Being An “F” Sucks…

No, I don’t mean a failure, though that would suck too. I mean a feeler, as in the Thinking/Feeling spectrum of the Myers-Briggs personality types. As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I am an INFJ (Introverted, iNtuitive, Feeling Judging). To be fair, the F is the least strong of the four dichotomies in my case (it’s about 55/45) but it remains that I am more feeling than thinking, and that feeling side of me has gotten me into trouble more than once.

The most recent manifestation of that trouble? The car situation. I had my scope narrowed down to two candidates, both of which had a six-speed manual transmission (my biggest personal requirement in a vehicle).

Candidate A: 2017 Honda Fit, 4K miles, $14,500.
Candidate B: 2013 VW Jetta GLI, 47K miles, $12,500.

Any thinking person would have opted for Candidate A, hands down. Newer, fewer miles, better fuel efficiency, even if a little higher priced. Candidate A was, for all intents and purposes, the practical choice. That said, it was just another car; no real fun factor to speak of. It was rather, shall we say, “uninspiring.” My Fiesta, though not exactly inspiring, was more lively than this thing, despite having a smaller engine and only a five-speed manual.

As you all know, I opted for Candidate B, against my better judgment. I say better judgment because my brain was telling me to go for Candidate A, but Candidate B won my heart over with the fun factor, the raw power and a more engaging and entertaining drive, not to mention her looks. Yes, my feeling side won out.

Also as you all know, that decision is biting me in the ass with the lengthy repairs she’s needed. Luckily I won’t be out anything more than a $100 deductible at the end of the day, but it’s still been a frustrating, irritating journey.

This is just one such example of how being an F has, for all intents and purposes, been a royal pain in the ass. I know, I know, “The grass is always greener,” but in this case, I can’t see how being an F is in any way better than being a T. If I was a T, it probably would have saved me so much headache later.

I can’t say as I know of any advantage Fs have over Ts. We often make erroneous decisions based on feelings instead of logic, we’re more emotional (and usually in the bad way), among other things.

Alas, it’s how I’m wired and I can’t change that. Oh well.

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The Newest Addition to My Musical Instrument Family

At approximately 1:30 PM CDT Friday, prior to my departure for San Antonio, I took delivery of these:

revelations

To supplement my existing 2008 MacLellan bagpipe in African Blackwood, I decided around the beginning of this year I wanted one of Roddy’s new “Revelation” instruments. This bagpipe is made of Delrin plastic, which is not an entirely new concept within the bagpipe world as Delrin has some distinct advantages over wooden instruments – mainly when it comes to playing outdoors in extreme heat, cold, arid, wet, etc. conditions. Wooden instruments are very sensitive to the environment around them, and any time you add in these factors, you risk cracking, warping, among other things. (To be fair, I’ve played my ABW set in some extreme conditions without ill effect, but it always left me nervous afterward.)

That said, Delrin isn’t without its drawbacks. Due to the density and hardness of the material, it often times results in a rather brash, hard, and unrefined tonal quality as compared to wooden instruments. It’s also not porous like wood, which results in moisture condensation from the player’s breath forming inside the drone bores much more quickly than with a wooden instrument. For these reasons, I’ve held off on a Delrin instrument.

Enter the new Revelation design from MacLellan. Debuting in 2017, this instrument elevates the Delrin bagpipe to a level beyond anything any other Delrin instrument has. Roddy has made some really unique innovations, bringing together the best qualities of Delrin while eliminating the drawbacks.

The first thing of note is the cellulose polymer lining inside the drone bores:

revelations2

Cellulose polymer is used extensively in the bagpipe world, as many synthetic drone reeds are made from it. Cellulose polymer adds two things to the bagpipe, namely moisture absorption more like a wooden instrument and, being a wood-based material, makes the air column resonate more like a wooden instrument, thus softening the often brash sound associated with a Delrin instrument.

The other thing is the incorporation of a silica gel cartridge inside the drone stocks (the stocks being the part that ties into the bag – for those of you who aren’t bagpipe people):

revelations3

These also have the cellulose polymer lining as you can see, but beneath the perforations lies a charge of silica gel desiccant. This also absorbs moisture, much like the various canister systems. For this reason, I plan to run both sets of pipes through the same stocks for that effect, so I can eliminate my heavy, bulky canister system and replace with a simple tube-style spit trap as a “first line” of defense against excess moisture and have these take over from there.

Between these two innovations and a slight tweak of the internal dimensions, MacLellan really has elevated the Delrin instrument. In addition to these benefits, due to the material these can be traveled with worldwide without issue, whereas most woods used in the making of bagpipes today are now listed as endangered per CITES and need special permitting to travel with.

Of course, as with all of Roddy’s instruments, they can be customized to suit your personal decor. This is part of what drew me to his instruments originally – they have a unique, distinct look in the world of “cookie cutter” bagpipes. They are works of art. My Revelations are no different, and I chose designs that I think are a reflection of me. My pipes are done in his chalice profile fully combed and beaded, with imitation horn button mounts and dragon knot engraved bronze slides, ferrules and caps:

revelations4revelations5

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So there’s that. Hope you enjoyed some of the eye-candy. I’ve been gradually getting them set up this week, from re-doing the hemp thread joints (as I do with any new set of pipes I receive), fitting the bag, cover, cords and reeds, and hopefully sometime this week I’ll get to calibrate the reeds and play a few tunes. We shall see though.

In the meantime, here’s a great video of Roddy explaining a lot of what I’ve explained above. It’s quite interesting.

The Importance of Using Top Tier Detergent Gasoline/Diesel

So yesterday I said Phoenix was having some major surgery, replacing the fuel injector in cylinder #4. I got a call this morning and they reported that the tech was then getting a misfire code in cylinder #2. Turns out that injector is also clogged and needs to be replaced. As a preventative step, they are recommending replacing all four and are doing a complete deep cleaning of the engine.

This is on a car with only 50K miles, by the way. Of the five vehicles I have owned, I have never once had to replace a fuel injector. Nor have I ever had to have a total carbon clean out.

The reason? All of this could have been prevented simply by using fuel that meets Top Tier Detergent Gasoline standards. When the EPA set their minimum treatment rate back in the 1990s, auto makers realized it wasn’t enough, and especially since that caused a lot of fuel companies to lower their treatment concentration. When things like the above happened, that’s when several auto manufacturers (of which VW was one) came together and devised the Top Tier standard.

I personally run exclusively Chevron or Texaco in my vehicles, as I have always gotten the best mileage out of them (note that Chevron bought Texaco some time ago and it’s now the same fuel). The Techron additive just seems to have a little extra magic in my experience, but not all engines are the same obviously. Nonetheless, the website linked above provides a list of Top Tier licensed brands.

Anyway, this is a prime example of why if you want something done wrong, let the government get involved. The Top Tier standard is an independent standard developed by the automotive industry for fuel companies to voluntarily participate in. As we become a more informed consumer base, for a fuel company to stay afloat they’ll have to go there. Just goes to show that true free market capitalism does work. This, my friends, is why I am a die-hard Libertarian.

Anyway, be informed. Pay the extra few cents per gallon and save yourself a lot of headache, heartache, and expensive repairs later.

The San Antonio Chronicles Episode 6: Marble Falls and Other Tidbits

Yet another San Antonio weekend has come and gone for me, and the more I visit there the more I get the itch to move. Between the much better vibe and it killing me to be apart from my twin soul sister, I’m almost at the end of my rope with regards to shitty ass Crapilene. Mercury Direct Station hits at approximately 11:00 PM Wednesday so then it’ll be time to get busy looking for places to live.

So I got in Friday evening as I always do, this time in a loaner vehicle as Phoenix is in the shop for some major surgery. Apparently she actually has a bad fuel injector (which I have never experienced in any other car I’ve owned) and the fuel system cleaner wasn’t enough to burn all the carbon deposits out. So far, between new plugs, new coils, a fuel injector and a carbon cleaning, we’re at about $1,250 worth of repairs on a car I have only had a month and a half. Needless to say the extended warranty has already paid for itself.

Anyway, I digress. I get in, and shortly after unloading we head out to Sushishima for a totally gluten-free sushi feast and, for me, a side of hot sake. From there, it was to her place for “happy hour” (which usually means a shot or two of Flor de Cana 12 and a nice strong cigar, and just a mixer of rum/soda and her vape for her). The night capped off by hanging out, watching a movie together, and lights out.

After a morning coffee and smoke Saturday, we ventured out for Marble Falls to visit a little hole in the wall diner called Tea Thyme. What makes this place so special is that it is 100% gluten-free. That’s correct. No navigation of the menu, no nothing. I ordered the same as Laina – the “Not Picky Tacos” (if I remember correctly) and they were heavenly, as was their chocolate chip cookie. Followed up the diner with a quick stroll in the park and then back to SA to chill for a bit.

That afternoon, after chilling, we set out to try to find Laina some thrift store jeans to hack up into DD’s (as she’s just been borrowing a pair of mine that had gotten too snug for me). We tried a couple of Goodwills but came up empty, and remembering Mercury is still retrograde, decided to pause that project for now and then ventured back over to The Cove for dinner.

Dinner at The Cove is always great; great burgers (which can be had with a GF bun or just lettuce wrapped), with some great GF sides too. I also ordered a couple of what I was told were gluten-free beers, however on further examination they turned out not to be GF at all. Omission beer says “brewed to remove gluten” and on the bottle it said “made from barley malt, this beer might contain gluten.” I’m glad I read that before I even took a sip. I was left feeling I had thrown money away on nothing but it’s a learning experience. Then it was again back to her place, where we had happy hour, jammed out for a bit, then called it a night.

Sunday morning started off with the usual routine of a nice smoke, after which we geared up for the day. Alas, before we got going, we just had to pause for a little “mirror selfie”…

…and then off to a little coffee shop called Mildfire for a little pick me up. I had the Americana Espresso which was delicious and gave me a good jolt. Just as we were about to take a bathroom break and leave, the barista pulled me aside and told me my shorts were “beautiful” and how she admired my confidence and said that I was the person she wants to be. I of course thanked her dearly, and had her come around front for a big, warm hug.

From the coffee shop, we went and had a delicious lunch at Garbanzo Mediterranean Grill. They were out of GF pita bread but I was still able to get a feast fit for a king even without bread. Leaving feeling satiated, we ventured to the vape shop so I could load up on my vape juice and then went back to her place.

Once we got back, it was time for a movie, and one I needed to see because it’s life-changing. If you’ve not seen it, I fully recommend Defending Your Life. It’s light-hearted but very inspirational. After the movie, which made me both laugh and cry, we flipped it over to the IndyCar race in mid-Ohio and watched a real thriller of a race.

By the time the race was done, my time was about gone so it was then I packed up and we said our teary-eyed goodbyes for now. I departed SA at 5:30 PM and arrived in Abilene right at 9. Luckily Laina was able to accompany me by phone for most of my journey.

Anyway, that’s what went down this time, but a few of interesting things happened on the side. Remember I said earlier that pair of DD’s Laina is borrowing from me were too tight for me now? Well I decided to try them on again for a moment, and lo and behold I can actually button them again! They’re snug, but I can button them easily. Three months ago I couldn’t, which means I’ve dropped a not-so-insignificant amount of weight without even trying. The only thing I’ve done different is being GF part-time and reducing my beer consumption, further adding credence to the gluten reactivity theory.

The second thing is I never knew how addicted I had become to my phone/computer and social media. This time around I did something different at Laina’s request – when we went somewhere I left my phone behind. I didn’t realize how much of our time together I was wasting on my phone, which was causing me to disengage. I did feel like the time we spent together this time around was much better quality and that I maybe should put the phone away more often in everyday life.

Lastly was what happened after I got back to Abilene. Since having been gluten-free since Thursday afternoon, last night I reintroduced gluten. Not long after dinner last night I had stomach cramps and nausea that lasted well into mid-morning today. In my mind that all but cements it for me. As soon as I get by blood drawn for the reactivity panels, I can go GF full-time and I intend to do so. For now, since I have to consume some, I’ll moderate my intake and cut beer entirely. That seems like a good initial step.

Anyway, that’s that for this trip. Stay tuned for more developments as it’s about to be crunch time.

Cigar Review: Micallef Herencia Maduro

This collaborative offering from Micallef and Gomez Sanchez family cigars features a Pennsylvania Broadleaf Maduro wrapper over an Ecuadorian Sumatra binder and Honduran and Nicaraguan long fillers. The size reviewed here is a 5.5″ x 52RG box pressed Belicoso vitola.

After two cuts with the Cuban Crafters Perfect Cutter, the first light reveals a perfect draw producing thick plumes of medium bodied smoke. Notes of rich cocoa and leather on the draw followed by an ample pepper and spice on the finish and retrohale.

Getting into the first third we see the same general profile with the exception of the initial pepper and spice blast dialing down a bit, allowing an aromatic bright cedar to join the retrohale.

The cigar was consistent start to finish in the flavor profile. Ending at 40 minutes for a rather short burn time and with a subtle mild/medium nicotine strength.

Excellent construction throughout with a near razor sharp burn. Ash holds on about a third at a time. High quality self-adhesive bands that came off cleanly without damaging the wrapper.

This was a nice enough smoke but man I was left wanting more time out of it. That’s the way it goes sometimes though. This would be a good option for a morning or lunch time smoke when you just don’t have much time to commit, but at $10/stick not exactly a good value for money. Great with a cup of coffee or a lighter red wine like a Pinot Noir. My final rating on this came out to a 3.5/5.

A Little Blast From My Teenage Years

 

In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, I share this little ditty from The Even Stevens Musical. The ending still just cracks me the fuck up.

Have a great day everyone, and here’s to that one small step for man, but one giant leap for mankind.

Gluten-Free Beer Review: Redbridge

redbridge

Staring in the face of the real possibility of gluten reactivity, the biggest hurdle for me to clear is going to be the beer issue. I’ve tried a few gluten-free beers in the past, but they were totally lackluster and not really worth drinking, let alone reviewing.

Alas, times are different now for the gluten-free world at large and things have gotten better. Maybe they’ve also gotten better in the beer world?

Anyway, Redbridge is a sorghum-based amber/red lager made by Anheuser-Busch. It weighs in a 4% ABV and an unspecified IBU rating. So what does this beer have to offer? Let’s find out.

Drank straight from the bottle so I can’t comment on color, but looking at the appearance of the beer through the bottle suggests a light golden color. Aromas of citrus hops come through the nose, as well as a glycerin-like sweetness from the sorghum. Flavors were very interesting and much more like that of an American pale ale than an amber lager – pale malt sweetness/breadiness supported by a bite of piney and grapefruit hop notes. Pretty thin/light in body and with high carbonation; this one is easy to kill several of.

Honestly, I found this beer to be very good. I got it to go with my gluten-free mushroom-Swiss burger at The Cove in San Antonio and it was a great pairing. The Cove is a great option in SA if you want a great gluten-free burger and fries, and obviously they have gluten-free drinks too. Oh, and the staff is super friendly and helpful. The bartender that day? As I paid out my bar tab and returned to my table, she noticed my lower half wear and gave me a pretty high compliment – “Oh, I love your shorts!” Never did I think I would get paid a compliment on my “Davy” Dukes but then again San Antonio and Abilene are totally different animals.

Anyway, I’m just glad I have at least one beer option should I have to make the commitment to gluten-free full-time. I’m sure you’ve noticed I’ve not written a beer review in a long time, and that’s the reason – I don’t drink much beer anymore and what I have had recently in that respect are all previously reviewed beers. Alas, I might specialze in gluten-free beers in the near future as I try more. Bartender lady assured me she’d have some more different ones back in stock in a couple of weeks, so when I’m down there again it’ll be worthy of exploration.

Whatever the case, I’m giving this one a rating of 4/5. I would definitely drink this again.