Wednesday, December 14, 2011

You Mean That's IT?!

After making the decision three months ago, I finally closed out my bank account yesterday. I've been banking through my new credit union account since late October, ignoring the Regions account, not really putting things off so much as just sleeping all day and not thinking about it.

As it happened, I was lying there trying to go back to sleep and started thinking, "There's probably enough in the Regions account for me to buy a good cable modem...it's time to drop the Dialup...."

In all, it took 5 minutes once I got there. Neither the bank rep nor the teller even asked why I was closing out, didn't express polite remorse for losing my business. Just the standard pleasant "have a nice day" persona, no different from any other transaction. "A deposit? Thank you, sir!" "You're leaving us after nearly 8 years? Thank you, sir!"

I'm disappointed--I had arguments, talking points, and a slightly indignant attitude set and ready in the wings!

I was going to tell them about how when I needed a loan to get the X-11 three years ago, they couldn't help me even though they'd done exactly the same loan three years before for the Tracker. I didn't miss a payment, even when it meant I'd go without gas money or food for two weeks. I had to cash in a CD to buy the X.

I was going to tell them about how there was no way I'd be able to meet their new checking account standards, so I'd be stuck paying them $10 a month for what had been a free checking account when I opened it in 2004.

I was going to remark that when they could have been helpful, they went for the corporate interest ahead of the customer.

Still, I'd have been delivering those talking points to the wrong ears--they of all people would be in a position to understand and even sympathize, since they're at the bottom of the bank industry, the people in the trenches as opposed to the corporate scumbags who might notice a dip in their bonuses this quarter, given that in the last few months the number of new credit union accounts exceeded the previous years' total.

Glad I could help with that.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Pic of the Day: Revell's Crappy S-IC



It's been a week since I got bored and glued up the first stage of Revell's 1:96 Saturn V moon rocket.

I haven't done anything with it since--but this is it, the ugly truth of 4 hours' work. I'll be upping full-res copies of this and the other pics to my Flickr account soon--I just wanted to throw this up as a "before" shot.

I really like how--with even a little backlight--you can see the markings on the inside-out rolled-sheet sections; I hope that a little primer and proper paint will fix that.

UPDATE: The pics are up.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Kit Review: Revell 1:96 Apollo-Saturn V Part 2--build diary, First Stage

A little more than a year ago, I published a review of this kit based on initial impressions. I didn't do much more than some minor pre-assembly--the first- and second-stage engines, LES tower, and other small stuff.

Tonight, in a fit of boredom, I finally opened the dusty box and pulled out the pieces of the rocket's first stage (the S-IC).

The S-IC consists of three solid "rings" (the structural skirts that formed the two ends and the middle of the stage) and two styrene sheets for the main assembly, a flat plate for the bottom, the four conical engine fairings and their fins, and four half-round pieces that hold the rolled-up styrene sheets.

Given the color mismatch between the sheets and the ring sections they join, I decided to roll them inside-out, shoot a thin coat of primer on the outside, and paint the entire rocket a single shade of white.

I am not impressed with the fit of the sheets, though. I made the mistake of rolling and gluing up the lower piece without test-fitting; the holes punched into both sheets made the rolled pieces too small to fit properly. I opened up the holes on the second sheet just enough to get it to fit.

Both sheets are rolled into cylinders and "pinned" together by half-round "pipes" that run nearly the full length of the stage. When I got the upper half of the stage rolled and tried a test-fit (learned my lesson!), I found that neither of the pipes' upper ends join the lower ends properly (a gap of about 19" across on this scale!). There are also sizable gaps along the length of both rolled-up sheets where the "pipes" hold them in place and around the edges where they're cemented to the "ring" sections. Even with careful assembly, it looks horrible.

The engine fairings are just glued on across the corrugations (stringers) of the bottom ring (the rear skirt) with no effort at molding them to the structure. The real fairings were notched over the stringers where they mounted to the skirt's skin. Time to break out the gap-filling Super Glue.

The fairings and the baseplate have molded-in blocky details that aren't seen on the real ship. I'm just going to leave them alone, since there's enough other work to be done just spackling over the gaps around those rolled sheets.

On its display stand, it stands slightly more than 18" tall. It took about 4 hours to get the first stage assembled to this point--no engines or other small details--and now there's the promise of several hours' worth of filling, sanding and prep before shooting paint.

For the $115 cost of this thing, it would have been nice if Revell had made an effort at producing a better kit.

Given the looks of this first major section of the kit, I might have saved myself a lot of effort by buying the detailing kits I mentioned in Part 1 and scratchbuilding the rest of the thing, buying Apogee's 1:70 scale flying monster for about $300, or even going for the Estes 1:100 flying model for $60.

Revell's offering isn't completely hopeless, though. Author 4D posted details of his own build-up in the Airfix Tribute Forum. The level of detail on his Lunar Module alone makes it worth clicking the link.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Theme Songs for Politicians!

I'd never given any thought to the into music a band plays for a late-night show guest's "walk-on" until this past week, when the story broke that Jimmy Fallon's house band--The Roots--played a few bars of Fishbone's "Lyin' Ass Bitch" for Michele "Crazy Eyes" Bachmann as she oozed onto the stage.

I know, I'm supposed to be appalled at such disrespectful behavior toward such an important...

No, screw that. She's a lyin'-ass bitch (it has been proven!), and there should be no apologies from the band or Fallon (though he's already done so). SHE should apologize for her chronic dishonesty.

I've been thinking of other theme songs, though, for the rest of the wingnut brigade seeking the presidency.

Jon Huntsman? "Mr. Cellophane" from "Chicago."

Herman Cain? "Magic Man" by Heart (he's got magic hands!). Or "Gimme All Your Lovin'" by ZZ Top. Or "Ice Cream Man" by Van Halen. "Shaft."

Mitt Romney? "Dust in the Wind" by Kansas. Not many songs about perfectly-lubed weathervanes, but plenty like "Any Way the Wind Blows" by Doris Day.

Rick Perry? What do you play for a stupid hick? "The Beverly Hillbillies" theme? The "Gomer Pyle" theme? Nah, he's not a LOVABLE stupid hick. He's more like the predatory banker Drysdale than like one of the Clampetts. Gonna have to think on it.

Rick "Frothy" Santorum? What do you play for a disgusting piece of crap? Anything by GG Allin would do.

Ron Paul? Maybe Edgar Winter's "Free Ride" for his freeloading libertarianism? A funeral dirge for those "Let him die!!!" teabaggers who adore this wasted stick of jerky?

Newt Gingrich? "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch." Grinch is in his NAME, it's a natural! Besides, this idiot wants to get rid of child labor laws. Or--given his divorce record--"50 Ways to Leave Your Lover."


No one should apologize to these thin-skinned morons after snarking on them. That's all they exist for.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Beating, Spraying Cops Out of Line


I've watched the Occupy protests growing from a handful of people on a September weekend to hundreds of thousands or millions of people across the world.

I think it's the best thing ever--and long past the time when such protests should have happened.

The big snag is that in the face of mainly peaceful protests, cops and governments have done the wrong thing, spraying, shooting and beating in an attempt to suppress the protests.

They didn't bat an eye at teabaggers showing up to Town Hall meetings with guns, or toting violent messages ("We came unarmed--this time!"), speaking of "taking their country back." They didn't blink when teabaggers assaulted black members of Congress. They didn't go after Sharon Angle when she threatened "Second Amendment remedies" if she lost her bid for election.

But let a college kid or an elderly woman or a retired cop sit on a public sidewalk (paid for and maintained by their own taxes), though, and the unconstitutional beatings and sprayings and arrests begin!

Unconstitutional? Absolutely. What the cops are doing amounts to punishment without due process--an assumption of criminality and an on-the-spot conviction. So much for "innocent until proven guilty." There's also the First Amendment's assurance not just of free speech, freedom of religion, and a free press, but also the right of peaceable assembly and the right to petition our government for a redress of grievance. Thanks to the 14th Amendment's "due process" clause, this applies to all levels of government, from the Feds to every city. Then there's the Fourth Amendment's protection against excessive force.

Back in my National Guard days, we got some of that same beat-on-people, spray-the-shit-out-of-people training. We learned how to club and poke with batons, how to subdue our fellow humans if some politician thought they were getting out of line. I never got called out to use it--and I would have refused to do so on people just sitting peaceably. It's simply not right. I took an oath to protect the Constitution--and, by extension, the People--from all enemies, foreign and domestic. How is an 80-something woman a threat to the country?

As long as they continue their violent assaults on peaceful protesters, they're nothing more than mercenaries for the scumbag elites. Those cops should be using their batons and pepper spray and rubber bullets on the bankers and politicians and predatory foreclosure executives and others--the real enemies of the state--who have screwed this country's citizens for so long.


Ray Pensador has an excellent writeup on the culture of brutality, "Take Your Hands Off Me" over at Kos.

There's an excellent write-up about pepper spray at Speakeasy Science--and some excellent comments there, as well; Leo says:
There seems to be a mentality of “I have pepper spray, so y0u’d better do what I say,” even if the order from the cop is unlawful. Does might make right? I thought we’d progressed beyond that caveman mentality. There’s a reason people employ peaceful protests and sit-ins. They’re not SUPPOSED to be convenient. If they were convenient, people could ignore them. Instead, they’re inconvenient… but also NON-violent. When the police use violence against nonviolent protesters (fire hoses against civil rights marchers, for example), all it does is make even clearer who is right and who is wrong.
And even more on the evolution of police attitudes toward demonstrators can be found here.

Pic of the Day: War on Xmas has BEGUN!



Billo said so, must be true. He warned his drones to cast their gimlet glares abroad, seeking anyone with the nerve to say the dreaded "Happy Holidays!" (oh crap! I wrote it!) instead of the proper 'Merkan "MERRY CHRIST!!mas!!" that has become the wingnut battlecry.

I didn't join the war last year, other than to be amused by one guy who wants to punch people in the throat if they violate the wingnut ban on HAPPY HOLIDAYS. (bugger! I wrote it again!)

Those of us bravely fighting the War on Xmas have already climbed the mountain and raised our flag, as seen above. We win.

Resistance is futile! HAPPY HOLIDAYS. (oops!)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Back on her Feet!

I've been dealing with X-11 withdrawals ever since the brand-farking-new clutch cable I put in 6 weeks ago went SNAP two weeks ago.

The last ride involved me trying to get the transaxle out of first gear while the tow truck driver pulled on the clutch lever, trying to release the clutch just enough for me to get it into neutral. From there, I coasted her into her usual spot, and there she stayed for the past 2 weeks.

The replacement cable got here 9 days ago--but my body decided to screw with me again. Instead of taking me off my feet like in the first half of September and October, this time my right elbow and forearm locked up. By Thursday evening, I'd gotten enough range of motion back to pull out the remains of the old cable and install the shiny new one. I finished the job by feel--the sun was down--and got all the tools and crap out of the way. I only had to rest three or four times. She didn't quite start right up, but I'm cranky myself after sitting up for too long.

She's back on the road, but I'm paranoid about the cable. The new one fits better than the last, it's not binding, but every time I push on the pedal I expect the thing to break.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Caiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiin Train!

Well, not just Cain, but any of the Nine Eight Morons who think they're fit to be President.

Maybe I should go with video of a rocket or jet engine flaming out, but watching a railroad tanker try to turn itself inside out reminds me of Mitt "Perfectly-Lubed Weather Vane" Romney, Tim "Where's the farkin' No-Doz?!" Pawlenty, that Trump prick, Rick "N-head Ranch" Perry, Michele "She really is this stupid" Bachmann, the Snowbilly, and especially Herman "You want a job, right?" Cain twisting themselves up in a desperate effort to out-batshit, out-bullshit, and out-outrage each other.



Pawlenty's implosion was his candidacy.

Bachmann's implosion? Her mouth. That's some incredible batshit she spews.

Mittens'? His precise ability to swing into any political wind and be on both sides of any issue. It's not nuanced or thoughtful--just desperate.

Trump's? He's a bankrupt attention whore with freakish hair.

Snowbilly? She's just a gold-digger.

Perry? He's George W. Bush's intellectual inferior. That's saying something.

Cain? He thinks he's Mr. Smoov and above any real-world consequences for his actions. He's the 1% Candidate.

Santorum? His douchebag personality.

Huntsman's the closest thing to rational in the lineup--and that's going to kill his candidacy.

These stooges need to be banned from any public space, let alone public office.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

He Has a Right to Speak!

...said the cop to the banker.

In a post at Daily Kos, marvinborg relays his experience in passing out fliers in front of Chase and Bank of America branches in San Francisco.

The banksters tried to intimidate him, right up to calling the cops on him when their own private rent-a-goons didn't scare him off.

The sweet, sweet moment:
"He has the right to speak and the right to hand out flyers. Unless he blocks you or causes a disturbance, he has the right to be here - please don't call the police again if he is not bothering you. If you don't like free speech you should move to another country"
Awesome. In your FACE, banker boy.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Moving My Money.

I opened a new checking account at a local credit union last week; I'd been considering such a move for months, ever since I learned of the Move your Money Project.

My soon-to-be-old bank pissed me off. Following the lead of Mega Scumbag bankers Bank of America and others, Regions started charging me to use my own money in my checking account.

Where BofA was charging $5 per month for the use of a debit card, I was getting hit for $4. If I used the card at the bank's ATM or wrote checks, no charge. I make even one debit purchase in a month, $4.

There's also a new $10 per month fee just to have the account if you don't maintain the new minimum account balance.

Their notice:

We recently sent you information about some updates to your checking services. As a reminder, these changes are effective in September and will be reflected on your October checking statement.
As a reminder, what you'll see:

• The monthly account fee for LifeGreen Checking will be $10.
• This fee will be waived when you meet the account's balance or direct deposit requirement.
• Continued access to Online Banking with Bill Pay, Mobile Banking with alerts, and Regions Cashback Rewards.
• You will be charged a $4 monthly CheckCard fee for any statement cycle in which you use your card to make purchases or non-ATM transactions. Make as many of these transactions as you like during the statement cycle with no additional fee.
• No monthly CheckCard fee to use your Regions Visa® CheckCard to make transactions at any ATM.
The new minimum balance is something like $1500.

I make less than $800 per month, living check to check. Obviously, there's no way for me to meet their minimum--so I get sacked for $10.00 per month.

Fine.

Regions got their $14.00--or maybe $28.00, by the time I've shut the account down. I have to wait out the credit union's 8-day waiting period, so maybe I'll be able to boot Regions by Monday.

On the day I was setting up the CU account, I had to go into the nearby Regions branch to cash my Disability check. The teller was very friendly...and I thought of him--and the bank--as the person in a relationship who's the only one who doesn't know he's about to get dumped. I've been telling people about the Move your Money Project for weeks, now. They're sponsoring a big bank-dropping action--Bank Transfer Day--this Saturday, November 5th. Even my new credit union is participating.

"Idiots" tag to Regions and their bigger banker pals.

Move your money, folks. Screw the screwers.

"Regions: It's time to expect more"...of my money to go to your competition!


[UPDATE: Within a few days of this post, Regions discontinued the debit fee. Bank of America dropped theirs a weeks or so earlier. Too little, too late :) ]

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Song Of The Day: Bastille Day (Rush live, 1976)

With all the Occupy action growing daily in the US and around the world, and with the whiny arrogance from certain shitbird one-percenters, I'm reminded of a time in history when the humble masses stood up and took down some people who needed taking down.



Is it time yet?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Snap.

Life brings us plenty of "oh, shit!" moments, moments where things are moving along nicely, you're all fat dumb and happy, then something happens that makes your heart sink into your stomach and your stomach head down toward your ankles.

When you're not a healthy specimen, those "oh, shit!" moments can take a toll. I could hack the "out of gas" scenario from May of 2010 when it happened, but just two months after that my aorta did an "Oh, SHIT!!" of its own. There's no way I could hike up that hill now.

In nearly three years of driving the X-11, I've been stranded several times, mostly in the first 4 months, all of those caused by a crappy carburetor design that poured more gas into the engine than it could burn. I ran out of gas two years after that.

Then there's this past Wednesday. I was headed down to KFC and made it all the way to 9th Avenue and Bayou Boulevard. KFC's on the southeast corner.

I was first in line, waiting for the left-turn arrow. I pushed the clutch in, ready to shift, and BANG there went the brand-new cable I put in a month ago.

Oh. Shit.

All I could do when the light changed was stay in neutral and coast slowly downhill through the intersection, flashers on, half a million rush-hour people tied up behind me in the lane...almost there...c'mon, baby, just...a little..further...

Awww, goddammit. This is where Bayou Boulevard starts sloping upward. Pleasepleasepleaseplease...

Shit!

I just made it to the edge of KFC's driveway, which slopes up even more...I jumped out and started pushing, straining as hard as I could.

A Citation weighs around 2,400 pounds.

I made progress in inches at first, huffing and puffing and groaning...a little more...and then I just couldn't go anymore.

It took everything I had left to just hold the car there.

Oh, and my goddamn shorts were starting to fall off.

So I stood there, and the car stood there, and my shorts slipped another notch.

Rush hour traffic whipped past up Bayou.

A guy in a black suit came running from the northeast corner behind me and got behind the car. He started pushing...the car started moving...and my goddamn shorts did, too. A freaking landslide of red fabric, the cool touch of autumn air, and something added to the show for people in the westbound lanes of Bayou Boulevard.

I let go of the damn car and hiked my britches up.

We got the car over that little slope; from there the entire parking lot slopes downward. My savior asked if I was okay, and if I knew what was wrong. I told him about the clutch cable.

He nodded, then whipped out his wallet and passed me $20: "Here, man--this'll at least get you started fixing it."

I was too tired to argue, so I just thanked him. What a cool guy!

I let the car roll down and parked in front of KFC's dumpsters (no wiseass remarks!), sat until my breathing and pulse slowed down, then pried myself back out of the car to see what had happened to my clutch cable.

The damn thing was gone. The cable housing was still in place, but the cable itself had seemingly evaporated.

I hobbled into KFC, arranged for a tow truck, bought the dinner I'd come for with half of the $20 that guy gave me. I tipped the tow driver with the rest.

It turns out that I screwed up when I was installing the cable last month; the replacement item doesn't fit properly at the firewall. With this end of the housing not lined up correctly, the cable was binding at that point. The retainer at the inner end broke off. When the clutch arm snapped back, it just whipped the entire cable out of its housing and dumped it on the street.

The "Idiots" tag is for me, this time--that, and a montage of Gibbs slaps from "NCIS":

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The 53% Who Suck At Math.

One of the more amusing--and pathetic--responses to the 99%/Occupy Wall Street protests that have blown up into a worldwide movement in the last few weeks has been the righties' "53% Movement." I ran across this write-up of these mathematical illiterates at Speakeasy in the last couple of days.

See, in their world, only 53 percent of Americans pay Federal income taxes. Everyone else is a deadbeat, a leech, or whatever--and those valiant 53 Percenters are supporting all the rest!

They conveniently ignore the fact that for people making less than a certain amount, there's no tax. For the 10% or so who can't find jobs, there's no tax. If you have enough deductions, there's no tax.

I used to be in a 10% tax bracket. In my last job, I was making just above minimum wage and making about $15,000 a year. Now I'm on Disability and making somewhere just above $9,000. Oh, I'm living it up.

The amusing thing is, every one of the excerpted posts in the Speakeasy piece is parroting the talking points I'd already heard from various right-wing turd-hurling howler monkeys just a few days earlier, including several of the Nine Stooges who think they're presidential material--"Only 53 percent of Americans pay taxes!!"

I especially liked this woman's "logic":
3 years ago I started my own business with nothing. Finally after 3 years I’m starting to see a profit. I work a second job over 40 hours a week, and I go to college full time! I do all this while raising and providing for my two toddler sons. I don’t have a babysitter, and can’t afford daycare, so instead of complaining and being lazy, I found a second job where I could work from home… I fight and struggle every day! Yes, it’s hard, but it’s not supposed to be easy! … I’m a good role model for my kids so they will never be one of the 99%.
Um...yeah. See, unless your kids grow up to be multi-billionaires who own 40% of the country, your kids will be down here in the 99% club with us non-taxpaying deadbeats.

More importantly--and this should be something obvious to her--99% is bigger than 53%. The imaginary piece she thinks she's part of is actually part of the bigger one, and both of us are getting screwed by the remaining 1%.

Wait, wait, it gets better!
I am the 53% and do not appreciate the lazy, liberal children of Hard Working Americans including me in their socialist 99% movement.
There's that math problem again, coupled with the standard wingnut "socialists!!!!11!1" scare-word and the assumption that the Fifty-Threes are their own majority.

I wonder what the odds are that many of these people are also Teabaggers. We already know they're Republicans. The math issues make that obvious.

There are so many more, and all of them are strangely proud of living in near-poverty, working their asses off, barely scraping by, and carrying the other 46% or of us around on their broad, tireless shoulders.

What an arrogant bunch of crap! What about the tons of other taxes we all pay?

I just registered my two cars and renewed my driver's license. Paid taxes on all three.

I went to Waffle House this morning for breakfast. Paid tax at the register.

Yesterday? Bought a drink at a convenience store. Paid tax on that.

Last week? Put gas in one of the cars. You bet your ass there were taxes in there.

In the next few months, the property taxes on my house come due. We pay tax on the electric bill, the water bill, various insurance bills.

The only difference for me in this is that I probably don't make enough money on Disability to pay much in Federal taxes. No one in my household does--there are three of us, ALL on one form of Disability or another--oh, what a healthy lot we are! Me with a damaged aorta, my mother with her damaged spine, and my sister with Cerebral Palsy.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but the Fifty Threes are just the fucking stupid part of the 99%. They're making excuses for the corporate dirtbags who've wrecked the economy and bought our political system. They listen to the right-wing scumbags who all have a vested interest in keeping things the way they are and parrot every talking point. They vote for the job-killing Republicans against their own self-interest, driven by stupidity and fear, listening only to the dog-whistles--"SOCIALISM!!! AAAAAAAAAGH!" "ABORTION!!!!" "QUEEEEEEEERS!"

Here's a friendly note to you Fifty Threes: The Ninety-Nine are bigger than you, and we intend to take this country away from the elitist 1% and set things right.

You can join us in making things actually better for all of us, or you can sit on the sidelines and whine about how those poor billionaires are being mistreated. But don't think to get in our way. We will walk around you and leave you behind.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

I Made the 1% Rich.

According to that pizza-making idiot who wants to be president next year, it's my fault I'm not an entitled elitist rich raging asshole like him.

But actually, it's because of minimum-wage workers like me that he's an entitled elitist rich raging asshole. He didn't get there on his own, no matter what he wants you to believe.

No. His millions came because of waitresses and kitchen staff in his Godfather's restaurants, people who worked for whatever the company could get away with paying. His money came from regular people like me busting their asses for 40 hours a week, or maybe working more than one job.

I knew people like that in my last job, as a delivery driver for one of the national auto parts chains. I hired on in early 2007, working full time and getting a little more than $7 an hour. Because it was February, once my 90 day probation was done, I still couldn't get into the health plan, since enrollment only happened in January.

But their plan was utter crap; the one I could afford wouldn't cover much of anything. The one I needed was too expensive. I did without.

No raises for ANYbody. Most of the other drivers and counter staff who'd been there as long or longer than me hadn't gotten a raise in years. Every time someone brought it up with management, they'd get runaround, or told to talk to the district manager, who would just give more runaround and excuses.

But the store managers got their bonuses. The DM got his bonus. His boss got his bonus, and so on. Us non-management types got a share in the "store bonus," which was based on overall sales for that store. If your sales are down, you don't get the extra few bucks.

All the while, the DM was screaming that payroll had to be cut, no new hires, no overtime for anyone. This meant that everyone but the store managers got cut back to 30 hours or less and the stores were running on skeleton crews. Customers would complain--both walk-in and commercial--because there weren't enough people to handle the workload. There were only 4 people in my store in the morning: two drivers, one at the Commercial desk (selling parts to local repair shops), and the store manager running the front, alone, until the afternoon guy came in. This freed the manager to go do paperwork, make the bank deposit, and grab lunch. The Commercial side closed down at 5 pm, the store manager left, and the evening guy came in, leaving two people to run the store to close.

And so both walk-in and commercial customers would go to the competition, because the store managers couldn't do anything about it--can't hire anyone, can't bring extra people in to help--and so the DM would scream about getting sales up.

We two drivers did an awful lot to help--checking in stock, putting it on the shelves, helping customers, re-stocking, putting up displays, answering phones, cleaning, anything and everything. I knew the system well enough to do parts lookups and run a register, run the test equipment (batteries, starters, alternators, ignition modules) and brake lathe, maintained the delivery trucks, maintained store equipment (I rigged up a drain for one of the air conditioners when its pipes got clogged up, re-stocked half the hard parts when the part numbers changed or new stuff came in), and other stuff that a "delivery driver" didn't need to do. This is assuming I wasn't out on a run, where I interacted with the customers, listened to their complaints about how long it was taking to get their parts, told them about the company's cutbacks, and asked them to call Corporate and give them an earful.

Basically--and this isn't an exaggeration--I did everything. Most of us in that one store could handle someone else's job and chip in, because we HAD to. Most of us were making about the same, without raises, with our hours cut, and we heard the same bullshit from Corporate--"More sales! Less payroll!"

We got a new DM in January 2010, the third one since I got hired. This asshole went on vacation in February, but not before showing everyone a sales brochure for his $50,000 boat. Nice.

He started shuffling people around. I got moved to the hub store, which warehoused more parts than the others. I was back on a 40-hour week, which was good, and all I had to do was make 8 circuits a day from the hub to two other stores and back. During one stop, I learned that the Company had posted record profits for 2009, $300 million. The Company guys simply gushed about it on the employee indoctrination information website. We were expected to gush, as well, because we're all one big happy family!

Record profits--but at the cost of cutting payroll hours, running stores with minimal staff, running off customers who weren't getting good service, freezing any raises...basically fucking us over for their big profits.

It was people like me who made that $300 million for the Company, people like me who made those sales and helped those customers, people like me who busted our asses so the Company assholes could enjoy their bonuses and record profits while we decided whether to pay the electric bill, the phone bill, or insurance this pay period.

Car broke down? Crap...got to juggle the bills around. Maybe one of the shops'll cut me a deal. At least I get a discount on parts.

Lights got cut off? They want HOW MUCH to turn them back on? Well shit, there goes that paycheck. Guess we're hitting Dollar General for mac & cheese, ramen noodles, and tuna sandwiches for the next two weeks.

But did you SEE the District Manager's new $50,000 boat?! It's got wells for keeping bait, it's got a cooler under this seat, a stereo...everything an entitled asshole could want! Maybe if we're productive enough, he'll let us buy some of the fish he caught on vacation while we were keeping his stores alive for him and earning him his next bonus!

Since the Aorta Fairy visited me last year, things have actually gotten worse for my former coworkers. No raises, payroll cut ever further, and the Company's entitled elites making ever more money.

No, we don't owe the fuckers any thanks for allowing us to work for them and bask in their light. They owe us for making them rich. They owe us better wages, better working conditions, some fucking respect for all the work we do to keep their companies going. Without us, their companies die and the money stops flowing. Without us, their customers go somewhere else.

They owe us the courtesy of keeping American jobs in this country, instead of sending them to places where people will work for much less than we will.

Fuck you, Herman Cain.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Frayed.


It shouldn't take three hours and a month to do something as simple as changing out a bad clutch cable.

But it did.

It's not a complicated job. The cable's held in place by spring tension--just pull the pedal up against its stop, disengage the cable at the transmission end, unbolt it at the firewall, and thread the pedal end out.

Took me two hours to get that far last month when the X-11's cable went bad. It was frayed from rubbing against its housing because the mounting bracket wasn't lined up properly. I ended up having to use a crowbar and cable cutters to pop the cable end loose and get the thing out of the car. By that point, this body of mine had had enough. I could barely stand up, let alone walk.

A few days later, I was laid up in bed with excruciating foot pain, courtesy of my blood pressure issues. Started in the left foot, spreading over the next few days to involve everything from toes to ankle, and nothing but Lortab would touch it--and even that would only take the edge off. There was no walking or sitting; just touching the floor or even its own weight was enough to set that foot off.

Three days into that, my right foot decided that this would be fun, so it joined in. I spent two weeks in bed, barely eating, drinking Gatorade, sleeping as much as I could and hoping I'd wake up without sore feet.

What? Go to a doctor? No. No way I was moving. I didn't think I could handle it, so I took my Lortab and slept. It's not a macho bullshit thing, either--moving just hurt more than not moving.

By the time it had run its course, I was too tired to work on the car and ended up sleeping 18 hours a day, 2 hours at a time, and feeling more and more tired--and feeling guilty for leaving the car unfinished. Yeah, it's just a car, but I'm funny about this one, given its condition when I got it. I pretty much brought it back from the brink, back to life, after half a decade of sitting in someone else's driveway. When I can't drive it, I feel guilty; when I'm in the driver's seat, I'm in the coolest car in town.

I finally dragged my tired ass out of bed this past Saturday, grabbed my tools, and put the new cable in. Thirty minutes, no snags. The difference in how the clutch feels is night and day--much lighter, but now I'm learning to drive it over again. That's the fun part.

It shouldn't have taken a month to get here, though. I'm getting fed up with not being able to walk or ride a bike. If a simple job like that clutch cable can wreck me, just think of how it'll be if I have to replace the clutch.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Teabaggers are Scum.

At last night's Teabagapalooza in Tampa, the Teapublicans had a "debate." Don't know who won, given that they're all losers, but Ron Paul and his cheerleaders in the audience showed their true scumbag colors:



Can't afford health insurance? Dying because of it? The doddering geriatric coot Paul and his insane, sociopathic "pro-life" teabaggers say you should die--"screw you, I've got mine"--and they applaud themselves for saying so. Imagine their orgasmic joy if they'd been able to watch this man's house burn for lack of $75! Even better if he was trapped inside, right? Screw him, he didn't pay!

Assholes. Assholes and hypocrites.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Pic of the Day: Heroes.


Courage can be defined as being afraid and still doing what you have to do.

Heroes are just regular people who do important things at the right time.


I've had this picture in my "History" folder for a decade, now. When I look at it, I don't feel patriotic. I feel humbled that there are people who risk their lives to do the right thing.

Pic of the Day: Faith-Based Initiative


Religious conservatives committed the evil of 9/11.

Another set of conservatives have ceaselessly exploited the events of that day to keep Americans in fear, so that those conservatives may consolidate their grasp on power.

They don't give a crap about the dead firefighters, the dead cops, or the people in those buildings and planes as anything other than a way of getting more control over our lives. They don't care about the men and women dying from illnesses caused by breathing the smoke, dust, and ash at Ground Zero. They don't want to represent the interests of regular people. They're only really listening to selected moneyed traitors of the upper 2%. The "Evil" and "Scumbag" tags are for them.

Isn't it time the rest of us took it away from them? Isn't it time to stop letting them trample our Constitution, our flag, and our country?

We need to make 9/11 a tribute to the people who died by turning our backs on the scumbags who have wiped their feet on everything this country's supposed to stand for.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Blog Review: Stonekettle Station

One of my daily "must-read" blogs is Stonekettle Station, run by Jim Wright. He lives in Alaska, surrounded by Teabaggers and other right-wing idiots, true believers who think Palin's the answer to this country's important questions instead of an also-ran punchline. People who think Bachmann is a serious contender who will sweep Obama from the White House and restore racial purity to the nation's leadership. People who know less than nothing about economics, but demand that the government balance its checkbook. People who think Reagan hung the moon, and if we really really really TRY this time, trickle-down will WORK this time, dammit!

He brings righteous anger, contempt, sarcasm, and a desire to see things made right together in his writing. Makes me jealous, really--I'd like to be as thoughtful and articulate, myself.

I learned something important, today, reading comments on his post on how Bachmann's getting financial instructions from her god via the post-hurricane flooding in the northeast:

Jim Wright said...

Well, for the record, I know many hundreds of Christians who are wonderful people and if anybody deserves to go to a heaven and live forever, they do. And on that note, I know a large number of Muslims who are of similar nature.

But it's people like Bachman, Perry, and the smug holier than thou fundamentalists who continue to presume to speak for their miserable angry small minded rat bastard of a God and keep attempting to turn the country into some miserable small minded rat bastard of a theocracy that are getting on my nerves. I will continue to ridicule these people and their silly stupid bullshit as long and as loudly as it takes.
September 2, 2011 11:58 AM
Antthenut said...

I always wondered if God uses weather to punish the wicked, why is there always so much collateral damage? You would think that an all-powerful being would be able to aim his wrath more selectively. Maybe he'll be unleashing his hate-seeking missile on a gaggle of surprised teabaggers soon!
September 2, 2011 12:54 PM
Anonymous said...

pssst, Antthenut, I believe a group of teabaggars is known as a scrotum

i read it on the internet
September 2, 2011 2:42 PM



This really ought to become a meme!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Pic of the Day: Wild Bill Donohue!


Ever wonder how to describe your favorite right-wing demagogue's personality?

Ah, the wonders of the GIMP, Photoshop, and similar software!

This was my first (and only, so far) attempt at face-swapping, done for Wild Bill's bio page over at the Kook Clearinghouse. Wild Bill is what I call a Professional Hysteric: it's his job to lose his shit any time something happens that he can pretend to be horribly offended by. Then he dashes off a note via his hysterical megaphone, the Catholic League, so other people can get offended as well.

What? GAY MARRIAGE?!?!? AAAAAAAAAUGH!! They'll destroy the family!! (he's divorced, himself)

Oh noes! A movie I haven't seen yet doesn't kill enough Muslims! AAAAAUUUUUUUUGGGGGHHH!!!! "2012" offended him a week before it premiered!

Once I had the idea for this pic, it just had to be done. It's a perfect description of a man who defends pedophile priests: an incredibly childish grown man who waves his religious six-gun around, demanding to be treated as an authority figure.

The technique is ridiculously easy...and after looking at HumanDescent.com I'm feeling like I've been lazy the past couple of years.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Blog Review: humandescent


I stumbled across this critter a few years ago and found the Photoshop job jaw-droppingly cool.

Credit goes to Martin of HumanDescent.com and Deviant Art, where you'll find more of his cool, twisted, hysterical critters.

I couldn't find a name for this one, but I've seen a crappy-looking modified version of it called a "moonbat."

Saturday, August 27, 2011

POTD: Guitar Porn--the MotorAve BelAire


I don't usually rave about guitars; there are plenty of axes I'd like to try out, plenty I'd pass on for whatever reason. My approach to music--playing or listening--has always been more about the musician. Joe Satriani (for example) could make a cigar box and rubber bands sound amazing. Eddie Van Halen used to be like that--but he lost his way after "1984" and became a footnote. I couldn't really say what guitars either of them have played without having to look it up: I'd rather just listen.

So no, I've never seen a guitar that really excited me until a few nights ago, watching Them Crooked Vultures on "Austin City Limits." Singer Josh Homme used several guitars for that gig, but it was his red MotorAve BelAire that dropped my jaw--especially the clean aluminum pickguard that follows the body's lines. There are smaller aluminum pieces--the output jack plate, truss rod cover, and tailpiece--that match the guard and really set the guitar off. No way I'd be able to afford the several thousand bucks for it, so I'll have to admire this one from afar.

It's given me some ideas, though. I've been interested in setting up a small back-yard forge where I can cast aluminum and maybe copper, brass or bronze. How cool would it be to go to a pawn shop, buy a decrepit, unloved guitar, then strip it down and rebuild it with a thin cast-aluminum pickguard and other one-off parts?

[Update] I poked around the Backyard Metal Casting site overnight. It's amazing how low-tech but effective Oliver's tools and techniques are. I've gotta try some of that.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Gear Review: Peavey T-15


'Way back in 1989, I made a spur-of-the-moment decision to start playing guitar. It was just a few days before the National Guard unit I was assigned to took a tour most of the way across Florida to a little town called Live Oak.

Once our camp-out-in-the-fair-grounds was over and the military stuff was put away, we got our pay...and I went hunting through Live Oak's pawn shops and music stores.

The first thing I saw was a pawn shop no-name red guitar for under $100, but when I plugged it into an amp, nothing came out. I wasn't looking for a project, didn't know what else might be wrong with it or even what to look for, so I passed.

I ended up at a proper guitar store, explained that I was a newbie, and the salesman took me directly to a shiny black one with a short-scale neck. It wasn't an exciting neon speed-metal axe; just a quiet, unpretentious instrument. I shelled out the $149 for it and bought some music books. The next day I went back and bought a little practice amp. Still have both of them 22 years later.

The T-15 is styled along the lines of Fender's legendary Stratocaster with two large single-coil "blade" pickups. The short neck is closer to a Gibson's scale than a Strat's (23.5", 20 frets; Gibson typically uses 24.75"; Fender uses 25.5" on the Strat). This puts less tension on the strings, making for a looser and easier instrument for a beginner or someone with small hands.

From what I could find online, this Mississippi-built guitar's probably got an ash body. It feels solid without being heavy, but it's heftier than the poplar-bodied Tux. Mine was almost immaculate, but it's accumulated a few dings and scratches over the years. It's smoothly rounded, with rib and elbow reliefs blended into the curves.

The neck is maple with a clear-coated fretboard. I've rarely ever had to mess with the truss rod, never done more than tweak the intonation from time to time. The lower body cutaway gives very good access to the upper frets without much interference from the neck joint.

Most of its chrome hardware is still bright after minimal care, but the bridge has some pits and scratches.

The bridge and neck joint are the most unusual aspects of the guitar's setup: instead of individual saddles for each string, there's a single metal bridge saddle that can be positioned via a pair of set screws. You can raise or lower the strings slightly by turning a different pair of Allen screws under the bridge block, but for larger changes you have to crank out the 4 neck screws, then adjust the neck's "tilt" with yet another Allen screw.

The control knobs are solid aluminum, a nice touch for an entry-level guitar, and my only complaint has been that their set-screws don't hold them on very well. Fortunately, both control pots have solid shafts instead of the splined split shafts you'd find under cheapie plastic knobs or modern low-end instruments. I drilled small holes right where the set screws had marked up the shafts. Very simple fix.

The only hardware/electronics failure I've had was in 1994, when the pickup selector switch disintegrated. I couldn't find a proper replacement (Peavey wanted $50 or so!) and ended up using a tiny 3-position toggle. It did the job for another 17 years.

Swapping that dinky toggle switch into the guitar forced me to rewire the guitar slightly so that I could still get the same Bridge/Both/Neck pickup choices as before. I tried a few other mods over the next 17 years, but I've never really liked how the thing sounded after the last change. Compared to my other two electrics, the T-15 sounded brittle, harsh, and unmanageable if there was any distortion. Its clean tone was a bit thin.

I finally decided to do it all over again--new switch, same wiring as the original (fortunately, I drew up a schematic every time I changed something)--and now I really like the sound. With those single-coil pickups, this guitar's never going to have much bottom end, but it's got a pleasant bluesy twang to it. Output is hot and bright. Get the right amp and distortion behind it and this little axe will sing. It's never sounded better than when I was playing through a borrowed Fender Bassman amp head and 15" cabinet. I just wonder how it would sound with a pair of humbucker pickups, instead....

Overall, an excellent $100 to $200 guitar, and not just for a beginner. It's well-balanced, solid, comfortable to play and easy to maintain. You won't get Metallica tone, here--not without humbuckers or maybe some different capacitors in the tone circuit--but it's good as-is for surf, country, rockabilly or similar "twangy" tones.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Scott The Frog: still there.


Well, not in the air conditioner. I can hear him somewhere out in the yard right now (his sort of frog is a nocturnal predator; by daybreak he'll be looking for a spot to bunk down). But now Scott's taken to getting right outside the window to either side of his former penthouse to complain about getting evicted. The fillers are just pleated vinyl, so there's no blocking outside noise.

He gives me time to fall asleep. Then it's like he rings the doorbell and runs. By the time I slide one of those fillers aside, he's gone, probably watching me groping around trying to get him.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Attack of the Killer Tree Frog!!

For the past three weeks, I've had a tree frog living in my air conditioner. I remember there was a plague of frogs in someone's religious story or other. Can one frog be a plague?

I never laid eyes on it until early yesterday morning--but I've heard the little bugger several times a week. Never at the same time of day, either--but almost always when I'm trying to sleep. I dubbed him "Scott," because it's a great name for an annoying little prick that keeps me from sleeping peacefully.

I never realized how freaking LOUD those things are before this one set up camp. The A/C unit's just a small metal box; there are slots in both sides and on the top on the outside part of the case. The only divider between the inside and outside halves is a couple of inches of Styrofoam. Not soundproof at all.

So there I am, sound asleep, dreaming, peaceful, and GRAK...GRAK! GRAK! GRAK! GRAK! GRAK! GRAK! GRAK!

Always 8 times, and always with a significant pause after the first, and always loud as hell. There were a few times when I was in my car, backing out of the side yard, and I'd hear Scott loud and clear. I put some gray cells on the problem, trying to think up a way of getting him out of there and keeping him out.

Usually I could just slap my side of the A/C unit and Scott would shut up.

Until yesterday morning. It's 5 a.m., I'm just dozing off and GRAK...GRAK! oh for GRAK! fark's sake GRAK! smack! GRAK! smack! GRAK! smack! GRAK! GRAK! GRAK! GRAK! GRAK! GRAK! GRAK! GRAK! GRAK! GRAK! GRAK! GRAK! GRAK! GRAK! GRAK! GRAK! GRAK!

Scott's not having any of it. Didn't stop with 8, either--he kept on going even after I pulled one of the window fillers aside and whacked the side of the A/C box. He stopped once I turned the lights back on.

I grabbed a screwdriver and got the freaking A/C undone and pulled it into my room. Cold water and algae and dead bugs came pouring out of my side of the thing once it tipped just right in my direction. Once I had the thing wrestled around sideways, I could see the little shit sitting on top of part of the equipment inside--and just sitting, staring me down like a little green red-eyed badass daring me to come in there and start something.

I dribbled lemon juice on him, hoping it'd irritate him enough to leave. He turned and went deeper amongst the A/C parts. I didn't hear him again until this afternoon, somewhere outside.

I hurried out and wired pieces of carpenter's mesh over the outside vents. It's ugly, but I can't take the case apart without pulling the entire thing out of the window. Assuming Scott's actually evicted, I'll just leave it alone until Fall, then open the thing up and make the screen permanent on the inside.

I'm not sure if I found the right species, but I managed to find something close to Scott's racket. Turn it up 'till it's too loud!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Gear Review: The Tux


I found this little beast in a pawn shop for $60.00 back in late May.

I wasn't really in the market for a 4th guitar (5th, if we count the bass...6th if we count the old & damaged Classical acoustic...but I won't count the crappy Wal-Mart acoustic that won't stay tuned), but I was bored and looking for something new to play with while I recovered from having the Killer Kidney removed.

Turns out I made a hell of a good choice, getting this thing. Yeah, it's a cheap guitar, part of the FirstAct line of entry-level instruments, something to buy the kid who wants to try being a rock star without putting a bunch of money into it. If the kid quits, you're not out several hundred or thousand bucks.

This one--the Overload BB391--originally shipped as an all-in-one set: guitar, gig bag (basically a nylon 'soft case'), cord, some picks, and a small amp, all for about $125.00.

What I got was just the guitar and the gig bag. I played a bit with it at the store and liked it. Once I got it home and plugged it into my Crate GFX-120 amp, I loved it. I immediately nicknamed it "The Tux" for its clean black & white finish.

This is the first humbucker axe I've played or owned, so I wasn't prepared for how much hotter its output is than either of my other electrics.

The BB391 kind of looks like an early-60s slab-bodied double-cutaway Gibson Melody Maker; it's got a lightweight poplar body and maple neck with rosewood fretboard and 22 frets (which could use some filing along the ends). Access to the upper frets is about average for a bolt-on neck.

Overall finish is neat and clean, with properly-finished edges (I've seen some Samick guitars for three times as much, but with crappy-looking, splintered cut edges around the pickup openings and other fit & finish issues). Since the body's a simple slab with rounded-over edges, there's no arm or rib relief, but I don't even notice the difference.

The only playability issues I had with the axe is that the upper strap peg's position makes the guitar want to hang horizontally. I ended up adding another peg on the lower side of the heel. This limits access to the upper frets a little, but tilting the neck up a little takes care of that.

The other problem was string height; each saddle is individually adjusted with a pair of small Allen-head setscrews. No problem in adjustment (I dropped each at least 0.10"), but the screws should be either dressed with a file to cut the sharp edges or cut down so they can sit flush with the saddle tops. Aside from that, they don't interfere with palm-muting.

There's a lone humbucker in the bridge position and single volume and tone pots. The control knobs are a bit loose, but don't get in the way. The white-on-black numbers are easily read against the guitar's white plastic pickguard. Hardware's all nickel.

Hooked up to my Zoom 505 guitar effects box and the Crate amp, this little beast does a passable impersonation of James Hetfield's crunchy Metallica tone ("...And Justice for All") or Dimebag Darrell's insane harmonics ("Cowboys From Hell").

Zoom: default A1 patch
Amp: Bass & Treble all the way up, mids all the way down.

Keeping the same Zoom and Crate settings and turning the guitar's volume down gets you a good '80s hair-metal sound, like in Twisted Sister's "I Wanna Rock."

Changing the Zoom and Amp settings around, you quickly learn that it's loud and bright even with its volume almost at "0"--it doesn't like to mellow out.

Cutting the Zoom out altogether and setting the amp's "dirty" channel around a little got me a Texas-fried tone suitable for Billy Gibbons, but the Tux stays loud and bright no matter what.

If you're guitar-hunting, keep an eye open for this one. It's a surprisingly good axe for the price.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Riff of the Day: ...And Justice for All (Metallica)

Since I made this the Song of the Day, I might as well put up one of the riffs that always used to give me picking trouble. Nineteen years ago (when I was a Metallica virgin), I couldn't hack it with Hetfield's chunky down-stroke picking on the pre-chorus ("The ultimate in vanity / exploiting their supremacy..."):


___F#__________________G_F#__E___(F#)G_______(F#)G
___q___e_e_e_e_e____|__e\e___e____e==q________q
|-------------------|-------------------------------|
|-------------------|-------------------------------|
|o------------------|------------------------------o|
|o-4----------------|--5\4---2---(4)/5-------(4)/5-o|
|--4----------------|--5\4---2---(4)/5-------(4)/5--|
|--2---2-2-2-2-2-2--|-------------------------------|
_______*_*_*_*_*_*


Had to put underscores in to keep Blogger from screwing up the formatting.

To play it cleanly, you need to be able to play the palm-muted (*) notes at speed, all down-strokes at 160 beats per minute.

My copy of the guitar/TAB "...And Justice for All" book has the riff written this way:

___F#__________________G_F#__E___(F#)G_______(F#)G
___q___e_e_e_e_e____|__e\e___e____e==q________q
|-------------------|-------------------------------|
|-------------------|-------------------------------|
|o------------------|------------------------------o|
|o-4----------------|--5\4---2---(4)/5-------(4)/5-o|
|--4---4-4-4-4-4-4--|--5\4---2---(4)/5-------(4)/5--|
|--2---2-2-2-2-2-2--|--3\2---0---(2)/3-------(2)/3--|
_______*_*_*_*_*_*


...and it works both ways; I've just always left the root notes off.

Definitely a "wooohoo!!!" moment--after 22 years of not being able to play fast, it seems like something just clicked into place, like maybe wrist position or some other bit of picking technique that I suddenly got right after all this time.

Still a long way to go before I'm up to the ending of "One" or any of "Damage, Inc.," but now there's some incentive to work a little harder on it.

Song of the Day: ...And Justice for All (Metallica)

From the first time I heard this 10-minute title track from "...And Justice For All," I wanted to learn to play it.

Over the 19 years or so since, I've managed to be slow and sloppy, hardly able to keep up with Hetfield's chunky palm-muted rhythm playing.


In the past couple of months (post-kidney surgery) there's been little else to do but grab a guitar and fart around on it--but let's not call it "practicing." That word brings back memories of being forced to play from as far back as 6th Grade trumpet class, when my mother would make me sit and go through the school book on Saturdays.

No, just call it farting around. It doesn't sound as official, which means I tricked myself into working a little more on getting my right hand a little looser and faster. The upshot of all this not-practice is that for the first time in longer than I can remember, my right hand wasn't holding me back.

I wore my left hand out.

This isn't one of Metallica's fast & furious all-out thrash songs (especially compared to "Damage, Inc."), but it's more technically demanding than "Enter Sandman" or "Orion."

I remember listening to this album (dubbed to cassette from my nephew's CD) while I was struggling through Analytical Geometry and Calculus I in college. I'd strain my brain for a bit, then rest and strain my fingers, rinse and repeat.

I still use Metallica on a regular basis.

Nick of Time for the Kidney...

All the way back in January, Florida's Thief Executive was making noises about hacking away at the Medicaid Medically Needy program (the same one I and many other Floridians are dependent on for coverage) and privatizing Medicaid so that his buddies can make some money.

I signed up for it in January, got my Medicaid card in April, headed for the kidney surgery as soon as possible after that.

I got a notice that apparently I'm no longer "medically needy" enough, popped aorta notwithstanding. Coverage ends July 31. If I don't do anything, I automatically get signed up for a county managed care program on Sept. 1.

I got lucky, getting the worst of my medical issues out of the way (that aortic dissection could still kill me, or at least leave me paraplegic, if I don't stay on top of it). But I wonder how many people out there won't be so lucky when Governor Scumbag's hack-and-slash approach gets to them.

Considering what the bastards have done across the country, it's a wonder there are so many people who vote for Republicans.

As far as the kidney incision goes, it's gone from a gaping, scary looking hole in my belly last month to damn near closed. I've gone from daily Wound Care visits seeing them every 2 weeks; from a thick "maxi pad" bandage to the vac to a little bandage. It's starting to itch a bit along the top end and my belly's still striped from all the tape adhesive...and about all I really want these days is for this to be done so I can take a kayak ride before winter.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Riff of the Day: The Enemy Within (Rush)

In the 20 years since I started playing guitar, there have been quite a few bits and pieces of Rush songs I've never been able to play, usually because I can't play fast. A great example of this would be that damned intro riff from "The Spirit of Radio." I can play it maybe half as fast--but I have never been able to break whatever speed barrier it is that keeps me from playing much of anything speedy.

Then there are riffs that I've tried to work out over the years and failed, usually because I was going about it all wrong, such as the 12-string pattern Lifeson plays under the " To stand within the Pleasure Dome decreed by Kubla Khan / To taste anew the fruits of life, the last immortal man" part of Xanadu, which turned out to be a lot simpler than I was making it out to be.

The intro to "The Enemy Within" (from Grace Under Pressure) is another one that eluded me for years. The last time I tried to work it out was maybe a decade ago. Couldn't get it, probably because I was making it too complicated. It became one of those elusive "I'm gonna have to figure that one out someday" things that pile up and never see brain cells again.

A couple of nights ago, I got bored and gave it another try...and this time it took maybe 15 minutes total.

I'm kind of pissed at myself because it turned out to be so simple:

.Bm...............Bm/E.............???..............A/D
-q--e-e-q--q--e---q--e-e-q--q--e---q--e-e-q--q--e---q-e-e-q--e-q
|---------------|-----------0----|--------2-------|-------------|
|-------0--3----|--------3-------|----------------|-------3--2-0|
|o----4---------|------4---------|------2---------|-----2------o|
|o--4---------4-|----4---------4-|----2------2----|---2--------o|
|---------------|----------------|--------------2-|-------------|
|R--------------|-R--------------|-R--------------|-R-----------|

Perf. note: Bass plays the root notes as whole notes--B, F#, E, A; the guitar fills in the "space" of the rest of the measure. Think "minimalism."

For the first two measures, form the basic 2nd-fret Bm chord, but don't barre it. After you finger the 3rd fret 2nd string in 1st measure, use that same shape to play the 2nd measure. You don't even need to move your fingers.

For measures 3-4, bar the top 4 strings at the 2nd fret. That's all--just skip the 2nd string in the 3rd bar. For the 4th bar, all you have to do is hold that chord and drop your middle finger on the 3rd fret.

Friday, July 15, 2011

w000000t!!

The wound-vac came off this morning; the site's down to .6 cm long x .5 cm wide x .6 cm deep, significantly down from just under 2 weeks ago.

Now I'm down to a little scrap of Promogran, a gauze pad, and a 2" bandage.

The vac's a neat little device, but I don't miss being tethered to it by several feet of tubing. That was about the only problem I had with it, really. I'm sure as hell not going to complain.

No, instead I'm thinking of where I'll take my kayak first, once the incision's healed over.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

I'm a terrible uncle.

My nephew graduated his Web Design and Graphics Design courses after 3 years of busting his can on it.

I'd been trying to think of a good graduation and birthday present for him, but kept coming up blank until late May, when I bought myself a new Wacom graphics tablet. While I was tinkering with the thing, I realized that it'd be perfect for him, given the impressive Photoshop skills he's shown (he added himself to a black & white photo of horror legends Lugosi and Karloff).

I had my setup all laid out. He would be coming to town July 1st or 2nd. I let him settle in a bit, then mentioned that I was headed to Best Buy to get that graphics tablet I'd been wanting and invited him along.

Off to the store, grab the tablet, look around a little, make the purchase, head back home.

We sat at the kitchen table and talked for an hour or so; the tablet sat wrapped in its bag next to me while I waited for the proper moment to spring my surprise.

The he mentioned being "so jealous" that I'd gotten one; he'd been wanting a tablet for a couple of years but couldn't afford it between school and bills. He told me to go install the thing.

"It wouldn't be right for me to do it," I told him, "since it's yours." I pushed it toward him.

He damn near freaked out! "No, I can't take that, I know how much it cost! That's too much! You don't have one!"

I had to show him my tablet, shiny and new, on my desk, before he'd believe that I had one.

Took him several more days to settle down and accept that it was his. I told him he had to earn it.

Happy Anniversary?

July 12th marked a year since my evil kidney made its bid to kill me off once and for all.

The 12th also marked 2 months since I ended its nefarious plans once and for all.

It's been a hell of a year. I've still got the recliner, but haven't slept in the thing since sometime in August or September, whenever it was that I was able to sleep lying down again. It's just taking up space.

Not much else has changed; I'm still taking a half-dozen pills a couple of times a day to keep my blood pressure under control, the tear in my aorta is still a danger, and I still can't walk or stand past a certain point. I haven't had a migraine since December, though, which is a definite plus. I used to get crippling headaches at least once a month until I started taking the BP meds.

The doubled/blurred vision I was having until a year ago is gone; my left eye used to go blurry past 20 feet and I could feel some pressure in it.

The wound-vac is still attached like a remora to my belly, the incision ever shrinking, and my remaining kidney producing like gangbusters.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Vac Day 9--Impressive. Most Impressive.

I've been through 4 dressing changes on the wound-vac since I started using it June 28th.

Incredible. That's how I'd describe the effect.

In 9 days, the big incision site has closed up to the point where its about as wide as a pencil (compared to about an inch) and about the same length (a little under 2 inches).

There was a smaller one a little larger than a pencil diameter just below this one which used to be connected to the larger one by a "tunnel" where the skin mended while I still had staples there. This one's nearly closed, now.

The redness around the staple spots has gone down noticeably.

Word has it I'll be rid of the thing in another week.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Pic of the Day: Beck's Goodbye


The Yoda of Batshit has left the studios at "Fox News" for the slimy mudhole he calls home.

I was hoping to think of more than that...but I got nothin'.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Pic of the Day: Florida's Scumbag Governor

I figured out what's up with this skeezy criminal prick.








Thanks for nothing, to you idiots who voted for him.

Governor Voldemort Scott is so unpopular even amongst the Republicans in Florida's legislature that less than two months after he took office, they were tinkering with legislation to give Florida voters the ability to recall this teabagging corporate snake and other public officials:

HB 787: Recall

GENERAL BILL by Kriseman; (CO-INTRODUCERS) Bullard; Garcia, L.; Pafford; Randolph; Saunders; Steinberg; Thompson, G.; Williams, A.

Recall; Provides that Governor, Lieutenant Governor, member of Cabinet, or legislator may be recalled from office; requires that proponents of recall register as political committee; prescribes methods & timeframes for initiating & conducting recall; provides ballot language; provides that removal of Governor from office includes removal of Lieutenant Governor; authorizes adoption of rules.

EFFECTIVE DATE: contingent
Unfortunately, it was withdrawn from consideration in early May, 2011.

The Vac's Installed.

I got approved for the Wound Vac as a charity case; the thing arrived via UPS yesterday. Big, bulky box, mostly filled with smaller cartons of foam dressings and catch-canisters. The unit itself is about the size of a stack of 6 DVD cases.

The first dressing got installed this morning. All it is is a piece of foam cut to fit in the incision (which is about 1" x 1" by 1-1/2" deep now) with a sheet of plastic "drape" over it, something like Saran Wrap with adhesive on one side. Once that's arranged, you cut a hole in the middle of the wrap, arrange the vacuum fitting over that, and hook the tubing up to the machine.

My belly's been mostly numb around the incision site from day 1, so there's no pain involved, but when the vac is first turned on there's a moment where the suction is noticeable. Outside of that, there's no noise or anything. About the only time I notice the thing is when I need to move around--now I'm tethered to it by several feet of tubing.

So now I've gone from Frankenbelly...




...to Vacu-Belly!


That looks a lot worse than it really is. The red marks are from the staples, which came out a month ago.

The Wound Care folks say this thing will have me healed up in about 2 weeks. It'll be about time--I've been aching to take a kayak trip up Bayou Texar, or even to take a simple shower.

Song of the Day: Cut to the Chase (Steve Morse Band)

This has been a favorite song from its release in 1991's "Southern Steel"; Steve Morse is one of those guitar players that other guitar players listen to, with an impressive resume (the Dixie Dregs, Kansas, Deep Purple) and some incredible chops.

In this track, Morse is joined by former Night Ranger guitarist Jeff Watson in a blistering southern-fried jazz-rock-country duet. The cartoon's got nothing to do with the song.



The part of the song that blew me away comes in at about 1:40, starting with bass player Dave La Rue tapping a triplet figure.

Then the guitar comes in.

For the past 20 years, I thought that the complex tapping was all Jeff Watson, who's known for his 8-fingered tapping technique. I've spent hours trying to figure out the pattern, wondering how the hell one man's 8 fingers was doing this. I've seen some transcriptions of his solos with Night Ranger, and there's nothing close to this among them.

Then, two nights ago, I stumbled upon this live clip of the Steve Morse Band playing the song...and Jeff Watson's no longer on the Guitar God pedestal. Morse and La Rue are playing The Riff themselves, and based on the Night Ranger transcriptions I looked at, Watson's contribution is the shorter riff that shows up at around 1:51 in the clip above.

Scratch one Guitar God--and install a Bass God in his place:



It looks like Morse is playing a straightforward triplet tapping pattern, but I'd like to see more of La Rue's hands so I can finally figure this thing out.

What a great song.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Song of the Day: Jump in the Fire (Metallica)

This is the only other good religion story I've got aside from "Burn in Hell" and Pvt. Preacher.

I really wish I had the patience to hang out with fundies, righties, teabaggers, and conspiracy kooks--I'd have so many more stories.

This one comes from a visit by a cousin who came to see my parents about 20 years ago. We were sitting at the kitchen table, talking family gossip and such. I don't know what spurred it, but she told us about a revival/bonfire she'd been to.

People were asked to bring any sinful contraband they could latch their mitts on--bad books, bad music, anything that might cause an uncontrolled or impure thought, anything that might detract from proper religious purity.

Basically, anything interesting, thoughtful, controversial, or fun.

She described one person who brought some Metallica records. When the evil vinyl was thrust into Christ's Purifyin' Flames...they jumped right back out!

They were SO EVIL that they couldn't stand the heat!!

Fortunately for all of us, those Satanic would-be escapees were rounded up and thrown bodily back into the Cleansin' Flames!

I'm amused by the stupidity of these people--but I'm disgusted, as well, by their need to destroy anything that might compete with their imaginary buddy in the sky.

It wasn't so long ago when such people were putting people into those flames over a difference of religious opinion. There are plenty of them today who wish they could bring those good old days back. They must look across the Atlantic at what the Taliban and other Muslim fundies have done and sigh wistfully, wishing they could ban music, books, games, anything of which they disapproved.

Fuck 'em. Here's the song: Metallica's "Jump in the Fire." The "Evil" tag's for those who would censor it.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Fuel Tank 1-Year Follow-up (with Product Placement)

For the past two years, the days surrounding June 3rd have been aggravating.

In 2009, I discovered a fuel leak in the X-11's gas tank and made what I thought was a solid repair using a sheet-metal screw, a Sobe soft drink bottle cap (before they switched to plastic), some J-B Weld, and the 2-part epoxy putty from a "fuel tank repair kit" available at any car-parts store.

Don't waste your money on that kit. The epoxy lifted and peeled off over the next year, and 6 days short of the anniversary of the first fix my car was incontinent again.

For the fix, I used only regular J-B Weld slathered and a pop-rivet to seal it off.

A year later, the patch is solid. That's some good stuff.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Song of the Day: Burn in Hell (Twisted Sister)

One of my favorite torture devices for the fundie mind.

When you're done with Basic Training, your next stop is AIT--Advanced Individual Training--where you learn the skills of your specialty. In my case, it was a Signal Corps (communications) job, 31N or Patch Panel Operator.

I was one of only two 31N students in the barracks building; most of the guys in my 8-man dorm were 31M radio operators, but we only ever had 7 guys.

One of them was sane for the first two weeks...but then the Dear John letter arrived that turned him into Private Preacher. His girlfriend left him for someone else. Pvt. Preacher melted down and found religion and in the grand tradition of religion-finders he wanted the rest of us--the entire Army base--to find it, too.

I wasn't digging, which made me into Pvt. Preacher's project. He couldn't understand how I could fail to be enthralled by the great sales pitches, impressed by the promise of Life Eternal, and all that. I patiently explained each time that I didn't believe in that stuff, and had the dog tags to prove it (granted, the Army in its wisdom only authorized me to be NO REL PREF, instead of ATHEIST, which is kind of close but not really accurate...like many other government situations).

So Pvt. Preacher rebuked me each time, only to come back for another go.

Then I discovered Preacher's kryptonite.

I'd picked up a tape of Twisted Sister's Stay Hungry album (1984), the one with "We're Not Gonna Take It" and "I Wanna Rock," which were still getting pretty heavy airplay in early 1987.

Not a bad album--but that one golden track, the one that made the Preacher scurry around, was "Burn in Hell."

He tried several times to get me into deep philosophical discussions over this one song. DEEP?! Twisted Sister, deep?! Bahahahahahahaaaaaaaa! Thoughtful, maybe, but not deep.

"Aren't you afraid you're gonna go to hell, listening to that?"

He couldn't understand the song's message even after I pulled out the lyrics and read them to him. Sad:

You can't believe all the things I've done wrong in my life
Without even trying I've lived on the edge of a knife
Well, I've played with fire, but I don't want to get myself burned
To thine own self be true, so I think that it's time for a turn

Before I burn in hell
Oh, burn in hell

Take a good look in your heart, tell me what do you see?
It's black and it's dark, now is that how you want it to be?
It's up to you, what you do will decide your own fate
Make your choice now for tomorrow may be far too late
That looks like a cautionary tale to me, not a "Hey, come join me, let's eat some Christian baby BBQ and piss in the holy water fountain!"

After a few weeks, Pvt. Preacher gave up on his mission to convert me, rebuked me a final time, and moved on to annoy other people. I still get a chuckle out of the song.

Kind of a pity, though, that Marilyn Manson wasn't scaring fundies yet.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Wound Vac.

I'd never heard of such a thing before, but the Wound Care folks are trying to get me set up with one.

It's not much more than a little vacuum pump that draws fluid out of an open wound. It's supposed to increase blood flow to the injury and help it close up. There's some question (see the link) whether it's even effective for non-diabetic treatment, but I was told that it could speed my belly's healing by a few weeks.

Medicaid doesn't cover the rental--and I can understand why: this little handy-dandy wonder of modern medical technology is a grand or two a WEEK. I'm working on the "financial hardship" paperwork for one of these, but in the meantime I went looking for cheaper alternatives and found a story about an MIT student who worked up a hand-operated device that costs...three bucks.

Three. Bucks.

Danielle Zurovcik was going to test her invention in Rwanda, but took 50 of them to Haiti at the request of Partners in Health in the wake of the 2010 earthquake.

Three. Bucks. (There's followup of the Haiti trip at this link.)

The basic design came from an accordion-style toilet plunger. There's a good picture of it at this link. That's pretty damn cool. "Heroes" tag goes to Zurovcik and anyone working with her on this gadget.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Icky.

I knew I'd end up having to change out my own dressing eventually. I already knew how it'd feel--the incision site's been pretty numb from the beginning, so dressing changes haven't been painful at all. Just creepy.

When the various nurses and doctors were doing their things, all I felt was a sort of tugging, but below the skin.

The Wound Care Center is closed on weekends; so is the Urology office. In a pinch I could hit the Emergency Room, I guess, but this isn't an emergency. It's just a folded piece of alginate carefully teased into the opening, a piece of gauze over that, and an absorbent pad taped over the whole thing to keep it together. The alginate absorbs whatever drainage there is from surrounding tissues.

Doing it myself wasn't as bad as I was thinking it'd be--and I knew it wouldn't be, once I got past the fear and squeamishness.

Only 3 to 5 weeks left....

Ignorance is Unforgiveable.

Y'know, with that big Internet out there, there's no real excuse for the Alaska Idiot's ignorance of...well, everything.

Her recent howler about Paul Revere--claiming that he was riding to warn the British that Merkins was ARMED and they wasn't gunna take our guns--is just the latest shovel-full from the failed beauty queen. She also visited the Statute [sic] of Liberty. I wonder where that is.

The sad thing is, this imbecile was GUIDED in tours of these places and she STILL couldn't process the data except in talking points.

And this idiot is president material, according to stupid Republicans.

All the Alaska Moron has to do is get the "Schoolhouse Rock" box set--or go to YouTube:



Goddammit, there's just no excuse for ignorance.