Thursday, March 30, 2006

Getting To The Heart Of Things

But Seriously Folks...
One of the really weird things about getting older, for me, is that I know what I believe, and more importantly know why I believe it. But it's really hard for me to talk about my faith in Christ and about politics on this site. And I think it's because, at 43, experience has taught me that most people are just as determined in what they believe as I am. So why bother trying to write to convince someone else to come on over to my point of view?

As a Christian, I feel I should share some things I have learned about God and the Bible here, but I guess the whole blog thing is still too new for me to stretch my wings in that way just yet. Maybe it's because I can talk about guitars and spearmint gum and not offend. But if I put stuff out there that I am totally convinced of, you may take offense and I don't want to start a flame war between semi-anonymous people. That would be senseless.

Same for politics. I follow many news sources every day and I form my own opinions about what I learn. But I know as soon as I put some of my opinions about politics here, I'll be opening a can of worms, and again, possibly starting a flame war.

I think Christianity is pretty simple. But people and politics are very complicated. My voice here is just one of millions, and I actually might be assuming too much of myself that anyone actually sees and reads this site. But I know that in the coming weeks I'll feel compelled to speak out on these two things (Christianity and Politics) and just deal with the consequenses.

You see, I'm very conservative politically, but I like to read liberal blogs like Daily Kos and others just to keep up with what the left are thinking and saying. I grew up in a conservative area, and I know that conservatives can be pretty rough and heartless at times. Although that's more about the type of person one is than about one's politics. But all my life, I've heard liberals and Democrats in particular describe themselves as the party that cares about people, but man, I have read stuff on the liberal sites and blogs that are every bit as vicious as ANYTHING I've ever heard from the conservative camp.

Truly, blogland can be a brutal place. And I'm a really laid back guy, so I guess I just don't have it in me to be as mean and hurtful as many of the sites I've seen.

Anyhoo, I guess I'm just trying to get my courage up to join the fray and talk about two things I have barely touched on here on purpose. I'm still too new at this to let it all hang out just yet, but I feel some heavy posts coming on.

I'll end this by providing links to some of the blogs I visit daily. For fun. For information. To laugh. To learn.

Two AMAZINGLY mature and well spoken Christian teens whose sites about life and Christianity I admire:
Impressive Pizza
Oneway Purpose

For conservative political stuff with a crazy twist (from a fellow engineer), you simply MUST check out:
IMAO (truly a funny site!)

For liberal stuff I go to Daily Kos like everybody else. But nobody there is funny. I mean at ALL. And I can only take it in small doses.

I have only found one funny liberal site, but it's not politics heavy, just a well written site mainly about life by an admitted political liberal. But, she's really funny and the way she describes things reminds me of my sister.
Liberal Banana

That's enough for now. 'Til tomorrow (or sooner if inspiration strikes).

Cell Phones and Guitar Amplifiers

The Waltons
My wife absolutely loves her cell phone. She loves programming different ring tones to identify who is calling. She has her contact list maxed out. And when someone gets a new phone, she's jealous because the newer phones do more than hers.

Right now she's scheming for a pink RAZR phone of course. (She's eligible for a new phone in September, I better start saving)

But last week she found out you can have custom ringers on your phone. So now, when anyone calls her cell phone, you no longer hear her phone ringing on your phone, you hear instead... The Theme From the Walton's television program from the 1970's. It sounds as if you were immediately put on hold without even being told they were gonna put you on hold. But no, it's just the way her phone rings from the caller's point of view.

I wish she hadn't heard of this. When I call her during the day, I end up having that frazzling tune stuck in my head until I can hear some other music.

Which is exactly why I'm writing this, the Walton's tune is stuck in my head! Oh, the Humanity!

She could have at least chosen Metallica or something with cool guitar in it.

Warning: Guitar Stuff Ahead!
Guitar Amplifiers
When I first started playing guitar in the late 1990's, I read every guitar magazine, and every internet article about tone that I could find time for. I knew that, when I had learned to play, I would need to get me a great amp.

Then and now, I think the holy grail of electric guitar tone is a Les Paul through a Marshall amp. So, when I had the money, I bought a Marshall JTM-30 combo amplifier. This was the spring of 1998. 30 Watts of tube heaven. Absolutely beautiful clean tone as well as a great distortion sound. Granted, you can't get great metal sounds from a 30 Watt, open back combo amp, but this thing did up to hard rock with beautiful sound.

Then, there started to be some rumblings in the amplifier world. For years amp makers had tried to make solid state analog amps and then digital modeling amps that sounded like tube amps, but with the dependability of solid state amps. (I.E. didn't have to change tubes).

And by the end of the 1990's there were some companies that were able to launch lines of amps that sounded almost as good as a real tube amp. These amps had the added bonus of being able to sound like many different amps. A Marshall stack. A Fender Champ from the 50's. And as the 1990's ended three of my friends that play guitar each bought the same digital amp, a Line 6 AX2 212. I heard three different players able to dial in many, many sounds, and THEY ALL SOUNDED REALLY REALLY GOOD.

People who were fanatic about only playing through real tube amps did, and still do, claim to be able to immediately tell the difference between a digital amp and a tube amp. But for me, the digital amps had gotten to the point where they sounded just as great, and to be able to have essentially 20-30 amplifiers in one amp was awe inspiring.

The digital amps are made to take the incoming signal from your guitar, run this signal through a Digital Signal Processor (DSP) and manipulate that signal, and send it on through the power section and on to the speaker. And in the digital world the max of up to a 3 or 4 KHz guitar signal is dog slow, and easy to manipulate. So, a couple of DSPs on in the amplifier circuitry, and some quality engineering, and you end up with an amp that way exceeds most player's needs. Especially someone like me who is an amateur who will never be a traveling pro guitarist.

After a few more years, I finally sold the Marshall and bought a Line 6 POD. Looks like a big, red, aluminum kidney bean with knobs. And I bought a Tech 21 Power Engine 60, which is basically a 60 Watt combo amplifier without a pre-amp. I use the POD as the pre-amp, and it sends the processed guitar tone to the Power Engine. So I effectively have 32 guitar amplifiers with various effects like distortion, phaser, tremolo, etc. all in one amp.

But the real beauty of my setup is when I need to play my guitar at church, I just take the POD and plug it directly into the mixing board. The POD weighs just a couple of pounds. I don't have to take my Power Engine, thus saving wear and tear on my pathetic back.

And boy, does this thing sound amazing. It can make my Power Engine sound like a closed-back Marshall stack. Metal mayhem! I can dial in all kinds of sounds to maximize the sound of each of my guitars and save the settings for future use.

Latest Addition
The Roland Micro Cube is without a doubt, the best sounding tiny amp I have ever heard. It comes with an AC adapter but it also uses 6 AA batteries for taking it anywhere you want. Like my back patio for practicing and enjoying the beautiful Florida evenings. Go to Roland's web site and check out the Demo of this little beast. I think you'll be impressed. It is also uses DSP and can sound like 5 or 6 amps and they sound spectacular.

Muy Caliente!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Ipod Copy and Orbit Gum

Hidden Cost of NOT Buying an Ipod
A co-worker of mine recently bought a 30GB Creative Zen Vision M Ipod knockoff. He's had it a couple of weeks, has almost filled it with music and movies and just raves about the thing. Physically, it's about the same size as a real Ipod, but it is half again thicker.

He is a cracker-jack engineer and he did the usual engineering geek trade study of all the different mp3/movie players before buying the Creative one. It must have been the best features-for-price available. Like I said, he loves the thing and raves about it.

BUT. He bought a rubbery black cover for it and so, at a glance, it looks almost just like a real Ipod. Consequently everybody that walks by his cubicle says, "Hey! You bought an Ipod!"

I bet I've heard him scream "It's NOT and Ipod!" 20 or 30 times. It's so funny how little things get to people… Now everybody knows it bothers him and repeatedly asks how he likes his new Ipod.

Good Times. Good Times.

Orbit Gum
The spearmint one with the crunchy outer shell (Orbit White) is awesome. The first few chomps are intense AND it slays my after-lunch barracuda breath. Thanks Orbit. (Now, if only my teeth were as straight and white as that British girl’s in the commercial)


Tom Jones

I just found out that the singer Tom Jones was given a knighthood by the queen of England!

Cricket. Cricket.

Tick. Tock. Tick.


Today is gonna be a weird day. I can just tell.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

A Kiss For Daddy

My Daughters and My Father
One of the saddest things for me in seeing my daughters grow up, is that when they were younger, from toddler to say, age 12 or so, they would both come running to greet me at the door when I got home from anywhere. Before I went back to school and earned a degree that allowed me to have my very first day job, I worked nights and they were in bed most times, but still, homecomings when they were up were great.

And in the few years I had from when I got my present job after college, working days until they grew out of it, I would get excited coming home in anticipation of my daughters' reception. A few blocks from home, I would get a bit giddy with anticipation. 'Daddy's home!' they would yell and each daughter would run up and grab one leg to hug, and when they were bigger, we'd have a group hug. Wonderful!

But, alas, kids grow up and out of such things, and although if they are at home now when I get home they say hello, ask about my day, and sometimes give me a hug, I miss how expressive they were when they were little. I sure miss the pure look of happiness on their faces just to see me. We don't love each other any less now than then, quite the contrary, but kids grow up and pull back from you as a natural part of their development.

God puts within each of us in our teen years the desire to be our own person and to eventually be on our own. It's only natural.

But, it's by far one of the hardest things to get over as we all grow older.

I remember as a boy, each night as I went to bed I would kiss my Mom and Dad on the cheek tell them good-night. And I also remember with great clarity the night I held back and didn't kiss my Father good-night. I just told him good-night.

But my heart was bursting with guilt because I thought that I should still want to kiss him, but some part of me felt that was for kids to do. I remember laying awake and worrying whether or not I hurt my Father's feelings that night.

That's one of the things that, even as a 43 year old man, I can still get all verklempt just thinking about. My Father died in 1994, a few days after my 32nd birthday. He and my Mom had brought a cake to me on my birthday, and as they left we all hugged and said I love you to one another. I'm so thankful that some of my last words to my Father were how I loved him.

I think I'll go home tonight and give my family hugs and kisses all around.

As a young man I didn't want dogs in the house. My wife had always had house pets while growing up, but I hadn't, and couldn't be bothered with them.

Then, six or seven years ago, I guess I got to a point where I just couldn't justify not allowing my wife to get a dog. I had finally mellowed out on that point.

To make the story short, we now have 4 miniature poodles. One is actually a toy poodle though.

And I dearly love those little rascals.

And wouldn't you know it, when I get home from work in the evenings, they raise such a clatter of noise with barks and howls and running around just because I'm back.

They even do it if I've been outside for five minutes taking out the trash, but I'm not complaining.

My daughters may have grown out of the big welcome like I did with my parents, but those poodles are stuck at being like kids, and as long as we have them, I KNOW I'll have a big welcome home every day.

That's good enough for me.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Lazy American! Grrr Unix! I Owe My Mother!

Them Furriners!
You know, if you just do some blogger surfing by jumping from blog to blog via the ‘next blog’ button on the top right of the screen (I love to do this), it’s amazing how many non-English blogs you come across.

I’m not complaining, it just amazes me that there are that many typefaces for all the different languages. Pretty cool.

Wish I could read ‘em.

But, I’m the typical lazy capitalist American. Don’t care enough to learn a second language. Although I did take two years of Spanish in high school, but that was in 1977/’78 and 1978/’79, so I can only remember stuff like ‘manana’ and ‘hola’ and ‘qual es la fecha de hoy’ (what is the date of today). Pretty sad, huh?

I like to look at the people’s pictures, even if I can’t read what they are writing about.

And what the heck is with so many sites being in pure gibberish? Like this:

And this:

I just don’t get it. They read like some of that ‘spoken word’ junk.

At work I have to use both Windows and Unix computers. It's really not that big of a deal, but what ends up bugging me, aside from having to learn crypic commands for Unix like the old DOS days, is that the Sun Unix keyboard is laid out slightly different. The backspace key is in a different place. The caps lock and control keys are in a different place.

So what ends up happening, if you are a marginal typist like myself, is trying to correct a mistake with the backspace key creates more mistakes. Same with the contol and caps lock. I spend half of my time correcting the corrections on the Unix machine.

Like I said, not that big of a deal but after a while on Unix my stress level has gotten high because getting work done on it is so much slower. Similar to the way I feel when I have one of those days where I keep dropping things.


Things from: I Owe My Mother! that my mother actually said.

4. My mother taught me LOGIC.
"Because I said so, that's why."

6. My mother taught me FORESIGHT.
"Make sure you wear clean underwear, in case you're in an accident."

7. My mother taught me IRONY.
"Keep crying, and I'll give you something to cry about."

11. My mother taught me about WEATHER.
"This room of yours looks as if a tornado went through it."

16. My mother taught me about ANTICIPATION.
"Just wait until we get home"

17. My mother taught me about RECEIVING
"You are going to get it when you get home!"

24. My mother taught me WISDOM.
"When you get to be my age, you'll understand."

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Saturday Evening Post

Back Pain
Pain, pain
Go away
Come again some…

Wait. Tell you what. Just go away and never come back. Mmm-kay?

Lobster Man
Have you seen the Vonage commercial on TV? I’m talking about the one where the guy speaking about Vonage is on a city street, shot from the waist up, with a revolving door in view behind him. The speaker is positioned to the left side of the screen and a guy in a red lobster suit is handing out leaflets in the background to people coming out of the revolving door. Lobster man gets upset, throws down his leaflets and tries to enter said revolving door, only to get his lobster tail stuck. This is all going on while the man in the foreground is trying to tell you about Vonage. But the way it’s filmed, you almost have to watch lobster man and when the commercial ends, you wonder “What was that commercial for?”

I just don’t understand why they would pay good money to hawk their product in a way purposely designed to make you NOT pay attention to the facts about that product.

Seems pretty dumb to me. No telling how many times I saw that commercial before I finally listened to the man and learned that it was about Vonage, a VOIP internet phone service.


Sometimes Being Lazy is Confusing.
Remember those kiddie spy kits where you wrote in invisible ink and then the receiver had to color over your paper with the counterpart to your invisible ink pen to make the words appear? Well, I was trying to be lazy and just copy/paste some stuff I wanted to keep from a web site onto a Word document. Some quotes I liked and whatnot, but the words didn’t appear on my Word document.

What the heck?

Oh, the words were white and I pasted them onto a white page.


Kinda cool actually. Microsoft Word as a high end kiddie spy note writing kit.

Cow-boy, Bay-Bee!

Cowboys Are Cool!
Ok. I’m not the sharpest pencil in the cup, but I’m not a dummy either. So when I hear or read pieces by reporters or op/ed types, especially in the foreign press, about President Bush (W) being a ‘cowboy’, I get it that they mean it in a bad way. That he is reckless and irresponsible, blah, blah, blah.

Are they too stupid to realize that in America, cowboy is a good thing? Why are the American media doing it too? When a piece is directed at America and Americans, do they not realize that Americans still love cowboys and associate tough, hard-working, manly, responsible, values to cowboys? I mean really, if someone threatened you somewhere, and you could have someone to give you a hand cracking some heads, you could do worse than have a cowboy at your side.

The result is when they call W a cowboy, they mean it in a bad way, but what people hear, and INSTINCTIVELY associate with this cowboy, are good things, not bad things. Most of the people doing this are college educated and have seen more than I’ll ever see, but man that’s dumb.

Cowboy = Good in the minds of most people.

But thanks to them all for reinforcing in millions that W is a tough, reliable, and dependable man instead of what they intend to imply with the word. They are blowing it, big time, and I mention it here because I read/hear this reference several times a week in my news reading/watching.

Aren’t reporters or op/ed types supposed to be good with words and such?

Yeah, I thought so too. But I did go to Louisiana public schools, so maybe it’s just me.

Wanna See a Comparison Between W and Hitler?
This is excellent, go here to see the comparison.

The Parade Of Bad Taste
'Round here where I work, we have every other Friday off. Today is NOT our Friday off. It is, however, PAYDAY FRIDAY!

And being in Florida, it's pretty casual most of the time. But on PAYDAY FRIDAYs, out come the Hawaiian shirts. Acres of the gaudiest tropical themed material you could ever hope to see. Or, rather hope NOT to see. Whatever.

Resulting in... The Parade Of Bad Taste

Our little way of sticking it to the man. Only problem is 'the men' at our company have some of the most outrageous Hawaiian shirts imaginable. Kinda ruins it when the Big Bosses can out ugly-shirt us.

My shirt today is basically white, but has a dizziness inducing pattern of sailboats, compasses, and anchors. I'm a big guy, and this pattern on this much material is quite an impressive sight. And on this newer project I'm working on, not as many people participate. So, far I'm stylin' compared to the other Hawaiian shirts I've seen today.

As Leonard Pinth-Garnell would say, "Truly Bad, Truly Bad".

I have been very fortunate. My home is very near I-95 in Palm Bay, and getting to the facility where I work by the shortest and quickest route involves using the interstate. But I-95 here can be a white knuckle experience. On good days, it's busy but fast. Cell phone talkin' and puttin' on makeup is NOT recommended. Gotta stay sharp.

Yesterday evening after leaving work as I approached my getting onto I-95 southbound for the 10 miles I use it, I saw that the northbound traffic was stop and go. A line of vehicles for 2 miles south of where I was entering.

My trip home was uneventful, and after parking in my driveway, I popped the tape out of my stereo (I don't have a CD player there yet) and the radio station was giving a traffic report. I-95 had two new wrecks with traffic piling up in the southbound lanes at Wickham Road and also at Malabar road. Avoid I-95.

Holy cow, Wickham Road is where I enter I-95 heading south in the evenings, and Malabar Road is where I exit I-95, and live near. I must have missed two major southbound lanes accidents by less than 3 minutes each.

I debated staying late yesterday but didn't because I needed to get home and take some medicine for my back (don't wanna drive on Lortab). I'm glad I left when I did.

You see, it had rained here yesterday for the first time in weeks. Yes, plain old rain, and in Florida, the drivers are so bad, that a rainy day here is like a snow day in other parts of the country. It can be scary driving around here guys.

A Poem
There are so many blogs out there that have nothing but poetry on them. I thought I would include a poem that my dearly departed Dad used to recite every spring.

Mmm-Hummmm! (clearing my throat)

Spring is sprung
The grass iz riz
I wonder where all the birdies iz?

Dear Dr. Atkins,

May you rest in peace. Your book and diet are rocking my world.

My latest cholesterol test, fasting, was down to 184 from 224 since starting your diet. That’s right Bub, a 40, four-zero, point drop in my cholesterol.

Them’s some O-fficial doctor administered, Quest Diagnostics derived numbers, folks.


Thanks again Doc,

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Certain Words And Other Stuff

Bring Back 'Epidemic'
Have you noticed that, for quite a while now, the mainstream media, rarely uses the word epidemic any more? Now it's always 'pandemic'. Yeah, I know the difference between the two words, but I'm not sure they do. If they did, in many of the places they have used pandemic, they would have used epidemic. Pandemic is much more horrifying, and you know, blood sells papers (and locks in TV viewers), so naturally they gravitate to that.

It sounds like all the reporters in the English speaking world learned a new word and are using it in every possible situation they can.

Like a few years ago when Richard Nixon died. Every reporter on every channel used the word 'cortege' for the funeral procession. Over. And over. And over. But it stuck out big time because it's not a word that's is used much.

That's what they're doing with pandemic. And I don't think it's accurate to use it with the whole bird flu thing just yet when only 103 (as of this writing) out of 6.5 Billion people have died from it.

I'm not complaining. I'm just sayin'...

Lookin' For A Job
My daughter who quit college a couple of weeks ago, had a job interview/testing yesterday. It's for a call center located locally that handles warranty questions for one of the two remaining American car companies. I don't think she knows what she's getting into, but they pay good and have insurance and such, so Me and Lovely Wife are all, you know, go getem!

Anyway, today she has a 'panel' interview and role play stuff to see if she has enough moxie to join the ranks of the customer service professional.

The die is cast though, she has officially withdrawn from an Orlando University and has moved back to her old room in our humble abode. And we're on her all the time, in a positive, encouraging way, to apply here, there, and everywhere.

I just hate that she's chosen a path wherein life might have to kick her in the head in the form of a job that really sucks before she learns the true value of a college degree and a career as some sort of professional, where she might be shown at least a smidge of respect.

It's just that my life is so different now as a professional than when I had to lift heavy things for a living.

Proper Shredder etiquette
I have a shredder for home use that's just dandy. It will shred up to eight pieces of paper simultaneously. It will also shred credit cards and CDs.

We get lots of credit card offers with both fake and real credit cards enclosed. Not to worry, Shred Boy can handle it. Offers to refinance our home with our names and other personal info already on there, or containing a check to just go down and cash and thereby open a line of credit? Ol' Shreddy Boy's on the job. He can eat more than me, and THAT'S saying something, I'll tell you.

But I have to be vewy vewy cawful to remove all of the Booger Glue stuff they use to attach credit cards and such, be they real or fake, to a piece of paper.

Booger Glue beez Shred Boy's Achilles heel.


I am a total freak of nature. Total outcast.

I HATE coffee.

My wife loves, loves, loves it. I wish I had a dollar for every dollar she spends at Starbucks. She's forever decrying the injustice of not having a Starbucks within rock throwing distance. Of course I hope (in vain I'm sure) that they never find land near our home. My daughters love it as well, especially if someone else is paying for it at Starbucks.

So what the heck is wrong with me?

I hate coffee flavored candy or anything at all that contains coffee flavor in any way. The other day my wife was eating some chocolate covered coffee beans. The smell of that was way too intense for me. Yuck!

But, in general, I love the smell of coffee brewing. If it only tasted as good as it smells…sigh.

In 1981, I landed what I consider to be my first 'real' job. With Delta Airlines in Monroe, LA. (Side note: Did you know Delta Airlines was started/founded in Monroe, LA in the late 1920's? True dat, yo. They were originally a crop dusting company that branched out into commercial air line service.) I only had the job 4 months and got laid off because of the air traffic controllers strike. Oh well. I worked for them again years later, but that's another story.

Ok, so I was 18, shy, and the most naive 18 year old man in the U.S. at the time (I won Mr. Naïve America that year). I mean, very little life experience. And, being the new guy, of course I was assigned to work Saturday mornings. Early Saturday morning. I had to be there at the butt-crack of dawn to unlock, sweep, check oil in and gas up equipment, etc. Then the old timers came in an hour or so later and cranked up the coffee maker.

I walked through the break area a short time later and stopped and said "What is that smell? That smells GOOD!" The old timers all look at one another with half-open eyes, narrowed a bit more in cynicism brought on by my question, through the clouds of morning cigarette smoke, and one guy, Ben, says in total sarcasm "Uh, John? What you smell is a thing we like to call coffee, you dumb $%#&er." Then they all chuckled hoarsely (morning isn't pretty in any way when you're a smoker).

I replied "THAT'S not coffee! My mother and father are the queen and king of all coffee drinkers. I've been around coffee being made all of my life, and I do not BELIEVE that that smell is coffee. Besides, look! What you're drinking is brown and semi-clear. Brewed coffee is black and you cannot see into it at all."

Ben then asked "What kind of coffee do your parents drink?" I said "Community dark roast." "No $%#&ing wonder" he replied. "That $%#& is so strong it'll put hair on your knuckles. Pause. You got that equipment fueled and ready to go?" Which was my cue to get out and leave them alone and for them to make sure there was no danger that any of them would have to get out and do any scut work like that themselves, because, hey, that's what the new guy (me) was for.

So, I left them to get their nicotine and caffeine fix. But I was little older and a little wiser.

I learned something that day. The 'coffee' that my parents drank was the darkest roast they could find and then they made it extra strong on top of that. I just always thought that was what coffee was like. It was all I had experienced up to that time. Like smokers, most hard core coffee drinkers start real young. I just couldn't abide that ultra-strong, bitter swill that my parents drank so I never learned to like coffee.

I still don't. But I'm a dying breed.

I like ______ better than ______. I don't care what anyone thinks.
I like hamburger better than steak. (That rumble you hear is my father turning over in his grave, steak was a holy calling for him) I've only had two, countem two, good steaks in my life. One was at a Steak and Ale in Bedford, TX in around 1987. And the other was at an Outback Steak House in West Monroe, LA, the day I received my B.S. in Electrical Engineering. During every other, and I mean EVERY other steak I've ever eaten, I've said to myself that I would rather have a grilled hamburger or something. Suffice it to say, not much steak gets eaten at my house. I don't know how to select it OR how to cook it correctly.

There now the world knows I'm a double freak.

And Another Thing
Since my overall theme for today is basically outing myself as a total freak of nature…

Today, I'm listening to Norman Brown. He is, in my opinion, one of the best guitarists alive and producing work these days. I have all of his CDs and have been listening to them at work today. My favorite album by him is 'After The Storm'. Check out some sound clips here at Amazon.

Here's the thing though. His music is smooth jazz. My favorite types of music are 1. Heavy Metal, and 2. Smooth Jazz.

Ok, triple-freak. At least.

Ya Freakazoid!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Booger Man

It's "The Boogey Man", Mom
I grew up in Northeast Louisiana. Not Cajun country. Most people have the impression that all of Louisiana is Cajun, but it isn't. Louisiana is like two different states. Two totally different cultures. From the middle of the state north to Arkansas is more like Mississippi, Arkansas, or Tejas. At least culturally. I grew up eating what you would normally associate with southern cooking. Fried chicken, rice and gravy, greens, cornbread, etc. Stuff like that.

From the middle of the state southward to the Gulf, is where the Cajun culture dominates. Etouffee. Boiled Crawfish. Stuff like that. The whole, French speaking, Catholic, Mardi Gras culture. Of course there's lots of cross pollination going on there, transplants from one culture to the other, but in general, that's the way Louisiana divides up culturally.

My parents were pretty much simple, hard working country folks. They both worked incredibly hard all of their lives and sacrificed so much for us kids. My Mom though, is one of those people who is funny without trying to be. She just comes up with the funniest sayings and does some of the kookiest things. If she doesn't know a proper colloquialism for the moment, she just makes one up on the spot. So, she's this sweet, funny, hard working woman that we all love and respect, but we also can't wait to see what'll come out of her mouth next.

Then there's me. One of my life-long issues is that I over analyze things and sometimes cannot mentally make the leap from words I hear to what I should know to be true. But as a kid, with less experience to draw on, this resulted in many mistakes. For example, I'm not always good at getting puns. When I hear words, I assign meaning to them, and if there are other meanings, someone often has to point them out. Not a big problem, but one that has left me scratching my head from time to time and missing the punch line of many a joke. But I digress.

My Mom being who she is and me being who I am can end up being a strange combination. You know how every region, especially the south, has such different words for things? Different ways of expressing ideas? Like "Mama, I'm fixin' to go to the store...". Or "Hey, looks like it might rain." Response: "I reckon it maht" or maybe "I 'spect it maht."

So, here's this small child (me) in north Louisiana with his mother, and the kid plays a joke on his mother. Mom says to me (in good humor) "Booger Man's gonna git yoo!"

Booger Man? Hmmm. (How will my young mind process this new creature?)

All my life, to my mother, when life owed me a spanking (usually when I scared a few years of her life off of her) this retribution was invariably supposed to be delivered by the mythical "Booger Man". Then, the first time I heard someone say something about the "Boogey Man", I was like, who the heck is this "Boogey Man?" Could he be kinda like Mom's Booger Man? I was too embarrassed to ask. I knew intuitively this would result in, "Hey, John doesn't know who the Boogey Man is!" jokes. Silence has always been my policy in the face of uncertainty and/or impending embarrassment. Still is. But the fact of the two terms differing by only one letter was a co-inkidink too big for even me to miss.

There was a girl I went to grade school with that continuously, for all the time I knew her, had a runny nose. Not the clear, quick-running snot, it was the thick green slow-motion-dripping kind of boogers she had. We avoided her like she was dripping bubonic plague. So in my mind that was a REAL booger, and by my childhood logic, the Booger Man must be just a gi-normous green slimy booger that will get you, like the Blob in the original movie The Blob.

When I finally realized that the Boogey Man was what my Mom was talking about, I pictured a different creature. A movie type monster, hairy with claws and fangs and such. And man is this guy fast! He could run me down in nothing flat.

The Booger Man never really scared me, I felt I could always outrun him. But after I knew the Booger Man was my Mom's term for the Boogey Man, I knew I should be afraid. Like that old Bugs Bunny cartoon where Bugs gets away from Elmer Fudd by walking over a cliff and onto air. Until, that is, Elmer explains to Buggs what gravity is, and after he knows, Buggs can no longer walk on air.

Yeah, just like that. I have good reason to be afraid of the Boogey Man, the Booger Man I can outrun.

Some Things I Don't Miss...
*Alcoholic beverages - I drank my lifetime allotment between the ages of 15 and 19. Now that I don't want to get drunk, I have no use for it. It smells bad to me and tastes bad too. Always did hate the taste, but oh the foolish choices of my youth. My father used to say that God watches out for fools and little children. Maybe I survived that period because I was both at the same time.
*Vinyl records - From the moment I started buying CDs, I never looked back. I still don't, and there are actually people out there who are vinyl snobs. Go figure. Give me a CD any day.
*8-Track Tapes - Of course my favorite song on most of these straddled two tracks and I had to suffer through the 'track change' song interruption every time I listened to them.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Yet Another Monday

Something Fun
This past weekend, I went to the site THE #1 SONG ON THIS DATE IN HISTORY ... and looked up which song was number one on the day I was born. Monster Mash by Bobby "Boris" Pickett & the Crypt Kickers. How cool is that? Other than the fact that I’m getting older and older, looking at the list of number one hits on my birthday up to now, if I think for a moment to remember the song, I get a nice feeling about that time in my life. Up until the year 1999, that is. I can recall the melody and some words up through 1999, but EVERY song from 2000 to 2005 is a total blank (in order: Christina Aguilera, Jennifer Lopez, Nelly, Beyonce, Usher/Alicia Keys). Yeah, I have SO gotten away from listening to the radio, especially top 40, but this really drives home the point. Music is so important to me. Almost any time of my life can be set to a soundtrack of popular music from whichever time, but I’ve totally gone off into music that flies way under most Americans’ radar. I have increasingly gravitated toward music/bands that never sell in huge numbers. Just seems weird. Thank God for the modern man’s ability to find and get music via the internet. The small band / indie label’s best friend.

Hats Off To Dr. Atkins
Yeah, I know he’s no longer with us.
Yeah, I know the Atkins diet is no longer in vogue. I take a twisted pride in being behind the times.

I have the normal problem that many big people have; inability to stick to a diet long enough. So, I read The New Diet Revolution, and wow, no wonder almost every registered dietician and many other doctors despise his program and shoot it down at every opportunity. But holy Toledo, does what he say make sense to me. I became convinced a few years ago, after watching my older brother’s losing battle with heart problems, that, while many individual doctors are wonderful, the American Medical Association on the other hand is only out there for one thing; to preserve the god-like status of medical doctors in this country. I’m not slamming the profession. I love my personal doctor, but when people blindly follow the recommendations of the AMA, I get suspicious.

Anyway, the actual diet, as laid out by Dr. Atkins, is SO, SO different than all the misinformation out there on talk shows and such. I mean, really, so much of what is said about the Atkins diet on TV is pure fabrication, even outright lies in my opinion.

So I started the diet in mid January, putting me at about two months right now. I’ve lost about 23 pounds. That’s good for me. But what is really different and the real reason I’m writing about it here is how much better physically I feel. I spent most of my adult life feeling bloated and low-energy. But on low-carb I feel no bloating. And wonder of wonders, I wake up easily in the morning, and if not for a screwed up back (different story) I would just pop right out of bed. But right now I have the clear headedness and mental sharpness I had when I was much younger. Even if I never lost another pound, I would stay on this life style of eating. I’m always satisfied with my meals and never really have a problem with temptation. Of course I would like a big piece of chocolate cake, but when treats like that are available, I find it easy to bypass them and stick to the program.

I don’t want to kill you with details about it. I just wanted to say I’m convinced. And I really am disappointed at how much info out there on the airwaves is inaccurate about the Atkins diet. If you are interested in it but didn’t pursue it because of what you’ve heard, buy the book, it’s cheap in paperback, and read what the poor man said for himself. He must have been a strong person to stand up against the juggernaut of the AMA’s recommendations. And I physically feel better and I’m losing weight at the rate of 2-3 pounds per week. But most of all, I’m doing it by eating some mighty tasty foods.

Read Dr. Atkins book for yourself before you believe what’s said about he and his diet.

Things so lame they’re cool:
Autoharp (or chromaharp to some)

Bumper Stickers Seen Recently:

On a Dodge Neon: Yeah, It’s Got A Hemi

On a SUV with W Stickers all over the back end:
I’m A Republican
I Don’t Care How You Feel
I Care What You Think

On the back of a black Chevy Blazer:
Losing Faith in Humanity...
One Person at a Time

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Weekend Post

Where I live, we receive a Christian television station out of Orlando. Late at night on Saturday/Early Sunday they broadcast a 'Top 10' of the most requested music videos of the day. This is actually a tape from the cable channel TVU, which we don't get on our cable system. Anyway, It's the only way we have right now of actually seeing new videos from the Chrisitan music scene, similar to the way MTV used to be back in the day.

For a couple of months now, they have had a video on there that is just hanging in the top ten. Maylene and the Sons of Disaster is the name of the group and I've not heard anything quite like them. It's as if Lynrd Skynrd got really hard and heavy. It's like some new variety of southern rock. They are the freshest thing I've heard in quite a while. Which is strange because I have never liked the whole southern rock thing. I dislike Skynrd, Molly Hatchet, etc. I know. I'm a freak of the south because of this. But hey, we like what we like and dislike what we dislike right. I love anchovies yet hate boiled shrimp. Plus I'm from Louisiana, so don't expect too much.

So, go to their MySpace site and play the song Tough as John Jacobs.

I thank y'all 'll lahk it. Anyway, I do. A lot. Gotta try to get the CD this week. Rock on.

This is something that not many Christians will talk about, but I suffer from depression. I have major depression and take medicine for it.

Last few months, things have been getting bleaker and bleaker in my mind and I went to talk to my doctor. After our talk Dr. thought to try me on some new medicine. Well let me tell you, it ain't workin'. I have to try to get to see the Doc tomorrow, or asap. Gotta make a change quick.

But I'm hangin' in there, dudes and dudettes. Not to worry. I just had two almost-meltdowns this past Friday and Saturday. Had a major panic attack this morning, but as long as I can see and recognize that I'm having problems and talk to my wife (God bless her patient heart) about what I'm dealing with, I have plenty of support. But my medicine change has not been for the better.

That's mainly why I didn't write for the past two days. And if you (Christians too, don't hide it like I did for years) think you are depressed, talk to someone, ok? If you do nothing else, at least talk to your regular family doctor. If he or she is even half-way competent, they'll have some questions for you and maybe prescribe a medicine to help, or to refer you to someone who can. Please do it. It has made a huge difference in my life, and that's why I'm keeping my wife and doctor up on where I am mentally. Sometimes the meds have to change, but like high blood pressure or another ailment, they can eventually find meds to help you. I'm just having to go through the process again right now.

If you pray, please pray for me. If you don't belive in God or prayer, some good thoughts sent my way would be appreciated too.

Guitar Straps
I needed a new guitar strap for my new SX strat copy. (See earlier posts) I found a nice long Levy's garment leather strap on Friday. It is a tan color and is plain, but really nice looking and it's really soft and comfy. I am bigger than your average guitar player and it takes more strap to go around me and still have the guitar where I like it, not way up at my chest like many bass players keep their bass. Turns out that as I looked at the straps I have for my guitars and bass, every one of them that I actually like and use are made by Levy's. I am not a paid endorser. I just bought what I like over the years and it turns out that every one I like is a Levy's strap. My new one is a M7G. I like the strap to grip my shoulder, so I looked for two things, length and a 'grippy' underside so my instrument won't slide. Those polyester things you can buy for a few bucks slide too much and they have some cool ones with design I love, but that slickness drives me bats.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Thursday's Feeding

Ides of March
I MISSED IT! Yesterday was the Ides of March. Oh, well. It's pretty worthless anyway. I mean nobody buys me presents or anything, and it doesn't have as much potiential for fun as April Fool's Day, so I guess it doesn't matter much. I just like going up to people and saying with great intensity, "Beware the Ides of March!" Being a really big, kinda mean looking guy helps too. Once people get to know me and figure out that my grizzly bear outer shell contains within it a single Hostess Twinkie, the effect is almost zero. But, I've only been on this project and working with these people a few months. I coulda had a good time. Another missed opportunity. As Snideley Whiplash would say, "Curses, foiled again."

Virtual Friday!
AWWW-YeeeeaaH, dudes and dudettes. Where I work, we have every other Friday off. That makes today 'Virtual Friday'. Only a dweeb engineer could have come up with a silly reference like that, but really, in this case it makes perfect sense. Besides everyone here uses the term.
To guy with broken arm, "Hey, how's it goin'?"
Reply: "My arm hurts, but it's all good man, because it's Virtual Friday."
I nod my reply with a knowing look.

Toucan Sam, I Ain't
Toucan Sam, world famous hawker of Fruit Loops, used to counsel me, when I was a child, to "Follow your nose. It always knows…". Well, Toucan, my nose has a problem. Over a year ago, I had what I hope to be my final back surgery (I've had four). About a day and a half after said surgery, still in the hospital, I started halucinating smells. I still do over a year later. This morning was a perfect example. My wife takes my younger daughter to school each morning. My wife didn't sleep well last night and looks and acts tired. My daughter sleeps to the last possible minute, rushes about madly and gets ready to go in 2 minutes 47.271 seconds. They are about to leave the house and I'm enjoying the smell of coffee being brewed. My reasoning is that hey, they're tired, and made some java as a pick-me-up. (I don't drink coffee, but I like the smell.) My wife tells me goodbye and I say, "Did y'all get your coffee?" Blank stares. "What?" Me with fake sign language motions, "Did y'all get you some coffee?" "We didn't make coffee, you smell dog food. I just opened a couple of cans and fed the dogs."

Is that sick or what? I mean halucinating a smell is one thing, but having canned dog food smells in the air and my brain sensing and enjoying the smell of coffee is just out there my friend.

I have become fanatic about showering, shaving, and wearing after shave, because I honestly can't trust how I think I smell, and I want to err to the good side. I mean, most of the time, the old snoz is right on target, like when I'm cooking bacon, or a roast, or my after shave, but times like this morning keep me from totally trusting him. When we're out in public I always ask my wife if I really smell certain things that I think I smell.


Your Password Will Expire In 5 days. Would you…
We have many computer systems I must use at work. Right now, I have over 10 different passwords for these various systems. AND we have to change each password every 90 days. AND every time I try to sign on to a computer near the end of this 90 day period, each computer pops up a window to let me know how many days I have left and asking if I want to change my password now. No I do not. I use this two week warning period to come up with a new set of passwords that I can remember and a system for recalling them. Of course, writing down a password is a HUGE no no. Today is the day I finally have been putting my new words into effect. I've been using spare time to log on to all the systems I use and renew all my passwords. All 10+ of them. What a pain. Not bad though, a full 5 days before I would have been locked out.

Some Things I Really Miss…
*People I hope to see in Heaven: Don C., Paul, Keith, Henry, Hilda, Malone, Eunice, Alden, Miss LeeAnna (who I never got to meet),
*People I haven’t seen in a while but are still with us (aka the downside of living in Florida): Lacee, Johnnye Beth, Mark, Marsha, Cary, Andrew, Jonathan, Zorner and Bobby, Caren and her family, Joe and Judy K., Wes, Denise and kids, Jim K., David K., Robert S., Mike and Anita K and their girls, Dr. Glenn B. and family-wherever you guys are now-sorry I lost track of you, Ralph and Donna V., and Tracy S., sorry I lost track of you too.
*Critters: Precious, Sophie, Sara
*Guitar leads in music – Many players in todays bands are either sucky players like me who can’t play leads (yet), or they’re girly-men who think for some reason it’s not cool. They are idiots, folks, because it don’t get much cooler on this-here earth than a well played, tasty, screamin’ guitar lead. There should be a law that all rock songs have guitar leads, punishable by death for disobedience.
*My L5-s1 and L4-L5 disks (can you say 'spinal fusion'?)

Some Pics, Just Because
Melbourne Beach sunrise, Thanksgiving morning, 2002. I like putting pictures on the blog, but don't have much here at work and I forget when I'm at home.

Click on them.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

More Lunchtime Randomness


Yesterday at work, several of us were standing around in the lab (electronics testing/troubleshooting) and started talking about how we have foisted our engineeringness on our poor families. I went all the way back to just after I graduated from La. Tech, but before I got an engineering job.
Since EE graduates in north Louisiana tend to come out of school and work for power utilities, and I didn't want that, I went to Dallas, Tx to a technical job fair. My wife went with me.

As we entered Texas on I-20, we occasionally saw what were obviously signs for state roads, but they were marked as 'F.M. 235' or whatever number. And, having lived in Texas years ago, my wife had forgotten what the F.M. part stood for. So, she innocently asked, "What does F.M. mean?"

Now, you have to understand, in my last quarter of school, I had taken a Analog and Digital Communications Theory class. And this day on this trip, I was in full-out engineering mode. I was driving, but didn't relate the question about F.M. to the road signs.

I promptly launched into an absolutely brilliant lecture about Frequency Modulation vs. Amplitude Modulation. During my amazing discourse, I glanced over expecting to see the adoring face of my wife and instead saw her eyes rolled back in her head. Drool. Twitching.

Not really.

Actually I was getting 'the look'. The look she gets when I try to explain something, and way, way over explain it, or flat-out don't get what she's talking about, and her patience has worn thin. This time it was the latter.

"No. No. No!" She said. "NOT radio FM. What does F.M. on the highway signs mean? I've forgotten."
Oh, my bad.
"It stands for Farm to Market road number whatever" says I.
"Thank you. That's ALL I wanted to know."

I know I’m supposed to like this, but I don't.

Literary novels – a few I have read, I really liked, but the vast majority I tried to read I had to put down and find a good Koontz, King, etc. novel. Something with gunfire, explosions, revenge, or treasure. In my defense, I DID go to Louisiana public schools…

Major League Baseball – I tried to like it, I really did. And I did like it when I lived in the Atlanta area, but I just lost it somewhere between there and here.

What I'm listening to today

'Potter's Field' by 12 Stones. Christian rock. Truly deep lyrics and Huge sound, along the lines of Creed, etc. Low guitar tunings and wah pedal guitar leads. Yes, guitar leads in modern music, I wouldn't kid you about something that important. I'm gooving big time. And this CD was a freebie. My oldest daughter gave it to me. She's more into screamer metal bands, and 12 Stones actually sing!


Some of my all time favorite music albums (CDs)…

Number One. 'Seeds of Love' by Tears for Fears. Can’t explain it, it just IS. I love very song, every note, from beginning to end. It is impossible for me to get sick of this CD. I have gone through months, literally, where I listened to it, the entire thing, each and every day. It’s like Shakespeare or other great works where, no matter how many times I listen, I find something new. The music is very complex and I love Roland Orzablal’s voice. Add to all of that, that the CD's original release and hits were the background to a great time in my life, so when I listen, I can re-live old pleasures. Good times, good times. This is my desert island CD. Yea, I know, It’s not metal and no screaming, distorted guitars, but some really tasty licks by Roland Orzabal, and some of my all-time favorite bass lines from Curt Smith. I love it, love it, love it. The final song, Famous Last Words, is one of my two favorite songs of all time, period. Of all time.

Number Two. 'By God' by Disciple. This is a Christian metal band from Tennessee. You’ve probably never heard of them. I’ve seen them in concert 7 times and am blown away every time. This album (CD) has like 15 songs and they mostly in-your-face rock. BUT, as a Christian I love that the songs are all from the heart of some Christian men who I can identify with. The lyrics teach and encourage while the music rocks really, really, really hard. Brad Noah is my favorite guitarist, and such a gentle, easy going, nice guy. Massive tone and killer leads. The song 'Can’t Breathe' is my all-time favorite Christian song, or any type for that matter, along with 'Famous Last Words' mentioned above. 'Can’t Breathe' rocks, has one of my very favorite guitar leads ever, and the lyrics sum up my life. Can’t get any better than that. This CD is good from end to end and has a bit of that raw, unpolished sound I love. Hey, even metal albums can be over produced. This is as good as a rock album gets in my opinion.

Bonus for me!
I only used half my lunch time. I have time to chew my food today! Woo-hoo!

Name Change

I have changed the name of this blog. Again. It hit me this morning, what I should have called it all along. Least Significant Bits is both applicable to my work as an engineer and to what I write here. Double meaning, if you will, or something like that.


There you go.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Sunset Pics

Pic(s) of the Day
I took these a few years ago on 12/15/2002. They are of THE most colorful sunset I have ever seen, and I am a sunset connoisseur. One pic shows the colors in all their glory. The other picture, with the tree in it as a reference, is to prove that I didn't fudge the colors. They are true to what actually appeared. At work, I've had to give copies of all the ones I took that evening because as friends found out I had pics of that sunset, they all had seen it, but didn't have a camera with them. I am still so glad I had ours that day. This is the Indian River Lagoon in Brevard County, looking from Melbourne Beach toward the mainland of Florida.

A Mother's Love

Maybe I shouldn't have started a blog. I keep wasting most of my lunch time typing and then end up gulping my food down. Although today's left-over stir fry should be pretty easy on the innards. Wolfing down a burrito cannot be recommended. Trust me.

Banana Peels
I talked with my mother by phone last night. She called while we were watching Stargate Atlantis on the DVR (love that dvr). Of course my wife, keeper of the phone, saw who it was and handed the phone to me: "It's your Mother." So, I hit the talk button, and said hello to what was obviously dead air. HuH? Hello, hello? Nada. My wife says, "I had already hit the talk button on the phone…" Isn't there a rule that says the person who actually says hello, is the person to hit the talk button? I had hung up on my own Mother. So, I waited a minute and she called again. Hello? Hi! I just tried to call and… I just don't know what happened. What happened is my wife broke an unspoken rule and I hung up on my dear sainted Mother. 'Course I didn't tell her that.

Mama later tells me that she heard about a cure for migraines. Apparently when a person (say, my younger brother who is prone to them) feels a migraine coming on, they need to peel a banana, put the wet pulpy side of said peel on their forehead.

Cricket, Cricket, Cricket.

Yeah, I was speechless too. Then I got a mental image of my poor hapless brother, in the throes of pain, fending off Mama, her mouth full of banana (can't wastem) trying to 'help' him in his hour of need. I started laughing. I think she started to understand how silly it sounded. Although it may all be true, but it SOUNDS funny. My brother should still watch out who he's with iffen he decides to have a migraine.

An Old Friend Does Good
The reason my mother had called was that she had read in her local paper about one of my old high school chums (actually a distant cousin to me too) that had a mention in the paper. Turns out that old T.C. has just recently been promoted to Leut. Colonel in the U.S. Air Force. Good for him. He's working at the Pentagon. My first thought, Cool! My second thought, how does he afford to live in the D.C. area on an Air Force salary? God bless T.C. and his family. It really feels weird to think about life as teens. Now that I'm 43, my teens seem so long ago. Anyway, T.C. was a high school first string football player that was actually down to earth. He would hang out with us nobodies if he felt like it and he was also one of the funniest, zaniest people I've ever known. Hard to picture him as an officer, because he was so funny. But I bet he is a good one. I know he's not a humorless jerk. I congratulate you dude! What? That's your daily grade, Mr. C___! What? That's tomorrow's daily grade too!

I like ______, better than ______.
I like …baked (to a delicate crunch) Cheetos, better than the fried ones (that most people prefer). They’re great with an egg-salad sandwich on fresh white bread. And a Dr. Pepper. I don't care if this makes me a freak of nature. Life's too short.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Space Shuttle

A Spiffy Photo

Years ago I saw a comedian on TV juggling an ax, a meat cleaver, and a knife. He introduced them as George the Ax, Beaver the Cleaver, and Mac the Knife. It was impressive to see, but what was really funny was that he claimed George the Ax was the actual ax that George Washington used to chop down the cherry tree. Of course the handle had been replaced, and so had the head, but it occupied the same space...

In the spirit of his joke, I present this picture. I did not take it, but it is a night shot of the Space Shuttle being launched in 1990. I did not work here then, but the building in the photo is the building in which I now work. We're about 30 miles south of Kennedy Space Center here. When there is a launch of any kind we all mosey out the other side of this building to watch.

The last thing that went up, a nuclear powered probe called the New Horizons Spacecraft, sent to study Pluto in January, 2006, had about 5 or 6 false starts before it actually launched. I was diligent and saw it for meself, although that was a day launch. And not the shuttle, which is a more impressive spectacle. Night launches ROCK.

Monday, Monday

Monday, All Day Long

Well at least I'm having Monday on Monday this week. I usually have it on Wednesday or something. Gettin' it out of the way early. Circuit card I can't find the problem on, which, troubleshooting circuit cards is my top thing; I have sort of a sixth sense, and today I'm an idiot. Where's the on button, duh-huh. I hurt all over for some reason. It was a trying weekend in most respects. I guess I'm ok, but my pain level (bad back, don't get me started) was way, way up there all weekend. And the emotional letdowns of late... It's like when my back really hurts, I tense up all over and end up hurting all over. Wha-wha-wha. Grown man crying.

What are some good things to think about?

Our new Maytag clothes dryer we received Saturday works really well, and I even got the door reversed ok. Then again, being an engineer, when I reinstalled the door and all screws in the process, I 'improved' on Maytag's design by putting lock-tite on all visible threads. That door is ON THERE now, baby. My mechanical engineer friends would laugh at my pitiful attempts at this. But I'm proud. Plus them towels is nice and fluffy now, and easier to get to now that the door opens from the right.

Still loving the new guitar (see pics below). I still find it astounding that I got such a nice guitar for $99.99, brand new. In fact, I practiced so much this weekend that both hands hurt. But, even though I'm not a very good player, playing is a very effective stress reliever. Bonus.

Wrote my niece a long letter. I don't contact her enough, she lives in Utah, and I hate telephones. I'm gonna print it and put it in an envelope, address it, put a stamp on it and mail that thang. Old school, yo. Represent.

Speaking of stamps, I love them 'already licked stamps' like you can buy nowadays. I'll use one of them on my niece's letter. Woo-hoo. I'm cookin' with gas now.

After two and a half years of not playing guitar, its encouraging that I can do as well as I am, although I certainly do get frustrated. I resist all thoughts of where I would be now had my back not taken me down the detour of the last two and a half years. Woulda-shoulda-coulda.

God. I'm determined not to preach too much on my blog, but it's a comfort to know God loves me.

My Wife and Daughters. I love 'em, even when everyone gets cranky because of the changes and moving my daughter back to the house.

Our critters. They are a constant source of amusement and I can't stay depressed very long with them around.


That's enough whining and stuff. I just ain't got the chops today. If inspiration strikes, I'll post again. Also, I'll try to find another picture tonight of some sort to post, like I did Saturday.

Another lunch time down the drain. I have to decide if I'm gonna write or eat during lunch. I'm hawngry. But I feel better now.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Hard Road / Waiting / Christmas 1967or8 / Practice

The Hard Road

Today we move my oldest daughter back into the house.

She was always a great student. Earned a nice scholarship (Florida Bright Futures). She earned her Associate of Arts Degree from our county's community college. She transfered to a college in Orlando. Had a killer dorm setup. Man I would have KILLED for that kind of deal. And she earned it with her young lifetime of hard work.

She quit school. We're not sure why.

But I can't shake the feeling that she has chosen a much harder road for her life.


I'm waiting for our new dryer to be delivered. Our old one finally died and I'm quite glad. That'll learn me to buy Kenmore appliances. The old dryer, from day one would require at least two hours, at LEAST, to dry a normal size load of clothes. A big load of towels, a minimum of three hours.

The heating element died a couple of years ago and I replaced it, and was astonished at how small it was. I'm convinced that the moisture in a normal load of clothes was more than that pathetic heating element could handle. So when the dryer died this time, I just did some research and ordered a Maytag dryer. It should be here any time now.

Hope it works like my Mother-in-Law's Maytag. That would be just swell.

Christmas 1967ish

This is a picture of me and my older brother in the late 1960's at our maternal grandparent's house. I would have been 5 or 6 here. I was actually kinda cute, I think. Now I'm a train wreck.

My brother finally grew into his ears.

Dig that Kurt Kobain autograph model sweater I'm wearing.


I'm still loving my new SX guitar. Last night I did some final tweaks on the action and intonation.

Gonna go practice right now...

Friday, March 10, 2006

Sometimes You Get MORE Than You Pay For

I'm So Stoked

In my previous post I talked about the new guitar I was waiting for delivery from Rondo Music. So, listen up, boy-o. Sometimes you actually get more than what you pay for. In my life, many times, I felt like I got a good deal. That what I received was worth the price. But this is ridiculous.

When I got home last night and opened that box. Holy Toledo! I mean, powder blue is a low-key but pretty color, but the vintage tint on the guitar neck and the 'yellowed' pickup covers and volume/tone knobs made this guitar a beauty. So far, so good.

First, I visually inspected the guitar carefully and found no obvious flaws or damage. Hey, that neck is just a tiny bit on the chunky side. Bonus. The fatter the better. I tuned it up and played a bit. Great, and I mean great feel. The neck has an awesome feel and the guitar has decent resonance, although on tremolo guitars like this one, some of the resonance is lost in that tremolo machinery. The action straight out of the box was pretty good, just a widdle bit high, but I'll fix that later. Acoustically, a success.

I plugged the guitar into my trusty, battery powered Roland Micro Cube guitar amplifier. This is one of the best bang for the buck amps in the world, and totally portable. Anyway, I strummed a bit in each of the five switch positions, working the volume and tone knobs, and just generally checking for proper function. All good. Then I dialed in a Fender Blackface emulation on the Micro Cube with lots of reverb and well, the guitar sounded really, really good in all pickup selections. I had thought that the first thing I would have to do is buy some better pickups, but I have to tell you I'm astonished at how good this guitar sounds right now. Bridge pickup is bright and punchy and with the reverb up, get some good surf tones. Both of the in-between positions are wonderfully hollow sounding and get what I call a 'ker-plunkety' sound, like a good strat with good pickups should. And the neck pickup? Man, I got some loud, bluesy, punchy, tones. At this point, I'm like thinking I just saved myself some money, because I'm not swapping out THESE pickups anytime soon. I finished checking it out for now and went into dweeb mode and carefully tuned the guitar again, adjusted the intonation (it was already darn close), and cut/sanded a small block of wood and 'blocked' the tremolo. I'm a hard tail guitar kinda guy, I don't use a whammy (tremolo). And then, the guitar was noticably more resonant. I TOLD you the tremolo system on strats eats some of the natural resonance of a guitar. Plus I'm having enough trouble learning to play without a whammy. That's like adding another instrument and I'm not ready for that.

So, the guitar is beautiful. No defects. Everything works. Very well in fact. The guitar plays like a dream and with the exception of the action being just a tad high for my taste, is already almost perfect. I do not exagerate here. I mean, I'm as prone to exageration as any man, and I'm not a great guitar player, but that I paid $119 for the guitar and shipping, and that the guitar exeeds my expectations in every area is no joke. I have owned a Fender American Strat Plus Deluxe, and also a Made in Mexico Strat, and both were wonderful guitars, but those two guitars cost me roughly a thousand dollars (I got much of that back when I sold them), but crikey mates, this SX guitar is a giant killer!

And to top it all off, the maple neck on this guitar has some serious, serious flame. You pay a big premium for this when you buy a big-name brand guitar. The neck pocket is every bit as tight as the two Fenders I owned. The neck is straight itself (no warping), and is also attached to the guitar straight, the two outside e strings are in perfect alignment with the edges of the neck all the length of the neck. I mean, every area I could try to nit-pick leaves me satisfied. The tuners are enclosed and work smoothly, much better than the crappy 'vintage' tuners on my Gibson Les Paul Studio.

All in all, I don't see how SX does it for the price. I don't see how Rondo Music sells them for the price. Only thing I can figure is that they are a volume dealer and make their money by selling bunches and bunches of guitars (they have almost 10,000 eBay feedbacks). I didn't buy mine via eBay though.

But I definitely got more guitar than what I paid for, in my opinion.
Check out my photos of the actual guitar.


Thursday, March 09, 2006


GAS (Guitar acquisition Syndrome)

Oh No! I have a syndrome!

Most of the people that I know, who have learned guitar, soon develop this horrific problem. Like an engineer always wants more data, players want more guitars.

"I want one guitar with that 'Gibson' sound, one with that 'Fender' sound, one that looks like whatever, one this color, one that color, rosewood fretboard, maple fretboard, electric, acoustic, acoustic-electric." The list can be endless. And one quick search on eBay will amaze you with the sheer numbers of types and brands of guitars and basses available out there.

Some background. I started engineering school when I was 29 and finished at 33 and moved here to Florida. When I graduated (Louisiana Tech, 1996), instead of getting a class ring, I bought an Epiphone Les Paul Standard, cherry sunburst, and a small amp to learn on/with. I figured if I could learn calculus, differential equations, and linear algebra, I could learn to play the guitar. So, now that I've been at it for nine years on and off (health problems and indifference) I'm really trying to pick up the pace and REALLY learn to play and to improve. End of background.

Guitars are machines of a sort, and any decently made guitar will function properly and produce sound, so what's the big deal, huh? Why want so many guitars? Why, John?

All I can say is, if you love the things like I do, when you hold some, they are like magic in your hands. You play better. More relaxed. Therefore sound better, too. So what? It's like this: I'm still on the search for the ultimate guitar experience. Ok, pinhead, iffen you spent some of that time you spent in guitar shops and on eBay actually practicing you might be a much better guitarist. Got me there podnuh.

A few years ago I wanted to buy a nice acoustic guitar so I could play it in church. The acoustic I had at the time was an old Yamaha with a beautiful sound, but it was so old that the neck needed to be re-set and because of this, had Mount Everest action. (The strings were way above the fretboard and REALLY hard to press down to make chords.)

One day, we were in Orlando at the old MARS music (now a Sam Ash) and I went into the acoustic room and headed straight for the Gibsons. They were gorgeous. But rather disappointing to play. No magic. AHA! Martins! Alas, no magic there either. What! Martins are the Best... Yeah, I hear you. But still, to me, no magic. Picked up the cheapest Taylor they had and that baby had me from G, C, F. Magic. Long story short: I have a 1997 Taylor 514-CW. Still magic every time I play it.

And, eventually found magic on the electric side with a Gibson Les Paul Studio that I bought from a friend.

Turns out, that I play better when the guitar has a fat neck profile. The Taylor's neck is slimmer than I'd like but the sound is too perfect to give up. If I came into a big inheritance or something, I'd have me a custom fat neck Taylor made.

But my search, all the buys and sells in looking for what is the right guitar(s) for me, has left me with the feevah! I love getting a new guitar. But aren't they expensive? Yeah, they can be. BUT. Being an engineer helps. I am good at learning all the many details of the makeup of any guitar and determining if a particular one may be right for me. Plus, over time, I have come up with my mental list of my dream guitars.

For example, one of my dream guitars is a powder blue Fender Stratocaster with a maple neck and fretboard, like made in the 50's. Only problem is, the only one that Fender has made or still makes is a $650 purchase. Ouch. For a bolt on neck solid body guitar? Fugetaboutit.

But, being a dweeb has it's advantages. Years of scouring the internet while the family watches TV has paid off with finding my favorite guitar store. It's called
Rondo Music. And they are a fine old music store that has been around since WAY before Al Gore invented the internet. I suggest, if you happen to want a decent guitar for a great price, go checkem out.

What? All of that hooey for an ad? Not really, you see, the reason I was thinking about guitars and totally killed my lunch hour writing this was because I finally found my powder blue Strat (SX is the brand) style guitar at Rondo music. And, according to the UPS tracking web site, my new guitar ($119 with shipping) should be waiting for me when I get home.

Good things come to those who wait. All these years, and I finally find one of my dream guitars and it only costs $99. But wait a minute there my good fellow! How good could a guitar that cheap possibly be? Good enough that this is my third SX guitar, and my daughter has one too, a lefty. Four SX guitars in one house. Yep, and with shipping, the total price for all 4 was under $500.

Hopefully, my new geetar will look just like this exciting photo from the Rondo Music site...

Talent and Cowbells

Talent is an amazing thing.

My wife and I help out at our church with the youth on Wednesday nights. We hope to get a youth band together to let them lead their own praise and worship. I can play guitar ok. I'm a decent strummer but can't play leads or anything like that. Well, last week a few young guys, 15 or 16 years old, said they could play. Last night, after the service I was talking with them and as they had brought their guitars, I wanted to see them. They took them out and played a little bit, a couple of electrics, and although they aren't pro level, they are already way ahead of me as players. I know talent when I hears it! So I'm thinking, cool, now there won't have to be a fat, middle-aged guy in the youth band! But then the youth minister, Mary, asked me if I was willing and able to play bass if needed. Well, yeah, I guess so.

Oh, well. At least with bass, I could stand in the back and try to disappear. As if a 6foot2, 300 pound man can just disappear. So, last night I get the old jazz bass copy out and practice a little while. All the while scheming on how I can talk one of the other kids into playing bass. We'll see how it goes. It will be a while before we have a group together and learn some songs anyway.

Need More Cowbell

I'm hoping I can just help organize, find guitar and bass tabs, or figure the songs out on my guitar and just manage and produce. I could be like the Christopher Walken/Bruce Dickinson character on the classic SNL skit and yell, "Need more cowbell!" Yeah, baby. This could be fun!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

A Warning, and I Like... (post number 2)

Ok, got that first post out of the way.

Good or bad, it's done.

More about me, I guess. I'm really weirded out by the mixture of feelings in doing this: excited to put some stuff out there in the universe, but also the urge to hide. Maybe later when this is old hat, I can be less self-conscious.

A Warning:
I often make fun of, and cut down things I truly like, so please don’t take offense at some of the things I say. For example, I’m from Louisiana, yet I often make cut-down remarks about Louisiana, like, “…but don’t listen to me, I went to Louisiana public schools!”
End of Warning

I like...
  • My family, I’m really lucky there. I love all my relatives, no joke.
  • Killer guitar licks, from jazz, like Norman Brown when I‘m relaxing, to metal, especially the great Christian metal out there flying under most people’s radar, like Disciple, Living Sacrifice, Project 86, etc.
  • Playing guitar – I suck at it, but whoo boy, what I can play sure is fun. I’m asking for a small dose of talent next Christmas, then the world will be mine. MINE, I tell you!
  • Poodles (I ain’t jokin’, I lovem)
  • Good food. If you saw me, you would believe, yes-siree.
  • Plain talk. To me, few things are more pathetic than people going all fru-fru with their words and trying hard to sound intellectual. Also, with my accent, it would be silly for me to try anyway. This is probably why I dislike most literary novels, they usually come across to me as trying to impress. I get bored and move on. Then again, I DID go to Louisiana public schools. Besides, real intellectuals pull off the whole big word using thing with grace and beauty. I guess I just dislike wanna-be intellectuals and how they sound. Sorry, this is supposed to be my 'like' list, isn't it?

I reserve the right to add to the above list as I see fit.

First Post / Self Evaluation

Thees ees my first post. Yeah. Big whoop-te-doo, huh?

I tried to come up with a theme, but couldn't. My thoughts and cares are all over the map, so I guess this here blog will be, too.

Today, I finished filling out my self evaluation portion of my yearly performance review for my job (electrical engineer). Man I hate those things. My natural tendency is to try to fly under the radar. To put into words the tasks I have done and to put myself in the best light possible is no easy feat for me. I don't have to lie or anything, just can't explain it. To me it's like bragging and hoping for a raise. Unlike this blog where I can put my musings without a care. I mean, you don't know me, and I do have a few things to say. I like the soundboard of blogs, but can still be somewhat anonymous.

Anyway, I finished it and submitted it (my self-evaluation for my job). Now over the next few days I'm sure I'll think of tasks completed, etc., that I forgot to put down. Oh, well.

You don't know squat about me, so I'll finish this post by telling a little about myself:
I'm 40something
I'm married (21 years)
I'm the father of two daughters (20 and 17), four poodles, one cat, and one fish
I'm a Christian
I'm from Monroe, Louisiana (originally)
I'm living in Palm Bay, Florida (since 10/96)
I'm politically conservative
I love to write
I love to play guitar (I suck at it though)

That's enough for now, I guess.