The URI! Zone - 01/2010

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

List Day: Five Website Improvements

While I travel down the snowy Pennsylvania Turnpike on the way back from Columbus, here is a list of the website improvements I made over the Christmas break, which you may have already noticed.

  1. TABLE-free: In some circles, the use of TABLE HTML tags for layout purposes is a cardinal sin -- you may as well have stuck your baby in FRAMESET with BLINK tags. After almost six years of table layouts, the URI! Zone is now cresting the wave of yesterday's cutting edge innovation with full CSS-based layouts. Of course, it only took six extra hours to make it look correct in Internet Explorer. Next up might be to convert the site into XHTML, which has been on my TO-DO list since October 2003.

  2. Introducing jQuery: I did a test run of jQuery in October to speed up page loads by not loading News images until they were needed on the screen (especially noticeable on the News Archive pages, where a month of posts appear together). It's now being used on the Comments page to sound the death knell for anonymity by validating that you've filled in all the fields before posting your comment. Luckily, there aren't a lot of places that this is needed, since interactivity is a very Web 2.0 concept, and this site embraces Web 3.0 by displaying the content that I think is important and forcing you to love it.

  3. No more "Words" or "Art" sections: The "Art" section was by far the least visited area of the site, and the "Words" section was the most-visited, but only by little pissants trying to plagiarize my musical research for their music appreciation papers. Hopefully this will reduce the number of Google hits I get for the search term, "a form that pits a soloist against an orchestra is called a _____" -- apparently music appreciation students don't realize that you can search for test answers without typing the BLANK. Eventually, I hope to migrate all my Photos over to Picasa as well.

  4. Cutesy Labels:
    Isn't this cute?
    Of course, these labels only achieve maximum cuteness in Firefox -- Internet Explorer ignores small height values and makes it look like a belt buckle on a sumo wrestler.

  5. Redesigned Sidebar: There's nothing inherently new on the sidebar, but I've made the presentation a little cleaner. In addition, you can now hide sections that you don't care about, like the "Old News" box -- just click on the minus icon to hide it, and the plus icon to show it again!

Teen found after meeting his 42-year-old soulmate
Burglar trips beer can alarm
Beaver attacks boy in southern Oklahoma

tagged as lists, website | permalink | 2 comments

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Roadtrip Day: New Year's in Columbus


Like most people's hair, the road to Columbus is boringly straight -- the perfect environment for speed-trapping policemen, had the impromptu ice storm that morning not forced them all to deal with real accidents like flipped SUVs instead.

We spent the New Year's weekend at the apartment of Rebecca's friend from college, Elisa, who's doing grad work at OSU. On New Year's Eve, we made shrimp pasta and drank trace amounts of alcohol from very small chocolate bottles, courtesy of Annie.


Since we were in the hometown of OSU, it was only fitting that we spent New Year's Day watching the Rose Bowl (OSU vs. Oregon) followed by two full hours of inane local commentary about the game. We were briefly interrupted with breaking news that Rush Limbaugh had been rushed to the hospital. That tagline was probably the highlight of some news staffer's day.


As temperatures dropped into the single digits (and as we relished our decision not to travel to Chicago to hang out with Chompy), we took refuge in the Franklin Park Conservatory, which mixes exotic plantlife with very strange glass artwork, which is kind of like mixing baked beans with mayonnaise.

In the Conservatory courtyard, we watched a glassblowing artisan at work until the frigid temperatures chased us back into the Tropical Rainforest exhibit, which was much warmer.


The resident cat in Columbus was Christopher, named without irony before he moved there. Our cats stayed home to host parties.

Our drive back from Ohio featured a Pennsylvanian tradition called "lake snow", where moisture from the Great Lakes combines with cold air living in poverty in West Virginia to dump several hundred feet of snow in the mountains.

Rather than risk life and limb, we stopped in the town of Somerset, Pennsylvania for a night at the Quill Haven Country Inn which featured a massive bathtub and a creepy headless wedding dress to denote the locale as the "Bridal Room".

Dad nabbed in kidnapping prank
Dating site for beautiful people expels 'fatties' after holiday weight gain
Man opts for jail over New Year with relatives

tagged as media, day-to-day | permalink | 6 comments

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Review Day

There are no spoilers in these reviews.

Dr. Horrible's Sing-along Blog:
This succinct musical by Joss Whedon (about the length of an episode of 24) was originally posted as a series of short web episodes, and tells the tale of Dr. Horrible's attempts to join the Evil League of Evil. It sometimes teeters on the line dividing funny from lame, but it's short and mostly clever. You can't go wrong with a Neil Patrick Harris vehicle, and it's also fun to watch Nathan Fillion (of Firefly) as Captain Hammer.

Final Grade: B-

Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks by Ethan Gilsdorf:
This book, written by a former D&D addict turned 40, explores various roleplaying outlets (from table-top games to Live Action to World of Warcraft) in search of the answers to why people play games. There are no revelations in here, and the author's attempts to tie his research directly to his own life work surprisingly less often than expected, but it's a reasonably interesting read. Having not done anything in this book other than play computer games, I might not be the target audience, but it feels like anyone outisde of this world could read the book and understand the jargon.

Final Grade: B-

Up:
All I knew going into this movie was what was shown in the trailers: an old man floats away in a balloon-driven house with a kid stowing away on his front porch. I was pleasantly surprised with the rest of the movie, although the "dog collar" idea is almost one step too far, even for a world where a house can fly. I actually ended up liking this movie MORE than Wall-E.

Final Grade: A

Sex Lives of Cannibals by J. Maarten Troost:
When I run out of other books, I end up reading a lot of Rebecca's, whose tastes range more towards humourous memoirs and travelogues rather than the latest post-humous Michael Crichton novel (which I picked up at Costco last week and am slightly scared to begin, because what does Crichton know about pirates, and why would he leave a completed manuscript in his desk unless it sucked?). This book tells the tale of a typical D.C. couple who decides to relocate to the tiny island of Tarawa in the South Pacific for a few years. The book is overly wordy, much like any one of my News updates, but once you get into the rhythm of the prose, this is an enjoyable and fun read. I, myself, would never pick up and move to a place where I have to scrape decomposed geckos out of my water tank while swimming in poop-mottled oceans, but that doesn't mean it's not a worthwhile story.

Final Grade: A-

New strawberry crab discovered
YouTube attacked by porn
Police seek woman who trashed McDonald's

tagged as reviews | permalink | 5 comments

Friday, January 08, 2010

Friday Fragments

brazenly breaking the boredom barrier

♠ My latest side project to reduce site upkeep is to sort and transfer all of my photos into my Picasa account. After deleting several hundred variations of "This is Booty sitting on a bed", I still ended up with a sizable collection, and have migrated over all the Cat Pictures, the Delta Mu pictures, my personal pictures from 1979 - 2004, and the Marching Virginians pictures.

♠ When I ran the MV Trumpet website eleven years and twenty pounds ago, there was a media embargo on any pictures that might show recognizable alcohol bottles (since the site was linked from the main Virginia Tech pages). Necessary Photoshopping (before that became a recognized verb) led some people to think that the trumpet section had their own gang sign.

♠ I've never understood why gangs form gang signs with their hands. When all five fingers are connected to the same hub, there's only a finite number of permutations available to represent your gang (which is similar to the reason why most international flags look like cheap knock-offs of Italy). Gangs would be much more interesting if their call signs were full body contortions like a Michael Flatley pose.

♠ Riverdance was one of many VHS tapes in the drawer at the Bed & Breakfast we stayed at in Pennsylvania. We did not watch it, opting for Vanilla Sky instead. That movie turned out to be much worse than I remembered, mainly because the sum of the movie's parts added up to nothing significant, much like today's snow forecast.

♠ Now that I've walked through downtown Columbus in single-digit weather, the current cold snap seems pretty warm to me. The overabundance of space heaters wherever I happen to be also helps a tad.

♠ When I was a kid living in a house with the thermostat perpetually set at "room temperature minus ten", we had one of the old-fashioned space heaters with visible, exposed elements that you could burn crackers (and yourself) on. If you stuck any long, narrow foods (such as the aforementioned crackers) through the grille, they would immediately turn black and fall to the bottom of the heater. This is probably what led me to becoming a Boy Scout, where the same thing occurs on a larger scale around the campfire.

♠ Plans for this weekend include sushi tonight, a CustomInk holiday party tomorrow night, and some sort of potluck affair on Sunday night. I might also finish off my photo move to Picasa and start on whatever project comes next on the unending list of "Stuff I'll Never Do But Will Write Down Anyhow". Update: The Photo Migration is complete!

♠ Have a great weekend!

Man has a drive-through breakfast
Swiss court sets fine to match income
Sunbeam, magnifying glass set fire to home

tagged as fragments | permalink | 6 comments

Monday, January 11, 2010

Weekend Wrap-up

On Friday night, we braved the cold to search for a new sushi place worthy of experimentation. After finding our original choice closed for failure to pay the lease, we ended up at Aoba, around the corner on Route 7. The sushi was good enough, and on par with anything you might buy premade in a store. Not being food snobs, it was good enough for a strip mall locale.

After a brief shopping excursion on Saturday, during which the checkout lady neglected to include $6 in coupons, I returned home to do some work and clean the house. I also took the time to read Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton, but I'll defer the review to some point in the future, since this site needs some semblance of suspense to keep people coming back.

In the evening, we drove out to Falls Church for Rebecca's office party at the State Theatre. The party consisted of good food, free drinks, and an awards ceremony that was probably cute when the company had 20 people but was completely ignored and shouted over now that there are 200. There was also a DJ who took the multitasking approach to music by switching to a new song every minute or so, making it impossible for Stella or anyone else to get their groove back.

On Sunday night, we had a couples night potluck dinner in Sterling, and used the fajita-making kit bestowed upon us at Christmas time from my sister. Hosting potlucks is always mathematically interesting, because you end up with more food than you started with.

Agencies pull ad after 'career woman' outrage
God arrested at LAX
How Visa, using Debit fees, dominates the market

tagged as day-to-day | permalink | 4 comments

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Chad Darnell's 12 of 12

This year marks the fifth and final year of 12 of 12, during which anyone with a blog and a camera can take twelve pictures of their day on the 12th of the month.


6:29 AM: The post-shower picture doesn't work as well when you forget to defog the room.

6:45 AM: One way to get to work.

8:36 AM: On a muted conference call in my new office, which is one door away from my old office. I need to put something on this wall.

9:12 AM: If the view from your office sucked, and you move next door, it will still suck.

1:01 PM: Obligatory shot of a cat licking a newspaper.

1:04 PM: Leftover chicken fajitas (which were surprisingly delicious even though we only marinated for 45 minutes) for lunch.

4:34 PM: Winter cleaning task #64 -- consolidating all the DVDs from the Too Much Packaging department into slim cases, to make room for future shows.

5:15 PM: Booty assists with the operation, and dislikes 24 because each season comes with an odd number of discs.

6:08 PM: I have been eating Velveeta Shells and Cheese for dinner for longer than 12 of 12 has existed.

6:57 PM: Amber keeps me company while I work.

7:12 PM: Dish washing always requires more motivation when the previous night's dishes are still soaking in the sink.

7:33 PM: Under the house, looking for something nostalgic and fun to write about in tomorrow's post.

See more 12 of 12ers at Chad's site!

Fans depressed after watching Avatar
She is the youngest of four sisters and behaves a bit like a boy
Washington expands beer for blood program

tagged as 12 of 12 | permalink | 15 comments

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Memory Day: Army Men

Like most young lads who grew up in the 80s before toys were a garish mash of retarded Power Rangers and Pokemon, the core unit of outdoor play was the Army Man. Arriving from China in thick plastic bags hanging off the ends of the aisles at Best Company in Shirlington, these crudely stamped lumps were probably the Chicken McNuggets of the plastic industry, but they provided hours of fun even if they were poisonous to touch or eat.

As a child of an economist growing up in the House of the Rising Sum, my army men never had any quality of craftmanship, but this was offset by the fact that I had millions of them -- every time there was a sale of 100 men for a dollar, that was the bag I received. On the plus side, this meant that I could stage battles of epic proportions, but the negative aspect of this was that the men in one set were a different size from another set, so I usually had to fight battles of giants versus dwarfs (or World War III: America vs. North Korea, as I would call it today).

Each set of army men came in a basic set of poses. You had the radio man, the grenadier, the officer, the squatting shooter (which is also a toilet game in India), and the standing shooter. There were also several gunners lying in the mud, which could be "pretended" into wall climbers in a pinch.

One of my sets had the army man shown on the left, and it was either supposed to be a poor rendition of someone surrendering, or "The Todd" in Army duds perpetually frozen in high-five formation. Unfortunately, there was only one in the set, so he was left hanging for eternity.

Because most of the household toy-money was spent on Lego sets featuring two interlocking squares and eight thousand custom pieces that didn't fit into any other set, corners had to be cut in the outdoor toy arena. When I fell in love with a $60 army base with moving bridges and ramps, my dad built a base himself and painted it green. This product was probably more durable than the original but looked less like an army base and more like a two-story parking garage.

Later, there were no army men for sale, but there WAS a giant bag of red, blue, and black robots. This definitely did not appeal to my sense of play. In my world, there was no mixing Legos from different sets, or crossing the beams between history and sci-fi, and the robots were usually relegated to the back of the shed where they gathered spiderwebs and spricket poop.

I still have a plastic bag containing a complete regiment of higher quality men, another regiment that looks like it barely survived the war with the plastic stamping machine, a few robots, and a battalion of Matchbox cars in the basement, and last night, they went on safari.

Amber won.

Student apologizes for peeing on nativity scene
Neighbours balk at feritility-music biz
Cougars not welcome on Carnival cruises

tagged as memories | permalink | 2 comments

Thursday, January 14, 2010

List Day: 2010 Resolutions

  1. Start a young adult fiction series with the "next big overused thing" in it, because vampires are retarded.

  2. Compete professionally in one of the following sports: football, skeeball, bog snorkeling, or cheese rolling.

  3. Use jQuery to improve the URI! Zone's interface to the point where you can navigate by staring at a link and blinking with your left eye. (The right eye opens up the context menu).

  4. Successfully fly through an international airport on every continent except Antarctica while transporting potassium nitrate in my underwear.

  5. Create a remake of LOST in which Jack dies in the first episode and time travel is consigned to a single episode.

  6. Compose an operetta featuring twenty musicians playing the game, Operation, and touching the metal sides according to the sheet music.

  7. Introduce roaming herds of bison in suburban Loudoun County, because the horses we already have are no longer exciting.

  8. Accept a post in the Obama administration as the Czar of Russia.

  9. Create a competitor to Facebook, called Buttbook, which shows profiles from a fresh, new angle.

  10. Invent a speakerphone that emanates the scent of farts, so people who take all their calls by speakerphone are compelled to close their office doors out of embarassment.

Did you make resolutions this year?

Meet Roxxxy the robotic girlfriend
Beheaded fish, unknown intruder
Bookie refuses to pay out $11 million on snow bet

tagged as lists | permalink | 3 comments

Friday, January 15, 2010

Friday Fragments

the blubbery crust of fat on a bowl of refrigerated corned beef

♠ Today, I will be illustrating my Fragments column using the pen and tablet I got for Christmas. The technique is much harder than I expected, because you are looking at the computer screen for visual feedback so you can't look at the tablet. It's especially tough when you end a line and have to move the pen to a new location. My apologies in advance if I draw a picture of you and you end up looking more bovine than you normally would on a Friday -- I will improve!

♠ Maybe for a future update, I'll draw a picture both with the tablet and by hand, perfecting their beauty until they are completely identical. For now, these rejects from the Mini Pages will have to suffice.

♠ I was the recipient of two identical newspapers yesterday -- apparently my newspaper carrier feels that twice the news will make up for all the times that my newspaper is missing, or the four-day vacation stop during which the newspapers kept coming, identifying my house as a likely burglary target.

♠ Honestly, my house makes for a very poor burglary target, since there aren't ground floor windows concealed by shrubs, and my telecommuting schedule means that someone's almost always home. Plus, I keep all the expensive loot on the top floor in the secret safe behind the painting of the flustered chicken (combo: 34-44-25), so the ground floor variety of burglar would have to leave empty-handed if anyone were home.

♠ Our home was the target of an attempted break-in when I was a kid. Some clown smashed a basement window with a sledgehammer and then fled after realizing that there was an inner frame to break as well. This seems to be a pretty low threshold for obstacles -- the burglar's heart must not have been up to the task. I'm guessing it's similar to the guy who makes a New Year's resolution to run a marathon but then gives up after going to the shoe store and not finding anything in his size.

♠ My favourite part of going to the shoe store as a child was using the foot measuring apparatus, although it never really mattered because the shoes rarely fit. Because my feet are wide at the end, it was often hard to find well-fitting shoes without getting them a size too big. Sometimes it took more than one trip to alternating Kenny's shoe stores to walk out in a fine pair of British Knights.

♠ The social calendar for the weekend is actually pretty light this week, consisting only of a Beer Club night on Saturday. I'll also probably make the usual trip to Costco for new slabs of meats and maybe pick up some running shoes in preparation for the imminent return of warm weather and exercise, although I, myself, seem to have a very low threshold for obstacles when it comes to exercise.

♠ Have a great weekend!

Dog leads owner to unconscious man
Man offers apologetic robbery note, waits for cops
Tobogganing bobbies scolded for riot-shield rides

tagged as fragments | permalink | 0 comments

Monday, January 18, 2010

MLK Day

The URI! Zone takes its federal holidays seriously.

Floor caves under Weight Watchers weigh-in
Clever stingray is a problem solver
Woman found guilty of stalking herself

permalink | 2 comments

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Museday Tuesday

As part of this feature, which I started in 2007, I compose a very brief work (under 30 seconds) inspired by a randomly generated title from an online word generator. The composition can be for any instrumentation, and could even be a purely synthesized realization that might not be possible to perform in the real world.

I work on the excerpt continuously for an hour and then post whatever I've managed to complete, even if it's a poorly constructed slum of a song supported by a foundation of droning double stops and abused tubas.

Motile: (adj.) moving or capable of moving spontaneously

My Composition (0:30 MP3)

I have the sneaking suspicion that my random word generator of choice is actually backed by a biology textbook, since a large number of terms are medical or organic terms. This title is particularly related to the movement of spores, but it was better than the initial suggestion, "Irregardless".

This excerpt was written for a bevy of vibraphone patches, brass, and percussion, and is my impression of spontaneously moving spores.

Wisconsin man cited for rocking out to John Denver
Canada to rename The Beaver
Cruise ships still find a Haitian berth

tagged as museday | permalink | 0 comments

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Memory Day: Decades

The interesting thing about a decade is not how much changes during that time -- it's how quickly the time went by. Since I've now been around for three, here is a look at the road trip of my life.

Thirty years ago, I was 0 years old, an age that is only interesting when you are in the denominator of a fraction, so let's move ahead a decade.

Twenty years ago, I was 10 years old and in Mrs. Turner's sixth grade class at James K. Polk Elementary School. We took our picture for the flimsy photocopied brochure that passed for a yearbook on the unapologetic death trap of a wooden castle playground from a non-litigious era.

I had been a Boy Scout in Troop 131 for six months, and had recently risen to the rank of "Tenderfoot" from "Scout", which is a feel-good freebie rank that everyone earns upfront but which doesn't actually mean anything (see also, Employee Stock Option Programs).

In sixth grade, I wore velcro KangaROOS on my feet and a shark's tooth around my neck (the glasses were still two years away). Extracurricular activities included helping in the nurse's office, teaching after-school gymnastics, being a safety patrol, and one full year playing trumpet (which put me ahead of some Music Performance majors I knew). I had no strong aspirations for public office or careers yet, preferring instead to come home to play computer games with EGA graphics and copy simple game programs out of BASIC manuals.

Ten years ago, I was 20 years old and in my fourth year of college. We had just returned from almost not losing the National Championship at the Sugar Bowl, and I lived with Kelley in 3112 East Ambler-Johnston. At this time, I was a double major in Music Composition and Computer Science. I was also first chair in the Symphony Band, but only because none of the other good trumpet players were in it.

The coursework of the latter major actually got less useful as I moved up through course numbers, so I was sleeping through courses like "Public Speaking for CS Nerds" and devoting most of my time to composing songs like Loneliness. The only notoriety this song ever achieved was its 2002 use at Florida State University, where prospective composer candidates took turns ripping it to shreds in front of the panel, to prove that they knew how to be composition instructors.

On this specific day, January 20th, we'd just had a heavy snowstorm in Blacksburg which cancelled high school Honor Band. Since Honor Band had already pre-empted our regularly-scheduled classes, we had a free day. In the evening, we went to Jason Mirick & John Schurman's apartment in Foxridge and took turns sledding down the hill on stolen Dietrick trays and garbage bags.

I was still focused on doing the music thing at this point, but the template of my downfall was being drafted, and it started with a phone interview from FGM on Sunday, January 30, 2000. My qualifications for the summer internship was that I knew Jack Wilmer, and the interview lasted less than a half hour, because the Super Bowl was on and Fillipo wanted to get back to his party before the end of half time.

What were you doing ten years ago?

Alleged burglar showers, cuts hair, fries chicken
School staff gets insulin instead of swine flu shot
Love in London is a galactic equation for aliens

tagged as memories | permalink | 1 comment

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton:
This was a completed manuscript discovered after Michael Crichton's death, and it's passably good -- enough to keep you reading, but not worth a reread. One of Crichton's strongest facets is the way he mixes interesting research into his fiction (although some books like State of Fear teeter over the edge of research into preaching), but this book doesn't have as much of that. It's essentially a road trip movie script with pirates in it, but there's nothing wrong with pirates, and it'll get you through your next airplane ride.

Final Grade: C+

Java Puzzlers by Joshua Bloch:
This is a geek book filled with very brief (5 - 10 line) Java programs that don't do what you would expect them to do. Each puzzler is followed by a solution on the next page which outlines the language trickery or logical edge cases that results in the hard-to-find bug, as well as a bolded rule of thumb to follow to avoid the case. It will not be as useful day-to-day as Effective Java (by the same author), but it's interesting. For Java nerds only.

Final Grade: B

The Hangover:
Here's a rarity -- a movie that I actually felt could have gone on just a little bit longer. This movie is a comedy that manages to be funny without relying solely on gross-out gags and illogical setups. I would say that this and I Love You, Man are the only two comedies I've watched in the past year that I would actually watch a second time.

Final Grade: A

Dragon Age: Origins:
This is the latest Bioware role-playing game, and while I don't normally enjoy this style of RPG, playing Torchlight whetted my RPG appetite so I thought I'd give it a try. And actually, I haven't played it or felt the urge to play it since the day before Christmas. There's nothing wrong with it at all: the game looks great, has a reasonably interesting story, and I want to like it, but I don't. Maybe it's the enormous amount of spoken dialogue I have to wade through, or the combat system that feels like it borrowed the worst from World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy, or just the fact that I play for an hour or two at a time and don't feel like I've made much progress -- I don't know for sure. Ultimately, I just know that when I have free time, I would rather do something else, which is never a good sign for a game. I believe that the Zero Punctuation review it spawned is actually the best part.

Final Grade: C-

US Military weapons etched with Bible cheat codes
Nuclear weapons plant shut down by duck hunters
Guantanamo guard reunited with ex-inmates

tagged as reviews | permalink | 5 comments

Friday, January 22, 2010

Friday Fragments

bringing about change like a 96 cent vending machine soda

♠ In the new features department, you can now hover your mouse over any of the links in my Bloglog to see the date when it was updated. I've also merged the "Friendly" and "Trendy" blogs into a melting pot, since I like to think that my cohorts are both friendly AND trendy, and this also makes it easier to publicly shame the folks who are behind on posting tidbits of their life for public amusement. If there are other blogs I should take a peek at, please let me know.

♠ The contents of my Bloglog have evolved over time, but I'm still trying to limit the number of funny picture sites I browse -- while they're all funny, there's just too many to keep up with. The next person who will become rich will be the person that aggregates the best content from all those mini update sites (like IMMD and ShitMyDadSays) and sticks it on a one-stop-shop website.

♠ "Aggregate" seems to be the word I say most often at work now, based on shifting trends in tech buzzwords, but it's not as stylish as "concatenate". Neither word is as fun as "cachinnate" though, even if Firefox flags it as a misspelling.

♠ Proofreading is only 5% of the yearly URI! Zone budget (much to the dismay of Finicky), so a fairly respectable number of typos and grammatical errors make their way into my posts. I can usually explain them away by pretending to have invented new words and sentence structures, which is a pretty rashucous thing to do unless you are the e.e. cummings of the blog world, as I am.

♠ Poetry has never been an interest or a strength to me, because I find most poetry to be boring unless it's depressing. On the creative side, other than occasional disparate distichs or the repetition of limericks about the fisherman named Fischer from my youth, I would rather compose a giant chunk of prose with a literally large liter of liberal alliteration.

♠ Back in my roleplaying chatroom days (circa 1997), one of my characters was the Rhyming Couplet Kid, who didn't interact with any of the other characters in the game. Instead he just sat in the rafters and made up snide rhymes about the events around him. This was also the role I played in real life in high school, but without the rhyming.

♠ Plans for the weekend include the FGM Holiday Party which, thankfully, does not take place at the office, and doubly thankfully, doesn't have a retardedly unnecessary theme like "Black-White-Silver Gala" (2005) or "Fire and Ice" (2007), although there is an Ugly Sweater Contest which I won't be entering. I actually plan on attending this time (for the first and only time in the past decade), and hopefully some insane blotto boss hijinx will make it worth my while.

♠ Have a great weekend!

Man posing as cop interferes with sex sting
C and L ran off, and 7 8 9
Human bed-warmers at Holiday Inn

tagged as fragments | permalink | 3 comments

Monday, January 25, 2010

Weekend Wrap-up

Friday was a low-key night -- I ate leftovers of slow-cooked beef seasoned with thyme, rosemary, salt, pepper, and Shiraz, and started watching the sixth season of 24 again (after a two year hiatus from lack of interest) while trying to sit down with the Ruby programming language.

On Saturday night, we went to the Sheraton Premiere in Tyson's Corner for the 2009 FGM Holiday Party, which seems to get progressively later every year. I'm guessing that it will have a Valentine's theme within the decade. We did not win the "ugliest sweater" contest (because you have to wear a sweater to enter), but noticed a high number of folks risking confusion and possible ridicule by wearing a sweater without any intention of entering. We did, however, win an iPod clock/radio docking station (MSRP $99) which, given our lack of any i-themed devices in the house besides our iCebox, was destined to live out its days as a very expensive FM radio.

On Sunday, we simultaneously stimulated the economy and fulfilled the Destiny of the Docking Station by going to Costco and purchasing an 8GB iPod Nano, which is pretty sleekly designed, even if the video camera on the back seems like unnecessary feature bloat.

Following an afternoon spent dicking around with new gadgets, we picked up some moderately good Mexican take-out and visited Chris and Kathy, where we played a nerd game that involved building a railroad across pre-World-War Europe. I'm presuming that I won, since the scoring markers only went up to 100, and I was the only one that stayed below 100 with no overflow arithmetic errors.

Slime mold grows network just like Tokyo rail system
Burger King to open Whopper Bar in Miami
Homeless-chic unveiled at fashion show

tagged as day-to-day | permalink | 4 comments

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Museday Tuesday

As part of this feature, which I started in 2007, I compose a very brief work (under 30 seconds) inspired by a randomly generated title from an online word generator. The composition can be for any instrumentation, and could even be a purely synthesized realization that might not be possible to perform in the real world.

I work on the excerpt continuously for an hour and then post whatever I've managed to complete, even if it's a poorly constructed slum of a song supported by a foundation of droning double stops and abused tubas.

Bushwhacking: (adj.) Characterized by living, traveling, or ambushing in the jungle

My Composition (0:30 MP3)

This piece is written for percussion, kalimba, marimba, and bassoon. It's my best stab at jungle music, and could be the background music for Shia LaBeouf swinging through the jungle on a vine with monkeys, except that I would only embarrass my music in that way for scads of money and fame.

Chavez blames quake on US weapons
Woman falls into Picasso painting
Plan to buy nonviolent games for son backfires
Where is the best place to put Shia LaBeouf?

Swinging through the jungle with CGI monkeys. (3 votes, 60.0%)


Standing next to a giant CGI robot. (0 votes, 0.0%)

"He belongs in a museum!" (2 votes, 40.0%)


tagged as museday | permalink | 3 comments

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Classic Cat Video Day

Remember the halcyon days of 2003 when I posted ten to twelve artistic cat videos every two hours in lieu of more meaningful updates? Because they were always so well received, I have pulled six of the better ones out of obscurity and elevated them to immortality through YouTube. Enjoy!


Kitty learns to sing, January 2004

On those long, boring Sterling afternoons, Anna and I would sometimes spend hours dropping pieces of paper down our stairs, April 2004


When we first got Sydney, she was slightly food-obsessed. This was before she ate the bottle of multivitamins, or spent two hours in the fridge eating cake, March 2005


Booty likes Dave Matthews, November 2005

Introducing Lake and Titan, the Gay Kitty Brothers, October 2006


Amber has a beautiful singing voice, July 2007
TSA plants drugs on student as a joke
Cops stop cyclist with butcher knife-pool cue axe
Wrong-O: Oregon burglar steals the wrong drugs

tagged as media | permalink | 1 comment

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

LOST, Season Five:
I hated the fifth season finale when it aired last year, but of course that wouldn't stop me from rewatching the season in preparation for next week's LOST Steak Night. Ultimately, it's the sixth and final season that will make or break the fifth season, but on its own, it's still not that good. The writers packed on too many dense layers of additional complexity when they really should have spent more time streamlining the plot and focusing towards a conclusion. Then, after incorporating the idea of "flashes", it felt like the writers weren't sure if we'd get the concept, and spent several episodes bashing it into our brains. The LOST DVD menus continue to piss me off as well, but that's a topic for a Pet Peeve List Day.

Final Grade: B-

Star Trek:
My complete exposure to Star Trek as a child can be counted on one finger (and not the good one): in high school, I conducted the "Theme from Star Trek" as drum major in marching band. Before watching this movie, I had never seen a Star Trek movie or an episode in its entirety, and my knowledge was limited to pop culture catch phrases and mockeries. This movie definitely feels like a J.J. Abrams production, though thankfully it didn't turn into Alias in space. The movie got a bit more interesting as it went on, but was held back by overuse of lens flare and jerky camera motions -- obviously Abrams hired the camera guy from The Bourne Identity and a production artist using a 1990s edition of Paint Shop Pro to touch up his scenes.

Final Grade: B-

The Taking of Pelham 123:
This is an enoyable cookie-cutter movie about a hostage situation on a subway train, buoyed by the acting power of Denzel Washington -- John Travolta comes off as any other unmemorable villain. It's suspenseful, but over quickly, and won't tax your brain as much as other movies in the genre.

Final Grade: B

GOP fundraising letter looks like census form
Pensioner astonished by double banana
Dance parties a no-no at Jefferson Memorial

tagged as reviews | permalink | 1 comment

Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday Fragments

melts in your mouth and most other intrinsically heated environments

♠ While exercising on Wednesday night, I managed to smash my left pinkie between two seven twenty pound dumbbells, so accept my apologies in advance if this post is a little light on Q's, A's, and Z's. Were I still playing World of Warcraft, I would have trouble casting Vampiric Embrace and circle-strafing.

♠ Circle-strafing has always felt like a nonsensical moonwalk-inspired action in shooter games -- try approaching someone at the mall and see how difficult it is to run in a circle around them while keeping your gun trained on them at the same time. I'm more inclined to believe the physics behind jumping on a high ledge by shooting a rocket at your feet and hopping, although if physics were truly involved, I guess either action would make you spill your Mountain Dew on your Doritos.

♠ Speaking of soda, Coke Zero has finally arrived at Costco, and I can now snub the twelve and twenty-four packs of Safeway for THIRTY-TWO packs at a reduced unit price. On one of my most recent trips, I bought two packs. I'm considering buying the entire stock and then bringing my own cans into restaurants that only serve real Coke. Surely there wouldn't be an uncorking fee if it's not already on the menu.

♠ On this week's menu of inexpensive but underwhelmingly cooked new website features: I have posted photos from January in my Picasa album (also linked in the top bar) and the URI! Zone is now OpenSearch-enabled. If you have a reasonably modern browser that likes to clutter up your screen with useless gadgets and menu options, you can now edit the options of your search bar to hook it up to nine years of URI! posts (an Atom feed of the results is also available). This may be about as useful to you as tits on a fish, so rest assured that it wasn't done at anyone's behest -- it was merely a quick way to prototype a technology for work.

♠ Speaking of work, I was nominated for a "Great Place to Work" award. I presume this means that my constant teleworking and trips onsite make people want to come to the office more since they know I won't be there. At least my write-up was better than the winner of the "Diverse Business Base" award: "[he] developed a plan to penetrate a new customer, and he successfully executed the first stage of the plan and captured a 3-year contract that starts with 2 people supporting the [...] customer -- and grows from there." HR really should have caught the unfortunate choices of words in that text.

♠ I actually think that tits would be much more useful to a fish than first impressions might suggest. After all, the Little Mermaid scored a prince with hers (she couldn't speak, so it obviously wasn't her intelligence), and things probably would have turned out much differently had she been top-half fish.

♠ I have no major plans for the weekend, although perhaps I'll host an impromptu game night on Saturday when the next blizzard fails to materialize so I can give away surplus toilet paper as prizes. We might also jaunt out to Front Royal to see Rebecca's cousin on Sunday. In the downtimes, I'll continue my current project of adding tags to all twelve hundred of my MP3s so they can be managed properly by iTunes.

♠ Illustrating these posts makes my hand hurt -- is it worth it? Have a great weekend!

Game over: Wisconsin inmate can't play Dungeons and Dragons
Sexting sparks tribal war
A rare glimpse of the cave of crystals

tagged as fragments | permalink | 5 comments

 

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