This Day In History: 08/23

Thursday, August 23, 2001

All four exams are accounted for and passed. This should allow me to put some interesting courses on my agenda, and I may even take a few extra credits later on (once I'm paying in-state tuition). From the looks of my course outline (which hasn't been approved at all yet) I should finish Master's work in a year and a half, and Doctoral work in the same time frame, or possibly two years.

The massive undertaking that is Marching Virginians band camp is now in full swing at Virginia Tech. Although there are parts that I'll definitely miss, I'm not sure if I'd do another season, given the opportunity. The first year was pretty horrible because of bad leadership in the trumpet section, but the next three were highly entertaining. It got pretty old in my fifth year, but having great roommates in the same section kept things afloat quite nicely.

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Friday, August 23, 2002

There was a story in the Washington Post last week about the shortage of boat storage space along the Potomac River for high school crew teams . I was lucky to go to the one high school in northern Virginia that had its own boathouse and amazingly large collection of shells as well. If I recall correctly, we didn't even do much fundraising throughout the year. It's interesting that a public school could have so much money invested in a sport that many people consider to be elitist or even yuppy, but it's definitely a worthwhile sport. I can honestly say that crew is the only true team sport, where every member is equally important, and star players don't exist.

I've updated the work in progress on the Music page. There's only about a minute's worth of material right now, but it's on the right track now after several false starts. Now that I have a cable modem, I'm considering doing this in MP3 format, although that will definitely limit the number of dial-up downloads I get. If you have a strong opinion one way or the other, just let me know.

How not to get out of jury duty
The Flute Case that Fell Apart

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Tuesday, August 23, 2005

I have a little over three weeks until I turn twenty-six -- I got a big laugh at my last music presentation after telling the audience that I wasn't born until three years after A Fifth of Beethoven was mixed by the Walter Murphy Orchestra. For the lifespan of these daily updates, birthdays have not been a big deal; they were just a day where I took off from work and made filler updates like this one , and I think Number 26 will be no different. Since it'll be on a Thursday this year, I may take two days off from my limitless vacation pool and squander them by doing nothing of historical value. I can't even think of any gifts I'm particularly interested in, so if you're having troubles thinking of something, you are welcome to buy me absolutely nothing at all and I will cherish it forever. I like giving gifts more than getting them anyhow.

When you're growing up, birthdays are all about becoming more mature. My birthday coincides fairly nicely with the start of the school year (since by law, Virginian kids can't go to school until Labor Day so King's Dominion's high school employees can get two more weeks of slave labour in). At each birthdate in my formative years, I remember looking back at the previous school year's gaffes, pitfalls, and embarassing moments, and wondering how I could have been so foolish or naïve. I would resolve not to let things like those happen again, and comfort myself with the fact that "I now know better". Of course, it was also naïve of me to think each year that I was as mature as I could ever get, only to revisit the timeline one year later and repeat the exact same thought process. Apparently pattern recognition is not possibly when you apply it to yourself.

Eventually, this cycle of evaluation fades away and you start to realize that you're finally getting older without getting any more mature. Perhaps you have fewer regrets, or you've just run out of stupid situations to fall into, but either way you wake up the day after your birthday (or three if you like your birthdays in bars) and realize that not a whole lot has changed. I'd say that for me this turning point was my 22nd birthday, during my first year in Florida. Yes, I was in completely different surroundings, but I really didn't feel like I had changed a whole lot in the previous year, or learned dramatic new philosophies or epiphanies. I learned new things about the world and myself in the following years, but nothing that would have really made a differencein the previous years -- like I was just buying new mental furniture instead of having to constantly figure out how I was misusing the old.

I think most people go through these two phases of life though they may never put a name to it (and there may be more phases to come, but I haven't lived that long yet). Where people differ is how they react to the realizations. Do they become depressed because they're just getting older without many inner-self-altering changes under the hood? Or are they comfortable because they now have a foundation of character that they can trust to be 100% self? I fall squarely into the latter category -- I'm relieved that the awkward experimentation phase of life is over and probably wouldn't change a single thing about it (even if I didn't always like where things were headed at the time). Though I don't know where the road leads from here, I can see how everything has come together up to this point. Even though I'm not exactly where I expected to be at 25.93424 years of youth, I'm happy with where I'm at, the things I've done, and the people currently in my life.

I don't like life surprises -- I wouldn't want to wake up next year forced to re-evaluate the way things work, so feeling comfortable with my core self means that there's one less thing to worry about should the world decide to shake things up for good or for bad in the coming year. (And the world does do stuff like that. The world can be a little bitch sometimes). Should life-changing events occur now, like great grandchildren, marriage, or partial paralysis from a freak tuna fish mishap (not necessarily in that order), by golly, I'll be ready for them!

I'm also thankful that my mistakes and pitfalls are usually pretty low-key. When a VT friend, Nikki, visited me in Florida, all my Florida friends wanted to hear embarassing stories from my VT years, but she couldn't think of any. When I told Anna I'd introduce her to someone from high school, she said she would want to hear all the shocking stories of high-school-BU. Luckily, enough years have gone by so my high school years are now one seamless airtight alibi of good behaviour and devoid of any embarassing moments. I've been coming into contact with a lot of forgotten faces from high school recently, and all they can remember about me is that I was the "really short kid".

For fun, here are two embarassing moments from my childhood that I would love to do over (both more than a decade ago, so my recent prehistory can remain the parable of flawless behaviour that it is today):

  • In seventh grade, I wrote an anonymous mushy poem to an eighth-grade girl I liked and secretly put it in her locker. Despite the cloak and dagger routine, she knew who it was because I followed her around like a lost puppy all day long, much to the chagrin of her and her friends. In my defense, I was only eleven years old in seventh grade, so I was admirably socially inept in the world of boys and girls together ("playin' funny games").

  • I was at a summer music camp at Longwood College after tenth grade, watching some other kids play tennis. After much supportive coaxing, they convinced me to play with a borrowed racket. On the very first return, I somehow managed to trip over the racket and tumble to the clay in front of two hot flute players. I opened a two inch abrasion on my shoulder (the scar of which is still visible today) and scratched up the racket pretty badly. Were it not for my heavenly cornet playing, they all probably would have laughed much longer and harder, but I think they were as embarassed for me as I was. "It's a good thing he's got that music thing going on, because tennis certainly won't pay the bills."
  • There's another one involving my Freshman Prom, but it's an epic tale and far too long for today's update. If my loyal readers really want to hear it, I'll write it up someday, and then crawl into a hole and hide.

    This cat video of Amber is too cute not to post: (631KB WMV)

    Happy Birthday Ann Lamond!

    Piano man was a hoax
    Cloned wildcats have kids
    I wonder if they got to keep the gifts

    Yesterday's search terms:
    latest news about lea salonga, should wisdom teeth always be extracted in teens, i have to kill you because you can identify me

    tagged as memories, deep thoughts | permalink | 7 comments

    Wednesday, August 23, 2006

    Capsule Review Day

    Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga (GBA):
    One good thing about having a Gameboy DS is that it plays all the original Game Boy Advance games, which opens up a whole arena of games I never played when they were topical three and four years ago. Superstar Saga is the prequel to Mario and Luigi: Partners in Time which I loved and is an action/role-playing game like Paper Mario. It's definitely fun, but it's not as exciting as its sequel, probably because it's so similar and not quite as well executed. One problem I have is that around halfway through the game, the overworld map just opens up and you can go pretty much everywhere. I prefer games where you're constrained to a smaller area and have to figure out everything before moving on. Zelda games do this to perfection by putting secrets in plain sight then blocking them with obstacles that you won't clear until later. In Superstar Saga, I always just felt like I was missing too much and never quite sure where to wander next. Also, digging up beans is really annoying. I haven't beat this game yet, and haven't really had the urge to play it at all recently. Final Grade: B-

    Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap (GBA):
    A classic Zelda adventure in the vein of Link to the Past. The central conceit of this game is that Link can shrink into a tiny being by wearing a cap, which means that every scene can be approached from two different angles. I haven't had a lot of time to really get into this game (only about 15% through it), but I bet that I'd like it if I ever sat down and played for more than a few minutes at a time. Final Grade: B+

    Brain Age (DS):
    Brain Age is a budget title that's hot in Japan. It's a collection of puzzles and tests supposedly designed to sharpen your mental acuity if you play it daily. As a testing tool, it's horrible, because it often misunderstands your voice, and is incapable of deciphering 4's and 8's that I write. This generally drops a few points off my scores. As a bonus, the game comes with tons of Sudoku puzzles, making this a perfect "just a few minutes" game to bring along on trips. Final Grade: B-

    XM Roady XT and the Altec Lansing 3120:
    My old XM radio was over two years old with fuzzy connections, so I picked up the Roady XT right after I got back from the beach. The FM reception is much improved although it takes a few extra seconds to turn on, and runs quite hot. Two nice improvements: long titles and names now scroll on the screen, and you can pick any FM frequency you want rather than having to select them from a predefined list. Final Grade: A Buying this product forced my around-the-house receivers into planned obsolesence since the connectors are all different now. Rather than replace the three home kits (office, living room, and party room), I picked up the Altec Lansing docking station. The unit gets good reception and has a great sound quality for personal use. For larger venues, you'd probably want to run a cable from the headphone jack to a receiver though. Final Grade: A-

    A History of Violence:
    This movie is about a small-town everyman who stops a robbery in his diner and becomes a national hero. This leads to several heads of organized crime believing that he's a runaway hit man. The first 2/3rds of the movie are great, but the last 1/3 just dragged on and didn't really add anything. Also, having sex on stairs looks pretty painful. Final Grade: C+

    Inside Man:
    I love heist movies, and this one was great despite featuring Clive Owen who likes to sulk and brood through every movie he's in. It wasn't particularly preachy for a Spike Lee Joint, and even had a few light-hearted funny moments to it. Denzel was good as always, and Jodie Foster was unnecessary. Final Grade: B+

    Happy Birthday Anne Lamond!

    Porn broadcast stuns viewers
    Live rattlesnakes released during movie
    Porn still in the news. Porn porn porn.

    tagged as reviews | permalink | 5 comments

    Thursday, August 23, 2007

    Movie Review Day

    There are no spoilers in these reviews

    You, Me, and Dupree
    This movie had a few funny moments, but it couldn't decide whether it wanted to be a buddy comedy or a relationship drama. It also couldn't decide whether the story was about the betterment of the title character, Dupree, who's a single layabout, or the issues of the newly married couple he shacks up with. Matt Dillon is slightly less annoying than normal here, and Michael Douglas has a fun supporting role as the overbearing father-in-law. Good for a rainy day, or when there aren't any other movies on the shelf.

    Final Grade: C+

    Pan's Labyrinth
    A story about a little girl who discovers a mythological world, set against the backdrop of World War I in Spain. Other than a few brief scenes of highly realistic violence, it worked very well, as long as you're willing to read subtitles (the entire movie is in Spanish). Although the English title is Pan's Labyrinth, the story is not directly tied to Greek mythology, and the faun in the story is not actually Pan.

    Final Grade: A-

    batteries not included
    Rebecca and I found this in a thrift store for fifty cents, after just having discussed it as memorable childhood movie. It's a fun light-hearted movie of the 80s from the era when Steven Spielburg was king. The story tells of alien robots who come to Earth and are capable of fixing things, and it's neat to see the throwback special effects and Spielburg's classic style of giving his robots humanistic characteristics. The personification of the street thug as a guy wearing a wife beater and a Miami shirt is worth a chuckle too.

    Final Grade: A

    Live Free or Die Hard
    This was the first movie I'd seen in the theatre since last February's Music and Lyrics trip. This is the fourth movie in the Die Hard series, so if you go into it expect a Die Hard style movie, you will love it. The fact that the plot has John McClane racing across much of the East Coast lessens some of the suspense, but the stunts, explosions, and action are all top-notch. The only part of the movie I didn't like was the ridiculous scene towards the end which involved a big rig truck and a fighter jet. You have to suspend a lot of disbelief to enjoy an action movie, but that particular scene was just so over the top that it was laughable.

    Final Grade: A-

    Happy Birthday Ann Lamond!

    Being my size, I have to eat a lot, and this [money] will go towards paying the grocery bill.
    The machines are winning
    Blizzard negotiating with researchers for virtual epidemic study

    tagged as reviews | permalink | 2 comments

    Monday, August 23, 2010

    Great Idea Day

    a bailing bucket for my constantly overflowing cesspool of ways to optimize society

    It occurred to me while driving out to Anna's on Saturday night that there's an underutilized segment of property in Virginia's arsenal -- the noble rest stop. Constantly under the threat of budget cuts and men with bad aim, the Virginia rest stop gets a nice little chunk of money for upkeep, but then only gets used by dirty foreigners from Maryland on their way to North Carolinan NASCAR events.

    The obvious solution, then, is for more Virginians to use rest stops as picnic venues. Why pay a ridiculous sum to rent out a wasp-infested pavilion and Port-o-Potty at your local city park when the inviting fresh cut grass of the Manassas Rest Stop could be yours for free? There's plenty of shady areas for frisbee golf, top notch facilities, and a ubiquitous series of vending machines if Aunt Ida conveniently forgets that the family reunion is "potluck" again.

    Sure, it might be a little loud, but no one can hear anything over shrieking kids anyhow, and the fact that there are usually rest stops on each side of the interstate means that you can "accidentally" direct your unloved in-laws to the westbound location while having a merry eastbound bacchanal. Just watch out for people with unusually wide stances and you have the perfect, free venue.

    Ray Bradbury: "We've Got Too Many Internets"
    Deputies arrest man in banana costume with shotgun
    Hoax or no, thumbs up for 'KFC Skinwich'

    tagged as random | permalink | 1 comment

    Tuesday, August 23, 2011

    Answers Day

    "What is Pei Wei? Also how do you say that?" - Anna

    Pei Wei is an Asian fusion (fasion) restaurant that serves noodley types of Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Thai, and Vietnamese food. It's mostly lame, because they put metal tip trees on each table with a hanging sample dollar in case you don't get the idea. There's nothing wrong with tipping in general, but you order the food cafeteria-style in this place -- the server brings your food out, walking maybe 10 feet, and then you never see them again. There are plenty of people I would like to tip if I never had to see them again, but none of them work at Pay Way.

    "And while you're answering questions, what is bacon beer?" - Mom

    Bacon beer is beer with a hickory smoked taste that leaves a faint aftertaste of bacon in your mouth. When you pair it up with food, the bacon becomes more intense! The Schlenkerla Rauchbier I had on Friday was very dark, but didn't taste like a dark beer at all.

    "While you are answering things, how were the pork chops? If they were delicious, will we see another recipe-inspired post?" - Erin

    Peking Pork Chops

    • 6 pork chops, about 1 inch thick
    • 1/2 cup soy sauce
    • 1/4 cup brown sugar
    • 1/4 cup ketchup
    • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
    • 1 to 2 cloves garlic, crushed
    • salt and pepper
    1. Trim excess fat from pork chops and place in bottom of slow cooker.
    2. Combine soy sauce, sugar, ketchup, ginger, and garlic in a bowl. Pour over meat.
    3. Cook on LOW for 4 hours or until pork is tender. Don't cook too long -- the meat is done when you can flake it apart with a fork like fish. Hopefully you have a slow cooker with a meat probe.
    4. Season with salt, pepper, and love. Serve over white rice.
    Burger King retires the King
    Ferry runs aground with captain stuck in toilet
    Urban cliff divers make a splash

    tagged as random, recipes | permalink | 3 comments

    Thursday, August 23, 2012

    Review Day

    There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

    Planet Earth:
    It can't be denied that Planet Earth has some beautiful footage and a top-notch production quality. However, something is missing that makes this DVD set more boring than entertaining (we actually found that the best use of it was to watch an episode just before bedtime so we would fall asleep on the couch to the soothing imagery). It's beautiful on the outside, but lacks any depth, and bounces from biome to biome like a biologist with ADD, passing up many chances to provide any interesting details. We also quickly tired of the reuse of footage of a single polar bear that seemed to appear in all of the episodes, probably intended as a manipulative guilt device for our treatment of the environment. Sure, our actions probably led to a reduction in polar bears, but the featured bear obviously made some poor individual choices and needs to accept responsibility for getting killed by a walrus.

    Final Grade: B-

    Human Again by Ingrid Michaelson:
    I liked Ingrid Michaelson's first CD enough to give it a rare A. The music was different, raw, and occasionally edgy. Every album since then has been the musical equivalent of despeckling a JPEG -- touching up perceived deficiencies and hiding the rough edges to make it more palatable for the Starbucks crowd. Human Again is her fourth album, and the songs fall into two categories: forgettable, or annoyingly repetitive. A perfect example of the latter category is Blood Brothers, which I can't listen to without picturing Ross Gellar saying "Dude, stop saying 'Blood' to strangers".

    Final Grade: C-

    Kingpin by Kevin Poulsen:
    This was my second beach book after the Kevin Mitnick autobiography. It's impossible to do any useful browsing in the Kindle Store, so when I'm a beach run, I'm more likely to just order any book linked from the page of a book I liked. I enjoyed this book, both from a biographical and a technical perspective. Poulsen has an engaging writing style that was very easy to read as well.

    Final Grade: B

    Survival by Muse:
    I didn't realize that Muse had been commissioned to write the "official song of the 2012 Olympics" until after the Olympics were over and I was reading about their upcoming album full of dubstep. Apparently they performed in the closing ceremonies too, but NBC cut them out in favor of some new sitcom. The Olympic song, Survival, is a fun, Muse-stamped arrangement with embarrassing, awful lyrics, kind of similar to the song they were commissioned to write for the Twilight movies. It would probably be better without any lyrics at all, but actually improves when slapped over a montage of athletes.

    Final Grade: B-

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    Friday, August 23, 2013

    Questions Day

    I'm stuck in all-day training right now, so let's have another free-for-all. What would you like to know? Ask me some questions, serious or fantastical, and I'll reply to them next week.

    If you can't think of any burning questions, then tell me what I should ask for for my upcoming birthday! Or go update your blog!

    tagged as you speak | permalink | 4 comments

    Wednesday, August 23, 2017

    Review Day

    There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

    Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (PG-13):
    This one-off Star Wars movie (which fits plotwise in between Episode 3 and 4) takes a little while to get rolling (the first hour or so is character introduction), but it's otherwise reasonably watchable. The final battle scenes drag on a bit long, but the main characters are fun to watch and none of them are Jar-Jar levels of irritating. Free on Netflix.

    Final Grade: B-

    Ozark, Season One:
    This show starring Jason Bateman as a financial advisor in trouble with a Mexican drug cartel is never bad, but overall, it just feels unnecessary. It maintains a nice, brooding tone that rarely lightens up, but it also stands in the massive culture shadow of Breaking Bad, a show which it actually has very little in common with, but which people can't help but to compare it to. A late season episode functions as a useful flashback episode, but does all sorts of weird chronology jumps for no other reason besides "style points", like J.J. Abrams with a brain tumor flashing back 48 hours while skipping through time on a mysterious island. Free on Netflix.

    Final Grade: B-

    iZombie, Season Three:
    As in season two, there's about 10% too many parallel plots going on in this season, but the net effect is very enjoyable. There were plenty of callbacks to old characters and plotlines, but I just let myself go along for the ride and found all of the threads nicely organized and resolved by the end. This was a very good season with a nice 4400-esque plot twist to set up the next season. Free on Netflix.

    Final Grade: A-

    Goliath, Season One:
    This Amazon Original started strong with interesting characters and a nice style, but gradually peters out like a guy named Peter running a mile with weights around his ankles. The courtroom drama portions of the story are disappointing, and the final decision in the case doesn't feel earned, based on the work and evidence presented in earlier episodes. Free on Amazon Prime.

    Final Grade: C-

    tagged as reviews | permalink | 0 comments

    Friday, August 23, 2019

    Review Day

    There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

    Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal by Nick Bilton:
    I picked up this book because I still don't understand how Twitter can be such a valuable service. I was vindicated since it seems like people who run it haven't quite figured it out either. This was an entertaining read featuring incredible levels of backstabbing and power plays amongst the original founders of the service. The only downside is that the book only goes up to about 2013, so any more recent successes or failings of Twitter are not covered.

    Final Grade: B

    Money Heist, Part One:
    I'm guessing the show became "Money Heist" in the US because we have too many "House of" shows to use "House of Paper". This show tells of a band of criminals who break into the mint to print their own money and has kind of a Spanish Prison Break vibe to it. It's passably entertaining in broad strokes, but doesn't sell the logistics of the heist and character motivations quite as well. The subtitles are atrocious too. Free on Netflix.

    Final Grade: B-

    Modern Family, S9:
    This season was just fine -- it's at its best when not focusing on Cam or the annoying toddler. That said, I think it's about time to push this show out to pasture.

    Final Grade: B-

    Dark, Season Two:
    The second season was riveting, and better than the first. There was less of a need for character reminder cheat sheets this time, but the dialogue-less scenes (which I would normally hate for wasting my time) are still helpful for letting the weight of each scene really sink in. I loved the way the characters evolved such that everyone is sympathetic at one point or another, and everyone really thinks they're on the right side. I especially liked the changes of Katharina and Noah, both of whom were pretty one-dimensional in the first season. There still aren't quite enough answers, but there's only one (already greenlit) season left and it doesn't feel like anything is going to go off the rails. This series is a perfectly paced, brooding thriller that transcends the annoyance of reading subtitles and will have you thinking long after it ends. Free on Netflix.

    Final Grade: A

    tagged as reviews | permalink | 0 comments

    Monday, August 23, 2021

    Earthquake Anniversary Day

    Ten years ago today was the most destructive natural event to ever hit northern Virginia -- a 5.9 earthquake. Thankfully, we all survived.

    tagged as green (recycled) content | permalink | 0 comments

     

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