This Day In History: 06/23

Sunday, June 23, 2002

I've gotten hooked on watching The Sopranos, and I'm halfway through the second season of episodes right now. I watched the very first episode a couple weekends ago when nothing was going on and ended up getting dragged into the story. If you haven't seen it before, it really does match up to all the hype it gets. It's nice that studios are releasing full seasons of episodes on DVD these days.

I'm still using Netscape 7.0 preview edition for all my web needs, and haven't found anything major to gripe about (other than the typical AOL icons and bookmarks that are installed on startup). The browser hiccups a little when loading this page, but a quick Reload usually fixes that. On the web side of things, I probably won't do any major renovations of the site for the next school year, but I am learning how to program Java servlets. It's a technology that won't be useful right away, but will be very useful someday when I'm running my own server.

On the work front, I finished JUnit work and am starting on a redesign of the common GUI architecture that we created last year. I like these kinds of projects best because they're a mix of design and new coding with very few worries about legacy code and "making new stuff work in old limitations". This past week, I also resumed work on PRIMA (see the Coding page for more info). My mention of it in the last news update sparked my motivation, and I've been working on it at night after work. I've created the data structures representing pitches and intervals, and written various algorithms to deal with enharmonic equivalence and key signatures.

Because of this, I didn't do any composing at all these past two weeks. I'll probably pad my schedule at school this coming year as a result. I'll still have the thesis done in the fall, and do any exams during that semester, but I'll hold off on thesis defense and all that good stuff until early in 2003. I already had some breathing room worked into my Spring schedule anyhow, just in case something like this happened.

I finally finished reading A Beautiful Mind after a month of starting and stopping. It really is an interesting book, but its epic length makes it hard to read all at once. The movie of the same name did a really good job of following the real timeline. Of course, things were simplified for the Hollywood audience, but many of the real details were used.

This weekend, I went down to Charlottesville to help my sister move across town. Nothing else to report on that -- it just didn't fit in any of the other paragraphs.

Here's a couple news articles on artificial intelligence that were neat:
Can a PC think for itself?
Robot on the run

Also, happy birthday to Liz (whose birthday was June 21), happy birthday to Nikki (whose birthday is June 24), and happy birthday to Kathy (whose birthday is June 29). If I were still doing daily updates, I'd give them each a nice little banner, but my sporadic updates seem to be unpredictable these days.

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Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Last night, I had some of the under-30 crowd come out after work for some grilling and pool. Four of the six interns came out -- a far cry from the days where I was the only intern and the "FGM Intern Program" consisted of me in whatever spare office happened to be close by. I hear they actually interviewed a good number of candidates this year -- when I got the job through Jack, my interview consisted of a phone call to Fillipo during half time of the Super Bowl and then a quickie acceptance letter.

The Sri Lankan authorities have ordered an inquiry after a dove freeing ceremony intended to symbolise peace went disastrously wrong.

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Thursday, June 23, 2005

The other day, I was listening to a Duke Ellington big band CD that I've owned for at least twelve years when I heard something I'd never heard before. Buried deep underneath a saxophone solo in one non-melodic "we wrote this so people could solo on the chords" arrangement was the complete melodic line from Cherokee played by trombones in closed position harmony. After verifying that I'd actually heard it, I decided to write a news story in which the protagonist (me) is amazed at the facets of music that continue to appear through listening, even twelve years later.

I went into the basement closet where all of my CD cases are hibernating to look up the name of the track, and found that it was an arrangement of... Cherokee. So, not only did I fail to discover anything new in the music -- I also failed to ever identify the harmonies of a song I've heard regularly for over a decade.

As you can see, I decided to write the news story anyhow.

Last August he nearly choked to death during his show while imitating oral sex with a U-shaped sausage that snapped in two in his mouth.
An innovative approach to parking tickets
The bill is flawed, since there is currently no line-item for cases where more than 100 representatives are just idiots

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Friday, June 23, 2006

Friday Fragments

Short and sweet, like an Asian hooker

  • Plinky is now Rank 8 and now gets random messages from strangers when wandering around towns.

  • It's kind of like being a famous rock star, but without the ho's and fresh fruit backstage.

  • The funny part about my #163 standing in last week's tally isn't that I actually made it to 163, it's that there were 162 people with even less of a life than me.

  • By the end of the grueling weekend, our team had won 43 games and lost 30.

  • After each day, I was not thinking clearly and unable to type complete sentences.

  • It was kind of like being drunk but without any alcohol.

  • I never get drunk -- the only time I've ever been drunk without full memory of the night was (aptly) on my 21st birthday.

  • True to BU form, that instance occurred in the privacy of my apartment where apparently I annoyed the snot out of Anna by trying to teach her how to play Super Mario Kart every five minutes.

  • Super Mario Kart is still the greatest multiplayer racing game ever made. Just because all the later sequels were in 3D doesn't make them better.

  • I always picked Koopa as a driver.

  • To this day I've never driven a manual transmission.

  • In sixth grade, my friend, Daniel, had his birthday party at a go-kart raceway and the owner said I was too short to drive. I cried.

  • I didn't actually bawl, but I certainly teared up.

  • When I was a little boy, I was playing with one of those floor mops with the metal piece that squeezes out the sponge. I mauled my pinky in it.

  • My dad got frustrated while dressing the wound and told me to stop crying because crying never fixes anything.

  • I stopped crying immediately and have only every cried a handful of times since then.

  • The Daniel in the crying anecdote is the same Daniel whose birthday was on June 21. I've only seen him once since sixth grade, but we correspond every now and again.

  • The Liz who has the same birthday as Daniel is from college, and I haven't seen her since the Gator Bowl in 2002 where I had the flu and transformed a motel bed into large sea sponge of sweat.

  • I think she moved to Nashville to do vocal things. It's a shame that she had such a beautiful voice but got migraines every time she sang.

  • Migraines can eat me.

  • Female voices I can listen to for a long time without irritation: Nina Persson (both young and old) , Natalie Imbruglia , Alizeé , early Gwen Stefani, Kylie Minogue, and Shaznay Lewis .

  • I used to include Dido in that list, but I no longer find her voice interesting. It's just kind of "there" like Katie Melua's.

  • I like the staticity that her voice brings to her tunes though -- it really works .

  • I would have more samples, but making clips is a pain in the ass, and Fridays are not about pains in the asses, unless you are an on-call hemorrhoid surgeon for the weekend.

  • I am not in the above profession, but my weekend will involve some old farts.

  • This weekend I am shopping for colours with Anna (for the newly lit bedroom), having my parents over for dinner, and going to a barbeque at Kathy and Chris's to see their kittens and celebrate their joint 30 year birthdays.

  • Old farts.

  • Speaking of old farts, Nikki Giraldi Homoroc's birthday is on Saturday and Susannah Rosenberg's is on Sunday. Happy Birthday!

  • Have a great weekend!

  • Cancel My Account
    When style interferes with your M.O.
    Coward cops canned

    tagged as fragments | permalink | 1 comment

    Monday, June 23, 2008

    Old Rag Hiking Trip

    written in the style of second-grade BU

    On Satrday mornin we all went hiking. It was me, Rebecca, Emily, and another guy named brian who wasn't me. Marc was gonna come but he was hung over and when you hike when your hung over you throw up and it is not good so he did not come.

    We got in the car and I sat in the back. We drove very very very far. There is nowere to hike near our houses becus of urban sprall. We drove so far that we were in the fields by the mountins becuse we wanted to hike up a mountin. But valleys are good to.

    It costed us each $8 dollar to get in the park and one park ranger was sad becus she only had a sandwitch for lunch but the other park ranger had a chicken pot pie and he did not want to share it. After goin in the smelly portapotty we put on backpacks and started hikin.

    We saw lots of nature. We saw trees and birds and horse poop all over the road goin in but no one was ridin any horse. Soon we saw a little black bear walking in the woods and said hi. He didn't say hi back. We watched the bear then he left. Then we started to hike agin.

    As we got high up on the mountin, there were lots more hikers and not just us. We saw a boy scout troop that was to fat to go up the narrow part so there was a line for a long time til they got all the backpacks and the fat scout leaders through. Then we saw another bear on the path and all the scouts were afraid that it would attack them but I knew I could cast Hibernate Rank 1 on it and we could get away so I wasn't scared. Then we saw a dog who lived on the mountin all alone but he was sleeping. then we walked over some rocks and saw some more rocks. There were rocks all over.

    Finally we got to the top of the mountin (the summit) and sat down for lunch. I had a turky sandwitch with mayo and some water. We ate and my feet hurt. the view was pretty to.

    Before we left, I did a handstand becus it is cool. Then we left. We went a diffrent way home becus there were to many hikers comin up the good way. The way home was smoother and had not as many rocks, so it was like the coldplay trail insted of the metalica trail. After we hiked some it turned into a road that was very wide but had horse poop on it. It was smelly to.

    It took us two hourse to reach the bottom and we saw a deer on the way that wasn't scared at all. it wsa starring at me and only a few feet away. we got back to the car aroun 3:00 o-clock and drove home getting some cheep gas on the way. Then we showered and went to red robin with becca to celebrat Rebecca's birthday. then we came home and played mario kart with Mike but we lost and watched a movie til we fel alseep.


    P.S. please if you get a chanse put some flowrs on Algernons grave in the bak yard.

    Deputies reprimanded after alligator bite
    Woman gets injury from defective thong
    Pregnancy boom at Gloucester High

    tagged as day-to-day | permalink | 7 comments

    Tuesday, June 23, 2009

    Newsday Tuesday

    Game Developers Gunning For Girl Power

    Known for making adrenaline-pumping action games for young men, video game companies now are getting in touch with their feminine side. Why? Because it's a lucrative and relatively untapped market.

    What game publishers still fail to realize is that a good game is always a good game -- making girl games with themes presumed to be girly will probably do more to insult than to attract.

    Video games for girls today fall into two main categories. There are "pet/nurturing games" like EA's "Littlest Pet Shop" [...] and there are "fashion/style type games" like Ubisoft's "Imagine" franchise. "These are two classic play patterns for girls of this age," [analyst Anita] Frazier said. "I'm hoping with greater experience with this market that the publishers are able to branch out and find other themes of games to appeal to girls."

    Focus group studies have unearthed two additional themes for which games are under development now -- "twilight games" where young girls can make out inappropriately with vampires, and "gossip/backstabbing games" where girls can come home from middle school and relive the entire day on their computers. The "math/science games" were nixed by upper management in favour of a seventh game where you can virtually comb the tail of a pony.

    Ubisoft is adding a third girls brand this fall with Style Lab. It's targeting 8- to 12-year-old girls, known as "tweens" because they are between childhood and adolescence. Style Lab games [...] will focus on makeovers and jewelry design.

    Unfortunately for Ubisoft, the World of Warcraft monopolized these areas long ago when it introduced the barber shop and jewelcrafting. When asked, Ubisoft dismissed the competition, noting that Style Lab was merely a cheap hook to draw tweens into a complete world of age-appropriate Lab games as they get older. Date Lab (rated Everyone 10+ by the ESRB) and Meth Lab (rated T for Teen) will be released next, and by the time the girls become adults, they'll be able to play Infidelity Lab and Plastic Surgeon's Lab.

    Electronic Arts is pursuing tween girls with its "Charm Girls Club," set for release in October.

    Only in an article about marketing could you use the phrase, "pursuing tween girls", and not raise any suspicions.

    The publisher sees "Charm Girls Club" as a social game that girls can play when they get together at home. It's being developed for Nintendo's market-leading Wii console with its motion-sensing controllers. "It's designed to make the girls have an absolute ball at a sleepover party," Key said.

    In other news, Al Lowe (of Leisure Suit Larry fame) has stated his intention to create a video game for boys in which they can spy on Wiimote-toting girls having an absolute ball at sleepovers. Preorders in Japan are already at record highs.

    One reason that game publishers like girl games is because they're cheaper and quicker to develop than male-oriented action games. "It's a good margin business," Key said. "The games are not expensive to make. The money is actually spent on the marketing side."

    Other highly successful products characterized by exorbitant marketing budgets with very little spent on design or development include American Idol, The Matrix parts 2 and 3, and the Republican Party.

    By comparison, a title like Ubisoft's "Splinter Cell" or "Assassin's Creed" can take two or three years to create, with large teams of 100 or 200 software developers.

    The bigger-and-better approach has also given us such classics as Daikatana and Dukem Nukem Forever.

    NIH Funds $423,500 Study of Why Men Don't Like to Use Condoms
    Robotic ferret is newest tool against smugglers
    Gimme a beer, imbecile!

    tagged as newsday | permalink | 1 comment

    Thursday, June 23, 2011

    Progress Day

    • I'm about 130 pages (10%) through this giant book on XSLT and XPath, which is heavier than at least one of my cats and should round some of the knowledge I need in my new position.

    • In kitchen land, dishwasher and icemaker hook up is today, and the Vanilla Ice countertops are scheduled to be installed next Monday. After that, we get to the paint, light fixtures, and dining table.

    • I have watched 2 of 8 seasons of Home Improvement, mostly in the background while I work on other things.

    • Our volleyball team is 2-4 with 6 games to go.

    • Our indoor-planted basil is now taller than a desk ruler. The oregano continues to struggle.

    • Our forest mosquitoes are greatly reduced but not defeated, in time for weekend barbequing plans.
    Fired IT manager puts porn in CEO's presentation
    Boeing rights a wrong: the flight attendant button
    My life as an undocumented immigrant

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    Monday, June 23, 2014

    Weekend Wrap-up

    • Friday Night
      • Porch Taco Night: "Porch Taco" is not a racial slur -- it's a night where you eat tacos with made-from-scratch taco seasoning on the back porch, paired with a Widmer "Brotha from Anotha Motha" Hefeweizen and some mosquitoes.

    • Saturday
      • Rebecca's Birthday Dinner: featuring Asian fusion pork chops, a gaggle of friends, and someone's thoughtful gift of cake-flavoured vodka.

    • Sunday
      • Cleaning Day: spent beautifying and cleaning out the basement bedroom after the departure of our basement-dwelling cousin (as immortalized in the John Mayer song, "Your Basement is a Wonderland"), while Rebecca packed for her week-long vacation. Ate too much Dominos pan pizza for dinner.

    • Monday Morning
      • Rebecca leaves for a 4-day Yoga Camp in western Massachusetts while Brian goes to work!

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

    Tuesday, June 23, 2015

    Shed Day




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

    Thursday, June 23, 2016

    Vacation Day

    I'm on leave for the rest of the week, so enjoy this old post about my first trip up Old Rag Mountain written 8 years ago today.

    tagged as green (recycled) content | permalink | 0 comments

    Friday, June 23, 2017

    Review Day

    There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

    The 100, Season Four:
    This show is still a great example of sci-fi lite, where you can go along for the ride without thinking too hard. Though the plot in this season isn't quite as interesting as Season Three, it's still entertaining and ends up with a nice shake-up that should make the next season fresher. The main flaw in this season is the continued flip-flop of characters that make wishy-washy decisions to forward the plot and then feel angsty about them.

    Final Grade: B

    This is a very polished 3rd-person Zelda-like game for the Oculus Rift. Like Lucky's Tale, the camera is your head, and your character runs from room to room fighting goblins and solving simple puzzles. It has a few instances of poorly telegraphed puzzles and I'm not very good at the fighting aspect, but it's very immersive and a good example of what VR can do for gaming.

    Final Grade: B

    Keep Talking and No One Explodes:
    This is a fun VR party game where one player wears the headset and sees a suitcase bomb that they can manipulate. They have to describe what they're seeing to people in the real world who have a printed manual of logic rules (like "If there are 4 wires, cut the red wire"). The opening menu is a little cumbersome to navigate but the game itself evokes fun Telephone-like miscommunications that result in the bomb defuser getting blown up on a regular basis. We've only played the first few types of puzzles, but the later ones look intimidatingly daunting in the printed manual.

    Final Grade: B+

    Google Earth VR:
    VR is one of those technologies whose impact can't truly be understood until you put the headset on yourself, and Google Earth is easily the killer app to make people understand. This program allows you to travel anywhere on the planet and fly through the world with your controllers. Because it is not yet integrated with Google Street View on the web, the illusion breaks down if you zoom in too close to person-scale, but it's still exhilarating to revisit places you've been before or trek up Mount Everest without danger. I've read that they've used this VR program on dementia patients to allow them to visit their childhood homes, and I, myself, have re-experienced all of the crazy vacations and hikes that Rebecca and I have taken. The map data improves regularly, and many of the neighbourhoods are getting 3D-ified with LIDAR data (surprisingly, Sterling Park is one of the completed ones, as seen in the screenshot below). In cases where the neighbourhood isn't available yet, the topography of the landscape is still rendered, but the buildings are shown as a flat texture.

    Final Grade: B+

    tagged as reviews | permalink | 0 comments

    Wednesday, June 23, 2021

    Maia's Drawings Day

    Not yet 4 and Maia already draws like a 4.5 year old. I'm preserving these here so I don't end up with 20 overflowing file cabinet in 20 years.

    I feel like side profile is an advanced figure skill.

    I think we all have belly buttons in this picture, or maybe those are our flies. Ian is the little one.

    tagged as offspring, media | permalink | 2 comments

    Friday, June 23, 2023

    Review Day: DuoLingo

    I've been using the DuoLingo app to fulfill my 2023 goal of learning Spanish to communicate better with my neighbors. I purchased the $83.99 annual pass because the ad-supported tier is absolutely useless for anything other than trying out the app. (Between the very slow loading screens and the twice-as-loud ads after every exercise, it's impossible to keep focused or make much forward progress).

    I usually spend 15 - 60 minutes per day using DuoLingo. It's a mixed bag with a few more positives than negatives.

    The Good

    • The length of each lesson is perfect. Courses are broken up into units of 6 - 8 lessons each, and each lesson is broken up further into 3 - 5 quick modules. You can do a part of a lesson in just a few minutes of downtime, or sit down more formally to do an entire lesson. The Spanish class is huge -- I've done 28 units so far and there are still 192 to go.
    • The variety of lessons (reading, listening, writing, speaking) is nice and forces you to think in the language in multiple ways. There are review modules in each style so you can get better at your weakest areas.
    • The organization of the content is well-done. Topics are well-paced and new vocabulary words will pop up for several lessons to come so you learn them through repetition. Collections of words (numbers, months, types of things) are sprinkled throughout so you don't end up with a boring "Let's learn 20 different numbers and nothing else for two weeks" lesson like you would in high school Spanish.
    • The gamification (earning points, rewards, and leaderboard status) provides a shallow way to keep you practicing consistently. You get more points for reviewing than you do for learning something new, which helps make the lessons stick.

    The Bad

    • The actual LEARNING part of the equation is lacking. Almost all of the learning is done with trial and error -- throwing something new at you then correcting you when you obviously get it wrong. This can lead to some confusion in later lessons that introduce exceptions (for example masculine vs. feminine, or when the adjective goes BEFORE the noun). While this teaching style works for reinforcement, it would still be better to teach a few things upfront so you understand the foundations instead of learning so many things by rote.
    • The voice recognition aspect of the speaking sections is subpar and easily gamed. It seems to trigger based on the peaks and valleys of your sound wave so you can skate by just hitting consonants and mispronounce tons of stuff in the middle. Sometimes it refuses to accept your answer unless you slow way down and recite each word in isolation. If you try to speak as fast as some of the colloquial teaching examples, you have a high chance of being rejected.
    • The gamification is ultimately a distraction from learning. If you get sucked into the competitive leaderboard, you'll find that some activities provide far more points than a NEW lesson. You may end up wasting a lot of time strategically using the "double experience" milestones and repeating old lessons for speed, with diminishing returns on how much you're actually learning. However, you'll eventually find out that the leaderboard is meaningless because you get grouped up with 30 new people every week so there's no room for real rivalry or cameraderie.

    Final Grade: B, at $84 per year the app is still cheaper than an in-person course, but the amount you learn is directly dependent on your daily motivation. The convenience of having it on your phone may outweigh the dearth of true teaching.

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