Friday, February 27, 2015

The Loach: Nature's Spaz

As I posted previously, I have had a snail problem in my fish tank.  Read this to catch up:

I tried to buy snail-b-gone from the pet store, but they don't sell it anymore.  The only way to naturally get rid of snails is to buy something that eats snails.  Namely, the loach.

So, I ended up buying two types of loaches, the very popular clown loach and the yoyo loach.  I bought them young so I will have them for a long time (hopefully.)  Here are the pictures.

The one thing I've noticed about having loaches, is that, they are total spazzes.  Maybe they are just young and energetic?  I could tell you more about it, but let me SHOW you through the power of moving pictures!


So they are a fun fish to have in the tank.  I think I already see a reduction in the number of snails crawling around the tank.  Since the loaches are high energy I have made sure to put shrimp pellets in the tank for them to eat.  Between regular fish food, shrimp pellets, and a multitude of snails, I think the loaches will start growing pretty fast.  Maybe I will post another video of them in a year or so when they have some size on them?

Sunday, February 15, 2015

New Pedal Day: Blue

In the farthest reaches of Ebay, I found something I could not live without... more musical equipment.  (Surprise, right?)  I found some really nice pedals that are made with high quality parts, and are pretty inexpensive from Hong Kong.  I think the only reason they are not known or liked in the U.S. is their unfortunate name.  The name of the company is Biyang.  Again, a really bad choice for a name for the U.S. market.

I had been wanting to buy a Boss Blues Driver, but had never gotten around to it.  So I found the Biyang Tonefancier Blue BL-8 pedal on Ebay.  I looked up some reviews of it, and really dug it.  So I found a place in the U.S. that had one, and bought it for $45 off Ebay.

I haven't gotten to play it as much as I would have liked, but so far I like how different it is from my normal set-up.  I normally play British style amps with EL-34 tubes, so I have a lot of mids.  This pedal is more of a Fender (American) crunch with a heavy low end.  This pedal didn't really mesh well with my Laney amp.  However, I have an old solid state Rocktron amp that I bought for like $80 years ago, that this pedal just slays on it. 

This pedal is actually more crunchy than I would like in some cases.  I want just a bit of break-up, and it gets crunchy a little too fast.  The one thing I would recommend is to have your amp set as clean as possible.  That way, it balances out a bit better. 

So it's hard to describe sounds over the internet as everyone seems to hear things very differently.  The best thing I can say is that it sounds like the electric guitar in Jace Everett's "Bad Things," from the True Blood soundtrack.

There are a few things I really like about it.  It is adaptable for pedal-boards as it has the input for a Boss style adaptor, or 9 volt battery.  The casing is also a very durable metal.  It is also true bypass.  I really dig that the guitar cable input and outputs are extremely tight. 

The only thing I think it's missing is the overall "tone" control.  The Blues Driver has one, and I think this pedal could really benefit from it.  But if you want a very simple pedal this is it.  It has level (volume) and drive.  That's it.

To make up for having no tone control, I think this pedal sounds best with very clean vintage style pickups whether they are humbuckers or single coils.  I think filtertron pickups would sound really good through this pedal, but I don't happen to own a Rickenbacker at the moment.   

Biyang also makes other pedals.  I have been wanting a Reverb pedal for years so I bought one of their Stereo Reverb pedals.  I will review it when it gets here in a few days.  I have also been wanting a TubeScreamer clone, and Biyang makes one of those as well.  It's simply called the Overdrive OD-7.  They also make an OD-8 that comes with changeable chips, but that's more than I need.  I will be ordering the OD-7 later on in the week.

I know a few people will be asking, "Well, if you wanted a Blues Driver why not buy one?"  Well, the Biyang is anywhere from 25% - 40% cheaper than the Boss.  It is also made overseas.  They are both made with good parts.  So why pay more?  I have played both, and I like both in different ways.  But overall, I am happy with my purchase. 

So I will post more reviews once the pedals start coming in.

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Wheels On The Cab Go Round And Round

I have to admit, I am getting older.  I just can't lift my musical instrument cabinets like I used to.  So that meant it was time to put some wheels (casters) on them.

First up, is a Laney cabinet I bought a few years back.  I hated the speakers that were in it, so I sold them, and bought Carvin Vintage Series speakers to replace them in the cab.  They are American sounding speakers so I pair them with my Crate Blue Voodoo amp.  It has the American sounding 6L6 tubes in it.

So it was time to put wheels on it.

Since I was using bolts and not screws I had to put the casters closer inside than I would have liked.  I needed to have room around the bolts to put lock washers and nuts. 

Luckily, I was able to get the casters put in appropriate places.  The cabinet is standing upright just fine with the Crate head on it. 

The cabinet is a bit beat up, but it is still very strong.  I also happen to like the handles on it as well.  The project wasn't so hard as it was time consuming.  I had to make sure everything was in the right place.  But at least I can move the cabinet around now much easier.  Really, I should have done this a long time ago. 

That Will Be The Death Of Me, Part 3

Part 1.

Part 2.

Well it's over.  It seems that I have outlived the palm tree that I was sure that was going to be the end of me.  Of course, I was blamed for killing it, so I have no idea if I was overturning my own prophecy or just not knowing how to trim a tree.

Here is what is left of the palm.

Just a mound of nothingness. 

Here's a wide view.

So now comes the question, "What do I do?"  I mean, I have now outlived the tree that was destined to kill me.  I worry that another tree will take it's place, and rise up to avenge it's fore-bearer. 

This is not the time for me to rest on my laurels, but to safeguard against any and all plants that might try to rise up, and strike me down.

That, or I can quit being so damn dramatic. 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

STD (Snail Transmitted Disease)

It seems my fish tank got an STD.  That's a Snail Transmitted Disease.  For some odd reason I now have all these tiny snail covering my fish tank.

Okay, they haven't gotten that big yet, but still.  They are everywhere. 

I guess the look on my face when my tank got an STD was the same as anyone's when they got an STD.

Even the gouramis in the tank are like, "Wha?"

Seriously, I have to ask myself the same questions as anyone else does.

1.  Who has my tank been with lately?

2.  How many tanks has my tank been with lately?

3.  When could this have happened?

I had to think on this a bit.  I haven't brought new fish to the house in a long time.  I only get water out of the sink.  (Note:  We have well water, and it goes through a filter and softener.  That way it is clean and the PH is neutral.)

However, I remember that when I was having problems with the PH I used rain water from the barrel outside.  It then occurred to me that there could have been snails in there.  Crap!  This really is my fault. 

Here's what I am dealing with.  Now, they are tiny, so they may be hard to see, and even harder to take pictures of, but they are there in the photos.

So now comes the next part.  Getting rid of the dang things.  Yes, my tank needs a shot, or more correctly, my tank needs a shot of snail killer.  They do sell it in pet stores.  So I'll be off to get some meds, and get rid of my fish tank STD.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

50 Miler

Back when I was in the Boy Scouts of America, there was a major patch you could get for well, ... something major.  It was the 50 Miler award.  You had to go 50 miles in one week by foot or afloat.  I earned mine with a combination of canoeing and backpacking 50 miles with my troop over spring break. 

Here's the old version of the patch I earned.

In real life that patch is huge.  It's the biggest patch I own.  And you know, it should be.  It's a hard patch to get. 

So this brings me to this past week.  I have been performing maintenance at an apartment complex in Clearwater.  Mainly, they have me do the things they don't want to do.  That means I deal with a lot of garbage.  They had me walking all over the property picking up liter, and taking care of the trash cans. 

After each day my feet were killing me.  So I got to thinking...  There was one morning when I walked non-stop the first half of the day.  So even if I walked only two miles per hour, I knocked out eight miles just before lunch.  And then I went out and walked some more.  I figured each day I walked between ten and fifteen miles.  So at the end of the working week I easily had walked fifty miles. 

Buy alas, there is no 50 Miler patch for life.  But sometimes I think there should be.  At least in my heart I am glad to know that I was able to walk that much in one week.  Some of the other maintenance men at that complex said they just couldn't do what I did. 

The funny thing?  I might have to do it again this week.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Tale of a Scout's Uniform

Well for about 24 hours I was in the Boy Scouts of America.  (See previous post.)  When I at BSA Sea Base I was with other Scout Leaders from across the globe.  I talked to a man who was from the Philippines, and had attended one of the World Jamborees.  As I noticed everyone in their Class A uniforms it got me to thinking.  Despite being members of one organization, all of our uniforms are rather personalized.

The one organization I can think of with uniforms such as the Boy Scouts is the U.S. Military.  Except for certain medals and designations of which division members are in, the uniforms are pretty much homogenized.  That's a bit different from the Boy Scouts where the uniform can be customized quite a bit.

Take for example, my uniform.  (Note:  This is my adult uniform, not my youth uniform.)

It's actually quite colorful isn't it?

Let's start on the left and work our way to the right.

Every Scout uniform comes with the American flag.  Only that and the "Boy Scouts of America" patch are the only patches that come standard on the uniform.  Everything else much be sew on by the Scout's Mom (ha, ha, but not really.) 

The Quality Unit patches (mine are from 1997 and 1998) mean that the troop maintained or increased it's membership that year.  So unlike a lot of the "gimmie" patches, this one can be difficult to get.  It falls more on the leaders than it does the boys. 

Let's talk loops.  Those are those red things on the shoulders.  On a funny sidenote, it seems that I am a bit out of date.  Boy Scouts now wear forest green loops.  Cub Scouts wear blue.  Varsity wears Orange.  Venture Scouts wear green (not forest green) loops.  Council and District wear silver loops, while the higher ups at National and Regional wear Gold. 

One rule of thumb is that whenever you see someone with Silver or Gold loops, be on your best behavior.  That rule works equally well for both youth and adult.  (Sometimes a good reminder always helps.)  So just by those little loops you can tell which level a member is at.

The nice colorful patch is my Order of the Arrow patch.  They also have districts (more correctly Lodges, and I belong to Seminole Lodge #85.  This is a special patch celebrating the 1992 Olympics. 

The place below that on the left side pocket is a free for all.  You can put an earned patch here.  I put my river clean up patch since that event meant a lot to me.  That, and that patch looks cool.  So back to my main point.  This is where you can really customize your uniform.

The purple patch is definitely a "gimmie" patch.  It means you support world scouting.  In other words, you can go to your local district, buy it, and slap it on.  The "ring" patch that is around it just came out.  It is also a "gimmie" patch.  It celebrates the birth of Scouting in America.  You can also buy this at your local district.

The "knot" patches that go above the pocket flap are some of the hardest to get.  My one and only means that I was awarded the "Arrow of Light" from my graduation from Webelos to Boy Scouts.  Other knots are for getting your Eagle Scout award, religious awards, and district awards.  Again, they are very hard to get, and you have to put in many years to earn them.

At the top of the sleeve is the Council patch.  This tells what Council you are in.  I'm in the Gulf Ridge Council.  On a funny sidenote, I am a bit out of date with mine.  A new patch was created four years ago.  It's always neat to go a far-away summer camp, and see who is from different Councils.  A lot of Scouts will carry extra Council patches, and trade Council patches with other.  I have done this a few times.  I have a nice one from Pennsylvania from a Scout I met at Philmont.

The next patch is your Troop number.  I have been in Troops 12, 189, and 180.  Again, I am a bit out of date in that I have the red numbers.  The new ones are green. 

On yet another sidenote, I am still allowed to wear the red loops because my numbers are still red. 

Under the troop number you wear your position patch.  I was an Assistant Scoutmaster.  The youth Scouts wear what position they are as well.  Positions such as Senior Patrol Leader, Patrol Leader, Chaplain, Quartermaster, etc. 

If you attend a School of Scouting event you get the "Trained" patch.  I attended and took a few courses.  It is hosted by the Boy Scouts, and was held at the University of South Florida.  Both leaders and youth can wear this patch as long as they attended.

One thing I didn't get to cover was neckerchiefs.  Most of the time, they aren't worn unless it's for a special occasion.  I usually only wore mine during Scout dinners and awards ceremonies.  The rule is that usually the troop will decide on one style of neckerchief to wear, and everyone will wear that one. 

So that's the tale of my uniform.  As you can see, they really are customized depending upon what you have accomplished.  I do think I like it that way.  It allows one to be part of the organization, but still be an individual.