This Day In History: 01/10

Thursday, January 10, 2002

Fugue is shaping up to be a good and intensive class. History of Jazz seems like your typical undergraduate lecture class but the subject matter is interesting enough for me to read on my own. For some reason though, I always seem to forget about that class when planning out my day. The student clientele is an interesting mix of majors, non-majors, and grad students, which is a little overwhelming for the instructor. While he patiently tried to explain "what is a B section and why do I need it" to one student, the brown-nosing hep cats in the front row kept pointing out the alternate bebop influences in the aural examples.

I did the math this morning and discovered that I travelled roughly 3,900 miles in cars over the Christmas Break. That includes my trips up and down the Eastern seaboard, and scenic I-95 from Jacksonville to Boston. That's far too much road-tripping for any sane individual. Luckily, I'm not planning any big trips until I go back to Virginia for the summer.

I was listening to some music of the Dave Matthews band this afternoon. In my opinion, it's one of the few musical acts from the '90s with any semblance of musical talent and lasting appeal. However, I noticed today that I've never actually cared about the lyrics, which usually turn out to be overly trite on closer hearing. I listen to the band for its unique sound rather than any socially-conscious messages because they sound good, regardless of whatever the hell they're saying in a given song.

Kind of like Kansas.

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Friday, January 10, 2003

One week down, sixteen weeks to go. I finally got all the administrative details of my classes under control and did another ten pages of score editing today. It's kind of nice having three solid days without academic responsibilities. Once I've finished defending my thesis, re-editing my string quartet, and creating the persistent online database for Music Fundamentals, I'll undoubtably have plenty of time for worthy pursuits. My first goals will including becoming a Master at chess, go, and Chutes and Ladders, followed by a complete self-study course to get a mail-order degree in biochemistry.

There's also basketball practice tomorrow morning, so hopefully we can iron out the flaws in our wrinkled abilities.

FREE: Beautiful 6-month old kitten, playful, friendly, very affectionate OR... Handsome 32-year-old husband -- personable, funny, good job, but hates cats. Says he goes or cat goes. Come see both and decide which you'd like.

Free! 1 can of pork & beans with purchase of 3-bed 2-bath home.

German Shepherd 85 lbs, Neutered. Speaks German.

For Sale: 1-man, 7-woman hot tub, $850.

Cows, Calves never bred... also 1 gay bull for sale.

Tickle Me Elmo, still in box, comes with its own 1988 Mustang, 51, Auto, Excellent Condition $6800

Fully cooked boneless smoked man - $2.09/lb

Exercise equipment: Queen-sized mattress & box springs -- $175

Used tombstone, perfect for someone named Homer Hendelbergenheinzel. One only.

Turkey for sale: Partially eaten, eight days old, drumsticks still intact. $23 obo

Have Viagra. Need woman, any woman between 18 & 80.

Wanted: Somebody to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. You'll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. Safety not guaranteed. I have only done this once before.

Tired of cleaning yourself? Let me do it.

-- classified ads from an article in UJBR

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Saturday, January 10, 2004

Today was a pretty productive day for me, as I got a plethora of To-Do tasks off my list. I have my first meeting with a realtor on Tuesday afternoon and took care of some money matters this afternoon. I stayed in for most of the day because the high was 24 Farenheit with a wind chill of 6. Booty stayed in too, because she has no opposable thumbs to open doors.

Yesterday's notable search terms:

    Idaho is the only US state that has never had a foreign flag, healthy confusion of pleasure and disquietude

People with too much time and foil on their hands
Fish cannot celebrate the new year
Intercom bandit has it his way at Burger King drive-through

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Monday, January 10, 2005

The server was down on Friday night, so I couldn't update anything. Instead I took the time to do some housekeeping in the News section and tidy up the pictures and entries. I also went through some old news posts to kill broken links (most of them on CNN) but that got boring around October 2004.

On Saturday afternoon, I read Michael Crichton's State of Fear, his latest techno-thriller. It's his first book where you can really tell that he has an opinion on things, and contains a ton of interesting information on global warming and weather crises. The book tries hard not to preach, but occasionally it does. He does reasonably well merging the "hope Hollywood makes this into a movie" aspect with the more clinical science feel and the conflicts are creatively done, though I liked the previous book, Prey a little better.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Review Day: Fire Emblem

Overview
Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance is one of those hybrid games released with little hype that doesn't sell well because it's too hard to categorize. At its core, it's a turn-based tactical combat game with some semblance of role-playing elements like leveling up characters, numeric stats, and an overarching dramatic storyline. The game consists of 28 levels in which you maneuver your army across the battlefield like chess pieces, striving to accomplish various goals such as routing the enemy, seizing a location, or staying alive for ten turns. The story (which is a notch higher than the usual RPG dross) plays out through non-interactive cut scenes between levels, and a whole lot of text. If you are illiterate, you will hate this game.

Graphics and Sound (7/10)
The graphics are a mix of bland 3D and cutesy animé cartoons, which are sufficient to get the point across but won't win any awards anytime soon. Every time one of your men attacks an enemy, the view switches from a bird's eye view of the map to a 3D battle scene where the units perform fancy moves and swing their swords. Thankfully, you can turn this feature off (something I did almost immediately). I hate not being able to skip things in games as it is, and with hundreds of mini-battles in each level, these scenes got old very quickly, despite how cool they looked (see also, every single cut scene in Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time).

The sound effects in the game are passable, but the music is quite good -- an old-fashioned orchestral soundtrack that will remind you of old school Super Nintendo games. The instruments are obviously MIDI-based and not sampled, but the way it evoked memories of older games made this decision work. This game could have appeared as is on an older system and would still have been just as fun. There are only a few major themes that play through the levels, so hearing the same old battle music got old about halfway through the game. However, just as I was getting ready to mute the TV and pop in my Johnny Cash Monkees Boxed Set, all the music changed for the remainder of the game. The battle music became rearranged with a lusher orchestration and everything seemed to be written at a more epic scope (and the story in the game itself became more epic as well).

Gameplay and Interface (6/10)
The instruction manual is useless, and there are billions of numbers and options throughout the game which are only explained through a context-sensitive help system that really doesn't give you a big picture. The game does provide some tutorials on how to play, but none on what all the numbers do. Luckily, you can completely ignore almost every superfluous number and still enjoy playing the game. Each fight between units essentially boils down to an attack and a counterattack, so the only numbers that truly matter are how much damage your guy will do and how much he will take. Death is permanent in this game, so if one of your men dies, he cannot be used in any future levels. Between levels, your army returns to their base where you can manage the recruits, buy new gear, and assign bonus points here and there. The menu system here is easily the most cumbersome menu system in the history of menu systems, with menus that have submenus going four and five levels deep. The simple act of telling one guy to give his sword to a friend and then buying him a new sword takes over 20 button clicks to do.

Fun Factor and Difficulty (9/10)
There is a luck factor in the game -- sometimes characters will score a critical hit or dodge a massive fireball, but as I played, I never felt that the outcome was too random. The game is almost a puzzle-game in a sense, because it rewards careful planning, good formations, looking a couple moves ahead. The way you organize your men is key, and you'll generally want your tough nuts in front with the pansy healers and magic users in the back. Each unit has a specific matrix of positions where they can attack, but it's not so strict that it becomes a glorified chess game. I found myself appreciating the game more as I got deeper into it and began to understand how counters worked and the best ways to position my people. Once you know what you're doing, the game is not very difficult at all, although there are a few frustratingly long levels that you will lose right near the end and have to replay several times (you can only save the game between levels, not during). If you are just intent on blazing through, you can probably beat the game in under thirty hours. If you are anal-retentive like me, and insist on having every single one of your men survive for the entire game (and also want to kill every single enemy on the board and get every piece of treasure), it will probably take you over forty hours with replays. In this case, your best friend is the button combination Start-B-X which resets the game so you can start the level over when things aren't going your way.

Translation (7/10)
Japanese role-playing games can be made or broken on the strength of their English translations. I recall a supposedly touching moment in one of the old Final Fantasy's where a main character was killed that made Japanese gamers everywhere cry. Either they're a bunch of pansies, or they had better dialog than the English version which was something like "I am dead. Urk. Don't cry me." The translation of Fire Emblem is very solid English, but not as witty or charming as the translation for Paper Mario. Where video game characters of yesteryear always said "Yo" when they were translated for Americans, now they say "...". Whole conversations can go on with just "..." which I presume can be translated as This character is not currently saying anything but he is struggling inwardly or showing a look of disapproval. Here are a couple examples of how you would use "..." in your daily life:

Bottom Line
If you like thinking/strategy games which require no reflexes whatsoever and don't mind a cumbersome interface, buy this game. It's accessible enough to pick up quickly, with loads of deeper features for people interested in exploring them all. It's very rare these days that I actual have the will power to beat a game, so the fact that I beat this one must mean it was worth my while. Plus, it's possible to play this is short spurts of an hour or so and still find yourself making steady progress through the game.

This game also taught me that I need a new roommate -- it's very hard to take staged pictures of yourself.

Vomiting and jellyfish and too much time on his hands
"That's fine, I can go pee," Silos said. "Let's go pee."
Vengeful mouse sets house ablaze

tagged as reviews, games | permalink | 8 comments

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Audience Participation Day

The CMMI Level 14 Process I go through to pick my daily topics is highly robust and flexible, a guaranteed plus in this age of fitness blogs and fly-by-night-nude-celebrity blogs. The process begins four weeks in advance of the publication date, as I sit down at my easel and sketch out a few ideas (not unlike a skilled professional cartoonist). Then I take three weeks and five days off for a sabbatical (again, not unlike a professional cartoonist or music performance professor).

With the deadline looming, I skim the four sources of the apocalypse: the Washington Post, my little pad of ideas I jot down in the car, Uncle John's Bathroom Reader, and CNN.com. I take the best four ideas and erect small popsicle stick signs using my best fourth-grade diorama skills, and then plant the signs in the litter box overnight.

When I wake up the next morning, I assign a point value to each area of the litter box that a cat has pooped or peed on. Generally poop gets more points than pee, unless the clumped pee litter is in a particularly unusual shape, like a flattened C or a tetrahedron. The quarter of the box that gets the most points obviously reveals that Booty and Amber enjoyed the idea planted there the most, so that becomes the idea that you read about the next day. From my mind to the web page, enhanced by bowel movements and Science Diet Light, you get only the finest ideas.

Recently however, the editors have refused to poop in the litter box on three of four nights. Either the selection of ideas is slowly reaching the lowest common denominator like American movies, or I need to add more fiber to the cat food. Regardless, this is where you, the loyal reader comes into the story. On December 1, 2006 , I promised that you'd be able to dictate the course of the URI! Zone and now it's time to step up to the plate. Simply tell me what I should write about in today's comments sections (or send me an e-mail if you are shy, bashful, or generally a dwarf). The best four suggestions will come together in a single week of nonstop guest topics that will get old faster than those Who Wants To Be A Millionaire marathons but not quite as fast as American Idol. The winners of this contest will split 100% of the profits from my Google ads for the month of February.

Have at it!

Passing the buck, New Yorker style
O'Reilly, Colbert to appear on each other's shows
Baker's Dozen injured in fight

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Review Day

Veronica Mars, Season Three: The third season has less Dawson's Creek teen melodrama than the previous seasons but doesn't skimp on the witty quips and interesting detective stories the series is known for. The casting is pretty strong (thankfully there's no sign of Duncan Kane) although the new additions are mostly useless and they could have used more Wallace.

Episodes here are more standalone than they used to be, which mostly works although the story starts to drag a bit after the first two "mini-arcs". It ends strongly, with a great season finale that unfortunately became the series finale as well. I'm torn on all the cliffhangers opened up in the final episode -- they would have made for an intriguing fourth season if the show had returned, but it also looked like the writers would have jumped the show ahead several years to "win new viewers" and that would have made all the cliffhangers pointless.
Final Grade: B+

The Bourne Ultimatum: The second Bourne movie pissed me off with all its loopy, shaky camera work (exacerbated by the fact that we got to the theatre late and had to sit up front). Because of this, I only saw it once, which put me at a slight disadvantage when picking up the plot of the third movie. However, it was still fun to go along for the ride and see how Jason Bourne gets out of all sorts of contrived scenarios. The stunt work in these movies has always been great -- the fight scenes and car chases seem much more visceral and realistic without the flashy special effects budget that other movies employ.
Final Grade: B

The Simpsons Movie: Think of this as a fun, extended episode of the Simpsons and you won't be far off the mark. Generally funny and pleasant, although I fell asleep for about ten minutes towards the end because it was late (almost 10:45 PM), I am old, and this was movie #2 of 2 for the evening. If you like the Simpsons, you'll like this -- if you don't know enough about the Simpsons to catch all the in-jokes, it might be less amusing.
Final Grade: B

Talladega Nights: Better than Blades of Glory but worse than Anchorman. We got about forty-five minutes into it before getting bored and turning it off. The only useful part of the movie was learning why "I'm going to come at you like a spider monkey" is a catch phrase. This is a good movie to put on in the background at a party when people are just arriving and don't want to make awkward conversation.
Final Grade: D-

Don't forget to submit your captions for Monday's Caption Contest by tomorrow!

Mother's large ass prevents spreading of fire
Police impersonator pulls over a cop
What are you doing here? No, what are YOU doing here?

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Monday, January 10, 2011

List Day: Weekend Accomplishments

  • Finished the final season of 24.

  • Gave 3 DS games I never play anymore to Paige, so she can weather the rest of winter in Russia.

  • Left food out in the snow for a stray cat.

  • Purchased 6 pounds of ground beef from Costco, and packaged it into 12 individual flat bags for ease of use and thawing.

  • Watched Inception and found it surprisingly unannoying.

  • Fixed a sticky toilet tank that wasn't refilling after flushes.

  • Tried to make steak, but found that I was out of propane. Stove steaks stink.

  • Came in second in a Christmas Trivia contest at a holiday party.

  • Replaced a dirty kitchen water filter.

  • Almost fixed a leaky toilet tank but more parts are required.

  • Leveled the new priest to 27 with Anna and Ben. Looted a Poison Vial Ring in Mt. Hyjal and sold it for 450 gold.

  • Had Shells and Cheese for dinner, and discovered that the commentary track on Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog is almost better than the web show itself.

  • Took a bath and started a new Kindle book on serial killers.
Looking forward to insect steaks
Virginia DMV Revokes World's Greatest License Plate
Town rallies to save Fritz the Police Dog

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

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

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 or suggested by a reader. 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 its a prime candidate for a William Hung Greatest Hits album.

Unsent: (adj.) not dispatched or transmitted

My Composition (0:30 MP3)

For the first Museday of 2012, the randomly generated title made me picture an abandoned old-time post office, filled to the brim with dusty sacks of unsent mail.

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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Review Day: Borderlands 2

There are no major spoilers in this review.

Borderlands 2 is a hybrid game which manages to successfully inject action RPG elements and loot-whoring into a first-person shooter playstyle. I picked up the PC version in a half-price sale over Thanksgiving without any previous knowledge of its prequel or what it was about. As of last night, I had devoted about 90 hours to this game (which is more than Terraria but less than Skyrim) and have not lost interest.

There are four classes to start with, each with three possible skill trees (similar to WoW), and points are assigned in the "skill shelf" way of Torchlight 2 (where you need 5 points to pick a skill on the next level, but they can be from any particular skill on the previous tier). Each class has a special action skill that defines their playstyle, such as stealth, deploying a turret, or firing two guns at the same time.

The loot addiction part of the game comes in the form of millions of guns -- different types from sniper rifles to pistols, different manufacturers who add special features to their guns, and various trade-offs between accuracy, reload time, and magazine size. Choosing the best gun is more about trying them all out and finding one that fits your playstyle, rather than taking the one with the biggest damage number.

To be honest, Borderlands 2 didn't immediately grab me in the first couple hours of play. The interface is very console-centric and gets in the way of looting or comparing guns, and loot is scattered across the world in billions of little boxes requiring you to Open, then Pick Up items. Your playthrough will be greatly rewarded if you immediately remap the "Use" action to a spare mouse button rather than the default keyboard key, because you'll be pressing that button more than John Locke.

The other irritant is the breadth of the massive world. There's a fair amount of traveling and backtracking, and not enough secrets to make completionist exploring worthwhile (You will also outlevel some content if you try). If you can get in the mindset where you don't need to search every single locker or visit every single corner of the map, the game becomes much more fun and, eventually, addicting.

Where Borderlands 2 really shines is in its setting and style. The writing and voice-acting are top-notch, and it's one of the few recent games to really do humour well (reminding me sometimes of Portal and Portal 2). The plot is just slightly better than average, but the dialogue and characterizations are worth the price of admission. Here's a representative clip from fairly early on in the game.

Final Grade: B+

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Friday, January 10, 2014

Of Course Day

Amazon wants me to sell back my used textbooks:

Of course, they used Gamestop as a model for how much something should be worth.

Tomorrow, it's supposed to get up near 60 degrees with buckets of rain:

Of course, that's the day we'd planned to go snow tubing at Wintergreen for a friend's birthday.

Facebook wants me to reminisce about the highlights of 2013:

Of course, it was really just a ploy to dub me the boring-est of all of my friends.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

The Architect by Paloma Faith:
None of Paloma Faith's follow-on CDs has come close to her first, Do You Want the Truth or Something Beautiful. This new album is pure pop drivel with nothing to stand out from the crowd. Even a spoken word introduction by Samuel L. Jackson can't make it interesting.

Final Grade: C-

Halt and Catch Fire, Season Four:
This show has been hit-or-miss throughout the years, but the fourth and final season provides a very good closer. With organic character growth and strategic time skips (we're now in the 90s), the show writers somehow make every character sympathetic and relatable once again in spite of their tempestuous histories. The pace is sometimes self-indulgently slow (lots of tracking and reaction shots), but it generates a lot of good will and wraps the story up well. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: B

Day of the Dog by Bliss n ESO:
This is one of Bliss n ESO's early albums (2006). Because these albums are expensive to import from down under, I generally just ask for one every Christmas. The energy is high but the mixes aren't as good as they eventually become on later albums. The balance between crass and uplifting lyrics also veers heavily towards crass throughout.

Final Grade: C+

Overwatch Anthology, Volume I:
This is a hardbound copy of all the origin comics that were released in the Overwatch universe. Though all of them are free online, it's nice to have them in paper form with text that can easily be read without zooming in on a PDF file.

Final Grade: B

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Friday, January 10, 2020

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Irishman:
Martin Scorcese's three and a half hour mob movie is a meandering mess that feels like a vanity project through and through. There are parts that show some of the greatness of Goodfellas, but at the end, it's impossible to understand why this story was worth telling. The movie only has energy in the sections with Al Pacino's character -- when he's not there, it drags as much as The Last Jedi. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: C

Killing Eve, Season Two:
The first season of this show was quirky and fun, but the second is just more of the same. The most interesting aspect (the relationship between the two leads) is not focused on enough, with the writers spending more time in a procedural / cop show vibe instead.

Final Grade: C

Jack Ryan, Season Two:
I thought that Season One of this John Krasinski vehicle was a poor man's Homeland. Season Two is at least 50% worse. There are some really great action scenes in the first episode, but the rest of the show is a dull plod in search of great action scenes. The villains are one-dimensional and any plot twists are obvious and telegraphed from the beginning. Any scene involving "Uber the riverboat pilot" had me tuning out immediately. The most interesting thing about this season is the number of Russian troll farm trolls spamming its review section with diatribes about the evils of socialism -- while socialism may be imperfect in the real world, it really has no correlation to anything that happens in this fictional season. Free on Amazon Prime.

Final Grade: C-

Red Dead Redemption 2 (PC):
In sequence, here are the strikes I recorded against this game, which some have called the greatest open world game ever created:

  1. Required a 120GB download.
  2. Required me to make an account in a proprietary game launcher (Rockstar Social Club). Game launchers are this generation's BonzaiBuddy.
  3. Had so few permutations of my typical usernames in their Social Club that I ended up with something like buriburiburiburi174892.
  4. Required me to captcha and refill out an entire form every time my username was rejected. A multi-step captcha too -- selecting all images of traffic lights from about 12 images.
  5. Requires about 5 minutes of loading screens on every run.
  6. Has a multi-hour tutorial in which you can't run, most of which is spent on a horse following someone slowly and listening to them talk.
  7. Has NO manual save during the tutorial, meaning that if you quit expecting an autosave, you start all the way back at the beginning.
  8. Has too many controls that they only remind you of once, so you end up punching your horse instead of mounting it.

I stopped playing after 90 minutes (plus 30 minutes of loading screens) and still hadn't finished the tutorial chapters yet. The game is quite pretty, but incredibly slow-paced. In my glory days, I might have liked it. However, I'll never get far enough to appreciate it in modern times when I can only play in 20 minute spurts and there are so many other things vying for my attention.

Final Grade: Not Rated

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Monday, January 10, 2022

Ian Week #37 Battle Report

Ian is 37 weeks old and 19.2 pounds large.

He is the loudest baby I have ever been related to, getting bored easily with whatever's directly in front of him and immediately shouting or shrieking for change. We have a few toy zones set up around the house to rotate through. On the plus side, his naps are longer (2 per day, morning and afternoon, sometimes up to 2 hours) and he's less likely to begin each nap by reverberating reality.

Ian loves to eat and is learning how to eat by himself (puffs are best, bananas are great, and carrots usually end up squished all over the place). Much of our day as a family is spent sitting around the dining room table for meals and it's nice that we don't always have to artisanally grind little vats of different pastes for every meal.

Ian is not crawling yet, but does have the ability to scoot backwards until his legs wrap around a table leg or other obstacle. I once caught him rolled to the baby gate at the top of the stairs and testing the bars, so it won't be long before he's escaping.

  • Likes of the Moment: Puffs, his light-up toy full of spinning gears, being in the bathroom playing with the shower curtain (or under any curtain for that matter), drool

  • Dislikes of the Moment: Not having puffs, his light-up toy full of spinning gears after 4 minutes, being alone, sleeping past 6:30 AM

tagged as offspring, day-to-day | permalink | 0 comments

 

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