02/2006

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Tag Day: Four Things

Happy February 1! January was easily the slowest month in the history of months, but it's finally over. Do you feel old yet? I'm chipper today because this is the first February where I've had the calendar up on the sidebar, and it looks like the code I wrote to figure out leap years is working wonderfully.

I wrote today's update on Monday when Kim got tagged, since I presumed a tag would be imminent, but then she decided to upset the status quo by not tagging anyone and I was left with an unprovoked tag post like an overeager European schoolboy trying to clap all the erasers before being asked. That analogy doesn't really work, but analogies are allowed be completely inappropriate as long as they sound unusual enough to interest the reader. So as not to deny you my answers, here they are -- you could say that I tagged myself, except that it sounds rather dirty, and this is a family-oriented site, dammit.

Four jobs I've had in my life

  1. Software Engineer for the Big Bucks (FGM) and for the Not So Big Bucks (PEPCO)
  2. Sightsinging/Theory Teacher for Musically Deficient Students
  3. Marching Band Drill Writer
  4. Stage Crew Foreman for the Alexandria Symphony

Four movies I can watch over and over

  1. Memento
  2. Back to the Future trilogy (yes this is cheating)
  3. The Fugitive
  4. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade or maybe Conspiracy Theory

Four places I've lived

  1. Alexandria, VA (1979 - 1996)
  2. Blacksburg, VA (1996 - 2001)
  3. Tallahassee, FL (2001 - 2003)
  4. Sterling, VA (2004 - 2006)

Four TV shows I love to watch

  1. Alias (cancelled)
  2. LOST (not yet cancelled)
  3. Arrested Development (cancelled)
  4. Scrubs (might as well be cancelled)

Four places I have been on vacation

  1. Burton, MI at my grandparent's house
  2. Outer Banks in various rental houses (I'm not trendy enough to be allowed to call it OBX)
  3. Henderson, NV on a turkey ranch
  4. Sterling, VA (!)

Four of my favourite dishes

  1. Popeye's 2 Piece Meal (Dark, Mild) with Fries
  2. Tuesday Tenders with Mild Buffalo Wing Sauce, no seasoning on the fries, mushrooms instead of coleslaw
  3. Two Banquet Chicken Pot Pies
  4. Velveeta Shells and Cheese

Four websites I visit daily

  1. News: CNN, Portal of Evil, and Slashdot
  2. NoHunters Forum and the other NoHunters Forum
  3. All the blogs in the sidebar
  4. The Superficial

Four places I would rather be right now

  1. The Outer Banks
  2. Right where I am with Booty in my lap and Amber choking down a blinds cord
  3. In the White House repealing stupid laws, having just beat Arnold Schwarzenegger in a national election decided by a thumb-wrestling match after our tie for the vote
  4. In my pants

Four bloggers I am tagging

  1. Anna
  2. Rachel
  3. Kathy
  4. Annalyn
I know that none of you clowns have blogs, but you do visit regularly, so you can pick any four of these categories and answer in the comments section! Who says you can't have fun in the URI! Zone? This is like the SmarterChild of the new millenium.

Janet Reno sings RESPECT
Another said of Sen. Tom Coburn that: "Coburn was voted the most annoying Senator by his peers in Congress. This was due to Senator Coburn being a huge douche-bag."
The animals are said to respond well to the strains of Beethoven and Mozart, but are not fans of pop or dance music.

tagged as tags | permalink | 4 comments

Thursday, February 02, 2006

After ten months of scientifically calibrated poll questions, I have come to some interesting conclusions about the visitors of the URI! Zone. People often answer the biweekly poll which appears twice a week in the sidebar, but the results of each poll are usually added to the archived post without fanfare.

Since most people don't go back to old posts very often, here is a smattering of the philisophical questions I've asked since the Poll debuted last April. I have already sent this information to several mass-marketing firms along with your social security numbers. If they like what they see, I promise I will give you 5% of the profits.

Conclusion: Zone visitors are either married or not planning on it, which is good because they would all have their weddings in the Fall and that's when football is. Zone visitors will be instrumental in reducing the rate of population growth around the world.

Conclusion: Zone visitors have an illogical fear of their ceilings and are afraid that it will fall on them if they slumber while looking up. Visitors like to see me lose my cool and write angry vitriolic posts. BU SMASH!

Conclusion: Zone visitors are very pragmatic down-to-earth folk who don't realize that their office mate has been dead for thirty years and always hitchhikes home at midnight on the night they got shot, leaving behind their jacket in the back seat. 5 of 11 Zone visitors are constantly on the move, evidently evading the law in some capacity. It's likely that those visitors killed their office mate for being annoying.

Conclusion: Zone visitors do not make good drinking buddies, as they will embarass you when someone tells a joke and they bray like a mating donkey. Then they will get up on the bar and do the Electric Slide until the part where they step backwards, falling off the bar and knocking themselves out against a tap. Then you will have to take them to the hospital but you will be incapable of driving because of the drinking, so you will have to throw them over your shoulder and run through the streets of Miami, because that is where you went drinking. What were you thinking?

Conclusion: Zone visitors would suck in the Super Bowl -- they would never score because all they would do is execute lateral passes and not notice that the clock is ticking down and the fourth quarter has been over for twelve minutes and everyone has gone home. Except Kim, who would have written "Fourth quarter ends after fifteen minutes" in her planner and highlighted it in pink. She would already have gone home for hot chocolate, causing the quarterback to get sacked on the blitz.


Conclusion: Chompy would overwhelmingly beat Kirsten Dunst in a popularity contest because the average Zone visitor is an underachieving under-30 visitor rich off of their family strip mining fortune who has nothing better to do than visit my site all day long and play web sudoku. Get a job, slackers.

Conclusion: Zone visitors are highly organized and methodical, but not very flashy in public. They have a low risk of getting assassinated on the street or running for President, so they will live much longer than the average human.

Killer bees join list of hazards of Florida living
But the door-to-door tattoo salesman seemed so trustworthy!
Punching Horse May Land Man in Deep Doodoo

tagged as website | permalink | 8 comments

Friday, February 03, 2006

Friday Fragments

Fifty monkeys, two hours tops

  • The Oscar nominations have been announced with a whole lot of Crash going on. This is good for me because it means I can block off the last week in February for my completely wrong Oscar predictions, since it's something of a tradition now. Also, check out the trailer for the new movie, Brokeback to the Future .

  • I finally watched 40 Year Old Virgin two weeks ago. It was funny but about 20 minutes too long. I wish that they would stop making unrated-uncut versions of the DVDs unless the extra bits are actually worth watching. Two other movies from last year that I want to see but haven't gotten around to yet are Wedding Crashers and Broken Flowers.

  • One very cool thing I learned from the Virgin DVD is that a season of the old FOX show, Undeclared, is coming to DVD soon. I was in college when that show was prematurely cancelled, and really liked it. Or maybe I just really liked Lizzy Exely. Who didn't? It was cute that both Carla Gallo and Seth Rogen of Undeclared had parts in 40 Year Old Virgin.

  • I got an email from a specter of the past, Geoffrey King, saying that our high school reunion is definitely slated for the last weekend in July this summer. I'm still not 100% convinced that I should care or attend though. The email said that they're looking for people to sponsor the event and are also selling pizza kits to make money for it. Just because I sold cheese and sausage in high school doesn't mean I would want to do fundraising again for a reunion. They should just find the guy that became a multimillionaire straight out of college and get him to fund the entire thing. Surely are least one graduate of T.C. Williams went on to greatness, or at the very least, rose above the magnet of mediocrity.

  • My cough may be gone, but it's left me with a croaky, raspy voice which can no have falsetto face-offs with Dave Matthews. I almost sound like Sydney.

  • This is the first CNN poll I've ever seen that was evenly split. Generally the results are skewed by all those dirty liberal Internetters (since most conservatives don't use computers, so as to protect their families from the porn popup ads that will spew out of their CD drives and taint their conservative bastions of conservativism as soon as the computer turns on), so you'll see a question like "Should the Clothe-the-Naked-Homeless initiative also be applied to animals on nature preserves?" with 80% voting an emphatic YES and reader comments like "omg those por naked animals!!".

  • I've started drinking Coke Zero which has 0 carbohydrates, 0 calories, and 0 sugar. I always hated the lingering aftertaste of Nutrasweet so I never drank Diet sodas, but Zero products have some newer cancer-causing agent which doesn't leave any taste in your mouth after you drink it. Coke Zero definitely tastes slightly different than regular Coke, but it actually works as a beverage and I can enjoy it.

  • They also started stocking Diet Sprite Zero at work for free, which has me drinking lots of soda once again. I would think that the Diet and the Zero would cancel each other out, but I guess soda people just aren't very good at naming stuff.

  • Yesterday afternoon, I went to the grocery store and realized that my shopping list actually included "bread, milk, and eggs". After checking to make sure that I hadn't mysteriously become a housewife in a 1950s sitcom (the dress I was wearing confused me just a little), I added two packs of thick-sliced bacon and a bag of cookies to break the stereotypical shopping mold.

  • I find it hilarious that the Republican candidate for state senator lost the Loudoun County special election this week, and also managed to lose every single precinct, including the one he's from. What do you do after that? I guess there's nothing left for him to do but be caught drunk and naked with a hooker in his car, idling behind a seedy strip club, and then run for President.

  • I bought a new five-foot round folding table for the basement which should be perfect for all my gaming needs. It comfortably fits eight poker players, and it's made of a plastic compound. This means that if there are drinking games at next year's Halloween party, I won't have to worry that any wooden surfaces are getting beer-basted like a ten pound salmon.

  • This weekend, I plan on getting started on my Java certification and jumpstarting Poker Night for 2006. Obviously I'm going to win this weekend's game because of the pilgrimage I made over the winter to the Tibetan Poker Monks who taught me all their ancient secrets. Then on Sunday I have to study up on my county law so I can go to Jury Duty on Monday and send some innocent men to their death. I fully intend to stand up in the middle of court and shout out, "You can't handle the truth!". Then I'll storm out of the courtroom Saddam-Hussein-style and flee across the Mason-Dixon line to safety.

  • Have a great weeekend!

  • John Bolton, Washington's U.N. ambassador, tried to open his first meeting as head of the Security Council at 10 a.m. sharp on Thursday -- and was irked to find no other diplomats showed up.
    I used to have a glass eye, but now I'm okay...
    Human-animal hybrids will not be allowed in HOV lanes

    tagged as fragments | permalink | 4 comments

    Monday, February 06, 2006

    Movie Monday

    Back in Florida, I used to go to Blockbuster and rent a bunch of movies and then watch them all back-to-back over particularly slow weekends. Since it'd been awhile since I last did this, and since there were actually a few movies I was interested in seeing this month, I decided to make this weekend a movie weekend.

    Wedding Crashers:
    I was probably the last person in the United States to see this movie, which was buzzworthy last summer. I thought it was pretty good, if a little long-winded. The movie started out much funnier than it ended up, and you definitely need to be a Vince Vaughn fan (or at least be able to stand him for two hours). It was nice to see Bradley Cooper getting some movie work since his TV stuff (Alias and Kitchen Confidential) didn't really go anywhere.

    Red Eye:
    I rented this movie figuring it would be a low budget no-brainer suspense movie, but it turned out to be surprisingly good, and much better than I expected. Of course, there are plot holes as big as a moose, but Wes Craven does a good job of slowly ratcheting up the tension so you're on the edge of your seat by the end. Of the two airplane suspense movies from last year, I'd say Flight Plan is the better story, but Red Eye is more fun to watch. This movie concluded Rachel McAdams night on Friday.

    Broken Flowers:
    "A miracle! Very, very funny! One of the best films of the year." - Ty Burr, The Boston Globe

    Ty Burr can kiss my ass. This is a horrible, horrible movie -- it's like someone decided to take the worst pieces of Lost in Translation and turn it into a mental laxative, and it's not funny in the least bit. Roughly 75% of the movie involves dialogue-less scenes of Bill Murray looking around and thinking, or Bill Murray driving through the countryside with bad jazz playing on the radio. I bravely watched it to the end, solely because I wanted to see what the point of the movie was, and (unforgivably) there is no closure. The movie just fades to black without a hint of resolution, which in many cases can be argued as artistic. In this case, the movie is just pretentious -- there have been movies which I didn't "get" but which I could appreciate, but this is a movie that movie-geeks will smile and nod about as if it's the deepest movie of modern times even though there's more filling in a Swanson pot pie.

    About halfway through the movie, I started fast-forwarding through all the thinking/driving scenes and shaved fifteen minutes off the running time.

    Corpse Bride:
    This is the latest claymation movie from Tim Burton. Running at barely 80 minutes, the movie is very neat to watch for the effects, but as a movie it's not that great -- Nightmare Before Christmas was much better and had catchier music. The characters in this movie are typical fun-loving clay personalities, but things are a lot more threatening-looking than the previous movie. Small children would probably get pretty scared watching this.

    Australia is the new guillible country
    No, that's not possible. That's the weekend of the Super Bowl, that's not going to work
    Sailor Gets Angry Reply to Bottle Message

    tagged as reviews | permalink | 13 comments

    Tuesday, February 07, 2006

    Cat Media Tuesday

    I was abruptly relieved of jury duty Sunday night when I visited the Loudoun County website to discover that all jury groups for Monday were cancelled. I guess they figured everyone would be hungover from various Super Bowl festivities and no one would show up on time. As a side note, that's one thing about Loudoun County I love: every single thing possible can be done online, from paying our ever-expanding property tax bills to learning where to park for jury duty. The sole thing I can't do online in this county is pay my damn Adelphia bill. Since I can no longer spend today discussing my misadventures in Leesburg, I will have to resort to showing off a new batch of cute cat pictures and talking in random sentence fragments until I can regain my momentum on Wednesday.

    I came in 4th out of 6 at poker on Saturday night, and then got up the next morning to have some Gwaltney thick-sliced bacon. I stayed home for the Super Bowl since Super Bowl parties tend to get annoying after about two hours or so, after which I get bored and antsy. Instead, I turned on the game in the living room and on my computer and just had it running in the background while I engaged in a round of puttering. The commercials this year were pretty horrible, although Anna pointed out one funny one: the FedEx caveman. I also saw the teaser for MI:3 starring the crazy Tom Cruise -- it'll be interesting to see how the movie differs from your average action movie since it's being directed by J.J. Abrams of LOST and Alias fame, and he's stated that it will be character-driven. You could already tell that a little bit from the preview.

    Sometime during the fourth quarter, I flipped over to Animal Planet to see what the Puppy Bowl was all about but it was pretty silly. The entire broadcast consisted of a bunch of puppies running around a ring painted like a football field fighting over toys. Occasionally they would switch to the bowl cam, an underwater camera that filmed dogs drinking out of a bowl or show an embarassed teen actor dressed up as a ref making up some kind of penalty. I would have changed the channel, but then Amber decided to take an interest in the Puppy Bowl, and sat entranced for the next twenty minutes. I blame this on Kim, who has been trying to convince me that I should get a dog, and has obviously been subverting my cats with treats and toys so they will agree with her. These evil ploys will have no effect on me!

    In other news, regular visitor, Justin, has just launched a site called "Today at Work" where you can anonymously vent your work frustrations and read other peoples' funny stories . You will also be able to get to it from the Links page under the "Funnies" category. Give it a visit and see what you think!

    U2's Bono can't hook an X-Box to a TV
    Japan's 'nerd culture' almost mainstream
    To be honest, the Internet connection at my dorm isn't good enough

    tagged as cats, media | permalink | 3 comments

    Wednesday, February 08, 2006

    List Day: Five Random BU Facts

    1) Some people find the sound of jingling dog tags comforting. It annoys the poop out of me, though. Sometimes I ask the dog in question why s/he can't just sit in one place and pretend to be a topiary, but I never get a reply beyond the jingling. I have been known to use Scotch tape to tape tags together when dogsitting.

    2) When I am deep in thought at the computer, I will subconsciously suck on the front of my undershirt. I hypothesize that there must be some hidden thought-nutrients in the cotton which my body is craving, the same way you crave an orange when you're lacking in Vitamin C. When I was a kid I used to clean my teeth with my undershirt, resulting in one very smelly undershirt. Now, I just leave a toothbrush at work.

    3) My bladder is smaller than a two-year-old's and if I break the seal after drinking a lot, I will probably be peeing every fifteen minutes for the rest of the day. This forces me to forgo drinking at all when I take road trips. As a senior in high school, I had to go into D.C. for an interview at PEPCO for a computer science internship. Since I wanted to make a good impression and not be distracted, I ducked into a B. Dalton's bookstore in Northwest to pee immediately before arriving at PEPCO. What they didn't tell me beforehand was that all applicants had to take a drug test immediately upon arriving in the building. I spent fifteen minutes in the druggie bathroom with the pee-cup lady guarding the door before admitting defeat and submitting a sample cup that was barely 1/8th full. Yes, I just discussed wee-wee in a public forum.

    4) If I am a guest at someone's home and use the bathroom, I will always peek behind the shower curtain to make sure there are no ghosts or serial killers back there before I go about my business. If a crazy knife-wielding lunatic is about to kill me, I'd rather he take me down standing up than on the pot. I do not want to be Elvis in my obituary.

    5) When I was an entering freshman at Tech in my "eager, innocent, college-will-be-very-rewarding" phase, I sent little personalized e-mails to my CS professors before classes started, introducing myself and saying that I was looking forward to their classes (this can be found in the dictionary under "sucking up"). Only one of the professors replied, incidentally the teacher of a ridiculously boring computer science theory class which I attended religiously and napped in for the rest of the semester. Often times I would nap right on the aisle and hear him walking past me as he talked about binary subtraction or some other hogwash. On the final day before exams, he called out the names of people who had A's in the class (making them exempt from the exam) and finally matched my name and face to the e-mail. He gave me the most malevolent look I'd ever seen. In my fifth year, I sent him a note apologizing for sleeping through his class and invited him to my music recital to show that actually put forth a lot of effort in the major I cared about. He did not reply, or attend.

    New LOST tonight!

    This article was deleted! It must have been true! (LOST producers sick of Michelle Rodriguez's antics and want to kill her off)
    The new excuse for everything: blame the paparazzi
    A CIA agent's secret life of crime

    tagged as lists | permalink | 14 comments

    Thursday, February 09, 2006

    On the way home yesterday, I was stuck behind a slow-moving delivery truck that was clogging an artery of traffic like a bacon-wrapped scallop on wheels. The truck must have been delivering a shipment of highlighters, lemons, and roses, because a sickly, sweet aroma filled my car, instantly evoking a childhood memory of an object long obsolete: the Invisiclues marker!

    In the late 80s, good computer games came from either Infocom (for games that required literacy) or Sierra (for "pretty" pictures) -- there just wasn't any other alternative. Much like today's marketing scheme of "buy the razor for a dollar then buy the razor blades for your first-born child", Infocom sold their games for about twenty dollars and then sold a hint book for seven more dollars. The hint book was a cheaply-bound paper product filled with questions about the game. So you wouldn't accidentally read a solution early, all the answers were written in invisible ink, and you had to highlight the page with a special marker to see the hints. Each question had two or three clues underneath it, going from the most vague to specific game instructions. There were also red herring questions which would chastise you for abusing the hint book if you highlighted them.

    I had a hint book for every single Infocom game I owned and most of the Sierra ones as well. Realizing how big the "stupid gamer" market was, the companies would put ridiculously obtuse puzzles in the game just to sell hint books and then annoy you by making the hint "You should have picked up the shiny coin on the ground in the first scene of the game! Better restart!". In particular, I remember a giant maze in Zork III that involved pushing sandstone blocks around like Sokoban, which also had a time machine. I'm sure there was an actual sensible solution, but being seven years old at the time allowed me to Invisiclues the exact sequence of moves through the maze and type them in word for word without any guilt. I think you had to drop down into the hole, get a book out of the depression in the floor and then push a block with a ladder next to the hole so you could climb back out.

    Invisiclues paper had a shelf-life of about two years before the secret writing faded into a fungal texture of green goo, after which they were only useful for marker-sniffing. After my Zork III manual faded out, I never played that game again until the advent of the Internet, where die-hard fans would type the hint books into web pages word-for-word because they were probably in dead-end summer internships with no real work to bother with.

    Bonus geek points go to anyone who remembers which game this is from -- easily one of the most difficult and abstract, yet coherent games ever written:

    Meet Fred, undercover kitten
    Self-harmers to be given clean blades
    The Lobster Claw

    tagged as games | permalink | 11 comments

    Friday, February 10, 2006

    Friday Fragments

    I just make the fragments. It's your job to combine them into the Optimus Prime of the English language

  • There was an article in the Washington Post Home section yesterday about couples who live in tiny living areas . One couple lives in a 416 square foot studio, which is roughly the size of the two bedroom apartment I had in Florida. I could very easily live in a tiny area as a single person, since I'm only three feet tall and sleep standing up, but just couldn't fathom sharing that space with another person. Even married, I can imagine there are times when I'd just want to be by myself -- not because I plan on marrying a wretched ho who never stops talking, but because by nature I'm a quiet, solitary person. If my house only had one room that was constantly shared, I would either go insane or take a lot of bathroom field trips.

  • And if the bathroom were also part of the single room, I think the wedding would be off.

  • Wednesday's LOST was excellent. Even though they didn't really advance the island story very much, it was an episode that toyed with your preconceptions, and just when you thought the "big reveal" had occurred, the writers kept tossing more surprises on top, throwing viewers completely out of their equilibrium zones. TV rarely ever geniuinely surprises me, which is why J.J. Abrams needs to fail at feature films so he'll come back to TV and create more cool shows.

  • There was supposed to be a new LOST on February 22, but ABC replaced it with a rerun after seeing that it would be going up against a two-hour American Idol and the Winter Olympics. I would definitely watch LOST over either of the other two. Why do you need two hours of Idol in one night when the combined Idol time in February already exceeds the rise and fall of some smaller Chinese dynasties? And who really watches the Winter Olympics, or any Olympics at all? I have to admit, though, that I would watch a game show where contestants had to sing songs while ice-skating around a rink and if the audience hated them they would throw sharpened skate blades at them. I would call it "Skate Or Die".

  • I used to think that Brian Uri! was a great name to have on the Internet, because my username could be "buri", which is concise and easy to type. Sadly though, half the sites I visit have a minimum length requirement on their usernames, and the other half already have "buri" taken. How can there be other "buri"'s out there? It's not like I'm "djohnson" or anything banal like that.

  • I never give my cats milk, but they can apparently smell it from a million miles away and come running whenever I pour myself a glass. Milk: It Does a Booty Good.

  • I think everyone who does not have a blog should make a blog. And everyone who has a blog should update today so I have something to read. Have you visited Today at Work yet?

  • Yesterday, President Bush issued a statement about all those Muslim "Danish cartoon" protestors that they were overreacting and selfishly milking the incident for their own agendas. This is 100% true. This is also not something you say as the leader of a country to an already offended body of people. This rule of diplomacy seems like it would be common sense to me. I bet all the Childs Left Behind could deduce this without any exam prep time. Oh well, we don't need all our tall buildings anyhow.

  • The funniest sound effect on TV is Ryan Stiles (of Whose Line Is It Anyways?) saying "squeaky squeaky". I don't know why.

  • No poker this week, but maybe I'll spend some time catching up on Oscar-nominated movies. The problem this year is that most of the multiple nominees are still in theatres, and I don't plan on paying ten bucks a pop for a really crappy movie with impeccable Art Direction. Maybe I can submit my site as a legitimate Oscar predictions site and get a pass that will let me see all the movies for free. And while I'm at it, maybe they will send me a mail-order bride that cooks, cleans, and goes to work, so I can spend all day sitting on the couch watching movies.

  • I'm leaving work today around 11:30 and then doing absolutely nothing productive with my Friday afternoon. Give me a call -- maybe we'll do dinner. This weekend, I'm going to start on my Java Certification. I keep saying that like it's going to happen -- this could be the weekend! It's like winning the lottery except you don't get any money and a ticket costs $450.

  • Have a good weekend!

  • Is World of Warcraft the new Golf?
    Whenever you have a story about a spelling bee, you have to S-P-E-L-L something in the headline
    Teen falls out the window while using the bathroom

    tagged as fragments | permalink | 12 comments

    Monday, February 13, 2006

    24

    Snowstorms are inherently positive surprises when travel is not involved. Besides the obvious perks, such as snow being pleasant to look at from indoors and fun to build forts in outside, and the snow-related foodstuffs like hot chocolate and yellow snow, you are finally allowed to use the excuse of "being snowbound" to become a worthless, unproductive member of society without any pangs of guilt while your neighbourhood is festooned with icicles.

    Anna and I started watching the second season of 24 back in May of last year when she worked as an indentured servant in my house, and after doing that whole "getting married and moving in with some other guy" routine, our regular viewing dropped off to nothing. With eight inches of snow falling from the sky and all the other people I knew out of town or studying for physics exams, we decided to seize the day and finish off the end of season two over the weekend. This translates into the last six episodes of the season, or 252 minutes of productivity.

    24 is a highly entertaining show, though it does have some flaws. On the good side, the main actors are riveting, and not just when they're disguised as welders. Anytime Jack Bauer (Keifer Sutherland) or David Palmer (Dennis Haysbert) are on the screen, you just can't look away. Strong acting is tied to well-written characters and this gives the main storyline the momentum it needs to keep you watching. These two characters, and occasional supporting characters like the President's wife make 24 worth watching. Now for the bad (there might be minor spoilers from the first two seasons):

    Horrible female characters & actresses: Take, for example, Sarah "I have one acting expression where my brow is furled and my mouth is slightly open which I use to represent puzzled, upset, about to get angry, or needlessly slow" Wynter's portrayal of Kate Warner in season two. When you put someone from the Keanu Reeves School of Pretending to Act across from Keifer Sutherland, you get a lopsided lack of chemistry that's laughably bad. However, it doesn't help that almost all the supporting female characters have been poorly written. Generally, if you are a woman on the show, you cry a lot, get kidnapped, get indignant at stupid things, or get into bad situations with zero resourcefulness to get you out, forcing Jack Bauer to come to your aid. Jack's daughter, Kim, is a perfect example of this. In the course of season two, she gets arrested for murder, escapes from custody, wanders into a national forest, gets caught in a bear trap while mountain lions are chasing her, enters the home of a crazy man with a bunker, enters a liquor store alone after closing, and gets taken hostage in a robbery of that liquor store. Towards the end of season two, Kim and Kate are in a car together. Anna and I were rooting for the mountain lion to return to the scene and finish the job, putting both of them out of their misery.

    CTU Junior High School: The Counter-Terrorist Unit of LA is apparently the place to be for special agents in puberty. They spend more time stabbing each other in the back, keeping an eye on who's smooching with who, and engaging in subterfuge so the head honcho doesn't suspect anything than they do catching terrorists. It's a wonder they catch anyone at all when every third camera cut in the agency focuses on an agent who spends all her time peeking through the avant-garde wire cubicles to spy on another agent, Michelle, who is now her boss but who used to work for her before she engaged in sexual relations with the guy who is now on the phone with Michelle.

    No twenty-four hours is all that exciting: The main storyline of 24 is always well-done and suspenseful, and in episodes where this is the only thing happening, the writing is very strong. In every other episode, the writers couldn't come up with enough plot to fill every minute of the hour, so they introduce needless supporting characters in unfortunate bad plots to fill up screen time (see also, Kim Bauer and the Cougar of Doom). The writers also come up with a lot of plot twists for the sake of plot twists, like characters who just happen to hit their head and get amnesia. The plus and minus side of this is that some of these twists negate earlier plot points, so you can still enjoy the show if you missed the first half of the season (but it makes it very frustrating for viewers who like to put pieces together from the beginning). The show would be great if they called it 12 and then pared the plot down to just the major storyline.

    Overall, the show is still addictive and entertaining, and easily worth watching if you enjoy pulp TV. We'll probably end up getting into the third season as well, since it's better than a lot of shows out there, and doesn't require much brain power to enjoy. This show might actually be better on TV than on DVD, because it's harder to notice all the plot holes when you only see it once a week.

    Harry was in the line of fire and got peppered pretty good. Then I salted him up and had him for dinner.
    A deputy used his dashboard-mounted video camera at public beaches to zoom in on bikini-clad females
    Bus driver tosses complaining rider into traffic

    tagged as reviews | permalink | 4 comments

    Tuesday, February 14, 2006

    Happy Singles-Awareness Day! There's a big bowl of Valentine's Day candy on my desk at work if you want any. Pay no attention to the fact that it's been there since Halloween -- Jolly Ranchers are the ancient Greek candy of love, and Hershey's Kisses are inherently smooch-themed anyhow. You also won't find any gross powdery-tasting conversation hearts in my bucket -- the only way they'd ever be good is if they were made out of Sweettarts.

    When I was in elementary school, we were required to create little valentine receptacles out of construction paper and hang them along the underside of the chalkboard. Then, the entire class would get up en masse and distribute cards to the rest of the class. The main rule was that if you made a valentine for someone, you also had to make one for each person in the rest of the class. So no one would feel left out, teachers would distribute class rosters to all the parents in the week before. For Valentines 2006, I dug into my file cabinet for the Big Bag Of Valentines, containing all the cards and letters from twenty-five years of holidays, birthdays, and graduations. You can tell the bag is old because it came from Peoples Drug, a pharmacy that sat in strip malls in the late 80s next to Trak-Auto and Dart Drug.

    Last November, I wrote about Jesse King and his amazing Origami Valentine skills. Here is the card he sent to every single person in my first grade class.

    In second grade, cards with Garfield on the front seemed to be all the rage. I can't even remember what kind of cards I gave to people, but they were probably on sale with a Limit of 6, please, and I probably used the same cards every year since we had bought them in bulk by going in and out of the store multiple times.

    I got this valentine from my friend Jennie in second grade. It says, "This is no fish story, teacher, I'm hooked on you! You're the best!". I', pretty sure I wasn't the teacher, but then again, there are a lot of things I don't remember about elementary school.

    The Valentine folder-stuffing tradition lasted until 3rd or 4th grade, after which they phased it out in favour of chasing girls on the playground. Apparently the childhood ego becomes strong enough that it doesn't require state-sanctioned card distribution in 4th grade.

    This next one isn't exactly a valentine, but I found it in the bag and had to post it.

    In third grade, I did a book report on The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary. As part of the report, I wrote a letter to the author, asking if she would come to my school and read to us. The fact that she lived in Washington state pretty much made my request useless, but now I can say that I have an autographed postcard from a famous author. When times are tough and my house (which I have now owned for exactly two years) is about to be foreclosed, I plan on selling the postcard on eBay for several thousand dollars.

    Mind control by parasites
    Video gaming is as useful as bilingualism
    Jesus, or maybe a spider, appears on a pancake

    tagged as memories | permalink | 11 comments

    Wednesday, February 15, 2006

    The Evolution of Lunch

    I won an award at work for the series of lunchtime seminars I gave last summer on music. The prize was a silver metallic lunch box with my name on it that I will place on the window ledge overlooking the office building next door in my posh office, where I will use it as a conversation-starter with next year's batch of hot, impressionable computer science interns.

    I haven't owned a lunch box since elementary school, and it was probably a Transformer or He-Man lunch box made of metal. The Thermos always smelled of spoilt milk, because we had to have our three glasses of milk per day, and the hinges were always rusted out from the milk that leaked from the Thermos. Since the beverage took up a good 45% of the box space, the remainder was a tenement of a sandwich, a bulk-bought snack such as the cheap-brand of vanilla Oreos, and an apple. The peanut butter and jelly sandwich would always have an apple-shaped depression with a slight purple stain in the center where the jelly had leaked through.

    Once I reached junior high, I decided that lunch boxes were uncool and PB&J sandwiches were a complete waste of bread, so I graduated to brown bags containing two bologna and mayo sandwiches on white bread, an apple, and a snack, like Grandma So-and-so's Rich Fudge Brownie -- a compact plot of fudge that was rich enough to instantly double the waist size of anyone without a speedy Asian metabolism. Of course a Thermos had no place in a brown bag, so that was replaced by rectangular juice boxes. Not Juicy Juice, because that is brand name, and brand name is four cents more expensive than Leo's Apple Juice (with 10% real juice). I also never had Capri-Sun but was slightly relieved about this because I could never get the damn straw to poke through the foil without permanently damaging the straw.

    In high school we were allowed to go off-campus for lunch, but I took advantage of this maybe twice, so the two-sandwich combo persisted for three more years. Most college lunches were either the prepackaged sandwiches in Dietrick Express, including the Hokie Sub which used to be on the meal plan and easily rivalled a seven dollar sub at Subway (until they realized that they were losing money on them and doubled the price), or late breakfasts at Schultz dining hall where I could get the all-you-can-eat bacon. Bologna and mayo sandwiches made a brief comeback during my internships at FGM until I realized that they weren't quite as good when you didn't have your dad make them all for you and had to do it all yourself. Nowadays, I eat lunch at work around 10:15 AM and it's generally microwaveable Chef Boyardee products, Cup O' Noodles, or leftovers from the night before.

    Internet scholars say that I'm daring for discussing the evolution of my lunch in a public forum, but this is one arena that I don't think creationism applies. God had better things to do with his time than create the bologna sandwich.

    New LOST Tonight!
    When Rousseau leads Sayid to a mysterious captive in the jungle, he becomes determined to find out if he is one of the "Others." Meanwhile, Sawyer discovers Hurley's potentially devastating breach of the survivors' trust and blackmails him into helping track an elusive island creature that won't leave Sawyer alone.

    If you shoot the tool who thought he was clever when he came up with the term "gaymers" is it a hate crime?
    Woman Puts 'Sex Offender' Sign On Wrong House
    Next time, don't get the ice

    tagged as random | permalink | 12 comments

    Thursday, February 16, 2006

    Phone Day

  • I've been getting an increasing number of trash phone calls, after having almost zero for the first two years of living here. About half are recordings from Loudoun politicians wanting tell me why they rock so much. Recently, someone has been calling from inside a Circle K while I'm at work and they don't leave a message. I guess strange things are afoot at the Circle K.

  • I still do not own a cell phone. When I borrow peoples' cell phones to make calls, I usually have to get them to tell me which buttons to push.

  • My phone number is easy to remember because the first five digits are the same. Some people remember other phone numbers by spelling words with the letters below each number. I remember numbers by the pattern my hand makes on the buttons, although I may not remember the actual digits without thinking about it for a few seconds.

  • I never sit still while I'm on the phone -- I'm constantly walking around the house. If I'm in a room with a pattern on the floor, like the kitchen tiles, I will follow the pattern around and around while I talk. I have never answered the phone while doing bathroom-y things (although I heard some guy at work on a cellphone at the urinal once) although I did have a phone conversation while taking a bath once.

  • When I was in high school, I changed the family answering machine message to start with "Hello?" followed by a long pause and the regular message. At least one person a week became so confused that they just couldn't process the bait-n-switch in their minds, leaving messages like "Hello? Hello? Where did you go?" on the machine.

  • I like to talk on the phone, but I rarely ever think to call people unless I have a specific singular question to ask. Yet when people call me, conversations usually last for quite some time. Being a taciturn individual means that I'm not very good at filling in dead air, so my best conversations tend to be with people who like to talk all day long and will fill in the silences without even noticing.

  • In my freshman year of college, I regularly paid almost a dollar a minute to talk to online friends from Canada. I guess we could have just talked over that Internet thingy. Does anyone remember Pow-Wow, that chat program that opened with the loon sound?

  • In high school if I ever called a girl I liked, I would make a mental flow chart of the things she might say and what I would say in response so it sounded like I was a smooth talker. This never really worked because girls don't obey flow charts. Stupid girls.

  • During long summer vacations when I would be upstairs on the computer and my sister would be downstairs watching TV, I would page her over the phone rather than yell down the stairs. There was a number you could dial that would make the phone ring back on itself, so the phone could be a lazy man's intercom. My sister always got pissy about this.

  • People used to make prank calls to 911 from the boathouse at Crew. Once a policeman arrived to trace the call but couldn't find any coaches because they were all out on the water so no one got in trouble.

  • Frogman 'invaded bedroom of lover's boyfriend'
    Fun things to do in bed when you're bored
    What Not To Touch

    tagged as random | permalink | 6 comments

    Friday, February 17, 2006

    Friday Fragments

    Giving Canada, Australia, and the U.S. something to enjoy together since July 2005

  • I received the following note from Dave McKee (david.mckee @ vt.edu) yesterday:
      This spring, Dr. Allen Bachelder will retire from Virginia Tech. After almost 30 years of service, Allen and Florie will move to Michigan to begin life after work! The house is sold, the new house has space for the MGs, and they are excited. We are saddened for our loss, but excited about their future and ours! Dr. Bachelder will solo with the University Symphony Band on our April 20 concert. I have asked him to select a work and I'm going to also ask him to play "A Trumpeter's Lullaby". At that point, the fun begins - I'd like to invite YOU to join us for "Buglers Holiday," "Ad Futurum Formandum," the 125th anniversary anthem of Virginia Tech, featuring antiphonal trumpet choir, and "Shenandoah" an arrangement performed at the conclusion of many trumpet choir programs in the past! I'm in the early planning process, but I need your help asap. If you can take part in this - or simply want to know more - I need your contact information - snail-mail, e-mail verification, phone, etc. We need to make contact quickly!
  • I guess this means I need to start practicing trumpet again at some point. After November's Mikado gig, I successfully maintained a daily practice routine for two weeks before caving to the great God of Apathy. It's been a couple years since my last visit to Tech -- I hope I can remember all the speed trap locations on I-81, and how to navigate the ridiculously efficient bypass they built connecting the interstate to Route 460.

  • Looking up at those pictures of me from 2001, I now wonder why I parted my hair so violently. Maybe it was just the novelty of having any semblance of hair.

  • My hair has three distinct eras: obscenely short crew cut (through sophomore year of college), mildly long and parted or slicked back (through the end of grad school), and a hybrid of the two which is more fuel-efficient and requires a haircut once a month (a number two on the sides and the back and take an inch off the top, with tapered neck). Yes, I tell my barber to do a number two in my hair.

  • I always go to the same barber shop in the Sterling Park clock tower shopping center, owned by two Vietnamese people. I don't know why I continue going there other than inertia, since every trip is a rehash of the whole "What nationality are you? You don't look Korean. Let me try speaking a foreign langauge at you" scenario. You'd think people would pick up a little English over time, but after my two years of going there, I've noticed no improvement.

  • I've noticed than my English deteriorates when I'm in a restaurant talking to a server or some other service industry staff. Last week I was in a McDonald's I said "Thank ya" with a definite trailing off at the end to the cashier when he brought my food out. He was Indian, so it's not like I was trying to fit in. I am also the only person in the northern Virginia area that regularly says "Howdy" as a greeting. I think I picked it up from an online friend several years ago that lived in Texas.

  • I would like to be a Howdy-sayin' cowboy just because I think "dogie" is a funny word. If being a cowboy is anything like the movie, City Slickers, it's obviously a rip-roaring good time. I would not be a gay cowboy though, because I would like to come home to a missus that makes me flapjacks. Get along lil' dogies!

  • I had pancakes for breakfast at IHOP last weekend which is a double rarity, since I rarely eat breakfast, let alone go out to eat it. IHOP food is so tasty, but their hashed browns are not as tasty as McDonald's patented "fried slabs of potato" hash-browns. Someday I will go to IHOP and just order twelve sides of bacon. All that grease would definitely clear out my arteries and allow me to live an additional ten years. It's got a +10 to Life.

  • I have actually lost four pounds in the past month. I blame the Coke Zero, because I'm sure as hell not eating any healthier than I did before. Yesterday, I had two reheated slices of Pizza Hut pan pizza for lunch and a McDonald's #2 for dinner. I hypothesize that if I continue to drink Coke Zero, I will slim down to negative twelve pounds three years from now and look just like Nicole Richie, but hot, manly, and Asian. Isn't that a beautiful mental picture? I knew you'd say yes.

  • This weekend I plan to finish off my pizza, since there are four slices left, two for lunch each day. Tonight, I'll be renting and watching some of the multiple-Oscar-nominated movies to "study up" for my Oscar predictions week, except for War of Worlds which Kim says is "Absolutely horrid". I don't know if it's really HORRID, since I have seen The Thin Red Line, Broken Flowers, Matrix II, Star Wars I and Gosford Park, but I'll take her word for it, since she's a Netflix addict, and thus, quite knowledgable in this arena. Saturday I may throw together a last minute poker game, and Sunday I will start on my Java Certification (ha ha). Have a good weekend!

  • All the little girls in the room walk in front of me
    Making fatties, one dollar at a time
    Stolen stuff visable!

    tagged as fragments | permalink | 8 comments

    Monday, February 20, 2006

    Weekend Thoughts

  • Linsday Jacobellis led the pack by 100 yards when she tried to show off on the last jump and bombed out, allowing some Swedish boarder to get the gold instead. Without a doubt, this is the best and most American way to inaugurate "snowboard cross" as a legitimate Olympic event. It would be like the ice dancers trying to fit in one extra twizzle and then faceplanting in the arena. Not that I ever watched any ice dancing. Nope.

  • I think it's funny that all of our winter athletes became U.S. citizens within the last three months, and they all have names like Ilyvana Petropavlovisk.

  • I lost $20 in poker on Saturday night and there's a picture of a snowman saying, "Remember the Poop" on my marker board.

  • My watch battery died on Friday morning and the date reset to the year I got it -- 1995, before flickering out for good. Eleven years seems to be a decent shelf-life for a watch battery. Until I go out and get a new battery though, I have to use the DERR DERR DERR DERR alarm on my clock to wake me up which is much less appetizing than the nearly inaudible beep-beep of the watch. I have twenty years of "waking up to a watch" experience which should please any future wives that might want to sleep late some day. I say "wives" because I may move to Utah to spice up these entries a little bit.

  • My house assessment went up by 50% this year, which means that I'm now very rich (should I ever decide to move away), but I pay an asscrack-load of taxes. Even though Loudoun County is reducing the tax rate this year, my overall property tax is still going to increase by over a thousand dollars. Do not be alarmed if you don't get any Christmas presents this year. It's amazing that my little plot of land, which is barely one-tenth of an acre could be worth 106,572 2-piece meals at Popeyes. I'm sure it has to do with the living room, which I rearranged this weekend to maximize the use of space (it has nothing to do with the fact that I'm a serial rearranger, and I could make a joke about writing marching band scores of Schoenberg, but that joke is not universally appealing, and I'm only doing this for the advertising revenue, so I won't).

  • The last time Baylee the dog visited my house, we made the mistake of letting her chase the laser pointer around the living room. Three weeks later, she's fixated on locating that little red dot, and resorts to throwing herself against the walls and running around in frantic circles.

  • Ugly people are a drag on society
    When you can't scare anyone with a blow torch, it's time to turn yourself in
    You'd think people would learn their e-mail lesson by now

    tagged as day-to-day | permalink | 17 comments

    Tuesday, February 21, 2006

    List Day: Five Annoying Things on the Internet

    1) Pop-up Menus:
    The latest DHTML fad is to have little submenus pop up next to the mouse whenever you hover the cursor over a menu item. It's used in the main navigation bar at the Washington Post and the "view other collections" menu of 1-800-Flowers . All too often though, the popup menus cover up something else (or even the other menu options). Alternately, you'll be happily browsing through the submenu when it vanishes, turning your browsing experience into a timed game of Whack-a-Mole.

    2) Internet Lawyers:
    These are the fresh-faced college kids who want to look smart on the Internet. If they disagree with a forum post or someone's comments, they'll quote the unfortunate body of text line by line, and then provide seemingly intelligent counter-arguments for each point. They'll end with a passive-aggressive conclusion which implies that since they addressed every point, they're obviously right. Hey, we all did this in 1997. Then we realized that arguing on the Internet is a waste of time and now reply with some variant of "ORLY?" or "urgay" or (for the Japanese) "...", and you should too. I guess this is just one of those things kids have to learn on their own.

    3) Hyperlink Abuse:
    I hate when you see a news story where every other word is a link to somewhereelse, or in the case of Slashdot , huge tracts of webreal estate are links. People love to link, and would probablylink every single word to its dictionary definition if they had time. Myattention span is short enough without having to deal with the distractions ofhyperlinks when I'm trying to read to the end.

    4) Mandatory News Registrations:
    Your news site isn't the only oasis of news in a desert of Flash games and gambling sites. If I have to register to read your story and BugMeNot doesn't have an entry for you, I'm just going to find the same story somewhere else. I own a billion dollar house and am young enough to enjoy beer commercials -- you should be begging me to generate ad revenue for you.

    5) Spoilers:
    You're always going to stumble across unmarked spoilers on the Internet because people are mean-spirited and want to give away the endings of things. What's worse than unmarked spoilers are spoilers by people are too stupid to realize they're giving something away. For example, someone died on Alias this season and forums were abuzz with people wondering if it was permanent. The next month, someone posted a news item with the title, "[Actor's Name] signs on for three episodes!", followed by a hidden article under the heading SPOILERS!!!. Even if you don't read the article, you're pretty much spoiled by the title, you Internet moron. By the way, in Sixth Sense, Bruce Willis was bald.

    Today's pictures have absolutely nothing to do with the text.

    Meet the 33 pound Chinese cat
    Grandmother of twenty has a kid at 62
    The owner also requested that the officer bring a bag a grain, so as to play-act a brain teaser. Got any wheat?

    tagged as lists | permalink | 8 comments

    Wednesday, February 22, 2006

    Happy 222 Day! As longtime readers are no doubt aware, 222 is mystical number that occurs frequently throughout nature. 222 was first discovered by scientists (or at least, computer science majors) at Virginia Tech, since the "trumpet house" (where delinquency-contributing parties were often held) was at 222 Janie Lane.

    In those days, the tradition of Forty Friday was a weekly occurrence, and band members would regularly stumble to Marching Band practice following a meeting of their lips and a bottle of alcohol with the specified number of ounces. As time went by and the number of 40s increased, the band director decided that alcohol had a negative effect on a band which was already incapable of marching and playing an instrument at the same time (or in many cases, incapable of doing either one individually as well), and frowned heavily upon the tradition. In its place, a new tradition arose, Two 22 Tuesday, which was just like Forty Friday but involved four extra ounces. This was safer, because the alcohol was divided between two bottles, and everyone knows that smaller packages never have as much food in them as an equivalent larger package (see also, mini chip bags in vending machines).

    Here are some other places where 222 can be found in daily life:

    • Crazy cat lady in Virginia had 222 dead cats .
    • During the year the Hokies went to the National Championship, the clock stopped at 2:22 in the fourth quarter in four separate games.
    • Mike Catania's street address is 222, and his phone number starts with 222-.
    • Marty lives in apartment 222. There is also an old TV show called Room 222
    • Winning a Jackpot on the MV Slot Machine is represented by internal code, 222.
    • 222 is almost the radian location of the golden ratio .
    • The blue pigmentation in John Basedow's forehead is 222.
    • 2/22/04: Anna and Ben get engaged.
    • 2/22/05: Anna and Ben put a contract on their house
    • Anna inadvertently took 222 pictures on her Honeymoon.

    What's going to happen on 2/22/06? Will I get married? Will someone get pregnant? Share your own occurrences of 222 or remind me of any that I missed in the comments section!

    No new LOST tonight -- you'll have to wait until next week.

    LOST vs. Desperate Housewives
    LA under attack by a mysterious blob
    Infamous Email Writers Aren't Always Killing Their Careers After All

    tagged as random | permalink | 14 comments

    Thursday, February 23, 2006

    Marriage Day

    So don't hate on me because I didn't call anyone up immediately afterwards, but I got married yesterday -- a spur-of-the-moment decision that culminated in a trip to the Loudoun County Courthouse in Leesburg around 4 PM. Because it was so late in the day, traffic was horrible going up Route 7, but at least it's an event that will make 2/22/06 a memorable 222 day! We didn't get home until late, so I thought it'd be better to just announce it to everybody at once in today's update than to wake up people late at night just to shock them. Of course, none of this paragraph is really true, but how many of you did a double take when you read the opening phrase? Actually, today's entry is going to be titled, "Package Day".

    My Amazon shopping cart finally reached critical mass last week after over a month with no purchases, so in the interests of keeping the Internet clean and uncluttered, I hit BUY and had a bunch of useless but fun goodies delivered to my door. The packaging this time around was laughably bad, with one entire flap missing on top. This orifice was protected with one of those inflatable plastic cushions wedged in and quadrupled-taped with packing tape.

    Among the new distractions in the BU household:

  • The Complete Ramona Quimby Series: Pulling out that Beverly Cleary postcard back on Valentine's Day got me in a nostalgic mood so I bought this set on Amazon. I'm about halfway through now (since I can easily read a whole kids' book over a meal) and find myself instantly remembering storylines as I begin to read them. What's more interesting is that complete fragments of text, illustrations, and positions of illustrations on the page also pop out of some photographic recess of my brain. All these books are rebound, but I can even picture the original paperback covers from my youth.

  • The Complete Ralph S. Mouse Series: Another Beverly Cleary series from my youth which I read until the pages fell out of the binding and did a book report on in 3rd grade. I vaguely recall that the first book, Mouse and the Motorcycle was made into a movie, and can visualize Ralph driving the old-fashioned ambulance through the hotel with the aspirin in the back.

  • KT Tunstall: Eye to the Telescope: I picked up this CD on the strength of the single I'd heard, Suddenly I See and it's consistently solid. The musical styles are eclectic like Jem's Finally Woken CD, but her voice and instrumentation ties it all together into a coherent album. Here are a few samples:
      Stoppin' the Love (MP3)
      Black Horse and the Cherry Tree (MP3)
      Another Place to Fall (MP3)
  • Alias Assumed: I always buy an Alias book -- I feel compelled to do my part supporting the franchise. This book is a collection of essays by columnists, professors, and pop culture gurus edited by Kevin Weisman, who plays Marshall on the show.

  • The 4400: Complete First Season: "Complete" is something of a misnomer since it's only five episodes. I'd heard good things about this show, and it was only $14, so I figured, why not? I've only watched the first two episodes so far, and other than cheesy TV special effects, it's really good. The premise is that 4400 people who have gone missing since 1938 suddenly reappear all at once in 2004, and everyone is exactly the same age as they were (and no one remembers a thing). However, each person returned seems to have some strange unknown power that they didn't have before. Much of the show is character-driven like LOST, showing how the characters cope with the changes of losing years, but then you add two parts X-Files, two dashes of CSI, and stir vigorously like you're trapped in some retarded cooking metaphor. If you like any of the shows I mentioned, I think you'll like this one. And the good news, the show is coming back for a third season this year, so hopefully there will be more seasons on DVD. Who knew there were any good shows on the USA network?

  • 24: The Complete Third Season: Yeah, we're going to watch this. Hopefully we finish it in less than nine months, and it isn't just what one Amazon reviewer described as Jack Bauer's Mexican Vacation. I've heard that it starts slow but gets really good towards the end.

  • Tales of Symphonia: This Game Cube role-playing game got great reviews when it was released three years ago, and I picked it out of the bargain bin for only $20. It even comes on two discs! So far, it's a typical Japanese RPG, with a laughably bad storyline, ridiculous anime stylings, and an incomprehensible battle system, but it IS fun to play.

  • Sally Lockhart Trilogy by Philip Pullman: I remember nothing about this trilogy, Ruby in the Smoke, Shadow in the North, and Tiger in the Well, except that I first discovered it in the Burke Branch Library after I had read every other book in the juvenile section (almost not a joke!) and that it was written for a middle schooler without any talking down. I recall it being very engrossing, but we'll see if my idealistic memory matches my reread.
  • If any of these items interest you, let me know and maybe I'll write full length reviews when I've exhausted the stash.

    One last 222 (submitted by Chris Li): In the movie, Office Space, Peter lives in apartment 222.

    Soccer takes a long-ass time.
    Sick sheep in a trash can
    Bongo and Hog

    tagged as lists | permalink | 9 comments

    Friday, February 24, 2006

    Friday Fragments

    The illegitimate offspring of The New York Times and The Sun

  • You know you ordered too many checks when they all list your address as Centreville, you moved out of Centreville in February 2004, and you have at least two more boxes of fifty checks each still unopened. By now, I've even given up on the pretense of scratching out the address.

  • It doesn't make much of a difference in the grand scheme of things since the only things I pay for with checks these days are the mortgage and my cable bill. Yes, Adelphia still doesn't have online billing. This is 2006 -- even my visits to the bordello can be Pay-Pal'd.

  • Season One of The 4400 started out so intriguingly that I just had to finish it, and finish it I did. Even though there's only five episodes to watch, enough answers are revealed to make the first season a coherent unit while providing tons of space for season two which supposedly has 12 or 13 episodes. Because it's not exactly a high budget show, there's occasionally a laughably bad line of dialogue or a cheesy subplot, but overall it's excellent!

  • I was reminded yesterday of that old Comedy Central show, Strangers with Candy. Was I the only person in the universe who 100% didn't get it? I found it to be unfunny and painful to watch for more than a few minutes. In fact, I can't recall a single thing that ever made me laugh. And I laughed at UHF so it's not like I'm incapable of it.

  • UHF was such a horrible, horrible movie, but it did have its moments of inspired lunacy. The first fifteen minutes of Weird Al trying to act might even be as painful to watch as Strangers with Candy.

  • Last Friday, I mentioned a note I got from Dave McKee about trumpet stuff. I got the same letter in the mail yesterday with the added note: "Let's make it a surprise!". So, I guess that means that if you called anyone important at Tech to talk about it, you should call them back to say you were just kidding or something. Shhh.

  • My newspaper doesn't get delivered roughly once per month, so I have to report it missing on washingtonpost.com. They have a rule that says if you don't report it missing by 8:30 in the morning, you won't get an extra copy. However, I get the Loudoun Mirror every Thursday like clockwork even though I don't want it. I read through it once and decided that it would be better suited for lining a guinea pig cage.

  • I've never understood why you're supposed to tip the newspaper delivery guy. Maybe in the 50s when it was a kid on a bike trying to save up enough money to go to 4H Camp a tip made sense. But now, when it's just some guy driving around the neighbourhood chucking papers into your bushes, how is that really a tippable service?

  • My sister and I used to have guinea pigs, Speedy and Pokey. They were fun to have until they got so big and poopy that they required daily cage cleanings. Then we got lazy like typical disinterested prepubescents and my dad gave them away after he got tired of cleaning the cage himself.

  • They're making a sequel to The Dark Crystal. What more can really be said after the gelflings save the world? This used to be a favourite movie as a child, and I had all the bubble gum collectors' cards as well. I re-watched it for the first time in 2001 and it wasn't nearly as good as I remembered.

  • This morning when I went into the bathroom to take my shower, I saw a grey hair in the mirror. Then I looked closer and realized that Amber had just sat on my head sometime during the night.

  • I got another e-mail from a guy who liked Augmented Fourthlast night. When I first released the game back in 2000, I barely got any feedback at all, so it's nice to know that people out there are still playing and enjoying it, six years after the fact. Someday, I still need to get around to fixing all the minor bugs in the original version and re-releasing it.

  • I have no big weekend plans although I will be devoting some time to next week's special Oscar feature. My best predictions hit 9 of 24 correctly, but those involved my normal habit of pulling knowledge out of my ass or asking Booty. I bet if I actually made serious predictions I could easily get more, but what's the fun in that?

  • Tonight is Movie Night, and I've blocked off a few hours for an oil change, taxes, and for Java Certification work (which I DID, in fact, start on this past week) over the weekend. Sunday is the birthday of my dad and Jim Barry, and Monday is the birthday of Paige! Happy Birthday to you all!

  • Have a good weekend!

  • Conclusion: Your trumpet may give you rust and tetanus
    Governor unaware that the Daily Show is a comedy show
    Penis prank gains world honour

    tagged as fragments | permalink | 11 comments

    Monday, February 27, 2006

    Fifth Annual Oscars Week, Part I of IV

    2005 Picks (9 of 24 right)
    2004 Picks (8 of 24 right)
    2003 Picks (4 of 24 right)
    2002 Picks (9 of 24 right)
    "For me, hosting the Academy Awards is like making love to a beautiful woman. You can only do it when Billy Crystal's not in town." - Steve Martin, 2001

    I've done this for four years so you should know the drill by now. Movies that I've seen are bulleted in the list and I take no responsibility if you lose all your money betting on my completely unscientific choices! Follow the links above to see selections from previous years.

    Documentary Feature
      The Nominees:
      Darwin's Nightmare
      Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room
      March of the Penguins
      Murderball
      Street Fight

      What will happen?
      If you were to put all of these movies in a room together like some kind of real life Ultimate Showdown, the penguins would quickly defeat Darwin's Nightmare, a movie about globalization and fish (penguins eat fish, you see). The Enron guys would break even with the equally seedy politicians in Street Fight, leaving the quadriplegic rugby players the perfect opportunity to kick both of their asses. In a final fight, the quadriplegics would get the upper hand over the penguins until the lovable anthropormorphic birds produce their secret weapon, narrator and four-time Oscar nominee, Morgan Freeman. Game over, March of the Penguins wins.
    Documentary Short Subject
      The Nominees:
      The Death of Kevin Carter: Casualty of the Bang Bang Club
      God Sleeps in Rwanda
      The Mushroom Club
      A Note of Triumph: The Golden Age of Norman Corwin

      What will happen?
      Generally, Golden Ages don't have much conflict, and a movie about a happy period in the life of some writer who probably was not as fun to read as Gordon Korman just doesn't seem like it'd be worth watching. Rwanda is so 2005 and Mushroom Club is either a movie about the Super Mario Fan Club or the story of four Italian-immigrant women and their American-born daughters (neither of which seems particularly interesting), so I'm going to go with Death of Kevin Carter. Plus, if I were to go to a club, I would definitely want to go to the Bang Bang Club over the Mushroom Club.
    Foreign Language Film
      The Nominees:
      Don't Tell
      Joyeux Noël
      Paradise Now
      Sophie Scholl - The Final Days
      Tsotsi

      What will happen?
      As usual, Don't Tell, Paradise Now, and Sophie Scholl are immediately disqualified because they don't look foreign in the least bit. If you're going to put your film in this category, the least you can do is toss in a couple accent-egu's or weird words in the title. My vote goes to Tsotsi because it reminds me of the Ogden Nash poem about the Tsetse Fly and has playing card merchandising possibilities. Tsotsis -- collect them all!
    Animated Feature Film
      The Nominees:
      Howl's Moving Castle
    • Tim Burton's Corpse Bride
      Wallace & Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit

      What will happen?
      Look, a category that I actually saw a nominated movie in! I'm going to predict that Wallace and Gromit will win, because they're so lovable and clay-like. Corpse Bride was not particularly memorable and suffers from having the creator's name smeared across the title like some reenactment of Miss Piggle-Wiggle's Selfishness Cure (This is Dick -- Don't Touch!) I'm saying no to Howl's Moving Castle because it reminds me too much of Milon's Secret Castle, easily one of the worst Nintendo games ever created. I own it only because as a kid I had a castle fetish. I doubt any of this year's movies rank up to movies like The Incredibles and Finding Nemo though.
    Animated Short Film
      The Nominees:
      Badgered
      The Moon and the Son: An Imagined Conversation
      The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello
      9
      One Man Band

      What will happen?
      Unless the Son is a strange paperboard cutout of a monster that loves the moon, Moon and the Son will not win. The studios will also sabotage the chances of 9 and One Man Band because they start with numbers, and would introduce all sorts of alphabetizing confusion at Blockbuster if they won. Are you supposed to go to the segregated number section between the TV Shows and "A" or are you supposed to spell the number and go to that letter? The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello cannot decide whether it wants to be a childrens' book or a Discovery Channel special, so Badgered will take the Oscar home. The IMBD synopsis says, "The tale of a badger who just wants the world to let him sleep." How can that NOT win?
    Live Action Short Film
      The Nominees:
      Ausreisser (The Runaway)
      Cashback
      The Last Farm
      Our Time Is Up
      Six Shooter

      What will happen?
      I'm going to assign plot summaries to each of these movies, and then pick my favourite based on which seems the most promising:
      Ausreisser (The Runaway): Rotund German boy, picked on by all his schoolmates, decides to run away to Norway where he eats whale blubber and saves a Nordic beauty from certain death. Subtitled.
      Cashback: Double-crossed thief, Porter (Mel Gibson), attempts to extract $70,000 from a recalcitrant ATM which has a $500 a day limit.
      The Last Farm: The tale of the Korean pro-gamer (Jonathan Ke Quan) who won a Starcraft tourney by building supply depots in hidden corners of the map until his opponent died from playing video games for more than 48 hours straight.
      Our Time Is Up: The rise and fall of a publically traded tech company, "Our Time", who had the bright idea of putting a clock on the Windows taskbar.
      Six Shooter: Biopic of a crazy, mathematical genius (Gwenyth Paltrow) who tries to assassinate six world leaders by kidnapping them and reading proofs until they die of boredom, while an over-the-hill Secret Service agent (Clint Eastwood) is hot on her tail.

      Six Shooter wins, hands down.

    To be continued tomorrow...

    Happy Birthday Paige, a.k.a. Oompa Loompa Girl!

    Why I'm not a quantum physicist
    Autistic teen scores 20 points in 4 minutes
    So where the bloody hell are you?

    permalink | 10 comments

    Tuesday, February 28, 2006

    Oscars Week, Part II of IV

    Film Editing
      The Nominees:
      Cinderella Man
      The Constant Gardener
    • Crash
      Munich
    • Walk the Line


      What will happen?
      I'm still not entirely clear on how you can tell if an editing job was good without seeing every single bit of cut film or alternately angled shots. The two movies I saw were equally unobtrusively edited so I'm going to vote for Munich which is almost Munch which evokes memories of eating tasty foods like pizza and herb-roasted chicken.
    Cinematography
      The Nominees:
    • Batman Begins
      Brokeback Mountain
      Good Night, and Good Luck.
      Memoirs of a Geisha
      The New World

      What will happen?
      Did anyone actually watch Good Night, and Good Luck.? Like a rash-inducing laxative, that period on the end of the title annoys the poop out of me. I'm going to throw my vote at Memoirs of a Geisha because it's sufficiently worldly and probably has grand, sweeping, cinematography in it.
    Costume Design
      The Nominees:
    • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
      Memoirs of a Geisha
      Mrs. Henderson Presents
      Pride & Prejudice
    • Walk the Line

      What will happen?
      I don't think movies with American costumes from the past century ever win, and Pride & Prejudice looks just like every other snooty British setting ever seen. This one will be won by Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
    Makeup
      The Nominees:
      The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
      Cinderella Man
      Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith

      What will happen?
      Star Wars of any kind winning an Oscar would just be terribly, terribly unfortunate. I would probably throw up out of my mouth a lot, and then put it back in my mouth so the throw-up wouldn't be in the same atmosphere as an Oscar-winning Star Wars. With that out of the way, Narnia will beat Cinderella Man, because there's always more makeup in fantasy flicks (even though those kids are funny-looking). What did they do in Cinderella Man besides pretty up all the extras that Russell Crowe threw phones at?
    Visual Effects
      The Nominees:
      The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
      King Kong
      War of the Worlds

      What will happen?
      Only three nominees? And the best they could do was a lion, an ape, and some aliens? I'm voting for King Kong because the previews for Narnia looked exactly like Lord of the Rings, and there's no one left in New Zealand who hasn't already gotten an Oscar for helping out with those kinds of visual effects. Besides, I hear King Kong had some dinosaurs or something. Any dinosaur effects will lay the groundwork to make the planned Jurassic Park 4 the masterpiece it was always meant to be.
    Art Direction
      The Nominees:
      Good Night, and Good Luck.
      Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
      King Kong
      Memoirs of a Geisha
      Pride & Prejudice

      What will happen?
      Initially Good Night to My Period seems like it would be a contender until you realize it's all in black and white, and there hasn't been a classy black and white movie since Memento. Of the remaining movies, I'm going to vote for Memoirs of a Geisha because it's more serious than wizards and apes. I would vote for Pride and Prejudice but if that won, it would just compel more lazy high school teachers to show it in class instead of teaching.

    To be continued tomorrow...

    Beckham has trouble with first grade math
    Black cat saves owner
    Low White Trumps Blunt's High

    permalink | 10 comments

     

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