This Day In History: 05/26

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Florida-Mike is on a quest to get a job as Senior Departmental Liaison in Humanities at the College of William & Mary . He's out there today and tomorrow doing the on-campus interview, after having been pared down from 6 applicants to 3.

I like Oreo cookies, but I hate that they make your teeth look like they're coated in some communicable fungus. Cookies, and snacks in general, have shrunk dramatically over the past twenty years. Quaker Chewy Granola Bars used to be ruler-length, and Chips Ahoy! cookies are now about the size of my watch face.

Carers told to buy porn for disabled
Elk needs bicycle
From the makers of the Healthy Adult Happy Meal comes...
Here comes the draft

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Thursday, May 26, 2005

The Lost finale was quite good, but I don't think they gave enough answers for the old questions before introducing new ones. Whoever voted for Arzt kicking the bucket got their wish, as he managed to explode himself with nitroglycerin while teaching the other survivors how dangerous it is. The Alias finale was partly satisfying and partly disappointing. I will reveal the cliffhanger in this post, so stop reading now if you tape the show to watch later.

Alias has always been a family drama first, which just happens to be set with spies as a backdrop. The element that separated it from other spy shows and movies was the presence of the 15th century prophet, Milo Rambaldi, whose works and prophecies end up involving the Bristow family for various reasons. Over the past two years they transformed the stately mysticism of Rambaldi into a James Bond weapon-of-the-week endgame. Many people hated the whole Rambaldi aspect of the show, but it's figured in since the beginning, and without it you don't have the same show -- you just have a weekly serial with cops and robbers.

With this finale, the writers decided to finally end the Rimbaldi plotline, but the way it played out was much less worthwhile than its dramatic beginnings. However, the fact that all the original threads tied together for his Endgame made for a satisfying episode. It could have been a perfect ending to the Alias run -- the world is saved, the main characters marry, and Irina Derevko gets away.

Instead, the show ends with a stupid cliffhanger -- Sydney Bristow's husband-to-be reveals that he's not really who he says he's been for the past five years. Before he can explain further, they're both hit from the side by a speeding car and the credits roll. Yes, it was shocking and will provide watercooler fodder for the summer, but it seems like something the writers came up with for lack of better ideas. So now we have a new season without Rambaldi, with a character who apparently has been completely rewritten back to day one.

What could the main characters ever face in the next season that could ever match the importance of the Prophecy? Without that unifying thread, we're left with boring self-contained Law & Order style episodes until the writers run out of ideas again and bring back Rambaldi for his Endendgame. There is a fantasy book by Raymond Feist called Shadow of a Dark Queen which starts a four-book series in an existing Feist universe. He completely negates the major plot points of all his previous books, puts the big-baddie-fight in book 3, and then writes a snoozer book 4 about picking up the pieces after the land has been razed. This episode and my expectations of next season are like that, except with much better dialogue and writing.

I guess that's what you get in world of TV where ABC has no idea how to promote a show and continues to move it to different nights and important cast members quit or make babies with Ben Affleck. Season One and Two are still the best writing to ever air on television, so rent those at Blockbuster the next time you're out. Season Three and Four had a few great episodes in a swamp of average ones, but I have a feeling I'll be watching Season Five out of loyalty to the show, and no longer because it's the best show on TV.

Reinforcing the case that Star Wars should have been PG-LessThan16OrGreaterThan20
Monstrous duct taped penis shuts down highway
Gang makes use of the elderly

tagged as reviews | permalink | 1 comment

Friday, May 26, 2006

Friday Fragments

  • I tried Rob's cornstarch thickening idea with my latest batch of Egg Drop Soup and it worked out quite well. The only caveat is that you need to continue stirring the mixture until it's ready to be poured into the soup or else the cornstarch will clump back up again, and no one wants a slurry with the fringe on top.

  • I almost considered putting a punny show tune in every fragment today, but I didn't have nearly enough time or patience to follow through. My week has been long, arduous, and onerous, so I apologize if any of this week's past posts lacked the normal polish and pizazz usually associated with my Pulitzer-possible production.

  • Alliteration is a fun device, even when you aren't the lead in a Gilbert and Sullivan performance. I'm surprised that more anti-war hippie poets don't rhyme "alliterate" with "obliterate" for maximum poetic impact. However, onomatopoeia would kick alliteration's ass in a poetry fight, any day of the week.

  • I heard a song on the radio the other day called Onomatopoeia by Todd Rundgren. That has to be the worst title you could possibly come up with for a song, because no one will be able to spell it, so how will they ever be able to Google the song title to find your band's website?

  • On a whim, I just tried going to onomatopoeia.com, but it's just one of those useless fake search pages that people use to trick Google into thinking their site is more important that it really should be. What's funny is that there are even fake pages at misspelled versions of the same address. If there isn't a real site at onomatopoeia.com, why would anyone ever try to get there and screw up? I'd rather own stock in amazom.com, or maybe a site with racy similarity like expertsexchange.com or penisland.net.

  • Speaking of islands, I loved the season finale of LOST. Plenty of resolution to tie up loose ends, and a couple new issues to think about over the summer break. I bet if you think back through the season now, there are enough disparate hints to tie together into a unified theory. It's like those logic puzzles on the GRE -- If A is true, then B is false and if B is false then C is true. We know now that A is false, which gives us dedicated viewers the chance to step backwards up the chain to earlier events.

  • I'm glad the season didn't end with a big cliffhanger like Season One did. The show would have just become annoying if the last shot we saw before the fade to black was someone hanging off a cliff or about to be eaten by a dingo. I recall reading online that the original ending for Alias Season Three involved Sydney Bristow on a cliff after an accident hanging onto the middle of a rope. On one end of the rope is her love interest, Michael Vaughn, and on the other is her dad. She can't hold both of them up without falling off herself and they're each telling her to let the other one go. I'm glad that ending never aired.

  • Alias Season Five is available in its entirety on the abc.com site as streaming video. This means I won't have to wait for the DVDs after all! Once I get a little more free time in my evenings, I'll have to start watching it, but I'm pretty busy for the remainder of the month. I have a backlog of games to play and movies to watch because work and life are working together to keep me running. I think I would rather be bored and not have enough to do.

  • This weekend, I'm going to be working on Saturday to make up for some time I had to take during the week, and then I'm driving up to New Hampshire for a Memorial Day barbeque at Dan's house who I haven't seen since college even though he posts here regularly. When I said New Hampshire, I may have meant Annapolis, but honestly they're both just far far away from where I live.

  • Have a great weekend!

  • The Dracorex hogwartsia
    I just want my 70s CD back.
    Luke Skywalker takes on the cops

    tagged as fragments | permalink | 4 comments

    Tuesday, May 26, 2009

    Newsday Tuesday

    Here, Here! 13 Years Of Perfect Attendance

    Cal Ripken, Iron Man of the Baltimore Orioles, played in 2,632 consecutive baseball games. Stefanie Zaner, Iron Kid of Darnestown, is closing in on her 2,340th straight day of public school.

    Thirteen years of perfect attendance is quite the accomplishment, although it's ultimately useless. I never got near this lofty attendance record, although I did go to school every day during the sixth grade.

    Not once in 13 years was Stefanie marked absent: not for a cold, a family vacation, a college visit or a senior skip day. She once went on a freshman trip to Shanghai with the school marching band and boarded the plane with her clarinet only after securing written assurance from the principal that the trip would not count as an absence.

    If you're going to pursue an accomplishment as pendantic as "showing up for school every day", you can't game the system by exempting some of your absences. You're either there, or you're not, and if you're not, then obviously you don't have perfect attendance. Kids today have it so easy -- when I was vying for perfect attendance, my teachers actively tried to make it more difficult for us by including leper-hugging as a mandated part of gym and hiding sharp rusty objects in our desks.

    In other news, I ran a triathlon last year in record time, although I got written permission from the judges to skip the swimming and cycling portions, and to do the running part at a moderate (mostly walking) pace over the course of several months.

    An informal survey of 20 local school systems turned up just one other graduating senior with perfect attendance since kindergarten (officially, 180 days a year, for 13 years, although the exact annual total hinges on snow days): Kristen Waddle, 18, of Brentsville District High School in Prince William County. A third student, Austin White of Mountain View High School in Stafford County, hasn't missed a day since first grade.

    There might be others.

    The lack of conclusive data was caused by the abrupt departure of the reporter's research assistant, who realized that she was working on a story about school attendance. This, in itself, would not be a big deal, except that she had just contributed to stories about "people who got wet during yesterday's thunderstorm" and another about how "young people like Facebook". She is currently busy removing the B.A. in English from her resum? and applying to welding schools.

    Austin, 18, thinks he knows the moment he decided nothing would keep him from school. It was about fifth grade, the night before a standardized test. "I was puking buckets, and my Mom asked, 'Do you want to stay home?' And I said, 'No, I've got to go to school, I've got to take the test.' "

    So at the risk of giving every one of his classmates a dangerous stomach virus, he went to school to take a test that didn't even count towards his grades. In the 1980s, the week where we took the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) was prime family vacation week for most families, although I supposed it might be neat to intentionally infect your fellow classmates and then buy a T-shirt that says "I put the TB in ITBS".

    Also, who names their male child, Skye?

    Stefanie, like Kristen and Austin, didn't enter kindergarten intent on never missing school. The goal crept up on her. Her principal at Darnestown Elementary School, Larry Chep, gave out annual awards for perfect attendance. She won a couple, then found she "really liked being recognized for something."

    There are plenty of other ways to be recognized in elementary school, most of them more fulfilling than perfect attendance. Enter the science fair. Read the most books for Book-It! and get free pizza. Volunteer to clean the erasers and get a certificate for having The Best Clap. Showing up every day just proves you had nothing better to do, which is why God invented "leave" in the workforce.

    Chep remembers her as "one of those kids you want in your school."

    Serious praise. I hope I'm remembered as such when I die.

    Half of virgin auction goes to taxes
    Dear Donna: A Pinup So Swell She Kept G.I. Mail
    Nudity complaint near Maine topless doughnut shop

    tagged as newsday | permalink | 6 comments

    Wednesday, May 26, 2010

    List Day: 10 things planned for my day off today

    1. Burn a CD for work

    2. Write tomorrow's website update

    3. Work on a reboot of battlereports.com

    4. Work on the Paravia Wiki

    5. Spray the perimeter of the house to prevent ant invasions

    6. Eat shells and cheese for lunch

    7. Mow the lawn

    8. Read about XSLT

    9. Play Mario Galaxy 2

    10. Play volleyball at 7:15
    Columbia's Antanas Mockus hopes his Super Citizen past will help make him president
    Mobile phone number suspended after three users die in 10 years
    Ann Curry apologizes for mixing up her Wheatons

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

    Thursday, May 26, 2011

    Review Day

    There are no spoilers in these reviews.

    Portal 2:
    All of the thoughts from my Portal 2: First Impressions post are still accurate -- this was a great game and much longer than expected. There's a few issues with pacing in the middle third of the game and some of the plot twists are blatantly telegraphed, but I laughed a lot and never hit a puzzle that I couldn't eventually beat after taking a break. This is a game that's very good in short doses -- if you try to play it all the way through in one sitting, it might get a little tedious.

    Final Grade: A-

    the internet is a playground by David Thorne:
    The new publishing paradigm is to find someone funny on the Internet and give him a book deal -- this is a collection of humorous exchanges and essays from 27bslash6.com mixed with a few new ones. The best ones, like Missing Missy, are already available online, but this collection is a nice coffee table book. This is another book that works best if you take breaks -- if you read more than a couple stories at a time, they all start to sound the same, but taken in isolation, they're sure to elicit a laugh.

    Final Grade: B+

    Weber Spirit E-310:
    After seven years of heavy use, the flames on my old grill were more yellow than blue (not unlike a toilet bowl after the two thousand and first flush), and grilling steaks required a mix of cover acrobatics and witchcraft to accomplish. So far, all three steaks cooked on the new grill have come out perfectly, using just my basic timings, and the cast iron grille makes me feel like I belong to that elite group who likes old food on their new food (see also, pizza stones). The burners are lengthwise, so it wastes a little more propane when you're grilling small amounts, but it heats up quickly and cooks very evenly.

    Final Grade: A-

    Firefox 4:
    I don't really have a problem with Firefox 4, other than the fact that the default UI must have been designed by the guy who thought that mouse gestures would be the next Big Thing. Out of the box, my beefs are:

    1. Merging the stop/refresh button and placing it to the right of the URL bar: I normally use keyboard shortcuts, but for the rare occasions where I click, I now have to drag the mouse a good 800 pixels between the Forward/Back buttons and the Stop/Refresh button.
    2. Moving the bookmarks menu to the far right: Maybe this is great on your 640x480 XP machine, but it's ostracized on any normal resolution.
    3. Eliminating the status bar: Converting the "loading webpage" messages into a POPUP that constantly resizes as the text changes and grabs your eye could be the worst usability idea ever. The Status-4-Evar add-on puts it back, but that forces you to install software with a lame name, which is win for exactly no one.
    4. Tabs On Top: Unless there's some sort of sexual innuendo here that I'm oblivious to, putting the tab bar above all of the menus and buttons is completely unintuitive -- it implies that "Firefox" is "inside a tab", when the traditional UI for every tabbed application out there is "an application containing tabs".

    All of these "improvements" are easy to reset, but it really doesn't give me much faith in the Firefox design team. I hear they want to do away with the URL bar completely next -- it's time to start my second career as a phisher.

    Final Grade: B-

    Besides Noise, Vuvuzelas May Spread Airborne Germs
    Best Illusions of the Year
    Trucker a human balloon after falling on air hose

    tagged as reviews | permalink | 2 comments

    Tuesday, May 26, 2015

    Weekend Wrap-up

    Our holiday weekend opened with a Friday night trip to Old Ox Brewery with Marc, where we sat near a silent, solo bicycler with serial killer eyes who would occasionally rotate his line of sight to glare at us like an animatronic puppet. We also ate sandwiches from Pittsburgh Rick's food truck, but they weren't as good this time around since they were out of many ingredients (based on their poor decision to reserve large batches for a Jiffy Lube Live concert the following night).

    On Saturday, we maximized the value of our Harpers Ferry annual pass by taking one final trip before it expired. We hiked 7 miles on the Maryland Heights side in the morning, and then Rebecca hiked an additional 5 miles on the Loudoun Heights side while I sat in the pub with a Mountain State amber ale and a Kindle book.

    We ate dinner at DISH, as usual, where we had the clams casino, cod, and the pork chop. Clam-based appetizers are generally forgettable -- they should really rebrand all "clam with X" meals as "X with clams", since there's not much you can do with clams other than to cover it up with something more delicious like chowder.

    On Sunday, Rebecca hiked another 12 miles along the AT, in the section where the altitude varies like a sine wave, while I returned home to feed hungry cats and play Skyrim. In the evening, we watched the lengthy movie, Boyhood, and ate leftover pork chops.

    On Memorial Day (or "Monday" as people who don't get the day off like to call it), I worked from home on AWS training preparation and proposal writing while Rebecca went off to work with old people, who also don't get the day off.

    How was your long weekend?

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    Thursday, May 26, 2016

    Review Day: Doom (2016)

    There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

    The latest iteration of DOOM is a solid first-person shooter with a high nostalgia quotient, marred by a few too many distractions and minor bugs. It immediately loses an eighth for reusing the title of the original to drive home the fact that it's a reboot, making it difficult to search for walkthroughs and tips online without getting diverted to twenty years of established wikis and articles.

    I was never a fan of the direction that shooters evolved in the Half-Life years. Everyone was gushing about how interesting the story was in a boring ten-minute unskippable tram ride and all I wanted to do was kill things and find keycards to unlock doors hiding more things to kill. This iteration of DOOM gives me exactly what I want. The story is little more than a framework to hang the levels off of, and there is no need to pay attention to any of the (short but still irritating) unskippable cutscenes.

    The graphics look great, albeit very monochromatic and Quake-like. I'm presuming that the art designer is colour-blind like me because there's no reason why there should be so many browns in any colour palette. The framerate never dropped once from 60 FPS in my playthrough on Ultra quality settings and I don't have the latest and greatest gaming machine (an i7 from 2011 and a GTX 960). This is also the first 3D game I've played where I found the overhead map to be usable and useful (unlike Skyrim, where it always looked like I was exploring a lichen).

    The core gameplay is fast, frenetic, and draws inspiration directly from DOOM 1 and 2 while avoiding the weak horror story aspects of DOOM 3. This is not a game that can be played carefully and conservatively -- every single battle has you sprinting around small monster arenas with no safe places to regroup, and it's during these ridiculous battles that the game is at its best.

    The main problem is that there are too many extra features that slow down this frenetic pace, to the point where you're spending just as much time on a loading screen or wading through menus of far too many weapon and armor upgrades, along with the usual assortment of collectibles that plague every modern game. Loading screens are especially noticeable on the bonus "Rune Trials" where you must accomplish challenges with low health and each failure requires a complete reload of the level.

    The upgrades are interesting enough although they come at you too rapidly for you to really care about any single mod. Once I had upgraded my Combat Shotgun with an explosive mod, I really just got the rest of the mods so the game would stop reminding me that I had unspent points. There are also a massive number of death animations, but these "Glory Kills" got tiresome after a while and felt a bit too much like Quick Time Events.

    The prime slow down is the exploration aspect -- for people that care about finding all of the secrets, you'll spend a lot of time not in battles, and the game gets noticeably less interesting. As a completionist gamer, I kept getting pulled out of my fighting rhythm to hunt for secret rooms. The fact that most maps have certain one-way passages preventing you from backtracking means that you either need to find all the secrets as you fight, or spend a lot of time replaying levels just to check all the boxes. Jumping and double-jumping also feel a bit loose (the polar opposite of the new Tomb Raider series), and I probably had as many deaths (and subsequent loading screens) from exploring as I did killing demons.

    There are a few annoying bugs related to the menu UIs, and the occasional crash-to-desktop issue that's really grating since the game is on a checkpoint-save system. Usually, I didn't feel the urge to wait through loading screens and replay my past progress after a crash, and just stopped playing for a while. Sometimes it's difficult to tell when your shots are actually hitting an enemy, especially if you're firing something other than bullets and the enemy is in the midst of a jumping animation.

    The bottom line? This game hits the the nostalgia mark perfectly if you grew up with DOOM 1 / 2, and you'll get the most out of it if you just fight through without stressing the exploration / upgrade aspects. I got a solid 12 hours of play time out of it and would definitely recommend it at a bargain bin price. $60 is way too high, but $20 - $40 seems just about right.

    (I didn't play the multiplayer aspect because Overwatch just came out and its objective-based gameplay is much more fun than a traditional deathmatch).

    Final Grade: B-

    tagged as reviews, games | permalink | 0 comments

    Friday, May 26, 2017

    Review Day

    There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

    About a Boy, Season One:
    Based upon the concept of the Hugh Grant movie of the same name, but as a reboot instead of a continuation, this show is about the friendship between a womanizing neighbor and the boy who moves in next door. A fun addition to the "good-hearted" humor type of sitcom. Free on Netflix.

    Final Grade: B+

    La La Land (PG-13):
    This movie was perfectly fine, but didn't stay with me at all after I finished watching it. As a musical, it has a few memorable tunes and is well-choreographed, but six Oscars seems a little excessive.

    Final Grade: B

    Cinematic by Illy:
    This is the fourth album from Australian hip hop artist, Illy, and has a good balance of song-style hooks to rap breaks. Tightrope is a good, representative track.

    Final Grade: B

    Lucky's Tale:
    This is one of the free launch titles for the Oculus Rift -- it's a simple 3D platformer in the style of Mario 64. The controls are tight and the gameplay is easy to get into if you've ever played a platformer before. The innovation here is that your head is the world camera, and it looks as if the game is played out on your kitchen table. You can look around the world independently of what the main character can see, which eliminates the frustration of "3D jumping in 2D", which is where most 3D platformers fall short. The game is only about 5 hours long, but it's polished and free!

    Final Grade: B

    tagged as reviews | permalink | 0 comments

    Wednesday, May 26, 2021

    Time-lapsed Blogography Day: Twenty Five Years Ago Today

    Twenty-five years ago today, on May 26, 1996, my crew boat had its final boat party of the year.

    The evening started with a barbeque including several parents and the coach. At around 8 PM, the rowers whose parents were there told them that we were all going to see "Primal Fear" at the Bailey's Crossroad movie theater, a movie that had just come out the month before. In reality, we all ended up at the house of another rower whose parents were out of town for the weekend. 7 of 9 boat members immediately started drinking, which was surprising to me as a sheltered 16-year-old whose parties regularly featured trezur hunts, 2 liter Pepsis, and Pizza Hut. My role, as one of the 2 people not drinking that night was to prevent people from alarming the neighbors.

    "Cloves" were popular back then, and there was weed as well. One boat member immediately got high and sat in the corner in his own world for the rest of the night. Three others were drunk (or peer-pressure pretending to be) within the first two hours. The first rower passed out at 10:30 with two more to follow by midnight. At least one rower peed in the yard because he couldn't maneuver his way up the stairs to the bathroom. Friends of the host who didn't do crew joined the party throughout the evening, well-stocked with the typical varieties of cheap beer you might see in a movie about a high school party.

    I drove home myself around 12:20 AM once the number of people I didn't know well outnumbered my boat in the house -- as every movie and After School special will teach you, that's when the likelihood of cops increases exponentially.

    tagged as memories | permalink | 1 comment

     

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