Tama Imperialstar 5-piece Drum Set

Like many others I’ve spent countless hours researching for the right drum set that could hold up to the abuse of a heavy hitter and still not break the bank. I’ve played on many sets, mostly Pearl Forums, and although built well, I never really felt comfortable with them. I eventually narrowed down my search to the Tama Imperialstar and the Gretsch Blackhawk. Both kits have amazing reviews and most concluded that you couldn’t go wrong with either one.

For a comparison Tama Imperialstar features:

  • Price: $749.99
  • poplar shells
  • 22″ x 18″ kick
  • 10″ x 8″ and 12″ x 9″ toms
  • 16″ x 14″ floor tom
  • 14″ x 5-1/2″ snare
  • All hardware and cymbals included. (Meinl HCS: 14″ hi-hats, 16″ crash, and 20″ ride)

Gretsch Blackhawk features:

  • Price $899.99
  • poplar and basswood shells
  • 22″ x 18″ kick
  • 12″ x 9″ and 13″ x 10″ toms
  • 16″ x 16″ floor tom
  • 14″ x 6-1/2″ snare
  • All hardware and cymbals included. (Sabian SBR: 14″ hi-hats, 16″ crash, 20″ ride and free 10″ splash)
  • (Product information provided by the musiciansfriend.com website.)

The tom sizes on both sets work for me. I wanted a 22″ x 18″ kick and a 12″ x 9″ main tom. And even though I prefer Sabians over Meinl, I already had Sabians from my last set. I eventually chose the Tama Imperialstar because it was closer to my price range. (This may have been a Gretsch review if I had a bigger budget.)

Shipping was quicker than I expected, but one of the two boxes had a large football-shaped hole in it. Luckily there was no damage to anything inside. The setup was easy. If you have absolutely no idea what you are doing then you’re in luck because both paper and dvd instructions are included.

The two main toms and the snare come already put together and tuned rather nicely, only leaving the kick and the floor tom for you to put together. I would recommend buying heads along with the kit because the stock ones won’t last long, especially if you’re a heavy hitter and practice nearly every other day, (me).

The cymbal stands are built nicely. Very heavy and sturdy. My only complaint is that there are no memory locks. The cymbals sound better than I expected. I have not used the hi-hats but the 16″ crash sounds nice and glassy and dissipates quickly. The 20″ ride is good but the bell didn’t impress me.

Overall, I’m very satisfied with this set. It feels comfortable, reliable and didn’t break the bank. Thank you Tama for an amazing set that will bring countless hours of entertainment. I hope this review will help anyone who is looking for a intermediate set on a budget. Feel free to ask questions for anything I didn’t cover.

Cinco de Mayo

Hello everyone, today is Cinco de Mayo which is Spanish for fifth of May. Today is often mistaken for Mexico’s Independence Day, which is celebrated on September 16th. Cinco de Mayo is actually the commemoration of the Mexican victory over the French at the battle of Puebla in 1862.

Before the battle of Puebla, Mexico was in debt to a few countries such as France, Spain and England, because of the Mexican-American War of 1846, the Mexican Civil War of 1858, and the Reform Wars between 1857 to 1861. In July of 1861, Mexico decided to put a two year hold on foreign debt payments. As a result, France, Spain and Britain sent naval forces to collect payment. After negotiations, Britain and Spain withdrew, but Napoleon III used this as an excuse to expand his empire and invade Mexico. At this time the American Civil War was beginning and America could offer little more than political support to Mexico.

In late 1861 France invaded Mexico, driving them into retreat until France encountered heavy resistance at the forts of Leroto and Guadalupe near Puebla. Outnumbered and more poorly equipped, the Mexican Militia stopped the invasion. Although this victory helped unite the people of Mexico and boosted morale, it was short lived. After word of the Mexican victory reached Napoleon III, he sent in a much larger force of 30,000 (although unsupported by the French population) and took control of Mexico City, establishing Maximilian as the ruler in 1864.

In 1865, the American Civil War ended and military assistance could be sent to the neighboring country. In 1867, Mexico was finally able to push out the French invaders and Maximilian was executed.

Cinco de Mayo, once a regional event in the town of Puebla has expanded across the globe. In Mexico it is mainly a regional celebration, but in the United States the holiday seems to grow in popularity every year. Many people host parties with traditional folk music and Mexican food and beverages. An air guitar competition is held in the Cayman Islands, which are located in the western Caribbean. And Vancouver an annual sky-diving event is held to celebrate the holiday.

Whether you’re sky-diving, going to a party or staying home and reading blogs, have a great Cinco de Mayo and enjoy the weekend.

Earth Day 2012

Bryce Canyon, Utah
Bryce Canyon, Utah

Today is the 42 Annual Earth day. Senator Gaylord Nelson from Wisconsin created Earth Day as a “teach-in” to help inform people about environmental awareness. He aimed to raise the issue of pollution from a small group of people to a national level. This issue quickly exceeded the bounds of the United States and Earth Day is recognized in many countries.

After the first Earth Day in 1970, pollution and the environment became a priority on the national agenda. Late that year the Environmental Protection Agency was established. Since then many legislations, such as the Clean Air Act, have been passed to help keep us and the environment safe.

Many companies have put forth an effort to lesson our impact on the environment.

  • In 1987 HP began to offer a free recycling service for electronics
  • In 1990 Apple developed a policy to reduce power usage and the impact on the environment
  • In 1992 ENERGY STAR was introduced. (A joint program of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy.)

This Earth Day, think about doing things that can lessen your impact on the world. Simple things like switching to online banking, unplugging unused chargers and turning off the faucet while doing dishes and brushing your teeth will help.

Java Weighted Average

I haven’t posted much lately because of being bogged down by homework. So, here’s one of the assignments I had in Java. Hopefully it will help someone learning the basics.

The assignment is to build a GUI that the user input four test scores and average to determined weighted average.

/* Average of 4 Test Scores
* Chapter 6 Ex 1
* User enters 4 test scores, outputs average.
*/
import javax.swing.*;
import java.awt.*;
import java.awt.event.*;
import java.util.*;
import java.math.*;

public class Test_Average extends JFrame
{
private static final int WIDTH = 400;
private static final int HEIGHT = 175;

private JLabel t1L, t2L, t3L, t4L;
private JTextField t1TF, t2TF, t3TF, t4TF;

private JLabel w1L, w2L, w3L, w4L;
private JTextField w1TF, w2TF, w3TF, w4TF;

private JLabel avgL;
private JTextField avgTF;

private JButton calculateB, exitB;

private CalculateButtonHandler cbHandler;
private ExitButtonHandler ebHandler;

public Test_Average()
{
setTitle(“Weighted Average”);

// test fields
t1L = new JLabel(“Test score 1: “, SwingConstants.RIGHT);
t2L = new JLabel(“Test score 2: “, SwingConstants.RIGHT);
t3L = new JLabel(“Test score 3: “, SwingConstants.RIGHT);
t4L = new JLabel(“Test score 4: “, SwingConstants.RIGHT);

t1TF = new JTextField(“0″, 5);
t1TF.setHorizontalAlignment(JTextField.CENTER);
t2TF = new JTextField(“0″, 5);
t2TF.setHorizontalAlignment(JTextField.CENTER);
t3TF = new JTextField(“0″, 5);
t3TF.setHorizontalAlignment(JTextField.CENTER);
t4TF = new JTextField(“0″, 5);
t4TF.setHorizontalAlignment(JTextField.CENTER);

// weight fields
w1L = new JLabel(“Weight: “, SwingConstants.RIGHT);
w2L = new JLabel(“Weight: “, SwingConstants.RIGHT);
w3L = new JLabel(“Weight: “, SwingConstants.RIGHT);
w4L = new JLabel(“Weight: “, SwingConstants.RIGHT);

w1TF = new JTextField(“0″, 5);
w1TF.setHorizontalAlignment(JTextField.CENTER);
w2TF = new JTextField(“0″, 5);
w2TF.setHorizontalAlignment(JTextField.CENTER);
w3TF = new JTextField(“0″, 5);
w3TF.setHorizontalAlignment(JTextField.CENTER);
w4TF = new JTextField(“0″, 5);
w4TF.setHorizontalAlignment(JTextField.CENTER);

// avg fields
avgL = new JLabel(“Average: “, SwingConstants.RIGHT);
avgTF = new JTextField(“0″, 5);
avgTF.setHorizontalAlignment(JTextField.CENTER);

// calc button
calculateB = new JButton(“Calculate”);
cbHandler = new CalculateButtonHandler();
calculateB.addActionListener(cbHandler);

// exit button
exitB = new JButton(“Exit”);
ebHandler = new ExitButtonHandler();
exitB.addActionListener(ebHandler);

Container pane = getContentPane();

pane.setLayout(new GridLayout(5, 4));

pane.add(t1L);
pane.add(t1TF);

pane.add(w1L);
pane.add(w1TF);

pane.add(t2L);
pane.add(t2TF);

pane.add(w2L);
pane.add(w2TF);

pane.add(t3L);
pane.add(t3TF);

pane.add(w3L);
pane.add(w3TF);

pane.add(t4L);
pane.add(t4TF);

pane.add(w4L);
pane.add(w4TF);

// buttons
pane.add(calculateB);
pane.add(exitB);

// avg
pane.add(avgL);
pane.add(avgTF);

setSize(WIDTH, HEIGHT);
setVisible(true);
setDefaultCloseOperation(EXIT_ON_CLOSE);
}

private class CalculateButtonHandler implements ActionListener
{
public void actionPerformed(ActionEvent e)
{
//declare variables
double test1, test2, test3, test4;
double weight1, weight2, weight3, weight4;
double avg1, avg2, avg3, avg4;
double favg;

// input
test1 = Double.parseDouble(t1TF.getText());
test2 = Double.parseDouble(t2TF.getText());
test3 = Double.parseDouble(t3TF.getText());
test4 = Double.parseDouble(t4TF.getText());

weight1 = Double.parseDouble(w1TF.getText());
weight2 = Double.parseDouble(w2TF.getText());
weight3 = Double.parseDouble(w3TF.getText());
weight4 = Double.parseDouble(w4TF.getText());

// process
avg1 = test1 * weight1;
avg2 = test2 * weight2;
avg3 = test3 * weight3;
avg4 = test4 * weight4;

favg = avg1 + avg2 + avg3 + avg4;
// output
avgTF.setText(“” + String.format(“%.2f”, favg));
}
}
private class ExitButtonHandler implements ActionListener
{
public void actionPerformed(ActionEvent e)
{
System.exit(0);
}
}
public static void main(String[] args)
{
Test_Average rectObject = new Test_Average();
}
}

Don’t just copy and paste this if you have the same assignment, because you won’t learn anything from that. Feel free to leave comments or questions.

The new Ipad vs. the Kindle Fire

I have seen many debates between these two products; mostly an all out battle between “Apple fan boys” versus the die hard Amazon fans. I’m sure we have all heard that the Kindle is the “ipad killer.” Just as anything else, I decided to do the research for myself.

This last March, Apple released it’s newest version of the Ipad with a price tag starting at $499. Amazon also released their new tablet, the Kindle Fire at a competitive price of $199.

Owning neither product, I thought it would be interesting to see how that claim held up. I looked at the tech specs and the utility of each device.

Tech Specs

Both products are visually appealing and offer a multi-touch interface. The Ipad’s retina display at 9.7″ is a bit bigger than the 7″ screen on the Kindle Fire.

Connecting to Wi-Fi is available with both products, but Apple went a step further by offering Bluetooth as a standard feature. The Ipad also offers a 4G option at the higher price of $629.

The Kindle Fire uses a USB 2.0 micro-B connector and the Ipad uses their standard 30-pin connector.

The Ipad3 offers a battery life of 9 – 10 hours and weighs in at 1.44 pounds. (1.46 for the 4G model.) The Kindle Fire’s battery life is slightly less at 7 – 8 hours and weighs 14.6 ounces. (Roughly 0.91 pounds.)

Storage capacity wise, the Kindle Fire’s 8G is doubled by the Ipad’s base model with 16G. (Up to 64G but adding $200 to the price tag.)

Now that we are done with the technical aspects, we can look at the usability of each device.

Utility

The Ipad is designed to be a table computer, (of course) offering apps, games, web browsing, productivity and other nice features. The Kindle Fire was made with reading in mind and also offers apps, games and web browsing.

Though the Kindle Fire allows the user to review documents, it doesn’t appear to have the capability to edit or create them. (Though I’m sure you could just use something like google docs.) To me this is were it becomes more clear.

What it all comes down to?

If you want a device to read books and check Facebook or read the news, both devices will do this. If your goals fall within that range, it would be practical to spend 1/3 the price of the Ipad and go with the Kindle Fire. But if you’re buying one with productivity in mind, the Ipad would more likely suit your needs with apps like Pages.

To sum it up, the Ipad offers a larger display and more storage capacity with a larger price tag. The Kindle Fire does exactly what it’s advertised to do with little to no complaints from consumers. I don’t believe that the Kindle Fire is meant to be a “ipad killer”, simply because their functionality and purpose seem too different.

I’ve always been a fan of Apple products. With that in mind, after writing this review I wouldn’t mind getting my hands on a Kindle Fire.

Happy Easter

Happy Easter everyone! It’s that time of the year for baskets of candy, lots of food and the hunt for colored eggs. Kind of reminds me of last Halloween when someone slipped acid into my beer..

Many games take place on Easter. Egg rolling is a racing game played with painted hard-boiled eggs. It has been a tradition in the White House since President Hayes allowed the even to take place on the lawn.

Another game called egg tapping has been reportedly played since the 14th century. This game involves tapping your hard-boiled egg against the opponents in an attempt to break their egg. Egg tapping is so popular that official competitive events are held in some places.

As we know, Easter has become very commercialized over the years with things like chocolates, peanut butter filled eggs and Easter weekend sales. We’re still not clear on how a bunny got thrown into the mix.

Of course, the real meaning of the holiday is to celebrate the resurrection of Christ, which took place on the third day after his crucifixion. It’s considered the most important holiday to Christians.

When you’re out hunting for eggs and getting that sugar rush, keep in mind the real reason of the holiday. Also, don’t be afraid to look up a few other traditions and games. Most importantly, enjoy the day and have a happy Easter.

Ice Mountain Preserve

Ice Cave
An Ice Cave in Ice Mountain Preserve.

It had been over a month since my last hike and a friend recommended Ice Mountain Preserve in Hampshire County, WV.

As we began the hike, we met a geologist who said the temperature in the caves are usually between 39 and 49 degrees Fahrenheit. We split up at the intersection and went down to the caves as the geologist followed the upper trail to the overlook.

The caves are actually only a few feet deep, but as we talked in front of one we could clearly see our breaths. The area is called a Algafic or “cold producing” talus slope. (A talus slope is a collection of broken rocks at the base of a slope.)

Soon, we headed back to the upper trail. The summit sits at just above 1,500 feet and is comprised of the Ridgeley sandstone and Marcellus shale.(Yes, the same type of shale that holds natural gas.)

The southern overlook named Raven Rocks, look like large chimneys and was named after the ravens that live here. A few could be seen as we made our way up. Plants unique to the area can be seen here as well. The dwarf dogwood and Canada mayflower thrive because of the cool temperature.

Once at the top, you can see an amazing view of the surrounding area and skyline. A plaque is set up describing the different landmarks from Short Mountain to Sidling Hill. (SW to NE.)

The history of Ice Mountain dates back as far as when the Native Americans and early settlers used the vents to store food, earning it the name “Natures Ice Box.” During the Civil War it was used as a lookout point. More recently, locals would gather the ice from the vents and make ice cream and other cold beverages.

A joint effort is taking place to preserve the rare species and study the effects of climate change. The Nature Conservancy, U. S. Forest Service, WVU geologist and volunteers have all put forth an effort to preserve the area. To lower the risk of damage to the fragile ecosystem, tour reservations are required. Groups are limited to 15 people and are open most of the year. (Usually held on Saturdays.)

If you happen to be in the area, I recommend this preserve. It’s such a great view and unique structure with a hike that won’t take up your entire day.

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