Posts from 07/2007

Monday, July 02, 2007

Lessons from the First Grade

A homophone is a word that is pronounced the same as another word, but has a different meaning. It is also a handheld device made by Apple.

In the top picture, a muscle-bound giant is attempting to pay the price with the Empire State Building. Below, those damned kids flipped the hold-trigger and left the gas nozzle on the ground again.

The 80s were a simpler time, where we didn't look for child molesters on every corner, and a boy could engage in pastimes like lion-hunting. Below, apparently the eggs in our fridge were fully incubated.

That's a lot of pencils.

The steed seems to be some sort of wild hog mated with a horse. Below, the night was very dark, except for the setting sun, eight twinkling stars, and one star that burnt out.

That fire is in my school. If I had made that post-Columbine I'd be in so much therapy right now. Below, that is an exact depiction of the construction on our across-the-street neighbours' house, including the port-a-potty.

Apparently, I lived across the street from a French hôpital but rising medical costs made them kick me out a few days early. Below, there may be a dragon peering in the window of my school.

I am dinosaur-watching from my perch in that giant tree by the shore. Below, this is actually a decent representation of an ichthyosaurus. I told you I was a dinosaur nut.
Gameboy game calls you retarded
Burglar tries to reenact Today's Special

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day in history

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Museday Tuesday

in which I have thirty minutes to write a thirty second song

Leggier: (adj.) having long, attractively shaped legs

My Composition (0:23 MP3)
Old Musedays:

I ran out of time ridiculously fast on this one -- slower tempos are harder for me to write under deadline, because I constantly go back and listen to the work in progress. This one's for bar piano, drums, bass trombone, acoustic bass, and harmonica.

Babies are a bunch of liars
Baby hedgehogs rescued after they are born too early
I can has cheezburger?

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day in history

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Audience Participation Day: 2007 Census Results

Read the complete survey results here.

Racy movie clips spice up European Union meeting
After watermelon, man bites dog to save puppy
Price of machetes drops after election

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day in history

Friday, July 06, 2007

Friday Fragments

a cancer-free way to surge into the weekend

♣ Depending on what my afternoon schedule of sleeping and napping is like, I may go into D.C. for another Jazz in the Garden concert. The trip is so much easier when you don't have to bother with the Blue Line which has a route that mimics the old BASIC "snake game", where you try to make your snake as long as possible without eating itself. Tonight's trip will effectively increase the number of times I've gone into D.C. in the past 6 years to 6.

♣ Speaking of repeating numbers, the odometer in my Accord hit 55,555 miles last Friday, which means I've driven about 25 miles per day over the last six years. Not bad for someone who decided to live forty miles from all the "action".

♣ Speaking of repeating numbers, tomorrow is July 7, 2007 (7/7/7) which means I should probably host some kind of impromptu cockfighting ring or poker game to maximize the commercial possibilities of "Lucky Number Seven". It is also Doobie's and Marty's birthdays, but they are not turning 7 or 77, so no one cares. Come back in fifty-odd years!

♣ Hogwarts fans all over the world were originally hoping that 7/7/07 would also be the release date for the 7th and final book in the series, but they will tragically have to wait another two weeks to learn that Snape is really Dumbledore in disguise and that Cho is Harry's biological sister. On the plus side, fans will only have to wait one more week for a three-hour movie starring Emma Watson's eyebrows.

♣ I could never be a successful actor because I am incapable of moving my eyebrows independently of each other unless I think very very very strenuously. However, I can snap, whistle, and crack each finger on my right hand individually. If you have need of any of these talents please contact my agent.

♣ After I've become globally renowned for my pioneering literacy efforts to put bookstores in every country (I call it Borders Without Borders), I'll probably have to get a real agent whose job it is to exploit my minority fame. I will call him Agent Yellow. And should I ever meet and marry an equally famous American Indian who already has a like-minded agent, we'll fire one and rename the remaining one "Agent Orange" to manage our joint notoriety. Hopefully that name doesn't have any negative connotations.

♣ I really don't have anything else to say today, so I will turn the proceedings over to Booty, who has promised not to make a mockery of the Friday Fragments ethos.

♣ Have a great weekend!

Most Canadians would fail at citizenship
Desperately seeking condoms
Go to camp. Blow stuff up.

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day in history

Monday, July 09, 2007

Stuff in my Drawers Day

an occasional look at the worthless detritus of childhood from my file cabinet

It's a simple enough exercise that everyone has to do at some point in school: write a word down the left side of your paper and then use those letters to make new words that describe the original word. It is fitting, then, that I started THANKSGIVING with "turkey", but from there, something may have gone horribly wrong. (1985)

This was a fake advertisement from the 7th grade, one in a series of many (1991). It later won a national contest and was published in the Dec '92 issue of Boy's Life. SIKE.

When your face turns blue from smoke inhalation, follow the hallucination of the Michelin Man to the nearest window. This has been a public service announcement from your local fourth grader (1989).

This is a heartwarming rendition of the Challenger shuttle launch made in 1986. Apparently I liked it so much that I wanted it to be put up on the refrigerator. That Berenstain Bears sticker shows that I was successfully immunized.

Here is a letter I wrote to my parents on our old typewriter (which I was still using as late as 1996 to do college applications the old-fashioned way) in 1985. Note the helpful translations recorded by my Mom in the margin.

A letter of this caliber only has one appropriate response:

It's a cheeseburger emergency!
Ten Politically Incorrect Truths
Winnipeg serves Porno Pizza

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day in history

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Newsday Tuesday

An Underwater Fence to Stop Invasive Species

Engineers are attempting to block the spread of invasive exotic fish by establishing an electrical barrier on the canal linking Lake Michigan to the Illinois River. Four species of Asian carp are spreading north up the river; a non-indigenous goby is attempting a move south down the canal.

It seems like every contemporary environmental fix-it program is just a weak band-aid for something we did earlier in history that failed. Engineers made the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal a century ago, and now everyone's surprised that fish are swimming through it. I'll admit that I am overly cynical though -- Operation Fishy Fence could end up becoming a smashing government-intervention success, the likes of which haven't been seen since the introduction of kudzu in the South, Maryland's plan to destroy the amphibious snakefish by draining a pond, and apartheid.

[The] Chicago project has yet to be tested by the Asian carp it was built to thwart. The Corps did test it with common carp [. . .] Only one has made it so far, probably riding the turbulence from a passing barge. [Corps project director] Shea said, "Depending on how brave or gutsy a fish may be, some may go a little further than others before turning back."

Some made their way past the site of the original barrier before it was built. [Alliance for the Great Lakes associate director] Brammeier said eggs and young from round gobies and other species can float downstream through the barrier. It may also take a higher voltage to stop smaller fish such as the round goby, since their smaller surface area makes them less vulnerable to electric shock.

In summary, the fence is useless if you are gutsy, very small, or have a boat to use as a distraction. The fence is like a box of condoms but with a lower success rate -- it may seem one hundred percent secure, but that one ballsy little swimmer that got through is going to cause a lot of trouble before this thing is all over. Even Brammeier agrees that the solution is not ideal.

"[We've] created a thriving economy but also a problem of fish being where they shouldn't be. We need to take steps to bring these things into balance. What that solution looks like is still up in the air."

When reporters asked Brammeier where fish should be if not in the water, and why his solution was up in the air where fish can just swim underneath it, he demurred.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service monitors the advance of the Asian carp with an annual "carp corral," . . . [where] scores of bighead and silver carp rocketed into the air, stirred by vibrations from boats. "We've had lots of broken noses and damaged boats," said Pam Thiel.

You would punch a scientist in the nose too if he named you "bighead". Thankfully none of the injured men needed a sturgeon (although one man reported a lingering haddock that was not cured by aspirin).

People feel just a tingle, or nothing at all, if they stick their hands in, Corps engineers say. But the effects could be more serious if someone were to fall into the canal.

The Corps has also admitted that they cannot turn on a portion of the fence yet, because it causes sparks to jump between neighbouring barges which "could trigger an explosion or injure crew members". However, exploding humans is probably a reasonable trade-off for putting carp on the national no-swim list. The fence wasn't even needed for the longest time because Chicagoans are naturally dirty.

Until recent years, though, heavy pollution in the canal prevented fish from swimming through it.

Something cheaper and more effective, then, would be to feed the citizens of Chicago more ruffage to increase the amount of poop in the waters, since it's already been proven that fish don't like swimming through a fecundity of feces. Embattled National Hurricane Center director, Bill Proenza, (who recently stirred controversy with his opinions on the QuickSCAT satellite system) offered to retask his satellites to monitor carp levels. However, taxpayers were not sold on the benefits of "CarpCRAP" despite Proenza's media blitz, which included public awareness signs along the canal and a three-day "Everybody Poops on Fish" fair in downtown Chicago. He finally abandoned his efforts after his website,, was on the receiving end of a lawsuit from the owners of

To finish the job, however, the Corps needs an estimated $6.9 million beyond the original $9.1 million price tag.

Unfazed by the mounting costs, Border Patrol officials have already begun talks to erect a similar fence along the Arizona border.

Calls to Atreyu for comments went unanswered at press time.

Happy Birthday Andrew Simmons!

Chewbacca assaults Marilyn Monroe
Branch robbed by tree
Bush bad for tourism

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day in history

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Memory Day: English Class

English and Social Studies classes were my least favourite classes growing up. Like the eternal battle between Pluto and Neptune vying for the "rock farthest from the Sun" award, the two classes constantly tried to outdo each other on the curriculum-hatred scale. (The worst year was eleventh grade, when they decepticonned the two classes into a two-hour monstrosity called "American Civilization" that you had to take if you were going to a real college). Perhaps it's ironic that I now write daily posts in the English language -- or perhaps it's just lucky that I'm still using the language in spite of the wretchedness of English class. Either way, there really wasn't much to like.

Reading Aloud: In grade school, reading aloud was meant to improve childrens' diction. In junior high, reading aloud meant that the teacher did not make a lesson plan and needed to fill time somehow. We were reading aloud as early as third grade (Mystery Sneakers for life) and I was constantly getting inwardly impatient with the students who obviously were not hooked on phonics, stumbling over "the", "cat", and the space between the words. The Reading Circle provided me with my first taste of multitasking -- I would keep track of where the class was so I could jump in when it was my turn, but I would also skip ahead and read the rest of the story for my own amusement (followed by an intense round of doodling). In eighth grade, I actually had an English teacher who absolutely hated when I read ahead and doodled while the other kids dawdled, so she punished me by forcing me into the role of the "One not-really-angry man" in our reading of Twelve Angry Men. That poor bastard has to say something on every single page of the play.

Vocabulary: Endless drills and quizzes on words that might appear on the SATs (there was a paucity of words that you'd ever actually use in real life). My teachers seemed endlessly obsessed with spelling these words correctly and using them in sentences, never realizing that we promptly forgot the words on a weekly basis, as soon as the quizzes were graded. The only time I liked vocabulary lessons was when I was allowed to draw pictures to illustrate the words.

Parts of Speech: In some years, we easily spent three of five days a week learning the difference between an adverb and an adjective, and all the reasons why you shouldn't end a sentence with a preposition (sorry, "all the reasons why you shouldn't end with a preposition a sentence"). The worst was sentence-diagramming, where you had to take all the words in a sentence and create a little tree branch of lines representing each part of speech. My teacher was never amused that all my diagrams had leaves. It boggles my mind to this day that people had trouble figuring out what a gerund was. Mitch Hedberg could probably describe one best, "You just take a noun and then add -ing.". Incidentally, if you take the name of any animal and turn it into a gerund, the result sounds like a risqu? sexual maneuver. I will explain this later, after I'm done giraffing in the bedroom.

Creative Writing: Creative writing was the one saving grace of English class, and wherever possible, I would try to convert more boring assignments into creative writing assignments. I wrote two parodies in high school, Morte de Lancelot and Antigone , both of which evolved from more prosaic in-class essay assignments, and both of which stemmed from my frustrations with having to read ancient works of literature and trying to shoehorn them into modern applicability.

Themes: Discovering themes in literature was a ridiculous waste of time. Not everything in life has to have a deeper meaning -- maybe Kane just liked sledding as a kid. Even if you couldn't figure out the theme that the teacher expected, you could usually get by safely with: the affirmation of life, the confirmation of death, love, or the loss of love.

What were your least favourite classes?

Australia has very small buses
How to crack a safe
Bride attacks groom with stiletto shoe

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day in history

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Chad Darnell's 12 of 12

12:38 AM: Back from a hot date to discover that things in code-land need to be urgently fixed for work.

2:22 AM: Finally going to sleep with fires successfully put out. I often look like the face on Mars when I sleep.

9:15 AM: Booty gives me that disapproving "if you loved me you would have woken up at 5 AM to feed me" look.

9:41 AM: Freshly showered and ready for a day that will be "mostly off" from work.

10:14 AM: Booty and Amber, fully satiated, do their invisible trampoline impression.

11:08 AM: Going outside to kill some bugs before it gets too hot to do anything other than sit inside and complain about the heat. My badminton net is woefully broken.

11:42 AM: Making shells and cheese for lunch while catching up on my Harry Potter.

12:56 PM: Spewing my lunch back through a trumpet. Incidentally, I keep random mirrors all over my house just to mess with you on 12 of 12 day.

2:45 PM: Treats and Toys in the mail! I received the complete Liza, Bill, and Jed series from Amazon (a series from my childhood by the author of Amelia Bedelia which I'd completely forgotten about until I saw one of the books in a thrift store last week). I also received a Pamplonan slinky bull from my expat friend in Spain whose 12 of 12s are always more exciting than mine simply because they're set in Spain. Ironically, she will not be doing 12 of 12 this month because she's in Atlanta.

5:11 PM: Anna and Ella stop by for a visit. Ella is pooped and/or pooping.

6:04 PM: HOT: On the way to dinner. (idea courtesy of Anna)

6:10 PM: Pulling into Boston Market for 1/4 Dark Chicken with Mashed Potatoes and Gravy, and Macaroni and Cheese. Yum!

For more 12 of 12ers, see Chad's site!

Women demand equality in running of the bulls
Smelly feet trigger police raid
Man arrives at wedding a year early

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day in history

Friday, July 13, 2007

Friday Fragments

♣ 2007 is already halfway over and barrelling towards its inexorable conclusion, even though July has always been the least frenetic of months for me. Having written a full year of daily posts since the previous site anniversary, I tend to get a little burnt out on updates when July rolls around, as can be seen by all the updates I did in July 2002.

♣ As recently as three days ago, I'd actually planned on making July "Let's take Wednesdays off for the entire month and see how long it takes readers to catch on" month, but seeing Brianne and Philip reload the page every twenty minutes for updates on Wednesday morning guilted me into writing about English class.

♣ Unlike Anna, I never disliked Government class because I had a wonderful government teacher named Mr. Esformes. His sole teaching approach was to wear away at a familiar analogy, gradually getting more and more worked up as the class went on, until moments before the bell rang when he would dramatically rip away the exterior of the analogy to reveal how it tied into American Government. On the days that it worked, it was brilliant -- on the other days, his concepts didn't quite make the leap and students would get stuck trying to assimilate two vaguely-related concepts while he did nothing but point between the two on the chalkboard and plead, "Can't you see how these are related??"

♣ The feeling was not unlike playing a game of Pictionary where the drawer can't think of anything else to draw so they just frantically move their pencil back and forth between a picture that appears to be an inflated deer's bladder and another that might be a weapon of mass destruction until the timer runs out (at which point they frustratedly exclaim, "IT WAS PHILOSOPHY!"

♣ Speaking of deer, I saw a deer in my backyard last weekend, ambling lazily between the badminton net and the shed before disappearing into the common grounds. The common grounds behind my house are just barely a forest the way most adult movies stars are just barely 18 (plus or minus twenty years). This means that the deer had wandered down a forest corridor roughly six hundred yards long and thirty yards wide just to enjoy my lawn, so I guess I should be flattered. I always knew my house would get me a lot of doe. Maybe I can domesticate one and get myself a nice lawn fawn for decoration.

♣ Speaking of fawns, which are the babies of that species, Diana and James had a baby last weekend. Benjamin Goldlust was twenty million inches long and weighed 6 pounds 5 ounces. We are very close to forming our own football team with all of these progenies (or, for the sports-impaired, our own raid party to down Kel'Thuzad). Congratulations!

♣ Someone tried to donate a "Behind the Scenes" World of Warcraft DVD to the bookstore where Rebecca works -- recognizing that it would not be worth donating to a prison or highly sought after by the Dupont Circle crowd, she wisely gave it to Ben (Anna's husband, not the up and coming raid leader who is now six days old).

♣ It seems like it's about time for a new storage format to come along and replace DVDs. Hopefully they will be smaller than CDs and DVDs but hold more information and have a fun acronym. I'm voting for "WeeVDVs" simply because it's fun to say. Plus you could exclaim "For your birthday, I got you Heebie Jeebies on WeeVDV" out loud and annoy the people around you ad nauseum. Try it out!

♣ Speaking of birthdays, today is my Uncle John's birthday and tomorrow is Kwan Burke's birthday. Happy Birthday! Have a great weekend, everyone!

Trying too hard to get out of jury duty
Real-world pinball machines
Wanted: Someone to test our condoms

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day in history

Monday, July 16, 2007

Governor's School Week: Part I of V

It's been awhile since I had an honest-to-goodness themed week on the URI! Zone, like Video Game Music Week from 2002, or the lesser-known failure, Integer Divisors of the Number "1" Week. Because everyone loves a miniseries (unless they are un-American), I've decided to create a week-long Memory Day feature about my attendance at the Governor's School for the Visual and Performing Arts, twelve years ago this month.

The Governor's School is a month-long program for public school students going into their senior year focused on a single discipline. In 1995, the School for the Visual and Performing Arts took place at the University of Richmond, sharing a campus with the Governor's School for the Humanities (a thesaurical way of saying "people good at the writing"). There were other, more boring, programs at other colleges -- for example, you could take a month-long sojourn into the amazing world of CHEMISTRY at William and Mary. My friend, Ada, went to this one and hated every minute. Because the full title takes so long to say, people in the know often called it "Gov School", though it was cringe-worthy to hear outside parties refer to it this way, much like "the Potterverse" or any references to The Net starring Sandra Bullock.

The rules of the program were straightforward -- no drugs or alcohol, get inside by curfew, wear your ID button at all times, no snogging, and remain vertical. Apparently the administration was worried about the possibility of teen pregnancies -- this is an understandable hangup since you never know what you'll get when you mate a violist and a trombone player1. With the exception of a girl from my high school, Laura Moody, who was kicked out on Day Two because all her permission slips were forged, rule infractions were few and far between. This is because we were all a bunch of artsy geeks, too busy following the muse to get into much trouble.

Even if we had all been malefactors, the schedule did not leave much time to prank it up. After a hearty dining hall breakfast, we had an hour and a half of music theory training followed by an equal portion of brass ensemble and quintet time. Following a lunch during which we had to fight for table space against campers from every hosted sports camp imaginable, we had an hour and a half class outside of our discipline (more on that tomorrow), and then another session called Explorations where we could sign up for oddball one-time courses like "Total Muscle Relaxation", "How to Choose a College", or "Poetry Reading".

Immediately after dinner was jazz practice -- an ad hoc attempt to create a big band under the dictatorial leadership of a big-dreamin' pianist -- and then a field trip into the artistic capital of the East Coast, Richmond, which lasted until curfew.

The only piece of the schedule I could really customize was the Explorations portion, and I immediately squandered it by signing up for Ultimate Frisbee on at five of the twelve sessions -- artsy students are not very sporty, so the fact that I was actually good at this sport turned me into the Michael Vick of the frisbee parking lot (they wouldn't let us play on an actual field because re-lining it was too expensive). The other sessions covered such hot topics as "How to make an Origami box", "How to look like you're fighting without actually making contact", and "Digital Sampling" (which was about a decade behind the technology and involved the Apple IIgs computer).

For the remaining sessions I signed up for "Study Hall", which was where you took your instrument and sheet music down to one of the practice rooms and then took an hour and a half nap, subsidized by the Taxpayers of Virginia.

Tomorrow: Legendary Visions...

1: Other than a baby that excels at accompanying the important melodies in nonstandard clefs.

Money falls from the skies
Runner up in a one-horse race
Free tickets for virgins

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day in history

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Governor's School Week: Part II of V

In yesterday's comments section, Anna recalled that she was always puzzled why anyone ever wanted to go to Governor's School, and I'll be the first to confess that it wasn't at the top of my list of summer activities. I had to attend a drum major camp during the week immediately before it, and being a home-base-introvert, I didn't think I'd want to go to two separate camps without returning home for a while first. This ambivalence was not positively helped by the "Course II" options that arrived in the mail a few weeks before the month of July.

This was the list of courses being offered every day after lunch, and I could tell that the forecast for all of them was partly ridiculous with a chance of retarded. Despite the New Age inanity, I sent back my "M. Uri [x] Will Attend" RSVP form and tissue paper, figuring that it would be a good bullet point on my college applications. From all these amazing courses, I chose Legendary Visions, because it seemed like it would only register about a 3.2 out of 5 on the Wince-o-meter (and also because I am 1/8th Native American when I purchase and wear an Indian Bonnet).

My fears were confirmed when I walked into the anteroom on the first day. One by one, all thirty students had to go around the circle and introduce themselves by stating a "mystical" fact or title about themselves. After hearing from the "Chaser of Dreams" and the girl who "Danced Amongst the Stars", I couldn't resist a pithy one-liner about the fact that all my Ancestors Are Dead. The pair of teachers in charge of the class never batted an eye, their faces locked in a New Age smile like the Richardsons from The Twinkie Squad by Gordon Korman. After that, we all stood up and learned a circular greeting dance which we would open every single class with for the next two weeks.

Among other activities, we watched the film, "The Hero with a Thousand Faces" (I fell asleep), did an imraam (where everyone draws a picture and one person looks at each picture and talks about how it maps to their own life) and did a "machine dance", where everyone stands around doing a repetitive motion so the full picture looks like a giant machine. After several days of being milled under the New Age Wheel of the Great God Yanni, I had to adapt to survive. I decided to out-New-Age everyone, fully embracing the retardedness that permeated every aspect of the hours from 1:30 to 3:00 PM every day.

One of our many activities was to make a mask, using the face of the person sitting next to us. I put in extra hours after dinner on the paint job (mostly to mingle with the girls in the Dance program who were also painting) and came up with the blue motif you see here. Note that this was in the days before I realized that other colours existed in the visual spectrum besides blue. It wasn't until we went around the circle sharing that I realized we were supposed to have the mask represent something. I quickly made up something about the smiling side representing my happy-go-lucky-ness and the somber side representing my quiet, outer shell, and pointed out that the diagonal slant represented the warring dichotomy between the two, receiving knowing nods from both of the teachers and accolades from other students.

Later, I wrote a puppet show called Journey to Jotunheim (because, of all the myths, Norse myths are the second most manly), using one of my three total CDs (Brassability by the Royal Danish Brass) as the soundtrack. I moved the puppets about on popsicle sticks while reading my script and frantically pressing NEXT on my 90s era CD-Boombox. I no longer have the popsicle sticks, but (knowing that I would one day have an award-winning website reaching thousands of readers per day) I preserved the puppet heads for posterity.

The most mind-numbing activity we had was "Share Preparation". Every Saturday morning, each of the Course II classes would gather in a common area and share everything they had learned during the previous week with another Course II group. This meant that every Friday, the entire session was devoted to sitting in a circle (why don't New Agers ever use chairs?) arguing over which activities were most representative of the class as a whole, and every Saturday morning was spent practicing those moves that my scarred mind had already repressed (hopefully the Governor's School clergy will one day award us all a hefty settlement and a public apology for molestation of the spirit). It took us five minutes to learn the "machine dance", yet we spent another 30 minutes perfecting it for the disinterested masses.

Tomorrow: Night Life in Virginia's Capital...

Intruder caught with his pants down
That's the same combination I have on my luggage
Homer vs. the god of fertility

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day in history

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Governor's School Week: Part III of V

Governor's School wasn't wholly about Celtic lore and jamming a yin in my yang though. Each evening throughout the four-week program was an offsite field trip to some suitably artistic locale in downtown Richmond, starting with a quaint fireworks show at some Civil War monument (the one with a cannon and some grass) on the Fourth of July. This was one of the few outdoor activities that was NOT cancelled because of summertime thunderstorms, since the adminstration's fears that we would all get struck by lightning was far greater than the fear that some of us might get pregnant. Though no one was electricuted by month's end, the power went out on campus at least seven times. Some of the other mind-altering activities we experienced included:

  • The musical, Beehive, about music from the 60s. Since I did not listen to popular music back then, I promptly fell asleep.

  • A four hour performance of Gilbert and Sullivan's Yeoman of the Guard, which was easily the worst performance in the history of performances (barely edging out any halftime show involving the UVA pep band). After the show started forty-five minutes late because the actors' bus broke down, we were treated to nosebleed seats, leads who were either high or drunk, and constant sound problems. The pinnacle of the evening came when lead #1 walked through a space in the revolving set that was supposed to be a solid wall. This wouldn't have been noticed on its own, but lead #2 stopped in her tracks, did an about face, and walked through the prop door to rejoin lead #1, after which nearly everyone in the audience started hissing (even the people that actually paid for their tickets). I slept for 25% of this outing.

  • A performance by the Shanghai Quartet, featuring three Asians and a white guy, followed by a question and answer period led by the smartass violist.

  • A post-lunch trip to King's Dominion (once again covered by the Taxpayers of Virginia) where Mike Sharp took his first roller coaster ride (on the Scooby Doo).

  • A jazz concert on Brown Island featuring Ramsey Lewis. Afterwards, we all waited outside of his dressing tent where I got one of four autographs he signed before zooming away in his limo. To this day, I don't recall a single piece of music from that concert and never listened to Ramsey Lewis again -- I only got the autograph because that's what you're supposed to do when you're near a celebrity. He probably played some sort of ridiculous circle-jerk jazz where the combo plays solos over the changes to Hot Cross Buns for four hours. The only good combo is the Cold Cut Combo from Subway.

  • A performance by the Kings of Swing jazz band in the local auditorium. During this performance, all the Dance students got up and danced, all the Music students tapped their feet, and all the Artists and Humanatees looked awkward.

  • A trip to the local art museum to "study the correlation between art and music". The whole museum was filled with contemporary (read: uselessly deep) artwork, characterized by one student with "This picture might look like a man eating a hot dog, but it's really supposed to be a naked lady dancing".

We didn't go off-campus for every event -- sometimes we would preserve the environment by forgoing buses and staying home:

  • At an event called The Coffee Shop, budding poets from the "Poetry is cool when the lines don't rhyme" school of composition would read their new poetry, despite the lack of beatniks in the audience. This was rather dull (and I usually spent the hour sketching out Doom 2 deathmatch levels on scratch paper) until the day that Ezra Ford, a large eccentric student, went on stage to perform "Repression of the Tibetan Chicken" and "Monologue on the European Gerbil". Decorum was not restored.

  • For Whom the Bell Tolls was the Hemingway-stealing title of an overly serious AIDS awareness play, complete with dramatic moments where actors freeze and the lights go out as if time has stopped, while another actor begins talking after the ringing of a cheap motel desk bell. Some of the guys I knew there wanted to do an inspired parody of this play for the weekly Variety Show, but apparently you were not allowed to laugh at AIDS in 1995, so it was vetoed by the powers that be.

  • Every Saturday night, there would be a Dance with mandatory attendance required. If you can picture BU, but even more socially awkward and rhythmically-challenged, you can understand why I did not enjoy these events. The rules stated that we had to be there until 9:30 (the dances went to 10:30), and by 9:25, there was always a crowd of geeks gathered at the front doors. I spent all four dances playing foozball or chess, since the game room was in the same area as the dance. They bused all the students from the "I Wanna Be a Doctor" Governor's School to our Dances (because their student ratio was 3 guys for every 1 girl and ours was the opposite), so my finest moment came when I beat some uppity life science guru at chess even though I never think more than half a move ahead at any given time during a match.

As you can see, the life of a Governor's School student is jam packed with activities, not all of which are fun. So why did I even bother coming to the program? The answer was, simply, for the music.

Tomorrow: "Trumpet rules! Write more trumpet related posts. Trumpet trumpet trumpet." - Kelley Corbett 8/31/2005

Flood triggers spider migration
Man calls police to save himself from... police
Out of tune musicians may be involved in the drug trade

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day in history

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Governor's School Week: Part IV of V

Before my senior year, I was a decent (if uninspired) trumpet player, easily making last chair or first alternate in All-District Bands. Although I was no Jason Price, I had a strong sense of rhythm and sightreading, and a secret weapon, my "beautiful tone". It didn't matter if I was playing a marching band tune or the solo in a Jim Swearingen song -- the only compliment I would ever get was "Wow, you have a beautiful tone!". I was the Tone Master -- if printers ran on tone instead of toner, I would have that call center job wrapped around my pinky finger.

During my senior year, I started experimenting with oddball mouthpieces like the 14B3A and the C3P0 because I figured it would be more fun to play high notes in jazz band and pep band than have a "beautiful tone" (it was). With this in mind, Governor's School was my last stop in "beautiful tone" land, during a time when I actually invested some effort into trumpeting.

Every day we would have brass ensemble for a rigorous 45 minute period, playing classic hits like the Weiner Philharmoniker Fanfare by Strauss. From there we would break up into brass quintets (there were exactly ten brass players in the right orientations) for another 45 minutes. It was here that I learned such quintet life lessons as "The Horn will probably struggle", "The Trombone player will try to take over as leader of the quintet", and "Despite common assumptions, the two trumpet players will not really care who plays 1st or 2nd because they'd rather be somewhere else". Our quintet wasn't half bad, and played several gigs on Variety Shows and Share days, which netted me several more "beautiful tone" compliments, but no hot dates. Another life lesson I learned is that you can't use the trumpet to pick up women unless you're John Schurman.

Another two or three hours per day was devoted to Master Classes (where you play for people so they can point out your level of suck), Jazz Band, and solo work. Practice rooms were merely empty dorm rooms in the basement of the building, so there were plenty of comfy chairs and beds to "think hard about trumpet" on when practicing got boring. There was no dedicated trumpet teacher, just a horn player, Alan Paterson, who worked with all the brass. Alan also co-taught our daily music theory classes.

Our first assignment in music theory was to write an 8-bar melody with strict rules like "no leaps greater than a fifth". At this point in my life, I was not a composer -- my idea of composing was to take a pre-existing score, enter it in Finale, and try to make it sound good on a Soundblaster sound card. This, combined with my dabbling in pep band arrangements, gave me a passable understanding of notation and transposition, but never really piqued my interest in writing original music.

For the thematic content of my melody, I turned to the description of a world in a fantasy book I was reading. I was heavily into Raymond E. Feist books at the time (this was a couple years before I finally realized that you can find better writing in a first year ESL class) so my first melody was inspired by a world (Kelewan) which was majestic and alien. I wrote the melody on a mini CASIO keyboard taken from home, with its high quality One-Note-Polyphony output in about twenty minutes after lunch (while eating an apple stolen from the dining hall, in the days before I was allergic to fruit).

When I played it for the music theory class, it was immediately the target of jokes because the first three notes are the same as Aaron Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man -- which, in my opinion, isn't a half bad way to start a composing career. The next assignment was to write an 8-bar B section to the melody. My B section was well-received by all the students, and (like Congressional pork in a popular bill) made the mocked A section more enjoyable by association.

As the month went on, we had to add a single-line accompaniment to the original piece, and then an 8-bar reprise of the original melody "with slight differences". My slight difference was to end on a high C, because high notes are fun. By week three, I had the twenty-four bar MASTERPIECE you see below, and was really enjoying this whole composing thing.

Forward momentum was achieved on the night of the third Dance, when resident composer, Marvin Curtis, (doubling here as a Dance Chaperone) approached me at the chess table and asked me to expand my composition for four instruments instead of two (he asked a couple other students as well). I was so excited to do this that I left the dance immediately (it was only 9:24 PM so I broke the rules), went to the grand piano in the auditorium, and had a five page monstrosity written in longhand by midnight. Every piece needs a title, so I picked Scintillation, pronounced by the brass ensemble with a dramatic half-whisper.

It was for full brass ensemble, not just four voices, and lasted a whopping 53 measures. As you can see from the sample above, I even invented a few percussion notation techniques, such as the timpani staff which seems to have several lines missing (in the "biz" this is also known as the West Virginian Staff for its resemblance to teeth). The brass ensemble was able to play it after a few hiccups (like the horns hating the high B in the beginning), and after performing it at a Share event for the rest of the school, Alan made the surprise announcement that it would be performed at the Closing Ceremony. The praise from my peers, even those that had no idea what a quarter note was, was enough to solidify my plans to be a composer -- an abrupt transformation that took less than twenty-two days to occur!

Tomorrow: The Stunning Conclusion

Happy Birthday Liz Dixon, Julia Mays, and Omar Harrod!

Vick indicted in dogfighting probe
Love Songs By You
College students seek the magic of Quidditch

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day in history

Friday, July 20, 2007

Governor's School Week: Part V of V

The feeling of hearing Scintillation performed in a reverberating chapel for the Closing Ceremonies instilled in me the hunger to compose (a hunger which soldiered on through years of composition lessons that had varying degrees of annoyance, until it finally consumed itself sometime during grad school). When I returned home, I immediately wrote Glossalalia March, and these two pieces became the bookends for my Fifth Year Recital at Virginia Tech in 2001. I followed this up with a new composition every month throughout high school, and ended up as a composition major in college.

So, despite the silly activities and embarassing curriculums, Governor's School as a whole was a positive experience for me, because it allowed me to explore aspects of music I hadn't considered before and interact with musicians that were far more ambitious and determined than I ever was. Had I not gone, I know for sure that I would have spent the summer month playing Doom 2 on the computer and biking around Old Town. I would have ended up going to college only for computer science. I never would have been able to write such pop hits as Bubba's Fried Chicken Stand or arrange One More Mozart Aria That Shac Is Currently Obsessed With But Will Forget In Two Weeks. From there, I would not have gone to grad school in Florida or gotten Booty, and eventually there would have been a typhoon in Japan.

Of all the artistically-inclined students I met at Governor's School, a few stand out in my steel trap of a memory:

  • John Berry, the eccentric violinist who would go on to become a composer at Virginia Tech, writing crazy music that Dr. Holliday loved (I once turned pages on his recital because no one else could keep up with the insanity). During Governor's School, he decided to start the "Marvin Curtis Fan Club" by taping pictures of the resident composer to everyone's door. I'm not sure what the impetus behind this was, but by the end of the week it had snowballed out of his control with buttons, signs, and fan club sign-up sheets all over the dorm. (He is not to be confused with the Dances with Wolves composer, John Barry, or the New York composer, Jim Barry).

  • The guy from Pennington Gap, which is as far west as you can go in Virginia and not be in Kentucky (if you picture a map of Virginia with Virginia Tech on it, Pennington Gap is about five thousand miles west of it). During our first dining hall conversation, the topic of forests came up, and he said, "Awthewsnehks?" in a caramel-thick accent, and it took everyone at the table about five repeats before we realized he was asking if there were snakes in the forest.

  • The girl named Maggie who was immediately dubbed by the entire male population as "The Girl With the Beautiful Eyes". As soon as you mentioned this title to any guy in the vicinity, they would immediately know who you were talking about and participate in a shared moment of appreciation for her shimmering hazel/green eyes. Two years later at Virginia Tech, I overheard a friend mention "The Girl With the Beautiful Eyes", and it turned out to be the same girl.

  • My roommate, Steve, with whom I had an ongoing paper airplane contest that lasted until our room was essentially carpeted in paper. He had to read Jane Eyre for school, and spent the whole month procrastinating. (By the end though, he'd gotten further into the book than I ever did).
  • At the beginning of the month, we all received a little book full of blank pages which we were supposed to use for taking notes in class. When my book was still blank three weeks later, I had the bright idea to have all of my Gov School posse sign their names and a brief message for posterity. Had I patented this brilliance (I called it the "yearbook"), I would be independently wealthy by now.

    I am a great guy with great skills, and I'm gonna do great.

    This note came from a cellist I had a mild crush on but was too shy to ever actually talk to. I wasn't even totally sure she knew who I was when I had her sign it.

    Here is a visual representation of the "dramatic half-whisper" necessary to pronounce the title of my piece.

    Marika was a theatre person in my LEGENDARY VISIONS (OF THE GODS) class. There's nothing special about this note, but it could be the coolest handwriting sample ever.

    It's interesting, the people you affect without even noticing. I probably talked to this girl four times all month long (she roomed with a girl from my high school) and never realized it was a big deal at all.

    Like all yearbooks, the entries can be divided into two categories: "I don't know you, but have a nice summer." and "Inside Commentary". My inside commentary was pretty evenly split between people liking my blue mask and jokes about stealing music from Aaron Copland.

    Humanities student, T.C. Wiliams '96 Senior Class President, future sportswriter in Elmira, NY, and elder brother of Chris Sharp.

    So Governor's School concluded on July 29, 1995, and after farewells with hugs and tears, we all returned home as changed people. Following a brief flurry of letters in the next two months (during the halcyon days of no mainstream e-mail) and promises to hold reunions and keep in touch, everyone from Governor's School vanished into oblivion, and I never thought of any of them again for the next twelve years. Now that I've gone through my little file folder of programs and trinkets, I wonder where they've all gotten to, but haven't really tracked anyone down, even with the magic of Facebook (the problem with Facebook is that, unlike 95% of the other people with accounts there, I, and almost everyone I went to Governor's School with, was born before 1980).

    I hope you enjoyed this week's feature!

    Happy Birthday Matt Jenkinson!

    Publishers fail to spot plagiarised Jane Austen
    New skintight spacesuit revealed
    Spiders are the harbingers of fire

    tagged as memories | permalink | 5 comments
    day in history

    Tuesday, July 24, 2007

    Media Day

    Sunset over Colonial Beach

    Engaging in an exercise routine which involves running around in circles for twenty minutes with a small toddler on your back

    Lucky 7 Poker Night on 7/7/07, where I came in first place for the second time ever, rapidly revealing myself as a pokerial force to be reckoned with (if you ignore all the last place scores from 2006)

    I took care of the two gay kitty brothers again last week. Titan (a.k.a. Punchy) spent the entire week high on catnip next to the scratching post.

    Making some tasty beef stir fry from raw ingredients. Apparently I have become a hunchback in all of my pictures.

    This past weekend, we went camping in Gore, VA, which is northwest of Winchester on the state line. It was located next to the Rock Enon Boy Scout camp, which I'm fairly certain I camped at as a kid.

    There were at least five copies of Harry Potter being read at any given time (I finished it yesterday and will post a non-spoilery review tomorrow). Several of the campers also went to Virginia Tech, though I may have graduated at least fifteen years earlier than all of them combined.

    Ella performs to "Twist and Shout" in her form-fitting Bimbo Chair

    In Memory of Vincent James DiStefano, Anna's "Pop-pop", who passed away last week.

    See more photos of BU and the gang
    See more photos of cats

    Cat Movies

    Booty perfects her trapping technique (2MB WMV)
    Booty relives her Tallahassee days (2MB WMV)
    Amber pulls a Kramer (2MB WMV)
    Amber lip-synchs to Nina Persson (2MB WMV)

    Happy Birthday to Michelle Cao (yesterday!)

    Using the copyright law to escape from prison
    The squirrels are revolting
    At Roswell Honda, everyone's a winner

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    day in history

    Wednesday, July 25, 2007

    Review Day: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

    There are NO spoilers from ANY Harry Potter book in this review, though I mention some minor plot points from Books 4 and 6.

    By now, everyone knows that the final book in the Harry Potter series was released last Saturday -- this release had more hype than the Matrix, Star Wars 1, Knut the polar bear, the baby panda bear, and Bob Barker's retirement combined. I picked up my copy on Saturday morning at an eerily empty Target which had rows and rows of unsold books, and read it off and on through the camping trip that followed, finishing it between other responsibilities on Monday.

    I once knew a guy at work who had deathly hallows -- as soon as he appeared at your office door waving and ready to talk, you'd want to die. But I digress.

    Coming in at 759 pages, Deathly Hallows isn't the longest of the series (that award goes to the angstfest that was Book 5), but it's still pretty daunting. It doesn't feel long though, because the narrative hits the ground running from page 1 and remains a page-turner all the way to the end. The pace may be unforgiving for someone who hasn't reread the old books recently, since Rowling wisely cuts the recaps and reminders to a minimum. In place of the boilerplate "Harry is a wizard and this is his owl" prose, Rowling constantly pushes the plot forwards with a fine balance of laughter and danger. I read the first 250 pages in a single sitting, occasionally laughing out loud (a rarity for books not written by Gordon Korman).

    The story opens soon after the events of Book 6, in which Harry was tasked to fulfill a mission for a professor, enlisting the aid of his wizard posse, Hermione and Ron. It became clear at the end of the previous book that Year 7 would stray a bit from the standard "Harry spends a year at Hogwarts" formula, but this is actually a strength, since it injects a fresh setting into the story on occasion, while still remaining true to the audience who feels that Hogwarts, itself, is almost a character in the plot.

    There is always controversy over the endings of series (except for Six Feet Under, and maybe Friends), but I have to admit that I was completely satisfied with Book 7 as the final saga, and felt that there was no other way to end things that would have fit so well. People are always obsessed with the spoilers and who lives or dies, but those concerns are irrelevant to the strength of the ending that Rowling has written, which ties everything together from the beginning (and I do mean everything. Through the first six books, she created a complete, breathing world with internal consistency, and instead of making the world larger in Book 7, she chose to make it deeper (something which I also enjoy in the writing of Janny Wurts). Plot points that were mere phrases or offhand comments in previous books reveal a deeper meaning in Book 7, and always in a logical fashion. To me, it never felt like she was stretching her story to account for writing herself into a corner (and even that annoying S.P.E.W subplot from Book 4 gets vindicated a bit).

    I plan on going back to the beginning and rereading the series (something I haven't done in two years), this time reading Book 7 at a slower pace to appreciate the writing more, but I can already wholeheartedly say that J.K. Rowling deserves every single dollar and pound she has earned for this series. There simply isn't anything to complain about in this book.

    Final Rating: A+

    You can read my review of Book 6 from two years ago here. Please do not post spoilers in the Comments section.

    P.S. We find out that Hermione is a dude.

    Happy Birthday Emily Ferry!

    Drew Carey to host The Price is Right
    Risque car plates get personal
    Gang kidnaps gamer to sell account

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    day in history

    Thursday, July 26, 2007

    List Day: Best and Worst

    CondimentBest: Mayonaisse
    Worst: Relish
    Mario GameBest: Super Mario World
    Worst: Super Mario 64
    ActorBest: Guy Pearce
    Worst: Cuba Gooding Jr.
    ActressBest: Nicole Kidman
    Worst: Julia Stiles
    CheeseBest: Munster
    Worst: American
    Season of 24Best: Fifth
    Worst: Second
    VegetableBest: None
    Worst: All of Them
    Season of AliasBest: Second
    Worst: Third
    Movie TrilogyBest: Back to the Future
    Worst: The Matrix
    BeerBest: Guinness
    Worst: Steel Reserve
    Recent Best Picture Oscar MovieBest: American Beauty
    Worst: Shakespeare in Love
    Internet PhenomenonBest: YouTube
    Worst: ytmnd and its derivatives
    FruitBest: Grapes
    Worst: Tomatoes
    AppleBest: Apple
    Worst: Orange

    Happy Birthday Emily Green!

    Different kinds of fat
    Bikini-clad mowers (with great video interview)
    Oscar the death-detecting cat

    tagged as lists | permalink | 4 comments
    day in history

    Friday, July 27, 2007

    Friday Fragments

    celebrating the two year anniversary of the Friday Fragments Fhenomenon

    ♣ It's been a busy week -- I have not stopped running since the camping trip last weekend (I'm running as I type this). Hopefully, I'll have some time to slow down and relax tonight -- maybe to wash a few crusty dishes and clean the Matterhorn of poop that has undoubtedly taken over the litter box in the basement.

    ♣ I just cleaned the litter boxes last night, but sometimes Booty is full of poop, much like the senators who are currently lobbying to filter the entire internet to protect the kids from boobies. The only harm you will ever come to from boobies is if you happen to be walking next to a spritely Amazon with a double-D cup and she suddenly spins around to the left, poking your eyes out. It's kind of like the Three Stooges eye gouge, except that you won't be able to prevent it by jamming your hand in cleavage.

    ♣ Speaking of cleavage, I do not have cleavage, which is why I did not purchase a girl's bike last week. I got a Schwinn High Timber Men's Mountain Bike off of Amazon for about $170 and have been assembling it in my basement.

    ♣ It was a little difficult when I got to the part where it said "attach the pedals" and I realized that it didn't ship with pedals, but I shrugged it off until I found that the front axle was missing too. Luckily, customer service sent me free replacement parts within a couple days, and once I get a helmet and a water bottle, I'll be biking all over the neighbourhood again, much like the days of my youth. Maybe I'll buy a helmet this weekend.

    ♣ This weekend, we're going to see a play in D.C., written by an acquaintance of Rebecca, and then dashing out to Gainesville (the Virginian variety) for a midsummer barbeque which I will bring cookies too. There's nothing planned yet for Sunday, so I may just lay about like a layabout or lay out a new layout for the TWELFTH EDITION of the URI! Zone.

    ♣ You may be bemused to muse that the end of this month concludes eleven full years of an online BU presence, so I'll have to come up with some fresh visuals to go with the next year's site. As a result, there will be no updates for the rest of the month (I'm sure you can survive for two paltry days), but you can feel free to post your suggestions on what you'd like to see in the next edition.

    ♣ Have a great weekend!

    New study shows all the girls you went to college with smoked pot
    DoD remakes SimEarth
    Wasting time at work? You're not alone

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    day in history

    Monday, July 30, 2007

    The URI! Zone is currently undergoing renovations, and will return on August 1, 2007 for a twelfth year of debauchery and food.

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    day in history


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