Saturday, January 31, 2009

Marshall Vintage Modern amp head

I've always been one to try to find "value" in my musical instruments - trying to get good sound on the relative cheap.

When it comes to guitars and amps I have tended to buy and use used equipment whenever possible. For the first time in my life I'm actually stepping up and buying something really top notch with the Marshall Vintage Modern 50W amp head.

I was searching for tone, listening to samples/sounds coming from amps recorded all over the internet. I started off looking for a Fender Blues Deville amp with 4 10" speakers. I think I remember playing one in a store many years back remembering it as one of the best sounding amps I'd ever played. After listening to several clips though, I realized it wasn't quite what I was looking for.

So I kept doing web searches. I found amp demonstrations on very helpful, as well as many others found on youtube and other outlets. I know it'd be best for me to go try to play all these amps myself - if I could find them - but I find most music stores are surprisingly bad places to audition amps given the noise levels. (Question: why not have better listening environments, and at least have a few tuned guitars if you're in the business of selling musical equipment?)

And I got to thinking about some of my favorite guitar sounds. There was an unsigned band named Ghotti who popped into my mind. The guitarist Ugo's tone, songwriting, and playing inspired me. He plays Marshalls. I'd always thought of Marshall amps as just too expensive, and in a strange way had considered Marshall amps too "elite" to consider playing. But they had that sound. And I knew so many rock bands I grew up listening to played Marshall's also. Maybe it wasn't all marketing.

Anyhow, after listening to lots of amps I was drawn more to the Marshall line, especially after hearing a demonstration of the Plexi model played by one of my favorites Eddie Van Halen in his early years. I kept listening and came across the Marshall Vintage Modern line of amps which was an attempt to create a line of amps with modern features but having the vintage sounds. So I found a seller on ebay and purchased a lightly used Vintage Modern 2266 50W amp head. I've never paid so much for an amp, but I'm hearing the dynamic touch sensitivity, aggressiveness and "aliveness" of sound that I'd been trying to get from other amps on the cheap - and "on-the-cheap" just wasn't cutting it for the tone I was going for. I'm looking forward to running the new amp through the paces when it arrives. And if all else fails, the used market for these seems strong.

Here's one sample video:

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Bill Gates on education

Below is an advance quote of a Bill Gates letter to be released Monday at (source is the NYTimes article by Nicholas Kristof)

“It is amazing how big a difference a great teacher makes versus an ineffective one,” Mr. Gates writes in his letter. “Research shows that there is only half as much variation in student achievement between schools as there is among classrooms in the same school. If you want your child to get the best education possible, it is actually more important to get him assigned to a great teacher than to a great school.”

I find this to be a very interesting conclusion drawn from his research efforts in education. Granted, my exposure educational change to has been limited, but my general impression is efforts have been made to standardize education - to standardize and make education into a standardized process - similar to running a franchise of McDonald's restaurants. Similarly, in my work there's always a push to find standardized off-the-shelf processes that can be deployed repeatedly and consistently.

This finding above that the individual teacher matters more than the process resonates with my experience. Administrative and managerial types fret over the "great person" models of success, whether its a good teacher or good employee who just seems to get things done, and try to shoe-horn activities into well defined processes that allow them to "plug-and-play" whenever employee turnover exists... but certainly in my experience it's the right people that really make things happen. That doesn't mean that great process doesn't go along with it - I'm a strong believer in process refinement and efficiency - but effective employees bring their own great processes along with them, not the other way around.

anyhow, just my attempt at reading between the lines for the day....

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Sleepy dude

I don't know what it is, but I've turned into one sleepy dude. After I get home from work and have supper I sit down at my computer and have a tendency to flat-out fall asleep. Sometimes it's just for a couple of minutes, and sometimes I just catch my head falling down. And sometimes it's for extended periods... sitting upright in the chair with my head hanging there like a slack bobble-head. slobber dripping from the lower side of my slackjaw.

The odd sleepiness started 2-3 months ago when I got all out of sync and started taking naps after getting home from work - I think messing up my sleep cycle considerably. So far the best solution seems to be stand up while I'm doing stuff. I can't get my system to reset back to normal state at the moment though.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Bought some ebay stock

Haven't had much to post about in a while, but wanted to mention that I have stuck my toe back in the market waters with a small purchase of ebay stock. There's so many beaten down stocks right now, but at 9X earnings for a powerful franchise I figured this is a chance to pick it up on the cheap. In addition to the main site, I'd noticed that ebay's paypal is becoming a common payment method on many websites all over the net - and it's my preferred method of online payments. I don't know much about the prospect for their online phone skype, but I liked ebay in the 20s, so at 13 I just wanted to open a small position.

We'll see how it goes.