This Day In History: 09/03

Monday, September 03, 2001

The first Labour Day I've had off in five years, and already there's a rainstorm brewing overhead. Better that than a hurricane I suppose.

While reading a collection of articles on game design , I came across a section connecting music composition to the relationship between technology and design. It's something I've realized for quite some time, and even now I often struggle to stay out of the pitfall mentioned:

    There is an analogy to this situation that I have personally bitched about for years, in the field of musical composition. At its purest level, the act of musical composition (the design phase) is done purely in one's head, and the subsequent translation to paper and copy is only a method of communicating the mental sound-picture to players who can then execute it. As the composer gets more tools (tech), he can easily slip into the trap of basing all of his ideas on what his tools can do. One current example of this attitude in the music industry is the use of sequencers as a composition tool. An over-reliance on the sequencer (tech) to determine what you can compose (design) results in very similar, boring music, since you tend to avoid things that are difficult to express using the sequencer (tech limitations).

    It stands to reason, therefore, that it's possible to conceive more interesting and innovative systems if you don't consider the practical limitations of technology during the initial design phase. However, because tech limitations are a reality, not all of the cool ideas you come up with on the design side are going to make it into a product that has a reasonable development cycle.

While on the subject of composition, here's another quotation I found interesting. It's an excerpt from a document by Janny Wurts (a fantasy author) for aspiring writers , and it really applies to composition well.

    5) Writer's block - a misnomer! This is not some mystical malady that strikes and strangles your muse. It's actually (in my experience) caused by the failure to recognize that creative inspiration, and crafting draft into final art, are two separate and distinct processes.

    FIRST - you cannot create and destroy at the same time! If you are drafting new storyline, you are CREATING. That means, turn off the voice in your head that wants to censor what's happening. Resist every urge that insists you must smooth out, correct, follow rules, or adhere to inflexible planning. Let the work GO. Allow all that chaos that wants to happen to creep in. DO NOT JUDGE what you write at this stage - just let the words pour out any which way, get the gist down, willy nilly. Push the passion, ride the emotion, nail down the raw concept on paper, and never mind how dumb it seems at the time. Then take pause, AFTER you run down. Shelve the draft for a bit. Get some distance.

    NOW, you have something substantial to edit. DO not at any cost, begin this stage before you've let the idea spin down - if you try to evaluate it half baked, the nasty little censoring voice in your head is going to pick faults, insist it's not good enough, and in general, tear apart what's really an idea in half baked gestation. Once it's born onto paper, THEN you can look at it with the critical eye of the destroyer - the editor - which logically examines the gist of what's there, then acts by informed choice to craft the sketched scene into tight and effective prose.

    NEVER EVER try to create and edit at the same time! The two processes are diametrically opposed, and will work against each other to stifle the flow of inspiration.

If you're at all interested in game design or writing, I'd recommend visiting one of the sites -- both are very interesting reads.

tagged as games | permalink | 0 comments

Tuesday, September 03, 2002

I finished my extracurricular project this afternoon -- I'll post a link in tomorrow's update. Now it's time to get back into 'real' work mode. I suppose I should go grocery shopping at some point too, since I'm pitifully short on food and supplies.

I've started playing the new trumpet I got over the summer on a regular basis, and I'm still pleased with its tone quality. Also, it's much easier to pick back up after a short break of a couple days. With the large bore instrument I used to play, tone atrophy happened extremely quickly.

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Friday, September 03, 2004

OBX Travelogue - Part III: Monday & Tuesday 8/23 - 8/24

On Monday, we went out to Jockeys Ridge State Park in-between beach trips and wandered around the dunes. The pond at the base was a festering boil of mosquito larvae (completely with wading children and oblivious parents) and the dunes were about what you'd expect: big and sandy. We found a spot on the back side where you could dive down a dropoff and bury yourself in the sand near the treeline, no doubt accelerating eons of dune shifting in the process. From there we took a hike through the brush and ended up on Currituck Sound where you could wander a hundred yards into the water and still only be knee-deep.

We stopped at DQ which now sells burgers and fries until 6 (what's up with that?) and then passed the little house in Nag's Head where we stayed two years ago.

On Tuesday, I took a long walk down the beach and discovered that the beach two miles south was also sandy like ours. The water was a bit less choppy today so it was easier to get out past the breakers and catch some waves coming back in. We also dug a big hole and set up an umbrella in it. It was deep enough that you could just barely see the umbrella sticking out. Some like-minded folks thirty yards away did the same and then started slinging water balloons with their 3 man sling.

There were plenty of hole diggers on the beach. One family had a dad with a regular-sized shovel who kept on digging long after his kids had disappeared into the surf. He ended up with a six foot deep hole that was about twelve feet long and three feet wide.

To be continued...

This weekend, I've got an influx of people descending on the house tonight and tomorrow night. Florida-Kathy will also be up in the area for a couple of days.

Store accepts $200 bill
ET trying to kill us with radio lasers

tagged as travel | permalink | 0 comments

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Lego Day

The very first Lego set that I ever owned was the 1986 edition of the Shell Service Station. Shell's efforts to imprint children while they were young seems to have failed, since I only go to Shell stations when there's a line of cars at the cheaper station around the corner. Despite that, this set was pretty neat for a Town set, with all sorts of extra gadgets and subplots, like the mechanic in coveralls whose lifelong dream was to go on the road as a ventriloquist with his blue alligator puppet.

Though I would eventually own enough Town Lego sets to construct a massive BUtropolis on the living room floor, the next set I owned was also the first Space set -- the Cosmic Fleet Voyager. This ridiculous monstrosity looks like it was designed by a committee of preschoolers, and would probably get parked in the back of the spaceship rental lot for that special flavor of annoying customer. Note the two plungers in the nose of the ship -- these were designed to extract ice from the surface of the planet whenever it crash lands. The frequency of crashes was high, since the body was so aerodynamically unstable that pieces fell off whenever you picked it up.

Jumping ahead a few years, the first Castle-themed set I owned was the Black Monarch's Castle. Until the Pirate sets came out in the 90's, the Castle set was easily the coolest of the sets, mostly because of the massive collection of plastic halbards and maces. This set also introduced horses, each with an unsettling chunk of horseflesh missing in the middle, so you could saddle them up and stick a Lego figure in the saddle. This was probably the precursor to the cow at Virginia Tech with a window in its stomach.

My first Pirate set was the Forbidden Island, bought in the waning days of the BEST Company in Shirlington, where the Legos were on the basement level, down the escalator and back on the right near the household paints. You can tell how cool it was just by looking at the picture on the box -- this set came with a pirate flag, booty, palm trees, a rope bridge, a trapdoor, a jail, a rowboat, a monkey with a gun, a parrot, a shark, and a cannon. Of course, the set wasn't very extensible, since you can't exactly connect the parrot to the shark to make an alternate set (a preview of the modern sets where one in fifty pieces are old-fashioned Lego bricks while the rest are some variant on unreusable hot dogs or Star Wars motifs). Despite these shortcomings, the Pirate sets were the best, and I eventually owned the Caribbean Clipper, the Black Sea Barracuda, and the Eldorado Fortress (which I will some day pull out from under my house and rebuild).

Japan's new professional seducers
Think twice before swearing in storm
Cat hitchhikes 75 miles on a spare tire

tagged as memories | permalink | 3 comments

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Review Day

There are no spoilers in these reviews.

Mort by Terry Pratchett:
In this fourth Terry Pratchett novel, Death becomes disillusioned with eternity and takes on an apprentice, Mort, to fill in for him while he tries various other occupations like short-order cook. However, when Mort saves a girl whose time was up, he accidentally turned the entire universe on its ear. Book 4 was as good as Book 3, and works well as a humorous, harmless diversion. I purchased the first four books up front, and based on them, I probably wouldn't read anymore unless I had a beach vacation coming up.

Final Grade: B+

Dexter, Season Three:
Dexter has been the most consistently good show I've watched on TV. This season is just as good as previous ones, though I felt like all the good storylines wrapped up before the last episode, so it wasn't as gripping of a finale.

Final Grade: A-

Paul Blart: Mall Cop:
This was a low-budget comedy with just a few interesting moments that kept it from being a complete waste. The lead seems to be trying to channel Jim Belushi and the supporting actress has eyes that are distractingly too large for her, or anyone else's, face.

Final Grade: D-

Portal:
This puzzly first-person-shooter came out years ago, but I just picked it up recently in my Orange Box purchase. You have a gun that can shoot holes in the walls, floors, and ceilings, one red and one blue. Walking through a red hole takes you to wherever the blue hole is, and you must reach an unreachable area on each level by walking through portals, manipulating buttons and boxes, and understanding gravity. The highly logical, entertaining puzzle game is wrapped in sardonic narration that ultimately reveals a crafty little storyline around the entire experience. It will only take a few hours to beat, but it's worth the time of anyone who likes puzzles and doesn't get dizzy in first-person games.

Final Grade: A

Darkly Dreaming Dexter:
This is the original novel that the Dexter TV show was based upon. The first few chapters are almost scene-for-scene identical to the TV show, but beyond that it has its own voice and plot. The book feels like a single episode of the show and doesn't resolve in the same way. Given the choice between the two, I'd pick the TV show.

Final Grade: B-

MIT creates new school of robotic fish
Man stole woman's car on first date
Company criticized for obscene candy wrappers

tagged as reviews | permalink | 3 comments

Friday, September 03, 2010

End-of-the-Week Day

I'm trying to push out some updates for DDMSence this weekend, so I didn't have time to write a scathing diatribe about pickles or turkey bacon to close out the week. I'm a little disappointed that H'Earlicane isn't going to get a little closer to us, since a weekend full of heavy rains would be great for getting work done while Rebecca travels out to Front Royal to help her cousin with a new baby.

As a snapshot of my life, I've sprayed my lawn for mosquitoes, almost beaten all of the Starcraft II campaign on "Brutal" difficulty, am about one-third of the way through the fourth season of Dexter, and may end up at the beach next weekend.

Have a good Labor Day Weekend!

Woman wins libel case by suing wrong website
Suspicious Fire Ignites Houston Voting Fraud Scandal
Snoop Dogg joins the war on cybercrime

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

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Weekend Wrap-up

With no travel plans for the extended weekend, our time was mostly dedicated to low-key activities, like a lunch at Jackson's with Rebecca's parents on Saturday, and the third birthday party of Rebecca's cousin in Bethesda on Sunday.

I also started a new character in Skyrim, with my appetite whet from open worlding in Far Cry 3, and played it for longer than 5 levels, thanks to a new mod that let's you skip over the tedious four-hour tutorial-on-rails section.

On Monday, I officially demoted Bugler into my "unfinished projects" folder, to be replaced by Auricle, an aural skills application. I originally dabbled with this project back in 2003 but never got very far on it.

I decided to abandon Bugler, in spite of the 200 development hours I'd put in, because I had reached the point where I had learned everything useful I was going to learn from it. From the point where I was, the only conclusion I could see was a stable, minimalist product, written to show that I could do so, but used by no one.

The new project seems like it will be more useful and more fun, and also allows me to write programming posts for this blog while not boring the musicians in the audience. If there are any features you'd like to see in a web-based ear training tool, let me know!

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

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Time-lapsed Blogography Day

  • 21 years ago today, in 1993, I threw an End-of-Summer / Early Birthday Party to celebrate my 14th birthday with my friends, Aaron, Michael, Kwan, Cheryl, Michelle, Jennie, and Nancy.

  • 20 years ago today, in 1994, we went to the annual pool party at the Herbert's (a coworker of my Dad's). I had to hang out with the son, John, who was super into sports (I was not).

  • 18 years ago today, in 1996, my high school friends were college freshmen and learning how to email.

  • Date: Tue, 03 Sep 96 13:05:56 EDT
    From: ben seggerson <BENSEGG@VM.SC.EDU>

    hello i'm just learning how to do this so i thought i would write to you again, just out of curiousity why the hell do you have a home page? dude you are soooooooooooo cccccccccccrrrrrrrrrrrrraaaaaaaaaaaazzzzy. i am having the time of my life and i am being kind of good. so there my room is beautiful my roommate is pretty cool.

  • 15 years ago today, in 1999, Chris Li was in town in Blacksburg (had he taken a semester off?) and I went to dinner at Macado's with him.

  • 13 years ago today, in 2001, I sat in my apartment playing Diablo 2 because Florida State actually observed Labor Day, and I didn't really know anybody to hang out with yet.

  • 12 years ago today, in 2002, I was proofreading a Warcraft 3 battle report, The Warcraft Report, which is now slightly broken, but working just enough to read in its entirety if you have a slow day at work today.

  • 9 years ago today, in 2005, I recoated the driveway and came in 4th place at Poker Night, losing to a Full House.

  • 8 years ago today, in 2006, I was hitting on a teacher on match.com. However, my endgame woman was still 5 months away!

  • Date: Sun, 3 Sep 2006 18:20:26 -0500
    From: <customercare@match.com>
    This is a copy of your message sent to BonnyWeeLass@talkmatch.com

    I've added you to my list and my own IM is boyllama. Good luck with your first day of classes!

    Regards,
    Brian

    tagged as memories | permalink | 1 comment

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Beginning Java 8 Games Development by Wallace Jackson:
This book on the JavaFX libraries is overly verbose without really saying anything useful. It suffers from the technical writing problem where the text ends up describing rather than explaining, which is of no help when you're trying to learn something. A section on what is billed as the most important aspect of the library ends up being an exhaustive list of components and constructor calls without even a single paragraph defining the concept or explaining when you'd ever use it. There's a single chapter which tries to teach the entire Java programming language, which is so short and dense (and imperfect) that it feels like the author was paid by the word.

Final Grade: D

Newsroom, Season Three:
The final season of Newsroom is fun and well-written, right up to the series finale episode, which is pointless and gratuitously long. The season is over quickly though, so it's worth watching for series completeness.

Final Grade: B

Orphan Black, Season Three:
This is a fairly hit-or-miss season, held afloat only by how enjoyable it is to watch Tatiana Maslany play so many different roles at the same time. The first half of the season is simultaneously too exposition-heavy and plot-light, with a desert set that looks like cast off remnants from a high school production of Homeland. The most enjoyable sections of this season focus on the Alison character in an unrelated sideplot, which is indicative of how unnecessarily complicated the story became. However, the plot corrects itself and thins out nicely towards the end, wrapping up without unnecessary cliffhangers.

Final Grade: B-

Silicon Valley, Season One:
With only 8 half-hour episodes, this show from the creator of Office Space is over too soon. It's a charming skewering of the San Francisco startup scene which was done previously (but not quite as well) with the Amazon original, Betas. The technical jargon rings true and is obviously well-researched, but it's still possible to enjoy the show without being a software engineer. The show is fairly self-aware and sometimes borders on too much absurdity, but it's consistently funny and has several lines that will probably end up as pop culture quotes in the coming years.

Final Grade: A-

tagged as reviews | permalink | 1 comment

Monday, September 03, 2018

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That'll Improve and/or Ruin Everything by Kelly and Zach Weinersmith:
This book does a decent job of pairing interesting emerging technologies (like augmented reality, space elevators, and bioprinting) with straightforward explanations and cute cartoons. It starts to lose its luster when it gets too jokey, like the authors think the tech is too boring on its own and readers will lose interest unless there's a neverending selection of humor and bad analogies. These aspects actually reduced my interest in the material and I barely finished the book.

Final Grade: C+

AmazonBasics Laptop Backpack:
Everyone says Amazon is going to take over the world, but no one ever talks about how high quality the AmazonBasics line is for the price. This $24 laptop backpack is sturdily constructed with enough pockets and individual sections for the most organized nerd. I bought it when my company swag tote bag started to wear out and am very happy with how rugged it is.

Final Grade: B+

AmazonBasics Wired Keyboard:
I dislike most "innovations" in keyboards over the last ten years, especially the stupid Dell keyboards at work that have swapped the orientation and position of the Insert / Delete / Home End / Page Up / Page Down area. This $15 keyboard keeps the basic layout intact for maximum muscle memory with only a few minimal additional buttons for those crazy millenials (no one really needs a button to open Windows Groove Media Player). This has been my primary keyboard for gaming and working since that tragic accident with a full tulip of Belgian beer on my keyboard and router back in February, and I like its low profile. I even purchased a second one to leave at work.

Final Grade: B+

Safe, Season One:
This limited miniseries thriller starring Michael C. Hall starts with such a promising build-up of kooky, suspicious characters that I was very worried it would all fall apart in the second act as these shows often do. It doesn't always work -- there are some trite twists and inconsistencies in character ages and times -- but it works more than it doesn't. What I appreciate most is that there is a very workmanlike setup to the main murder mystery that's actually solvable using the clues provided -- no deus ex machina in the last episode for the sake of being edgy that no one would have seen coming. Also, the miniseries definitively ends without a cliffhanger. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: B+

tagged as reviews | permalink | 1 comment

Friday, September 03, 2021

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

I Think You Should Leave, Season Two:
We loved the first season of this oddball comedy show but were less impressed by Season Two. The skits have morphed from "weird yet hilarious" to "weird for weird's sake". There are a couple great sketches, like Tables, but the rest are forgettable. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: B-

Otherlands: One by Casey Driessen:
This album is essentially a road trip of jam sessions from Casey Driessen, playing in many different styles. Great background music, but not as good for active listening. (The album is 80 minutes long and features a few 10 minute tracks).

Final Grade: B-

No Time For Enemies by Gangstagrass:
I always like the sound of Gangstagrass, which mixes rap, country, and bluegrass together. (They wrote the theme song for the show, Justified). The rapping itself is usually the weakest link. All of the raps on this album are rhythmically struggling, like Kanye West trying to do musical theater. The overall effect is just bad, and not "so bad it's good" like the classic "bears comin' outta nowhere" song.

Final Grade: C-

Psycho Jukebox by Jon Fratelli:
This album is a decade old now, and comes from the short solo career of the Fratellis' lead singer. While it sometimes sounds like a Fratellis spin-off band instead of a unique solo sound, I enjoyed it. There are lots of catchy melodic hooks throughout. Magic and Mayhem is a good representative track that easily gets stuck in my head.

Final Grade: B+

tagged as reviews | permalink | 2 comments

 

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