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Comment: Re:Sigh.... (Score 1) 469

There are fairy glades aplenty in my neighborhood, though I have taken to procuring my wood from a local furniture maker. It dries unromantically in my garage.

Alas, I do not own a fancy CNC router and have learned to make my fiddles by hand, the old way. I will admit to employing a drill press and a band saw in a couple of steps during the process.

Comment: Re:Sigh.... (Score 1) 469

Do you know what makes a "master" violin?

The stories one tells about it.

In terms of substantial difference between the sounds of the ancient violin made from wood cut in a fairy glade by the full moon, and the sounds of violins mass-produced on precision CNC routers and made from ordinary, stable, kiln-dried quarter-sawn spruce and maple (and sold for $100)... there really aren't any differences. Well, not until one discovers the stories behind each instrument. Since the experience of music is such a subjective one, it welcomes input from the most surprising sources. Music is a psychological experience and, lacking narratives, we often find little to distinguish similar sounds from each other.

I remember being shocked by Edward Herron-Allen's book, wherein an anecdote is related about how a certain audience, separated from the violinist by a sheet, could not distinguish between the genuine Strad and some other vagary. I mean, this other "violin" wasn't even a proper violin, as the story goes. Yet, without context, the two instruments blended into sameness. There was little of measurable qualitative difference between them, even if one of them was once submerged in volcanic ash and the other was not.

Making the violin, by hand, in the form that emerged in the mid sixteenth century from Brescia or Cremona, is a very difficult task. It takes a good deal of care and experience to get that form just right. There are plenty of bad ones made, but the actual bar that separates the bad from the good--in substantial, audible terms--is set much lower than you might expect.

The reason why people will still buy a $30,000 violin from a modern master maker (or very much more than that for a famous, old one) is because they have a gap in their minds that needs to be filled with the right story before they can properly channel their own creativity. To people who believe in the wonders of ice-age wood or the pedigree of a good, old fiddle, such an instrument will infuse its magic into them and enable them to create. It becomes a muse of sorts.

A hand-crafted instrument--especially an old one--is not just an instrument, it also acts as a talisman.

That's my opinion, anyway.

(Disclaimer: I am a violin maker)

Comment: Re:Who Cares??? (Score 1) 593

by Kismet (#46155569) Attached to: Watch Bill Nye and Ken Ham Clash Over Creationism Live

Well, what are you going to replace it with? Advocates of what some call "scientism" think that science can replace value systems, like religion, when it comes to making decisions about how one should act. In the aftermath of 20th-century megalomania, Eric Hoffer called out the True Believer who, although godless, was nevertheless anything but irreligious.

Will there ever be evidence that anything at all is "good" or meaningful? There are self-styled rational people who want to help others live lives that are free of "delusion" and contribute to the "well-being" of humanity, as if those things were somehow valuable. Yet, when pressed on what exactly well-being consists of, or whether people ought to have it or not, or the point of humanity in the first place, I get the sort of make-believe these people are trying to save me from.

There is no meaning in the universe that isn't utterly make-believe. Our existence is an absurdity; nothing can be proved beyond its physical nature, and there is even a certain tenuousness about that. Perhaps the most dangerous and deluded people of all are the ones who think they are free from delusion because they haven't got religion.

Comment: Re:Why? Simple ... (Score 1) 285

by Kismet (#43392049) Attached to: Why Are We Still Talking About LucasArts' Old Adventure Games?

Yeah, I just finished playing through WC 1 again. I think you're right. The game seemed so great back in the day... it got old real quick this time around, though. I finally put it into cheat mode a little over half way through so that I could pretty much read through the cut-scenes and see how it ended. Not much of an ending. Oh well, those games are a bit of history, I guess. The kids got a kick out of the "pew-pew" laser sounds at least.

Comment: Re:hmm (Score 1) 419

by Kismet (#42643839) Attached to: Scientists Create New Gasoline Substitute Out of Plants

You are talking some fantasy world where we have billions, probably trillions of dollars to spend building out and maintaining a brand new decentralized power grid.

I concede this: That such an economy cannot be "done" to people. This would come about as an emergent system and not as some big program.

That seems like a lot of words to describe the economy that we DO have, one that responds to incentives. How could you possible incentivize spending a ton of money just to get the same thing we have now? You sound like a guy I once talked to that truly believed that the Star Trek universe, one where a monetized economy no longer exists and people do things just because it's altruistic, could actually exist.

There are more incentives in this world besides money or altruism. How about this? Imagine some catastrophe; I don't know, maybe something far-fetched like a super-storm hitting the east coast of the U.S. and knocking out power to a few million people for an extended period of time. Let's say some of these people possess some level of ingenuity and are rather inconvenienced by waiting for some utility company to restore power for them. They determine not to be caught in such a helpless condition in the future and invest considerable expense building out their own contingencies. Sure, their solution can't provide them with continuous, uninterrupted service, but at least they have some capability to take the edge off the suffering and make a bad situation more tolerable. And while they are waiting for the next rainy day, they are putting power back onto the grid.

Oh, it doesn't make a big impact at first; but suppose we take the scenario a little further along and imagine a future in which the climate regularly produces extreme weather of this nature. Who knows? It might happen in this pipe-dream fantasy world of mine. Soon enough, more and more people are wising up to this strange notion that self-sufficiency in some critical things is superior to dependency on remote systems run by experts. Madness, I know. There is a tipping point somewhere in which emergent complexity develops and your trillion-dollar problem has taken care of itself without the help of any money-pushing elites who have all the answers. It doesn't happen over night.

If you don't have time to do it right, where are you going to find the time to do it over?