Some frustrations, some successes.  That’s the way things go I guess.

I need to get some projects moving and completed; particularly the old guitar tremolo circuit.  That one has been hanging over my head for a year and has sort of taken on the character of a job.  Not good.  So Saturday, I figured I’d knock out some stuff after Evan left to return to his last semester at the university.

I went to tackle the tremolo.  Aaaannnddd… it didn’t work.  After some tinkering, I got frustrated and walked away.

Then I figured I’d work on my wooden handplane project.  That is going well but I reached a point at which I need to use the blade and its associated hardware to size the opening in the middle.  But I don’t have a blade.  Doh!  I went and ordered a nice iron and cap iron from the guy who wrote the book.

So I figured I’d take my airsoft pistol outside and plink at some cans.  It began to misfire.  Doh! Again!  I went and watched TV with Melissa for the rest of the day.  You can’t fail when watching TV unless you consider watching TV itself to be a failure.

Sunday, I looked at the gun.  It’s pretty cold outside and the act of letting off pressure from the propellant gas lowers the temperature of the magazine even more which seems to be making the seals start to leak.  Perhaps due to stiffening of the O-rings due to low temperature.  Also, the magazine has a teeny little piece of plastic that seems to lock the slide back after the last BB is fired which broke off and was jamming the follower.  According to the almighty interwebs, I’m the only one to ever experience this which is pretty unusual.  I disassembled the magazine to get the fragments out and now it feeds pretty reliably until it gets cold again.  Apparently, cold weather is not that great for airsoft.  Now the slide does not lock when the last round is fired but that is not a big deal.  I think I need to start loading the BBs from the top rather than using the speed loader since the speed loader occasionally lets go of the follower and it snaps to the top with a bit too much force for my liking.  That may what broke it to begin with.

On a side note, I bought this pistol because it is at least 10 times cheaper than a real gun and you can fire it in the back yard without scaring the neighbors or accidentally killing anyone.  Plus, no gun range fees.  But apparently I’m the only person over the age of 14 to have ever bought one since all the video tutorials on youtube are voiced by teenaged boys who can’t drive yet and, in many cases, whose voices have not changed yet.  Oh well.  I’m enjoying plinking in the back yard so no big deal.

Then I went to look at the tremolo.  I looked for parts that may have been in backwards (like the transistor) and then pulled all the alligator clips off the bypass switch and soldered on actual wires throughout to make sure I had a good ground connection.  The presence of lots of hum was making me believe that was a problem.  As soon as I hooked it back up to the battery I knew it was working.  I tinkered with it awhile and was quite happy.  I felt like the king of the world actually.  So I fired off some self congratulatory emails and tweets and decided to call it a day.

Also, Mel and I tried out the Main Street Tavern (which is new) and were pleasantly surprised with it.  It’s always good to find a good new restaurant in town.  I’m always a bit bummed when the kids head back to college and the house gets quiet.  These little successes made the day a bit more pleasant.

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It’s been hot enough lately that we haven’t done too much outside; as little as possible in fact.  And yet things get done.

We’ve made numerous trips to this and that store buying things for Erin’s future dorm room.  That process goes on indefinitely as the dorm she’s moving to is old fashioned and has almost no storage space for anything.  This presents an engineering problem that both Erin and Melissa relish.

Mel has also sat down and made two photo albums/scrapbooks: one from the performance of Little Shop of Horrors and the other from Erin’s graduation.  The latter is still in-work but will be done shortly.

We’ve also been getting the cars all fixed up.  Erin’s car had a water pump fail and then the air conditioner.  After taking care of that we decided to deal with all the other little things on the other cars since Melissa is not working during the summer and we can therefore put one in the shop and not have any transportation issues.  So we put Evan’s car in (We had him drive over here and get my car and leave his) to have the door lock fixed and the upholstery repaired.  That upholstery thing was there when I bought the car all those years ago and I never bothered to fix it when I drove it and now after he’s been driving it for three years, I finally dealt with it.  He’s happy though.  Then there’s my current car which has three very annoying but relatively unimportant things that I finally decided to have fixed.  So when I give it to Erin to take off to college, it will be fully functional. 

It’s expensive but it feels good to have everything taken care of and working like it should.  Like I paid for it to function originally.

In the meantime, I’ve been building a desk to put in Evan’s room for me to do my projects on.  Evan took the one that was in there (not surprisingly) so I’ve had the opportunity to build another one to my exact specifications.  I don’t actually have any specifications – I just need a flat surface so I bought another slab door along with two two-drawer file cabinets to put it on and now I have a desk for about $100.  Not quite actually; I chose to use up the remains of a can of polyurethane varnish and make the desk top a little prettier.  At least stuff won’t soak into it and stain it now when I spill something.  

Then there’s the pile of books that have accumulated that I want to read.  And also the new song I want to learn to play on the guitar.  I’ve been doing all these things and have budgeted my time rather carefully to include it all. 

The guitar song is particularly frustrating for some reason but I’m slogging on hoping that one day my fingers will miraculously just do what they’re supposed to do.  I decided quite some time ago that you can’t claim to play an instrument if you only know two or three songs.  I figure you need to be able to pick up a guitar and play for at least one hour without repeating yourself in order to claim that you know anything.  I still can’t read music and play it without some study so I have to wait until I can play from memory. By this standard, I have a long way to go although I guess I could play for about 20 minutes at this point.  I can play four or five songs although two of them are a pretty rough in places. 

I make time for some of this by playing hooky from church.  I love my spare time and I’ve had a difficult time lately finding anything to interest me at church.  This is probably pretty common for people whose kids are going off to college; the kids are no longer heavily involved at church and we realize that much of what we’ve been doing at the church has been centered around them and now we’re re-evaluating what we want to do with ourselves from now on.  I have a theory that most people are not comfortable with their own thoughts and would rather be entertained by others.  They need to be around crowds of other people or entertained by the TV.  The church fills that role for these people but I have no trouble coming up with ways to entertain myself so it can be tough choice for me to go there as opposed to doing something else.

There are some large projects on the horizon.  Our house is over thirty years old and some things need to be addressed.  Especially if we intend to make good on our goal of moving to another house that we like better.  We’ll need new countertops and flooring in the kitchen for starters.

So life goes on; full of transitions and activities.  I am very glad at this time of year (that is, the hot time of year) that I hired someone to mow my lawn for me.  That’s an activity that I have never had much of a liking for.

Erin and I built a guitar amp last night.  She was really excited.

I can’t remember when she first expressed the interest but long ago she found a copy of my Make magazine with an article about how to make a guitar amp and put it inside a Ritz cracker box just to make it a little funky.  Lately she reminded me that she wanted to do that and that it should be now.

Well parts are cheap so we made a list and went to Radio Shack to stock up.  Neither of us had ever used a proto board before but it seemed easy enough so we jumped in.  Unfortunately, Evan’s room (that is, my laboratory) is devoid of furniture so we had to just do all work on the floor.  Things get pretty scattered this way but it does work.  I don’t look forward to vacuuming though what with all the little spicules of wire and solder in the carpet.

Anyway, we had to spread the work over two evenings and had some problems but they were the sorts of things that always happen when building stuff.  After a few minutes of frustrating diagnostics it came to life.  She really wanted something to plug her iPod into but I went forward with the guitar amp plan thinking that we could adapt it after we got it working and this was indeed the case.  We soon got it working with an iPod and it was surprisingly loud.  Because it’s a guitar amp, it has a control for how much distortion gets introduced so this has to be turned down for iPod use.

Now all we have to do is put it in a box.  She was too excited not to go immediately to WalMart to search for the perfect cracker box.  It was about my bedtime but we went anyway.  Walmart is not the best place to search for such things – I’m thinking Whole Foods might have a more interesting selection of packages that could be repurposed into a guitar amp but she found one that would do.

I wouldn’t be surprised if she goes ahead without me and finishes it up which would be fine of course.  I think the pots are wired backwards so that to increase the volume you turn the knob backwards but she will not care about this.

It’s fun to build stuff and it’s even more fun to build stuff with like-minded people.  I’m glad I got a chance to do this with her before she heads off to college because we’ll probably never have another chance like this.  My time with her feels like it’s running out.  I’m sure that there’s more value to this shared experience than simply creating a cheap guitar amp but who knows what that will be?  I only know we both had fun.