This Day In History: 02/18

Monday, February 18, 2002

The pedagogy test this morning was nothing unexpected. Actually, the questions on the test were probably more straightforward than any class discussion we've had all year. I'll probably start working on my "Concerto form" presentation sometime soon -- the presentation date is about a month from now.

This past week was a pretty listless one. It was one of those weeks where I didn't have the motivation to do anything for more than a few minutes at a time. It's something that happens a couple times a year for me, and usually just takes a renewed interest in some major project to get me back out of it. Alternately I go buy a game and play until deadlines can no longer be safely pushed off.

I got a new CD last week, Chick Corea's Now He Sings, Now He Sobs from 1968. It's trio work, and it's interesting because it has Chick on an acoustical piano. I'll have to listen to it some more and see how I like it.

Gosford Park was last week's pick for Movie Night™. It's one of those movies where things just happen, possibly without any bearing on the main course of the movie. When you finally get up two and a half hours later, you look for some grand point but find that it just peters away, as unobtrusively as it started. Maybe I'm just an ethnocentric American, but I just didn't grasp or appreciate the subtleties of the movie, and definitely don't see how it earned a nomination for Best Picture. It wasn't bad in an "asphyxiate yourself to avoid more of The Thin Red Line" way, but more of an "impatient American needs more Clue and less Jane Eyre" way.

"The modern composer is a madman who persists in manufacturing an article which nobody wants." - Arthur Honegger

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Tuesday, February 18, 2003

There was an article about Professor Rating sites on CNN which piqued my curiousity, so I looked up a few old professors that I had at Virginia Tech. The first I found was a CS professor I had for CS1704: Intro to Data Structures in 1997. His comments section is pretty much dead on -- it was his arrogance and personality (that continued to show up in other people in the field) that made me leery about having a career in CS in the first place. I remember thinking, do I really want to work with a guy like this for the rest of my life? Luckily, post-undergrad opportunities showed me how skewed the population is on campus versus in a company.

The second professor was the one I had for a year of written theory and five years of trumpet lessons. It too is dead on, although I'm not sure I want to know why that rater has been in college for 9 years.

Top 15 Funniest Ratings on RateMyProfessors.com:

  • 15. Emotional scarring may fade away, but that big fat F on your transcript won't.
  • 14. The movies he shows are so bad even he has to leave the room.
  • 13. Miserable professor - I wish I could sum him up without foul language.
  • 12. Instant amnesia walking into this class. I swear he breathes sleeping gas.
  • 11. BORING! But I learned there are 137 tiles on the ceiling.
  • 10. Not only is the book a better teacher, it also has a better personality.
  • 9. Teaches well, invites questions and then insults you for 20 minutes.
  • 8. I would like to dequeue her stack.
  • 7. Not a very nice woman. I'd even go so far as to say she's frightening.
  • 6. Very good course, because I only went to one class.
  • 5. He will destroy you like an academic ninja.
  • 4. Bring a pillow.
  • 3. Your pillow will need a pillow.
  • 2. If I was tested on her family, I would have gotten an A.
  • 1. She hates you already.

My favourite is #5, but I'd be denying my aberrant sense of humour if I didn't mention that I think #8 is hilarious.

The Hand Puppet Movie Theatre

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Wednesday, February 18, 2004

The new windows will be installed in four to six weeks. In the meantime, I'll be transporting all of my books and papers and non-daily gadgets to the house. It looks like I'll be moving around the end of March or so.

A year ago today, I posted the top fifteen funniest comments on RateMyProfessor.com . It looks like the site's longetivity has been established -- I never expected that I'd have steadily produced news posts since 2001. Mike's blog is up to three months now -- that's like twelve of his normal length projects.

Yesterday's notable search terms:

    most villains bible red hair, quickest way to germinate a bean, most popular shoplifted items, how much eighth notes equal a quarter note, lost temple tricks, insane governess, snakes head flew off, band director wave arms, aeneas trip to underworld -.com, christy kull, ddt poisonous death

Soldier's Husband Accused of Death Hoax
How to Name a Street
A Fulton County jury delivered its blow to the little kicker this week.
Rumsfield Fighting Techniques

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Friday, February 18, 2005

I finally watched Donnie Darko last night, the cult favourite that was released to little fanfare a few years ago and rereleased this week as a Director's Cut. It was a very interesting "figure it out yourself" movie and I see what was going on in it, but it would probably take me several more viewings to really understand the plot completely (if that's possible). Check it out if you like psychological thrillers and metaphysical topics like space-time paradoxes.

Man fined for imitating a car
Where not to leave your laundered cash

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Memory Fragments Day

♦ Back in the days when Chompy wasn't an agoraphobic recluse like Sigourney Weaver in Copycat, we used to take her to various locales that passed as parks around Tallahassee, where she'd do her best to escape. Once, she broke free and did a 100 yard dash towards the nearest highway. Since smokey Mike had the lung capacity of a third clarinetist in marching band, I had to pursue, and tackled her mere feet from the road.

♦ In fourth grade TAG class, there was a chubby black kid with thick glasses who we could always get a rise out of by telling him a bee was chasing him. He would flail madly about with a squealing voice like a saxophone mouthpiece. Once, he gave an oral book report on Dear Mr. Henshaw, and the class couldn't stop giggling about the way he sounded when reading the title.

♦ When my parents and my sister were driving to All-District band in 1994, they hit an animal that ran away before they could see how it was. The next month, someone was talking to a girl who lived on that street and asking about her new black puppy. She replied that it had been hit by a car a month before and died. I still don't know if it was the same incident.

♦ When we were in Paris last year, the subway stations were plastered with advertisements for the latest American movie that should have had a "straight-to-trash" release, Step Up 2 The Streets. The French savvily distilled this nonsensical title into the most important aspect (chicks dancing) and retitled it Sexy Dance 2.

♦ As a child on road trips, I had an unhealthy fascination with the road atlas. Before I reached the age where I could actually mimic our route, I invented my own route by tracing any given road across the page. When I hit the end, I simply turned the page and kept going. At some level, I probably grew up thinking that Arizona was adjacent to Arkansas.

♦ In 1997, I got tired of my composition professor asking me to introduce more wrong notes into my music, so I creatively honked out a violin sonata as ridiculously wrong as I could make it -- it was not a subtle satire. To my surprise, he loved it. I then showed it to one of my high school music teachers who loved it even more, and asked me to rewrite it for her oboist son. I hope it was never actually performed.

Share a little memory in the Comments section!

Man gets 20 weeks in jail for whistling
Cat saves life by detecting a tumor
Burglar caught with his pants down

tagged as fragments, memories | permalink | 8 comments

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Review Day

There are no spoilers in these reviews.

Inglorious Basterds:
I liked Reservoir Dogs, but otherwise remain ambivalent to all of Quentin Tarantino's output (including the occasional places where he's being quirky in front of the camera and calling it acting). Pulp Fiction was mostly retarded, and not in the "heartlessly mocking people with disabilities" way, but in the "this is just plain stupid" way. I also fell asleep halfway through the second part of Kill Bill. With my backstory firmly in place, I was surprised to find that I liked Inglorious Basterds, which is an alternate reality take on pieces of World War II. Despite being 2.5 hours long, the movie kept my interest throughout, and when the action was slow, the tension was high. The attempts to mix 70s blaxploitation interludes in were jarring and failed miserably for me, but otherwise I would call this movie a success.

Final Grade: B+

24: Redemption:
This 24 movie takes place in a 2-hour window between the 6th and 7th season, but comes off as more of an extended episode (still in real time) than a movie event. The pace is uneven -- it takes most of the first hour to gain momentum, and the last half is just good enough. As a standalone affair, it's weak. We don't really need to see Jack Bauer in the forests of Africa saving orphans, but as a segue between seasons, it methodically does the job it sets out to do: introducing season seven characters and showing how Jack got from his situation at the end of last season to where he is in the beginning of the next. For fans only.

I have also started watching the seventh season, and the first three hours feel fresh and exciting.

Final Grade: C-

Braid:
This is one of those artsy-fartsy indie puzzle games with a story that you don't actually read, pleasant graphics and sound, and an interesting twist on affairs. In Braid's case, you can never die, because you can hit a button at anytime to rewind the action to an earlier point in the level. In later levels, time (and enemies) move forward when you go right, and backwards when you go left, some objects are unaffected by time travel (like Richard Alpert), and going back in time releases a shadow version of yourself that retraces your steps back to the present.

Though it's a novel concept, my brain just doesn't work in this way. If you give me a puzzle where you have to get Mel Schlemming home by turning on a toaster with an alligator, I'll tackle and enjoy it, but when the rules of the puzzle are at a meta level like the flow of time in the game, I just get stumped and open up a walkthrough, or go back and play Portal again.

Final Grade: C-

Woman keeps largest rodent as pet
Smelly passenger removed from plane
Microsoft rickrolls network leechers

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Friday, February 18, 2011

List Day: Things to Look Forward To

  • Kitchen Remodeling in May
  • A trip to the Brightwood Farm B&B in March
  • 2/22 Tuesday
  • Delivery of season four of The Guild
  • A nap
  • Beach Week in July
  • A trip to Arkansas in April for a wedding
  • Additional weddings out the ass
  • Buying a new grill in the spring
  • Having more free time to devote to the URI! Zone
Clown congressman messes up first vote
Suspended teacher defends critical blog
Ugandan President may release rap album

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Monday, February 18, 2013

Weekend Wrap-up

  • On Friday afternoon, we went out to lunch with one of my coworkers. I learned that "2" on the Taste of the World spiciness scale is more like a "9" in base BU.

  • I cleaned out several files in the file cabinet, including a complete set of weekly Convocation programs from the VT Music Department from 1996 - 2001. I only kept the ones with my name in them, because they might be worth something some day.

  • On the electric bass, I can play the bass line from the Super Mario Brothers 2 overland theme in C major.

  • I'm learning the Python programming language from a book written for college freshmen. It's actually refreshing to find a book that ties the language to computer science fundamentals, rather than having 20 pages of syntax and 500 pages of copy-pasted library references stolen from the Internet.

  • I had a swiss-shroom burger at Red Robin on Saturday night.

  • Rebecca is currently learning about a variety of genetic diseases that PTs often encounter. Since we share the office, I heard "Thank goodness you don't have [disease]!" every hour.

  • I made several under-the-hood changes to the URI! Zone on Saturday, upgrading to Spring 3.2 from 2.0, and making it easier for me to track down old posts.

  • I finally got tired of Borderlands 2 and am half-heartedly playing Skyrim again. Any PC game recommendations?

  • We watched There's Something About Mary over steaks last night, and found that it's held up very well for being 14 years old now. I was not a fan of the Extended Version, but then again, I don't think I've ever watched an extended or director's cut version of a comedy and thought it was better than the original. Those failed jokes were cut for a reason.

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

First Impressions: Hearthstone

Hearthstone is a new turn-based card game based on the setting and characters of World of Warcraft. It's currently in free open beta (downloadable from battle.net), and has a lot of promise. The game has a simple set of rules that frames a reasonable strategic depth, and a shallow learning curve that eliminates the need for taking an academic semester just to enjoy your first game.

Warcraft fans will appreciate the amount of lore worked into the game, but there's still a fun card game under the hood for casual gamers -- it would be just as fun with any other intellectual property as a theme. Maybe not LOST though, because you'd just play the card to send your opponent skipping through time and then win with regret in your heart for having invested so much time with so little payoff.

Hearthstone apparently has a lot of similarities with Magic: The Gathering, another card game that I never got into for two good reasons:

  1. It seemed financially irresponsible to play a game where you buy new decks of cards every few months because the old ones expired.

  2. I went to high school before the Internet. If you were a geek, you didn't go to a convention -- you just kept that noise under wraps.

The goal of the game is to play cards that ultimately reduce your opponent's health to 0. Cards are a mix of one-use magic spells and minions that will do your fighting for you. Each card has a mana cost, and each round gives you a little more mana to play your more powerful cards. Rounds feel very logic puzzle-y as you try to eliminate your opponent's minions while keeping as many of yours alive as possible, and the fact that the game is online means that you aren't wasting momentum checking simple arithmetic (was bowling fun before computers?). Unlike Monopoly, there's a good balance between real strategy and random chance, so even an amateur has a fighting chance in every encounter.

There are 3 options for playing: Practice mode against the computer, Play mode where you construct your own card deck from the best cards you have earned, and then use it against a random player (earning gold so you can buy more cards), and Arena mode where both opponents pay gold to challenge each other with equally random decks for gold and bragging rights. The game is free-to-play, although you can elect to pay real money to buy card decks faster, or jump into the Arena more often.

Based on about a week of play time, I'm enjoying Hearthstone. It requires minimal commitment, maybe 10 minutes per game, and the turn-based approach means that I don't automatically lose due to my aging reflexes. The whole package playfully captures the Warcraft vibe well -- unlike other recent Blizzard games, it has not been irrevocably polished into boredom. The smaller development team has crafted a game that's slightly unpolished, but obviously built with love, and the game runs equally well on my desktop and game-crippled laptop. The UI is really the only annoyance -- there's a little too much clicking in the menu screens, and the chatting interface is supremely awful. Blizzard regularly fails at anything social, though. The only way that could be worse would be if it required you to login with a Google+ account.

Initial Grade: B+, worth a try!

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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Memory Day: Snapshots

This picture was taken twenty years ago today, on February 18, 1995. As a member of the marching band, we were required to volunteer in the annual George Washington 10K race around Alexandria. A clarinetist named Rebecca is on my right, and a trumpeter named Mike Stafford is on my left.

The standard operating procedure for the 10K race was to give all the band kids a reflective vest and a flag, and then plant them in front of every driveway along Eisenhower Avenue. Our only instructions were to prevent drivers from leaving establishments during the race, to minimize the number of runners hit by cars.

Luckily for us, the entire trumpet section was assigned to several driveways very close together that all led into the same industrial park. This park was obviously shut down for the weekend (and the closed metal gates confirmed this), so we spent the entire race goofing off and having sword fights with our safety flags.

No one died, so it was a good day.

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Thursday, February 18, 2016

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

The Lego Movie (PG):
This movie is great as a visual spectacle and full of witty one-liners for adults, but less effective as a kid's movie. It's too visually chaotic and with a so-so plot that resonates more with people who played with Legos in their youth. If six-year-old me were watching it, he'd think it was pretty cool but lose interest after about 20 minutes.

Final Grade: B

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (PG-13):
Having never read a single Tom Clancy book, I went into this movie knowing nothing at all. It's ultimately a harmless action movie with a few good sequences held back by a bit too much of an "origin story". Keira Knightley costars as a needy physical therapist who starts dating her patient, which Rebecca tells me is a big no-no. Free on Amazon Prime.

Final Grade: B-

Black Mirror: White Christmas:
This 70 minute "Christmas special" from the Black Mirror series was a perfect blend of creepy and thought-provoking. Where each of the previous episodes explored a single near-future concept, they somehow managed to tightly coil 3 separate, strong ideas here. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: A

Canon Powershot SX270 HS:
This camera satisfies all of my hobbyist needs. It has a profile similar to the ELPH series (so it still fits in my pocket), but is denser than lead and features substantially better image quality and stabilization. Changing from Auto to P is restored to a mechanical wheel on the back of the camera, so I no longer have to waste hours tapping through software menus. This is a slightly older camera, but its 12.1 megapixels look much better than the more recent 16 megapixel options I've compared to. The only thing holding it back is that it requires yet another Canon battery size, making it the 4th type of battery in the past 4 cameras. Also, I had to purchase the international version because Canon has retired this line in the US, but the only difference was the lack of a printed manual in English.

Final Grade: B+

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Monday, February 18, 2019

Paint Day

As a delayed Valentine's outing, we did another paint'n'wine outing at Pinot's Palette. Here is the original:

See if you can figure out which half is mine and which half is Rebecca's!

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Friday, February 18, 2022

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

The Expanse, Season Six:
The final season of The Expanse waffles on how final it wants to be. While there is a great conclusion for the main characters of the show, there are many other scenes that see no resolution and are completely wasted (such as every scene on the planet of Laconia). I also got really tired of the character of Filip Inaros, who constantly looked like he was trying to boil a kettle of water with his stare. I enjoyed the show for the most part and would probably give the series as a whole a B-. It's worth struggling past the super-slow first season to get to some of the later good stuff. Free on Amazon Prime.

Final Grade: B

Silicon Valley, Season Six:
The formula for this show hasn't changed a bit (crass, over-the-top skewerings of Big Tech and West Coasters), but this is a really fun wrap-up for the series. The way the writers tied everything together was wonderful, and the "flash-foward mockumentary" style used in the series finale worked really well. This is a series I might watch again on the treadmill some day.

Final Grade: B+

Happy Endings, Season Two:
The second season of this show was uniformly awful, feeling like every other shallow sitcom out there. We only made it about 8 episodes in before promptly forgetting about it, and it's now collecting dust on top of the DVD player. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: Not Graded

As We See It, S1:
This is a new show about three roommates on the autism spectrum navigating life. It balances the funny stuff and the heartwarming stuff very well. I told Rebecca that it was kind of like an anti This Is Us, a show that exists only to melodramatically tug at your heart strings -- here, the emotion feels real and well-earned. Free on Amazon Prime.

Final Grade: A-

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