This Day In History: 12/22

Saturday, December 22, 2001

A Few Days Up North: Part III of III

After a leisurely breakfast of bacon and eggs, we got back on the road around 11:30 to head back to Virginia. Nikki had done all the highway driving the previous two days, so I offered to drive the whole way back. The weather was sunny but chilly, and there was only one major delay in Connecticut. In New York, we took the Tappan Zee Bridge back across the river (being the educated return travelers that we were) and avoided all the city traffic. New Jersey wasn't as fun since we hit the turnpike at the peak of rush hour, but it was probably better to hit that jam than a jam in New York or D.C. We finally got back to Montclair around eight in the evening, and I drove from there back to Alexandria after a quick pizza dinner. I got home to find my sister hadcome to visit with her boyfriend, two cats, and dog. Thus concludes my account, which was sadly devoid of any thrilling climactic moments.

Since then, I've been wrapping presents and reloading computers. There hasn't been any time for composing, but I don't even have a keyboard here to work with anyhow. I suppose I'll get enough time to edit my first movement in the week before school starts when I'm back in Tallahassee.

tagged as travel | permalink | 0 comments

Monday, December 22, 2003

We're at Ernie this week. Better watch your back.

I went to see the hemorrhoids-inducing Return of the King on Saturday, and generally it was a great movie. It lives up to the reputation of the first two movies, although you should be warned that it makes no attempt at all to catch viewers up on the storyline. As I've said before, I'm not a fan of the books, but the movies are able to stand on their own as solid material. Because the special effects were so uniformly excellent, there were at least two rough, unfinished scenes that were laughably noticeable (for example, watch the scene where a party of horsemen flee with the Black Gate behind them that just screams "green screen").

My only complaint is that they overused the cinematic fade-out at the end, making it feel like there were a billion tiny endings that just dragged the movie out. However, when the three movies are taken as a single unit, that extra non-climax time is probably essential to the momentum.

Here's a followup article on Bush's support of the gay marriage ban (see my December 18 news post for the original). It does a decent job of balancing various viewpoints, including the "Constution is not a moral document" idea and the difference between a marriage and a civil union. It also shows off how ignorant Joe Public can be when speaking with religious blinders on.

Yesterday's search terms:

    1v1 lost temple protoss vs terran strategy, bass note ledger lines, programmatic music, are there earthworms in hot dogs, chant and jubilo, da vinci homosexual, divine miracles, double parking in georgia illegal, jazz chord notation, mp3 trumpet arban, oak island money pit nova scotia located

I work Monday through Wednesday this week and then I'm off until next Monday.

Saddam was captured by Kurds, not US

tagged as reviews | permalink | 0 comments

Thursday, December 22, 2005

I was sitting down to write an update about the Audubon Quartet last night when I was interrupted with a call from work to give a presentation tomorrow on my recent superior cutting edge work (which is really just a bunch of portal files with some Java code, and not anything particularly noble or cancer-reducing, but don't tell that to the Nobel judges). Because of that diversion, today's post will be a montage of neat pictures from my past, which I've set aside in the course of my archiving efforts. I now have a third computer in the house: LLAMA is my main machine, MUSIC is, obviously, the MP3-playing computer in the basement, and KOALA is my permanent backup/archive machine. KOALA sits under the desk next to LLAMA and sometimes they pretend to be indigenous. The point of the story is that I've spent the last couple days sorting through and archiving all my old photos, with the secondary hope that I can redo the Photos page on this site to make it less annoying and more like Webshots (which is annoying, but also quite keen).


Georgia Tech Season Opener, 8/27/00Boston College, 10/00
This Hokie-coloured storm was even cooler in person. Photo courtesy of ESPN magazine or something.


Rose on the Beach, 10/13/01
I had taken my second trip down to Marsh Sands Beach to write "Happy Birthday Anna" in the sand for a birthday card and came across a dozen fake red roses washed up in the surf amongst all the mutant horseshoe crabs .


St. Mark's Lighthouse, Florida, 10/20/01
Taken in Florida when my parents came down to visit for the weekend. I was pulled over on this trip by a state trooper for going 45 in a 25/protected-animal zone but let off with a warning because my dad was twice as tall as the officer. In this picture, I'm abusing the Photoshop filter I read about over on dooce.com because it's so darn swell. Dooce is a very entertaining read in general -- go read it.


Mike and Chompy, 04/07/03
We ate dinner at Mike's a lot in an innocent era where the futon did not yet have AIDS from being gross. It might have just had a mild case of Chlamydia. Photo courtesy of Alex.


View from my Office, 12/02/03
This was taken back at the old office where I had a corner office with two walls of windows and a perfect sunrise view (since I worked from 5 AM to 1 PM). Too bad I had to share it with three other people and got the shafted middle spot. On my first monitor, you can see documentation for a crappy content management system which I read all day long for about a year before we cancelled the project because of a lack of anything good about it.


Jenni, 6/18/05
My favourite unrelated niece playing in the sand at Anna's wedding.


Booty and Amber, 12/21/05
My cats, taken about four hours ago. That's Booty in the background too, being all artistic and stuff. Amber is just autistic and stuff, and you can tell this because her new favourite game is to shut the bedroom door and then meow until I reopen it and let her out.

Happy Birthday Karen Hovell!
Riddle of "corpse bride" draws crowds
Nestler requested that Letterman stay at least 3 yards away and not "think of me, and release me from his mental harassment and hammering."
New Jersey: We can always use another relative on the payroll

tagged as media | permalink | 7 comments

Friday, December 22, 2006





Happy Birthday Karen Hovell!

Rosie spars with Trump
Sewage divers submerge in murky world
The popular pooping peasant of Spain

permalink | 5 comments

Monday, December 22, 2008

Hollyday

In the spirit of giving, I have donated today's post to my loyal readers. Are you going somewhere fun this week? Do you have a deep dark secret from Christmas Past? Do you just want a chance to bestow the merry on other readers or confess your yuletide crushes? Head to the Comments section and share your Seasons' Greetings, your favourite recipes, or your most embarassing Christmas story.

In particular, today's post is dedicated to all the lurkers who visit regularly but never comment. Make your grand entrance by saying hello and meeting some new friends (since the URI! Zone is the LinkedIn of the slacker world) -- you might even discover true love (or at least a one-email-stand).

If I get thirty unique commenters who aren't just Mike spoofing different names, I'll even toss in a Christmas present of my own -- a $10 gift certificate to Amazon.com to be given to a lucky commenter chosen by a random number generator!

Father offers daughter to shoe-thrower
Mother protests one-sided suspension
Zoo drops brussel sprouts to prevent gorilla farts

tagged as you speak | permalink | 16 comments

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Museday Tuesday Wrap-up

Supernatant (1:57 MP3)

This short piece is an extended version of the Museday fragment written on June 2, 2009.

The piece is written for woodwinds, strings, and some rangly-jangly percussion effects. I wrote it over the course of a week, generally spending about two hours at a time on it. Even though I had to end it to fit in the two-minute bubble, I feel like there are plenty more ideas to expand upon in this fragment, and it seems a little reminiscent of my Master's Thesis.

The original fragment can be heard here. Merry Christmas!

Man pays 72 dollars for a taco
Biblical bedroom billboard rouses ire
The 87 lamest tech moments of the decade (because it would be too hard to come up with 90)
How would you rate Supernatant?

0 stars: Better music births in my armpit. (0 votes, 0.0%)

1 star: Even a monkey will eventually play a major scale. (0 votes, 0.0%)

2 stars: If there's nothing else on the radio... (0 votes, 0.0%)

3 stars: A great song with great skills. (3 votes, 50.0%)


4 stars: Pulitzer-worthy. (3 votes, 50.0%)


tagged as museday | permalink | 0 comments

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Stuff In My Drawers Day: Classic Movies


Evil Mike and Jon Ahlbin may think they first met two weekends ago, but they were both present for the inaugural Sterling Poker Night on April 2, 2004.


BU composes a song in the style of David Gray, January 12, 2006

Bowser teaches us that seizures can be fun party activities, March 18, 2006


Jack W. punches a duck (and Annie dresses herself), September 15, 2008
Spy Anna Chapman 'to lead youth wing of Putin's party'
Taylor police catch suspected bank burglar snarfing on M&M's
New Mexico governor to weigh Billy the Kid pardon

tagged as media | permalink | 2 comments

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Review Day: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Thank goodness Skyrim came out, because I was sick of digging holes in Terraria but just couldn't stop myself. This big-budget role-playing game is easily the most fun I've had with a game in years. It is flawed, but the game generates a lot of good will against these flaws through its fun factor.

I've now played through the game about one and a half times, once as a sneaky mage that could steal all of your jewels and then surprise you with a fireball, and then once as a pure thief/archer character. I am obsessive about mapping in these games, and on my first pass through, I decided to explore every inch of the map and beat every available dungeon before proceeding too far into the main storyline -- it probably took me about 100 hours to see and do everything the game had to offer.

The world of Skyrim is as close as you can come to a living world in a game. It feels like the land and the people continue to exist even when you aren't questing. One example of this craft is an abandoned lighthouse filled with journals of the former lighthouse keepers. As you explore the lighthouse, you learn that they were hearing strange noises in the basement before they disappeared, and you finally uncover the cause of their deaths in an underground burrow behind the cellar. What makes this amazing is that you might never visit this lighthouse in the course of the game -- it's there for the discovering, and is one of many such mini-stories. Most game designers would probably be so thrilled that they made this mini-story that they'd send you past the lighthouse as part of your main quest, just so their work would be noticed.

The main storyline is decent and not cringe-worthy, but it takes up a very small portion of playtime. If you run the main storyline and nothing else, you'll miss most of the best content in the game, from joining the Thieves' Guild to recovering artifacts for ancient crazy gods. I liked the story, but was underwhelmed by the brevity of the ending, which is essentially equivalent to a 1980s "THANKS FOR PLAYING!" screen that then kicks you back into the world to keep playing.

The graphics and sound are top-notch, and go a long way towards immersion. It ran smoothly on my somewhat-new system and only stuttered in a cave filled with about 50 waterfalls. The voice-acting is decent, although one of the voice actors has a raspy voice and is noticeably reused for over twenty characters. I tend to turn on text and read the dialogue anyhow, because I always get impatient.

The leveling and skill systems are an interesting experiment that boils down the usual numbers games into health, magic, and stamina. Rather than picking a class upfront, your skills improve as you use them more often, so you can create any sort of character you want. (Although you can spend hours adjusting the width and height of your character's NOSE, it's a wasted effort because you're rarely watching your own face during the game). If you start out swinging two-handed swords and then realize that swords are dumb, you can easily switch over to magic rather than restart your game from the beginning. There is no discernable Good/Evil system -- but you can pretend that there is one by selecting different dialogue options (that usually end up with the same result). The skill trees are half-baked, as some perk selections are obviously better than others, and some skills, like lockpicking, feel essential even if you don't want to roleplay that way. The UI for the skill trees is easily the worst UI ever designed, and might have been some art design major's senior Flash project.

The UI in general is the weakest piece of Skyrim. Since this game was released on the XBox 360 and the PS3 at the same time as the PC, the PC interface (keyboard + mouse) seems tacked on. It's amazing how unresponsive they've made the mouse, especially when clicking directly on dialogue options. The character management screens are an unending parade of menus and submenus which make it impossible to sort your goods, compare items, or have much situational awareness about your condition (when you're poisoned, it shows up in a completely unintuitive location). On the PC, some of these woes are alleviated through addons like QD Inventory, but I feel like they tried to hide too many numbers for immersion's sake and went too far.

The in-game maps are useless, since everything is in 3D. You can toggle between an up-close map with too much detail to figure out what's going on, and a high-level 3D world map that is covered with artistic clouds and hides many landmarks behind mountains. A top-down map for the overworld, coupled with a 3D map for dungeons (like the Wii Metroid series) would had been much more useful. However, you'll rarely ever get lost in a dungeon, as there's usually only one path to the end. Dungeons get bonus points for having shortcut paths back to the beginning so you don't spend all your time backtracking after killing a boss.

People always say that games made by Bethesda are immensely buggy, but I haven't seen as many game-breaking bugs as others. When you partner with computer characters for quests, they have the bad habit of standing in the way of your fireballs and then complaining when they burn, but that's a problem in every game with escort quests ever. Most of the bugs I saw came from exploring places before I was sent there for quests, but I was able to get around these issues with console commands. I also experienced at least one crash-to-desktop per day, but Skyrim has the fastest save/load system ever, so it was no skin off my back to restart the game. It's a far cry from the Ultima 7 Part 2 days where a crash to desktop meant waiting four minutes and forty-two seconds to reload (I timed it).

Ultimately, the fun factor of this game is what makes it worth the price. Skyrim is a highly replayable single-player RPG which is wholly open-ended without just being a sandbox game. Whether I was trying to shoot a dragon out of the sky with just a bow and arrow, burglarizing every house in Riverwood, or sleuthing after a serial killer in Windhelm, I was always having a great time.

Final Grade: A-

Skyrim: Prima Official Game Guide:
I haven't bought a printed gaming guide since the ancient days of Quest for Clues, where you had to buy a bundled set of 24 game walkthroughs to read about the single game you actually owned. In the days of Google, GameFAQs, and WoWHead, print guides are obsolete. However, this guide is easily worth its $17 price tag (cheaper than many Kindle books these days). It's a jam-packed 656 pages with tiny fonts, detailing every quest, cavern, and item in the game, right down to the hidden chest you might find in a tree stump in the middle of nowhere.

The care and effort that went into this game guide shows, and its checklists are very useful for keeping all of the information straight. I used it more to keep track of things than to figure out where to go next, but whenever I was stuck, I always found the answers here. The book is a little hard to search, and there are a few minor errors (like levers that are actually on opposite walls) but I would definitely recommend it.

Final Grade: A-

tagged as reviews, games | permalink | 2 comments

Monday, December 22, 2014

Weekend Wrap-up

Friday: Stayed in playing Hearthstone with Mike while Rebecca went to a going away party in Arlington for a friend moving to Ballard who'll be working at the EMP Museum.

Saturday: Put into practice the concepts of a FIFO queue by arriving at Costco at 8:55 for their annual unpublished holiday season early-open, and left with all of my purchases by 9:10 (doors usually open at 9:30). Started on a little composing / trumpet project which I'll post later this week. In the evening, we relaxed at Old Ox Brewery where we had a flight paired with some cheesy polenta with mushrooms, freshly prepared at a "food truck" that was actually a permanent tent within the warehouse. Hit the East Juniper Avenue Christmas lights afterwards, but we were not impressed this year.

Sunday: Worked on my musical project for most of the day and also watched the movie, In a World.... Had dinner at Thai by Thai and then drove up Algonquin to find the mythical Christmas lights that Rebecca had heard about. Found said lights, which have probably caused many accidents and brown outs along that stretch of the road.

Up Next: I'm on vacation for the next two weeks, so I'll just be lazing around reading Janny Wurts books and working on my musical project. Next week, I plan on starting the materials for an Amazon Web Services certification, since it has now been 3 years since I was HADOOP-en. Fear not, if you are stuck at work, because I will update the URI! Zone every day except for this Friday!

tagged as day-to-day | permalink | 0 comments

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Stuff in My Drawers Day

I drew this picture in January 1987 as a third grader in Ms. Paul's art class. Judging from the limited color palette, there was either a paucity of crayons left in the bin, or I was emulating the EGA graphics cards of the era. I'm also not sure why there's a giant dwarf sun on the dying horizon, or a secondary one higher up in the sky.

tagged as media | permalink | 2 comments

Friday, December 22, 2017

Maia Week #24 Battle Report

Maia is now 24 weeks old, 15 pounds heavy, and 1000 IQ smart. She has progressed quickly in the sitting department, going from your basic tripod pose a couple days ago to being able to sit up independently just yesterday. We have two loaner cats visiting us this week, and their antics have given Maia some extra incentive to sit up.

Life has progressed pretty normally since the Week 21 report -- the main difference is that we do our daily nature walks in the Dulles Town Center whenever the outdoor temperature drops below the 40s. There are fewer wildlife options in the mall but more chances for daddy fries from the food court.

We're staying local for the holidays and I'm off work for a couple weeks, so it should be a pretty relaxing close-out to 2017. Our friend, Sara, is also staying in our basement for the holidays so we will probably just abandon the baby with her for a couple weeks and hit up Adams Morgan.

Incidentally, these Battle Reports are not as thorough as I had originally planned for them to be, simply because I'm not great about writing things down as they occur to me -- instead, each report is just whatever fragmented thoughts I happen to remember the night before I post, frantically typed as Maia tries to add letters. I should hire a stenographer to follow me around and write down baby milestones. I think I once had that same idea for the melodies I invent as I walk around the house (now hiring: freshman music majors that can take dictation in tenor clef for an unpaid internship).

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

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Memory Day: Snapshots

This picture was taken 21 years ago, on December 25, 2000.

I was home from my fifth year of undergrad and my sister was home from being a Charlottesville townie. We both arrived with cats (Kitty for me, Leia and Oliver for her) to stage a battle royale around my parents' house. You can tell that we had not lived in this house full-time for several years now, as the office in the background had mostly become my dad's tuba storage and practice room.

My freshman roommate's stepmom bought me that shirt for Christmas in 1996 and I wore it every Christmas until it disintegrated, somewhere in the early aughts.

tagged as memories | permalink | 1 comment

 

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