March 28, 2007

Quit Blowing the Curve!

Category: Life — Cranky @

There are people all around us who cause problems by being above average. You know… smarter, prettier, more socially adept… THOSE people. They totally make it harder for the “normals”.

And why should the normals tolerate that? After all, people close to average dramatically outnumber the exceptional! All the normals could go to college if we didn’t reserve all those spaces for the hyperintelligent.

Think of how many girls of average beauty would be in the upper echelon if we chose to forcibly modify the delicate, refined features of the natural beauties. Imagine a world where most people met the standard of beautiful, because the truly beautiful have been corrected!

Forcefeed the physically fit until they are in keeping with the overweight norm. Identify gifted musicians and artists and break two fingers on each of their hands. If a great writer needs reading glasses, dictate that they can’t be the right prescription. Take the children of great parents and place them in substandard foster homes. Identify the master craftsmen and break their wrists.

Bring the exceptional down to the level of the mediocre! Let us rise and say, “Enough is enough – quit blowing the curve!” The normals can totally beat the crap out of the exceptional any time, any place.

Cranky

March 23, 2007

Volunteerism

Category: Social — Cranky @

Today our company had the chance to participate in the Stollery Children’s Hospital radiothon. As the first point of contact for Stollery volunteer events I got to assemble a small team of people to answer phones for a couple of hours.

It was fun and worthwhile – just the kind of thing that nicely finishes off a work week. It’s a breeze to get enough people for this event because the time commitment is low, the workload non-existent, and the commitment easy.

The Stollery is truly a world-class facility, but the government really only foots the bill for it to be adequate. The leap from adequate to world-class is expensive, and much of it is paid by donation. Those dollars allow the hospital to obtain the latest equipment, and keep the finest staff. It’s money well spent.

Amazingly, some people have nothing better to do than call up to complain, saying we shouldn’t be fundraising for a government-funded facility like a hospital. In fact, they get downright militant about it, implying that we’re doing something really wrong, and that we should be ashamed of ourselves. Thankfully these people are a very tiny minority. It saddens me a little to know that the scripts provided to the volunteers have to include instructions on handling angry callers and bomb threats.

I wish it were always so easy to be a volunteer, but there are a great many opportunities that aren’t as squeaky clean as answering phones for a children’s hospital event. I tip my hat to those people who work in difficult environments such as homeless shelters. Those people do the difficult work, and they have my respect.

Volunteerism is worthwhile. Even a small amount is a great thing. Consider it.

Cranky

March 19, 2007

Too Experienced For Bargains

Category: Music — Cranky @

Some months ago I sent my cousin’s daughter a piece of music I had written. She’s an aspiring guitarist, and at the tender age of 15 she’s doing very well indeed. The piece I sent her is not terribly long, but it’s not easy. It takes some skill.

I told her that when she could play it I would have a suprise for her. I intended to give her my current acoustic guitar. She was getting to be good enough that the poor quality of her current instrument was starting to impede her progress, and I was itching for a new guitar myself. I thought I had a window of a year or so before she could play it.

Last week she showed up with her parents, and while she couldn’t quite play the piece, she was much farther along than I would have expected. So I decided that the time had come, and I gave her my acoustic. I took her old one, replaced the heads and strings, and passed it to a friend who was just starting out.

So on Sunday I went shopping, and soon I discovered that I was no longer able to enjoy a bargain guitar. It’s no surprise – I’ve been playing for over a quarter of a century. Once you understand the difference between a cheap guitar and a good guitar, there’s no going back.

You don’t ask an NHL player to use a $20 hockey stick. You don’t ask an artist to buy nothing but $2 4-inch paintbrushes. You don’t ask a Tour de France cyclist to buy a $150 Canadian Tire special, and you don’t ask an experienced musician to buy a cheap instrument.

My old guitar, a Seagull Cedar 6, has been good to me. It’s still in very good condition, plays well, and holds its tune, and it’s with no small amount of fondness that I think of the hundreds of hours I’ve spent playing it. The new guitar, though, is different.

The tone is simultaneously richer and more sublime. The neck is less wide, and the action is somewhat lower, leading to better play for rock while still allowing jazz and classical techniques to work. The colour and craftsmanship are excellent, and I couldn’t be happier with it.

It’s not at the top end of the spectrum. It’s a good mid-priced guitar. It’s a sliding scale of return, though. If I made a living with my guitar I’d buy top of the line. Because it’s a hobby only, I can only justify enough money to get me in the ballpark.

But when I play the new guitar, I am happy. It’s a beautiful instrument, made with care, and I am looking forward to many hundreds of hours of time with this one.

I expect my cousin’s daughter play that piece perfectly in the very near future.

Anybody who would like to have a look at it will find it HERE.

Cranky