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Squeezebox, and Squeezebox Repair

4 Aug

ImageI’m now the proud owner of a used 20-key Silvagni concertina. It’s perfect and shiny and red and has tiny red stars on white paper inside the accordion folds.

Granted, it is possible that my enthusiasm allows flexibility in my judgment of perfection. The concertina, which I will perhaps call Sparky, but that hasn’t been settled yet, came with a few idiosyncrasies.

For example, a few buttons were a zealous about their pressed-in positions, such that they preferred to stay slightly under the level of the box.

In addition, a person playing might be amused by the idea of hidden treasure inside the box-end, under the torn fabric. However, any annoyance that one might experience from the rattling could be compensated for, if one only played more enthusiastically.

The most whimsical of its non-standard features was a rotation across the body of the concertina, with one keyboard 60 degrees out of sync with the other.

Being new to box squeezing, I didn’t do more than coo over these adorabilities when I bought it. My husband didn’t point out any of those things more than twice.

When I started to practice, however, it occurred to me that the concertina, which might also become known as Bunnicornia, wasn’t necessarily comfortable when its buttons jammed open. Especially when I would then dig into the buttons with any slim tool that came to hand. In fact, while jabbing at a key with a sharp knife, I realized that nobody was ever going to recognize “The Erie Canal” if I kept having to stop whenever I used the left-hand-draw-D.

(Did you see what I did there? I made up a little bit of descriptive notation. ‘Cause I don’t actually know what anything is called.)

So I used the incredible resource of And I found out that there’s something called a button-sleeve, and there were pictures of someone’s dismantled concertina.Image

There were two kinds of commentary: the kind that said “Don’t try to fix,” and the kind that says, “what, can’t you handle an Allen wrench?”

I thought to myself, “I have Allen wrenches.” So here’s what I did.

I started by taking out the pins, using little beading pliers. The whole rattly end lifted right off.

Inside that end, there were only two little screws—slot head. Not a hex head in sight. Once I took those out, I could see what was going on. The button-sleeves had crystalizedImage and cracked and rotted away. Fragments of brown ickies were the rattlers, and took only a moment to clean up.

I took all the buttons off, and brought two of them with me. At my neighborhood Ace Hardware store, I picked up a foot of “Lg Fuel Line” and a foot of “Med Fuel Line.” Turns out, I bought WAY too much—but at least it was less than $4.

At home, I worked out a system. I stuck the end of the Lg Fuel Line on the end of a button-thingie, and cut off the excess with a wire cutter.Image I pushed it to sit against the button, and then could just barely get it onto the lever.Image

Then I ran into another problem: getting them in just the right place is kind of a pain. With just one button on the rack of keys, I fit it back into the case. I fit one more, and then the next, with a great deal of trial and error. And then I remembered: I own Sharpies.Image

With the board in place in the box, I marked the middle of the parts of the levers I could see. Now, I knew just where to put the buttons! I felt a great sense of accomplishment when all 10 keys of the first side fit into place again—which made me really notice the ratty, torn-up fabric that covered the holes.

I just happened to have some brass screening lying around, left over from a hat project. Like you do. But I was concerned it might rattle or buzz in resonant harmony with the notes being blown. So I used a gel-type glue to hold the screen in place, so that hopefully there aren’t any lengths of free metal that would rattle badly.


And, now that I have the power of opening the concertina, I could always tear it out if it didn’t work.

So I cut the screen to roughly fit, and then glued it (with Fabri-Tac), but it didn’t want to lie down flat. So, Sharpie to the rescue! I used some Blue Clamp-on-a-Roll to hold it in place while it cured.

I repeated on the other side – where, much to my surprise, the button sleeves had been replaced much more recently. All 11 keys on this side were much easier to strip and replace the sleeves. The Sharpie trick of marking the button placement worked even better when I used it from the beginning.

ImageAnd so, with the magic of Internets, it’s all done (3+ hours later.) Remember that quirk about being skewed by 60 degrees? Totally fixed. Also, totally easy to replace the pins.

Oh, pretty Sweethonker*! I’m so looking forward to learning to actually play more than unidirectional, halting scales!

*another potential name for the best little concertina I’ve ever had.


Optimism is my favorite flavor.

9 Mar

I’m a big believer in change. I’m usually optimistic enough to enjoy it, too. I plan for it, look forward to it, and want to know what’s coming when the page turns and the new day dawns.

More importantly, I know to the bottom of my bottom that when things aren’t right, the answer is change. Even when that change is truly difficult.*

I’m also creative. I live to come up with elegant, lithe, new solutions that delight the senses or fix a problem. I also prefer they be efficient, fast, and cheap. I’m demanding, and my skills are building to the point where if I can’t make the solution I want, I can probably find somebody who I might be able to talk into it. At least, that’s what I think when I’m optimistic.

Without the optimism, there’s not a heck of a lot of new creativity. I know I can boost my hopefulness level by making things – anything, really, as long as I’m actively being creative. But the sweet making-space of creativity comes when my hopefulness tanks are topped off and I’m raring to go.

So the important flipside realization is this: Change minus Optimism equals Destruction. When the answer is change, but I’m full of frustration instead of hope – that’s when things go south. If I can’t make it better, at least I can change it–by smashing it, if necessary. Nuking from orbit. Macerating to a pulp. Grinding into oblivion. Deleting whole paragraphs. Tossing the prototype into the garbage. Setting on fire. Telling the leadership exactly what I think of their ideas.

So that’s what I learned about myself today. I’m hopeful I’ll remember this little insight the next time I want to storm into someone’s office and tell them exactly what I think is wrong with their project.



* Duh, right? Wrong. Remember the last time you found out by surprise that things you thought weren’t bad, actually were horrible? Like when your kid was found doing drugs, and you thought everything was OK, but now it isn’t, and you need to rearrange the whole family’s schedules so that someone is at home every afternoon. Or maybe like how US citizens felt when their overseas “liberating force” was determined to be covering up cruel human rights abuses in their own military prisons. Very tough for them to get behind making a change, even though it was obvious that change needed to happen. Got it now?

Onward to 2012.

30 Dec

I’m kind of fanatical about using my time well. Not because I think I’m about to die, but because right now I’m reasonably healthy and capable, so I might as well make hay while the sun shines.

So I participate in this meme to remind myself, at the end of the year, what I remember of what I did.

In 2011:
Continue reading

Kill the #OCCUPIED Loopholes: My Proposed Amendment

20 Nov

Torrey’s Amendment 28 (proposed): That person’s rights, as protected by the Constitution of the United States, do not extend to corporations or other private entities.

The actual language in Ted Deutch’s proposal writes in so many loopholes that things will actually get worse. It’s revolting. No, worse than that. It’s the fodder for revolution.

Thank you, #OccupySeattle. Commuters, read on:

18 Nov

PSA: I have no sympathy for your inconvenience.

Corporations systematically work to deny you your voice in our democracy, and you’re complacent. Put a protest in your commute home, and “it’s so unfair.”

Think it won’t work? The protesters are wasting their time and taxpayer money?
Remember this next time you’re quoting “I have a dream”: MLK and Gandhi – and the thousands who marched with them – were damned inconvenient in the towns, regions, and countries in which they lived. Both were met with violence, and thousands of people said “they were asking for it.” Each of them led peaceful revolutions that millions have benefitted from, and at much higher cost than your damned inconvenience.

FWIW, I changed my route home yesterday. Yes, it was inconvenient.

I’m not mad. I’m grateful.

5 #NaNoWriMo Wordcount Strategies

31 Oct

Here we are, the day before NaNoWriMo. Anyone else have itchy fingers? I want to write, want to outline, but I’m never sure where to start-without-starting.

So here’s my top 5 wordcount-padding strategies.

  1. Avoid hyphenation. Some word processing programs process these as one word instead of two or more. See the “start-without-starting,” above: Microsoft Word counts this as one word, not three. If this were November, and a novel, I’d have just cheated myself out of 2/3 of that wordcount!
  2. Avoid names such as Mike, Jane, Aloicious, Marmaduke. Not just because they are boring (in the case of the first two) and difficult to type (third), and reminiscent of Great Danes (fourth.) Avoid these names because they only add one word to your count. Why use Jane, when you could have Carrie Ann? Why Aloicious when Hunter Dowley is always referred to by both names?

    In addition, you might consider using characters’ titles. Take care, however: The Inestimable Charlene MacCaden, for example, might be ridiculous in the context of her present-day urban setting. In contrast, Mrs. G. Campbell has been known even to her mother as Mrs. G. Campbell ever since her wedding day, in Macon, Georgia, in 1934.

  3. Setting is an opportunity to let the words run wild. If you’ve beaten every bush, intimately describing each leaf, you’re still doing fine. You might not have a novel, but you’ll still have won if you end up with 50,000 words of setting at the end of the month – and I bet you’re better at capturing detail, using metaphor and allegory, and creating a coherent universe than you were in October. True fact: I once spent roughly 2,000 words having two characters cross a lobby. Seriously.

    In editing, much like what can happen with setting, you can pare dialogue down to the words that move the story along. Only in November – and similar zero-draft states – can you allow your characters to discuss any old thing they have on their minds.

  4. If you are a planner, you have an outline or notecards or some other means of milestoning your path through the novel, and each piece of dialogue already has a purpose. Great – but if they are having a hard time getting to the point, use the time – and the words! – to explore their own voices. Let them say it wrong, and then take it back. Let them get confused and start over again. That happens all the time in “real world” conversations, and there’s no reason your characters are any better conversers than you are.
  5. Don’t stop writing. This is a “duh,” but it’s also the real truth of the NaNoWriMo experience. Here are some solutions:
    1. Can’t get a chapter to come to a graceful conclusion? Write “And then the author said, ‘On to the next chapter!'” Start the new chapter.
    2. Boring novel? Nobody expects an earthquake. Nor do they expect a tax audit.
    3. Want to be writing something different? That’s the stuff dream-sequences are made of.
    4. Stuck yourself with a solution that doesn’t work? Write what should have happened in chapter 5, with the heading of, “Here’s what should have happened in chapter 5.”

If you’re noveling this month, whether it’s your first-ever, your once-a-year, or your daily job, I send my best wishes for your savory, juicy, sweet, delicate, precise, and/or savage prose.

Did I neglect to mention long lists of adjectives?

He was the international man of…

28 Oct

As I gear up for NaNoWriMo, I’m dashing off little pieces-parts of stories or characters. Just for fun. Just for warm-up. Just ’cause I can’t start on the NaNo until Tuesday.


He was the international man of… knitting.

His fellow bus-riders knew him as that affable, though quiet guy; one day he looked upset, hunched over, and was asked quietly, sotto voce, ignorable-if-ignored, “you OK?” He looked up, startled, to reveal a particularly tricky bit of casting-on: fingertips of a glove, knit simultaneously from multiple strands of superwash sock yarn.

What they couldn’t tell from looking at his broad shoulders and just-graying hair was that his mind was just as sharp, flexible, and useful as his darning needle. But he interviewed well. His lack of words (when he had none) was generally taken as a sign of far greater intelligence and insight than he actually possessed.

Mostly, he listened.

He listened to his wife – of course he had a wife, whatever gender his wife happened to be – as he was told the state of the bank account, the state of the children, the state of politics these days, and the state of his mind. He listened to his boss, when his boss deigned to talk, and listened to the promises of doctors and pundits and lawyers. He listened to his favorite music when it happened to come on the radio, and listened to the irregular beat of the drummer of his neighbor’s son’s metal band, thankfully muffled by the insulated garage the community covenants and restrictions committee required – to whom he also listened.

If everyone has a superpower, his was not knitting, though that is what 10 out of 11 speakers at his funeral discussed at length. His superpower was remembering.

It is for what our hero, the knitter, was best, that he was killed. It was for this that he had to be erased.

So when I say, ladies and gentlemen, that better men and better women have come before you, have killed and been killed in this service, also know that there were worse, less intelligent, one-trick ponies of souls who have accomplished more destruction than you ever dreamed. You are average – you are each of them. You are the middle. And as we say (here, I point to the letters painted on the wall, retouched every year) The Middle is the Middle. Without you, the edges have nothing. They fall apart without us.

The bell rings, and the sea of average faces attend to their notes, their books, their baggage. They don’t really need to take notes in my class – I just let them keep that fiction, rather than make a big deal about the usefulness of an active brain. No, that’s not for this branch of the service, the Middle ones. That’s for classes on floor 82 of the Excelsior building.


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Vacation ends, business begins, metaphors endure.

1 Oct

Hey, have you noticed how I blog more, when I have more time? Huh.

This week off was a GREAT idea, whatever the unknown, unseen consequences-to-be might be. I’ve walked on the beach, walked along Lake Washington, napped on two different afternoons, worked on writerly things (if not the actual writing, for which I am working on not beating myself up.) An incredibly disorganized closet has been cleaned out, and the craft parlor cleaned up. I’ve had a huge amount of time with my wonderful husband, and I think I’ve caught up on sleep. Mostly.

At the same time, the knife business has been pushed through some important prenatal growth spurts. Yesterday and Thursday were full of planning. Progress so far:

  • business plan drafted
  • pro-forma financial spreadsheets drafted
  • time budgeted from now until 2012, and through 2012.

Whew. Actually, a lot of work has been done. I’m excited about it, and excited to see if our estimations are anywhere close to accurate.

OK, so it’s probably time to get back to the novel. I am at the Monkey Grind, after all, for our Saturday morning writer’s group. I’m painfully aware that I’m a significantly better writer now than I was a few years ago, when much of the novel was first drafted. Which means I can do a lot with it, right? Sure – as long as I can wade through the soggy and florid stereo instructions I wrote before, hacking back the prose with a confident editing machete.

Wish me luck! I’m going in.

Vacation 58% complete.

29 Sep

Yesterday it sank in.

I spent the morning of frittering time away, then headed to the salon for a long-overdue haircut. My husband suggested escaping for the afternoon, and we did – lunch at Burgermaster, and a long walk at Golden Gardens park and marina. I'm sure he will hate this picture. Don't know how it got so warped.

The sun was bright and the breeze was strong and the tide was going out. I felt the remaining stressyness and weight evaporate, disperse, and ebb. Then we went home and took a nap.

I was pretty much useless the rest of the day; I still Kinect-ed with Mom in New York, and stayed awake through dinner. Just barely.

Vacation dreams are bright, weird, and lovely.

Vacation, Day One.

26 Sep

I pass a coffeeshop every morning on my walk to the bus stop. Almost every morning, I think “what would it be like to just get this far? Drink a coffee, sit down and write for a few hours…”

This morning, I dressed up for our newly re-Seattle-ified weather (i.e., rain) in my new rust-orange raincoat and red-with-white-polka-dots rainboots.

I got to the coffeeshop, and went inside. It was warm, but not too warm. I ordered a rice-milk mocha, sat down with my computer, and read the first chapters of a fellow author’s work to provide feedback. I had promised to do so more than a month ago, and this morning, day one of my first vacation in more than a year, I did it.

Now I’m back home, thinking about what delicious breakfast to make.

Not a bad start. Not a bad start at all.