01/2008

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

2008: Year of the Mudskipper

Happy New Year from the URI! Zone! After a jetsetting weekend of holiday visits that encompassed both Front Royal and Baltimore, New Year's Eve was a quiet, fancy, affair at Kathy and Chris' house, where we paid the ten dollar cover charge to lose ostentatiously in poker. To cover our losses, we stole some of their wedding silverware and sold it at the local pawn shop, Sterling Silver.

2007 was a decent year for the Zone -- it was proven that the Zone now has a credible draw of 23,000 visitors per year without resorting to such devious tricks as having an RSS Feed or mentioning Britney Spears or U2 in post titles. Although the numbers dipped slightly from 2006, I attribute this mainly to Australian Rachel vanishing off the face of the Earth, rather than any decline in the quality and quantity of posts.

23,292 is a pretty decent number of visitors -- everyone in Reedley, California could visit once . Should the Zone maintain its visitor levels in 2008, I may have to consider selling out to Facebook or Microsoft for insane amounts of cash. However, should the number decline dramatically, I'll merely attribute it to the burst of the real estate bubble and come up with some useless but fun post ideas for 2009, like an entire week devoted to filling out Internet Surveys or links to free porn.

It's still to early to plot out the course of 2008, but it will likely include another Java Certification, a few very minor household projects, and watching the fourth season of LOST. The centerpiece of 2008, though, will be a planned trip to Europe in April (for which the tickets have now been purchased).

After picking our start and end dates (3/31 to 4/15), and deciding that we'd want to eat a Diabetic on the plane, we became the proud owners of nonrefundable plane tickets. Our plan is to fly into London for a few days, head to Paris for a few days, hit the French countryside and see a castle, and end up in Barcelona for a few days at the end. Then, we'll fly back to London for just pennies a day and return to the States on the 15th. Tragically, we won't have time to hit Ireland, Iceland, or any of the other countries that start with an I, like Brianne's Italy. Also, by the time we get to Europe, Paige and her husband will have moved ironically back to Houston so we'll have to sleep in the gutters of Spain instead.

At least a few of this year's posts will be dedicated to our trip planning and execution, so you can watch us make newbie traveler mistakes and laugh.

What are your plans for the New Year?

Buyer's remorse on baby names
50 Most Loathsome People in America
JK Rowling hints at an eighth book

tagged as travel, website, day-to-day | permalink | 1 comment

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Europe Day

an occasional post about finding the way to Europe

Everyone has a different reason for wanting to travel to Europe. For me, I could give a rat's ass about this little block of marble carved into a Renaissance codpiece or the birthplace of the guy who invented the alto clef. I want to experience the ancient (and Alexandria of the 1600s doesn't cut it), eat tasty foods, and see exotic vistas and architecture -- to be a foreigner on the outside looking in, away from the comfort of my home office with a cat in my lap.

In addition to these artistic goals, Paige has been bugging me to go to Spain and visit her ever since she and her husband moved there on March 18, 2006 to escape the military coup in Houston, Texas. Despite that, it took me until last summer to even get my passport, a slow and steady process that can take anywhere from one to six months. The day that it arrived last September was probably the first day I considered a Europe trip to be a tangible goal.

Rebecca and I had been talking about going to Europe for a few months, and our interest was further whetted by a Thanksgiving visit from Paige, who proceeded to give us eight million Europe-related bookmarks to read, and recommended the detailed city maps of Rick Steves (who is not related to Rick James or Steve James). Even then though, it was very easy to say "let's go to Europe next year" and not make any real progress. We finally issued the ultimatum that we would have plane tickets purchased by the end of 2007.

To do this, the first thing we thought about was what we DEFINITELY had to see while there, and what sort of budget we could have. Countrywise, we definitely wanted to go to Spain (so Rebecca could use her newly-learned Spanish to guide me around) and France (so I could resurrect my high school French, pieced together with random catch phrases from Alizée pop songs). For a third country, it was a toss-up between Great Britain and Italy. We wanted to go for at least two weeks, so we wouldn't be rushing around all the time, and wanted to try and meet a budget of $3000 per person. With this in mind, we looked at plane tickets.

We used various online travel sites like travelocity and expedia to determine which city it would be cheapest to fly into and whether weekends vs. weekdays mattered. We ultimately settled on nonstop flights to London (which eliminated Italy from our travel plans). This was also good because we'd be able to ease into the foreignicity in a country with English as the main language. We also found that it was cheaper to get a quick flight back to England to fly home, rather than get two one-way tickets from our start and end countries.

Based on the cost of the bookend plane tickets, we did some number crunching and figured that we could spend sixteen days in Europe (at $100 a day) after setting aside $1200 on major travel. We picked 3/31 - 4/15 as our window and suddenly we had the skeleton of a Europe trip in hand! We'll start in London on the 1st of April, and ultimately need to be Barcelona by the 14th.

Our next step is to determine how we'll be travelling in the middle. We're leaning towards the expensive $200 Eurostar train that travels from London to Paris in two hours which will cut back on our later travel budget. In France, we're thinking about getting the unlimited train pass, which will free us from calculating every train price, and will also give us a ready-made list of cities we can plan to visit for free. The downside of this is that we probably wouldn't make it out to some of our "Wishlist" places like Mont St. Michel, the abbey on the beach that becomes an island at high tide. I have always been a Brest man myself, but we might have to consider more southern cities like Montpelier.

If you have travelled in Europe, what are your thoughts on train passes?

Happy Birthday to Sam and Lisa!

Pope's exorcist squads will wage war on Satan
Y'all fat, and y'all eat too much
Men get a smokin' tattoo

tagged as travel | permalink | 10 comments

Friday, January 04, 2008

Friday Fragments

at least 75% as tasty as Tuesday Tenders

♠ I'm highly satisfied with my new Canon Powershot A650 IS. Taking quality pictures is so simple that a handicapped three-toed sloth (hence, it has one toe) could do it, and the batteries last for several days of heavy usage before requiring a recharge. The only negative (note the photography pun) I've found so far is that the memory card is inserted into the battery compartment, which makes it slightly more annoying than normal to switch it out.

♠ The picture below was taken at the Baltimore Aquarium last weekend, using the camera's special "Aquarium" setting (one of several special settings that includes Fireworks, Underwater, Indoors, and Psychotic Mime). I did nothing more than crop it and shrink it down to fit on my page.

♠ The Aquarium was incredibly crowded for a weekend with crappy frigid rain in crappy Baltimore, and the tanks that had the particular fish from the movie, Finding Nemo, were particularly swarmed. You could hear soccer moms from miles around shouting, "Creighton, stop riding the moving walkways and come look at Dori! Look it's Dori!" On one hand, it's nice that a movie elevates the status of nature, but on the other hand, fish are cool enough without having to refer to them by cartoon names.

♠ We considered bringing back some souvenir fish for Booty, but the aquarium security frowned upon it.

♠ For Christmas, Rebecca got Amber a frou-frou specially-designed toy mouse. I was skeptical at first, since these gimmicks are akin to putting fruit in beer and selling it as Tequiza, but Amber has played with it every single day since Christmas for ten to twenty minutes a day (without any nudging from me!) I haven't regularly been enthralled with a toy since I cancelled my World of Warcraft account a year ago.

♠ Speaking of WoW, I reactivated my account last month after reading a blog post by Sam about recent changes made to the game. I bought another month to check in with my old WoW friends to see what they were up to. When I canceled during the crazy work months in 2006, I never expected to come back to it (unlike some players that are habitual cancellers like Jaood and Dokta). I especially should never have given away that 1000g to people in my guild. However, just a couple games of 59-Twink Warsong Gulch were enough to make me miss the game in general, and I now have an additional three months, and a level 34 Druid powering its way up to the expansion pack.

♠ I justify this diversion in two ways: 1) After I re-finish the third season of LOST, I'll be out of TV shows to watch (since I don't have cable) and 2) Rebecca is going on a month-long trip in February so I'll need something to do in the interim.

♠ This weekend, I'll be hosting the first URI! Poker game of 2008, where all of 2007's scores are wiped clean for a new generation of suckage. Since playing in the basement is a toss up between frostbitten balls or exorbitant heating fees, the game will be held in my kitchen, which can only hold about six players before people start contracting the tuberculosis from their neighbours.

♠ Have a great weekend!

Holy smoke in nunnery tops 2007 weird news
Woman sues for her lewd commercial
Introducing Sleep Cocaine

tagged as fragments | permalink | 1 comment

Monday, January 07, 2008

Audience Participation Day

Caption Contest

  • Submit a funny caption for the above photo. If the caption contains dialogue, make it clear who is speaking. Do not post your caption in the Comments section.
  • All URI! Zone visitors are eligible to enter, even if you're nothing more than a shifty lurker. All entries will be posted for voting next week, and the most popular entry will win a $10 gift certificate to Amazon.com.
  • I will not vote on entries, but I have the final say in case of ties, brawls, or shoddy, vague, inarticulate rules.
  • Entries must be submitted by this Friday, January 11.
  • For examples of what is expected, you can look at previous contests involving Saddam Hussein , Steven Silverman , and sumo wrestlers .
  • Exploding dog causes crematorium blaze
    Ravers stuck dancing for days
    Celebrating Christmas every day

    tagged as contests | permalink | 0 comments

    Tuesday, January 08, 2008

    Damp: (adj.) slightly moist; unenthusiastic or depressed

    Listen (0:30 MP3)

    The problem with the slower pieces is that they end just as I start getting into them. This piece is for strings, marimba, flute, and solo viola.

    Share your imagery in the Comments section!

    For those of you who are new to the Museday Tuesday phenomenon (or as the Muppets like to call it, the m'nah-m'nahn), here are the rules:

    1. The composition can be for any instrumentation. It can have an actual score or be a pure synthesized realization that might not be possible to perform in the real world.
    2. It must not be longer than thirty seconds.
    3. It does not necessarily have to have a start, middle, and end -- it can just be a fragment of something grander.
    4. It must be composed in a single sitting, in thirty minutes or less. If time runs out, I post whatever I managed to finish, be it good, indifferent, or makeup on a corpse.
    5. The title of the piece must be a word from a random word generator, although this word doesn't necessarily have to be incorporated in the piece.

    Intel quits the One Laptop program
    The day the world almost died
    Male monkeys pay for sex

    tagged as museday | permalink | 4 comments

    Wednesday, January 09, 2008

    Tensday Wednesday

    a column that can only be described as "in tens!"

    1) In Saturday's $10 poker game, Jaood became a first-time winner. He's played poker at my house since the very first game in April 2004 (when none of the windows had curtains yet), and it's taken him this long to break away from the pack. Congratulations!

    2) Ten people who graduated from high school with me that I never kept in touch with, and then found again on Facebook: Chris Detrow, Rangena Hotaki, Geoffrey King, Matt Koerner, Deborah Lipnick, Matt McGuire, Ben Seggerson, Steve Seltz, Ely Soto, and Mike Stafford.

    3) In mathematics, ten is a semi-meandric number. This means that it will occasionally wander to the spot before nine or after eleven.

    4) When I was ten years old, I was a sixth-grade safety patrol that had been playing the trumpet for two years. My science teacher, Mrs. Anderson, ran a boring class which consisted entirely of students pairing up and doing labs that involved rolling metal balls across carbon paper while she sat at her desk and tuned us out. I missed two classes in a row once for a band rehearsal and concert, and she called my parents at home to tell them that I was a troubled student who was missing too many classes.

    5) Memento is the only movie I have seen more than ten times in my life.

    6) The tensile strength of concrete is 10 MPa.

    7) Ten years ago today, I was home on Winter Break during my sophomore year of college. I ran errands with my dad during the day, and then went to see L.A. Confidential in the theatres with Mike Sharp and some of his friends, back in the days when Skyline Mall at Bailey's Crossroad was actually a mall and movie theatre, rather than a gigantic Target (in the retail sense, not the launch the missiles sense).

    8) My "safe" vocal range extends from G2 up to D4. This means that I am not a tenor.

    9) I've only ever written one composition that lasted at least ten minutes without interruption. It was my Masters' thesis, , and though it was never performed, it did have Jim Barry's seal of approval.

    10) Finally, there once was a man who sent ten different puns to his friends, with the hope that at least one of the puns would make them laugh. No pun in ten did.

    Mexican boy glues self to bed to avoid school
    Clarkson stung after bank prank
    Shoplifter stabbed by stolen knives

    tagged as random, lists | permalink | 5 comments

    Thursday, January 10, 2008

    Review Day

    Veronica Mars, Season Three: The third season has less Dawson's Creek teen melodrama than the previous seasons but doesn't skimp on the witty quips and interesting detective stories the series is known for. The casting is pretty strong (thankfully there's no sign of Duncan Kane) although the new additions are mostly useless and they could have used more Wallace.

    Episodes here are more standalone than they used to be, which mostly works although the story starts to drag a bit after the first two "mini-arcs". It ends strongly, with a great season finale that unfortunately became the series finale as well. I'm torn on all the cliffhangers opened up in the final episode -- they would have made for an intriguing fourth season if the show had returned, but it also looked like the writers would have jumped the show ahead several years to "win new viewers" and that would have made all the cliffhangers pointless.
    Final Grade: B+

    The Bourne Ultimatum: The second Bourne movie pissed me off with all its loopy, shaky camera work (exacerbated by the fact that we got to the theatre late and had to sit up front). Because of this, I only saw it once, which put me at a slight disadvantage when picking up the plot of the third movie. However, it was still fun to go along for the ride and see how Jason Bourne gets out of all sorts of contrived scenarios. The stunt work in these movies has always been great -- the fight scenes and car chases seem much more visceral and realistic without the flashy special effects budget that other movies employ.
    Final Grade: B

    The Simpsons Movie: Think of this as a fun, extended episode of the Simpsons and you won't be far off the mark. Generally funny and pleasant, although I fell asleep for about ten minutes towards the end because it was late (almost 10:45 PM), I am old, and this was movie #2 of 2 for the evening. If you like the Simpsons, you'll like this -- if you don't know enough about the Simpsons to catch all the in-jokes, it might be less amusing.
    Final Grade: B

    Talladega Nights: Better than Blades of Glory but worse than Anchorman. We got about forty-five minutes into it before getting bored and turning it off. The only useful part of the movie was learning why "I'm going to come at you like a spider monkey" is a catch phrase. This is a good movie to put on in the background at a party when people are just arriving and don't want to make awkward conversation.
    Final Grade: D-

    Don't forget to submit your captions for Monday's Caption Contest by tomorrow!

    Mother's large ass prevents spreading of fire
    Police impersonator pulls over a cop
    What are you doing here? No, what are YOU doing here?

    tagged as reviews | permalink | 0 comments

    Friday, January 11, 2008

    Friday Fragments

    It's Friday. You ain't got no job.

    ♠ Have you submitted a caption for Monday's Caption Contest yet? If not, you're missing out on a chance to make a really easy $10. That's more than some trumpet players make in a week!

    ♠ The deadline for submission is today, which is handy since tomorrow is 12 of 12, and you'll be busy documenting your life to prove that it's more exciting than it seems. I wasn't sure if I would do 12 of 12 again this year, but then I realized that I'll be in Barcelona on the 12th of April, so it would be criminal not to.

    ♠ Speaking of criminals, I'm really tired of all the caucus coverage in the media right now. Caucus rules are so outdated that you might as well create a Survivor Immunity challenge involving a two-foot stick, an apple, and the rectum of a hog to get the same effect. Plus, it would be really nice if just one person steamrolled every vote so the losers could go home and save billions of dollars that will be wasted on campaigning instead of vowing to fight on because "it's a close race". Every politician is equally as shady and untenable as every other politician in the world, otherwise they wouldn't be running for anything. That's why there's a special place in hell for politicians.

    ♠ It must really suck to have a special place in hell reserved for you. I'd feel bad enough knowing that I didn't make it into heaven without also hearing that I'm a mentally-challenged evildoer.

    ♠ Speaking of mentally-challenged evildoers, an Undead rogue tried to gank me while I was on an escort quest and the escort kicked his ass.

    ♠ That level 34 druid I mentioned last Friday is now level 50 and powering through the old worlds. It's really easy to hit 60 now, because there are so many new towns and quests throughout the land, and the last patch increased the rate that you level between 20 and 60. For me, the most boring parts of leveling were from 34-38 and 42-48. Nowadays, a quest like "talk to the guy standing next to me" never nets less than 1000 XP, and "let the dwarf out of the Outhouse" gives you 6600 XP.

    ♠ I may be a poor judge of measuring though -- just last week in a game of Cranium, I thought that the tall, skinny milk jugs were a gallon and came up with some crazy answer like "16 pints in a gallon". However, it is true that there are 16 pirates on a galleon.

    ♠ Speaking of galleons, I'm rereading the Harry Potter series and am somewhere in Book 4. I haven't read Book 7 since it first came out, so I want to reread the entire series in a short time span. I'm much more impressed with the early books now that I know the ending -- I used to think that the first three books were just written for fun and the fourth book was the "whoops, I'd better start tying all this together and make an endgame" book, but it's much more apparent now that even Book 1 foreshadows much of the plot.

    ♠ This weekend, plans include the newly-erected Dogfish Head Brewery in Falls Church, possible romping in D.C., and assistance with piano-moving in Chantilly. I bet a piano holds at least 16 pints. I will also invent a unique method for solving quadratic equations with sightsinging, and hit level 54. Have a great weekend!

    Dog and cat, best friends forever
    Supermice
    Tarzan. King, Money and Jenkins not pictured.

    tagged as fragments | permalink | 4 comments

    Monday, January 14, 2008

    Chad Darnell's 12 of 12

    12:01 AM: Arriving home from a Friday night trip to the Dogfish Head Brewery in Falls Church. The wait was ridiculous, and we didn't end up leaving until after 11. Amber doesn't like it when I suddenly turn on all the lights.

    7:18 AM: "I'm not trying to wake you up or anything, but just so you know, I'm here and I'm sorta hungry, so if you could put some food in my bowl that would be great, 'k thanks."

    8:42 AM: After doing a load of laundry so I don't have to wear a washcloth all day, I take a shower.

    10:16 AM: Over at the Spellerbergs' house to help move an upright piano. Ella assists (WMV).

    11:06 AM: The piano is safely in the back of a truck for transport to another house two hours away.

    12:25 PM: Back home, making my first Totino's pizza since last October, when they were discontinued for some silly "e coli" scare. These pizzas are worth the health risk, and cost effective too!

    1:29 PM: Amber helps me play World of Warcraft. She likes Druids in cat form apparently.

    4:11 PM: After doing some telecommuting for work, I make a batch of chocolate chip cookies.

    5:25 PM: Driving down the Fairfax County Parkway, on the way to Falls Church.

    5:47 PM: Rebecca shows off her newly-painted living room.

    8:37 PM: At the Ghana Cafe in Adams-Morgan, attending a benefit event where drinking saves lives.

    10:10 PM: Around the corner at the Jumbo Slice, eating a jumbo slice. I had pizza twice today, which is about average.

    See more 12 of 12ers at Chad's site !

    Free Sex at Prague Brothel
    Pooh Bear pees on mom
    Parted-at-birth twins married

    tagged as 12 of 12 | permalink | 11 comments

    Tuesday, January 15, 2008

    Newsday Tuesday

    The most recent local news to spread like falling dominoes in a burning building is an article in the Washington Post about a Fairfax County Spanish teacher / track coach who was arrested for using his computer to send dirty pictures to a minor (who turned out to be an undercover cop). If you're curious, you can easily find the article yourself, but I will not be mentioning names on this site.

    Why not? Because this is a guy I graduated from high school with. For people keeping score at home, this means that my shortlist of infamy now includes a suspected pedophile and a girl who was murdered by her ex -- as of right now, I do not know any buggerers or crystal meth addicts, but that is subject to change at any time.

    "Mr. Spanish" added me on Facebook just a few days after the New Year. Before that, I hadn't seen or heard from him since graduation (a typical state of affairs exacerbated by the fact that I'm better at keeping in touch with my toes than old friends, and I can only do that while sitting Indian-style). In high school, he was just a typical friend -- nothing out of the ordinary or strange. Straight out of one of the many upper middle class families on the east side, he sat behind me in two English classes, did band and track, and even came to one of my End of The Year Parties senior year.

    When I first heard the news over the phone through the high school grapevine, I figured it would be another one of those cookie cutter cases you see every day in the news -- student accuses teacher, investigation ensues, no verdict is reached, and no one ever knows for sure who was right and who was wrong. In this case though, the details painted a high-definition picture: Mr. Spanish had chatted with the undercover cop over a ten month period thinking it was a 13-year-old girl, and sent at least one picture with the wiggly parts wiggling. The cops were steadily building evidence, and only moved when they realized that he was a teacher and in contact with children every day. No matter how good a lawyer you have, those circumstances are hard to repaint in a better light.

    Whether he's guilty or not, the police were absolutely right in preemptively stopping him and breaking the contact between him and his students/athletes. Maybe Mr. Spanish was harmless. Maybe he viewed the Internet as a safe outlet for his perversions. Maybe he had never seen To Catch a Predator on prime time, and would never have done anything beyond encoding his weenie in a JPEG file. Whatever the case, the safety of the children should be the number one concern. It's the same idea as a cop involved in a fatal shooting -- get them off the streets until it's clear that the shooting was justified, and then allow them to come back if they're in the clear.

    No more has been announced in the news since the arrest, so I guess I'll wait and see what happens next. Hopefully Mr. Spanish gets the help he needs, no children were harmed in his care, and I befriend a meth-head to enrich my ready store of stories to tell.

    Diarrhea ruins train conductor
    Diarrhea ruins premiership
    Dozens injured as boy wreaks havoc by playing trains with city's trams

    tagged as newsday | permalink | 4 comments

    Wednesday, January 16, 2008

    Europe Day

    an occasional post about finding the way to Europe

    In the previous installment of Europe Day , we had purchased plane tickets to bookend our two week trip like, well, bookends.

    The next step was to work out all the interstitial transportation arrangements. We wanted to devise a plan to get us from England to Spain at a reasonably leisurely pace, with a fair amount of flexibility to veer off the planned itinerary. We also figured that handling the bulk of the transportation up front would help us to more accurately budget things like pints of beer and prostitutes from the Quarter Pigalle, Paris' red light district.

    First, we considered our options for getting out of the UK and into France. We compared the high speed train, the TGV, which takes a couple hours, goes from the heart of London to Paris, and costs $196 per ticket to several other mixes of planes, ferries, and buses. Ultimately, we settled on it because, despite the expense, it was the most efficient, hassle-free way to move. I believe there was also an option involving two buses and a ferry that costs about $100, but it would have taken eight hours, not to mention wait times and sitting around. We didn't buy TGV tickets yet -- we weren't sure how long we'd stay in London, and we knew that there might be a discount involved if we also bought Eurail passes.

    For travel on the continent, we immediately ruled out car rentals because we're trying to take a vacation from commuting. Trains seemed both inexpensive and exotic, so we read up on all the various permutations of Eurail passes and considered the gems of wisdom you all provided in my Comments section. As a baseline, we examined the two-country Eurail Saverpass, which provides unlimited train travel for two or more people (this also means we're not allowed to get sick of each other until we reach Barcelona). We invented a variety of whimsical travel plans crisscrossing France and Spain and then looked up the price it would cost to just buy individual train tickets. It turned out that individual tickets were about $10 less expensive than passes, and we decided that the convenience of the pass was worth $10.

    Once we'd picked the passes, we had to decide how many days we wanted on the pass. Saverpasses are designed so you can get unlimited travel on X days in a two month period. We knew we wouldn't hit the two month limit, but still had to get enough days so that we wouldn't end up stranded on the Andorran border with no days left. After inventing increasingly crazy travel plans as tests, we decided we'd probably need four days of travel time in the two week period. This number seems small, but realize that we won't even use the pass until we've decided to leave Paris, which is at least 1/3 of the way through the trip. Just in case though, we bought the 5-day passes. That way, we have the flexibility to leave a city if it sucks.

    Delivery of the train passes was fast -- we ordered on Friday and got them on Monday. DHL is still a crappy delivery service though -- last year they delivered my computer to my non-English speaking neighbours while I was at home. Next time, the deliveryman honked from inside his van until I came out because it was raining and he "didn't want to get wet again". This time, the passes, which were clearly marked "Signature Required" were left inside my door, and the online bill said "SIGNED BY FRONT DOOR". I guess my front door is smarter than I give credit for.

    The next step after train passes is the fun part: creating lists of what we want to do and see in each of our major destinations. This will determine when our TGV tickets should be and how much money we'll throw away in the more expensive cities like London.

    Any more tips? Leave them in the Comments section!

    I have, everyone has and they love it.
    Uwe Boll ejected from big-budget ring
    Pig fetus fun backfires on swimmers

    tagged as travel | permalink | 4 comments

    Thursday, January 17, 2008

    Caption Contest

    Vote for your favourite caption in the left sidebar by Tuesday the 22nd!

    Happy Birthday Robin!

    Son restrained with Packer tape
    Researchers finally realize that clowns suck
    Parasite makes ants into berries

    tagged as contests | permalink | 1 comment

    Friday, January 18, 2008

    Friday Fragments

    contains 100% of your recommended daily allowance for saturated fat

    ♠ I hit level 61 in World of Warcraft last night and made my first trip into the Outlands, the expansion pack world that I'd never been in before. Graphically, the new world is as impressive as anything Blizzard has done in the past. I'd like to see a full-length feature film by the Blizzard team -- they could probably give the Pixar guys a run for their money. I'm glad that I got a faster graphics card when I bought this new computer though, otherwise I'd be stuttering through the world like an Arban double-tonguing etude played by a twelve-year-old. With the Geforce 8600 GTS, everything is smooth and speedy.

    ♠ FIOS is finally bringing smooth and speedy Internet to Sterling. After an attack of paper door-hangers advertising the service ($100 a month for phone/cable/internet), my backyard was spray painted with bright pastel lines. Since it's probably not a runway for Mayan aliens, my guess is that the Verizon workers will start laying fiber optic cable very soon.

    ♠ Of course, yesterday's snow storm obliterated the lines, but I saw crews out working in other parts of the neighbourhood anyhow. I wonder if cable diggers get extra pay for the five inches of snow -- it means they had to dig five inches deeper than expected!

    ♠ I came home around lunchtime yesterday to beat the snow, and even then it took thirty minutes to get back. Northern Virginians have a very low tolerance for snow -- every office building in Reston was emptying out as parents rushed off to get their kids from school and people without kids pretended to have kids requiring a pick up.

    ♠ I don't have a kid, but I did give Ella a hat to protect her from the snow. It barely stayed on for long enough to take a picture, but had the side effect of teaching me how to use the "Continuous Shutter" feature of my camera. Up until then, a continuous shutter to me was just a doorman with OCD.

    ♠ I've never understood the point of a doorman, especially at hotels with revolving doors. It seems like a position they made up just so you would have one more person to tip, like that annoying guy in the bathrooms of wannabe-upscale restaurants and clubs who tries to give you a towel.

    ♠ When you have the bladder of a four-month-old puppy, you tend to get lots of face time with the towel guy. He always seems incapable of NOT handing you a towel, even after the politely preemptive "Sorry, I don't have any change". After his third attempt, it should be socially acceptable to pee on his towel.

    ♠ According to last week's poll, two people pee in the shower, three people don't, and four more are too shy to say that they pee in the shower.

    ♠ This weekend I'm going to Costco to stock up on my greatly depleted stock of rations, since I haven't gone since the New Year. I'm also going to a housewarming party on Saturday night and working some more on Europe planning. On Monday, I'm going to Martin Luther King Jr's birthday party (at Parkwood Apartments on MLK Boulevard in Tallahassee) and then going to work like any other day. The only thing on my calendar for Tuesday is a Full Moon, so I guess I have to learn how to turn into a werewolf.

    ♠ Have a great weekend!

    Patriots fan gets helmet tattooed on head
    Forced rectal exams stirs ethics debate
    The woman had agreed to the man using a video camera to project live images of them having sex on to the bedroom wall

    tagged as fragments | permalink | 0 comments

    Monday, January 21, 2008

    Martin Luther King Jr.'s Birthday

    There will be no update today because of the federal holiday. However, you should take the opportunity to learn more about this noble leader. Having lived on his street for two years in grad school, I feel like we have a real connection.

    Don't forget to vote in last week's Caption Contest by tomorrow!

    Smurfs brace for movie and more women
    Clown Rebuttal
    Fiancee says man wanted her to be a prostitute

    permalink | 0 comments

    Tuesday, January 22, 2008

    Effuse: (v.) To ooze, pour out or exude

    My Composition (0:28 MP3)

    The word, "ooze" caught my eye when I generated this random title, and gave me the mental image of a slow, inexorable flow of slime or sludge, slightly ominous and foreboding.

    U2 call themselves 'horrific'
    Suing in case of an AIDS kiss
    Flying Phalluses in Second Life

    tagged as museday | permalink | 2 comments

    Wednesday, January 23, 2008

    Memory Day: Comedy Records

    While driving home from the super-secret pencil factory in Bailey's Crossroad yesterday, I stumbled upon an Interview with Ray Stevens on XM Radio channel 2 -- I was trying to get to UPOP on 29 and didn't hit the 9 fast enough. The interviewer himself was annoying, as most interviewers and talk show hosts are wont to be, but it was a fun trip down memory lane to hear some of Ray's greatest hits and his commentary on them.

    To shamelessly milk this bit of nostalgia, I've decided to post recordings of my favourite comedy songs from my youth. While everyone else my age was listening to the New Kids on the Block or U2, I was enthralled with comic masters from the 1940s through the 1970s, and I'm fairly certain these songs played a huge part in the development of my obviously-hilarious sense of humour. Everyone has heard of Weird Al Yankovic, but there was an entire subculture of funny records and tapes before he was even born. There's nothing un-work-safe in this collection.

    First comes Ray Stevens, whose ongoing career spans comic hits like Gitarzan and The Streak as well as popular serious tunes like Everything is Beautiful.

    Ray Stevens - Along Came Jones (3:45 MP3)

    Next up is Tom Lehrer, a satire pianist from the 1960s. This song from his 1965 album describes how to make Catholicism more popular with the masses.

    Tom Lehrer - The Vatican Rag (2:05 MP3)

    Allan Sherman's shtick was to write new lyrics for existing songs, and then sing them himself, even though he had a barely passable singing voice.

    Allan Sherman - Harvey and Sheila (3:33 MP3)

    Before there was such a thing as political correctness, Bill Dana played the role of José Jiménez, a fellow with a very poor grasp of the English language, and a tendency to mix his H and J sounds.

    José Jiménez - Submarine Officer (3:30 MP3)

    Spike Jones, the earliest of the comic artists, rewrote popular songs of the 40s using a ridiculously odd set of sound effects and percussion instruments made from tin pans and washboards. His City Slickers band is best remembered for Yes! We Have No Bananas and the obnoxious song, All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth. This sample is their take on the plot of the opera, Pagliacci.

    Spike Jones - Pal-yat-chee (3:19 MP3)

    The versatile Stan Freberg was both a satirist and advertising man, writing the musical, The United States of America, as well as the classic commercial for Chun-King Chow Mein, where Chinese people eat hot dogs every day.

    Stan Freberg - Banana Boat (Day-O) (3:27 MP3)

    Of course, not every artist made more than one funny song. For everything else, there was Dr. Demento, who made it his mission to compile all the funny songs onto single CD collections.

    Julie Brown - 'Cause I'm a Blonde (2:15 MP3)
    The Dead Alewives - Dungeons and Dragons (3:29 MP3)
    Corky and the Juice Pigs - I'm the Only Gay Eskimo in My Tribe (2:06 MP3)

    Hopefully these songs will bring a smile to your face at work on Hump Day. Which one was your favourite?

    Media thinks Booty isn't human
    Scouting misfits attain the Eagle rank
    Missing cat found in suitcase

    tagged as memories, music | permalink | 0 comments

    Thursday, January 24, 2008

    List Day: Works in Progress

  • I just finished Chapter Twenty-Three of Harry Potter Book 6, after Harry has procured a memory. Following Book 5, which is the literary equivalent of driving your forehead against a very obvious totem pole repeatedly for nine million minutes, book six really moves!

  • I've compiled the first 566 pages of Curse of the Mistwraith on the Paravia Wiki and have another 24 pages until one whole book is completely wikified!

  • Plinkette the Druid is now level 63 and in the Zangramarsh region of the Outlands.

  • I've dusted off my old Warsong Gulch strategy web site and rewritten multiple sections of it based on the past year's worth of game changes. I also played in six games on Tuesday night and won all six (seven on Wednesday).

  • I've gotten approval from my Homonerds Association to install a slab of concrete underneath my heat pump. Currently it's up on cinderblocks like a West Virginian Chevrolet or a very small bank teller.

  • We've planned our way through nine days of our Europe trip, and are mentally situated in the coastal town of Collioure, France at the moment. Next up is to plan out Barcelona. (Europe Day is next week though so stay tuned for details of London and Paris).

  • I've started looking at certifications to get this year. I'm leaning towards the Java Web Development certification because I know much of it already and it seems like a logical step in the Sun series of certifications. This will be a summertime project though.

  • I'm eleven episodes through the third season of LOST, which I want to finish before the new season starts next Thursday. I'm in the boring middle part where every episode is about how Jack's tattoos were inked by leprechauns, so it's hard to stay motivated, even though I know the last third of the season was excellent.

  • I'm also watching Undeclared, billed as the Freaks and Geeks of the college years. I'd seen much of it on TV but didn't remember many of the episodes until I started watching the DVDs. Some of them are tame while others are hilarious!

  • I've created a wishlist of features I'd like to add to the URI! Zone, including the ability to tag posts, a way to easily update from Europe, and a permanent page for all the Musedays. I also want to update the Comments avatars sometime, so if you're sick of yours, feel free to send me a new recommendation!
  • What have you been doing to carpe the diem?

    I am a pet, I generally act animal like and I lead a really easy life.
    Crossing Guiliani often had a price
    They died doing what they loved

    tagged as lists | permalink | 1 comment

    Friday, January 25, 2008

    Friday Fragments

    because even some crappy half-assed sentences are more exciting than work on a Friday.

    ♠ Congratulations to my Mom, who has now won three of the four Caption Contests on this site. She wins a $10 gift certificate for her efforts, easily outscoring all the other permutations of Mr. Ed and Tony Shaloub. Entries were also submitted by Mike (of Mike and Chompy), Jaood, Rebecca, and myself.

    ♠ With Mom winning all the Caption Contests and Kathy winning all the Name-That-Tune Contests, I may have to invent some new contest types that skew differently. Some possible ideas: Spot the PHP Syntax Error, Name all the Pokemon, Organize the Pregnancy Symptoms by Week, or Name that Tuba Soloist.

    ♠ Alternately I can start a Fantasy Draft for baby wrestling, and pit everyone's progeny against each other like I said I would long ago. I think Philip's baby, Madison, would win, because she's probably wiry and scrappy like her daddy. P.S. Philip, Anna says that you need to bombard everyone with more Madison pictures.

    ♠ Putting my money where my mouth is, here is a baby picture of BU. Any resemblence to Kuato from Total Recall is mere coincidence.

    Total Recall is one of those movies I used to watch all the time, but I haven't seen it in years. We DID watch Amélie again last night -- it's a very fun movie and I could actually understand about 40% of the French without the subtitles, probably from my recent bouts of listening the the French Pop station on XM (102: Sur la route).

    ♠ We also went to the Beach Shack for dinner last night (though we didn't take the outdoor seating). The Beach Shack is a little restaurant in Falls Church with seafood, a (sand)bar, and a beach motif. I have the buffalo-style shrimp because I was intrigued as to whether it would be any good. It WAS good, but my final opinion is that the buffalo sauce was wasted on the shrimp, since shrimp is already so flavourful. From now on, I'll leave the buffalo to the chicken and have plain shrimp for the lickin'.

    ♠ I'm not liking lichen lickin' though -- I'll leave that for the caribou.

    ♠ I've never had coffee at Caribou Coffee, but if they merged with a Japanese restaurant chain, they could become Caribuki and serve sushi with the lattes.

    ♠ Today is Amanda's birthday and also Rebecca's last day at her job! Have a great weekend everyone!

    For Sale: Horse -- TASTY EATING
    Undercover dwarves steal from Swedes
    Law and Order: The Home Game

    tagged as fragments | permalink | 5 comments

    Monday, January 28, 2008

    Audience Participation Day: Laudatory Remarks

    With Phil moving back to Williamsburg, Doobie marrying something that didn't come out of a 40, and Mike planning a move to the great Washington D.C. metropolitan area, it's become painfully obvious that I haven't done a very good job of keeping up with all of my readers' lives.

    To rectify this situation post-haste, today's post will be an opportunity for you to let me know what you've been up to. To add a dash of creativity (which is much more fun than nutmeg) you get to tell me what you've been up to in the form of a local newspaper article for an award you have just won. Feel free to use any format you want and post in the Comments section, but if you prefer a Mad Libs approach, you can use the following template:

    Brian Uri!, a resident of Sterling, Virginia and an established expert on getting Finale to notate the music the way you want it to, was presented with the Keanu Reeves Distinguished Award for Token Asianism at a grand ceremony yesterday evening. After attending school at Virginia Tech and Florida State, he fell off the radar, but all reports indicate that he has been quite successful in the past few years designing software for the federal government and watching TV shows on DVD.

    Brian's life changed for the better last year when he tricked someone into being his girlfriend, and his future plans include going to Europe, playing World of Warcraft, and inviting all URI! Zone readers to visit Virginia for an awkward party where everyone stands around and pretends to have things in common. In his acceptance speech, he thanked Dan Shiplett and Alex, and closed with these noble words: "Exclamation points are fun! Leave a note in the Comments section!"

    Happy Birthday to Jack Wilmer!

    Movie sanitizer's next job is his own life
    A corollary to the "wear clean underwear for the hospital" rule
    Baptists have the biggest poops

    tagged as you speak | permalink | 2 comments

    Tuesday, January 29, 2008

    Newsday Tuesday

    The Dulles Rail Death Knell

    Travelers, shoppers and office workers -- interviewed at the airport, in parking lots and in Tysons area strip malls -- said they were stunned by the Federal Transit Administration's announcement Thursday that the $5 billion rail line would not qualify for federal dollars without drastic changes in price and management. Dulles rail was counting on $900 million from the FTA, and state officials have said all along that without that money, the project would die.

    Even a public-schooler such as myself could have told them that something like this would happen. Especially in an election year, why would a Republican-controlled government agency give a big win to a Democratic governor? Alternately, it was a conspiracy by all the private companies who are offering to buy the toll road in exchange for financing the project. It's ironic that the biggest debate of the past year has been whether the rail should go underground or above ground and now it's been rejected out of hand for reasons that have nothing to do with tunnels. Personally, I was hoping for the tunnel option, because tunnels are neat (and even Mitch Hedberg would agree that thirty seconds is the maximum amount of time you can depict yourself having fun on an above ground rail line).

    For some, the allure of rail is to reach the airport. For others, it would connect workers with their jobs along a booming corridor of technology companies, law firms and other employers. And for others, it would create an opportunity to redesign at Tysons Corner, a sprawling 1,500-acre shopping and office district that planners envision as a Metro-connected downtown of streets, sidewalks, high-rise offices and apartments.

    For me, the Silver Line would be pretty useless. Sure it would be nice to hop on at Reston instead of Falls Church for my biannual trip into D.C., but I live two miles from the airport already, and Tyson's Corner Mall is irrevocably broken -- a yuppy-filled zit on the face of northern Virginia that just needs a good squick. I'd sooner shop at Big Lots than go anywhere near the place.

    The main reason I wouldn't regularly use the Metro (and never have) is that I would sacrifice a few extra miles of driving for an additional twenty or thirty minutes of travel time. Unlike my economical Dad who thinks nothing of driving fifteen miles down the road to Woodbridge to save ten cents a gallon on gas, I am perfectly willing to pay for convenience. Sure, that Metro ride might be more relaxing and use less gas, but that's an extra hour of travel time that I could have spent NOT traveling, enjoying the time at one end or the other of my trip.

    Whatever happens with the plan, it won't affect my day-to-day life, but since we've already spent $140 million getting it this far, we might as well see if there's any way to salvage it. (Plus I hear that Fairfax would have to scrap their campaign to attract new residents, which revolves around the slogan, "Even this crappy county has a Silver Lining"). Here then, are three original proposals to save the rail project.

    1) The Social Security Approach

  • Demolish Tyson's Corner and replace it with a new Dulles Airport. This way, the Silver Line would be a small, inexpensive three-mile connector rather than a thirty mile behemoth.
  • Rebuild Tyson's Corner in a hodge podge fashion on the old site of Dulles Airport and let our kids deal with the problem in thirty years.
  • Note that this approach can be stacked multiple times (much like the Sunder Armor ability) -- whenever Tyson's becomes a nuisance, just keep pushing it out of the area until it's West Virginia's problem.
  • 2) Silver Line With a Vengeance

  • Eliminate all the train stations along the line. Instead, install jump points at every overpass. Travelers must drop onto the train from above as it goes by, saving billions of dollars in construction costs and a good fifteen minutes of travel time.
  • Travelers must worry about splinching, which is where you mistime the jump so your legs land on the train but your torso ends up plastered against the overpass.
  • 3) Operation: Vesuvius

  • Construct an above ground rail line to Dulles Airport as planned. Then, work out a deal with New York and New Jersey to create a new landfill along the entire length of the Dulles Toll Road, burying the rail line and all surrounding buildings in fifty to eighty feet of debris and toxic waste. Instant tunnel at a fraction of the cost!
  • New Jersey's waste alone would raise more than enough money to maintain a rail line, and the region already knows that underground shopping malls are quite popular .
  • Happy Birthday Jaood!

    Mail slow as snails
    Spanish driver sues for damages
    Hits for hire on Craig's List

    tagged as newsday, mock mock | permalink | 6 comments

    Wednesday, January 30, 2008

    Sick Day

    Out sick.

    permalink | 0 comments

    Thursday, January 31, 2008

    End of the Month Media Day


    First snowstorm of 2008

    Marc eats a cookie

    Seems a little horse

    Indigenous Australian lovebirds

    Ella tours a prison as part of a Scared Straight program

    The new Pantene Pro-V commercial

    More New Photos

    See more Winter Festivities Photos
    See more Aquarium Photos
    See more January Photos
    See more Cat Photos
    See more Ella Photos

    Movies

    Teaching Ella to be an Injun (1MB WMV)
    Booty, Amber, Lake, and Titan coexisting (4MB WMV)

    Strange creature immune to pain
    Woman punched horse in the neck
    Man struggles to return from the dead

    tagged as media | permalink | 2 comments

     

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