Tuesday, 29 November 2011


I never have sick days, and a cold does not usually stop me going to work...sick days are for wussies..I even went to work when I had cancer and bits of me were leaking and falling off....thats how hard I am.

But man flu.......oh dear...horrible horrible, if I manage to survive I'll post more later...in the meantime I will stuggle on through the pain.

.....ah balls its only a cold, but I have a really sore throat which makes talking, especially loudly to a class a bit hard, so am working from home for a couple of days, doing the last bits of marking and clearing up my backlog of admin thats been building up.

Despite being sick, its actually nice to have the time to get this done its all been causing lots of stress cos I know it had to be done there was just no time to do it..I really hope I get more prep/marking/testing time made available next block.


Sunday, 27 November 2011

Busy busy

Although I have managed to get out a few times these last few weeks, a blues only jam with students at the Mezz on Thursday being a particular highlight (I even sang...in tune...kinda) I've been in marking hell this last 2 weeks.

This is my biggest issue with teaching, I need to give assignments, rather than question tests to prove they are using what they are being taught. This is almost always a simple retro game at this stage, which by their nature need to be played and checked for issues but that takes time. Sometimes a lot of time!

Since most of my students are still beginners and think nothing of little gameplay prevention bugs getting in the way, after all they know to avoid the thing that causes the crash....In time of course they will realise that having ANY kind of crash is not acceptable, but until they do I have to either find and fix the crash myself or continue to play avoiding the crash.

This all takes time, 1 assignment took me nearly 5 hours to complete, in a couple of session. Amazingly he passed just. He had no major coding bugs, just no bloody idea how to make a simple game interesting and playable so that it flowed from 1 part to the other, and it was hamstrung by a bug we have discovered in I7 cpu's which causes delta time checks to fail. So games are often absurdly fast and unplayable or absurdly slow and equally unplayble.
Since they are taught game design in a different module I can't in all fairness mark them down for shockingly bad game design....yet.

The i7 timing issue is being looked at but for now I have to swap computers around till I find one that works..usually my old samsung laptop is ok but it takes a while to set it up to run the games.

This weekend should finally see an end to it, or at the very least get all but the most problematic done.

Those who passed did ok this year, we have a good bunch of students and I am hopeful that as the year progresses their skills will increase...and their attention to gameplay with it.


Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Me make music

Had a great 1st band practice despite our singer being poorly (get well soon Britta), but with our backup singers taking front stage we managed a pretty damn good rehearshal and got a couple of numbers tightened up nicely. Then did an amazing Blues jam in A for 10 mins or so that was brilliant....if only I had recorded it....oh well

Some minor tech issues with my Irig connection to my Ipad, it seems to be wobbly and not always doing a stereo output..I have a better Ampkit adapter on the way (taking a while) but have also picked up a chinese copy Irig as a back up for a few quid...despite the guys laughing at my toy obsession I still prefer to route my guitar through the Ampkit/Amplitube apps on my Ipad into a PA, than into a noisy feedback prone amp...so tech issues must be resolved asap.

Blueshawk is all paid for, he's going to set up pick up on Monday so should be here next week Wed/Thurs. :D


Sunday, 20 November 2011

Nothing left to collect

Well....thats it...the Blueshawk was the final piece of the quest for perfection. I now have a guitar to suit every style of music I enjoy listening to and playing.

The only things "missing" are a Fender Jaguar/Jagstang which is something I can use to make up for my small hands (it has a very small neck making it easier to reach big chords) and a proper Archtop for Jazz...but I don't like much jazz and would not really want to play it.

I can reach most of the chords, as a result of practice, on my Gibsons (shorter scale than Fenders) so the Jag is now pointless.. I therefore have my complete collection, Blues, Rock, folk, classical, bit of Country/Bluegrass and anything else that takes my fancy.

A Super strat has been suggested ala Vai and Satriani, but tbh I don't enjoy their music that much, too flash, so I don't need those uberfast necks and low frets....and an Ibanez is kinda overkill for me.

So I'm done.....I'll cull a few of the less played guitars over time to get the collection down to under 20 and those are my keepers.

Need to locate a nice guitar vault to keep them safe and sound; as much as I like having them on display and able to pick up and plinkyplonk on them, a proper storage cupboard will keep them safe for years to come..I can put them on stands when I want to use them.

Something like this :D

Mad innit...I could proably make one of these using an Ikea wardrobe as a chassis...will look into that sometime


Saturday, 19 November 2011

Got her

Just waiting for the transaction to process, but I got her. A 1998 House of Blues Limited Edition Gibson Blueshawk...with some aftermarket details which make her even more limited than the 50 House of Blues varients that were made.
Her name is Libby, and no I didn't not make that up, its what her current owner called her and I will do the same.

I didn't get a bargain on this one, but also I didn't have to pay over the odds, something about the right price, which for a rare beast like this is doing well.

But I'm not adding to the collection, my Wesley Semi acoustic is going to a new home (she can't compete with Libby) so its 1 out 1 in..maybe 2 out if I can sell one of the other lesser guitars as I do need to make space.
I am playing all my "good guitars" quite regularly but its fair to say I don't really play the lesser ones much at all, so they have to go over the next few months.


Blueshawk tingles, but Fretlight woes

I've put an offer in for a Blueshawk....its a limited edition model with a few customisations, which makes it ingeresting, to me at least.. The US supplier really ended up a bit of a dead end, strange emails which felt like cut and paste efforts to other buyers so I've given up on that, despite the warehouse full of Blueshawks I suspect its going to cost too much once you factor in postage and import..so need to look to the UK/Europe.

The owner of this House of Blues BH is asking a fair bit for his, though he seems to have not noticed its been altered from stock..that removes its limited edition price tag and puts it into the slightly lower "cared for" price range, so I've offered him an amount I think reflects that..we'll see.

The Fretlight woes however continue, in spite of some sterling efforts on the part of the Fretlight exec who sent me a new cable and some replacement nuts and a huge T-shirt (thanks for that it was a nice thought but a bit big for me (must keep eating)), the thing is still noisy as hell when hooked up to a computer..Though admittidly gets better with good cables.

But shielding is clearly an issue thats not going to go away easily.

More interesting was the new nuts, I was set 4 all "cut" the same way and needed normal shaping to fit. Since I wanted to play the Fretlight today, I did a quick temp replacment of the nut myself which provides proper spacing again for the strings, but once again..the cut of the nut leaves a lot to be desired...1st and 2nd strings popping out of the cut every time you do a tone bend lower than fret 3. I'm not going to attempt a re-cut though, its too special a job.

So...basically its a pretty poor quality guitar, nut cutting is a skill that if not done correctly totally ruins an otherwise ok guitar.
Not to worry though, in the hands of a good tech it can be saved, I will be taking it to a guy in Breda to have the nut properly set (I didn't adjust the height, leaving its intonation all over the pace) and cut to hold the strings and maybe get rid of the buzzes which could be down to some poor soldering.

I've had a lot of good results in the old days when I bought mostly cheap guitars of taking them to good luthiers and having them setup properly, my old Epiphone strat copy was one of the cheapest bits of crap around but set up well I got a lot of compliments about how well it played.

I'll take the Fretlight to the shop on Monday and let them do some magic on it, if it comes back a good guitar, I'll keep it, otherwise...ebay!


Thursday, 17 November 2011

The hunt continues

With all those blueshawks on sale its no surprise that I've been doing a bit of hunting..I have in fact managed to find a US supplier which a warehouse full of them in all colours and conditions...amazing....looks like he specialises in them, but costs of importing and shipping still make it hard to justify purchase from the states at the moment.

Unless he's got a Little Lucille model in stock, a very rare and much sought after varient of the Blueshawk endorsed by my hero BB King...an LLBH would look great on the wall next to her big sister...we'll have to see though.

Had a jam tonight with the Breda ex pat crew, the usual faces excluding Ed our bass player and tbh it was a pretty crap effort, no energy or real interest in the music tonight. We've had a few bad ones in the past so I guess it happens. We'll have to try and practice more and be well rested for the next one...marking permitting.


Monday, 14 November 2011

Dammit, they're like busses.

Just when you give up on them 3 come along at the same time.

My GAS (Guitar aquisition syndrome) has died down now, pretty much got everything I want now except for the damn elusive Gibson Blueshawk, which is hard to find in Europe and no longer in production, so you have to wait for 2nd hand models to turn up, thats not often as they are usually much loved and kept so not a sniff of a decent one on ebay for months...until now when of course Ebay is listing 3 of them...all overpriced and only a US one willing to ship to The Netherlands, which of course makes it even more overpriced.

bugger...will keep an eye on them for now, but only just getting my cash reserves back so will probably have to pass again for 6 months.

life is so unfair sometimes.....ah well.


Sunday, 6 November 2011

Party Time, hangover follows

I had a really nice time at my colleague and old friend Martin and his wife Sally's house warming party...even managed to be part of the winning 80's pop quiz team, beating a much more knowledgable colleague who's hobby is DJ'ing 80's pop :D

Much drink was drunk, much chat was had and it was nice to have a party where no punchups or raised voices were in evidence...This I like about Holland a lot you can actually have a party, get plastered and not be afraid the bloke from accounts is going to knife you.

Even managed an extremly short guitar jam, after Martin had asked me to drag an amp and Gracie all the way over there, only for him to dissapear and leave me noodling on my own...good job the G-Dec has backing tracks to play along to. :D

Bina missed a good party, she's away in the UK visiting her mum at the moment, and eveyrone was asking about her.


Saturday, 5 November 2011

Damn you technology!!

As you know I love my guitars and also the toys associated with guitars, my pedal board for example is a thing of wonder...quite a lot of pricey electric gadgets designed to make me sound a little bit better than I am, both on guitar and vocal.

But alas technology is starting to make me doubt the financial sanity of those purchases.

I have always kept up to date with using Ipod and Ipad apps to use my guitar for practice, Amplitube is especially good, but so is Ampkit. Despite the fact they tend to rip you off a little on constant in app purchases which can rack up...it is still far cheaper than and easier than owning and storing 30 odd amps and a hundred or more pedals.

But I've always considered it for practice, something to twang along with in the wee small hours downstairs so I'm not disturbing anyone.

I have changed my opinion...after this weeks ex pats jam when I had no one to give me a lift, I thought it best to travel as light as possible.. I decided to just take my ipad and Ipod and hook them up using their Iklip adaptors (handy but overpriced gadgets) to my Mic stand and then into the PA.

I had some issues with the Ipod version of vocal live, apprently not outputting, so that got put to once side but the Ipad running Ampkit was a revelation. Pumped out through the PA with no effects, leaving the Pad to do all the sound texturing. Huge variations in tone, great echo and reverb effects and most important, it sounded natural, like I had Fender, Peavy, Messa Boogie or Marshal amps on tap with lots of options clean clear tones or for screaming heat and phasers etc.

Brilliant. I will most certainly be taking just my Ipad with me to jams in future, the only drawback it has is I can't do loop stuff and switching from rhythm or acousticy stuff to solo powerchord stuff is impractical for that you need a footswitch set up..so 2 way switch system which I already have, to my mobile board might be needed for some songs...though with 2 or 3 guitarists playing its probably not needed really, just those odd days when I'm the sole string plucker.


Tuesday, 1 November 2011

how far?

I have to go see an intern student tomorrow, all the way up the North of this extremely small country....well, "small" is relative I suppose, its going to take 3+ hours each way...by train...thats quite some trip accross a small country.

Not having a great week at work so far, in fact for the 1st time ever I can honestly say I've started to not want to go in to work...nothing to do with students or the work load, just some issues I feel I'm being forced into that I don't want to be forced into and are causing me stress...for the 1st time ever. Hopefully they will be resolved quickly and cleanly but we'll have to see.

Can't even fully discuss it since it seems my blog is not as private as it once was, that makes me sad, I liked the chance to express myself here so mum and family/friends could keep tabs on me, but now I have to be careful and guarded...at least until things get resolved...sucks.

Had my didactics course today, which I did enjoy. It has focused a lot of material on how to put together future courses into clear perspective..I wasn't doing much wrong before but it was not properly directed so that I caught as many students attention as possible, the course is certainly making it much clearer to me that specific approaches need to be implimented rather than just me standing in front of a crowd and getting them to repeat stuff till they get it.....still a lot to do on it, but 3 weeks in I already feel quite empowered by it...Next block, once I'm back teaching and the "shit" stuff is out the way, I am looking forward to seeing some significant improvements in my students absorbtion of info.

Speaking of students, I am now busy with mountains of marking as final homework assignments come flooding in, just before final exams next week. At least thats one thing I can do on the train, I was going to take the car and shave 30mins of the trip, but better to sit and at least some of the marking and let the train take the strain.

Time for bed...