Tuesday, June 30, 2009

End of month crush

Being self-employed has its benefits, but it also has a few downfalls. The largest one is pretty simple; if you don't write anything, you don't get paid. It never ceases to amaze me how much time it takes searching for cars and getting editorial approval. There are countless phone calls and emails I have to make each month and then, by the time I reach the last couple days, I always notice I haven't written much. Yikes! This month has been the same as it always is, with my wife at home to help with the kids now that school's out for the summer. This has left me free to write, so the income level will be a bit better down the road. We're not doing the "BIG SUMMER TRIP" this year to visit relatives back east so perhaps we'll save a bit of money. I doubt it!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Les Pauls and Red Maple tops

Okay, here's one of my favorite discussions... Gibson wants you to believe that all Maple-topped Les Pauls sound the same. The original, highly-valued Les Pauls were built using soft Red Maple from the Michigan area. This tree's grain is substantially different than the much harder, denser Eastern Rock Maple and Western Bigleaf Maple varieties.

In no way can Red Maple sound like the other two. The flamed maple used on the '58, '59, and '60 Sunbursts wasn't even the best flamed maple that Gibson had. The best stuff went to their acoustics and semi-acoustic guitars!

When I asked Gibson if they're using "Red Maple" specifically on their very expensive Custom Shop VOS guitars they replied "we buy maple from all over". It all gets lumped into their drying facility with little distinction paid to the species. A Custom Shop builder can select whatever they want, but they're not forced to use any specific variety. I believe this accounts for the variation in tone that can be found in production Les Pauls today. Some sound like "strings over concrete". Others, like the 2008 Les Paul Standard I own, sound amazingly full and rich, with softened highs which simply sing. My guitar has the reddish "mineral streaks" in it common to the softer Red Maple, which grows in the mineral-rich soil of the Northeastern United States and Canada. Red Maple is known to have more inconsistent figuring than Eastern Rock or Western Bigleaf. In fact, if you see a guitar with wide, "quilted" figuring, it's almost a sure bet that it's Western Bigleaf!

You can do your own research online now, if you don't believe me. There are density charts which have been created by woodworker supply chains and conservation/management groups which indictate the density of Red Maple is several orders below that of the other main species.

Or, you can head to a guitar store which carries PRS guitars, and check out a McCarty model. The McCartys were supposed to be built with "Michigan Maple" as that's what Ted McCarty told Paul to use. And if Ted likes it, that's good enough for me!

Gettin' down to it

The time has come once more to write... not on this blog, but on the stories I create for magazines. I've been busy here at the beginning of June pitching story ideas to editors. I've picked up a few new ones which will have to be shot in LA and Vegas in the next week or so. This is what I do; the life of a freelance photojournalist.

We (the family) are also heading to LA for a mini-vacation next week. We've got two adult passes to Knott's Berry Farm so we're going out for a couple days. I've got a Volvo to pick up and review for www.autoguide.com and I need to pick up one more car to shoot while I'm there. I hate to waste the trip and return without having done at least a little work. I'm just that way.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Second Amendment

Okay, I hold this amendment near and dear to my heart, though I don't own a powder-burning weapon. I fail to see how anyone can misconstrue the phrase "...the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." The first portion of the sentence "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state," only applies to militia service. At the time of the Bill of Rights (in 1791), our Founding Fathers knew that the service of a "standing army" would be needed from time to time. Said "militia", comprised of young and able-bodied men from around the country would, by necessity, need to be "well regulated". I.E. they needed to be organized and armed. Let's not forget though, in 1791, that staffs, walking sticks, swords, and knives were all considered to be acceptable "arms" whenever the need arose.

Today, try carrying a sword around anywhere! You can't. It's forbidden. Need to carry that bid hunting knife on your belt? You can't. It's forbidden. Where in the hell did the federal government and state governments get the idea that they could forbid any weapon they chose?

In fact, where does it say in the Constitution that either the State or Federal government is in charge of "public safety"?

Here in California, you can have a gun in your house, but you can't store it loaded. You can have a gun at your place of business, but it can't be stored loaded. If you need to shoot it in order to protect your property, in most municipalities, it's ILLEGAL to discharge a firearm. Pull out a sword for your own defense and a lawyer somewhere will have kittens! You're allowed the option in CA to apply for a "concealed weapons permit" but, because decisions are left to the office of each county sheriff, in Riverside County, where I live, they haven't granted a CCW permit in decades. In Orange County, they're granted almost automatically. This can't be "constitutional". When will someone challenge it using the 2nd Amendment and the 10th Amendment?

The 10th Amendment

Currently I'm a bit fascinated by the 10th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America. More specifically, I like the part where it says "The powers not delegated to the United States", meaning our Federal Government, "nor prohibited to it by the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people."

If Congress passes a law enabling nationalized health care, can I sue to refuse to pay into their system? Can I sue to refuse taxation on an employer-provided health plan if they term it "additional income"? If there is no Constitutionally-granted "nationalized health care" amendment, then any action taken by Congress on this matter, as I see it, is null and void on a personal level.

What if, collectively, the people actually PAYING taxes all signed on to the lawsuit as plaintiffs? If we all refuse to participate and let people not paying any taxes join up as they want, would that simply force the Federal Government into the direction of bankruptcy faster than they're already charging on their own?

I'm afraid I do not see where the actions of our elected Federal officials in any way benefit our great nation.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Diminishing Marginal Returns

This past week I sold the very nice set of Enkei RPF1 wheels I was running on my RX-8 for its magazine stories. I liked them. They were lightweight, looked fantastic, and most importantly very durable. Unfortunately, they're 19" wheels, and all of my spare tires were for 18" wheels. Buying new tires simply to drive around on fancier wheels is the very epitome of "diminishing marginal returns". The more the price goes up for the tires, the less of a return you get on your money (in this case miles traveled). Since I'm no longer showing my car at events, it's not necessary to have the 19" wheels...

On the other hand, the money has been recycled into another "writing hobby"; a new airgun! Not just any air rifle, mind you, but a new-to-the-market Benjamin Marauder! Suffice it to say that the boys at Crosman were tired of hearing how the US simply couldn't compete in the manufacturing of a quality PCP (pre-compressed propellant) rifle. The Brits, the Germans, even the Koreans were simply cleaning our clocks, at all sorts of price points. First, the introduced the very-affordable Benjamin Discovery which looks like a boat oar with two metal tubes attached to the narrow end. It's an impressive hunting rifle with good accuracy, no recoil, metal construction (except for the trigger area) and great velocities. It as sold, as they say, very well! Released just last year it's out-sold all other PCP models. Instant classic! I'm planning a "Discover-M" project with a stock from James Linthicum and a Discovery I'll have to obtain later. When I somehow finally get paid more money...

In the meanwhile, Crosman listened to what users said they wanted (better stock, adjustable fill pressure, adjustable velocity, match-grade two stage adjustable trigger, floating barrel, multi-shot) and this May kicked the doors down with the new Marauder. Since everyone was nearly out of the first batch, I grabbed a .177 Marauder today from Compasseco.com. They've still got one left if you hurry! I don't have a pump at this point, and when it arrives, I won't be able to do anything more than simply look at it. Heh. But I'll have one... It's like a quadraplegic buying a limited-edition Harley-Davidson... he can't ride it now, but hopes to one day! Carrot in front of the horse, that sort of thing.

If you're into air rifles, and you're American, and believe in tryin' to buy America-made products, THIS is going to be your next major purchase. I'm anxious to see if it lives up to the hype. The Discovery did so I have my hopes for the Marauder.

At the same time, more of my reviews have been posted at www.airgunweb.com. Cruise over there and take a look at "Hammerin' Hank", "Wadcutter Weapon", and "Weapons-Grade Fun" for examples of my writing, if you're curious. If you happen to learn a little about air rifles along the way, well, that's not a bad thing, is it?