Monthly Archives: April 2009

Mouse Party Central

I’m not quite sure why 2005, 6, 7 and 8 went by without even lifting the cover on the Caddy. I was pretty busy, and I knew that couldn’t use it because the rear quarter window was not fixable, and, one thing and another, it just got left. Gradually, things got piled on top of it and is disappeared under a heap of garage type gubbins. I won’t say I forgot about it, but I just never got around to it.

This year, though, I resolved to get it out and at the very least fire it up. So – after clearing several years of ‘stuff’ from it, the cover came off. So far so good. The battery was dead – no surprises there, it shouldn’t even have been in the car for that long a period of storage – so I popped the hood to charge the battery. On top of the air filter was a very surprised mouse; the engine bay was littered with caches of nut husks and general mousey effluvia. The mouse ran, next morning there was a very dead mouse with all four feet pointing skywards on the lawn, Douglas (the cat) had wreaked his revenge.

(As an aside, Douglas would not catch a mouse in the garage, or anywhere else in the house. For some secret cat reason he will only kill rodents when they’re outside. As he is the scourge of everything in the vicinity from a raccoon downwards, this is surprising. But I digress.)

The trunk contained a half mouse-chewed roll of paper towel, and the trunk carpet was about 30% removed by mice.

A new battery, and the Caddy started on the third go. A bit rough, but running. Inflated the tires and rear air shocks,  after about half a gallon on transmission fluid (when it’s stored it leaks, when it’s being used it doesn’t) we were ready for a very cautious road test. This was scary for several reasons: I’d forgotten how awful a 1971 car is to drive, generally, I’d left my cell phone at home and wasn’t sure it would keep running, and it was vibrating like crazy – I’m guessing the tires had flattened where it had been sitting – but it drove half a mile and made it home.

Then I opened the glove box ….

This was where all the paper towel and carpet had ended up. The mice had been living in it for several years, and it was one massive nest. I pulled it out – big mistake. Mice obviously aren’t too fussy about urinating in their nests, and these had clearly been taking diuretics. And mouse urine smells awful. The regstration was done for, and it was the start of quite a long clean up job on the interior.

Around the same time, I had been looking on the Internet and found a company with a CNC machine that had started making the power window rollers and bushings. They also sold seals, so I obtained the window bushings, and a complete set of rubber seals (that are in a very sorry state) for the trunk and doors. About half a days work and the window was fixed. The seals can wait until I get around to painting the car.

Drove the car to the lube center in Exton now I knew it would keep running, and they didn’t keep filters for it any longer; ordered some filters from a web store, had the lube job done. The car was now starting to drive a lot better, the local tire guys don’t keep the size of tires and it seems the more you drive it the less the vibration gets as the tires settle in.

It’s longest trip has now been about 15 miles,  today I installed new wipers, plugs, ignition wires, distributor cap, rotor, points and air filter. Nothing is leaking still. The air conditioning isn’t working (the compressor isn’t kicking on so probably low refrigerant) and the windshield washer doesn’t run. Various bits of trim need seeing to, and it needs one high beam bulb – but generally it drives OK. The big final outstanding mechanical work is the front end alignment, balancing and if necessary a couple of tires to sort out the steering vagueness and vibration.

While it was stored a couple of new rust bubbles developed on the hood. I’m not planning on having it painted just yet (I want it done properly, that’s going to cost a lot, it can wait) so I ordered some of the original color to see if I can blend a short term fix. I haven’t used these skills for a few years (OK, few decades) but it’s coming back to me. Generally all my experience has been on European cars and having worked on the Caddy I can say that 70’s US cars are a lot easier to work on. So far.

The 70’s machine

I acquired this 1971 Cadillac Eldorado convertible on April 30th of 2002, from it’s second owner in Fort Washinton, Maryland. The photo’s you see on this post are from the day it came to Pennsylvania, hence the Maryland tags.

The gentleman I bought it from had in turn bought it in January 1973, with 18,886 miles on the clock, and it had been meticulously looked after in the 29 years he owned it – with the car came a complete service history including the original bill of sale, and it had received an engine overhaul in November 2001 (over $5,000 according to the bill). In general, it was a bit tired, but all there, and it had recently had a new convertible top. It had been painted sometime in the 90’s in it’s original color, but a budget job.

I registered it on Historic plates, which in PA means you don’t have to register it every year, and you don’t need inspections – but you are limited as to how much you can drive it.

In 2002 to 2004 it only came out in the summer, and I replaced a few items – rear shocks, tires, some drive shaft boots, and general service items. I bought a fitted cover, and garaged it over the winter. In 2004 I had a very frustrating time trying to fix the drivers’ side rear quarter power window, and couldn’t get the new bushings and parts. Although you can get most service items for the car still, body and trim parts are virtually impossible.

If you’re not familiar with this car, 1971 was a lot of firsts for Cadillac. It was the first year they brough back a convertible, it was the first front wheel drive Eldorado, and it was the first year of the massive 500cu in (8.2 litre) V8 powerplant. This is the largest capacity passenger car engine ever produced.

So it got covered up in December 2004, theoretically for the winter. I didn’t realize at the time that it wasn’t going to see the light of day again until March of 2009.

The hardest Martini in the world to make ….

So here’s a great Martini, but it’s virtually impossible to make for two reasons: a) You can’t get ingredient number 1 and b) You will struggle to get ingredient number 2. The good news is that ingredient number 3 is freely available, the bad news is that it’s ice.

You need:


  1. Sobe Lifewater Fuji Apple Pear
  2. Pravda Vodka
  3. Ice

Also a chilled Martini glass and a Martini shaker.

Pour 50% Pravda, 50% Fuji Apple Pear into the shaker, add ice, shake 35 times, pour.

It’s great. However the chances of you being able make one are really small.

The Great Sobe Life Water Fuji Apple Pear mystery

Sobe Lifewater Fuji Apple Pear
Sobe Lifewater Fuji Apple Pear

OK, so what’s the deal?

For those of you who don’t know, Sobe Lifewater is a Pepsi brand aimed at the non-carbonated non-water consumer space occupied by Vitamin Water et al. There are three varieties that are zero cal, and there’s a lot of guff about the sweetener used being natural and so on. OK, so much for the science.
The reason I’m interested is that I don’t drink coffee after noon, I just plain get fed up with water, I don’t drink carbonated drinks, and I really struggle to find something I like to drink between noon and 6pm. I tried all of the different zero cal lifewaters, and this one is the only one I actually like. The first one I tried was $1.99 for 20oz from my local 7-11. Not bad. However, I want to lay in a case or two at home, and at work, and I started looking. I found 1) It’s virtually impossible to get 2) Nobody delivers it. It’s so hard to get (and if you believe the blogosphere, very desirable) that it’s even being sold on eBay. So there are only two places I’ve found around here I can get it – the 7-11 in Philly (and Ali, the owner, won’t sell it by the case or discount it) and Genuardi’s – who sell it for $1 if you buy ten but don’t actually have any. All the soda delivery companies? No chance. Coffee for less? Nope. Acme markets? (every single one except this one).
Here’s the question: If this is so desirable (and I would buy several cases in a heartbeat), why can’t you buy it anywhere? Pepsi seems to be missing out here .. or do they know something I don’t?

Jefferson Wheelchair at the D’Ascenzo’s

Spring in Glenmoore PA

The first outing

The first outing was at practice today: here’s the rig – VG Strat, Sennheiser wireless, A/B switch – one side going into a Damage Control Womanizer and the other straight through (the reasons to become apparent shortly) the straight through and the Womanizer outputs go to channels 1 & 2 of my Bose Tonematch which fronts a Bose L1 Mk2 with dual subs. The point of the straight through to channel 2 is that I can have that channel optimized for the acoustic sounds and Ch1 optimized for electric. The Tonematch takes care of all the delay, reverb, tuner and all that stuff.

After a bit of fooling around I set the electric channel up as a Strat (it was a Les Paul with the Parker), and the acoustic channel as steel string piezo (it was Taylor L5 before), and took off the reverb on the acoustic channel as it is already onboard on the acoustic sounds of the VG.

A few suprises: the ‘real’ strat (i.e. mag pickups) and the modeled strat are so close I used modeled all the time, that way I have immediate access to the tunings without fiddling with the guitar type control. Secondly, after reading other peoples blogs I went to practice (typricaly 4-5 hours) with a charged set of batteries in the guitar, and two sets of fully charged spares. It’s still going strong on the first set of batteries, so I don’t really understand what people are complaining about. I’m using NiMH 2600mAH batteries, maybe other people use smaller ones.

Next surprise – I didn’t notice the extra weight.

Other observations –

  1. The tuning stayed in from the first chord to the last, 5 hours straight. Probably the blocked trem and the locking tuners helps there. I’ve read a couple of reports that the modeling settings ‘fine tune’ your tunings in flight but I don’t know if that’s true. I’m not sure how the processor could tell the difference between a 440Hz A slighly mistuned to 445Hz and a bend.
  2. The 12 string is great. In our line up (2 guitars, bass, drums) using 12-string when I’d normally use 6 string piezo for acoustic sounds very full and rich – I’m sure the Bose L1 helps a lot, but the acoustic sounds outperform the Parker.
  3. There are 5 different acoustic models, they have names (no idea what) but they are 2 good 1 mediocre and 2 awful. That’s OK, 2 good is 1 more than a piezo bridge gives you.
  4. No loss of expression, and no feeling at all that you’re not playing a ‘real’ guitar
  5. Switching settings are fiddly, there are a lot of knobs and they do different things at different times (the tone control, for instance, controls reverb in acoustic mode and is a tone control everywhere else). Add that to pedals and a/b switches and the Tonematch, I suspect being in the dark on stage is going to lead to a few mistakes. I understand why they stuck with ‘conventional’ controls, but programmable patches would be a godsend for live use.
  6. Electric sound – the strat tail and middle, modeled, regular tuning, vol & tone at 10, and the Womanizer set correctly – this is the closest sound I’ve ever come to the ‘brown’ sound I’m always looking for. Why the VG should be better than the plus is anyone’s guess but it is. Humbucker sound is pretty usable too, and the Tele works really well for CCR. We play Born on the Bayou in D and the dropped D and Tele was just right. Alright, I have to admit that it sounds better than any other guitar I own. And I own a lot, including some ‘gold standard’ vintage pieces such as a 59 LP ‘burst.
  7. The only downside – what happens if it fails on stage – doesn’t bear thinking about. Oh, also the neck is going to take some work getting used to. It’s the section, it’s fatter around the 10th fret than I’m used to, so playing a lot of barre chords in C or D for long periods hurts. I imagine I’ll get used to that, the other option is swap the Strat plus neck onto it which was the original intent anyway.

OK, enough for now.

VG Strat and guitar weights

I’ve been obsessing a little about guitar weight as we tend to play for long periods, and I’ve been a bit concerned that the VG Strat willbe to heavy to use as a main guitar.

What I really need to do is weigh them all, but I did some Googling around and came up with a factory spec weight on the VG of 8lbs 1oz. By comparison the Parker I use now is a Mahogany bodied Nitefly-M which weighs in at 6lbs 8oz and the Strat Plus (see other posts) is in the 8lb range. By the way, an average Les Paul is 9lbs.

What this means is that the VG isn’t actually any/much heavier than the Plus, and only 25oz heavier than the Parker, if the specs are right, so I can’t see this making much difference. I will actually weigh the actual guitars (as they can vary), as soon as I figure out gow to do it as I don’t think bathroom scales are accurate enough.

VG Strat – phase one

My first thought was to block the trem on the VG and switch the neck from the Plus. I think I prefer the VG neck though, so I bought a set of locking Sperzels, a set of straploks, two sets of Duracell 2650mAH AA’s, and a decent Lacrosse charger.

Fitted the Sperzels, which involves a little headstock drilling, blocked the trem, restrung with Ernie 9’s, setup the action and intonation. Fitted the Straploks. Next will be the first practice next week and a practical outing.

By the way, the trem cover on a VG is metal. If you block the trem you either have to leave it off (which I did), modify it, or remove it every time you break a string – not happening.

VG Strat – first impressions

First impressions – Firstly it’s a bit heavy. I’m used to playing the Parker so I guess it’s going to seem that way. Next, it’s really well built. I don’t know why that should be a surprise but most new strats I’ve played have seemed, well, not quite up to the price tag.

The modeling is really pretty good. I tested it through the Boogie head and Marshall 4×12 – it’s tough to tell the difference between the real strat pickups and the modeled strat. Jury is out on the Tele sound, I need to play it some more. Humbucker is pretty good, acoustic (as far as I can tell with this amp rig) is probably pretty good, although you pick 5 different acoustic models using the Strat pickup selector and only two of them sound good. It should be better through the Bose L1.

Tunings – I’ll probably use 12 string more than any of the others, maybe drop D. The others are fun but I probably won’t use them in reality. Shame there’s no open E.

Problems I can see – I keep reading posts about battery life, we normally play four sets of 45 mins, so plus sound checks and encores etc, I guess about 4 hours. Two sets of 2600mAh rechargeables should deal with that.

Next problem – the controls might be a bit fiddly (and hard to see) on stage; I’m going to have to learn them by feel.

Next – I *thought* the model modes alighed your tuning for you. I’m not sure that’s true.. with the nasty (well, I don’t like it) strat trem and no locking tuners staying in tune could be an issue.

No straploks, at least that part s an easy fix.