Wednesday Music: Boccherini’s Cello Concerto in G Major

I’m embarrassed to say I can’t remember when the last Wednesday Music post was. I would look back in my archives, but that would probably be demoralizing, so let’s just say it’s been a while. Today’s piece is Luigi Boccherini’s Cello Concerto No. 7 in G Major, G. 480. Now, the numbering of Boccherini’s cello concertos always confuses me—I swear I’ve also seen this one referred to as Concerto No. 3—but I know I have the G. 480 correct, so if you find this piece with a different concerto number but still listed as G. 480, I’m assuming it’s the same one. Here’s a bit about it.

  • Boccherini didn’t list this piece in his own catalog of works, but it was published in Paris in 1770, and most scholars seem to assume it was written slightly before then. Boccherini himself probably performed it in Paris.
  • During the time the composer wrote this concerto, he was at a high point in his life. He was very popular and he was working as a chamber composer for the Infante Don Luis in Spain, so he had financial stability as well.
  • The accompanying orchestra for this concerto is composed of strings only—no woodwinds. This was more common in the pre-classical era than the classical era.

Enjoy!

Or click here to see on YouTube.

Apple & Me, Part 2: Cracks In The Foundation

Note: This post is a continuation of a story I started to tell in an earlier post, so if you haven’t read the earlier one yet, you might want to do that, as this probably won’t make much sense without it!

By the time the trackpad on my first Mac broke, I was deeply embedded in the Apple ecosystem and loving every minute of it. I replaced my first iPhone with the iPhone 3GS, which I used for the next four years. (I actually still have that phone. It’s docked to an iHome and it plays music to wake me up every morning.) I didn’t have an iPad yet, but I’d started to secretly want one.

When I took my laptop with the broken trackpad to the Apple Store the day after it broke—this was 2010, dear readers, which meant it was easy to get a next-day appointment with Apple—they gave me bad news. Because the computer was out of warranty, it would be over $200 to fix the trackpad. I left with the trackpad still broken and started using a USB mouse.

My faithful old Mac

A few months later, just in time for the new semester, I got a brand-new shiny Mac laptop. It was a 13-inch MacBook Pro with a 500 GB hard drive, 8 GB RAM, and a 2.66 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor. It also had plenty of ports: USB, Ethernet, FireWire, and an SD card slot. It even had a CD/DVD drive, which I used many times over the years. It was a nearly perfect laptop—its only flaw was the glossy screen. Sometime between the time I bought my first Mac and this second Mac, Apple had stopped making matte screens. In typical fashion, the company decided it knew better than we customers did about what we needed on our computers. Keep in mind glossy screens are by no means an industry standard, since the computer I use for work has a lovely matte screen that I rather like. Therefore, I think it’s rather silly that Apple doesn’t sell matte screens at all. But I digress.

The new laptop came with Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard installed. I didn’t know it at the time, but Snow Leopard was to be the last truly great (and stable!) version of Mac OS X. Since 10.7 Lion, it’s been downhill ever since. (Seriously, don’t get me started on the monstrosity known as “macOS Sierra.” Just don’t.)

Right away, as soon as I opened the box that the new laptop came in, I noticed the computer didn’t come with a bunch of random free accessories like the first Mac I had. I didn’t get a nice black cleaning cloth, a remote, or a DVI to video adapter. Just like the matte screen, these had somehow vanished in the intervening four years since I bought my first Mac. Unlike the matte screen, they were still available—for a price. Luckily, I already had them from buying my first Mac, so I didn’t think much of it at the time.

I still have that Mac I bought in 2010. That’s how I was able to precisely give the specs above. In fact, I’m typing this very blog post on it. It’s still my main computer and even though I’ve been forced to upgrade the operating system a few times, I still love this computer.

It was joined by a third Apple device in 2013: a 4th-generation iPad I got in graduate school. I still have that iPad, too, and it’s been very helpful with my Russian studies since I’ve had it. I got a new iPhone shortly after the iPad, which means I’ve owned a total of three iPhones.

Over the years, as I acquired my devices and Apple sold more and more iPhones, I slowly began to feel less passionate about Apple. I certainly didn’t love the company anymore. I liked it. A mild to somewhat enthusiastic liking was all I could muster up. Despite its faults, I reasoned, the products and software were still better than Windows or Android. At least I didn’t have to pay for expensive antivirus software—and then still get viruses anyway. That’s what made me stick with Apple products, despite a growing list of complaints.

My complaints mostly centered on the operating systems, both mobile and desktop/laptop. Once Apple made them free (yes, my dear friends, you used to have to pay for the operating system on your Mac computer!), the quality went downhill—big time. You know that saying You only get what you pay for? Never was it so appropriate than in this situation. Honestly, I’d rather pay $30 for an operating system (this was how much an upgrade to 10.6 Snow Leopard cost when it came out) and get something with a minimum amount of bugs than get it for free and feel like an unpaid beta tester due to the bugginess. That’s basically what people who use Apple products are nowadays: Tim Cook’s unpaid beta testers. Based on the quality of the software I see coming out of Apple, the company must have fired their entire quality control department between 2010 and now.

And those are just my complaints with the operating system for Apple’s computers. The mobile operating system, iOS, is exponentially worse. I’ve disliked it for a while now, mainly because Apple keeps it locked down under such tight control that you can’t do anything with it. If I want to delete the caches for applications on my laptop, that’s quite easy to do. If I want to do that on the iPhone or iPad, I either have to delete the app and reinstall it (if I’m lucky and it’s something I downloaded from the App Store) or I have to reset the entire device to factory settings. Think about that for a minute. Isn’t it absurd? There is no way to access a cache file or a preferences file for a default iOS app such as Weather. (Okay, there might be if you jailbreak. But jailbreaking is a big hassle and I’ve never done it. As far as I know, you can access such files on Android without having to go in a root the device! Though if I am mistaken on this, please correct me.) It also seems like there are major bugs whenever a major version of iOS is released. That happens way, way too often, if you ask me. There shouldn’t be that many bugs in a product released that isn’t a beta version.

It wasn’t until recently, though, when I researched the newest Mac laptops, iPhones, and iPads that I came to a very surprising conclusion, one that will shock everyone who knows me personally: I am not going to buy Apple products anymore. Yes, I know that means returning to the warm, virus-laden fold that is Microsoft Windows. But this is my decision, and I came to it due to three reasons: the latest version of iOS, the latest version of Mac OS X (excuse me, it’s macOS now—gag), and the new Mac laptops Apple is currently selling.

Stay tuned to the next post for more…

Wednesday Music: Arensky’s ‘Variations on a Theme by Tchaikovsky’

You guys, it’s been ages since I put up a Wednesday Music post! I kept forgetting, even though I’ve had this piece on my mind for a little while now. It’s composer Anton Arensky’s Variations on a Theme by Tchaikovsky, Op. 35a. Here’s a bit about it.

  • Arensky, a composer I’ve never heard of, wrote this piece to Tchaikovsky in 1894, the year after Tchaikovsky died.
  • It’s based on a theme Tchaikovsky wrote in a piece called “Legend: Christ in His Garden,” which is part of Sixteen Children’s Songs.
  • The theme from Arensky’s piece was actually the slow movement of a string quartet he wrote. When the quartet was performed, everyone loved the slow movement so much that Arensky arranged it as a separate piece for string orchestra, which is what you’ll hear if you play the video below.

Enjoy!

Or click here to see on YouTube.

Apple & Me, Part 1: Love At First Sight

The first computer I ever owned was a Dell laptop. It was big, fat, and clunky—but I loved it.

It was kind of a horrible computer. It had a tiny hard drive and not even 1 GB of RAM. It ran Windows XP. The trackpad didn’t always work right and the display quality was terrible. But it was a decent price. My parents bought it for me for school and I thought it was the greatest thing ever.

Pretty much everyone in my year at school had the same laptop, with the exception of a classmate named Brittany. I sat by Brittany in English class, which allowed me ample time to admire her gorgeous PowerBook G4. After I’d spent a lot of time admiring her computer, mine didn’t seem so great.

It was a thing of beauty, that PowerBook. The casing was a beautiful aluminum. It had a matte display and a smooth trackpad with a single fat button to click. It won’t surprise you when I say that when offered a computer upgrade, I asked for a Mac.

My first Mac. Isn't it gorgeous?
My first Mac. Isn’t it gorgeous?

I was lucky. My parents bought me my first Mac shortly after Apple began offering Intel processors in their computers. I had a 15-inch MacBook Pro with a 200 GB hard drive and 1 GB of RAM. It had lovely matte display—something Apple doesn’t offer anymore, but more on this later. Not only did it look nice, but it ran the most excellent operating system I’d ever used up to that point: Mac OS X 10.4, Tiger.

It wasn’t a perfect computer, looking back. In the time I had it, I experienced kernel panics every so often. A kernel panic is the Mac equivalent of the “blue screen of death” on Windows. According to research I’ve done since, this probably meant the computer was underpowered, i.e. it didn’t have enough RAM and/or a good enough processor.

The computer also went through batteries like nothing I’ve ever seen before or since. The batteries kept going bad—but back then, Apple’s warranty plan actually would cover the cost of a new one. The display started buzzing like a fluorescent light burning out. The warranty plan helped with this, too, thank goodness. By the time said warranty plan expired after three years, I’d gone through four batteries and two screen repairs.

The first iPhone. It may look dated now, but it was totally ~*hot stuff*~ back then!
The first iPhone. It may look dated now, but it was totally ~*hot stuff*~ back then! Also, despite its faults, IT HAD A FREAKING HEADPHONE JACK, OKAY?!?

In the meantime, I’d fallen in love with Apple. I raved about my computer to fellow students, which led some of them to get their parents to buy them Macs, too. I had the first iPhone. I worked as a freelance tech journalist while in school and covered the iPad launch in 2010. Everything was good.

Then, the trackpad on my laptop broke.

To be continued…

A Blogiversary

I recently renewed my domain name for this site, so that means my blogiversary is coming up. Honestly, I wasn’t sure the blog would make it to this blogiversary. For the past year or so, I’ve increasingly been thinking that I should stop blogging. Not many people read this blog anyway (though the few who do are pretty fabulous) and blogging just isn’t what it used to be.

I also sometimes wish I had chosen a different name for this blog. (Though what else I would have chosen, I don’t know.) Sometimes I feel like the current name doesn’t really describe what it is anymore—or what I want it to be. Yes, I know I could change the name, but that’s a pain. I’d have to come up with a new domain name, put in a redirect for the old domain so I don’t lose all of my traffic (not that there’s that much anyway!) and readers, and who knows what else. So I probably won’t change this blog’s name, but who knows.

Anyway, I think my proper blogiversary is in March (I wrote two posts for a new blog in January 2011 and saved them on this blog, but I didn’t properly start blogging with this domain name until early March 2011). If I do have any blogiversary celebrations, March will be the time. But don’t count on anything, because I’m feeling decidedly unenthusiastic about this.

A Cute Bird

One of the local library branches near where I live has parakeets. Yes, you read that right. There are actual parakeets at this library and they are adorable. They live in a cage in the children’s section and surprisingly enough, the kids seem to behave around them. The librarians help keep an eye on them, from what I’ve seen.

One of the birds is so adorable that I had to take a few pictures of him. He chirped the entire time.

Isn't he cute?
Isn’t he cute?

One of the many reasons why I always go to this branch is so I can see this little guy. Seriously, if the librarians didn’t keep such a close watch on him, I’d be tempted to slip him into my pocket and take him home with me! Too bad I need to get some writing done today—otherwise I’d go visit him later!

Words Of Wisdom From The Admiral

No Wednesday Music today, dear readers. I couldn’t find/decide on a piece! But I did write a post, so at least that.

Regular readers may know that I’m a huge admirer of Alexander Kolchak, a Russian admiral who served in the Imperial Russian Navy and later became famous as a noted military and political leader for the White Movement during the Russian Civil War. I’ve been fascinated by him since I saw a Russian film called Admiral back in 2008. (Just so you know, the TV series is way better, but unfortunately not available with English subtitles.)

Anyway, about a week ago, I wasn’t having such a great day at work. Everyone kept giving me stuff to do (and of course wanted it done yesterday, i.e. the day before they gave it to me), I was worried about not being able to finish, and it was very frustrating. I opened up Twitter and, lo and behold, what did I see? A quote from Admiral Kolchak! I follow a pro-White Movement Twitter account (actually, I follow several, because that is the depth of my obsession) and someone tweeted this nice photo. It certainly won’t win any awards for graphic design, I’ll give you that, but it really made my day.

Click to see larger
Нет поражений. Есть временные трудности. -А.В. Колчак

In English, the quote is: “There are no defeats—only temporary obstacles.” Or at least that’s how I’ve translated it. There seem to be a surprising amount of shades of meaning of the word поражение [porazhenie].

Now, I realize there’s a certain bit of irony in quoting a man who was betrayed by troops who were supposed to be on his side, which led to him being handed over to his enemies, interrogated/tried by a kangaroo court, and murdered at the conclusion of this “trial.” (Kolchak’s murder took place ninety-seven years ago as of yesterday, February 7. Maybe that’s why I’ve been reflecting on this recently…) I’m not really sure what to call that other than a defeat. But hey, I think it’s an inspiring quote and I’m rather partial to anything Kolchak-related.

A lot of people at work have quotes on little pieces of paper pinned up at their desks. Most people have random inspirational stuff or favorite Bible verses. I may have to put this one up. Now that will garner some inquiries from my team, I’m sure!

P.S. Here’s how the tweet looked when it showed up in my Twitter stream. It made me so happy that I had to take a screenshot.

Yes, my phone is in Russian!
Yes, my phone is in Russian!

P.P.S. I researched this quote and to be honest, it’s quite hard to find a substantiated source for it. In my research, I found this slightly more wordier version: Не может быть поражений — могут быть лишь временные трудности. It pretty much amounts to the same thing in English, though. Despite the unsubstantiation (is that even a word?), I like it and am going to resolutely believe it is true unless I find out otherwise.