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The Curse Of Chief Tenaya”   (2002©)  —   book review
Today’s book review is for a historic fiction novel set in 1800’s.  The author is Craig J. Carrozzi.  It is about an Irish immigrant coming to the United States and making his life through the pre-, actual and post- “Gold Rush” in Northern / Central California.
Full disclosure:  Craig (the author) was a member of the football teams I played on while in high school in San Francisco.  After high school graduation, Craig joined the Peace Corps, returned to San Francisco to get his BA and then subsequently lived a good deal of his life in South America.  Like me, Craig was raised in San Francisco.  He is the author of five published books and numerous articles.  Of his five published books – one is about attending a SF Giants baseball game as a youth;  three are semi-autobiographical fictionalized stories about his time in South America;  and, this book (being reviewed) is about earlier days in Northern California.
The book’s main character is Jeremiah Ignatius McElroy.  He is born in Ireland, starts off as a hard life (potato famine and Yellow Fever), moves to the US (via Canada), travels across the country / continent and ultimately becomes a hunter and tour guide in the Sierra Nevada mountains.  His main geographic expertise is the high-country of Yosemite Valley and it’s “cousin”, the Hetch-Hetchy Valley.  He spends the winters in Oakland, CA with his widowed younger sister and her family.  Jeremiah is hired by a wealthy landowner to track down and destroy a Grizzly bear.
This is basically a “man’s” action book with a couple of interesting twists (interesting to me, anyway).  First, the current day action is interspersed with the growing-up portion of Jeremiah’s life.  The author / publisher uses the “trick” of italicizing the historical narration so the reader can clearly “see” when the author is talking about the past.  The second interesting aspect of the book is an obvious attempt to include “real” famous / historic literary figures in the story.  Hence, Jeremiah reads Ambrose Bierce columns in the daily newspaper;  drinks with Jack London in a bar; and, meets John Muir while up in the hills.
The “action” portion is the life of the growing up, becoming a man and then aging and preparing for old age;  but within the specific confines of the plot, it is the pursuit of a giant Grizzly which has been terrorizing cattle ranches in and around the Hetch-Hetchy area.
So, is this book any good?  Is it realistic in it’s character(s) and / or historic depictions?  Is it entertaining and / or interesting?  And, finally, do I recommend this book?
In short – the answer is YES, to all of these questions.  The book is relatively short (225 pages) and the story is a fast and well paced read.  I read it completely in one sitting and found it hard to put down for my own meals.  (This despite a good deal of delicious sounding meals through-out the book.)
In general, the book seems pretty accurate to very accurate in describing both people and locations.  I must admit, I felt the author let a bit of his own “politics” come into the attitudes and language used in some of the conversations.  One example is when Jeremiah uses the word “deforestation” in an extended dialogue.  I looked the word up.  The word is cited as first used around 1870, so it is possible Jeremiah might know it, but it seems to me, unlikely a hunter / trapper / outdoorsman / tour guide would know the word, let alone use the word.  But, these are very minor flaws in an otherwise well written work.  A brief clarification:  I haven’t spoken with the author in over 50 years, so I really have no idea about his “politics” or if they are reflected in the writing.  It’s just how I felt while reading the book.
And, “the Curse” itself?  Well, it created a “hook” and theme for the book, but I felt it could have been better fleshed out.  I’m not sure why I feel that way or how I might have advised the author to improve the story during development, but it (the “hook”, not the book as a whole) made me feel like I was reading a poor mix of “Dancing With Wolves“, “The Last of the Mohicans” and “The Deer Hunter“.  Very much like those movies, the ending is thought provoking rather than PollyAnn-ish uplifting.  A “Good” or “Bad” ending will then depend on the reader’s individual reaction to the ending.  The “curse” was from the last Native American Chief of the tribe (Chief Tenaya, a non-literary, but “real person” from the period) which lived in the Hetch-Hetchy Valley.  He pledged to haunt those who would despoil the tribes sacred lands (the Valley).
I found the book to be between “hard to put down” and “can’t put down”.  That’s quite a statement from this reviewer.  The descriptions of the skies, mountains, valleys, flowers and animals filled my imagination and reminded me of earlier outdoor travels and adventures from my own youth.
Final recommendation:  Very highly recommended if you are into “masculine” adventure type action stories with a historical setting.  Given I was raised in Northern California, I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of “old world” San Francisco, Oakland and the towns from the Bay Area to Hetch-Hetchy.  If you are prudish, be advised there is some minor sexual content, but I felt it was well within the boundary of character and story development.
Disclaimer:  I purchased this book at normal / sale price (for an old / used book) and no compensation has been provided to me by anyone for my opinions in this review.
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On This Day In:
2021 MAGA Choice: Reality Or Lies
You Seem To Be
2020 A Good Reason To Blog
Finally Enjoying The View
2019 Living Free
2018 Relative Imagination
2017 Thank You, Senator McCain (So Far Anyway)
2016 What About Friends?
2015 It Tastes Good To Me
2014 Others’ Footsteps
The Not-So-Modern Samurai
2013 Doin’
2012 A Lover
2011 What Have We Found Here
Words

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[Disclaimer:  The following is an editorial / opinion piece I read about dealing with MAGA-RINOs.  I tried to pull out the relevant (IMHO), most important points, but I felt it fell apart as excerpts, so I am offering it in its entirety.  The article is the sole possession of the author (Peter Wehner) and the publisher (The Atlantic) and I am making no claim of ownership and I am seeking no personal or monetary benefit by re-posting the piece on my blog site.  I am offering the piece because it presents an opinion on a significant topic of our time and for our country:  “how should rational American’s deal with irrational Trump followers who have taken over the “name” of the Republican Party (GOP)?”  I will remove this post if I receive an objection from either the author or the publisher.    —    kmab]
That Donald Trump has acted recklessly and lawlessly, without empathy, as if he lives in a world devoid of moral rules, should surprise no one.  Some of us warned back in the summer of 2016 that Trump was erratic, unstable, and temperamentally unfit for office. He had what I referred to then as a “personality disorder.”  I believed then and I believe now that it is the most essential thing to understand about him. Trump in power couldn’t end well.
Trump never found a way to escape the antisocial demons that haunt him.  But here’s what turned a personal tragedy into a national calamity:  He imprinted his moral pathologies, his will-to-power ethic, on the Republican Party.  It is the most important political development of this century.
The GOP once advertised itself as standing for family values and law and order, for moral ideals and integrity in political leaders.  Such claims are now risible.  The Republican Party rallied around Trump and has stuck with him every step of the way.
Republican officials showed fealty to Trump despite his ceaseless lying and dehumanizing rhetoric, his misogyny and appeals to racism, his bullying and conspiracy theories.  No matter the offense, Republicans always found a way to look the other way, to rationalize their support for him, to shift their focus to their progressive enemies.  As Trump got worse, so did they.
Republicans defended Trump after the release of the Access Hollywood tape and alleged hush-money payments to a porn star.  They defended him when he obstructed justice to thwart the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and sided with Russia over U.S. intelligence during a press conference in Helsinki, Finland.  They defended him after learning of his effort to solicit foreign interference in the 2020 presidential election.  They defended him despite his effort to overturn the election by pressuring state officials to “find” votes and send fake electors, by wallpapering the country with lies, and by instigating a violent assault on the Capitol.  The ex-president continues to peddle the Big Lie to this day, and any Republican who challenges it is targeted.
Something malicious has occurred since Trump won the nomination in 2016.  Six years ago, Republicans jettisoned their previous moral commitments in order to align themselves with the MAGA movement.  Today, they have inverted them.  Lawmakers, candidates, and those in the right-wing media ecosystem celebrate and imitate Trump’s nihilism, cynicism, and cruelty.  What was once considered a bug is now a feature.
This is the result of individuals’ and institutions’ accommodation of one moral transgression after another after another.  With each moral compromise, the next one — a worse one — becomes easier to accept.  Conduct that would have horrified Republicans in the past now causes them, at best, to shrug their shoulders;  at worst, they delight in it.
How does that change play out in our politics?  Five years ago, leading Republicans were publicly critical of Trump’s statements following the white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.  Now consider that just a few weeks after far more ominous actions by Trump — inspiring and provoking an insurrection — House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy flew to Mar-a-Lago to grovel before Trump.  Initially, Republicans accepted the need for a bipartisan commission to find out what had happened on January 6;  since then, they have undermined every effort to uncover that day’s events and how central a role Trump played in them.
The 2016 Republican platform said, “The next president must restore the public’s trust in law enforcement and civil order by first adhering to the rule of law itself.”  Today, Republicans, in response to a lawful search of the home of a lawless ex-president, compare the FBI to the Gestapo and the Stasi.  Trump himself, during a rally, referred to the FBI and the Department of Justice as “vicious monsters.”  And no political party in living memory has done as much as the GOP to undermine civil order and the public’s trust in law enforcement, or to attack the rule of law.
In hindsight, January 6, 2021, was a milestone along not just one path of radicalization, but two.  Of course, it represented an unprecedented assault on democracy by the violent mob on Capitol Hill and the president who incited it.  But it also represented what turned out to be the last moment when Republicans considered repudiating Trump.  For a few days, party leaders seemed, at last, horrified enough to break with him.  But when McCarthy slunk to Mar-a-Lago, hat and apology in hand, and when then – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Senate Republicans backed away from Trump’s impeachment and removal, the moment was over, and a door slammed shut.  There would be no more wavering.  Today, the dominant faction in the GOP is not conservative in the American tradition;  it is authoritarian and revolutionary, like far-right parties in Europe.
Karen Stenner, a political psychologist and the author of the groundbreaking “The Authoritarian Dynamic”, argues that about a third of people across 29 liberal democracies seem to have a psychological predisposition toward authoritarianism.  The tendency exists on both ends of the political spectrum, though it’s more prevalent on the right.
Stenner defines authoritarianism, which she believes is about 50 percent heritable, as a deep-seated psychological predisposition to demand obedience and conformity — what she calls “oneness and sameness” — over freedom and diversity.  Authoritarians have an aversion to complexity and diversity.  They tend to be intolerant on matters of race, politics, and morals;  to glorify the in-group and denigrate the out-group;  and to “reward or punish others according to their conformity to this ‘normative order.’”
The danger, Stenner says, arises when that tendency, which is often latent, is activated by “normative threats,” a deep fear of change, and a loss of trust in our institutions.  She also made this point to my colleague Helen Lewis:  In normal, reassuring, and comforting conditions, people with authoritarian tendencies could be your best neighbor.  But those predispositions “are activated under conditions of threat and produce greater intolerance to differences.”
Donald Trump has made his supporters feel “permanently panicked,” according to Stenner.  He “never got past the constant-rage-and-fear stage.”  And it doesn’t help that modern life’s complexity is overwhelming for many people.
For those with authoritarian tendencies, Stenner says, there’s a need “to reassure them and calm them down.”  Her goal is “to help authoritarians live in peace with liberal democracy.”  We need to reintegrate, rather than triumph over and banish, the authoritarians.  Demeaning and dismissing a significant part of the country won’t turn out well.  And so the focus of her work is to find practical ways to bring “activated authoritarians” back from the brink, including by means of normatively reassuring messages.  The key, she believes, is to reduce the feelings of being threatened and to find the right language — language that is less alienating to those with authoritarian tendencies — to talk about things such as diversity and immigration.  She and the social psychologist Jonathan Haidt point out that moral elevation, the response we have when we witness virtuous acts, can also be helpful.
This approach is commendable;  my guess is that right now it might have sway with the minority of Republicans who are uneasy about Trump.  Perhaps, combined with an indictment of Trump, it might be enough to weaken the ex-president to the point where the Republican Party breaks with him.  But will its members break with the authoritarian tendencies that now define the GOP?
That seems unlikely.  The majority of the party has gotten more radicalized, more aggressive, and more conspiracy-minded, not less, since Trump left office.  The MAGA movement has provided many of its adherents with an identity, a source of personal meaning, and a cause for which to fight.  They have created a narrative in which they are heroic figures fighting malevolent forces.  They find psychological satisfaction in relentless conflict;  their lives seem more vivid and more purposeful within MAGA’s ever-combative frame.  Politics has become, for them, an ersatz religion.  In this activated state, they are not reachable by reason or open to amelioration.  In fact, many in MAGA world are looking for reasons to take offense, to feel victimized, to lash out.
There is an analogy to nature:  When a thunderstorm cloud has sufficient electrostatic charge, it has to discharge toward the ground.  If the lightning bolt doesn’t find one target, it will find another.  So will Trump supporters.
“We have a big faction of one of our two major political parties who wants to unravel our democracy because it no longer serves them,” Barbara Walter, a professor at UC San Diego and the author of “How Civil Wars Start and How to Stop Them,” recently told CNN.  “The reality is if you don’t say anything, if you stick your head in the ground, this makes it easier for those who do want to create some sort of authoritarian or strongman, minority-rule government — sort of what you have in Hungary — it simply allows them to do that more easily.  They can do it quietly behind the scenes when no one’s looking.”
I’m of two minds about all this.  I admire groups such as Braver Angels, which is attempting to bridge partisan divides, decrease affective polarization, and help Americans understand one another beyond stereotypes.  If we can help those with authoritarian tendencies reintegrate themselves into liberal democracy, we should certainly do so.  It’s important to hear perspectives that differ from our own.  And it’s imperative that we relearn how to talk with one another as fellow citizens instead of as combatants.
I also believe we should continue to stay in relationships whenever possible, including with family members and friends whose authoritarian attitudes have been activated, even as we look for the right moment and the right way to name our differences and express our disappointment with those who have aligned themselves with malignant political figures and movements.  We should speak with candor but not with malice, striving for grace as well as for truth.  It’s an impossible balance to always achieve, at least for me;  my frustrations can sometimes get the better of me, and perhaps they get the better of you too.  But the balance is still worth fighting for.
But even though we shouldn’t give up on individuals, I can’t escape concluding that the time for mollifying grievances is over.  In our political endeavors, the task is now to contain and defeat the MAGA movement, shifting away from a model of psychological amelioration and toward a model of political confrontation.  This is the model that Liz Cheney embraces, and so do I.
It requires defeating Trump Republicans at the polls, but it goes well beyond that.  It also means rallying the forces that must rise up to oppose authoritarianism by speaking honestly about the nature of the threat.  It means telling the truth about not just Trump but many of his supporters, who remain complicit in a corrupt and corrupting enterprise — one that is inflicting grave injury on our nation and its ideals.
MAGA supporters have had countless opportunities to take the exit ramp, and they have always found reasons not to.  At some point, when an enterprise is thoroughly corrupt, staying a part of it, helping it along, refusing to ever speak up, is not just a mistake in judgment;  it is a failure of intellectual and moral integrity.  This doesn’t mean that every area of a MAGA supporter’s life is devoid of rectitude, of course.  But it does mean that one important area is.  And that needs to be said.
So, no, I am not suggesting “giving up” on individual MAGA supporters, writing them off, throwing them out of polite society — even if I were in a position to do any of those things, which I’m not.  I am suggesting that much of MAGA world is authoritarian, that Liz Cheney is right to turn all her political energies to opposing it, and that containing and defeating MAGA — not hoping it will change, not placating its grievances — is now the No. 1 priority for friends of democracy.  Maybe we’ll succeed, maybe we’ll fail, but the mission is unavoidable.  And honorable.
    —     Peter Wehner
From his editorial / opinion piece:  “There’s No Escaping the Truth About Trump:  The former president has imprinted his moral pathologies and will-to-power ethic on the Republican Party.
The editorial appears in:  The Atlantic
Dated:  8 Sept. 2022
The editorial also appears online at:  https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2022/09/trump-republicans-authoritarian-tendencies/671366/
(There may be a pay-wall or required subscription to view the entire editorial online.  If you are financially able to support a local or national news source, please do so.  A strong, energized free press is one of the most consistent bulwarks for democracy and against tyranny.  And please make the effort to vote in the coming mid-term elections.    —    kmab)
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On This Day In:
2021 Access Is Good
The Sun Is Shining
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2020 Give Me A Minute To Think About That…
November 3rd Is Coming!
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2019 Is #45 Warning Alabama Again?
Day 11: 49ers Win
2018 Worry (x2)
2017 Still Working
Gold In The Morning Sun
2016 Power Inside
2015 Sometimes I Feel Small
2014 It Slipped Away
2013 Corollary
2012 Working Retired
2011 The Web Is Not Authoritative! (Really?)

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* Greatest Of All Time
Today, with great sadness, I mark the passing of a childhood / personal hero of mine and the man I consider to be the greatest basketball player to ever lace up a pair of shoes:  William (“Bill”) Felton Russell
The following is partial list of his basketball / sports accomplishments:
California High School State Championship:  2X
NCAA Champion:  2X (1955 and March 1956)
NBA Champion:  11X in 13 seasons (1st in April 1957;  then 1959-1966)
Olympic Gold Medal (Basketball):  1X (Nov / Dec 1956)
The average margin of victory over eight Olympic games:  53 points.  To put that in perspective, the average margin of victory for the 1992 “Dream Team”:  43.8 points.
When there is talk of who is the “Greatest Of All Time” (“GOAT”), think about this:  in the space of thirteen (13) months – from March 1956 to April 1957, Bill Russell led teams won an NCAA Basketball Final, an Olympic Gold Medal for Basketball and an NBA Finals Championship.  To say the least:  it is extremely unlikely this particular string of achievements (in this short a period of time) will ever be duplicated.
Bill Russell could wear two NCAA championship rings, an Olympic Gold Medal AND eleven (11) NBA championship rings (eight of them won consecutively)!!!
More importantly, when I think of “personal integrity” and “lifetime of dignity” only a very few names pop into my head.  Bill Russell is one of those names…
It is difficult to compare sports figures across decades to definitively say “this one is the GOAT”.  A great deal of that is based on the personal bias of who you actually saw play during their careers or at formative time periods in your life.  I know some who would favor Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar or Wilt Chamberlain – and these are certainly all “Mount Rushmore” type historic players;  but, (IMHO) there is only one GOAT:  Mr. Bill Russell.
RIP, sir.  We shall not soon see your like again…
[Disclaimer:  I found the (above) image of Mr. Russell on the internet.  I make no claim to its ownership and have no knowledge of its creator / publisher / photographer / owner.  I have chosen the image simply because it represents some of the essence of Mr. Russell.  If you are the image owner and object to my use of the image, please let me know and I will remove the image from this post.    —    kmab]
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On This Day In:
2021 A Democratic Republic Should Promote The Majority While Defending The Minority
Lost In My Soul
2020 In Business And In Politics
A Free Show
2019 What Is True For War Is Also True For Elections
2018 Start By Trying
Day 4: Difficult Day
2017 Outlasting Division
2016 Said The Man Who Trained To Fight For A Living
2015 Tripping On Treasure
2014 The Flower Of Light
2013 Eye Catching
2012 The Holstee Manifesto
2011 Three Crooners For The Shower
The Soldier’s Faith
Vacation, Books And Lots Of Movies

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About a month and a half ago I started playing a daily word / search / complete game:  “Wordle“.  It is a once a day game hosted on the New York Times news website.  Basically, you have six chances to figure out the five letter word of the day.  Incorrect letters appear as grey;  correct letters in the wrong location as yellow;  and, correct in the right location, as green.
As of today, I have only missed twice.  I have found it EXTREMELY addictive and also a great vocabulary refresher.  Highly recommended!
Here’s the link to the NYT site’s version:  Wordle – The New York Times (nytimes.com)
[Disclaimer:  I have nothing to do with the New York Times or the producers of the Wordle game.  I am merely offering this link / game as a suggestion of something I’ve enjoyed playing.    —    kmab]
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On This Day In:
2021 The Principal Difference
Picture Perfect
2020 So Sad, Faux Crowd
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2019 And The Same For Blogs And Posts
2018 The End Of Asgard (For Now)
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2017 For Some
2016 Fragile And Explosive, Provocation And Privacy
2015 Bound Up
2014 Economic Engines
2013 Weren’t You Supposed To Be Reading?
Absent Friends
Where I Stand
2012 Hangin’ With His P’s
Help Save
2011 Six Facets Of Good Leadership

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Back in the 1980’s I developed a “repetitive stress injury” to my wrist(s) – mainly my right wrist, as I am right handed.  It happened due to overuse of a mouse while working on computers.  Back then it was more “popularly” starting to be called Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.  Of course, back then, there was no significant use of either term in the general populace.  The closest we (the public) came to it was “tennis elbow” and its cousin “golfer’s elbow / wrist”.
I was lucky and mostly got over it (RSI) by playing Aikido for a few years – where you do a number of wrist flexing exercises during warm-ups / before practice.  When I stopped Aikido, the symptoms began coming back and I went to a sports doctor (specialist) who gave me a sheet with wrist exercises to do several times a day.  He said it is more important to do a few repetitions several times during the day than it is to do a massive number in one long session.  He said he normally suggests using 1lb to 3lbs weights, but as I was muscular (back then), I should use 5lbs weights.  He added if a weight is not available, just use a book.  I’m in the process of going through some of the stuff I used to have in my work cubicle and found the exercise sheet so I’m offering the image of the exercise instructions to anyone who may have similar wrist issues.  (Click on the image for a larger and more readable version.)

Wrist Exercises for RSI Relief

[Disclaimer:  Please remember I am NOT a medical professional and the “tips” in this post are based on my positive anecdotal result(s) from a therapy recommended by a certified physician.  Consult your personal physician before starting any diet or exercise regime.
I recently drove by the location of his storefront office and it is no longer there.  He was older than me, so he’s probably long retired.  As such, I have removed his office information from the image.  I did a quick browse around the web to see if there were similar instructions / exercises available from a website I could provide attribution to.  I was not able to locate anything similar.  I am making no claim to ownership of the image and I am merely offering it up to help others in need.   —    kmab]
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On This Day In:
2021 It Doesn’t Stop
I Feel Like I’m Winning
2020 #45: 14.81 Lies Per Day
2019 Less Miserable Now
So Near And Yet So Far
2018 I Doubt #45 Is Listening?
2017 Life’s Oddity
2016 Just Asking…
2015 Two Thoughts On Thinking
2014 From The Top, Please…
2013 You Are The Stars
2012 Just One??
2011 Anything But

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[Disclaimer:  Please remember I am NOT a medical professional and the “tips” in this post are based on my anecdotal experience(s).  Consult your personal physician before starting any diet or exercise regime.    —    KMAB]
My last 40hrs water fast did not go well.  I didn’t complete the 40hr;  I only made it about 19 – 20hrs.  On the “full-day” portion of the fast, I had a late morning doctor’s appointment and some shopping chores.  The sum of this left me tired and HUNGRY.  I ended up breaking the fast just after noon.  Then I didn’t want to start over at 5pm, so I carried on normally through yesterday and started over at 6pm.  Today is the “new” 9th cycle full-fast day.
Why 6pm instead of 5pm?  LoL…  I took a nap and over-slept.  I was reading.  I felt tired.  I donned my CPAP mask and closed my eyes…  Next I knew, it was 4:55pm and I’d not eaten my dinner.  So, I rushed a couple of dogs onto the boil and had a cup of mint chip ice cream for dessert.  (Yes.  I know it’s a heck of a diet…)
My tips for successful short water fasts:
1)  Get the start time right…  Breakfast and lunch don’t matter, but you’ve got to be organized or you’ll never get the dinner cooked and eaten by the 5pm start time.  The later the start time, the later the end time.  (You want to end as close to getting up as possible.)
2)  Stay up a little later on the start day / evenings.  You’ve eaten a couple of meals that day and staying up a bit longer isn’t that much more difficult (hunger / eating wise).
3)  If you are allowed to…  sleep in a little later on the full fast day.  The less time you are awake, the less time you have to think about eating.
4)  Coffee / tea:  I drink a LOT of coffee – about 60 fluid ounces between getting up and 2 “ish” pm – on the full-fast day.  Coffee is a mild appetite suppressant and the volume makes your stomach “feel” full – which may itself BE the appetite suppressant.
The stomach doesn’t have a calorie gauge.  It does have a volume gauge.  If you eat (or drink) a lot, your stomach will tell your brain to turn off the hunger hormones simply because you are full.  The gauge doesn’t know about calories, proteins, carbs, nutrition, sugar, or any of that.  It only knows full, not empty and empty.  And it seems to have a bit of a delay processing between switching from “not empty” to “full”.  For most folks this delay seems to be about 15 to 30 minutes.
The “interesting” thing about black coffee is it gets to be an acquired taste.  I’ve been drinking “stand-up” coffee for about 40+ years and Bailey’s coffee most Saturdays for the last 20 years, so straight-up black coffee was something I had to adjust to.  Now, I must admit, I prefer it to my normal coffee.  (Although, I still enjoy my Saturday’s Bailey’s.)
Some readers may be asking:  “What’s a ‘stand-up’ coffee?”
A “stand-up” coffee is when you add enough CoffeeMate and sugar to your coffee so the plastic stirrer stands-up in your mug.  Super sweet / super creamy.  (And, yes, I have had people ask if I want a little coffee with my sweetened creamer.)  For those of you who may foolishly think to try this at home, I stopped it about 30 years ago when I developed kidney stones.  I (perhaps falsely) attributed the stones to the powdered creamer.   In any case, I’ve not used powder for well over 20 years and I still get kidney stones (grains).
5)  Take a nap on the full fast day.  I’m not a big “bed-napper” myself.  I’m more of TV watching me in the easy chair for a half-hour napper, but it does make the day go by faster.  The simple fact is most of your burned calories is your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) – how many calories you burn just to stay alive – and those get burned whether you’re awake or asleep.  And, I’m generally not aware of food / hunger when I’m asleep.
6)  Avoid watching sports on TV.  Sports are on TV to sell you cars, booze and food.  And, not necessarily in that order.  Except at dinner time:  then all TV is off limits – for the same reason, but mostly take-out food ads.  If you have to watch the evening news – watch public broadcasting.
7)  At meal time, go sit outside or to the far end of your house (away from the kitchen / dining area) when everyone else is eating.  It’s much easier to not feel hungry if you don’t smell the food cooking, being eaten, or lingering in the air.
8)  Drink at least two 8oz glasses of water in the evening.  I drink about 6pm and 8pm.  It fills the tummy a little and helps move anything in your digestive tract from the prior day.  Plus water is just good for you and most people don’t drink enough of it.
9)  You should probably “break fast” the following day with something healthy.  I almost never do.  Mea culpa, mea culpa… but it’s the truth.
10)  And this is probably the most important tip:  Lighten up and learn to forgive yourself.  If you don’t make it through the day – who really cares?  You are NOT a personal failure (in life or even “just” dieting) just because you didn’t make it through the day.  Your imagined state of self-discipline (or lack thereof) is just that:  imagined!  Eat slowly.  Enjoy the flavor(s) and the sensations of eating (smells, tastes, fullness, company) and being alive.  Start again tomorrow (or soon).
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On This Day In:
2021 And Yet I Still Pray
I’m Still Listening To It
2020 What Am I Missing?
If Only
2019 For Most #IncompetentDonald Followers
2018 I Dare You
2017 To Republicans Who Choose Party Over Country
2016 All About Control
2015 Liberty Is Extravagant
2014 Always Remember To Reach
Have You Registered To Vote Yet?
2013 Ripples From The Water’s Edge
Because I Was Alone
2012 POI vs Reality
Dear And Sacred
2011 Chilled Again

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[Another LONG post…  You’ve been warned!  (LoL)    —    KMAB]
The Third World War:  August 1985  (1978©)   —   book review
This review is for the fictional portrayal (as a “future history”) of a “realistic” invasion of NATO allied European countries by the Warsaw Pact in August of 1985.  The book was “written” primarily (et al) by (Ret.) British General John W. Hackett in consultation with a number of experts gathered to discuss how such an invasion might occur, what might lead up to it and what might be the end-of-war results.  The “advisors” were listed as:  John Barraclough (Air Chief Marshal), Kenneth Hunt (Brigadier), Ian McGeoch (Vice-Admiral), Norman Macrae (a deputy editor at “The Economist“), John Strawson (Major-General), and, Bernard Burrows (British Diplomatic Service).
The book was a best-seller in England back in 1978.  It was published in the U.S. in early 1979 as a hardback and then released as a paperback in 1980.  I initially read the paperback version.  I believe it was shortly after I was released from the Active Reserves, but my memory isn’t that precise anymore.  In any case, this review is of a re-reading of the book after my reading of “2034: A Novel of the Next World War” earlier this year.  (review here:  A Novel War).  The author of that book, (ret) Admiral James Stavridis, cited this book as a primary inspiration for his work.  This prompted my re-interest in the original…
During my (almost) two years in the Reserves I was assigned to a unit which tested and evaluated the readiness of National Guard units from California, Arizona and New Mexico.  The officers would establish “war-game” scenarios for the Guard officers and I (as an NCO) would embed with the line units to evaluate actual field performance.  We were artillery evaluators, so I watched Guard batteries fire cannons / howitzers, but I gained an understanding of scenario development and large scale tactical war-gaming.  This led to a post-service interest in military style board games which carried on for most of the ’80s.  I lost interest when gaming shifted to computers and became “mostly” shoot-em-up’s instead of (IMHO) about strategy.
Basically, the plot of this book is the leaders of the USSR feel their position as a superpower is being threatened by political and economic factors which are worsening (for them).  They feel there has been a significant / progressive decrease in NATO’s readiness over the last decade and this may be their last / best opportunity to remove a potential military threat (NATO) and further subjugate the buffer countries of Eastern Europe who are members of the Warsaw Pact.  The plan is a crushing invasion of Western Europe (West Germany and the low-lands) which leaves the USSR in command up to the border of France.  The invasion fails because in the years between the book’s publishing (1978) and the date of the “future-history” event (August 1985), Europe (specifically Great Britain) comes to its senses and reverses the general military decline of the late ’60s to ’70s.  The NATO forces are able to slow the advance of invasion (without the use of tactical nuclear weapons) and allows reinforcements to arrive from the U.S. just in the nick of time.
In a striking foreboding of the current (2022) invasion of Ukraine by Russia, the invasion portrayed fails because of (in no particular order of importance):
1)  an inability to dominate the air despite superior numerical assets;
2)  a failure of logistics (fuel and ammunition) by the Warsaw Pact, (it is believed the invasion will take less than two weeks AND there will not be enough time for the U.S. to resupply NATO forces);
3)  resistance by the native forces (in this case, the West German army / reserves) is surprisingly effective;  and,
4)  the centralized command and control characteristic of authoritarian political systems, does not promote the flexibility / initiative of junior officers (and NCOs) to seize military opportunities when they arise, so opportunities for significant breakouts are lost.
When the war quickly (the “war” lasts weeks) devolves into a war of attrition, failure is viewed as inevitable and hard-liners in the Politburo decide to consolidate their gains for future armistice negotiations by the use of a limited (against only one city) nuclear strike.  The result, however, is not fear and negotiation, but instead, fury and retaliation via a similar limited nuclear strike by Great Britain and the U.S. against a Russian city;  (and like falling dominoes) the Warsaw Pact allies turn on the USSR to avoid nuclear annihilation;  the Soviet military / security services stage a coup, over-throw the hardliners, and cease further combat;  the non-Russian border states (the “-stans”) declare independence from the USSR;  and, the rest of the world struggles with the effects of a new world order.  The “war” is barely a month old before it is over.  Because the book is written as a “recent” history of past events, it does not attempt to forecast / describe long term results of the war except to relate the world has to deal with unaccounted for Soviet nuclear weapons / warheads and large stocks of conventional weapons scattered around the global (mainly Africa).
Is this a “good” book?  Is it realistic as a predictor of future conflict (lethality, if not participants)?  Is it entertaining or interesting?  Do I recommend this book?  With the exception of the final question, the answer to all of these is (are):  yes to so-so…
The book is not a “good” novel.  There are no specified individual characters driving the action, so you cannot (as a reader) identify and grow with anyone.  In this sense, although fictional, the book is written with more of an academic or journalistic feel.  It is very much an military style “after-action” report.  If you are comfortable with this writing style, you will enjoy the writing / book.  If you are not, you will not.  I did.  Was the book able to realistically describe combat and the results (devastation) of war?  Yes!  Although, saying this, there was an obvious Western bias of vivid description of the destruction of the British city and virtually nothing about the similar (or much worse) destruction of the Russian city.  (Very much:  “Yeah, we took out one of theirs as payback…”)  Is the book entertaining or interesting?  This is the toughest question because every reader’s tastes varies so much… I was not “entertained”;  but, I did find the book interesting.  I particularly “enjoyed” the parts the authors get terribly wrong, because as a reader I (we) have 40+ years of hind-sight.  There is no China – Japan alliance;  the Shah is no longer in charge of Iran (or, rather, wasn’t in 1985);  South Africa did not fall to external forces;  and, East Germany did not resist consolidation with West Germany after the fall of the USSR.
Final recommendation:  strong recommendation.  I think most veterans (particularly my age group) will find this book relatable.  I think most civilian “military” readers / historians – and quite a few regular historians – will, too.  For political science readers, the “states” interests, goals, and stances will seem Machiavellian / Kissinger-ian (is that a real word?).  Yet, they ring true – even 40 years later.  It is entirely obvious why this book could seem as an inspiration for a future – updated version (a la “2034“), and I believe (I read) this book served as a similar inspiration for several of Tom Clancy’s works which followed.  At any rate, I do remember “enjoying” the initial read from “way-back-when”, and don’t feel the re-read was less so.  My reaction to “2034” was reinforced:  this version is much better than the more recent book.  If you have read “2034“, I recommend you read “WW3:1985” for the comparison value, if nothing else.
Final disclaimer:  I purchased this book at normal / sale price (for an old / used book) and no compensation has been provided to me by anyone for my opinions in this review.
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On This Day In:
2021 I’m An Optimist
Talent Is A Ticket To Ride
2020 Works For Me
Rivers Versus Waterfalls
2019 Better To Do
News: Drunken Party Girl Saves Seoul
2018 Keep Moving
2017 Fighting Good
2016 Size Matters
2015 Maybe The Best Thing
2014 Ready To Be Fried?
2013 A Real Lover
2012 Winning Wars
2011 A Different Lesson

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Firefly RE01 Resonator (acoustic) Guitar   —   guitar review
[DISCLAIMER:  This product is being reviewed without compensation of any sort by the manufacturer.  I purchased the guitar with my own personal funds.  Also, nothing I say should be taken as anything but my personal opinion / observation, as I have VERY little knowledge of music or musical instruments.    —    KMAB]
 
Background:   Since January of this year, I’ve been trying to teach myself how to play guitar – starting from scratch.  And by “scratch” I mean I have (had) little to no actual knowledge of music or of the guitar as an instrument.  Although I have owned a couple of guitars (and other instruments) in the distant past (back in my late teens / early twenties), I never learned how to tune them, let alone play them.  I “meant” to, but life got in the way, and they ended up lost in the mist of time.  I think I sold one and the other I simply left with a friend (who ended up junking it).  So, the sum of my musical “knowledge” base is what I know of radio / pop music and playing “air” guitar (again, in my distant youth).  … So next to nothing.
 
In January, I got my first (acoustic / steel string / dreadnought) guitar and began physically learning – as opposed to simply watching YouTube videos – how to play.  In (roughly) March, I purchased my second guitar (an electric guitar / stratocaster [aka: “S” type] knockoff) with a small amp.  In late May, I purchased my second acoustic (third guitar).  This one is a small (3/4 size) one with nylon strings.  The intent is to have a time and location friendly guitar.  “Time” friendly in that you can play a nylon string guitar for hours without seriously hurting your finger tips.  “Location” friendly in that I can take it most anywhere without worry about it getting knocked about (because it cost less than $50).  After this, at the very tail end of July, I got my second electric.  This one is a “Les Paul” (aka: “LP”) knockoff.  All of my guitars have been from different manufacturers and ALL are at the low end of the price range with “out of pocket” cost varying from $20 to $220.
 
I also borrowed my brother’s steel string acoustic.  It is not a dreadnought, but I’m not positive what type of guitar it is considered.  It is the same body shape and length as my dreadnought, but it is not as deep (wide).  I don’t know if dreadnoughts can have variable depth (so maybe it is).  Anyway, it came with steel strings and I swapped them out for nylon strings.  So, I now have a full-size acoustic guitar which I can practice on for extended time periods.  Having said this, my “normal” daily practice is 60 to 90 minutes.  This sounds like a lot (even to me), but it really isn’t that long.  The longest I’ve “noodled” has been about four hours while watching football on TV.
 
Start of review:
So, this (Firefly Resonator) is the fifth guitar I’ve purchased this year.  It was ordered online with no “expected date” – for shipping or for delivery.  (Yeah, I know it sounds shady…)  I was hoping for delivery in less than two weeks.  It was ordered on a Saturday and delivered on the following Thursday (yesterday).  Five days:  an initial good impression.  The box had a small (two-inch) tear in the exterior, but there was no damage to the guitar.  I add that I have grown increasingly concerned about shipping as I am constantly reading about damaged guitars being received.  Knock on wood…  I’ve been lucky so far.  On YouTube, the reviewers frequently say things like:  “Firefly is a very good company for shipping. They use double boxing and the guitars are packed in Styrofoam for safety.”  Well, that may be true for guitars sent to YouTube reviewers, but neither was true for me.  NO double box. No extra packing.  The guitar did come in thicker plastic wrap (not see-thru anyway) and it did have a cardboard neck / head brace.
 
(Click on images to enlarge…)
 
Per their site (https://guitarsgarden.com/collections/acoustic-guitar), this is what I got for $216.91 all-in (including tax and shipping).  Note:  the item price on the site is $189.91;  the difference is added shipping.
 
Features / Specification:
• Spruce Top, Mahogany back and side
• Bone nut, and nickel String
• Rosewood Fretboard
The site doesn’t mention it, but you get a truss rod Allen wrench included.
 
And, that’s it…  No gig bag (dust cover).  No strap.  No courtesy (marketing) pic.  Nada…  Compared to my other “inexpensive” guitars, which came with some or all of these “extras”, this will add well over 10% to the real / final cost once they’ve been purchased.
 
First reaction:  The guitar is beautiful!
 
Second reaction:  The guitar is heavy!
 
Strum…  Sounds okay to me.  Not in tune, but definitely different to a “normal” acoustic.  The guitar is BIG and surprisingly heavy.  To my mind it feels solid, but bottom heavy.  This is not a stand-and-play instrument.  At the very least, you MUST have a strap.  All the metal in the resonator pan (I’m not sure what this is really called / named), makes the guitar look incredibly “art deco” to my eye.  I’m loving it!!
 
I extend the guitar out bow and arrow fashion and sight down from the bridge and then up from the head-stock.  The neck is visually straight (no warping).  From the side the action (string height) seems a little high, but I’ve been warned (on YouTube) this is frequently true on resonator style guitars because some players will want to use a slide.
 
Strum…  Run my left hand up and down the neck.  Absolutely no, sharp fret ends sticking out (on finger or thumb side) and they all feel well rounded / smooth.  The fretboard doesn’t look dry or in need of oiling.  The strings feel smooth and new.  The neck feels smooth, polished and maybe just a bit thick / chunky.  (Note: this is a “playing” style / round neck resonator model.  Firefly doesn’t seem to stock them, but you can get models with a square / flat-ish neck which are meant to be played on your lap or a table in front of you.)  There are no scratches anywhere on the body or neck.  The finish / polish appears smooth to the eye and to the touch.  I look around the sound holes just to see what a “resonator” looks like.  It looks and feels solid.  I feel like I’m back on my first guitar because this is SOOOO different from my others.  I do notice there is a white residue of some kind around the two screened holes nearest the neck.  I don’t know what that’s about and I’m leary to give it more than a gentle scratch to see if it comes off.  Some does.  Some doesn’t.  (see image)
 

Glue residue?

 
Strum…  Okay, attach tuner and see how close it is to “shipped ready to play“.  Result:  not very.  Half the strings require less than 360° tuner turn, two – a couple full turns, one – multiple turns.  The good news is the tuners seem very steady / responsive and there are no dead spots or slips.  I do all six strings and then go back through them a second time.  All but the last are slightly off (expected).  Total time:  a couple of minutes (15 max).
 
Strum…  Open chords time…  Sounds different, but great.  A minor scale time…  Hmmm…  Something is not quite right.  The strings don’t “feel” right.  I look at the strings again from various angles (top and then up and down the neck).  The strings are not parallel.  The “D” string runs closer to the “A” string as it approaches the bridge. Hmmm.  I thumb the string and it sounds fine, but it is definitely wrong.  I hook my index slightly in front of my thumb just in front of the bridge and press…  There is a slight “nick” sound and presto(!) the string is in place and running parallel between the “A” and the “G“.  My guess is there is some slight groove the string is supposed to rest in and it wasn’t quite there when they shipped the guitar to me.  Anyway, it’s fine now!
 
Two additional points:  Action and Intonation.  Action is the height of the strings above the frets.  I’m not sure what the action is supposed to be, but it feels comfortable to me on both chords and scales.  Intonation is (as I understand it) if / does the guitar produce true notes up and down the neck – particularly at the nut and at the twelfth fret.  To my ear (and to the tuner) it is perfect – at the twelve, five and  seven frets.
 
Final thoughts:  This is a beautiful instrument and I look forward to learning its peculiarities.  I already feel like I’m playing an electric guitar instead of an acoustic because the sustain is soooo long.  And, yes, it does sound a lot like a banjo got crossbred with a guitar.  I imagine myself doing (learning) some Missouri / Louisiana style blues finger picking and sliding with this baby.  I can hardly wait!
 
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On This Day In:
2020 A Word Of Assurance They Are Not Alone
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2019 It’s Obvious
2018 Passed Too Swiftly
2017 On Our Wall (Part 1)
2016 Or The Ripples From A Good Life
2015 Titles And Reputations
2014 Unfolding
2013 Again
2012 Needs
  Damned
2011 Potter & Prejudice
  Blink, Blink
   

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Feynman Learning Technique:
1)  Take a piece of paper and write the concept’s name at the top.
2)  Explain the concept using simple language (show examples to demonstrate you know how the concept works)
3)  Identify problem areas in your explanation or examples and then go back to the sources to review the material / concept
4)  Pinpoint any complicated terms and challenge yourself to simplify them.
Several days ago, I posted a quote and made a comment about excellence in teaching.  (Why We Have So Few Personal Favorites )  Basically, my proposition was that it is extremely difficult to evaluate the competence and productivity of a teacher because of the number of variables and an inability to control them to a point sufficient to determine what are the tools we could provide the “most effective” teachers to make them better (or any teachers for that matter).
I never gave much thought about teaching until I joined the Army and they insisted I learn, participate in and practice “Performance Oriented Training” (POTs training) when I attended the NCO Academy in Frankfurt, Germany.  Essentially, POTs stipulates that until the student can perform the task, the training has not been effective.  There were three elements:  1)  the instructor demonstrates the task to be performed / explaining the objective of the task, the reason for the task, and each step necessary to complete the task;  2)  the instructor then walks / talks the student through each step as they (the student) follows along with each step;  and, 3)  the instructor asks the student to perform the task independently.  If the student fails in performance (step 3), the instructor must return to element 2.  Re-cycle through elements 2 and 3 until 3 can be accomplished independently.  At that point, the student can perform the task and the training has been effective.  (Of course long term retention of the knowledge / skill is a different matter.)
This training methodology served me very well during my working life / career as I was frequently called upon to instruct on topics in the military, and then as a civilian:  from credit card fraud prevention, to correspondent banking, to numerous Information Technology topics (basic trouble-shooting, using spreadsheets, using word processing applications, server and network administration, setting up databases, conducting data analysis and creating web pages to display the analysis / data).
Rather late in my career, I “discovered” (i.e. read about) Dr Richard P. Feynman (PhD) and his personal learning methodology.  Post-employment (i.e. in retirement), I’ve now watched bits and pieces of Professor Feynman’s lectures (on YouTube) and I believe his methodology is a civilian / academic equivalent of personal POTs training.  That is:  how we should expect to teach ourselves and verify our own knowledge / competency in a subject.  I shudder to think of the number of lectures / classes / training sessions I’ve attended where the instructor either did not have this level of personal expertise or expect the student to demonstrate understanding at the end of the session.  Which, (again) is why we remember our few “great” teachers over our lifetimes.
Disclaimer:  The list of four steps above are available in several books and on the web and the exact wording is neither mine nor exclusive to any specific source so I have not bothered to cite any “original” source.  I apologize in advance if anyone reading this feels I have used their exact language describing Dr. Feynman’s technique.
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On This Day In:
2021 Learning And Teaching
Two Loves
2020 Does Anyone Else Look Forward To The Last Lawn Mowing ‘Til Spring?
Only For You
2019 10,000 Tries
2018 Keep America Great – Vote This Tuesday
2017 Old Style Ear Candy
2016 Next Tuesday
2015 Wanna Trade?
2014 Brothers And Friends
2013 So Suddenly
2012 At The Center
2011 Live Long And Thinner
Got Health?
2010 SF Giants – 2010 World Series Champions!!!
52 – 54 – 56 – 58
2009 Diet Update
Pictures from Chicago Trip…

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(Disclaimer:  this post is about the restringing of an Ibanez steel string acoustic guitar with D’Addario nylon strings.  The initial purchase of the string set was from my own funds.  A replacement 6th string was provided by D’Addario at no cost to me.  Otherwise, the company has provided no compensation for this post and has no influence on my opinions.    —    kmab)
A couple of months ago I borrowed a steel string acoustic guitar from my brother.  It has been unused for several years.
On first strum, I noted the strings felt rough and (I thought) “chippy”.  It struck me they were somehow rusted and the rust was flaking off when I went up and down the length of the strings.
I thought the guitar might still be manageable / playable, but I kept getting what I felt were splinters.
I decided to replace the strings.
I have two acoustic guitars which I own.  My very first guitar, which is also a steel string, and, a 3/4 size guitar which has nylon strings.  I love my steel string, but the 3/4 is the one I reach for for extended practice or lengthy noodling sessions because the strings are easier on the fingertips.  I, therefore, decided to try nylon strings as the replacements.
I went to my local music store and purchased a set of D’Addario “Folk Nylon” strings and swapped them with the steel strings.  As it would happen, the 6th string (the “low” E) snapped at the tuner while I was tightening / tuning the strings.  The other five tuned up fine.
I sent an email to D’Addario:  explained the situation and requested a replacement for what I felt was a defective string.  The following day, I received a response they would be sending me a new 6th string and a replacement set (for my trouble).
My initial thought was:  “Yeah, we’ll see.
A week later (last Thursday), I received the string and set!!
The following day, I added the 6th / “E” string and tuned up the other strings.  Because I have experience with nylon strings I fully expected to be tuning and re-tuning – and this has been the case…  Nylon strings stretch a lot more than steel strings and the guitar reacts to the tension with its own movement, so the process is not a “one and done” deal.
Anyway, I’ve been noodling with the guitar each day.  Tune, practice, re-tune, etc.  Each day the changes are smaller and the time spent tuning is shorter.  I expect the strings will be fully set sometime this week.
Although I’ve changed nylon strings before, I don’t have any experience of fully tuning them.  The one time I did a restring, I only kept the guitar for a week before returning it to its owner (my daughter’s fiance).  I will say, when we last visited them, the guitar was (again) slightly out of tune, but that seems to be true for my steel strings (acoustic and electric), too, so I think it’s just a function of continuous tension for string instruments.
Now…  The main thing is what does it sound like.  Fantastic!!  The guitar has a deep, resonance it simply did not have with steel strings.  The notes last longer (the sometimes need to be muted) and there is a very sensual vibration from the guitar body / box, which I don’t really get from my first guitar.  It’s there.  It’s just not as resonant.  (Which basically means I’m now tempted to replace the steel strings on my first guitar with nylons once they come due.)  AND they feel excellent, too!  Nice and smooth to the touch.
I had never purchased D’Addario strings before as they are more expensive than my usual brand.  This excellent customer service means I will definitely consider them in the future.
You may ask why I chose them (a new string brand) to start off with as they are not my “usual” brand and I’m really into brand loyalty.  Well, I try to support my local brick and mortar businesses when I can.  The store did not have my usual brand in stock for this string type.  Pure accident / coincidence.
One closing note about restringing guitars:  it is NOT recommended you re-string steel string guitars with nylon strings.  The two string types have vastly different tensions and string diameter which means you may also have to adjust your action (the height of your strings above your frets).  It may also cause the neck of your guitar to bow somewhat in reaction to the decreased string tension.  This will mean adjusting the guitar neck via the truss rod.  These are relatively easy (sometimes) things to do, but you can seriously damage your guitar if you are not careful.
And you should NEVER replace nylon strings with steel strings (on a nylon string guitar) as this will almost certainly badly damage your nylon string guitar.  Steel string tension is MUCH higher than nylon and the internal reinforcement is simply not present in a guitar intended for nylon string use.  You will probably snap your guitar in half or pull the bridge off of the body.
In my case, I went from steel to nylon – NOT nylon to steel.  A word to the wise should suffice…
Oh, yeah.  Please remember ALL of my guitars are relatively inexpensive.  I am, therefore, in a position to play with them / modify them, just to see what happens.  I also have multiple guitars, so I can continue to practice each day even if I really mess up one of them.  Try to avoid doing anything today which will interfere with your practice tomorrow…
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On This Day In:
2020 The Responsibility Side Is On The Right
Where Clear Winds Blow
2019 Define Your Life…
2018 It Is No Secret
Day 25: When 4 or 5 equals 2
2017 Cowardly Defamation
2016 With No Allowance For Chance?
2015 Details
2014 Here’s One…
2013 Non-Fungible Commodities
2012 Hope And Tears
2011 Just Long Enough
Meaningful Thoughts

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Donner DLP-124S Electric Guitar   —   guitar review
[Disclaimer:  I have not received as a promotion any guitar or music related product, nor am I mentioning anything in this post to secure compensation / income for myself or the manufacturers of the products mentioned.  I am only posting about these items because I personally purchased them and am excited to be learning about music and playing guitar.    —    kmab]
Background:  I am a rank beginner guitar player, so please take all of my advice / opinions with a healthy grain of salt…  This is one in a series of reviews of guitars and kit I am doing as I learn how to play guitar.  All of my purchases have been at the bottom end / inexpensive side of the market.
Start of review:
Two weeks ago I purchased my fourth guitar (my second electric).  This one is the Donner (brand) DLP-124S (pictured below).  On sale and with a discount, it came delivered for just under $150USD.  The “normal” retail price on their site is just under $170USD.  I gather the naming convention is “Donner Les Paul” style with the ending “S” standing for the color:  “Sunburst”.  I don’t know if the “124” means anything or not.
Delivery:
The guitar arrived in less than the promised 10-day delivery (good).  This was the longest it took to receive any of my four guitars.  It was the first of my guitars to arrive in an undamaged box (great).  It was not double-boxed, which is what I was expecting.  It came in a water-proof plastic and taped wrapped cardboard box.  All in all, a positive experience.  Not great, but positive.
What you get: 
The Donner site is long on marketing and short on actual information about the guitar.
Visual checklist:
• neck  –  straight, flat and not visibly warped or bent;
• nut  –  bone (in the marketing buff and it looks slightly discolored the way bone is supposed to look.  Would I know the difference?  Not without taking it off and breaking it.  I’ll assume it’s bone.
• strings  –  strum…  not in tune, but string ends are not excessively long or wrapped around the tuning pegs
• body  –  again, beautiful color and shiny finish.  I am very pleasantly surprised.  It looks “classy” to me.
• controls  –  the switch is responsive without being resistant, the volume and tone both turn smoothly. I am able to hear the differences between the pickups on the switch (after it’s plugged in and the amp is turned on), but the difference is not as big as on my “Strat”.  It’s only a three-way switch:  neck, both, and bridge.  They are labeled “treble” and “rhythm”.  I’m not sure what that’s about…  I assume it means high and low strings, not neck and bridge, but I really can’t tell.  (Again, I’m a rank beginner.)
• tuning pegs  –  no gaps and they seem sturdy
• tremolo bar  –  n/a
• strap  –  feels like nice cotton woven material with leather ends.  It’s comfortable and I won’t need to replace it anytime soon.
• pick (“plectrum”)  –  none.  A missed marketing opportunity by Donner.  The gig bag and strap have “Donner” on them.
• action and intonation  –  the strings height “look” fine, and they don’t feel bad on my fingertips. The guitar comes with a little action card.  I check it and then use the metal one I purchased separately some time ago.  They match.
• “gig-bag”  –  this is a decent bag.  See additional comments below…
The guitar is a steel six-string electric guitar with dual (neck and bridge) humbucker pickups. “Humbucker” pickups simply means they are (as near as I can tell) double posted and wound to breakup the 60 cycle hum which is common to unshielded single pickups.  In English, this means you get less feedback from the environment you’re playing in.  I have not opened up the electronics to see if they are in a shielded cavity or not.  As I only play in my bedroom or living room, my environment isn’t a big concern.
The guitar comes with a padded “gig” bag, a strap, a cable and a couple of Allen wrenches to make adjustments to the truss rod and the intonation.  It also comes with two cards: one with basic chords and one with action millimeter guides.  The guitar does NOT come tuned and ready to play, but it it pretty close.  I attached one of my electronic tuners and was playing in tune within five minutes.  The intonation was (is) practically perfect (according to my tuner).  The “action” (the height of the strings from the frets) seems pretty close to what the YouTubers are saying is standard height and although heavy (weight), the guitar is very easy to play.  I’m not sure if this (ease of play) is because of better strings or better action or a combination of both.  Either way, I was comfortable playing around with this guitar for well over an hour after it was tuned up.  (It didn’t hurt my fingertips.)
My “other” electric guitar is a Stratocaster style and this DLP is about twice the weight even though it is no larger (physically).  In fact, this guitar feels smaller in my hands.  I stood them side by side for comparison.  The DLP is thicker and does not have cutaways for your arm (in front) or stomach (on the back).
The sunburst paint / finish on my guitar is beautiful.  I didn’t think I’d like it only being “sunburst” on one side (the top), but the truth is I think it makes the guitar look classier and it makes me almost want to get a full-on black guitar.  Most of the other sunburst guitars (I’ve looked at) have a similar effect on both top and bottom, which is why I originally wasn’t too taken with this before its arrival.
The neck is very comfortable in my hand.  It’s somewhere between the width and fretboard flatness of my dreadnought acoustic and my other electric.  In other words, its almost as comfortable on the board side and slightly more comfortable on the underside.  The underside is stained / colored in a dark honey orange / brown.  It is smooth without being slick.  In other words, your hand doesn’t stick, but it also doesn’t feel like you’re on a slimy polyurethane shellac.  The frets end cleanly at the edge of the board and are moderately tapered so they neither stick nor slice your hands / fingers.  They are not rounded though.  The fretboard itself is fresh looking (dark and smooth) and did not come with that “ashy / dusty, oil me now” look which two of my other guitars had on delivery.
The tuners seem stable.  Easy to turn without dead spots or wiggles.
Extras:  I haven’t had to use the Allen wrenches so I don’t know if there are any issues with the truss rod.  The shoulder strap is a nice cotton feeling material.  Much better quality than my other three “included” straps, but obviously not as good as the full leather strap I bought (separately) for my primary acoustic.  Similarly, the included cable is much nicer than the one which came with my other electric (starter kit).  In fact, it compares favorably with the replacement I purchased.  It generates no more buzz than my good cable, so now I have two decent cables in case one goes on the fritz.
I would like to discuss the gig bag separately (here).  I was very dissatisfied with the “bag” which came with my first electric guitar.  It was little more than a plastic dust-cover with a cheap zipper.  It was bad enough I bought an upgrade (from Donner) for just over $20USD.  As it happens, the current bag is not as good as my upgrade (from Donner), but it is FAR superior to the dust-cover (from the other guitar manufacturer).
Factoring in the bag, the cable and the strap with the total price, this is probably $35-40USD (at retail) additional value.
After all this, you’re probably thinking:  “Who cares? What does it sound like?”  Well, disappointingly, I can’t give you very much input there.  Unplugged, it sounds much deeper / heavier / fuller than the unplugged Strat-style I own.  Not acoustic level loud / full, but significantly fuller than the Strat-style.  I don’t know if that’s because it’s a heavier / more solid guitar, or just because it has much better strings.  I can say, it tuned up faster and has stayed in tune better, too.  Again, is that the strings, the tuners, the weather or something else?  I don’t know…
Okay, how about plugged in?  Again, due to my extremely limited experience, I can only give a very limited evaluation.  I can play the standard beginner open chords and the standard A-minor and Blues pentatonic scales and (again) this guitar sounds “fuller”.  I don’t know (I don’t yet have the vocabulary) how to describe the differences. This guitar has three positions and the Strat has five.  This guitar seems to have more sustainability.  I have to palm mute it or it goes on forever.  I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.  I can imagine circumstances where it could be either / both.
Final Recommendation:  This guitar is a very nice beginner’s guitar.  On the guitar I received, once tuned, the intonation was spot on and the tuning was almost exactly the same at the end of the hour (plus) as when I initially started playing with it.  The price is very good and the only things missing are an inexpensive “starter” amp and a little electronic tuner to make this a pretty perfect starter set.  I feel the extras add a great deal of value to the purchase.  Not because you won’t get similar items from other vendors.  Because you won’t get them with similar quality.  Again, this is my limited experience with only three other vendors.
Given the weight, I’m not sure I would recommend this guitar for small (under 10-years old) children, but it seems to be both an excellent instrument and an excellent value for any beginner over 10 or 12 years old.  And it’s pretty good for a retired codger like me…  It’s now in my regular rotation and I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up with other Donner equipment (particularly a starter / practice amp or some effects pedals).
So, for now, keep on picking and strumming!
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On This Day In:
2020 Poor Proof
Right From The Start
You Voted For An Incompetent And Corrupt Business Person To Drain A Political Swamp
2019 I Wish This Were More True
2018 Used To Rejection
Day 16: Looking Ahead (Just A Little)
2017 Tonight
I Rejoice
2016 Conscientious Courage
Speaking Of Which…
2015 The Beautiful Snow
2014 Nurtured By The Voices
2013 Précis
2012 Fear And Understanding
2011 Just Being Human

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Glarry GST Electric Guitar   —   guitar review
[Disclaimer:  I have not received as a promotion any guitar or music related product, nor am I mentioning anything in this post to secure compensation / income for myself or the manufacturers of the products mentioned.  I am only posting about these items because I personally purchased them and am excited to be learning about music and playing guitar.    —    KMAB]
Way back on 19 March 2021, I posted I had purchased and received my second guitar.  (Going Into The Deep End)  I also mentioned in a 25 May 2021 post (More Changes) that I would be getting around to reviewing that guitar.  Well, yesterday I did the review for my first guitar (Reviewing Austen), so here’s the review of my second:  a Glarry GST Electric Guitar (Green)…
Background:  Since deciding to learn how to play guitar, I’ve been watching hours and hours of YouTube videos on guitar reviews and beginning guitar lessons / topics.  There seems to be a lot of discussion about what type of guitar someone should start out learning on (acoustic versus electric) and then what type of model beyond that.  Knowing next to nothing about guitars (okay, knowing absolutely nothing about guitars), I struggled to decide what type to purchase first.
Being retired, I have a significant price point versus life time (mine) limitation.  I didn’t want to spend four or five months (or years) saving up for a “real” brand name guitar.  I wanted to get my hands on a playable instrument as quickly as possible in order to channel my enthusiasm.  As mentioned yesterday, I settled on a “new-name” guitar brand “Orangewood” and one of their least expensive models (“Austen“), which was reviewed very well against several of the bigger names bottom end / starter guitars.  It turned out I thoroughly enjoyed my first guitar and wanted to see what all the fuss was about.
At roughly the same time, I got a $100 Amazon credit which I could apply to the purchase price (a hair under $120 with tax and free delivery), so my net “investment” was only $20 for a new guitar and a starter (20 watt) amplifier. Without the amp, the guitar runs for just under $90.  I also received an Allen wrench, a pick, a strap and a “gig-bag.”
Start of review:
Delivery:  on ordering, the site says it can take up to two weeks for delivery.  I received the guitar in a little over 50 hours.  I could not make up my mind which color I wanted (blue or sunburst), so I settled on green – because it was Saint Patrick’s Day.  On delivery, the box was punctured and partially peeled back.  Fortunately, there was no damage to either the guitar or to the amp.  So far, so good…
What you get:
(Specifications)
Guitar Brand:  Glarry
Orientation:  Right handed
Guitar Color:  Green
Guitar Amplifier Power:  20W
Number of frets:  22
Nut width:  1.656 in.
Scale length:  25.5″
Number of strings:  6
Pick-up Style:  Single-Single-Single
Guitar Bridge System:  Tremolo
Controls:  5-switch, 1 x Volume, 1 x Tone
Body Material:  Basswood
Neck Material:  Maple
Fingerboard Material:  Maple
Tuning Peg Material:  Metal
Nut Material:  Plastic
Bridge Material:  Metal
String Winder Peg Tool:  Enclosed Machine Head
Guitar Dimensions:  (39.17 x 12.99 x 2.36)”(L x W x H)
Weight: 13.89lbs
(Package Includes)
1 x Guitar
1 x AMP
1 x Guitar Bag
1 x Strap
1 x Plectrum
1 x Tremolo Bar
1 x Connecting Wire
1 x Spanner Tool
First impression:  right out of the box, the guitar has a beautiful, dark, rich green body.  It is thin (particularly after playing a dreadnought acoustic for a month) and feels light and almost toy-like.  The neck is a nice off-setting clear (not white) maple wood.  I run my left hand up and down the neck.   Mostly smooth, but there are a couple of patches which could do with some minor sanding / smoothing.  The edges of the fret board are TERRIBLE!  The metal fret are visibly past the edge of the neck and they are sharp(!) on the side and not rounded on the top.  I make a mental note to self:  DO NOT run your hand up and down this neck quickly or you WILL cut yourself.  Fortunately, many of the YouTube reviews of inexpensive (“cheap”) guitars have this problem, so I’ve been warned in advance.
I KNOW I will have to sand the frets down and round the tops, but that will be for a later day.  YouTube also cautions to wait an “appropriate” period to let your guitar adjust to its new home.  In the end, after about a week, some of the frets barely stick out.  They all still need to be rounded, but they won’t need any extensive sanding down.
Visual checklist:
• neck – straight, flat and not visibly warped or bent;
• nut – minor plastic shavings at the string channels, but otherwise, it looks fine (not that I’d really know what “something wrong” would look like)
• strings – strum…  not in tune, but string ends are not excessively long or wrapped around the tuning pegs
• body – again, beautiful color and shiny finish
• controls – the switch is responsive without being resistant, the volume and tone both turn smoothly.  I am able to hear the differences between the pickups on the switch (after it’s plugged in and the amp is turned on)
• tuning pegs – three seem to have “gaps” in action before turning them kicks in (both directions)
• tremolo bar – in package, not attached for shipping.  I screwed it on.  It flexes, but doesn’t seem to “do” much.  I take it back off.
• strap – feels like some cheap plastic woven material with fake leather ends.  It also isn’t really long enough for my large (obese) frame.  It’s also kind of narrow and biting on my neck / shoulder area.  But it works until I can get something better.
• pick (“plectrum”) – no name plastic.  A missed marketing opportunity by Glarry.
• action and intonation – the strings “look” high, but they don’t feel bad on my fingertips.  Too excited to really check intonation – and I can’t do it until I’ve tuned it.
• “gig-bag” – this is CHEAP plastic dust cover.  And, it stinks! I took it outside for a couple of hours of airing out, before using it to store the guitar.  I left both (the guitar stored in the bag) in the front room of my house, so I wouldn’t have to smell the bag for the first few days.
Strum…  the strings are all loose and there is no hope this is in tune “out of the box”.  I am not confident enough to use my A-440 tuning fork, so I attach my Snark tuner and tune the guitar.  Nothing significant to report – except as mentioned, several of the pegs have loose areas when turning.  After the initial tuning, I check the harmonics at the twelfth fret.  All six strings sound good to go!  I’m a happy camper…
I plug in the amplifier and plug the cable into it and into the guitar.  Both connections seem solid enough.  I turn on the amp and increase the volume on both the guitar and the amp.  All the knobs on the amp and the guitar seem to work.  They kind of change the sound, but I really don’t know what I’m doing or what they should sound like, so I set everything but the volume back to “0”.  The volume is MORE than enough for me to play in my bedroom.  I’m still a happy camper…
Strum…  I play for a few minutes – chords and scales.  The neck is thinner so it seems it will be more difficult to play / strum chords.  Ouch!!  The thin strings are much thinner than the strings on my acoustic even though both guitars are “steel-string”.  Anyway, everything has more or less checked out and I’ve spent ten minutes “playing” guitar, so I decide to pack it in for the evening.
And then I hit my first “issue”.  The end piece where the cable goes into the guitar is loose.  It turns when I try to remove the cable.  It turns again when I re-insert the cable.  I try to tighten the part by hand.  No joy.  Okay, something else to “fix”.  (That makes three:  frets, tuners and input plug.)
So…  despite the tuners “slipping”, the strings don’t go out of tune overnight.  Well, they do, but it’s slight and not an issue.  The next day, I break out my tools.  A quick twist of the screwdriver and the tuners are fine.  No more gaps.  A quick twist of my socket wrench and the input plug is secure (and it has remained stable for several weeks now).  And, as mentioned above, the neck wood is acclimated after a week and the frets are no visibly sticking out.  They DO stick out “to the touch” and the tops are not rounded, so both fret issues remain outstanding.  I will correct at some future point.
What’s happened since then?
Well, I went out and bought replacement strings.  I haven’t installed them yet.  I haven’t rounded or finished the frets.  I replaced the strap on my acoustic with a much nicer leather / padded strap, so the Glarry has inherited the original “Austen” strap.  It’s much more comfortable; so, it’s a win-win.  I bought another gig-bag for the Glarry.  It was $25, with tax and shipping.  It’s padded (but not much – maybe 8 – 10 mm).  And, it doesn’t stink.  The original bag and strap are resting comfortably on a shelf in a storage room.  (I really need to stop hoarding.)  I have watched some videos on using the A-440 tuning fork and now can use either the Snark or the fork on both guitars.  I ordered a second fork to keep with the Glarry, but I wasn’t paying attention and ordered an “E” instead of an “A”.  No big deal.  I just use the “open” “E” string instead of the “open” “A” string and the “E” frets instead of the “A” frets on the other strings.  Interestingly (probably only to me), but I can’t hear the tuning fork on the “high-E” string.  I can feel it change in vibration (at the harmonic fret points) between my fingertip and thumb, but I can’t hear it.  I’m fine with the other five strings.  I can only assume my mis-spent youth firing howitzers in defense of our country has affected my hearing in my old age.
And of course I’ve established a loose rotation schedule to ensure I continue to get comfortable with both the acoustic and the electric.  I will do a separate post about things (differences) I’ve noticed at some point…
Final Recommendation:  Are you kidding me?  Not counting the replacement bits I’ve purchased, I’m out of pocket $20 for a brand new electric guitar and amp.  Yes!  I’d do it again.  Also, despite the fairly minor issues, this seems to me to very good value for money.  If you price a body and neck, you will be hard pressed to find both (of any quality) for less than $100.  IF I happened to have the Amazon credit prior to the purchase of my acoustic, I’m not sure this would not have been my first choice.  I believe if I spend another $200 on better bits – electronics, pickups and tuners – I’d have an instrument which sounds nearly as good as any $400 -$500 guitar.  Plus I’d have the hands on experience of “mod-ing” a guitar.  To anyone reading this:  please don’t think you will EVER get that much back if you try to resell it.  I’m just saying it would play and sound near as good as any at twice the price.
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On This Day In:
2020 Role Reversal
Time To Defend The Constitution (Part I)
Time To Defend The Constitution (Part II)
2019 Right Or Wrong
2018 Open Doors
2017 When It Deserves It
2016 Expiation For Rest
2015 You’ll Get Through It
2014 A Special Kind Of Fall
2013 Very Rewarding
2012 MIB3 – The Team Is Closer Than Ever
Yet
2011 Little By Little

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Orangewood:  Austen  —  guitar review
[DISCLAIMER:  This product is being reviewed without compensation of any sort by the manufacturer.  I purchased the guitar with my own personal funds.  Also, nothing I say should be taken as anything but my personal opinion / observation, as I have VERY little knowledge of music or musical instruments.  —  KMAB]
Background:  I have owned numerous musical instruments in my lifetime including two acoustic guitars.  I never learned to play any of the instruments (including the two guitars) and have remained fairly certain / convinced I lack musical ability / rhythm / ear.  My latest effort was about five years ago and involved the purchase of a recorder.  I only ever learned one song:  “Taps“;  never learned to read sheet music; and, despite practicing the song practically every day for almost two years, only played it “well” (to my ear anyway) once.  I have no recollection of what happened to any of my earlier instruments.  I don’t remember selling any instrument, so I probably gave them to the first person who expressed any interest in them.  (Or they got lost in the sands of time…)
In December of 2020, I decided I wanted to write three songs for my wife:  a love song, a sad song and a funny song.  In order to have a chance to be able to sing the songs I need to play something other than the recorder.  Somehow, I settled on a guitar or a piano (keyboard).  I’m still not sure why, but after a week of watching video reviews and reading articles about various guitars, I decided an acoustic guitar.  This was mainly because, I didn’t want too expensive an initial investment outlay and because I thought learning about electric guitars (tone, volume, amplifiers, etc.) would just add an extra layer of complexity which would confuse my simple brain.  There was also the very real possibility I would lose interest in a few days / weeks, and I’d have another in a long line of “forgotten” hobbies.
Start of review:
So, this (Orangewood Austen) was the first guitar I purchased this year.  WAAAYYY back in January.  It was ordered online and the expected delivery was one to two weeks.  It arrived after a week and a day, so that was an initial good impression.  The box had a 6 – 8 inch slice in it, so that was a negative, but did not necessarily have anything to do with the manufacturer / seller, so it’s merely a comment on delivery status.
I should mention that because I knew I would be utterly unable to tune the guitar myself, I purchased an “A” tuning fork and a “Snark” electrical tuner in advance of the guitar purchase / receipt.  The tuning fork because I wanted to be able to train my ear and the Snark because I wanted its ease of use.  (I will be doing reviews of these items separately.)
Per their site (https://orangewoodguitars.com), this is what I got for $218 all-in (including tax and shipping).  (Note: the base price on the site is now $225.)
Features
• Body Shape:  Dreadnought  (I have BIG stubby fingers, so I thought having a large guitar would be better initially.)
• Top Wood:  Solid Spruce  (The YouTube reviewers all say “solid” spruce produces the best sound.)
• Back / Sides:  Layered Mahogany (“Layered” means it’s a laminate.)
• Neck:  Mahogany
• Fretboard:  Rosewood (sonokeling) (“sonokeling” is a type of rosewood from Indonesia.)
• Bridge:  Rosewood (sonokeling)
• Pickguard:  Included (Optional) (“Optional” means you put it on yourself if you want it.  If you do, you void the 30 return policy.  I have not installed mine and am not sure I will.)
• Gig Bag:  Included (This bag is actually quite nice.  It’s at least 10mm thick and the exterior seems tough, but not waterproof.  The zippers look and feel sturdy.  There is also a large zippered pouch on the front of the bag with “Orangewood” embroidered on it.  (It’s kind of a classy touch.)  The bag is sufficient for most carrying about.  It has a sturdy handle and padded / adjustable shoulder straps, but I would not use this for checked-in airline travel.)
Not mentioned on the site:
• they give you a single orange – green plaid medium grade (weight?) pic.
• they give you an Allen wrench to adjust the truss rod which runs through the guitar’s neck.  I have not felt the need to try to adjust the neck.  It’s straight;  not bowed one way or the other.
• the guitar comes with two strap bolts, but no strap.  I ended up buying one fairly soon, which I then upgraded.
Specifications
• Strings:  Ernie Ball Earthwood Medium Light  (When I bought my strap, I picked up a set of replacement strings.  Almost all the YouTube reviewers say when you buy and “inexpensive” / “cheap” guitar, replace your strings immediately.  I have not felt the need to do this, but I have the set for when I need it.)
• Electronics:  N/A
• Tuners:  Chrome Die-Cast
• Neck Shape: C
• Scale:  25.5″
• Nut / Saddle:  Bone (Occasionally, when making minor tuning adjustments, the strings will “ping”.  This means I need to “lube / graphite” the nut a little when I get around to changing the strings.)
• Nut Width:  44mm
• Bracing:  Scalloped X
• Finish:  Natural Satin  (I think the guitar “feels” natural without the “plastic” / lacquered feel of my later guitars.  I have two more, now.)
Dimensions
• Overall Length:  40 9/16″
• Body Length:  19 13/16″
• Body Depth:  4 11/16″
• Upper Bout:  11 3/8″
• Middle Bout:  10 1/2″
• Lower Bout: 15 1/4″
First reaction:  The guitar is beautiful!
Strum…  Sounds okay to me.  (Remember, at this time I have no idea what “in key” or “in tune” means.)  The guitar is BIG, but surprising light.  To my mind it feels like balsa wood.  Recall I owned two guitars back in my late teens / early twenties, which is probably the last time I held one, and this guitar feels lighter than my memories.  It feels awkward against my stomach and under my right arm.  I put both of these down to my personal obesity and not to the fault of the guitar.  I recall this (size of a dreadnought) is something multiple reviewers commented / cautioned on for newbies and their first guitar.  Being honest, I fear the guitar may be too delicate for me, so I handle it with care the first couple of weeks.
Strum…  Run my left hand up and down the neck.  Absolutely no, sharp fret ends sticking out and they all feel well rounded / smooth.  The fretboard doesn’t look dry and in need of oiling.  The neck appears straight and neither twisted or bowed and feels smooth.  There are no scratches anywhere on the body or neck.  The finish / polish appears smooth to the eye and to the touch.  I look in the sound hole to verify the top is solid and not veneer or laminate.  It looks to be solid.  I am going through a mental checklist developed from watching YouTube videos.  I “really” don’t know what I’m doing…
Strum…  Okay, attach the Snark and let’s see if the guitar is shipped in tune.  No.  At least not all of the strings, but the Snark helps me resolve that.  In a couple of minutes, it’s in tune and I’m strumming away.  I don’t know any chords to play, or notes, or where they are, so I am literally starting my adventure from scratch.
Strum…  After about five minutes, my finger tips are starting to hurt so I decide to pack it in for the first day…
Two final points:  Action and Intonation.  Action is the height of the strings above the frets.  I’m still not 100% sure what intonation is but it appears to be how well a guitar carries its notes up an down the neck on the same string.  If the “action” is too high, it is hard to press the string down at some locations.  This leads to you pressing harder and being painful – particularly for beginners – on your fingertips.  If the “action” is to low, you will get “buzzing” on multiple frets.  Problems with intonation turn up as incorrect notes as you move up and down the fretboard (neck).
I don’t really know enough about either topic to go into much depth as a reviewer.  I started off playing multiple (usually three) five(5) minute sessions a day for the first two weeks, and I stopped when my fingertips began to hurt.  The first week, I was very strict on the five minute time limit.  The second and third weeks was five (maybe ten) minutes.  After that another few weeks of thirty (30) minutes, but only once a day.  Now, I do mainly one session of an hour, but sometimes longer and sometimes (a couple of times) an hour multiple times in a day.  I stop when I tire, when I start to lose concentration, or when my fingers hurt.  Eventually, I will need (want) to buy a ruler (string gauge) to judge string height, but I seem to be okay for now.
I really can’t comment about intonation except to say the Snark likes the notes up and down the neck and the harmonics work at the 12th, 9th and 7th frets, so I think it (the intonation) must be pretty spot on.  If I learn more, I’ll revisit this…
So, there you have it.  My first impression and hardware review.  From here on, I watch A LOT more videos on looking at new kit, chords, scales, etc., but all of that will come later.  For the first day, I’m dead chuffed with my new toy!
It’s interesting how not knowing if ANY thing is terrible, bad, good or great really effects your attitude about an object.  Because I had no idea what to expect, the fact the guitar arrived early, and looks and sounds great, means I’m very happy with my “relatively” inexpensive first guitar.
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On This Day In:
2020 A Better Synthesis
2019 It’s Only Funny If You’re Old Enough To Know What “Film” Was
2018 Bourne Wicked Blonde
First Things First
2017 This Explains A Lot
2016 Me Too
2015 A Proper Price
2014 Well Hard
2013 Because I Can
Eloquence, n.
2012 Why Bother?
2011 Peculiar Notions

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[Disclaimer:  I have not received as a promotion any guitar or music related product, nor am I mentioning anything in this post to secure compensation / income for myself or the manufacturers of the products mentioned.  I am only posting about these items because I personally purchased them and am excited to be learning about music and playing guitar.   —    KMAB]
As I’ve posted a couple of times, I’ve decided to try to learn how to play a musical instrument and the one I’ve chosen is the guitar.  I’ve now completed just over four full months of learning / practice and I’ve missed a grand total of five days of practice.  (Full disclosure:  most of the first month was only 15 – 20 minutes a day to break in my fingertips.)
In January I bought my acoustic guitar (Orangewood:  Austen).  It took about five days for delivery.  They actually promised two weeks delivery, so I was very happy with the speedy receipt.
I liked the guitar, but I was surprised by it.  It felt almost too light and too bulky.  I put it down to being inexpensive and me being overweight.  I bought what I thought would be a “starter” guitar for just under $200, in case (as my wife predicted) I was just going through another of my fads.
I soon noticed most of the YouTube videos I was watching to learn from were being taught on electric guitars.  So, I thought maybe I should see if I could pick up an inexpensive one of those as well.  It turns out, at just that time, I earned a $100 Amazon credit for taking some online surveys.  I watched a bunch of video recommendations and settled on a Glarry electric guitar (with gig bag, cable and amplifier) for $120 – including taxes and free shipping.  I ordered it on St. Patrick’s Day and received it two days later.  (There were / are some outstanding issues which I’ll cover in a later review / post.)
After the waiting period of our second vaccine shots, my wife and I visited our oldest daughter and her fiancé and he had JUST bought a banjo to learn how to play.  I noticed he had a small guitar standing in a corner and I asked:  “What’s up with that?”  He replied it was a childhood present from his grand-father and he never learned how to play it.  I picked it up and noticed it was missing two strings.  He said it was okay because it was just a family gift which he carried around his whole life to remind him of his grand-dad.  I offered to re-string it for him if he loaned it to me.  And so I began learning about nylon string acoustic guitars…
I watched a bunch of videos and learned about nylon strings vs steel strings and how to restring a nylon.  I picked up some new strings and I also picked up some files to trim the frets – which were badly jutting out the sides and were quite sharp.  I tuned and stretched, tuned and stretched, tuned and stretched…  and eventually the strings got to the point where they were stable enough to stay in tune for more than a few minutes.  I then had to do this again for a few days.  Finally, I was able to pick up the guitar and it was near tune.  A quick tune, and it could be played.
What I discovered was the nylon strings were extremely forgiving for longer (over one hour) playing sessions and this guitar generated a vibration which was similar to the electric, but FAR more so.  It was almost sensory overload on my hands, arms, legs and chest.  You could FEEL this guitar!  It wasn’t just sound.  I decided right then, I had to have one just like it.
So, earlier this month I bought my third guitar.  I ordered it on 14 May around 4pm and received it the NEXT day before 2pm!!  It was not in tune, but I took care of that and within a few days it too had settled down into a playable instrument.  (I will also do a fuller review of this guitar in a later post.)
And, below is a picture of the guitar (and “gig” bag).  This guitar is “normally” $64, but it was on sale and I got an additional discount which brought my cost plus tax down to $42!!
Monoprice_Idyllwild_3-4_Classical_Nylon_Guitar_With_Gig_Bag
The guitar is “made” by Idyllwild, but “sold” by Monoprice – which is some kind of manufacturing / sales conglomerate.  It is a 3/4 size “classical” style guitar.  It is not quite the same as the one I re-strung, but it does have the marvelous “feel”.  Once it settled in (only a few days), I was able to play it for well over two hours with very little loss of tuning.
What does all this have to do with “changes”?  Well, I’ve decided “in for a penny, in for a pound” and I’m going to add some posts and pages to my blog chronicling my reviews and what I’m learning.  I don’t imagine much of this will be of use to anyone, but I am interested in how far along a rank beginner with NO musical training can get by learning off of YouTube as inexpensively as is practicable – and as an exercise, I’d like to share this experience via my blogging.  So, in a bit, I’ll be adding a “guitar” / music page to my menu to cover all things related to my learning guitar:  guitars, prices, classes / videos / books, accessories, (minor) luthiering / repairs, etc.
I hope some of you will be able to share some of my excitement in this discovery and learning process.  I feel as if a whole world is opening up before my eyes and at my fingertips!  Stay tuned…
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On This Day In:
2020 Remembering…
You KNEW That Man Was Trippin’
2019 Kingslanding
2018 I’d Bet On Taxes
Ooops! I Spoke Too Soon
2017 A Cautionary Wish
2016 Slogging
It’s About…
Man / Man
2015 Memorial Day – 2015
Content People Love To Share
2014 I Resemble That Remark
2013 Long Range Exploration
2012 UBI
2011 Opportunity

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2034: A Novel of the Next World War”  (2021©)  —  book review
The book subject to today’s review was written by Elliot Ackerman, James Stavridis Admiral USN (ret.).  Ackerman is a former White House Fellow and decorated Marine veteran.  Stavridis is, of course, best known as a four-star Admiral and former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO.  Ackerman is a working journalist / opinion writer and both are authors of multiple books.  That’s pretty much their bonafides for writing a “future – history” about world war / combat.
This novel is set thirteen years in the future.  Putin is still in charge of Russia.  The U.S. has a female President from an Independent party.  And, we don’t really know much about anyone else in charge around the world.  We know China is pushing its claims in the northern Pacific, yet Taiwan remains an independent “nation” state.  India has somehow “resolved” the Pakistan issue in its favor, but we don’t know what that means for either India or Pakistan.  NATO is in disarray without strong U.S. leadership.  And, finally, Iran has had some success against Israel.  What isn’t exactly made clear, except Iran has somehow “freed” the Golan Heights.
Background:  The first third of this book was published as a special “full dedicated issue” recently in Wired magazine, which I subscribe to.  I have read EVERY issue of the magazine since inception back in 1993.  The company I worked for back in 2000 had all of the back issues on a shelf and I would “borrow” them one at a time, read cover to cover and then bring them back.  As far as I know, no one else EVER read any of them, as once I was hired, I kept the current ones on my desk and no one ever asked for them.  Shortly before leaving the company, I got a personal subscription and have continued reading them for the last 20 years.  Anyway, Wired‘s issue left you hanging with the promise of a future novel publication in March 2021.  My review is of the full publication.  This book was one of two I received as a birthday present from my wife.
And,…  This book is about a military conflict between China and the United States.  Supposedly, China is an ascending world power and the U.S. is a descending / failing world power.  China stages a confrontation in order to demonstrate its military superiority – and the world slips into war.
Is the book interesting?  Informative?  Entertaining?  Accurate – technologically, politically or militarily?  Is it worth the time to read it?  To be honest, the magazine promised more than the book delivered.  The answer to all five of those questions is mostly so-so…
It is a fast read at barely over 300 pages.  The problem is there isn’t much there – there.  I don’t know how much (if any) current military capability Ackerman has access to.  It is a given (to me) that Stavridis would have had nearly unlimited access (pre-retirement anyway).  The problem is, of course, the book would have had to be submitted to and cleared through State and DOD before it was published and neither agencies (nor the authors) would have been inclined to offer much useful information in a novel.
With nothing but the most general capabilities described we get a lot of implausible “magic” technology under the guise of “AI” (Artificial Intelligence) which seems to work perfectly and then not at all.  We get very poor strategic decisions / action by the U.S.; we get some oversimplification of other technologies (overseas internet cabling);  side tracks by Russia and Iran, which seem to have been added to make the conflict global rather than China vs. U.S.;  and then we get a couple of miracles at the end by India to conclude the novel / war.  That pretty much covers the “informative and accuracy” portion of this review.
What about interesting and entertaining?  Again, so-so…  There are five main characters: female American Admiral, male American fighter pilot, male American (Indian immigrant) NSC advisor, male Iranian officer (he ends up with various ranks), and the main Chinese (half-American) Admiral.  The story is told from each of their viewpoints.  (Yes, there are also another handful of secondary but important characters, but this is really about the big five.)
The problem I had was the number of characters made for a long, deep story which developed each character to the point where you cared about them without giving away too much plot / ending.  Unfortunately, this book is neither long nor deep, which meant you almost cared, but not quite.  And, again unfortunately, it was almost entirely predictable and therefore, while I finished feeling entertained, I didn’t feel satisfied – emotionally or intellectually.
Then is it worth your time, then?  Yes!  It raises the interesting question if military technology is useful if it is subject to (can be negated by) a less expensive counter-measure.  In this case, the apparent answer is that if the elephant is blinded, it is still an elephant and not easily overwhelmed.
Final recommendation: moderate to strong.  This is not Tom Clancy or Sir John Hackett level political, military or strategy writing, but I did find it entertaining even if not informative or militarily consistent.  I’m grateful to have received it as a present, because I’d have waited for the paperback or a very reduced price before buying it myself.  So I got to read something almost literally hot off the presses…
Final disclaimer:  I purchased this book at normal / sale price and no compensation has been provided to me by anyone for my opinions in this review.
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On This Day In:
2020 First Buds
To Fly
2019 What If Nobody Believes Them Either
2018 It’s About Heart Not Skill
2017 Winning So Much I’m Already Tired Of It (Not)
2016 Punishing Red Binge
2015 Bits In The Soup
2014 More Beef, Less Bull
2013 Where Are Your Mountains
2012 Spherical Knowledge Of Hamsters
2011 Taking Stock Over Time

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