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September 1, 2002

Film: (DVD) Bagdad Cafe

A quirky and funny film, set in a ratty truckstop in the middle of the Mojave Desert. The truckstop is owned by a very cranky black woman who has just kicked her husband out. Her son spends all of his time playing Das Wohltempierte Klavier on the piano, her daughter is a teenaged party girl, and she is stuck with running the diner, motel and tending her son's baby. No wonder she's cranky! Into this scene, drop a very uptight, very overweight German woman who has just had a fight with her husband and has left him to drive away.

At first, she might as well be a visitor from another planet, but as time goes by each changes the other, both for the better.

Jack Palance plays an aged hippy artist, quite against type. Recommended.

September 2, 2002

While cleaning up some stuff in the cellar, I found an old cartoon drawing of me by Jon Goell

September 3, 2002

Video 24

This series was broadcast in its entirety on Monday, and I taped all 24 hours of it. Watched 3 hours last night, 5 more tonight. Certainly is a thrill a minute, as the multiple strands of the story play out in real time.

September 5, 2002

eBook Life of Benjamin Franklin Jared Sparks, 1843

This is a continuation from where Franklin left off his Autobiography at the year 1759. It goes into considerable detail about Franklin's indispensable political activities in both England and France. His term as Minister plenipotentiary to France during the Revolutionary War was probably as important as anything George Washington did for the cause. We don't really like to dwell on how much assistance France provided to the cause of American independence, but the fact is that the Revolutionary War would have ended far sooner and very differently without the financial, materiel, naval and ultimately direct military help provided by the French.

The willingness of the French to bear so much in our behalf owes a very great deal to the way Franklin charmed the court and public opinion during his years of residence at Passy.

I also learned more about Franklin's scientific work. On each of his transatlantic voyages, he performed observations of ocean temperature, and was the first to determine that the Gulf Stream was, in fact warmer than the surrounding Atlantic. He also made useful deductions from this about the working of weather patterns in the Northern hemisphere. He was not the first to observe evaporative cooling, but did considerable experimentation with it, and it was he who discovered how people and animals use perspiration to regulate their body temperature.

September 12, 2002

Film: (DVD) The Red Shoes

This was SO 1948! One of the first postwar English films in Technicolor, hokey story very loosely based on a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale. Lots of 1948 special effects, and they're obviously delirious with joy to get to use color, excuse me, colour. My mother was a big fan of this film, but it hasn't aged gracefully. The actors are pretty good actors-for ballet dancers.

Film: (DVD) The Young Girls of Rochefort (Les Demoiselles de Rochefort)

More dancing, in an equally dated 1962 French musical. Features George Chakiris (Bernardo from West Side Story) and Gene Kelly. It's fun to here Gene Kelly speak French, which he does pretty well.

September 13, 2002

Film: (DVD) The Iron Giant

September 14, 2002

Took Harriet to the airport, I'll be batching it for the next 11 days, while she's at a conference in Colorado, then she's going out to San Francisco to visit Tova.

Film: (DVD) The Adventures of Baron Munchausen

I just love this film, one of the first DVDs I actually bought.

September 15, 2002

eBook: Star Soldiers Andre Norton

Military science fiction from the Golden Age.

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September 16, 2002

Drove out to the Peabody and Essex Museum in Salem. They have an exhibit from the Musée de la Marine in Paris. I took a bunch of photos, watch this space!

On the way back to my car after I left the museum, I stopped into an army-navy store (never could resist those) and what should I find but a genuine French Foreign Legion kepi in my size! For $11.99! I've been looking for a French kepi for a looooong time. Indeed, my War of the Rebellion kepi is one that I stumbled across during a Web search for a proper French one.

Film: (DVD) Soldier of Orange

Dutch film about the Dutch Resistance during WW2, starring Rutger Hauer. Very rah-rah patriotic, the credits are in orange against a background of the Dutch flag. Queen Wilhelmina is a prominent character, and the climax of the film is when she deplanes from an orange C47 on returning from years of exile in England.

Very stirring musical score, highly reminiscent of Sibelius.

September 17, 2002

Robert Reich for Massachusetts Governor

Election day. Reich didn't make it, so now the hopes are riding on Shannon O'Brien.

September 18, 2002

Film: (DVD) A Bridge Too Far

An amazing all-star cast, huge budget film, lots of airplanes and parachutes, even vintage plywood gliders.

Everybody screwed up on both sides. The biggest screw-up of all, according to the film, was Field Marshal Model. When he hears that paratroopers are landing near where he happens to be, 300 miles behind the front, his subordinates correctly deduce that the English are after the bridge at Arnhem, but Model doesn't believe it. Instead, he egocentrically decides that it's a commando operation to kidnap him, so he immediately evacuates his headquarters and hits the road. As the operation progresses, his subordinates beg him for permission to dynamite the crucial bridges before they fall into Allied hands, but he is resolutely against this, on the theory that the bridges will be needed for the German counterattack.

September 21, 2002

Film: (DVD) 1776

A musical about the Continental Congress and the political struggle leading to the Declaration of Independence. Amusing and actually seems reasonably accurate historically. The songs, unfortunately, are lousy.

September 22, 2002

Boston Folk Festival

George and I went to this, a beautiful hot sunny day at UMass Boston. We heard Barachois from P.E.I., old favorite Bill Staines, Cheryl Wheeler and a wonderful hour-and-a-half set from Richard Thompson. Thompson did a very funny, bitter song about Madonna's wedding.

Film: (DVD) Robocop

I guess I shouldn't have been surprised at how lousy this turned out to be.

September 25, 2002

Film: (DVD) Sharpe's Eagle

This is one of a series of made-for-TV videos based on a series of historical novels by Bernard Cornwell. They take place during the Napoleonic wars, sort of a landlubber's Hornblower or Aubrey/Maturin. The protagonist, Richard Sharpe, is a common soldier who has the good fortune to save the life of General Arthur Wellesley (later Lord Wellington) and gets promoted as a result. The central theme is the British class system, and Sharpe's struggles against aristocratic twits who conspire against him because he's an "upstart" and not a "gentleman." I had rented this one thinking it was the first of the series, but I was mistaken in that. This episode takes place in Spain, and encompasses the battle of Talavera. After the aristocratic twit loses the Flag to a French raiding party (by a combination of folly and cowardice) Sharpe redeems the honor of the side by capturing an Imperial Eagle.

September 27, 2002

eBook: Northanger Abbey Jane Austen, 1803

I think this was the last Austen novel I hadn't read. I read the others a few years back, and enjoyed them greatly. I can't remember, however, that any of the others were as funny as parts of this one. Austen has such a wonderfully dry sense of humor, this book is pure delight.

Work is getting very stressful, we suffer from too much success! The orders are flooding in faster than our small crew can fill them. I find myself spending probably a quarter of my time responding to emails or phone calls asking "where's my order?"

Film: (DVD) Ali 2001

This is quite a good film, but difficult to watch for me because it has so much boxing in it (surprise!) I've always been ambivalent about Ali:

I detest the so-called "sport" he practiced, never liked his bragging, felt sorry for the way he was taken advantage of by religious folks...but I loved his insouciant spirit, and consider his resistance to the Vietnam draft nothing short of heroic.

Will Smith is superb in the title role, and Jon Voight's Howard Cosell must be seen to be believed.

I particularly liked spotting the period cameras being used by news photogs, including a nifty bracket that held a pair of vintage Canon rangefinders. Whoever handled this part of the prop selection knew his or her stuff.

One thing I found irritating and unrealistic about this film (and, I must admit, a lot of other films I've seen lately) is in the bedroom scenes. Here's a couple in bed, making love...and the woman is wearing a bra! Does ANYbody in real life take off all of her clothes except her bra to make love? I don't think so!

September 28, 2002

eBook: The Mariner of St. Malo Stephen Leacock, 1915

This is a short biography of Jacques Cartier, discoverer of Canada. It is short because so little is known about his life and voyages in the period 1534-41. If Leacock is to be believed, Cartier was fair in his dealings with the natives, but received treachery in return. Then again, he speaks of Cartier's men "catching" scurvy from the Indians during his first winter at what later became Québec City. This doesn't strike me as a work of high scholarship.

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October 2, 2002

Film: (DVD) Tom Jones

One of my favorite films. The fox hunting sequence is probably the most beautiful film sequence ever.

October 4, 2002

To Las Vegas. Flew out at 9:13 in the morning. Logan was not difficult. They have a new computerized self-service check in computer. You scan a credit card so they know your name, then it comes up with your flight info and seat assignment. You see a graphic display of the plane's seating chart and can use the touch screen to change your seat if you wish.

When I boarded the second leg at St. Louis, I checked my boarding pass and saw "C10" so I sat in seat C10. As the plane was almost completely full, another passenger came in and said he had a ticket for that seat. We compared boarding passes, turned out C10 was the gate number, and I was s'posed to be in C17.

That flight had a very pleasant flight attendant, we exchanged banter and wisecracks off and on throughout the flight.

Checked into The Frontier, a bit of a dump by Vegas standards. My room is on the first floor, though, so I am able to come and go without having to encounter the casino. There are a lot of nice things about Las Vegas, but I absolutely abhor the casinos. I find them inexpressibly depressing, full of desparate chain-smoking suckers throwing their money away. They don't look like they're even having fun...mostly look either grim or bored.

I'm a bit bummed that the fastest available Earthlink dialup is only 26,400 baud. I leave it downloading 400 emails and go out to a nearby Walgreen's to grab some noshes. The Frontier charges $1.00 for each local phone call, so I tend to leave the connection open for a long time, even though it ties up the line.

October 5, 2002

Went out to Blue Diamond for the Outdoor Demo. I had not been to this last year, which was a mistake. Riding out in the shuttle bus I was struck by the alien-ness of the desert terrain, so different from the green hills of New England. Las Vegas is in a large, perfectly flat basin surrounded by craggy mountains. The only vegetation outside of built-up areas is sagebrush. I commented that the terrain reminded me of Tattoine, Luke Skywalker's home planet in Star Wars. I was then informed that much of that film had, in fact, been shot in the area!.

The Outdoor Demo is much less formal than Interbike proper, and was a lot of fun. I rode a Burro Bike, an "exploration bike" with small, wide knobby tires. It seemed pretty sure footed, but I didn't find any challenging terrain. It somewhat reminded me of my first Raleigh Twenty, which I used to ride around in the woods in the days before mountain bikes.

Next I rode an Xtracycle, an extension that fits onto the back of a standard mountain bike to add greatly to cargo capacity. If I didn't know it was there, I would have just thought I was riding a generic MTB. This is a very nice product, and I hope to be able to sell them at the shop.

The next bike I rode was a Browning automatic shifting hybrid. This has electrically operated shifters for 3 chainwheels and 4 rear sprockets. It doesn't use a conventional derailer, rather has a hinged segment on the sprockets that acts like a railroad switch. I took this around the road loop, it worked pretty well. The shift algorithm it uses in automatic is oversimplified, so it only gives 6 speeds. In manual mode you can shift front and rear independently by pressing buttons.

Finally I rode a Giant touring bike with disc brakes. It had 32 mm tires and rode nicely, though the handlebars were very much wider than I prefer. I am coming to suspect that disc brakes are going to become the default option for most bikes in the fairly near future. As weatherproof brakes become more and more common, I suspect that people's acceptance of brakes that don't work well in wet conditions will wear thin.

October 6, 2002

Off to Interbike! I arrived for an appointment at the Terry booth to find Jobst Brandt waiting for me. Although we've corresponded via email for several years, this was the first time we've met in person. He's not as tall as I'd been led to believe. We talked briefly about wheels, books and tensiometers, but I was running late for my Terry appointment and had to say goodby. I hoped to run into him later, but it didn't work out.

I went over to the Persons booth where I finally got to meet Mel Pinto. We've become friends over the phone, conversing in French and doing business. I had been greatly looking forward to meeting him. He showed me new Brooks saddles in "British racing green" as well as Busch & Müller generators that I'll probably start carrying.

Then I wandered down the aisle to the Heron booth. Todd had the prototype Ti Heron on display, and we schmoozed for a while. Peter White also turned up.

I also visited with Grant Petersen at his Rivendell booth.

Sheldon Brown, Todd Kuzma, Peter White
Sheldon, Todd, Peter
  Sheldon Brown and Grant Petersen
Sheldon, Grant

See My Full Interbike Report

October 7, 2002

Another day at Interbike. I'll try to write up a report on the show once I've gotten home and have my accumulated literature at hand. (I UPSed it back, rather than try to schlep it in my already too heavy suitcase.

eBook: The Honor of the Queen David Weber, 1994

This is the second volume of the Honor Harrington series , which started with On Basilisk Station. This one takes our heroine to the planet Grayson in the Yeltsin system. Grayson was colonized by fundamentalist religious fanatics in the early days of space travel, some 900 years ago. It is a strongly patriarchal culture, long isolated from the rest of the galaxy due to its remote location, but now caught between the expansionist People's Republic of Haven and the Kingdom of Manticore.

The men ruling Grayson are at first highly resistant to any official contact at all with a woman, but since Honor is commander of the task force sent to support them against attack from a neighboring planet, they change their tune after she saves their bacon.

The right wing politics is fairly heavy-handed in Weber's writing. Haven is represented as a welfare state with 2/3 of the population loafing on the Dole, and the ruling demagogues forced to conquer neighboring systems to maintain the expansion and rapine that supports the system.

October 8, 2002

On to Evanston to visit my sister for a few days. Mostly taking it easy, doing email, reading trashy science fiction and sampling the Mexican restaurants of the northern suburbs of Chicago.

October 10, 2002

Mostly worked on my Interbike Report

Show: ComedySportz

My sister took me to see this improv show on the Near Northside. It's an improv club with a sports motif, run as a competition. Tonight the two teams were a trio of locals and another threesome from the Milwaukee branch. Lots of energetic young talent, a good time was had by all.

October 11, 2002

eBook: The Short, Victorious War David Weber, 1994

This is the third volume of the Honor Harrington series. Honor finally gets lucky in love, while saving the day when the Peeps try to invade, but confirms the bitter hatred of aristocratic poltroon Pavel Young.

Went to the Art Institute of Chicago with my sister Arlene, her husband Mel, and her son Stephen Eskilson. My nephew has been a professor of art history for several years, but I've not had the opportunity to hear him practice his métier before. He had a great fund of fascinating lore about the painters of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and it was a great joy to hear him hold forth. I learned a lot!

October 12, 2002

Drove out to Galena, Illinois, the northwestern corner of the state, about 3 1/2 hours from Evanston. Galena was a major port on the upper Mississippi in the steamboat area, largely due to the major lead mining activity there. Its greatest claim to fame, however is that U. S. Grant lived there for a number of years. The town is now a bit of a tourist trap, due to its large number of unspoiled 19th century houses and public buildings. The most notable is Grant's house, which was willed to the town intact by the Grant children, with all of its furniture intact. It's a rare view of a basically intact home of the 1880s.

The terrain in this part of Illinois is more Iowa like than Illinois like (it's just a few miles to Dubuque) quite wrinkly, apparently mainly consisting of glacial drumlins. It is quite scenic, wish we had more time to spend there, on a less crowded, less rainy day.

Our timing was less than optimal, as we arrived in the midst of the annual Galena Country Fair, and the town was jam packed with visitors and craft vendors, but it was still a nice visit. Mel compared it to Provincetown, and there's some justice in that.

October 14, 2002

Film: (DVD) The Adventures of Felix (Drôle de Félix) Olivier Ducastel, Jacques Martineau, 1999

Félix is a young half-arab, H.I.V.-positive gay man from Dieppe, in Normandy. He has just lost his job and recently lost his mother, his only relative. While going through some of his mother's effects, he finds a few thousand francs and some letters from his father, whom he has never met. Papa lives in Marseilles, and Félix decides to go on a pilgrimage to meet his father. He will hitchhike when he can, walk when he must. Along his way he meets various strangers who fill the respective roles of little brother, grandma, sister, father in turn.

It's a charming film, funny and touching by turns, particularly recommended to francophiles, not recommended to homophobes.

New Oysterband CD: Rise Above

It's always a treat when my favorite band comes out with a new recording. This one isn't yet available in the U.S., I had to order it from, the German version of I haven't yet had time to listen to it attentively, but I already knew some of the songs from their sets at the Stan Rogers Folk Festival.

October 15, 2002

eBook: Field of Dishonor David Weber

Number 4 of the Honor Harrington series doesn't involve any space battles at all. It all takes place on Manticore, the capital of the Star Kingdom, while Harrington's Battlecruiser Nike is in for repairs to the battle damage suffered in The Short Victorious War. Honor is happy in her affair with Paul Tankersley, but the evil Pavel Young plots her destruction. Lots of politics, and a couple of duels, with a sad ending.

Film: (DVD) Terms of Endearment

Mainly a mother/daughter struggle film, Shirley McLaine as the well-to-do mother from Houston, Debra Winger as the daughter who marries a no-good English professor. The film has its funny moments, but ends on a sad note. Jack Nicholson plays a familiar Jack Nicholson schtick as an ex-astronaut.

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October 16, 2002

Film: (DVD) Postcards from the Edge

Autobiographical screenplay by Carrie Fisher, with Shirley McLaine playing pretty much the same role as in Terms of Endearment. Meryl Streep is excellent as the daughter coming back from drug addiction.

October 21, 2002

Film: (DVD) Gladiator

I had seen this before, but it was interesting to re-view it after seeing A Beautiful Mind, which stars Russell Crowe in a rather different role. The special effects hold up well, it is great to see the (CGI) city of Rome as it was (or might have been.)

One possible anachronism...while I didn't actually see any stirrups on any of the horses, it certainly seemed as if the various people riding horseback were actually using this technology that the Romans knew nothing of.

October 22, 2002

Film: (DVD) Blythe Spirit

A silly comedy involving a couple and the ghost of the husband's first wife. Margaret Rutherford is priceless as the cycling medium.

I was diagnosed with sleep apnea a while ago, and today I got my new "PAPS" machine, a blower that hooks up to a mask that covers my nose. It pressurizes the air to my nose by 11 psi. The idea is that this will stop my snoring and waking myself up, leading to more refreshing sleep.

October 25, 2002

Film: (DVD) La Veuve de St. Pierre (The Widow of St. Pierre)

The "Veuve" (widow) of the title is a slang term for the guillotine, though an actual widow also plays a central role.

St. Pierre and Miquelon are two small islands off the coast of Newfoundland, the last remaining vestiges of French rule in Canada. They are very isolated and desolate today, but this film is set in the middle of the 19th century, where this tiny outpost 3000 miles from France is only reachable by sailing ship. The only industry is fishing. France is still recovering from the revolution of 1848, and the newly restored government is not disposed to mercy.

A fisherman is rescued from being cast adrift fogbound in a small boat for four days; he heads for the local tavern and gets very drunk. In his drunkenness, he winds up stabbing another man to death. He is tried, convicted, and sentenced to the guillotine--but there's a problem: the island has neither guillotine nor executioner to operate it. Both must be sent for, but it takes years for the wheels of bureaucracy and the slowness of sailing ships to actually provide them. In the meantime, the condemned man is befriended by the wife of the captain of the local garrison, and he undergoes a Jean Valjean-like transformation, becoming a valued member of the community, and the father of a child.

I don't usually like gloomy films, but I did enjoy this one.

October 26, 2002

eBook Flag in Exile

Honor Harrington again! After her politically unfortunate duel in Field of Dishonor, Honor is "on the beach" so she goes off to Grayson to devote herself to her duties as ruler of the feudal domain awarded to her for her gallantry in The Honor of the Queen. I had read this one before, but it's better in sequence, so the politics are easier to follow. This one is particularly dramatic.

October 29, 2002

A talk with one of my customers, a retired doctor, has led me to actually go on a diet. Specifically, the Atkins diet, all protein, no carbohydrates. At 270 pounds, I'm due.

October 30, 2002

Film: (DVD) Les Deux Anglaises (Two English Girls)

A love triangle with a young Frenchman and a pair of Welsh sisters, set around the turn of the 19th/20th century. Kind of hokey film making on Truffaut's part, made up for by wonderful Welsh setting.

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The overall Booklist has been moved to a separate page.

Books reviewed on this page:
Northanger AbbeyJane Austen9/27/02
The Mariner of St. MaloStephen Leacock9/28/02
Star SoldiersAndre Norton9/15/02
Life of Benjamin FranklinJared Sparks9/5/02
The Honor of the QueenDavid Weber10/7/02
The Short Victorious WarDavid Weber10/11/02
Field of DishonorDavid Weber10/15/02
Flag in ExileDavid Weber10/26/02


The overall film list has been moved to a separate page.

Films reviewed on this page:
1776September 21, 2002
The Adventures of Baron MunchausenSeptember 14, 2002
The Adventures of FelixOctober 14, 2002
AliSeptember 27, 2002
Bagdad CafeSeptember 1, 2002
Blythe SpiritOctober 22, 2002
A Bridge Too FarSeptember 18, 2002
Les Demoiselles de RochefortOctober 12, 2002
Les Deux AnglaisesOctober 30, 2002
The Girls of RochefortOctober 12, 2002
GladiatorOctober 21, 2002
The Iron GiantSeptember 13, 2002
Postcards from the EdgeOctober 16, 2002
The Red ShoesSeptember 12, 2002
wRobocopSeptember 22, 2002
Sharpe's EagleSeptember 25, 2002
Soldier of OrangeSeptember 16, 2002
Terms of EndearmentOctober 15, 2002
Tom JonesOctober 2, 2002
Two English GirlsOctober 30, 2002
La Veuve de St. PierreOctober 25, 2002


The overall music list has been moved to a separate page.

Music reviewed on this page:
September 22, 2002 Boston Folk FestivalBarachois, Bill Staines, Cheryl Wheeler, Richard Thompson


November 29, 2002Lorraine BraccoThe Graduate
November 23, 2001Helen Mirren, Ian McKellnThe Dance of Death-August Strindberg
September 30, 2000Tova/Black Box Theatre, Cornell UniversityThe Maids-Jean Genet
May 30, 2000Kelsey Grammer/Colonial TheatreMacbeth
May 26, 2000The Huntington Theatre Co.King Hedley II
September 3, 1999The Publick TheatreNine
August 21, 1999Orange Tree Theatre, Ithaca, N.Y.Sonata
August 13, 1999Firehouse Theatre, Ithaca, N.Y.Sister Mary Ignatius Explains it All For You
May 22-29Newton South/North High SchoolsRichard III
December 18, 1998Newton North High SchoolThe Bone Violin, May Flies
November 12, 1998Newton North High SchoolTo Kill a Mockingbird


November 21-24, 2007Plantation, Florida
September 25-28, 2007Las Vegas, Nevada
August 18-25, 2007Truro, Cape Cod, Massachusetts
November 22-26, 2006Plantation, Florida
September 25-28, 2006Las Vegas (Interbike)
June 10-20, 2006Santa Cruz, California
May 5-7, 2006Aurora, Indiana
November 23, 2005Plantation, Florida
September 26-29, 2005Interbike, Las Vegas, Nevada
August 26-28, 2005'Bentride 2005, Bath, N.Y.
July 21-24, 2005Family Reunion, Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
April 29, 2005Cirque de Cyclisme, Greensboro, N.C.
February 16, 2005Indianapolis
November 24, 2004Plantation, Florida
October 8, 2004Santa Cruz, California
October 4, 2004Las Vegas, Nevada
June 8, 2004France, England
December 22, 2003Halifax, Nova Scotia
November 27, 2003Florida
October 31, 2003Potomac, Maryland
October 10, 2003Las Vegas, Nevada
September 21, 2003New York, N.Y.
November 27-30, 2002New York, N.Y.
October 8-13, 2002Evanston, Illinois
October 4-8, 2002Las Vegas, Nevada
July 3-9, 2002Canso, Nova Scotia
May 24-27, 2002Long Island, New York
November 21-24, 2001New York City
October 16-19, 2001Cape Cod, Massachusetts
September 29-October 3, 2001Las Vegas, Nevada (Interbike Show)
June 16-23, 2001Nags Head, North Carolina
October 5-14, 2000Evanston, Illinois
September 30-October 2, 2000Ithaca, New York
June 22-25, 2000Urbanna, Virginia
October 7-13, 1999Chicago/Evanston, Illinois
August 19-28, 1999Ithaca, New York
August 12-13, 1999Ithaca, New York
July 23-25, 1999Bridgeton, Maine
November 25-28, 1998Fort Lauderdale, Florida
1988-89France, England
1980Yucatan, Mexico
1975England, Belgium, Yugoslavia, Turkey

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Sheldon Brown's Personal Pages

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