There's lots of good stuff over on Slashdot today. There's a story about the future of space exploration, another about Dell's proposed elimination of the floppy disk drive from new computers, and one about discovering how many real devices are behind a NAT router/firewall. If it weren't so late and I weren't so tired, I'd read more of the comments. There was a comment in the NASA story linking to this article by Gregg Easterbrook (aka ESPN.com's TMQ) on the funding and construction of the Columbia 23 years ago. It's amazing to me the way the government conducts its business and the way contracts are fulfilled. Based on this story, it's a real wonder the shuttle flew at all. I can't believe NASA once predicted there would be 50 shuttle flights a year. As far as I can remember, the best NASA managed was about 8-10 a year. And I hate to imagine the costs of launching a satellite with the shuttle today, if they predicted it would be well over $65 million in the 1980s.
On to other things. I bought some new CDs on Tuesday. Two were a two-volume set of the complete Beethoven concerto repertoire. I can't believe I lasted this long without owning at least a few of the piano concerti and the violin concerto, but I didn't have any of them until this week. I debated over several different recordings, and I even spent most of Sunday evening reading reviews of various sets on different store web sites. Finally, I decided on the Philips two-volume set, both of which were bargain-priced at $16 each. Since I had a $50 gift certificate from my wife's parents, that left me with another $14 and change to spend.
On Monday morning at work, I was listening to WQXR as usual, when they started talking about their CD pick of the week. It's a new three-CD set of Bach's Goldberg Variations, played by the late Glenn Gould. Those who know about Gould will recall that he recorded the Goldberg Variations twice in his career: in 1955 and again in 1981. Both recordings have been reissued many times, but this one combines the two (1955 on one CD, 1981 on another) and adds a third disc of 1955 recording session outtakes and an interview Gould gave to music critic Tim Page in 1982. WQXR has been playing the Variations all week, alternating between the two recordings: first, several variations from the 1955 CD, then the same variations from 1981 for comparison. And on Monday and Friday, they have another expert on the air discussing the differences between the two recordings. As soon as I heard the first few variations on Monday, I had to have the set. So that's where the rest of my gift card went. The Goldberg Variations has been one of my favorite pieces of music since I was in ninth grade, still learning about musical forms, and devouring anything I could get my hands on by Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Handel, Haydn, and anything else my parents or the library had. I borrowed an Anthony Newman recording of the Variations on harpsichord many years ago and copied it to tape, and I've been carrying that around for a long time. I'd always thought that Bach's keyboard music made the most sense on harpsichord. After all, it's what Bach played and wrote the music for, and he predated the piano by at least fifty years. But after hearing Glenn Gould's recordings of the Variations, I'm not sure I ever need to go back to a harpsichord version. His performance gives me everything I've ever wanted to hear in this work.