This Day In History: 09/25

Tuesday, September 25, 2001

After making MP3s of the first twenty (of 125) selections on my Master's listening exam, I'm already up to ten hours of music, which is over a third of the size of my existing collection. This test is definitely going to be a bear. This evening, I also added a version plan to my PRIMA outline on the Coding page.

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Wednesday, September 25, 2002

The 'Percussion Discussion' I played on last night was pretty interesting. Headed by visiting professor, John Beck, the concert was an eclectic amalgamation of percussion works, from Yankee Doodle to Steve Reich's Music for Pieces of Wood, segued with brief lectures on the evolution of percussion and world music. In an interesting coincidence, Professor Beck used to work with the drum line at my high school back in the late eighties.

I finally finished reading The Fatal Shore, a giant history of penal colonization in Australia. The book reminded me a lot of A Beautiful Mind, very in-depth and interesting, but its epic proportions make it hard to keep with it. There's plenty of great stories and information in the book, but it probably wouldn't be your best choice if you're just interesting in the material in passing. Still, I'm glad I read it, as it was an area that I had no knowledge about at all.

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Thursday, September 25, 2003

This has got to be the stupidest thing I've heard this week:

    Junior Achievement is projecting that the lesson, which will be taught both in school and after school, will be used in 36,000 classrooms nationwide and has the potential of reaching 900,000 students in grades five through nine, or about 10 percent of all students in those grade levels.

    In the role-playing activity Starving Artist, for example, groups of students are encouraged to come up with an idea for a musical act, write lyrics and design a CD cover only to be told by a volunteer teacher their work can be downloaded free. According to the lesson, the volunteer would then "ask them how they felt when they realized that their work was stolen and that they would not get anything for their efforts."

    (user: cosmoran / pass: spider)

Besides sounding like an activity out of a first grader's "Community and Sharing" social studies book, it's a poorly designed activity where the build-up is much larger than the lesson learned. Plus, any good teacher would be hesitant to give a lesson where the lessons-learned question is so open-ended and prone for tangents and dissent.

Since the RIAA and movie companies probably will not be able to come up with good activities on their own, I have devised one that they are welcome to use, that may actually affect more than 1% of future filesharers.

    In the role-playing activity Guillible and Stupid, for example, groups of students are encouraged to stand behind a skittish horse shaking tin cans, only to be kicked in the face by the horse. According to the lesson, a volunteer would then "ask them how they felt when they realized that they had been kicked in the face by a horse and that this was how all filesharers were punished."

While we're on the subject of filesharing, I have a downloaded copy of the song, Politik, by Coldplay. Downloading Coldplay off the Internet led directly to me purchasing both of their expensive CDs (which I would never have done otherwise), but that's not the point of this anecdote. This particular piece opens with two bars of steady eighth notes pounding out a dominant seventh chord resolving into two bars of the same rhythm on a minor tonic triad with an added eleventh. However, the downloaded version of the song only has seven beats of dominant, followed by a full two bars of tonic. Evidently, this is one of those placebo songs placed online to prevent someone from getting the real version (If you try downloading popular artists, you will occasionally get a snippet of the chorus looped over and over for the duration of the song).

The sad thing is, the abridged version is actually better musically than the original.

Sixty-six year old woman does not listen to Trick Daddy's "I'm a Thug"
Allowed to rebut what Statham ruled was a personal attack, Schwarzenegger said, "I would just like to say that I just realized that I have a perfect part for you in 'Terminator 4.'" He also suggested that she might need "more decaf."

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Monday, September 25, 2006

Portraits of the Artist as a Young Man

Looking at old class pictures can be nostalgic, but it also shows how quickly you forget the people you spent 180 days out of the year with in a compulsory educational setting. At one point, I probably could have given you complete biographical sketches of everyone in these pictures down to what they usually wore to class and what their favourite legume was. Now I'm lucky if I can remember their first name at all!

This was the A.M. kindergarten class at William Ramsey, the only grade I ever attended there. In a system that only made sense in Alexandria, William Ramsey held grades K, 2, 4, and 5, while its sister school Jefferson Houston (conveniently located on the OTHER end of the city) had grades 1, 3, and 6. Yunus was a Turkish boy temporarily in the US because his parents worked here and was a habitual play mate after school. Gina was a fellow Korean adoptee and friend. Once she wrote me a letter saying "I Love You" so I wrote back with the same thing and my whole family made fun of me so I got angry and tore it up. Gigi was very quiet, unsettlingly so. Her eyes in this picture see into your soul and that invisible game controller she's clenching with such fervor is probably forcing you to do something evil. Look away!

First grade at Polk Elementary, the year where some kids' feet actually touched the floor. Ed disappeared from my life after this year only to reappear ten years later as a Boy Scout in my Scout troop, oddly three or four years behind me. Rodney eventually became a well-known football player at T.C. Jesse was the guy of the origami-swan fame and Jason was my best friend who lived in Brookville and had lots of G.I. Joes. I never had G.I. Joes because they were brand name and too expensive, but I did have a million generic army men with no movable parts (buy one bag of a thousand men, get a second bag free). I was sporting my "just woke up" hair that day, trying my best to impersonate the kid, Daniel, on my left, who I can easily picture as a crotchety old coot making moonshine in West Virginia, and/or addicted to meth.

Third grade, the year where the photographer did not understand the concept of putting the tallest people in the middle. Erik had a twin brother named Derek. Brook contacted me in 2005 out of the blue but I remember very little about him. Willie had burn scars on his face. We called James "Oreo", because his last name was "O'Rea", not because we were racist pigs (we were and still are and we also hate Commies). Sharif was the neighbourhood troublemaker that no parents ever wanted invited over.

They actually put a few more white kids in this fourth grade class, although I was still the only Asian for miles around at Polk school. Shelley's mom was my sister's Girl Scout Den Mother, and her sister married my next-door neighbour years later. Thiago became the bass drum and cymbal player in junior high. I pushed Michael against a wall because he called me Lambchops and would pull on my sideburns. I have a video of Miguel at my fourth grade birthday party telling the camera that his favourite activity was "relieving my system". Tony is the situp-fart boy. Deborah was one of about six other friends who regularly hung out together. I don't remember who the girl in front of me was, but I bet she grew up to be hot.

Mr. Ferris' fifth grade class was mostly a bunch of miscreants and malefactors (for example, I used to get 250-word punishments all the time for talking too much). Aaron was my friend who lived down the street -- we walked to junior high every day. I remember Edwin getting in trouble a lot. Jeremy and Jamall were in our extended circle of friends that we hung out with at school, but not so much at home. Mike was another close friend whose parents obviously didn't believe in dressing up for picture day.

Sixth grade? They got rid of the Picture Day nonsense and created a $10 yearbook that was black and white and low enough quality to have been made in a third world country. You can barely make out any of the faces, much less my own beaming one.

Happy Birthday Steve Seltz!

People inadvertently help boy steal car
Nude burglary suspect caught
From there, the lovers conducted an on-and-off relationship with the aid of an English-Spanish translator.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Museday Tuesday

in which I have thirty minutes to write a thirty second song

Trifid: (adj.) Divided or cleft into three parts or lobes

My Composition (0:30 MP3)
Old Musedays:
Sidelong
Moodily
Obnoxiously
Obsessively
Spikiest
Leggier
Carsick
Dinkiest
Reclusive

Museday Tuesday: it not only keeps my head in the composing game -- but also lets me learn new vocabulary words that no one would ever need, to be kept in store for the day that I write the great Asian-American novel or take the GREs again.

When this word came up, I immediately1 knew that it would involve a trio of some kind, and then decided that it would be a cliche contrapuntal jazz section building to the final chorus, using saxes, trumpets, and trombones as the three voices (because real trios are boring). However, with only thirty minutes to write, I knew I'd only be able to get one or maybe two iterations in before I ran out of time.

I started with a simple 12-bar blues harmony and a unision trombone/bass line. Pretending that it was already the second of three choruses in the contrapuntal section, I mixed trumpets in immediately, and then wrote the third chorus with saxophones on top, while the other two instruments contrapunt like an insane kicker in the fourth quarter.

This one was fun to write!

1: immediately after looking up the word


Firefly reborn as online universe
I'm sure that your client didn't hoover the carpets
Nails make the slide landings softer

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Name That Tune Contest Results

Congratulations to Anna Ahlbin for getting 15 points out of 20 on the Name That Tune contest! Anna wins a $20 gift certificate to Amazon.com.

Runner-up was the team of "Mike, Chris Green, Kathy and everyone they know" with 8 points, followed by Rob with 4 points.

The original clips are posted below, with a new clip playing the tunes in sequential order afterwards. The clips with stars next to them were not guessed by anyone. Highlight the empty space below the clips to see what the correct answers were!

Clip #1
Clip #1, Separated Tunes
    Jazz/Dance:
    Classical: *
    Musical:
    Rock:
    Theme:
Clip #2
Clip #2, Separated Tunes
    Jazz/Dance:
    Classical:
    Musical:
    Rock:
    Theme: *
Clip #3
Clip #3, Separated Tunes
    Jazz/Dance:
    Classical:
    Musical: *
    Rock:
    Theme:
Clip #4
Clip #4, Separated Tunes
    Jazz/Dance:
    Classical:
    Musical:
    Rock: *
    Theme: *

Thanks for playing!

The thirteen greatest error messages
Man starts his sons early on beer
Can you reset the Internet for me?

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Friday Fragments

the last Fragments column for a month, so if I make it horrible, you won't miss it

♠ I've been listening to several new CDs in my car, including new releases from A Fine Frenzy, Ingrid Michaelson, Gabriella Cilmi, and Muse. We also discovered that Muse is playing at FedEx stadium next Tuesday, which would be exciting if they weren't opening for U2 -- artificially jacking up the ticket prices and forcing attendees to sit through a telethon for Bono's cause of the week.

♠ Speaking of causes of the week, our office is in full-fledged donation mode. I have nothing against any particular crusade, but it seems odd that the disease with the best marketing campaign should get the most money. I'm sure that with enough capital and star power, you could even start a Race for the Canker Sore, except for the fact that there aren't enough ribbon colours left.

♠ As research for this post (after which I billed my sponsors $50 an hour), I looked up the complete list of ribbon colours. It must be a very schizophrenic experience to wear a common one like "blue" and not know if you are fighting for water safety or sex trafficking. I also think it's unfortunate that the anti-tobacco ribbon is the colour of tobacco, and that brown was used for anything with the word "rectal" in it.

♠ If the URI! Zone ever needs saving, the ribbon will be plaid, like a kilt, and the people wearing it will have nothing on underneath, like a kilt. All of the spokespeople will be women and 25% of donations will go towards getting a better server for this site (although I'm not sure how much better it could possibly be -- maybe it dispenses bacon). The other 75% will be used to put me into a lavish early retirement so I can focus on my Fragments writing.

♠ Speaking of early retirement, today is my last day at work for a month since I'm taking off the entire week before the wedding to wrap up any last minute wedding issues (like making sure Marc knows how to read and hiring a stand-in bride for any stunts we do). Updates will continue throughout next week, but I'll probably be too busy reenacting scenes from Finding Nemo with the sea turtles in Hawaii to do more than post pictures during our honeymoon. Real-real updates will resume sometime around the 26th.

♠ Plans for the weekend include an early morning run to Costco (which is nothing like an early morning run to crew) for final wedding supplies (wedding favours will be bulk rolls of Scotch tape), and then lunch on Sunday with Emily and Evil Brian.

♠ Have a great weekend!

Female students are a perk of the job
Giant baby draws spectators in Indonesia
"We don't eat human flesh, it is definitely unacceptable"

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Composing Spotlight: Labyrinth

Movement VII. Flight

Continuing the walkthrough of my Master's Thesis...

This is the shortest of the nine movements, weighing in at just over thirty seconds. After the adversary motive breaks the suspended abeyance of the sixth movement, this movement is a purely visceral escape with no goal in mind.

To emphasize the lack of planning, there are no real melodies in this movement -- all of the material is grabbed from rhythms and counterpoints of previous movements and mashed together. The feeling I was trying to get, especially with the oboe line, is that you are hearing a counter-line to an unheard melody -- a melody that you could probably identify by filling in the gaps, if only there were time to do so.

I love writing things in fast 3/4 time, but hate how quickly the score fills up with barlines when I do. Because it seems wasteful to devote so many paper pages to something under a minute long, I decided to wrap up quickly and move on to the next section.

    Listen to the seventh movement (0:40 MP3)

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

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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Time-lapsed Blogography Day

Twenty years ago today, on September 25, 1993, my family was on a Virginia road trip to visit college campuses for my sister's sake. This was the southeastern leg of college season, and in the space of about 18 hours, we visited Mary Washington, William and Mary, and VCU. We stayed overnight in a shady, cheap motel in Newport News, with the parents in one room and my sister and I across the hall underneath a happening motel party. After we beat on the ceiling, several burly guys came downstairs and told us (through the door) to mind our own business. On the way out of town, our college guidebook told us that we were near Christopher Newport College. Not realizing that it was a commuter school (and thus, a single building with a parking lot), we were already a mile past it after blinking and missing it, and thus, we were unimpressed.

Fifteen years ago today, on September 25, 1998, was the night before a VT-Pitt football game, and my parents were in town for Band Parents Day. We ate at "Pizza Inn" somewhere in Christiansburg because all of the closer restaurants were either too crowded or too expensive. I was unimpressed by the pizza.

Ten years ago today, on September 25, 2003, I worked an eight hour day (from 6 to 2) at FGM. I had a 10 AM meeting, and then spent the rest of the day doing documentation and researching how to integrate WebLogic 8.1 Portal Server with a content management system which was not impressive. After work, I walked my rent over to the office at The Elms in Centreville ($1135 for a two bedroom apartment). I always delivered my rent checks in person because of the cute woman that ran the rental office.

Five years ago today, on September 25, 2008, I announced the results of everyone's favourite Name That Tune contest, where all of the songs were playing at the same time. After work, I drove to Tysons and paid $131.25 to get Rebecca's engagement ring appraised, although she would not know of its existence for another 9 days.

One year ago today, on September 25, 2012, we had dinner at Sweetwater Tavern, as I was still trying to decide whether it was worth eating at or not. I remain unimpressed.

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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Night Work by Scissor Sisters:
Another collection of catchy, dancebeat-y songs from the Scissor Sisters. It's not too stylistically different from the later album, Magic Hour, but is equally as fun.

Final Grade: B+

The Shocking Miss Emerald by Caro Emerald:
Caro Emerald doesn't stray far from the "jazz vocals over modern beats" template that made her first album so great, but this collection of songs is just as good as the originals -- it's more expansion pack than sequel.

Final Grade: B+

Sorcerer's Legacy by Janny Wurts:
This was Janny Wurts' first book (published in 1981). I had never read it before because it was out of print, but it was finally released on the Kindle. Like her other works, this story is set against standard fantasy tropes with her unique special flavour added in -- strong female protagonists, and plots with more unfolding depth than breadth. Since it's a standalone book without endless sequels, the story is fast-paced and builds up a conflict whose resolution cannot be easily guessed ahead of time. I was a little disappointed in the final outcome, but can easily see the starting germs that eventually led to Wars of Light and Shadow, my favourite fantasy series that everyone else finds boring.

Final Grade: B

Sons of Anarchy, Season Two:
The second season of this show is a major improvement over the first. With all of the characters and settings established, the writers begin to mix the pieces together in interesting ways. The overarching plotline is solid, and kept me hooked for the whole season. Free on Amazon Prime.

Final Grade: B+

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Friday, September 25, 2015

Answers Day

The sequel to Questions Day

"best stand for a 50" tv that has space for several home theater components?" - Doobie

This depends on your room and needs. If you are establishing a media center with surround sound and the bells and whistles, or if the room really only has one orientation where the TV would look good, you'll want to split functions between a wall mount for the TV and any stand for the components. I have this inexpensive mount installed for our basement TV, which is never going to move, and has few components (just a DVD player). The downside of a wall mount is the presence of exposed cords, unless you're ambitious enough to run them inside the wall (not scalable as new components get added).

If the setup shouldn't be as permanent because you rearrange as much as I do and / or you are running from the law, you'll want a base alone, with the TV simply sitting on top. This easily conceals cords but reduces the amount of free surface available for random junk you drop as you come home from work (maybe this is a good thing). Go for one that's enclosed to keep toddlers from disconnecting things, and definitely strap the TV to a wall stud so it doesn't make toddler waffles when they inevitably try to pull it over.

"Of all the well-intentioned advice you've received over the years, what do you think has been the least congruent with your life experiences to date?" - Returned Mike

  • "Ruby is the next Java." - former coworker
  • "Hang out with people on your dorm hallway and make lifelong friends." - VT tour guide
  • "This composition would be better with more atonality. Why don't you add a few more wrong notes?" - former composition instructor
  • "The combination of MIDI and realistic sound samples will make orchestras obsolete." - former MIDI course instructor
  • "You should play Half-Life. It's a work of art." - someone on my dorm hallway

"Do you think you can answer Mike (and Ghost Chompy)'s question without using my name?" - Mom

Yes.

tagged as you speak | permalink | 5 comments

Monday, September 25, 2017

Songs of the Enrichment Jungle, Volume I

These are the songs I sing about Maia's favourite buddies in her Enrichment Jungle. The eighth notes should clearly be performed in a swing style, because I'm not some kind of heathen.

Volume II will cover the supporting cast, such as the Orange Nut Squirrel, the Boring Felt Owl, and the Monkey Lip Apple.

Other Posts in This Series: Volume I | Volume II | Volume III | Amanda the Panda

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Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Memory Day: Snapshots

Continuing my Band Parents' Day theme, this picture was taken 21 years ago today, on September 25, 1998.

I was in Marcy's rank this year. To my right is my future roommate, Kelley "Casper" Corbett, who was assigned the nickname by section leaders who went a little overboard with the number of random nicknames sprinkled across the trumpet section that year. (Kelley's nickname was given because he was super-white like the eponymous ghost).

We're all in dance block formation in this picture although I can't remember if this was a dance to Crosstown Traffic or Zoot Suit Riot. (The latter dance was quickly rewritten in the last 24 hours before the halftime show -- no one could "rock step" because rock stepping is dumb).

After practice this day, I went to the "Pizza Inn" for dinner with my parents (a restaurant with cleanliness levels slightly below a Cici's after lunch rush). The following day, we spelled MOM and DAD on the field yet again and the football team beat the Pittsburgh Panthers 27-7.

tagged as memories | permalink | 1 comment

Friday, September 25, 2020

Review Day: Draigon Weather by Paige L. Christie

There are no major spoilers in this review.

Draigon Weather is Book One of the four-book series, Legacies of Arnan, by Paige L. Christie. The story takes place in a land where rare visits from giant Draigons can cause droughts, fires, and unpredictable weather. The fearful populace have learned that the sacrifice of a woman will appease a Draigon for at least a generation. This setup allows the author to expertly turn the "damsel in distress" trope on its ear.

While the plot spans decades, the heart of the story centers on two childhood friends, Leiel and Cleod, and how a singular traumatic event sets them on very different paths. The two points-of-view are equally enjoyable and serve to develop the characters towards a reunion that I found very powerful and rewarding. This is much more than a simple coming-of-age story: it features strong, competent characters that truly grow over the course of the book, which I found refreshing after so many books where immature characters only grow up by leaving a string of failures and mistakes in their wakes.

"There are no beginnings. There are only starting places in the middle of longer tales."

The book bounces back and forth in time rather violently upfront, but soon settles into a rhythm where several consecutive chapters stay in the same period. I was surprised by how effective the splintered timeline was. Generally, techniques like this fail to excite because too much emphasis is on concealing or overhyping the key event that separates past from future (see almost any J.J. Abrams-directed show that jumps back 24 hours). Here, the time jumps succeed not because of cheap tricks or late-game reveals, but because I was wholly invested in the characters and wanted to explore every inch of their stories, even when already telegraphed several chapters earlier.

I enjoyed the generally uplifting tone of the story and its themes. The characters struggle and face tragic circumstances, but there is always a maudlin thread of hope running through the proceedings. Relationships with supporting characters (like Kilras and Torrin) aren't given a short shrift -- if anything, they left me wanting to read more about them. Even minor characters who behave despicably are developed enough to have a reason for their depravity.

All of these aspects serve to make Draigon Weather a very strong start to the series (I immediately purchased Book 2, Wing Wind, after finishing). Read this for its well-developed characters worth rooting for, its direct, powerful prose, and its ability to erase the line between history, backstory, and the parts of the story you're "supposed" to care about.

Final Grade: B+

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