The URI! Zone - 07/2010
There are no spoilers in these reviews.
The Anatomy of Motive: The FBI's Legendary Mindhunter Explores the Key to Understanding and Catching Violent Criminals by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker:
I know that John Douglas likes to toot his own horn, but there's a difference between a subtitle and a tagline -- and this Troost-like tagline really belongs on the back cover. This was the first book I purchased on my Kindle, mostly because the Kindle Store is really annoying to BROWSE through when you don't know what you want to read (picture the URI! Zone when it had frames and a custom back button, but with irrelevant search results), so I just started doing searches on author names from my bookshelf. This book is better than the previous one I read, The Cases That Haunt Us, and is helped along by the interesting vignettes of crime and criminals used to illustrate the study of motive.
Final Grade: B
Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution - 25th Anniversary Edition by Steven Levy:
This was Kindle book #2, purchased two days later because I read faster than a 2-7 bluffer drops out after an all King flop. (I will review the Kindle and its Store next Thursday). This book provides little windows into the lives of hackers between the 50s and 1983 and makes you realize how little you accomplish on a day-to-day basis. It also has an interesting section on the startup of the Sierra On-Line computer game company, where Ken (of Ken and Roberta Williams) comes off sounding like a huge tool that I wouldn't want to invite to a barbeque. All of the individual stories told are interesting in their own rights, and the book is made stronger by the fact that they all convincingly support the overarching idea of "the Hacker Ethic", which the author uses to give the book a consistent backbone.
Final Grade: A
Sh*t My Dad Says by Justin Halpern:
Tied to the Twitter account of the same name, I bought this book expecting it to be a rehash of already-published stuff on the Internet (as bloggers-turned-writers often do), and was pleasantly surprised to find that the book told an affecting life story with heart. It's a short book and won't take long to complete, but just might leave you a little more uplifted than you were before you read it, which is never a bad thing today. As a bonus, the word, "shit", probably appears at least once on every page.
Final Grade: A+
Police Looking for Robbery Suspect Disguised as Cat Woman
International Space Station sex ban
a periodic table full of elephants
♠ I'm almost done consuming the giant bag of Costco chicken nuggets that taste like a sponge in a carpentry workshop. I generally scarf down ten as a quick flavourless lunch and have found that they're only useful as an edible plate for barbeque sauce or ketchup.
♠ When I was in afternoon day care in elementary school, we often had snacks of celery and peanut butter. While some kids might opt to down the peanut butter, leaving a spittled celery stalk behind, I didn't really like either ingredient, and would just double up on fruit juice.
♠ I was also never a fan of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and eventually asserted my teenage authority by having my dad make only bologna and mayo sandwiches for the rest of my primary education career. Should peanuts ever get a world ban to protect all the allergic folk like Mike (of Mike and Chompy) who didn't roll around in the dirt enough as a kid, I wouldn't miss them a bit.
♠ Just so I can look smart in ten years, I would like to make the prediction that my future children will have no food allergies, other than being allergic to vegetables (which can be compensated for by eating more bacon). The URI! Zone should still be around in a decade, although you'll have to read it on a tablet PC embedded in your palm (which will make charging it a bitch).
♠ We'll be spending our Fourth of July weekend locally, eating things, burning things, and shooting things, with Rebecca's relatives, much as our forefathers did. Well, your forefathers -- mine were busy embracing Confucianism.
♠ Have a great weekend!Lord Mayor's trousers fall down at children's event
Beer thief reaches 154 arrests
Police seek leprechaun mischief maker
Burning down the casbah.
DDMSence v1.5.0 has been released.Deep sea dog: Russian teaches dachshund to scuba
Big Yoga: "Om" goes plus-size
Fighting with teenagers: a copyright story
Stuff In My Drawers Day: Old Websites
I created this Lotus Notes website for PEPCO in the second summer of my $5/hr "computer science" internship. The graphics were excreted from an early version of Paint Shop Pro, and the effort took roughly eight hours of development, spread over twelve weeks of service, in which I also sorted mail, computed fly-ash tickets, and chatted on the Webchat Broadcasting System. It was abandoned after I left, because all of the actual site content existed in a set of four-inch binders on a shelf, and no one wanted to scan or retype them.
I wrote and ran the MV Trumpets website for 3 of my 5 years in band. If I recall correctly, there was drama and a coup following Bob Bowman's edition of the website, whose text sounded like it had been written by a high schooler. While getting this screenshot, I also discovered this sound clip (280KB MP3) of the MVs performing "Carry On Wayward Son" sometime in 1997.
When I was teaching MUT 1241: Ear Training For The Semester Behind, Florida State had a big push for Blackboard as an online teaching resource. I never cared for it, and ended up creating my own class website, complete with exercises, grades, and musical samples.
Check out this BRAND NEW WEBSITE I made when Ella was born!
Technically, this site is still alive, but I'm including it because I haven't maintained it since I cancelled my WoW account, and the only visitors I get these days are people trying to cheat, looking for flag-grabbing macros.
I may have reused the Warcraft template for this website. Thankfully, there were no orcs at the wedding.
'Nerd' shocked that his toys were in G20 weapons cache
After 54 hot dogs, the spectacle began
We in the URI! Oligarchy are pretty busy this week preparing for a whirlwind trip to Spokane, Washington for a wedding, followed by a week in San Francisco while Anna housesits and prevents Booty from disabling the parental controls on the HD nudie channel (over the air at 118 degrees, originating from Langley). I've felt a distinct lack of free time this year, in spite of the trip to Puerto Rico, the open source library, and the four Kindle books I've read in the past two weeks.
I'll try to maintain the standard out-of-town-for-illiteracy approach to updating this site -- a daily picture of wherever you aren't, posted from the netbook. When I return, I'll celebrate the fourteenth birthday of the URI! Zone by mounting the old 42" TV on the basement wall, playing a couple games of Starcraft II, and holding my tri-yearly census. August will bring a buttload of baby showers, and September will bring my 31st birthday!Pa. woman may keep corpses if she builds crypt
Introducing Glenn Beck University
Beaver sculpture prompts controversy in Bemidji
Review Day: Kindle 2
We had talked about getting a Kindle quite often in the past, but the impetus behind our purchase ended up being the price drop to $189, effectively labeling it as a gadget you wouldn't be scared to bring everywhere with you -- one that would be disappointing to lose or break, but not one that would sit at home uselessly in a protective case.
I picked the standard Kindle over the Kindle DX because of better portability -- if I wanted a paper-sized screen, I'd just read on the netbook or the laptop. I stayed within the Amazon family because I'm comfortable and invested in the Amazon framework, and because no one really wants to own a device that can be called "The Nookie Reader".
As you become more familiar with the Kindle, the interface really does fade away until you're just reading another book that happens to be very thin. The size and weight are great for reading at all angles, even standing on your head, and the momentary flash as you turn pages gets much less noticeable after the initial distraction. Navigating WITHIN a book can get tedious sometimes, so I wouldn't want to use the Kindle for books that require lots of flipping back and forth, or jumping to other sections. For a standard novel reading front-to-back, it's perfect. When supporting the Kindle in my left hand, my thumb sometimes accidentally hits the "Next" button (which exists on both sides of the device), but it's infrequent and worth the trade-off of being accessible for left-handers.
The e-ink technology is very easy on the eyes, and I'm able to read it outside in the glare of the triple-degree sun just as easily as I can next to a dim indoor lamp. Readability is also enhanced by multiple font sizes, the ability to rotate the display to a landscape orientation, and a text-to-speech convertor that gets most of the pronunciations right. As you come across words that you don't understand because of your public school backgrounds, you can highlight the word and a definition will instantly pop up at the bottom of the page. Basic hyperlinking to web resources is built in to some books as well.
The Kindle has built in 3G wireless, with no monthly charge, and even comes with a basic web browser that renders some text-based sites like Wikipedia and Lonely Planet. The network is dog-slow though, so I would view this more as an emergency backup than a feature. I haven't had any signal strength problems so far.
The only downside to the Kindle is the Kindle Store. First, electronic books are too expensive, generally hovering around $10 for a book. I really enjoy the convenience of buying a book and having it magically appear on the Kindle, and as a fast reader, I enjoy not having leftover hardcopies of bad books I've wasted money on, but I feel like a price point around 5-8 dollars would be much more inline with the value I'm getting. Because I am a yuppy, the price isn't high enough that I'd stop buying, but seems to be as much of a rip-off as buying a $16 CD with 32 minutes of music on it.
The Kindle Store is also horrible for browsing. First, the 3G network is too slow to browse from the Kindle, so I generally just get on my computer to purchase books. The purchasing framework is fast and easy, but picking out books when you don't really know what you want to read is horrible (a brick bookstore would win here, hands down). The Kindle Store could really benefit from more control over search results (i.e. search by author, filter within results, etc.). For example, if I do a search on an author's name, many of the results aren't even by that author. In other cases, such as drilling down by genre, the "Kindle Free" content increases the noise ratio of the results. I've caught myself spending as much as a half hour looking for a new book before giving up and closing my browser.
Final Grade: A-, Convenient and makes me read more often, despite the Store issuesThe Great Bacon Odyssey: One Burger, Ten Strips of Bacon!
Zimbabweans wash dirty US dollars with soap, water
Schoolboy makes Spiderman machine
I can't tell you which hotel I'm staying at, but there are two trees involved.
News from HomeElla thinks that my cats are named "Beauty" and "Hamburger".
Chad Darnell's 12 of 12
11:07 AM: Plotting out the plan for the day at Aunt Anna's home.
11:45 AM: At the Downtown Berkeley BART station.
12:43 AM: Meeting Andrea and Annie at the Ferry Building
1:02 PM: Wandering through the fountain near Embarcadero.
1:26 PM: Another in the series of Rebecca and Brian in front of phallic buildings
2:11 PM: Somehow I expected that the gate to Chinatown would be grander.
3:01 PM: In the midst of Japantown.
3:33 PM: It seems unsafe to have fish in an open air fountain in a mall.
3:53 PM: Mr. Crepe is unhappy.
4:59 PM: In Lafayette Park, the dogs run free and the toddlers are fenced in.
8:34 PM: At an Irish pub on O'Farrell.
9:26 PM: Taking the Powell Street BART back to Berkeley.
See more 12 of 12ers at Chad's site!
Stupid Berkeley and its fat hippie squirrels.
Since the Napa Valley gets excessively hot as you traveling north, the moral is to base your winery around the grapes that need the cooler climate.
In Santa Cruz, everyone goes to the beach but no one goes in the water without hypothermia.
In the redwood cathedral on Bear Mountain.
Berkeley had all sorts of orgies going on.
At one of numerous beaches along the coast between Santa Cruz and San Francisco.
I am back in Sterling, and will resume normal updates tomorrow. In the meantime, I have backfilled last week's entries with pictures from my trip to artificially inflate the activity of my website. Enjoy!
There are no spoilers in these reviews.
Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card:
This is the second book in the neverending selection of novels from the Ender's Game universe, but I found that I enjoyed it more than the more plot-driven "Shadow" series which I read a few months ago. The connection to the Ender universe was almost unnecessary, and I think the book would have been just as strong with alternate characters involved. Reading this also helped to make sense of the final chapter of Ender's Game which I found to be jarring and tone-shifted. It actually turns out to be more like a first chapter to this book. $8 was a good price for this e-book.
Final Grade: B+
Hackers & Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age by Paul Graham:
Most (or maybe all) of these essays are already available for free online, but I purchased this on the Kindle for some in-flight reading material. It contains a selection of essays ranging on topics from programming to startups, and while all of the essays are well-written and engrossing, some of the conclusions and assumptions in the essays feel unsupported, as if the author came up with an intriguing hypothesis on the way to work and scribbled it down. For the most part, this is fine, since the intent of the essays seems to be provoking deep thoughts, rather than convincing anyone of a specific viewpoint. A couple essays seemed a little long-winded, and $10 is pricey for the e-version (I would have been happy at $8).
Final Grade: B-
Joel on Software: And on Diverse and Occasionally Related Matters That Will Prove of Interest to Software Developers, Designers, and Managers, and to Those Who, Whether by Good Fortune or Ill Luck, Work with Them in Some Capacity by Joel Spolsky:
I had never read or heard of Joel Spolsky's blog before reading this book with an obnoxiously long title, but this came up as a recommendation when I purchased Hackers and Painters. Like that book, this is a collection of already published online articles, but it's not as polished. Several articles contain verbatim pasted content which would have made sense when reading a standalone essay on a website, but which just looks careless when the two essays are placed into consecutive chapters in book form. However, I did enjoy reading the book, and found that it brought a fresh perspective to my daily work in the programming field. Again, $10 is pricey, and I would have pegged the actual value around $7.
Final Grade: B-
Workmen ignore badger when painting lines
Candwich: Quick, Tasty, and Grounds for a Lawsuit
a roller coaster of smug
♠ Our trip to the West Coast was good fun, in spite of the fact that the airlines are becoming stingier with each trip. We spent a few days in Spokane, Washington for a wedding, followed by three days in Berkeley and San Francisco. At the end of the Berkeley leg, we rented a Hyundai Elantra and spent four days in and around Santa Cruz. I'll probably do some sort of write-up next week.
♠ Based on my experiences with the free XM in our San Francisco rental car, I finally canceled my home account after months of wobbling back and forth. XM's musical output was roughly on par with a freshman bassoon audition right after they merged with Sirius, and it has since declined to "fifth grade orchestra concert". Apparently, music is too expensive now, so XM either plays the same 20 tunes found on normal radio, or throws up hundreds of minimum wage DJs that talk too much with nothing interesting to say to reduce the amount of music royalties being paid. Driving around Santa Cruz with nothing to listen to really drove this point home (if home were on the West Coast and featured Katy Perry's "California Gurlz" simultaneously on four channels).
♠ Without XM in the car, I'll probably fall back on CDs more often, which means that I'll have to replace the CD player that has been breathing static ever since my battery died in the parking lot of Popeyes in 2009. I'll also need to find a new source for new music, although I haven't downloaded a song I liked on XM since at least six months ago.
♠ I have no big plans for the weekend, other than to get some new shorts and jeans from Target that don't have holes in the ass (I prefer to provide such a hole myself) and to stock up on Costco goods for the first time in five weeks. I may also do some DDMSence work or work-work on Saturday as well.
♠ Have a great weekend!Jurors get an eyeful in porn trial
"Zombies" crash on I-84 near Lloyd exit
Guam Turns Away Spider-Infested Cargo Ship
Trip Day: Spokane
Part I of III
The first leg of our July vacation took us to Spokane, Washington, a medium sized city that's closer to Idaho than the Pacific Ocean and encased in a bubble of hot, dry, Midwestern air that corrupts the acoustics of the city name into "spo-CAN". As cities go, Spokane was fairly pleasant, with a like-named river running through the center, and all manner of bridges, waterfalls, and weird art decorating the downtown area for the benefit of tourists.
A giant grassy park sits on an island in the middle of the river, filled with the usual mix of homeless people listening to heavy metal on their radios, shaved ice stands, goose poop, and a permanent fair, complete with a small roller coaster resembling the Scooby Doo at King's Dominion, and bumper cars.
We had come to Spokane, along with the rest of the population of Grinnell, Iowa, for the wedding of one of Rebecca's college friends, and the couple had put together a complete itinerary for the out-of-towners which comprised most of the attendance. In a contrast of ambition, our wedding encouraged out-of-towners to stay at the beautiful Days Inn in the industrial park of Leesburg, and drink $800 worth of wine at the venue itself.
After a pre-wedding pizza party the night before, and several rounds of "Dirty Mad Libs", followed by breakfast in the all-you-can-eat bacon bar at the hotel, the wedding itself took place at the Patsy Clark mansion in western Spokane. Although we were initially confused and believed that it might have been the home of a country singer, it turns out that Patsy Clark was only notorious for having a girl's name and being rich, having earned his money through mining in the 1800s. The wedding was even shorter than an episode of the Office with commercials cut out -- a fine accomplishment for any outdoor wedding whose climate could be confused with the temperature of the human body -- and it was followed by five hours of partying before the noise curfew, and two hours of bar'ing behind the hotel afterwards.
Because the new couple apparently had an incredibly high tolerance for entertaining guests, the third day of the wedding weekend opened with a brunch at their home, replete with bagels, Starbucks, and mimosas. Afterwards, we braved the mid-90s heat to explore such classy Spokane attractions as the mall and a Mexican restaurant.
Our flight out of Spokane on Sunday was scheduled for 6:50 PM at Spokane International, although "International" seems to be a distinction assigned to any old airport these days (see also, Energy Star appliances) since there were only 16 gates to depart from. In spite of this, our flight never appeared on the departing flights board throughout the evening, and we finally just started roaming the concourse around 6:40, looking for United signs. We made it on the tiny plane, which had overhead bins the size of labradors and required us to walk across the tarmac, check all our bags planeside, and climb up some stairs into an artery with only two seats per side.
Our flight arrived in San Francisco around 9 PM, and we were welcomed by a gust of frosty 60 degree air.
To be continued tomorrow...Parachuting donkey terrifies children
Two escape from an Argentine jail guarded by a dummy
Cops: Teacher Lied About Brain Cancer to Skip Work
Trip Day: San Francisco
Part II of III
The first thing we noticed about the BART system in San Francisco is that the trains actually run on time, down to the minute listed in the scheduling pamphlets. After this temporal marvel, we learned that in transfer stations, you can actually get off a train, find your connecting train waiting for you, and simply cross the platform to hop on. After eons of walking two blocks to Gallery Plaza from the Orange Line (to prevent growing old in Metro Center), this fresh perspective on logic was thrilling.
We stayed in "suburban" Berkeley with Anna, Rebecca's aunt and consummate host, and traveled into the city to meet up with Annie and Andrea. On our first day out, we visited Chinatown, and it probably isn't racist to say that all Chinatowns look the same. This particular Chinatown had a traditional gate which was less impressive than a junior Congressman from California -- it barely spanned the road, and looked like a cast off prop from "It's a Small World".
After sampling free fortune cookies from the Fortune Cookie Factory, we walked 10 blocks to Japantown. When we stopped and realized there were another 10 blocks to go, we decided to take a bus the rest of the way, so we would be fresh when we marvelled at the giant mall filled with Hello Kitty and live koi. We didn't make it to any European-towns while on the coast, but we'll rectify that locally with a trip to Germantown as soon as possible.
On the following day, we took a driving/walking tour of Berkeley, and then when all of the chicks started shopping, I walked home to post my 12 of 12 and read in the sunshine. Although it was chilly in the evenings, the days were unseasonably warm for the season -- we were probably emanating East Coast heat from our pores, not unlike itinerant convection ovens. For dinner that evening, we met up with East-Coaster-turned-West-Coaster, Vu, and had some delicious sake and sushi in downtown Berkeley.
On our last day up north, we rented a car and drove up to Napa Valley for a wine tour. It took us several blocks of walking to locate the Napa city Visitor's Center, although we were informed enroute by a teenager that "that place is only worthwhile for old people like 30... no maybe 57". The retirees manning the Center were very helpful and loaded us up with maps and glossy uncompostable magazines, because when there are 450 wineries on a thirty mile road, the only way you'll get visitors is if you bribe the Visitor's Center to "highly recommend" your winery to clueless visitors.
We started with a tasting at Grgich, where they sacrifice their vowels for high quality grapes, and then had a bottle of Grgich zinfandel with burgers at a roadside stand. From there we hit a winery inside of a $41 million castle, followed by the Sterling Vineyards which was separated from the road by a 200 yard sky-car trip. This winery was near the top of the valley, and with the temperature hovering up near 100 degrees, it quickly drained us of the urge to visit any others. We returned to Napa for some highly-yuppy organic ice cream and free samples at the olive oil / chocolate sauce stands.
To be concluded tomorrow...Beer to be sold in dead animals
Saboteur unleashes bedbugs in Des Moines city building
Professor foiled while on vacation
Trip Day: Santa Cruz
Part III of III
Our next stop on the whirlwind tour of Northern California was Santa Cruz, home of the family of Rebecca's dad's sister, as well one of her grandmothers. Santa Cruz was blessed with unseasonably fogless days while we were there, so obviously our super power was to bring the sunlight to unexplored backwater lands, not unlike the White Man in 1492. We took in a sampling of Santa Cruz beaches at Natural Bridges, a beach covered in seaweed and a dead sea lion where everyone in bathing suits stands at the edge of the fifty degree surf, shivering, and then goes home.
We also went to Roaring Camp, where we took an overpriced steam train ride up the mountain to have a picnic lunch amongst the redwoods, although we did not go anywhere you could drive a car through a tree trunk. For dinner, the DeLeon family brought out their best grilling recipes and we dined on giant slabs of marinated London broil and spare ribs.
The next day, we drove down the coast to Monterey, a waterfront area completely taken over by large gangs of sea lion pirates, commandeering rocks and boats alike. We were swarmed on either side by people trying to give us free samples of clam chowder, including a hippie who wanted to make sure I wasn't from Langley before giving us the samples. We had our first taste of raw oyster here, with "oyster cocktails" consisting of two oysters in a cup of brine with some lemon and cocktail sauce. The texture is definitely memorable -- I don't know whether it's worse to chew it or swallow it whole -- but I could see it becoming an acquired taste.
On our last day in California, we drove up the coast on Highway 1, taking in the vistas and occasionally stopping at a public beach. In general, there were very few signs that California as a state was flat broke, but the most noticeable was the overly full port-o-potties dotting the coast, which easily contained several weeks of digested food from the oceanfront Taco Bells and sometimes piled higher than the seat lid. When it came time to tally the final score, we agreed that California has nothing on the Outer Banks when it comes to beaches.
The EndColo. bear toots horn, takes car on short joyride
Homeless man breaks into abandoned bar, begins selling alcohol
Milwaukee soil hungry for drivers
There are no spoilers in these reviews.
Under and Alone by William Queen:
Reasonably priced at $6, this was the last Kindle book I read on our Washington-California vacation, and tells the tail of an ATF agent who goes undercover with a criminal biker gang for two years. It's a fast-moving page turner, even though some of the details seem more fictional than true. It also made me look shifty-eyed at all of the California bikers we'd pass daily around Santa Cruz and its environs.
Final Grade: B+
I've had some throat and nose congestion problems ever since my bout with strep throat last October, so I thought I'd try out a Neti Pot, which flushes out your sinuses with warm saltwater. It took a few tries to mix the right concentrate that didn't burn like drowning (1 cup warm-to-hot water and 1/4 teaspoon of salt per nostril, erring on the side of hotter and saltier), but I can tell that there are immediate results after flushing: it becomes almost effortless to clear the pressure in my Eustachian tubes. You don't actually get to see any grossness ooze out of your nose, which was kind of disappointing, but your airways definitely feel clearer in the aftermath. I've been using it daily for about two weeks now, so I can't tell if the effects will persist in the long-term. I also think "Neti Pot model" is an inauspicious way to break into the biz.
Final Grade: B+
Puzzle Dimension is a turn-based 3D puzzler, where you navigate a ball around a maze collecting flowers so you can activate the exit. The ball is always on the "ground", so as you rotate onto a ramp, the entire world shifts around you (see a gameplay trailer here). The presentation is very nice, with old-fashioned Nintendo style music that refines into live instruments as you collect more and more flowers, and the puzzles get hard very quickly. There isn't much twitch-action, other than the need to hit spacebar to jump over gaps sometimes, but the camera can be a little tricky to maneuver when dealing with the more convoluted worlds.
Final Grade: B
New Zealand pizza lovers suffer information theft from Hell
Cops issue cat alert for feline that caused wreck
End-of-the-Month Media DayFairfax principal apologizes for weight-loss ads
Cheeseburger found in gas tank
Firefighters dismantle police car to rescue kitten
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