Posts from 02/2009

Monday, February 02, 2009

Weekend Wrap-up

I'd originally planned on doing some Costco shopping Saturday morning, to stock up on armoires and giant dog beds, but it was much more relaxing to stay in, stay warm, and stay on the computer. On Saturday evening, we drove to the far-off city of Falls Church for Sushi Night, in celebration of the return of one of Rebecca's friends who had spent the last year in one of the -guay South American countries.

The evening was well attended by both friends and family, with plenty of fried stuff and sake for all. Once everyone had arrived, we took a course in sushi roll preparation from master chef Jessika, who unfortunately would not allow me to make a sushi roll with just a giant stick of cream cheese.

On Sunday, we plotted out the usage of Rebecca's suddenly gained use-or-lose leave. Faced with a six day February vacation, we narrowed her choices down to Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, or Siberia, but it will likely be somewhere inexpensively beachy (it's okay if the beach is a little dirty and has crabs, as long as it's cost-effective).

For the Super Bowl, we went to a couple-y Bowl party in Fairfax (ending my streak of two straight years without watching it). We ate Vocelli's pizza, homemade cupcakes, and bean dip while I imposed my impressive collection of football knowledge upon Rebecca (a sack is when an amorous defensive lineman convinces the opposing quarterback to sleep with him).

The commercials this year were pretty weak, although the Mr. Potato Head spot was chuckle-worthy. Sadly, the spot for the URI! Zone was banned as too racy for primetime.

Hackers crack Texas road sign, zombies ahead
Fannie Mae dodges a logic bomb
Drunken sailors left out of rhyme

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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Museday Tuesday

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

Adulterous: (adj.) characterized by or involved in adultery; illicit

My Composition (0:30 MP3)

I initially envisioned lurid lovers dancing to a spicy Latin cha-cha, but as a I wrote, it turned into a hybrid of a samba and a bossa nova instead. I opted to skip the repeat of the A section because B(U) sections are more fun to compose. This little excerpt feels a bit simpler than normal, although the trumpet melody is definitely something I'd write.

Disc jockey parts with Jenny's number
Lost thieves hole up in bank lavatory
Man delivered stolen newspapers for years

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Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Memory Day: High School Music Theory

When I looked through my old journals for thoughts on the music theory class I took in my senior year, I noticed that I generally wrote one of four single sentences throughout the year: theory was boring, theory was dull, we had a sub in theory and did nothing, or theory was a video. The reason it was so boring was likely the wide range of personalities in the class -- like all public school classes without the TOR (Talented or Rich) label, more time was spent on the remedial cases than the kids who actually cared.

Music Theory at the high school level is an introduction into the grammar of music -- if music was English, Music Fundamentals would teach the letters and words, Theory would teach how to make a complete sentence, and your Composition Instructor would teach you that complete sentences are stupid and you should write like James Joyce to truly be artistic. The problem with having a Theory class with no prerequisites in high school is that you'll end up with students that can't even read music.

Our merry Theory class had six students. On one side of the room sat Boris, who was a goth/emo hybrid before either was fashionable and never turned in a homework assignment, Dustin, who wanted to learn how to write punk music, and Kelley, who had to be taught what a half note was (Dudes with a name like Kelley often have questionable musical acumen).

On the other side of the room sat Melanie, who was a reasonably low-numbered violinist (although I think anything under 30th Violinist counts as "top of the class"), Ann, who went to Governor's School for voice, and BU, who had just returned from Governor's School and decided that he was the greatest composer since Victor Lopez.

Like all composers, I mostly ignored the rules of functional harmony, choosing instead to write whatever I liked and then try to shoehorn it into the proper classifications by making up ridiculous chord inversions and using the VII chord as often as possible. And because the teacher was too overwhelmed with kicking Boris out for listening to his Walkman in class, she never had time to correct my work. Below is one of several assignments I saved from that class thirteen years ago, in hopes that it would one day be worth millions on eBay.

The assignment was probably to write a four-voice work that goes from a minor to a major key, so of course, I had to be difficult by writing it with five beats in each measure (200KB MP3). By the time the third quarter rolled around, I had given up on learning anything useful, and was a blank slate when I started Dr. Bachelder's Theory Class at college the next year.

Ricky Gervais proposes a trade
Swat teams deployed in 911 fraud
Shoplifter tries to escape in mall security SUV

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Thursday, February 05, 2009

Review Day: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

there is nothing worth spoiling in this movie

This movie did not need to be made.

I never had a compelling urge to watch it, but after borrowing it for free from my parents and leaving it on my shelf, unwatched, for two months, I finally put it on in the background while I worked on my Wiki.

I'm still not exactly sure what the plot of this movie was, because it jumps from inexplicable situation to inexplicable situation like a Choose Your Own Adventure book without page numbers. What I walked away with was that Indy stumbles across a crystal skull while searching for an old colleague, but only because said colleague had left it there (akin to finding the Holy Grail on the Slim Jim shelf in 7-11). They reunite and decide that the skull needs to be returned to the hidden civilization where it REALLY came from (because otherwise the movie would just be Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull, which is entirely too succinct).

After a thirty minute car chase, during which cars occasionally vanish entirely until it's opportune for them to reappear, and Shia LaBeouf (almost French for SHIA THE BEEF) swings through the jungle on vines with a pack of monkeys, Indy and his gang arrive at a suitably old temple where they solve ancient logic puzzles to unlock doors (if this movie were a text adventure, their actions could be summarized with > PUT SKULL IN SKULL-SHAPED SLOT). In the end, the world is threatened by CGI and villains die when they get too greedy.

The tone of the movie is never certain -- apparently they couldn't decide whether to make an Indiana Jones movie or a "Scary Movie" rendition of a parody. This is immediately noticed in the casting of the Scrubs Janitor as an FBI agent who thinks that Indy might be a commie. Are you supposed to take him seriously? He acts like a janitor pretending to be an FBI agent, which is what he would do on any given episode of Scrubs. Immediately after that, Charles Widmore shows up as Indy's superior, ostensibly to enlist his help in finding the island from LOST.

Musically, the soundtrack is exactly what you'd expect from John Williams. Two years ago, I posted a review of the music from Raiders of the Lost Ark, and this soundtrack is just as bad. Williams still can't resist orchestrating every inconsequential action on the screen, and the end result is so busy and cacophonous that you almost start yearning for a Philip Glass score.

The cinematography of this movie was definitely a six-syllable word. Beyond that, there's nothing to recommend it. The story lacks any forward momentum, so the film is filled with really long reaction shots of Indy smirking, as if the audience is supposed to chuckle. I almost expected a canned laugh track to fill the shots.

It seems like most of the budget for this movie was spent and wasted on special effects, beginning with a Greek chorus of animated prairie dogs who watch the action in the first scenes (I'm guessing George Lucas was the driving force behind that addition). The problem with the effects is that the whole world still seems fake -- it looks as if the cast filmed the entire story in front of a green screen. The South American temples don't feel ancient, they just look like rejected graphics from Diablo II, and a colourful, cartoony haze covers every frame like the aftermath of a Bugs Bunny pot party. No doubt they wanted to emphasize the richness of Technicolor so people would go out and buy VCRs.

Final Grade: D-, a couple neat stunts act as helium balloons tied to a sinking frigate

Indiana Jones: The Abridged Script
Bunnies the target of gun-toting cow
Cows the target of 2500 lb snake
What was the best Indy movie?

Raiders of the Lost Ark (3 votes, 27.3%)

Temple of Doom (2 votes, 18.2%)

Last Crusade (6 votes, 54.5%)

Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (0 votes, 0.0%)

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Friday, February 06, 2009

Friday Fragments

fresh from France

♠ This week's LOST was good, although the whole "flash" concept is already getting old to me (flashes just aren't the same without nudity). I also called the source of the glowing light immediately, as evidenced by the IM I sent to Mike (of Mike and Chompy) IN REAL TIME.

♠ I feel like they're throwing a few too many new concepts and characters into the mix for a "second to last" season -- if this were a book or a symphony, the unfolding would occur in the first four seasons, with the fifth being a tightly winding spiral to the final season full of explosions and revelations.

♠ This is also how I plan to structure my life -- by thirty, the exposition will be complete and all the principal characters will be known and loved by the audience. I will get into suspenseful, ridiculous situations until the age of 60, and then spend the next decade unleashing family secrets, like the truth about my paternity and the reason I can get so much done in a single day (time travel may be involved). By 75, all of my conflicts will be resolved. Jack Bauer will sit in an SUV and cry for twenty minutes, and then I'll go out with a bang by mishandling a roll of unstable dynamite.

♠ This weekend's plans originally involved a Benefit Cocktail Party to Help the Hungry (because the more you drink, the less room you have for food), but that was cancelled after an unfortunate vector of contagion. Instead, I'll probably do some work-work and look forward to the 12th, which has the tertiary distinction of being 12 of 12, Steak Night, and the 5th Year Anniversary of buying a house. On Sunday, we're all headed to Mike's house for a marathon of an Animal Planet show he's a part owner of, Blunderdog to THUNDERDOG, where clumsy dogs are dressed up like Thor and sent out to wreak havoc on their tormentors.

♠ This is what Chompy would look like if she went on that show. The only problem is that she's scared of thunder, so she'd have to hang back from the initial round of pillaging and just collect the spoils of war. At least then, she'd be able to avoid any chance of injury -- Chompy: Plunder Dog sounds much safer than Chompy: Sundered Dog.

♠ I think more nicknames should have colons in them. It's time we pick them up, dust them off, and put them back to work making people sound more impressive. I guess this also means that I support colon cleansing.

♠ Have a great weekend!

'Vampyre' jailed after allegedly harassing teen
Caterpillars take over Liberia
Bill Gates releases mosquitoes at conference

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Monday, February 09, 2009

Weekend Wrap-up

On Friday evening, we watched the latest Kevin Smith film, Zack and Miri Make a Porno, which started out strong and ended only slightly weaker. Every other word in the dialogue is some gerund form of the word "fuck", which would have been fresh ten years ago but seems a little tired now. You'll like this one if you like Kevin Smith movies, but if you haven't already been exposed to the vulgarity of his gross-out gags and dirty jokes, you'll want to skip this.

On Saturday, after a quick run to Costco to stock up on a lifetime supply of corned beef and things made of wicker, I spent the day working until I was interrupted by a phone call from Jack who had a Kristy-free house and lots of leftover Super Bowl snacks to get rid of. We held an impromptu poker game that evening, in which Jack came in first, followed by Kathy and then Chris. I managed to get 5th out of 7, which was fractionally better than Jaood.

Sunday afternoon was the fabled Underdog to Wonderdog marathon, which steals ideas from every makeover show on television and applies it to down-on-their-luck dogs like Lucky, who was aptly named after being hit by a car. A team of four rehabilitates the dog and finds a new home, with the groomer and trainer doing the actual work while the "team leader" shows off his guns and the "canine carpenter" builds ridiculous garbage in the back yards of the new dog owners while flirting with the "team leader".

Putin denies mystery ABBA concert
You could have collected lizard poop for your Ph.D
Loved chimps smarter than babies

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

List Day: Creating an Effective Stimulus Bill

I was originally going to spend today examining the Senate stimulus compromise and using my common sense superpower to veto the ideas that were obviously a waste of my fifty dollars. However, the bill is several hundred pages long, and I definitely don't have the inclination to waste a portion of my life doing that when I could just as easily be online watching videos of cats riding Roombas.

Instead, I will completely ignore the existing stimulus compromise and present my own less expensive plan that will more effectively jumpstart our economy.

Clean, Efficient, American Energy

  • $25 billion to fill the state of Nevada with the nastiest, smoggiest, high-output power plants available, creating an affordable power grid for the rest of the union at the expense of the Nevadan people.
  • $1 million to systematically assassinate people who start lawsuits against wind power.
  • $12 billion to outlaw and respossess SUVs and Hummers, then convert them into an artificial reef.
  • Transforming our Economy with Science and Technology

  • $10 billion to alchemy research on how to convert lead into gold.
  • $100 billion to quantum teleportation research, eliminating the need for roads and cars.
  • Modernizing Roads, Bridges, Transit and Waterways

  • This section of the stimulus bill will no longer be needed if we throw enough money into inventing person teleportation technology.
  • Education for the 21st Century

  • $1 billion to prevent teen sex through shock-literature depicting diseased penises in textbooks and on television.
  • $1 billion to cap college textbook costs at $5 per book ($6 with a CD of answers).
  • $25 billion to extend mandatory primary education by three more years, reducing the number of immature idiots in the freshman class of college.
  • Tax Cuts to Make Work Pay and Create Jobs

  • $1 billion to eliminate jobs for a day and then reestablish them, so that the same job can be counted twice in the "Jobs Created or Saved" tally.
  • Lowering Healthcare Costs

  • $5 billion to move horse veterinarians into the medical workforce with instructions to shoot anyone who might require more than 3 days of treatment.
  • $1 billion to increase the size of the medical workforce by allowing one to become a surgeon "over the Internet".
  • Helping Workers Hurt by the Economy

  • $1 million for band-aids to anyone that was attacked by the economy in a dark alley.
  • Saving Public Sector Jobs and Protect Vital Services

  • $2 billion to eliminate all traffic-related responsibilities of police officers so they may more effectively focus on important crimes.
  • $1 billion to increase 911 response time by changing the number to "91".
  • $1 billion in grants to hog farmers so the nation's supply of bacon does not suffer interruption.
  • Grand Total: $174 billion

    Beat that, you elected yahoos.

    Deer Crack Dealer
    Composer's Neanderthal recreation
    At Denny's, free food and long lines

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    day in history

    Wednesday, February 11, 2009

    Memory Day: Transfer Credit

    Going into college, I had 14 AP credits in English and Physics, and the feeling of getting exempt from additional classes to sit in my dorm room reading the entire back archives of Sluggy was intoxicating. Since I had embarked upon a course that would ultimately net 190 credits (I think 96 were needed to be a qualified liberal arts major), I decided to see just how many more transferred credits I could get without leaving the home base buildings of McBryde and Squires.

    There were an inordinate number of rules surrounding transfer credit, mainly to prevent people from substituting Androgynous Yoga 1001 for Biochemical Reactions 4625, but the most important to me was this one:

    This rule effectively gave me free reign to take a transfer course, slack off as low as a C-, and still have it appear on my transcript as ungraded credit (one of the major life lessons you learn in college is how to work the system). My next step was to determine which courses I wanted to take (all the annoying "you must be well-rounded" core classes) and where I wanted to take them. Of course, I turned to the esteemed NORTHERN VIRGINIA COMMUNITY COLLEGE: ALEXANDRIA CAMPUS. Community colleges often get a bad reputation, but at least NOVA's computers aren't identified like this on the Internet:

    I ultimately took 16 credits of summer classes at NOVA -- the stomach-wound kind that drag on for twenty-five hours in the day until you must make the choice between death and skipping classes (In general, I skipped).

    Physical Geology: We spent an entire summer session talking about different types of rocks, although we did not get to watch any Geologist Porn. The last two weeks of class were cancelled so the instructor could go on vacation.

    The History of Western Civilization I: The bubonic plague was a welcome interlude for the inhabitants of this time period, if it was as boring as taught. The instructor had just come back from his vacation and spent several class periods showing slides... of South America. I stopped showing up halfway through the course, and when I arrived at the final exam, the instructor gave me a talking to and an evil look, expecting me to fail because I had missed his presentation on some Mayan temple he visited with his wife. After I won the class with an A on the exam, he looked flustered and sputtered, "Attendance is critical. You are seriously influencing how I'm going to teach this class in the future!" I hope so.

    Psychology I and II: I remember nothing about this class, as it was a lecture. I do have fifty pages of definitions saved in my files, so I'm guessing it was either a memorization class or they brainwashed us all into sleeper agents.

    Public Speaking: I gave a dramatic reading of Are You My Mother? to an enthralled class of five at 8 AM. This class was my closest call, since attendance was actually counted as a grade, but the professor who insisted that an audience was an integral part of communicating had obviously never had an imaginary friend before. I squeaked by with exactly a C- and ended my community college career forever.

    Don't forget that tomorrow is 12 of 12!

    Arctic unicorns in icy display
    Hate mail and offensive threats close T-Shirt Hell
    Barack Obama is tired of your poop

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    day in history

    Thursday, February 12, 2009

    Chad Darnell's 12 of 12

    6:45 AM: On my way to work in the morning. I'm trying out this crazy new schedule where I wake up an hour later than usual.

    6:57 AM: A view of the nearly full moon through my office window.

    7:12 AM: My plant is either overwatered or not watered enough -- there's no middle ground.

    8:23 AM: Working hard on the new 24" monitor which provides just enough cover for me to hide behind as people walk past my office.

    1:04 PM: Arriving home for lunch, at the house I purchased exactly five years ago today.

    1:15 PM: Lunchtime for Kitties.

    1:23 PM: Lunchtime for Humans includes leftover corned beef and cabbage.

    4:02 PM: After the third cumulative hour of network troubleshooting, I discover that the network encryption key has an OH in it, not a ZERO.

    4:56 PM: Cleaning the grill in anticipation of Steak Night.

    6:04 PM: Booty gets some of our Steak... NECKBONE!

    6:32 PM: Filet Mignon for dinner!

    8:32 PM: Rebecca gets her present of a Netbook to take to Puerto Rico. Happy Valentine's Day / 12 of 12 / Five Year House Day!

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

    Koala saved from wildfires
    Man puts "robbery" as occupation
    The fire department is going to be mad at me

    tagged as 12 of 12 | permalink | 7 comments
    day in history

    Friday, February 13, 2009

    Friday Fragments

    the sixth Friday the Thirteenth since Friday Fragments began

    ♥ Sometime in the past week, the twelve families living in the house on the corner finally packed up and moved away. I have nothing against group housing (as I've taking in a few homeless music majors in my day), but this house was the epitome of a bad neighbour -- 6 cars clogging the street with 1 SUV always parked on the lawn, an open air trash pit because they couldn't afford trash service, multiple carpools that honked when they arrived instead of walking up to the door, and people sitting outside on the stoop at all hours of the night.

    ♥ Last month when their power was turned off for a few days, they bought a gas generator and ran it nonstop on the front porch. Last week as I was driving by, they were grilling on a propane grill underneath the eaves of their porch, right up against the house (because apparently fire safety is no longer a common sense trait). Unfortunately the house was still standing when I arrived home later that night. So, if anyone wants to be my neighbour and live on the corner in Sterling, we have a vacancy.

    ♥ The house on the corner has seen so many different residents since I moved in that the city of Sterling might as well turn it into a motel. Travelers from all walks of life could enjoy the hybrid white-trash-meets-day-laborer-meets-government-yuppies feeling of our county.

    ♥ When I was a Computer Science major, I recall various boring lectures about the Traveling Salesman problem. It was not, as I initially believed, about where a salesman should pee when he's always on the road -- it was a theoretical problem about the shortest path to travel while visiting every city exactly once.

    ♥ I bet that Computer Science majors today have it much easier than I did -- the correct solution would probably involve some sort of Internet connection and eBay.

    ♥ I have never bought or bid on a single item from eBay. And while we're confessing things, I have also never seen a single episode of The A-Team (although I have arranged it for marching band twice).

    ♥ I made the second arrangement after Paige complained about the mellophone part being too melodically jagged. However, I was just following the time-honored tradition of writing for horns by giving them whichever note in the chord was missing and couldn't be heard anyhow. This is also how you write for a quintet when someone sucks.

    ♥ I haven't played in a brass quintet since the Pinnacle Brass days with Philip, although I did play a high D on my trumpet last year for giggles, and then put it back in the closet. If the economy continues to tank, maybe I can make a little extra cash by playing the Hindemith outside of the Foggy Bottom Metro.

    ♥ Foggy Bottom is easily the funniest name in our Metro system, although it's no Cockfosters. The story behind it (low elevation causes fog) could use some PR improvement though. I recommend a story about an ass so large that it has its own weather systems.

    ♥ Plans for the weekend include birthdays and valentines (hence the girly hearts denoting this week's fragments). I may also begin working on the new Name-That-Tune contest which will come out this month or next, which unfortunately will not be accessible to blind people.

    ♥ Have a great weekend!

    Death Cab's autotune campaign
    Google Earth leads to buried treasure
    India to launch cow urine as soft drink

    tagged as fragments | permalink | 4 comments
    day in history

    Monday, February 16, 2009

    Happy Precedence Day

    Wichita UFO draws attention
    Dutch city's porn archive vanishes
    A father at 13

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    Tuesday, February 17, 2009

    Newsday Tuesday

    HOV Cheaters Run the Numbers

    HOV cheaters have a special, and dark, place in the hearts of area commuters. As motorists sit in stop-and-go traffic or pick up strangers to meet the minimum number of riders to use the free-flowing HOV lanes, cheaters blithely fly by in the restricted lanes. Alone.

    "Sometimes when you commute, you do some crazy, crazy things when you see all those red lights in front of you," said Aleta Joy Williams, a daily cheater who has racked up 10 HOV violations [...] "You need to be at a certain place at a certain time, and you are willing to do whatever it takes to get to where you need to."

    When asked if she had tried waking up earlier, Aleta Joy Williams demurred. "Changing my own habits instead of breaking the rules would be so un-American. Why would we set our clocks back an hour every year if we weren't supposed to sleep until it's light outside?"

    Karen Marie Livingston, [...] got six tickets during years of cheating, the last one a whopper. "I decided to stop when I had to tell my husband I got a $1,000 ticket," she said. "I cried for a week. But I couldn't blame anyone but myself. When you get a $1,000 ticket, it's a come-to-Jesus moment."

    Jesus could not be reached for comment about his stance on HOV lanes.

    Tragically, the Washington Post has devoted more ink to pitiful stories from self-entitled weenies, rather than address the more ominous conspiracy that the most blatant of the female HOV violators all have three names (and therefore, may be presidential assassins).

    During her cheating days, [Karen Marie Livingston] would sometimes take hooded coats and arrange them on the seats so it looked as if there were three people in the car. Sometimes that worked. She also talked her way out of four tickets. "I played one as a dumb female. Another time, I said I was pregnant and sick. The officer understood because his wife was pregnant."

    Jesus was unavailable for comment about dumb females, although his position on liars is set in stone.

    Cheaters hurt the system by clogging the lanes and making those who make the extra effort to play by the rules feel like suckers. Thousands of drivers a day pick up slugs, commuters who accept free rides from drivers looking to add passengers to qualify for the HOV lanes.

    Of course, being labelled as a "slug sucker" isn't the only way to legally ride in the HOV lanes -- you could drive alone in a Prius (because one clean commuter is equivalent to two dirty commuters in state legislative mathematics), or simply bring along your two kids and leave them in the car with a Little Mermaid DVD all day long (not recommended for parents whose children are susceptible to extreme changes in temperature).

    Ricci Angresano, with six convictions, said the enforcement and penalties made him change his ways. [...] Asked why he didn't take Metro, he said that he tried it but that it was difficult to get a seat on the commute home. And then there were all the germs. "Everybody's stacked up like sardines, coughing and sneezing and touching the poles," he said. "Then they turn up the heat in winter, and the germs just multiply."

    Angresano provided the same reasons when asked why he no longer frequented his favourite strip joint, which is why a consortium of private companies is funding an effort to combine carpooling and lapdancing. In a trial run of "Heels on Wheels", drivers paid extra to pick up strippers in the slug lines and arrived at work on time and in a good mood.

    Jonathan Krasnov [...] cheated every morning on I-95/395 for 11 years, or about 2,200 trips. He received six tickets in that time. [...] He stopped only because he received a $500 ticket after the fines went up. "You get to the point where you are so desperate you can't take it anymore," Krasnov said.

    Krasnov's admission generated interest in a new money-making scheme for cash-strapped local governments -- starting next Monday, repeat HOV offenders will be tailed from their homes all the way into the lanes by an unmarked cruiser, guaranteeing a conviction. After their cars are sold at police auction, they'll face a $2000 ticket and get dumped naked into the HOV lanes: at the mercy of the very slug suckers they cheated, in what can only be described as an "eye for an eye" scenario.

    Jesus could not be reached for comment.

    This is why you're fat
    Student arrested for stealing teacher's apple
    Maybe not a father at 13
    What's the best excuse to cheat with in the HOV lanes?

    I'm a dumb female. (4 votes, 50.0%)

    I'm pregnant and sick. (men only) (1 vote, 12.5%)

    I thought it was a "Heading Out of Virginia" lane. (1 vote, 12.5%)

    I just finished two Big Gulps. (2 votes, 25.0%)

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

    Wednesday, February 18, 2009

    Memory Fragments Day

    ♦ Back in the days when Chompy wasn't an agoraphobic recluse like Sigourney Weaver in Copycat, we used to take her to various locales that passed as parks around Tallahassee, where she'd do her best to escape. Once, she broke free and did a 100 yard dash towards the nearest highway. Since smokey Mike had the lung capacity of a third clarinetist in marching band, I had to pursue, and tackled her mere feet from the road.

    ♦ In fourth grade TAG class, there was a chubby black kid with thick glasses who we could always get a rise out of by telling him a bee was chasing him. He would flail madly about with a squealing voice like a saxophone mouthpiece. Once, he gave an oral book report on Dear Mr. Henshaw, and the class couldn't stop giggling about the way he sounded when reading the title.

    ♦ When my parents and my sister were driving to All-District band in 1994, they hit an animal that ran away before they could see how it was. The next month, someone was talking to a girl who lived on that street and asking about her new black puppy. She replied that it had been hit by a car a month before and died. I still don't know if it was the same incident.

    ♦ When we were in Paris last year, the subway stations were plastered with advertisements for the latest American movie that should have had a "straight-to-trash" release, Step Up 2 The Streets. The French savvily distilled this nonsensical title into the most important aspect (chicks dancing) and retitled it Sexy Dance 2.

    ♦ As a child on road trips, I had an unhealthy fascination with the road atlas. Before I reached the age where I could actually mimic our route, I invented my own route by tracing any given road across the page. When I hit the end, I simply turned the page and kept going. At some level, I probably grew up thinking that Arizona was adjacent to Arkansas.

    ♦ In 1997, I got tired of my composition professor asking me to introduce more wrong notes into my music, so I creatively honked out a violin sonata as ridiculously wrong as I could make it -- it was not a subtle satire. To my surprise, he loved it. I then showed it to one of my high school music teachers who loved it even more, and asked me to rewrite it for her oboist son. I hope it was never actually performed.

    Share a little memory in the Comments section!

    Man gets 20 weeks in jail for whistling
    Cat saves life by detecting a tumor
    Burglar caught with his pants down

    tagged as fragments, memories | permalink | 8 comments
    day in history

    Thursday, February 19, 2009

    Review Day

    There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

    Scrubs, Season Seven:
    Last year's writers' strike pooped on this show a fair amount, and only 11 episodes appear on the DVD. However, that can't take all of the blame for this lame season. I felt the fifth and sixth seasons were already running low on ideas but still enjoyed watching them because it was Scrubs -- an inclination I did NOT feel this season. With the primary characters exhausted for storylines, the focus turns to secondary characters who were funny in bit parts, but tedious with extra exposure. The order of the shows makes no sense either -- the season finale was written to appear two or three episodes earlier (before a major character's plotline changes) but shown out of order, both on TV and on the DVD.

    Final Grade: D+

    How I Met Your Mother, Season Two:
    This season is a slight improvement over the first, favouring more character humour than cheesy sitcom humour. It's immediately apparent that you still will not meet the "mother" anytime soon, and that it just provides a backdrop for the other stories to take place. Good, harmless fun.

    Final Grade: B+

    The Digital Photography Book by Scott Kelby:
    My favourite types of instructional texts are those that are just a series of unrelated tips and tricks, perfect for those with ADD. This book does that well, and matches it with a pragmatic "dont need to know all the technical aspects" approach. I probably won't ever use most of these tips in day-to-day photography though, and the book loses a few points for lame humour.

    Final Grade: B-

    The Musical World of Boublil and Schonberg:
    This book is a biography / interview-style book about the composers behind Miss Saigon and Les Miserables. It's not perfect -- it spends a little too much time hyping their most recent (forgettable) productions, but the sections on compositional technique and the challenge of writing cross-language lyrics were interesting, even if you don't know the source material. I will probably never read this book again, though, because Amber honked all over it after I finished. Like many other URI! Zone denizens, she hates musicals.

    Final Grade: B

    Man with half-empty tank discovers that it's half-full
    Google Maps car hits a deer
    Lego pharoah floats down the Thames

    tagged as reviews | permalink | 0 comments
    day in history

    Friday, February 20, 2009

    Friday Fragments

    all the booze that's fit to pint

    ♠ Rebecca says hello from Puerto Rico, where she is eating ice cream with her college friend, Alice, using up six days of leave that expire on March 1, and learning what it's like to be in a place that isn't quite a state (although this could also have been done cheaper with a trip to Alabama).

    ♠ With Future Wife #1 in Puerto Rico, I've spent the last couple nights adding improvements to the URI! Zone. I cancelled the Event Calendar idea because it was useless and derivative (and sites like Facebook do it better anyhow), but maybe I'll borrow something useful, like the ability to turn someone into a Vampire, or email notifications whenever someone visits the site or scrolls up and down.

    ♠ The most noticeable addition is the magnifying glass icon in the Comments section: . If you click on this icon next to any commenter, you will see a complete history of all the comments they've ever posted on the URI! Zone, going back as far as April 2003, which will likely be the 0th year of civilization when the aliens discover our planet in 3852 (after our apocalypse) and assign me some sort of godlike status after piecing together the last remnants of the Internet.

    ♠ Also, blogs which have not been updated in three weeks' time will automatically vanish from the Bloglog, but never fear, because they will also return as soon as new content appears. So if you're like Kathy, and have been too busy leaving me out of the acknowledgments section of your dissertation to update your blog, it will reappear as soon as you post something. Paige tried this out just yesterday!

    ♠ I have also created a BootyCam which will give you an up-to-the-minute look at what Booty is doing at any given time, as long as she is in front of the camera. If you reload the page, you might see many unexpected antics -- Booty is more exciting than any baby panda any day of the week.

    ♠ Remember when Tai Shan, the baby panda, was the size of a stick of butter? Now it's four years old with a dingy white coat, probably fat and surviving on handouts. That's what happens when you live in DC.

    ♠ For the first time in three weeks, my weekend plans don't involve going to DC or Maryland, although that might change depending on the status of a tentative Game Night. Sunday, as everyone is full aware, is 222 Day. In celebration, I will buy anyone in the Sterling area two 22oz of Steel Reserve if they can successfully pass a ten question oral quiz. Actually, the awesomest way to ring in 222 Day would be for Rosie to pop out a baby or two, if she hasn't done it already.

    ♠ I plan to celebrate 222 Day by setting up the next Name That Tune contest. Depending how far I get and how lazy I'm not, it may appear here as early as Monday! If you thought that the samples from the previous contest were too cacophonous, you will be pleasantly surprised this time around.

    ♠ Have a great weekend!

    Why you shouldn't stick an air gun up your butt
    Men see bikini-clad women as objects
    Octopus survives 5 days on the run

    tagged as fragments | permalink | 4 comments
    day in history

    Monday, February 23, 2009

    Name That Tune!

    It's time for my annual Name-That-Tune contest! Past contests have incorporated crazy antics like "five songs at the same time", "only the breaks", and "only the bass lines". The new gimmick for 2009? I have uploaded 10 movies of me singing classic songs. The catch? There is no sound!

    If you can figure out the band and the song title for the tunes below, you stand to win a $25 gift certificate to Depending on how many people submit entries, there may also be runner-up prizes, as my own little stimulus package to the loyal readers of the URI! Zone.


    1. There are 26 possible points for the 10 songs. In cases of ties or teams, the prize will be split.
    2. For each of the ten songs, submit both the title and group to me, using the e-mail link at the top of the page. You can get half credit for partial answers. The deadline for your entries is Wednesday, March 4th, 2009 at NOON EST.
    3. Every song in the contest was reasonably well-known and popular in its heyday. There are no trick songs or songs only I've heard of.
    4. If you plan on watching these movies a lot, download them to your own computer so they load faster (and also to preserve my website's bandwidth). If your computer is unable to view AVI movie files, let me know and we can try to correct the problem.
    11 (2MB, AVI)1st verse, 80s Rock Ballad
    22 (2MB, AVI)1st verse, 60s Rock
    32 (2MB, AVI)1st verse, 80s Pop Rock
    42 (2MB, AVI)1st verse, late 80s Rock
    52 (2MB, AVI)chorus, 90s rock
    63 (3MB, AVI)1st verse, 00s Rock
    73 (2MB, AVI)1st verse, 80s Rock
    83 (2MB, AVI)1st verse, 80s Hip-Hop
    94 (3MB, AVI)1st verse, 90s Heavy Metal
    104 (2MB, AVI)chorus, 80s Rock

    Good luck and enjoy staring at my mouth!

    Woman's weave stops a bullet
    Military?s killer robots must learn warrior code
    Google dismisses Atlantis find
    How many tunes do you think you know?

    10 (2 votes, 28.6%)

    6-9 (0 votes, 0.0%)

    1-5 (1 vote, 14.3%)

    0 (2 votes, 28.6%)

    I am blind. (2 votes, 28.6%)

    tagged as contests | permalink | 4 comments
    day in history

    Tuesday, February 24, 2009

    Composing Spotlight: Clown Facades

    I sat down last night to write a Museday, but was struggling with inspiration. Instead, I decided to relisten to one of the pieces I wrote in my brief stint as a fulll-time composer: a commission I received in the spring of my 4th year of perpetual college.

    On the few times I received commissions, I always tried to nail down as many rules as possible up front, because more constraints generally lead to more creativity in trying to break those constraints down. Composing is the hardest when you have a blank screen and no direction at all (which is why Museday always starts from a single word). The rules I had for this composition:

  • The piece must be for trombone, euphonium, and piano. The trombonist and the euph'er must switch instruments at least once during the performance.
  • The piece should be an opener for a recital -- upbeat, lighthearted, not too grand, and not massive finale.
  • The piece should be about five minutes long.
  • With these rules in hand, I sat down at the keyboard over the summer of 2000 (which was also my first internship at FGM) and spewed forth several high-capacity jets of crap. The very first fragment I wrote down was this, (100KB MP3), which was far too flippant for anything but a practice room duet. The second fragment I wrote was this, (100KB MP3), which was much cooler, but also felt like a feeble ripoff of the Beatles. However, each fragment helped me shape what the piece would eventually become.

    The next part I wrote was the chords under the 8-bar introduction, which starts out with an F# minor 7 going to a D7 and back again. I recall being frustrated and deciding to start in F# minor because band music never starts in F# minor (this was going to be a problem when I eventually decided to get to G minor, but the Circle of Fifths is highly pleasurable).

    By the time school was about to start again, I still only had about 16 bars of music. After playing it for Paige though, she remarked that it sounded like a bunch of psycho clowns, which immediately clarified my approach to the piece. I finished the remainder in a whirlwind of focus, and used Paige's spaghettio font on the final title, Clown Facades.

    Below is a link to an MP3 recording of the piece as performed by a computer (computers are way better at maintaining a tempo than humans). Give a listen, and read some of my podcast style thoughts as the recording plays:

    Clown Facades (3MB MP3)

    0:14This is the original theme that Paige equated with clowns.
    0:30At this point, I realized that I wanted to be in G minor.
    0:40Mission accomplished.
    0:47Listening to this now, it sounds like I was going to compose about a bull fight.
    1:00We're in D minor now. Why did I try so hard to get to G? This section is based on the 2nd fragment that was Beatles-like. I was very much in a "I'll insert jazz ironically in all my compositions" stage, and also wanted to see if I could put 12-bar blues in a serious piece and not have anyone notice.
    1:16I wanted a very clean jazz. The score actually says "like Gershwin, not Ellington".
    1:41I really like the juxtaposition of a 2-meter vs. a 3-meter here. Clowns would mix it up, and so should I.
    2:05This section was originally just long enough to allow the performers to switch instruments, but I really got into writing the piano imitation.
    2:32The score says "Like a hurdy-gurdy winding down..."
    2:46This section gives the piano a rest, but is also intentionally simple and low to give the low brass performers a few notes to warm up their cold instruments. I'm clever like a lever with a C on it.
    3:18Okay, they're warmed up. Let's dick around.
    3:47This section hearkens back to the first fragment, and I wanted it to feel like a satire of a technical study. Jay Crone nailed it when he said to "play it more like an Arban ?tude from Hell" during a rehearsal. I didn't prompt him at all.
    4:10It's starting to get out of control...
    4:24Once I get in 3/4 time, all my pieces sound the same.
    5:04I felt like the only way to end the piece would be to reprise the introduction, but in parody.
    5:19I have no idea how we ended up in Eb major, but I think this was a perfect ending -- it closed the piece emphatically, but left enough tension in the air to ring in the rest of the recital.

    What do you think about Composing Spotlight day? Boring? Fascinating? Should it return? Let me know! We can always use new ___ Days at the URI! Zone.

    Roman Ruins a Haven for Cats
    50 jobs in 50 states
    Dutchman off the hook for not running over cat

    tagged as music | permalink | 3 comments
    day in history

    Wednesday, February 25, 2009

    End-of-the-Month Media Day


    See Sushi Night pictures
    See Ella pictures
    See February Festivities pictures
    See Cat pictures


    Ella hanging around (5MB WMV)

    New RNC Chairman wants hip-hop party
    Cannibalistic rattlesnakes eat their dead
    Florida tests using magnets against crocodiles

    tagged as media | permalink | 2 comments
    day in history

    Thursday, February 26, 2009

    Weird Search Day

    or "How I Stumbled Upon the URI! Zone"

  • fat amputee females wearing peglegs
    I hope this guy eventually found true love through his fetish, and I also hope her name was Peggy.

  • jennifer garner wearing waders

    After retiring from the Hollywood scene several years ago, Jennifer Garner returned to idyllic West Virginia where she taught Ben Affleck how to fly fish.

  • shimmy classes in Sterling, Va
    A good instructional video for learning how to shimmy might be the music video to The Salmon Dance.

  • An Asian chick has sex with an African tribesman. She's lucky they didn't eat her for dinner! haha...
    This search originated in Thailand. I think this is the perfect place to employ the video game ellipses: ". . ."

  • shadiest muppet

    The shadiest muppet is defintely Lew Zealand. The mustache is obviously fake, he's dressed like a dandy and he caught a fish without wearing any waders. He's obviously up to no good.

  • sex + potato + 2009 + dry + icicle + images
    I can't even begin to fathom what sort of sexual tricks you can perform with a potato and a dry icicle.

  • did kids pin pet chameleons to their shirt?
    Only if the teachers wanted to make sure that the bloody chameleons got to the parents successfully.

  • my wife says it's best to put our teenage son into chasity belt
    I'm not exactly sure how a male chastity belt would work. It seems like things would get very squished down there.

  • free sexy female wrestling catfighting spandex pics

  • worlds funniest fidller crab videos
    Rumour has it that Pixar is creating a new animated adventure about a fiddler crab. They're going to call it Finding Nero.

  • math jokes about bouncing breasts
    I presume that the subject of these jokes will be bisectual.

  • roanoke sluts
    This search was probably done by the same guy who was looking for nude girls in Christiansburg last month.

  • choose your own adventure breast expansion story
    You stand outside the Glamory Mammary with the coupon in your hand, unsure about what to do next, and whether you want to proceed at all. A light drizzle taps on your tiny bosom like perspiration from the heavens.

    If you wish to upgrade to FF, turn to page 132.
    If you wish to upgrade to D, turn to page 96.
    If your self-esteem has not yet bottomed out and you wish to return home, turn to page 24.

  • blood elf nude with mana wyrm

    I'll leave the "nude" part to the imagination, but I would imagine that you'd probably want to be wearing some armor when fighting a mana wyrm.

  • mowable marijuana
    This would be the perfect answer if you were playing Scattergories and the category was "Great Ideas for Entrepreneurs". Two points, bitches!

  • what is the favourite car of a greek mythologist
    Everyone knows that cars are named after Roman gods like Saturn, not Greek gods like Hymen. Because of this, the only car a greek mythologist would buy would be the Uranus, because this god has the same (unfortunate) name in both Greek and Roman worlds.

  • Happy Birthday to my Dad and Jim Barry!

    Strange fish has see-through head
    Injured Good Samaritan ticketed for jaywalking
    Stay married to save the planet

    tagged as website, searches | permalink | 3 comments
    day in history

    Friday, February 27, 2009

    Friday Fragments

    the 1294th most popular Friday destination on the Internet

    ♠ Following the "success" of their Drive Hammered, Get Nailed campaign (which only resulted in an increase in drunk driving arrests around the sorority floors of the University Commons at GMU), the Fairfax County Police have launched new LED signs with the message, Accidents don't happen... They are CAUSED. It seems like this sign is more confusing than helpful, since an accident which is caused does, in fact, eventually happen. In fact, I predict that accidents will actually increase around this sign as cell-phone drivers try to wrap their brains around the anti-tautology, run out of brain waves, and drive into a ditch.

    ♠ In fact, the more I think about it, the more I believe that IT'S A TRAP designed to send cell-phone drivers into a ditch, leaving the innocent drivers alive and well.

    ♠ Speaking of innocence, it's becoming increasingly less innocent on the Internet. As you probably noticed in yesterday's Weird Search post, people like to find naughty things, and the screenshot on the right is from the Hasbro site just a few days ago, where the Scrabble Word of the Day was posted for a good two hours before being taken down and replaced with the word "triply" (in a triple manner, or how Hasbro described the accident when their content manager was fired and pushed down a flight of stairs after the debacle).

    ♠ It's peculiar that that word would come up at all, since playing "dildo" is not a very high-scoring venture (in any setting).

    ♠ In a similar vein, when I went to wish Paige a happy birthday on her blog this morning, it told me that I wasn't allowed to do so unless I typed "coutchie". I wisely opted not to, in case my typing history appears during the 2028 Presidential Elections and scandal ensues.

    ♠ If I were actually to run for President (pending Arnold Schwarzenegger's dstruction of the "US-born" requirement), I would need an old white guy to help me win in the South and in central Ohio. I would probably choose my best man, Jack -- he would do well in public office.

    ♠ Speaking of Jacks, I don't understand why they continue to hire Jack Black as an actor or presenter. His showing at the Oscars was just painful to watch, much like most of the rest of the two hours I had on in the background before shutting it off. Hugh Jackman dancing around and singing about how he hadn't seen The Reader was inspired, and Ben Stiller's cameo was chuckly (in a chucklesome manner), but otherwise it was just plain bad, like a Shostakovich symphony arranged for marching band.

    ♠ Sadly, I have played a movement of a Shostakovich symphony while in a marching band, back in 1999 when I was in Rosie's rank.

    ♠ Speaking of Rosie, she popped out a baby on Monday (missing 222 by that much!), Colton Jason Mirick. I estimate that it will be twice her size in roughly four weeks. Congratulations!

    ♠ Plans for the weekend include a dinner with the family and some overtime. My work schedule should be back to normal within the next couple weeks, just in time for some Corned Beef and Guinness on St. Patrick's Day. What are you doing this weekend?

    ♠ I'm going to stop writing and post this, since Katie Lucas has reloaded the page four times in the last hour looking for a post. Have a great weekend!

    Mermaid dream comes true
    Mayor criticized for watermelon patch e-mail
    For sale: one life in China

    tagged as fragments | permalink | 12 comments
    day in history


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