This Day In History: 05/16

Monday, May 16, 2005

I like the music of No Doubt, but some of Gwen Stefani's recent songs are just retarded. Her recent chart-climbing hit, Hollaback, sounds like a hiphop-cheerleader chant from the day they lost the football game. I think a song is automatically in trouble when the phrase "This sh*t is bananas (b-a-n-a-n-a-s)" repeated over and over is the best you can do for a chorus (unrivaled in its repetition by even the Kaiser Chiefs). Is she really afraid that her listening fanbase might not know what a banana is, or is it a misguided attempt to protect young ears from naughty words?

I also find it amusing that in Rich Girl, the take-off on If I Were a Rich Man from Fiddler on the Roof, Gwen simplifies the descending chromatic line by one half-step, which coincidentally makes it much easier to sing.

Did anyone lose a pianist?
Because it's funny to pour drinks on the homeless

permalink | 2 comments

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Recipe Day

As a public service today, I would like to present to you my Perfect Egg Drop Soup? recipe which results in a soup that's just as good as what you can get from Chinese take-out, without that foul corn taste that so many restaurants often add in that tends to give me horrible flashbacks to the time my dad bought corn on sale in bulk but it turned out to be creamed corn. I am giving you this secret recipe out of the goodness of my heart, and not because the judge agreed to drop the "obscene dancing in the Chinese restaurant" charges in exchange for community service.

  • 3 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon chopped chives
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch (optional)
  • 2 whole eggs and 1 extra egg yolk
  • Combine the broth, ginger, chives, and salt in a small pot and bring to a rolling boil.
  • In a small mixing bowl, preferably with a pouring spout, whisk the eggs with a fork in one direction until mixed. You can separate the extra yolk from its white with an egg separator, but it's more fun to do with your hands.
  • Remove the pot from the heat. Steadily, but not vigorously stir the pot with one hand while you continuously pour (drop) the egg around the outside. The egg will cook as soon as it hits the broth, and the stirring will prevent the egg bits from clumping up on top of each other. When the mixing bowl is empty, your egg drops should look like silky strands. If you forget to remove the broth from the heat first, it will look like a fungal jellyfish with rabies and not taste so hot. If your mixing bowl has no spout, you can also pour the egg through a fork, but you will need to have someone else stir the pot. I guess you could also get a box of Cookie Crisp, tape a fork to the end of it, put the box next to the stove, and then do the pouring and stirring, but that's like rocket science.
  • Add the cornstarch while you continue stirring. Cornstarch makes the broth thicker, which you might not care about if you just like to drink the soup. The more you use, the more vigorously you will have to stir. Otherwise you'll end up with tiny dust clumps of starch as you eat the soup, and they don't taste nearly as good as those little pebbles of chocolate Quik did when you were a kid in the 80s.
  • This recipe makes about 3 servings. I'm not sure what soup I'll learn how to cook next -- but at least at dinner parties I can always be "the soup guy".

    BBC interviews the wrong Guy
    Bears eat monkey, tastes like chicken
    Thieves steal Paris Hilton's gift bag

    tagged as recipes | permalink | 12 comments

    Wednesday, May 16, 2007

    Memory Day: Assistantships

    At the end of last Wednesday's post, I had just completed a relaxing year of being a graduate research assistant with absolutely no responsibilities. Though pleasant, it did not give me any real-world teaching experience for my eventual career as an academic in the music world (although I will now be an expert at picking up my Unemployment check, should I ever lose my job). For my second year, I was picked up as a super-assistant in music theory for one of my favourite professors, Dr. Peter Spencer.

    "Stephen Foster really irritates me [...] He writes these smarmy, nasty, little tunes [...] But it is a good example of a two-phrase period, blast him!" - Peter Spencer, in a diatribe on the audacity of Stephen Foster, and the use of Camptown Races as a politically incorrect example of periods

    A super-assistant is a teaching and research assistant rolled into one. By day, I was teaching about music fundamentals or sightsinging, and by night, I was helping him develop software to use in his ongoing quest to remove the professor from the music fundamentals teaching equation.

    Music Fundamentals is the course where you learn what a staff is, how many letters there are in the musical alphabet, and whether an eighth note is longer than a sixteenth note. Most music majors already have this knowledge coming in, but the rest have to take this remedial course before being allowed to go into Music Theory (where you learn that parallel fifths sound cool and leading tones should remain unresolved because major seventh chords sound kind of Latin-y). Teaching this course can be tedious, which is why Dr. Spencer's pet project was to use Flash to create a fully online version of the course which would require no oversight or face time.

    Because I didn't really have much Flash/Shockwave knowledge (and because the environment used to write the stuff cost a whopping thousand dollars), I did what any enterprisingly lazy developer might do -- I looked for portions of the project to work on using the skillsets I already had. By the end of the year, I had written a tool that would take the results of students' online tests (in XML) and parse them using Java to generate scores, grades, and trends. I don't know if Dr. Spencer ever achieved his ambition of a teacher-free course, but I have a feeling my contribution was 100% useless to him.

    Jumping back to the Fall semester, the two of us split the duties on a Music Fundamentals class filled with thirty-six hapless freshmen who had failed the fabled FSU School of Music entrance exam. The original plan called for me to teach one of three classes a week and grade papers, but as the term progressed, Dr. Spencer attended less often until he stopped coming altogether (classic Freshman Dropout Syndrome). Although this might seem offputting, it actually worked out quite well -- it gave me a gradual introduction into teaching until I was comfortable enough to run everything on my own.

    "I realize you may think I'm nuts, but anyways, I am getting paid for doing this." - Peter Spencer, after noting that there's probably Grails floating around inside the "holey" spaces in a student fugue

    Teaching a class with thirty-six people is rough on a good day, but we all got along pretty well by the end. By this point in my musical career, I had already accepted the job offer from the Computer Science dark side, and was content to enjoy my teaching responsibilities and students as much as possible. Among the memorable students: the jazz saxophonist that failed every test, but could improvise over any set of changes without batting an eye, the hot girl from Oregon who was sick during every test and then aced all the make-ups, the incredibly skinny and incredibly bored girl who got 100% on every test (and was only in the class because she didn't know what Alto clef was), the jazz singer with a great voice who went on to become Miss North Florida, and the guy who learned the lines of Alto clef with the mnemonic, "Damn Fine Ass Chicks Everywhere".

    For the Spring semester, I graduated from Fundamentals land to teach two sections of Sightsinging I to the very souls I had just remedially propelled into their musical futures. This was quite possibly the sweetest gig in Assistantship Land:

    • I had two intimate classes of about twelve students each, filled with students whose abilities I already knew, and none of them were bad apples (The bad apples failed Fundamentals).
    • Since Dr. Spencer was never on campus, I got to use his corner window office as my own personal TA space. Private space was quite the luxury, and I often spent my office hours cranking the bass on his personal stereo or using his computer for evil.
    • Because these students were off by one semester, I was the only TA teaching Sightsinging I, which meant I could create my own syllabus and examples, and was never forced to attend a sixteen-hour death march "grading party" (though I did go to one voluntarily once to help out my Sightsinging II brethren).

    I had almost as much fun just planning out each days' lessons as I did actually teaching. Despite having the most glorious baritone voice to be heard on an American stage, I still practiced my examples diligently and often warmed up in the shower for Booty before heading off to the 9 AM class. I tried to veer off the beaten curriculum as much as possible, choosing to nuture the students rather than destroying them like an academic ninja. I used Eminem for an in-class sightsinging exercise (350KB MP3), and greatly slowed down common excerpts to help the bottom half of the students (360KB MP3). I also loosened the technology requirements from the "every kid must own a laptop" educational bandwagon by allowing students to skip over their Practica Musica assignments in exchange for other types of make-up work. (For the Virginian musicians, Practica Musica is the MacGamut of the Southland). At the end of the year, I even let a flustered crying student retake her final exam a couple hours later because my heart is made of gold and candy canes.

    With such a benevolent reputation, I left Florida State on a high note (c6), and hopefully helped some of those students catch up to become useful members of the music community.

    Share some of your TA stories in the Comments section!

    Baby issued Illinois gun ID card
    Get your PC infected here
    Truck runs over cyclist's head

    tagged as memories, teaching | permalink | 3 comments

    Friday, May 16, 2008

    Friday Freshened

    This coming July will mark three full years of the Friday Fragments column, and since many of my readers are spawning children that need to be roped in as soon as they learn to read, I though it might be worthwhile to come up with some alternatives to the Fragments column that will breathe new life into the site and increase readership. Here are a few possibilities:

    Friday Freestyling: In which I create freestyle raps about topics submitted by readers and make amateur recordings backed by a MIDI beat box.

    Friday Fraternities: In which I ridicule one Greek organization per week until they have all been ridiculed. This idea would also allow me to occasionally take a Friday off and make it up with a Saturday Sororities column.

    Friday Fraggles: In which I profile one puppet from the cast of Fraggle Rock in a behind-the-scenes interview.

    Friday Frenchy: In which I write my column completely in French and then try to translate it into English with Babelfish.

    Friday Frijoles: In which I perform weekly experiments to convert beans into natural gas, as an alternative to ethanol.

    Friday Frottage: In which I visit a discotheque for the purposes of bumping and/or grinding with sluts, and discuss my experiences.

    Friday Frescos: In which I reproduce various scenes from popular television shows on the walls of my basement.

    Friday Fryers: In which I review various recipes for chicken, from the perspective of both ease of preparation and tastiness.

    Friday Free Stuff: In which I pull random paraphernalia from 80s out from under the house and give it away for free to interested readers. This will not include the Lego Eldorado Fortress -- hands off.

    Friday Frowsy: In which I compose variations on the Frowzy theme from last year's Museday Tuesday .

    Friday Freakouts: In which I go off, Lewis Black style, on whatever might be irritating me at the moment.

    Friday Franks: In which I make a set of Lincoln Logs out of frozen hot dogs and attempt to reconstruct various 18th century landmarks.

    Twin girl didn't get enough food in the womb
    911 operator fired for swearing
    Swiss man flies with his own wings

    tagged as fragments, lists | permalink | 6 comments

    Monday, May 16, 2011

    Weekend Wrap-up

    Other than the release of DDMSence 1.8.0, which adds support for mutable builders, and has seen a surprising initial surge of downloads from China (OMG SPIES.), the main event this weekend was the marriage of Sam & Kristen Edwards, at a working train station in downtown Richmond.

    Afterwards, we helped to Optimus Prime the room from a ceremony layout to a heavy hors d'oeuvre layout, a task made more difficult by the fact that the tables couldn't be dragged across the floor in such a historic setting. This rule would have made more sense had the tables been made of such fine materials as plywood or helium, but not so much in our granite, cast iron, and chunks of sumo wrestler reality. We did get help from a local employee who observed the heavy lifting from afar and shouted, "NO DRAGGING!" whenever we got within an inch of the floor -- that person would probably not be very good at Taboo because of too many false positives.

    The next morning, we had breakfast at a local, organic restaurant called Cafe Gutenberg, where we learned that organic food apparently takes three times as long to prepare. An hour and a half later, we were back out on the street with full stomachs, and closed out our Richmond trip with a tour of the Edgar Allen Poe museum. This eclectic set of exhibits included a painting with a sign which stated, "This painting has POE signed in the lower righthand corner. We don't know if Edgar Allen Poe ever painted anything, so this might be painted by him. Or it might not. Peace."

    Now that we're back up north, it's time for Rebecca to pack for her trip to Peru, while I get ready for a week of cabinet installations with my Dad!

    Court: No right to resist illegal cop entry into home
    Tweeting celebrities risk boring fans
    Donkeys Take Over From DSL as Syria Shuts Down Internet

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

    Wednesday, May 16, 2012

    Diablo 3 PSA: Turning on "Elective Mode"

    If you are one of the millions of people that blew sixty bucks on Diablo 3 instead of buying food for your cat and/or baby, you might be interested to know about an obscure gameplay option that will greatly increase your enjoyment of the game: Elective Mode. It is literarily impossible to invent a more unhelpful name for this important option, so today's post will reveal its secrets.

    In Diablo 3, there are 6 possible action hotkeys: the two mouse buttons, and the numbers 1 - 4 (which can also be remapped). Each hotkey corresponds to one of the 6 categories of skills that every character learns throughout the game. The categories are fairly arbitrary, and it is not always clear why one skill was categorized the way it was. At the beginning of the game, your "primary" category and your "secondary" category are tied to the mouse buttons by default. As you gain levels, you unlock the four numbered keys and can assign skills there.

    The problem is that these unlocked hotkeys are restricted to specific categories of skills, and you'll find that some categories have plenty of fun skills while other categories are nearly useless when they first open up. The default UI forces you to pick exactly one skill from each category to play with.

    Turning on Elective Mode (under Options, then Gameplay) almost completely eliminates this restriction1. You can assign a skill from any category to any of your available hotkeys (by right-clicking on a slot in the hotkey bar at the bottom of the screen, and then wading through far too many pages of skills), and can pick more than 1 skill from each category. This gives you greater strategic flexibility to choose a more offensive or defensive build, or do something completely off the wall.

    Here's a concrete example: When a Demon Hunter reaches level 4, it has access to 2 Primary skills (Hungering Arrow and Entangling Shot), 1 Secondary skill (Impale), and 1 Defensive skill (Caltrops). At this time, the default UI unlocks hotkey #1, and forces you to assign a Defensive skill (the only one available is Caltrops), at the expense of your extra Primary skill. By turning Elective Mode on, you can choose any 3 of the 4 available skills, regardless of which categories they're assigned to. This might not seem like a big deal early on, but consider the possibilities when you have over twenty skills fighting for one of the six slots!

    While you're at it, enable Advanced Tooltips. I know the game wants to be friendly to new players, but "This spell hurts stuff" is almost demeaning.

    1: The only remaining restriction is that the left mouse button must be some sort of attack skill, so it doesn't conflict with "click-to-move".

    tagged as games | permalink | 0 comments

    Thursday, May 16, 2013

    Review Day

    There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

    Justified, Season Three (free on Amazon Prime):
    The third season of Justified remains pretty strong, although the continued influx of LOST refugees in bit parts is a little distracting. I also didn't appreciate the character of Limehouse as much, since I kept getting distracted by his former roles as Bubba Gump and the annoying guy from 24. However, the characterizations across the board continue to be strong, and it remains a tight ensemble show. Towards the end, the plot got a little too complex for complexity's sake (almost like a heist movie), but the season as a whole had a satisfying arc tying everything together.

    Final Grade: B

    My Name is Hannibal by Hannibal Burress:
    Hannibal Burress pops up often on my Mitch Hedberg Pandora station. His humor is a mix of off-the-wall observations and storytelling, with a very satisfying delivery. I liked his second album slightly better than the first.

    Final Grade: B-

    Animal Furnace by Hannibal Burress:
    This album has a little better flow than the first. One joke is annoyingly rehashed from the first album, but otherwise, I enjoyed it.

    Final Grade: B

    Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (R):
    We found this movie to be unexpectedly entertaining, having had no expectations going into it. Take the film noir / murder mystery genre, add Robert Downey Jr.'s wry commentary as the unreliable narrator who occasionally breaks the fourth wall, and allow him to play off of Val Kilmer as Gay Perry, the Gay PI, and you have a couple hours of good laughs, if not an Oscar-worthy production.

    Final Grade: B+

    tagged as reviews | permalink | 1 comment

    Friday, May 16, 2014

    Answers Day, Part I of II

    the sequel to Questions Day

    i know you mentioned before, and i'm somehow not inclined to google it, so what is the etiquette on tipping for take-out? - Doobie

    These are my rules for tipping on take-out:

    • If the restaurant does take-out alongside of regular sit-down eating, I try to tip about 10%. The food would have been cooked either way, but someone had to box it up and review the order.

    • If the restaurant has no other business besides take-out, even if you watch the food prepared by someone (like Subway), then no tip is required.

    Generally, people around here are surprised to ever get a tip on take-out, so this may be overzealous. However, it doesn't hurt to treat your service industry workers well if you can afford it.

    Show us your bad-assest Reaper of Souls build, any character. - Groovymarlin

    This is not in the form of a question, but luckily my ability to parse imperative statements into questions is unsurpassed. Here is my current build for Nope, my Witch Doctor with horrible posture:

    I call this build, Vomit of the Gods. It focuses heavily on AOE and mana efficiency, and involves me running around the screen launching Acid Clouds on everyone. I open with Spirit Walk and Soul Harvest, then kite around the room summoning bile from the heavens mixed with the occasional Firebomb (to trigger Vision Quest). The Gargantuan provides an extra taunt (along with the Templar) so I can accurately anticipate where enemies will be standing still, and Spirit Barrage obliterates champions and bosses while restoring some mana. I am rarely, if ever, out of mana and haven't even invested in extra mana regeneration gear.

    I could probably improve the build with the Umbral Shock rune on Spirit Walk. However, I'm impatient and like the extra second of Spirit Walk time to run through boring hallways. This is also why all of my Paragon points are invested in Movement Speed.

    I play this build on Master difficulty. I don't know if it scales up to Torment because my gear is probably pretty crappy, which makes Torment too slow-paced for me to enjoy. However, the build is a lot of fun, and has made me spend more time with the Witch Doctor than my Demon Hunter recently.

    Do you have any phobias? - Evil Mike

    I don't have any true phobias. I think that dolls with independently moving eyes (like the ones that close their eyes when you lay them down) and ventriloquist dummies are creepy, but that's not a phobia. I have also noticed that as I get older, I get a little vertigo with heights, which never happened in my youth.

    Because it took me so long to Photoshop that fine Diablo III build, I will answer the rest of the questions next Friday!

    tagged as you speak, games | permalink | 1 comment

    Monday, May 16, 2016

    Weekend Wrap-up

    On Friday, I capped off a long week of proposals with the impulse-purchase of the new DOOM reboot. I didn't get too far into it, but the early parts seemed pretty fun if not amazing. In the evening, we went to O'Faolains for dinner -- our go-to place for nice outdoor eating ambiance at the expense of any exciting food or drink choices.

    On Saturday, we met up with Catherine the elder for lunch in Fredericksburg (at the Virginia Deli) and then arrived at Anna's new house just in time for a round of thunderstorms. Luckily, they ended quickly so Rebecca could flex her skills at "bucket ball". We spent the night in Anna & Ben's new guest room, sharing the bed with Sydney the cat.

    On Sunday, we picked up my mom for a belated birthday brunch at Clydes in Alexandria. The food was good but the waitress decided to stop visiting our table for about 20 minutes at the end, similar to our service experience at Clydes in Tysons. Afterwards, we waded through traffic to get home, where we relaxed and got ready for the week to come.

    How was your weekend?

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

    Wednesday, May 16, 2018

    Storm Day

    There's no real update today because I spent yesterday recovering from the devastation of the almost-tornado-based lightning surge that decimated my computer zone. Maia helped figure out what needed replacement.

    Internet was out for 19 hours and we had power brownouts for 3 hours on Tuesday morning. The $200 router, already weakened by a spilled Belgian beer in February, gave its last gasp and needed to be replaced. Also, the $200 Geforce GTX 960 peculiarly failed as well though I have no idea how it got surged but nothing around it died. It is now replaced with a Geforce GTX 1050 Ti.

    Update: The laser printer also died.

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

    Monday, May 16, 2022

    Census Day

    While there are several visible, distinguished visitors to this historic website, I still see some repeat visits in my website logs who have been coming for years but never posted a single comment. I see lurkers from Philly, DC, Ashburn, Centreville, and other exotic locales. There's one from Boston that arrived one day after Googling the name of someone whose wedding I attended, and they check in every few months to see if I ever mention that person again (spoiler: I never have). There's even exactly 1 subscriber to my Atom feed, which has been chugging along in underrated obscurity (not unlike the Netflix show, Dark) since 2008.

    Who's still out there? I would love to hear from you. Regular or lurker, come out and say hello:

    • Who are you?
    • What is the most satisfying thing in life?
    • What have you done or hope to do in 2022?

    If at least 4 unique, real people respond by Tuesday, May 31, 2022 at 1800 Eastern, a randomly-selected commenter will get a $10 Amazon gift certificate.

    tagged as website, contests | permalink | 7 comments


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