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Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


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   two guitar effects and a knee-jerk socialist impulse
Sunday, February 20 2022

location: rural Hurley Township, Ulster County, NY

Gretchen and I did our usual Saturday morning routine this morning despite it being a Sunday. This time, though, we didn't put the Spelling Bee letters on a whiteboard but instead solved it separately on our respective devices (hers was an Android phone and mine was a Chromebook). She worked faster than I did, but I eventually caught up, and I even found a third panagram she'd missed (though it was of dubious quality, being the word "tailback," which is some sort of football term but which I'd found via brute-forcing various promising compound word combinations).
Later, in the mid-afternoon, I drove to Herzogs to get some supplies and then went to the 1L apartment at the Downs Street "brick mansion" rental. The tenant had complained about a problem I'd been concerned about after we first bought that house: the floorboards cracking and producing long, treacherous slivers. It was hard to know what the perfect solution for that problem was. Glues and epoxy fillers might hold for a time, but what was really needed was some sort of moderately-adhesive material to fill all around these splinters like grout to lock them in place. I even considered mixing grout and working it under the splinters and into the gaps, but there was a better solution available: molten plastic from a glue gun. Though such plastics aren't especially adhesive, they have the advantage of not shrinking much as they cure, and in this way they're more like epoxy or Portland cement. But a further advantage of hot glue is that it can be injected through narrow apertures to fill mostly-inaccessible voids, such as the kind that occur under and along the side of floor boards. One final advantage is that hot glue cures to a flexible material that is unlikely to crack. If I could get it under and beside the floor board splinters, I might be able to stabilize them. I found that this worked even better than expected, with the only minor problem being difficulty scraping off the excess to leave a smooth surface. But that hardly mattered; the surface I was producing looked good, had additional traction, and lacked any treacherous splinters. I also mixed up a little epoxy "wood" to fill into a couple larger voids, partly as a control to see how both types of fixes wear over time.
Satisfied with that seeming landlording success, I got myself a road beer (a 19-ounce "Anti-Hero IPA," which isn't very good) and then visited the Tibetan Center thrift store. That Roomba floor-mopping robot was still there, which vaguely surprised me. But in addition to that were a couple incredible finds: two vintage guitar pedals: a Small Stone Phase Shifter that looked to have been made in the late 1960s or early 1970s (and made in New York City) and a Dan-Echo delay pedal with a "patent pending" from 1996. [When tested the next day, both worked great.] On eBay, that phase shifter is selling for anywhere between $200 and $500, and yet it was unpriced, so the woman working the cashier thought it was a piece of unglamorous electronic junk and priced it (and the other pedal) at $2. She then charged me $2 each for four brass kids' cymbals, which seemed a little steep. But, come on, freeing Tibet is a good cause! I told her she could keep the three cents of pocket change our all-cash transaction produced.
I should mention that I used to have three guitar pedals (a chorus pedal, an "LA Metal" distortion pedal, and a delay pedal) between the early 1990s and 2001, when all of them were lost in the mail while being shipped from Los Angeles to Brooklyn. I later tried to affordably replace them with a couple different kitchen-sink digital effects, but such devices are too complex to work with when one just wants to achieve some particular sound. Maybe now that I have a couple discrete guitar effects, I'll go back to experimenting with music again. A phaser pedal in particular was something I remember wanting, and they always seemed to be well outside my budget (which was admittedly very low the last time I even thought about phaser pedals).

This evening Gretchen and I met Jeff and Alana at the Garden Café, it being the first time I dined in their dining room in nearly two years (the last time I'd done that was March 14th, 2020). The restaurant was fairly crowded tonight, and I would've been very uncomfortable to be that close to so many strangers only a couple weeks ago. We sat at a table for awhile waiting for Jeff and Alana, but then it turned out that they were just behind a divider and Gretchen had somehow missed them. So we joined their table. I ordered a bowl of the chick pea soup and the eggplant linguine along with a glass of the Montepulciano red wine. I hadn't seen them since a party at their house this summer, so we had some catching up to do. Jeff's mother recently died, and he's been dealing with that and remaining otherwise unemployed, while Alana has a new job working for the Woodstock Film Festival. At some point Gretchen got to talking about rental prices in Kingston, saying she didn't want to jack the prices on our rental units, that doing so would be "gross" and she didn't want to be a capitalist pig. To me this read as cringe-inducing leftie virtue-signaling. After all, our rental properties are a business we run, and we're in it specifically to earn money. What she was saying wasn't all that different from advocating the selling of a house for less than its market value just to "not be a capitalist pig," and I know Gretchen would never do such a thing. I objected vehemently to this sentiment, saying we should certainly charge whatever the market says we can, a view that definitely seemed to disappoint (and even shock) Gretchen.
Later, on the drive home, I further explained my thinking on this. If we rent out a house to someone for less than the market value, we're running a charity, and it's a charity with just one or more of our tenants as beneficiaries. Surely we could find better uses for our charity-giving dollar than that, especially when the tenant is just some random person. Then Gretchen brought up the several tenants with features she likes (paramount among these being "they're vegan"). I said that under some conditions to have a good tenant who doesn't cause trouble and stays in the unit for a long time is worth "hundreds of dollars a year" and giving them a break can be justified. But ultimately, I said, "it's just a business." By that point Gretchen seemed to better understand where I was coming from. Perhaps I'd even caused her to question one of her many knee-jerk socialist impulses.

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