Ooooh, Shiny

I spent the last two days wet sanding the PotatoCaster body all the way down to 2000 grit sandpaper. It is every bit as tedious and tiring as it sounds. Then the rewarding part — buffing — only lasts about twenty minutes. It’s just a quick pass under each of my buffing wheels, the first with medium grit buffing compound and then the second with fine. It’s fun to watch the shine appear.

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Tomorrow marks a week of curing time for the lacquer I sprayed on the neck, so unless I can find some excuse to give my neck and shoulders a break, I will have to start wet sanding on that. Barring some disaster, I should be assembling this thing in the next few days, and be shredding within a couple of weeks. If… you know… I knew how to shred.

Is Peak Wingnut Just A Dream?

For my own health and sanity, I’ve been doing my level best to avoid paying any attention whatsoever to Republican politics right now, but honestly, no matter how studiously you look away from a dumpster fire, you can still smell it. As if the presidential primary wasn’t bad enough, the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has finally given Republicans in the Senate a reason to openly take us where they’ve wanted to go all along. They are refusing to do their constitutionally mandated jobs and hold confirmation hearings for the next Supreme Court Justice… because the preznit is a Democrat. The Republicans have decided that Democrats are illegitimate as a party and are refusing to govern with them.

Meanwhile, in the aforementioned primary, reality teevee guy is still bitch-slapping all comers. Things have gotten pretty desperate for my pre-season pick. Word on the intertoobz is Jeb(!) has dragged big brother dubya away from his paint-by-numbers set to campaign for him in South Carolina. I refuse to go looking for video, just the sound of dubya’s voice would probably give me flashbacks. I might risk it if I heard he was about to start issuing apologies to the entire world — he could start with the Dixie Chicks and work his way up to Iraq — but not for his little brother’s pathetic campaign.

Seriously, Jeb(!), if you can’t crack the top 3 in this field, you need to hang it up. You are getting your ass handed to you by a reality teevee guy campaigning for Emperor, a religious nut-job campaigning for God-Emperor, and your own dumbass protégé from Florida, who only wants to be preznit because being a Senator is too much work.

From the outside looking in, it seems like the Republican party is currently destroying itself. I sincerely hope I am right about that, but I know that no matter what happens, whichever one of these furballs the rabid Republican base coughs up for the nomination, he is already guaranteed about 45% of the votes come November. And that is why I just can’t watch.

Youngs vs. Olds

Yesterday, during a round of disc golf in the rain, a friend and I had a discussion about the plight of young Americans. Actually, it started out more along the lines of two late-middle-aged guys bitching about how the kids these days don’t have any ambition, but I think we both had a little attack of empathy when the conversation drifted to how young people are turning out by the thousands to listen to, and vote for, Bernie Sanders.

I’m not sure about my friend, but I flashed back to the ’80s and how discouraging it was to be 20-something with a load of student loan debt and not much for prospects. At that age, I too would have supported someone who promised to stop letting the billionaires run the world. Hell, I like the idea now. It’s just that three decades of accumulated (earned) cynicism won’t let me even imagine the possibility that it could happen. I just hope they stay engaged in the political process when Bernie inevitably flames out.

I remember a few years ago, when my oldest daughter was busy dropping out of the U.S. Naval Academy, trying to talk her out of making the biggest mistake of her life by explaining to her the fiction of America as a class-less society, the myth that unlimited opportunity exists for all who want it and all it takes to move up in class is hard work. She was 17 and clueless. The only lesson learned was my own; the wisdom and life experience of one generation is largely meaningless to the next.

Our kids may be selfish and spoiled, but they are not blind. If they are paying attention at all, today’s youth cannot help but see that the baby-boomer generation climbed to unprecedented economic heights, and then pulled the ladders up after themselves. In the quest for corporate profits over all else, the boomer generation shipped millions and millions of manufacturing and entry-level jobs overseas, decimating the middle class and, more importantly, the path to that middle class.

What looks to us old folks as laziness and a conscious choice to live their lives at a lower socioeconomic level than their parents may not be a choice at all. Maybe it is just resignation and acceptance that they lost a rigged game. After all, what other options do they have? The America where someone could just grab a piece of land and carve out a living from it no longer exists. Even if it did, life would very much resemble that described by Thomas Hobbes in Leviathan, “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” Also the cell phone coverage would be pretty iffy.

Can’t Get No Fancy Notes On My Blue Guitar

I finally girded my loins and broke out my spray gun to put a finish on the PotatoCaster. Here are a couple of low-light photos from inside my makeshift spray booth this morning.

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It’s a little darker blue than I originally intended. I was going for a faded denim look, but it came out closer to new jeans than stone washed. See, what happened was, I thought I had a full quart of clear lacquer to work with, but it turned out I only had a little over an inch in the bottom of the can. This is my first time working with lacquer pigments, so I wanted to be very cautious and sneak up on the final color.

Of course I fucked that up.

I squirted maybe a teaspoon of blue pigment into the can and stirred. Wow! Those pigments pack a punch, don’t they? The 4-ounce bottle I bought is probably enough to paint several houses. I knew immediately it was darker than I wanted, but I already had my mask on, spray booth set up, and spray gun at the ready. I couldn’t bring myself to wait a couple of days until I could buy some more clear lacquer to dilute the color a bit. I dumped it in the spray gun and let fly.

I’m reasonably happy with the results. It’s tough to see in these dim photos, but you can still see the wood grain through the color, which is the look I was going for. Once I get 8 or 10 coats of clear on top of the blue, do a little wet sanding and buffing, I think it will be absolutely… okay.

Winter Of My Discouragement

It’s February bitchez. That means there’s a fresh …uh… face on my Bob’s Transmission Playmate calendar, and baseball Spring Training is just a couple of weeks away. The last two winters here in Misery have been pretty rough, with extended periods of bitter cold and plenty of precipitation, but so far this year, I’ve only had a snow shovel in my hand once, and for the most part, temperatures have been mild. I’ve even been riding the scoot to work some days. I’d be feeling pretty optimistic but for one thing.

A couple of hours north of here, the crazy caucasians are caucusing today. I should know better, but yesterday in the car I listened to some interviews with Iowa Trump supporters, and, as usual, I came away with that weird feeling that someone was playing a trick on me. Either I am being punked or I am on the precipice of some sort of psychotic episode. How can so many people speak so reverently about a carnival-barking, reality teevee asshole?

I’m fully aware that Republican politics have been post-factual for a while, and I’ve been arguing with religious folks most of my life, so I know people are capable of believing some truly outlandish things. But wow! The Donald has somehow tapped right into the lizard brain of our society.

At least three of the interviewees stated that the Donald was going to “take our country back.” As much as I yelled at the radio, the interviewer did not ask from whom.

One guy lamented the fact that, because of political correctness, he couldn’t talk about his white pride without being called a racist. I listened hard and I heard no laughter; I’m pretty sure he was dead serious.

One woman sounded positively giddy as she talked about how foreigners are pouring into this country to kill us, and the Donald is going to put a stop to all that. They really do believe Trump is going to build a wall tall enough to shade the desert southwest, and then send Mexico the bill for it. And apparently they believe Trump can make Mexico pay that bill through sheer force of will. (How do you say “Fuck off, Donald” in Español?)

These are the true believers, the face of the modern GOP base — undereducated, underpaid and angry, looking for some group to blame for their woes, whether it be the niggers, the Muslims, or big gummint. They are in thrall to a tough talking bully who thinks just as simply as they do, a man whose foreign policy can be boiled down to the aphorism: “If you’re not attacking, you’re losing.” These are the people who, if it weren’t for the liberal government they despise, would still be living without electricity and indoor plumbing. You know, morons.

Pronounced Mizurah

I’m still finding ways to avoid working on my PotatoCaster guitar. Something about doing an electric doesn’t hold my attention as well as the acoustic. The wife says I should shelve it, but if I do, I won’t be able to get back to it for quite a while. She’s on me to build a bed with a bench at the foot and matching nightstands, which would take all the shop time through Spring, if not longer.

I procrastinated by working on this piece commissioned by my daughter as a gift for her boyfriend. She texted me a photo of a similar one made of golden oak mounted on weathered gray planks from an old barn or something. Piece of cake, buy a pretty piece of wood and cut it to shape. I used zebra wood and mounted it on a base of dark walnut. It came out good.

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I’ve always been a very utilitarian kind of guy. Looking back over all my wood projects, going back decades, I think this may be the first time I have made something that doesn’t serve a purpose other than to be looked at. I think I’ve turned a corner here. I’m an artist now.

Global Climate Change? Hmph

It was 16 years ago today that we closed on the estate here in suburban Misery. It’s not an anniversary I normally take notice of. All those house payments have mostly just passed by in a blur. I happened to notice today because something happened which had never occurred before.

It has been raining buckets ever since Christmas night, so much rain that I-70 has been closed due to flooding. That hasn’t happened even during our typically rainy spring seasons, let alone in December. Another first, we’ve had so much rain that the groundskeeper, Butch, has had to re-drain our long-closed pool because the water level has risen up into the skimmers.

I can’t imagine how bad this weather event would be, how much snow and/or ice we would have if our temperatures were down where they normally are for this time of year. And it’s not over yet. I ventured out to the post office a bit ago and heard on the radio that we can expect as much as 3 more inches of rain today. My next wood shop project may need to be a boat. The End Times are upon us…

Start Wars, Star Warts, Something Like That

Yesterday, the wife and I caught the matinee showing of the new movie everyone is talking about. The one with all the teevee commercial tie-ins and action figure Christmas sales. Based on the crowd I saw, ranging in age from around 10 to over 70, it’s easy to understand how this movie has already broken some box office records, and seems destined to break them ALL.

I will just add my review to the pile: It’s a pretty good flick. If you enjoyed the original trilogy, this one is well worth your time.

Something I read on the intertoobz that gave me pause. In this film, Mark Hamill is one year older than Alec Guinness was in the original.

Also, too, I still can’t believe they killed off…

Into The Darkness

The winter solstice happens tonight at 10:48 PM (Misery time). At that precise moment in the Earth’s axial wobble, the northern hemisphere is tilted its farthest from the sun. It is the longest night of the year, so the good news is at least the days will begin to get longer as the wobble reverses direction. The bad news is this marks the beginning of winter.

It’s important to look on the “bright” side during this darkest part of the year. It’s officially winter, but at least the forecast for the first week or so in Misery looks pretty good. Highs in the 50s and lows mostly above freezing. Even though I have to work on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, it looks like I will be riding the scoot to and from.

The mild weather has me remembering my paternal grandmother. She was very superstitious, and always on the lookout for bad omens and signs to protect us kids from. She believed in things like carrying a buckeye for good luck, and never taking a photo with a dog, because either the person or the dog in the photo would die soon after. With her dark eyes and hair and skin, she had the look of the Cherokee that runs in our family, and a way of telling a story that made you believe in the magic. Or at least want to. When I was very young, I believed those things right along with her, simply because she told me they were true.

But by the time I reached my teens, with a head full of science and a smart mouth, I had no time for magic and mysticism. I made fun of her “old wives tales” and poked holes in her logic. She laughed right along with me (she had a great laugh), and pointed out that she had been married and divorced twice, and therefore she was an old wife. I was her first grandchild, and she spoiled me rotten, always exclaiming about how smart I was. She was uneducated, but intelligent. She understood the things I told her, but she never stopped believing in the magic. (And I have carried the same old buckeye in every truck I have owned for the last thirty-some years.)

One of Grandma’s old sayings was “Onion skins thin, mild winter coming in.” I don’t peel enough onions to be able to make a comparison, but I bet she would say the skins are looking thin this year. I wish she were around so I could tease her and ask if the rule applied in today’s global marketplace, where the onion she peeled likely came from somewhere like Peru or Chile, in the hemisphere where tomorrow is the first day of summer.

Muggins

Oh look! I have more crappy phone photos to share. I’ve completed my piece for the in-laws white elephant gift exchange.

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You can’t see it, but I have added some brown felt to the bottoms of the storage compartments in the base box I posted a photo of the other day. I’ve also added a couple of magnets to hold in place the lid I fabricated from hard maple left over from making a guitar neck. Here it is fully assembled.

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Just for style, I took a 1/8-inch drill bit and put 397 holes in a serpentine pattern on the lid. It came out pretty good. I like the contrast of the dark walnut and the blonde maple. I guess I have to get back to work on the PotatoCaster now.