rashbre central: February 2013

Thursday 28 February 2013

chain reaction

fission example
Well, the car windscreen was 'fixed' a couple of days ago.

It's a good example of a chain reaction, and at the moment I think I'm the fissionable material.

Let's recap.

A tiny ping as something hit the windscreen.

Unaided, by the next day it had become a 15 cm split across the glass.

Call the fixers last Friday, who arrive with the glass on Tuesday.

Fixed but please don't drive it for an hour.

It was already late and I didn't even drive it the next day.

Eventually, on Thursday I start it up and there's a selection of bing bong sounds from the dashboard.

A range of warning messages scroll past:

"Distronic Plus disabled"
"Parktronic Plus disabled"
"ESP disabled" (seriously!)
"Read Owners Manual for more information"

And a few more that I can't even remember. I have never seen so many warnings. I didn't even know I could have so many systems go wrong at once. I'm not sure how Scotty and Captain Kirk could have coped.

Even the little steaming coffee cup symbol stopped displaying. How will I know when I'm thirsty?

Call the glass fixers to advise them that something is amiss after their visit.

"We'll call you back from the depot in a couple of hours"

Call the car dealership.

Glum sounds as I'm told I will need to take it in to be sorted out and there isn't a simple reset button to fix it all.

When the glass fitters eventually called back, they did say this kind of thing has happened before. They recognised the symptoms and said it was probably caused by a wire being cut through in error.

The car goes into the dealer tomorrow. That's a week since the stone hit the glass and I feel as if I'm still going backwards. The man from the glass fitters has said he'll pay the bill.

There's a lesson here somewhere about engineering complexity. The glass on my car is obviously too clever for its own good. And I've been without a car for a week.

Saturday 23 February 2013

cookies and chips

Emergency cookies
There was a small ping as the stone hit the front windscreen.

I've been travelling on quite a few motorways recently and loose stuff on the road surface can be troublesome.

"Look," I said, "it's made a dink."

It was quite a small star shaped mark on the front screen, about the size of a twenty pence piece. I remembered that Autoglass will fix small marks in windscreens rather than having to replace the whole piece, so decided to call them from home - but forgot that evening.

Next morning I was running an errand to the train station.

"Look," I said, "It's got bigger."

Autoglass wouldn't be able to fix it with their heat treatment now. It had morphed from 10mm to about 15cm. Overnight.

That's partly how I came to be making cookies. I'd just returned from a 25 mile bike ride, put everything away and showered. I remembered I'd intended to get some shopping on the way back. Now I just didn't feel like going out again, especially in the cracked car.

The forgotten entertainment cookies would need to be improvised from the rashbre kitchen.

Five minutes with eggs, breadmaking flour (only kind available), milk, butter, brown sugar, cocoa, broken chocolate squares, currants, cinnamon, brandy. Make around a litre of gloop. Test taste the flavour. Pour onto metal foil. Chuck in 200C oven.


Peel the foil and make into squares.

Serve with a story.

Friday 22 February 2013

Drobo 5N and Drobo 5D speed comparison

DiskSpeedTest iMac27 Fusion 3Tb Drive
I usually manage to backup the varied computers around rashbre central.

We are currently phasing out the Time Capsules which spot passing laptops and back them up whenever they get a chance. I am wary of their reliability, having had two fail irretrievably also knocking out their wi-fi coverage. Pretty useless for a backup device outlasted by the thing it is backing up.

The main backup is still to a RAID disk array and we recently swapped a few components as part of tidying up the number of spare drives that had sprouted.

I thought I'd spend a few minutes running some tests to see how speeds have improved.

I used the quick, handy disk stress tester from Blackmagic. It alternatively writes and reads data of up to 5Gb and reports performance. It's informative, simple and free.

I started with the oldest RAID device on the system. It's a Lacie 5Big Network drive which is called HAL because of its big central light. It's 5x 1TB and dates from around 2008, running RAID5 with 1 hot standby disk. Until a few days ago it was the regularly used backup drive and is connected via 1GbE to the network.

Slow by today's standards, it is still fine for serving up documents but useless for editing photographs let alone video.

The second unit is a modern 2013 Drobo 5N, also network attached, in a RAID5 configuration with single disk redundancy (so one disk can fail and the show will go on). It uses 5xWD Red 3Tb (ie 15Tb total) and also includes a 256Gb SSD cache. It's named SAL after the computer that followed HAL in the Arthur C Clarke novels.

The third unit is a modern 2012 Drobo 5D, Thunderbolt attached, configured as RAID5 with dual disk redundancy (two disks could fail and it would still work). Inside it is identically configured to the Drobo 5N (5xWD Red 3Tb + 256Gb SSD).

Finally, for fast comparison a 3Tb Apple Fusion drive.

I should say it's all 'real world' and without any fancy configurations. Pretty much all of it is 'out of the packet' and part of the day-to-day network.

Here's how they got on:


What does it show?

Clearly the old 5Big Network drive is slooow, but still perfectly usable for simple routine document archiving.

The 5N is 3 times as fast for reading and 10 times as fast for writing. Backups are pleasantly fast to it, and I test copied about a 220Gb iTunes library to it in just under an hour yesterday (screenshot below)


The 5D is fast enough for routine use for video editing (Final Cut and Avid Composer) as well as use for Photo editing with Aperture.

The Fusion Drive is fast enough for anything I do, although it also illustrates that 4:4:4 video or 4K are outside of practical realms for domestic grade hardware.

I know it's not a lab test, but simply and pragmatically running a modern benchmark tool on my installed kit. I've logged it here as a reference point and possibly for quick cross checks by others.

Screen prints of the tests are here

Thursday 21 February 2013

car names ending in vowels

matchbox car experiment
The rashbre central blue car is reaching the end of its usable life.

It's one of those convertibles with a metal folding roof and even nowadays gets bemused looks when we press the Thunderbird button in a car park.

I have to become vaguely knowledgeable about cars for two weeks every few years when one needs updating.

This time I'm struck by how all the smaller cars have names that end in vowels. They may not be on the shopping list, but in the types of cars that aren't denoted by ranges like '1,3,5,6,7,8 Series' or Classes like 'A,B,C,E,S' then there's apparently more imagination in the naming.

Amusingly, it also looks as if many of the names are some kind of attempt a globalisation, so creating meaningless names in as many languages as possible.

There's the twizy, aveo, mito, pixo, otigo, mii, agila, aygo. A few old timers like ka, corsa, clio, twingo, punto, micra. And even a few with real word connotations like savvy, fiesta, polo, panda, ibiza, picanto, rio, yeti.

I'm sure I've missed a few too.

I've also stayed away from the rapidly emerging Chinese marques.

They haven't quite got the hang of this naming yet and seem to use titles like the Brilliance Junjie Wagon, SAIC Roewe 550 (Rover anyone?), Great Wall Hover-TT, Geely Beauty Leopard, Dongfeng EQ7240BP, the PU Rural Nanny and my personal favourite the stylish Tang Hau Book Of Songs.

I know, it was only a concept in 2008. I bet it could get a short name ending in a vowel now though?

tang hua book of songs

Tuesday 19 February 2013

London crime and virtual San Francisco street racing

I saw this over on the excellent Londonist, but thought it so daft that I've decided to re-post here.

Mischievous Tom Scott and Matt Gray flaunted illegal carrying of planks and suspicious handling of salmon.

A previous adventure involved virtual street racing with Didsbury vs San Francisco in a journey from Fisherman's Wharf to Coit Tower. That's here. I've only ever walked it, so this is a whole different way to experience the journey.

Monday 18 February 2013

sandlewood and jasmine

power cut
I'd been deserted yesterday evening, in favour of one of those award shows in the West End. Tickets only and I didn't have one.

In truth I was a bit achey anyway from my afternoon cycling, and as I write this on Monday I can feel even more creaks based on my extra cycling session this afternoon.

I'd just settled down to some supper, a mug of tea and the last episode of House of Cards, when everything was plunged into darkness.

I could only see the meal in front of me by the glow from the fire.

Then I looked around outside and could see that the houses opposite and behind us still had power, but our side for the road and all the way back to the main road was in darkness.

Time to locate a torch, using the iPhone as an improvised light.

Then to find some candles, one of which didn't have a proper wick. I improvised with a match and soon had fragrant scented candles and what turned into a fireside acoustic guitar evening. Excuse my lack of coolness for putting the dubious candle into a baking tray as a safety measure.

Of course by one 'o clock in the morning when the awards revellers returned, it was back to normal.

"...Have you been burning joss sticks?"

Sunday 17 February 2013

never let me go or be right back?

black mirror
I was away in hotels for part of the last week. There was that moment in the evening when the television flicked on accompanied by a whistling sound and tumbleweed blowing across the room.

The schedulers don't know what to programme and so we get badly chopped house makeovers, identiformat blue background talentless shows and an old episode of Top Gear. Like at home, there's many channels on offer but frequently nothing I want to watch.

A continuing mushification* of the mainstream. Babblers force feeding D-listers with antipodean bugs, sweary cookery and quizzes asking whether Waterloo is in Belgium or Russia.

They say that the telephone has already been segregated into traditionalist land-line users and everyone else who now uses mobile phones the whole time. It's supposed to be happening to television too, with diminishing watchers of real-time telly.

Because of travelling I've used series link for ages as a way to store a potentially interesting show so that I have something watch when the main channels have surrendered. Nowadays we can add on-demand and Netflix type systems to provide the 'box set' experience.

It's all further fragmenting viewers, and I'm guessing that advertisers and some TV channels must be worrying about income and results.

Watching a particular show can also become a more singular experience. I've been enjoying House of Cards, and there's some quite funny moments like the corny but slyly entertaining "let's throw the Charity party in the entrance area" segment. There can't be the same shared experience around it when everyone will watch it at different times.

Perhaps it will all even out eventually, like popular movies which are later on television. I only watched the last series of Sopranos fairly recently and can also appreciate the dry humour of its last scene.

Contrasting the olden days experience of a few channels that everyone watches we now have many channels that hardly anyone watches.

I still saw the latest Black Mirror "Be Right Back" episode in real time and of course there will be more such moments, but they are getting less, in the same way that music becomes spotified and books go digital.

The Black Mirror was a social commentary around replicant cloning using a beta release of a coin operated boy. Just add electrolyte.

It somehow reminded me of the mannered approach in Ishiguru's Never Let Me Go, although I suppose in a parallel universe the logic of Ishiguru's body part cloning would somehow precede that of the fully formed automaton in Be Right Back?

Both series of Black Mirror have put together some thought provoking 'nearly feasible now' ideas and run the outcomes.

With all the fragmentation, I wonder if these objects in the mirror are closer than they appear?
mirror objects
* mushification is not yet in the OED

Saturday 16 February 2013

genuine original equipment spare parts

guitar pickguards
I'm onto the finishing touches for the home-made guitar now.

A padded bag arrived from the USA today with a pickguard in it.

I've already fitted it, but then decided that maybe I prefer the look without one. It's one of those things where even with a selection of colours from my Cadbury's biscuit tin of miscellaneous guitar parts, I'm not sure whether this home-made guitar needs a guard?

Actually, I didn't have a tin of guitar parts before I started this project, so it is quite surprising how I seem to have accumulated enough parts to almost build another one. Of course most of the parts are screws and widgets already laying around that didn't know they were suitable for guitar construction until I started the project.

Come to think of it, the biscuit tin is sort of guitar body shaped...And I do have some broken strings...
hmm, guitar shaped biscuit tin

Friday 15 February 2013

football pitch misses earth

asteroid passing the moon
The meteor DA14 missed the earth today, although to my surprise another completely different and undetected one hit Chelyabinsk in the Russian Urals, also today.

I'm not sure if these are the kind of things that the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space actually worry about, being that it's no longer outer space by the time it hits the earth.

The report from their 55th session/644th meeting is available here including its discussion about creating a vision for outer space for Africa and ways to improve the security of outer space.

Oh, and curiously, a section about the right to self defence in outer space.

Yet with all 71 member countries involved in this and the no doubt considerable funding applied, it was still amateur astronomers that first spotted DA14. Equally, it's not clear that anyone noticed the meteor in Russia until it whizzed over a motorway and then crashed creating damage affecting around 1000 Russian citizens.

rashbre's Chelyabinsk meteorite sketch
Not counting any unexpected ones like Chelybinsk, the the next biggie isn't predicted until around 2029 or second time around in 2036. The reassuring view is that by the time it is due to hit someone(?) will have invented and implemented a way to handle it.

To avoid too many more embarrassing unnoticed asteroids, the same UN Committee has decided to run a "find an asteroid" competition. They are also working on a technical paper called "move an asteroid' aimed at deflecting a Near Earth Object with inventions such as a Gravity Tractor or white paint applied to the sun side of the asteroid. The latter would cause uneven heating to deflect the asteroid's path.

It might need a very big spray can though. It's good to know there are so many people thinking about this.

Wednesday 13 February 2013

You might very well think that; I couldn't possibly comment.

House of Cards
I'm enjoying the American rework of House of Cards at the moment and have been pleasantly surprised. I did enjoy the original British series years ago and it's on my vague list of things to watch again.

The new version has Kevin Spacey in the Francis Urquhart, Chief Whip character which was spectacularly played by Ian Richardson in the original. The new Francis still talks to camera right from the start and despite the transfer from Whitehall to Washington, some of the understated one-liners seem to survive the transition.

Although I can remember the general plot-line, I can't remember the detail in the way that I can for, say, The Killing, Dragon tattoo or Let the Right One In, each of which received a US-makeover but remained too similar to the European versions.

The House of Cards seems to have embraced the alternative US version of politics and an American and quite cinematic angle plays well to this British eye. We also get a few modernisation updates along the lines of State of Play (which was also a UK-tv show made into a good Russell Crowe movie).

So in House of Cards we get banter about blogs and the end of 20th Century-style journalism. I think the original was made in 1990, so the inkies would still have had more of a role than they do nowadays. I know some of the repositioning could be considered formulaic writing, but on the other hand it helps balance out the original storyline.

Kevin Spacey plays a wily South Carolina Democrat House Whip named Francis Underwood, although the euro-Francis drifts to a more US-friendly Frank throughout this version. I wonder if Spacey's time as an arty Londoner on the South Bank a few minutes walk from the Globe will influence this version? The unruly politics of Shakespeare's Richard III and the conniving of the Scottish play are references in the original House of Cards.

Apparently it's currently only available on Netflix. I'm told it's already their most successful series and they've decided to let the full Pilot Episode be viewed without a subscription.

Now why would that be???

You might very well think that; I couldn't possibly comment.

Tuesday 12 February 2013

thin, round, with lemon and sugar

We've been flipping a few meetings around. Some of last week's sessions received a battering and a couple of new items have crêped up on me, so there's a few hectic days ahead.

Tomorrow could be quite a squeeze.

Although eggcellently, one of today's gaps gave me time to buy a few lemons.

What with today being Puncake Pancake day and all.

Monday 11 February 2013

no #vatileaks here - just angels and demons

angels and demons
I see the Pope has quit. Well not until the end of the month officially, but that's still pretty fast for something that most consider to be a bolt from the heavens.

For ages there's been an undercurrent of alleged issues around the Vatican varying from smutty scandals, through cover-ups and diabolik financial shenanigans. There's a whole bunch of stuff in an Italian site based upon the so called Vatileaks from last year.

Some of it reads like a Dan Brown plot-line and leads to speculation about whether the current Pope was part of a holding pattern, waiting to get the new dux in a row.

So who next? Another Germanic type? Available but unlikely?

An Italian? There's plenty to choose from so it's gotta be a strong chance. Maybe the Archbishop of Milan? Or the popular Angelo Bagnasco? Or even Cardinal Bertone to keep it in the Italian family?

An American? the Archbishop of New York in the Vatican? There's a thought.

Someone from Africa? It's a big recruitment zone and would show beyond Europe thinking? Cardinal Turkson?

What about a Canadian? We've done it here with the Bank of England. Multilingual Marc Ouellet to show global thought and remove some of the citadel walls around the Vatican?

There's others too. It'll be interesting to see whether they go for Italianate positioning or global reach in the next chapter.

Dan Brown is probably already scribbling.

spring heeled Jack #FAWM 4

spring heeled jack
Here we are nearly half way through February and I'm still only on lyric four from FAWM (February is Album Writing Month).

Of course, this year I'd decided that the guitar building project would be instead of penning any more lyrics and I haven't set up any recording equipment to convert any of my efforts into tracks.

One thing I've noticed is that when I first started to do FAWM a few years ago, there was a much higher ratio of lyrics to produced songs. The march of Garageband and general home recording has continued apace and now the lyric only tracks seem to be notably in the minority.

One of the early suggested themes was to write a City Song. Mine's a bit late, but here goes!

People call me a night terror
And they won't go out at night.
Slipping through the streets in the darkness
Sharp claws give more than a fright.

I'm a terror
here in London.
I'm a terror
dressed in black.
Just call me the terror
called Spring-heeled Jack.

Don't go walking round the streets in the nighttime
Under street lights flickering with gas.
I'll jump and blow them out in a second
Face away and you won't feel me pass.

i'm a terror
right here in London.
I'm a terror
dressed in black.
Just call me terror
Jumpin' Spring-heeled Jack

Some bet that I'm a shapeshifter
Sometimes a ghost or a devil or a bear.
Bet if you see any one of these as shadows
Around the corner I'll be there.

Cos I'm a terror
Right here in London.
I'm a terror
dressed in black.
Call me the terror
known as Spring-heeled Jack.

They've sent policemen out to find me
And the Lord Mayor's looking too.
They say my hands can cut to ribbons
better if no one knew.

Cos I'm a terror
right here in London.
Im' a terror in cape so black
Yeah I'm that terror
here in London
Just call me Spring-heeled Jack.

Sunday 10 February 2013

time to squeeze the orange guitar (pt 9)

its starting to look like a guitar
I've been playing the mostly assembled guitar today. The last few pieces come together quite quickly.

I must admit it sounds rather good.

There's a few tweaks to apply. The capacitors I've used are probably too high in value which means the tone control mainly works between 10 and 7.

The multiple push-pull switches for the various modes of serial, parallel, one coil, two coil all work brilliantly and the result is a superb range of tones. I've also reversed one of the humbuckers so that the now inner rails have hum cancellation. It seems to work, although I've no idea what it would have sounded like if they had been the official way around.

The 'everything on' setting is deep and growly and the lead guitar setting is surprisingly clean and clear. Plus there's a whole gamut of in between settings. Not to mention adding back in some pedals and reverb.

I've only put some temporary strings on it at the moment to test it and later I'll be adjusting the heights of strings, humbuckers and string intonation (although at the moment it seems remarkably good with proper harmonics bang on the 12th fret). For tuners I've used the locking type, which are also very simple to use and seem to keep the strings rock solid.

Quite a few people making guitars will copy a specific model. Contrariliy, I think it's given me the freedom to use anything I feel like, so although it may be hybrid, it's also unique.

It's quite a pleasing project and one where I feel I'm learning quite a lot about how guitars work. With hindsight it might have been easier to start with a Fender style because they use separate plates for most of the controls. Fender's stratocaster shape is also mainly 'open-plan' as well, which would make the wiring and so forth much easier to get at.

I've still got to add the scratch plate, the bits to hold the straps on, some plates to cover the gubbins at the back and generally fiddle around with the setup.

There's a few dinks in the finish from when I was wiring it, and so I may just have another look at the paint job, although it's probably about as good as I could get it for a first attempt.

Now back to February Album Writing Month, with a dangerous musical instrument to accompany my lyric writing.

(Building a guitar? See also parts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)

Saturday 9 February 2013

the home-made orange guitar body has sound (Pt 8)

Guitar construction
Well, all the wires are inside the guitar body now.

Or so I thought...

I decided to plug it in and see what it sounded like without a neck or any strings.

Silent would be a good answer.

Unfortunately, not to be. There was a big hum when I touched the tone controls.


I realised my mistake. I'd been thinking of the guitar body as a ground. Like in electronics, earthing to the chassis is a pretty routine thing. Of course, the guitar chassis is made of wood, so doesn't work too well.
adding the earth circuit - silver wire between the pots
Another round with the soldering iron, this time to make a pretty little silver wire circuit between the four control knobs, so that they share a common earth.

It's worked a treat and I just get a hiss when I turn the amplifier up high now, with everything else ominously silent.

My next experiment was to hold the plugged-in neck-less guitar body face to face with my unplugged telecaster. Strum the strings on the telecaster and see if the new guitar pickups could sense the vibrations?


It works. In all the main switch positions. The guitar has sound.

Now to add a neck, bridge and the strings.

Then to learn about intonation and action.
Guitar construction

Friday 8 February 2013

building the orange guitar (part 7)

Guitar construction
Everything is starting to look orange now.

Although out of the haze, a guitar shaped artifact is beginning to take form.

As I suspected, the bodywork is proving the most difficult. Some of it has been a question of learning as I go along. I've now reached the stage where some of the metal parts are coming together, although there's still a fair amount of wiring to complete inside the body. I've realised that guitar maker Fender put their controls onto little plates for a reason.

Guitar constructionBy comparison, my design means threading wires all through the body and I'm starting to wonder if that switch in the 'Les Paul' position was such a good idea.

It creates a diagonal channel right through the middle of the guitar, from the plug socket which is bottom left to the switch which is top right.

I've also had a few dramas with the clear coat lacquer, which does all kinds of interesting things after it's been sprayed. I gather I should wait about a week and then to sand it to get it very shiny, using 2000 grit.

I'm agonising over what to do about the fretboard now. I've got a nice rosewood finger board with some cream coloured inserts, but I don't know whether to paint the exposed wood areas. I'm thinking to leave it 'natural' as a tell tale-sign of the 'Made in England' nature of this guitar.

I'm hoping to fire up the circuits this weekend, to check for hum. There's another 20 or so connections to solder first.
Guitar construction

Thursday 7 February 2013


le bac S
I see the new Baccalaureate (Baccalauréat?) exam system promoted by Mr Gove is to be abandoned?

A pan-European idea purportedly scuppered by European Union procurement rules?

Or is the red light some handily contrived excuse because everyone in the 'education franchise' thought it wouldn't work?

Gove condemned GCSEs as insufficiently demanding, instead requiring more 'O level-like' end of year exams instead of assessed coursework. He wanted the certificate-less system in place before the next election and the first exams in 2017 - which teachers, Ofqual, many MPs didn't believe in or believe possible.

For le bac, the French have had since Napoleon's time to get it working properly in its various BAC S, ES and L guises.

It will be interesting to see how Gove's climbdown gets spun today. With Orwell still in the syllabus, there's a kind of doublethink around what is being said.

As a member of the Notting Hill Set, Gove is firmly in the Cameron, Osborne, Vaizey clan. But maybe not Bullingdon enough for the support that Osborne receives.

So let's guess which of Gove's advisors break cover over this one?

No 'Gove-levels' certificates for the right answers.

Wednesday 6 February 2013

high visibility orange guitar (Part 6)

starting to spray some orange
I've decided that this guitar I'm building will be difficult to lose.

The orangeness is coming along a treat. I know most people wouldn't do this kind of paint job, but I'm thinking that I'd rather have something that obviously stands out instead of another black or red guitar (I've got both those colours anyway).

There's also a well-known term in paint spraying called 'orange peel' when the paint goes on a little spottily. I'm thinking that "it's not a bug, it's a feature" to cover up my own spray painting limitations.

So if the finish is slightly textured, then it will be a proper orange peel finish for an orange guitar.

I should have listened, baby, to my second mind
Everytime I go away and leave you, darling, you send me the blues way down the line.

Oops. No. That's from the lemon song.

Tuesday 5 February 2013

adding orange bits inside the home made guitar (Guitar Part 5)

That's the 'outside' view of the controls for the guitar that I'm building. I decided to put them on a cardboard template because all the pieces look rather similar and I'm sure I'd get them mixed up.

Fortunately I already have various electrical tools and equipment, so the new cost of controls is quite small, a few resistors, capacitors and switches.

I'm part way through assembly, but I'll have to wait until the guitar body is further advanced. I need to thread certain components through the body before completing the soldering.

Yes, I have assembled plugs in the past only to have to take them apart again when I realise the outer shell of the plug had to be threaded onto the wire first.

I decided to use two volumes and two tone controls but make them push-pull switchable. My plan is to have any combination of the coils covering series, parallel and out of phase.

I'll draw a tidy version of my circuit diagram later. The one I'm using at the moment is getting somewhat messy.

Monday 4 February 2013

the home made guitar reaches the tack cloth stage (Guitar Part 4)

first coat of primer
The guitar project is proceeding in the background. I've a few days at home this week, before I travel to Liverpool for work on Thursday.

It's quite useful because I'm at the spray painting stage. This appears to require frequent sessions spraying very thin coats, first of primer and now I'm moving on to the Ford Focus GT Pearlescent Orange middle layers.

The face mask seems even more important because I can see all the tiny aluminium particles used to make the pearlescence as they float in the air.

I've also got a whole selection of 600, 800, 1200 and 2000 wet and dry silicon carbide paper for the intermediate sanding and something called a tack cloth to wipe down the prepared surface. That's a whole new learning curve for me.

The timber for the body is alder, which is relatively inexpensive but quite stable.

It is more suitable for painting in a block colour, rather than staining to bring out the not very interesting wood grain.

I see that fancy guitars get made of harder woods and they can have very attractive patterning. I suspect that is why they get stained to show the natural wood grains. I'm realistic enough to know that I'd just ruin anything too fancy.

They say that the wood affects the guitar tone too. I understand the basic physics, such that no-one makes electric guitars from hard rubber or plastic, but I also wonder about the whole maple vs mahogany vs walnut discussion. I'm sure the guitar's own resonance must make some difference, but I can't help thinking that on an electric guitar the signal chain of pickups, tone controls and amplifiers will be the more dramatic factor. Maybe someone should run some blind tests of different guitars.

Anyway, I see lots of Fender guitars are made from alder, so it can't be too bad.

I've also started to] marshal some switches for the various controls. I decided to make a cardboard template and screw the controls to it. Even with just two pickups there's a surprisingly large variety of wiring options.
switch convention
(Building a guitar? See also parts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)

CAPS ON MENUS? (sorry if I appear to be shouting)


Sunday 3 February 2013

49ers lament #FAWM 3rd lyric

I wrote this whilst watching the game. It's another FAWM February Album Writing Month lyric - although I don't think it would make it to any album.

It's based on a true story when we went to see the 49ers at Candlestick but didn't get in. I was thinking of a tune along the lines of 'The wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald' when I started, but it's kind of wandered.

Come gather ye round and I'll tell you a tale
Of the legendary park known as Candle-stick.
We Brits decided to go, to see the big show,
But events, they conspired against us.

We should have known best,
as we moved from Milpitas
To the luxury hotel in San Francisco.
We all had big suites
Where we should have to meet
A man from a company selling.

Instead in my car, we travelled not far
to the 49ers game at the stadium.
The concierge said he could get us all in
but we'd have to pay five times normal.

Go 49ers, go;
Let us see you 49-ers, so.

So "No" we both said, "we'll snag tix at the park,
Someone is bound to be sell-ing"
And sure enough, near the game
some guys said they could help us to get in.

We'd have to wait on the lot
In their chosen special spot
for their man with the tickets to ar-rive

Go 49ers, go;
Let us see you 49-ers, so.

We waited an hour and things just turned sour
We'd no ticktet and the game had now started
So we drove to the coast to shoot pool in a bar
and watch it play out on tel-e-vision

Go 49ers, go;
Let us see you 49-ers, so.

Our bad luck wasn't done
Cos when we left we forgot
Friend Steve's new American leather jacket

So next day we drove back
To Pac-if-ic-a for the coat
then back to San Fran-cis-co airport

Go 49ers, go;
Let us see you 49-ers, so.

I still have a tee-shirt, with 49ers on
But somehow the glitter has faded.

Go 49ers, go;
Let us see you 49-ers, so.
Go 49ers, go;
Let us see you 49-ers, so.

shirt sharp shock #FAWM

visiting the sup-er-mar-ket
buying week-end beans
had to pickup laun-der-y
to find those shirts they'd cleaned

that's when I got it
the shirt sharp shock
yeah that's when I got it
the shirt sharp shock

"Have you got your little ticket?"
asked the lady, all polite.
"No I have forgotten it
Do you think it'll be all right?"

that's when I got it
the shirt sharp shock
yeah that's when I got it
the shirt sharp shock.

"You havn't got your ticket
though your shirts are hanging clean.
That's twenty two pounds fifty
just pop your card right in"

"But I know I've paid already
I always pay up front"
"Sorry without your ticket
no money then no shirt"

So that's when I got it
the shirt sharp shock.
Yes that's how I got it
The shirt sharp shock.

alright now
shirt now
shock now
turn up those cuffs now
goin' home now

justice less

that white spray paint goes everywhere (Guitar Part 3)

humbucker slots
My hands have gone white today.

It's the spray paint primer. I've been using one of those masks too and it's quite interesting how quickly the outside of it has gone a sort of grey/black colour.

I suppose I'd expected it to go white like my hands. It probably illustrates that there's all kinds of other stuff in the air that I'm breathing.

There were two of the masks in the pack but the current one still looks white on the inside, so I guess I'll use it for a while longer.

Kind of Darth Vader. Except white. Mainly.
3m valved respirator

Saturday 2 February 2013

smack hands with the devil #FAWM

smack hands with the devil
As it's the weekend, I thought I'd have a go at starting FAWM (February Album Writing Month). Here's a ten minute warm up before I head out get some rattle cans.

smack hands with the devil
shake the monkey out the sack
I look into her eyes
'n see just pity comin' back

This ain't no place for livin'
They busted down the jamb
Rifled all my money
Said I owed it to the man

smack hands with the devil
shake the monkey out the sack
I looked into her eyes
'n saw just pity comin' back

Gonna leave this town tomorrow
Last few dollars in my shoes
Tied to one last bourbon
An offer I can't refuse

smack hands with the devil
shake the monkey out the sack
I looked into her eyes
'n saw just pity comin' back

Once she said she'd wait for me
I had money from the cards
but when we'd drunk the last of it
she played her final words

smack hands with the devil
shake the monkey out the sack
as I look into her eyes
'n see just pity comin' back

I know, I know.

Friday 1 February 2013

preamble to making my own guitar (Guitar Part 2)

first few items for the guitar project
It doesn't look much yet but I've started to assemble the bits n' pieces for my guitar project.

I'm using the blog here in a very traditional way as a project diary of my thinking. That way I can look back at my imbecilic ideas later and chuckle.

I'm already realising how little I really know about this. My original premise was just to have a simple bash as a February project, but I'm having some different thoughts now I've started.

I'm trying to avoid 'creeping elegance', but at the same time want to make something that is actually usable.

A few points have come to mind in the early stages:

  • The body: I think I can have a go at that.
  • The fretboard: Way too difficult for me. Frets, Inlays, spacing, tensioner. I will need to procure this.
  • Electronics: Straightforward. Some potentiometers, a couple of capacitors and some switches
  • Paint job: Probably much harder than it appears at first inspection

I've had a chance to look at a few web sites where other people make guitars. I've decided that although I could try to make a copy of something recognisable, it will probably be better to make something -er- unique.

Someone's website showed what I thought was a stunning paint job on their own guitar project. Then others had remarked that the 'sunburst finish' wasn't quite right for the model in question. I don't want that, I'd rather invent something of my own based loosely on tried and tested designs.

I've decided to go for a traditional 'Les Paul' derived shape; it's a pretty and curvaceous guitar that also allows the various controls to be built into the wooden bodywork. I've tracked down some drawings but won't get too precious about the overall dimensions, as long as the string distances are correct.

With a solid body and a screwed on neck, it should give me the ability to make the basic guitar parts fairly strong, with some ability to adjust. That's my pragmatic take on tone and sustain. I know everyone goes on about 'legendary' and 'vintage' guitars that cost thousands of pounds made from rare timbers. I'm thinking that if I can make something for very modest amounts, it will still be better than my playing ability.

I'll source this piece ready assembled, but add my own tuners.

The bridge is another area where I think I'll need to spend slightly more than the bare minimum. It's so that I can adjust the strings in case the body isn't laser perfect (it won't be). I see that there is a type of bridge with little wheels on it to assist this. I've decided that it will have to be a fixed bridge (no tremolo) because adding the musical equivalent of a crossbow into the design is too difficult.

I've decided to go for a block colour and to make it something striking. I'd rather have people ask 'What on earth is that?' than have it blend into the background. It's also a way to hide the relatively inexpensive timber used in the construction. It will come as little surprise to those that know me to know that I've selected an orange colour, with probably black controls.

The obvious thing to do with a Les Paul shape is to put two humbucker pickups on. My electronics comes in here again and I think I'll go for something less conventional, although using the humbucker form factor. I'm looking for something that can mix a humbucker with maybe a rail pickup so that I can make the device work in multiple ways.

Controls (a bit technical sounding)
There are a few components where my technological background makes me think I shouldn't scrimp too much. I've already looked at a few sites that sell volume and tone controls and I was surprised to see that many are so tiny and flimsy looking.

Instead I'll get some traditional 'big' old school potentiometers for the volume and tone circuits. They seem to be an important part of the signal chain and I can't bear the thought of using components that look as if they belong in Christmas crackers. It will make the soldering easier too. I also need to learn the special jargon for this used in guitars, such as logarithmic pots are called 'audio taper'. I've already checked that with humbuckers I need 500k audio taper pots for volume and 500k linear pots for tone with probably 0.047μF electrolytic capacitors. I'll get controls that have embedded switchgear I think, to keep my options open without adding more controls to the body.

I'll want the control layout to look 'normal' but have a few surprises in the circuits. If I go for a humbucker/rail combo, then I'll want a wiring that supports series and parallel for either or both sets of coils, plus maybe something out of phase. That's something I can start scribbling out designs for right now.

I'm aware some of this may read as gobbledygook to passing readers, but I'm sure I'll get over it. Oh, and I've somehow got to fit this in around everything else, so don't be too surprised if it overruns.

(Building a guitar? See also parts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)