Tuesday, 20 February 2018

See It. Say It. Sort It.

There's a ginger and grey creature living on my face. Since I injured my finger I haven't been able to shave so I have grown an unimpressive and patchy beard. Until this weekend I haven't been too self-conscious about it. On Saturday I spent nearly four hours on public transport travelling from Farnham to The ExCeL and back. Every ten minutes there was an announcement saying "If something doesn't look right tell a member of staff or text the British Transport Police and we will sort it – See it. Say it. Sort it." Every ten minutes the guy I was travelling with would make a joke about my beard not looking right, threaten to tell the driver about my beard, make a joke about the elite B.T.P razor squad, or at least look quizzically at my face.

Richard "whiskers" B

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Gypsy jazz guitar bridge repair

This weekend I did some moderately accurate woodwork while wearing a thick glove (to protect my finger injury)

This is what I was brought. One bridge is worn and damaged and made of inferior timber. The other is of good quality, the right length, width and radius, but far too low.

Cutting a plank of stock from the damaged bridge:

Stock: I love this picture, the newspaper, the marking gauge, the plane and the curly wood shavings make it look like my bench is clean, I know what I'm doing, and that I can sharpen and set up a plane really accurately. None of those is quite true.

Gluing:

This is what I made: Notice also the salt and pepper mills and the wine glass and bottle - it was extremely sociable woodwork.

This is where you can stick it:

Richard "Luthier" B

Monday, 5 February 2018

Broken Down Ninja

I'm paranoid about privacy on the internet and I'm not that interested in using computers in my free time so my only presence in social media is this blog. I'm not on Twitter, Facebook (except perhaps a parody account my friends used to run to annoy me), Instagram, Whatsapp, or whatever people use to communicate these days.

It was a surprise therefor to receive a Facebook friend request at the weekend. I don't know how friend requests work if you're signed up to Facebook, but mine was a polite phonecall - from a chap I've met once in my entire life and whose surname I don't even know.

Earlier that day I had stopped to help a stricken motorcyclist. He was both lost and having engine trouble. He was an ex RAF gunner who was friendly and in surprisingly good spirits considering the day he was having. He had just bought the bike and was on his way from Plymouth to Oxford! It was a well-worn Kawasaki Ninja, it would start and run and rev freely, but it was absolutely gutless and wouldn't go above about 40mph. I've owned two motorcycles in the Kawasaki "Z" series so I thought I might be able to fix any obvious faults. I took him and the bike home, fiddled about with it and sent them out for a test run. An hour later I got a text that said that he had just stopped on his journey and the bike was running well. A few hours after that I got a very grateful phone call from the chap. Apparently the weather was "Fucking Baltic" once he had left Devon but he had got some safely.

So what was wrong with the bike? I still don't really know. There seemed to be something fishy about the fuel tap when I took the tank off, but perhaps that was my lack of familiarity with it (I was expecting it to be a vacuum operated auto, but it didn't seem to be.) There was a breather hose missing between the carbs and the airbox, but I can't believe that that had such a dramatic effect on performance. The fuel filter was absolutely filthy (I rinsed it out and put it back). After all my fiddling about the tickover had changed considerably and we had to wind up the idle speed.

I actually forgot that bikes of that age had a manual choke and my best theory is that the choke was getting stuck on and that I accidentally freed it off when I was looking at the airbox.

Richard "AA" B

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

One, Two, a One Two Three Four

I've recently been educated about three numbering systems that make more sense than I ever knew.

Lots of Ferraris have a number as part of their name and it does actually mean something. It's the capacity of each cylinder in cc's. So a 250-GTO is a car where each cylinder is 250cc. It's a 12 cylinder car (you're just expected to know that) so it's got a 3 litre engine.

In America the exit (junction) numbers on the interstates are monotonic but they are large and non-contiguous. It turns out that they're the number of miles from the start of the road. It's a brilliant system, they never put up distance signs, but every time you go past an exit you know how far it is until your exit. You can estimate distances quite accurately by just glancing at a road map. (Pass me my driving dividers).

The numbers of "A" and "B" roads in the UK also make more sense than I ever imagined. The country is divided into 6 sectors by 6 one-digit "A" roads which all go to London. They are the A1, A2, A3, A4, A5 and A6. Less important roads have 2 digits and then 3 digits. The first digit is the sector number. The roads are numbered by going round the whole country clockwise. You might be tempted to ask which end of the road gets the number. Does the A38 go from Cornwall to Nottinghamshire or Nottinghamshire to Cornwall. Clearly it's the former because all roads run clockwise around London and you leave London on your starboard side if you drive North on the A38.

I'm delighted to note that near where I live the A379 is south of the A38 and the A386 is generally north of it.

Richard "In and out of Wandsworth with the numbers on their names" B

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Infirm

Two weeks ago I smashed up one of the fingers of my left hand. It's all bandaged up and I have to keep it clean dry and protected. It makes everything I want do impossible or wildly inconvenient. I think the technical term might be "a ball ache".

I ask you dear reader what have you achieved with your life? Created a multi-million pound company? Produced beautiful children? Healed the sick? Served your country? Higher degrees? Fame? Musical prowess? Happiness? Survived a hurricane on a tall ship? Drilled a hole deeper than Everest?

I say that's nothing. At the end of last week I UNBUTTONED A CARDIGAN USING BOTH HANDS!

I can't shave so I'm growing an unimpressive beard. I can't tie shoelaces so I've bought slip-ons. I can't start a zip so everything has buttons or goes on over my head. I can't ride a motorbike so my commute is twice-daily psychological torture. I can't wash-up, hang out laundry or eat anything that needs to be cut up. I can wash myself but I have to tape my hand into a waterproof bag, elbow my way into the bath and then use a brush on a long handle. I sleep cuddling a pillow (to keep the hand elevated, not for emotional support) and its months until I'll play the guitar again.

The most upsetting part is quite unexpected. The beautiful bossy woman in my band has been mickey taking and teasing me almost non-stop for many years. Since I injured myself she has been kind and supportive and it turns out that I hate it. It makes me feel more crippled and useless than any of the things I can't do for myself.

Richard "no infection, no bleeding" B

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Contact!

Welcome to the early noughties:

At the beginning of this year I bought my very first smartphone. Until now I have been relying on a waterproof ruggedized candybar phone with actual buttons and a battery that lasts a fortnight. The old phone was so dated that my friends call it "Edison's prototype" – Before you say that Edison didn't invent the telephone, he was instrumental in developing the exchanges and the microphones that made them practical.

The old and the new phone were so different in age and technology that I had to spend a morning manually transferring all my contacts. My friends and aquaintances seem to fall into four groups. The largest group was "People I don't remember, or have no expectation of ever speaking to again" followed by "People I often deal with". There was a smaller group of "People I might accidentally lose contact with" I found myself checking, double checking and triple checking those phone numbers. The top of the pile was "people who's numbers I know by heart - like a nursey rhyme".

Other than that there was one person with an awkward to type name – how do you type an "o" with a tilde above it? And a friend, long since dead, whose number I had never deleted as a mark of respect.

Richard "Android" B