Mar 14, 2003

So I finally made the commitment to get my own domain, and in the next few days I’ll probably migrate all these pages over to the new location. I’ve been thinking about doing this for a long time, but never really had the justification for needing it. But since I’m looking at adding more pictures to this site, and my verizon account only gives me about 5MB, which is only enough for about 80 or so pictures plus all the text and everything, it seemed like I finally had an excuse to do it. With the new site I’ll have 500MB, which is enough for 10,000 pictures, which should be plenty. bartlett.com is taken by some landscaping company who obviously had somebody who was savvy to the web at an early stage. bartlett.net is taken by some company who houses tons of domains made of common last names, and then sells you the rights to use them for e-mail, and maybe did some webhosting stuff too. markbartlett.com is claimed by somebody in England. “.com” used to be the defacto for anybody, but now it seems like its original intent, that it’s really for companies, is a little more the standard, so it doesn’t really bother me to use .net instead. It sort of identifes it as my official “net presence”, and definitely bumps up the chances of anyone looking for me finding it on a web search. There are quite a number of other Mark Bartletts out there, if yahoo is any indication, so I might as well stake my claim now before one of the other ones takes it. mataglap.com is also taken, but that’s okay, that name won’t necessarily stick for this page. I’m already seventh on the list of hits for the word “mataglap”, I’m surprised there are that many others out there.

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Mar 13, 2003

Here’s Laura’s e-mail regarding last night’s reading group:

What a lively discussion we had about tonight’s book (Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen)! (Okay, I’ll admit that almost all of our discussions are pretty lively, but this one showed little sign of flagging as we neared 9:00 and I finally guided us into wrapping up.) Part of what contributed to the length and energy of the discussion was that about half the people liked the book and the other half didn’t, so the half that liked it felt compelled to try to convince the other half that they really did, or at least should have, liked it. The biggest complaint of those who didn’t like it was that it was dull. The biggest strength of the book for most of those who liked it was its humor. (In the course of this debate, one member suggested that it most closely resembled “Seinfeld” – possibly humorous but basically about nothing with somewhat two-dimensional characters.)

Of course we touched on the theme of “pride and prejudice,” but spent even more time inspecting the marriage theme and debating whether these folks really could be living in a time of war and not ever talk about it! We also discussed whether Elizabeth really had the opportunity to actually fall in love with Darcy (as opposed to just coming to appreciate him more and see him in a truer light) and made the inevitable comparisons between the book and various filmed versions of the book. One thing I think we all agreed on was that the folks in this book led really dull lives!

If I may add my two cents, I’ve always found Jane Austen to be extremely dull, but Pride and Prejudice is actually the least awful novel of hers I’ve read as it does have some pretensions of a plot and isn’t written so circumspectly that you can’t keep track of what’s going on. There’s something to be said about the general level of discussion last night in that when we read Persuasion a few years ago it was only Roger and I who didn’t like the book, while last night probably half the group didn’t like it, and it was ostensibly the better book! Although the discussion may have gone on till almost nine, I for one was done talking about it by 8:30. But I was surprised that so many people were so unforgiving about historical context in terms of plot, theme, etc. I think the surface familiarity of this novel tends to make you forget it was written 200 years ago, and as a result it comes up short as you impose greater literary requirements upon it than were probably achievable at that time. Don’t get me wrong, I still don’t think much of it, but it was an unusual instance of the group in general taking the critical low road last night.

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Mar 12, 2003

I’m shocked this morning to read on velonews.com about the death of Andre Kivilev. I remember Kivilev most from the 2001 Tour de France, where he was the only GC threat in a large breakaway on an early stage in the rain that managed to foil the peloton and finished about 35 minutes ahead of the pack. I took Lance and the rest of the contenders several days to catch up to them in the GC, and the whole time Kivilev was identified as the one person who could take advantage of such a large lead. As it was he ended up fourth. But now in stage two of Paris-Nice yesterday he was involved in a crash and landed head-first on the pavement. Of course, like most of the European peloton, he wasn’t wearing a helmet. I’ve been following professional cycling since Lance’s first win at the TdF in 99, so this is the first death during a major race since I’ve been around. They still talk about Fabio Casartelli all the time, who succumbed to a similar accident in the Tour in ’95, so its a big deal in the cycling world. Doesn’t seem to motivate them to wear helmets though. Bob Roll says it’s strictly a macho thing, there’s no other reason not to wear them. Considering how fast they go and how close together they are and how varying the course conditions are, its a wonder it doesn’t happen more often. Sprinters will typically wear them for potentially close finishes, but in mountain stages they sail down these steep declines without them because they don’t want to wear them on the way up.

We were innocent bystanders to a similar event in Arlington in the summer of 2000 for the first running of the “Tour of Arlington”, which turned out to be the first of only two, since the sponsor, BMC, couldn’t keep its end of the deal past that. The family and I showed up for the men’s race, since I wasn’t buying Velo News yet I wasn’t quite up to date on the domestic women’s field and at the time Saturn was so hugely dominant most of the races were a formality. But that was where Nicole Reinhart met her untimely end, colliding head-on into a tree on the last lap. The men’s race was cancelled and everybody just stood there stunned. Unlike something like auto racing where cars run around at 200 miles an hour, you don’t typically think of bike racing as a dangerous sport, but there’s definitely a certain amount of risk involved. Just getting out and riding around town I feel much more exposed and much more tentative on a bike than when I’m running on the same roads. The older I get the less I want to put myself in harm’s way, but at the same time you want to be able to ride somewhere. Either way, I plan on having the helmet. The UCI should think about doing the same.

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Mar 11, 2003

I’m so far behind in my comic reading these days its not even funny, but I’ve been treading water for the last several weeks and at least reading as many as I’m buying, even if the ones I’m reading are ones I bought three or four months ago. It actually makes for an interesting change, since most comics are generally episodic and if you read three or four at once from different titles you get three or four unconnected episodes, each of which won’t be continued for another several weeks in most cases. By having a backlog of 50 or so comics, I can actually read “vertically”, that is, read several issues in a row of the same title. So tonight, for instance, I read the three most recent issues of Daredevil, plus a couple of single issues of other things. It makes for better continuity and I’m more likely to remember the story by reading larger chunks of it at once. Of course, the whole point of graphic novels is to consolidate all the related issues of a particular story together so you can read it in a few sittings rather than waiting from one month to the next. I think in the old days it was easier to keep the continuity straight on a month to month basis, because a) I was younger and better at remembering what I read, but also because b) the stories were more verbose, with lots of captions, so it actually took longer to read a single issue, and because it took longer you got into it a little more and were better positioned to remember it four weeks later when you got the next issue. A lot of comics these days don’t have much at all in the way of captions, and its a rare comic that requires more than 10 minutes to read. At a minimum $2.25, for only 10 minutes entertainment, it’s an expensive thrill, and with some of them pushing three or four dollars each, you’re getting into phone sex prices. I stoppped buying manga because with not only no captions but not much dialog, many of them could be read in under five minutes, and it just didn’t seem worth it. It’s hard not to see comic books, or at least mainstream superhero comics, as a dying medium, slowly being superceded by graphic novels. Although they tend to point fingers at video games and the internet and whatever, the industry really has only itself to blame, with the consolidation of distributors and lack of advertising and creator ownership all driving up prices and driving down sales. But I keep buying them anyway.

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Mar 10, 2003

Considering how many pianists there are in the english-speaking world and how many magazines there are in the same english-speaking world, it’s somewhat surprising how hard it is to find a magazine about the piano. And I don’t mean Keyboard Magazine, which is about keyboards, after all, but one about the actual piano. I subscribed briefly to Piano & Keyboard several years ago, but at the time wasn’t playing as much and consequently not reading it that closely, so I dropped it. Now it apparently no longer exists, and I feel guilty. While we were in New York a couple of weeks ago Beth and I stopped in at Patelsons, which was about two blocks away from our hotel, and she sat and read the guide book while I browsed. They had relatively recent copies of both Clavier magazine and Piano Today, both of which I’d seen once in a while but never bought before, so I picked up one of each (the Clavier was only $2, hard to pass up). These magazines actually contain music, so it almost makes sense to keep them near the piano rather than on the bedside table. It’s usually my m.o. if I take an interest in something one of the first steps is to find a magazine about it. When I stop reading the magazine, then my interest has officially waned, so I can stop subscribing and move on to something else. I still get Opera News and BBC Music Magazine and read them semi-regularly, but I thought I’d give these a try, too, plus there’s another one from the UK called International Piano (which used to be Piano Quarterly), that’s kind of pricey, but I ordered one issue to check it out. Of course I’d rather be playing the piano than reading about playing the piano, but since my playing time is limited, this helps to keep my interest up, I suppose.

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Mar 9, 2003

Somehow I missed the last couple of days. I spent the evening on the computer Friday night, but it wasn’t until five seconds after I turned it off that I remembered I’d forgotten to update this. And Saturday evening was mostly spent fighting to stay awake, which I succeeded in doing, but again, without updating this log. So now it’s Sunday and the computer’s been running all evening doing a disk defrag, and when the Batman Reunion movie is finally over and I come in here to do a quick update and go to bed, I find Beth has shut it off and turned off the light (which is completely out of character for her).

Anyway, while fighting to stay awake both last night and today I did watch The Aztecs on DVD, which just arrived in the mail last week. As with Tomb of the Cybermen before it, it’s just plain weird to watch these grainy, indistinct, muffled stories from the ’60’s all cleaned up and good as new, if not better than they were when they were first shown. My first viewing of a Hartnell episode was “The Keys of Marinus” in 1985, on a nth-generation copy of a Betamax tape with a rented VCR on a 13-inch tv. The story seemed fuzzy and hard to follow. It turned out, when I moved out here and Channel 11 in New Hampshire first started showing Hartnells, that even those copies were fuzzy and hard to follow. Plus these six, eight and ten part epics weren’t meant to be watched in one sitting on a Saturday afternoon, either. The Aztecs is much easier to take (at only four parts), but in the mid-80’s it was more Upstairs Downstairs than Doctor Who for somebody who had only seen Doctors 3, 4 and 5 up to that point. Now, with a complete set of videos and 10 years of Doctor Who magazine under my belt, you can appreciate the context much better, but the pacing by itself won’t keep you awake and riveted late at night. The commentary track was a bit thin (a little too much “ooh, that looks quite good”), but did give some good insights as to what a shoestring operation it was, and the interview with some of the guest stars in one bonus track and designer Barry Newbery in another were very enlightening. Next up should be Vengeance of Varos, plus I still have the last two Key to Time installments to watch.

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Mar 6, 2003

So Beth is off tomorrow for a wild weekend of scrapbooking on the Cape, leaving me with the kiddies for a couple of days. While this is the sort of thing that used to inspire dread and fear, now it doesn’t seem that awful. The kids are older, more self-sufficient, fairly easy to entertain, so it’s no big deal. Of course it’ll be 40 degrees and sunny and I won’t be able to go for a run, but that’s okay. And since Beth is back around lunchtime on Sunday so she can turn around and take Chloe to a Girl Scout thing, there won’t be enough time to go to the science museum like we did last year, but that’s okay. I’m sure we’ll find something to do. I asked Chloe where she’d like to go while Mommy was gone, and she said “McDonalds”. Not exactly what I was looking for. She’d watch tv for the whole 40-hour stretch if I let her. Next weekend she and Beth are going camping on another Girl Scout outing, so it’ll be just me and Justin for a weekend for the first time. I told him we can do guy things like sit around in our underwear and watch football, which he thinks is hilarious. I’d like to come up with something different to do, given this opportunity, but haven’t got any concrete ideas yet. Have to get past this weekend first.

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Mar 5, 2003

Seems like Blogger’s been having problems today, but maybe it’s just the network here at work doesn’t want to let me in. Last night I stopped at CompUSA on the way home to check out the PDA’s, but also picked up a copy of Adobe Photoshop Album for $10 off, since it was top-rated in PC Magazine and I was looking for something more official than the freeware JAlbum to organize pictures for the web page. After the kids were in bed I set myself down to install it, and ended up spending about two hours monkeying with stuff before it finally worked. By then it was 10 o’clock and it was too late to do anything with it. First it wouldn’t install DirectX completely (which I already had installed, but like most games, it didn’t seem to care). That required turning off all the Norton stuff before that would work (a little trick I learned a while back). Then it would start but tell me it couldn’t open the catalog because of ODBC problems. That required installing an upgrade of ODBC from Microsoft’s website. But the newest versions don’t include the JET dll’s for Access and other pc-based databases, so that was a separate download and install from Microsoft, all interspersed with frequent reboots. I pity the fool that encounters these kind of problems and doesn’t have the years of experience to know how to troubleshoot. To Adobe’s credit, it gave me enough information in the error messages to know where to look, but it was still a whole evening I could’ve been doing something else. It wasn’t until after I shut down the computer and fired up an MST3K tape that I realized I never did update my blog. I’m so looking forward to technology making my life easier.

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Mar 3, 2003

Just finished (like 15 minutes ago) David Brin’s “The Uplift War”, a big, sprawling mess of a novel that was the Hugo winner back in the 80’s and finished the loosely connected first Uplift trilogy. This is Brin’s “War and Peace” following a large number of races and a few representatives from each through an extremely convoluted plot involving, at its core, mankind’s right to exist as an uplifted species when they apparently had no patron to guide them through the process to intellligence. There are many things to admire about this book, Brin’s attention to detail is consistently sharp, he only introduces enough characters as the reader can keep track of, the larger aspects of the war are largely played out offstage, allowing more time to focus on the individual efforts. He particular enjoys putting otherwise average people/chimps/aliens into extraordinary situations and then seeing what comes of it. The alien races are mostly anthropomorphic, but distinctive in their own alien qualities. There are still some humans around to keep things grounded (which if I remember correctly was conspicuously missing in the next book, Brightness Reef) and give the reader (or at least me) something to latch on to. I suppose it’s the kind of book that benefits from repeated readings, in that knowing up front who’s important and who’s not, and generally what happens, would allow one to wallow a little more in the world-building that Brin indulges in. But as a first time through, it’s not an easy book by any stretch, the multiple viewpoint characters, each involved in their own little situations, makes the overall picture of what’s going on hard to follow. The book isn’t necessarily too long, but could stand to be a little more focussed, or else a little more philosophical to make up for the lack of a strong narrative drive. This was also a problem in the previous book, “Startide Rising”, which followed basically the same premise, take a bunch of ordinary people/dolphins/chimps, plunk them down in an hostile alien environment, separate them, have some vague battles going on around them, and don’t answer any big questions. The Uplift War ends less ambiguously than Startide Rising, but because the action is so diluted amongst the different protagonists, the payoff isn’t really that exciting for the amount of pages that it requires to reach it.

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Mar 2, 2003

Had my first real experience with the Boston Piano Amateurs Association today as a member. We met at someone’s house in Northboro, which had a good-sized music room with a grand and two uprights, plus an organ. Nobody took advantage of the multiple pianos, though. About a dozen people played, including my first contribution, the Debussy Prelude from Book 2 “Les terrases des audiences du clair de lune” or however it’s spelled. The piano was a Steinway, and a little stiff, with a couple of sticky keys, and the room dimensions were such that it took a fair amount of control to keep things from sounding too loud, but it went off pretty well. Other members played some Chopin, some Liszt, even the Copland Variations, which really >was< too loud for the room, plus not exactly a crowd-pleaser. Most of the people who played seemed to have a pretty good facility with the piano, only a couple I would classify as "beginners". Afterwards I got to talk at length with a few of them, then it was off into the pouring rain for the short drive home. This is a more or less monthly event, primarily at members' homes, presumably just members with grands, which lets me out. I'd like to check into using the Marlborough library, though, as I think that would be a good-sized venue, although its a bit dimly lit, that maybe would serve in lieu of my living room.

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