Posts from 11/2006

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Name that Tune Contest Results

Congratulations to Kathy Smith who correctly guessed every song but #10 (although she had to enlist the aid of other old people to learn what #7) was. Runner-ups were Anna Ahlbin and Sam Bristol -- Anna correctly guessed everything but #7, #9, and #10, while Sam missed #1, #7, and #10.

Kathy wins a $5 gift certificate to, and she has to share $0.50 of it with her Lifeline friends, Beth and Marty. I've included extended versions of each clip for everyone playing at home who hasn't been able to guess them all yet. The answer can be found by highlighting the last column of the table.

SongClipEZ-Mode ClipAnswer
1Full House
2Growing Pains
3Doogie Howser, MD
4Fresh Prince of Bel Air
6Facts of Life
7It's Garry Shandling's Show!
8Night Court

How a carpenter got the highest Scrabble score ever
Bob Barker's last game of Plinko
Mayor mistakenly hands out sex number

tagged as contests | permalink | 2 comments
day in history

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Sitcom or Serial?

Your average television sitcom is all about concise resolution. Through the course of the hour or half-hour, a conflict is introduced and neatly resolved, just in time to regain equilibrium before the credits roll. The players in the sitcom are generally timeless, and large plot changes are rare, only occurring to provide new situations in which to tell the same story. Because of this, viewers can jump in on any particular show without worrying too much about what came before or how many episodes they missed. There's a certain comfort level in knowing that there are no loose ends or drastically altered perceptions.

In contrast, the serial is all about the continuing plot. The whole point of watching a serial is to forward the plot and watch how characters change and grow over the course of a season. People live and die, switch sides, or lurk in the background smoking cigarettes. By investing in the characters, viewers are (hopefully) rewarded in the long run, and missing a couple episodes is the greater sin.

Though I may view the world through Transition-Lens™-coloured glasses, I think the average person's life is more like a sitcom than a serial. Life is all about waking up, taking advantage of the day, surviving and enjoying the fruits of your labours, and getting back to bed in time for a new episode tomorrow. All of this is set against the backdrop of a slowly evolving lifestyle. By the end of your television season, you probably have grown and matured in different directions, but not in tangible ways, and certainly not in ways that you can easily express in words.

Yes, there are major life-altering bookends like babies and epiphanies, and your life will have "A Very Special Episode" or two during Sweeps Week, but these interstices are few and far between. Most of life is about taking care fo the mundane, appreciating one day at a time without constantly worrying about the big picture.

It could also be a matter of perception -- you could see yourself in the serial camp if you're ambitious and goal-oriented, working towards predefined endpoints for your life's satisfaction. If you're just along for the ride, like I am on most days, your life may seem to be a sitcom, but without the annoying laugh track.

And if you're like some of the girls I knew in college, your life could be nothing more than a soap opera on a grander, cosmic scale.

Happy Birthday Andrea Principe!

Clown vandalism not funny -- okay it's pretty funny
Man banned from touching muscles
Bad choice of costume forces jail lockdown

tagged as random, deep thoughts | permalink | 2 comments
day in history

Friday, November 03, 2006

Friday Fragments

how Kenyans learn English since 2004

Pussycat by Wyclef Jean is a pretty catchy tune (400KB MP3). Usually I find his songs ranging the gamut from Annoying to Unnecessary, but this one's got a neat sound and uses resampling to good effect.

♣ The two pussycat interlopers are invading the house again, sleeping in other peoples' beds and eating their porridge. They're here for the weekend because Kathy's off at the glamorous Society of Music Theory conference in scenic Los Angeles, which is probably a rip-roaring good time for music theorists, but akin to watching a pothead try to move a cigarette butt across the coffee table using only the powers of his mind at 3 AM for the rest of us.

♣ I would never have survived in the academic world, because to me, publishing papers and attending conferences just isn't intriguing in the least bit. Even the thought of flying somewhere for a computer skills training conference or spending eight hours in a single day at the Java convention in Reston makes me want to crawl into myself and hide until I'm no more than a building block for nanotechnology. Why would I want to go and hear about "Intuitive Syllable Deployment and the Case of Brussels 5557 and Its Concordant Sources"? Just enjoy the music!

♣ When I was in twelfth-grade English, I used to assign ridiculous titles to my essays, because a catchy title will obviously make the paper more exciting for the teacher to read. Among the titles that graced her desk: The Memoirs of Juniper the Hyena, Professor Pootwaddle and the Flying Hippopotamus, Professor Pootwaddle and the Mystical Elixir of Buffalo Breath, Volume IV: Professor Pootwaddle and the Underground Buffalo Ranch, and From the Further Adventures of Professor Pootwaddle Vol. 64: Flapjack John and the Maple Syrup Malefactors.

♣ If any of those appear on the cover of the last Harry Potter book, I plan to sue as quickly as possible and then retire to a secluded tropical island with high-speed Internet where I will pay the yard boy, Julio, to do my web updates for me. Rumour has it that J.K. Rowling will finish writing the story by the end of this year, so we'll know very shortly if she filches one of my stellar titles.

♣ Janny Wurts recently finished writing Stormed Fortress so the book itself should be out towards the end of next year since the book publishing industry moves like an amputee glacier (unless it involves some sort of Dummies manual). Last week I finished my sort-of-annual reading of her War of Light and Shadows series, covering about 4000 hardback pages in just under five weeks. Her books are an army of polygons hiding behind rocks -- I'm always uncovering new angles. Next year's book will be the concluding section of the middle story arc, which has been up in the air since 1997, and I'm looking forward to seeing how it turns out.

♣ Now that the pleasure reading is off the list, I'm currently buried in several work-related tech books, since we're ramping up to another three month crunch period soon. None of them have any dragons yet. However, I remain optimistic.

♣ This weekend, I'll be reading more about the Spring WebFlow framework, pressure-washing the back porch for painting, and writing up my lesson plans for the classes I'm teaching in two weeks time. I'll be talking about best practices and design patterns in software engineering on one day, and Java in web development on the second day. If I could just think up two or three more topics, I could host my own conference and make millions in registration fees, then retire to a secluded tropical island with high-speed Internet where I will pay the yard boy, Julio, to do my web updates for me.

♣ I would pay him enough that he would refrain from using cut-and-paste to fill up space. That is such an amateur device.

♣ Have a great weekend!

Gym bans grunting
Bus driver fired for flipping off Bush
Woman dies next to her own grave

tagged as fragments | permalink | 2 comments
day in history

Monday, November 06, 2006

Vote URI!

  • As an Eagle Scout, he not only earned the Citizenship in the Community merit badge, but also the Citizenship in the Nation and Citizenship in the World merit badges. This makes him a prime candidate for public office.

  • He has a three point platform, and triangles are the most stable structure in the natural world.

  • Once while on a camping trip, a coyote threatened his family. He punched that coyote in the face and sent it packing. He would do the same for you when the terrorists come.

  • He has a winning or undefeated record against every foreign nation he's ever declared war upon.

  • He is a Pro at Life.

  • He is Korean (the good one not the evil one).

  • He's not afraid to kiss babies or own dogs to earn public favour. And because he's so efficient, he'll probably just kiss a baby dog.

  • His opponent is a practicing thespian and a consummate homo sapien.

  • He's a strong supporter of the "Three Day Work Week" initiative.

  • He promises not to vote on any issues you don't care about.

  • By regularly exposing himself to Popeyes, he has developed an immunity to the bird flu pandemic, and he'll keep on working for YOU while you're slacking off to lie around and vomit.

  • He will not air any TV ads, call you at home, or knock on your front door. He will use his campaign funds for a lavish party.

  • Accident adds to scrutiny of Roloff family
    "BUTT SEX!" shriek almost 2,000 women, rearing up from their chairs.
    Public Enemy Number One going back to jail, but has the blueprints for an escape

    tagged as lists, politics | permalink | 6 comments
    day in history

    Tuesday, November 07, 2006

    Electrocution Day

    Electrocution Day was formalized by the U.S. Congress in 1845, allowing Zachary Taylor the honour of being the first electrocuted President, joining the ranks of infamy with William Kemmler and Martha Place. In their capacity as a governing body, Congress decreed it to be the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, eliminating an older (and slightly more confusing) system which pegged it as the first Tuesday before the tenth Wednesday after Labor Day, except during Leap Years when it was the eighteenth Tuesday after the first Monday following Independence Day.

    The term, electrocution, is often misused. Many people equate electrocution with any electric shock, no matter how mild, but it actually only applies to the fatal case in which the end result is a complete breakdown of the country's government (The milder case is better described as a "primary").

    The fear of accidental electrocution is a great motivator to undecided voters, which is why pollsters often induce Party loyalty by warning against crossing the lines. The gooey demise of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and the slogan, "Don't Cross The Beams!" are commonly cited examples, and charge sheep-like voters to stay within Party lines, giving them a reluctance to mix and match their candidates.

    Although it didn't have much potential, D.C. was established as the nation's capital in 1790. Owing in part to the efforts of Thomas Edison, who launched a false publicity campaign saying that D.C. had a lower crime and fatality rate than the alternatives, the city continues to be the current seat of power.

    The most recent controversy surrounding Electrocution Day is the resistance to electronic voting machines. Amidst allegations of rigged machines in Palm Beach County in which voters were killed when they voted Democrat, notable computer scientists are now bemoaning the lack of a pooper trail (victims of electrocution often lose control of their bowels, providing revolting evidence that the process succeeded). Despite this, electronic voting machines are slated to be used across the nation today. All we can do is hope that the powers that be will conduct themselves with honesty and honour.

    Why I Cheated: Inside the Mind of a Male Adulterer
    Hot wheels fixed to smash police stations
    Cambodia's National Animal Never Existed

    tagged as random | permalink | 2 comments
    day in history

    Wednesday, November 08, 2006

    Review Day - Alias: The Movie

    There are no plot spoilers in this review, but I do mention a few plot devices and places that explode.

    This summer blockbuster finally came out on video last week, starring post-Scientology Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt, the mild-mannered Department of Transportation employee who's really a secret agent and a member of the Impossible Mission Force. The movie was directed by J.J. Abrams, written by his two favourite Alias writers (Kurtzman & Orci), cast by the Ailias casting director, edited by two Alias film editors, with the Alias production designer doing whatever those do, and with music by the Alias guy (Michael Giacchino). Greg Gunberg (a.k.a. Agent Weiss, a.k.a. JJ's kindergarten friend) even gets a cameo where he asks Ethan what he does for a living .

    The similarities don't end behind the camera -- the Alias style is in full play here. Bombs get injected into people's brains, people break into the Vatican and meet their handlers in the Slurpee aisle, and there's even a Marshall character who can only be differentiated by the fact that he speaks his Marshall-nonsense with a British accent. Everything about this movie screams "Alias made with more money than God".

    None of this makes it a bad movie, because everyone involved in Alias made it such a polished, stylish affair that their work on the big screen just seems like a natural extension of what they were doing before. The movie starts with a cliffhanger, followed by a "72 hours earlier..." segue that was innovative in 2001 but overused by the time Sydney Bristow found out she had a sister. From there, it keeps pressing forward at a manic pace. The gadgets are cool, everything explodes eventually, and the plot holes are large enough to make you not worry too much about the plot, but small enough to maintain your suspension of disbelief. Despite my sense of déja vu, I was highly entertained throughout, and the movie doesn't fall into the 2006 trap of lasting fourteen hours too long. Plus, Michelle Monaghan is a cute supporting actress even though she doesn't really get to do much besides be the eye candy.

    Final Opinion: Treat this like a brain-dead two hour Alias special and enjoy it while it lasts. Worth watching, if only to see the Chesapeake Bay Bridge explode.

    Happy Birthday Doug Linden!

    Party game leads to murder rap
    We're not at war. War ended a long time ago.
    Shaking Shakira sues

    tagged as reviews | permalink | 0 comments
    day in history

    Thursday, November 09, 2006

    Safari Day: Evolution of a Tag

    The tag I started six months ago only made it through five generations before dying. How did the "Soundtrack of My Life" tag fare?

    • BU (Wedding: Leonard Bernstein - Oh Happy We)
      • CC (died here)
      • Sam (Dance Sequence: Theme from Transformers, The Movie)
      • Brianne (Breaking Up: New Order - Bizarre Love Triangle)
      • Mike (Falling in Love: "Squeeze My Lemons..." I am obviously in love with a total tramp.)
        • Christine (died here)
        • Jamie (Prom: Led Zeppelin - Ramble On - Looks like I went to the prom with Mike.)
          • P-Chris (died here)
          • Danielle (died here)
          • Elena (Driving: Frank Sinatra - New York - I must be driving Grandma's Buick)
            • P-Chris (died here)
            • Mike (already tagged)
        • Chris (Driving: Incubus - Drive)
          • Elena (already tagged)
          • Mikey Ray (Reconciliation: Eagles - Witchy Woman - Make-up-sex with Bette Midler from "Hocus Pocus" mmmm)
          • T-Chris (Birth of child: Splendor - Yeah, Whatever)
            • Christen (private page that cannot be seen by laymen)
            • Beth (Dance Sequence: Marvin Gaye - Let's Get It On)
            • Adrienne (Breaking Up: Paul Simon - 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover)
          • Marty (Sex Scene: Stephanie Mills - Comfort of a Man, Funeral Song: Theme from The Smurfs)
            • Meg (died here)
            • All Brians (died here)
            • All Robs (died here)
            • Kathy (Final Battle: The Who - Pinball Wizard)
              • Caty (died here)
              • Caitlin (died here)
              • All Brendlers (died here)

    Conclusions: No tag can survive in the wild for more than five passes before dying out completely. Also, every music major has at least one classical song in their iPod. Finally, guys are highly likely to have one or more theme songs from shows or cartoons and be damn proud of it!

    Naked man with concealed weapon
    Two caught in apparent money scam
    Jail goes pink with teddy bears

    tagged as tags | permalink | 1 comment
    day in history

    Friday, November 10, 2006

    Friday Fragments

    posted solely to appease the four people that visit on a Federal Holiday

    ♣ Whenever there's a holiday on which people don't have to be at work, the number of visitors reaches that of a live performance of Popo Zao. This is why I usually don't update on holidays.

    ♣ There was a time when I posted every day of the year, but my writing is like a precious natural resource which must now be conserved so it will never run out. If I am the natural gas of the blog world, then we should all hold that gas in for as long as possible and hope that Peak URI! never comes.

    ♣ Now that the election is over, I expect oil prices to rise immediately. Had they stayed up before the election, it would have been an issue, and if they go up now, voters will blame the Democrats. I do believe I've cracked this puzzle called politics.

    ♣ I almost had a caption contest for this photo of Rick Santorum's family at his concession speech, but then decided that it would be too easy.

    ♣ During LOST last night, ABC interrupted the feed twice to let viewers know that Associated Press had decided to call the Virginia Governor race for the Democrats. I'm watching LOST for entertainment and escape -- why do I care that a news organization knows that another news organization has made a guess about the outcome of a race that's still open? They might as well interrupt every show to remind us that it might rain tomorrow.

    ♣ LOST has been pretty good these past couple weeks, although Wednesday night's cliffhanger was a stupid way to close for the holidays. Also, the actor who played Captain Mal Reynolds on Firefly was too typecast in my brain for me to see him as a character on LOST.

    ♣ I have mixed feelings about the LOST strategy of showing 6 episodes, breaking for 3 months, then showing 16 more. I like the lack of reruns, but I think 6 was too short to really get us into the season. It would have been better if they just showed every episode back to back starting in January, or made a more even split of 11 and 11. In fact, TV would probably be better overall if there were two smaller seasons every year rather than one season with tons of dead time. I'm getting too old to wade through extended TV seasons.

    ♣ Speaking of old, tomorrow is Kelley Corbett's 27th Birthday. Prety soon he'll be fat, bald, and double-chinned, wandering around the kitchen making dinner for his executive-powered wife, having sold his trumpet for a loaf of bread and some paprika. Happy Birthday!

    ♣ Tonight I have dinner plans as reparations for taking care of Kathy & Chris' hooligananimous kitties, and tomorrow I'll be shopping and preparing for the first of several Thanksgiving dinners on Sunday night. November, as older readers will recall, is the Month of Holiday Dinners month, where I try make as much food as possible and eat leftovers all week long afterwards.

    ♣ Have a good weekend!

    Robot thinks humans taste like bacon
    Deer gets head stuck in pumpkin
    80% of Deer prefer Target to Walmart

    tagged as fragments | permalink | 5 comments
    day in history

    Monday, November 13, 2006

    Chad Darnell's 12 of 12

    The laws of probability normally wreck my shop, but for once they finally came through for me -- this month's 12 of 12 actually fell on a day where I deviated slightly from my normal less-interesting routine. You can see more 12 of 12 entries at Chad's site and kid the people who continue to call it 12 on 12. That title really shouldn't be used unless your pictures were taken on the set of Eyes Wide Shut or depict a particularly fierce game of indoor dodgeball.

    6:50 AM: Cats wake me up by pushing my camera off the nightstand and onto the floor. Apparently, there is a kitty famine, and I am the only one who can stop it.

    7:23 AM: Eating part of this complete breakfast, without any of the healthy parts.

    7:45 AM: Putting in a few hours of telecommuting for the good of the nation and the sanctity of my mortgage.

    12:25 PM: Setting up tables and tableware in the basement for the evening's early Thanksgiving festivities.

    12:58 PM: Taking stock of the fridge, making note of the three pounds of cheese and four tins of bacon bits for the cheddar cheese soup, four rolls of rolls, and one cat for roasting.

    1:24 PM: Preparing a twelve-pound turkey for roasting. There'll be lots of leftovers, but this was the smallest bird they had which wasn't a cornish game hen.

    2:10 PM: Passing the time while the turkey cooks watching Scrubs.

    5:09 PM: Makin' bacon-wrapped scallops with a touch of lemon juice. They're like a heart attack on a toothpick.

    5:39 PM: Cheddar cheese soup is messy to make, as is any soup that requires a blender, but the end result is well worth it. It's like a heart attack in a pot.

    6:14 PM: Bonus Picture: "Thankful" -- Sitting down for a Thanksgiving dinner! You can't get more thankful than that unless you cheat.

    8:30 PM: Playing a game of poker after dinner, much like the Indians did in the late seventeenth century. The other two malefactors left early, obviously knowing they would lose quickly to this powerful powerhouse of power. Chris won.

    10:10 PM: The only time I ever use my dishwasher is when there's company over.

    10:45 PM: One last shot of me posting my pictures before I slip into a turkey-induced coma.

    Happy Birthday Rosie Mirick and Roseanne Harvey!

    Evil twin holds up a Qwik Shop
    Arrested for selling pot with Hugs
    The sound of Vista

    tagged as 12 of 12 | permalink | 5 comments
    day in history

    Tuesday, November 14, 2006

    Newsday Tuesday

    New Zealand students may use text-speech on exams
    New Zealand's high school students will be able to use "text-speak" -- the mobile phone text message language beloved of teenagers -- in national exams this year, officials said. New Zealand's Qualifications Authority said Friday that it still strongly discourages students from using anything other than full English, but that credit will be given if the answer "clearly shows the required understanding," even if it contains text-speak.

    I think they're fooling themselves if they really believe that the teacher base will be able to grade and understand text-speak just as quickly as plain English. Allowing online abbreviations in exams also destroys the lifelong student tradition of padding the length of essays through a clever mix of synonyms, prepositional phrases and 1.0001 inch margins -- where's the fun in that? To ease the transition into a completely chaotic miasma of communication, the Authority published a list of twenty-five rules for which there will be no Xceptions. Here are some examples:

    1. Emoticons like :-) are not suitable replacements for discussions of emotions and feelings.
    2. OMG HI2U is only a valid greeting in a personal letter. Business letters must still use 2 whom it may concern:.
    3. WTFBBQ should be limited to situations where there is a literal barbeque being described.
    4. For all variations of ROFL, please spell out the suffix phrase to avoid confusion. Example: "ROFL my ass off and peeing in my pants" instead of "ROFLMAOPIMP".
    5. Never abbreviate the phrase "If you see Kay", to avoid unintentional vulgarity.

    Candidate gets no votes -- but he voted for himself
    Randy Wooten figured he would get at least one vote in his bid for mayor of this town of 80 people -- even if it was just his own. He did not. Now he has to decide whether to file a formal protest. Wooten got the news from his wife, Roxanne, who went to City Hall on Wednesday to see the election results. "She saw my name with zero votes by it. She came home and asked me if I had voted for myself or not. I told her I did," said Wooten, owner of a local bar.

    This woeful tale of small-town drama has an unexpected twist: the wife apparently didn't think anything was amiss until she talked to her husband, which means that obviously she didn't vote for him either. No doubt someone was in the doghouse that night!

    Batman and Robin catch drug suspect
    'Funny money' no laughing matter for theater burglar
    Borat star attacked in street by man who didn't like his jokes

    tagged as newsday | permalink | 2 comments
    day in history

    Wednesday, November 15, 2006

    The Hospitality Rider

    Some people might say that the greatest perk of being a celebrity must be the money, the fame, or the endless parade of groupies. In my opinion, the best part is probably the backstage contract -- the one that stays exactly what must and must not be present in the celebrity dressing room, no matter how ridiculous or hard-to-get the goods are. Were I a bona fide celebrity (and not just one in my mind) I would milk the hospitality rider for maximum entertainment value (after which I would take all the money and open an alligator petting zoo in South Florida).

    This topic comes to mind after seeing the contract for Kevin Federline . If he can get 6 one-liter bottles of water that's not Evian by having no talent, then surely the rest of us are entitled to much much more! Here are some other interesting requests, taken from the Smoking Gun's archive of riders .

    Dressing Room #1 for Kenny G should be equipped with large clean floor carpet, nice fresh flower arrangement with Japanese flair, two eight foot tables with table cloths and skirts, two lamps, two chairs, sofa, two tables, closet, or clothes rack with hangers, AC outlets, mirror, soap, twelve towels, shower and lavatory facilities with access to only Kenny G (that Kenny G must sweat like a hog)

    Carrot Top will require the services of a female masseuese. All arrangements are the sole responsibility of the Purchaser or Promoter. Masseuse will need to provide the following: Massage table with clean sheets and oils. (I don't even want to picture this...)

    One package of Soya Kaas Soy Cheese Full Fat Mozzarella or Cheddar
    One bottle of Echinacea Capsules
    One small bottle of Flintsones Vitamins with Extra Vitamin C
    One small bottle of Chewable Vitamin C Tablets
    (Christina Aguilera has scurvy. ARR.)

    Please Note All Beer is Bottled Beer!
    1 Case Rolling Rock or a Local Domestic Bottled Bear
    4 Cases Heineken
    1/2 Case Guiness Stout
    1 5th Cuervo Tequila
    1 5th Stollt or Absolut Vodka
    1 5th Jack Daniels Black
    2 5ths Moet White Star Champagne
    3 Very Good French White Chardonnays
    3 Very Good French Red Bordeauxs
    2 Mouton Cadet Red Wines
    2 Jacobs Creek or Black Opal Australian White Wine
    1 Medium Quality Port or Sherry i.e. Sandimint
    (I guess this explains why U2 can only remember two chords)

    Four 150g Bags of Haribo Gold Bears Gummi Bears. Must be Haribo Gold Bears.
    One 298g can of Campbell's Chicken with White & Wild Rice Soup
    (This is really killing Marilyn Manson's hardcore image)

    1 Assortment of Adult Magazines (i.e. Penthouse, Playboy) (Slash is taking matters into his own hands)

    Air guitar comes to cotton
    Aussies blame tickets on dead guy
    Salesmen at US dealership leave cheeky messages to customers

    tagged as random | permalink | 0 comments
    day in history

    Thursday, November 16, 2006

    Super BU

    If you were involved in a macabre industrial accident involving a smuggled load of uranium isotopes in a U-Haul and a tanker truck full of Tequiza, and you woke up the next morning with an incredible superhero power, what would it be? How would it be kryptonitically tempered to be just mildly outrageous instead of shamaistically imbalanced?

    I wouldn't want the usual choices of flying or superhuman strength -- though fun, they seem somewhat useless in daily life, and I bet the novelty would wear off pretty quickly. Instead, I would have the ability to stop time for everyone and everything around me. Walking down the street and someone happens to throw a baby off a balcony? No sweat -- just stop time when the baby's near the ground, grab it, and start time up again. I could stop time to take a nap in the middle of work or play pranks on people by swiping their pants. I'd never have to worry about deadlines again, since a last-minute effort would take as long as I wanted it to take.

    To balance out my super power, I would age twice as fast while time was stopped. If I abused the power too much, or used it to catch up on the ROOTS miniseries, I'd eventually turn into a senile old man while everyone around me aged normally. I suppose I'd have to have a superhero name as well, like Freeze Frame or Time Bandit.

    Audience participation time: What would your superhero power be? What would be your weakness?

    Single pixel cameras on the way
    Little girl tries to steal Legos with a knife
    Girly men are funnier

    tagged as random | permalink | 3 comments
    day in history

    Friday, November 17, 2006

    Friday Fragments

    leading the fight against teenage rickets since 2006

    ♣ Time has just flown by this week. In a season where I'm working as much on the weekends as the weekdays, the best milestone of passing time is the writing of this weekly column. To recap: I made a meal for seven, came in fourth out of five in poker, read Expert Spring MVC and Spring WebFlow cover to cover, gave a demonstration of our project to a room brimming with corporate suits like an outlet sale at Big and Tall, taught a lesson on Best Practices and Design Patterns in Java, nursed a sick Burmese python back to health, attended a sales pitch for performance management software in exchange for free pizza, and prepared my notes for today's lesson, Web Development in Java. Can you pick out the lie?

    ♣ My dad also came out this week and painted my back deck New England Brick, a warm colour that doesn't quite have the humorous shade of PUFFIN BAY GREY. Tragically, yesterday's tornado watch and accompanying monsoon hit the deck so hard that patches of the paint became stripped away like panties at a Yanni concert.

    ♣ I actually own a Yanni CD, because the Marching Virginians played Santorini on the field in 1998. It seems like such a strange way to open a halftime show, but it did prove a critical marching band theorem: a hypothetical drunk band member will march equally horribly to a song in 7/4 as they will to a song in 4/4. The bottom line? Don't bother with a stupid time signature when the net visual effect will be the same.

    ♣ I find it amusing that over three quarters of the people you might meet in a marching band are so lacking in natural rhythm and tempo that they don't understand the concept of left foot on one and three, and right foot on two and four. They should create a Dancing With the Stars: Marching Band Edition that pairs mellophone players with real life dancers. I'm not saying that I'd watch it, but I would definitely tune in for the last five minutes (since that's when I turn the TV on for LOST).

    ♣ For a guy that pays $45 a month for cable, I watch a ridiculously low amount of TV. Yet, I will probably never cancel it. I know that I'd regret it the first time I decided to have a Hokie football party and didn't have ESPN, or the first time I started dating an illegal immigrant from El Salvador and the lack of Telemundo was a deal breaker.

    ♣ There was an article in the Post this week about fake marriages used to secure citizenship . Apparently Arlington is the marriage scam capital of the East Coast because you can get married with no wait on the same day. You'd think that would be a bigger threat to the institution of marriage than that silly same-sex amendment on last electon's state ballot.

    ♣ Speaking of dirty foreigners, my expat friend from college is coming to visit this weekend from Spain and will be staying at my place for a few days. There will not be any marriage scams involved since she's already married, but she will be around long enough to eat the local cuisine at Round Two of my "Month of Holiday Dinners" dinners. It's been four years since I saw her so we should have a rip-roaring good time.

    ♣ Next week's updates may be sporadic because of the holidays and whatnot, but I guarantee you'll get at least three of the five days. Check in daily and you might win a $50 gift certificate to Lionel Kiddie City!

    ♣ Have a great weekend!

    Mid-flight sexual play leads to terrorism charge
    Grape guy catches 116 grapes in his mouth
    In this competition, you can't check out her guns

    tagged as fragments | permalink | 2 comments
    day in history

    Monday, November 20, 2006

    Launch Day

    Two new video game systems hit the market this past weekend. In one corner, we have the Playstation 3 which retails at $500 (with games for $60) and doubles as a multimedia center, internet browser, and sometimes brushes your teeth if you type in the secret code. In the other corner, the Nintendo Wii, sporting a $250 price tag, a goofy name, and a crazy new controller that you wave around in the air. (Side Note: I bet Philip Barbie currently owns both of these, and has not slept all weekend).

    The demand for the PS3 was so high that resellers found a ready market on eBay, selling them for one and two thousand dollars in the hours after release. I'm betting that at least half of the people who camped out in front of stores, and endured riots and muggings (one camper was shot in the chest) simply resold their machines to make a quick buck. I've never understood this culture of "Launch Day", where otherwise sane (if stupid) individuals line up at a store for the slim chance of getting one of the two systems on launch day that haven't already been bribed off by the store's workers. They're essentially devoting three or four days of their life to being the first on the block to own a console that will ship with two games (at least one of which will be a remake of a game for an older system). This isn't worth my time on a good day, and even less so for these particular consoles.

    For the price of a PS3 and two games, I could also just play World of Warcraft for three and a half years, see 69 movies in a theatre (I said 69, Doobie), or pay for 142 Friday afternoon Popeyes runs. Instead, I get an all-in-one piece of garbage that's crammed full of useless functionality. Why would I want to surf the Internet from my living room when I have a computer? Why would I play my CDs in the PS3 when I already have an expensive sound system? It won't take long for at least one of the PS3's functions to become obsolete, after which you'll end up buying a standalone component anyhow. All I want my game console to do is play games.

    The Wii has the right mindset -- going with bare bones technology and focusing on fun games, but it has a different problem. Nintendo likes to invent weird controllers and then spend two years writing games specifically to prove that the controller is a good idea (see also, the Gameboy DS' stylus which is topical in maybe four games total). Instead of games written to be fun games, we'll get games that require you to wave the wand around like an epileptic arthritic -- initial reviews of the new Zelda have already said that the "shooting the bow, swinging your sword" motions feel tacked on and imprecise. The only way the wand would be humorous is if they themed the design like a cat and it made cartoony shaking-cat sounds as you shook it.

    The only reason I'd get either one of these consoles immediately is for the new Zelda game, and that reason is rendered obsolete by the fact that the game will ship for the classic GameCube in December. Sure, there'll be a Wii in my pants someday when it's in the Walmart bargain bin for $100, but until then, I'll keep on playing the old favorites.

    Mice: The official taste tester of the 2008 Olympics
    Super lions marooned on an island
    Brazilians in a fuss over puppies born to cat

    tagged as games | permalink | 4 comments
    day in history

    Tuesday, November 21, 2006

    How I Spent My Thanksgiving Vacation

    Described by EAT Magazine as an "effervescent nectar of the gods", Cheddar Cheese Soup made a successful comeback at dinner on Sunday night. I experimented by using one half less of an onion which made the soup more runny, and less filling, which was a good thing since you could eat more without getting full. This was an intentional experiment and in no way related to the fact that half of the onion fell in the trash can during chopping hour.

    People came and people ate. This week's main course was a ten pound spiral-sliced ham. There are now enough leftovers in my fridge to feed a small army of attack-trained gerbils, which will come in handy on the day I want to kill one of my neighbours very very slowly. You can see the entire racial spectrum at this multicultural dinner. From left to right: a whitey, an Italian, an Italian with a tan, an American pretending to be a Spaniard hiding in the back, an Asian, a Puerto Rican, and another whitey. Not pictured: the black guy who couldn't make it this weekend.

    The next day I showed my houseguest the beauty of living in a yuppy mecca in the wilderness of Loudoun County, where you can buy horse gear at the local Petsmart and be no more than five miles from any major chain. We poked around a few of the cloesr malls to see what the Wii situation was like, and of course it was sold out everywhere (and had been since stores opened the day before). Playstation 3 seemed to be the more desired console, since stores actually posted signs out front advertising their lack of inventory.

    We then consumed lots of leftovers, watched a whirlwind of TV shows on DVD that might not air in Spain, saw the movie The Departed which was good but fell apart a bit towards the end, and ate chicken fingers at Ruby Tuesday. After dinner, she wrapped a bunch of Christmas presents the fake-out way (bags with tissue paper on top) and we played some games.

    Today, I'm cleaning up the house from all the crazy kegstands of Thanksgiving Dinner and will probably do some work this evening.

    The End

    Driver beats fines with physics knowledge
    Constable needs a taser class
    Kramer channels the spirit of Mel Gibson

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

    Wednesday, November 22, 2006

    Dead Day

    ...and by the time I'd taken out the garbage and mailed a couple of letters, it was four-ten, time to go back to the job search. I paused. Four-ten was almost four-fifteen, which was just a quarter hour before four-thirty. Most people are winding down their day by then -- some even knock off half an hour early, especially those important enough to be responsible for hiring new guys. In other words, not only would I be wasting my time in applying for anything now, but I'd actually be hurting my chances by pestering people so late. -- Losing Joe's Place, Gordon Korman

    Sometimes the day before a holiday is even better than the holiday itself. In the work world, everyone is highly aware that the holiday is approaching, and become loathe to start any new projects or pursue any significant work that might stretch longer than the allotted hours left before freedom. Half the work force doesn't come in at all, leaving those that do a quiet, relaxing environment in which to tie up loose ends and do their Amazon-based Christmas shopping.

    Back in college, the day before a holiday was essentially a holiday itself. No one attended a single class unless you had one of those misanthropic teachers who liked to schedule tests that day just to be ornery. In my academic career, a holiday that started on a weekend generally meant I also took off the Friday before, and probably left campus to drive home on the Thursday. This was aided by the fact that I scheduled as many classes as possible for Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, since 50 minute classes were 9000% more acceptable to me than classes lasting the extravagant hour and fifteen on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Since most of my Thursdays consisted of a single sight-singing or ear-training lab in the morning, I'd be on I-81 making tracks back to Northern Virginia by noon. I'm sure my Friday professors didn't mind a bit. This was balanced out by the fact that I always came back as soon as the dorms opened, generally two or three days before classes opened. In those quiet days before the hubbub returned, I'd geek out practicing trumpet, playing games in the dorm, and eating out at McDonald's twice a day since all the dining halls were closed.

    When the holiday itself arrives, it's usually underwhelming. You're supposed to be off of work or school, so the excitement of being counterproductive just isn't there any longer. Especially now that I work on holidays, I prefer the lead-up over the holiday itself.

    Happy Day-Before-Thanksgiving. I hope you are all thankful that I updated my page today!

    United Nations rejects Jedi as a religion
    Nuclear fusion in your own home
    Hikers find fifty-year-old beer

    tagged as random | permalink | 0 comments
    day in history

    Monday, November 27, 2006

    List Day: Ten Things I Learned Over the Break

    1. If you wait three years to buy the Indiana Jones boxed-set, the price drops from $90 to $30.

    2. Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom did not age very well. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is still top-notch.

    3. Refactoring code is a fun pastime.

    4. Metroid Prime 2 is still more annoying than fun. You don't make a game involving copious exploration and then put time limits on how long you can explore the dangerous bits before you die. Boss monsters should also not respawn after save your game.

    5. Virgina Tech is still capable of shutting out UVA, 17-0.

    6. Costco doesn't have their little seafood kiosk after Thanksgiving. From now on, I'm going to make bacon-wrapped bacon.

    7. You can get a Bacon, Egg, and Cheese breakfast with an extra hash brown at McDonald's for $5.11. However, you can get a Bacon, Egg, and Cheese breakfast with TWO extra hash browns for $5.12 because of the Dollar Menu. This is why America is collectively fat.

    8. Mashed potatoes made with a hint sour cream are tasty. Black olives are tasty too, but probably not mixed with the mashed potatoes.

    9. If your house has a smart-heating system that shuts off after you go to work, but one day you decide not to go to work, it will be rather chilly when you finally wake up.

    10. Wii merchandise may be sold out everywhere, but you can still find plenty of copies of HANNAH MONTANA for the Gameboy DS. Miley Stewart is living a double life as a teen pop sensation known to millions as Hannah Montana. Her best friend Lilly is the only one who knows the truth -- or so she thinks. Someone is threatening to reveal Hannah's secret! Miley and Lilly investigate their school, the boardwalk, stadium and the beach to uncover clues. Help solve the mystery and keep Hannah Montana's true identity secret so the show can go on!

    Happy Birthday Susan Wollersheim!

    Monk chops off penis because it was distracting him
    Woman killed by bookcase
    Washing hands prevents stab wounds

    tagged as lists | permalink | 3 comments
    day in history

    Tuesday, November 28, 2006

    Stop the Brasses

    Raiders of the Lost Ark falls squarely into the camp of "late-70s movies that are now too annoying to watch". This subset of movies is often characterized by trying to be more epic than they really are, midday showings on TBS or AMC, handguns that sound like cannons, bad grainy Technicolor with earth tones, or random appearances of a young Robert Redford. A few years and sensibilities later, it would have squeaked into the "goofy 80s movie that's loveable because it's so 80s", but it's held back by the teeming masses of random foreign plotless extras, a heroine that can't act, and strings of scenes that don't really make much sense when put together. The most saliently annoying feature though is the John Williams soundtrack.

    The soundtrack in this movie (and its sequel) are the cinematic equivalent of the loud office worker that plants himself in your office and won't let you get anything done. It's always on, always yapping, and has a palette notable for its complete avoidance of silence. It seems like Dr. Jones can't do a thing without this Greek chorus of three motives and a brass fanfare chiming in the background. The way that Marion's Theme injects itself into every single scene she's in is subtle like Pop Rocks, and tells the audience, "LISTEN THIS IS MARIONS THEME LEARN2MOTIVE". Couldn't he think up a nice little variation the second time through? Add an eighth note here and there? Even playing the damn thing upside down would have been a refreshing change of pace.

    One might argue that film composers are already frazzled by having to write so much music in a short period that the reuse is inevitable. The solution? Not every single minute of the movie requires notes under it! Silence is music too, and having scenes where the visuals and dialogue can live on their own strengths are crucial. The first time a student composer writes a sonata for [insert random instrument he plays] and piano, the piano part usually goes from start to finish without any breaks. For a sonata to truly be balanced and aesthetically pleasing though, the two parts need to have a dialogue with each other, bouncing back and forth, sometimes intertwining and other times accompanying. The soundtrack to Raiders of the Lost Ark could aptly be titled, Sonata for John Williams and John Williams.

    The other annoying aspect of the soundtrack is his annotation of tiny actions with orchestral gestures -- someone tossing a pebble in the air shouldn't require the piccolo player to play a little flutter every single time, and the fat guy doesn't always need to walk with tuba footprints. Once is cute, twice is expected, and more than that is like giving subtitles to the subtitles.

    Kurt Weill used to say that audiences didn't want 'Would you like a cup of coffee?' set to music, and, too often in the modern musical, composers fall into the trap of setting conversational inconsequentialities to their biggest themes. In [Andrew Lloyd Webber's] Aspects of Love, not only is 'Would you like a cup of coffee?' set to music, but so also are request for armangac, brandy, a glass of House white and any number of other beverages: there are more drinks ordered in the libretto than during the [intermission]. -- Edward Behr

    Are you tone deaf?
    What kind of CIA agent are you?
    Undead arrested for simulating weapons of mass destruction

    tagged as random, music | permalink | 1 comment
    day in history

    Wednesday, November 29, 2006

    Game Box Trinkets

    In the golden years of gaming, sometimes cracking the box open was as rewarding (or more rewarding) than playing the game itself. Game publishers in the eighties strived to start the game experience before the first disk went in by bundling their games with trinkets, trading cards, and silly gadgets that were tangentially related to the plot. Often this was purely self-serving, since the game company could insert special codes into the trinkets as a form of early copy protection (meaning that pirates who copied the disks but didn't have the knick knacks couldn't load the game), but sometimes the extra materials just served to enhance the fun factor and immersion of the game.

    The two star companies in this regard were Infocom and Origin. Infocom apparently felt that their packaging needed a high wow factor (since all they made were pure text games) and often included hundred page encyclopedias, diaries of characters in the games, or imitation magnetic pass cards (though Floyd the Robot never made an appearance as a box trinket). Five years later, Origin picked up the torch, led by the crazy (or brilliant or both) Richard Garriott. Each game released in Origin's major franchise came with a woven cloth map, artfully etched spell books and bestiaries, pouches of runes, magic coins, and a pewter Egyptian ankh which I used to wear on a string in elementary school until it broke during a particularly hectic championship game of hopskotch. The extravagance of the goodies probably helped lead to Origin's demise as a company, but it sure helped their games become more engrossing.

    How much of an 80s computer geek were you? How many of these trinkets can you match with the game they came from? I doubt anyone can guess more than two without the aid of Google, but a special prize awaits anyone who does.

    1) Photo of Buddy Burbank and a palm tree swizzle stick

    2) Cloth map of the continent

    3) Letter from Jean Lafond and a fifty guinea note in an elegant velvet reticule

    4) Crime scene photo and plastic bag of suspicious drugs

    5) Blueprints of Rockville Estates with a sticky note

    6) Encyclopedia entry on the Christmas Tree monster
    Elderly woman tells of kind hijacking
    Unschoolers break the mold
    He said some residents have also believed it was a symbol of Satan.

    tagged as games | permalink | 0 comments
    day in history

    Thursday, November 30, 2006

    63 Months Down

    It's the end of the month again -- time to go through your fridge to throw out that carton of milk that pours like albino ketchup and time to send in your URI! Zone subscription fees (make checks payable to Booty LTD). Traditionally, end of the month posts have been throwaway posts, since they immediately get tossed into the monthly archives and no one reads them anyhow.

    Time continues to pass at an extortionist's rate and all of you continue to get old (not me though, since Asians don't age). This marks the end of sixty-three months of daily updates which means that next month will be a perfect square (but take it from me -- it's hip to be a square). I'm constantly amazed that I have gone from the typical product of a public school who struggles to fill a single page for an essay on Oedipus Rex to someone that has no problem sputtering out words that play act a convincing attempt at legible prose. This scientifically proves that public school English classes can succeed, even when every third day is a movie day with the racy scenes fast-forwarded. It amazes me even more that I've gone this long and done a fairly decent job of not repeating myself. Alternately, I repeat myself every fifth month, but none of my readers has the attention span to realize that they've already read something a year ago.

    In the spirit of cross-pollination, I thought I would mention some of the blogs that I try to make time for every day. I won't mention Kim or Mike's because they already get so much exposure here that they should be paying ME for the advertising (make checks payable to Amber and Her Amazing Friends). All of these blogs can be reached from the Bloglog on the left sidebar.

    Sam and Rob: Collectively, these two update their blogs once a year, but their usefulness as bandwagon buddies is inestimable, since they like to perpetuate my tags without actually being tagged. Sam is Kim's friend and Rob was a member of the Parkwood Graveyard Posse at FSU.

    Mark Connor has been writing his blog for almost eight months now, with topics ranging the gamut from trips to Bulgaria to politics to musical musings as a composer and music theory professor. Mark was also in the Parkwood Graveyard Posse at FSU.

    Marty is a composer and professor, although he didn't get to FSU until after I left which makes him a baby composer. He writes about all the old ladies in the nursing home that hit on him during rehearsals.

    CC is my fake Spaniard friend, living in Spain while her husband works for Exxon building a giant floating gas tank which they will then row to North Korea for detonation. I may have North Korea mixed up with Italy but the end result will be the same. She likes to write about her trips through Europe and her experiences as a jobless expatriate in a singsong style that would make a great childrens' book.

    Brianne is another European exile, except that her Canadian background means that not much has changed! She writes of her travels in Europe, Canada, and the States, and sometimes discusses those super-size violins that moan a lot.

    John is Brianne's Canadian partner in crime, and should never update his blog ever again, since he's got a great picture in the top post now. John talks of his antics as a lawyer and all the fun things to do in a toque.

    Heather of Dooce is the most mainstream blog I read, and perfectly captures the humourous tone I enjoy. She writes about her dog, her daughter, and her life as a non-Mormon in Utah whose family completely supports itself on blogging, while taking great photographs every day. I can no longer read Dooce at work because the new million dollar spyware web filter they installed has flagged it as PORN. Oh no!

    Chad is a TV writer who used to be a TV casting director. I used to read his blog for the stories from the set of Alias, but he continues to be entertaining even after the death of Alias. Chad runs marathons, watches lots of shows, and has some great narratives of casting in his archives. He's also the creator of 12 of 12.

    Kristin is a mother in Calgary who writes of family life and blogging and the daily minutia of life and relationships. She also lives in a haunted house, which is always fun to read about .

    I read This Fish out of habit. It's mostly about life in New York or girly relationshipy stuff, but then what would you expect from a blog that lives in iVillage, "The Daily Destination for Women"? Occasionally there's a funny post that makes me come on back.

    Azrael is an American teaching English to Japanese students. His entries are much more graphic than the other blogs on my list, but he provides a very interesting perspective on an alien culture.

    Do you have favourite blogs you think I might enjoy? Do share!

    Happy Birthday Chris Moorhouse!

    Women [...] actually get a buzz out of hearing their own voices
    Nude pictures on phone prompt call from thief
    ball bearing assortment: $1,409

    tagged as you speak | permalink | 2 comments
    day in history


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