Saturday, August 1, 2009

Culinary Tips: The Wonderful Advantages of High Heat And How to Get It

Culinary Tips Part One
The Wonderful Advantages of High Heat
And How to Get It
(Without Breaking the Bank)

As any good cook or chef knows, the secret to good cooking is getting control of heat and for this post the topic will focus on high heat, what you can and cannot do with it and how to easily achieve high heat for attaining cooking nirvana.

Most kitchens come equipped with standard low and high heat electric and gas burners. You are lucky if you can get 15,000 btus from each burner. For everyday cooking this is more than enough but when you want to cook for 4 and you are doing some heavy duty stir frying, saute-ing or frying, those burners do not have enough oomph to get the job done in a reasonably short period of time. Whenever I've tried to fry chicken wings, or chicken parts, or even french fries, as soon as the food hits the hot oil, the temperature plunges to the point that the frying process slows down or even screeching to a halt because the fire is not hot enough to keep the oil at high temperatures (around 400 degrees) even though the cooking vessel contains a fair amount of food.

I have discovered a pretty economical solution to this problem but you are limitied to cooking outdoors. I actually see this as an advantage because you are not smelling or messing up the kitchen with oil splatter, fish odors or any other smoke that will emanate from the searing or frying food. You will risk the chance of neighbors smelling the food cooking outside and inviting themselves over for dinner.

The key to getting high heat is to purchase one MasterBuilt Dual Propane Burner Camping Stove. The folks at Masterbuilt (HQed in Alabama) have designed and built the ultimate high heat stove. This baby has 2 Propane Burners and the output for each burner is well over 30,000 btus. We're talking serious cooking firepower here for serious cooking. The heating output of each Masterbuilt burner is easily twice as much as your conventional gas stove. The stove has to be lit with a match and the burner controls are very easy to use and to adjust. There is an adjustable air flow control to adjust the amount of air going to the burner (You want the fire to be as blue as possible for the highest heat). A wind shield blocks wind from the main burners.

I have been putting the Masterbuilt Propane Camping Stove through its paces and so far it has far exceeded my expectations and has significantly reduced my cooking time and vastly improved the quality of my cooking.

I asked the butcher at a local supermarket to cut a pound of pork loin into 1/4 inch thin cutlets. I bathed the cutlets in egg wash, dipped them in flour, egg wash again and a liberal coat of Progresso Italian Bread Crumbs.

Heated 3 inches of canola oil to 400 degrees in a 4 quart deep saute pan. It took all of 3 minutes to get the oil to 400 degrees. Fried 4 cutlets at a time for an average of a minute per side was all that was needed to get the cutlet to Golden Brown and an interior temperature of 170 degrees.....PERFECTO.

I was able to achieve similarly fast results with chicken wings, chicken cutlets, french fries, sauteed flank steak with perfect results every time. Super fast. Fried foods are nice and crisp and moist and tender on the inside.

Cooking is ultra fast as the heat is maintained no matter how much food you throw at it.

And finally take that........Alton Brown. Actually, thanks to Alton Brown for the inspiration to experiment with all things related to cooking.

The Masterbuilt Dual Burner Propane Camping Stove sells for around $150.00 from Masterbuilt Resellers.

Check it out at:

Amazon also carries this product. Shipping is not bad and takes about 7-10 days for UPS Ground.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Culinary Shortcuts - Roast Pork Over Rice

Ever have one of those days when you're too tired to cook but you want to prepare something good for your family that won't break the bank and you want to prep, cook and serve the meal in about 25 to 30 minutes or less? Sound impossible? I know this may sound like cheating, but it's cheating in a good way.

I figured out this recipe more as a hack or shortcut when I worked in a Chinese Restaurant when I was in high school. It was perfected in my college years and days living alone as a bachelor.

The key cooked ingredient (Barbecued Roast Pork aka Char Shu) is a staple in most Chinese Restaurants and is also readily available at Asian Supermarkets that cook and sell prepared chinese food to go. Most Chinese Take Out restaurants will also sell you portions of cooked Roast Pork too. I've used the Roast Pork from Le Asia in San Ramon and 99 Ranch Market in Dublin with great success. You need to order a pound of cooked Roast Pork, usually 6.99 to 7.99 per pound. One Pound of cooked roast pork is plenty for four people as long as you slice it according to the recipe instructions below. Make sure that you order it UN-SLICED. You can freeze the cooked Roast Pork and it will keep at least 3-4 months if frozen. The next step is to cook enough rice for 4 people. An automatic rice cooker should do the trick. It should take no longer than 25 minutes to cook the rice. Usually a cup to a cup and a half of rice is enough to serve four. The last ingredient of this meal is 2 heads of chopped Baby Bok Choy. I've found 4 heads of Baby Bok Choy at 99 Ranch in Dublin for $1.00. After slicing the bok choy into 1 inch pieces, you need to microwave it for about 2 1/2 to 3 minutes. Take a few tablespoons of Lite Soy sauce (Kikkoman's) or Oyster Sauce and spread liberally on the Bok Choy. Take the cooked Roast Pork and place on a sheet of Aluminum Foil and heat it in an oven at 375 degrees. for about 15 minutes. Take the Roast Pork out of the oven and cut using a sharp knife into 1/4 inch thick pieces, then serve piping hot over rice. Add Soy sauce to taste. Serve with the Baby Bok Choy.

There you go. A home-made restaurnant-grade meal prepped cooked and ready to eat in about 25-30 minutes tops. You can make this hearty and delicious meal for four for well under $13.00 for the cost of ingredients alone.

Try it out. I call it the cheater's method to eating good and inexpensively.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Why Diesels are Better Than Hybrids

A big debate has been brewing recently over the superiority of Hybrids over Diesels as the preferred way to go "Green" and to save your hard-earned dollars on petroleum. Many of the points made by Hybrid advocates and even the marketing departments of car companies will lead you believe that there is no down-side to owning and driving a Hybrid automobile. I recently drove a Hybrid car from a major auto manufacturer but it was a mid size sedan and this is the 2nd year that model it has been on the market. I was less than impressed with the acceleration, the brake pedal feel and the automatic transmission continually hunting for the right gear when accelerating up a long grade hill. The car did not handle well and the extra weight of the Nickel Metal Hydride Batteries was the culprit. It think that a lot of folks who drive hybrids see the negative handling characteristics of a Hybrid as something that they learn to live with. It is not exactly a safety issue but I can personally attest to you can drive a "Green" car and not give up any of the traditional handling characteristics of a regular gasoline engine automobile. The latest generation of diesel automobiles give nothing up in terms of car handling characteristics and while at the same time providing decent performance and braking capabilities.
Audi R10 TDI Introduction At LeMans

Diesel vs Hybrids Video

Dublin Cyclery - Best East Bay Bicycle Store

Since moving to the Bay Area we've started to bike as a family on a regular basis. Bicycling is one of the best aerobic exercises that does not wreck your knees or feet. We are lucky enough to be living near one of the most beautiful and scenic bicycle paths in the area that is flat and offers terrific views of the fields, land and forested nature preserves. The Bike path is paved, smooth, and free of debris and more importantly is safe. We had to get our bicycles in working order since our move and our bikes really needed adjustments and in some cases minor overhauls with some requiring new brakes, tires, and tubes. After searching the internet for bike stores and repair shops, Dublin Cyclery consistently came up with the most positive customer reviews. I decided to go with them based on those reviews and we are certainly glad that we did as they have really done a SUPER job on our used bicycles and sold us some really nice new HYBRID bicycles (Giant and Marin) at excellent prices. They also gave me a very generous trade in credit on my LL Bean Acadia Hybrid Men's Bicycle.

The entire staff is extremely knowledgeable, courteous and professional and always tries to do the right thing for the customer. Their prices are not the lowest, but it's pretty competitive and their knowledge of these products and their competition puts you at ease immediately. If you are in the market for a Mountain, Road, Hybrid, Folding or Children's bike, these guys will take good care of you as they want your business for life and will do what it takes to make you happy.

The quality of their repair work is some of the best I've seen and the wait is well worth it as you know it will be repaired correctly the first time.

They are a local owned and operated business and have been in business for a very long time serving the Dublin Pleasanton area. Their bicycle selection is pretty extensive and they will let you test-ride the bicycles in their parking lot near a pretty well-known bicycle trail.

I think the best testament to Dublin Cyclery's excellent service is the fact that I have put 100% of my trust in their bicycling judgment when it comes to repairs and recommending the next bicycle purchase for my family. It is rare to come across a local-owned/operated store that takes customer service very seriously. Dublin Cyclery can handle all of your bicycling sales and service needs without breaking the bank. Check them out at:

7001 Dublin Blvd
(at Clark Ave)
Dublin, CA 94568
(925) 828-8676

Sunday, July 19, 2009

New York, New York, A Wonderful Town

We just came back from a 16 Day visit to New York City and I am amazed at how much it has changed since we last visited several years ago. I must say that Mayor Bloomberg and his administration did an outstanding job cleaning up NYC, especially the Times Square Broadway District. I hardly recognize as it has changed so much. All of the New York City streets are safe to walk at night. Every area of the city has gone through an advanced gentrification phase. Neighborhoods that have been positively transformed include the Flatiron district, Hells Kitchen, Lower East Side, Alphabetland, Chinatown, Little Italy. The streets are way more cleaner thatn I remember it, there is a larger Police presence on the streets, and small restaurants and shops are still flourishing. International tourism appears to be on the rise judging from the crowded streets near times square and the hotel elevators. We even checked out Chelsea Piers and the new paved bicycle path that runs up and down the West Side Highway, complete with shrubbery and recently planted trees. New York...The City That Never Sleeps. We miss it a lot and wax nostalgic everytime we are reminded that we cannot get access to a type of food that is served only in New York City. The Hustle and the Bustle, the edginess and the sheer mass of humanity spilling out on all of the city streets during morning and evening rush hours. The lingering smell of Sabrett Hot Dogs, Gray's Papaya, Shiskebob, Sausage and Pepper heros, Knishes and pretzels from push carrt street vendors. It was really nice to get our fix of the favorite local foods. Veniero's Italian Bakery and Manganaro's Hero Boy were big hits with the kids.

Air Travel with the Voyage-Air Folding Acoustic Guitar

I just got back from an extended trip to New York City which happened to be the first air travel trip I took with the Voyage-Air Travel Acoustic Guitar. I have to admit I was a little nervous as I waited to have my Voyage-Air VAOM6 to pass through the San Francisco airport X-RAY machines. Sure enough it passed through with no delays and it was onward to the departure gate. Once we got on board the plane I was able to find on overhead compartment just above my assigned seat in coach and carefully placed the VA Guitar Case horizontally in the overhead compartment. The Overhead Compartment door closed with plenty of room to spare and my anxiety went away as the plane taxied down the runway. I had heard that passengers have paid another seat fare just to get their stringed instrument stowed on board the plane and that checking the instrument in the cargo hold is on sure-fire way to commit instrument suicide and the baggage handlers will almost surely destroy any stringed instrument no matter how tough the carrying case is designed. After we landed in New York's JFK airport I retrieved the Voyage-Air Guitar from the overhead compartment and de-planed as easily as I boarded the aircraft. WOW! How easy was that? No extra baggage charges. Piece of mind knowing that the guitar is safely stowed in a protective case in the overhead storage compartment. No unwieldy heavy case to carry or handle while getting on or off the plane. This was a piece of cake. As easy as bringing a laptop computer on-board a plane. I am ecstatic as I now know that I can travel by plane with my Voyage-Air VAO6 guitar without any hassles and without having to pay the airlines additional fares. I can really see the Voyage-Air guitar paying for itself if one frequently flies and has to pay extra for special baggage handling or to have their instrument stored on board and charged an extra plane fare for the special handling. This is a HUGE advantage that Voyage-Air brings to the table for all amateur and professional guitarists.

I un-folded the guitar as soon as I checked into the hotel and only the B string needed a minor tuning adjustment. I reassembled the guitar and was in tune in about a minute's time. Simply AMAZING.

I just experienced it in real-time and can personally attest to the ease of travel this folding-guitar design and custom guitar case delivers for air travel.

Voyage-Air Guitars Are the Real Deal!!!!!

There you have it. A personal testimonial for the Voyage-Air guitar's AIR TRAVEL WORTHINESS.
This is the real deal. If you are looking for an excellent sounding primary guitar that just happens to fold (also Making it a Travel Guitar) the Voyage-Air is the only game in town.

Check out Voyage-Air Travel Guitars at

Movie Review - The Hurt Locker

I may be getting a little ahead of myself but I'm recommending The Hurt Locker a as a must-see movie for 2009. Go see it! Right now. This movie has OSCAR written all over it.

Kathryn Bigelow has returned to form as one of the best directors working today and The Hurt Locker is a tour-de-force display of her mastery of the craft of film-making. Terse, Taut, riveting action sequences, a terrific story and well drawn characters will have your palms sweating as soon as the title sequences fade off the screen. The characters are very well developed and their interactions drive the movie forward. I do not want to provide any spoilers I can guarantee that you will be thoroughly entertained by this movie and will provoke a lot of questions about what really motivates certain people and how that impacts working peers colleagues and family.

The movie makes a lot of points about the importance of life and how each person's perception of preserving life is frighteningly relative. The Hurt Locker is remarkably apolitical (for a movie set during the current War in Iraq) and stays that way because of it's laser like focus on the incredibly high odds that are stacked against this bomb disposal team and their desire to make ithrough another day without injury.

This is a most visceral and cerebral movie that cleverly leaves politics out of the movie to let the viewer focus on what is going on inside the heads of the bomb-disposal special unit members and how each individually and collectively handles the day-to-day stress of making it through their rotation alive and in one piece. Jeremy Renner plays the replacement Bomb Disposal commander of the 3 person unit and definitely deserves an Oscar for his break-out performance.

The Hurt Locker gets Two Thumbs Up. Highly Recommended.

This movie will definitely shake up you psyche and make you count your blessings and just knowing that you will never have to experience what these guys actually go through on a daily basis. If you think you're having a tough day at the office or work, just think about these guys trying to make it through the day ALIVE without getting maimed or blown up.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Portable Video Alternatives to the Ipod

This is s simple guide to help the first time buyers of portable PVR hand-held media player/recorders. Apple's introduction of their video IPOD players has accelerated the new product introductions of portable video media players that use high capacity hard drives. The four most popular manufacturers of these units are Archos, Creative, Samsung and Cowon. There are numerous other manufacturers like Mustek, iRiver, etc. that originate from the far eastern countries that are also sold in the North American marketplace. The key purchasing criteria based on my past experience with these players is: 1) Size and Screen Resolution. How big is the screen. 2.2" diagonal should be a bare minimum and anything above 3.7" is probably optimum. Screens max out at 7" to 8.9" but you begin to sacrifice portability (heavier units) and battery life (shortens as you go to a larger screen) as you move to these larger screens. 2) Video File Format support. Does it support MPEG I, II MPEG 4, or DiVX as well as the Microsoft AVI format? Are the Sound CODECs compatible? Does it playback action scenes artifact free without blocky or blurred scenes. Does the soundtrack synchronize properly with the video? The CPU must be powerful enough to decode the video and audio files for smooth video playback performance but also be energy efficient for long run-times on batteries. Try before you buy to ensure that the videos are watchable on the small screen and that the sound is of a high enough quality for extended viewing periods. 3) Battery Life - Average for these units is 2-2 1/2 hours of continuous viewing. Some units like the Cowon claim up to 8-10 hours. Your mileage may vary based upon the brightness setting of the screen and the codec playback settings. Anything over 2 1/2 hours is exceptional battery life for a portable Video unit. 4) Does the unit feature full video/audio recording capability...that is can you use it as a PVR (Video Tape Recorder) to tape shows from your cable box or movies from a dvd or other video analog playback source? Can you plug in an optional video camera? Does it allow you set recording schedules for taping shows at different times, dates and channels un-attended? How flexible is the programming? Is there a break-out box/dock or can you do everything with a set of AV cables? 5) How complete is the documentation? Does the player support DRM? Can you copy copyrighted material? Does the player include a Video Conversion Utility?How easy is it to get customer support? Can you upgrade the hardware with BIOS upgrades to support new features or file formats and to extinguish bugs? What is the warranty period? How easy is it to get accessories? Is the battery fixed or removable. Can spare batteries be obtained easily? Can I get a 12 volt Car DC adapter for the unit? How hard/easy is it to obtain and connect an external third party extended life Battery Pack? 6) Durability and build quality - How solid is the player.What materials are used? Aluminum and/or plastic? Does it feel fragile when holding it? How easy do the controls move? Is there a hold/resume feature? Can it also be used as an external USB drive to store PC and multimedia files such as jpegs from digital cameras? It is also rumored that both Microsoft and Sony are working on a portable PVR Video media player. The Sony unit will most likely carry the Video Walkman moniker and the Microsoft unit will have tight integration with their Media XP PC software and XBOX 360 infotainment systems. Some other good manufacturer's websites to obtain additional information about these portable Video Players are listed below:,, I hope you found this guide helpful. I tried to be manufacturer agnostic and the usual disclaimers apply. Let the buyer beware and if the advertising claims seem too good to be true, they usually are. Also try to buy from a reseller that has a decent return policy so you can try before buying. Additional research is also a good thing. PC Magazine writes pretty objective reviews for these type of devices. Lastly, if you found this guide to be helpful, please vote and say you found this guide helpful. Thanks and happy viewing out there in the field!!!
June 21, 2009 Update:
Faster Processors have appeared in the Cowon A3 and Q5, the New Archos 5 and 7 Internet-enabled PVRs and the new Creative ZEN X-Fi and Creative Zen credit card sized MP3/Video players. Videos load much faster and support for other video file formats has expanded to include WMV, AVI, MP4 and MOV formats. The Cowon Q5 has built in Bluetooth support and the Archos 5 and & have built in WiFi and USB support for attaching USB peripherals like a memory card reader, mouse or external keyboard.

Unfortunately, Creative has stopped producing the Creative Zen W which is the wide screen 4.3 inch wide PVR player that is extremely small and thin but has a decent sized bright and sharp color screen. They are only available used as 30 and 60 GB models and you can some times find upgraded 100 and 120 GB models on eBay. This player has proven very popular due to it's small pocket-able size and built in compact flash slot which makes it much easier to transfer video/audio/photo files into the unit. Digital photographers will find the Creative Zen Vision W as an excellent portable back-up device which allows for instant storage and viewing of their digital photos. The bundled software for converting videos to play on their devices has improved greatly with OEM deals arranged with vendors like Arcsoft to provide the codecs and software trans-coding engines to convert existing video files to play on their players. House Brand Insignia (Sold by Best Buy) and Philips Go Gear offer credit card sized Video Players with small 2.2-3" TFT Screens at the low end and also offer models with integrated Bluetooth. This is a very nice feature as it allows you to easily pair a set of Wireless Stereo Headphones with the video player. You can also buy set of decent wireless Bluetooth stereo headphones from vendors such as Sony, Motorola, Panasonic, Oakley, and Samsung that are perfect for bicycling, treadmills, running, etc as you can get high quality music on the go without worrying about tangled earphone cords. Battery life is excellent for most of these new stereo headphones with some averaging up to 4-5 hours of continuous usage time on a fully charged battery.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Moon - One of the best Sci Fi movies of the year

Moon is one of those movies that was written and directed by a true fan of science fiction. Duncan Jones, the director and writer of this excellent movie has paid tribute to some great science fiction movies made in to late sixties, seventies and eighties. We're talking about 2001 A Space Odyssey, Doug Trumbull's Silent Running, Blade Runner, Alien and even a little bit of Stephen King's The Shining. Filmed as a low budget independent movie, all of the money shows up on the big screen, money wisely spend on miniature models blended with state-of-the-art visual computer special effects. The set pieces look realistic enough and the shop-worn industrial designs are very reminiscent of the first Alien film. I will not give away any spoilers as this movie deserves to be seen fresh as the payoff is well worth the wait and is most satisfying. I believe the story is brilliantly crafted and told with spot-on pacing and editing. The main character is played by Sam Rockwell and he gives a bravura performance that is wide-ranging and sympathetic as the dedicated astronaut/worker that is facing the end of a 3 year long work assignment with hallucinations and deteriorating physical and mental health. His job is to repair anything that breaks down with the Helium 3 automated Harvesting Machines. Helium 3 is a powerful energy source that is found in the Moon's soil and needs to collected and processed to create concentrated amounts to satisfy the earth's energy requirements. Lunar Industries owns and operates this industrial moon base and appears to control most every aspect of the astronaut, Sam Bell's life. He is assisted by a robot (Voiced by Kevin Spacey) named GERTY and seems to be a first cousin of the 2001 robot HAL though not anywhere as sinister. This robot does in fact assist Sam to solve the dark mystery of the Lunar Industries Moon Base and their extreme (to the nth degree) contingency plans.
This 97 minute movie will keep you glued to your seats and will definitely challenge you to figure out what is really going on. It pretty much toys with your mind and opens up a ton of ethical questions regarding how far we've gone in pursuing technology and applying it with sinister motives to practical but morally questionable applications.

Kudos to the director and producer of this film as they were able to achieve a big-budget look with a pretty small budget. This movie is very similar to the movie Terminator in the way it got made. The director's vision translated directly to the screen. It was made on a shoestring budget. Buzz about the emerged early on and continues to spread (viral-marketing wise) in a grass-roots fashion. You are witnessing the very beginning of a what will become a long and successful movie directing career for Mr. Jones. In my opinion, Duncan Jones has achieved the same impressive debut that James Cameron achieved when he released Terminator in 1986. If you are a Science Fiction fan, you owe it to yourself to see this movie as it has earned immediate street cred as a classic must-see sci fi movie. In fact Moon is so impressive (as his very first commercial movie) that one can't help but wonder what his next movie project will be.

I also learned that Duncan Jones is David Bowie's son from reading another review of Moon. My review would have remained the exactly the same if I did not know that little piece of trivia.

Learning Guitar, Jazz Guitar Teacher Extraordinaire, & New Musical Passions


New Blog Entry Topics Covered:
Music Theory Study
Practice - Practice -Practice

Jazz Guitar Teacher Extraordinaire:
Dave Shroeder

The Perfect Travel Guitar:
Voyage-Air Travel Guitar OM6 Songwriter

The Best Steely Dan Cover Band:
Aja Vu
I just completed the first year of Jazz Guitar study with Dave Schroeder, Jazz Guitar Instructor extraordinaire. The year went by so quickly! If you're looking for an excellent guitar teacher in the SF Bay area, Dave Shroeder is the man! In addition to having an encyclopedic knowledge of Guitar Instruction and music, Dave makes learning fun and is incredibly patient and accommodating in terms of helping you reach your musical goals. He is also a most gifted Jazz Guitarist and Performer.

Check out his web site at

The first 6 months were a little painful as I went through a crash course on music theory which included but was not limited to reading music, notes, scales, finding the right key, dot method, music composition, etc. I am still struggling with finding notes on the fret board, memorizing the dot method and forming chords (major, minor, sevenths). I think I will be over the hump soon and can then move on to more exciting stuff like scales arpeggios, soloing, etc. practice has always been an issue for me in terms of staking out more practice time and maintaining a consistent practice schedule through vacations and overnight trips away from home.

At the suggestion of Dave, I started researching travel guitars that could be easily stowed in a car and in an airplane overhead compartment. The guitar would have to be playable and rugged enough to withstand the rigors of vacation and/or business travel. The usual cast of highly advertised, highly promoted guitars appeared when I did a google search for travel guitars. Martin Backpacker, Baby Taylor, Ovation Backpacker, etc. were the top three.
A few words about practice. Most if not all musical instrument instructors will say that the quickest and easiest way to gain proficiency on an instrument is to practice. I have read many articles about famous guitar players and they all have that burning desire to succeed and have spent countless hours of practice perfecting their technique. Guitar players like Chet Atkins, Larry Carlton, Django Reinhart, Pete Huttlinger, and Mark Knopfler come to mind. Mark Knopfler (of Dire Straits) recalls when he was a young boy looking at a Fender catalog with various Stratocaster guitars and he can remember smelling the pages. The object of lust for Mark when he was a teenager was a fiesta red Fender Stratocaster (The very first one imported into the UK) that belonged to Hank Marvin, the lead guitarist for the Shadows, a late 50s British Pop group which was very popular in the UK and later with Cliff Richard. Mark often fell asleep playing his guitar into the early hours of the morning when he was a teenager, in college and later as a schoolteacher and budding journalist (all day jobs). Mark would practice all hours of the day and night and considered Chet Atkins to be one of the all time greatest guitar players and learned Chet's songs by ear. Mark's solo career has taken him into country music territory and continues to explore many different styles of music above and beyond the rock songs he wrote when he had his group Dire Straits. Mark is an exquisite guitar player with impeccable taste with a most unique and unimitable finger-picking style.
You can't practice with out having your trusty guitar at the ready so a Travel Guitar should be the next best thing. The problem is that the Travel Guitar will never play nor feel like the one you keep at home to practice on. It will be at best, a compromise. An exciting new company based in Livermore, CA has come up with a very elegant solution called the Voyage-Air Travel Guitar. They figured out a way to manufacture a full sized bodied Acoustic Guitar that has a foldable neck. Better yet, you can break down the guitar by unscrewing a knurled nut in less than a minute. You can then re-assemble the guitar in less than a minute and get this......The strings stay in place and the Guitar strings stay in tune. It'd hard enough to practice and to take it all in (The guitar lessons and the music theory) I see the Voyage Air guitar as the enabler as you now have one big reason to practice your guitar lesson anywhere, any time at any place. When you buy a Voyage-Air guitar, you are really getting two guitars for the price of one. You are getting a superbly playable full sized acoustic guitar that has a terrific sound and tone. The playability is excellent as you can finger-pick, strum, basically do anything that you would with a normal acoustic guitar. Want to use a capo? No problem. It works and sounds great on a Voyage-Air. Intonation is just about perfect and there is an adjustable truss rod in the neck so that you can make neck adjustments to fine tune the distance between the strings and the fret board.
You are also getting a travel guitar that folds into a very small form factor so that the guitar with its custom case can fit in and airline overhead compartment. I can be carried back-pack style on a bicycle or motorcycle with no problems whatsoever. Most of the major airlines have approved it for in-cabin overhead storage.
If you want to see and play this fantastic guitar, check it out at this Livermore music store called Fine Fretted Friends which is located on Main Street Livermore, CA. The owner’s name is Michael Ferrucci and he is extremely friendly and knowledgeable about guitars and music and will take good care of your travel guitar needs. Their web site is You won't believe your eyes and ears when you see the guitar played for the first time and then broken down to fit in the custom case and then re-assembled and played without the guitar going out of tune. What a terrific engineering achievement. Kudos to Voyage-Air for figuring the folding hinge part and implementing it in a no compromise way making it a snap for the average person to fold and unfold the guitar to playing position in less than a minute. You really have to see it for yourself. It’s truly a marvel where FORM and FUNCTION happily coexist.
Voyage-Air Guitars

Fine Fretted Friends High End Guitar Store Livermore, CA

Steely Dan Tribute Bands
Aja Vu is the Best
I admit I have been a Steely Dan Fan ever since I heard their first single from their first commercially available album Can't Buy A Thrill. This was in 1972. when I was still in high school and I heard the single "Do It Again" as I was strolling through the Kings Plaza Shopping Mall in Brooklyn, NY. I bought that album the very next day at Crazy Eddie's and bought every subsequent album/CD by them to this very day. They (Walter Becker and Donald Fagen) were very insecure about touring and performing live and kept their heads down creating masterpiece albums in the studio with crack session musicians and Jazz artists from the Mid 1970s to the early 1980s. Reclusive is the best adjective to describe their behavior and contributed to a huge demand for live performances of their sizable catalog of songs. Availability of their albums on re-mastered CD's caused sales to surge even though Steely Dan was not making any new records and newer generations of listeners around the world were getting hip to Steely Dan music. With their collective CD sales reaching record sales levels (for the older releases incredibly enough) they started to tour again in 1993 after a long self-imposed 12 year hiatus with Walter Becker retiring to an Avocado Farm in Maui, Hawaii and Donald Fagen chilling out in New York City composing film scores and writing music commentary for Premiere Magazine. They hand-picked very competent musicians to go on the road with them and they performed the Steely Dan songs with their own interpretations of the original studio album instrumental solos, riffs and melodies. Some fans liked this. Others did not. After seeing Steely Dan at two live concerts, I was sitting on the fence. On the one hand I was happy to see them play live but I was a little disappointed that they wanted to distance themselves from the earlier Steely Dan songs from their earliest albums.
As their popularity increased in the nascent 1980s even as Becker and Fagen receded into a self-imposed hiatus/retirement/breather/sabbatical (whatever you want to call it) two phenomenons started to occur. The first one is the sampling of Steely Dan songs for Rap songs (eg. Uptown Baby Lord Tariq and Peter Gunz - Sampled Black Cow) and the second phenomenon is the emergence of Steely Dan Cover Bands. It was a supreme challenge for a guitar player to learn all of the tasty guitar parts from their most famous songs so this emergence did not happen overnight. Deconstructing the guitar solos originally played by Larry Carlton, Walter Becker, Denny Dias, Jeff Skunk Baxter, Jay Graydon, Rick Derringer, Steve Khan, and Elliott Randall was no easy task but a couple of guys became good enough to be hired as lead guitarists for the Steely Dan tours that began in the early 1990s. Jon Herrington, Wayne Krantz and Drew Zingg all come to mind.
At the time, I felt that a Steely Dan cover/tribute band would be a half-baked idea because their songs are so hard to play. Other fans did not and other fans were mixed on rating these live performances. About this time, the first Steely Dan cover bands started to emerge. Since there was a more devoted following internationally, I think the first tribute bands emerged from Europe. What all of these tribute bands had in common was that they tried to replicate the studio recordings of Steely Dan note for note. Some were successful at accomplishing this, some were not.
Fast Forward to 2009. This brings me to the subject of this post, a San Francisco Bay Area Steely Dan Tribute Band called Aja Vu. I heard them for the first time this past Sunday and I was blown away. These guys (and Gal) have really nailed it. They do Steely Dan songs better than Steely Dan. They have a terrific ensemble band with a Saxophone, Trumpet, Keyboard, Drummer, Bass Player, Lead Singer/Trombone Player, Lead Guitarist and Back-Up Singer Percussionist. Their sound is faithful to the Steely Dan album versions of the song and their live performances are not to be missed. It immediately becomes "Party Time" as they are having so much fun up on the stage playing the music of Steely Dan as Walter and Donald intended. I had a chance to chat with the band leader, Ron Jamison and discovered that he wanted to get the Steely Dan music right so he hand-picked musicians of a like mind who also loved Steely Dan and quickly got the band to a proficiency level where they quickly established themselves as one of the most popular SF bay area bands. They also won the "Last Band Standing" award sponsored by KFOX and Morning DJ Greg Kihn of the Greg Kihn Band.

This band is outstanding and every member is an extremely talented musician and performer but I was most impressed with the lead guitar work and the horn section. The Sax, Trombone and Trumpet players are simply outstanding.

Aja Vu Playing Black Cow in Capitola CA 2009

Check out Aja Vu at Their Calendar of upcoming appearances is on their website, Highly recommended. Two Thumbs-up.

Aja Vu


Other Bands and Musicians I've Come to
Admire and Have Stood the Test of Time:

Gerry Rafferty - Baker Street

Stealers Wheel - Stuck In The Middle With You

Seals & Crofts - Summer Breeze performed live

Todd Rundgren - I Saw The Light with Daryl Hall

Sara Smile - Daryl Hall and Smokey Robinson

Jeopardy! Greg Kihn Band - Weird Al Yankovic Video Parody

In the Summertime - Mungo Jerry


Hawaiian Sunset Honolulu HI 2003

Various topics will be covered along with miscellaneous thoughts and observations about certain subjects and activities that I participate in or follow closely. A lot will be written about technology, music and generic business topics as they relate to current events and general home grown philosophies and points of view. Comments and discussions are welcome with the intent of generating healthy debate, discussion and a generally positive tone.
The first few Blog posts will center around Music Guitar Study, Bicycling, and Computer Technology (On The Cheap for equipping the Road Warrior).

Read on and feedback is welcome and appreciated.