This Day In History: 12/20

Thursday, December 20, 2001

I'm back in Alexandria now, and finished up the last of my Christmas shopping early this morning. I was down in Springfield to go malling, so I got to try out some of the recent additions to the "mixing bowl" project where I-95, I-395, and I-495 all meet at the same time. Traffic is horrible during this in-between time, but it looks like things may actually run smoothly when everything is finally open in about twenty years.

A Few Days Up North: Part I of III

The trip to grad schools was a fairly successful one. I drove down to Montclair, VA early Monday morning and we finally left the area around 9:30, missing most of the commuter traffic that plagues the D.C. area. The drive to Princeton was uneventful other than tolls (we spent about $36 on tolls by the end of the trip). We got to Westminster Choir College around one in the afternoon and poked around the campus. The school itself was a tiny plot of land a couple blocks from Princeton University, and it's billed as the music college of Rider University, which was about ten miles down the road in Trenton. The campus itself seemed more like an old seminary, and definitely didn't have the bustle associated with big schools like Tech and FSU. Most of the faculty were involved with end-of-the-year juries, but we managed to snag an admissions person to answer some questions and point us around campus.

The school was so small that we had poked around every cranny by three or four o' clock, and if we hadn't had a motel reservation in New Jersey, we would have just driven straight on to Boston. Since that kept us in the area, we drove around Princeton a bit, and then checked into the fabulous Red Roof Inn in downtown Trenton. Since New Jersey is the home of those foolish U-turn / left-turn circles that are really nothing more than glorified dog exercise areas, it wasn't surprising to find that Route 1 was split down the center by miles of uninterrupted "Jersey" walls. Our motel was right in the middle of such a stretch, and on the wrong side of the highway, so we had to drive several miles in either direction in order to find a way to drive in the other direction. After dinner at Applebee's, we watched Ocean's Eleven at a gargantuan twenty-four screen theatre in town. It was huge -- bigger than me, even. The movie wasn't particularly deep, but it was funny enough and provided a couple hours of light entertainment. It's the kind of movie that you can enjoy without thinking too hard. After the movie, we headed back to the motel and turned in early so we could leave early the next day for Boston.

To be continued tomorrow...

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Friday, December 20, 2002

C:\VIRGINIA>

It's too much of a hassle to update regularly from home, and not much is going on anyhow. Updates will be sporadic until I'm back in Florida on January 2.

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Saturday, December 20, 2003

For players of Warcraft III with dust-gathering CDs, patch 1.13 was finally released this past week, almost five full months after the last. It introduces a small number of balance changes that seem like an afterthought and an even larger number of bugs, most of which should really have been caught during testing. For example, the patch contains the last two acts of the unfinished Orc Campaign, but starting Act II results in a bugged attack speed and your heroes attack about once per minute. There are plenty of positive improvements to the map editor and the new orc missions aren't quite as boring as Act I, but overall, it really wasn't worth the wait.

Tomorrow, the plan is to stay home and avoid the shopping masses while furthering my Auricle work with the concepts of rhythm and tempo.

Mike's Journal is shut down for the holidays , but this year I will continue updating on a regular basis. I may taketwo days off for Christmas, but otherwise you can always count on your daily dose of inanity.

Schoolies cruise sinks into chaos
Kidnapping the nude model
Because ghosts are scared of fires

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Monday, December 20, 2004

I will resume updating after Christmas. Work is busy.

Japanese men lap up new comfort
Slither slither slither slither went the tongue

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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

I hear that Bono is 33.3% of Time's Man of the Year Award for 2005, sharing the honor with Bill Gates and Mrs. Bill. Normally, I find celebrities' self-indulgence and disconnect with the real world highly amusing, but when it comes to Bono, I just get annoyed and impugn with impunity his worthiness to win. At least they picked two other winners, otherwise his ego might expand to an unimaginable point, increasing the surrounding air pressure, melting polar ice caps, and stranding thousands of sperm whales off an archipelago in the sea.

I'm sure Bono has indirectly done some good for Africa by wearing leather pants and rearranging the same song for twenty years, but there's just something incredibly smarmy about his moral superiority and that everpresent smirk. You're an entertainer, no more and no less. Lose the messianic showboating. Plug your cause at your next concert, throw some money at it, and go back to being an entertainer. If you're going to write songs with political messages, at least make them catchy and fun to hear (see also Green Day and Manic Street Preachers) so people who don't give a whit about the deeper meanings can still enjoy them.

Coldplay has the right idea -- they support a number of causes, all of which are linked in unassuming fonts on their website, or written in tiny print at the back of their CD jackets, with the understated message "We think these are important causes, so please visit them". In their XM interview, the interviewer asked why they didn't incorporate political messages into their music like U2. Chris Martin responded by playing a few bars from Clocks with some new lyrics about Dick Cheney, and said something to the effect of, "We could do it, but no one wants to listen to that bullsh*t". Amen, brother. Just don't name your next kid Banana, and your band will be set to steal U2's self-proclaimed "Gods of Rock" title.

When I become a rock god, none of my money will go to established charities. Instead I will donate much of it to the "People I Like" Fund, to be spent as needed by its recipients. I think that donating money in a top-down fashion is inherently flawed because everyone between you and the guy that really needs it wants a piece of the pie. But, I also think that there isn't enough time or money in the world to make things better by donating directly to the people who need the money, so why not just shrug in a typical American fashion and pay off all my friends' loans?

"There are probably more annoying things than being hectored about African development by a wealthy Irish rock star in a cowboy hat, but I can't think of one at the moment." - Paul Theroux

Screech owl gets higher than a Georgia pine
You've got mail, and maybe gonorrhea
Cameras on the Dulles Toll Road are all fake

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Greatest Pictures of All Time

Today is another photo-journalism-oriented post. There is no conspiracy -- I'm not planning on becoming an Asian Bill Cosby (although I sure would love to own his pen). Picture posts merely allow me to maintain my continued extended work days (over thirty hours overtime each of the last three weeks) without chickening out of daily updates like I did in 2004. Plus, pictures are magically delicious and everyone loves a good picture.

Here then, are some of the more interesting pictures ever to dance across the pages of the URI! Zone, thematically sorted by row, mostly.

Since the day this post was written, the photos were moved to Picasa, and the links no longer resolve correctly.

Americans are, and have always been, skanky
Dinner with the Governor goes for $1
The investigation continues to snowball.

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Review Day

Pirates of the Caribbean 3: At World's End:
Weighing in at 2 hours and 48 minutes, this movie is too long and has a plot that's more complex than it needed to be. If the trilogy were rewritten to trim the plot fat and about an hour of playing time, this would have the potential be a classic trilogy like Back to the Future. The unnecessary bloat just makes me feel like it should have been a single movie (see also, The Matrix).

Final Rating: B-

First Snow:
This is another sufficiently artsy movie with Guy Pearce. From the initial voice-over, it feels like a spiritual successor to Memento, but the plot is much more straightforward and easy to follow. If a fortune teller predicts your imminent death, how do you use the remaining time before you go? Do you try to avoid it? Use the time to say goodbye? First Snow examines this question and in the process, gives Guy Pearce another chance to show how solid of an actor he is. Pretty suspenseful, though I didn't care for the ending. Then again, the whole point of the movie is that an ending is less important than the journey to get there.

Final Rating: B

Juno:
This movie could be summed up as a more indie, less vulgar version of Knocked Up. It's filled with snappy dialogue and touching little moments. Some reviewers have called it the next Little Miss Sunshinesque movie that steals all the Oscars. I thoroughly enjoyed it, though it didn't change my life.

Final Rating: A

MI-5: Season Two:
The second ten-episode season of MI-5 was slightly better than the first. The fifth episode, during which a dirty bomb goes off in London while MI-5 is locked down in an emergency drill situation, was a must-see and worthy of any of the best episodes of 24 or Alias, but the rest of the season was just dinner fodder -- good enough to watch over a meal but not good enough to watch two in a row. I probably won't watch the remaining seasons.

The show's score is really crappy electronic music that can't hold a candle to Michael Giacchino, and the DVDs easily win the award for most annoying non-interactive cutscenes between each click of a menu option. It takes a good thirty seconds just to load an episode.

Final Rating: B-

Super Mario Galaxy:
This is the Wii's "killer app" for any video gamer that doesn't just want to pretend to bowl all day long. When I think of the Super Mario franchise, I Nam-flashback to Mario 64, the first in the series to go 3D. That game was marred by horrible camera controls, poor depth perception, sluggish controls, and levels of ever-increasing frustrations. In Galaxy, almost every one of these issues has been addressed -- the camera is occasionally flaky, and touching lava still sends your character into an random uncontrollable bounce that makes the odds very likely you'll hit more lava -- but the end result is a fun, addicting product. This is the first Mario game in years that's made me want to continue playing just to see what comes next.

Worlds are never boring, and there are enough sidequests to keep play fresh without feeling gimmicky. The final collection of levels is the only really tricky batch -- playing these will make you feel like you're playing SMB3 again -- but they're all completely optional. Boss fights take a page from the Zelda playbook: you figure out the weaknesses of the boss and then perform some action two or three times. There are also fifteen additional "Purple Coin" challenges opened up after you beat the game, but I lacked to patience to get through more than a couple.

If you own a Wii, you SHOULD own this game.

Final Rating: A+

Couple forced to take in criminal lodger
Toilet worms can't be browned off
Lowe's has everything, even your mom

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Monday, December 20, 2010

Migraine Day

Update cancelled for migraine. This weekend, I went to a Game Night and a Christmas Party, and worked on my Museday Finale, which will be posted on Tuesday.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Museday Tuesday 2011 Wrap-up

Museday Tuesday is the feature I began five years ago which justifies the cost of my music degrees by forcing me to compose brief throwaway fragments throughout the year, based on randomly chosen adjectives for titles. Every December, readers vote upon the fragment they'd like to be expanded in longer works. After ignoring Evil Mike's yearly attempts to double vote, I bow to the wishes of the community by spinning out the original thirty second fragment into something about two minutes long.

Since 2007, I've composed 88 separate fragments and expanded five, ranging the (Mac)gamut of styles from Swing era jazz to music you'd only find on a senior clarinet recital. I now have 50 minutes worth of Museday Tuesday music which is enough for a self-titled debut album starring William Shatner, who will read the title and its definition before each fragment. Preorder now!

Iodized: (adj.) to treat, impregnate, or affect with iodine or an iodide

This year's final exam, affectionately known by its more informal title, Salt Baby, is based on the fragment I originally composed on August 9, 2011. The full work is scored for a medium string ensemble wrapped in the womb of an electronic rhythm section and garnished with a baritone saxophone and an overzealous first trumpeter.

  • Original Fragment (0:30 MP3)
  • Final Composition (1:46 MP3)

I was actually hoping that people wouldn't vote for this one. The brain dead rock stylings of the fragment were an immediate limitation, and the six note motive had already become annoying before I even attempted to spin it into something grander. I quickly realized that I would have to approach this from another angle, and started with the string introduction, which is built up from filler material in the original fragment. I also stretched incredularity by squeezing a I-IV-V bari sax solo between choruses. The concluding section started out more heavy metal, in my best Saliva impersonation, but gradually smoothed out into something more palatable as I gave it repeated listenings and realized it clashed too much with the beginning.

Enjoy!

Previous Museday Tuesday Wrap-ups

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Safety Not Guaranteed (R):
This is a light, understated comedy starring the actress from Parks and Recreation, Audrey Plaza. It tells the tale of local reporters investigating a man who thinks he can time travel, and is an indie film (in the sense that it cuts in as many random shots of the landscape as it does the protagonists). Its parts are better than its whole, but I got a few chuckles out of it.

Final Grade: B-

Culture Vultures by Orson:
I enjoyed Orson's CD, Bright Idea, a surprising amount. This one feels a little more homogenous without any standout hits. Good for background music.

Final Grade: B-

Chuck, Season Four:
I'm still surprised by how well Chuck has managed to sustain without irrevocably running a character or plotline into the ground. The shape of this season helps, with two shorter half-season arcs rather than an interminable grind full of filler episodes. I greatly enjoyed the guest appearances by Timothy Dalton, although Linda Hamilton really didn't bring anything to the table.

Final Grade: B+

Life of Pi (PG):
We saw this in the theatre after a delicious dinner of pork and egg noodles at A Taste of Burma. Rebecca really enjoyed the book, and I knew nothing about it because reading is for people without video games. The movie started strongly and kept me enthralled for about the first 2/3rds. After that, it catapulted across the fine line between embellished survival story to unbelievable allegory. The structure of the final scenes also completely deflated the tension and good will built throughout the movie. I don't know how they could have done the ending any better, but I know what I don't like.

Final Grade: C

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Friday, December 20, 2013

Holly Day

Updates will resume on the day after Christmas. I'm on vacation!

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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Top Reviews of 2017

Looking for content to consume like a dirty American consumer over the holidays? Check out my recommendations from this past year!

Movies

  • Okja (A) (Netflix)
  • Baby Driver (A-)
  • Hell or High Water (A-)
  • What Happened to Monday (B+) (Netflix)

Television Shows

  • Sneaky Pete, Season One (A-) (Amazon)
  • Patriot, Season One (A-) (Amazon)
  • Black Mirror, Season Three (A-) (Netflix)
  • iZombie, Season Three (A-) (Netflix)
  • American Vandal (B+) (Netflix)
  • Detectorists, Season One and Two (B+) (Netflix)
  • The Night Manager (B+) (Amazon)

Music

  • Cardboard Castles by Watsky (B+)
  • Mondo by Electric Guest (B+)
  • Lazy Fair by Bryce Vine (B+)
  • Off the Grid by Bliss n' ESO (B+)

Babies

  • Maia (A+)

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Friday, December 20, 2019

Top Reviews of 2019

Here are the experiences I gave the highest ratings to in 2019. Perfect for filling the Christmas week doldrums!

Television Shows

  • Dark, Season One and Two (A-, A) (Netflix)
  • Barry, Season One (A)
  • Dead to Me (A) (Netflix)
  • Russian Doll, Season One (A-) (Netflix)
  • Stranger Things, Season Three (A-) (Netflix)
  • 12 Monkeys, All Four Seasons (B, B+, A, A)
  • Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, Season One (B+) (Netflix)
  • i'm sorry, Season One and Two (B+, B+) (Netflix)

Movies

  • El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie (B+) (Netflix)
  • Dolemite is My Name (B+) (Netflix)
  • Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (B+) (Netflix)
  • Ralph Breaks the Internet (B+) (Netflix)

Music

  • Reset by e-dubble (B+)
  • Great Expanse by Hilltop Hoods (B+)
  • Simulation Theory by Muse (B+)
  • Kin by Electic Guest (B+)

Books

  • Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyou (B+)
  • Hello World: Being Human in the Age of Algorithms by Hannah Fry (B+)

Games

  • Grim Dawn (B+) (PC)

tagged as reviews | permalink | 0 comments

Monday, December 20, 2021

2021 Timeline

A smattering of events from 2021

January: B
  • COVID vaccines started trickling into our family.
  • Migrated an ancient forum into Discourse.
  • Started running again.
February: B
  • Got rid of the pool table.
March: B
  • Had the new patio constructed.
April: A
  • Got my COVID shots.
  • Built a nature trail in our common area.
  • Overhauled the official Don Maitz website.
  • Ian was born.
May: B+
  • Took the month off and was busy with Ian stuff.
  • Had the first and last poker game of the year.
June: B
  • Maia went to many summer camps.
July: B
  • Maia had three birthday parties and continued weekly summer camps.
  • Socialized like it was 2019.
August: B
  • Went to Sandbridge with the Smiths.
September: A-
  • Maia started preschool at Kids Under Construction
  • Turned 42 and got a new VR headset.
  • Passed the AWS Machine Learning - Specialty exam.
  • Hired a babysitter to watch the kids once every couple of weeks.
October: A-
  • Spent Halloween weekend at a house rental in Shannondale.
  • Did Halloween as the Berenstain Bears.
November: A-
  • Had two family Thanksgivings and a Friendsgiving.
  • Finished Puzzle Boat 8.
December: B+
  • Participated in Advent of Code.
  • First COVID quarantine event of the year.
  • Spent post-Christmas at a cabin in Waterford.

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