This Day In History: 03/10

Sunday, March 10, 2002

While doing research for my Game Music Week last month, I stumbled across zDoom, an application which allows you to play the original Doom games in Windows with added 3D features . This makes the Doom games (which are all DOS dinosaurs) play at higher resolutions and seem like Quake or Unreal. So when not doing other things these past few weeks, I played through the "official" ninety-six levels of Doom 2. It's amazing that I can remember very little from a Combinatorics class taken two years ago, and yet I still have an encyclopedic knowledge of all the secret zones in the Doom levels. Playing zDoom inspired me to dig up the old deathmatch WADs I created in high school and write about them -- you can find this new section on the Games page.

This past week, I also played and beat Ultima VII Part 2 again, thanks to another helper application which allows both "Voodoo Memory"-based Ultima games to work great in Windows. I think it's still one of the best roleplaying games ever made. Sometime this summer I'm going to archive all my old games on a single hard drive with all the copy protection and DOS bypassers, just for nostalgia's sake. There's actually very few games that I didn't beat at one time or another, and most of those are from the past few years.

I finished the book Effective Java yesterday. Despite the pricey cover charge, it was a really good reference manual. The book is written by an architect who actually worked on much of the Java API, and covers elusive use topics not normally found in Java books. Most books teach you how to code in Java, or show how to use the API, but very few books actually discuss non-class specific implementations to any great amount, and this book fills that gap nicely. Next up is Design Patterns which cover designs and solutions for problems which aren't language-specific.

tagged as games | permalink | 0 comments

Monday, March 10, 2003

If you use AOL Instant Messenger, you might be interested in a free third-party add-on called DeadAIM . It's a small unobtrusive download that removes all the clutter from the Buddy List and also allows Tabbed Messages. Tabbed Messages are right up my alley since I enjoy the tabbed interface of Netscape 7 -- it makes all of your simultaneous chats appear in a single window, with a tab for each person you're talking to.

My thesis has been submitted to the Office of Graduate Studies, and the School of Music only lost my clearance form once this time. As far as I know, everything official has been submitted now for my graduation -- my remaining responsibilities include six more weeks of teaching and finishing my MFIT project. Before the weekend, I did some more work with the student files and then got bored and started tinkering with an applet to play Tetris.

Musicians' strike dims Broadway's lights
Fast porn will be commercially viable
Police found more than 75 marijuana plants inside a house after a woman who lived there mistakenly called 911 instead of 411.

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Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Yesterday was a long day. I got up at 5 and decided it was too cold to be up, so I went back to sleep until 6. Then, I worked from home until around 9 or 10 after a shower and a bagel, and drove to the office at the tail end of the rush hour. It still took four cycles to get through the light at Old Ox Road. I also signed up for phone service at the new house, and it looks like my number will start with 4444. At work I did some research into top secret sub atomic particles that emit photon beams and quantum teleport to Petropavlovsk, and then left for the house around 2. I did some sanding and some closet painting until my hands were tired, and then went home at 6. At that hour, it took me an hour to get back to Centreville, instead of the usual fifteen minutes at midafternoon. I also stopped by the Spellerbergs' house to say hi and see the new puppy, a yellow lab named Tally. When I finally reached the apartment, I played with the hungry meowing cats and watched some shows in syndication. At 9, Ben, John, Heather, Anna, and I rolled across the street to Glory Days for a later than usual dinner. Around 10:30, I came home and went to sleep.

Today's update has been written in the style of Mike Catania .

Yesterday's notable search terms:

    spark notes for something upstairs, sv.ghost - error, another word for pine sap, theme from mash, how to exterminate japanese beetles

Last weekend, I saw Van Wilder. I thought it was a little funnier than Old School. I also saw Radio, a standard emotionally manipulative feel-good movie. Cuba Gooding Jr. plays a mentally retarded man which hides his lack of acting ability.

$1 Million Bill leads to arrest
CNN always picks useful pictures to support stories
[T]he board said they were "displeased" with [university president accused of plagiarism] Judd after he acknowledged using the oscillating headlights on his state car to pull over a motorist who he believed was speeding.
Follow-up to last year's story: Girls Gone Wild is not porn

tagged as day-to-day | permalink | 2 comments

Friday, March 10, 2006

Friday Fragments

Where pop culture and no culture collide

  • Bimonthly trips to the Burke Branch library were regular parts of my childhood existence. As a wee'un, I always checked out the tape/book combos that came in those ragged plastic bags with the white plastic rack hook. The most frequently borrowed book was the one where Cookie Monster sang "C is for Cookie". Later on, I regularly checked out D'Aulaires Book of Greek Myths which was a massive hardback tome of illustrated myths (I had a Greek Myth fetish as a child). I must have checked that book out at least once a month.

  • I also tried the Norse Mythology book by the same author with the same illustrated gimmick, but it just wasn't as cool. Norse myths are rather boring after growing up with Greek ones. The names were cooler though. I may name my firstborn child, Thor for kicks. Uri!, Thor is ready for social studies, Miss Adams!

  • Social studies was such a joke class. We actually had textbooks in first grade that taught us that sharing made for a better community. Language Arts was always fun though, because of the story textbook containing all the stories you were to read over the course of the year. I used to read the book for pleasure reading and then the teachers would get pissed off two months later when they didn't have a lesson plan and forced us to read quietly during class and I had already read it. The only two memories I have of the stories now: The third grade reader was called Mystery Sneaker and had a footprint on the cover, and the eighth grade reader had a very cool story called Lenigan Versus the Ants about a man that singlehandedly saves his farm from swarms of fire ants in Mexico.

  • The other thing teachers back then did when they had no lesson plans (aside from the classic "let's watch a movie of the book we just read") was to have kids read plays. Listening to barely literate classmates reading a play was easily one of the most painful experiences possible -- I always tried to not have a role so I could just read ahead and ignore the glacial pace of the class participation. My eighth grade English teacher caught on to my tricks though, and assigned me the role of the Not So Angry Man in Twelve Angry Men (Juror #4, I believe) which meant I had millions of lines on every page. It took our class longer to read that play than it took the movie Unbreakable to have a point, and we didn't even have Samuel L. Jackson to entertain us.

  • Samuel L. Jackson's next movie, Snakes on a Plane is coming out this summer. What a great title .

  • As a kid, my parents made us read for two hours a day on the weekend. It was at this stage that I read and reread all those Beverly Cleary books. Whenever I turned in my Reading Is Fundamental lists showing how many pages I'd read, the teachers would never believe me at first. R.I.F. was fun because you got to turn in your little reading award for pizza at Pizza Hut, which meant I could sit at the tabletop Pac-Man game and pretend to play it (we never went to the arcade as kids because they were "a waste of money", and we didn't even own a Nintendo until two years after it came out). R.I.F. awards were almost as good as getting on the Honor Roll at Hammond Junior High, which got you fifty-cent games of bowling at the alley across the street.

  • When we "studied" bowling in eighth grade gym, I was still too small to use the lane's eight pound balls, so my dad bought a red six pound ball with Mickey Mouse etched in the back, which I brought to school every time we went bowling. I still have that ball in the basement, but now I use nine pound balls. I haven't been bowling since I visited Philip and Kelley in Blacksburg back in 2002 -- I'll have to arrange a local bowling bonanza sometime soon.

  • Amazon tempted me with a free trial subscription to Amazon Prime for the next three months, which gives me free two-day shipping on all purchases. After the trial, which ends in June, I'd have to pay $80 a year, which I probably won't do. The Amazon Prime membership extends to up to three other people living in my household, so if you go ga-ga over free shipping, maybe we can work something out. You could be my indentured servant and make dinners for me in exchange for three months of free shipping.

  • No big plans for this weekend other than a little poker and a little certification work. Maybe I'll go bowling or buy a cat. Or, maybe I'll just stay in bed all weekend long and finalizing my plans for taking over the world. Have a great weekend!

  • Cat comforts grieving orangutan
    Walmart suspects terror in Bush photo
    Police don't notice dead man or live dog

    tagged as fragments | permalink | 13 comments

    Monday, March 10, 2008

    Five Years Day

    Fifteen Years Ago Today... I was a tiny bespectacled freshman at Francis C. Hammond Junior High. Tonight was the City Fine Arts Concert, so my Wednesday afternoon lesson with Jack Dahlinger (a retired high school band director who loved to play duets all lesson long) happened at 4:30 instead of 7:30. Lessons on concert and recital days were always great because you could use the concert as an excuse to not do anything strenuous -- "I have a two-measure solo tonight in Londonderry Air and I don't want to risk a lip-blowout so lets play some more duets instead of that etude".

    The concert itself was a big sham -- all the feeder elementary schools to Hammond converged on the old Hammond gym (before the buck-toothed-dinosaur-head construction ) and played two or three ridiculously easy songs with the Junior High band. One of the songs was definitely Let's Go Band, and had the gym been any bigger, it would have been like a low-budget Peach Bowl halftime show.

    Ten Years Ago Today... I was in the second semester of my sophomore year at Virginia Tech (living with Beavis). Because Virginia Tech has historically been incapable of putting Spring Break IN THE SPRING, the first or second week in March was always vacation time. In 1998, I was back home in Alexandria increasing my street cred by hanging out at the high school. March 10th was the first icebreaker meeting for kids who wanted to audition for High School Drum Major . I volunteered to teach a new set of clowns every year for four years and during the first meeting, I always had to weed out the ones that couldn't walk backwards without falling over or shatter the dreams of the ones who thought that being Drum Major would get them lots of women (it does not).

    Five Years Ago Today... I was in my final year as a graduate student in Music Composition at Florida State. My thesis had been defended on 03/03/03 at 3:30 PM, which is almost as cool as anything related to 222, so I essentially had two full months of classes left with no real responsibilities. (I had to teach, of course, but mostly we watched music theory movies like Leading Tone of Doom or Hawaii Five-One or played games where we tried to guess which music students did NOT smoke pot). With so much free time, I decided to buy a kitten. On March 10th, 2003, Kathy came over to see the cat and decided that she should be named BOOTY, because she had booties on her paws and because she shook her booty when playing with her shoelace. (This exact same shoelace is currently on the floor of my living room).

    After that, we went to one of the various bodies of water with Wakulla in the name for a canoe outing with Chompy (the human) and his brother, Steve. The evening was ended with Chinese food and multiple games of Super Smash Brothers Melee. Kathy, who was already bored with the "video games" phase (which followed the "paint stuff" phase and the "Scrabble" phase as attempts to ease the Tallahassee Boredom) soon quit to play with Booty some more.

    Today... I am a software engineer living in Sterling with a mortgage, two cats, and a penchant for losing at poker. I took the day off to celebrate Commonwealth Day (UK) and Labour Day (Victoria), figuring that it would help my Europe immersion. And, Rebecca is home!

    Happy Birthday Skippy!

    Criminalizing Home Schoolers
    A man's six-pack is his castle
    The face of DHS looks a little pale

    tagged as memories | permalink | 5 comments

    Tuesday, March 10, 2009

    Shoe Day

    Yesterday afternoon, I finally found a new pair of brown shoes on the clearance rack of DSW. For years I've been looking for a comfortable soft-leather pair under fifty bucks that aren't dotted with ridiculous seams or resembling the tasseled loafers every high school boy wears to church, and these were so comfortable that they felt just as broken in as my old shoes.

    Thus ends the journey of my old brown shoes, purchased for $19.95 at the Chantilly Payless in 2002, back in the days when I always wore tennis shoes and needed something a bit more classy to project a professorial air while teaching. In that time:

  • The shoes travelled to Tallahassee, Florida and roamed the halls of Cawthon and Kuersteiner. They ran through the ghetto on the night that I drove a drunk Justin Barron home from Jim Barry's house.

  • They travelled back to Virginia to the Elms in Centreville for a year, where Kitty would always stick her face in them because my feet smelled so delightful.

  • They became my defacto heavy labor shoes in the new house in Sterling, back when the pair of sneakers I'd purchased turned out to be horribly uncomfortable (and I was too cheap to get a new pair).

  • I ran through Georgetown in them once, when I was running late for pit duty in The Mikado at the Ellington Center and misjudged just how atrociously people drove in DC.

  • I wore them to Philip's wedding, where I ate all of his shrimp.

  • I wore them to Kathy's wedding, where we drank all of her beer.

  • I wore them throughout my trip through England, France, and Spain, despite the fact that they destroyed my knee and turned me into a hobbler for most of the trip.

  • I wore them when I got engaged.

  • I wore them every single day last week at work.
  • Seven years isn't bad for a $20 pair of shoes!

    Zoo chimp planned stone attacks
    Meet Marijuana Pepsi Sawyer
    Escaped inmate caught sneaking back into jail

    tagged as memories | permalink | 2 comments

    Wednesday, March 10, 2010

    List Day: Eight Puerto Rico Experiences

    1. Wandering along Playa Lucia, and watching a dirty, old, pervert surreptitiously repositioning his car so he could watch the white chick in the swimsuit.

    2. Driving past signs for a Ferreteria and learning, with some dismay, that it is a hardware store, and not a place where you can have ferret for lunch.

    3. Driving back to our hotel near Yabucoa after dark on Highway 3, a G-string width road that wends around a mountain wherever there happened to be space to lay some pavement, and swerving around a grimy, staggering man stumbling up the road against the flow of traffic.

    4. Seeing kids riding a horse bareback along the beach.

    5. Seeing a million cats at one of the forts in Old San Juan, only to discover the "neuter and release" shelter situated at the foot of the fort.

    6. Getting lost in a town called Florida on the south side of El Yunque, and wishing that the roads had names.

    7. Hiking down the landslide-prone road in El Yunque and watching a jail work detail take meticulous care of a half-mile stretch of road that's closed to the public.

    8. Going on a kayak ride in Fajardo to see a bay full of glowing crap and having a shrimp jump in my pants.

    What did you do while I was gone?

    Leviathans may battle in the remote depths
    Break dancer charged with ruining hardwood floors
    The Rise and Fall of a Female Captain Bligh

    tagged as travel, lists | permalink | 3 comments

    Thursday, March 10, 2011

    Release Day

    DDMSence 1.7.2 is now available for download, preempting my webpage update time for today. My library is seeing a steady growth of interest around the US, and a surprising number of returning visitors from Australia and New Zealand. Perhaps this will give me the opportunity to take a trip there for "business" some day.

    Balloon stunt blows up in Gamespot's face
    Millionaire dentist arrested for stealing credit card for pizza
    New microscope creates 3D live action cell videos

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

    Monday, March 10, 2014

    Weekend Wrap-up

    On Saturday morning, while Rebecca worked a partial day, I did some homework for my online Information Security class and then peer-reviewed some other peoples' assignments. I'm not saying that peer-reviewed assignments are of questionable value, but two out of three assignments I graded were identical, plagiarized responses, right down to the pasted Microsoft Word formatting and the broken "IT English" one finds quite often in my field. No one is douchey enough to use "vis-a-vis" in a homework response unless they've pasted it out of a textbook.

    In the afternoon, we took a hike at Keys Gap in western Loudoun with Annie and Marc. The trail was packed with melting snow and Boy Scouts, but it was a novel hiking experience in spite of our literally cold feet. We stopped by Doukenie Winery on the way back, and then had dinner at Lost Rhino Brewery. The meal was good enough, although almost every beer was a bitter beer.

    Sunday was Tax Day, which entailed continuously telling TurboTax that we don't have dependent children who may have worked as a Somali pirate through July 2013 while receiving additional income from a rental tree house on a nature preserve. We ended up owing extra to greedy Virginia, which is actually fine because no one wants to deal with their stupid refund gift cards. In the evening, I taught Rebecca how to play Hearthstone, and then we finished off the second season of House of Cards.

    How was your weekend?

    tagged as day-to-day | permalink | 0 comments

    Tuesday, March 10, 2015

    Sydney Day

    We are temporarily a three-cat household once again, as Anna and Ben explode their pets across the globe like dandelion petals until they can reconvene in a new location that isn't around the corner from murder central in Manassas. Three cats is about one and a half cats more than you should generally have (one cat to keep you company and half a cat to feed the one cat), so we'll see how this grand experiment works out.

    Sydney last lived here ten years ago, having previously moved out with Anna on June 30, 2005. Since then, she's lived with dogs, ferrets, and small children, so obviously she has the street smarts to become the alpha cat in our house of pampered quiet-time push-overs. Booty and Amber are not quite sure what to make of El Diablo hiding in the basement, but hopefully everyone will get along and recreate heartwarming scenes like this one soon.

    tagged as cats | permalink | 3 comments

    Thursday, March 10, 2016

    Review Day: Overwatch Beta

    I've been playing the closed beta of Blizzard's latest game, Overwatch, for about a month now, which is long enough to give it my solid endorsement. Overwatch is a team-based shooter: "team-based" meaning that you'll run into at least one clown daily who thinks too highly of his or her skills, insults the rest of the team for being bad, and then rage-quits in the middle of a match; and "shooter" meaning that your Duck Hunt reflexes are just slightly more important than low network latency.

    A team of six players selects "heroes" from an initially overwhelming cast of characters and competes against another team on typical shooter map types like "King of the Hill" and "Escort the Payload". Matches usually last less that 15 minutes so you can manage spouse aggro. Roles are roughly characterized as offense, defense, tank, and support, but there are enough characters available to come up with interesting team compositions. In fact, one defining feature of the game is that you can switch characters during a match, dynamically responding to the other team's composition when things just aren't working.

    I haven't really kept pace with multiplayer shooters since that one year in college when everyone else on my hall failed out of school because of Quake. Because of this, my weapon accuracy tends to hover around 25% and I sometimes jump off the environment into unexpected bottomless pits. In spite of this, I'm having lots of fun in Overwatch. Gameplay feels loose enough for new players to get started but tight enough to require some mastery, and rare is the match where you can't effect an amazing last-minute comeback through teamwork. I've focused on 3 heroes so far (Mercy, Mei, and Soldier: 76), but all of them feel surprisingly balanced for a game that's still in beta. This is thanks to an obviously passionate development team that isn't afraid to experiment with balance changes and explain exactly why something was changed.

    Overwatch has the unseemly heritage of being Frankensteined together from the detritus of Blizzard's cancelled game, Titan, but this actually gives it much more character and world-building than you might expect to get from a shooty game. The overall design and art direction (exemplified in the Pixar-like cinematic trailer) goes a long way towards making the game feel less anonymous. The weakest part is the cookie-cutter background music which will make you feel as if you're trapped in a Chuck E. Cheese circa 1994, but you'll probably turn down the music to take advantage of the excellent aural cues anyhow. The Blizzard polish makes this a charming, fun package (unlike Starcraft 2 which had such high production values that the end result was sterile and forgettable).

    The initial box price ($40) is a little high in this age where Steam has run game prices into the ground like my World of Warcraft alt who cornered the Enchanted Thorium Bar market for three days in 2006, but the addictiveness and replayability feel high. You can buy fun collectibles after the fact, such as extra emotes, catchphrases, and character skins, but thankfully, you can't buy anything that would give you an unfair advantage in a match.

    All in all, this is an impressive beta game that has continually improved even in the short time I've played it. I'll be grabbing it at release in May unless development takes a catastrophic turn, such as the addition of an Auction House, the reveal that a main character faked his death and became a secret lumberjack, or anything related to Ubisoft's UPlay service.

    Final Grade: Ungraded, but shows immense promise

    tagged as reviews, games | permalink | 1 comment

    Friday, March 10, 2017

    First Impressions: Oculus Rift

    With the millions of dollars gained by selling back 5 weeks of leave from my last job, I decided to get one last pre-adulthood extravagance and purchased an Oculus Rift. Of course, it arrived just two days before they dropped the price by $200.

    Not to sound like a shitty Ted Talk or anything, but virtual reality is finally here. After many false starts like those mall kiosks in the early 90s and awful 3D Televisions, the Oculus Rift is a high quality, consumer-grade solution that will change not only gaming, but also the way we interact with other people online. Using it for just a few minutes gave me a sense of technology awe that I haven't really experienced since the Wii first overpromised its motion controls and the whole world pretended that they had excellent tennis form for hours over Christmas 2006.

    Though a little tedious to setup and a bit tight around the eyes for people wearing glasses, this first-generation tech feels polished enough to be second or third generation, and even runs great on my aged graphics card (GTX 960) which is one tier less than the minimum requirements on the box. The Touch controllers are a must as well, giving you a sensation of feeling and hand presence in the virtual world that the provided XBox controller does not.

    I've been so busy with work recently that I've only had time to play in short bursts in the evening (mainly the free downloadable games available with my purchase):

    • First Contact, Dear Angelica, Gary the Gull, and Dreamdeck provide some nice tech demos that get you acclimated to being in a virtual space.
    • Lucky's Tale is a polished Mario 64 style game where you hover over the game board in a "god camera" view, which immediately nullifies the usual 3D platformer camera issues you would usually expect in a game like this.
    • Robo Recall (and its demo Bullet Train) is a big budget AAA game that comes free with the Touch controllers and shows a lot of promise. Though I haven't played past the first level yet, I'm looking forward to beating up robots.
    • The Climb is a rock climbing game that I purchased with store credit (for being the last loser to buy the Oculus Rift at its original price), and though it seems pretty shallow on the surface, it really drives home the sense of scale and depth possible. My arms are actually tired after climbing up a few mountains, and looking down a canyon almost triggers real vertigo.

    Beyond gaming, sometimes it's just as enjoyable to launch Google Earth VR and stand on top of recreated landmarks like Half Dome or the Eiffel Tower.

    I will do a full review once the hype has worn off, but I'm really sold on VR at the moment. The only drawbacks are when the illusion is broken by real world limitations, such as going out of range of a sensor, or reaching the edge of your physical room and having to reorient back to the middle.

    tagged as reviews, games | permalink | 1 comment

    Wednesday, March 10, 2021

    Memory Day: Snapshots

    This picture was taken in the winter of either '85 or '86. My dad is going through his old negatives and digitizing things, so there may be a new supply of snapshots to post in future months.

    The amount of snow we got in Alexandria in the 80s was abysmal, and creating a snowman usually meant leaving large swathes of ugly grass in its wake. This particular snowman seems to be missing a torso, but that's okay because he can clench his butt cheeks to grip a broom.

    I'm also wearing my Transformer boots, but they did not enable me to turn into anything.

    tagged as memories | permalink | 1 comment

     

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