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Sheldon Brown's Journal

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Barack Obama for President Sheldon Brown photo Hillary Rodham Clinton for President

January 1, 2007

Spent most of the day scanning old negatives from 1971 -72. It's a big job. Kinda fun to look back at my old hippie days though. I think I'll do some "retrospective" journal pages with some of those photos...

January 5, 2007

Stan Rogers Ringtone

I created a custom ringtone for my new Treo using the intro and a couple of instrumental bits from Stan Rogers's The Nancy

Steamship Quaker CityeBook: The Innocents Abroad Mark Twain, 1869

I've read this before, but it's worth a second read. This was the book that made Mark Twain a star. His first book, it is made up from a series of newspaper pieces he wrote while participating in one of the first packaged tours, at the birth of the tourism industry. A group of middle-class Americans chartered the side-wheel steamship Quaker City for a crossing of the Atlantic, followed by a circuit of the Mediterranean with assorted side trips to see various famous sites.

Twain arrived in France at a particularly halcyon time. The troubles of 1848 were fading memories, and the Second Empire was at its peak. France was aglow with prosperity and seemed like an earthly Paradise to Twain. This was, alas, all doomed to come crashing down in 1871 when the French got the snot kicked out of them by the Prussians, but there was no inkling of that on the horizon when Twain visited.

Twain left the ship to travel with a party of 8 down through Syria into Israel on horseback. One of the events he recounts somewhat foreshadows the moral dilemma at the heart of Huckleberry Finn

"Properly, with the sorry relics we bestrode, it was a three days' journey to Damascus. It was necessary that we should do it in less than two. It was necessary because our three pilgrims would not travel on the Sabbath day. We were all perfectly willing to keep the Sabbath day, but there are times when to keep the letter of a sacred law whose spirit is righteous, becomes a sin, and this was a case in point. We pleaded for the tired, ill-treated horses, and tried to show that their faithful service deserved kindness in return, and their hard lot compassion. But when did ever self-righteousness know the sentiment of pity? What were a few long hours added to the hardships of some over-taxed brutes when weighed against the peril of those human souls? It was not the most promising party to travel with and hope to gain a higher veneration for religion through the example of its devotees. We said the Savior who pitied dumb beasts and taught that the ox must be rescued from the mire even on the Sabbath day, would not have counseled a forced march like this. We said the "long trip" was exhausting and therefore dangerous in the blistering heats of summer, even when the ordinary days' stages were traversed, and if we persisted in this hard march, some of us might be stricken down with the fevers of the country in consequence of it. Nothing could move the pilgrims. They must press on. Men might die, horses might die, but they must enter upon holy soil next week, with no Sabbath-breaking stain upon them. Thus they were willing to commit a sin against the spirit of religious law, in order that they might preserve the letter of it. It was not worth while to tell them "the letter kills." I am talking now about personal friends; men whom I like; men who are good citizens; who are honorable, upright, conscientious; but whose idea of the Savior's religion seems to me distorted. They lecture our shortcomings unsparingly, and every night they call us together and read to us chapters from the Testament that are full of gentleness, of charity, and of tender mercy; and then all the next day they stick to their saddles clear up to the summits of these rugged mountains, and clear down again. Apply the Testament's gentleness, and charity, and tender mercy to a toiling, worn and weary horse?—Nonsense—these are for God's human creatures, not His dumb ones. What the pilgrims choose to do, respect for their almost sacred character demands that I should allow to pass—but I would so like to catch any other member of the party riding his horse up one of these exhausting hills once! "
The first part of the book is generally more entertaining than the last half. Once he got to the "holy land" he had to pay lip service to a the religious prejudices of his time, and act as if he believed in all that Judaeo/Christian nonsense. He is very harsh toward "Mohammedans" but then he's pretty harsh to foreigners in general.

January 9, 2007

Wikipedia on my Palm!

I got my Wikipedia DVD from this site. Took an hour to load the 1.8 GB file onto my 4 GB SD card, but it was worth it! It's so cool to have this amazing resource in the Palm of my hand!

January 12, 2007

eBook: The Pale Horseman Bernard Cornwell, 2006

Sequel to The Last Kingdom. A Saxon knight helps keep Danes from conquering England in 877-878 AD, reign of Alfred the Great (who is depicted as not all that great...a priest-ridden, gullible fool.) I liked it.

January 13, 2007

Sheldon Brown, George Brown, Harriet Fell, Tova Brown

I really like my new CTC polo shirt. It mysteriously appeared at the shop with a card saying it was from "Ethan" but I don't know who to thank for it. I'm a big fan of the CTC, wish the U.S. had an organization, excuse me, organisation half as good.

Film: (DVD) Veronica Mars

We've been watching the first season of this delightful TV series on DVD. Harriet and I had seen several of the episodes before, but it was all new to Tova and George. George is flying back to Madison tomorrow, so we had an orgy of the last 6 episodes tonight. What fun!

January 14, 2007

George flew back to Madison, sure was nice having him home for a couple of weeks.

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January 16, 2007

Tova's off to Utah to visit her cousins.

New on my RetroRaleighs site: Raleigh USA 1985 catalogue.

January 20, 2007

Audiobook: The Killer Angels Michael Shaara, 1987

Excellent novelization of the Battle of Gettysburg, wonderfully read by George Guidall. The hero is Joshua Chamberlain, a Maine college professor, who holds the left flank of the loyalist lines against nearly overpowering attacks by the slavery forces.

Confederate Gen. Longstreet is the only one who seems to understand that tactics must be changed due to the increased range of newer rifles, but fortunately, nobody listens to him. Longstreet seems to have foreseen the development of trench warfare, but his foolish colleagues attribute this to cowardice, leading to Lee's culminating blunder of ordering Pickett's charge, an idiotic waste of life.

January 23, 2007

eBook: Go Tell the Spartans Jerry Pournelle, 1991

Concurrent with The Mercenary

January 27, 2007

Concert: Boston Symphony Orchestra Vaughan-Williams and Beethoven; Sir Colin Davis

Vaughan-Williams's Symphony #6 and Beethoven's as well.

I generally like Vaughan-Williams, but had not heard the Sixth. If I stumbled upon it on the radio, I never would have guessed it was one of his. Dating from 1948, it is sometimes reminiscent of Shostakovich, sometimes jazzy, generally serious with a tendency toward gloominess, but I enjoyed it anyway.

Beethoven's Pastorale is always a pleasure.

Surprisingly sparse audience for this concert, perhaps it's the cold that's keeping the throngs home.

January 28, 2007

Celebrated Tova's 26th birthday a day late. Went to dinner at the Cambridge Brewing Company, a very pleasant brew pub near Tova's apartment. Afterwards we went over to Harvard Square to see:

Film: Pan's Labyrinth Guillermo Del Toro, 2006

A very fine film, part fantasy, part grim reality, set in Spain, 1944, as the Spanish Civil War was having its last gasp.

As with the Lord of the Rings films, it was underexposed and virtually all of the footage had a gloomy blue cast. I wish film makers would get over this fad.

Otherwise, it was a very fine film.

January 29, 2007

eBook: Jude the Obscure Thomas Hardy, 1895

I read The Return of the Native in high school, as assigned reading, and my recollection was that I didn't enjoy it at all, but then again, I don't think I was really ready for 19th century literature at that age.

This was Hardy's last novel, and was highly shocking to Victorian readers due to the out-of-wedlock sex that is implied but never specifically referred to. The novel is largely about the institution of marriage, which Hardy doesn't seem to hold in very high esteem. The male protagonist gets trapped into a shotgun wedding by a conniving woman's pretense of pregnancy, and the female protagonist enters a loveless union for lack of other options.

The attitudes and problems seem dated and anachronistic to a modern reader. This is a quite gloomy book, and I would not generally recommend it.

Busted by Google!

Got a scary email:
Dear site owner or webmaster of,

While we were indexing your webpages, we detected that some of your pages were using techniques that were outside our quality guidelines, which can be found here:

In order to preserve the quality of our search engine, we have temporarily removed some webpages from our search results. Currently pages from are scheduled to be removed for at least 30 days.

Specifically, we detected the following practices on your webpages:

* The following hidden text on

e.g. Sheldon Brown Captbike Captain Bike Brown Nickname Sheldon Captain Bicycle Captainbike Sheldon How-To articles bicycle repair service upgrade upgrading sheldon brown

We would prefer to have your pages in Google's index. If you wish to be re-included, please correct or remove all pages that are outside our quality guidelines...

I've gone through and deleted the code that hides the keywords, so now a number of my pages have plain-text keywords at the top of the page. It's pretty ugly but this was the only way I could do a global fix, since the keywords are different on different pages. As time goes by I'll probably remove these from most of the pages affected.

January 31, 2007

Film: (DVD) Something New Sanaa Hamri, 2006

A romantic comedy about an upper-crust black woman who falls for a white landscape architect, and has to deal with the racist attitudes of her friends and family. Kinda nice, but not all that funny.

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February 3, 2007

Audio Book The Great Bridge David McCullough, 1983

The building of the Brooklyn Bridge, 1869-83. This was quite fascinating for a techy guy like myself, though some of the political shenanigans weren't all that interesting to me, and I had trouble keeping all of the players' names straight.

It was a truly amazing piece of work, considering the technology of the era and the unknown problems that had to be solved, not least of which was "caisson disease" a.k.a. "the bends." Highly recommended.

Film: (DVD) Le Coq d'Or Rimsky-Korsakov, 1907 Thomas Grimm, Kent Nagano, 2002

Although much of the music was very familiar, this is the first time I've seen or heard the complete opera. This production was multi-national, with a French orchestra, American conductor, Russian chorus and Japanese designer/costumier/stage director. These latter went with a kabuki theme. The costumes were gorgeous, but the set was minimalist.

According to Wikipedia, there's a political subtext to this, which is not unusual for fairy tales. In this case the foolish King Dodon represents Tsar Nicholas. His disastrous invasion of the neighboring kingdom parallels the debacle of the Russo-Japanese war of 1905, started by the Tsar, and resulting in the destruction of the Russian navy at Tsushima.

The production was good, if you like the kabuki concept.

February 7, 2007

Film: (DVD) The Philadelphia Experiment Stewart Raffill, 1984

Two crewmen from a Navy destroyer are sent forward in time from 1943 to 1984. I'm a big fan of time travel stories, but this is pretty lame. The pre-cgi "special effects" are pretty amusing (apparently mostly accomplished by solarization of film stock.) Not recommended.

February 8, 2007

Film: (DVD) Brazil Terry Gilliam, 1985

I've seen the cut-down version of this a couple of times, but this was the first time I've seen the full length "director's cut." It finally makes sense! This is quite a good film, though rather dark and pessimistic for my taste. I actually watched this twice, the second time with Terry Gilliam's commentary track, which is better than most.

February 10, 2007

Film: (DVD) Office Space Mike Judge, 1999

A droll, "Dilbert-esque" comedy. Good fun.

eBook: Lords of the North Bernard Cornwell, 2007

Sequel to The Last Kingdom and The Pale Horseman. I thought this was supposed to be a trilogy, but Cornwell is clearly leaving the door open to extend this series. I can hardly wait!

February 12, 2007

Film: (DVD) Beach Girls Paul Shapiro, Sandy Smolan; 2005

A 6 part miniseries from Lifetime. Set in an imaginary Cape Cod town (though shot in Nova Scotia and Toronto.) Three teen girls bond in the summer of 1985, but later drift apart. Fast forward to 2005, one of them has died, but her daughter and widower return to "Hubbard's Point" for the summer, and the daughter forms a similar trio with a couple of contemporaries. Various complicated romantic subplots play themselves out. Not great art, but entertaining. Probably falls under the general rubric of "chick flick" but I must admit a fondness for that genre, despite my gender.

February 12, 2007

Film: (DVD) The Devil Wears Prada David Frankel, 2006

Meryl Streep tour de force as the "boss from hell" at a fashion magazine. Very entertaining, sort of a big screen Ugly Betty. Highly recommended.

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February 19, 2007

Film: (DVD) Swimming with Sharks George Huang, 1995

Another "boss from hell" flick, but in this one the hapless minion kidnaps and tortures the BFH. Not in the same league with The Devil Wears Prada, nor Ugly Betty for that matter.

February 20, 2007

eBook: Snow Crash Neal Stephenson, 1992

I've read this before, recommended by my sister. It was the first Stephenson book I had encountered, and it's just wonderful. Set in a future America where government has faded away and corporations run everything, it's a rollicking dystopia, written with great élan and humor. Very highly recommended!

February 22, 2007

Film: (DVD) Napoleon Yves Simoneau, 2003

This French TV miniseries is unbelievably lavish with production values, a real visual treat.

The battle scenes were worthy of Hollywood at its best...except in Hollywood, they have to treat the horses more gently!

I wonder, however, if anybody will ever make a film about Napoleon that doesn't think his sex life was the most interesting thing about him...

Despite that quibble, I really did enjoy this film a lot.

One thing that stuck out to me was when N was exiled to Elba, the film indicates that the British were planning to kidnap him and send him to St. Helena. That was news to me, I don't really know if it was true, but if so, it gives some justification for the Cent Jours.

The cinematography was first rate, though I was a bit puzzled by the cameraman's penchant for low angle shots, which seemed to be somewhat overdone.

February 24, 2007

Concert: Boston Symphony Orchestra Debussy, Saariaho & Sibelius

This was a pretty good one, dominated by Finns. Started with Debussy's Printemps, a very early work, not his best.

Then came the world premiere of Kaija Saariaho's Notes on Light , for cello and orchestra. This 5 movement work is rather mysterious and atmospheric, I'll have a firmer opinion of it after I've listened to the recording I made a few more times. The cello part has lots of glissandi, and the first movement reminded me a lot of whale songs.

After the interval, they played Sibelius's Lemminkäinen Suite, a.k.a. Four Legends from the Kalevala is based on the Finnish national epic.

February 27, 2007

The Bikers' Banquet

Tom Deakins was kind enough to drive me over to this annual get-together of the local bike industry. I'm so glad it's back at the Taqueria in Waltham, one of my favorite eateries. It was good to get a ride, because the parking lot is up a fairly steep driveway that I don't think I could have handled on foot without falling down.

Tom was also kind enough to drop off and install my new exercise machine, a "Spinning" type fixed-gear unit.

Here's a panoramic photo of the event:

Bikers' Banquet Taqueia Mexico

Click for larger version

Kodak V570 E.I.400, 1/8 second in-camera panorama stitching.

February 28, 2007

Iran and The Bomb

I agree with Dubya that it is highly undesirable for Iran to go "nucular." However, from here, it looks as if it's going to happen no matter what we do, short of a full-scale war that would make Iraq look like Grenada.

I think we should just accept the inevitable, and stop grumbling...we could really use Iran's help in Iraq, but we won't be getting it as long as we continue our futile sanctions.

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November-December, 1998 April-May, 1975


The overall Booklist has been moved to a separate page.

Books reviewed on this page:
The Pale HorsemanBernard Cornwell1/12/07
Lords of the NorthBernard Cornwell2/10/07
Jude the ObscureThomas Hardy1/29/07
The Great BridgeDavid McCullough2/3/07
Go Tell the SpartansJerry Pournelle1/23/07
The Killer AngelsMichael Shaara1/20/07
Snow CrashNeal Stephenson2/20/07
The Innocents AbroadMark Twain1/5/07


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

Films reviewed on this page:
Beach GirlsFebruary 12, 2007
BrazilFebruary 8, 2007
Le Coq d'OrFebruary 3, 2007
The Devil Wears PradaFebruary 12, 2007
NapoleonFebruary 22, 2007
Office SpaceFebruary 10, 2007
Pan's LabyrinthJanuary 28, 2007
The Philadelphia ExperimentFebruary 7, 2007
Something NewJanuary 31, 2007
Swimming with SharksFebruary 19, 2007


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

Music reviewed on this page:
February 24, 2007 B.S.O., Jukka-Pekka Saraste; Anssi Karttunen, celloDebussy, Saariaho, Sibelius
February 3, 2007 Kent Nagano, Paris Opera (DVD)Rimsky-Korsakov: Le Coq d'Or
January 27, 2007 B.S.O., Sir Colin DavisVaughan-Williams, Beethoven


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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