Friday, April 29, 2016


I have a bunch of currency from my travels and most of it will be made into crafts, but I was curious what some of it was worth so I researched the value and saw some alarming trends. Venezuela is the worst one, which is saying a lot because the Mexican Peso has lost about half it's value since I first started this blog and drove to La Paz back in early 2009. I settled in the Baja right around the time of a big crash in value that translated to making Oggy a rich Mexican. Little did I know that 13 pesos to the dollar was just the beginning and 7 years later it peaked at 19 pesos to the dollar. Before the housing crash of 2008 the exchange rate was 9.5 pesos to the dollar.

This is ominous. The Venezuela chart appears like pure political denial/deceit, followed by a quick period of devaluation. The others appear more honest political ineptitude.
Nicaraguan currency is steadily crashing, but the award goes to Venezuela for something bordering on epic collapse to make Greece feel slightly better about defaulting on 1.7 Billion. Venezuela's currency inflation rate is around 700% and it has lost 500% of it's value since 2008. The government is operating on 2 day weeks because it has no money to pay workers, and this shady article suggest it has no money to print new money.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Cozy Apartment For Rent

Hot Plate Chic

I figure in a pinch I can heat water directly out of the toilet. When I wash dishes I dump the water into the toilet and then take a shower to rinse the pans. You can't expect much for $100 a month. At least I get a private bathroom. I want to write a song about cooking with a hot plate because I feel a single electric burner pretty much puts me in a category of living that is stereotypical. I liked it more when I cooked fish in a pan over a woodstove in my van. That felt original. But when I heat hot water for ramen noodles on a hot plate that I got for $5 then I feel it's a step in the wrong direction. Never mind there is no kitchen sink so I must deposit all waste water in the toilet. That doesn't bother me. It's the single hot plate that bothers me. I've avoided it for a long time but I can't find white gas here and paint thinner was too smoky to burn inside. So I got the hot plate. And since there is no room near the bed I had to put it on the shelf in the bathroom, with the food and water jug. I tell myself this is temporary but that's what I said in 2008 when I started this ridiculous journey.

'Baking' cookies
 I wondered if it was possible to bake cookies using only a hot plate. There are probably tutorials about how to cook with a single hot plate. I know the circuits are overloaded here already though this is only a 5 Amp burner. But how many other appliances are already spliced onto this circuit. Too many, I know, so I can't add another burner. All I can do is create an oven with two skillets placed together. But I can't grill the bottom because it will certainly burn, so it has to be slowly cooked and then turned, which involves some finesse since it's still soupy on top with a thin crust on the bottom. Like flipping a hot pizza. The truth is that I am merely trying to cook the egg so it is not raw, and cook the rest of the ingredients so they are hot, not make a cookie. The cookie shape and consistency is a first world delicacy and I'm not in the first world. I have electricity and chess and sugar. That's all I have. The cookie came out good enough to eat. Mexican food is spoiling me, but Mexican pastries and deserts are not quite what my palate desire. There is a French bakery here called Oh, La La, and it's as good as any pastry and chocolate shop in North America, but it's a little expensive for my budget. That limits me to only one or two eclairs a week, and the rest of the time I stuff my face with half baked cookie dough.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Surfing Safari

 I have been sorting my box of nostalgia, looking for clues to what went horribly wrong, and I came on these surfing photos from what I think is the summer of 1988 because I bleached my hair blonde a year later. '88 was a classic summer of pure bohemian insanity. Notice the crystal clear sky and bright sunshine of New England! And the huge waves with nice point breaks of Northern Atlantic? Just begging to be surfed. Ha! I've seen bigger waves in a lake.
I always wore my Red Sox hat, even surfing. Everyone adored me, though. Mr. Kodiak at top left and J.J. The Lady Killer bottom left.

The waves broke, literally, in 14 inches of water. And the 'wave' was only a wave for maybe 3 seconds, after which it became white froth and the fins of the board would dig into the sand and pitch the rider forward onto his bean.

What went wrong? Well, I never learned to surf. I definitely found better surf spots, but I am not a huge fan of swallowing gallons of radioactive, polluted salt water. Call me crazy. We move on but I have no problem looking back. One thing that I pine for is my collarbones and shoulders that had not yet been separated. When I separated my collarbones (both collarbones) and also separated my right shoulder on an epic trip to Alaska I became permanently deformed. Only the most recent two years of rehabilitation of my spine and shoulders has me at a point where I can reach over my head and sleep without pure agony. Back in 1988 I had no problem sleeping. Now I gotta apologize for being a cripple with chronic neck pain. Oh, pardon my selfishness while I move to Mexico to rehab my deformed spine!

Summer 1989

Oggy, demonstrating how to sell cigarettes. I got a big bonus because it was my last check. I left for Alaska shorty after.

I made a lot of mistakes during the summer of 1989. Making $100 a week working nights at a convenient store wasn't one of the mistakes because it gave me this great photo of me with my bleach blonde hair (it was a fad for men to bleach their hair blonde in 1989 using Sun-in or hydrogen peroxide. Of course I left it in too long and it turned orange!) and my camouflage fatigue army surplus pants at my job in a store that is much changed. Good lord! But I grew my mustache out and didn't bleach that? I'm surprised I wasn't preemptively put in a sex offender's database. (Apparently, I didn't see the sun very much that summer because I'm as pale as an albino ferret. Actually, this reminds me why Summer in New England sucks so bad because the sun never shines. The weather is awful in New England about 340 days a year while 20 days sprinkled in September and October are nice. Only people who have never been to Atlixco, Mexico or Tilaran, Costa Rica or Masaya, Nicaragua or Quito, Ecuador would think New England weather is "ok.")

No, the mistakes were deciding to join up a asphalt paving crew way the hell out in Rochester and busting my ass for almost no money hauling hot asphalt onto driveways and sidewalks. What a shitty job, but I was trying to learn the hard way about construction. And I remember deciding that if I played baseball for the Legion team then I would never be able to work and I was trying to save money because I had enrolled in the University of Alaska and would have to cross the continent by car and I intended to fund a Denali expedition. So I went to work.

Looking back, there was no good decision that year. College was a bad choice, working was a bad choice, baseball was a bad choice, girls, Red Sox, jerking off, building log cabins. It was all too much and too soon and I'd spent too much time being pulled one way or another by false convictions and conventional wisdom, which I now recognize as flawed. Whatever everyone else was doing, I should've done the opposite. I should've bought a motorcycle and ridden to Chile. Or moved to Nepal to do some thinking. I needed to cleanse myself of this insane bleach blonde conformity and stop pretending or trying to fit in. Actually, this deformed Halloween costume is an example of ME TRYING TO CONFORM. How fucked up is that? I wasn't trying to be different. No, I was doing what every one else was doing. I was drinking and fucking and driving shitty cars and bleaching my hair and wearing clothes from the military. Why? I was trying to fit in to the conventional bullshit so I would not stand out. Sure, college was 5000 miles away, but it was still a classroom full of tired 20 year old kids who couldn't wipe their ass. It was still conventional and would never work for me. I had only stayed in high school because of baseball and once I "graduated" I realized high school had done nothing but attempt and fail to conform me to politically correct standards of "Man who fucks and makes babies and produces plastic shit for mass consumption." My teachers were simple minded family men who got into teaching because it gave them summers off to golf and travel. This was before the housing market spiked and drove everyone but the software developers out of New England. But as far as giving much thought to what they were teaching they all failed miserably. They were conventional and the company line was to produce more company men. And this photo demonstrates in a twisted way what that produces....a bleach blonde freak in military clothes selling cancer sticks and diabetes beverages to drunk street prostitutes. People were proud of me! I got a bonus! Congratulations!

I don't regret these times because I didn't know any better. I know I failed myself as much as I was failed. I have a better understanding of what it takes to reach teenagers and I know it's a rare trait. But is it normal to go through 16 years of public education, hundreds of teachers, and not be able to identify one's own learning style? Or never have a lesson that analyzes pedagogy as it applies to you specifically? Yes, it's normal because it requires an elite kind of teacher who does not lecture, but guides a student to monitor his own learning, which is the fundamental skill needed: self-reflection.
For instance, in Josh Waitzkin's* book The Art of Learning he writes about a Dr. Carol Dweck's research into learning styles. The simplified theory proposes there are entity learners and incremental learners. This is the stuff that would make sense to teach to someone younger than 45 years old! But better late than never? So, Entity learners believe they have inherited ability. Incremental learners believe ability is progressive. When given easy math problems, they both perform equally. When given math problems too difficult, they both get the wrong answer, but the Entity learners actually think the problems are beyond their limit permanently. They believe there is a limit to their comprehension and when it is reached they are done learning. The math problem they got wrong represents their cement ceiling of comprehension. The Incremental learners believe no such thing and simply see it as material they have never encountered. Fine, but the third math problem they are given is another 'easy' problem, one they can solve. Well, the Incremental learners go back to their known abilities and solve the problem. The Entity learners are actually shaken by the premonition that they have a limit and are too distracted to solve the easy problem. I'm not saying this theory is divine, but I certainly recognize (having taught grade school math) that indeed there are different learning styles and the students themselves are not aware of even the existence of different learning styles. Most of them indeed categorize themselves as 'good' or 'bad' at math, inherently, which I know is false. Yet math teachers blunder on as though Algebra was the problem and not self-reflection. So, the specific age set that deserves to be exposed to learning styles and multiple intelligence theory is exactly the age group that is guarded from this information and is instead given milk and crackers? Why? Because they are too young to make any kind of adjustments? Maybe. Yes, the teacher ought to make some accommodations for multiple learning styles, but ultimately the student is the one who must learn to translate the babbling teacher into something comprehensible. Are they going to learn that magically? They are going to magically adopt coping mechanisms that 100 years of psychology and pedagogical research has not yet reached a conclusion on?

I also know the cost of pondering the universe long enough to reach some original conclusions and I can see why most people skip it and prefer to read the Denny's Menu. You can argue that life is too short to search for meaning and it's better to die bewildered and innocent and dumb because that's how you entered the world. Yes, I can see that argument.

*I've joined a local chess club as a short cut to learning Spanish and Waitzkin is a chess player not afraid to give away his secrets, so I'm reading his interesting Chess confessional after 'borrowing' it from a digital library.
Oggy on the right. A dude who never taught me about point values on the left.
After playing chess for maybe 40 years I was competing against Mario, the chess maestro at the club and he said something like, "El Alfil y el Caballo son iguales. Tres puntos." by means of teaching me in an obvious tone of voice. And after translating this in my head I still had no idea what he was talking about. The Bishop and the Knight have point values? But Chess is not a game of scores, it is a win/lose/draw game. No score is kept so I'd never heard this before. I find this funny because Waitzkin's writes that the first lesson for novice chess students is to learn all the pieces have point values. I guess it's better late than never to get my first chess lesson. The Bishop and Knight are equal to 3 pawns, or Peons. The Rook is 5 pawns and the Queen is 9 pawns. But the funny part is that I had personally put a preference on all these pieces that was completely different and affected my strategy for all the time I've played Chess. I had decided
The Rook was limited because it was a simple shape physically and I associated it with a Private in the army. You might think the pawn should be the private in the army, but actually I associated the pawn with civilian conscripts, those forced into active duty against their will, those to be pitied. Maybe the pawns are at worst National Guard reserve medics in my mind. Ok, and then I decided because the Knight, or Caballo, could float over pieces like a Wizard I felt The Knight was higher value than a Bishop, or Alfil, whom I felt was ideologically limited because he was related to the Church and could only move diagonally, continually blocked by his philosophic hypocrisy, simultaneously worshiping God and also War, a divided intellect. My chess strategy always neglected the Bishop out of disdain, casually harmed the Rook, protected the Pawns (from empathy) and tried to win the game with the Queen and the Knight and the pawns. Now, I might lose a King, whom I felt lots of disdain for since he is useless and arrogant and never truly engages in battle, but I often was consoled because the opponent didn't take my Knight. And with the chance to get a checkmate or take my opponent's Rook, I usually take the Rook, out of spite. Now, who is right?

Wednesday, April 20, 2016


Started to shape one half as practice.

I got this new guitar and decided the action was slightly high compared to my 20 year old Seagull guitar. Well, I didn't really examine my Seagull because the truth is that the action is ridiculously low and the neck is backbowed and the top has sunken AND the bridge itself has lifted up badly from the oven-like conditions in the van in Costa Rica, and the nut has worn down and most of the strings buzz. So, why would I use this as any kind of example or template? Because I love the way it plays and sounds.
Then polished one half
So I decided I wanted action as low as my Seagull, ridiculously low, like an electric guitar. And I look at the Fylde and think it's off by 1/32'' or more. Now, the first step to lowering action is to make sure the neck is as flat as you want it. Getting the neck flat isn't part of lowering the actual action, but if your neck has too much relief then you will be lowering the action with the saddle to the point that any later change to the neck relief will cause buzzing. There's an order to go in. So they are connected.

I looked at (eyeballed) the neck relief and decided the Fylde was fine and I shouldn't mess with the truss rod. So I shave a little off the saddle, and then shaved a little more. And the action was much improved to my fingers, but then I really examined the neck and decided it had too much relief and was unsatisfactory. My Seagull was SUPER flat and I wanted the Fylde to be SUPER flat. But I've already shaved the bridge what to do?
luckily my Swiss Tool has cable shaving groove that works on bone
Fuck it, I'll adjust the truss rod anyway and I do that as recommended in small 1/8 turn increments taking days and weeks to adjust and after maybe 3/4 turn I decide the neck is as close to flat as I want it, and the Seagull shouldn't be considered a role model. And after full examination and adjustment to the point I am pleased with a hair of relief and the saddle is totally shaved to the lowest point, I can unfortunately get the low E string to buzz annoyingly by plucking it hard. This is the only string to buzz and only when I fret the string at the 12th fret and really pluck it hard. Well, when am I ever going to be beating on the low E string while playing the 12th fret when I can only reach the 14th fret under the best circumstances? The answer is never, but that doesn't mean I'm content. So, I decide I'm going to shape my own saddle because I'm determined to own this guitar like no other and make it my #1.

So, saddles and bridges are called "Huesitos" or "Little Bones" in Spanish and I hunt 2 square cut, unpolished bone saddle blanks down for a dollar a piece, though I looked at the receipt later and the clerk only charged me for one so that is another moral irritation because I have to go back there on my illegal, unregistered moped across town to retroactively pay for the other one and my explanation will be so baffling in my bad Spanish that I will probably be arrested. I also like to think the bones these saddle blanks were cut from belonged to dead bullfighting bulls, like these pretentious prehistoric mastodon tusk saddles on archtop mandolins.
"What kind of guitar saddle is that?"
"Oh, Mexican bullfighting bull horn."

Now, the internet is full of tutorials about sanding saddles down but they all skip steps for the novice. I think everyone is trying to monetize and commoditize their skills from installing wheel bearings to guitar setups and posting crappy videos on the internet and trying to make some nickles. Good for them. God bless us all. But it doesn't mean they know how to instruct or train people. I'll give my photo essay of my first attempt.
This should be in any guitar tool workshop

My first mistake was shaping the top first, because if the width won't even fit in the bridge slot then I will eventually have to sand down the entire length of the side and that will ruin whatever shape I gave to the top at which point I'll be going in circles. Ok, rookie mistake.  All the videos include how to sand the flat side of the saddle down, which does indeed require some finesse, but nothing compared to the top side of the saddle where the strings sit and has a curved radius. This area affects intonation and action. Fortunately, the Fylde has a zero nut so the saddle is not compensated Compesanted saddles mean it has a zig zag flat spot slightly further back on the B string to account for the variation in the width of the B string compared to the core of the wound G string, which is actually smaller than the B string...and the high e string is more like the core of the low A string...blah blah blah.
The worst file in the world
I mean a hair, not even a millimeter further back, but it affects intonation. This saddle doesn't have any compensation that I can see and I'm deaf anyway so I don't care about a hair of intonation. In fact, I care mostly about the possibility that there will be a buzz at the 13th fret if I ever fret the 12th fret low E string and bash on that string.That idea irks me.
Getting in the ballpark, still too long and wide and high
The guitar sounds good and for my first carved bone saddle ever I'm going to try simply to get a perfect top shape and perfect height for this mostly flat neck relief.

The main question I have right now is what shape should a saddle top have? A perfect inverted U? A slight inverted V? I'm going with an inverted U. Because, it's not rocket science, but it's not easy, to shape a perfectly uniform and symmetrical saddle top from rare bullfighting bull bone with a piece of sandpaper and some nail files.  Bone is forgiving and I can see the attraction of scrimshaw and carving with material that responds easily. Bone saddles actually have all 4 dimensions to deal with, height, width, length and also density, but I can't really adjust density without plutonium. Bottom has to be flat, top has to be uniform (or compensated) length has to fit and width has to fit. Also, is a saddle normally symmetrical? Or is the bass side slightly higher than the treble? If we accept that the saddle should match the guitar fretboard radius...then it should be symmetrical, and maybe the slot in the bridge itself is routed out at a slight incline...I don't know. This seems impossible to match the radius of the saddle to the fretboard radius and still get the high e string lower than the low E string. Because a perfectly symmetrical saddle will lead to an identical action height of the e strings. And I want the high e string to be lower, so either the saddle bottom has to be leaning or else I have to drop the top of the saddle under the e and b strings. This Fylde Alexander seems to have a 16'' radius fretboard (or maybe 15'' or 14''?? These are so similar I have no idea which is a better fit. They all fit!), which feels similar to the Seagull. So, is it a perfect arc? Of course, it must be or else these tutorials would not bother talking about a radius arc since you really end up with a roller coaster of different elevations. What the hell do I know? I'm just a guy who lives in a van. Turns out the radius is indeed a perfect 16'', but it is tilted a degree or two down to the treble, so it's not perfectly matching the fretboard anymore. See, the radius itself matches the fretboard, but because it is tilted the saddle is lower toward the treble side. This takes so clever sanding I will get to later.

After some further investigation that involved a micrometer caliper to measure the depth of the saddle groove and the width and even the sensitivity of my ego I determined the saddle is indeed symmetrical but human hands can not cut an exactly flat groove in a bridge. Measuring with a depth gauge along the whole length of the groove I got 6 different depths. Which means that the saddle bottom, no matter how perfectly flat it is, will never perfectly mate with the bottom of the groove because the bottom is not perfectly flat. We are talking about .165'' compared to .147, and .164, .167, .153 and .133.  that is a .02'' difference in depth, but the bone saddle is not pliable and will not conform to these changes in depth so there will be gaps between the saddle and the bridge, which is the exact point of contact for the tone production. So, this is a luthier engineering issue I don't even want to investigate further because how can you cut a perfectly flat surface into a bridge of wood, when we know the wood will splinter and cause imperfections in the depth. This might be a case for composite carbon bridges and saddles because you will never cut a perfectly flat groove in wood and if there is a .02 or .05'' gap between the saddle and the bridge then you lose tone production. Talk about the devil being in the details! You build a guitar for a month and the tone still comes down to a nearly impossible task of mating a piece of bone to a cut piece of wood. It won't be flush. Oh, sure, .02'' is pretty close to flush, but it's not flush. I'll bet every saddle groove in every guitar from $100 to $10,000 is not perfectly flat if the bridge is wood. Because how can you cut wood, which is a sinuous grain, as though it were glass? Every tiny chip that is created when sanding even with a saddle slot file/level is a different level. I guess I need to build a guitar workshop full of tools to test my theories before running my mouth. I see the luthier added some graphite to the bottom of the groove so maybe that is what fills in the .02'' of gap and my depth gauge is selectively missing the graphite and if I ran a slot file down the slot (assuming the file is true) then I would not be able to measure any grade differences. So the slot is flat and true, although compensated, and the saddle bottom is flat.

At least I know the saddle is symmetrical horizontally, although the top of the saddle presents an issue since the strings only hit one side of the curvature and the other side facing away from the bridge doesn't touch the strings but has to serve as a perfect ramp toward the fretboard. Furthermore, my attempts compensate the action lower on the treble side are thwarted by a symmetrical saddle. I have to lower the treble strings but the G string already buzzes when I really pluck it like a Bow. So if I lower the treble half only of the saddle bottom then the G string will really buzz. So I have to lower the top, which is also going to cause troubles with tone. It's a puzzle and, if you haven't noticed, I like to overthink things until they crumble beneath my superior intellect.
It took many hours to hand sand this bottom saddle from the top blank. The width and length and radius all fit. It is a spare and needs only to have the bottom shaved for a different action. If I were going to do this regularly I would need different tools such as a true 16'' radius sanding block. Eye-balling a 16'' radius is no good. I used a multi-grit fingernail polisher, 120 grit sandpaper, and a metal file. The radius might match the fretboard but if the saddle is symmetrical then the action won't be right since both e strings will be the same action and the high e should be lower since it has a tighter vibration radius than the low E. The only way that can be done is by either carving special indents for the e and b strings or else sand an incline into the bottom. Or, I guess, you could rout an incline in the saddle slot, but that would be insane since it is irreversible and the saddle can always be changed for a few dollars. To rout an incline in the saddle slot you would need to cut a sliver wedge that the router climbs up as you pass the router through the slot. It would be madness. Bone saddle blanks with the correct radius and width are available and only require you to shorten the length and sand the bottom. A good saddle must be done by sanding a slanted bottom so the high e sits 1/32 lower than the low E.
This whole ridiculous project is because I'm trying to get the high e string action to be at 2/32 and because the saddle is symmetrical it is now at 3/32. So how do I get only the e and b string 1/32 lower? With a slanted bottom in relationship to the radius top. But because I already sanded this saddle almost to the absolute lowest point if I sand any more to get the unwound strings lower then I will probably start the wound strings to buzz. Thus I carved a whole new saddle to experiment. But until I figure out how to sand a perfectly flat but inclining bottom I will be content to play the guitar as is. I should add that this 1/32 of additional action height on the e string is the only reason I can't play like Tal Fallow. I think about $50 in basic luthier tools will solve this problem and since an action set up is around $25 minimum it's a good investment.

So, this ongoing project reached a boiling point recently.

I had managed to get the action on the Fylde to 3/32 and the neck relief was near a bare minimum of .15mm or around .006''. Ok, the action on both e strings was 3/32'' or around 2.38mm and I really wanted around 1.5mm for the treble e and around 2mm for the bass E. I live in a van, so here is a picture of the equipment I was going to use.

carpenter's square, 'L' bracket, machinist ruler, 2 'C' clamps, 2 vise grips

I ended up clamping the saddle to the ruler as a straightedge. This dented side of the saddle and almost crushed it. Notice the slant! If the bottom is perfectly flat then the action will be equal, unless you sand the top of the saddle, which is also an option.

The issue is not only removing exactly 1/32'' from the bass end, but removing 2/32'' from the treble end at the same time in an even slope. Man, I puzzled over how this could be done and decided it was not possible with my hand alone, I needed a fence that would stop the sanding at a certain point, while allowing me to sand a slant. I almost bought a vise, but I knew the vise would not be level. I tried to sandwich the saddle between two rulers but gave up because it was very hard. Maybe gluing the saddle to one ruler would've made it easier because I needed 4 hands to hold the saddle in place while locating the opposite ruler at exactly the same slope. Also, the width of the saddle was so narrow I needed to add a second saddle below the saddle so the two rulers would press equally. I think it could be done with two 'L' Brackets bolted together like a vise, provided the holes were in identical spots. Then you could sand off whatever was protruding out the top. Less is more!

I should point out that this amount turned out to be about a hair too much. The strings don't buzz, but man they are cllllllooooose. Actually, the treble e string does buzz when fretted at the 14th fret. There is zero clearance for string vibration from the neck joint to the end of the fretboard. Everything else is ok, and that part can't be adjusted for radius so I know the saddle is too low. It feels so low I fret a chord before I even feel the strings. This action is ridiculously low, maybe the lowest action I've ever felt on an acoustic guitar. It's even lower than my electric but the relief is absolutely perfect for the vibration on a fingerpicked string so there is no buzzing*, but it's actually shockingly low. I'm sure it would buzz a little if I wailed on it with a pick, but simple picking has no buzz. Playing bar chord jazz comping was a real chore at 3/32'' action height. I'm spoiled by low action of my Seagull and Ibanez. It was no good so I needed lower action and got it.

This is absolutely as low as it can get.

This is the bridgeplate on my 21 year old Seagull, bought new in 1995. I wanted to inspect the bridgeplate for damage and found none. Yes, the wood is splintered, but it looks like it was always splintered. The ball ends are working their way slowly into the wood and maybe 20 years from now they will embed another 1/64''. Maybe.

The main things I've learned were from this luthier site. It's kind of fundamental, but not something I've given much thought to as I've struggled with Dorian scales and mental anguish. Neither the Seagull nor the Fylde has slots in the bridge for the strings. They both have slotted plastic bridge pins. I never gave this much thought, never examined a guitar that was any different. The Seagull action setup lasted 20 years without adjustment. Yes, the bridge has finally lifted from the top because the glue melted in the ridiculous beach heat in Costa Rica, but that's another story. I never gave much thought to break angle or string ramps or saddle height or neck relief or neck angle. None of that mattered. If a fret buzzed I took a framing hammer and hit the fret, denting it, until the buzz stopped.

Well, I've been going to school these last few days to learn what I should've learned long ago. These bridges are not slotted, but it's quite common to cut slots for the strings if the need arises, and then cut and sand rounded string ramps and then use either solid bridge pins or turn these slotted pins around so the un-slotted surface forces the string into the bridge slot and keeps the ball end in place. Wow, that's simple, yet something I'd never give much thought to. It's like zippers and pockets on pants. Have you really given much thought to the different kinds of pockets and zippers. Only tailors think about these things. I'm designing another pair of leather pants and have spent days looking at pockets. I feel like the Howard Hughes of pockets and zippers now. Suffice to say the variations are almost unlimited and only a resignation to accept what clothing manufacturers give us makes us think there is such a thing as a normal pocket. Like sex, there is no such thing as a normal pocket; there are only pockets we prefer or reject. And seams, I'm obsessed with seam styles and variations. There are so many it keeps me up at night wondering which seam to use on which part of my leather pants. The variations are infinite especially when combined with pocket variations. Well, enough about clothes: this is a mini lesson in bridge slots and ramps and I will tell you what I've learned so far.

I provide the photo of my Seagull to show that damage caused by the ball ends is minimal after 21 years. Ok, and the action was pro setup from Gryphon in the Bay Area with respectable break angle and it was perfect until the bridge started to lift and the frets started to warp. Still, the guitar plays and sounds good and I recently took the tension off the strings to let it rest until I can do something about the bridge. The top seems to have bowed out slightly so I can't simply glue it back on. The belly has to be reduced, involving heat, maybe more work than I want to learn how to do. We'll see. My point is that with no string slots and no string ramps, the Seagull played great, although had very little sustain and volume comparatively. So, it has some upgrading to do one day. My point is that the Seagull didn't need ramps because the break angle was ok and the action was perfect.

Almost no saddle left on the Fylde.
However, the Fylde now has incredibly low action, I can probably get used to action this low. But the break angle, and thus the downward thrust on the saddle, is pretty minimal

View from above. No string slots, no ramps. Slotted plastic pins.
 So, if I am indeed content with action this low, and I don't decide to shim the saddle a hair higher, then the only way to add break angle is by cutting a little ramp into the bridge so the string exits at lower point, maybe 3 mm inside the hole, and thus it will be increasing the angle of downward thrust on the saddle. Either the saddle must go up or the ramp must go down. I'm new at this so there might be another option such as shaving the whole bridge top down so the saddle appears to be higher relative to the string exit, but those are the major options and if I really like the action height, then I am totally in good company to cut a ramp and file a nice rounded edge so the string exits lower. Now, that is not necessarily a string slot. No. I can file a string ramp to provide for more angle downward on the saddle, instead of a sharp angle on the bridge itself, but I DON'T have to cut a string slot. The string slot is actually a different modification that doesn't actually impact the string break angle. The string slot is a modification so that the ball end will be 96% caught by the bridge plate and 4% squeezing through an added string slot, rather than 85% on the bridge plate and 15% trying to squeeze through the bridge pin slot (as pictured in my Seagull). That's the issue with a string slot, contact area of the ball end with the bridge plate. It's unrelated to the string break angle, but it seems the modification is normally to slot the hole and add a ramp regardless of what kind of action you like. In my case, the Seagull never needed string slots or ramps but it's possible the tone would improve with string ramps to improve the angle on the saddle. It's possible and probably desirable because the angle was not very pronounced. I didn't break strings but the volume was weak and the overall vibration of the soundboard was pretty weak, considering it is solid cedar. And if I'm going to add ramps then I might as well add string slots and change to solid pins. It really makes sense considering how weak the volume was. The Seagull has some issues that I'll deal with eventually. 

But the Fylde is an ongoing project. Aesthetically, I don't care about the break angle looking so shallow, and as far as I could tell from before and after, the top vibrates equally and the volume is the same and in general I can't tell any difference with less string angle. And I know that the ball ends will do no damage over the next 21 years so adding string slots is not a modification that needs to happen today. But the treble e string has such a shallow angle that I can move the string out of the tiny chip in the saddle if I push it hard enough. I can't lift it off the saddle, but I can slide it. The downward thrust is greatly reduced because now the greatest strain is where it comes out of the hole of the bridge. But that part of the string doesn't vibrate much so I don't want the greatest point of stress impact to be there. I want the greatest angle to be on the saddle top. So I have to add ramps to the treble strings at least. There's even a tutorial on the site that sells the tools so I don't have much excuse to leave this unremedied, except I can't get these tools in Mexico.

Let's recap: So, there is two step process. 
1) What is bridge slotting/ string ramping? 
2) Do you need this done.

Bridge slotting is cutting a groove in the bridge pin hole and bridge plate from top to bottom, so the string has a separate channel to sit in and the unslotted pin fills up the hole and the pin end forces the ball end to be wedged into the bottom of the newly cut slot. The ball end will never have 100% contact with the bridgeplate because that's impossible. The string has to go somewhere, but the idea is to reduce the null surface the ball end can try to escape through. I should point out that if one were careless and cut an extra wide slot in the treble e string hole, then the ball end could conceivably come right up the slot and then you are dealing with a bridge plate and bridge replacement. See? The pin will no longer hold anything down since the string slot will effectively be a second hole. Don't do that! The slot should only be the size of the string itself, and at most sized to accommodate the windings of the string. Any bigger than that and you'll have problems. If there is any advice against adding string slots this is probably the biggest issue: you are compromising the bridge and bridge plate itself and adding a slot against which the whole tension of the ball end will rest. Instead of trying to escape through the bridge pin hole, which it will never accomplish as long as the pin is there, the ball end will now try to escape through this channel that you just cut into perfectly sound bridge plate and bridge wood. If this slot is slightly too big then the ball will wedge into it. Why compromise this critical area if the bridge plate is not damaged and will not be damaged in 20+ years? If you want ramps for a better angle, then cut ramps. Why cut a slot all the way into the bridge plate? This is the argument against the slots: It might affect tone for good or ill, might protect the pins and brigeplate over 20+ years, will not affect play-ability, but might lead to the complete destruction of the bridge if the slot becomes an escape tunnel for the ball end. This is the equation. Another argument is, "If it was so good, then the manufacturer would always do it." Well, this is a factor that is debatable. I know the Seagull is perfectly fine without string slots and ramps. So, they made a good decision leaving that modification up to the user. The Fylde is probably the same thing. I looked on the Fylde site and might email Roger to see his opinion, but I think it's basically an irreversible modification that he would do if you asked, but if you don't ask then you can do it at a later date if, like me, you choose action so low you require ramps. It's probably looked on as elective surgery, cosmetic, sort of frivolous, but arguably a good idea over a 40 year instrument lifespan in a heritage guitar like a Fylde. The only reason a $250 beat and broken Seagull should get this $100 modification is for me to experiment. Still, a decision left to the owner, not the maker. It's irreversible. Like action height, this is a user preference that is best left to the user. The 3/32'' action did not need any ramps, so if the luthier precuts ramps then they aren't usually needed since 3/32 is generally low enough. Only a sissy like me who wants super low action because he has been spoiled with a badly buzzing electric guitar will need ramps. See? Only when I went crazy and lowered it to 1/16 on the treble side did the angle drop too low, and the string buzzes too! The bass e string angle is acceptable to me and some might even say the treble side is ok too and not bother with ramps. But, if done well, the ramps and slots will not harm anything and might help. We will see. I guess if you want to cut string slots because you are afraid that in 30 years the bridge plate will be worn or the $2 plastic pins will bend, then look at my Seagull pic again. 21 years has done nothing to that bridge plate and the ball ends have embedded into the bridge plate about 1/64'' and the pins have not bent. All but one pin I lost is original. So if I added string slots 20 years ago then who can tell if more damage would be done due to the compromised bridge plate and bridge. I don't know. Would the tone be improved? Maybe. It can't be much worse. People say they think it sounds good but I know better; it's very weak, no bass, no sustain, no volume. I'm willing to try it with the Seagull because in comparison to the Fylde it has no volume and the soundboard cedar top barely vibrates when I pluck the bass. It has no bass. I can't feel the vibration like with the Fylde. Maybe the break angle is to blame. Maybe the ball end being slightly inside the peg hole is to blame. Maybe the bridge lifting is to blame. Maybe there is a loose brace. Maybe it's a $250 plywood/laminate/ solid top guitar that will never sound very good but I didn't know the difference so I was happy.

21 Years with plastic pins and without string slots. If I cut slots the ball end would be in the same place, but the string would be going straight up instead of at an angle through the pin slot.

So, the string slot holds the string, the pin prevents the ball end from getting out of the hole. The ramp maximizes the angle of thrust on the saddle and you could say it minimizes the angle of thrust on the bridge surface. Eventually, in maybe 20+ years, the string will cut a ramp. The ramp on my Seagull is barely getting started, and I've never had a string break there and don't change strings more than I need to. The bridge wood is hard but it's not so sharp as to cut metal. I don't think the concern is that strings will be breaking between the saddle and the ball end where the string contacts the bridge coming out of the hole at a sharp angle. No, the wood will give before the metal. But the issue is downward thrust on the saddle and that can only be increased by raising the saddle or lowering the ramp. 

In my case, I will play the guitar as it is because I don't have the tools to cut slots, and maybe the action will prove to be too low and raising the saddle will remove the need to add ramps. I suspect I will personally cut ramps no matter what and either pay an experienced guitar tech to cut the slots or else learn the hard way myself. I'm talking about a .012'' slot, maybe a little bigger for the winding, but absolutely no bigger than the winding. Very delicate work requiring practice on a scrap piece of wood, steady hand, focus. I can do it, but I can also make a mess.

Here we see very little break angle. Remedied by either raising the saddle or cutting string ramps. If I like the action height then I must cut ramps, which is perfectly acceptable.

Usually, a saddle this low means something else is wrong, but in my case I've lowered the action to incredibly low standards. When it was at 3/32'', which is arguably the lower end, the saddle height was fine and the break angle was fine. It looked completely normal. If I had shaved a hair off, with a slope down toward the treble end then the angle would be a little sharper down on the saddle, but still I think I've reached the limit of how low an acoustic guitar action can be. The neck angle is good, the relief is good, the guitar is brand new, but I've shaved so much off the saddle that there's no break angle left, so I'm going to cut some ramps and one day I'll probably cut string slots and use solid bone or unslotted horn pins. Right now the action is 5/64'' on the bass E sloping down to 1/16'' on the treble e. I love it. The action is ridiculously low and I think the vibration of the top and tone has not changed from when I had maximum string break angle. But I would feel better with a string ramp on all the strings. The physics suggest I should get a better angle on the saddle and reduce the angle on the bridge surface, so that justifies the ramp. Then I will decide if the tone changes for the better. This guitar in general needs only a little more tweaking for perfection. The action was the biggest hurdle, the wider string gaps over the soundhole and wider neck at the 14th fret is an adjustment I'm still adapting to and the slight modified V neck profile bothers me mostly as a mental issue because I've played a normal C shape for 20 years and now when I play a minor7th with a root on 4th string I feel my thumb hit the slight V edge and it's not comfortable. Only on fancy jazz bar chords does my thumb hit that V edge and it's noticeable, even though it's barely a bump. Shaving the V off is not an option so I expect I will adapt. But the deepening of my guitar functionality IQ has grown so there's no price too high to vanquish ignorance.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Tune Up

This was some overdue maintenance. changing and timing the dizzy cap, changing plugs, changing points and condenser, new air filter after being told it was an order-only part and a valuecraft item was sitting ten feet away. I inventoried my parts department and found 16 new spark plugs and 8 used spark plugs in addition to the 8 already installed. I had so many parts I could build a new van, as long as the gas didn't have rocks or rubber in it. Now the 302 sounds like it has all 220 Horses back in the race. I don't like working on cars for money but there's definitely a feeling of fulfillment when I get El Conquistador sounding hungry for the road. That vacuum sound is what you hear when you take the air filter off, strong vacuum means the rings are sealing and drawing air.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Corrido De Toros

"I had read many books in which, when the author tried to convey it, he only produced a blur, and I decided that this was because either the author had never seen it clearly or at the moment of it, he had physically or mentally shut his eyes, as one might do if he saw a child that he could not possibly reach or aid, about to be struck by a train." E. Hemingway - Death in The Afternoon 1932

I have big shoes to fill if I want to tackle the subject of bullfighting. Hemingway polished his craft on this subject (the "it" in the statement above). I feel the same way about homelessness and poverty and romantic self-destruction and also jazz music. I feel most authors or musicians turn away before the dirty parts and that I, Oggy, did not turn away in time, or felt it more deeply than others. I'm not turned on by poverty or self-destruction but in a sense I am addicted to self-destructive romanticizing, ie: the editing of reality to fit a romantic notion. I am, in psychological parlance, most engaged when romanticizing or verbalizing reality, which I can often do at the same time. The second most actualization I experience is when I play solo guitar at 3am and imagine an audience of ghosts enjoying my work. But writing is actually a slight of hand where I tell you something I already know and pretend I only learned about it through the process of writing. At best, I don't pretend and actually do learn something at the same moment you do. That's magical, and, like jazz improvisation, is not rehearsed and the audience and artist share an experience. All live action performance/entertainment is like this and Hemingway's book is a good example of a stream of consciousness, plainly honest investigation of a subject with little or no censorship. Censorship irks me although I can appreciate that I have become intolerable to some so they would wish me to limit myself in one form or another to better accommodate their conventionality. Yes, I might try to use a bathroom instead of pissing and shitting in the street, but otherwise, this self-domestication isn't going to happen for any one's benefit. Maybe this is self defeating but there's a larger issue of being true to my nature. Oh, I fantasize that I will compromise for romantic reasons but that's actually the opposite of what really happens, which is compromise for economic or political reasons and romance gets tossed out with the rotting banana peels. But that's another story.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Why Jesus Made Me Sell My Van

I promised an essay explaining why I no longer officially own the van and now the time has come. This story is so epic, involves something like 4 countries, many corrupt officials, bribery, thievery, forgery, lies, deception, tears, blood, money, property. Sex is remotely involved by not in a way that would make sense to go into detail about. I'm not like some Hollywood fucking screenwriter who reads a scene about a kid visiting his mother at a hospital, where she is a nurse, and thinks, "Hey, why don't we make the mother a stripper instead?" And some fat fucking producer with a hemorrhoid inflammation pillow in his Mercedes Benz nods and says, "Yes! A stripper!" So, I'm not going to give you sex.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Transgender For A Day

I prefer to use the internet only for downloading legal cheerleader porn but today I was drawn to North Carolina's bizarre HB2, which sounds like a flu virus, but is actually a bill regarding the transgender topic. Some political cunt also slipped in a purely Communist artifice that stifles free market capitalism by forcing businesses to abide by self-limiting government inventions regarding worker's compensation, but that's another topic. HB2 basically says that if you have to shit or piss in a North Carolina public bathroom, a state named after a long dead King of England, then you must do so in the bathroom designated for your sex that is officially determined at birth by a visual inspection done by an Obstetrician. Why this random doctor decides your fate for life in the realm of public bathroom use is not a topic discussed in great detail by HB2, but it's certainly at the source of the controversy. 

It's a bullshit, petty, infantile law by the same dickwads who talk about controlling prescription drug use with "blah blah blah" public awareness and policing morphine and oxycodone junkies and "bullshit bullshit" exercising their flabby jowls to prance before the public and get some more filthy feathers in their diseased political cap. These are gross, profit politicians, bitter, resentful, arrogant, too much time on their hands, feeding overused tropes and dusty speeches to the dumb masses, like public bathroom traffic is real high on the list of priorities of the average person in N.C. What a load of shit. The fucking worthless state reps disregard 200 years of science about tobacco and protect Big Tobacco companies and promote cigarettes like the year is 1890. Pathetic, backwards, flim-flam fuckwads waving patriotic flags over their pasty faces. It's another political chew toy to justify public service junkies, but it has me annoyed in many ways that I want to list here.

First of all, isn't the fact people using bathrooms, regardless of their sexual orientation/identity, can't HIT THE FUCKING TOILET when they shit a little more important? I mean, if you are going to write a law that says a person with a cock must piss in the urinal then can you not also write a law that says a person must piss ONLY in the urinal, and not on the floor or the wall? Isn't that more to the point of the public bathroom?

I used a bathroom the other day in Mexico and I have been eating irregularly a mix of Thai and Chicarron and arrachera (prime rib) tacos. All kinds of shit came out of me to the point that I could not see water. I mean, that toilet wanted to call the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico to lodge a formal complaint. But, all the shit was in the toilet. See? I did not shit on the floor or walls or the seat, as I have seen in many bathrooms across the globe. And, frankly, I care much less about the sexual identity of the asshole that missed the toilet completely when they had diarrhea then the fact they missed the toilet completely. Well, the toilet I shit into did not work, which is another topic of Mexican plumbing maintenance, and I tried to fix it on the spot but the shuttle was leaving so I left my awful present there for the next sad asshole to deal with. Once, in Nicaragua, I tormented a public toilet in the only medical office in the town hall, the city administration building...and after 20 minutes of agony and grunting and sweating like I was giving birth to Donald Trump's ego, the toilet did not flush. I tried and tried to get it to flush and that was the only toilet in the building and there were many pregnant women waiting for their appointment as well as tradesmen getting permits to work and other things and I finally fished that shit out of the toilet, with my bare hands, and threw it into the trash. Judge me as you wish, dear reader, but that was my solution to the problem and thankfully the sink worked.

God help us if we can not resolve our public bathroom problems without the use of legislation. GOD FUCKING HELP US if it has come to that. I love the rhetoric about "little girls" in the bathroom alone with "grown men". Well, first of all, grown men are already sneaking into public bathrooms to spy of women, so that's nothing new. Second of all, if the girl is old enough to go alone into a bathroom then she's probably alone on buses with "grown men" also. Is there some huge difference between a public bus or subway and a public bathroom? You sit down on both of them; they both smell; no one washes their hands after using either; once you are done you leave. No, there's no difference except the political junkies are addicted to perceived conflict so they drum up controversy and ultimately a bill to vote on. Isn't it obvious they are merely pretending to work? It's like mowing a lawn that doesn't need to be mowed. The bill changes nothing but gets people barking and that's where politicians make their money, they instigate barking and then get paid to calm people down. Incredible useless politicians and their pitiful legislation. Let's segregate public buses too because we might have men and women sit next to one another peacefully and that would mean politicians might have nothing to bark about. I mean, speaking practically, anyone sneaking into a woman's bathroom will have to use a toilet in a private stall, since there are no urinals. And any woman using a men's bathroom will use a toilet also unless she can piss horizontally into a urinal. So the only interaction will be at the sink, which I equate with a water fountain. If we really need a federal injunction to tell us who we can drink water near or wash our hands next to then we're doomed.

In pondering this topic I wondered, "How many creepy perverts who cross dress as a ruse to enter an opposite sex bathroom to get their sexual pleasure aroused, and maybe masturbate in an adjacent stall, will be targeted because of this law?" I'm sure these people exist who are not transgendered but actually pretend to be transgendered so well that they are in costume to get into a woman's bathroom to spy on women or maybe simply be surrounded by women who are shitting or pissing nearby for their own amusement. This must be true, and I'd like to talk with some of those people, but I doubt they want to admit to this treachery. I wonder if they get caught they can claim they are transgendered. Surely, the one case of this happening in 300 years is worth writing legislation to protect innocent young girls from! ha! Well, your days are numbered because the transgender folks, who are truly identifying with another sex, ruined it for you. Now all North Carolina public bathroom users will be on the lookout for opposite sex users of their bathroom. Jesus! What a bunch of bullshit. 

I would like to hear one valid reason that a man and a woman who identifies as a man can't shit in adjacent toilets peacefully. If you'd seen some of the men I've shared a bathroom with then you would know anything is possible as long as adult behavior and a measured poker face is maintained. Julie Andrews could walk into my bathroom dressed like The Iron Sheik and I would not blink. Hell, she could use one of those piss funnels for women and stand next to me at the reeking urinal and I would not care. Why? Because I don't care. I'm an adult. I do not linger in public bathrooms and the time period I am in public bathrooms is quickly filed into a dark corner of my memory. Whatever happens there, never happened. A hundred latex-wrapped Queens could molest me in the filthy stall and I would not remember it happened. That's what makes me an adult. I mind my own business in a public bathroom and that business always involves some kind of waste coming out of my body. That's enough business to deal with. I don't care what costumes other people are wearing, if they are drunk, if they want to get laid, if they want to sell drugs. None of that matters once I enter the bathroom. As far as I see it, a transgendered person looking to get laid in a public bathroom is no different than some Carolina tobacco farmer who is paranoid they might touch a transgendered person in a bathroom. They both have their priorities all wrong in the public bathroom department. As far as being "uncomfortable" with a man dressed as a woman washing his hands next to you, I say tough shit. I used to get uncomfortable when kids with a Yankees cap would stand near me in line at the pizza slice kiosk at the Mall...when I was 11 years old! Grow up! Get your business done and remember crossing a street is not the same as pissing at a public urinal: don't look both ways before you go.

I propose we all identify with the opposite sex for a day and visit North Carolina and go to bathroom opposite the sex on our birth certificate. And I also propose we request the Obstetrician leave the sex box blank on the birth certificate, because who the fuck gave them the right to do anything but get the baby out of the womb in one piece? Can they name the baby? No. Can they kiss the baby? No. Can they decide which bathroom the baby will use for life? Yes. Well, leave the sex box blank and let the baby fill that part in when they want. Because, it is a fucking box a person checks on a form that was printed in some sweatshop in Mexico, so it really has no value at all. It's all an illusion and an artifice, propped up with glossy pomp and political framework that is as fragile as a pigeon's leg. You're just a person who appeared because your mom got knocked up. And you gotta use the public shitter because that Hunan Village lunch buffet table was hours old when you got there. It's no big deal. You are no King Charles I and no state is going to get named after you and where you shit and piss is also not a big deal but PLEASE try to shit in the big hole and not get shit everywhere on the seat. And if the toilet works, then FLUSH IT. And if you can get those two things correct then you'll be doing better than most people, even better than Oggy, and that's enough for 2016, which is the Age of Bullshit Legislation. That's my advice, kids. Goodnight.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Death in The Early Evening

This is the bull I named Champion

In Mexico, the Bulls die to applause. I ate a vegan hamburger before going to the bullfight if it makes any of you hippies feel better.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Ego Invalidates Warranty

About half the pieces remained
If someone can show me a wheel bearing that they drove through Guatemala and Mexico on that is in worse shape then I'll be impressed. What is left of this wheel bearing carried me through some hellish climbs and dips and so many speed bumps and dirt pot holes and goat bones and ego trips that I don't know why the van is not in some river valley with my bones decomposing to drift down toward my Nirvana. The drive into Mexico was beyond difficult, bordering on madness with high stress that has me reevaluating my sanity and scratching my balding gray head when I see I now weigh 140 pounds, which is less than I weighed in 1979...awful terrors, Mayan dreams and self-denial, textiles and nightmares, actually screaming at demons in my sleep as they clawed at the mosquito screen, paralyzed and in terror but fighting the evil that is hovering nearby. Or maybe that's simply stress of emergency fuel repairs, possibly self-immolation, fear and loathing in Guatemala. Too many fatal accidents on the road, like a war zone. I can't really touch on many of the details yet but one day they will find release in these crooked fingers. My bad decisions all haunted me, my longing for romance stabs me in the back with rusty knives, all my good intentions are foolish child dreams and I deserve the chaos that enveloped me I used the radiator overflow reservoir as an emergency fuel tank and a hand siphon to prime the fuel line after bad gas or maybe a fuel pump failure left me stranded high in the Mayan kingdom. But I'm going to a bullfighting fair on Sunday to feast on chicharron tacos with green salsa. The demons have been defeated in this battle but they never surrender. They will wait for another opportunity to claw my throat and I will fight them with shiny blades and my fingers and the broken neck of my guitar.
Creative Commons License
Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.