Beethoven Symphonies for piano, four hands.

Posted by me on Saturday, the 16th day of June, anno domini 2007 at 10:14 PM, local time.

Beethoven composed some great symphonies. Each and every one of them, I can listen to again and again, and I learn to appreciate them more and more each time. My particular favorite is the 9th, with full orchestra and choral. Its just spectacular, especially the fourth movement (as cliche as it sounds…). But, the fifth is also very excellent.

Recently on MPR (Classical Minnesota Public Radio – Streaming free online!), I heard a snippet of a rendition of the fifth symphony of Beethoven arranged for four hands on a grand piano. It was rather spectacular, and I immediately started searching for a recording. Unfortunately, I was unable to find one anywhere! I contacted the radio show, and apparently it was the radio host, who is also a composer and pianist, playing with someone else from the radio studio for the express purpose of the radio show. I was devastated! I did find the arrangement itself, Nos. 1-5 and Nos. 6-9, which I am sure I will buy sometime here. The problem with those, of course, is that as much as I would like to learn (and as much as my sister has offered to teach me), I cannot play piano. And I only have two hands! Pam offered to play the other half, but still, I cannot play, and so it wouldn’t be a very good thing that resulted.

Having said all that, if anyone knows of a good set of recordings of Beethoven’s symphonies arranged for piano, four hands, I would surely like to learn about it. Also, if there are some great piano players out there, who know someone else who can play the other half with them, and they’d like to record this and make it available for my listening enjoyment, that’d just be great.

Until then, I will just mourn silently. And remember.

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Cheesecake and Books

Posted by me on Saturday, the 16th day of June, anno domini 2007 at 12:50 AM, local time.

So, I gotta say, Cheesecake and Books is a great combination. I love bookstores; this is a well known fact. Also well known is my enjoyment of a good cheesecake. In Rochester, these two hobbies are combined in both Barnes and Nobles that we have here, where they have the lovely Cheesecake Factory/Starbucks combo cafe thingies in the stores. Every time I got to these places, whether I intend to or not, I usually end up buying a book or some music or something, and maybe a piece of cheesecake, possibly with a mocha or a cappuccino. They really have my number, apparently.

They like to change up the cheesecake selection, and some recent excellent pieces of culinary art include this month's Wild Strawberries and Cream, which is very delicious, and last month's Vanilla Bean Cheesecake (Need I say more?), and also a double chocolate creation that is also very very good. What will they tempt me with next?

So anyway, next time you are near a Barnes & Noble's bookstore, go inside! They have lots of great books! And chances are good that they will have lots of great cheesecake as well!

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Ah… The Lovely Sound of Air Conditioning

Posted by me on Tuesday, the 12th day of June, anno domini 2007 at 4:36 PM, local time.

This is a quick notification that you should hopefully not have to wade through my complaints about my lack of air conditioning anymore, as the service guy came out and fixed it all up today. Once again, the lovely music of the air conditioning fan echoes throughout my apartment, and the temperature is already starting to drop. Praise God!

Apparently what happened was that someone stepped on the low voltage wire bundle running from my apartment out to the actual air conditioning unit, and pulled them part-way out of the air conditioner. This caused something in there to short out, and the transformer back at the furnace fan area blew. The wires were easily fixed and the transformer easily replaced (apparently), and we're back in business. I don't know who was really walking around by the air conditioning unit (nothing else is really there to get to: just a bunch of air conditioners, stones, shrubs, etc.), but hopefully they don't do it again. It really was not cool!

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xkcd – Only the second webcomic worth reading?

Posted by me on Sunday, the 28th day of January, anno domini 2007 at 11:12 PM, local time.

So, previously, I have blogged about Dinosaur Comics, by Ryan North, a comic genius. Now, I would like to make a praiseful mention of xkcd by Randall Munroe. I don’t remember who first sent me the link, I suspect it may have been Kyle. He at least claims the distinction. Anyway, I have seen a couple of the comics off and on when people or websites mention them to me. They have been funny, and all, but just recently, I found myself going through the entire archive of comics. Many of them are down right hilarious. Some are scary in how well they describe me. All of them are quite good.

And, if you go and read some of them, don’t forget about the mouse-over text for each comic. Much like dinosaur comics, it is often a punchline, or commentary on the comic. But, they are always a vital part of the day’s offerings. Unfortunately firefox has a bug with long mouse-over texts, so sometimes you might not get to read it all. I do have a solution for Dinosaur Comics, which goes and grabs the mouse-over text and displays it prominently below the comic for easy reading. It also takes Ryan’s mess and makes proper XHTML out of it. That is one point where the author of xkcd is better: the source is clean. I respect that. Thank you, Mr Munroe.

I do plan to write a script to make it easier to read xkcd as well, but haven’t gotten to it yet. Please stand by.

As for a comparison between Dinosaur Comics and xkcd in terms of goodness, I think I still have to go with Dinosaur Comics. They are consistently of a level that xkcd usually, but not always, manages to reach. Besides, everybody seems to already like xkcd. Its not as fun to evangelize as Dinosaur Comics is (which, for some reason, a lot of people don’t seem to get).

Anyway, I recommend you keep an eye on these comics! They are sometimes rather niche in their audience, but a lot of times, pretty much everybody can appreciate the humor.

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Es Schneit! and Happy New Year!

Posted by me on Monday, the 1st day of January, anno domini 2007 at 2:43 AM, local time.

So just a quick note here this early hour into the new year to relate the wonderful news! Es schneit! Es schneit! Es hat geschneit! Es ist Schneiende! Isn’t it wonderful? After months of waiting, heartbreak, and sorrow, it has finally snowed! And I am tired and am going to bed! Yay!

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Edvard Grieg and his Lyric Pieces

Posted by me on Sunday, the 31st day of December, anno domini 2006 at 7:21 PM, local time.

Edvard Grieg was an amazing composer and pianist from somewhere in Scandinavia at some point in the past (what do I look like, an encyclopedia? Go look it up yourself, I just gave you the link!)

I have always been a fan of his music, ever since I first heard In the Hall of the Mountain King. And sure, the Peer Gynt Suites and such are very nice. Still enjoy them immensely.

But, recently, I have fallen in love with the Lyric Pieces, Books 1-10. They sound so simple and yet evoke such beautiful emotion, ranging from anger to happiness to sadness. Since I had a difficult time finding them quick on Amazon, I went through the short trouble of creating a wish list to make them easier to buy. These fourteen low priced CDs contain a lot of piano music by Grieg, including some renditions of the Suites for piano as well. All are played by the same guy (I think. Most of them are anyway.), Einar Steen-N�kleberg. The guy is pretty good, as far as I can tell.

Anyway, Vols. 8, 9, and 10 are the Lyric Pieces. I particular enjoy Vol. 10, mostly because of Book 8, (Op. 65), which concludes with Wedding in Troldhaugen, which was brought to my attention by some of my friends using it in their wedding. Its this sort of stuff that makes me really wish I had bothered to learn to play the piano.

And! Who know YouTube had so much piano music? And music of all sorts? It seems its a great place to find new music for someone like me, who loves piano music from old dead guys whose copyrights have all since expired. My post earlier is another good example of the gems of YouTube. Some of the music is of rather low recording quality, and some from people who’s talent leaves a bit to be desired (not that I can talk much about that), but by and large there are some very talented people out there. Some other great Grieg examples from YouTube to capture someone’s interest:

Anyway, thats all for this year. Gotta run to a small gathering that will hopefully have wine and other good stuff to drink. See ya in 2007!

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The Amateur, or, Way Too Much Time On His Hands

Posted by me on Sunday, the 31st day of December, anno domini 2006 at 1:01 PM, local time.

Here is something I was going to post about some weeks back, when Kyle (the Mauian) sent me the link. I forgot. Then I was reminded to post about it after Adam posted an article about people with way too much time on their hands. That, of course, was over two weeks ago, and once again, I forgot.

Anyway, this YouTube video is what I wanted to post about. The Amateur is where this nobody records himself pressing some keys on the piano and banging on some drums. Then, through the magic of modern video editing, he resequences the video into something truly amazing. You should go check it out!

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Bizet’s Carmen

Posted by me on Friday, the 29th day of December, anno domini 2006 at 2:47 PM, local time.

[Note: For those of you keeping track, I decided that the best way to procrastinate while still getting things done was to put off packing for a bit, then put off writing, then put off packing, etc. That way, everything can get easily procrastinated, but things still get done. Doesn’t seem right, somehow, but here I am.]

So, I was going to blog about this weeks ago when Pam mentioned to me that Carmen was on the television. Well, it turned out that it was but a song from Carmen and I was then urged to get out my CD and listen to it proper. And so I did.

Anyway, Carmen is a great opera. I would go so far as to say that it is one of my favorite operas. One of the few French operas I have on CD, and I cannot say that I agree with the way the storyline goes and ends up, but despite all this, still it is a fantastic opera. Solti’s conducting surely makes it even better. The singing is superb, and Ms Tatiana Trayanos as Carmen is most spectacular. It is quite odd, I must say, to find oneself singing along with a song written in French, with words I do not know or understand, written for a voice about 4 octaves higher than my own. But it is just such a compelling voice and song that you find yourself drawn in and forced to sing along.

Often when listening to opera I am dismayed, one way or the other, by either the overpowering orchestra or the orchestra that cannot be heard. In the recording I am pleased to possess, neither of these things has been a problem. The orchestra is brought forward and recessed at exactly the right moments for great effect and I can only assume that is in some small part Sir Georg‘s doing, as I have yet to have any such problems with any of his conductions.

In short, everyone must go out and buy this Opera (preferably a recording with Solti conducting) and listen to it nonstop for months on end until you too are in love with it as I am. I am sorry if this will take up a large part of your time; but really, you have no choice in the matter.

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Stranger Than Fiction

Posted by me on Saturday, the 16th day of December, anno domini 2006 at 1:17 AM, local time.

So a couple of weeks back, I went to see Stranger Than Fiction, with Will Ferrell. It was surprisingly good. Really good. Now, as a rule, I don’t really like Will Ferrell in movies. I don’t/didn’t think it was the best place for him to be. Don’t get me wrong, I liked Elf and surely I laughed at the appropriate places in the other movies I have seen with him in them, but I had yet to see a serious movie with him in it that I liked. Well, Stranger Than Fiction was a comedy, I suppose, but a serious comedy.

So, as I left the theatre, I remarked to my friends what a good movie it was and that I should blog about it. Well, in my laziness, I have delayed this post. But I finally got back to it. I didn’t want to do the movie the injustice of not being praised on my blog…

So here are the “awards” I would give to Stranger Than Fiction, ignoring all other movies this year, and the fact that the movie was apparently based on a book (it was new to me):

  • Best use of Will Ferrell in a feature film. Ever.
  • Best original screenplay based on a book I haven’t read.
  • Best use of CG overlays in a non-reality duplicating way by a live action film.
  • Best movie based on a meta-book.
  • Best casting of a hot unknown actress as a baker in a long time.
  • Best pointless use of math as a plot device.
  • Best quasi-romantic pseudo-comedy that Might Have Had a Sad Ending.
  • Best film I can remember seeing this year.
  • Best movie about things that can’t actually happen in real life that I chose to remember at the moment.

Did I mention Best use of Will Ferrell in a feature film, ever? Anyway, it was really pretty good. You should go see it. I should go see it again. We all should buy it when it comes out on DVD.

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Google Spreadsheets

Posted by me on Thursday, the 20th day of July, anno domini 2006 at 10:46 PM, local time.

So I needed to create a spreadsheet today. For what, really isn’t all that important (doing some figuring with some loans and such). But, I use Linux here at home, so don’t have Excel sitting around. And I never liked OpenOffice much (I don’t want to get into it). Gnumeric just annoys me. And I haven’t used sc in quite some time so I would have had to re-learn it all again. But I wanted to get this figured out quick!

I had heard about Google’s Spreadsheet stuff but had not used it or seen much about it actually. So, I thought I would try it out. Turns out its pretty good. Hardest bit to get used to is not right clicking for copying and pasting and what not. Right clicking gets you the context menu for the browser. To copy and paste and insert and delete columns/rows/cells/etc., you click on some buttons on the top of the page. I’m sure I’ll get used to it, its just a little weird right now. Also, there aren’t as many formatting options for how to format each cell’s numbers as I’m used to. For most tasks, I’m sure it will be fine.

Another problem I’ve noticed is that there isn’t an easy way to get from the Google Desktop to the Spreadsheets area. Would be a bit nicer if you could get to Spreadsheets directly from the Google Homepage.

I haven’t tried it yet, but I think it will be quite nice to use the sharing stuff for the spreadsheets, too. A given spreadsheet can be made visible to select other Google users, either just for viewing or for editing as well.

So, after all that rambling: The Google Spreadsheets AJAX application appears to be quite nice for simple usage as well as portability and sharing. But there are definitely some things that could be improved upon.

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