Monthly Archives: October 2010

Guitar Lust: Hamer USA Chaparral (beater/modified)

Hamer USA guitars are all awesome.

One of the best things about Hamer USA guitars is that you can pretty much depend on getting a great-sounding, great-playing guitar that is solid and durable.  Beat the hell out of a Hamer USA guitar, and you just get “mojo” (that indefinable *it* that seems almost as if the Spirits of the Guitar Hero Pantheon have blessed the guitar).

I’m sure there are some Hamer USA guitars that fell apart under heavy use.  I’m sure there are a few Hamer USA guitars that were ruined from time, use, and the elements.

But I haven’t encountered one yet.

Case in point: the guitar in the pictures below (click to embiggen).

I picked up this guitar for $400 when I was in my Hamer Acquisition stage.  It was clearly advertised as a beater, and some of its problems are obvious at first glance: wear, scalloped fretboard, missing dot inlays, replaced bridge saddles of mis-matched color.

But I was willing to spend $400 because it was a set-neck Hamer USA Chaparral. Set-neck shredders aren’t exactly commonplace.  And the pickup switching options also seemed to promise good sonic flexibility.

I was also a little intrigued by the idea of a scalloped fretboard.

This was a gamble, because $400 can get you some decent mid-level guitars.  You could get a Hamer Slammer Series guitar, upgrade the pickups and electronics, and still have a good $50-%100 left over.

But this guitar was worth it.  It sustains for days.  The frets are silky smooth, and bends glide as if on melted butter.  The tone is rich and full and thick (although not as thick as the Centaura Deluxe w/ EMGs).  I’ve got other Hamer guitars, even other Hamer USA shredders, but this one has a tone all its own.

Interestingly, I don’t really notice the scallops.  It doesn’t seem to help me play faster, or more cleanly…at least, not that I can tell.  But it also doesn’t detract in any way, shape, or form. It may be that I have to be a better guitarist for it to really make that much of a difference.

In any case, this is a great guitar.  I recently asked my compatriots on the Hamer Fan Club Message Board if I should consider refurbishing it.  After all, just about the only thing better than a great-playing, beat-up Hamer USA set-neck Chaparral is a new-looking, great-playing Hamer USA set-neck Chaparral.

But the overwhelming consensus was: why mess with it?  If it plays great, play it.

Good advice, my friends.  Very good advice.  This guitar will not be refurbished until/unless it needs a refresh to maintain its excellent tone, ergonomics, and stability.

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Now I just gotta think of a name for her.

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The Good, The Bad, The Ugly, 18 Oct 2010: Chiefs Lose 35-31; 3-2

The Good:

– We put up more than 200 yards rushing against the #5 rushing defense in the NFL

– We committed zero turnovers

– The defense grabbed two more sacks

– Cassel had a great game: 69% passing, 3 TDs, o INTs…his only sack allowed was in garbage time

– We got 56% 3rd down conversions (9-16) and 100% 4th down conversions (1-1)

– Bowe had a monster game: 6 for 108, 2 TDs

The Bad:

– We gave up 28 2nd-half points

– We grabbed zero turnovers

– We allowed 50% 3rd conversions (5-10) and 100% 4th down conversions (1-1)

The Ugly:

Not much ugly by the Chiefs, honestly…but the referees had a pretty bad game

Interesting points:

For the 2nd straight game, strategic mistakes were costly.  Facing 3rd and 2 with 2:36 on the clock, the Chiefs chose to pass.  They didn’t catch the Texans off guard, and Cassel was way off target.  If the Chiefs had run the ball, even had they failed to make it, it would have either run the clock down to the 2-minute warning (making the Texans rush more to get down the field after a punt) or forced them to take a time-out (again, increasing the pressure on the Texans).  And with the way we were running and with the Texans missing their top LB, we probably had a better percentage to succeed than with a pass, no matter how Cassel was passing.  Moreover, a run that failed to get the first down probably would have still gotten closer to the first down marker, making a 4th-down attempt (if necessary) less of a risk.  1 first down would have pretty much sealed a win.

– The refs?  Well, they didn’t lose the game for us.  However, they missed two very important calls on the last drive:

1) it clearly was a push-off by Andre Johnson, not interference by Flowers.

2) on the play that Derrick Johnson dived over the pile, the pressure caused Schaub to throw the ball  away.  It didn’t land anywhere near a receiver, and was clearly to avoid a loss of yardage, and he was clearly still within the tackles.  It should have been intentional grounding.  The incompletion put the Texans at 3rd and 10, and Arenas allowed an 11-yard reception on the next play to allow the conversion.  With the correct call, it would have been 3rd and 18 and nearly impossible to convert.  The Texans may well have kicked a FG at that point…but then the Chiefs would have just needed to get into FG range to win…an entirely different proposition

– Still, for the 2nd straight game, it took multiple bad calls by the coaches and a sub-par pass rush performance for us to lose, and by just 4 points.  These two losses were both on the road, to the two toughest teams on our schedule, right after both teams lost tough games and had something to prove.  In the end, that doesn’t mean much…but we’ve got a pretty easy schedule the rest of the season, a great running game, and a passing game that is starting to hit its stride.

– Even with our 2nd straight loss, every other team in the AFC West also lost…so the Chiefs are still in great shape, two less losses than every other team in the AFC West, 3-2, and with lots of strengths (especially running and stopping the run, and scoring defense) and few weaknesses (pass defense, to an extent…bend but don’t break).

Bottom Line:

In any case, the season is still young, and lots could still happen.  The Chargers could find their stride again, the Broncos might find a running game, and well, okay, the Raiders are no threat.  But everyone says the hard part of the Chiefs schedule is over…well, the Chiefs need to prove that by stringing together a win streak.  And no matter what the relative records, it isn’t ever “easy” to play on the road in the AFC West, so we’ll see.

But the Chiefs are in the driver’s seat.

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Great Commercial

I’m pretty much a fan of Geico’s “Rhetorical Question” series.

But my very favorite is “…does a former drill sergeant make a terrible therapist?”

 

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Guitar Lust: Hamer USA Centaura Deluxe

This is the only guitar I’ve ever completely fallen in love with at sight.
It was posted here by BCR Greg. I had to ask whose it was, I loved it so much. Don’t remember the answer.
Never thought it would come available.

About 9 months later, I was in Iraq. I couldn’t always load up pictures. I had looked at the for sale section of sw696blue, but didn’t really like the guitars I saw. There were a few photos that hadn’t loaded, though.

Then he did a “one last bump”, and when I looked at the post (having forgotten I had already looked at it in the past), I saw my dream guitar.

I had to get it. So I did.

I had my sister hold on to it.

When I got back from Iraq, I had to wait until I found an apartment, got moved in, and got settled in before I had my sister send it to me. Then I had her send it parcel post. Then I went on vacation…it had arrived while I was gone.

And well worth the wait. It plays like butter. And looks like heaven.

It has a nicely black ebony fingerboard (with the coveted Hamer Boomerangs!  …but just two, and side dots), EMG humbucker and 2 single coils, Hamer-licensed Floyd Rose trem that is as stable as a rock, a slender neck that doesn’t get so skinny as to make your hands cramp while chording, and a fairly flat radius up the neck…maybe compound?  But clearly a 10″ radius up in the meedly-meedly range.

It has two special elements that help identify it as a Centaura: it has the mid-range boost switch, and it has the angled input jack built into the guitars’ rim.  That really comes in handy when playing with a strap, it takes the cable at just the right angle so it doesn’t pull out so easy, and you can also lean it against the wall while still plugged in.  But putting it in the edge doesn’t mar/occupy the front space like on a strat.  But you can see that for yourself.

The balance on it is perfect, sitting or standing.

And the tone?  It is so hot and saturated, I would think it had active pickups, but it doesn’t have a battery compartment on the back.  I actually have to turn down the gain when I plug in this guitar, because it is at least twice as hot as any of my other guitars.

Even though I am playing through a tiny Roland Micro-Cube, this guitar clearly has tone like you hear on a guitar hero’s CD.  It immediately made me re-evaluate my whole guitar stable.  With this guitar’s tone as my standard, I can no longer accept the harsh tone of cheap guitar pickups.  I was very prepared to sell off the bulk of my Hamer USA guitars…now I think I’ll thin the herd on the cheaper end, because now I can tell the difference…

Click on the pictures to embiggen.
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Changing Tastes in Guitar: Teaser of Upcoming Guitar Lusts

The pendulum swings back.

Just a few months after deciding there were so many cool guitars out there that I wanted to have Hamer end up being about 1/3 of my total guitars (and thus planning to sell/trade about 6 USA Hamers), I’ve now changed my mind and decided to sell off 90% of my non-Hamer guitars.

Here’s what happened (since I know you care about all the details of my life  😆 ):

While deployed, I purchased a Hamer USA Centaura Deluxe (pictures soon).  But I had it sent to my sister for safe-keeping…then I had to wait until I settled into my apartment, then it took a while for my sister to send it to me, then I went on a vacation for a few weeks.

I finally got a chance to pull it out and get some extensive playing time about a week ago (tardy NGD pictures coming soon).

It has EMGs.  I know some people hate ’em…I can’t say I’m in love with the tone, either, but the pickups certainly had an extra bite or zing or shimmer that made it sound more like what I hear in professional recordings.  Yes, even on my little Roland Micro-Cube amp.

And for some reason, that woke up my ear.

From that moment on, *all* my Hamer guitars have sounded better to me, and most of my entry- or mid-level imports just sound…muffled.  Or, less sparkly, perhaps.

The 2 Diablos, 3 Centauras, ’80 Special, and set-neck Chaparral all sound slightly different from each other, but undeniably good quality.  And I have a rare 12-string Chaparral that I decided to keep (after no one would meet the price I paid for it), too.

My Jon Kammerer solid-body electric and Peavey Vandenberg sound just as good, so those will be keepers.  The Vandy (black, w/ Kahler lockable trem and upgraded pickups) is a keeper for sound/playability, but is also collectible, as well.  So I’ll keep them.

That leaves a few guitars I am still considering keeping:

– Hamer Slammer Series Californian: the tone isn’t perfect, but it is dang good.  Say, 90% of the USA Hamers.  And the action/playability rival the USA Hamers, and the transparent cherry is as good as, and in better condition than, the Diablos.  So I may end up keeping the Cali and selling the Diablos

– Schecter Aviation Series PT: The action isn’t great, the sound doesn’t thrill me…if it were just the guitar aspects,  I could sell it, but it does have the cool P-40 theme and USAF inlay that gives it special meaning for me (I’m in the USAF)

– Ibanez AX220QT: Good sound, decent action, and the only quilt top in my collection.  I got it for $150 and I doubt I could get a better QT guitar for the same money.  The sound is a little bit on the harsh/raspy sound, which makes it good for metal rhythm work, but not good for solo work

– Hamer XT SATF: I still really like the look and sound of this guitar.  Not quite Hamer USA quality of sound, but doable, and it is the one flamed maple that I really enjoy looking at regularly (I tend to prefer either quilt or solid)

– Cort KX5: this one is troubling.  I really don’t like the sound anymore, now that my ear has grown up a little bit.  But it has amazing action, even better than my Hamer shredders.  It has great ergonomics, I feel like I can really play it expressively.  And it is brand new in appearance.  The USA Hamers I have are, to put the most charitable spin on it, suffused with mojo.  The Ibanez and Jon Kammerer are also both new, but there is something about the gleaming contoured body that I really like (pictures will be added later tonight).

– Yamaha 120SD: This single cutaway (kinda Tele-shaped) H/H guitar rocks like you wouldn’t believe.  It has such a sweet sound.  I’ve heard they have DiMarzio pickups…I’ve pretty much only played on Seymour Duncan pickups, so I don’t know if I just happen to like DiMarzio better?  Or maybe it is just a Yamaha no-name pickup that happens to rock as hard as a premium pickup?  Dunno.  Anyway, I have some pictures taken of these, so you will see more in-depth reviews soon.

And the guitars to get rid of?

Rock Tools Spiderweb Guitar

The 2 Hamer USA Diablos

Hamer CX Californian (H/H, 24-fret, Tune-O-Matic fixed bridge)

Aria Pro II Knight Warrior

Ibanez GIO

Hohner MR600 (this one is tough…it is a beautiful guitar that sounds good, but might have neck problems)

Epiphone 935i (this is another tough one, very rare, and pretty much an Epiphone-made Californian w/ better trem)

Peavey Vandenberg (red, w/ licensed Peavey Floyd Rose trem)

Cort Electric Guitar (no kidding, that’s its name!  Another tough one to lose, because even though it is cheap and sounds nasty, it is cool due to extreme quirkiness)

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Fuzzy Legalism

This might well be my entry for “Stupid Idea of the Month.”

But here goes:

In Snyder v. Phelps, a lawsuit regarding 1st amendment free speech rights is in front of the Supreme Court.

The problem is that almost no matter what the Supreme Court rules, it will drastically change society.

The choices are:

1) Yes, it is free speech that is covered under the 1st Amendment.

2) No, it isn’t free speech to be a complete and total offensive jerk.

I think the Supremes will rule that the Phelps’ church annoying activism is free speech.  After all, it isn’t yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater: it doesn’t actually endanger anyone.  But if it does rule that Phelps’ special brand of buttheadedness is covered by free speech rules, then it also pretty much specifically protects that speech.  There will be pretty much no way to stop it, even though 99.8% (made up stat, but you get the idea) of US citizens consider the speech to wrong, annoying, and offensive.

Those are the only choices we have: complete illegality, or protected by the law with pretty much no restrictions.

Why does it have to be a binary choice?

The Phelps clan is using our legal code.  They believe they will get a favorable ruling that their speech is protected under 1st Amendment principles, and they will be free to say what they want.

This isn’t the only issue that gets this 100% or 0% treatment.  I’m not going to provide any examples, I’m sure you can think of some yourself.

What I want to know is, why can’t we apply Fuzzy Logic to our legal code?  There should be a gray area, that such deliberately offensive speech isn’t restricted/denied, but also isn’t fully allowed, either.

One possible way to do that?  Allow the speech, but significantly weaken assault prosecutions in the face of provocation.

Now, maybe I’m idealizing a mistaken view of the past, but it seems to me that 100 years ago, or even 50 years ago, you could give someone a poke in the nose if he was being a jerk, and as long as it was clear the guy was being a jerk, that was about it.  Part of that is that you were supposed to be man enough to deal with annoyances when necessary, and the annoyance himself was supposed to be man enough to take the correction in the physical manner.  And if/when the jerk was a better fighter, you could go get friends.  And if he had friends who could fight and used that power to be a jerk to anyone he wanted, well, that’s where the police would come in.  Run into a door a few times, or carelessly get your hands slammed in a drawer once too many, and anyone can learn manners.  I’m sure of it.

That’s not the only solution, of course. I’m not a legal scholar.

The point is that there must be a way to preserve someone’s right to protected free speech, including the right to be an idiot and/or jerk…but still keep it within reason.

Thoughts?

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Filed under philosophy, Politics, Social Issues

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly: 10 Oct 2010, Chiefs Lose, Now 3-1

Well, we lost.  Some good things happened, but we lost.

And I need to figure out a better title format.  That being said…

The Good

– The Chiefs held the Colts to 0 TDs and a 9-9 tie going into the 4th quarter

– The Chiefs didn’t allowed only one sack (3 in 4 games!) despite going up against Freeney and Mathis

– The Chiefs held Manning to 0 TD passes and 1 INT; a mere 65.0 QB rating

The Bad

– Despite the perceived rush defense weakness of the Colts, the Chiefs did not have a 100-yard rusher

– Despite the perceived rush defense weakness of the Colts, the Chiefs barely eclipsed 100 yards rushing total (113)

– Despite the Colts’ being down to 2nd and 3rd string Safeties, the Chiefs were not able to exploit the middle of the field

– Despite the weakness of the Colts’ rushing attack, the Chiefs allowed several 8+ yard runs that either set up 2nd-and-short, or converted a 2nd/3rd-and long…including giving an 11-yd TD run on 2nd-and-1 from the 11

The Ugly

I think it was a huge mistake for the Chiefs to start the game with an onside kickoff.  Sure, it tells your defense you have confidence they won’t give up an easy TD on a short field if it fails…but it also tells the team that you need trickery from the start to have a chance.  And there are no sure things with onside kicks.  It is a gamble, at best.  And the result is that with a short field, the Colts were able to gamble on trying to establish the running game.  If they failed to convert on the first series of downs, they can at least have an excellent chance to pin us inside our own 3.  And after they convert even 1 first down, they have a near-automatic FG.  The Chiefs did stop a TD with a great play by Carr in the pass game…but the Colts ran on 6 of 8 plays, and moved the ball.  That established some confidence for the Colts to run the ball.  The Chiefs stuffed the run any number of times…but the Colts were able to get running yards pretty much any time they needed it (they got 8 first downs w/ the run).

– It was also a huge mistake for the Chiefs to go for a 1st down on 4th and 2 from the Colts’ 8.  Sure, it again shows confidence in your defense to not let the Colts make a long drive to a score, and in your offense to be able to drive the field and score again…but if you just gave the Colts 3 free points, and then worked so hard to get the ball all the way down the field, you have to get points.  I gotta believe the 4th quarter would have played out much differently if the Chiefs were up 12-6 instead of tied 9-9 (taking away the free 3 points and taking the 3 points for the FG instead of going for the TD).  But even if you leave the onside kick in, it would have been a huge difference running the 2-minute drill if the Chiefs were down 19-12 instead of down a full 10 points and needing 2 scores.

– It was a smaller, but still big, mistake to give the ball to Charles so much this game.  Yes, I know he’s the “home-run hitter”, and I’ve said before that he needs more touches.  And he did a fine job.  However, despite the title of this article saying that Speedy Running Backs are the Colts’ Achilles’ Heel, the analysis in the article actually makes it clear that pounding backs do more damage to the Colts’ defense.  The Colts have built the team on being smaller, lighter, and faster…so it just makes sense that a pounding back like Jones will wear the Colts out more; the Colts would have to respond by bringing more defenders up to the line of scrimmage, and that would either result in Jones breaking a long run at some point, or in setting up the Colts’ for a morale-breaking, long play-action pass.  Instead, Charles never really wore down the Colts, and their speed allowed them to recover from covering other players, take good angles, and keep Charles from breakaway TDs.  That actually helped build the Colts’ confidence, and the last run of over 10 yards by Charles was with about 8:31 in the 3rd quarter (14 yards).

– Bowe dropped an easy TD that would have put the Chiefs up by 4 (the Chiefs still got a FG).  Then he dropped an even easier short pass.  Then McCluster dropped a pass.  It was an 0-3 passing 3-and-out that was 100% on the receivers.  Since that was coming off of an INT of Manning, all it did was continue to help the Colts’ morale.  Going into the 4th tied at 9 was great, since most people said the Chiefs would get beaten easily, but going into the 4th quarter up by 4 would have been much, much better. Again, if nothing else changed, it would have meant the Chiefs’ last 2-minute drill possession would have had the Chiefs down by just 6…a TD would have meant an automatic win (avoiding the need to consider going for 2 to avoid overtime on the road).

Interesting Points

I don’t consider this a “ripped off” loss, or a moral victory, or a “we had that game won, but this one play changed the outcome”.

We lost. The Colts won.

It was a solid win for the Colts.

What made the difference is that the Colts won the game in the trenches. The prevented any pressure of Manning in the first half, and created openings for the RBs to get a few long runs, and to get enough yards for short yardage 3rd down conversions, and gave Manning enough time to get the ball out where the WR could make the play even when we brought pressure.

Still, we played a good Colts’ team very tough.  Our passing defense kept Manning and his WRs out of the end zone.  The defense also played the run very tough, holding them to just 3.1 ypc.  This team was in the Super Bowl last year, and we gave them all they could handle.

I think it shows the Chiefs are for real.

The disappointing thing is that this was a a winnable game.  How much better it would be to have beaten a Super Bowl team at home!  How much more “for real” would we be if we were 4-0 after winning on the road in a game no one gave us a chance to win!

The Chiefs will continue to improve, too.

I really think the Chiefs can hang with any team in the NFL at home or on the road.  I think we have a chance to be 8-0 at Arrowhead, win a few games on the road, and make the playoffs.  We actually have a good chance to win the AFC West, with as inconsistent as the Chargers have been so far.

As always, we’ll see how it actually turns out.  But things look good for the Chiefs to remain ahead of the expected rebuilding curve this year.

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