This Day In History: 02/11

Monday, February 11, 2002

Following the video game crash in 1984, the Nintendo Entertainment System trickled into the US in 1985, and was the first major system to feature continuous soundtracks throughout its games. It's widely recognized as the console which elevated game music from simple beeps and whistles to an art form composed of beeps and whistles .

The anthem from Nintendo's launch game, Super Mario Brothers, continued to appear in variations throughout the Mario series and even spawned lyrics when it became the theme song to the horrible television show based on the game. "Swing your arms from side to side. Come on, it's time to go. Do the Mario!..." (MP3, 203KB)

Early Nintendo games could play four separate tracks of sound or music simultaneously, and most developers devoted three full tracks to music (melody, bass line, faux percussion) with the fourth track reserved for sound effects. When more sounds were required, they were often provided at the expense of the music. In one memorable example, The Legend of Zelda played a constant beeping noise when the player was near death. Since the regular sound effects were still important, the developers played the beeping by temporarily covering what they considered to be the least important track of music with the beep track. If you still own a NES and this particular game, and are a musical geek, it's an interesting exercise to wander through the various parts of the game with very little health, to hear the incomplete versions of the soundtrack.

The vast majority of NES soundtracks were also continuous loops. Developers would write music that was a direct accompaniment to the level, and end in a way that would seamlessly allow a jump back to the beginning. The Legend of Zelda had a blatantly brief example: its underworld theme, which played in eight dungeons throughout the game, was just seven bars long. Gamers today tend to have a great sense of nostalgia for memorable tunes of the NES. This probably has more to do with the constant repetition of music during those long hours spent playing games, rather than any musical genius.

On the PC side, music was still a mono-track affair. The PC's internal speaker was capable of playing one beep at a time, at a variety of pitch levels. Rather than focus on music, this ability was spent on sound effects more often than not. By varying pitch levels and repeating extremely short beeps, you could almost create a sound that was close to recognizable. Today's new gamers would undoubtedly hear nothing but bursts of flatulence at a series of pitch levels in those archaic sounds.

In the late 80s, this manipulation of the internal speaker was actually accessible through the BASIC computer language (in which I wrote several childish, incomplete games). Writing music consisted of entering a series of pitches, octaves, and durations, much like using the Command Line plug-in in Finale. For example, the beginning of Three Blind Mice would be notated as "L4edL2c L4edL2c L4gL8ffL2e L4gL8ffL2e". Though I didn't know much about composing or notation at the time, I remember decorating my little BASIC games with short original melodies for each "room". The medium was very limiting, but I do recall hearing someone's realization of the complete William Tell overture, which was quite incredible when you consider that every chord had to be rolled.

Tomorrow: Later NES Music and the Advent of Soundcards

tagged as music, games | permalink | 0 comments

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

FOX laughed all the way to the bank with their episode of Joe Millionaire last night. After successfully billing it as the show where the winner gets picked, they lured 23 million Nielsen viewers into an hour-long commercialfest and recap show that did absolutely nothing to further the events of the show, and then advertised that the real final show would be next week.

At least FOX knows how to milk its shows though. Next weekend, Daredevil with Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck is being released to much ballyhoo (associated with FOX of course) and Jennifer is also hosting SNL. But rather than use the opportunity to promote their one drama that doesn't suck, ABC has decided to postpone it for one week, and will show a made-for-TV version of The Music Man with Matthew Broderick instead. Another Alias star, Victor Garber, is also in the production, but of course they never mention him at all in the numerous plugs during the last episode of Alias.

It was a pretty slow day in the sweatshop on Sunday, so for kicks I did a throwaway arrangement of the overworld theme from Super Mario Brothers 2 for a small panoply of winds and percussion. It's easily the cheeriest song ever written (even beating Sibelius' 5th).

Theme (MP3 791KB)
ZIP of Finale File (57 KB)

Bush or Chimp?
Wacky things from the mouth of Jackson

permalink | 0 comments

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Last night, Booty was sitting in her usual spot on top of the desk shelf, watching the parking lot cars drive in and out. When a particularly bright headlight meandered across the line where the ceiling meets the wall, she made a particularly zealous jump to catch it.

The back of my desk is about six inches away from the wall, which allows plenty of room for wires and plugs and miscellaneous heat fans. Despite sleeping atop the desk every day, this was not something Booty remembered. She slid from the ceiling to the floor with claws unfurled, and became caught in the web of power cords at ground level. After several minutes of shuffling and scratching, she managed to climb up the wires and reappeared through the monitor hole, unshaken.

Since then, she likes to chase the lights on the window seat, where there are no treacherous Pits of Doom.

I submitted all my paperwork for a security clearance yesterday, so in about six months I'll get the interview asking if I've ever worn red shirts or known any militant foreign nationals pursuing a revenge agenda (Alex).

Yesterday's notable search terms:

    parno queens, prix boulanger web-can, furfurrate, how beatles affect teenagers, turn of the screw insane governess, what does roftlmao mean, who experimented on radish seeds with different types of water, villains of the bible, sealable lids, short stories-revenge, salamandastron cliff notes

I get about ten searches a day now for one of: Theory of Lengthwise Rolling, Anorexia Nervosa in Bulgarian Bees, or Atlas of Tongue Coating. The pace has picked up for high school students searching for essays to plagiarise. I'm very tempted to replace one with the most ridiculous literary tripe possible, just to see if I get any irate letters from failed students.

Why you should lose your temper instead of pressing 1
The campaign will use public billboards, including one showing a fish swimming inside a condom.
$217,000 speeding fine
NZ train driver on stress leave after running over garden gnome

permalink | 3 comments

Friday, February 11, 2005
Virginia drops dropped pants bill after seeing it ridiculed on my site
Chunky boy can stop bullets
Love on the company clock

permalink | 2 comments

Monday, February 11, 2008

Rearranging Day

Yesterday afternoon, in between spurts of productivity and Mind Blasts, I decided that it would be a good idea to move the exercise bike back out of the basement and into the living room. The blustery weather outside combined with the fact that I have the heat turned off in the basement made me realize that I'm tacitly accepting that fact it will never be used where it currently sits. In the living room, next to the TV and the giant stacks of DVDs, I may still never use it, but at least I'll have to look at it every day.

Before I could bring the bike up though, I had to rearrange the living room -- there just wasn't a good place to put it without making it the centerpiece (and everyone knows that Amber is the centerpiece of any room). I love rearranging rooms, having lived in tiny spaces for most of my life -- it's a more tactile version of the Gridlock game where you have to drag other blocks around to get another one out of the box.

Growing up, my room was roughly three feet by two feet and you could barely spit across it without smashing your lip against the walls. I would rearrange the room every six months or so, always trying to maximize the usefulness and the walking spaces while fulfilling such criteria as "the door must open all the way" and "Mom won't vacuum if the vacuum cleaner can't turn around the edges of furniture". I lived in Tallahassee for two years, and rearranged each room of the two bedroom apartment twice, three times for my bedroom in Foxridge, and two times for my bedroom at the Elms.

The final floor plan I came up with today is very similar to the way it used to be when I first moved in (see also, Kathy's submission to my "Arrange My Living Room" contest in 2004 ). The TV area is much cozier, you can now play the Wii from all parts of the room without losing connection, and you can watch TV while cooking, but at the expense of being much closer to the screen when sitting on the couch.

I got so caught up in rearranging the living room that I forgot to bring the exercise bike upstairs. I got plenty of exercise, regardless, having burned at least four and a half calories.

Don't forget that tomorrow is 12 of 12!

The secret sex life of wombats
GameFAQs is a hotbed for terrorism
Bong-smoked trout

tagged as day-to-day | permalink | 8 comments

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Memory Day: Transfer Credit

Going into college, I had 14 AP credits in English and Physics, and the feeling of getting exempt from additional classes to sit in my dorm room reading the entire back archives of Sluggy was intoxicating. Since I had embarked upon a course that would ultimately net 190 credits (I think 96 were needed to be a qualified liberal arts major), I decided to see just how many more transferred credits I could get without leaving the home base buildings of McBryde and Squires.

There were an inordinate number of rules surrounding transfer credit, mainly to prevent people from substituting Androgynous Yoga 1001 for Biochemical Reactions 4625, but the most important to me was this one:

This rule effectively gave me free reign to take a transfer course, slack off as low as a C-, and still have it appear on my transcript as ungraded credit (one of the major life lessons you learn in college is how to work the system). My next step was to determine which courses I wanted to take (all the annoying "you must be well-rounded" core classes) and where I wanted to take them. Of course, I turned to the esteemed NORTHERN VIRGINIA COMMUNITY COLLEGE: ALEXANDRIA CAMPUS. Community colleges often get a bad reputation, but at least NOVA's computers aren't identified like this on the Internet:

I ultimately took 16 credits of summer classes at NOVA -- the stomach-wound kind that drag on for twenty-five hours in the day until you must make the choice between death and skipping classes (In general, I skipped).

Physical Geology: We spent an entire summer session talking about different types of rocks, although we did not get to watch any Geologist Porn. The last two weeks of class were cancelled so the instructor could go on vacation.

The History of Western Civilization I: The bubonic plague was a welcome interlude for the inhabitants of this time period, if it was as boring as taught. The instructor had just come back from his vacation and spent several class periods showing slides... of South America. I stopped showing up halfway through the course, and when I arrived at the final exam, the instructor gave me a talking to and an evil look, expecting me to fail because I had missed his presentation on some Mayan temple he visited with his wife. After I won the class with an A on the exam, he looked flustered and sputtered, "Attendance is critical. You are seriously influencing how I'm going to teach this class in the future!" I hope so.

Psychology I and II: I remember nothing about this class, as it was a lecture. I do have fifty pages of definitions saved in my files, so I'm guessing it was either a memorization class or they brainwashed us all into sleeper agents.

Public Speaking: I gave a dramatic reading of Are You My Mother? to an enthralled class of five at 8 AM. This class was my closest call, since attendance was actually counted as a grade, but the professor who insisted that an audience was an integral part of communicating had obviously never had an imaginary friend before. I squeaked by with exactly a C- and ended my community college career forever.

Don't forget that tomorrow is 12 of 12!

Arctic unicorns in icy display
Hate mail and offensive threats close T-Shirt Hell
Barack Obama is tired of your poop

tagged as memories | permalink | 5 comments

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Review Day

There are no spoilers in these reviews.

The Big Lebowski:
This movie had some funny scenes, but was about as cohesive as a week-old band-aid. I enjoyed John Goodman's one-note character for the first four scenes, but grew weary of the shtick for the next twenty. I must not be the target audience for Coen Brothers movies, since I also didn't like No Country for Old Men, O Brother Where Art Thou?, or Burn After Reading. Weird for the sake of weird is just a waste of my time.

Final Grade: C-

District 9:
For a movie with aliens in it, this could be one of the most understated yet effective science-fiction movies in recent history. Produced by Peter Jackson but with no recognizable stars, this movie tells the tale of a stranded alien population in Johannesburg, South Africa, who are tolerated with prejudice for twenty years, before the humans vote to relocate them to smaller concentration camps farther from the city. The special effects are impressive without being the focus, and you could easily replace the aliens with some other put-upon race and still have an enjoyable movie. I didn't know what to expect from this movie going into it, but I definitely enjoyed it -- it was marred only by the need for subtitles to understand some of the thicker South African accents.

Final Grade: A-

McDonald's Angus Swiss & Mushroom Burger:
This isn't much of a burger (and thus, doesn't belong on our burger reviews site), but that's not really what you expect when you order at McDonald's. This 1/3 pounder costs 60 cents more than a Big Mac and comes topped with Play-doh mushrooms, thin slices of Swiss, and a mayonnaise paste with the warm consistency of cake frosting. It's passable for a $6 burger and bad for a $10 burger, but it's filling enough to hit the spot when all you need is a spot of McDonald's.

Final Grade: C+

Impregnation via the proximal gastrointestinal tract in a patient with an aplastic distal vagina
Dubai diners flock to eat new camel burger
South Carolina now requires the subversives to register

tagged as reviews | permalink | 6 comments

Friday, February 11, 2011

List Day: Childhood Confessions

  • I used to think that EXIT ONLY signs on the interstate meant that you would get stuck in some backwater town where the only way to get home would be via dirt roads and wheat fields.

  • As a child, when people would sing the melody from "Tom's Diner" by Suzanne Vega, I simply presumed it was the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles theme song.

  • When I was a child, I did not realize that John Cryer and Matthew Broderick were two separate actors.

  • I once broke a light fixture in the now bankrupt hardware store, Hechinger. That's probably why they went out of business.

  • As a child, I believed that the correct phrase was "take it for granite", because if you typed "TAKE WALL FOR GRANITE" next to the granite wall in Zork I, you would get teleported to an Easter Egg room.

  • When Cheerios had mail-in prizes for boxtops, I thought that it was common operating procedure for a family to buy all twenty boxes at once and send in their box tops immediately.

  • As a child, I had a kid crush on from the sitcom, Day By Day.

  • When I had to go to work with a parent on a snow day, I would bring my computer games and install them on the computer of whichever coworker was out. I once installed Savage Empire on four different official USDA computers before finding the one with the VGA graphics.

Border smuggling game stirs controversy
Deaf dog gets sign language training
Robots to get their own internet

tagged as lists | permalink | 4 comments

Monday, February 11, 2013

Weekend Wrap-up

Here is a round from a game of Telestrations, played on Saturday night with the Ahlbins and the Smiths. The game is like a round-robin Pictionary / Telephone hybrid.

Yum!

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

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Changes Day

as traced through historic February 12 of 12s


February 12, 2007: My couch is no longer weirdly positioned against this wall, resulting in the 48" TV being directly over the front window.

February 12, 2008: Ella is no longer this small.

February 12, 2009: Mike no longer lives in DC and can no longer pop by for Steak Night with Booty.

February 12, 2010: We no longer have this much snow in front of our house, though I am greatly anticipating Thursday's winter storm watch.

February 12, 2011: We no longer play poker because everyone is having kids, INCLUDING THESE PEOPLE!

February 12, 2012: Rebecca no longer sits in my office all day long memorizing bones.

tagged as 12 of 12 | permalink | 0 comments

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Memory Day: Snapshots

This picture was taken sometime in 1982 on the Mall in DC. My sister is eating a bag of vendored popcorn -- a rarity since later in life we were constantly taught that buying food at a venue or 7-11 is never as cost-effective as buying more of it at the grocery store and bringing it along.

As for me, I look like one of those chubby toddlers with too much world experience that you might see in a National Geographic photojournalism spread about southeastern Asia. All I'm missing is a cigarette.

tagged as memories | permalink | 3 comments

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Review Day: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

There are no major spoilers in this review.

As many of you are aware, I've never been a big fan of the original Star Wars trilogy, which ranks up there with Super Mario 64, Half-Life, and the movie, Birdman, on the list of things where the over/under is overrated and underwhelming. I also tried watching Episode I twice and fell asleep both times during a pod race so I have no opinion on the remainder of that trilogy.

Rebecca, on the other hand, grew up watching the original trilogy with her cousins repeatedly on VHS, so I got her the movies on DVD for Christmas in preparation for Episode VII. With sixteen years of distance since the last time I saw them, I was finally able to distill what exactly I dislike: the movies are just a hodge podge of transitional scenes that inevitably melt into something nearly resembling a plot, like chocolate on a shelf obeying the laws of gravity.

It's as if an intern accidentally threw away all of the real footage and they had to make due with only the scenes from the cutting room floor. They could have called Episode IV "Stormtroopers walking down the hall and turning around a corner" and it would have been a truthier title. Coincidence is heavily employed as the primary storytelling technique to get people into the same room to further the plot.

It also doesn't help that John Williams' musical score never shuts up, but I've previously established my expert distaste in that area (source: highly-paid music major).

All of this background material (like 20 minutes of C3PO and R2D2 walking in opposite directions in the desert only to reappear on the same junk ship) serves to lend dramatic weight to the reveal that I actually enjoyed Episode VII. It's not the greatest movie of all time and it essentially cherry-picks the most interesting plotlines from previous movies and rehashes them with a fresh coat of paint, but it was very entertaining. (It also goes well with a beer at the Alamo, where we caught the movie three days before they stopped showing it, like the trendsetters that we are).

Episode VII has a modern sensibility to it, given room to be overtly humorous without camp while almost (but not quite) overdoing the sentimental callback "winks to the audience". The music was a good mix of old and new that did well at supporting the visuals without getting in the way. I also appreciated that this was a tightly-edited 2 hour affair which didn't put my ass to sleep via an unnecessary montage of Hobbits, Horcruxes, or pirates coming back to life.

The new actors, consisting of a fake Keira Knightley (do British actresses ever close their mouths?), a fake Dennis Haysbert, and a fake Mark Ruffalo, stand up well against the returning actors, and are all interesting enough that I'd watch a couple more movies about them. Greg Gunberg manages to sneak in a cameo as well, like he does in all JJ Abrams productions. There are several plot gaps that could become plot holes if not addressed later, but they didn't diminish my enjoyment. I presume they'll be filled in during the next movies, unless someone hires Damon Lindelof on as a writer.

Overall, The Force Awakens succeeds at the visceral popcorn level, which is all that I needed from it as a Star Wars-hating philistine. It won't change your life, but it's worthwhile as a fun diversion.

Final Grade: B+

tagged as reviews | permalink | 1 comment

Monday, February 11, 2019

Census Day Results

Congratulations to Katie, who wins a $10 Amazon gift certificate for "showing up" for the census! Send me an email and I'll deliver it to your email in return!

There are definitely more lurkers in the ether that did not reply -- over the coming years, I'll have to see how high I need to increase the value of the prize before people start coming out of the woodwork.

Also, Evil Mike is welcome to choose a new adjective for his handle (should he want one), having outlasted Good Mike.

tagged as website, contests | permalink | 6 comments

Friday, February 11, 2022

First Impressions: Fallout 76

Fallout 76 is a pared-back multiplayer version of Fallout 4, offering you fun, shallow way to explore the world after nuclear war, this time in West Virginia instead of Boston. Released three years ago to uniformly awful reviews, the game has continued to improve with major content updates. I picked it up in a $10 Steam sale and find that it scratches the "explore, shoot, loot" Fallout itch quite well so far.

The game engine is the same as Fallout 4's, so many of the previous game's bugs and annoyances linger, like a cumbersome menu system where keys like Esc and Tab are overloaded poorly. There are major graphical improvements, though, and the choice of West Virginia as a setting offers much more impressive verticality. It's fun just wandering around admiring the scenery even without a clear goal in mind. Building layouts feel much more natural for exploration rather than just shuttling you from beginning to end.

Although the game is billed as an MMO, I play it as a single-player game. Each server is sharded to a couple dozen players (a real post-apocalyptic world probably wouldn't have 1000 players sitting around an auction house) which is just fine for me -- gaming is not a social activity for me so it's nice seeing other players only rarely. There some light survival systems (spoiling food, radiation, needing to eat and drink occasionally) which I find unobtrusive and enjoyable.

The questing system is okay, but made confusing by the regular content updates (Elder Scrolls Online had a similar problem). The original game had no NPCs and all questing was handled through recorded messages. A major 2020 update to the game added NPCs and many new quests organized around the conceit that a year has passed in-game. Having the original quests and the "year later" quests side by side (and sometimes auto-starting based on where you wander) results in some very weird story beats.

So far, at level 20, I'm having lots of fun just discovering new locations, killing mutants, and wandering through the wasteland with Appalachia Radio on in the background. There doesn't seem to be a whole lot of depth right now, but for the amount of time I have for games these days, that's just fine!

tagged as reviews, games | permalink | 0 comments

 

You are currently viewing every post from a specific month and day across history. Posts are in chronological order with the oldest at the top. On the front page, the newest post is at the top. The entire URI! Zone is © 1996 - 2022 by Brian Uri!. Please see the About page for further information.

Jump to Top
Jump to the Front Page

OLD POSTS
Old News Years J F M A M J
J A S O N D
J F M A M J
J A S O N D
J F M A M J
J A S O N D
J F M A M J
J A S O N D
J F M A M J
J A S O N D
J F M A M J
J A S O N D
J F M A M J
J A S O N D
J F M A M J
J A S O N D
J F M A M J
J A S O N D
J F M A M J
J A S O N D
J F M A M J
J A S O N D
J F M A M J
J A S O N D
J F M A M J
J A S O N D
J F M A M J
J A S O N D
J F M A M J
J A S O N D
J F M A M J
J A S O N D
J F M A M J
J A S O N D
J F M A M J
J A S O N D
J F M A M J
J A S O N D
J F M A M J
J A S O N D
J F M A M J
J A S O N D
J F M A M J
J A S O N D
visitors since November 2003