More pictures, new guitar strings

I published yet another scrapbook page of my trip to England. I managed to convert more pictures for the page, but I have so many more to make web-ready. I hope to complete more in the next week.

I will be testing some new strings on my guitar. Elixir stings, made by W. L. Gore and Associates, are specially coated guitar strings that have a micropolymer layer over wound strings to allow them to resist contamination and corrosion over a period of time while providing the same tone as regular strings. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be playing them and making notes about what I think about them (as required by the survey). The first portion of the survey is due in a week, and the second is due eight weeks after I start playing the new strings. Although Gore makes two types of strings, the set that I received does not state which type I have. Instead, they’re called a “Developmental Sample,” which could be the type with “nanoweb” technology. It would seem unusual that a company that basically developed Gore-Tex would move into guitar string manufacturing, but Gore is known for its innovation with plastics.

Playing guitar live

I’ve finally added pictures from this past month. During mid-June, my Uncle Dipak and Aunt Kari visited my family for a few days. We had a great time with them, and they had a lot of fun with the kids. We visited the Asian Moon Festival at Milwaukee’s Summerfest park, we went to a Brewers game, and we went shopping. I only have pictures that I took on the site right now, but I’ll add my Aunt’s pictures in the next couple of days.

Last Friday, I was in the Milwaukee area again to play guitar with my good friend Peggy Mueller. She’s a button-box accordion player (Steirische Harmonika). Recently, she injured her shoulder, so she hadn’t played in a while. But many of us were there to offer her support. We had a great time.

I’ve also updated some links on my list. TechTV and G4TV merged last month, so they’ve been slowly migrating everything to one site. The site is now up and has most of the previous TechTV articles out there. If you’re into games, gear, gadgets, and gigabytes, then visit g4techtv.com.

Music interface for PC

Wow, I haven’t written since the beginning of the month! Where do I start?

I purchased an audio-interface for my PC last month so that I could better record my guitar on my PC. I actually tried to plug it directly into my soundcard, but a low-level buzz emitted from my speakers. So, I purchased the M-Audio FireWire 410. Since then, I started working on a piece of music. I have most of it done, but I’m working on a guitar solo to lay over the rhythm guitar.

Thanks to my guitar teacher, I also discovered a new piece of guitar tablature writing software called Power Tab Editor. It’s really great for writing your own guitar music, playing it back, checking your score, and printing a copy. The best part: it’s free! Go to www.power-tab.net to download this software (it only works on Windows 95 and later). I’m actually using this to work on that piece of music I mentioned above.

My family had a bit of a scare recently. My mother had unusually high blood pressure, so she was admitted to the hospital. She had a mild heart attack that was caused by a constricted artery (fortunately, the artery opened itself, which meant no operation). She’s feeling much better and has been on her feet since her release two days after being admitted.

I also have good news regarding my cousin’s daughter. Savita is the same age as my niece Isabel. She was diagnosed with a treatable leukemia a couple of years ago. She was going through chemotherapy for it, and my cousin was happy to announce that she had her last treatment earlier this month. Savita’s spirits have been really high, and I hope that she never has to go through that again. They will continue to monitor the cancer, but the outlook is good.

You can probably tell that I haven’t done much with this site. I also haven’t done much with the new site. I hope to find time later this year to make some significant updates. Of course, if you know me, you know that I won’t make any guarantees. However, I did update some information on My Xbox page.

Work has been keeping me busy as well. We’re starting the biennial budget process, so we’ll be busy for a while. In the meantime, I have the weekend off (including Memorial Day), so I’ll have some time to recharge.

And speaking of Memorial Day, I just want to dedicate today’s blog to all of the soldiers that gave their lives while serving our country (that’s the United States, in case you didn’t know where I live). May their sacrifice remind us that liberty is something we should all cherish and work hard for, and that tyranny and hatred have no place in our hearts.

Metallica concert in Madison rocked

I must be in shock still from Sunday night’s Metallica concert. It was just wicked cool! The band was in prime form, and they played a huge mix of tunes, old and new, which all blew me away. It was probably the best concert I’ve ever been to (not that I go to many concerts). I also have to admit that I really liked Godsmack, who opened for Metallica. But the highlight was just watching James, Lars, Kirk (my hero), and Rob just jamming for about two hours straight. They were true to their fans, their music, and their form (heavy metal, dude, yeah!!). I almost wish I could live that night over again!!

So, I did the next best thing… I purchased a copy of the show from Metallica Live. I downloaded the free lossless audio codec (flac) version, converted it using dbpoweramp, copied it all into iTunes (and had to add the song info to each track), and uploaded it to my iPod. I also burned a CD (which is encouraged on Metallica’s site) for the car. So now I can relive that night… without the crowds, the cheap beer, and the ear-ringing (uh, well, if I turn it down).

I’ve also been working on some new material for the site. If you haven’t noticed, I now have a Tech-know button on the left. Since I’ve been writing a lot about technology lately and giving advice at work about this stuff, I’ve chosen to create a separate page dedicated to the work I’ve done. Now people can visit this site and find this information (well, based on my experience) in one location. Enjoy.

Packers in the playoffs, Jackson guitars

Happy New Year! After watching the Green Bay Packers defeat the Denver Broncos and the Arizona Cardinals miraculously pull off a down-to-the-wire touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings, I’m happy to announce that the Packers start off today in the playoffs as their division champion! What’s cooler is that my parents are in Lambeau to watch today’s Wild Card Game against the Seattle Seahawks. As long-time season-ticket holders, it’s the first time they have ever received tickets for the playoffs. Unfortunately, Green Bay’s weather is expected to get no warmer than 19-degrees (Fahrenheit), with a chance of snow. Fortunately, the Packers are historically a great cold-weather team.

And, as I promised, my New Year’s Resolutions are available in My Soapbox. I’ve also added a new link to My Links: Jackson Guitars. Fender Musical Instruments bought out Jackson/Charvel during 2003, but hasn’t changed the way guitars are made in their factory. Jackson is making the same great guitars that it made when an up-and-coming Randy Rhoads asked it to make him a custom guitar. My next dream guitar is a Jackson Soloist SL-1 with Snakeskin finish!

Sweepstakes hook

Don’t fill out that sweepstakes form without reading the fine print! I was about to fill one out when I chose to flip it over and read the back. The first line states that filling out the form allows the company to call you (basically, you’re adding your phone number to their calling list). Sure, there’s an opt out, but you have to mail a formal letter to the company. So the next time someone says that you could win a great vacation prize or some wicked amount of cash, read the entire form carefully.

I’m a little psyched because I just jumped from One to Fade to Black on the guitar. For some reason, I just can’t get enough of those melodic solos. Next is Unforgiven. Perhaps after that I should work on Master of Puppets… it’s loaded with some awesome harmonies in the solo. Knowing me, though, I’ll probably branch out on my own and work on the next two as well as the former tunes.

Computer fixes and music fan club orders

For those of you who may have noticed, I had to fix a link in My Soapbox. I had to change the “printable version” link for the PC Upgrade article. So, if you had problems with it before, I apologize. It’s all fixed now.

I just spent the last couple of days fixing my old PC for my parents. If you’ve read the PC Upgrade article, you know that I have an older PC (about three years old) that was giving me problems with Windows XP. However, reloading Windows 98 seemed to go virtually flawlessly. I did have to install a new network interface/ethernet card, though, but it was a fairly inexpensive part and a very simple install. The trip I made to buy the card was interesting. I stopped in a local computer store that I had never been to before and found the card I wanted for about seven dollars less than anywhere else. Even CompUSA cost more. On top of that, I had to use the old floppy drive in my old PC, so I bought a new black one for the new PC. That also cost less than I expected. I think I found a new computer parts store to shop at. I also took the time to install the latest critical updates and drivers, and I tested everything to make sure it all works. The old PC is assembled and ready for the trip to my mom’s house.

That reminds me… I really don’t like Creative Labs sound cards. Ever since I can remember, I have had problems installing them. I even tried to install the latest Audigy Platinum EX hardware (the one with the break-out box for musical instruments and 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound), but my computer crashed. If you know me, I try to follow directions as often as possible, which is what I did in that case. Anyway, while putting together the old PC again, I wiped the hard drive completely clean (thanks to a “nuke disk” program) and performed a full reinstall. I had to reinstall two drivers: the graphics card and the sound card. The ATI All-In-Wonder Pro went flawlessly. The SoundBlaster, on the other hand, was a little annoying. I eventually got it to work, though, and I successfully tested the CD Player using one of my favorite albums: Metallica’s St. Anger.

Speaking of St. Anger, I was really impressed at how quickly my Metallica Club order arrived. I ordered a copy of the St. Anger guitar-transcribed book (yeah, it’s already available) and a “ninja star” medallion last Friday. They arrived in the mail today, even after the Labor Day holiday. That’s what I call service!

Now when was the last time I wrote an update this long?