Wednesday, October 31, 2007

DigiTech RP350 Effects Pedal

I'm finally getting around to writing my review for the DigiTech RP350 Effects pedal. I intentionally held off reviewing this until I had a little time to learn the pedal's layout, play with the software, try out the presets, and listen to how each effect sounded with my guitar and amp. I'm playing with an Epiphone Les Paul guitar and a Crate Voodoo amp.

I need to start off saying this pedal is a great bang for the buck. It lists for about $200 (though I paid less). For that money you can buy two or three individual pedals, or get yourself a single do-it-all effects pedal. I'm not a professional musician, so for me the choice was a no-brainer. It's got a metal case and expression pedal; the up, down and channel selector pedals are plastic, but that hasn't caused me any issues.

The pedal comes with 70 factory-preset configurations, and there's room for an additional 70 user-created configurations. No matter what style of music you play, there's a setting for you. At first, I was a little intimidated by the configuration process, but after reading the manual a couple of times, and playing with the PC software interface, I figured stuff out and now think the interface is fairly intuitive.

Professional musicians say that an all-in-one pedal will never replace a bank of individual pedals. I certainly won't disagree with them, accepting that they have a more discriminating ear than I possess. With that said though, there are a couple of effects on this pedal that I do not like. The whammy effect and the octave effect both sound completely digital... as if they were coming from a vintage computer MIDI program, not a state-of-the art effects pedal. If you simply jump up a fifth, or if you use the chorus effects though, it sounds fine. Since the octave effect was specifically something I was looking for, I was a little disappointed, but it's still fine for practicing and is better than nothing.

I really like the pickup emulator. It did a great job of making my humbuckers sound like single-coil pickups. I also ran my humbuckers through the "single-to-humbucker" emulator, and the sound was incredibly warm. I am not going to talk about how well the specific amplifier emulators work, because I do not have enough of a discerning ear to recognize various amps.

Overall, I am incredibly pleased with this pedal, and I would highly recommend it, though I would make sure to point out the crappy-sounding octave and whammy effects.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

How Sick is She?

I've got a co-worker who's been home sick all week with vertigo. I've never had it -- heck, I didn't even know anyone who has had it until a few months ago -- but I've heard it really sucks. Now, hold onto that little tidbit of information for a minute as I go a completely different direction. The co-worker will come back into play shortly...

Part of my daily routine is reading. I'm a firm believer that reading makes me a better employee, because it keeps me abreast of technical advances and current events, and it helps educate me in the ways of management and the corporate world. One blog I read is management line, which looks at management-employee relationships from several different angles. This morning I read an article about calling in sick when there's really nothing wrong. The article effectively says 'Yeah, everyone knows it's wrong, but everyone does it anyway, and since bosses tend to overlook it, it's not really a big deal.

In the next paragraph, the author actually recommends how to do it, referencing The Little Book of Big Excuses, by Addie Johnson. To quote the blog (who quotes the author... telephone anyone?) ... Johnson suggests to keep the excuses simple. Like if you're calling in with a fake "too sick to work" excuse, always opt for something semi-chronic: vertigo, asthma, arthritis, etc...

When I saw that line, I almost blew coffee out of my nose -- especially when I noticed that vertigo was the first. Hmmm... I wonder how sick she really is.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Free at Last

...the truth will set you free...

...what goes around, comes around...

Both of these little nuggets of wisdom came into play when my ex-wife was pulled over by the cops yesterday on a traffic violation. You see, since June of 2006, there has been a warrant out for her arrest for "violating the terms of her probation." (It's amazing what you can find out on the internet.) Ironically enough, her license plates expired around the same time, and she's been driving around for over a year with expired tags. And oh, did I mention that she's been driving without a license? Back in 2005 she got busted for a couple of traffic violations. She never paid the fines, so they suspended her license. I knew it was simply a matter of time before all of this caught up with her.

How did I find out about all of this, you may ask? Well, she got pulled over on her way to pick up the kids. She kind of had to tell me, because she needed me to keep the kids until she came up with bail money. I ended up having the kids overnight...

This answers the whole "what goes around, comes around" thing, but what about "the truth will set you free?" I'm glad you asked. In the past, I've allowed myself to be put in a position where I felt that telling the kids about their mom's stupid human tricks was counter to their best interest, and I kept my mouth shut. It's doubly infuriating to hear her bashing on the kids' friends for driving without a license when she's doing it herself.

Last night, that came to an end. The little daughter asked me enough questions that I could no longer simply avoid the issue. In the past, I've kept the kids out of it because I've believed it was in their best interest. Last night I was put in a position where I either covered for the evil ex and lie to the kids, or I tell them the truth. Why would I lie for someone to whom I have no loyalty. No brainer, eh? As The Mrs. and I went to bed, I rolled over and whispered in her ear... "I feel lighter tonight."

Friday, October 19, 2007

You Heard it Here First

Once again, Google has pummeled Wall Street's expectations, sending their stocks to almost $650 per share today. I'm going to say "Whoa, time to get off of this train." Understand this up front: I may be absolutely wrong, because I've got nothing on which I'm basing my statement... just a good, old-fashioned hunch.

My mom always used to say "If it looks too good to be true, it probably is." My gut says that Google is the next Enron. Maybe not the same way, maybe not for the same reasons, but I think that Google is horribly overvalued. You heard it here first.

**I'm not saying that Google is doing anything illegal. I'm simply saying I think they're a bubble stock that's ready to pop.

Equality and Science

You've probably heard about the comments by James Watson, but for those of you who haven't, let me briefly bring you up to speed. This guy won the Nobel prize back in 1962 for co-discovering the structure of DNA. He was supposed to give some sort of lecture today, but the lecture was canceled because he was quoted saying something to the effect that blacks are less intelligent than whites. The public was understandably outraged over the statement.

My wife and I were chatting last night and this subject came up. As soon as I filled her in, she went ballistic, complete with bulging veins and eyes, spittle flying from her frothing mouth, and steam flying from her ears. Oh wait, that was a cartoon. She didn't look like that, but she was angry. "That's not science," she exclaimed! She went on to say that Watson was quoting a junk science book that's been long disproven as culturally biased and yada, yada, yada.

Of course, this put me in devil's advocate mode, and I made this counter-point: In the early 1900's, science tended to indicate that whites were smarter than minorities and that men were smarter than women. Anything that indicated otherwise was ridiculed by the scientific community as junk science. Somewhere along the line, science started believing the opposite... human beings are equal in intelligence regardless of race or gender. Anything indicating otherwise is written off as culturally biased.

Now, with this said, as mankind grows and evolves, we are continually discovering that previous assumptions are wrong. Is it possible -- just possible -- that our current assumption of complete and total equality is a little bit off the mark? Is it imaginable that minor (but still statistically significant) differences (notice that I didn't say deficiencies) exist between races and genders?

Like I've said many times, I tend to believe -- hell, I want to believe -- that we're all roughly equal. At the same time though, I acknowledge the possibility that there are some sort of inherent differences among people. Just like it's possible that creationism and evolution are both wrong, (hey, maybe we are some alien race's giant experiment), it's possible that subtle yet measurable differences exist between different cultures.

By the way, going with the crazy assumption that such differences exist, I am not presumptious enough to believe that I'm automatically at the top of the genetic heap.

I wonder how much hate mail I'm going to get over this one.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Employee's Day

Yesterday was boss's day. What the fuck's up with that? Where did it come from and what kind of suck-ass thought it up? As if we're not essentially required to be polite to our bosses lest they fire us or give us crappy assignments, we're supposed to buy them a token card or gift as well? Hello!! We're the ones in the trenches, making them look good to their superiors on a daily basis. They should be buying us tokens of appreciation. (Free food is always good.)

And then there's Secretaries' Day Administrative Professionals' Day, where everyone is lavishing praise on people who already tend to throw their boss's weight around as if it were their own. WTF?!? When are the rest of us going to get a day of our own? And don't try to tell me that we get Labor Day, because the boss and his illustrious secretary get that one too. We work harder than the bosses and their assistants, when are we going to get a day?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

They're Not Doing it for Us

By now you've probably heard that Citigroup, Bank of America and JP Morgan have agreed to buy "billions of dollars worth of troubled investments." According to the articles I've read, experts are saying this move is designed to stop the slide our economy is suffering as a result of the sub-prime mortgage fiasco and the credit crunch that followed. The media is putting this out as if this so-called bailout has the potential of saving our collective asse(t)s from financial ruin. Leave it to the media...

Call me a naysayer if you must, but I don't think these groups are doing this out of altruism. They're doing it to save their own (green)backs. Look, it was our lending institutions that got us here in the first place, and there wasn't much action until the government and the IMF started asking questions. Now, suddenly they're coming up with some money to "save" us.

They're not looking after us, they're looking out for themselves. They see themselves losing a lot of money now and even more in the long term. They figure it's less bad to hemorrhage money now and make it up in the long term, as opposed to a slow death. They're trying to keep the government and investors off of their back, and money in their pockets. This bail-out? It's not for us, folks.

Monday, October 15, 2007

As Promised...

The little 'un and I spent some time practicing today. In order to entice her to play, I actually coughed up my new toy so she could play it, and I settled for her guitar.

Sometime in the next day or two, I'll write up a real review of the guitar, but more importantly, I'll write up a review of my new effects pedal. The DigiTech RP350.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Music for my Ears

I've got such a considerate wife and kid. Since the beginning of this year, the little daughter has been telling me that she was saving up to get me something cool. Last night, my wife and the younger kid came in the house, announced that they had something cool for me, and presented me with a gift certificate to Guitar Center -- enough for me to purchase a new guitar.

This is very cool on many levels. The guitar I've been playing is nice (a Fender Stratacaster), but it's not mine. Since I've been playing for almost two years, I think it's time for me to have my own axe. And while I love the way the strat plays, I prefer the warmer sound of a Les Paul. The timing couldn't be better. I've been hitting the guitar store lately, trying out several different setups... in retrospect though, this kind of start at the kid's prompting. I guess she was trying to get me in the store to see what I'd like.

Anyway, a big thanks to my wonderful wife and the little 'un for their thoughtful gift. I will be taking my sweet little girl to the guitar store tomorrow, and choosing out my new rig. I'll post some pics when I get it purchased.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Soup's On

The kids were with their mom last night, so Mrs. and I had a quiet evening at home. One of our frequent activities on such evenings is to cook together. (Interpret that however you will.)

After telling each other about our respective day, we headed to the kitchen to figure out what our meal would be, as is our normal pattern. When the kids are with us, our meals are planned in advance, but when it's just the two of us, we tend to decide at the last minute. This works out really well, because the kids get input on what they're eating (and know in advance what's for dinner that week), but we get the freedom to make whatever we want and to get creative in the kitchen. (Again, interpret that how you will.)

Last night was a night for some creative cooking. As we inventoried the available ingredients, we discovered that we had no thawed meat, except for some bacon bits. After briefly discussing whether or not we would go to the grocery store for meat, we decided to have make due with what we had, go with the flow and see what we end up with.

While considering our options, I remembered a recipe for cauliflower soup that I had read a couple of days earlier. Up to that point, I had never heard of -- much less tasted -- cauliflower soup, but it sounded interesting, so I filed it in the back of my mind. It was a good thing that I remembered the recipe, because that was the basis for a soup that I whipped up last night. I don't have a real name for it, and I don't have a real recipe, but here's an overview...

Let's call it Creamy Veggie Soup

Cauliflower - approximately 1/2 head
Onion - approximately 1/4 large onion
Bell Pepper - one whole pepper, color of your choice
Mushrooms - approximately 8 ounces, sliced
Butter or margarine - approximately 2 tablespoons
Milk - approximately 1/2 to 1 cup
Chicken Bullion Cubes - 3 to 5
Bacon Bits - A pinch or two
Salt, pepper and other spices according to your personal preferences

Steam the cauliflower until soft. Saute the other veggies in the butter until soft.

Once the cauliflower is soft, throw it in a blender with a couple of cups of water and a couple of chicken bullion cubes. Blend until it's roughly the consistency of a creamy soup, put the cauliflower mixture in a large sauce pan and simmer over a low heat.

Once the sauteed veggies are soft, throw them in a blender (juices and all) and blend until they're roughly the consistency of a creamy soup. Put the veggie mixture in the sauce pan with the cauliflower soup and stir.

Add another chicken bullion cube or two, the milk, the bacon bits and spices according to your personal preferences. Taste as you go, you'll know when you've got it right.