Sunday, December 25, 2016

Adrian's Year In Review: The Best Blogs of 2016

That's right kids.  It's that time of year again.  It's time for my, "Best of Blogs" for the year 2016. 

This year I wrote 54 blogs including this one.  I have once again made my goal of averaging writing a blog once a week. 

For my "Best Of," I make two "Top 5" lists.  One is for the most viewed.  Although I realize this is unfair since the blogs written in January had more time to be viewed than the blogs in December.  That is the nature of the beast though.

My other "Top 5" list is for my personal favorites.  Despite how many views they actually had, I pick the blogs that I think are my best work for the year. 

First up, the Top 5 most viewed blogs.

5.  Bad Luck Windshield, And The Best Way To Ruin A Saturday.  33 views.

I'm not sure why a post complaining about how I destroyed my car's back windshield made the list, but it somehow did.  I think I only posted it once.  Since I tend to write at night I post a blog a few times on Facebook so that people have a chance to see it.  I guess my bad luck resonated with a lot of folks.

4.  The Whitest Girl Coffee You Know.  35 views.

I have to say, sometimes Adrian humor sometimes doesn't quite make the mark.  However, this time it did.  When great writing meets funny pictures, that's when hilarious blogs happen.

3.  What We Pass Down.  41 views.

I really didn't expect this blog post to make the list.  I've only had it posted for four days.  However, a lot of my relatives viewed it due to what I had to say about my Grandmother in it.  I also think it had a lot of views due to the blog that preceded it.  That post happened to be next on this list.

2.  A "Little Talk," For My Grandmother.  48 views.

This blog post was passed around and seen by many of my relatives.  Many of them couldn't make my Grandmother's funeral service so I posted what occurred at the service, as well as the speech I gave.  I thought this would have a lot of views, but 48 is quite a lot for being posted just nine days.

1.  New Pedal Board Day:  Homestyle Edition:  Part 1.  55 views.

I understand why this blog post had so many views.  It's because there are a lot of musicians looking for a do-it-yourself/ make-it-yourself guitar pedal board.  Not only did I tell them where to go, but I also told them the part number.  Then I posted lots of pictures, and gave step by step details on not only how to make it, but how to make it right. 

I'd like to think that lots of musicians were able to take my advice.  I even had a friend who considered doing exactly what I did.  He found a deal on a regular metal pedal board, but he was glad that I posted this. 

Now we go onto my personal favorite blogs of 2016. 

5.  Hey Mama, Don't Rock Me.  Don't Rock Me One Bit.

Adrian finds out he's not the only one who thinks "Wagon Wheel" is overplayed.  There's a whole Wikipedia page about it. 

4.  Scareboarders:  This Year's Bad April Fools' Day Gag

Every year Adrian pulls a pretty awesome April Fools' Day gag.  If people were fish, Adrian would have hooked a bunch. 

3.  Full Service Luthier

I was thinking of doing another guitar repair blog when I thought, "Eh, that's boring.  Let's do something fun."  So I showed just how much of a full service luthier I am.  This one had lots of funny pictures in it too.

2.  The Whitest Girl Coffee You Know, Part 2

Part 1 was pretty awesome, however, Part 2 "went there."  I finally made Dad laugh after two days of him being depressed. 

1.  A "Little Talk," For My Grandmother

Not only do I think this is the best blog of 2016, it might be the most important blog I have ever written.  Admittedly, I had been thinking about my speech for a long time.  So when I wrote it I had a pretty good idea what I wanted to talk about.  So that made this blog pretty easy. 

I just posted what happened at the funeral service for my Grandmother, and I posted my speech.  However, it was what I said that made this post so important.  That, and the fact it was able to be shared with those who weren't able to hear it in it's original form.  Again, I think it's more important than it is good. 

So that wraps up another year.  It's hard to believe that I started writing in the spring of 2008.  My sister told me I should be blogging way before then.  She said that due to my natural storytelling ability and my love of writing, blogging might be something that I liked. 

Here is it almost eight years since I started, and this will be my 566th post.  I've posted stories, how to guides, instrument reviews, silly pictures, adventures, and so much more.  I hope I am lucky enough to keep writing.  I also hope I continue to become a better writer. 

I look at my early blogs, and see how they were just long posts like I would post on Myspace.  (Remember Myspace?)  That's where my blog got its start.  My posts were just quick thoughts and nothing more.  Once I had moved to Blogger I started to develop my thoughts a bit more. 

My early, erratic posts were funny in their own way, but a lot of the time they weren't that good.  Once I took writing a little more seriously I developed into a much better writer.  I hope to continue that trend. 

So here is a goodbye to 2016.  Overall, it's been an up year for me.  It hasn't been good for all the celebrities that it's killed off, but I have had a personal, profound change this year.  There was good, bad, and straight through indifferent, but overall I had more good than bad.  And despite the bad, I also grew as a person.  I think that may be the biggest, more important lesson that I will take from 2016. 

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Welcome Bob A. Fish To The Fish Tank

I was aiming to post this a little while back, but as you can see down my blog feed my Grandmother passed away.  So this post had to be put on hold for a while. 

A few weeks ago I dropped by Pet City to see about adding some more fish to my fish tank.  I had five angelfish already so I wasn't looking to add anymore.  I was checking the price on certain tetras or other fish that would get along with angelfish.

But that's when I saw him.  Bob.  Bob Angel Fish.  He was so tiny, but had some amazing markings.  So he had to come home with me.  This is Bob.

You can see just how tiny he is for an angelfish.  I was worried he might be picked at by the larger fish.  However, I have not had any trouble with these angelfish.  Honestly, I've had more trouble with mollies.  That's right.  Those "community fish," that are supposed to get along with each other?  I had one molly flat out kill another many years ago.  I have had no trouble at all with these angels.

I have to say the five angelfish I bought a couple of months back have been some of the smartest fish I've had.  They know who feeds them.  I can sit in my chair, and they will stare at me or at least come over to check on me.  Yes, I've had fish do that before, but none learned to do that within three days. 

Here's a picture of Bob with some of the older angels.

Here's one of the bigger angels in what is one of my better pictures.

It's funny in that, they were so tiny just a couple of months ago.  I remember commenting on how their bodies (not counting the fins) were no bigger than a quarter.  Now, they are much, much bigger.  Bob is no bigger than a black tetra at this moment.  But I think he will get some size on him in no time.  Much like his tank mates.

So maybe I will get a few more fish in the tank.  I do have the room.  I think some black neon tetras would get along well with everyone.  I've had great luck with them before.  But we'll see.  If I do, you can be sure that I will write a blog post about it. 

Thursday, December 22, 2016

What We Pass Down

After my Grandmother had passed away, now comes the morbid and confusing part.  What do we do with all her possessions.  When my Grandmother was alive she told me to take anything I wanted.  She even kept trying to give me a few things.  I don't really have the room to take anything. 

Grandma had a lot of vintage and depression glass, but I'm not a glass collector.  In fact, I bought her a piece of Fenton glass for her birthday a few years back.  I even wrote a blog about it back then.  Here it is:

Even though I don't collect glass I thought that Grandma would want me to have that little Fenton vase that I gave to her five years ago.  Everyone was in agreement, so it came home with me.

That was pretty much all I wanted.  I was helping Dad find his possessions from his Air Force days when I came across a knife.  Grandpa loved collecting knives.  In fact, when he passed away in 2006, I inherited a few of his knives.  However, this knife was different in that, it was a bayonet type knife.

I had my computer with me, and looked it up on the internet by it's markings.  It seems it's an USM4 bayonet that fits on the end of an M1 rifle.  I looked at the different makes, and it seems that this is the second generation of the knife.  This means it was issued for use in the Korean War and the early part of the Vietnam conflict. 

This website helped me out tremendously.

Go down to where it says, "M4, Second Generation." 

This website confirmed that it was in the correct time period due to it being made by Camillus out of Camillus, N.Y.

Dad had a theory that this knife might have belonged to my Uncle "Bug," who is my Grandmother's brother.  He served in Korea.  However, Grandpa was into trading knives, and might have traded or bought it from a veteran he knew. 

This model of knife was made from 1954 to the late 1960's so there are a lot of them out there.  So with both Grandma and Grandpa passed away I have no idea how this knife ended up in their possession.  All I know is that Grandpa had a lot of knives he collected.  90% of them were the nice little folding pocketknives that only had a single or double blade. 

There was one giveaway that my Grandfather had handled this knife.  It was still in good condition, and it was dangerously sharp.  Grandpa liked to sharpen his knives until you could shave with them.  I could also see on this knife where the blade had been "dinged," and someone (my Grandfather) had sharpened and smoothed out the ding. 

So I will keep it with my possessions.  I will take care of it.  And it will make a nice little memory.  It seems that twice now my Grandfather has left a knife for me. 

Here's a nice picture of my Grandfather.  Small animals and children loved him.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

A "Little Talk," For My Grandmother

Earlier today my family held my Grandmother's funeral service.  Afterwards we buried her at Franklin Cemetery in Branchland, W.V.  There is a lot going through my head, but I want to preserve what happened for those who weren't able to make the service.

A lot of friends and family weren't able to make the service due to health reasons.  Many of them are older, and have serious medical conditions.  They aren't able to drive very far, and the trip to West Virginia is pretty far for a lot of them.  For Dad and myself, the trip is 900 miles up and 900 miles back. 

Not to mention the temperatures have been dropping to below freezing, and not everyone can handle such extreme temperature drops.  Due to the weather West Virginia is experiencing this time of year, the roads can have rain, sleet, snow, and ice on them.  The roads are better than they used to be years ago, but the twists and turns around the mountains can be very tricky to maneuver.   

Even the people who couldn't or wouldn't drive can't book a flight this time of year.  Think about it.  It's the holiday season, and flights are booked solid until after the new year.  So let's be honest, there is never a good time to pass away, but there were so many factors that made it very difficult to attend my Grandmother's funeral service during this time of year. 

I know many friends and relatives wanted to attend, and couldn't.  Believe me, no one is upset that they couldn't attend due to so many conditions.  When I think of the people I would expect to be there, I have to remember that so many have passed away.  It is a blessing and a curse.  My Grandmother lived to 87 years of age, but she outlived so many of her friends and family.

The service was begun with an opening prayer by Pastor Lenny Romans.  My Grandmother's obituary was then read.  I was then asked to give my little talk.  My cousin Crystal followed with a speech of her own.  My cousin Melody then sang the full rendition of "Amazing Grace."  Then Lonnie "Tommy to his friends" Scraggs gave a speech.  Melody sang another song.  To close out the service, Pastor Lenny Romans gave his speech.  Overall, the service lasted about an hour and a half.

At Franklin Cemetery we gathered around where my Grandmother's casket would be buried.  Pastor Lenny Romans gave a small speech.  Afterwards, we were each able to take a rose from the arrangement that was placed on her coffin.

I wanted to have my speech/ eulogy/ little talk posted for those who weren't able to attend.  That way, they can know what was said, and how I feel about my Grandmother.  The following is what I spoke.

Hello.  My name is Adrian Ray Long.  Grandma Betty was simply, "Maw-maw" to me. 

Back in 2011 my gall bladder tried to kill me.  I had to have major surgery that left a hole in my stomach.  As a result I ended up being off of work for four months.  Once I had recovered enough that my stomach was healed, my Sister Melanie and I headed up to spend some vacation time in West Virginia with my Grandmother.

We had lots of fun.  Grandma, Melanie, and myself drove around took care of a lot of little things, visited a few people, and ate at Grandma’s second favorite restaurant, Bob Evans.  It was there that my Grandmother took on a real serious tone and told me, “When the time comes, I want you to speak.”  I have to admit, I was taken aback a little.  My Grandmother had never said something so serious and heavy to me before. 

I thought about that for a few days.  It was then a few days later that again, the three of us were eating in a restaurant like Bob Evans, that I had the courage to ask her.  I said, “Grandma, this is pretty heavy.  Speaking at your funeral?  What I am supposed to say?”  She told me that I could talk about anything I wanted.  I could speak about eating at the restaurant.  It didn’t matter as long as I spoke. 

And while I have spoken about the restaurant, I do want to say something that would be worthy of the woman that she was.  What I want to speak about today is defining moments.  There are many here that can speak of their memories of my Grandmother from the nineteen thirties to the present day.  I want to speak about the Grandmother I knew.  And I can’t speak about my Grandmother without speaking of my wonderful Grandfather Ray. 

I have many memories of my Grandfather.  But there is one memory of him that defines him to me.  He was holding a two week old kitten in the palm of his hand.  The kitten was very small.  If you’ve ever had to deal with the semi-feral cats in West Virginia, you know they aren’t that trusting of people.  Yet, this little kitten was on it back, in my Grandfather’s palm, letting my Grandfather pet its belly while it meowed happily.  That sums up the kind of man my Grandfather was.  Even the smallest and feeblest of creatures trusted and loved him.

The defining memory of my Grandmother is from when I was six.  It was my first time in the hospital, and I was getting my tonsils removed, adenoids taken out, and tubes put in my ears all at the same time.  It was rough.  But my Grandmother came down to Florida to help my Father out.  He told her, “I need help,” and she was there that day. 

When I woke up from surgery I couldn’t so much as talk, it was more like making a croaking sound.  I would try to talk to my Grandmother, and I couldn’t even understand myself.  You all know that she was deaf in one ear, but she still managed to understand me, even when I couldn’t understand myself.  In the toughest moment of my life up to that point, she was there beside me.  That was the best gift that a scared six year old could get.  

The wonderful thing about defining memories is that each of us has a different defining moment of another person.  Your defining moments of my Grandparents may have taken place before I was born.  I want you to share those memories.  Because they are gifts to be treasured, but also shared. 

My Grandparents had a lot of the same interests, but they were also very different.  However, I think their relationship could be described by the Ancient Chinese Philosophy of the Yin and the Yang.  It means that forces that are opposite or contrary can actually be complimentary to each other. 

Let me explain.  My Grandfather was a man of few words, but that’s okay because my Grandmother talked enough for both of them.  My Grandfather liked working in the garden, and my Grandmother liked telling him what to do in the garden.  Anything my Grandfather brought in from the garden, my Grandmother would cook and spice up.  As long as that spice was either salt, pepper, or sugar.  Sometimes vinegar.   My Grandfather very calm, cool, and collected.  He’s the one who had to keep my Grandmother from knocking someone’s head in during their younger days. 

It’s no secret that after the war my Grandfather had what they called a “lost weekend.”  That “lost weekend,” ended up lasting three years.  However, my Grandmother had a strength within her that helped my Grandfather get his life on track.  And as such, together, they were able to get their lives moving forward. 

My Grandmother tended to speak in absolutes.  As in, “This was the best sandwich, or that was the worst pain that’s ever been.”  So I know she won’t mind when I say she was the best Grandma that ever was.  And how could I disagree? 

I was able to have pie.  Lots of pie.  As a child she would listen to me when a lot of other adults would brush off a child.  She never forgot to send a birthday card.  She always told me, “Maw-maw loves you.”  She also let me win at playing cards when I was kid.  I know Dad is thinking, “She never did that for me.”

One absolute I can say is that, she never said a mean thing to me.  Never.  Not once.  That’s not to say we didn’t disagree about some things, but she was never mean, rude, or insulting.

Looking back at that day in Bob Evans, my Grandmother knew I was going to be giving this speech one day.  While I am sad, I am not angry.  My Grandmother had a heart attack about a year before I was born, and she lived.  She had another one, and she lived.  She’s had I think, 15 stints in her arteries as well as an oblation, and she lived.  She had cancer in her kidney.  They took her kidney out, and she lived.

She had a heart blockage on Thanksgiving a few years ago.  Dad held her in the back seat of my Ford Focus as I drove to the emergency room.  I have to admit, I was scared and ran a red light to turn into the ER when no one was coming.  I talked to her the whole way as my Boy Scout First Aid, Emergency Preparedness, and Lifesaving training had taught me so long ago.  Later on she told me she could hear every word I said, even if she couldn’t respond.  And I want you to think about that.  She could hear every word I said. 

I think back to that time I spent in the hospital as a kid, and how she was there for me.  In the toughest of times, I was glad I could be there to help her out just like she did for me.

I am not angry.  I am sad, but I am not angry.  There was a chance that I was never going to be able to have her in my life.  I feel fortunate that she has been in my life as long as she has. 

When my Grandfather passed away my Grandmother was at the edge of his coffin and said, “We were married over 50 years, but it just wasn’t enough.  It wasn’t enough time.”  I am reminded of John Mellencamp’s Grandmother who told him, “I have lived to 100 years old, but life is short, even in its longest days.” 

As I close out I ask you to talk to each other.  Keep the lines of communication open.  Do away with old grievances.  Tell each other you love one another.  And please, share your defining moment of my Grandmother with one another.  Share it with me.  Even if that defining moment is something as simple as eating lunch at a Bob Evans restaurant.  Thank you everyone.
I have to say, my speech was well received.  I had about forty people compliment me on my speech.  Someone very close to me said, "It was powerful."  I know my Grandmother would want me to "knock it out of the park."  She would want me to succeed.  And knowing the way my dear Grandmother spoke she would want me to, "Give the greatest speech that was ever told." 

The truth is I wanted to give her the best.  I wanted to do right by her.  After all that she and my Grandfather have done for me, it was the least I could do.  As I said in my speech, my Grandmother told me she wanted me to speak at her funeral back in 2011.  I'll admit, I have thought many times about what I would say, and how I could get it right.  My speech clocked in around ten minutes.  Believe it or not, I actually, "cut the fat."  I trimmed it down to best parts of what I had written.  I honestly could have spoken for half an hour. 

As I finish up this blog I will repeat what I said in my speech.  I am sad, but I am not angry.  I feel lucky to have had my Grandmother in my life as long as I had.  In contrast, I am reminded about what my Grandmother said about being married to my Grandfather.  It just wasn't enough time.  When I digest this all through my head I can only think, "I am sad, and there just wasn't enough time to spend with my Grandmother."

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Whitest Girl Coffee You Know, Part 2

You know, I have to admit it.  I love having fun with Starbucks baristas.  I've done it before, and I did it again.  To know what I am talking about, check out my first post about my Starbucks misadventures.

The day started out kind of mixed.  You see, it was day two of my Dad and I heading to West Virginia to attend my Grandmother's (his Mother) funeral service.  We had just crossed into West Virginia when Dad admitted he needed some coffee to keep the yawns and sleepiness at bay. 

We stopped into the Princeton travel plaza that had a Starbucks.  Dad just wanted plain black coffee.  I thought about what I wanted and that's when it came to me.  I didn't need coffee.  I needed "White Girl" coffee. 

I walk up to the barista, and I told her, "Imagine I was the whitest girl you knew.  My name would be Rebecca, (and this next part I said in my best Valley Girl) but all my friends call me Becky!  What drink would I order?"

So basically imagine that I would look like this.

Oh let's be honest, I would "totally" look like Amanda Seyfried.

Anyway, she thinks for about it for five seconds and says, "White mocha or pink ..."

"That's it!!!!"  I exclaimed!  "I want the white mocha on ice!"

She asked, "What size do you want?"

"I want the big one!  I don't know the name of it since I don't speak Italian, but I want the big one!"

To which she said, "Well, at least you knew it was Italian.  I had one woman who thought it was French." 

So she sets about making me the perfect white girl coffee.  She was very meticulous and careful about measuring every unit perfectly.  I think she was drawn to my spirit and as such, she wanted to make the most perfect white girl coffee that had ever been made.

She then asked, "Do you want whip cream on it?"

I responded with an enthusiastic, "Oh yes!  And if you have a cherry you can put it on top as well."

She looked me straight in the eye, and said, "I don't have cherries, ... but I do have strawberries."

My gaze met her gaze, and I said, "That's even better."

She told me in a matter of fact voice, "I didn't think you could make that coffee any more "white girl," but you did." 

I nodded in the fact that we were both on the same page.  We had only just met, but we knew each other so intimately, and it was all due to white girl coffee.

She handed me the wonderfully magical cup, and said, "Thank you sir."

I looked her in the eye and said, "Call me Becky."

Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Water Fountain Dilemma

I have written a few blogs about learning the HVAC/R trade at Erwin Technical College.  It has really opened my eyes as to what needs refrigeration and cooling.  I have also had to learn not only the refrigerant cycle, chemistry, electrical, and piping, but also how to put them all together. 

Our class had something interesting happen that really made me think about using all our skills and putting them to use on one project.  Case in point.  We were told to come over to the dental tech's office to look at a water fountain.  You know, just a standard water fountain. 

We were told that the water was shooting too far, and it wasn't cooling.  When it came to the water shooting too far, all it needed was for the cap to be cleaned out.  You know, the little piece where the water exits from?  It was clogged up with lime.  So that was an easy fix.

The cooling part?  Not so much.  See, this is where it gets tricky.  We need to remove the parts that cool the water.  But to do that we needed to shut down electricity to the water fountain.  Legally speaking it takes a friendly electrician to do that. 

Here's the catch 22.  Yes, you are allowed to flip the power breaker switch.  Yes, you are also allowed to flip it back on.  But if something was repaired it needs to be repaired by an electrician.  So "technically/legally" the water fountain at the school needs to be shut down by the electrician. 

(Sidenote:  This also depends on your city/county/state ordinances.  Things can very greatly depending upon where you are.)

Now, the internal parts of the water fountain were ready to be removed.  Well, not quite.  You see, the piping that fed the water to the water fountain is coming from the City of Tampa.  That means that is City of Tampa water, and if you want to mess with that you need to be a certified plumber.  So call in your friendly plumber.

Now the plumber has the authority to shut off the water.  He also has the training to work on the piping, but so does the HVAC technician.  Either way, we now come to the friendly HVAC tech.

Now our class could get busy repairing the unit.  It needed a good cleaning out, some refrigerant, and elbow grease.  Now we do everything in reverse.

We installed the parts back into the water fountain.  Then the plumber turned the water back on.  And finally, the electrician turned the electricity back on.  We let the unit run a bit, and it was running good as new. 

So, remember when you see a water fountain, ask yourself, "Just how many people did it take to get that thing running?" 

The answer is, "A lot."

Thursday, December 1, 2016

I'm A Bike Guy Now

So I'm a bike guy now.  That right.  I bought a bike.  I'm going to go down the road with the wind in my oh so beautiful black hair. 

Of course, some of you may think I would look like this.

Of course, I have put on a few pounds over the years.  Some of you might think I look more like this.

I know some hot chicks will ask, "So you have a bike?  What kind is it?  Is it a Harley Dyna?"

"Is it the Honda Shadow Aero you always wanted?"

"Or did you get one of the new Triumph Bonneville's?" 

The truth is, I didn't buy a motorbike.  I bought a bicycle.  A Roadmaster Quarry Ridge 29.

To which the hot chick would reply, "What are you eight years old?"

Let me expound on this.  I have only had one bike in my life.  I let my sister's boyfriend borrow it when he lost his driver's license.  One day when he was returning home, it got a flat tire.  He "hid" it in the woods and planned to come back later and retrieve it.  By the time he did make it back it was already gone.  "Finder's keepers, Adrian's weepers."  Why he just didn't walk with it home, I'll never know.  He never told me.  My sister had to tell me after they broke up. 

So I wanted a bike.  I looked around but noticed a few problems.  Most men's mountain bikes had 24 or 26 inch tires.  A lot of the reviews said they were good for 14 year old boys, but not fully grown men.  I looked around some more, but realized I needed more information.  After all, I haven't had to look at bikes for over 15 years. 

I went to University Bike Shop.  I know they had been around a while.  I didn't realize it was since 1972.  I told the salesman named Rick that I didn't know anything about bikes, and he would have to talk to me like an eight year old.  His shop specialized in higher end bikes.  He had a lot of touring and really fast bikes. 

He asked me what my price point was.  I told him I had a bit of sticker shock in that, that bike over there cost more than my Ford Focus's blue book value.  After showing me the lowest priced new bikes, he asked if I was interested in a used bike.  I told him that since I was sure to crash into a few mailboxes, I would prefer a used bike. 

We went to a few places in the store.  He showed me a rack in the back, and there it was.  The bike that was just right.  It was a used Wal-Mart special.  A Roadmaster Quarry Ridge 29 men's mountain bike.  This one was big enough to handle my weight.  It also had 29 inch really wide tires.  That was important to me as this bike wouldn't turn on it's side when I rode it.  This one, unlike the bikes my friends had when we were kids, actually had front shocks on it. 

Admittedly, I paid a little more than I should have for this particular used bike, but there was a reason.  They set this bike up.  If I bought a bike, I would have needed it set-up, and that would cost $50.  So it was well worth it to me that they already had it properly set-up by guys who knew what they were doing. 

So look at it this way.  If I bought a bike on Craigslist for $40, I would have needed a $50 set-up.  Then I most likely would have needed to buy a few parts to replace any broken or worn parts on the bike.  That would have ended up costing me more than I spent on the bike.  Also, the bikes I looked at weren't as big as the Roadmaster. 

I mean, look at the size of that tire.  It's big and wide. 

Also, the bike has 18 gears.  That's 15 more gears than I need.  I was used to a bike with three gears.  I asked Rick if he had any bikes with just three gears.  He said, they don't make mountain bikes with just three gears.  Seriously, look at all these gears.

Also, look at the actual gears.

That's a lot of frickin' gears.  Rick told me to put it in third gear on the one side, and use gears, 4,5, and 6 on the other.  In other words, I'll use three gears.  Once I got home I took it for a ride.  And you know what?  I did exactly like Rick said, and it worked out just fine. 

I'll admit, I hadn't been on a bike in 15 years, and hadn't exercised in .... okay it's been a bit.  So a trip around the neighborhood was more than a little bit interesting.  The good news is that I didn't run into any mailboxes or parked cars.  I did have to yell at a squirrel to get out of my way.  He waited until the last moment to do so.  Furry rat.

My back is paying the price.  It's been giving me trouble for the last few years, so the bumps on the trail felt like giant speed bumps.  But I will hop back on the bike.  The first day is always the roughest.  Unless, the second day is.  In which case I will take it easy, and then work hard on the third day. 

I'm glad I have a bike and all, but unlike those motorcycle guys, I will never have biker chicks fawning over me.  That is my only regret.  That, and all those carbs.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Hunting Season: Snipe Island, 2016

So I made it back from hunting last week.  I have been able to think on things properly, and feel like I can put together a pretty good, although pretty long blog.  I had my computer up there, so I posted what happened to me the next day on Facebook.  So I will copy and paste what I originally posted, and then edit and expound on my thoughts. 

This year we didn't get to go on the quota hunt.  We all had things to do at that time.  So we had the week of Thanksgiving off, so my Dad (John L.) and our hunting buddy, John W. left on the Thursday before Thanksgiving.  Due to attending school I left on Friday after class.

We didn't hunt at our usual place, Hickory Mound, which is 15 miles from the town of Perry, Fl.  We decided to hunt next door (to the west) at a place called Snipe Island.  Word had gotten around that the hunting was much better there.  It was also much easier to hunt that year, in that, they had not had rain for a while, and I could walk in my regular hiking boots there.  That made it nice as I have a nice broken in set of Columbia boots.

This is my post after hunting Saturday, Nov. 19th, 2016.  I wrote this on Sunday morning (Nov. 20th.) at 9:54 AM.

I wasn't able to post last night due to a series of strange happenings. First off, I shot a hog at 4:50 PM, but I just made it mad.  I didn't realize it at the time.  I thought I hit it, and wounded it.  I called Dad on the handheld CB, and it took him about ten minutes to make it over to me.  Although, a lot of that time was spent getting down from his tree-stand.

As I was in my tree-stand, I pointed Dad down the path to where I thought the hog was.  The path was about 40 yards from me, and brush blocked my view of where I thought the hog was.  Dad used his tracking skills that he hadn't used in years.  He ended up walking within 10 yard of it, and then.... IT FREAKIN' CHARGED HIM!!! No, I'm not making this up.

It was only 10 yards from him. Dad shot four times, and the hog turned tail. I saw it 150 yards away  running through the brush into the next county. Dad says he is okay. His pants need a good washing, but he's okay.  Again, I am not trying to pull an April Fools in November. A big 200 pound (most likely boar) hog tried to run over Dad.

And that's not the end of it. So we were waiting for our hunting partner John to come out of the woods. He comes out at his usual pitch black darkness time of night. But then he tells me that I saved his life.  I thought, "What?" 

Earlier in the day I showed him how to use his new personal GPS toy. Admittedly, he's still not quite up on electronics. But I plugged in the truck's location on his GPS, and showed him how to use it.
He was still kind of iffy on how to use it, but carried it with him anyways. When he decided to come out the woods, he took his compass out, and that's when he noticed it had come apart. In other words, no compass, and he's out there in the dark.  And this was the time of month where there was no moon.  It was, "you can't see your hand in front of you" kind of dark.

So he takes out his GPS, and he at least starts moving in the direction where the distance towards the truck is getting shorter. He ended up going through some dense woods, but he made it to the truck.  Once he got to the truck he thanked me many times.  I don't think he's ever done that.

So it got down to 29 degrees last night (from Friday night to Saturday morning,) and with it being a late night for all of us, we decided to sleep in this morning. There was no way I was going to be able to get Dad and John W. out of bed at 5 AM with it being 29 degrees out. So we decided to sleep in.

And you know what? I still woke up exactly at 5:00 AM. On the dot. Exactly. But I did manage to go back to sleep. Now I am up and about. We are going to go order breakfast at Poncey's Restaurant.
I told Dad that, "Only winners get breakfast," but he said we needed to eat so that we could go back out there, and bag something.

I'm still feeling a bit depressed. In my life I have shot 5 hogs. I recovered 3 of them. One was so big, I probably just torqued it off, and the other was this one. I hate wounding an animal, and having it run off like that, but it has happened to every hunter.

So I will get back out there this evening. I will say this. This place we are hunting this year, (Snipe Island,) is full of game. I saw a man take a hog out on a trailer it was so big.  It looked like it was part bear.  It was a true 300 pounder.  And another hunter, Zack, who is hunting the same area as us, managed to take out a 6 point buck. So there is a lot more game here than at Hickory Mound.

Okay, let me hunt down some breakfast. I'll be careful out there. Take care everyone.

I managed to get back to my computer that night, Saturday, Nov. 20th, 2016 at 9:35 PM.

I'm back at the camping trailer tonight. Today we slept in, and still ended up with a late start to the evening hunt. I did manage to see a bird of prey. It was bigger than a red shouldered hawk, but smaller than an osprey. It was diving through the trees so I didn't get a good look at it. I'm not sure what kind of bird it was.

Dad did see a few owls, and we both had squirrels acting.... well squirrely. They were throwing stuff all over the place including at palmettos.  And when the acorns hit the palmettos the sound would carry through the trees like crazy.

We will start out a bit later than we usually do in the morning. It could have something to do with it being 31 degrees in the morning, and not being able to drag the retired folk out of bed in that weather.
So we are planning to really put a lot of time in the woods tomorrow. I don't know when I will be able to check back in. So if you send me a message give me time to get back to you. Take care.

Here's my post from the evening of Monday Nov. 28th, 2016 at 9:56 PM.

Today was a weird day. Here's what happened.

I used some cardboard to check my gun's shot pattern. I have some older shells that didn't really pattern too well. That's strange since they are Remington shells, and my gun is a Remington 1100. It usually shoots Remington shells well. I shot some newer Remington shells, and they didn't pattern that well either.

The other thing was that they sounded underpowered.  I tried some Winchester shells I had, and they patterned the best of all of them. They also had more kick (power.) So I am using those Winchester shells for the rest of my hunt.

This leads me to think I just flat missed the hog. But I'm still not sure why it laid under the palmetto bush instead of running. I wonder if I hit it in a place where it stung it, but not hurt it.

We had a late start to the day due to being up late yesterday. As we were driving we had two does jump the road 300 yards away. Where we were driving through was still private property on each side of the road. We hadn't made it to the hunt area quite yet.

Nothing happened in the morning, and nothing happened in the evening. Dad and I planned to get out of our treestands at 5:30 PM. At 5:28 PM I heard all sorts of racket. I thought a turkey and a squirrel were going at it. I called Dad on the walkie-talkie, and as I was doing so, I saw an owl come out from where I had heard the noise.

It landed within 15 yards of me, but high up in a tree. It was amazing. I was talking to Dad when all of this happened. I told him to hang on while I got my camera. I managed to hoist my bag up, get my camera out, and power it up. However when I looked down to power it up, the owl flew somewhere else. I would have loved to have gotten film footage of it.

(Sidnote:  I found out later that the owl was a Great Horned Owl.  Their color patterns can vary from brown to grey.  This one had a lot of grey on it.   It was also very tall.  It was probably the bird of prey I saw the day before.  It looked a lot like this one.)

So Dad and I are making our way down the trail to get to the truck. The squirrels start making all sorts of racket. I hear the woods just come alive. It's now about 5:50 PM. I hear some rustling, and look over to see!!!!...... an armadillo. So we keep walking.

We are about 75 yards from the truck when I hear another loud crash and bang in the woods. It's so dark I can't really see anything. Whatever it is, is making a lot of noise. I almost wondered if it was another hunter it was making so much noise. I looked around for a hog, but couldn't see any movement.

I slipped my tree-stand off my back, and walked into the woods. Whatever it was stopped moving. I suspected it was another armadillo. I couldn't see anything by this point. It was 6:00 PM after all. So I made it back to the trail.

That's when I heard yet another crash. Dad saw it immediately. This time, to the right, was two giant birds ( I believe they were vultures) rising out of the treeline. What I think happened was that they had sat on a dead branch, and it broke, then fell onto a palmetto making a racket. The birds took off in flight. So we continued onto the truck.

We then drove down the road to pick up John W. We told him of our strange happenings, and he told us that not much had happened to him.

Once we made it to Highway 98, Dad started noticing deer on the road. I thought he was having fun with us, in that, I hadn't seen them. But then, I started seeing them. One after another after another. I think I had counted up to 15 deer (all does,) before I thought to get my camera out. Of course, then there were no more deer.

So we decided to eat at Poncey's Restaurant. It has amazing food, and that small town feel to it. I am still stuffed.

So I have one more day of hunting tomorrow. Let's see how it goes. I am wearing the pair of pants I hate the most in hopes that I get blood (not mine) all over them.
Take care, Adrian out.

My next post was on Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2016 after I had made it back home.  I wrote about what happened on Tuesday, Nov. 22nd, 2016. 

So here's the weirdness that was yesterday's hunting adventure. We got up late since I couldn't get the older men out of bed at a normal hunting hour. Also, it was just too cold for them. In all fairness it did go down to 29 degrees.

So nothing really happened during the morning hunt. We went to a new place in Snipe Island.
During the afternoon hunt, nothing happened.... until 5:10 PM. I heard a gunshot, and thought it was our hunting partner John W. shooting at something.

At 5:28 PM (2 minutes before we were supposed to get down from our treestands,) I hear all sorts of racket. I stand up, turn around in my treestand, and look over to see what's going through the woods. I could hear it, but not see it. I suspect it was yet another armadillo.

So we get down, and head to the truck. Just 50 yards from the truck, I hear a noise. I turn to my right, and it's a .... possum. Dad says I can't shoot it since it's my spirit animal. It runs down a hole, and we continue onto the truck.  Dad is correct about that. 

Dad and I were at the truck when two men walked up to the truck next to us. I immediately got a weird vibe from them. They never looked at us. They never said hi. One guy threw his loaded rifle in his truck, ripped off his orange, and jumped in. The other one did unload a shotgun, put it in the back, and jumped in the passenger side.

They then fired up the truck, and took off a little faster than people do when driving on a dirt road. I almost thought they peeled out. Either way, they got the hell out of there.

I asked Dad if he thought they were acting strange, and he said he thought they were creepy and acting very suspicious. Dad asked me if I remembered what kind of truck it was, what color it was, and what the license plate number was.

I got on the CB, and start asking if John W. was on the air. He was supposed to check in with us at 6:00 PM, and it was now past six.

I keep trying John on the CB, and am getting no reply. Dad and I decided to go down the trail (we had never been down,) and search for John. It was pitch back, and we had only our radios and flashlights looking for him.

We were worried that the gunshot was one the creepy guys killing John, and then getting the hell out of Dodge. Think about it. A single shot from John's direction. Two creepy guys acting creepy. And then John isn't on the radio.

At 6:30 PM, I see a light down the trail. Thankfully, it's John. I ask him why he wasn't on the radio, and he says that, "We didn't agree to do that today." Sidenote: John has the worst memory of anyone I've ever met.

I told him about what went on, and he completely dismissed my feelings and told me that I was jumping to conclusions. I got pretty pissed off. Even after I calmed down over an hour later, and explained everything again, he didn't get it. I got angry again.

I keep trying to explain that I was actually concerned for him, and he just doesn't get it. He can not see something from someone else's point of view. He never has.  So I'm kind of glad that hunting season is over. I think it went on long enough. Any more and we were just going to end up annoying each other the rest of trip.

Conclusion:  So, I've had a chance to think it over.  I know I'm a bit quick to anger and a bit quick to suspect bad things.  I wish John had seen things from my point of view, but I can't make him.  I wish we would have had more days to hunt, or at least be able to participate in the morning hunts more.  I really wish I would have killed that hog.  But that's why they call it hunting, and not getting. 

After looking at shot patters of shotguns on the internet I think I am going to have to use a rifle out hunting.  In fact, I am talking to the local gun store about trading in for a Ruger RAR in a .308.  It's a no-frills workhorse with a synthetic stock.  I can knock it around in the woods and get it dirty. 

One thing that we did that we hadn't done before was get a group picture.  Since one of us had to hold the camera we never took a picture with all three of us.  So this time we had the check station manager take a picture of the three of us.  I'll leave this post with this.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Hunting Season: Time To Paint The Treestand

Every year hunting season sneaks up on us.  In fact, this year we aren't even going on the quota hunt.  Since everyone's schedule opens up during Thanksgiving, we decided to go for a few days then. 

But every year it's a rush.  Oh goodness, we need to check the tires on the trailer for dry rot!  Oh no, we haven't practiced shooting a gun in two years.  Oh, where are all the cooking items, coolers, maps, licenses, etc.

I did happen to remember one thing I needed to do.  I needed to paint my treestand.  I've had it for a while, and it's gotten chipped and dinged up over the years.  I just don't want the places that have been chipped to reflect sunlight.  That would definitely give away my position. 

I've found that the most important thing about painting treestands is breaking up the pattern.  You could use the classic black, brown and green colors, but if the pattern isn't broken up, you are going to stand out. 

As far as color, I try to paint my stand in a mud and leaf type color.  I put my tree up in various types of trees; oaks, pines, palms, and maples.  All of them are a little different in color.  So I aim for a background of black and green, and then break it up with lighter colors. 

Here are the after photos.  If the paint looks glossy, it's because it is still wet. 

The piece on the left is where my feet go.  The piece on the right is where I sit. 

It's a little muddy in color.  I also tried to get it close in color to a pine tree.

Here you can see the backpack straps.  That's one nice thing about this treestand.  It folds up, and I can carry it on my back.  I actually used some orange to make it look like I have moss and lichens growing on my treestand. 

This piece has a lot of padding on it, so there wasn't much to paint.  I mainly did touch up on metal that was dinged. 

I know it's hard to tell, but the part of this piece of the treestand is where I put my feet.  Namely, the part that is facing the camera.  Since this side wouldn't be seen by anything, I didn't get too creative with it.  I just made sure the dings were covered, and broke up the pattern.

The base of this part is where it grabs the tree  (toward the bottom of the picture.)  So the paint gets roughed up the most around there.  So, I had to touch up a lot of bare metal there. 

I'll let this dry overnight, and see what I think of it tomorrow.  That's the good thing with paint.  If I don't like the job I did, I can just go over it with more paint.  However, I feel pretty good about the work I performed.  I think it's going to be just fine. 

Friday, November 4, 2016

One Hump Or Two?

My name is Adrian, and I come from a long line of smartasses.  It's true.  I don't often crack jokes or insult someone, but when I do I get my money's worth.  I also kind of got in trouble at school for a slightly racist joke/insult/comment.  Let me start at the beginning.

In my HVAC class is a man named Ahmed.  He is from Jordan, and speaks with an Jordanian accent.  He also smokes very strong Marlboro Reds.  I have occasionally commented about not being downwind of him when we are outside because his cigarettes are so much stronger than other brands. 

Something else I want I to make sure is known, is that, our class consists of 15 men of various ages.  And like a lot of blue collar, as well as young guys, we constantly rip and insult each other.  Honestly, male humans never outgrow this stage.  Pretty much anything and everything is fair game. 

I mean, even our instructor kids Ahmed about being the "old man" in class, demands to see his AARP card, and rips Ahmed about his balding hair.  Ahmed was in the other HVAC class until he got sick.  So he transferred to ours so he would have enough credit hours to graduate.  Now, he has kidded around with everyone, in both classes, about anything and everything.  I want to make sure this is known so that, when I tell what happened it adds history and context. 

On Wednesday it was near the end of the day, and all but about four guys had wandered off.  Our instructor, Raul, asked where Ahmed was.  Since I am full of pop culture goodness, I said, "Smokin!!!" in the style of Jim Carrey from the movie, "The Mask." 

Now, I know the movie, "The Mask."  Everyone knows the movie, "The Mask."  However, Ahmed is from Jordan.  He doesn't know that I am referencing the movie, "The Mask."  He happened to be around the corner, and thought I was making fun of him. 

So he says, and might I say, in a strong Jordanian/Arabic accent, "My name is Adrian, all's I do is talk guitars, music, and entertainment." 

So I kid with him, and he kids with me.  Is it a day that ends in the letter "Y?"  Yeah, it's par for the course. 

I reply, "Well, I could talk about the fine art of making love to a camel, but I don't know anything about that."

That's when Ahmed lost his shit.  And might I say, his accent only got stronger as he got madder.  He started yelling, "Fuck, fuck, fuck this guy!  Fuck this guy!  Talking about making love to a camel!  Fuck this guy!" 

Now my co-students Gabriel and Fabian started laughing hysterically.  Not so much as what I said, but because of Ahmed's reaction to me.  Ahmed complained to Daniel, and Daniel said, "Oh yeah, Adrian went too far."  Which only made Gabriel and Fabian laugh harder.

Our Instructor, Raul, said, "Yeah, let's not go there."  He was trying to calm the situation down.  I can't blame him.  I know I had pushed some buttons.  So I lay off, and keep my mouth shut.

Ahmed starts telling Daniel that, "He (Ahmed) was balding, but at least he didn't have a stupid thing sticking out of the back of his head."  He was making fun of my hair in a ponytail.  I let it go.

So the day ends, and I let go home with no further incidents.  The next day I arrived to school early, and saw Ahmed on the benches outside.  I walked up to him, and told him I apologized for what I said yesterday.  He told me, "Save your breath.  I don't want to hear it."  I tried to say I was only trying to joke with him, but he then actually walked away from me. 

So I figured he wanted some space, so I gave him some.  I did mention to our Instructor about what happened, and that he probably shouldn't put us together in a study group any time in the near future. 

So it does make it a bit awkward at school.  I just ignore him mostly.  The funny thing is, I never got to ask him one question. 

Does he prefer his camels with one hump?

or two?

Friday, October 21, 2016

The Voodoo That You Do

Last year I wrote about putting wheels on one of my speaker cabinets.  It's the cabinet that I pair with my Crate Blue Voodoo.  Here's the link to it:

The Crate Blue Voodoo was the first 6L6 amp that I really liked.  I can hear the cork sniffing musicians yelling, "Then you must not have very good taste!"  I liked the Blue Voodoo for a different reason than a lot of players.  It was meant to be a metal amp, and was endorsed by punk and metal artists so that's what most people think of when they mentioned. 

I was looking for a Fender sound with bite.  Fender amps have that classic American rock sound, and I wanted that with an edge.  The Blue Voodoo can do that wonderfully, but only if you do a few things.  The first edition of the Blue Voodoo cabinet came with Celestion Vintage 30 speakers.  I'm not a fan of those speakers, but they were a great match for the Blue Voodoo.  The Blue Voodoo has a strong treble end, but lacks in mids and bass.  The Vintage 30 speakers have really fat mids so it filled out the sound. 

The big thing I keep reading on guitar forums is players asking if it sounds like a Marshall.  I wish I could yell at them, "NO!"  A majority of Marshalls use EL-34 tubes which are different than the 6L6 tubes.  Marshalls are known for the "British" sound, and 6L6 based tube amps (Fender) are known for the American rock sound. 

One of the biggest factors in adjusting the sound of a Blue Voodoo is pairing it with the right speakers.  Like I said, it has a lot of highs, but lacks mids and bass.  So I decided to pair it with an American sounding (Fender type) speaker instead of a Celestion (British) sounding speaker.  The American sounding speakers are smoother, balanced, not as bright, and have a medium breakup.  They would help me achieve my goal of having a "hot-rodded Fender" sound.

I found where Carvin was having a blow out sale on their "Vintage" speakers.  Their "Vintage" speakers were basically their version of Eminence "American" voiced speakers.  So it was exactly what I wanted.  I ordered four of them, and installed them in an old Laney cabinet.  I played a few different heads through the cabinet, and it sounded great immediately.  The Blue Voodoo paired awesomely with these speakers.  A lot of speakers need time to be broken in, but these were great right out of the box. 

But my sound wasn't perfect.  I had problems dialing in my sound.  Either the amp was too clean, and then it went straight into angry bee sound without any breakup in-between.  And that in-between is my sound.  I want it to sound like a "hot rodded" Fender.  I don't want to go into heavy metal territory.  If you ever heard Lynyrd Skynyrd live, that's the kind of sound I was going for. 

I was watching a YouTube video on things you could do to make your Fender amp sound better, and they talked about something I hadn't really heard before.  Pretty much all amps use 12AX7 pre-amp tubes.  They are the crunchiest pre-amp tubes available.  However, that doesn't mean they are musical. 

I was reading about other pre-amp tubes that could be used.  Namely, the 12AY7 had a lot less gain, and would allow a player to have a wider selection of gain.  It would also keep the amp from being too loud at lower settings.  Most players know what I mean.  On "1" the amp can barely be heard.  On "2" it's blowing out the windows.  The 12AY7 would still allow you to be loud.  You would just have to turn your amp volume up to "5" instead of "2." 

Most musicians know that feeling when the volume difference between "3" and "10" is nil.  It's annoying and doesn't help you at all.  By replacing the 12AX7s with 12AY7s you can have more useable gain and volume.  However, that's not the only benefit of the 12AY7.

The 12AY7 is also a more "musical" tube.  It has more warmth, and it's not as harsh as the 12AX7.  It's also has a "fatter" tone, something that my amp needs.  Again, since the Blue Voodoo has a lot of treble, but lacks in mids and bass, the 12AY7 is perfect.  It dials back the treble, and boosts the mids and bass.  In other words, it's balancing the amp out while helping to take out the fizziness and sterile sound that a lot of players complain about. 

So I decided to replace the tubes.  I won't go into the technical part of it, but the first pre-amp tube is the most important.  The gain comes from it while the other tubes "mirror" it.  However, the Blue Voodoo has four pre-amp tubes instead of three like most amps.  So I decided to replace the first two pre-amp tubes with 12AY7s. 

Luckily, the Blue Voodoo is easy to work on.  Just remove four screws, and the back comes off.

In go the pre-amp tubes.

Now I plug in and test her out.

I have to say, it took a bit to dial in "my tone."  On channel 2 (the gain channel,) I had to max out the bass since it was so weak.  I'm not a guy who usually uses much bass, but just to balance it I had to max it out.  I also had to boost the mids.  Luckily, I didn't have to boost them as much as I had before.  I dialed the treble back to four, and that seemed to be the right spot for it.  I put the presence knob right in the middle at 12 o'clock.  I could still get harmonics, but not be too bright.  Adjusting the EQ like that lead to a pretty balanced sound.

Next I adjusted the volume.  I could actually put it on "3" without it taking my head off due to the decibel level.  I played with the gain, and found I could get all sorts of rock n' roll sounds.  It just depended upon how crunchy I wanted it.  I have to say, I got it right where I wanted it.  I ended up playing it so much I drove everyone from the room. 

I then tested out channel 1 (the clean channel.)  The new tubes made a huge difference on the clean channel.  When you read reviews about how the Blue Voodoo is a "sterile sounding" amp, the clean channel is where you can really notice it.  However, the 12AY7's livened up the sound as well as helping with the warmth.  I think channel one was actually helped more than channel 2 by the tube change.

I'll admit, I am considering changing the other two pre-amp tubes to 12AY7s.  I don't know if it would change the sound much, but I'll admit I am a bit curious.  But I have to look at the big picture.  I am happy that I have been able to adjust the overall sound of the Blue Voodoo to "my sound."  Although I have to admit, I don't really know of any places you can really play a 100 watt head through a 4X12 cabinet anymore.  It's all coffee shops and small clubs.  Even if I can't play out with it, I can still have fun with it around the house.