My Blogs

Buying a Custom Hand-Made Archtop Guitar in China

Starting with the L-7

1933 Gibson L-7

I am a huge jazz fan, but am a rank novice at guitar playing. I have only been under instruction for about 30 months and with a full-time job, and me approaching my middle-60s, progress is slow, slow, slow.

When I started my lessons, I played my grandmother’s guitar, a lovely 1933 Gibson L-7 with a custom factory black finish, and a rosewood fingerboard that came from a Recording King guitar. I have no idea whether it was ordered this way or not. It was 1933, at the worst part of the Great Depression. It’s always possible that to save some money, first, the guitar may have been finished in black to mask any visual imperfections in the wood that would not affect its acoustic properties. It’s also possible that the Recording King fingerboard was lying around, and that a production manager chose to use any high end fingerboard that was readily available, rather than spend additional time and money to fabricate a proper L-7 fingerboard. I might have been able to perform some research with the assistance of Gibson serial number wizard Joe Spann, but when I was a small child, I took a screwdriver to the inside of the guitar to get the label out so I could read it (the things young kids do when unsupervised…). Of course, to avoid discovery, I destroyed the label and disposed of it, without my ever recording the serial number somewhere. [Read more…]

May 8, 2018


Book Reviews

Candy, or How My Mind Was Turned to Mush by a Dangerous Book

candyWhen I was 12 years old, I was curious about a lot of things. In junior high school, in the locker room and other bastions of “maleness,” I often heard discussion of this mythical book, Candy, by satirist Terry Southern (also author of the Magic Christian, and many others) and Mason Hoffenberg, that it was supposed to be the dirtiest (and therefore, most exciting) book around; worthy of the prurient attention of typical preteen and early teenaged boys. [Read more…]

August 19, 2014


Music

Doug Raney — Not Just A Chip Off the Old Block

Doug Raney, a fine jazz guitarist, died last month (this piece was written in June 2016) of heart failure, at age 59, in his beloved Copenhagen, Denmark, where he had lived off and on since his early 20s, when he went off on his own to be a jazz musician. To get things out of the way up front, it has been rumored for years, and finally stated by Doug’s brother Jon, that Doug had a substance abuse problem. He had apparently gotten past the drugs and was working to eliminate his dependence on alcohol. But the life he led took a severe toll on his body, as evidenced by photos of him taken in the last five to ten years of his life. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

Doug was born in 1956 in Louisville, Kentucky to famed jazz guitarist Jimmy Raney and Esterlee (Lee) Hirsch. He grew up in his father’s shadow, taking on the guitar from a young age, but found his own voice by the time he became a professional musician. [Read more…]

May 29, 2018


Transportation

My First Car, or Remembering the Gray Ghost

1952 Willys Aero Ace

Author’s Note: This is an expanded version of a story I wrote in 2012.

1967 Plymouth Barracuda

I got my driver’s license in September, 1970 when I was 16, and I wanted my own car in the worst way. Granted, I had decent access to my parents’ cars, an enormous, wallowing 1968 Mercury Colony Park station wagon (my petite 5’1” mother’s car), and an off-lease 1967 Plymouth Barracuda 2-door hardtop (my step-dad’s go-to-work car, and the car my step-dad and I took to the driver’s license examiner’s facility to take my test).

[Read more…]

March 10, 2018


Tech and General Computing

Physician, Heal Thyself

Web server. Head Crash. No Backup. Doh!

You’d think I’d learned my lesson about backing up critical data, but nope, not me. In an extreme case of overconfidence and hubris, I let a Mac mini that I had set up in my house as a web server for a genealogically oriented family association go without a full backup … for almost seven years! Yeah, yeah… I had planned on doing something when I had a little free time on my hands, but that time never came.

This server was running several specialized web applications, including the genealogy of the Grinnell family, configured in such a fashion that it is very difficult to start over from scratch. Oh, and did I mention the main membership database? Yup. Also gone. At least for that one, I think I’ve got a backup of that file somewhere, and because it’s membership renewal time, the membership chair had just made printouts of critical member information. Not that this should in anyway excuse what has happened. [Read more…]

May 4, 2012


Print and Publishing

I Learned About Desktop Publishing From That

How I wound up as a professional technogeek is a long and semi-interesting tale. It involves multiple computing platforms, multiple job shifts, and a whole lotta dumb luck.

After getting out of the US Air Force in 1982 after a nine year stint as a radio technician, I immediately began working for a huge Midwest-based communications equipment manufacturer, at their paging and commercial two-way radio manufacturing and R&D facility in south Florida. I worked in the manufacturing engineering organization as a bench technician, but had many of the responsibilities of a full-fledged engineer but for a whole lot less money (it was, however, double what I was making in the Air Force). I began playing with HP desktop computers and calculators writing simple programs in HPL (high-performance language) and HP Basic, controlling arrays of test equipment over their GPIB (general purpose interface bus). [Read more…]

May 4, 2012


Home Theater Technology

Wi-Fi Audio Frustrations

I’ve got a large music collection, much of which is stored on my media server in MP3 format. It comes from my collection of about 1,300 CDs, and a long-term membership with eMusic.com, which has served admirably as a great platform for identifying new and sometimes obscure jazz artists from around the world.

B001F7AHOG-1While I do have a treasured if elderly Apple iPod Classic (160 GB), that iPod is a mechanical device, with a hard disk drive that is sure to expire someday. I figured that I had this great media server with all these great tunes, how hard could it be to pump that music over Wi-Fi into my bedroom? Turns out that it was harder than I thought.

Bluetooth was no good because the source (my living room media server) was too far away from the master bedroom. There is a limit of about 15 meters from source to receiver for Bluetooth. [Read more…]

November 30, 2015


Apple/Mac Musings

History of the Palm Beach Macintosh User Group

The Good, Bad, and the Ugly (with certain names omitted for my protection)

The history of the Palm Beach Macintosh User Group was never boring. It ran the gamut from election rigging, screaming in the aisles, police interference, to the highest standards of community service, training and education. I know most of the names, but in order to protect myself from potential libel, the most controversial of those names have been redacted.

The Players

  • [Name removed 1] : PBMUG president in the early 1980s–up until about 1987 or 1988 when the PBMUG suffered its first schism.
  • [Name removed 2]: Controversial president in 1990s, who was removed by recall election.
  • [Name removed 3]: Riviera Beach police sergeant and PBMUG board member. Used police state tactics to prevent recall election from taking place. Later filled for in the remainder of [Name removed 3]’s term.
  • [Name removed 4]: Next-to-last president of PBMUG, who was a polarizing influence in those last heady years of the club’s existence.
  • [Name removed 5]: Last (as far as I know) and longest serving president/czar of the South Florida Macintosh User Group

My history with the original PBMUG goes back to about 1986 or 1987, when they were meeting at one of the outbuildings owned by Palm Beach Atlantic College. The group, which started as a user group supporting Apple II users, was a lively group of 40-50 people who were trying to learn more about their newfangled Macintosh computers, which, at that time, consisted of the 512KE and the Macintosh Plus, and followed soon after by the SE and beyond. [Read more…]

November 28, 2013


Genealogy

Perseverance Pays Off: Cousin Found after 30 Year Search…and Other Stuff.

Preface: I’m going to minimize or omit altogether many names in this story to protect the privacy of the living and most of the dead. Much of the information about my cousin Bob’s early years came from talks with my late mother, who was very fond of Bob, and was very concerned about his well-being, which, as things turned out, her concerns were justified. It’s also important to note that my mother had a great sense of the dramatic, and was not always willing to let the truth get in the way of a great story, so some of the musings about Cousin Bob may be very, very off-base, and I will apologize now for any offense taken.

Background – Meet the Family

My father, Norman Franklin Grinnell (1906-1958), died when I was four years old, following a valiant battle with lung cancer. My father was close to his siblings and his mother, but was geographically separated, so he didn’t see them as often as he would have liked, with us living in Indianapolis, and his mother, sister, and brother-in-law living in a big, beautiful old house in Providence, Rhode Island. His brother, an Osteopathic surgeon, lived in Michigan, and later Oklahoma, where he helped open the first Osteopathic hospital in Oklahoma City. [Read more…]

May 29, 2018


Larry Rants

The Day I Almost Met Luke Halpin

Luke Halpin

In the mid-1960s, the kids-oriented drama Flipper was a fairly popular network show. It ran for three seasons. Flipper was based in South Florida, and like other shows set in mostly outdoor South Florida, it was produced by Ivan Tors, who also did Everglades, Sea Hunt, Gentle Ben, and other shows that exploited the beautiful outdoorsy lifestyle of South Florida.

Flipper was filmed partly in the Florida Keys, but a lot of it was filmed at Wometco Enterprises’ Miami Seaquarium, an early water-themed park that featured the albino porpoise Carolina Snowball. It served as the home for TV’s Flipper, a bottle-nosed dolphin (actually a porpoise). There were actually several porpoises used for the show, the first of whom was named Mitzi. The Seaquarium had a fairly large aquarium (as you might expect), and there was a flashy (and sometimes splashy) performing porpoise show. It was also the first place I saw the infamous and iconic, not to mention kitschy Florida souvenir, the molded waxy plastic castings of dancing porpoises that were manufactured right in front of you in the famous Mold-a-Rama machine.

[Read more…]

March 11, 2017


Air Force Days

Air Force Days, Part 6: Life as a Combat Communicator in the First Combat Communications Squadron

1stcomm [printready]

My time in the 1st Combat Communications Group was a life-changing experience for me. It was, in a word, people, who made all the difference. While I was but a cog in the wheel when assigned to other units, life in the 1st Comm was like being a member of a family. If some of the words of this section are interpreted as criticism, I’ll admit to that, but only in the context of wanting the people to be better and to behave with just a little more honor. Sometimes, boys will be boys just doesn’t cut it.

I arrived in Frankfurt, Germany at the end of April, 1979. I was met at the airport and driven to Lindsey Air Station, a small facility located in the heart of Wiesbaden, Germany. At one time, right after WWII, Lindsey housed the headquarters for the US Air Forces in Europe, I think mainly because Wiesbaden emerged from the war virtually unscathed. This was a lovely facility, with buildings dating to the 1870s, with many of the older buildings evoking the castles found not far away along the Rhine River. My own dorm was a much uglier four story concrete box, but for the next three years, it was home. [Read more…]

November 30, 2015