Friday Hodgepodge

Friday, July 24, 2020

Four Things

1. Did you know that the Segway "personal transporter" is no longer in production?

[F]or all the mall-cop gags and PR disasters, the original vision of the Segway seems newly prescient in an age of abundant e-scooters and e-bicycles. Indeed, as these newer products find their footing in the mobility ecosystem, they owe much to the dorky grandfather of urban micromobility.
The rest of the article is part retrospective, part post-mortem.

2. An article about the origins of a kind of apartment characteristic of Athens describes an accidental (and successful) experiment in mixed-use urban development:
Not that these buildings were exclusively residential. The municipality of Athens only practiced zoning for heavy industry, leaving people free to set up shop in a polikatoikia. Even today, these buildings are often hives of activity, mixing offices, medical practices and even the odd workshop among homes. According to [architect Panos] Dragonas, this was "a cancellation of all the problems of modern urban planning, just by mistake. No one had thought about it, but the result was a fantastic mix of uses within a small-scale building. That's why the streets of Athens have a wonderful level of life all day, all night and all week."
I visited Athens briefly in my college days, but did not notice the '50's-to-'80's era apartments. I don't think I'll be able to help but notice them on any future trip, and I'll be glad to know the story behind them when I do.

Soonish. (Image by Adam Wilson, via Unsplash, license.)
3. Via Hacker News, I learned of a new, crowd-sourced map of beer-related businesses. It's new enough, in fact, that my neck of the woods is missing a few places I know about. That said, it looks promising and I plan to use it as a resource when I start home-brewing again some time in the next year after having to quit over a decade ago: First, I had to ditch my equipment to save space for a move, and then we had kids.

The kids are old enough now that they might find it interesting. At the very least, they'll know enough not to get too close to the apparatus when I boil the wort. (I used one of these outside, back in the day.)

Making that connection, by the way, helped me realize that I can probably get away with going back to charcoal when I grill. I'm a charcoal guy, but have been using propane for the past few years, mainly for safety reasons.

4. I'll close this week with my Android solution for listening to podcasts in areas with spotty connectivity.

As you may know, errand days in the sprawling area where I live are my main times for listening to podcasts and the like. My phone connectivity in this area -- and across northern Florida -- is inconsistent, making it preferable to save anything I want to internal storage ahead of time.

For anyone in this situation, I highly recommend the ugly, but very effective Total Commander file browser. Without you having to do anything but point it to your storage location, it will simply open there every time, saving you from RSI and annoyance.

The built-in media player is extremely easy to use and, unlike any other Android media player I've used, keeps its place indefinitely when not actually playing. (It amazes me that I'm having to heap praise on something for having such qualities, but here we are.) Currently, I know that after I drop my kids off this morning, I can pick right up where I left off on my current listening list.

Furthermore, if you're like me, and prefer to manage files on a real computer, you can install Syncthing on both for a fairly seamless experience. (Unlike, say, Dropbox, Syncthing moves the files directly to the device, rather than defaulting to cloud storage and requiring extra steps to move the files to the device.)

-- CAV


Snedcat said...

Yo, Gus, I'll just add a pointer to one of the articles that came up in your blogroll, a long essay on the history of pigments at Public Domain Review, in case anyone missed it or is tempted to skip it. It's very good.

Gus Van Horn said...

Thanks. That place is very well done and loaded with good stuff. Glad you took a look.

Snedcat said...

Yo, Gus, I forgot to mention a few weeks ago that there is a great site for those of us with the taste for it where all the surviving works of J.S. Bach are being put up in excellent videos with superb sound quality.

Gus Van Horn said...

Thanks again!

IKE said...

Perhaps this isn't the place to discuss it, but since you're both J.S. Bach fans... I strongly prefer the performances of Anthony Newman over any other organist, but have read there are a number of purists who complain he plays too fast (literally) and loose with the tempo and dynamics intended by Bach.

Youtube has a great performance of BWV 543.

Snedcat said...

Ike writes, "Perhaps this isn't the place to discuss it, but since you're both J.S. Bach fans..." Well, I am; I think Gus likes what he's heard but isn't a shaggy longhair like I am. In any case, I like Anthony Newman myself a lot, though the recordings of Bach's organ music I usually listen to are the complete recordings by Wolfgang Stockmeier, which I was given by a friend when she left the US; they are solid recordings by a talented organist.

More generally, I usually prefer to listen to music from the classical era and older (so Haydn-Mozart on back) in recordings by people trained in early music. There was a lot of performance practice lost as musical tastes changed over the centuries, and one of the problems with the famous versions of older music arranged during the romantic era was that they slowed the tempos down, sometimes grotesquely. For example, a typical version of Pachelbel's Canon in D (it seems no one ever plays the gigue that immediately follows it) is, to my tastes, gooey, whereas a more historically informed performance takes it fast and rather virtuosically. The typical versions of Baroque and older classics (Albinoni's Adagio, Corelli's La Folia, Vivaldi's Four Seasons) are okay but have been suited to later tastes that tended toward ponderous rhythms; I find I much prefer versions based on the composers' own practice, as far as scholarship can determine.

I should add here that I worked for a decade-plus for one of the most cultured people I've ever known, and he was great lover of early music; since I went to a university with one of the world's leading early music programs, I was immersed in it for all that time. Once my ears got accustomed to older practices, which took longer than I might care to admit, it was like hearing the real version after decades of muzak. The music school there also has one of the leading jazz music programs in the country. It was a glorious decade for free listening.

Though, then again, I also really like this version of the BWV 1052 concerto. I suspect many purists would be horrified by it, but just give it a listen--Bach can do big band like none other, and Ksenija Sidorova is a very talented accordionist; with Bach, all you need is a polyphonic instrument for this concerto. (Natch, they're all Latvians. So was my boss that decade-plus, so I naturally have come to follow Baltic musicians closely whenever I crank up YouTube. Sidorova has a Russian name, and might be from the 19th century Russian immigrants to Latvia who are Latvianized and don't irritate Latvians like the ones who moved in after WWII and on the whole decidedly are not Latvians, to sum up that part of social history in a nutshell.)