This Day In History: 07/18

Friday, July 18, 2003
Monday, July 18, 2005

There are no spoilers for Book 6 in today's review.

The latest Harry Potter book is surprisingly better than I expected it to be. I found the first three books to be cute but formulaic (Suspiciously evil wizard turns out to be not so bad, but benign friendly wizard was up to no good!!). The fourth and fifth tried too hard to be of epic proportions and ended up as Spellbooks of Oral Diarrhea. Now, with the end in sight and all the pieces falling into place, the sixth book has a much tighter storyline and a pace that doesn't drag along so much.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is the first book where the significance of the title isn't really revealed until the end, and it's more of a footnote than an explanation. It's shorter than the previous two books by about one hundred pages, but it's definitely larger than a stick of butter . Harry Potter starts taking responsibility for himself this time around, and spends less time whining and moping. Much less bookspace is given to the trials of being a teenager, a sideplot I always felt was the weakest part of the other books (yes, it's necessary, but I don't think it was ever particularly well-done). The Ron & Hermione tension which has been building for several books now is just annoying, and needs some kind of resolution. If our media can be trusted, kids nowadays are playing Witch Doctor as early as 10 or 12, so it wouldn't be unreasonable for the pair to be sampling each others' concoctions or exploring each others' broom closets at 17. Of course, the fact that the book is aimed at kids means that this will never be worked into the official timeline of the Potterverse.

And yet, the kiddiness factor of this book is much smaller than any previous book. Murders, tortures, zombies, and blood rituals abound, and I bet at least one conservative values group will be outraged at the one page with the word "slut" on it. Rowling isn't afraid to create this dark atmosphere as a natural result of the story to date, and it works very well. This would be a good book to be turned into a movie by the Burton/Elfman/Depp team, except that they would probably overemphasize the "dark yet cute" style rather than just letting it be dark.

Lots of events from previous books are tied together here, although some less successfully than others. Though it's no War of Light & Shadows, Rowling does a pretty decent job of making those connections more than just afterthoughts. The ending is well done, and throws some interesting surprises into the mix for the final book. This time around, I'm actually looking forward to the next one.

Incidentally, I picked mine up for $15 at Costco on Saturday. They had a monstrous end-aisle display stacked higher than I am tall with books (It's pretty easy for something to be taller than I am, but at least I'm bigger than a stick of butter). Crowds were hoarding the books fifteen minutes before the store officially opened, with some soccer moms picking up four and five copies for their broods.


I've added 10 new things to my About Me page , highlighted with red exclamation points. I don't think any of them are major spoilers. In other news, my presentation on How to Read Music is all done, so I'll be starting on Highlights of Western Music tonight.

I'm tired of the registration requests at smh.com.au, so any of their news stories that I post can be viewed with the user/pass: cosmoran/spider. This is identical to the login for the New York Times which I have posted here in the past. Enjoy.

A tall frosty glass of Homo Light
"If it was Memorial Day, no one would have minded."

tagged as reviews | permalink | 2 comments

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Governor's School Week: Part III of V

Governor's School wasn't wholly about Celtic lore and jamming a yin in my yang though. Each evening throughout the four-week program was an offsite field trip to some suitably artistic locale in downtown Richmond, starting with a quaint fireworks show at some Civil War monument (the one with a cannon and some grass) on the Fourth of July. This was one of the few outdoor activities that was NOT cancelled because of summertime thunderstorms, since the adminstration's fears that we would all get struck by lightning was far greater than the fear that some of us might get pregnant. Though no one was electricuted by month's end, the power went out on campus at least seven times. Some of the other mind-altering activities we experienced included:

  • The musical, Beehive, about music from the 60s. Since I did not listen to popular music back then, I promptly fell asleep.

  • A four hour performance of Gilbert and Sullivan's Yeoman of the Guard, which was easily the worst performance in the history of performances (barely edging out any halftime show involving the UVA pep band). After the show started forty-five minutes late because the actors' bus broke down, we were treated to nosebleed seats, leads who were either high or drunk, and constant sound problems. The pinnacle of the evening came when lead #1 walked through a space in the revolving set that was supposed to be a solid wall. This wouldn't have been noticed on its own, but lead #2 stopped in her tracks, did an about face, and walked through the prop door to rejoin lead #1, after which nearly everyone in the audience started hissing (even the people that actually paid for their tickets). I slept for 25% of this outing.

  • A performance by the Shanghai Quartet, featuring three Asians and a white guy, followed by a question and answer period led by the smartass violist.

  • A post-lunch trip to King's Dominion (once again covered by the Taxpayers of Virginia) where Mike Sharp took his first roller coaster ride (on the Scooby Doo).

  • A jazz concert on Brown Island featuring Ramsey Lewis. Afterwards, we all waited outside of his dressing tent where I got one of four autographs he signed before zooming away in his limo. To this day, I don't recall a single piece of music from that concert and never listened to Ramsey Lewis again -- I only got the autograph because that's what you're supposed to do when you're near a celebrity. He probably played some sort of ridiculous circle-jerk jazz where the combo plays solos over the changes to Hot Cross Buns for four hours. The only good combo is the Cold Cut Combo from Subway.

  • A performance by the Kings of Swing jazz band in the local auditorium. During this performance, all the Dance students got up and danced, all the Music students tapped their feet, and all the Artists and Humanatees looked awkward.

  • A trip to the local art museum to "study the correlation between art and music". The whole museum was filled with contemporary (read: uselessly deep) artwork, characterized by one student with "This picture might look like a man eating a hot dog, but it's really supposed to be a naked lady dancing".

We didn't go off-campus for every event -- sometimes we would preserve the environment by forgoing buses and staying home:

  • At an event called The Coffee Shop, budding poets from the "Poetry is cool when the lines don't rhyme" school of composition would read their new poetry, despite the lack of beatniks in the audience. This was rather dull (and I usually spent the hour sketching out Doom 2 deathmatch levels on scratch paper) until the day that Ezra Ford, a large eccentric student, went on stage to perform "Repression of the Tibetan Chicken" and "Monologue on the European Gerbil". Decorum was not restored.

  • For Whom the Bell Tolls was the Hemingway-stealing title of an overly serious AIDS awareness play, complete with dramatic moments where actors freeze and the lights go out as if time has stopped, while another actor begins talking after the ringing of a cheap motel desk bell. Some of the guys I knew there wanted to do an inspired parody of this play for the weekly Variety Show, but apparently you were not allowed to laugh at AIDS in 1995, so it was vetoed by the powers that be.

  • Every Saturday night, there would be a Dance with mandatory attendance required. If you can picture BU, but even more socially awkward and rhythmically-challenged, you can understand why I did not enjoy these events. The rules stated that we had to be there until 9:30 (the dances went to 10:30), and by 9:25, there was always a crowd of geeks gathered at the front doors. I spent all four dances playing foozball or chess, since the game room was in the same area as the dance. They bused all the students from the "I Wanna Be a Doctor" Governor's School to our Dances (because their student ratio was 3 guys for every 1 girl and ours was the opposite), so my finest moment came when I beat some uppity life science guru at chess even though I never think more than half a move ahead at any given time during a match.

As you can see, the life of a Governor's School student is jam packed with activities, not all of which are fun. So why did I even bother coming to the program? The answer was, simply, for the music.

Tomorrow: "Trumpet rules! Write more trumpet related posts. Trumpet trumpet trumpet." - Kelley Corbett 8/31/2005

Flood triggers spider migration
Man calls police to save himself from... police
Out of tune musicians may be involved in the drug trade

tagged as memories | permalink | 3 comments

Friday, July 18, 2008

Friday Fragments

below the equator, fragments flush in reverse

♠ The plan for this weekend is the annual camping trip in Gore, VA to celebrate Sam E's birthday. Last year's trip was surprisingly quiet, other than the Confederate rednecks all-terraining in their pickup trucks at 3 AM. No doubt, this was because the last Harry Potter book came out at the same time, so everyone was engrossed in finding out that Snape was a sled.

♠ Apparently there are no major book releases threatening this year's camping trip, although this weekend marks the release date of CHESS CRUSADE for the Wii -- because apparently it's much easier to move a pawn with a Wii Remote than your hand.

♠ In other Wii news, a microphone is being developed that will let you trash talk your opponents online. Mario Kart just isn't the same unless you can hear Mike swear when he gets hit with a Lightning Cloud. Until the microphone comes out, I'll just set up my laptop in the living room and send expletive-filled IMs.

♠ My new laptop arrived on Monday and passes the important test -- World of Warcraft runs at 60 fps. Windows Vista is just as annoying as advertised (I missed the drop-dead date for getting Windows XP by a week). Pretty much every action (copy a file, run a program) pops up TWO separate windows asking for your permission to proceed. After just a day of this, I turned off the alerts and was greeted by an alert asking if it was okay proceed with alerts turned off. It's the computerized equivalent of a three-year-old who must get permission to put each foot forward when walking across the room.

♠ The laptop has already been put to good use, since there was an all-day meeting yesterday during which I answered emails and debugged things. In the days of yore, I would have had to find a seat next to a wall so it wouldn't be immediately apparent that I fell asleep during the opening comments.

♠ When I was a music major, we had an event called Convocation every Tuesday afternoon. Every music major had to perform in a Convo at least once a semester and you had to get a card punched twelve times to get credit for attendance. Every fourth seat in the salon had a narrow vertical beam behind it, so I always made sure to sit in one of these for maximum head support during my weekly nap. Generally, Convo was only good for proving that just because you're a Music Education major doesn't mean you're fit to teach your instrument to children.

♠ The Recital Salon was also the backdrop for this poster , with photography by Paige , who has been busy turning her baby into a concert pianist of some stripe who will no doubt accompany Philip's baby on the Hummel at Convo in 2027.

♠ Have a great weekend everyone!

Man finds booby-traps in the lake
Man finds booby-traps in the park
Man finds booby-traps in his sandwich

tagged as fragments | permalink | 7 comments

Monday, July 18, 2011

Random Chart Day

BU's Job Advice For Rich People
BU's Job Advice For Poor People

North Dakota may not be a state
Lost U.S. love letter delivered 53 years late
Girls urged to strip in support of Putin

tagged as data | permalink | 1 comment

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

I'm famous here.

tagged as day-to-day | permalink | 3 comments

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Whose Line Is It Anyway?, Season Premiere:
Whose Line returned from the dead on Tuesday, this time on CW. With Ryan, Colin, and Wayne as the primary performers, the show felt very familiar, in spite of a few new games and far too many celebrity guest appearances. However, the show has the same problem as it did in the past: once you take out the long introductions of how each game is played and the insane number of commercial breaks, you're left with about 10 minutes of content, and about 5 minutes of hilarity. Whose Line is a show best watched as a YouTube highlights clip or DVD.

Final Grade: C-

In the Music by Trashcan Sinatras:
This album was great for my afternoon naps. Beyond that, I cannot recall a single memorable song on it.

Final Grade: C

GIRLS, Season One:
(guest review by Rebecca, because I wasn't planning on watching this girly noise)
This vivid, honest portrayal of 20-something liberal arts graduates living in New York City is entertaining, cringeworthy, and will make you appreciate the fact that you survived your early 20s. A smattering of Judd Apatow's influence is apparent -- in some ways these characters are like the kids from Freaks and Geeks as young adults. The "Girls" are like me and my friends in our early 20s, except that they don't make as many reasonable decisions as we did and they are having A LOT MORE SEX. Details are done well, and will make you knowingly exclaim, "She thinks THAT outfit looks professional for an interview... riiight."

Female liberal arts grads in their early 20s are truly a strange breed. Overall the show is very well done, and I will absolutely try to track down the 2nd season if it's not too difficult. However, did I mention there are WAY TOO MANY SEX SCENES? It is HBO. But it's no Game of Thrones, if you know what I mean.

Final Grade: B

Breaking Bad, Season Five, Part One:
First off, this DVD set is falsely advertised as the complete Season Five, even though there are still 8 more episodes to go. Luckily, I steal most DVDs from my parents when they're done watching them so the cost is amortized over multiple Uris. Eight episodes is a much better length than thirteen for a story arc in this show, because the interminable drag at the beginning of the roller coaster ride is removed. The season starts strong and never lets up, continuing to deepen the setting we already know, rather than introducing new contrivances (unlike LOST). The more familiar you are with the previous seasons, the more you will appreciate this one.

Final Grade: B+

tagged as reviews | permalink | 3 comments

Friday, July 18, 2014

Hearthstone Day

I'm still playing Hearthstone on a near-daily basis -- mostly Casual games to do the daily quests. I seem to have the most success with Paladin and Druid, and haven't touched the Arena in months.

On the left is my primary Paladin deck, which I've cobbled together from scratch over time. It's not really a Rush deck or a Control deck, but offers a strong mid-game presence. It requires some lucky starting hands (Consecration) to beat Murloc Rush decks, but otherwise seems to be a solid jack-of-all-trades bag of tricks that relies on a minimum of Paladin spells.

The two legendary cards, Leeroy Jenkins and Tirion Fordring, actually came out of won card packs -- I have yet to actually craft any legendary cards on my own.

Are you still playing? What are your favourite heroes to play?

tagged as games | permalink | 0 comments

Monday, July 18, 2016

Weekend Wrap-up

We had our first big barbeque of the year on Saturday night, featuring seasoned steaks for grown-ups and hot dogs for kids (of which there were 11, or 12 if you count Evil Mike who was like a big, big kid). The thunderstorms kept us inside for most of the night, while a single, damaging lightning strike fried my router and made it an Internet-free party.

I spent Sunday morning troubleshooting and repairing our network and incorporating leftover hot dog buns into breakfast and lunch. In the evening, we tried out the tapas place in Reston Town Center (Barcelona Wine Bar), which had some high-quality food but was a little overpriced for a restaurant we might visit regularly (just slightly less than a comparable trip to Mokomandy).

How was your weekend?

tagged as day-to-day | permalink | 3 comments

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Data Day: Maia's First Year

Milestones

  • Social Smiling: 2 months
  • Foot Grabbing: 3 months
  • First Laughs: 3 months
  • First Solid Food: 4.5 months
  • Sitting Up: 5.5 months
  • Clapping: 6 months
  • First Airplane Flight: 8.5 months
  • First Teeth: 8.5 months
  • Crawling: 9 months
  • Drinking Through a Straw: 9.5 months
  • Cruising: 10 months
  • First Word In Context ("Dada"): 10.5 months
  • Upwards Stair Mobility: 11 months

Here's how Maia's height, weight, and head circumference stack up against her peers:

Key takeaways: Maia will be small like her parents and her head's not going to be nearly as big as initially expected.

tagged as data, offspring | permalink | 1 comment

Monday, July 18, 2022

Ian Year 1 Month 3 Battle Report

As of the beginning of July, Ian is now walking!

He consistently wakes up between 6:00 and 6:30 and will usually take a long nap around 11 AM. The 4 PM nap is either "asleep right away for an hour" or "shriek for 30 minutes until someone gets him". He goes to bed around 7, usually lying in the crib quietly for a half hour before dozing off.

Eating is still his favourite activity. Breakfast is usually a whole banana, many blueberries, 3 sausage links, and anything he sees me eat. Lunch and dinner are harder, as he's more picky when not super hungry. He tends to fixate on the things he wants so we hide the watermelon until the end of the meal and start him with a tray of healthy broccoli or a tin of yogurt. During many meals, whatever is left on the plate gets mixed into the yogurt to sneak it into his mouth.

Ian has a massive set of lungs and no concept of inside voice. Once he's awake in his crib, he soon reaches top volume to wake everyone up. Sometimes he competes with Amber, our now-deaf cat, to see who can caterwaul the loudest at 6:01 AM. Carrying him while he's having a meltdown is somewhat similar to the feeling of being Pavarotti's costar while he's singing La Donna e mobile at your face.

Current Likes: saying Bye Bye, pointing at everything in every book, petting Amber with his face, standing precariously on rocking chairs, scribbling with chalk or crayons, a game of peekaboo, being involved in whatever Maia's doing, bouncing balls, neighborhood walks, phones.

Current Dislikes: not being allowed to bug Maia, most dinner menus, most naps, watching people go outside while being stuck behind the baby gate.

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

 

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