Site hosted by Build your free website today!

Blog Tools
Edit your Blog
Build a Blog
RSS Feed
View Profile
« March 2008 »
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31
Entries by Topic
All topics  «
The New Ecclectic Sound Experience-The Place for Musicians!
Dr. Miczak's Press & Media Section
X-Training Blog
MarieAnakee Living

Graf Canada Skates

You are not logged in. Log in

Dr. Miczak's Latest Book

The Secret of Staying Young: Lotus Press USA
Os Segredos de Permanecer Jovem: Madras Editora Ltda. Brazil

Visit for full backlist.

Syndicate this site

Subscribe in NewsGator Online

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

Dr. Miczak's Best Picks -
Friday, 14 March 2008
Entertaining Moments of Spring
Now Playing: Lights....Music....Action!

PRESS RELEASE:  This just in....New Musician's Website Launched!  Get into "The New Eclectic Sound Experience" at:


Entertaining Moments of Spring

Spring is a wonderful time to celebrate with family and friends. You can begin making plans for entertaining by taking an “al fresco” approach to your next soiree. Set the mood with live music and lights to transform your affair to the sunny sidewalks of a French bistro. Serving your guests “café” style means using smaller round or square tables with fewer guests seated at each. This allows for a more intimate dining atmosphere.

Photo This Havaleena Light Bouquet graces your table indoors or out!



One of the hottest design ideas for home entertaining comes from the makers of the Havaleena Light. These fireless torches cast a soft, elegant glow on your table setting as shown in the above photo. You can even add messages to the light filters or change to colors of the lenses to compliment your décor for the evening. Set on top of a piano, they provide more than enough light for the keyboard. Best yet, unlike candles, they are smokeless, odorless, dripless and safe to touch in addition to being exquisitely beautiful. They will not interfere with the delicious scents of your cuisine and the torches last up to 20 hours on only three AA batteries. The Havaleena Light goes everywhere too. Use them for an impromptu picnic on the beach or at the park.  Need a gift idea? They make wonderful hostess gifts, housewarming and Mother's Day presents!

Havaleena Lights are exceptionally well made and will be a welcome addition to any décor. Since there is little or no heat involved, these lights can be arranged with fresh or dried flowers for a stunning, artistic centerpiece.

Havaleena is offering our readers a special discount purchase of these gorgeous lights by clicking on the following link. We highly recommend them for your next party or as a welcome gift! Click here for your special discount price on these decorator lights which offer so many uses:

Special Havaleena Light Offer for our Readers!

(NOTE: Clicking the above link will not allow you to return to this page!)





Photo CF Martin D-16GT Solid Body Guitar



One of the things you are trying to create is an atmosphere quite removed from the actual local setting. For example, you could set out a guitar on a stand or even hire a musician to play as a wandering minstrel at your next event. If you are so gifted, you could sit and play a few songs for your guests acoustically. Perhaps the best guitar for both looks and playability is a C.F. Martin guitar. These are highly prized and collected by music lovers the world over. In fact, they invented the Dreadnought design that is perhaps the most recognizable style of guitar. Place a D-16GT in the entertaining area in sight of your guests and watch the conversations (and hands), fly. It will add a romantic touch to the event and may even bring out the artistic side of your guests as well as yourself. Many people use guitars to decorate their homes without knowing how to play a single note!  However the Martin D-16 backs up its good looks with an amazing sound that will impress anyone who appreciates the guitar.  Still, there are some beautiful instruments besides the guitar that are very easy to play and can be quickly learned to entertain yourself and your guests.

They are the Autoharp and the Strumstick…

PHOTO Oscar Schmidt Acoustic Autoharp

The Autoharp was the most popular parlor instrument during Victorian times, however once the phonograph and pre-recorded music became a fixture in most homes, it fell out of favor. It saw another resurgence in the 1950’s as a music education instrument in the public schools. The Autoharp is very easy to play either lap or Applachain style held in the arms. The Centurion model is perhaps the best acoustic Autoharp Oscar Schmidt makes which means you needn’t use amplification to be heard. I’ve played mine outdoors at garden parties, bluegrass jams and folk festivals as it is very portable.  Add a strap and you're ready for anything.

You could try playing some lovely spring offerings like Irish Folk music which include lively reels and slow, romantic, airs. Celtic music and Scottish Airs are beautiful on the Autoharp and capture the light, festive theme of outdoor celebrations. We recommend:

* Celtic Autoharp 35 Celtic tunes arranged for all standard Autoharps such as Scotland the Brave, Farewell to Whiskey, Star of the County Down and Eleanor Plunkett by Karen Mueller. Includes CD with examples of playing of these tunes. Mel-Bay

* Scottish Airs and Ballads for Autoharp has 25 Scottish tunes arranged for Autoharp using standard notation and tablature with accompaniment chords. Flow Gently Sweet Afton, Cradle Song, Bonnie Dundee and Auld Lang Syne by Alex Usher. Comes with audio CD. Mel-Bay


Photo Strumstick by Bob McNally 

This is another easy to play, conversation starter! The Strumstick is an invention of Bob McNally who is an excellent guitarist who can also boast the design rights to the Martin Backpacker, a very portable, quality guitar. The Strumstick only has 3 strings and ours, the Grand, is tuned to the key of D. The first low string is D the middle is A and the last is a high D. It is in fact arranged in a similar fashion to a mountain dulicmer except for the reversal of the D string's position, thus pitches.

The beauty of the Strumstick is that you really can’t hit a bad note. Pick a string for the melody and strum all of the strings and you will sound great. What this does is give you a drone note which is the foundation of most Celtic music, (think of the steady note heard played on the Bagpipes). The Strumstick comes with both an instruction and song book.  A song/instruction CD is also available.  I was able to pick up playing songs from the book almost immediately and it really helped propel my progress on the guitar because the technique is essentially the same.

There are 70 tried and true songs included with the Strumstick. This will add a new dimension to entertaining your guests as there are scientific proofs of the benefits of playing and listening to live music.  Even more than that, its just plain fun!   If this is not enough, along with the songs included with the Strumstick, we recommend you also try:

* Celtic Songs and Slow Airs for the Mountain Dulcimer by Neal Hellman

* Favorite Old Time American Songs for Appalachian Dulcimer Mel Bay



Dr. Marie Miczak and her C.F. Martin D-16GT Guitar with an under the saddle Fishman Ellipse Matrix Blend Pickup

(Guitar Accessories, Martin Logo Leather Strap, Thumbpick, Strum 'n Comfort Kodiak Pick)

Look for her upcoming CD featuring this Martin D-16 and Electric Autoharp!  Get the full scoop by visiting the NEW Eclectic Sound Experience right here:


Posted by Author at 1:30 PM EDT
Updated: Monday, 16 June 2008 12:14 PM EDT
Post Comment | Permalink | Share This Post
Tuesday, 26 February 2008
New Wave in Podcasting
Now Playing: Podcasting Hits the Airwaves....


The New Wave in Podcasting


Podcasting is the latest wave in multimedia production as audio and video programs can be downloaded onto your computer or MP3 player. Now, nearly anyone with the right equipment can do “radio” quality broadcasts of news, music or educational lessons which can be accessed later by others either online or by download.

One pod cast producer, Laurel Moglen of Los Angeles started her new career in 2005 after working for years in public radio. She took that experience and upgraded it to start LA Podsquad, a company that creates highly polished custom pod casts. These include both audio and video programs meant to be downloaded onto your computer or MP3 player. Moglen’s clients include top companies like Travelocity and PBS Kids.



Besides a laptop, there are two main pieces of equipment every pod caster must have. Headphones and a microphone. Looking first at which headphones to choose, The ATH-M50 model is perfect for online listening for long periods of time. Circumaural earpieces swivel 180° for easy one-ear monitoring on the fly. These are essential to pod casting as they are extremely comfortable and effectively block distracting background noise. The ATH-M50’s are richly padded and comfortable enough to wear for hours at a time, a major bonus when doing a long pod cast with a lot of content. Not only that, they are collapsible and come with its own leatherette pouch for easy storage and transport.



Audio - Technica’s ATH-M50

Professional Studio Monitor Headphones

List $199.00

ATH-M50 Features:

Exceptional audio quality for professional monitoring and mixing

Collapsible design ideal for easy portability and convenient storage Proprietary 45 mm large-aperture drivers with neodymium magnet systems

Closed-back cushioned earcup design creates an outstanding seal for maximum isolation Adjustable padded headband for comfort during long mixing/recording sessions

Single-sided coiled cable terminates to gold-plated mini plug with screw-on ¼" adapter
















NEW Audio-Technica’s AT2020 USB Side Address Condenser Microphone

List $249.00

The next essential is a good microphone specifcally suited for podcasting.

Most broadcasters favor a side address microphone which carries an USB connector. Introduced at this year's NAMM Show in Anaheim, CA, the new AT2020 USB is the perfect solution. Ready to go, it plugs directly into your computer without the need for any additional adaptors.  The tripod stand allows it to be placed on any desk or table for handsfree broadcasting which essentially eliminates handling noise.


 AT2020 USB’s Features:

Side-address studio condenser with USB digital output (Windows and Mac compatible)

Crystal-clear, natural sound for podcasting, home studio recording, field recording, and voiceover use

Custom-engineered low-mass diaphragm provides extended frequency response and superior transient response

Cardioid polar pattern reduces pickup of sounds from the sides and rear, improving isolation of desired sound source

Low self-noise – perfectly suited for sophisticated digital recording equipment 


Includes tripod desk stand, pivoting stand mount, USB cable & storage pouch

Posted by Author at 1:26 PM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 26 February 2008 1:35 PM EST
Post Comment | Permalink | Share This Post
Saturday, 9 February 2008
Gifts with a Heart!
Now Playing: A Heart of Stone...

Peace Picks

Semiprecious Stone Guitar Picks

Everyone likes a shiny stone!  How would you like to play your guitar with one?  The Peace Picks are beautiful, made of polished agate and jasper but beveled for optimum guitar picking.



The Peace Pick, made by Strum 'N Comfort, offers a natural alternative to plastic picks that often over-bend and then break.  Even more.....

Peace Pick Benefits

  • Improves your flat picking skills
  • Bell like tone quality on the high strings
  • Warm and smooth tone on the bass notes
  • Three picking edges & six angles to choose from
  • Play and enjoy signature Gypsy Jazz sounds
  • The project supports organizations for Peace

The heart shaped stone picks are beveled to a sharp 1.0 mm diameter at the tip.






Six basic series semi-precious stone types available 


The two heart lobes are also beveled to a 2.0 mm diameter. What's even better is that you can take your Peace Pick with you and wear it as jewelry!  Below is the necklace Peace Pick Holder being worn....


Peace Pick Holder G clef and Translucent Stone Pick

Wearing your Peace Pick is not only decorative but reminds you to practice playing each day.  They make wonderful gifts and the sales go to support charity efforts in the futhering of peace.

Closer view of engraved Peace Picks and a Pick inside Holder

Music themed jewelry is very "hot" right now and is worn by musicians and non-musicians alike.  Here is another example from Strum 'n Comfort.....



 This lovely stylized guitar pin was created by Brother John

Brother John is a long time Big Sur, California jewelry artist. He has resided and worked along the northern California coast for over forty years.

Brother John has originated a unique artisan style, tri-metal design and his original artwork is collected by many people from all over the world. Brother John's customers include the Hollywood famous and many music industry notables. As a matter of fact, Brother John had provided jewelry for Jerry Garcia of the famed "Grateful Dead Band".

As you can see, he combines brass, copper & nickel silver metals in very creative ways as can be seen in this stunning Banjo Pin.


Brother John's tri-colored Banjo Pin

The artisan guitar pin, banjo clip and pendant is the first in a series of manufactured music theme gift jewelry to be offered by Strum-N-Comfort.

Strum-N-Comfort is to be commended for their humanitarian efforts towards world peace but also for their committment to disabled musicians who use their picks.  Greg Atkin's company does not blow its own horn but offers help to many guitarists through such fund raising efforts.  Visit them online and support fellow musicians by purchasing music themed jewelry and gifts that keep on giving.



Posted by Author at 4:44 PM EST
Updated: Monday, 11 February 2008 9:17 PM EST
Post Comment | Permalink | Share This Post
Friday, 8 February 2008
Vibes for Valentine's Day
Now Playing: Top Gifts for Audiophiles


Top Gifts for Audiophiles

Like connoisseurs of fine wine and food, there are some among us who savor beautiful music. Such are called “audiophiles” which means literally, “lovers of sound”. There are certain accessories and equipment desired by everyone who appreciates true sound reproduction. Pairing the right accessories with the right equipment makes all the difference. So here is our list of the top accessories the music lover in your life will want.


For those who are married to their MP3 players, we have…….

Audio-Technica’s ATH-CK7 QuietPoint Noise-Reducing Titanium Earphones

List $169.00

Nearly everyone has an iPod or other another type of MP3 player these days. They are perhaps the most visible accessory of young adults and musicians. The problem is that most of the earphones that come with these players are uncomfortable and do not stay put, especially when the wearer is out walking or jogging.

The solution is Audio-Technica’s ATH-CK7 earphones. They are phenomenal for clear, stereo sound with three sizes of ear pieces for a custom fit. These allow for an acoustic seal which helps block out ambient sound and background noise. This means you can enjoy your MP3 player at lower volume levels which saves batteries and your ears. 11 mm drivers deliver deep bass, extended treble and high fidelity. Titanium construction means less weight without sacrificing durability. Super comfortable with fantastic sound reproduction.



TrailAudio Digital Outdoor 512 MB MP3 Player by HighGear

Retail $129.00

Rugged, weatherproof and very simple to load, this MP3 player makes the rest look like crybabies. It’s harbinger clip and custom equalizing controls bring together the best of the in and outdoors. Coupled with Audio-Technica’s QuietPoint earphones and you can take off for another world while staying in this one. Amazing sound to go.





Humans Incase by Mike Mills “Flower Pouch” iPod Classic Case

Retail $60.00

This decorative, floral designed holder for the iPod Classic, (60 or 80GB), is an elegant statement. Designed by Mike Mills who is a graphic designer and filmmaker. His graphic work has been seen on album covers, skateboards, T-shirts and fabric patterns. He has directed music videos, short films and documentaries. Mills now brings his creative talents to gracing the quintessential iPod!




For the recording artists among us, we have…….

Audio-Technica’s ATH-M50 Professional Studio Monitor Headphones 

List $199.00

More and more musicians are now getting into home recording since companies like BOSS have made it simple and affordable to produce radio quality CD’s…at home. The ATH-M50 model is perfect for recording, mixing, studio monitoring and overdubbing. Circumaural ear pieces swivel 180° for easy one-ear monitoring on the fly. This is one piece of equipment no budding recording artist can do with out.

  • Exceptional audio quality for professional monitoring and mixing
  • Collapsible design ideal for easy portability and convenient storage
  • Proprietary 45 mm large-aperture drivers with neodymium magnet systems
  • Closed-back cushioned earcup design creates an outstanding seal for maximum isolation
  • Adjustable padded headband for comfort during long mixing/recording sessions
  • Single-sided coiled cable terminates to gold-plated mini plug with screw-on ¼" adapter



 Audio-Technica’s AT2010 Cardioid Condenser Vocal Microphone

List $169.00 


Audio-Technica’s AT2010 Condenser Vocal microphone is perfect for recording but shines equally in live performance. It comes through the instrumental mix allowing your vocals to stand out with recording studio impact and polish. Features the same 16 mm low-mass diaphragm found in the critically acclaimed AT2020 side-address studio condenser that recording artists use.

Solid, rugged all metal construction with unsurpassed sensitivity. Truly excels where clear, articulate vocals are needed. High SPL-handling and wide dynamic range makes this one of the most versatile condenser mics on the market. Quiet - Flex stand clamp provides ultra quiet handling and easy positioning.  Fantastic quality condenser mic.




BOSS BR1200CD Digital Recording Studio

List $1,049.00

Record, edit, master and burn radio quality CD’s onboard on ONE unit! The BR-1200CD allows you to add drum and bass effects, guitar and vocal processing on 12 tracks, (4 tracks for recording and playback in stereo). Has an onboard Vocal Toolbox for polished studio honed vocals. Allows for loop phrases, digital effects and has a Mastering Tool Kit for professional sounding CD’s. You’ll be able to record, edit, master and burn your own studio quality CD’s onboard without downloading onto a laptop. With 40 G bytes, you can do up to 120 hours of recording before you run out!


For the DJ's in our midst....

Audio-Technica’s ATH-PRO700 SV Professional Monitor Headphones

List $279.00 

Every DJ needs a set of quality “cans” to keep the music going. These are buttery soft and extremely comfortable on the ears for maximum sound isolation while delivering exceptional tone and clarity. You‘ll be surprised at what you‘ve been missing!  These pick up all the subtle nuances other headphones leave behind.

Monitoring headphones that excel in both DJ and recording studio use

Clear, well-defined trebles, rich bass response

Excellent isolation, perfect for loud environments such as clubs and house parties

3,500 mW of power handling, high SPL capability

53 mm diameter drivers, neodymium magnets

OFC (oxygen-free copper) wire cables, convenient one-side entry

Compact, easy to fold and store in provided pouch

1/8" (3.5 mm) stereo connector with 1/4" (6.3 mm) adapter

These really are some of the best headphones for DJ’s as they are comfortable to wear for long periods of time and offer unsurpassed noise isolation and sound monitoring.



Audio-Technica’s PRO 31QTR Dynamic Cardioid Handheld Microphone

List $69.00

Designed for up close vocals, this microphone is rugged and road ready. Perfect for DJ and Karaoke applications. You’ll especially appreciate the Magnalock on/off switch and the tough construction of the PRO 31QTR. One of the best microphones available for use when background noise can not be controlled. Great sound reproduction at an affordable price.

Close-up vocal performance microphone sets price/performance standards for intelligibility, transparent sound quality and noise suppression

Cardioid polar pattern reduces pickup of sounds from the sides and rear, improving isolation of desired sound source

Hi-ENERGY® neodymium magnet for high output and articulate vocal reproduction

Two-stage ball-type headcase for superior "pop" protection

MagnaLock™ on/off switch

Corrosion-resistant contacts from gold-plated XLRM-type connector




The NEW Gemini CDM-3600 Dual CD Mixing Console allows you to be the DJ of your own party!

List $419

NEW from Gemini!  Dual CD player and DJ Workstation means non-stop, seamless play and creative mixing. Connect a turntable and you have a complete system.  Can be used as a rack mount or tabletop system. Loads of features such as fader and stutter start, EQ, FX, programmable play lists, pitch bend via jog wheel or control, direct track access and more. Comes with RCA cables and is ready to hook up to your mixer or PA.  LED VU meter and quick search function make this the hottest Dual CD, mixing console out there.  The DJ in your life will freak over this one!  Flight case for the CDM-3600 is available for purchase.








 Gemini CDM-3600 Dual CD Mixing Console & DJ Workstation

















Posted by Author at 9:44 PM EST
Updated: Monday, 11 February 2008 1:19 PM EST
Post Comment | Permalink | Share This Post
Tuesday, 15 January 2008
For Your Favorite Musician....2008's Top Gear for Guitarists
Now Playing: 2008's Top Gear for Guitarists

2008’s Top Gear for Guitarists



Sometimes you wonder just what to get the guitarist or musician in your life. Fortunately, picking out gear that can be used and appreciated is really pretty easy. While purchasing an actual instrument may be cost-prohibitive, there are many accessories which make playing a whole lot more enjoyable.  Here are some of the best gear choices we've tested that any guitarist will love you for:


Planet Waves Dare Strap:

While most guitarists will favor an old, well worn softened leather strap, the Dare strap offers ergonomic balance and comfort.  This fully adjustable nylon strap balances the weight of your guitar squarely over both shoulders thus avoiding fatigue.  I use it with my solid body stratocaster which is idenstical to the one pictured here and its really super comfortable with no stress on my shoulders or back.  This strap ROCKS!



Planet Waves CTM Chordmaster, Tuner and Metronome

Three great accessories in one unit the size of an iPod!  The Chordmaster allows easy access to nearly endless chord variations.  The tuner works with either a direct cable in or via the onboard microphone for acoustic instruments.  Easy to read and accurate. The metronome helps you keep time and can be set to a variety of beats per measure.  Possibly the most complete accessory because it combines three of the most sought after units for guitarists in one.


Visit them online for more information....


Audio-Technica's PRO 8HEx Headworn Dynamic Cardioid Microphone

List Price


Fantastic vocal reproduction that is both comfortable and ultra-light to wear, the PRO 8HEx is ideal for guitarists, keyboard players, drummers, DJ's and others who need free hands while performing. Its low-visibility headband and cushioned support pads provide a stable, comfortable fit with no shifting. Designed for professional quality vocal pickup with hands-free operation, the PRO 8HEx features a pivot-mounted flexible mic boom that descends from either the left or right side.

  • Ideal for guitarists, keyboard players, DJ's, drummers and others who need the use of their hands during performance
  • Low-visibility headband is worn around the back of the head with cushioned support pads that provide a stable, comfortable fit
  • Pivot-mounted flexible mic boom descends from left or right side
  • Hypercardioid polar pattern improves isolation of desired sound source
  • Hi-ENERGY® neodymium element for articulate vocal reproduction
  • 7.2' (2.2 m) cable permanently attached between microphone and XLRM-type connector
  • Also available as:
    PRO 8HEcW – 55" (1.4 m) cable terminated with locking 4-pin connector for A-T UniPak™ wireless systems

Check out the PRO 8HEx and its wireless counterpart mentioned above, online at Audio-Technica's website:


Giglight Music Light by Lampcraft

Really any musician will love you for this gift!  A portable, powerful music light that clips onto your music stand.  The Giglight easily illuminates two full pages of music with a steady, bright LED light that can be powered by battery or AC adapter.  Folds up easily into its own case and travels with you to your gigs.  Indespensible for perfoming, practice and recording.


Giglight Music Light

 List Price  $49.00




Visit Lampcraft online and get your own Giglight!



Stum-n-Comfort Guitar Picks

These super comfortable picks are perfect for for finger picking styles and those who use thumb picks.  Veteran performer and guitar teacher for over 40 years, Paul Pugliese says these picks are great because they stay on and don't get in the way.  They work well on finger picking styles as well as classical guitar and banjo rolls.  I've used them on my Autoharp and Strumstick and found I can play much longer in comfort yet be in control of the pick without thinking about it.  We tested the Kodiak and Sharktooth crossover picks which work welll for hybrid picking.  They really allow you to focus on your technique and the inventor, Greg Atkin, is coming out with a CD on universal picking which highlights how to get the most from this system.  Greg's website also offers guitar accessories and Music Themed Jewelry that is beautiful and unique.  Some examples that would make wonderful, practical gifts are the Peace Pick which is made of semi-precious stone worn as a necklace and an elegant Guitar Pin.

Stop by Strum 'N Comfort online at:



Alaska Pik Guitar Picks

Alaska Pik. These unique finger picks act as stronger extensions of your fingernails.  In fact, they go over your finger and under the nail which makes them more of an extension of your fingers.  Great for for classical guitar and fingerpicking styles.  Sizes small, medium and large come in plastic while the brass picks are sold in medium and large only. Easy to adjust for a custom fit. These offer the freedom of not having to hold on to a flat guitar pick leaving you free to pick 'n pluck! 

Visit Alaska Pik online at:


Finger-Tone Pro Picks

These picks are so very comfortable and a great improvement over the plastic Dunlops most banjo, guitar and harp players use.  They allow part of your fingerpad to engage which aids in greater sensitivity on the strings.

These metal tips are more accurate for finger picking styles because they are more precise.  You can really isolate the strings for precision picking with these! Comes with a very cool pick case for storage and travel. We will post more as we try them on other types of guitars and with other techniques.

Finger-Tone picks by ProPik are available online at:




The Strumstick by Bob McNally

On its own, the Strumstick is such a cool instrument that you could buy it for anyone and make them happy.  However, one would miss the full potential of this "stick dulicmer".  Having only three strings, one being a drone note, the Grand Strumstick we tested is tuned to the key of D by way of D-A-D.  This means nearly whatever you do sounds melodic and picking out songs is actually quite easy.  Still the best part about the Strumstick is that it is the perfect guitar trainer.  You can practice the same exercises for barring and fretting while making real music.  I found that my attenuation and dexterity for the guitar improved greatly when using the Strumstick.  This is a great instrument to introduce someone to the guitar or even allow seasoned guitarists to compose on.  Fun on a stick!





See all the varieties of Strumstick including the newer electric ones at:






Posted by Author at 2:22 PM EST
Updated: Sunday, 10 February 2008 3:24 PM EST
Post Comment | Permalink | Share This Post
Wednesday, 2 January 2008
Want to Keep Those New Year's Resolutions?
Mood:  cheeky
Now Playing: Knock-Knock's

If you've struggled year after year with the same failures at keeping your New Year's Resolutions, here is a series of books that are sure to jump start your motivation!


  • How to Get FAT
  • How to Get in Debt
  • How to Procrastinate
  • Wheel O' Wisdom: Diagnose Your Neurosis


Knock-Knock's Self Hurt Series parody on "self help" offerings humorously shows how specific attitudes and actions lead to the same end result.  If you are serious about keeping those New Year's resolutions, perhaps it's time to take a realistic look at what may be sabotaging them.

How to Get Fat "All my life I've been trying to get fat.  No matter what I did, I stayed slim.  Now I'm packing on the pounds like crazy."  Jane Smith, former model.  This book takes the reverse approach to many of the same excuses people use for being overweight.  "I'm small boned" and other bromides are used to point out the self delusion we all fall prey to.

How to Get into Debt  "I was a saver.  I had a 401(k), a nest egg and a retirement plan.  No matter what I tried, I couldn't blow through my money, until now."  Sally Smith, Successful Debtor.  Funny but true, this book pinpoints the choices and lifestyles that lead to bankruptcy.  Laid out in step by step fashion, you will hear your own reasonings and excuses for over-spending, (we all make them), and hopefully see the cause and effect correlations.

How to Procrastinate  " My efficiency, promptness and industrious work ethic were making me miserable.  Now I just sit on my rump and I couldn't be happier!" Betty Smith, Utter Flake.  Oh boy!  This book likewise really gets inside of your head by showing up areas when we can waste time.  Compulsive checking of emails, texting and surfing online are more associated with avoiding doing things that need to get done than productive activity.  It also shows how your self esteem and relationships fare from this sort of (non) activity.  When you read all the ways you CAN waste time and shrug work, you'll quickly identify those which should be cut out unless you really do want to procrastinate!

Wheel O' Wisdom  Diagnose your Neurosis.  This nifty wheel spins up a world of insight and makes a perfect gift for the neurotic among us.  Comes with a mailing envelope for that very purpose!  Each window shows "what it is","what it feels like", "what people call it" and finally pluses and minuses for the behavior.  Take a close yet humerous look at human nature through this insightful window.

The key to success of any kind is to first identify the behaviors which cause the same results (or lack), year after year.  With the Knock Knock Series, humor can be your best friend and ally for success.  They will give you the wake up call you need.  Visit them online at... Knock-Knock:





Posted by Author at 1:07 PM EST
Updated: Friday, 4 January 2008 6:56 PM EST
Post Comment | Permalink | Share This Post
Monday, 26 November 2007
Entertaining at Home this Holiday Season
Now Playing: Let's Get it Started in Here!
Entertaining at Home this Holiday Season:

Let's Get it Started in Here!

Many people are sticking closer to home during the holidays this year. We also see more people investing in pool tables, home movie theatres and stereo sound systems for good reason. Creeping gas prices and air fares are making it more desirable to stay home and invite others over. Most people have no problem with providing cocktails and sumptuous meals for their guests but what about entertainment? Well, sitting everyone in front of a big, flat screened, high definition television will only work for some of your guests. You could hire a D.J. but that will cost at least $400 for the evening and he may not always have the genres of music you want to hear.

One solution for musical entertainment many savvy hosts are turning to is Karaoke. Now we’re not talking about the kind found in the kid’s toy section of Target. No, these are professional and semi-pro models which offer fantastic sound quality coupled with ease of use. The semi-professional Karaoke System we tested after checking out a ton of others is the Singing Machine. Their latest SM -1010 Digital model is a pedestal type with a full color 7 inch monitor. You don’t have to set it up on a table and then squint at black and white graphics. The TFT LCD liquid crystal screen shows full color lyrics and is packed with features to get the party started!


The Singing Machine SM 1010

Semi-Pro Karaoke Machine

MSRP $599.99

Karaoke is a Japanese abbreviated compound word: "kara" comes from "karrappo" meaning empty (as in karate - empty hand), and "oke" is the abbreviation of "okesutura" or orchestra. Rather than having both vocals and music, karaoke tracks only have the music. A live person who holds a microphone and sings while following the words displayed on a screen provides the vocals.

Everyone can have the chance to be the “star” at your party! Karaoke began in Japan but has quickly spread all over the world as a way to get people to participate in music, not just simply listen to it. We especially liked the fact that you can even plug in a guitar or other instrument which uses a ¼ inch jack into this machine. This gives extra versatility and encourages anyone with a desire to play an instrument while they sing. This Karaoke system includes:

iPod Docking Station (iPod not included)
7"TFT LCD Color Monitor with on Screen Lyrics
Built-in Video Camera
AM/FM Radio
Digital Key Control
Microphone Echo Control
Microphone Volume Control
A.V. C (Auto Voice Control)
Balance Music/Vocal Control
Two Microphone Inputs
Headphone Jack
Two Tower Speakers
Built-in Speaker System

What impressed us most with this karaoke system was the sound quality. Twin tower speakers has a top mounted horn tweeter and four drivers. A 50 watt system that offers a lot of great sound and clear volume. I’ve used professional Karaoke systems in the clubs and really, this system has far more features to help tweak your vocals. We found that the microphones included with the system were unfortunately closer to what comes with the toy karaoke machines. Based on this, many people have complained that the Singing Machine’s vocal volumes are very poor. I contend that the problem is not with the machine but with the cheap microphones that came with it. Made of inexpensive plastic, they are not nearly sensitive enough to carry your voice over the professionally recorded music and background vocals of the CD-G’s. I’ve seen this before with other low quality microphones. You need to nearly shout into them just to get the volume to register on the PA System!

No need to toss out the baby with the bath water. Simply exchange the microphones that come with the SM 1010 with a pair of serious Audio-Technica PRO 31QTR Cardioid Dynamic microphones. There’s your upgrade! You will find your vocals to be far more pronounced and clear over the system without having to turn up the microphone volume so high.


Audio-Technica’s PRO 31QTR

Cardioid Dynamic Microphone

The recommended upgrade for

Karaoke machines

MSRP $59.00

This affordable cardioid dynamic microphone is designed for close-up vocal performance. We recommend this microphone for the Singing Machine Karaoke SM1010 as it nails the clarity and audibility often lacking in standard “Karaoke” mics.

The PRO 31QTR has a broad frequency response while keeping handling noise at a minimum. We especially appreciated the all metal, tough, durable design that delivers consistent performance. Like all Audio-Technica microphones, the PRO 31QTR is extremely well made, (bomb proof in fact), and can stand up to life on the hard road. The mic sets price/performance standards for intelligibility, transparent sound quality and noise suppression. Available in two models for easy use with consumer and pro electronics: PRO 31 (XLRF-XLRM cable) and PRO 31QTR (XLRF- ¼” cable).

When we switched out the microphones which came with the Singing Machine with the PRO 31QTR’s, the improvement was immediately evident. Vocals we much cleaner with little or no popping. One feature we were quite impressed with was the MagnaLock silent on-off switch. Not only does it eliminate the clicking sound associated with turning the mic on, but it can be locked into the on position to prevent accidental shut off during performance. Vocals had far more punch and volume with the PRO 31QTR’s.


Visit Audio-Technica Online at :


Got Game?

One of the things you want to do when hosting your holiday parties is to make sure everyone is included in the fun. Now it is going to invariably be the case that only some of your guests are going to want to sing Karaoke. Depending on how good these guests are, even less may be willing to listen to them! You can set up a few tables with old favorites such as Monopoly or Scrabble in a nearby room. The idea is to have as many options for entertainment open for your guests as possible.

The New Harvard Convertible

3 in 1 Multi Game Table

MSRP $699.95

Want to add some gameroom fun but have limited space? We can recommend the New Harvard Convertible 3 -in-1 Multi-Game Table. This is a high quality, American made Pool, Air Hockey and Ping Pong table. You can set the schedule to have games of Pool from let’s say after dinner, then Air Hockey can begin a few hours after that with Ping Pong finishing off the night’s tournaments. Your guests can get a schedule and look forward to when their favorite game will start or they can simply be spectators while cheering the other players on. The table easily converts from one type of game to another for non stop action. You can give gift basket prizes of cookies or other homemade goodies to the winning players to take home. All accessories are included with this superior quality multi-game table, so you needn’t worry about getting any extra equipment.

The most important thing is to enjoy yourself and your guests during the holiday entertaining season. Don a stunning outfit, pour yourself a glass of wine, set out some hot and cold appetizers and join your guests at the party!

Posted by Author at 12:51 PM EST
Updated: Monday, 26 November 2007 8:27 PM EST
Post Comment | Permalink | Share This Post
Saturday, 10 November 2007
Winterize Your Axe!
Now Playing: Proper Instrument Care & Humidification

Proper Instrument Care & Humidification


As the cooler, dryer weather of winter moves in, you’ll need to pay more than the usual attention to caring for your musical instruments. In this issue, we are going to give you the best tips on how to keep your precious wood instruments in top condition.


CF Martin’s D-16GT Dreadnought Series 16 Gloss Top, (solid Sitka Spruce top)

One of the most important things you can do for your instrument is to wash your hands before picking it up to play. Oil and salty sweat from your hands can mar the surface and build up on your guitar strings, shortening their life. To remove dust, light surface dirt and fingerprints, I recommend Mist and Wipe Finish Enhancer by Meguiars. Meguiars makes car polish for Ferraris and made this formula for racy guitars! This is a very light, water - based cleaner which is suitable for most guitar finishes. If your guitar is factory new, then you will want to wait before using anything heavier than this such as a polish or wax. This is because natural wood still needs time to “breathe”. If you seal your guitar too early, it will not cure and age properly.

Once the guitar is adequately aged, (this can take about year), you can consider applying a more substantial wax especially designed for the guitar’s finished wood surface. Planet Waves makes a two step system called Restore which is a deep cleaning cream polish and Protect which contains Carnauba wax. The Restore really removes deep down dirt, grime and even minor scratches to reveal a mirror like shine. The Protect Wax as the second step seals the shine with Brazilian Carnauba. The results are quite impressive.

Solid body guitars like this

Aria Pro II Strat react somewhat

less to humidity changes


Next to keeping your instrument clean and grime free, the most important step as the winter season creeps in is to make sure proper humidification is maintained. We all know how important this is but are seldom given any comprehensive way of accomplishing it. There are even new guitar models with built in hydrometers. Personally I think that is a bit of overkill. A general rule of thumb goes by where you live. Most states in the northeast seldom have humidity drop below 40%. It happens but it is not the steady norm. If you live in the Southeast, you are more likely to run into problems with high humidity, not low. In this case you will need to use a silica pack product which absorbs excess moisture similar to what you find packed with new shoes.  In either zone, remember that indoor heating and air conditioning systems are going to be the defining factor.  Keep in mind also that solid body instruments such as electric guitars without soundholes are going to be a bit more stable even with fluctuating humidity levels.


How much moisture does my instrument need?

Ideally, optimum humidification of your instruments is around 45-50%. Too low humidity causes the wood to shrink and you will notice the strings going out of tune because the sound board has shrunken. If you strings need constant tightening, it could mean that your guitar is drying out. On the other hand, too much humidity causes the wood to swell and expand. Therefore you’ll notice the strings needing to be loosened.

A minute amount of expansion and contraction is to be expected even under the best conditions. This is why skilled luthiers make the backs of acoustic guitars slightly bowed out.  When the wood dries, the entire back will not cave in.  Still, having a system to constantly monitor and maintain optimum humidity is finally within reach.


Humidi Pak by Planet Waves

Maintains 45-50% Humidity

The Humidi Pak by Planet Waves has just taken the guess work and mess out of maintaining your instrument’s best humidity levels. The Humidi Pak system eliminates the need to refill the unit thus dispelling the possibility of water leaks and instrument damage. On the road?  If your guitar spends a lot of time in its flight case in transit, then you might want to make sure that it is being properly humidified in that environment. Most in case guitar humidifiers are tedious, leak and have to be refilled. Planet Waves lets you leave all that nonsense behind with their Humidi-Pak in case humidifier.

We tested the Humidi Pak system and found it to do the job very well. It is placed directly into the sound hole while the second unit goes in the headstock area of your guitar case.  We used it in a small acoustic Autoharp case and a large CF Martin Dreadnought guitar in a hardshell case. The smaller Autoharp case kept humidity at about 54% while the larger guitar case was kept at about 55.7% even when the room‘s humidity itself had dropped to 35%. Really, the best place for your instrument is its case, so you’ll want to be sure that the humidity inside is just where it should be. Planet Waves Humidi Pak is a painless way of accomplishing that. Our instruments barely needed tuning and stayed humidified even when the ambient room moisture levels dipped and rose.


The New Air O' Swiss U7142 Ultrasonic Humidifier

Proper Humidification for your voice

 and your instruments!

One of the problems with the dryer winter air is the havoc it wreaks on your guitars AND your voice! One way to remedy both at the same time is to properly humidify your home or studio environment. Using a high quality whole area humidifier is the better choice if you enjoy leaving your guitars out on display and / or you have multiple instruments in one room. The New Air O' Swiss U7142 Ultrasonic humidifier is the unit we recommend for accomplishing both goals. It has a hydrometer so you can set the target humidity that you want for worry free operation. It takes care of a large room up to 860 square feet with the bonus of not only keeping multiple guitars happy but by improving the moisture and quality of the air you are breathing. Keep in mind that like your guitar, your vocal chords, (folds in fact) and nasal passages can also dry out. This makes you more prone to upper respiratory infections and colds which are serious problems for vocalists.

This unit offers cold or warm mist, the latter of which does not lower the ambient temperature of the room, a big plus during the cold winter months. An Ionic Silver Stick inhibits the growth of bacteria and a mineral cartridge helps remove calcium, rust and lime. The Air O’ Swiss has special settings for automatic night time humidification while alerting you to clean the unit which is very simple.

The large capacity tank needs far less frequent fillings and is completely transparent making water levels easily visible. A red light flashes when the water is out and the unit’s overall operation is silent. Extra features such as a dual direction jet stream allows you to send moisture in two different directions. The New Air O' Swiss U7142 Ultrasonic humidifier is feature packed. The only accessories are the replaceable Demineralization cartridge which completely eliminates white powder, and the Ionic Silver Stick® (ISS) which keeps the water germ free.

I’ve personally noticed better quality sleep with my throat and nose being much clearer upon arising. My vocals are definitely reaping the benefits as my throat is getting the proper amount of moisture while my instruments on the stands are staying in tune much longer. We’ve found the New Air O' Swiss U7142 Ultrasonic humidifier to be the best quality humidifier available that will give your instruments, your living environment and your voice the proper moisture they need.

CF Martin's D-16GT

Acoustic with Ellipse Matrix Blend Pickup



Visit Air O Swiss Online at :


Visit Planet Waves (Humidi-Pak, Restore & Protect Wax) at:


Visit Meguiars (Mist & Wipe) at:


Check out CF Martin Guitars:


Posted by Author at 5:50 PM EST
Updated: Saturday, 10 November 2007 7:55 PM EST
Post Comment | Permalink | Share This Post
Friday, 26 October 2007
Best Thought Out Software and Toys for Christmas 2007
Now Playing: And the Winners Are....


Best Thought Out Software and Toys for Christmas 2007


If you are like most value conscious parents today, you are probably pretty tired of the constant marketing push of dolls that look like a street walkers or for the boys, something out of Dalton’s Inferno. Even worse are books which glorify the occult as “innocent fun” and computer games which demean women and revel in perpetrating violence. Do these toys and games really portray the types of personality traits we would like to see our children develop? Also, what about education? Recent test scores in our public schools show a lack of mastering basic skills. What if we could find toys and software for our children that both engage and enlighten at the same time?

Here is our short list of some of the BEST, most innovative toys, games and educational software we’ve seen rise far above the mundane pack.


Leap Frog - Fly Fusion Pentop Computer                               


The Leap Frog Fly Fusion Pentop Computer allows students to store and upload their writing, drawings, music via an MP3 player to the computer. This is an upgrade from the Fly Pentop 1.0 released previously. More than that, the pen itself, as the name implies, is a computer replete with a camera which processes what the student writes in order to help with Algebra, Science, Essay work or other studies. Quite an amazing piece of equipment!

Our resident student tester, age 13, test drove the Fast Comp Math and Journal modules.

Our student tester was able to upload the platform software and then the modules herself without any adult supervision. She remembered to have the pen plugged into the computer while doing this, otherwise the modules will not be synced. Best of all, our teen was able to run and configure the programs herself. You need to be connected to the Internet in order to activate these modules and your computer needs a minimum of 516 MB of RAM. Keep in mind that many laptops need at least that much space just to boot up so additional RAM made be necessary. We ran the Fly Fusion on our HP Laptop which has a respectable 120 MB of memory, (that's 1.2 GB), far more than most PC’s made just a few years ago. This system is compatible with Window's Vista and XP but does not work with Macintosh.

Fly Fusion Journal-A penny for your thoughts? This is a great tool that gets children to express themselves in both writing and drawing of ideas. Better than that, the built in camera allows the student’s printed writing and illustrations to be photographed, (remember the Fly Fusion has an onboard camera), stored and then transferred to the child’s computer screen. The system offers an active workspace and easy access to all of the uploaded modules. Additional modules can be easily ordered online.


Fly Fusion Fast Comp Math - Calculated moves! The Fly Fusion Fast Comp Math module offers help in math computations. When students encounter a difficult math problem, they can get help from their Pentop computer. The solutions add to the student’s ability to write out a problem and examine its components leading up to its solving. There are certain nuances involved with using the pen itself which are resolved with proper positioning and use of the given symbols. However, our teen tester quickly mastered them and went on to get the sought after solutions.

Pros: This system is very portable and will provide students with hours of homework assistance, subject support and fun. Modules such as the Brain Teasers, Music Studio and MP3 player add an interesting option for creative downtime. Students can enjoy these less academic related modules while still learning something. The system is feature packed and addresses many areas of academia including exploration into Spanish and French languages. Our teen student tester was able to upload all of the modules on her own without adult supervision or help.

Cons: Your child’s laptop will need to have ample RAM space and continuous Internet access especially when uploading the modules. Therefore you may have to figure adding Internet service and a computer upgrade into the total cost of purchasing this system. On the positive side, most newer laptops have a built in wireless air card so your child will most likely not need paid wireless service unless outside of a “hot zone“.

Visit online at



Messengers of Faith by One 2Believe

One2 Believe Biblical Action Figures and Toys

In a world full of new toys that present dubious role models for children, these Biblically based heroes are making a refreshing entry into the toy market. Well made and quite affordable, children can make their favorite people of the Bible come alive in play and teaching time. As a child, I remember how important visual cues were to me. My parents would read me beautifully illustrated Bible Story books before bed. The pictures were so colorful and vivid. I still remember those pictures!  More than that, they covered heroes of both the Old and New Testament. It made an incredible impact on me and kindled my love for God and His Son.

Well, these toys do the same thing, only in 3-D. Each set has a booklet which explains about the person while encouraging the child to read, (or have read), the Biblical account.

Perhaps our favorites are the Messengers of Faith Series. These dolls, Noah, Moses, David, Esther, Jesus, Peter, Paul, Mary, all tell their story in clear, audible speech. They are so well made that I have used them as teaching aids in my music ministry. While these are Christian oriented toys, the Old Testament Messengers of Faith have been very well received by Jewish believers. We must remember that it is the Judeo-Christian beliefs upon which our society is founded. There could be no New Testament without the Old and we found these toys to be far more inclusive than exclusive.

The Nativity Set is especially precious because it is made to be explored, unlike those ornamental versions made to go under the Christmas tree. These are very affable figures and encourage children to see that the adults and children of the Bible were people just like us. These people were afraid, had concerns about everyday worries and were mocked for their faith. Jesus said to him that overcomes as he overcame, he would give a reward. This gives the child and us courage to have confidence in God’s promises which Peter said were even for those who were afar off. Part of the beauty of these lessons from the Bible is to put ourselves in the scene. God is no respecter of persons so what He has done for people in the Bible, He can do for us. Children will learn this lesson quite well in their playtime which can really be a time of blessing and edification.

Pros: These toys are extremely well made and a great value for the dollar. Voices are clear and the bodies are fully articulated to add to the child’s imaginative exploration of Bible accounts. Children will notice the detailed clothing and beautiful eyes on the Messengers of Faith Dolls.

Cons: None although some of the soft sandals on Peter and Mary Messengers of Faith could be a little tighter to stay on better.

Visit their website at



Deliverance - Moses in Pharaoh’s Court by West Creek Studios

Screen shot of Moses in Pharaoh’s

Court Computer Game

Moses is courageous as is his brother Aaron as they move through the obstacles set before them in the Pharaoh’s court. This game has action and scripture combined that show that the Israelites did have obstacles to conquer. Our teen student tester enjoyed this lively alternative to the mindless violence and sexual exploitation often found in other computer games. The challenges were engaging and the graphics very realistic with a 360 degree range of vision.

We think games like this show that Biblical heroes were not one dimensional but adaptable according to their circumstances. Bravery as shown by taking action and determination are in fact very desirable attributes. Deliverance is a well done, high quality video game which combines action with scriptures showing that the two needn’t be separate.

Pros: Fantastic computer graphics, action packed challenges.

Cons: Is not compatible with the newer Microsoft Home Vista but will work with Windows XP.

Visit online at



Switched On Schoolhouse 2007 Curricula

by Alpha Omega Publications

Finally, a complete, quality, educational curriculum that also instills values most parents hold as important. No internet access is needed in this freestanding 5 module set. It uploads easily from CDs and guides your child through the same grade level studies as the public schools. We previewed the 9th Grade Curriculum which included the following courses plus one elective:

Algebra 1

Earth and Natural Sciences

Language Arts

Introduction to the New Testament

History and Geography

Elective: Home Economics

All offer three-D animation, multimedia presentations and much more. One of the challenges of home schooling is not to isolate the child from beneficial experiences of a well rounded education. Interaction with teachers or instructors outside of the home can help offset this.  Our children range in age from 27 to 13 and all were homeschooled with additional instruction in art, music, European Culture and culinary arts, being provided by private tutors.

Switched On Schoolhouse encourages a child to explore academia while exemplifying good morals and life lessons from the Bible. Proficiency in a subject is somewhat empty if your values are so eschew that you can not benefit yourself or others from that knowledge.

Our resident teen tester was able to upload all of the installation CD’s and subject software without any assistance.  There is an onboard Installation Wizard that helps to show the steps involved which our tester accessed on her own. Switched On Schoolhouse does not require Internet access in order to run. Online registration is available for those who do have Internet service but this is not a requirement. This is a full curriculum with the same subjects and more just as offered in regional high schools. The use of graphics and multimedia keeps the student engaged while allowing them to check their progress periodically throughout the lesson. Our student tester enjoyed the course work and games associated with the History & Geography module especially. Activites included choosing the correct definition and filling in the missing word to complete the sentence.  This system is feature packed with special pop ups in the Teacher's area such as a complete Periodic Table of the Elements and other helps.

The difference in choosing this curriculum over others is the emphasis on moral values and character building which are often lacking in our schools. This curriculum likewise does not tout Darwinian theory as fact.  Therefore Switched On Schoolhouse offers a welcome respite from this sort of dogma while allowing the student to freely explore alternatives to any unproven theory.

Pros: We gave Switched On Schoolhouse an A+ for ease of installation and use. Not everyone has Internet access and SOS does not require it so the system is ready to go right out of the box. On top of that, SOS has an excellent tech support team to trouble shoot any programming or setup problems which may arise. They even offer Accredited Distance Learning via their Alpha Omega Academy.  A very committed company.

Cons: None

Visit AO online at


Editor's Note: Please keep in mind the current state of our public schools in America. Secular humanism has slowly encroached on any display of personal liberty in matters of faith. In many public schools, our children are even prohibited from saying a silent blessing before eating their lunch. Everyone should see Ben Stein’s new movie, Expelled, to get an idea of what happens to serious scholars who even dare question Darwinism. This sort of draconian enforcement trickles down to students in our schools as well. One may or may not necessarily agree with all of the religious creeds and conclusions presented by some of the manufacturers and publishers represented in this review. However, we all should be in agreement on the need to return to morality and Biblical values playing a part in our childrens’ educational experience. Likewise children of faith should have the freedom to express their beliefs.




Posted by Author at 5:32 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, 2 November 2007 8:58 PM EDT
Post Comment | Permalink | Share This Post
Wednesday, 22 August 2007
Check out the X-Training BLOG!
Now Playing: Canoeing the Outback!

Be sure to visit our X-Training BLOG for some great health and nutrition tips on canoeing this fall.  COOL stuff!!!

Dr. Miczak's X-Training BLOG......






Canoeing Tips

Much More!

Posted by Author at 1:30 PM EDT
Post Comment | Permalink | Share This Post

Newer | Latest | Older