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CNN to drop last vestige of news content

December 11, 2016, Atlanta GA – Cable giant CNN yesterday announced that it would be taking immediate steps to change it’s programming composition. Hans Topper said “Our content mix for 2016 has been based on a tried and tested formula: 39% commercials, 10.2% self promotion and segue’s, 22.3% interviewing other media members about the media, 27.1% hand -wringing over the results of the 2016 elections, and 1.4% news”. He continued “That’s just terrible. We’re not devoting nearly enough time to things that matter.”

As a result, from January 1st 2017, CNN will be eliminating the 1.4% news content altogether, splitting the time between introspective media pieces and interviewing unhinged experts. “We might keep the crawler at the bottom of the screen somewhere, along with the self-promotion graphics for upcoming CNN shows where CNN staffers eat bugs or talk about their favorite ancestor. That’s still under discussion. We can get that news feed for free anyhow from Reuters or someone like that”

Advertisers on the channel were reluctant to comment on the new content mix. A source in the industry who wished to remain anonymous said: “I don’t think the advertisers have a lot of choice, there aren’t many channels that will carry the dubious lawyer advertising and drug commercials that’s a staple diet for CNN’s audience”.

Guitar Nuts

Thought you might like my interview on why we started Tone Ninja and why we manufacture guitar nuts:

Most serious guitarists invest lots of time searching for that magical, and sometimes elusive tone they hear in their heads.  During this process, they often enjoy testing everything from different guitar models, amps, effects pedals, strings and even cables. They don’t however, give much thought to the nut that is the main support for the strings they play on daily. This tiny yet critical piece of the instrument is what allows the strings resonate properly. Let’s be honest, most guitarists don’t really consider this to be of primary importance until something goes wrong with the guitar!

When tuning issues, sustain or buzzing arise, the nut can be the culprit. An improperly shaped or slotted nut can make a great guitar sound or play poorly, while a properly cut and installed nut can often make an average guitar much more playable and resonant.

I don’t pretend to be an expert when it comes to guitar nuts, but I have installed several nuts on my guitars over the years. I can therefore appreciate how difficult it can be to get a nut shaped and filed and slotted properly. It also requires quite a bit of time to get it right.

There are quite a few different materials one can choose when selecting a nut for an installation. Typical materials include, bone, brass, Corian, graphite, plastic and a host of other materials. The question often asked is whether or not the material used when fabricating a nut makes a real difference in tone? Sure there is a lot of Voodoo theories floating around the internet these days, but what is the honest truth?

To answer this question, I decided to contact Andrew Marshall from Tone Ninja who understands the technology behind guitar nuts intimately. Andrew is the founder of the Tone Ninja brand that fabricates a wide variety of guitar nuts for easy installation and great tone.  I asked Andrew to help shed some light on a few common questions relating to guitar nuts in the hopes of getting a better understanding of what makes a great nut.

Andrew, first off, why did you decide to start a company based on guitar nuts?
It’s an idea we’ve been kicking around for a couple of years, and as with most of these things there were several influencing factors. Firstly, up to now there’s only been one company producing nuts for the replacement and upgrade market, and there’s definitely room for another. Secondly, there’s no line of nuts available for the broader market that are made in the USA, and a majority of our customers both domestically and abroad have a strong preference for US manufactured products. Third, we thought we could definitely build a technically superior product at a lower end-user cost. Fourth, as with almost everything in the music industry, it was a lot of fun and a very gratifying experience. You get to work with great people and produce something people love. Finally, nobody’s really done anything new with nuts for thirty years so we thought it was about time.

Over the years guitar nuts have been made from everything from bone, Corian, various plastic materials, graphite and even brass. What material are your guitar nuts made from and why did you choose this material specifically?
Ah, the voodoo question. As you probably know, many people have strong opinions on this, and I’ve learned a lot in the process listening to guitarists and trying to parse those opinions into a material specification. We engaged materials engineers in the process and went through several iterations before we arrived at the current material, which is a high performance engineering copolymer. The trick was to find a material that was wear resistant and had a great (i.e. low) coefficient of friction and was easy to work if needed. Then, it had to produce reliable results to very high engineering tolerances when fabricated and on top of all that have consistent density for tone transmission. It was quite a task, but we’re very pleased with the result.

Guitarists often think bone is the best material to use when making a guitar nut. What are your thoughts on this?
Bone is a fantastic material, and if you have the time, skills and tools to fabricate your own nut it’s a great choice. For most guitarists, that’s not really a viable option, so that’s where we come in. We think our nuts are as close as you can get to a luthier fabricated bone nut as you can get with a prefabricated product. As an aside, bone only comes in one color, which is, well, bone color, and that can be incongruous on many instruments.

What are some benefits I can expect to notice after installing a Tone Ninja nut?
Every instrument is different, of course, but the immediate benefits are playability and tuning stability.  Open string resonance should improve too. In most playability problems we see, the nut is contributing to the problem – either too high or too low, or with one or more slots too deep or too shallow, or the wrong shape, or too wide or too narrow – you get the idea.

What are the main points I should think about when considering a nut upgrade for my guitar?
How hard will it be to change the nut, and will it make a difference should be the top two. We’ve tried to make the replacement process as easy as we can, and in most cases the slots should work as is. Will it make a difference? The nut is often overlooked as ‘too hard to fix’ when doing a setup, but in many cases it’s the problem that needs solving.

I have a slipping G string on one of my more expensive guitars. Why is this happening, and can a good quality nut fix this issue? If so, why don’t guitar manufacturers install better nuts on their guitars?
Binding on the G or B string is a common problem – the dreaded ‘ping’ when tuning. It can be caused by a couple of things, commonly a malformed slot or a sticky material. Using a nut with well-engineered slots and a high material lubricity will overcome most if not all of those issues.

Even with more expensive instruments, they’re built to a price. This is reflected not only in the nut material but also in the labor hours that can be spent at the factory getting the nut set up exactly right. The slots on most mass produced nuts are not that well engineered, which doesn’t help. Also remember the factory setup is very generic and may not suit what you need.

I have occasionally seen people using a brass nut in place of a plastic or bone nut. Are there any advantages to brass over the other materials?
Brass was pretty popular in the late 70’s, but apart from Yngwie’s brass strat nut which is available from Fender as a separate part, it isn’t used much today. It obviously wears well but it’s also pretty hard to work and relatively expensive. It sounds quite bright. It’s actually one of the materials we compared against when developing Tone Ninja nuts.

There are some people that believe a guitar nut if properly slotted has little impact on guitar tone. Fretted notes leave the nut out of the equation so nut material has little if any impact on tone. They often point to locking tremolo systems that do not actually use a nut yet still achieve good tone. What do you think about this argument?
It’s much more about how the nut, its fit, and its slot engineering affect playability and tuning than the actual vibration transmission, and you hit the nail on the head in the question with ‘properly slotted’. Some people in the industry are definitely guilty of over-stating the nut’s contribution to tone, and you’re quite correct that when a note is fretted the nut isn’t in play. Let’s not ignore open strings though, and there the material can make a significant difference.

However, let’s explore a different factor of tone: What we really mean by tone is how a guitar sounds when played. You’re probably familiar with two effects: one, when you pick up a guitar that just plays really well, you feel more connected to what you’re playing and the overall result is just somehow better, and two, when what you play sounds really good, it lifts your opinion of your tone? A properly set up guitar that stays in tune, and has great playability will start that positive feedback loop that improves your opinion of your tone, your own opinion of how you sound.

It’s not a panacea, it has to be in conjunction with many other factors – but if your nut is wrong, it will be hard to achieve good playability and hence ‘tone’, and that’s how our nuts really affect your tone.

Do you think someone can pick out a guitar with a bone nut or a plastic nut just by listening to them being played side by side?
Same guitar, same strings, open strings, acoustically? Possibly. I’m sure you could measure it with a spectrum analyzer. The reality is though, that bone is not practical or accessible to most guitarists and the acoustic difference between the material we use for Tone Ninja nuts and bone is small. Most people wouldn’t hear it. Cheaper plastic nuts? The difference would be more obvious.

Andrew, thank you very much for taking the time to answer some of our questions. I am looking forward to installing a Tone Ninja nut on a guitar that I am in the process of doing some mods to. Where can our visitors get some Tone Ninja nuts if they wish to purchase some?
They can simply visit us at www.sporthitech.com/ninjanut and place an order online. We have many models and sizes available for most any type of guitar.

Full details at www.toneninja.com as well.

The bizarre mystery of the relationship of my stepfather and the Butcher of Gallipoli

This is one of those stories that will probably remain a mystery, simply because there is nobody left alive who would know the answer.

My stepfather, James Couper Henderson Brash (known as Couper) was the only son of the world renowed pathologist and decorated World War 1 hero James Couper Brash, who as Professor of anatomy at Edinburgh University was on the team that delivered the first murder conviction in the UK using forensic evidence in 1936.

Couper’s father was fascinating and accomplished, and his Military Cross hangs on my wall today. Couper himself was a decent and kind man who met and married my mother fairly late in life, and died childless in 1990. His only sister, Nancy, also died childless and there ended that particular branch of the Brash family.

As I was in the UK in the period that Saddam Hussein was helping himself to my posessions in Kuwait (1990/1), it fell to me to travel to Edinburgh and deal with the formalities after his sudden death. Part of that was clearing out his desk (which also is in my house as I write this),  the things that weren’t thrown out or went with my mother ended up in a box in my house.

It was several years later that I actually examined them, and found four cards, approximately 6×10″ dated from the mid to late 1930’s which were Christmas cards from a General Sir Ian Hamilton, to Couper, with handwritten personal messages. Even later during a lunchtime session in the Manchester Central library, I looked Ian Hamilton up and learned that he was none other than the Commander in Chief of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force in the unsuccessful campaign against Turkey at Gallipoli, earning him the nickname the Butcher of Gallipoli, and effectively ending his military career.

This leaves several unanswered questions. The fact that Couper obviously valued and kept them for fifty years means they held a special meaning for him, but what? How had they met? The inscriptions on the cards to me, at least, suggest a highly personal relationship. To my knowledge Coupers father, James, did not serve under Hamilton and even if he had, as a mere Captain would have not exactly been in his social circle.

I will probably never know. I’m posting the images of the cards here in the hope that someone might find them one day and be able to add something.

Mystery continues but great deals to be had

Although I’m slightly less obsessive that previously now I’ve found you can buy this reasonably reliably at Target stores, it still isn’t generally available anywhere – convenience stores like 711 and Wawa, gas stations, supermarkets, soda and beverage distributors.

Having said that, Target is running a great deal right now (I don’t know how long it will last) of 10 for $10 plus you get a $5 Target gift card. That makes the effective price $0.50/bottle which is unbelievable. I’ve cleaned out my local Target, you should do the same if you like this stuff.

Quick update as of Nov 27:  It’s still as rare as hens teeth but right now it’s 99 cents/bottle at participating 7-11’s! I’ve now bought enough to last me through February. I’m not posting any more on this thread as it’s run out of steam.

More Sobe News…

Sibe LifewaterSo, here’s the letter I received today along with six bottles of the Fuji-Apple pear, by USPS priority mail. Well done, Sobe, for keeeping your word on that one.

I guess the lifewater project failed to deliver …

Well, it’s 5/25 and the free samples never arrived ….. so I guess I retract some of my previous comments and I’m surprised I was so easily fooled …..

On the availability front it seems to be getting worse – 7-11 has stopped stocking it, and still the only place I can find it is in Target. Still nobody delivers. There’s some guy selling it on ebay, at $12.99 for a 6 pack and about the same in shipping, so I guess you’d have to really, really like this to pay 4 bucks a bottle – the surprising thing is that people probably do!

Wegmans have started listing it, but they aren’t exactly nationwide and they don’t deliver.

As soon as I find someone who’ll ship or deliver it, I’ll post it – but as outlets seem to be dwindling it may be that it’s going to go out of production, It still remains a mystery.

First Live VG show …

So, the first live gig – last Saturday – with the VG. I fretted about taking a backup guitar but didn’t. I switched to all NIMh batteries, the AA’s in the VG lasted the whole gig (aout 8:15pm to 1am including soundchecks) but the 9v NIMh failed after 2 mins and I fell back to a Duracell. That needs some investation.

Main lesson – It worked really well live, but I MUST MUST MUST spend a day or two tweaking the settings on the Bose to get the acoustic and clean sounds in sync with the way the VG works. I’ve settled on couple of default settings (one 12, one six) and they don’t sound ‘right’ mainly because the Bose tonematch isn’t set up right.

Dirty sounds are the best I’ve ever had, especially the VG Humbucker + Womanizer combo.

Not too heavy for 4+ hours work. It’s a keeper.

Kuwait Bahrain Race 1990 video

Needs Speakers

Thanks for the video footage Henrik!

Whoah, the Lifewater folks read my blog …..

It would be remiss of me not to report that I just had an email from Erika at the Lifewater Project offering to send me some free samples, and telling me that there’s a 2-for-1 coupon here: http://www.sobeworld.com/ 

If you ever wanted a demonstration of the power of the Internet, there it is. Imagine trying to do that over the phone or by snail mail.

Full marks to the Sobe people for watching the web and reacting; they obviously have savvy marketing folks. And no, I’m not just saying that, in my day job I’m responsible for web sites among other things and I know how challenging  it is to keep an eye on all the social media.

Sobe Lifewater scarcity continues to baffle

Managed to find some at (of all places) Target. 10 for $10. Bought 40. Local Genuardi’s have buy three, get one free, but only have two on the shelf (but dozens of shelf yards of all the other flavors). Still can’t find it anywhere else except 711.

There’s only three explanations as to this drought:

  1. Pepsi can’t make it fast enough
  2. There’s some ingredient that’s really hard to find at the moment and is limiting production
  3. They’re doing it deliberately for some marketing reason yet to be determined