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Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Evils of Back Pain

I have come to the point in my life where I genuinly feel sorry for those with severe back pain.  About a year ago while bending over to pick up my two year old son I slipped a disk in my lower spine.  The pain was more than I could stand and I simply fell to the ground.  After a month of laying on my back (since I couldn't walk) I went back to work and it slowly got better.

Two days ago it came back with a vengeance.  The day started simple enough.  I woke up and took a shower, let the dog out, kissed my wife goodbye and stumbled out the door to my car.  A slight pain in my back had developed but nothing I didn't deal with  pretty much on a daily basis.  Maybe slightly worse.

I arrived a the gas station, filled up my car with gas and got a quick fountain drink from inside the store.  Suddenly, I realized my back was getting worse, but I felt like I could continue without issue.  So I continued on the one hour commute to my workplace.  Slowly the pain began to worsen.  Every turn I made with the car caused a pain to run through my lower back.

So OK, I am a little concerned at this point.  I finally arrive at work and park the car about twenty yards from the entry to my workplace.  Not realizing just how bad off my back was, I through open the door to my car and dropped my left leg out onto the pavement.  That was when it hit!  Searing pain in my lower left back.  I pulled my leg back in and found a position where the pain would stop.  This is the point where it dawned on me that I could not get out of the car.  Here I was twenty yards from my desk and I couldn't get out to the car! 

After sitting in the car for about ten minutes I realized my only option was to go home.  So I struggled, pulled and pushed myself until I got into a position where I could drive, then headed for home.  An hour later I finally arrived at my house.  I pulled the car right up to the front door of my house and tried once more to get out.  Nope, I still couldn't get out!  After about ten minutes of sliding, twisting and lifting, I finally moved very slowly out of the car and onto the front steps.  Thankfully, my steps have a good set of rails so I used them to pull myself into the house where I collapsed on the couch.

My wife brought me my pain killers and muscle relaxers and about an hour later I hopped to my chair where I spent the next two days.  On the third day I decided to go back to work.  I was still in terrible pain but I could work.  Whatever happened to the days where I missed work for the flu or a bad cold.

The sad part of all this is there is very little help for a person with a bad disc.  Physical therapy  is great for muscle related injuries but seems to only make disc problems worse.  Surgery is risky at best and isn't recommended except in the worst cases. So I will continue on, Lord willing and deal with the pain however I can.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Bicycles Anyone?

The northern Piedmont and foothills of North Carolina with its rolling hills and friendly mountains make for beautiful scenery.  The terrain is so beautiful and rolling that it has attracted many a bicycler to enjoy it.  I remember as a child riding my bicycle everywhere and it was a great joy to me, but I am concerned about how many are riding their bicycles these days.

Don't get me wrong; it is great exercise and is very enjoyable but I am afraid that these backroads are not compatible with bicyclers.  I live on a backroad which cuts through the King\Tobaccoville area of NC.  It has winding hidden curves and very little to no shoulder. The speed limit is set at 45 but no one follows the law and it is not uncommon at all to see vehicles traveling in excess of 55 miles per hour.

The bicycles traveling on this road are putting themselves and the cars in danger.  It is a simple matter of basic mathematics.  A car traveling at 55 miles per hour hits a blind curve with a bicycle on the other side doing 10 mph.  The car simply does not have enough time to safely stop.  I am not blaming the bicycler in this instance.  He has done nothing wrong but the fact remains that this is just plain unsafe for both parties.

What can we as a community do to solve this problem.  I like that the bicyclers have found a very good and healthy hobby, but I think we need to be proactive and keep them from riding on the more dangerous side roads.  I am in favor of bicycle lanes, but they are very costly.

Imagine as a motorist hitting a bicycler.  First you have hit someone and most likely killed them. This will involve possible lawsuits or criminal prosecution not to mention the family members grief at what has happened.  The mental trauma from killing another person would be devastating to the motorist.  Is a hobby worth this kind of trouble?

For now my recommendation to motorist is please slow down and to bicyclers please think twice before riding on certain roads.  Bicyclers, when you hear a car coming move over and don't ride in the center of the lane. To the legislatures I would ask you to try and pass a bill to keep the bicycles off backwoods highways and also to build bicycle lanes in places where they make fiscal sense.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Cudagin and his trusty steed

Here is my character Cudagin in LOTRO.  Level 40 Dwarf Guardian on his trusty steed Vader.

Monday, July 18, 2011

"Ouch!" What's the matter? I broke a nail!

Being a married man I have heard my wife complain about breaking her nails and while I never really cared about this, I have recently starting playing finger style guitar and suddenly my nails have become priority one.  So in case you don't understand what I am saying, when a guitarists plays finger style they generally grow out the nails on their right hand in order to use them as picks.

So yesterday I started asking my wife about nail care.  That's right, a 38 year old man asking about how he can make his nails stronger.  After some discussion on the topic my wife leaves the room and comes back with two bottles of what I always considered fingernail polish.  Instead I am told that one is a bottle of fingernail oil which you rub into your nails and one is called nail hardener.

 So I spend about 5 minutes "painting" my nails at which time I thought they looked pink.  I asked her if they looked pink and she replied that no they just have a natural glow now.  A natural glow?  I am a man and my nails now have a "natural glow."  Now that is just what I always wanted. 

Bottom line is that I will try this for a while and see how it works.  I may need to do some kind of penance to make up for this feminine nail care.  Perhaps I can go hunting, or maybe drag my wife around by the hair.  On second thought maybe I should just go hunting.  The hair pulling thing probably won't contribute to a happy life.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Could you come here? I need to show you something.

Whenever a you hear the words "I need to show you something" uttered by a technician of any kind you know you are in real trouble and the HVAC  tech did not disappoint me Saturday.

Sometime Friday it was apparent that we had lost our air conditioning in the house.  Ok, don't panic right?  I mean chances are it is a fuse or switch or something.  Searches online found that the problem was most likely a bad capacitor.  So we called out the service technician to fix the heat pump.

The tech from K&V Heating and Air arrived promptly as  usual.  I trust these guys and have used them in the past.  About 20 minutes passed as I figured he was installing a new capacitor.  A few moments later there was a faint knock at the door.  Then came the horrifying "I need to show you something."

He walked me out to the unit which was now running but making horrible grinding sounds.  He had indeed installed a new capacitor and what he called a "hard start" unit.  The next words out of his mouth were "You have a bad compressor." Yep the most dreaded thing you can hear from a HVAC tech.  This is the equivalent of hearing that you need a new engine for you car.    After a sigh or two from me I ask him what the cost of replacement will be.  About 1,500 for the compressor was the reply.  Another sigh or two then he went on to tell me that they are discontinuing the type of refrigerant that this unit uses and it would be more cost effective to replace the entire heat pump.  What could that cost you might think?  Oh just a mear 3,500 to 4,000 dollars!  Who doesn't have that stored in their matress?

Bottom line is that we will have to wait until spring time  so we can save up enough.  Until that time it is window units for us. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Installing the Barcus Berry Insider: The good the bad and the ugly

This posting is how I installed the Barcus-Berry Insider pickup and should give you an idea on how to approach the installation project.  I assume since you bought the Barcus-Berry pickup that you are on a budget so I built the tutorial with that in mind.  The directions that come with the pickup are very poor but do get you started.   I will show you how I installed it and the lessons I learned. I am sorry for the ugly photos but all I had with me was a very bad cell phone camera.

Tools Needed
  • 1/2 Inch Drill bit - be careful here.  I used a standard wood 1/2 inch power bit but I would recommend you go with a better bit such as the brad bit.  They sell them at Steward MacDonald but I could not find them locally.  http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Tools/Drill_bits/Drill_Bits,_Brad_Point.html?actn=100101&xst=3&xsr=1333
  • 1/4 inch wooden dowel rod cut to 18 inches.  You can find them at Lowe's in the molding aisle.
  • 5/16 inch slotted screwdriver - it is important that it is 5/16.  We will use this to hold the end pin while we tighten it with a wrench.
  • Solder iron - I can't believe I had to do this but my pickup did not come soldered even though it showed it that way in the picture.  I may have an older model.
  • Solder
  • Good set of channel lock type pliers.
  • Towel - used to keep the guitar from being damaged while laying on the kitchen table :)

Step 1 - Removal of the factory end pin.

Your guitar will most likely have a plastic end pin which is installed from the factory.  It should look like the image below.

If you don't care about damaging the cheap end pin which you probably won't since you are installing a new one then take a pair of good pliers and pull and twist back and forth until it comes loose.  There is no simple way to do this.  I have heard some people say that you should apply heat to it with a solder iron but if it is plastic it will melt it.  Below is the picture after I pulled it out with pliers. Note that I placed some low stick masking tape on the guitar just in case the pliers slipped.  That way it won't scratch the finish.

Ok, now you have a nice little hole in your guitar.

Step 2 - Drilling out the hole for the new end pin.

This is the part I worried about most and if you are at all worried about this step or think you can't handle it then take the guitar to someone who doesn't mind drilling a hole in it. :)
Make sure you have a sharp drill bit and a good variable speed drill.  My drill seemed a bit underpowered so when in doubt, go with more power.  You will need to drill completely though the finish and the end block of the guitar.  Ready, set , go for it!

Notice how my drill bit did not do a very good job.  If you look closely even in this bad pic you will see where the banding material or whatever that black stripe is kind of curled up as I drilled.  I supposed you could sand this down a bit and make it look better but it will be hidden under the washer so it isn't too big of a deal.  That said, I was the most dissapointed here.  I cannot say this enough.  Get a good bit and a good drill.  Ok, the scary part is over.

Step 3 - Solder the pickup wires to the end pin jack.  

Hopefully you won't have to do this but if you do, here is what it should look like when you are finished soldering.  If you don't know how to solder, then take it to a person who knows electronics and they can help you.

Again, I don't think you will have to do this but just in case.

Step 4 - Position the end jack.

  • Unscrew the end cap from the Fas-Jac.
  • Slide the wood dowel into the newly drilled hole in the guitar until you can see it in the sound hole
  • Stick the 1/4 inch wood dowel cut to 19 inches into the end of the Fas-Jac where the end cap was. If it doesn't fit tightly you may have to remove the dowel and put some masking tape over the rod to make it thicker.  Oh and don't forget to loosen your guitar strings.  It should look like the image below at this point.
So the whole point in doing this is you can't reach your arm all the way back to where the drilled hole is so you need the dowel to act as a guide to pull it through. You can think of it like pulling cable through a wall.
  • Now simply pull the dowel from the end of the guitar through until it is visible through the drilled hole.  See the pic below.

Simple, right?  Well kind of.  You have to fiddle with the nut on the end jack pin to make sure only about 3 or 4 threads are visible through the hole.  Once you get the adjustment right, simply slide the washer and the Fas Jac over the dowel and tighten slightly.  You won't be able to tighten it all the way since it will just turn and the dowel will come loose.

  • Now remove the dowel rod, insert the screw driver into the end of the Fas Jac and use a wrench to tight it into position.  This may take several tries to get right but just hang in there and it will happen.
  • If everything went right your guitar should look similar to the photo below.
You can breathe again, we are almost done.


Step 5 - Installing the transducer

I don't have any pics for this but I will try to walk you through it in words.  You can get fancy here and create a jig which can be used to position the transducer or you can wing it. I did the later because well I just wanted to. The transducer has a sticky pad on it so you need to remove the sticky pad's protective paper then stick the pickup right in front of the bridge pins.  Pretty much it ends up being in between the saddle and the bridge pins.  Take your time and go by feel.  If you get it wrong, you can scrape off the old sticky pad and put another one on.  They come with several. Its easy to get it crooked so like I said: If you are a perfectionist then make a jig.

Well that is about it.  Plug it in and see if she works!  I know this was not an exhaustive tutorial but hopefully it will answer some of the questions I had when I started this process.