Friday, July 29, 2011

Riff of the Day: ...And Justice for All (Metallica)

Since I made this the Song of the Day, I might as well put up one of the riffs that always used to give me picking trouble. Nineteen years ago (when I was a Metallica virgin), I couldn't hack it with Hetfield's chunky down-stroke picking on the pre-chorus ("The ultimate in vanity / exploiting their supremacy..."):


Had to put underscores in to keep Blogger from screwing up the formatting.

To play it cleanly, you need to be able to play the palm-muted (*) notes at speed, all down-strokes at 160 beats per minute.

My copy of the guitar/TAB "...And Justice for All" book has the riff written this way:


...and it works both ways; I've just always left the root notes off.

Definitely a "wooohoo!!!" moment--after 22 years of not being able to play fast, it seems like something just clicked into place, like maybe wrist position or some other bit of picking technique that I suddenly got right after all this time.

Still a long way to go before I'm up to the ending of "One" or any of "Damage, Inc.," but now there's some incentive to work a little harder on it.

Song of the Day: ...And Justice for All (Metallica)

From the first time I heard this 10-minute title track from "...And Justice For All," I wanted to learn to play it.

Over the 19 years or so since, I've managed to be slow and sloppy, hardly able to keep up with Hetfield's chunky palm-muted rhythm playing.

In the past couple of months (post-kidney surgery) there's been little else to do but grab a guitar and fart around on it--but let's not call it "practicing." That word brings back memories of being forced to play from as far back as 6th Grade trumpet class, when my mother would make me sit and go through the school book on Saturdays.

No, just call it farting around. It doesn't sound as official, which means I tricked myself into working a little more on getting my right hand a little looser and faster. The upshot of all this not-practice is that for the first time in longer than I can remember, my right hand wasn't holding me back.

I wore my left hand out.

This isn't one of Metallica's fast & furious all-out thrash songs (especially compared to "Damage, Inc."), but it's more technically demanding than "Enter Sandman" or "Orion."

I remember listening to this album (dubbed to cassette from my nephew's CD) while I was struggling through Analytical Geometry and Calculus I in college. I'd strain my brain for a bit, then rest and strain my fingers, rinse and repeat.

I still use Metallica on a regular basis.

Nick of Time for the Kidney...

All the way back in January, Florida's Thief Executive was making noises about hacking away at the Medicaid Medically Needy program (the same one I and many other Floridians are dependent on for coverage) and privatizing Medicaid so that his buddies can make some money.

I signed up for it in January, got my Medicaid card in April, headed for the kidney surgery as soon as possible after that.

I got a notice that apparently I'm no longer "medically needy" enough, popped aorta notwithstanding. Coverage ends July 31. If I don't do anything, I automatically get signed up for a county managed care program on Sept. 1.

I got lucky, getting the worst of my medical issues out of the way (that aortic dissection could still kill me, or at least leave me paraplegic, if I don't stay on top of it). But I wonder how many people out there won't be so lucky when Governor Scumbag's hack-and-slash approach gets to them.

Considering what the bastards have done across the country, it's a wonder there are so many people who vote for Republicans.

As far as the kidney incision goes, it's gone from a gaping, scary looking hole in my belly last month to damn near closed. I've gone from daily Wound Care visits seeing them every 2 weeks; from a thick "maxi pad" bandage to the vac to a little bandage. It's starting to itch a bit along the top end and my belly's still striped from all the tape adhesive...and about all I really want these days is for this to be done so I can take a kayak ride before winter.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Riff of the Day: The Enemy Within (Rush)

In the 20 years since I started playing guitar, there have been quite a few bits and pieces of Rush songs I've never been able to play, usually because I can't play fast. A great example of this would be that damned intro riff from "The Spirit of Radio." I can play it maybe half as fast--but I have never been able to break whatever speed barrier it is that keeps me from playing much of anything speedy.

Then there are riffs that I've tried to work out over the years and failed, usually because I was going about it all wrong, such as the 12-string pattern Lifeson plays under the " To stand within the Pleasure Dome decreed by Kubla Khan / To taste anew the fruits of life, the last immortal man" part of Xanadu, which turned out to be a lot simpler than I was making it out to be.

The intro to "The Enemy Within" (from Grace Under Pressure) is another one that eluded me for years. The last time I tried to work it out was maybe a decade ago. Couldn't get it, probably because I was making it too complicated. It became one of those elusive "I'm gonna have to figure that one out someday" things that pile up and never see brain cells again.

A couple of nights ago, I got bored and gave it another try...and this time it took maybe 15 minutes total.

I'm kind of pissed at myself because it turned out to be so simple:


Perf. note: Bass plays the root notes as whole notes--B, F#, E, A; the guitar fills in the "space" of the rest of the measure. Think "minimalism."

For the first two measures, form the basic 2nd-fret Bm chord, but don't barre it. After you finger the 3rd fret 2nd string in 1st measure, use that same shape to play the 2nd measure. You don't even need to move your fingers.

For measures 3-4, bar the top 4 strings at the 2nd fret. That's all--just skip the 2nd string in the 3rd bar. For the 4th bar, all you have to do is hold that chord and drop your middle finger on the 3rd fret.

Friday, July 15, 2011


The wound-vac came off this morning; the site's down to .6 cm long x .5 cm wide x .6 cm deep, significantly down from just under 2 weeks ago.

Now I'm down to a little scrap of Promogran, a gauze pad, and a 2" bandage.

The vac's a neat little device, but I don't miss being tethered to it by several feet of tubing. That was about the only problem I had with it, really. I'm sure as hell not going to complain.

No, instead I'm thinking of where I'll take my kayak first, once the incision's healed over.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

I'm a terrible uncle.

My nephew graduated his Web Design and Graphics Design courses after 3 years of busting his can on it.

I'd been trying to think of a good graduation and birthday present for him, but kept coming up blank until late May, when I bought myself a new Wacom graphics tablet. While I was tinkering with the thing, I realized that it'd be perfect for him, given the impressive Photoshop skills he's shown (he added himself to a black & white photo of horror legends Lugosi and Karloff).

I had my setup all laid out. He would be coming to town July 1st or 2nd. I let him settle in a bit, then mentioned that I was headed to Best Buy to get that graphics tablet I'd been wanting and invited him along.

Off to the store, grab the tablet, look around a little, make the purchase, head back home.

We sat at the kitchen table and talked for an hour or so; the tablet sat wrapped in its bag next to me while I waited for the proper moment to spring my surprise.

The he mentioned being "so jealous" that I'd gotten one; he'd been wanting a tablet for a couple of years but couldn't afford it between school and bills. He told me to go install the thing.

"It wouldn't be right for me to do it," I told him, "since it's yours." I pushed it toward him.

He damn near freaked out! "No, I can't take that, I know how much it cost! That's too much! You don't have one!"

I had to show him my tablet, shiny and new, on my desk, before he'd believe that I had one.

Took him several more days to settle down and accept that it was his. I told him he had to earn it.

Happy Anniversary?

July 12th marked a year since my evil kidney made its bid to kill me off once and for all.

The 12th also marked 2 months since I ended its nefarious plans once and for all.

It's been a hell of a year. I've still got the recliner, but haven't slept in the thing since sometime in August or September, whenever it was that I was able to sleep lying down again. It's just taking up space.

Not much else has changed; I'm still taking a half-dozen pills a couple of times a day to keep my blood pressure under control, the tear in my aorta is still a danger, and I still can't walk or stand past a certain point. I haven't had a migraine since December, though, which is a definite plus. I used to get crippling headaches at least once a month until I started taking the BP meds.

The doubled/blurred vision I was having until a year ago is gone; my left eye used to go blurry past 20 feet and I could feel some pressure in it.

The wound-vac is still attached like a remora to my belly, the incision ever shrinking, and my remaining kidney producing like gangbusters.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Vac Day 9--Impressive. Most Impressive.

I've been through 4 dressing changes on the wound-vac since I started using it June 28th.

Incredible. That's how I'd describe the effect.

In 9 days, the big incision site has closed up to the point where its about as wide as a pencil (compared to about an inch) and about the same length (a little under 2 inches).

There was a smaller one a little larger than a pencil diameter just below this one which used to be connected to the larger one by a "tunnel" where the skin mended while I still had staples there. This one's nearly closed, now.

The redness around the staple spots has gone down noticeably.

Word has it I'll be rid of the thing in another week.