This Day In History: 02/09

Saturday, February 09, 2002

I've posted a few pictures from the impromptu pool party on the Photos page -- just click on Photos, and scroll down the list to the very end of the Uri! Pictures section (they're in chronological order). To get there faster, go to the Cat section and back up a few lines. I didn't get any good action shots because of the two second delay on my camera's image-capturing. My old camera did a much better job with quick shots, although this one has a higher resolution.

I haven't progressed much on my third movement, although it's not from lack of trying. This week I've been fiddling with a recurring extended melodic line that I want to perfect before writing anything else. I have a feeling that if I begin the movement without ironing out its flaws first, it'll either throw off everything that I write after it, or I'll never get around to modifying it to perfection. The second movement came out much faster, because I had a starting and ending point in mind. In this movement, I have to strike a balance between reusing old material in interesting ways and being boring.

"A piece for orchestra, without music." - Ravel, on Bolero

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Sunday, February 09, 2003

This afternoon I rearranged my bedroom while listening to the first five symphonies of Prokofiev (who says composers don't live the exciting life?). My work area is against the opposite wall now so I can look out the window at the dead people in the cemetary while I sit at my desk. Who knows, the fact that they're great at decomposing may help me improve at composing.

    Arnold Schoenberg was born on September 13, 1874 and believed he would probably die on the 13th as well. Which month and year? Probably, he decided, on a Friday the 13th, and most likely in 1951 when he was 76 (7 + 6 = 13). That year, July 13 fell on a Friday and Schoenberg stayed in bed all day, awaiting death. Late that night, his wife went to his room to check on him and scold him for wasting the day so foolishly. When she opened the door, Schoenberg looked up at her, uttered the single word "harmony", and dropped dead. Time of death: 11:47 PM, 13 minutes before midnight.
    - UJBR

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Monday, February 09, 2004

I'm applying for my Top Secret clearance at work now. If the g-men come knocking on your door, tell them that I was a pillar of the community and don't send them to this seemingly un-American link .

The next iteration of Mozilla Firebird has now been released, renamed as FireFox. You can download it here .

Yesterday's notable search terms:

    red car illegal shanghai, tita cooks for her sister, theory of lengthwise rolling, atlas of tongue coating, anorexia nervosa in bulgarian bees

Chastity belt sets off airport security
Child forced to feed dead grandpa
Now shoot your enemies with the music of the BeeGees
A reason to make a joyful noise unto the Lord

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Wednesday, February 09, 2005

New JJ Abrams shows are on tonight.

Because only black Virginians wear low pants
The Mysteries of Lost (no spoilers)

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Thursday, February 09, 2006

On the way home yesterday, I was stuck behind a slow-moving delivery truck that was clogging an artery of traffic like a bacon-wrapped scallop on wheels. The truck must have been delivering a shipment of highlighters, lemons, and roses, because a sickly, sweet aroma filled my car, instantly evoking a childhood memory of an object long obsolete: the Invisiclues marker!

In the late 80s, good computer games came from either Infocom (for games that required literacy) or Sierra (for "pretty" pictures) -- there just wasn't any other alternative. Much like today's marketing scheme of "buy the razor for a dollar then buy the razor blades for your first-born child", Infocom sold their games for about twenty dollars and then sold a hint book for seven more dollars. The hint book was a cheaply-bound paper product filled with questions about the game. So you wouldn't accidentally read a solution early, all the answers were written in invisible ink, and you had to highlight the page with a special marker to see the hints. Each question had two or three clues underneath it, going from the most vague to specific game instructions. There were also red herring questions which would chastise you for abusing the hint book if you highlighted them.

I had a hint book for every single Infocom game I owned and most of the Sierra ones as well. Realizing how big the "stupid gamer" market was, the companies would put ridiculously obtuse puzzles in the game just to sell hint books and then annoy you by making the hint "You should have picked up the shiny coin on the ground in the first scene of the game! Better restart!". In particular, I remember a giant maze in Zork III that involved pushing sandstone blocks around like Sokoban, which also had a time machine. I'm sure there was an actual sensible solution, but being seven years old at the time allowed me to Invisiclues the exact sequence of moves through the maze and type them in word for word without any guilt. I think you had to drop down into the hole, get a book out of the depression in the floor and then push a block with a ladder next to the hole so you could climb back out.

Invisiclues paper had a shelf-life of about two years before the secret writing faded into a fungal texture of green goo, after which they were only useful for marker-sniffing. After my Zork III manual faded out, I never played that game again until the advent of the Internet, where die-hard fans would type the hint books into web pages word-for-word because they were probably in dead-end summer internships with no real work to bother with.

Bonus geek points go to anyone who remembers which game this is from -- easily one of the most difficult and abstract, yet coherent games ever written:

Meet Fred, undercover kitten
Self-harmers to be given clean blades
The Lobster Claw

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Friday, February 09, 2007

Friday Fragments

the red-headed stepchild of American literature

♣ My week of vacation time is coming to an end, and I didn't have as much time to play Where In The World is Brian Uri! as I would have liked, but I still think the week off was a success. I was just returning from a day trip to the Great Wall of China when I realized that this weekend is the third anniversary of buying a house and living in Sterling.

♣ This also means that I've been out of grad school for almost four years. In celebration of four years of real life without bankruptcy, illegitimate children, meth habits, or gang initiations involving loss of digits, I will eat Popeyes for lunch today -- two piece meal, dark meat, mild, with fries, no drink.

♣ I also added a subtly artistic blue background to the URI! Zone, a pleasantly understated callback to the early days where the site was all about blues, blacks, and llamas. I thought about redoing the banner as well, but ever since I first drew the URI! logo in 1997, I've been unable to resketch it as perfectly.

♣ On Wednesday while sightseeing in Paris, I received an e-mail from the long-lost Jim Barry by electronic carrier pigeon (pigeon voyageur d'électronique in France), informing me that he still visits regularly, but has had laptop troubles recently.

♣ This made me wonder (got me to wonderin' in Tallahassee) how many regular lurkers I have here that visit but remain under the radar. If you are such a misanthrope, post a comment today with your name, rank, serial number, and whether you like long walks on the beach. I might just use your census data to write about things that you care about instead of my usual drivel! If you choose not to answer, one of my not-so-shy regulars may have to resort to census acts of violence (*click click* OW in Zulu).

♣ When are acts of violence not senseless?

♣ Now that my whirlwind tour of foreign countries has come to a close, my remaining vacation days will be spent close to home, finishing up the office renovations and catching up on movies and games. Monday is the day I return to work (and also 12 of 12), and Tuesday is the day after the day I return to work. I have no plans for Wednesday yet, but if my superhero cape comes back from the cleaners in time, there just might be some "throwing down" involved.

♣ Have a great weekend!

Reckless French eye presidential pardons
World of Whorecraft
Oh, Naked Stock Photography Guy, what have you done this time?

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Monday, February 09, 2009

Weekend Wrap-up

On Friday evening, we watched the latest Kevin Smith film, Zack and Miri Make a Porno, which started out strong and ended only slightly weaker. Every other word in the dialogue is some gerund form of the word "fuck", which would have been fresh ten years ago but seems a little tired now. You'll like this one if you like Kevin Smith movies, but if you haven't already been exposed to the vulgarity of his gross-out gags and dirty jokes, you'll want to skip this.

On Saturday, after a quick run to Costco to stock up on a lifetime supply of corned beef and things made of wicker, I spent the day working until I was interrupted by a phone call from Jack who had a Kristy-free house and lots of leftover Super Bowl snacks to get rid of. We held an impromptu poker game that evening, in which Jack came in first, followed by Kathy and then Chris. I managed to get 5th out of 7, which was fractionally better than Jaood.

Sunday afternoon was the fabled Underdog to Wonderdog marathon, which steals ideas from every makeover show on television and applies it to down-on-their-luck dogs like Lucky, who was aptly named after being hit by a car. A team of four rehabilitates the dog and finds a new home, with the groomer and trainer doing the actual work while the "team leader" shows off his guns and the "canine carpenter" builds ridiculous garbage in the back yards of the new dog owners while flirting with the "team leader".

Putin denies mystery ABBA concert
You could have collected lizard poop for your Ph.D
Loved chimps smarter than babies

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Tuesday, February 09, 2010

New Feature Day

Back during the infancy of this site, I hated to rely on any third-party applications for site functionality. In the early days, this is why everything was a homegrown brew of JavaScript (from jukeboxes to slot machines), and why I even wrote my own Evite application (BUVite) just three years ago.

Today, it's nearly impossible to do anything without someone else's library, and I've gradually introduced things like jQuery plugins and XML parsing libraries to improve the site. For example, the URI! Zone runs on the Spring MVC framework, but the blogging tools and feed generation code are 100% homegrown.

Just last month, I moved all my photos over to Picasa, conceding that their album management tools were vastly superior to my own (not too difficult, since my tools consisted of a guy with a text editor and a cat), and freeing up a couple hundred megabytes of hosting space as well. Though I liked Picasa, I didn't like that visitors had to leave the URI! Zone to see my pictures, so I rectified that situation last weekend during the big blizzard.

If you follow the Photos link from the topbar, you can now see all of my Picasa albums from within the pleasantly blue Template of Love you've come to appreciate over the years. Clicking on an album will bring up a page of thumbnail images, and clicking on any thumbnail will load the full-sized version of the picture.

While the full-sized image is up, you can hover your mouse over the picture to see the Next/Previous links (or hit 'N' and 'P' on your keyboard), or click on the caption to go to the actual Picasa website, where you can enter comments or "like" particular photos.

To make this happen, I learned the Google Data API, which allowed me to write my own Picasa web client, and then incorporated the jQuery Lightbox plugin to display the actual photos. The final step was to make this post interesting for non-techie folks to read, by way of multiple repetitions of BOOBIES and BABIES. BOOBIES and BABIES. BOOBIES and BABIES. It is left as an exercise for the reader to locate pictures of either topic which interests you.

Enjoy!

Man tries to buy crack on credit
German thief robs arcade with cup of coffee
Looking for lasting love? It's not all looks and laughs

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Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Skip Day

There will be no updates today because I'm up over my ears writing Powerpoint briefings, one of which ended up being 49 slides long. It did, however, take some willpower when discussing why a Functional Design Review (FDR) should really be a Critical Design Review (CDR) to omit my line:

  • We need to get the "F" out of there.
  • Bonus Update: Here are pictures of my nephew:

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    Thursday, February 09, 2012

    Review Day

    There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

    Better Off Ted, Season One:
    This sitcom dates back a few years, and I remember occasionally catching it on TV and enjoying it, but never making time to seek it out. Ted is a manager at a scientific inventions company, Viridian Dynamics. It's a fun poke at corporate bureaucracy and doesn't require much investment, and is currently streaming freely (like pee) on Amazon Prime.

    Final Grade: B+

    Kitchen Confidential, Season One:
    Rebecca was reading the book of the same title earlier this year, and I recalled this short-lived Bradley Cooper sitcom from the limbo period between movie stardom and Alias. Loosely based on the themes of the book, if not the plot, thirteen episodes of this show were filmed but only three ever aired. I'm not sure why -- this is just as fun as many of the shows I like, and much better than many others that still haven't been cancelled yet.

    Final Grade: B

    The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (R):
    We finally used our $25 movie gift card two weekends ago and were surprised to find that a veritable gold mine ($2) was left on the card after buying two tickets (we spent it on Sno-Caps). This American version of the story should be the definitive version of the story for anyone who hasn't already gone through the books or the Swedish movies. The meandering plot is stripped away to a bare skeleton and tightly compressed to the elements most translatable to the big screen. Although it loses much of the story complexity and puzzleness of the book, it also ditches the long troughs of boredom that designate the book as "for fastest readers only".

    I liked this version better than the Swedish one (although subtitles also bore me). The pacing and intensity gradually increases as the main characters are introduced, and fast cuts between each of the character's storylines keeps you unsettled. I was a little irritated by Trent Reznor's ambient music, which triggered flashbacks to his awful Quake soundtrank in the 90s, but I was ultimately impressed with how the music organically tied everything together.

    Although the movie was two hours and forty minutes long, it didn't start to drag until the epilogue section. This is an unfixable hole in the original plot, which throws another hundred pages of meandering intrigue after the real climax but requires that knowledge to start the second book in the series.

    Final Grade: A

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    Monday, February 09, 2015

    Weekend Wrap-up

    On Friday night, Annie came over for tacos and Girl's Night, where they literally watched the show, Girls. I was busy in the other room solving puzzles by stacking boxes on other boxes, but it sounded like a really whiny main character getting into otherwise avoidable shenangans.

    On Saturday night, we went into DC via the Silver Line for my company party, which took place in the various lobbies of the American History museum. The event was fun, although we didn't win anything beyond free food. The Smithsonian did have a fairly ingenious money-making scheme though -- they had bars peddling free drinks every four feet, followed immediately by "NO DRINKS IN THE EXHIBITS" signs. Leaving your mostly full drink at the entrance would get it immediately cleaned up by the wait staff, requiring you to get another one after an exhibit. I'm sure whoever gets the bill on Monday will be thrilled.

    On Sunday, we went to the "Pups in the Pub" event at Old Ox Brewery, where the owned and up-for-adoption dogs outnumbered the people. The dog talent contest had poor participation, and the "kegstanding dog" trick turned out to be a dog that literally stood on a keg. Booty could do that easily.

    How was your weekend?

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    Tuesday, February 09, 2016

    Questions Day

    It's time for another Questions Day. Want to get a second opinion on something? Ask anything you want, be it about myself, snow, politics, or something you don't understand. Need some recommendations? I'll answer all of your questions next Tuesday!

    tagged as you speak | permalink | 6 comments

    Friday, February 09, 2018

    Review Day

    There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

    Lovesick, Season Three:
    Formerly titled Scrotal Recall, this clever, warm British relationship comedy remains very watchable even though it has now outgrown its original conceit. I felt like this season wallowed a bit, as if they weren't really sure where to go next, yet I still enjoyed watching it as a pleasant way to end the day.

    Final Grade: B

    Super Mario Odyssey:
    This is one of the flagship games for the Nintendo Switch. Other than a game mechanic where you can become different creatures by throwing your cap at them (which is clearly WAY DIFFERENT from getting a leaf out of a question mark block), there is very little originality in the first few worlds of this game. World progression revolves around gathering "moons" which is fine until you realize there are 8 billion moons, some of which are just lying around on the map -- it lessens the enjoyment of any achievement, like a 100-point basketball game versus a tied 1-1 soccer game. There are 9 billion moves that Mario can do, although you'll never need half of them and some of the most important ones can only be done with Wii-like motion controls. I'm only about 6 hours into the game, and yet I find myself bored while playing and lacking any sense of wonderment or fun. I'm not super impressed with the Switch so far. [Note: I also posted an updated review later on.]

    Final Grade: C-

    Keepsake by Elizabeth and the Catapult:
    This indie band's 4th album is great -- mature and polished but still in the same pleasant style as the first 3. After listening to this, I tried to surprise Rebecca with tickets to see them in concert, but disappointingly found out that they played in Vienna two months ago and won't be back anytime soon.

    Final Grade: B+

    Westworld, Season One:
    Based on an old Michael Crichton movie, this show features a theme park full of near-sentient robots where human visitors can be the hero or villain in their own story. I had high hopes since it was made by Jonathan Nolan, the creator of two of my favourites, Memento and Person of Interest. The world and plot are an intricate puzzle box of interlocking, byzantine sub-stories and overarching themes, but it left me cold. After a promising pilot, the remaining nine episodes are a tedious slog where the (2 pretty decent) plot twists are made possible through the intentional muddling of the unclear passing of time. All of the reveals are soggy with vague philosophical monologues or flashback montages with voice-overs, and as an HBO show, there's constant consequence-free violence and dehumanizing nudity. (It's amazing that the obligatory robot orgy scene is held off until episode 5 rather than the pilot). Bottom Line: It's full of big ideas and a decent sci-fi grounding, but lacking in anyone to care about. It felt like an unnecessary prologue for the next season.

    Final Grade: C-

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    Wednesday, February 09, 2022

    Memory Day: Snapshots

    This picture was taken almost exactly 10 years ago, on February 11, 2012.

    Rebecca was in her 2nd semester of Physical Therapy school and studying almost constantly. In this picture, she's simultaneously studying on her ancient laptop which she held onto longer than necessary for nostalgia's sake while looking up recipes in her Betty Crocker cookbook. Also on the table is a first generation Kindle.

    You can date this photo by the PT Cruiser parked across the street (which puts this at 2 neighbors ago) and Booty (who interrupts studying much more when alive).

    tagged as memories | permalink | 2 comments

     

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