Thursday, April 21, 2016

Bougainvillea of Death!!!

It's funny that in this family we have gardeners who want to plant stuff all the time, but never want to cut any of it.  That job gets left to people who could care less about gardening.  Namely, me.

Someone had the bright idea to plant a giant bougainvillea plant/tree/bush right in front of the house.  Normally I wouldn't hold a grudge against such a plant, but this one has giant thorns on it that makes me think this thing was bred from an angry cat and a rose bush.  In other words, you come near it, it's like an angry black woman.  It's gonna cut you.

Really, I knew a woman who lived in a bad neighborhood, and planted these things in front of her windows so burglars couldn't break in.  She actually had a burglar try to break in, and he fell into the bush, and started screaming in the middle of the night.  Yes, these things hurt that bad.  But to finish the story, no, he never made it in the house.

So it comes down to me to deal with it.  This is what I'm talking about:

Yeah, it's a little out of control.  First up.  Protection.  No, not that type.  This type.

And my trusty shears.  I think these things are older than me.  But that's good.  It means they were made with good metal.

I guess the one redeeming quality of this plant is that, it does have some nice flowers.

Anyway, onto the haircut!!!

So, I end up with this:

I even cut out some room for the butterfly rock.  What's a butterfly rock you ask?  Well, it's like a bird bath, but the rocks are piled up higher than the water.  That way, the rocks can be wet, but a butterfly could still stand on it.

Next, I filled it up with water. 

So, here is the finished project.

There were a few spots that I needed a ladder to get to.  There were also a few times I had to lean in close to cut a few branches.  I only managed to come away with one scratch.  That's what good gloves will do for you.  I know the lawn waste guys won't be happy with me in the morning.  But hey, at least I put it all in one can for them.

So now I leave you with this.  A song about the bougainvillea.  Or least it has bougainvillea in it's title. 

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Scareboarders: This Year's Bad April Day's Fool Gag

I always try to do something stupid for April Fool's Day.  It's the prankster in me.  Three years ago I said that my girlfriend at the time and myself were adopting a Chinese baby named Ling Long.  Some people got really mad in that, they believed it.  So I skipped pulling a prank the next two years because of it.  Yes, I really made some people mad with that one.

So this year I was back at it.  But I wanted to do something so stupid that no one would really believe it.  But it couldn't be too stupid.  That would give away the joke.  So I needed something out of left field that would make people say, "what?"  But I needed it to be real enough that they would think about it before discarding it.

So my first thought was, "Let me do something like "Ghost Hunters."  You know, these guys:

What if I said I had a show like, "Ghost Hunters" that was being looked at by the Sy-Fy channel?  But it couldn't be a total ripoff.  It had to be "one louder."  It had to have a little "Jackass" in it.  You know, these guys:

That's when it hit me.  It had to be "Jackass" meets "Ghost Hunters."  It was all about skateboarders and other extreme sports type of guys who venture into haunted places.  I would call it, "Scareboarders!!!"

To pad the joke, I also decided to ask local music artists for permission to use their music.  Namely, since Sy-Fy is on a budget they wouldn't want to pay for national artists.  So yes, I threw the hook out there to all my musician friends. 

So to finally sell it to all my friends on Facebook I posted that a couple of friends and myself were developing the with the Sy-Fy channel to bring it to TV.  That's when I also mentioned the need for local music bands. 

I did get a whole bunch of likes.  Of course, I don't know if they got that it was a joke, or that I was really trying to get a TV series.  I did manage to snag one friend.  She even tagged a friend of hers' so that he would let me know what music I could use for the show.

At the end of day I did come clean.  Everyone thought it was funny.  So no hurt feelings like when I said I was adopting a little Chinese girl.  I'm really proud of what I thought of this year.  And on a side note, if Sy-Fy really does like the idea of a show that's described as "Ghost Hunters" meets "Jackass" let me know.  I think we could work something out.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

A Line In The Sand Of Life

Today I made the decision to change my life.  I know that sounds dramatic, but I believe this will change everything.  So far, education has not been good to me.  I received both my A.A. and B.A. from HCC and USF, but I haven't really done anything with them.  I received my Luthier's Certification, and realized that if I want to build guitars I should live in Korea.  I then decided to get a Truck Driving Certification, and then found out they don't want anymore drivers from Florida.  Namely, look at any company on the East Coast, and you will see that half their drivers are from Florida so they don't need anymore.

So what job can I do that I can make a lot of money, can stay in Florida, and will never go out of style in Florida?  HVAC.  That's heating, ventilation, and air conditioning.  I decided to go down to the Employ Florida building, and talk to some people.

I already knew about the HVAC program at Erwin Vo. Tech.  I just wanted to know what they thought of it.  They said that it was the way to go, and a lot cheaper than the for-profit schools.  Something that I didn't know, and was glad to find out is that, I am eligible for financial help/ scholarship.  In fact, they may pay for all my schooling. 

The new semester for the HVAC class starts in January of 2017, so I got the early jump on it.  The tough news is that, the class lasts for 15 months.  So I will have to find a new job that will mesh with school.  I hate to give up my maintenance gig, but I have to look at the long term.

The good news is that Erwin Vo. Tech has job placement.  I was worried since so many of the HVAC job ads I've seen want two years experience or more.  But I'll be glad to finally get a career that actually pays a livable wage.  That, and I will be able to stay in the bay area.  The one thing I hated about truck driving is that, I had to go out of state to drive. 

So this is about drawing a line in the sand.  About finally being able to make a living wage, and get my life together.  Also, not just about having a job, but having a career.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Chasing Sound

Like a lot of musicians, I chase sound.  I am always looking for the opportunity to get that perfect tone.  So eventually this search ends up the same way.... with a lot of money being spent.  Lately, I've noticed a lot of instruments being put up for sale on Craigslist, but the truth is not many are being sold.  They are being traded.

Take for instance my WGS Veteran 30 speakers.  I had two of them.  I traded one for a different WGS speaker to use in my Epiphone Valve Jr. custom made combo amp.  So I put the other one up for sale, and got nothing. 

Not one person wanted to buy it.  I had one guy who lived 100 miles away try to trade for it, but nothing came of that.  I had another guy who was sketchy as hell.  Then, he wanted me to drive over to his place.  I said, that was not going to happen.  Then, I never heard from him again.

I mean, does no one want a perfectly good speaker?

So, as I was browsing Craigslist, I noticed a seller trying to sell a WGS British Lead speaker.  I thought about it.  My Sunn Alpha 212R amp has played well with the Celestion 75 speakers I have it in.  However, both are bass heavy, and I thought it might do well with a single speaker change.  That way, I can keep one Celestion speaker in it, and add a different speaker to balance it out.

First up, here is the Sunn amp.

I took out the Celestion speaker.

And added the WGS British Lead.

And here's the amp with the new speaker.

You can see the new speaker on the left.  Once I started testing it, I could hear that the guy I traded with was telling the truth.  He said it only had two hours of playing time on it.  After testing it out, I could hear that it was still pretty stiff.  Most speakers need at least 20 hours of playing time on them to start sounding like they should.

I have to say, it didn't sound that different from the Celestion 75.  At the moment, I can hear that it is not as bass heavy, but it is still a bright, British sounding speaker.  But after some playing time the sound will open up, and I can tell if I want to keep it, or trade it back out for the Celestion it replaced. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Full Service Luthier

When I was apprenticing under my Master Luthier, Dave Pennington, it amazed me just how many services he could perform as a luthier.  There were so many little things that could go wrong with a guitar, and it was important to know how to fix all those odd problems. 

When I was working at Guitar Center I had many of the employees tell me how I was able to do things that they had never seen, and that most of the luthiers there before me did two things.  Change strings and pickups.  Outside of those jobs, they didn't do anything else.  So when I pulled up with a tool case almost as tall as myself it really surprised them.

Which brings us to today.  I don't perform public work on guitars anymore, but I do work for friends, family, and friends of friends.  I was brought a guitar from John C. (we'll call him John C. since I don't want to use his full name on a public blog.)  He had a few problems with his guitar, so I went to work correcting them.  I took pictures so I could show the importance of the work I do.

First off, the three way switch was acting up.  Instead of an expensive replacement, experience has told me it may just need a simple electronics cleaning.

In the second picture, I am using true electronics cleaner to clean the switch.  Never! Use WD-40 on electronics. 

John's guitar is an Epiphone ES-339.  So I will call him Epiphone.  In this next picture I am running Epiphone through my amp to make sure the three way switch was working.

The good news was that it worked just fine.  All's the three way switch needed was a little cleaning and not a replacement.

Next, Epiphone was missing a screw on the pickguard.  So I made a quick trip to Ace Hardware to find the correct parts.

They fit just fine.  So now it's time to adjust the bracket.

Next is a little trick I learned from working on archtops.  Use masking tape to tape off the F hole so you don't lose a screw in the guitar.

Next I made sure the pickguard was fit tight, and in the end everything fit just right.

Next I felt that Epiphone hadn't been socialized properly.  This can happen if an owner doesn't have a ridiculous amount of guitars.  So I let Epiphone socialize with other guitars named Epiphone.

This was greatly therapeutic for Epiphone.  All the Epiphones were able to talk about the usual guitar stuff.  You know, pickups, woods, electronics, and the power of the Alnico 8 magnet.

Next, I felt that Epiphone had a lot to talk about, but no way to loudly express himself.  So I hooked him up to my amp named Epiphone.  They really hit it off.  I had put Epiphone Amp together a few months ago from an Epiphone Valve Jr. Head, a Bitmo mod kit, a WGS C/S speaker, and some mahogany.  Epiphone the Amp really let Epiphone the Guitar find his inner voice.

Epiphone then decided to watch some TV, but I caught him napping. 

I then thought Epiphone was a little tense so I decided to give him some spa therapy.

Next, I thought Epiphone could use a little massage.

I then really had to work the kinks out of his neck.

After the massage I offered Epiphone a nice cup of tea.

Which Epiphone gladly accepted.

Since it was such a nice day Epiphone decided to lay out in the sun, and work on his tan/sunburst.

Well, the fun went on the rest of the day and night.  But when the day ends it's time to hit the hay.  So I made sure Epiphone was comfy at the Adrian Bn'B. 

So that concludes my luthier duties.  As you can see, I really strive to be a full service luthier.  So here's the total:

Spray of electronics cleaner:  $0.24
Screw for plate:  $0.14
Nut for screw: $0.15
Adrian Bn'B for two nights: $378. 63

Total:  $379.16.

I don't think that's too much to ask for such illustrious service.

Friday, March 4, 2016

New Guitar Day: Boy I Really Have A Problem

It's true.  I really do have a problem.  I just can't pass up a good deal.  I can't even believe I was able to snag this.  I mean, it's not as good a catch as getting the Dean Gran Sport for $96, or the Dean Hardtail with case for $180.  However, I managed to snag a Ebony Epiphone Les Paul for $165.  They originally sold for $499 plus tax.  So I was ecstatic to get this one for that price.

Onto the pictures!!!!

I mean, this deal was just made for me.  First, the seller had it listed for $175, but I let it pass.  I knew I shouldn't be spending money on even more guitars.  Then, he lowered it three days later on Craigslist to $165.  I gave him a call, and he said that the one guy who was coming over for it said he couldn't make it.  So I jumped on that chance.

I think a lot of my deals are due to me being able to drive a bit out of the way.  This seller lived in Holiday, which is right next to Tarpon Springs.  He was only a mile or so from the water.  Since I am in Lutz, he was 25 miles from me.  So for people in Tampa, he could be 40 miles from them.  I had the day off, so I was happy to make the drive. 

Now the guitar isn't perfect, but for a 2005 model it's in pretty good shape.  It has belt buckle scratches, and the tailpiece is nicked up.  But I have to admit, it was one of the best set up guitars I have ever bought used.  Someone did a really good job on that.  I made a few personal adjustments, but I could have lived with the original set up. 

Now, part of me says, "Yeah, buy it now, and flip it for $300."  But part of me wants to keep it.  And since I'm closer to Tampa, I might be able to flip it locally.  But we'll really see what I do with it.  I'll sit on it for a few weeks. 

Monday, February 29, 2016


For the last 10 years I have driven a 2001 Ford Focus.  I inherited it from my Grandmother when she passed away.  This is it:

I know a lot of people will say, "Why drive a Ford?  Don't you know it means, "Fix or repair daily?"  Well, I have to say that this Ford Focus has needed 10 times less repairs than my Saturn SL2 did.  And that Saturn was supposed to be a higher end vehicle that was 100% made in the USA.  So my Ford is now 15 years old, and I have been really lucky, in that, it just hasn't needed much work on it during it's lifetime.

I think where a lot of people mess up with Fords or vehicles in general is that, they don't do the maintenance on them that they should.  This past weekend I went a bit crazy with the upkeep.  But, I truly believe that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

It started with my driver's side headlight.  I noticed that it was dim, and the bulbs probably needed replaced.  I had replaced them three years ago because I believed they where still the original light bulbs, and they were severely dim. 

It was when I took it apart I noticed a problem.  The bulb had all sorts of gunk on it, and the actual plastic headlight unit was melted on the inside.  This is probably due to the insane mechanism that is used to hold in the light bulb.  I think it came apart when I changed the bulb three years ago, and it didn't hold the light in place.  Therefore, the light bulb melted the inside of the headlight unit.

So it was time to get a replacement headlight unit.  I took Dad down to LKQ (You Pull It) auto parts.  They have almost 2000 vehicles on the lot.  Dad and I walked over to the Ford section, and I saw it immediately.  Another Ford Focus.  I got closer, and saw it was also a 2001.  I walked up to it, and saw the whole front end was missing, except the driver's side headlight.  I thought, "Jackpot!" 

It had taken five minutes to walk out to the field, and three minutes to take the headlight off the Focus.  And the good news is that it only cost $30.00 for the part.

So we went to the auto parts store to pick up all the things I needed to do some basic maintenance.  I needed the new headlight bulbs, oil, filter, windshield wipers, windshield washer fluid, air filter, and a cabin air filter.

To make a long story short, we got the headlamp and new bulbs working.  Although, the old bulb cover did not fit on the newly acquired part.  So I ordered one from my local Ford dealer.  But so far the replacement headlight is working.

I was able to get the windshield wipers on, and the wiper fluid added pretty quickly.  I then changed the air filter after pulling four long screws.  The funny thing was the air cabin filter.  I never knew I had one until I checked the FRAM filter website.  So I found where it was supposed to go, took apart everything, and found !!!!!  nothing.  There was never one put there.  Which is kind of a relief since I would have felt stupid having never changed one for 15 years. 

The next day I changed the oil and filter.  I gave my car a good scrubbing, and I used some decent foam glass cleaner to clean all the glass.  So my car is in good shape.  I had already checked my fluids and tire pressure a few weeks before.  So everything is as it should be. 

The only thing left is to stop by Elder Ford and pick up the light bulb cover.  In a weird tale, it seems that Ford made a production headlight, and a replacement headlight.  They took different headlight cap covers.  The headlight that I took off the Ford Focus in the field must have been a replacement headlight since it took a different cap.  That's why my cap didn't fit the replacement headlight.

So my cost for this adventure?  It was $30 for the headlight, $4 entry fee for two of us, $96 for all the parts at the auto shop, $5 to buy new car wash soap after the old bottle ran out, $8 for the new cap.  So figure $143.  It's a bit for the average person, but still better than a car payment.