Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Nieman Marcus does an over the top Christmas catalog every year wherein they offer things us mere mortals wonder at. They came to Gruppo one year to commission the company to produce what became known to us as the "Dorothy Lamp", pictured here. This one is the original prototype and is about 30 inches tall. The base is cast bronze and the tornado is glass. This item was to be part of a Wizard of Oz bedroom set that was going for around 100 grand. The designer, who flew in from New York to work with us on this project, wanted more orange in the tornado shade, so this one became a spare and I had the rest of the lamp made from the molds and kept this one for a gift. Not very visible in these photos is the high level of detail in the base, which shows the witches bicycle leaning against the picket fence in front of Dorothy's house and the Gypsy style wagon (actually these are called sheep camps but I only get puzzled looks when I call them that [which isn't often I admit]) belonging to Professor Marvel. I gave this one to my ex-wife for Christmas one year and now my youngest daughter has it in her room. We did not get any orders for additional lamps, therefore only two of these exist. I think that probably Neiman Marcus did not get any takers for the Wizard of Oz bedroom set at 100 g's each. I keep an eye out on Antiques Roadshow for the other lamp to appear. It could happen.

Now that I have tied into the metals company with a link to cycling, I will give an exercise report. I joined the YWCA with a friend this winter and it is turning out to be the best winter exercise routine move I ever made. I go on a regular basis and run and do workout stations as well as sit-ups and crunches and stuff. I am working all non-cycling muscle groups and it feels really good. I am looking forward to getting back on the bike in the Spring. I can get my exercise in without having to feel like I should soldier through the crappy streets on my fixed gear suffering like a dog and freezing my hinder off. I have always known about cross training and knew I should do it but this winter I am. We have been talking about swimming and that sounds really good too. All in all, I am staying much more active during the toughest part of the year to keep in shape.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Today we have, for your edification, a 2004 30th anniversary Special Edition Taylor XXX-RS. I snapped a couple of shots to show the client what the guitar looked like. He lives in The Netherlands and wanted to see what he had coming to him. It is a beautiful guitar, as are most Taylors. I have been deeply impressed with the consistent quality of the Taylor instruments that pass by me. In addition, Taylor has proven to be an easy company to work with. They like to schedule things well in advance and I do too. Consequently, my production/shipping schedule is accurate and held to. This makes life much easier for everyone. It enables me to build a company that can perform reliably for the customer and at the same time be managable on my end in terms of having a balance of inventory. Lately, Guitar Rodeo has been growing rapidly and I am really excited that I will (seemingly) be able to make a living doing something I enjoy and am an expert at. Did I say expert? Some may wonder if I am, as I profess (and frequently blog to that effect) to be a banjoist. I am a journeyman guitarist. That is to say, I know the chord shapes and can pick tunes and even improvise. My skills on the guitar are advanced, but folks will pay me to play the banjo, hence I am banjo-boy. I love guitar. I have opinions and have much knowledge about them. In my youth I did professional guitar repair and sold them as well as practiced on them. One of my enduring fantasies is to sit around the kitchen table with nothing much else to do but work out fiddle tunes with the flat pick and maybe do a little reading through of some Segovia scales or bringing a note for note Django piece up to speed.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

I have been getting a lot of page views and visits from people who I assume came here from fatty's site. Therefore, its time for another bike entry. If you are interested in custom architectural metal work, the last couple of entries were for you. If you are a guitarist, you are my real target audience but please be patient. I will post some cool Taylor pictures and some (hopefully) amusing anecdotes soon. It is now too cold to bike here in Minnesota. It has been in the unseasonable minus range for the past week. It is warming up and this weekend I vow to get the fixie out in the salt and slush. I know there are diehard types who will ride in low temperatures. I used to do that and I grew out of it. At least give me over twenty farenheit with no wind. I have the requisite rubber faced tights and lots of cold weather gear. It doesn't matter what you wear because you feets gonna freeze, brudda. Those pedals are a remarkable heat sink and the handlebars do a fine job of draining warmth too. After an hour in the cold it isn't fun any more. I have been running, but even that is problematic with zero temps. Push-ups and situps help some. I am even thinking about the rowing machine and sometimes I think about the wind trainer. Oof. I'll keep thinking because that's easier than acting on any of these thoughts. My end game is a long life in reasonable shape and not a personal best iron man triathalon time. I will go through the fixie and make sure it is up to snuff. I have a set of 700c X 25c tires for it to get a bigger footprint. They are baldies which I figure will not be a problem. The streets are salty and dirty but not icy and I am probably not going to try the trails. Maybe a twenty five mile spin around the big lake and call it good.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Some of you honored visitors may have noticed a link to "www.flyingheritage.com" over on the right there. Today's picture is of my parents and me standing in front of the P-51D Mustang fighter that my Dad flew in 1945 out of England on bomber escort missions. Captain Tordoff is on the right. When I was a kid I used to day dream about flying my dad's plane when I grew up. Because I was a smart kid, I knew that it was only a dream and the plane was already long gone. About twenty years ago an entrepreneur in Florida contacted my dad by tracking him through the pre-web world of public records with dogged determination. He told Bud that his plane had been found in the Dominican Air Force and this guy was bringing it into the country to restore it and put the plane in a museum. That never came to pass and instead the fellow sold it to a group in California that turned out to be a museum owned by Paul Allen (Microsoft). Mr. Allen has put together a museum of flyable war aircraft. My dad's P-51D was totally renovated. In fact, it is the most complete renovation ever done on a P-51D Mustang. They even went so far as to construct a machine to weave the cloth covers on wire just as it was done in 1945 so they could replicate the exact weave patterns of each wire type in the aircraft. Today, the plane is as close as it can be to how it existed the day my dad flew it for the last time in World War II. It has six .50 caliber browning machine guns in the wings. This is a seriously fine vehicle. I did not get to fly it but I did get to sit in it and work the controls and imagine the impossible. My folks and I traveled to near Seattle to visit the aircraft and the museum it is in last summer. Mr. Allen has some other pretty cool toys besides this one. The museum was breathtaking, just absolutely amazing. Almost all of the planes in it, from many countries and every world war, are flown regularly just like this plane. I strongly suggest to anyone visiting this blog to link to the site and check out some of the footage there.

Bud scored nine and a half (two guys helped on one) kills, received the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal, sixteen Oak Leaf Clusters, and Lord knows what all. He went back to college and never flew again after he mustered out of the Air Force. I am in awe of him as are all the aircraft people associated with the Mustang at the museum. He says it was the time in his life when he felt most alive. Go figure; a twenty year old flying a plane with1200 horsepower and six fifties at four hundred miles an hour and that's before combat adrenaline kicks in. It also was pretty scary. Still, he scored kills on both the single engine and double engine type Messerschmidt jets, which was very unusual given the fact that they were much faster than the Mustangs. Well, suffice it to say it was very gratifying to realize some small part of a long distant dream from my childhood. I sure do appreciate the service my dad performed for our country. I am really glad he prevailed in combat too.