Wow. If Dad were still alive, I would buy this and offer to fly out to the West Coast to drive it back with him: a 1968 Ford Country Squire wagon, the spitting image of the wagon he had when Renie and I were little kids. This one has a couple of dents and dings, but overall looks like it’s in good shape. Of course, a 390 under the hood means we’d be filling it up every 15 miles, but that would be an epic trip.
I would do some light modification to this wagon—I’d repaint it in the original Ford green, find a roof rack (or the equivalent Thule roof basket) and lift it slightly for some better tires—but keep the stock hubcaps. Refresh the engine, suspension and brakes, sort out the interior, and drive the piss out of it.
So Rush Limbaugh died Wednesday after a bout of lung cancer. Cancer does suck, but seriously, fuck that guy. He and his kind are a cancer on our democracy; maybe that’s a sign of cosmic justice out there somewhere.
Good grief. One of my go-to podcasts, Reply All, did a series on the racism scandal at Bon Appétit, a very popular magazine and online property which has been accused of keeping people of color out of the spotlight. That exposed an identical problem at Gimlet Media, the podcast channel that publishes Reply All. What a mess.
I went back and looked at the Reverb listing for my bass after having forgotten it for a couple of weeks; it’s been viewed 8,000 times but there are still no concrete offers. Meanwhile there are a couple of others listed for more money elsewhere; I’d love to know if anything is moving right now. Here’s to hoping an offer comes out of the blue.
So far there have been no bites on the Steinberger; the listing has gotten 800+ views and 4 watchers but no offers. I’m not paying anything to leave it up there, so I’ll just sit on it and see what happens. Update: I got one offer this morning from a guy who wants to trade it for a Rickenbacker 4003 Pearlstar—something I might have been interested in back in my Geddy Lee worship days, but at this point I’d rather have the cash.
At work, I finally completed a torturous process that began two months ago to design and publish a digital report. The report itself launched last month but due to various editorial and review issues I had to update the PDF and then build the digital report. It’s a high-level view of the state of climate action with an eye towards the next 20 years, and it was a challenge to bring together all of the text, graphics, and digital assets. Even though the process is automated, I found myself diving into code at the tail end and fixing a ton of issues by hand, which was a pleasant surprise.
We’ve now made two different batches of Bailey’s, one from the recipe I posted earlier in the week and one from the Betty Crocker cookbook. Before you get the idea we’ve just been pouring cups of it over our cornflakes every morning, we’ve been sipping on each one slowly—the online recipe is lighter and very almondy and the Betty Crocker recipe is much heavier with more chocolate—but neither are a 100% stand-in for the real thing. So we’ll make our way through these and then we’ll try another recipe.
Jen did break out and use the galette iron on Tuesday, filling the house with the smell of Belgian dessert waffles and making it impossible to concentrate on work. There’s now a full batch sitting on the counter ready to eat when the urge to snack hits. She’s not as pleased with this batch compared to the previous one, so the search for the right modifications to that recipe continues as well.
And the duck boots that I ordered over a month ago finally arrived the other day: they are 1 size too small for my feet, which means I’m going to have to brave the crowds at Nordstrom Rack to return them sometime next week (depending on what the return window is). That was a bummer.
I posted the Steinberger on Reverb Monday morning, after replacing three of the string jaws and cleaning the whole thing up. So far there are 100+ views and 5 people “watching,” but no offers yet. I wonder if this is a good time or a bad time to sell?
It’s been pretty quiet otherwise. We’re slowly working our way through the Harry Potter films, averaging one a night, and tonight is Deathly Hallows Pt. 1. Jen made Butterbeer from a second recipe last weekend which was much better than the first attempt—but was richer than what we had at the park. In hindsight, I hadn’t really remembered how good the Half-Blood Prince is, and my ranking of Azkaban has dropped commensurately. What will we do when we’re out of movies? Well, there’s the Pixar catalog… Finn and I watched Up (thanks Linda!) together over the holiday, and enjoyed every single moment of it.
New jaws are installed and I scrubbed it down last night to take some beauty pictures. There’s a little more pitting in the aluminum than I remember but she still looks great.
There have been libraries of books written about decluttering, simplifying, and cleansing oneself of excess possessions. Companies have sprung up specifically to help people haul away their junk. Marie Kondo got famous after counseling people to keep only what sparks joy in their lives, which is a pretty clever twist on the decision-making process; most people get stuck somewhere in a corner of the basement surrounded by boxes wondering how they’re going to get them all back upstairs; they haven’t even gotten to the will-I-need-this part yet. I think the most common response to that indecision is to just say fuck it and go find a cold beer.
My problem is that I enjoy curating collections of stuff, so I tend to collect stuff faster than I cast it away. As I crawl through the basement to store things for winter or move stuff into the attic of the garage to make more space, I’m acutely aware that we’re reaching maximum density here at the Lockardugan estate. Once I’ve actually resolved to cleaning house, I’m pretty merciless when it finally comes to the go/no-go decision, so waiting around to test for joy feels more like a waste of time.
I’ve written about my oddball bass guitar here in the past. It’s one of the few things I’ve kept with me since high school. I haven’t played it much since I bought the Jazz bass. The other day, I had to move it to get something from the bookshelf, and thought about the fact that it hasn’t seen daylight in years. Then I thought about Reverb, the site I’d mentioned earlier this year, and began to seriously consider selling it. There is a music shop down the street that would buy it, but I know I’d get much less from a reseller than I’d prefer.
The bass itself is a marvel of engineering. It’s a two-piece instrument, made from a cast epoxy resin (neck) and wood (body). The neck is bolted to the body like a traditional guitar, but the composite material gives the bass a completely different feel. It’s headless, which means there’s no traditional headstock with tuning pegs. All tuning is done at the bridge (the assembly at the bottom of the bass) with screw-fed jaws that hold the ends of the strings in place. This means it needs special strings, but tuning it is very precise. It’s got a tight, fast feel and the sound has a short attack with less sustain than a big fat wood bass. When I bought the Jazz bass I was astounded at how much more I liked the full-sized instrument; the neck is thinner and (for me) faster, and I felt like I wasn’t working as hard when I was playing. The Steinberger is fast in its own way but it makes a player work a little harder.
I pulled it from the case and found that two of the jaws that hold the strings at the bridge had snapped. The bridge design is a clever one but the achilles’ heel is the relatively weak aluminum of these jaws, which the ball end of the string sets into. Over time the metal fatigues and cracks. This happened with another of the jaws years ago, and at that time I found a vendor who sold reproductions. That vendor is long gone but there’s a new one run by a luthier that worked at Steinberger in the 80’s who is producing new stock. I ordered three of these on Sunday. My plan is to set the bass back up, clean it, take some good pictures of it, and prepare it for sale.
Owning and playing it brought me hours of joy, new friendships, and great memories. I think I’ll hold on to the memories and pass the bass along to someone who will spark their own joy with it instead.
Last week I picked up my bass and ripped through about ten songs, knowing I wouldn’t be able to do it during the later stages of chemotherapy. It felt good in my hands and after the second song I was locked in–which is always a good feeling. As I was playing I started thinking about the basses I’ve had and how they affected how and what I play.
My first bass guitar was a huge Ibanez Blazer that my Dad bought me when I was 15. I’ve recounted the story of buying that bass before, and it was a good instrument to learn on–to a point. Because it was so big, and set up for funk playing, it was long scale (a long fretboard) and built for fat slapping strings. It would have been ideal to learn any Bootsy Collins riff out there. It had a great tone but wasn’t a good bass for learning fast, technical rock pieces (Rush, Metallica, Zeppelin, etc.) that I was playing at the time. Given their length and action, the strings were moving so much I found it hard to stay ahead of them; my fingers were always behind and I’d drop notes and lose the rhythm. I used this bass through high school and into college, but after I bought a Steinberger it stayed in the case.
The Steinberger I bought from my friend Stas, who was (wisely) playing musical basses through high school, looking for the right one. He started out with a Cort, basically a $100 beginner instrument, moved to a Rickenbacker 4001 and pretty quickly traded that (it wasn’t black like Geddy’s and the action was too tall, IIRC) for a 1976 Les Paul, sold that, and got the Steinberger, sold that to me, and then bought a new Precision Bass. We spent a lot of afternoons sitting and swapping instruments on different tracks, so I remember playing all of these basses, but I didn’t appreciate the feel of his P-Bass until much later. I immediately liked the Steinberger because it was shorter scale, MUCH tighter than the Ibanez, and easier to play technical stuff on. Plus it was compact and weird. I’ve had it since about 1990 or so and played it extensively, and what was liberating about it at first became a liability; with the shorter scale and smaller strings, the action was TOO tight. It has a great tone, it’s fast, and it doesn’t weigh four tons. But because the action is tight, there’s no feel. Somewhere between the booming ropes on the Ibanez and the tight piano strings on the Steinberger, there had to be a sweet spot. But because it was a hobby and not a profession, buying a new bass was never a priority.
When I bought a cheap Jazz bass on a whim last year, I figured it would be a fun toy for the right price that I could easily flip on Craigslist. I asked a friend to pick it up for me, as he lived near the seller, and because he’s a musician he knew what to look for. I honestly wasn’t expecting much but when I got it home I was astonished at how good the setup was. The nicotine-soaked strings, while disgusting, felt amazing, played like a dream, and had a killer tone. I restrung it after washing the body repeatedly and while I don’t like the replacement strings nearly as much the feel is still there. It’s the sweet spot between boomy and tight. I rarely get behind the rhythm and I don’t tire out trying to get a feel out of it. And it feels right in my hands. The scale is perfect–somehow it feels wider than the Steinberger but shorter than the Ibanez. I don’t hunt for frets like I did on the Ibanez and I don’t get crunched up on the high frets like I do on the Steinberger. It’s balanced and friendly.
Upon reflection, I don’t know if I would have enjoyed a Precision Bass as much as I enjoy its cousin. I remember Stas’ bass as being looser than the Steinberger but not by much; maybe that’s just 30 years talking. Having played several in the music store down the street over the years, they feel OK but not right. I never really thought to pick up a Jazz because I always thought they were bigger and heavier, but I guess I was mistaken. Thinking about how much I’m enjoying playing the Jazz these days, I wonder if my high school and college musical pursuits would have been different, knowing I had more confidence in what I was playing and how it felt.
Apparently there’s a pick-up dad band around the corner from here, and they need a bass player at some point. When I get past chemo and surgery and chemo again, I’m going to go look them up.
Uberbike has left the building. Last weekend I spent a good bit of time cleaning up the garage, which was cluttered with stuff we’d thrown in last fall. Uberbike was sitting in the back, on two flat tires, holding up the soft top for the Scout, and looking sad. We haven’t ridden it in three years, and now that Jen has a bike and Finn is supposed to learn how to ride her new bike, a tandem is pretty useless. I decided it needed a new home. On a whim, I posted it to Craigslist at best offer, and figured I’d get a random inquiry or two. What I got was multiple emails within 6 hours from several very interested parties. One guy kept at me all week until we could schedule his brother to come and pick it up, and he gave me $100 for it this evening. Goodbye Uberbike; may you ride long into the future.
On Monday I stopped into our local music store to pick up a new set of nicotine-free strings, and poked around the bass section to see what they had. Looking through the inventory there, it affirms the fact that I got a screaming good deal on this bass, even if it’s smelly, beat up, and not original; every MIM bass I’ve seen for sale on CL before and since is more than twice what I paid. I walked back to the string section and asked the dude behind the counter if he could identify what I had (he couldn’t) so I got a set of Ernie Ball medium-weight roundwounds for it. While I was there, I browsed a box of half-off bass strings and found a set of Rotosound 606s for the Steinberger. I’ve always played GHS Bass Boomers on that bass, and haven’t tried a new brand in 20 years, so I thought it was too good a deal to pass up.
The Ernie Balls are good, but they don’t have the warm, meaty tone of the unknown strings it came with, and they don’t feel as smooth to my hands. I kept the originals and I’m going to try again to find what brand they are when I have a little more time, because I like them that much.
I also got a package in the mail from Shenzhen, China, with two foldable focus adjustment tools for my lenses. There is a setting in most modern prosumer DSLRs which can fine-tune the focus point for each particular lens you mount; the camera knows which one you’re using and stores the settings for that particular lens. Last weekend I spent Saturday morning with a cup of coffee and a table full of lenses, adjusting each one with the D7000 and storing the data. It looked to me like the primes were the most out of register, especially the 50mm f/1.8, but I think I’ve got to do some more fine-tuning in direct sunlight and at a different focal distance to be sure.
I’ve been playing the Jazz bass for at least an hour every night I can. It’s a completely different experience from the Steinberger, something I can’t describe, but it feels faster, more precise. I can get around the frets faster, because the neck is thinner, and landing the notes with no buzz (except for the low E) is easier. I have to wonder what might have happened if I hadn’t started out with a big old funk bass and had traded up to a P-bass in high school. Would I have been discouraged less and practiced more? Possibly. This thing is crying out for a good setup, so now that this coming weekend is a little less filled, I’ll see if I can carve out some time to tune it up.
I’m starting a small side project with the dribs and drabs of free time I’ve got, which should combine an idea I’ve had for years with a new approach I hadn’t considered. Will this be another thing I mention here and never get to, or will I complete it? Let’s see.
I visited on opthamologist last Friday to look at my left eye, which has been cloudy in the center for a couple of months. Scared I might have cataracts or retina issues, I got it checked out. The eye doctor was very patient with me (I don’t like things near my eyes) and did all the normal tests. It turns out I’m dealing with posterior vitreous detachment, which basically means I’ve got a non-vision threatening change in the goo that makes up my eyeball. The opthamologist said it should work itself out in the next couple of months, but to come back in next year to check things out.