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seeking the elusive martin B-540 acoustic bass guitar

those of us with g.a.s. (guitar acquisition syndrome) lust after vintage martin guitars. martins are gorgeous instruments that… even as they suffer normal wear and tear… actually get better over time; the woods, lacquers and glues dry completely and settle in, and they ‘open up’. it usually takes 10 or so years before they really start maturing, but the resulting sound is even warmer and more resonant. those in the know crave (and pay) for the vintage martin sound.

although i have several old martins… including a lovely 1942 00-18 inherited from my father… i am mostly a bass player. it’s even worse than that, though. i play 5-string bass… which old school bassists think is somewhat kinky, even acousticorethough it gives you an additional low B string that significantly expands sonic possibilities.

i first saw a (4-string) martin acoustic bass guitar (ABG) at a friend’s house; at that point i didn’t know that martin even made ABGs, let alone 5-stringers. his bass was strung with thomastik acousticore strings… wound over nylon; instead of the usual acoustic-bass-guitar-strings-that-feel-like-tree-trunks, the thomastiks make you want to touch them and and the guitar sound like an upright bass. i had to get an ABG, just so i could put those strings on it!

i consulted the martin guitar technical reference (by richard johnston, of gryphon stringed instruments, in palo alto), and discovered that martin’s first ABGs appeared in 1989. between 1991 and 1996 they built a grand total of 54 5-string basses… the B-540. this small number is astounding given the almost 2 million instruments spanning 150 or so models the company has built since 1833 (over 175 years), and the many more fans of their instruments. interestingly, martin_tech_referencejohnston and the martin spec sheet refer to the bass as a ‘B-540’… but the guitars are stamped ‘B5-40’; i’ve also seen them called ‘B540’s.

after a number of false (and expensive) attempts to scratch the 5-string ABG itch with guitars from other companies, constant craigslist vigilance finally paid off and i was able to acquire a B-540… the 19th one ever built. although it has minor cosmetic issues and after-market electronics, it is a lovely guitar, with a fabulous neck and sound… classic vintage martin. we couldn’t be happier together!

update: since I originally posted this, I’ve acquired a second B-540, and had a chance to check in with dick boak, director: museum, archives, and special projects, at martin… the man who created the B-540 (and so many other classic martin models). he said that he still has the very first prototype, from 1982, and clarified that while they are indeed ‘B-540’s “the people in production that stamp the serial number do not always get it correct or matched up with what sales and marketing have in mind”.



one additional note for those looking for pickups for their ABGs: my first B-540 had a pickup system that used under-bridge-mounted transducers… a lovely sound, but prone to feedback when amplified. the second one has an under-the-saddle piezo pickup that allows me to play it with a fully-amplified 4-piece americana/rock band with no feedback. i’ve since replaced the original transducers with an LR Baggs Element Active system… easy to install, great sound.

from the dept. of good works: the association of national committees of the blue shield

cropon the road back from vancouver and the san juan islands we had a choice of listening to two commonwealth club podcasts: tim draper, a rich white venture capitalist talking about his plan to divide california into six states, or karl von habsburg, talking about the association of national committees of the blue shield, and their efforts to preserve cultural heritage in the face of religious, cultural and violent attack. not surprisingly, we chose the latter… and were blown away by habsburg’s presentation. fascinating. important. hopeful. this is the kind of person we need working in and around government, trying to make the right things happen. highly recommended!

here’s the info blurb from the podcast:

HIRH Karl von Habsburg, Imperial Prince and Archduke of Austria, Royal Prince of Hungary and Bohemia Archduke Karl von Habsburg, LLM, is truly a modern “Monuments Man.” As president of the Association of National Committees of the Blue Shield and a former member of the European Parliament for Austria, he has specialized in international humanitarian law and intangible cultural heritage protection. Archduke Karl von Habsburg has most recently worked to save cultural artifacts and historical sites in many modern crisis-ravaged parts of Arica and the Middle East. He is a relative of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, whose assassination in Sarajevo triggered World War I, 100 years ago this June. In 1961, the Archduke’s father, Otto von Habsburg, renounced all claims to the Austrian throne. Recorded at The Commonwealth Club of California on April 30, 2014

and here’s the url:

why don’t i practice what i preach?!?!?

aci purchased some appliances from an online source… without first checking out the source. sigh.

fyi, is a true customer service bio-hazard.

they managed to lose the first shipment completely… so much for the ‘expedited shipping’ i paid extra for.

the second shipment added another few weeks to the process, but was missing only the oven… really, who has time to cook these days?

the third time was the charm… except for the fact that, despite seemingly undamaged packaging, the oven looked like someone had rolled it down a flight of stairs before boxing it up as new… chipped porcelain, dents, scratches, etc.

i don’t want to re-visit all of the unbelievably bad customer service moments offered up by the appliancesconnection team, but one does stand out. near the end of the process the supervisor (edmond) said, “well… since it’s for a rental unit, and it’s only cosmetic damage, if you want to keep the oven i can offer it to you at half price.” class act, edmond.

i’m not mad at them for being customer service ass clowns… i’m mad at myself for swallowing the price bait and not checking them out first. had i done so, i would immediately found dozens of similar complaints, and abandoned that shopping cart like a hot potato.

did i mention that i found the oven locally? and cheaper? including delivery? sigh.

repeat after me: caveat emptor. caveat emptor. caveat emptor. caveat emptor. caveat emptor. caveat emptor. caveat emptor. caveat emptor. caveat emptor. caveat emptor. caveat emptor. caveat emptor. caveat emptor. caveat emptor. caveat emptor. caveat emptor. caveat emptor. caveat emptor. caveat emptor. caveat emptor. caveat emptor. caveat emptor. caveat emptor. caveat emptor. caveat emptor. caveat emptor. caveat emptor. caveat emptor. caveat emptor. etc.

exposure?!? people DIE from exposure!

the proliferation of craigslist posts from venues in the bay area offering ‘exposure’ to local bands is thoroughly depressing. why? because ‘exposure’ means ‘play for free… people will see you and that will be good for your band!’ they don’t mention that it will be even better for their venues, allowing them to augment their standard fare with live music… at no cost.

some of the more common themes are:

  • ‘please understand we don’t have a budget’
  • ‘this is a great opportunity’
  • ‘we can offer 2-3 drinks per band member’

here’s my response:

do you have a restaurant, venue or bar? a well-known but hungry band is throwing a private party for friends and fans, and seeks catering in return for exposure.

this is a non-paying gig , but we will compensate you by mentioning your business’s name between every song. if you bring multiple employees to help, we will dedicate songs to each of them, by name.

this is a great opportunity… please understand that we just don’t have a catering budget. we know you know how many hours (years?) and how much effort we’ve put into playing music over the years… just as you know that we know how hard it is to get a restaurant or bar off the ground.

let’s work together! take advantage of the many years we’ve spent building up our fan base and mailing list!

although our club gigs may be infrequent, they are always crowded and buzzing… as opposed to your place, on any given night.

again, this is an opportunity for you to drum up (no pun intended!) business, by leveraging off of an existing customer base… a HUNGRY existing customer base!

while many of our fans and friends are also musicians with no visible means of support, some of them actually do have jobs… good ones… and they go out ALL THE TIME. if they like the food you serve, they will no doubt patronize your establishment and maybe even bring people with them!

again, sorry we can’t help with the costs involved in feeding 50-100 people. on the other hand, we don’t expect you to contribute to our thousands of dollars of equipment… whew! that was close!

given that we’ve been reviewed favorably in multiple publications online, and you only have that one 3-star review on yelp, this is something you should consider.

oh… locally sourced sustainably grown produce, please. please also prepare something for the non-vegetarians.

we are sooo excited that you are considering this… just as we are considering your offers to play for free. at the end of the day, who needs money? this is about PASSION… and opportunity.

please reply to this post with ‘i get it’ in the subject line, to weed out scammers, spammers, and automated responses. please include short bios of you and your employees, suggested menus, and a certificate in good standing from the department of health.

looking forward to exploiting… i mean, working!.. with you.

there may be no such thing as a free lunch, but there’s always room for more respect and support for artists.

trim those acacias, help the zoo

there are a zillion acacia trees along skyline blvd… maybe half of them where my property hits the highway. they get cut back every five or so years, but grow like weeds. the only up side to this vicious cycle is that the oakland zoo will pick up the trimmings and feed them to the zoo’s elephants, giraffes, camels, zebras and elk.

the zoo’s elephant program is internationally acclaimed for its research and pachyderm amenities. it was among the first to train elephants using food, instead of physical discipline. cutting back acacias and helping the zoo is a win-win scenario.

but, in the latest entry in the “only in oakland” files, neighbors near the unused oak knoll site complained that the zoo was cutting down acacia trees without the required $54 license and made them stop. wow… neighbors coming together for the important stuff… not!

i’m always amazed when people treat acacias like trees that need to be protected. they are weeds… one notch below bamboo. you can’t kill ’em, you can’t get rid of ’em, and cutting them down to stumps just puts off their inevitable return a couple of years later.

do yourself a favor, and do the zoo a favor… trim those acacias and share the wealth.

caveat emptor – especially in the secondary ticket market

there’s a certain irony in recommending ticketmaster as the place to start one’s online ticket search… but it turns out that ticketmaster is the safest path through the morass that is the secondary ticket market.

with ‘helpful’ names like ‘’ or ‘’, these sites bury their policies in the fine print:

  • “we sell tickets on the secondary market usually… at PRICES ABOVE FACE VALUE”
  • “prices quoted on this site are often SUBSTANTIALLY HIGHER than the price printed on the ticket”
  • “we are NOT AFFILIATED WITH ANY BOX OFFICE, venue, sponsor, team,, or any other similar organization”

DO check for ‘convenience fees’ and additional service charges.

do NOT check the “i have read and accept the policies” checkbox without actually reading them first.

these companies are not there to take care of you. they are they to move tickets… at any cost.

all sales are final.

register this

godaddy is the world’s largest registrar, with 50,000,000 domain names. as they grew, they became shameless hucksters, with incessant (and probably successful) attempts to sell un-needed additional services to those who don’t know better, and blatantly sexist marketing, featuring “godaddy girls”. i’m not even going to go into their ceo posting a video on youtube of his trip to africa and killing of an elephant (rock on, dude!).

their recent support of SOPA (the Stop Online Piracy Act, supported by the large media companies and panned by everyone fond of civil liberties) and subsequent unconvincing backtracking in the face of massive negative response was the straw that broke the camel’s back for 10’s of thousands of people… like me… who finally said enough, and transferred their domain names away from godaddy, to other registrars. reported 27,0000 incoming domain name transfers (away from godaddy) during one day of the protest… a drop in the bucket, but still a loss of face, and revenue.

godaddy sucks. namecheap rocks. caveat emptor.

a glimpse into the past

in the late ’70s and early ’80s i studied voice with stewart brady, the voice teacher at the american conservatory theater (a.c.t.) in san francisco.

a family friend was an opera singer who provided me with an introduction; i studied with stewart for a little over eight years. i knew that stewart had taught kathryn crosby (wife of bing), met the king of england (george vi), and been a child prodigy. i only recently discovered that he sang at the opening of grauman’s chinese theater, los angeles, in 1927, and was singing in front of 10,000 people by the time he was 10.

he lived in presidio heights, in san francisco, in a jackson street mansion he had inherited from his parents. the music room was unbelievable… probably 60′ long and 30′ wide, with a piano on a stage at the far end, against the wall with the organ pipes (!). he would sit at the piano, looking like a cross between yoda and friar tuck; i would stand on the stage, next the the piano. he knew i was a rocker (as opposed to classical singer or actor), but was always supportive, and a friend; in some ways, the lessons were more like mutual therapy sessions. he died of colon cancer a few years after i stopped see him.

i think of him often, as he gave me my piano (it come out of the room to the left of the piano in the photo)… he told me that no one knew how his father had got the piano in that room, as the doorway was very narrow, and that if i could get it out i could have it. i had that thing out of there in no time flat, and have had it ever since! i was at a.c.t. the other night, and noticed that one of the actors had won the ‘stewart brady competition’. some intermission googling brought up more of stewart’s history, and, of all things, a photo of the music room. i’ve tried over the years to convey how stunning it was, but the picture trumps any possible description. the house apparently sold for $3.5 million in 2010.

the 2011 definition of ‘chutzpah’

i offer two points before sharing something with you all:

1. leo rosten in the joys of yiddish defines chutzpah as “gall, brazen nerve, effrontery, incredible ‘guts,’ presumption plus arrogance such as no other word and no other language can do justice to.” in this sense, chutzpah expresses both strong disapproval and a grudging admiration. in the same work, rosten also defined the term as “that quality enshrined in a man who, having killed his mother and father, throws himself on the mercy of the court because he is an orphan.”

2. my favorite cartoon in the new yorker was published many years ago. in it, an executive at his desk is being interviewed. the smokestacks of his factory can be seen outside his plate-glass window, as can the lake. the caption is “it’s not our factory polluting the lake… it’s all those dead fish!”

redefining chutzpah for 2011, bp has published its 2010 sustainability report. in it, they claim with pride that they leaked less oil in 2010 than in 2006 and 2008. but, you exclaim, what about the gulf oil spill of last year?!? the footnotes of the report speak for themselves:

Although there are several third-party estimates of the flow rate or total volume of oil spilled from the Deepwater Horizon incident, we believe that no accurate determination can be made or reported until further information is collected and the analysis, such as the condition of the blowout preventer, is completed. We have not included any emissions from the Deepwater Horizon incident and the response effort due to our reluctance to report data that has such a high degree of uncertainty.

they have a point. we don’t really know for sure, even if it was the the biggest offshore oil spill in american history. it does seem like the right thing to do is assume the amount is zero, until we really know for sure.

the bar graph on the left shows what bp is reporting for 2006/2008/2010. the chart on the right uses government estimates of how much oil bp spilled into the gulf in 2010:

pbs provides an adjustable oil-ticker for estimating how much oil was spilled into the gulf.

“At the low end is NOAA’s estimate of 210,000 gallons per day. At the high end is what BP told Congress. Drag the slider between those poles to see other possible rates. Keep in mind that all of this is only an estimate.”


one cargo ship pollutes as much as 50 million cars, and my car’s mileage rating matters because… because…

research shows that giant container ships are a significant source of air pollution, emitting 18-30% of all nitrogen oxide and 9% of sulphur oxide pollution. one such ship can emit almost the same amount of cancer and asthma-causing chemicals as 50 million cars. given a world-wide automobile population of 760 million cars, this means that the 15 biggest ships cause more pollution than ALL cars… yet another reason why major port cities in the u.s…. long beach, los angeles, houston, galveston, and pittsburgh. for example… have so much air pollution.

cruise ships are another problem. in one week, a typical cruise ship generates 210,000 gallons of black water (sewage), 1,000,000 gallons of gray water (shower, sink, dishwashing water), 37,000 gallons of oily bilge water, more than eight tons of solid waste, millions of gallons of ballast water containing potential invasive species, and toxic wastes from dry cleaning and photo processing laboratories… adding to the aforementioned fuel emissions. illegal dumping has been a continuing problem, with one of the worst reported cases involving royal caribbean, who were found guilty of routinely and deliberately dumping waste oil, photo processing, dry cleaning, and print shop chemicals into coastal U.S. waters.

more (depressing) info at:

My kind-of brother-in-law (partner’s brother) works for a very large shipping company, out of Singapore. I asked him about this issue, and he said that since 2008 container ships have been traveling more slowly, increasing efficiency and reducing pollution. He also forwarded me a copy of the AlphaLiner Weekly, which had a feature article discussing container carriers and their approach to sustainable shipping and the reduction of emissions. In 2000 the average size of new container ships was 2,900 teu (‘twenty foot equivalent’… essentially, one container). By the end of 2011, the size of new container ships will be 16,000 teu; by 2013, they are expected to hit 18,000 teu. According to my source, newer technologies, slower speeds and greater efficiency are all helping with the problem… although i have to think that if an older, 2,900 teu container ship emits more pollution than 50 million cars, a newer, 18,000 teu ship, no matter how efficient, is going to leave a commensurate environmental footprint… the word ‘ginormous’ comes to mind.

fab faux

the fab faux is a beatles tribute band… THE beatles tribute band.

founded by david letterman bassist will lee and featuring tonight show guitarist jimmy vivino, the band plays stunningly accurate reproductions of beatles songs… sometimes playing entire albums, sometimes with horns and strings, but always with obvious love and respect.

it is amazingly exciting, pleasing and often even mind-blowing to hear live versions of the beatles’ incredible repertoire rolling off a stage.

keep an eye out for the fab faux… and go see them if you have a chance. intense satisfaction guaranteed.

virginia should have let her sleeping dog (continue to) lie

out of the blue, virginia thomas, the wife of supreme court justice clarence thomas, left a voicemail for anita hill seeking an apology for hill’s claims of harassment by her husband 19 years prior. thanks to the digital world we live in, the voicemail was forwarded to the authorities. it has also rekindled interest in the story, and brought supporting witnesses out of the woodwork.

one of those who has come forward is lillian mcewan, former assistant u.s. attorney and senate judiciary committee counsel, and thomas girlfriend, who corroborated much of what hill initially reported. it also turns out that other corroborating testimony was ignored by the senate all those years ago. imagine that.

so… on one hand, we have a woman who was willing to risk her career and the glare of a hostile, public spotlight to report harassment, and a man who to this day denies inappropriate behavior… and was protected by other men.

what percentage of women falsely accuse men of harassment? (answer: very small)

what percentage of men lie and deny when accused of harassing women? (answer: just about all of them)

i’d like to think that virginia thomas is not an idiot, or a deluded believer just trying to protect her man (albeit a little late). maybe she and clarence had a fight. maybe she’s always known about his extracurricular interests. maybe on some level she WANTED us to re-visit the discussion.

well, it worked… you go, girl!

this, by the way, is one of those times you’ve just got to love the internet. how are you sleeping these days, clarence?

don’t get sick in july

a million years ago, i worked as a handyman/carpenter with my friend john. our two mottos were: ‘it’s not OUR house’ and ‘by the time we’re done with your job, we’ll have it down!’ while it was ok when we did it, it’s a bit disconcerting to think the people we are depending on to take care of us in hospitals might be doing the same thing.

each july more than ten thousand new doctors begin medical residencies in teaching hospitals, and are given more responsibility for treating patients.

a study just published in the journal of general internal medicine (jgim) provides the first u.s. evidence supporting the ‘july effect’ – a 10% spike in fatal medication errors in july of each year in counties with teaching hospitals… with no change in counties without teaching hospitals.

the co-editor of the journal, dr. richard kravitz, wrote:

the accumulated evidence on the ‘july spike’ is probably convincing enough to prompt action: for example, having attendings or senior residents ‘in house’ during extended hours, conducting rounds twice a day (as pediatrics has done for decades), or just making sure adequate help is available at the point of care. academic general internal medicine doesn’t shut down during the dog days of summer. our resolve to improve the quality of hospital care shouldn’t shut down either.

no one cares more about you than you… be prepared to be your own medical advocate.

hallowed ground…

opponents of the proposed mosque and community center to be built in lower manhattan speak in hushed tones about the sanctity of ‘the shadow of ground zero’.

perhaps a little reality checking is in order:

  • “hallowed ground” – within a three bock radius of where the world trade center used to stand are 3 liquor stores, 11 bars, 17 pizza shops, 18 bank branches, 10 shoe stores, beauty salons, and porn stores flying american flags… not to mention street vendors and food carts (including two serving muslim food). there are also 10 churches, a hare krishna facility, and a muslim prayer center (not affiliated with the new mosque). visitors to the scene of the worst terrorist attack on american soil are welcomed by solemn memorials and a visitors center amid the noise of reconstruction. they can also buy porn and sex toys, play the ponies and take care of all manner of personal business… all within blocks of ‘hallowed ground.’ the proposed location of the center is two blocks from ground zero… why don’t we make all of manhattan protected/hallowed ground?
  • “13-story mosque” – no one has proposed building a 13-story mosque. the proposal is to build a 13-story ymca-like community center with fitness facilities (swimming pool, gym, basketball court), a 500-seat auditorium, a restaurant and a cooking school, exhibition space, a library, art studios, a 9/11 memorial (what?!?!?!?) and childcare facilities… oh… and a mosque. usnews says that calling the entire building a mosque is a bit like referring to the empire state building as a 103-story walgreens because the pharmacy chain has a store on the ground floor.
  • “bad bad muslims” – the 9/11 terrorists were a fringe movement from a religion with more than one billion members. how much outrage would there be if plans were submitted for a new church to be built within two blocks of the alfred p. murrah federal building in oklahoma city, the site of the worst terrorist attack on american soil before 9/11… an attack committed by a christian? can anyone say ‘two sets of standards’?

nothing said here will change anybody’s mind… too bad.

in your dreams

adele was a freelance advertising copywriter in helsinki… until she went on maternity leave. she spent the first year of her baby’s life imagining/creating scenes around her sleeping infant. this one is called ‘up!’.

very creative, very cute!

adele has taken the images off of her blog because of rampant theft, uncredited use, and blatant rip-offs. she is working on a book on the project, scheduled for release in 2012. you can read more here:

you can see some of the images here.

this just in: internet forces people to forward chain letter emails without thinking… pass it on!

i continue to receive forwarded emails from well-intentioned and otherwise intelligent people that contain old news or recycled mis-information.

yes, i understand that the power that courses through you when you forward an email to (potentially) hundreds of people .

yes, i understand that joining a group of people who share a belief in something found on the internet makes you feel less alone, and socially validated… even if the group you’ve aligned yourself with is mis-informed.

yes, it’s perfectly reasonable to assume that i haven’t seen your latest online discovery… even though i am a webmaster who is online constantly, and sees things way before you ever would.

please do us both the courtesy of reality checking before forwarding. the best way to do this is to visit, where you can find out quickly whether there is any truth whatsoever to the information you are about to blindly pass on to others.

and, even if what you want to send me turns out to be real… i’ve probably already seen it.

please forward this to everyone you know! it’s important!!!!!

desmond bagley – pure escapism

there is nothing like a well-written thriller to take one out of the day-to-day. it is unusual to find an author who comes out of the gate fully developed and can sustain their formula all the way through… but desmond bagley is the real deal.

i don’t even remember which one of his books i picked up first, or where i got it… but immediately upon finishing it i went straight to and bought everything he’s done.

on vacation? in bed with the flu? work and/or life getting you down? curl up with any of bagley’s books and you won’t want to put it down.

alistair maclean said “i’ve read all of desmond bagley… he’s better than i am.”

he was right.

too big to fail – a modest proposal for corporate responsibility

i like profit as much as the next money-grubbing capitalist… why shouldn’t i be able to charge a zillion dollars if that’s what the market will bear? fortunately, most of the work i do does not impact large ecosystems, or require huge infusions of taxpayer dollars. rather than discuss whether there is anyone in bp management who still deserves to have a job (or keep their salary), i propose the following:

companies get to charge whatever they want for their services; they get to make insane profits, and their executives get to be richer than god. if what they do, however, goes wrong… defined as negatively impacting the environment, taxpayers, or anyone who was minding their own business before the company came along but now has to deal with the after effects of the company’s actions, every executive on the senior staff, and the top three majority stakeholders in said company have to return the last three years of salaries and/or profits, in the form of a fund to be used to attempt to right the wrong; if there’s any money left over, it can be applied to fixing other such cases. in addition, any executives not sent to prison for their actions will be required to spend a minimum of one year volunteering for a social or humanitarian organization.

it seems equitable to me, and well worth the risk for those big payouts… for any moral person.

duck and cover vs. triangle of life… will it really matter?

the ‘triangle of life’ earthquake safety theory has been touted as a better method of staying safe during an earthquake than the traditional ‘duck and cover’ method. the ‘triangle of life’ theory says that falling objects such as doors, walls, or large appliances will come to rest in angled positions, leaving triangles of space in which safety can be found.

the only problem is that both the theory and the man responsible for it have been discredited:

the real issue is that a very small percentage of homeowners here in the bay area have followed through on earthquake readiness preparations: laying in supplies of food and water, flashlights, blankets, tools, emergency preparedness plans, outside-of-area contact networks to facilitate communications, etc.

eventually the big one will make us stop what we’re doing and pay attention.

new lead-base paint rules – safety at a price

i wrote the following for the june issue of the grubb co. newsletter. written and produced by yours truly, the newsletter goes out to as many as 15,000 homeowners every other month.

as of april 22, 2010, the lead renovation, repair and painting rule (LRRP) requires that all contractors and handyman services who work in homes, child care facilities and schools with lead-base paint become certified in providing a lead-safe work environment. intended to protect homeowners, building owners and residents against the dangers of lead in paint, dust, and soil, the new law comes into play when work will impact six square feet or more of interior painting, or more than twenty square feet of exterior painting. any area worked on in a pre-1978 building must be sealed off, dust minimized and cleanup done by wet mopping and hepa vacuuming. the epa warns residents, you may even want to move out of your home while all or parts of the work are being done.

the law has raised an equal number of concerns about costs, timing, and consequences. contractors have been slow to embrace the rule, pointing to a lack of consumer awareness and the potential for soaring compliance costs as major flaws. some predict that the costs of implementing the LRRP will discourage home renovation in favor of new construction.

vendors are required to be epa-certified, assign a certified renovator to be present at each project, and provide required documentation about lead and the LRRP prior to the start of each project. failure to comply with the ruling could result in fines up to $37,500 a day. that said, the epa’s only method of enforcement is to investigate tips and complaints made to its hotline, 800-424-lead. homeowners aren’t covered in the ruling, but given the hazards of lead-paint poisoning may want to re-consider doing work themselves… or using vendors willing to ignore the law.

a bipartisan group of senators has introduced an amendment to the fiscal year 2010 emergency supplemental appropriations bill to provide small contractors with more time to receive the training mandated by the LRRP, citing an insufficient number of epa trainers to provide timely implementation, and the potentially crippling financial effects of the rule for small businesses.

certified vendors can by found online at the epa website, at

i don’t think people know about this, or have digested the repercussions. this will affect anyone remodeling or getting ready to list their home for sale, and is one more item for the ‘everything is getting more expensive’ list.

i am amazed that this law was enacted… and i’m glad i’m not a painter.

spam? or song titles from my next cd?

i’ve been collecting these for a while… don’t they make a great cd’s worth of song titles for cd #2?

  1. age is no longer a barrier for me in bed
  2. escape rod’s alleviation
  3. do not regret on the past
  4. i searching for new friends
  5. forget about dictionaries
  6. diameter
  7. performance is now free to try
  8. receive a real time enhancing
  9. massive is an understatement
  10. stay without limits
  11. someone hacked into my account
  12. social networking site no one else knows about
  13. stunning new report tastes like chicken
  14. rattlesnake 7 mastodons
  15. my heartbeat are killing me
  16. i selling rolexes
  17. no subject

p.s.: the title references my cd, not like other men.

the dunk… was? is?

i don’t even remember how i met duncan murphy… was it bmug (the berkeley macintosh users group)? the suse linux office that used to be near the grand lake theater in oakland?

we called duncan ‘the dunk’. he was brilliant, tortured, and lovable. he was first and foremost a geek… a very talented programmer who took me under his wing and let me learn by sitting at his side while he worked on websites for joe weider’s fitness online, the california medical association, and others.

the tortured part revealed itself over time. he was a perfectionist, and would quote a job at 100 hours… only to find himself further from the finish line at 400 hours than when he started; he would work all-nighters trying to catch up and deliver. he was overweight and had sleep apnea and other health issues. he had stacks of unopened bills on his desk and kitchen table, having apparently signed up for the ‘we’ve shut off your services… NOW will you pay your bill?!?’ plans with pg&e and the phone company. he didn’t answer the front door because it might be the irs… who he owed an amazingly large amount of money for not paying taxes for 10 years while living in new york (the irs eventually caught up with him, and cut a deal where he would pay an initial payment, followed by monthly payments until his obligation was paid off. his first check bounced, and dunk went back to not answering the door).

throughout, he was generous to a fault, and engendered tremendous loyalty in those of us lucky enough to know and work with him. he was a unique and brilliant guy who should have been working in a high-end think tank somewhere, with administrative assistants taking care of the mundane day-to-day stuff that caused him so much trouble.

he moved back to kentucky to live with his mom, and be closer to his brother, henry; i think his sister, susan, stayed in oakland.

not long after the move, duncan was in a horrible car accident and suffered major head trauma. his brother put up a blog (how duncan’s doing), which we all monitored from afar.

at some point, though, it seemed like dunk had pulled through… but then henry stopped updating the blog and responding to emails… dunkus interruptus. i recently created a facebook account for the sole purpose of sending duncan’s brother and sister emails inquiring about duncan… but got no response.

i owe the man a lot. he set me on my current course… give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime… he taught me how to think like a programmer, and how to feed myself as a webmaster.

is he alive? mostly alive? dead? don’t know… but i miss him, and wish i could check in with him.

“your invited!”

found this in my inbox the other day:

Your Invited – The Coming Transformation of Higher Education, June 3.
Please join Fast Company writer Anya Kamenetz, author of DIY U:Edupunks, Edupreneurs and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education, for a discussion about how entrepreneurship and technology are changing education.

seems like they’ve made things worse.

forest for the trees

being good at what you do apparently has little to do with your ability to self-promote. take this case in point.

i just finished the add-a-garage website. getting information i could use to maximize their marketing moment was like pulling teeth. they seemed to think that ‘founded in 1987’ was enough, and would reassure homeowners of their ability to handle the complexities of design, permits, dealing with concrete, foundations, neighbors, etc.

eventually, i found out that they had served over 400 clients… which immediately took them from ‘who are these guys?’ to ‘wow… they’ve done this before!’

still, i wanted more. i kept pumping for info, and finally thought to ask the owner what he had done before founding add-a-garage. answer? “my previous company built bart stations… lake merrit, embarcadero, 16th street, and 24th street. and we did the foundation for the bank of america building at 555 california st.”

you mean the 52-story building that is the second tallest building in san francisco? right.

call me wacky, but i think that any homeowner wondering if they should use add-a-garage for their project… be it a new garage, or foundation work… would now have concrete proof (so to speak!) of add-a-garage’s abilities.

an effective website should immediately convey and reenforce the brand, inform, reassure, and go as far as possible towards closing the deal… at least that’s how 5 happiness webmaster approaches things.

seth thomas regulator 2 – a classic

in the early 1860’s the seth thomas clock company began producing the regulator 2… the clock of choice for banks and railroad stations throughout the country for many decades.

it was produced with minor changes until 1950, which makes it the longest produced single model in clock manufacturing history (90 years!). there were just enough changes over the years to allow identification of the period in which a particular clock was produced.

this one is from the 1890’s. i met a clock collector who was moving to a retirement home and downsizing. he asked me which of his clocks i’d be interested in, and there was only one.

it’s on the wall in my entry hall, where you can just hear it ticking away from different rooms in the house… as it has continued ticking for over 110 years.

a brilliant and beautiful piece of engineering, elegant in it’s simplicity and still enduring.

hard to remember that we’re in the middle of a drought when it just keeps raining…

here’s a picture to break a tennis player’s heart. 8-(

it’s hard to remember that we’re still in the middle of a drought when there’s been so much rain of late.

the california department of water resources says:

As of April 30, 2010, statewide hydrologic conditions were as follows: precipitation, 110 percent of average to date; runoff, 75 percent of average to date; and reservoir storage, 95 percent of average for the date. Sacramento River unimpaired runoff observed through April 30, 2010 was about 9.9 million acre-feet (MAF), which is about 72 percent of average.

For comparison, on April 30, 2009, the observed Sacramento River unimpaired runoff through that date was about 8.6 MAF, or about 63 percent of average. In general, April was wet and cool due to a series of cold, late-winter storms that brought significant precipitation to the state.

read more and/or track drought conditions at

the view from the top…

living in the oakland hills has its advantages… no sidewalks, across the street from redwood regional park, and killer views. more views from the deck can be found at

lost tracks – steely dan, jai uttal, shawn colvin

i’ve recently come across some musicological finds… one on the web, and a couple buried deep in the pile that was my home recording studio (which might live again some day).

‘the lost gaucho’ is a collection of steely dan songs from the ‘gaucho’ sessions. most of them didn’t make it onto the album, but there’s an early version of ‘third world man’ (with very sketchy early lyrics but final guitar parts), an instrumental version of ‘gaucho’, and an early version of ‘time out of mind’… an interesting window into the steely dan process. i also have a copy of the schlitz commercial they recorded back in the days of denny diaz.

i used to record and play with shawn colvin, way back when. we would play at la val’s subterranean, on the north side of the berkeley campus, and record at my home studio. at the time, the bulk of shawn’s catalog were jimmy bruno (an old friend of hers from carbondale) songs and covers. these were her first recordings, all jimmy songs. ‘wait a minute, baby’ also has my first pedal steel on tape… more of a lap steel part, but hey!

while those early shawn recordings were also my first sessions as an engineer and producer, i really learned my stuff working with jai uttal. we recorded about a dozen of his more pop/rock tunes… think ali akbar khan meets peter gabriel, with horns. i’ve had the cassette sitting on my desk for years, and finally dumped everything to mp3. i was part of jai’s pagan love orchestra for three or four years, and played bass on ‘monkey‘ (engineered by roger nichols, steely dan’s engineer!) and ‘beggars and saints‘, a world music cd of the year in 1995. we also played the montreux jazz festival.

let me know if you’d like to check out them out.

poop bag litter on trails – not only CAN you take it with you when you go, but you really SHOULD

it is truly amazing how many people pick up after their dogs and then carefully leave plastic bags filled with dog poop by the side of the trail… as if they’re going to come back and pick up after themselves on their way out.

uh huh. sure. right.

please take your crap with you. really.




for iphone users… doesn’t listening to a voicemail mean you’ve been made aware of a recent call?

i’m playing tennis. i miss an incoming call. the caller leaves a voicemail. when i’m done playing tennis, i check my phone, and see that i have a recent call and a voicemail. i listen to the voicemail… which means i’m aware that that person called, yes? so why do i have to go to ‘recent’ to clear the you-have-a-recent-call notification?

you might argue that someone might have called me from an unrecognized number… but how often does that happen? and, even if it did, i can always choose to check the time and date of an unrecognized recent call against the time and date of my voicemails.

so is that a recent call AND a voicemail? of course… but listening to a voicemail should turn OFF the corresponding ‘recent call’ flag and adjust the count of un-looked at recent calls. voicemail flags and counts should not change until the voicemails are listened to.

drives me crazy.

UPDATE: found this discussion online… apparently i’m not the only one tweaked by this issue:




if nothing’s wrong, something’s wrong. if something’s wrong… eat.

i used to joke that that was our family motto… until the day repressed memories of the family crest re-surfaced (i was experimenting with the therapy plug-in for photoshop):

michael fagrey, r.i.p.

immediately after sending my cd off to be mass-produced, i recorded two more songs (doh!). one of them has perfectly wonderful lap steel guitar throughout, played by michael fagrey.

i was listening to the song the other day (‘the guy in room 7’, about a permanent resident at a sleep clinic in switzerland), and decided that too much time had passed since michael and i had connected. i googled him to see what he was up to, and was stunned to find out that he had died of cancer. i had no idea so much time had passed.

michael was responsible for launching my career as a bass player, selling me my first bass rig and then talking me into replacing him at leo’s music while he went on tour with david lindley as david’s guitar tech.

michael returned from that tour with a pedal steel guitar he had acquired while on the road with lindley. i traded him an 8-meg simm for the steel (back when 8-meg simms cost $300 and 8 megs actually made a difference). another friend told me to take the guitar to some guy named tom bradshaw, who would fix it up and who i would “end up meeting anyway.” tom turned out to be the obi wan kenobe of pedal steel, and we have become very close friends.

michael was a phenomenal musician and sound man. he worked with al stewart (‘the year of the cat’), and tried to get me to go out on tour with al… as a duo! he also worked with dave koz for a number of years.

i owe a lot to michael, including my sincere apology for letting so much time pass without checking in… too much time, as it turns out.

although michael’s family and friends have had a little more time to get used to the fact that he’s gone, the shock of his loss is still reverberating for me. he is missed.


img_0657_picked up max today in zion national park.

do i have a dog? or does he have a webmaster?