Saturday, December 29, 2007

CESLA Uniform Project

CESLA is the Coalition for Educational and Scientific Literacy Assistance.
[Their] mission is to aid children of educationally disenfranchised rural populations. The advancement of critical thinking principles and problem solving techniques is encouraged. An emphasis is placed on the promotion of hands-on science centers and museums as an intermediary to the communication of science and technology... The ultimate aim of this organization is the advancement of rural learners into science and technology careers.

To further promote child education advocacy, an emphasis will be placed on AIDS and substance abuse awareness, early childhood development, as well as general health care and vaccinations.
The Uniform Project
Why Uniforms?

In South Africa, all state schools and most private schools school uniforms are compulsory. The concept of school uniform is believed to serve two purposes - to instill a sense of belonging and pride in the school and also to eliminate any idea of competition in the matter of personal dress. Most schools have very precise requirements and every school issues a uniform list which covers all items from general day-today wear (often including shoes) to more specialized sports wear and equipment...

South African Education
It is estimated that well more than half the adults in KwaZulu-Natal are unemployed, with the figures being much higher in the vast rural areas of this province. Additionally, HIV/AIDS transmission rates here are the highest in the world! According to Dawie Bosch, a South African child-rights advocate, " the context of HIV/AIDS, things are possibly -- and probably -- getting worse for children,"

The reality is, these orphans and vulnerable children are being denied hope, because they can not purchase uniforms or school supplies to attend school!!! One of CESLA's goals is to provide at-risk children access to education and basic resources like food and school uniforms.

This is a very worthy cause. Please consider a donation to the project (links are towards the bottom of the page).

Monday, December 24, 2007

You Never Know

About a year and a half ago I bought a small scale guitar for my oldest son. He used to want to play (with) my guitars all the time so why not? Well, time did tell. His interest in guitar quickly diminished and I thought my hopes for another musician in the family were dashed.

We went to my mother's house for Thanksgiving, and to our immense astonishment J immediately took to her piano. Within a day he was playing tunes on it. I couldn't believe it! And, he kept on with it the whole time we were there. My mother even said she would give us the piano and we seriously considered renting a U-Haul to bring it home with us.

A while back I had purchased a Yamaha PSR-293 in the hopes of using it as a MIDI device for my recording endeavors. I haven't used it much at all, and we considered selling it when we were moving. No one was using it. Why not?

Good thing we didn't since J now plays it every day. He found a beginners keyboard course book and has been teaching himself how to read music & play ever since. Pretty cool, in my humble estimation. We need to find him a good teacher to augment his own efforts. I'm so glad we kept that keyboard. You just never know...

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Floyd Style Bridge Set Up

Can I just say, setting up a floating Floyd Rose style tremolo is a total pain?

I'm not talking changing strings on a Floyd--I'm not sure why people think that is difficult. I am talking intonation set up. Even with the cool Peterson Strobe tuning software I bought it was just absolutely no fun at all. No wonder luthiers charge a good penny to get it done.

I won't go into the specifics, since they are already posted. I just want to say that I would sure like to find or come up with some tool that will hold the saddle in position while you tighten the saddle screw. Instead, you try to hold the saddle in the position that you guess it should be in... while you try to keep the string out of the way... while you tighten the saddle screw again. Retune the string and test the intonation. Got it right? Great! Didn't, and you get to repeat the process again & again... with each string. Bleaaaah!
If it wasn't floating, I am betting it would be much easier. Setting up the Wilkinson tremolo on my hacked Strat was cake by comparison. Next time, I think I am letting my local luthier take care of my Schaller Floyd.

For what it's worth, the Wilkinson tremolo; Planet Wave locking tuners; Graph Tech string trees; and graphite nut on my "Super Strat" make for a superior tremolo set up. Even with aggressive usage, it stays in tune as well as the Floyd any day--ultra dive-bombs and all. It's not floating but it definitely gets the job done.

Saturday, December 08, 2007


I was a late-comer to Sixth Sense, I caught it on DVD as my first introduction to the creative genius of Shyamalan.

Thus far, all of the movies that M. Night Shyamalan has released have ranked as some of my most favorite. His directorial style and presentation has been impressive & captivating. I look forward to each release with his name stamped on it. In my house, his name means "quality work."

With each release you definitely get the impression that here is a guy who really loves to make movies, from the actors he chooses to work with, the locations he shoots, the props used, and onward to most minute details. No compromises. He is passionate about it all.

After all that though, the thing that impresses me most are the stories he presents in these films. He may be a filmmaker first and foremost. However, the one aspect that sets him above the rest to me are the stories he chooses to tell.

It is the stories that captivate me the most in his work. I have the impression that if a story doesn't cut it, he's not making the film.

Now, of the films he's made (that I have seen) he has written virtually all of them: The Sixth Sense; Unbreakable; Signs; The Village; Lady in the Water all have that one thing in common--the solid base of a powerful story. (Apparently he wrote the screenplay for Stuart Little, a nice movie but unoriginal, relying more on effects and the actors involved I believe then the story. Still, as I say, a nice movie if unmemorable in my opinion.)

Like most, I enjoy a good action movie with stunning effects, but I won't watch them repeatedly in most cases. For me, the intricacies of a well written & crafted storyline will win the day every time.

Not everyone shares this view unfortunately which is probably why more movies with this element are not written these days. Apparently Lady in the Water was not as well received as it should have been. I don't read movie reviews or watch review shows so I am basing this on the observation of others. I have to ask, what's not to like? Ooops, it had action. It had effects. It had some killer acting. But not enough--particularly action I suppose. The story was central, and I guess that wasn't enough for some critics?

Who cares? Well, I do. Simply for the fact I mention above. If story based movies are not well received, less of them will be made. It's a real shame and it diminishes our culture. How many cop & gangster, alien & terminator shows do we really need? Let's find some balance here please.

My favorite recent television show, Heroes, falls in line with this balance. I love the storyline. I love the plot twists. The first season of that show, and the ending was simply amazing. I was hoping beyond hope that they (the writers) could make it work--that they could, particularly, make the ending work. And they did! It ended so well to me that if they never had another season for whatever reason it still would have been one of the best television runs I have ever seen. The story worked. The writers did it. Incredible.

So I end here. Writers go forth! You rule. When you make it work, we all win. Tell us the stories that entertain. Tell us the stories that captivate. Tell us the stories that inspire, that motivate. Tell us the stories that matter.

Then hope the producers don't ruin your work...

Friday, December 07, 2007

Missing Broadband

When we moved we couldn't move our cable modem account. We couldn't get DSL out to our new home either. Satellite was too much and unreliable. We ended up with a Novatel Sprint USB whatever you want to call it, mobile access device?

Being away for the weekend and blogging this over a wifi connection at the location we are staying, man... do I miss broadband.

I should Torrent the heck out of all the Linux distros I could ever want (for now). Fill up the entire HDD.

That was the one killer thing about moving. Losing my 6+ Mbps connection. Oh well. You do what you have to...

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Klark Kent: The Rhythmatist

I thought this was a cool shot of Stewart Copeland. It was inside the November '07 Sam Ash GearGuide.

I have never been to a Police show, which is quite unfortunate as I have wanted to see them live for a... very... long... time.

At any rate, Mr. Copeland ranks as my favorite percussionist of all time.