Wednesday, December 28, 2005

11:45 p.m. CST ... and all is well

Just a note to let everyone know that all is well with me and mine. I hope you are all also doing well; I have had little time to get on the computer and little desire to do so also.

We will be traveling to the other side of the family in Mississippi tomorrow for a couple of days and then back home to Georgia on Sunday. Regularly scheduled blogging should be back up starting Tuesday, Jan. 3 (my birthday, BTW).

Drop me a line and let me know what your coolest Christmas gift was.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas to all!

I could run a long list and thank everybody and everyone that I want to thank and want to wish Merry Christmas too. But I would probably forget someone, or my writer's cramp of the past couple of days would pop up and I'd leave the message only half finished.

So, to everyone I link and everyone who links me; to all my readers and everyone I read; to folks I know casually and my all my online friends: Merry Christmas!

Regardless of your religious affiliation, I think the idea that Christmas is about the birth of divine forgiveness is profound. None of us are perfect and it's hard to keep this in mind sometimes going about day-to-day life. I wish I was kinder to my fellow man. I wish I was kinder in general. And that's what Christmas is about, to me -- awakening in me a sense of rebirth and forgiveness that I hope I can carry with me through the next year.

Again, Merry Christmas to you all!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

More Merry Christmas ...

The family and I endured the nearly 12 hours it took to get home and are now safe and secure in my parent's home in northern Louisiana. Dial-up ain't so bad as the new NetZero G3 is pretty decent at caching pages. I still love my DSL.

Anywho, I might be adding another installment to my Top 25 list soon.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

It's beginning to look a lot like ...

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Here's a pic I took Dec. 16. at our tree-lighting ceremony here on base. This guy was awesome. When he showed up, he went and hugged all the kids and played the crowd for a good 15 minutes before doing his thing. Great, great, great Santa.

Oh, I should add that this guy's appearance was all his -- natural beard, etc. Awesome stuff.

Getting closer guys. Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!

Top 25 all-time best metal albums Pt. 3

All right, we’re getting out of some of the completely obvious territory and into the land of self indulgence. Okay, the entire thing has been self indulgent, but at least the top 12 were pretty spot on, even if you disagreed with the order.

I freely admit that some of the albums coming up are only here because I really like them. They might not have had the impact of some of their counterparts, but they should have.

#13 Dream Theater - Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes From a Memory: This is actually my all-time favorite album. However, in the interest of the list, it’s down further than I’m comfortable putting it. In fact, this is such a personal choice, that it’s higher than most people would put it. Most folks would have Queensryche’s Operation: Mindcrime in this spot. However, since Queensryche is, or was, rather, progressive metal, I put DT here because they completely and in every way pwn Queensryche.

I wasn’t a huge fan of Dream Theater in my youth. I’ve only gotten into them in the past few years, but they have fast become my favorite band. Dream Theater has made a name for themselves by producing intricate compositions, being some of the most skilled musicians in the world, and writing catchy songs on top of amazing time signatures that change as often as a woman changes her mind. This album in particular is amazing evidence of all of that and is a great concept album.

#14 Motley Crue - Shout at the Devil: Yes. Before the term glam metal existed, there was Motley Crue. Progenitors of an age where huge, teased hair and makeup actually made you look tough. But aside from the laughable image, these guys’ sophomore album rocked. It didn’t contain the balls-to-the-wall speed or machine-gun guitar riffs that many other metal bands possessed, but it had a solid, blues-based power driven by a truly gifted singer. Each song on here is an anthem to the pagan god of metal -- the aggressive spirit in every twelve-year-old boy looking for some release.

However, Crue’s next album, Theater of Pain, took them down the path of girlie band sissiness. Their only claim to metal being a pumped drum track and a little distortion on their guitar. Maybe they’ve recaptured some of their former hardcoredness during more recent “Get Us Out of Debt” tours, but for one, brief and shining moment, these guys wrote a really good album. Then, my hypothesis, anyway, is that the lifestyle got a hold of ‘em. Oh well, it happens.

#15 tie Ozzy Osbourne - No Rest for the Wicked and Black Label Society - The Blessed Hellride: I appreciate everything Ozzy has done for heavy metal. But after Black Sabbath, I think his real talent has been finding really good musicians. The reason that these albums are here is because of the guitar genius of Zakk Wylde. Hade Ozzy not found him in the late ‘80s, he might very well still be languishing in semi-loserville waiting for his VH1 special instead of standing astride a thriving musical empire. Zakk is not only a gifted guitarist, he has one of the most unique sounds in all of music, EVER. You can tell Zakk is playing in fewer than 20 seconds. His guitar tone, scale choices, rhythm style and his signature pinch harmonics (that screaming note that permeates his music) all give him away and it’s a good thing.

No Rest for the Wicked is the real holder of this spot. In my opinion, it is the quintessential Ozzy album. It encapsulates everything that bad recording quality, drugs, inner turmoil and tragedy barred him from earlier in life. He tasted greatness with Blizzard of Oz, and it’s a truly phenomenal album, but I think it’s production values rob it of much that it could have been. Starting with No More Tears and really tearing it up with this album Ozzy and Zakk shred into a new dimension for Ozzy where he could stand on top of the metal wold.

BLS shares the spot mainly because I like them so much that I had to mention them. I honestly can’t say what impact they’re having because I’m disconnected with the youth of today. However, based on the popularity of his concerts, how well his albums sell, how many BLS T-Shirts I see around, and the fact that Zakk was on an episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force, it’s a safe bet he’s still a vital force in metal today.

#16 Danzig - Danzig: This is, again a more personal choice. There are plenty of bands out there who have a sound similar to Danzig’s blues-based metal (though his sound has changed in recent years). But Glenn Danzig is important to metal primarily because of his punk band The Misfits. Their sound significantly impacted many of the early ‘80s LA metal bands – Metallica primarily.

This album is probably his best work under his own name. It’s a solid, blues-rock album and has some good jams on it. He has since become a parody of the things he sings about in his songs. Too bad really.

#17 Slayer - Seasons in the Abyss: Many would argue that this is actually the best Slayer album. And they may be right. I did a post on it before. That post probably explains better the impact this album had than I can right now. I guess with Seasons … Slayer finally put out the album that had been stewing in their collective minds for many years. You can tell that there’s a sense of collective relief and joy on their part within the music. An artists pride is evident the quality of what they produce.


Well, that wraps up this installment. Not sure when I’ll get to the next. I’ll be on dial-up while on vacation, so I doubt I’ll even be around too much. I hope you all have great holidays!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

If I ever own a business ...

I will design the male urinals so that there is more than a freaking yard of width allocated to each one. There will be ample download sites for the size and type business and the spaciousness would become legendary.

People would come from miles around because the latrines would be immaculate. Not extravagant, mind you. Just spacious and clean.

We're not in freaking Japan.

The WWE has earned my respect

How weird a title is that, huh? I mean, it's bogus, over-the-top hyper inflammatory nonsense, right? Well, last night WWE had a tribute to the troops where WWE wrestlers traveled to Afghanistan to visit the military folks there and put on a show at my former deployed post, Bagram Air Base. Although they misidentified it as Bagram Air Force Base throughout the program. They're civilians, I'll get over it.

This even further proved something to me. If someone or some organization is willing to really get out there and bring some recreation to the troops, I am very willing to forgive. Politicians don't really fit into this chain of thought with me because they have an agenda. I guess the WWE did also, but there is a significant difference.

There are a couple of other incidents where someone's position on the military has changed my way of thinking. Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream is one such product. Great ice cream, but once I read a couple of stories where Ben Cohen lashed out against the Defense Department. I immediately stopped buying Ben and Jerry's and have suggested to everyone I know to do the same (here's a recent reference if you're interested). I mean, I understand -- each to their own and all, but I don't have to support you. Another incident: I bought my first computer from Circuit City as well as some other items. I got screwed on the credit. While I was in Okinawa, I was late with some payments because typhoons caused mail to be late. Cicuit City was in no way understanding. I had so many charges from them, we wound up going through a debt consolidation agency for that very reason. However, once the War on Terror kicked off, Circuit City was first on the ground in the electronics industry offering free DVD recorders for families to send video messages to their military members and vice versa. Circuit City gets most of my major electronic purchase dollars now.

Businesses, regardless of size need to start thinking about more than the bottom line. How you treat me is one thing. How you treat those who protect us all is a huge thing.

I digress, back to wrestling ...

I used to be a huge fan of wrestling when I was a kid. Hulk Hogan was king. Roddy Piper was a bad guy. Mr. T was showing up all the time. Cyndi Lauper was singing and Lou Albano was her mentor. In my young heart, it was inspiring to see good and bad portrayed in such absolutes. But time passed and it became less entertaining. That changed last night. The WWE has my gratitude and support. I know how much it meant to the guys on the ground to have that. These folks will never really know what it meant.

Top 25 all-time best metal albums Pt. 2

Things get a little more complicated now. I feel solid on my numbers eight, nine and ten. Beyond that, I may raise some eyebrows. Just remember, if you disagree, you have no ear for music.

I kid. Sorta.

#8 Metallica - Ride the Lightening: I’m kind of upset at putting a Metallica album over a Megadeth album, but hell, it happens. As far as it’s importance, Ride the Lightening secured Metallica’s name in the lexicon of great metal acts. Sure, Kill ‘em All was a great album, but there were other bands doing similar things, and no one knew if they could follow up KEA with a solid sophomore release. Ride the Lightening shattered doubts and left many screaming for more. There is a feeling that permeates both this album and Master of Puppets. I don’t know exactly how to describe it, but it’s in the production quality of the album. It’s not quite perfect, but at the same time, it’s perfectly not perfect. It’s an ambience that does creep up your spine, much as they describe in “Creeping Death.” Personally, I think Metallica got it so right with this album and Puppets, that I have been thoroughly disappointed with everything since.

#9 AC/DC - Back in Black: Hard choice between this one and Highway to Hell, but in terms of importance to the genre, no one can argue which album everyone has heard. A mega-mega-mega great selling album, there are songs on this album that are engraved on tombstones across the world. This is the album that urban legends get based on … (must assume a stoner voice in your head, think Spicoli) “You know that wreck they found the other day? You know, the one where dude had missing for like, a week … Well, the paramedics arrived on scene and Back in Black was in the stereo and it was still playing!” “No way!” “Way.”

The fact that the mass market has accepted AC/DC does not diminish their impact on the genre. Just means they’ve aged well. Or that they need to retire. Probably the latter.

#10 Judas Priest – British Steel: Another difficult choice because Screaming for Vengeance was very good. But, come on, “Breaking the Law” is on British Steel. What Priest song has more play, is more influential than that? “Living After Midnight” is also a hell of a song. I kind of hate to admit this, but I’m not that big of a Priest fan. Their influence and musical ability is undeniable, but I’ve always been rather pissed at their production quality. Here you have one of the arguably biggest metal bands ever and their recordings sound like they were recording inside of cardboard boxes. People always tell me, “Well consider the time frame and the equipment they had to work with.” Well, you know what? Screw you! The Ramones, hell The Sex Pistols were recording in the same time frame, with lower budgets and their production quality has always been spot fucking on. Why does this piss me off so much? Because every Judas Priest album up to Painkiller has Rob Halford’s voice sounding tinny and ball-less sounding guitars and low end. Just think if there was a fullness to the recording … this shit would have stomped any other band around. So, why are they #10 if I bitch about them so much? Because even with the crappy recordings people still sing their shit and know more about them than the Velvet Freakin’ Underground -- which had production up the wazoo (but suffered from HUGE amounts of suck).

#11 Guns and Roses - Appetite For Destruction: Sure, you can pull out the “Where are they now?” card, but during the ‘90s these guys ruled the airwaves. Everyone wanted to play Les Paul like Joe Perry … I mean Slash. This album really gelled with the public though. I think it was so strong that its popularity actually carried their next couple of releases (which may have had a couple of good songs, but only a couple). This album was so strong. Every song rocked as appropriate and balladed when appropriate. It latched on the world’s collective sense of what heavy metal/hard rock should be and put it out there on a platter. To this day I am hard pressed to think of an album where every single song was THIS good. Production levels high, every bit of every song seemed just so right, and all the musicians gelled together. Bands that lock together this well simply don’t last, or they put out as much crap as they put out good stuff. To bad Velvet Revolver sucks so hard.

#12 Megadeth - Rust in Peace: Holy crap this album rocks! Blisteringly fast, amazingly complex solo work and some of the tightest production levels ever (EVER) heard. From this album forward, Dave Mustaine set a standard for the studio that few bands have ever met. I remember, it was around the time of Countdown to Extinction that there was all this debate going on how there was actually more sound to an analog track than there was to digital and how digital, the compact disc, mind you – format was dryer or wasn’t as full as analog sound. Well, the debate rages on, but anyway, MTV had a spot on it. And Neil “Crazy Horse But Dumb As A Box of Rocks” Young was on talking about how horrible the CD format was, etc. They cut to a spot of Dave Mustaine who said (and I quote from memory), “Digital recording is amazing. If you don’t like it, you can’t play.” How freaking awesome if that? He’s saying, guess what, you know what all that freaking noise you’re hearing is, it’s your sloppy effin’ playing. You can hear it now instead of it being disguised by that old freaking super forgiving analog recording.

I digress. I could spends posts upon posts talking about recording quality and how the human ear can’t even possible discern the differences they’re talking about (in the sample rates, not quality of sound), but I’ll just get mad.

Back to RIP … this album rocks so hard! When it came out, I wore the tape out in about two weeks. I had to record a copy from a friend after that. I tried like mad to try and learn how to play songs off it, but it was too damn complex for me. Still is. I mean, if you have any doubts about Megadeth’s musical abilities, listen to this album, it’s damn near progressive metal. These guys pull no punches in speed or complexity of composition. Of course, when the track calls for it, the lay down some simple riffs also. It’s a matter of taste and Mustaine knows how to write a tasty lick. Can you tell who’s one of my favorite bands?

I remember the first time I saw the video for this album on MTV. It was great to watch Marty Friedman (who I had dug from his days with Cacophony) and Mustaine swap solos. There wasn’t anything to the video except them playing the song, and that was awesome.

Guys like Savatage had been doing this kind of melodic metal for a bit before Megadeth released RIP, but there’s always been something hokey about their stuff … I don’t know. Megadeth just got something right and all these high-musical-ability bands have been playing catch up since.

Well, that’s it for numbers 8 – 12. I honestly don’t know when I’ll get the next set up. Hopefully this’ll leave you salivating for more.

Santa does take special requests

We did Christmas for the family this morning. No hiccups to my routine as I get up earlier than needed to do some blogging, etc. before I go to work. The kids were loving it.

See, we're going back home to Louisiana on Wednesday and couldn't really take all the stuff with us AND all the stuff they're going to get while we're there. I had to tell the younguns that I put in a special request to Santa to come early. I love youth, man, they ate it right up.

Anyway, since I'm getting started early, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Top 25 all-time best metal albums Pt. 1

Okay, my online bud Crotalus has asked me to compile a best-ever list of metal albums. He suggested top 50. Well, I don’t have time for that – heck, top 25 is hard enough.

When I first started thinking about how to go about compiling the list, I thought I’d just narrow down my top 25 and put them “in no particular order.” Though, I guess that’s kind of cheating. So, I have decided to commit to a list. My criteria was threefold: What did this album mean to metal? What did this album mean to me? Did it really rock?

I mean, think about it. There are albums out there that people go on and on about how important it was. But, when you finally get to sit down and listen to it, it sucks. So, if I left off one of your favorite metal albums, it probably sucks. Also, I guess I should add – as though you couldn’t guess – that there’s nothing subjective to this list. This is my opinion. I am, of course, entirely right though.

You probably know what my top three are going to be, based on my last post. Oh, I was going to hyperlink the entries and have piccies and all that, but I didn’t.

So, here’s part 1. It’s one through seven. Why through seven? Because it’s how far I got before I got too busy to continue. More entries as I get to them.

#1: Slayer – Reign in Blood: Organizing the top three was probably more difficult than the rest of the list. Each of my top three albums tremendously impacted metal, but Reign in Blood redefined speed metal. At the time, it was faster, heavier, darker and more gruesome than anything before it. What’s really amazing is that the band’s guitarists, Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman – were entirely self-taught guitarists and didn’t know any formal scales. This explains the off-key and off-time guitar solos that permeate the album. However, in this rare case, instead of detracting, this dissonance added to the strength of the album. Reign in Blood is in many ways still the benchmark against which speed metal bands measure themselves.

#2 Megadeth – Peace Sells … But Who’s Buying?: It was really hard to put Slayer in the first spot because Peace Sells … is actually my favorite of the top three. However, I felt that Slayer nudged ahead of Megadeth because of that album’s influence on the genre. Megadeth is metal’s maestro. Lead singer/guitarist Dave Mustaine has always had the ability to find some of the best musicians out there and work them well into his compositions. This album features heavy, fast songs with lots of complex melodies and intricate guitar work. The bass line for the title track was intro music for MTV news for many years. If this album had the production value of some of Megadeth’s later albums, this would definitely be the #1 album.

#3 Metallica – Master of Puppets: Metallica, whether writing fast, aggressive music or more consumer friendly heavy tunes, has always had the knack for coming up with catchy riffs. Songs that stick in your head and are very enjoyable to listen to. Master of Puppets is, to me, their crowning achievement in music writing. The dark side to this is that it was the last album to feature bassist Cliff Burton, who died on the tour for this album. And that fact in no small way effects fans emotions toward this album. However, it doesn’t detract from how good this album is. There is no dull moments, every track from beginning to end is fresh and vibrant and is probably the band’s best-ever mix of musicianship and consumerism.

#4 Pantera – Vulgar Display of Power: There is no album heavier than this. It’s as simple as that. The title is amazingly apt. There was a visceral power to Pantera that very few bands ever possess. Dimebag Darrell’s guitar work is at it’s best on Vulgar Display … with such powerhouse songs as Walk and This Love shredding your senses. You can feel Phil Anselmo’s anguish as he belts out the vocals. There may be and may have been better musicians than Pantera, but there has never been a band alive that can make you feel exactly what they are feeling. There has never been a band before or since that can translate a boot to the freaking head like Pantera. Perhaps that’s a good thing.

#5 tie Iron Maiden – Piece of Mind and Iron Maiden – Powerslave: There are those who would argue that Number of the Beast is a better album, but they’re wrong. These are my two favorite Maiden albums and I think they best capture the band’s musical and songwriting abilities. Every member of this band is tremendously gifted in what they do and work well together. This #5 spot goes to Iron Maiden in general, really, but I just like these albums a lot more than the other stuff. I think they should probably have called it quits after Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, but they keep putting out stuff. If they continue, they’ll probably wind up slipping further down the list.

#6 Black Sabbath – Paranoid: Wow, it was hard to narrow down what Sabbath album I wanted here. I mean, I knew I wanted #6 to be Sabbath, and I had originally put We Sold our Soul for Rock and Roll, but since that’s a greatest hits album, I decided it was kind of cheating. So, I went with Paranoid on the strength of the title track, War Pigs, Iron Man, and Fairies Wear Boots. Great stuff. These songs probably defined what metal was to become. The use of power chords in minor keys set the mood that would permeate metal albums to this very day. There is probably no band that has been more influential on metal music.

#7 Ozzy Osbourne – Blizzard of Oz: Blizzard … is a highly influential album for a couple of reasons. First of all, it is the first solo Ozzy album. Second, it’s an amazingly good album. Third, it featured guitarist Randy Rhodes who died just a couple of years later. While he also worked on Diary of a Madman, it was this album, for Rhodes and Ozzy, where everything clicked at that “greatest ever” level. Rhodes inspired a new breed of guitarist. His extremely clean, neo-classic style can be heard in guitarists ranging from Yngwie Malmsteen to the guys from Papa Roach. While Eddie Van Halen was probably the first hard rock/metal guitar virtuoso, Rhodes was the first neo-classicist.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

The Best Year For Music? Redux

Bingley asked this question a couple of weeks ago. I originally answered 1991. I did so primarily on the strength of one album: The Red Hot Chili Peppers' Blood Sugar Sex Magic. Now, there was some other good stuff that came out that year, but this album really meant a lot to me and was pretty much the theme album of my senior year of high school.

However, the other day as I'm driving to work, something hit me. I had popped an MP3 compilation into the disc player and thrown it one random. The first three songs are all from some of my all-time favorite albums, all from 1986. Three songs from three of the best albums ever made in their genre.

So, I'd like to change my vote to 1986. Just to let you know, look at some of the albums from that year (even the one's I don't like are aguably great examples from these groups). Oh, the ones that are hyperlinked and bold are the greatest albums in metal (and the three albums I'm talking about). Ever. Disagree with me at your peril:

Who Made Who - AC/DC
Licensed to Ill - The Beastie Boys
Slippery When Wet - Bon Jovi
Camper Van Beethoven - Camper Van Beethoven
King of America - Elvis Costello
Strong Persuader - Robert Cray
Staring at the Sea: the Singles - The Cure
August - Eric Clapton
So - Peter Gabriel
Invisible Touch - Genesis
Live Like A Suicide EP - Guns N' Roses
Somewhere in Time - Iron Maiden
Tones - Eric Johnson
Turbo - Judas Priest
True Colors - Cyndi Lauper
Lyle Lovett - Lyle Lovett
True Blue - Madonna
Trilogy - Yngwie Malmsteen
Peace Sells... But Who's Buying? - Megadeth
Master of Puppets - Metallica
Mind's Eye - Vinnie Moore
Portfolio - The Michael Schenker Group
Orgasmatron - Mot├Ârhead
Kicking Against the Pricks - Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
Your Funeral, My Trial - Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
The Ultimate Sin - Ozzy Osbourne
Parade - Prince
Look What the Cat Dragged In - Poison (debut)
Rage for Order - Queensr├┐che
Eat Em' and Smile - David Lee Roth
Raising Hell - Run DMC
Not of This Earth - Joe Satriani
Like A Rock - Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band
Graceland - Paul Simon
Mind: The Perpetual Intercourse - Skinny Puppy
Reign in Blood - Slayer

The Queen Is Dead - The Smiths
Live 1975-1985 - Bruce Springsteen
True Stories - Talking Heads
Mechanical Resonance - Tesla (debut)
They Might Be Giants - They Might Be Giants (debut)
5150 - Van Halen
Another View - The Velvet Underground

How friggin' awesome is that list? Too awesome. I can't believe that those three metal albums came out in the same year. You'd have thunk the universe would have shattered from the utter awesomeness of it. I'm listening to Peace Sells ... right now and it sounds as fresh and vibrant now as it ever did. Man these albums rock. But look at the other stuff on the list ... Peter Gabriel's So! They Might Be Giants! Joe Satriani's best album, Paul Simon's Graceland! Too feckin' awesome.

Disagree if you must. But you're wrong.

Because I'm All About the Guitar Pt. 10: What's in the Wood?

Image hosted by Photobucket.comWood for your guitar. This is a highly complex and emotionally charged topic for guitar players and builders. Folks have tried to use physics to explain the uses of wood, others use mojo. Some build for economy, others build for looks. I simply cannot go into all the ins and outs of this topic, I'll only be able to barely brush the top of the surface and only give my impressions and opinions. And only on electric guitars.

The wood chosen for a guitar is pretty important for a variety of reasons. Some of those reasons involve the actual building of the guitar. Like: How well can this wood be worked, or is the wood strong enough to be used for this? Then there's issues of how wood effects the sound of the guitar, and thats where the high emotion lies.

All of the building materials for a guitar, wood especially, directly effects the vibration of the strings and their resonance which directly effects the quality of the sound. This is especially true of an acoustic guitar since you're hearing unfiltered sound, you're hearing naked wood, as it were. In an electric, the pickup does all the work and it is (generally) not microphonic. That is, the pickup doesn't "pick up" the sound of the strings, it picks up the vibration of the strings. This vibration creates a signal in the pickup which is translated to sound.

You might think then that any wood of similar resonant frequency should create guitars that sound the same. Well, I don't know why, but it's not true. Anybody can pick up an Alder body Fender Strat and a Basswood body Strat and hear a subtle difference in tone and color even though the two woods are very similar in grain, weight and resonant frequency. If you ever want to test this out for yourself a strat is a great guitar to use, because they are essentially an assembly line, cookie-cutter product. One of them is going to be very similar to another.

What makes this subject even more complex is when you begin to realize that two guitars, using the same wood, with the same hardware and electronics and similar finishes sound different. Even wood from the same tree isn't necessarily the same. Some is more dense, some has tighter grain -- it's a crapshoot. But there are some generalities and I'm gonna list some of my favorites woods here and some of their supposed tonal qualities:

Image hosted by Photobucket.comQuilted or Curly Maple: Quilted Maple is a rock maple tree that has a wavy or curly appearance. No one knows for sure why the trees get this look to them. Maple is a heavy wood and the non-figured rock maple is usually used in guitar necks. Quilted maple, along with it's cousin flamed or tiger-stripe maple, is used primarily as tops for guitars.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comThe majority of the guitar body will be made with a different wood like mahogany and the quilted maple will just be a cap. If the cap is thick enough, it will effect the sound of the guitar. However, there are lots of guitar companies that only use a thin maple veneer top. This looks pretty, but doesn't do anything to the sound. Thick maple caps can really brighten up the tone of a guitar.

This guitar is a beatiful example of quilted maple in use on a JET guitar. The figured maple really pops out once stained and polished. Depending on the color used it can look like flames or wavy water. Beautiful stuff.

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Spalted maple: Spalted maple is actually wood that has begun to decay. The cool lines and firguring seen in the wood is fungus attacking the grain. This leads to spectacular looking lines and figures throughout the boards. It almost looks like someone has drawn on the wood, but this is all natural.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comAs with other figured maples, spalted maple is primarily used as a cap on a guitar body. However, spalted maple cannot really be used for anything else. It has a brittle structure and is not strong enough to be used for anything that could put strain on it. It looks gorgeous though and you can get all kinds of figuring. This guitar is one of Ed Roman's Quicksilver bodies, and I think the spalt looks like a collection of fall leaves. But you can get figures that look like lightening strikes or just random lines. It's truly gorgeous and rare. The sound quality is similar to that of other maple caps.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comBlack Walnut: Is a gorgeous, dark, "wood looking" wood. You can occaisionally find some figuring in walnut, but it tends to be pretty normally grained. Walnut is heavy and it's tonal properties are similar to mahogany -- rich, deep and very resonant. It's a very strong wood and easy to work. It's expensice because gunmakers like to use it for gun stocks, cabinet makers and hard-wood floor makers also use it extensively. This, of course, drives up the market.

Here is a guitar I lust after greatly. It's by Jaros Guitars. It's got most of what I love in a guitar; it has an ebony fretboard, a cool but simple fretboard inlay, it's walnut and it has a tune-o-matic bridge. If the hardware was chrome or nickel I'd probably have to rob a bank.
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Image hosted by Photobucket.comBubinga: Bubinga is a gorgeous, red-tinted wood. It is referred to as African Rosewood, even though it's not of the rosewood species. Image hosted by Photobucket.comI've seen is used in a lot of different ways -- as a top cap, as accent stripes in the neck or body and as entire guitar bodies. It is very heavy and has a deep, dense sound. The more solid bubinga used, the better suited it is for a bass guitar. Caps are great for a regular six string.

The guitar is one of Ed Roman's Abstract guitars.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comPurpleheart: The last wood I'm going to talk about today is Purpleheart. It is one of my favorite woods because it's purple and just how often do you see that? Purpleheart is amazingly heavy and dense. If you see a guitar made mostly of Purpleheart and want to buy it, start lifting weights. Sometimes PH is used for an entire guitar or bass neck and even that is enough to throw a guitar's balance way off. Image hosted by Photobucket.comSo, most of the time, you see PH used as accent stripes though the neck or body. Sometimes folks make guitar knobs out of it. You can see on this Alembic guitar how they've worked PH into the guitar body providing beautiful contrast in the woods. I have no idea how PH sounds as I've never seen a guitar made out of enough of the stuff to give me a PH "vibe." I've played some with accents and it is a gorgeous, tight grained wood. Even Ed Roman's site doesn't say too much about it. He does say it makes good fingerboard wood and that makes sense, although I've never seen it. I just had to throw it in this post because it's so cool.

Well, that wraps it up from me. There are literally thousands of species of wood out there that have been used for guitar manufacture. I could write a book on it, as others already have.

On another note, I can't believe I'm up to 10 BIAAtG posts! Woohoo!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Army organization and waiting to go home

Sheila’s got a post up that’s inspired me to write something about one of the most difficult times in my recent past. She was brave in baring her soul and wrote an amazing piece. I doubt I will be quite so brave, for a variety of reasons. Chief among them is that it was nowhere near as brutal to my psyche as her torturous trip was to her.

To properly understand the story I’m about to tell, I have to provide a somewhat lengthy preface. Some of the current and former military folks and military enthusiasts who visit regularly will understand what I’m talking about, but I feel that I need to explain the irregularity of my situation.

Continue reading, but I warn you, it's amazingly long.

I should start by explaining the structure of an Army company. The average or ideal company (usually designated by an alpha character A, B, C, etc.) is sized around 100-150 personnel and further broken down into three to five platoons (usually designated by a numeral 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.). Each platoon consists of four or five squads (numeric again) of eight or 10 people. In a combat arms unit, those squads usually consist of two, four- or five-person fire teams. Each team has a team leader who is a corporal (E-4) or sergeant (E-5). Each squad has a squad leader who is, ideally, a staff sergeant (E-6). Each platoon has a platoon sergeant who is, again, ideally, a sergeant first class (E-7) and a platoon leader, ideally, a first lieutenant (O-2). The company is led by a first sergeant (E-8) and a company commander who is a captain (O-3). There is also a company executive officer who is the company commander’s second and he is a first lieutenant (0-2).

So, in a normal company, if you are a sergeant (as I was), you would be in a squad. You would probably be a team leader. You chain of command is from you, to your squad leader, to the platoon sergeant/platoon leader, to the first sergeant/CO. They take care of soldier’s problems and work information back and forth along these channels.

Outside of this squad/platoon/company chain of command structure, there are jobs within the company that are filled by these same platoon leaders, sergeants, etc. Each company has sections that deal with personnel issues such as leave, awards, records, etc. (known as S-1); security issues such as intelligence briefings, updating and initiating security clearances (S-2); training and planning (S-3); and logistics (S-4). There are others, but these are the primary shops that company personnel deal with. Within each ‘1, ‘2 , ‘3 and ‘4 shop, there are subordinate activities. I’ll pick the ‘4 shop as it has a bunch. Underneath a company ‘4 there is Company Supply, Company Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (sometimes assigned to the ‘3 shop for God knows why) and the Company Unit Maintenance Officer/NCO. There are usually a few soldiers working in each shop.

If you’re in, say, an Infantry unit, your job is to do infantry stuff. If you’re not in the field training, or deployed doing infantry stuff (that is, bringing death and destruction to the enemy) they are maintaining equipment, etc. Usually, within the company, the folks who are acting as company personnel officer/NCO, supply, etc. are doing so as a secondary duty and are actually infantry soldiers, although, sometimes, they are actually personnel or supply-trained individuals assigned to these companies for that very specific duty.

This is not to say that company-level personnel waste tons of time doing these additional duties and such. There is usually an administrative platoon (or sometimes an entire company serving a battalion) filled with this personnel. Anyway, I stray off point.

Basically, within a company, regardless of what your real job is, be it infantry, artillery, EOD, ordnance, or finance, your unit has to fulfill the basic S-1, 2, 3, and 4 functions.

I spent an inordinate amount of time on all this to bring you all to this point: outside of combat arms, deployable, “real world” mission units, most companies in the Army aren’t set up this way. You may have only 50 people in some companies and 250 in another. Some companies don’t have platoon leaders. Some don’t have squad leaders. It’s all based on the mission of the company’s personnel. For example, at Fort Huachuca, I worked in under a Garrison Command. My company, structurally fell under said command in a convoluted fashion. It was comprised of Public Affairs, Legal, Personnel and other offices.

Now these aren’t the company-level folks, these are offices that serve the entire installation and are basically assigned to a company for administrative purposes. But the company still has to fulfill S-1 through ‘4 duties.

To shift thoughts onto my main point: The Army, in its finite wisdom, decided to create something called Public Affairs Detachments. These eight-person units are comprised of a commander, a noncommissioned officer in charge (E-6 or 7), a Public Affairs NCO (E-5), three junior-grade (E-1 to E-4) print journalists and two junior-grade broadcast journalists. This unit is designed to deploy in support of operations at a division level. Great in theory and good in practice. However, problematic when not deployed.

Here’s the issue, this little eight-person detachment, by having it’s own command element, is responsible for doing everything a “normal” company does. That is, you have to deal with personnel issues, supply, maintenance, NBC, unit movement, training and all the wealth of other issues on top of your normal PAO job (which was preparing to deploy, maintaining equipment, PAO and soldier training and supporting the Post Public Affairs Office newspaper and broadcast products). And you had to do it without any of the extra personnel a “normal” company has to do all these things.

In a logical world, in a place where common sense rules, these PADs are attached to larger companies. These companies do all the personnel, supply, maintenance issues for the PAD. The PAD’s NCOIC and commander are a tenant and provide information to that company but are generally exempt from things like Battalion Training Meetings and the umpteenth little ittty bitty things that battalions like companies to do. Unfortunately, such an environment did not exist at Fort Polk, LA, when I was the 11th PAD’s public affairs NCO.

There were several different realignments of commands and we were tossed around to different units a couple of times during my three years there, but, for the most part, we had to rely on ourselves to do a great majority of company-level “shop” stuff. I don’t want to go into it too much as I’ve already eaten up a lot of space discussing this. However, what we wound up doing was using another company’s S shop resources, but doing all the paperwork (the lion’s share of the time-consuming nonsense) ourselves.

Taking care of business this way was standard operating procedure for us at Fort Polk when we finally got the call to deploy to Afghanistan. There are a lot of cool stories I could tell about that, but basically, as a unit we attached the “garrison” element at Bagram Air Base. It was easy to get personnel, maintenance and other issues taken care of because there were shops in place to service these needs. When deployed, the Army works like it’s supposed to. At home station you see the cluster foxtrot that drives a lot of us out of the service. The political posturing and Good Ideas Of the Moment (henceforth known as GIOM) that you see every moment of every day at home station are virtually nonexistent in a deployed theater (they do happen if you’re close to the command, but no where near as bad as in garrison).

So, one of my many duties in the PAD was that of Unit Movement Officer. The person that is in charge of making sure that all the unit’s equipment and personnel are ready to go and that the paperwork is all handled correctly. This person also acts as the liaison between the Unit Movement Coordinator -- a person or office dedicated to managing all personnel and equipment inbound or outbound of theater. The person tends to be old and curmudgeonly. They don’t have any patience for you not understanding the system. They don’t understand things like, “This is an additional duty, I’ve never done this before,” or “Could you please explain to me what I need to do?”

There’s the backdrop. Here’s the where we’re at for this story: At the end of a seven-month-and-change deployment to Afghanistan we’re trying to get all the paperwork and gear in order to ship back to home station. We’re also trying to secure dates of our replacement’s arrival so we can secure the dates of our departure.

There were a couple of issues with this. First, our replacements didn’t have a warm fuzzy on their departure date, just some semi-stiff maybes. Second, our colonel in charge of PAO in Bagram wanted to ensure at least two week’s overlap so we could train our replacements.

At first, the two seemed to have little to do with one another. They would arrive in plenty of time for us to do some right seat training and we could get on our merry effin’ way. However, once we got our departure dates locked in with the curmudgeonly UMC, it quickly became apparent that their arrival and our departure dates weren’t synching. At best, they were only going to have three or four days overlap and probably not that.

The colonel’s GIOM became policy though and we had to come up with a plan. We wound up splitting up our resources. We sent home our acting NCOIC (an E-6 attached to us from Ft. Drum, NY), two print journalists, and one broadcaster; all of our equipment excluding personal gear and weapons. That left me, my commander (a super cool guy I wish I was still in contact with) and a print and broadcast journalist. The replacements came on board, my entire PAD was there to greet them for a couple of days, but then our early departers departed and the rest of us were left to teach the newcomers the ways of PAO in Bagram.

That took all of a day.

Our stuff was packed we had everything ready to go, but we spent the next several days hanging out with the new guys in case they needed more information, more help, more something … the kind of things we never got when we arrived. And, once we were cleared to leave, came four of the hardest days of my life.

Overall, the time I spent deployed to Afghanistan was pretty easy. The job wasn’t hard, tent city life was pretty plush compared to those at forward operating bases and everything was geared toward keeping stress levels as low as possible. You don’t want people freaking out in a combat zone because someone’s riding their ass about something trivial. The biggest, hardest, most difficult part is missing your way of life. Missing your family. Missing your home. Missing your bathtub. Missing your yard. Missing your horizon.

We were all missing the things that we’d signed our lives away to potentially miss. But it was the end. We were going home! But we had no idea when.

When we made arrangements for our previous members to leave, they were manifested on a dedicated flight. They had a mission number. They had to because of the amount of equipment they were carrying. We, however, since we just had personnel and our weapons/personal equipment, had to try and catch a flight on whatever was smoking out of Bagram – catch as catch can.

Trying to get manifested on flights out of a combat zone can be difficult. First of all you have to understand that these are mission flights. The primary job of these flights is not to carry personnel, but to transport equipment, etc. and whatever space there is left is given to folks to fly out. Then you have a priority list. Injured personnel have priority over anything. In fact, they will bump mission flights. Then you have people who are traveling in theater on mission. This goes on and on until you fall to the bottom of the list – second from bottom: military going home; bottom: civilians going home; oh, and the below bottom, but still on the list: civilians going on leave.

So, you wake up really, really early in the morning to get to the A/DACG (pronounced “Ay Dag” [where the C goes, I don’t know] that’s Arrival/Departure Airfield Control Group) where all the day’s flights are manifested. This is done at around 2 or 3 in the morning. Then you wait in a looooooooooong line, or you wait a looooooooooong time if you happen to be early in line and hope there’s a flight leaving that has enough room for all of your personnel.

We did this for four days. My commander and I would go down about 10 or 11 p.m. and wait until 2 or 3 a.m. to attempt to get manifested. We were, on two different days, tentatively manifested on flights. To the point that we moved all our gear down to the A/DACG only to learn that we got bumped off the one flight. The next day our manifested flight was cancelled.

I cannot explain to you the desperation one begins to feel when you are in this situation. Nothing is in your control. Everything seems left up to chance. You don’t even think about anything beyond the two or three things that you have any control over – eating, sleeping and shitting. You become zombie like waiting out time until you can let yourself hope again. And then, amazingly you’re on a plane. You get manifested – for real! You get all your personal baggage checked and palletized. You wait for the flight and then load up.

We flew from Afghanistan to Uzbekistan to Germany to Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. We took a limo (really the only big enough to hold all of us and our gear) to Philadelphia and caught a civilian flight to Alexandria, LA. Home was never so nice.

But, there was this hole in my core that those few days had drilled into me. A complete sense of hopelessness; that whatever I do, no matter how much effort I put into something, ultimately I have little effect on the eventual outcome. And that really hurt.

I’m over it now, but it took time. And that’s the last thing I wanted to address – Sheila’s assertion that time does not heal all wounds. Her belief that time in itself does not provide the catharsis for closure. I understand her point. I sympathize. But I do not agree.

She says that time leaves things jagged, and askew. Well, don’t most substantial wounds heal this way? Doesn’t a deep cut or burn leave a scar; a memory that we carry? Some worse than others.

What I guess I’m saying is that time doesn’t make things better. Time doesn’t put things right. Time closes a wound and allows you to continue operating.

A looooooooooong story

I am working on a really long story right now while dealing with some more irons that have been tossed in my fire.

Ponder this for me: My anger is white hot. Literally. It sheers through my brain like razors. When I get upset at something, I lose it. I mean, to steal a Sheila simile, I lose it like the Hulk. Oddly enough, though, I only do this at home. I don't lose my cool like this at work. I don't do it in public. But at home, man I blow my top.

Last night I realized that what was really making me mad was the fact that I was getting so mad and I didn't understand why. Logically, I fully understand that the things I get so upset about are pretty damn trivial. Were I counseling someone else, I would tell them that this behavior is unacceptable. And I know it is. What I don't know how to do is stop getting so freakin' mad.

Any suggestions?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Kill the Wabbit!!!

So, Stan "Tookie" Williams is dead. Thank God. Good riddance. Maybe we won't be hearing about him every other freaking minute now. Now the anti-death-penalty-pro-life-reform-commie-pinko-no-touch-with-reality-whatsoever celebrity left will have to find another high profile inmate to become the flagship of their cause.

If you can't tell, I am pro death penalty. I am so pro death penalty that I am pro slow dipping in acid. I am pro burying someone up to their neck in the desert next to a pile of red ants and pouring honey on their head. I am pro death by decompression sickness.

Mainly, I am pro a system that is so scary you don't damn want to commit a crime.


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Cool discussion at Coalition of the Swilling

UPDATE: w/t to Suzette here's a link to the Texas Dept. of Corrections listing of executed offenders. It lists them, their offense and their last statements. Powerful, moving stuff.

Quotational Mojo

I'm stealing some Mojo from Suzette and some therapy from Will.

When I realized the other day that my throwing out my back was due primarily to stress and weight, it was also a wake up call for my lifestyle. I must eat better. I must drink more water. I must exercise.

I have said these things before, recently, but I now have a plan. I am enacting subtle changes to my life in steady increments so as to not shock the system -- at first anyway. Not staying chained to my desk at the office is one of those ways. Taking short walks at lunch, as weather permits, is another. There will be more changes, but these are baby steps as I can't seem to break myself from my current routine.

On that note, here's a favorite quote of mine that has helped me in the past when I'm about to embark on a difficult journey or task:

It will be difficult at first, but everything is difficult at first.
- Miyamoto Musashi

Monday, December 12, 2005

Moving slowly

While I don't usually post much, if anything, over the weekend, this particular one was pretty bad for me. I threw my back out Friday and spent the majority of Friday and all of Saturday in bed, doped up. It's a recurring problem and I do it pretty often.

I went to the chiropracter Friday and found out it was a muscle sprain that causes my problems. Which is more than any doctor in the military ever told me since I first injured it about 8 years ago. We didn't go into causes, however I'm fairly certain the reinjuring is both stress and weight related. More reasons to get back in shape. Dammit.

Anyway I'm doing better today and was yesterday also. Just moving a bit more slowly.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Because I'm All About the Guitar Pt. 9: BuildingRebuilding a guitar

Image hosted by Photobucket.comI was inspired by a post from the CosmicConservative. I was bitten by the "want to build my own guitar" bug a couple of years ago.

I was deployed to Afghanistan. When not extraordinarily busy, we were extraordinarily bored. So, while attempting to alleviate the boredom through looking around for time-consuming internet sites, I landed on Ed Roman Guitars. Ed Roman goes a long way to detail construction techniques and woods used, etc. on his guitars. It's enough to whet you appetite for construction.

I did some searching. I wound up finding the Musical Instrument Maker's Forum where there is so much knowledge about guitar construction. But I'm stuck deployed to Afghanistan so it's not as though I can just start building something.

Then I get home. And I have the bug. But I don't have the money to invest in any of this. The tools are expensive. The wood is espensive. The parts are expensive. Anyone who thinks they are going to save money by building their own guitar is fooling themselves. Any mistake and you might very well have to start over from the beginning. The time and effort along with the money you'll spend can add up to several times what you'd pay for an off-the-shelf Les Paul.

Instead of building something from new. I decided to dig out some old parts I had lying around. It's very similar to the '80s-era Kramer Barretta I have pictured here. It's a dual cutaway, single pickup guitar. The spare body I have is more sharp on the cutaway horns, more like a Jackson soloist. My headstock is not a "hockey stick" style like the Kramer either, nor do I have a Floyd Rose trem system. But, otherwise, it's very similar.

It's been years since I decided to work on this and I've accomplished very little. I've stripped all the old paint off the neck and body. I've ordered some new machine tuning heads ... that's about it. I still haven't decided exactly what I want to do. I'm debating filling in the tremolo cavity (it's got a Fender-style trem) and putting on a Fender-style non-trem bridge. But I don't know. What this really is is an exercise in guitar "construction." I mean, it's always nice to have another playable guitar around, but I don't really need it. I just need to see if I can do it.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Best album ever!

Bingley's got up a post about the best year in music. He makes a compelling argument about 1979, although we all know that 1991 was truly the best year.

While the year might be somewhat debatable, it brought to mind what is the best album ever? What album is so perfect that it has no faults. I can think of few contenders, but there's only one champion:

Dream Theater's 1999 release: Metropolis 2: Scenes From a Memory

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More meme: Facts

1. My uncle once: snapped a car door off its hinges to pull somebody out of a car. He was a violent dude sometimes.
2. Never in my life: have I jumped out of an airplane. I was asked if I wanted to go to Airborne school many times while I was in the Army. I always answered an emphatic, “No!”
3. When I was five: I lived in Great Fall, Montana and my brother was born.
4. High School is: four years long. If you’re lucky.
5. My parents are: polar opposites. My mom is a timid, polite person with an odd sense of humor. My dad is a short, loud, quick-to-anger man with a great sense of humor.
6. I once met: former Vice President, presidential hopeful and former ambassador to Japan, Walter Mondale. He attended a special event we were holding on our installation on Okinawa. He was drunk.
7. There's this girl I know who: … um know or knew? I don’t know many girls any more. I knew this girl who was convinced she could tell the future, not like, divine the future from Tarot cards or a crystal ball, but rather just look at you and tell your future. She couldn’t.
8. Once, at a bar: wouldn’t you like to know.
9. Last night: I re-watched Lost and had a fantastic homemade pot pie.
10. Next time I go to church: will be when my kids are doing some special program or something.
11. When I turn my head left, I see: My credenza, which holds a bunch of recorded CD archives of our newspaper, my phone, my reference books (AP Styleguide, etc.).
12. When I turn my head right, I see: My right return on my desk. I has my desk calendar and is where I read papers and such.
13. How many days until my birthday?: 26 days.
14. If I was a character written by Shakespeare I'd be: I can’t begin to analyze myself through Shakespeare. Probably somebody in a crowd somewhere.
15. By this time next year: it will be one year later.
16. A better name for me would be: I like my name, which is actually my middle name.
17. I have a hard time understanding: how anyone could think more federal government could help ANYTHING, much less health care or other social programs. (I can’t say it any better than this. Thanks Lisa).
18. If I ever go back to school I:
I'd be a lawyer (also stolen from Lisa). I almost got out of the Army at my four-year mark to do this very thing.
19. You know I like you if: I go out of my way to show you something or prove something to you.
20. If I won an award, the first person I'd thank would be: my wife and kids.
21. Take my advice: being an enlisted man is easier on the soul; being an officer is easier on the pocketbook.
22. My ideal breakfast is: Black coffee.
23. If you visit my hometown: you’ll probably drive right through it and not even know.
24. Why won't someone: shut Sean Penn up?
25. If you spend the night at my house: you’ll sleep in my baby’s room on a pretty nice futon.
26. I'd stop my wedding: … um, a bit late, but I guess if something tragic happened.
27. The world could do without: $cientology, Tom Cruise, et al.
28. I'd rather lick the belly of a cockroach than: lick the belly of a slug.
29. Paper clips are more useful than: staples. While staples are more permanent, they don’t have near the amount of uses as a paper clip.
30. If I do anything well, it is: procrastinating.
31. And by the way: if you must use your cell phone in your car, MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A HANDS-FREE DEVICE! Dammit.

w/t to Lisa, via Sheila.

Today we lost an amazing musician

Today is the anniversay of the death of an amazing musician. Someone who changed the face of music. Whose presence on stage and off inspired a new generation of musicians around the world.

Yes, that's right, it's the one-year anniversary of the death of "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott.

I remember the first time I heard Pantera. I saw the Cemetery Gates video on Headbanger's Ball. Their sound fundamentally changed the way I listened to heavy metal. When you hear Pantera, you immediately understand how intense music can be. You expect it. They reset the bar.

The world is a sadder place without him. Rest in peace.

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Thursday Travelogue: Garden of the Gods

Image hosted by Photobucket.comSome things, some places seem more monumental (pun intended) when revisted through the child's filter of your mind's eye. While it may truly be amazing, there's something about memory, especially if it's from childhood, that adds some magic to the ordinary.

When I was around 10 years old, my family was stationed at Peterson AFB, Colorado Springs. At the time, my dad was quite the outdoorsman. We camped and fished at different times throughout the year. We would also make trips out to local parks and tourist traps. One of those was Garden of the Gods.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comI've always had a thing for rocks. Don't know why, but I like 'em. I like the way some are smooth and some are rough. I like the way light catches them differently at different angles. There was a time, when I was about 6 or 7, that I had a bunch of rocks on our front porch, in the sunlight. My dad told me to get all the rocks off the porch. I asked him, "But how are they going to grow into big rocks?" Yeah, yeah, I was a silly kid. But I loved rocks.

Anyway, for this installment, I wanted to pull something from my childhood and Garden of the Gods seemed like a good idea. However, looking at the photos I've found online, the park isn't as grand as I remember. I mean, it's a beautiful place, but after you've been to the Grand Canyon, Sedona and Chiricahua, you're ruined on scenic rocks.

It still has a special place in my mind. Colorado Springs and Peterson AFB in general do as well, but the Garden was always a special trip. We went several times over the three years we lived there. It was a special treat. Not only to play outside around the rocks with my younger brother, but inside the gift shop they had two things I also sought -- fool's gold and polished stones. I had a good collection of both from all the times we visited.

My parents weren't the kind to spend a lot of time explaining the importance of the monuments to us. They answered questions and would give cursory explanations. But this place was still treat to visit. It's still a treasured place in my mind. It makes me realize that doing things with my children is important regardless of what we actually do.

Ed. Note: None of the photos here are mine. I found them online. Because of where I found them, I consider them to be in the public domain. However, if one of these photos is your property and you object to its use here, please leave a comment and I'll remove it.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

A day that will live in infamy

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor:

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There are all kinds of political, historic, and apologist rhetoric surrounding the remembrance of this event. But, what it boils down to is that they bombed us, we went to war, we kicked ass. The end.

Take a moment today to thank a veteran. Take a moment to think about this great evil we helped stop. A great evil unparalleled until today.

Remember Pearl Harbor. And for God's sake don't watch that horrible movie, watch Tora! Tora! Tora! or something.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

An amazing poem ...

"Patient and steady with all he must bear,
Ready to accept every challenge with care,
Easy in manner, yet solid as steel,
Strong in his faith, refreshingly real,
Isn't afraid to propose what is bold,
Doesn't conform to the usual mold,
Eyes that have foresight, for hindsight wont do,
Never back down when he sees what is true,
Tells it all straight, and means it all too,
Going forward and knowing he's right,
Even when doubted for why he would fight,
Over and over he makes his case clear,
Reaching to touch the ones who won't hear,
Growing in strength, he won't be unnerved,
Ever assuring he'll stand by his word,
Wanting the world to join his firm stand,
Bracing for war, but praying for peace,
Using his power so evil will cease:
So much a leader and worthy of trust,
Here stands a man who will do what he must."

... but Pakistan doesn't think so.

Here's looking at you Charlie Brown

Image hosted by Photobucket.comABC's running A Charlie Brown Christmas tonight at 8 Eastern. In honor of that, find out some little known facts about the show, and test your knowledge.

I scored 80%.

MMORPG more social than BBQ?

I'm not sure I believe all thier claims, but this is still an interesting commentary about online gaming.

w/t Dean's World.

It's my busy day

I don't imagine that I'll be around much today as it's my busy day at work.

So, in there interest of keeping things humorous, I present:

Unnecessary bleeping (courtesy of the Jimmy Kimmel show).

Monday, December 05, 2005

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

This weekend was the "get the house in order for Christmas" weekend in my household. I rearranged the living room (just because I wanted to, but it was part of the weekend's goings on) and cleaned up our book/music room and got the tree up.

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Both of those bookshelves on the side, and one off camera in another corner, had books haphazardly thrown on them and other junk stuffed on them in various places. I knew when I originally just threw the books up there that I was going to have to organize them eventually. I never realized what a task that was going to be.

Anyway, got all the cleaning done, set up the tree (above) and the rest of the family decorated it.

Image hosted by They did a pretty good job. I particularly like how my youngest daughter decided to put of row of ornaments along the bottom of the tree. Too funny.

Well, I'm not a huge Christmas fan, but I'm no Scrooge either. So, it's finally starting to feel like Christmas time to me. Even though it's still hot enough here to be running the air conditioner.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Because I'm All About the Guitar Pt. 8: G3 2005

Image hosted by Photobucket.comI have been burning out my computer/car/home stereo speakers and DVD player the past week with the sonic assault that this year's G3 has presented. This year the trio included mainstays Satch and Vai and the rotating third guitarist was John Petrucci. Those who read my last BIAAtG post know I'm a huge fan of Petrucci, so this was a great G3 year for me.

For those who don't know about G3, it was started in 1996 by Joe Satriani to offer a mega guitar-centric concert to audiences around the globe. That first line-up was Satch, Vai and Eric Johnson. Most line-ups through the years feature Satch and Vai as the primaries, but there were a couple of years where Vai was absent. Anywho, every G3 show is packed with yummy guitar goodness. If you've never heard or seen a show, pick up a CD or DVD. Great shows.

The CD is amazing. The music is wonderful, but only the last three songs -- the G3 jam -- presents you with something you've never heard before (if you're familiar with the artist's work).

The DVD is also great, but not as explosive as past shows -- particularly the 2003 show with Yngwie "The Fookin' Fury" Malmsteen. Individually, this year, each guitarist put on great performances of their material, but the G3 jam at the end (performing Foxy Lady, La Grange and Smoke on the Water together) just didn't have some of the energy that past shows have displayed. I think this has something to do with personality. Vai is a performer. An electric presence. Satch is solid, aware and plays to the audience. Both of them feed of the energy of their third compatriot. And this is where we lose some of the show. John Petrucci is my favorite guitarist, but he is a pretty stationary stage presence. Very laid back -- which seems to speak of his personality. No matter how fantastic a guitarist the guy is, he has remained humble and very respectful of his fans. Same can be said of Satch and Vai, but on a different kind of level.

All in all, the DVD is enjoyable, but if you just want to hear cool jams, pick up the CD. The DVD is for "troo" fans.

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Both of these photos are from 'cause he is not only a great guitarist and cool guy, but has a fantastic website.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Barely any time: Something to put up

W/T to Nightfly

The Movie Of Your Life Is A Cult Classic

Quirky, offbeat, and even a little campy - your life appeals to a select few.
But if someone's obsessed with you, look out! Your fans are downright freaky.

Your best movie matches: Office Space, Showgirls, The Big Lebowski

Fly, believes that Showgirls is just crap, not cult. While it may be crap, it has definitely established it's own cult.