This Day In History: 11/20

Tuesday, November 20, 2001

I'm not particularly impressed with the Hauptmann treatise on harmony and meter. Looking past the unnecessary flowery language of academics, the treatise is an admirable attempt at trying to force everything about music into a nice neat system. But seriously, you could force a three hundred pound man into a cocktail dress if you tried hard enough. All too often, our need for systematic classification tends to go a little too far. Luckily, I just have to give a summary and analysis of the materials presented, so my attitude of disdain won't get a chance to shine through. At least I won't have to worry about this history class in another twenty-one days.

I gave my last keyboard a nice coating of sugary soda last summer, and its replacement still doesn't feel completely comfortable under my fingers. I keep mistyping "Wagner" with "Wanger" in my listening exam notes; I hope he forgives me. While we're on the subject of replacement input devices, my Logitech mouse is good enough, but I don't think you can top the original Microsoft mouse for hand comfort and immediate response. My mouse was the victim of my cat last year when it was still a kitten. Mouse wires, if you didn't know, have a very gummy insulation and must feel great on cats' teeth.

"I agree, I don't like the operatic kind where the pitch on each note is everywhere and you could drive a truck through it." - another professor, on gratuitous vibrato

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Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Congratulations to Mike, who was the 5000th visitor to the URI! Domain. Including the first five years, I have to be nearing ten thousand visitors by now.

Sioux City SUX.
Good ole Rock. Nothin' beats Rock.

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Thursday, November 20, 2003

I picked up the new paperback edition of Prey by Michael Crichton yesterday, despite being in the middle of two other books at the moment. The book is on par with some of his earlier works, and I read it cover to cover in about six hours last night. The theme of technology abused by humans going out of control is back in full force and Crichton does a good job of balancing between the thriller aspects and the interesting sidebar stories about current events (although there's a little more academic info, since nanotechnology isn't as easy to "get" as cloned dinosaurs). Plus, it relates to computer science. Here's the overly melodramatic teaser:

    In the Nevada desert, an experiment has gone horribly wrong. A cloud of nanoparticles -- micro-robots -- has escaped from the laboratory. This cloud is self-sustaining and self-reproducing. It is intelligent and learns from experience. For all practical purposes, it is alive.

    It has been programmed as a predator. It is evolving swiftly, becoming more deadly with each passing hour.

    Every attempt to destroy it has failed.

    And we are the prey.
The dangers of Costco
Asked about parents who let their children go to Neverland for sleep-overs, the sheriff responded, "My advice is don't do it."
Unguarded lyrics embarass Eminem

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Monday, November 20, 2006

Launch Day

Two new video game systems hit the market this past weekend. In one corner, we have the Playstation 3 which retails at $500 (with games for $60) and doubles as a multimedia center, internet browser, and sometimes brushes your teeth if you type in the secret code. In the other corner, the Nintendo Wii, sporting a $250 price tag, a goofy name, and a crazy new controller that you wave around in the air. (Side Note: I bet Philip Barbie currently owns both of these, and has not slept all weekend).

The demand for the PS3 was so high that resellers found a ready market on eBay, selling them for one and two thousand dollars in the hours after release. I'm betting that at least half of the people who camped out in front of stores, and endured riots and muggings (one camper was shot in the chest) simply resold their machines to make a quick buck. I've never understood this culture of "Launch Day", where otherwise sane (if stupid) individuals line up at a store for the slim chance of getting one of the two systems on launch day that haven't already been bribed off by the store's workers. They're essentially devoting three or four days of their life to being the first on the block to own a console that will ship with two games (at least one of which will be a remake of a game for an older system). This isn't worth my time on a good day, and even less so for these particular consoles.

For the price of a PS3 and two games, I could also just play World of Warcraft for three and a half years, see 69 movies in a theatre (I said 69, Doobie), or pay for 142 Friday afternoon Popeyes runs. Instead, I get an all-in-one piece of garbage that's crammed full of useless functionality. Why would I want to surf the Internet from my living room when I have a computer? Why would I play my CDs in the PS3 when I already have an expensive sound system? It won't take long for at least one of the PS3's functions to become obsolete, after which you'll end up buying a standalone component anyhow. All I want my game console to do is play games.

The Wii has the right mindset -- going with bare bones technology and focusing on fun games, but it has a different problem. Nintendo likes to invent weird controllers and then spend two years writing games specifically to prove that the controller is a good idea (see also, the Gameboy DS' stylus which is topical in maybe four games total). Instead of games written to be fun games, we'll get games that require you to wave the wand around like an epileptic arthritic -- initial reviews of the new Zelda have already said that the "shooting the bow, swinging your sword" motions feel tacked on and imprecise. The only way the wand would be humorous is if they themed the design like a cat and it made cartoony shaking-cat sounds as you shook it.

The only reason I'd get either one of these consoles immediately is for the new Zelda game, and that reason is rendered obsolete by the fact that the game will ship for the classic GameCube in December. Sure, there'll be a Wii in my pants someday when it's in the Walmart bargain bin for $100, but until then, I'll keep on playing the old favorites.

Mice: The official taste tester of the 2008 Olympics
Super lions marooned on an island
Brazilians in a fuss over puppies born to cat

tagged as games | permalink | 4 comments

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Museday Tuesday

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

Chichi: (adj.) Ostentatiously stylish; deliberately chic.

My Composition (0:30 MP3)
Old Musedays:
Sidelong
Moodily
Obnoxiously
Obsessively
Spikiest
Leggier
Carsick
Dinkiest
Reclusive
Trifid
Frowzy
Trampled
Surefooted
Gamy

For this word, I focused more on the chic definition rather than the ostenatious one. The definition evoked a feeling more than a melody, but the eventual melody is hinted at in fragments throughout this extended introduction. I was hoping to start the melody, but ran out of time. Share your impressions in the comments section!

Man and psychedelic toad arrested
Oral sex gene helps male fish fake it
I've had some crazy ex-girlfriends. Saying that in person would probably not be the best idea for my physical safety.

tagged as museday | permalink | 1 comment

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Silly Ratings Day

In an effort to provide some transparency in the game-rating process, the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) has started including brief overviews of each reviewed game on its website. You can now see why games were given a particular rating, and just what exactly the term "comic mischief" means.

To assist parents in their search for kid-safe games, the website also allows you to search for games by game content. Although their hearts are in the right place, this search engine of naughty behaviours is more useful as a time-wasting tool for the immature (such as myself), or as a free advertisement to a teenager who reads about the latest zombie game where "Enemies' heads and limbs are frequently blown off, while streaks of red blood are splattered on walls and floors" and puts it on his Christmas list as the coolest game of all time. Here are some excerpts from their website:

Azada: Ancient Magic (Everyone 10+)
[This] is a seek-and-find puzzle game in which players search for items in environments based on classic literature. Some stories depict or describe violent events, such as a witch being pushed into an oven or the Dracula character being vanquished with garlic. [...] One of the selectable items in a puzzle is a wine jar.

Block Party (Everyone 10+)
[This] is a collection of multi-player party mini-games [...] in which players compete in a variety of whimsical contests in order to score the most points. [...] One mini-game requires players to eat several bananas so that they can propel themselves in the air via their flatulence.

DJ Max Fever (Teen)
DJ Max Fever is a rhythm-based DJ game in which players match play cues to a beat by following on-screen prompts. Still images depict female figures in mildly provocative outfits (e.g., bikini, lingerie, and short skirts), highlighted by a variety of camera pans that include mild depictions of cleavage. In one video, still images of a female character are shown as she undresses to take a shower. The same girl is also shown bending over a bed with her posterior displayed, however, the play area and shadowing effects conceal certain body parts. Text bubbles within some cutscenes contain profanity (e.g., "sh*t").

World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King (Teen)
[This] is a massively multiplayer online (MMO) role-playing game set in the imaginary world of Azeroth. [...] Players can interact with scantily clad characters, listen to provocative dialogue (e.g., "Is that a mana wyrm in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?"), or view sexually suggestive dance routines performed by elves and other player-characters.

Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad (Mature)
[This] is an action horror game in which players control scantily clad female heroines as they battle waves of zombies. The female characters fight in thongs, leather skin suits, tiny bikinis, and other skimpy outfits that reveal cleavage and posterior areas. Bouncing breasts and use of camera pans along body parts are depicted frequently. [...] Profanity (e.g., "sh*t" and "b*tch") is heard in the dialogue and on-screen text of the story.

Far Cry 2 (Mature)
[This] is a first-person shooter in which players assume the role of a mercenary-for-hire involved in covert African combat missions. [...] Dialogue contains strong profanity (e.g., "sh*t," "f*ck," and "c*nt") and references to sexuality (e.g., "d*cks pay good money to watch girls sh*g chap like you?" and "He's sh*gged every woman, married or not, who's come through on holiday."). One mission requires players to steal a bag of 'weed' from a specific location and give it to a character who replies, "you high as a kite or what?"

If you find any other gems while bored at work, post your favourites in the Comments section!

Driver convicted for penis in pasta jar, but not terrier
Trouser snake on a plane
Inmates sneak through ceiling to have sex

tagged as mock mock, games | permalink | 6 comments

Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday Fragments

the reason that every weekend is warm

♠ Last night, while Rebecca braved "the city" to see some indie hipsters performing at the Black Cat, I braved Centreville to see the band concert at Stone Middle School. I'm not sure which was more surprising: the fact that there were two hundred and fifteen 7th and 8th graders in two separate bands, or the fact that parents were overflowing the gym as if a football game were in progress.

♠ Flashing back 19 years to my seventh grade winter band experience, I recall the presence of 32 band members, maybe 40 parents, and no one recording the entire concert as a movie file on their cellphone. On the plus side, we had an auditorium, a location whose name suggests that things might sound better inside. Unfortunately, this was not the case.

♠ We even had an auditorium in elementary school, although here it was called a "multipurpose room". This meant that the chairs could be moved to the side for PE classes, so the room smelled perpetually of feet.

♠ I've never understood why we had to take our shoes off for PE class, mixing together our unique specimens of toe fungus and bacteria into the Petri carpet with the rest of the students. I guess that's what made us multicultural.

    Q: Why didn't the tabloids get excited when George Wallace was caught shoplifting yogurt?
    A: It was just an example of the white man consuming another culture.

♠ Plans for the weekend include some work, some raking, some laundry, and a Themed Beer Night at one of Rebecca's friends' homes. I'm actually taking Thursday and Friday of next week off (because apparently when you're married, you're not supposed to work straight through all the holidays), so there will be no update on Thursday.

♠ Have a great weekend!

Plan to pierce heart of urban monster volcano
Person in chicken suit ruffles council feathers
Cannibals nabbed selling corpse to kebab house

tagged as fragments | permalink | 1 comment

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Newsday Tuesday: Introducing the HOT Lanes

New Beltway express lanes lead to crashes and changes

The Capital Beltway's new lanes have been open to the public for just a few days, but it's already time for a bit of a makeover. A spate of accidents at the entrance to the northbound 495 express lanes, all stemming from last-minute maneuvers to avoid the new lanes, has transportation authorities scrambling to make changes.

A spokesman for VDOT argued that Northern Virginian drivers should be used to constant lane changes by now. "While the HOT lanes were under construction, we played a game where we shifted the southbound 495 lanes to the right an extra foot every day. No one complained until they realized that they were driving through Aldie."

The high-occupancy toll lanes represent a new way to manage traffic and build new highways at a time of increasing congestion and stagnant transportation funding. Tolls rise to control demand for the lanes and ensure a predictable trip over the 14-mile route.

A recent transportation study showed that drivers were overwhelmingly in favour of what is essentially a Tax on the Entitled Class and People Too Lazy to Wake Up Early Like the Rest of Us. Additionally, 100% of those polled did not identify themselves as part of this group.

On Sunday night, electronic signs were changed to warn drivers about the new pattern and extra colored reflectors were added to the barriers that separate the high-occupancy toll lanes from the regular lanes. Even after the changes, two crashes occurred Monday morning, raising the three-day total to six. So on Tuesday morning, drivers will wake up to newly extended lane markings intended to minimize unsafe lane changes.

Workers have also installed warning signs on the Blue Line Metro to alert commuters parked in Springfield, and pinned notes to the shirts of elementary school children who will be driving by 2020. AAA spokesman, Lon Anderson, criticized the additional signs. "You would have to be completely oblivious to miss the current batch of signs. If we erect too many warnings, we're going to have a Williamsburg problem, where every road purports to lead to Busch Gardens, but none of them actually do."

New legislation is also expected from the Virginia Assembly, requesting that the HOT lanes wear bright red vests, although Governor McDonnell stopped short of endorsing the construction of a new HOT Lane Lane to keep the HOT Lane safely separated from traffic.

Every crash has occurred near the entrance to the northbound express lanes between the Springfield interchange and Braddock Road on the inner loop of the Capital Beltway.

In all likelihood, drivers near Springfield are still gun shy from the introduction of the Mixing Bowl five years ago. Virginia State Police still found this surprising, since they had deployed their patrols near the American Legion Bridge where all of the Maryland drivers enter the state.

The new lanes opened Saturday at 2 a.m. after weeks of media attention and a ribbon-cutting and balloon drop presided over by Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R).

The Governor's office downplayed any connection between the increase in accidents and the four million balloons littering the highway.

The first crash came just before 7 a.m. Saturday. A 19-year-old driver approaching the express lane entrance swerved to the right to avoid it, overcorrected to the left and hit the Jersey wall. [...] An hour later, just as the first crash was being cleared from the road, two vehicles caught in the backup collided. The third accident came shortly after 2:15 p.m Saturday. A driver trying to avoid the lanes swerved, and the car spun out and came to a stop in the roadway. The fourth incident occurred on Sunday at 8:04 a.m., when another vehicle trying to avoid the toll swerved, spun and struck the Jersey wall.

In response to this surge in accidents, Urban Dictionary now defines "strike the Jersey wall" as "blowing a lane change out of proportion because you're not paying attention to the road". The previous definition was "being passed over for promotion because you come from New Jersey".

tagged as newsday, favourites | permalink | 2 comments

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Memory Day: Thirteen Years Ago Today

Thirteen years ago today, on November 20, 2000, I took the GRE in order to secure my eventual berth aboard the good ship FSU. Thanksgiving vacation week had started at Virginia Tech, and because we had a whole week off, most students did the only logical thing and skipped town 5 to 7 days before the week began. I was mostly alone in Blacksburg, except for Shac, who crashed in my apartment (while Rosie and Anna were home) because he was fighting with his parents.

The GRE is like the SAT but with different letters and more annoying questions. At the time, it also had the obnoxious "adaptive" quality, where questions get harder as you do better (this was removed in 2011). So, the first logic question might be "Ann and Bob want to shake hands with each other using only left hands. How many different ways can they do this?", but eventually you would end up at "Ann, Bob, Charles, Dick, Elias, Francois, Gertrude, Haughton, Iggy, Jesse, Kyle, and Lamonashiqua are all blood relatives and, as residents of Alabama, also married to each other. How many different family trees can you create which are only two generations deep if Charles is gay?"

I took the test at a Prometric computer center in Roanoke, which was just like the ones up here but with dirtier mice, and then went home to await the arrival of my sister from Charlottesville. The following morning, we drove from Blacksburg up to Flint, MI to visit my grandpa for Thanksgiving, a trip made much more difficult by the two feet of snow dumped on Route 460 overnight. We were in Ellen's '98 Honda Civic, and I let her drive the rest of the way after the second intersection I slid through at 2 miles per hour because her poor brakes.

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

The Wolf of Wall Street (R):
Though well-acted, this movie is self-indulgently long. Many scenes stretch beyond their obvious ending points, as if the director just gave his actors general cues and filmed until they ran out of invented dialogue. After a while, all of the drugs, boobs, and rousing speeches start to run together, culminating in an ending that doesn't add up to much.

Final Grade: C

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein:
Rebecca picked up this book in the Seattle airport. It's a very well-written fiction about a family, told from the perspective of the dog. I enjoyed the sentimentality, although the story itself is unrelentingly maudlin, emphasizing the unfairness of life. However, it's a brief, enjoyable read, suitable for a plane trip or a beach trip. You can read Rebecca's less-capsule-like review in her blog, linked on the sidebar.

Final Grade: B

Brooklyn 99, Season One:
This show is sporadically funny, but not nearly as good as the collective Internet says it is. Your appreciation for the show will be directly proportional to how long you can tolerate Andy Samberg mugging for the camera. Sometimes, it can't decide whether it's a smart, post-modern take on cop shows or a Saturday Night Live skit outstaying its welcome.

Final Grade: C



tagged as reviews | permalink | 4 comments

Friday, November 20, 2015

List Day: Plans for Thanksgiving Break

  • Hang blackout curtains for maximum daylight TV time.

  • Reseal the drafty cracks in the basement patio door.

  • Spend no more than 2 hours per day on work proposal stuff.

  • Figure out how to apply page caching in MediaWiki.

  • Have a rescheduled Thanksgiving dinner with the Ahlbins.

  • Host real Thanksgiving with all of the parents.

  • Meet Returned Mike for dinner in Reston Town Center.

  • Try out Elder Scrolls Online with my new Nvidia GTX 960 graphics card.

  • Plan a Christmas party.

  • Finish Christmas shopping.

  • Get some new Christmas decorations.

  • Exercise Booty.

tagged as lists | permalink | 2 comments

Monday, November 20, 2017

Weekend Wrap-up

On Friday, Maia caught her first cold which made her a little hoarse, so we called her Pony for the rest of the weekend. We took her on a dusk stroll through Claude Moore Park and then stopped off at Crooked Run South for tacos and a flight of beer. The brewery was more crowded than usual because of a live bluegrass band taking up space where extra seats would normally be.

On Saturday, I worked on a proposal in the morning and then we made a sweet potato casserole with smoked mozzarella cheese for a Yoga Potluck party in our basement. The casserole turned out great and paired well with the growlers full of Rushlight and Seek Truth from Crooked Run. Plus, I got to use my chafing dish for the 6th time, making it an extremely cost-effective purchase.

On Sunday, my parents came out to visit the baby and drop off an extra DVD player to replace the 5-disc changer that I've had for 14 years now. I don't understand why disc changers aren't made anymore (not counting the 500 disc monstrosities you put your entire library into) -- we must be the only family that keeps multiple shows on deck and rotates between them regularly. Alternately, we must be the only family not consuming all of our media over the Internet.

How was your weekend?

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

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Time-lapsed Blogography Day: Twenty Years Ago Today

Twenty years ago today, on Saturday, November 20, 1999, I was in Philadelphia for the VT-Temple football game.

It was the beginning of our extravagant week-long Thanksgiving break and I had driven home the night before with Jen and her cat. Liz, Shac, Kelley, and Melody converged on my house Friday night so we could get an early start, and we ate pizza and watched Shawshank Redemption on VHS. In the morning, we woke up early and met Jason and Richard to caravan two cars up to Philly. The three in the back seat promptly fell asleep while Liz and I sang along to musicals in the front.

The game itself was pretty monotonous, with VT winning 62-7. Afterwards, Jason insisted that we stop at Hooter's before heading home and gave us pre-GPS directions to get there. Unfortunately, all the streets had changed names since his last visit, and we drove around the seedy parts of Philly for an hour and a half before finding it. The wings were just okay.

I managed to snatch a nap in the restaurant to prime the drive home, and we got back to Alexandria around 11:30 PM. The next day, I did 6 chapters of Physics to prepare for my final exam (Clearly, I had not kept up with the class as it progressed, trusting in my two years of high school physics to keep me afloat).

tagged as day-to-day | permalink | 1 comment

Friday, November 20, 2020

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

The Rising Tied by Fort Minor:
I purchased this album on the strength of the single, High Road. There are a few good hooks throughout but as is often the case with these impulse buys, none of the songs were as strong as the one I already liked. Most of the other songs fall into the "white rapper complaining about how hard life is" category, which gets old very quickly unless you're The Lab Rats.

Final Grade: B-

Paper Mario: The Origami King:
I need to accept the fact that the Paper Mario series will never again be as good as The Thousand Year Door. I bought this as a game that Maia could watch and enjoy (and she does, sometimes), but it's held back by stale story, slow-scrolling text, and helpful sprites that overexplain the simplest puzzles. The worst part is the awful combat system that has no effect on the game other than to slow down your progress. Every time the game starts to get fun, a random battle pops up with a boring timed puzzle and kills my will to keep going. I'm now hoping that Maia forgets that this game exists so we never have to play it again.

Final Grade: C-

Asgard's Wrath:
The first AAA game for the Oculus Rift is pretty impressive initially but soon slows into a grind. Every Rift game has a built-in cost of me moving the computer into the VR room, and eventually I stopped wanting to do that. I would probably enjoy it a lot more with less setup -- however the direction that Facebook is taking the Oculus Rift (requiring Facebook accounts, abandoning PCs, and charging $200 to fix inherent issues in the first hardware iteration) has mostly turned me off to VR.

Final Grade: B-

Superstore, Season Four:
There are a number of great episodes in this season which makes the inclusion of 2-3 really awful episodes more glaring. It feels like the writers had a great flow going but had to let the son of the executive producer write a few episodes because "he majored in screenplays at community college". We still finished it very quickly and enjoyed it for the most part.

Final Grade: B

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