The Black Squier–Update

More pressing of words, less booking of faces.

This is an update to an earlier post about my beloved E-series Squier Strat from 198something.  It might be of use to you if you are thinking of modding or rehabbing a Stratty guitar.

Since that post, I’ve done the following:

  • Started playing in a band called “Pink Flamingos” (I KNOW!) in which I do a lot of “lead” guitaring using fairly trad-sounding clean sounds.  I am NOT trying to make this thing sound like a Tele, but I want Tele-ish elements to the sound. And lots of bonk.
  • Put in a Fender Super Switch, wired like this:
    • 1 – Bridge only
    • 2 – Bridge and Middle
    • 3 – Bridge and Neck
    • 4 – Middle and Neck
    • 5 – Neck only

This all worked out really well.  Lots of big warm bonk in the 2 position, fills out and gets wider in the 3 position, and still that lovely Stratty-Strat jangle in the 4 position.  I use the bridge alone VERY rarely, and never use the neck alone.

As you’ll find with most kooky single-coil experiments in their raw state, I DID have to deal with a bit of noise. To a large extent, this is just a fact of life with some single-coils.  YES!  I AM AWARE OF VARIOUS NOISELESS OPTIONS!  I even have some in other guitars. But for THIS guitar, and the pickups I have decided to use, noise is part of the fun.

But there ARE things you can do.  Like some basic shielding. I thought I would share with you my example of why this is a good idea, and how not to do it.  For sciense.

I had 3/4 of a sheet of adhesive-backed copper foil floating around for a few years.  It bounced around various shelves and boxes so much that the adhesive had pretty much kinda given up in a lot of places, and the edges had been dinged, ripped and folded.  It was way too shot to use on someone else’s guitar, which makes it just the kind of thing I would use on my own guitar.

On Thursday, I had about 45 minutes before Pink Flamingos rehearsal, which seemed like EXACTLY enough time to do the shielding on the Squier if nothing went wrong.  To ensure that something WOULD go wrong, I didn’t make sure I had all the tools I would need, grabbed the guitar, and ran to my work bench.

I picked up the amp I forgot I had opened up on my work bench and carefully stacked it on top of another amp, on top of a wobbly storage container, so that I would always be distracted by the fear it would fall over while I was working.  Can’t stress how helpful this step is. If you want to make your task more exciting, MAKE SURE YOUR WORK AREA IS AN IMMINENT DISASTER!

I slacked off the strings, then decided I should just remove and change them, then decided to just slack them off, then undid them from the tuners but didn’t use a piece of tape or Velcro to hold them in place, so that they would be sure to tangle.

I removed all the screws from the pickguard and actually put them all in a container.  Crazy.

Here’s a nice picture of the guitar all opened up. You can click on it if you want to see it more biggerer:

Putting on the foil, Coach!
Live Naked Squier!

This next bit is most useful.  First, I didn’t make sure I had my shears or even a pair of scissors in the room. That way, I could cut the foil by either snipping teeny bits with the end of my wire strippers or biting it and then tearing it unevenly with my hands.  If you find these methods too accurate, make sure that you hurry while doing them.

DON’T MEASURE ANYTHING!  Just slap the foil down and start pressing it in randomly. Then, when you discover that things are in the wrong place, just lift it up and move it a lot. Not only will this put lots of random folds and creases in your foil, it will also pull off any adhesive it had left on it.

Speaking of adhesive, for goodness sake don’t bother to reach across the bench and grab any of the adhesives you have there.  Just keep slogging away with the wrong tools!

The torn edges of copper foil can be quite sharp. But I’m pretty sure that’s OK.  Don’t worry about gloves.

Swearing is a great time-saver!

In what seemed like no time at all, but was actually about 15 minutes after the guys in the band showed up, I had the foil properly in place, and was ready to put the guitar back together.

Here’s a picture with most of the shielding in place:

Nice Wrok!
I think that went quite well…

Just to make life interesting, I put on a fresh set of strings, because how could that be a problem right before you play?

All kidding aside, my point here is DO THE PREP WORK!   This job SHOULD have been fast, and the old foil shouldn’t have been a problem, but by trying to hurry before I started, I ended up taking longer and having to do things about three times. Also, it REALLY hurt to play at rehearsal, and I messed my hands up for a gig tonight.

The shielding itself has worked out quite well. You can’t see it in the picture, but I just soldered a wire from the ground of the guitar to the foil. It’s probably never going to be a noiseless guitar, but it’s about 40% quieter than it was, and certainly not a problem when playing live.

And if you stretch them in properly, new strings aren’t a problem either.

“Generously proportioned” at best

We got a promotional flyer in the mail from yet another car dealership, which looked kind of like a free raffle for cool prizes. And right at the top it said that it was “Cars for the Cure to support the American Cancer Society.”

It’s a nice looking piece, tri-fold, card stock, four color printing.  On the back is a plastic “combination box” and a peel-away sticker. The combination box looks like it has an LED readout, and a little tab you can pull to turn it on.

The idea here is that you turn on the combination box, then peel the sticker off of the flyer.  There’s a number printed under the sticker, and if the combination box lights up with that same number, you have won one of the seven awesome prizes.

The first prize is his-and-hers 2014 Mustangs or $100, 000.  The prizes go from there through a whack of cash, TVs, iPods and things like that.  What’s important is third prize.  Third prize is an Amazon coupon worth $2-5000. To be clear, third prize is a coupon, and that coupon can worth some amount between two dollars and five thousand dollars.

Here’s where the nerd kicks in.  Do a bit of reading of the finer printing, and spend 30 seconds with a pen knife, and you find the following:

– In the contest rules (which are, refreshingly, quite clearly printed on the flyer), the odds of winning each prize are listed.  It says “Odds of winning a $2 Amazon® Card are 1:1 should no other prize be won.”  This means that ANYONE who gets one of these fliers will at least get a $2 gift card.  It’s like a boxing match, in that everyone can win third prize.

– There are a few things you have to do online, including choose which prize you want to play for, before you win anything.

– Here’s what the combination box looks like if you take it apart.

Book shelves should have books on them
Yeah, I need a pedicure as well.

That thing on my pinky is a sticker.  If you light it from behind, it kind of looks like an LED segment display is making those numbers.  But in reality, the combination box is just a single white LED, a piece of clear plastic to diffuse the light, two button batteries and a sticker.  It’s supposed to LOOK like it’s picking a number that’s exclusive to you, but it’s not.

Guess what?  The number in my combination box is the same as the number in my flyer!  I am teh w1n!  I do have the sneaking suspicion that a lot of people will have the same numbers, but hey–when you get right down to it, we are ALL winners.  Makes you feel good, dunnit?

Does this color make my thumb look fat?
I am teh w1n!

So what is going on here?

Basically, this car dealership is spending somewhere between $3 and $5 per piece to drop these flyers in an attempt to get people to come into their building and claim a prize.  An additional $2 will go to everyone who goes through the hoops to claim their prize, but in order to do so, every winner is going to have to start a conversation with a salesperson.  If this is as smart a campaign as it appears, those salespeople will have a script or some other way of getting the winners to look at cars.

So that’s about $7 (at most) per warm lead who walks in the door.  Not too bad, if it works.  I’d assume that they targeted who was getting these things a bit.  Ours was addressed to the people who used to own our house “or current resident.”

See, you can’t just say to the world “I will give you $7 if you come to my dealership and let me try to sell you a car.” Most of the people who would say “yes” to that deal are NOT THE TARGET MARKET.  If you need $7 that bad, you are not going to buy a car.

So instead, you choose a large group of people who are able to buy cars, and you spend $7 apiece to tell them “You live somewhere that people who can afford cars live, and you’ve won a prize, it might be a pair of awful cars or $100,000.  Come talk to me about it.  Also, it’s a benefit for the American Cancer Society.”

It’s not technically dishonest.  You get as close as you can to saying one thing and meaning another, but mostly, you depend on people not reading to closely, and thinking that you’re giving things away.

This campaign is done through Fatwin, though this kind of thing is hardly unique.  I’ve included their name here simply so that this might show up in search engines in case anyone else is as randomly curious as I was.

On the upside, I got an LED in a diffuser and two little batteries.

Origin story

They imbue you with super powers.  IMBUE!

A friend on the social medias asked about the origin of the Penguin character.  I’m not absolutely sure if this is completely correct, but the wonderful thing about comic characters now is that there are so many story streams and reboots, and delivered in so many forms, that accuracy kind of doesn’t matter.

Besides, no matter what you do, everyone will argue over it as if it mattered A LOT anyway.

The Penguin was originally Oswald Olsin, a child prodigy who had made billions in business, despite being born with the inability to smell toast, due to his parents’ both working on the Manhattan Project, though as we found out later, they were not his real parents, as his real parents lived on a super-advanced planet of super-science superhumans whose only weakness was that they could build really good rockets, but not very big ones.

When he was 18, Oswald was away training in the Marine Special Delta Force SEAL Astronaut Ninja Assassin Cyber-Ops Squirrel Suit Sniper Gourmet Corps (in a special Nuclear Black Ops unit of it that was kept secret from everyone except General Carborundum and somehow, a mole within the team). Oswald’s parents, wife, child, neighbors, sainted aunt, high school shop teacher, the kid who bagged his groceries, 4 missed connections on Craigslist and the kindly uncle who had taught him kung-fu, metallurgy, knife-throwing, hapkido, circus acrobatics and rope-swallowing had been killed by “The Pants”—the head of a secret underwear-smuggling cabal called “The Cabal.”

Oswald came home on sympathy leave for the funerals, an unthinkably difficult 8 weeks of dark suits, potato salad and tears. As each funeral passed, he noticed something strange: All the corpses were going commando. It was through his investigation of this that he uncovered evidence of “The Pants” and the Cabal. Oswald swore his revenge, and used his training to go AWOL, disappear and take on a new identity.

He created the new identity of Oswald Olson, a mild-mannered 98-pound billionaire reporter for the Gotham Grit, who appeared to have a severe hairlip and a pompadour. Secretly, he was also Trunksman, who fought crime wearing a mask and his underwear over his pants, and DIDN’T have a hairlip and a pompadour. By using his own greatest fear as the weapon to fight the thing he hated the most, Oswald became more powerful.  Think of an arachnophobe who hates paying tax having spiders thrown at him by a tax-collector. THAT kind of powerful.

The Cabal—and The Pants in particular—was in contact with the world’s most sensitive areas, and would often work their way into places where it was difficult to get at them discretely, so Oswald’s fight took him all over the world, where he often had to depend on the enormous clandestine network of buddies and contacts he had developed during his military career.

Oswald was flying his prototype rocket motorcycle one evening when he was teleported aboard the spaceship of a dying intergalactic superhero named Mm’m Mmm’ Ghu’d, who told Oswald that he was the Chosen Human to become the Guardian of This Part of The Galaxay (including parts of Burnaby). Oswald was given a Galactic Earring, which granted him the ability to create almost anything out of energy, though the preferred method of using it was to make really detailed models of things like guns and giant Hot Wheels cars and really big fists. The earring had to be recharged every 8.5 hours, including a half-hour lunch, and was powerless against anything yellow. This meant Oswald was pretty much powerless during the day, because he lived on a planet with a yellow sun, so the earring mostly just sat in Oswald’s sock drawer. Sometimes he would take it out at night for party tricks, or if he needed to reach something up high and had remembered to charge it up, but it mostly just sat there, because cleaning your gutters at night kinda sucks. Who has time for that?

Oswald took part in The Marketing War, a giant battle in which every superhero fought side-by-side against something or other, sponsored by caffeine and sugar in water, and happened to be on a planet with a red sun. At the time, Earth was being targeted by Anaphlaxus, who roams the universe destroying planets he’s allergic to. Anaphlaxus had watched “The War Behind the Marketing War” (a reality show on Nat Geo) and was impressed with Oswald, who had taken advantage of a rare opportunity to use the mostly useless earring and distinguished himself in The Marketing Wars. Anaphlaxus agreed to spare Earth in return for Oswald’s pledge to become Anaphlaxus’ herald, gave Oswald incredible powers, a nigh-invulnerable shiny crimson skin, and a wobbly metal plank with a handle and needlessly small wheels. Thus, the Red Razor was born.

As the Red Razor, Oswald travelled to thousands of worlds, passing the time by reciting huge portions of the journal he kept during his second year at community college, where he couldn’t decide whether to major in philosophy or English, so he took both but didn’t really finish the textbook and mostly just smoked weed. It was inevitable that that almost limitless power and the ability to meet pretty much all the sentient beings in the universe, while never being afraid of anything, aging or dying would become just too much of a burden to bear, so one day The Red Razor turned on Anaphlaxus and tried to fight him in order to save one of these hundreds of thousands of worlds that had bored Oswald so much. Gosh, people sure are funny that way, eh?

Oswald learned a valuable lesson about picking a fight with the infinitely powerful guy who gave you your scooter, and found himself exiled back to Earth, about 20 minutes before the beginning of The Marketing War, which was this time known as The Marketing WarS, and went pretty much the same way as the previous Marketing War, except on thicker paper, and for some reason, everybody said a lot more and it was harder to follow who was saying what.

After the Marketing Wars, Oswald tried having a girlfriend who didn’t know his secret identity, then a sidekick who didn’t know his real identity, then a girlfriend who was an enemy of his secret identity, then a girlfriend who was a sidekick, then a boyfriend who knew his secret identity, then an intelligence-enhanced robot monkey who had a secret identity, and then marketing decided he should be a penguin.

Reverb replacement for the Fat Boy

You can take the "boi" out of "boing..."
Not working to spec

A few months ago, I noticed that the Accutronics 1BB2A1B reverb on my mighty Carlsbro Fat Boy suddenly started to sound terrible.  I just replaced it yesterday.

Yeah, you read that correctly.  I noticed this a few months ago, and only did something about it in the last 24 hours. If this gear belonged to anyone else I know, I would have been all over them to fix it. In fact, I probably would have dragged it home and fixed it. But this is MY gear, so I’ve been playing trucker music for months with no reverb.   Yay me!

While this is a simple repair, there is very little information out there about how to actually get the parts you need and do it.  I’m filling this post with search engine bait, so if you found it, that worked.

 

The big fail

The failure itself was pretty simple:  One of the wires that holds the spring mounts broke off, and it did so inside a mounting piece that is soldered in place.  A better person that I could probably fix this, but it is extremely fine and fiddly work, and I am pretty constantly reminded that I am not a better person than I.

 

The bigger problem

The main problem is that the stock reverb tank in the Carlsbro Fat Boy is a 1BB2A1B. That becomes a pain in the butt for the handy lazy person, because searching for 1BB2A1B and your amp name or “replacement” gives you pretty much no useful results on the major search engines.  Neither does “reverb spring repair” by the way. Lots of links for people who will replace your ‘verb for money, but you probably don’t need that.

Hopefully, your search now leads you here.

 

Reverb codes, briefly

Spring reverbs are a rare kind of product, in that there is a standard numbering system for identifying pretty much everything about them, and everyone in the industry uses it.

Apparently, that kind of standardisation is easy to do with physical objects made in different parts of the world over decades, but pretty much IMPOSSIBLE to do in software.  But I digress…

You can find a key for the reverb numbering system all over the place. Here’s one with information about Accutronics reverbs at the top, and the numbering system at the bottom. Seeing as most of the reverbs that come stock in amps are Accutronics, that’s a good place to start.

The chart tells you this about my 1BB2A1B tank:
1 – It’s Type 1, which means it has two springs and is short (9″)
B – Input impedance is 150 ohms*
B –  Output impedance is 2250 ohms*
2 – Medium decay time (1.75 to 3.0 secs)
A – Input and output are both grounded*
1 – No lock
B – Mounts horizontally, with the open side down

I liked how it sounded, but truth to tell, it’s a pretty cheap-ass tank.  Short, two-spring verbs can be kinda theeen.  Doesn’t matter though, because pretty much no-one makes this exact tank any more.  You’ll be hard-pressed to find any Type 1 tanks from anyone.

 

Getting tanked

My tank was an Accutronics, so I went to the Accutronics site.  I couldn’t find any info there about a 1BB2A1B, and I knew that some of the specs of my old tank needed to be matched on whatever new one I bought.  I was most concerned about the input and output impedance and grounding, which is why I marked them with an “*.”

I ended up calling one of their distributors, CE Distribution.  CE is a distribution company, but they run a few places that sell to end-users. They have the same support for all of them, including Antique Electronic Supply.  I talked to Sam on the phone, and he’s awesome.

 

A steady guide in some celestial voice

I’m not going to get into the What Kinda Reverb You Want and Why discussion here. This post is already way too long to start talking subjectives.

The important things when choosing a replacement:

  • The input and output impedance must either match your old tank exactly, or you must nerd out and learn what happens when they don’t
    (hint: avoid having to do that)
  • Same goes for the grounding
  • Check the size of the tank versus the space you need to install it in. Remember that you have to plug the thing in, so if you don’t have AT LEAST 1.5″ clear in front of the plugs when the tank is installed, you’ll have to plug it in BEFORE you mount it
    (hint: avoid having to do that)
  • For something that can be a big part of your sound, reverb tanks are pretty cheap

I couldn’t find anything by Accutronics that would drop right in, so I got a MOD 4BB2A1B to replace my 1BB2A1B.  Pretty much the same tank as the 1BB2A1B, but 17″ long, which is accomplished by doubling the springs lengthwise.  All the electronic specs line up, which is the important part if you want to be simple about things.

 

Installing a horizontal spring reverb tank

There never seem to be instructions for this anywhere, and most searches for it just point to to reverb tank reviews that say useful things like “installation was easy!”  or “installation is easy!”  Search is horrible now.

On the Fat Boy, and most amps with the ‘verb installed flat across the bottom of the amp with the open side down, installation is really easy! LAWL.  It’s nice to have instructions though. You should read all the way through them first.

Removal

  1. Open up your amp
    (hint: I dunno, look it up if you need to!)
  2. Look at the input and output jacks to the reverb. Note what colour each is.  Write it down.  I SAID WRITE IT DOWN!
  3. Undo the input jack
  4. Seriously!  There is NO colour-code standard for input and output.  LAST CHANCE TO WRITE IT DOWN
  5. Undo the output jack
  6. Remove the screws holding the tank in place, and keep them
  7. Remove the tank

NOTE! If you are inside a combo amp, your reverb tank is under a big ol’ magnet.  That magnet is going to grab the tank.  This is annoying.  You can’t stop it.

Installation

NOTE! Remember when I mentioned the big ol’ magnet?  Dude!  It was like, three lines ago!   That magnet’s going to want to grab the new tank too.  If the tank is painted, the magnet will scratch the paint.  It WILL.  I highly recommend that you hook up the new tank outside the amp FIRST, make sure it works, and then install it.  No-one wants to take back a scratched tank.

  1. Connect the inputs and outputs.
    SEE?  TOLD YA TO WRITE IT DOWN!  The magnet-wrasslin’ makes you forget
  2. Test that the reverb works
  3. (netdud only) Take out the piece of foam they put under the springs for shipping, stop swearing, and test again
  4. Turn off the amp, disconnect the reverb
  5. Make sure you have squishy grommets in the screwholes you are going to use, so the tank is physically isolated from the cabinet
  6. Wrestle new tank into place, scratching it on the magnet at least once
  7. Make sure you have room to plug in your input/output jacks
  8. Screw the tank in place (Heh.  I said “in place…”)
  9. Hook up the tank
  10. Test
  11. Close up your amp and play!

 

 

Automatically broken

panpet

ATTN: People who make video softwareses!
I know you all read my posts, so I thought I would mention this here.I know it makes you feel cool to just use the names of Chip Jewelry for output settings, but some of us actually want to know what those settings mean.

Seeing as you require me to put in the resolution, framerate, aspect, etc. in order to IMPORT, you can assume that I will want to know what those numbers are for EXPORT.

If audio software worked like this, you’d have presets like:

  • I have mpenge disks on my turntable spindle
  • “Audiophile” who likes vinyl (ironic)
  • “Audiophile” who likes vinyl (old)
  • “Audiophile” who likes vinyl (clean-shaven)
  • “Audiophile” who likes vinyl (bearded)
  • “Audiophile” who likes vinyl (because pictures on the cover!)
  • Liquid metal cables and blue felt pen on the CD
  • Metal guy (80’s)
  • Metal guy (90’s)
  • Metal guy (00’s)
  • Compressed all to ratshit, like on the radio
  • Streaming
  • Leave my shit alone and just render a .wav file (hidden deep in settings)

The llama never gets a break

Rock it!
It was before your time

The llama’s ass will continue to get whipped!

You know, I used to despise AOL, but now I don’t. Now I see them as the corporate auto-Robin-Hood that they truly have been.

Thanks to their unique combination of cash reserves, hubris and goofiness, AOL have managed to absorb the difference between the grotesque over-valuation of several pieces of tech (WinAmp, Netscape, etc.), and the actual value of those same assets. They bought those things for the stupid, Facebook-level IPO messiah price, screwed up and starved the productive side of things in a vain search for profitability commensurate with their unrealistic investment, and refused to let go.

The end result: The tech ends up functional, freed of its greedhead investors, with only those who truly care about what it does left and providing the (usually simple) functionality that made it worthwhile in the first place.

And they’ve done it the old-fashioned way–by taking HUGE losses!

Yay market! Thanks AOL!

Why they come in boxes

Does not come with wafers
Does not come with wafers.

Just opened up a brand-new Lenovo laptop running Win7 to set up for someone who just bought it. I do this kind of thing for people.

If you are planning to do this yourself, try this: When you buy the laptop, ask the person selling it if you can just go ahead and open it right there in the store and try it out.

Not the demo on the shelf, the new computer you just bought.

This should be no problem.  Batteries aren’t the temperamental pains they used to be—you can, in most cases, just take the thing out of the box, plug it in, and start it up.  Most stores have wi-fi all over the place.  You should be able to fire up your new machine, get online, get to know it a bit, and start enjoying computing fun, You could even do your registration.

You’d think that would be pretty cool.  You’d think that would actually help sell computers. But of course, that isn’t what happens at all

What happens, with Windows machines anyway, is that you will spend the first hour with your new laptop wading through the crap adware the manufacturer included, saying “No” to all the “Do you want to activate/buy this thing you’ve never heard of?” dialogs, downloading updates, having the machine do a bunch of stuff without knowing what it is, and wondering why the thing is so slow.

Hint: It will quite slow until it has been running and online for at least half an hour, and then restarted at least once.

Normally, you HAVE to do all this crap when you get home. At that point, you are excited about your machine, then surprised, then annoyed, then frustrated, but you’ve already bought the damn thing, so you just eat your lemons.

It seems odd that your first day or so with your spanky new computer is going to be the worst time you spend with it until it either gets bogged down with cruft or malware, or the fan dies.

If you spent your first few minutes on a new laptop in a store, there’s pretty much no way you would leave with the machine. And if you were watching someone else go through this, you probably wouldn’t want to buy the machine in the first place.

At this point, if you have owned a computer and paid any attention at all to it, you might be thinking “Yes.  This is exactly what happens. That’s just how it is.  SO?”

Well, after 30-odd years of consumer computing, it is just incredible that this is how it is.

I am conversational

The good life, with chowder
Home of the New England Chevaliers!

Me:  The letter is supposed to end up here in Omaha.

USPS Customer Service rep:  You all are in Omaha?  It says it might be heading for Bellevue.

Me: That’s sort of a suburb of Omaha.  Is there a sorting facility there or something?

USPS CSR:  Wait–where is Omaha? It says here “NE.”

Me: That is Nebraska.  “NE” is Nebraska.

USPS CSR:  Oh!  I thought it was for “New England.”   I thought Nebraska was “NEB.”

Me: Ah!  It’s all starting to make sense.

Not currently in Denmark

A picture of an elk
I said “whelk!” Stupid auto-correct!

I just saw this.

What kind of world do we live in where it takes a threat to the entire planet to get famous people to pose naked with dead fish?

When I was a kid, people were much more caring. Why, all it would take is a mugging or a minor flood and the street would be lined with A-listers, covered in haddock!

On one particularly cold December morning, my mom was distracted by a flock of whelk, and overcooked the breakfast bacon—we prefer it a bit less crisp.

Within minutes, the entire cast of a local production of “Mourning Becomes Electra” was in our front room, starkers, fondling everything from a carp to a mollusk I still haven’t identified.

THOSE were the days. Kudos to these folks for taking a stand. A naked, fishy, not-very-widely-seen stand, the point of which is completely unclear, but a stand nonetheless.