This Day In History: 02/19

Tuesday, February 19, 2002

I think the next topic in my yearlong learn-fest will be MIDI orchestration -- taking advantage of the full capabilities of the format rather than using it to perfectly recreate acoustical music. It's been awhile since I wrote anything for straight MIDI. While I was doing some research on the SC-8850, I was surprised to see that the MIDI composition world is still alive and thriving. Ever since its inception, "real" musicians have tended to scoff at MIDI, but it can be fun and creatively-inspiring, since you're removed from the constraints set by classical composition and serious music.

I found a new copy of Conker's Bad Fur Day for the N64 in a bargain bin. It's the game that gained notoriety last year for being rated Mature in an age where Nintendo was (and still is) known for its kiddie-oriented titles. Other than the shock value, there's really not much about the game that's offensive, and there's actually a decent game beneath the gimmicky exterior. It's a little surreal to hear a bunch of cartoon animals swear at each other in a Nintendo game though.

Tomorrow is another round of incipient pedagogy class.

"Never compose anything unless the not composing of it becomes a positive nuisance to you." - Gustav Holst

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Wednesday, February 19, 2003

One thing I'm going to miss about leaving music as a career is the relative cost of books and research materials. As a software engineer, you have to constantly keep up with new technologies, and the books required to self-teach those skills can run anywhere from $30 to $60. For my current project, I have eight books on different langauges, programs, and technologies on my shelf. All of them will be speaking to others at some point in the life of the project and none of them are replaceable (I even have a ninth book on the way from Amazon that covers some spots I was shady in). For the cost of just those eight books, I could have eaten seventy-two delicious meals at Popeye's, or rented eighty-six movies at Blockbuster.

It's true that music supplies are expensive too, but there are only so many books you can buy on orchestration. At the end of the day you can rest assured that no one's going to suddenly discover a new note in the ass crack between B and C that's never been heard before. CDs cost a fair amount as well, but you can listen to those indefinitely. When I finish my project, I'm not going to go back and read my textbooks for pleasure while eating potato chips in a hammock.

My job is like War Games
Google as Big Brother

tagged as music, programming | permalink | 0 comments

Thursday, February 19, 2004

I'm quickly reaching a backlog of interesting news posts, so I thought I'd take today to catch it all up. This also allows me to post a bare minimum of witty original material, since I can rely on stupid people in the news for my updating fodder.

Yesterday's notable search terms:

    hounds on an island, rachmaninoff "sounds like", nuclear launch detected, jennifer ada holland, what is the meaning of "the best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up", chart of flat flat and sharp sharp scales

From the stupid people department:

Oven reaches breaking point; opens fire on couple
Damage control is not a resumé requirement for coaches
High school teacher sold guns in his drive-thru beer shack
Pepsi's iTunes Giveaway has one minor flaw
Vick charged for being dimmer than his brother
Hard heads a key to survival

From the crime and law department:

Teen finds his picture on missing children's Web site
RIAA sued under gang laws
Hawaiians could eat with their dogs
Maximum Exposure means just that

From the Interestyng Spyke department :

Alpacas to the rescue
Space station falling apart. $12 billion needed soon.
Music students learn the art of the scratch
Patient doesn't trust banks or digestable currency
How to sabotage your opponents' tan lines
The audience cheered loudly whenever she pronounced a particularly daunting technical term properly.

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Monday, February 19, 2007

Happy Presidents' Day

Please take a moment to bask in the greatness of America's most revered Presidents:

  • Chester A. Arthur
  • William Henry Harrison
  • Warren G. Harding
  • Updates will resume tomorrow!

    Milli Vanilli to get the movie treatment
    Paraglider survives 32,000ft fall
    Four-legged duck

    permalink | 1 comment

    Tuesday, February 19, 2008

    Furfuraceous: (adj.) Covered with scaly particles, such as dandruff

    My Composition (0:30 MP3)

    This was a rather peculiar word, and one that I'm not liking to be using in a news post anytime soon. However, the image of dandruff inspired an itchy, scratchy, shaky feeling and suddenly I had a light Latin feel to work with. This one's for percussion, marimba, flute, cellos, and trumpets.

    Happy Birthday Gammy!

    Man starves himself in treehouse
    Mdame made millions in magic cheese con
    Falling fiddler fractures million dollar violin

    tagged as museday | permalink | 2 comments

    Thursday, February 19, 2009

    Review Day

    There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

    Scrubs, Season Seven:
    Last year's writers' strike pooped on this show a fair amount, and only 11 episodes appear on the DVD. However, that can't take all of the blame for this lame season. I felt the fifth and sixth seasons were already running low on ideas but still enjoyed watching them because it was Scrubs -- an inclination I did NOT feel this season. With the primary characters exhausted for storylines, the focus turns to secondary characters who were funny in bit parts, but tedious with extra exposure. The order of the shows makes no sense either -- the season finale was written to appear two or three episodes earlier (before a major character's plotline changes) but shown out of order, both on TV and on the DVD.

    Final Grade: D+

    How I Met Your Mother, Season Two:
    This season is a slight improvement over the first, favouring more character humour than cheesy sitcom humour. It's immediately apparent that you still will not meet the "mother" anytime soon, and that it just provides a backdrop for the other stories to take place. Good, harmless fun.

    Final Grade: B+

    The Digital Photography Book by Scott Kelby:
    My favourite types of instructional texts are those that are just a series of unrelated tips and tricks, perfect for those with ADD. This book does that well, and matches it with a pragmatic "dont need to know all the technical aspects" approach. I probably won't ever use most of these tips in day-to-day photography though, and the book loses a few points for lame humour.

    Final Grade: B-

    The Musical World of Boublil and Schonberg:
    This book is a biography / interview-style book about the composers behind Miss Saigon and Les Miserables. It's not perfect -- it spends a little too much time hyping their most recent (forgettable) productions, but the sections on compositional technique and the challenge of writing cross-language lyrics were interesting, even if you don't know the source material. I will probably never read this book again, though, because Amber honked all over it after I finished. Like many other URI! Zone denizens, she hates musicals.

    Final Grade: B

    Man with half-empty tank discovers that it's half-full
    Google Maps car hits a deer
    Lego pharoah floats down the Thames

    tagged as reviews | permalink | 0 comments

    Friday, February 19, 2010

    Friday Fragments

    a goofy keychain in the Cracker Jack box of life

    ♠ Now that all the major home renovation is done and there are no further rusty nails to remove from my basement, I thought it would be the perfect time to renew my tetanus vaccination, which has lapsed like a bottom drawer gift card ever since I went to summer camp in 1991. I got the new booster at the same time as a Hepatitis A vaccine to ward me from all the hep cats I will meet traveling next month.

    ♠ As a result of the shots, my shoulders are both swollen up like one of those short, self-conscious body builders at the gym. Until the white blood cells can quell the civil unrest in my deltoids, I could easily get a fast start out of the gates in a Winter Olympics sport of my choice.

    ♠ We watched a minor amount of Olympic hubbubbery, even though it required us to turn to channel 4, which hasn't happened since Friends was on the air. The competition in the sports that I saw were not particularly awe-inspiring, and the recycled metal medals looked ridiculous, like crudely hammered devil banes you might find in the special traveling Smithsonian exhibit titled, "Old Crap".

    ♠ The commercials in the Winter Olympics were more boring than the snowboarding, and no one was on a horse. To pass the time between rounds, we Rebecca flipped over to The Bachelor, where the finalists were narrowed down to some chick with an annoying voice named after an Orange Line Metro station, and another with an annoying voice named after a Red Line Metro station (and in a surprise ending, the third finalist got to go home with Joe Millionaire).

    ♠ Back when we were all living in Tallahassee with nothing to do, we actually gathered at Mike's (of Mike and Chompy) house to watch Joe Millionaire. Where did all the free time of our youth go? This was also a period where I would rent four movies per weekend and finish them all by Sunday.

    ♠ Speaking of movies, for Valentine's Day, Costco-Sterling was combining their stock of old movies into "His-Hers Valu-Paks" (because printing the "e" lowers the valu). Unfortunately, I saw at least one bundle with a His movie of The Italian Job and a Her movie of The Transporter. Maybe chicks just dig Jason Statham.

    ♠ Plans for the weekend include a little work and some taxes. I might also get around to redoing my will -- now that I'm married, I need to remove Mike (of Mike and Chompy) as the sole beneficiary before he takes an opportunity for murder. Finally, we'll continue planning our trip to Puerto Rico, which is only ten days away!

    ♠ Have a great weekend!

    School used student laptop webcams to spy on them at school and home
    Mechanical bull tougher than it looks
    Robin Hood charged in identity theft

    tagged as fragments | permalink | 2 comments

    Tuesday, February 19, 2013

    List Day: Software Versions

    I miss the halcyon days when software updates were only 1 MB, Adobe Flash did not need to update every five minutes, and Java didn't come bundled with the Ask toolbar (because real net savants only use BonziBuddy). I tend to get stuck on the last version before the first version that sucked, and never go back to see if more recent versions are better.

    • I'm still using AIM 5.1 from grad school, because it was the last version that also worked with DeadAIM 3.2.1 to put all my IMs in tabs. I only use IM for work now anyhow.

    • I'm using Windows 7 because it came pre-installed, and I like it more than Vista but less than XP. I hate that they changed "Backspace" to "previous folder" rather than "up one directory level" back in the Vista days, and still haven't gotten used to it.

    • I still use NoteTab Light 6.2 for text editing, even though it crashes on large files. I started using it for all of my dangerous PHP and Javascript website editing before Eclipse existed, and stuck with it because it remembered the last directory you saved things in, and had a shortcut for MAKING EVERYTHING UPPERCASE. This is a useful shortcut for HTML editing and being dramatic.

    • I finally bought a copy of Photoshop CS4 after using old versions of my Dad's software for many years. I find it no better than Photoshop 7, and dislike that it installs all of its cousin products like a secret tenant.

    • I still use WinAMP 2.7 from college, when its tagline was "WinAMP, it really kicks the llama's ass!", because its Random All function works exactly how I want it to.

    • I use Word 2010 after giving OpenOffice an honest chance for four years. The latter is good enough for grandma's recipes, but horrible when you collaboratively work on documents with other Word users. Surprisingly, I finally got off of WordPerfect sometime around 2009.

    • I'm on Firefox 18.0.2, in spite of its ridiculous versioning cycle, solely for AdBlock and Firebug.

    • I bought Finale 2011 and hate it, but no earlier versions work with Windows 7. Finale 2011 does nothing better than Finale 2002 except add a bunch of poorly-designed garbage to distract from how bad your music sounds.

    Any software I should consider upgrading? Has something finally got better? Should I be using something different? Let me know in the Comments section!

    tagged as lists | permalink | 3 comments

    Wednesday, February 19, 2014

    Memory Day: Snapshots

    This is a photo of my Mom attending my housewarming party 10 years ago (I am now a Sterling decader, which isn't as cool a title as Decatur decader, but results in a much nicer place to live). Apparently I lived in an arboretum. Rest assured that 80% of those plants were ultimately ripped from the ground and replaced with sidewalks.

    tagged as memories, media | permalink | 6 comments

    Thursday, February 19, 2015

    Review Day: The Talos Principle

    There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

    The Talos Principle is a first-person puzzle game from the creators of 2001's Serious Sam. Although it's not amazing or addictive, it's a very pleasant way to spend a few laid-back hours solving cerebral puzzles.

    There are almost too many puzzles in this game: 3 worlds with 7 lands each, containing an average of 5 puzzles per land, not to mention a neverending array of secret puzzles. It's possible to burn out if you play too many back-to-back, but it's perfectly paced for doing a puzzle or two in very short gameplay sessions.

    The puzzles run the usual gamut of 3D puzzles, and generally involve aiming lasers, moving boxes, dodging robots, and turning on the power to various switches. Once you know all of the rules, the puzzles are logical and deviously clever, but a few of the earlier puzzles suffer from poor explanation of the underlying concepts, relying on your continued experimentation instead. It doesn't help that the puzzle chambers are massive and full of dead space -- it makes it harder to determine what is relevant to the solution. If you get stuck on an early puzzle with no obvious way to proceed, it might help to know that some unexpected things are capable of having other things stacked on top of them.

    The game is wrapped in a heavily-thematic story about consciousness and existence, but it comes across as a humourless Portal and is mostly forgettable. However, it does give a passable background for why you might be solving all of these puzzles, and serves its purpose.

    The world is graphically excellent and runs smoothly on my old graphics card, and the soundtrack is a muted New Age mix that made me recollect Myst. Overall, I made it about 2/3rds of the way through the game (10 hours or so) before losing interest, but I came away with a positive impression of the game.

    Final Grade: B+, great if you like puzzles and greater if it's on sale

    tagged as games | permalink | 0 comments

    Friday, February 19, 2016

    Data Day: Real Estate Assessment

    Loudoun County real estate assessments continue to tick back up, but don't get too comfortable. Financial trends often mimic patterns found in the natural world and it looks like we're long overdue for another decline, if the Matterhorn can be trusted:

    tagged as data | permalink | 0 comments

    Monday, February 19, 2018

    Data Day: Subjects in My Instagram Posts

    If you would like to see additional pictures of babies and cats (all of which eventually end up in my Google Photos albums at the end of the month), you can follow me on Instagram. My username is the very clever "brian.uri".

    tagged as data | permalink | 0 comments

    Wednesday, February 19, 2020

    Review Day: World of Warcraft Redux

    There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

    The WoW Diary: A Journal of Computer Game Development:
    This is a fun look into the development of the original World of Warcraft (2000 - 2004), written by one of the original designers of dungeons and indoor spaces. It's only mildly technical and worth a read for anyone who has fond memories of playing WoW. It gets a little repetitive towards the end but is a fast, pleasant read throughout.

    Final Grade: B

    World of Warcraft in 2020:
    Out of nostalgia for the glory days, I resubscribed for a month of WoW to see what has changed. The answer? Nearly everything. Skill trees are replaced by change-anytime Specializations and Talents (a la Diablo 3) and everything has been streamlined as much as possible to get you to max level. All of the new features are cluttered by detritus from the old, like 800 class trainers scattered all over the cities that no longer serve any purpose in the game.

    Logging into old characters results in a confusing hieroglyphic of the few remaining skills on your Action Bar that haven't been replaced and about 30 seconds of glowing notifications while the game grants you the 200 achievements you missed. One of my characters actually leveled up just by walking from a mailbox to an auction house because of some new exploration zone overlayed on an old location.

    It's too complex to jump back in after so many changes, so I started a few new characters to learn like a new player. A change I'm ambivalent on is "world scaling", where each zone scales up or down to match your current level. While this lets you quest at your leisure without ever outleveling the quest rewards, it opens up cheese tactics like getting 10,000 experience points for a starting area quest to kill 5 boars, and prevents you from ever running through an old zone without getting attacked by a spider. Animations feel just a little bit more unstable than they used to, with damage done to monsters half a second before your character reacts.

    I ultimately quit again after just two weeks. There has always been a conflict between the leveling process and the endgame, and Blizzard has made leveling easier so more people can sit around at level 120. This implicitly takes the fun out of a huge chunk of the game. When you gain levels so fast that you don't even have time to enjoy your current gear or get comfortable with new skills (I went from level 38 to 46 in about 4 hours of questing), you don't get a chance to appreciate the world as you go, and you rarely have an incentive to talk to real people. "Rush to the end where there's nothing to do" is so ingrained in the gameplay now that they might as well remove level 1- 119 altogether.

    After canceling Warcraft, I reinstalled Elder Scrolls Online for a free-to-play, solo-friendly experience that's so much prettier looking, and have enjoyed playing it in spurts between drywall installation and Maia care.

    tagged as reviews, games | permalink | 1 comment

    Friday, February 19, 2021

    Review Day: A Summoning of Demons by Cate Glass / Carol Berg

    There are no major spoilers in this review.

    A Conjuring of Assassins is the second book in the Chimera series by Carol Berg, writing under the pen name, Cate Glass. (I also reviewed Book One, An Illusion of Thieves last year). The author delivers a satisfying, self-contained story that can be appreciated on its own, but doesn't push the overall series forward in a significant way.

    A Summoning of Demons is the final book in the Chimera trilogy by Carol Berg, writing under the pen name, Cate Glass. (I also reviewed An Illusion of Thieves and A Conjuring of Assassions). I enjoyed every aspect of this book (the pacing, the plot, the author's slyly humorous writing style, and character relationships) except for the fact that it seems to bring the series to a premature conclusion.

    The plot kicks off immediately into overdrive, with the Chimera team hired to investigate an unusual marriage contract. The author adds a layer of complexity to the "heist" feeling with the introduction of Donato and Livia, two wonderfully-written supporting characters that constantly force the Chimera team to reassess their biases and plans. The level of danger feels much higher than in previous books as the team's tactics don't always succeed this time around.

    The world-building continues to impress, with the Italian Renaissance vibe of Cantagna so well-realized that it's almost an extra character in the story. There are also plenty of answers to lingering lore questions from previous books. This is why I was so greatly disappointed when I reached the final page -- the book's plot is self-contained and wrapped up neatly but I'm left with a huge investment in a world whose greater themes (the evil of sorcery, sorcery versus nature, and the truth behind religion and mythology) are left without enough closure to satisfy me. While there's a lot to be said for leaving the audience wanting more instead of running an idea into the ground, I was nowhere near ready for the story to conclude.

    Still, I shouldn't review what ISN'T there -- Perhaps there are reasons outside of the author's control for stopping after three books or maybe her intent was always to conclude by emphasizing the intimate, close-knit bonds of the Chimera team over a grand good versus evil extravaganza. I loved reading this entire trilogy (and many other works by the author) and recommend it completely, even if I'm disappointed that Book Three is the End!

    Final Grade: B+

    tagged as reviews | permalink | 0 comments

     

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