Posts from 03/2008

Monday, March 03, 2008

Updates Day

RETURNED: On February 15, 2008, Paige, her husband, her dog, and her spawning future baby left Spain to return to the sunny lands of Houston, Texas.

BORN: Nadia Sophie to longtime URI! Zone reader, Brianne, on February 28, 2008. Nadia weighed fifty-seven pounds and thirteen ounces or possibly some other random set of numbers, and will grow up to be a distinguished trumpet player. In celebration, at least one Museday Tuesday this year will be written "for Jay-Z and violas" or a similar instrumentation.

MOVED: On March 2, 2008, Mike (of Mike and Chompy) finally moved away from Tallahassee, that serenely sluggish cesspool of Southern sloth where the city scenery is selectively speckled wtih slutty sorority sisters and homeless shelters. Recognizing the D.C. area as a place with a strong job market and comprehensive subway system, he rented a house in Georgetown as far from the Metro as you can be without travelling three miles straight up into the atmosphere. As more and more Florida State music alumni illegally immigrate here, plans are underway to create a new School of Music that hires only through nepotism and intrigue, with a well-respected name like the Kathys Biddick School of Music, or maybe the Mikes Catania Composition Academy.

MOVING: Starting on March 2, 2008, BU has committed to a daily regimen of stretches and biking so he's not an out-of-shape blob on his Europe trip. Sedentary sounds a lot like sediment, and BU ain't no barnacle. To ensure an accurate schedule of exercise, he is rewatching Alias from the beginning.

MARRYING: On March 4, 2008, Larry, inaugural member of the "Month of Thanksgivings" phenomenon and Poker Champion of 2007, will be marrying fiancée, Janice. This is also their fourth anniversary of dating, which will make it much easier to remember fifty years from now (and the reason why all of my life events, including births, deaths, and purchases of large kitchen appliances will only occur on 12 of 12 day from now on). Sadly, Larry will be moving to Maryland after the wedding which means he'll have to become a crappy driver and bemoan the extinction of the Maryland crab while waiting for the late night drag races to start.

What have you been up to recently?

Museum returns tank to Schwarzenegger
Language barrier scuppers walker
Italian men can no longer grope

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day in history

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Afire: (adj.) Intensely interested; on fire

My Composition (0:28 MP3)

This was originally going to be a work for "Jay-Z and Violas", dedicated to Brianne's new tot, but most of Jay-Z's music tends to be a mishmash of beats and vamps underneath lyrics which he doesn't even write down. Since I am obviously not a lyricist , I realized I would have to take a different approach, so I crossed a house beat with a disco vamp, threw in a bari sax (because it's the coolest sax) and added a viola with Samuel-Adler-approved double stops.

No doubt, Jay-Z would be proud.

World surprised that autobiography about being raised by wolves is fake
Moms brawl at Chuck E Cheese
Monks told to get off the Internet

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day in history

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Wedding Day

Last night, Larry and Janice were married at the Congregation Har Shalom in Potomac, Maryland, which required a trip through the miniscule one-lane exit from the Toll Road to 495 that Chompy (the human) will grow to hate if he visits me or Kathy with any regularity. The synagogue was next to a fire station and underneath a thunderstorm, which made the ceremony quite exciting for multiple reasons.

The reception was held at the Normandie Farm restaurant, just a mile down the road. The couple really does have red eyes -- it's not just shoddy photography.

I don't remember what the song was for the first dance, because I was too busy trying to top my old First Dance pictures from previous weddings (of other people, of course). After this dance, there was a little hava and a whole lot of nagila.

Once the DJ had run out of dances to make people do, the couple was hoisted up in wooden chairs and paraded around the room, just like they do in the movies. This did not last long because the chairs were hoisted by old people.

I left around 10 since I had to work the next morning at my usual time. I drove through a horrible downpour and barely made it home alive to discover a message from work that the servers were down. I got on the phone with the server people and eventually came into the office once my long-distance calling card ran out. This exact scenario also occurred over President's Day weekend, when I spent 15 hours on a conference call from 3 PM to 6 AM. Luckily, this time the problem was resolved by 1 AM (which is incredibly late if you are me and go to bed at 10). Good thing my girlfriend is out of town -- otherwise I wouldn't be such a diligent troubleshooter!

Congratulations to Larry and Janice! I'll post the rest of my pictures when I'm not operating on 0 hours of sleep.

Previous Wedding Photos

Jack & Kristy
Kathy & Chris
Anna & Ben, Part I
Anna & Ben, Part II
Philip and Kara

Playing dead to get sex
Eat whale and save the planet
Iranian to pay 124,000-rose dowry

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day in history

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Review Day: Girls and Boys

Girls and Boys is a CD by Ingrid Michaelson, whose music has appeared on XM Radio, Grey's Anatomy, and Old Navy commercials. It's a mix of styles from KT Tunstall to Jem to a non-annoying version of Vanessa Carlton, and was one of several mini-presents Rebecca left me when she went to Guatemala last month. I ended up liking the CD so much that I downloaded the whole thing online to support the artist through Amazon's sleek MP3 store.

Music on the CD runs a gamut of emotions and is always pleasant to listen to even if you (like me) don't really listen to the lyrics. I had this CD looping in my car for about a week before loaning it to Anna, and only ever got tired of one song, December Baby, because it was too long, monotonous, and vampy, reminding me of Gemma Hayes' first CD which I disliked. Here are my thoughts on a few of the tracks, with audio samples:

Die Alone

The opening track reminds me a great deal of KT Tunstall -- if you gave her a younger, more innocent timbre, you might come up with a song like this. This is also the heaviest track on the album, and everything else is more acoustic and/or indy than this one. I like the purity of Michaelson's tone, and the way it gets stronger without getting harsher.

The Hat

This is one of my favourite songs on the album because of its unpredictable melodic patterns which make the lyrics almost stream-of-consciousness. It's easy enough to write a poem that rhymes, but it takes skill to lay out the words in a way that both highlights and blurs the rhythmic beat at the same time.

Far Away

Another favourite -- this one just exudes a pleasant nature from every note, much like the third movement of Sibelius' fifth symphony.

Corner of Your Heart

This is the obligatory moody, melancholy track, and it works very well -- it reminds me a lot of the instrumental track on the Cardigans' Gran Turismo CD which was the best set of music depression I've heard. I can totally picture some retarded Grey's Anatomy montage playing in slow motion over this song.

Final Grade: A

You can hear more samples at the Amazon store: .

Man flies son to tennis to beat traffic
French mayor tells locals not to die
Burglars done in by doughnuts

tagged as music, reviews | permalink | 5 comments
day in history

Friday, March 07, 2008

Friday Fragments

immensely satisfying as long as you're illiterate

♠ I haven't made any more progress in Warcraft, because I've spent all my online time playing Warsong Gulch, which is obviously the most entertaining portion of the game. When you reach the endgame, you can either spend eight hours in a cave waiting for people to eat and drink, or you can do twenty-minute pick-up games where you get to beat people up. The latter is much more rewarding.

♠ My Warcraft time will probably decrease since Rebecca's returning from Guatemala this Sunday. Also, Super Smash Brothers Brawl comes out for the Wii on the same day, so I'll have to have a Wii-party sometime soon.

♠ EBGames actually has a useful discount right now -- if you purchase Super Smash Brothers Brawl with the coupon code 'nintendo', you get free overnight shipping on the order. Usually gaming retailers throw in useless extras that only seem like a good deal. It's kind of like the two free eggrolls you get with every Chinese food order.

♠ I've never understood the appeal of eggrolls. They're bland and tasteless, and you might as well grab a soggy newspaper off the front stoop, roll it up tightly, and take a nice big bite out of it.

♠ My house has a stoop, but there are never newspapers on it. The paper delivery man can barely hit my driveway from his car without running into my mailbox. As compensation, he makes sure that whatever fast food he's eaten for breakfast transfers from his fingers to the newspaper bag. Booty and Amber always lick the bag whenever I bring the paper in.

♠ This bag licking phenomenon now applies to any plastic bag in the house, especially bags in trash cans. It's a little weird at first, but I'd rather my cats be dirty baglickers than pee on things or drag their butts across the floor.

♠ Aren't you glad that humans don't wipe their asses by floor-scooting? Although, it would make dinner parties quite exciting for all the wrong reasons.

♠ This weekend, the plan is to do some Europe planning, some grocery shopping for my almost empty fridge, and some poker. If it's warm enough, I might even reopen the basement for the springtime. Sunday is also Mark Connor and Larry Newdorf's respective birthdays. Happy Birthday! Have a great weekend!

School covers up students with smileys
I fell in love with a female assassin

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day in history

Monday, March 10, 2008

Five Years Day

Fifteen Years Ago Today... I was a tiny bespectacled freshman at Francis C. Hammond Junior High. Tonight was the City Fine Arts Concert, so my Wednesday afternoon lesson with Jack Dahlinger (a retired high school band director who loved to play duets all lesson long) happened at 4:30 instead of 7:30. Lessons on concert and recital days were always great because you could use the concert as an excuse to not do anything strenuous -- "I have a two-measure solo tonight in Londonderry Air and I don't want to risk a lip-blowout so lets play some more duets instead of that etude".

The concert itself was a big sham -- all the feeder elementary schools to Hammond converged on the old Hammond gym (before the buck-toothed-dinosaur-head construction ) and played two or three ridiculously easy songs with the Junior High band. One of the songs was definitely Let's Go Band, and had the gym been any bigger, it would have been like a low-budget Peach Bowl halftime show.

Ten Years Ago Today... I was in the second semester of my sophomore year at Virginia Tech (living with Beavis). Because Virginia Tech has historically been incapable of putting Spring Break IN THE SPRING, the first or second week in March was always vacation time. In 1998, I was back home in Alexandria increasing my street cred by hanging out at the high school. March 10th was the first icebreaker meeting for kids who wanted to audition for High School Drum Major . I volunteered to teach a new set of clowns every year for four years and during the first meeting, I always had to weed out the ones that couldn't walk backwards without falling over or shatter the dreams of the ones who thought that being Drum Major would get them lots of women (it does not).

Five Years Ago Today... I was in my final year as a graduate student in Music Composition at Florida State. My thesis had been defended on 03/03/03 at 3:30 PM, which is almost as cool as anything related to 222, so I essentially had two full months of classes left with no real responsibilities. (I had to teach, of course, but mostly we watched music theory movies like Leading Tone of Doom or Hawaii Five-One or played games where we tried to guess which music students did NOT smoke pot). With so much free time, I decided to buy a kitten. On March 10th, 2003, Kathy came over to see the cat and decided that she should be named BOOTY, because she had booties on her paws and because she shook her booty when playing with her shoelace. (This exact same shoelace is currently on the floor of my living room).

After that, we went to one of the various bodies of water with Wakulla in the name for a canoe outing with Chompy (the human) and his brother, Steve. The evening was ended with Chinese food and multiple games of Super Smash Brothers Melee. Kathy, who was already bored with the "video games" phase (which followed the "paint stuff" phase and the "Scrabble" phase as attempts to ease the Tallahassee Boredom) soon quit to play with Booty some more.

Today... I am a software engineer living in Sterling with a mortgage, two cats, and a penchant for losing at poker. I took the day off to celebrate Commonwealth Day (UK) and Labour Day (Victoria), figuring that it would help my Europe immersion. And, Rebecca is home!

Happy Birthday Skippy!

Criminalizing Home Schoolers
A man's six-pack is his castle
The face of DHS looks a little pale

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day in history

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Newsday Tuesday

When Mom or Dad Asks To Be a Facebook 'Friend'

More and more moms and dads are signing onto Facebook to keep up with their offspring. Not only are they friending (or attempting to friend) their sons and daughters, they're friending their sons' and daughters' friends.

Apparently "friending" is a legitimate dictionary gerund now, and for Facebook neophytes who are unaware of its meaning, this paragraph might be seen in a more menacing light, suggesting that the parents of America are a bunch of perverts.

Some, like Matt, take the requests in stride. He ultimately friended his dad. Others are less sanguine, voicing their dismay via online groups that decry parental intrusion and offer tips on how to screen out mom and dad. ("Just go onto their computers and delete their accounts." "Just don't add them as a friend or any1 that is a co-worker with ur parents duh.")

Based on the popularity and success of these tips, a cottage industry has sprung up catering to students who wish to keep parents out of their lives. One Facebook group suggests that you can keep your parents off the Internet by installing viruses on their computers. Another suggests that to keep your parents from visiting on College Parents' Weekend, you should "just go in their car and delete their spark plugs LOL".

"I do not know if this has happened to anybody, but this morning I log on to Facebook and I have a new friend request!" wrote 19-year-old Mike Yeamans, a sophomore at James Madison University, on one of several "No Parents on Facebook" groups that have popped up on the site. "I am excited to make a new friend so I click on the link. I could not believe what I saw. My father! This is an outrage!"

Actually, I can see where this guy is coming from. I too would be ashamed to friend my parents if my profile picture depicted me as some kind of Roman pimp like the actual profile picture shown here. Not only is it historically inaccurate, since these shades of cloth were probably not creatable before 476 AD, but no real Roman pimp would choose to dress up like another pimp. The Roman whoring business model would never thrive if Superfly Flavinius dressed exactly the same as Sexontop Sextilius, because potential customers would have no way to judge which one was better.

Lily Goldberg, 17, a junior at Gaithersburg High School in Montgomery County, said having parents on Facebook just seems weird. "It's like having them walk into my room," she said.

Honestly, I'm amazed that a high school student could have enough dirty secrets at that age, but at the same time, be ignorant enough to put these secrets on their Facebook page. Unless you're a member of the "I keep my weed in the top drawer next to my underwear" group or the "Firsthand accounts of teen pregnancy" group, there's probably nothing on your pages that your parents actually care about. And if you're stupid enough to post your underage drinking pictures in an album called "ME WASTED LOL" then you're pretty much in need of parental intervention anyhow.

Today, the fastest-growing segment of Facebook's estimated 66 million users are people 25 and older. More than half of the site's users are out of college. Whether that will have an impact on Facebook's coolness quotient remains to be seen.

I remember when it was a big deal on Facebook that you were born before 1980. Now, at least ten of my coworkers are on the site, with more joining every day. Instead of trying to corral users by age, Facebook could be greatly improved by simply adding a two-question quiz to the registration form:

  • Are you going to put more than ten applications that automatically spam your friends on your page?
  • Are you going to send Vampire Bites to all your friends?
  • Answering affirmatively to either question would automatically redirect the new user to

    Don't forget that tomorrow is 12 of 12!

    Vatican updates the seven deadly sins to include dog poo
    Man creates radio station for cats
    Girl's party leaves dog in coma

    tagged as newsday, mock mock | permalink | 3 comments
    day in history

    Wednesday, March 12, 2008

    Chad Darnell's 12 of 12

    5:20 AM: Waking up at the Hour of Ridiculousness.

    5:43 AM: Post-shower, post-shave.

    5:52 AM: As always, Booty and Amber are ready for breakfast.

    5:54 AM: Daylight Savings Time is pretty worthless if it's still dark when you leave for work. It does give me time to ponder what the neighbours are up to, with their blinding lights at all hours of the night. I expect it's something dastardly, like the movie, The Burbs.

    7:32 AM: Seventy-five cents for a bagel was a decent deal. A dollar was good, as long as I got there first and consumed vast quantities of cream cheese. $1.25? Rip-off.

    7:39 AM: Sunrise between the Oracle buildings.

    12:24 PM: Stopping at the gas station on the way home. As soon as we learn how to make cars run on methane, we'll be all set.

    1:15 PM: Telecommuting with my loyal cat, who assisted by sitting behind me in the chair and gradually outsourcing me to the floor. This picture gives me the build of a linebacker, but it's an optical delusion. It's all in the chin.

    1:34 PM: Lunchtime. I believe I am ready for St. Patricks Day.

    6:55 PM: Driving to Red Robin for dinner.

    7:30 PM: The tastiest tray on the menu: Red Robin's Cod Fish and Chips meal. Rebecca had the Chicken Bruschetta Burger. Service was weak.

    8:39 PM: Post-dinner wine while reading up on Spain. Next month's 12 of 12 will be from Barcelona!

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

    The trouble with selling a mastodon is there's no comps
    Mustachioed kitten survives transpacific voyage
    More sex please, we're French

    tagged as 12 of 12 | permalink | 4 comments
    day in history

    Thursday, March 13, 2008

    Review Day

    Egg Cooker:
    This little device was a gift from my mom, advertised as being able to consistently create soft and hard-boiled eggs in the microwave. Hard-boiled eggs are easy enough on the stove -- you just boil an egg and forget about it for awhile. The real test for this device was soft-boiled eggs which, in the hands of a stove charlatan, can either be too runny or too cooked.

    Setup was simple, although the instructions did not include my microwave wattage, so I had to guess. The first test of two eggs failed: one egg exploded in the microwave and the other was barely cooked at all. The second test was only slightly better: one egg shattered but didn't explode, and the other came out perfectly. With a little more experimentation, I bet I could find a sweet spot, but cooking eggs on the stove is faster and not so messy. Only shell out the bucks for this if you fail at stove-operation or you'll end up with egg on your face (the yolk's on you!).

    Final Grade: B-

    American Gangster:
    Denzel Washington as a Brooklyn drug lord is pursued by Russell Crowe as a diligent narcotics officer. This movie has been done a million times before, and though Denzel is always eminently watchable, the movie itself covered no new ground. The back-and-forth of the two actors in their own scenes didn't pay off: when they finally come face to face onscreen, the movie comes to a weak Hollywood conclusion. If you watch this and We Own the Night in the same weekend, you won't be blamed for getting their features all mixed up.

    Final Grade: C+

    His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman:
    I occasionally re-review things if I feel my opinion has changed and I really wanted to find something redeeming about this series from an otherwise excellent young-adult author. After rereading the entire trilogy, my opinion stands. Book One is interesting, disjointed, and has potential. Book Two hits the ground running with an immediate twist that puts Book One in a whole new light, but then fails to go anywhere at all. Book Three becomes bogged down in the author's hatred of organized religion, and what could have been a smart fantasy series turns into a personal diatribe at the expense of plot, story, and character. It has a few interesting ideas, like the creatures who evolved with wheels for feet, but none of them are written well enough to be worth the slog. Avoid this series like seafood in the back of a U-Haul truck on I-95.

    Final Grade: D+

    The Burning Crusade: There's no question that Blizzard Entertainment can pull off a good expansion pack, and this one for World of Warcraft was no exception. I picked it up back in December and have been playing it for about three months now. Besides being packed full of enjoyable content and unique quest ideas, it brings back the fun of exploring again. Unlike the old world, every area of the expansion was designed to be flown over, around, and through, and when I was first able to do so at level 68, I spent a coupld hours just flying around for fun, enjoying the scenery. If you liked WoW but got bored, the expansion will revitalize your interest. If you just never liked WoW, nothing here will change your mind. Be warned that if your computer can barely run the original game, it will probably choke and die on the graphics in this one.

    Final Grade: A

    Chuck Norris the only WMD in Iraq
    The Geometry of Music
    Frozen in Grand Central Station

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    day in history

    Friday, March 14, 2008

    Friday Fragments

    beware AIDS in March

    ♠ Ella came over for a playdate yesterday so she could show off her many talents, like dribbling spaghetti down her chin, sticking her fingers in sockets, and chasing cats. She has also learned how to greet Booty: (2MB WMV). She's not a LOST fan though -- by that point in the evening she was a victim of narcolepsy and intrigue.

    ♠ I thought LOST was clever last night. We picked up on the fact that the Sun/Jin story in the future was not what it seemed, since the actors' scenes seemed so LOSTianly delineated, but we didn't see the final time shift coming. I also noticed that the date on the tombstone was the date of the plane crash, and we suspect that the person is still alive. Finally, the "man on the boat" twist was weak -- I picked that up long ago. If he says anything about his son this season, Rose should punch him in the face.

    ♠ It's been a pretty low-key week although our Europe planning is back into high-gear. We're currently looking at cheap hotels based on the recommendations of Paige and Rick Steves, since the former will find us good deals and the latter will find us hotels near the ice cream parlors. Only two weeks until Europe!

    ♠ This week was also badge renewal week at work -- the period of time where all the eight million forms of government identification from the previous year suddenly expire and you fill out reams of duplicate forms in triplicate to renew it all for another year. Of course, other obstacles like to sneak into the process, like the card-printing machines that miraculously break down for three days at a time and the shady Irish revolutionary who offers you three point two million dollars for the secret ingredients in Lucky Charms.

    ♠ Speaking of the Irish, this weekend is St. Patrick's Day weekend, which means I can cook up five pounds of corned beef, give four point five pounds to Anna, and divvy the remainder up amongst the poor and the starving while drinking Guinness, eating cabbage, dancing jigs, and being gassy. This is how St. Patrick's Day is traditionally spent -- being gassy.

    ♠ Happy Birthday Netty! Have a great weekend, everyone!

    Creepy gnome terrorizing Argentina
    Woman sat on toilet for two years
    Mary is not in the sun

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    day in history

    Monday, March 17, 2008

    List Day: What Your HMO Can Do For You

    My health insurance at work is HMO-based, because the only time I ever go into a doctor's office is when I run out of lollipops. The driving principle behind HMO care is that if you make it difficult enough to get to the expensive doctor, no one will ever get that far, everyone will die, and the company makes millions of dollars. You have to get through the first line of defense, the hard-to-schedule general practitioner visit, and then get a referral to the specialist you need.

    Recently, CIGNA added a zeroth line of defense: a toll-free Health Information Library number you can call to get encyclopedic information about whatever illness or disease you have. After dialing the number, you punch in a four digit code from the seven page directory they used your deductibles to print and mail. Here are some of the topics they have created automated recordings for:

      3007 Constipation
      3020 Hypothermia in Older Adults
      3102 Allergy Proof Your Home
      3316 Club Drugs
      3325 Drugs in the Workplace
      3335 Incest
      3339 Masochism
      3348 Pedophilia
      3368 Voyeurism
      3196 Ingrown Toenail
      3180 Shoes: Proper Fit Prevents Problems
      3244 Spondylolysis and Spondylolisthesis
      3504 Brain Tumor (self-diagnosis may not be a good idea here...)
      3700 Alcoholic Parent
      3703 Attitude - Make it Positive!
      3709 Burns in Children (burns ON children must be another code)
      3716 Dating Concerns
      3762 Rules: How to Live With Them
      3783 Undescended Testicle
      4008 Constipation (in case 3007 didn't answer your question)
      4101 Aerobic Dance Injuries
      4220 Something In Your Eyes (it's not just a song)
      4307 Child Spacing (we recommend standard double-spacing)
      4434 Touching in Renewing Sexuality
      4437 Water: Essential for Good Health
      4703 Dealing with Feelings About Food
      4651 Bathroom Safety
      4900 Animal and Human Bites
    Accident ruins 800-lb date
    Hansen: Centenarian celebrates with women, wings
    At least it's not blood

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    day in history

    Tuesday, March 18, 2008

    Stertorous: (adj.) Characterized by stertor or heavy snoring.

    My Composition (0:30 MP3)

    When I heard this word, I felt that a mechanical, methodical snoring motor would be far too easy so I thought of other ways to express the title. I somehow ended up with this Hindemith meets Swearingen concoction. I'm not sure where this would go next, but the beauty of Museday is that it doesn't matter.

    This fragment also suffers from the common ailment that it sounds completely different than you remember after you sleep on it and listen again in the morning. A rewrite might be better supported with more repetitions of the melody before spinning it away, but thirty seconds is thirty seconds.

    What you don't know about living in space
    Fake fears over Ethiopia's gold
    Casino insider tells almost all

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    day in history

    Wednesday, March 19, 2008

    Memory Day: Carmen Sandiego

    Educational games in the 80s were a hit-or-miss affair. For every awesome game like Ancient Empires or Oregon Trail, there was a steamer like Logic Master or Gertrude's Boot. One game series that never got old, though, was Carmen Sandiego.

    This Broderbund series had you tracking pun-named criminals through various geographical and historical areas while looking answers up in a provided reference book, like the World Almanac. There were five major games in the series before the age when I became omnipotent and did not need to learn anything new for the rest of my life: Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?, Where in the USA is Carmen Sandiego?, Where in Europe is Carmen Sandiego?, Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego?, and Where in America's Past is Carmen Sandiego? I even remember the theme song for the series, which evolved from a 1-voice PC Speaker motive to a Soundblaster MIDI medley mixed with patriotic tunes from America's past (MP3).

    The games definitely got easier as the years went by, either because the players got older or the reference books became simpler to master. In World, you might get an obtuse clue like "The thief was going to a neighbouring province of Tibet with more than one million citizens" which really worked the deductive reasoning skills (and using Alamanacs at the age of 6 is tricky unless you grew up in a house where the yearly more-disappointing-than-clothes Christmas gift WAS an almanac).

    In Europe, the reference book was a Fodor's Travel Europe book so ill-suited to the task that the game turned us into expert guessers who never even bothered to look anything up. (The real-life application of this is that if I need something on my Europe trip, I'll check the Bank first. If nothing is there, or an animated bomb explodes, I'll proceed to the Hotel and then the Market).

    By the time America's Past rolled around, no deductive reasoning was required at all, which made the games very easy to win. Instead of determining the gross national product of Burkina Faso, a clue might be "He said he was going to visit the Battle of Gettysburg". You could just look up the battle, set your time machine to Gettysburg 1863, and WIN.

    Scambaiters turn the tables
    Reducing beer in the name of science
    Marriage on hold unlike helium leaks out

    tagged as memories, games | permalink | 0 comments
    day in history

    Thursday, March 20, 2008

    Audience Participation Day

    Words of Wisdom

    Life lessons come from all sorts of disparate sources, from instruction manuals and schoolyard hearsay to the fifth time we spun around a pole so many times we threw up. Because humans are usually a social creature (except for those from San Diego, who are SoCal creatures), much of what we learn comes from the people around us.

    I'm sure I've learned a good deal from everyone who reads this page, but what, in your opinion, is the most critical life lesson you have taught me? What sort of knowledge could complete a phrase like "Now that BU knows that _____, I can die happy"? If you've never actually met me or don't think I've learned anything from you yet, what life lesson would you WANT to teach me? You can treat this seriously or facetiously, so feel free to go wild.

    Share your thoughts in the Comments section!

    She can't run fast but she sure poops fast
    A month in jail for taco theft
    I'm really hungry, man

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    day in history

    Friday, March 21, 2008

    Friday Fragments

    ♠ I still don't understand the draw of Amy Winehouse. Her song, Monkey Man comes on XM all the time now, and it sounds like she's barely sober enough to phonetically sound out all the lyrics . Maybe people just like the real-life drama aspect of her persona, since she's on so many drugs that she could easily pass for a cocaine-addled animatronic puppet.

    ♠ We went to Chuck E. Cheese for dinner on Wednesday night for giggles' sake, and had some surprisingly tasty pizza while watching various stuffed animals sing the alphabet song. Because of corporate downsizing, Chuck himself was the only animatronic puppet present -- the rest of the gang (like the dog and the cat) were relegated to backup band status on the video monitors.

    ♠ Booty is going to be starting a band any day now, and has decided that the band's name will be Booty and the Hellofish. Amber doesn't really want to change her name to Hellofish, but she has no marketable musical talent. Meanwhile, Booty can play a mean guitar with three chords: ii, VII, and V+.

    ♠ Chomped Mike left Guitar Hero at my house when he came to visit on St. Patrick's Day, but I still haven't had a chance to give it a shot. Maybe I'll have some time this weekend to sit down with it -- between work and Europe, time is scarce!

    ♠ We've now plotted out most of our Europe trip through southern France, mostly thanks to the planning skills of Rebecca. This weekend, we'll probably look at hotels in Collioure and Barcelona. Thanks to Chomped Mike, I will also be able to do occasional updates to this page from Europe, so you'll be spared a "best of the URI! Zone" sabbatical (in the wretched style of Jim Davis) or even worse, no updates at all!

    ♠ Chomped Mike is not an official moniker yet... I'm trying out several possibilities and will choose the best one based on audience feedback and poetic flow.

    ♠ This weekend is also Easter, which means I will be penitent and thankful for the fact that I no longer have to play trumpet in some last-minute service like I did all through college. Sure, the extra money was nice, but I can earn a lot more per hour by posting my music on Myspace and being a hooker.

    ♠ Tomorrow is Aaron Ulm and Jen Graves' birthdays. Happy Birthday! Have a great weekend!

    Red light cameras too good for their own good?
    Chile's disaffected 'Pokemones' don't care much about politics. They're too busy having sex.
    It's illegal to sell states on eBay

    tagged as fragments | permalink | 0 comments
    day in history

    Monday, March 24, 2008

    Wii Reject Day

    The Wii has risen above the naysayers who predicted that no one would enjoy its unique control scheme, and kooky games on other systems like the karaoke Singstar, Rock Band, and Guitar Hero have continued to show that the population's thirst for innovative games has not been quenched. However, not every game is an automatic success! Here are three Wii games that never made it out of Quality Assurance.

    Players move around a simulated world as a photojournalist, with quests like "Take a picture of Farmer Brown's Prize Swine". By holding the Wiimote like an Instamatic and saying "chk chk" into the microphone, players take fun and artistic shots and then upload them to be judged against the shots of other players across the world. The loading screen warns, "Make sure there is nothing you might trip over before you cover up your eyes with the Wiimote. Do not use near stairs.".

    Hold your Wiimote at waist level and try to fill up an onscreen urinal without any spillage. Tutorial mode shows how you can adjust the angle of the Wiimote to acheive greater distance on the later levels, where the urinal moves farther away, or oscillates from left to right. Make sure to jiggle your Wiimote to get out the last few drops when you're all done!

    Wii Tethercat:
    Based on the 1988 Far Side comic, this game was originally going to be one of the sampler games shipped in Wii Sports. Two players face each other holding their Wiimotes and execute a slapping motion any time the animated cat swings around the onscreen pole. The game would also have shipped with dog masks, because it's not cruel when cats are tortured by dogs, just hilarious for the entire family. The loading screen reminds players to "securely adjust the Wiimote wrist strap to prevent accidents and to make sure that the eye holes on the dog masks are lined up with your pupils".

    Giant marine life found in Antarctica
    Arrested for cataplut anti-car campaign
    Terrorists contemplate the use of "dirty cats"

    tagged as games | permalink | 0 comments
    day in history

    Tuesday, March 25, 2008

    Punchy: (adj.) being or appearing vigorously effective; forceful.

    My Composition (0:27 MP3)

    I stopped the random word generator on this word since it is also the intended name of Kathy and Chris' cat, who is sometimes mistakenly referred to as Titan. To me, there is nothing punchier than a minor ska tune.

    Excessive email and texts are an illness
    Meanwhile, Salisbury could not even relax on his porch swing -- someone took it.
    Fleeing shoplifter leaves behind DNA evidence

    tagged as museday | permalink | 0 comments
    day in history

    Wednesday, March 26, 2008

    Europe Day

    an occasional post about finding the way to Europe

    The maps are printed, the reservations are made, and I've researched Rick Steves' back door more than I'd care to admit. We have tickets and passports and we've gotten the special immunization shots that will prevent us from inexplicably become French. All we have left to do is pack our bags, dispose of the cats in a suitably plush living area, and head for the airport on Monday!

    If you want to play at home, you can use Google Earth to stalk us along this itinerary:

  • 4/1 - 4/3: London
  • 4/4 - 4/6: Paris
  • 4/7: Versailles
  • 4/8: Carcasonne
  • 4/9: Collioure
  • 4/10: Back in Virginia for Mom's Birthday
  • 4/11 - 4/14: Barcelona (a very special edition of 12 of 12)
  • 4/15: London
  • Pulling this trip together actually wasn't too difficult, especially since Rebecca did most of the research while I sat on a divan eating various seeded fruits. Once we actually flipped from "we should go to Europe someday" mode to "okay, let's go to Europe" mode, the abundance of information in library guide books and the Internet made it reasonably easy to set things up.

    Even though it makes me feel like a Dave Matthews fan in 1997, I'd have to recommend the ubiquitious Rick Steves guides for the granularity and usefulness of their information. We also looked at some Fodor's and Lonely Planet guides, but found ourselves continuing to return to Rick Steves for the final word on things.

    I will try to post the occasional pictureless update while in Europe, and I might even post them in Morse Code if I am sufficiently moved by some European World War monument. The last regular update will be this week's Friday Fragments column, and then you're on your own for two and a half weeks!

    In the meantime, if you have any last minute suggestions or recommendations for travel, please share them in the Comments section!

    Visitors stranded on the London Eye
    Knut is a publicity-addicted psycho
    Alaskan couple married in swimming pool

    tagged as travel | permalink | 4 comments
    day in history

    Thursday, March 27, 2008

    Review Day

    Professor Layton and the Curious Village: This DS game is a hybrid of brain teasers and old fashion point-and-click adventure. The adventure portion is absolutely horrible, with too much dialogue and too many cutscenes. In addition, the game has the bad habit of recapping everything that's happened whenever you turn it on -- particularly annoying if you only play in short bursts of ten or fifteen minutes. The puzzles are more fun -- they're a mix of over one hundred logic puzzles, riddles, spatial reasoning puzzles, and trick questions. This game would have been much better with an option to just do the puzzles and ignore the story. A partial solution is implemented (if you skip over puzzles during any chapter, you can visit a single room to play them all) but it's not enough. Music is charming during hour one, grating during hour two, and manually turned off after that.
    Final Grade: B, must love puzzles

    Super Smash Brothers Brawl: The long-awaited fighting game on the Wii pits every known and unknown Nintendo character against each other in silly battles, with new characters included like Sonic the Hedgehog. I tried out the Wii-based control schemes but ended up returning to the classic GameCube controller for the "tighest handling" of the characters. Sound and graphics are excellent, and the single-player modes are boring, as expected. This series really shines when you get four guys playing at the same time, and I haven't had time to play a game with more than 2 people yet.
    Initial Grade: B

    Dan in Real Life: A romantic comedy starring Steve Carell as a widower who unwittingly falls for his brother's girlfriend (who looks eerily like a young version of the French woman on LOST). This movie has an unsympathetic main character, no real romantic-comedy-sparks, and an insanely 1950s family that's even more ridiculous than the one in Family Stone. Some scenes are just awkwardly uncomfortable, like most of Meet the Parents.
    Initial Grade: C-

    Atonement: This movie was not as good as everyone said it would be. Keira Knightley is the two-dimensional main character (literally -- she needs to eat something) but the story of her and her lover are really the supporting pillars for her sister's story. The first half of the story rambles on like Gosford Park and the second half channels a little Saving Private Ryan but without Matt Damon. There is one war scene on the beach that's technically amazing, since the same camera and shot are used for three or four minutes, winding around and through the chaos, but it seemed more like a neat trick than a compelling plot device. The musical score is interesting, sometimes taking sound effects from the immediate scene and weaving them into the orchestration of later scenes. The movie is a downer but not a tear-jerker.
    Initial Grade: B-

    Donkey takes final bow in ballet troupe
    L.A. Times apologizes for Diddy-Tupac story
    DB Cooper's parachute possibly found

    tagged as reviews | permalink | 0 comments
    day in history

    Friday, March 28, 2008

    Friday Fragments

    pissing around before a fortnight one off

    ♠ A major installation we were supposed to be doing at work got delayed by paperwork, so instead of spending Friday in a deep, dank lab typing rm -rf /, I decided to take the remainder of the week off to supersize my two and a half week vacation. It worked for NBC primetime in 2001, it can work for me.

    ♠ It's almost sad to realize that after deducting all this leave from my leave pool, there's still over 80 hours of leave remaining. I could take another two weeks off to do something meaningful, like leveling one of every Warcraft class to 70, but that wouldn't be nice to the people at work. I guess I'll just save it up for a trip to Petropavlovsk in December because I hear the weather there is quite nice in the winter. I could mosey up to the local McDonald's and get a nice, warm McRussian to go with my Soviet Shake (it's been renamed but the cups are pre-1991).

    ♠ Speaking of McDonald's, they apparently own a market share of Google. Doing a search on Reston restaurants last week brought up a very interesting search results page. Every restaurant in the area must have become a McDonald's overnight. I'll definitely go to the one with 2 reviews though.

    ♠ This weekend, we'll be dropping Booty and Amber off at my parents' house and heading down to Colonial Beach to celebrate the first birthday of Ella and her cousin Thomas. Ella is developing typically for a baby -- she can now recite the divisors of non-prime numbers up to 63 and can bisect a triangle using only a ruler and a stick of gum. After the party, I plan on finishing up my Europe packing and then playing lots of Warcraft to make up for the boring two weeks to follow, where I'll have to run around some foreign cities without a Night Elf or an Auction House in sight.

    ♠ One of the hunters in my guild has a pet named after me. There's also rumours that the Horde are making a guild called <I Hate Plinky>. I highly approve of this and plan to join it as soon as possible on Evil-Plinky, the Horde priest I'm leveling to fight against Good-Plinky's teammates whenever the games get too easy.

    ♠ Though I won't promise anything, feel free to check back here throughout the month of April for my updates from the road. The next update you can count on will be on April 21.

    ♠ Also, happy birthday to Cheryl, Tim Galyen, Geoff King, Baylis, Australian Rachel, Diana D, Ben & his mom, Ella, Mom, Angela Oh, Kim, Carly, and Marc... all of these clowns will have birthdays while I'm gone!

    ♠ Have a great weekend!

    Rubik's Cube solvable in 25 moves
    Miss Bimbo site sparks outrage
    NZ man sentenced after claiming to have been raped by a wombat

    tagged as fragments | permalink | 1 comment
    day in history


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