Change Of Life

I have a new job. One that requires me to spend about 50% of my time on the road. So far I hate it. Because, you know, 50% is like half. This is going to seriously reduce my wood shop production. And, until I can purchase a laptop and get it set up, the only way I can blog from the road is via e-mail drive-by like this one.

I have spent most of the past week stuck in the eternal traffic jam that is Austin, Texas. You couldn’t pay me enough to live here permanently.

It has been a very wet Spring in Austin, and as a result, all the disc golf courses are muddy and sporting knee-high grass. It was already not much fun to wade around in it looking for my discs, and it became even less so after I stepped on a snake about as big around as my forearm.

So this morning I set out early to beat the traffic and find an alternate source of exercise. I found myself on a walking trail around Lady Bird Lake in downtown Austin. It didn’t look like a very big lake so I decided to walk/jog all the way around. Upon later googling, I learned it is over 10 miles around that lake. It took about two hours to make it back to my little econo-box rental car, limping and badly chafed. I think I’m going back to the snakes.

Updates

I’ve been neglecting the old blog again lately, mostly because I’ve been busy doing other things, but I have to admit, part of the reason is I don’t have much to say because I am still doing my level best to ignore the election craziness. We had to stop answering the landline here on the estate over a month ago because of all the robo-calls and automated polling. I just don’t want, or need, to stay engaged with the election process for the better part of a year.

This coming Saturday, April 9th, will be the one-year anniversary of getting my fingers tangled up in my router. To mark the occasion, I thought I would share an update on my franken-fingers. Here is a photo, taken moments ago with my new phone, which has a camera purported to be the greatest thing since sliced pickles.

IMG_0005

Can you see how much clearer and sharper that photo is than the ones I took with my previous phone? Yeah, me neither. As for the fingers, they are never going to be pretty, but they are pretty functional. And they don’t hurt much any more, just feel sort of numb-tingly all the time. Unless I bang them into something or get them cold; they definitely do not like cold weather. All things considered, I feel fortunate that I didn’t have to get all my various types of gloves (work, motorcycling, snow-shoveling) tailored. That would have been inconvenient.

Since I’m already chronicling my wood shop fuck-ups, I might as well tell you about my latest travails with the Potatocaster. It was just a few posts ago that I said I was in the home stretch on this thing, beginning final assembly. Well… not so much. I ran into a problem with the finish on the body. During assembly, I noticed that every time I slightly bumped the body with a tool or anything hard it would chip. (It’s not supposed to do that.)

The cool thing about spraying a lacquer finish is that each coat melts into the previous coats, and you gradually build a nice, thick, durable surface. For some reason — I suspect it was because I used some old lacquer I had on the shelf — the two coats of blue that I sprayed over the first seal coats did not melt in. As a result, those two coats of blue and the subsequent 10 or 12 coats of clear could flake right off. Which they proceeded to do.

I had to scrape the entire body down, sand it back to bare wood, and start the whole finishing process over again with a fresh can of lacquer. (And a bit of a chapped ass.) So I have re-erected my knock-down spray booth. Here is another photo from my snazzy new phone.

IMG_0002

At least this time I knew to take it easy on the blue pigment. It’s much closer to the faded blue jean look I had originally envisioned. The wood grain is much more visible now too. If you look closely you can see some blotchy areas that are a little darker than the rest. I’m still trying to fix that, but I may have to live with it. I am not sanding this thing down again. Anyway, after a dozen or so coats of clear over the next few days, and then a week of curing, I will be ready to buff it out and assemble yet another guitar I can’t play.

A Question

Something weird happened to me at my polling place today. I walked in with the intention of choosing a Republican ballot to waste my vote for the presidential primary on John Kasich, the reasonably sane, but not really, it just looks that way because everyone else in the GOP field is crazier than a shit-house rat candidate. But at the last minute I chose a Democratic ballot, quickly filled in the bubble for Ghostface Hilz, and fed the card into the electronic reader. I’m still not sure why I did that. Maybe I just wanted to help finish putting Bernie out of his misery.

But that’s got nothing to do with my question. For weeks I have been all over the intertoobz reading story after story after story about how the reality teevee guy has harnessed all the angry voters across Amurka, and that really does seem to be true. My question is this: What happens to all that anger when the inevitable happens? What happens when the Donald loses to Hillary in the general election or, FSM forbid, he gets elected preznit and then can’t deliver on all the outrageous promises he has made to those angry voters? Where does the anger go? From my viewpoint, what this nation desperately needs right now is a spite bleeder valve.

Leap Day Ramble

Due to the fraction generated when calculating how many revolutions of the earth occur during one orbit around the sun, it is technically still February today. But it sure feels like Spring here in Misery. The temperatures have been up and down like a yo-yo, everywhere from the 30s to the 70s, playing havoc with my sinuses and fooling the trees into budding early. The birds are getting pretty active around here too, but I can’t help thinking Winter will pull another drive-by on us.

I’m currently giving my hands and shoulders a break from wet sanding the PotatoCaster neck. I should have it ready to buff out by the end of the day. Then I can attach it to the body and begin shaping a nut.

Tomorrow is what is known in the politicking game as “Super Tuesday.” Several states hold their primary elections on the same day, and all indications are that Ghostface Hillah and reality teevee guy will extend their leads. It looks like the Republican establishment has just about reached the final stage of their grief and begun accepting the Donald as their likely nominee. It should be fun, over the next few months, watching the pundits who — rightly — denounced him for the xenophobic, fascist, racist, misogynist, egotistical buffoon he is publicly talk themselves into supporting him.

But what other choice do they have? Ted Cruz is a god-bothering asshole that even his friends don’t like, and Marco Rubio is nothing more than a telegenic parrot. Granted, that is normally considered a good thing in Republican politicians, but anyone with a functioning brain can see, in a debate with Hillary, Marco is going to be exposed as a 2.5-watt appliance bulb in a Xenon world. We’re talking dim, son, dim. (/Foghorn Leghorn)

I don’t believe in karma, but sometimes you really do reap what you sow. The Republican establishment, with the aid of the right-wing noise machine, has spent the last 7 years proclaiming to their rabid base that Michelle’s husband was hell-bent on destroying Amurka, and now they seem genuinely befuddled as to why that base is pissed off at them for not doing anything about it. The right-wing base may be “poorly educated” but they are smart enough to realize the establishment doesn’t really believe the accusations they throw around to get elected. The scary thing is, the right-wing base does believe the bullshit. Every word of it.

So, keeping in mind that my political prediction skills are non-existent somewhat limited, here’s how I see this election going down. Hillz will carry about 45 states in giving reality teevee guy an epic beat-down, and on her coat-tails the Democrats will re-take control of the Senate. Then, upon taking office, she will nominate Michelle’s husband for the empty Supreme Court seat the Republicans refused to fill. All around the country, Republican heads will pop like teenager’s zits. It will be glorious to behold.

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.

IMG_0035

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.

IMG_0033

IMG_0032

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.

IMG_0030

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.