Sunday, February 8, 2009

The dog that ate my homework

Wow, I've been a bad blogger of late. Primary causes:

1) the purchase of the new Tablet PC has thrown me into a flurry of geeky projects as I juggle the various computers I own. I've never taken the initiative to sell old computers (we have quite a collection!), but I spend way too much time trying to devise new uses for them. For example, the new Tablet (my mobile/lecturing device of choice now) means I can use my school-issue laptop, in docked mode, as my primary desktop PC at work, which means the old Dell desktop I'd been keeping there came home with me. Well, I couldn't just let it sit in the basement, especially since it has a video capture card installed and we just started subscribing to cable TV (which, believe it or not, has not been a major reason for slow blogging). Sure, we could go out and get TIVO, now that our TV actually receives enough viewing options to make that desirable, but it's much more fun to turn the old Dell into a really bad, fourth-rate version of TIVO. So, I spent way too much time this weekend trying to get everything configured, with the added intent that this old computer would now be viewable on our bedroom TV. Imagine, waking up and turning on the TV to read this blog! The funny thing is that the old ATI video capture card and its included software have never worked quite right. I've tried getting something useful out of it several different times over the years and something always goes wrong. I've downloaded all the newest drivers and versions of software, etc, but it's still a computer trying to be two things (TIVO and a TV channel) it's really not designed to be. I could go on and on about all of this, but it would only get more boring and mystifying. Let's just say it's absorbed some of my free time.*

2) a recent Facebook binge. I wrote about Facebook back in October, but my usage has waned considerably since then, as I suppose it will again soon. But, for whatever reason, I've been on the 'book a lot lately. Still can't decide what I think, but I've passed the 100 friends barrier!

Anyway, to continue in the spirit of listing things (and, no, I will not be joining in that kooky Faceboook "25 Random Things About Me" meme that's mutating around) here are some fairly random things I've thought recently:

1) Tablet PCs are really, really cool. I can't believe they haven't caught on - I'm just waiting now for the inevitable Mac that uses tablet technology, not because I'd buy one, but because that's probably the moment when the technology will become cool.

2) I'm quite surprised by this, but I really like Windows Vista!

3) I did much better in my second live experience with the Airturn page-turning pedal. No jitters, no problems getting the turns to turn. I'm liking the whole experience more and more.

4) I will now list the pieces of music that I like better than Bach's Violin Concerto in A Minor.

That's it! This is significant because I just realized I somehow failed to include it on my list of "Favorite Musical Works" from a couple of years back. Bad job by me. I've long said to anyone who asked that the Bach Double Violin Concerto is my favorite-ever piece of music, and I think it still is, but if it's #1, then The Bach A Minor is #1a. The current great joy in my life is that Daughter of MMmusing was recently assigned the latter. Last week, there was a night when I came home from school having vowed not to talk at all, since my ongoing laryngitis was getting to be ridiculous (two weeks or so of never knowing for sure if words would come out). DoMM was practicing the Bach and, after miming gestures of greeting to my wife and the other two children, I slipped onto the piano bench just as DoMM got to the first "solo" section of the concerto and proceeded to play through the whole first movement with her. It wasn't perfect from either of us, of course, but what a great way to greet someone you love.

Anyway, I need to write much more about this music. I used to think the slow movement was too ponderous in the orchestra part, but I've come to see it as a sort of "Orpheus taming the furies" moment, in the same way the slow movement of Beethoven's 4th piano concerto is associated with fury-taming. Let's save that for another day...

*P.S. A great example of how stupidly annoying this project has been. I finally get the computer's virtual TV to work right, more or less (except that you have to reset the soundcard every time it starts up if you want sound with your images). It can now pause live TV, record to hard disk, etc. So then, this morning I decided to program it to record something coming on later, and the scheduling routine crashes the program. That's right, it can receive a TV signal, record it to hard disk, let you pause and then restart while it continues recording in the background, but it can't accept simple date-and-time instructions for recording. I've now got a new virtual VCR - and I can't program it. (Ironically, I've never had any trouble programming VCR's - of course, the inability of most people to program a VCR is what made TIVO so attractive in the first place.)

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