Friday, June 29, 2007

GAS: the end

Instead of buying a new acoustic guitar, I have decided to hold out until the summer and hope that I can bring a better one from PoCo to Berkeley. A quick strum of a Martin D-28 reminds me to accept no compromises, and so this seems like a less wasteful solution. Besides, both the Epiphone and the Gibson are gone, and the other Gibsons in the store just don't compare to the D-28, which makes this decision a lot easier. And thus ends my first (internet-documented) bout with GAS.

Instead, I decided to pick up either a banjo or a mandolin with my 10% off coupon. I've always thought about trying my hand at both instruments, and what better time than when you have a small discount. I was leaning banjo, but they didn't have any really cheap ones in Guitar Center last night and so I went with the mandolin. Unfortunately, the cheap mandolin they had didn't have a bridge, which is an important part of a stringed instrument, so I have to go back and seal the deal sometime in the next week.

I brought Mike along with me as he expressed interest in picking up some strings and picks, as well as in taking up the bass. He found a rather nice Squier bass for $200: nice neck, P+J pickup configuration, and a nice light construction (which may suck for sustain but whatever). He didn't buy it though because it had a big skull and crossbones design on it. How vain. Beauty lies within, Mike.

While I typically get frustrated very easily with the mandolin whenever I play one in a store, I think that's because the only thing I know how to play is the little opening riff to "Losing My Religion", and I don't even know how to play that very well. I think I'd better go back and recreate how I started playing the guitar, so that I don't get too ambitious and just get frustrated. After that, I think the mandolin will suit me, as I have a high voice that tends to be shrill and grating.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Dammit, Bals

I was going to bitch about the reported falling through of Jim "Bals" Balsillie's bid to purchase the Nashville Predators and probably move them to Hamilton, but then I found that TSN's Bob McKenzie had done it very nicely himself: read it here.

The thing that hurts the most is that it looks just like the NHL simply won't let Canada have another team. I respect the way Bals went through the process because he didn't pretend to want to do anything but move the team. Instead, he spent the time securing a deal on an arena in Hamilton and taking deposits on season tickets in Hamilton -- in essence, proving that Hamilton can beyond any doubt support a team. Now, it's one thing that the deal fell through because the league wants to keep the Predators in Nashville, which is at least understandable. However, the owner of the Preds is now reportedly leaning towards a $190M offer -- nearly $50M less than Bals' offer -- from someone who clearly wants to move the team to Kansas City.

What hurts even more is that the league is working so hard to make hockey work in the US, which is clearly a losing battle at this point, when the NBA didn't give two shits about keeping the Grizzlies in Vancouver. It's garbage, plain and simple.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Note to self

Don't get sick.

As I am approaching my 25th birthday, my parents received a letter saying that I would no longer be covered under their medical plan and so I have to buy my own BC Medical Services Plan. I think I am legally required to have it despite my American coverage, which I don't mind too much because I've heard that it can be quite difficult to deal with American health insurance providers and I don't even want to know what kind of things can go wrong with getting out-of-country care should I be home for a holiday.

Also, I feel that having extra health insurance while living in the US is a good idea. This little snippet on the MSP "Leaving BC" website, for example, caught my eye:

You should be aware that your provincial coverage may not pay for all the health care costs you may incur outside the province, and the difference can be substantial. For example, B.C. pays $75 (Cdn) a day for emergency in-patient hospital care, while the average cost in the U.S. often exceeds $1000 (US) a day, and can be as high as $10,000 (US) a day in intensive care.

Does this imply that medical care is over an order of magnitude costlier in the US than in BC?

Don't get sick.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

What's Wang This Week

Basically just four things:

  1. Flight of the Conchords (you're welcome);

  2. VectorTD (get a feel for it on the default level, then try the "Do The Splits" map and feel my pain; thanks, Peter);

  3. a 12" cast-iron skillet; and

  4. continued GAS; I'll spare you the details.

Current Music: Flight of the Conchords - Beautiful Girl

Monday, June 18, 2007

It's business time

Thanks to Caity for the video.

Current Music: Flight of the Conchords - Business Time

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Still GASsy

On Friday I decided that the Gibson J-45 was out of the question, primarily because it was gone. I guess it really was a deal, because someone snapped it up in the two weeks between my visits to Guitar Center. That's fine; the Epiphone was still there. I went and I played it and it was pretty good, just as I remembered. I compared it to some cheaper guitars and there was no contest.

As one is taught to do when buying their first guitar, I compared this guitar to some very nice Martins just to see how it stacked up. I've always been fond of Martins -- I have an entry-level Martin DM at home that still ranks as the nicest guitar I've ever played, even having played real expensive guitars in stores. "Well, that's great," I thought, "but I'm feeling the need for a Gibson-style."

But! The first Martin I picked up immediately transported me back. All of a sudden I was sitting in the rec room at home in PoCo with my DM, composing the theme song to Even with grimy old strings, this thing is a beauty, and so were most of the Martins in the store. When I A-B'd them with the Epi, it was clear that the Epi was just not as special as my DM.

I figured though that the Epiphone might not stand a chance as it had older, crappier strings on it, and a fresh set of good strings might bring it to life. I talked to one salesman about one of the Martins, and from his answers I could tell he had no idea. Also, I found out that Guitar Center doesn't offer any kind of one-year maintenance policy (it's standard at Long & McQuade in Canada to offer a free setup within a year of purchase). Perhaps even worse, it was clear he had lost all his zeal for talking to me when I told him I wasn't necessarily planning on buying a guitar right that day. I talked to another salesman and asked him -- as one is taught to do when buying their first guitar -- if I could try the Epiphone with a different set of strings. He looked at me with the smarmiest, most patronizing face I can think of and says "If all the strings are broken, for some reason."

What I did at this point: nod, walk away, decide silently to take my business elsewhere.

What I wish I had done at this point: go back into the guitar room, break all the strings, then re-request.

This is their customer service? One time back home Long & McQuade let me take not one, but two guitars home overnight just to help me make a decision! So, fuck Guitar Center and fuck the horse they rode in on. My old beater Yamaha is holding up just fine for itself, to be honest. I decided that my next guitar is going to be a 100% no-compromises instrument. It's going to be a guitar that I can honestly say that I prefer to my old Martin DM. And, unfortunately, it's probably going to cost around $2000. It might take a few years, but I can wait.

Then I got a letter this week from Guitar Center thanking me for being a valued customer and offering 10% off any purchase made before June 30.

I wonder how that Epi would sound with a new set of strings.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Help me/Aidez-moi

My sleep schedule is getting ridiculous. A semester of having no classes in the morning has engendered a very bad habit: I am now willing to hit snooze upwards of six times, often with no later recollection of doing so. My alarm clock only beeps for an hour, too, so this means I just don't ever get up. Today I rolled out of bed at 11:30, an hour and a half after I intended to get up. I didn't go into the office today as they are painting Evans, so after lunch there was nothing stopping me from a little 10-minute nap. Two hours later, I woke up.

This of course obligates me to work later and later, and thus pushes back my nightly dose of Good Eats, The Daily Show, Colbert Report, and reading about Star Trek II and VI. So I ask of you, friends, readers, basically anyone who has my phone number, Canadians and Americans alike: please call me at 9:30AM PST tomorrow morning. I'm clearly in need of a reboot here and it's proving harder than I expected, and so I am turning to my support network here.

Help me. Aidez moi.

Current Music: Steely Dan - Haitian Divorce

Monday, June 11, 2007

High GAS prices

After mulling over the decision for a week or two, I started to lose my zeal for the Gibson J-45 in favour of the Epiphone Masterbilt. When I thought about it, I remembered the Epiphone being really quite impressive, while the Gibson was nice, but not particularly nicer than the Epiphone. $1100 for an American-made guitar, particularly a Gibson, just seemed like a great deal.

But I thought about the Epiphone further. "Am I really going to pass on this guitar, which is cheaper and maybe even better, just because it was made in China?

"That would make me no better than a white woman."

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

I have GAS, cont'd

It's been over a week and I've resisted buying the Gibson J-45. I also resisted the urge to go to Guitar Center and drool over the guitar for an hour in the hopes that something will happen to convince me to either buy it or not buy it. I've done some research and I've found out that the Epiphone Masterbilt AJ-500R is not in the style of the J-45, but of Gibson's "Advanced Jumbo", which is considered by some to be their finest acoustic ever. And the reviews of the Epi have been really good. It really might be just as good a guitar as the Gibson, although by now I have missed out on the Memorial Day savings. Really though, I can't help but feel like $1100 for a Gibson is just a better investment. New, the guitar costs $2400.

Last night I was flipping channels after Colbert and I saw Jessica Alba on The Tonight Show. She seemed a little dumber than I expected her to be given the interviews I have read, as well as a little bitchier. Fortunately for me, she was just as hot as advertised. I started daydreaming about becoming a famous musician and getting to be on talk shows as the second or third guest after her. I started to wonder how gauche it would be for me in that situation to tell the story about the time Pete, Brad, Travis, and I snuck into a theological college at night trying to sneak a peek at her filming Dark Angel at UBC. Then I decided that if I'm in that situation, there is no way I'm not telling that story. I would also tell her that Jowen says hello.

I flipped channels a little more and came back to the Tonight Show a bit later. Lucinda Williams was playing a Gibson J-45. I flipped back to Letterman, where Matt Damon had been discussing the effect his Matthew McConaughey impression had had on their friendship; the dude from Bright Eyes was also playing a Gibson J-45.

I think this is a sign. If I buy the Gibson J-45, I will one day get to play it on a talk show that Jessica Alba is also on. Playing the J-45 on the same show as Jessica Alba is huge.

Monday, June 04, 2007

When you wake up feeling old

I got absolutely nothing done last week on account of a case of food poisoning that kept me out of commission for the whole week. There is a small possibility that I gave this food poisoning to myself, but Adam and Brad convinced me that it's quite difficult to food poison oneself, particularly for someone of a fastidious nature like myself. So I will continue to blame this sketchy Szechuan place with ridiculously bad service in the 99 Ranch. (Shankar also had some stomach discomfort the next day, but Shankar is one to make to such claims. I'm going to assume they were for real though as this would show that I'm not just sissier than everyone else at our table.)

Two days in, I was feeling quite a bit better so I got a burger for lunch. This was a poor idea. Ordinarily after two days, I would be basically raring to go already, but not this time. Oh man that burger did bad things to me. I suppose it's time to face it: I'm not the young buck who would shrug off a stomach bug in a day or two anymore. I'm getting old. I'll be 25 soon, which is exactly mid-twenties, not like this 24 early-mid-twenties shit.

You know what makes me feel especially old? People who text. A friend once asked me why I didn't follow her instructions; it turned out she had texted them to my landline. Oh, look at you, all texting and shit. Pull out your cell phone and call someone -- oh, no, you're just texting. And more power to you. Just know that I will never be one of you.

Not that I mind text messages at all. I think it's a great idea, and certainly very practical when someone's in a meeting or something. No, I just don't think I can text. I feel like texting is something that people younger than me do, you know? People whose first game system was an N64, those are the people who can really text. People my age text, but we're not very good at it. Watching us type out a message on a cell phone is like watching our parents type at a computer -- all hunt and peck, all "oops where's the backspace". It's something we weren't brought up with. But people younger than us, they can do 40WPM on those little keypads. They have a command of shorthand that I imagined only secretaries from the 1950s had. It's ridiculous, I'll never be able to compete with that.

(I have written exactly one text message in my life. Adam texted me from a meeting once with a small typo: "I'll be a little tate". I responded: "Me tuber". Again, I have nothing against texting, I am happy to receive them, and one day I will probably write a few myself. However, this one was good enough that I'm content if it's the first, last, and only text message I ever compose.)

On the flipside, you know what makes me feel young? Blackberries. (Not the fruit, the cell/e-mail pocket contraption pioneered by Jim "Bals" Balsillie's company Research In Motion, with the little QWERTY keyboard.) I feel like the Blackberry is something that people older than me have, mostly because their work makes them carry one. People younger than me won't need them, because they can already read their e-mails on their cell phones and write them out on the keypad. Fancypants.

I suppose people my age who have more money than me also have Blackberries. Blackberries also make me feel poor.

Current Music: Rufus Wainwright - Going To A Town