This Day In History: 11/19

Monday, November 19, 2001

My most recent pet project (read: thing to do when I don't want to write my history paper) is a reworking of the MIDI accompaniment to the Ewazen trumpet sonata (written in 1995). Last spring, I created the basic MIDI file which would allow a trumpet player to perform the Ewazen with a faux piano player. This version is still in frequent use at Virginia Tech, and is similar to the accompaniments I did for the Kennan and the Hindemith sonatas. This weekend, I spent about seven hours with the first movement of the Ewazen, adding dynamics and pedals, and generally making the MIDI accompaniment sound as close as possible to the Gekker-Ewazen recording (the definitive edition, in my opinion). The reasons for creating these types of accompaniments are varied: it helps me achieve a level of familiarity with the harmonies that I would not have had by just listening to the score, it allows me to practice the piece as if I had an accompanist, and it gives me something to procrastinate with.

The transcribing of the notes was a tedious process in Finale, but the most monotonous part was adding pedal effects and dynamics to each note of the part. The first movement alone is about seven minutes long -- you can hear excerpts of my accompaniment recording in MP3 format (1.9MB).

I really need to start studying for the listening exam in earnest. I've done lots of informal listening, but very little structured studying. Strangely, I can tell which movement is being performed for any given Mozart or Haydn symphony, but I still get confused on the symphony numbers. I always thought it'd be more difficult to remember things the other way around. Yesterday, I studied the Goldberg variations and the Scarlatti harpsichord sonatas, and now I can't get that rickety harpsichord sound out from under my skin. The sound of a harpsichord is like a woodpecker crossbred with a termite, with your sanity as the wood.

I've gotten into watching the show, Alias, on Sundays now. It started off fairly cheesily but it's starting to get interesting. Of course, another TV show to get hooked on is just what I need. They overdo it a bit with the faux techno soundtrack but the gadgets and the plots are pretty neat.

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Tuesday, November 19, 2002

There was a good episode of Boston Public on last night that touched on the economy of becoming a music major. The shows are always good when they pursue musical subplots, and they even gave the choir director a baton so she doesn't look like a total retard when conducting the orchestra. However, they closed off one of the last remaining first season characters in this episode, so future quality is up in the air. That character was probably the favourite of the show for many viewers. In other entertainment news, Alias is still getting fairly low ratings, probably because ABC insists on leading into it with kiddie movies like Peter Pan and Beauty and the Beast. If they could get more adults to just sit down and watch it, there's no doubt that it would do much better.

I've gotten 4997 visitors since this site opened last August. You might be number 5000! Follow the tiny counter link on the lower right corner of this page to see if you've won... nothing.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Here is the inaugural fire in the apartment fireplace.

A new Costco has opened at the intersection of Route 28 and Route 50, just 6.4 miles away from the existing one. Now I have a convenient stop along my trip home from work where I can mingle with the midday yuppy housewives who clog up lines with two overflowing carts of useless bulk goods (like designer bottled water) and then abandon their carts in the middle of the parking lot for the servant class to corral.

"I really didn't know there was a chopstick in my eye," Ng said. "I am feeling better now."
Reuters steals newsworthy items from my page.

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Friday, November 19, 2004

Now that I've caught up with all the movies and pictures since September, you'd think I'd have a backlog of interesting content to resume news updates with.

There's talk of making a sequel to Mrs. Doubtfire . I always figured that Mrs. Doubtfire was a member of that modular one-of-a-kind lowbrow comedy like Crocodile Dundee and Home Alone (at least until they lost their membership for having sequels), but I guess a talented writer can come up with a believable reason for Robin Williams to again dress up as a woman to save his children. No doubt in this one, Sally Fields dies and social services plans to take away the kids unless Robin Williams hires a nanny, but he can't afford a nanny so he becomes one and hilarious antics ensue. This will be followed by a sequel to Howard the Duck.

Speaking of Robin Williams, has anyone seen that Comedy Central gem of his standup routine from the early 80s where he's stoned out of his mind and trying to get the audience to laugh, but no one's stepping up?

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Memory Day: Table Top Games

When I was younger, I was a bona fide athlete in top physical condition. Evidence of this can be found in the December 1992 issue of Sports Illustrated for Kids, which showcased the strenuous activity of Table Top Games -- not the nerdy, Dew-fueled games of dungeons and wizards, but real feats of physical strength with balls and goal lines and protective gear.

For the sake of full disclosure, we were not called upon by the magazine for our skill at bouncing a tennis ball into a cup. The photo opportunity was set up by the mother of someone in my Boy Scout troop, which was sufficiently ethnically diverse.

So on a rainy Saturday afternoon that would otherwise be spent biking for miles around Alexandria (or alternately, the house of the girl I had a crush on), I went to the townhouse of Richard Grimes dressed in a po po platter of primary colours (at the behest of my dad, who emphatically decided that a colourful shirt would help the photographer adjust his balance levels in the days before Photoshop).

The hardest part about "Bounce Basketball" wasn't getting the ball into the cup -- it was repeating the bounces over and over until the photographer could get a crisp action shot with every kid smiling. At least five other wannabe movie stars were at this three hour shoot, and only these three photos passed through the Ugly/Frowning/Fat editing filter (because apparently it's irresponsible to show fat kids playing games at a table when they could be sitting on the couch playing video games and sparing their parents' rickety chairs).

After "Bounce Basketball", which obviously took someone two and a half minutes to invent (but helped improve the future Beer Pong skills of children everywhere), came "Puff Hockey". Although no real life skills can be gleaned from holding a straw between your thumb and forefinger and taking gentle puffs, it was fun nonetheless.

Initial attempts at playing the game failed because one kid kept blowing over the goals. We solved this issue with Boy Scout perspicacity, reaching into our kits for the emergency Scotch tape. Another player then showed a continued lack of control by blowing the ball off the table as if he were trying to push a softball through fifty feet of vacuum tubing. (A similar situation occurs when badminton players try to play tennis).

After time wasted on recovering the ball and telling the players near the camera to stop blocking the ones in the back, the photographer finally gave up and had us pose without actually playing the game. The bottom picture is an example of this fakery.

Earliest nuclear family was murdered
Police haven't said what type of sandwich was involved
Inmate who escaped returns on his own

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Review Day

There are no spoilers in these reviews.

Soul Circus by George Pelecanos:
Every good condo has a drawer full of retarded books, and about halfway through our honeymoon I had to choose between this story about drug gangs in Anacostia or a book about geriatric diamond thieves who have been tracked by the Mob to their retirement home. Overall, this book was an easy read, although it bashes you over the head with a side message about how black children in D.C. never have a chance. Throw in a few gunfights and a Grisham-like writing style and you have a few hours of passable entertainment.

Final Grade: C

Invasive Procedures by Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston:
Another from the book drawer, this book had an interesting Crichton-like premise in which a strange cult cures genetic diseases by injecting repaired DNA into patients. The writing is uniformly bad, but the book builds suspense well and the payoff even has shades of Dollhouse to it. I read this on our "let's do nothing but sit at the pool" day.

Final Grade: B-

Away We Go (R):
In exchange for watching a heist movie with me (Brothers Bloom), I had to watch an indie movie of Rebecca's choice. This road trip movie about a newly pregnant couple deciding where to live has fun moments but dull quarter-hours. In the "road trip as a metaphorical trip of self-discovery" genre, it was twelve times as good as Broken Flowers though.

Final Grade: C-

Age of the Understatement by the Last Shadow Puppets:
This group consists of the lead singers from the Arctic Monkeys and the Rascals, and the CD is a surprisingly high quality collect of original songs written in 60s stylings with lots of wash and echo, and string/horn accompaniments. However, it automatically loses a few points for its paltry 35 minute play time. You can hear samples here.

Final Grade: A-

Placenta teddy bear repulses many
Introducing bomb-proof wallpaper
Society must decide if robots can hump us

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Friday, November 19, 2010

Friday Fragments

better Nate than lever

♠ The diligent readers with incredibly little to do at their jobs have probably noticed that the daily update has slipped later and later in the day since midweek. This is not a trend I intend to embrace -- it's just been one of those weeks where I'm filled with brilliantly brilliant ideas to write about during the day, and then zero motivation to prepare an update when I get home at night. This should improve next week, as the holidays approach. You may even get to see one of those near extinct post-types: the Newsday Tuesday.

♠ When not avoiding the duties of updating this web page like a grandfather without Ex-lax or Metamucil, I've been releasing a new patch for DDMSence, eating tons of leftover turkey, refreshing my memory on the first season of Dollhouse so I can start watching the second, and exercised Booty using nothing but a shoelace from a pair of sneakers I wore in 2004.

♠ Booty often complains that she does not get as much screen time in the URI! Zone as she used to, although if I were to give her a guest column on a occasion, it would merely be a positive feedback loop for getting fat and sleeping. This is to be expected though, since I followed much of the same routine when I was 8 years old, although no one had to express my anal glands.

♠ I have a feeling that "anal glands" are the only construct which have never been expressed in poem form. No doubt, that poem will take shape as soon as someone can invent a perfect rhyme for "rectum".

♠ A surprising number of posts managed to incorporate some scatalogical references this week, making the URI! Zone like the Rick Steves of online weblogs. I promise that all of next week's posts will stay far from the back door.

♠ Plans for the weekend include setting up our (fake) Christmas tree, an action which is apparently three months late according to the shelf inventory at Costco. I'll also do some raking and cooking when not sleeping or talking about back doors.

♠ Have a great weekend! Don't forget to vote in the Museday Tuesday poll!

Fake doctor jailed for giving breast exams in bars
Undertakers offer coffins for the gay market
Man shoots TV over Palin success

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Monday, November 19, 2012

List Day: 15 Things That Outstay Their Welcomes

  1. Post-Cold Congestion

  2. Most Jazz Solos

  3. Road Construction

  4. El Nino

  5. Ryan Seacrest

  6. Epic Movies

  7. 3rd Movement of Symphonie Fantasique

  8. Interstate 81

  9. PETA

  10. Eugene Delgaudio

  11. U2

  12. Video Game Motion Controls

  13. Wikipedia Begging Ads

  14. Commuter Biking Fads

  15. Chigger Bites

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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Music Tuesday

Sixteen years ago today, on November 19, 1997, I was corresponding with a trumpeter from my high school, for whom I was writing a trumpet concerto. The concerto ultimately morphed into The Hero, a symphonic work which Dave McKee called "that grade IV solo with the grade VI accompaniment".

I had sent the score for the first movement to Cat Armstrong, the trumpeter, and she had sent back a cassette tape with her comments (Cat happened to be blind, which made writing notes on the score a non-starter). Here are some excerpts from my email correspondence, offering some rare insight into my super-serious musical thoughts as a young composer.

While I was working with your strengths as a player, I also have to factor in the average player's weaknesses. Even today, the common "symphonic" limit is accepted at a High C, and rarely a D. That, combined with the fact that I've planned the entire concerto to be about twenty minutes in length, kept me from making the Cadenza higher and louder.

Being a trumpet player, Cat wanted the trumpet part to be harder and higher.

In several places you mentioned that the tonality didn't quite support the melody. At this point in my composing, I'm experimenting more with alternate tonalities and finding the balance between Steven Foster and Schoenberg. It's not that the simpler harmonies are bad; it's just that I've already done that, and now it's time to do something else. Oh, and don't worry, I don't plan on become a contemporary twelve-tone composer or such. I actually can't stand so-called "music for the mind". I much prefer music for the ear, which can be enjoyed, instead of techniques like serial composing. As I go further along, I find my toleration of dissonance expanding (especially from listening to the music of Stan Kenton...an interesting timeline from straight-ahead swing to oddball mellophonium music which I still don't entirely like).

My last composing assignment was a violin/piano sonata which was supposed to be atonal. For that, I pulled out all the stops and just went off. And now that I listen to it, the only real reason I like the first and second movements is because _I_ wrote them. My composition teacher loves it...all the student atonal piano-banging composers love it, but to me, it just emphasized the fact that I prefer music in the style of the nineteenth century over that of the twentieth. I'll play it for you sometime; if you find the small dissonances in the concerto unsettling, you'll probably choke on this.

My thoughts on dissonance remain unchanged today.

Since I'm still learning composition, I've made it a point to keep my scores exactly the way they were at the time of creation. This allows me to judge my progress from when I began, by reviewing old scores and seeing what I did wrong. There are plenty of examples from my early music where things just don't work, voices cross, or saxophones go out of range, but if I were to go back and edit my own music, I'd have no way of seeing my progress. As such, this movement has been marked as "Complete". With the exception of a few minor articulation changes and such, I don't plan on changing anything major. I do, however, remember the comments made by you and others, both teachers and composers, which I then use to make the next piece better.

Actually though, undergraduate composers never take anyone's suggestions on anything!

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Time-lapsed Blogography Day

Twenty years ago today, in 1994, I came home from Indoor Track practice (which occurred unironically outdoors at the Masonic Temple) and got a new pair of BAGs (big-assed glasses). In the evening I worked as the foreman of the stage crew for the Alexandria Symphony, racking and stacking orchestra chairs and playing soccer in the band room during the concert.

Nineteen years ago today, in 1995, I printed out the score to Sonorous Sonata, a brain-dead piece I'd written in a single night to satisfy a high-school theory teacher that wanted me to write for something other than a brass ensemble. Later on, I played Doom II with Jack.

Fifteen years ago today, in 1999, I drove Jen Graves and her cat home from Blacksburg for Thanksgiving Break. She did not yet know that her roommate, Rosie, was moving in with me the following year (nor did I tell her), and spent much of the trip talking about all the fights they had in their apartment. That evening, Liz, Shac, Kelley, and Melody arrived at my parents' house for a mild, parent-proximity overnighter before our road trip to the Temple game in Philly the next day.

Fourteen years ago today, in 2000, Shac was staying in my apartment at Foxridge because he didn't want to go home for Thanksgiving Break. It was also the day before I took the GRE to get into grad school, and the day before my sister and I drove through a snowstorm to celebrate Thanksgiving with my grandpa in Michigan.

Twelve years ago today, in 2002, the FSU Music Theory basketball team formally incorporated, with the worst name in the league.

From: Matthew Shaftel
Subject: Basketball
Date: Tue, 19 Nov 2002 15:11:44 -0500

Dear Diminished Five:

We now have a full roster of 15 (see below)! Since only five people will be on the floor at any one time, this should offer quite a bit of flexibility for those who cannot make it to more than one game a week. I will be purchasing our spot in League 6 this week and will order our jerseys some time in the next couple weeks (any color preferences?).

Scott Baker has agreed to act as "player coach" and will help us remember all the rules, figure out a zone defense etc... I am hoping that Dr. Mathes, who cannot make it to every game, would be willing to work with Scott in that regard.

On a side note, I have discovered that we are, at least so far, the only co-educational team in the league. I think that is a VERY positive thing, but the women on our team should feel free to discuss this with me if they have any concerns.

"Goooooooooo Diminished Five!!!!"

MS

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Thursday, November 19, 2015

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Canon PowerShot ELPH 340 HS:
This camera is the embodiment of compromise. I've learned by this point, that I'd rather have a crappy camera that's actually small enough to take everywhere than a slightly nicer one that's too cumbersome and gets left at home. After eventually breaking all of the other cameras in the house by dropping them (I don't use the Wiimote strap either), I picked up this $215 model mostly for hikes and 12 of 12s. Auto settings and anything with a flash results in a decent and sometimes good picture. However, image stabilization is not good enough to do anything without a flash unless you're using a tripod. You can see from the non-flash pictures in my 12 of 12s that the results aren't the greatest. Still, I do take it everywhere, so I end up with more pictures overall.

Final Grade: C-

Quick Fix Blackout Pleated Paper Shade by Redi Shade:
Our TV has more glare than an angry goth and it's often hard to watch TV in the middle of the day, forcing us to do something that's actually productive instead. These thick paper curtains are the perfect augmentation to our curtains that don't quite block all of the sunlight. You simply cut them to the width of the window and stick them in the frame. The adhesive is quite sticky, and there are plastic clips to keep it neat when not covering the window. They're an innocuous, inexpensive solution and perfect if you don't want to consider something more long-term.

Final Grade: B+

You're the Worst, Season One:
This is a raunchy comedy (in the same vein as Scrotal Recall and Catastrophe) that has more laughs but not quite as much heart as those other shows. With one exception (Edgar), the main characters are awful people. Although they show signs of self-improvement, not much progress is made in the first season. With only 10 episodes, the show is funny enough to burn through, but doesn't change the landscape of modern television in any way.

Final Grade: B-

The 100, Season Two:
The second season of this teen LOST clone is hit or miss, with a few great storylines and surprises pulled down by poor show logistics. The biggest problem is that the CW teen drama angle adds nothing and starts to impede on what could be a great sci-fi concept after a while. It takes a while to get the story moving, as the show writers make the mistake of splitting many characters up into isolated stories. This leads to lots of scenes where people are just running around so they can show up in the next scene, as well as boring storylines that you'll want to fast forward through (The chancellor running through the desert on a faith pilgrimage). It's hard to tell that the cast is beautiful, because they spend most of the time muddy and getting beaten up. In spite of these flaws, the show kept me intrigued through the whole 16 episode run and I enjoyed it as much as the first season. President Dante Wallace was a particularly good new character.

Final Grade: B

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Monday, November 19, 2018

A Day in the Life (of Maia)

  • 9:00 AM (+/- 1 hour): Maia wakes up in her low-budget-Pottery-Barn nursery and makes alien noises until one of us comes in. We draw back the blackout curtains, raise the blinds, change a diaper, and put on the day's outfit, drawn from way too many friend donations.

  • 9:15 AM: Rebecca gives Maia breakfast, usually a little boob followed by some oatmeal, bananas, and other fruit. After breakfast, Maia roams around between the nursery and the living room, reading books or playing with toys.

  • 11:00 AM: Rebecca and Maia go to Storytime at the library.

  • 12:30 PM: Maia eats a lunch of hummus, boiled carrots, and other sundry goods that Rebecca has cooked on a whim.

  • 1:30 PM: Maia goes down for her 1 nap of the day.

  • 3:30 PM (+/- 30 minutes): Maia wakes up and gets a quick snack of a banana or a yogurt. Rebecca goes off to work.

  • 4:00 PM: Maia and Brian head to the mall sharing a medium Chick-fila Waffle Fries and looking for deals.

  • 5:30 PM: Maia gets a dinner of pureed beef, leftovers from lunch, and any random things off Brian's plate.

  • 6:00 PM: By this point, Maia is usually bored with the upstairs, so we head to the basement for the discovery of "brand new" toys.

  • 8:00 PM: Rebecca gets home from work and Maia teeters on the edge of tiredness.

  • 9:00 PM: After a brief bit of milk, Maia gets a bedtime story and goes down for the night.

  • Rinse and repeat.

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Friday, November 19, 2021

Review Day: New World (PC)

New World, the ambitious new MMO from Amazon Game Studios is a happy mess, getting just as much right as it gets wrong.

The Good

There are no classes or dead ends in character development. Every character can practice and improve every skill, and each build is designed around picking two types of weapon and swapping between them. You can only have two characters, which gives incentive to really grow attached to your character and explore lots of different builds and professions.

In contrast to World of Warcraft, which has become so simplified and streamlined that you can level up by turning on your computer, New World moves at a more stately pace. Servers are capped at 2000 players and with the decision to have no mounts, you spend a lot of time running around and actually seeing other people playing around you.

The cycle of running, gathering, fighting, and returning to town works very well. You can get into a Zen state of chopping down trees, finding beehives, or searching for chests without much effort -- perfect for winding down at the end of the day while getting distracted by something on your other monitor.

The graphics and sound quality are phenomenal. Everything about the graphical style is great to look at and the spatial audio sound of your pickaxe bouncing off an iron node in the woods compared to a canyon really sells the experience.

The Bad

Combat is clunky. Queuing up actions sometimes works and sometimes fails. It's impossible to fluidly change weapons especially when monsters are making your character stagger all over the place.

The story is nonexistent, which is fine. However, the questing is absolutely awful. Quests boil down to "loot X chests" or "kill Y monsters" -- it's like playing Skyrim or Fallout 4 but only doing the "Radiant" quests. You often get sent to do a quest far away only to get back to town and find that the follow-up quest takes you back to the same area. Sometimes you have have to open 5 chests and there are only 5 chests in the entire zone, so you waste your life fighting respawning monsters while searching for the 1 chest you missed (only to find it graphically glitched under a floor).

All of the major areas on the map are copy-pasted -- once you've seen one town, the next town will be the same but rotated 10 degrees. This makes questing even worse because you don't even get to see any new scenery.

Player vs. Player combat is gate-kept to level 50 and above, so there is no easy way to learn as you play, and no easy way to influence which towns your factions have control over. In my case, I was having a great time running around while my home town was controlled by my own faction. After a power shift, we lost two towns and all the related bonuses. Travel costs, market costs, and everything else skyrocketed and fun plummeted.

All in all, I got 57 hours of enjoyment out of this game which meets my needs (I only reached level 34). The game is $40 without a subscription fee and has a lot of potential. However, it was clearly released way too early and will likely struggle to correct all of its shortcomings before a critical mass of people have moved on to something else. I hope it does, though! I might revisit again in a year's time, but it's not worth my time to play in its current state.

Final Grade: C+

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