Bob's Basement

Just a short, simple blog for Bob to share his thoughts.

Not that it will make any difference...

I am a big fan of movies; and to be honest, I am mostly a fan of classic movies. I have slowly collected a large number of classic movies over the years from several of my favorite actors/actresses: Cary Grant, Ginger Rogers, Jimmy Stewart, Katharine Hepburn, Errol Flynn, etc., etc., etc.

That being said, I am generally not a big fan of recent movies; more often than not the creative team is too short-sighted, and they frequently fall short of creating a truly great movie. Sometimes the problem is writing, sometimes it's direction, and other times it's the acting. But to be fair, sometimes the problem isn't with any of those contributors - sometimes it's a problem with post-production, and this is why I love to buy "Director's Cuts" for many films. Quite often there is a level of depth that is missing from the movie that was part of the director's original vision, and it makes the movie so much better when you add that detail back.

Here's a case in point: I actually like the movie Far and Away with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. Once you get past their bad Irish accents, the movie is a somewhat-acceptable dramedy.

But there are a few scenes that were cut from the film, and unfortunately the DVDs that have been released have never added those scenes to the media. Without theses scenes, parts of the plot have abnormal jumps in the storyline, and it's too bad that a Director's Cut has never been released.

Here are some examples of what I mean:

  • Near the beginning of the movie was an extended sequence near the piano in the Christie's house where Stephen Chase has a private conversation with Shannon Christie. We see Stephen's character soften a little; we learn that he truly cares for Shannon, and that Stephen is not a complete jerk - he's just an arrogant by-product of elitist class.
  • Likewise there was a hilltop scene in Ireland after Shannon and Joseph Donnelly have left for America where Stephen is emotionally destroyed, and he expresses his sentiments to Daniel Christie. Once again this softens Stephen's character a little, and this adds a great deal of conflict to the movie as a spectator - you want to hate Stephen, and you feel like you should hate Stephen, but now you can't. That was a great piece of filmmaking that should have stayed in the movie because it added so much depth.
  • There was an extended scene later in the movie when Joseph was working for the railroad. The shortened scene that was kept simply shows Joseph in a job with no future, whereas the original scene showed Joseph as near-suicidal; Joseph believed not only that he had lost Shannon for good, but that Shannon might not have survived her gunshot wound. Because of this, Joseph was known as the "Crazy Mick" and sent on all of the dangerous missions - because Joseph no longer cared if he lived. This added a whole new dimension to the scene when Joseph discovers Shannon in Oklahoma, because it wasn't mere coincidence to him, he felt as if he was seeing a ghost.
  • There was a brief scene when Joseph and Shannon first arrive in America where they pass under a bridge and they see scores of homeless Irish living in squalor. Later in the movie this comes full-circle when Joseph and Shannon are tossed out in the streets, because they find themselves living in that same squalor, and we get to see just how far they have fallen.
  • There was another scene after Joseph and Shannon are tossed out in the streets where workers were needed for ditch-digging; Joseph volunteers so that he can earn money for the two of them, yet when he turns around at some point he sees Shannon working beside him digging in the ditch. This scene was extremely important to see how the two of them were truly becoming one unit in their struggles together, and it adds a great deal of depth to the scene later in the movie when Joseph and Shannon attempt to hide in the house they thought was unoccupied.

The last two deleted scenes that I described show the many months that Joseph and Shannon suffered together, instead of the awkward jump in the theatrical release between the scene when Joseph and Shannon were thrown out of their apartment (with Joseph beat to a pulp) and the scene when Joseph is begging to help someone load firewood (with Joseph now healed and exclaiming that they haven't eaten in days). Without that detail, the theatrical release is missing a great deal of its emotional impact.

Unfortunately, none of the scenes that I have described have ever been released on a DVD, so they are somewhat lost to the world. My descriptions of these additional details won't bring them back, and it's too bad that Imagine Films won't release these scenes in some format. If anyone knows Ron Howard, you might want to suggest that he release a 25th Anniversary Edition of Far and Away when that date eventually rolls around, but in the meantime - my lamentations won't make a bit of difference.

Posted: Jun 27 2013, 19:04 by Bob | Comments (0)
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Your Tablet PC is Not a Camera

It never ceases to amaze me the number of people who walk around with a tablet PC and try to use it as a camera.

I don't care how many megapixels a tablet PC has - it's not a real camera, and people look pretty silly trying to hold up a tablet in order to use it as one. Not to mention the fact that people with tablet PCs are typically blocking everyone else's view.

Please do yourself and the rest of the world a favor - if you need to take a photo, buy a real camera.

Posted: Jun 15 2013, 21:25 by Bob | Comments (0)
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A=432Hz Tuning versus A=440Hz Tuning

A coworker recently pointed me to the following blog post, and he asked if it had any basis in reality: 432Hz: Crazy Theory Or Crazy Fact. After looking at that blog, I think a better title for it would be "432Hz: Misinterpreted Theory and Misconstrued Facts." I honestly mean no disrespect to the author by my suggestion; but the blog's author clearly does not understand the theory behind what he is discussing. And because he misunderstands some basic concepts, his discussion on this subject offers little by way of practical information. As such, I thought that I would set the record straight on a few things and offer some useful information on the subject.

First of all, the author's suggestion that using A=432Hz for a reference when tuning will put your guitar in Pythagorean Tuning is completely false; all you are doing is changing the base frequency that you are using, but your guitar will still be in Standard Tuning.

Discussing the base frequency is about as effective as discussing the merits of an E-Flat Tuning versus Standard-E Tuning; either one is fine, and it just comes down to user preference as to which one is better. The same thing holds true for choosing A=432Hz over A=440Hz - it's a preference choice. (Unless you have Perfect Pitch, in which case  A=432Hz is probably going to annoy you more than words can say.)

However, there is one major difference: if you choose to record music by using an other-than-normal base frequency, you'll frustrate the heck out of someone who just tuned their guitar with a standard tuner and attempts to sit down and learn your music. ("Hmm... this just doesn't sound right.") And you could retune just to annoy them for fun, of course. ;-]

That being said, any discussion of Pythagorean Tuning and the guitar is utterly useless, because a guitar is not fretted for Pythagorean Tuning. Here is where the real confusion lies, because the author of that blog is confusing changing the base frequency with somehow putting the guitar into a different temperament, which is not possible without re-fretting your instrument. Here's what I mean by that:

The physical interval between the frets on a guitar neck is based on Equal Temperament, which is a constant that is defined as the 12th root of 2. In Microsoft Excel that formula would be 10^(LOG(2)/12), which comes to 1.0594630944. We all know that an octave is double the frequency of the base pitch, so with A=440Hz you would get A=880Hz for the next higher octave. By using the above constant, you can create the following scale from an A to an A in the next higher octave by multiplying each frequency in the scale by the constant in order to derive the resultant frequency for each successive note:

Note Frequency
A = 440.00Hz
Bb = 466.16Hz
B = 493.88Hz
C = 523.25Hz
C# = 554.37Hz
D = 587.33Hz
D# = 622.25Hz
E = 659.26Hz
F = 698.46Hz
F# = 739.99Hz
G = 783.99Hz
Ab = 830.61Hz
A = 880.00Hz

In contrast to the claims that were made by the blog's author, you do not magically get whole-number frequencies (e.g. with no decimal points) if you change the base frequency to A=432Hz; the math just doesn't support that. Here is the list of resulting frequencies for an octave if you start with a base frequency of A=432Hz, and I have included a comparison with a base frequency of A=440Hz:

Note Frequency 1 Frequency 2
A = 432.00Hz <-> 440.00Hz
Bb = 457.69Hz <-> 466.16Hz
B = 484.90Hz <-> 493.88Hz
C = 513.74Hz <-> 523.25Hz
C# = 544.29Hz <-> 554.37Hz
D = 576.65Hz <-> 587.33Hz
D# = 610.94Hz <-> 622.25Hz
E = 647.27Hz <-> 659.26Hz
F = 685.76Hz <-> 698.46Hz
F# = 726.53Hz <-> 739.99Hz
G = 769.74Hz <-> 783.99Hz
Ab = 815.51Hz <-> 830.61Hz
A = 864.00Hz <-> 880.00Hz

When you look at the two sets of frequencies side-by-side, you see that tuning with either base frequency yields only two even frequencies - one for each of the A notes. However, when you use the standard A=440Hz tuning, you have two frequencies (the F# and G) that almost fall on even frequencies (at 739.99Hz and 783.99Hz respectively). Not that this really matters - your ear is not going to care whether a frequency falls on an even number. (Although it might look nice on paper if you have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and you rounded every frequency to the nearest whole number.)

Since the frets on the guitar are based on this temperament, that's all you get - period. You can fudge your base frequency up or down all you want, but in the end you're still going to be using Equal Temperament, unless you completely re-fret your guitar as I already mentioned. (Note: See the FreeNotes website for guitar necks that are fretted for alternate temperaments.)

If you had a background that included synthesizers, (and as a guitar player I must apologize for my side hobby on keyboards), you might remember that back in the 1980s there was a passing phase with microtonality on keyboards. If you had a keyboard that supported this technology, you were able to play your keyboard by using intonation that was different than the Equal Temperament, which was sometimes pretty cool.

Why would someone want to do this? Because many of the old composers never used Equal Temperament; that's a fairly recent invention. So if you want to hear what a piece of piano music sounded like for the original composer, you might want to set up your keyboard to use the same microtonality temperament that the composer actually used.

But that being said, before the invention of Equal Temperament, there were several competing temperaments, and each was usually based on tuning some interval like the fourth or fifth by ear, and then finding intervals in-between those other intervals that sounded acceptable. What this resulted in, however, were a plethora of tunings/temperaments that sounded great in some keys and terrible in others. More than that, if you continue to work your way up a scale based on intervals based on sound, you will eventually introduce errors. Using the actual Pythagorean Tuning suffers from this problem, so if you put a microtonal keyboard into Pythagorean Tuning and attempted to play a piece of music that extended past a couple of octaves, it sounded terrible. (See Pythagorean Tuning for an explanation.)

But on that note, almost every guitarist suffers from this same problem, but you just don't know it. Have you ever tuned your guitar by using the 5th fret and 7th frets harmonics? Of course you have, and so have I. But here's a side point that most guitarists don't know - when you tune your guitar by using those harmonics, you slowly introduce errors across the guitar, and as a result it will seldom seem completely in tune with itself.

Here's an excerpt from a write-up that I did for the Christian Guitar website a while ago that describes what I mean:

There have been many different temperaments used in the Western Hemisphere, and many of these centered around specific intervals. For example, start with a C note, then find the perfect octave above; you now have the starting and ending points for your scale. Next, find the harmonically perfect 5th of G by tuning and listening to pitches, then use these intervals to find E, which is the major 3rd. Once done, you now have three notes of your scale and the octave. If you jump up to G and use the same process to find the 3rd and 5th, you get the B and D notes. If you keep repeating the process, you eventually derive all of the diatonic notes for your major scale. On a piano that would be just the white keys.

Leaving sharps and flats out of this example, (the piano's black keys), the problem is that if you keep using the perfect 5th for a reference, you gradually find that the notes in your scale are not lining up as you travel around the circle of 5ths. This occurs because using perfect 5ths will eventually introduce slight errors on other intervals, and the result will be that your scale works great in one or two keys, but other keys sound noticeably awful.

Here's why this happens: after having gone around the entire circle using perfect 5ths as a tuning guide, by the time you get to the octave above your starting note, the physical frequency for the octave is not the same as the last pitch that you derived from tuning based on the perfect 5ths. This is especially problematic when you use one particular note/key to tune an instrument, and then try to play in another key. For example, if you tune an instrument using perfect 5ths and start on a C note, the key of C# will sound distinctively out-of-tune.

The only trouble that some people might have with equal-temperament is that the intervals within the octave are not based on perfect intervals, but rather intervals based on the constant. This causes a lot of problems with people who tune by ear using perfect 5ths, which many guitarists do without realizing when they tune their guitars using harmonics over the 7th fret.

For example, if you were to tune an E note using an A note as a reference point, your ear would want to hear the perfect 5th for E which is 660.00Hz, not the equal-tempered E that is 659.26Hz. Although the difference is very small, it is compounded over time as you tune the other notes within the scale. If you continued to tune using 5ths, your next note higher would be the B that is a 5th over E. Your ear would want to hear the perfect 5th again, so you would wind up with 990.00Hz for B instead of the equal-tempered 987.77Hz. Another perfect 5th would be 1485Hz instead of the equal-tempered 1479.98Hz, then 2227.50Hz instead of 2217.46Hz, etc.

I personally find the math part of music fascinating, and I've obviously spent a bunch of time (perhaps too much time  ;-]) studying notes, scales and tunings from a mathematical perspective. Because of that, I view the whole guitar neck as a numerical system and all chords/scales as algorithms. I know that's really geeky, but it's still pretty cool. In the end, I think that math might be my 2nd-favorite part of music. (My favorite part is turning the amps up to 11 and feeling the actual notes as they tangibly pass through my body - it's like a physical feedback loop. Very cool...)

The net result of this discussion is - use a tuner when you are tuning your guitar, not your ear. And it doesn't matter what your base frequency is when you are tuning your guitar - you are still using Equal Temperament because that's the way that your guitar is made. ;-]

Posted: Apr 22 2013, 19:45 by Bob | Comments (0)
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The Road Less Travelled

Perhaps it's because the media is going through yet another season of what seems like a never-ending parade of Hollywood awards programs, but I was thinking the other day about all of the awards that I will never win. For example, I will never win a Golden Globe. I will never win a People's Choice Award. I will never win an Oscar, or a Tony, or an Emmy, or any award that is named after some person who might not be real. And despite a lifetime of playing music, I will never win a Grammy or any other award that the music industry is giving out these days. This may be my reality, but to be perfectly honest, I am never saddened by this, nor do I generally give this concept a second thought.

That being said, the most-recent awards show made me think about the reasons why we even care about those kinds of awards. I can't name who won Best Actor or Actress from any of the awards shows that have taken place in the last several years, and that's really not an issue for me; I'll never meet any of the people who win those awards anyway. What's more, I'm not sure if I would want to meet most of the people who actually win those awards, seeing as how the evening news and morning talk shows are always spinning stories of their latest transgressions. I think the part that gets me the most is how - after throwing their lives away on one selfish pursuit after another - the world eventually calls them "artists," and everyone waxes poetic about how these artists have suffered for their cause; as if they woke up one day and consciously chose to take the road less travelled in Robert Frost's famous poem. When I was younger, I think I bought into that illusion, too. But the older I get, the less I am impressed by their actions - and perhaps I should explain what I mean by that.

If a man whom you knew personally walked out on his wife and family, in most cases you would probably think he was acting like a selfish pig. But if it was a famous actor from Hollywood or a legendary singer from Nashville, you might think to yourself, "Gee, that's too bad...," as if their fame has excused their adverse behavior for some inexplicable reason. You might even go so far as to feel sorry for said person; after all, it's just so sad that their family doesn't understand how hard an artist's life must be.

But why do we feel this way? Why do we put these people on some sort of undeserved pedestal? Is it because they're artists? The more I think about it, I don't believe that they've chosen the road less travelled - I think they've chosen the easy path; they've chosen the path that's all about them. Perhaps that's why they need so many awards shows; they need the constant reassurance that all of the suffering they cause is for a noble purpose. But I just can't bring myself to see it that way.

Let me briefly tell you a true story about my life, and this is difficult for me because it is always dangerous when you open up your life to public scrutiny; you never know what people are going to think. When I was much younger, I faced one of those situations where it seemed like two roads were diverging before me and I had to pick which path I would travel.

I had just celebrated my 19th birthday, and my rock band was starting to do really well. We weren't great by any means, but we were just coming off a series of really great gigs when my fiancé told me that she was pregnant with our child. I had a lot of options before me: we could get married, we could put the baby up for adoption, etc. (My girlfriend had additional concerns: what if I suddenly became some sort of jerk and told her that it was her problem and left her to face this on her own.) Once the news began to work its way through the grapevine to all our friends and family, I heard a lot of advice from a lot well-meaning people - all of whom listed off suggestions that were much like the choices that I just mentioned.

But I didn't take anyone's advice. Instead, against everyone else's counsel, I married my girlfriend. We had a baby girl, who is now almost ten years older than I was when I made my choice to keep her. But this decision on my part didn't come without cost; my days of playing long-haired lead guitar for a rock band were over. In fact, my entire youth ended almost overnight - it was time to put aside my personal ambitions and accept the responsibilities that lay before me. My wife and I spent many years in abject poverty as we fought side-by-side to build a home together and raise our children as best we could. Despite the difficult times, my wife and I recently celebrated our 28th anniversary, and we raised three great kids along the way.

However, my life might not have been this way; I could have chosen the other path when I was given the opportunity to do so. I could have chosen something selfish that I wanted just for me, and I could have left my girlfriend to deal with it on her own. Some years later, I could have written a heart-wrenching song about the hard choices that I had to make. Perhaps that could have become a hit, and I could have sold that song to untold scores of fans. Maybe I could have written a book about my life and my admirers might have said, "That's so sad - look at everything he gave up to become who he is."

Every year people walk out on their responsibilities in the hopes that the scenario which I just described will happen to them; they hope they'll be successful despite the pain that they cause to others. What is worse, however, is that popular culture applauds such actions. Songs like Bruce Springsteen's Hungry Heart attempt to spin public opinion in support of egocentric behavior by unapologetically suggesting that a deadbeat dad was simply "following his heart."

Yet in my personal situation this delusion would have been far from the truth; I would have been a selfish punk who left his unwed 18-year-old girlfriend to face the world alone with a newborn baby girl. Perhaps I might have become a successful 'artist' and sent generous child support payments to take care of my daughter's every need, but that's just not the same. Children need parents; they need both a father and a mother to be there to love and raise them.

There is no way that I can say this so it won't sound overly-judgmental, but I think it makes someone a coward when they choose their own selfish desires over their family and their responsibilities. When I chose to become a father, I gave up everything that I wanted for myself; I gave up my personal hopes, dreams, and desires for my life. I sacrificed everything so my daughter would grow up with both a mom and dad. My choice was much harder to live with than I ever could have imagined, but my daughter's life was worth the cost.

So in the end, when I finally shrug off this mortal coil, I will not have won any awards for what I have accomplished in my life, and I'll have no golden statuettes to adorn the shelves in my study. I am sure that I will never win father of the year, but my three children will have had better lives because I chose to be their father. I did not choose the easy path for my life - I chose the road less travelled, and I pray that for my family it has made all the difference.

Posted: Jan 16 2013, 02:53 by Bob | Comments (2)
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Zero Dark Thirty

Here's a weird but true story for you: my wife and I went to the movies tonight to see Zero Dark Thirty, (which was a good movie in case you were wondering). Right at the point where the Navy Seals [spoiler alert] pull the trigger on their main person of interest, a man in the theater started yelling, "VIOLENCE ONLY BEGETS VIOLENCE!!! VIOLENCE ONLY BEGETS VIOLENCE!!!", and he ran out of the building while continuing to scream that phrase like a cultish mantra.
This leads me to the following quandary: it was publicly and deliberately advertised what the subject of this movie was about ahead of time, so there can be no question that everyone in the auditorium knew before they walked through the theater doors that they were there to watch the CIA and Navy Seals take down the principle terrorist who planned the tragedies of September 11th, 2001. So why would anyone go to this movie expecting anything other than violence?

This movie has an "R" rating because of the violence; and there is a lot of violence in this movie. But oddly enough, the person in question did not run screaming from the theater when [spoiler alert] a lot of European and American lives (both combatants and non-combatants) were premeditatedly and violently killed throughout the two hours of the movie which preceded the brief actions that were the cause of his outburst.
The whole affair was surreal, and I am sure that several people (not just me) were nervously wondering if we were about to see a repeat of the tragic theater shootings that took place at the Batman premier last summer. I'm beginning to think that I'll just wait for everything to come out on Netflix before I watch it in the future.

Posted: Dec 22 2012, 22:28 by Bob | Comments (0)
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Restoring an Old Friend Back to Life

My Love Affair with Explorer-style Guitars

Many years ago - more years than I will care to admit - I saw Cheap Trick in concert. (Okay, just to give you an idea of how long ago this was - Cheap Trick was touring to promote their Cheap Trick at Budokan album; you can do the math from there.) At this point in my life, I hadn't been playing the guitar for very long, and my main guitar at the time was a cheap 3/4-size nylon-string acoustic that my dad had bought for me from a store on a military base. Military bases aren't known for keeping great guitars in stock, so it needs little explanation that I was fascinated by any cool guitar that came along. This made seeing Cheap Trick even more entertaining, because their lead guitar player, Rick Nielson, used something like 1,000 different guitars throughout the show.

But one particular guitar caught my eye - an Explorer; something about it's futuristic shape seemed to me like the coolest guitar ever. Rick Nielson played an Explorer from Hamer Guitars, but I soon learned that Hamer's Explorer was a copy of the Gibson Explorer, and that became the 'Guitar to Have' for me.

Rick Nielson (left) playing a Hamer Explorer onstage with Cheap Trick.
(Note: This image is originally from Wikipedia.)

About this time I was in my first rock band with my good friend Gene Faith. Even though we both actually played the guitar, we liked to create fake instruments for ourselves - I made myself a fake guitar out of scrap wood that looked like an Explorer, even though it was hollow and had strings that were made out of rubber bands. But it was cool - there was no doubt in my mind about that. Once we had some 'instruments' at our disposal, we'd put on a record and pretend to actually play these fake instruments and jump around my dad's living room like we were rock stars. (Hey, don't laugh so hard - I was only 12 or 13 years old.)

My first electric guitar was a cheap copy of a Gibson SG that I purchased at Sears for somewhere around $100. (And believe me - I delivered a lot of newspapers to earn the $100 to buy that guitar.) It was okay as a starter guitar, but I soon found myself wanting a better axe. A year or so later I saved up more of the proceeds from my newspaper route and I bought an Explorer copy from an off-brand company named Seville - it was nowhere near as good as a Gibson, but it was the best that I could do on a paperboy's budget. It had a hideous tobacco sunburst paint job, so I removed the neck and hardware, sanded the body down to the bare wood, stained it with a dark wood color, and then I shellacked the body with a clear finish. When I reassembled the guitar, it looked pretty good. I played that Explorer for a few years, and I eventually sold it to my friend Gene.

That's me on the right
playing my Seville
Explorer back in 1981.
Gene posing with my
Seville Explorer.

Jumping ahead a few decades, another good friend, Harold Perry, was moving from Seattle to San Francisco, so he was parting with a bunch of musical gear. I'm always in the market for seasoned gear that needs a new home, so Harold and I were going through a bunch of his old items while I was deciding what I might want to buy. Harold had bought a 1980 Gibson Explorer II several years earlier as a 'project guitar' - it had been badly treated by a previous owner and needed a lot of repair work. Since Harold was moving, he didn't expect to have time to finish the guitar, and he wanted it to find a good home, so he sold it to me for a great price.

And so my adventure with guitar restoration began as a labor of love.

Restoring My Gibson Explorer II

When I took the guitar home, the first thing that I did was strip all of the remaining hardware off the guitar; thereby leaving nothing but the wood body. I then proceeded to polish every inch of the guitar for a few hours. Whoever had owned the guitar before Harold apparently had some hygiene issues and it seemed like he had never cleaned the guitar despite voluminous amounts of caked sweat that coated much of the surface. What's more, his sweat had corroded all of the stock hardware, so nearly all of the hardware would need to be replaced. With that in mind, I decided that this would be a long-term project and I would take my time with it.

The Explorer with all of
the hardware removed.
original hardware.

The next thing that I needed to do was to polish the hardware that I intended to keep - which was just the brass nut and frets, all of which looked pretty hideous. I used Mr. Metal to polish the hardware, which seemed a strangely apropos title for a former heavy metal dude.

Badly-tarnished frets and nut. Dude - it's "Mr. Metal." :-O
The pile of used cotton patches
after I finished polishing.
Shiny frets and brass nut!

Over several months I slowly bought new hardware that I needed. I'll spare you most of the details, but suffice it to say that it took a long time for me to locate and purchase all of the right replacement parts that I wanted. I primarily bought the hardware from Stewart McDonald, Musician's Friend, and Guitar Center, and I had the guys at Parson's Guitars create a new truss rod cover to replace the original that had been lost before the guitar had found its way to me. In the end, I replaced the bridge, tailpiece, volume & tone potentiometers, tuning machines, strap locks, toggle switch, and speed knobs. (The folks at Parson's Guitars thought that replacing the stock Gibson parts was a sacrilege, even though I explained that keeping the stock parts left the guitar unplayable.)

All new hardware. New truss rod cover.

Before I started wiring the guitar, I lined the inside of the routing cavities with copper tape - this is supposed to reduce EMI on the guitar. I've never used it before, so it's something of an experiment. In any event - lining the routing took several hours to complete; time will tell if it was worth it.

Lining the interior routing cavities with copper tape.

The next part of the project was to install the new guitar tuning machines. Oddly enough, Gibson won't sell their inline-6 set of tuners for an Explorer to customers, so I had to buy tuning machines from another company. I eventually decided on tuning machines from Gotoh, which I was able to order through Stewart McDonald. The trouble is, once I mounted them on the headstock, I discovered that the screw holes for the tuning machines were off by a little over a millimeter. (If you look at the image, you can see that the screw holes are angled slightly downward on the right side of the machines, but they needed to be perpendicular to the machine shafts.)

Bad news - these tuning machines don't fit. :-(

After doing some additional research, I discovered that the only Gotoh tuning machines that Stewart McDonald sells are Gotoh's SG381 tuning machines, and I needed their SG360 tuning machines for my Explorer. After a quick call to Stewart McDonald, I verified that they cannot order Gotoh's SG360 tuning machines for me, so I searched the Internet until I found a distributer in Australia who could ship them to me. It took several weeks for the tuners to make the journey to the United States, but when they arrived they were a perfect fit.

Good news - these tuning machines fit. :-)

Once I had the right tuning machines installed, I started the long process of wiring and soldering the electronics.

Installing the pickups and
running the wires.
Soldering the pickup
selector switch.
Soldering a capacitor on
the tone potentiometer.
Installing the pickup selector
switch and running the wires.
Testing some of the
wiring before final soldering.
Soldering completed!

Once I completed the wiring, the last hurdles were to re-string the guitar, tune it up, adjust the string height and intonation, and test it out. (Which is the fun part.)

That about sums it up. The guitar looks great and plays great, although I might drop it by the folks at Parson's Guitars and have them them give it a quick tune-up for good measure.

Special thanks go to Harold for hooking me up with this guitar; and I also owe a big set of thanks to my wife, Kathleen, for humoring me while I took over one of the rooms in our house for the several weeks that I spent working on this project. ;-)

Posted: Nov 28 2012, 02:00 by Bob | Comments (0)
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It's Never Too Late to Go Back to School

After two long years of sacrificing my evenings and weekends in order to complete homework assignments, I just received the following in the mail:

This obviously signifies that I have finally earned my Bachelor's Degree. This is traditionally a four-year degree, but I managed to complete my degree in just over 28 years from when I first started college. (So anyone who is currently on a five-year plan for their four-year degree, take my word for it - you could do a lot worse.)

By way of explanation, I had never finished my Bachelor's Degree; I dropped out of college during my freshman year when I got married and we needed the money. Our idea at the time was that I would work full-time while my wife went to school full-time, then we would swap roles when she completed her nursing degree. Unfortunately, our lives didn't work out that way. Shortly after I dropped out of college I joined the US Army, and that put a temporary halt on both of our college aspirations as the military continuously transferred us from one location to another.

After five years in the Army, I was finally at a time and place in my life where I could go to college in the evenings and do my homework during the weekends. Because of this, I received my Associate's Degree around the time that I finished eight years in the military; this meant that I had earned my two-year degree almost 9 years after I first started college.

A few months after I received my Associate's Degree I left the Army, and my plan at the time was to go to school and finish my Bachelor's Degree. But once again, my plans didn't work out that way. Sometime during my first year back in school, Microsoft offered me a job, and that opportunity was simply too good to pass up. This was ultimately a great decision, but it meant that my college goals needed to be put on hold again.

Sometime around my fifteen-year anniversary at Microsoft I decided that I was once again in a time and place in my life where I could go to college in the evenings and weekends, so I enrolled in an online program through Liberty University. (I chose this school because their online programs are very friendly to current and former members of the military.) My declared major was Multidisciplinary Studies, which is a fancy term for a program that allows you to split your major into two or three concentrated subject areas. (I chose Computer Science and Religion.)

Jumping ahead a couple of years, I found myself studying hard to complete all of my upper-division courses while putting three children through college, flying around the world to speak at various technical conferences, surviving the weddings for two of my children, and juggling a work schedule that typically comprised 50 to 60 hours a week.

In the end, I finished all of my courses at Liberty University in just over two years - and I managed to maintain a 4.0 GPA throughout my studies, thereby graduating Summa Cum Laude. (Which is probably Latin for "You really need to get a life.")

So if I do the math correctly, it took me 9 years to get my two-year degree, and it took me an additional 19 years to get my four-year degree. At this pace, I should have my Master's Degree 29 years from now.


Posted: Oct 30 2012, 18:37 by Bob | Comments (0)
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Bad Christians

I recently saw this video:

Let's put this in perspective - a group of self-professed 'Christians' shows up uninvited to a Muslim Arab Festival, where they are confrontational to the Muslims and insulting to the police, and they are carrying signs with slogans like "Repent - your party will burn in the lake of fire (01:14)," "Islam is a religion of Blood & Murder! (03:26)," "Be not believers in drunkards, whoremongers, idolaters, sodomites, fornicators (04:30)," "I am truth and the life - all others are thieves are robbers (04:30)."

No - this was not an act of random violence by a group of Muslim extremists who were targeting an innocent group of Christians; this was a deliberately-staged set of contentious actions by some very unbalanced people who claim to be Christians in order to provoke the very attack that transpired. These otherwise peaceful Arab-Americans were enjoying a day of celebration of their faith and heritage, and these so-called Christians showed up and behaved in an extremely insulting manner, shouting insults with a megaphone and slandering the Muslim faith - these 'Christians' might just as well have been Nazis based on their behavior. The police were 100% correct is telling these fools that they were the cause of the trouble.

Let's reverse things for a moment - let's say that you were a Christian at a peaceful church gathering when a group of atheists showed up to protest by using a megaphone to hurl insults at your religion and they carried signs that proclaimed that Jesus was a drunkard & whoremonger who was the illegitimate son of unwed slut, you would be more than a little offended. You might not personally react with physical violence, but if you had a few thousand Christians in one place when a publicly-outspoken group of atheists or Buddhists or Hindus or Muslims showed up and behaved as provocatively as these 'Christians' did, I can 100% guarantee that someone would eventually lose their cool and start throwing things.

This video is a perfect example of how Christians should NOT behave, and they are certainly not following Christ's example. This is not a question of exercising freedom of speech or freedom of religion - this is a question of exercising good judgment and Christ's love; this group of 'Christians' exhibited neither.

Self-professed 'Christians' like those in this video should be ashamed of themselves.

Posted: Jun 27 2012, 10:07 by bob | Comments (0)
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Adventures with the Tooth Werewolf

My oldest daughter just reminded me of something that I hadn't considered in years: when my children were young, my wife and I raised our kids somewhat differently than other parents. If you know me personally, then you're well aware that I'm not revealing anything surprising by that admission.

But let me explain what I mean: every parent has to choose which traditions they want their children to experience, and which traditions they want to skip. For example, some parents let their children celebrate Christmas, while other parents might not let their kids participate in Halloween festivities. My wife and I decided that Christmas and Easter were great, albeit with no Santa Claus and no Easter Bunny.

Now I know what many parents are thinking, and you can put the phone down - my children are all grown and you can't call Child Protective Services just because my children didn't set cookies by the Christmas tree in hopes that St. Nick would drop by.

But we had one tradition that we didn't skip, we just changed it a little; instead of the Tooth Fairy, we had the Tooth Werewolf. That's right, instead of Tinkerbell, we had Timberwolf.

I don't know why I chose to raise my kids with the belief that a big, hairy wolf snuck into their room and absconded with their baby teeth, but what's even more surprising is that my wife let me do it.

In all actuality, my children knew that it was me - I made sure of that. But it was pretty amusing when they would tell their friends that the Tooth Werewolf was coming to take away their teeth.

By the way, after a few successful years of the Tooth Werewolf, I decided that he needed a friend, and I invented the Easter Vampire.

Years from now, someone might need therapy. Winking smile

Posted: Feb 09 2012, 15:46 by Bob | Comments (0)
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What I do not admire...

A friend of mine recently posted the following news link to Facebook:

Atheist teen forces school to remove prayer from wall after 49 years

He accompanied the link with a statement which stated that he admired the young girl for standing up for herself despite all of the misfortune that has come her way. While I strongly object to the hostility that has been directed at her, I do not admire this girl; not because I might disagree with her, but simply because this is yet another symbol of what is so often wrong with this country. While I strongly support standing up for what you believe in - or in this case what you don't believe in - do not mistake self-centered motives for moral courage.

At sixteen, you are convinced that the world revolves around you. (I have just raised three teenagers, so I am speaking with the voice of recent experience.) The question here is not whether the state is cramming religion down someone's throat - which it clearly is not - but whether an entire community should be inconvenienced for the self-interested attitudes of a single detractor. This solitary malcontent is asking for her community to discontinue a half-century of tradition, and she is demanding that thousands of previous students, parents, and faculty look the other way while she forces the world around her into a mold that is custom-fit for her and no one else; how immature.

There are so many things in contemporary society for which we are asked to look the other way if we have an objection; simply flipping through a magazine or turning on the television will provide ample material for one person or other to raise a protest. You might agree with their objections, or you might disagree, but we live in a free society where you do not have the right to never be offended. In our culture the generally-accepted answer is for the complainant to avoid what offends them; we do not require every publisher to pander to the wishes of every objector. If we managed to remove everything that offended any individual person then we would have nothing left to look at or listen to. (For example, I can't stand country music, but I don't sue Nashville in order to force them to stop cranking out album after album of music that makes me want to hurl.)

But that is not the case in this situation. What is taking place here is that a single student has raised an objection out of self-centered desire; perhaps it is a desire to get her way, perhaps it is a desire for attention, or perhaps she has ulterior ambitions in mind. In the end, it really doesn't matter. If you read the "prayer" in question, there is nothing in it that should be offensive to anyone; it is not forcing religion on anyone - it is simply a call to be a better person:

"Our Heavenly Father,

"Grant us each day the desire to do our best, to grow mentally and morally as well as physically, to be kind and helpful to our classmates and teachers, to be honest with ourselves as well as others. Help us to be good sports and smile when we lose as well as when we win. Teach us the value of true friendship. Help us always to conduct ourselves so as to bring credit to Cranston High School West.


Since when is being good offensive to anyone? Is it because she wants to violate the thoughts of goodwill that are expressed within those few words? Does she find it threatening that someone wishes for her to aspire to be better than she is? (Note: You may choose to believe in God, or you may not, that's your choice; but that's actually beside the point in this scenario.)

What is extremely revealing of her attitude is her cause for atheism; when she was ten years old, God didn't do what she wanted, so she decided that there is no God. It's an odd coincidence that the source of her disbelief was a similar situation to her current predicament; when the school voted to keep the prayer banner in question, she lost faith in them. If her parents had opposed her outspoken position, she would have undoubtedly lost faith in them. If the courts rule against her, then she will lose faith in government. This is a bad set of precedents that she is establishing; she wants the world to bow down to her demands, and if they don't comply, then she will simply complain to someone else until she gets her way. Ultimately, it's a bad signal to society when we do so.

This is where she is the most wrong; we live in a tolerant culture, and tolerance means accepting the fact that someone has a right to a conflicting opinion. This is true for religion, politics, sports, entertainment, etc. No one should be allowed to force everyone else to agree with them. So I reiterate my earlier statement: do not mistake self-centered motives for moral courage.

Posted: Jan 27 2012, 13:47 by Bob | Comments (0)
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