Posts from 12/2006

Friday, December 01, 2006

Friday Fragments

spreading the seed of holiday spirit like a woodfinch drunk on eggnog

♣ To get this holiday month off to a holidaic start, I've made my cats wear Santa hats around the house, and pulled the Santa Llama out of moth balls for this site.

♣ I read an article in the Post the other day about the holiday decorations in Target. The always-eccentric fellow they had designing the stores decided that Santa and wood elves were no longer relevant to the Christmas idea. If you go into a Target this week, you'll find sharp angles, reds, greens, and whites, and a general theme that evokes a very modern feeling of the holidays.

♣ You won't find any Wii's though. You will find nine million copies of Zelda, because who's going to buy the game if they have nothing to play it on?

♣ I haven't had much time for gaming recently but I have had time to get my second priest to level 59. I now have four characters at 59 or 60, all of which are some kind of healer. Sometimes it's a relaxing change of pace to just sit in the back of the team pressing 3 healing buttons over and over.

♣ Kim has a new cell phone number which can be dialed using just 3 numbers on the keypad. This is almost (but not quite) as cool as my own number which entails hitting 4 a bunch of times followed by a couple more random numbers.

♣ "I hope the next time that I move I get a real easy phone number, something that is easy to remember. Something like 222-2222. And then people would say, 'Mitch, how do I get a hold of you?' And I would say 'Just press 2 for awhile. And when I answer you will know you have pressed 2 enough.'" - Mitch Hedberg

♣ "At my hotel room my friend came over and asked to use the phone. I said, 'Certainly'. He said, 'Do I have to dial 9?' I said, 'Yeah, especially if it is in the number. You can try four and five back to back real quick.' " - Mitch Hedberg

♣ I suppose I could do a complete list of Friday Fragments using only excerpts from the stand-up comedy of Mitch Hedberg, but that seems like it would be cheating. It is not stream of consciousness unless it is MY stream of consciousness.

♣ All of you readers will have your chance to influence the course of my updates sometime soon, as if you were members of my board of directors (without the 401k). I'm planning on doing a week where you guys pick each day's topic, which could either be highly inventive or highly disasterous. Only time will tell -- time and my infallible ability to rewrite history to my liking with the touch of an FTP button.

♣ Sometimes I miss the innocent days when I hosted the site on my own computer and didn't have to fiddle with FTP every day. The days when I could accidentally type something wrong in the JavaScript and instantly break the site for the millions of visitors I would get every day. Now I have to deal with uploading files all the time, a process made more arduous by the fact that I compulsively close unused windows (or windows I think I'm not using), forcing me to login to my server at least ten times in ten minutes. Then there's the fun times when I hit download instead of upload and overwrite my Pulizter-deserving news post with an old copy. The tribulations of the modern artist.

♣ This weekend will be a simmering blend of work and cleaning, though stronger on the work than the cleaning. I thought about hosting poker, but never quite got around to inviting anyone. Maybe things will be more exciting next weekend when the proceeds from my litigation against Arby's arrive and I can take everyone to a strip club.

♣ Happy Birthday to Cheeselog tomorrow! Have a good weekend!

First time author wins Bad Sex award
Three year old Power Ranger saves the day
Father hangs on to roof of car

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day in history

Monday, December 04, 2006

Software Engineer does what?

People who aren't software engineers often picture us as albino code monkeys, hovering over a phosphorescent screen in an office cave, endlessly typing lines of code on a keyboard buried in three layers of Chipotle take-out wrappers. Since the vast majority of my readership is non-technical, I thought I'd describe some of the tasks that make up a typical day for me as a public service.

The customer gives us a list of requirements that should be met in the next version of the product, but they're usually high-level and far-reaching. The engineer's first job is to translate those customer requirements into more specific technical requirements. For example, if the requirement were, "The system will play the Howdy Dowdy theme song on startup.", the derived technical requirements might be "The system will be able to use the computer's soundcard. The system can tie sound events to arbitrary user actions. The system will have the Howdy Doody theme song included as a selectable sound." Often, this phase is accomplished through many rounds of back-and-forth with the customer, who might only come up with a requirement like "The user interface will not suck". There may be a lot of prototyping and writing quick and dirty examples to help the customer figure out what they really want.

Design and Planning:
Once the list of requirements is initially set in stone, the software engineer is free to start designing those requirements (ignoring the fact that those requirements set in stone will be followed in a couple weeks by several smaller stones and pebbles filled with added requirements, wishlists, and impossibilities). They'll consider things like system architecture, which languages to use, and which patterns and algorithms might be needed, and then create a written map of how the requirement will be implemented. With this roadmap in hand, the engineer then comes up with a time estimate. Engineers can give estimates based on their many years of experience, or (if they're in a company jailed by the bars of Process Improvement) they can force all their team members in a room to "wideband" the estimates. A wideband is when multiple engineers are held captive and while everyone talks about their estimates and their dogs. The wideband ends after multiple rounds of re-estimating when all the estimates are within 10% of each other (or when everyone has to pee so they "accidentally" adjust their numbers to reach a consensus). These numbers are then given to the manager so they can be cut by another 10%.

This is the part that people see as the classic role of a software engineer. With the design outline in hand, engineers start coding. The quality of the document correlates directly with how this phase goes -- a comprehensive well-thought-out document makes the coding phase almost brain-dead, since all the hard decisions have already been tackled. You could almost train a seal to enter the code, if they had keyboard-friendly appendages and a degree in Computer Science. This also depends on the engineer's personal style -- some people like to solve all the problems up front so that implementation is a breeze, while others like to provide a general direction in the design doc and then do the heavy lifting while writing the code. I'm in the latter camp. Starting with only a vague direction means I'll often hit roadblocks and have to backtrack, but the end result is usually stronger because of it.

To be continued tomorrow...

One preacher's message: Have hotter sex
Crescent moons and armbands
Dewey the cat dies in librarian's arms

tagged as programming | permalink | 1 comment
day in history

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Software Engineer does what? Part II

Defects and Enhancements:
No engineer is perfect, and eventually a defect will be logged against the system. This might come from a user in the field using an operational version of the system, or a tester in-house getting things ready to ship. Honestly, most defects occur as the result of a user using the system in unexpected ways or fat finger typos in the code -- very few defects can ever be traced back to engineer incompetence because it's surprisingly hard to just get a solution completely wrong (engineer incompetence only makes things run very very slowly). This makes fixing the bug very easy, but the tough part is tracking down the location of the bug in the first place. Defect fixing is a fun stage for people who like to make lists and check things off as they complete them, since you get to play detective and doctor on many very small problems, keeping things fresh.

Putting Out Fires:
Occasionally something goes critically wrong, and the live system explodes or nuclear deterrents from Russia are mistakenly launched. When the problem is too urgent to go through the usually "write it down and fix it in the next version" approach, engineers drop everything else and do what they can to save the day. Sometimes it's not so much that the issues is major -- it's that the people who care about the issue are major (or Majors), since political clout has an unerring ability to expedite the tiniest of issues. On putting-out-fire day I can often be found on-site in Bailey's Crossroad sitting in a refrigerated lab giving directions to system administrators since I don't have the authority to touch the computers myself. This turns my 14 mile commute into a 60 mile commute, but given the current rate of federal gas-perdiem these days, I generally turn a profit when I calculate my expense report.

Giving Demos:
Sometimes people just won't accept that the product you're developing is the greatest invention since the toaster oven (even sliced bread would be useless without it!). On those days the least socially-awkward engineers get to put on a suit and present a demonstration to the customer, who often drag a couple tech guys along to make sure you're not just playing tech-word Bingo during the demo. The tech guys often feel the need to earn their keep, so they'll toss out a question or two, generally hitting about a 40% relevancy rate.

So that is the job of a software engineer in a nutshell. There's enough challenging creative tasks mixed in with the mundane to keep us from getting bored. Though it would be nice if we could cycle through the various phases one after the other, the reality is never so cut and dried. At any given time, you're supporting one or two live products in the field, developing a new version back home, and putting out one or two fires a week. The lines between phases blur to the point where you really need to have a multitasking personality to ever get anything done. Yesterday in the eight hours I was physically in the office, I did three hours of development, three hours of debugging, an hour of requirements and design, and another hour just helping fellow engineers out. Then I came home and did another few hours of documentation and design. Luckily there were no fires, and I haven't had to go down to Bailey's Crossroad since, oh, last Thursday.

Happy Birthday Ben Seggerson!

Bizarre deep sea creatures of New Zealand
Rap away your ticket
Road spraying releases spirits

tagged as programming | permalink | 3 comments
day in history

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

At the Mercy of Fans

The ATI Radeon graphics cards are really solid cost-effective cards but their onboard fans are on the "py" end of crappy -- both of the Radeons I've owned since 2004 worked perfectly until the day the fan snapped off and flew through the case like a child-safe plastic throwing star. Graphics cards generate a ridiculous amount of heat, and when the computer case is kept so close to a sexy man such as myself, you really need a dependent cooling solution. Booty agrees.

I last bought a Radeon 9800Pro in April '05, and it managed to last a whole year before the fan exploded like a mosher at a Bin Laden concert. I then prolonged the life of the card for another eight months by leaving the case open and blowing a small circulator fan across all the hot bits. This worked until last month when the dial on the fan snapped off, leaving behind a plastic spindle and making the act of turning it on and off an arthritic litmus test. Realizing it was time to finally upgrade, I browsed NewEgg and found an ATI Radeon x1650pro AGP 512MB (con sizzle) for under $200 and had it delivered.

This isn't your normal off-the-shelf card -- it's made by HIS and has a gigantic after-market cooling fan attached to the card. The fan takes up an entire slot next to the card and weighs more than the card itself. It could easily double as a hair dyer for my long, lustrous hair, if I ever had occasion to have my head stuck in a computer case after a shower. Installation was a snap, and it only took a quick driver update to get things running again. Now my computer case is once again closed, cool, and quiet.

It also doesn't hurt that in a game like World of Warcraft, I can stand at the Ironforge Mailbox and get a solid 30 frames per second running at 1600x1200 with all the settings cranked up and no overclocking. Amber is very happy with my new purchase, and so am I!

Happy Birthday Kim's Mom!

Child arrested after opening Christmas presents early
Airplane hits some flatulence
Float driver charged with DUI

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day in history

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Civil War Gets Me Hot

The Virginia Tech Alumni Association is hosting a weekend for Hokie Sweethearts. Make plans for a Valentine's getaway weekend with your special someone.

Friday, February 16

Arrive at the Inn at Virginia Tech to a romantic welcome gift in your room!

  • Registration
  • Welcome Wine Tasting Reception: Join local alumni at the Inn at Virginia Tech as you taste a variety of wonderful wines, delight in sumptuous hors d'oeuvres and enjoy live music with that special someone inside the warm and cozy Inn at Virginia Tech.
  • Dessert Reception

  • So far so good... Wine and inns are romantic.

    Saturday, February 17

    Enjoy a special Morning Delivery to your Room!

  • Couples Massages throughout the day by appointment only
  • Tour of West Side Expansion and Private Boxes - Lane Stadium

  • Let your loved one know how much you care by making them walk up eight thousand stairs to get struck by lightning!
    I hope you at least get to use the private boxes for... stuff.

  • Sign-up for "Chef Joseph Live" $25 per person, 3-course lunch: Executive Chef for Preston's restaurant at the Inn at Virginia Tech
  • Romance and the Civil War - 2:00 p.m (James I. Robertson, Jr., Alumni Distinguished Professor of History): Great grandson of a Confederate soldier, Dr. Robertson has had a lifelong interest in the Civil War. Today, his Civil War Era class, with approximately 250 students each semester, is the largest of its kind in the nation.


  • Chocolate Tasting
  • Reception / Dinner
  • DJ and Dancing

  • Featuring the new mashup of "When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again" and "Snoop Dog's Doggystyle".

    Sunday, February 18

  • On Your Own

  • Virginia blue laws say that the cow can't work on Sunday mornings.

    Optional Activities

    Come a day early and see the Women's basketball team take on the University of Virginia on Thursday night.

    Making a long weekend out for the President's Day holiday? Think about attending "Music and Memories of the Civil War: A Living Legacy" at 4:00 p.m. on Sunday, February 18 in Burruss Hall.


    So who's signing up?
    Camera found hidden in soap dispenser
    Man accused of faking retardation
    Culture Shock: Congress gets a 5-day work week

    tagged as mock mock | permalink | 5 comments
    day in history

    Friday, December 08, 2006

    Friday Fragments

    six parts ADD to one part vermouth

    ♣ Wii straps are breaking all over the world, causing untold damage as controllers go flying across the room . "...our understanding right now is that even beyond our expectations people are becoming more and more excited playing with the Wii." said the president of the company. The creator of Super Mario Brothers chimed in with, "We are looking into the situation to see if there are additional methods to encourage people to kind of calm down so they would never throw away the controller itself".

    ♣ A first step wouldn't probably be telling people do not let go of the controller! I suppose that the followup would be to have the controller complete a circuit with your hand, and if you lose contact with it, your house explodes from the C4 secretly shipped inside the Wii case.

    ♣ C4 seems to be the bomb material of choice for television shows these days. The only time I've seen any good old-fashioned TNT recently was on LOST.

    ♣ My dad likes things to blow up spectacularly in TV shows. This is probably the main reason he likes 24 despite the cougars.

    ♣ I myself have not watched 24 in a couple months now, and am still somewhere towards the beginning of the 4th season. I haven't tuned into XM Radio in a few weeks now either.

    ♣ The station I listen to most frequently was put on temporary hiatus until December 26 as a cost-cutting effort. In it's place is a duplicate of one of their six Christmas stations. Now I like Christmas music as much as (or even more than) the next guy, but eventually you just want a little bad Turkish techno music to pass the time. I thought the whole point of satellite radio was so that you could choose what you wanted to listen to.

    ♣ XM is also closing up some of their less popular stations, replacing them with canned playlists of the same styles of music (without the DJing and station personalities). These lucky stations also get ads which pretty much mean that I refuse to listen to them. If you're going to make a radio ad, at least make it interesting and not something that would be more at home on WETA in the 1980s.

    ♣ Before I started Kindergarten, I had an all-day babysitter. From about nine in the morning until noon, she would shut me in the kids' room with the TV on to either WETA or PBS and tell me to be quiet until lunch time. One day I got tired of watching infomercials and reruns of The 700 Club and changed the channel. The babysitter got angry and turned the TV off.

    ♣ This weekend I have tenative plans of Poker with Kathy and Chris amidst the morass of overtime at work. I've been practicing my all-in technique, so hopefully I'll be able to execute it multiple times throughout the night. I also need to do some grocery shopping since the leftovers from the Month of Holiday Dinners have finally run out. Finally, I'll probably rent a few movies since I'll be too lazy to drive anywhere after work.

    ♣ Have a great weekend!

    Prison's too hard
    Best Buy steals my work ethic
    Peace meeting ends in axe fight

    tagged as fragments | permalink | 4 comments
    day in history

    Monday, December 11, 2006

    Capsule Review Day

    Next by Michael Crichton
    I picked this one up in hardback on my Saturday morning jaunt to Costco. It's your typical Crichton scientific thriller, exhaustively researched and blurring the line between fiction and non-fiction. This time around, he dives into genetics, gene therapy, and the controversies surrounding the patenting of cells as well as stem-cell research.

    What I Liked: Crichton doesn't write amazing characters or evocative text, but he has that unerring instinct for pushing the narrative forward and keeping the reader interested in what happens on the next page. I always learn a bit whenever I read one of his books.

    What I Didn't Like: There's no real "main character" although there are a few characters that show up on the page more often than others. Every other chapter seems to introduce a new name and face, to the point where you might as well just go along for the ride and stop trying to remember if you've already been introduced to this character before. The plot payoff isn't too great, though the subplots are interesting enough. Crichton obviously has an agenda and his opinions colour the story far too much (I had the same problem with State of Fear). It would have been a better work of fiction if he had placed the story first and allowed the reader to draw his own conclusions without the heavy-handed lecturing.

    Bottom Line: It's an entertaining read that's over quickly, but it won't change your life. B-

    Alias: Season Five
    I had to get the last season for completeness, and I'm in the process of watching them again. Plus, it was cheaper than getting the $200 magical Rambaldi box version and probably fits on my shelf much easier.

    What I Liked: Though the series had its ups and downs, the fifth season aged surprisingly well, and stands up to some of the ridiculously good episodes from the golden years. The series as a whole mostly ends as it should (though the final Irina plotline was stupid and seemed as if the writers couldn't think up anything better for her to do), even though an argument could be made that the entire fifth season is just an appendix.

    What I Didn't Like: The box and all its packaging looks like a fifth-grade collage assignment on a fourth grade budget. Several plotlines end up abandoned (since the fifth season was cut short by five episodes) and one character's final shift of loyalties happens too quickly as a result (it's a good thing he owned a glass coffee table). Talking ghosts were unnecessary, but not as bad as the Slimer goo blob from the third season.

    Bottom Line: If you were ever stranded in a ski lodge and there were no snow bunnies, watching all five seasons of Alias would be a well-spent use of seventy-two hours. B+

    Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
    I never did get around to seeing this in the theatres, so I picked it up this weekend and watched it in between work.

    What I Liked: The action-y parts are fun and well-executed. The movie as a whole has a sly understated humour to it, though they do overdo a few bit parts from the first movie.

    What I Didn't Like: This movie breaks the "no movie should ever be more than two hours" ass-falling-asleep rule. I actually watched it in two parts, because nowadays my time is a precious commodity like diamonds or ranch dip on wing night. I just couldn't justify sitting in one place watching a movie for three hours when there was so much other stuff to do, like earning money or seeing how many balls of masking tape I can stick to Booty before she wakes up. Had it been streamlined by about twenty minutes, it would have been a much stronger movie. Also, the reef-dwelling pirates were very creative, but there was so much CGI in the movie that it felt like overkill. Finally, why are all pirates so dirty or sooty?

    Bottom Line: If you liked the first movie, you'll still like it better than this one, but this one's just as good. A-

    Clerks 2
    I watched this a couple weeks ago but forgot to write about it.

    What I Liked: The movie's a nostalgic nod to the original and is fun to watch if you're a fan of any of the characters. Some of the mini-scenes are hilarious, like the geeks arguing about which trilogy is better: Star Wars or Lord of the Rings (with guest appearance by Kevin Weisman, Marshall from Alias). You can watch that scene on YouTube (swearing in the audio). Sadly I agree with Randal's summation of the Lord of the Rings (but I think Star Wars was stupid too).

    What I Didn't Like: Eventually the movie just felt too familiar. It's obvious that Kevin Smith used these characters up to their original potential long ago. Obscene dialogue for the sake of obscenity is so 1994.

    Bottom Line: Watch it if you like Kevin Smith movies and you're bored. C+

    Happy Birthday Scott Elliot!

    Tomorrow is 12 of 12!

    $200 for a naked bathtub session
    Mapmaker puts tiny towns on road to oblivion
    Four-year-old accused of sexual harassment

    tagged as reviews | permalink | 2 comments
    day in history

    Tuesday, December 12, 2006

    Newsday Tuesday

    For Some, Laptops Don't Compute

    Administrators in the Alexandria City Public School system are starting to question whether their two-year-old program to give a laptop to every single student (and the accompanying effort to turn their high school into a wirelass* hotspot) is really worth the cost. One board member said, "I think the decision was made to bring computers into the school system before they really knew what they were going to be doing with them." I first mentioned this initiative in March when I visited with an old English teacher who hated the laptops and was able to say so with impunity because he was retiring soon. Giving every student a laptop seems like such a bad idea and I can think of at least two reasons why the program should have never even left the gate.

    Computers are a Distraction: One of the main reasons public education has even a slight resemblance to a successful venture is that the students are a captive audience. When you are forced to come to school every day, leaving your video games and puppies and collected works of Smetana at home, your distractions are really quite minimal: looking out the window, daydreaming, or the opposite sex. With so few other stimuli, it's much more likely that you'll learn something from class, even if you forcibly try to maintain your stubborn idiocy. Students will go to great lengths to avoid a productive class period and requiring them to have a laptop in the classroom is like a gift of the gods (LAPTOP OF THE GODS).

    Even without the lure of the safe-filtered Internet (as if high school kids today don't know how to get around Net-Nanny), a laptop can provide hours of distraction in the classroom, from Minesweeper to sending instant messages to your cohorts. On a tangent, I recently overheard a manager tell someone, "I didn't know why he wasn't replying to my phone call, so I sent him an 'Instant Message'", and the tone of his voice clearly indicated that he was trying to be technical, to the point where you could hear the air-quotes and capital letters flying around the term like a blinking neon sign of Internet illiteracy. But, I digress.

    When I was in eleventh grade, the big new requirement was to have a TI-85 graphing calculator for advanced algebra and calculus classes, because apparently it's vey hard to draw a parabola in longhand. One day, I noticed that a friend had somehow downloaded a little Pong game on his calculator, no doubt with his illicit connections to the geeks of the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Magnets. This inspired me so much that I took it upon myself to learn TI-85 programming inside and out. Three months of industrious work culminated in Game-Calc by URI! which featured Break-Out!, Battleship, Connect Four, and Whack-a-Rat while simultaneously taking up all the available memory that would otherwise be wasted on integrals and derivatives. This made me very popular in class, especially with all the cute field hockey girls who hated Kokonis' class and wanted something to pass the time with. However, I didn't write a single line of it at home or in my free time. Instead, I zoned out in my French 3, American Civilization, and Pre-Calculus classes, learning absolutely nothing from the teacher, and telling them all I was working on Math homework whenever they asked questions. If I had been forced to carry around a laptop instead, I probably would have ended up being the creator of Quake, or the writer of the great American-Asian novel.

    Some Topics Just Don't Need a Computer: Take, for example, math. For some people, math is very difficult. Difficult enough that learning anything besides the math itself results in student overload. Yet that's exactly what happens with programs like Mathematica -- you spend so many hours with a red cup on top of your Math Emporum computer waiting for the TA to show you how to use the computer program that you never actually get around to learning the math itself. Having a requirement that every course use the computer simply because "computer" is the current buzzword is just as bad as trying to tailor a curriculum into a standardized test (though luckily we don't do any of THAT).

    I'm not saying that computers can't be used for the powers of good -- just that this is the wrong way to go about it. Require that every term paper be typed, and then provide library access or free laptops to low-income families that can't already get a computer on their own. Have students compare and contrast the use of Internet resources with encyclopedias. Teach students how to make a web page. There are easily fourteen million forty-seven better ways to merge education and technology than tossing laptops around like candy from a float in a Shriners' parade.

    * 'wirelass' is a typo, but it's such a provocative one that I left it in.

    Shoplifter had an overload in her pants
    Worst holiday specials ever made
    Manliness is next to godliness

    tagged as newsday | permalink | 4 comments
    day in history

    Wednesday, December 13, 2006

    List Day: Ten Tips

    In keeping with this week's peculiar education theme, the Washington Post published an article with Ten Tips on How To Get Ahead In College (not to be confused with the more often cited Top Ten List, "How To Get Head In College"). Sadly, not all of them apply in the real world.

    1. Go to class and take notes yourself.
    2. Useful, but if your notes tend to fade into illegibility and drool as you nod off during the lecture, you're better off just staying home and reading the book later.

    3. Don't shy from courses with lots of papers.
    4. The opposite is true here -- go for the courses with lots and lots of multiple-choice tests, because at least then you are not at the mercy of subjective grading or a TA that was recently dumped.

    5. Don't major in engineering.
    6. This is one they have completely wrong. Being an engineer will give you tons more free time given your lack of social calendars, and therefore you'll be much more successful at studying and testing!

    7. Make a big event out of your most-feared academic tasks.
    8. Going out to write a paper? That's madness! If you're out and about, chances are good that you'll forgo the paper entirely for a game of pool or a couple of pints. At least if you stay home, you'll eventually run out of things to distract you, leaving nothing to do but the paper. (Unless, of course, you live in a World of Science outlet -- you could be distracted for an infinite amount of time)

    9. Speak to your professors frequently.
    10. This will make professors hate you. Maybe things are different at non-research institutions, but normally they want you in and out with as little fuss as possible.

    11. Study in an isolated place as early in the day as you can, and do a five- to 10-minute break every hour.
    12. Does anyone actually study anymore? Not including cramming, I can't think of a single person from my college career that every took time out of their day to review course materials.

    13. Use section meetings for more than getting to know attractive classmates.
    14. The whole point of college is to find someone to marry once you graduate, after which the dating pool will dramatically shrink. I thought that was common knowledge -- Business 101 is secondary to such evolutionary and reproductive concerns.

    15. Don't do all of your reading.
    16. In whole-hearted agreement.

    17. Before you start work on a paper, do the analysis in your head.
    18. This will also let you postpone the paper for weeks at a time with the excuse of, "Well, I've been working on it in my head." It also makes sudden amnesia a viable excuse for a late paper, much like "My dog ate the disk."

    19. Let experts look at drafts of a major paper.
    20. This goes back to #5 -- most professors want to be graders not teachers, and if you force them into that role they'll no doubt tackle your final grades with an unmatched fervor.

    Do women need men?
    Forth tenor boo'd off the stage
    Further misadventures of the fourth tenor

    tagged as lists | permalink | 3 comments
    day in history

    Thursday, December 14, 2006

    Chad Darnell's 12 of 12: Deluxe Edition

    The world has now been graced with 12 full editions of Chad Darnell's 12 of 12. With all the pieces in place, readers have been instructed to take one picture from every time they participated and combine them as the thirteenth twelve-on-twelve-extravaganza, the results of which will either reveal the Rambaldi endgame to us all, or just tell us to drink our Ovaltine (odds are running 50-50 either way right now).

    Tragically, I did not participate in every single month, which I blame on varying occurences of being too busy, forgetting the camera, forgetting what day it was, or commies. However, here are the four months that I did participate, now with brand new captions since they're taking completely out of context. Enjoy!

    April 12, 2006

    The live-action game of Pac-Man on the streets of Reston raised over four thousand dollars for the care of aging video game champions with carpal tunnel syndrome.

    June 12, 2006

    My plans to decorate the laundry room were clearly a bust.

    August 12, 2006

    Day Four without supplies . . . the jungle cats creep ever closer whenever I close my eyes.

    November 12, 2006

    Rather than risk dishpan hands, I decided to return all the dinnerware to Target as "defective".

    Bonus Pic: December 12, 2006

    Apparently an evil witch turned Booty's fourth paw into a mouse!

    Happy Birthday Kytty!

    Ariel calls daughter a slut
    Do women need men?
    Man traps himself in mountains of waste

    tagged as 12 of 12 | permalink | 0 comments
    day in history

    Friday, December 15, 2006

    Friday Fragments

    propogating my madcap descent into irrelevance

    ♣ I write this on Thursday night, having just returned from a high stakes poker game at work in which I came in 21 of 24. For those readers who spent the majority of early algebra class staring at that one girl who seemed to hit puberty eight months before anyone else, this is equivalent to 7 out of 8, which is actually slightly better than I do in home games. In those games, I am quite familiar with the term "dead last".

    ♣ Most of my losses can be attributed to the level that I play the games at -- I don't consider all the intangibles of poker when playing a hand, like which cards have already been seen, whether I have an 88.88 chance of getting card X, or what the rule books say you should do when you open with a pair. I'll play with a modicum of strategy, but not as zealously as most players. It's the same with chess -- I'm never thinking fourteen moves ahead, and if I make a good move, chances are solid that I didn't realize how good it was until the other player nods magnamoniously and explains in depth what the Latin name for that gambit is.

    ♣ On a note of self-aggrandizement to counter my lack of poker skills, my game Augmented Fourth somehow made it's way onto a list of Suggested Works of Modern Interactive Fiction . Had I not licensed the game as freeware I would no doubt be a multi-millionaire by now.

    ♣ I've changed my mind about how I would spend my hypothetical millions. Instead of retiring to a private island somewhere, I would continue to live where I live, but without a job. Being independently wealthy but not spending it on retarded stuff would mean a permanent life without responsibility, which I would then use to do all the things I never have time to do. I could read a book every day, learn a foreign language, and play every single video game that I ever bought but never got around to beating.

    ♣ As you get older, the ratio of games you actually win to games you just play for a while shifts dramatically. There were games from my childhood that I knew inside and out -- I could probably recite the hint books from memory or find all the secrets as a reflex. I think the last game I actually beat was Warcraft III in 2003 and Fire Emblem in 2005, and I have a whole slew of console games at varying stages of success. It would be fun to have the time to go back and beat them all, except for the ones that suck.

    ♣ This weekend I am working. How about you? Is all your Christmas shopping done yet? Mine is!

    ♣ Have a good one! Enjoy the end of your semester if you are one of those educational clowns.

    World's tallest man saves choking dolphins
    Tatooine is actually Tunisia
    The game actually is pacifist because players lose "spirit points" every time they gun down nonbelievers rather than convert them.

    tagged as fragments | permalink | 4 comments
    day in history

    Monday, December 18, 2006

    Pictures of the Past

    If you've ever strolled through my Photos page which painstakingly documents life events from the past ten years, you might be surprised to learn that there are plenty of pictures that are not in the archive -- pictures from an era of non-digital cameras, photographic plates, and Mesozoic dimetradons. It was always my intention to scan these photos so I'd have an electronic backup, but I never quite got around to it. Today, I present a very select smattering of NEVER BEFORE SEEN PHOTOS - ACT NOW for your viewing pleasure.

    1990: Sixth-grade graduation in Mrs. Turner's class with Aaron Ulm, Josh Lamborn, and Sharif Ahmed
    1990s: Our pet chameleons, post-cat, post-guinea-pig, pre-fish. I don't remember what we named them, but I do remember that they eventually got sick and died, to be eaten by the very crickets that were their prey.
    1992: Camp Sinoquipe in Pennsylvania. Boy Scout Troop 131 went here for three or four years in a row, during which I never caught a single fish. I also learned that I hate swimming in lakes, to the point where I never passed a swimming test.
    1995: Drum Major BU at the last football game of the season (we probably lost). Unless my eyes deceive me, that is Kim in the background with cummerbund akimbo.
    1998: Twister Championship of the World at Rosie's apartment. Pictured: Shac's ass, and BU, in that order.
    1999: Going to Madeleine's Prom with music-note suspenders.

    "If in doubt - go with the belt and the suspenders." - Allen Bachelder on when to use suspension chords
    2002: Living at the Spellerberg household in the summer between grad school semesters, putting my page turning technique to work. Pictured is Anna with Halle Berry hairstyle and Emily. There was a piece of Scotch tape stuck to the picture -- I do not have a horn.
    2004: In Barboursville, VA for my sister's wedding
    Keeping teleworkers happy
    All the works of Mozart for FREE
    Mum sues over ruined nude pics

    tagged as media | permalink | 4 comments
    day in history

    Tuesday, December 19, 2006

    Cat Media Tuesday


    Doing the Lake Dance
    A Day in the Life of Amber

    If you turn the sound all the way up on the dance, you'll hear that Lake is actually stepping in time to the music in the background.

    This looks comfy, at least for the one on top.

    My house may be haunted (photo courtesy of CC)

    Booty practices her Smell The Fart acting (photo courtesy of CC)

    Six years later, someone finally uses the Teepee!

    Booty lurks in the depths, waiting for the perfect moment to STRIKE.

    For Sale: Collected Works of Great Literature and One (1) Cat

    Lost in the Wilderness, Booty fashions a makeshift shelter out of the materials at hand.

    At the mercy of things that roll under file cabinets.

    More pictures can be seen here.

    Not a valid salad dressing ingredient
    Drive-by Nativitising in Florida
    Hotel puts 57 pound burger on the menu

    tagged as cats, media | permalink | 1 comment
    day in history

    Wednesday, December 20, 2006

    The Greatest Pictures of All Time

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

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

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

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

    tagged as media | permalink | 4 comments
    day in history

    Thursday, December 21, 2006

    2006 in Twelves

    Top 12 News Updates from 2006

    • January: BU talks about New Years Passed in the Past
    • February: BU analyzes 24
    • March: BU makes you look like a celebrity
    • April: BU the Composer
    • May: BU and the Math Emporium
    • June: BU discovers the United States of Amber
    • July: BU reminisces
    • August: BU wins awards
    • September: BU and the Chamber of Interceptor Missiles
    • October: BU on Handwriting
    • November: BU runs for office
    • December: BU uses Gettysburg for foreplay

    Top 12 Songs First Heard in 2006

    1. The Cardigans - For What It's Worth
    2. KT Tunstall - Heal Over
    3. Muse - Starlight
    4. The Darkness - One Way Ticket to Hell and Back
    5. Arctic Monkeys - Mardy Bum
    6. The Zutons - Oh Stacey Look What You've Done
    7. Muse - Supermassive Black Hole
    8. The Cardigans - Gordon's Gardenparty
    9. Crazy Town - Butterfly
    10. Scissor Sisters - I Don't Feel Like Dancing
    11. Wyclef Jean - Pussycat
    12. Madness - Keep Me Hanging On (cover)

    Top 12 News Update Graphics from 2006

    January 10, 2006

    January 13, 2006

    January 31, 2006

    March 16, 2006

    April 14, 2006

    May 15, 2006

    August 1, 2006

    June 29, 2006

    August 28, 2006

    September 6, 2006

    September 26, 2006

    November 7, 2006
    What's Wrong with Pachelbel?
    Man lost at sea was really hiding in the gym
    Justin Timberlake on SNL

    tagged as lists | permalink | 0 comments
    day in history

    Friday, December 22, 2006

    Happy Birthday Karen Hovell!

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

    permalink | 5 comments
    day in history

    Wednesday, December 27, 2006

    2006 in Review, Part I of III

    based on Reuter's Pictures of the Year

    Old Pictures of the Year: 2005

    Santa shares his secret
    Woman steals ID for inmate sex
    Hand-built cathedral headache for town

    tagged as media | permalink | 1 comment
    day in history

    Thursday, December 28, 2006

    2006 in Review, Part II of III

    based on Reuter's Pictures of the Year

    Happy Birthday James Houck!

    Gerald Ford's death on SNL
    Dead drug lord's hippos loose
    Sexblog suit heads for trial

    tagged as media | permalink | 0 comments
    day in history

    Friday, December 29, 2006

    2006 in Review, Part III of III

    based on Reuter's Pictures of the Year

    Happy Birthday Becca Spellerberg!

    John Edwards starts his campaign with an Internet glitch
    Introducing the talking spy camera
    Woman fakes kidnapping to avoid work

    tagged as media | permalink | 20 comments
    day in history


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