significant form since January 2000. In fact, the counter on the front page will be five years old one month from today. More than half of the hits currently on that counter (around 16,000 of the 31,000) are from 2004. Much of the traffic on the site came from the Star Wars DVD pages, due to both a significant level of activity relating to bootleg DVD's (including sets by TR47 and others) and the official release of the original trilogy on DVD (as covered on my Star Wars DVD News page and reviewed here). Custom DVD covers accounted for a large share of the traffic (close to 110,000 page views in 2004) and an often-overwhelming share of the bandwidth usage –, which closed up shop around the summer of 2004, created an active online community of custom cover art creators and an even more eager community of custom cover art collectors, and my page was one of the few surviving sources for custom covers of Star Wars discs. Before Hurricane Electric revised its account limits late this year, I was forced to pull the cover art page down for at least one or two weeks each month to avoid bandwidth overage charges. Along with the Star Wars DVD resources, there were some other home theater portions of the site that remained well used and even grew some. I added six equipment reviews in 2004, including the Yamaha DVD-S1500, which has recently become the most often-viewed review on the site. Last year's DMR-E80 DVD recorder review remained the most heavily used review prior to the S1500's arrival, and the site's original equipment review (the Outlaw Model 950) is still getting its share of attention. More often viewed than any of the reviews, however, are two of the most unassuming sections of my Home Theater Primercables and wiring diagrams. Next year will likely bring somewhat less regular updates to the site. Revenge of the Sith will assure some Star Wars DVD news, and I may look to update some sections of the Home Theater Primer as time allows, but there will be few if any additional equipment reviews and probably not much other new content. The site's format has been working well for me for several years now, so I will likely retain it as well.

Somewhat unexpectedly, the home theater saw a number of good upgrades over the course of the year, which is why the equipment review section saw so much new content. First came new Axiom M3ti side surround speakers in January, brought about by a larger room that offered space for a true 7.1 speaker layout and also lacked proper space on the side walls for dipole speakers. The third Paradigm Reference Studio/ADPv2 speaker, evicted by the pair of Axioms, was sold soon afterward. A couple months later the SVS 25-31PCi subwoofer was replaced by an Outlaw LFM-1, a somewhat more wife-friendly box that also integrates better with my speakers. A new entertainment center appeared in March and prompted me to play with a rudimentary IR remote control distribution system. May (and tax returns) brought an HDTV, specifically a Zenith C32V37, as well as a cable box swap (exchanging the Pace Micro DC-510 for an HD-capable DC-550) and an indoor antenna so we could watch over-the-air HD on the TV's built-in HD tuner. To match up with the HDTV, we replaced the Panasonic DVD-RA60 in September with a Yamaha DVD-S1500 progressive scan universal DVD player. The arrival of the Axioms in January uncovered a problem with the Parasound HCA-800 amp that was responsible for driving the rear surround speakers, specifically that one of its two channels only worked intermittently. In November, we addressed that by replacing the HCA-800 with a pair of Outlaw Model 200 monoblock amps. To top off the year, we picked up a basic MiniDV camcorder (JVC GR-D33) at Christmas. Expect 2005 to bring little or no change in the system – the amps, speakers, and display are all likely to last anywhere from five to twenty years, and the source components and processor are good for at least a few years.

The changes in the home theater were nothing compared to some other changes around the house. Within a month or two of moving in, we started planning for a kitchen renovation, as the existing kitchen was the only real weak spot in the house. Cheap cabinets with sagging shelves, soffits over the upper cabinets that caused the room to feel as if it was closing in on you, unappealing lighting, a one-compartment sink, and an odd array of appliances all begged for a change. With a little help from Home Depot (our source for cabinets and appliances), we laid out a plan for a whole new kitchen. The process of carrying out that plan is covered in painful detail in the online journal that I kept. We handled our own demolition, removing all of the cabinets and appliances, the original pantry, the soffits, and eventually the entire ceiling. A couple of really good independent contractors took care of the significant electrical work and the new sheetrock, then we came back in and painted everything ourselves. A couple of unfortunate shipping mistakes ruined the same cabinet component twice, leading to four weeks of delay. Bungling by one Home Depot contractor created another month or two of delays, including a number of missed deadlines, wasted work days, and perhaps most painfully the destruction of a brand new vinyl floor. That contractor was removed from the project and replaced by a more competent installer. Further compounding the first contractor's errors were a series of mistakes with the countertops: half of the original tops were cut wrong (including a sink hole that was 8" too wide); a replacement top was chipped in the warehouse; the replacement's replacement was cut too long and then chipped while being re-cut; and a few spots were scratched during installation. What should have been finished by Memorial Day was not done until the latter part of August. While the road was unpleasantly bumpy, the results have been fabulous. Immediately on the heels of the kitchen, we turned our attention to what had until then been the "spare room" – the third bedroom, which had served as a nursery for the previous owners. It will serve the same purpose for us when our daughter arrives in February 2005, and as a result we have been working steadily to get it ready: taking down the old border above the chair rail, painting all of the woodwork white, painting the wall above the chair rail, putting up wallpaper below the chair rail and a border at the ceiling, replacing the light fixture with a ceiling fan, repainting an old bookcase and a new dresser/changing table, tracking down an area rug, retrieving Becca's crib and setting it up, replacing the blinds with shades (and soon curtains as well), and generally making the room ready for habitation. The Christmas holidays arrived before the nursery could be finished, but we are close and I hope to be able to put the finishing touches on the room in the near future. We were fortunately able to decorate the house for the holidays this year, including a Christmas tree in the den, something that we were unable to do last year while trying to sell the old house.

The year 2004 is drawing to a close. It's been a busy year for the site and for us, and it looks like next year will bring even greater changes. Happy new year...


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