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Comparing Airlines in 2017 – JAL vs AA

by on Apr.12, 2017, under Recommendations, social commentary

Last month we spent 17 days in Asia.

Needless to say, getting there required some lengthy air travel.  Also needless to say, I have come back with a massive collection of new images.  I am slowly wading through the 1,600+ photos from my Canon 5D Mk III + over 600 just from the Samsung Galzxy S7 I carry.  Eventually there will be online galleries for this.

An example:

Shanghai Skyline Night II

Shanghai Skyline Night II

But that’s not what I’ve set down to write about today.

What I found amazing was the dramatic difference between the two airlines we flew on this trip.  Both flights were almost the exact same amount of time – 13.5 hours.  We flew from Dallas to Tokyo on Japan Airlines (JAL), but came back from Hong Kong on American Airlines (AA).  The JAL flight was on the 787 Dreamliner and it was our first flight on this high tech plane.  Coming back we were booked on a 777.  We’ve flown on these massive planes before, most notably on Cathay Pacific from Hong Kong to Bangkok a long time ago.  We were really looking forward to flying the 777 again.

International air travel is always something we look forward to.  The service is generally far superior to stateside flights and we anticipate vastly improved food service.  The planes are much bigger and the overheads more spacious as well.  This makes dealing with carry-on luggage much easier.  I always travel with one of my specialized Lowepro camera carriers and they are HEAVY – weighing in around 20 lbs when loaded with all the gear I take internationally.

As a little comparison between the two planes, we were surprised at how much smaller the 787 is compared to the 777.  Roughly 45 feet longer, but almost 5 feet shorter, the 777 holds 365 passengers compared to the 210 of the 787.  The portholes (seat windows) on the Dreamliner don’t have the pull-down shade systems that have been around for decades.  Instead, the window itself is tinted by a set of controls below each window.  You can have you  window completely clear or a full range from lightly tinted to dark blue to completely opaque by adjusting the controls.  This is something I’ve been saying we should have since the 70s, when I went to the Disneyland Monsanto ride and realized liquid crystal technology could do this.

Enough about the technical details.

For the most part, our favorite airline is Lufthansa.  The seats are excellent, even in coach.  The staff are efficient and their pilots are absolutely, hands-down the BEST.  They land those planes more smoothly and consistently than any other airline we’ve ever flown.  Is anyone surprised by a German airline with the best pilots?

We did really love Cathay Pacific and I have to say that our flights on Delta have been excellent as well.

This brings me to the point of this post.

Comparing AA and JAL

Japan Airlines

Flying over on JAL was simply serene.  Part of that was due to flying west starting late in the day.  We departed mid-afternoon and flew in relative darkness most of the way to Tokyo (actually Narita).  But the conditions of the plane and JAL’s crew were really the highlights.  The plane was clean, everything looked fairly new.  The service was impeccable.  Fast, polite, friendly and accommodating.  The food was excellent, flavorful, nicely served and preceded by hot, wet towels to refresh ourselves with.  As a lifelong vegetarian, I generally get the best food on the plane – and I’m served first.  Special meals are generally served first to get the complications out of the way for food service efficiency.

This was our first flight with JAL and we are really looking forward to traveling with them again.

American Airlines

Coming back, however, we were on the AA flight from hell.  The plane was DIRTY.  I found trash in the seat-back pocket in front of me that was left over from the Obama administration.  The latch that holds the tray table in place required a plier-like grip to turn the blasted thing.  When we deplaned, it looked like something post-apocalyptic.  There was food trash, napkins and paper detritus everywhere.  It looked like a garbage can had exploded in the plane.

Warren and Slick.The.Dog

Warren and Slick.The.Dog

I travel wearing a cowboy hat.  Always.  I put it in the overhead on top of my camera carrier.  At the beginning of the flight, we are all seated and one of the flight attendants, an Asian man named Daniel (? – definitely began with a D) started slamming around and reorganizing everything in the overhead above us to make more room.

This includes my Lowepro camera sling backpack that contains over $15,000 worth of Canon Pro gear and more than 1600 absolutely priceless image files on CF cards.

In the process of forcefully rearranging the overheard he partially crushed my $120.00 white palm Resistol hat.  I stood up and told him to dial it back and that I was NOT happy about this.  He apologized and stowed my hat in the back, but the damage was already done.

On any other flight, a flight attendant has asked me before rearranging an overhead.  This is appropriate.  Having ZERO respect for the belongings of your passengers is NOT.  Some bullet points regarding the overall American Airlines experience:

  • Food service was just OK.
  • Food quality, flavor and options were not anywhere near the level of JAL.
  • The crew were brusque, sometimes rude, and generally a lot less pleasant than JAL.
  • The plane looked Tired.
  • It was full of people wheezing, hacking, coughing, sneezing (and some other dwarves).
  • The takeoff felt like the wheels were coming off.  I can’t remember the last time I was on a flight with so much lateral travel just getting off the tarmac.  No, it was not especially windy at the time.
  • The landing, likewise, had a lot of “shimmy” as the plane touched down.  It is a very disconcerting feeling – and I am far from an uneasy flier.
  • The turbulence on the flight was pretty strong and frequent.  I personally don’t mind turbulence.  I find it entertaining.  But then I like roller coasters too.
  • At one point, severe turbulence was projected ahead and the cabin crew all hustled out of the aisles.  You would have thought the Apocalypse was coming based on the announcement over the PA by our flight attendant.  It involved a great deal of shouting and he sounded like he was seeing his life pass before his eyes right then and there.  Not exactly professional or reassuring.  At all.  As it turned out, it was much ado about nothing.
  • Prior to arriving at DFW, one flight attendant coming up the aisle distributing customs forms.  He was rude, loud and yelling at the passengers.  His overall demeanor on the flight was far less than pleasant.  Why he is doing this job is a mystery.

We are NOT looking forward to flying AA again.

In fact, we will make every effort to avoid them after this experience – which is inconvenient, since Dallas is their hub.

AA is certainly not responsible for a flight full of sick people.**  Nor are they to be criticized for turbulent conditions.  No one can control these things.  They can and should, however, be held responsible for an under-maintained plane, dirty conditions and a cabin crew with attitude problems.  As travelers, we have an increasing number of choices in terms of carriers.  We don’t have to settle for substandard quality and AA seems to be setting the bar pretty low these days.

 

United Airlines …

And now United Airlines decides to literally drag a 69 year-old man off a flight, badly injuring him in the bargain.

Seriously?

I think this is a good opportunity for us all to apply for United cards so we can cut them up and mail the pieces to their headquarters.

Here’s their mailing address:

United Airlines, Inc.
Attn:  Oscar Munoz
PO Box 06649
Chicago, IL 60606-0649
United States

** Fortunately we were both very careful and came home from this lengthy trip in perfect health – or as close as we ever get to this condition.

Hong Kong Skyline Panorama

Hong Kong Skyline Panorama

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Some Recent Discoveries and Recommendations

by on Aug.29, 2016, under News, Recommendations

Recently I have discovered some

Time and $$$ saving items and I thought I would share them with you.

I will add to this over time as I think of other items that have been useful to us.

The PoolRX

For those of you who have pools and have ever struggled with keeping the water crystal clear – or battled algae – I have an amazing solution for you.  A client called me and told me about this product several weeks ago, so I did a little research.  I read a lot of reviews, including those from professional pool companies.  I even had a discussion about it with our local pool supply store.  Across the board, all responses were very positive, so I implemented this miracle product, the PoolRX.

Based on reviews and recommendations I went with the Black Unit.  It’s a bit more expensive, but will last for a full year.  Think about how much you spend on chlorine tablets in a year now.  Put this in and reduce your chlorine use to near zero.

We have a 20,000+ gallon diving pool.  I had an automatic chlorine tablet dispenser added to our pool equipment when we bought our home 2-1/2 years ago.  It has been set wide open ever since.  The chlorine and cyanuric acid levels of the pool are literally off the chart.  I was still scrubbing algae off the north-facing surfaces of the pool every week.  In the warmer months it uses a LOT of chlorine.  And I still have algae!

Since adding the PoolRX:

  • I plopped it into the pump intake basket
  • I dialed the chlorine dispenser down to its lowest setting
  • The chlorine levels have come way down
  • The water is crystal clear
  • I have less algae than ever before
  • Our pool no longer smells like the YMCA

You will notice in the test strip results there is ZERO chlorine and the pool is crystal clear.  It actually WORKS!  It took about 2 months to completely clear the pool of chlorine after I turned the chlorine tab dispenser all the way to zero.

You should still shock the pool after a lot of use or after a storm that adds significant rainfall to the pool, but your overall maintenance will be ridiculously low.

I love this thing!

For my next magic trick…

I attend a lot of business networking meetings.  A readable name plate / badge / card for your lapel or shirt is fairly important.  Many years ago I had one that was great, but it is really old technology and requires an older Windows platform and a serial port.  I have neither.  So after much research and reading of reviews I decided on the ION Smart Badge.  It scrolls whatever message you program in and select.  It has 3 fonts, 3 speeds and is rechargeable.  Pin it to your shirt or use the magnetic attachment.  This is a great conversation starter.

It looks like this:

You use an app on your phone to program it:

ION Badge App Screenshot

 

 

 

 

It has 8 memory locations for you to store messages in.  It is very simple to program, connects to the phone via bluetooth, so you can update your message on the fly.  Very easy to use.

Order yours here:

 

 

For all you artists…

I’ve been shopping for a REAL artist’s easel for my wife ever since she became serious about her craft and started selling original oil paintings.  I looked at 3 different models at Azle Art Supply in Plano and was aghast (don’t you love the opportunity to use that word?) at the prices.  I thought “damn, I could build one out of solid oak for that price – or mahogany.  Geez!”

So anyway…

I went shopping at my favorite location and found this baby.  It absolutely rocks (literally).  It will support your artwork from vertical to horizontal and every angle in between with adjustable height and 3 different stop blocks.  It will handle very large pieces.  It rolls on casters and all 4 casters have locks so you can hold it in place.  The storage drawer in the bottom is really handy and it takes all of 15 minutes to unpack and assemble.

It comes with the base assembled except for screwing in the casters (16 screws – supplied) and switching the knob around ( for shipping purposes the knob is on the inside of the drawer when it arrives).

The vertical supports require minor assembly and attachment to the base.  Then the table assembly is attached to the vertical supports.

It comes with all the hardware and tools you need to complete the assembly.

I will warn you it’s a little heavy and the whole thing (two cartons) is packed into one large box.

It is a heck of a deal at under $200, really well made and very configurable.

I highly recommend this easel.

Order yours here:

 

 

Blue ribbon has been very popular here in Dallas since the July 7th killing of Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael J. Smith, Brent Thompson and Patrick Zamarripa.  Others were wounded in this cowardly, heinous attack on our police officers who were protecting the Dallas citizens who were protesting in the streets.  A neighbor had given us some “ribbon” they had left over, but it was a type of mesh that was not only invisible (well, mostly invisible) but disintegrated after only a few weeks.

It seems most of our neighbors are using blue plastic tablecloth material, which looks fine, but I wanted something more formal and spent a little time researching until I came upon the perfect item.  Grand Opening Ceremony ribbon is what you see used for ribbon cuttings with a giant scissors.  It is made of satin and is six inches wide.  It looks great and comes in a 25 yard roll.  I have to say it was exactly what I wanted and I have a link for y’all if you’d like the same effect.

 

 

 

Here’s a Little Home Security Tip

Home burglaries in our area are on the rise.

A common technique for breaking into your home is for thieves to break into your car first, and steal your garage door remote.  Then they wait until your car is gone, open the garage door and take everything they want from your home while you are away.

To thwart the bad guys I recommend these tips:

  1. If you have an alarm system, USE IT.
  2. If you don’t have an alarm system, GET ONE – and USE IT.
    (This will not stop the bad guys from emptying your garage…)
  3. Lock the door from your garage to the house and put a key for this door on a key ring stashed someplace discreetly in the garage so you can’t lock yourself out.
  4. Put the garage door remote that clips to your visor in a drawer someplace in the house in case you ever need it.
  5. Buy a keyfob remote for the garage door opener that will always be on your keychain – and therefore, always with you.
    (note to men – don’t keep this in your pocket when you are home.  You can inadvertently open the garage door and leave it that way.)

This is what we have done recently just for this purpose.

Here is the one we have and it’s a better deal from Amazon than the local hardware stores.

 

Let me add a couple of other recommendations for home security while I’m at it.

Burglars work day and night. At night, they prefer to work in the DARK. Therefore, if you light up the exterior of your home like DAYLIGHT, they will move on to someplace less bright to do their dirty work.

  1. Keep your porch lights on.
    (if everyone in your neighborhood does this, but bad guys will go to another neighborhood)
  2. Put in the brightest LED bulbs you can find.
    (this makes it less desirable to the bad guys while cutting your electric bill)
  3. Light up your driveway / carport with the brightest LED fixtures you can find.
    (motion-sensing is OK, but always-on is better)

I have several of these installed. I have bypassed the motion detectors for the ones in our carport so they are always on. You could do surgery in our carport.

 

 

Zika / West Nile / ChickenGonnaGitcha !!!

I don’t know about everyone else, but we live at Ground Zero for all these mosquito-borne life-changing diseases in the U.S. – aka “Dallas”.  I am not exaggerating when I say there are times when they attack in squadron formation.  All last Winter we still had mosquitoes.  December, January, yessirree.  Open the door and you’re under attack.  In my search for tools to defeat these airborne micro-terrorists, I finally settled on these convenient little bracelets.  I have found them to be very effective.

Some application hints:

  • After you use the first one, put it in a sandwich size Ziplock bag.
  • Squeeze out as much air as possible before sealing it.
  • Keep it here after every use, putting it in the bag as soon as you are finished with it.
    (this will dramatically increase its lifespan)
  • Sniff the bracelet when you first open it and use that as a baseline for strength.
  • Sniff it periodically over time.
    (this is your litmus test for the protection level of your bracelet – as the scent gets weaker, the effectiveness decreases).
  • When it seems significantly weakened, toss it out and open a new one.
  • If you find you’re not getting 100% protection, use one on each wrist.
  • Some people are Mosquito Magnets and require more protection.
    (You know who you are)

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LED Replacements for Halogen GU10 Bulbs that ROCK!

by on Feb.07, 2016, under Instructional, Recommendations

We just recently blew in a nice thick layer of insulation in our attic to decrease our energy usage and even out the temperature across the house.  Prior to this we have been replacing all our lighting with LED for these reasons.

  1. They use less energy
  2. They last a lot longer
  3. They create almost no heat (which is very beneficial in the Texas Summer)
GU10 bulb

GU10 bulb

We have about a dozen or so of the miniature halogen GU10 fixtures throughout the house.  These are very similar to the ubiquitous MR-16 bulbs that have been popular for decades, but fitted with a bayonet mount.  Some are on dimmers and some are not.  We like the color and style of these lights, but they use a lot of juice and create a lot of heat.  But we really like the look.

All this changed after we blew in 14″ of insulation, though.  The problem with the halogen bulbs is they generate a lot of heat.  After you bury them with a thick layer of insulation, this heat really starts to build up – and they overheat and shut down to protect themselves.  This is at best a royal pain and at worst a potential fire hazard.

This is where the search for an acceptable LED replacement started.  I went through several products that were not acceptable.  They were either far too dim, or the wrong color (some were actually yellow) or just cheap and subject to failure.  One batch I received, though very reasonably priced, were a mix of white and yellow looking bulbs (mostly yellow) which is great if you want to look sallow and jaundiced, but not what we wanted in our kitchen.  If we do a zombie themed Halloween party, we may put those back in, just for the effect…

What it comes down to is that LEDs use a lot less wattage for the same number of lum

MR-16 bulb

MR-16 bulb

ens of light as halogen.  A 50 watt halogen bulb is pretty bright.  Some manufacturers state their 4 watt LED bulb is equivalent to a 50 watt halogen.  Not in my experience.  Some say their 5 watt bulb is the same.  Not what I found.  The 6.5 watt bulbs are touted as a replacement by some vendors.  Not in our application.  And then there is the color temperature.  Light temperature is measured in degrees Kelvin, with daylight falling somewhere between 4,000 and 6,000 degrees Kelvin.  “Warm” lighting is somewhere in the 2,700 to 3,000 range, but this depends a lot on the design of the LED filtering employed in each manufacturer’s bulb.  This is still an emerging industry and it seems to me there is a significant lack of consistency at this time.

The bulbs we finally settled on are the ones below.  They are robustly constructed with excellent heat sinks and cooling, rated at 8 watts and 5,000 Kelvin for a daylight color and I really like them.  They are a very white daylight-looking light, as bright as a 50 watt halogen or better and dimmable.

The heat sink assembly and bezel are a medium gunmetal gray and the bezel is ventilated to allow for airflow and cooling.  It is a very nice look.  These are also a 60 degree wide beam, which is a floodlight rather than a spotlight.  This is perfect for our needs.  If you need something more narrow like a spot, these are the wrong ones.

We finally found the ones we like and I recommend them highly.  They are more expensive than halogen, but they use less energy and last a LOT longer.  Amortizing in the initial cost with the effective lifespan of roughly 20 years, you are spending roughly 65 cents per year while you save a bundle on energy.

  • First of all, energy is billed in Kilowatt Hours (KWH).  This is 1,000 watts in use for 1 hour.
  • (10) 100 watt bulbs or (20) 50 watt bulbs on for one hour would be 1 KWH
  • Lets say you are paying 9 cents per KWH and have 10 of these in your home.
  • That’s 500 watts you are using or 1/2 KWH.
  • Let’s say you have them on for 5 hours a day.
  • That amounts to 2,500 watts or 2.5KW.
  • Multiply that by .09 and you get .225 or roughly 22 cents per day.
  • Multiply that by 365 days and you have $82.13 in energy annually for just these 10 bulbs for 5 hours a day

Let’s do the same math for LEDs.

  • At 8 watts time 10 bulbs that’s only 80 watts.
  • Multiply that by 5 hours and you get 400 watts, not even half a kilowatt.
  • Multiply that by 365 and you get 146  kilowatts
  • Multiply that by .09 and you have $13.14 per year.

It’s a pretty significant savings, especially when you factor it in over the 20 year lifespan.

Let’s just say you’re saving $60 per year
Over 20 years, that’s a $1,200 savings.

I don’t know if this is worth it to you, but it sure is to us.

Single bulbs are $12.99 each (sounds expensive, but they last about 20 years)

 

 

Six packs are $59.99

You can also get these same bulbs in 2700 Kelvin (warm white)

Six Pack:

 

Single bulbs:

 

But what about your conventional ceiling cans?

For retrofitting conventional downlight floods (or uplights) these are excellent.  We use them for our exterior architectural lighting.

You can order these in both 5000 K (daylight) and 2700 K (soft white) depending on your requirements.  These are dimmable just like a conventional incandescent bulb.  We use the 5000 K bulbs for our architectural lighting because we WANT it to look like Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  Bright white light is exactly what we want for our purposes.  In addition to architectural lighting this also makes for a nice deterrent for the criminal element, as it’s like freakin’ daylight out there 24 hours a day – and the cost is ridiculously low with LED bulbs.  We have our entire exterior lighting system controlled by a photocell and it works flawlessly.

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Invest in Some Art for Christmas

by on Nov.19, 2015, under gallery updates, News, Recommendations

Or for any other occasion…

As a gift – or for yourself, art is not a luxury, it is a necessity.

Max Eastman said  “It is art that makes life, makes interest, makes importance and I know of no substitute whatever for the force and beauty of its process.”

Why invest in art?

  • Art will not wear out
  • Art will not make you fat
  • Art will improve your life
  • Art will make you smile
  • Art will make you think
  • Art will inspire you

Our e-commerce site has some great deals on inventory prints + lots of custom order images from around the world.  We produce custom prints in-house, provide mounting and framing services and I will even personally install your selection in most cases.

If you don’t see what you are looking for, call or email me.  I probably have what you want somewhere in my extensive library.  If not, I may just go out and find it for you – or create it from scratch.

Our most recent installation is a nearly 8 foot wide mounted canvas print for Northwestern Mutual in Dallas.

Our themes include:

  • Texas
  • Dallas Texas
  • Frisco Texas
  • Route 66
  • New York City
  • Automotive
  • Girls and Cars
  • Musical Instruments
  • Flora and Fauna
  • Nature and Scenics
  • Ireland
  • Tuscany
  • Spain
  • Germany
  • Austria
  • Budapest
  • Abstracts
  • SignZ of Our TimeZ
  • Alien Vistas
  • The TreZ Collection

We have a growing collection of Selective Color images from around the world:


Abstracts:

 

And the latest image from Budapest:

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Architectural Prints of Your Property

by on Aug.25, 2015, under gallery updates, Instructional, Projects, Recommendations

A growing trend in commercial interior decorating is to have very large prints of your own building / property in a highly stylized format.

I recently assembled this gallery from one of my commercial shoots as an example of what I can do for you.  This little gallery contains variations on two images of the same lobby.  This will give you  some ideas while illustrating the kind of work I do.  Please contact me with any questions.

 

Lobby and Stairs Normal

Lobby and Stairs Normal

Lobby and Stairs Normal Burn

Lobby and Stairs Normal Burn

Lobby and Stairs Dodge

Lobby and Stairs Dodge

Lobby and Stairs Sol Hard

Lobby and Stairs Sol Hard

Lobby and Stairs Sol 1

Lobby and Stairs Sol 1

Lobby and Stairs Sol 3

Lobby and Stairs Sol 3

Lobby and Stairs BW 2

Lobby and Stairs BW 2

Lobby and Stairs BW 1

Lobby and Stairs BW 1

Stairs-Lobby Normal Enhanced

Stairs-Lobby Normal Enhanced

Stairs-Lobby Sol Hard

Stairs-Lobby Sol Hard

Stairs-Lobby Sol 6

Stairs-Lobby Sol 6

Stairs-Lobby BW 2

Stairs-Lobby BW 2

Stairs-Lobby BW 1

Stairs-Lobby BW 1

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Try This Giant Rainbow Slinky Yourself

by on Aug.24, 2015, under News, Projects, Recommendations

You probably didn’t know this even existed, but now that you do, you know you want one.

Slinkies have been a favorite toy for kids since the 1940s when Richard James invented them.  The original slinky is made of spring steel and measures roughly 2.75″ in diameter.  It is a fun example of kinetics for children and can offer hours of amusement.  One of the things they do best is to “walk” down inclines or steps, provided the height and width of each “step” is within certain limits relative to the diameter of the slinky being used.  This is where it gets tricky.  In order to walk a slinky all the way down a staircase, the diameter of the slinky needs to be more than half the depth of the stair tread.

Enter the GIANT Slinky.

The giant rainbow slinky measures a whopping 7″ in diameter and loves to walk down stairs.  My 6 year old grandson Ryan has always been fascinated by the two slinkies the I keep on a ledge in my office.  One day we were discussing things they could do and I told him about getting them to walk down stairs.  I even bought him and is brother a pair of the original metal slinkies so they could try this at home.

Then I remembered a video I had seen of someone letting one loose on an escalator and looked it up.  That’s when I saw for the fist time, the GIANT slinky.  HAD to have one.  We tried it on the escalator at a virtually abandoned mall in Dallas, but found the treads too deep for it to successfully traverse them.  BUT – the adjacent staircases were perfect.  Watch the video below and click on the ad to get your own giant slinky.

 

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DIY Guitar Picks

by on Mar.21, 2015, under Instructional, News, Projects, Recommendations

For all you Do-It-Yourself (DIY) guitarists out there, one of my favorite inventions in the Pick-A-Palooza.  With this clever punch you can make almost any reasonable plastic sheet product into a guitar pick.  This makes for a good, eco-friendly operation where you can recycle things  you’d normally throw out and turn them into picks.  Over time, you save a lot of money as well.

Take your old credit cards, for example.  Now you can recycle them into guitar picks rather than run them through a shredder – or meticulously slice them up with a scissors to make sure no one steals your CC number.

Normal everyday things you can turn into picks:

  • Credit Cards
  • CDs
  • DVDs
  • Clear plastic packaging (you know those things that slice YOU up while you’re trying to cut them open?)

 

WPH Signature Shredder Pick

WPH Signature Shredder Pick

With the Pick-a-Palooza you can’t punch things like metals, but if you’re a shredder and pretty handy, you can make aluminum picks like these with a jewelers saw and a file.  It takes awhile, but I made and sold quite a few of these some time ago.

I used Reel to Reel tape flanges as my source material.  Today I would just buy sheet aluminum stock and go to work with a scroll saw.  If you’re interested in my signature shredder picks, drop me a line and maybe I’ll make some for you.  They sound really cool!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Put up an Antenna. Save $$$ Over Cable!

by on Dec.06, 2014, under Instructional, News, Recommendations

Put up an Antenna.  Save $$$ Over Cable!

I don’t know about you, but I look at our cable bill (AT&T U-Verse) and am in disbelief how much we spend for the handful of channels we actually watch.  Since we never watch sports, just scrolling through the (literally) hundreds of sports channels wastes too much of my time for what we are spending.  Currently we are spending over $160 per month for Internet and cable.  It just seems like a ridiculous amount of money.  Add that up over a year and we’re spending just shy of TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS a year on cable.  I can think of a lot of other things I could spend that money on — and actually have something tangible to show for it.  Or better yet, go on a nice little vacation every year.

So my bride and i discussed it and decided we could live without all the channels we never watch as long as we get the major networks.  I started researching antennas and found lots of options.  There are very inexpensive digital antennas for apartment dwellers that you can just stick to the wall.  We have a nice large attic and I decided something higher in quality with more signal would be a good investment.

Outdoor HD TV antenna

Outdoor HD TV antenna

I installed an outdoor antenna in the attic, along with an amplifier (we have 4 TVs and need the extra signal) – and after a couple of hours of getting everything configured and running an new 25′ Toslink (optical digital audio) cable for our main TV, we were all set.  We get over 100 channels  on the newer TVs and less, but plenty of channels on the older one.  The signal quality is better than cable.  It’s direct, with no long distribution issues to degrade the image. We love it.  And we’re saving $$$ every month.  So long U-Verse!

You do need to be basically line-of-sight to the transmitter antennas.  We live in North Dallas and it’s simple to point the antenna south and pick up a lot of stations.  You also never have outages…

 

You can do the same thing too.  Follow the links below for the units I used to put this together.  It’s easy!

Add this amplifier / splitter if you have more than 1 TV or need to run long distances to your sets from the antenna.  It provides 8db of gain out of all 4 ports and is easy to install.

 

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Inexpensive Synthesis For Your Guitar

by on Nov.08, 2014, under News, Recommendations

Inexpensive Synthesis For Your Guitar

As a guitar player for almost 50 years (not particularly good, but I amuse myself) I’ve always been fascinated by the synthesizer options for stringed instruments.  There are been many on the market since the mid 70s, including some amazing hex-pickup models that enabled really cool stereo field effects.  All of these have been fairly large investments for sometimes marginal tracking.

One of the benefits of the rapid advancement of technology is some really cool new apps and inexpensive hardware interfaces to pull it all together.  There are some fairly full-featured modeling apps for iPhone / iPad, but not much for Android so far, (HINT, HINT).

Sonuus has been working on some pretty cool computer-based MIDI interfaces of late and their latest offering is reasonably priced – and full-featured.  It works on anything you can plug into its 1/4″ jack, so vocals, mic’d instruments of any kind, etc, can all be synthesized with this module.

Sonuus i2M

Sonuus i2M

The i2M Musicport Signal Converter is a decent product that tracks pretty well.  It’s monophonic, but you’re not paying the hefty price tag for polyphonic.

Product description:

The i2M musicport is the new way to connect your musical instruments to your computer. It combines a high-impedance audio interface that won’t suck the tone from your instrument, with very fast, low-latency, monophonic MIDI conversion that doesn’t require special pickups to be mounted onto your instrument.Designed particularly for guitar and bass, it works with most musical instruments including the human voice. Now you can record great-sounding tracks and play synthesizers and samplers how you have always wanted to: by using your favorite instrument.Using class-compliant USB drivers built into your computer’s operating system, and with no special instrument set up required, the i2M musicport offers a true plug-and-play experience for all musicians.

Check it out:

 

You can order it from Amazon:

 

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New Pink Floyd Album Announced

by on Sep.27, 2014, under News, Recommendations

Finally, after 20 years, a new Pink Floyd album is on its way.  Slated for release on November 10, aficionados of arguably the most remarkable Prog-Rock band of all time will have some new material to look forward to.  Their last album, Division Bell, signaled the breakup of the band when Roger Waters and David Gilmour could no longer work together.  Fortunately for all of us, that relationship seems to have been mended.

You can pre-order The Endless River on Amazon right now.

 

 

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