02/2003

Saturday, February 01, 2003

The New Music Festival is merrily rolling along. I've gone to three concerts so far and they've all had their good points, although the student works' concert was incredibly long. The Penderecki Quartet performed four string quartets last night and sounded excellent, despite a violinist with inebriated Muppet performance syndrome. I also think I've discovered a reliable formula to creating contemporary music, which requires equal parts of the following musical fragments:

  • silence followed by a Schwanter-esque piano hook and Schwanter-esque percussion use
  • a solo flute playing a melody with a contour similar to a cross section of the Himalayan Mountains' topography
  • violin, or multiple strings, with bowings slow and raspy enough to imitate Florence Foster Jenkins with laryngitis
  • Feedback from one or more hearing aids turned up too high
  • An occasional tutti unison to fake out the audience with tonic. Or is it?
  • People coughing

What happened to the shuttle Columbia during the concert was a tragedy. I can still remember being a first grader in the library for "Reading is Fundamental" when Challenger exploded in 1986 (I was looking through the Berenstein Bears books for one I didn't have, and there were TVs set up so students could watch the launch). The Bush administration threw the "terrorism" keyword into the mix at the outset, but luckily they've been well-behaved so far and haven't declared war on the axis of space.

Happy Chinese Lunar New Year. Apparently it's the Year of the Sheep.

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Sunday, February 02, 2003

The problem with "amorphous solid" music is that the lack of a pulse or even a sense of forward drive eliminates the incentive to stay focused on the piece. It becomes easy to slip in and out of conscious attention to the music, and one starting point becomes as good as the next. The phenomenon can almost be compared to movie scores, except that those scores are supposed to function in that way as an ulterior support to something else going on. Of course rhythmic interest isn't the only solution or the surefire solution to combat this, but it's probably the most accessible way to retain the audience.

I think I've heard enough flute and chamber strings now to last me for the rest of the year.

North Korea is down with the thesaurus

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Monday, February 03, 2003

I watched the movie Signs this weekend, which was "okay" but not spectacular. The pacing was almost as slow as Unbreakable and the pay-off was rather silly, though the movie was classic Shyamalan. Good for a couple hours of entertainment.

Last night's Alias was good. Ethan Hawke guest starred and fought his clone, and Christian Slater will be guest starring next week. Watch it more and maybe I'll stop gushing over it every week.

Waste hours of your life. I'm on level 40.
CNN has good lead as to cause of shuttle crash
We need this in Tallahassee

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Tuesday, February 04, 2003

I finished editing the parts for my string quartet, and it's ready for submission to the nebulous ill-defined quartet competition that they have here every year. I still think legal-sized paper is goofy-looking, although it makes for some nice page turns.

The basketballers lost to Craven Moorehead, 59-39 last night. We're obviously improving, since our last matchup with them had a pretty score of 47-15.

There's a Tallahassee Winds concert tonight at 7:30. You should go -- I hear they're giving away free food at intermission.

Crazy Michael Jackson in the spotlight Thursday
Bush kills library, then proclaims Library Appreciation Month

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Wednesday, February 05, 2003

Practica Musica Sucks

Practica Musica is easily the most poorly-designed software I've ever used. In general, it seems that software designed by or for musicians tends to be unintuitive or slipshod (consider early versions of Finale), but here it's especially unacceptable since the program is billed as educational software. PM's interface actually interferes with the learning process and more often than not it prevents students from translating what they want to answer into an expected canned response. Even on the instructors' end, the class report scheme (coupled with a Quit menu option than seems to mean different things at different times) makes more work than it should.

We used MacGamut when I was an undergrad, and while it may not be as customizable as PM, I'd recommend it any day over this tripe. I'm almost inspired enough to add "write ear training software" to my long list of future activities. If you're ever a full professor somewhere, check back on that idea -- maybe I'll give you a discount if I like you.

I've never understood why programmers don't apply the same simple strictures of human-computer interaction that are used with normal software. Consider, for example, Finale's shape editing tool. If you want to crescendo a particular amount, you have to create a graphical shape that matches the contour of the crescendo magnitude and then fit it to the occasion by inputting a numeric ratio for time scale and level scale. Finally you have to match that shape to the MIDI controller responsible for Volume (that's controller 7, geek-y). Wouldn't it have been more intuitive to have a dialog box which said "Crescendo from 50 (pp) to 120 (ff) steadily over 8 beats"? Then you could have drop-down boxes to change the underlined parts.

Then you have the cases of software that gets away with being buggy simply because it's the only game in town. Back in my drill-writing phase, the de facto drill software was Pyware and then Pyware 3D. I worked with that software over the course of three versions, and every one of them would fatally crash if you moved a particular rank formation across a yard line in a certain way. The company (which was probably one guy) kept putting out new versions for hundreds of dollars (the current price is $600 I believe) but this one little bug never got fixed. This revealed that the programmer probably based all his future enhancements on some shoddy baseline and didn't want to stop cashing his royalty checks to ensure its soundness.

Tallahassee Winds put on a good concert last night. I enjoy listening to wind bands -- it carries me back to old Virginny and all the ensembles I used to play in.

Soon I will never have to drive to FL again

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Thursday, February 06, 2003

The basketballers lost to Maxx Attack, 51-27 (previous matchup was 46-22). It's still fun to play even if we don't win much. Myself, I just enjoy foolishly sprinting everywhere in hopes of stealing the ball with my magnetic fingers.

I really don't have anything useful to say today, so this is all you get. I've met my quota of scathing diatribes and posts about music. I'll write a limerick or something tomorrow to make up for it.

It's never good to have your picture with the caption 'As Slow As Possible'
Student sues to avert crisis of astronomical proportions

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Friday, February 07, 2003

Having futzed around with my new GameCube for a couple weeks now, I thought I'd post a review or two. I picked up Luigi's Mansion as a rental last week -- it was the flagship offering when the GameCube was released last year. The game is a perfect distraction that effectively shows off the graphics of the GameCube. Though the sound is weak (there's little music, and characters talk in the gibberish-style popularized by Gobliiins a decade ago), the visuals and animations are extremely well-done. The game is essentially a side-scrolling puzzle game which involves being a ghostbuster in a haunted mansion. By fixing the camera to a specific perspective, the game manages to avoid the horrible camera problems that plagued Mario 64. Controlling Luigi takes some getting used to, but it's fun enough while it lasts. Just when the game starts to get repetitive and annoying, you've reached the final boss and the game is over.

The game's biggest weakness is definitely its length (I finished it in under two days), and since it's still selling for $50 retail, this would be a good choice for rental. Puzzles are either completely arbitrary or solvable through trial-and-error, but there's absolutely no replay value to the game. Right now, I'm inching towards the end of Metroid Prime, which could easily be the best console game I've played since the Super NES days.

Microsoft continues to do stupid things
Vacuums > Crabs (don't watch this if you flinch a lot)

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Saturday, February 08, 2003

I finally posted the source code to the Monopulator on the Coding page (under Current Project). I never got around to the enhancements I wanted to make, such as implementing JSpinners and reducing the duplicated code between panels, since the Monopoly fad seems to have died out. Still, if you're a novice programmer looking for a cheap example of using ChangeEvents to update a GUI it might be worth a minute to download.

Now that my thesis is essentially done and my quartet is ready to send out, my next big project will be a crash course in XML and the Java API's that support it. I'm gearing up to do the major work on the Music Fundamentals applications that I planned out last semester, and hopefully that will propel me on into late March or so. After that, I'll be diving back into the alphabet soup of PHP, mySQL, and Servlets so I can put into action all the zany ideas I have for this site (sometime after I'm back in VA). If those clowns at Disney would stop cybersquatting all the variants on www.llamaboy, I could move sooner, but the names don't expire until the end of 2003.

I guess I could do some composing too. If I started now though, it would sound like Thesis, Part 1.5.

Colin Powell breaks honour code
Michael Jackson in support of evolution theory

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Sunday, February 09, 2003

This afternoon I rearranged my bedroom while listening to the first five symphonies of Prokofiev (who says composers don't live the exciting life?). My work area is against the opposite wall now so I can look out the window at the dead people in the cemetary while I sit at my desk. Who knows, the fact that they're great at decomposing may help me improve at composing.

    Arnold Schoenberg was born on September 13, 1874 and believed he would probably die on the 13th as well. Which month and year? Probably, he decided, on a Friday the 13th, and most likely in 1951 when he was 76 (7 + 6 = 13). That year, July 13 fell on a Friday and Schoenberg stayed in bed all day, awaiting death. Late that night, his wife went to his room to check on him and scold him for wasting the day so foolishly. When she opened the door, Schoenberg looked up at her, uttered the single word "harmony", and dropped dead. Time of death: 11:47 PM, 13 minutes before midnight.
    - UJBR

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Monday, February 10, 2003

I watched two movies this weekend, Monster's Ball and Bourne Identity. The first didn't do a great job of getting its point across, and was filled with multiple plot-convenient coincidences, although the acting was good. The second had its fun points but was very quiet for an action movie, and occasionally the actors didn't seem quite sure of their motivations.

I had the first two of four meetings about my thesis preliminary draft today. It looks like things should be smooth sailing from here on out, since the only points that were discussed involved formatting and clearing up performance notes.

True Anagrams:

  • The United States Bureau of Fisheries >> I raise the bass to feed us in the future
  • "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." - Neil A. Armstrong >> A thin man ran, makes a large stride, left planet, pins flag on moon! On to Mars!
  • The hospital ambulance >> A cab, I hustle to help man
  • A domesticated animal >> Docile, as a man tamed it
  • Why shouldn't America go re-elect President Clinton in Ninety-Six? >> He has a prime or cunning tendency to wildly solicit Internet sex.
  • Just because some of us can read and write and do a little math, that doesn't mean we deserve to conquer the universe. [Kurt Vonnegut] >> A masquerade can cover a sense of what is real to deceive us; to be unjaded and not lost, we must, then, determine truth.
  • There is only one thing worse than being talked about and that is not being talked about. [Oscar Wilde] >> Wilde died broken, beaten 'n' total nut. Hate being sunk in that rotten gaol. Shh, gay is taboo.
  • To be or not to be: that is the question, whether tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. >> In one of the Bard's best-thought-of tragedies, our insistent hero, Hamlet, queries on two fronts about how life turns rotten.

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  • Tuesday, February 11, 2003

    FOX laughed all the way to the bank with their episode of Joe Millionaire last night. After successfully billing it as the show where the winner gets picked, they lured 23 million Nielsen viewers into an hour-long commercialfest and recap show that did absolutely nothing to further the events of the show, and then advertised that the real final show would be next week.

    At least FOX knows how to milk its shows though. Next weekend, Daredevil with Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck is being released to much ballyhoo (associated with FOX of course) and Jennifer is also hosting SNL. But rather than use the opportunity to promote their one drama that doesn't suck, ABC has decided to postpone it for one week, and will show a made-for-TV version of The Music Man with Matthew Broderick instead. Another Alias star, Victor Garber, is also in the production, but of course they never mention him at all in the numerous plugs during the last episode of Alias.

    It was a pretty slow day in the sweatshop on Sunday, so for kicks I did a throwaway arrangement of the overworld theme from Super Mario Brothers 2 for a small panoply of winds and percussion. It's easily the cheeriest song ever written (even beating Sibelius' 5th).

    Theme (MP3 791KB)
    ZIP of Finale File (57 KB)

    Bush or Chimp?
    Wacky things from the mouth of Jackson

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    Wednesday, February 12, 2003

    I've discovered that I have an innate talent to draw out sales (much like my other talent of drawing out speed trap cops who like to zoom out behind me for a half mile before pulling a fake-out and turning off again). Everytime I buy a fairly expensive console system or piece of hardware, the company will enact a permanent discount or offer rebates on future purchases. Had I waited until now to pick up that GameCube, I could have saved about $60 on what I bought. Back in yesteryear, I bought a new N64 for $100 right before they permanently discounted it to $60.

    If you have any use for this talent, please contact me so I can send you my curriculum vitae.

    The basketballers lost to Solid Waste Express last night, 94 - 29. They were a lot of fun to play with though, and didn't take the game too seriously.

    Congressman King vies for Diplomatic Position
    A bunch of movies I've never seen nominated for Oscars

    "Hotness is pretty much physical. You're not gonna talk to some girl that's ugly. I don't usually date girls long enough to know their personalities anyway." - Ryan, contestant of ABC's new reality show, "Are You Hot?".

    "Have you guys played Maxx Attack yet? Did they run around the court like this? [pantomimes classic crybaby sign] That dude [points to guy in earshot] has gotta be the cryingest motherf_cker ever." - Solid Waste Express team member on #5 Maxx and his team, Maxx Attack (paraphrased)

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    Thursday, February 13, 2003

    It's interesting to note how much aural recall can be affected by other sensory cues. I've been trying sharpen my cold pitch memory for kicks, by thinking about how a familiar song begins (on the way home from school, so there are no guides to cheat with). Invariably I'll get it completely wrong, right up until the instant that I load the MP3 or CD and am about to hit Play. As soon as I prep for that motion of pressing the button, I can anticipate and recognize the pitch that will result.

    I've noticed this phenomenon with CDs that I play a lot as well (or mix CDs). If I've become used the song that follows the one just played, I can reconstruct it in my head, even if the CD is on random play. Some theorist should do a study on sensory cues and steal my diligent research.

    Congratulations to Mike, who was the 6000th visitor to the URI! Domain yesterday. Mike was also the 5000th visitor back in November, so apparently he doesn't have a whole hell of a lot to do.

    Gaming is good for you
    O'Reilly values robust debate

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    Friday, February 14, 2003

    It's time for another four day weekend. I finished off my XML research towards the end of the week here and will spend the weekend designing the interface between the Music Fundamentals Shockwave apps and the web browser. Essentially, the apps will report on the progress of the student user after every activity. The web page where the app is hears this report and tells another program to record that information to a student progress file. I haven't decided whether to do this with an applet, a servlet, or more Shockwave yet, so if you have any suggestions, please let me know.

    This first half should take about a month to code and test. Once it's sound, I'll start the second half, which involves writing an Instructor tool to quickly tabulate student files in meaningful ways. Hopefully my final product will be better than the chicken-feces approach used in Practica Musica.

    The basketballers beat PBS&J last night 120-105. Or not so much "beat" as "lost to", and not so much "120" as "20".

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    Saturday, February 15, 2003

    I've put my name in the title bar of the website now, in hopes of boosting my relevance on Google. Several casual visitors arrive here by searching for my name in Google, and this site is always seventh on the list after some interactive fiction, the young composers' site, and the random newsgroup thread on Digest Universal Resource Identifiers.

    There's supposed to be over ten inches of snow this weekend up in Alexandria. It almost makes me feel bad to live in a clime where today's high will be 76 degrees.

    Here's another remix of an old Nintendo theme, just for kicks (as always):
    Theme from Zelda 2: Adventures of Link (MP3 1.46MB)
    ZIP of Finale File (68 KB)

    "Who Wants to Marry My Mom?" dispels myth that networks have run out of ideas
    Microsoft blocked Opera users. Opera responds with "Bork bork bork!"
    Mike Myers in "Gone with the Wind"

    Fun Fact about Fading Out:
    Fade-outs became widespread in the United States as the result of a trade survey in the early fifties. This showed that when records were played on jukeboxes, people felt more inclined to replay a record that faded out because it left a subconscious feeling that you hadn't completely heard it. - UJBR

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    Sunday, February 16, 2003

    I'm taking a break from my Fundamentals work while I brainstorm some solutions to an obstacle, so I dusted off some work I did last summer on a melodic pattern recognizer. The only parts I actually finished were the data structures for intervals and pitches, and enharmonic rules. With this code, the computer can create a variety of scales from any given note and determine enharmonic equivalents to any pitch. I've posted an applet that shows this off for the desperately bored (requires a Java plug-in, like the Monopulator, and will probably be slow to load).

    After picking a scale type, you get a list of scales built on each of twelve starting pitches. Clicking on one of those scales brings up two more panels. The left panel shows the computer's thought process for deciding what to call some enharmonic pitch (if it ever saw a Dbb in C Major, it would replace it with a C). The right panel shows how the computer would interpret MIDI pitch numbers, based on the key signature (MIDI pitch #2 could be called Db or C# depending on the key, of course).

    It looks pretty underwhelming when you just fiddle around with the applet. The part that's cool (in a geeky way) is that none of it is hard-coded: all the logic is based on an arbitrary set of rules that the computer follows each time it encounters a pitch or interval. So at some rudimentary level, the computer understands the difference and context of a minor third versus an augmented second.

    This was as far as I got before the summer ended and I became a musician again.

    Bonus points for anyone who can identify the Nintendo theme I remixed today:
    Remix (MP3, 1.14MB)
    ZIP of Remix Finale File (62 KB)

    The VT music server is running pretty slowly today, so be patient.

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    Monday, February 17, 2003

    I had my meeting with the Clearance Advisor this morning to review my thesis. If you're in the School of Music, you may want to know that all submissions have to be in an electronic format (even though the School of Music doesn't actually say that anywhere). Make sure you're aware of this before you pay the $30 binding fee and before you buy the special copier paper to print your stuff. Bastards.

    I wrote a bunch of letters of recommendation for my students who were reapplying to live in the music country club next year. I've always been of the opinion that a letter of recommendation should be positive, or at the very worst, neutral. The whole purpose a student would ask for a letter is to be shown in a good light, and I've never understood people who write scathing letters which simply backstab the person in question. If you don't feel comfortable contributing a positive spin to a student, you probably don't have any business writing a letter. I would turn down a student before I wrote horrible things about their study habits and lineage.

    The sudden change in temperature and the massive thunderstorm this weekend sealed all of my envelopes shut. I think it's a sign to stop writing letters and paying bills.

    Yesterday's remix was the theme from the old Nintendo game, Rygar.

    I don't live here right now.
    It's easy to plant false memories
    Yoko Ono still tinkering

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    Tuesday, February 18, 2003

    There was an article about Professor Rating sites on CNN which piqued my curiousity, so I looked up a few old professors that I had at Virginia Tech. The first I found was a CS professor I had for CS1704: Intro to Data Structures in 1997. His comments section is pretty much dead on -- it was his arrogance and personality (that continued to show up in other people in the field) that made me leery about having a career in CS in the first place. I remember thinking, do I really want to work with a guy like this for the rest of my life? Luckily, post-undergrad opportunities showed me how skewed the population is on campus versus in a company.

    The second professor was the one I had for a year of written theory and five years of trumpet lessons. It too is dead on, although I'm not sure I want to know why that rater has been in college for 9 years.

    Top 15 Funniest Ratings on RateMyProfessors.com:

    • 15. Emotional scarring may fade away, but that big fat F on your transcript won't.
    • 14. The movies he shows are so bad even he has to leave the room.
    • 13. Miserable professor - I wish I could sum him up without foul language.
    • 12. Instant amnesia walking into this class. I swear he breathes sleeping gas.
    • 11. BORING! But I learned there are 137 tiles on the ceiling.
    • 10. Not only is the book a better teacher, it also has a better personality.
    • 9. Teaches well, invites questions and then insults you for 20 minutes.
    • 8. I would like to dequeue her stack.
    • 7. Not a very nice woman. I'd even go so far as to say she's frightening.
    • 6. Very good course, because I only went to one class.
    • 5. He will destroy you like an academic ninja.
    • 4. Bring a pillow.
    • 3. Your pillow will need a pillow.
    • 2. If I was tested on her family, I would have gotten an A.
    • 1. She hates you already.

    My favourite is #5, but I'd be denying my aberrant sense of humour if I didn't mention that I think #8 is hilarious.

    The Hand Puppet Movie Theatre

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    Wednesday, February 19, 2003

    One thing I'm going to miss about leaving music as a career is the relative cost of books and research materials. As a software engineer, you have to constantly keep up with new technologies, and the books required to self-teach those skills can run anywhere from $30 to $60. For my current project, I have eight books on different langauges, programs, and technologies on my shelf. All of them will be speaking to others at some point in the life of the project and none of them are replaceable (I even have a ninth book on the way from Amazon that covers some spots I was shady in). For the cost of just those eight books, I could have eaten seventy-two delicious meals at Popeye's, or rented eighty-six movies at Blockbuster.

    It's true that music supplies are expensive too, but there are only so many books you can buy on orchestration. At the end of the day you can rest assured that no one's going to suddenly discover a new note in the ass crack between B and C that's never been heard before. CDs cost a fair amount as well, but you can listen to those indefinitely. When I finish my project, I'm not going to go back and read my textbooks for pleasure while eating potato chips in a hammock.

    My job is like War Games
    Google as Big Brother

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    Thursday, February 20, 2003

    I put in a solid seven hours of work on my MFIT project yesterday and got most of the basic data structures completed. I'm going to try and do a lot this weekend and post an applet for you all to toy with on Sunday. At this point, it will do little more than create and view XML files for fake freshmen. By the way, MFIT stands for Music Fundamentals Instructor's Tool. If my acronyms were any more ingenious I might hurt myself.

    My ploy with Google worked -- the URI! Domain is now ranked second on searches for my name. Some people might say it's cheating, but really, what else could you possibly be looking for when you put "Brian Uri!" in a search engine? By the way, FSU's SCI chapter is now the top match for "Society Composers Student Chapter" on the web and I didn't even pull any fast ones. Booyah.

    I've put up a few snow pictures my dad sent me on the Photos page. Expand the first collapsible menu and scroll all the way down. That's my mom, the ninja, in today's news picture.

    US Army as good with acronyms as I am
    Stupid Americans continue to jump on the French-bashing bandwagon

    SEND IT TO THE GLUE FACTORY!!! - scrawled on a sign advertising a cat for sale in my apartment complex

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    Friday, February 21, 2003

    I had my classes rock out to this dictation example yesterday (MP3, 455KB). Novelty value aside, it's an excellent example for demonstrating how useful audiation can be. It's also rife with scalar patterns and logical progressions. Both classes actually did pretty well with it, once the initial fear of so many leaps left them. My students are getting better with intervals too, although the most common mistake is to identify a major seventh as a tritone. Someone should do research on why this mistake happens so often. Alternately, Alex could tell me where it's already been done.

    The basketballers lost to Lucy Ho's, 24-107 last night. Nothing more can be said.

    Teenager traps internet thief
    Ebay as big brother
    Conviction in brave bird murder
    Yale grad students a bunch of pampered clowns
    Zora in love with the horse

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    Saturday, February 22, 2003

    I never post anything particularly thought-provoking on weekends, so I thought I'd continue the trend and throw up some more reviews. I read The Summons by John Grisham over Christmas break. John Grisham only writes potboilers these days, but he's like the McDonald's of the literary world: a good choice when you know exactly what you want and how it should taste, even if it's not the best food ever. The Summons is a good page-turner that actually strays a bit from his usual "shoot-and/or-chase-the-lawyer" plots. It keeps you involved although it won't take more than one day tops to get to the end. Unlike The Partner, the threads of the plot are actually resolved in an agreeable way by the end and the plot twist is cute if not particularly surprising. Buy it for a light, enjoyable time waster and you won't go wrong.

    I finally beat Metroid Prime for the GameCube on Thursday. It's one of those rare games that does everything right, and is easily the best game, computer or console, I've played in a long time. I played the original Metroid for the NES long ago but never actually owned it, so I didn't really have any grandiose expectations going in. However, the game catches your attention early on and immerses you in the world regardless of whether you've played any prequels. From the beginning there's a constant wow factor, and the little touches (like swarms of vermin pouring out of ventilation ducts as a spaceship's explosion is imminent) show that a lot of time was put into this game. Black & White also had a wow factor, but this game differs because that special quality never wears off! The game is continuously mixing it up with new areas and new equipment. Control is incredibly receptive although it's sometimes hard to turn around quickly in battle. This is more a problem of console shooters in general -- if this were a computer game, the mouse would fix that problem immediately. The game is challenging and offers an easy 20+ hours of gameplay, especially if you go after all the optional goals. The only time I ever got frustated was in the penultimate room which was more obnoxious than challenging.

    Metroid Prime is definitely the "killer app" that justifies the purchase of a GameCube. In fact, if you buy a GameCube now, you can get it for free. Bastards.

    Fun Fact: The term describing when dogs scratch their butts by dragging them across the floor is "sleigh riding".

    Grisly Mexico Factory Breeds Man-Eating Flies

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    Sunday, February 23, 2003

    Another book I read over Christmas was Live from New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live. Truthfully, I've never seen a current episode of SNL that didn't suck, but back in the days when Comedy Central had no shows and aired SNL constantly, many of the early classics were often shown. The book is simply a compendium of unedited blurbs from actors and writers of the show, listed roughly in chronological order. The stories told are very interesting, but the book really doesn't function as a good timeline of the show. It's like the interviews and dialogues fill in all the holes around a timeline which everyone should supposably be familiar with. Still, the stories are a good behind the scenes glimpse of life near the show.

    I advertised a sublease on my apartment with my current students and I've already gotten a few replies back. It's nice having a 'captive audience' who will definitely be around in the summertime.

    This may be doctored, but it's still funny (420KB).
    404: Weapons of Mass Destruction
    If he deserves a star, then we all do. When was the last time he was funny?
    Tonya Harding again

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    Monday, February 24, 2003

    I did, in fact, finish up the student file creation part of MFIT this weekend, but there's really not enough interactivity to make putting an applet up worthwhile. All it does is allow you to enter a student's information and then encode it into an XML file in a folder of your choosing. My next step (which I'll be doing during the week) is to create an imaginary class full of students and pack their files with a variety of activities and results to test that the files are read properly. It'll be like I'm managing a fantasy fundamentals league but without any payoff.

    This week is the final week of rec league basketball, and if the planets stay properly aligned, it looks like we just might be able to finish the season with a perfect record. Our last two games are on Tuesday and Thursday night.

    Alias continues to get better. I thought it was surprisingly ballsy of ABC, the family channel, to air this episode after all the hooplah surrounding the Korean subway and the Rhode Island fire (it had dramatized depictions of a neutron bomb used in a church). Watch it already.

    He said that I should cut off her breasts, but I said no woman wants that.
    I can't seem to shake the idea that Swanson is trying to feed people horse scabs.
    Your only black character, who is named Jesse Jackson Jones, expresses his concurrence by saying, "Right on!"
    The Catania Method for Dictation (PDF 261KB)

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    Tuesday, February 25, 2003

    For today's news update, I will tell an interesting story about some music I wrote over five years ago. Is it a tale of incredible coincidence or do I have some extraordinarily subliminal sense of pitch recall? You be the judge!

    In the fall of 1997, I wrote a four movement work for solo trumpet and wind ensemble called The Hero. I had just finished the first movement and thought it would be clever and artistic to write the fourth movement next, creating book ends to contain the inner movements. Below, is an excerpt from the "A" melody of the fourth movement, taken from the trumpet line towards the middle of the movement.

    The Hero Movement IV, solo trumpet part, m. 61

    Understand that this was not the original melody -- the first occurrence of the melody was in a kind of Lydian major mode and, owing to the joys of rondo form, each successive repetition of the melody became a little more minor (undergraduate composers are always so clever). And in fact, the first occurrence of this melody was not the original germ -- it was a mutation of a brief character study I'd written a couple months earlier in the summer of 1997. In summation: This was not the melody as I originally wrote it.

    Now fast forward ahead to the present day. This weekend (in between coding sessions), I was downloading old computer game soundtracks for the sake of nostalgia and to put my SC-8850 to good use. I do this on occasion because I'm a big nerd at heart, and it's always brings back warm memories to hear a tune from your childhood.

    While downloading Nintendo songs, I came across the page for Quest Studios , an enterprise whose sole purpose is to preserve the soundtracks from the classic Sierra Quest games (like King's Quest, Space Quest, and Police Quest). I downloaded a few complete soundtracks for fun and saw that many were specifically mixed for Roland sound modules.

    One of the complete Roland soundtracks listed was for Robin Hood: Conquests of the Longbow, a 1993 game whose music was written by the perennial Aubrey Hodges. I had vague recollections that the game was good, but honestly, I went through games in those years faster than a diarrhetic goes through clean underwear. I couldn't remember anything about the game's music, even though the game was released right at the end of the Ad Lib sound card years. So I download the soundtrack and load it up in WinAMP, only to hear this as the first track (after the classic Sierra fanfare):

    Robin Hood: Conquests of the Longbow Music from the Introduction

    Compare this excerpt with the melody I mutated five years later in The Hero. Look familiar? Even more incredible was the fact that it was in the exact same key and articulated the eighth notes in the same manner (there are no articulations in the MIDI extract here). The second phrase of the melody even jumps up to the high F -- the second beat of each excerpt is a C though you can't see it here. (Another note: I didn't even get into the composing biz until late 1995).

    So what does this mean? Is it just an incredible coincidence? Did I somehow retain the computer theme subconsciously for five years, and then just happen to write a major-key theme that mutated into this one over two months? Do you think I'm just a smelly plagarist?

    Harry Potter and the Fields of Fire
    Real Joe Millionaire host bitter that she's not as witty as the butler, and is a vampire too.

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    Wednesday, February 26, 2003

    Happy Birthday Dad and/or Jim Barry!

    Yesterday I met with the final member of my committee and emerged unscathed. It looks like everything is order for my defense on Monday, and thankfully I won't have to change a whole lot between now and then. I also have a string quartet sitting on my desk just waiting to be submitted to the string quartet competition which doesn't quite exist.

    Kathy is presenting her paper on Metrical Ambiguities in New Wave Music today at 2:30 PM in KMU 204. Stop by for the free food and good times so she can successfully give it at New York University this weekend. Kathy is a child of the eighties and will be thrilled to be back up north participating in "That Eighties Conference" .

    The basketballers lost to Happy Hour 62-22 last night. The game was notable because we started with only four members, and all but one had at least one foul before the endgame. Would you believe that I got in a shouting match with stereotypical frat boy who fouled me? It's too bad it didn't come to blows; then I could have tested the presumption that all Asians instinctively know kung fu.

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    Thursday, February 27, 2003

    Happy 24th Birthday, Paige!

    My power went out yesterday at about 11 PM for an hour. Strangely, only the three apartments in my vertical column were affected -- the rest of the building looked fine in the thunderstorm. Perhaps my upstairs neighbour abused her vibrato one too many times and hit the natural frequency of electricity.

    My students took their written midterm exams today and I'll be grading them over the weekend. I tried to make the materials during the course of the term a little harder than what was on the exam, so hopefully the grades will reflect that.

    Here's a random music theory question for you. Is B-sharp to C-flat an ascending or descending interval?

    Computer Stupidities
    This article used to have a picture of duct tape on an assembly line with the caption "duct tape".
    Idiots crash a cop party and offer drugs
    ABC ensures that I can continue to post too much about Alias next season

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    Friday, February 28, 2003

    One more month is down for the count. In just two months, I'll be packing up what remains of my meagre belongings and going off in search of affordable housing around the Chantilly area.

    My classes did pretty well on the midterm exam. The combined average of all thirty students was 86% and over half of them got an A (90 and above).

    In yesterday's news item, I suggested that someone was abusing their vibrato. That was not a typo.

    The basketballers capped a perfect record season by losing to Capitol Coin & Diamond, 54-24, last night. Good times were had by all.

    Interesting idea for the Arts in Lorton, VA
    I never really watched much of this show as a kid. We weren't allowed to touch the TV at the babysitter's, and what normally followed cartoons on the preset channel was the 700 Club and something about Jimmy Swaggart.
    Turn your thesis/dissertation into a PDF file without paying $250 for Adobe Writer

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