Tags: old stories


Me, My Instruments, My Day

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Today's an achy day. *sigh* Fortunately I was feeling well enough yesterday to pick up a few essentials at the drug store (yow, when I have to buy my OTC meds, including Prilosec, things add up in a right hurry -- quite a hit to the bank account), so I don't desperately need to hike anywhere tonight or tomorrow. I did manage to get in a couple hours of practice for a gig at Pennsic and get ahold of my mother by phone to hear how her trip to China with my sister had gone (I now have a newly-adopted niece).

Last night I fit a temporary nut in the electric mandolin (to replace the one that broke Friday. I figured I might get away with wood since there's a "zeroth fret", but the narrow spacing between the paired strings of each course makes for awfully fragile fingers of wood separating the strings of each pair. Sure enough, despite trying to avoid imposing any lateral stresses while installing it, I knocked off the bit of wood between the A strings. So those two strings are currently being held apart by a folded-up piece of cardboard. If it holds until I can get the bone nut blank cut in half and shaped (most likely after Pennsic, though if I can get it cut to the right size before Pennsic, shaping it and cutting the grooves will be a reasonable while-sitting-around-camp-shooting-the-breeze project) then at least I'll still be able to practice. I ordered a pre-grooved plastic nut online, which may or may not wind up having the right spacing for this mandolin -- if it does, it saves me a lot of rather annoying work; if not, it goes into the random parts bin and didn't cost very much.

I did tune up one of the other mandolins, a round-back, but the neck started tilting forward and opened a gap where it attaches to the body ... I think I can get enough glue into the gap, but I haven't yet figured out how to clamp or weight the thing while the glue sets. If I can solve that problem before the end of tomorrow, I can leave it to set and cure and dry very thoroughly while I'm off at Baitcon. I'm hoping that this style can be repaired effectively at that spot, since it was a similar failure that did in the mandolin that I really liked (it was much easier to play than the electric). Of course, then I get to worry whether the dry, cracked soundboard on the round-back will hold up.

Hmm. I wonder whether the instrument that appears to be a triple-strung mandolin is actually built strong enough to withstand the tension of twelve strings ... and whether there's enough room on that fingerboard to play it that way. I should've picked up extra strings last week when I was out in Catonsville. (It looks like a late-19th/early-20th Century style round-back mandolin body (I don't think this specific instrument is that old), with an elongated head and six-on-a-side tuners like a 12-string guitar, and a very shallow wooden nut with twelve faint grooves in four sets of three. At the moment it has six ancient strings on it and the broken ends of two more.

I still want a mandola and a solid-body electric mandolin someday (I've seen a Fender solid-body but it only had four strings rather than eight), but at the moment I'll settle for getting one of the ordinary mandolins into proper condition. (The electric with the nut problem is a regular modern teardrop arched-top-and-back design with f-holes -- i.e. not a bowl-back but not a Flatiron or a Flatiron-clone -- with a coil pickup and a couple of knobs, and an extra-thick soundboard (to reduce feedback, I presume) which makes it difficult to get much volume out of when it's not plugged in. I'm counting it as an "ordinary mandolin" because it's basically a modified modern acoustic mandolin, and that's what it sounds like plugged in or unplugged.)

While I'm thinking of instrument repairs and instruments-needing-repair, I should go downstairs and take the oud out of the winter coat that serves as its case, and check whether the repairs that I made just before Conterpoint are still holding up.

And while I'm thinking about broken-things, I'll take a moment to natter about the frustration of having broken my box-cutter today[*]. It's on my fretting hand, so it won't affect my playing (I also refer to it as my "spare nail"), but I always forget, until I've had to cut it off, just how often I use it without thinking. I just tried to check something on my PDA, which was lying next to my left hand, and rather than bothering to take out the stylus for a mere couple of taps, I automatically tried to use my thumbnail. The thumb-tip doesn't work as well as the thumb-nail, not precise enough. Feh. But the guitar-picks are all intact, and that matters a whole lot more.

I'm still thinking about what I didn't like about the doctor I saw last week and what I should try to make clear to the doctor who will become my regular physician when I see her for the first time just after Pennsic.

This weekend, Baitcon; then a short week to get everything lined up to be ready for Pennsic.

While I was finishing this up, I heard an Arabber go by, up Fulton Ave. I'm not used to seeing them right around here (usually farther north or east) but this makes three times in the last month and a half that I've noticed. This time he was singing. If one has made my intersection part of his route home, I'll have to start keeping an eye out, especially while I'm without a car. (I didn't get a good look at what he had. I saw bananas and maybe canteloupes, no watermelons this time, and I'm not sure what else. I would've gone and bought a canteloupe, but I would've had to pause to throw on clothes -- hey, it was a hot day and I gotta maximize the effect of the electric fans blowing across my skin, don't I? -- and he was on his way someplace (presumably the stable), not stopping to set up and sell. But he must have a selling-spot not too terribly far from here in the afternoons.)

[*] Well, not just a box-cutter, obviously. I recall the time I startled my boss by using it to cut drywall[**] -- it was her own suggestion, but she'd meant it as a joke; I looked at my hands, realized my thumbnail was long enough to be useful, and jabbed it into the drywall and started sawing. Basically, it's the "everything I don't want to risk damaging one of my guitar-picks on" nail. The other nails on my left hand have to be short for fretting.

[**] A slightly unpleasant sensation, yes, but not anything like nails-on-a-chalkboard intense, and I only needed to cut a few inches. And yes, my nails are naturally that strong -- I've got acrylic on the three that take the most wear from strumming and thin spots near the tips of the other two that show why the acrylic is needed; the left thumbnail is the one that shows my natural nail thickness.



Something somebody else wrote in a locked entry, about really Not Wanting To Know About It if any of their friends thought a certain act was acceptable, reminded me of something I know I've mentioned in several places in the past but don't recall whether I've written about in a blog entry here:

As far as I can remember, only one movie has ever given me nightmares. When I was a child, and already a voracious reader, my parents thought I should see a movie that was coming on the television. I didn't completely grasp the plot until I read the book when I was a little older; I found some parts confusing at the time. But the most important images and the basic idea stuck with me and gave me nightmares for the next several nights running.

Most of you have probably already guessed: the movie was Fahrenheit 451. I would wake up in terror from a dream about either being arrested for trying to extinguish burning books, or being thrown on a pyre of books. Or of being restrained, weeping, forced to watch books burning. <<shudder>>

I have enough trouble dealing with the notion of books being burned or buried in a landfill because they're unsalable excess from way too large a print run, or because they're damaged beyond the point of salvage, or because smebody's freezing to death and the books are the only fuel available. Those scenarios make me twitch uncomfortably. The idea of burning books because one disapproves of their content, or trying to eradicate all copies of a work, is right out. I'd have to agree with that other blogger in saying that's a squick.

This isn't connected to anything in particular except, as I mentioned at the start, having been reminded of that movie by what someone else said about the unacceptability of burning books.


A Day^H^H^HWeek, With Navel Gazing

Nearly everything I've managed to accomplish since returning from Conterpoint, I've done in the last six hours. But hey, I did at least get something done -- the drums are moved away from the basement door, so I can do laundry once I catch my breath; there's finally a path to the vacuum cleaner that I'm too exhausted to use; and Collapse )

My back, alas, is killing me. And I'm tired, and haven't been able to sleep well all week (the weather finally broke but then my legs started doing their almost-cramping-won't-let-me-sleep thing, Collapse )

Earlier today, I was depressed Collapse ) Fortunately one of the important differences (the most important difference?) between acute situational depression and endogenous chemical depression is that with the former you have at least a fighting chance of being able to pull yourself out of it (or even just wait it out). That doesn't work with the years-long, brain-chemistry-glitched, "no good reason for it" type of depression, which is, ironically, usually the only kind that lasts long enough for anyone else to think of giving you the terribly broken advice to "pull yourself out of it". The kind of depression that advice might (or might not, but it's worth trying) work for, doesn't seem to naturally last long enough for your friends to get impatient enough to say things like that, as far as I can tell. (As usual, I welcome corrections from my friends with actual psych training if I'm way off the mark here. Right now I'm trying to remember whether "just like depression but doesn't last very long" is technically called a brief, mild form of depression, or "technically not depression because it doesn't last long enough". Maybe if I'd had more sleep ...)

I identified the condition, Collapse ), wallowed in self-pity a little while, convinced myself to give in to a pizza craving and ordered one delivered (and with the "difficulty making decisions" symptom being rather pronounced, that took a while), and picked a single task/problem -- fitting the drums into the living room -- to get stubborn at. Now I'm no longer depressed; I'm just in a kind of bad mood. If I can get a reasonable-ish amount of sleep tonight, I should be in a vastly better mood tomorrow. All the more so if I actually feel well enough to walk to the drug store and back (is the pharmacy counter open on Sundays?). Collapse )

(As some of my friends have noticed to their annoyance, I pretty much suck at accepting help. It's a flaw I've been struggling with for a long time. Progress is slow, but I do recognize the need to improve.)

In other news, the toe I sliced up is healing, and I haven't noticed any frightening smells when changing the bandage yet; it was deeper even than I'd realized, so it's taking a while for the nearly-sliced-off part to fully grow out to the ready-to-fall-off point. It's less tender now, but still a bit sensitive Collapse ) When I changed the bandage last night, I considered cutting back to just a Band-Aid, or at least leaving off the cellophane armour layer. Collapse ) ... Well, while I was fussing with stuff in the living room, I managed to whack my foot into something heavy, and yup, I hit with the pinkie-toe of my left foot (in the slipper, but still hard enough to feel through that). So I was really glad I'd gone ahead and included the armour again. As it was, the effect was merely, "Oh wow, that really would have hurt..." *whew*

Okay, time to program the VCRs, eat another slice of pizza, and see whether tonight I finally manage to sleep, so I can manage to write a bit more coherently on the morrow.


Feeling Chatty -- Let's Talk About Sex Toys!

I've spent the last few days at anniemal's, mostly not feeling very well. I feel better today than I did yesterday or the day before, which is a good sign. Today's curious (and migraine-suggesting) symptom is hearing echoes -- more "reverb" than "delay" -- where I'm pretty sure there aren't any. At least I don't think the acoustics of this house have changed radically in the last eighteen hours. Collapse ) But enough of that. On to fun stuff.

Recently there have been reminders of something I did some time ago in different places. One friend posted a link to the Tuning Fork Dildo (just what it sounds like) and another pointed to the Audi-Oh (a "bullet" vibrator that takes an audio signal as input). So in both cases I was moved to recount Collapse ) ... And the psychological effect of knowing that the top spanking them was just that silly. (Yeah, a teaser for folks who were thinking about skipping over the cut. :-P )

And there's a third thing floating around my friends list: a Yahoo copy of a Reuters story about a study showing that "professional artists and poets have about twice as many [sexual] partners as other people." To which my reaction was, "What, you ignored musicians? Or was that just too easy to bother with?" The article suggests that artistic success leads to having more partners, not the other way 'round or linking both to some third cause, but it's hard to tell whether the researchers had looked into causality yet or not. (I'm not the only one who wishes mainstream news articles that report on "a study" or "a report" would provide a link to the study or report in question, right?) The gist:

"Although creative people have long been associated with active sex lives, the researchers believe their study is the first to back it up with research. They found that professional artists and poets had between 4 and 10 sexual partners, while less creative people had an average of three. 'We found it in both the men and women which was quite a surprise to us,' said Nettle, who reported the finding in the journal 'The Proceedings of the Royal Society (B).'"
... to which I can only say that I find their surprise surprising.

And the talk of vibrators, coupled with yet another link ganked from my friendspage, reminds me of a vibrator I used to own ...

I used to drive a big ol' 1978 Pontiac Catalina (think: Bonneville with less chrome -- and note that for its day it was considered a mid-size, even though many of my friends insisted it was "huge" -- Pbbbbt!), and I used to give friends rides quite a lot of the time. And the car had a largeish trunk, so a lot of things that I hadn't gotten around to finding proper places to store, lived in the trunk for various lengths of time (including the big green canvas tent I use at Pennsic, which stayed in the car for about three years, I think). So one summer folks noticed that there was an ominous *Thump!* from the trunk sometimes when I went around corners, and would ask, "What was that?"

"Oh, that's my vibrator," I would reply. Which led to any of several variations on the "No, really, what is it?" theme. "Really, it's a vibrator. A big vibrator."

"That thump sounded awfully big. How big a vibrator is it?"

"A quarter horsepower," I would reply, honestly and with a straight face. Which usually resulted in some combination of shock, horror, and conviction that I was yanking their chain. "Really, it's a one-fourth horsepower vibrator."

"How ... big ... is that?"

"About three feet."

"I don't believe you."

"Want to see it? I'll pull over and open the trunk and you can have a look."

In all but two or three cases, the response to that was "No, thanks!". But what was the most fun was when one of the people brave enough to have looked on a previous trip (reaction: "Yup, that's a vibrator. Yup, that's about three feet long. You weren't kidding.") was in the car to interject, "It really is. I've seen it." This usually made the curious passenger extremely worried, for some reason.

I'm not sure how many actually believed me, but it really was a three-foot, quarter horsepower vibrator in the trunk of my car, making those thumping sounds as it shifted when I went around corners. Alas, my little brother decided to take it apart one day and was unable to put it back together. I'd had plans for that puppy.

Anyhow, this link reminded me of that. (Favourite line: "[...] now's your chance to freak out your local sex shop by asking them to recommend the best dildo for cognitive neuroscience experiments.") Actually, the first paragraph of the LJ entry where I saw the link was what reminded me, which will make the whole tale of the vibrator in the trunk make a lot more sense.

Of course, there were also the 30mm and 70mm shells that occasionally rolled out from under the front seat, and a practice hand grenade, to make passengers ask questions they weren't certain they wanted to hear the answers to, but that's another story. So is the frightened passenger saying, "No, really, I mean it. They're glowing!"