A Graphic Example

[ebook on Sony reader]

A lot of non-technical people’s eyes glaze over when you start talking
about standard, non-proprietary formats. Mike
has come up with a graphic example of why you don’t
want one company owning the format of the books you read.

Apparently Sony requires any book sold for their reader in
their store to be formatted by them (at a cost of $200). And then
when they do it, it looks like that.

This hideous example is from Sony, for the Sony readers, but
the principle is the same for any proprietary format — if they
won’t tell you how to do it, you’re stuck with them doing it for
you, and you may well not like what they do.

This is why I don’t put music in proprietary formats on SerpentPublications.org.

Turning space into money

An advantage of the dog park being open again is that I get to
talk to people who do things I wouldn’t normally be involved in. A couple of nights ago,
the owner of a sprightly two-year-old terrier named Demon was
talking about all the good deals in used motorcycles you can get
this time of year.

Apparently, if you don’t have the space to store your
motorcycle for the winter, you sell it in the fall for very little money to
someone who does.

So my friend, who doesn’t personally have any more space than
anyone else who lives in a Cambridge apartment, was salivating
over the deals he’s been seeing in the used motorcycle market, and
wondering how many bikes he can convince his parents to store for him.

Pretending to go a Maying

The new piece the Cantabile
Renaissance Band
played last night was by Thomas
from the Triumphs
of Oriana.
This is a collection of madrigals by most of the
famous composers of the day (1603). They must have been the sort
of music that was played for Queen Elizabeth when she went to
visit her nobles to keep them spending their money on
conspicuous consumption rather than on raising armies to rebel
against her.

You can read what I said about the music on the
Serpent Publications Blog
, but we found the words
interesting as well, particularly the lines:

A Prince,
of beauty rich and rare,
for her delighting,
Pretends to goe a Maying,

We weren’t quite sure what that meant. One idea that occured
to us during the beer-drinking part of the meeting, where we
were discussing our gardens, was that it wasn’t May, but the
prince had too much zucchini in his garden, so he was leaving
them on his neighbors’ doorsteps and ringing the doorbell and
then running away.

Another idea I had was that it was the kind of Maying that led
to teenage pregnancy that he was pretending to do, which the
Queen wouldn’t have really wanted to do, but might have enjoyed
having a beautiful man pretend to want to do it with her.

In any case, your guess is at least as good as mine, so feel
free to leave your ideas in the comments.

More about Julia

With the movie where Meryl Streep plays Julia Child in the
theaters, a lot of people are writing about her. I’ve already
commented on the Michael Pollan
. Here are two other posts worth thinking about:

  • Don’t Buy Julia
    Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking — You will never cook
    from it
    in slate.com takes the point of view that:

    The inconvenient truth is that although the
    country’s best-loved “French chef” produced an unparalleled
    recipe collection in Mastering the Art, it has always been
    daunting. It was never meant for the frivolous or trendy. And it
    now seems even more overwhelming in a Rachael Ray world: Those
    thousands and thousands of cookbooks sold are very likely going
    to wind up where so many of the previous printings
    have — in pristine condition decorating a kitchen
    bookshelf or on a nightstand, handy for vicarious cooking and

    I acquired a one-volume copy last summer when I was cleaning out Bonnie’s
    house. I admit I haven’t yet cooked anything from it, and it is
    fairly pristine, although Bonnie cooked a lot from quite a
    number of her cookbooks. But I expect to change that this month
    — I won a box of organic cake flour from King Arthur Flour,
    and unlike most of my other cookbooks, Julia has recipes that
    specify (and presumably were tested with) cake flour.

  • Rachel
    , in her blog about food politics and food history,
    writes a post comparing Julia Child with Elizabeth David, who
    wrote the books about French cooking that caused her generation
    in England to discover it. She says:

    So although their dishes overlapped, David and Julia offered their audiences quite different ideas about cuisine. David’s was this breath of scented air, recipes as poetic guides to possibilities, a touch of sophistication and class for the aspiring. Julia’s allure was the challenge, the hard work, the mastery the guaranteed results that offered entry into a tempting international world.

    Neither vision had much to do with what French housewives, still
    reeling from World War II, actually cooked (here and here),
    an observation not a criticism.

Spruce tips in August

Someone on the homebrew club mailing list wanted to know where
you get spruce tips. I replied:

You find a spruce tree, but it only works in the spring; after that
they mature into spruce twigs.

So you might have to wait until next May, unless you can get a cooperative denizen of the Southern Hemisphere to send you
some in our fall.

I thought it was amusing that anyone would think that something
with as small a market as home brewers of spruce beer would be sold somewhere out
of season.

Coffee making ritual

A couple of months ago, I mentioned that I’d
started roasting my own coffee, and said that when my coffee
making ritual settled down, I’d do a better description of it.

The roasting doesn’t really add as much time as abandoning the
automatic coffee maker did, but in any case, except for the
grinding, it’s mostly time when
you’re free to putter around the kitchen, and if you cook at all,
you need to spend at least that much time every day puttering
around the kitchen. If you don’t, you can use the time to make no
knead bread.
(More about that later. I just bought the book,
and my first batch is doing its second rising as I write

Normally I would give you links to Amazon, since I have an associate
account, and if you bought stuff by following my links, I would
get some money. In this case, they don’t seem to have any of my
exciting new coffee equipment, so I’ll just link you to SweetMaria’s, with whom I
have no relationship except that of a satisfied customer.

My coffee roaster is the Fresh Roast
Plus 8
coffee roaster, which I bought with the sampler of 8
different kinds of decaf coffee. They were all good coffee, but 3
stood out as the kind of coffee I especially like, so when I
finished the sampler, I ordered more of the ones from Costa Rica,
Ethiopia, and Sumatra. They also have a blend specially
formulated for making French Roast. This hadn’t been in the
sampler, but I wanted to try it, so I ordered some of that, too.
I generally like commercially roasted coffee best in the French
roast, but I think this isn’t true for home-roasted coffee, so
I’ll probably not repeat the French roasting experiment.

The coffee roaster makes three batches of the size I make these
days (about two mugs worth). So on a day when I need to roast
more, I put the tea kettle on to boil the water and put two large
scoops of coffee in the roaster and turn it on.

Then I grind the coffee for this batch in the Zassenhaus knee

The brewer I’m using these days is the Clever
Coffee dripper,
which looks like a normal #4 coffee filter,
but has a valve on the hole in the bottom which is closed when the
filter is on the counter, but open when you put it on top of a mug
or thermos. This means you can grind the coffee as coarsely as
you like it, which makes the grinding easier than for a regular
filter, and then brew it in the filter, which makes the cleaning
easier than a French Press brewer would be.

Before putting the filter in the brewer, I rinse out the brewer
and make sure that opening the valve produces an enthusiastic
stream of water. Then I put the filter in the brewer, and put my ground
coffee into the filter.

When the water boils, I pour a little bit into the brewer,
and then wait while it wets the grounds, and then fill the cone up
and set the timer. I set it for 5 minutes these days since I’m
doing French roast, but when I’m doing a lighter roast I do it for
3 or 4 minutes.

When the timer rings, I put the brewer on top of my thermos and
wait for the coffee to drain into the thermos, pour myself one
mug, close the thermos to keep the second mug warm, and come upstairs
here to write my blog post.

One thing I especially like about this system is that I don’t
have any actual measuring steps at all. When the roasted
coffee beans are cool and ready to go into a jar, I take three
identical jars and eyeball putting equal amounts into each jar.
When I have boiling water, I just fill up the brewer.


Tablature and lilypond

If all you’re doing is entering notes, you can probably take
lilypond from 15 years ago, run it through the automatic updater,
and get your music typeset by current lilypond, using all the
improvements made by all the developers since then.

If you have lyrics, they did something 8 years or so ago that
the automatic upgrader doesn’t deal with, so you have to manually
change two or three lines per part to use the current version. This is why there’s still a
lot of old lilypond on my music publishing
. But it’s certainly possible to use 10 year old work
with current lilypond.

If you want tablature, someone who actually has tablature may
have figured out something better than what I can see. What it
looks like from here is:

  • Some time in 2003, I spend some time figuring out how I
    would have to enter Dowland’s tablature if that were what I
    wanted to do. I actually had a measure or two entered, and I
    got some help writing a scheme function so that it would look
    more like what’s printed in the Dowland facsimiles. I didn’t at
    the time have any real use for the tablature, so I didn’t bother
    entering more than that measure. However, in 2007 I decided a
    few of the Dowland third book pieces didn’t really make sense
    musically without the lute part, so I attempted to enter the
    tablature, and found that all the work I’d done 4 years before
    was useless. I translated the tablature into standard notation,
    and didn’t do anything about having it as tablature.
  • This last week, someone from the recorder mailing
    offered to help me proofread tablature, so I took a
    look at what lilypond has now. It would clearly be a fair amount of
    work to get from the notation I have (for a few pieces) to
    anything that looks like what Dowland printed, but I found a post
    on the LUTE
    mailing list
    from last year claiming that they had something
    useful. However, this may have worked with lilypond 2.10, but it
    no longer works with lilypond 2.12.

Now I didn’t spend a lot of time figuring out what has changed
about tablature between 2.10 and 2.12, and it could be that it’s a
trivial problem that just didn’t get into convert-ly by accident,
and if I wrote a bug report it would get fixed immediately. But
since I’ve done considerable work on tablature over the years, all
of which is completely useless with current lilypond, and of
course I still have several projects on the website with a fairly
tight deadline of mid-October. So I’m not going to do any more
work right now. But if any of you feel differently, and do get to
where there’s useful French lute tablature coming out of lilypond 2.12,
please let me know about it.

Meanwhile, I should mention that abctab2ps was
already producing useful tablature 10 years ago, and has
presumably improved. I stopped using it since tablature by itself
is of limited use to me, and there wasn’t any way to get from the
abctab2ps input to standard notation. But another possibly useful
program would translate the tab (plus the tuning information) into ABC or lilypond.