Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Just Enough Makeup In the World

I felt like a cosmetic guitar Frankenstein when I smoothed out the wood filler with my putty knife and long straight-edge. But in less than a day, my repair work had cured and it was time to hit it with my sander. "Have 6o grit, will travel," I always say. The dust this produced was incredible and I could only do it outside lest I get lost in a dusty fog in my own basement.

One small point of concern was filling in the holes where the control knobs were once located. The guitar's owner wants to put a full time pickup inside the body and will no longer need the controls in this location. I glued a small block of wood underneath so this first round of putty would not fall through the holes.

You can see how extensive the damage was from the sanded areas. This will be smoothed out further over the long weekend. If you glimpse in the background of the first photo, you can see the headstock is already cleaned up and sanded smooth.

The Disaster DIY guitar project has turned a corner. It was a scary job at first, but everything is working out as planned.

Monday, May 7, 2012

No Turning Back Now...

The guitar restore project was sidelined the past few weekends due to cool weather (and a blown water heater that I had to replace), but now it's all systems go.

Fair weather is important in order for me to do this work out in the garage. The chemical solution I need to strip the paint is temperature sensitive and has undesirable fumes. The sanding process is also, well, in one word, messy. Nonetheless, this past weekend was very productive and the guitar body is now stripped down and ready for wood filler.

The paint stripper did its job as you can see from the bubbled orange paint. I took a palm sander to smooth out any stubborn areas to avoid using additional chemicals. All this revealed the many burn marks that were carved into the wood from the disc grinder. It's hard to believe the wood was not completely ground away -- though in some places it did come close. I will need a smaller sander to get into the crook of the horns, but it will be a good investment for any future woodworking projects.

I love the shape of this guitar and I look forward to seeing it look healthy again.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Get Googley

Insight can come from many directions. It can come from experience, observation, or understanding. It also comes from the knowledge of others.

I'm reading a book called, Everything I Know About Marketing I Learned From Google by Aaron Goldman. I don't know if I would go so far as to say it's fascinating, but it's definitely enlightening.

In the book, Goldman looks at 20 specific tactics Google uses to make it one of the most successful companies – and most popular noun/verb combo – on Earth. Ever.

Halfway through the book, Google's lodestar and its importance are explained. It gets shrunk down to one four-letter word. Data.

Google bases every decision on data. If no statistical evidence is presented to support a business direction, the decision is basically a hunch involving too much risk and a road not taken. One story goes that Google even tested 41 shades of blue for its toolbar before choosing the right shade.

A large part of the public relations profession is data collection, measurement, and analysis. If these necessary steps are not taken, we are essentially throwing darts into the night sky aiming for Orion's belt. While Google may takes this practice to the nth degree, you can't argue with the results.

Personally, I like Google's shade of blue.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Mistakes Were Made...

I like a project, particularly one that involves woodworking. So, I couldn't resist when a friend of mine asked me to take a look at his guitar to see if it could be fixed.

Seems he got a bit creative and wanted to give one of his guitars a new look. As you can see here, it ended up badly. The guitar is an electric acoustic Kramer that used to be white. Before this happened, I had played it a few times. It's a decent little guitar.

I can't shake the feeling like I'm a doctor hovering over a patient with a defibrillator, not quite sure if my next move will bring the patient back to life.

I'll post images of my work along the way as I prepare the neck and body for a new finish. I'm already recommending a return to white with a smart black pinstripe around the edges. Purfling is out of the question as it's not worth the time and expense; some areas of the body are ground down to such an extent it would be very difficult to carve a groove.

But I like a challenge. It's a great opportunity to learn something new. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

On Writing

I consider myself a professional intermediate good writer. But Maybe I'm a better writer than I think because most people I know say I'm too modest.

But this isn't about me. It's about writing and personal deadlines.

One thing is for sure, If you're a writer, your readers will enjoy less headaches if you stick to follow three simple rules:

1. Stay clear - Stick to one idea, finish it, and move on. If your point wanders, that is what your reader's mind is doing. How long will you keep his attention?

2. Be concise - Less words = more time your reader has for things far more productive. Like maybe their own writing. Extra words are indicated by strikethroughs on editors' desks or the, "red pen of discourage."

3. Don't over think - By over-analyzing, you are prone to fall into the errors of points 1 and 2.

A fourth point could be this: proofread, proofread, proofread again. This never fails to point out the silly errors you can't believe were missed.

This can be a humbling experience, but it will make you a far better writer.

Note: No words or egos were harmed in the application of these strikethroughs.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Pearl Jam and a Festival In the Sun

I like the feeling of reminiscence - the good reminders though, of course. All my memories, emotions, and imageries race back as I fondly remember my days of youth and exuberance. This was no more perfectly felt than in the summer of 1993 when I witnessed one of the greatest bands of all time perform at a small motorsport park in Gimli, Manitoba. The band was Pearl Jam and even then they didn't know how big they would become.

I am reminded of this weekend of nearly 19 years ago as I watch Cameron Crowe's documentary, Pearl Jam Twenty.

I was first introduced to Pearl Jam's sound through a friend in 1992. Back then, I hung out with a fairly musically talented, tight-knit group of guys. We learned from our idols and listened to many different styles of music: classic rock, psychedelic, jazz, metal, pop, even Herb Alpert on occasion. One wintry afternoon, one of the guys popped by, excited about a new band he'd discovered. He brought with him a copy of Pearl Jam's, Ten. One by one, we were all blown away at this newly-categorized Seattle sound. Ten was thought-provoking and full of passion and energy; lyrically brilliant, outstanding musicianship.

As I watched, Pearl Jam Twenty, the raucous days of my early twenties reminded me of my first outdoor festival, 1993's Sunfest. Pearl Jam was the height of the weekend for me and thousands of others as the band exploded its sound over the wild and muddy crowd that Saturday night. The energy was beyond anything I have felt since. My legs were sore the next day from bouncing in the crowd for the majority of the show (the pile of shoes and sandals lost in the mud that night were piled over three feet high the next morning). Sunfest was my Woodstock.

To get an idea of what Pearl Jam was like that night, someone with excellent foresight has uploaded several live videos to YouTube (here's the set-list from that night as well).

I was very touched by the honesty in, Pearl Jam Twenty. The documentary footage is amazing, and the interviews are candid and personal. Most revealing and touching was the homage paid to the relationships that led to the ultimate formation of Pearl Jam, most apparent in the remembering of Andrew Wood and the group Mother Love Bone. I'm a fan of Mother Love Bone, Green River, and Soundgarden, and it was interesting to see in Pearl Jam Twenty how these amazing musical talents worked together at the time.

I look forward for Crowe, or another suitable documentarian, to map the evolution of Soundgarden in a documentary soon. A definite must-see for me.

P.S. I saw Pearl Jam at the MTS Centre this past fall. They were amazing, but nothing will ever top the first impression I had of them on that muddy and wild Saturday night in 1993. Eddie Vedder is brilliant as a solo artist and I'm glad the group has been able to stay together. Bands can easily drift apart when a member takes a solo career path.

(note: not a Sunfest shot, but typical of Eddie's stage antics during shows in the '90's)

Saturday, December 31, 2011

The WHS, Mary, and Me.

It's been so long since my last post (where I left off my announcement of finding a new job) that it almost feels anti-climatic. That being said, the excitement for my new job continues and I couldn't be happier.

As of November 21, I've become the Communications and Community Outreach Coordinator for The Winnipeg Humane Society. This is a role I could never have imagined for myself, as quite honestly, I didn't know the need existed. As part of the Communications department, my job is to seek out opportunities to help raise the profile of The WHS and promote its programs and services. Event planning makes up the bulk of what I currently do in an effort to get our message "out to the people." The most positive result I can achieve is to increase pet adoption and to help create a better understanding of how pets can integrate and fulfill our lives.

As with many non-profits, it's necessary to take on as much responsibility as can be handled. But when you believe in a group of people as much as I believe in the people and mission at The WHS, I know I will work hard to do whatever I can to help improve the lives of all the animals in our care. There are so many good people doing good work here I feel I can't offer anything less.

One thing I've learned about my past history of volunteering, working, and interning at The WHS is that it doesn't take long before the urge to adopt a pet becomes too much to ignore. Hence, the latest addition to Heidi's and my "fur family." Tulip was a two-month old stray kitten when she was brought into the shelter. She was brought in without litter-mates, and it's anyone's guess to who her mother is.

A house, but not a home...
Maybe it was the spirit of giving that came upon us, but Heidi and I decided one evening in early December that rather than buy a Christmas gift for each other, we would adopt a kitten. The next day, I walked through the cat condo's at the shelter and peered inside each room. If you've ever adopted a pet, you don't know which animal you will choose until you see it (they're all so damn cute to begin with). I had a good hunch which kitten we would like as soon as I looked into Tulip's room. I snapped a photo with my iPhone and messaged it to Heidi.

Someone is too sleepy to say "Hi", I texted.
Awww. Just bring her home already...Please!!! Heidi replied.

The next day I brought our pet carrier to work and I did exactly that. But I left the responsibility of renaming the kitten to Heidi. She didn't know what name she would choose, but on her drive to the shelter to pick up our little bundle, Heidi decided on a perfect name. As the kitten was a Christmas gift to us both, what could be a better name than Mary, as in "Mary" Christmas.

Mary, ready for her "close up."
On December 8, Mary joined our lives and those of our other pets: Foxy and Babe (dogs), Bob and Sophia (cats), and Jimmy (cockatiel). The dogs endure Mary's constant play mode pretty well, and Bob, our eldest cat, is teaching Mary what appears to be proper judo technique. I've already trimmed Mary's claws as she's yet to realize the pain she induces when she uses them. It's dramatically cut down on the amount of retaliation that goes on between our parent animals. All in all, Mary has been with us less than a month and it's hard to consider a life without her.

With six pets, we're pretty much at our limit and feeding time is pretty chaotic. Needless to say, Heidi and I typically feed the animals first in order to eat in relative peace.

It's our only option. The animals clearly outnumber us two to one.

Here's a few more photos of Mary I hope you'll enjoy!

What's with the flash, Jack?

Now thatsa' lotta meatball!!
(meatball removed after photo)

There's like, noooo Dr. Suess on this shelf...