This Day In History: 04/11

Thursday, April 11, 2002

Authors of Yesteryear, Part IV of VI

Without a doubt, Gordon Korman was my favourite young adult author. Since 1978, he has written a large quantity of humourous books, the most well-known being the Bruno and Boots series at MacDonald Hall. Korman's writing was clear and accessible, and his characters got caught up in genuinely funny situations and dialogue.

In fact, I Want to Go Home (1981) still holds the distinction for the only book that's ever made me laugh out loud multiple times. The book tells the story of Rudy Miller, a dry cynic who is forced to go to a summer camp. He spends the first half of the book trying to run away from camp (which is on an island), and when he finally does, he chalks up a point and returns to try again. I must have read that book at least a hundred times, but unfortunately the book ended up in a giant box full of books I donated to the public library right before college. It's not even in print anymore (like most of his best early works) so I guess it'll always just be a fond memory.

The Korman of the 80s wrote an even balance of books for elementary school kids and junior high kids, starting with This Can't Be Happening at McDonald Hall! in 1978. I got hooked on his books in fifth grade after the school's yearly Reading Is Fundamental fair, where we were allowed to take home one donated book for free. Every year before that, I'd get a book with mazes, or optical illusions, or something with the Berenstein Bears. Since fifth graders didn't go until later in the day my usual stash was picked clean, so I picked up a random book, Beware the Fish by Gordon Korman.

I didn't actually read it for another year, but after I did, I resolved to read each and every book by this author. Even at this time though (1987), many of his books were already out of print. I've still never read Bugs Potter LIVE at Nickaninny, and I only read Our Man Weston after permanently borrowing it from the junior high library. (If that raises your moral hackles, consider the fact that it had been checked out once in the ten years it was on the shelf, and that I still read it every year).

I enjoyed Korman's books so much that it's hard to pick out a favourite. Go Jump in the Pool and War with Mr. Wizzle were two good picks from the Bruno and Boots series, and the antics of Artie Geller in No Coins, Please were also a high point. In young adult books, Son of Interflux and Semester in the Life of an Eleventh-Grade Garbage Bag were both good. After 1992, I lost touch with his books and haven't read any new stories since then, although from the looks of his bibliography, he's focused mostly on series-based mainstream kids books like Nose Pickers from Outer Space. However, I still reread my collection of earlier books every summer. For more information on Gordon Korman, visit the official website .

Tomorrow: John D. Fitzgerald & Zilpha Keatley Snyder

A couple new pep band MP3s before the novelty wears off: Gyrations, the beat example (MP3, 721KB), and Redline Shuffle, which is obviously the shuffle chart (MP3, 721KB). If anyone knows of a marching band arranging gig, I'm there...

Congratulations to Mike Sitania for being the 3000th visitor to the URI! Domain on Wednesday. If I weren't so damned cheap he would get a massive cash prize, but instead he'll have to settle for the revenue from my banner ads.

Here's an April Fool's article on the new hit game, Pimps at Sea from the latest issue of PCGamer. If you follow computer games or game development at all, you'll get a kick out of it (JPG, 280KB).

tagged as memories | permalink | 0 comments

Friday, April 11, 2003

I've decided to learn PHP today. PHP is a server-side language that can be used to add dynamic content to website. Much of the same functionality can be provided with Java servlets, but PHP has the benefit of not being precompiled. So when I'm learning the language, I can just fire up a web browser to test my work, rather than having to compile a bunch of classes and copy them somewhere. I'll try to make some cute demonstration app this afternoon for your amusement.

Update! 1:30 PM: You can now add comments to individual news posts, to express your happiness or dismay on a daily basis. Click on the new yellow button above this post and give it a try! This is just a learning project -- the next edition of the URI! Domain will have a much more robust comments system. Now all the lurkers and readers can come out of hiding and show their ingenious wit.

Jim Barry's Doctoral Recital is tonight at 6 PM in Opperman. Rumour has it that Spoon, Squirrel, Stretch, and Soap will all be in attendance.

All sinners, take ye to Singapore
Where not to Hang the Flag

Have a good weekend!

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Sunday, April 11, 2004

The previous owners forgot to pack their flowers and shrubs, so they're now blooming around the property. For today's Easter update, I've added some more cat pictures on Photos page.

Kitty at the Peepshow (3.7MB WMV)

Yesterday's notable search terms:

    marching band leadership questionnaire, john brown and tita's love in like water for chocolate, green oak worms

permalink | 0 comments

Monday, April 11, 2005

Recently, a Baltimore man protested a hidden installation charge at Best Buy by paying it completely in two dollar bills . This act of disobedience got him arrested and inspected by the Secret Service (see the news story for details).

The part of this that irks me is the reaction of the police spokesman after clearing the customer: "It's a sign that we're all a little nervous in the post-9/11 world." What an idiotic, yet effective, way to pass the blame for a mistake which never should have happened. Next time I get pulled over for speeding, I'll just tell the officer that I felt anxious for my safety in this post-9/11 world and was hurrying home to my bomb shelter.

Man goes to jail for shooting himself
Outlaw blows himself up
Woman sues after "fire pole mishap"

tagged as politics | permalink | 1 comment

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Evolution of a Composer: A Pictorial (Part I of II)

  • In fifth grade (1989) I wrote and submitted my first composition ever, The Proud Beagle for solo cornet. I wrote it for cornet because I played cornet, and I played cornet because my hands were too tiny for a trumpet. This piece won second place in the school's yearly Reflections contest, and my clever sequence of sixths in the B section earmarked me as a tyke to keep your eyes on. (I washed my ear soon after).

  • I didn't write again until tenth grade where the high school pep band had a repertoire which consisted of a grand total of four (4) songs and a power chord someone had made with the leftover whole notes in the music budget. For added shame, one of the songs was called "Bread Man". To remedy this situation, I decided that I would write the biggest book of pep band arrangements in the history of pep bands and avidly wrote to publishers and composers in search of music that could be arranged for zero money down. Remember Return to Zork? It was a retarded video game but it sure had some great brass fanfares (one of which John Williams borrowed to write the theme to Harry Potter). This pep band book was a dismal failure because I blindly rushed into it knowing nothing about any instruments. (For completeness, I DID, in fact, finish the world's largest pep band book in 1998 made up completely of original compositions or compositions that sounded "a lot like" popular tunes but not close enough to warrant a fifty dollar arranging fee . I roomed with Beavis when I wrote most of them).

  • After my junior year, I went to the Governor's School for Visual and Performing Arts (And Humanities Because Virginia Is Too Poor To Give Them Their Own School) for trumpet where I had to write a 16 bar melody for a theory class. It went over so well that they had me turn it into a brass fanfare, which I painstakingly did without a piano or MIDI keyboard -- I had to click one note at a time into some archaic Apple IIgs program. They played the fanfare at the closing ceremonies which was a nice egotistical kick, although the horn players apparently disliked that the fifth note of the piece was a high B. I would later learn a secret in Music Theory classes (which are like Sex Ed classes without the sex) that horn players will protest mightily if they ever have to ascend higher than an F. In my defense, the note WAS an E before it got transposed up a fifth by the Apple computer, so don't blame the composer.

  • Following that stirring experience, I wrote a new song every month for the next year and half -- some more musically sound than others, and some just for fun (Bubba's Fried Chicken Stand). Writing music was fun and novel and I never cared about whether or not my songs would change the world. Occasionally I would send my scores to my old band director for commentary. I really didn't consciously know this melody was a "lift" but I guess I did steal from John Williams. And the circle of life continues...
  • To be concluded tomorrow...

    Blueprints for hijacking Air Force One posted
    Monster bunny on the loose
    Energy, immigration, it's all the same thing

    tagged as memories | permalink | 9 comments

    Wednesday, April 11, 2007

    Memory Day: Dinosaurs! RAAR!

    Every young child has a singular fascination at some point in their lives -- a topic that they simply cannot get enough of, that they consume voraciously like a fat sheikh devouring a stuffed camel. My fixation was dinosaurs (RAAR!).

    There was a period in my life where I would come home from school and spend the entire afternoon pretending to be an archaeologist in a three-square-yard dirt pile next to the house where the sun didn't shine strongly enough to grow grass. I had dinosaur popup books and picture books lining my shelf. I could expertly sort dinosaurs into Cretaceous and Jurassic and Curvaceous, and could recite the foraging habits of the Diplodocus from memory.

    I drew the picture on the right in first grade, and then submitted it to the local Reflections contest the following year. Backed by pure scientific research (and despite the fact that it had two titles, one misspelled, and what appears to be a flame-breathing Loch Ness ancestor in the foreground), I was so sure it would win that I was devasated when it came back without so much as an Honorable Mention. (To ease the pain, I drew my own award label on it, because in bizzaro land, it was worth First Place).

    Most of my dinosaur knowledge came from the Smithsonian. Had I been in charge of things, I would have renamed it The Museum of Dinosaurs and Insects With a Bunch of Other Stupider Museums -- we took a trip to the Natural History Museum almost every time I accompanied one of my parents to work in DC, and the Dinosaur Room and Insect Room were the only two parts of the entire complex that I ever cared about. It was at the Smithsonian gift shop that I got my stuffed triceratops -- it was a lot like the Calvin and Hobbes cartoon where Calvin cons his parents into buying all the dinosaur crap because "it's educational".

    The triceratops was my "main" stuffed animal throughout elementary school. It never had a name despite my family's attempts to give it stupid names like "Tricer" and "Leroy". Because he was such an important belonging, he endured much abuse in his lifetime -- from having his tail dipped in water and being stuck in the freezer by my sister, to getting stolen on Christmas morning and hurriedly rewrapped as "an amazing present that we just found that Santa left behind!" Somehow, the triceratops made it to retirement without losing any appendages (though the stuffing is a little limp in one leg) and now sits on my dresser, where the worst abuse faced is when Booty knocks it off in the morning to wake me up for breakfast.

    It got to the point where even the slimmest connection to dinosaurs would convince me that a particular cereal or TV show or book needed to be purchased and absorbed as quickly as possible. I always tuned in to the Dinosaurs! sitcom with the Not-the-momma baby, and watched Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend ad nauseum. In 1990, Origin released the game, Worlds of Ultima: Savage Empire, and I had that thing preordered nine months in advance. That was probably the longest wait of my life, since my anticipation at playing a game with dinosaurs in it was bubbling over like an unwatched pot of milk and boiling water before you put the instant potatoes in. When it finally arrived, it was a fair to middling game that never fully worked until we upgraded our 386 computer to a 486 the following year.

    By junior high, the dinosaur fetish had become extinct and the millions of dollars in dinosaur paraphernalia was relegated to storage bins, top shelves, and yard sales.

    Don't forget -- 12 of 12 is tomorrow!

    Cramps, high blood pressure, diarrhea, chronic insomnia, larvae infections, dehydration and abrasions caused by the constant rubbing of his wet suit against his skin frequently tormented him.
    White cat bussed to richer part of town
    Murder suspect blasted with water cannon (with video)

    tagged as memories | permalink | 2 comments

    Monday, April 11, 2011

    Questions Day

    In honor of 4/11, and because I didn't do anything noteworthy over the weekend to write about, today is a day where you get to ask questions I'd be likely to answer in the Comments section. Question categories can range the gamut from things about me, night habits of Booty and Amber, or just plain trivia questions that have stumped you for generations (the house is at the North Pole). I will take to most interesting questions and answer them on Friday, unless there aren't any (in which case no one wins a free iPod and I will make up my own questions).

    Chances of winning a free iPod do not improve by submitting questions.

    Woman uses staph infection on arm to rob shop
    We're coming for you, squirrel
    Naked soldier smashes glass to stop thieves

    tagged as you speak | permalink | 4 comments

    Wednesday, April 11, 2012

    Memory Day: Ten Years Ago at FSU

    The entries from the URI! Zone from ten years ago are a little bland -- starved for content, I was doing full week reviews of the music of Steve Reich, followed by a montage of young adult authors I enjoyed as a kid. Off the web, I was closing out my first year as a music grad student at FSU.

    On the night of April 10, 2002, Kathy and I had our near-weekly ritual of Movie Night. The number of movies I went through while living in Tallahassee is astounding -- as if I was trying to stave off an end-of-the-world scenario of peak-DVD. Kathy came over to my "when you build it out of cinderblocks, it's like you're sleeping in a classroom" apartment at Parkwood, where we made two Totino's Pizzas (with assorted bits of unnamed meats, before their salmonella scare) and sat on the most uncomfortable couch in the world.

    I actually couldn't remember the name of the movie we watched that night, but luckily, Kathy records every event she's ever participated in with a series of historical day planners. That night's movie was Zoolander, and the fact that I never mentioned that on my website or in my journals ("April 11: Movie Night was fun.") probably means that it had very little impact on my life.

    On the Saturday that followed, I went out to celebrate the birthday of Angela, a fellow composer who once made some "special" brownies, only to lose them when her dog sneaked into the kitchen and devoured the batch (the dog was fine). I remember hanging out for an hour in some random restaurant with a really loud jazz combo before heading home to find out where everyone was (pre-cell-phone), only to find that they had all just arrived.

    In the academic world, I was assistantship-less, since they forgot to build the electro-acoustic music lab I was supposed to administrate. I was taking Pedagogy of Music Theory (or the art of creating a binder full of outdated articles) and Fugue. I was probably putting the finishing touches on my final project, Le Fugue, a full frontal contrapuntal masterpiece.

    This was also the final week before a concert performance of Badinage, a trumpet and piano piece which I decided to perform myself with Rob Kelley on the ivories (because performing your own piece is easier than meeting a good trumpet player). The piece was a highlight of FSU musical history, as exemplified by Professor Ladislav Kubik's post-performance remark to a seatmate: "Well, that was an ambitious piece..."

    tagged as memories | permalink | 4 comments

    Thursday, April 11, 2013

    Review Day

    There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

    Wreck-It Ralph (PG):
    This animated movie from Disney is kind of like Toy Story for the video game audience. After hours, video game characters can travel down the power cords to mingle with others, and hilarity ensues when a video game bad guy abandons his own game to become a good guy in another. It might be a little too niche to find mass appeal, but it's well done with very fitting voice actors. You'll find it most charming if you grew up on video games.

    Final Grade: B

    Parks and Recreation, Season Three:
    This is an abbreviated season (but still free on Amazon Prime). It's not amazing, but is filled with comfortable laughs without too much heavy thinking required.

    Final Grade: B-

    Dreaming in Code by Scott Rosenberg:
    The complete title to this book, Two Dozen Programmers, Three Years, 4,732 Bugs, and One Quest for Transcendent Software, is excessive (like pretty much every book title involving a colon, even this double whammy), but the narrative is an engaging, conversational look at a software project that just never seems to end. It lacks any kind of solid conclusion, and the author, obviously aware of this, spends parts of the last half of the book channeling Victor Hugo's sewer essays, going off on software development tangents that are interesting for software developers but irrelevant to the main plot.

    Like Wreck-It Ralph the audience of this book is a little too targeted, but the author does a pretty decent job of translating the technical deetails into nice dumbed-down analogies.

    Final Grade: B

    tagged as reviews | permalink | 2 comments

    Friday, April 11, 2014

    List Day: Most Played RPG Character Classes

    • Ultima IV - VI: Bard (for the convenient starting location)

    • Ultima Underworld: Fighter (to carry more junk)

    • Quest for Glory I - IV: Fighter (for survival)

    • Diablo 1: Rogue (for survival)

    • Diablo 2: Necromancer (runner up: Sorcerer)

    • Everquest: Bard

    • World of Warcraft: Priest (runner up: Druid)

    • Torchlight: Vanquisher

    • Skyrim: Destruction-Thief

    • Borderlands 2: Commando

    • Torchlight 2: Embermage

    • Diablo 3: Demon Hunter (runner up: Witch Doctor)

    tagged as lists | permalink | 0 comments

    Monday, April 11, 2016

    Weekend Wrap-up

    On Friday, I took the day off from work and my dad and I enlarged the front stoop by 9 square feet. The stoop was always so big, but for some reason, the original porch left dead, unusable space on either end. Now we can put chairs out there and pretend we are urban dwellers with a row house.

    We spent Saturday's Polar Vortex inside like this:

    On Sunday, which also happened to be my mom's 74th birthday, we hiked around the Bull Run - Occoquan Trail to see the bluebells, which are apparently a big deal down there, judging from the many directional signs and large packs of slow-moving cell phone photographers.

    In the evening, Anna came by to collect Sydney to move into their new house in Fredericksburg. Sydney lived in relative luxury here for the past 399 days and now gets to enjoy captivity in a house with 4 small children, 2 ferrets, and 1 other cat. Booty is once again "head cat" in the household.

    How was your weekend?

    tagged as day-to-day | permalink | 5 comments

    Wednesday, April 11, 2018

    Memory Day: Snapshots

    This picture was taken ten years ago today, on April 11, 2008.

    Rebecca and I were on our first trip to Europe and April 11 was a cold and rainy travel day. After leftover quiches in our room in Collioure while watching Melrose Place, we got on the train to Barcelona. Accompanying us was Pierre the French Dog, who we purchased for Anna's 1-year-old, Ella, and who we took pictures of all over Europe to make a little story book.

    Pierre got really bored on this train because it turned out to be a regional train that stopped in every tiny border town south of France. When we finally arrived at the Sants train station in Barcelona, no one knew where our hotel was. It turned out to be another hour outside of town, requiring a long commuter train and 10 block walk to reach. When we arrived at 6 PM, it was nowhere near Spanish dinner time, so we got a box of wine and assorted crackers and breads from a local convenience store and crashed in our surprisingly swank hotel room.

    tagged as memories | permalink | 1 comment

    Monday, April 11, 2022

    Birth Day

    Happy 81st Birthday to my Mom!

    For Grandma's birthday, Maia received a horse stable and promptly named the horses, Browny, Snowa, Chocolate, Dot, Sunny, Spot, Dotty, and Brownsie. Browny and Brownsie are brother and sister, of course.

    tagged as day-to-day | permalink | 3 comments


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