Logic Does Not Compute – The Men’s Swimwear Edition

So after years of not having any swimwear, I finally hopped online and got me a swimsuit. It’s about time right?

You might ask yourself why not just go to a B&M and get one? Well, it might be different for my European readers, but in the United States no department stores stock brief-style swimwear for men. We Americans in all our prudishness are all about those heavy, ridiculous, baggy long trunks (which Laina coined the term “sissy-ass shorts” to describe). It’s absolutely asinine.

Luckily I found a really nice one online, which Laina helped me pick out. We looked at the color options for a particular style and she decided that purple would look great on me. So I measured myself, got the correct sizing and checked out to the tune of $30 and change…which was after a 30% discount code!!!

Well, I have to back up and scratch my head at the logic here. Brief-style swimwear is less than 1/4 as much material as trunks, but they’re more expensive? Like how does that make even the remotest amount of sense? My logical autistic brain just can’t figure that one out. You can go to fucking Walmart and buy a pair of sissy-ass trunks for $10, but good luck finding swim briefs for less than $40-50?!?!?

Man, if anyone can figure that logic out let me know. All I know is that’s stupid. Maybe it’s a luxury tax of sorts – pay for the comfort, freedom and aerodynamic advantage of swim briefs. Engineering after all. 😉

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.

Holiday Fun, Some Personal Updates & A Look at 2020 Ahead

So I’m chilling in my apartment this morning resting up from a past two fun-filled days. They’ve worn me out for sure but wow has it been fun.

Our holiday fun started on Saturday the 14th when Laina and I caught up with my best friend from high school and one of her close friends for a stroll down the San Antonio Riverwalk to see the lights. They do it up in a huge way, let me tell you what! We walked down and up, stopped in for a quick bite to eat on one of the restaurants on the strip (and a couple of spicy margaritas for me – which were heavenly) and just took it in on a lovely, warm-ish December night.

Christmas Eve we went over to Laina’s BFF’s house for some fun and games as well as food and drink. Upon Laina’s BFF’s request, I made what has become my signature dish – a paleo-style Asian stir fry using spaghetti squash instead of lo mein noodles, boneless chicken thighs, sliced carrots, onions, celery, zucchini, red bell pepper, chopped portabella mushroom and diced peanut and garlic bits, with a mix of San-J (all gluten/MSG free sauces) Thai peanut and spicy Szechuan sauces. (Oh, and sliced green onions on the side for those who wanted them). Everyone seemed to love it.

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We ate, I cracked out my new Taylor 12 for awhile, then we played some Bullshit (a hilarious card game where the object is to lie like a dog and get away with it!). After having killed two full bottles of wine and some Peruvian brandy, I was in no condition to drive so we stayed the night.

Laina and I woke up at 6 AM sharp yesterday morning to run back to our places, tend to a few things and then hit the road to Abilene to see my family. We stopped in at my parents’ place first thing for some small gift exchanges and to fill up on my mom’s famous ham/pineapple before heading over to my paternal grandmother’s house for her last Christmas in her place before moving to assisted living.

Needless to say yesterday wasn’t as fun as the day before, but I made it through. I’ve always been the black sheep of my family but I felt obligated to go. After some light conversation with the group, Laina and I got right back on the road to SA (in which I promptly changed out of awful full-length jeans back into my signature Dukes – lord knows my conservative, Bible-thumping extended family would have thrown a fit over me wearing them!) and met up with Mr. Kitty for dinner and hard ciders at Flying Saucer. It was a great way to cap off the night.

As far as other personal updates, I continue to heal as my health continues to improve. I’ve lost a considerable amount of weight without even trying – no calorie counting or anything. Take this photo as a prime example. These “light wash” Dukes are one of my smaller pairs. This time last year I struggled to button them. This year, I need a belt with them!

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Now that’s progress!

Sorcha is doing well. She goes into the vet again tomorrow (Friday) for her third round of vaccines and to schedule spaying/microchipping. She’s become a little Houdini – she’s snuck out on my back deck once and out my front door once, going halfway down the stairs. Methinks she’s wanting to chase some tail (as do most female cats when they hit puberty), but the last thing I need is a litter of kittens so that’s not happening. She has stopped pissing on my bed (after switching her to a full-sized litterbox) and sleeps with me in bed at night – on my pillow behind my head!

Here’s a cute little picture I took of her exploring my wine glass. Like father, like daughter I guess!

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So, what’s on the docket for 2020 for this blog? Well, more of life in San Antonio as I continue through this major transitional step in my life, exploring a newfound love life, and some collaboration work! Laina and I have been visiting several wineries in the hill country lately (mostly on Highway 290 between Johnson City and Fredericksburg), doing like a superficial once-overs and some tastings. We are planning to launch a joint venture in which we review the wineries we’ve visited, from atmosphere, decor, staff, and of course the wine itself. As our wine palates run totally opposite (she’s into light, sweet whites/roses as well as ports whereas I’m more of a big, heavy, dry red type person) we’ll each have a different angle to approach with to give you more variety. Stay tuned, you won’t want to miss this!

Sometimes All You Need…

…is a brand new guitar!

I definitely didn’t see this one coming but hey, I guess I’ll roll with it.

So I went over to Guitar Center on San Pedro here in San Antonio looking to demo any one of two Taylor 12 string models – either a 362ce or a 562ce. I had these models in mind for many specific reasons – small body shape (easier to handle) 12-fret neck-to-body joint (fuller tone) short scale length (less tension), and a mahogany top (warmer/less bright). I wasn’t looking to buy either one (as I’m not a fan of cutaway body or electronics, but Taylor doesn’t make those without the ce so I was going to demo and, if I liked what I heard and felt, request a quote for a custom build).

In the general section of the acoustic room they didn’t have any of those but they did have a few low end Taylor 12s – 150e models. I picked one up to fiddle with it, and it was OK for the price. Went to ask about driving it through an amplifier and they took me to the back room to do so. As I was testing the electronics, I looked over and saw one lone 552ce in a locked hanger. The only difference between the 552ce and the 562ce is the former has a cedar top instead.

So I asked an attendant to get it down so I could test drive it as it were. They readily helped, and apparently it had been forever since it had been played because it was so out of tune. I tuned her up and played a few chords and was instantly enamored – each course rings loud and true with ample volume (surprising in fact for such a small body), it’s very comfortable to hold and it plays like absolute butter – just as easy as a well set up 6 string guitar. That’s no easy feat on a 12 string.

I probably played that thing for 15-20 minutes, both plugged and unplugged (the ES2 electronics actually sound fantastic, making me actually want to keep the electronics in case I ever play live anywhere). I also decided I likely preferred the cedar as the mahogany top would have probably been too muffled for my taste (and thus cedar is a happy medium between spruce and mahogany) as well as for aesthetic reasons. My heart was set but I still wanted to see if I could get a custom build without the cutaway.

I went to ask the clerk about that and financing and he advised me that asking for a non-cutaway special build would likely be more expensive as it’s not a production model, even though a non-cutaway is generally less expensive. Well damn. The guitar sounds fantastic as is, so I figured what the hell, I’ll try to figure out a way to walk out with it that night. Applied for GC financing and was approved instantly (this is why it’s important to take care of your credit!) for 48 months same as cash/interest free financing. It was a no-brainer. The guitar was mine.

(Note: the following day I was actually glad I kept the cutaway as this guitar is a 12th fret neck-to-body joint as opposed to a 14th fret so accessing the upper frets would have been extremely difficult on a non-cutaway.)

So that’s the story of how I wound up with my dream guitar. No doubt it’ll get lots of use. It’s an absolutely incredible instrument. Even if you don’t normally play 12 strings, this one should be accessible to you. It really did blow me away with the sound quality and ease of play.

Anyway, off to enjoy my guitar some more. Have a good day!

My Strange Attachment (Pun Fully Intended)

I do have attachments to some of my personal belongings. I know, weird. I’m not what I’d call materialistic but some stuff is kind of sentimental to me, but none of those things have the bond I have with this guy.

Everyone, meet my longtime friend Kirby:

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Yes, my strange attachment is to my vacuum cleaner – a 1995 model year Kirby G4. My great-grandmother bought him new back in the day. I remember like yesterday the in-home demonstration the gentleman did using our old vacuum cleaner and then this beast showing how much off-the-shelf vacuum cleaners leave behind. It was very impressive. I remember being absolutely fascinated with it as a kid, even to the point I did the vacuuming around the house because I was just so enamored with Kirby. Even my parents found it weird how fascinated I was with a goddamned vacuum cleaner – but of course now we know why I had such an interest.

When my great-grandmother passed away, the vacuum kind of became mine. Mom and dad got other vacuums along the way (mostly bagless because they didn’t want to deal with changing bags), but when I vacuumed I always insisted on using Kirby. The others just weren’t the same, nor do they have anywhere close to as much suction. A Kirby will out-suck just about anything else out there.

When I moved out for college and grad school, I took Kirby with me as he wasn’t getting used by my parents at all by that point. I needed a vacuum cleaner for my place anyway, and if they let me have Kirby that was just icing on the cake. It cost me nothing to take and I wouldn’t have any other vacuum if given my choice.

He came back with me and into storage after grad school when I was living with mom and dad again. I took him with me to Dallas, where he got used in my apartment there, but then went back into storage again after returning to Abilene once again, where he would remain for a year and three quarters, until Laina and I went by the locker this past Sunday on our Abilene visit and recovered him to bring back with me to San Antonio.

Last night I fitted a new bag and fired him up for the first time since February of 2018. Like long-lost friends, we picked right back up where we left off. It was like yesterday. He sprung back to life the second I plugged him in and he’s running as great as ever, save for needing a new self-propelled transmission.

So here we are in November 2019, 24 years and change after it became part of my life. It’s been with me through ups and downs, and we grieved the passing of my beloved great-grandmother together, but he’s still never missed a beat and is reliable as ever.

Sure, I’ve replaced many drive belts along the way, along with a few brush rolls and even a fan impeller, always opting to do the work myself instead of paying for labor (the same will be true when I am in a spot to replace the transmission). Me being how I am (autistic) I’ve always loved to tinker with stuff (even before I knew why), and Kirby was no exception. To me it just feels more personal when I do it myself. Now there will come a point I can’t and I have to send it back to the manufacturer for a full rebuild, but that’s years and probably even decades in the future as these things are built to last.

Anyway, funny story about the fan impeller – I was vacuuming out my car and sucked a huge rock into the vacuum, and almost immediately heard a loud “crunch” and a bunch of pinging. I immediately shut the vacuum off and took the hose off to reveal that the impeller had shattered into about 4 pieces. Of course I wasn’t going to pay someone to replace it, so I just went to the parts store to get a new impeller and put in the sweat equity myself.

Little did I know the G4 was the last model that featured a metal fan impeller – the G5 on up have kevlar impellers which I imagine were developed for that reason. Needless to say Kirby is now retrofitted with the kevlar impeller and we have not had a repeat and I’ve sucked a lot of sizable shit up into him since.

Alas, that’s the story of my strange attachment, 24 years in the making. I almost feel like Rob McGroarty talking about my beloved Kirby vacuum (and kudos to whoever gets the reference), but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Kirby and I do share a special bond that just gets sweeter as time goes on, and you’re free to judge or ridicule if you wish because I know it’s real to me.

My Recent Foray into Home Cooking

I have to admit, I never thought much of my own cooking skills. Yeah, I could do basic stuff (like heat up pre-packaged stuff, using a microwave or toaster oven, etc.) and live, but never did I venture much into cooking from scratch. I just never thought I really had it in me to do so, and the couple of times I had tried in the past were absolute disasters.

Of course, going gluten-free changes all of that. Almost all pre-packaged meals contain something glutenated, not to mention a bunch of artificial chemical shit nobody should be eating! When I look back I’m disgusted at what I was actually eating, solely in the name of convenience and, I admit, sheer laziness!

Alas, here’s where I get my hand forced. Eating out every day is prohibitively expensive (unless of course you have the net worth of our worthless orange-haired shitgibbon of a president!) so here I am having no choice but to learn to cook from scratch! Between that and that Laina is a self-admitted “disaster in the kitchen” (though she does help when possible) well, I’m kind of handcuffed into it.

I always figured I’d have to go on Food Network’s “Worst Cooks In America” to learn anything! I know so many people wonder how anyone can be that genuinely horrible at cooking, but I seriously thought I was. Well, maybe not so much.

I’ve now cooked four meals from scratch (all on Tuesday nights interestingly enough) for Laina and I, with plenty left over for subsequent meals and I have to say so far, so good! Hell, even the stuff I’ve made has been palatable to *ME*, so even own-worst-critic me is giving myself a pat on the back for what I’ve done thus far – from gluten-free pasta to sirloin steaks and everything in between!

I’d like to share with you what I’ve done for the past couple of weeks, taking one base ingredient and preparing it two totally different ways just to demonstrate that it’s OK to think outside of the box. For the base ingredient, I’ve used spaghetti squash – a large squash that literally turns stringy when cooked, like spaghetti. I scored a sale on organic spaghetti squash at Natural Grocers for $0.99/lb so I couldn’t pass up picking up a couple. It’s naturally gluten-free and has lots of fiber and nutrients, making it a great substitute for regular pasta.

For the first one, I took it in a typical direction you’d find – more of an Italian spaghetti type dish. Using one large spaghetti squash (baked at 400F for 40 minutes; split the squash, scoop out the pulp, vent and bake face down), combined with two jars of Whole Foods 365 organic pasta sauce  heated in a crock pot, 1 lb. grass-fed ground beef, and two bulbs minced garlic, one red onion and one portabella mushroom all sauteed, the end result was a healthy, delicious dinner to satisfy even the most die-hard spaghetti fan!

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Then just tonight, knowing the other one would have to be eaten soon but not wanting to do the same thing twice in a row, the gears started turning and I thought “what if I take this in an Asian direction?” After all, noodles are at the base of many Asian dishes. From that seed the idea for spaghetti squash stir fry was born. Baking the spaghetti squash the same as before, I stir fried 1 lb. of boneless/skinless chicken thighs with 2 stalks of celery, two carrots, two portabella caps, a large red onion and diced unsalted peanuts, with some green onion on the side (I’m not a fan, but Laina loves them so I did it that way). Combine this with the squash and 1 bottle each of San-J Thai Peanut and Spicy Szechuan sauces and the end result was a stir fry fit for Genghis Khan himself!

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I have to admit, this has been a blast. I never thought I’d actually enjoy cooking quite like this, but I really am. It’s almost like “you mean I made that?” Damn. I guess I can do this after all. I don’t know what I’ll come up with next, but we shall see.

Cigar Review: Oscar 2012 Barberpole

This offering from Oscar Valladares features a striped Barberpole consisting of Candela and Mexican San Andreas wrappers, Nicaraguan binder and Honduran and Nicaraguan long fillers. The size smoked for review is a 6″ x 52RG sharply box pressed Toro vitola.

The first light reveals a perfect draw putting off plumes of mild/medium bodied smoke. The signature Candela flavor starts things off – vegetal, grassy, with a glycerin sweetness. A hint of pepper to start.

As the cigar develops the body ticks up to a medium as the San Andreas starts to engage. A very complex blend of flavors – still with the Candela flavor package but an addition of a rich cocoa, a slight creamy note, a heavy earth and a substantial pepper blast. Everything is seamlessly blended. No one flavor sticks out.

The flavor package was consistent start to finish, which was fine by me as it was so complex and so well done it kept my interest. Ending at 1 hour 45 minutes for a truly impressive burn time for the size and the strength matches the body at a medium.

Flawless construction throughout with a burn line about as good as you can expect from a Barberpole – no touch ups required. Short flowery ash though, so be aware of that. Band is high quality and self adhesive and removes without damage to the wrapper.

This cigar will have wide appeal. Fans of both Candela and San Andreas will find something to like about this cigar. With its middle of the road body and strength profile, it would be a great cigar for any time of day and will pair well with just about anything. At about $8-9/stick, this is a great value for what you get. Rating: 4.5/5.