Sorry for the misleading name but you will find some posts that are specifically about walking in London. The rest is the other stuff I get up to.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Messing about with my electric guitar

And when I say messing about with, I don't mean playing it.

My guitar is a Hamer Solid ArchTop Quilt in Transparent Black. Yes, the snappily titled SATQ/TBK. It's the Taiwanese model rather than the "proper" USA job, but it's a pretty decent guitar. When I bought it about eight years ago I changed the Duncan Design pickups (basically made by someone else to an SD pattern) for original Seymours. I also had a couple of chrome pickup surrounds laying around that I put on.

All of which leads to this before picture - quite different to a standard one which would have cream plastic pickup rings, chrome covered pickups and gold knobs:
Hamer SATQ Upgrade
And looking at that picture now I notice that at some point I've put the bridge on upside down. Muppet.

The Seymours I chose weren't a very good match for each other - the bridge postion was a Duncan Distortion and had a considerably higher output than the Classic in the neck position, but overall it was capable of a couple of convincing Gibson-like tones - somewhere between SG and Les Paul.

I hardly ever actually play the guitar anymore - it hangs from a hook in the study - which is where it's been ever since.
Then over the last couple of years I've been seeing a lot more live music, and that always gets me thinking about playing, and that in turn gets me to thinking about guitar mods...

So first thing I did was research what was available. I sort of liked the idea of P90s but I always use loads of gain, so they'd have to be humbuckers, and the guitar has full sized humbucker routing, so they'd have to packaged in that size.

Eventually that led me to the Seymour Duncan P-Rail. These are very interesting pickups - a humbucker, but instead of two standard sized single-coil pickups wired together, they have a full sized Soap-bar P90 pickup as one half, and a very slim single-coil like a hot-rail as the other half. The wiring is all open, so in theory, you can have P90, Hot-Rail, Series Humbucker and out-of-phase Humbucker. If you've got enough switches!

And thinking about switching, and how to add some sort of multi-way switch led me to the Seymour Duncan Triple shot:
Hamer SATQ Upgrade
This is basically a standard black plastic pickup ring that has two micro switches on it, that each have two positions. Allowing for the maximum four positions required to get every posible sound out of each pickup.

The triple shot attaches to a pickup with 2 screws and springs in the normal way, and has a ribbon cable leading to a small PCB that sticks to the back of the pickup. You then solder the pickups outputs to PCB and wire the PCBs outputs as if they were a standard humbucker. Very neat and simple. I say that bearing in mind that I re-wired the whole thing three times because I'm a bozo with a soldering iron.
Hamer SATQ Upgrade

Here it is in situ with the P-Rail, you can clearly see the P90 soap-bar with the adjustable screws and you can also make out the black bar above it which is the hot-rail. Also notice the two micro switches built into the left hand edge of the surround.
Hamer SATQ Upgrade

What's also clever about this set up is that the two pickups themselves are in series, meaning that you get a humbucking effect with both Hot-rails selected or both P90s.

The after picture. I thought the change would be subtle, but actually it seems to have given the guitar an entirely different look.
Hamer SATQ Upgrade

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Catalina Flying boat experience

Other than this preamble I'll keep this post to just the Catalina Splash-and-Go experience, maybe another time I'll tell you about what it's like to do a round trip on Easyjet Southend to Amsterdam, Amsterdam itself and Netherlands public transport and taxis. The Aviodrome aviation museum at Lelystad is excellent and definitely worth it's own post.

Lelystad is a town about an hour from Amsterdam. Five minutes out of town there's a small airport from where the "friends of the Catalina" operate. Not the Aviodrome museum, mind, but from the small terminal building itself.

We watch through glass screens as the plane is towed to the terminal building. On first seeing it I realise just how old this aircraft is - I mean I'd seen the figures, designed in 1933, this actual plane built 1941... But in the steel there is no ignoring that this aircraft is 72 years old.

Catalina Splash and Go

Once the plane is on stand the motley collection of passengers are called for the safety briefing. In Dutch. Luckily they cater very well for English speakers - the short film they show has English subtitles and everyone involved speaks excellent English.

And then it's time to board. We filed through the terminal building in silence, up to the metal steps that had been placed against the aircraft. My mouth had got a bit dry, probably because I'm slightly claustrophobic, and the inside of the vehicle looked more like a submarine than any plane I'd been on before. You enter through one of the two large glass blisters on the rear fuselage, one at a time, moving to the smart modern seats so as not to unbalance the plane.

Catalina Splash and Go

The steward says a few words before we taxi out, he explains that the engines are very loud so we won't hear him once they have been started. And they will run for a bit before we take off as each of them has 220 litres of oil that has to get up to temperature before take-off. The main thing to note, he says, is the Seat-belt signs. Where they're on, stay in your seat with the belt done up, but when they are off, get up, wander around the cabin, take photos, look out the windows...

Catalina Splash and Go

We are sat in the front compartment, the pilots in full view. The engines start with a huge bellow that settles to a roar, somehow exactly the noise you're expecting to hear from a World War II twin prop. And then we taxi away from the terminal building where I see a small crowd of spotters has gathered to see this old bird take flight.

Catalina Splash and Go

Take off seems completely effortless without the modern trust of a jet or the whirring and crashing noises that accompany flights these days. I mean it might make those noises, but you can't hear them over the din of the engines.
And in the sky it feels just as effortless, steep banks are graceful, and the seatbelt light is out already and the Steward is on his feet gesturing us to get up and look out the windows.

Catalina Splash and Go

The view from the observation blisters is surreal and fantastic, giving 180 degrees of view.

Catalina Splash and Go

And then the Steward is pointing at the seat belt lights which are on again, and we're already losing height, seeing the water come in to view. One of ground crew had spoken to me in Dutch as we boarded, and when I said "Sorry, I'm English" he shrugged and replied "You will enjoy... on water... very smooth."
I can only assume that he didn't really know what "smooth" means, because the water landing was ferocious.
On the other hand, what's the fastest boat you've been on? I'd guess 10 knots or so, unless you've been on a proper speed boat, in which case maybe 25? Well the Catalina landing and take-off speed is around 70 knots. On the Splash-and-Go run, it hits the water at 100 knots.
Our pilot says that they cannot land on water if the waves are bigger than 2 feet. He then says it's a good job no-one was measuring the waves today.

Catalina Splash and Go

The return to the airstrip is just as exhilarating, and the experience is rounded off with another short briefing while the Catalina sits on stand in a puddle of seawater that's drained out of her hull.

Catalina Splash and Go

The flight with them was quite easy to arrange - check their calendar on the web here and then email them with details of the flight you want - they'll give you the details for your money transfer.

At first glance the ticket price might seem expensive, but I assure you, it's the bargain of the century.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Wilko Johnson

I was lucky enough to get a couple of tickets to the Wilko Johnson gig at Koko last Wednesday.
i should probably point out that I'm not a huge fan - I love guitar music and I know Johnson is a hero to many of the players that I consider my heros, so it had to be worth a look.

Also I had the pleasure of going with a colleague who is a real fan, and that always helps to get full enjoyment out of a night I find.

Koko is a great venue - will certainly look out for for anything interesting on there - good bars - but serious prices. Probably best to start in a pub nearby. Which we did - meaning we only saw one of the two support acts. Eight Rounds Rapid. Good tight music from the band and I'll just say that the singer wasn't to my tastes, and leave it at that.

Wilko Johnson. It's odd seeing one of the true greats on stage, who appears to have lost none of his skill; who seems in every way to be happy and heathy, and to know that this will be the only time I will experience it.

Wilko Johnson at Koko

The crowd loved every minute of it, and Alison Moyet joined him on stage for encore and was also great. Brilliant night - lovely to see a man sharing his talent.

Wilko Johnson at Koko with Alison Moyet
And what a talent. I feel genuinely blessed and humbled to have been there.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

OUTRAGE! vrs You Can Say Anything You Like on Twitter

I'm a big fan of Twitter.
I think it's a really great way to keep up to date with a whole host of different sets of interests and friends and hobbies and family.

It's not perfect however, through no fault of Twitter itself.
There are cultures forming that are quite opposite that are both equally irritating.

1) Faux outrage(!)
At least a couple of times per day I'm now seeing someone outraged at something they've seen in the media. Get a grip. If you read something on the internet that starts your hackles rising, ask yourself these two questions before you wade in with your own comments.
a) Am I actually offended by this myself, in person, on behalf of a loved one or professionally? Imagined offence by an unknown third party doesn't count.
b) Am I being trolled? There are many people out there who just want to cause offence. No, I don't know why either, but there you are. If you've been offended by something a Troll has said, ignore it. An angry reply is exactly what they want. An example is the Daily Mail, any page you like, or online. Its whole purpose is to make you outraged - don't let it. Right, that's outrage dealt with. Now the opposite.

2) You Can Say Anything You Like on Twitter.
I don't understand why otherwise sensible, clever people feel the need to make outrageous comments on the web. It happens everywhere, but Twitter is worst, maybe because its limit of 140 characters can lead people to edit all the facts out of their insightful comment before it's posted. The nature of retweets doesn't help. Don't assume you can make a whole big point on twitter in twenty consecutive tweets, coz someone might take the middle one and retweet it out of context. You know the one, it's the tweet that looks like a soundbite with no facts in it.

I had a fairly mild disagreement with a fellow tweeter last night. If I'd followed my own advise in point one above I would never have commented, and if he'd followed my advice in point two then it wouldn't have happened anyway.

So, to sum up, can we all please try to avoid offending anyone, and being offended.

Want do you think? Let me know in the comments.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

That was 2012

Well, 2012 certainly seemed to be a celebratory year for Britain, and London didn't it? I'm glad that we played our part and have many great memories, particularly of the Olympics.

How did I do with my targets?
I can't imagine getting my Walk, Run, Swim, Cycle annual figure up to the year, but I beat 2011s 1,550 miles by about 60, having intended to add at least one mile per week. That seemed a sensible improvement, so same again I think, meaning effectively a target of about 1,700 miles in 2013. I can't say this is having much effect on my weight, but I'm feeling fit and strong-relatively, at least, and the pool on Ironmonger Row is open again so fingers crossed for more swimming.

I'm getting quite an online presence now, although I probably don't need to tell you that, as your reading this. The blog gets an update now every couple of months, which is fine. Certainly not about to start daily updates.
I've relaxed into Twitter, going from just a handful of followers this time last year to over 300 today. I tweet a couple of times a day on average about anything and everything.
I did quite a lot to keep my Gooedreads account up to date, finally doing all my comic books in the last couple of days. It's getting to the point where it's an accurate representation of my library. It thinks I read 15 books in 2012 but it missed a few due to the way it works - ill be careful in 2013 to add them properly so we get the real figure. It will never be more than 1 a fortnight, so I'm guessing 25 for 2013.

No other specific targets for e year other than enforcing the one I didn't do very well last year - at least two days per week with NO alcohol.

And I've been writing almost all year and some of it is actually getting quite good.

2012 was a pretty good year on reflection, here's to hoping 2013 is better for YOU, regardless of how good your 2012 was.