Grieving for Gluten (And Other Things)…

When you find out you have an allergy, autoimmune reaction, etc. to a certain food or certain compound in a given food, it’s quite saddening to say the least. Even if you do know it’s for the best, it can really fucking suck.

For me, some days are better than others. Most of the time, I can deal with it just fine. I’ve found gluten-free replacements for all of my favorite foods – Italian, Asian, sushi, pizza, you name it! I definitely do not feel at all deprived on the food spectrum. I’ve found ways to deal with it (as well as my reactions to dairy, oats, amarinth and corn) and still eat all my favorites, using various gluten/grain free breads, pastas, etc.; non-dairy cheeses and ice creams, you name it. In fact, I’d say I eat better now and I enjoy eating and cooking more than I ever have in the past.

Alas, I still find myself sometimes longing for a Bratzel from Flying Saucer (a cheese/beer brat topped giant soft pretzel), a delicious donut, a wood-fired Lucia pizza from Vagabond in my old hometown of Abilene, and above all else, a good stout beer – the last of which still aches my heart that I can’t have anymore. There have been a few times I’ve wanted one so bad I’ve fucking cried.

Last week was a prime example, and I goddamn near caved and cheated on the gluten-free thing. Due to some unfortunate events last week (which were a result of my own doing and I’ll own that – though I don’t want to discuss details), I felt so bad the only thing I wanted was a Bratzel and imperial stout, and I was “this” close to going over to Flying Saucer and getting just that. Luckily, something came up which prevented me from doing that and saved me what could have been days straight of intense pain and suffering (I guess everything does happen for a reason).

The only gluten-free beer I’ve found around here is Redbridge by Anheuser-Busch and it’s no imperial stout. Whether or not you could even brew a gluten-free beer to have the thickness of imperial stout is another question altogether – part of where it gets its thickness is from the gluten itself.

Now, some Google search results have shown some true gluten-free imperial stouts. Alas, most of them are brewed on the west coast, and all of the ones I’ve found contain oats, which lo and behold I also react to. I can’t have those either!!! EFF. EM. ELL.

I guess I should consider myself lucky because I’ve got so much great Texas hill country wine to choose from around here to fill that void, but damn, wine just ain’t the same. I love wine, don’t get me wrong, and I would often choose it over beer back in my beer drinking days, but when you crave a beer it’s just a poor substitute.

My old pipe band is having a Burns Supper in a couple of weeks. I can guarantee you nothing there will be Celiac-safe because of the nature of Scottish cuisine. I can’t even enjoy that anymore. At times it’s just too much to handle.

Alas, I know it’s for the best if I stick to it, and in due time I’ll miss these things less. Taking it one day at a time is all I can do, and I guess I’ll just trudge forward, even if a beer or Bratzel is tempting at times.

I’ll be fine, and I can triumph over my cravings, and I will enjoy better health for not giving in. A little emotional pain now is worth not having a lot more of it later (as physical and emotional pain usually go hand in hand).

Never Underestimate a Guitar’s Saddle

Last week, my new Taylor 552ce got what seems like a small adjustment but was really a huge upgrade – I had a quality bone saddle installed.

Though but a few inches in length and maybe 1/4″ wide at most, a seemingly small component such as a saddle can have a huge impact on the resulting tone of the guitar.

For those who are unfamiliar, the saddle is the part in the bridge that effectively terminates the vibrating length of the string. The string “breaks over” it into the bridge where it is then anchored via pins or a pinless system.

Alas, the saddle does much more than that. The energy of the string actually passes through the saddle onto the guitar’s soundboard (the top piece of wood), making the top vibrate.

Needless to say, the material that the saddle is made from will have a major impact on the final tone of the guitar. Most production guitars some with some sort of a plastic saddle (Micarta and Tusq being the most common). Though easy to run through a milling machine and mass produce, plastic just doesn’t do that great of a job transferring the strings’ energy to the soundboard. It effectively acts as a damper.

Compare this to most boutique guitars which come fitted with a bone saddle. Bone does a much better job of transferring the energy from the strings. The result is a louder guitar with a more punchy low end, more shimmery high end, richer overtones and longer sustain (slower decay).

Every guitar is different of course, but I can say this – I’ve installed bone saddles in every acoustic guitar I’ve ever owned. How many did I go back to plastic in afterward? None. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Bupkis.

Now, my Taylor 12 was an exception in that I had it installed professionally because of the greater degree of complication. 6-string guitars are easy enough to do on your own. 12-strings are much more exacting with the intonation and having to cut guide slots in the saddle for the course pairs (lest they rest too close together).

So if bone is so much better, why would even high end production guitars use plastic? Well, again, automation. Due to the nature of bone it can’t really be milled and must be hand-finished. That said, manufacturers do keep some bone saddles in stock for aftermarket purchase, just not pre-installed in their guitars. I don’t know how many they sell, only that the end result is well worth it.

Taylor says they recommend plastic saddles in their acoustic-electric guitars because of their pickup system and possible inconsistencies with bone, but I’ve not noticed any issue with mine after changing the saddle. I had to adjust the EQ/preamp a bit, but the energy transfer to the pickup is no different. As such, I’m inclined to dismiss Taylor’s concern as hogwash.

For those worried about animal cruelty or unnecessary killing of animals, let me rest assure you no animals are killed just to make guitar saddles. The bones used in the making of them are a byproduct of the beef industry.

So that’s well and good, but what did I notice in my Taylor 12? Simply put, the bone brought out the shimmer of the course strings in a huge way, giving it more of a traditional, jangly, big bodied 12 string sound. It also increased the volume, sustain and overtones. The guitar was great before, don’t get me wrong, but the bone saddle just elevated it to another level. It was an all around good decision to upgrade.

Anyway, food for thought for you guitar players out there.

William Chris Vineyards – Hye, TX

Come with us as we visit one of the largest and most upscale wineries on the Highway 290 corridor for this week’s winery review!

Texas Bite & Sip

Date Visited: 1/4/2020

The William Chris Vineyard is nestled just off the US 290 highway in Hye, Texas, a small unincorporated town in the Texas Hill Country.  Founded in 2008 by William “Bill” Blackmon and Chris Bundrett, two long-experienced winemakers who had each been working for different wineries.  Both had grown dissatisfied and disillusioned with some of the  practices dominating the Texas wine market at the time, and shared a common vision of creating authentic Texas-grown, Texas-made wine to the public (source).

Although this is the largest and most-established winery we’ve been to yet, the signage was–interestingly–rather thin as seen on the highway.  It was there, but not large, and you had to know approximately where the winery was, or otherwise you might miss it.  However, once you turn into the driveway, the signage becomes more plentiful and much clearer.  Upon the first drive-up, one can really get…

View original post 785 more words

Neurotypical For A Day

Maybe it’s just me or maybe it’s most or all of us on the autism spectrum, but do you ever wonder what it’s like to be neurotypical? If you could choose to experience life as a neurotypical for one day (with the guarantee you could revert to your previous state in 24 hours’ time), would you take that opportunity?

By extension, would you continue to exist as neurotypical if you found it easier/more palatable to do so? Or would you choose to revert to your previous autism-afflicted state despite the difficulties that come with that?

While I’m still on the fence if I would accept a cure should one become available (note: I don’t think one will now nor ever), it would be interesting just to see what it’s like to be “normal” as it were. To be able to flow with the way the world is designed. To be the one catered to instead of ostracized.

I can’t be the only one who wonders.

Texas Hills Vineyard – Johnson City, TX

A very Texas-themed winery is the subject of our winery review this week. Join us on our trip to Texas Hills in Johnson City!

Texas Bite & Sip

Date Visited: 1/4/2020

Located just off of US Highway 281 North/290 West on Ranch-to-Market Road 2766 lies Texas Hills Vineyard, one of the oldest wineries in the area.  Established in 1995 by Gary and Kathy Gilstrap, this tucked away vineyard’s motto is “Wine to share with friends” (source).

The venue is well-signed, starting all the way out on the major highway intersection with a blue sign pointing you in the direction of the vineyard.  Once on RM 2766, it is very well-signed with a gate and hours of operation; you can’t miss it.  The driveway is long and leads you into a large, semi-paved (hard-packed gravel) parking lot with limited handicap parking available, and plenty of spaces close to the entrance across a short, solid wooden footbridge.  The venue is equipped with both a few stairs and a sloping ramp off to the side, for greater accessibility.

A648EEEA-8F36-47D7-840D-CAD4CBEFCF32

The…

View original post 1,088 more words

When Bad Decisions Add Up…

I’ll be 33 in 2 months and two weeks. I’ll have been a legal adult for 15 years by that point. If I had my way, I’d have been working in the airline industry for 10 years now (minimum age to be an airline pilot is 23, and the flight time requirements to get in as a First Officer at a regional carrier were much less stringent then than they are now) and by this point I’d either be a senior Captain at said regional airline and ready to move up to a junior First Officer position at a major, if not already in a junior FO position with a major. That’s IF I had taken the course I had planned for me.

Well, as we all know that didn’t come to fruition, because at the time the FAA listed autism spectrum disorders as an automatic disqualification from airworthiness. Times have changed, and now the FAA considers them on a case-by-case basis, but it’s way too late for me. I’m shut out.

Now, I’m under no illusion that airline life is somehow all rainbows and roses. I know it ain’t. It’s a cutthroat business – busy and demanding schedules, a lot of time away from home, lots of paperwork, you name it. There’s a reason the airline industry is exempt from right-to-work laws and why in that industry you can still be forced to join a labor union in all 50 states in the US.

Anyway, being shut out of that led to a series of horrible decisions and why I’m where I’m at now in my professional life. My first intention was to get into horology (clock/watch repair). There was a little shop in Abilene that did that, the owner who called himself “The Clock Doc” was an elderly, yet very unassuming and kind man. I came close to asking him for an apprenticeship and was going to, but was pushed by family and academia into going to college instead. I should have stood my ground.

Needless to say I did not. I went to college, racked up tens of thousands in debt, graduated with a degree that’s all but worthless unless you want to teach, but that’s what I decided I would do so that didn’t much matter. Well, I did wind up a teacher – one year at the high school level followed by two years of teaching at the university level while in grad school. I was good at it, sure, but didn’t really much like it. It didn’t pay that well either.

So I left grad school, even more in debt. When you have an all but worthless degree (mathematics) AND you’re on the autism spectrum – your employment prospects are limited at best, and that showed – being either unemployed or underemployed from January 2012 thru August 2015. By some stretch of unusual luck in what has been a very unlucky life, I managed to get a start into the crane industry as a heavy lift engineer.

And that’s where I’m at today, still. I’ve changed companies once, but nothing has changed as far as my job goes. It’s not a terrible job, pays a bit better than teaching, but there’s still no excitement there.

Make no mistake –  I am not a state licensed professional engineer. My job title might have “engineer” in it but that doesn’t mean I’m a P.E. Nor can I be with my current education – my degree is in straight math, not an engineering discipline. Guess I fucked myself over even more in college too didn’t I?

Had my degree been in engineering instead of math, I could have been a P.E. by the end of August as the requirements are 5 years working under an existing P.E. and a bachelor’s degree in an engineering field. Man would that be nice – I’d make double what I’m making now.

Now, there is still one option available to me to obtain a P.E. license – I would have to go back to school and obtain 20 hours of engineering classes and work under a licensed P.E. for a total of 8 years. I’m at almost 4.5 right now. I still have 3.5 to go, scraping by on what I’m making now, and even less because now I have tuition to afford, plus balancing my full-time job on top of school, among other things. You see where this is going – it simply is not feasible, not to mention I have no desire to even go back to school. I hate school. I pretty much suck at it too – I’m a very mediocre student. I should have never gone.

So where does that put me? Well, this job is all I really know. Well, that and teaching. I’m shoehorned into one or the other, and the latter is not palatable to me in any way. So this is my reality, unless I venture into self-employment, which is also not really feasible as I can’t bank enough to have enough capital to sink into starting one and getting a business loan is tough, not to mention then you’re in major debt to a bank. In that light, that door is also permanently closed.

Sure, I was on fire about it last year, but after I took my rose-colored glasses off I realized I was deluding myself. It will never happen. It can never happen. What the fuck was I even thinking? Holy fucking shit, I go back and read those posts I wrote at the end of March/beginning of April last year and I want to fucking vomit at my own stupidity and delusion.

Alas, I realize that there is only one person to blame for my situation. That person is myself. I fucked up hard, and I’m paying the price and will be for the rest of my life.

The only good thing to come out of my delusion? Relocation. That much I do not regret. That might be the only good decision I’ve ever made. Though I’ll never have a satisfying career, at least I found love again, and that counts for more than a job, career or business ever will.

Oh, and I’ve got my pick of wineries around here I can go to in order to drown my depression. At least I can afford some level of escape. 

 

 

Is There A Small Smartphone Left These Days?!?!?!?

Well, a little prequel to this post – my iPhone SE, which has served me well for nearly 4 years, finally gave up the ghost…on New Year’s Eve. Happy fucking New Year to me right?

So, thus starts the quest for a new (personal) phone. Luckily I’ve not had to be totally incommunicado with my family because they can still reach me via work phone (something I don’t want to do too much for too long since the clause at work says “limited personal use”). In my search, I have but one requirement – a reasonably small size.

Let me just be clear – I fucking HATE the trend of bigger and bigger phones. If I wanted a big fucking thing I’d get a tablet, not a goddamned smartphone. A smartphone has to be small enough to fit into my front pockets without the pockets protruding too far. Period. Sadly, such phones seem to be a thing of the past.

Hell, if I can’t find such a phone I might just go back to the late 1990s/early 2000s and get a dumbphone. I don’t know yet, but when the smallest phone you still have a prayer of getting is the iPhone 8 (and good luck finding a new one – all the ones I’m finding are pre-owned), you know the trend has shifted to phones that are just way too fucking big.

This is proving to be a nightmare. Wish me luck. Ugh. In the meantime, would it hurt anyone to bring back a 4″-ish phone? I can promise you I ain’t the only one who doesn’t want a big fucking thing to carry around everywhere.