This Day In History: 07/08

Thursday, July 08, 2004

The Loudoun Extra section of the Washington Post is pretty worthless. When I lived in Alexandria and then Fairfax County, I could at least hope to find an interesting story or two. The Loudoun version only talks about horses, farming, and how farming is diminishing in importance because of the suburbs. Damn suburbs.

Jeb Bush can't pass the FCAT
"Sourcenext products are just 1980 Yen?! Oh, my Goodness....!" She faints suddenly. A guy rushs to her and says, "She is having a baby!" Everyone looks at her anxiously. The guy says, "Now, the baby was born!" And for no special reason, she had a colt. It tries to rise unsteadily to its feet. "Oh! It stands up!" Everybody is moved.
Attack of the Killer Kangaroos
Dog must learn English to allow owner into English program

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Friday, July 08, 2005

Warning: Today's news update links to stories about animals with bad endings. This does not refer to pooping elephants. If you don't like sad animal stories, do not click on the links.

This is not the way you should be putting injured deer out of their misery, even if you are one of Arlington's finest . Unless the deer is possessed by the spirit of Rasputin (in which case you should call a Scientologist for an audit), your best bet is to call up Animal Control.

I'm sure by now everyone's heard the sad story of the dog and the firecracker on Independence Day . I think the most ridiculous aspect of the story is how it happened:

    Kolinoski said the family had been celebrating in their yard [...] when his wife's uncle drove by and threw the explosive about 5:30 p.m.

    "He wasn't even invited," the dog's owner said.

Who does that? "Heads up kids, your Uncle Billy's here!"

Sometimes animals get their revenge though. Here's a story paraphrased from America's Dumbest Criminals by Butler, Ray, and Gregory:

    Kerry and David's idea of a good time was to get drunk and drive some thirty miles outside their southwestern city and wreak havoc on whatever innocent desert creatures happened across their path; mainly coyotes. From their new 4x4 Blazer, they would run them down or shoot them, sometimes setting traps for the unsuspecting creatures, ensuring themselves sufficient victims for a day of demented sport. One day, the pair removed a coyote from their trap and taped two sticks of dynamite to its body. Then they lit the fuses and turned the coyote loose.

    Scared, confused, and panicked, the coyote ran for about ten feet, then turned and ran straight back at them. Kerry and David ran. The coyote followed. It would rush one way, zig and zag, then chase after the other guy. Finally, the coyote ran for the nearest cover, which was a five by eleven foot shaded area -- right under the new Blazer. The terrible two were now the ones scared, confused, and panicked. They couldn't chase him off. They couldn't drag him out. They couldn't even get near him. In fact, they had to run even faster now...

    Kaboom! The two were thirty miles from home, and stranded in the middle of the desert. When they were finally rescued, they were charged with animal cruelty and other violations against nature. And once the truth was out, the insurance company refused to cover the Blazer.


Happiness is rediscovering an unopened box of chocolate eclairs in the freezer. Have a good weekend!

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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Revamp Day

We're just weeks away from the Thirteenth Edition of the URI! Zone, an epochal event which signifies that I've needed a better hobby for almost twelve full years now. Although I have rebranded the site every year with charmingly urbane colours and hip lingo (with Ocean Sounds), I've actually done very little under the hood to make this site any more useful or enjoyable (see also, Microsoft Word 97, 98, 2000, 2001, X, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2007, and 2008). In fact, the last time I actually made major changes to the gears in my site's pants was 2005, when I pretended to be like Florida-Mike and learned about two and a half chapters of PHP before hating it.

So as not to stagnate, I've decided to take a page out of the playbooks of successful world leaders, to achieve the same levels of progressive thinking and flourishing that their countries have seen. Here are some of the features I would like to include in my own "Five Year Plan", although it will probably take much less than five years to accomplish.

No More Frames:
The URI! Zone has used HTML Frames since before the birth of Doobie, for the simple reason that it's a logical and useful navigation technique: put your content in one frame and leave the main menu buttons in another frame so they're always available for clicking. Sometime around 1999, people started hating frames and invented today's standard "really long page blog" format, which is about as ridiculous as replying to an email at the top of the thread and forcing everyone to read from the bottom. Now that the primary focus of the URI! Zone is the news updates, it makes sense to go with a single-page format (even if I philisophically disagree).

Streamlining Content:
Last year, I removed the Olio section, and next to go will be the Archive section. Honestly, when was the last time you cared that I hosted a gallery of fantasy thumbnail images in 1997, or read my reviews of N64 games from 2001? I'll also get rid of the eight million high school essays I wrote, because while I love the added search engine traffic, I hate that my site is being used for the dumbing down of plagiarizing snotnoses.

Post Tagging:
Post tagging is one of the few good things to come out of the blogging craze, because you can never have too many forms of categorization. Haven't you ever wanted to look at all the posts where I make fun of NASA at the same time, or wondered how many Friday Fragments posts I've made?

Database-Driven Posts:
I still write out every single post by hand, in a homebrewed mix of Javascript and HTML because I am proud and hate borrowing code from other people. However, switching to a blogging engine like Wordpress would reduce the daily maintenance (giving me time to make posts 12 times as long) and improve the Comments section. With a database-driven solution, it would be easier for Kelley to fix all the mistakes in his comments with a big fat EDIT button. It would also allow me to add a search engine for old posts so you could immediately tell when I am merely repeating a post that I originally made two years ago (I never do that though -- I wait at least three years).

RSS Feed:
A side effect of putting all the posts in a database would be having a chic RSS feed for Rob, which would broadcast my daily updates to the "blogosphere", artificially increasing my traffic at zero cost to me.

JSPs and Servlets:
Working with databases via PHP is more painful than listening to TATU sing the national anthem, so it's only natural that I would employ the very technologies that I use at work every day.

A New Site Host:
The main deterrent to new features has been my webhost, which generally works fine until they try to upgrade something, then breaks down miserably, leaving some outsourced Indian to provide useless tech support by email. If I do anything with databases and JSPs, I would want to move to another host with a better uptime record (which is not just a go-lucky LP from 1957). So, if you know any hosts that run Tomcat and support servlets for less than $107 a year, let me know!

Now it's your turn. What features do YOU think are missing from the URI! Zone?

MLK was a Republican
Saucy intruder whistles for homeowner
Police say UFO was just the Moon

tagged as website | permalink | 3 comments

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Caption Contest Day

It's been a while since I gave my Mom any money, so I thought I'd have my annual caption contest. These pictures were taken from Reuter's Pictures of the Month, and since yesterday was Doobie's birthday, one of them includes a tuba.

  • Invent a funny, insightful, or witty caption for either one of these images (your choice). Submit your caption to me using the email link in the top bar by Tuesday the 14th at 6 PM EST. Make sure you note which image your caption goes with.
  • Examples can be seen in last year's contest involving George Bush and runners here.
  • Entries will be voted on by Zone readers and the winner will receive a $10 gift certificate to Amazon.com. I have the final say in ties, cheating, and suspected sabotage.
  • Teen charged in attempt to extort nude pictures through Myspace and Facebook
    Terrified of being seen alone, students eat in the toilet
    Police foil radio control zeppelin jailbreak

    tagged as contests | permalink | 0 comments

    Thursday, July 08, 2010

    Review Day: Kindle 2

    We had talked about getting a Kindle quite often in the past, but the impetus behind our purchase ended up being the price drop to $189, effectively labeling it as a gadget you wouldn't be scared to bring everywhere with you -- one that would be disappointing to lose or break, but not one that would sit at home uselessly in a protective case.

    I picked the standard Kindle over the Kindle DX because of better portability -- if I wanted a paper-sized screen, I'd just read on the netbook or the laptop. I stayed within the Amazon family because I'm comfortable and invested in the Amazon framework, and because no one really wants to own a device that can be called "The Nookie Reader".

    As you become more familiar with the Kindle, the interface really does fade away until you're just reading another book that happens to be very thin. The size and weight are great for reading at all angles, even standing on your head, and the momentary flash as you turn pages gets much less noticeable after the initial distraction. Navigating WITHIN a book can get tedious sometimes, so I wouldn't want to use the Kindle for books that require lots of flipping back and forth, or jumping to other sections. For a standard novel reading front-to-back, it's perfect. When supporting the Kindle in my left hand, my thumb sometimes accidentally hits the "Next" button (which exists on both sides of the device), but it's infrequent and worth the trade-off of being accessible for left-handers.

    The e-ink technology is very easy on the eyes, and I'm able to read it outside in the glare of the triple-degree sun just as easily as I can next to a dim indoor lamp. Readability is also enhanced by multiple font sizes, the ability to rotate the display to a landscape orientation, and a text-to-speech convertor that gets most of the pronunciations right. As you come across words that you don't understand because of your public school backgrounds, you can highlight the word and a definition will instantly pop up at the bottom of the page. Basic hyperlinking to web resources is built in to some books as well.

    The Kindle has built in 3G wireless, with no monthly charge, and even comes with a basic web browser that renders some text-based sites like Wikipedia and Lonely Planet. The network is dog-slow though, so I would view this more as an emergency backup than a feature. I haven't had any signal strength problems so far.

    The only downside to the Kindle is the Kindle Store. First, electronic books are too expensive, generally hovering around $10 for a book. I really enjoy the convenience of buying a book and having it magically appear on the Kindle, and as a fast reader, I enjoy not having leftover hardcopies of bad books I've wasted money on, but I feel like a price point around 5-8 dollars would be much more inline with the value I'm getting. Because I am a yuppy, the price isn't high enough that I'd stop buying, but seems to be as much of a rip-off as buying a $16 CD with 32 minutes of music on it.

    The Kindle Store is also horrible for browsing. First, the 3G network is too slow to browse from the Kindle, so I generally just get on my computer to purchase books. The purchasing framework is fast and easy, but picking out books when you don't really know what you want to read is horrible (a brick bookstore would win here, hands down). The Kindle Store could really benefit from more control over search results (i.e. search by author, filter within results, etc.). For example, if I do a search on an author's name, many of the results aren't even by that author. In other cases, such as drilling down by genre, the "Kindle Free" content increases the noise ratio of the results. I've caught myself spending as much as a half hour looking for a new book before giving up and closing my browser.

    Final Grade: A-, Convenient and makes me read more often, despite the Store issues

    The Great Bacon Odyssey: One Burger, Ten Strips of Bacon!
    Zimbabweans wash dirty US dollars with soap, water
    Schoolboy makes Spiderman machine

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    Friday, July 08, 2011

    Stuff in My Drawers Day

    I found this photo on an old camera card that had never been uploaded to the computer while doing some Post-Spring Cleaning yesterday.

    This was taken during a lively game of darts at a Labor Day party in September 2004, almost seven years ago -- in the days before there were babies everywhere and milk chocolate coloured basements. The furniture still consisted of toss-outs from Anna's grandparents, and there was still a high school ego shelf (which is now filled with our surplus of old books).

    Also at this party were Jason and Rosie (and Jason was sitting on the couch watching a football game), as well as Flip-Flop and Doug Linden. I'd forgotten that the latter two had even been to my house before.

    Causeway refuses to relinquish 'world's longest bridge' title to China
    Cookiecutter Shark 'Scooped' Out Swimmer's Flesh
    Rhesus Monkeys Appear to Have a Form of Self-Awareness Not Previously Attributed to Them

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    Monday, July 08, 2013

    Back to Work Day

    I return to the land of regularly scheduled worker bees today after a leisurely, relaxing vacation week that included a trip to DC, the Olive Garden in Alexandria, Falls Church, and Purcellville.

    I did very little this past week other than watching a lot of DVDs, and reading. Other than a couple days spent on my rereleased game, I didn't even do any side programming or website junk. However, I realized that it was time to get back to work once my dreams each night consisted of me, waiting around in real time for stuff to happen. On Saturday night, I dreamt that I was in a hotel lounge with several coworkers waiting for a tech convention to start -- this dream probably lasted a good three hours before I woke up.

    Rebecca's aunt and uncle were visiting from California this week (we last saw them on our San Francisco trip in 2010), so we took them out to our wedding winery, Sunset Hills Vineyard, for a tasting on Sunday. Overall, I feel like the winery has succumbed to the lure of tourism money. There are so many newly constructed barns around the main barn that it feels like a farm for barns. The tasting room is loud and assembly-line-like, and the wines (while decent) are not worth a $10 tasting. A comparable tasting at an equally good winery might run $5-7. Sadly, it seems like the nice outdoor setting is the main reason I'd want to return anymore.

    Looking ahead into July, Rebecca's super-tough exam finally happens on Wednesday, after which we have an assortment of mini trips and out-of-town visitors planned through the end of the month. Maybe I'll even convince people to get together for a poker game or something nostalgic.

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

    Tuesday, July 08, 2014

    Device Activity Day

    Last used yesterday...

    Last used four days ago...

    Last used two weeks ago...

    Last used over six months ago...

    Last used over a year ago...

    tagged as random | permalink | 1 comment

    Wednesday, July 08, 2015

    Memory Day: Snapshots

    This picture was taken 5 years ago in July 2010 at Sterling Vineyards in Napa Valley.

    After a stop in Spokane for a wedding, we ended up in and around San Francisco for several days before heading down to Santa Cruz. Naturally, we ended up at a Napa winery with the same name as our town, so we could score some swag with "Sterling" written on it. I usually end up clumsily smashing most glasses while washing them in our quarry-depth sink, but both Sterling glasses have survived to date.

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    Friday, July 08, 2016

    List Day: 10 Things On the Horizon I'm Unimpressed By

    1. Amazon Prime Day

    2. Summer Olympics in Brazil

    3. Dishonored 2

    4. 2016 Election coverage

    5. Complete transition to chip-based credit cards

    6. Indiana Jones 5

    7. Learning more About Jupiter

    8. Despicable Me 3

    9. Drone-based product delivery

    10. More trendy restaurants that have to explain how they work on your first visit

    tagged as lists | permalink | 1 comment

    Monday, July 08, 2019

    Maia Year 2 Battle Report

    We've made it two whole years!

    Maia is now 32" tall and 22.4 pounds (she was carrying her favourite bunny when she stepped on the scale, but also had a helium balloon, so it probably balances out). This past month, she has balanced on the razor edge of constant whining, just as likely to teeter left into giggles or right into tantrums. Everything important (like brushing teeth) still gets done, but takes 30% longer with the added rounds of "no no no!" and the fleeing and the stalling.

    Her favourite things this month have included little backpacks, dresses, sandals, splashpads, and riding in the grocery store cart. She enjoys helping Rebecca water plants outdoors and ate her first homegrown cherry tomato just the other day. She identifies as a Berenstain Bear (Sister Bear) and recognizes that I am Papa Bear and Rebecca is Mama Bear. (Brother Bear varies between her bunny and Amber the cat).

    Maia had her first big sickness this past week. She woke up early with a fever that came and went over the course of a few days. On the first day, she lay down on the floor and stayed still -- something that normally only happens when she's unconscious. We brushed off the old Ergo in the closet and hefted that 22 pound child around the house while she recovered, and she was happy to be transported like royalty. Since then, her sleep schedule has become ridiculous, with 14 hours of night sleep and 2 - 4 hour naps each day. We're not sure if this is the new normal or just after effects of the sickness.

    For Maia's actual birthday, we had a party with the grandparents and a few others (4/5ths of the Gillis family was in town from Oklahoma, and our neighbours came as well). Maia was very excited in the days leading up to it, and forced us to read The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Birthday ad nauseum. We even practiced blowing out candles in advance, so she was well prepared for the actual event.

    Happy Birthday to Maia!

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

    Wednesday, July 08, 2020

    Memory Day: Snapshots

    This picture was taken 3 years ago today, on July 8, 2017.

    Maia was about a day and a half old and trying to get me to lose at the circle game while staying in the Inova baby zone.

    I never mentioned much about the hospital stay because Rebecca had originally planned to do some blog posts about it. Maia arrived by C-section after trying so hard to pop out the normal way that her head looked like a garden gnome's hat for a few hours. On the first night, the staff had to address some fluid in Maia's lungs (common for C-sections apparently), so I sat with Maia in a room full of tiny baby ovens while Rebecca finally got to sleep.

    On day 3, we ordered pictures from the hospital-associated photographer with my only rule being that none of the pictures should look like an Anne Geddes!

    tagged as memories | permalink | 1 comment

    Friday, July 08, 2022

    Review Day

    There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

    The Essentials III, by Scott Bradlee's Postmodern Jukebox:
    This compilation album is a mixed bag -- while it has some definite classics like Haley Reinhart's cover of Habits, it's also dragged down by some forgettable early covers (that were later redone) and weak voices.

    Final Grade: B-

    Happiest Season:
    This is a pleasant, by-the-numbers Christmas rom-com whose main point is to reassure us that Victor Garber is still alive. It features a fun, recognizable cast playing in their comfort zones.

    Final Grade: B-

    Back to Ford Lane by Just Jack:
    Just Jack's rap themes have evolved over time from incessant clubbing to telling his kids to get their damned shoes on, but I've always liked his work. This acoustic album is a pleasant bit of nostalgia spanning songs from his whole career.

    Final Grade: B

    Santorini:
    This board game has a perfectly designed set of rules -- the basics on a single side of a page, easy to learn in a minute, with cards you can add in later for replayability and more advanced strategies. Maia is fairly adept at it after just five games although she does sometimes get distracted by just building towers and forgetting the win condition.

    Final Grade: B

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