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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Just Keep Breathing, Breathing, Breathing...

I had a little, stupid incident today which will make for a shorter blog.  Typing is very painful because, sometimes when you are doing carpentry, you get injured no matter how many safety precautions you take.  As my uncle said as soon as today's mishap came to be: "This just isn't your week, is it?"
Yesterday, a paint can exploded next to my face and into both of my eyes and today, I shot a nail right into my left-hand pointer finger.

Actually, no.  I did not shoot it into my finger because that would show I am either:
A.)  Careless
B.)  Clumsy
I am neither of these things.  Not at all, actually, but as I said, sometimes when you are working with or around tools, events often happen that are not preventable and beyond your own control.

The nail shot straight into the end of my finger and actually bounced off the bone.

Yes, that nail.  It went all the way into my finger.

See that 18-gauge hole?  Look more closely and you will see the big black/blue patch between there and my first knuckle joint; that is where the nail came to a stop.  

Currently, it is still swelling and still changing colors.  Oh yes, throbbing as well;  it is definitely throbbing.  

Let us take a moment and be pissed?  No.  Unless you are fluent with how a nail gun works, explaining what exactly happened would not make much sense to you, but the fact of the matter is that it did happen and it does happen when you use one.  This is a part of the risk you take and the only thing I am not thrilled about is that I cannot play guitar today and my finger hurts so much typing this that I cannot post a proper blog either.  Guess what I did do, though?  I still managed to use proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation, regardless of my gimpy finger.  

For the sake of entertainment I will post this up as well. I had this conversation with my mom earlier;  that picture she sent me is a shotgun shell.  Yep, I used her car a few times when she was out of town last week and I was house sitting.

I will post something better tomorrow.  My finger hurts.

Grace and Peace,

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/drew.silvers
YouTube:  http://www.youtube.com/drewcoustic
Email:  drewcoustic@gmail.com

The lyrics in the title of this blog are from this song:

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

I'm A Predator. Rapture. I Am Killin' It...

I arrived at a rather stupid conclusion today.  When I write things that are supposed to be of substance and meaning I always keep in mind that if anyone should listen to the words in my blogs it should be me.  Then today, when I jumped on my computer after work, I found myself being a hypocrite and it was all based off of this picture:
That would be me on the bottom left.

When I logged onto my Facebook after coming home this afternoon, I had a little notification asking me to approve a photo tag.  I disabled the push notifications from Facebook on my iPhone months ago, so I had this little gem waiting for me.  As I had done with all photo tags over the past two years or more, I was ready to click the little "Hide" button and forget about it.  Doing this is something I had grown accustomed to because of who I was about 70lbs ago.  During that period of time I was pretty unhappy with myself and all of the pending photo tags made me "look fat" because...I was fat...

When the photo above popped up for me to review, I took one look at it and had made the decision to not allow the tag since I thought I still looked fat in it.  This is apparently because I am an idiot and somewhere along the line became really vain and stupid.  Before I clicked the "Hide" button, I sort of snapped out of my preconditioned daze that had developed over the years and realized I was a hypocrite for writing about being proud of yourself and confident on my blog but not practicing it myself in this situation.  Until I realized such a trivial thing should not matter in the first place.

The truth is, my torso does look abnormally large in this picture and the reason is because even though my body is 70lbs lighter, that shirt is from when I was 70lbs heavier.  I am still losing pounds here and there, so buying a wardrobe of smaller clothes that I may shrink out of does not yet make sense.  This fact was the basis of my idiotic paranoia and concern for what someone else would think of me.

 At the end of the day, and after realizing I should start eating (ha!) my own words and putting them into practice I am able to say I have no intention of ignoring anymore photo tags on Facebook.  If Thinner Drew happens to be wearing Fat Drew's clothes, then so be it, that no longer matters to me. 

Be who you are and never forget the personal milestones you have reached for any reason.  Always listen to yourself when you are of sound mind and push any negativity away from yourself.  If someone in your life makes you proud, be sure to tell them and give them praise to keep up the whole of who they are.

This also happened today:
Grab a can of lacquer-based sanding sealer and if the conditions are right, it will explode.  All up in your eye-hole.  And on your clothes, and in your other eye hole, in your ear, in your mouth, and all over your skin.  After a shower, a few shots of eyeball cleaner, and about two hours of painful tissue burn, I think everything is well again.

Tiffany says "hello".

Grace and Peace,

The lyrics in the title of this blog are from this song:

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

You are about to read the blog I did not want to write, but for some reason I feel the need to do so.  I have made reference to it a few times and there are personal attributes that will not be breached.  This is something that clarified a few areas of my life and was also the breaking point for others.  Now, I am going to talk about alcohol and where I stand on it now.

Picture me as you will in whatever form you desire.  There are a few people in this world who think I am a vile being and most likely assume I have done many horrible things in my life that I have not (two of them are mentioned here).  Within that same plane, there are some people who think very highly of me for reasons I may never be able to fully digest.  Then there are those who think I am nothing special and just move on.  Whomever you happen to be, rest assured that I will leave enough holes in this blog for you to keep your opinion and not try to sway you into thinking I am anything else.  That is not my goal.  This is more of a confession I am opening up to maybe help someone, even if it is personal to me.

Imagine your typical twenty-two year old and the pictures you see of them on Facebook (I said typical, not everyone).  Bars, lots of people, inebriation, some other stuff that is not exactly flattering.  Some may find it shocking that at one point, I was in that experience; others whom I was running with at the time would think nothing of it at all besides wondering what happened to me.  Like I said, no details about that and I will allow you to make your own assumptions.  Though, rest assured, there was never an instance any drugs or promiscuity on my end, even if the actions of those I was with spoke differently.  Other than that, I was just like everyone else who surrounded me.

At twenty-three I made a decision after hearing someone say the phrase "Sober October" and I decided to jump right into that for no real reason at all.  I would still go out with the same people during that month, but they all knew what I was doing and looked at me sort of stupidly.  When you are that age, surrounded by other people in that demographic and you are the only one not drinking, most of those people have the set goal of getting you to drink;  and that is just how it goes.  I never caved on my Sober October ventures for two entire years and actually ran it through to Sober November once.  The goal of my "friends" was always the same, but they never succeeded in getting me to drink during that time I had set aside not to.  Then they started disappearing from my life.

The longer I stayed away from drinking, the less people wanted to be around me.  This was after just two months.  When my sober months were over, not a single one of those people were left in my life.  Then I went to a dark place and spent far too long there.  How long?  Longer than you think.  Alcohol came back though.  I spent most of my time alone for that whole period and very few people who were not family stuck by me;  I could count them on one hand that was missing a few fingers.  Even fewer than that thought anything was going on or noticed.  The reason is because I do not talk about it, but I was very much alone.  Again, no drugs and nothing sexual. Make your own assumptions.

After my world fell apart a few times, starting with church, then school, then my job, I decided to make a change.  I thought back to the nineteen year old who was on top of the world and wanted to get back there (I think I was more mature back then, regardless).  When I was nineteen, I had everything I ever wanted, the most awesome friends, minimal responsibilities, and my mind was the farthest from being foggy.  That day, I left the past behind me and started over.  You hear it on television shows hyped up with emotion that "everyone remembers the day they stopped *fill in the blank*."  I do not.  The date and time had no significance to me at all because I decided to regain my focus and get back to a better place for myself and not an exact date.  How long has it been?  Some of you know and I will only tell you if I want to because that is a part of the promise I made to myself.  I did tell someone over the weekend whom I had not seen in a very long time.  

I was at a party this past Sunday and happened to be around some of the people I was talking about earlier.  One of the guys walked up, gave me a hug with a smile and said "Why don't you grab a beer?"  and I responded with "I'm still sober." His shocked reply:  "STILL?!  Holy shit, man.  Good for you!" But we talked and had a good time just like we always did.  Everyone acted just like that towards me.  Instead of being ridiculed and told to take a shot as happened years before, my decision was respected.  Maybe because they were taking my decision seriously for the first time.

With that being said, I get strange responses from people if I know them or not when they find out I do not drink anymore.  All of this makes me feel really alienated and kicked out of the club, so to speak.  When most people find out about my sobriety, they assume it relates to a religious thing; but it does not.  When that reaction is not given to me, they assume I cannot have any fun if everyone else is drinking and I am not;  not true at all.  The other assumption is that I should not be around because it may make me want to take a drink;  not in the least bit.  The thing is, when I set a goal or rule for myself, I stick with it because I made the commitment.  I am much stronger than you think and alcohol is just something I would rather do without right now.  Unless you have a visible problem with it, I really could not care less if you drink or whatever it is you do if it does not damage you emotionally or physically; I have no reason to judge you for drinking just because I made a choice not to drink, and I will not.  Being around alcohol has no effect on me but I am fairly convinced I will never be able to convince anyone of that, because I have tried pretty hard to do so and failed. 

Just remember, that unless they tell you otherwise, your non-drinking friends are willing to hang out with you even if you do have a bottle in your hand.  The fact that they do not drink does not always have to do with will power and does not mean they are all recovering alcoholics or really religious people.  As far as I am concerned?  Pretty please, with a cherry on top, do not make me hang out with the church kids again; they are weird and listen to cheesy music...

Will I ever have another drink?  I have no idea because I do not think about it.  But try not to judge me or think irrationally because I make a personal decision not to.  
I am still whatever scum bucket or saint you already think I am.

Grace and Peace,

The lyrics in the title of this blog are from this song:

Monday, May 27, 2013

Get It Left, Get It Right, Get It Up And Down...

Some fires may ensue after this post, but my love of American cars from the 1990's has diminished entirely at this point.  You see, I have owned many cars for the simple fact that I love them, and most of these have been American cars from this period, which I have discovered to be of a bad era.  If you know me at all, you are well aware that I do every bit of maintenance on any vehicle I own and always do it on time. However, after owning over a dozen vehicles over the past dozen years, I now know that there is a certain point in the mileage life of American cars from this decade where they just sort of start to fall apart on you. 

The exception was this:
I owned this 1995 Jeep Wrangler for a few years and the only thing to go wrong with it was a $7 oil pressure sending unit.  The reason for this, is probably because other than fuel injection, emissions, and a bigger roll bar, everything about these went fairly unchanged from 1976 - 1995.  This was the most simple and basic vehicle you could buy at the time.  There was not much to go wrong.  I sold it with 118,000 miles on the odometer.

I loved this car:
1994 Chevrolet Camaro Z28.  This is what replaced my Jeep because I wanted something more secure when I went to college.  It was fast, loud, and looked nice.  The factory paint cracked on every exterior piece of soft plastic, but that was not a huge deal to me.  At one point the engine ran very hot in the Atlanta sun and after replacing the temperature sensor, thermostat, and fan relays I could not find a remedy, so I wired the fans on the radiator to a switch and controlled them from inside the car.  The headliner came down one day.  The coolant level sensor went out.  The catalytic converter went out.  The power window motors were nearly dead. 
Then this happened:
It was not my fault, but maybe it was meant to be.  I had owned this car for nine months before it was totalled.

This replaced the Camaro:
1995 Firebird Formula.  This is essentially the same car as the Camaro, if you know anything about these cars.  I bought this car with 68,000 miles.  Just like the Camaro, the factory paint was horrible and I actually ended up repainting the entire car.  Like the Camaro, this was a six-speed transmission and the reverse lockout stayed engaged shortly after I bought it.  This meant getting the car into reverse took a strong right forearm.  The motors on the flip-up headlights both went out.  The headliner fell down in this car too.  The power window motors were slowly on their way to death.  The valve which controls the air coming out of your dash vents for the heat/AC went out about once every three months.  The lenses on the tail lights peeled away from their housing.  And the worst of all was when the ABS control unit went out.  At random moments when you were braking to a stop, the ABS light would flash on the dash and the brakes would just let go.  In other words, you would keep pressing the brake pedal and the car would still be rolling.  I disabled the ABS system on this car.  Sold after almost two years of ownership with 81,000 miles.

This piece of crap:
1999 Ford Explorer XLS.  This car should not have been all that difficult get right because in 1995 it was the most popular vehicle on the road in America.  Nothing was really changed on it until 2002, so all of the bugs should have been worked out of it, right?  No.  I bought this Explorer with 60,000 miles on it and owned it for less than two years.  In that time, the DPFE (emissions part) went out and so did the coil pack.  Soon after I sold it, the head gasket blew out.  I only know this because the guy I sold it to sued me over it being my fault.  After seven months and somehow dragging me all the way to Superior Court in an attempt to press criminal charges against me, he lost the lawsuit and infuriated two different judges.  I sold it to that guy with 91,000 miles on it.
*Sidenote* My neighbor has the same Explorer and the head gasket blew on his with similar mileage about a year and a half ago.

This was my grandfather's car.
1997 Ford Thunderbird LX.  This is what I am currently driving daily.  This car just turned 80,000 miles and, like the others that were made in the same decade, it is starting to kill itself already.  The factory paint is better than what was on my Camaro or Firebird, but it is still not aging well for a car that spent most of it's life in a garage.  There are a few, random interior bits coming off, the headliner has a sag, one of the HVAC vents has broken, the airbags do not work anymore and neither does the pump on the windshield washer, but the mechanical bits are what cause concern.  The alternator went out at 70,000 miles (fair enough, but still young), the idle air control went out, the overdrive on the transmission has gone unless you engage it manually, the coolant is disappearing slowly (I have no idea where it is going)  both power windows are dead, and today it developed a misfire and started throwing a code because of it.

Luckily I had a collection of these:
I may have fixed the issue because the Ford Motorcraft wires (with only 20,000 miles on them, by the way) have started falling apart.  If that is not my problem, one of the coil packs must be the culprit.

Now, you may be saying: "Drew, those cars are old, the mileage doesn't matter as much as the age."  Like I said at the beginning, these are cars I have owned anywhere from over ten years ago, to now, so most of them were not all that aged when I owned them.  I also never beat up on my cars and have always been strict on maintaining them, to the letter.  I just look at Mercedes Benz, BMW's, Volkswagens, or (almost) any Japanese car that were as old as my cars during the time I owned them and as long as they were maintained rather than abused, most seem to have held up better.  

I have a big issue with planned obsolescence, and I really do think that American car makers followed that method during the 1990's.  Maybe not so much today, because the quality of car the "Big Three" have been selling the past five years or so is really good and on level with the market.  But, if I can look at how well my 1966 Mustang's parts have held up to nearly 200,000 miles as compared to the Thunderbird's 80,000 miles, something was lacking when the Thunderbird was born.

Am I saying European cars are superior?  In most ways, during that period of time, yes.  Currently?  I have no idea.  But the Europeans did have their share of inferior build quality for a time.  Do not forget, I did own this little gem for a few years:
And it caught on fire more than once.  

What was my point in all of this?  Maybe it was a warning of what you may be getting yourself into with an American car from the 1990's decade.  It seems when 100,000 miles gets closer on the odometer, they all start disintegrating more quickly than their imported counterparts.  The Thunderbird is now in that process, and I cut the crap out of my finger because of it:

Anything else I buy from this point forward will be a restored classic, without a computer, without emissions control, and made mostly out of steel and iron.  Mark my words...

Grace and Peace,   

The lyrics in the title of this blog are from this song:

Sunday, May 26, 2013

When you see someone grow so much that they surpass you in life and allow you to share in their joy, that is special and uncommon. When you spend years of your own time anticipating someone's future because you know they will do something bigger than themselves, that is a showing of endearment which rarely exists today.

Being prideful of your children is one thing because such comes naturally when they do certain things to make you proud. Having the humility to respect the success of a friend instead of emitting jealousy or bitterness toward them is rare for most, even if we never choose to confess it. Sometimes you catch a small glimpse of that sparkle in their eyes or hear the strength and passion through their voice in the most incredible instance. Sometimes, in that moment, the often inexplicable reason you were drawn to them initially begins to make sense for the very first time.

You never want to let go, so you make a promise to yourself that such cannot, and will not happen. It's rare. It's honest.

Be sure they hear you say:
"I am proud of you. I always will be. Never forget. I will always tell you the truth."  Most importantly of all, be sure to conclude with  "I promise.".

Never hide from anyone.  Especially those of the most importance.

Enjoy Your Sunday.  Grace and Peace,   

The lyrics in the title of this blog are from this song:

Friday, May 24, 2013

This sign is outside of Publix.  About a week before any federal holiday rolls around, these signs are placed outside of each store and every time I have walked by them in the past they always read something like "Publix will be closed in observance of Easter/Christmas/Independence Day/etc." until today.  Maybe the stores have been open on Memorial Day since the first day of operation and I never noticed, or maybe this is something new.  Regardless of what is the truth, I take issue with it.

Consumerism is a powerful beast that has been causing us to forget the meaning and traditions behind the holidays we should be setting aside.  I am only twenty-seven years old, but when I was a child, I remember most businesses being closed on holidays.  Every holiday was spent at my grandparents' house and besides a stray gas station, nothing was open.  Nothing.  Maybe the practice of businesses being closed on holidays lasted a little longer in the south than other places, or maybe this was a national occurance all at once.  I may never know, but I fear the point is being missed.

I spent five years of my life in a management position in the golf industry.  Anyone who does not play golf or have a golfer in their family is probably not aware that golf courses are open every single holiday on the calendar besides Christmas Day.  Most golf courses are closed one day each week for maintenance, which is generally Monday, but can vary depending upon management.  That is, unless a federal holiday happens to fall on a Monday/maintenance day, then the course will be open.  I worked them, all of them. 
This is a rundown of federal holidays:

I was told when I first started working in golf that the reason golf courses are open every holiday is because people are off work and have nothing else to do; so they come out to play, which makes money for the club and puts money in my pocket.  Holiday pay?  No.  I was never given a dime of it.  I remember when I was in the pro-shop, talking to the assistant golf professional (who is my witness to this actually occurring) on a Friday afternoon when a member walked in and said he wanted to make a tee time for the following Monday.  The day was not open for booking on the computer and those days are usually opened in the system two weeks in advance, so the assistant golf professional told the member we were not open that day.  His reply?  "How can you not be open on Monday?!  It's a national holiday!"  Columbus Day, specifically.  This encounter lead to an angry email from this man to upper management, which meant we had to be open that Monday.  I had to rearrange schedules, full staff had to be brought in for each department, and we had less than twenty people play golf that day.   

You see, even being as young as I am, I remember when holidays meant you spent time with your family and/or friends.  Anything you had to do or needed to buy was taken care of the day before because everyone knew retail stores had a sense of pride and honor about our nation's holidays and would not be open.  But somewhere down the road, some type of business decided to get an edge on the market by being open on a holiday, so all of its competitors followed suit.  Golf courses are forced to be open on holidays because the golf course down the road is open;  the same principal as retail follows.  Restaurants?  They follow the same guidelines.  Now we have stores and other businesses opening on Thanksgiving Day, right at dinner time, when five years ago, they were opening at midnight the day following.  Why?  Because we chase and spend that almighty dollar.  As Americans, we just do not seem to care anymore.  

I cannot blame the businesses entirely, because it is as much our fault as theirs.  If we did not spend money on holidays and create a demand for the market, everything would still be closed on such days as they were just a few years ago.  I think we should all have the chance to enjoy holidays with our families and friends as they were intended to be from their inception instead of working like any other day.  People would always say "If you don't want to work on holidays, find a different job."  but when more and more industries are kept open on holidays with each passing year, that job is becoming more difficult to come by.  Many people are not given the opportunity to have holidays as were given just a workforce generation ago.  Whether or not those in the working world make the choice of specific celebration, they are still recognized as days of reflection by our country; as the country we are.

I understand there are environments that cannot just shut down for an entire day; law enforcement, hospitals, emergency crews, EMC's, airports, hotels, etc.  I appreciate the job that each of them do because we would all be stuck in the stone age for twenty-four hours and numerous people would die if not for them, so thank you.  But I do think that unless someone's life depends upon your job, holidays should be observed and respected as they were intended. 

Why?  The federal holidays all signify something and are set aside for a reason, and even if we do not personally believe in those reasons, taking a day off to recognize and appreciate those significant events in history holds a certain sense of pride.

Maybe I am just old fashioned in my thinking, but I miss the days when nothing was open for business on holidays and everyone just sort of came together and bonded because there was literally nothing else to do, if not to celebrate the day itself, to simply celebrate each other.  

Happy Memorial Day, everyone.

Grace and Peace,   -Drew
Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/drew.silvers
YouTube:  http://www.youtube.com/drewcoustic
Email:  drewcoustic@gmail.com

The lyrics in the title of this blog are from this song:

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Sometimes we just do not pay attention. Late this afternoon as I was walking around and happened to look up into the trees when the sun was beginning to go down, I started thinking about purpose again.  Every day the sun serves the purpose that was laid out for it and then slips away for a few hours before coming back again.  The world would not function at all if the sun did not do what it was designed to do every single day, knowing it's purpose.  
The roses are only in full bloom here for a few weeks.  I have a few bushes at my house, my mom has a few of a different color at her's.  These are the same plants that have spanned multiple generations within her family at many houses and different parts of the state. These flowers come back every year because they have a job to do and always will.  The great thing about roses is in the way they let you know when their peak moment has arrived by making it a point to say "Look at me!  This is the last you get to see for an entire year, so I am going to make it count!  Are you paying attention?"   I find it funny how nature always seems to serve it's purpose.

You see, all of these small and often unnoticed events happening all around can make us feel pretty stupid.  The truth is everyone has that one pinnacle moment to shine within the most blinding fashion in one way or another.  The problem is that sometimes we allow ourselves to get to that point, while other times we do not.  We often get scared and turn around while dwelling upon the smaller happenings that really do not matter in the end and miss our mark entirely.  Nobody, not a single person, lives without a purpose, yet not everyone fulfills that calling.  Mine arrived early and disappeared just as quickly;  I will never get it back.

We all have to keep in mind that our time is always running short, while also remembering to not be distracted by instances that do not make a difference in the big picture of our lives, nor aid those of the truly important people who surround us.  One of the most difficult mindsets to keep for anyone is how badly we need to escape the expectations of the world and of anything which will not matter for our futures.  We really need to stop, pay attention, and invest in ourselves without distraction before the gifts of opportunity fall away for good.  Do not be like me.  Do not allow life to slip away.  Never stop the chase.  Pick some roses for someone you love.

Hold onto your dreams, cling to your passions, and regardless of what happens, never, ever let go...

Grace and Peace,
Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/drew.silversYouTube:  http://www.youtube.com/drewcousticEmail:  drewcoustic@gmail.comThe lyrics in the title of this blog are from this song:

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Today's blog is going to be a little random, because I know some of my readers are not into guitar, which is what I will talk about at the end, and I had a few other things to post about that would not fill up an entire blog.  The first of which is McDonalds.

Now, let me be honest on my feelings about McDonalds.  If they made burgers and fries out of ground beef and raw potatoes like diners do, I would not have a single issue with them as a company.  Slather everything in grease and shortening;  if it were real food, I would not care.  The fact is, McDonalds does not sell real food in any sense as everything on their menu is processed and budget-built to a sickening level.  A chicken McNugget has thirty-seven ingredients in it and is somewhere in the neighborhood of fifty-four percent corn... Why people eat it, I will never understand, and why people believe anything they sell can be "healthy" I also do not understand.  Even in my fat days, I did not eat at McDonalds.
The other thing that boggles my mind is why their advertisements pop up on my Facebook Newsfeed constantly and how comical the comments are from people who feel the same way I do about the company.  Excluding a few misguided souls like this fellow:  

*I did have to snip this picture together, but the comment was on the the same post.*
"It has fruit in it!  It's healthy!"  Said nobody ever.  A company puts up a few pictures promoting a product that includes raw fruit in the background and they do not even need to falsely claim their new drinks are healthy.  The consumer assumes this on their own without looking at the ingredients list.  Good marketing strategy for a terrible cause is what I say.  If I had to guess, I would say that a solid eighty percent of smoothies either bought or made in our own kitchens are not healthy at all.  Check the sugar content of concentrated, fresh fruit.  Eat a nice Honeycrisp apple and skip the smoothie.  Especially any you get from McDonalds.   

If you know me at all, you would know this article is right up my alley:
Also, if you know me at all, you are well aware of how much I read these days (such goes hand in hand with writing and learning) and I am not talking about pop culture garbage, but reading with substance.  I was walking by a magazine rack at Target yesterday and this immediately caught my attention.  Everything in this Time article is fascinating and if you are a Generation-Y Millennial, you can identify with it.  If you are from any of the previous generations, you may be able to understand or at least comprehend why my generation does things that seem so stupid (I'm sorry!).

Original article here if you are a Time subscriber.
An independent perspective here if you want to know a little more.

Relating to an alluded portion of the latter article, I will be the first to tell you that I strongly oppose "selfie" pictures because I do not see the purpose in the same picture of your face at the same angle, but in a different location every few days.  Nor do I understand the parents who post the equivalent of their child's baby book on their Facebook pages.  Maybe I am oldschool, but I like that my childhood was not blasted all over the internet, but instead enjoyed in photo albums by close family and friends.  My current self would be very embarrassed and bitter towards my parents if my entire life existed online in any form before I had the mental capacity to oppose it.  Those who do this are not bad people, and if you do any of this, I am not judging you at all, I simply do not understand the phenomenon and wonder what it will mean for the future instead of the "right now" moment...


I bought these the other day:
 They are in the Martin FX series of guitar strings.  The core of the string is apparently of a soft design and instead of the Silk and Steel variety I used on my Gibson last time (I wear out a set of strings in a two weeks or less usually)  I bought a set of Silk and Phosphor and a set of Phosphor Bronze.  The Phosphor Bronze are standard light strings with the softer core on the four wound strings and I have not tried them yet in favor of trying the former first.

They come in the standard-issue Martin envelopes.
The Silk and Steel I tried last time were wound in steel (obviously) with a silk lining on the core.  They sounded great for a few hours of playing, but dulled more quickly than I had hoped.  These Silk and Phosphor are the same idea with a flexible core string and silk lining, but wrapped in bronze, like most acoustic strings.
They sound great as far as I am concerned, and I like the feel of them much more than the standard Silk and Steel, which begins to feel like plastic, the more you wear on them.  I will give an update on how I feel about these the next time I am due to restring in a week or so.  For now, I shot a quick video, sloppily playing Jimi Thing by Dave Matthews Band right after I put the new strings on.

Consider it a "Guitarist's Selfie"

Grace and Peace,

The lyrics in the title of this blog are from this song:

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

This whole blog will probably sound really stupid to you, but with any luck it will make a little sense.  You see, I lived in the same city, in the same house from the day I was brought home as a newborn until I was twenty-two.  As you may have read in one of my previous blogs here, I grew up on an old farm my grandparents bought in 1969 in a rural area which became a very metropolitan and affluent area over time.  I lived within two miles of the majority of the Atlanta Braves' starting line-up;  that should tell you what the little town grew into.  When I was a teenager, it seemed like we all lived in the typical, suburban bubble and nothing ever changed besides new subdivisions and strip malls being built on formerly wooded areas.  This is Johns Creek, Georgia and the only home I knew until five years ago when I moved about fifteen miles north of it.  
I do drive down to Johns Creek everyday because that is where the family business is based, but I do not spend any time there as a local.  About forty percent of the week I am in the shop and about sixty percent of the week I am driving around doing other things in other cities.  I have my own rituals and such in the city where I live now, and that means I do not have to do any shopping or anything else for that matter in Johns Creek.  This week, though, I am a resident again because my parents are out of town and I am watching their dog.  Being here just two days so far has given me a chance to reminisce about the things I did in high school and a few years after.  Since I moved five years ago, I have not stayed here even once overnight, so this is weird for me, especially since the house is empty besides my parents' dog and mine.  Though I am still making random trips to my house once a day to be sure all is well. 

I want to tell you about a few memories of the park I went to all the time when I was a teenager since I did my daily run there today:
  When my dad started his first company with a partner in the late 90's, their first contracted job was doing build-outs on some of the buildings in this place.  This was the nicest park I had ever been to when it was built, but after going for a run there today, I realized how small it is compared to Fowler Park up the road from my house.  
I had to be careful with this picture, because it was around six o'clock and there were kids on the playground.  Stopping to take a picture of it while kids were on it would look incredibly off and disturbing, so I snapped one as I strolled by.  
The significance of this playground is in the swings you see in the background.  When I was sixteen and through the rest of high school, my friend Josh would come over on the weekends from his house about an hour away and we would always end up here.  The reason was because he is a year older than I am and we would sit on the swings while we smoked cigars (sorry, mom).  
We would always get Al Capone Cognac-Dipped cigarillos.  Sometimes he would bring the girl he happened to be dating at the time or a mutual friend from his town, sometimes my local friends would stop over, the usual.  The funny thing is that whenever Josh came over to do whatever it was we were doing, we always ended up here, at the park.

This is also the same place I brought one of my female friends when she wanted to see what Skoal tasted like.  I bought a can of the mint flavor and she did not get sick, but was a little grossed out by the whole thing.  Then she was bored a few weeks later and decided our other friend should try it as well.  Girl number two ended up getting extremely sick off the can of Cherry Skoal I bought this time, throwing up at the park and then again while on her hands and knees in her own front yard.  Whoops...  For the record, I am nicotine, drug, and alcohol free.  We all get curious though. Right?
This was me at twenty.  That means seven years ago.  I was skinny, too skinny as I weighed about 135lbs due to working so much, volunteering, and going to school while trying to have a social life (I explain that here) and not eating anything, ever.  
I put this picture up because my longboard is in it.  At Newtown Park, around the same time as this picture, this longboard made an attempt at killing me.
This is the top of the hill I started from the day I went to the Emergency Room.  Like any hill in a picture, it does not look steep at all, but it has a pretty decent drop once you get rolling.  My friend Duke bombed it on his longboard and did fine.  My friend Jake bombed it on a Birdhouse street deck board and was a bit wobbly, but made it.  Me, however?  I did not tighten my trucks that day and bit the asphalt right at the bottom of that curve going somewhere close to 30mph, I would assume.  
I had this all over my body:
The whole right side and down that arm looked like this.  I had pieces of gravel suck in both of my palms and one elbow.  The worst part?  The skin on my left kneecap was GONE.  I have a picture of it floating around somewhere, but I doubt you would want me to post something that gross.  You could literally see the bones in the joint of my knee.  The patch of missing skin was about the size of a half dollar.  After stumbling back to my car and bleeding all over the interior of it, Jake drove me to the hospital where the doctor said he could not stitch it because there was nothing left to stitch.  I just had to let the skin grow back over, which ended up taking months to happen.  
*If you want the more bloody pictures and one of my scar, leave a comment and I will edit this blog to include them.*
That was the last time I rode my longboard and I ended up burning it in the fire pit I built into my deck a few years ago.

I told you about the things that have not changed, but there were a few spots that have done so in the past five years:
The city built a half-acre community garden with all sorts of vegetables in it.

The wild foliage is creeping up to the walking path and these massive runners of honeysuckle are EVERYWHERE and smell awesome.

And the pond...Well, the pond is still green and smells like goose piddle...

Then I came back to my parents house after my run, ate three of these and may very well be sick:

Oh, and the dogs wanted to play:

If you like my semi-pointless postings, share this blog with your friends.  As always, thanks for taking the time to read it!

Grace and Peace,

The lyrics in the title of this blog are from this song:

Monday, May 20, 2013

Now Will You Forsake Your House Carpenter...

Someone mentioned doing a blog about this recently and I thought it would be a good idea and potentially useful to someone out there.  Be aware that I have either been directly or indirectly involved with home renovation, building, and carpentry for the majority of my life.  Anything I have ever learned as far as skills are concerned, I have retained because that is just how my mind works.  I spent the summer after high school graduation doing nothing but cutting caulking out of and replacing old windows with new ones when I was not hanging door frames or running crown moulding.  During college I spent seven months on a complete renovation of a cabin among many other things I was doing over that period.  Though I am currently more into the carpentry aspects, there are many more examples that have happened between that time and right now, but we can talk about that later if you want to know because I would rather get into the subject at hand.

Never Agree To Anything Before Shopping Around
We all want a deal on everything, except when it comes to our homes for some reason.  Taking the easy approach to this scenario is the most convenient, but also the easiest way to give someone a large sum of money for essentially nothing.  Every thriving community has local builders and independent contractors who do a great job at home repair and renovation, so why are we still paying for the third-party middle men?

In Atlanta, there are many companies who sell "door to door" services for windows, doors, roofing, landscaping, and anything else fitting under the blanket of renovation.  If someone comes knocking on your door asking to give you a "free estimate" on these services, even if you were considering having them done in the near future, close the door.  These companies do not have skilled labor crews on their payroll, and hire roofers and/or door and window contractors who could not make it in the business on their own or are just starting out.  A reputable business does not need to be covered over by another company to stay afloat or book jobs.  I am not saying that all of these contractors hired by the third party company do a bad job, but I guarantee you that if they are worth using, you can find them by doing a Google search for local roofers, window installers, or landscapers. 
Using a third-party "renovation" company, you are paying the "marketer" who knocked on your door, the "salesman" who came into your home,  the other clerical overhead required of the company, and finally, the materials and people who actually do the work on your home.  Why would you do that and waste potentially thousands of dollars?  Every roofing and door/window company sells the same product, I promise you.  There are certain companies who have their "own" brand of windows which are no different than anything else produced at the same factory, minus the branding or an insignificant tweak to make it slightly different.  Lowes and Home Depot operate upon this same third-party principle for the windows they sell, installers they use, counter top and cabinet suppliers.  They do not have any crews on payroll for these services and hire them just like you would.
To close out this section, just know that you can find plenty of reputable, independent contractors in your area who will give you a fair price on their services without a sales pitch.   Anyone giving you an estimate for a service on your home who takes more than one hour from arrival to departure on their own accord is not who you want to give that job to.  Anyone who offers you a lower price if you sign a contract that day is also not who you want to give that job to.  
This is the big one:
If the person who is selling you doors, windows, a roof, or landscaping has not ever replaced a door, window, done roofing himself/herself or done a commercial landscape job, that is NOT who you to be buying those services from.  If you would not trust your pharmacist to invest $10,000 of your money into stocks, why would you trust a sales person with no working experience to price the renovation of your home?  Cut out the middle-man, save money, and support your local contractors.

Home Renovation Shows On Television Are Fake
Being in this world of home renovation as I am now, I have realized that "reality" shows on television have sort of ruined carpentry because of the false expectations they place on the general public.  When you watch these shows and they gut an entire room, re-wire it, build new walls, floors, ceilings, custom built-in whatevers and finish it to perfection in five days, that is not reality.  The shows are either using multiple crews you do not see on the screen (24hrs/day) or the actual filming process is much longer and edited for content. 
Example, this took three days:
(demolition and preliminary build not shown)

Had you watched something like this on television, it would have taken maybe twelve hours or a day in the magic of television timing.  And it very well could, the difference is in the amount of perfection your carpenter adheres to and they things they do to be sure their work stands the test of time that you do not see, but is very time-consuming.
In construction, carpentry (there is a difference), automotive finishing, and landscaping, there is what we call a "ten foot rule" and that is that anything can look great and perfect from ten feet away, but when you start getting closer to the object in question, the flaws become much more clear.  
You can watch these shows and see a set of book cases that the builder made out of old pallets, broken bricks and used chewing gum thinking: "Oh my God!  That looks awesome!"  but you must remember the camera is on the other side of the room.  The builders on these shows slap pieces of furniture and "custom" re-purposed items together very quickly so they can move onto the next thing on the list.  I guarantee that none of the homeowners would be happy with the build quality of these items if they were actually paying for them out of pocket.
Speaking of money, the prices they list on those shows are usually just for the materials, not the labor overhead.  A skilled carpenter, depending on the project and experience will charge generally $40-75/hr.  There are many people who will say "My neighbor can do it on the weekends for $X, why are you so high?"  That is the difference between someone who does carpentry to pay their bills and someone who does it because they are your friend and that is their weekend hobby.  They are what we call a "Weekend Warrior" and if he/she does a bad job on your project, their reputation and full-time job is still intact.  Experience and a guarantee of clear reputation are attributes you have to pay for, because that is your guarantee of quality work. 

Ikea Is Rarely A Good Idea
In Europe, they call it flat-pack furniture and it was only common here in cheap retailers like Wal-Mart and Target until the last decade or so.  The "wood" used in this furniture is flake-board, which is essentially sawmill trimmings (twigs, planing dust, etc.) that are chopped coarsely, stirred into a big pot of glue, and pressed into sheets.  A fake veneer made to look like stained wood or a solid color of paint is then applied to the flake-board and finally cut into shape.  This furniture is not worth the materials that compose it.  The only excuse I can give someone for buying flat-pack furniture is college-life.  If you are going to be living somewhere during college and that is the extent of your use, by all means, buy that furniture, use it for three or four years and then throw it away when you move out.  
If you own a house or want to make an actual investment in your future home, have your furniture made by a skilled carpenter, or buy real, wood furniture from a furniture showroom.  Real wood furniture will last well beyond your lifetime and if you manage to break it, you can either repair it yourself or someone like me would be happy to fix it.  I get calls almost daily from people wanting their Ikea furniture fixed; actually those are the majority of the calls I get from that side business I have.  I will not go near it.  
This is real furniture we made out of real wood:

A marble top is going on this:

Queen-sized headboard.  All solid wood:

All solid wood, modeled after a photo:

After the owner painted it:
(She put the doors on the wrong way up)

My point is, for the amount of money you spend on flat-pack furniture from Ikea or any other retailer and throw away in the next few years to replace it or it falls apart when you try to move it, you could have furniture that will last your lifetime and that of a few generations beyond.

Support your local economy, cut out the middle man, and be aware that trades are viable careers with skilled people who work in them.

Grace and Peace,

The lyrics in the title of this blog are from this song: