The New Addiction

The new iTunes Music Store is my Beanie Baby addiction. Ugh… too cool – 99¢ for a single track, or a nice price for a full download. I would just rip the new album anyway and listen to it from my PowerBook – that’s the way I’ve done it since iTunes came out. So why not just download the thing. No schlepping to the store, no waiting for delivery. Just an on-demand download, the way god likes it. Very nice.

Random Acts of Kindness

You know, lately I have been so put off by what I have been seeing and reading on the news, reading on weblogs, and hearing on the radio, that for the past few days I have intentionally banned myself from turning on the TV, reading my subscriptions in NetNewsWire, or listening to anything but music in the car on the way to work. It was making me depressed, and I’m not even going to try to get into it again here.

So last Friday something very cool happened to me, which made me remember that humanity is capable of profound greatness. I have a changed attitude, a different outlook on life from now on, because of one act of selfless generosity that was bestowed upon myself.

I had told a friend of mine at work about my past life as a bassist, about how I had this great instrument that was really in bad shape and needed a complete restoration, and the whole story about the car vs. bike accident that essentially stopped my music career but at the same time opened up the possibility of my web and graphic design career that I now have. I had mentioned that I had been saving up my ducats for years to get this work done, and finally after many false starts I was going to get it done once and for all this year.

So on a business trip this person mentioned the story to the CEO of our company. They then decided to take up a collection within the company to help with the repair costs, and asked the CFO if the company could match the gift up to $500. The CFO decided a $1000 match was even better. And so in just a few days, without my knowledge, the people of this Persistence Software put together $1000 in my name, and the company in turn handed me a check, including the matched funds, for $2000 last Friday at a pizza party we were having during lunch!

Never in my life have I been on the receiving end of such a display of respect and generosity from so many different people. I was, and still am, completely shocked and amazed. If you consider the numbers: $1000 divided by 50 people equals an average donation size of $20. That just blows me away that so many of my colleagues would plunk down that much money just to help another guy out.

So now the question becomes, what to do now? I mean yeah, I know what to do with the money and all that – get more of the bass work that I need done such as the C-extension and finding a good bow. But how to pass along the generosity when it has been handed to you? How do you keep that momentum going? I am reminded of the book/movie Pay It Forward, and I think that something along these lines is in order. Perhaps not so formal as the book describes it, but maybe just taking the opportunity to commit a random act of kindness now and then.

Well, now I’m even more so inspired to keep practicing. You can’t ever squander an event like this. Always keep that momentum when it presents itself to you.

New Endpin

I have a new end pin installed on my double bass. It’s a nice brass and ebony one with a nice solid-looking post and an extremely pointy tip – nice for plugging the bass in to a nice hardwood floor. This little detail rounds out the recent set of repairs that I had recently performed on my contrabass. You can see those photos of the restoration work here.

I took my bass again to Alex Friedman. Alex is a relatively new double bass luthier for the San Francisco Bay Area, and is also a fine jazz bassist as well. He did the work very well, nice and careful with everything. I am also managing his shop’s website now. You may check out the new web digs at www.acousticbassshop.com. The site that you see there is only temporary – I fully intend to evolve that design into something more original and compelling. But it’s job now is to help him get some more business over there and get his new business’ name out. I’m sure that with a little exposure, he’ll be as swamped as anyone could be with new orders.

Alex does excellent repair and restoration work. He regularly works on many of the basses from the members of the bass section in the San Francisco Symphony, so he’s got some very solid credentials there. I was impressed with the level of detail that he put in to his work on my bass and the other basses in the shop that he had there at the time. I doubt many others would have put in such an effort on the minute and insignificant details. He took care of stuff that I would never have noticed or really known about had he not explained the items to me: such as the height of the strings to the fingerboard, the height of the bridge, the spacing of the strings on the bridge being too wide apart for classical, or the height of the fingerboard at the end in relation to the top of the bass. He measured these items with minute precision, and the result was that this bass sounds much louder, much warmer, and it is much much easier to play now. Plays like a dream, in fact. I always knew that this bass was underneath all those cracks and the years of neglect and damage… now I am very glad that I bought this bass back then when I did. I’m glad that he took the time to explain each of these sorts of items to me and why they mattered, and I was most impressed with the final result.

Another thing that impressed me with Alex’s work was the speed at which he got things done. I saw one bass that was just trashed in there. They were trying to use a forklift to get a bass in a flight trunk inside an airplane cargo hold, and it fell onto the tarmac. Firewood I thought. But he got it back together somehow – fixing the ribs, the cracked-through surfaces, the broken neck, all in just over a week. I was thinking it would have taken someone several months to piece it all back together.

Finally, he has a couple of new basses that he is working on. I had a good look at the insides of these instruments before they were glued together and there is some really impressive work in there. The wood looks top quality, with a nice even grain on the top and a beautiful flame pattern on the back. Both basses use close to the same cuts of wood, but each has a distinctive body shape – almost a male and female kind of pair. Today when I was over there he was carving the scroll of one of them, totally freehand with no guides other than some measurements and pencil marks, so it has a nice natural character to it. I can’t wait to hear these basses when they’re done.

So there, that’s my plug for the Acoustic Bass Shop. If you are in Northern California and looking for expert double bass repairs, restoration of an old instrument, or are looking to buy a new bass, a bass amplifier, a french or german bow, or need to rent or buy a flight case for your bass, then this is the best place to go in the San Francisco Bay Area.

It’s All CSS From Now On

I coded my first professionally-done pure CSS-laid-out website today. Why oh why have I been slaving over tables for so long? Oh yeah, because I was striving for backwards-compatability with older web browsers. Well, I think that now that it is the year 2003, I can finally safely remove myself from the baggage of the legacy practices of my forefathers and start focusing on some more modern technology.

I usually use Dreamweaver about 80% of the time when working on these sites. However I found that DWMX ain’t all there just yet when it comes to CSS layouts, and it was just getting in my way and messing up my code most of the time. I found it much easier to just crunch through it all in BBEdit and use Dreamweaver for site sync and a few nice built in behaviors. I have high hopes and expectations that the next release of Dreamweaver will be more CSS friendly. It is a great product. I just feel that it encourages you to write using tables and inline styles instead of encouraging the coolness of CSS.

Well so far my site looks awesome in Safari, Camino, Mozilla, and Internet Exploder on Mac OS X. There were some minor issues with rendering using Mozilla on X11, but it looks great on that platform in it’s own way. I’ll test it on Winhose on Monday.