This Day In History: 10/17

Wednesday, October 17, 2001

My new toy, the Roland SC-8850, came yesterday, and I'm really impressed with the sound quality so far. I haven't even begun to scratch the surface of complexity on it, but even the basic vanilla samples sound worlds better than what I'm used to. Here's an MP3 sample of a MIDI theme I wrote a few years back, with the SoundBlaster Live and with the SC-8850 . I'll post more after I'm more comfortable with its operation.

History of Music Theory is such a dry topic.

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Thursday, October 17, 2002

I spent today cleaning up the SCI forum and continuing my work on the third section of my thesis work (I also updated the Work in Progress MIDI on the Music page). It's a pain in the ass to have a page hosted on FSU servers -- they're so overprotective about security that functionality is greatly limited.

I'm working on a new trumpet work, Solus for unaccompanied trumpet, by Stanley Friedman. It's not really my favourite kind of work, but for a modern trumpet piece with extended techniques, it's a fairly solid work.

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Monday, October 17, 2005

A Tourist's Guide to BU's Weekend

Finn and Porter: This is where we had dinner on Friday night and pretended to be as fancy on the outside as we know we are on the inside. Actually, it was very reasonably priced and tasty, and it's about as close to high-class as I've been in a long time (probably since high school prom dinner). The decor was straight out of Pottery Barn, and their wine list was ridiculously comprehensive, taking up the entire back of the one page menu in tiny font. It was even more comprehensive than my Comprehensive List of Types of Sheep1, right down to the $310 bottle of Dom Perignon. I like wine, but am no wine connoisseur, so the house Pinot Grigot went just fine with my Maine Sea Scallops which were so buttery they almost melted in my mouth.

Shopping: Bright and early Saturday morning, I gassed up the pimpmobile that is my 2001 Honda Accord LX (which is also about to break 40,000 miles) and hit Shoppers Food Warehouse for all my bread and Totino's needs, followed in quick succession by Target for sundry household goods, Home Depot for 56 feet of molding, and Costco for more snacks to make me fat at work. Total expenditures: $189. I would make a Mastercard joke here but I find them to be obnoxiously pithy and overdone. P.S., there was an eight foot tall Santa Claus statue that looked like a waxwork in Costco. Over its head was the sign "LARGE SANTA $499.99". Merry Christmas, you filthy animals.

My Storage Room: This is the least seen room in my house because the door is always shut to keep cats out of the circular saws. The door is also shut because a previous cat resident felt it was a good idea to write her name in the snow, where "write her name" is slang for "pee" and "in the snow" is a euphemism for "all over the carpet multiple times", and it would stink up the whole house otherwise (I plan to replace the carpet and redo the room once the guest room is all done). I tidied up the shelves and finally threw out some useless crap like the garish four foot Cat in the Hat that Anna got in some Secret Santa thing and refused to take with her when I evicted her.

Upper Blackrock Spire: Fourteen fellow gamers and I finished this dungeon in World of Warcraft in an uneventful two hour run. This is the hardest dungeon in the game, not including the super-expert dungeons that take twenty to forty people to beat. The boss of the dungeon, General Drakkisath, was beat with an ingenious strategy of one player (the expendable hunter) taunting him and then running several hundred yards away into another part of the dungeon to die while the rest of the group pounded on his bodyguards. I did my standard raid strategy of turning into a cat and typing catty stuff -- this is why we always win (both in the game and in real life).

My Kitchen: On Sunday morning, I woke up at a leisurely 7 AM and played WoW until 9 (and got level 60 on another character). I didn't play much all summer because I had other real life things to attend to, but it's nice to have one more thing on my List Of Things To Waste Time With When I Don't Want To Do Anything On My List Of Things To Do. It's definitely much more fun because you're always playing with other people -- it wouldn't be the same as just a solo game. At 9, I went to the Kitchen and cooked eight pieces of bacon (all for me!) and read the Post. Two stories caught my eye: this one about a marching band who can't play a song about the Devil and this one about the discovery of a man who died years ago. Dying alone and forgotten would suck, so I don't plan on doing it myself, even if it means I have to marry a bag lady (not the paper/plastic variety -- they usually smell fine). I also think that out of all the daily columns in the Post, Animal Watch is easily the most topical, well-written, and enjoyable.

Fair Oaks Mall / Brookfield: Post-bacon, I went to the mall with Anna so she could assist me in picking out an appropriate light blue paint to go in the guest room that would match the carpet I bought last week. I then exchanged a shirt at Old Navy. After that, Anna, her sister, and I roamed around the subdivision and through the woods with Baylee the puppy, teaching her how to run through creeks, stop at street corners, and catch illegal immigrants in violation of Fairfax's maximum occupancy laws. Anna thinks she's a setter / pointer mix, not whatever mix I originally posted a couple weeks ago.

My Living Room: I got Chinese food for dinner (Lemon Chicken, Beef Lo Mein, Soup of Wanton Destruction, and Egg Drop Soup) and then finished off the last DVD of Scrubs: Season One. The thing I like about this show is that it's both hilariously funny and also has a serious, heartfelt angle, and neither one is shortchanged. It's hard to make a sitcom have heart without it coming off like an after school special, but Scrubs works. I didn't finish the Chinese food, but I have enough for three or four meals over this week (there was a minimum charge for delivery, and I couldn't find anyone who also wanted Chinese). After that, I flipped over to America's Funniest Home Videos to see if there were any neat-o cat montages, but it was pre-empted by the Home Makeover show, so I turned off the TV and wrote this entry.

1: Shorn and Wooly.

Cat Born with Two Tongues
The girl's parents have had to become members of a US porn site to track the original video and clear their daughter's name.
Proposal Tip: Don't Kill Her Older Brother

Yesterday's search terms:
how to fake macgamut, tim smyser "tim smyser ", t.c. williams band instructor, booyah etymology

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

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Newsday Tuesday

The Handwriting Is On The Wall




Carnivorous plant eats mouse
Dog saves owner, dies trying to save cat
MySpace predator caught by code

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

List Day: Eight Useless In-Major Classes

Last night I was browsing my archive of worthless garbage and stumbled across the degree program for my Computer Science major. Virginia Tech was not fully accredited at the time of my enrollment, probably because the head of the department was a witchy harpy with the charm of a brown loafer with dog poo in the treads.

  1. CS 1104 - Intro to Computer Science: Between the endless historical discussions of Charles Babbage and the archaic lessons on binary math, the only lesson this freshman course taught me was how to fall asleep during lecture.

  2. CS 1044 - Intro to C Programming: This was the last C-based class offered in the curriculum before Java took over everything. I blew $200 on a C++ development package and used it for three projects (one of which erased my computer). I never programmed in any kind of C again.

  3. CS 3604 - Professionalism in Computing: This intensely deep course offered such ethics lessons as "when you find a bug, you should report it". It also had a public speaking aspect where thirty socially inept students had to present some sort of technical topic before the class. My presentation was on Armadillos and why they could not be computer programmers.

  4. STAT 4714 - Probability and Statistics for Electrical Engineers: I'm not sure why I was in this class, since I was not an electrical engineer. None of the material even applied to any engineering-related fields, so I'm guessing they took one normal Prob & Stat course, and rebranded it for all the different fields that wanted it.

  5. CS 3414 - Numerical Methods: This course was offered at 8 AM in my final semester, and it was taught by a TA. From this description, it can be implied that I did not attend and do not remember what was taught.

  6. CS 3724 - Introduction to HCI: HCI is the study of how easy-to-use and intuitive a web site or application is. This course died of overkill, since we had to read a book filled with common sense rules like "if your web page is justified on the left side, don't justify a random line on the right because it will look funny". Then we went to class where we'd discuss every rule in the book, and then have the professor say things like, "See? Doesn't this screenshot look funny when I move this line over to the right side?"

  7. CS 4634 - Design Of Information: An entire semester of this course taught me that words are easier to read when you make them bold and that you should lay out your presentation so that the main ideas are clearly visible. Much of the coursework duplicated what I learned in fourth grade making science project backboards (but that class was free and we also got playground time).

  8. CS 4204 - Computer Graphics: A course in 3D graphics sounded like it would be fun, but the entire semester was spent on theory of occlusion. In laymen's terms, occlusion means that objects closer to you will hide the objects that are farther away, so you shouldn't make the computer draw the hidden parts. Fortunately by this time, I had become a master of schedule occlusion, which stated that classes closer to the dorm are easier to get to than classes in McBryde, so I should never go to the far away ones.

Hardee's unveils 920-calorie burrito
Hobo Spider Recycling Program
Woman accused of being a potty mouth

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Friday, October 17, 2008

Friday Fragments

fortified with nutella and verbs

♠ The neighbour's new dog was outside barking at 3 AM this morning with one of those annoying alto clef frequencies that are impossible to tune out (no doubt it would go well in a symphony orchestra). This pain in the neck was accompanied by a more physical variety. Having slept on it wrong a couple nights ago, I can now only turn my head about ten degrees in any direction (that's 0.18 radians for Math majors).

♠ If this neck pain had come ne(ck)xt week, I could have just stuck a few bolts in my neck and been Frankenstein for Halloween. Unfortunately, it's still a little bit early to be dusting off the costumes. This year, I will not be reprising my role as Justin Timberlake, or any sort of Internet meme although the Dramatic Chipmunk would be tons of fun if I had one of those fast-rewind press tape recorders. I still never had a chance to use the late-delivered ukelele from 2005.

♠ The annual BU-hosted Halloween Party is coming up next weekend, on the same day that Anna turns 27, Booty turns 6, Amber turns 4. The age of the partygoers continues its inexorable upward creep, made obvious by the presence of wine on the shopping list and the insane number of pregnant non-drinkers expected to attend. Evidently all parents on the guest list interpreted "baby-free" as "baby-free unless they are inside your metaphorical oven".

♠ International Airports would make a fortune if they expanded their Duty Free zones with Baby Free zones (where you can boink all afternoon long while waiting for your flight and not have to worry about incurring any hidden babies). And if you already had a kid and weren't interested in the boinking, you could go to the Doody Free zone, where your child is guaranteed not to poop until you leave.

♠ My plans for the weekend involve some heavy-duty shopping, some heavy doody, and some high-octane studying. I'm hoping to sign up for the Java Certification exam in the next couple weeks so I don't have to worry about it through the holiday season. On Sunday, we're going down to the Apple Festival in Syria, Virginia, which might be rather peculiar, since I am now allergic to apples.

♠ Have a great weekend!

Gamer plays 36 Warcraft accounts at the same time
Man consumes a twenty-pound burger
"Stayin' Alive" could actually help keep you stayin' alive

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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Sunset handstands on Kiahuna Beach.

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Monday, October 17, 2011

Recipe Day: Pub Burgers

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup yellow mustard
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • Kaiser buns
  • Swiss Cheese

Instructions

  • Heat oil over medium-low heat, and brown the ground beef. Drain excess fat.
  • Thoroughly mix ground beef, ketchup, mustard, and brown sugar in a slow cooker. Cook on low for 4.5 - 5 hours.
  • Place cheese on buns and toast.
  • Scoop beef into buns. The consistency will be like a tidy Sloppy Joe. Garnish with extras like onions, if desired.
  • Serve with Guinness and some suitably pubbish side dishes.
What happened to downtime?
Gilbert school calls slogan on breast-cancer T-shirts inappropriate
Boy caught driving armed and towing dead donkey

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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Stuff in My Drawers Day: Mail Edition

Thirteen years ago today was the day after the VT-Syracuse game which we won 62-0. It was also Homecoming, Alumni Day, and the Marching Virginians' 25th Anniversary celebration. I'm sure that Dave McKee just sent this email out in relief over the fact that we had exceeded extremely low expectations for behavior, and no one had died from acute alcohol poisoning while cameras were rolling.

Twelve years ago today was the day I finalized my list of music grad schools to apply to. I actually had to think for a few minutes to remember the schools -- the list included FSU, UT Austin, U Kentucky, Northern Illinois, U Maryland, and one of the Michigans.

Ten years ago today, I was a music grad student at FSU, but still receiving emails from my future place of employment. Jack was not yet a part of the Defense monarchy -- just a software engineer on a team.

Nine years ago today, I was receiving feedback on the domain name I should register for this website. www.urizone.net was the winner.

Eight years ago today, I was the Back-End Technical Lead on the Metadata Registry, which meant that I was an expert on all things related to the "back-end". I regularly wrote giant emails full of boring information (and still do today!).

Six years ago today, I was buying a video game for Anna's birthday, and working my way through Scrubs.

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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Review Day: Tomb Raider

There are no major spoilers in this review.

I was never really submerged into the cult of Tomb Raider -- I never saw the movie and never dressed up like Lara Croft at a convention. I played the original game for about 10 minutes and only recall being killed by a dinosaur while the game camera was stuck on a wall and stuttering along at 3 frames per second.

The new Tomb Raider game is a reboot / origin story, because that's the fashionable thing to do with old intellectual property these days. (I'm suprised that we haven't seen an origin story for Pac Man yet). What this means to gamers is that you need not be familiar with any of the older games. The story is interesting enough to hold everything together, and while it's not as deep as a Bioshock game, it's still better than Indy 4, in spite of some flat caricatured supporting characters.

Graphically, the game is beautiful. It's nice to be gaming in an era where exceptional graphics are the norm and cutting edge hardware is no longer needed. More important than the graphics, though, is the core gameplay. Controls are tight, leaping through the air across canyons fills you with adrenaline, and the camera shifts perfectly to capture the action at the best action-movie angles. I didn't think I would say this in my lifetime, but this is a 3D game where jumping and climbing things is actually fun and never frustrating. The stealth and shooting portions of the game are serviceable, but I actually had the most fun when no enemies were around, simply exploring, scaling insanely vertical buildings, and gathering archeological relics from puzzle tombs.

There are only two flaws in this game: the first hour or so is essentially injury porn, where the game showcases as many different ways as possible to show Lara getting beaten, impaled, attacked by dogs, or abused. It kind of makes sense from the perspective of an origin story, to show her evolution into a female Indiana Jones, but it gets tiresome almost immediately.

The second flaw is the abundance of "Quick Time Events" where you'll be watching an animated cutscene and suddenly a button appears on screen which you have to press or mash repeatedly. Failing at one of these events leads to death, which leads to starting the sequence all over again from the beginning. These events gave me PTSD flashbacks to the arcade game, Dragon's Lair. Around the age of six, arcade visits would start immediately with 75 cents wasted in this game, only to fail somewhere near the beginning every time. I would then be out of quarters for the next hour, forced to watch my friends who had wisely picked the safe mutual fund of the arcade, Skeeball.

Final Grade: A-

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Friday, October 17, 2014

Answers Day

the sequel to Questions Day

Do you see yourselves in Sterling for an infinite time and if not, do you already have a future location picked out in which to live? - Mike (and Ghost Chompy)

Jumping on Mike's question, if you had no jobs, no family, no commitments, etc...and could live anywhere in the whole world, where would it be? - Ex-Roomie

I have lived in Sterling for over a decade now, and while Rebecca was once eager to consider other places to live, she now often mentions how much of a hassle the actual process of moving is. So, we aren't looking, but that doesn't mean we're here forever.

The place I would move without limitations is the same as the place I would retire (as discussed in a previous Answers Day): somewhere with beach access, high-speed Internet, and many stores or fast delivery services.

What book should I read for fun next? - Ex-Roomie

Complete and Utter Failure by Neil Steinberg. URI! Zone grade: A

Why do developers keep telling me their stuff is ready to test, when it clearly doesn't work? - Groovymarlin

From direct experience, it's because your development team has not formally defined the word "done". Most developers have a half-baked concept of "done" meaning that "the work satisfies my understanding of the intended design", or "it's functionally complete and I'll polish it later". I actually created some definitions for a situation where this was occurring last year. Steal or refine at will.

For major features, "done" means that:

  • Work has passed through a formal code review by the dev team, or an informal code review by the technical lead.
  • Developer has confirmed that all documented use cases in the design doc are supported.
  • Developer has confirmed that all documented test cases in the design doc pass.
  • Developer has met the coding and UI standards of the team.

For minor features and bug fixes, "done" means that:

  • Developer has confirmed that reported issue is resolved.
  • Developer has considered potential cases where this fix might break something else.
  • Developer has met the coding and UI standards of the team.

Testers need to have test cases done earlier than normal, developers need to be on board with the definitions, and management needs to understand that the predicted test schedule can only be met if the work is truly "done" when passed over the fence.

Are you keeping your blog so that you can refer to it years from now to write a multi-volume work akin to Marcel Proust's Remembrance of Things Past? - Mom

The blog itself is already a multi-volume work. In this new age of web publishing where you get a book deal just for having a blog, all you have to do is convert your old content into shovelware, printing it all out and wrapping a binding around it.

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Monday, October 17, 2016

Reunion Day

This past Saturday, Rebecca and I attended a 20th Reunion for my high school graduating class. While there were events throughout the weekend, I opted solely for the closing event: a meetup at Capital City Brewing in Shirlington. Reunions are a little unnecessary in the age of Facebook where I already keep up with everyone I want to keep up with, but it was interesting to see who came out (both locals and a surprising number of out-of-towners).

Of the thirty-ish people that showed up, no looked dramatically different than they did 20 years ago. Their faces were immediately recognizable, but detached from any specific memories or deeper knowledge that I might have had about them long ago (not unlike a persistent database object outside of its Session). Among the people I actually talked to:

  • Mike, the class president and guy I went to Governor's School with, who's local, married, and expecting his first kid soon.
  • Deborah, who lived in the neighbourhood and had many of the parties where Truth or Dare was played while I sat with a vantage point to the upstairs where her strict, hovering parents were to provide coded warnings. She's still local and has a 7th grader.
  • Beza, who lived around the corner from Deborah and who my dad always called a wimp because she never answered his questions the way he wanted when he filmed my birthday parties. She's now in Brooklyn with two kids.
  • Dave, who played saxophone in the band and who I didn't recognize because of his giant Seattle-style hipster beard.

Overall, it was a good experience to get out and see people, thwarting my usual MO of apathetic cancellation for events involving people from the past.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Review Day: Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker (Switch)

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker was originally released for Nintendo's failed Wii U console. I'm torn on all the effort going into these ports -- while it's nice to play some fun games that never gained widespread appeal beyond the 4 people that actually bought the old console, I'd much rather have more original content designed specifically for the newer console.

Captain Toad is a charming puzzle game where you maneuver a pacifist Toad (who can't jump because of his heavy backpack) through 64 self-contained 3D puzzle boxes to collect gems and stars. Porting of the controls from the Wii U (which had a touchscreen in your lap to go with the big action on the TV screen) is pretty awkward in some places, and the portable version of the Switch controls are definitely more comfortable than the big-screen controls. Even then, there are many cases where you have to control 3 things simultaneously (Toad movement, camera movement, and touching parts of the screen) within the human limitation of having only 2 hands. It is also hard to touch the middle of the screen in portable mode unless your fingers can already span one and a half octaves.

Each puzzle world takes just a few minutes to complete and features binary puzzle switches, enemies to avoid, and secrets found by rotating the 3D camera. There's really not much challenge until the last 10 levels of the game -- most of the time you eventually win just by playing long enough and trying different permutations of switches and buttons. There are also a few arcade sequences that feel completely out of place for a leisurely puzzle game, simply because Nintendo has a passion for making levels where your character is out of control near pools of lava.

There's less than 10 hours of gameplay here if you ignore the awful "go back into each level and touch the hidden Toad graffiti" option that prolongs without any worthwhile reward. However, the worlds are cute and well-designed (especially the bonus levels featuring worlds from Super Mario Odyssey, designed specifically for this port). I think a pre-teen gamer would have the most fun with this one, especially if you can find it on sale.

Final Grade: B-, pleasant while it lasts but marred by awkward controls and minimal challenge

tagged as reviews, games | permalink | 1 comment

Monday, October 17, 2022

Questions Day

It's been five and a half years since the last time I had a Questions Day! Want to get a second opinion on something? Ask anything you want, be it about myself, deeply philosophical music theory, politics, or something you don't understand. Need some recommendations? I'll answer all of your questions next week!

tagged as you speak | permalink | 3 comments

 

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