Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Monday, January 30, 2012
So, last weekend I was thinking that I really ought to mount the grinding wheel that I received for Christmas onto some sort of stand or mini-workbench -- I need some lumber.
And also that I have some plants that need re-potting.
Luckily, it was ''put your weird oversized junk out on the curb" week!
Scored a batch of lumber (see photo); the table it's on...
...and a bunch of pots, a laundry basket (will use it in my workshop to hold scrap lumber), and a pink frisbee...
...a pair of deck chairs (it's a pretty simple fix: just buy some canvas, hem the edges, and nail them to the end-bars of the chairs)...
...and a pair of large stereo speakers that I will cannibalize and turn into speakers for a guitar amplifier.
Sunday, January 29, 2012
I heart my slippers
During my recent trip to Seattle, I packed a pair of slippers. Brought them with me to all my visits. Wore them around people's homes.
And at the hotel, on my final day of my visit to the U.S., I padded down the hall to the ice machine and back, in my old, old slippers.
I like my slippers. Maybe that's an Old Guy thing to say -- and that's o.k. But they're **so** much more comfy than shoes. And more padded than just wearing feet.
P.S. ''Wearing feet'' is a term coined by The Girl. The other one is something being ''loud in my ears''.
Saturday, January 28, 2012
More operant conditioning
The hotel where I stayed, the night before my flight back home, has those new-fangled door locks that are unlocked by swiping a plastic card.
Whenever I'd get to my room, I'd instinctively grab at my right hip -- which is where my swipey card dangles... when I'm at work.
Operant conditioning. Interesting.
Friday, January 27, 2012
Fluorescing guitar and bass strings
Found this by accident while YouTubing for some Rush videos: electric bass, and electric guitar, strings that fluoresce under black lights!
The guy in the video I saw says the bass strings sound nearly as good as ''regular'' strings.
Thursday, January 26, 2012
Confirmation of the love of music
Because I often go for long spans without playing the guitar, bass, or drums, I occasionally wonder if I still love music as much as I used to.
But Friday night the wife and kids were off at a birthday party, so I rocked out -- poorly! -- on the drums for over an hour. And after everyone went to bed I played the electric guitar -- moderately loudly, but at the other end of the house -- until stupid o'clock in the morning.
And then Saturday night, I played the drums again until stupid o'clock -- but quietly, using jazz brushes.
The whole time it was euphoric: I forgot to feel tired, and it was only the remnants of common sense that got me to bed before 2am.
So: yeah, I guess I **do** love music. What I need to do is do it more.
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Positive practical jokes
The problem with practical jokes is that, at the heart of them, they're mean: they make people feel bad.
Instead, I prefer what I call ''positive practical jokes''. I suppose they're ''random acts of kindness'' by a different name.
Two examples, from my recent trip to Seattle:
1) After seeing my quasi-niece's band, Guitar Cousin, his step-daughter, her son and myself stopped off at IHOP. First, near the end of the meal I excused myself to use the restroom. But on the way there I stopped off at the front desk and paid the check. (Bwah-ha...) And then, when we left the table, I covered the tip. In Australia, we don't tip (because waitstaff get paid an actual decent wage) -- so I'm out of practice. The total bill was forty-five bucks. I left a twenty dollar tip. Heh. :)
2) Because a big snowstorm was predicted, I took the airport shuttle the night before my flight, rather than the day of. I went from my parent's place to the hotel near the airport. I was the only one on that run, so my dad slipped me some cash as I boarded and suggested that I tip the guy ten bucks he just took me directly to the hotel. (This would be faster for me than getting dropped off at the airport, then taking the hotel shuttle to the hotel.)
I had a nice conversation with the driver. He seemed to be my dad's age, or slightly older -- but unlike my dad, who is comfortably retired, this guy is still working. And during our conversation, this guy mentioned his own father, but not a spouse, partner, or kids -- so I had a feeling that he was still working because he was still saving up for retirement, rather than having had a dual-income household, or having kids to support him.
He also mentioned, at one point, that his passengers from the previous run had failed to tip him -- even though he'd been driving in a snowstorm.
So, when we reached our destination, I tipped him my dad's ten bucks -- and then tipped him an additional ten bucks, saying ''This is on behalf of those other people that **should've** tipped you.''
So, yeah: positive practical jokes. That kinda thing.
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Thx for reading my blog
During my travels, I was pleasantly surprised at all the friends and family who actually read my blog. As Old Roommate would say, "I'm honored". :)
This includes a tip of the hat to Kansas Lutheran. She mentioned in her Christmas card to us that she, too, reads my blog. Thx! :)
Monday, January 23, 2012
For a guy who loves his slushies -- I didn't have any during this trip. On my final night in town, I stopped in to a 7-11 to try to get one -- but that flavor was in defrost mode. Eh.
BUT -- I **did** manage to achieve most of my other food items: Taco Bell, donuts, cheap frozen burritos, IHOP, corn Chex, Dick's Drive-In, frosted mini-wheats, pizza from A Pizza Mart, root beer.
I didn't manage to get to the Vietnamese restaurant The Lady and I used to frequent when we lived a block away, or get to Family Donuts (tried once, but they had already closed), or Carkeek Park Grill (frequented by oldsters), or a pho restaurant.
But most of the stuff -- yeah. :)
Sunday, January 22, 2012
When I travel on my own, I often get day-dreamy and philosophical.
These photos are snapshots of the hotel room I hung around in from about 6pm one evening until noon the next day.
It's not a whole lot: a bed; a lamp and a reading chair; a desk and desk chair; a t.v.; a microwave and mini-fridge; a dresser, a closet; and a sink and (not pictured) a bathroom.
18 ft x 12 ft (yeah, I measured).
It was large enough that I didn't feel claustrophobic at all. And my mind wandered to the notion that, if I was a single dude, I could live a pretty comfortable life life right there. I'd come home from work, microwave some food, sit in the chair and read. Have a desktop or laptop computer at the desk: check e-mail, surf the net a bit.
Most of my hobbies would be severely curtailed: I'd have a hard time doing woodworking (although! If I shoved the bed into one corner, I could probably fit a small workbench in there...). And my audio recording would be limited to things I could jack directly into the computer: no acoustic drums! Either an e-drum kit, or just program the beats directly.
**Very** hard to find a place for a multi-gym. I'd have to get a gym membership.
And I'd have a lot more un-occupied time in the evening: sign up for martial arts classes again.
Oh -- and I'd have room for **far** fewer "things". I'd have to be **much** choosier about which books I kept, how many tools to keep, and far less keeping things "just in case".
And I'd probably be a bit lonely, now and again (but I highly doubt I'd get a pet). So I'd probably socialize more with co-workers, to compensate.
Yep -- a **very** different life from my current one. Not a horrible life -- just more peaceful than the one I have. And lots of people live ones very similar to that.
BUT -- my regular life is **very** good, as well. And I'm not interested in trading it.
Just the mind-wanderings I get when I travel alone.
Saturday, January 21, 2012
The day before I was to fly out, it continued to snow, with a whole lot of extra predicted.
(Photo to the left: me standing barefoot in it. It's been a while since I've been at my parents' house with snow about.)
My dad suggested that it would be prudent to spend the night in a hotel near the airport, rather than try to slog my way through from my parents' house, the morning of. I agreed.
So: my dad booked me (and paid for!) a hotel room, and a few hours later I took the airport shuttle down. Spent the night there. Walked a few blocks and got Taco Bell for dinner (yay! As I've mentioned, no Mexican fast-food in Australia...) Watched the Bourne Identity on cable, plus various Spanish-language soap operas (no, I don't speak the language; but the cultural nuances were interesting).
The next morning, had the included breakfast; packed; took the hotel shuttle to the airport -- and -- well, rode an airplane home.
Friday, January 20, 2012
Root beer store
Thursday, January 19, 2012
I've noticed during this visit -- all my bus rides and train trips -- that I've been singing Simon & Garfunkel's ''The Boxer'' and ''America'' to myself. Especially when I'm on the bus, or the train. Or in an airport.
(If you're not familiar with those songs, presumably they're on YouTube. I'll let you do the search yourself.)
''The Boxer'' is about a young man moving to New York City. It's about being in a strange place, and specifically mentions the winter.
''America'' is about a young couple setting out cross-country on (IIRC) the train and Greyhound busses. It just came to me as I rode on -- well, trains and busses.
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Found it but will leave it
So, I kind of found my original, first guitar today in a pawn shop. The one that was stolen in a burglary after I moved to Australia. But, I'm not going to buy it.
My guitar was an Ibanez Roadstar II. They have the same basic body shape as the green guitar pictured above. But whenever I do come across them, they have three single-coil pickups, rather than dual humbuckers (which the green guitar above -- a totally different brand -- has). And they sometimes have (from memory) pickguards, which my guitar (as the green guitar above) also lacked.
To the left you can see the photo of me with my eyes closed and wearing a cowboy hat (??!! -- well, it was green...), with my original guitar. It was Midnight Blue. As you can see, I ''decorated'' it heavily -- partly because I was young and impetuous, but mostly because -- without a pickguard -- it was pretty darned plain.
Because of the decoration, I named it ''Gypsy''.
Anyhow: saw an actual Ibanez Roadstar II, dual-humbucker, **very** much the same to my guitar (except for many large chips taken out of the body). US$270 asking price: a very reasonable price.
But, I'm not gonna get it, because:
-I've spent more than I anticipated on this trip, already.
-For $200-$300, I could get a very decent ribbon microphone instead. That would be far more useful for my musical aspirations.
-I **already** have a dual-humbucker guitar.
-Even with unbolting the neck -- thereby essentially folding the guitar in half -- it would still be a pain to get it back to Australia.
-And, it's just not the same. It's actually a very plain-looking guitar. I'd probably want to gussy it up -- and that would make it a different guitar than Gypsy. (It would be a little like a guy marrying a redhead, just because his first girlfriend was a redhead. If that's the only reason, then it's a little pathetic: trying to recapture old times instead of moving on.)
That being said, I kinda wished I had plugged it in and tried it out. So, maybe my thoughts will change.
But, probably not.
(Addendum, 1/29/12: Didn't go back. I'll be visiting my folks again in about half a year. If it's still there, I'll at least take a look at it. If not: ah well.)
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
The other Destination Unkown
Here's some info for you kids out there: in addition to my quasi-niece's band Destination Unknown, there was also a 1982 song by the same name by the new wave band Missing Persons.
The band The Replicants also did an enjoyable, more industrial (and IMO, better), version in 1995. (Although: First, ya gots to write the song. So, the subsequent cover version could not exist without the original.)
It's a good song.
Monday, January 16, 2012
The local band Destination Unknown
During my stay with Guitar Cousin, we also saw a performance of my quasi-niece's band, Destination Unknown. They played at a local ''keep the kids off the streets by providing a wholesome alternative'' youth night. It included free pizza (score!!!). Awkwardly, it was scheduled at the same time as another organization's ''keep the kids off the streets...'' youth night -- which reduced the attendance.
Luckily, we live in the age of electronic communication: my niece texted a bunch of her friends, who ditched the other youth night in favor of this one.
To the left is a photo of Guitar Cousin and me sitting along the wall, looking exceedingly old and waiting for the band to start.
Below is a short video clip of the band. It's a cover of the Joan Jett and the Blackhearts song, ''I Hate Myself for Loving You'':
Apologies for the weak recording: the digital camera's built-in mic doesn't have a very broad frequency response (especially in the bass frequencies).
They're good performers, and good musicians. They're particularly good considering they're around 14yo!
They played six or eight songs. Two of them were originals: they should write more songs.
So, good stuff. First time I've gone out to see a band in more than ten years. Ouch! -- given that Guitar Cousin and I used to go see bands about twice a month -- a million years ago.
Sunday, January 15, 2012
As I mentioned in a recent post, I was introduced to the t.v. series Firefly during my Seattle trip: my brother showed me the pilot double-episode, and Guitar Cousin and I spent three evenings blasting through the entire Firefly series on DVD.
I had heard of Firefly for years, esp. thru the online comic strip XKCD -- but never got around to checking it out.
A few e-mails confirmed my suspicions: of the five households I'd stayed in thus far (including Guitar Cousin's), all males except my dad owned Firefly on DVD. (The tally: brother, Old Roommate, No-Tower, Guitar Cousin). Guitar Cousin says this is simply a reflection of my friendship circle. :)
FWIW: my favorite characters are Kaylee (of course! who doesn't like Kaylee?), and Jayne ("Isn't that a girl's name?"). Not that I **like** Jayne, as an individual: but it's a good character. :)
Saturday, January 14, 2012
Had an excellent time with Guitar Cousin.
Spent three evenings blasting through the entire Firefly series on DVD: had heard of Firefly for years, esp. thru the online comic strip XKCD; my brother showed me the pilot double-episode the week before; and Guitar Cousin showed me the rest. OK -- I'm sold! :)
Guitar Cousin dug out his electronic drums, and we jammed one evening -- him on guitar and me on drums, and then we swapped. Good stuff: pretty sure I hadn't played music with anyone since 2003.
Although I don't practice the drums as often as I'd like, I was pleased that I'm hovering around the lower reaches of ''adequate''. Certainly, far above the realm of ''suckage''.
Also, one of my ''upgrades to do'', once I'd saved up the money, was to upgrade my recording capabilities from two channels at once to four or six channels: at the moment I can do stereo micing, or a near-mic and a distant-mic (to enhance the fullness of the sound) -- but I'd have a hard time recording a band all at once, or recording myself playing the drums.
But, Guitar Cousin sold me one of his ''old technology'' six-input computer interfaces for fifty bucks. Beneficial to both of us: I upgraded for much less than a comparable unit would cost ''new'', and he got fifty bucks for something that was just sitting in his closet (although, he could've just eBayed it if he wanted).
And, while I was there, it snowed.
Worried me a little, as I have to be at the airport in a week, and it would stink to be snowed in. But it was still a novelty for me -- being from the sub-tropical portion of Australia.
Good stuff. :)
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
I love the Trading Musician
My favorite shop in Seattle (nay! the world) is the Trading Musician -- a used-instrument shop about a mile north of the University of Washington. They have two floors of used gear: electric guitars and electric basses, plus amps, on the first floor; acoustic guitars, plus ukeleles and assorted band and orchestra instruments in a large room off to the side; drums and percussion upstairs; and mics, synths and recording gear also upstairs.
And pleasant, helpful salesfolk. Including the lady behind the counter, who sings and plays bass in a Metal-style Pat Benatar covers band called ''Battletar''.
The Trading Musician boasts a marvelous range of eras and price ranges (''inexpensive'' through ''botique-y/vintage/collectable''). There ain't nuthin' like it in Brisbane.
The original plan was that I would have lunch with my aunt and uncle, then meet my friend ''No-Tower'' at the store. (I used to call him ''Four-Tower'', because he used to have four PC servers in his home office; he has since divested.) My mission was to help him upgrade from an acoustic guitar to an electric -- and yes, he pointed out that saying ''upgrade'' exposes my bias; and so it does.
However, my aunt and uncle were nice enough to drop me off directly. So, while waiting for No-Tower to arrive, I hacked around the percussion area upstairs.
I got to try out a bunch of things that I'd read about but never experienced, such as the differences between different size high-hat cymbals: 14" diameter is the standard,but some hard rock drummers use 15" cymbals. I like!!!
I also tried out a ride cymbal with no bell. Interesting, but not on my "To Buy" list.
Dug through a few of their less-expensive cymbals. Ended up getting a Salvador Dali looking cymbal, a ''Trashformer'', with a delightfully trashy sound and at a bargain price. (Note: not my photo.)
I also bought a pair of plastic-bristled jazz brushes. I already have a pair of metal-bristled jazz brushes -- but the kids were starting to damage the ends when they used them, so I hid them away -- and now I don't remember where I put them. Oops. I figured that buying something different was better than buying a replacement -- and then finding the original.
(Because the US:AU exchange rate is favorable, and because things are generally cheaper in the U.S., I was open to picking up some music gear during my visit.)
Then No-Tower arrived, so we went downstairs. He was very methodical: he browsed around, looking at all the electric guitars and checking out price tags. He eventually chose about five, and tried them out for feel. From memory (i.e. I could be wrong), he then plugged in three to try out, and I borrowed a guitar strap from the salesfolk so that he could also try them standing up. He settled on one, and then had me give it a quick play to confirm that it was a decent guitar.
It indeed was: a Fender Stratocaster -- a ''name brand'' guitar, far fancier than my guitars. See photo at left.
Interesting that No Tower appears to be a single-coil man: all the guitars he demoed were single-coils. In constrast, I'm a humbucker guy. At the moment, at least.
Somewhere during the demo-ing process, I tried out two different inexpensive reverb pedals, as I didn't own any reverb pedals. But I do now! I chose the one that was twelve bucks more expensive, but had an extra adjustment knob and an extra slider switch: I figured the extra flexibility was worth it.
I also slid a distortion pedal under No-Tower's foot. I'm pretty sure he ended up buying it.
So, good times. Good to visit my favorite store in the world. :)
Monday, January 09, 2012
Sunday, January 08, 2012
Helm of Safety
One of my traits is that I'm willing to go against convention, if there's a good reason.
So, this is a blog entry that I've been meaning to write for about a year and a quarter -- and I'm just now getting around to it. But partly that's because it's reached the next level of progression.
About a year and a half ago, I got into two car accidents -- neither of which was my fault -- within a six-week period. The first one was low-speed, and not that scary.
The second one, however, could've turned out pretty bad: I was driving at highway speeds when a lady failed to yield as she came out from a side street, rammed the side of my car, and almost flipped me.
The next day I went back to the scene of the accident, took some measurements, and used my approximate speed to calculate some alternative scenarios: if she'd been 0.13 seconds faster off the mark, she would have rammed the driver's side car door, rather than just clipping my tail. If she'd been 2x 0.13 seconds faster, she'd have been in **front** of my car -- which also would've been serious. Since she **wasn't** 0.13 seconds (or 0.26 seconds) faster -- maybe thirteen isn't so unlucky...
The second accident got me thinking about the mechanics of if I ever **did** get T-boned while driving. Neither of the cars that we drive have side-impact airbags. What's more, my leg length and torso height puts the side of my head directly in line with the seatbelt bracket on the door post: if I ever got rammed, I'd probably damage my temporal lobe (the speech center of the brain). That's a bad thing.
So: Cost-benefit time. If I wear some sort of padding, it would minimize the risk of sustaining a head injury while driving. The disadvantage is that I'd look like a dork.
Luckily, I'm at the age where I dress for comfort, not fashion. I'm already married -- so I'm not worried about impressing the ladies. So I figure ''looking like a dork'' is an acceptable trade-off for reducing my odds of a head injury in an accident by 10%-20%. So I bought the green rugby helmet that you see below (also useful for Halloween costumes!).
An additional disadvantage is that if I ever get pulled over, the cop might think I'm either ''special needs'' and not suitable to be driving -- or else I'm some sort of reckless driver (because I'm wearing a crash helmet). However, by the nature of their job, cops are pretty good about appraising people -- and (I presume!) I'm distinguishable as an eccentric, not as a crazy. And I think that most reckless drivers that cops encounter do **not** wear safety gear; quite the opposite: they **lack** caution.
And that was about a year ago.
But then I figured, eh -- why not go all the way? My original Helm of Safety only has cushioning: I need a hard shell.
So, while I was in Oregon on my trip (yay! no sales tax!!!), I picked up a ski helmet at a used sporting goods place (see top photo).
As an added bonus, they were having a ''20% off all winter sports gear'' sale. So, bargain!!!
So: do I look like a dork while I drive (or while I am driven -- since I wear it as a passenger, too)? Probably.
Am I **way** less likely to have an ABI in the event of an accident? As they might say on Firefly: I reckon so.
Saturday, January 07, 2012
Good times with Old Roommate
Spent a few days with Old Roommate and his very nice wife the Breath Healer (I may think of a better pseudonym later; that'll do for now). :)
(Note that I'm not chronicling each person I stayed with. In part, it has to do with having a photo to post...)
I like browsing around pawn shops and antique shops, looking for bargains. Old Roommate does, too -- so, that worked out well.
Old Roommate was impressed with how I was willing to haggle with folks. Generally, I'd be friendly while I browsed -- when I was ready to make my purchase, I'd say something along the lines of ''What can you do for a pleasant guy visiting from Australia who's paying cash?'' Except for a teacup and saucer that I bought for The Lady, I got some sort of discount.
My best discount was probably the neon green ''black light'' guitar strings with a sticker price of $11; I got it for $8.
I also got a bit of a discount on the cowbell (pictured; BTW, thx to Old Roommate for all the camera-phone pics!). Stickered at $25 (used); got it for $23). Also a handplane -- but I forget what I paid.
Oh! Great thing about Oregon? No sales tax! And this is in addition to things being slightly cheaper than in Australia (maybe due to the protective tariffs? Dunno).
I also picked up a face shield (like what you'd use when turning something on a lathe), as my usual safety goggles would steam up my glasses.
And, I picked up a Helm of Safety (see next post).
This thing below, I **didn't** buy. But I'm curious to know what it is. Saw it at a ''misc. used'' store -- not fancy-pants enough to be an ''antiques'' store (maybe ''collectable''?). It almost looks like a trammel point -- but it's not quite right.
And, here's another view..
Friday, January 06, 2012
My first weekend in the U.S., my folks held a remedial Christmas for me: a family gift exchange, plus the food things.
Rcv'd lotsa great things (not that Christmas is about receiving gifts. Actually, part of it **is**.). Included many argyle socks from my parents (oddly, can't find them in Australia), and a instructional book on Krav Maga from my brother.
The socks pictured to the left aren't the gargoyle socks I received: it's just an illustrative image I grabbed from the internet.
Yeah, one of my standard puns is to call them ''gargoyle'' socks. My other one is to use ''gerbil'' for ''herbal'' -- e.g. ''gerbil tea''. It amuses me. Quietly.
Thursday, January 05, 2012
Three Seattle thoughts
Upon arriving at Sea-Tac airport, I noticed three things:
1) At customs: Wow! There **is** a distinctive ''Northwest'' accent! Can't specify it -- but it's distinct from all the Americans I hear on the t.v. shows.
2) Walking through the terminal, towards the outdoors: Dang! Caucasians in Seattle are really pale! Almost blue. They look kinda unwell. In Brisbane, everyone's either tanned, freckly, or sunburnt.
3) Curbside, waiting for my brother to pick me up: Woo! I can see my breath!!! (i.e. coldness!)
Tuesday, January 03, 2012
Why do people like to stand in line for ten or fifteen minutes, just for the privilege of getting on the airplane early? It seems like that would be a punishment: that you want to put off, as long as possible, climbing in to the flying tin can.
It's not like getting on early gets you a better seat: it's assigned seating.
Addendum: I asked my dad about this. He noted that getting on early lets you stash your carry-on luggage in a better place.
Fair enough. I only have a knapsack and a small messenger bag, so it doesn't matter to me.
Monday, January 02, 2012
Saw this road construction sign while visiting the outdoors during my layover in Korea:
We sincerely apologize for making you inconvenient.
Also, in the small Korean department store, in the computer electronics section, was a USB adaptor called a "swing gender adaptor" (it swings both ways!). Nearly got it, as a joke, for Old Roommate, who fixes computers. But figured it wasn't **that** funny. ;)
Sunday, January 01, 2012
Korean airport toilets
(And ''Korean Airport Toilets'' would be a good album title or band name.)
My wife has pointed out that I take photos of toilets more than most people. And she's probably right.
The first two photos of toilets (below) I found interesting because the toilet seat converts from ''adult size'' to kid size. Clever! Never seen that before.
(Addendum: While visiting Builder Cousin, I noticed that the toilet in his main bathroom also has this type of toilet seat [he has three kids]. So maybe it's not as rare as I thought.)
I also thought this one was clever: the urinal on the right has hand rails, for the elderly and enfeebled folks that still prefer to use a urinal (rather than sitting).
Good toilet technology, there in Korea.