ScrimismsPresently suffering a dearth of witticisms

March 2007

News and Photos22 Mar 2007

Jamie and Pamela came to visit last weekend, and while they were here, Jamie and I replaced the saddle on my new guitar. The “new” guitar, for those keeping score (I understand Jamie currently has my meagre tally doubled) is a Johnson parlor guitar (though it’s a bit big as parlor guitars go) that I bought online for very cheap. It’s nowhere near as loud or well made as my fancy S&P, but it’s fun to play.

Jamie snapped a couple photos of the saddle-replacement process.

The saddle, for those not guitarisitically-inclined, is the bit of material (traditionally bone — though nowadays usually plastic) that transfers sound from the vibrating strings to the top of the guitar body. As such, the quality of the saddle affects the sound a great deal. In my case we were removing the cheap saddle it came with and installing one with greater quality and density.

Pulling the old saddle out took both of us, one to hold the guitar down on my kitchen table and the other to lever it out with pliers. In order to get the new saddle to fit we had to sand down the sides.

Despite our general inexperience (though Jamie has been doing other kinds of mods on his guitars of late), the installation went well. The new saddle raised the strings slightly and this stopped some fret buzz that had been happening on the treble strings.

It’s always really hard to tell with this kind of thing, but I’m confident in saying that the overall sound has improved as well.

Thanks Jamie!

Musings18 Mar 2007

Today, after a year of running OSX Tiger, I finally created something using Automator. Automator is a (up until now for me, theoretically) neat tool for creating drag-and-drop “workflows” (those of you who regularly use a command line will know them as “scripts”) to automate frequent computing tasks.

My workflow has three actions, the net result of which is to backup my important files to my iPod, with one click instead of several. It only took me half an hour to sort out how to make this script and fiddle around with all the options (should it be a Finder plug-in? Okay, so now it is a Finder plug-in but I don’t want it to be, how do I remove it?) to create a script that saves 10 seconds of clicking, and I am quite pleased. Douglas Adams wrote an essay about the joy of spending all day automating a task that takes fifteen seconds, and that’s exactly what I’m feeling.

I suppose “half an hour” isn’t really an accurate reflection of how long it took to automate this 10 second task. A more complete estimate would also include the time spent blogging about it, and reading Douglas Adams essays.

Bonus: while poking around looking for the above essay online (which I didn’t find, though I think it’s published in “The Salmon of Doubt”), I found another one of Adams’ gems: an article on dealing with our reactions to technological change called “How to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Internet“. His discussion about the history of “interactive” media made me think of Ze Frank, who, for the past year, has been doing 5 short online (and “interactive”!) shows a week, covering all manner of topics from the serious to the hilarious (and frequently, both). The final episode of the year-long endeavour was yesterday. I’m really going to miss Ze’s show, but I look forward to whatever project he comes up with next. If you’ve not seen Ze before I encourage you to check him out. The first episode from March 17 of last year can be found here.

Musings04 Mar 2007

I was listening to an interview with Bo Lozoff on CBC earlier. While living in an ashram, Lozoff went to visit a friend in prison, and realized that prison life is a lot like ashram life. This lead him to start the “Prison-Ashram Project”, the aim of which was to help convicts take advantage of their time “inside” and engage in some spiritual growth by teaching them yoga and meditation. He wrote a book on the subject called “We’re All Doing Time“.

He had a lot of interesting things to say about how to live in the world in a healthy and centered way. He quoted (I forget from who) the following mantra:

“Anything that can happen to a human being, may happen to me, and I accept this.”

The interesting thing is, although he’s clearly a man of faith, he didn’t spend much time talking about God. This made me realize something I think I’ve recognized implicitly for a while: the best spiritual leaders are the ones who don’t talk about God very often. My theory is that, in contrast this with the archetypal AM radio preacher whose every fourth word is “Jesus”, those spiritual leaders who have something useful to say on the topic of living talk about that instead.

You might accuse me of simply favoring those spiritual leaders most in-line with my own beliefs: I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about Jesus, and so I like the spiritual leaders who focus on other aspects of faith. Maybe so, but I really think that too much emphasis on gods, heaven, hell, and other-supernatural aspects of religion isn’t terribly useful for day-to-day life.

It’s similar to the criticism levelled by Nietzsche against nearly everyone: the Christians, the Buddhists, even my hero Socrates. He says all these people are guilty of life-denial in one form or another: the Christians of focusing too much on the world after this one; the Buddhists, in their doctrines of non-attachment to the world, of throwing the baby out with the bath-water; and Socrates of having his head in the clouds and missing the ground at his feet. I think the same thing applies to teachers of faith today: the ones who focus on what will happen to you after you die don’t have as much to offer as the ones who spend their time helping the downtrodden and the incarcerated make real improvements in their lives.