Like practically everyone else on the planet, I have a wireless network at home. I use a wireless router to share my broadband connection with all six (or seven or eight, depending on whether either of my kids happens to be visiting) PCs in the house. And, like practically everyone else on the planet, I’m not always happy with the connectivity I achieve.

You see, my wireless router resides in the furnace room in the basement. The furnace room is also kinda like the server room, because all the cabling for phone, cable TV, and wired LAN converge there in a junction box. My wireless router also has four wired LAN ports, so it makes sense for it to be located in the furnace room, too. Unfortunately, that’s probably not the most ideal location for getting a wireless signal to all other parts of the house–especially considering that my house has three floors.

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I’ve been taking lessons from Charlie now for over six months, and it’s really been paying off. Charlie introduces me to new concepts and skills at a good pace and provides me with interesting music to learn. All that provides ample motivation to practice my guitar playing every day. Don’t get me wrong–I’m not ready for the coffee house circuit yet, but there’s no question I’ve made significant progress since I began.

My enjoyment of guitar playing has grown right along with my skills–so much so that I’m beginning to seek out more music to play. Not that Charlie doesn’t give me plenty to work on between lessons, but playing for the sheer fun of it is important, too. It’s challenging, though to find guitar music that (a) I’d be able to play (with some practice), and (b) I’d like to play.

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Never one to pass up an opportunity to marry one of my hobbies with another, I thought it might be interesting to try recording my guitar-playing using my computer. The easy way, of course, would have been to simply buy a microphone, plug it into my sound card, and get on with it. Of course, that’s not nearly complicated enough for my tastes. Besides, I was playing (if you can call it that) my electric guitar at the time, and it seemed like an interesting idea to find a way to plug it directly into my sound card.

Unfortunately, the signal level coming out of an electric guitar is generally too low to get good recordings by running it directly into the sound card, so a little preamplification is needed. Another issue is that, well, the output from an electric guitar pickup is pretty boring unless you run it through an amp to add some effects.

Enter the TonePort UX1 by Line 6.

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Two lessons ago, Charlie gave me an arrangement of Amazing Grace to practice. To be more precise, I only needed to work on the first half of the arrangement. It wasn’t terribly challenging to get the mechanics down, and by the time I returned for my most recent lesson, I could play Amazing Grace like, well, a mechanic. Charlie gently pointed out that I could stand to work on making the melody stand out over the harmony, which was a good point. I needed to work on playing it like a musician.

Along with some other stuff, Charlie assigned the remainder of Amazing Grace for me to work on for my next lesson. The second half of the arrangement uses a barre chord (F played as a barred E) in a couple of places.

I hate barre chords.

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Charlie’s had me working on Deep River Blues for a few lessons now. It’s a fun song to play–definitely more challenging for me than a straight Travis pattern or arpeggio picking pattern with standard chords like what I’ve been playing up to this point. (If you want to hear me play it, there’s a link to an mp3 at the end of this post.)

The Delmore Brothers wrote and recorded this song as Big River Blues,  and Doc Watson played this version (from YouTube):

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Apparently, guitar players are a lot like golfers.

First, there’s the whole equipment thing. Golfers need golf clubs, balls, tees, shoes, ball markers, towels–the list of things you can buy for your golfing habit is nearly endless.

Guitar players need guitars, straps, picks, music, humidifiers, tuners, metronomes–the list of things you can buy for your guitar-playing habit is also nearly endless.

Second, guitar players and golfers are both quick to believe that better equipment will make them better players. As a budding guitar player and occasional golfer, I know this to be true. Despite the fact that I golf only once or twice a year, I will admit to buying an oversized driver in hopes that it’d help my game. And, to a degree, it did.

You know where this is going, don’t you?

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A comment that I receive frequently about my Digital Setting Circles project concerns the fact that it uses a serial port rather than a USB port. I guess manufacturers don’t typically include serial ports on notebook computers or PDAs anymore. In my own defense, USB was just coming into common use when I designed this circuit about ten years ago, and USB is more complicated and expensive to implement.

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The vast majority of my business transactions, over the web or otherwise, are carried out with no major problems. I’ve found that almost everyone I deal with is honest and up-front about their goods or services.

I recently came across an exception, though, when I decided to pay to re-cell my two notebook computer batteries. It seemed like a decent deal–I could get both batteries re-celled with brand-new Li ion batteries for about a hundred bucks. That’s much less than a couple of replacement batteries would have cost. And they promised a turnaround of seven to ten business days, not including shipping times.

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We recently purchased a ’97 Pontiac Sunfire for one of the boys to drive, since their previous car (a ’91 Camry) met with its demise. This was definitely an upgrade–the Sunfire was in immaculate condition, while the Camry was a rolling bucket o’ bolts.

This was a good thing, since I’m the one who ended up driving it. The boy has yet to master the stick shift, so he’s driving my car (a newer, nicer car) while I’m driving the stick around town. Something’s wrong with this picture, but that’s a post for another day.

The Sunfire came with an aftermarket CD player installed–a Sony CDX-M630. I thought this was going to be a good thing, too–until I actually tried to use it.

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I have finally seen the day when my oldest child has left the nest and gone out in the world in search of his fortune.

Okay, he’s a high school teacher, so fortune might be a bit of a stretch. Nevertheless, he’s earning his own paycheck, paying his own bills, and putting his own food on the table. One of his parting gifts from me was the title to my 1994 Ford Escort. He’d been driving it around at college for the past four years anyway, so I certainly wasn’t going to miss it, and it had been a good car.

Of course, one of the first things to eat out of his initial paychecks was–you guessed it–car repairs. His front brakes needed to be done, and he needed new tires.

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