Trying the NaBloPoMo exercise, 2014

My colleague Cynthia tells me that it’s National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo), whereby we take up the challenge of posting once a day for the month of November. I have mixed feelings about this – do I really have anything worth saying/writing every single day? Well, this is one way to find out.

On the guitar building front – slow progress. I’m treating the body and the neck as two entirely separate build processes until the final assembly, and I’m glad I chose that path – having to integrate design choices for both body and neck simultaneously would have been overwhelming. The key parameter – the angle at which the neck meets the body – can be deferred and actually adjusted after the fact (to a degree, and about one degree is about all that it will take). Some quiet evening I’ll glue in the other set of lining strips, and then start the finishing work on trimming the brace ends and notching pockets in the liners to accept the top and back palates.

As I discussed in the past couple of blog posts, the process of working through the guitar build has been very different from crafting a symbolic work (an essay or computer program). Mistakes due to poor planning can be costly setbacks. This is another reason I’ve set the neck aside for a bit – I realized that, even on a rainy Saturday afternoon, I can’t simply go into the wood shop and “work on my neck.” I really have no idea what I need to do next, and before I take blade to wood I really need a plan.

If the neck were a piece of software I might try one or two different approaches (true up the sides first, then the figure out the right length and cut the body end square; or work on the heel first, and worry about the sides of the neck later?) If i didn’t like how one approach was coming out, I’d simply back out the process (“undo” the changes) and try another approach. Obviously, that won’t work with wood. As it turns out, I do have two necks to work with (the first had too many chips and flaws in the headstock, so I’m using that as my “rehearsal” neck), which gives me a bit of an opportunity for a “do over”, but I don’t want to squander it. If you knew you could only press the undo button once on a project, how would you approach things?

So I’ll stick with what is on my proximal horizon, finishing up the body. The logic and sequence of what comes next makes sense to me, and I can play around a bit with those choices.

Other themes I may write about this month: on the music front, I’m taking up Bach’s Chaconne seriously. I’ve doodled with sections in the past, but many of the passages (particularly the fast scale work in 32nd notes) have been beyond me technically. The Chaconne is really a rite of passage for serious classical guitarists, and is the piece my old teacher and I would have started working on next when I was graduating college. Working on it will provide a good vehicle for working on my technical weaknesses; I’d prefer to work on scales in the context of a musical composition, rather than as stand-alone exercises. And the Chaconne is simply beautiful.

On the work front, I’ve felt a bit like Cassandra this year, doomed to tell clients that their brilliant ideas are probably not going to work out as easily or well as they think, and then working on evaluations that prove me right. While I care about “making a difference” in education writ large (and what that means exactly will probably be the subject of many NaBloPoMo musings), I’m generally skeptical that the problems that matter call for technological solutions, at least in the limited “how can we substitute a computer for hands-on instruction” sort of senses that dominate the field.

This year has also opened my eyes to the inner workings of the medical profession, mainly by watching my partner go through some significant diagnostic challenges. If I can write about those insights while protecting her privacy, I will.

Well, perhaps I will after all find enough to write about this month. In the past this effort has petered off after a few days; to keep it going I’ll have to make a regular habit of writing before bed or at another set time of day.  Till next time!

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