Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Time To Spruce The Fish Tank Up: New Fake Plant Day!

It was time for me to spruce the fish tank up.  I was kind of tired of the bare rock look.  The fish tank really needed some pizazz.  To start, I needed some plants as the tank had none.  I was talking to a friend/ fellow aquarist, and I was complaining about the cost of (not so) cheap plastic plants at pet stores.  They can't cost over a few pennies to produce.  I'm betting that the packaging they come in costs more than the plants themselves. 

My friend mentioned that he goes to Michaels to buy fake plants for his aquarium.  I go to Michaels on a regular basis, and it never occurred to me to buy some of their fake plants. 

I was worried, and asked if he had ever had any problems with them being in the fish tank.  Namely, are they fish safe?  He said they were made of plastic, and he never had any problems. 

So this evening, I went to Michaels and bought four plants.  Two of them were huge (for my tank.)  The other two were medium size, but great for a fish tank.  I let them soak in a 5 gallon bucket outside for a few hours just to make sure the dust and dirt were knocked off. 

So here are the results.

It looks pretty awesome.  They have a lot of movement just like in real life.  And the best part is yet to come.  I have a new LED fish light on order.  And the things it can do are just over the top.  It has all sorts of settings.  But that will be my next blog.  So stay tuned.  

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Rip Off Your Sleeves! It's Time For The Gun Show!

It's that time of the year again.  Two months after hunting season, and right when everyone is receiving their tax refunds.  So rip off your sleeves, the gun show is in town. 

I had a few things I wanted to do while I was there.  That's right, I'm a big believer of having a plan.  First up, I wanted to sell an old SKS that was collecting dust.  I not only had that, but had an extra stock and extra parts for it.  Compared to the dealers I was asking a very fair price for it.

It turned out my price was so fair I didn't even make it inside before someone asked about it.  He kind of wandered off.  I had made it about 10 yards inside when he found me again, and asked if he could see it.  I opened the original box it came in, and showed him everything.  He asked how flexible I was on the price.  I told him, "not very."  He didn't even offer a price to me, so I figured he was on the fence about it.

So I start down the first row when another guy asks about it.  This meant I had been inside about eight minutes and had been asked about the gun three times.  I'll say right now, this new guy, he was a pushy asshole.  I keep my salesman cool, but he was a big guy who was used to throwing his weight around.  I just kept my cool and let him talk.  He offered a bit less than I was asking for, but not a bad offer.  I talked it over with Dad, and he said to go ahead with it. 

Frankly, I was already tired of hauling the box with the gun and all the parts around by that point.  So, I agreed to it.  He actually bought it quickly.  I was aiming to take my time showing him everything.  He looked it over, and saw there were no marks on it.  He asked if it had ever been shot.  I told him maybe twenty times.  So, he went on his way, and now I had money for my next project.

That project was to buy a true hunting rifle.  I had my heart set on the Ruger American Rifle in a .308. 

Frankly, I needed a no frills hunting rifle in a .308.  I needed something that I could bang up while in the woods.  The Ruger RAR filled all those needs.  After reading the reviews I found it was one of the best bolt action rifles regardless of price.  It just got the job done.  So, I was on the look out for one now.

Dad and I wandered around quite a bit.  This gun show was different than the last one I attended years ago.  This one was mostly tactical rifles and hand guns.  There were very few shotguns, and a below average amount of hunting rifles.  A lot of tables had nothing I was looking for, so I was able to walk through the isles pretty quickly.  Well, I can't say too quickly.  There were a lot of people there, so we were all trying not to run into each other as we walked down the isles.

As we were walking Dad happened to spot a Ruger RAR in a .308 before I did.  I looked it over and noticed a few marks on it.  I asked the salesman if it was a new or used gun.  He did confirm it was a used gun.  Then it seemed that every thirty seconds a different salesman was playing used car salesman with me.  It was a playbook straight from the worst of used car salesman. 

Not once did they ever ask if I had any questions about the gun.  It was strictly, "Wanna take that home?"  The one guy just straight up handed me the buyer's form.  The manager broke out the calculator and said he could do $365 plus tax plus another fee.  It would have put the gun at around $400.  Notice that he didn't actually give me a final price despite having a calculator. 

Here's the problem.  Any day of the week I can buy that gun online for $429 new.  Some places I can find it for $419 new.  A few places around here have their "Ruger Days" sale where the price dips even further than that.  I can buy it online at many places and have it shipped to a store near me.  Cabelas is a good example of that. 

This particular version of the Ruger had the steel colored barrel and not the black.  Like the Ruger in at the top of the picture.

So I was on the fence about it.  I really wanted one in black.  (Like the one on the bottom.)  Then the salesman came with the hard sell.  One of them said, "I've had about three guys walk away from guns today.  When they came back the gun they were interested in had been sold."  In other words, they were pressuring me to buy now.  I was busy looking up info on the Ruger on my phone.  They kept interrupting me with the hard sell. 

I just had a bad feeling about it.  I believe it was the manager who came up to me with the calculator, and was telling me how good a price it was.  I told him it was a used gun, and that wasn't a used price.  He wanted to argue with me about it.  So I walked away.  At that point I didn't care if it was the only Ruger in the place, I wouldn't buy from them. 

So I kept walking around the show.  I was looking at Shoot Straight's huge row of tables when I found their Ruger section.  They happened to have exactly what I wanted.  The black barreled Ruger RAR in a .308, and it was new in the box.  After talking to the salesman we agreed to a price of $430 out the door.  That included tax and the background check fee. 

I had to wait a while for my paperwork.  A lot of people were buying from Shoot Straight so there was an hour's wait time.  While I was waiting Dad got to talking to a salesman about scopes.  Once I walked over to his booth I could see why Dad was excited.  I looked through the scope, and I had never seen a scope like it.  It was amazingly clear, and even had laser lighted crosshairs.  Not only that, the crosshairs could change color from red to green to blue.  Or you could use no color if you wanted.  Also, you could change the intensity of the colors. 

So, two scopes were purchased.  One for each of our guns.  We'll end up selling the old scopes, and recoup some of the money spent on the new scopes.  The purchased scopes were from a company called Osprey Global.  If you ever see one, look through one.  It will really surprise you.  Again, I've never seen a scope that clear before. 


I pretty much had what I needed, but I did find something that interested me.  You see, I carry a backpack out hunting.  It has emergency supplies, my knife, extra ammunition, and a few other things in it.  However, the backpack I use is the one I had in high school.  Yes, it's that old.  It's also coming apart.  So I really needed a new one.  I saw a backpack from a company called Rothco.  I loved it.  The only problem was that it was much more backpack than I needed.  It was also $42. 

I decided to pass on it.  It turns out that $42 is the going rate for that kind of backpack.  So once I got home I decided to see if Rothco produced a simpler type of backpack.  It turns out they do, and it's only $19.99 with free shipping.  So I ordered the one in olive green. 

So I have to say we made out pretty well this trip.  I now have a new gun to miss hogs with this upcoming hunting season.  I also have a new scope for it.  I bought the new orange vest last week.  I have a new backpack coming in a week.  So I feel that I've finally updated my equipment.  Actually, I've needed to update it for the last few years.  So I feel I'm in a very good place with my hunting equipment.

Now I just need to get to the range.  Actually, even before that, we might have to go on a search to see how many .308 bullets we have.  I'm not really sure.  But after that, it will be tough to wait until hunting season.  Maybe at the next gun show in two months I could pick up a muzzleloader.  Then I could attend the early muzzleloading season.  It's something to think about. 

Sunday, February 19, 2017

New Orange Day

Well, hunting season has come and gone.  But that's okay.  Because that's when the sales start.  Or at least they should.  But I digress.  Let's talk about something that is needed out hunting.  Orange.

No, not that kind of orange.  I'm talking about a hunting vest in blaze orange.  Since hunters don't want to be shot by other hunters we wear blaze orange.  By rule, we are supposed to wear 144 inches of orange, so that means a ball cap is just fine.  However most of us wear vests. 

When I was 14 years old my Grandparents bought me a reversible camo/blaze orange vest.  I have worn that vest every hunting season for the past (mumble, mumble) years.  However, it was starting to wear out.  It had rips, holes and tears in it.  The color had also faded quite a bit.  So it was time to search for a new vest. 

A few months ago I found the perfect vest.  Here it is:

This is the Redhead Upland Field Vest.  It's tough as nails, and has a lot of handy pockets.  I wanted a vest with lots of pockets so I could load it up with supplies, instead of loading my jacket up.  In Florida it gets so hot, even in November, that you don't actually need to wear a jacket.  But this past hunting season the temperature was all over the place.  Sometimes I wore my super heavy jacket.  Other times I wore a light jacket.  So to keep from having to move all my gear, a vest with lots of pockets was necessary.

I was waiting for the vest to go on sale, but it never did.  I searched for it on the Bass Pro Shops website, and it was gone.  So I called Bass Pro Shops Brandon, and they said they hadn't received any new shipments of it.  They expected that it was going to be discontinued.  So I bit the bullet, and bought one of the last ones today at the Brandon store. 

I didn't get it on sale, but at least I got it.  I'll admit that no other vest really had my interest the way the Redhead vest did.  I'll admit the Browning vest was similar to it, and had heavier fabric, but it also cost $30 more.  The good news is that this vest will last me the rest of my hunting days.  So I'll look at it like a good investment. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Look What Followed Me Home From The Orlando Guitar Expo

My previous post told about my trip to the Orlando Guitar Expo.  Here's the link:


So here's what happened next.  I took the Carvin VTX-100 amp to be repaired.  It basically just needed a good cleaning.  From looking at the amp it seems that it may have set unplayed for quite a few years. 

Here are the pictures and the story.

If you notice, the amp has two completely separate sections.  Seriously, you and your friend can plug into different inputs and have completely separate controls.  That means independent volume, gain, reverb, and EQ's.  That's pretty insane.

What is also strange about this amp is that it has a solid state pre-amp, but a tube power section.  It also has a tube phase inverter.  So go figure that one out. 

The big question is, "how does it sound?"  The guy who sold it to me described it as Fender Blackface Twin Reverb meets a 5150.  I thought that was a bit of a stretch.  Due to the oddball 6CA7 tubes it definitely has an "American Fender" sound.  However, it's more like an early 80's sound.  That makes sense, since it was made in 1980.

The clean sound is very full and robust.  It's not weak like so many clean channels I've heard.  The distortion is a bit odd.  It's supposed to be more of a sustainer than a distortion.  Again, one of the odder points of this amp.  Distortion is a very personal thing so some players are going to be okay with this, and some are going to hate it. 

If you think of the Marshall JCM 800's that were put out during the early 1980's, the American versions were shipped with 6550 tubes (a more "American" sound than the "British" EL-34's.)  This Carvin amp has 6CA7 tubes which are a more "American" version of the EL-34. 

The tubes in this amp are rare Sylvania Made in the USA 6CA7's.  They are giant coke bottle tubes.  My point being it is in the same vein of the JCM 800.  However, it doesn't have near the gain of the famous Marshall.  Here's a picture of the tubes.

The one thing I have always said is that, the last link in the chain of your sound is the speaker.  And I have to give these MagnaLab speakers credit.  They are darker sounding, like Eminence Speakers instead of the brighter British sounding Celestions.  These bring the bass.  I mean, they really bring the bass.  Since these speakers are darker you really have to turn this amp up to balance out the sound. 

Since I play inside with other people in the house. I can't really turn my amps up.  I have always gotten away with playing brighter amps since they tend to sound better at lower volumes.  However, this amp is very difficult to get an decent sound of unless you turn it up to a volume that will annoy other people. 

Honestly, I am going to have to take this amp outside so that I can actually turn it up and see what it sounds like.  Since it is a darker amp, I've found I've had good luck playing bright single coil pickups through it.  I have one guitar with P-90's and that sounded really good too.  I haven't gotten to test it out with hot pickups, but I'll get around to is this weekend. 

So on with an interesting part of the amp.

The footswitch is really odd.  It actually has two cords attached to it.  One for the channel switching and one for the reverb.  That also presents a bit of a problem.  If the footswitch decides to crap out, I have to do everything in my power to make sure it works. 

Here's something that I couldn't find on the internet.

I found pictures of the round magnet speakers, but I couldn't find a picture of these square magnet MagnaLab speakers.  As I said earlier these things are loud.  I will give them credit.  They are extremely well made.  They are very powerful and once they are turned up they balance very nicely. 

This amp sounds like something that Zakk Wylde would like.  I know he would use his own distortion pedal to get the kind of gain he wanted, but I think this would be an amp he would really like.  It has a very strong bass with full mid-range and the highs are not too piercing and not too muddy. 

I am glad they put the model number on the back of the amp or I never would have figured out what model it was.  Okay, I would have found out eventually, but it was only made one year, and the only info I could find about it was from the Carvin Museum. 


Now that I have the amp working, I have to start playing more.  I may be playing outside, but I'll try playing more.  I'll also have to put wheels on this amp.  Seriously, it weighs 100 pounds.  So it's either wheels or I'm going to have to start weightlifting.  So, it's wheels.