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summer thieves
the stray birds
joe ellis
woggi noggi
kenny gross
the blame
sporting hill ramblers
robert bobby
doll house
the Bambiverse
eagles n' flags
amazingly life-like
tascam porta-two repair
kurzweil key fix
squire amp buzz fix

I woke up with a song in my head.

I sort of remembered it as "When the value goes up, up, up! And the prices go down, down, down!" Something, something, "Robert Hall"...

Yes, it was a stupid radio jingle from the 1960's. It was driving me mad, because I couldn't remember the words after that. Well, I found it on the interwebs of course...

Robert Hall jingle

Not the first one, the second one- the polka. What I didn't ever know was that the very fine duo of Les Paul and Mary Ford were responsible for my ear worm.

That made it better somehow... to hear Mary sing "low overhead, low overhead" and resolve my confusion.

I may put this thing on a loop. Along with my collection of The Weather Channel tunes...

reforming a capacitor

Pretty dumb. I was looking for a classic amplifier to power my studio monitors. The Crown D-75 is such an amp, and there are plenty to be had on the used market. I picked one up on E-Bay, but overlooked the fact that the seller plainly stated that it "makes noise". It was a good price!

Got it in a week, excitedly hooked it up, and turned it on... boy, did it make noise! It was as if I'd plugged the speakers into a wall outlet. I had purchased an amp badly in need of repair.

Slowly my troubleshooting skills came back, and in a couple of weeks the internet and I decided that it needed power supply capacitors. Big ones! They had plainly leaked electrolyte, rendering them useless. Or were they?

I remembered that there is a trick you can do to old electrolytics that might restore them to usefulness. What was it??? Ah yes, reforming. Those thousands of dollars spent at Electronic Institutes have really paid off! I looked around online, and learned that I would need to apply a slowly rising voltage to them while limiting the current through them. This would cause the aluminum oxide on the film inside to "reform" as an insulator, allowing the capacitor to, well, be a capacitor again. But I still wasn't sure that this was my problem. If only I could check those capacitors somehow.

I was given an old capacitor tester a long time back- old enough that it was tube powered, completely analog! I still had it after a couple of moves, but had never really used it. Would it work? I dug it out and before firing it up looked online for instructions on its use. Not only found a video of that, but learned that this tester could be used to reform capacitors as well. Happy day!

So here it is, slowly pumping milliamps through the leaky capacitor. Can the can be saved? So far it's been working. The current through the thing slowly drops over time, and I'm nearly ar working voltage. I should know once the two power supply caps are "reformed" and back in the amp.

Culture. Why is our culture so damned depressing? I learned today that it's no longer a come-down for movie stars to appear on (or in?) TV shows. This came to me via the media of television, on E.T., before I could move away from it. Why should this depress me, make me angry and sad?

I should say that it didn't start there. I had just finished reading a short story, short fiction, about a Native American who had lost his shit job due to his drinking, whose only source of comfort was playing a big drum and singing. It was a story that was depressing, while shooting for that bleak sense of being uplifting. It was capital "C" culture alright, but it primed me for what followed.

Earlier in the day I had read a report about gun ownership in America- how so many guns are owned by frightened, angry white men. Whatever comfort they hope for by owning them, it often ends in suicide, using those same guns. American gun culture does make me sad. It's a cult of fear and death, and earlier today at work I heard two of these frightened angry white men joking about the "blood and guts" that might happen to come in contact with the hand-crafted exotic wood handles of their hunting knives. Whether human or animal blood and guts seemed to be the point of the joke.

Still earlier, while pumping gas into the old battlewagon on my roundabout way to work, I noticed, attached to the hose leading from the pump, a little sign advertising coffee. It was no more that a foot from my face, and I had an urge to tear it off and throw it in the trash. What I wanted, while filling my tank on this cold early morning, was to look out at the snow-covered ground, and watch other folks on their own round-about or direct ways to work. But seeing that the advertising was held in place with some sturdy nyloc straps I decided against any further action. Wouldn't that just be a crazy thing to do!

My depression about culture hadn't started there, either. I woke to my wife's alarm, which for some reason she sets for 3 AM. She had fallen asleep on the couch watching a TV series she rarely indulges in, so I can't blame her for not having switched the thing off, but I still lost my temper. I was having a bad night's sleep, not in small part because she wasn't in that bed with me but watching TV on the couch. Culture again, in this case binge-watching.

Culture had in that round-about way awakened me from a dream, a dream in which I had made a pretty good joke with a pretty nice woman and we had been having a pretty good laugh together. Maybe I held a grudge about that all day. Maybe culture isn't damned depressing after all, maybe it's just annoying because you can't get away from it?

Meanwhile, I'm sitting in a luxurious indulgence, this studio of mine. It's luxurious mainly because it is very quiet here. I can hear the engines of vehicles waiting for the light to change, but mostly only softly. Equally as soft in here is the sound of the motor of the timer on the light which whirrs and cycles at about a fast heartrate- maybe about 100 bpm. I don't mind sounds like that, they are mostly meaningless.

I have, here in this indulgence, only the culture I choose to have. There is no one here pitching me coffee, as if my morning coffee wasn't an addiction well planned for. This is a room in which I can make culture, if I like.

Lately I've been looking at rocks.

a rock

Beauty, eh? It's around 550 million years old. It has been underground for most of that time, so seeing it here is actually a big event. Almost as big as the fact that movie stars can now appear in television shows without fear of losing cred.

So long, Joe..

For a serious guy he could get pretty goofy.

joe and me

A good mix. I'm glad to have known and worked with him. Our first thing together was at the Cat Ranch in Paradise, where we went direct to tape. Sometime in the 1970's?

the Joe reel

This was ten songs, I believe it was a demo for his early solo career. I could always count of getting work from Joe, as he was just a little challenged by recording technology.

Here's a song straight off that tape- Genuine Queen of Milwaukee

Years later we got together to take the innerwebs by storm, posting music to MP3.com as a production he called MP3 by Midnight, due to the fact that we could get a song written, recorded, and out on the net in less than a day. What a marvelous idea!

There's been some gigs together, and many more recordings over the years. Miss you, Mr. Bobby.


I can still be delighted by the internet

Alma Fischer

I have 1,770 scans of photographs from my mom's collection, many of which she had taken herself. I sometimes randomly view one, just for fun, and this one, number 1361, came up the other day.

I have notes on these, often referencing their condition, location, or hand-written notes on the back of photograph itself. This one was interesting-
"Alma Fischer Married Sperling" Alma Fischer Coleman's namesake? Discovered this print in back of one of Grandma Fischer in a glass frame.
Now, my mom was Alma Fischer before she married, but this isn't her photograph. My guess is that this was an aunt.

The reason I must guess who this was is because there was an estrangement between my grandfather and his family in the Old Country. As the story goes, Grandpa Fischer pursued a kitchen maid in his family's employ when she emmigrated to Canada in search of a husband, and they never forgave him for it. Whatever there is to be learned about my Grandfather's family has to be inferred from these photographs and the odd paraphernalia- and what I can find on the net.

So... who was Alma Fischer Sperling? Where did she live? Why was this photo hidden in a frame behind another one?

Even more interesting is... was my grands journey to Canada an elopement? The official story was that she came to live with her sister, and that Grandpa pursued her. But at this point it seems much more likely that the two of them cooked this up to cover for the thang they already had going on. The early 1900's were a different time!

You should know that my grands Frederick and Wilhelmina Fischer raised five or six children together, and stayed married all their lives. So the elopement, if that's what it was, turned out to be a good thing.

But I'm curious about that family in the Old Country. Where was the "Old Country"? They spoke German, so that's a start.

Here's another clue...

the list

These are relatives on my grandfather's side! It's just a scrap of paper my mother kept, handwritten by persons unknown. It seems to indicate that someone named Sperling was possibly born on September 1st 1881. The first name looks like "Itlma". And that their residence is Berlin.

So here's the part where I get excited by the internet. For the first time, looking at the photo of Alma, I see that there's a studio imprint on the scan. Atelier Th. Joop I figure out that "atelier" means "studio", and that "Bromberg" is probably the name of a city, so I start googling.

And viola! By including the street address I hit this one...

the studio

This reveals- at some point near the turn of the 20th century my mother's namesake (probably my Grandfather's sister) strolled through that door and had her photo taken. This was in Prussia at that time, now Poland.

When I saw this I just went ahhh