Wednesday Bach Blogging: Dan Mumm, Harpsichord Concerto No. 1, Transcription For Electric Guitar


    Dan Mumm's interpretation of the first movement (Allegro 1) of Johann Sebastian Bach's Harpsichord Concerto No 1, BWV 1052.  Totally cool.  Anyone who's listened to Bach for any length of time knows that rhythm is a big part of his music: you can dance to it, both vertically and horizontally, and obviously you can rock out to it.

Also, check out Helene Grimaud's very powerful, and equally rocking, performance on pianoforte of the same concerto, here.

Have a great New Year's Eve, wherever you happen to be!

Holiday Gift Returns Dept.

Danish butter cookies, made in China

    Who doesn't love those buttery Danish holiday cookies?  No one, that's who, and we will usually get a few tins of them every year at this time, at whatever store we happen to be in at the time.

Standing in the cashier's line at the big-box chain pharmacy whose name shall remain nameless (but it rhymes with "Bite Maid"), I grabbed a tin:


When I got home, I happened to notice this:

Danish butter cookies, made in China

"Danish" butter cookies.  Made in China.  What the friggin' heck?  You'd think they'd be happy enough making fortune cookies.

Happy Holiday Season To You

1st gen Honda Odyssey, Eugene OR, December 10 2013 storm, Oregon

    Only very light blogging until after the turn of the New Year.  Some traveling, eating too much food, drinking just enough dark beer, talking a lot, playing some music, staying up late.  Hope everyone had a joyous solstice yesterday, and Happy Holiday Season to you, and all you know!

A note about the above photo: Most end of year seasonal depictions involve images from a by-gone era, one of which is winter transportation of that time: the iconic one horse sleigh in the snow.  Even though it's almost twenty years old, this Isuzu Oasis wagon is our modern version of that one horse sleigh.  Now all we need are some flying reindeer to pull it.

1970s Motobecane Grand Record


    Here's a retro look back into another era, when steel frames were brazed up by hand, when there were many smaller makers of fine bicycle parts throughout Europe and Japan, when there were small shops everywhere that would build a cycle for you from the frame up, with your choice of components - all before Shimano, the Walmart of the bike biz, took over the world.

This classic style bike was built up from a Motobecane Grand Record frame, made in France, vintage early 1970s.  The hand-brazed Grand Record frames were made with thin walled Reynolds 531 (say "five three one", not five-thirty-one) tubing; when unbuilt, this bare frame is extremely lightweight and rings nicely when tapped with a screwdriver handle or pencil.  The main frame has Campagnolo rear dropouts, and clean construction with no braze-on attachments - no shifter bosses; no top tube, downtube or chainstay cable guides; and no water bottle mounts to mar the lines.

As well, there is some outrageous and crazy-beautiful head tube lug work:


According to my brother Jonsan, who really knows about these things, the head tube "lugs are Nervex Professional, or close copies of Nervex.  Nervex Professional lugs were found on many high end bikes of the day, including Schwinn Paramount, Raleigh International, and Peugeot PX-10, coincidentally all of which used Reynolds 531 tubing".

The original fork had gotten fubared somehow long before I bought the frame; the replacement Reynolds 531 fork is a high quality Tange, made in Japan, with chrome fork tips and Suntour dropouts.  When I purchased this fork at Paul's Bike Shop on Alder St. in Eugene, it and the Campagnolo headset were personally fitted to the frame by Paul Nicholson, who also assembled and aligned the Phil Wood bottom bracket and TA cranks.  As many already know, when Paul himself comes out to the shop area and offers to work on your bike, the fee is nominal and two or three stories are also included at no extra charge.

Since the original fork had gotten messed up, I asked Louie at Blue Heron Bikes here in town to check the main frame alignment, and he cold set the head tube and chainstays; Louie happens to be the most knowledgeable and skilled bike tech in the known universe.  I then built this up as a daily driver, with all high quality European and Japanese components, mostly good-to-excellent condition used, but some NOS (New Old Stock), as follows:

• Headset:  Campagnolo (Italy)
• Handlebars:  Belleri (France), 42cm; the bar tops are double wrapped with tan cotton tape, with "naked" drops.  Velox (France) bar-end plugs.
• Stem:  Pivo (France), 80mm.
• Brakeset:  Weinmann (Switzerland), model 605; gum hoods on the levers, Kool Stop (Lake Oswego, OR) Continental "Salmon" pads, and transparent amber cable housing.  The calipers have mico-adjust quick releases and wheel guides.
• Top Tube Brake Cable Clips:  Campagnolo
• Shift Levers:  Campagnolo
• Down Tube Cable Guide:  Campagnolo
• Chainstay Cable Guide:  Suntour (Japan)
• Front Derailleur:  Campagnolo
• Rear Derailleur:  Suntour Cyclone Series I - a great shifting, beautiful and extremely lightweight changer.  Only the Huret Jubilee was lighter, and didn't shift nearly as well as the Suntour; in fact, the first series Cyclones are widely regarded as being possibly the best shifting rear mechs ever made.
• Freewheel:  Suntour Gran Compe; NOS, 14-17-20-24-28
• Crankset:  Specialities T.A. (France), 170mm arms.  This is not the more common Cyclo-Touriste model, but an ultra-rare racing "half-step" setup, with the chainring bolts much closer to the teeth, for added rigidity; close ratio (10%) 50 and 45 tooth chainrings.  Unlike the normal 23-27% "crossover" gearing seen on most all bikes, half-step gears, with an appropriate 5-cog freewheel such as the Suntour Gran Compe, allows for 10 distinct gear ratios, with no overlap.
• Chain:  Sram PC-58 - I love two tone chains.
• Bottom Bracket:  Phil Wood (USA); the best and smoothest sealed bearing BB in the world, really.
• Pedals:  Lyotard (France) Model 82, with NOS Cristophe (France) Medium+ clips.  Also has Cristophe leather straps and MKS strap pulls and shoe pads.
• Rear Wheel:  Normandy (France) high-flange hub with a Wolber Super Champion (France) rim; this wheel was NOS, like the Suntour freewheel that's on it.
• Front Wheel:  Maillard (France) low-flange hub w/ unknown, but probably Wolber, rim (the sticker is faded).
• Tires:  Continental Sport 1000, 27" x 1 1/4" (630x32mm); these cushy but responsive, high quality tires, made for roads in the real world, have gum sidewalls that match the color of the Weinmann brake lever hoods.
• Wheel Quick Release Skewers:  Campagnolo
• Saddle:  Ideale (France); solid brown leather, with brass rivets.
• Seatpost:  SR (Japan), 2-bolt true micro-adjust; very similar to, and looks quite like, an older Campy.  This seatpost was a gift from my brother Jonsan.
• Water Bottle Cage:  Specialites T.A. clamp-on type; I put a wrap of cotton bar tape under the clamps.

In addition to the above, all bearings, even down to the pedals, were completely torn down, cleaned, packed and adjusted; and the entire brakeset, including the levers, was disassembled, cleaned and relubed.  Plus a professionally done wheel truing, new tires (which are themselves classic-style older stock), new tubes, new chain, all new cables, new brake pads, new ball bearings as needed, etc, etc, etc...  It was a lot of work, but it was worth it - this classic old bicycle is solid, responsive, and corners fantastically.

And finally, that's a prototype of one of my own under saddle bags, a modification of an old French design and made right here in Eugene, USA, and one of these days I'll probably offer them for sale.  If you're interested, you can email me here.

Here's some more pictures (click or tap on any photo for larger, higher def images):

Wednesday Bach Blogging: Helene Grimaud, Harpsichord Concerto No. 1



    Johann Sebastian Bach's Harpsichord Concerto No. 1 in D minor, BWV 1052.  Helene Grimaud at the piano, with the Kammerorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks (Bavarian Radio Chamber Orchestra).

First two movements, Allegro 1 and Adagio, above; third movement, Allegro 2, below (no video, music only):


Enjoy!

Telecaster And Stratocaster Output Jacks - A Short History

Strat, Stratocaster, output jack, jack boat, cup, Fender, cable, screw on plug, 1950s vintage cable

    Ever since I first picked up a Fender at age 15 and plugged it in, I've had a love - hate relationship with Telecaster and Stratocaster output jacks.  Well, no - that's a lie: I neither hate nor love them; sometimes, though, their design can be mighty irritating.  A few years ago I got a Boss Tone plug-in fuzz box in a trade, and I really wanted to use it that night at a show, but when I tried to plug it into my Tele it didn't work with that damned recessed jack "cup":

Boss Tone Fuzz, Bosstone, Boss-Tone, fuzz, Tele, Telacaster, jack cup, output, jack, 1950s, vintage

Not only was I irritated, but so was the rest of the band, since I was holding up the show switching guitars unexpectedly.  The next day I got a Les Paul jack plate and replaced the Tele's jack cup (the example shown below is of a recent sunburst Parts-o-caster build of mine, not the blonde '68 Tele that I had at the time):


And before you get all like huffy and have a hissy fit and accuse me of "defacing a fine vintage collectible Fender" or something, consider the following: back in the early '80s you could still buy a late '60s Tele for a hundred bucks, and besides - it was my guitar, so sue me.

I also used an Orange Squeezer compressor, which sounds ultra, ultra cool with a Telecaster, but you can't plug it, or any of the original series Dan Armstrong boxes, into a stock Tele:

Dan Armstrong Orange Squeezer, compressor, compression, plug in, effect, box

A Short History:

During the late 1940s and early '50s when the follow up to the Telecaster, eventually to be called the Stratocaster, was being developed, input from working players was solicited from Fender, both by Mr. Leo himself, and also the company's reps in the field.  It's no secret that Country And Western, as it was called in those days, was Mr. Fender's favorite music.  And all throughout central and southern California (where Fender's factory - and Leo's office - was located), as well as in many other parts of the country, there were scores of roadhouses, dance halls, and honky tonk taverns rocking to the sounds of live country music on Friday and Saturday nights, and Teles could be seen on every one of those bandstands.

Buck Owens At The Blackboard Cafe, Bakersfield, California
Buck Owens At The Blackboard Cafe, Bakersfield, California
There were no rock concerts in those days (there was no rock and roll yet), and very few nationally known touring acts were playing the kinds of music that real people were actually listening, and dancing to.  Kept away from the artificially hyped "pop" charts were the diverse, dynamic, and ever evolving forms of the true popular music of the people - country, bluegrass, and country swing, blues and jump blues (soon to become rhythm and blues), Tejano and norteño, Cajun and zydeco, polka and schottische - and local dance halls and bars were where the action, and the players, and their early Fender guitars, were at.

I've had the good fortune to meet, and play with some of the younger pickers whose fathers, aunts, and older friends were playing at the roadhouses and taverns in Bakersfield and around the central valley of California in the early 1950s, and it's well known among them that Leo Fender actively sought out feedback from those working musicians on how the Telecaster could be improved upon.

A body comfortable enough to hold throughout those grueling 5 hour bar gigs?  Check: forearm and "beer belly" cuts.  Easier access to the entire fretboard?  Check: the "horn" that shifts the whole guitar toward the right hand when on a strap.  Faster replacement of broken strings, often in the middle of a song?  Check: slotted tuning machine posts.  More reliable and easy to repair guitar to amp cables, with easier to grip plugs?  Check: bulletproof solderless screw-on plugs machined, and knurled, from solid nickel, that can be re-attached to the cable in seconds.

Some way to keep the cable plugs from busting off when the skinny shoulder strap breaks, or the guitar gets knocked sideways or stepped on when it's resting up against the amp on a 15 minute break (no guitar stands in those days)?  Check: a jack plate on the top of the body - also angled downwards to keep the cable out of the way when you're strumming.

Here's another shot of the Stratocaster jack plate, also known as a jack cup or a jack boat; in this picture, that's a real live 1950s Fender plug - still solid, and still functional after a lot of use and abuse over the years - plugged into friend Ron's black Strat:

Strat, Stratocaster, output jack, jack boat, cup, Fender, cable, screw on plug, 1950s vintage cable

As you can see, the combination of a recessed and angled jack plate, along with a smaller form factor plug, makes for a compact and unobtrusive package - rising no further off the top of the guitar than the knobs and switch - that doesn't get in the way of playing the guitar.  And playing is what it's all about - since there were no guitar collectors back in the 1950s and early '60s, and very few "enthusiasts" or hobby players, almost every single one of the Stratocasters sold back then were actually in use, and actually being played - by real players.  Imagine a world with no guitar collectors - Heaven must be a lot like that.

Some Early Strat Players:

Howlin' Wolf, Strat, Stratocaster, band, early 1960s, Kay electric bass, Fender, vintage
Howlin' Wolf

Telecaster And Stratocaster Output Jacks - A Short History, Origami Night Lamp
Eldon Shamblin
Telecaster And Stratocaster Output Jacks - A Short History, Origami Night Lamp
Dick Dale
Telecaster And Stratocaster Output Jacks - A Short History, Origami Night Lamp
Play A Strat, Get Popular - Unknown Guitarist With "The Light Crust Doughboys" Texas Swing Band

Note Dick Dale's Strat mod above: no knobs on his gold metal flake 'Caster!  Also, check out Wolf's bassist playing that cool made in Chicago Kay bass.  And it's hard to make out in the photo, but Eldon Shamblin's Strat is also gold.

A Jack In The Boat:

I've always been a fan of the original '50s style Fender solderless cable plugs and grey coax cable, as well as the later variants, such as the machined brass cable ends from Bill Lawrence:

Play A Strat, Get Popular - Unknown Guitarist With "The Light Crust Doughboys" Texas Swing Band

However, switching between multiple guitars during a set or show, with one of them a Strat, sometimes it was frustratingly fiddley grabbing that small knurled vintage Fender plug handle nestled down inside the jack cup.  Which is why I started using Lawrence cables after a while, since they have a bit larger, but not too large, plug with a well designed, easy to grip reverse taper at the inner flange - way to go, Bill.

And even with a larger cable end, unless a Strat is all you ever use and you're totally familiar with the feel of the jack boat, it can be weird poking around inside that recess a couple of times, until the plug finally slides home.  Not to mention noisy - I'm talking about really quick guitar changes on stage here, between songs, no time to reach back to the amp and turn the volume down.  It's so easy to grab the bottom curve of a Les Paul or a Danelectro or a Rickenbacker and pop that plug in, almost noiselessly; but Strats?  Not so much.

And, just like a Tele, you still couldn't use a Boss Tone fuzz or Orange Squeezer with the stock Stratocaster jack boat.

Alternatives:

In the 1970s and '80s, replacement flat jack plates were available:

Play A Strat, Get Popular - Unknown Guitarist With "The Light Crust Doughboys" Texas Swing Band

The problem with having a flat jack plate is that the usual large Switchcraft type "telephone" plug, and the arc of the cable, sticks way out there in front of the guitar - possibly a hindrance to playing, and certainly every bit as susceptible to breaking off as a jack on the side of the lower bout.  One solution was to use a cable with a right angle (90º) plug.

One Stratocaster player in Montana in the 1970s replaced the bottom tone knob with an output jack, and kept his contraband herb stash under the unused flat jack plate.  True genius at work, and one very aromatic Strat.

Also in the early '70s, Alembic introduced the fat sounding Stratoblaster preamps with flat jack plates; here's a shot of one of the late, great Lowell George's Strats (also note the Telecaster bridge pickup, Tele volume knob, reversed neck pickup, and unusual switch tip):

Play A Strat, Get Popular - Unknown Guitarist With "The Light Crust Doughboys" Texas Swing Band

Alembic continues to make that preamp; now it's called a Blaster, and the plate is still flat, but now made of brass:

Play A Strat, Get Popular - Unknown Guitarist With "The Light Crust Doughboys" Texas Swing Band

Back when I had my first Stratocaster, I learned a cool trick from a picker who had grown up playing in the honky tonks in and around Bakersfield - which is to flip the Strat jack boat upside down.  I still do that to every Strat I've had since, even though I no longer do roadhouse gigs or long shows - it's a handy thing at a jam session or even on your sofa:

Play A Strat, Get Popular - Unknown Guitarist With "The Light Crust Doughboys" Texas Swing Band


Note: click or tap on any picture in this post for larger, higher def images.

Life And Death In The Fast Lane


    Driving north on I-5 late at night, between Myrtle Creek and Roseburg, I looked in the rear-view and saw someone coming up behind me, fast, with maybe eight headlamps and fog lights blazing away on high beam - jeeez, what an idiot, I thought.  Turned out to be one of those idiots that get right on your ass, stay there long enough to totally blind you, then suddenly jerk the wheel over and pass, and immediately swerve back right in front of you, spraying road debris all over your car, rocks hitting the windshield, messing up your paint - you know the type, right?

This time I was ready, and as soon as he came up alongside, I tapped on the brake pedal and slowed down enough to get some space between the idiot and me when he swerved back in front.  But holy hell, he was hauling - must have been going at least a hundred, and accelerating, when he passed.  It was one of those giant-ass SUVs, maybe an Expedition or an Escalade or an Escargo - something big, and white.

But even as fast as it was when it flew by, I still had time to notice: there were at least four TV screens all going inside the SUV, on each of the flipped-down sun visors and on the backs of the seats.  Maybe some kind of music video, with people dancing and waving their arms in the air.  And then whoosh - they were gone, gone, gone down the road, around that next bend in the interstate, gone.  Goodbye, good riddance.

Stopped for gas and a cup of coffee in R-Burg; and then about a half hour up the road I saw flashing lights ahead - construction zone? Drug bust? An accident?  I eased up on the gas, and slowly passed the police cars, tow trucks and ambulances clustered on the shoulder and the right lane of the freeway.  And there, on the other side of the steep drainage ditch and past a swath of ripped out fence, brightly lit by the lights of the emergency vehicles, upside down in a field next to the road, was an SUV - a really big white SUV.

It may or may not have been the same big rig that blew past me before, and it was tempting to think: well, if it was, he deserved what he got.  But.  There might have been a whole family in there, and I had to hope that it wasn't as bad as it looked.

*            *            *

Below are some screen shots of webpages advertising in-car entertainment systems.  I hope all your travels are safe this Holiday season, and as they used to say in driver's ed class, watch out for the other guy, because he may not be watching out for you.  In fact, he might not even be able to see you.


And here's a system that allows both the passenger, and the driver, the choice of watching different DVD movies while they drive; for "safety reasons" (?) the driver has a simplified remote control:



Enormous "Comfort" Bicycles

comfort, bicycle, fat people, overweight, exercise, large, heavy, crappy, obese

    On the last really nice, sunny, and warm day of autumn I went for a ride, and so did a bunch of other bicyclists.  There's a cycling and pedestrian trail that goes along Amazon Creek, and as usual for a nice day in Eugene, there was a lot of bike traffic.  I got stuck for awhile behind a pair of cyclists out for a jaunt, side by side on their bright shiny new bikes with matching paint.  Sorry for noticing, but these folks in front of me were massive, and their bikes were also king-sized.  Or maybe it just looked that way, since they were both riding almost completely bolt upright, not leaning forward at all.

Another thing I noticed was how much both of them were bouncing up and down as they pedaled.  A lot.  I guess that's not surprising - most bikes made these days have suspension forks, and the combined mass of large bike and large rider will cause them to bounce, a lot.  I'm not being critical, and it's great whenever someone takes the time and energy to get out there and do something like exercise, and after ringing my bell, I gave them a smile, a wave, and a thank you as they pulled over to the right and I passed by.

An Admirable Cyclist (random internet image)

There's a lot of really interesting bicycles where I live, and I usually only notice unusual designs, or nicely kept up vintage cycles, or well built-up ugly city bikes, but suddenly I saw that there were a ton of these newer design bikes out there - all with immensely tall frames and even taller handlebars, ultra wide and huge balloony seats, and really long springer forks.  I never even knew these bulky behemoths existed, but now I was curious, so I went to Paul's original shop on Alder Street to find out more:

Ever Fit, And Always Fun Guy Paul, And Friend, At The Alder St. Store

Here's what I found out from the helpful and friendly folks there: this new style of bicycle is called a "comfort bike", or sometimes "hybrid bike".  The term comfort implies that it's a comfortable bike, and "hybrid" is marketing hype, with no connection to high-mileage cars.  These comfort bikes, being humongous, are also really mega heavy - they're half jokingly referred to as being designed by lawyers: made from massively stout material, they'll withstand almost any treatment by less experienced, more portly pedallers without breaking; therefore, less lawsuits.  A sad reality is that we tend to be larger and heavier than we've ever been; something like 2/3 of adults are overweight, and these larger and heavier bikes were made to take us down the road, without collapsing from metal fatigue.


Anatomy Of A Comfort Bicycle

No matter what brand name is screen printed on the frame of a comfort bike, the vast majority of them are built in one or two of the colossally giant-ass factories of the Gigantic Bicycle Company in the manufacturing superpower of China.  Ginormous quantities are sold each year, usually to folks with all the best intentions of a healthier new life, and tens of millions of these hulking beasts languish in dark back corners of garages all across the world, most of them in still pristine, barely ridden condition.

Strange Red Lines Through A Comfort Cyclist's Body

Take a comfort bike out for a spin, and the first thing you notice is how high up in the air you are.  Also, it should be called an "exercise bike", since it takes so much effort to operate.  Much of the energy usually transferred into forward motion is lost in front fork bounce, the dampening effect of the spring-loaded seat post, and heavy jumbo 700C tires, made to resist punctures while supporting a lot of weight.  Having to overcome the sheer inertia of trying to get that monumental mass of metal, rubber, and flesh moving, plus the added wind resistance caused by the upright riding posture, and you can really feel those calories falling off after only a few blocks.  It's no wonder that most of these elephantine bikes are hardly ever ridden after being bought - it's just too much like work, and not fun at all.

Even Stranger Yellow Arrows On A Comfort Cyclist

When I got out of the store and jumped back on the narrow, hard leather saddle of my old lightweight beater made of high tensile steel so naturally springy it feels almost alive, it was like an enormous weight had fallen off me.  Just a few pedal strokes got me up to cruising speed, and it felt great riding effortlessly in the warm sun, with a light cool breeze - you might even say it was a comfort.

Wednesday Bach Blogging: Andras Schiff, French Suite No. 5




    Johann Sebastian Bach's French Suite No. 5 in G major, BWV 816, with the incomparable Andras Schiff at the piano.

Bass Rig No. 1: Danelectro Silvertone, Fender Bassman, JBL D140F

JD Newell cab, Blackface, tube amplifier, lipstick pickup, Alnico, Eminence, Pro Co

    My all time favorite, great sounding electric bass set up:

•  The electric bass is an early '60s (I think) Silvertone, made by Danelectro in New Jersey and sold by Chicago's Sears Roebuck department and mail order catalog stores.  At the time, these unusually built semi-hollow bodied instruments with their distinctive sounding lipstick pickups sold for something like $50, and amazingly, they are some of the greatest sounding and finest playing basses ever made.  It seems like I've had this forever; a bunch of other nice basses have come and gone since then, and now it's the only one I own, don't need another.

•  A 50 watt Fender Bassman Amp head, installed in a JD Newell 2x10 combo cab.  This amp also has two Eminence 10" speakers in it, along with a couple of Ted Weber's Beam Blockers.  By itself, this is one of the sweetest sounding amps ever, great for both guitar and bass.  Bypass the internal speakers and plug up to an efficient bass cab, and be amazed by how loud (and good) fifty tube watts of thumping low end power can really be.  Unfortunately, this amp belongs to friend David (who went through the whole circuit and meticulously rebuilt it), and not me.

•  That's my late '60s Fender Bassman 2x15 cabinet, with a couple of factory installed JBL D140F 15" speakers in it.  I've owned it for longer than I care to admit, I've tried to kill it with abuse and overuse and it shows, but it continues to be a seriously great sounding, and loud, bass cab.  Anyone who says these cabs don't sound good have never owned one, never played through one, probably never actually been near one, and like most people who just repeat what they've heard, don't know what the hell they're talking about.  * See update below *

•  And finally, in this picture is a really old Pro Co cable, made with Belden wire and Switchcraft plugs, but I usually just use whatever comes to hand.  My favorites are the '80s Bill Lawrence cables with the screw-on solderless machined brass plugs; yeah, they're very well made and do the job better than most, but the real reason I like them is that they look cool.

And yes, this pile of old junk vintage stuff sounds every bit as good as you might think it does: fat lows, natural tube compression, smooth highs.  It doesn't get insanely loud, but for most American roots music styles it's more than enough, even playing with a good solid hitting drummer.  Want louder?  Simple: stick an SM57 in front of the speaker, and be happy.

Thanks for looking!

* Update:  A bass player in Idaho contacted me with his experience with a very similar model cabinet - he had read on an internet forum that "those JBL warrant no good for bass", so he sold them on eBay, then reloaded the cab with some speakers he found on craigslist.  After plugging in his brand new Rogue bass with DiMarzio Super Distortion pickups, through a Hartke transistor amp, he reports that "this Fender cabenit sounds like ****ing dog****, and now everybody in my Sunday Worship Band hate me."  Okay!  Thanks to reader "L.D.S." in Pocatello, for getting in touch.

Thanksgiving Turkeys On The Street


    Today, tens of millions of domesticated turkeys, in a somewhat altered state, are gracing supper tables all across the good ol' U. S. of A. with their well-mannered, and tasteful, presence; but in the woods of Oregon, bands of the wild variety walk proud and free.  Here are pictures of some of them, all taken around south Eugene.  Happy Holiday to you!


Playing With Your Food

Fiesta Ware, blue fiestaware, fun food, playing with food, child guidance, God,

    In our household, we permit playing with our food.  I know that many of you, especially those in rural areas, have a personal god of choice who doesn't allow that, and who has instructed you also to tell your children not to, and I am heartily sorry to hear that.  And because why?  Because it's a lot of fun, that's why, and what is life without some fun in it, anyway?

Well, actually, we do have some rules around here - one of them is that we have to eat the food that we've played with.  And I must say, this banana and peanut butter on a hot dog bun sandwich is quite yummy.

He said this, like Pooh, in a rather sticky voice.

1991 Fender Stratocaster, Part 2: Messing With The Body

Squier Classic Vibe Duo Sonic pickups, brown Kiwi shoe polish, Gilmour neck on

    Part 1 of this series of posts about a 1991 Stratocaster told the tale of its life in the years before I acquired it: how it had been completely painted over by someone in the past - body, pickguard, neck, fingerboard and tuners, everything, with white latex house paint - and then was rescued and brought back to life and playability by the next two owners.  By the time I bought it from friend David, it was once again in great shape - looked nice, sounded as good as any Strat out there, and thanks to David's setup and fret work, played like a dream.  However, it's in my nature to change things to suit myself, and soon after getting this '91 MIM (made in Mexico) Strat, I started to mod it.  The first thing I did was to swap out the tuners for Gotoh vintage Kluson-style machines, and the next was to alter how the body looked.

Along with that rather strange 'art' treatment, this guitar had also been played a good amount, and over the years the finish on the neck has acquired a fairly nice patina - the maple has become darker, and there are some noticeable wear spots; overall, the neck has a pleasing, worn look to it.  However, the body's original finish is some sort of incredibly thick, hard paint that must have been developed to resist aging and wear.  Besides a few scratches, it was still a light shade of a creamy white-ish color, which may or may not be Olympic White, also known as Beach Boys White.  In any case, there was a bit of an aesthetic disconnect between the body and the darker neck, as if they had come from two different guitars.  What to do?  It was time to artificially age the finish, if I possibly could.

The first thing I did was to remove the pickguard and hardware, and lay the bare body out in the summer sun for a week; this accomplished nothing.  Last year, I bought a new Mitey Mite one-piece maple Tele neck, whitish pale as the grave, and had some success wiping it down with brown shoe polish, giving that neck a nice golden tan color:

Telecaster, Kiwi brown shoe polish, golden tan color, Partsocaster neck

That treatment worked well for that Partsocaster Tele neck, so I applied the same polish to this Strat body.  The resulting splotchy, goopy looking color looked fantastic - see the picture at the top of this post, and this next photo with the Allparts mint-colored pickguard and Squier Classic Vibe pickups that David had installed during his time with this Strat:

brown kiwi shoe polish, Squier Classic Vibe pickups, Allparts mint pickguard

I thought it looked great, and quickly assembled the guitar, started playing it, and assumed I was done with the visual side of the mod process.  I was wrong.  Within a week, the added color started fading, and by the end of two weeks it looked exactly as it did before the application of the brown shoe polish, with the exception that some of the polish remained inside the deeper scratches and highlighted them.  I disassembled the Strat and tried again; this time there was some darkening of the finish, but not as much as before, and by the time three days had passed, it had lightened up again.  Arrgh.

Okay - one more try, and this time I applied the polish in the hot sun, and left it on for over a week, instead of just a few minutes.  When I took an old rag and wiped the shoe polish off, there was barely any golden color, and that faded within a day.  From all this, I have to assume three things: A) the ultra thick original paint job on this Strat just sucked up and absorbed any applied dye, B) any color change that the polish had on the finish had less effect with each subsequent application, and C) this particular factory paint is some kind of White Zombie color that won't die, no matter how much you try to kill it.

Yeah, it's disappointing, it did look great for a while, but for the time being I'm living with the current white finish, which I'm planning on either repainting or doing some kind of top coat on, in the warm spring of next year.  In reality, it's not a bad color, and looks pretty cool along with the gold anodized aluminum pickguard:

Squier Classic Vibe Duo Sonic pickups, Gilmour neck on mod, pull pot switch

And besides, I didn't really buy this Strat in order to spend all my time messing with it.  I got it to play it, as a daily driver, and I do - it's my go-to electric, never in its case unless there's a jam going on somewhere.  And, as I mentioned earlier, it does play like a dream come true.

Next time, in Part 3, we're moving on to pickups, switches, wiring, and more - stay tuned.  Also, in Part 1, we can see a vintage style tuning machine retro-fit on this Strat.

Click or tap on any picture above for larger, higher def images.  All photos taken with a Lumix TZ-3.

One Week In The Garden

 Eugene, oregon, garden, quan yin, stone temple lantern, japanese maple, fall
Kwan Yin Corner, With Frost
    It's only been about one week since I was out there last, but there have been noticeable changes in the backyard garden.  We had some days of intermittent showers, and a two day long heavy rainstorm, followed now by a couple days with clear skies and below freezing temperatures at night.

Almost all of the leaves on both the six year old autumn blaze maple and the still-potted Japanese maple have fallen, many of the less hardy shrubs are wilting, and the ground in this corner of the garden is now frozen.

The colder weather has brought with it a return of some of the birds that spend a portion of the winter months with us: Oregon Juncos, a couple varieties of Sparrow, Wrens, Townsend's Warblers, Towhees, Stellar's Jays, and Downy Woodpeckers, as well as the Flickers, Scrub Jays, Starlings, Crows, and Mountain Chickadees that are usually with us, along with the charming flocks of tiny Bush Tits that flit through the trees gleaning the branches for what insects they can find.

As autumn does its slow slide into winter, a lot of the wildlife that have been spending their time at higher elevations are being seen more often here in town, such as the quite sizable well antlered deer that just now ambled through our front yard.  There are also the flocks of wild turkeys which seem to be most numerous at this time of year - creatures so massive that I sometimes forget that they're actually birds.

Here are a some photos by June, of Under The Plum Blossom Tree, which you may enjoy; check out her blog sometime, too.

Red maple leaves, japanese maple, autumn, garden, fall, Eugene, oregon, winter
Mouse Eye View Of Stone Temple Lantern
Eugene, Oregon, autumn, birds, fall, garden, Under The Plum Blossom Tree
Seven Juncos, One Sparrow, Light Rain
Eugene, Oregon, garden, autumn, fall, Under The Plum Blossom Tree, birds
Bush Tits Foraging In Fennel For Insects And Larvae
Eugene, oregon, autumn, fall, Under The Plum Blossom Tree, birds, BMW 325
Why Did The Turkeys Cross The Road?
Eugene, oregon, garden, autumn, fall, Under The Plum Blossom Tree, winter, rain
Wood Fungus And Pin Oak Leaves

All photos taken with either a Lumix ZS-25 or an iPhone.  Click or tap on any picture for larger, higher definition images.