This Day In History: 04/09

Tuesday, April 09, 2002

Authors of Yesteryear, Part II of VI

In the seventies and eighties, John Bellairs wrote fifteen books with a mix of supernatural, science-fiction, religious, and treasure-hunting elements. He effectively did the Harry Potter schtick years before it became mass-marketed. Bellair's books were divided into three series by main characters, his protagonists being Lewis Barnavelt, Anthony Monday, and Johnny Dixon. Although his emotions were poorly written, they were good enough for young readers, and the sharp dialogue and genuine suspense more than made up for it.

Bellair's first book, The House with a Clock in its Walls was a receipient of the Newberry Award, and the chapter about being pursued by the twin white discs which were the eyes of a dead witch was the first truly scary writing I'd read as a kid. All of his books were fairly formulaic, but had a very deep attention for details, both on the Catholic faith and the supernatural. Despite his knack for ghouls though, I think my favourite book was Treasure of Alpheus Winterborn, a tale of a treasure hunt in the public library building with no hint of the supernatural. On the third point of the writing triangle was Trolley to Yesterday, which was really something of a historical fiction set in the seige of Constantinople (and just happened to include time travel and Egyptian gods!)

Sadly, John Bellairs passed away in 1991, but several more of his sketches were turned into complete stories by Brad Strickland in the nineties. For more information on John Bellairs, or to take a trip down memory lane, visit The Compleat Bellairs .

Tomorrow: Lloyd Alexander

I finished updating all the scores and MIDI files from the pep band collection I did a few years back. The book contained a few legally arranged works that have become standard high school pep band charts, and then a smattering of original works in the same styles of popular charts (to get around arranging fees). It wasn't particularly intellectual, but it was fun and challenging to write in so many different styles. Here's an MP3 of the Latin Rock example, Giblets (MP3, 498KB), and the Gospel Rock example, Easygoer (MP3, 964KB). The main restrictions I worked within were that the piece had to be under a minute, and playable by a reduced marching band set. The titles are all nonsense, fairly evenly spread across the entire alphabet to facilitate memorization and quick indexing. More MIDI files from this collection can be found on the Music page.

Girl attacks flasher with his own zipper
Cat attack now described as 'hate crime'

tagged as memories | permalink | 0 comments

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

I've been hard at work on the MFIT project since last night and it's essentially complete now -- I just need to clean up some code and add some documentation. I'll post more about it tomorrow when it's a complete package.

Booty has lived in my apartment for one full month now. In sixteen days, she'll be six months old, so we can take her out drinking and such. You can see how much she's grown in the new photos on the Photos page.

I read a funny article about the state of Alias yesterday, complete with a diagram outlining all the characters before and after the post-Super-Bowl plot simplification. You can read the entire article here . The next new episode isn't until April 27th, so you're safe from my nagging about watching for the next two and a half weeks.

Composers earn big bucks after death

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Friday, April 09, 2004

We have a new game with the cats where we drop something into the stairwell and they catch it. Here is a movie showing these complex rules in action:

Stair Game (2.8MB WMV)

This weekend, I'll be doing more house stuff as is par for the course. I've unpacked everything to the right room, so now it's a matter of organizing the rooms themselves. I'll do another video walkthrough when everything is pristine, probably in a few weeks.

Yesterday's notable search terms:

    appreciating the symphonic structure, pimp force, facts about how many countries could fit inside walt disney

Smart cars for drowsy drivers
Fun in the petting pool

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Monday, April 09, 2007

Baby Day

If you missed the big blinking baby bulletin I posted over the weekend, Ben and Anna's new football now has her own website at baby.urizone.net. This is a brand new site that I painstakingly created from scratch on Friday night, and any resemblance to totally unrelated sites like their 2005 wedding site is completely coincidental and not trademark infringing.

At the current rate of inflation, college tuition costs in the year 2025 are expected to be approximately $25,000 (per semester, in-state). To help defray these costs, Eleanor Grace Ahlbin has already started to appear as the spokesbaby for many household products and services.

If you have any other endorsements that might benefit from the unique, subtle charms of an Ahlbin-baby, please contact Eleanor's agent directly.

The reptilian brain lives on
Please go salvage my sister's home
Someone's getting 10 feet of nicotine

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Thursday, April 09, 2009

Weird Search Day

or "how I stumbled upon the URI! Zone"

  • hokie mascot hire for weddings

    For a limited time, you can have the Hokie Guy officiate your wedding for only $3999.95. (Hokie Pokie not included in the base price).

  • ben stiller inpersonal of josquin phoenix
    It's possible that you were searching for Ben Stiller impersonates Joaquin Phoenix, although I wouldn't put it past Ben Stiller to make a biographical movie about Josquin des Prez, set in modern-day Phoenix.

  • applebees reuses chicken fingers
    This is part of Applebee's new green strategy, borrowed from the American Indians who used every piece of the buffalo. Like all environmentally-conscious restaurants, they grind up all the leftover bits of chicken fingers from peoples' plates and sell them to McDonald's as 100% White Meat nuggets.

  • chipmunk tunnels flooded my basement
    Wasn't this the plot to the sequel to Caddyshack? If not, then someone is missing out on some prime Hollywood script material.

  • pictures of yoshi pooping on the toilet

    You're welcome.

  • what is the success rate of elopers
    It would seem to me that people who elope stand a pretty good chance of getting married, unless they are being chased by zombies, grizzly bears, or the paparazzi.

  • if my husband penis smell like raw fish is that a sign that he is cheating on me
    Yes. And if you're having salmon for dinner, I'd recommend thoroughly washing the filets, just in case.

  • "mike catania" mold photography
    Mold photography should be Mike's next short-lived hobby, to go with aquariums, martial arts, and Settlers of Cataan(ia).

  • i need to pee and i'm tied up pictures
    If you're tied up so securely that you can't make it to the bathroom, how ever did you get on the Internet?

  • Helpful hints for kicking the meth habit?
    Easy enough -- just visit the Faces of Meth website that shows what you'll look like after meth is done with you.

  • my gerbille barely moves and has just ate its companion yahoo ansews
    This isn't just limited to gerbils -- I'm sure you'd feel pretty immobile after having your significant other for dinner too. We don't need Yahoo to answer this one.

  • Jack Bauer & Morgan Freeman voices on answering machine message

    I'm guessing someone confused Morgan Freeman with Dennis Haysbert, although it's a solid conspiracy theory that Morgan Freeman might actually play every black role in Hollywood. The script for this answering machine message would involve Jack Bauer yelling, "Damnit! There's no time to leave a message!" after which the machine would hang up on you without recording.

  • stuffonmywife
    This is going to be the sister site of stuffonmycat.com, and will display pictures of sleeping wives with nonsensical everyday objects unknowingly stacked on their heads.

  • where did the saying when birds fly low expect rain and a blow originate
    Storms occur in low pressure weather systems, and Bernanke's principle proves that air pressure around the wings makes it much easier to fly. When birds are flying through low pressure areas (like the calm before a storm or the suburbs) they have to flap harder to stay aloft, so they get tired much faster. When you see low-flying birds, you know that they're very tired from all the flapping, so you can expect a storm. And with so many low-flying birds, chances are very high that someone will get hit in the back of the head by one. Thus, the blow.

  • Arrests made after arson shows up on YouTube
    Bacon sandwich really does cure a hangover
    Chimps exchange meat for sex

    tagged as website, searches | permalink | 3 comments

    Friday, April 09, 2010

    Job Security Day

    Today is Jack Wilmer's last day at FGM: like a weather balloon in the troposphere, he is upwardly mobile, moving from being my boss' boss at FGM to being some sort of technical director at DISA. Since his last game of Pictionary involved the phrase, "Was that a baby? I thought it was a pumpkin," we will hope that his new position involves a minimum of blindfolded drawing.

    The going away lunch is at M&S Grill, so I'm going to attend and hope the company foots the bill.

    In other news, DDMSence v1.1.0 is now available.

    Neighbour still in hot water for loud sex
    Typo costs prisoner an extra three years
    Fast food nixed at military base

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

    Monday, April 09, 2012

    Work Day

    I have now worked 99 of the 100 days in 2012. The outlier was Farm Day. We should be wrapping up this week, after which I can reclaim my life-work balance for the rest of the year!

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

    Tuesday, April 09, 2013

    Music Tuesday

    For your musical enrichment, here is an aleatoric piece my Mom wrote in music school 42 years ago. It was A material.

    Carol Burgtorf
    T315
    Assignment due May 4, 1971

    Title: TACTUS 1 (GHOSTS)

    Necessary Personnel: One human being whose pulse will be continually monitored by another, the conductor, who will simultaneously beat time at the heartbeat rate; three pianists who all sit at one piano; a four-part mixed chorus.

    The piece will begin: when the conductor can establish a clear pulse rate for a tempo.

    Event Approximate number of heartbeats (may be determined by conductor) Text and/or music levels (text in italics) Directions for Performance (conductor will indicate when each event begins and ends)
    I. 10 high and low pitches Pianists will hold loud pedal down and shout or sing into piano strings often enough to sustain echo.
    II.
    6
    4
    supernatural noises
    loud
    soft
    Sopranos will decide upon and make appropriate groans, screams, etc.
    III. 40 supernatural noises continue softly.

    "Amidst the mists and coldest frosts" low and sepulchrally
    Basses repeat text over and over at one heartbeat per syllable and on one note. Each bass to determine his own pitch and entrance time.
    IV. 6 V-I-V-I-etc., chord seequence in one major key, softly Pianists choose key, making chords as full as possible with their 30 fingers, changing chords only on a beat (duration of each chord not limited)
    30 "with stoutest wrists"
    "and loudest boasts"
    Tenors declaim either text phrase heroically, in any rhythm. Pianists continue chord sequence throughout this.
    V. 6 tone clusters in deep piano register Pianists stop V-I chords and begin playing clusters in tempo, continuing while altos sing.
    4 "He thrusts" not too high a note One alto sings phrase once on one note, sustaining the tone until end of this section.
    4 "his fists" one step higher than first phrase note Second alto on this phrase, in the same manner as first alto.
    4 "against" one step higher than second phrase note Third alto on this phrase, same as above.
    4 "The posts" one step higher than third phrase note Fourth alto on this phrase, same as above.
    4 Now all four altos are singing together. Pianists stop.
    VI. Now the person whose heartbeat is being monitored will begin to increase his heartbeat rapidly by running in place, breathing into a paper bag, or any other arduous method. During this time:
    - "And still insists" relatively high Soprano soloist sings phrase three times, slowly and on any anguished melody.
    moaning Everyone beings to moan very softly while soprano is singing, then falls silent.
    - "He sees..." Soprano sings phrase once, suspensefully.
    VII. Person stops exercising and, ona signal from conductor, the entire chorus screams the long-drawn-out words: "The gho-o-o-o-sts!" going from high pitch down to low one.
    VIII. Conductor determines new rapid pulse and, with this as a new ever decreasing tempo (i.e. as heartbeat returns to normal)
    40 "and still insists he sees the ghosts" whisper Chorus repeats phrase over and over in unison and at the decreasing tempo, two syllables per heartbeat. Chorus members begin to leave stage when they get tired of repeating above phrase.
    IX. Conductor leaves stage, leading his pulse-maker by the hand unless he doesn't want to go. Pianists may either leave or begin a three-handed jam session at the piano.

    tagged as music | permalink | 5 comments

    Wednesday, April 09, 2014

    Time-lapsed Blogography Day

    Twenty years ago today, on April 9, 1994, I was the sophomore coxswain for the Men's 3rd 8 on the crew team. The 3rd 8 rowers were not good enough to be in one of the first 16 slots. However, our crew team was so big that we also had a 4th 8 and a 5th 8, so we were spared the ignominy of being the worst boat. Only in Alexandria could you put together a crew team with 40 guys on it.

    After waking up at 5:30 AM, my parents dropped me off at the high school before departing with my sister for the day to visit UVa (where my sister would be attending in the Fall). The team piled into school buses and went down to the Occoquan Reservoir, where we screwed the riggings onto our boat and went for a run. At 10:15, we finally headed out on the water for our race.

    Our race went good. From lane 1 to 5 it was: Hylton, Langley, Potomac, us, Woodson. Woodson got a small head start because of the wind. The race was 1500m long. At the 500, we pulled ahead of Potomac and got into second place. We only worried about Woodson from then on. Woodson was slightly ahead of us the rest of the way down but they were scared a few times. We finished five seconds after they did. We beat Potomac by ten seconds and the other two schools by over a minute.

    High from our second place win (which was about two places higher than we normally did), we were greeted at the docks by the Women's 3rd 8 in unitards. After derigging the boat, the rowers walked out to the finish line to watch other races, while I did my antisocial thing of getting back on the bus and programming calculator games. Although the races were over by 2, we didn't leave for another hour because the bus driver had decided to walk off for a smoke and no one could find her.

    I made it home before my parents, but learned that the hidden spare key no longer worked on the door, so I had to wait out on the back porch for a couple more hours until they returned from Charlottesville. For dinner, we ate lamb and rice which, according to my journal, "tasted mildly okay".

    tagged as memories | permalink | 0 comments

    Thursday, April 09, 2015

    First Impressions: Amazon Echo

    I received my early edition of the Echo, Amazon's voice-activated assistant, in the mail yesterday. I had signed up for an invitation several months ago, and purchased it on a whim in February for the following reasons:

    • I'm rarely ever on the cutting edge of technology, mainly because the cutting edge tends to have a disproportionate dullness for cost vs. utility.
    • I was curious to see if the Echo could truly become a central hub for daily activities as envisioned, or if the novelty would wear off immediately like an above-ground pool.
    • The $99 price point for Prime members was much more palatable than the full $199 price point, and is right about the point where I wouldn't feel guilty if it ended up sitting on the shelf gathering dust after the novelty has worn off (see also, Rebecca's Kindle Fire) or got pushed off of the kitchen ledge by a fat cat.

    Setup of the Echo is painless, and even more streamlined than setting up a Fitbit. You must have WiFi available and Amazon assumes you'll have a smartphone for its (optional) Echo app, but thankfully there's a web-browser version for desktop dinosaurs like myself.

    After 5 minutes of setup and voice training, the Echo sits there unassumingly waiting for a command. This is the point where you'll try all of the voice commands listed on the cheat sheet for lack of better ideas (like "Tell me a joke" or "Set a timer for 1 minute"). Voice recognition is impressive (less so when there's enough erratic ambient noise, like Rebecca clearing the dinner dishes) and works even ten feet away without any need to raise your voice. The integration of information lookup (like "How many ounces in a cup?" or "Wikipedia: Abraham Lincoln") is well-done although nothing that Siri hasn't done before.

    Over the course of the night, the Echo batted about 0.7 for correctly understanding what we were saying and then responding in the correct context (you can see a history of your commands in the app and provide feedback about accuracy):

    • What is malbec? "Mulberry is a city in Polk County, Florida."
    • How do you spell Onomatopoeia? "Onomatopoeia is spelled: O. N. O. M. A. T. O. P. O. E. I. A."
    • What's the weather? (gave me the weather forecast for Sterling)
    • Play some dinner music. "Playing the Classic Rock Dinner Music playlist from Prime."
    • Play Car Talk. "Playing The Best of Car Talk podcast via TuneIn."
    • Play my Mark Ronson Pandora station. "Playing your Mark Ronson station on Pandora."
    • Like this. "Saving your rating on Pandora."

    The Echo is much better at being a voice-activated music player, with direct access and control over your Pandora stations, Amazon Cloud stations, and free Amazon Prime Music. You can pick from your existing stations, create new ones, browse your music, or just ask the Echo to search for any artists or genres it knows about in Prime Music. I appreciated the sound quality from the Echo's hefty speaker, which wasn't as good as patching my laptop through an HDMI receiver, but was much better (and more convenient) than the over-treble associated with playing from a laptop alone. The Echo also has access to tons of radio stations and podcasts, and correctly streamed WAMU after I said "Play NPR". One downside to Pandora integration is that you can't skip the ads -- on my computers, I haven't heard an ad in years thanks to AdBlock.

    It should also be noted that voice input is sent INTO THE CLOUD for command processing. Although you have to use a predefined wake word to activate the microphone (hopefully you don't have family members named Alexa or Amazon) and the device lights up when it's listening, there will always be a slight ick factor about knowing that your "bidness" is out in the world, and a potential for hacking or abuse down the road. This doesn't really bother me, as my fourteen years of daily blogging have already eliminated any possibility that I could run for public office without the added scandalous knowledge that Booty and I have long conversations about cat stuff. However, you should be aware of privacy concerns before you buy.

    First Impression: A promising piece of tech, mostly for its musical potential. I'm still on the fence about whether it will remain impressive after the novelty has worn off.

    tagged as reviews | permalink | 2 comments

    Monday, April 09, 2018

    Weekend Wrap-up

    Maia enjoys the plane ride (90 minutes) north.

    Introduction to Chickens: A Survey Course

    Fresh eggs!

    Pretty sure this travel crib is haunted.

    A cold walk along Calf Pasture Beach.

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

    Friday, April 09, 2021

    Review Day

    There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

    OK Orchestra by AJR:
    AJR's latest release is pretty solid -- well-sampled beats with introspective lyrics about peoples' awkward younger years. BANG! is a good example.

    Final Grade: B+

    Utopia, Season One (UK):
    We started this dark conspiracy show (the UK version not the more violent US remake) amidst a dearth of other TV options. It's fine when nothing else is on but not spectacular. Lots of exposition dumps slow down the pace and the characters aren't particularly interesting in their own right. We've been stalled on Episode 4 of 6 for weeks now and haven't had much incentive to pick it back up.

    Final Grade: Not Rated

    The Attractions of Youth by Barns Courtney:
    I first heard of Barns Courtney through Glitter and Gold. This album is full of similar, catchy tunes.

    Final Grade: B+

    On to Something by Von Smith:
    I picked up this solo album based on Von Smith's collaborations with Postmodern Jukebox. There are a lot of cool ideas in these songs yet none of them really "radio-ready" pop songs. Changing tempos and contrasting styles (within the same song) abound. Carnival of Life is a good example.

    Final Grade: B

    tagged as reviews | permalink | 0 comments

     

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