Saturday, June 18, 2016

Little Amp, Smooth Power

So I've talked/ written about my little combo amp before.  It's the Epiphone Valve Jr. that I built into a combo amp.  Here's the picture of it.

Anyway, I moved the WGS speaker that I had in to my Fender Blues Jr.  So I looked around for the right speaker to replace it.  The hard part was finding a speaker that wasn't too loud.  Modern 12 inch speakers are made for such high volumes that it makes finding a low wattage one difficult. 

So I was looking at gear on when I came across something interesting.  There's a company that takes old roughed up speakers, and re-cones them as well as updating them.  The seller had a 1962 Rola, Pre-Celestion Alnico speaker for sale.  It was only 40 watts so that made it perfect for my 5 watt amp. 

So I bought it, and it arrived today.  I dropped it right in my combo amp, and cranked it up.  Since the company's name is Hemppopotamus Speakers, I suspect the cone is a hemp cone.  That means it takes a while to break in due to having such a strong cone.  I turned it up all the way, and noticed it was doing the "speaker fart" when I played the low notes.  However, after I played for about 15 minutes it stopped doing it.

I know a lot of players say that speakers need 20 hours of playing time on them before they start to break in.  I could hear just how "tight" this speaker sounded, and figure it will take at least that long.  However, the longer I played it the more it started to break in. 

I can hear how the speaker doesn't have that modern aggression to it, and it has to be cranked to really get great overdrive to come out of it.  But I can understand how musicians say that Alnico speakers have a "sweet" sound to them.  It's very smooth and early Fender-ish sound. 

He has a few more up for sale on  If it's something you may be interested in, I'd say give it a try.  His cost is much more fair than the modern Alnico speakers.  In fact, his are the only Alnico speakers that I could actually afford.  I'll see about getting some sound clips up in a future blog.  But I want to break the speaker cone in first.   

Saturday, June 11, 2016

School Dayz: Sixth Week In: Moving At 2/3rd Speed

It was inevitable.  If you start going to a place with a lot of people like a school, you are going to get sick.  And guess what?  I got sick.  It was the usual stuff that gets me.  First my sinuses flow like Niagara Falls, and my throat goes raw. 

So, I start to raid the medicine cabinet.  I look around.  I'm running somewhat late in the morning so I have to do a "best guess" at this point.  I grab the Mucinex DM.

And the Robitussin DM.

I make my way to school, and try not to infect anyone.  After I was there awhile I started to feel funny.  Not sick funny.  I felt like the cover of Cream's "Disraeli Gears" album.

Everything, including my brain, started moving at 2/3rds speed.  It suddenly occurred to me that I was not legal to drive at that moment.  In fact, I was probably not legal to even sign my signature on some sort of official paperwork.

Suddenly, the song that made the most sense in the world at that point was, The Cars, "Moving in Stereo." 

Before I started to write this blog, I took a peek at the instructions of the Robitussin.  It said, "Do not take this if you take "this" type of medicine."  Guess what?  I take that kind of medicine.  So that now makes sense.  It seems that I had some medicines react with each other. 

So I vowed not to do it again, and just suffered with my stupid cold without any meds.  Luckily, I am now at the end of my uncommon cold.  But I will remember this.  Not to mess around with mixing meds.

Monday, May 30, 2016

How I Ruined That Pretenders Song For My Sister

My sister and I were both born in the 70's.  So we grew up as kids in the 80's.  And to this day we both love all sorts of 80's music.  To this day the 80's station on XM-Sirius is the default station when we are all in the car.

So she was putting together an 80's playlist for her I-Pod when she mentioned that she had an 80's playlist within her I-Pod.

She had mentioned that her I-Pod always knew what she was thinking, and would play the right song for her.  She had been working out, and her I-Pod played, "Back on the chain gang" by the Pretenders.

She liked how it was upbeat and that made it a good workout song.  I had just seen the VH-1 Storytellers of The Pretenders, and asked her, "Don't you know what that song is really about?"  I went on to tell her how lead singer Chrissie Hynde wrote the song after losing two of the four members of The Pretenders, one to drugs, and one to a car accident.  (That's the short version.)

Chrissie felt like in such a short period half her band was gone, and wrote a very sad song about it.  That's what, "Back on the chain gang" is about.

So my sister's facial expression changed drastically, and she said, "Now you've ruined this song for me!  I can't listen to it now without thinking about that!" 

Admittedly, I did feel like a bit of a dick.  I kind of thought she'd knew.  I mean the lyrics are a bit dark.

I found a picture of you, oh oh oh oh
What hijacked my world that night
To a place in the past
We've been cast out of? Oh oh oh oh
Now we're back in the fight
We're back on the train
Oh, back on the chain gang

A circumstance beyond our control, oh oh oh oh
The phone, the TV and the news of the world
Got in the house like a pigeon from hell, oh oh oh oh
Threw sand in our eyes and descended like flies
Put us back on the train
Oh, back on the chain gang

The powers that be
That force us to live like we do
Bring me to my knees
When I see what they've done to you
But I'll die as I stand here today
Knowing that deep in my heart
They'll fall to ruin one day
For making us part

I found a picture of you, oh oh oh oh
Those were the happiest days of my life
Like a break in the battle was your part, oh oh oh oh
In the wretched life of a lonely heart
Now we're back on the train
Oh, back on the chain gang

But still today I feel a bit bad for ruining this song for her.  Here's the live version from VH-1's Storytellers.

Monday, May 23, 2016

New Amp Day: I've Got The Blues

I've got the blues, but not in a bad way.  I now own a Fender Blues Jr. 3 combo amp.  I have wanted one for playing out at coffee houses and small venues.  Here's the pictures:

So this leads to the question, "What did you pay for it?"  Well, they had it overpriced at $399 used.  Two amps down they had a new one for $529.  Due to it saying "Fender" on it, they have always been overpriced.  However, I decided to do some wheeling and dealing.

The truth is I have too many guitars.  So I am guitar rich, and amp.... well okay, I have a lot of amps too.  But I wanted this particular one for a few reasons.

  • It has a three band EQ.  So many small amps don't have a mid setting.
  • It has a nice little reverb unit build in.
  • It has a nice gain to it.
  • It's 15 watts, so it's perfect for small venues. 
  • It has a 12 inch speaker.
  • I can easily perform modifications on it.

Speaking of mods, there are a few mods I have in mind for this amp.  There's a few kits on the market that I am thinking of installing.  This amp is pretty clean and crisp, so there's one that turns it into a blues monster.  There's also a mod that adjusts the reverb so that it will sound better.  Finally, and most simply, I want to change the speaker out to something more bluesy instead of clean. 

But back to the wheeling and dealing.  Since I have too many guitars I decided to trade one of them.  However I had to trade something that would cover the cost of the amp, and let them make a bit of profit. 

Since I am performing more Americana/ Southern Rock, I didn't really need my Dean Razorback Stealth anymore.  I managed to snag it from a pawn shop on a closeout special for $214.  So I wasn't actually losing money when I traded it for the amp.

So I took it to Sam Ash, and they looked it over.  Since it was in fantastic shape they were okay with doing an even trade on it.  I'm going to miss it, but to be honest I never really played it that much.  And if I need my Dean fix I own two ML's so it's not like I can't rock out like Dimebag Darrell. 

What's funny is that I decided to stop by Sam Ash on a whim.  I had a doctor's appointment that I had to kill time for, and since Sam Ash was on the way, I dropped in.  I actually ran into a salesman that I hadn't met before.  He was really cool, and I appreciated that he was willing to work with me on the deal. 

So, look forward to some updates on this amp.  When I get the scratch I will be upgrading it with some cool mods.  First thing, I am going to change the speaker.  We'll see where I go from there.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

School Dayz: Second Week In: Scholarship Edition

I just completed my second week of school at Erwin Technical College (formerly Erwin Vo. Tech.)  On Friday all of our tools came in.  And it wasn't just a few tools.  It was $1200 worth of tools. 

However, instead of pulling a "Tim Allen" and talking about tools, I wanted to talk about something a little different.  I wanted to talk about how I received those tools.  I know you're thinking, "Well, with cold hard cash right?"  In a sense that's correct, but it's a bit deeper than that.  So let me start at the beginning.

The first thing I did was talk to "Employ Florida" about going back to school.  They sent me to the Social Services section of Hillsborough County.  (It's still in the same building.)  To go to Erwin, I would have to apply for a Pell grant, then get turned down for the Pell grant since I have a Bachelor's degree.  Then, Hillsborough County would help out with their Greater Opportunities program.  Their reasoning is that, "It's better to pay to send me to school than pay for me to collect unemployment."

So, my tuition, books, and tools were all covered by the program.  For 15 months of school, the cost was around 3,700.  The tools were $1200, and the books were $400.  So it totaled a bit over $5.300.  Compared to the for profit schools Erwin is a fantastic deal.  At that cost the school isn't making any money.  The program is 15 months, and there are 15 people in my class.  I have two and sometimes three instructors at a time.  So I have to say it's a great deal, and a great program.

I know a lot of people complain about, "What is government doing for the people?"  Well, this is a social service that I believe that people can get behind.  I think this is the kind of thing that government should be doing.  And I have to admit, I am thankful for it.  I am very thankful.     

So I have come away with a new point of view on scholarships.  I always knew they were important, but now it's a bit more personal for me.  Otherwise, I don't think I would have been able to go back to school.  So I extend a very heartfelt, "Thank you Hillsborough County."

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Back to School: First Week In

I'm almost hesitant to write a blog about going back to school.  After the first week I don't feel so smart.  But let me start at the beginning.

So, I managed to enroll, then get in an earlier class, then I got my financial aid all lined up to attend Erwin Vo. Tech.  Of all the funny things I found out, they changed the name to Erwin Technical College.  I guess they did that so it sounds more prestigious. 

This past Monday was my first day.  My two instructors shoved a bunch of info at us at once.  But even they admitted that they were trying to change up the things we learned during the day.  You know when you went to grade school you had English, math, social studies, and so on?  Well, we have been learning the basic design of A/C, OSHA certification, and basic tools.  So three courses are split up over six hours. 

I have a huge book on HVAC/R but it overwhelming.  It also costs $200.  While it is technically correct on everything, I feel a lot of it is going over my head at the moment.  I know it's only the first week, but I am really worried that I won't be able to keep up.  My two instructors tell us not to worry, in that, they are teaching us the basics of HVAC/R before we even get to that chapter. 

On a strange side note, my instructor Raul looks a lot like Conrad Keely of the band, ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead.

But back to my worries.  As I look back on my blogs I see past blogs when I was hopeful, when I was confused, and when I had interesting ideas.  I also look back and see when I was extremely wrong about something, or about to make a major mistake in my life. 

I worry that I will look back at this post, and see where I was trying to turn my life around, but managed to screw it up.  I know I don't handle stress well, and am worried that something bad will happen. 

Having to learn all these new terms has me extremely stressed.  It's not like when I was college that I learned English after taking 12 years of English.  At that point I was just building on what I had already learned.  Right now, I am starting from the very bottom, and I feel like a child trying to learn math for the first time. 

As school goes on I will update my blog for better or for worse.  With a little luck, it may not be that exciting at all.  I kind of hope it will be nice and boring.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

The "New" Little Blue Trailer, Part 2

So the work has continued on the new, little blue trailer.  Now that it has come together, I can really say it reminds me of 1970's Spiderman colors.

So, here's what's happened since my last post about the trailer.  I put on the last coats of paint on the wood.  Dad's friend helped repair the metal frame.  Dad then sealed and painted the frame of the trailer.

Next, he then assembled the wood onto the frame.  So now it looks like this:

Not too bad eh?  One thing you have to say is that, you can see it coming down the road from quite a distance.  Hopefully now that it has been repaired it will last a while.  When Dad uses a trailer for hauling wood, he really uses it.  Namely, to the tune of 4,000 pounds at a time.  So, let's hope it lasts a while. 

Yes, let's hope that I won't have to write a "Part 3" for a while.  Or if I do, let it be because of upgrades, and not because another guy dropped a giant log on it.