Sunday, June 25, 2017

Outdoor Ukulele

There are many reasons to use alternative materials in the construction of musical instruments. Sometimes it is because traditional ones have become too expensive or restricted (like Brazillian Rosewood since the late 60's). Sometimes it is a pure cost savings measure like the use of laminates. Other times, it is to achieve specific performance goals.

Rainsong first made carbon fiber guitars to avoid the problem of very high humidity and wooden instruments. Those of us who live in the desert southwest value them for their ability to handle LOW humidity. In Phoenix a humid day means we use two digits.

This brings us to one of the newer players in alternative materials. Polycarbonate. Yes the same plastic used for fighter jet canopies and bullet-proof "glass".

I'm going to call this one GHOST...

Why polycarb?

Well for one it's immune to humidity, and it has a melting point just under 300 degrees Fahrenheit, and this is Phoenix. Not quite the surface of the sun even if it does sometimes feel that way.  It was not quite 120 degrees out when I took that picture.

Outdoor Ukulele is a Father/Daughter team up in Bend Oregon, the actual injection molding is done in Idaho, that makes the Outdoor Uke Made in the USA.

Mine is a tenor.

I paid an extra 5 bucks to have a strap button installed where an endpin would go on a guitar. The polycarb is not quite clear, there is some glass fiber in the mix to give it a nice frosted effect. Size wise it is slightly smaller than a Kala, and about 1/2 inch less body depth.

Since it is assembled using cyanoacrylate glues from two pieces, there is a seam between the top and body, and between the fretboard and the neck. This seam is actually recessed a bit. You can feel it with your fretting thumb, but it's not sharp or anything like this. Feels somewhat like a bound fretboard. Pinless bridge design similar to the old Tacoma guitars. In this case one ties a figure 8 knot in the end of the string and drops it through a hole in the molded in bridge.

 Everything is molded in. Frets, nut, saddle. So, nothing is adjustable whatsoever.

Outdoor Uke is using actual Grover open backed geared tuners. Bonus points for nice tuners. I'd prefer sealed ones, but open back are all the rage these days, and name brand tuners are a nice touch. Mine are nickel with black buttons. These nicely match the black dots on the fretboard. Note, there are no side markers. So we have to assign a few negative points for that. I normally don't use markers on the fretboard since you normally can't see them when holding an instrument, that's why they are normally on the side. I might add one at the 3rd and 5th fret.

How does it sound? Aye, that's the rub.

It's fairly quiet. Sustain seems to be about the same as my wife's spruce topped Kala. But it definitely quieter, and does not project as well. I don't have a mahogany topped uke to compare it with, but it definitely has fewer overtones than spruce. Several on-line reviews have stated that these sound considerably better once one changes out the stock fluorocarbon strings to Aquila Nylgut (possibly the new Reds). Aquila would be my preferred strings anyway, so once these wear out I'll switch.

So while it's not quite as good sounding as a wooden uke, it's also impervious to heat to roughly 240 F, and you can take it and leave it places that would utterly destroy a wooden instrument. Of course, a carbon fiber uke would do the same thing. Those are well over $1000 bucks though, which is always relevant.

This was a bit of a lark, and if I stick with the Uke I will probably get a Kala for playing out and use this one for more outdoorsy stuff, which is of course, what this type of uke was made for in the first place.  

Bottom line: Great instrument for camping, backpacking, or singing around the campfire. You probably want an actual wooden one for recording or gigging.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Imjur Test

Test to see if this works as an expanding thumbnail.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Gene Cernan - RIP

On the passing of Gene Cernan

Legacy of Legends
(c) Mark Horning 2017

Another year goes by,
Another hero fades away.
Another Living Legend,
from a brighter future day.
--When hope rose up on flaming wing
--and dreams were forged of steel
--And the men who strode the heavens
--Were very, very, real...

So we bid Godspeed, again,
and wind behind the sail
and a hope of new adventure
as they pass beyond the veil.
--To that Undiscovered Country
--from the Glory or the past,
--and a Legacy of wonder
--and a dream that couldn't last.

Another year goes by
Another memory starts to fade
A toast to all the heroes
Who fell along the way.
--Building hope on flaming wing
--And dreaming dreams of steel
--When the men who strode the heavens
--Were very, very real...

--And the Legacy of Legends
--Is very, very real.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Keyless lime Pie

Mark's modified "Key" lime potluck pie recipe.

The key is using Bears limes instead of those tiny little Florida Keys limes.  Baked in a 13 x 9 inch Pyrex baking pan instead of a pie pan, and then cut into rectangles.  Works better for potlucks than pie shaped pies.

Graham Cracker Crust:
16 Graham crackers, smashed into bits (use a zip lock bag and a rolling pin)
2 Tablespoons sugar
5 oz melted butter

Mix together dry ingredients, add butter, stir together with a fork and press into the bottom a 9 x 13 pan.  Don't bother with the sides, just the bottom.  Pro tip: use a 1 cup dry measure cup to flatten the crust.

Bake for 13 minutes at 350 F.

4 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cans sweetened condensed milk (14 or 15 oz)
1 cup lime juice (about 4-5 normal limes)

Mix together the first three ingredients then mix in the lime juice.  Stir until it starts to coagulate. (acid reduction reaction between the milk and citric acid)

If you really want to add a 1/2 tsp of grated lime rind you can do so, but personally I think flakes of rind are yucky.

Pour on top of the graham cracker crust once it is ready.

Top with Meringue:

Beat 6 egg whites until foamy.  Then beat some more.
Add 1/2 tsp cream of tarter and beat some more.
Beat in 3/4 cup sugar
Finally beat in 1 tsp vanilla.

Bake 13-15 minutes or until meringue is just starting to brown.
Chill several hours before serving.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Taco Trucks on Every Corner

Taco Trucks on every corner?  Taco Trucks?

That's not a threat, that's America.

I like Taco Trucks. Americans like taco trucks. We like tacos.  We also like Chinese food, and Indian, and Thai. Irish pubs, German Biergartens, Japanese, Korean, Italian, Greek... America will know you and love you for your cuisine.

We might not be able to find your nation of origin on a map. We have no clue what 2-bit dictator made your former life so miserable you moved halfway across the world. We can't tell the difference between a Syrian and a Sikh for goodness sake. But bring us your cuisine... 

Bring us your tacos and tamales, your shawurma, your schnitzel, your perogies, and ravioli, and dumplings of all types. Your Naan. Dear god above all else, bring us your nann.

Because this is America, and in America we don't care where you are from. Just bring something tasty to the Pot Luck.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Foreign Policy Naïveté

But the Libertarians are so naïve on foreign policy...

Oh really? Really?

Let me tell you about naïveté.

It was the neo-conservatives who were naïve enough to think that nation building in the middle east would actually work. That overthrowing a strongman like Saddam would somehow miraculously end up with a result fundamentally different than Yugoslavia.

It was the neo-conservatives who were naïve enough to think that lines on a map drawn by the British Admiralty actually meant something, and that Iraq was actually a country and not disparate groups of peoples only held together by force.

It was the neo-conservatives who were naïve enough to think that a bombing campaign in Libya would result in anything BUT a giant power vacuum to be filled by psychotic death cultists.

The Libertarian reaction to 9/11? Declare War. No nationbuilding. No "resolution to use force." Certainly no "invading nations that had nothing to do with it". No. The Libertarians wanted a proper declaration of war by the Congress of these United States on Al Queda and nations harboring them. We said "issue Letters of Marque and Reprisal" to private entities and hunt them down like pirates because that is how you deal with non nation state actors.

Because Libertarians are not pacifists. Don't believe me? Go look in their gun closets. No. They simply think that adventurism across the world is neither constitutional, nor actually productive in the long term.

Naïve? You are thinking about the neo-conservative "spread Democracy at the Point of Bayonets" wings of the Republican and Democratic parties.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Godspeed STS-107

1-February-2003. I inexplicably turned on the TV, only to see streaks of smoke and flame across the Texas Sky. I knew immediately what it was, and my only though was Damn-it, not Again!

I wrote this immediately after. (slightly different from the album version)

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone: