This Day In History: 01/16

Wednesday, January 16, 2002

To me, Pedagogy class is a disorganized collection of tangents and anecdotal evidence. We seem to dwell too much on reviewing topics from previous classes, and this whole week has been given over to a couple theoretical articles that deserve about half a class each. We talk about the problems of the information-retrieval method of teaching, and then learn a continuing parade of specific tidbits and examples, as if by that same system. I think it may just be that the teaching approach used in the class doesn't mesh well with my learning approach. I like to see the overarching point of a lecture, or at least know that supportive evidence will eventually be tied together in a complete package. Last semester's course was taught in that manner, which kept me interested throughout. Now, the lectures progress in an "Oh, and by the way," fashion, so although the information presented might be good and topical, it just doesn't go anywhere.

Peril's Gate, the next book in my guilty geeky fantasy series arrives in stores at the end of the month, and work of all kinds will stop when it arrives. It's one of those series that I just have to read all at once, coming up for air 800 pages and a few days later. The problem with series like these is the waiting time between books. Unless you're reading historical tripe like Tolkien, chances are very likely that the author hasn't finished the series yet. I just hope the author doesn't die in a tragically freak tuna fish mishap before she finishes. Speaking of which, the next Harry Potter book comes out sometime this year, and it's supposed to be even longer than the last. Since Harry's now 15, there's also supposed to be more teenage lovey-dovey writing...

"I don't like composers who think. It gets in the way of their plagiarism." - Howard Dietz

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Thursday, January 16, 2003

After I finished printing the next draft of my thesis yesterday afternoon, I was at a loss for what to do next. I couldn't start proofreading immediately, because I would be bound to miss details since I stared at that score for two weeks straight. So, looking through my backlog of projects, I pulled out one that could help me refresh my Java skills (which I'll be needing for that Music Fundamentals project in a month or so).

With the requisite fanfare, I present "the Monopulator" , an online Java applet that can be used to calculate mortgage payback rates and income taxes for the board game, Monopoly. You just check off the properties you own, how many houses you have, and your cash supply, and get a quick calculation of 1) how much you would have to pay to unmortgage a group of properties and 2) what your net worth is, in case you land on the 10% or $200 income tax square.

This version is really just a hack that I threw together last night, but it's fully functional if you have the Java 1.4.0 plug-in . I'll post the source code on the Coding page when I get around to cleaning it up some.

Supreme Court upholds copyright law
Mayor Bloomberg unclear on the concept of 'homelessness'
Five hours nonstop now qualifies as hardcore gaming

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Friday, January 16, 2004

I got recruited by Amway yesterday. I'll tell the story this weekend sometime when I can write it out coherently. Right now I'm going to get some eats and browse for houses.

I've been switching my mouse hand back and forth to ease the stress on my wrists. Pretty soon I'll be ambidextrous enough to get in the Guiness Book of World Records, or at least write my name backwards.

This movie is a change of pace for Booty. It's more of a character study than a high action thriller:

Most Boring Movie Ever (7.0MB WMV)

Yesterday's notable search terms:

    does different types of music effect the memorization of the brain, what temperature should radishes be kept at planted and in a room, starcraft naked terran pictures, orthotolidine dihydrochloride, earthworm haikus

Have a good weekend!

Streakers In Restaurant Watch As Their Car Is Stolen
Another case for having rules on who can be a parent

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Monday, January 16, 2006

On Saturday night, we went out to Winchester for a surprise going-away party for Vu, who left yesterday for a new job and funner friends in San Francisco. Anna made a tort and I made my patented "going-away" chocolate chip cookies in a colourful "going-away" bowl. The extended Spellerberg clan was there, and children and small animals flocked to me like I was the Pied Piper. You can see pictures from the party on the Photos page.

On Sunday night, Kim and I drove into D.C. to see the final tour of Les Miserables at the National Theatre where we met up with Ben & Anna and Ben's mother. The show was great, but the performances weren't quite as good as they were four years ago. I'll write about the actual show tomorrow -- today's update will remain completely extramusical. We parked in a seedy parking garage on 13th Street where the number of support columns exceeded the number of parking spaces by two-to-one, to the point where it felt like I was playing a giant game of Gridlock or maybe a macabre round of Tetris while parking.

Parking was a flat $11 fee, and the attendant kindly told me that one of my headlights was out (so apparently I've been that annoying guy in your rear view mirror with one headlight for about a week). This is part of the matching ensemble with my driver's side window, which does not roll down in the winter, but works again every spring, forcing me to open the door to get parking garage tickets or scare Department of Defense gate guards when I pull up for my interviews. My parents always swore by the Metro, but to me, it's really not that much more expensive to drive into the city and control your own schedule -- I feel like the time I save standing on a windy platform waiting for the one Blue Line train to amble into the station is worth the couple extra bucks I'd pay for parking.

This isn't to say that I like driving in the city -- only that it's not quite annoying enough to avoid. I dislike the fact that all the lights are on the corners looking more like festive decorations than signals, or the pedestrians that start waddling into the intersection with two seconds left on the clock. This will not get you better field position for a game-winning field goal -- you will just get honked at and possibly die. On the way out of the city, we drove past multiple cars who were riding the white line like it was a new Metro rail. I half expected to see those little amusement park rail huggers on the bottoms of their cars, but they were just drunk, high, or sleeping for the most part.

During the show (which we had a great field position for), there were a massive number of camera phones out. One guy across the aisle took a picture of every single scene in the musical, and an usher finally came down and told him not to in the last scene. The old guy right behind us took a picture in the quiet, moving silence following the death of the main character at the end of the musical, which just felt very fitting for D.C. After that, he started humming a tritone off-key during "Do You Hear the People Sing?" but I think he was just trying to help us get the right answer to that question.

I developed a tickle in my throat seconds before the curtain opened on the second half, and struggled mightily to not be that guy who coughs through the performance. Luckily any coughing I might have leaked out was drowned out by the lady with the velcro purse full of sweets one row back.

Vote Impaler in 2006
Never trust someone who says "Thanks, I made it myself".
Sassy Sally wastes taxpayer's time

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

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Memory Day: The School Nurse

The school nurse at my elementary school was the archetype upon which every future stereotypical school nurse was ever founded. Picture a stark white lady in her early seventies named Beverly (or maybe it was Virginia), wearing white orthopedic shoes and a purple sweater with hair in a ridiculously tight bun the colour of polar bears in a blizzard.

Her job was to treat the neverending parade of kids complaining of stomach aches who occasionally threw up in the halls or the ones who nearly killed themselves on the last remaining Lawsuit Playground in the United States. She also had a cardboard box full of abandoned shorts that you could sift through if it was gym day and you'd forgotten to wear a pair under your pants. As previously mentioned, I never needed this last-ditch stop, having earned the highly coveted "PE Shorts Award" .

When something ails you in college, you're either pregnant or you have mono. The patient-physician relationship in elementary school follows the same basic philosophy, in that every ailment of the mind and body can be cured with a good old-fashioned ice pack. As luck would have it, you happen to be in the presence of the grand master ice pack maker of all time, a profession I did with pride for three long years, since it got me out of morning day care. (For yuppies in the audience, morning day care is when your parents go to work earlier than school starts and they don't trust you not to burn down the house in their absence. I would have too -- fire is cool).

You start out with a basic paper towel. Not the fashionable kind you see on TV getting soaked in vodka but still able to support the weight of a small child, but the dirty-brown industrial kind that comes in rectangles that you have to fold out yourself to make a square (fashionable paper towels provide square functionality out of the box). Take two ice cubes out of the freezer tray and place them lengthwise on the paper towel, then roll them up like a taquito (if you're Mexican) or a joint (if you're a music major). Fold the ends over to keep the ice from slipping out, then wrap a rubber band around it to keep the ends from coming free. Finally place the whole contraption inside a cheap sandwich bag -- the kind that doesn't zip shut with the flap that you have to fold over. Voilà (or viola, if you're Brianne) you have an ice pack!

Every morning, I would make twenty ice packs and refill the ice cube trays, and by every evening they'd all be gone. Skinned knee? Have an ice pack! ADHD? Ice pack. Frostbite? The school nurse never dealt with any of those cases in our mild clime, but I'm 99% certain I know what her treatment would be.

Thief couldn't flee with all that BOOTY
Tubby tabby reunited
Woman dies in Wee for Wii contest

tagged as memories | permalink | 2 comments

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Europe Day

an occasional post about finding the way to Europe

In the previous installment of Europe Day , we had purchased plane tickets to bookend our two week trip like, well, bookends.

The next step was to work out all the interstitial transportation arrangements. We wanted to devise a plan to get us from England to Spain at a reasonably leisurely pace, with a fair amount of flexibility to veer off the planned itinerary. We also figured that handling the bulk of the transportation up front would help us to more accurately budget things like pints of beer and prostitutes from the Quarter Pigalle, Paris' red light district.

First, we considered our options for getting out of the UK and into France. We compared the high speed train, the TGV, which takes a couple hours, goes from the heart of London to Paris, and costs $196 per ticket to several other mixes of planes, ferries, and buses. Ultimately, we settled on it because, despite the expense, it was the most efficient, hassle-free way to move. I believe there was also an option involving two buses and a ferry that costs about $100, but it would have taken eight hours, not to mention wait times and sitting around. We didn't buy TGV tickets yet -- we weren't sure how long we'd stay in London, and we knew that there might be a discount involved if we also bought Eurail passes.

For travel on the continent, we immediately ruled out car rentals because we're trying to take a vacation from commuting. Trains seemed both inexpensive and exotic, so we read up on all the various permutations of Eurail passes and considered the gems of wisdom you all provided in my Comments section. As a baseline, we examined the two-country Eurail Saverpass, which provides unlimited train travel for two or more people (this also means we're not allowed to get sick of each other until we reach Barcelona). We invented a variety of whimsical travel plans crisscrossing France and Spain and then looked up the price it would cost to just buy individual train tickets. It turned out that individual tickets were about $10 less expensive than passes, and we decided that the convenience of the pass was worth $10.

Once we'd picked the passes, we had to decide how many days we wanted on the pass. Saverpasses are designed so you can get unlimited travel on X days in a two month period. We knew we wouldn't hit the two month limit, but still had to get enough days so that we wouldn't end up stranded on the Andorran border with no days left. After inventing increasingly crazy travel plans as tests, we decided we'd probably need four days of travel time in the two week period. This number seems small, but realize that we won't even use the pass until we've decided to leave Paris, which is at least 1/3 of the way through the trip. Just in case though, we bought the 5-day passes. That way, we have the flexibility to leave a city if it sucks.

Delivery of the train passes was fast -- we ordered on Friday and got them on Monday. DHL is still a crappy delivery service though -- last year they delivered my computer to my non-English speaking neighbours while I was at home. Next time, the deliveryman honked from inside his van until I came out because it was raining and he "didn't want to get wet again". This time, the passes, which were clearly marked "Signature Required" were left inside my door, and the online bill said "SIGNED BY FRONT DOOR". I guess my front door is smarter than I give credit for.

The next step after train passes is the fun part: creating lists of what we want to do and see in each of our major destinations. This will determine when our TGV tickets should be and how much money we'll throw away in the more expensive cities like London.

Any more tips? Leave them in the Comments section!

I have, everyone has and they love it.
Uwe Boll ejected from big-budget ring
Pig fetus fun backfires on swimmers

tagged as travel | permalink | 4 comments

Friday, January 16, 2009

Friday Frazzle

I had planned to write a Friday Fragments column when I got home from work today. However, since I'm coming off a fifty hour work week of installing alien detection software on secret government computers, and the battery of my car has died (in the parking lot of Popeyes no less), I've decided to skip it and just enjoy an afternoon off instead. But since a Friday without Fragments is like a Cuba without Castro, you can tide yourselves over with this movie of Ella and Booty (5MB WMV).

The URI! Zone: Because freedom means not having to update your webpage on a Friday when it's cold enough to chap your perineum.

Man dreams of creating UFO
Nine-year-old carries friend to safety
Outrage in Chile at busty Virgin Mary models

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Monday, January 16, 2012

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

I usually skip any updates that fall on federal holidays, so this rehash of YouTube videos I've liked and linked to throughout the years can honestly be considered as a true bonus update. For "if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for recycled humorous content. And the T.C. Williams High School Marching Titans".

(Audio on movies may not be safe for work -- find your headphones)


Theatrical trailer from Brokeback to the Future

Orangina, the drink of sexy, sexy animals

David Blaine Street Magic: YouTube Edition

Potter Puppet Pals: The Mysterious Ticking Noise

Theatrical trailer from 10 Things I Hate About Commandments

Ernie and Bert try Gangsta-Rap

Cats playing paddycake

Antoine Dodson - Bed Intruder Song

Dick in a Box


Alanis Morissette covers My Humps
UK mom coughs up tumor, now cancer free
The trouble with social search

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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Memory Day: Eleven Years Ago Today

On January 16, 2002, I had just started my second semester at FSU, and spent much of my time noting how disorganized our Pedagogy of Music Theory II class was, especially in comparison to the first semester. I was in the middle of writing the second movement to my string quartet, Outlooks, called "The Optimist". I had plenty of free time, because my graduate assistantship involved proctoring an electroacoustic music lab that was never actually built because of 9/11 budget cuts. Meanwhile, Kathy was noticing a scope increase in her own assistantship:

When not complaining about Pedagogy class, where we did undergraduate ear training exercises and ultimately learned that "teachers teach the way they were taught", I was playing Return to Wolfenstein and Wizardry 8. The latter was a game so boring that the only thing I can remember about it eleven years later is that I could replace the game's MP3 soundtrack with my own MP3s. I was also listening to a lot of Dave Matthews, especially that one song where he gets Tourette's and starts repeating CAT! over and over. Incidentally, that would be a great soundtrack for a cat video.

In the evening on the 16th, I met Kathy at school and we went to Mike's Florida Towers apartment to measure his living room. He then bought a pool table (to arrive in two weeks) which was easily the most incongruous piece of furniture you could find in a tiny third-floor apartment. Afterwards, we sat around the apartment indulging in the latest Mike fad, which was painting. I still have the complete set of awful paintings from those years saved on my hard drive, but none of them have dates.

Several of my recent Memory Day posts have been from the Florida era, mainly because most of the Virginia Tech years have blurred together like an Instagrammed JPEG at 30% compression. The Florida years are on the cusp of the memory waterfall, so I figured it would be good to get them down before they are lost forever.

tagged as memories | permalink | 2 comments

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Camp by Childish Gambino:
Childish Gambino is the rap name for actor/comedian, Donald Glover. He gets a few clever lines into his rhymes, but overall, I found his comedy more enjoyable than his rapping. The album is musically all over the place without much cohesion, and I found it hard to divorce his Community / stand-up persona from the sound of his voice.

Final Grade: C-

Dexter, Season Eight:
I'd heard a lot of doom and gloom surrounding this season beforehand, but it wasn't as bad as expected. Sure, it had the usual batch of go-nowhere side plots, unnecessary narration, new characters we don't care about taking screen time from old characters, character actions that don't make sense for the character, and things that happened only to drive the plot (the stupid treadmill scene, and the fact that a wanted fugitive never thinks to dye her hair, or maybe wear sunglasses) but these have been visible warts of the series for several seasons now. This final season trucked along, maintaining my interest, but never reaching any of the broodingly intense high points of early seasons. And when the screen faded to black, I turned to Rebecca and said something along the lines of, "Well that wasn't amazing, but it was about as good as they could have ended it with what they had to work with."

Then, of course, the show went all Lord of the Rings and faded back in to give us ANOTHER ending -- a nonsensical, illogical, silent montage that negated any emotional payoff from the previous ending. Worthless. Do yourself a favor and stop the DVD at the fade-out.

Final Grade: B-

Dexter, The Series:
My favourite seasons in no particular order were 1, 2, 4, and 7. 5 and 6 could have been compressed into a single forgettable season, and 8 just allowed the series to muddle into mediocrity.

Final Grade: A for the highs and D for the lows, averaging out to about a B-

Borderlands 2 DLC:
I greatly enjoyed the original Borderlands 2 last year and picked up its various add-on packs (DownLoadable Content) in a Steam Sale before Christmas. These expansions add extra maps and storylines to the game, offering a few extra hours of entertainment in each case. Ultimately, the success of each expansion depends completely on the writing -- if you are already tired of the core mechanics, you'll have to decide whether its worth slogging through them for the stellar writing:

  • Captain Scarlett and Her Pirate's Booty is a pleasant, brief excursion that feels very similar to the main game. It ends with good loot but lacks any resolution for the main antagonist.

    Final Grade: B-

  • Mister Torgue's Campaign of Carnage has a cookie-cutter plotline, but maintains your interest through an over-the-top narrator and fun mix of activities and locales. A few maps drag a little.

    Final Grade: B+

  • I burned out on Sir Hammerlock's Big Game Hunt pretty quickly because the first half hour didn't grab me, and because some of the quest lines seem to rely on randomly-occurring events.

    Final Grade: D

  • Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep is perfect, and worth playing to the end, even if a few later levels drag. The writing and humour sparkle, and the plotline is made fresher by the fact that it brings back multiple original characters rather than just one or two. The conceit of the expansion pack is that the main characters happen to be playing a D&D campaign, but the dungeon master, Tiny Tina, is not very good at balancing the encounters. Watch the Launch Trailer to get a feel for the setting. The conclusion of the DLC is pitch perfect, and more heartfelt than one might expect.

    Final Grade: A

    tagged as reviews | permalink | 2 comments

Friday, January 16, 2015

Stuff in My Drawers Day

As I'm hairline-deep in proposals and deliverables today, enjoy this "mood essay" I wrote twenty years ago for 12th Grade English class. I got an A, because my teacher was an easier grader than I ever was.

It was a worthless space of cracked pavement. The angry orange sun glared defiantly through the smog-ridden skies, casting harsh shadows behind prickly weeds that prodded their way through potholes in the disjunct concrete. A mangy grey alley cat with half an ear evaded the afternoon heat by squatting beneath the black and rust-crusted garbage bin. The warped lid hung by a single aged hinge, dragging across the ground. The stench of rotting meat and four-month-old vegetables permeated the air and hung like a bloated cadaver in the stifling suffocation of summer weather.

It was a worthless space of cracked pavement next to a peeling, wooden door with two broken locks. Above the door hung a sign with "GROCERY" stenciled on it in faded careless lettering. A cobwebbed assortment of metal scraps trailed from a sunburnt hook, created to jangle like a banshee in the wind (if there had been wind). The grimy brick walls and rough concrete ledges were the home to random splotches of graffiti and rodent excrement.

The day passed in monotony. Dirty buses and cars drove by, leaving their marks with cigarette butts, wasted newspapers, and styrofoam cups filled with tepid coffee. The stray cat made half-hearted attempts to maul the rodents which hung from some animal's entrails in the garbage bin. The squealing door never opened; the wind chimes were flaccid. The day passed in monotony.

At seven o' clock, an unshaven man drove up in a protesting, cumbersome vehicle. "WASTE MANAGEMENT" was scrawled across the dented side panels and scraps of breakfast and soft drink containers dominated the cramped darkness in the back. As the man in dingy red coveralls came to a stop, his tires jarred in a pothole and a half-torn black garbage bag was catapulted out of his truck and scattered across the cracked pavement. The man, who reeked of beer and pork rinds, flipped a ground cigarette butt out the window and his eyes indolently took in the overflowing garbage bin.

And when the light turned green, he drove on.

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Monday, January 16, 2017

List Day: 8 Ways I Could Save Money If I Were Less Lazy

  1. The cost of a print Washington Post subscription has increased to $98 for 8 weeks of paper, and the print edition always contains the stories I read online two days earlier. ($637 / year)

  2. I'm never near a Popeyes anymore but I order too often from Domino's. ($300 / year)

  3. I tip based on the total plus tax rather than the total because I feel like I can afford to do so. ($192 / year)

  4. My Amazon Prime subscription is great, but three-day shipping really isn't that slow, and I rarely find anything both interesting and free to watch on Amazon Video. ($99 / year)

  5. I have Rebecca's engagement ring on my homeowner's insurance and have almost paid 1/3rd of its value in insurance since it was added. ($86 / year)

  6. I go to the gas station conveniently located on the way home from the grocery store instead of waiting in an endless line for the Costco gas. ($48 / year)

  7. I get Consumer Reports and read it monthly, but haven't actually bought anything rated in it in years. ($30 / year)

  8. I take the Dulles Greenway anytime I have to travel north on a weekend. ($26 / year)

tagged as lists | permalink | 3 comments

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

List Day: 8 Reasons Why Google Photos Sucks

I've used Google Photos for photo storage ever since they bought and gradually crushed Picasa. It's no surprise that Google continues to single out useful pieces of software to axe once they're bored of them -- I don't recall where I read it, but I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment that the Google company is like a Montessouri school full of software engineers run amok.

While I regularly say that Google Photos sucks, I've never actually itemized the reasons why.

  1. Google bills it as a drop-in replacement for Picasa, which was a solution for organizing photos, performing minor edits, and sharing them in albums. It's actually a photo backup service, intended for synchronizing bulk collections of photos between devices.

  2. It's impossible to create a truly "public" album, as all sharing requires sharing-by-link or a Google account for each recipient.

  3. The old Picasa API was not updated to serve photos from new Google Photos albums and I never felt compelled to support 2 separate APIs just to get all of my photos together. This is why old Picasa photos show up with URI! Zone theming while the new albums are just links out to Google.

  4. Google is now shutting off the old Picasa API permanently, so I'll have to rewrite my photo-serving MVC code whether I want to or not.

  5. Google Photos allows photos to live in limbo outside of albums. If you accidentally "remove" a photo instead of "move to trash", it will pop up in unexpected places later on.

  6. Google likes to suggest things it thinks should be in your albums. If you explicitly remove a photo from an album, Google will suggest that you re-add it the next time you want to upload new photos. You cannot disable the suggestions and have to click through them to get to the upload mechanism.

  7. Google has a hard time preserving photo order, always using the timestamp on the file, which might be different if you've downloaded the photo from another device or edited it in Photoshop. Sometimes, I've gone back to old albums I've painstakingly reordered before to find the photos back in timestamp order.

  8. Google is incapable of uploading more than 1 - 2 photos at a time without stalling out. Sometimes I'll get daring and upload 4, only to stall on #3. Even then, 1 - 2 photos may still end up duplicated in the album.

What do I like about Google Photos?

  1. The facial recognition is pretty neat for watching babies grow up.

Series to be continued in, "Why Firefox After v56 Sucks"...

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