Archive for August 2008

The Craziness that was “Jermtech Week”

August 29, 2008

It all started a couple of months ago when a friend of mine, Collin Obremski, started calling me “jermtech”. I can only assume it was because it is my AIM nickname, my YouTube channel name, but most probably because its also my twitter name. Funnier than the name itself is the way he says it, though. It always has this implied “making fun of you with a straight face” feel to it.

So, naturally, a group of about 45 people now call me “Jermtech”. It’s suddenly like I have no other name.

Well, Sunday night my friend Joel announces, “I’m going to blog about my admiration for Jermtech this week.” Overhearing this, Jason Lee says that he would, too. Joel then says, “We should just make it Jermtech Week!” Pretty soon, Sarah Montgomery, Niko Gruber, and Morgan Young were in on it.

It’s one of the weirdest experiences of my life. It spread like wildfire throughout my FaceBook and Twitter worlds. At last count, there were 48 people that joined the “Jermtech Week Group” on Facebook. And there are about 25 people who changed their name and picture on FaceBook in honor of yours truly.

When I came to work for the week, I got a standing ovation from my co-workers who then yelled, “Happy Jermtech Week”. Those same words were written on the WhiteBoard. And then, of course, there were the 50 or so flyers Niko Gruber hung all around the building with my ugly mug on them and the friendly greeting, “Happy Jermtech Week!”

Following that staff meeting we headed to Programming meeting, where a few of us select music, drama, and video elements for each service. I noticed that the beginning of the meeting was kind of dragging and not much “work” was being done…like everybody was waiting for something. Duh. It’s Jermtech week. In walks Drew Larison with this cake. He also had a 6-pack of glass-bottled Coca-Cola (mmmmmmm). He had remembered that I am one of the weird people that swear Coke tastes different out of glass than it does from plastic.

A few hours later, they let me pick the place to go for lunch together. I selectd Hacienda (love those chips and salsa). We had a great time. When it was over and the checks had been paid, the server chick told us to have a great day and thanks for coming. I replied, “Happy Jermtech Week!” She went with it and said “Thanks, you too” or something. We all lost it.

And then there were the blogs. You can read them here, here, here, here, and here.

Special recognition should also go to Joshua Meyers, who somehow convinced Facebook to let him change his full name to BingBong YaGotchca JermtechWeek.

All the Facebook and Twitter users were also very creative in their status updates all week. Kudos!

I posted earlier this week that it was a little like wandering into your own funeral. Everyone is taking turns saying nice things about you and celebrating the weird uniqueness that God gave you…pretty cool, actually.

So thanks to everyone who did something to make me feel special this week. It has been one of the weridly cool expeiences of my life. It’s so great to have friends who want to be around you and celebrate life with you. Thanks everybody!

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Response to calling Republicans “Racists”

August 15, 2008

We’ve been hearing it pretty steady for a few weeks now. While no one from the Republican side, especially from the John McCain camp, have said anything about race, Barack Obama still claims they have. In recent weeks he has been all over the news trying to sell the line, “they’re going to say that I don’t look like all those other Presidents on the dollar bills”. This is playing the “preemptive victim” card. And then just today (Aug 15), Howard Dean, Chairman of the DNC, is quoted calling Republicans “The White Party”.

Well, here’s a little history test I’ve reprinted for everyone. See how you do. [Answers Below]
BLACK POLITICAL HISTORY: THE UNTOLD STORY*

1.  What Party was founded as the anti-slavery Party and fought to free blacks from slavery?
[  ]  a.  Democratic Party
[  ]  b.  Republican Party

2.  What was the Party of Abraham Lincoln who signed the emancipation proclamation that resulted in the Juneteenth celebrations that occur in black communities today?
[  ]  a.  Democratic Party
[  ]  b.  Republican Party

3.  What Party passed the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the U. S. Constitution granting blacks freedom, citizenship, and the right to vote?
[  ]  a.  Democratic Party
[  ]  b.  Republican Party

4.  What Party passed the Civil Rights Acts of 1866 and 1875 granting blacks protection from the Black Codes and prohibiting racial discrimination in public accommodations, and was the Party of most blacks prior to the 1960’s, including Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Booker T. Washington, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.?
[  ]  a.  Democratic Party
[  ]  b.  Republican Party

5.  What was the Party of the founding fathers of the NAACP who were themselves white?
[  ]  a.  Democratic Party
[  ]  b.  Republican Party

6.  What was the Party of President  Dwight Eisenhower who sent U.S. troops to Arkansas to desegregate schools, established the Civil Rights Commission in 1958, and appointed Chief Justice Earl Warren to the U.S. Supreme Court which resulted in the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision ending school segregation?
[  ]  a.  Democratic Party
[  ]  b.  Republican Party

7.   What Party, by the greatest percentage, passed the1957 Civil Rights Act and the Civil Rights Acts of the 1960’s?
[  ]  a.  Democratic Party
[  ]  b.  Republican Party

8.  What was the Party of President Richard Nixon who instituted the first Affirmative Action program in 1969 with the Philadelphia Plan that established goals and timetables?
[  ]  a.  Democratic Party
[  ]  b.  Republican Party

9.  What is the Party of President George W. Bush who supports the U.S. Supreme Court’s University of Michigan Affirmative Action decision, and is spending over $200 billion to fight AIDS in Africa and on programs to help black Americans prosper, including school vouchers, the faith-based initiative, home ownership, and small business ownership?
[  ]  a.  Democratic Party
[  ]  b.  Republican Party

10.  What Party fought to keep blacks in slavery and was the Party of the Ku Klux Klan?
[  ]  a.  Republican Party
[  ]  b.  Democratic Party

11.  What Party from 1870 to 1930 used fraud, whippings, lynching, murder, intimidation, and mutilation to get the black vote, and passed the Black Codes and Jim Crow laws which legalized racial discrimination and denied blacks their rights as citizens?
[  ]  a.  Republican Party
[  ]  b.  Democratic Party

12.  What was the Party of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and President Harry Truman who rejected anti-lynching laws and efforts to establish a permanent Civil Rights Commission?
[  ]  a.  Republican Party
[  ]  b.  Democratic Party

13.  What was the Party of President John F. Kennedy who voted against the 1957 Civil Rights law as a Senator, then opposed the 1963 March on Washington by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. after becoming president, and later had the FBI (supervised by his brother, Attorney General  Robert Kennedy) investigate Dr. King on suspicion of being a communist?
[  ]  a.  Republican Party
[  ]  b.  Democratic Party

14.  What is the Party of current Senator Robert Byrd who was a member of the Ku Klux Klan, Senator Fritz Hollings who hoisted the Confederate flag over the state capitol in South Carolina when he was the governor, and Senator Ted Kennedy who recently insulted black judicial nominees by calling them “Neanderthals” while blocking their appointments?
[  ]  a.  Republican Party
[  ]  b.  Democratic Party

15.  What was the Party of President Bill Clinton who failed to fight the terrorists after the first bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993, sent troops to war in Bosnia and Kosovo without Congressional approval, vetoed the Welfare Reform law twice before signing it, and refused to comply with a court order to have shipping companies develop an Affirmative Action Plan?
[  ]  a.  Republican Party
[  ]  b.  Democratic Party

16.  What is the Party of Vice President Al Gore whose father voted against the Civil Rights Acts of the 1960’s, and who lost the 2000 election as confirmed by a second recount of Florida votes by the “Miami Herald” and a consortium of major news organizations and the ruling by the U.S. Civil Rights Commission that blacks were not denied the right to vote?
[  ]  a.  Republican Party
[  ]  b.  Democratic Party

17.  What Party is against the faith-based initiative, against school vouchers, against school prayers, and takes the black vote for granted without ever acknowledging their racist past or apologizing for trying to expand slavery, lynching blacks and passing the Black Codes and Jim Crow laws that caused great harm to blacks?
[  ]  a.  Republican Party
[  ]  b.  Democratic Party

ANSWERS: All answers are “b”.

*This quiz was originally found in The Black Republican magazine.

Good (and bad) Eats!

August 13, 2008

We just got back from a week spent in Indianapolis, and one of my vacation rules is that we can never eat something on vacation that we can get in our hometown! You should also know that we live on the Dave Ramsey envelope system, so we don’t normally eat out a whole lot, especially at expensive or “upscale” places. Therefore, vacation time is where we loosen those rules and have some good eatin’. So here’s a little review of our eating extravaganza the last few days.

1. Logan’s Roadhouse (S.R. 37 – Noblesville)

This was what we selected for our first night away. We both enjoy Texas Roadhouse, and the sign attracted us that said, “Two Dinners for $13.99 ALL DAY”. The special was for real. There were about 7 or 8 choices on the “special” menu. I chose the 7 oz. Sirloin, topped with onion straws, with a side Garlic Cheddar Mashed Potatoes, and accompanied by a Miller Lite. Mandy had the Teryaki Chicken with a Sweet Potato and her standard water with lemon. It was pretty good, although the steak was about to be put to shame just two nights later (scroll down!) I did not eat much of the potatoes, as I felt they had way too much garlic in them. Mandy’s chicken and sweet potato were both good, but not sensational. I’d have to say we probably enjoy the food at Texas Roadhouse better. But the atmosphere is where Logan’s really shines. The music was not too loud (like it is at T.R.), and it was a better mix – not just hot country, but shuffling in some texas blues and southern favorites. The wait staff was very good, and the service was quick. We wondered when we left if the food would have been better if we had strayed from the “special” menu. MEAL FOR 2: Less than $20.

2. Chipotle (Westfield)

I have to start with this – my wife and I LOVE Qdoba. We are big fans. We try to mix it in at least once a week. So it would seem to be a no-brainer that we would also love Chipotle – after all, they’re essentially imitation competitors, right? Well, yes, and no. They do have a similar menu, but the taste and experience are not quite the same. Mandy and I’s last three experiences at Chipotle have been bad. So they’re now officially on THE list. You know – the list of places where you WON’T go. We have had bad expeiences with the shredded beef (it was so spicy it made Mandy sick to her stomach), the taco salad, and the 3 taco meal (both plain, dry, and skimpy on cheese and/or sour cream). There is absolutely no comparison. Qdoba is far and away the better establishment. MEAL FOR 2: about $14.

3. Maggiano’s (86th St.)

Ahhh, the taste of Italy. You know – the real one – not the Olive Garden Americanized one. Maggiano’s is a fine restaurant complete with Valet service, waiters in formal dress, and crisp new tablecloths for each party. Did you know it is also a “fresh” kitchen, meaning all sauces and ingredients are made for each prepared dish? This means you can order food if you have an allergy and they will whip it up immediately on the spot for you. It also means that you can request special dietary needs, like gluten-free pasta for example. I ordered the Chicken Parmesan, and Mandy had the Fettucene Alfredo with Grilled Shrimp. Yum! Ohhhh and the bread – the bread was fantastic! We both enjoyed our meals immensely. We ended the meal by having a Kahlua & Cream (me) and a Grasshopper (Mandy). Four stars! MEAL FOR TWO: about $60.

4. Red Robin (Clay Terrace)

We sampled the Red Robin with a group from our church. What fun! The wait staff bent over backwards to rock our food on time and get us anything we needed (including quick checks!) The food was good, too. I had the Gourmet BaconCheeseburger with American, and Mandy had the Grilled Chicken salad. We were both very pleased. It IS pricey (about $9 for a burger with steak fries), but it’s also good quick American food. Because of the price, and the fact that we usually eat as a family of four, I would probably hesitate to make it a regular part of our lives, but I wouldn’t turn it down should the option present itself in the future. MEAL FOR TWO: about $22.

5.Harry & Izzy’s (Downtown)

Best. Meal. Ever. Mandy and I decided to go downtown for a bit and do some shopping at the Circle Center Mall. After we looked a round a bit, we decided to take the plunge, and go for our “big vacation meal” at Harry & Izzy’s. It is basically a “little brother” to St. Elmo’s Steakhouse, which is right next door. We learned that H&I’s shares appetizers, desserts, and steak cuts with its famous big brother. So we started off by getting the world-famous St. Elmo’s style Shrimp Cocktail appetizer. Oh. My. Gosh. Excellent! Fresh made-from-scratch cocktail sauce accompanies the huge juicy shrimp. YUM! (Tip: The cocktail sauce is not your typical wimpy bottled stuff – it is made fresh every day complete with fresh horseradish. BEWARE! It will burn your nose if you get too much – trust me.) Beyond the awesome starter, we both ordered steaks. I got the 10 oz. New York Strip, and Mandy got the 8 oz. Filet Mingon. Words cannot desrcibe the awesome goodness that was those wonderful hunks of meat. Perfect seasoning. Cooked to perfection. And cooked in a way that the entire steak stayed hot through the whole meal. I had the wholegrain rice blend on the side, and Mandy had the Mashed Red Potatoes (which came mixed with generous amounts of sour cream.) Both were sensational. And the bread…oooooooooh the bread.  A+ on the atmosphere, too. It was upscale (waters in jackets and bow ties, and used table combs in between each course) yet the diners were very casual. I saw people in ball caps, shorts, flip-flops, etc. and all were welcome. YES, it’s pricey. But for those special occasions – it was simply amazing. MEAL FOR TWO: about $100.

6. Chic-Fil-a (W. 86th)

On Saturday we picked up the kids to join us on our vacation. We stopped for a quick luch on the way back to the hotel. Everyone knows about Chic-Fil-a. We have eaten there many times, but as we don’t have one in Kokomo, it made the list! Best Fast Food Ever. MEAL FOR FOUR: about $20.

7. Loon Lake Lodge (Castleton)

Saturday night, we went to the Loon Lake Lodge. It is a replica of a mountain lodge and harkens the feel of a cold bristly day in the mountains. Decor includes plenty of taxidermy specialties, replica mounted fish, and dear, elk, and moose heads. There is a huge aquarium which contains many different species of large fish. And the highlight for the kids was the timed animatronic animals hidden in the ceiling and walls of the decor. From time to time, a light would come up on an owl, a woodpecker, raccoons, and three black bears – and the appropriate sounds would eminate from the creatures. It was great fun for our kids. The meal was pretty good, although, honestly, after Harry & Izzy’s, it would be hard to get a high rating. I had the BBQ ribs with “smashed” garlic potatoes and creamed corn, Mandy had the breaded tenderloin with green beans, Sarah had a small sirloin steak with green beans, and Zoe had chicken strips with fries. Overall, it was a good experience with a couple of exceptions. My “smashed” potatoes were so heavy with garlic that I couldn’t eat them. And Sarah said her green beans were way too heavy with black pepper. I tasted them and agreed 🙂 Everything else seemed good, it was a unique atmosphere, and the kids had a blast. MEAL FOR 4: about $55.

8. Indianapolis Children’s Museum Food Court

Sunday brought us to the Indianapolis Children’s Museum (awesome), and its accompanying food court (not so much). The court had burgers, chicken strips, pizza, etc. We opted for the pizza (individual slices). Mandy and the kids had the cheese version, and I had the Pepperoni. It was on the downside of average, if that makes sense. It wasn’t necessarily BAD…it just wasn’t good. Mandy and I shared a large soda and the kids had milk. MEAL FOR 4: about $30.

9. Adobo Grill (Castleton)

Nuvo Magazine rates it as one fo the top Mexican style restaurants in all of Indianapolis. It is praised for its unique atmosphere, awesome creations, and complete lack of “Tex-Mex” conventions. That sounded interesting to me, so we decided to give it a try. I had the Chicken Molé Enchiladas, Mandy had the  Chicken Tacos with Pineapple Salsa, and Sarah and Zoe had Chicken tacos off the kids’ menu. I thought the molé sauce tasted like burnt marinara, and Mandy’s pineapple salsa turned out to be simple pico de gallo with pineapple chunks blended in! Sarah and Zoe’s chicken tacos looked like silver dollar pancakes with dried up chicken and lettuce on them. No cheese. No sour cream. No tomatoes. Yuk! Mandy’s quote on the experience is thus, “Way too overhyped. Didn’t even seem like mexican food. It seemed like the owners were more interested in creating a cool vibe restaurant than they were good food.” It was Metro for metro’s sake. There is not a prayer that we would ever go back to this place. MEAL FOR 4: about $45.

What about you? Where have you had good and bad experiences in the Indianapolis area?

My Pedalboard Aug 2008

August 6, 2008

I’ve had a few requests for pictures and explanations of my pedalboard. Here ya go!

click for bigger image

click for bigger image

The signal path starts at the bottom right and moves leftward on the board. The output of #5 plugs into the input of #4 and continues leftward. This make the signal chain look like this:

COMP>VOLUME>OD>DIST>EQ/BOOST>FUZZ>
TREM>CHORUS>PHASE>DELAY

This is a standard method of effects order (DYNAMICS, TONE, MODULATION, then TIME-BASED EFFECTS). Others do it differently, but I’ve found doing things the traditional way keeps my signal chain as clean as possible. You’ll also notice that I prefer narrow, smaller pedals to the bigger units. This is also intentional.

And, of course, go ANALOG whenever possible, and stay away from the newer digital junk that is being passed off as good pedals nowadays. You will find no Digitech, Zoom, Behringer, etc. on my board. I have spent the last several years doing away with all my digital junk and upgrading to high quality analog gear. It is time consuming and expensive, but the TONE is unbelieveable!

Below are descriptions and comments about each pedal, in pictured order:

1. Line 6 Echo Park: This is the only piece of Line 6 gear that I own. I tried LOTS of delay pedals. I just happened to like this one. I love how compact it is for the features it has. TAP TEMPO was a dealbreaker – I had to have it, and this is one of the smallest pedals around that has that feature. I am generally not a fan of Line 6 (particularly their modulation pedals, amp modelers, etc.) but I had to make the rare exception for this pedal.

2. Electro-Harmonix Small Stone Phaser: This is actually a 70’s vintage model, and belonged to my Dad. It has a super deep, spacey sweep to it that I really love.

3. Analogman Bi-Chorus: Analogman gear is highly sought after in the guitar world. Analog Mike has a huge website and mail order company that promotes older analog pedals, offers mods for popular pedals, and sells some of his own unique creations. This chorus pedal is based on a vintage Electro-Harmonix Small Clone circuit, but has modifications that are really handy. For example, the original Small Clone did not have a depth knob, but raher just a switch between two presets. For me, it always seemed like one was too flangey, and the other was too swirly – there wasn’t an in-between. The Bi-Chorus is actually two chorus settings side-by-side that you can toggle back and forth. This allows you to have a slower chorus sound and a faster, more “rotary” sound both already dialed in the way you want them.

4. Boss TR-2 Tremolo: A basic, easy to find trem pedal. One of the downsides of this pedal is that you lose a little volume and punch with the pedal in the ON position. So in the future, this will be going back for the Analogman mod to correct that problem.

5. Electro-Harmonix Little Big Muff: This is one of the newer offerings from the recently rejuvenated Electro-Harmonix. I used to own an older USA Big Muff and a Russian reissue Big Muff. But I liked this one because it was small, and because it offered classic fuzz tone with a lot of sustain. The truth is I don’t use classic fuzz tones very much, so this is used more as my “3rd option” pedal behind the other two main distortions.

6. DOD FX40B Graphic EQ: This is one of the weaker units in my signal chain. I wouldn’t have purchased this pedal today – but since I already owned it and it was available, and it served a specific purpose, I made the exception. But I don’t really use it for much tone-shaping or EQ-tweaking. I primarily use it as a boost pedal. The first slider on the pedal is a gain adjustment. So I basically use this pedal as a gain boost AFTER my two main distortions. This allows me to have a lead boost without screwing up my tone.

7. Boss DS-1/Super/MidRange Analogman Mod: This is not a stock DS-1 pedal. It has been sent away to Analogman for his Super and MidRange mods. The stock pedal is fairly thin and buzzy sounding, with a loss in low end. After the mod, the pedal is a bit louder with all knobs at 12:00, and a much thicker, fuller sound, with no high end tinny buzzing. Just a true distortion sound, a lot less like the sound you get out of a pedal. It replaces many of the cheap components that Boss uses with expensive, high grade audio parts. Analogman also re-equalized the pedal for a punchier sound without adding more distortion or noise. The mod actually removes a ton of high frequency noise from the pedal. The DS-1 has quite a scooped midrange, especially stock. This is cool for heavier modern sounds but sometimes too thin in the mids for classic distortion sounds, especially through a Fender type amp. So it has a mod to allow dialing in more mids for more of a classic tube amp sound. They added a small MIDRANGE knob on the side of the pedal. It has the exact stock midrange setting and sound at about 10:00. Turning it up gives more midrange and a little more volume. It works along with the TONE control. I use this pedal for my heavier, Marshall-ish distortion sounds.

8. Boss SD-1/808 Analogman Mod: Everyone knows that the best overdrive pedal ever made was the original Ibanez Tubescreamer TS-808. But as true vintage ones are going on Ebay for over $350, they’re just a bit pricey! Well one of the lesser known facts is that the Boss SD-1 is a very similar sounding pedal, and was basically a copy of the original Tubescreamer circuit (although with some Boss tweaks along the way). So I bought a cheap SD-1, and sent it to Analogman for his 808 mod. They change out some of the cheaper components and replace them with high-grade audio parts. They upgrade capacitors, they replace the switching components, etc. The end result is the sound of an original Tubescreamer! I love this pedal and use it all the time. When the distortion level is low, it is a vey warm bluesy boost. When you crank up the distortion, all kinds of tones from SRV to Eric Johnson can be acheived.

9. Ernie Ball VP Junior Passive Volume Pedal. This is a stock Ernie Ball volume pedal – no mods or fuss. it just simply always works and has a very smooth taper (unlike the piece of crap Dunlop volume pedal I used to have.)

10. Analogman Mini Bi-Comp: Ahhhh, another “secret sauce” pedal. This is basically two different compressor pedals in one body, both created by Analogman. A long time ago, there was the MXR DynaComp – a nice little compressor pedal. But it had some quirks. The ROSS mod was popular among recording artists as a fix for the inherent uneven-ness. Enter Analogman, who came in posession of the orginal ROSS specs and now offers that same great sound to anyone. So the LEFT side of the Mini-Bi-Comp is a Ross Dynacomp. On the RIGHT side, however is a clone of Dan Armstrong’s Orange Squeezer compressor, whose sound is forever immortalized on the opening riff of “Sweet Home Alabama” and is also prominently featured in the Dire Straits song, “Sultans of Swing”. The squeezer side lets the pick attack through, and then absolutely squashes the rest of the signal – it’s a rather cool sound! I used both of these compressors extensively when I play. One side or the other of this pedal is on at all times.

11. Tomb of the Unknown Tuner: Actually, my tuner croaked, and I will be buying a replacement soon. I am looking seriously at the new KORG PitchBlack.

Hope you enjoyed the tour!

R.I.P. Hiram Bullock

August 3, 2008

The guitar world lost another legend on July 25th – Hiram Bullock. Hiram was an original of David Letterman’s World’s Most Dangerous Band. He played with a ton of Jazz and funk legends including David Sanborn, Marcus Miller, Omar Hakim, Dizzy Gillespie, Bootsy Collins, and more.

Oakbrook people would be familiar with a fantastic instrumental song performaed at our 10th Anniversary concert called, “Smile”, performed by Monty Sanders and Scott Kinnard. The original artists on that tune were David Sanborn and Hiram Bullock.

I had a chance to see Hiram live with David Sanborn on the “Upfront Tour” at Deer Creek in 1992. The dude liked to dance – he liked to have a lot of fun when he played, and he never stood still. At one point, he took a 5-minute guitar solo while walking, running, and jumping through the crowd at Deer Creek. I was near an aisle, and got to touch his leather fringe jacket that night 🙂

Here’s a video of Hiram having fun in 2005: