Obama congratulates Taiwan’s incoming leader

Michael Turton posts on the letter Obama writes to Ma congratulating him on the inauguration. There is wording in this letter that has some interesting insight into this candidate’s perspective on Taiwan’s political situation.

Many I’ve discussed this with see the wording as being positive for Taiwan’s position, and it shows a clearly high level of knowledge of the intricate details of the Taiwan/China/US relationship. If nothing else, it demonstrates a sense of proactive diplomatic leadership. It is also unclear so far if either McCain nor Clinton have acknowledged Ma’s inauguration at all.

Are you a stander or a sitter?

This is a follow-up to Jason Heath’s excellent post on the various seated vs. standing positions when playing the double bass:

With non-standardized instrument sizes, string lengths, and instrument shapes, it’s no wonder that players and teachers have developed such a dizzying array of stances and postures to cope with this large instrument. But with such a bevy of options, what is the poor music educator to do? Throw a dart at a list of options and go with whichever they hit? Ask their local bass teacher (ask two or three teachers, and you’re likely to get two or three completely different responses)? How can students and teachers make an informed decision on such a slippery topic?

The debate is primarily about practicing the bass standing up vs. sitting. Then within that, we have the various parameters of endpin length, angle of the bass to the body, angle of the body to the floor, height and shape of the stool if you use one, and all the other peripheral gadgetry to keep things in line – rockstops, bent endpin shafts, etc.

And the winner is: Mac! No wait, wrong thread….

I used to be a cello-style sitter, but I became an upright bass practicer when studying with Don Palma. His argument was that you should be able to play accurately and comfortably while standing, and then you’re free to sit as needed in orchestra or just for comfort’s sake.

I’d certainly say that in performance for solo music, it is a lot more comfortable to be able to not have to sit for me. And, it’s one less thing to have to lug around. Another thing I notice is that standing is psychologically liberating – bassists who stand tend to be fairly confident either way when they play. Bassists that are only comfortable playing while seated tend to get somewhat uncomfortable when in situations where they must stand.

However, I’ll still admit that there are a couple of things that for me at least are slightly easier to do when seated in a medium to low stool – stratospheric thumb position, and the more articulate aspects of bowing. Gravity provides a bit of added support in both cases.

Here’s a thought: I think French bow is more naturally attuned to seated position, while German bow lends itself more to the upright brigade. When I look at the other violin-family instruments for which the French bow players (myself included) share a general bow design, the direction of pressure is downward towards the pull of gravity. The gamba family of bows, for which the German bow design resembles, is more often played with the instrument in a vertical aspect and the bow pressure directed in a plane horizontal to the pull of gravity.

So ultimately my philosophy is: Practice the double bass while standing so you have the capability and posture taken care of. Sit as needed, especially during ensemble rehearsals, or just to take a break, but don’t rely on the chair. It is far easier to switch to a seated position if you are comfortable standing than it is to switch to standing if you are always practicing the bass while seated.

Quarkonium, The Blog

Good friend Matt has started a blog for his poetry, called Quarkonium, and it is an instant hit. WordPress.com has it listed as the featured blog tagged with “poetry.” Congrats to Matt for getting this off the ground finally!

There was a time when I would enthusiastically write poetry, but that has been beaten out of me over the years. I still like to read though. Bukowski is probably my favorite.

Rails Tip No.1: Making datetime_select more appointment-friendly

This is the first of what I intend to have as an ongoing list of Ruby on Rails programming tips. These are as much for plugging my own memory holes as they are for the general Googlejuice. Each should be a brief illustration of some technique on how to accomplish something in Ruby on Rails – probably in the form of a short code snippet with explanation. I should preface this all by stating that I am by no means an expert on Rails – I’ve been using it since late 2007 – so any urge to expound upon these thoughts by the Lightning Rails Ninjas™ out there would be most welcome indeed. Please feel free to comment.

The first one I’d like to present is how to get the datetime_select helper method to be slightly more user-friendly for your garden-variety appointment form.

Consider you have a form set up already for booking appointments. You may have used datetime_select for the start and end times for your form. The default implementation gives you the current date and time as defaults, and each item is rendered as a select menu.

But rarely would you want to do a new appointment on the same day and at at 12:06 PM, right? More often those things are scheduled at least a day in advance, and on the :00, :15, :30, and :45 minute marks. Or at the very least, having five minute increments for the minute menu should help pare down the options and make things simpler. Here’s an example of how something like this could be accomplished:

For the above example, we have a datetime_select form helper for the appointment_start column in our database. Simple enough – this is probably how a default code snippet would look from say a scaffold generation. Following that, we’ve passed a couple of extra bits of information to our helper – a default date and time, and a specification on how we should increment the minutes column.

:default => 24.hours.from_now does exactly what you’d expect – sets the default date and time for all the menus ahead one day. You could just as easily say three days from now, four years from now, and so on. And :minute_step => 5 gives us the five minute increments that we want. Set it to 15 if you’d like to pin it down to the :00, :15, :30, and :45 minute marks. Simple!