This Day In History: 01/21

Monday, January 21, 2002

There's no classes today, so I'll probably spend some time catching up on my composing, which slipped a little in productivity this week. This is actually the only federal holiday FSU allocates this semester, so I may as well enjoy it while I can.

This three article series that we had to read for pedagogy is a ridiculous waste of pontification. The original article, which I read on Saturday, was a rational comparision of three solmization systems: one fixed syllable and two movable syllable. By the end of his supposedly unbiased comparison, he was obviously advocating the movable systems over the fixed systems, with one system getting more adulation than the other.

The next article was jointly written by two advocates of the other movable system as a paragraph by paragraph rejoinder to the original article. Like kids in a sandbox arguing about whose dad could beat up who else, they took issue with the author's favourite system and proceeded to quote various passages to provide counter-arguments. Since they were apparently seeing things through a red haze, many of the arguments were unsupported, vague, or actually in agreement with the original article (but worded differently). I think my two favourite arguments were those that basically said "the perceived faults in our system are really just the result of stupid people who don't understand the system" and "music theorists are destroying our music students by emphasizing analysis over listening".

After this, Analogy Boy returned to the fray to defend his original article. Apparently, he wanted to take his flotilla of arguments and launch it from the anchorage of joint authors' harbour to show that they were sailing in the same direction. However, instead of providing any new information at all, he preferred to restate everything he said before in a quick introduction, and then spent the rest of the article brutally mocking the joint authors' short-sightedness and inability to understand complex issues through fantastic hypothetical situations and rhetorical statements. You could tell he was having a great time at their expense, but neither his article or the rejoinder provided any relevant information to the topic at hand. The whole thing reminded me of a flame war on Usenet from the mid 90s. Of course, we couldn't just read the first article for Pedagogy and call it a day; that would be too easy.

If you're in Pedagogy and you haven't yet read the two response articles, I'd imagine that you could have an intelligent conversation in class about them just by reading this News page. Who said this site doesn't have redeeming social value?

Alias was really good last night. I read somewhere that the creator of the show also writes the music. At least the show is good.

"Jazz will endure, just as long as people hear it through their feet instead of their brains." - John Philip Sousa

tagged as mock mock, teaching | permalink | 0 comments

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

If you use Listen and Sing in your sightsinging class, you should know that the Beethoven's monopoly ran out of books again, and don't plan on making another immediate order this semester. This is after they decided not to order any at all at the beginning of the term, and after I contacted them and specifically told them how many students would be in need of it. I'm all for helping the local businessmen, but if you're going to exercise a monopoly on textbooks and use unfair trade practices against other bookstores in town, you've got to be prepared to actually serve the customer and offer some incentive for repeat business. I finally told all my students who got screwed a second time to cancel their orders and order online (saving twenty dollars and a car ride in the process). Stuff like that just pisses me off.

I finished printing and binding the preliminary draft of my thesis today, and I'll be giving copies to my committee tomorrow. Nothing drastic should change now, and I'm still looking for a defense date before Spring Break. Next up on my agenda of stuff to do is a revision of my string quartet score for the string quartet competition, and then Dr. Spencer's music fundamentals project.

tagged as reviews, teaching | permalink | 0 comments

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

About five months ago, I got an e-mail out of the blue from an old college friend at Tech. Amidst the standard "how are you?" and "here's how I am" rigmarole, was this:

    The really exciting thing going on with me is that I started my own business about 4 months ago. It's going really well. I've met a lot of great people. Basically, I'm running a business development team that expands business for companies that have e-commerce websites. So I'm building this business outside of my full-time job. It's very flexible and I take care of all my business online. I'll double my net income over the next 12-18 months.

I thought it was a pretty weird thing to put in a "reconnecting" e-mail but simply replied to the rest and forgot all about it. A few weeks ago, I got a call from someone I'd never heard of, saying that my name had been referred to him through my old friend. He said he was part of a development team that was interested in my technical skills and wanted to get together over coffee. I countered that I was already happy with my current employment but agreed to meet as a courtesy to my old friend.

Last Thursday, the three of us finally had a sit-down at a local hotel. The guy who'd contacted me opened by saying that they were looking for someone who could take technical things and make them easier to understand for laymen, and then went on and on about the money they'd earned to date. It took about ten minutes of pitch before he finally got around to what the business was. In fact, they weren't looking for someone with technical skills, instead, they were looking for independent business owners to market and sell products through a site called Quixtar. The guy proceeded to outline what looked to be a classic pyramid scheme of sales, and when I noted this, he went on to point out all the reasons it wasn't a pyramid scheme. After more questions, which all got perfectly canned responses (my friend said very little throughout, except to nod in agreement and be the straight man to the guy's occasional questions), I said I'd think about it, and asked them to send me some more data on the credibility of the company, who (they said) was owned by Alticor.

The next day, I got a fax with a bundle of studies showing income improvement, as well as audulatory articles in various business mags about Quixtar. I figured throughout that there was something out of the ordinary going on, so I used my Scooby senses online to do some more research. It turned out that the Quixtar web address was owned by the Alticor company at the exact physical Michigan address of Amway, the original pyramid scheme. As soon as I found that connection, search results started pouring in. Page after page described Quixtar as the hidden online hand of Amway and of shady business practices. One page even described the exact procedure used to "rope a new client", including using an old acquaintance and meeting in a hotel. With that proof in hand, I replied back to the sales guy:

    After reviewing the information you provided, doing my own research, and giving it some thought, I have decided to decline your offer for Quixtar.

    There are a variety of reasons behind my decision, most notably the obfuscation of the link between Quixtar and Amway in our discussions and the provided materials, as well as the company's presence on the Federal Trade Commission's "commonly requested complaints" page. It is also unsettling to see scores of pages providing logical arguments against Quixtar and multi-level marketing in general rebutted either by rash personal attacks or canned company bylines.

    I have no doubt that you both have benefitted from participation with Quixtar, but the above factors just give me the gut instinct that I should not get involved in this venture. Thank you for taking the time to meet with me, and good luck with your future sales.

On Monday, I got a reply back, ignoring the major issues I'd presented, and stooping to the selfsame canned responses and personal attacks that I'd just mentioned (lack of paragraphs, as I received it):

    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.

So that is the tale of how I was hunted by Amway and valiantly vanquished them. I hope you enjoyed it. At least I got to catch up with my friend.

Yesterday's notable search terms:

    shaw cremation mother, peter harmatuk, absolute music composers, poem about cigarettes, goldfish turn white in dark, midnight hamster supplies, what materials would a green bean grow in best, jennie geisner, free million dollar treasure to claim, atlas of tongue coating

I would have stapled him
Russian army saves 10 tons of beer
Churchill's parrot still alive
Man chokes boy over video game

tagged as random | permalink | 2 comments

Friday, January 21, 2005

Congratulations to the group effort of Mike & Kathy who managed to get all four songs from Tuesday's Name That Tune contest (their entry came in AFTER yesterday's hints though. They get to write a guest entry which I'll post sometime next week. Here are the songs for the next Name That Tune contest (or Find That Tune, if that's how you like to play). Because the first one was so hard, I've doubled the length of the clips and I'm providing a little more context to them (Deadline is next Thursday at midnight).

Name That Symphonic/Choral Work (Composer / Title)
Name That 70s Funk Chart (Title / Group)
Name That 80s Pop Song Written for a Movie (Title / Group)
Name that 90s Movie Theme (Movie Name)

Oh, and the answers to the previous contest: 1) Gershwin's Concerto in F, Movement III, 2) Blood, Sweat, & Tears' Something's Coming On, 3) Stan Kenton's Eager Beaver, and Theme from Ducktales.

Woman arrested for deleting savegame
Snowbies

tagged as contests | permalink | 2 comments

Monday, January 21, 2008

Martin Luther King Jr.'s Birthday

There will be no update today because of the federal holiday. However, you should take the opportunity to learn more about this noble leader. Having lived on his street for two years in grad school, I feel like we have a real connection.

Don't forget to vote in last week's Caption Contest by tomorrow!

Smurfs brace for movie and more women
Clown Rebuttal
Fiancee says man wanted her to be a prostitute

permalink | 0 comments

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

LOST Recap Day

this post contains spoilers from last season's LOST finale

The fifth season of LOST begins tonight at 8, and it's hard to believe that almost eight months have passed since the last one ended. If you find yourself blurry on the details of the fourth season, you should start with my old LOLLOST feature, before catching up on the final two-hour episode below.


As a tribute to Charlie Pace, Jin and Michael blow up all the remaining heroin on the island.


Sayid shows off other fighting techniques learned in the Republican Guard, such as the Gopher Surprise.

The writers take advantage of the skewed timeline on the island to account for Walt's major bout with puberty.


Claire's baby bears a striking resemblance to Kuato from Total Recall, but more importantly, boobies.

The newly-discovered orientation video suggests that the station was used to study the effects of humans showering with animals.


After finally getting off the island, Hurley realizes he's been holding it in for a very long time.

Sawyer is attacked by the island's resident Dharma shark, although a cut in the special effects budget leads to some really bad Photoshopping and no view of the shark.


Sun uses her settlement money to travel to London, where she gets the autograph of the star of Spamalot.

Sawyer comes to the unpleasant realization that even pretty people need to shower sometimes.


Benjamin Linus is trapped for eternity on LOST: The Ride, after his lapbar fails to return to the neutral position.


In a flashback, we revisit Jack's childhood to learn even more about his tattoos.

We learn that the entire story is just a figment in the imagination of John Locke, and everyone's existence ends when he dies in a tragic sweat lodge accident.

Thanks to Lost Media for the screen captures used in this post.

France looks into magic cheese scam
Presidential Loser Gallery grows by one
Cow knocks over biker and steps on her legs

tagged as mock mock, media, favourites | permalink | 4 comments

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton:
This was a completed manuscript discovered after Michael Crichton's death, and it's passably good -- enough to keep you reading, but not worth a reread. One of Crichton's strongest facets is the way he mixes interesting research into his fiction (although some books like State of Fear teeter over the edge of research into preaching), but this book doesn't have as much of that. It's essentially a road trip movie script with pirates in it, but there's nothing wrong with pirates, and it'll get you through your next airplane ride.

Final Grade: C+

Java Puzzlers by Joshua Bloch:
This is a geek book filled with very brief (5 - 10 line) Java programs that don't do what you would expect them to do. Each puzzler is followed by a solution on the next page which outlines the language trickery or logical edge cases that results in the hard-to-find bug, as well as a bolded rule of thumb to follow to avoid the case. It will not be as useful day-to-day as Effective Java (by the same author), but it's interesting. For Java nerds only.

Final Grade: B

The Hangover:
Here's a rarity -- a movie that I actually felt could have gone on just a little bit longer. This movie is a comedy that manages to be funny without relying solely on gross-out gags and illogical setups. I would say that this and I Love You, Man are the only two comedies I've watched in the past year that I would actually watch a second time.

Final Grade: A

Dragon Age: Origins:
This is the latest Bioware role-playing game, and while I don't normally enjoy this style of RPG, playing Torchlight whetted my RPG appetite so I thought I'd give it a try. And actually, I haven't played it or felt the urge to play it since the day before Christmas. There's nothing wrong with it at all: the game looks great, has a reasonably interesting story, and I want to like it, but I don't. Maybe it's the enormous amount of spoken dialogue I have to wade through, or the combat system that feels like it borrowed the worst from World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy, or just the fact that I play for an hour or two at a time and don't feel like I've made much progress -- I don't know for sure. Ultimately, I just know that when I have free time, I would rather do something else, which is never a good sign for a game. I believe that the Zero Punctuation review it spawned is actually the best part.

Final Grade: C-

US Military weapons etched with Bible cheat codes
Nuclear weapons plant shut down by duck hunters
Guantanamo guard reunited with ex-inmates

tagged as reviews | permalink | 5 comments

Friday, January 21, 2011

Chart Day

The chart below shows a visual representation of my Wednesday and Thursday. It is safe for the colourblind, but not the indolent.



The Incredible True Story of the Collar Bomb Heist
New Ala. gov: Just Christians are his family
Carriage horse crashes into Rod's Steak House after pit bull attack on Route 66

tagged as data | permalink | 5 comments

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Election Day

If you're in District 33, make sure to vote for your favourite tribute today!

tagged as media | permalink | 2 comments

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Memory Day: Fifteen Years Ago

Fifteen years ago today, on January 21, 2000, I was in my fourth year at Virginia Tech, at the end of the first week of the semester.

Because the high school Honor Band was being hosted at Virginia Tech, all of my music classes had been cancelled for the day. Of course, it also snowed heavily the night before, and Honor Band ended up getting cancelled. It was also too early in the semester for my Physics lab, so the only class I had to worry about was Computer Graphics: an entire semester spent drawing 3D shapes with OpenGL and answering arcane word problems about cameras and viewports.

I took a quick trip down to Squires to see the results of my various auditions in the morning. That year, I was 1st chair in the Symphony Band and 4th chair in the Brass Ensemble (which probably meant I had to show up to every rehearsal in order to play on one song). I probably auditioned for Jazz Ensemble too, but I think this was the semester that Peter got in over me and I lost hope in humanity, never to audition again.

I spent the rest of my day holed up in my dorm room (shared with Kelley Corbett), eating Ramen noodles cooked in a hot plate, and trading emails with Jack and Filippo to set up an interview for my first internship at FGM. Later, I decided to dust off one of my incomplete projects, a text adventure game that I'd started back in 1998 but never gotten around to finishing. This time, I was more successful and released it into the world a short two months later.


tagged as memories | permalink | 0 comments

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Review Day: Fallout 4

Fallout 4 is a highly entertaining game that provides a massive amount of addicting content held back by a frustrating user interface. It takes the emergent gameplay and open world engine of Skyrim (in which I invested over 300 hours and multiple playthroughs before it finally got tiresome) and pairs it with the responsive first-person shooter action and loot gathering of Borderlands 2 (over 100 hours), resulting in a satisfying exploration of what Boston might look like after nuclear war.

The appeal of "open world" games is that you can go anywhere and do anything without being constrained to an on-the-rails main storyline. And in fact, I've barely made any progress in the main story, opting instead to strike out in a random direction and take in the abundance of sidequests and self-contained mini-stories. There's never a lack of things to do, from questing, to exploring just for the heck of it, to building your own settlements in a lightweight SimCity-ish minigame.

Graphics are evocative, and the music is brooding and effective (though sometimes it sounds a little too much like Skyrim). The game captures suspense and creepiness quite well, especially when you're exploring an abandoned building and get overrun by (surprisingly nimble) ghouls. For players without great reflexes, the game's "VATS" system allows you to greatly slow down time during combat, almost to the point where it's turn-based. This system works to make combat a little more strategic, and I employ both real-time and VATS as I play.

There are a few minor issues. Load times are on the long side, but that's a given for any game in this age. One of the main voice actors (for the Preston Garvey character) is incredibly bad and phones in his (numerous) lines like he's a seventh grader in a class readthrough of a Shakespeare play. However, the biggest flaw in the game is the inconsistent and poorly-explained UI, which suffers from being a console port and having too many tacked on systems. Players seem to be in universal agreement that the UI is awful, and the context-sensitive overloading of certain keys will ensure that you spend a lot of time accidentally opening menus or cancelling actions.

There are also many features that just aren't properly explained, like the fact that you have a built-in flashlight that turns on by holding down the Tab key, or how to get the most out of the settlement building UI. The latter makes the system feel tacked on -- I enjoyed building settlements as a diversion but never felt like I could manage them properly. Late game, none of the settlements can take care of themselves without your intervention, so I ultimately scrapped them all and killed all the settlers so they would stop complaining about a lack of beds.

The exploration side of the game is definitely worth it if you can face the moderate learning curve of the interface (and many "Tips" articles on the web will fill in the gaps nicely). This is a game with tons of replayability (as a serial restarter, I've already theorycrafted, started, and abandoned three different characters). The game is at its best when you're traveling and randomly discover a hidden cave or a scripted event, so it's good to minimize your use of the "Fast Travel" option, which allows you to jump to previously visited sites immediately. I try to stick to self-made rules where I just fast travel to and from my own settlements, which helps immensely with immersion.

Final Grade: B in its current state, A- in a few months once mods and patches correct the worst flaws in the UI

tagged as reviews, games | permalink | 0 comments

Monday, January 21, 2019

Data Day: 3 Years of Monthly Finances

  • The chart shows my income and expenses (omitting all investments) throughout my brief stint at the commercial startup, as well as the Great Stay-At-Home-Dad Experiment.

  • 2018 was the first year with a net negative change -- I ended the year down $15.80 from where I started, which isn't half bad when I spent most of that time hiking through the woods trying to get Maia to nap.

  • My goal for 2019 is to get back in the black in spite of my new major expenses (Netflix fee hikes, HOT lane charges taking Maia to Grandma's house during rush hour, and generous support to the burgeoning local brewery industry).

tagged as data | permalink | 1 comment

Friday, January 21, 2022

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

S16 by Woodkid:
After enjoying the uniqueness of Golden Age, I immediately purchased Woodkid's most recent album. It works fine for atmospheric background music, but feels a little forgettable. I'll listen to it a few more times, to see if I change my mind but I preferred the earlier album.

Final Grade: C

The Sun by Bliss n ESO:
The latest album from this Australian hip-hop group is excellent, full of great hooks, beats, and fun lyrics. I never thought I'd hear Carol of the Bells as a hip-hop sample until I heard the first track on ths album. Cadillac Outta Hell is a good representative track.

Final Grade: B+

Money Heist, Season Five, Part Two:
Money Heist finally concludes its latest heist, going out on top. The ending was great and kept me guessing. Some of the plot progression redeemed a lot of the flashbacks that I had dismissed as pointless in previous seasons. This is a series definitely worth watching if you enjoy over-the-top heist plots. The first two seasons have more of a soap opera feel to them, while the last three (the Netflix-produced ones) are very polished and professional.

Final Grade: B+ for this season, B+ for the series

Azul (re-review):
I originally dismissed this game as mostly luck-based, so I have to issue a mea culpa. After Rebecca played this with friends on Board Game Arena, we realized that we had misinterpreted two key rules in the lengthy rulebook which prevented our games from ever reaching their full potential. Now that we're playing it the right way, it's much more enjoyable and strategic.

Final Grade: B

tagged as reviews | permalink | 3 comments

 

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