Posts from 02/2008

Friday, February 01, 2008

Friday Fragments

♠ I managed to catch a case of what was either elephantiasis or a flu-like cold on Wednesday which is the reason there was no update that day. I spent almost all day Thursday sleeping it off, but did make sure that I was awake for LOST in the evening.

♠ The twist at the end of last season's LOST could have very easily destroyed the show if handled improperly, but after watching the season premiere, I'd say that they've not only managed to meet expectations, they've also revitalized the show in a big way. I give it two Booty's up.

♠ My tenth grade English teacher, Mrs. Riviere, had three grammatical rules she was fanatical about: Use because of instead of due to all the time, not only must always be followed by but also, and alot is not a word. I always have trouble with the second rule (see also, previous fragment), because but also fits into sentences about as well as a Goth in the Key Club.

♠ One time in English class, we moved our desks into a circle and had to recite "Alot is not a word" in turn. This inanity lasted for half a revolution around the circle before Laura Moody screamed, "Alot is not a word, goddammit!" She was one of the weird drama people who gave me a Purple Platypus which was last seen on top of Ella's head .

♠ Stuffonmybaby could be a good sequel to the now defunct I bet there could be a massive subculture just waiting for someone to rake in the advertising dollars...,,,

♠ I don't see how any money is ever made on web advertising. The only time I ever click Google Ads is when owners of a site ritualistically remind me, "we're not supposed to tell you this but please click on the banners today" to drive up their clicks.

♠ The worst kind of web advertisements today are the animated ones that float over the page and interfere with your reading. A close second are the mortgage ads with the dancing man/woman/alien. It's almost like there's a contest to come up with the most obnoxious ad ever.

♠ If I were to come up with such an ad, it would involve the Question Mark Suit guy, the loud guy from the Oxy-Clean infomercial, and the truth anti-smoking campaign. These images would fill up your entire screen then automatically close your browser and deliver free samples of the product to your mailbox.

♠ This weekend will include such activities as getting well again, eating ziti, gaining chips, and playing Warsong Gulch. Since it's the heart of winter, all activities are supposed to be indoors and of a hibernating variety. What are you doing this weekend?

♠ Happy Birthday to Stretch! Have a great weekend everyone!

Introducing the Battle Blaster
Josh Holloway interview on LOST
Bloggers are the new threat

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day in history

Monday, February 04, 2008

Europe Day

an occasional post about finding the way to Europe

In the previous post, we had just purchased the Eurail pass for unlimited train travel in France and Spain. The next step: make lists of fun things to see in each city and then pare them down to fit comfortably in the two and a half week period. For this task, we relied on guidebooks from the local library and the wise advice from world-traveler Paige, who has written plenty of London/Barcelona posts on her blog .

We had good success with the Rick Steves guide books, because although he had different interests than us (and a strange fascination with ice cream shops), he laid out the information very concisely and exhaustively cross-referenced. As long as you can stomach the constant advertisements for the Rick Steves empire (buy this sleeping bag on! Don't forget to read Rick Steves' Guide to Airline Lavatories in Latvia!) it's a good high-level resource.

Paige also recommends his maps, saying that they're accurate and detailed. I haven't experienced this myself, but I've written a letter to Mr. Steves, asking him to map out my neighbourhood. If he correctly identifies the high points like the ABC store and Big Lots, I'll have confidence in his mapmaking abilities.

Great Britain

Everyone says that London is pretty expensive, so we started with a list of free or cheap sites like the British Museum, Cartoon Museum, and various churches. We also want to have some pints of Guinness, stroll through markets, and see some live music, using the money we save from tourist attractions. Personally, if I'm going to blow twenty pounds on a vacation, I'd rather it be on a delicious meal than looking at a painting that's only famous because it's old. We opted not to get the London Pass because so many attractions are already free, but will be getting all-you-can-eat Tube pass for unlimited subway travel while we're there.


In Paris, we started from the list on the Paris Museum Pass, but ultimately determined that it wouldn't be cost effective (especially since it's only sold in increments of even numbers of days). Among the sites we plan to see: the churches and chapels on the Ile de la Cité, St. Germain du Prix, the Rodin museum, the Sewers tour, the Catacombs, the Eiffel Tower of course, and a stroll down the Champs-Elysée. Communication will be my responsibility here, so we'll be ordering lots of Orangina (une orangina) and Coke (un coca).

French Countryside

It was much harder to chose places outside of Paris to visit that were still sort of on the way to Barcelona. We liked the sound of Colmar and Mont St. Michel, but both were too far off the trail. Nice and the surrounding areas sounded too modern and touristy. After much deliberation, we settled on three hotspots: the palace at Versailles, the castle at Carcassonne, and the quiet(er) beach town of Collioure.

Based upon this wishlist of sites, we plotted out three full days in London and three in Paris, with the remaining eight days to be divvied up between places in France and Barcelona. With a date in mind, we purchased tickets for the high speed train between London and Paris, getting a major discount because we had Eurail tickets (we had expected $200 per person according to initial information online, but it turned out to be $200 total for both of us).

The next step will be to create a similar list for Barcelona, and then start on things like reservations and restaurants! Rebecca is leaving the country for a month this weekend, so I'll spend the time while she's gone compiling all our random sheafs of notes into neat, organized lists (using the Technical font) with anal bullets.

No trip is complete without anal bullets.

Going out of your way to contest a traffic ticket
Diplomatic stink over finger in butt
Last wave for golden frog

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day in history

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Accursed: (adj.) Being under a curse; doomed.

My Composition (0:28 MP3)

This excerpt is written for a brass ensemble and a light smattering of percussion. Share your thoughts in the Comments section!

Brits mix fact with fiction
A refreshing glass of Gene Simmons Wet
Target tells blogger to go away

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Pointless Vignette Day

A couple weeks ago, I was at Costco doing my normal Saturday morning shopping for the sundry essentials, like Guinness, corned beef, and forty-pound crates of kitty litter. (The fact that two separate Pointless Vignettes have now taken place at Costco is an unintentional coincidence, but serves to highlight the fact that Costco is an interesting place where all sorts of magical events occur).

When leaving, I drove around the back of the store -- trying to cross the main thoroughfare takes forever since you have to wait for all the frail, retired Floridans sisyphusing their five hundred pound pallets of fake bottled spring water across the street, hoping to gain enough momentum to clear the curb on the opposite side.

This covert route took me past the Costco Loading Dock, where a giant sign had been newly erected across from the dock. At first, I figured it was one of those highway safety warnings like "Did you remember to turn your lights on?", "Look both ways for consumer traffic before making your wide right turn", or "Caution: Bridge May Be Spicy!". As I got closer, though, I could clearly read the two foot high red letters against a hygenic white background.


Like the kid in the wheelchair who got caught in the grille of a semi and went on a wild ride , it's pretty funny to imagine a forklift driver tooling into the back of a truck, only to have it pull away from the loading dock and head out on the highway (I believe something similar happened to Marion in Raiders of the Lost Ark). It's even funnier to realize that this apparently happened so many times that Costco felt the need for a very large, very visible sign.

Should you ever get a job as an inventory man at Costco and find yourself in a similar situation, here are a few tips to keep you safe and alive.

  1. Apply the emergency brake on your forklift. It's bad enough when a mattress falls off the back of a truck -- a forklift will probably have a much more deleterious effect on surrounding traffic patterns.
  2. Attach yourself to the truck with stray ropes or cables. If this is not possible, wander as deep into the truck as you can.
  3. Try to get the attention of cars driving behind you so someone can alert the truck driver. Depending on the cargo, try throwing bright, colourful objects out (a case of beer will also work).
  4. As a last resort, strap into your forklift and speed out the back when the truck reaches a stoplight. The five foot drop to the ground will probably destroy your tires, but the risk is preferable to waking up four hours later at a Costco in Maryland.
Collecting $16.96 from Shit Face
Abercrombie gets hit with obscenity charge
Please think of the Busch

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Thursday, February 07, 2008

Review Day

there are no spoilers in these reviews

LOST, Season 3:
The show stumbled a bit in this season, treading water on several plots, and spending too much time on tangents like The Others rather than the core mysteries of the island. Despite that, several of its standalone episodes were best-of-series quality, like Desmond in the ring shop. It almost feels like they could have compressed season two and three into a single season and not lost much.

The one thing that the LOST writers do very well is to make great season finales, and this one is no exception. If you initially liked LOST but felt it was going nowhere, it's definitely worth it to muddle through season three to get to the current one -- more actual plot actually occurred in last week's episode than three of any previous season's episodes and that pace looks like it's not about to let up now that an end date has been set.

Final Grade: B+

A light comedy about a geek's freshman year in college, made by the creator (and many of the same actors) of Freaks and Geeks. It's great fun and never gets serious, but as a cancelled show the end comes too quickly without any major resolution. Like Freaks and Geeks, this set is very expensive, but comes jam-packed with worthwhile DVD extras. If you don't care about extras, just rent it.

Final Grade: B

Metroid 3: Corruption:
I purchased this at the same time I bought Zelda for the DS ($5 discount at Costco), but could never get into it. I've played it a handful of times -- where the original Metroid was a game of quiet exploration punctuated with exciting boss battles, this game feels like a nonstop timed arcade sequence. I'm all for gripping introductions (especially after ten years of Zelda games where you walk around a village fishing for eighty hours before you get a sword), but the pace of this one prevented me from getting comfortable with the control scheme. Maybe I'll try playing it again in the upcoming Bachelor-Month when Rebecca's in Guatemala, but if Super Smash Brothers Brawl comes out first, this is highly doubtful.

Final Grade: C

Paris, Je T'Aime:
A French movie with subtitles, this is a collection of very short stories about Paris, written by multiple directors and acted out by all sorts of famous and not so famous names (Steve Buscemi, Natalie Portman and Elijah Wood both appear at various times). The shorts range the gamut from funny to serious to way too artistic to be taken seriously.

Final Grade: B-

He Was a Quiet Man:
This indie movie started out with a lot of promise but squandered most of it away by the midpoint. The story tells of an office drone who dreams everyday of shooting all his coworkers but becomes an unlikely hero when another coworker beats him to it. Christian Slater gives one of those brilliant performances where you don't even realize he's Christian Slater anymore (he's the old guy on the cover), and William H. Macy plays a traditional William H. Macy-esque role. Elisha Cuthbert (also known as Jack Bauer's daughter on 24) is a horrible, horrible actress and unfortunately doesn't get eaten by a cougar. I didn't understand the ending, but I don't think anyone else did either.

Final Grade: D

Teens Unremorseful After Stealing From Girl Scout
Four visits required to make sure it's prostitution
Boy tries to buy baseball field for $5

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Friday, February 08, 2008

Friday Fragments

hot to trot like a tater tot

♠ I saw this image over on Dad Gone Mad. Who knew that family planning had such an easy and eloquent solution?

♠ One problem with weekends is that most of the blogs in the sidebar get updated even less than they already do during the week. Shape up, people! We require more reading materials.

♠ This weekend, I'll be taking Rebecca to the airport at some ungodly hour on Saturday morning (before 5 AM is ungodly, after 5 AM is normal). I'll also be playing a little poker, doing my taxes, and going to Costco to buy an additional pallet of toilet paper.

♠ Even though it's crappy tree-bark two-ply toilet paper, I feel like it vanishes very quickly in my house. Either Booty is turning Amber into a mummy when I'm at work, or I've somehow become a consummate sleeppooper.

♠ In one of my thousand childhood books of logic puzzles and word games was the question, "What is the only English word with three pairs of double letters in a row?" The answer was bookkeeper. If someone ever asks you this riddle, you can now add a new answer, sleeppooper. This question may have also been in the old Infocom game, Zork Zero.

Zork Zero also taught me the word, machicolation. In fact, probably 65% of my knowledge comes from computer games (with another 5% from public schools). Among other lessons, you can jump higher if you shoot a rocket launcher at the floor, and if you are attacked by a moose you should Feign Death.

♠ In Warcraft, Plinkette is level 66 and about to move on to Nagrand from Terokkar Forest. Plinky is spending ridiculous amounts of gold to level up Engineering to maximize twink gear possibilities . Got any thorium bars? How about wheat?

♠ The new characters on LOST last night surely didn't come for the wheat. The latest twist seems like a brand new layer of obfuscation to worry about, but at the same time, it's also the first logical, sensible twist the story has seen, so I think it'll work out well. I liked that Locke asked about the smoke monster just as things in the new storyline were getting tense -- it felt like the writer's way of saying "Don't worry, we realize there are still old questions unanswered". I also liked that one of the new characters, Miles, has some semblence of blatant mysticism. The second season felt like everything was going to be wrapped up in neat scientific explanations, and it's good to see the weirdness returning.

♠ Have a great weekend! Don't forget that 12 of 12 is coming up next Tuesday!

Unmarried teen parents are sluts
Shootout averted at the Super Bowl
And wait'll you see all the closet space!

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Monday, February 11, 2008

Rearranging Day

Yesterday afternoon, in between spurts of productivity and Mind Blasts, I decided that it would be a good idea to move the exercise bike back out of the basement and into the living room. The blustery weather outside combined with the fact that I have the heat turned off in the basement made me realize that I'm tacitly accepting that fact it will never be used where it currently sits. In the living room, next to the TV and the giant stacks of DVDs, I may still never use it, but at least I'll have to look at it every day.

Before I could bring the bike up though, I had to rearrange the living room -- there just wasn't a good place to put it without making it the centerpiece (and everyone knows that Amber is the centerpiece of any room). I love rearranging rooms, having lived in tiny spaces for most of my life -- it's a more tactile version of the Gridlock game where you have to drag other blocks around to get another one out of the box.

Growing up, my room was roughly three feet by two feet and you could barely spit across it without smashing your lip against the walls. I would rearrange the room every six months or so, always trying to maximize the usefulness and the walking spaces while fulfilling such criteria as "the door must open all the way" and "Mom won't vacuum if the vacuum cleaner can't turn around the edges of furniture". I lived in Tallahassee for two years, and rearranged each room of the two bedroom apartment twice, three times for my bedroom in Foxridge, and two times for my bedroom at the Elms.

The final floor plan I came up with today is very similar to the way it used to be when I first moved in (see also, Kathy's submission to my "Arrange My Living Room" contest in 2004 ). The TV area is much cozier, you can now play the Wii from all parts of the room without losing connection, and you can watch TV while cooking, but at the expense of being much closer to the screen when sitting on the couch.

I got so caught up in rearranging the living room that I forgot to bring the exercise bike upstairs. I got plenty of exercise, regardless, having burned at least four and a half calories.

Don't forget that tomorrow is 12 of 12!

The secret sex life of wombats
GameFAQs is a hotbed for terrorism
Bong-smoked trout

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Chad Darnell's 12 of 12

5:22 AM: I believe it was twenty-two degrees outside when I woke up this morning at 5:22.

5:36 AM: Amber has gone Green, and every morning after my shower, she makes sure I turned the water off completely.

5:45 AM: Checking my auctions in World of Warcraft. It's no eBay, but I'm trying to save up some gold to create this .

5:47 AM: If these cats ever figured out how to work latches, I would be rendered obsolete immediately.

6:00 AM: The commute to work is always a blur. In truth, I don't even really wake up until I'm actually sitting at my desk.

7:15 AM: It's always comforting to look out my window and see the building of our direct competitor looming six stories higher than us.

10:46 AM: Heading home through Herndon so I can be there when UPS arrives.

10:59 AM: In my newly-arranged living room, the kitties can immediately pop their heads up and see me when I walk in the door.

11:38 AM: Ham and mayonnaise sandwich on potato bread for lunch.

12:48 PM: Opening a mini gift from Rebecca, who is in Guatemala and left me with a big box full of treats and toys to open all month long. A year ago today we met for the first time, so we're counting this as an anniversary of sorts. Happy anniversary!

3:43 PM: Our recycling is picked up every week, but according to the gargantuan pile of newspapers I took to the curb today, I haven't taken advantage of this service since January 4, 2008. Of course, it started to rain and sleet immediately afterwards.

4:59 PM: Anna and Ella stop by in the afternoon to play Scrabble and show off. Ella likes to play Peek-a-boo (4MB WMV).

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

Winning the Grammy in Mathematics
Police crack down on crack crack
People are genuinely scared of sudden explosions

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Memory Day: Saturday Mornings

The Saturday Morning Routine was an aspect of life instilled by my Dad, who saw every weekend as an opportunity to do extra work for the Home. We would wake up every Saturday between 6:30 and 7 and eat some cereal while perusing the Washington Post. At the time, I limited my reading to the comics and the NASDAQ stock exchange, where I could keep tabs on my shares in Babbage's and Sierra On-Line (both of which ultimately went out of business).

Around 7:30 we would load up the Nissan Stanza (license plate XVX-881) and travel to the Shoppers Food Warehouse on Little River Turnpike. This store was built in a converted Safeway and had a high domed ceiling and classic 70s architecture. The polarity of the aisles was reversed -- you came in on the far left for produce, and finished shopping in the freezer aisles on the far right.

We would hit the same aisles every trip with my sister and I in the cart or running along side, avoiding the aisles with too many tantalizing treats. The trip through the entire store usually took less than fifteen minutes, and culminated in an aisle run where our pleas to get some Juicy Fruit gum were denied because it's "not cost-effective to buy anything in the checkout line". If there were any major sales with the classic fine print "LIMIT 6 PLEASE", our shopping expeditionary force would divvy up the stack of 18 chicken pot pies (or pizzas) into thirds and we would get to pay for our purchases separately. Particularly huge sales would result in a second trip back in after we had loaded up the trunk.

After the grocery run, my Dad would wake up my Mom (who tended to sleep in like normal folks) and the pair would head off to BJs or Costco (née Price Club) for a bulk shopping extravaganza. Meanwhile, my sister and I would get tasked with cleaning the house, which involved dusting everything and vacuuming from top to bottom. Being kids, we apparently didn't do a very good job, since most of it would get redone anyhow. However, this taught us to work smarter, since we learned which areas got inspected without fail and spent our efforts there, while making all the other areas just look clean.

Once we had learned how to beat the system on cleaning the house, we were left with a good hour or so with the parents gone. We usually spent this time doing one of our two weekend "mandatory extracurricular activities": reading a book for 2 hours per weekend or practicing our musical instruments once we got older. Doing these things while the parents were out of the house meant that we could do them our way (i.e. playing through the fun songs for a half hour instead of practicing scales and fingering exercises, or rereading a Beverly Cleary book for the eighteenth time instead of branching out).

As an adult, my Saturday Morning Routine still persists out of forced habit and necessity (since shopping in the region becomes irritating after about 10 AM). I have two routines that I follow: either Shoppers Food Warehouse at 7:30 followed by a leisurely breakfast and a Costco run at 9:30, or an extended sleep cycle that ends in a shower at 10:00 or whenever I get up. The latter case is preferred.

Happy Birthday to Sarah Hurt and Catherine Hicks!

Dolly Parton blames breasts for postponed tour
Introducing "Looking Good for Jesus"
Teaching gorillas the missionary position

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Capsule Review Day: TV Shows (Part I of II)

there are no major spoilers in these reviews

In a format blatantly stolen from the Sunday Source, you can find my thoughts on every full season of TV show I own or have watched. Use this if you're looking for something new to watch in these cold winter months, and let me know if you want to borrow something! Have another show to recommend? Use the Comments section!

24 (Thriller):
Counter-terrorist agent, Jack Bauer, saves the world in a continuous twenty-four hour span. High in intensity and mindless entertainment if you can stomach a few horrible actors and more inter-office backstabbing than a high school girls' clique. I've watched five of the six available seasons.

1Jack Bauer is a bad-ass and always one step ahead in his attempts to save the President from assassination.Kim Bauer is annoying as sin. Watching all the episodes at once makes you realize that they didn't really know how to resolve certain plots until the end.B
2Having a nuclear bomb in the city raises the tension.Kim does not get eaten by a mountain lion. Jack's love interest is weak.B-
3Jack goes undercover to reinfiltrate a drug cartel while also being a heroin addict.You'll start to get frustrated at how rarely people realize that Jack is usually right.B+
4The writers start to learn that you can have a suspenseful show without cheap cliffhangers and eight million plot twists.Not much to hate.A-
5The story formula is perfected.Not much to hate here except that Kim gets to be in a few episodes.A

4400 (Sci-Fi):
4400 humans vanish into thin air at various points in the twentieth century and they all suddenly reappear in the present day. Cheesy effects are counterbalanced by smart writing and interesting characters. Fourth season recently aired on TV.

1Trying to figure out what the heck is going on.The first couple episodes feel rather sophomoric. Only six episodes in the season.A-
2The foreshadowing across the season really shows off how tightly written the plot is.The Lily storylines get old.A
3The storytelling is amazingly strong.Isabelle's an annoying character.A

Alias (Spy Thriller / Character Drama):
Sydney Bristow thinks she's working for the CIA but discovers she works for the enemy, as does her father. The two try to take down the enemy from the inside while its criminal mastermind works to solve the mystery of Milo Rambaldi, an ancient prophet who may have discovered the secrets of immortality. Ended after five seasons.

1The most Byzantine plot to ever appear on a TV show.Sydney cries every four minutes.A-
2The plot with Sloane's wife culminating in the famous Super Bowl episodeFrancie gets annoying.A+
3A few incredible episodes.Writers had no idea where they were going. Melissa George guest stars and her eyebrows are a different colour than her hair.C+
4Mia Maestro is hot. Episodes are fun the way they were in the first two seasons.Episodes are more standalone. Strength of finale is undercut by a weak cliffhanger.B+
5A different tone, but a few interesting episodes. The series finale is perfect.Feels too much like a spin-off. New characters aren't particularly compelling.B+

Arrested Development (Mockumentary):
A narrated comedy about a rich, dysfunctional family. One episode alone will not turn you -- but the laughs reach a critical mass as you realize that every episode's inside jokes builds upon previous ones. Cancelled.

1The lack of a laugh track makes the smart jokes even better.Recaps tend to be overused.A-
2Another great season.Not much to dislike here.A
3Realizing that the show was going to be cancelled, the writers went crazy.Realizing that the show was going to be cancelled, the writers went crazy.B+

Boston Public (School Drama):
This show never made it to DVD, but I really wish it would. Tells the stories of public high school life from the perspective of the teachers. The first two seasons were excellent. The later seasons featured Mini-Me hiding in a locker to give students test answers and were not so hot. Cancelled after four seasons.

Dexter (Crime / Character Drama):
A blood-spatter specialist on the police force is also a serial killer, albeit one with a social conscience.

1Different, intriguing, and very sharply written.Though there's surprisingly little gore, there's copious amounts of blood.A

Firefly (Sci-Fi / Western):
Captain Reynolds and his crew fly through the "Wild West" of space, taking odd jobs and staying one step ahead of law and order. Cancelled during the first season

1Great characters. Watching the season makes the movie Serenity twenty times better.You'll get frustrated by the fact that it was cancelled so abruptly.A+

Freaks and Geeks (Sitcom / Drama):
High school stories of the geeks and weirdos.

1Hearing Bill prank calling his gym teacher (Biff from Back to the Future) to call him a butt-sniffer.Drags occasionally.B+

Friends (Sitcom):
Twenty-somethings living in New York City. Obvious brain-dead comedy, which is sometimes exactly what you want.

1Feels fresh.Shows with pet monkeys are generally running low on ideas. Hasn't quite gotten the "Friends" tone down pat yet.B
2The season where Ross finally gets together with Rachel and Monica dates Tom Selleck. B
3The introduction of Frank Jr.Ross and Rachel bicker all season long.B+
4The season where Ross marries Emily and Phoebe has her brothers' children. B+
5The season where Monica and Chandler are secretly dating.Ross is crazy all season long, and mostly annoying.B
6The season where Monica and Chandler get engaged.Ross is still crazy and annoying.B-
7The season where Monica and Chandler get married. Most episodes are Super Sized.Some of the clips episodes are horrible.A
8The season where Rachel has a baby. B+
9The introduction of Paul Rudd as Phoebe's boyfriend.Shows with new babies are generally running low on ideas. Chandler is in Tulsa (a.k.a. Rehab)B
10The season where Monica and Chandler move away.Rachel and Ross are so 1996.B+

To be continued next week...(Heroes through Veronica Mars)

Ohm sweet ohm
The connection between the softball and the parties and the corruption and the beatings was greatly intertwined.
Meet the world's smallest bodybuilder

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day in history

Friday, February 15, 2008

Friday Fragments

more fun than a bottle of inert gas

♠ Happy day after Valentine's Day! Anna sent me an article that highlights the threat of World of Warcraft this Valentine's Day . "A generation of neglected, unsocialized feral fatties awaits us." Only if they roll a druid.

♠ Obligatory Warcraft fragment: Plinkette is level 68 and just entered the Blade's Edge Mountains. Pinkly continues to sit in Ironforge making swiftness potions all day long. Plinky now has a Gnomish Poultryizer and has gone 29 - 1 in Warsong Gulch since creating it on Wednesday. I'm assessing whether to create a second one just for kicks.

♠ Loudoun County real estate assessments went out this week and my house has depreciated by 25%, which should be nice when tax time rolls around. I'm not too worried about the drop -- it's still higher than it was when I bought it, and it's generally at least $20,000 higher than the surrounding houses, no doubt because it has cool extras like sidewalks and cats. The neighbours can't compete with Booty!

♠ I still don't communicate much with the neighbours. The three houses on my east sieede are filled with people that don't speak English, and the three on the west have owners who DO speak English but are anti-social like I am and stay indoors all the time. Granted, the guy who shares my driveway tried to tell me about how someone sideswiped his car (completely in Spanish) last week, and the Mormons knocked on my door at 8 PM in an attempt to interrupt my poker game for the good of my soul, so it's still a friendly place to live.

♠ I haven't won poker yet this year. Jaood (who chooses the more intimidating nickname, Mike, at the poker table) has won two in a row, and Ben won last week. Meanwhile, Mike (of Mike and Chompy) will be moving up here at the end of the month, and announced his grandiose plans to become the new poker champion of the world.

♠ After that, there will be two Mikes at the poker table. This is unacceptable. Mike (of Mike and Chompy) has suggested that Mike be retagged as Evil-Mike, and others have noted that since Mike is the home team, Mike (of Mike and Chompy) should be retagged as Florida-Mike. In all likelihood, I'll just refer to one of them as Alfred and one of them as Chauncy, completely eliminating any confusion.

♠ Now that I think about it, I'll probably choose a different name than Chauncy. I don't know any Chauncy's, but if I did, I bet they'd be the type of person I'd want to punch in the nose. I also bet he'd have a strange resemblance with the actor, Joey Slotnick.

♠ There are no big plans for the weekend other than to catch up on errands and do some paperwork. Have a great weekend!

Here come the killer jellyfish
Internet sex auction sparks paternity row
Different strokes for different folks

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day in history

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Furfuraceous: (adj.) Covered with scaly particles, such as dandruff

My Composition (0:30 MP3)

This was a rather peculiar word, and one that I'm not liking to be using in a news post anytime soon. However, the image of dandruff inspired an itchy, scratchy, shaky feeling and suddenly I had a light Latin feel to work with. This one's for percussion, marimba, flute, cellos, and trumpets.

Happy Birthday Gammy!

Man starves himself in treehouse
Mdame made millions in magic cheese con
Falling fiddler fractures million dollar violin

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Name-That-Tune Day

Them's The Breaks

It's become a yearly tradition here at the URI! Zone to have at least one Name-That-Tune contest, with such oddball rules as "you can only hear the bass line" or "everything's from an 80s sitcom". For this year's contest, I've decided to make it a little more accessible to new players by extending the lengths of the snippets and weighting the scores for each one based on how difficult I think it is. The theme for this contest is "instrumental breaks": the parts of the song where the melody / chorus goes away and some clown solos for a few minutes to increase the running time of the song .

How well do you know your breaks?

  1. (15 seconds, worth 1 point)
  2. (14 seconds, worth 1 point)
  3. (13 seconds, worth 1 point)
  4. (18 seconds, worth 1 point)
  5. (17 seconds, worth 2 points)
  6. (13 seconds, worth 2 points)
  7. (13 seconds, worth 2 points)
  8. (14 seconds, worth 4 points)
  9. (20 seconds, worth 5 points)
  10. (24 seconds, worth 5 points)
  11. Fun Tiebreaker Bonus:
  12. (10 seconds, worth 1 point)

The Complete Rules:

  • Send me an email containing your guesses for each song title no later than February 27, 2008. The band/group/performer does not matter here but feel free to submit them if you want a pat on the head.
  • The entry with the most correct answers will win a $15 gift certificate to The prize will be split during ties. You may also work with a partner and split the prize if your collective entry wins.
  • I will abuse dictatorial privileges if a situation arises that's not covered by the rules.
  • For the mathematicians in the audience, the highest score you can possibly get is 25 points. Good luck!
  • Ex-Homecoming Queen Beats Sister With Fake Leg In Trailer
    Human pelican guilty of drunk driving
    Ancient devil frog may have eaten the dinosaurs

    tagged as contests | permalink | 0 comments
    day in history

    Thursday, February 21, 2008

    Capsule Review Day: TV Shows (Part II of II)

    there are no major spoilers in these reviews

    Here is part two of my TV Shows Reviews update. The first part was posted last Thursday .

    Heroes (Sci-Fi):
    Everyday people realize they have extraordinary abilities and try to save the world.

    1 Neat comic stylings with fun characters and mysteries. Nikki's stories get old. Sometimes they refilm scenes in recaps and change the dialogue for no good reason. Finale shows that they obviously ran out of special effects money. B

    LOST (Sci-Fi / Character Drama):
    A plane crashes on a mysterious island in the South Pacific.

    1 Figuring out what the heck is going on. You realize after the fact that in a couple episodes, absolutely nothing happened. A-
    2 The introduction of Desmond and Mr. Eko The introduction of Ana-Lucia. The whole hatch story starts getting ridiculous. A-
    3 Very strong individual episodes. Drags in the middle, love triangles are dumb. B+

    Malcolm in the Middle (Sitcom):
    A boy genius (and the middle child) tells about his dysfunctional family life.

    1 Lots of laughs. Boys haven't hit puberty yet. Only one season released because of song rights conflicts with They Might Be Giants. B+

    MI-5 (Spy / Character Drama):
    A British version of Alias without the mysticism. I stopped watching after two seasons.

    1 Good lead actors and interesting episodes. Some people don't like British shows -- a different style. Pilot is horrible. B-
    2 The emergency drill episode is one of the best episodes of any show I've seen. Entertaining enough to watch over dinner, but not enough to keep devoting time to. B+

    Prison Break (Thriller):
    A man attempts to break his brother out of jail for a crime he didn't commit -- from the inside.

    1 High intensity all the way through, keeps you watching. T-Bag is a great character. Occasionally too intense. Veronica is more annoying than Kim Bauer A
    2 Entertaining. T-Bag is still an excellent character. Loses some focus from a change in setting. Finale cliffhanger is stupid. B+

    Scrubs (Sitcom):
    An alternately funny and touching show about residents in a hospital.

    1 (The Intern Year) Tone of show hasn't quite been settled. Not as funny as later seasons. B+
    2 (The Resident Year)   A-
    3 (Carla and Turk are engaged) Michael J. Fox guest stars Tara Reid is annoying. A
    4 (Carla and Turk are married) Heather Graham guest stars in a perfect role.   A
    5 (JD has interns) Humour and setups starting to get stale B
    6 (JD is an expectant father, Carla has a baby) The musical episode is great The rest of the season is occasionally funny B-

    Six Feet Under (Character Drama):
    The story of a dysfunctional family who owns a funeral home.

    1 Interesting, fresh show. I was already tired of Brenda by the end of this season. A-
    2 A slow burn builds your interest in the characters. Drags a bit. A-
    3   Lisa stories are a little annoying. Like all HBO shows, this one starts to abuse dream sequences. B
    4 David's stories really shine this season.   A-
    5 Series finale makes the entire series worthwhile. Most of the season leading up to the mid-season crisis is forgettable. B+

    Sopranos (Crime / Family Drama):
    The story of Tony Soprano, a family man and a Family man.

    1 Strong writing, great characters   A
    2   Not as tight as the original season. Everyone looks the same. A-
    3   Plots start to wander, and threads just stop. B
    4 Edie Falco and Joe Pantoliano are great this season. Still not a lot of continuity. B+
    5 Steve Buscemi is fun, as always. I'd stopped caring about many of the characters by this point. B
    6 Nice wrap-up. Didn't need to be split into two parts. B+

    Undeclared (Sitcom):
    The life of a freshman trying to reinvent himself after high school. Cancelled during the first season.

    1 Funny, light, and doesn't take much brain power to enjoy. Over before you know it. B+

    Veronica Mars (Crime / Teen Drama):
    Sassy, unpopular high school girl solves crimes and does Dawson's Creeky things.

    1 Great dialogue, decent mystery story, good characters. Melodrama is girly. A
    2 More of the same. New characters are forgettable. Story is so convoluted that lots of threads are never resolved. A-
    3 College makes a great backdrop for the show. Plots are finished but never really wrapped up. New characters are forgettable. Cliffhanger in finale makes you wish they hadn't cancelled the show. A-

    Restaurant apologizes for F Word on Bill
    Big bottomed girls
    Garments of the losing team are obviously unwanted

    tagged as reviews | permalink | 4 comments
    day in history

    Friday, February 22, 2008

    Friday Fragments

    the literary equivalent of Florence Foster Jenkins

    ♠ Welcome to the 222nd edition of Friday Fragments! It's an apt way to open 222 Day (February 22nd) -- if you are unfamiliar with the 222 phenomenon, you can read more about it in my February 22, 2006 entry: .

    ♠ This is actually only the 116th episode of Friday Fragments, but that wouldn't be quite as impressive for an opening fragment. However, you could argue that there are 106 more episodes until the 222nd, and if you treat 106 as the numbers 10 and 6, then the next SAT number in that sequence would be 2, and it would be the THIRD number in the sequence, hence 3 2's = 222. Done and done.

    ♠ Speaking of irrelevant numbers, 13 is the highest unofficial score I've heard about from Wednesday's NAME-THAT-TUNE contest. Now's your chance to do better than that! Entries are due by next Wednesday and answers will be posted next Thursday. Some readers are already begging for hints, but that would be weak sauce.

    ♠ Speaking of weak sauce, here's proof that Doobie was a lead designer on Warcraft. I almost expected Cookie to have a pet named Hemi.

    ♠ Obligatory Warcraft fragment: Plinky has over 45,000 lifetime kills and 52 days of play-time (which is the equivalent of going to public school for one complete grade and playing Warcraft the entire time!). Plinkette is 3 bubbles from level 70, but has been sidetracked with gathering potion materials because Plinky is an addict in need of a fix. While Plinkette clowns around gathering swiftthistle, Planky is rapidly rising in level.

    ♠ This is actually the third character to be named Planky. The other two were both paladins which I deleted because they were boring. Playing a Paladin was like putting on a LOST DVD and watching the ridiculous five-second DVD menu transitions eight thousand times in a row, while Michael Giacchino's "Yo-Yo Ma(ma) on Crack" sound effect plays in the background.

    ♠ Speaking of LOST and being bored, despite the good twist on the end, I was bored for most of the episode, but mostly because I find Kate boring. Apparently I get bored very easily. (Note the double transition in this fragment. I should write fugues).

    ♠ In school, the way I showed my aversion to boring things such as classes and music major recitals was to fall asleep at them. This is an incomplete solution for the real world, because apparently you're not allowed to fall asleep during meetings.

    ♠ Speaking of work, an employee left the company last month, and in his goodbye email he wrote, "I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to interface with all of you while I was here". Fortunately, I have not yet devolved into such officespeak.

    ♠ This weekend includes two poker games and a dinner for my dad's birthday. Have a great weekend!

    This is apparently the first time someone tried to drive into it.
    Fish launched into space
    Congratulations! You're corrupt!

    tagged as fragments | permalink | 2 comments
    day in history

    Monday, February 25, 2008

    Weekend Wrap-Up

    Though the rest of the area scoffed at the wintry mix that descended with all the subtlety of a tourist on a Metro escalator, my neighbourhood was slicked over in a thick sheaf of ice of Thursday night. Rather than deal with the driving, I just worked from home on Friday, getting things done with a cat in my lap and a forty mouse in my hand. In the evening, I hit up the local Blockbuster and rented a trifecta of movies. Over a pizza dinner, I watched We Own the Night, which was decent, and had a few suspenseful parts. Overall though, it felt like a poor man's Departed (Markie Mark's appearance in both didn't help things). I'm not a big Joaquin fan, and he slurred his lines so much I had to turn on subtitles. Final Grade: C+

    On Saturday I took a Costco trip, a Petsmart trip, and a Shoppers trip and then did a little work around the house. After some rousing Warsong Gulch in the afternoon, I hosted a grand poker game in my kitchen where I came in last place. Luckily, I have access to the formulas in the master spreadsheet, so I will be in first place with a perfect winning or undefeated record against everyone and no one will ever know the difference. After poker, we played the new loopy version of Pictionary, and everytime I had to draw, I had to either do it with my eyes closed or without lifting my pencil off the paper. My team DID win that though, something which I attribute to the long hours spent as a child trying to cross busy streets while blindfolded (my dad wanted to improve my spatial reasoning skills for the SATs).

    Sunday afternoon was a poker game at James and Diana's house, but it was a weird anomaly known as a "cash game" where you put "money" in and can "cash out" at "any time". I bought $10 worth of chips and twenty hands later I cashed in with $8 of chips. I'm sure the rest of the table was thrilled that I'd contributed $2 to the bulk pot. From there, I returned home to a simmering stock pot filled with corned beef and cabbage. The event was my dad's birthday (coming up on the 26th).

    Post-dinner entertainment was Hot Fuzz a British parody of action/comedy/buddy flicks that was actually as hilarious as people said it was. I'd definitely recommend it even if you normally don't like British movies. This movie was also much better than its companion movie, Shaun of the Dead. Final Grade: A

    Police say cliff rave was stupid
    What's in a Beethoven Quartet? A Full Curriculum
    Airline pilots may have slept past their stop

    tagged as reviews, day-to-day | permalink | 0 comments
    day in history

    Tuesday, February 26, 2008

    Newsday Tuesday

    Plan for Telescopes on Moon's Far Side Is Revived

    With NASA planning to send astronauts back to the moon sometime after 2019, those dreams of a radio telescope looking out through the galaxies from the protected side of the moon have been revived. The agency recently awarded two planning grants for research on the necessary technologies and on how to put them in place.

    Long time readers of the URI! Zone will recall that I'm not a big fan of my taxes going to fund NASA , because I'm all about cost-effective ventures. I personally believe that it would be more cost-effective to purchase twelve tons of pure Columbian cocaine and dump it all on the Donglingshan Mountains as fake snow to make people believe that Beijing is an environmental paradise without a hint of pollution for the Summer Olympics, than it would be to fund space exploration. Unless there are an alien collection of talking cows and other strangely anthropomorphic barnyard animals living on the far side of the moon, it's not worth our time (especially since the official illustration looks like we're going to impregnate the Moon and make a bunch of little baby moons. Ew. Did I say ew? I meant Io).

    The early prototypes would not be able to gaze far into the past but could be useful for studying space weather, especially the enormous and powerful solar eruptions called coronal mass ejections.

    In 1993, the US Government also gave $3 million to a research team to discover if rabbits that smoked pot were more susceptible to syphillis. We might as well throw away the telescope grant in a similar fashion -- perhaps a study of Coronal mass erections (which is, of course, impotence caused by too much alcohol in college-age fraternity brothers).

    "One of the issues at the meeting was that if NASA is going back to the moon, what would we like to do there?" Smith said. "The astrophysicist group made their proposal to look at the very early universe, and that got a lot of support."

    The quotation above is factually incorrect since it implies that we actually made it to the Moon at some point in the past , but more damaging is the idea that we're looking for bigger things to do when we can barely keep a space shuttle afloat as it is . We can't even land a probe on the BRIGHT side of Mars without busting it -- how much better luck would we have parallel parking in a place that's permadark and then offloading a cargo of highly fragile and expensive telescopes?

    One possible solution would be to fire a probe at a glancing angle to the moon, effectively moving the dark side 180 degrees for long enough to erect some telescopes in the daylight. NASA is pretty good at attacking celestial bodies with probes so the success rate of this operation has immediately gone up by a factor of 1.04.

    The bottom line here is that I want my tax money to go towards a useful program, like building bridges in Alaska or corrupting the Diebold machines so McCain loses the election. The only acceptable source of revenue for a project like this would be the tolls from Virginia's forthcoming HOT Lanes which will tax stupid people who don't realize that every single road in the area eventually ends in a teensy tiny congestion-causing bridge that even Tylenol Cold and Flu couldn't cure.

    I would even send my tax dollars to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, which recently brought in P.R. experts from the Disney corporation to teach doctors and nurses how to improve customer service .

    A video montage of Disney-related images, ranging from Mary Poppins to Pirates of the Caribbean to Hannah Montana, followed. It was meant to demonstrate the sheer expanse of the Disney empire.

    Not everyone in the crowd looked impressed.

    Disney representatives later caveated their inspirational speeches by confirming that if a mermaid suddenly turned into a human, there wouldn't really be clothing that magically appeared over her naughty bits, and that "Fantasia was a crappy mistake that should not be treated as part of the standard Disney mythos and canon".

    Happy Birthday Dad and Jim Barry!

    Coming soon: Candy Land starring Keanu Reeves
    Who needs security when you have a robot?
    German police dogs to wear shoes

    tagged as newsday, mock mock, favourites | permalink | 5 comments
    day in history

    Wednesday, February 27, 2008

    Dentist Day

    Today is Paige's birthday, and in honor of that momentous event, I went to the dentist yesterday for the first time in nine-hundred-forty-five days , which is longer than the shelf life of pasta (which starts to hatch mealworms around the two year mark, according to the bulk macaroni we kept in our house after I went to college). The duration even outlasted our previous health insurance provider at work, which meant I needed to find a new dentist in the network (this could also be the synopsis of a new Sandra Bullock movie: The Net 2).

    I located a dentist's office on Route 7, north of Route 28, and established their credentials by noting that the main dentist's last name had five syllables would not have been an acceptable Scrabble word. I tried to make an appointment for a cleaning, but was informed that the first visit never involved a cleaning, because they needed to accurately assess my teeth to determine how much time the hygenist would need to devote to the cleaning (translation: we're going to make the HMO pay for an extra visit for giggles).

    I arrived at their typical office a half hour ahead of schedule. It was a typical affair hidden away in a bland office building with issues of National Geographic, Time, and Highlights for Kids from four weeks ago, and the sounds of power tools ringing in the background. After filling out the First Time Survey (yes, I am happy with my smile, and no, I do not have venereal disease) I was escorted to a dentist chair for X-rays.

    This office still employed the classic "bite down on this film eight different times and we'll take eight X-rays which can then be stitched together with the Landscape Stitch feature on our camera" approach instead of the high-tech X-ray machine that revolves around your head in two minutes while exposing you to high amounts of radiation. Fifteen minutes later, my mouth was all cut up from the sharp edges on the films, and the assistant to the assistant to the hygenist scampered off to the One Hour Photo to get them developed.

    After reading about Hillary Clinton's out of control momentum in the Presidential primaries (TIME, January 2008), the X-rays came back. Because my previous dentist had flipped the films and then informed me that I should get teeth extracted from the wrong portion of my mouth, I made sure that these were accurately arranged to reflect the true position of my teeth. According to the X-rays, there are no cavities and my home-prevention routine is stellar. However, I should get my wisdom teeth extracted before they cause problems, and I should come to the dentist more often.

    So essentially, absolutely nothing has changed in the past three years, which gives me no compelling reason to visit the dentist again anytime soon, and my HMO just paid for a bunch of useless X-rays. Chalk one up for health care.

    Happy Birthday Paige!

    Building the ultimate snow fort
    Comcast hires warm bodies for Net Neutrality meeting
    I think they were just discriminating against us because we were young decent-looking girls.

    tagged as day-to-day | permalink | 5 comments
    day in history

    Thursday, February 28, 2008

    Name-That-Tune Results Day

    First Place (tie): Anna (13 pts), Mike and Kathy (13 pts)

    Runner Up: Dan (10 pts)

    No one got #5, 9, or 10. Dan also skipped #7 and guessed the wrong title for #4. Congratulations to the winners! Anna will receive a gift certificate for $10 and Mike and Kathy each get one for $5.

    The answers can be found in the table below -- highlight the empty boxes to read the answers. Thanks for playing!

    011More Than a Feeling (Boston)
    021The Way (Fastball)
    031Runaway (Del Shannon)
    041Hell (Squirrel Nut Zippers)
    052Once Around the Block (Badly Drawn Boy)
    062Still the One (Orleans)
    072I'm Into Something Good (Herman's Hermits)
    084Two Princes (Spin Doctors)
    095Raise Your Hands (Bon Jovi)
    105Girl I Knew Somewhere (Monkees)
    111Theme from Inspector Gadget

    Those were all the entries I received. Looks like someone fibbed in the poll!

    Beer throws sword after drinking
    134-pound burger
    Okay, what rhymes with Kyrgyzstan?

    tagged as contests | permalink | 10 comments
    day in history

    Friday, February 29, 2008

    Friday Fragments

    ma-ma-say ma-ma-sah ma-mah poo-sah

    ♠ Last night's episode of LOST was probably one of the most well-crafted episodes of any TV show in a long time. LOST generally does pretty good at season finales, but it's hard to isolate any one episode as a "great" episode. This was one.

    ♠ I did not realize, though, that Dave Matthews worked on the freighter, though it makes sense since Stand Up was a really crappy CD and he needs money for legal fees in the old case where his tour bus took a dump on a boat full of tourists .

    ♠ It turns out that the writer's strike will work quite well for my schedule, since the final completed episode of LOST will air before I leave for Europe, and the next one after that will air a month later, after I've returned with some croissants and crumpets in my handbags.

    ♠ I still haven't gotten around to creating a nice, neat binder full of my disparate nuggets of Europe planning information -- maybe I'll do that in my spare time this weekend. I hate when my disparate nuggets are scattered all over the place.

    ♠ That's really all I have to say this week.

    ♠ Today's Friday Fragments column seems a little shorter than it normally is, but this doesn't really matter since it's the end of the month and no one will remember it next week when it vanishes off the front page. February 29th is such a made up day anyways, I might as well phone it in.

    ♠ If we occasionally have to add days to our calendar to keep ourselves in sync with the trajectory of the Earth around the sun, we might as well be reasonable about it and decree that the extra day is always an extra Saturday. No one's really going to cry over an extra weekday.

    ♠ Alternately, we can fire a probe at a glancing angle to the Earth, slightly increasing its angular momentum and velocity through space, eliminating the need for Leap Years (I recommend that Charlottesville be the target). However, since launching a probe would imply that we have a base established on another planet, we'll have to just go with the old-fashioned approach: everyone runs west really fast. This is very possible -- I took AP Physics in high school and slept through two semesters of COLLEGE Physics at Tech.

    ♠ Speaking of Tech, there is a Marching Virginians happy hour in Sterling (the most happening city in North America) at Bungalow Billiards tonight. Dave McKee will be there, so come out if you're local! There are no big plans for the weekend other than that, but I'll probably play some Professor Layton, a fun puzzle game on the DS, and some Warcraft. Plinkette hit level 70 a week ago and Plinky is stockpiling honor like crazy.

    ♠ This weekend is also jam-packed with birthdays, from Katie Lucas and Dave Harper tomorrow to Mike Sharp and Mike French on Sunday. Happy Birthday! Have a great weekend!

    China fails at Photoshop
    The famously eerie tale of nine dead Russian hikers
    Police probe possible spork robbery

    tagged as fragments | permalink | 1 comment
    day in history


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