The URI! Zone - 02/2010

Monday, February 01, 2010

Weekend Wrap-up

After consecutive weekends of holiday parties and beer clubs, the final one went out like a librarian (quietly and in sensible clothing), most likely because of the fact that the threat of snow always holds the schedules and economy of northern Virginia by the gonads.

After doing a little pre-Spring-Spring-cleaning on Friday, we drove around the corner to get sushi at Golden China, one of several adjective-noun-style restaurants that you'd get delivery from but would never think of stepping inside. The interior of the restaurant was shabby and nearly empty, but the sushi was pretty good, coming from a restaurant of the wrong ethnicity, and had sizable portions that filled us up -- there was so much cream cheese in the Philadelphia rolls that you could have used it as a tube of tasty toothpaste.

I took a quick trip to Costco pre-snow to stock up on steaks and Kona Brewing Company beers (sadly no Pipeline Porter, though) and then hunkered down at home in expectation of a Weather Experience, which sounds a little like what you might buy from a travel agent if you couldn't afford a real vacation. By the afternoon, we were between 5 and 6 inches, and I rotated my activities between shoveling, doing work-work, and improving the URI! Zone feed to include daily birthdays and poll notifications for all twelve of my subscribers who don't get to see those things in the sidebar.

On Sunday, we drove out to Front Royal to visit with Rebecca's cousin's family, where we ate cookies, played games, and got pounced by giant dogs. They didn't have as much snow out west, which makes about as much sense as a dearth of music majors at JMU, so the trip was much easier than expected.

Today is the first day of February. Have you done your Christmas shopping yet?

Key witness bought Internet degree
Rip Torn charged with bank robbery
State hopes to harness the power of the Three Wolf shirts

tagged as day-to-day | permalink | 1 comment

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

List Day: 2010 Plans

  • February: This month, we get to learn how to do our taxes as a couple, while spending most of the month quarantined at home behind huge tracts of snow.

  • March: Muse, the band with the brilliantly retarded music videos, performs live at the Patriot Center. We have general admission standing tickets ($55 each). Opening for the group is a band called Silversun Pickups -- I'm unfamiliar with the group and want to get into liking them, but the lead singer's voice sounds like the love child of auto-tune and a castrati alien singing an oratorio, liberally doused in WD-40.

    After the concert, we're off for a week to Puerto Rico (Spanish for "small Rico"), because I now generate 5.39 hours of leave every week, and if I don't hit the button to reset it every so often, the world will implode.

  • April: We will be replacing Rebecca's 1998 Toyota Corolla with a more high-class vehicle that better reflects our extravagant lifestyle -- maybe a Civic.

  • May: We'll start an herb garden so we don't have to buy parsley by the bushel only to watch it go bad.

  • June: We'll take another vacation, this time to the California coast to visit relatives and go on a driving tour that will make us realize that Sterling really isn't so far from Arlington after all.

  • July/August: There are no plans for these months yet, but I imagine they will involve mowing the lawn, getting bitten by forest mosquitoes, and visiting peoples' new babies.

  • September: I turn 31 and likely die. Maybe we should go to the Outer Banks to celebrate?

  • October: Perhaps we'll write a second burger review this month, making our URIviews blog an annual affair.

  • November: As usual, the Month of Thanksgivings is a carb-carrying member of our fattening holiday schedule.

  • December: No plans here either -- even 10 months in advance is a stretch for planning purposes, because all manner of hijinks could have happened in the interim.

What are you looking foward to this year?

Calvin & Hobbes creator looks back with no regrets
Chicken plays chicken on a busy street
Pork better for sex than Viagra

tagged as lists | permalink | 5 comments

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Vocabulary Day

learning words the first grader way


Here is Ken.

I never actually knew anyone named Ken, but based on his crippled flamingo physique, I'm guessing that he would have been that friend who came to houses only to find all the lights off and the occupants scarcely daring to breathe in the foyer, hoping he'll go away.


Ken and Beth can swing.

If you don't know how to spell a word, it's completely acceptable to use pictograms -- even the ancient Egyptians did this from time to time. Also, it seems that Ken lost both of his forearms performing the exact same dangerous trick that Beth is attempting right now. Be careful, girl!

Dad's car is leaking oil.

Dad is kind of a fop, and should have known that when he bought a car to match his jump suit, it would have transmission problems. Then again, the heavy smog would have exacerbated the problem either way.

This cake is dry, not moist.

Determining the relative hardness of a cake using only a hammer sounds like a job for Mr. Wizard. My dot-matrix printer seems to have run out of black ink when printing the birthday banner, but thankfully, I seem to be receiving a bag of purple ink cartridges for my birthday.

See other vocabulary pictures in this entry.

Derogatory 'Jeopardy' board launches TSA probe
Students failing because of Twitter, texting
Lost threesome find their way into Lake Huron

tagged as memories, media | permalink | 3 comments

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Review Day

There may be minor spoilers from Tuesday's episode of LOST in these reviews

The list of things to review was particularly slim today -- I'm guessing the government-mandated season of buying crap for Christmas is finally winding down.

LOST: Season Six Premiere:
I feel like I've reached the point where I'm waiting for LOST to end, rather than anxiously wanting to see what comes next. This two-hour episode had a decent mix of answers and questions, but wasn't particularly satisfying. It also had one of the same problems as the fifth season -- the introduction of too many new characters that we have no investment in. By the time "Big Trouble in Little China" arrived on screen with his translator, "John Lennon", I was beyond caring.

Final Grade: B-

Tyson Crispy Chicken Strips:
We purchased a bag of name-brand chicken on a day when Safeway was out of their tasty store brand. The Tyson strips are incapable of cooking in the microwave without remaining frozen or evaporating into an arid husk of tatters. 15 minutes in the oven makes them slightly softer, but not worth the wait. The only redeeming feature is the crispy breading, but I can make toast on my own.

Final Grade: D

24, Season Six:
Anna and I started watching this season back when Ella was busy being born, and we made it about six episodes in before we lost interest, exacerbated by the lack of a regular viewing schedule. I finally picked it back up a couple weekends ago and finished it off.

The story is what you would expect, and gets a little better towards the middle, but the main crisis wraps up after about 18 episodes, leaving a less-interesting storyline to finish off the season. It would be nice if they'd do a season where Jack spends twenty-four hours lying in bed asleep -- the guy deserves a break.

Final Grade: B-

Fla. trooper accused of writing bogus tickets
Jury awards ex-Stripper $100K for DUI wreck
Banker red-faced over racy photo

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Friday, February 05, 2010

Snow Day


Today's Fragments column has been delayed while the snow shark puts the area into a POTENTIALLY PARALYZING situation.

NY driver used mannequin in car pool lane
Woman seeks "Jessica Alba" makeover to win back lover
Police to pay closer attention to your melons

tagged as day-to-day | permalink | 7 comments

Monday, February 08, 2010

Weekend Wrap-up

With the imminent threat of a wet, drippy mess on the roads leading to a similar mess in peoples' pants, the northern Virginia area essentially shut down at midday on Friday. I left work around 11 and stopped off to rent some movies, although the recent shuttering of our local Blockbuster means I have to drive an additional 0.5 miles to get to a backup Blockbuster. Unfortunately, that one had closed down as well, leaving us without a nearby outlet -- Blockbuster is never going to beat Netflix without the $30 a year I spend on movie rentals.

I spent the afternoon playing an old game, The Incredible Machine 2, and then did an exploratory round of snow shoveling on Friday night, clearing away the initial 4 inches to warm up for Saturday.

I did three more rounds of snow shoveling on Saturday, starting with a two hour bout at 6:30 in the morning when I couldn't sleep. For the rest of the day, I made further improvements to the URI! Zone, which will roll out tomorrow, and read about Puerto Rico (Spanish for "Chicken-shaped Islet") in preparation for our trip next month. In the evening, we watched the movie, The Big Lebowski, reaffirming my ambivalence to Coen Brothers movies.

We had just under 24" by Sunday morning, and woke up to the sound of a snow tractor equipped with a snowblower doing most of the heavy work on the road (the case for procrastinating). Unfortunately, spending so much time away from the computer and in the harsh UV rays of the sun gave me a head cold, so I stayed in for the Super Bowl, rather than braving the roads for the two Super Bowl parties we were invited to.

Cow tips man
Man arrested with 75 bottles of lotion in his pants
Sarah Palin reads answers off her hand

tagged as day-to-day | permalink | 3 comments

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

New Feature Day

Back during the infancy of this site, I hated to rely on any third-party applications for site functionality. In the early days, this is why everything was a homegrown brew of JavaScript (from jukeboxes to slot machines), and why I even wrote my own Evite application (BUVite) just three years ago.

Today, it's nearly impossible to do anything without someone else's library, and I've gradually introduced things like jQuery plugins and XML parsing libraries to improve the site. For example, the URI! Zone runs on the Spring MVC framework, but the blogging tools and feed generation code are 100% homegrown.

Just last month, I moved all my photos over to Picasa, conceding that their album management tools were vastly superior to my own (not too difficult, since my tools consisted of a guy with a text editor and a cat), and freeing up a couple hundred megabytes of hosting space as well. Though I liked Picasa, I didn't like that visitors had to leave the URI! Zone to see my pictures, so I rectified that situation last weekend during the big blizzard.

If you follow the Photos link from the topbar, you can now see all of my Picasa albums from within the pleasantly blue Template of Love you've come to appreciate over the years. Clicking on an album will bring up a page of thumbnail images, and clicking on any thumbnail will load the full-sized version of the picture.

While the full-sized image is up, you can hover your mouse over the picture to see the Next/Previous links (or hit 'N' and 'P' on your keyboard), or click on the caption to go to the actual Picasa website, where you can enter comments or "like" particular photos.

To make this happen, I learned the Google Data API, which allowed me to write my own Picasa web client, and then incorporated the jQuery Lightbox plugin to display the actual photos. The final step was to make this post interesting for non-techie folks to read, by way of multiple repetitions of BOOBIES and BABIES. BOOBIES and BABIES. BOOBIES and BABIES. It is left as an exercise for the reader to locate pictures of either topic which interests you.

Enjoy!

Man tries to buy crack on credit
German thief robs arcade with cup of coffee
Looking for lasting love? It's not all looks and laughs

tagged as website | permalink | 2 comments

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

List Day: 5 Current Pet Peeves

  1. 48 hours earlier...: Ever watched a show whose opening scene featured the hero/heroine on the brink of a deadly situation, only to fade to black with the caption "XX hours ago"? Wasn't this device cute when Alias treated it like the "grains and carbs" piece in the USDA Plot Pyramid? It's now fallen over the line of overuse and should never be used again. When they start to use this on 24, TV will officially be dead.

    As a sub-peeve, if your show DOES use this device, don't make us rewatch all of the original footage when we reach the climax again -- it's a really lame way to save your footage budget (see also, the first three episodes of LOST's second season, which could probably be aired on three adjacent televisions to get a stereoscopic effect).

  2. Blue LEDs: As one of the elite males blessed with red-green colour-blindness, you'd think I would like a colour of LED that I can actually interpret. However, blue LEDs are so needlessly bright that they transform a darkened room into a crude mockup of a screenshot from the game, LOOM. There's a two-inch blue LED panel on our coffeemaker that reflects around the corner and down the hall to the bedroom which I cover up with a Post-It note every night. The knowledge of prepared coffee is a local kind of knowledge -- you probably don't care unless you're in the kitchen, and even then, the smell will give it away. I'm guessing that the olefactory equivalent to blue LEDs is a milk fart.

  3. LOST DVD Menus: It takes nearly ten seconds to transition between screens on any LOST DVD. After the initial two seconds (I presume my remote signal is travelling through some very slow air), the screen fades out accompanied by the violinistic equivalent of urinating hummingbirds, and then reappears with a new layer of selections. DVD Players are slow enough as it is -- don't interfere with your interface by artistically prolonging load times.

  4. Line-of-Sight Blockers: So you drive up to an intersection and edge a little ways out to make a right turn, and you peer to your left to check for oncoming traffic. Then, of course, some impatient clown in an SUV that's taller than most underpasses pulls up next to you for the left turn, completely blocking your view of oncoming traffic. It doesn't matter that the left turn lane has a red light -- they have to be well-positioned in anticipation. When I make a left turn off of main roads, I always cut as closely as possible in front of eager lefters, because passive-aggressive retaliation is fun.

  5. Facebook is not a source: I read the Post from cover to cover every day (except, of course, for the useless sections like Classifieds and Sports), and a distrubing trend I've noticed is an increase in the citing of web sources in articles. Every third article or so will have text similar to "Mr. Jenkinson wasn't available for comment, but his Facebook page says that he is a fan of Farmville, The Peoples' Republic of China, and Likes status updates about pot-smoking". I read the paper to get a real dose of biased reporting to go along with the fly-by-night variety of biased reporting available on the Internet -- and in that context, I don't care that the murdered night watchmen had a Twitter account. How about some verifiable facts?
Roanoke man beaten for burping
Dog waste piling up in Wyoming parks
Sinatra Song Often Strikes Deadly Chord

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Review Day

There are no spoilers in these reviews.

The Big Lebowski:
This movie had some funny scenes, but was about as cohesive as a week-old band-aid. I enjoyed John Goodman's one-note character for the first four scenes, but grew weary of the shtick for the next twenty. I must not be the target audience for Coen Brothers movies, since I also didn't like No Country for Old Men, O Brother Where Art Thou?, or Burn After Reading. Weird for the sake of weird is just a waste of my time.

Final Grade: C-

District 9:
For a movie with aliens in it, this could be one of the most understated yet effective science-fiction movies in recent history. Produced by Peter Jackson but with no recognizable stars, this movie tells the tale of a stranded alien population in Johannesburg, South Africa, who are tolerated with prejudice for twenty years, before the humans vote to relocate them to smaller concentration camps farther from the city. The special effects are impressive without being the focus, and you could easily replace the aliens with some other put-upon race and still have an enjoyable movie. I didn't know what to expect from this movie going into it, but I definitely enjoyed it -- it was marred only by the need for subtitles to understand some of the thicker South African accents.

Final Grade: A-

McDonald's Angus Swiss & Mushroom Burger:
This isn't much of a burger (and thus, doesn't belong on our burger reviews site), but that's not really what you expect when you order at McDonald's. This 1/3 pounder costs 60 cents more than a Big Mac and comes topped with Play-doh mushrooms, thin slices of Swiss, and a mayonnaise paste with the warm consistency of cake frosting. It's passable for a $6 burger and bad for a $10 burger, but it's filling enough to hit the spot when all you need is a spot of McDonald's.

Final Grade: C+

Impregnation via the proximal gastrointestinal tract in a patient with an aplastic distal vagina
Dubai diners flock to eat new camel burger
South Carolina now requires the subversives to register

tagged as reviews | permalink | 6 comments

Friday, February 12, 2010

Chad Darnell's 12 of 12


6:50 AM: Waking up a little later than usual, since I'm planning on working from home today.

6:51 AM: Checking out the window to make sure we didn't have another blizzard overnight. It looks a little like toothpaste.

7:03 AM: This generic hair gel is cheap and effective, but why does it have to smell like seagull poop?

7:21 AM: It shouldn't count on your subscription if you get three days of newspapers all at the same time.

7:27 AM: Rebecca takes my car to work since it's a little more trustworthy on what passes for a plowed road in Loudoun County.

8:50 AM: Telecommuting.

10:11 AM: My boss keeps me on task by sitting in the chair behind me.

12:04 PM: Turkey sandwich and chips for lunch, but only for ME.

4:10 PM: After finishing up with work, I head outside to tackle the giant mound of ice in front of our house. In the name of progress, it is now a parking spot.

5:57 PM: Doing a load of Friday night laundry. Being cooped up for a week tends to make one smelly.

8:00 PM: After helping a neighbour to push a stranded car out of the snow, we went to the Ice House Cafe for early Valentine's Day Dinner, where I had the ostrich steak.

8:35 PM: Rebecca, just before consuming a "Sheba" -- chocolate mousse with a touch of rum and other sweet things.
Bonus Picture: The blizzard was much less lenient at my parents' home thirty miles away. Luckily, no one was underneath when the carport collapsed!

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

DARPA gives $32 million for a Bigger Big Dog
Delaware teen found in igloo with pot, bongs, knife
"Let's touch base" ranks 20th in office annoyances

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Monday, February 15, 2010

Weekend Wrap-up

I generally try to conserve my words on federal holidays, so here is a chart showing what I did in the 48 hours that constituted the weekend:

As a minor site improvement, if you are an old-timer who changed your posting name in the past, your old posts have been merged into your total post count, and your old nicknames will appear on your Poster page (found by clicking on the magnifying glass in the Comments section, after you have posted something).

Need to get over your love? Call Death Bear.
Virginia House protects us from the antichrist
Authorities also said Johnson had a sledge hammer inside his pants

tagged as charts, website, day-to-day | permalink | 5 comments

Tuesday, February 16, 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.

Saturnine: (adj.) Sluggish in temperament; gloomy; taciturn OR Suffering from lead poisoning, as a person.

My Composition (0:30 MP3)

This Museday fragment is written for dulcimer, soprano sax, piccolo, horns, and bassoon, and is based on the idea that I, too, would be sluggish in temperament if I had lead poisoning, you know, as a person.

I seem to enjoy modifying the fifths of chords in recent compositions, probably because no one listens to that note anyhow (much like the 3rd trumpet part in marching band arrangements).

Give the gift of a discharged firearm this Valentine's Day
Better off Deadbeat: turning the tables on bill collectors
Polish newspaper claims 'Pedobear' is 2010 Vancouver Olympic mascot

tagged as museday | permalink | 1 comment

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Weird Search Day

or "How I stumbled upon the URI! Zone"

  • alligator coverall mario

    In his alligator suit, Mario can eat enemies, flip Luigi to higher platforms on his snout, and turn into the Princess when the temperature drops below 86 degrees Farenheit.

  • "spanish poem" about the virginia tech
    Because I don't speak Spanish, here's one in French instead. Note that it actually rhymes.

    J'aime aller ? l'Institut Polytechnique
    de la Virginie et l'Universit? de l'Etat, c'est magnifique.
    Parce que "Wahoo" ressemble ? du "Waterloo"
    Et c'est o? Napoleon a perdu.
    Quand il perdes,
    Il dit "Merde!",
    Et ce n'est pas tr?s gentil.

  • costco shaman rugs

    Perfect for the OCD shaman who hates to drop elemental totems because "the bottoms get all dirty". Using the rug activates your 1 second global cooldown.

  • Cougars that like young lads
    According to scientists, most, if not all, cougars prefer young lads, because they are juicier, less stringy, and are a more satisfying meal than someone in their dotage.

  • benefits of smoking weed and trumpet embouchure
    I'm afraid I don't have the experience to answer this question myself, and it's very hard to find someone who would know. Maybe someone in my readership knows of a brass player who has also smoked weed and can answer, but it just seems like such an improbable scenario.

  • pets world witch sells things for giant african land snail
    This sounds like a good plot synopsis for a mashup of fantasy movies from the early 80s.

  • keeping an hoa newsletter religion neutral
    A good start would be to not mention religion. If you must mention religion because churches are the only groups willing to waste advertising dollars to fund your hand-stapled quarterly newsletter, make sure that all of the religions are allowed to promote themselves equally, except for the ones that are obviously cults or hard to spell. Also, make sure not to place undue restrictions on the Prayer to Prayer (P2P) page, and allow articles to mention torrents for at least 40 days and 40 nights before blocking them.

  • sterling virginia man to fix computers and ship to Ghana
    I'm not currently in the computer refurbishing business, but if I ever started such a humanitarian venture, hopefully they would make a movie about me.

  • Vandal caught tagging a building full of cops
    Trial starts in Argentina's "robbery of the century"
    Online dating gaining worldwide acceptance

    tagged as website, searches | permalink | 2 comments

    Thursday, February 18, 2010

    Review Day

    There are no spoilers in these reviews.

    Inglorious Basterds:
    I liked Reservoir Dogs, but otherwise remain ambivalent to all of Quentin Tarantino's output (including the occasional places where he's being quirky in front of the camera and calling it acting). Pulp Fiction was mostly retarded, and not in the "heartlessly mocking people with disabilities" way, but in the "this is just plain stupid" way. I also fell asleep halfway through the second part of Kill Bill. With my backstory firmly in place, I was surprised to find that I liked Inglorious Basterds, which is an alternate reality take on pieces of World War II. Despite being 2.5 hours long, the movie kept my interest throughout, and when the action was slow, the tension was high. The attempts to mix 70s blaxploitation interludes in were jarring and failed miserably for me, but otherwise I would call this movie a success.

    Final Grade: B+

    24: Redemption:
    This 24 movie takes place in a 2-hour window between the 6th and 7th season, but comes off as more of an extended episode (still in real time) than a movie event. The pace is uneven -- it takes most of the first hour to gain momentum, and the last half is just good enough. As a standalone affair, it's weak. We don't really need to see Jack Bauer in the forests of Africa saving orphans, but as a segue between seasons, it methodically does the job it sets out to do: introducing season seven characters and showing how Jack got from his situation at the end of last season to where he is in the beginning of the next. For fans only.

    I have also started watching the seventh season, and the first three hours feel fresh and exciting.

    Final Grade: C-

    Braid:
    This is one of those artsy-fartsy indie puzzle games with a story that you don't actually read, pleasant graphics and sound, and an interesting twist on affairs. In Braid's case, you can never die, because you can hit a button at anytime to rewind the action to an earlier point in the level. In later levels, time (and enemies) move forward when you go right, and backwards when you go left, some objects are unaffected by time travel (like Richard Alpert), and going back in time releases a shadow version of yourself that retraces your steps back to the present.

    Though it's a novel concept, my brain just doesn't work in this way. If you give me a puzzle where you have to get Mel Schlemming home by turning on a toaster with an alligator, I'll tackle and enjoy it, but when the rules of the puzzle are at a meta level like the flow of time in the game, I just get stumped and open up a walkthrough, or go back and play Portal again.

    Final Grade: C-

    Woman keeps largest rodent as pet
    Smelly passenger removed from plane
    Microsoft rickrolls network leechers

    tagged as reviews | permalink | 0 comments

    Friday, February 19, 2010

    Friday Fragments

    a goofy keychain in the Cracker Jack box of life

    ♠ Now that all the major home renovation is done and there are no further rusty nails to remove from my basement, I thought it would be the perfect time to renew my tetanus vaccination, which has lapsed like a bottom drawer gift card ever since I went to summer camp in 1991. I got the new booster at the same time as a Hepatitis A vaccine to ward me from all the hep cats I will meet traveling next month.

    ♠ As a result of the shots, my shoulders are both swollen up like one of those short, self-conscious body builders at the gym. Until the white blood cells can quell the civil unrest in my deltoids, I could easily get a fast start out of the gates in a Winter Olympics sport of my choice.

    ♠ We watched a minor amount of Olympic hubbubbery, even though it required us to turn to channel 4, which hasn't happened since Friends was on the air. The competition in the sports that I saw were not particularly awe-inspiring, and the recycled metal medals looked ridiculous, like crudely hammered devil banes you might find in the special traveling Smithsonian exhibit titled, "Old Crap".

    ♠ The commercials in the Winter Olympics were more boring than the snowboarding, and no one was on a horse. To pass the time between rounds, we Rebecca flipped over to The Bachelor, where the finalists were narrowed down to some chick with an annoying voice named after an Orange Line Metro station, and another with an annoying voice named after a Red Line Metro station (and in a surprise ending, the third finalist got to go home with Joe Millionaire).

    ♠ Back when we were all living in Tallahassee with nothing to do, we actually gathered at Mike's (of Mike and Chompy) house to watch Joe Millionaire. Where did all the free time of our youth go? This was also a period where I would rent four movies per weekend and finish them all by Sunday.

    ♠ Speaking of movies, for Valentine's Day, Costco-Sterling was combining their stock of old movies into "His-Hers Valu-Paks" (because printing the "e" lowers the valu). Unfortunately, I saw at least one bundle with a His movie of The Italian Job and a Her movie of The Transporter. Maybe chicks just dig Jason Statham.

    ♠ Plans for the weekend include a little work and some taxes. I might also get around to redoing my will -- now that I'm married, I need to remove Mike (of Mike and Chompy) as the sole beneficiary before he takes an opportunity for murder. Finally, we'll continue planning our trip to Puerto Rico, which is only ten days away!

    ♠ Have a great weekend!

    School used student laptop webcams to spy on them at school and home
    Mechanical bull tougher than it looks
    Robin Hood charged in identity theft

    tagged as fragments | permalink | 2 comments

    Monday, February 22, 2010

    Weekend Wrap-up

    My weekend started out with a jump into the routine (not unlike a thread executing some arbitrary assembly language) via a trip to Costco, where every single previously-snowbound yuppy in Virginia was agitatedly swarming like horny honeybees. Among other things, I picked up the next season of Weeds, 10 more packs of Velveeta Shells and Cheese, and another 64-pack of Coke Zero.

    I spent the rest of the day working: reviewing other peoples' code and doing unnecessary things with Oracle materialized views. In the evening I watched 24 while waiting for Rebecca to get home from work, and discovered that there are scuba-accessible tunnels underneath Washington D.C. that could facilitate a terrorist attack.

    We decided to go to Red Robin for dinner burgers, but there was actually a wait, which has never happened before. I'm guessing it could be attributed to closure of the restaurant next door, which was either an Uno's or a Macaroni Grill, the limited number of parking spots plowed correctly, and some level of stir-craziness. We ended up at Ted's Montana Grill instead, where I had a delicious six-inch-high "America's Cup" bison burger, with cheese, bacon, grilled onions, and mushrooms on it. After dinner, we rented a bunch of chick flicks at the Cranston Blockbuster, which is now the closest Blockbuster to our home.

    Sunday was tax day, and our first chance to file jointly. We celebrated our big refunds with the Ricky Gervais film, Invention of Lying and then baked a homemade pizza with the proportions shown in the pizza pie graph on the right. In the evening, we booked some hotel time for our Puerto Rico trip, and closed the day out with an indie chick flick, (500) Days of Summer.

    Happy 222 Day!

    Foot-long surgical tool left in woman's abdomen
    Cat stew lover skewered in Italy
    Cleveland tops list of America's Most Miserable Cities

    tagged as charts, day-to-day | permalink | 2 comments

    Tuesday, February 23, 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.

    Pusillanimous: (adj.) Lacking courage or resolution; cowardly; faint-hearted; timid

    My Composition (0:30 MP3)

    I chose to highlight the running away aspect of cowardice in this fragment written for piano, woodwinds, strings, and tuba. There should really be more oboe-tuba duets in the world.

    Elvis Presley passport highlights security flaws
    Great Dane is tallest dog of all time
    Service at sword point in "Ninja" restaurant

    tagged as museday | permalink | 0 comments

    Wednesday, February 24, 2010

    Stuff in My Drawers Day


    It was around September of 1988 when I decided I could invent games just as cool as Infocom text-adventure games by drawing mazes on paper, and this was the first one I ever did. I now have a folder of over fifty, a mix of traditional mazes, Infocom box-style maps, and other images, and my fourth grade compatriots would crowd around the lunch table going through my mazes while I directed the action. None of us had ever heard or played Dungeons and Dragons (and to this day, I've still never played it), but I'm guessing it was roughly the same idea, without the numbers and nerd-stigma.

    This was one of the score sheets from my lunch games, and the fact that I spelled "shillelagh" correctly means it was probably during the period when I was playing Beyond Zork. Apparently, the reverse of shrinking is "normaling", and tragically, getting the cakes is only worth 1 point. Since the points actually add up to 34, I was either bad at math or there was a secret point.

    My scanner conked out before I could scan the rules page for my board game version of the book, Island of the Blue Dolphins, but you can probably get the idea from these excerpts:

    OBJECT: Move Karana across the island to where the white men will take her to another island.

    Sounds repetitive, with a slight tinge of slavery -- all the aspects of a good board game.

    MOVING: Roll the dice and move that amount of spaces. You MUST do yellow squares if you pass or land in them.

    SUPPLY CARD: When you take a supply card, keep it until you use it. When you use it, put it under the pile. If all cards are gone, each player must give back 5.

    Cards frequently ran out because I got bored while making the deck out of construction paper. Luckily, communism solves everything.

    RIVERS: There are two rivers. You can't cross unless 1) you have a canoe and 2) you land on the dock.

    BONUS: In bonus rounds, you can get a whole bunch of supply cards or roll alot.

    I have no recollection of how you trigger a bonus round, but it probably involved paddling across the river and missing the dock. WHEE.

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    tagged as memories, media | permalink | 2 comments

    Thursday, February 25, 2010

    Review Day for Chicks

    There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

    Invention of Lying:
    This Ricky Gervais comedy tells the story of a man who learns how to lie in a world without falsehood. It's not that the people in this alternate reality can't lie -- it's that they have absolutely no word for, or understanding of, the concept of lying. However, it's hard to portray someone who doesn't understand lying without coming off as slightly dunceful, so all of the townsfolk, especially Jennifer Garner as the love interest, are an uneasy mix of naive and stupid. The movie idea is fun, but Gervais really doesn't do much with it, so there are a few moments of inspiration (like the scene in the previews where he invents Religion) amidst a sea of boredom and cameos.

    Final Grade: C

    (500) Days of Summer:
    This is an indie film starring Zoey Deschanel and the actor who will be perpetually known as "that 3rd Rock kid", showing the evolution of a relationship over 500 days. The timeline is shown out of order, but each vignette begins with the numbered day it takes place on, so it's easy to follow. I enjoyed this movie even though that 3rd Rock kid's character is kind of a pansy. He's nowhere near as bad as the protagonist in Adventureland though.

    Final Grade: B

    Time Traveler's Wife:
    Applying temporal filters to relationships seem to be all the rage this week. This movie tells the tale of a man with a mostly boring backstory who time travels uncontrollably, but can't help falling in love with Rachel McAdams after meeting her at various points throughout her life. It feels a little pervy when he shows up naked and she's six, but otherwise the time travel is just a plot device and doesn't get in the way of the story. A scene with McAdams rear nudity is negatively counterbalanced just moments earlier with a shot of her anorexic stegasaurus-like spine and ribs. Gross but momentary.

    Final Grade: B

    STEAK:
    STEAK IS MANLY AND DELICIOUS AND INTERESTING TO MEN! (SEE ALSO, BEER).

    FINAL GRADE: HELL YEAH!!

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    tagged as reviews | permalink | 1 comment

    Friday, February 26, 2010

    Friday Fragments

    it's the frickin' Wiccan baby

    ♠ Happy Birthday to my Dad, who turns 65 right today! In one more year he can start draining the social security tanks of imaginary cash, in a similar manner to the way that the IRS taxes poor people.

    ♠ I haven't counted as a poor person since my $4.80/hr Computer Science internship at PEPCO years ago, and it's especially noticeable now that I get to participate in that whole "joint filing" scam (which could also be a method of torture on 24). Maybe I'll use some of the tax refund for the greater good, like research into richer steak cows or Performing Arts in public schools except for orchestra, choir, drama, and guitar lab.

    ♠ Everyone on Facebook is constantly in a tizzy about the constant cuts to music programs, but there's at least one upside to cutting funding: if no more musicians are trained, that translates into major job security for musicians of my generation. Maybe those trumpet players will actually get gigs in ten years when all the old first chairs relinquish their thrones. At least they can't get tenure.

    ♠ It would be fun to introduce the concept of tenure in everyday jobs. I can picture the minimum wage burger flipper secure in the knowledge that he'll always have the job, based on his controversial paper on eating stuff.

    ♠ Speaking of eating stuff, Rebecca's website, has temporarily surfaced from lack-of-updates land (where the rest of my blogger friends like to hide) with new updates. Unfortunately, "Guys Eating Stuff" doesn't fit into the new smaller width of the Bloglog, so I call it "Guys Eating". Should someone's name appear below it, you can rest assured that it is not a cannibalism site.

    ♠ Plans for the weekend include periods of work, an Indian Food night, and a dinner to celebrate my dad's birthday. I'll also need to pack a few bags for Puerto Rico and get ready for the mosh pit that will likely form at the Muse concert on Monday.

    ♠ Have a great weekend!

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    tagged as fragments | permalink | 0 comments

     

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