Sunday, May 24, 2009

My Guild Starfire III

Originally uploaded by DixiePistols.

These days I mostly play my acoustic guitar. In fact, I last played one of my electric guitars on a regular basis back in high school. But, I do have two electric guitars, a Les Paul Delux from the 70s and a Guild Starfire III that I bought new, circa-1997, and pictured to the right. Guild is a funny company. They're mostly known for acoustics, not electrics. They got bought by Fender in 1995 or something, and since 2005 when they were merged in with Tacoma Guitars, they haven't made any electrics. Still, I always liked the Starfire, and I remember it playing well and sounding good.

Recently though I've been a lot more excited about electric guitar. I chaulk this up to some massive Guitar Hero sessions. Unfortunately, while my guitar still looks good, it's got some, uh, serious tuning issues since returning from its prolonged vacation. For one thing, it won't stay in tune for more than a couple of songs, even after I replaced the strings. Partially I attribute this to the Bigsby tailpiece. (Seriously, why did I ever get this? Did I think I was going to be in a Rockabilly band or something? The Starfire IV is basically the same guitar but with a regular tail. That's what I should have gotten.) But mainly I attribute it to the floating bar bridge, which I am only now coming to understand. Which brings me to my next issue.

The intonation of the guitar was also totally F-ed. For those of you out of the loop, when a guitar's intonation sucks, a string could be perfectly in tune when you strike the open note, but then flat or sharp when you strike a higher note. In my case, about 1/2 a step flat (!!!) when hitting the 12th fret.

See here's the deal: Basically for a very long time I did not understand intonation. I am only just beginning to understand how it works and how to fix it. On most guitars it's not too bad. Take this Epiphone Casino for instance. It's got a Bigsby, but it's also got a bridge that's screwed into the body, and a tune-o-matic bridge. With this guitar you can easily adjust the intonation by using a screwdriver and moving the little bridge piece for each string forward or backward.

Now check out my bridge. First, and more obviously, it's not no tune-o-matic. This is called a bar brige (I think) and it means that you cannot individually adjust the intonation for each string. That's not so bad. But if you look closely you will see that my bridge is NOT screwed into the guitar's body. Only the tension of the strings keeps it in place, so to adjust the intonation you just push it back and forth, which honestly feels really wrong. I wouldn't have done it if this forum I found hadn't confirmed that this was "best practice."

Anyway, the result is that it's much better, and I'm glad I know how to fix it, but it still needs a little work. My tastes in guitars has changed over time. At this point in my life, the only thing I care about at all is whether or not the guitar stays in tune. That's it! (Okay, this is not entirely true, but it's close enough.) My Acoustic, for instance (a Taylor 814ce) basically never goes out of tune, and always sounds great. I love it. My Guild still looks cool, and is sounding better, but still needs some TLC. Kids, get yourself a guitar that will stay in tune.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

My First HD Video

Today I made a screen capture demo of Sync-or-Swim, the static analysis program that I created with Kevin Bierhoff as part of my thesis research. You should definitely watch it now, even if you don't know anything about computers. If you want to actually be able to read the text, you should watch in HD, fullscreen.

Sync-or-Swim Video

The creation of the video was a little annoying. I needed it to be HD so that the text was actually readable. Here's how I did it:
  1. Downloaded CamStudio, a great and free screen capture program.
  2. Downloaded their lossless video codec.
  3. Important: If you watch Vimeo to recognize your video as HD, it cannot have a 4:3 aspect ratio! To fix this I changed my screen resolution to 1280x768. I told Windows not to stretch the screen so that I saw black bars at the top and bottom.
  4. Record and upload to Vimeo. Sweet!

Also, if you've been wondering why my rate of posting has dropped a bit, it's probably because I am putting more of the pointless stuff up on Twitter. If you want to follow me, do, but you'll have to request my friendship (nolacoaster). I still can't decide if I should be open or if I want the protection to post #juicytweets.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Owen's Wedding

Movie Stars Cut Cake
Originally uploaded by DixiePistols.
This weekend I drove to Columbus, OH for Owen's wedding. This is like the third one actually. There was one in Taiwan, one in Vegas (visa-related, I think...) and now one in Columbus where Owen's family lives. It was great. The food at the reception was particularly good. It was at a Chinese restaurant there. Highlights include a giant whole fish that was super moist and a big mound of lobster pieces. As you can see from the pictures, there were a ton of camera and A/V people getting in the way of my pictures. ;-)

This makes two weekends in a row that I am taking and posting pictures! I must be getting back into photography...

Friday, May 8, 2009

Stress Test Results: Banks Named!

Since it's been rather difficult to find a listing of all the banks that were stress tested, and whether or not they passed, I thought I'd post this information. The data comes from this government document (thanks  ). See how your bank stacks up! Note that in reality there are different degrees of fail, and each bank that fails will have to raise different amounts of capital for reserve purposes.

American ExpressPass
Bank of AmericaFail
BNY MellonPass
Fifth ThirdFail
Goldman SachsPass
JPMorgan ChasePass
Morgan StanleyFail
State StreetPass
U.S. BancorpPass
Wells FargoFail

*My Bank

Okay, I finally found someone else's posting with details!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Art All Morning

Originally uploaded by Sgt. Pepperedjane.
Just in case that you doubt we played Art All Night at 10:30am, now there are pictures to prove it. Thanks!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Stat Boy

Whoa, flickr now has statistics for user accounts, and they're pretty fun to investigate.

Check out the post-marathon bump that I got. 

And here are my most viewed pictures of all time.

Okay, so apparently the stats are private. Boo. What I can tell you is that this picture of a henna tatoo is the most popular, and it's been viewed 4787 times.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Pittsburgh Marathon 09

Originally uploaded by DixiePistols.
Yesterday was the Pittsburgh Marathon! It was a lot of fun to watch, although I can't say much about how fun it was to run. I took a bunch of pictures. Most people I know who would care have probably seen all of these, but for completeness sake I'll tell you who I saw!

My hardcore friends who run marathons include:
Gabe S.
Gabe Z.

You guys rule! You make me want to start running again, so pencil me in... Great Race 2009. No, I am not doing any marathons, and even if I do one some day, I am not dumb enough to commit to one now, considering I haven't run since last summer. But it was really fun to watch, and I got excited by the prospect of running again.

In other news, I am trying to grow banana peppers in my back yard! If only I lived in a city with 6+ hours of sunshine a day, as the seedling suggests banana peppers require.