This Day In History: 06/15

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

I did a little house cleaning and cat hair removal this afternoon, but otherwise there's not much news to report. My sister's wedding is this weekend, so I'll be out of town from Friday through Sunday. Before that happens, I need to go do some gift shopping for a separate wedding next month and also get a haircut.

Here's to interesting summer news items, of which this is not.

When you know your relatives care

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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Retro week will continue as soon as I've finished reading my new book from cover to cover. I've been waiting for its distribution since last November. Kiity has already read half of the book, but has promised not to post any spoilers in my forum.

Priates foiled when someone steals their getaway boat
Woman wins a million dollars twice in a row; declines offer of smart dot-com investment in
Who had the worse job, the reattachers or the guys "we sent out to locate the missing bits"?
Preachers who give religion a bad name

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Thursday, June 15, 2006

Variety Packs

A life lesson that bulk shoppers pick up very quickly is this: if you purchase something in a variety pack, you will never like every single flavour or brand in the pack. It seems to be mathematically impossible for a food company to create a variety pack that's 100% appetizing if there are more than 3 different types bundled together. For example, on my shelf at work I have the following:

  • Nutri-Grain Cereal Bars: Strawberry and Blueberry are keen. Apple Cinnamon, not so hot.

  • Potato Chips: Hooray for Cheetos, Fritos and Cool Ranch Doritos, but did they have to make 20% of the variety pack Nacho Cheese Doritos? At least they've stopped putting in the Bar-B-Que potato chips. I always donated those to the hungry homeless, a.k.a. the Lunch Room.

  • Quaker Granola Bars: Chocolate Chip? Good. S'mores? Good. Peanut Butter Chunk? Your mom is a peanut butter chunk.

  • Chef Boyardee Lunches: Beefaroni and Spaghetti are great but Ravioli and Mini Ravioli are like little bundles of joy, except instead of joy, they're filled with half-cooked meat feces. Yes, I realize that all four products are made from the same base ingredients, but it's all in the presentation.

I wouldn't be surprised if it's a massive consumer conspiracy in which the companies take all the products that don't sell on their own and bundle them with the stuff you do want for profit (see also, Scotchgard). As long as the good bits outnumber the bad bits, shoppers like me will find it cost-effective to purchase the variety pack and grimace through it.

The variety pack rule applies in other areas as well. You may have a circle of friends that you love to hang around with, but they come with one weenie that no one really likes and just tags along like a little brother. If you plan on marrying, you have to weigh your rampant lust for your partner against the annoyance factor of the people who will become your in-laws. Generally it turns out to be worth it despite the added baggage -- Americans can never resist a case of "Buy One, Get Five Free" even if the Freebies are riff-raff.

Augmented Fourth added to the IF Wiki
Future wife toys with future husband
Home Depot: Your One-Stop Shop

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Friday, June 15, 2007

Friday Fragments

an effective tool for keeping yourself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight

♣ I spent Wednesday evening holed up in the under-construction bathroom. I was either busy sanding down the spackled walls for painting (and, in the process, inhaling fourteen cubic tons of spackle dust so I can sneeze out a lifesize figurine of Scooby Doo in about three days) or composing a video ransom message from my terrorist cell. I have the bomb made. Have you cleaned your sniper rifle yet?

♣ Several years ago when I used to play first-person-shooter games, I was always the annoying guy holed up with the sniper rifle, picking people off from afar -- especially on that UT2004 capture the flag map with two tall buildings and a long narrow path between them. CAMP.

♣ I actually haven't gone camping since the trip to Virginia Beach in 2001. You could get a motel room for over $100 a night, or you could pitch a tent for a few dollars a day, not unlike a transient at a peep show. I don't even own a sleeping bag anymore -- most of my camping gear probably vanished from my parents' basement in the Great Purges of 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, and 2002.

♣ I'm also in the process of researching mountain bikes, because I've decided it's ridiculous that I've lived a mile from the WO&D trail for three years and haven't ridden on it. I also realize that it's W&OD, but that really doesn't have the same flow, so I have officially changed its name.

♣ The other day when I was driving down the Toll Road, I saw a biker of the motor variety on one of those hogs where the handlebars are incredibly high compared to the seat. Normally this would have evoked macishmo, but since he was only about five feet tall, it just looked like he was hanging on for dear life.

♣ My pet peeve of the moment is sites that have introductions -- I don't care that you licensed twenty seconds of the Rolling Stones and have concentric circles of primary color flying around in a Flash applet. I have yet to go to a site where I didn't click the SKIP INTRO button immediately. Intro'd sites are one place behind sites that automatically play music or sound when you load them -- I'll admit that my own site used to do that, but that was in 1997 when it was artistic, not annoying, of course.

♣ This weekend, I have a day trip planned to Fredericksburg, the quaint city which was recently labelled as the new southern boundary for the "Washington Metropolitan Area". With D.C. oozing across the map like a political stain of yuppies and SUVs, it won't be long until our region stretches as far south as Williamsburg. It will be nice to be able to enter any subway station and ride the Magenta Line to Busch Gardens, where Phil can make some phone calls and get us in for free -- but that's at least four years away, given the slow rate at which we build subways.

♣ Tomorrow is Kerry Sugrue's birthday, and Sunday is Goatzilla's birthday. Happy Birthday! Have a great weekend!

Women want to marry their dad
Man attacked by a swordfish snout
Letters from an Arsonist

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Audience Participation Day: Vacations

Having just come off a jam-packed weekend filled with thunderstorms, Rebecca's company picnic, a trip to the winery, and fondue at Jack's house, my inclination to write a post today is slightly lower than the preferred inclination of a handicap-accessible ramp.

Instead, it's YOUR turn to tell me about your summer vacation plans. Where are you going? What are you doing? Are alcohol and clowns involved? And, if you are too poor to take a vacation, or work at a job with no leave left that you really should have quit months ago, where would you like to go if you could? The person with the most interesting vacation plans will win a free picture of their vacation site, or a link to the picture on Google Images.

Like most of the clothes in my middle drawer, my vacation plans are twofold. Starting on June 28th and running through the Fourth of July, I'll be in the Outer Banks at a swank beach house, hopefully with a fun name like Salty Nuts. I recently learned that two out of three of my bosses will also be in OBX that week (up north in Corolla), so if anything explodes during the week, it'll be Jack's problem.

Part two involves two full weeks on the island of Kau'aii immediately after the wedding, where we will ride sea turtles to neighbouring islands and fashion bikinis out of coconuts.

Share your plans in the comments section!

Swine Flu used to stall arrest
Venezuela bans Coke Zero
Tortoises given pink shells after dog attack
What do you read on vacations?

Bawdy romance novels. (0 votes, 0.0%)

Books I've already read. (1 vote, 8.3%)

New York Times bestsellers. (1 vote, 8.3%)

Technical manuals. (2 votes, 16.7%)

My bottle of beer. (8 votes, 66.7%)

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Caption Contest Day

The picture below was taking from Reuter's Pictures of the Month and is the subject of this month's caption contest.

  • Invent a funny, insightful, or witty caption for this photo and submit your caption to me using the email link in the top bar by Monday the 21st at 6 PM EST. (Limit 2 per person).
  • Examples can be seen in last year's contest involving shapeshifting tubas and Barack Obama here. Last year's winner was Katie Morton.
  • I will post the submissions next Tuesday (June 22). Entries will be voted on by Zone readers and the winner will receive a $15 gift certificate to (there may be second place prizes depending on turnout). I have the final say in ties, cheating, and suspected sabotage.
  • Man who dug space under home sues city
    Chinese farmer declares war on property developers with homemade wheelbarrow cannon
    Dogs, like teens, can't think for themselves

    tagged as contests | permalink | 0 comments

    Wednesday, June 15, 2011

    Memory Day: Snapshots

    In 1983, Bull Run was still in the boonies, and the area had not yet become merely a stop in the seven-hour queue for Jiffy Lube LIVE!! We left my sister on the battlefield that day, and never saw her again.

    Mugabe toilet user awaits word of his fate
    Solo Swimmer to Trek Across Shark-Infested Red Triangle
    Children's author ejected from plane for bad language

    tagged as memories | permalink | 1 comment

    Friday, June 15, 2012

    Answers Day

    the retrograde inversion of Questions Day

    How are you? - Evil Mike

    My mind is a swirling miasma of scintillating thoughts and turgid ideas.

    Are you now, or ever in the foreseeable future, willing to babysit for me? If so, how many children at once, and for how long? If the answer is more than "1" and "10 minutes", which ones? - Ex-Roomie

    This question would be much more interesting if I could replace the verb, babysit, in the style of Mad Libs. I will do so, since this is my house.

    juggle: I could probably juggle two of your children at the same time for about two minutes, providing that each one was duct-taped aerodynamically to prevent wind resistance from flailing arms. I would pick Rosie and Katie's namesake, because they are probably the lightest.

    speed stack: I could make a pyramid of all three of your children in less than five seconds, as long as Ella does not fidget. I would probably want to buy one of those specialized mats that cost a hundred dollars and prevent the baby pyramid from slipping (after which I could sell it for profit as yoga equipment). If you are interested in this offer, we need to act now, because you're probably going to have kid #4 within the hour (and millions of lives are at stake). Once there is a 4th, I can't guarantee a symmetrical pyramid again until you reach a total of 6.

    What do you do when your current job is paying for expensive training but you have prospects for a new job any day now? - Evil Mike

    I paraphrased this question, which wended its way across the comments section like a soccer mom on a cell phone in Costco and established major and minor characters like a George R.R. Martin book. In its original translation, the question reminded me of one of those ten-page novellas sent to Carolyn Hax, where the clueless advice seeker caught her boyfriend humping a barista but has painted an excuse (involving weather patterns and tricks of the light) that will let them stay together in fairy-tale land.

    The bottom line is that you should be prepared to reimburse your current job for the cost of training if you voluntarily leave soon afterwards, as free on-the-job training is seen as an investment in an employee. This may even be formalized in your employee handbook. However, there's no reason you shouldn't complete the training as soon as possible, and you should definitely not use a training voucher after you've left the job. The fact that you knew of the new job when you took the training is no one's business but your own. With the training completed, you may find that there is no official mechanism in place to pay them back, so you end up with a free certification and did the best you could to even the balance.

    Going to Virginia Beach soon. Any ideas of fun things to do? I will be digging a hole at one point so that's covered. - Evil Mike

    • Run barefoot on the beach and bet on the time it will take to step on a hypodermic needle.
    • Compile a Bingo list of military bases in the area and visit the front gate of each. Tell them that you're trying to reach the IHOP and ask for directions.
    • Skim foam off the surf and sell it in bulk to Starbucks.
    • Visit the local aquarium, which is only 7 dollars cheaper than the Baltimore Aquarium and has 4 fish in it.
    • Drive the last 2 hours to the Outer Banks.

    If you could have a re-do day of any day in your life, which day would it be and why? You don't need to preface it with the whole "Well, if things hadn't worked out the way they did I wouldn't have Rebecca, and Booty, etc, etc". - Mike (of Mike and Chompy)

    There are no single days that utterly shifted the direction of my life in a negative way. With that in mind, I would go back to March 1997, on the day when I had just put the finishing touches on an online birthday card for some girl I liked, complete with original music that was accurately timed to the slideshow of pages (Netscape 3.0 Gold required). After spending hours essentially reinventing Flash before Flash had taken over the browser, I went to work on my C++ programming assignment which had to do with memory pointers and ended up bricking my Pentium P60. This resulted in a day lost to reformatting the computer, having to rewrite the entire assignment, and never getting to show anyone the online card.

    tagged as you speak | permalink | 1 comment

    Monday, June 15, 2015

    Weekend Wrap-up

    I worked on a proposal all weekend, which isn't the least bit interesting. So, why don't you all tell me what you did on your weekends instead?

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

    Wednesday, June 15, 2016

    Memory Day: Snapshots

    This picture was taken nine years ago today, on June 15, 2007.

    Rebecca was working at the non-profit Books for America bookstore in Dupont Circle at the time, and I surprised her by showing up after work (in the pre-Silver Line days). We went to Jazz in the Garden with Marc, Baylis, Andy, Adnrea, Jessika, and forgotten others, and used two pitchers of overpriced sangria to dullen the pain of listening to avant-gard soprano saxophone duets.

    Afterwards, our group of 10 ended up at a hole in the wall restaurant in Chinatown called (creatively) Chinatown Express where I ate shrimp lo mein and had this picture taken. This was in the phase where I heavily edited every photo in Photoshop with a series of custom filters. Nowadays, I allow my natural beauty to be its own testament.

    tagged as memories | permalink | 1 comment

    Friday, June 15, 2018

    Review Day: Divinity: Original Sin 2

    Divinity: Original Sin 2 is an excellent Kickstarter-based, old-school role-playing game with minor deficiencies that will probably be ironed out in the Enhanced Edition coming out later this year (free for owners of the original). It features a top-down view with a fully rotatable camera, turn-based combat built up around Action Points that allow you to cast, attack, or move specific amounts, and an involving story based in high fantasy without feeling overused. If someone were to modernize Ultima 6 and Ultima 7 today, this is probably as close as you could get to those classics.

    I enjoyed the original D:OS game until its cumbersome UI got in the way. This round is much more polished but still a little on the clicky side -- my hands grew tired after gaming sessions in a Diablo 3 type of way. The first thing to experience is the completely open-ended character creation system with multiple races and classes that provides a starting point for your character but doesn't lock you into any permanent decisions. There are 6 ready-made characters with involved plot lines, as well as the option to roll your own. Instead of just attributes and skills, your character's build is broken down even further into attributes, talents, civil abilities, combat abilities, and finally skills that you can purchase based on which abilities you've selected. The sheer amount of options will give you party paralysis (as a perpetual reroller, I'm relieved that I managed to reroll only twice before committing to the rest of the game).

    Graphics, sound, and presentation are all excellent, with great voice acting for every role and the ability to skip cutscenes. Combat is intentionally challenging, with overwhelming numbers of enemies that will quickly mow you down unless you maximize the use of the element-based battlegrounds (such as casting a rain spell to get the enemies wet then using lightning on them for bonus damage). Thankfully, there is also an easy difficulty mode for people that just care about the plot. Though I enjoyed the challenge in combat, it eventually wore me down. There are a limited number of set encounters (no random ones) and I always seemed to hit them just before I'd planned to stop playing. Encounters can last forever with so many characters taking their turns, especially when you die and need to try again.

    I pooped out on D:OS2 about 2/3rds of the way through from simple fatigue -- there is so much to do and explore that it's not a great fit for my completionist tendencies and the journal system does not do a good job of juggling enough information for all of your different quests. Since I like to explore the whole map, I would also stumble into bits of the story that I didn't know I was supposed to be doing yet, which made some of the sidequests more confusing. In the 90s, this flaw would proudly fall under "old-school charm".

    Still, I got a solid 50 hours of enjoyment out of this game and would recommend it for anyone who wants a classic RPG experience. I can see why so many publications made it Game of the Year last year even though no one in mainstream gaming had heard of it.

    Final Grade: B

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    Monday, June 15, 2020

    List Day: COVID-19 Cause and Effect

    • We used to use paper towels for everything...
      It became undesirable to shop at Costco for a couple months...
      Our paper towel supply ran low...
      We were forced to purchase name-brand paper towels in the grocery store whenever they weren't sold out...
      We found that these paper towels don't have the option to tear at 1/2 size so they're overkill for double duty as napkins...
      We bought napkins so we don't waste full-size paper towels...
      We bought weighted napkin trays so they don't blow away on our screen porch...
      We are now a napkin family.

    • I used to get enormous, fresh-baked bagels for breakfast at Safeway twice a week...
      During the early days of quarantine, Safeway was regularly out of stock on everything...
      I started shopping at the slightly-further Giant...
      Giant only sells tiny bagels in bags of 6 (2 of which will go moldy or get too hard to eat)...
      I am now hungry for lunch at 10:45 AM rather than 12:00 PM and snack more frequently throughout the day.

    • Our house used to be quiet in the mornings...
      Rebecca installed a birdfeeder in the backyard as a new activity to spice up endless toddler mornings...
      We now have all sorts of squirrels, grackles, catbirds, blue jays, cardinals, robins, and downy woodpeckers hanging out in our yard...
      A downy woodpecker taps on our drainpipe right outside Maia's window in the morning between 6 and 7:30 AM...
      I now stick my head out the window every morning between 6 and 7:30 AM like the caricature of an angry old man, waving the woodpecker away so Maia remains sleeping.

    tagged as lists | permalink | 1 comment

    Wednesday, June 15, 2022

    Neighbourhood Day

    A new side project I've taken on in my copious free time this year is joining my neighbourhood homeowners' association. I'd considered joining last year but didn't find my resolve until the winter newsletter came out, stating that there had been so little interest at the annual meeting that the board members actually had to go out and knock on doors for proxy votes to reach a quorum (roughly 26 total votes of 260 households). I decided it'd be worth joining even if just to arrest the entropy and disinterest.

    I've attended each monthly meeting since Christmas and am now a board member on a trial basis until regular elections in October. My impression of the HOA up until now has always been pretty neutral -- I always used to appreciate that our dues were super-low and the board seemed mostly hands off (a complete 180 from the usual HOA power trip stories you read on the Internet), so it's very interesting to actually participate and see the complexity of what's going on under the hood. Hearing about the problems that the HOA deals with each month has inspired me to start morning walks with Ian where we hit every street and court that's a part of the HOA at least once a week. I also built a Church Mills Homeowners Assocation website, the first one we've had in over a decade.

    Independent of the HOA, I've taken on some maintenance of the common ground sidewalk around the corner from my house. The common grounds get a cursory mow every few weeks, but our dues are so low that no maintenance is done to keep the forest (and poison ivy) at bay and the trash off the streets.

    I realized throughout the pandemic that the absence of real connection is something that many people struggle with. Joining the HOA and cleaning up the sidewalk are conscious, simple actions I can take to improve the world at a very hyper-local level. I'm not someone that wants to go out and meet everyone on the street, but I can definitely take small steps to model the type of neighbour I'd want to live next to. I can grumble about the people dumping Taco Bell wrappers out of their cars or take less than 5 minutes to clean it up.

    If you also feel the need to make a connection or bring about positive change but aren't sure where to start, consider something local and personal where you can make a tangible difference. Supporting a global or national cause is very noble but one could advocate for big, bold ideas (social change, racial justice, and more) for years without moving the needle. Instead, volunteer at the voting booths or join a beautification effort.

    When I do something at this level, I can immediately see the impact (and enjoy it myself!) I feel more connected to where I live and satisfy my intrinsic need to create or improve something, much more so than when I'm just donating money to good causes like our local food banks.

    tagged as deep thoughts | permalink | 2 comments


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