Archive for August, 2009

Les Paul: Remembering A Guitar Legend

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Courtesy of Gibson

Like many kids growing up, I had to pick a musical instrument to play when I entered a certain grade in elementary school. Most kids played because they had to and never picked up an instrument again after their first year. For others, It was a starting point that lead to a music career or a great hobby. Although I loved music from an early age, I could never settle on an instrument I wanted to play. I started with the piano, moved on to the trumpet and then ended up with the saxophone. After a few years of mediocre saxophone playing, I went to a friends house and watched his older brother play the guitar. When I picked up his guitar, I knew I had found my instrument. The guitar was sexier and more powerful than the instruments that I had previously tried. Plus, as I had seen in the movies, girls seemed to flock to guys who played the guitar so I knew that might come in handy later on in life. Like so many kids before me, I wanted to be a rock star. My love of the guitar grew strong and fast and I was soon soloing with it in front of my entire school as a member of the Jazz band. My blue Strat was my baby and I practiced all the time. Unfortunately times change and I started playing less and less. Different sports took over my life and then there was college. Although my Strat has not been out of its case in a few years, it’s like riding a bike. Once you pick it up after a long hiatus, you get inspired again. My goal is to pick it back up this year and start playing again.

The passing of Les Paul only enforces my love of the guitar and the fact that I should be playing it more often. When I was young I obsessed about different pedals and amps with friends and drooled over the pricey guitars that hung on the store walls. I was lucky to have a U.S. made Strat which is a classic, but The Les Paul always seemed to be the one people dreamed about. It was hard to beat the classic lines on it, the look and the sound that came out of it. Whether you were a country star or a rock wanna be, the Les Paul was the one. With the passing of Les Paul yesterday, we lost a legend and an innovator that was responsible for so much of our music history. An acclaimed guitarist and innovator, he helped to change the face of how music was made. Whether you are an avid guitar player or just like music in general, you have been touched by the life and work of Les Paul whether you know it or not.

Below is a brief write up from the Gibson guitar site about Les:

New York, NY…August 13, 2009…Les Paul, acclaimed guitar player, entertainer and inventor, passed away today from complications of severe pneumonia at White Plains Hospital in White Plains, New York, surrounded by family and loved ones. He had been receiving the best available treatment through this final battle and in keeping with his persona, he showed incredible strength, tenacity and courage. The family would like to express their heartfelt thanks for the thoughts and prayers from his dear friends and fans. Les Paul was 94.

One of the foremost influences on 20th century sound and responsible for the world’s most famous guitar, the Les Paul model, Les Paul’s prestigious career in music and invention spans from the 1930s to the present. Though he’s indisputably one of America’s most popular, influential, and accomplished electric guitarists, Les Paul is best known as an early innovator in the development of the solid body guitar. His groundbreaking design would become the template for Gibson’s best-selling electric, the Les Paul model, introduced in 1952. Today, countless musical legends still consider Paul’s iconic guitar unmatched in sound and prowess. Among Paul’s most enduring contributions are those in the technological realm, including ingenious developments in multi-track recording, guitar effects, and the mechanics of sound in general.

To read the rest of his bio and view the beautiful guitars that are still at the top of the industry over 50 years later, go to the Gibson website.

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2008 Les Paul Standard ($3,899 MSRP)

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Jet Blue Offers 1 Month of Unlimited Jetting for Only $599!

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Do you have $599 and a free month starting September 8th? If so why not pack your bags for the month and take advantage of Jet Blues latest and greatest offer.

For $599 you can fly to and from any of Jet Blues 50+ locations, as much as you want. Their “All You Can Jet” package is $599 including all taxes and fees and can be used to fly on any open flight from September 8th through October 8th. Tickets for each leg of your journey must be purchased 3 days prior to your travel date, but other than that there are no restrictions other than the fact that you must purchase the pass before August 21st.  If you wanted to jet out of the country then taxes and fees would be added on, but it still is not a bad deal.  This deal is just another one of the countless travel deals in this sluggish economy aimed at increasing travel numbers.  I would say Jet Blue did a great job thinking of this one and I hope some lucky people take advantage of it.  Seriously, if you have that month off, start calling your friends in different cities and start reserving some couch space.

I sure can’t take that month off to travel, but if you are in between jobs and always wanted to jet set around the country, now is your time.

For more information visit the All You Can Jet page on the JetBlue website.

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Move Over Prius: Chevy Volt To Get 230 MPG Rating!

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Forget those measly hybrids claiming 50 MPG, there is a new breed in town that could easily take over the green car market. Although hybrids have been tremendously popular, they don’t actually get amazing gas mileage when you think about it. Sure they get a lot better mileage than my truck, but in the 80s, simple 4 cylinder cars were getting gas mileage in the 40s and even 50s. For example, a 1985 Honda Civic used to get 42 MPG on the highway and their Civic Coupe HF claimed a whopping 54 MPG highway rating. Its a similar sized car to the Prius, so the fact that people go crazy over these new hybrids today doesn’t make a lot of sense. Sure they get great gas mileage but its not a huge change from the well built, simple 4 cylinders of the 80s. In fact, in the year 1985 there were 9 cars claiming over 50 MPG on the highway and a whopping 60 cars claiming over 40 MPG. (See MPGOMatic for more details and numbers.) These numbers don’t make the 48 MPG highway rating of the Prius sound very impressive.

Ever since hybrids came out, we’ve been waiting for something truly revolutionary, something that really changes the industry. The development of the hybrid however was just a step in the right direction, allowing auto makers to develop new technologies. The new breed of EV cars which includes the Volt, is the extension of the hybrid technology and hopefully it results in a more drastic improvement in efficiency.

Electric cars offer a lot of promise but the size and cost of batteries have been a problem. Most electric cars have very small ranges and charging them is often not easy. The new breed of electric cars are boasting larger ranges and a mix with gasoline, allowing the cars to reach triple digit MPG ratings.

One the leaders of this new breed is Chevy, who is trying to resurrect themselves after the GM bankruptcy. If their new Volt lives up to the hype, it may be the thing the new GM needs to turn themselves around.

The Volt is slated to come out in 2011 and according to the EPA, it could receive a MPG rating of 230! This would be the first ever car to receive a triple digit MPG rating. If these numbers do prove to be accurate and these little Volts have a good range, this would be quite a feat. Although it sounds great, there are still a lot questions surrounding this 230 number and how it was actually calculated. People are also wondering what the actual range will be and if the projected $40,000 price tag would be worth it. Whatever the final verdicts are, this is certainly a step in the right direction. With new products like these, companies will build upon the technology, resulting in lowered costs and the progression will continue. Although Chevy is the big name leading this charge, Nissan is also planning to launch their own EV soon and you can’t forget about small California car maker, Tesla, with their new S model hitting the streets soon.

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The Aspen Ducky Derby: 25,000 Rubber Ducks Racing For A Good Cause

Combine 25,000 rubber duckies, a chance to win $1 million, hundreds of screaming kids with a great cause and you have Aspens 18th annual Ducky Derby.

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It is always great to see fundraisers benefit great causes or charities, but its even better when one of these fundraisers ends with a rubber duck race down a river. The Rotary Club of Aspen has been putting on The Ducky Derby here for the past 18 years and it seems to be a big hit with kids and adults alike. The money raised through the Rotary Club “helps to promote education, health and human services, community building, and recreational/sports activities in the Roaring Fork Valley.” This year the event reportedly brought in $160,000 with an 18 year total reaching nearly $2 million.

photoThe Ducky Derby is a simple concept; dump a truckload of ducks off a bridge and watch them race down the Roaring Fork River. Kids have been doing this with ducks or sticks for centuries, but to see 25,000 ducks floating along together is quite an awesome image. To be a part of this event, you can purchase a duck or multiple ducks (with the money going to the Rotary) and have a chance at $10,000 or even $1 million. Of the 25,000 ducks sold, only 9 were lucky ducks with a chance at being worth $1 million. Although the winning duck was not one of these lucky ducks, the winner took home a $10,000 prize. Not a bad prize for helping out a great cause and watching the Roaring Fork turn yellow with ducks.

These so called Ducky Derbies seem to be popular all over the country so if there is one in a town near you I highly recommend getting in on the action. I wish I had taken a better camera along to the event so all I have are these pics from my iphone. You can get the picture though – lots of yellow ducks!

For more about the event check out: http://www.duckyderby.com/

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The Art of Ribs By Ted Leonard: Cooking Low and Slow

With another weekend fast approaching, grilling is on my mind. For todays post, I have turned to my good friend Ted Leonard for some rib cooking wisdom. I got my first taste of these Leonard specialty ribs at his Kentucky Derby party this past spring. Although the party was bumping and and music was pumping……when Ted served up his ribs, the house fell silent. All you could hear were some mmmmms and the smacking of lips. They were good; Ted sure has skillz on the grillz.

So today, I introduce to you, the first ever guest blogger on Stuff Mike Likes….Mr. Ted Leonard and his art of ribs. Happy grilling everyone.

Ted has skillz on the grillz

The Art of Ribs: Cooking Low and Slow By Ted Leonard

Ribs have been a major part of my life for as long as I can remember. To me ribs signify a gathering and community; the first rule of cooking ribs is that they can’t be consumed alone. Whether you are cooking for two or for thirty, the preparation, process, and presentation remains the same.

Begin prepping the ribs the night before. The first order of business is trimming the excess fat and removing the membrane from the bottom side of the ribs. Use a boning knife to trim the large pieces of excess fat from the top portion of the ribs. Be weary of the fat build up on the ends of the ribs. Remember to trim the excess fat and not over do it, some fat is good. To remove the membrane, use your finger nails on the edge of the bottom side of the rib to peel it up. The membrane should come up all at once as if you are pulling an adhesive off the back of a sticker.

Once you have finished laying the ground work for the ribs the next order of business is by far the most important, prepping the ribs with the rub. While some people have their own rub recipes, I found out very quickly that Savory Spice Shop in Denver (http://www.savoryspiceshop.com) has worked out a fantastic rub that requires no additional work. I recommend the Platte River Rib Rub. In addition to the rib rub brown sugar is by far the most important ingredient in cooking edible ribs. Although the Platte River Rib Rub has brown sugar in the mix, it isn’t enough. The folks at Savory suggest you use 2 tablespoons per pound of meat but I use significantly more. My general rule of thumb is that once you think you have applied enough brown sugar/rub mixture; throw another layer on there for good faith.

IMG_1334Your ribs are now ready for the fridge to sit over night. My practice is to wrap the racks in Cling wrap and to wrap them up well. You don’t want a puddle of pig juice and rub at the bottom of your refrigerator. Let the ribs sit for at least 12 hours to make sure the rub sets in and that you have a good base of flavor in the ribs. Please note that the flavor of the ribs does not depend on the BBQ sauce used but rather the rub used the night before.

When you are ready to cook the ribs give your self at least 4 hours prior to the guests arriving. Preheat the oven to 215 degrees. On a flat surface layout two feet of aluminum foil. Over the kitchen sink remove the Cling wrap from the ribs and place on tin foil (you want to put each rack in an individual piece of foil). Fold the long edges of the foil up and over the ribs then crease the short edges and fold over five times (make sure there are no holes for the ribs to drip in the oven as this can cause great hardship when cleaning up). Before sealing up the tin foil pour ¼ of a can of beer in the tin foil – I suggest Dale’s Pale Ale. This keeps the ribs moist and adds some flavor to the final product. Once you have the ribs in the oven let them cook for 5 hours.

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Time to fire up the grill! As a BBQ snob I always suggest that you use charcoal and use a lot of it when cooking ribs because you want the grill hot! Remove the ribs from the oven and from the foil. Be very careful as the ribs are now in their most delicate form. Mop on your favorite BBQ sauce generously and quickly move them to the grill. Place the ribs on the grill for ten minutes flipping them once. Serve the ribs immediately and enjoy with your company.

The hosts - Mr. & Mr.s Leonard

The hosts - Mr. & Mrs. Leonard

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Gearburger.com – Get Custom Alerts When Gear Goes On Sale

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If you are a gear nerd like I am, then you probably already know about discount sites like steepandcheap.com. These sites sell overstock items from larger parent companies like Backcountry.com in this case, offering buyers one item at a time in limited quantities. This format results in a lot of impulse buying. The discounts are often so high that you end up buying gear that you don’t need, but seems too good to pass up. Since the launch of Steepandcheap.com, many other sites have popped up that are more specialized like chainlove.com, just for bike deals. Most of these sites still call Backcountry.com their owner, but other immitators have popped up along the way as well.

Although I love these types of sites, I don’t have the time to constantly check them all for deals that I may be interested in. Most offer email alerts or a desktop widget to alert you when each new deal is up, but for the most part, I am never interested in the products they have on special. For me i’m interested in certain ski gear and outerwear from companies like Volkl, Patagonia and Arc’Teryx, but every time I check out steepandcheap.com or tramdock.com, products like womens tank tops or beer bottle opening flip flops are featured. I seem to always miss the deals that I would have actually acted on and I don’t want to receive 20 emails a day alerting me about these unappealing deals.

To solve this gear delemma, two guys out of San Francisco have come up with a new website to make sure you don’t miss the good deals. Gearburger.com is a simple and easy to use website that alerts you when the gear you want goes on sale. The sign-up process is super simple, just requiring an email and a timeframe for when you want to receive the alerts. Then you can choose which products or companies you wish to be alerted about and boom you are done. Gear Burger will then send you emails with links to deals based on your custom selections of companies and products you are interested in. Gear Burger will filter out the bad and irrelevant deals and alert you about the deals relevant to your tastes and interests. You also can’t help but love their mascot…..what is that thing? Looks like a fat cow, mixed with a horse.

Not 15 minutes after I signed up for alerts from 10 selected companies, did I get my first email alert. It informed me that some Rossignol Axial2 150 ski bindings were on sale at Tramdock.com for $179 or 41% off. This is exactly the alert a gear whore like me needs to know about. I had checked off Rossignol on my list of companies to alert me about, and Gearburger.com delivered with a great deal on some burly bindings.

This straight forward and super helpful site is a must for gear nerds and gear whores across the outdoor universe. Don’t miss out on another deal, sign up free for your customized alerts at Gearburger.com.

As a nice bonus the guys over at Gear Burger will send you some free stickers if you shoot them an email at info@gearburger.com – tell them Mike sent ya!

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iPhone App Tells You About Concerts In Your Area

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It is hard to keep track of all the iPhone Applications that are added to iTunes on a daily basis. Most are time wasters or don’t actually make your life any easier. With the growing popularity of the iPhone, the developers who make the apps are starting to come out with some really interesting new programs and concepts including the augmented reality apps that will start popping up soon.

Today I downloaded a new music application that just came out and I have some mixed feelings about it. The application is called “Local Concerts” in the app store and is made by the developers at iLike. The application uses your location to find concerts happening around you. It sorts them by date and allows you to view concerts by venue as well. It is not as helpful in a small town like Aspen where you only have one major venue, but it could be mighty useful in a larger city where it is hard to keep track of all the live music going on around you. The really interesting feature is that it allows you to add your favorite artists and track when they come to a venue near you. When they do, you get a pop-up alert telling you where. Another great feature pulls the artists from your iPod library and lets you know which artists you should be looking out for. Further, when you find a concert you want to see, the app has a link for you to purchase tickets and even a map for you to see where exactly the venue is.

concerts_screenshots_4The concept of this application is great. I am a fan of a lot of different music so it is tough for me to follow the tours of all the music I listen to. This app would allow me to make a list of all the artists I want to see and let me know when they are playing near me. This would save me hours of looking at various band websites and figuring out what shows I want to see.

Although it is a great concept, when I downloaded it and looked for concerts in Aspen, the list was very incomplete. The Belly Up has shows almost every night and it only listed a few over the next month. One big concert the app failed to alert me about was Nas and Damian Marley this coming Wednesday. If I was relying on this app to keep me up to date on the local music scene, I would be sitting at home watching Shark Week instead of front and center at the show. Maybe this is a small town problem and the app works better in larger cities but it might also just be the fact that this app is only a day old. I love the concept and it looks like a clean design so I will give it some time and see if it becomes more accurate when the kinks get ironed out.

The best part about this application is that it is FREE so it won’t hurt to give it a try and see if it works for you in your city.

To purchase the application or see more info check out their site at: http://www.ilike.com/mobile

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Folsom Custom Skis

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With hundreds of name brand skis to choose from, why would you need custom skis? This was a question I was asked on a regular basis while working at a ski shop this past winter in Aspen. Our ski wall was an impressive line-up featuring the latest offerings from Volkl, Dynastar, Atomic, K2, Kastle, Head and Armada. These were all brands that have been skied on for years, tried and tested, with big R&D money behind them and sponsored athletes to tout their products. They were all easy sells to the thousands of tourists and locals alike.

Next to this shiny wall of mass-produced skis was a small kiosk featuring Wagner Custom Skis. Customers were drawn to the bright computer screen which featured flashy examples of the all Wagner Skis you could create. They were always intrigued by the concept but as soon as I would mention the base price of $1,700 and the fact that you could not fondle the actual skis until you bought them, they would turn right back to the name brand ski wall. Most customers wanted you to tell them what ski they needed. They didn’t have the time or the knowledge to figure out what dimensions or exact length of ski they needed. They wanted a ski that was already built and sitting there for them to demo and buy site-on-scene.

Wagner tried to solve this issue by producing a few samples for customers to demo to get a feel for what Wagner could offer them. There was one huge problem with how this all played out. Their skis were junk. None of the employees at the shop could warm up to them. They sent us a mid-fat that felt lifeless and unstable. Then the sent us a Gotama type shape that was too stiff with edges that we could never really tune right. Finally at the end of the season they sent us a 110mm waisted powder ski with a tip rocker. It looked great but it skied just like the rest of them, lifeless and uninspiring.

So how was I supposed to push a $1,700 ski that didn’t work. Most every name brand ski on the wall was better performing, and they cost a fraction of the Wagners. At the end of the winter it was no surprise we hadn’t sold any Wagners.

After the season ended, I was pretty skeptical about custom skis. I was pretty happy with most of the name brand skis I had been on and had good experiences with various boutique ski companies such as Praxis and PMGear.

UntitledThen I met one of the guys from Folsom who was up from Boulder with the Trew crew on their RV tour. What they offer is similar to Wagner, but is less expensive, has a better build quality and you don’t have to be an engineer to pick your ideal pair.

Folsom skis are custom but only in the areas that matter. They already have pre-determined shapes for you to choose from, with different length offerings for each shape. Once you pick a shape and length you can pick your flex and camber. Flex and camber are the key reasons why I would buy a custom ski. Since they already have great shapes in place, all you need to do is explain to them what type of skier you are and you can pick a flex and camber that matches. How many times have you been on a ski that you liked but wished it was a tad stiffer or had a little less camber? I know it has happened to me countless times while demoing skis. Folsom lets you dial down the ski that is right for you, without complicating the process like Wagner. The last step is graphics. You can choose from their pre-designed options or get crazy and go fully custom like the Aspen Highlands Ski Patrol is doing for next season. All in all, their custom process is short and easy and you will have your skis within two weeks. Personally I also like supporting the local company building their stuff here in the U.S. Even German company, Volkl has gone to China with their manufacturing and the quality has suffered. Add to this a cost that starts around $1,000 (or $700 less than Wagner) and you have a winner.

Look for this company to grow and make a name for themselves in the ski industry in the coming years.

To find out more about this company and view all their skis, check out their website at: http://www.folsomcustomskis.com/

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All Photos courtesy of Folsom

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