This Day In History: 09/17

Monday, September 17, 2001

Another day, and life goes on. My old theory/trumpet professor at Tech, Dr. Bachelder, sent the following e-mail out to his class on Friday, and I got it from a friend in the class. I thought it was interesting enough to share here.

    Harmony Students,

    I am listening to the service from the National Cathedral as I write this. At least by radio, I am witnessing harmony of a Higher Order. How fortunate, I think, that we get to study the great music lesson, harmony, that is appropriately the example and the metaphor for peace in the world.

    Moreover, after observing the many New Yorkers and Pentagon workers, emergency personnel and volunteers everywhere, working tirelessly and fearlessly to restore order and get back to business as usual, I am moved by the fact that every single one of you was in class this morning - not because Music 2025 is more important than anything else, and not because your professor is so entertaining or profound - but because it is what we're supposed to be doing right now. And wounded as we all are, we're all doing it. Yes, I know, the quiz had something to do with it, but I'm certain that any of you could have found excuse to skip it had you chosen to do so.

    ' Just want you all to know, I was proud to be among you today. May this past week be the most difficult test any of you will ever have to face. I hope your families and all you care about are safe.

    AB

On the coding front, I've been doing some thinking about a musical data structure that would allow pattern-recognition across pitch and time. A data structure like this could be fairly simple to implement but allow a more complex object to search for things like perfect fifths and successive leaps. With a pluggable pattern recognizer, this data structure could even expand to two or more simultaneous melodies, and look for things like parallel octaves or outlines of tritones. If I have the time, I may start some preliminary coding, especially since it's not a graphical object (so it's not dependent on the latest version of JDK, which my IDE doesn't support).

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Tuesday, September 17, 2002

Iraq's sudden reversal on weapons inspectors was the perfect play to take the wind out of Bush's war. They've effectively neutered the US offensive while gaining an extra year to give the run around to the inspectors before booting them out again (probably about nine months from now). Now Bush can't launch an offensive without looking like an utter tool and breaking away from the U.N. What's scary is that Bush just might be gung-ho enough to start a war anyhow and feign ignorance next year.

Actually, he probably won't have to feign too much.

"I know why we don't like to vote -- marking your ballot nowadays is like choosing between the 3 AM showing of Beastmaster on Showtime, and the 3 AM showing of Beastmaster 2 on Cinemax." - Dennis Miller

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Friday, September 17, 2004

I was first out in work poker today, then juked a bunch of tornadoes to get home in one piece.

Why it's best for society that girls never win
Businessman shows profound understanding of Mother Nature
A clever way to pay tuition

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Stuff in My Drawers Day

Creative Writing, October 16, 1987

The Famous Professor: Mike Howl

It was 1934, April 2, 2:34. He'd just come from collecting bugs from a canyon. In his laboratory (the garage), Professor Howl was experimenting with the dead ladybugs he'd dug up.

He found that they held evidence of time, and electricity. With this he could make a time machine!!! He copied the plans very carefully.

He got in and checked it (and of course it wasn't running). When the cat came and spilled some muriatic acid into the hole the machine sped to life.....

It drove to 'Stone Age'. The cavemen thought the machine was an Evil Spirit so they threw it into a canyon.

Three hundred years later, the mirror self of Mike came to that canyon to find bugs for an experiment at Apr. 2, 2:34, 1934. It was the same as the beginning. Mike was making a time machine! Soon the canyon will be filled with machines!!!

Iron Maiden to the rescue
Pet bunny ears cause emergency call
World's shortest man meets world's leggiest woman

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Review Day: Half-Life 2

There are no spoilers in this review.

Continuing my trend of playing and reviewing five-year-old games from The Orange Box, I finished Half-Life 2 over the weekend. The original Half-Life (released eleven years ago) was often billed as the greatest game of its time for its storyline, ambience, and immersion, but I was completely underwhelmed by it. Most of that game was spent beating up bugs with a crowbar while walking in a straight line from scripted scene to scripted scene, culminating in a finale that explained absolutely nothing. This is the gaming equivalent of watching Gosford Park.

Half-Life 2 is better than its predecessor, but still not worth the "greatest game of all time" hype that accompanied it. Its strongest suit is world design -- the visuals and attention to detail throughout the world are amazing, and more than worth its extremely low purchase price. Human characters still aren't perfected, but they're no worse than the lifeless mouth-breathers from that 2001 Final Fantasy movie. This is easily the prettiest game I've ever played, and it's five years old. In addition, a fully-formed physics system (which also formed the framework for Portal) makes for great explosions and chain reactions.

I have simple tastes when it comes to shooting games. Give me some atmosphere, worthwhile exploration, enough of a storyline to keep moving, and lots of adrenaline-inducing action, and I'm set. Some of these needs are met in Half-Life 2, but several areas annoyed me.

Loading Screens: There are no "levels" in the game, because apparently "beating a level" breaks the immersion. However, the game freezes for 15 seconds with the word "LOADING" every time you reach a checkpoint, which is about as immersive as a floater. I actually prefer level breaks, because they give you a good stopping point and make you feel like you've accomplished something.

Lack of a Story: This game has tons of SETTING, but setting is not story. The game (which also doesn't even come with a manual) picks up seven years after the first game, with no great explanation for what has come before. You learn a little as you go, but not enough to make you care about the plot. I often found myself wondering why I was fighting through some apartment building just to get to another apartment building, since much of the initial story motivation seems to be "Get to the other side of the city." The game ends with about as much closure as Locke peering down the hatch in the first season of LOST. I know you need to sell expansion packs, but at least say "EVERYONE DIES" or "DUMBLEDORE KILLS HERMIONE" before you fade to black.

Teammates: I don't want teammates running around stealing my kills, especially when they're more likely to trap me in a narrow hallway and refuse to turn around than kill something. For the most part, I tried to lead them across big flashing landmines (which they were unable to notice on their own), but sometimes you actually have to keep them alive.

Overdoing It: Every single level loading-screen-interlude is crammed with great sequences and enjoyable firefights, but each one crosses the line into tedium. Riding around in a hoverboat was a nice change of pace, but when I was still in that hoverboat an hour later, on a radioactive river that's easily longer than Four Mile Run in Arlington, I was bored. The ratio of really great sequences to really boring ones was about 1 to 1. The only exception was a level towards the beginning featuring zombies in an abandoned little town -- it was creepy, fun to play, and over before it got old.

Bottom Line: Half-Life 2 is a must-play game, but for historical purposes rather than enjoyment ones. It's worth going through to admire the world that Valve created, although it doesn't have the raw fun factor that a game like DOOM did in its time. Final Grade: B

Rodney King vs. the Police, Round 2
Florida on alert for hybrid man-eating pythons
Little girl's foul toss makes dad a celebrity

tagged as reviews, games | permalink | 2 comments

Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday Fragments

out of time and out of clothes

♠ We're back from our quickie trip down to Emerald Isle, NC where we enjoyed the beach with Sam and Kristen. Mid-September is the perfect time to hit Atlantic beaches, since the beach is mild, the water is hot, and the kids are all back in school (except for the surprising number we saw on the first Friday morning who were obviously truant and/or home-schooled).

♠ Overall, Emerald Isle was nice, but on par with the Outer Banks, which are an hour and a half closer. Since I am still in the mindset where time in the car equates to time not at the beach, and not "another part of the vacation to be enjoyed", reduced travel time always adds bonus points, unless your beach is orange and foamy (sorry Virginia Beach, you are permanently off the vacation list).

♠ Plans for the weekend include a regathering of the long-inert Beer Club on Saturday night, as well as some continued work on DDMSence 1.7.0. I may also take advantage of our recent beautiful weather by staying indoors and playing Starcraft tonight.

♠ Have a great weekend!

20 Worst Charities in America
Pub offers free advice to long-term jobless
Shooter video games can improve decision making

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Monday, September 17, 2012

Weekend Wrap-up

My weekend encompassed drunken noodles from Pattaya Thai, a trip to Costco for some Sam Adams Hazel Brown beer, games of Guild Wars 2, Skyrim, and Okami, sushi at Yamazato, chocolate marble birthday cake from scratch, a screening of Kick-Ass, 40 minutes on the treadmill, hot dogs grilled on the stove, and a trip to Edgewater, Maryland for my nephew's 2nd birthday party.

Now that I'm 33, it's time to take up more age-appropriate hobbies, such as:

  • landscaping
  • driving a Volvo
  • flag football
  • managing bone density
  • brewing my own beer
  • buying things at Brookstone
  • growing hair unexpectedly
  • buying a riding mower
  • nurturing a pot belly
  • putting a movie theatre in the basement
  • setting my browser home page to something sports-related
  • eating at Applebee's

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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

List Day: 5 Games That Never Grabbed Me

  1. Okami ($19.99): You play a celestial wolf in a watercolour world that rights imbalances through Wii brush strokes and smashes jars for coins with wolf head butts. Got bored after the 2nd unskippable cutscene featuring a Zelda-like sprite comedically telling me how to play the game. Total Time Played: 39 minutes.

  2. Tales of Symphonia ($29.99): A typical Japanese Role-Playing Game with anime characters, random world battles, and a storyline that doesn't quite make sense. I always think I like JRPGs until I buy another one (see also, Dragon Warrior and Final Fantasy). Total Time Played: about 2 hours.

  3. Deus Ex: Human Revolution ($4.99): Tight controls, a shooter mixed with skill trees, and an intriguing introductory section, but I just stopped caring. I must just not like games set in the future that much. Total Time Played: 71 minutes.

  4. Deathspank ($14.99): A Diablo-like game written by the Monkey Island guy -- what could go wrong? Well, dialogue isn't as hilarious when you have to wait for the voice actors to finish speaking it, because your brain has already read the subtitles in milliseconds. And, trying to attack a chicken in fake-3D is as annoying as trying to jump across rocks in Ultima 8. Total Time Played: 86 minutes.

  5. The Swapper ($14.99): This is a fresh-looking puzzle game with a neat visual style, but after four or five rooms of turning lights on and off and positioning my character just right, I realized that I don't really like these kinds of puzzles anymore. Then I re-realized that I had already realized this when I bought Braid. Total Time Played: 58 minutes.

Cost of My Mistakes: $0.22 per minute.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

OBX Travelogue, Part II of II

  • W 9/10
    • Ate more bacon.
    • Played Telestrations until the markers ran dry.
    • Annie made Chinese sausage with shrimp-fried rice for dinner.
    • Introduced the concept of "shell shots".
  • H 9/11
    • Ate more bacon.
    • Sallie departed.
    • Dug a hole on the beach.
    • Got Marv addicted to Hearthstone.
    • Taje and Michael made chicken satay for dinner.
    • Played Imaginiff with custom cards.
  • F 9/12
    • Ate more bacon.
    • Read Sorcerer's Legacy by Janny Wurts.
    • Got Annie addicted to Hearthstone.
    • Ate crabs for dinner.
    • Had an early birthday party.
  • S 9/13
    • Drove home, picking up the cats along the way.
    • Picked a cornucopia of ripe tomatoes from our garden.
    • Fell asleep to episodes of The Shield.
  • S 9/14
    • Rewatched District 9 and School of Rock.
    • Early birthday dinner out at Ford's Fish Shack. Lobster tail is good but overrrated.
  • M 9/15
    • Did NOT have jury duty.
    • Started playing South Park: The Stick of Truth.
    • Birthday steaks.
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Thursday, September 17, 2015

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Gone Girl (R):
The movie version of this book is equally as successful as the book, thanks in no small part to the traditional David Fincher flourishes one comes to expect from his movies. Even the ending, which seems to dribble off the page like a melting ice cream cone, feels more secure in movie format. The only flaw is the horrible sound mixing (almost at Interstellar levels of dialogue-concealment) in several scenes.

Final Grade: A-

Rectify, Season Two:
Season two is still packed with wonderful performances, but lacks much plot drive until the final couple of episodes. For the most part, the show just breezes about as the characters slowly grow and mature like wheat -- this is only bearable because the actors are so good, but eventually it gets old (see also, living in Tallahassee). Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: B

Kind Bar Nuts & Spices Variety Pack:
Rebecca gets Kind bars for her lunch at work, and they're pretty good. Thinking that this variety pack with almonds and chocolate would be equally as good, I bought a box at Costco and was disappointed. There are very few bars in the box, yet somehow they don't last long and aren't very filling -- not cost-effective at all. Additionally, the nuts are larger than most cockroaches. If you don't break a tooth, you'll loose a filling because the bars are shellacked with a sticky coating to keep the nuts from falling out. Overall, these bars are tasty for about 10 seconds, logistically difficult to eat on the go, and pricey.

Final Grade: D

Drinking from the Sun by Hilltop Hoods:
There are no amazing Cosby Sweater-like tracks on this older album, but everything on it is well-crafted and in a consistent Hilltop Hoods style. I appreciated how much variety was put into the arrangements and orchestration, as heard in the title track -- hip-hop doesn't have to be one guy rapping over a tape loop for nine hours.

Final Grade: B

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Monday, September 17, 2018

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

The Woman Who Smashed Codes by Jason Fagone:
This is a biography of Elizebeth Smith Friedman, one of the first cryptoanalysts in the early 20th century. It's rare that a person's life is as interesting throughout as Elizebeth's, leading the biography to be a more comprehensive look at her place in history rather than a set of vignettes separated by long time jumps. There are also great, shallow looks at the world events going on at the same time, revealing some interesting stories such as J. Edgar Hoover's concerted efforts to steal credit for her work for the FBI.

Final Grade: B+

Fear: Trump in the White House by Bob Woodward:
This is a fairly dry look at the Trump administration through the lens of various policy decisions (North Korea, trade agreements, DACA). The chapters meander along with abrupt transitions that make the content feel more like attention-deficit vignettes than an end-to-end narrative but also mimic how the administration lurched along in real life. The book does not paint a flattering portrait of Trump (depicting him as someone in way over his head who never actually expected to win, rather than an evil mastermind). It's sometimes clear who some of the deep background sources were, based on how sympathetically they're described in the text, and the way quotation marks are used on sourced dialogue but not on deep background dialogue can get confusing.

Final Grade: B-

The 100, Season Five:
The time jump freshens up the plot and perspectives nicely here, and the writers have finally gotten a little better at writing morally grey characters that change their minds for actual reasons (other than, "I'm a teenager in a love triangle"). The "main" main character, Clarke, is still generally unlikable and uninteresting but the rest of the plot and cast make up for it. I enjoyed this season although the shake-up in the finale may be one shake-up too far. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: B+

The Good Place, Season Two:
The tagline on the box, "How long can they keep this up?", was my thought after finishing the great first season of this show. The show continues to evolve beyond its original conceit, with the germ for an entire network show season compressed into just the first few episodes (the first episode of season two is the weakest for exactly this reason). This remains a warm, absurd show where the plot really just functions as a backdrop for great jokes about pop culture and human nature. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: B+

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Friday, September 17, 2021

Maia's 12 of 12

Maia's perspective on life (culled down from 188 pictures taken over several days)

Other posts in this series: Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | Part VI | Part VII | Part VIII | Part IX

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