Uberbike has left the building. Last weekend I spent a good bit of time cleaning up the garage, which was cluttered with stuff we’d thrown in last fall. Uberbike was sitting in the back, on two flat tires, holding up the soft top for the Scout, and looking sad. We haven’t ridden it in three years, and now that Jen has a bike and Finn is supposed to learn how to ride her new bike, a tandem is pretty useless. I decided it needed a new home. On a whim, I posted it to Craigslist at best offer, and figured I’d get a random inquiry or two. What I got was multiple emails within 6 hours from several very interested parties. One guy kept at me all week until we could schedule his brother to come and pick it up, and he gave me $100 for it this evening. Goodbye Uberbike; may you ride long into the future.
On Monday I stopped into our local music store to pick up a new set of nicotine-free strings, and poked around the bass section to see what they had. Looking through the inventory there, it affirms the fact that I got a screaming good deal on this bass, even if it’s smelly, beat up, and not original; every MIM bass I’ve seen for sale on CL before and since is more than twice what I paid. I walked back to the string section and asked the dude behind the counter if he could identify what I had (he couldn’t) so I got a set of Ernie Ball medium-weight roundwounds for it. While I was there, I browsed a box of half-off bass strings and found a set of Rotosound 606s for the Steinberger. I’ve always played GHS Bass Boomers on that bass, and haven’t tried a new brand in 20 years, so I thought it was too good a deal to pass up.
The Ernie Balls are good, but they don’t have the warm, meaty tone of the unknown strings it came with, and they don’t feel as smooth to my hands. I kept the originals and I’m going to try again to find what brand they are when I have a little more time, because I like them that much.
I also got a package in the mail from Shenzhen, China, with two foldable focus adjustment tools for my lenses. There is a setting in most modern prosumer DSLRs which can fine-tune the focus point for each particular lens you mount; the camera knows which one you’re using and stores the settings for that particular lens. Last weekend I spent Saturday morning with a cup of coffee and a table full of lenses, adjusting each one with the D7000 and storing the data. It looked to me like the primes were the most out of register, especially the 50mm f/1.8, but I think I’ve got to do some more fine-tuning in direct sunlight and at a different focal distance to be sure.
Who loves sushi and knows how to use chopsticks? My daughter, that’s who.
I’ve been playing the Jazz bass for at least an hour every night I can. It’s a completely different experience from the Steinberger, something I can’t describe, but it feels faster, more precise. I can get around the frets faster, because the neck is thinner, and landing the notes with no buzz (except for the low E) is easier. I have to wonder what might have happened if I hadn’t started out with a big old funk bass and had traded up to a P-bass in high school. Would I have been discouraged less and practiced more? Possibly. This thing is crying out for a good setup, so now that this coming weekend is a little less filled, I’ll see if I can carve out some time to tune it up.
I’m starting a small side project with the dribs and drabs of free time I’ve got, which should combine an idea I’ve had for years with a new approach I hadn’t considered. Will this be another thing I mention here and never get to, or will I complete it? Let’s see.
I visited on opthamologist last Friday to look at my left eye, which has been cloudy in the center for a couple of months. Scared I might have cataracts or retina issues, I got it checked out. The eye doctor was very patient with me (I don’t like things near my eyes) and did all the normal tests. It turns out I’m dealing with posterior vitreous detachment, which basically means I’ve got a non-vision threatening change in the goo that makes up my eyeball. The opthamologist said it should work itself out in the next couple of months, but to come back in next year to check things out.
“I’d jump his bewns.” Jen and I still quote this to each other.
“That thing is the Citizen Kane of wasted teenage metalness,” says Rick Ballard, who makes a brief appearance as part of a gang yelling curses at the moviemakers.
Heavy Metal Parking Lot is like a live-action recreation of my high school yearbook: the faces, hairstyles, and attitudes are almost identical, even though the accents are pure Dundalk. Previously, previously.
As one of my goals for 2016, I resolved to pick up my bass and guitar and start playing regularly again. The bass is an easier lift, because I can keep it quiet through headphones with the practice amp Santa gave me last year when the girls are in bed. As a result I’ve been playing a lot the last couple of months, and it feels great.
As I normally do with things I’m interested in, I’ve had Craigslist alerts watching used Fender basses for years now. My budget is very low, so I haven’t actively pursued anything, but I came close about four years ago when a guy in Baltimore was selling a MIJ Precision Bass for $150. He sold it before I could make it out to his house.
Last week I found out about a used Jazz Bass on Craigslist in DC and I asked my coworker to check it out for me. He went to the guy’s house on his way to band practice (ha!) and looked it over. Everything checked out (he’s pretty knowledgeable about instruments) so he picked it up for me.
It’s a 1997 made in Mexico Deluxe Series, based on the serial number, with a black body and tortoiseshell pickguard. Deluxe means it was made with active pickups, but the previous owner removed those and replaced them with a set of Fender Noiseless pickups and standard Jazz electronics. The battery plate on the back is held on with two pieces of clear tape, and the jack in the side of the body is disconnected (and held in with a wood screw). The bass has been beat up pretty good; there’s a chip out of the headstock, a good sized ding in the bottom, and a bit of buckle rash on the back side.
It’s strung with a set of roundwounds that only buzz on the E, so the action needs to be adjusted, but the neck is straight and it plays well. The neck itself is fast–it’s thinner than my Steinberger neck, actually, at the same length, but the Steinberger has two more frets. (I was always under the impression the Steinberger was short scale, but I was mistaken). It’s fast and light, which is amazing for a bass its size–I’ve been playing a headless bass for over 20 years, so it takes getting used to. The sound is rich and the tone is beautiful. In fact, there are several songs I’ve played where the tone I’m getting is almost exactly what was recorded.
The biggest issue is that it absolutely stinks of nicotine. The PO was obviously a heavy smoker, so the gig bag and the strings reek of smoke. I wiped the wood down with Murphy’s Oil Soap last night, but I’ve got to take the strings off and wipe the front of the neck down to get more of the yuck off. The bag is hanging out on the back porch, and will be, for the next week or so. Hopefully the sun and the air will pull some of the smoke out.
Now I’m trolling YouTube for instructional videos on how to set up guitars, which I’ll get to in the coming weeks. It needs a new set of strings for sure, so I’ll walk or ride down to Bill’s Music and see if they can tell me what’s on it right now, because I like them despite their stink.
To catch up on the last few weeks, our refrigerator is fixed. We know a guy who knows a guy who fixes things as a side job, and so we called to have him come out. A huge guy named Dave showed up on the doorstep in a worn biker’s jacket and West Coast Choppers hat, and politely got down to business with the balky fridge. Within minutes he had the icemaker out, the back panel off the freezer, and had identified the culprit as the pusher fan which moves cold air from the freezer down to the fridge. The ball bearings had frozen up so it wasn’t doing its job. He neatly stacked the extra parts back in the freezer, made some calls, and had a new unit installed the next afternoon.
The furnace is fixed as well. There was another bad part that needed to be replaced, and the guys who came out to work on it had it diagnosed in minutes. I do have to call them back to have it adjusted, though, because it’s filling the basement with the smell of gas. The second guy gave me a bit of good advice about the tile in the basement, too–apparently if you measure floor tiles there’s a good chance you can tell if they’re made with asbestos by their size. And yes, ours have asbestos. Yay!
Jen took me for my birthday dinner to Woodberry Kitchen in Hampden, and we got to pretend we were adults for an evening. The food was excellent, the cocktails were delicious, and my company was beautiful. Brown liquor isn’t my best friend, but after a Manhattan, an Old Fashioned, and two vodka cocktails with names I can’t recall, I had a minor hangover on Saturday. We hit Eggspectations for brunch and spent the afternoon shopping in preparation for Easter dinner at the house next weekend with Rob and Karis and Barrett flying in from St. Louis on Friday.
Also, I haven’t forgotten about this. It’s just that they came out a LOT smaller than I thought they would. I’m going to get a new set ordered in the spring, and then I will send them along to you, friends.
As with last year, I’ve got a list of stuff I’d like to get accomplished this year. Last year’s list was pretty successful, in that I got most of it done or at least attempted, and it was handy to refer back to. So, this year’s list, in order of things that will most likely get done to the longshots:
Adjust the Tuffy console forward 2″. It gets in the way of folding and tumbling the rear seat. But that’s it. It’s just an annoying 2-person job.
Flip the rear seatbelts 180˚. I put them in backwards when I finished the bedliner project, and they are harder to feed through the seats. This is also an annoying 2-person job, or one guy and a vice grip.
Rebuild spare carb. It’s been sitting on my shelf for four years. I’d like to get a kit for it and have it ready and waiting.
Install Hydroboost. Yep, carried over from last year. I’m going to bribe Bennett with some beer and pizza and have him help me with this over the summer.
Replace the windshield. I priced out a new one from Safelite, and they are about $300. The gasket is another $70 from Super Scout Specialists. The question is: is the frame on the truck in good enough shape, or should I sand and refinish one of my spares? Either way, the one I’ve got is a mess and it’s time for a replacement.
Buy kick panel sheet metal and doglegs. Just to have on hand. I’ve got a passenger’s front dogleg I hacked out of the brown forest Scout six years ago with a Sawzall; I just need to sand the paint off, drill the spotwelds out and separate it from the body metal.
Buy new road tires. The BFG’s I’ve got are in great shape and have lots of tread left. And they look cool. But they’re louder than a jet engine. I’ve got a set of stock 15″ steelies with dry-rotted tires I could mount a quieter road-going set on, and perhaps sell the M/T’s to someone who might use them. I’d like to keep my black wagon rims though. The trick is to find a narrow set of 32s so that it doesn’t look like I put toy wheels on. Seems like most 32s come 11.5″ or wider. Cooper Discoverers are very road-looking, while BFG T/A KO2s are more aggressive. I can actually get these from Amazon in 10.5“, but I don’t have $750 for that laying around yet. [BP search link]
Rebuild the top end of the spare engine. Far off in the future, but still something I’d like to start preparing for. First up is a decent stand to mount it on.
There are few things I’ve ever done regularly for 15 years. You’re looking at one of them. When I started this weblog on a boring March afternoon in 2001, I had no idea that I’d stick with it for this long, or that it would become the chronicle of my life from that point onward. It was a sick shade of ocher brown, carried over from my homepage at the time, which was colored to match my illustration mailings in an attempt at branding.
In 2001, I was thirty, working in an office in Washington, D.C. I had no concept of the changes life would have in store for me. In the years since, I’ve gotten engaged, married, and had a beautiful child with the woman I love. I’ve seen friends and family marry, gained two siblings-in-law, become an uncle to three children, and buried my paternal grandfather and namesake. I’ve also been to two continents, had six jobs, owned my own business, sold and bought a house, five cars and two Scouts.
This weblog has walked a fine line in those years. For a long time, and to this day still, I don’t make it widely known among friends or larger family. My immediate family knows about it, and most of my close friends, but I don’t cross-post to Facebook or social media often. (I do cross-post my Scout blog more than this, and as a result, the daily traffic there is much higher). It’s not in my email signature or on a business card. Why is that? I crave the likes on Instagram as much as the next guy, but I never hooked into the social media part of weblogging (I don’t even like the word Blog).
I’m interested in documenting what I do weekly but uncomfortable waving it in front of everyone I know, which feels false and vain. I’m aware that vanity is the key driver behind posting a journal online, but I’ve always been uncomfortable drawing direct attention to myself, going back to my school days of being the new kid and remaining anonymous. For the first four years it was a blind directory on my personal site, and then I bought a domain and told almost nobody about it.
Many of the weblogs that inspired me in 2001 have either gone commercial, spawned writing careers, or died off. People have moved on to social apps I pay no attention to. Most of my friends who had blogs gave up on them around the time Twitter took off. Several are still up and running, though, and show no sign of stopping; interestingly the author of one of these wrote a piece called “The Blog Is Dead, Long Live The Blog,” where he remarked that “Blogs are for 40-somethings with kids.” It’s true; I doubt any teenager in 2016 has ever seriously considered starting up a Blogger account. I often wonder what Finley will make of this when she reads through it. Most of it is pretty dull, but there are some good posts in there that will shed some light on her parents for sure. Much of my posts since her birth have been about her anyway.
I’ve got a lousy memory for dates, times, or even timespans; I usually turn to Jen to help me remember the specifics of big events, or do a search on this site to see if I mentioned it. (The other helpful tool I use is Flickr’s Camera Roll, which helps me pin down exact dates. This also makes it easier to rationalize carrying a camera everywhere). So this site has become my digital limbic system, something I wish I had for the first 30 years of my life.
It’s much harder to do long-form posts these days, as my free time is measured in chunks of minutes. I’m a great writer of facts and opinions but the artistry of writing eludes me. It takes a long time to get what I want to say down in a way I’m happy with–lots of editing cycles, rewrites, and review. This makes it hard to write well each day. Hell, I started this post two weeks ago, and I’m on the eighth edit.
When I first started, I was hand-coding the HTML, so I’d keep the document open and add to it multiple times each day. Most of my posts were Twitter-length: stuff I saw online, dumb observations. When I switched to Movable Type I started writing more long-form posts, and post once a day. I hooked up the sideblog sometime after I got WordPress running, which is the place all of the small posts go, and that category has the highest post count–almost double that of the second largest.
You can see by the chart above that my frequency goes in cycles. Seems like I fall off in December and pick up in the spring; my Flickr feed maps almost exactly to this pattern. But overall, averaging out at 18 posts a month isn’t too shabby these days. I still look forward daily to writing, taking pictures, and documenting the high points of life.
So here I am, back in an office in Washington, D.C., chronicling another day in my life on my weblog. I don’t think the internet is going anywhere, and as long as they’ll allow me to have a domain and hosting, I’ll have a website, which means in another fifteen years you’ll find me here.