Thursday, March 29, 2012

Hiding Out

We took a mini-vacation to the Hill Country this week, and it was great.
Not counting Syl's trips to Chicago, Florida, Cancun, and that cruise, we haven't been anywhere in more years than I can pin down.

Back in December she found a good deal on Living Social for some cabins on the Guadalupe River, specifically the Horseshoe Bend just downstream from Canyon Dam.
Obviously not during peak times when they would be sold out anyway, but that's fine with us.
Ever taken a romantic walk on the beach while getting whipped by 30 mph/30 degree F winds plus sleet? That's how we roll.

The Hideout cabins are fairly new and in excellent condition, even right after spring break.

Getting down to the river and back up meant lots of stairs, and to keep with the natural stone decor we're talking random sizes and shapes so you really had to watch your step.
My thighs aren't as sore as expected, though.

The back porch was pretty rocking, with lots of furniture, ceiling fans, and a terrific view. Plus a wifi network antenna that never quite managed to connect us with the outside world.
(We were also in a rare weak zone for 3G and talk service, so our phone's only activity besides gaming was charging--for some reason the batteries were dying really fast, probably because they spent all their time and energy trying to connect to the various networks).

Gas fireplace was much appreciated. We were in their best cabins, which had central AC instead of window units. Didn't feel one bit guilty cranking up the cold air to compensate for a fire.

The giant tub was a thing of beauty, and the bathroom was enormous and posh.
My new favorite, because it was super-deluxe without going over the top.

There was even a urinal--no shit!
(I never bothered to use it, but Syl asked about the drunk-girls-in-bars techniques I have witnessed, so she may have given it a try).

No stove, but a nice fridge and microwave plus coffee machine which was all we really needed.
A crappy futon instead of a comfy couch was probably our main complaint. I'm thinking now that we should have just pulled some pieces off the porch since they were better.

I never looked at the available pictures online and didn't know much beyond "cabin" and what my past experiences suggested that meant.
I was prepared for an adventure and packed accordingly, so what we found was a very pleasant surprise to me and surpassed her expectations, too.
It was cozy and pretty and cheap, and we'll probably go back.

To be continued...

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Spring Has Sprung...

...with a vengeance!

The rains in fall and winter made a big difference.
The wildflowers last year pretty much sucked, but this season's are about the best I can remember seeing.

I will have some more nature photos later in the week, and hopefully some pics of fish. Hint hint. Can't wait!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Too Many Basses?

I'm tripping over the damn things in every room!
Sylvia got scared by a soft bass case that I had left in a strange place this morning--in the dark it could have been mistaken for a dog, I guess.

In addition to my own 4 and 8 string instruments:
Think I'm about done fixing the neck and bridge on this acoustic/electric Ibanez. It was seriously jacked.
I will miss being able to sit at the PC and learn songs off youtube without an amp or headphones.
Definitely on my wish list.

Next to the Ibanez is one of Steve's basses that I'm thinking might come in handy when the Televators go into an Austin studio next month. It's a Fender (Japan) Jazz Special that combines the best features of the two most popular and long-lived basses in history. He has it strung and tuned for the bottom four strings of a 5-string, so it's got a thin and easy to play neck yet still goes into the deep sub frequencies. Too bad I don't know how to play our songs in this tuning, or if it's even possible.

This is John's BC Rich 5-string that Rikk has been using in our country band A Beautiful Mess. It's got some electrical issues that I hope have been sorted out tonight.
In the foreground you can see the precision Klein Tools fine gauge wire strippers my brother got me for Christmas.
Sylvia hooked me up with an almost exact clone (that was MUCH cheaper) from Northern Tools for the thicker wires, which is the smart way to go. Finer copper strands need finer tools, but when you get into the lamp cord range it's really not a big deal.
Ashamed to admit that in all the years (okay, 3 decades +) that I've been fixing electronics and making custom cables, my toolbox has always held some seriously shitty wire strippers. For precision work I would use an ExActo knife, very carefully and slowly.
These quality tools are wonderful.
I feel like an idiot for cheating myself by being too cheap and using crap tools.

Only bass missing is the most important one--David's Korean Ibanez SR500 that will be used for the vast majority of the Televators studio sessions.
I need to put slightly heavier strings on it and adjust the bridge and neck accordingly in time for our show on March 30 at the Evil Olive Lounge.
Neck truss-rod adjustments take time to settle down, so hopefully I'll be bringing it home from practice tomorrow night.
And with any luck I'll be able to restrain myself from playing it too much, so the new strings will be right at the perfect age for serious recording--not too "zingy" but still kinda bright and responsive.

On the subject of recording, I actually spoke on a conference call to our producer last night for the first time and it turns out that he Google-stalked me and found Views Of Texas.
Besides recommending that I may want to lower my internet profile in the future (don't know how I feel about that) he also had some fun at my expense with the name of my old band The Hitmen mentioned in the last post.
I guess he wasn't told that every single Televator has been in The Hitmen at some point, especially our guitarist who founded the band and was the only one to stay from beginning to end--10+ years.

Good thing my bandmates don't include this blog in their usual web surfing--they had zero idea what the hell he was talking about so the faux pas went unnoticed.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Nostalgia Night

I try to NEVER get involved with booking shows, especially when it involves throwing together a group of people that aren't already used to playing together.
Tonight I made an exception, and hopefully nobody will depend on me to create another night as magic as this again. Lightning struck once, and that's enough.

It all started with a loving husband trying to make his special wife's birthday unforgettable.
The phone calls and texts finally reached down the chain to me, and the only thing that made sense on all levels was using the Sea Monkeys plus Mike G to almost re-create the legendary Hitmen.
We had the sound and lights, Steve (drums) and me (sound) are former Hitmen, and Mike was THE singer everyone remembers.

All I had to do was brush-up on some bass parts so nobody else would have to learn new (to them) songs, and suddenly a good approximation of circa 2002 Hitmen was possible.
I loved getting to play bass with Mike and Steve again--just wish I could have remembered to suck in my gut for the photos...

Mike's an entertainer in a way that a lot of "musicians" aren't. He's got the Dean chops plus the Jerry ring-a-ding-ding:
Mike will act the fool if it means people have a great time.
That's brave and comes from the heart.

Rikk on bass is the heart and soul of the Sea Monkeys as well as our country band A Beautiful Mess, so major props to him for playing along and letting us turn back the clock. He's actually a closet Hitmen fan, so that probably made it easier.

I had to play bass on a mini-set of the very best Stone Temple Pilots tunes like Plush, Interstate, and Vasoline:
No rehearsals, so theoretically my quick onstage schooling on tempos and keys and such saved untold amounts of precious time and gasoline in the days prior.

Sea Monkey's Chris Cortez is our gifted guitarist and lead vocalist, and I already try to make him sound rather similar to original Hitmen/Televators guitarist David McCall, so again we made a good go of it without wasting too much of anyone's time having to practice. As usual he carried most of the show with skill and passion yet didn't have an ego problem with Mike coming in and getting all the attention.
A true pro.

The bonus tonight was that Mike's children finally got to see their daddy sing in a rock band, now that they are old enough to "get it".
That might be my favorite thing, but it's hard to choose with so many people getting so much joy from a single night of stupid old rock music.

Happy Birthday, AmyDawg!
Glad you had a good time but to tell the truth, we ALL did!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Spring Forward

It's that time of year again, when people miss TV shows and are late for work.
We're now on Daylight Savings Time in the vast majority of the USA, and most informed Americans agree that it's a silly concept that creates more problems than it solves, but what can you do?

In an effort to cash-in, Duracell and the others have tried for years to get us to change the batteries in our smoke detectors on this day.
Personally, I wait for the detectors to make their annoying "low battery" alarm, thereby saving myself quite the tidy sum.
Or check voltage with my multi-meter, like I have to do each week with all the batteries my bands go through.
Wireless in-ear monitors and wireless microphones eat coppertops like crazy and won't tolerate the 7.2 volts from rechargables, plus some older electric basses with preamps chew through more than the usual 2 per year.

What I'm going to do on this particular weekend (starting now) is get the spare tire out from under my truck and check it out.

Here it is:

Got to admit, I've been real bad on this.
Had the truck for 18 months, and the spare has been a complete mystery until today.
Kept meaning to do it, but just never got around to it.
BIG Mistake!!

Here's what I found:
The winch system could use some lube, but works okay.

The tire and wheel were filthy!
Not much you can do besides clean it more often, but it sure would suck changing a tire on the way to anything formal.

The tire turned out to be my old favorite (and the racing standard) Goodyear Eagle, and is the same size as the rest.
Probably the best-condition survivor from a previous set, which is what I used to do with my Olds Cutlass Supreme and it's Eagles.
That's good news, especially considering that there's at least 3-4 years worth of tread left on the spare. My current tires were new when we bought the Dodge and have less than 10K miles on them, but in the event of catastrophic damage it's good to know that I already have a fine replacement in case I can't afford one right away. Good new truck tires are expensive, and I can always get a usable spare for $30, so it's cool that I can rotate the Eagle into the starting lineup if needed.

The rim doesn't exactly match the ones on the truck, but it's an all-aluminum Dodge wheel that's close enough. While driving down the road nobody would be able to tell at a glance that I'm rocking a spare.
Kinda wish I had 4 of this type, even though they are harder to clean because of the smaller rooks and grannies. (sp?)

The juicy part of this post is that I'm really glad I did this today, because my spare had ZERO air pressure!
100 percent useless.
Not even a whisper of air when I attached the pressure gauge.
I have a decent air compressor, and it took two charging cycles to fill it to specs.

I don't even want to think about how pissed off I would have been after spending way too much time jacking up the truck and changing the tire, only to find out it's as flat as the one I had just removed.
Knowing that it was preventable.
And entirely MY fault.

I'm pretty cool under pressure at gigs, but that's because I'm always OCD-prepared for failures with enough tools and spare parts to keep the show running, within reason.
Have to tell you that a blowout might have been the end of me.
Would probably have beat myself up, fatally.
Not kidding one bit.

The last finding was that there was no valve stem cap.
I spent nearly an hour digging through my spare parts/screw/nuts bins and never found what I was looking for, a metal cap from my Oldsmobile's racing wheels.
Need to check Sylvia's tires--might have put one on her car to save a trip to the store.
Speaking of which, to get the spare tire back under the Dakota where it belongs without going to the parts store and spending money, I just borrowed a valve cap from my friend's van which is parked in our driveway.
In the next week or two I'll buy a nice set for the truck, which will let me use the old ones to replace his and give me 3 spares. He'll never be the wiser unless he reads this blog post.

Oh, Hi Buz.

Assuming that the car dealer who sold us the truck checked the spare, and he probably did (may he rest in peace--him and his wife were good folks who've also helped many of my friends get into decent vehicles at affordable prices) I should be worried that it lost all air so quickly.
Believe me, I AM worried, but never found a nail or other obvious cause.
So I'm going to give it a week or two then crank it back down and check pressure, and lube the winch while I'm at it.
Hopefully it was just suffering from neglect.
Or maybe a bad valve.
We'll see.
At least I know that there might be a problem and have a plan of action.

Starting today, every time the clocks spring forward or fall back I'm going to check my spare tire. Maybe more often, if I'm as smart as I claim to be.
Like a defensive handgun, your spare tire is something you never really need until you need it very badly right effing now!!
When was the last time you checked out YOUR spare?

I was an idiot stranded on the side of the road missing work (or breakfast) just waiting to happen.

Don't miss work or breakfast.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Too Much !?!

Things are moving fast for my band.
Too Fast!

By the time I wrap my head around something, a newer and stranger thing jumps out and fish-slaps me.

For example, we now have a Televators App:
True, the content's not much different from what can easily be accessed using a browser on your phone (if you know where to look) but now there's a convenient app icon in there next to Angry Birds or Words with Friends.

WAIT! Next to Angry Birds?
That's cool...

It's going to be a few days before I'm certain how I really feel about this, but I don't have the luxury of processing new info at my own speed anymore.
Other stuff is happening too fast.
Can't reveal details yet, but it's looking like I'll (finally!) get to take pictures in Austin over a handful of days next month if I'm not way too busy grinding out notes and sounds.

Trying really hard not to even think about what my life might be like in a few months.
Or more precisely, where I might be.
Hope my passport photo doesn't look goofy...

Maybe I should just concentrate on doing a good job running sound for A Beautiful Mess in 2 weeks when we entertain the Governor of a nearby state at some important black-tie event?

Nope, not helping.

Too Much.

*****Important Info*****

If you are so inclined, thanks a lot, but please wait before downloading the Televators App for Android until you figure out how to disable auto-play and/or learn how to 'force close' apps on your device.
Syl and I are probably the only beta-testers this soon after release, and the music never stopped even after a few hours until we got up to speed with tools we've never needed before.
Battery drain was almost as annoying as the songs never shutting the hell up.

Don't even know if the Blackberry version is out yet.
iPhone is due in a week or so.
Apple needs more time to add perfect but limited functionality.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

I'm Flashing The World

An annoying situation for many months, my Dodge pickup's turn signals would freeze every once in awhile.
Not cool, but I was able to signal manually when needed.

As my January State Inspection deadline drew near I must have pulled the flasher module out a dozen times trying to get it to work better.
Re-did all the solder joints, contact cleaner, monkeyed with the mechanical parts--no success.

Went to O'Reilly's autoparts and they quoted me a staggering $83 !!!
After they hooked me up with the lowest price on a technically similar part to fix the air conditioner in Sylvia's Honda, I was shocked.
I checked a few other places online and got similar results.

Blew a lot of gas checking the pick'n'pulls with no success, and time was running out.

Ordered the exact module from a great company online at a good price, but when it arrived there was no blinkage at all.
Sent it back with the enclosed return labels and got credited on the card, so at least we found an honest parts source for the future.

Time was up, so I squeaked through the State Inspection. Was going to try it the day before but the blinkers didn't cooperate at all.
As it was, had to hit the directional stalk twice and cross my fingers and toes.

Finally, after finding some truly obscure band trailer parts at NAPA in an emergency, I gave their website a shot and holy shit $18.99 beats the hell out of $83.00!!!

Maybe 5 resistors, a capacitor, a diode, an electromagnet, and a plate with a spring. $83????
I used to love O'Reilly's, but now they are the Porky's of auto parts to me.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Chillin' Again

An empty refrigerator with a thermometer in it probably sends all of my male viewers into a panic...
Relax. No beers were harmed in the making of this photo.
But we still lost a lot of food--especially mayo.

Our Whirlpool fridge had been acting funny for maybe 5-6 weeks, with short-cycling being the main symptom until the temp started to rise. On it's 8th birthday (also the eighth anniversary of buying our home) the temp had made it above 60f so I admitted that drastic action was needed and finally got off my ass.

GoogleGoogleGoogle, read the owner's manual, dress up for an Excellence Award shindig for Sylvia (Proud but not surprised), eat a fine meal and listen to speeches at San Francisco Steakhouse (yum...), watch the girl on the swing for 8.24 seconds, haul-ass home to put our food into ice chests and get to work.

I knew very little about refrigerators before yesterday beyond keeping the door closed and not weighting it down with too many magnets and menus.
Turns out I had a lot to learn, including the simple concept of pulling stuff out and using a flashlight to carefully inspect for frost and ice buildup in the freezer section which might lead to blocked cold-air ducts down to the main section.
I just didn't understand how the top can be so cold, while my cheese and butter weren't firm.

Power = OFF

Pointed a couple of 100watt band lights into the freezer and left both doors open.

Might as well clean the crap out of it while waiting.
Sylvia scrubbed the front and one side.
After a few hours we finally heard water dripping into the catch pan and realized that it's been too long since we heard that sound.
Yup--froze up.

Had to siphon water out of the catch pan 3 times overnight before all the ice and frost was melted and I could un-bolt it for a good scrub.
Today I added more ice to the chests then got to work cleaning the rest of the fridge, inside and out. All of the accessory parts were a pain in the ass. There are like 14 shelves and drawers and rails and grills and glass inserts!
Clorox wipes are pretty good for the interior--I used orange-scented ones.

When I left for band practice the temp had dropped 10 degrees in 30 minutes which was a good sign, and 2 hours later we were already getting into a good range.
The freezer is under 10f now and the bigger main section is catching up to where it should be.

More importantly, there is zero evidence of long run cycles, or painfully short ones.
Air-flow is confirmed between top and bottom, which obviously wasn't the case before.

It's back to running like a good refrigerator should, so far.
The real test will come as I add food and bottles of water tomorrow, but at this time confidence is high.

It's cold and all, so my work wasn't a waste of time, but still short-cycling sometimes.
Need to do more research before calling up a repairman.