Well, after waiting around for a few days, [im]patiently tapping my fingers and anticipating the arrival of my Les Paul Special II electric guitar, it finally arrived on Saturday, and I’ve been having a blast with it. It sounds amazing, plays easily, and is a lot easier on my poor, tortured amateur fingers. I’ve been playing around with Rocksmith 2014 Remastered, and it’s a lot of fun. I’ve even begun to improve my fretwork, and, oddly, finger flexibility, and how far I can spread my fingers; because apparently, you have to have monkey fingers to play a guitar with any proficiency. Oh, I know, I need tentacles! Where’s Cthulhu when you need him?

That said, I also went to a lesson today, and it went pretty well. The instructor, Aaron made a recording of the session (I’ll spare you that pain), and it went reasonably well. I would have preferred to have learned more about playing the guitar, and less about esoteric details that I can look up on my own, but overall it went well. If I really want to know about the physics behind how a guitar works, I can look it up really quickly. I’m also a quick study when it comes to how guitar strings vibrate and create sound; it’s basic acoustics.

Overall the lesson was interesting, and I learned a bit about various types of guitar tunings, and that apparently ‘timbre’ in the music sense is pronounced ‘tamber.’ What the hell is wrong with the English language? Really? I think we need a language which is actually spelled as it’s pronounced — Romanian, for example — English is confusing, and I’ve been speaking, reading and writing it almost my entire life (I’m starting to get up there in years, too; the joys of aging, sheesh!)

I haven’t decided, for certain, on whether or not I’ll take any more lessons, as I work better alone, when I’m motivated. Also, lessons cost money, and that’s something that I don’t really have an abundance of. But, that said, Aaron is willing to help work out some kind of a deal. I’m uncertain as to the nature of it, but I’m guessing that we’ll get around to talking about that at some point.

Thanks for reading,

Brian

Obligatory Recumbent Trike Reference

So, as the title says, I have the guitar that I ordered, and have been practicing with it for a few days. I have lessons on Sunday, and am looking forward to them quite a lot. The gentleman with whom I was corresponding via email is as much of a geek as I am, and very much into Linux and the open source movement as a whole, so we’ll have a lot to geek out about (which means we’ll have to force ourselves to focus on the lesson, but hey, it’s all fun stuff.)

I might go ahead and get a Les Paul style guitar as well, because it’s supposed to be easier on the fingers. I know I said that the Zeny would be the last big purchase, and I’d start holding back funds for the Trike. But in this case, I really want to learn both styles of guitars, and the price on the Les Paul is really good. So, I want to take advantage of it while I can.

I’ve been having fun, and a bit of finger pain, learning the chords, although I have a long way to go before I can play America’s Sister Golden Hair. It’s a song that I’ve always enjoyed, and would like to learn to play properly. There are others as well, but this is the first one that I want to learn. I know that it’s considered an ‘expert’ level song, so I’ll take the challenge and run with it. I’ll play the music, someone else can sing it. πŸ˜›

Thanks for reading,

Brian

Obligatory Trike Reference

The Homeless People You See On The Street Matter

This might seem to be a strange subject to write about on a blog that’s ostensibly supposed to be about science, technology, and other geeky things (like biking etc.), but in truth it affects everyone. I’m willing to bet that most of us know someone who has been homeless, or, who might currently be homeless, or who themselves are homeless.

It’s a situation that I’ve been familiar with in the past, and one which I do not wish to repeat at any point in the future. It’s a terrible thing to have inflicted upon oneself, or upon one’s loved ones, or friends, or even a random Joe/Josephine whom you’ve never met before. I’ve spent a lot of time over the last several years watching the homeless here in Portland, because I work as a Security Guard at a location in Downtown Portland. So, I’m going to offer my perspective on the situation, as I see it, here in this area. Before we go any further, my intention is not to judge, or to belittle anyone, these are simply my thoughts. Also keep in mind that I want all the homeless to get the help that they need, so as to get off the street, and live a healthy and productive life (their definition of productive, not yours or mine.)

I’ve seen and or read about several, what I’ll call ‘levels’ of homelessness (plus an additional ‘Level 0’ suggested by a friend of mine who is trying to do just that):

Level Zero: Hypernomadism (suggested by a friend)

According to a good friend, who is homeless at the moment, and is trying his best to make the best of it: 
β€œThose who choose to remain there, but instead of sinking, wish to improve the conditions in which they live to the point they nearly match conditions of living in a home.
This is what I mean by β€˜hypernomadism.’ I’ve brought some aspects of β€˜home’ to the streets — I have showers at the gym, I now sleep in a hammock every night, I have a bicycle for transportation. Every week, I make living outside more bearable. 

When I lost my last place, I vowed I would never pay rent again. The only way I’ll live indoors again is if I get free rent or I get my tiny house. Rent is a social ill that must be abolished.”

Level One: Semi-Voluntary

There’s the semi-voluntary, ‘just for now’ kind of homelessness that happens when one runs across rough times, but that one knows one will be able to get out of it when things improve. (E.G. When you’re saving up money, and have an income, that will guarantee that you’re able to get back out of it.)

Level Two: Goal Seeking

Then there’s the type of homelessness, where one wants to work toward getting out of it, but one is having a hard time of it for a number of reasons, criminal history, drug use, mental illness, or other causes that affect one’s ability to get off the street. I also look at not knowing how to find the right resources as fitting into this level of homelessness. There’s still a chance for the person, but to them it seems like it’s never going to happen. I’ve seen at least one family here in this situation. They’re trying, but never seem to quite make it. I wish I could help them, but all I can do is offer them information on where to go to seek help, it’s up to them to act on that information, and up the them to push until they’re off the street.

Level Three: Lost Souls

These are the ones that have given up, or who are so far gone, for whatever reason that they don’t even try to make an effort to keep going. Most of the people at this level have all but given up the proverbial ghost, and some commit suicide because they either can’t stand it anymore, or just don’t care enough to keep living. Extreme mental illness can put one at this level, or heavy drug use, or extremely bad health (leading to inability to pay the bills, and thus ending up on the street,) or a large number of other possibilities. These are the people that you see on street corners drinking their lives away, and begging for money for the next bottle of cheap alcohol, or other forms of emotional escape. These are the ones that need the most help, because they just don’t care anymore. The one hopeful ray of light here is that a lot of people at this level can be helped, if someone intercedes on their behalf, and can help them to get back onto their feet. I’ve seen it happen myself, and I know it’s possible. I also know that it isn’t possible in every case, people die on the street every day, from suicide, exposure, overdose, drinking oneself to death, violence, or any number of other causes.

How do we help them?

I wish I had an answer for this. I know that Portland has a number of programs that are designed to help the homeless, but most of those programs have firm restrictions on who they’ll help, whether it be Veterans only, or Women only, or Women with children only, or Men only, and others. These restrictions exclude the ones who might be the most far gone, and perhaps could benefit most from the help; the ones who need help getting away from alcohol, or drugs (programs exist here, but are small, and hard to get into,) or who need help with severe mental illness. These are the lost ones, and are the ones least likely to get off the street and live healthy lives, because they have lost the ability to help themselves, and others refuse to do so.

Why do I care?

Because I’ve been homeless a few times, and each time I made it back, but it’s gotten harder each time, but I’ve also come back on firmer footing each time. I don’t intend to ever fall down that hole again, if I have any say about it. I went through an agency called Transition Projects Incorporated (TPI for short.) They helped me to get off the street, and out of homelessness, and into my own place. At the time I was a single adult, healthy, drug and alcohol free male (still am), and not many other agencies would have helped me, but I went through their program, followed their rules, and took advantage of their (and other agencies) resources. I’m glad to say that I’m fully self-sufficient today, because I had the will to do what was necessary. I don’t know how many people can say the same; a lot of others in the place I was staying during the program fell through the cracks. I suspect that these were people who were headed for Level Three, as described above.

What can we do?

If you can, donate to the agencies that are helping the homeless, it may not seem like much, but it’s something. Also, don’t hand money to the ones looking for alcohol or whatever kind of escape, give them food, or vouchers. If you see a family on the street, find a way to get some vouchers for a place to stay, some food or whatever you can afford. If you’re able, and think you can trust them, offer them a room. Help them help themselves.

Suggested by my friend:

As far as giving homeless people money goes, I slightly disagree here. Of course, if one is only comfortable giving a specific thing (be it food, clothes, whatever) then only give that thing. Never give with expectation. But the homeless need liquidity too. I’m standing here right now with a sign in my hand, and I’ve got $350 or so in the bank – because what I need to make life bearable out here (a laptop capable of running Star Citizen in VR) is far greater than mere food.

Don’t treat the homeless like pigeons — throwing them bits of bread and stale french fries. Put together hygiene packs, fresh socks, take them clothes/gear shopping, get them eye-wear or visits to the dentist. Buy them pay-as-you-go phones, sleeping bags, tents, hammocks, sleeping mats and rain tarps. Everything a refugee needs, so do the homeless. And if you give cash, do so without reservation, without strings attached, without expectation. If you can’t, then don’t. Often the problem with cash is the trickle it comes in. What is a homeless person supposed to do with $5? Give them $500 and watch what they do. Or $1000. When all you get for a day of holding a sign is $7 (as I write this, I’ve been standing here nearly three hours, and I’ve got $1.50) it’s easier to buy a beer than save for…what exactly? This ‘trickle’ is s huge contributor to substance abuse because it’s never enough to actually accomplish much.

Perhaps above all push your local politicians to enact #HousingFirst policies. If Utah can reduce its homelessness by 91% then anywhere can do it. And technology which advances zero/marginal cost of living, as well as can make living outside easier for them (hydrophobic clothing, for example, comes to mind). Also, spending time with and talking to homeless people is greatly needed.

Isolation and lack of connection leads people further down the path of disintegration. Befriend the homeless, if you can. And overall, as a civilization, we need to learn that the harm reduction method works best for everyone. Just as a needle exchange or condom dispensary isn’t designed to promote or prolong drug use or promiscuity, but to reduce disease and unwanted pregnancy, housing the homeless is CHEAPER than leaving them where they are. So even if you’re an indifferent, selfish, heartless sociopathic excuse for a human, it’s still in your best interests to support #HousingFirst

The real harsh truth is that the majority of people in the world don’t give a fuck about anyone except their own friends/family, if that.

Final thoughts

There’s a lot that I could try to cover here, but I don’t have all the information. I’m not an expert, but these are my thoughts, and I just wanted to put them out there, so that others have some idea of what it’s like out there for those who are on the street. It’s not a picnic, and just because a random homeless person has a cell phone, doesn’t mean that that person has money. It means that they managed to scrape enough together by whatever means to allow themselves to maintain some sort of social contact with others who may not be in the area. Don’t Judge.

 

Thank you for reading,

Brian

Yep, I did it anyway. Even though I want the recumbent trike, I figured that this was more attainable, and I could afford it now. So I went ahead and ordered this one: Zeny Electric Guitar

The reason that I decided to get it? I’ve always wanted to learn, and with it being electric, I can plug it into headphones and play it in my apartment without bothering the neighbors (it also prevents the management from having a conniption fit about there being one in the building.)

That said, if you do want to help me with the Recumbent Trike I truly would appreciate the help on it. From this point forward I will be setting aside money where I can to help do this. It may take years, but I’m going to do this.

Thanks,
Brian

So, as I’ve gotten better at figuring this whole web presence thing out, and also getting the site configured to do the things that I want it to do, I realize that I need a point of focus. My initial objective was to focus on science, technology and things related. I’ve been posting about my biking related things lately, because those have also been an interest of mine, and remain so. So, now, I could use a little help from the few readers that I have. I want to know what subjects interest you, and what you would like to see here. It can be almost anything, within the framework mentioned above. I’ll still post on things that are of interest to me, no matter what the subject, since this is my blog. But, I’d be very interested to know what you guys want. If you would please let me know, either through the comments here, or by commenting on the share on whatever social network that you see this on, I think it would go a long way toward helping me to create content that you, as my readers, will enjoy. Who knows? Maybe we’ll all find something to geek out about. Also, if you’re interested in being a guest blogger here, please do let me know.

Thanks, and enjoy your day/evening,
Brian

Obligatory Recumbent Trike Reference

So, after all the cleaning yesterday — and having to stay home and miss a day of work to do so — it’s finally clean enough for government work (although, these days, the government isn’t all that clean, so take that with a bucket of salt.) I do still have some work to do to get it just right, but that’s stuff that I can do over a period of time, and maybe even make some headway with. The general reason that I ended up having to rush through it, and a friend of mine can attest to the annoyance of this, is the lack of a decent length of time of notice before they announce their presence at my door, invariably at the worst possible time (trying to sleep, etc.) 24 hours notice, even if it’s on the generous side, is just not enough for a bachelor to get things straightened up, especially if he doesn’t have another pair of hands helping him out.

But, all that said, I think I did a good job of cleaning up the worst of it, and I can see the floor, to boot! (kidding, I’ve always been able to see the floor, usually…) πŸ˜‰

Thanks for reading,
Brian

P.S.
Obligatory Recumbent Trike Reference

So, I got the faulty compression shorts out the door, and ordered a couple of new pairs to replace them, thanks to Cameron, at a steep discount. I now have them in my possession, and am wearing a pair now. They’re as comfortable as the ones that I had before, so that’s a nice nod toward consistency. The shorts are neither too tight, nor too loose, so I guess I chose the correct size for me (as opposed to some random guy down the road.)

I think I’ll pick up a few more pairs, when I have the money for it, and will use them when I’m out riding. The padded ones get too hot in all the wrong places, and while they’re slightly helpful, because of said padding, it’s getting warm outside. Suffice to say that when I get home after a long uphill ride, they can be a bit hard to remove. I’m starting to wonder if my skin reacts to spandex and turns it into a kind of glue…

I’ll also be trying out the pockets for the phone and keys/wallet, and see how those feel, when I get a chance.

But, for now, I have an apartment to clean. Yay me?

Obligatory Recumbent Trike Reference

If you don’t know what compression shorts are, they’re a type of shorts that are tight, and which are supposed to support the muscles in the legs and lower torso, in order to help with recovery after exercise. Anyhoo, I recently ordered a pair from a retailer on amazon, and got them, tried them on, and noticed a small tear in a bad spot… I’ll forgo the details. Suffice to say that a blowout (failure of the stitching) in that location would be a bit inconvenient, at least if I were to have been wearing the shorts without an over layer (I’m undecided on this one.) Anyhoo, I started a return request through Amazon, and one of the founders of that line of clothing contacted me directly, and helped to make sure that I was able to get the refund, and also offered a steep discount on two pairs of the shorts. He was very friendly, and helpful. I’m glad to see that these days; a lot of retailers just don’t get the idea of keeping your customers happy. Cameron went above and beyond for that, and I greatly appreciate his willingness to go the proverbial extra mile to make sure that the mistake was made right. Cameron, if you’re reading this, thank you again for some excellent and very responsive customer service πŸ™‚

If you’re a guy in the market for some good, comfortable compression shorts, I can suggest Compression Workout Shorts with Custom Phone Pocket The II Bro  (Men’s only, thus the name.) I am not affiliated with the brand or anything else, I just really enjoyed my interaction with their people, and I know that if anything does go wrong, they’ll bend over backward to help.

Thanks for reading, and here’s my usual mention of the Recumbent Trike. I’d really appreciate any help with getting it. My reasons are in another post, and on the GFM site. πŸ™‚

Brian

Taking a day off. 

So, Michele and I decided to make a day of it and went and tried to find some hex grid paper so that I could show her how to map out a world that she’s working on for something that she’s writing. We didn’t find the one that we wanted, because the gaming store that we finally ended up at only had 1 inch hex grid paper, we need something no bigger than .25 inch. I guess I’ll have to find a grid online, and print out a few copies to get her started on mapping. Once we discovered that we were not going to be able to get the required paper of the type that we wanted, we went ahead and decided to go eat something, I’ll spare you those details. Anyhoo, we’re back at home now, and she’s reading this as I type, because I am bossy like that πŸ˜‰

Look! No recumbent trike mentions… Until now.

Have fun all πŸ˜‰

So, I just got back from a moderately long (for me, at this time) ride. I didn’t do it to go to work, finally. I didn’t do it to get home from work, finally. I just decided to go out and see how the bike was on a ride for the fun/exercise. The ride went well, but the trip back, and especially the last part were all uphill, so I think I can say that that last bit was where most of the workout was done. Downhill is easy, it’s getting back up that counts. I took a route that I’ve never taken before, and saw a part of Portland–that in all the time that I’ve been here–I’ve never seen. It was interesting, reminded me of yuppieville, or whatever they call it these days. I think I may do this every Saturday, so that I can get the workout that I need, and also try to get outside while the weather is nice and enjoy it. I’ll probably alter the route a bit now and then to get a view of areas I haven’t yet seen. Should be interesting.

–It would also be easier to see from a recumbent trike πŸ˜‰