This Day In History: 06/26
I've updated the Links page. All that's left to convert are the Music page and the Writings page, which I should get to this weekend. Enjoy, my little homepage monkeys.
Look, a Saturday update!
Misconception #1: The coach may not have been required to wear a life vest by regulations, but crew coaches have always worn life vests in their launches. In my five years of crew, the only driver or passenger in a coach's launch not required to have a life vest was the Coach Yeich's dog, Killian.
Misconception #2: The purpose of crew is to go fast on the water, which is why rowers, like swimmers, don't wear life vests. If a coxswain that weighs ten fewer pounds is enough to greatly reduce drag on the boat, what would nine life vests do? If I recall correctly, the swim test required to do crew in my day was to get thrown in the river or a pool fully clothed and be able to kick off your shoes and swim a certain distance.
Misconception #3: Durham has probably never rowed crew in his life. A rowboat oar may not be an acceptable flotation device, but a scull oar is a good nine feet long and weighs more than I do. If my scull were hit by a nuclear attack, I would be comfortable using a scull oar as a flotation device, since rowing takes place on a river and not an ocean. I don't think I've ever seen a rower with additional flotation devices, since the entire boat is fabricated out of floating materials.
Misconception #4: If the accident occurred at the marina, the boats were in Virginia waterspace, not D.C. Alexandria crew boats rarely venture into D.C. waterspace, though they occasionally cross into Maryland.
I know that the Washington Post is a bleeding heart liberal newspaper, but the article makes it sound like crew is a catastrophe waiting to happen, when a more responsible angle might have just been to note that it was an unfortunate accident where the coach might have been better off wearing a vest.
I've been thrown in that river numerous times without a vest, and I'm no worse for the wear.
Mike is now watching the first season of LOST (which he says is boring) and created his very first tag: How Do the LOST Numbers Apply to You?. The numbers are a series of digits that appear in many places throughout the show, which may or may not have any significance to the plot at large: 4 8 15 16 23 42.
4: The maximum number of cats you can have in a household for an extended period of time without paranoid feelings that they are everywhere watching everything, slowly taking control of your house.
8: I was eight years old when I was in fourth grade (4!). I have never played a game involving eight-sided dice (why would you ever need more than 6, which is halfway between 4 and 8?) Scratch that, I have played Scattergories which has more sides than your mom at a buffet.
15: The number of contiguous years that I practiced and studied trumpet performance. Also, the amount of dollars I'd be making daily, had I pursued a career in trumpet performance.
16: The number of people I can think of off the top of my head that visit this site on a regular or semi-regular basis. Also the number of years until I will be forty-two years old (42!).
23: My age when I finally left school and entered the real world.
42: I earned 42 merit badges as a bona-fide member of the Boy Scouts of America. How many can you identify?
I will now tag Anna and Rob as the only two people I know of who watch LOST and also have a blog. (This means that both Kim and Kathy are rat finks, but you both are welcome to reply to this tag in the comments section).A message from beyond the grave
An article in yesterday's Post reported that major construction work on the $676 million Mixing Bowl project in northern Virginia has been completed. The treacherous throbbing ulcer where Interstates 95, 395, and 495, and numerous local roads converge now flows much more freely than before. However, there are early indications that all is not well in the land of poorly chosen cooking analogies -- some drivers are getting lost!
Drivers complain of counterintuitive highway splits where they must head to the left to ultimately go right and head to the right to go left. They worry about staying in the left lane of the Beltway and winding up heading to Richmond.
In counterpoint, natives of New Jersey have praised the new ramps as "100% intuitive" and "the way things should be".
"It feels just like home," says Milly Franklin of Piscataway. "All I need now is a full-service gas station."
"It's doing the opposite of what people expect," said John Ulaszek of Arlington County, who commutes daily through the interchange and reports plenty of close calls. He sometimes takes his camera to record the skid marks on the pavement and the last-minute lane changes.
Virginia Department of Transportation officials have also confirmed a recent upswing in accidents caused by "morons trying to take pictures while driving through the Mixing Bowl", but stopped short of labelling Mr. Ulaszek as part of the problem, saying only that it was an interesting spike, and not yet statistically significant.
"It's like putting the hot and cold knobs on the opposite side of the sink, and people can't understand why they just got scalded," [Ulaszek] said.
Fortunately for the human race, conditioning will allow even the lowliest of animals to stop scalding themselves on the hot water, even if they have anterograde memory loss like Sammy Jenkis. We may be confused by the roads now, but after a few trips it will become second nature. Said Tom (of LOST fame), "It only took the bears two hours".
"I confess to being victimized by it," [spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic] Anderson said. Several weeks ago, he was on the inner loop of the Beltway and found himself on a ramp to I-95 toward Richmond. "I was like, 'Whoa! This is the Springfield exit. How did we get here?' " Anderson recalled.
According to the rest of the account, Anderson's passenger was like, "Dude, where's your car going?" and Anderson was like, "What the eff, man!" The pair then pulled off at the Franconia Road IHOP for some late night pancakes, as Anderson was "sporting a major case of the munchies".
Anderson and his passenger's harrowing journey is not unique though -- other drivers have reported being victimized by the Mixing Bowl in a like manner. One young couple visiting from Bulgaria reported that the I-495 ramp towards the Woodrow Wilson bridge stole their lunch money. The couple did not wish to be identified, fearing reprisals on their return trip, but said through an interpreter, "This is the last time we go to Rehoboth Beach. America can suck it."
No sign can cure the core reason for confusion at the new Springfield interchange: Three highways still meet there, all of which end in "95," and one of which -- the Beltway -- travels in a circle.
Or maybe this sign can, and BU lands it.
Guy with a post-it note and five minutes: 1
Even without a sign, there's still a 33% chance you'll end up on the correct highway, and since a circle is involved, you'll eventually get to the right place most of the time. I love it when a circle is involved.
In one section of Old Keene Mill Road, sympathetic project officials painted the highway symbols onto the roadway to let drivers know the correct lane to be in. But painting similar symbols onto the highway lanes would cause more confusion because so many lanes are shared, they said.
VDOT officials also revealed that their road-painting initiative backfired when local pranksters put their own symbols on an unfinished road leading over a cliff. Thankfully no one was injured, though many drivers were still on the lookout for free beer when they crawled out of the twisted, smoking wreckage of their cars.
Leighton Cooper, 17, goes through the Mixing Bowl twice a day, heading between Clinton and a private high school in Oakton. But even he sometimes gets confused. One time he wound up on I-395 heading toward the District.
School guidance counselors downplayed the role of the Mixing Bowl in this confusion, noting that the student's parents had named him Leighton. They also pointed out that the public school kid was still sitting in his driveway trying to start the car by jamming a carrot in the ignition.
Meanwhile, the home-schooled kid (who was unaffected by a commute for obvious reasons) had assigned himself an independent study project that modelled the flow of traffic through the Mixing Bowl as a viscous fluid. He won $25,000 in a DuPont-sponsored science fair which he spent on a full-time bodyguard to protect him from the public school bullies who preyed on him during his daily unicycle rides around the neighbourhood.Frozen beer on a stick sells like hotcakes
World of Warcraft has a dirty little command, /played, that shows you how long you've been playing your character. Not a harmless measure like "You've been playing since 2004", but a down-to-the-minute tally of every single moment you've spent online. This command was obviously put into the game to embarass gamers by quantifying the amount of time they were NOT in the lab finding a cure for cancer or reading to underprivileged children in Ghana.
"It is a sobering thought, for example, that when Mozart was my age he had been dead for two years." - Tom Lehrer
My main character has a /played time of 61 days, but when you add up all my other characters, the total comes to 119 days and 20 hours (or 2876 hours of my life). This doesn't even include the characters deleted after realizing for the tenth time that Paladins are too boring to level over 30, or Aukshunner, the level 1 alt who spent the first half of 2005 sitting in the auction house making millions as if that were a game within a game.
Had I spent all this time in useful and scholarly pursuits, I might have discovered the cure for both cancer AND radio stations that play Nickelback. However, this doesn't make me want to quit the game, and I don't consider it time wasted.
Alright, the time I turned my Druid into a seal and tried to circumnavigate the entire continent may have been wasted time. And the thirty deleted warriors who required less strategy to play than a game of Hungry Hungry Hippos were probably not cost-effective. And all the time spent Fishing, only to reach a skill level of 141/300. But OTHERWISE, I wouldn't classify Warcraft as a waste of time.
At the end of the day, the enjoyment and friendships gleaned from playing Warcraft are far more rewarding than sitting on the couch watching reruns of "George Lopez is a Comedian Not An Actor" or going to a loud bar and hanging around people who like to use "at the end of the day" in casual conversation.
And if we're completely honest with ourselves, 99% of us would never have used that time for anything useful anyhow.Children concerned about parents' web habits
See more Cat Pictures
See more Maryrose Pictures
This weekend, I'll be dropping off the cats at Grandma's house and heading to the Outer Banks and the "Shore Thing" beach house. Although I will have my laptop, the better to keep up the continuous flow of illegal armaments through Amazon Marketplace, I cannot guarantee that there will be any updates. The only exception might be a big picture of the beach to mock everyone stuck in an office.
Enjoy your Independence Day Week! Updates will resume on Doobie's birthday.Monkey pees on Zambian president
Composing music is a lot like going to the bathroom: the vast quantity of music you write will immediately be discarded, and you really need to have produced a diamond to make saving it a worthwhile venture. I have dozens of folders of unfinished tunes, from longer works that I simply lost interest in before they were done, to shorter fragments that I edited out of existing works when they didn't quite fit, to two and three bar motives hastily jotted down after a night's dream.
Here is an unfinished work I started in December 2006 -- a jazz chart based upon a simple melody that Anna plunked out on her piano. I don't know why it was never completed, but I can theorize that I was distracted trying to obtain an epic mount in World of Warcraft, or something equally as useless.
Back in 1991, I created a magazine parody that was a mix of National Geographic and TIME. These were some of the advertisements in this magazine, emphasizing the high-brow humour found inside of my seventh grade mind.
There are no major spoilers in this review. However, if you have no interest in video games, you will hate this post, and should probably skip it.
I played World of Warcraft from launch back in December 2004, cancelling and resubscribing a surprising amount of times. However, each re-up was a lengthier amount of time from the last and shorter in duration, like a Massively Multiplayer Online stone being skipped across a Massively Multiplayer Online river, but falling prey to the inevitability of Massively Multiplayer Online gravity. I actually logged in once during the recent expansion full of pandas (purely from the nostalgia of playing Hearthstone), but so much had changed that I quickly became frightened, dropped the mic, and never logged in again.
Other than WoW and 18 levels of Everquest in 1999 (as a wisp-kiting bard named Squiggy), my only MMO experience has been Guild Wars 2, which lasted approximately 13 hours, and still ranks among my least cost-effective retail game purchases. All of these ancient history details guide my first impressions of Wildstar (made by some of the original WoW guys), which I recently purchased on impulse after too much Diablo 3, and which I've spent about 15 hours playing so far. I'm currently a Level 16 Exile Medic named Plinky on the PvE server, Orias.
It's pricey: $60 for the game and a first month, followed by $15 per month afterwards. However, it's good enough that I've played it more than some Steam Sale games I've bought in the past.
My first impressions were a mixed bag -- I don't know how a starting area can simultaneously be both too chaotic and too on-rails, but Wildstar nails this dichotomy. Too much complexity is available too soon, and the environments are too vibrant and loud, with distractions everywhere (not unlike the first 10 minutes of Moulin Rouge), but it calms down quickly after level 5. I like to browse the Options menus of games when I first start out, but the level of customization available (with minimal explanation in the tooltips) is very off-putting. My advice here would be to just get through the starting missions first, and then figure out how you want to customize your play experience.
Questing is comparable to WoW, with a few streamlined features like turning in a quest from the field. I encountered nothing innovative, but what is there is polished and well-done.
NCSoft has the uphill battle of staging an MMO in a world without pre-existing lore, but the backstory is available in optional dialogue choices and books, if you want to indulge. However, I usually start out reading these religiously for about 10 minutes before getting bored and just clicking through them at Carpal-Tunnel-inducing speeds to get to the next objective. Generally, lore is wasted on me.
The big difference added to Wildstar is the use of "telegraphs", which shows geometric shapes on the battleground where an enemy is about to attack. Gone is the auto-targeting and guaranteed casting of a spell from WoW -- now you need to cast your spell while running and keep your telegraph on the enemy, while dodging other telegraphs. This definitely makes combat more engaging, but also makes it harder to manage your movement and hotkeys at the same time. During my first battleground, there were so many overlapping telegraphs on the ground that I felt like I was freebasing a ninth grade Geometry class taught by a My Little Pony, but I'm slowly getting the hang of it.
The UI is also a mixed bag. There are millions of options to customize the look and feel, but the options that you end up needing are often missing. Also, tooltips and tutorials are splattered all over everything, except on important concepts that you'd really like to know about. Leveling up and the associated ability / AMP system could use a lot more tooltips and tutorials, but I was able to find enough information on the official forum and Reddit.
One of the things I hated about WoW was the constant need to fix broken Add-ons when new patches were released. So, I'm trying hard to NOT rely on add-ons in this game. I have only downloaded one, BijiPlates, which is a nameplate add-on that removes a lot of the artistic complexity and shading from health and cast bars. This was a necessity from a healer's perspective, because it was impossible to figure out who to heal with the default UI.
Graphics and Music
The graphics are even more cartoony than WoW, but pleasant enough. I have settings at Ultra High and get 40-60 FPS with a year-old graphics card, but don't really see anything that would need much processing power. The music is great, favouring orchestrated, melodic music over ambient themes.
The tone of the game is tongue-in-cheek, with over-the-top humour. It's not grating enough to be annoying, but may not be everyone's cup of tea. You will not care about the fate of any character and you won't laugh out loud, but you may smirk and gently exhale some air every so often.
With questing being only marginally new, I dove into Player vs. Player combat as soon as it was available (Level 6) and have been leveling up through battlegrounds since then. PvP is very familiar for any WoW player, but the insane overlap of telegraphs really makes it hard to figure out what's going on at first. I've been playing as a healer, but even with add-ons, it's sometimes too hard to heal the group with any expertise other than button spamming. However, the playstyle itself is very fun, and the first battleground feels like a pleasant variant of Warsong Gulch. Teams are pretty evenly matched, but the graveyard respawn time feels a little long. Perhaps, I'm just not used to dying so much.
I haven't tried Adventures or Dungeons yet, and "RAID" is a four-letter word to me, so those aspects don't factor into my initial grade. Also, WoW has always had the built-in benefit of being full of old friends with shared history. It's too hard to make new friends in new MMOs, so I usually just do my solo thing.
B: Has its flaws but definitely shows promise!
I sketched this cartoon in April 1992, as a requirement for my Art merit badge.
Apparently this Scout troop was comprised solely of really ugly kids with really oblong heads. Also, they are all group-thinking about lunch -- lunch is not raining on them.
This weekend was the last one for awhile with activities on the calendar. On Saturday, we took a walk through Sugarland just before it got hot for the day, and then went over to Karolina and Carlos' for an evening barbeque. I also played the new VR game, Mage's Tale which is set in the universe of The Bard's Tale and allows you to throw fireballs at goblins.
On Sunday, we did a morning neighborhood walk and then helped Sara move in Reston. In the afternoon, I got introduced to homebrewing at Car & Ben's house -- it was interesting from a hobbyist perspective, but I don't think I'd ever have the patience to do it myself unless the turnaround time for a batch was less than 24 hours. For dinner, we went to Burger 21 for burgers and shakes.
No baby yet!
My 7th cloud certification came with a free sandwich and small drink.
There are no major spoilers in these reviews.
The Expanse, Season Four:
The new season produced by Amazon shows continuity in the transfer from SyFy other than a few awkward fadeouts. The story is more intimate with good sources of character tension although most of the new female characters feel interchangeable. The final episode feels a little rushed and tacked on, especially the end of the storyline for one of the semi-main characters. Free on Amazon Prime.
Final Grade: B-
Not everything needs an origin story. This movie is an extended, uncomfortable voyeurism of a descent into mental illness. While I appreciated the harsh, grainy 80s style of the production, I struggled to take Joaquin Phoenix seriously because he looks too much like Ty Burrell from Modern Family here. Phoenix also runs more in this movie than any given Tom Cruise movie.
Final Grade: C
Luther, Season Five:
This detective series continues to excel at matching macabre crime with intense personal drama. The background story here felt too convoluted, or maybe I just watched Season Four too long ago. By the end, I struggled to understand the main characters' unspoken motivations, which lessened my enjoyment of the finale. Free on Amazon Prime.
Final Grade: B-
After a bad first impression of this game, I gave it another shot and found nothing to draw me in. The game starts identically to Borderlands 1 and 2, and features writing that tries so hard to be edgy that's it's just awful. The story beats you over the head with how clever the dialogue is supposed to be and the UI makes it tedious to tackle the primary motivation of the game -- the acquisition of bigger and better guns. I gave up after about 3 hours -- I'd rather play Borderlands 2 again.
Final Grade: Not Graded
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