This Day In History: 08/18

Saturday, August 18, 2001

The apartment is complete, except for groceries. Tomorrow, I will read Grout's A History of Western Music from cover to cover. Then, I'll pass the diagnostic exams with flying colours, get my Masters on Thursday, and my Ph.D. on Friday (The Prix de Rome won't be until next week).

Actually, I wouldn't mind failing the exams and taking some of FSU's "remedial" music classes. That way, at least, I could see what's taught at a school with a bigger music focus, and what I missed by going to Tech. It's not that Tech is a bad music school, of course, it's just that you can't compare a school with 1000 music majors to a school with 100 music majors and 100 business-major-transfers.

Only two visitors today, bringing the grand total up to 568 for the month. The number of visitors definitely declines on the weekend, which seems to support my hypothesis that people only visit useless sites like mine when they're at work.

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Wednesday, August 18, 2004

I'm really enjoying XM radio, and haven't had any reception problems yet. There's a station for every occasion and you don't hear many repeats unless you're on a hits / top 20 station. I've found myself flipping through the decades stations (hits of each decade since the 40s), the rock stations, the global pop station, the classic jazz station, and a little soul/disco on the way home.

Today will be my last day at work for awhile. Tomorrow I plan on backing up and reinstalling my home computer. Saturday I have a wedding in Schley, Virginia, and then I'm going straight from there to the Outer Banks for a week. This is probably the first time that I've used more than 8 hours of leave time for a vacation. The gist of this ramble is that there will be no updates until September. You're probably used to it by now anyhow.

American Idol is in DC today. I could be the next Reuben Stoddard. I look and sing just like him.

Of all the phone books I've torn, I've found that the Portland ones tear better

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Thursday, August 18, 2005

The fear of Internet boobies has been taken to the next level, with the Bush administration "objecting to the creation of a .xxx domain, saying it has concerns about a virtual red-light district reserved exclusively for Internet pornography." . Isn't that the whole point of creating the domain? Coupling this domain with a simple rule forcing adult site owners to use the suffix could be very effective. What's wrong with an Internet that keeps boobies from protruding into safe zones by having a street set aside specifically for pornography, Vin Diesel, and Ice Cube?

Some people believe that creating the domain will legitimize pornography, which is just silly. Whether the domain is there or not, it's a simple fact that adult content makes up a very large and visible portion of the Internet. Even the URI! Zone, for all its harmless trappings and fun colours, is really a very peculiar fetish site (you freaks). If all the dirty pictures were rounded up and corralled into the new domain, it would be that much easier for people to avoid it, and my visitors would no longer accidentally fall into a porn puddle by going to instead.

I'm sure one of the groups grumbling about the new domain is the Internet filtering industry. If adult sites were clearly identified by the xxx suffix, their already useless parental-filter software would become obsolete, and they would have no further excuses for blocking sites with legitimate content that's politically on the wrong side of the fence. Do people even use or trust filtering software anymore? I have a feeling that the only person standing in line to buy the next version of CyberNanny will be Jude Law, and then only because he has misconceptions about what the software actually does .

The weakest argument of the bunch is from the Family Research Council, who state that "Pornographers will be given even more opportunities to flood our homes, libraries and society with pornography through the .XXX domain." How is registering a new site in the .xxx domain any different from registering and There's already an infinite amount of possibilities -- having a new top-level domain does not necessarily mean that site operators will get more creative in their naming schemes or exponentially increase the number of sites they run. If the FRC turns out to be correct in their assumption, I will eat my words and be the first person in line with sandbags to protect the local libraries from the imminent flood of cleavage. Incidentally, I think an avalanche of boobies would be a great way to end a disaster movie. Maybe the hero is stuck in a prosthetics factory and he sets off the boobie trap (!) which rains millions of implants down upon the city of San Francisco. I would definitely see that one in the theatres, even at eight bucks a ticket.

In other news, the residents of Herndon said that they supported the new xxx domain, as long as the servers were not put in their backyards, and as long as everyone browsing the domain could prove they were not visiting illegally. Lobbyists on the other side want an easement on the last caveat, saying that it might cause discrimination against the "barely legal".

Today I present A Whirlwind Tour of Music II: Highlights of Western Music at work. Wish me luck.

The bomb is in the baby!
It's not a theft, it's a debt!
Because, so far as we can tell, everything he's created for TV has failed -- except, of course, the interesting pregnancy story line on ABC's "Alias" -- Ben Affleck is "in talks" to write a new drama series.

Yesterday's search terms:
oysters that climb trees in the caribbean, moulin rouge midis, my wife and me havine fun, septic tanks and tapeworms

tagged as newsday, politics | permalink | 10 comments

Friday, August 18, 2006

Friday Fragments

making the world a better place one fragment at a time

♣ Every Friday when I pick up my Popeyes lunch on the way home, I drive through downtown Herndon. On one particular street corner, there's always some poor schmuck in a Statue of Liberty outfit advertising some sort of accounting firm or somesuch. His understudy is an un-costumed fat guy in a lawn chair sitting next to a sign advertising a furniture liquidation sale. It's such a high class town.

♣ Liquidation sales seem to be quite the racket these days, especially considering that it's always the exact same store going out of business. It's not a bad business model if you think about it -- get some crappy goods, mark them up 300%, discount them 50% for the Everything Must Go! Sale, then sell what you can without warranty or return options. Final step, close down your shop, reopen it next month, and profit!

♣ Another good way to profit is to sell seasons of TV shows or movie sequels on DVD, and then repackage them in a SPECIAL EDITION so all the hardcore fans have to rebuy them for the special features. Yes, I will buy the final season of Alias so my collection is complete. No, I will not pay $200 to buy all five seasons in a special "Rambaldi" box with an extra deleted scene and a hidden easter egg.

♣ The cover of the Alias - Fifth Season DVD could quite possibly be the worst cover in the history of covers. The design looks like they sat a three year old down in front of Photoshop and the picture of Jennifer Garner looks like she just consumed a large quantity of past-expiration red meat and isn't quite sure whether she's going to honk or not.

♣ This is a good month for TV Shows on DVD though. The most recent seasons of LOST, Arrested Development, and Veronica Mars are all coming out during the next few weeks. I'm also intrigued by the FOX show, Prison Break. Anyone have any non-spoilerish opinions about it?

♣ I don't even know why I have cable anymore, since almost every show I watch is watched on DVD. If more networks start putting their shows online immediately after they air, I should cancel my cable and spend that extra $540 a year on something else completely superfluous yet fun, like a motorcycle!

♣ Can't you picture me tooling down the Fairfax County Parkway at seventy miles an hour on my hog with the wind blowing through my hair? I thought so.

♣ This weekend, I've got another healthy lineup of work and errands, with a Poker Night on Saturday and a Dinner For Parents Night on Sunday. The Java class I'm organizing starts soon as well so I'll probably want to do a little legwork for it. My summer weekends are pretty tame, but that's just fine by me. Exciting people don't get as much rest!

♣ Have a great weekend!

Save money by walking in the woods
Forget her shoulders, her eyes can read your mind
Because no one has ever played hangman before

tagged as fragments | permalink | 4 comments

Monday, August 18, 2008

Coldplay Day

On Friday, XM Radio finally ended its ridiculous musical experiment, "Thirty Days of Coldplay", during which Channel Crazy-European-Techno-Music was replaced by Channel Soft-Rock-Coldplay-All-Hours-Of-The-Day. Doing the math, there are 720 hours of airtime to be filled with Coldplay's entire discography which (according to amounts to about 60 songs.

At four minutes per song (five in the ones that employ the typical soft-rock vamp which almost puts them in the trance genre), there's guaranteed to be a bit of dead air. Some gaps are filled with inane commentary, such as the drummer's insistence that one song was too hard rock to be appreciated by the audience before performing a song that would almost be at home on the piano of John Tesh. Other gaps are filled with live versions of songs which generally involve the audience singing Fix You as an atonal Schoenberg aria.

Although Coldplay has been trying to build a better U2 since 2000, I didn't hear of them until April 2003, when I embarked upon my grand experiment to listen to more popular music. Before that time, my musical portfolio consisted of a wide variety of classical and jazz with a hint of Dave Matthews and a dash of Eminem. I was actually a big fan of Coldplay back when I first heard them -- the sound was fresh and their videos were artsy in a half-retarded way. Two CDs later though, their music was relegated to the "background" file and their wearisome oversaturation of the airwaves was like enduring election season all year 'round.

Thirty days is a long time in any event, and it seems to me that NO band is worth having a radio station devoted to them for that entire time. What bands could you listen to for an entire month at a time?

The agent did say that the buyer agreed to pay the full list price of $1, and planned to pay cash.
'Jenkem': Stay Alert or Call It a Hoax?
Peter Pan arrested in labor dispute
How long can you listen to Coldplay without changing the station?

30 days (0 votes, 0.0%)

30 hours (0 votes, 0.0%)

30 minutes (2 votes, 22.2%)

30 seconds (7 votes, 77.8%)

tagged as music | permalink | 4 comments

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Newsday Tuesday

Squeaking by on $300,000

Birch Hill is a majestic property of tender grasses and low stone walls and a whimsical sculpture next to the swimming pool. To the untrained eye, the long economic downturn as viewed from here and beyond [...] has been hard to see or feel. [...] Laura Steins doesn't mind saying that she is barely squeaking by on $300,000 a year. She lives in a place where the boom years of Wall Street pushed the standard of living to astonishing heights. Where fifth-graders shop at a store called Lester's that sells $114 tween-size True Religion jeans. Where a cup of fresh spinach and carrot juice called the Iron Maiden costs $7.95.

Recession Tips from Heloise

  • Tip #1: Never pay money for a religion that your kids are just going to grow out of eventually.
  • Tip #2: If you are paying $8 to drink what is essentially the discarded cud of a cow, you make too much money.
  • As a vice president at MasterCard's corporate office in Purchase, N.Y., she earns a base pay of $150,000 plus a bonus. [...] She receives $75,000 a year in child support from her ex-husband. She figures she will pull an additional $50,000 from a personal investment account to "pick up the slack." The nanny and property taxes take $75,000 right off the top, but Steins considers both non-negotiable facts of her life and not discretionary. When she bought out her husband's share of the house after their 2006 divorce, she assumed the costs of keeping it afloat -- $8,000 to $10,000 a month. There's a pool man, a gardener and someone to plow the snow from the quarter-mile-long driveway.

  • Tip #3: "Non-negotiable" is actually quite negotiable if you discard your sense of entitlement.
  • Tip #4: If three acres of land are causing $35,000 worth of property taxes, you can subdivide the lot and rent to residential-friendly businesses like day cares and crack houses.
  • Tip #5: If you have a pool man, a gardener, and a snow plowman, you can fire two and pay the third a little more to do all the jobs.
  • Tip #6: If your driveway is a quarter-mile long, build another house next to yours and force the city to turn it into a public road. (This also eliminates your snow plowman).
  • Life in this $2.5 million house was built on the premise of two incomes, not the income of a divorced mother of three in a tanked economy. [...] As tight as money is, she has decided that living in a 4,000-square-foot house on three acres is the practical thing to do. "A), I couldn't sell the house right now," she says, citing the slow real estate market. "B), this is where my kids go to school. And C), it's where my job is."

  • Tip A: If you put your house on the market today for a reasonable price, it will eventually sell. If it's not for sale, it will never sell.
  • Tip B: Contrary to popular belief, kids are mobile creatures (except for the hugely obese ones in Austin).
  • Tip C: People that work in other places are called "commuters".
  • Week after week, Steins and others in a group called the Stephen Ministry wrestle with how to help members struggling through the crisis. [...] Steins's group is ready to lend support to church members, but the problem is there aren't many takers. One member articulates the challenge. "There's an image people are invested in that makes it hard for this to be talked about," says Bob Steed.

  • Tip #7: An investment in your image will never bear fruit, unless you are a super model or an apple tree.
  • On a weekend when the kids are with their dad in Manhattan, Steins packs her overnight bag, ditches her Volvo SUV for her Pontiac Solstice convertible and heads for a party in the Hamptons. [...] Steins violated her no-shopping rule by buying a new black sweater at Ann Taylor with a 20 percent off coupon. [...]

  • Tip #8: If you own more cars than you can drive simultaneously, you can sell one.
  • Tip #9: If you "party in the Hamptons", you are not middle-class (unless it's the one that can't quite afford to be plural on the sign).
  • Tip #10: When the cheapest sweater at Ann Taylor is $55, you cannot use a coupon and then pretend to be fiscally responsible.
  • The party turns out to be spectacular. Champagne and oysters and shrimp followed by a seated luncheon for 70. Steins joins a small group back at the birthday girl's house for a casual supper of lobster bisque. [...] On her way out of town, she window-shops and stops at a boutique to buy a birthday present for a friend. She admires [and purchases] a $30 set of bone bangles on the counter.

  • Tip #11: If you are in a setting where you can say "bisque" and not immediately end it with the syllables "-wick" or "-it", you are not squeaking by. "Biscotti" is mildly acceptable, but only if you bought them at Costco.
  • Tip #12: Bangles are never a cost-effective purchase, unless you are buying the music rights to the 80s band for $30 or less.
  • At night when it's quiet, way up the quarter-mile driveway, Steins knows how fortunate she is. She has a job. She will gut out the remains of the recession, even if it's her version of paycheck to paycheck. She will keep it all afloat. [...] "We might live in nice houses and drive nice cars, but we're just holding on," she says. Perfect looks perfect from a distance.

  • Tip #13: A front-page profile of a single mom earning $300,000 a year is more likely to draw ridicule and scorn than sympathy and donations.
  • Kid's sex-ed camp fails to excite
    Costco pulls 'Lil Monkey' doll
    Rat-eating plant discovered in the Philippines

    tagged as newsday | permalink | 5 comments

    Wednesday, August 18, 2010

    Sick Day

    Weird Search Day cancelled on account of sickness.

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

    Thursday, August 18, 2011

    Weird Habit Day

    I have a multitasker's brain. Like a red-yellow-white component cable (or green-blue-red if your brain is slightly classier but still outdated), my brain is split into different channels for sights, sounds, and thoughts. It starts to chafe if any particular channel isn't being used, which is why I MUST play music while I work, and regularly work on the computer while watching a TV show.

    When my brain isn't operating at full saturation, the unused channels reflexively fill up with noise. For example, in the grey area between waking and sleeping at night, the trumpet arrangement of The Carnival of Venice loops in my head. It's not even an interesting Hunsberger orchestration, but the repetitive Arban theme and variations I played ad nauseum in middle school with the piano interlude that repeats identically ten times throughout the song. Sometimes my fingers will move as if playing the song as well, because I still have complete muscle memory of every variation.

    I think the fact that the song is so boring and predictable has made my brain endorse it as the perfect sleep inducer, because it has involuntarily appeared in my brain every single night for at least a decade. I don't even have to be thinking about it or expecting it -- it just shows up when I'm falling asleep, or occasionally when I drift awake in the middle of the night.

    I suppose it could be worse -- the complete discography of Ligeti would not be nearly as pleasant.

    Flash mob robs 7-11 in seconds
    Brain-eating ameoba kills 3
    Bachmann: I'll bring back $2 gas

    tagged as random | permalink | 3 comments

    Monday, August 18, 2014

    Weekend Wrap-up

    Friday Night:
    Safeway Supreme Pizza on Pizzeria Crust paired with Devils Backbone Turbo Cougar Blonde Bock and our back porch, until the mosquitoes chased us inside.

    Saturday Morning:
    First in line at Costco, followed by brunch at the home of Rebecca's coworker, complete with fancy quiches and bubbly champagne mixers. Topics of discussion included physical therapy, yoga, traffic, Chick-fila, and ghost tours.

    Saturday Night:
    Wegmans sushi paired with a Great Lakes Dortmunder Gold, again on the back porch.

    Sunday Afternoon:
    Trips to our respective parents' homes, followed by paprika-rubbed steaks on the back porch, episodes of The Shield, and games of Hearthstone.

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

    Tuesday, August 18, 2015

    EUsday Tuesday, Part III of IV

    Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Photos

    Owing to the great helpfulness of the German EurAide staff, we made the eight hour train ride from Munich to Grindelwald (via Austria and harried train transfers in Zurich, Bern, and Interlaken) without incident. We arrived in the town of Grindelwald around 3 PM.

    Grindelwald is a highly polished tourist destination, with infinitely easy logistics and everything you need at hand. In fact, it probably would have too touristy had the entirety of the town not been dwarfed by the natural spectacle of the Alps towering overhead a few miles in any direction. Living on the East Coast, vertical scale is not a day-to-day occurrence, and having mountains two and three miles tall obscuring the horizon will play with your mind's sense of perspective in fun ways. When we got home, the sense of flatness was overwhelming.

    Our weak German was not an issue here as the town shoppes were English-friendly. Unexpectedly, Asian tourists outnumbered Anglo tourists by a ratio of 3 to 1, crowding the trains and streets and living up to all of the classic photography sterotypes. For many, it was more important to take pictures of any and everything than it was to actually be present in the experience.

    We checked into the Hotel Tschuggen, a smaller hotel in the town center that adhered to the standard "pieces of fruit, meat, eggs, and cheese" breakfast and then explored the town by walking from end to end. As a light shower began, we ducked into the Di Salvi Ristorante, which was having a special on grilled chicken halves that could be smelled from blocks away.

    For our first full day, we joined our Asian friends on an expensive, extended train ride from Grindelwald up to Jungfraujoch. With an elevation change of 1.5 miles, the train drove through the Eiger mountain, stopping twice at strategically bored portholes with decent views. At each stop, all of the Asians hurried off the train to snap an obligatory picture and smoke a cigarette. We sat across from a couple from Montana who were taking an extra day in Switzerland after the wedding of one of their former exchange students.

    The weather at the "Top of Europe" was perfect for our trip, and although the temperature hovered near freezing, we had clear views in every direction. We spent most of our time in the Sphinx Observatory, coming inside occasionally to warm up. The "Ice Palace" and other tchotchke-oriented sections were rather silly, but we did make sure to get our free chocolate from the Lindt Shop.

    After getting sufficiently chilled, we took the train halfway down the mountain to Kleine Sheidegg and did some more temperate hiking around glaciers, meadows, and cows. We actually got caught in a cow collection activity, during which a farmer on a dirtbike rode through the meadows with his two dogs, rounding up the cows and sending them home for dinner. For our dinner that night, we ate next door to our hotel at Hotel Spinne. The food was not particularly exciting, but the liter beers and 270 degree view of every major mountain more than made up for that.

    One nice feature of Grindelwald's extensive cable car infrastructure was that we could skip the boring lowlands portions of any given hike and expend our energy on the exciting high parts. On day two, we took a cable car up 0.7 miles from Grindelwald to First, and then did a strenuous hike up another 0.3 miles over about 8 miles of horizontal trekking to a tiny hamlet called Falhorn (lower left on the map above). The picture below is at the base of the final Falhorn ascent, with whipping winds and clear views in every direction.

    We survived the balance-destroying winds and random cows to reach Falhorn, an inn and restaurant settlement reachable mainly by helicopter. They charged a franc for the toilet, which is their perogative for being 1.6 miles up in the air, and we also shared the best tasting $5 cup of hot chocolate we'd ever had in the warmth of the restaurant.

    After hiking back to First and taking a cable car down the mountain, we took a bus to the nearest Glacier and hiked several more miles up to an abandoned restaurant. We failed at finding the glacier, but a very talkative Brit let us know that the glacier had actually melted within the past three years, and was no longer accessible from where we stood. Disappointed, we took the bus back to Grindelwald and had another dinner in our favorite sunset spot at Hotel Spinne.

    Our final morning in Grindelwald would consist of one last hike to Pfinestegg, a brief but very steep hike up to a coop full of chickens and guinea hens. We then got back on the train and headed next for Montreux, the French-speaking town on Lake Geneva.

    Grindelwald was easily the most impressive leg of our trip, full of nature and hikes while simultaneously offering pampered amenities like easy-to-arrange transportation and delicious premade hike sandwiches at the local COOP grocery store.

    To Be Concluded Next Tuesday: A Return to French in Montreux and Geneva

    tagged as travel | permalink | 0 comments

    Friday, August 18, 2017

    Maia Week #6 Battle Report

    At 6 weeks old, Maia is nearing 9 pounds in weight. Her favorite place to be is on the changing table next to the bright silver YAY balloon that makes interesting noises when slapped. She spends a lot of time on this changing table now that we've learned to wait a few extra minutes with fresh air on the giblets before putting a new diaper on, because there's probably another round in the chamber just ready to fire. This knowledge reduced our diaper consumption from 18 down to about 12 per day.

    This has been the first week with one of us parents back in the real world working, and we've worked out a schedule where I get a full, continuous night's sleep, go to work at 6, and get home around 2 PM. This gives me a little extra energy to face people, but puts Rebecca on the lonely night shift. Thankfully, Maia has been getting more consistent about sleeping even though she rarely ever wants to go down.

    I think we've worked out a pretty good rhythm, generally speaking, although it's mentally hard to have nearly diametrically opposed schedules -- while it definitely reduces the strain on any single person and eases the burden of baby care, it also means that we have much less time to spend on the preexisting condition called our marriage. However, we're winning at the moment, with a clean, growing baby, a clean house, a mowed lawn, and a well-stocked refrigerator.

    The biggest change so far has been the need to timebox life into nap-based intervals of 2 - 4 hours at a time instead of a standard day. I selfishly miss the breezy flexibility and unthinkably vast quantities of free time I used to have, especially as I'm finally sitting down for my first video game of the day only to hear her waking up after an 18 minute nap. However, I'm also realistically aware that I would have squandered all of that free time on useless ventures anyhow (do I really need to rewatch The Wire a third time?), and I wouldn't think of wanting to go back.

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

    Wednesday, August 18, 2021

    Memory Day: Snapshots

    This picture was taken five years ago today, on August 18, 2016.

    It was a chilly, stormy day in Estes Park, Colorado. Exhausted from a high-altitude 10-mile hike to Glacier Gorge the day before, we were quite happy to loaf around town and sit in this coffee shop (Inkwell and Brew) drinking hot chocolate. The shop had the Colorado hippie vibe down pat, from the mismatched flea market furniture bordered by cluttered corners of ancient magazines to the inspirational messages written on the chalkboard ceiling.

    In the afternoon, Rebecca spent an hour in a Dragon Tea Shoppe looking for exotic tea flavors. We then had dinner at Ed's Cantina where we were introduced to the musical genre of electroswing, which led to us playing Parov Stelar, Ruckus Roboticus, and Wax Tailor on our subsequent car trip through the Rockies to Breckenridge.

    tagged as memories | permalink | 0 comments

    Friday, August 18, 2023

    Review Day: The Last of the Atalanteans by P.L. Stuart

    There are no major spoilers in this review.

    Although The Last of the Atalanteans by P.L. Stuart is the second book in The Drowned Kingdom saga, it feels more like a continuation of the story arc begun in Book 1 than a brand new adventure. The action and tension are immediate and burgeoning, with no lengthy worldbuilding interludes and little respite until this book's slower, satisfying conclusion.

    With the exception of one point-of-view shift, the story continues to be told from the perspective of Othrun, the exiled leader of a fallen civilization who has gained surprising notoriety on the new continent of Acremia. Othrun begins this book in disguise, on a covert mission to save the kingship of one of his new Eltnian allies. As the band of warriors with Othrun crosses hostile territory to reach the capital city of Lynchun, shifting alliances and feudal greed threaten the fragility of their plans.

    Book 2 does a much better job of mixing in worldbuilding without interrupting the momentum of the story. We learn more about the history between Lynchun and Carthlughe, the dynamics of power between female mages and the royal families in each kingdom, and gentle hints about potential allies and enemies in the 10 kingdoms to the south (hints which aren't fully explored until Book 3). There are so many political, personal, and religious motivations at play throughout the book and the author is able to convey the complicated fabric in a manner that kept me enthralled.

    The Last of the Atalanteans is a strong finish to the plot that began in A Drowned Kingdom. This pair of books is an excellent duology on its own, and also made me eager to continue on with the series (Book 3 was published in May 2023).

    Final Grade: B+

    tagged as reviews | permalink | 0 comments


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