03/2009

Monday, March 02, 2009

Stuff in My Drawers Day

A couple years ago, I wrote about all the crazy parties I hosted as a kid. Because of my proclivity towards earning overtime pay instead of writing web updates, I did not have time to write anything fresh for today. Instead, I dug into my stockpile of quickie ideas and unearthed the original "knocking instructions" that met partygoers at the door of any given party.

This particular set of instructions came from when I turned 15, which would have put it in September 1994, right before the start of my Junior Year. The usual suspects were invited, and I probably had a crush on Jenny Holland at the time (as did most of the junior class).


Indonesia's psychedelic fish named a new species
Nicaragua's Vampire Problem
Octopus floods the aquarium

tagged as media | permalink | 2 comments

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

List Day: Five Notable First CDs

Don't forget to submit your Name That Tune entries by TOMORROW at noon! Blink tags are for weenies.

These may not have been the very first CDs I ever owned, and there were certainly plenty of cassette tapes and comedy records beforehand, but these were the earliest CDs I can remember listening to continuously in junior high school and high school. Whether it was in the CD player that plugged into the tape deck of the 1994 Dodge Spirit, or through my headphones on the back of the Crew bus to some random river in another state, these CDs became so familiar to me that I can remember almost every single beat and flourish even today.

  • The Tonight Show Band, Volume II with Doc Severinsen:
    This was the CD that taught my brain how a tight jazz ensemble should sound, how jazz should be arranged, and how cleanly a lead trumpet should be playing. Later, I bought Volume I, but also liked II better.

  • Red Hot Jazz by the Canadian Brass:
    Our house was filled with quintet music, and this CD was one of the earliest that broke me away from classical quintet arrangements and into jazz, even though it was the whitest sounding jazz you could possibly record.

  • Then and Now... The Best of the Monkees:
    I'm not exactly sure how I got on a Monkees kick, but knew all the lyrics to these songs, including the horrible 80s pop songs stuck on the end from when they tried to make a comeback.

  • Soundtrack from Dances With Wolves, not by Jim Barry:
    We watched this movie on a class field trip in seventh grade for American History, back when the Skyline Mall theatre still existed (They fast forwarded through the naked sexy parts but left Kevin Costner's bare ass on the screen). I may have listened to this soundtrack for three years straight.

  • Live in Osaka, by the Eastman Wind Ensemble:
    This was one of the few classical CDs I listened to with any regularity -- my dad had a massive collection of wind band music but little to no orchestral recordings (which may be why I write so little music for strings). I remember always skipping the Joseph Schwantner piece because I thought it was lame. Then I went to music school and learned that that's how you compose if you want people to think you're artistic.
  • Your turn! What was your most memorable first CD? Share in the comments section.

    Maryland upholds anonymity for web site commenters
    Obama's helicopter blueprints end up on P2P network
    Cussing at students gets teacher suspended

    tagged as lists, you speak | permalink | 19 comments

    Wednesday, March 04, 2009

    Busy at Work Day

    A haiku for you:

    This is not really a haiku
    But I bet you will
    Count the syllables anyhow.

    Nokia phone still works after a week in a fish
    Building frustration explodes into sex shop
    Prank call leads to chemicals and urination

    tagged as random | permalink | 2 comments

    Thursday, March 05, 2009

    Name that Tune Results

    Congratulations to Anna Ahlbin and Kathy Smith who correctly guessed all ten answers in the Name that Tune contest (within the first three days of the contest, even!)

    Each winner will receive a $12.50 gift certificate to Amazon.com. Runner-ups were Doobie (8 of 10) and Rebecca (7 of 10). They were each going to get $2.22, but Amazon is now lame and makes $5 the minimum gift card amount (so Doobie gets $5, and Rebecca gets a hug).

    No other guys submitted entries -- are women better at reading lips than men? Or are women just infatuated with my sexy mouth?

    Watch the movies below to see the clips from the contest with the original songs dubbed over the top (This is obviously the best part of the contest!). Highlight the blank space to the right of each button to see the answer.

    #PointsAnswer
    11 (3MB, AVI) Journey - Don't Stop Believing
    22 (3MB, AVI) Beatles - Eleanor Rigby
    32 (2MB, AVI) David Bowie / Queen - Under Pressure
    42 (3MB, AVI) REM - It's the End of the World As We Know It
    52 (2MB, AVI) Aerosmith - Cryin'
    63 (4MB, AVI) Red Hot Chili Peppers - Can't Stop
    73 (2MB, AVI) Guns n' Roses - Nighttrain
    83 (2MB, AVI) Beastie Boys - Girls
    94 (3MB, AVI) Metallica - Enter Sandman
    104 (2MB, AVI) Van Halen - Hot for Teacher

    Thanks for playing! See you all next year!

    Pink dolphin appears in lake
    Green Ford Escorts target of hate crimes
    Take a bite out of crime dog

    tagged as contests | permalink | 7 comments

    Friday, March 06, 2009

    Busy at Work Day

    Haikus from the Ninth Grade

    In the evening sun,
    the little green lizard basks,
    on a garden wall.

    A river so still
    Images like a mirror
    Someone throws a rock.

    The ants always work
    Toiling all day and night.
    Don't they ever sleep?

    Llama is a beast.
    A llama has no llandllord.
    Llamas llike the lleaves.

    My grandfather clock
    makes a steady ticking. My
    grandfather does not.

    Life of a Kleenex
    is actually quite short.
    From tree to the trash.

    A chair is to sit.
    A carpet is to stand on.
    But where do you squat?

    The cookie is gone.
    Its life was taken by a
    man with a hammer.

    The eyebrow is not
    an eye or a brow because
    it is a hairline.

    There was an earthworm.
    Then there was a large fire ax.
    There are two earthworms.

    Each diagonal
    of a rhombus bisects two
    angles of rhombus.

    The fishstick is not
    a fish or a stick because
    it is a fungus.

    The Evil Weevil
    He lost his Boll in a storm.
    Now he is evil.

    The spider beside
    her ate peanuts and cider.
    It drowned in cider.

    The swan is graceful
    cutting a swath of water
    as it glides along.

    Without a thumb, we
    would be helpless and could not
    use the telephone.

    The clownfish dodges
    his predators in the strange
    sea anemone.

    Ladders bring you up
    in the world but underneath
    them leads to bad luck.

    This is why you take the chocolate eclairs out of the box when you propose
    Boy wins rights to tropical island
    Beards for style's sake

    tagged as random | permalink | 1 comment

    Monday, March 09, 2009

    Catch Up Day

    I was too busy at work to take a picture of my cats or talk about Alias last week, but my schedule should be returning to normal now. I'm taking today and tomorrow off from work, so normal updates should resume tomorrow.

    I did finally get a chance to see last week's LOST on Saturday evening, and liked it, unlike Mike (of Mike and Chompy). I did not, however, like the sponsored ads that showed up between segments.

    Gross.

    Dump truck hits highway sign
    Offbeat name? Then Facebook's no friend
    Vampire discovered in mass grave

    tagged as day-to-day | permalink | 3 comments

    Tuesday, March 10, 2009

    Shoe Day

    Yesterday afternoon, I finally found a new pair of brown shoes on the clearance rack of DSW. For years I've been looking for a comfortable soft-leather pair under fifty bucks that aren't dotted with ridiculous seams or resembling the tasseled loafers every high school boy wears to church, and these were so comfortable that they felt just as broken in as my old shoes.

    Thus ends the journey of my old brown shoes, purchased for $19.95 at the Chantilly Payless in 2002, back in the days when I always wore tennis shoes and needed something a bit more classy to project a professorial air while teaching. In that time:

  • The shoes travelled to Tallahassee, Florida and roamed the halls of Cawthon and Kuersteiner. They ran through the ghetto on the night that I drove a drunk Justin Barron home from Jim Barry's house.

  • They travelled back to Virginia to the Elms in Centreville for a year, where Kitty would always stick her face in them because my feet smelled so delightful.

  • They became my defacto heavy labor shoes in the new house in Sterling, back when the pair of sneakers I'd purchased turned out to be horribly uncomfortable (and I was too cheap to get a new pair).

  • I ran through Georgetown in them once, when I was running late for pit duty in The Mikado at the Ellington Center and misjudged just how atrociously people drove in DC.

  • I wore them to Philip's wedding, where I ate all of his shrimp.

  • I wore them to Kathy's wedding, where we drank all of her beer.

  • I wore them throughout my trip through England, France, and Spain, despite the fact that they destroyed my knee and turned me into a hobbler for most of the trip.

  • I wore them when I got engaged.

  • I wore them every single day last week at work.
  • Seven years isn't bad for a $20 pair of shoes!

    Zoo chimp planned stone attacks
    Meet Marijuana Pepsi Sawyer
    Escaped inmate caught sneaking back into jail

    tagged as memories | permalink | 2 comments

    Wednesday, March 11, 2009

    Review Day

    There are no spoilers in these reviews.

    This is the Life:
    Amy MacDonald is a Scottish singer with a rich, commanding tone that's completely opposite of singers like Lily Allen or Nina Perrson. Her songs aren't going to change the world, but they're upbeat and mellow -- I don't dislike any of the songs, although two of them suffer from a little too much repetition (#4 and #10). You can listen to online samples here -- my favourites would be #1, #2, and #7.

    Final Grade: B+

    Trick to Life:
    The Hooisers are my latest band obsession. They steal from every source available and end up like the lead singer of The Darkness mixed with a less-quirky Mika mixed with a less annoying Hives, mixed with a more upbeat Keane, mixed with any number of 80s new wave bands. I've listened to the CD continuously in my car and have yet to get tired of it. You can listen to online samples here -- my favourites would be #1, #2, #3, and #12, and #10 is a good example of his falsetto at work.

    Final Grade: A+

    Married Life:
    This is a slow-burn kind of drama, favouring character over plot (although you know what kind of movie you're getting when you see the little olive leaves on the cover surrounding some sort of film festival award). The story explores themes of communication and infidelity, but with more sympathetic, less repulsive characters than Closer. It was entertaining to watch for its brief 90 minutes, although Rachel McAdams does not make a good blonde, and did not remove a single article of clothing.

    Final Grade: B-

    Pineapple Express:
    This is the only item being reviewed today that doesn't have the word LIFE in the title. I found this movie amusing but a little overhyped, and having watched it at the same time as Zack and Miri, I've now had enough Seth Rogen to last for a few years. Funny enough, but slightly too long.

    Final Grade: B-

    Don't forget that tomorrow is 12 of 12!

    Kangaroo terrorizes sleeping family
    Cocaine in Spain is hidden by a sprain
    Assemblyman menaced with dead goat and poor Spanish

    tagged as reviews | permalink | 6 comments

    Thursday, March 12, 2009

    Chad Darnell's 12 of 12


    7:04 AM: Post-shower and foggy, both mentally and physically.

    7:38 AM: A toasted plain bagel with cream cheese for breakfast. The whole-grain bagels just don't taste as good.

    8:28 AM: Telecommuting.

    10:10 AM: Amber arrives to keep me company while I work.

    12:01 PM: Velveeta Shells and Cheese for lunch, predictably so.

    1:15 PM: Kitties working as hard as I am.

    3:23 PM: Still hard at work, typing on two computers at the SAME TIME.

    4:14 PM: Taking a quick trip out back to dig up some dirt for my office plant at work, which has barely survived on the same pound of earth for the past five years.

    4:52 PM: Mike (of Mike and Chompy) is in the neighbourhood, and stops by to eat his Chick-fila. This is not a meal that you share.

    6:12 PM: Cleaning up the utility room, where my new heating system was expertly installed by Cascade Comfort Services of Sterling.

    6:32 PM: Relaxing with a bit of Warcraft.

    8:18 PM: A late dinner of Totino's Pizza!

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

    Highway robbery? Texas police seize black motorists' cash, cars
    Gay bird spell the end for the blue ducks
    Man sets house ablaze because of ghosts and demons.

    tagged as 12 of 12 | permalink | 11 comments

    Friday, March 13, 2009

    Friday Fragments

    an unlucky case of d?ja vu

    ♠ The latest change in the real-life URI! Zone is the complete replacement of the heating and air conditioning system. The work was done efficiently and reasonably priced by Cascades Comfort Services, and when the new system spins up to heat the house, a high-tech whirring excites the ears, like you just stepped onto the Tube.

    ♠ Speaking of Tubes, work has started on the Silver Line, so the Metro will extend out to Wiehle Avenue by 2013, and that location will have more going for it than just being a made-up word in Boggle.

    ♠ I'm hoping that the station there also gets an exotic sounding pronunciation, like "Vi-elle" (Virginian for viola) -- the actual pronunciation is "Wheely", which sounds too childish, like the refrain of a campfire song.

    ♠ When we went on our monthly camping trips to Spotsylvania as Boy Scouts, we had to sing all sorts of ridiculous songs, like Ging Gang Goolie, which was invented by the father of Scouting after listening to African tribal songs. Sounds a little racist if you ask me.

    ♠ We had baseball caps, not Smokey the Bear hats like the Scouts in the photograph, although there were two unfortunate years at the very beginning where we had berets. There's nothing that says "hardened wilderness survival expert" like a jaunty red beret.

    ♠ I actually earned the Wilderness Survival merit badge, although the "final exam" for it was pretty weak. Armed with only the supplies we might have if we had crash landed far from civilization (which included, but was not limited to, a sleeping bag, flashlight, canteen, trail snacks, a Swiss Army knife, and a change of clothes) we hiked about a half mile away from camp and built lean-to's out of fallen branches and leaves, then slept there overnight.

    ♠ I was more concerned with getting bugs in my sleeping bag than survival.

    ♠ Plans for the weekend include a visit from Rebecca's relatives who are in town for a couple days. I may also do my taxes for the last time as a single guy, which shouldn't be terribly difficult since I've had the same job for years and my mutual funds are roughly worth a pair of pants in Burkina Faso at the moment.

    ♠ Have a great weekend!

    The officer who posted too much on Myspace
    'Dracula' fish shows baby teeth
    A woman who allegedly intended to artificially inseminate her wife with her brother's semen has been charged with domestic assault and battery.

    tagged as fragments | permalink | 4 comments

    Monday, March 16, 2009

    List Day: Ten Bathroom Habits

  • When I travel, I always pack up my toothbrush early, then have to take it out for one last brush and forget it on the counter. This is why I now keep two toothbrushes in the toothbrush cup.

  • I start flossing from the front of my mouth and work towards the sides. I also floss the top row before the bottoms.

  • My toilet paper roll is always set up to roll off the top. Underolling is unacceptable.

  • I brush the left side of my mouth first, but this is also because I only chew on the left side. The right side is for decoration, apparently.

  • I grab four to five sheets of TP at a time, and then fold them, rather than wad them into a clump.

  • I only have a goatee because keeping a chin clean-shaven is annoying, and ingrown hairs are the worst.

  • Showers are more about waking up and getting my brain fired up for the day than getting clean.

  • I've been cutting my own hair for over two and a half years, usually every three and a half weeks or so. My bathroom mirrors are set up so I can see the back of my head.

  • When in an unfamiliar restroom of questionable sanitation, I flush with my shoe.

  • At home, if it's yellow, I will let it mellow.
  • Good luck to Kathy, who defends her dissertation tomorrow!

    Deaths of gamers leave online lives in limbo
    A dirty pun tweaks China's online censors
    Monkey kills cruel owner with a coconut
    If it's brown...

    flush it down. (5 votes, 50.0%)


    make it drown. (1 vote, 10.0%)


    go to town. (1 vote, 10.0%)


    send in the clown. (3 votes, 30.0%)


    tagged as lists | permalink | 4 comments

    Tuesday, March 17, 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.

    Reptant: (adj.) Creeping or crawling.

    My Composition (0:30 MP3)

    The problem with the random word generator that I use is that if I ask it for an unsually uncommon adjective, it just spits out biology definitions. I think this one is related to reptiles. I started with the initial motive played by a bassoon, since it is the scaliest instrument outside of an All-District audition, and the rest just fell into place.

    Man walks again after spider bite
    Rip Van Winkle can't sleep
    Spider smuggler had 164 spiders and 45 boxes of roaches

    tagged as museday | permalink | 1 comment

    Wednesday, March 18, 2009

    Memory Day: Old Computer Games

    In the last two years of the 1980s, when Becca was either not yet born or incapable of walking under her own power, computer games were slightly stagnant. Infocom had been bought out by Activision, so text adventures were on their way out, and Sierra's "Quest" games were just starting to rise. For a kid who thrived on computer games (and who did not own a Nintendo until the 90s) this dearth of games resulted in some interesting, yet horrible, purchases.

    The number one rule when it comes to buying games is that you never buy a game based on a movie or a TV show, because it'll be nothing but a sodden lumpy mess of corn feces, crafted solely to steal money from parents. Unfortunately, it took awhile to learn this lesson.

    As a child, I probably watched the movie, Willow, over a hundred times. Today, all I can remember about the plot is that a short guy had to carry and protect a baby and could never leave it behind or bad things would happen (this is also the plot of any Family Life class with a flour-bag baby). This game consisted of lots of exposition on scrolls, and horribly degraded movie stills shown in 4-colour CGA. The first level had you running across an overhead map while being chased by Death Dogs.

    Who Framed Roger Rabbit? was released in 1988 on the PC, and came with a whopping FOUR levels. Level one and three were side-scrolling racing ventures where you tried to drive Benny the Cab down the street while jumping on buildings and avoiding oil slicks. In level two, you had to grab napkins off tables while penguin waiters put more down, without getting touched by a penguin (which would get you ejected from the club and force you to start the whole game over). The last level had you wandering through the Acme Factory using the Singing Sword to fight bad guys.

    With only four levels, you'd think this game would be over quickly, but the controls were so horrible that you might as well have been a handless Saudi thief trying to play Dragon's Lair. I'm not sure if I ever actually beat it.

    The last game I ever bought based on a movie was Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. In this game, you had to travel through time in a phone booth clicking on famous people so they would join you. The game had primitive sound capabilities, although the entirety of the sound effects was a clip of "Excellent!" and a clip of "Bogus!". I beat this game within 20 minutes of installing it, and was so crestfallen that my dad agreed to return it to the store, telling them that it didn't work on our computer because of the copy protection.

    The Mad Libs game wasn't based on a movie, but I just recalled it the other day when Rebecca found a Mad Libs book in a bargain bin for a dollar. This game came with only 4 Mad Libs stories, which led to surprising replayability since you could eventually remember where the words fit in and write a sensible (and usually dirty) plot. The highlight of this game was that it had a primitive-text-to-speech convertor that would read the stories aloud after you submitted your words. Unfortunately, the convertor did not understand phonics very well -- as a teaching tool, it just taught us to spell the word any way possible so it would sound right when the robot read it. We also may have taught the robot to swear.

    What were some memorable computer games from your younger years?

    Bat stows away on the space shuttle
    Mystery condition results in a spineless hedgehog
    Bus driver suspended after beating toy seal

    tagged as memories, games | permalink | 6 comments

    Thursday, March 19, 2009

    Review Day

    Learning the vi and Vim Editors:
    vi is one of the basic text editors on the Linux operating system. I've used it for over a decade now, but learned it hodge-podge from quick tutorials and little tricks taught by other users, so I figured my productivity might improve if I actually sat down and learned it in an organized fashion. This book is clear, concise, and contains examples that are easy to play-along-at-home with. There are a few unnecessary chapters at the end, involving extensions to vi that I'll probably never use, but overall it's a decent reference text.

    Final Grade: B+

    Begin to Hope by Regina Spektor:
    Regina Spektor came up during one of my recent Pandora listenings. My usual mode of operation is to buy the CD containing the song I like and then seeing if there's anything else good to stumble upon. In this case, I found that she teeters along the "wacky, indie" line a little too much to enjoy. There are a few tracks I like (#1, #4, #6 in the samples below), another that sounds like a skit from a crazy drama student's recital (#8), and others that sound too much like the soundtrack from Juno (#9, for example). The good thing is that the entire CD is highly musical -- it's not just a bad singer singing bad music. You can listen to online samples here.

    Final Grade: B-

    It's Not Me, It's You by Lily Allen:
    Lily Allen's second CD is about as good as the first -- fun forgettable music in a variety of styles. She noticeably overuses major sevenths, and her songs with a social message (like "The UK has a substance abuse problem" opener) fall flat, but otherwise this is a harmless CD. You can listen to online samples here -- I enjoyed #2, #7 and #8.

    Final Grade: B-

    Psych?d?lices by Aliz?e:
    I really enjoyed listening to this French pop star six years ago, but the honeymoon is definitely over. This isn't a particularly good CD, and one might even say that it wouldn't have been good in 2003 either. Her music hasn't changed or improved, so it feels like a recap of her old CDs, with less interesting arrangements and too much background rapping (French rappers are unintentionally amusing though). Despite this musical atrocity, Aliz?e is still welcome to costar in my movie with Rachel McAdams.

    Final Grade: D

    Fat family wants more benefits
    Robot to hit catwalk
    China's last eunuch spills secrets

    tagged as reviews | permalink | 3 comments

    Friday, March 20, 2009

    Friday Fragments

    it's time for your sea sponge bath

    ♠ Congratulations to Kathy Smith who successfully defended her dissertation and is now a doctor! I don't know what her research was on, so I'll presume it was on The Overuse of Vowels in the Lyrics of Modern Music.

    ♠ "I went to a doctor... all he did was suck blood from my neck. Don't go see Dr. Acula." - Mitch Hedberg

    ♠ Now that Kathy knows everything there is to know about music, she's going to have to find something else to do with her time. I recommend pitching a dramatic sitcom like Grey's Anatomy but with people from music academia. The music history geeks would sit at their own table in the cafeteria, and the angsty theorists would constantly misdiagnose scores and think they'd discovered a very rare chord. Meanwhile the handsome composers would hook up with all the first-year music majors. The show would either be called "Piston's Harmony" or "Schenker? I Barely Know Her".

    ♠ Walter Piston's harmony book is another waste of money book on my shelf that I've never actually opened. Computer-related textbooks may be far more expensive, but at least I read all of those cover-to-cover -- except for the classic Rapid Development text. I already went through puberty, so I figure, why bother?

    ♠ Q*bert was one of about four games we owned for the Atari 2500 in the early 80s. You played as the spawn of Gonzo and Pac-Man and had to hop around some cubes to change their colours. I bet (and hope) that there was at least one adult-themed rip-off of the game called Pubert. Would the game's protagonist have been an actual pube, or would Gonzo Jr. have hopped around changing the colour of various pubes?

    ♠ "Pube" is a funny word.

    ♠ The concept of an adult-themed game in early video game history is unintentionally amusing. While doing research for Wednesday's post about old games (because even non-Doctors do research sometimes, and not just typing something in Google a second time), I came across "Softporn Adventure", an early text-only adult game from the company that would eventually become Sierra On-line. In fact, that's Roberta Williams, creator of King's Quest, on the far right in the hot tub. I guess a text adventure would leave more to the imagination than trying to create naughty graphics with only four pixels.

    ♠ There are no hot tubs involved in my weekend plans, although there may be some parties and Mike's LovePoker, although poker is dependent upon Mike (of Mike and Chompy) being able to correctly read a calendar and determine which date he chose. In the past, this has involved a success rate of about 22%.

    ♠ Have a great weekend!

    Middle schoolers have a new form of peer mediation
    Reconstructive crocodile surgery is a waste of money
    Eating produce could be hazardous to your health

    tagged as fragments | permalink | 5 comments

    Monday, March 23, 2009

    Weekend Wrap-up

    On Saturday I took a leisurely jaunt out Route 7 to Winchester for the "Ben's 30th Birthday" Surprise Party. Because his 30th birthday isn't even until next month, he was quite surprised, although visually, he registered a normal Ben-sized amount (his eyes may have gotten a couple millimeters bigger as he walked into the house). In lieu of presents, everyone brought a baby.

    After the party, I sashayed back to Sterling to work for a little while, and then met Rebecca in Reston to have dinner at Big Bowl. The restaurant was surprisingly packed for 8pm on a Saturday night, but the food was worth it, as it always is. The main dish I get there now is the Barbecue Pork Chow Fun with mushrooms, because you can't go wrong with the word "Fun" in the title.

    We moseyed over to the theatre after dinner and ended up watching I Love You, Man (rated R for "Ruh Roh, Anna Can't Watch This"). I enjoyed this movie much more than I normally enjoy this genre -- the plot is so-so, but Paul Rudd is just so fun to watch that I didn't even think to look at the time before the movie ended (a rarity for me). Definitely an A- movie.

    I was up at 6:30 on Sunday to work and then had bacon and eggs for breakfast, followed by a round of grocery shopping where we impulse-bought the fixings for do-it-yourself pizza.

    On Sunday afternoon, Mike (of Mike and Chompy) rounded us all up for a game of ex-Floridan poker, but with Virginia rules. I came in third place behind Chris Smith, and then Mike, but I'm pretty sure I taught them both a lesson.

    Twins suspected in heist let go because of DNA
    More women needing cash go from jobless to topless
    Pink elephant caught on camera

    tagged as day-to-day | permalink | 4 comments

    Tuesday, March 24, 2009

    Stuff in My Drawers Day

    I wrote the following story for the city-wide Reflections contest in 1995. The theme and tagline of this contest was "Just Open Your Eyes...", but I doubt they expected it to be treated in a snarky manner. In spite of this, I got second place and got to shake the hand of one of our esteemed City Councilmen.

    The Ant

    Deep in the savannah, there lived an ant. Now this was not your everyday ant. He resided in a cairn of pebbles at the base of a plant. Since he lived in the savannah, he had seen many wild and majestic beasts. But one day he told me that he'd never seen an elephant.

    So after tidying up his home, he packed his bags and left his plant in search of an elephant. Being an ant, of course, he had trouble seeing things that were high above the ground. He wandered through the savannah for several days and finally came to a halt at a spring.

    "Excuse me," the ant said to the monkey who squatted by the water's edge, "I am looking for an elephant. Do you know where I can find one?"

    The monkey swallowed a draught water and replied, "Head away from the water's edge towards those foothills and you shall find a herd of elephants. You cannot miss them."

    The ant thanked the monkey and went on his way. He soon left the pleasant atmosphere of the savannah and entered a jungle. These trees had trunks which were much thicker than any the ant had seen in the savannah. And being an ant, of course, he couldn't tell how tall the trees were since they were so far above his head. He wandered through the jungle for several hours, and after so much walking, he felt that he deserved a quick nap. So he crawled to the base of a tree and slept. When he woke up, he stretched, yawned, and wiggled his antennae.

    About this time, a beetle happened by the ant. "Excuse me, beetle, I am looking for an elephant. Do you know where I can find one?"

    The beetle looked at the ant for a moment and then pointed up. The ant nodded. "I see, The elephants live up in these trees. Thank you for you help." But the beetle had already left, evidently in a hurry to get his errands done.

    The ant crawled up a tree trunk in search of elephants. Vines occasionally swished past the trees. Sometimes, he could feel the air disturbed by the steady swaying of vines. At the top, he found himself on a gently rolling plateau.

    This tree must have brought me up to a cliff, thought the ant. So he continued his search, but found no elephants. By now, he was getting cross at the monkey and beetle, who had led him astray. A grey bird settled on the plateau near him and the ant scurried closer.

    "Hey, grey bird," the ant said somewhat shortly, "do you know where I can find an elephant. I have been lied to by a monkey and a beetle who said that I could find one up here."

    The grey bird looked at the ant in surprise and trilled a sudden laugh. "Ant, you were not led astray. The elephant is right before you."

    The ant swiveled his head around but saw nothing but the plateau and the bird. "You are lying! I see no elephants, only a plateau and you, grey bird."

    The bird cocked its head to one side. "It is right before you. Just open your eyes and see."

    "I am! And I see no elephants anywhere!"

    "Ah, but that is because you are only seeing what you wish to see. You are blind to that which is right before your eyes." And with those words, the bird flew away.

    The ant was angry. "I have journeyed for days and climbed trees to find elephants, but all I have found is the mendacity of my savannah neighbors! All of my hard work has been for naught. I'll bet that there is no such thing as an elephant."

    And saying this, the ant climbed back down the elephant's leg and returned to his home in the savannah.

    Award for parrot that warned of choking baby
    Student suspended for bus gas
    Quirky regional dictionary nears finish

    tagged as random | permalink | 5 comments

    Wednesday, March 25, 2009

    Memory Day: Dr. Patel

    Dr. Manu Patel was the AP Physics teacher at TC Williams in my senior year. I've briefly mentioned Dr. Patel in previous posts here and here, but he's always been a supporting character. The time has come for him to get the full day's update that he deserves.

    I first met Dr. Patel in 1990 when my friend, Daniel Bethancourt, and I (as the two top students in our class) were extricated from the sixth grade for a day to experience a full day of science courses at the local high school. This might have been one of the most idiotic field trip ideas ever, since one of the classes we visited was taking a test, and another had a substitute. The only high points were a class where the students were testing out their toothpick suspension bridges by hanging weights from them, and Dr. Patel's physics class.

    As soon as we came in, he waved his own class away and told them to "work on something to make you smart", and then took us to the back of his physics classroom to entertain us with all the props from the various physics labs. When he learned that we were from Polk School, he proudly proclaimed that he was one of the original donors back when it was built, and sure enough, his name was prominently displayed on the playground plaque.

    Flashing forward six years in a LOST-esque fashion, Dr. Patel was my teacher for AP Physics B (B was the physics you can see, and C was all the atomic garbage that you can't see). Each class period consisted of a physics lesson mixed with philosophical maxims and peppered with the occasion dismissal of anything irrelevant to physics as "garbage!". Not only was it his goal to bestow his wisdom, it was also his goal to make everyone work towards a 5 of 5 on the AP exam.

    Just after Christmas time, he broke his leg and the doctor said he'd be out of work for at least two months. Angry at his infirmity, he had all the students come into the faculty lounge for a conference call, where he laid out his game plan for the remainder of the year and warned us that we would end up in the gutter begging for money if we didn't work hard enough at physics. This was followed by weekly physics sessions at his house in Fake Alexandria, where we all sat in a circle around him eager for knowledge.

    Contrary to the wishes of his doctor, he was back at school in just over a month, burning through the remaining materials for the AP exam as if it were a terminal case. The reward for our 5s was to watch the entire Star Wars trilogy in class instead of learning about atomic physics, which Dr. Patel interrupted only once, to say that Yoda had stolen "There is no try, only do" from him.

    Dr. Patel was also the school coordinator for the Science Bowl, a yearly competition invented so that Thomas Jefferson students could have more trophies mailed to their houses. We held our own, and even beat TJ in one round, but double elimination destroyed us soon after. After a particularly sound beating of a perennially losing school (perhaps it was Woodson?), Dr. Patel hobbled right up to the TJ team in front of the entire audience and chastised them (and their coach) for their arrogance and unsportsmanlike conduct, something to the effect of "Being smart is not enough! You must work hard and be good people or you will be garbage!"

    By the time I'd left college five years later, I'd easily taken four full years worth of physics, an almost Kathy-esque amount, and could do linear momentum problems in my sleep. I never did see Dr. Patel again, although I presume that he'll still be teaching out of a wheelchair at the age of 110 and ranting about all the chipmunks.

    Beekeeper murdered rival to steal honey
    Teen paints 60 foot phallus on roof of house
    Shame causes Cock shrinkage, but Wang is on the rise

    tagged as memories | permalink | 2 comments

    Thursday, March 26, 2009

    List Day: Ten Rejected Wedding Ideas

    1) Save-the-Date announcements will take the form of one hundred individually tattooed gerbils, boxed and delivered by First Class Mail. We take no responsibility for the (permanent) settling which may occur in boxes delivered to a destination more than two days away.

    2) Invitations will be printed on 100% recycled post-consumer content, taken directly from the nearest Loudoun County septic tank.

    3) We will be registered at Popeyes, BMW of Fairfax, Long & Foster Realtors - Fiji Listings, and your attic. You may also make a donation in our name to the decaying urban jungle that is Detroit, Michigan.

    4) Ceremony music will be provided by an antiphonal brass choir, pitting Blue Ribbon Brass on stage left against Quantum Brass on stage right. Musicians will be paid in advance of the ceremony with an all-you-can-drink tour of the winery.

    5) The theme of the reception will be "Pimps and Ho's". Guests should dress accordingly.

    6) Wedding favours will be miniature statues of the couple, painstakingly carved from a lifetime of collected toe cheese (for that personal touch) and shellacked for permanence.

    7) The reception will be catered by US Airways.

    8) Instead of the Chicken Dance or the Electric Slide, the entire ensemble will be invited to participate in a choreographed routine to Prokofiev's Dance of the Knights.

    9) Upon exiting the reception, the couple will run a gantlet of wedding guests armed with paintball guns (because rice is environmentally unsound).

    10) Everyone is strongly encouraged to accompany us on the honeymoon.

    Deathbed Confession man charged after making a recovery
    Women called Nutt overrun by squirrels
    Komodo dragons kill trespasser

    tagged as lists, favourites | permalink | 17 comments

    Friday, March 27, 2009

    Friday Fragments

    soon to be published in audobook format and Braille

    ♠ The latest addition to the real-life URI! Zone is a hand-me-down 52" TV from my parents, who are constantly questing to partition the rooms of their house with bigger and better TVs like Japanese Shoji screens but with liquid crystals instead of rice paper. The artifact correction algorithms in this TV are so advanced that DVDs of Arrested Development look exactly like a true documentary and even over-the-air LOST looks like a wholly different show, closer to a 3D soap opera than an antenna broadcast.

    ♠ With a TV that functions this strongly in the image department, I still have zero interest in ever upgrading to a Blu-ray player, in spite of the constantly playing ads at Target which promise me that I can access the movie's menu WHILE THE MOVIE IS PLAYING! GOODNESS! EXCUSE ME WHILE I LOSE CONTROL OF MY BOWELS IN EXCITEMENT.

    ♠ If I had my way, DVDs wouldn't even have menus. Or previews. Especially previews for movies on DVDs for TV shows. And being able to reach the menu while the movie's still going is about as useful as being able to read the menu at Applebee's after I'm already eating my dinner.

    ♠ The only problem with me (and everyone else in the world) not buying Blu-ray discs is that the unpurchased inventory now clogs up the aisles at Costco like a microcosm of the real estate market. You can barely roll your cart down the aisle past the sample-hogging soccer mom without knocking a few off the shelves. However, the number of Blu-ray discs pales in comparison to the number of copies of the movie, Twilight, sitting on the shelves.

    ♠ Having been blessed with a Y chromosome and a diploma dated in the twentieth century, I don't really understand what all the fuss about this movie is. Last weekend, we were browsing in Books-A-Million, the bookstore for European immigrants who inappropriately place their adjectives after their nouns, and of the twenty-five yards of Young Adult books, a solid 80% were vampire books. Gone were the Gordon Kormans and Sweet Valley Highs of the previous generation, replaced with this forgettable tripe. My kids are just going to read the Hardy Boys until they're twenty-four -- there were no kids biting other kids, except when Chet got unusually hungry in Book 54: The Mysterious Caravan.

    ♠ Plans for the weekend include laying ceramic tile in the basement bathroom, a dinner in Herndon, and some tax-doing, which I never quite got around to the last time I put it on my To Do list. In general though, that's how my To Do list rolls.

    ♠ Please note that I did not actually lose control of my bowels during the writing of this post -- it was merely a dramatization. Have a great weekend!

    For sale: English Village, $33M
    Walk it off, it's only a heart attack
    Headmaster: No vampires at our school

    tagged as fragments | permalink | 7 comments

    Monday, March 30, 2009

    Weekend Wrap-up

    The weekend opened with a round of emergency babysitting for Ella, who spent four hours making prank long-distance collect calls to Guam and smashing houses made out of foam blocks like a petite Godzilla. In our time together, I taught her that 3 + 3 = chicken, couches are for back flips, and girls are bad at math and science.

    On Saturday morning, my dad dropped in for the final round of tile-laying. I had originally planned to tile the basement bathroom back in 2007 when we did the other two, but just never quite got around to it, much like the marathon I had planned to run in and the testicular cancer I was going to cure. We were only short by one tile at the end, which meant that estimation skills have improved over a two year period (since we had an entire box of tiles left after the upstairs bathrooms).

    We finished in the bathroom around midday, after which I steam cleaned the upstairs carpets to make it less hobo-y and more homey. For dinner, we met up with Marc, Annie, and Erica in Herndon. The restaurant we were aiming for, Sweet Basil Cafe, turned out to be closed, so we ended up at a Thai restaurant underneath the ridiculously fake Clock Tower instead. Afterwards, we watched a repeat of Saturday Night Live, which was mostly lame with a chance of inspiration.

    Sunday was Tax Day, where I signed up for several thousand dollars in refunds and tried to convince the IRS that Hurricane Katrina had a second part and that it hit Sterling in 2008 so I could claim the disaster relief credit. The weather was so pleasant that we then decided to go on a bike ride up the W&OD trail towards Ashburn, but by the time we'd finally gotten off our asses, a thunderstorm was brewing. We only made it about four miles out before we had to turn around to avoid lightning strikes. After warming up, we started working on our Wedding Registry, which will not be lame and full of crap that no one ever uses.

    For dinner, we had shells and cheese, and all was good in the world.

    'DNA bungle' haunts German police
    Man uses urine-soaked coins to pay fines
    A bobcat walked into a bar

    tagged as day-to-day | permalink | 3 comments

    Tuesday, March 31, 2009

    End of the Month Media Day

    Photos

    See more March Festivities photos
    See more Home Improvement photos
    See more Ella photos
    See more Cat photos

    Movies

    Ella SMASH (2MB WMV)

    South American armoured suckermouth catfish found in Leicestershire
    Pizza-making machine has chefs in a spin
    Lingerie firm offers women "liberating" loincloths

    tagged as media | permalink | 0 comments

     

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