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November 8, 1998

Well, gotta start somewhere, so here I go. I've never kept any sort of journal or diary before, not sure what this might evolve into...time will tell.

Picked George up at Nobscot Scout reservation, he had a great weekend for his camping trip; fine crisp November weather.

Picked up Tova's friend Rachel on the way back. They're off singing jazz with Harvey Finstein at the moment.

Scanned a bunch of Tova pictures from Shut it off, already!, Grease, The Crucible, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, The Search for signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe, and Red Noses. I put together a collage of 18 images on a single page for her to enclose with her Cornell application. First time I've tried the Photo Grade paper and ink...results are impressive.

MIT Mikado

Last night Harriet and I went in to MIT to see the MITGASP Mikado; I took a bunch of photos (FG/EM, Fujicolor 1600, 28-85 and 70-210 zooms, (82A filter) plus a few with the 24. Used the Slik tripod, first time I've used it with a small camera...) Sure was a good thing I brought 2 cameras, 'cause the FG crapped out after the first half-roll (I guess the 5-year-old battery bit the dust.)

It was a pretty good production, mostly students. P'rhaps I'm biased, but I think the '94 edition Tova and I debuted in was better.

Book: The English Revolution, G. M. Trevelyan

The bloodless "Glorious Revolution" of 1688-89 represented a major turning point in English history. After the Cromwellian excesses of Puritanism in the 1640s & '50s, then the return of Cavalier "divine right" under Charles II, the succession of James II represented an extreme swing of the political/religious pendulum. James was a Catholic, and was to a considerable extent, a creature of Louis XIV. When the mass of Protestant England, Whig (formerly Roundhead) and Tory (formerly Cavalier) rose up together against him and called William and Mary over from Holland to safeguard the Protestant religion and the national independence of England, James left without a fight for the safety of Paris.

The unity of Whig and Tory in opposition to James permitted an end to extremist violence within England, and the Revolutionary Settlement finally put paid to the doctrine of divine right. This was the beginning of the end of Royal Prerogative in the British Isles. The beginnings of religious tolerance also date from this era, though not truly formalized until the Reform Act of 1832.

While the accession of William and Mary was generally welcome in England, it was a mixed blessing at best to the Scots, and an unmitigated disaster for Ireland, which was crushed under military and commercial persecution from which it did not even begin to recover until the mid 19th century.

This is the first Trevelyan I've read, and I was impressed by its general readibility and clarity. Although I bought this book for a quarter at a yard sale, on a whim, I'll probably look for more of his writing.

November 12, 1998

Just back from opening night of To Kill a Mockingbird at Newton North H.S., with Tova playing the role of Mayella the lying white-trash slut...she was super!

Shot a roll of Fuji 1600 with the 105/1.8 and 82A filter.

November 16, 1998

I am Techno Man!

Last week I finally got a heart monitor, just like a tri-geek; when the price went down to thirty bucks, I could no longer resist. So far, I've determined that my resting heart rate is about 59, and my anaerobic threshold is around 165. I'll have to fiddle around a bit more with this, but so far I'm finding that the recommended training zone is slower than I would normally go, which is a bit of a surprise.

My other enhancement is the pair of hearing aids I picked up today. The jury's still out on these. They certainly improve speech intelligibility (at least with some speakers) and I can really hear high souns like the rustling of leaves, my tires rolling on the dirt, miscellaneous clanks & clunks.

I'm less certain how they'll work out for music. Recorded music sounds pretty good with them, but they're a bit of a problem for singing, because if I shout or sing they distort very badly. They're OK for normal speech. I'll have to play around with the controls a bit before I make up my mind about using them on a regular basis, and particularly for music.

November 21, 1998

JavaScript

I've been working on a JavaScript gear calculator. I've got a working one up at http://sheldonbrown.com/gears, but I'm not done with it yet. The version that's up does simple derailer gearing only, but I'm having a bit of trouble with the version for use with internal gearing. I'm not a very systematic programmer, I tend to just start with something simple that works then gradually add a bell here, a whistle there.

L'affaire Lewinsky

There don't seem to be any good guys in this mess...unless you consider Linda Tripp, who makes the rest of 'em all look like saints by comparison! I haven't been so pissed off at a public figure since the reptilian Elliott Abrams back in the Reagan administration. I can't understand how Linda's illegally-made tapes could be broadcast all over the world; this seems like a totally un-justified invasion of Lewinsky's privacy.

Moving sheldonbrown.com

While I've been happy enough with TIAC's service for the last 3 years, as the site has grown in size and popularity, TIAC has become too expensive. We're paying $68.95/month for the site, the connection, the virtual domain, and a second 10 mb of Web space. On top of that, we're getting croaked by the traffic charges...the last couple of months it's been over $150 additional for traffic!

I've signed up with an outfit called ICOM from California. They're only $100/year for a 25 mb site, with no traffic charges, and they feature the unlimited email addresses I'm used to. I've also signed up with them for a secure server so I can accept credit cards over the net without serious risk. That was another fifty bucks, but probably worth it.

November 25-28, 1998

Down to Florida for Thanksgiving

...with Harriet's family. Beautiful weather, we stayed at the Hollywood Holiday Inn, right on the beach. Only went swimming once; good surf, surprisingly cool water for Florida (bit warmer than it ever gets north of Cape Cod). Tova got stung by a jellyfish.

George and I rented a couple of Schwinn cruisers for a ride along the boardwalk; a very different style of cycling than we're used to, but definitely fun. Although cruisers are pretty impractical up here, they are pretty well adapted to this type of cycling. 5 or 6 gears is more than enough; weight doesn't much matter when there are no hills; the extreme upright riding position is comfortable enough if you don't try to ride fast...and, given the usual temperature down there, riding fast has little attraction. The one aspect of cruiser design that I can't get behind is the handlebars, which force you to bend your wrist at a very sharp angle. I found this quite uncomfortable. (The big squishy saddle was no treat, either!)

We ate 5 or 6 meals in the restaurant next door to the hotel, sitting outside among the palm trees with a view of the ocean. The second time we ate there, after the meal I went in and asked to talk to the manager...he got all worried, 'til I told him that I just wanted to comment on how pleasant and helpful the waiter had been. I do this on occasion, when I've received better than average service...praising an employee to his boss is very powerful magic.

Thanksgiving dinner was at a glatt-kosher restaurant called Ashers, on the other side of Hollywood. First time I've ever eaten in such a place. The food was tasty (at least what I ate...there were lots of eggplant/chickpea derivatives that I gave a pass. We were a party of 20, and the staff was completely over their head, despite the fact that we had been expected, and that there were only two options for the meal. I've never been in a restaurant where the wait staff was so inept and disorganized.

Book: Starfarers, by Poul Anderson 1998

While the conventional wisdom states that "You can't tell a book by it's cover" I've found this to be not entirely true; specifically, I've observed that if a book has a picture of one or more spaceships on the jacket, I'll probably like it. Starfarers has a fairly impressionistic scene on the cover, and was, indeed enjoyable. After a fairly slow start it got moving along OK. It is based on interstellar travel at close to the speed of light, the McGuffin being a "zero-zero" quantum drive. The potentiality for the drive was discovered by reception of drive signature emissions from 3000 lightyears away; scientists reverse-engineer the drive from these signals.

A starfaring sub-culture (called "the Kith") evolves, mostly traveling on voyages of a hundred years or so, returning for brief stopovers at their Earth based ghetto "Kithtown" which is intended to provide some continuity for the voyageurs while Earth culture as a whole continues its evolution. The polyglot crew of the starship Envoy sets out to find the source of the original signals and make contact with the distant starfarers. The crew is scheduled to return some 6000 years later, although, due to relativistic time dilation, only 7 years will have passed in their subjective time. By the time they arrive at the source of the signals, they discover that the centaur-like race has given up interstellar travel, on the grounds that it's economically unsustainable, and constitutes a de-stabilizing influence on their purposely-stagnant culture. The centaur-oids are interesting and varied characters, some wishing to resume star travel, others against it. There are further adventures with another intelligent race dwelling in the accretion disc of a neighboring black hole, plus various well-plotted intrigues among the 10-person crew.

All-in-all, like most of Anderson's ouvre, a reasonably entertaining read for fans of "hard" S.F., but not a masterpiece.

Movie: Pleasantville

Amusing, entertaining. Reminds me a bit of Back to the Future.

Movie: Elizabeth

Quite good, well acted, well cast, well directed. Some of the politics were a bit hard to follow, and the music was a bit anachronistic. The sanserif type face used for the titles and subtitles seemed a bit out-of-place.

November 28, 1998

Concert: Boston Symphony Orchestra

Tonight Roberto Abbado conducted the Schuman piano concerto (with Leif Ove Andsnes, a Norwegian pianist I'd never heard of before) and the Mahler first. The Schumann is not a huge favorite of mine, but it was performed well, and well received by the audience. Andsnes even performed an encore, something familiar-sounding that I could not place.

The Mahler was generally a quite good performance, though in a few places the attacks seemed a bit soft and mushy; I particularly noticed this in the third movement, where the violins play the bit that goes "Auf dem Strasse steht ein Lindenbaum..." in the Wayfarer song.

This was the first chance I've had to try my new hearing aids at a Symphony concert, and the verdict is...thumbs down! They worked OK in the quiet parts, and adding a bit of sheen to the string timbre, and letting me hear the triangle quite well...but when the fortissimi came along, they completely overloaded and became un-listenable. I had them in and out for comparision several tims during the Schumann, but the end of the first movement of the Mahler was the final straw. I'll return them (my 30 day trial period isn't quite over, and maybe try a better circuit.)

November 29, 1998

Book: Firestar, by Michæl Flynn (Tor, 1996)

Starfarers had a vague, blurry spaceship on the cover, but Firestar has a photo-realistic painting of a Single Stage To Orbit space ship parked next to an expanded MIR station. This is further confirmation of my book-by-it's cover theory, 'cause this one is really good! Most of the action takes place in 1999-2002, with later chapters in 2007-9. A wealthy heiress sets out to save the world...her greatest concern is the threat of asteroid collision. To forstall this, she needs to revive and reinvigorate the moribund space program (by developing an infrastructure which will eventually be capable of diverting Earth-bound asteroids.) On a parallel track, she sets out to rejuvenate the educational system, so that the needed talent to develop and operate this technology will become available as the machinery comes on line.

The book has a lot to say about education, as well as about test pilots and hardware. It is full of well-drawn, highly three-dimensional characters, who change and grow as the book develops. Highly recommended! See also the sequel, Rogue Star.

December 2, 1998

Our wedding anniversary! Ninteen wonderful years!

We celebrated by buying a snazzy newfanged digital camcorder.

December 3, 1998

I've taken over the job of moderator of the Hardcore Bicycle Science email list. It's a bit of a daunting prospect, and it will be hard to fill the shoes of Jim Papadopolous, the founder of the list, but I've agreed to give it a shot. I put up a Web page with information about this email list.

Newton North High School's combined chorus and orchestra will be performing the Mozart Requiem later this season; it features a lengthly trombone solo, and we just learned that George has the gig!

December 4, 1998

Today is the 3rd birthday of my Harris Cyclery Website! Over 227,000 served! I'm extremely proud of this creation, which many people tell me is the finest bicycle site on the Web...and I never contradict them!

A beautiful September day in December, temperature in the mid '60s. I rode to work on the Mead Ranger, wearing a Harris Cyclery tee shirt, shorts, and sandals. There's something to be said for global warming!

December 6, 1998

A busy day on the Website; I put up two new pages today:

December 10, 1998

Book: The Hundred Days by Patrick O'Brian (Norton, 1998)

This is the newly-released 19th volume of the Aubrey/Maturin series of novels set in the British Royal Navy, in the era of the Napoleonic Wars. This may well be the last, because it ends with the arrival of the news of the Corsican Tyrant's final defeat at Waterloo.

The series is a splendid creation. The two protagonists are Jack Aubrey, a big, blustery naval commander and Stephen Maturin, publicly a naval surgeon and noted naturalist, but also a highly effective agent for British Naval Intelligence.

Aubrey is a bit of a buffoon when ashore, but the master of his trade as a naval captain. Maturin, half Irish, half Catalan, is an Irish patriot who hates Bonaparte with a burning passion, has put his Irish agenda to the side for the duration. A small, clumsy bookish man, he is in some respects the opposite of Aubrey. Wily and highly effective in shore-based political intrique and espionage, he is the ultimate landlubber at sea, unable to so much as climb into a boat without assistance (or a ducking.) These highly three-dimensional characters are alike only in their loyalty to one another and their shared love of music (Aubrey's a violinist; Maturin, a 'cellist.)

In The Hundred Days, the action takes place in the Mediterranean. Napoleon has escaped from exile on Elba, and returned to France to rally his forces. The allied coalition of England, Prussia, Russia and Austria are trying to combine their forces to crush him, but the Russian and Austrian forces are far away and are only gradually converging. A wealthy Morroccan sheikh has a plan to bankroll a force of Serbian and Montenegrin mercenaries to interpose themselves between the Russians and Austrians, with the intention of buying time for Bonaparte to defeat his enemies one-at-a-time. The McGuffin is the large shipment of gold without which the mercenaies will not fight.

There's not that much to be said about this book as a separate entity; the series is all of a piece, wonderfully well observed, with a splendid feel for the time and language of the many interesting characters involved.

Perhaps I should expand my cover system by observing that if a book-cover features either a space ship or a sailing ship, I'm likely to like it.

December 12, 1998

A slow-starting, but ultimately eventful day. In the afternoon we went out to the deep boonies of Hardwick, Mass, to sing Christmas songs with Nym Cooke and some of his friends and neighbors in the old Town House. This year the benches were arranged in a Sacred Harp square, with each vocal range on a separate side of the square. I like this setup better than the previous system of all the benches facing the conductor in front. I got to do my traditional solo in Good King Wenceslas; although I've got a bit of a cold, this is so comfortable in my range that I was able to handle it OK.

We had to leave before the potluck to head to the Hartwell House in Lexington for the annual dinner at the company that's been developing one of Harriet's patents.

When we got home, we found the eagerly awaited "Thick Envelope" from Cornell...Tova's been accpted for early admission! Actually, in the light of her 4 800 score College Boards, this wasn't all that surprising, but was nevertheless gratifying.

December 15, 1998

I've put up a minimalist link page (../hub.html) to act as a "hub" for the Harris Cyclery site. As I update various pages of the site, I'll make the link from the logo lead to this page. The idea is to have a very fast-loading central page that will have the directory menus all in the first screen, for faster navigation.

Book: The Jupiter Theft by Donald Moffitt (Del Rey, 1977)

This is an old paperback that I picked up at a yard sale, currently out of print. Yes, it does feature a space ship on the cover, along with a couple of 6-limbed aliens. An entertaining read in the "hard sf" genre.

Aliens from Cygnus, fleeing the supernova that destroyed their home planet, arrive and orbit Jupiter. The gimmick is that they use gas giant planets as fuel sources for their interstellar voyaging...they've come to our solar system to take Jupiter away with them as fuel on their way to Aldebaran... The aliens are interesting creatures, well developed.

The book is amusingly dated in some ways: people light up joints on social occasions, and the Cold War is still going strong. The Soviet Union has been knocked out of contention (and the New England secession brutally crushed) so the current antagonists are Maoist China and the U.S. which has become a police state, in which 80% of the population works for the federal government, and the reamaining 20% are crammed into squalid "privie" (private sector) ghettos.

A hundred-person ship had been preparing for the first manned exploration of Jupiter before the aliens arrive...the project is moved to the front burner (and the ship armed with nuke missiles) to deal with the emergency. A joint Chinese/U.S. crew goes off to investigate...

I enjoyed this book, but wouldn't recommend it for anybody who isn't a SF junkie. The good guys are well drawn, but the villains are cardboard cutouts.

December 18, 1998

Not a good day. Still sick as a dog, racking cough...it's been a week now. Went to doctor, got put on antibiotic. Listening to House debating impeachment. No fun.

Evening better; went to NNHS to see Tova and George in one-act plays. Tova was in The Bone Violin, playing a professor. She was super, seemed like the only one on stage who was actually alive. George was in an amusing item called "May Flies", playing Richard Attenborough on TV. He was great, just the right amount of stuffiness and formality.

December 20, 1998

Book: Charlemagne, First of the Moderns by Charles Edward Russell, (Houghton Mifflin, 1930)

Charlemagne, (742-814) was King of the Franks from 768 to 813. He ruled the greatest European empire since the fall of Rome, stretching from the Pyrénées to the Baltic, from the Atlantic to present-day Slovakia, with its capital at Aix-la-Chapelle (Aachen) in Alsace. In 800, he was crowned the first "Holy" Roman Emperor, establishing a throne which was to endure until Napoleonic times.

Russell believes that he was the inventor of the modern state; that post-Roman Europe before him was basically ruled by tribal bandits, with no regard for anything but the aggrandizement of their own power and purses.

Charlemagne, in addition to uniting many disparate peoples under his crown, was a patron of learning and the arts. He established the first public schools. Several of these evolved into great universities which endure to our own time. He also showed an un-precedented concern for the welfare of his subjects, even the humblest of the poor, whom his predecessors had regarded mainly as chattel. He was, in many instances, unexpectedly merciful to his enemies. He was constantly beset by surrounding enemies, from the Lombards, Avars, Saxons, Danes, Saracens and many others, but nevertheless was able to hold his realm together and even enlarge it.

He was also a poet and musician, and did much to encourage the development of commerce and agriculture.

On the negative side, he had moments of reversion to the barbarism of his age, including a massacre of 4500 Saxon POWs at Verden. He also was extremely active in forcing his Christian religion on all who came under his power. He, perhaps more than anyone else, was responsible for the imposition of this creed and the destruction of the "old relgions" of Europe.

December 22, 1998

Well, it turns out that the cough I've been under the weather from for the last 9-10 days is pertussis (whooping cough.) There's been an outbreak at Newton North High School. Fortunately, mine is not a major case, and it seems to be responding at last to the antibiotic Zithromax.

I've been adding keywords to my Bicycle Glossary to make the appropriate page come up when people search for words defined in it.

December 23, 1998

Went to see The Christmas Revels at Sanders Theatre. A particularly fine show this year, on a Victorian theme. The first act is in the street, with hawkers, buskers and the like. The second act was set in a posh drawing room, and featured more "refined" entertainment, though the Cinderella pantomime was not that "refined." Good buddy Walter Locke was hilarious as one of the step-sisters. They had an even better-than-usual crop of kids this year, lots of talent and cute as always.

Our whole family will be helping out at the final performance on the 27th; Harriet & Tova will be doing costumes; George and I will be doing security. We'll also help strike the set.

December 27, 1998

George and I worked security detail at the final Christmas Revels show, then helped with striking the set for a while, but the whooping cough, which persists, interfered a bit with the latter. Harriet and Tova worked costumes for both shows.

December 25, 1998

A nice Christmas with the family. Harriet gave me some genealogical software, so I'll soon be putting some of this material on the site, probably at http://sheldonbrown.com/genealogy

Book: Rogue Star by Michael Flynn (Tor, 1998)

The sequel to Firestar, continues the story, with the first trip to an asteroid, and much intrigue about the secret installation of weaponry on the L.E.O. space station. Introduces "Flaco", an ex-gangster gone straight and become a space rigger. Much of the action takes place on the space station under construction.

Not quite as good as Firestar, but still worth reading. (No spaceship on the cover, but a view of Earth from space.) It would appear that more is to come in this series.

December 28, 1998

I've put up most of the genealogical data in my files...I had more than I'd thought. I also added some new photos to the George Matson Brown page and updated the Anders Junnila page.

December 30, 1998

Book: The Postman, by David Brin (Bantam 1985)

I've just finished re-reading this old favorite, by one of my favorite writers. This was one of Brin's early works, and is very different from most of his SF.

Set in the early 21st century, after war and related calamities have wiped out most of humankind, it is the story of Gordon Krantz, a wandering busker drifting from isolated enclave to fortified village, vainly hoping to find some remnant of civilization in an Oregon (and a world) sunk well back into barbarism and feudalism.

While running for his life from predatory "survivalists" Krantz stumbles upon the 20-year-old wreck of a U.S.Mail truck, containing the uniformed skeleton of the driver and a couple of bags of mail. Having lost his pack and warm clothing in his flight, Krantz puts on the uniform of the long-dead letter carrier, and strikes out with the bag of mail. His plan is to represent himself as an emisarry of the "Re-constituted U.S.A." The story is that he's been sent out from the provisional capitol in St.Paul, Minn. to try to establish mail service in Oregon. Actually, he knows that St. Paul is a glowing radioactive hole in the ground, and that there's no more government there than in Oregon, but he hopes that this imposture will help him get food and shelter from the residents of villages and compounds on his travels.

His lie turns into a greater truth as the appearance of an imagined emissary from a non-existent civilization causes a re-birth of hope in the beaten, cowering people of the Willamette valley. He winds up actually recruiting eager volunteer "postmen" in the towns he passes through, and gets the beginnings of a postal service going again. This acts as a seed for the general re-growth of civilization.

The book is quite inspiring, and brought tears to my eyes quite a few times, though the last third of it somewhat devolves into the "action-adventure" genre.

There is a recent film version of The Postman, starring Kevin Kostner. While it doesn't do full justice to the book, it is a creditable attempt, and I'd recommend the video even if you don't read the book.

Spoke

2007:
November-December September-October July-August May-June March-April January-February
2006:
November-December September-October July-August May-June March-April January-February
2005:
November-December September-October July-August May-June March-April January-February
2004:
November-December September-October July-August May-June March-April January-February
2003:
November-December September-October July-August May-June March-April January-February
2002:
November-December September-October July-August May-June March-April January-February
2001:
November-December September-October July-August May-June March-April January-February
2000:
November-December September-October July-August May-June March-April January-February
1999:
November-December September-October July-August May-June March-April January-February
1975-98:
November-December, 1998 April-May, 1975
Books:
Charlemagne, First of the ModernsCharles Edward Russell
The English RevolutionG. M. Trevelyan
FirestarMichæl Flynn
The Hundred DaysPatrick O'Brian
The Jupiter TheftDonald Moffitt
Rogue StarMichæl Flynn
Starfarersby Poul Anderson
Click here for more Books

Spoke

Films
Elizabeth
Pleasantville
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Music:
DatePerformersWork
December 23, 1998The Christmas Revels, Sanders Theatre, Cambridge
December 12, 1998Caroling with Nym Cooke, Hardwick, Mass.
November 28, 1998B.S.O., Roberto Abbado, Lief Ove AndsnesMahler Symphony #1
Schumann Piano Concerto
November 8, 1998M.I.T.G.a.S.P.Gilbert & Sullivan, The Mikado
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Plays:
December 18, 1998Newton North High SchoolThe Bone Violin, May Flies
November 12, 1998Newton North High SchoolTo Kill a Mockingbird
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Travels:
November 25-28Fort Lauderdale, Florida

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