This anniversary goes to 11

When you’re geeks and you’re in love, certain things can be assumed. One, playing World of Warcraft together counts as quality time. Two, you probably did something geeky at your wedding. For us, it was a full-blown medieval wedding, where we made people come in homemade costumes and everybody dreaded it but ultimately left really happy, not realizing how much fun it would be (Archery! Maypole! Vikings! Lesbian nuns! Human checkers!) and how little stuff we were going to force people to do.

Naturally, when you have a geeky medieval wedding, the best way to commemorate that date 11 years later is to go to the renaissance faire, which Kat calls “the medieval mall,” due to all the vendors that tempt her. So I donned my trusty kilt and double-wrap sword belt and we headed off for a romantic day today. Kat got to critique some traditional country dancing, I got to shoot a bit of archery, and there was juggling and cheesecake somewhere in there too. And yes, we’re playing WoW tonight.


Suffice it to say that 11 years feels like three. At this rate, by the time I actually feel like we’ve been married for 11 years, I’ll be dead.

Threat level: Yellow

I have just deleted a nice long rant about people who don’t write for a living telling people who do write for a living how unqualified they are to be writers. This is usually because the writer and the reader have different opinions, so the reader therefore says the writer doesn’t know what the hell they’re talking about. Replace “hot new video game” with “shade of the color blue” and you’ll see how exasperating and silly that really is.

I’m tired of this disconnect; I’ve fought to fix it for a long time to seemingly no avail. (Imagine everything you’ve ever done being misinterpreted, sometimes willfully, by the very people for whom you do it.) And despite the liberation of online communication, I’m tired of people jumping to conclusions, making assumptions, and basically shooting first and finding out what the gun was loaded with later. But tonight, I’m clearly even more tired of complaining about it.

I’m going to let you off with a warning, Internet, but try to drive more carefully from now on, okay?

The Keyboard of Evil

I like things that light up. Anyone who saw the setup in my old office at GamePro can attest to this. I had a nice blue neon thing going on. Today on the office “free table” I spotted something I lusted after about two years ago–the Deck keyboard. It got some bad reviews, has some serious ergo flaws and design decisions that make it less useful than a full-size keyboard (you put the delete key where?), and was pricey when it came out. The keys require a bit more “throw” to activate so my fingers get tired–but it lights up red! All over the damn place, including through the keys! It’s built to be modded but I think it looks cool as is. It’ll make a good keyboard for infrequent chatting, like on Xbox 360, or as a MAME machine keyboard, where looks are more important than function. And hey, the price was right. It’s going to a good home.

The Acoustic Chronicles: Thanks, Drum Dude!

I don’t want to go breaking stereotypes about drummers, or music store employees, and especially not music store employees that work in the drum department. Today’s story, I assure you, will not.

Now that I’m shopping for a really fancy-ass guitar, I know where to go in each store: the acoustic room. Most if not all guitar stores have a little room where they keep the expensive stuff and some sort of door so you can hear yourself play these delicate wooden pieces of art while muffling the din of 14-year-olds laying waste to Metallica on Epiphone Flying Vs played through Triple Rectifiers (with the mids scooped, of course! OMG IT’S HARDCROE). Among the Guilds and Tacomas I found a very attractive guitar by a company I didn’t recognize, Avalon. So, after being allowed to play a ton of guitars uninterrupted for about 45 minutes, I came out of the little booth and a kid in an Independent t-shirt asked if I needed any help.

“Yeah, I’ve just been playing a bunch of guitars in the acoustic room there, and I was surprised by that jumbo, I think it’s made of cedar and mahogany. I’d never heard of the brand, though; what you can tell me about Avalon?”

The deer-in-headlights look hits our young squire. “Well…um, I know that if the guitar’s in that room…it’s one of the best ones.”

I did my best not to react like the guitar snob I am. “Yeah, I realize that, but I’m specifically wondering if you know anything about the company.”

“Let me go ask Matt; I work in the drum department. But he’s downstairs and he knows all about those guitars.” He was genuinely trying to be helpful and I do appreciate that. I don’t expect the drum guy to know about high-end acoustics. I thanked him and said there was no rush.

He came back upstairs and said Matt was busy. I suspect Matt was selling reeds to one of the student band kids I’d seen downstairs. Now, I used to work retail; I hate people who think the customer is always right or that they should be able to monopolize a salesperson’s time, but we’re not talking finding someone a book or CD here. People who come into guitar stores and start asking specific questions about the most expensive gear are doing so because they need that info to make a buying decision. So, again, no dis on the drum dude who knew who to ask for help, but Matt? Get your ass upstairs. I’ve got questions that only you can answer, and one of those is “What is your commission on a $2000 guitar?”

Drum dude, however, has no customers and is still eager to please. “Let me look it up for you online and see what I can find out.” Cool. I thanked him. After a few more minutes, Drummer says “All the website says…is that, like, they’re the best guitars made in the entire world.” “Yeah,” I responded, “I think I’ve heard that somewhere before. I think it was every guitar manufacturer.” We both laughed about it. But ultimately, I walked out knowing little more than my hands and ears had told me on my own.

On an unrelated note, I am not opposed to getting a synthetic guitar, but I don’t like the sound of Ovation. I have inquired directly about Emerald Guitars but since they’re made in Ireland, I don’t hold much hope that I’ll be able to play one, and I’d have to play one to know. Rainsong is a little closer to home so I could probably put hands on one to see how it sounds and feels.

I think this whole process is gonna take awhile.

The Acoustic Chronicles: The Search Begins

So…after roughly 15 years of service, I have sold Nancy, my steel-string acoustic. (She went to a good home.) This was the guitar I played in Forrest Strangers, all through college, and well, up until this summer, when i had Greg give it a new nut and a full inspection. But it’s time to upgrade–Nancy was an exceptional value for a cheapie guitar, and I know more now. It’s time to go big.

So…armed with some money I’ve set aside from freelance writing and band gigs, I am officially shopping for what we’re calling an “heirloom acoustic”–something that will appreciate in both tone and value as it ages, but something that fits me. I think finding the right acoustic is a lot harder than finding the right electric; if my collection says anything, it proves that I find a wide variety of electrics to be “right.” But as I get older, I have gotten snobbier about guitars. I get super picky about neck shapes and tuners and bass response and stuff like that. This one is for life. It’s gotta be better than nice; it’s gotta be The One.

I have small hands and I don’t know if I need a ton of volume, so big jumbos and dreadnoughts are not preferred, but I’m playing them anyway. I think I want a concert or a OOO or something rounded like that (and I have a thinline already). I like the warmth of mahogany, which is usually considered a less desirable wood than rosewood for acoustic back and sides, but it sounds right to my ear. I would like a cutaway, I would like on-board electrics, I would like something US- or Euro-made, and I would like some fancy inlay stuff to prove to the world that I spent too much. :) But the sound and feel are all that really matter.

I have tried a friend’s Martin HD-28 and, while it sounded nice, it didn’t seem to fit me, either stylistically or physically. It felt and sounded bigger than I feel comfortable with, like I couldn’t control it. And another friend’s Ovation looked totally my style–blue flames with a metallic style!–but the unamplified tone was, as usual with Ovations, anemic. So that’s a good place to start, the two extremes–total classic wood and totally radical plastic.

I played a really nice rosewood/spruce Guild D-55 today, which surprised me (great neck, nice tone), whereas the Richie Havens D-40 (mahogany/spruce) sounded good and a little more mellow, but I hated the neck. And the front-runner on paper is the Gibson J160E (yes, John Lennon’s). That’s mahogany with spruce, on-board pickup, and of course that classic Beatleness–I know how this sounds recorded. I just haven’t played it. Last Beatle holy grail I chased–the Rick 325–I hated when I tried. Maybe this will be the same thing?

Any other acoustic nerds out there, hit me with your knowledge and advice. And yes, Taylor is on the list! Which model has what I want?

The UPS Mysteries

This isn’t supposed to sound like a math problem, but I’m afraid it will.

I have two packages coming via UPS Ground at the moment. One is a guitar in a hardshell case, weighing about 20 pounds, originating from San Diego. One is a CompactFlash card, a warranty replacement for one that went bad, weighing 0.10 pounds, originating from South Carolina. Both were shipped to the same ZIP code; both entered the UPS tracking system within two hours of each other. Which one will arrive first, and by how many days?

That’s right–the 20-pound guitar in the ginormous box will arrive September 6, but it will take five additional days for the fits-in-your-pocket CF card to reach my door. Keep in mind that USPS’s results would be about opposite. Is it simply that UPS is better equipped to handle large boxes and USPS is built around letters an smaller parcels? I’m not angry, just surprised.

For extra credit, please explain why it takes longer to enter a tracking number and get a result through UPS.com than it does to enter that same number into Google and have it get the same information, only with less clicks/no need to say “I live in this country” followed by “yes, I check this box to agree to the Terms and Conditions and hereby verify that I want this information, because the simple act of requesting it is apparently not proof of intent.” Try it: 1Z Y44 88X 03 1564 010 5