Raising a soundpost

The previously reviewed Bela/Edgar concert inspired me to fix the fallen soundpost in my ‘cello! Using the method Mr. Biava taught me, I was able to get it set correctly in about 40 minutes with a minimum of cursing. Certainly no speed record, but at least I didn’t have to bring it someplace.Basically, he showed me how to make a “clove hitch”, which I think I must have forgot 10 minutes afterward – I looked it up in my old Boy Scout manual – which is a knot that tightens as you pull both ends of a string, but loosens when you pull only one. Well, thats the theory anyway.

Loosening up all the strings, and using some thread to make the loop, I dropped it into one of the f-holes (actually the wrong one initially) and kind of shook the ‘cello to position the soundpost, which was rolling around inside forlornly so that it was nearer the loop which now was lying like a snare trap beneath the end of the f-hole . Using a chopstick through the other end of the f-hole, I rolled the soundpost so that the tip of the post was in the center of the loop. Then I pulled the string lightly to snare the dowell, this eventually worked, and I had “captured” the end of the post. I then shook the ‘cello to move the soundpost (and the lasso-ed end) down a bit so that the other end was nearer to where it would eventually stand (directly beneath and to the side of the bridge). This placement was chosen mainly from memory of where it used to be, but also there are marks in the wood in that area, some of which look as old as the ‘cello (about 80 years?), so it was a safe bet. I placed the end of the chopstlck to brace that end as I raised the other with the “lasso”. After about 20 frustrating minutes, I got it set to a place where I could live with it, but it still had just “a little more” to go. This is the point where tightening up the strings is critical. Giving them a little tension, I could apply a little more pressure with the chopstick at the top of the soundpost to nudge it into position without falling. Once accomplished, the idea was to pull on one end of the string and remove it. This seemed impossible however as the “knot” had been pulled very tight as I was trying to get it into position. Perhaps a different type of thread would be easier to undo. I ended up cutting one end in desparation, but once that end was cut, I was able to loosen the “knot” more easily and got it out after all.

I know there are tools to raise a soundpost that look like long hook-nosed pliers, but they are usually metal, and I think I remember Mr. Biava saying it was easier to accidentally damage the wood around the f-holes with those, and he was so handy with the string/stick technique that it was just as quick (for him?).

The great number of impressions in the wood around the spot where the post stands got me thinking. I’ve only dropped the post about 4 times in 20 years, I wonder how many times someone had a string and a stick dangling in through that f-hole? Who were those people?

That Radio

I can’t remember when I had bought that old radio, a GE model no.3-5636A with dual tape decks. It says “1976” in the embossed plastic lettering on the bottom, right next to the Indiana customer relations address beneath the slightly larger “Made in China”.Its certainly not that old. It has the remnants of the grey oil stain with which I slathered the house back when mom and Ned were still living here. That memory, if correct (most are pretty fuzzy recollections, especially when it comes to these trivialities) would place it around 1994? I have painted the house since, but I’ve been more careful with my electronics since then and there’s no other painted indications to aid me. What remains of a sticky accident I had with grape juice years ago still sits in the hollows and crannies of the radio’s casing. The juice has congealed in those hard-to-clean areas and caught years of dust and created a sort of permanent coating in all the crevices and corners. I know I bought the thing at P.C. Richards in Middle Island (on Rt 25 just West of the lake), I have a distinct memory of that. In fact, I remember that I had bought a different radio and it broke somehow. I forget how, perhaps I even helped it, but upon presenting the manufacturing defect which had ‘obviously’ caused the problem, they granted me a new one without argument. I was overjoyed by my good fortune at finding an honest retailer and I pledged my future patronage of their establishment. Shortly thereafter, the new one broke in a similar fashion. Disgruntled, I remember going back to demand my money back which totaled all of $48, pretty cheap for a radio even then. They offered to let me pick a comparable one in exchange, and thats how I ended up with this one. I have had much better luck with this one!

You can tune the radio portion of it by turning the plastic knob on top, good old tactile analog tuner. I always maintained, at least to Cathy, that its tuning capabilities were somehow superior to all the other radios in the house. I can get WUSB (90.1FM Stony Brook) on it, and that’s about the only station I really enjoy besides the various flavours of NPR (National Public Radio). In fact, it was the bluegrass show on USB that inspired this strange rant. There’s a switch on top which reads ‘Bass boost’ which is always kept in the ON position, because with that switch off, the thing sounds so tinny and weak it might as well be inside a locked car with the windows rolled up. The antenna, though still totally functional, is now missing the little metal cap that used to reside at it’s tip in order to protect the eyes of the careless listener. I always meant to get a new cap and somehow affix it there so the radio would again be “whole”. Until that time, I don’t let Emily play with it without supervision. It can be powered by batteries, though it only accepts that unpopular “C” size that you never have around (at least not in sufficient quantities). I remember going through several rounds of them lugging this radio places far from AC current, usually Cathedral Pines or just out in the backyard. Although it is just an inanimate hunk of plastic, aluminum and electronics, this radio has served me well and will remain here enshrined.


I kept hearing the word ‘sureal’, and I suppose that pretty much sums it up. I had been in one of the twin towers and looked out over the city. The thought of a terrorist attack wasn’t much in the public consciousness then, although there had been a (failed) attack on the building in 1993 and I’m not too sure about the date, but I believe a madman with an axe was running rampant in the observation deck around that time as well. It was pretty ‘sureal’ then, when word came at work that a plane had crashed into the building. I was in a sales meeting with Toh, Peggy, Mike Leek and Deven when we heard about it. Jack’s satellite TV, so much an un-nessessary excess at the time, certainly came in handy. Then there was word of other tragedies. The pentagon (not a tragedy, really?), a downed plane in PA, camp david, rumours of an attack on the state dept (later found to be false?). The horror of those poor souls on board the fated flights. Just when you thought, “well, thats it, now to deal with it”, another shock would come. The United States was not supposed to be susceptible to terror like this. I fear now that this may force us into a war that no-one really wants but that we’ll have to support just the same. I fear for my friends that may be missing in the rubble of those massive towers of steel (and coworkers like Joe Beltrani who may be among the missing 200 firefighters). I fear for Emily.

Em report, TI-85

Emily took her first nap in a real bed today, since she has realized that she can easily scale the gate of her crib. She’s a real little girl now. Cathy is reading to her on the bed now, she’s in her jammies and has her pooh bear and blankie, and seems very much into just hangin out on her new bed.

Probably one of the more useful things I learned today had to do with using my TI-85. The TI-85 is a graphing calculator I had to buy in 1994 for Calculus 1. It wasn’t the latest and greatest even then as you can tell by the raised lettering molded into the plastic case that reads 1991 in tiny, almost invisible letters, now almost completely obliterated by scratches and knicks. But it is still a standard tool in a lot of schools (once you get something into the schools, you milk it!) Besides, there’s a lot of support on the net and great freeware utilities and add-ons for data gathering and such. The screen isn’t that great, and it uses an old Z80 processor which has been around since the late 1980’s at least, but I finally learned how to do something on it that I have been completely unable to figure out which makes it a lot more useful: I was so frustrated in Structural lab on Tuesday (Prof Davis) when I was taking data points and then couldn’t simply plot them on my calculator. It seemed ridiculous that I had a graphing calculator and yet couldn’t easily graph stuff!

As it turned out, you can use [2nd LIST] to edit and name a list. These lists are available in the [STAT] menu where you can [Edit] and choose one to take the place of the xlist (independant) variable and edit the ylist variable for the dependant variable. Once a table of values is ready, [EXIT] and choose [DRAW] where [SCAT] and [xyLINE] will plot it up for you. This is so cool, since there are many times when you want to do some data gathering on the fly and see results in a graph and using this its easy. I was at work some months ago and Neocles wanted to do that and asked me to bring the calculator, but I hadn’t a clue at that time!

Don Piper Situation in NYC

Left the house at 7:30 to swing by the bank and get cash, I was taking my time, because even though I knew it would be a better idea if I took the train in, it would be a lot more convenient to drive the hour or so to the city and I was purposely dawdling so I would get to the train station and miss the train leaving me no choice. However, when I got to Ronkonkoma station, the train was still there, and I decided to park and get on (still thinking it might leave me there on the platform and then I would still be able to drive in with a clear conciense). The doors began to close just as I got onto the platform, and I figured it was fate so I hopped on.

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