This Day In History: 01/15

Tuesday, January 15, 2002

Another lively round of Fugue class this morning. I think I've had to exercise my mind more in a single Fugue class than all my other classes combined. In Jazz, after doing some Fugue work and reading the textbook chapter that directly mimicked the lecture, I took a nap. It was like the days of olde in Theory of Computation or Combinatorics and Graph Theory. I really think it's a mistake to have students of such varying levels of musicianship in a single upper level course. It just doesn't fit the "rubric" of a graduate level class.

I've almost finished twentieth-century world history book that I've been reading in my spare time. Now I've got to decide on another random topic to overview in my New Year's Learning Spree. I think I've narrowed it down to group sociology, learning to code in PHP, or the history of Australia. Any suggestions?

"Madam, you have between your legs an instrument capable of giving pleasure to thousands -- and all you can do is scratch it." - Sir Thomas Beecham, to a cellist

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Wednesday, January 15, 2003

The theory department basketball team played "Solid-Waste-Express" last night and lost 16-66. Still we're starting to click as a team and did pretty well considering we only had six players total for substitutions. The score at the half was 4-48, so the points from just the second half were 12-18. Not bad for a bunch of partwriters. Plus, we broke our streak of losing one player to injuries every game.

I was a little reticent about playing at first, since joining a basketball team is obviously not something I'd normally do. Still I guess it's healthy to do something that's completely outside of your normal comfort zone on occasion. Plus the benefits are great -- I've already got a TV endorsement deal for a local Oriental cuisine restaurant lined up, although it may affect my amateur status.

I will have the second draft of my thesis completed this evening (7 pages to go). Next comes the proofreading and nitpicking, which will probably last through the 25th. If you've got an eye for musical details and want to earn a little extra cash feel free to sign on as a proofreader.

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Thursday, January 15, 2004

The snowstorm ended up being a very light dusting with no accumulation whatsoever. Probably a big disappointment for everyone who'd planned to work at home with PJs and BO. I wouldn't mind some blizzard conditions -- I haven't been in a snowstorm since 1995.

Here are some new cat movies for your viewing enjoyment:

Impersonation of a carnival hammer/bell strength machine (1.25MB WMV)
Ups (4.0MB WMV)
Talking to Fuzz (3.6MB WMV)

Yesterday's notable search terms:

    money pit pirates, bronze statues in denver colorado artist rowan, behavior suspicious airport, insecticide aldrin detroit 1959, FOUR BAR PHRASES OF MOZART, exterminate spider mites, pandiculate, evil weevil story, atrophine sulfate, taiwan pepsi come alive

It's amazing how many people still don't understand how to use Google. In reviewing my server logs, I see entries with plain English questions all the time. Things like "How do you plant radish seeds" and "Where can I find out about the population of Denver". As an aside, I have never gotten a useful response from the AskJeeves search engine.

He told his wife of 30 years, "Valerie, we're rich."
Teen burned home to hide parties
University realizes that cheese can be cut with lasers

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Newsday Tuesday

The most recent local news to spread like falling dominoes in a burning building is an article in the Washington Post about a Fairfax County Spanish teacher / track coach who was arrested for using his computer to send dirty pictures to a minor (who turned out to be an undercover cop). If you're curious, you can easily find the article yourself, but I will not be mentioning names on this site.

Why not? Because this is a guy I graduated from high school with. For people keeping score at home, this means that my shortlist of infamy now includes a suspected pedophile and a girl who was murdered by her ex -- as of right now, I do not know any buggerers or crystal meth addicts, but that is subject to change at any time.

"Mr. Spanish" added me on Facebook just a few days after the New Year. Before that, I hadn't seen or heard from him since graduation (a typical state of affairs exacerbated by the fact that I'm better at keeping in touch with my toes than old friends, and I can only do that while sitting Indian-style). In high school, he was just a typical friend -- nothing out of the ordinary or strange. Straight out of one of the many upper middle class families on the east side, he sat behind me in two English classes, did band and track, and even came to one of my End of The Year Parties senior year.

When I first heard the news over the phone through the high school grapevine, I figured it would be another one of those cookie cutter cases you see every day in the news -- student accuses teacher, investigation ensues, no verdict is reached, and no one ever knows for sure who was right and who was wrong. In this case though, the details painted a high-definition picture: Mr. Spanish had chatted with the undercover cop over a ten month period thinking it was a 13-year-old girl, and sent at least one picture with the wiggly parts wiggling. The cops were steadily building evidence, and only moved when they realized that he was a teacher and in contact with children every day. No matter how good a lawyer you have, those circumstances are hard to repaint in a better light.

Whether he's guilty or not, the police were absolutely right in preemptively stopping him and breaking the contact between him and his students/athletes. Maybe Mr. Spanish was harmless. Maybe he viewed the Internet as a safe outlet for his perversions. Maybe he had never seen To Catch a Predator on prime time, and would never have done anything beyond encoding his weenie in a JPEG file. Whatever the case, the safety of the children should be the number one concern. It's the same idea as a cop involved in a fatal shooting -- get them off the streets until it's clear that the shooting was justified, and then allow them to come back if they're in the clear.

No more has been announced in the news since the arrest, so I guess I'll wait and see what happens next. Hopefully Mr. Spanish gets the help he needs, no children were harmed in his care, and I befriend a meth-head to enrich my ready store of stories to tell.

Diarrhea ruins train conductor
Diarrhea ruins premiership
Dozens injured as boy wreaks havoc by playing trains with city's trams

tagged as newsday | permalink | 4 comments

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Capsule Review Day

There may be spoilers for the third season of LOST below.

LOST, Season Four:
As the first season where the number of remaining episodes was set in stone, LOST really regained its momentum. Not a lot happened in the first season, but it was new and intriguing. By the time the third season had rolled around, there still wasn't a lot happening, and things had started to drag. By turning the whole flashback storytelling device on its head and giving us glimpses of what happens in the future when some people have escaped, the story once again feels like it's worth watching.

The only negative is the introduction of an entire slew of new characters -- though good, they take time away from the originals, and red-headed Charlotte, in particular, is an annoying character who probably won't shine until next season (which starts next Wednesday). I feel the same way about her as I did about Ana Lucia: she might have a compelling story in the future, but I already hate her for her extended bitchy introduction.

This season also had one of the best episodes of the series: The Constant.

Final Grade: A-

Tales of Beedle the Bard:
An extremely brief supplementary book to the Harry Potter series, this novella is a collection of short stories supposedly read by the main characters in the final REAL Harry Potter book. It won't take more than a half hour to read, but shows just as much polish as the real thing -- worth it (at only $7) if you're a Potter fan.

Final Grade: B+

Weeds, Season Two:
The whimsical satire of middle class life takes a back seat to family drama in the second season, but it never gets so intense that it's off-putting. The season cliffhanger does a great job of tying all the threads of the season together in an over-the-top but enjoyable way. This season was the weakest of the three for me, but it was still worth watching.

Final Grade: B

Charlie Bartlett:
An offbeat teen movie, in which a rich smooth-talking kid tries to assimilate to public school and becomes popular by psychoanalyzing his classmates and prescribing mood-correcting drugs, which he gets from his shrinks by faking various conditions. Robert Downey Jr. is amazing as always, and the movie is a light, enjoyable viewing.

Final Grade: B+

US Troops in Iraq get beer for the Super Bowl
Wee dog nearly killed by Wii Remote
Fat ninja fails at ATM thefts

tagged as reviews | permalink | 3 comments

Friday, January 15, 2010

Friday Fragments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

♠ Have a great weekend!

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

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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Chompy Day

In memory of Mike's dog, Chompy, who passed away on Saturday, here are a few brief recollections...

  • Mike got Chompy on March 3, 2002 from a rescue agency. Her original name was Ginger which, at the time, had not yet morphed from the secret codename for a Segway to a redhead in Britain.
  • Chompy made chomping noises with her jaw as a form of communication, not unlike the Xhosa language. For about a day, she was called Chompsalottapuss.
  • Chompy mainly liked me because I was willing to chase her around the pool table for longer than five minutes at a time. She played games of keep-away alternating between a hard hunk of plastic almost resembling a dinosaur, a piece of comically large rope, or a floppy stuffed animal with an unfortunate bacterial complexion.
  • In the early days, Chompy was a fan of eating everything and then converting everything into liquid form for reapplication to the carpet via the pooper.
  • Chompy could not be left alone for more than a minute, or else she would eat Kathy's seatbelt.
  • In Super Smash Brothers Melee, there was a Pokemon ball that turned into some kind of weird hippo-turtle and said something that sounded like "CHOMPY!!! (THE DOG)" before stomping on the ground. This is why Mike's comment name on the URI! Zone is "Chompy (the dog)".
  • One time, Chompy came over to visit Booty. Booty was not a fan.
  • Another time, Mike took Chompy to the dog park, but forgot the dog at home. This dog park was several miles from home.
  • Another favourite game of Chompy's was "Run as fast as possible away from everyone". I once chased her at a sprint-pace for a quarter of a mile to the side of a busy highway.
  • After leaving Tallahassee in 2003, I only saw Chompy a couple more times: Once on a nostalgic trip back to Tallahassee in 2005, once when Mike lived in DC and we went to his apartment to watch a show about Thunderdogs, and once in New Hampshire, where we went for Mike's birthday in 2010.

Rest in peace, Chompy. You were a good pup. Hopefully you are allowed to lick the insides of other dogs' mouths with impunity in dog heaven!

tagged as lists, memories | permalink | 2 comments

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Stuff In My Drawers Day: Mail Edition

Ten years ago today, on January 15, 2004, I was...

...fighting with WebLogic Portal Server

Subject: Analysis of Partial Search
Date: Thu, 15 Jan 2004 07:40:43

Joe and Tammy,

The constant "*" which is defined in weblogic to represent "Match all search terms" is actually just a standard wildcard. So we can get partial search functionality by throwing one at the beginning and end of the search term.

The only caveat is that you cannot have two next to each other or WebLogic will crash.

BU

...house hunting with my realtor

Subject: House information
Date: Thu, 15 Jan 2004 14:45:30

Hello Marion,

Here are some more particulars concerning the type of house I am interested in:

Location:
A house in the triangle of Herndon-Reston-Chantilly preferred, or as close as possible
Northern border: as far south towards the Dulles Toll Road as possible (definitely south of Rte 7)
Eastern border: west of Hunter Mill Rd strongly preferred (definitely outside Beltway)
Southern border: north of I-66 preferred
Western border: east of Rte 28 preferred, but I'm willing to look in Centreville too

Characteristics:
S-F detached: required
basement: required
bedrooms: 3-4, bathrooms: 1.5+
garage: not required (carport might be nice but not required)
stories: 2 floors nice, but 1 is fine. split level is also fine

Other:
Cost: under $310,000 (or as close as possible)
HOA: not preferred, but would like low HOA fees if necessary
Quality: I don't mind a fixer-upper, as long as it's structurally sound

Of the houses we printed out on Tuesday, I am interested in seeing the following next Tuesday at 2:30:
MLS# FX4708378, Carlbern Dr, Centreville, VA
MLS# FX4715354, Dulles Ct, Herndon, VA
MLS# FX4718350, Shadbush Ct, Reston, VA
MLS# LO4657272, Hanford Ct, Sterling, VA

...saying no to pyramid schemes from former classmates

Subject: Re: Quixtar
Date: Thu, 15 Jan 2004 23:13:31 -0600

Brian,

Good morning, thanks for your message. I apologize for the delay in getting back to you...ironically, I was in a weekend seminar with about 5,000 IBOs with Quixtar.

Your a computer guy, I respect that...unfortunately, the "quixtarsucks" genre of tried-to-be-ibos and their pontification got you. I realize most tech people do all of their research online...I prefer real relationships and first hand in the field research. When I saw this business, I read what all the people who put those sites up had to say...but I had a relationship, a friendship with Greg and I trusted his experience. Additionally, I never really looked for advice on anything in my life from people who werent successful...I always wanted to be on the winning team...not the whining team. That said, you are correct, people can use "logical arguments" to mislead people who dont really understand how it works...in fact, they can be down right convincing. Funny thing is that 95% of it is bunk...our (my wife & I)incomes with this business prove that. The quixtarsucks generation would right that off to me having gotten started early, and Im sure hard work and integrity would not be mentioned. Not trying to be curt, I respect your opinion and Im just sharing mine.

You definitely seem like a great guy and I enjoyed meeting you. From the outset, if you recall, I didnt really feel like there would be a good fit from a business standpoint anyway...you seemed happy with your current level of achievment and not looking to change that and I respect that. So, no big deal...perhaps we can connect in the future if our paths cross again. In the meantime, best of luck with what your doing and to all of your future plans. I enjoyed taking the time to meet with you.

Best regards,
Todd

tagged as memories | permalink | 4 comments

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Newsroom, Season Two:
The second season of this HBO show is less preachy than the first (Aaron Sorkin's shows always seem to feel a little preachy), and has a few interesting storylines giving momentum to an overall story arc. It's over quickly and won't change your life, but has a sharp sense of witty repartee that's enjoyable to watch.

Final Grade: B

Mozart in the Jungle, Season One:
This is the show about classical musicians in the New York Symphony that was picked up from Amazon's Pilot Season. Even though the dramaticized representation of musician life isn't always true to real life, it has just enough music nerd references to keep musicians interested. It's also refreshing to see a show focus on something other than cops, spies, or the usual procedural tropes, and the eccentric conductor character is played to perfection. Free on Amazon Prime.

Final Grade: B+

Frozen:
I don't understand the appeal of this movie one bit, possibly due to my Y chromosome. The introductory setup is too disjunct and too long, the songs are forgettable and choppily inserted into the story, and the moral of the story is poorly communicated. It's not an unpleasant movie but it's no Finding Nemo -- I don't understand how kids today could watch a second-tier movie like this ad nauseum. Also, Idina Menzel's voice just doesn't fit with the other singers.

Final Grade: C-

Walking Under the Stars by Hilltop Hoods:
The Hilltop Hoods are an Australian hip-hop group that's been around for over twenty years now, and the experience and polish really shows in their music. This is their most recent album and is filled with fun, catchy tunes like Cosby Sweater. They sometimes go a little overboard with repetitive samples, but the beats are smooth and listenable, even without the lyrics.

Final Grade: A

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Friday, January 15, 2016

Data Day: 2015 Treadmill Stats

We've owned a treadmill for four years now, and it's my preferred and only form of exercise. I can get healthy in the comfort of my basement, and don't feel like I've wasted my life if I watch a TV show that turns out to be less than stellar. Here are some stats on how much I ran last year (compared to 2014).

  • Total Exercise Sessions: 218 sessions in 365 days

  • Total Time on Treadmill: 143 hours (The complete Friends series is 83 hours 40 minutes)

  • Total Distance Travled: 595 miles (like walking from my house to Bangor, Maine in a straight line)

  • Speed Range: 3 MPH - 10 MPH

  • Average Speed: 4.16 MPH

  • Incline Range: 1% - 10%

  • My Weight Range: 128 - 132 pounds

  • Total Treadmill Oilings: 4

  • Total Accidents: 0

  • Number of Days Since Last Accident: 540

  • Shows Consumed: Black Mirror, Lilyhammer, Lie to Me, Justified, Bosch, IT Crowd, The 100, Bloodline, The Shield, Sons of Anarchy, The Office, Orphan Black, Suits, Sense8, Newsroom, Narcos, The Knick, Luther, iZombie, Serhlock, The Wire, Jessica Jones, Man in the High Castle, Daredevil, How to Get Away With Murder, Person of Interest, Better Call Saul

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Monday, January 15, 2018

Review Day: Legenda of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

I have had a tempestuous relationship with the Zelda series over the years, and the ones I tend to like don't always match the ones that receive critical acclaim. A general rule of thumb is that I prefer the 2D games over the 3D ones, motion controls are always dumb, and the more cinematic they are, the worse games they tend to be -- I loved A Link Between Worlds on the 3DS but actually fell asleep a couple times while playing Skyward Sword on the Wii.

After about 20 hours of playtime with Breath of the Wild on the Switch, I remain unconvinced that it's a great game. It's not a bad game by any stretch of the imagination -- it's just not a game that gives me any incentive to keep on playing.

First, the good parts: The world looks great and its physics are well done. There are generally multiple ways to defeat a camp of enemies, from charging in sword swinging, to sneaking up like a Skyrim thief-archer, to waiting until nightfall and dropping a bomb on the explosives stash that is conveniently being used as pillows for the sleeping monsters. There is minimal handholding or "on rails" sections that force you to relearn the same tired lessons like "press this button to jump" or "a red rupee is worth 20 rupees!" You can also skip most cutscenes in the game, including the forgettable backstory scenes that are never worth watching as well as the interminable scenes showing your entrance into one of the 120 shrines on the map.

Breath of the Wild bills itself as an "open world" game in the vein of Skyrim or Fallout 4 but this is a little misleading. It is definitely vast, but feels pretty generic and static. After exploring every inch of the starting area (which is as big as some older games' worlds) I found nothing that would compel me to turn over every rock in future areas, whereas the tiny unique details built into the Skyrim world (like the lighthouse horror story) made me excited to veer off the main quest path at every opportunity. And no, collecting 100% of <useless Zelda collectible> is never a good enough reason.

At its heart, this game is really a cooking simulator with a hardened candy shell of Zelda themes baked around it. The game can be challenging, and cooking foods and elixirs provides temporary buffs to help you out. Unfortunately, there are so many ingredients to gather that you sometimes need to take breaks from the action to run around trees picking mushrooms or catch tiny bugs in the grass.

This leads to one of the key faults that I found with the game -- there are so many distractions from the main plot in the spirit of being "open world" and the world takes so long to travel across that I never really felt like I was making much progress. The distractions themselves are not exciting enough to make it worthwhile (conversely, I probably spent more time playing the Gwent minigame in Witcher 3 than I did on the main quest and was satisfied the whole time). Sure, there are optional puzzle shrines that feel a lot like classic Zelda dungeons, but each one is so short and lacking in character that their loading screens are often longer than the experience (look at the Tomb Raider series' "optional puzzle tomb" implementation for the right way to do things like this). Also, the optional puzzle shrines aren't so optional after all, since you must beat them to get new heart containers or increase your annoyingly low stamina.

Do you remember playing vanilla World of Warcraft and seeing a Silver Vein pop up on your minimap, forcing you to detour from your quest to mine it because it would be OCD madness to just leave it there? That's essentially my entire experience with Breath of the Wild. I'm traveling to the next quest point when my controller starts beeping to notify me of a mandatory optional puzzle shrine. While climbing up some huge mountain to search for it (the annoying beeping has a pretty massive radius so the shrine is not always easily visible) and stopping at various ledges to regain my stamina, I'll see some shiny rocks that I definitely need to blow up in case they contain important ingredients for my cooking experiments. Then I'll see an opal fly out worth several hundred rupees, but the physics engine will launch it off the mountain so I'll have to fly down to grab it.

Then, I don't have enough stamina to get back up the mountain so I'll run off to the nearest pond full of stamina fish or teleport back to the cache of stamina mushrooms in town to cook up a new batch of stamina food. I get back to the mountain but there is now a respawned enemy camp in my way and my last sword just shattered because some game developer ignored thirty years of amassed wisdom in what makes games fun by coding a weapon durability system that crushes your swords and your dreams, and makes you too cautious to ever use the fun, expensive weapons lest they break. So I whistle for my horse to go find a new weapon, but the horse is on the wrong side of the river and cannot swim. Then, Maia wakes up and I have to quit the game to change a diaper, having made zero progress towards my original goal.

Final Grade: C+, a game I would definitely continue to play when there's nothing better to do and the Overwatch servers are down.

Note: I re-reviewed this game after finally beating it but the score did not change.

tagged as reviews, games | permalink | 1 comment

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Memory Day: Snapshots

This picture was taken ten years ago, on January 9, 2010.

We were dressed up for the CustomInk company party, held at the State Theater in Falls Church on the one night of the year when the Legwarmers weren't performing there. The party consisted of good food, free drinks, and a swirling maelstrom of 22-year-olds that were super-hyped to be selling T-shirts over the phone while being assessed on minute-to-minute productivity metrics.

Everyone was very friendly, and we left with many promises to keep hanging out with new friends, most of whom we never saw again. 8 months later, Rebecca left the T-shirt job to officially begin the transition towards Physical Therapy!

tagged as memories | permalink | 2 comments

Friday, January 15, 2021

List Day: 10 Vetoed Baby Names

  1. Russel Sprouts Uri

  2. Nate Uri

  3. Mormon Tabernacle Uri

  4. Brown N' Serve Uri

  5. Thick Sliced Uri

  6. Mellow Yellow Uri

  7. Hurricane Uri

  8. With The Fringe On Top Uri

  9. Hup Uri

  10. Brother Bear Uri

tagged as lists, offspring | permalink | 2 comments

 

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