May 17, 2007


Puddle of Mudd doesn't tune to A-440, or at least they didn't on this tune. Now contrary to popular misconception musical training (especially at the college level) does not merely consist of learning to play while drunk (though that's always been a helpful aspect). Not only is there the theory behind the structure of music, but the science as well. Tuning may seem relatively simple (i.e. get the damned string to sound correctly in relation to something else) but the theories & laws behind it are rather involved. I've messed around with altered tunings (especially when I was playing a lot of slide guitar) & messed around with the different methods of standard tunings (as no tuning system results in perfect intervals throughout the range of any instrument - & I was mightily bummed when I learned that perfection was not possible) & I've generally been fine with all that. However the guitars I prefer to play have a locking, floating tremelo system which requires intonation to be fairly precise. All of that is my round-a-bout way of bitching that because Puddle Of Mudd tunes their A string to A flat that I seldom have played this tune, which is a damn shame because the harmonics in the verse are real cool. It's just too much of a hassle to tune down; not that it takes a lot of effort to tune down, but the quality of tuning is aggravating as hell. I don't have perfect pitch but I did have a very good relative pitch & the inconsistent intonation that results from tuning down is too much for me to enjoy. Anyway, it's a fine tune (bad puns are always intentional) about an undesired separation so give it a listen. Here's the vid.

I prefer iron sights. Not the blade & notch variety but the aperture & post sort found on certain fine military & target rifles. In fact I've set up my '17 Enfield with a rear peep sight & plan on doing the same with my Ruger 10/22. Looking through a ring means that my eyes have only to shift focus from the front sight to the target instead of including the rear sight in this bit of ocular ballet. But my vision is fading & eventually I won't be able to use irons to their full potential. So speaking of things getting blurry I'm going to recount my experiences with vision (which oddly enough could explain why I never turned into a junkie).

I had my vision corrected when I was around 26 years old. I could see fine to drive around & do most things but reading required very bright light. Sunlight was okay but indoors I eventually realized I was using a magnifying glass to digest novels, so I went to an optometrist. I learned then that my visual acuity was around 20/60. I have hyperopia with an astigmatism. Most prescriptions for corrective lenses are in the negative (-2.5 for instance). Mine are in the positive, +4.5 to be precise. But the gist of the first & most subsequent visits was a little piece of paper saying I could order contact lenses & glasses of a certain power & everything was cool.

Now to bitch a bit about the feds; it's a federal law that prescriptions for corrective lenses are only good for one year. From my understanding the AMA along with the American Optometric Association petitioned congress some time back to require prescriptions be renewed every year. Why? Well it wasn't because they were concerned about lay people overdosing on prescription contact lenses. The bastards wanted to make sure folks like me had to pay a visit (keyword: pay) to members of their trade every friggin' year. As every drug dealer knows the money is in the come back, after all.

So every year & a half or so I'd have to hit an optometrist to get a piece of paper saying the same damn thing it said the year before. It would have been every year but a few months before the expiration date of the prescription I'd double up on contact lenses, just cause. From age 26 to age 34 my eyes were about the same & most visits would last 15 minutes, including ten minutes of chit chat with my eye doc.

A few months back my prescription changed. & the conversation that followed I thought was interesting from several perspectives.

The most memorable part (for me) is that I'll need bifocals before I'm 40. Most folks with corrected vision need them sometime in their 40's, but with my eyesight it's going to be a few years before most folks. With bifocals using iron sights gets trickier - or rather the underlying cause of bifocals makes using irons trickier.

Now my eye doc is one I've been going to for about 5 years. His office had a special around the time I needed a new scrip & he seemed like a nice fellow so I've been going back ever since. He's also not hoplophobic & has taught me a bit about how eyesight effects shooting.

The gist is that the eyes shift focus between the rear sight, front sight & target when you use irons. Younger eyes do this fairly quickly, but as we age the speed in which we shift focus slows down. The thing that's cool about aperture sights is that instead of focusing on 3 things you only focus on 2. The rear sight is looked through, not at, so you focus on the front sight & the target respectively. Scopes, red dots & other non-iron sights reduce it even further by allowing you to focus on only one focal plane. The dot or cross hairs are imposed on the target so you don't have to shift focus back & forth. Magnification is a plus but the real benefit of optics is reducing the amount of focusing your eye has to perform.

As he explained it to me because of my vision & aging my eyes simply can't shift back & forth as quickly as they used to & not as quickly as other people my age with better vision acuity.

But a very interesting aside also sticks in my mind. We were discussing some aspect of shooting (I honestly forget which) & I was explaining some method of how or why guns function a certain way. He seemed surprised that I knew the topic in such depth & asked how old I was when I had my vision corrected. I'd told him before but since I assumed he wanted to clarify I told him again that I was around 26. He said it was interesting that I knew as much as I did about what we were discussing & supposed that I didn't like to read that much. I told him that wasn't the case & I was an avid reader. He seemed more surprised & asked if I did poorly in school. I told him that in grade school I was in accelerated classes & on the honor roll, always scored a 99% on the California Achievement Tests & in college my lowest GPA was around 3.33. He seemed even more surprised.

Now to make things clear I thought it was due to my appearance. I have long hair, a slim to athletic build & I've gotten quite used to being presumed to be either a musician or a drug dealer (that was redundant wasn't it?). So I just thought that he didn't think a musician or dealer would spend time on anything other than video games & practicing rolling the perfect joint. For the helluvit though I asked why he was surprised.

Doc: Well your type of vision is closely associated with certain learning disabilities.
Pub: So you're saying I'm Rain Man????
Doc: Not at all. Now here's something shiny to look at
Pub : Oooohhh.

He explained that the brain divides certain tasks & allocates a certain amount of total energy to each one. With most folks reading text takes around 33% of mental energy available, storing that information takes about 33% & analyzing that info takes the remaining 33%. He said that with my vision I was using so much mental energy just to read the text that he was surprised there was much left for storing or analysis & that most folks with vision as bad as mine simply don't enjoy reading & do poorly in academic endeavors.

Now here's the really strange part. He asked if I did any drugs or ever did & I told him no. This didn't surprise him which surprised me (as I'm really used to it being assumed I'm a pot head or junkie of some sort). He said that because I was so used to focusing intently in order to learn that I simply did not like to be out of control, & drug use would have been very uncomfortable for me.

Pub: So you're saying because I'm friggin' Rain Man I never got hooked on heroin?
Doc: Yes. Now how many pins did I just drop on the floor?

I was kind of intrigued by this but as I left his office I had a family emergency to deal with so it was a few weeks before I had a chance to follow up on things as I had intended to. When I did find some free time a few weeks later I called an old friend of mine back in the Carolinas. She's a doctor who specializes in helping folks with learning disabilities.

I told her what the optometrist had told me & she said that seemed consistent with her experiences & knowledge. So I asked why the hell I was as well read as I am & how I did so well in school (when I was in college she typed up most of my papers for me so she knew that I was not exaggerating). She told me it was simply because I was an over-achiever; I wanted to learn & physical impairments weren't something I'd recognize as being a limit to that.

Pub: So you're saying I'm friggin’ Rain Man because I was too stubborn to just focus on the shiny lights?
Doc: Yes. & not having a life didn't hurt. Seriously it's because you didn't know you weren't supposed to do as well as you did. Maybe if you'd have known your vision was supposed to limit you you'd have slacked off, but you didn't so you didn't give yourself an excuse not to do all you could for whatever goal you set. It also helped you with dating.
Doc: You there?
Pub: Yeah - um, how the hell did my bad eyesight help with dating? Hell most of the women I've gone out with have been very attractive physically...
Doc: That's my point - you also didn't look in the mirror & realize they were out of your league, so you tried anyway & it worked out sometimes because a lot of women don't rate physical appearance as highly as most men do.
Doc: You there?
Pub: You're cold, ya know that?

So because of my bad eyesight I never tried, let alone got addicted to drugs. Despite my eyesight I learned quite a bit about several different subjects, & because of my inability to look in the mirror accurately I didn't realize that I shouldn't have even tried to hit on half the women I did (& because of their bad eyesight I was sometimes successful).

The downside though is that my vision is deteriorating more rapidly than most folks my age & iron sight use will become increasingly less effective. I can kepe having my vision corrected to 20/20 with stronger prescriptions but my eyes will get slower when they try to shift focus between 2 objects. There are options though.

Bob Jones makes lenses that insert into national match sight for the Garand & M14/M1-A rifles. They're available in several magnifications & colors so I may look into that (bad puns always intentional) sometime soon. He also makes them for the AR type rifles as well as for tang sights & other rear aperture sights. Check out his web page for further details.

The Garand is probably the trickiest long gun to have optics mounted on since any optic must not be over the action or it'd interfere with loading. That leaves either an offset mount or a forward mount. So if lenses won't cut it I'd have to look at other options.

Fulton Armory is selling a rear handguard for the Garand (scroll down) that is more or less a rail mount. That would allow mounting of a Long Eye Relief scope or other optics (such as a Holosight or red dot).

Midway USA & Brownells sell the B Square Garand Scope Mount which replaces the rear sight & clamps to the left side of the receiver. Or if one wants to go all authentic Griffin & Howe will install a scope base for roughly $650 on your Garand. They were the ones who installed the mounts on the M1-C (also look here for a nice pic from the Korean War) & later the MC-1 so there's a certain amount of nostalgia associated with G&H putting a mount on your Garand. But if you're not into having your receiver drilled & tapped then Numrich Gun Parts sells M1-D parts.

For the handguns & the other long guns that I have finding mounts to accommodate red dot, reflex, holographic or Long Eye Relief optics shouldn't be that much of a hassle, although some would be just silly. Throwing a red dot on a Walther PPK for instance would be purpose defeating. Then again if I really need a red dot to use a Walther PPK sized gun within its optimum range (around 10 yards) then I'd be better off just learning to pack a sawed off shotgun & calling myself Mississippi.

For most folks in their mid to late 30's eyesight shouldn't be that much of a problem when using iron sights, but there should be a noticeable difference between their vision now & how clearly they saw when they were in their 20's. For the folks 40 years & up the use of irons is probably going to be a bit trickier than it was in the past. The options I listed above may be something to explore further. After all the object is to hit a target as precisely as possible & as we age that'll sometimes necessitate using different aids to achieve our goals.

I'm stubborn though. I'll ride out the iron sight thing as long as I can.

Posted by Publicola at May 17, 2007 03:55 AM | TrackBack

If you can't play along with a recording, blame the engineer/producer before you blame the musicians...Too often in the studio the producer will want to tighten and sharpen and "uptempo" the sound, so in the days of tape they would actually adjust the tape playback speed slightly faster, which, surprise, meant you went north of A=440 hz.
Some folks used to say you could make an aging artist sound younger that way.
These days they can even change tempo digitally without sharpening the pitch, but who knows, maybe they had a retro studio with real acetate and iron oxide!

Posted by: doug in colorado at May 17, 2007 02:52 PM

I usually assume it's a tempo issue when it's sharp of A-440, but when it's a bit flat of A-440 I assume the band tuned down, as many bands (especially in the metal years) were apt to do.

I used to hate listening to Top 40 radio stations, simply because they'd speed up the tracks in order to squeeze in more tunes per hour. That's fine when you're going for quantity of song but it's a pain when you have to sharpen up by a little over a quarter step just to get your groove on. Such was life though - before the dark times; before the empire...

Posted by: Publicola at May 17, 2007 03:02 PM