Support Jim’s Cancer Ride – Please

It’s that time of year again, when I invite you to support a Saab friend has he rides his bike to raise money for cancer research.

DSC_0387 (2)Right: Keeping calm and carrying on.

This is Jim’s 5th time riding the Pan-Mass Challenge and that’s significant. Not only is it his second year riding cancer-free, it’s the first time he’ll have more Pan-Mass challenges under his belt than cancer treatments.

Jim’s a four-time cancer survivor, which is why this chance for him to give back is so important. It’s become important to me to support a mate, too. Either Saabs United or Swadeology has raised money four of those five rides. The only one I missed was the one where I didn’t have an active website.

Jim’s participation in this event has been an unqualified success. He’s raised nearly $45,000 for the Dana Farber Cancer Center and over the course of the Pan Mass Challenge, the event has raised nearly half a billion-with-a-B dollars.

A cure for cancer is the ultimate goal, but Jim himself is proof positive that even without a cure, effective treatment extends and enriches the lives of thousands of patients and their families. If you’ve ever been touched by cancer in your family, then you know how important this cause is.

Cancer is an equal-opportunity asshole of a disease. It doesn’t discriminate. It can hurt anyone – rich, poor, young or old. But it CAN be fought. And anything that you can do to help will come back to you in one way or another. Believe me.

I’ve just kicked in my contribution for this year and I sincerely hope you do the same.

You can contribute to Jim’s ride by clicking on this link: Support Jim Coggs

Thanks so much.

DSC_0383

Tjena från Vejbystrand

Hi there. Long time, no write.

If you’re reading this, thanks for hanging around.

All is going well in Sweden. Yes, the job is absolutely fantastic. It’s everything I’ve ever wanted to do for work and it’s slowly expanding into areas I didn’t expect.

I expected to take photos, for example. I didn’t expect to take so many, nor for them to be so useful. This one’s now one of the slider photos on the Koenigsegg homepage.

DSC_2726

There are lots of other unexpected things, too. Content management. Website layout. And plenty more. It all involves a learning curve but not one so steep as to be a problem.

The bigger learning curve has been in navigating the Swedish bureaucracy.

Just getting here legally was a nail-biting experience in itself. As I’m an Australian (read non-Swede or non-European), I had to get a permit to work here, which took a lot longer than anyone thought. I planned my exit from work in Australia back in March. It was supposed to coincide with the Saab Festival, with the belief that I’d be able to start work at Koenigsegg the day after the Saab Festival finished. I was working on the assumption that the work permit would come in plenty of time, which it most certainly did not.

The advice I received from the Swedish Embassy in Canberra was that I shouldn’t enter Sweden while the decision on my work permit was still being made. On the Monday before the Saab Festival, there was still no decision. Impatient as I am, I booked my flight anyway, crossing all my fingers and toes that it would come before I left.

I had to write to the Swedish migration agency and let them know that I would be entering the country in three days time for the Saab Festival. I was advised that my visit would be OK, but if the decision on my work permit still hadn’t arrived by then, I would have to leave Sweden as soon as the Saab Festival was finished. I made arrangements to flee over the border if need be.

My first night’s accommodation at Swania in Trollhattan was booked for Thursday night. The work permit decision arrived Wednesday morning, which is about as close as you can get.

There have been other red-tape nightmares since then. All of them worked out OK, but it’s frustrating having to work through an unknown process at unknown agencies just to be able to do the simplest things.

Getting the card that goes with the work permit.

Clearing my extra suitcase through Swedish customs when it (finally) arrived via Emirates air freight.

(Here’s a tip for any Aussies coming to Sweden and flying economy with Qantas: one suitcase only. Qantas will charge you $80 per kilo for any extra luggage if you simply arrive at the airport and try to check it in. Lucky I checked this first. Even the cheap option set me back $300 but that’s much better than the $1600 Qantas would have slugged me.)

Getting the all-important Swedish personnumber.

Getting the Swedish ID card that should really be automatic when you get the personnumber, but isn’t. It involves an extra fee and a visit to a bigger Skatteverket office.

Getting a Swedish bank account (relies on the personnumber and if your a working foreigner, proof of your employment).

Getting the aforementioned Swedish ID card so that you can access internet banking. Yes, you need one to do the other.

Buying a car.

Yes, I bought a car and yes, it’s a Saab. I bought a 2003 Saab 9-5 SportCombi in Merlot with a black half-leather interior and 5-speed manual shift. It was previously owned by a former tech at ANA and has been well maintained as a result. I gave the boss a lift home last night and even he commented on how smooth and quiet it is.

I’m also living in a ‘Falun Red’ timber cottage with white trim windows. I look like a regular Svensson now 🙂

There are actually three little accommodation units in that building. Mine is the middle one. It’s tiny but that’s good for me right now. The last thing I need is to feel compelled to buy furniture and fill a place up with it. This little cottage in Vjebystrand Vejbystrand has most of the things I need – it’s cheap, it’s 5 minutes drive from work and about two minutes from this beach 🙂

IMG_0005

The 9-5 is actually intended to be my sensible winter car. I’m looking for affordable vehicle storage nearby and hope to store the 9-5, then pick up something less sensible to drive for the remainder of the summer.

The work?

It’s been a very interesting experience so far. It’s a bit like bringing up a kid in that there’s no instruction book. You think of things, you float ideas and you run with what seems best. There should be more strategy to this but I’m working on that. I think it’ll be my job to write that instruction book and I’m going to seek some expert help from friends along the way.

There have certainly been some exciting experiences so far.

I did my first trip for Koenigsegg before I’d even left my old job in Tasmania. I flew to Japan for an event at Suzuka Circuit, which was a jaw-dropping debut. I put a gallery of images in a previous post but here it is again:

Since then, we’ve done an unofficial record 0-300-0km/h run in the Koenigsegg One:1……

….. and I made it to England to cover Koenigsegg’s presence at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. Goodwood was astounding in its size and the access to mouthwatering vehicles that is given to spectators. It’s effectively replaced whatever old-style motor shows there were/are in the UK, too. It is massive.

We have more events and campaigns coming up, too. I’ll be abroad again in a few weeks and several times in the months to come after that, too. And there’s plenty to do when I’m here, not the least of which involves making some new friends, learning a new language and culture.

It’s all going OK so far. There are quiet times, which can get a bit lonely, but they’re more than offset by the work and the amazing things I’m seeing and learning.

I do hope to write here a bit more often now that things are getting settled. Being away from regular Australian news bulletins has given me a new perspective on what’s going on in my homeland and it’s distressing to say the least. But it won’t be all about that.

Thanks for reading. It’s been good to write something familiar again.

Have a great week.

Photographic Advice Wanted!

I’m moving into a new job soon and while the focus of that job will be writing, every decent story benefits from a few good pictures. Especially when the stories are about cars. I need to develop my photographic skills (pun intended!).

As I’ve read on nearly every single photobug website, the single biggest investment I can make is time and practice. It’s the eye behind the camera that has the biggest influence on the quality of the picture.

Nevertheless, I also want to invest some money in making sure I have the right gear to cover most situations. I’ve spent a lot of time on Ken Rockwell’s invaluable website and I think I’ve come up with a kit that’ll suit my needs. I thought I’d post my ideas here and lean on the expertise of readers who not only know their cameras, but also know their cars (because cars are mostly what I’ll be photographing).

My kit so far:

  • Nikon D750 full-frame (FX) digital SLR
  • Nikkor 50mm f1.8G lens
  • Nikkor AF-S 16-35mm 1:4G ED lens
  • Tamron 18-200 f3.8-5.6 lens
  • Nikon SB-700 Speedlight (flash)

The Tamron lens is the one that came with my old Nikon F60 film camera. It fits the D750 so I figured I may as well keep it, though it’s nowhere near as sharp as I’d imagine a good Nikkor lens of similar length would be.

The big question is what other lenses – or other equipment – should I invest in to make sure I’ve got as many bases covered as possible?

nikon lens family

I’m thinking mainly about lenses here. It’d be great to have two camera bodies. It saves a lot of time changing lenses. I’ve only got one camera body at the moment but it’s a new one and a good one. I can’t afford to spend money on another good full-frame body right now. My D750 will become a good second body one day, but that’s a few years down the track.

I’ve got a good wide-zoom lens in the 16-35mm and I’ve got an adequate 50mm prime lens (though I’d love to upgrade to the f1.4 if my budget allows).

The lenses I would like to add to my kit include a detailed below, along with the objective.

The Distance Dilemma.

I’d like to have some good tele-zoom capability, ideally up to 400mm. Given that a dedicated 400mm lens costs megabucks, I’m looking at a few options.

Option 1 – 70-200mm + teleconverter

Nikkor 70-200mm VR II AF-S G ED – Apparently a super-sharp zoom with good vibration reduction. Current cost is around $2,400 new or just under $2K second hand. There are other decent Nikon zooms out there but this one’s key because of the f2.8 speed and the desire to use a…..

Nikon TC-20E III (teleconverter) – Current cost is around $450 new. This teleconverter works without restriction on the 70-200mm lens. On some slower lenses, it doesn’t work so well. The teleconverter basically doubles the focal length of your lens (supposedly) without compromising your optics. That means my 70-200mm lens could be used as a 400mm lens, suitable for track photography.

Option 2 – 80-400mm

The 70-200mm + teleconverter is one option for getting decent 400mm performance. The other option is a Nikkor 80-400mm tele-zoom. I can pick up a refurbished one of these for about $1600 at the moment.

I tend to worry about lenses that have such a wide range. Are they going to be sharp all the way through?

The advantage for the 80-400mm is great 400mm performance with vibration reduction. The lower cost is handy, too. The disadvantage is slow auto-focus. A new AF-S model is out, but that’s around $1000 more.

The advantage for the 70-200mm + teleconverter option is great 400mm performance with vibration reduction, as well as having a super-duper 70-200mm lens for other work, when not using the teleconverter. It gives me much greater versatility with what I think would be greater quality, albeit at a higher cost.

The disadvantage is that the 70-200mm + teleconverter option will cost twice as much as the basic 80-400mm option.

The 70-200mm vs 80-400mm question is probably the biggest one I’m facing right now. Any advice or stories of previous experience would be much appreciated.

Macro

Nikon 200mm f/4D AF Micro – Around $2K new but I’ve found one second-hand for less than half of this amount. This is widely regarded as Nikon’s best Macro lens, which would be great for getting close-in on vehicle details. Nikon also sell a 105mm macro lens, which is probably the more popular option because it costs a bit less and will do the job for most people. The argument for the 200mm is that it’s long enough to let you get out of the way of your own lighting, which is important for macro. And as with cars, I tend to try and buy the best whenever I can, to save regrets later on.

UPDATE: I tried the 105mm macro today and I think it’ll do the job I need just fine. And it’ll likely save me some money. Good result.

The other….

The equipment above is my main consideration at the moment but if I can get it all for a decent price, I’d like to sneak in a Nikkor 50mm f1.4 lens. This is the super-sharp and super-fast upgrade from the f1.8 version I’ve got at the moment and I can get one for about $400 second-hand.

As you can tell, I don’t mind buying second-hand if I feel confident that the lens is good condition. You’ve got to treat these lenses with reasonable contempt to really damage them and a lot of people buy a specialty lens to use it just a few times before realising it’s not for them. Buying these lenses brand new just isn’t within my budget.

——

Over to you. If you’ve got any experience or advice, I’d love to hear it.

Winds of Change.

I had a small reminder today. A reminder that things are changing, moving on. I’m only 45 years old but the signs seem to come with increasing frequency now.

The first time I ever felt slightly ‘aged’ was near the end of 2007.

The one constant through my conscious lifetime has been Australian Rules Football. The end of 2007 saw the retirement of James Hird, Nathan Buckley and Kevin Sheedy from their respective roles in Australian football.

Sheedy had been the coach of one of Melbourne’s powerhouse teams for 27 years – since I was 10 years old. He was an elder statesman of the game and loomed large over the entire football landscape. Even if you hated his team, it was hard to think of Sheedy as anything other than a football father figure.

More pointed, however, were the retirements of Hird and Buckley. Their retirement as players stung because they were the last men close to my generation who played the game. The game I’d grown up with – the game I’d always felt young enough to play with my mates – was now being played wholly by young men a generation removed from my own.

That made me feel old.

I’m sure you’ve all seen this image somewhere on the web before:

age-test-cassette-tape-and-pencil

On a related subject…..

About 10 years ago I spent hours and hours building a wonderful cabinet for all my CD’s. It turned out really well, too.

Today, I think it’s been at least 4 years since I actually played a CD in a CD player. In fact, the only CD players we own now are a Playstation 4 inside the house (I assume it’d play a CD if I asked it) and a CD player in my Subaru Brumby. The last car stereo I bought didn’t even include a CD player. It’s purely a media player, finding its songs either from a USB drive or via Bluetooth.

I think the compact disc might just be the first significant technology to both emerge and become (almost completely) redundant within in my lifetime. Maybe the video cassette recorder took that honour first. It probably did.

So today…..

It was just a little thing, but it was just another sign that things have changed.

Today I had to write some notes as part of an audit I’m doing. Most of my audit notes are done directly into my workpapers, which are on my computer. Today I decided to draft some preliminary notes on paper. It’s not unusual to sketch things out on paper, but that’s usually just a few words with a lot of underlining/arrows and a bunch of doodles.

Today’s notes took a whole page.

What I learned at the end of that page was that 10+ years of writing on computers has completely ruined my ability to write in cursive script. The paper looked like a long prescription written by a 95 year old doctor. My ability to write with my own hand has been severely depleted and it’s largely down to the march of progress.

I can now type a lot quicker, with greater accuracy and much greater legibility than what I can write.

Football has moved on but I still enjoy the game immensely.

I find myself completely accustomed to digital music and I’ve even considered taking my CD’s to Cash Converters and breaking up the cabinet I built. It’s not much use for anything else.

But losing the ability to write in a presentable manner with my own hand feels like a genuine point of concern. I’ve never been a great practitioner of penmanship, but it feels like a basic skill that all people should try to hold on to.

If you’ve got any notable stories of time changing while you weren’t looking, feel free to share them in comments.

Let’s age (dis)gracefully together 🙂

Australia Will Be At Eurovision 2015!!!!!!!!!!!!

WTFOMGBBQ!!

It’s just been announced that Australia has been awarded a wildcard entry into Eurovision 2015!!!!

How did this happen, you ask?

WHO CARES!?!?

We’re going to Eurovision, baby!

Eurovision has grown in popularity every year here in Australia and we send a TV crew to Europe every year to cover the event. Last year, we were invited to provide a non-competitive performer for the contest. A little light entertainment. Jessica Mauboy took on that role and did well.

But now we’re actually in the contest itself. AND we get to vote!!!

All this begs the question – who will represent Australia at Eurovision?

Sadly, it seems that we don’t get a public vote on the matter. SBS Television are going to pick the artist themselves.

For what it’s worth, however, here are my nominations. You can figure out for yourself which ones are tongue in cheek and which ones are real (if any).

Douze points

Akka Dakka playing pretty much anything!!

Australia should get the CSIRO working on a way to reanimate Bon Scott so that he can strut the stage in Austria and bring the contest back to Festival Hall in Melbourne.

What would be better than a zombie Bon Scott singing If You Want Blood – or anything, really – at Eurovision?

Nothing. That’s what.

Dix points

Painters & Dockers – Nude School

From 1987. Pigs and nudity. It’d probably be more appropriate if Eurovision was being held in France, but Austria will have to do.

Huit points

Gotye – Somebody That I Used To Know

Gotye would make a decent representative, though he’d have to come up with something new – and quick. If he can do something that went this big, it’d be huge.

Sept points

Midnight Oil – Power & The Passion

OK, so the Oils might be a little too serious for something as fun as Eurovision, but Peter Garrett’s dancing would go down a treat for the theatrics.

Six points

Joe Dolce – Shaddap You Face

Maybe it’s time Australia gave something back to Europe? This actually went to #1 in 15 countries around the world. Believe it or not.

Cinq points

Kylie Minogue – Spinning Around

The singing budgie is an Australian icon. Even if we can’t get her to do a reunion gig with Jason Donovan, a Kylie solo gig should be enough to secure the win.

Quatre points

Paul Kelly – Every F’n City

It’s way too melancholy for Eurovision, but why not share every 20-something Aussie tourist’s recollection of their gap year in Europe?

Language warning…..

Trois points

Men At Work – Land Downunder

Re-releasing this for Eurovision would be an obvious choice if you’re after Australian kitsch, but I’ll let you in on a secret…… most Aussies are really, really sick of it. The exceptions are few – when you’re overseas and a little homesick, when you’re drunk at a party (also preferably overseas), or in celebration of an Australian win at some big international contest.

Eurovision would fit this list of exceptions perfectly.

Deux points

Olivia Newton-John – Physical

Admit it, you’d love to see this re-created. You just would.

Un point

Sia – Chandelier

The sensible choice for being current, for musical quality and theatrics. But who wants sensible?

With apologies to Cold Chisel, Farnesy, Guy Sebastian, Dennis Walter and a re-animated Peter Allen, the last of whom would simply be too big, even for a contest like Eurovision.

From Your Dog

Hey, food person! You’re awake!!

Let me reach up so we can sniff each other’s noses! You’re awesome. I love licking your face.

I’ve been up for a few hours. I’ve been waiting here by the door and watching people pass by the house. Sometimes they come past with other dogs, which I know are just dying to move in here. No way, Fido!

Yes, I’m going to watch you eat breakfast. My powers of concentration might be limited most of the day but you’re eating. Did you know Nikon learned about auto-focus by watching dogs around food?

Did you know that one in 6 begging efforts result in some sort of food down my throat? I’ve done the numbers.

Did you know that one in 14 instances of just hanging around the food area result in a morsel falling to the ground? And I love it when we have kids over. The odds increase like you wouldn’t believe!

BOWL!

YES!! Leftover milk is soooooo good.

I’m 1 for 1 for today already!

Why don’t you do this when we have guests? Actually, why don’t guests do this when we have guests?

Where are you going? It doesn’t matter. I’ll follow.

Go ahead. Check your email. I’ll just lay here by your leg. Or maybe over here. The beanbag’s looking good. No, I’ll stay here.

Actually, can you let me outside? Look, I’m standing by the door!! Awww c’mon! PLEASE!! It’s only email. It’s not like you’re saving the world, or getting food. Thanks so much. You’re awesome.

Hey, can you let me in! I know it’s only been, like, 5 seconds or so, but I just had to check that outside was still there.

It’s still there.

OK, so where are we going now? It’s OK. I’ll follow.

Oh, you’re going into that room! The small one with the white seat in it. It’s ok. Yes, I’m sad but I’ll just wait outside. I’m not 100% sure what goes on in there but the smell is familiar. I smell it when we’re in the car sometimes.

Which leads me to……

Why do you watch when I go poo? And why do you get that strange look on your face when I drop the first segment, turn around to sniff it and drop the second segment somewhere else? You act like it’s weird or something.

I think there’s a crumb in this piece of carpet. I’m going to lick it until I find it. My nose is awesome! This carpet is awesome!

Where are you going now? It’s OK. I’m coming.

Ah. Shower time. It’s weird how you guys have removable fur. A little cold, you say? Sure.

Go ahead. I’ll just wait here. And sniff.

Hey! You have a tissue in your pocket! I love tissues. They tear so easily – look! Rip, rip, rip! Tissues are awesome!

Here. Let me help you dry off – the old tongue towel! You do the upper bit. I’ll do the lower bit. I know – nothing above the knees. The water tastes good off your legs.

You’re awesome!

You go and pick out some new fur. I’ll just sniff stuff here in the bedroom. Don’t mind me.

Oh no. You’re putting your dark paws on. If we’re going for a walk, you always wear the light paws. The dark ones mean you’re going away for HOURS! You know about dog years, right? Hours in your time are like days for me!! How could you do this??

Oh, and now you’re going to bribe me to go outside with puppy breakfast. If I go out, you’ll leave, won’t you? You’ve done this before.

Must. Not. Go. Out. To. Food.

But it’s food!! I can’t not have food if it’s available!!

You’re awesome!

….

Where is food person?

Oh. There’s the car. You left the house while I was eating, didn’t you?

Again.

It’s OK. I know you have to go so you can work to buy me food. I’ll just watch you leave from this gate. Yes, these are my sad eyes. Yes, my head is tilting. I’m not putting this on. I really am sad. You and Mum and the kids are the only people I know. You’re my pack. When my pack goes, I’m on my own. I don’t like it on my own.

I guess I’ll just lay here on this concrete step. Lucky I have my paws for a pillow.

The sun spot should be here soon……

Here it comes……

Zzzzzzzzzzz

Charli

Happy New Year 2015!

2014 was a crap year. I’m glad to see the back of it!

Ebola, Islamic State and other branches of fundamentalist terrorism, lost airplanes, Russia and Ukraine, right-wing extremist parties in Europe, conservative governments here at home. All of them – especially the conservatives here at home – have conspired to provide me with a fair bout of depression in the latter half of this year.

koenigswade2014, for me, has been a year best defined by personal paralysis, which is a very unpleasant way to live. I’m sick of it. 2015 is the year I hope to start changing it.

The main things I’d like to change in 2015:

1. My job. The last 4 months have been hell; a textbook example of deplorable change management. I was sick of my job 4 or 5 years ago. Now it’s got me quite depressed. Life has been depressing for the last 4 months because work has been depressing. Life shouldn’t be this way. I don’t know if I can transition into something I like straight away but I’ve put out some feelers. I may have to tough it out for another year in my current job while I work up some qualifications. Whatever it takes, I’ll do it.

DSC_05782. Our location. As blessed as we are to live in the place that we do, it’s time for a change to a house that better suits our interests in a location that allows more quality time with people and organisations that are important to us. By this time next year I hope we’re either somewhere else in Tasmania that better suits our needs, or living in Melbourne.

Those are some pretty big changes but they have to happen. As a result, things that get in the way of them may have to be set aside.

I may or may not write here so much, for example. I’d like to transition into something that involves writing full-time, but the need to study might overtake the need to practice the craft on this site.

I might also have to sell the Fulvia, which is truly heartbreaking. I got some estimates on fixing the bodywork just before Christmas and let’s just say they weren’t encouraging. I’m still sussing it out, but I’ve set aside $20K for the restoration and if I’m not completely confident that I can get it done for that amount, then it might have to go. Needs must. If we’re going to move to another city then we’ll need every cent.

——

It wasn’t all depressing. 2014 had some positives, too.

I got to spend some great times with my family in Melbourne, which was wonderful. I have two great-nephews and a great-niece there now and it’s been great to see them growing up a little more. I had some superb times catching up with friends back at home, too.

Our Salamanca market stall has done well, especially over the Christmas period. We got a new little neighbour at the market when our adult neighbours had a new baby girl. “Cuddles with Olive” and chats with her parents are one of the highlights of our week.

NEVS declared bankruptcy, paving the way for Mahindra to take majority ownership in a deal that should be announced this week, if it’s going to happen at all. If it doesn’t happen, Saab will cease to exist as a carmaker all together. Both scenarios are a net positive IMHO.

I built what turned out to be a fantastic guitar!

I’ve been the beneficiary of some truly awesome mateship from a bunch of gents known to each other as The Guild. Pete, Turbin, Dr Roman Candle and Gav – you don’t know how much you’ve helped me get through the day sometimes. Thanks a bunch.

cropped-DSC_47391.jpgOn the car front: I owned a Porsche for much of the year, bought a Fulvia that I’ve enjoyed dismantling (even if I don’t get to finish it) and I’m super-optimistic about the Alfa Romeo Sprint I’ve just brought home. Classics By The Beach has been great fun this year, too.

——

So goodbye to 2014. You will not be remembered for good reasons. Your highlights were mostly lowlights and I’m glad to consign you to history.

Huzzah!

——

Whatever course your year has taken, I hope 2015 is even better. Thanks for keeping the meter ticking over here. I hope it was interesting for you. Your visits, your comments and your friendship really are appreciated.

Stay safe and be nice to each other, OK?

It’s Getting So Ugly I Can Hardly Breathe

I had a big long rant planned about Rupert Murdoch and the ugliness he peddles wherever he casts his gaze.

Sadly, the news out of Pakistan tonight has me feeling completely and utterly defeated…. for the moment. Personally speaking, it’s fair to say that 2014 has been a pretty shit year and 2015 only holds the tiniest glimmer of hope for getting better. Every time you try to pick yourself up there seems to be another idiot with an agenda just itching to bring you back down again.

So I’ll leave my long rant alone. Here’s a short one instead.

Yesterday, in the midst of the siege in Sydney, Rupert’s masochistic chip-wrapper The Daily Telegraph rushed out their PM edition with this wraparound:

Telegraph

Sydney is the city of ‘shock-jocks’ in Australia and the Tele seems intent on being the print version of the same. At the very moment when cool heads were required – when lives were still on the line and nerves were at their edgiest – there’s the Tele trying to whip up a frenzy. Turds.

Then……

Just when you think News Limited has already jumped the shark, up comes Rupert Murdoch himself with a tweet posted live from the bowels of hell:

Rupert

Yes, in the aftermath of a lone-wolf hostage attack resulting in two innocent people dying, Rupert’s first public utterance is to congratulate his mini-me psychopathic birdcage liner for being the only one to capture the action live.

(and…. they weren’t the only ones reporting live, but why let the facts get in the way of a shit story?)

——

I’m a news junkie. I love writing and I’d love to write for a living one day.

Being a writer means you have to read, though. With crap like this going around, it’s getting harder and harder to do.

Be decent. Be decent to yourselves and decent to one another. Please.

Prejudice – Part 2

by turbin

Follows on from Prejudice Part 1.

Well the ruse worked for about 5 minutes. Yes maybe I had some people thinking about SAAB, and why not? It could just have easily been the case, as it has been for many.

Recently I have questioned my prejudices much more robustly and taken more time to understand why I might feel a certain way. It also helps me understand where others might be coming from.

Why it wasn’t about SAAB is only because I have purchased two post-2003 SAABs, one a 06 9-3 SportCombi shortly after they came out and later a 08 Combi which we still have and love. As a matter of fact, the other day I was almost home when I saw one at a roundabout and thought, “Wow! That’s a cool looking Combi!” and realised it was Mrs Turbin returning home from work.

SO, it wasn’t SAAB I was writing about. It wasn’t even a brand of car or anything car related except for the setting where I have enjoyed this new product has been exclusively while driving.

It is Queens of The Stone Age aka QOTSAs fourth album “Lullabies to Paralyze”.

Now I’m not about to try to sell that band to anyone or explain the reasons I am so into them at risk of boring you. I do not know anyone, friend, foe or family who likes this band even remotely as much as I do. It’s personal, just like SAAB is for those who love the brand.

What’s important is that after buying their 2002 album which really broke through in 2003, I also saw them live both times they were in Australia. As much as anything I loved what their bass-player and sometime vocalist bought to the band in quirkiness, edginess and the rest. He was booted out after the Australian tour and I, like many, thought that was the end. I, also like many, saw the guitarist and sometime vocalist as the demon that ruined something good and decided that I wasn’t going to buy into what came next.

SO, while I’m a person who had no qualms spending large on a couple of those post 03 SAABs I wasn’t prepared to take a chance on spending $20 on an album or two that I might prove to hate or possibly, just possibly, even really love.

Recently while on a Swadesque journey through the albums of Led Zeppelin, I went to buy the next installment, “Houses of the Holy”. It wasn’t at the shop so I finally thought, “Why not take that chance?”, and finally bought the next 2005 QOTSA album, almost 10 years after release. To be honest it wasn’t completely spur of the moment as I had worked my way backwards through the QOTSA catalogue and came to realise that the “demon”, Josh Homme, was actually the founder of the band and had everything to do with their sound as much as his sometime partner in crime, Dave Grohl, is core to Foo Fighters and their sound.

Guess what? I came to love it really quick. Any album that has Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top guesting on a track supplying “guitar lead, vocals” where Jack Black is also credited with “marching” might just have something going for it.

I then got thinking why I let prejudice get in the road all these years. I also came to see there was this strange-but-true parallel with SAAB and thus we get to this point.

My question then is:

Have you, readers of Swadeology, ever come to a point where you’ve finally given up judging something and thought “What was I thinking to have not done this before? I’ve been missing out!”??

Building Your Own Guitar – Overview

During September and October 2014 I attended a three-week intensive course to build my own acoustic guitar. As people will quite possibly be directed to this website to gain an understanding of the process, I thought I’d cap the experience off with this overview.

Click here to go to the Guitar section of this website, which starts with this overview and then goes on the show each section of the build.

The course was run by the Australian Guitar Making School (AGMS). AGMS was founded in New South Wales and runs schools in several locations that operate on what I’ll call a casual basis. Attendees turn up once (or perhaps more) per week and pay for a session where a luthier helps them to progress their build. Building a guitar this way typically takes eight or nine months.

The course I attended was a three-week intensive course, where you complete your guitar from start to finish within those three weeks. Attendance was six days a week for the first two weeks and the course finished on Friday of the third week.

This intensive course is run once a year in Tasmania and there are plans afoot for other AGMS schools in Australia to run similar intensive courses. The thoughts written below are specific to the intensive course. I have no experience with the ‘casual’ long term build.

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IMPORTANT
Some people might be inclined to question why I documented the process and why I’ve offered use of the content to AGMS.

Let me say straight up that I have received no financial or other incentive. I paid full price for my course and intend to pay full price should I do the course again (which I plan to do in 2016). I documented the build simply as a record. I knew it’d be fun for me to look back on it and figured it might be useful for others, too.

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The following are some objective facts and subjective thoughts on the course that might be useful for anyone contemplating doing it:

Cost

My three week intensive course cost $2,800 plus $350 for the timber that I used and $140 for the Schaller tuners. There were less expensive options in terms of timber, but I wanted to use tiger myrtle because I understood it would have good sonic qualities, because it’s now in limited supply and because I liked the look of the timber. 3 out of the 4 other participants doing the course with me also chose tiger myrtle. I chose the Schaller tuners from a wide variety of options available at StewMac (luthier supplier based in the US).

This cost is not insignificant and I think your perception of value will depend on a number of factors:

  • Quality of instrument
  • Value of education
  • Value of experience

Note: As mentioned above, the basic cost of my course was $2800. The 2015 course has already had its price raised to $3,700 but this includes all materials, including a case!

Quality of Instrument

The sound quality of your instrument will primarily depend on two things – the grade and species of timber you use and your construction method.

I’d be happy to compare my guitar with anything you can buy from a music store, right up to your $6,000-and-above Martins, etc. All the timbers used were top grade and the construction methods could not be more contemporary, fundamentally sound or stringent.

What’s more, you’ll know exactly what’s gone into crafting every element of your instrument because you did it yourself.

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Value of Education

Do you want to learn how to make a musical instrument? Do you want to learn quality woodworking by learning to use the most basic and fundamental hand tools?

If you do, this course will give you that. I’ve made a couple of timber pieces for our home but they are very, very basic in construction and I used power tools at every opportunity. We used power tools during this build, too – a router, drill press, band saw, dremel and cordless drill. BUT, I would estimate that in three weeks we spent maybe 3 hours in total using power tools and 60% of that would have been the band saw.

We also used an electric heating iron for bending timber but I’m inclined to count that more as a learned skill than a convenience.

The rest of the course involved the extensive use of various chisels and planes as we took what were essentially six pieces of wood and transformed them into a beautiful musical instrument.

As mentioned earlier, I’ve only made a few basic items from wood up until now. I’m going to use the skills that I learned during this course on an ongoing basis. I found this kind of ‘work’ to be extremely satisfying. It gave me a totally new appreciation for craftsmanship and what can be achieved with a little skill and a lot of patience.

If you value an education like that, then this course is for you.

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Value of Experience

You get a great instrument. You get an eye-opening education.

You also get the satisfaction of creating your own musical instrument in a very positive environment with great people around you. Of course, there are no guarantees you’ll always have great people doing it, but the type of person who chooses to do something like this is likely going to have more in common with you than not.

The other wonderful benefit of this experience is the confidence you’ll gain in your own ability. You really can complete this course successfully with NO previous experience. You’ll be amazed at what you’ll learn about yourself. You’ll be amazed at what you can do with the right instruction.

For my money, $3K plus change is a very fair price for all of that.

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What You’ll Be Doing

Easy answer – building a guitar. Right?

Longer answer – you’ll be building a guitar from scratch using mostly hand tools and expert tuition along the way. This is what we started with….

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What you see in that photo is the top (spruce), back and sides (tiger myrtle) as well as the neck (mahogany) and fingerboard of the guitar. Plus the tuners in the box. We also used a few strips of King Billy Pine used for the bracing, and some leatherwood used for kerfing. The parts that you can’t see there are the bridge, bridge pins, nut, saddle and fretwire. All of those are supplied.

During the course you take the raw materials shown in the photo above and you cut, plane, chisel, bend, glue, clamp and sand them until you end up with something beautiful, like this:

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You’ll learn how to use a bunch of tools you’re probably unfamiliar with and you’ll be amazed at what you can do with those tools when you have the right instruction and a little bit of patience.

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Things to be aware of….

More costs

I’ve mentioned the initial cost, but be prepared to spend more. I’ve recently had to buy a case for my guitar ($280) and a groovy little clip-on tuner ($35). I’m also going to pay a specialist to complete the setup of my guitar, which I’m expecting to cost at least another $150.

I didn’t do it, but a couple of the guys in our course bought pickups for their guitars. And if you’re going to do that, you might want to buy an amplifier.

The escalation of costs and the addition of new gadgetry is something every musician will understand 🙂

Go Hard Early

I’d encourage you work as diligently as you can in the first few weeks because I can guarantee that you’ll find plenty of details to touch up at the end. Best allow plenty of time at the end by working hard at the beginning.

Exhaustion

Yes, you CAN build a guitar from scratch in three weeks. It’ll cost you more than money, though. Be prepared to be thoroughly focused the whole time and completely exhausted by the end of the course.

The Waiting

I don’t know if it would be practical or financially viable, but it’d be helpful if there was more duplication of some tools in the workshop. The workshop we used generally had two of each important tool for use. Sometimes three, but generally two.

When there are five (and sometimes seven) of you working on building instruments, you need access to tools. Most of the time we were all at slightly different stages and access to the right tool was OK. But if there were three working on a similar stage of the build, it sometimes meant waiting around for a tool you could use to do the job.

The other side of The Waiting is the fact that there will be times when you’ll not really know what you’re doing. Or better put, you won’t know if you’re doing it right and you’ll be worried about doing it wrong. At those times, you’ll probably have to wait a little bit for assistance. Even with an excellent teacher-student ratio of 1:5, there’s some waiting that has to be done.

Conclusion

This is a unique experience. Our teacher, Strato, was superb. I asked him to sign the inside of my instrument and he questioned this, saying “but you’re the one who made it”. My response – “I might be the one who made it, but you’re the one who made it good”.

I can’t recommend this course or this experience highly enough. If it’s something that you’ve been contemplating then my advice is to pull the trigger and go for it. You’ll be so glad you did. The satisfaction of building something so beautiful and so functional is immense.

Perhaps the best recommendation is that the 2015 3-week intensive Tasmanian class – which is only held once a year – is already sold out. Most of the places for 2016 are taken, too.