Two basically unrelated musings for today. Last week The West Wing episode on ABC was ‘Han’. It was a story about a North Korean pianist who was in the US on a goodwill visit, playing concerts, promoting better diplomatic relationgs between the two countries, that sort of thing. He wanted to defect, but for political reasons, and continuing a run of poor decisions in recent episodes, President Bartlett essentially asked him not to. In response, the pianist asked the President if he knew the meaning of the Korean word Han, which is apparently something akin to a state of great despair. To accompany this statement, the pianist starts to play Chopin’s Prelude in E Minor, Op. 28 No. 4.
This is one of the most achingly beautiful pieces of music ever written, and it makes an excellent choice for that particular moment. I didn’t have a recording of it anywhere, so after a brief and fruitless search of the Internet, I went out and bought a CD of the more famous Chopin compositions. The Prelude No. 4 is one of a handful of tunes that make me cry, if I’m in a certain frame of mind, and if it’s played well. Bach’s Air on the G string is another, and they both need to played expressively, yet sensitively. I’ve heard both played too fast, or too dramatic. I think you need to be able to associate each piece with a period of great sorrow to truly understand the way they should sound. That’s part of what makes a great artist, I suppose.
Utterly unrelated to that is the gig I’m currently doing, which has me without proper internet access for the workday three days a week. Their rules mean that I can’t plug my laptop into their network, so I can’t use any of my usual tools to get things done. They don’t have a lot of them installed, which is fair enough, but it’s awfully frustrating to be hamstrung like this. It’s a poor workman who blames his tools, I know, but poor tools just make things that much more difficult and time consuming to do. They also have an extremely restricted internet access policy, and assert ownership over anything transmitted over their network, so I can’t use webmail to get at my usual email addresses. Oh, and for the record, I HATEHATEHATE Lotus Notes.
While I can understand their reasons for having such a setup, the major reason it’s configured this way is because of Windows’ and its inherent insecurity. How I long for the day when the dominant desktop platform isn’t a virus ridden, malware laden piece of shit. I’ve been 99% Windows free for years. The only reason I have it around is because I have to deal with other people who’ve chosen to use Word, Visio or Project, and there are no decent small business accounting packages outside Windows. Visio and Quickbooks are the only programs that I can see a real need for at this point. Accounting is pretty dull, so efforts to write a solid open-source accounting package are hampered by the lack of ‘cool factor’. OpenOffice has been better than Word for years and is now *really* compatible. Mind you, most of the documents people write will still look awful and be barely literate scribblings. See Also: the internet. ;) I’m not aware of a Visio type tool that really cuts the mustard. Dia isn’t there yet. It’s not bad, but nowhere near as feature-complete. If someone can do as good a job as Gimp or Inkscape with Visio, I’ll switch immediately.
Anyhow, it’s late, and I want to try to make it to coffee with old workmates tomorrow.