This Day In History: 07/20

Sunday, July 20, 2003

I've returned the Music section to its proper place in the Domain, and added a few extra pictures to the Photos - Cat page. Knock yourselves out.

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Tuesday, July 20, 2004

I just did the wiring for the light fixtures on my eventual bar. Here's the progression of progress since I first moved in. It's very much a "whenever-I'm-bored" project, but I should be finished pretty soon. All I have left is to cover the ugliness with paneling and paint everything, then add the trim and molding along the edges. It should be a pleasant addition to the pool table room once it's complete.

Developers play air guitar to Megadeth

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Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The new Dave Matthews CD, Stand Up is a forgettable disappointment. I was a big fan of his original CDs, and I thought that Everyday was pretty successful at being a mainstream crossover, but this newest offering isn't good for anything but "background music for chilling" (Add ocean sounds and you could probably turn it into a fine New Age offering).

The mission statement of the CD seems to be:

    Create a forgettable vamp that repeats every four bars and sing about something arhythmically while your band plays a fifth-grade arrangement as backup. Occasionally throw in a random mix of nonmelodic sounds on a separate track that has nothing to do with anything and call it an "Intro" track. Do not, under any circumstances, call this CD Busted Stuff because that name was already assigned to a CD with the exact same music on it.

There are no hit tracks, and none of the songs are even particularly memorable. "American Baby" is catchy at first, until you realize that there's eighteen refrains for every one verse. All of this could be forgiven if Dave Matthews had his signature voice, but unfortunately he now sounds like an old smoker and his tone has no vitality at all. Sometimes it even sounds like he's struggling to match pitch.

Compounding the hate is the fact that this CD is one of those special enhanced CDs that limits your ability to play it on a computer. Skip it.

The URI! Zone. I buy things so you don't have to.

I stayed home today to pour concrete for the sidewalk which will eventually go around my house. I'll post some pictures tomorrow.

Part I: Strong Odors Expose N.Va. House's Secret
Part II: Cat lady had a backup house
Part III: Cat lady ended up with 222 dead cats

tagged as reviews | permalink | 1 comment

Friday, July 20, 2007

Governor's School Week: Part V of V

The feeling of hearing Scintillation performed in a reverberating chapel for the Closing Ceremonies instilled in me the hunger to compose (a hunger which soldiered on through years of composition lessons that had varying degrees of annoyance, until it finally consumed itself sometime during grad school). When I returned home, I immediately wrote Glossalalia March, and these two pieces became the bookends for my Fifth Year Recital at Virginia Tech in 2001. I followed this up with a new composition every month throughout high school, and ended up as a composition major in college.

So, despite the silly activities and embarassing curriculums, Governor's School as a whole was a positive experience for me, because it allowed me to explore aspects of music I hadn't considered before and interact with musicians that were far more ambitious and determined than I ever was. Had I not gone, I know for sure that I would have spent the summer month playing Doom 2 on the computer and biking around Old Town. I would have ended up going to college only for computer science. I never would have been able to write such pop hits as Bubba's Fried Chicken Stand or arrange One More Mozart Aria That Shac Is Currently Obsessed With But Will Forget In Two Weeks. From there, I would not have gone to grad school in Florida or gotten Booty, and eventually there would have been a typhoon in Japan.

Of all the artistically-inclined students I met at Governor's School, a few stand out in my steel trap of a memory:

  • John Berry, the eccentric violinist who would go on to become a composer at Virginia Tech, writing crazy music that Dr. Holliday loved (I once turned pages on his recital because no one else could keep up with the insanity). During Governor's School, he decided to start the "Marvin Curtis Fan Club" by taping pictures of the resident composer to everyone's door. I'm not sure what the impetus behind this was, but by the end of the week it had snowballed out of his control with buttons, signs, and fan club sign-up sheets all over the dorm. (He is not to be confused with the Dances with Wolves composer, John Barry, or the New York composer, Jim Barry).

  • The guy from Pennington Gap, which is as far west as you can go in Virginia and not be in Kentucky (if you picture a map of Virginia with Virginia Tech on it, Pennington Gap is about five thousand miles west of it). During our first dining hall conversation, the topic of forests came up, and he said, "Awthewsnehks?" in a caramel-thick accent, and it took everyone at the table about five repeats before we realized he was asking if there were snakes in the forest.

  • The girl named Maggie who was immediately dubbed by the entire male population as "The Girl With the Beautiful Eyes". As soon as you mentioned this title to any guy in the vicinity, they would immediately know who you were talking about and participate in a shared moment of appreciation for her shimmering hazel/green eyes. Two years later at Virginia Tech, I overheard a friend mention "The Girl With the Beautiful Eyes", and it turned out to be the same girl.

  • My roommate, Steve, with whom I had an ongoing paper airplane contest that lasted until our room was essentially carpeted in paper. He had to read Jane Eyre for school, and spent the whole month procrastinating. (By the end though, he'd gotten further into the book than I ever did).
  • At the beginning of the month, we all received a little book full of blank pages which we were supposed to use for taking notes in class. When my book was still blank three weeks later, I had the bright idea to have all of my Gov School posse sign their names and a brief message for posterity. Had I patented this brilliance (I called it the "yearbook"), I would be independently wealthy by now.

    I am a great guy with great skills, and I'm gonna do great.

    This note came from a cellist I had a mild crush on but was too shy to ever actually talk to. I wasn't even totally sure she knew who I was when I had her sign it.

    Here is a visual representation of the "dramatic half-whisper" necessary to pronounce the title of my piece.

    Marika was a theatre person in my LEGENDARY VISIONS (OF THE GODS) class. There's nothing special about this note, but it could be the coolest handwriting sample ever.

    It's interesting, the people you affect without even noticing. I probably talked to this girl four times all month long (she roomed with a girl from my high school) and never realized it was a big deal at all.

    Like all yearbooks, the entries can be divided into two categories: "I don't know you, but have a nice summer." and "Inside Commentary". My inside commentary was pretty evenly split between people liking my blue mask and jokes about stealing music from Aaron Copland.

    Humanities student, T.C. Wiliams '96 Senior Class President, future sportswriter in Elmira, NY, and elder brother of Chris Sharp.

    So Governor's School concluded on July 29, 1995, and after farewells with hugs and tears, we all returned home as changed people. Following a brief flurry of letters in the next two months (during the halcyon days of no mainstream e-mail) and promises to hold reunions and keep in touch, everyone from Governor's School vanished into oblivion, and I never thought of any of them again for the next twelve years. Now that I've gone through my little file folder of programs and trinkets, I wonder where they've all gotten to, but haven't really tracked anyone down, even with the magic of Facebook (the problem with Facebook is that, unlike 95% of the other people with accounts there, I, and almost everyone I went to Governor's School with, was born before 1980).

    I hope you enjoyed this week's feature!

    Happy Birthday Matt Jenkinson!

    Publishers fail to spot plagiarised Jane Austen
    New skintight spacesuit revealed
    Spiders are the harbingers of fire

    tagged as memories | permalink | 5 comments

    Monday, July 20, 2009

    Caption Contest Results

    Congratulations to Katie Morton for getting the most votes in last week's caption contest! Katie will receive a $10 gift certificate to and bragging rights. The voting was quite close this time around with first place only one vote ahead of second, and the submitters of the various captions can be seen in the image on the right. Congratulations to everyone who entered!

    If you have any ideas for future contests, please be sure to let me know. We are always interested in moving forward with the times here at the URI! Zone.

    Leesburg DMV now a drive-in operation
    Oscar Meyer now delivers in your home
    Arson feared as gnome factory burns down

    tagged as contests | permalink | 4 comments

    Tuesday, July 20, 2010

    At one of numerous beaches along the coast between Santa Cruz and San Francisco.

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

    Wednesday, July 20, 2011

    Stuff (No Longer) In My Drawers Day

    I finally got down to business on the oft-delayed task of cleaning out the crawlspace under the stairs, with the reasoning that we'll have kids in the next twenty years or so and we have a huge shortage of bedrooms, so the youngest will probably have to channel Harry Potter for living space.

    This time around, I actually designated things for the nearest garbage bin, including the millions, if not billions, of old computer games, manuals, and game box trinkets that I kept around purely for useless nostalgia -- although it's tough to throw them out, am I ever actually going to buy a computer with a 5 1/4" floppy drive to play them again?

    This is all that is left of my my nearly-British empire of Legos. I specialized in town construction with a minor in pirates, so it's a wonder I didn't go into urban planning or Somalia.

    I guess this educational toy worked -- or at the very least, got me the A in that Electrical Engineering crossover class with the box full of wires. Your career in chemistry can begin when you open the box twenty-five years later to find that there are still 6 AA batteries in various states of decomposition.

    When I started running out of shelf space on the two designated game shelves in my parents' house as a kid, I started consolidating some of the packaging. For most games, I tore off the front cover which doubled as the manual, although I kept the Zork trilogy intact for some reason. Maybe I thought they'd be worth something someday, even though Cindy the cat peed on all the maps.

    "Time" and "America's Past" were easily the best Carmen Sandiego games because the clues actually mapped directly to text in the reference books. In contrast, trying to using the Fodor guidebook in "Where in Europe Is Carmen Sandiego?" required you to read an entire section and understand it. Reading comprehension does not belong in educational software!

    Here's a smattering of disks that were thrown out. I was probably the only person in the world who bought the game, Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist.

    This puzzle game was maddeningly difficult and impossible to solve without also buying the $14.95 hint book (excellent business model, by the way). Many of the puzzles had to be done by brute force. One "fill-in-the-blank" puzzle actually required you to cheat by moving the cursor to a hidden part of the screen where the answer was. Very meta.

    This is only half of the clutter I sorted through -- stay tuned for future insights into my trash!

    Popular Kauai swimming hole gains deadly reputation
    Thieves steal 21 tons of mustard and ketchup
    Live mannequins in Milan shop window anger union

    tagged as memories, media | permalink | 0 comments

    Wednesday, July 20, 2016

    Memory Day: Snapshots

    This picture was taken six years ago, on July 13, 2010.

    We were in Berkeley for a leg of a West Coast trip, and staying with Rebecca's aunt. We managed to score a spot on the schedule of popular entrepreneur, Vu, who travelled out from San Francisco to eat $89 worth of sushi with us.

    tagged as memories | permalink | 0 comments

    Friday, July 20, 2018

    Random Thoughts About the Internet

    In its current iteration, I think the Internet has a net negative effect on humanity. This wasn't always the case -- I miss the early days of the World Wide Web when its naive potential was not overshadowed by monetary value. The Internet was weird because people are weird and there was plenty of unique content to stumble across even within a fairly limited number of sites. You could connect with strangers through homepages, forums, and chatrooms and form all sorts of relationships without any pre-existing connection other than a shared interest.

    Now that the Internet is well-established and over-populated, SEO, advertising, and eyeballs and clicks are the name of the game. Individuality has gone away. There is still a vast trove of information out there, but it's hard to discover it all when everything is curated by the biggest providers. Getting noticed requires gaming the system or being the loudest voice in a sea of other loud voices, reducing the overall level of discourse.

    An example of this can be seen on a site like Reddit, where a small "subreddit" of people with a common interest can connect and converse. Once the number of subscribers crosses a certain threshold, posts start to devolve from interesting topics that spur discussion towards cheap memes that aim to get the maximum number of upvotes with as little effort as possible. To a lesser extent, you can see it in MMOs, where the best friendships were fostered in the 90s and early 2000s. When I start an MMO these days, I no longer have the patience to invest in making new friends or joining a new guild. After a brief flirtation with all of the soloable content in the MMO itself, I generally end up switching games to keep playing with the gaming friends I already have.

    One paradoxical area where the Internet is having a negative effect is creativity. It's a well-known fact that everything artistic has already been done by someone else before. With the Internet, it's much easier to find this prior art and much harder to carve out your own space and not get dismissed as a copycat. I used to write a column on the URI! Zone called Newsday Tuesday where I would mock current events or news articles. Towards the tail end of those columns, it was getting to the point where any clever joke I might think up independently was already trending on Twitter from a late-night talk show host or found in the comments section of the real article. I'm glad I came of age as a composer in yesteryear, because I would probably be too intimidated to put myself out there today.

    The Internet today weaponizes a massive push towards homogeneity, where the "right" answer is the one most broadly promoted, not necessarily the correct one or the one most people agree with. Social brigading has never been easier, as it just takes a well-written sob story to raise a fleeting sense of outrage in a pitchfork-wielding mob. I remember reading blogs years ago where any popular author could play the victim and instantly have a well-meaning, misguided pack of readers ready to defend them (this social interplay has been on my list of topics to blog about since 2004 but I'm lazy). Nowadays at scale, all it takes is a single-misguided tweet and thousands of people are up in arms and ready to vilify someone or some business. Is the conflict grounded in truth? No one has the time or inclination to do the research!

    tagged as deep thoughts | permalink | 6 comments

    Monday, July 20, 2020

    Quarantine Data Day

    On this, my 130th day of quarantine, I have now spent 35.6% of 2020 in a very low energy orbit in and around my house (not unlike subatomic particles chilled to near 0 degrees Kelvin).

    • I've shopped at Giant 24 times, Safeway 8 times, Costco 2 times, and Wegmans 0 times (roughly once every 4 days). Out of those 33 trips, I've only seen non-homeopathic disinfectant wipes in stock 3 times.

    • I've made 135 git commits to my new web development project.

    • I've amassed 13 days 9 hours 28 minutes of play time on my new Elder Scrolls Online character.

    • I've spent $585.83 on Amazon purchases. However, the first place winner in my company's Advent of Code competition left the company before prizes were awarded, so I also received an unexpected $500 Amazon gift card.

    • We've ordered from Joe's Pizzaria 18 times, Sweetwater 5 times, Chuy's 3 times, Siam Spice 2 times, and each of Mellow Mushroom, NY Santini's, Chopsticks House, and Fireworks Pizza 1 time.

    • We took 2 getaway trips, one to a cottage in the Shenandoah and one to a farm in Lovettsville. I went to the office 2 times (once to rescue a plant and once to get a new laptop). I've only used about one full tank of gas the entire time.

    • We only know 1 person within 1 degree of separation who's actually gotten COVID (they recovered).

    tagged as data | permalink | 1 comment

    Wednesday, July 20, 2022

    Data Day: Mileage on My Honda Accord

    I've had my Honda Accord for over 10 years now.

    • Yesterday's Mileage: 58426 miles
    • Travel Pre-COVID: 6536 miles/year
    • Travel Post-COVID: 2834 miles/year

    tagged as data | permalink | 2 comments


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