Monday, December 19, 2005

Pat Travers has a new album out!

If you ever liked PT or are a fan of heavy blues rock just buy the new album. That's an order. It's very cool.

Pat was always a hero of mine. I used to see him a lot when we lived in Virginia in this dive in Arlington. Melissa likes him too - I have to say she has very good taste in music. The last time I saw Pat was back in Seattle in yet another dive about 2 years ago. I was sort of expecting to see a washed out old dude just trying to get by. Well, I was blown away. Pat was smokin'. He sang great and played guitar even better.

The new album has some cool covers, great guitar playing, and a nice song for Elijah. Like I said, buy it - that's an order.

Hi, I'm Mike Brady

This thing is clearly busted. We're not the freakin' Brady's.

Your Christmas is Most Like: A Very Brady Christmas

For you, it's all about sharing times with family.
Even if you all get a bit cheesy at times.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Variax 600 first impressions

The UPS driver came yesterday and dropped off a Line 6 Variax 600. I got the sonic blue one. As in TARHEEL blue and as opposed to baby blue which may seem the same to you put it's clearly much different. I plugged it into my THD Univalve into a Boogie Thiele ported 1x12 with Vintage 30's and fed it through a Rocktron Chameleon for a little while too.

I've owned 3 other Variaxes (2 500's and one 700 with trem) so I pretty much knew what to expect. The 600 has the 300 electronics revision. The 600 has the same headstock and body style as the 300. The differences between the 600 and the 300 is the 600 has a whidlee bar and the neck is much better. That's not to say the neck on the 600 is great, more that the neck on the 300 is total shite.

I ran through the various guitar models and it sounded as good and bad as the ones I had before. The Strat, Tele, Les Paul, Firebird, Gretsch, 6-string Rick, Sitar, jazz box, semi-holow, and 6-string acoustics all sounded pretty darn good. The 12-strings suck still. They are really bad. I tried dialing in compression and chorus and delay and reverb to bury them and somehow the suck kept ringing through - impressive. This is a sign of the larger problem with the Variax. More on that in a minute.

I had a lot of fun with this. It really is quite convincing. A Tele really sounds like a Tele. The quack sounds on a Strat sound right. The Rick's jangle. The Les Paul neck pickup gets all fat and warm like you expect. The hollow body models inspire you to play all three "jazz" chords you know :) The semi-hollows emit kick ass blues tones. The Gretsch handled Stray Cat Strut no problem. The acoustics were sort of mediocre running through my guitar amp but I know from past experience that running them through a rig more suited to an acoustic guitar that they sound like pretty good piezo equipped guitars - the Variax comes with a footswitch just for this purpose.

Is the Variax as good as your best Strat, Les Paul, whatever? Nah. But it's very good. It really is.

Then it was time to fire up the Variax Workbench. This is a piece of software that allows you to reconfigure the guitar to your heart's content. You connect the Variax to a PC via either the Workbench USB box, a PODxt Live, or a Vetta with a VDI board. You can reprogram any "patch" on the Variax to be anything you want it to be.

You can create all sorts of monstrosities with the Workbench or you can just tweak existing guitar models for subtle changes.

For instance, the first thing I created was a flametop Les Paul with two Tele bridge pickups wired in series side by side.

You pick a body - Les Paul, Strat, Tele, etc.

You pick pickups - Les Paul PAF, Danelectro lipstick, Firebird mini-hum, etc.

You tweak the controls - you pick the pot values - 500k, 250k, etc. and the capacitor values .47pf, etc.

Note that the options are limited for acoustic based models.

And you can tweak the tuning. This is where the Variax could shine but ends up disappointing.

Remember my Les Tele monster that I created? I made it a baritone - I dropped the tuning down to B. It sounded pretty weak IMO. There was all sorts of what I call "little digital mystery sounds" happening. It's hard to describe but it's not a good thing. I did find that with some Chameleon mixed in things got better - a little chorus, distortion, reverb, and/or delay definitely masks the annoyances here.

Want open E tuning? Want drop D? No problem.

You could do the 12-string thing only with limited body types - so I couldn't turn my Les Tele into a 12-string monstrosity. But I could make a Rick Tele 12-string. There really was no salvaging the 12-string tones. Maybe with time and tweaking. I also know they are working on an update so hopefully the tuning stuff will improve.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Things to do at Wal*Mart while your spouse/partner is taking their sweet time

'Tis the season, I got this e-mail from a friend. Some of these are pretty darn funny:

1. Get 24 boxes of condoms and randomly put them in peoples' carts when they aren't looking.

2. Set all the alarm clocks in Housewares to go off at 5-minute intervals.

3. Make a trail of tomato juice on the floor leading to the rest rooms.

4. Walk up to an employee and tell him/her in! an official tone, 'Code 3' in housewares and see what happens.

5. Go the Service Desk and ask to put a bag of M&M's on lay away.

6. Move a 'CAUTION - WET FLOOR' sign to a carpeted area.

7. Set up a tent in the camping department and tell other shoppers you'll invite them in if they'll bring in pillows from the bedding department.

8. When a clerk asks if they can help you, begin to cry and ask 'Why can't you people just leave me alone?'

9. Look right into the security camera; use it as a mirror, & and pick your nose.

10. While handling guns in the hunting department, ask the clerk if he knows where the anti- depressants are.

11. Dart around the store suspiciously loudly humming the Mission Impossible theme.

12. In the auto department, practice your Madonna look using different size funnels.

13. Hide in a clothing rack; when people browse through, say PICK ME!

14. When an announcement comes over the loudspeaker, assume the fetal position and scream "NO! NO! It's those voices again!!!! And; last, but not least!)

15. Go into a fitting room and shut the do or and wait a while; and then yell, very loudly, "There is no toilet paper in here!"

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Pardon the dust...

I'm slowly moving my old blog posts over here. That's why stuff from 2003 is showing up. I just want to keep it all in one place.

Eighth grade math - piece of cake

Bring it on folks - that was too easy.

You Passed 8th Grade Math

Congratulations, you got 10/10 correct!


This was harder than I thought. Of course none of this matters much in my mind. It's good to know of course but I think better questions would be like:
  • Have you ever thought of bombing a restaurant?
  • Has anyone in your immediate or extendend family thought of bombing a restaurant?
  • What's your best time assembling a bomb?
  • What do you typically do with the bombs you make?
  • Can you fucking speaky speaky English?
  • How many terrorist attacks have you planned?

You get the idea. Well here's my score:

You Passed the US Citizenship Test

Congratulations - you got 8 out of 10 correct!

My French name is...

This is pretty stupid. But I did it and here are the stupid results.

Your French Name is:

Corbin Bertin

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

How hard is it to pack a guitar?

Is this some sort of fucking mystery?

Why is it when I buy a guitar from a store making a profit that got it from some company making a profit that neither can pack the guitar properly yet when I buy a guitar from some random dude that's taking a bath on a guitar (or maybe breaking even) he packs it like it matters to him that I receive the guitar in one piece?

This message goes out to Jackson, Ibanez, Fender, etc. and just about every dealer I've dealt with.

I've bought a number of brand spankin' new guitars in the last couple years from a variety of brands and a variety of dealers.

In fact, I got a brand new acoustic guitar in the mail yesterday. It's a damn good thing I ordered the case to go with it because there is no doubt in my mind I would have received a box of green toothpicks if I didn't. And thankfully the guitar was snug in the case. Because the case was just rattling around loose in the box. There was a single strip of that balloon bag stuff in there. It was a joke. The box was busted open from obviously having the case thrash it open. My wife said the UPS driver was shitting a brick apparently because it looked so bad. She called me immediately said she thought I was gonna be disappointed - she was sure the thing was going to be hosed.

It looked to me that this is how it came from the factory. It got lucky on the first part of it's journey so the dealer decided to roll the dice and ship it that way to me. Gee thanks.
And it's not just that guitar yesterday. Every single brand new Jackson, Charvel, and Fender guitar I've bought online was packed with the roll the dice strategy. And these weren't $79 guitars (not that that would be an excuse).

Sheesh, I'm willing to spring for the extra 5 or 10 bucks for some freakin' packing peanuts for a purchase like this.

Now contrast that with the last couple guitars I got from online forum members and/or Ebay. The guitars are padded inside the case, the neck and headstock are protected, and there is some stuffing in the box so the case doesn't freakin' rattle around.

Two companies do get an honorable mention though - Line 6 and Taylor. They actually design their boxes so that the guitar doesn't freakin' move around. And the Taylors come with excellent cases on top of it.

Stupid Browser Tricks Part One

At one point folks got carried away with drag and drop on the IE team. For example:

  • The system menu icon (the little icon in the top left in the window title) is a drag source in IE and Explorer windows. So you can use it to drag a shortcut to the current page/folder/document to anywhere you want.
  • The icon in the address bar is also a drag source. Again, drag this anywhere you want to create a shortcut.
  • The Home button is a drop target. Drop a shortcut here and you've got a new home page.
  • The Favorites button is a drop target. Drop a shortcut here and you've got a new favorite added to the root of the favorites folder.
  • The free edges of the desktop are special drop targets. Try dragging a folder to the right-most edge of your desktop and watch a folder toolband appear docked to the screen. The desktop needs to be exposed for this to work.

So if you want to amaze your friends, drag the system menu icon from "My Computer" and slam it up against the top edge of your screen and watch them gaze in awe as a stylish toolbar appears with Your Computer.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

The Second Stage Turbine Blade - Coheed & Cambria

This is a very fun disc. I've been reading about these guys from time to time in guitar magazines. So I picked this one up. I totally get the comparison to Geddy Lee on the vocals. I think this guy has more of an edge to his voice but the Geddy-vibe is definitely there. There isn't a whole lot of blazing lead guitar on this disc but the guitar work is solid. The tunes are good modern rockers. The best way to describe the sound is: clean. I don't mean the guitar tones are clean, but the rather the production. Not a lot of effects. Every part is very clear and natural sounding. It doesn't sound like someone spent months shaping the sound in ProTools. IOW, it sounds like a BAND.

The song writing is very good. Straight ahead with a few interesting twists now and again to keep it interesting.

The Hippie rating is 8 out of 10.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Howl - Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

Ok, I really dug the B.R.M.C release. Howl, on the other hand, pretty much blows. The songs are boring. No energy. I'm just glad I got free shipping.

This gets a gift of 3 out of 10 stars.

A Bigger Bang - The Rolling Stones

This is definitely their best release in a long time. Probably their best in 20 years. They touch on a bit of a lot of styles that they've dabbled in throughout their career. There's some straight up riff rock, country blues, and even a Motown inspired foot tapper. Good stuff.

This is a solid 8 out of 10 stars.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Two guitars came today

So the UPS guy dropped off two guitars today.

The first is my old Jackson KV2T. I foolishly traded it away. That dude sold it or traded it. The person that got it was kind enough to contact me about getting it back. We worked out a deal for my Ibanez Universe and some cash. I am thrilled to get this guitar back. It looks great, sounds great, and plays great. Kick ass! My wife politely reminded me that she told me not to let it go - once again she was right.

The other is an Epiphone Zakk Wylde Bullseye model - the white/black one (as opposed to the camo version). This guitar looks fantastic. It sounds ok but I already have plans to replace the EMG HZ pickups - I'm thinking it will be a Gibson Iommi signature in the bridge and a Dimarzio Al Dimeola signature in the neck. The guitar has really nasty strings , needs a fret dress, and generally needs a setup. The neck feels good and it's light which is nice for a Les Paul. This could turn out to being a very cool guitar.