Liszt’s Totentanz on Video!

Ten years ago, I discovered and bought a DVD of pianist Valentina Lisitsa performing the etudes of Franz Liszt, my favorite classical composer.

My favorite work of Liszt’s, as I mentioned at the time, is his Totentanz, a dark high energy piece that ranges up and down the keyboard, moves quickly, and then repeats. Love it.

Recently, I rediscovered Lisitsa on YouTube, where she’s kept very busy for the last decade. You don’t need to go to her website anymore to watch WMV files anymore — one autoplays when you load up her website.

But it made me idly look up “Totentanz” again on YouTube. There are two separate performances of the piece by Lisitsa on YouTube. One was at a public piano, and the other was more carefully controlled in a studio environment.

I have to link to them here for posterity.

Skip over to the 7:00 mark to watch the hands fly…

So cool.

And, no, I didn’t go to that concert of hers ten years ago. Pity.

The Greatest Quora Answer of All Time

My vote for Best Quora Answer Ever is still this answer from Elliot S. Maggin (yes, the comic writer) about security for the President.  Makes me wonder jow many other great stories there are out there…

On a whim, a friend of mine went to play a round of golf at the Hillcrest Country Club in Los Angeles one day. Somewhere among the first nine holes he realized that the foursome behind him included the then-current sitting president, Bill Clinton. My friend looked around, noted that the big golf course was surrounded on all sides with hills peppered with high-end houses.


Click through for the rest…

The Day the Bird Died

It’s the 15th anniversary of that fateful day of Major League Baseball when a bird flew in the way of a Randy Johnson pitch and instantly exploded/vaporized.


Mourning Dove, like the one Randy Johnson hit

By derivative work: Snowmanradio (talk)Zenaida_macroura_-California-8.jpg: Don DeBold – originally posted to Flickr as Dove by Almaden Lake and uploaded to commons as Zenaida_macroura_-California-8.jpg, CC BY-SA 2.0,


Newsweek asked some ornithologists for their thoughts on the incident.  The best one is in the conclusion:

There are many reasons why Mr. Johnson should not feel bad about this event. First, the mourning dove is one of the most common species in urban areas of Arizona and across the country, and it is not a species of conservation concern. So he didn’t impact the future of a species or anything like that. Second, although he did hit the bird outside of the dove season in Arizona, which happens in September, it is a game species, and there are plenty of hunters who wish they could get off such a clean shot. Third, millions of birds are killed each year by outside cats, glass windows, wind turbines, airplanes and other human-related problems. So in perspective, it is just an amazing coincidence that got caught on camera.

Star Wars: Back to Basics


A new (unauthorized) release of Star Wars gets back to the original. They recreated the original movie with the mission to not change a single thing. Let the imperfections fly!

I’d love to own a clean copy of the original Star Wars trilogy, like most people my age. But I do have to admit that I wouldn’t mind it so much if they cleaned it a little to get rid of the visible strings and matte boxes and whatnot. Don’t change anything in the movie; just clean up the dirty spots. Keep the final dog fight as it originally was. Greedo shoots first. Yes, even keep the guy in the werewolf halloween mask.

All the Presidents’ Heads

I’m almost in awe of this.

Presidental portraits in stone

There was a park opened in the 2000s that featured Rushmore-like rock sculptures of all the presidents up to that point. They’re each 20 feet tall. The park closed a few years ago, and a farmer nearby took all the sculptures for his backyard.

Click through the link to see some more pictures of the site. It’s eerie and cool and crazy all at the same time.

Troubles in Las Vegas

LINQ executives told Las Vegas police that public indecency is on the rise, “which they fear will impact the reputation and business operations.”


Vegas business owners fear that indecency will impact their operations.  This from the city whose motto is “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”?

Welcome Back, WordPress

WordPress Logo

I’ve been blogging since September 2002.  What started on quickly moved over to its own site, using WordPress before it was even called WordPress, I think.  Check my database — this blog’s prefix is “b2_.”

Things slowed up a lot here over recent years.  I got a new job, got married, had a kid, etc. etc.

And WordPress became annoying.  I always assumed it was because the database was so big with the thousands of posts I had up, but couldn’t prove it.  Simple things like posting an update became too slow to bother.  And, of course, Twitter popped up and consumed us all.

I posted here occasionally, but sometimes months would go by.

Lately, I’ve wanted to get back into it.  I hate throwing things into the Twitter and Facebook machines and watching them drift away, owning nothing.  I like having a blog that I can look back on years later and see what I was thinking in the past so easily.  Even if I only did short posts, I wanted to jump back on the bandwagon.

So I checked up on WordPress, updated to the latest and greatest and — it’s a whole new experience. WordPress grew up somewhere in the last couple of years. Maybe four years?  I don’t know, but all my problems are gone.  Everything is so easy now.  I can shop for a new theme or a plug-in from inside WordPress, and install everything that way, too.  No more downloading zip files and then uploading them praying the back end sees them, and then activating.

Many of the things that needed plug-ins were now built in. (Markdown! YouTube!)

The default themes look good, and are easy to edit.

I have at least two usable iPhone apps where I can post to the blogs even when I’m away from my desk.

Also, it’s speedy.  I don’t have to wait forever for a new blog post to save.  (And then it posts links to Twitter and Google Plus for me.)

I’m even using the new WordPress desktop app to post this.  It’s also awesome, and lets me run two blogs at the same time on it.

I’m excited to be blogging again, both here and on the sister site, Various and Sundry CS, where I cover more of the computer science-like stuff.  Even if it’s only short thoughts barely longer than a tweet, the default theme handles things like that beautifully…

Images: The Problem With Sizing


Three different Deadpool #1 issues

One of the things I do every week in writing Pipeline is to prepare all the images for it.  It’s a much more complicated process than it needs to be.  I scan it in one program (Image Capture), color correct and crop in another (Acorn), and shrink it in a third (Image Well).  (Seriously, that third program chops the file size down by a bunch.  I’m not sure why or how, but it does, so I always use it.)

I have a 27″ iMac.  My screen is huge.  And the middle layer in there — it’s Acorn — shows the image at 25% or so when it first loads.  I have no idea how big that image will look on the website for someone else on a 13″ screen or a 15″ or 23″ screen.  So I always err on the side of making a bigger image and letting my faithful CBR editor do the final trimming to the standard CBR size.  (Honest: I do try to get it as close as possible to save him a step, but I feel like I fail every week.)

I worry that when I have a retina display screen, the problem will only get worse.  Very much worse.

At the same time, it’s a problem I’ll be happy to have.  Because new computer. (Did I do that right, internet?)

Still, it’s a process I need to automate or simplify somehow.  I’m just writing this to remind myself and shame myself in public.


Middle X: Dazzler

Enter a world where the X-Men have quietly retired from their years of superheroing. It’s a world where they settled down in the suburbs and lived to ripe old ages.

We look in on them as they hit their 40s. They are, perhaps, soccer moms and dance dads and who knows what else.

Number 3 in a series. Here’s…. Dazzler! She’s the kind who drops the kids off at school in the morning and heads straight to the gym. Or yoga class.

Middle X: Dazzler

Middle X: Psylocke

Enter a world where the X-Men have quietly retired from their years of superheroing. It’s a world where they settled down in the suburbs and lived to ripe old ages.

We look in on them as they hit their 40s. They are, perhaps, soccer moms and dance dads and who knows what else.

Number 1 in a series. Here’s…. Psylocke:

Psylocke in her 40s

Nintendo Bookshelf

My daughter’s bookcase is falling apart. The sides must have widened a little and the bookshelves are now detached and resting on the tallest books below them.

It looks like a level of Donkey Kong to me now.

crooked bookcase