This Day In History: 08/21

Tuesday, August 21, 2001

I've been assigned as a research assistant to the new faculty member, Dr. Wingate, who will also be the professor I study composition with. I don't know anything else about him, since (according to other faculty) he may or may not be around until the first day of classes. Apparently, he is spearheading the creation of a new computer music center or somesuch, so my assistantship should be fairly intriguing.

The last of the exams occured today. I probably got about 50% on the History exam, and did substantially better on the Counterpoint and Analysis exams. I have a feeling that I'll be taking the History review course, and possibly one other review course, but I won't know until scores are posted tomorrow and Thursday.

I finally got around to posting the Java battle report, for those of you that are into that sort of thing. Simply click on Writings, then Battle Reports, and look for "1v1 Lost Temple" in the list.

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Wednesday, August 21, 2002

I got back from my beach trip yesterday evening, having driven up to Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina to meet up with some Virginia friends at a beach house they'd rented for the week (Pictures are on the Photos page). I would've liked to stay longer, but that whole educational process was beckoning here and I had to take care of some more residency things before classes start. The drive up and down isn't so bad, because the states and the scenery change pretty regularly. South Carolina could stand to be abbreviated by about fifty miles, and we could always use an interstate from Savannah to Tallahassee, but otherwise things were pretty uneventful, allowing me to make the trip in about eleven hours. I'd never driven on Rte 64 in North Carolina before, and they keep your interest by having a different sign for every geometric permutation of intersection possible. Not content with the standard T and cross intersection signs, they mix it up with a variety of arcs, thin and fat lines, and general convolutedness. The signs actually resembled the four picture set on Mike's kitchen wall. By the way, it's also "unlawful to feed bears along the highway" on Rte 64.

Last night I set up my cable modem, which only took an hour and a half on the phone with the illiterate Comcast folk to work correctly. It's so much better than dial-up, and reminds me of my days in the dorms at Tech, which was one of the first schools nationally to wire all their dorms with Ethernet. This should be very helpful for passing around my music files, and I'll probably do more MP3s this year than last.

Bulbous Bouffant (MP3, 3.9MB). I'm not sure why, but this song is incredibly funny.

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Monday, August 21, 2006

Caption Contest Results

Congratulations to my Mom, who won last week's Funny Caption Contest! She wins a $5 gift certificate to Amazon.com for her efforts. While tabulating the results, I noticed that I forgot to include poll choices for #9 and #10. This is okay for two reasons: no one complained, so obviously no one was going to vote for them, and also I made both entries and why would I want to win my own contest?

I'd like to do many more of these audience participation contests in the future, maybe one a month at a minimum. There might not always be cash prizes, but at least you can get bragging rights and put a new line on your curriculum vitae. Besides contests to whet your creativity, there will be the usual smattering of music identification contests and maybe something zany like a "Identify the famous painting based on a small cross-section" contest. Have any ideas for weird contests that can be done over the Internet? Let me know!

So this update isn't a complete recapitulation of previous entries I have also included a deceptive cadence of new photos, like this one of me in 1981, and several new cat pictures .

Adam Sandler donates where it counts
Carr does not face an indecency charge because she had no inappropriate body parts exposed during the sex act.
Man trapped in chocolate

tagged as contests | permalink | 5 comments

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Review Day: Prison Break Season 3

There are no spoilers from this season in this review, although older seasons are described.

The first thing non-viewers generally ask when they hear that Prison Break has a third season is how these characters could possibly still be stuck in prison. Season One told the tale of an engineer, Michael Scofield, who intentionally gets arrested so he can break his innocent brother on death row out of jail. Season Two was the cross-country chase of the fugitives, and Season Three finds Scofield and some of his compatriots back in a Panamanian prison where the prisoners are so violent that the guards just maintain the perimeter, letting lawlessness reign inside.

The plot is ridiculous, and the settings are implausible. Why would lawless prisoners be allowed daily visitors? Why would the big conspiracy people behind Scofield's rearrest not have a much easier solution for the problem they face? Many people can't get past the insane setup, and it's easy to poke holes in the plot if you stop and think. However, story is NOT the reason you would want to watch this show. This is pure escapist (pun intended, because when are puns NOT intended on this site) suspenseful fare -- the story is just there to put all the pieces in place so the character dynamics and intricate escape plans can come to the front.

The third season is not as good as the first, but much better than the second, which lost some momentum trying to track multiple individual storylines across the country. The characters are the most fun to watch when they're all playing off each other, and having them stuck in a prison again brings that element back. Theodore "T-Bag" Bagwell, the racist Southern pedophile who's probably the first primetime character to use the word "detritus" in his dialog, is still the most riveting and enjoyable anti-hero to watch, although he doesn't get as much screen time as in the past.

Like all shows last season, this one was hit by the writer's strike, so there's only thirteen episodes to watch. However, the final episode is tied up nicely and works as a finale, further supporting my theory that you only need about twelve shows to make a compelling season of TV that doesn't drag out with tattoo stories. The only place where the season staggers a bit is with the handling of a pivotal actress who decided not to return this season. Voiceovers, shots from behind, and a clumsy kidnapping storyline cover this up in a painfully obvious manner, much the same way the Sopranos ended the Livia Soprano storyline with old clips of previously recited dialog after the actress' death.

Overall, this is a season worth watching if you like entertaining, suspenseful shows that don't need a lot of internal logic or deep thought to enjoy. When given the choice between a season of Prison Break and a season of 24, I'd probably enjoy the former more.

Download condom ring tones
Cat with four ears a target for catnappers
Newlyweds tasered after wedding

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Friday Fragments

the back-to-school edition, or if you're old, the keep-on-working edition

♠ Health officials in the US are warning that we're going to see a 2nd surge in swine flu cases during the fall flu season. In general though, the even-numbered periods of disease are only dangerous for minorities. As they say, "white people only get the clap on 1 and 3".

♠ The Clap was one of many ailments I didn't fully understand when I was a little kid. Back then, I thought that shingles sounded like a very painful pooping problem, and elephantiasis made your face look like an elephant.

♠ Elephants are also in the news in France, where a mayor is trying to ban them from being on the beach because the presents they leave behind are a little too big. I'm sure that elephant pies would be a great mortar for sand castles though -- they should host a sand castle competition to capitalize on dung. And if the elephant has to pee? Instant drip castle.

♠ Drip castles always seem like a lost cause to me. You have to build them too close to the surf so you have a ready supply of drip, but then the tide comes in and you immediately lose your supply of castle. I suppose the optimum sand castle would be reinforced with interior walls from a Lego Castles set.

♠ I just glanced at the Lego website to see what sort of sets they sell nowadays. The days of monosyllabic "town" and "space" sets are now overloaded with a smorgasbord of proper nouns and phrases. Power Miners looks like leftover propwork from the movie, Labyrinth. And do we really need a Spongebob Squarepants Lego kit?

♠ Plans for the weekend include a meeting with the caterer, a Happy Hour with Rebecca's job, and maybe even some relaxing time, which has been about as rare as my steaks recently. We also started the third season of Dexter on Tuesday, and have seven episodes left -- that'll probably be done and ready for borrowing by the end of the weekend.

♠ Have a great weekend!

Marines researching throbots
Sheriff reprimands deputies over waitress photos
Robbers today are pansies

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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Composing Spotlight: Labyrinth

Movement II. Determination

Picking up immediately where the first movement left off, the second movement was characterized by a regular beat, and motivated, driving melodic lines. Although I didn't use classical key signatures in this work, the tonal center between movement I and II fell from a D to a Db, which was intended to signify motion in unexpected directions through this labyrinth.

The first melodic line in this section (once again doubled between sax and violins, as dictated by Rob Kelley's favourite joke) is derived from the half-whole-half step motive. It's written in a triple meter (12/8), because classical musicians often have trouble swinging merely from the presence of the word "Swing", and because I would just end up inserting a bunch of triplets anyhow.

After two statements of the melody, the woodwinds engage in "dicking around" for a bit, representing distractions from the primary goal of solving the labyrinth -- this material is spun out more in later movements. The theme of the "adversary" is briefly restated in a single measure here as well (around 1:00 on the MP3 excerpt), derived from the 5/4 measure at the end of the Movement I theme.

Next comes a restatement of the original Movement I theme by the trumpet. The motor drops out from under the end of this melody, leading us to a more static-feeling third movement.

    Listen to the second movement (1:04 MP3)

Jump to Movement: I | II | III | IV | V | VI | VII | VIII | IX

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Memory Day: Thirteen Years Ago Today

Monday, August 21, 2000 was the first day of classes in my fifth year of undergrad. Having spent the previous four years surging at 18 - 21 credits per semester for the double major, I coasted through this semester with just 16 credits (much of it made up of music ensembles and lessons).

Figuring that I would be green, I learned the bus route from Foxridge Apartments on day one. However, my bus riding days only lasted for about a week before I switched to driving -- the act of waiting for a bus at the age of 21 imbues you with alternating feelings of being in elementary school again or being urbanly poor.

My first class of the first day was Theory of Computation and, true to form, I slept through the last twenty minutes of it. To this day, my only recollection of that class is that we spent the entire time discussing P = NP and hoping that someone would come along and prove it someday.

At 11:15, I had my lunch of fettucine alfredo, extra bacon, and nachos with cheese at Schultz Dining Hall, and then wandered over to the slightly-haunted Henderson Hall for Symphonic Literature. This was the first semester that this building was used for music classes, having previously been the home of medical-related stuff, so I probably picked up a few types of cancer from all of the leftover X-rays bouncing around the asbestos-lined building.

At 2:30, I had "MIDI Data Structures", which was a crossover class between CS and MUSIC with only 2 students. Billed at 3 credits, it only met 2 days a week officially, and informally met whenever we felt like getting together. By the end of that class, I was able to write a Java Swing app that could playback standard MIDI files.

After marching band that day, we all went over to the New River hospital to see Shac, who had come down with some mystery malady over the weekend, but who was feeling much better by the time we arrived.

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Review Day: Curse of Naxxramas

Curse of Naxxramas is a single-player campaign for Hearthstone which allows you to battle against bosses from Warcraft lore (similar to the original tutorials) in exchange for new cards to add to your decks. The campaign came out in five "wings" over the last month, with each wing consisting of a few bosses and hero challenges.

The entire campaign could be bought for $20 or a comparable amount of in-game gold, or for a slightly more expensive price on a wing-by-wing basis. I used real money because, like a kid living next to a 7-11, all of my in-game gold gets used to buy new cards as soon as I have enough of it.

The main campaign is a pleasant diversion of puzzle-y action -- each boss has a particular gimmick hero power, but it never took me more than one or two tries to beat each one, and I never had to build a special deck to do so. After beating the campaign, each of the 9 heroes gets a special class challenge (where you must beat one of the bosses with a pre-crafted deck that's usually awful). Again, these challenges weren't particularly challenging at all -- the only one that could be considered unfair is the Warrior challenge, which relies heavily on getting just the right random cards throughout. This challenge took me about 8 tries to get through.

The final part of the campaign is "Heroic" mode, where you replay the bosses with obviously unfair restrictions put on the matches. I gave up on these pretty quickly, since they involve a lot of deck building and fine-tuning, which means waiting ten minutes between each game to get through all of the animated loading screens to the deck page. The only rewards for this mode are golden versions of existing cards.

At the end of the day, the real reason to care about this campaign is the introduction of new cards -- you might play against people with the new cards even if you haven't purchased the campaign. Since the lore behind this campaign deals with the Undead, most of the new cards have Deathrattle effects. All of the cards are interesting, but only two or three have found their way into my main playing decks. The rest are situationally fun, or require a brand new deck with the right synergies to exploit.

Overall, the content is polished and pleasant, but not quite worth the dollar value. I bought the entire set up-front and as new wings released each week, I found that it sometimes took less than 30 minutes to get through everything but the Heroic games. If you have a surplus of gold saved up or just want to support the development team, there's no reason you shouldn't get this.

Final Grade: B

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Friday, August 21, 2015

Random Chart Day: Hearthstone Statistics

I still regularly play Hearthstone as a casual "game I can play on the side while doing more productive things since people take forever to play their turns". Here are some stats from about 1000 games played as either Paladin or Priest.

I like to play mid-range control decks, so generally if I survive past turn 6, I have a pretty good chance of winning, unless I'm facing a Grim Patron Warrior and Giant Warlock deck. I lose slightly more than I win, but have fun playing non cookie-cutter decks. I'm generally around Rank 17 but have occasionally gone as high as Rank 13. Here's the raw data I've captured, sorted by win rate.

  • The most common opponents I see are Mech / Freeze Mages, Face Hunters, and Zoo / Giant Warlocks. Decks built around dragons still haven't taken off yet.

  • Shamans, who are generally regarded to be the weakest class, strangely seem to beat me the most, regardless of my class.

  • I still have trouble believing that people paid $10 for "new hero portraits", but I've found that those people tend to be pretty bad at Hearthstone (and economics) and usually result in an easy win.

  • The Tavern Brawls are a fun diversion, but I prefer the ones with pre-built decks.

Are you still playing Hearthstone?

tagged as data, games | permalink | 1 comment

Monday, August 21, 2017

Booty Day

Booty the cat was born on October 25, 2002 and adopted by me at a Tallahassee adoption fair in March 2003. As a half-Siamese mutt, she had giant ears and a night-splitting wail, and loved to do tricks like climbing up window screens or playing fetch with a piece of string.

After I graduated from grad school and moved back to Virginia, she joined forces with Kitty, who taught her important life lessons like how to be fat.

In 2004, she became the Master of the House at Hanford Court, tolerating her housemate, Amber, while hating an endless train of temporary cats, including Leia, Oliver, Kitty, Sydney, Lake, Titan, and Sydney again. She also didn't much care for babies unless they were old enough to feed her.

She took to Rebecca pretty quickly, which is good because I ended up marrying her. Rebecca enjoyed falling asleep on the couch, as did Booty, and the two of them bonded over this shared hobby.

Besides eating, looking forward to eating, or digesting after having eaten, Booty's favourite activity was to join someone in a nap on the couch, getting up close and personal, forcing air out of their lungs like a feral paperweight, and purring loudly in their face.

This past spring, Booty started having a sporadic pain in her jaw that would cause her to suddenly jump up from a pose of repose and run around smacking her lips. By the time we had gotten back from the hospital with Maia, it had blossomed into a large bony mass giving her the appearance of Jay Leno. $800 worth of tests later, we learned that (a) it was a tumor, (b) it had not yet spread to any organs, and (c) we could pay thousands of dollars to surgically remove the tumor... along with her jaw... which would then require the installation of a stomach feeding tube... all without any guarantee of survival or maintaining quality of life.

We opted instead to just keep her comfortable and happy for however much longer we could. And, in fact, she lasted another month before the tumor reached the point where she couldn't close her mouth completely and couldn't stick her tongue out far enough to eat without lots of help.

On Sunday, we had her euthanized at home through Wholistic Paws (who were absolutely wonderful). We buried her in the backyard behind the shed and had a brief millisecond of silence before fleeing the devouring woodland mosquitos.

Thanks for being my dependable constant for 14 great years, Booty. We will all miss you!

tagged as memories, cats | permalink | 4 comments

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Memory Day: Snapshots

This picture was taken 36 years ago, in August 1983.

I was one month shy of turning 4 years old, and playing in the sand at Calvert Cliffs State Park. The beach here is a 1.8-mile hike from the parking lot, a trek that usually started with the kids running all the way and ended with one of us on my dad's shoulders on the way back. The beach was unassuming, with a bit too much gravelly sand to dig any amazing holes, but this was balanced out by the unusually high number of shark's teeth that would surface on each visit. I wore one particularly large one on a necklace for many years!

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Friday, August 21, 2020

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Live at Brooklyn Steel by Mika:
Mika's most recent album is a live collection of older songs. It has great sound mixing -- the audience sound is toned back just enough that you get the live feel without losing the main performance. Mika also sounds just as good as he does on his studio albums.

Final Grade: B+

Ocean's 13 (PG-13):
I watched this movie over 3 treadmill sessions and remember very little about it. It has minimal characterization, minimal heisting, minimal payoff, and minimal reason to care about any of it. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: D

Elder Scrolls Online:
I first reviewed ESO back in 2015. It was a fun, non-addicting game that I enjoyed playing until Fallout 4 came out and distracted me. I picked it up again just as the pandemic was revving up and played it consistently for 3-4 more months. The game has seen regular improvements and has so much solo-friendly content that I hadn't even finished the last 3 or 4 most recent expansion packs by the time I stopped in June. ESO definitely fills a lot of the "boredom" criticisms I discovered when I tried WoW again, and is a game that I'd definitely return to some day when nothing better is out. The only downside is the relative confusion of figuring out where to begin -- with so many new expansions and NPCs that try to channel you towards the newest stuff, the underlying story can be hard to follow without helpful "story order" lists on forums.

Final Grade: B+

Hamilton:
I love the experience of watching a triple-A musical from the comfort of my couch. You can see individual faces, get a little more kinetic energy from moving cameras, and turn on subtitles for all the lines that get swallowed by poor sound mixing.

As for Hamilton itself, I thought it was a great musical though maybe not worth selling your children to get tickets for. The through-composed songs reprise regularly throughout the musical, connecting things together very effectively. Staging is fairly simple, but the dancing ensemble keeps the background interesting. All performances were strong although Thomas Jefferson and King George clearly stole the show. The only fault I found was the speaking voices of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr -- both used whiny, raspy tones that scraped against my brain like an infected safety pin. As soon as either one started singing, my brain was much happier. Free on Disney+.

Final Grade: A

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