Monday, September 18, 2017

The Best That I Can Do

I was listening to the 80's on Sirius XM's Channel 8 when they had this week's countdown from 1981.  It was neat to hear the Rolling Stone's "Start Me Up," and other great songs on the top of the countdown.  It was then that one song came on that really took me back.

It was a song by Christopher Cross called, "The Theme from Arthur (The Best That You Can Do.)"  You may know it by the great lyrics from the chorus.

When you get caught between the Moon and New York City
I know it's crazy, but it's true
If you get caught between the Moon and New York City
The best that you can do
The best that you can do is fall in love

When I was a kid the day care I went to would take us on weekly trips to Skate Odyssey, the neighborhood skating rink.

While we were there, the DJ would change it up and have a "friend's only" skate.  So you had to find a partner and hold hands while trying to skate.  Honestly, I was never that good at it.  It took me a few years to be able to skate really well.

But during these, "friend's only" skates they would play a slower ballad.  One of the songs they would play was, "Arthur's theme."  When I heard it play on Sirius XM it really took me back to my childhood.  Still after all these years it's an amazing song.

On a side note, you may have missed a Christopher Cross reference on the TV show, "Family Guy."  When Peter's son is in trouble he calls out his full name, "Christopher Cross Griffin!"  That's right, Chris is named after Christopher Cross the singer.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Aftermath: Hurricane Clean-up

In terms of hurricane hits we were lucky in the Tampa Bay area.  Irma did a lot of damage to the islands and hit Naples pretty hard, but here in Lutz we didn't have too much damage.  Here's what happened.

So Dad and I organized everything outside.  Anything that could be a flying projectile was put away.  I made a trip to the gas station and filled up everything we had.  Dad had the generator ready to be pulled out from the back shed.  I also made a trip to the grocery store, and stocked up on "camping goods."

The power went out on Sunday, Sept 10th at around 8PM.  I already had my candles ready to go.  I put them in the fireplace with a mirror behind them to help illuminate the room.  The next night I put a big piece of wood covered in aluminum foil behind the candles.  That ended up working out pretty well.

The worst thing we had to deal with is boredom and each other.  I played a little guitar, and played my 3DS game, "Ever Oasis."  When we finally went to sleep the temperature was still cool.  So we were able to sleep without it being annoyingly hot.

In the morning Dad tried to start the generator.  It had other ideas.  Luckily, our neighbor Dale is good with small engines, and took it apart and put it back together in less than 30 minutes.  The generator started up, and we had power.

It's not a huge generator, but it was enough to run the fridge and outside freezer.  We also had the fish-tank, some lights, fans, and a few power strips running off of it.  We were advised only to run it for two hours, and then give it an hour break so it wouldn't get overworked and overheated.

The night of Monday Sept. 11th, I cooked dinner with the gas grill and a Coleman stove that hadn't been started in 30 years.  Both worked just fine.  Oh, and dinner was really good too.  I'd like to thank myself.

But this lead to a problem that no one wants to take care of.  The dishes had piled up.  Let's just say they hadn't been cleaned in a while.  So I spent an hour and a half doing them all by hand.  I'd clean some, put them on the drying rack until the rack was full.  Then I would dry them by hand and put them away.  I ended up doing that three times.  So yeah, there were a lot of dishes.

There was still a bit of daylight left so I started making new candles as a good number of mine had run out of wax at that point.  I still had wicks and wax left.  I also have a special pot specifically for double boiling wax.  I managed to knock out quite a few candles.

For an hour that night I tried to set up an old TV that would pick up channels without being plugged into cable.  I was just about to give up when the power came back on at 10 PM.  So we ended up only being without power for 26 hours.

Once it was morning (Tuesday, Sept 12th) we walked out to survey any damage.  We has a bush damaged beyond repair, and a few limbs down, but no damage to the house.  I've spent a few days since then dragging brush to the curb, and putting the small leaves in trash cans. 

I also had to spend a good amount of time putting everything back up (the Coleman stove, lanterns, etc.)  Dad and I also had to rearrange the shed.  Namely to put the generator back in place, and organize all our gasoline cans.

I realize we were much luckier than a lot of people in the Tampa Bay area.  For us it more of an annoyance.  For others, well, I still have friends who are without power.  Let's just hope we have no more hurricanes come our way this year.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Go Truck Myself!

For the last three months I have visited or talked to twelve different auto dealers.  Well, I finally decided on a vehicle.  It's a 2014 Ford F-150 STX.  It is a regular cab/short bed.  And the funny thing is that I found it in the same color as my Mother's Ford Escape, Lightening Blue.

I searched far and wide for the perfect truck.  How wide?  Well, I set Autotrader's search out to 200 miles.  160 miles away in Fort Pierce, Fl. was Arrigo Dodge, and they had this perfect truck for sale.  While most dealers were $3,000 above KBB price, Arrigo actually lowered their price of the truck to $1,000 below KBB value.  So I jumped on that deal.

Let's go to the pictures!

Pretty awesome right?  The funny thing is I hadn't bought a vehicle in 22 years.  That's right.  I bought my Saturn in 1995, and inherited my Grandmother's Ford Focus in 2005.  So I had not bought a vehicle for over two decades.

The STX comes with the side steps and 18 inch tires.  Although, I will have to replace three of them.  One is new, but the other three are only going to be good for another 5,000 miles or so.

This one came with a bedliner so I don't have to worry about adding one.

It also had the receiver for a trailer hitch.  I did have to provide said hitch and hitch pin.

My first vehicle was a 1985 Ford Ranger.  It was pretty burnt out by the time I got it, but I loved that truck.  I was only able to drive it for three years before it was unfixable.  Ever since getting rid of it I have wanted to return to truck ownership, but finances held me back.  So I am glad to own my very own F-150.

Here's an old photo of me with my Ford Ranger.  Remember, it was scanned from an actual photo taken on 9mm film.  It's not a great picture, but it's alright.  It was taken in 1993.

I'm still looking for a toolbox and a brush guard for my F-150.  I'm taking my time to see what good deals are out there.  As I posted earlier, at least I have started my upgrades with the trailer hitch.

The funny thing was I actually managed to buy the truck on my birthday.  Weird, right?  I didn't plan it that way, but the deal was too good to pass up.  Especially when the truck comes standard equipped with Sirius XM radio.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Tortoise or Snake?

We have a section of the yard called, "The Swamp."  When it rains here, and since it's Florida it rains often, this section of the yard floods.  Let's just say it's always pretty moist, and as such, it's tough for anything to take root.  So we've left it alone for years.

A few plants were planted in that section, and some have taken root.  But the funny thing, is that, a lot of ferns decided to make it their home.  In the end, there were ferns two feet tall all over the area.  However, it was decided that the ferns would have to go to let other things grow there.

So I took the weed-eater, and cleared out the ferns.  I was clearing around a pine tree when I suddenly lost gravity.  Yep, I started going down, and wasn't sure why.  Eventually I did stop.  That's when I realized I had stepped in a hole.  And I have to say it was a pretty good hole.

Let's take a peek at the beautiful photo I took of said hole.

I didn't clear away the pine needles from the hole as I didn't want to put my hand near it.  Although I did get close enough to put the yellow flags near it.  The reason I didn't want to put my hand near it is because of what is probably living there. 

It's either a Florida gopher tortoise (endangered and protected,) or a really large snake.  Here in Florida we have a number of large poisonous snakes.  Namely the Diamondback Rattlesnake and the Cottonmouth Moccasin.  Both have really bad attitudes.

So to put it this way, it could be this living down there.

Or this guy.

Either way, I'm not putting my hand near it.  I'm just going to leave the hole alone.  I'll just let the reptiles rent their space on the property.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Let Sleeping Loaching Lie

I've recently redecorated my fish tank.  It still looks a lot like I previously had it.  I bought new fake plants from Michael's Arts and Crafts as well as Wal-Mart.  Some of those I managed to snag on clearance.  Here's what it looks like after I redecorated.

But I had a funny thing happen, and of course it involved my yoyo loach.  Loaches are silly fish, and ever so entertaining.  So I have this loach, I'll call her, "Shirley."  Shirley likes to hang out in a certain parts of the tank.  If you are looking at the photo above, it is all the way to the right in the back of the tank (where you can't exactly see.)  But look at the giant green plant all the way to the right.  She likes to sit at the bottom of it.

This lead to a problem.  Namely I just stuck a plant where Shirley likes to sit.  So what does she do?  She digs out the stem of the fake plant, then wiggles the gravel out of the way, and makes a little scooped out place for her to stretch out and rest her fins.

I managed to snag a picture of Shirley doing this.  My camera does this irritating thing where it will shine a red light right before it snaps a picture.  This of course warns my fish that I am taking a photo so of course, they run away from the camera.

But here's the funny thing about Shirley that no one believes.  She likes to sleep on her back and side.  That's right.  There were many times I thought she was dead or dying only to discover she was napping.  And I can't blame her for sleeping on her side.  I mean, I do too.

So I knew I would have to take a photo of her doing this.  The problem with this, as I stated before, is my stupid camera likes to flash the red light before I take a photo.  This of course wakes her up, and she rolls over.  However, I did manage to take a somewhat blurry photo of her sleeping on her back.  Take a peek at this.

It's like that photo of Bigfoot.  Some folks will believe that my loach absolutely slept on her back.  Other's will say it's a complete fake.  Still yet, some will never be able to be sure, one way or another.

I was almost mad about Shirley digging out the stem of the plant, but I thought, "She spent a lot of time and effort digging that out.  I should let it stay like that instead of digging it back into the gravel.  I'll let her sleep in the hole she dug out."  So in the end I decided to let sleeping loaches lie.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

The Rick Bass Project, Part 1

Despite having a lot of guitars, I don't really have many basses.  In fact, during many of my musical years, I didn't even own a bass.  I had my eye on a particular bass when I noticed this bass kit.

DIY Electric Bass Guitar Kit – Mod Bass Guitar Kit

Due to trademarks and that sort of thing, I'll call this bass a "Rick" bass even though you know the whole name.  Sidenote:  That company is fiercely protective of their name and trademarks.  That's one reason I won't say it. 

So here's the kit:

My first impressions where, 1.  The neck needs a bit of adjusting.  Between the truss rod, and giving it a fret dress, that should take care of it.  2.  The basswood body was really lightweight.  That kind of surprised me.  3.  The body was a multilayer body.  I believe it had about 5-6 pieces of wood it was made of.  4.  It had a lot more knots than I would have liked.  That's usually not a problem except for something I found out later.  5.  The rosewood fingerboard looked more like a, "Rosewood, wink, wink" fingerboard.

I knew I was going to add certain parts to make it my own kind of bass.  Namely, pickups, straplocks, pickguard, and my own headstock decal. 

Since I was going to stain the body a walnut color, I decided to use a black pickguard.  I bought one from WD Music Products.  I have to say, the replacement black one actually fit better than the original one.  The black one is actually a two piece pickguard.  Looking at it in the picture and in real life you can't tell. 

I'm glad to say that the body and neck were already sanded to a 220 grit from the factory.  All I had to do was sand with 400 and 600 grit sandpapers and it was smooth.  I was given a great suggestion to use an air compressor to remove any dust and dirt.  That worked out great.

I then proceeded to tape off the neck, and finish it with Odie's Oil. 

Next, I turned my attention to the body.  I bought the usual Minwax Walnut stain from Home Depot.  I also made sure to purchase an eye screw so the body could hang up and dry.  I inserted it where the strap button usually goes. 

Make sure you follow the directions of the stain.  It says to stain evenly, and then wipe off the excess after 15 minutes.  If you need it to be darker, you can stain it two more times later on.  Here's what it looked like after one coat.

Frankly, that was a lot darker than I was going for.  The "Rick" basses made of walnut are not that dark.  But, I'll call it a happy surprise.

What was not a happy surprise was something they had done at the factory.  Do you see those places on the back?  The white places?  Well, that's where the body had knots in it, and they used CA glue to keep the knots from falling out.  But you know what happens when you put CA glue on wood?  Stain won't stick to it.  It completely seals the wood.  So I have a few places where it will be white. 

When wood is cut it gets graded.  You've probably seen Gibson's 2A or 3A flamed tops.  Paul Reed Smith sells really high end guitars with 5A tops.  To receive a single A means it is a pretty dang great piece of wood.  More than that is just amazing wood.

For wood that doesn't fall in the super high end category, you have grades like firsts, seconds, and common.  Here is a chart to help you out.

For musical instruments you should use firsts or seconds.  To have this many knots in a musical instrument body is inexcusable.  For me, it's not so much that it had knots, it's the fact that it needed that much CA glue to hold the knots in. 

On with the story.  The stain dried really fast.  Just to be safe I gave it 48 hours to completely dry.  After that I rubbed in Odie's Oil on the body. 

The first coat of Odie's Oil had dried on the neck, so I rubbed in a second coat.

It happened to be a hot sunny day here in Florida, so I did something you just don't do with other finishes.  I took it outside to sit in the sun.  Since Odie's Oil is well, an oil, having it sit in the hot sun will actually melt it, and thin it down.  It actually helps it soak into the wood this way. 

When I checked on the finish the next day it was almost completely soaked in.  The next day I added on another layer of Odie's Oil.  And that's where I am right now.  I will give the finish a few days to set up, and then see where I should go from there. 

I'm going to be performing a lot of finish work the next few weeks.  So I don't suppose I'm going to write, "Part 2" to this post for a while.  But good, bad, or indifferent, I'll write how it goes. 

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Get Cha' Pull!!! New Guitar Day: The Dixie Rebel

I hadn't bought a guitar in a while.  This has mainly been due to the market becoming completely stale.  Nothing is selling on Craigslist, and the same instruments are being posted again and again.  This problem is also exacerbated due to the fact that everything is completely overpriced.  So this feeds the problem.  Nothing is moving since everything is overpriced.  Since sellers won't lower their prices nothing is moving.  And the cycle continues. 

However, I spotted something new on Craigslist.  A seller was selling two Dean guitars.  (For those who know me or read my blog, you know I am a huge Dean guitar fan/player.  He was selling the overseas modern reproduction of the Dean From Hell.  That's the blue on with the lightening bolt that Dimebag Darrell played most of his career. 

The seller was also selling a Dean Dixie Rebel.  I have to be honest, I have always wanted one, but back then I didn't have the money to buy one.  The seller said he was a lawyer, and without actually saying it, I think a client paid him in guitars, and he was selling them to get his money back.  Long story short, I bought it. 

Here's the pics:

Of course, I had to put new strings on it, set it up for half tuning, and make sure everything was set up as I like.  The new strings were really giving me trouble by taking so long to stretch out.  I actually waited a day for them to stretch out before I continued my set-up.

Now I figure some of you might be asking, "Do you think it's okay to promote the use of the Confederate Battle Flag?"

I say, "I have no opinion on that.  I just like the guitar."

"But don't you think that represents a racist government and doctrine?"

"Well, I don't really have an opinion on that.  The guitar has a really nice neck.  In fact, it's about the thinnest Dean guitar neck I've ever played.  For such a large guitar, it is really lightweight."

"Don't you think that some people will be offended by that guitar if you play it on stage?"

"Well, I think this guitar will sound really good, and my songs will sound good because of it.  I don't really have an opinion on the graphics except that I like that particular shade of red."

"Well, only a racist would own something like that."

"You know, I once saw this stage musical called, "Avenue Q."  They had this song called, "Everybody's a little bit racist."  I thought it was pretty damn funny.  Oh, and I really like playing this guitar." 

"I'm going to complain about you on the internet."

"Yeah, I get that a lot."

So I have this friend Nick.  He has an opinion about, "that flag."  So I sent him this picture.

Even he had to laugh.  Anyway, have fun playing out there.  Get Cha' Pull!!!