This Day In History: 09/05

Wednesday, September 05, 2001

Last night, I read Stan Kenton: The Early Years 1941 - 1947 by Edward Gabel. It reads a lot like a memoir, with countless stories that don't quite go anywhere, and jarring shifts in time and place (It really reminds me of Now You Know: Story of the Four Freshmen). However, it was an easy and enjoyable read, especially since I'm a fan of the Kenton sound. In his time, he achieved a merging of the jazz and classical idioms that was actually embraced by the general public (to an extent). His orchestras' sounds may not be the easiest big band sounds to listen to, but they're infinitely more rewarding to me.

Besides, how can you go wrong with a band that once played a tune called Blues in Asia Minor?

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Thursday, September 05, 2002

It's harder to come up with interesting things to write about this semester, because I'm not taking any classes that are patently absurd. School in general seems a little blasé, with no political outmaneuverings or budget cuts. The fact that I'm only taking one class probably helps since I'm not loitering around campus as much. I'm getting some decent composing time in though, and if I can get on some sort of regular schedule, I'll be good to go.

The report I posted yesterday earned a perfect 10.0 at www.battlereports.com. The last time I got a perfect score was back in 1999.

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Friday, September 05, 2003

I celebrated my first Labour Day in northern Virginia in eight years by coming in to work. That way, I can take off Monday the 15th using a bare minimum of leave time. Work's been pretty slow recently, mainly because of an increase in troubleshooting time rather than development time.

The end of the summer dumped a good ten percent increase in cars on every road at every hour of the day. Many of the drivers seem unfamiliar with such simple concepts as "flow of traffic" and "accelerating through green lights". You can spot the people who didn't commute all summer because everyone else is driving around them while they amble down the left lane.

The Hokies beat Central Florida at home last weekend. Unlike last year, the team didn't crumble at the first sign of a comeback even though they squandered their original 21 point lead. Final score: 49-28.

The First Season DVDs for Alias were released on Tuesday and are of excellent quality. The boxed set goes for $39.99 at Costco and contains six discs with the first twenty-two episodes (each around forty-five minutes long). Sound was redone in Dolby 5.1, and the picture is in the high-resolution HD-TV format that the show was originally broadcast in. There's plenty of extras for fans, and the storyline is much easier for newcomers to follow when they can watch all episodes in the right order. Go rent it at Blockbuster, and see why this show had 11 Emmy nominations in 2001.

I have no big plans for the weekend. I've been working on a custom mod for Warcraft III that should finish its testing phase today, so I'll try and post it here before Monday rolls around. I've also got a few musical things to take care of, and hope to get out to a mountain and/or waterfall at least one day this weekend.

Time travelling spammer

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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Newsday Tuesday

U.S. Intercepter Missile Hits Target

After eight other tests and over one hundred billion dollars in funding (which would buy 22,935,779,816 two-piece meals from Popeyes), one of the United States' Intercepter missiles completed another successful test this past week, raising its success rate from 50% to 55% and effectively removing the program from the No Missile Left Behind blacklist. Although the naysayers may disagree, the Intercepter program has proven its worth against any enemy missiles meeting the following criteria:

  1. The missile launcher must call ahead seventeen minutes in advance to provide the make, model, and location of the incoming missile.
  2. The missile must be travelling alone with no decoys or tricks.
  3. The missile may not come from any fogbound areas.

Rumours hint that the private sector may be interested in licensing a modified version of an Intercepter to seek and destroy incoming caravans of in-laws and unwelcome relatives during the holiday season, and Google has even stated that they have already eliminated the fogbound requirement with the Google Earth software they used to take pictures of Seattle. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfield refused to comment.

Much ado has been made about the refrigerator-sized kill vehicle located on the underside of the Intercepter. Based on stock footage released by the Pentagon, amateur Photoshop enthusiasts recently discovered that the kill vehicle is, indeed, a refrigerator, which makes the enemy missile doubt its self worth by telling emo jokes about bulimia and obesity. In a reversal of sorts, this piece of the Intercepter was actually conceived by a Houston inventor who found no market in his city for a device that keeps people from eating.

When asked to rate the program's effectiveness on a scale of Excellent-Good-Poor, Lieutenant General Henry A. Obering III chose "Good" but added that Excellent was just another one hundred billion dollars away. Obering also said that the next test would more accurately mimick real-world conditions with less predictable targets.

Calls to Daniel Radcliffe went unanswered at press time.

It's not just the created shapes, it's the parts cut out as well
Decline in the number of Cocks
Farmer takes revenge on squatter

tagged as newsday, mock mock | permalink | 10 comments

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Memory Day: Childhood According to Google Maps

The Babysitter's Apartment:
On the ground floor of Mayflower Square, a solidly Latino apartment complex before it was hip to be Latino and densely populated, lived our babysitter who cared for us until the year I finished kindergarten. The nearest elementary school had every other grade, so my sister had to take a bus across the city to Jefferson Houston for first and third grades. The apartment looked over a one hundred foot hill which was perfect for cramming onto a tiny Tonka dumptruck and riding to the bottom without falling off. This was also the place where I got a scar on my thumb from a bathroom razor, had to sleep in the closet with the cucharachas because I changed the channel from The 700 Club during my morning quiet time, and accused Rashaad and Sunshine (fellow babysittees) of trying to steal my Transformer (the one that transformed from a pterodactyl into a cassette tape) by hiding it under a bed and hoping I wouldn't notice.

Dirt Bike Track:
In the woods near the creek, we discovered someone's meticulously fashioned dirt bike track, complete with hills, ramps, and jumps. We would pretend we were daredevils on our BMX bikes, performing dangerous jumps and races for hours until we were covered in mud. The track was less than a quarter mile from a popular campsite of homeless people, so we were obviously forbidden to come here by our parents, but we always reasoned that five junior high school kids on bikes were invincible.

Softball Field:
Our Boy Scout troop met at the First Baptist Church on King Street. Because it was Baptist and in the South, it was massive -- even large enough to house an obese congregation from Houston. The church owned lots of forest land next to Chinquapin Park, and build a private softball field and volleyball field. Every July in our troop was "Sports Merit Badge" month, which was code for "everyone is too lazy to actually work on a real merit badge so we'll play games and invite the parents so they can watch their own damn kids". Imagine my surprise when I Googled the location and found that the church had transformed the fields into a parking lot at some point in the past ten years.

The Marina:
In Crew, runs came in three sizes: a "pleasant" 2 mile run to the horribly polluted coal power plant, a 3.5 mile run to the marina, and the dreaded 7 mile run to National Airport. As a coxswain, I didn't have to go running with the boat, but always felt like they'd listen to me better if I put in the hard work (though funnily enough, I always seemed to find an errand to run for the coach during the 7 mile runs). Seeing the intersection of the bike trail with the road into the marina was always a pleasant sight, because it meant I could turn around and start lollygagging home.

Theodore Roosevelt Island:
In tenth grade biology, I did a science project on the pollution of bodies of water in our area, taking samples from all over and then testing them with high-tech equipment (such as the fish-pH kit from your local Wally's Aquarium). I came to such brilliant conclusions as "the water near Theodore Roosevelt Island has a high copper content, probably because the bridge that goes over the river here is plated with copper". It didn't matter anyhow, because our teacher was old and lazy (and old), deciding two weeks into the project that it would be an oral report. My dad made me finish the written report anyhow.

Happy Birthday Julie Smith!

Student suspended for We Suck prank
At I.B.M., a Vacation Anytime, or Maybe None
Airline sacrifices goat to appease the sky gods

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Friday, September 05, 2008

Friday Fragments

three-time winner of the BUlitzer Prize

♠ Last weekend, we had an impromptu Labor Day picnic where Rebecca got a great deal (Buy One, Get One Free) on melons. We grilled giant ribeye steaks and floundered around the backyard playing badminton until it was too dark to see. This weekend, my parents are giving me a birthday dinner with ribs on Sunday afternoon, to celebrate my continuing adulthood and the fact that I wasn't eaten by predators or run over on the highway as a child.

♠ There was a time when I could wake up solely to the tinny beep of my watch alarm. As the inexorable trek to Age 29 progresses, I'm finding that I usually don't wake up until the annoying backup alarm goes off. Unfortunately, this alarm has the same sound as every stock TV alarm sound in the sound effects library, which puts me in a brief panic whenever one goes off in a TV show. I blame my reduction in hearing on all those years of loud student recitals and classical music concerts.

♠ I was never a big fan of symphony concerts because they always put me to sleep. My brain is so wired for multitasking that it gets bored and shuts off if there's not enough going on simultaneously. Symphonies would be greatly improved if, at any given time, the orchestra members who aren't playing walked to the front of the stage and traded fisticuffs, or improvised erotic, interpretive dances.

♠ Erotic, interpretive dance would also probably make the political Conventions more interesting. I haven't watched a single minute of the Conventions this year (although the Geneva Conventions are my homies), but I did hear about that one time the one guy said the other guy was lying and then the other guy was all like, "NO U".

♠ The election rigmarole would make for better television fodder if it were a Survivor-branded reality show, although I think Obama could stand on one foot on a coconut longer than McCain. Ratings would also soar when they put Palin in a swimsuit during primetime.

♠ Forget the possibility of a black guy or a woman in, on, or around the White House -- the historic moment of this Election will definitely be the moment the acronym VPilf was born.

♠ Just remember, if you're undecided on the day you go to the polls, Vote for BU! The electronic voting machines will lose your vote anyhow, so why not throw it away?

♠ Have a great weekend!

Sleight of hand and sense of self
Huge spider hangs over city block, waiting for Mike to walk by
I Kissed a Girl and I Liked It...

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Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Memory Day: Nineteen Years Ago Today

September 5, 1993 was the Sunday before Labor Day. I was 13 (going on 14) and just about to start 10th grade at T.C. Williams High School (in the days when junior high went from 7-9 and high went from 10-12). This particular Sunday was thematically Scouty, starting with a merit badge and ending with a Boy Scout award ceremony.

I was in the process of earning the Beekeeping merit badge, and got up early to travel down to Stafford. A guy that worked with my dad, Doyle Johnson, lived on five acres of land with his eight kids and numerous beehives, and I spent five hours dressed up like an Outbreak scientist, learning to steal the honey from the bees and process it in Doyle's garage.

From there, we drove back to Alexandria for an outdoor Court of Honor where I was awarded more useless merit badges above and beyond the minimum required for Eagle Scout. It was the equivalent of needlessly prolonging a game of Super Mario 64 by getting all of the red coins, even though that was a game that wasn't any funner when it was prolonged.

After the Court of Honor, we returned home and I played my sister in a game of Brian's Clue, which was like Clue but with our friends as the game pieces and people I thought were annoying as the murder victims. Apparently, I won, and then did my mandatory half hour of trumpet practicing to satsify my Dad.

September 5 was also notable because I had just started keeping a journal on the day before. My first entry was on September 4, and I would go on to maintain it daily through the start of college in 1996, and then sporadically until about 2003. In those early days, I was paranoid about it being discovered, so I had it disguised as an EGA graphics resource file on my 286, with all sorts of tripwires and hidden counters to catch anyone (like my sister) who might snoop it out. This was all needlessly Rube-Goldbergian since the computer was in my room and no one even knew that I was keeping a journal. Within a couple days, I also learned that you could password-protect files in WordPerfect 5.0, and my methods of obfuscation quickly became unnecessary.

tagged as memories | permalink | 1 comment

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Weeds, Season Eight:
The final season of Weeds doesn't really add up to much, but it's a pleasant, obligatory way to end the series. The show was at its strongest in the first three seasons, but ends on a reasonably interesting plotline. The series finale episode takes a gratuitous left turn into settings from older seasons, purely to bring back some familiar faces, but it doesn't hurt anything by doing so.

Final Grade: C+

Daniel Tosh: Completely Serious:
This free comedy show on Netflix was forgettable. Tosh relies completely on outlandish shock humour, but his delivery is unrefined and a momentum-killer. There were a few laughs to be had, but not enough to warrant a recommendation.

Final Grade: D+

Cirque du Soleil: Quidam:
I got this show for Rebecca's birthday to be paired with our trip to the trapeze school. It evokes pleasant memories of our Canada trip, although the overuse of quick cuts in the camera shots reduces the intensity of the acrobatics. There are also far too many clowns, when we were more interested in the crazy, dangerous stuff. Still, it was a solid show with fun tricks and a decent score.

Final Grade: B

Cedar Rapids (R):
The cover of this movie does not do a good job of convincing anyone to watch it, and brings back memories of the time we stalled on watching The Office when we saw that the next episode focused exclusively on Andy in a musical. However, the movie itself is fun, surprisingly understated, and with a good batch of unexpected guest stars. It's not life-changing, but it's not as bad as the cover either.

Final Grade: B-

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Friday, September 05, 2014

Recipe Day: Bagel Toast

This is a "recipe" the way that Nickelback is a "band" -- it's more of a Hint from Heloise on what to do when your bagels go stale faster than you can eat them.

Simply cut your bagel into thirds rather than halves, starting with the bottom slice and then splitting the top two thirds with a bread knife. If the bagel is uneven, rotate so that the thinnest side is up, to prevent wedge-shaped pieces.

Toast the thirds in a toaster oven for the same amount of time you would toast halves and then spread liberally with cream cheese. There are multiple benefits to this approach:

  • Most of the tiresome, chewy parts are now close enough to a surface to come out crispy.
  • There's more surface area to spread cream cheese.
  • You'll spend less time tearing and chewing and more time freebasing cream cheese.

tagged as recipes | permalink | 1 comment

Monday, September 05, 2016

Weekend Wrap-up

In preparation for my new computer (an HP Envy 750se) and hipster standing desk arriving next week, I moved my office back into the blue guest room. This room fits the new arrangement of incoming furniture a bit better without as much wasted space, and I converted the old office into the guest bedroom / winter yoga room.

On Sunday, we played some games of Apotheca (I won two games out of three because I am good at alchemy), then went to a yogi party at Anya's in Leesburg. This segued us nicely into Labor Day, on which nothing exciting happened other than a cookout at the Lowry's house where we ate burgers and played with dogs.

How was your weekend?

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Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Memory Day: Snapshots

This picture was taken about 4 years ago, on September 7, 2014.

This was the second day of our final trip to the Outer Banks (although we did not realize it at the time: 2015 was Europe, 2016 was Colorado, and 2017 was picturesque Sterling, VA, so we have yet to return).

This house had a pool, an elevator, and a quick walk across the road in Nags Head to the real beach. Among the common themes of the trip, I recall:

  • Both a horse's head mask and a unicorn's head mask showed up on this trip, giving most evening dinners an equine theme.

  • Recurring Mike (of Mike and Chompy) did not come, because he was hiking up (and then falling back down) Kilimanjaro. We Skyped him later in the week.

  • One night, people decided that shots would be better out of beach shells, leading to the invention of "Shell Shots". We still have the shells in our cabinet.

  • Everyone was obsessed with Hearthstone, so at least 40% of the trip involved people sitting around the massive dining room table logged into their computers.

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Monday, September 05, 2022

Pandemic Retrospective, Part IV of IV

February 2022 - Today

After almost two years of cautious living, COVID finally sluiced through our family in February 2022. Maia caught it first in an outbreak at her masked preschool. Ian and I were next, followed a week later by Rebecca. Our cases were mild, a fast fever followed by upper respiratory soreness and congestion. I, myself, never even tested positive in an at-home test. After a couple days of lying on the couch watching The Floor is Lava or playing Dance Dance Mario Mix on our ancient GameCube, Maia was totally back to normal.

Life after COVID simplified dramatically, not unlike a fraction with even numbers. Maia, the last unprotected family member, showed no long-term symptoms and now had some natural immunity. Meanwhile, the ever mercurial Ian was developing a super fun personality as he learned to walk and reached one year of age. We worried less about keeping him fed, changed, sleeping, and happy and could focus more on sharing his first experiences. It was this spring that we finally felt comfortable saying that we were "done" with pandemic planning -- we still masked indoors based on community spread and gladly followed the rules of stricter friends, but we no longer approached every social gathering with strategic scheming and tiresome mitigations.

Were all of the pandemic measures we chose to follow over the past two years worth it? Speaking solely for myself, an unequivocal yes. This was a novel event that caused over a million deaths and created over two hundred thousand orphans in the United States alone. It revealed systemic problems in our society, like the weaponization of misinformation, the rickety nature of our supply chains, and the unsustainable burdens put on critical jobs like teachers and nurses. I'm a laptop jockey that can make a living wage sitting in the basement writing utter tripe each day -- since I had the privilege of enduring the pandemic without true physical hardship, I felt like I also had the responsibility to act more cautiously for the less fortunate who lacked such flexibility.

We avoided getting sick in those uncertain early periods where hospital capacity was limited and there were more unknowns than knowns. When we finally caught COVID, we were protected from more serious conditions by vaccines developed at a miraculous rate that have not caused any long-term side effects in us or anyone we know. We definitely missed out on a lot more of life than others, but doing so to protect the vulnerable (friends, family, and people we may never even meet) was a fair trade-off for me. (Ironic footnote: The vaccine for four-year-olds was approved just 3 weeks before Maia turned 5).

Conclusion

I finally had the energy and clear headspace to recognize and counteract my unhealthy patterns this summer. Over the past two years, I had fallen into a routine where I was figuring out which logistical gates to open to get to the end of the day as easily as possible, rather than truly appreciating the passing hours. I may have gone into survival mode to ride out quarantine life, but I clearly used the raising of an infant as an excuse to stay there.

While it's satisfying to sculpt your past into an "origin story" that justifies your present circumstances, constantly retelling this story just gives you an excuse to avoid the hard work of improving yourself. I was definitely guilty of this evasion tactic as a single guy in search of a scapegoat for why I was single -- it took me far too long to learn that I had to understand and correct my own shortcomings instead of blaming things outside of my control. It's important to use your past as a springboard for growth and change rather than a comfortably uncomfortable jail cell.

Here are three of the changes I'm adopting in hopes of breaking my pandemic bad habits:

  1. Don't Just Show Up: Tiredness is no longer a valid excuse to avoid new experiences -- I'm the parent of two small kids so I'm going to be tired at the end of the day regardless. So, I'm trying to be more present and involved in social settings. I'm trying to favor choices that enrich my family life instead of always prioritizing what will be easiest for me. For example, we took the family on an airplane to visit my sister's family in Rhode Island in August and it was an exhausting blast.
  1. Recalibrate My Attention Span: My ability to focus, already weakened by raising kids with a ubiquitous smart phone, greatly decreased during the bland sameness of the past two years. I'm trying to bring long-form reading back into my daily routine and avoid doomscrolling on my phone while in the bathroom or waiting in lines. I'm trying to improve my short-term memory, multitask less, and give my brain the space for boredom (because that's when my creativity is the highest).

  2. Be Active in My Community: I'm at the opposite end of the spectrum from an activist. I don't see the value in protest marching and I will never corner you at a party in an attempt to change your mind about some issue. However, I still feel the desire to contribute more directly towards holding our society together. I'm trying to put myself out there more (see also, this essay) and be the type of person I'd want to be friends with. I'm trying to listen to more differing viewpoints to unearth the commonalities that tie us all together. For example, I joined our HOA this year as a hyperlocal way to get involved. Ian and I take two-mile walks through the neighbourhood a few times per week to gain the visceral appreciation for our community that I can't get from inside my car. We also pick up litter as we go, and we've never come home with less than 3 liters of bottles and fast-food wrappers. It's a powerful reward to see immediate improvements around you through your direct efforts.

This four-part essay is an anomaly. It's totally off-brand for me to share anything this real about myself. In a social or work setting, I'm usually the quietly competent can of WD-40 that keeps everything running smoothly and makes everyone else around me smarter or funnier. It would have been much easier for me to write nothing at all.

The reason I chose to publish this is my strong belief that, in the face of divisive, isolating social media, it's important for us all to make real connections. Check in with your old friends. Wave at your neighbour in spite of their questionable bumper stickers. Be open and vulnerable within your close circles and allow them the same opportunity. Your engagement doesn't have to be a spectacle, like a Livejournal blog circa 2003 -- it just has to be real. We're all a part of the same world. We aren't designed to thrive antisocially, and we're all a bit better off when we take care of each other.

Thank you for listening!

Other posts in this series: Part I: Introduction | Part II: March - October 2020 | Part III: November 2020 - January 2022 | Part IV: February 2022 - Today, and Conclusion

tagged as deep thoughts | permalink | 4 comments

 

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