Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Satanic Verses

Tuesday, February 6th, 2018

This Land Isn’t Your Land, Especially if You’re Mexican

In prayer this morning, I felt nausea again. I started thinking about Woody Guthrie. I believe God was directing my attention back to him. When I think about the indifference I used to feel with regard to Guthrie, I feel like someone gave me poison. All my life, people tried to make be think Guthrie was a sweet guy who wrote upbeat songs. In reality, he was dark and angry, and he was an enemy of God. I can’t believe schoolteachers made me sing his ridiculous anti-God anthem. Schools were already insane when I was a kid. Worse than I have realized.

Guthrie was an atheist, and he was against Christianity. There are apologists who claim otherwise, but that’s just part of the left’s sick effort to lay claim to the church in order to destroy it.

Here’s something Guthrie wrote: “Love is the only God that I’ll ever believe in.” Sounds nice, right? The Bible says God is love. But it also says he is a God of justice. Furthermore, it says he is a humanoid being who sits on a throne in heaven, and it says he gets angry and kills people, sometimes by the millions. God is love, but not everything that feels like love is God.

When you say, “Love is the only God that I’ll ever believe in,” you are expressly denying the God of the Bible, because he is more than that.

Here are the words that follow the quote above:

The books of the holy bible never say but one time just exactly what God is [not true], and in those three little words it pours out a hundred million college educations and says, God Is Love.

And that is the only real definite answer to ten thousand wild queries and questions that I my own self tossed at my bible. That is the only really sensible, easy, honest, warm, plain, quick and clear answer I found – when I was ready to throw so-called fearful cowardly thieving poisoning religion out my trash door, it was those three words that made not only religion, but also several other sorts of superstitious fears and hatreds in me meet one very quick death.

Pretty clear.

Guthrie claimed he thought about Jesus all the time. That probably is not true, and if it were true, it would not make him a Christian.

Leftists love to try to own Christ. They say he was a homosexual, even though he supported the Jewish law, which describes homosexuality as an abomination. They say he was a socialist, in spite of the commandment against coveting. They say Christianity is only about being nice to people, in spite of the overwhelmingly negative nature of Jesus’s remarks about humanity. Meanwhile, they deny the existence of Satan and hell. They deny the existence of heaven. They seem to think Jesus was a deluded sissy who ran around teaching pacifism and mindless approval. They think he was wrong about God, but right about being nice. The left’s Jesus is a straw messiah. You can’t get redeeming blood out of straw.

If Jesus was wrong about God, why should we listen to him about being nice? A wrong Jesus would have no more authority than Stuart Smalley. He wouldn’t be an authority figure. He would be ridiculous, like Rod McKuen or Leo Buscaglia.

I learned something else about Guthrie: his twisted song about America contained verses we don’t teach our kids. Look:

As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said “No Trespassing.”
But on the other side it didn’t say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.

In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?

Guthrie was a communist, and that explains the first stanza above. Attacks on property rights were very important to union organizers trying to force their way onto company properties in order to recruit. Laws were made, to force property owners to let them in.

The second verse is another of his attacks on Christianity. “If God is so wonderful, why is there suffering?” Never mind our utter failure to cooperate with God.

In the early 20th century, God gave man a huge gift. He poured his Holy Spirit out on a bunch of believers in a church on Azusa Street in Los Angeles. They began speaking in tongues. They got a taste of the power of the early church. What happened afterward? America rejected the gift. The Azusa Street miracle produced a wave of Holy Spirit evangelism which gave rise to the charismatic movement, but what percentage of American Christians listened? Very small. Even today, the message of the Holy Spirit is generally rejected, and the churches that accept it are mainly concerned with money. They are run by greedy idiots, and the people in the pews are greedy, too. The movement never became what it should have.

The Azusa Street Revival occurred between 1906 and 1915. It petered out. Then we had a pretty rough century. We had 2 world wars, a depression, 2 failed wars in Asia, and the spiritual cancer of the 1960’s. The 1960’s were Satan’s revival, and unlike Azusa Street, this revival succeeded. It’s 2018, and we still live in the culture of the 1960’s.

P.J. O’Rourke said something interesting. He visited a university decades after the Sixties, and he he saw kids who still dressed and acted like Sixties students. He understood how strange that was. It would have been like going to a university in the Fifties and seeing kids wearing raccoon coats and listening to Jelly Roll Morton. It shows what the Sixties did to us. They never ended.

The last century was rough, but it wasn’t because we didn’t have socialism or because we believed God would help us. It was because we hated God and rejected him. We hate him now more than ever.

Here’s another song Guthrie and his kind used to sing. The name is “Long-Haired Preachers” or “The Preacher and the Slave.” It will make you sick, if you have any kind of feeling for God:

Long-haired preachers come out every night
Try to tell you what’s wrong and what’s right
But when asked how ’bout something to eat
They will answer with voices so sweet

Chorus:

You will eat, bye and bye
In that glorious land above the sky
Work and Pray, live on hay
You’ll get pie in the sky when you die

And the starvation army they play
And they sing and they clap and they pray
Till they get all your coin on the drum
Then they tell you when you are on the bum

If you fight hard for children and wife
Try to get something good in this life
You’re a sinner and bad man, they tell
When you die you will sure go to hell

Workingmen of all countries unite
Side by side we for freedom will fight
When the world and its wealth we have gained
To the grafters we’ll sing this refrain

Last Chorus:

You will eat, bye and bye
When you’ve learned how to cook and to fry
Chop some wood, ’twill do you good
And you’ll eat in the sweet bye and bye

That’s more like it. That’s more honest. You can teach kids that “This Land is Your Land” is a good song, because the limited version they learn omits the anti-God business, but the song above lays it all right out there: “Give up God, and you will prosper.”

When this song is sung, you’re supposed to chant, “That’s a lie,” between verses, until you get to the last 2 verses, which celebrate carnal effort. At the end of those verses, you shout, “That’s no lie!”

So faith in God is a lie, to leftists. Nothing new there.

How can anyone hate the Salvation Army? It’s an organization that has helped save countless people, not just from damnation, but from things like alcoholism, drug addiction, prostitution, and poverty.

It’s the craziest thing. God has increased the numbers of his children by sending preachers around, and he has used hymns to get his point across. In Guthrie’s time, Satan used preachers, too, and they used music. They went to migrant camps and preached atheism, covetousness, violence, and the victim mentality the left is famous for. Never say Satan doesn’t have preachers.

The Azusa Street Revival failed, but Guthrie’s God-hating socialist revival worked. We never learned how to be blessed by God. We learned how to carry signs and take things from other people.

I feel like I understand the world better than ever, and it’s not pleasant. I see why God is exasperated. Nothing he does for us works. We rejected him in Adam’s time. We rejected the laws of Moses. We rejected Jesus and the Holy Spirit. When Jesus comes down personally, to reign in the Messianic Age, we will reject him again, even without curses and problems to complain about. It does not matter what God does. We will always reject him. No wonder he’s going to destroy the world. Everyone, even God, reaches a point where he says, “Enough.”

You can’t talk to victimhood junkies about God. You have to get close to God in order to see how right he is, and they hate him so much, they won’t accept the milk, let alone the meat. They won’t hear him. They won’t give him a try. They want to have all of their problems fixed, right now, without any type of repentance or accountability. Giving them blessings would be like giving a fortune to a 2-year-old. It would just make things worse.

I wonder what it will look like, when people reject Jesus during the Messianic Age. It’s hard to believe anyone could be that stupid, but we know it will happen. It’s hard to believe Adam and Eve rejected God, or that the Jews rejected him after seeing the pillar of fire and cloud. It’s hard to believe when another person misses the obvious, but we’re doing it right now, and we think we’re the smartest people who ever lived.

There are reasons for failure and suffering. It’s not random. It’s not caused by rich people who hoard an imaginary cache of golden eggs. Kill the rich, pass out their money, and what do you get? Poor people who have one great Saturday night and then return immediately to poverty. Poverty isn’t just a lack of wealth. It’s a lack of the inner qualities that draw wealth. Money doesn’t give you those qualities. Trash with cash is still trash.

America is disgusting. We are ungrateful and spoiled. We bite the hand that feeds us all day, every day. Eventually we will be presented with bills.

Lukewarmness is poisoning us. We think we please God while we keep one foot in the Sixties. That’s not possible.

I feel queasy because of what God is teaching me, but I appreciate it. Medicine doesn’t have to taste good. I am very disturbed by what I see around me and inside me, but thank God I’m able to see it.

The Left Hates God

Sunday, February 4th, 2018

Wealth Disparity Just a Pretext

Today I looked at an old movie during breakfast. Last night, I came across Bound for Glory while taking the birds out for amusement, and I watched for a while. Today I watched some more of it.

Bound for Glory is about Woody Guthrie, the communist musician who wrote the song This Land is Your Land, putting the words to the melody to an existing hymn. It starred David Carradine, the guy from Kill Bill and Kung Fu. He was a childhood hero of mine. I didn’t realize Kung Fu and eastern mysticism were BS. He died naked, while abusing himself, hanging by a belt in a hotel closet. Not the way an old man should go. No dignity.

Don’t get my started on Kung Fu. When I was a kid, I broke my arm imitating Carradine’s wandering idiot. A Phys. Ed. teacher told me to jump off a high beam made from an old telephone pole, and to hit the ground rolling. I jumped headfirst because I had seen David Carradine’s stuntman do it. Thank God my neck wasn’t broken.

I thought the movie would be interesting because it would tell me things about the Depression, but it left me a little nauseated.

I don’t know how true the movie is. It was based on Guthrie’s autobiography of the same name, but the movie’s “facts” don’t look much like the facts on Wikipedia’s page. Some of it is true. Guthrie was a union agitator and a communist. He didn’t join the Communist Party formally, but he did what he could to advance its twisted agenda.

The version of Guthrie presented in the movie was supposed to be flattering, but I found him disgusting. Carradine’s Guthrie is a smirking, smug, arrogant, selfish jerk who cheats on his wife without even thinking about it. He condescends to everyone around him. Very off-putting.

The movie promotes unions and leftism, and as I should have expected, it attacks Christianity. Movie Guthrie’s agitator pal Ozark Bule goes to migrant camps and sings a revolting song about pie in the sky when you die. The idea is that preachers tell you you’re going to get good things in heaven, which is a “dirty lie,” and that you should stand up and demand good things here on earth.

There is a scene in the movie in which Guthrie ask a preacher for an odd job so he can eat. The preacher gives him a speech about having no work to give him and not wanting to make things worse by giving him charity, and he gives Guthrie nothing. The message: “God isn’t going to do anything for you, and people who believe in him are your enemies.” Don’t think about the huge body of charity work Christians have done over the centuries. That’s irrelevant.

I found out that Guthrie wrote This Land is Your Land as a rebuttal…get ready…for God Bless America, which was getting heavy radio play at the time. Can you believe that? What a peek into the hidden heart of leftism. How can anyone find God Bless America offensive? Look at the lyrics. It acknowledges that God has blessed America, and it asks him to guide her. Only a leftist could find outrage in that. It doesn’t promote capitalism. It doesn’t attack unions. It is astounding that anyone would find it provocative.

This Land is Your Land doesn’t mention God once. It merely suggests that everyone in America owns all of America. In other words, if you don’t have everything you want, it’s because some rich person is hoarding it, and you have the right to take it.

When I say the movie was nauseating, I am not exaggerating. I feel physical nausea. The “heroic” leftists in the movie are sleazy people with dirty, defiled lives. They have no interest at all in God, except to fight the notion that he exists. They think all their problems can be solved be battling in the flesh. They think people who have more than they do are morally inferior parasites.

I’ve known successful people, and I’ve known poor people. The poor are morally inferior to the rich. In most cases, this is why they’re poor. They commit most violent crime and property crime. They have worse problems with pride. Many poor people are so intoxicated with self-love, they give themselves names, like comic book superheroes. I know two guys who call themselves Cheno Lyfe and Dunamis. I don’t think Dunamis is a proud guy, but he got caught in the name trend, which came from pride. We all know of pride-crazed poor people who became rich and held onto their bizarre handles or invented new ones: Jay-Z. Eminem. J-Lo. Dr. Dre. Snoop Dogg.

Success doesn’t make you a good person, but on the whole, successful people are better than poor people. Who would you rather live among?

The sick leftist notion that poverty equals holiness and wealth equals depravity is poisonous. It put the bodies of countless nice people in ditches in Cambodia. It built Castro’s torture chambers. It built the gulags. It killed 100 million people during the last century.

There’s a gag-inducing scene in the movie which could probably be used as a litmus test to distinguish good people from bad. Guthrie chases a woman in order to have sex with her. She’s a volunteer who fed him at a soup kitchen. When he finally gets into her house, he sees that she’s rich. After he has had his way, he scolds her for her money and asks if it embarrasses her. During the same conversation, with his smirk bright as ever, he tells her he has a wife and kids, and that he has to leave her because he has started to care. No shame. Just a big grin. Then he walks out.

If you can watch that scene and admire the character Carradine is playing, you’re probably going to hell, because you are completely unfamiliar with love, and you are blind to cruelty.

I wonder: how bright is the line between God’s children and the future residents of hell? More than ever, I feel like we only have 2 classes and 2 races. Once class/race is those who choose God, and the other is those who despise him. Leftism is associated strongly with the latter group.

The movie reminds me of something they used to do in communist countries. You have a teacher ask a room full of kids to pray to God for food. Then when they get nothing, you tell them to pray to Mao/Stalin/Castro/Barack Obama/whoever for food. Then you wheel in a cart full of pastries and pass them out. Leftists want us to think violence and agitation get our needs filled, and they want us to hate God for failing to cater to our whims.

In East Germany, there used to be posters that read, “Without God and without sun, we will get our harvest done.” The average American does not understand how deeply leftism is entwined with hatred of God. Socialism was invented to turn the government into a messiah, in order to replace the Lord.

When I was at Columbia University (before Obama was admitted belatedly as a transfer student), I used to hang around with Woody Guthrie’s heirs. I was not interested in their politics. I did not realize you had to swing that way to really be part of the gang. We used to play instruments and sing in our dorm rooms. They were social justice warriors. Now, of course, 98% of them are bank presidents and lawyers and so on. Not one that I know of went on to become a bona fide, to-the-bone agitator.

One of the agitators was named Dave. He had a beat-up Gibson J45. At the time, I did not know this was the signature guitar of leftist troubadors. He was one of the people who used to come to my dorm room and play and sing. When I left Columbia for one of the last times, I caught a cab, and Dave was at the wheel. On the way to LaGuardia, he told me how he was hoping to go to Nicaragua and work for the bloodthirsty Sandinistas. I looked him up today. He’s a partner in a New York law firm. Still sings. I wonder if he thinks he’s a real Guthrie heir.

I didn’t understand that he and my other music buddies were part of the other class. I wish I had. I would not have messed with them. I wouldn’t have gone to Columbia in the first place. A person of my race has no business there. I was ignorant, though. I didn’t know the world was divided, or that there was no way to cross the gulf.

Dave was a nice enough guy, and I had fun with the others, but these were relationships without futures.

Satan tries to convince us that people are all more or less the same. Not true. There are two groups, and everyone belongs to one or the other. If you hang out with the other group, you will suffer eventually. I did. You can be nice to them. You can do business with them. You can’t become part of their family, though.

You can’t join the other race, but you can let them drag you to hell, where, in addition to being damned, you will be a misfit.

Interesting stuff. There was no one to teach me these things when I was young.

I am not a Woody Guthrie fan. I literally find him disgusting now. I don’t mind being rejected by the grey people; the people with dark lives. Life around them is depressing and anxious. There is no real love among them.

More

Today after I wrote this entry, a strange feeling came over me. I felt like I was saying goodbye to the children of darkness.

I feel like a sliding door has come down between me and people who won’t listen to God. They’re on the other side, continuing to scrap over cheap trinkets, and I have a feeling I would describe as resignment. It’s not going to work out between us, and I might as well let them go.

As the Bible says in many places, God sets his people apart from the world. We are not called to have 5,000 Facebook friends. If you can go anywhere and be accepted, you’re not close to God. A child of darkness is welcome in a much wider variety of social circles. A person like that can go nearly anywhere and adapt. Fewer things are forbidden to them. If you’re close to God, you have to be careful not to get too close to the wrong people. It’s like working at a hospice and making friends with every patient you work with. The friendships have no future.

It’s almost as though people who are against God aren’t real. No matter how solid they look now, in a few years, they will vanish forever.

I know many people I will never see again. People I know are in hell. I could give you names. Some are relatives. I know a lot of people who are virtually certain to go there. It’s funny; we laugh and joke with our non-saved friends here on earth. We don’t feel afraid for them. We don’t think much about their terrible destinies.

Christian friendships are different. Christian friendships will last forever. We will know each other and enjoy each other’s love and faithfulness a billion years from now.

If you’re a Christian, and you want to do it right, you have to stop trying to fit in. Strangely, though, we have a lot of prominent clergymen telling us to be friends with everyone. We have hip young pastors telling us to try to be cool. Love is their excuse, but the truth is that they’re greedy. The more their congregations conform to the world, the more people go to their “churches,” and the more money comes in the door.

If you look like the worldly, you talk like the worldly, you think like the worldly, and you vote like the worldly, you are a person of the world, not the church.

So much of our activity here is wasted. All sinful activity is wasted. Then there are our other pursuits, which, although not forbidden, serve to render us useless. We get caught up in chasing goals that mean absolutely nothing to God. We’re so proud when we succeed! We want to be noticed. We like reminding ourselves. We collect ridiculous trophies and medals. We put plaques on our walls, celebrating our vain accomplishments. Salesman of the Month. Who’s Who in America. WBC Lightweight Champion. Whatever. We die, and then it’s all garbage. If we’re rich, we may try to be keep our names in people’s mouths. We may have our widows put our names on the fronts of hospitals and dormitories. As if such things help or matter to dead people.

There are parks and museums named after people who went to hell before they were built. They were in hell, thinking about anything but parks and museums, while people they left behind got things rolling and gave speeches and cut ribbons. How weird is that? You can be in hell, crying and screaming, while your smiling widow cuts a ribbon in front of a library with your name on it.

“Wherever he is, he must be smiling.” We ought to stop saying that.

This life looks stranger and stranger to me all the time.

The Hands of God

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018

Good Fathers Don’t Abandon Children

I have been a little reluctant to blog something that has been happening to me. Sometimes you think God is doing something for you, but he’s not. Then you tell people about it, and you find out you were wrong, and you have to retract it. I did not want that to happen.

Supposedly, a number of people “healed” by Benny Hinn later turned out to be mistaken. Is that because they were never healed, or is it because they were healed and then lost it? Search me.

Some Christians think any story that glorifies God is a good story, so preachers go around telling a lot of lies they’ve heard from other preachers. They don’t check. For example, as I think I’ve mentioned before, there is the tale of the 2 Moravian slaves.

Two white men from Moravia, wherever that is, found out about the slave trade in the Caribbean, so they wanted to evangelize the slaves. The only way to do it was to sell themselves as slaves, to be taken to the people they wanted to help. They stood on the dock, with the Vistavision cameras rolling and the Warner Brothers orchestra playing in the background, as they waved goodbye to their families, knowing they would never see them again. But it was okay, because they were going to be miserable slaves for Jesus. And the rest of us should feel really bad and do extremely unpleasant things in order to please God. Who promised that his yoke was easy and his burden was light (SHHH!).

Of course, it’s a lie. It was not possible for white men to become slaves in the Caribbean. And think about this: who would sell them? You can’t have a slave without an owner. If you sell yourself, aren’t you, based on your ownership status, a free man?

Anyway, it didn’t happen. Look it up. Two Moravian guys went to the Caribbean to preach, and both went home soon afterward. Yawn. How is this even a story? How many people take trips so they can preach? A whole lot.

Telling people ridiculous fables of superhuman devotion and suffering is a bad idea. It makes people think they’re not good enough to become Christians, which is an absurd notion, since a Christian, by definition, is a bad person who takes credit for the righteousness of Jesus. It makes Christianity sound painful and miserable, when in reality, the Christian life is more pleasant than the heathen life. It also makes people think Christianity is a lie. If a preacher will tell one lie, surely he’ll tell another, right? It’s like telling your kids Santa is real and then yanking the rug out from under them when they’re 7. “If Santa isn’t real, then what about Jesus?”

I won’t “help” God with myths and lies. For that reason, I don’t like to give a testimony unless I’m pretty sure it’s solid.

Here is the testimony.

I used to play stringed instruments. I went back to it a few years back. Several joints on my left hand swelled up and looked grotesque, and they hurt. I quit. I tried again. I quit. I tried again. I quit.

I was starting to play again before I moved away from the stinkhole known as Miami, but I got busy with other things, and I let it go.

Here in Marion County, I decided to get back on it. I have a nice big room where I can practice. I picked up the banjo again (sorry), and then I got back to the guitar. I play a dreadnought with medium-gauge strings and a hard pick. Not easy on the hands. Eventually, I decided to brave the mandolin, which is the least ergonomic instrument there is, unless you count playing the drums with your face.

The mandolin stresses the joints like crazy, because the fingerboard is cramped.

I took action in the supernatural. I spoke defeat to the joint issue and the spirits behind it. I commanded myself to be healed.

That was a month or more ago, and my fingers are fine. Sometimes I think they’re going to swell up and hurt, but they don’t. A healing can be hard to accept. Sometimes we’re afraid to have faith.

I have never had problems with my joints, except for a slight stiffness in my knees, which God healed during church services, and the finger thing, and some pain in my hands. I bounce around like a high school kid. I jump onto my truck. I jog up stairs. My hands were the only areas of concern. I had the guitar issue plus some other joint pains.

The other pains are leaving along with the guitar problems. I realized it this morning. I can do things that used to make my hands hurt. That’s very nice. Our hands are our main interface with the world. Lose your hands, and you become isolated from objects you need to manipulate.

I’m not going to promise you my hands will remain well. Just telling you what happened.

I can’t listen to teachers who have no testimony. Like the Pope. If you haven’t had a miracle, you’re doing Christianity wrong. You can have miracles and be a bad Christian, but you can’t be a good Christian without experiencing miracles. Why? Because God is not stingy with the children he loves, and because this world is a battlefield. God isn’t going to sit back and let us be annihilated without providing for us. He will let you lose if you’re ignorant, but if you have knowledge, you will receive help.

It’s funny; people dismiss the miraculous, saying we’re not supposed to follow signs. That’s not very smart. We are not supposed to follow signs, but signs always follow us. Jesus said they would, and he is not a liar. If you’re not seeing signs, you should be concerned. God is doing everything right, so you must be the problem.

If someone appears to work a miracle, and you assume he knows all about God because of it, you’re making a big mistake. Look at the millions of people Benny Hinn has messed up. On the other hand, if you blindly swallow everything you hear from a person who has never experienced a miracle, what are you thinking? If the cord is plugged in, the motor will run. That’s a fact. If the motor never runs, it’s not plugged in.

Testimony is better than teaching. Teaching is like gossip. It’s second-hand. Every person who repeats a rumor may distort it. The Bible praises witnesses more than teachers. A teacher tells what he heard. It’s hearsay. A witness tells you what he saw.

There is a reason the words “witness” and “testimony” appear in the Bible over and over.

The Bible doesn’t say we overcome by listening to teaching. It says we overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony. Teaching is sometimes better than nothing, but it’s way overrated, and it’s very, very dangerous.

Here is what James said about teaching:

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, since you know that we will be judged more severely. For we all stumble in many ways; if someone does not stumble in what he says, he is a mature man who can bridle his whole body. If we put a bit into a horse’s mouth to make it obey us, we control its whole body as well. And think of a ship — although it is huge and is driven by strong winds, yet the pilot can steer it wherever he wants with just a small rudder. So too the tongue is a tiny part of the body, yet it boasts great things. See how a little fire sets a whole forest ablaze!

Our job isn’t to become sages who walk on air and make people kiss our feet as we pass. It’s to introduce others to the Holy Spirit, so he can teach them. Look what John said:

As for you, the Messianic anointing you received from the Father remains in you, so that you have no need for anyone to teach you. On the contrary, as his Messianic anointing continues to teach you about all things, and is true, not a counterfeit, so, just as he taught you, remain united with him.

And now, children, remain united with him; so that when he appears, we may have confidence and not shrink back from him in shame at his coming.

Authority comes from time spent in the presence of God, not time spent in the presence of a rabbi, a preacher, or the greatest apostle.

Guess I’m digressing.

Anyway, my hands feel great.

Time is on my Side

Friday, January 19th, 2018

Yes it Is

Suddenly I find myself gifted with something I did not expect: free time.

I had a horrendous time making the move up here, and then Irma came and made things 20 times worse. I had to buy 3 chainsaws. I burned one tree after another. I ended up with 3 different pairs of work boots, 5 pairs of Carhartt jeans, suspenders, and 2 pairs of overalls. Not to mention a collection of baseball caps, which you actually need for farm work because the sun is annoying and things hit you in the face all the time. I was busy, busy, busy.

Now things have slowed down. It turns out you don’t absolutely have to get rid of every downed tree on a property right away. Once you dispose of the ones that block roads, land on fences, threaten passing cars, mash your chicken coop, and so on, it’s not imperative that you maintain a fierce pace cutting up the ones lying on their sides in the woods. I will be moving trees for a long time, so there is no point in getting in a hurry. Also, it appears that the bugs are capable of disintegrating a live oak in under 2 years, so they will probably end up doing much of the work.

Here’s another interesting thing: the grass stopped growing. Things grew quickly here when I arrived, but once we had a couple of freezes, the landscaping workload looked very different. I can’t mow. I’m afraid to plant things. Some things I used to trim are either dead or playing possum. Mainly, I just clean up. And now I have child labor to help. My friend Amanda has 3 boys just the right size to be exploited by a non-recycling, yoga-hating, organic-food-ridiculing conservative. We are teaching them capitalism by forcing them to pick up sticks in my yard, for a suitably unconscionable weekly pittance.

I think putting the boys to work was a good move. They will learn that you can’t spend your whole life playing video games all day, and because they will get to spend some of the money, they will learn that affluence and work are connected. And they’re doing man’s work, which is fun. I taught them how to drive the EZ-GO and run the dump bed, and they zip around all over the place, presumably feeling important and grown up. Kids need that. You can’t give people responsibility without authority. It’s demoralizing. Ask a Border Patrol agent.

When my friend Mike was here, he was an even better overseer. He had them throwing stuff on the burn pile while it was actively burning. Don’t know if Amanda knows that. Mike is very good with kids, especially compared to the DNA source who abandoned these boys.

Mike is coming tomorrow. I guess we will devise new torments for them. And they WILL like it. I told him he is the guest slave driver.

Their attitude is great. I think the money helped. The first time they worked, it was a gift to me from their mom, and after a short time, one of them came up to me and said, “Can we be done now?” That is changing.

My biggest contribution to their upbringing is Frisbee. Somehow they ended up throwing one of my disks, and I found out they didn’t have proper Frisbees. I got each one a Diskraft disk (better than Frisbees) for Christmas. They are starting to get it. Sometimes a disk will make it all the way to an intended recipient, and I have seen a few catches.

Wham-O brand Frisbees are Chinese these days, so Diskraft is the way to go.

Boys are like car engines. They function best under a load. You have to give them things to do. I know this because my parents did not do this.

To return to the point, I am less busy now, and it makes me nervous. I feel like there is something I should be doing. Of course, that’s true. There is always something I should be doing. But I wonder if I’m missing anything.

I now have time to exercise and practice music. I didn’t expect that. I took up the mandolin, banjo, and guitar again, and this week I started looking at piano instruction.

Amanda’s boys need to learn music, if they want to be civilized, so I have been helping her find options. Lessons would be great, but they’re not cheap. One son wants to learn piano, and another likes the guitar. The third mentioned the saxophone.

I can help a little with the guitar, and I recommended a site called Justin Guitar for materials and videos. It’s not a teacher, but it should be helpful. For piano, I found something new: Playground Sessions. Quincy Jones is the “co-creator,” which probably means someone paid him money to use his picture.

I tried Playground Sessions myself, and I am impressed. You download free software and pay a small fee every month. You get video lessons and interactive sheet music. You connect a MIDI keyboard to the computer, and you play along with the software. You get background music and a countdown, and you get a score every time you try to play something. They have a real program, not just random pieces, and you learn things in an order that builds your skills. I really like it. It’s what I was looking for years ago when I tried Adventus Piano Suite, which is a very annoying piece of software which sort of comes close to teaching piano.

If you want to learn to play an instrument, you really need to learn to sight-read and play with accompaniment. I learned to play the banjo using tablature and my memory, and it was a very bad choice. It was better than no music at all, but I was musically illiterate. It’s a gigantic handicap. And if you can’t play along with other people, you’re useless most of the time, and you won’t be able to connect with anyone else musically. Also, your timing will be bad.

Learn to sight-read. Learn to play in a group. If you can’t do these things, you’re a crippled musician. Like me.

Cutting news websites out of my life increased my free time. I used to look at them periodically throughout the day. Now I start to look at Drudge, and I remember I don’t do that any more. Then I have to find a way to fill the time I’m not wasting. I still glance at the news, but not much.

I can read again. I can exercise. I may start to do things with tools again, and I mean things not involving dead trees.

If you’re interested in piano, take a look at Playground Sessions. It may be a good idea even if you’re taking lessons. If you have a spacy teacher who isn’t organized, look at it and find out what he or she should be teaching you.

Time to practice.

Robot Finally Working

Sunday, November 26th, 2017

CNC Lathe Next

My friend Amanda has a son who has some cognitive issues. Oddly, in some cases, people with his problem turn out to be unusually well suited to the trade of CNC machining. Mental characteristics that cause problems in many areas of life can be assets in machining. There’s a dude in California who runs a school that trains such people.

I learned about this from a TV show called Titans of CNC. A man named Titan Gilroy was convicted of a violent crime, and when he got out of prison, he learned CNC and started a big, successful shop. Now he teaches inmates at San Quentin. He has a son with Asperger’s, and he discovered that his son was very good at CNC. Now he works with the guy who runs the school.

I mentioned this to Amanda a few weeks back, and I said I had some interest in CNC and robotics. We showed her son some Youtubes, and he seemed interested. That’s good, but it’s also a problem. I have only one CNC tool, and it’s a home-built adaptation which I haven’t perfected. Not counting my vacuum cleaner, I have only one robot, and when I bought it and assembled it, I was not able to make it work.

Since showing her son the videos, I have retrieved my CNC lathe from Miami, and I am ready to see if I can make it work. Last night, I took the robot out of the box I had tossed it in, and after an hour or so of reprogramming and researching, I figured out what was wrong with it. Now it’s working.

The robot is a B-robot, from a company called JJ Robots. It’s a two-wheeled balancing robot a little bigger than a box of Pop Tarts. It’s based on an Arduino Leonardo board.

Here’s how it works. It has a tiny board containing circuitry that measures the robot’s vertical orientation. This shouldn’t amaze anyone. Cell phones have circuits that tell them whether they’re level or not. The robot checks the board’s output, and then it accelerates in the direction of the tilt, bringing it back to vertical again. In other words, when the robot starts to fall in a certain direction, it takes off in that direction, bringing itself back under its top. It can do this so often it appears nearly stable.

I found I had installed the orientation board sideways, so the robot was sensing angular deviation along the wrong axis. The robot can’t fall from side to side, so the board’s input was useless. I reinstalled it according to the directions.

The robot still refused to stand. I took a look at what it was doing. It was accelerating away from the direction of fall, making the fall worse. I then turned the board 180 degrees, and everything worked.

Now I have a self-balancing robot.

I had some other problems with it, and they’re even more boring, so I don’t want to get into them too much. I found I could not upload programming to the Arduino. Somewhere on the web, someone said I had to press the board’s reset button immediately before uploading. Not exciting, unless you’re a nerd.

The robot has wi-fi. When you turn it on, you connect your phone to the robot’s network, and then you use an app to steer the robot. Obviously, it needs an onboard camera, like a drone, so you can see what the robot sees as it moves. Maybe I can figure that out some day.

Anyway, next time Amanda brings her son around, I can show him the robot and see if he has any interest. Maybe in a week or two, I can get the lathe working better.

It’s a little strange that I decided to buy and assemble a robot, but the whole exercise has turned out to have a purpose I could not have anticipated. That’s God for you.

Robotics and CNC are not the same thing, but it’s basically the same skill set, applied in different ways. Programming, boards, and servos or steppers. My guess is that a person who has CNC aptitude also has robotics aptitude. The question is which one he will like well enough to stick with.

Her other two sons are interested in music, but the instruction opportunities are limited. I suggested Adventus Piano software for one and Justinguitar.com for the other. Justinguitar.com is a teaching site run by, as you might guess, a guitarist named Justin. It has lots of exercises and videos. It’s not a teacher, but it’s a whole lot better than nothing.

The hard thing will be to get them to learn to sight-read. This is much more important than learning to play. Any idiot can learn to play songs by memorizing them. Ask me how I know. A real musician can read music, and he must also understand theory. A singer who can sight-sing and who understands theory is a better musician than an untrained pianist who plays extremely well.

Math, languages, and music. You have to learn while you’re young. After you’re seven or eight years old, your aptitude drops off, and as far as I know, you can’t get it back.

It’s hard to tell when you’ve scored a point with her kids. Other kids get excited. Hers just sit and think, and sometimes they want to know how soon you’ll be finished so they can do something else. She says it’s working, though.

Sooner or later, if they want to get anywhere with music, they’ll have to find people they can play with.

The robot is interesting to me because the concept doesn’t have to be limited to a tiny machine. The stuff that tells it what to do could be installed on a robot the size of a building. I could yank the guts out of it, find a way to make it run bigger steppers, and make a robot big enough to run around the yard. Jam a lithium battery in there, and it could run for an hour. Not sure what accessories I could add to it to make it useful. Anyway, it doesn’t have to be a small toy. Could it ever be useful for anything? That’s a hard question. I would have to come up with a function for it.

I wish I could make it paint the fence or kill squirrels.

Now that the major crises of moving are abating, I feel like I’m getting my life back. I had time to work on the robot. I’m anxious to get my machine tools up here. Next year, life should be less hectic, and I should be able to get more done. Maybe I’ll be able to make some knives. Right now I can’t run my big grinder without a gas generator and an adaptor (which I don’t have), so knife-making is not possible.

I’m giving up on tree removal. The trees that cause problems will be moved. The rest will be ignored until it’s convenient to do something. It’s just too much work. Surrendering will give me more free time.

Guess I’ll go check out robot accessories. If I can find one a kid could use to drive his brothers nuts, I think it will be a hit.

Hasta la Vista, Knight Aberrant

Saturday, February 25th, 2017

Cervantes << Rabelais

I feel like I should let the world know I finally finished the reading in Cervantes’ Don Quixote. I got done yesterday, I think. I can’t describe my relief.

Now that I’ve read a good deal of the book, including the ending, I can say with confidence that it’s overrated and poorly done. The people who admire this book are just dazzled by its age, and by the fatuous remarks of other fans who preceded them.

One of the last things I read concerned Sancho Panza’s brief experience as pretend governor of an “insula” (island) provided by a duke who enjoyed making fun of him. The people of the island (if it is an island; I didn’t read the part where Cervantes describes it) go to Sancho with three cases to judge. Sancho comes up with very clever solutions to the last two cases, a la Solomon. The solution to the first case isn’t clever at all and appears to be a wild guess which may or may not be just.

The clever solutions are plagiarized from other authors. I’ll give you one example. A man is accused of rape, and the woman demands money. Sancho gives her the man’s money and then tells the man to take it from her. She is too strong for him, and she pushes him away easily. Sancho gives the man his money back, reasoning that if the defendant isn’t strong enough to take her purse, he’s not strong enough to rape her. I forget where the story came from, but the translator, in a note, says it’s stolen.

Plagiarism is one of the marks of a hack. If you have something original to say, you say it, hoping to be credited for your brilliance. If you steal other people’s work, you tacitly admit you have no talent of your own.

When I saw the door to the prison starting to swing open, I started reading another book. I bought a copy of The Man in the High Castle, by Philip K. Dick. A friend said I should watch the Amazon series of the same name, so I bought the book, knowing nothing ruins a good book like seeing the movie first.

Now that I think about it, nothing enhances a book like reading a worse book first.

In two sessions, purely for pleasure, I effortlessly breezed through maybe forty pages. What a change of pace. When I was reading Cervantes, twenty pages seemed like the toils of Sisyphus. But then Cervantes is a bad writer, and Dick isn’t.

I know people will argue with me and try to tell me I’m not smart enough to see Cervantes’ hidden genius. Yeah, okay. Keep telling yourselves that. I may not be Maxwell Perkins, but I’m not completely stupid, either. I can tell the difference between Shakespeare and John Grisham.

I guess I shouldn’t use John Grisham as an example. Some people think he’s a good writer. He’s not, but some people think he is. How about Dan Brown? No, I guess some people think he has talent, too.

Barbara Cartman! Harold Robbins! Jacqueline Susann! There must be somebody who will serve as an example.

How about this: “I can tell the difference between Francois Villon and Rod McKuen”?

On the web, I saw people looking for the hidden meaning of Don Quixote. Let me help. There is no hidden meaning. Cervantes isn’t D.H. Lawrence. He wasn’t consciously writing about archetypes that move in all our thoughts. He was a debtor trying to raise cash by writing a popular novel.

You can project hidden meaning onto anything if you try. You’ll probably reveal more about yourself than about whatever it is you’re studying.

The next book on the Columbia College Lit. Hum. list is Milton’s Paradise Lost, which is almost 400 pages of very stuffy blank verse. In case you’re wondering, blank verse is just poetry that doesn’t rhyme. For reasons not entirely clear to me, some writers like to force their work to adhere to certain rhythms without using rhymes to pull it together.

I get rhythm. I totally get rhythm. David Mamet is a master of it. Every naturally funny person understands timing. What I don’t get is sticking to fixed rhythms that don’t improve the work in any way. Why use six syllables when you’re dying to use ten? It turns literature into Twitter.

It reminds me of haikus. Well, I should say, “It reminds me of haiku,” because if you’re really smart, you have to say “haiku” instead of “haikus.” Anyway, haikuS are stupid. God doesn’t charge us by the syllable. Use all you want.

I don’t think anyone really likes haikuS. It’s like pretending to like Japanese rock gardens. Real exciting; three rocks and some sand. Yeah, that’s just as good as the garden at the Tuileries. I can hardly tell the difference.

To grow a real garden, you need artistic talent, enough character to do hard work, and a green thumb. To produce a rock garden, you just need Roundup.

Tip for the Japanese: “garden” implies “foliage.” The English word you’ve been looking for is “sandbox.”

I expect Milton to be a chore, but I’m hoping there will at least be a plot.

I also blew off a lot of the reading in Columbia’s Contemporary Civilization class. It’s similar to Lit. Hum., but it’s philosophy and poltics instead of literature. I was thinking I would do the reading for both classes, but I don’t know if I can stand the pain. Maybe bad literature is inherently more painful than politics and philosophy. Hmm. I could always read two books and see if I can bear to continue.

They had a third class called Art Hum. That one is a breeze. You look at slides. “This is a kouros. This is an Ionian column.” I don’t know if the materials are available, though. It would be a real shame if I had to cancel that project.

I don’t like modern art. I don’t know if I want to suffer with it. Anything past Monet, you can keep. If I have to pretend I like Jackson Pollack and think his “work” has value, I may become ill. I’d rather sit through twelve hours of John Cage.

No I wouldn’t. Not unless it was 4’33” with the MP3 player on repeat. Here’s one of my favorite versions, but I also like the duet Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix are currently doing:

John Cage must be the greatest composer ever, because no matter what other composers write or play while they’re alive, they start playing Cage’s work as soon as they die.

I like Salvador Dali, but I don’t think he’s deep. I think he’s sort of like M.C. Escher. Makes you go “GEE!”, but you wouldn’t want his work to represent earth in an interstellar art competition.

Maybe I’ll do CC and Art Hum. in 2018. It would be unfair to my future self to concentrate all the remaining pleasure into 2017.

Truck pulls! That’s what I really need! I need to watch me some truck pulls! Get me some corn dogs and a Busch Light! ‘Murica! ‘MURICA!!!!

I’m off to Bass Pro Shop to buy some Uncle Buck’s cajun foie gras seasoning.

Where is my FEMA Money?

Wednesday, October 5th, 2016

I Need Counseling and a Big Giant EBT Card

I have a few more tips about hurricane preparation.

1. Never, ever trim your trees around power wires. Like I just did. I guess I don’t agree with this one. I mean, sure, okay, if you’re completely inept, don’t trim your trees. Don’t tweeze your own nose hairs. Sit in bed and wait for someone to put your shoes on for you. Because you are dangerous. But the rest of us have to take chances once in a while. I figured a 1% chance of instant death was well worth the near-certainty of being able to surf the web and look at lolcats after the storm.

I don’t know a whole lot about power lines, but I’m pretty sure 250 volts can’t blast through rubber insulation, run through a tree branch, and kill a guy wearing rubber-soled shoes.

It didn’t today.

2. Hire other people to do all the work. I kind of dropped the ball on this one. Now I have this strange, weak, droopy feeling all over my body, and a mysterious clear fluid is coming out of my skin. According to WebMD, it’s called “perspiration.” Nasty.

They wouldn’t have helped, anyway. I don’t speak Spanish. I would have been yelling at them to trim the tree, and they would have been trying to fix the toilet. Or using my computadora to register to vote in los American elections.

3. Forget your diet. If you have one. Eating during a hurricane scare is like eating junk food that says “natural” on the package. It doesn’t count.

4. Lunch meat, lunch meat, lunch meat. If you remember nothing else, remember this. When the power goes out, you will feel stupid with all those cans of cold soup. Lunch meat and a cooler will power you through the lean days. And you have a great excuse to use paper plates and plastic cups.

This is a great time to stock up on bagged chips. They last forever, they have tons of calories, and they’re chips. For the sake of comparison, salad will wilt in two days, it has the same amount of calories as fog, and worst of all, it’s salad.

I laid in two bags of Ruffles cheddar and sour cream flavor. Or is it “chedder ‘N’ sour cream”? Can’t recall.

I feel good about the day’s work. I have increased the likelihood of continued phone and power service from maybe 15% to 75%. Tomorrow I will have ample food. I am certain to have light, because in addition to the tree job, I found some yahrzeit candles at the store. These are depressing Jewish candles you’re supposed to light on the day someone died. It may be disrespectful to use them as emergency lighting, but they were really cheap, and they’re not perfumed, so they were just what I needed. Besides, I’m sure someone has died on October 5.

If the tree thing had gone poorly, those candles would have been really handy.

I decided to check. This is horrible. On October 5, 1763, August III, who as you all know was the king of Poland, died at 66. He was probably one of my three favorite Polish kings. Little-known fact: he invented the accordion. To scare cats out of the palace.

I may be slightly loopy right now, so bear with me. I got up at 4:30. And that’s not Warsaw time.

The weather is beautiful right now, if you consider the inside of a rice steamer illuminated by a MIG arc beautiful. It’s bright and painfully sunny, with very little wind. The humidity makes the air feel like molten rubber. It’s hard to believe the world is going to be over in a few hours. Usually, before a hurricane, you get creepy overcast days with breezes and intervals of rain as the cloud bands pass by.

I’m going to charge up the compressor in case I need to use the air hammer to get into those Ruffles in a hurry. Preparation is everything.

I’m pretty sure those chips are all-natural.

Depending on the quality of my tree trimming, you may hear from me tonight and tomorrow. If not, assume the worst. It will make the week more exciting.

Apollo 13.2

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

Mars Attacks…my Last Nerve

Yesterday I decided to watch The Martian to kill time while the birds were out. Now I am annoyed.

Spoilers ahead. Duck and cover.

This movie is about an astronaut (Matt Damon) who gets left behind on Mars. The rest of the crew thinks he’s dead, so they go back to earth. Then they find out he’s alive, so NASA goes nuts trying to bring him back. Because life on earth without Matt Damon is unthinkable. Without him, his duty to preach sanctimoniously to the public would fall on Leo DiCaprio, making it necessary for him to charter twice as many carbon-belching jets.

The rescue job is not easy, because Mars is not very close to the earth. At best, in the story, it takes over a year just to get him new couture underpants from Dolce & Gabbana, let alone bring him back.

I don’t care about the nerd issues. Some people, I’m sure, are flipping out because of minor technical errors and deceptions. They’re probably upset because the sand storm that drives the crew off Mars couldn’t possibly be as damaging as it is in the movie. Stuff like that. Hey, this isn’t science class. News flash: there is no such thing as warp drive, either, and during your lifetime, there never will be. Get over it.

The plot issues are what bug me.

First, the deus ex machina problem. More accurately, let’s cut off two letters and call it what it is: deus ex China.

Ancient Greek dramatists often ran out of bad ideas, just as dramatists do today, and one of their fixes was the god machine. They would rig up a contraption that lowered a totally new character onto the stage. This was the machina, or machine. The character was the deus, or god. The god would wave his magic wand, click his heels together three times, and make the gorgon disappear or afflict the Spartans with the pox. Or whatever.

These days we don’t see Greeks being lowered with pulleys all that much, except in German nightclubs, but we do see similarly unsatisfying copouts in movies and shows. It’s a crappy trick to play on an audience. You spend an hour or more developing a terrible problem for your protagonist, and the audience tries to guess how he will fix it, and then you slap them in the face with Proteus or Poseidon or Steve Jobs, swinging in on a rope.

I mean, obviously, it wouldn’t be Proteus today. It would be Bruce Willis or maybe Sylvester Stallone, whose machina would probably be a walker or mobility scooter. “Stop, or my Certified Nursing Assistant Will Shoot!”

I love obscure references.

Screenwriters should take the time to come up with clever solutions, instead of sandbagging people with unsatisfying cavalry charges from left field.

I also love mixing metaphors. And to joyfully split infinitives.

In The Martian, NASA tries to send a supply ship to Mars, and it blows up. Matt Damon is a dead man, right? And he can forget about that crate of Clinique moisturizer. Or maybe they’ll come up with some clever plan! But no, nothing like that happens. Instead, they cut to a mysterious office in China, where two Chinese people start talking about giving their secret Chinese rocket to NASA for another shot.

Come on. Where was this rocket six months earlier, when the whole world was clamoring over the potential earth-shattering loss of Matt Damon? Nowhere. The writer hadn’t thought of it yet.

Cheap.

Maybe it was still on the truck to Harbor Freight.

By the way, the rocket doesn’t have a fuse or a colorful wrapper with something like “Dancing Fire Dragon Cluster” printed on it, and it’s not launched from a bottle. Chinese technology has improved a lot.

I think it’s safe to assume the owner’s manual is incomprehensible. “For make mission Mars, to apply pressure dial A in direction of Mongolia.”

Here’s another thing: one of Damon’s main torments is the presence of disco music. The mission’s commander is a woman, and woman have hellish taste in music, so she only brings disco, ignoring the desires of the rest of the crew. When the crew leaves the planet, the only music Damon can find in the Mars shelter’s computers is garbage like “Ring my Bell” and “Push Push in the Bush.”

The cruelty is appalling.

Here’s the question: how does anyone get to Mars in the smartphone/micro SD card age without a ton of MP3’s? It can’t happen. Totally impossible. I think my phone has 80 gigs of storage. Not sure; whatever it is, it’s full of demotivational posters and pictures of Grumpy Cat. Anyway, there is no way NASA would let a crazy woman strand people in outer space with Leo Sayer, in an age when you can store 400 albums in a card smaller than a Chiclet. And if she did, he would kill himself after a week. He would boogie-oogie-oogie out of the airlock and do the hustle with his helmet off until he died.

Pretty lame, right?

When Damon sets up a communications link to earth, he is able to send email. If he can send email, he can receive music files, right? Apparently not. We can put a man on Mars, but we can’t send him The White Album.

Here’s another problem. NASA decides to send the crew transport ship back to Mars with stuff for Matt. He has to launch a rocket NASA left on Mars and rendezvous with the crew ship to get food. Being Matt Damon, he’s probably hoping for Evian and organic free-trade seaweed paleo yogurt.

Okay…if he can rendezvous with the ship and pick up food…WHY CAN’T HE GET ON THE SHIP AND LEAVE?

Final problem: Apollo 13. Hello? We’ve been here before. Unforeseen technical problems on a space mission, followed by frantic cooperation between astronauts and brilliant people on the ground, garnished with numerous astonishing McGyverisms that keep people alive. And Apollo 13 was a real mission, and the movie was better. So what’s the point of The Martian? It’s not even the first survival movie sited on Mars. Does anyone remember Robinson Crusoe on Mars? Maybe not. But it happened.

I haven’t seen the end of the movie yet. I assume Matt will live, although the person who wrote this thing may have the unfortunate idea that it would be original to let him die. Unhappy endings are not new to cinema, so I feel like he might as well live. If the movie ends with him sitting on a rock, watching the sun set on Mars, feeling peaceful about becoming a piece of frozen jerky, I will probably have another rant to throw.

They say there are no original plots. Maybe that’s true, but we can do better than this. The movie is entertaining; it shows what NASA disasters would be like in the lolcats era. But it’s not The Third Man. More like The Thirdteenth Reheating of the Corpse of Apollo 13.

I guess I’ll fire up the DVR and see if Matt Damon dies. I’m not optimistic. I own a lot of Chinese tools.

More

Well, now I’m even more upset. It looks like the plan was to bring Will Hunting back, not to drop off Chinese food. I totally misunderstood. But I still feel vindicated, because I remembered another plot hole.

To take off to get to the mother ship, Damon has to get to another rocket. His crew left on one rocket, and NASA had another one miles away, waiting for a new crew.

So…he’s sitting around for months, starving, scrounging for tools and food…and he knows he can get in his rover and go to the other rocket, where he can find useful goodies.

Why doesn’t he go? Why? Why?

I much prefer space entertainment that doesn’t even try to involve reality. Give me Captain Kirk with a flip phone and a phaser, engaging openly in intergalactic racism and genocide without a care in the world. Hipsters in space? You can have them.

Trapped Near the Inner Circle of Fault

Sunday, June 12th, 2016

People Who Live in the Real World Wouldn’t Understand

I had to clean bird cages today, so now I’m in the mood for anything other than bird cage cleaning. I will write again.

Yesterday I was reminded of one of the big paradoxes of the Internet: being able to shop for things from the convenience of your home results in giant delays instead of time savings.

That’s kind of a distortion, but here’s what I mean: when you try to buy anything on the Internet–even paper clips–you will learn so much about the choices you have that you will spend more time studying and searching than buying.

Yesterday I had to solder something, and I saw that I was out of good solder. I still had bad solder; the kind that never seems to work right. I needed the good kind.

Two years ago, I would have driven to Radio Shack and bought whatever I saw. I would have been finished in 20 minutes. This time, it took me something like three hours. I learned things about solder while I was shopping, and I fell through the Internet-shopping looking glass, where you find out that the thousand things you believed before breakfast are, sadly, impossible.

There are lots of different kinds of solder. I did not know this. I knew about two types: lead-free, which sounded unwholesome, deluded, and leftist, and leaded, which, I figured, had to be the best, because, hey…lead. Anything that contains ingredients hippies hate will always turn out to be the best kind available.

I am not even a little scared of lead. I used to chew lead split shots because I liked the taste, and while I may be strange, I never got stupid or incontinent or whatever. Based on what I’ve read, I think the government keeps adjusting lead standards to silly levels in order to keep EPA bureaucrats employed. If lead was that big a deal, I’d be in an institution. I’m sure it’s toxic, but lots of stuff is toxic, and most of us manage to survive.

I started rooting around on the web, and I learned that there are lots of solder types. When it comes to electronics, the three main types are plain old rosin-cored, RMA (rosin mildly activated), and RA (rosin activated). Also, there are different leaded alloys. Two of the popular ones are 63% lead/37% tin and 60% lead/40% tin. I think. Maybe the tin goes first. On top of this, cored solder can contain 1.1%, 2.2%, or 3.3% flux. The word “flux” refers to the rosin, which is a substance that eats oxidation when it gets hot. Again: I think. Basically it cleans the joint.

Let’s see. There’s more. Solder comes in lots of diameters. You can get 0.015″, 0.020″, 0.025″, 0.031″, and up. If solder is too big, it tends to go all over the place when you solder little things. If it’s too small, it takes forever to fill a joint.

It gets worse. Chinese solder is not reliable. Big shock there. So you have to look for quality brands.

You have to wonder how bad Chinese solder is, since most of our electronic devices are full of it.

I also found out you’re supposed to clean solder joints. I had never heard of that. When you solder, you may unintentionally (or in my case, intentionally) leave melted flux on your joints. It’s ugly, and if I understand things correctly (doubtful), some types of flux can cause corrosion.

I went nuts researching this stuff. I looked at all sorts of nerd forums. I wanted to spend $20-$30 on a pound roll of solder, and I did not want to get the wrong thing.

By the time my eyes had gone buggy from scrolling, I had determined that what I wanted, probably, was 63/37 0.025″ 2.2% RMA solder, from Kester, AIM, Alpha Metals, or Multicore. And it’s impossible to find.

I’m sitting here thinking about the guitar amps I’ve built. Are they going to explode because I used the wrong solder?

I learned that it’s really hard to find the solder I specified above without paying a ton. I had to compromise and get 3.3% flux, which some people say is better anyway.

Now I have to wonder: was I better off when I simply drove to Radio Shack and bought the wrong thing?

The bad solder I already had came from Home Depot. I took a look at it and saw that it was Bernzomatic brand solder. It’s for electrical connections, but it’s not the right thing for electronics. I threw it out. Then I thought maybe I would need it for something, so I took it out of the trash. Then I thought about throwing it out again. Then I put it on the desk and stared at it.

I should also admit that I solder incorrectly a lot of all the time. When you solder, you are not supposed to heat the new solder directly and melt it onto the tip. You’re supposed to heat the wire and apply the solder to it, so the wire melts the solder.

Yeah, right. Try that some time. Your insulation will drip off or go up in smoke, unless it’s Teflon. In real life, you do whatever you have to. I plan to try to solder better, but I’m not going to melt components and insulation.

As for cleaning the joints, I don’t even know how. I think you use a Q-Tip with alcohol on it. I have never had a joint go bad, but maybe I need to try to do things right.

I read that rosin fumes cause asthma. Geez. What am I supposed to do? Solder in the front yard when the wind is blowing? Wear a sweaty respirator? But then I think about the hundreds of guys I know who’ve developed serious asthma from soldering. The ones who didn’t die first from lead poisoning.

I jest.

As I researched, I learned more stuff. You have to try to set your soldering iron so the heat is right. Different solders melt at different temperatures, and some electronic parts can be damaged by excess heat. I sort of knew that. My iron goes to 5, and I have been known to operate it at 4 because it seemed to be hard on PCB’s. But there are irons that actually display the temperature with digital meters. I’m not going that far. That’s just crazy.

Arrgh. I’ll probably go that far. Some day.

It’s frustrating when you splurge for what you think is the best tool available, and then you find out it’s second-rate. I feel like a guy who bought a Bose stereo and showed it off for his friends before learning the awful, humiliating truth.

I’m not sure what my advice is. I’m tempted to tell people to pretend they never read this.

The solder I finally ended up with is Kester 24-6337-9718. If it’s horrible, I’ll tell you. I fully expect to be unable to tell the difference between this stuff and Radio Shack Random Idiot Solder.

If you’re still going to real stores and buying wrong stuff, you should probably keep it up. You will never know the difference, and you will save lots of time. I love the Internet, but sometimes you just want toothpicks; you don’t need the best OSHA-approved, fair trade, organic, North American hardwood toothpicks.

If you use rosin-cored solder and you get asthma, leave me alone. If I told you to jump off the Empire State Building, would you do that, too?

The Earth Still Turns Without Disco

Monday, April 25th, 2016

Don’t Party Like it’s 1979

My Internet friend Heather noticed I was gone from Facebook and came by to comment, saying this:

Be glad you stepped away from Facebook, the deification of Prince has been just insane.
You would not believe the ugly things that have been said to me because I pointed out that the man was a Jehovah Witness, thus destroying their fantasy that Prince did not immediately ascend to the throne at the right hand of God.

I have seen very little Prince worship on the Internet, but that’s because I’ve avoided it. It must be a nauseating, discouraging spectacle. I can’t even guess what Facebook looks like this week. In some circles, it must be bigger than the death of FDR.

I thought his music was boring. I can’t understand why anyone ever sat through an entire song. But that may be because I simply didn’t have the particular supernatural influence that convinces people he’s wonderful.

If you’re not protected by the Holy Spirit, all the other spirits can make you believe or perceive nearly whatever they want. They shape our desires and reactions all day. Surely they can convince you Prince was better than Frank Sinatra or Billie Holiday.

People are still talking about his “clean” lifestyle. The man was treated for a drug overdose and then died several days later in a manner entirely consistent with a second overdose. Okay, sure, his cousin says he was clean. What would your cousins say about you a day after you died? That you were a jerk?

The world is hopelessly screwed up. If you want proof, just consider this: Satan is the god of this world. What more do I have to say? When the lowest, most foolish creature in the universe is a world’s god, things are pretty bad.

Our perceptions are very distorted. We are raised in a soup of spirits that lie to us constantly, and we are surrounded by their human stooges, who repeat the lies around the clock. One of the benefits of being Spirit-led is that the deception starts to fall away from you. When that happens, the world and its values start to look insane and depressing.

My desires keep changing. I want that to continue. I don’t want to desire poison and death any more.

A long time ago, I had a comic strip in development with an editor. I knew I was good at what I did; I had no self-deprecating illusions about it. I expected to succeed. As motivation, I cut photos of fishing yachts out of magazines and taped them in places where I could see them. I figured I would get one if I got rich.

Today, you could not pay me to deal with a yacht. A nice one burns around 150 gallons of diesel per hour, or maybe $450. It takes three people to run one well, and it takes four to fish one. Every year, it has to go to the yard, and you will pay thousands just for basic maintenance. Dockage is expensive. Where I live, the sea is too rough for fishing maybe 40% of the time. Also, a yacht attracts shallow people who think about nothing but drunkenness, money, and sex.

I used to watch Top Gear all the time. I enjoyed watching them try out million-dollar Ferraris and Bugattis. Would I want to own such a vehicle? Never. I’m not even interested in driving one. I’m content to watch other people.

You can only get two people into a supercar. Every time you park it, you provide a target for envious vandals. Everything associated with it is ruinously expensive. You can’t even drive it legally; not if you want to use a significant portion of its capabilities.

I know people who have gotten rich. They probably think they have the world by the tail. It’s really the other way around. They have to deal with employees, lawyers, economic fluctuations, regulators…forget that. They also have to deal with tremendous temptation. Businesses run into potentially fatal challenges all the time, and very often, there is an unethical or illegal way out. I don’t want to face that.

I’ve had designs on really atrocious women. One was an atheist. Others were shallow. None really cared about God. I was looking for stupid things like chemistry. Attraction and psychological compatibility are important, but if both partners aren’t Spirit-led, they will grow apart, and one will draw the other away from God. Once you’re away from God, you’re the tail, not the head. You suffer defeat after defeat. You’re exposed. I don’t need that in my life.

My musical tastes have changed. I have a big collection of albums, and I got an Ipod so I could play them in my truck. I rarely use the stereo now. I want to talk to God while I drive, and the stereo distracts me. At home, I listen to secular music from time to time, but I can’t take it for long periods. The only thing I can put up with for hours at a time is praise music. Or silence.

I don’t see the world as my oyster. I see it as a cesspool I have to wade in for a while. It’s the roof of hell. The only way to do well down here is to focus on what’s above. The presence of God is like a pair of waders.

I seriously believe people who like Prince’s disco music and his image are supernaturally deluded. He played guitar extremely well, and he did arrangements, but that makes him a highly skilled technician, not a real artist.

If you want to hear a good keyboard player, listen to Oscar Peterson. If you want to hear a truly superb guitarist, listen to Stevie Ray Vaughan. If you want to hear a top-notch singer, listen to Etta James. If you want to hear good songs, listen to Cole Porter, Hoagie Carmichael, or Hank Williams. Then go back and listen to Prince and see if you still think he’s superhuman.

The feeling I get when I think about going back to the low tastes of this world is like the feeling a college student has when he wakes up at two p.m. with a hangover, in a bed with dirty sheets, surrounded by the smell of spilled bong water. I don’t want it any more; I get the feeling parolees have when they think about going back to prison. You have to put away childish things.

This world is not a good place or a place where you can build a permanent home. It’s the second-lowest level of creation. It’s so low God doesn’t even keep a throne here. It’s the Section 8 trailer park of the universe. Enoch tells us heaven has seven levels, and we’re under the lowest one. That’s not a good place to site a future.

Prince was a little picture of Satan. He led the musical worship of himself. He focused attention on himself, not God. He was effeminate and spoiled. He devoted his life to bringing himself glory. He corrupted other people as hard as he could. He turned other musicians into little replicas of himself. If that appeals to you, fantastic, but there is nothing about it I like.

It’s so strange that our culture was simultaneously infected by two entertainers named Prince and Madonna, who attacked Christianity while displaying Christian symbols. And those are their real first names, which makes it even weirder.

I’m glad I’m off Facebook. I’m glad I have fewer hard little heads to contend with. It seems like America just turned a downward corner, like a ship upending itself before it sinks. I don’t want to be close enough to get pulled down by the suction.

It Just Got Real

Sunday, April 24th, 2016

Write a Check, and Someone Will Talk

When you’re old, you have seen a lot of things. You have seen a lot of things that resemble other things. You see repetitive patterns in earthly events.

Sooner or later, you start to know what’s happening earlier than other people. Then if you’re not careful, you start to think you don’t have to reason any more; you have so much confidence in your generalizations, you may feel like you can rely on them to the point where analysis is a waste of time.

That’s something for me to keep in mind. Nonetheless, it looks like I was right about what killed Prince.

It’s not like it was rocket science. A musician has a drug overdose, and he dies several days later with no signs of trauma. The most likely explanation was obvious. But Prince was someone people idolized, so they were blind to his faults. I never idolized him or liked his music. It’s not hard for me to be critical of him.

The Daily Mail, which is a real newspaper not to be confused with The Onion, just published a long interview with a man who calls himself “Doctor D.” He says he sold Prince painkillers for years, to the tune of two $40000 every six months.

Is it a lie? Could be. Maybe The Daily Mail has decided to completely give up on being taken seriously, and they published the story without any effort at vetting it.

Probably not, though.

Now I’m wondering if someone will be arrested for making a straw man drug buy at a pharmacy. If Prince had to send another person into a pharmacy the day before he overdosed, he had a reason, and it wasn’t to buy Q-Tips.

It is said that his sister, who also has drug problems, is going to inherit his estate. There is no will. It just falls into her lap, with no supervision or restraint.

Maybe she’ll be like Priscilla Presley, and she’ll build it into something even bigger. On the other hand, maybe his entire song catalog will belong to someone else within five years, and she’ll end up broke.

It’s obvious that I’m not a Prince fan. If you’re wondering why, maybe it will help if I show you how I was introduced to Prince.

In the early 1980’s, I was in the dorm room of a college girl who admired Prince. Here is the poster I saw on her wall. I had no idea who it was.

prince in shower with cross

Apologies to those who are offended. I’m a man, so I don’t see it as provocative, but maybe others will disagree. I just see it as gross and sad; a mistake.

I remember asking her what she could possibly see in a person like that. She thought he was tremendous. I could not understand why a woman would want a feminine man.

I still don’t get it. I don’t care much for disco music, which was what he played. I don’t care much for androgynous performers. I can’t relate to a person who wants to seem effeminate. Also, the in-your-face phoniness of Prince is unappealing to me. I guess I should learn to accept the fact that virtually all of show business is phony. I have not.

He promoted himself a little too hard for my tastes. He claimed he played 27 instruments on an album, and on the street, people turned that into, “Prince can play 40 instruments.” It turns out he was a drummer, guitarist, keyboard player, and bassist (the bass is 2/3 of a guitar). You can turn that into 27 instruments by dividing guitar into electric and acoustic and performing similar divisions for keyboards and percussions. You can divide the keyboards into the piano, the organ, the synthesizer, the electric piano, and so on. I don’t think anyone seriously believes he was a complete master of 27 completely distinct instruments.

I could say I play eight instruments if you include “Oh, Susanna” on the harmonica. It would be pretty misleading, but you could say it.

Try to find him playing instruments on the Internet. It’s not easy. You can find the guitar and the keyboards right away. The other 25 instruments are much more elusive.

Yes, he was an excellent musician, but that’s about it. He couldn’t fly. He wasn’t the smartest person on earth. The weird outfits seemed too pretentious to me. Eric Clapton can play in jeans and reading glasses.

Maybe younger fans don’t know about this poster. Yesterday a young friend of mine praised Prince for his masculinity, as contrasted with Michael Jackson, who was a homosexual who liked young boys. I don’t see masculinity in this poster. Do you? Call me crazy, but the little purple suits, high heels, and lace shirts don’t seem masculine to me either.

Prince was not a good person. He encouraged sexual sin with missionary enthusiasm. He promoted smaller entertainers and brought them into his mess. He tried to convince Denise Matthews (the former Vanity) to call herself “Vagina.” He wrote songs that were filthy and crass, not sexy. He celebrated pride and fornication. He was very corrosive to American sexual morals, and it was deliberate. If he had written music I liked, maybe I would be inclined to make excuses for him, but to me, disco is disco.

The dealer in the news story claims Prince had crippling stage fright, and that the drugs allowed him to ignore it. That comes as a surprise. You would think a man with his talent, success, and musical competence would have no regard for the negative perceptions of audiences, and you would expect forty years of performing to get him past his phobias. Very strange.

I’m not glad he’s dead, but I realize he was a horrible corrupting influence. I think his contribution to music, especially songwriting, is greatly exaggerated, and that gives him the illusion of godhood, which makes the corrupting influence stronger.

Some people are claiming he avoided drugs and alcohol. Maybe it’s an error in judgment, but I trust a drug dealer much more than an entourage member. Those people are selected for their pliability. Entourage members are the reason Eddie Murphy thought it was a good idea to make a music video. He put that in his act, lampooning their praise: “Eddie…you a GENIUS.”

What will happen to the entourage now? If he didn’t have a will, they’re going to have to get jobs, like right now. What a faceful of cold water that must be. I wonder if they ever tried to get him to make some kind of provision for them.

I have never had an entourage. I don’t know what it entails. It’s an interesting situation. One day you’re supporting a bunch of people–codependents, maybe–who have no job titles, skills, duties, or contracts, and the next day you’re dead, and you left no one to write checks. It’s like going away for a month and forgetting to fill the cat feeder. It’s like what happened to Chauncey Gardner in Being There.

If I were Prince’s sister, I’d have a security team in that compound, preventing people from stealing silverware. I’ll bet the unused portion of the last prescription disappeared already, and the cops, not being entirely stupid, will have questions about that.

Maybe there’s an entourage exchange out there somewhere. Michael Jackson dies, and Prince and Floyd Mayweather hire the cream of the newly disenfranchised. Don Imus and Howard Stern will eventually contribute some inventory.

If you’re a hot entertainer who can’t function without an array of at-will gofers and personal assistants, you put people in a precarious position. Bundini Brown would have been in a bad way if Ali had died in the ring.

The smart hangers-on marry their hosts. That gives them lasting power.

Weird. It’s all weird. The life, the death, and the warped perceptions. I never found him interesting until this week.

Title

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2016

You Can’t Assert a Right You Don’t Have

A long time ago, my dad bought my sister’s house. He had already paid for most of it; his intention was to give it to her. He bought her out because she had ruined the place, and he was in trouble with the code enforcement people.

We started renovating it, so he could rent it out. The process was slow and full of problems.

Everything but the outer walls had to be replaced. People don’t believe me when I tell them how badly the house had been damaged. I shot video and took photos, because I knew people would not be able to grasp the magnitude of the destruction. After she left and took everything she could salvage, we spent four figures on removing junk, all of which went to the dump.

09 10 16 dead roach hanging at barbarossa

New floors (and subfloors). New drywall. New appliances. New wiring. New roof. New lawn. You name it. It all had to go.

The problems we ran into were ridiculous. We hired a contractor with glowing recommendations, and he did a tremendous amount of substandard work and then left. Neighbors who should have been thrilled to see work going on complained about the construction mess, and we had to fight the city. Construction was eventually halted because the work was no good, and the house was designated “unsafe.”

It took months to get that fixed. The City of Miami does not care if you lose everything you have while they wait to issue permits. They will literally let you go bankrupt before they will speed anything up. They sat and did nothing, and there was no way to motivate them.

Then Florida Power & Light decided the electrical service had to be switched from “residential” to “construction.” They never said what that meant, but for weeks and weeks, they refused to do anything to get the change made. They can’t be fired, and they have no competition, so it doesn’t matter to them if you lose rent money for two or three months.

We hired a new contractor (with glowing recommendations), and he was slow. He made a lot of excuses. He kept billing for new things.

The walls had been replaced, but because the first contractor didn’t follow the code, the new walls had to be replaced.

During all this time, I was praying and using my supernatural tools, but things kept getting gummed up. I did not understand it.

One day last week, I thought about the price my dad paid for my sister’s interest, and I realized something: one part of her payment had been held up.

When he bought her out, he held a mortgage on her part of the house. She developed lung cancer, and instead of saving money, she had spent everything she had. She had not bought health insurance. She started out with very expensive treatment. When she was broke, she came to my father and asked him to foot the bills. To teach her a lesson, he made her sign a note for six figures.

When he bought the house, the mortgage was part of the deal. He was supposed to record a satisfaction of mortgage and let it go. But when I brought it up to him, he refused to do it. I didn’t argue with him, because it was between him and my sister, and I didn’t want to wade back into the snake pit. I knew he would never hold her accountable for the debt, so I didn’t think it mattered.

Last week, I sat up in bed and realized that in God’s eyes, the house still belonged to her.

The house fell apart because it belonged to a proud, malicious individual who brought curses on herself. It seemed to me that the construction problems came from this root. Any spirit sent to destroy her possessions would still have the authority to do damage.

I got up the next day and made him sign a satisfaction of mortgage. I took him to get it notarized, and I recorded it by mail.

Why write all this? Because the house has gone nuts since I recorded the mortgage. Whenever one of us visits, there are several workers there, putting the place in order. That’s new. In the past, we would go over and see no sign that anyone had been there in weeks. We could not get the city or the contractor moving.

The contractor has stopped being belligerent and unreasonable. Things I thought were not being done are being taken care of. The stress is gone.

The reason I write about this, potentially subjecting my sister to criticism, is that God taught me something wonderful: our actions matter. Life doesn’t instantly fix itself when you accept salvation, and it doesn’t necessarily fix itself when you develop a strong prayer life (my expectation). You also have to find out what you’ve been doing wrong. You have to admit it candidly, without excuses (or as we like to call them, “explanations”), and you have to ask for help correcting things.

Maybe you have debts. Maybe there is someone you treat badly. Maybe you owe someone an apology. The most likely problem of all is pride coupled with denial. You have to ask God about these things and get his help putting them right. Until then, you’re bailing a boat at one end while water comes in a hole at the other.

My old churches, Trinity Church and New Dawn Ministries, did not teach accountability or repentance. They taught that if you believed God and gave preachers money, everything would work out. As a result, Trinity can’t pay its bills and New Dawn is a tiny, failed church in a rented room, after years of yammering about the prosperity gospel.

The pastors of these churches, personally, are failures, so the people who follow them are failures. The failure of Rich Wilkerson, the pastor at Trinity, is less obvious, because he borrows and hustles, but the church is not prosperous. No one who has a lot of debt is prosperous. They just look good until the bills come due.

This can be extremely helpful to you, if you take it seriously and put it to use. Start asking God what you’re doing wrong. If you think you’re not doing anything wrong, ask him to get off the throne, because obviously, it rightfully belongs to you.

I experienced something truly wonderful yesterday. I have been unable to make myself pray consistently in the middle of the day, and it has been a real problem, because prayer is like food. You can’t do it once and then forget about it. You have to do it over and over, at relatively short intervals. When you neglect it, things start to go badly, like the battle in which Moses held Aaron’s rod over his head. When he held it up, the Hebrews did well. When he lowered it, they started to lose.

I have been praying and praying for help with this. I like to pray at around 5 p.m., because it’s a good midway point. I try to go at least 20 minutes in tongues. I keep asking God to give me grace to do it. I don’t need willpower; that brings pride. I need supernatural help.

Yesterday I had a burger, and then I sat on the couch for a bit, to watch something stupid and digest the food. I started feeling euphoric. I thought it was just my blood sugar going up, but then I realized it was supernatural. I felt peace and joy, and an absence of stress and anger. I knew it was God, resting on me, so I gave in to in and started praying. It was great. I felt him moving, doing various things. I knew things were being ordered and harmonized. I was getting correction.

I can’t say enough about it. Being in God’s presence is a gift and an honor you can’t buy with money or earthly power. There is no way to get it unless you please God. People simulate it with drugs and alcohol, but those things don’t compare, and they always come with a cost that exceeds the benefit.

In summary, it has been a really good week, and I expect things to keep getting better. I hope people listen and try the things I’m doing so they get what I’m getting.

Music continues to go well. Sometimes I feel sure my hands are going to swell up and refuse to cooperate, but when practice time comes, they are always ready to go. I am starting to sound a little bit like a musician from time to time.

Last time, I wrote about my old “Wingman” amp. It started life with two output transformers and four 6BM8 tubes, for a total of 15 watts. Recently, I took two output tubes out and got a nice sound, so I decided to rehabilitate the amp.

I was not sure whether I should go with two tubes and 7 watts or four tubes and 15 watts. I played around, switching tubes in and out. I learned that I had the wrong rectifier (5Y3) in it, so I put a bigger one (5AR4) in it, and the sound got even better.

I have all sorts of amp parts lying around. I have a bigger power transformer, which I intended to put in the Wingman, thinking it would clean things up. Somehow, I had gotten the idea that four tubes added up to 30 watts, so the new transformer was the correct size for that amount of power. I found out I was wrong; it was only 15 watts. I checked the existing power transformer, and it was rated for 15 watts. I was all set!

I cleaned the amp up and built a new cabinet for it, and here it is.

02 29 16 wingman amp with new cabinet and nameplate

The sound is very clear and warm, very much like the four-EL84 Rocketman amp I designed, but I would say it breaks up a little earlier. Not sure. In any case, it has a singing quality which is hard to describe. When you play through it, it’s like the guitar becomes a wind instrument, like a muted trumpet. It’s exquisite.

I have been modifying my pedals, and I decided to open up my Way Huge Fat Sandwich distortion pedal to see what I could do to cut down the gain. It turned out I had the internal drive pot set too high, so I turned it back down and fired the amp up. Magnificent. Like listening to an angel cry. Warm, round, expressive…marvelous. I liked it so much I found a second Fat Sandwich on Ebay, used. Now I’ll have one in the garage and one in the house.

I have bought a lot of pedals, but it’s not because I want a lot. It’s because I want a few really good ones. You have to try a fair number in order to find what you want. And even then, I had to open them up and change parts.

The amp parts I still have are going to have to go somewhere. I believe the best move is to build one more Rocketman, since the first one is a little rough, and I may make another Wingman. After that, I will be set for a while. I have a couple of speakers I need to put into a cabinet, so that’s also on the list.

For quite a while, I’ve been asking God to show me the things in my life that please him. I’ve been asking him to restore them, repair them, replace them, make them work, and so on. I ask this for everyone on my prayer list. The stuff with the amps and guitars seems to be his answer. Very nice.

I am not out of the woods yet, but at least I know I’m in the woods! That’s more than most charismatic Christians can say. They go down with the ship, thinking the Coast Guard is a minute away when it’s actually still at the dock.

As always, I hope this is helpful. Let me know if it bears fruit in your life.

Per Diem

Friday, February 12th, 2016

Sufficient Unto the Day are the Blessings Thereof

I have nothing but good news to report. At least for me.

I thought I was saying something positive, but now that I’ve typed it, it looks sad.

It is sad.

When I was working on a kibbutz in Israel, I spent time pruning olive trees. They told me that in order to get one productive tree, you have to plant about 800 trees. About 1 in 800 produce olives. The rest are cut and burned.

Is that true? Search me. I only know what they told me.

People are not much better off than olive trees.

Americans are very spoiled. We used to honor God fairly well, and he made us rich and strong. We still have a lot of wealth piled up, as a result of our former humility and gratitude. Because of this, and because we are isolated geographically, we think the world is a nice place. Most of us are only familiar with the US, and things here are good, so we think the world is okay.

The world is not okay. It’s a horror. There are people all over the globe who don’t have running water or electricity. In 2016. People die from diseases that can be prevented with soap. Freedom is fairly rare. Slavery is common. Look around. The world is a mess.

We tend to see the world as a pleasant place in which we spend time trying to be good until we move to the next level. We see it as heaven’s anteroom. In reality, it’s much more like hell. It’s hell’s roof, literally.

Satan runs the earth. Jesus said so. He called Satan “the god of this world.” That’s why things don’t work well here. That’s why there is pain and injustice. We elected Satan and made God an alien.

God interferes with Satan’s work a lot, but Satan still holds the lease.

Most people serve the devil all their lives, obeying the compulsions of demons and their flesh, and then they die and go to hell to burn, like the 799 olive trees that didn’t bear fruit.

God probably designed olive that ways on purpose, as a symbol. In the Bible, trees symbolize people. Olive oil is God’s anointing. Fruit are people who develop in God’s kingdom. They are future trees.

The primary purpose of our existence is reproduction. We are like eggs, and we have the potential to become God’s children (not just his creations). Most of us are like eggs that are never fertilized and wash out with a woman’s monthly fluids.

If you don’t produce fruit, there isn’t much purpose in keeping you around. There is even less purpose in helping you. It would encourage you to continue walking in rebellion.

God told me powerful things almost thirty years ago, and I basically spat on them.

He owed me nothing. I was not his child. I was like a deserving convict on a penal island. By “deserving,” I mean deserving of punishment. He reached out to me, and instead of showing gratitude and amazement, I decided his gifts were unimportant and optional. So I wandered around, weak and lost, much longer than I had to.

He told me to pray in tongues a lot every day. That, alone, would have made me a success. But I put it off and inserted around 15 years of dead time in the center of my life.

A few years back, he started giving me grace to pray in tongues, and I reached a point where I prayed for hours every day. I started receiving real power and revelation, and my status changed. Now I’m much stronger than I used to be; I’m like the Karate Kid after discovering Mr. Miyagi and listening to his wisdom. The enemies that used to beat me are taking a beating, themselves.

That’s very good. But I can’t transfer it to other people.

I’m just like God. All I can do is persuade and urge. People are just as stupid as I was, and they do whatever they want. They are incredibly blind.

God has a way of making us suffer with the problems we have inflicted on him, so I can see why life is like this. He couldn’t tell me a thing, and now I can’t tell other people anything.

I don’t think it will change. The pattern is not going to change before Jesus returns. Most people will harden their hearts and go to hell. On the other hand, there is no reason why God won’t let me reach more people. The ratio of rejection to acceptance is not going to change, but if you reach more people, the absolute numbers can increase. If you only change 1 in 800 people, and you reach 8000 people instead of 800, you get 10 instead of 1.

Something to wonder about.

To get back on point, I have positive things to report about myself.

I feel like I’ve achieved escape velocity.

In the oversimplified physics they teach to undergrads, they tell you that if you’re on a planet, and you move upward fast enough to give you kinetic energy greater than the potential energy you will accumulate as you leave the gravity field, you will escape and leave the planet. That means you’ve reached escape velocity. Gravity may still be pulling on you, but you’re going to win.

It doesn’t really work like that, because of air resistance. But it’s still a neat analogy.

I believe I have reached the point where I am not going to lose any more.

Last year, I believe it was, I received the words, “I will have total victory for now on, because you are for me.” I believe I have that right. Does that mean I’ve never lost a video game since then, or that I always find a great parking space in front of the store? Does it mean I’ve never cut myself since then? Does it mean I never have to take medicine? No. It just means I eventually come out on top, in every conflict.

That’s good enough, believe me. That’s all anyone can ask. A friend of mine said something the other day, and it gave me confirmation. She said the Bible says no weapon formed against the servants of God will prosper, but it doesn’t say weapons won’t form. I’ll take it.

The 34th psalm confirms this, saying, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivereth him out of them all.”

I keep getting delivered. There are plenty of annoyances in my life, but they aren’t making any headway.

The other day I was arguing with someone who is very crabby, manipulative, and childish, about a minor inconvenience he had had to endure. He was essentially asserting that it was my job to make his life free from all discomfort and effort. I argued a little, and then I remembered my supernatural tools. I spoke defeat to him and to the demons that use him against me. I spoke it right there in front of him, quietly, while he wasn’t paying attention. That was the end of the yelling. Instantly, he started cooperating, and we resolved the issue. I won. God’s authority overcame the problem.

This kind of thing happens to me all the time. It won’t work if you don’t have faith, and you won’t have faith unless you’re praying in tongues every day. But it does work.

The things that are happening with my hands are extraordinary. I’ve written about how God has allowed me to play instruments, even though I used to have swelling, pain, and stiffness from guitar exercises. The adventure has not stopped.

Over the last few weeks, there have been a number of times when I’ve awakened and felt like my hands were swelling and starting to be a problem. I sat up and prayed in the Spirit, and I spoke defeat to the illness and the spirits that caused it. I spoke defeat to my own flesh and said it was forbidden to harm itself or to have joint issues. Every day, I have been able to practice without problems. I have had slight discomfort at times, and I have a tiny bit of detectable swelling in one joint, but that’s all.

I have spoken defeat to the spirits of joint problems during the day. I’ve actually said, “I’m too strong for you now,” and, “You don’t have enough juice any more.” Not glorifying myself; just acknowledging the work God has done in me.

I have even picked up the flattop guitar and the mandolin again. These are instruments that wreck your hands. The strings are very stiff, the action is horrible, and the picks are like quarters. I play both every day, and my hands feel better today than they did weeks ago.

I’ve found that God won’t always destroy a problem instantly, for good. There are some enemies you have to crush every day, just as you spray your house for bugs once a month. Hey, as long as they stay crushed, I’m ecstatic. I can play my instruments, and I have extra motivation for prayer and submission. What’s not to like?

I’ve been fixing my amps up. I got my old Fender Bassman clone cleaned up, and I use it for practice. I also revamped my “Wingman” amp, which is a Bassman front end with two 6BM8 tubes for output. I used to have two output transformers and four tubes on it, but it sounded flubbery when driven, so I removed one transformer and two tubes. Now I love it. It sings.

I just need to make wooden cabinets for them now.

A Christian buddy of mine–the former head of the armorbearers at Trinity Church– has decided he wants to learn guitar, so we are going to work on a new amp. That will be a lot of fun.

He has been dealing with the sudden challenge of prostate cancer. Instead of going the TBN/Osteen route and blaming the devil and claiming it’s not his fault, he acknowledged that he opened a lot of doors with a lifetime of sexual sin, and he took responsibility. He has ramped up the prayer in tongues. He is very excited about seeking correction and subduing the flesh. It’s wonderful to see.

The amps give us an excuse to hang out.

I feel that God has said that music will be my last great adventure. I certainly hope so, because it’s the only one I ever really wanted.

It’s very hard to get used to being blessed. Yesterday I prayed for God to help me with it. An inability to trust your blessings and put your weight on them reduces the joy you get from them. I want to settle into it.

My left hand feels wonderful. There are a lot of things I’d like to do on the guitar, but a little part of me says, “That will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. That will put you in the doctor’s office, and dust will start settling on the guitars again.”

I prayed for God to help me with this, and faith rushed through me.

I realize how much I deadened and contaminated myself when I was living for Satan. I often feel like I’m at the bottom of a well dug in granite, sealed with hardened material I packed in from above. I feel like I buried myself down there, under a column of petrified excrement. I did not understand how I was supposed to live or how good life was supposed to be, so I created my own ridiculous, counterproductive, weak defense mechanisms and hid down there under them, waiting for death.

Traditional Christianity teaches us to suffer and wait. In reality, the Holy Spirit wants us to have hearts and minds like God’s. That implies healing and restoration. You can’t be like Jesus if your heart and mind aren’t whole! It doesn’t make sense.

God will rebuild you from inside. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done. It doesn’t matter how much time you have left. True, you probably won’t make as much progress if you repent at 90, but you will make progress, and it will be worth it.

Only God has the solvent that will penetrate and dissolve the column of crud you’ve piled on top of yourself.

Apart from salvation, this is what we should be pursuing. Forget the TV money lies. If you have this, the money and women and so on that other people crave won’t matter to you.

I am offering my testimony, even though I am tempted to hold it back in case my hands swell up again. I am putting it out there. This is what God has done for me, as of today. Every day, his method works. If it worked yesterday, and every day so far this year, surely it will work tomorrow and every day for the rest of my life. I’ll take the chance that I might have to retract all of this, just so you will be encouraged to set out on your own voyage.

Pray in tongues every day, speak defeat to your flesh and the spirits that want to control you, exalt the Holy Spirit, and ask God for correction and healing. It works. It’s free. You can do it from your couch. You don’t even have to tell anyone.

Or you can be like me and come back in about 15 years.

OOPS

I have to apologize. My brain must have been in the wrong gear. I worked on ALMOND trees, not olive trees. I was told that only one almond tree in 800 bears fruit. I suppose, then, that you can disregard my guesses about olive oil and the anointing and so on.

Aaron’s rod was almond wood.

Hands of Silver

Friday, January 8th, 2016

Steel Rusts

One of the nice things about cooperating with God and getting his power flowing in your life is that stuff that used to not work will start to work. Right now, I am having that experience with music.

Longtime readers with incredible memories will recall that I took up the guitar and quit because I developed strange knots on the finger joints on my left hand. Last year I started playing again.

I am not a hundred percent positive what caused the joint problems, but I do know that I was doing a highly questionable exercise routine at the time. It was called “Hands of Steel,” I think. I found it on an online teaching site. The motions were repetitious and stressful.

I thought I had repetitive-motion injuries.

I’m not so sure now. Last year I banged my right pinky on my compressor, and weeks later, a knot developed on one of the joints, just like the knots I had had on my left hand. I didn’t think I had injured myself. There was no real pain or bruising. But the knot rose up anyway, for no other apparent reason.

It’s almost gone now. I still don’t know that happened. You would think that if repetitive motion was the problem, my right hand would not have developed a knot, since I don’t do much of anything with the pinky on that hand.

I will definitely stay away from “Hands of Steel.” I think it’s a really stupid and dangerous method.

Last year I picked up the banjo again. There is something about the banjo that improves my playing on other instruments. When I play the banjo regularly, my musical memory improves a great deal. It’s also good preparation for the guitar. There is a lot of work for both hands, and none of it is strenuous.

I got back to the piano, and I started sight-reading practice again. Then I picked up the guitar.

After playing the banjo for several weeks without touching the guitar, I apparently changed my touch. I used to have a “death grip” issue with my fretting hand, but it appears to have gone away. Fretting too forcefully is bad for your playing, and it also leads to fatigue and injuries. It may be what made my joints hurt. Anyway, now the guitar is much easier.

Several of my guitars were messed up in one way or another. Two had pickups that were too shrill, and I had put off trying to figure that problem out. One, a Telecaster, needed a different neck pickup, and although I had bought one (Strat Texas Special), I hadn’t installed it.

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve straightened the guitars out. I learned something interesting: piercing “icepick” tones from a guitar pickup can be caused by putting the pickup too far from the strings. Most people say it works the other way around, so if you listen to them and try to fix it, the problem gets worse, and then you give up. I moved the pickups on a couple of guitars and got better sound from them, and I went from a Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates bridge pickup to a Seymour Duncan Alnico Pro II on one instrument.

Today I moved the Strat pickup to the Telecaster. I had to get a special pickguard, because the Strat pickup is bigger than the original pickup. You can hack up the original pickguard, but it’s not a good solution. I bought a pickguard from Guitar Fetish. I now wish I had spent more and gone with Warmoth, because the Guitar Fetish pickguard required some filing and sanding to get it to fit. Anyway, it’s on the guitar.

I made myself a new pedalboard. I have a big Pedaltrain about two feet wide and 20″ deep (I guess), and it’s just too big. I took a piece of wood about 9″ across and 12″ long, and I cleaned it up and glued another piece of wood to it to prop up one side. I painted it with truck bed paint, and I screwed rubber feet to it. Then I added some velcro from Home Depot.

It’s really excellent. Storebought pedalboards start at about $35, and even small ones are big. And they don’t use solid wood the way I did. This one is perfect for three pedals. I have a daisy chain transformer that powers it. No fancy low-noise stuff. I’m not totally sure why people need those things, although I do have one on the Pedaltrain.

I tried to get my pedals in good shape. I fired up a Boss Blues Driver and a Way Huge Fat Sandwich. The Fat Sandwich has a magnificent tone, but it’s too distorted. At the lowest setting, it’s pretty crazy. I’m going to try to find out how to modify it.

I considered getting a Way Huge Red Llama, which is an overdrive pedal (less distorted than a distortion pedal), but then I remembered my old Tube Screamer TS-9.

I got this thing in about 1997, when I got the Strat I never play. I never liked this pedal. It had no edge, and it didn’t sound warm. I should have sold it.

I checked around and found out that there were some modifications that might make it better. The original Tube Screamer is the TS-808 (I think), and it had different resistors in the output. I found out the correct values and stuck them in there, and it sounded a little better.

Then I read that it was possible to warm it up by making the clipping asymmetrical.

A guitar signal is AC, which means it’s a voltage that goes up and down around some zero point. Most of what we call “distortion” is clipping. That means part of the voltage extremes gets cut off. Imagine an arch shape with the top sliced off. That’s what it’s like. The voltage ordinarily goes up, hits a round peak, and comes back down. When you clip, it goes up, hits a flat ceiling, and comes down.

The Tube Screamer has a couple diodes in it that affect the clipping. Because the factory diodes are identical, the clipping is the same regardless of which direction the signal is taking. If you change one diode, you get clipping which is different on one side of ground than the other.

For some reason, this makes clipping sound warmer. Look it up; I have not bothered to study it, so I can’t explain it. I could say something about “even harmonics,” but really, would that make it clearer? Doubtful. It would sound like an explanation without actually being an explanation.

I opened the Tube Screamer up again, pulled out a clipping diode, and replaced it with an LED. Then I put it together and tried it out.

It’s just about perfect now. The tone is warm and inviting. It responds well to the pick. It’s somewhat louder than it used to be. Now when I use the pedal, sometimes I just sit picking notes so I can enjoy the tone.

I have piles of guitars, and several are pretty nice, but I keep going back to the cheapest one: the $300 Epiphone P93 Riviera, from China. The action is a wonder to behold. It plays itself. The sound of the Lollar P90s is open, with an inviting edge that grabs you by the throat.

01 02 16 Rocketman Riviera and new Pedalboard in garage

It’s actually a little frustrating. I would like to get this kind of experience from my more expensive instruments, but it’s not happening. My Japanese Burny Les Paul clone is the closest competitor, and it’s only about 90% of the guitar the Riviera is.

I would like to have one more guitar I really enjoy using, because no matter now much you like a guitar, sometimes you want to play something else, and you don’t want to go from a perfect guitar to a really good guitar. You want to make a lateral move.

I keep watching my finger joints. They haven’t gotten sore or swollen, and I practice a lot these days. I speak defeat to the spirits that work against my flesh. I forbid my flesh to have joint problems. I use the tools I’ve been given. So far, no issues.

My playing is getting better very quickly, and I’m finding the way through doors that seemed closed in the past.

One big help: I found a good instructor. The guy I was using a couple of years ago was great in many ways, but he did not have a systematic approach, which I needed. This week I found Justin Sandercoe, and right now, he’s my teacher.

He’s a Tasmanian guitarist, and he created a website full of free videos. He goes step by step. He explains everything. He even creates practice lists.

He doesn’t teach people to fake it and flail, the way most teachers do. You have to learn proper technique, scales, and so on. He eventually goes into the CAGED system, which is something I would really like to conquer, even if I don’t rely on it much.

You can find him at Justin Guitar.

Things are breaking loose. I can do things I couldn’t do before. Suddenly, I am much better at writing blues licks. Instead of writing stuff that sounds like a white kid from Connecticut wrote it, I write stuff that sounds like the blues, and I do it easily. What a relief. And I actually play sometimes, instead of just practicing. Isn’t that really the point of all this work and expense? You can sink your life into music and never learn how to do anything but practice.

I’m thinking about making a slightly larger pedalboard and finishing up the two-speaker cabinet I never started, and I may put my Bassman clone in a different chassis, to kill the noise. I have parts for a few more amps. I should put them together. But mainly, I’m excited about the music.

I will let you know if things continue to improve. I has been great so far. I can’t tell you how great it is to wake up every morning and realize my hand doesn’t hurt. If you’ve ever been healed of anything, you know what I mean.

Nerd Tools

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015

If You Can’t Learn in 2015, You are Beyond Hope

Today a few things about my progress in various areas.

First off, I found an incredible circuit analysis video.

As I have mentioned before, I have been trying to get back into (“back” is a kind exaggeration) electronics. I started watching MIT’s free online course, 6.002.

I found the book pedantic and tedious, and the professor didn’t explain things all that well. I started using other sources and compiling a notebook.

I came to realize that the MIT guy was not doing a good job. He taught things that were not useful, and he omitted things that were very useful. He may have a brain the size of a Subaru, but he is not the perfect teacher.

When you study electronics, you want to know what people who work with circuits actually do. You don’t need to learn a bunch of crap that only manifests in the real world in the homework problems of students.

Over the last week, I started writing my own method, and yesterday I checked Youtube for resources. I found this video:

You won’t believe it until you watch it, but this guy sums up six weeks’ worth of college lectures in 90 minutes, and he does it slowly.

The MIT guy taught me things that I can’t use. He told me about the “lumped matter discipline” and…other stuff I don’t remember. You don’t need to know all that. It’s filler for pedants. If you take out the junk he incorporated and you add some great things he left out, you get the video above.

Take a look. If you learn the material in the video, it will make any other class you might take make sense.

I’m sure there are huge benefits to the MIT course, once you have your legs under you, but you have to start with a solid foundation.

The video guy recommends LTSpice, which is a free program that lets you draw circuits and then run them in a virtual…space or whatever. Easier than breadboarding. I have the program, and the learning curve seems pretty flat. I was able to turn it on and draw a circuit without studying. You can find it by Googling.

I’m also enjoying a graduate-level solid state physics course. This is the course that killed me as a physicist. Well, this and quantum. I got burned out, and they had me on ADD drugs that made me nearly crazy, and I got a D in solid state.

The professor who taught the course was awful, and the department at UT Austin was not helpful at all. It was a horrible experience, losing physics. A slow-motion trainwreck on a locomotive with the brake lever welded open. Of course, even though UT was not exactly nurturing, it’s my fault. I was out of God’s favor because I chose to be.

It would be wonderful to master this course and do problems successfully. Just a closure thing.

I found this guy on Youtube. It’s easy to find undergrad physics on the web, but graduate stuff is less available. Someone uploaded his videos, and they came up in a Youtube search.

His name is Sandro Scandolo, and he teaches at an instution called ICTP, in Italy. Even if you don’t know physics well at all, if you’re technically inclined, you will enjoy the first lecture. His style is wonderful. Patient, conversational, and very organized.

ICTP has a website, and if you burrow around in it, you can find other graduate courses. You can download them as flash or Apple movies. I leave finding them to you.

I plan to watch the whole course, even if I don’t do problems. I am smart enough to understand this stuff even if I don’t take the time to put it to work. Simply understanding it will make me feel better.

If you want technical texts for home study, I can recommend two resources. First, Scrib’d. You may have moral qualms about it, so caveat emptor. It’s a site with zillions of PDF uploads. You pay nine bucks a month. Much of the material is not copyrighted, so you can read it without feeling bad. Another resource is Amazon Marketplace. When you look for a hardcover text that costs $200 in the US (they have gone up that much, believe it or not), you will often find links to people who sell gray-market paperbacks for under twenty bucks. Same books. No infringement. I have two of them, and a third is on the way.

If you go crazy and decide to study solid state, get Ashcroft. I also found a book by a guy named McKelvey. Very nice. Kittel is a torture device. Naturally, it’s the book UT used. I still have my copy. I should waterboard it.

People say Kittel was a genius, but that doesn’t mean he could write books people could actually learn from.

CAD is going well. I have no complaints about Fusion 360. I’m sorry I paid so much for Alibre and Dolphin, but I did my best to find good programs, and that’s what I came up with in my first attempts. I’ll post a jpg of a part I’m making.

09 22 15 Fusion 360 Lathe Tool Post with extraneous crap removed

I’ve always sneered at 3D printers. Now that I can do CAD and send files to a printer, I sort of wish I had one. I checked into them last week, and I found that I was right to sneer. They’re still toys, and they make rough parts made of weak materials. If you have $500,000 you can get a really nice one that makes things you can use, but I think I’ll pass.

Maybe I should get a crummy one now just so I’ll get to know the technology.

The Autodesk Fusion 360 forum is a lifesaver. That, alone, makes it worth downloading and using. I tried CNCZone when I was struggling with Alibre and Dolphin, but the kids on that forum tend to be nonhelpful and self-absorbed, and they can also be rude.

I am back to music study. I returned to Sightreading.com. I recommend it. It produces random pages of music for practice. They’re not tunes. Just notes. It’s helpful because you will involuntarily memorize tunes as you work on them, and once that happens, it’s not sightreading. You can’t memorize random junk, so it keeps the proper area of the brain working.

That’s all I have right now. I hope it will be useful to someone.