This Day In History: 12/03

Monday, December 03, 2001

They finally announced what Ginger is yesterday. Ginger was a codename for the top secret project that's supposed to revolutionize our lives, but you can decide for yourself if it lives up to the hype .

Tonight and tomorrow night are back to back concerts of new music -- several hours of FSU composers' works played over two nights to create a cornucopia of musical fun. I really think they should spread the concerts out over the semester a little better. In my opinion, new music should be rationed so you don't get disillusioned and overwhelmed by the inevitable bad pieces that seem to find their way into programs.

Counterpoint class today was agonizingly brutal. We started class with an error-detection exercise and got to listen to people proudly shout out their supposed errors which were actually correct. Of course, the professor isn't allowed to say "No, dumbass," so he's forced to pretend he's getting worthwhile suggestions while thinking up a politic way to say "Great effort, but...".

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Tuesday, December 03, 2002

To break the monotony of soup and sandwiches at lunchtime today, I had a can of Chef Boyardee's Macaroni and Cheese. It was horrible, but slightly good in a way that only cheap canned pasta can be. There used to be another brand of canned macaroni I devoured as a kid that came in a bright yellow can. The company was too cheap to actually make macaroni, so you'd get one long noodle in a plasticine goop of cheese that you'd have to cut up on your own.

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Wednesday, December 03, 2003

I've added a whole lot of pictures to the URI! Pictures and Cat Pictures section, including a sunset series with the new camera, pictures from a swing dance I went to a few weeks ago, and the evil buzzard of death which visited my corner office yesterday afternoon.

Here's the raw image of one of the posted pictures, Sunrise from my Desk . The level of detail is incredible with this camera.

What Michael Jackson would look like if not crazy
Using IM at work
Man changes name to Bubba
Thieves steal donut hut

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Monday, December 03, 2007

Ethnic Day

A little over six months ago I was in the local Lowe's, purchasing up some parts to construct the set for my movie, Brian Uri! and the Amazingly Blue Bathroom. When I arrived at the counter, basket in hand, the cashier immediately began speaking in Spanish, an extended unintelligible string of colloquial banter with nary a taco or cucharacha to clue me in.

I must have looked confused, but the cashier tried yet another string before pausing and asking a single word question that I COULD understand: "Espanol?"

I quickly shook my head -- a universal sign of negativity (void in Bulgaria) and the cashier looked embarassed. "Sorry, you looked like you spoke Spanish." At the time, I simply dismissed it, paid for my goods, and left the store.

This event left my mind until just yesterday, when I was at the Lowe's again to purchase shower curtain rings that don't suck. Different season, different checkout line, different cashier, same situation. The clerk immediately looked me up and down and asked "bueno?" before I had spoken a word. I actually know what bueno means now, but was not expecting Spanish, so I stuttered a bit. She apologized and said that I looked like someone who spoke Spanish.

Intrigued, I went home and downloaded pictures of famous Spanish actors to see if perhaps my visage had changed dramatically in the past ten years. I admit, I see a tiny bit of resemblance between myself and Catherine Zeta-Jones (mostly because of my awesome rack), but not really enough to be mistaken for a Latino twice in a year.

I guess the ultimate test will be to buy a set of construction boots and show up at the day laborer center in Herndon . If I get a job, maybe I should investigate the possibility that I am distantly related to Ponce de Leon who, unbeknownst to historians, must have made a trip to South Korea around 1499 and had a torrid love affair with a Korean farmer's daughter while seaching for the fountain of youth (this would have the side effect of explaining why people still continue to card me for alcohol).

Puppy rescued from watering can
Kitty rescued from peanut butter jar
Hershey candies look like drugs

tagged as random | permalink | 4 comments

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Pet Day: Booty

Booty (born Athena) was only fourteen weeks old when I adopted her from a rescue agency in Tallahassee in March 2003. Mike (of Mike and Chompy) was in attendance at Petsmart when I picked her out of the cage full of ugly kitties and did the obligatory lying to the stereotypical rescue worker who believed that all cats needed someone to be home 24 hours a day and have access to fresh salmon and litter boxes full of shredded money. I took her back to my two-room apartment in Parkwood and she promptly squeezed through a tiny slot under my cupboards where I could see her but not reach her.

She finally came out six hours later when I tempted her with food, after which I sealed up every crack in the kitchen with two-by-fours and duct tape. It only took a couple days to get acclimated, and soon she was tearing around the tiny rooms like an ADD three-year-old living in a closet. Her favourite toys from this era were empty paper towel rolls and bags from my Tuesday trips to Wal-mart, and one night, she demolished a full bag of bagels I'd left out on the counter. She was also a lonely kitty, and would pee on some part of the room every time I left for classes. Once, I had been gone for less than a minute to check on the laundry to find a nice wet stain right next to the front door.

After finishing up my Master's at FSU, Booty and I took a road trip back to Virginia where we moved into a Centreville apartment with Anna and Kitty. Kitty is also a peecat, and I was worried that I would have to open a corporate account with Nature's Miracle, but fortunately the introduction of a new cat ended Booty's rain of terror, and she's never peed inappropriately since. Kitty and Booty's favourite pastime was wrestling, and I've got enough footage in my archive to create a full-length wrestling epic if some indy director ever wants to turn it into a movie.

One thing Booty learned from Kitty was how to be fat -- namely, how to eat alot, how to stop exercising, and how to convert complex carbohydrates and proteins into blubber. Despite looking permanemently pregnant, she hit it off with Anna's future husband, Ben, often seducing him after dinner.

In 2004, I bought the house in Sterling and moved up north. With Anna's wedding imminent, we decided to purchase two MORE cats so that Kitty and Booty would each have a friend when it came time to split them up. Amber and Sydney arrived in March of 2005, and when it came time to choose, Booty greatly preferred Amber over Sydney (she said she was irritated by Sydney's howl, and felt that two food-oriented cats would not get along well in the same house).

Although they weren't instant friends, Booty and Amber now get along pretty well, since Booty can kick Amber's ass, and Amber can squeeze into safety spots that are too narrow for Booty. Amber's story, however, will be saved for another day!

Man robbed and glued to steering wheel
Contestants Bailed Out Of Truck After 55 Days
Man with no arms caught driving

tagged as memories, cats | permalink | 3 comments

Thursday, December 03, 2009

2009 Timeline

a smattering of major events from 2009

January:
  • We went to our first Bed and Breakfast, in Winchester.
  • We picked our wedding date.
  • My car battery died in the parking lot of Popeye's.
  • Rebecca moved in, just in time to inaugurate the black guy.
February:
  • I lost two hours of my life watching the fourth Indiana Jones movie.
  • I lost four more hours of my life watching Blunderdog at Mike's apartment.
  • I had a Name That Tune contest with my sexy lips.
  • Rosie popped a baby out, but not on 2/22.
March:
  • I opened with a 90-hour work week.
  • It snowed and Rebecca shoveled my driveway.
  • I bought new brown shoes that will last me a lifetime.
  • Kathy became Dr. Kathleen.
  • We remodelled the basement bathroom.
April:
  • I didn't do much but work overtime.
  • Ella turned two.
May:
  • Jack and Kristy got a puppy.
  • We went to a Bed and Breakfast in Solomon's Island.
  • I worked a lot of overtime and had the flu.
  • The fifth season of LOST ended and sucked.
June:
  • I cancelled my World of Warcraft account again.
  • Anna popped another baby out (baby 2 of 12).
  • We went to the beach and sat in the jacuzzi until the water turned puce.
July:
  • Mike (of Mike and Chompy) moved to Lowell.
  • Kathy popped a baby out.
  • We had an all-American cookout.
  • My dad finished improvements in our laundry room.
August:
  • I started running for exercise.
  • I stopped running for exercise.
  • We did a lot of wedding planning.
  • I finally played The Orange Box.
  • I became the Stone Band webmaster.
September:
  • I turned 30 and most likely did not die.
  • I went to the Borgata in Atlantic City and ate my weight in buffet food.
  • wedding wedding wedding
October:
  • I took four weeks off of work.
  • We got married.
  • We fled to Kauai in search of sea turtles.
  • Sam and Kristen got engaged!
November:
  • I made lots of Thanksgiving food.
  • I worked more overtime (for a grand total of 240 hours, or 6 weeks this year).
  • We rearranged the living room.

What have you accomplished?

Dog in a BP shirt greets customers
Cost of school formals soaring as teenagers glam-up
Man marries video game girlfriend

tagged as day-to-day | permalink | 6 comments

Friday, December 03, 2010

Friday Fragments

official sponsor of official sponsorship

♠ While driving through Seven Corners on the way home from DISA on Wednesday, I realized how much of my childhood geography was defined by the locations of game stores. My preteen topography was bound by the Software Etc at Seven Corners Mall (where we bought Zork I), the Babbages at Springfield Mall, the Egghead Software on Route 7, and the Lionel Kiddie City on Little River Turnpike. If there was a chance to earnestly scan a game until my parents got the hint and bought it, I probably knew the way to get there, even at age 9.

♠ The other night, I was in the local Gamestop in search of an alternative to the many hours I waste playing Minecraft, and narrowed down the choice to a DS RPG and the new Donkey Kong game for the Wii. The decision at that point came surprisingly easy when I realized that I no longer have the patience to turn on the Wii, switch all the TV settings, and sit through four hours of company logos and warnings to hold on to the controller tightly. It's a huge production any time I play the Wii, and I'm surprised more people don't get fat during all of the LOADING screens in Wii Fit.

♠ I left the store with Dragon Quest XI, a choice which was evangelized by the girl working the register who apparently spent her entire summer vacation playing the game and wanted to tell me all about her pink-robed mage guy. It's a smart business move hiring the only girl gamer in Sterling to work in your game store.

♠ As has been the tradition ever since I lived with Anna and played Zelda: Wind Waker, my hero's name is Gassy, and he's supported by a party consisting of Bloaty, Stuffy, and Crampy. For some reason, Farty and Poopy were deemed unacceptable character names by the Nintendo corporation.

♠ It's a little known fact, but in L. Frank Baum's original manuscript, Dorothy passes out due to the overwhelming scent of a poopy field -- as king of the jungle, the Cowardly Lion did not have to bury his. Unfortunately, this did not go over well with Hollywood movie censors of the era.

♠ This fragments column is probably highly uninteresting to anyone who doesn't play video games or poop, so here is a picture of my nephew for the other demographic.

♠ Plans for the weekend include a 90s Party (the first decades party I've ever gone to that ISN'T the 80s) and using my lack of a cable subscription as an excuse for not watching the Virginia Tech / FSU football game on Saturday afternoon. What are you up to?

♠ Have a great weekend!

The Quaid Conspiracy
Teens lost in Pacific looking for vodka, not love
Lead thieves use Google Earth to target churches

tagged as fragments | permalink | 8 comments

Monday, December 03, 2012

Weekend Wrap-up

  • Steam-cleaned the carpet from a year's supply of cat vomit and barbeques with children.

  • Hung the pale blue Christmas lights of subtle cheer.

  • Restocked supplies of yogurt, steak, and wine at Costco.

  • Upgraded the Wiki software used by the division at work.

  • Refinished the seventh season of 24 while on the treadmill.

  • Ate flautas at Los Toltecos.

  • Watched Life of Pi in a ridiculously small theater.

  • Installed a new light fixture in the dining area.

  • Finished Christmas shopping, 100% online for the third or fourth year in a row.

  • Played some Borderlands 2.

  • Changed the calendar and did my monthly finances and computer backups.

tagged as lists, day-to-day | permalink | 3 comments

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

2013 Timeline

A smattering of events from 2013

January:
  • I started "The Daily Hour" for self-improvement, which lasted about six months.
  • I went to my first gaming convention, for Evil Mike's bachelor party.
  • We tried swing dancing at the Dulles Hilton. Rock-stepping is dumb.
  • Mike and Taje got married!
February:
  • We spent the Super Bowl at the Crane's.
  • I learned how to program in Python.
  • I learned how to play the blues in C on the electric bass.
  • We went to the horrible Luma Theater of Light show at the Birchmere.
March:
  • We took a vacation weekend in Waynesboro, VA.
  • I was sorely disappointed by the newest Starcraft sequel.
  • We celebrated St. Patrick's Day with the Cranes and Easter with the Whitmers.
April:
  • I finally bought a new, expensive office chair, reducing back problems by a factor of 3.
  • We started growing homemade tomatoes.
  • I started writing open-source bug-tracking software, called Bugler.
May:
  • We had a Quatre de Mayo barbeque, which turned out to be one of two barbeques we would have this year.
  • We went to Winchester for a Spellerberg reunion.
  • Rebecca graduated from PTA school!
June:
  • We flew through the air on trapezes.
  • We gained a new occupant in our basement.
  • We met Brianne at the Hungarian Folk Festival and the world did not end. However, she fled the country immediately after she met us.
July:
  • We watched the fireworks at Lake Barcroft.
  • Rebecca took her super-crazy PTA exam and passed with a super-crazy high score.
  • We took a vacation weekend in Solomons, MD.
  • Elisa visited and we went to wineries.
August:
  • The URI! Zone started its 18th year.
  • We went camping in Greenbrier State Park.
  • We went to a wedding at Early Mountain Winery.
  • We did a blind wine taste test with the Smiths and Ahlbins, and learned that Rebecca likes the really expensive stuff.
September:
  • I gave up on Bugler and started Auricle.
  • We hiked the Billy Goat Trail.
  • We watched Miss Saigon at the Signature Theatre.
  • I turned 34 and probably died.
  • We had our Fall Barbeque and met some neighbours.
October:
  • We spent the government shutdown hiking around Harper's Ferry.
  • We went to the Fall Festival at Doukenie Winery.
  • We went to a pumpkin carving party at Katie and Joe's.
  • We passed out candy at Max and Leigh Ann's.
November:
  • We returned to Harper's Ferry for more hiking fun.
  • We traveled to Linden, VA for Elizabeth's birthday.
  • We stayed in a posh cabin for Annie's birthday.
  • We hosted only 1 Thanksgiving, involving 4 children.
  • We had real Thanksgiving with my family.

How was 2013 for you?

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

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Time-lapsed Blogography Day: 20 Years Ago

December 3, 1994 1:47pm Saturday

The track meet went pretty well. I got a 7.59 in the 55 meter which is only 0.04 off my best time last year. I got a 45.48 in the 300 yards and came in first place. I was first for nearly the whole race and then a guy passed me after the 200. At first, I was going to let him get first but then I changed my mind and pulled it up really hard and came in first by a little bit. My 4x400 team was pretty good too.

Afterwards, while waiting for my dad, I talked to Meghan C who was returning from taking the SATs at TC. Then I went to help out on Chris D's Eagle Project but he was basically done so I just went home.

This afternoon, I'm going to work on my French homework and then call people about the end-of-the-year party. Tonight, Ben, Jack, and I are going to see A Low Down Dirty Shame.

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Thursday, December 03, 2015

Review Day: Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited (PC)

ESO is a Massively Multiplayer Online game set in the "Elder Scrolls" world (from games such as Daggerfall, Oblivion, and Skyrim). It originally launched with a monthly fee over a year ago and endured many a growing pain before being re-released in a "buy the box once for $40" form this past summer. It takes some great ideas from many recent WoW competitors (such as the telegraph system from Wildstar) and delivers a charming, yet non-addictive, gaming experience that will keep you enthralled for at least a little while.

Cost: In the absence of subscription fees, the game is supported by cosmetic and time-saving purchases in a real money store (special mounts, pets, etc.), but everything you MUST have in the game can be bought without real cash. Additionally, some traditional money sinks are missing -- for example, your mount is shared across all of your characters, and each character buys lessons to increase riding skill instead.

Graphics: The game locales look great across the board -- I could maintain a steady 30 - 40 FPS with Medium settings on an older graphics card, and can consistently hit 60 - 100 FPS on Ultra-High settings with the GTX 960. Character facial expressions have that "uncanny valley" Skyrim look to them, but make up for it with plenty of emotes and animations. Sadly, there is no /train emote.

Music & Sound: The music is pleasant, with the occasional Skyrim motive thrown in for nostalgia. Sound is passable, although you'll get tired of your character's combat yelps after a while. ESO differs from other MMOs by providing voice-acting for every single NPC and quest line in the game (probably why it took 6 hours to install), and this helps to give each quest more weight.

Questing & Leveling: Quests are multi-stage, well-polished affairs that build up the story over a particular locale, rather than the typical "kill 50 boars" WoW throwaway. I was impressed with the variety in the early going, but found that the themes of the quests started to repeat around level 20 or so. The quests also bring back many recurring characters, but by the time they reappear, you've probably forgotten why they were important.

Classes & Stats: With nine races across three factions, it's surprising that there's only 4 classes to choose from: Dragonknight, Nightblade, Sorcerer, Templar. However, I found this to be one of the game's strengths -- each class has great flexibility and there is no one "best" way to define your character. Every character can use every weapon, cast spells, or sneak and sprint, and the way you allocate your stats between magicka and stamina determine how much or little of each you can do. I currently have a Level 41 Magicka-based Templar which plays like a WoW Retribution Paladin, and a Level 12 Stamina-based Nightblade which plays like a Skyrim thief.

Abilities: Figuring out how to level up your abilities is not very intuitive, but it's not a big deal. I like that you can only have 5 abilities plus an Ultimate on your skillbar, but don't like that an ability must be on your bar to get better. Often times, I found myself with skills I didn't particularly like on the bar, simply so I could level them up in case I wanted to use them "someday". The abilities are fun to use, and combat is kept lively by real-time counterattack / dodge options, as well as the telegraph system which gives you a few seconds warning when an area spell is about to land somewhere.

Crafting: Is crafting ever fun? It's here, but not much more than the usual time sink you'd expect it to be.

Overall: This is a peaceful, pleasant MMO experience, full of helpful players (the world is bursting with activity) but without any pressure to group up. The journey up to level 50 is very fun and soloable, and I never feel pressure to hit the end-game. I find exploration to be very rewarding, with hidden chests or vistas all over. I play it like an MMO version of Skyrim (a game I've sunk over 300 hours into over the years), and though it's decidedly NOT an "open world" game, it's exactly what I'm in the mood for some days. It's not as addicting as Skyrim, but will tide me over until I'm in the mood for Rise of the Tomb Raider or Fallout 4.

Final Grade: B+

tagged as reviews, games | permalink | 2 comments

Monday, December 03, 2018

Coding Day

I've decided to participate in the annual Advent of Code competition this year as a way to flex the programming skills that have lain dormant since 2017. Advent of Code is a global competition where people compete to solve daily two-part logic puzzles (like this one) as fast as possible using any programming language they want (Some masochists have done it in BASIC, Oracle functions, and even Excel!). My company is one of the corporate sponsors.

Rather than investing in personal growth by using this opportunity to learn a new language, I'll play it safe and go back to my Eclipse/Java/JUnit roots. I have no hope of getting on the global leaderboards (the fastest global solve time for both parts of the Day 1 puzzle was a ridiculous 1 minute 48 seconds) but I'm putting forth a reasonably good showing on my company's private leaderboard so far (out of about 65 participants). Here are my results so far:

  • Rank 1 Fastest: Fastest solve time on the company leaderboard
  • +/-: Difference between my time and the fastest time.
  • Daily Rank: My placement for a single daily puzzle.
  • Overall Raw Rank: My leaderboard position at the end of this day.
  • Overall Adjusted Rank: My leaderboard position at the end of this day, adjusted based on median solve times. (Because many employees beat every puzzle, ties are broken by the median fastest solve time over all 25 days).

I also coded up a static page that shows the company's Top 10 Solve Times, updated daily. I'll post my full results at the end of the month. Join in yourself if you like to code!

tagged as programming | permalink | 2 comments

Friday, December 03, 2021

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Squid Game:
This show had an intriguing premise but poor execution. The conceit of desperate people willing to do things and the divide between super-rich and poor has been done before, and the importance of these themes faded into the background after just a couple episodes (3% did it all better). Squid Game might have been more successful as a tight miniseries with 4 or 5 episodes -- by the penultimate episode, I was watching at 1.25x speed to skip through the lingering camera shots that mistook "wasting time" for "building tension". Character development is pretty muddled although there are a few nice moments throughout. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: C+

Best of Standup 2020:
This special allowed us to skip the often-draggy bits of hour-long standup specials and enjoy the best parts. There are a few great laughs to be found (we plan on watching the Michael McIntyre special as a result) but most of the jokes are just chuckles. This is great, though, because by the time we realized a comedian wasn't amazing, the special had already moved on. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: B-

Arcane:
This fantasy show based on the lore of a computer game (League of Legends) took me by surprise. I've never played the game and rarely like serious animated shows but this show stands strongly on its own. The style is moody and well-animated, and the plot is pushed forward by characters doing what they think is best, rather than contrived situations. You don't need to know anything about the associated game going in -- even Rebecca liked this. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: A

Arcane League of Legends (Soundtrack from the Animated Series):
(This refers to the album containing original songs by contributing artists, not the three similarly-named albums with the original score). The music for Arcane includes songs written just for this show by artists as varied as Imagine Dragons and Fantastic Negrito. Each is a pretty catchy listen and worth the purchase of the 30 minute album. (The original score, spread across three albums, is also good, but not as worthwhile without the visuals to accompany it).

Final Grade: B+

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