Categories
Coronavirus

Sleepless No Seattle

My day goes something like this: I get up when the kids start screaming. Noise machines are usually at full force by 8:00. Sometimes it’s as early as 6:30. Sometimes we can turn on Daniel Tiger and steal another hour. Not often.

Then the kids come up with new and inventive ways to cause destruction. Today’s excitement was some shredding of our precious, precious toilet paper and then a lil playing in the potty. This came after the game of hide-and-seek in the dirty but heretofore sorted laundry piles. Usually, there’s some unfolding of the clothes we folded the previous night and an earnest suggestion that this time, daddy, can we please have pancakes and Goldfish for breakfast?

They had Goldfish for breakfast once.

Then my wife and I have a silent but urgent conversation about the necessity of coffee through a highly choreographed performance of stumbles, grunts, silent unanswered pleas for calm, and dead stares. Coffee served.

I find a great work T-shirt to pull over my sleep pants. I mean, coronavirus work pants. Time to go to work. The commute is not bad.

I then have a team meeting where the shock of my organization’s decisions over the platform I built competes heavily with the shock that people are risking their health to go into the office to test undeployable software. Coffee gets refilled. My lack of Irish defeats my desire to make it Irish. Damn you, pandemic. Foiled again.

Then I try to hide away in my new office, which used to be a guest room back in the good ole’ days when people had guests. In a silly ritual that I’ve actually grown a bit fond of, I close the door. Kids immediately open the door. If I’m on a video conference, everyone says hi to the boys. Someone on the call comments on the volume of toddler-screaming, and I apologize for forgetting to mute. Mute engaged.

Then for the rest of the workday, my team and I discuss software bugs and our rapidly-changing business priorities. Time, in this block, is mostly a theoretical concept. Food time is at hunger time. Meeting time is when Outlook says it is. Break time is when the kids do something loud and attention-getting.

I’m doing my job to the best of my ability, but at times it is awfully slow. I’m not doing any of the extras, like driving to and from the office, walking from my desk to the Team Room, getting Coke Zero, seeing if there will be any free tacos, stopping for lunch, bullshitting with co-workers, playing with equipment in the lab, verifying that the empty box of donuts is still empty, and ignoring the free salad. I miss those things.

I close my work computer at 5:00:00. On a good day, if I have planned well, the kids eat at 5:30. After twelve to fourteen uninterrupted hours of kids, bedtime starts at 8:00. Then Sarah and I clean. And clean. And clean and clean and clean. I do the dishes two or three times a day. We meal plan, do laundry, pick up toys, start some bread, talk about stalled projects and the cornucopia of anxiety-inducing issues we have to wade through, the ice-cream stash is audited and fretted over, and then we watch The Great British Baking Show. This is usually my first available time to shower. Sometimes I shower.

Then, sometime between midnight and 2:00 AM, out of tradition, we get into the bed. This is often a futile exercise because the pandemic has turned my sleep to absolute shit.

One or both of us is unable to turn off our minds and relax, and one or both of us won’t sleep. The world is so quiet that it’s distracting. There are no cars, no trains, no MARTA, no trucks, no GE plant humming, no air traffic, no nothing. A single car drives through my neighborhood and I listen to it drive across Atlanta. A single bird chirps somewhere in my yard or three houses over and I listen to their song as well. My anxiety over the world gets replaced by my anxiety over the clock. Often, it’s too late to take Benadryl or Nyquil or any little pill advertised as a “PM”. Sometimes I take them anyway, or I go to lie down in my new office. Sometimes I read about astrophysics. Sometimes I read about bread. Ok, often it’s bread.

And then I get up when the kids start screaming. Noise machines are usually at full force by 8:00. Sometimes it’s as early as 6:30. Sometimes we can turn on Daniel Tiger and steal another hour. Not often.

Categories
Coronavirus

Cabin Fever Braindroppings

Oh boy.

How’s everyone’s apocalypse going?

I have some newlywed friends that are stuck at home with just each other and their dog. Go ahead. Tell me what it’s like. Is there constant screaming whilst the sun is up? Do you get to sleep? When you have to poop does anyone bust in the bathroom crying? When you make yourself food, is it ever still hot when you get to eat it? How do you enjoy your mornings if you aren’t trying to juggle work and teach elementary school and manage a baby? Are your meal plans more Coq au Vin or Mac & Cheese & Hot Dogs? Has anyone been in Time Out? Have you put yourself in Time Out? Do you drink for fun or just because you have to?

I think the weirdest thing about the Coronavirus is that it’s going to change the world, we just don’t know how yet. I was Jonathan’s age when the Challenger blew up. I was in High School walking to French Class when the first plane hit. I graduated college in time for the financial crisis to be in full swing–the first year that GM didn’t hire anybody out of Georgia Tech. We did all right. So this is another shitty thing we have to live through, but we’ll get through it.

Most of us anyway. A lot of my family is at high risk. A lot of your family is too, I’d guess. Existential dread is an awful companion, isn’t it?

But what’s going to happen on the other side? We’ve got massive, massive organizations like The Coca-Cola Company going through a huge experiment of running the company with zero staffing at the headquarters. They’re going to get that data. What’s that data going to say? Other side of the coin, we’ve got the entire workforce experiencing working from home. How’s that going to change things?

My parent organization at Coke is Food Service on Premise, so our organization is focused on beverages in restaurant dining rooms, cafeterias, bars, offices, and schools. We’re hurting, and we’re trying to figure out ways to help our customers survive. Our business is going to change.

What about the laser focus on the quality and value of teachers? This experience has proved their worth in spades. We ought to come out of this building shrines and temples for our children’s teachers, and we need to invest in schools that we send our kids. We should pay them more and give them the respect and support they deserve.

This experience will hopefully give us a different perspective on people fleeing war and famine and disease and poverty and hardship. Fear, searching for help, striving for a safer future: they’re all human emotions. Hopefully, we’ll see more of ourselves in other people trying to improve their own situation.

Restaurants let us add beer to a take-out order now and the world hasn’t fallen apart from it. Maybe we should let that continue. And in Georgia, we’re now allowed to buy beer from a brewery. Imagine.

It’s rare, but maybe the most obvious lesson from this pandemic will come from the most obvious place. Expertise is vastly important and our medical infrastructure is critical to our survival. Maybe we will all agree that our healthcare system needs to be as strong as possible, and our current system isn’t there yet. Maybe we could stop handwringing over who has a good idea and just start implementing the good ideas. I know. LOLZ!

Our entire life has moved online. I mean, we were almost there, but now… My entire office is there. My parents are there. We’ve fired up Google Hangout for the first time. I’ve seen dinner parties through an iPad. I have a friend that attended a wedding on Facebook Live. That’s weird, right?

Anywho, that’s what I spend my time thinking about.

Categories
Magic The Gathering

My Magic The Gathering Website

I made a Magic The Gathering website.

It manages your Magic The Gathering card collection.

It’s here -> www.planeswalking.com.

I haven’t blogged in almost two years. I have an almost-two-year-old. These facts are related, and I have been quite busy. And you might not have guessed that when I finally got back to writing on my blog, that I would announce a Magic The Gathering website that I coded myself. But these are strange times, aren’t they?

It’s not super pretty. And it’s not very flashy. But it’s built to manage thousands of cards at a time. I’ve got a few bugs that I need to work out and a lot of features that I’d like to put in, but it’s operational and I think it’s pretty sweet.

And since we’re all stuck at home getting to know our family very very very well with the global pandemic and such, I thought now would be a perfect time to tell y’all about it.

It’s not a blog. It’s not necessarily a fan site. It’s a Magic card collection management system. And now I’m sitting in my house with my Magic cards, enjoying my quarantine, and figured y’all might be sitting in your house with your Magic cards as well.

Planeswalking.com was born many years ago when I was studying Information Systems for my Master’s Degree. My instructor told us that we were going to develop a dating site. I asked him if I could do literally anything else. So I set out to manage my Magic The Gathering card collection.

If you know anything about Magic, a big part of the game is giving Wizards of the Coast a lot of money, and they give you a lot of cards that look cool. I have thousands of Magic cards, which means I had no way to know what I own. I built a website that allows for very fast entries of cards so that I could quickly populate my collection into digital information that I could then use to help me build more decks and remind me about cool cards that I forgot about many years ago.

It works this way: When you create your account, there are three main views for the cards. Decks shows you your Decks. My Collection shows you cards that you have already entered. Library gives you access to any card in the game, so you start there. You select your filters, which are (currently) Expansion, Type, Subtype, Rarity, and Color, hit the “Filter” button, and you get every card that matches your filter selection.

Once the field is set, you simply click up to add to your collection. That’s it. Now you’ve added a card to your collection. Click on the “My Collection” tab to get access to all the cards that you’ve already entered. The filters are still active, so now you can filter on all your Green Creatures. Or maybe you want to find all the Zombies you own. Or maybe your Blue Instants. Or maybe every card you own from Ice Age. That’s the whole point of my site.

Another feature I built into the site is to quickly find cards to enter. For my cards that are boxed and put away, I’ve sorted them alphabetically. It’s easy to find cards that way, but you don’t store your decks alphabetically for obvious reasons. So on my site, you just simply start typing the name of the card you want and it will scroll right to it.

It works like this: Imagine you’ve got every Blue Creature in the game since Ice Age. That’s going to be a long list. You can scroll the entire list with your mouse or trackpad, but a much quicker way to find a card is to simply start typing the name of the card in front of you. Staring at Benthicore, but want to quickly scroll to Hapless Researcher? h-a-p… there it is.

And then you build decks. That functionality is pretty cool too. You can create, rename, or delete decks. You can add cards directly into a deck and your collection at the same time by holding down the SHIFT key as you click. So when you are sitting in front of the site and you’re ready to enter in a deck you’ve already built, just create the deck first, hold down SHIFT as you select the cards from the Library, then they get added to the Collection and your new Deck at the same time. Neat huh?

You can also click and drag cards into a deck and drag cards out of a deck. You can also drag cards around to “link” them in combos.

So head on over to Planeswalking.com and let me know what you think! Start with the Quick Start link. I’ve made some gifs explaining how the site works, and you know how the internet loves gifs.

Cheers!

Josh

Categories
Guitar

Guitars I Want

I was doing such a good job of getting out a post every week, and then I didn’t. I’ve been super busy. I’ve got some blog posts floating around in my head that I meant to write by now. I’m working on my garage, working on my house, work has been a bit crazy, and to this day I have practiced my guitar every single day this year. Haven’t missed one day. I took my guitar to Seattle, I’ve taken it to Ottawa, I’ve taken it to Disney World. I’ve got a pick or two in my pocket at all times, and there are portions of songs that actually sound halfway decent.

All this started out as a New Years Resolution to read something other than the news during my Executive Time, but of course I can’t stop. I have found, bewilderingly, that one of my favorite parts about re-reading my old blog posts are the little timestamps that I drop, so here we are. CIA Director Mike Pompeo just met with Kim Jong Un, Paul Ryan quit, Congresscritters that lost their minds when Obama said that Cambridge police acted “stupidly” whilst arresting Harvard professor Henry Gates, which culminated in The White House Beer Summit, are now completely silent about presidential attacks on FBI Director Untruthful Slimeball, Michael Cohen’s law office got raided, Zuckerberg had a booster seat for his Senate apology tour, and Seth Myers delivered his baby in his building lobby. What a time to stop drinking.

Things that don’t involve Washington are much more agreeable to my mental health. So, I started exploring what there is to explore in the way of guitar info online. There’s a lot. A LOT! I had no idea. I have spent a lot of time on Ultimate Guitar looking at tabs, since, well, Ultimate Guitar started putting out tabs, and I used to get guitar magazines way back in the day. Middle School? High School? It’s been a while. But I am a bit surprised about just how much is written about just about every aspect of everything to do with guitars and music. It’s blissfully overwhelming.

I have found that when I type in /r/guitar instead of news.google.com, I have a much greater chance of being thoroughly entertained. A lot of that entertainment comes from looking at gear that I want. Now, picking a guitar out of a catalog is a lot like buying a car without driving it, but that’s fine. In my mind, they’re all amazing and I’m Eric Clapton. Here’s some of my more oddball favorites.

PRS John Mayer Silver Sky

Totally not a Stratocaster

Look again. Check the bird inlays and the 3-by-3 headstock. That’s a Paul Reed Smith John Mayer Silver Sky. People that care about these sorts of things passionately hate this guitar, and I can’t decide if I hate it or love it. I think it’s both, which is why I want one.

Here’s the beef: John Mayer was a Fender artist. Now, to back up a couple steps, when I want a guitar, I go to a music store, I impress the salesman with my maad skilz, and he tells me not to scratch it and offers it to me for the low low price of whatever’s on the sticker. If John Mayer wants a guitar, he used to just call his buddy at Fender and they’d send him 20. John used to get free Strats, specified any way that he wants it, Fender gets their guitar in John’s hands, people in the audience think they’ll be able to pick up girls playing Your Body is a Wonderland, which is probably true, and Fender sells a lot of guitars. Especially Artist Series guitars. So, about 3 years ago, John Mayer had a public break with Fender and signed on as a Paul Reed Smith artist. Two and a half years of close development between luthier and artist gets you… a Fender Stratocaster. And it’s expensive! $2200. You can spend whatever you want on a Stratocaster of course, but unless you get to the Custom Shop, your Strat is probably going to be considerably cheaper than John’s PRStrat.

Esoterik DR1 (Natural)

Gah this thing looks so cool! They have a matte black version, but I just love the look of the wood. Just look at it! Esoterik started as a Kickstarter to make the Ultimate Guitar, which, you know, there are some pretty good guitars out there. But, they had a cool design and people dug it, so these mad geniuses Kickstarted their way into the business.

Esoterik doesn’t make downmarket or midmarket models, so you pick the setup you want and they fill it out with all top-notch hardware. The guitar and neck are one layered piece which looks freakin’ cool. I love the way the strings come through the front, I love the bridge, I love the Seymour Duncan pickups, the wicked headstock. Just so cool.

Every one of these guitars are set up just for you in the factory, so you get to pick what you want. There’s about a 6 month wait for these, and they’re only a grand. Or, half a John Mayer Notacaster.

Parker Fly Mojo Flame

I want a purple guitar. But I’d take their green or black, if you can find one. Parker Fly’s are mostly only sold in specialty mom-and-pop distributors. There are none in Atlanta, but next time I’m in Seattle, I’m stopping by at Northwest Guitars and I’ll report back.

Parker Fly guitars are unique in that the necks are reinforced with carbon fiber, so they’re (relatively) super thin. Fretboard is carbon fiber and the frets are glued on. I used to watch a guitar instructor shred a Parker Fly online, I forgot his name, but it was before YouTube. I’m pretty sure it was a subscription service that I paid for. He was affiliated with an awesome program that I loved, now discontinued and forgotten, called Guitar Vision. It was kinda like Guitar Pro except that it would walk you through finger placements. I love Guitar Pro, but it’s still not the same. I digress…

I’ve loved the cool look of Parker Fly since the days that I had a poster of a Lamborghini Countach on the wall of my bedroom. Nothing was good enough for Parker Fly, so they made their own tuners, bridge, tremelo set, everything. The only thing not custom to a Parker Fly on a Parker Fly are the strings. Nobody can work on it, you have to send it to Parker Fly for a simple fret job, but, come on. Look at it. It’s gorgeous. Which brings me to…

Duesenberg Starplayer Custom

It’s a Doozy.

Before I die, I am going to have a gold-on-black f-cut hollow body guitar. Seriously. BB King’s Lucille (Gibson ES-355, right about 4 grand) is beautiful of course, but there is nothing in that category more gorgeous than this Duesenberg Starplayer Custom. It tips the scales at $2700, or in other words, just a Stratocaster north of John’s guitar.

All I need now is more money, more wall space, more talent, and more time to play. And then maybe I’ll take a spin in a new Silver Sky Ferrari.

John Mayer’s Ferrari

Categories
New House

Garage Mahal – New Foundations

My garage is the cleanest it’s ever been. Hopefully it won’t stay that way for long.

Yesterday, I had Garage Floor Coating of Atlanta start the very last step in installing my epoxy flooring. Specifically, they started installing my epoxy flooring. It’s been a very long time coming. We rented a Pod sometime in November to start unloading the garage. I kept the junk in my Pod relatively accessible – I had an aisle in it so I could get stuff off the shelves, stack stuff on my workbench, put in and get out Charlie’s toys. Well, no longer.

It all fit! Kinda.

With drizzling rain and temperatures in the mid-30’s, it wasn’t the most perfect day to spend many of the earliest hours out in the driveway cleaning out the last of the garage, but I did it.

This step is the reason I hired this job out. They finished in about 30 minutes. It would have taken me a weekend.

The crew rolled up in my driveway at 9:20 AM and immediately got to work. Two generators, a diamond grinder, vacuums, more vacuums, tape, buckets, and gear. This was not their first rodeo. 8 minutes after the van backed up the driveway, they were cutting concrete. Pretty slick. One of the guys asked me for some water for dust collection, so I brought around my hose, disconnected my plant sprayer nozzle thing, broke up and knocked out the ice chunks, and got the water flowing. It was easy to tell when the hose was cleared because the groundwater was a tropical 40ish degrees. Practically a hot tub.

The grinding is essential for two reasons. It flattens any bumps in the floor and it gives a good surface for the epoxy to adhere. The only way any of these flooring companies guarantee their product is if you grind the concrete first. According to all my friends at the race track, and all the pro’s I’ve contacted about the job, the secret to a floor that won’t come up it is floor prep, floor prep, and floor prep. They did good floor prep. And I hope I never ever ever ever have to do this again.

Floor’s all prep’d. The next most important ingredient for good epoxy flooring is epoxy. Again, these guys knew what they were doing. They had 2 coats of this stuff down in about 30 minutes. Giant roller, good tape, and lil’ spikey shoes so that they didn’t paint themselves into a corner.

From the photo, it seems like the floor matched the walls pretty closely. It’s a lot peachier in person. No worries though, doesn’t last long.

So after the peachy tan epoxy got rolled all over the floor, it was time to flake. Now, during the research that I did on the flake, all these epoxy suppliers like to sell you options of 10% flake, 25% flake, 50%, flake, etc. etc. You know what these guys do? 100% flake to rejection. Sounds neat, even premium. But the reason they do that is because it looks great and it’s super easy. They had the entire floor covered in about 5 minutes. They had 6 5-gallon buckets full of flake and just threw it everywhere. They’ll reclaim what doesn’t stick, so they have minimal product loss too. Again, pros.

First bucket.

Five minutes later, the floor was completely covered. All “light” spots were re-cast. There’s probably a half inch of flake on the floor. Next, they pulled off their tape and left me some really clean lines. I’m impressed.

Srsly, like five minutes later.

This is what the garage floor looked like when they rolled out of the driveway at 11:28. 2 hours from start to finish. If I haven’t impressed how impressed I am yet, know that I am thoroughly impressed.

Another thing that surprised me: I was absolutely convinced that an entire garage-sized floor coated in epoxy would be noxious. Sarah and Charlie were planning to be out of the house, but it turns out that I’ve used wood stains that were more offensive. I mean, I’m not hanging out in the garage smelling fumes and our door works and such, but I was surprised that it’s barely noticeable in the house.

The epoxy is now curing, and at any minute, the crew is going to return to sweep up the flake that didn’t stick, polish the flake that did, and lay down a nice rock-hard clear coat. That will have to dry for a good 24-48 hours, probably toward the longer end of that range being that the temperature is stubbornly staying in the high 20’s today, but at least it will warm up enough to deliver a nice thunderstorm this evening. I want to put my fridge and my big tools back in the garage beforehand, but that’s not going to happen. I hope Lowe’s has tarps.

Josh

Categories
Guitar Travel

Lugging Guitar Luggage

I went to Seattle. I did not look at the news. Not once.

Well, kinda not once. They deliver USA Today in nice neat little piles to a table right outside the elevator. I did glance at the pile of sadness to make sure we hadn’t nuked anybody. I saw something about the Government being opened back up for another 3 weeks and that’s it. No news.google.com. No Washington Post app. I was damn proud of myself.

I’ve been to Seattle many many times, and this was actually the first time I got “Seattle” weather. Every other time I’ve been convinced that Seattle’s reputation as a rainy, cold, and dreary land of sadness is just a myth perpetuated by Evergreen State residents in an attempt to keep people vacationing in season-proof Los Angeles. Every other time I’ve been it’s been absolutely gorgeous, except for the fact that the sun sets at 3:30 in December. But crap weather or not, I just absolutely love Seattle. Where else can you eat dinner in a restaurant that used to be a funeral home? There may be more places out there, but only one restaurant where Bruce Lee was laid to rest.

Get the Garlic Chèvre Cheese Dip. It’s to die for.

I had a DOOM Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout and a Dead Man’s Game Oak-Aged Blended Ale. I passed on the Very Stable Genius IPA, and I do not recommend the Jewbelation 21 Anniversary Ale.

I knew the weather was going to be bad for exploring, so I brought my guitar with my nearly unused guitar case with my bright yellow Re-Elect President Carter 2004 sticker blazoned across the front. I felt a little silly walking through the airport with my giant guitar case. I mean, normal things in the airport are a luggage-shaped carry-on, a day bag, a grocery bag, a stroller, a car seat, and maybe an expensive puppy in an even more expensive bag. But guitars? I walked into the airport convinced that all eyes would be on me and my peculiar luggage going through Hartsfield-Jackson, as if I were wearing finger-toed shoes. But as I ventured through Atlanta and Seattle with 50,000 of my closest friends, literally nobody cared. I had one eagle-eyed TSA agent ask me if that was a guitar, and one other dude carrying his guitar gave me the nod. Not the enthusiastic two-guys-driving-Corvettes nod, but the brother-in-arms-driving-Honda-Elements nod. We know we’re out of our element. Feeling irrelevant. We also both know we’ll be out of the airport soon. And we made it. I clearly built it up in my head.

I played. A lot. Not as much as I would have hoped, honestly. I did a lot of Guitar Stuff – I checked out the Tone Report. I went to a music shop looking for a Vox Amplug, didn’t find one, but decided I might need the new Fender Mustang GT40 amp in my life at some point. I watched some videos. I bought some tabs on Guitar Pro. But I was actually struggling to play the guitar. It went something like this: I played a bit, it sounded terrible, so I put it down. Then, I’d remind myself that I lugged this thing 2600 miles and the weather is too crappy for exploring, so I’d pick it back up and practice some chord transitions. That would remind me that I sounded terrible. Rinse. Repeat. I told myself that I couldn’t stop until my fingers hurt, so that’s what I did, and now I have a guitar-string-shaped bruise on my middle finger. Success!

The sub-par guitar playing was mostly my fault, but not entirely my fault. Jeremy’s Stratocaster plays a lot better. My Strat’s action was way high, it buzzed all over the place, and fretting even a D chord would bring the guitar out of tune. That, and I’ve wanted to upgrade the original plastic nut with a bone nut since I found out such things could be changed. I came home and picked up Jeremy’s guitar and man. Night and day, and proof it wasn’t all in my head.

I fired up the Googler and found a shop I liked and made the pilgrimage up to Southeast Guitar Repair. They took a look at it, sighted it, played it for a minute or two, and came back with their report. The nut is cut too high from the factory causing the action to be high to start. They can lower it, but the string spacing is slightly off anyway, so I’m getting that bone nut that I’ve wanted.  The neck has too much relief and the frets all need to be leveled and polished. Intonation is off and the saddles are kinda rust-pitted causing a buzz. They’ll fix that, and all the moving bits and string contact points will get some lube. They’ll wind up a new set of Ernie Ball Super Slinky’s and it should be good to go! Surgery should be complete in a week, and I’ll grab a scotch and a camera and post my findings.

Boomer Lives!

Josh

Categories
Guitar Politics

It Was The Summer of ’69

I’ve been reading the news. It’s not healthy.

But I have stayed true to the resolutions I made 400 years ago on January 1, but modified it slightly. For those that have no inclination to scroll down, I made 3 resolutions. First was to lose my Thanksgiving & Christmas ham, potato, beer, cheese, beer, chocolate, candy, and beer weight. I have stood on the scale almost every week since then. Progress, right? Second, I resolved to finish projects. Well, believe it or not, Project Garage Mahal is continuing at pace. Week after next, Sarah will take Charlie out of the house to avoid the fumes coming off of an entire garage floor covered in epoxy. It’ll be pretty, and I’ll have plenty of pictures and maybe a concomitant witticism. Third, I resolved to give parity to the Trumpian shitshow in DC and my guitar. I read until my eyes bled, then I played until my fingers bled.

I find it so difficult to peel away. The Donald almost kept the government open for a whole year. So close. He’s so damn crazy that the story of The President of the United States paying hush money to a porn star to keep their sexual dalliances quiet barely made the news. It’s not even particularly interesting that Donald Trump had an(other) affair right after his wife gave birth to his youngest son. I mean, Donald Trump declared that he’d give his wife a week or two to lose all that unattractive pregnancy weight, and this affair was a whole month after that, so what can you say? The Stormy checks out. I mean Story! Story checks out. Silly keyboard.

I got my first real six-string on Christmas morning 1995, so like 5 years ago, right guys? I wasn’t lying about my fingers bleeding. Right at the nail. I literally cannot touch my fretboard without sharp pain shooting through my fingertips up my arms and into my brain with an unmistakable signal that says “Stop Doing That You Idiot!”. If you haven’t played guitar before, you might not recognize step as progress, but it is.

It’s amazing how bad I got. My pinky finger is almost useless. But my fingers remember what to do sometimes before I remember what the song is. It’s really weird. I had the entire intro of a familiar song picked out before I heard Mick’s voice in my head sing “Ayangeh. Aaaaynngieeeah.” Oh yeah. Angie. Thanks Mick.

But I think I’m coming up fast. Just need my fingers back in fretting order, and I’m getting there. I have a habit of trying to learn songs so hopelessly out of my skill range that I discourage myself, but I usually learn a cool riff or three before I decide I need to return to the high-distortion power chord noise of my NOFX listening youth. This week’s version of Dive-Right-Into-It-ness is Zepplin’s version of Babe I’m Gonna Leave You.

Morning coffee, morning homework, and all the picks I just found under my chair cushion.

It’s difficult.

Jimmy Page fingerpicked the intro, and I’m not, because come on. I am actually pretty good at fingerpicking since I spent a lot of time with my classical guitar, but this is just an exercise. I’m not opening at the Mercedes Stadium anytime soon, but if I was, that’d be fine because nobody could hear me (that’s a Garth Brooks concert joke. All the best jokes have to be explained). So after fumbling through the first page a couple of times, Sarah asked me why I never played any songs where you strum the guitar. Good question, and that’s mostly because I can’t sing and play guitar at the same time, and because I can’t sing. But I switched from Babe I’m Gonna Leave You to Banana Pancakes. Then to Atlantic City. I love Atlantic City because it’s relatively easy to play, the lyrics are as fun as they are ridiculous, and you get to use your Springsteen voice that you won’t let anyone not bound by blood or marriage ever hear. And sometimes not even then.

They blew up the chicken man.

Josh

Categories
Computers

Back Online!

My server crashed.

My server never crashes.

I installed an email client called mutt on my server. Mutt sends me copies of all of my server databases every single night so that I won’t ever lose my stuff. Mutt also has a feature that I was unaware of that automatically saves every single email ever sent.

It was 16.5 gigs. It maxed out my server storage.

I deleted it and turned that super helpful function off. All good!

Josh

Categories
Electronics Racing Woodworking

Because Racecar

I made a racing sim.

Daddy’s Racing Corner

It’s awesome.

There are 4 main components to building a racing sim. The base, the seat, the driving gear, and the computer. The computer is a beast, which you can safely assume from the VR headset in the seat. I built it from mostly MSI parts.

The driving gear is all Fanatec. I’ve got ClubSport pedals and Porsche GT2 driving wheel. Paddle shifters on the wheel. It’s all discontinued now, for shame, for shame. It has some quirks, but I found a way to update the driver so the wheel won’t keep forgetting to connect to the computer. What a pain. But essentially, I bought it and plugged it in. Fun, but not a whole lot of construction involved. Let’s get to the fun stuff.

Racing seat.

Through a series of semi-random events, I had a couple of Porsche 996 911 seats lying around in my garage. See, what had happened was that my Boxster seats were terrible. The original light grey leather was dry, brittle, cracked, split, “repaired” with duct tape, and missing large chunks of bolster foam. The driver’s seat was bad too. So I shopped around for new leather seat covers and finally settled on a new set of skins from LeatherSeats.com at $995, plus a couple bucks for red double stitching, plus a couple bucks for the Porsche crest stitched in the headrest. Right before I placed the order, my buddy Rick pointed me to a Miata forum where the photographer for my track day run group was selling a pair of very decent 911 seats for $800. So, I was faced with the decision of adding automotive upholstery to my list of skills that I’m not very good at but have done once or twice anyway, or spend less money to spin 8 bolts and have my car’s seats updated in 30 minutes. Decisions, decisions. So that’s how I came to have a couple extra Porsche seats.

The old seats were out. Leather was still absolute trash, so I called around to my leather shops again and asked if they have any returns, demos, seconds, or single seaters. I was asking for something that they wouldn’t be proud of in a customer’s vehicle, but would be just fine for a racing sim. One of the best shops returned my plea and said that he in fact had a pair of black leather skins that a customer had botched that he would let me have for a sandwich and a song, then he over-charged me for all of the bits and bobs that need to be sewn on to get the leather to stay on the seat, which I thought was perfectly reasonable. Now I have added automotive upholstery to my list of skills that I’m not very good at but have done once or twice anyway.

Seat in construction. Some assembly required.

The seats are electronically controlled. The easy thing to do is to is to buy a Porsche seat computer and plug it up. They’re $600, used. No sir. Normal people might put in manual rails. I, on the other hand, rewired the switches.

Sparkfun

Porsche invented some voodoo in their seat wiring for no reason that I can discern other than to make it nearly impossible for people to re-wire their seats to put into a racing sim. There are 8 functions in the switch (seat forward, seat back, seat up, seat down, tilt forward, tilt back, backrest forward, backrest back) that Porsche controlled with 6 wires. Good on you Porsche. Add lightness. But I wanted my analog switches analog, so I had to cut traces and rewire. Notice that hole in bottom of the circuit board near my green wire? I had to cut a trace under a switch by assuming where the trace was and drilling through from the other side. It worked. I then tapped into all of the motors and made a relay bank. From what I have discovered on the Porsche forums, I think I’m the first person to get this working. I am a very stable genius.

This is only about half the wires.

Box.

A racing seat doesn’t do a whole lotta good without a place to mount it, so I built a box out of MDF.

First glue-up

I designed this all in CAD and printed out a full scale template for the side pieces. So, that’s where I started. All the weight-supporting MDF is doubled up. You’ll see that the long runners only have one piece of MDF, and that’s because the side pieces glue to those bases.

Template for routing

This thing gets heavy quickly, so it’s best to have a helper.

QA checking to make sure everything’s square.

Checks out.

Never seen that before

I ran into a small issue where the MDF that I bought started to delaminate. I’ve never even heard of this with MDF. They, uh, forgot glue in their glue-and-sawdust manufacturing process. Oh well guys. I’ve got some glue.

I finished the glue up, painted it baby blue for a Gulf Livery setup, Sarah hated it, so I painted it Porsche red.

All painted, super heavy box.

After that, I flipped it over and installed the gear. It’s better explained with a picture, so fast forward a couple steps and bribe a neighbor with beer, and I got the sim upstairs. All of the seat electronics are under the seat part of the seat, so it’s off in this picture.

Flight Sim

From top to bottom, the first metal box is my 12V supply for my seat. Directly under that is the relay bank for my seat, and you can see the seat wires poking out of the hole right under that. The big amplifier-looking thing in the middle of the sim is an amplifier. It powers Butt Shakers in each corner so that you can feel the road when you go over some gators or smash into a wall.

Lil’ help with the wiring. Sweet picture of my thumb.

After that, plug and chug! I finished the wiring top side, installed the seat, mounted some pictures on the wall, and ended up with the lede picture. Charlie and Mommy surprised me with the photo wall!

Charlie’s super awesome race car

I’ve destroyed many dozens of Miatas at Road Atlanta on iRacing. I’ve wrecked a couple million dollars worth of 911 GT3’s on the Nordschleife. I’m probably going to wreck some more tonight. Maybe someday, somewhere, sometime, I’ll turn a clean lap.

Josh

Categories
Guitar Politics

I’ve been doing this wrong since Middle School

Yes yes, I read all about Fire and Fury and everyone around Trump describing Trump as incompetent. And I read all about JeffBo Sessions restarting the war on legal marijuana by killing the Cole memo. And as reliably as a tweetstorm after an unflattering chyron, Trump created a distraction, continuing the time-honored tradition of using the justice department to harass vanquished political opponents with the goal of imprisonment. Sure, it’s not necessarily an American tradition, but #MAGA amirite? But I think we can all agree it’s about time that the FBI finally looks into those damn emails. Color me some shade of surprised and use a heavy coat, because you’ve got to overcome a nice blend of nausea and jade. Pink hat.

We did, however, learn directly from the First Daughter herself that Donald’s Homer Simpson Orange hair comes from a distinctly Trumpian blend of a Just For Men coloring agent and Trump’s impatience not letting “brown” sit in for the manufacturer’s recommended time. Sip a scotch on that sentence. Let it marinate. That’s beautiful poetry.

Eagle-eyed readers of the post directly before this will remember distinctly that I have made some New Years Resolutions. Being that my new year resolutions aren’t even a week old, I kept true to my requirements. Guitar before Washington: I read a sweet post on Guitar World about getting back to the basics.

This is Steve Vai. He is a better guitarist than I am.

Steve Vai standing in front of a wall no one has with a hot pink cord plugged into a guitar he invented. Photo Credit: Guitar World

It turns out that I have been holding the guitar wrong. The big part covers your face, and the pointy sharp end goes near the part of your body where pointy sharp things don’t usually go. Also, guitars have 7 strings. I was unaware.

Steve’s idea of basics basically boil down to the one thing that every guitar instructor has ever told me: perfect practice makes perfect. Practice takes time. If there’s one thing that parents of young children are lacking, it’s sleep. If there’s two, it’s sanity. If there’s three, we get sleep, sanity, and free time. Free time. That’s what’s needed for guitar.

Don’t get me wrong. I have plenty of time for Raffi’s There’s a Spider on the Floor (on the Floor), even though the only tab I could find was for a ukulele. But time for scales and sweet riffs, well, not so much. However, I am traveling an awful lot for work in the next couple months, and there’s not a whole lot to do in your hotel room. Usually I watch stand-up on Netflix. And by “usually” I mean literally every time for hours. So damn, I thought. Maybe I should drink scotch. Then I thought I should noodle on the guitar. So I looked at travel guitars. They look like they’re total shit, but it’s hard to judge a guitar’s playability from a picture. And it usually doesn’t take much more encouragement than “Hey look, Guitar Center” for me to justify going into Guitar Center. So into Guitar Center I went.

Travel guitars are a unique breed. They’re basically the only guitar you’ll ever see where the first two criteria are not “Cost” and “Sound”. “Looks”, also, barely matter if you’ve got the rest of the secret sauce.

Martin Backpacker and Emergency Paddle

The first guitar I picked up was the Martin Backpacker. I hated it immediately. I have no review for it other than I hated literally everything about it. Sound was terrible. Comfort was non existent. It’s impossible to hold and it looks stupid. It was, however, cheap. I played it for 10 seconds and have no further review.

Next up: Traveler Guitar Ultra-Light.

Weirdest guitar you’ve ever seen. Also, it’s practically silent.

No, the picture isn’t truncated at the head. That’s what it looks like. It weighs nothing. It’s light. The action is surprising decent. The tonal quality is non-existent. I couldn’t tell what it would sound like at all. I could strum as loud as I wanted to and could barely hear the thing. The one I played didn’t have the metal guitar-shaped leg piece installed, but it was still way more playable than the Martin. I played it for a relatively long time actually and almost considered buying it. I put it back on the wall, where it looked ridiculous, and played some of the other “Travel” guitars. Baby Taylor. Little Martin. A Disney guitar with flowery shit burnt into it.

Disney guitar with flowery shit burnt into it.

I kept coming back to that ugly Traveler Ultra-Light. The Guitar Center rep told me that we could make it happen, that he’d work whatever deal I’d need to walk out with it, because he knows that he sold a lot of them around Christmastime and he assumes that more than a couple are coming back. It weighs less than 2 pounds and it’s 28 inches long. I was tempted.

Starting price is $299. For those not good at maths, that’s almost $300.

Nope. Nope nope nope nope. I’d pay about $100 for it. I can get an Epiphone or even a(nother) Strat for $300. There’s plenty of guitar gear I would trade $300 for, and this isn’t one of them. Not close. So, I tried the Little Martin. Didn’t like it. I tried the Baby Taylor. Liked it better than the Little Martin, but not nearly as much as the (uh, $700) GS Mini sitting right above (that Taylor is Discontinuing!!! Ugh!). The Disney ones played exactly as you’d think a Disney guitar would play.

But here’s my conclusion: Besides the horrible Martin Backpacker that I wouldn’t touch with a thirty-nine-and-a-half-foot pole, and besides strategically packing the overly priced Traveler Ultra-Light in my carry-on, I’m stuck with either checking a guitar (“Travel” or not) or checking my luggage if I’m flying somewhere. I’ve already got a travel-ready Squier with a hard case sitting in my house largely, unfortunately, untouched, and since I fly Delta as often as feasible, my first guitar is checked free. Maybe I’ll do that since it’s the low low price of free.

When I’m done, I’ll catch Chapelle on Netflix.

Josh