04/2009

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Memory Day: April Fool's Day

♣ On April 1, 1995, twelve of my close friends received an invitation to an end-of-the-year party. Well-versed in my rambling multi-page invitations and penchant for planning months in advance, invitees were surprised to discover that this party would take place at King's Dominion on a day when the park was closed to the general public. They were more surprised when the last page revealed it to be an April Fool's joke. My dedication to this joke was so strong that I actually put the invitations into the mail on varying days in advance to make sure that everyone (even clowns in Arlington and Fake Alexandria) got them on the 1st.

♣ In 1998, a girl I knew solely from the Internet confided that she was in love with me over ICQ. "Is this an April Fool's joke?" may have been my shocked, unfortunate reaction, which is never what you want to hear in that situation. We talked it out the next day, though, and I normalized my Canadian relations.

♣ I released Augmented Fourth on April 1, 2000, although the only cruel joke in that scenario was the statue with the moveable arm that seemed to unlock a secret passage in the house where inventory was forbidden, but actually did nothing at all. Players were still stuck here over a year later.

♣ April Fool's Day in 2001 was the sophomore recital of Dave Day and Dave Ball (and the world premiere of Clown Facades). For this occasion I created an alternate version of their recital poster, featuring their accompanist, Jim Bryant.

♣ In 2003, I changed every word of my homepage to be "bork" and infinitely looped a clip of the Swedish Chef singing. I also gave a ridiculously hard dictation question to my ear training students, although most of them were too street-savvy to fall for it. One student did try to visit our Blackboard class page to study before the exam, and ended up at Bork-fest instead. She was rather confused.

♣ Last year on 1 April, Rebecca and I were setting foot in London for the first time ever. Though we didn't feel that our presence was any sort of American prank on the British, we did get to say "Cockfosters" in polite conversation all day long.

Your turn! Share your April Fool's Day memories in the Comments section!

Dizzy ducklings plucked to safety
Protest dummy shuts down Boston Square
Ohio man seeks trial over motorized barstool DUI

tagged as memories | permalink | 4 comments

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Review Day: Pandora.com

Pandora.com is a free Internet radio station that learns what sorts of music you like over time, and tailors future songs to those guidelines. Starting up with Pandora is simple: you give it the name of a band or a song that you enjoy and, through the Music Genome Project's research, it will play other songs that are similar in some way. You can choose to "like" or "dislike" a song at any time, and this choice is remembered for the future. The reasons for its musical selections are as varied as "songs by the same band" to "songs with fast string accompaniments and triple meters".

When I first started out, I tried to put all the bands I liked into a single station, which confused Pandora into thinking that the Cardigans and Muse had something in common, but I soon learned that I could get better results by creating a separate station for each particular genre. With too much variety, the number of songs played on a station is minimal, so you start to hear the same tunes over and over. Now, I have a harder rock station, a station for chicks that sing (which, amusingly enough, plays lots of Jack Johnson), one for movie tunes, and a couple for different branches of jazz. I have not tried searching for classical music yet.

Here are a few samples of songs that Pandora recommended from my "chicks that sing" station (which I created by selecting Wallis Bird, KT Tunstall, and Ingrid Michaelson), that I would never have discovered any other way:

    A Fine Frenzy - You Picked Me
    Eisley - Plenty of Paper
    Courtney Jaye - Can't Behave

Pandora also makes it easy to purchase new music -- if you stumble upon an unfamiliar tune, you can view information about the song and its artist, and bookmark it for later. At any time, you can view a list of all your bookmarked songs and download them in one fell swoop from iTunes or Amazon MP3. This is quite possibly the smartest feature ever.

Pandora is not perfect -- my biggest complaint is that it's too easy to accidentally close Firefox and have to restart the radio station. Ads have slowly become more intrusive to the point where you now get at least one uninterruptible audio ad per session, and the music stops playing if you don't touch your computer for an hour (making it annoying if you want to use it as background music). However, these are small prices to pay for a free service, and you can completely eliminate both issues by subscribing for $36 a year. If XM Radio continues to go into the pooper, or goes bankrupt, I might just end up doing that.

Final Grade: A-

Man survives 6-inch spear
Toilet row lowers space morale
Attack of the two-nosed bunnies

tagged as reviews | permalink | 1 comment

Friday, April 03, 2009

Friday Fragments

like a fragmentation grenade filled with FUN

♠ The weather has been damp and rainy all week, to the point where my lawn is so oversaturated that I sink two inches into the turf when I go out to get the newspaper in the morning.

♠ Speaking of oversaturation, if I have to hear Metro Station's "Shake It" on the radio one more time I'm going the shake the moles right off the lead singer's face. Any time your song repeats the same word five times in a row, you need to learn more words.

♠ Worse than "Shake It", though, is Lady Gaga's "Poker Face" which not only has a mind-numbingly repetitive chorus, but also uses Autotune. I honestly believe that this song is just an inside joke of the sound technician who makes "poker face" sound like an obscenity in the robotic middle section.

♠ If I had a robotic middle section, I would trick people into chest-bumping and send them flying across the room. I would also incorporate a 100% efficiency waste recycling organ that would permanently eliminate the need to take pit stops ever again. They would have to rename the book, "Everybody Poops, Except BU".

♠ I really don't understand why the Everybody Poops book is so popular. It has no overarching storyline, is full of exposition without conflict or resolution, and the characters are usually full of it. In these regards, it's kind of like the third season of LOST.

♠ LOST isn't great right now, but it isn't bad either. I haven't been surprised at all in the past few episodes, and I feel like they're taking too much time explaining the time travelling aspects of the story to the viewers, but I'm still going along for the ride. The smart bets are currently on the last season of LOST devolving into metaphysical chaos like the end of the Blazing Saddles, and the LOSTies will jump through time and end up in the ALIAS universe fighting Melissa George's eyebrows (except for Sawyer, who accidentally skews off and ends up on Gilmore Girls).

♠ There are no big plans this weekend, although there are only 183 days until our wedding. That's enough time to redo fifth grade and still have a few days saved for snow.

♠ Have a good weekend!

Man brings home the bacon
Man coughs up nose-nail
Man cries after failed robbery

tagged as fragments | permalink | 2 comments

Monday, April 06, 2009

Weekend Wrap-up


The gay kitty brothers have come over for a week while Kathy and Chris head to Key West. In payment, we had a barbeque extravaganza from Famous Dave's which included ribs, chicken, brisket, pulled pork, corn, beans, fries, and Alex.


My neighbour two doors down has never heard of metric wrenches, so he used brute force to take off an old license plate. That's seriously going to affect the resale value.


It's a Booty bag. Booty does not like other cats.

Booty is online, looking for kitty porn. Actually, she's looking for scraps from the leftover barbeque I had for lunch on Sunday.

Rebecca's wedding girls come over to go bridesmaid dress shopping. These dresses are possibilities for flower girls. Afterwards, we had rosemary lamb for dinner.

It's obviously springtime in Sterling, since the inaugural trip of the Ice Cream Man occurred on Sunday afternoon. I'm guessing that it doubles as a short bus on rainy or cold days.

Happy Birthday to Ella!

Barry the gross giant sea worm
White supremacy party was an honest mistake
Police break up pillow fight

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

Tuesday, April 07, 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.

Oleaginous: (adj.) Unctuous; fawning; smarmy.

My Composition (0:28 MP3)

I kept being interrupted by post-workday work while composing this one, so I didn't get to smooth out the kinks as much as I would have liked -- I envisioned a short, pudgy, used-car salesman type with a forced levity, who waddles around spouting perfectly agreeable answers that are just a little bit off. Listening to it this morning, the only memorable aspect of it is that the vibraphone lick in the middle somehow sounds like it should be on Wheel of Fortune.

Pineapple robbed of video camera
Woman divorces husband for cleaning too much
Odd shorts from Europe

tagged as museday | permalink | 1 comment

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Audience Participation Day

The migraine I had yesterday after an extended day of work eliminated any enthusiasm I might have had for sitting down and writing a Memory Day (which would have been about my stint with the National Guard in Burkina Faso in 1993 and the time I was attacked by a monkey), so I spent yesterday evening lying on the couch watching an episode of Breaking Bad instead. Since today's post is now woefully devoid of real content, please share with me your true stories about migraines, Mograines, or more grains.

Woman calls 911 over lack of shrimp
Man streaks, hoping for deportation
Pet dog found on island after four months

tagged as you speak | permalink | 3 comments

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Weird Search Day

or "how I stumbled upon the URI! Zone"

  • hokie mascot hire for weddings

    For a limited time, you can have the Hokie Guy officiate your wedding for only $3999.95. (Hokie Pokie not included in the base price).

  • ben stiller inpersonal of josquin phoenix
    It's possible that you were searching for Ben Stiller impersonates Joaquin Phoenix, although I wouldn't put it past Ben Stiller to make a biographical movie about Josquin des Prez, set in modern-day Phoenix.

  • applebees reuses chicken fingers
    This is part of Applebee's new green strategy, borrowed from the American Indians who used every piece of the buffalo. Like all environmentally-conscious restaurants, they grind up all the leftover bits of chicken fingers from peoples' plates and sell them to McDonald's as 100% White Meat nuggets.

  • chipmunk tunnels flooded my basement
    Wasn't this the plot to the sequel to Caddyshack? If not, then someone is missing out on some prime Hollywood script material.

  • pictures of yoshi pooping on the toilet

    You're welcome.

  • what is the success rate of elopers
    It would seem to me that people who elope stand a pretty good chance of getting married, unless they are being chased by zombies, grizzly bears, or the paparazzi.

  • if my husband penis smell like raw fish is that a sign that he is cheating on me
    Yes. And if you're having salmon for dinner, I'd recommend thoroughly washing the filets, just in case.

  • "mike catania" mold photography
    Mold photography should be Mike's next short-lived hobby, to go with aquariums, martial arts, and Settlers of Cataan(ia).

  • i need to pee and i'm tied up pictures
    If you're tied up so securely that you can't make it to the bathroom, how ever did you get on the Internet?

  • Helpful hints for kicking the meth habit?
    Easy enough -- just visit the Faces of Meth website that shows what you'll look like after meth is done with you.

  • my gerbille barely moves and has just ate its companion yahoo ansews
    This isn't just limited to gerbils -- I'm sure you'd feel pretty immobile after having your significant other for dinner too. We don't need Yahoo to answer this one.

  • Jack Bauer & Morgan Freeman voices on answering machine message

    I'm guessing someone confused Morgan Freeman with Dennis Haysbert, although it's a solid conspiracy theory that Morgan Freeman might actually play every black role in Hollywood. The script for this answering machine message would involve Jack Bauer yelling, "Damnit! There's no time to leave a message!" after which the machine would hang up on you without recording.

  • stuffonmywife
    This is going to be the sister site of stuffonmycat.com, and will display pictures of sleeping wives with nonsensical everyday objects unknowingly stacked on their heads.

  • where did the saying when birds fly low expect rain and a blow originate
    Storms occur in low pressure weather systems, and Bernanke's principle proves that air pressure around the wings makes it much easier to fly. When birds are flying through low pressure areas (like the calm before a storm or the suburbs) they have to flap harder to stay aloft, so they get tired much faster. When you see low-flying birds, you know that they're very tired from all the flapping, so you can expect a storm. And with so many low-flying birds, chances are very high that someone will get hit in the back of the head by one. Thus, the blow.

  • Arrests made after arson shows up on YouTube
    Bacon sandwich really does cure a hangover
    Chimps exchange meat for sex

    tagged as website, searches | permalink | 3 comments

    Friday, April 10, 2009

    Friday Fragments

    where April showers bring Jack Bauers

    ♠ Happy Birthday to my Mom who turns 28 today! Yes, she's one year younger than I am, either because there was a skew in the space-time continuum resulting in 1985A, she is curiously aging in reverse, or "the island is like a skipping record".

    ♠ If I could travel through time, I would just go back to yesterday and prevent myself from smashing my hand against the doorway while running down the hall, which resulted in a divot of missing skin from my index finger -- it now looks like a roll of cookie dough attacked by a spoon.

    ♠ I didn't take a picture of my injured finger because I posted a picture of moldy bread yesterday AND a link to the meth head gallery, and there's a gross picture weekly quota here at the URI! Zone. On a similar note, I'm very far behind my goal for "pictures of attractive people" and "pictures of bacon", so expect more of those pictures in the future.

    ♠ Speaking of goals, I've been using Wii Fit off and on over the past month (borrowed from Mike in exchange for Six Feet Under) and continue to miss the two-week goals I set for myself. In fact, the program now thinks I'm a malnourished east African child hovering just over 90 pounds. For my next goal, I said I wanted to gain 16 pounds in two weeks, which I'll probably do by picking up Booty.

    ♠ The resident cats and the two visiting gay brother cats are getting along just fine now -- it only took two days this time, and Lake has only honked on the carpet once.

    ♠ Because of work, a cat honking on the carpet was probably the most exciting thing to happen this week. If you're looking for excitement, visit some of the blogs in the sidebar to see what other people in the world have been up to, like Brianne who is now a Virginian, or Katie Morton who finished writing a novel.

    ♠ Have you ever wondered where people go after visiting the URI! Zone? The chart on the right shows the relative popularity of blog links from the past couple weeks. I think the 100 next to redzeppelin may be a miscalculation though, because there's no way that Chompy is cooler than cats talking in broken English. I'm guessing Mike clicks his own blog multiple times a day to inflate the numbers -- that's why his business cards say, "Mike Catania -- Performing SEO".

    ♠ Plans for the weekend include in the inaugural mowing of my lawn to kick off the spring season of being a home-o(wner) and a trip to Maryland on Easter to see part of Rebecca's extended family. I also have another Amazon shipment of singing-chick-CDs arriving this afternoon which should lead to more Review Days in the coming weeks.

    ♠ Have a great weekend! Don't forget that Sunday is 12 of 12!

    House passes bodily fluids bill
    Dad sued by daughter loses grounds for appeal
    Asians should have simpler names

    tagged as fragments | permalink | 5 comments

    Monday, April 13, 2009

    Chad Darnell's 12 of 12


    12:01 AM: Reading in bed, one minute into the new day.

    8:13 AM: A blurry Booty requesting breakfast.

    8:53 AM: Toasted bagels with cream cheese for breakfast on a plate painted by Rebecca. The cream cheese was yet to come...

    9:59 AM: Rebecca wasn't feeling well, so Booty and I played games while she napped a little while longer on the couch. I'm not sure why Booty spent the entire day looking up into the heavens.

    11:42 AM: Looking up Easter recipes online to see which ones we could do without any major shopping trips.

    12:23 PM: In preparation for a dinner of ham, ham, and ham, I had a light lunch of spaghetti with a little butter and onion salt.

    2:56 PM: Now it's time for cat naps. This was an incredibly lazy day.

    4:53 PM: Mike (of Mike and Chompy) arrives for an impromptu Easter dinner.

    5:31 PM: What better way to celebrate Easter than with eggs of the devil?

    5:34 PM: Trying to figure out a flow chart of the essential ingredients for things you do that you later regret (but that make a really good story).

    6:01 PM: Easter Dinner. We may have eaten a lot today.

    8:11 PM: Chocolate chocolate cake and an episode of Weeds for dessert!

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

    Introducing the Rescue Shelter Boys
    Woody Harrelson attacked by a zombie with a camera
    Colorado nixes TOFU plate

    tagged as 12 of 12 | permalink | 15 comments

    Tuesday, April 14, 2009

    Newsday Tuesday

    Obama looking at cooling air to fight warming

    Tinkering with Earth's climate to chill runaway global warming ? a radical idea once dismissed out of hand ? is being discussed by the White House as a potential emergency option, the president's new science adviser said Wednesday. That's because global warming is happening so rapidly, John Holdren told The Associated Press.

    In fact, global warming is occurring so rapidly that the current administration is also investigating its use as a distribution mechanism for the federal stimulus package, as many states are complaining that the money is not arriving fast enough. "We have a very fortuitous overlap," said Holdren, "since the states that do not believe in global warming, like Alaska, are also the states that are refusing to accept the stimulus money." Holdren also mentioned that successful attempts to harness the speed of global warming could ultimately lead to improved response times in clearance background checks, passports, and the time it takes to get from the end of the Blue Line to Metro Center.

    His concern is that the United States and other nations won't slow global warming fast enough and that several "tipping points" could be fast approaching. Once such milestones are reached, such as complete loss of summer sea ice in the Arctic, it increases chances of "really intolerable consequences," he said.

    To promote consumer awareness, the Nantucket Nectars corporation has trademarked "Summer Sea Ice" and is donating 5% of the profits from their new drink to geoengineering research. They will also be sponsoring cow tipping (point) competitions on college campuses, since explosions of methane are both hilarious and educational.

    Twice in a half-hour interview, Holdren compared global warming to being "in a car with bad brakes driving toward a cliff in the fog."

    Like all good politicians using bad analogies, Holdren's description of global warming was open-ended enough to be interpreted multiple ways. He did not specify whether we were driving the car towards the base of a cliff, which would probably result in immediate death and dismemberment, or whether we were driving off the top of the cliff, which would assuredly be scary, but would also give us precious seconds to fashion a makeshift global warming parachute out of seat cushions and safety belts.

    The 65-year-old physicist is far from alone in taking geoengineering seriously [. . .] At an international meeting of climate scientists last month in Copenhagen, 15 talks dealt with different aspects of geoengineering.

    A closer look at the schedule revealed that 7 other sessions discussed the legitimacy of climate science, with an 8th devoted to bad weather jokes like "How many meteorologists does it take to change a lightbulb?1

    Holdren, a 1981 winner of a MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant, outlined these possible geoengineering options:

    • Shooting sulfur particles (like those produced by power plants and volcanoes, for example) into the upper atmosphere [. . .]
    • Creating artificial "trees" ? giant towers that suck carbon dioxide out of the air and store it.

    Although John Holdren insisted that no approaches were off the table, it was discovered that he had already abandoned less promising approaches:

    • Telling people to stop breathing.
    • Gathering melted Arctic ice in ice cube trays and refreezing it.
    • Breaking down CO2 into its base elements, and then starting a carbon dating website to pair up the newly single carbons with other less destructive elements.

    [E]fforts are racing against three tipping points he cited: Earth could be as close as six years away from the loss of Arctic summer sea ice, he said, and that has the potential of altering the climate in unforeseen ways. Other elements that could dramatically speed up climate change include the release of frozen methane from thawing permafrost in Siberia, and more and bigger wildfires worldwide.

    In mentioning these possible catastrophes, Holdren inadvertently revealed the Soviet Union's secret Cold War stash of methane bombs, painstakingly created by feeding the populace lentils and beans for over thirty years. Although Khrushchev had hoped for power on the order of Hiroshima, the research was devalued after the bombs "just made people run out of the room", and permanently discontinued after some test subjects merely reported that "it smelled like popcorn".

    1: Three -- two to hold the ladder and one to climate.

    Politician fumes over gay elephant
    Saudis ban lewd USA license plates
    The Untold Story of the World's Biggest Diamond Heist

    tagged as newsday, favourites | permalink | 1 comment

    Wednesday, April 15, 2009

    Memory Day: Fifteen Years Ago Today

    On Friday, April 15, 1994, I was fourteen years old, and a stalwart tenth grader at T.C. Williams High School. With public schools slowly migrating away from the "junior high" system, tenth graders were at the bottom of the high school caste (and freshmen had a school all to themselves like some sort of prepubescent syphillis quarantine). Here are a few memorable moments from this day, taken from the journal I kept at the time.

    ♠ Homeroom was a hodge-podge amalgamation of students who weren't actually classmates -- anyone who took Art at some point during the day might end up in the Art room for morning announcements. As such, I was at a paint-splattered table with upperclassmen, Kathryn Danaher, Diana Polson, and Emily Roberts, reading my book while they talked about field hockey and other chick stuff. A very young Matt McGuire (long before his present day woes) had a crush on Emily, and chose today to try out his intricate plot to accidentally on-purpose bump into her. During homeroom, he came in and nonchalantly asked in a campy voice, "Hello Brian, do you know if we have English today? Oh hello there, Emily!" Given that we had English every day, and that Emily knew of Matt's secret love, this was as painful for me to watch as it was for you to read about.

    ♠ Fourth period was Biology BSCS (an utterly worthless suffix that didn't actually stand for anything, but does rhyme with buenos dies if you ever need to write about it in a Spanish poem). With eight weeks and eight chapters left in the book, Lois LaPlante divided the class into groups so we could teach ourselves while she continued to get paid. Her trouble-meter must have been on the fritz (not the Fritz in the class) when she allowed me to group up with Jack Wilmer, Ben Seggerson, and Jenny Holland (before she got famous and changed her name to Ada). We were told to get started on The Immune System, but spent the entire period making smart-ass remarks instead -- when she asked Jack how to alphabetize a table in WordPerfect, I'm sure she didn't want to hear, "Well you start at 'A'...".

    ♠ When the weather was nice, I spent fifth period lunch under the trees in front of the school, eating with my junior high friends like Jennie Geisner and Cheryl Sherling. Michelle Cao came out to eat with us today, since taking fifth period Photography gave her free reign to wander around the school for an entire period, pretending to take pictures of questionable artistic merit. Like no one has ever taken a picture of the flag pole FROM RIGHT BELOW IT before...

    ♠ I spent sixth period Art doing preliminary sketches for my surreal locker scene, which still hangs on the wall in my office to this day. Our school did not have wooden floors, but the picture looked dumb with shiny floors, and dumb art is dumb.

    ♠ After school came Crew. With clowns like Ben Seggerson, Tim Shaw, and Dutton Hauhart, I was on the 3rd 8, which translates into "all the rowers that weren't good enough to be in the top sixteen slots" and we brought the concept of mediocrity to roughly the same old levels. Because it was a Friday, we were spared our normal workout. Instead, we were "allowed" to do a three mile run and ended up at the Lee Street Park where we played ultimate frisbee until it got dark and I bummed a ride off the nearest rower with a car. This was followed by a "boat party" at my house to pump us up for Saturday's race. My hosting of the party made little sense since our boat also had a surplus of bad coxswains, and I wasn't the one in the race. Even so, I diligently woke up the next morning at 6 AM for the races, partially for moral support, but mostly for all the girls in spandex.

    Fir tree sprouts in man's lungs
    Man trapped in blueberry waffle mix
    Honda unveils dog-friendly car

    tagged as memories | permalink | 0 comments

    Thursday, April 16, 2009

    Review Day

    There are no spoilers in these reviews.

    Slumdog Millionaire (R):
    Rebecca and I watched this a couple weeks ago and enjoyed it a lot, she more than I. I felt like it was a perfectly agreeable movie, but a little too overhyped for what it was. The movie tells the story of a poor Indian fellow who ends up doing amazingly well on the Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Suspected of being a cheater, he tells the stories behind how he knew each answer through flashback.

    Final Grade: B+

    Traveling Light by Courtney Jaye:
    This was a Pandora recommendation, and features a strong singer with catchy slightly-country songs. I haven't listened to this CD as much as the other two reviewed today, but it's pleasant to have on, even if none of the songs have stuck out yet as memorable. You can listen to online samples here -- #2 is the song I heard on Pandora.

    Final Grade: B

    One Cell in the Sea by A Fine Frenzy:
    This CD is the reason I've devoted less time to the others, since it's been playing in my car all week long. Fine (or Ms. Frenzy if you aren't tight with her as I am) focuses on whimsical, dreamy lyrics and harmonic textures in her songs (somewhat like Ingrid Michaelson's arrangements) and has two distinct singing voices: one that's richly wispy and another that's bright and clear, reminiscent of Nelly Furtado. Sometimes her clear voice is a little too shrill, but this is only noticeable in a couple songs. The song, You Picked Me is well-constructed and well-performed, and a strong contender for my 2009 songs of the year. You can listen to online samples here -- My favourites include #1, #4, #5, #6, and #10.

    Final Grade: A-

    Room Noises by Eisley:
    You can immediately tell that Eisley is a young band -- this CD was their first back in 2005 when the siblings-turned-band were still high-school age. The singing isn't perfect, and they have the classic new composer problem of overusing certain textures (you don't have to sing in every moment of every song), but you can also tell that there are some great ideas in here that could germinate into something more as they mature. They're as whimsical as A Fine Frenzy, but more tempo-oriented. You can listen to online samples here -- I really like #10.

    Final Grade: B-

    Man bites python
    Cop says oral sex to blame for drug test results
    Farting on food leads to arrest

    tagged as reviews | permalink | 5 comments

    Friday, April 17, 2009

    Friday Fragments

    a roundhouse kick to the Internet

    ♠ Exactly three weeks ago, I started a new Warcraft character on a new server after learning that Kelley had the secret shame of playing the game. We are now members of the Delta Mu guild on Dawnbringer. Leveling up is ridiculously easy now, and the new character is already level 67. Maybe in 2 more levels, we'll be able to convince Doobie and Philip to play as well.

    ♠ Besides playing games and conscripting my dad to build a closet in the basement, I've been busy at work because our four month "sprint" is finally drawing to a close at the end of this month. When not assisting clueless users with testing or accidentally calling a woman with a Vietnamese name by "Mr." in support emails, I've kept up with technology by taking the annual security training offered by the government.

    ♠ The briefing is more annoying than usual because each page is a Flash applet that takes ten seconds to load and asks ridiculous questions about what to do when your coworker Miguel tells you that he's found a website with free music downloads. Apparently the RIAA has infiltrated the Department of Defense, since the only correct answer for this question was "THAT'S STEALING!". I was not aware that 100% of music downloads on the Internet were illegal. Damn those Hispanic coworkers and their pirating ways.

    ♠ There are surprisingly few Spanish pirates in popular culture. I suppose they all lost their mojo after the defeat of the Spanish armada in 1588.

    ♠ Surprisingly, I remembered the date of the armada's defeat from fifth grade history class, although I did look it up on Wikipedia to be sure. Meanwhile, I don't remember a single fact from my "Roman World and Early Christianity" class at Virginia Tech except that it's very hard to skip during a class with only 7 people.

    ♠ Speaking of Wikis, the series whose Wiki I contribute to is being rereleased in the United States with fresh new covers (and maybe even different characters and a bonus ending). I'm purchasing the set as it's published, which means that I have old paperback copies available for borrowing if anyone is curious about the books. People either love or hate the series though -- one person I recommended it to (actually the Internet Canadian who was in love with me) was bored out of her mind. Paige also read the first book, but she never revealed what she thought about it. On the other hand, Paige is naturally reticent and unopinionated unless you ask about her former piano teachers.

    ♠ With work (hopefully) returning to normal soon, I've been in search of something new to fill the void left by paid overtime. The last time work receded like low tide was February 2007, and in the single week that followed, I beat the Legend of Zelda on the Wii, renovated my office, and also met some random chick who's now going to become my future wife. Since I don't necessarily need TWO wives, I've decided to fill the upcoming void by writing the music for a marching band show for Patrick Butler, in his role as the director of the Pulaski County High School band. This ought to be good.

    ♠ Plans for the weekend include the tentative possibility of nonstop work punctuated by the birthday of Rebecca's dad. I may also finally get around to implementing a Birthday Calendar here on the URI! Zone now that Facebook's revised edition has the usability of a two-ply toilet paper condom.

    ♠ Speaking of birthdays, Happy Birthday to Kim! Have a great weekend!

    High tech thief steals Hot Pockets and chicken wings
    Woman's vacation ruined by urination
    Dolphins either thwarted pirates or went out for a swim next to a boat

    tagged as fragments | permalink | 5 comments

    Monday, April 20, 2009

    New Feature Day: Birthdays

    In between a birthday dinner at Foxfire Grill (where I had a delicious prime rib), Dim Sum (which is not just a TI-85 calculator command) at China Garden on Sunday morning, and five hours of work, I finally managed to complete the URI! Zone Birthday Calendar. You can see it on the right, just underneath the little calendar that links back to recent posts.

    Gleaned from an initial dataload of every birthday listed by my 359 Facebook friends merged with the list I'd been keeping since high school that mostly had people I will never, ever see again, the Birthday Calendar now knows the birthdays of 361 different people, and will show you the birthdays coming up over the next four days (as well as any birthdays that happened yesterday, in case you're a horrible human being and missed one).

    First up is Marc Nagy, who shares his birthday today with both Adolf Hitler and Carmen Electra. Happy Birthday!

    Now that all this data is in place, I can add other features, like the ability to look at all the birthdays at once, see which days have the most birthdays, or link your birthdays to your Comments name so balloons and strippers appear on the screen when you visit. If your birthday isn't listed on Facebook and you'd like to feel important enough to be recognized by a website when the day comes, feel free to email your birthdays or your kids birthdays using the email link in the top bar!

    Pirate statue stirs controversy
    Force is strong for Jedi police
    Box labelled "scorpions" doesn't hide the tortoises

    tagged as website | permalink | 10 comments

    Tuesday, April 21, 2009

    Newsday Tuesday

    Rainy Weather Forecasts Misunderstood by Many

    To bring an umbrella or not to bring an umbrella? That's the perennial question on those days where the chance of rain is less than 100 percent. But only half the population understands what a precipitation forecast means well enough to make a fully informed answer, a new study finds.

    If, for example, a forecast calls for a 20 percent chance of rain, many people think it means that it will rain over 20 percent of the area covered by the forecast. Others think it will rain for 20 percent of the time, said Susan Joslyn, a cognitive psychologist at the University of Washington.

    A statistically insignificant amount of students tested thought that only 20 percent of the rain would hit the ground because of "evaporization and stuff".

    To test people's understanding of these precipitation forecasts (known as probability of precipitation and used in public forecasts since the late 1960s), Joslyn and her colleagues tested more than 450 Pacific Northwest college students in a series of experiments.

    The use of Pacific Northwesterners may have skewed the results, since they all presumed that it would always be raining every day of the week. Therefore, the numeric percentage would obviously have to represent something other than the chance of rain. Attempts to normalize results by polling villagers from Wadt Halfa, Sudan failed because they didn't understand what rain was.

    The first experiment evaluated forecasts of either a low or a high percentage chance of precipitation accompanied by a series of icons, or "precipicons," that were visual representations of the chance of rain. The precipicons included the familiar cloud symbols used by many forecasting outlets, as well as pie charts and bar graphs.

    According to Wikipedia, the Precipicons were a third faction of Transformers which could transform into various stages of the water cycle, led by Hailotron. Susan Joslyn noted that this faction was relatively unknown, which might have influenced the results. Students performed more strongly in a second experiment which used familiar Mega Man villains to represent weather patterns, but unfortunately those results could not be published because of a rights dispute with Dustin Hoffman.

    In another experiment, the participants saw one of three forecasts: One had the typical chance of rain; the second had the chance of rain and the chance of no rain; and the third had a pie chart below the chance of rain.

    In this experiment, only 22% of students correctly interpreted the forecast. 54% were utterly confused by the format of the test and expressed that they were angry at the researcher but didn't know why. The other 24% predicted that it was going to rain at the bakery.

    Joslyn said that the research [...] shows the difficulty of making decisions where uncertainty is involved. People find it easier, she said, to simplify the situation to a single outcome: that it will definitely rain, but not for the whole day or the whole area.

    Somewhere during the course of the study, the conclusion that "people are failing to interpret a symbol with a commonly accepted definition" morphed into "people are intentionally changing the meaning of a symbol because they don't like uncertainty". This is a patently false observation. If an escalator consumes your child because you thought the safety sign told him to play Dance Dance Revolution near the edges or the top, it's not the escalator's problem -- you are most likely a moron.

    And understanding of how forecasts are interpreted could be useful to government officials who have to decide on school closings, road closures and other potentially expensive measures.

    It is actually highly useful for the government to know that 48% of their citizens aren't so bright, because it makes the decisions quite easy. Close schools? Morons needs schooling, so no. Close roads? Morons can't drive, so yes. The possibilities are limitless.

    Exotic dancer blitzed by stiletto
    45-letter lake has spelling errors
    Leaders cower from "shoe-cide" atacks

    tagged as newsday, mock mock | permalink | 3 comments

    Wednesday, April 22, 2009

    Memory Day: Learn2Drive

    My first driving experience (outside of steering on my dad's lap) came at the Go Kart Raceway after sixth grade, at the birthday/going-away party of the occasionally mentioned Daniel Bethancourt. The track workers were leery of letting someone so small drive a go kart, and after getting stuck on the tire-barriers twice, they drove me back to the beginning and told me to go wait in the video arcade.

    Three years later, I took the classroom portion of Driver's Ed during 10th Grade Summer Gym, since it was offered freely to all public school students in Alexandria. The quality of the offering matched it's price, since the entire session consisted of old reel-to-reel films about accidents (and not even any gory precursors to the Saw franchise). Unfortunately Asians age much slower than those around them, and I was only 13 at the time of the course. This meant that I wouldn't actually be able to drive for another 3 years.

    In the summer before my senior year, my parental training consisted of three full laps around the NOVA campus parking lot before taking it to the next level with Interstate 395. After proving to my dad that I could drive in a straight line, I took the test to get my learner's permit. I failed two questions -- one on blood-alcohol limits and another on types of license penalties, and then passed the practical test with an Examiner who didn't care about my driving as much as he cared about having a new audience for his governmental conspiracy theories.

    With learner's permit firmly in hand, I set out to acquire the mandatory "seven hours of road driving" required to become a full-privilege driver in Virginia. Although today I realize that seven hours is barely enough to master the radio, at the time I hated it because it seemed like such a long period, especially when stretched into seven hour-long sessions. We went with Keith's Driving School, probably because there was a discount involved, but also because Keith looks like an upstanding not-at-all-shady individual who would also be able to sue for millions and protect our rights if we got in a car accident.

    My instructor ended up being Big Mike, an overweight fellow with rainbow stickers on his car who asked me if I had a boyfriend. During the hours driving around Hybla Valley, he would play demo tapes of his amateur recording sessions on country guitar. One of the songs he'd written had the chorus "You're the only man I'll ever love". Then he'd get hungry and force one of the drivers to take him to 7-11.

    Money well spent.

    Maus' argument is that he did not guarantee conception, only that he would try his hardest.
    Record attempt reaps 217k text messages
    Jack Thompson shut down by Supreme Court

    tagged as memories | permalink | 5 comments

    Thursday, April 23, 2009

    New Feature Day: Birthdays, the SQL

    Buoyed on the tidal wave of positive feedback for the Birthdays feature, I've expanded it with two new perks:

    1. At the bottom of the Birthdays panel is a "more" link which will take you to a complete list of all the hundreds of birthdays I've collected.
    2. If a birthday person has a Facebook account, you can now click on their name to visit their profile, where you can leave any birthday wishes you'd like. Since many souls don't necessarily visit my site on a daily basis or AT ALL, this will have to suffice until The URI! Zone, like Catholicism, takes over the world.

    Currently, only birthdays in April and May have had their Facebook accounts connected, but I'll be sure to add the rest as their birthdays approach. If you think some birthdays are missing that deserve to be listed, please let me know.

    You may have noticed the site going up and down a couple times yesterday -- this was me testing the new features, because as everyone knows, the only hardcore way to test a beta feature is on a live site that affects millions of users. Since I was busy doing that yesterday, I did not get to write a new update for today, so I'll end with a few fun birthday facts culled from this tottering Jenga tower of data in my database.

    What is the most popular month to make babies in?

    Currently, May has the most birthays, and February has the least, which means that your parents were the most amorous in September when the kids went back to school and they regained some privacy, and the least amorous in June at the start of summer vacation.

    Which birthdate is the most popular?

    April 27th, which is just around the corner, squeaks ahead with five people having birthdays.

    Who's the eldest of them all?

    Dr. Allen Bachelder wins the prize with a 1939 birthday!

    Interested in any other unseen facets of the birthdays that I might be able to expose through a SQL database query? Ask in the Comments section!

    New Rules for Russia's Cops: No Bribes or Wild Sex
    Bionic penguins take to the water
    Chewing gum leads to higher scores

    tagged as website | permalink | 7 comments

    Friday, April 24, 2009

    Friday Fragments

    ♠ Yesterday, while driving down to DISA for the eight hundredth time, I saw road crews busily erasing the dotted white lines from Sterling Boulevard and replacing them with pinked zigzags of merriment. I had half a mind to steer the car as the zigzags dictated, but then remembered my experiences from childhood, where zigzagging my bike always resulted in a crash of some sort.

    ♠ I presumed the lines were to warn motorists of the bike path and found out that I was right. That article's a little too short to mock in a Newsday, but I'd definitely like to mock the fellow from Connecticut who's complaining about having to walk his bike across a four-lane highway. The appropriate solution would be a bridge or a tunnel.

    ♠ The other day, while driving past my old middle school, I saw students in their ugly gym uniforms riding bikes in tight circles around the fenced-in tennis court. As each kid got their chance to bike for 100 yards, they dismounted and gave the bike to someone else. I don't know where the school got the funds to buy twenty communal bicycles, but I'm guessing that's why some of the students still have to learn in trailers next to the school.

    ♠ The students who didn't want to ride bikes were walking slow circles around the track, gossiping and getting their heart rates up over 50 to avoid obesity. Back in my day there were always 3 or 4 of them, but now it's almost half a class. We always hated the Perpetual Walkers in our class because never had to do a thing, and the gym teachers had long since given up on motivating them.

    ♠ I've been perpetually walking in my new brown shoes for over a month now, and still haven't encountered the curious knee wasting disease that afflicted me when I was walking all over Europe. For the better part of two weeks, I hobbled through subway stations like a gimp with an uneven pegleg.

    ♠ Plans for the weekend include lots of work, unless we finish successfully this evening. Maybe I'll even get a birthday dinner into the mix (though not my own). What are you doing this weekend?

    ♠ Happy Birthday to Pip and Andrea! Have a great weekend!

    He certainly has never stolen a pig
    Black is the new black
    Man pretending to fall off bridge falls off bridge

    tagged as fragments | permalink | 0 comments

    Monday, April 27, 2009

    Overtime Day

    I worked all day and all night on Friday and came home at 1 PM on Saturday. I then slept through the night to Sunday. On Sunday, I did not write anything for you to read today, but we did have sushi for lunch, and then a whole roasted chicken with barbeque sauce for dinner, which we ate on the back porch in the toasty warmth.

    I've consumed too much bacon in my lifetime to get the swine flu, but the overabundance of pollen in the air is making my nose itch. It's not as bad as my last month in Blacksburg back in 2001, when I couldn't stop coughing for two continuous weeks, even while sleeping. I think it was prolonged exposure to my roommates.

    I have nothing else to say today so I'll leave you with a story. Two years ago, one of our users at work decided to create a "Planning and Operations" domain to hold all their data. After months of uploading thousands of metadata artifacts, the domain was presented to the people who might be interested in using it. For some reason, no one took it seriously, possibly because the chosen abbreviation for the domain was PLOP.

    Today, it is called PLAN.

    Mannequin freaks out city council
    Milky Way might taste like raspberries
    Mom-to-be hit by car while fleeing bear is OK

    tagged as day-to-day | permalink | 0 comments

    Tuesday, April 28, 2009

    Just Plain Tuesday

    I was stuck in the alien autopsy room until late last night, so I didn't have time to write a Newsday, or a Museday, or even a Boozeday.

    Hard Rock repels the Mormons
    Dutch debate use of teen repellant
    Shooting fails when coworker isn't in on the joke

    permalink | 5 comments

    Wednesday, April 29, 2009

    Just Plain Wednesday

    Today is also the eighth anniversary of my recital featuring Doobie.

    Car Thieves Beware: Leopard in boot
    Robot attacked Swedish factory worker
    Blown away chihuahua reunited with owners

    permalink | 1 comment

    Thursday, April 30, 2009

    Mini Review Day

    There are no spoilers in this review.

    Battlestar Galactica: Season One:
    This show has a relatively huge following, and the entire series recently ended, so I figured it'd be a good candidate for a new show to watch. The first season opens with a three hour miniseries pilot and then about a dozen more episodes.

    I've never really gotten into space shows -- I could care less about Star Wars or Star Trek, so I may not be the target audience. However, I thought that this show was reasonably entertaining, although sometimes it felt like something intangible was missing. Firefly was several orders of magnitude better, but this series would be good enough to keep you watching.

    The effects are pretty solid throughout, although sometimes they veer towards the cheesiness of the first ten minutes of the Firefly pilot, which almost make you embarrassed to be watching. The show really overuses the effect of quickly zooming in and out to show the sheer magnitude of spaceships -- once is enough. Dream sequences are also overused, almost to Sopranos-like extremes, and usually they're just an excuse for a hot half-naked chick to walk around to increase viewership.

    The bottom line: If you were to take Firefly, give it characters that you care less about, and include the annoying lady from Dances with Wolves, you'd end up with this show. Since my other shows aren't releasing new seasons anytime soon, I might pick up another season, but I don't need to keep watching.

    Final Grade: B-

    Florida man against beach integration
    Woman sends a stripper to her high school reunion
    Landlord demands victim's late rent

    tagged as reviews | permalink | 2 comments

     

    You are currently viewing a monthly archive, so the posts are in chronological order with the oldest at the top. On the front page, the newest post is at the top. The entire URI! Zone is © 1996 - 2016 by Brian Uri!. Please see the About page for further information.

    Jump to Top
    Jump to the Front Page


    April 2009
    SMTWHFS
    1234
    567891011
    12131415161718
    19202122232425
    2627282930
    BIRTHDAYS
    BLOGLOG
    03/18
    03/08
    02/28
    02/03

    OLD POSTS
    Old News Years J F M A M J
    J A S O N D
    J F M A M J
    J A S O N D
    J F M A M J
    J A S O N D
    J F M A M J
    J A S O N D
    J F M A M J
    J A S O N D
    J F M A M J
    J A S O N D
    J F M A M J
    J A S O N D
    J F M A M J
    J A S O N D
    J F M A M J
    J A S O N D
    J F M A M J
    J A S O N D
    J F M A M J
    J A S O N D
    J F M A M J
    J A S O N D
    J F M A M J
    J A S O N D
    J F M A M J
    J A S O N D
    J F M A M J
    J A S O N D
    J F M A M J
    J A S O N D
    J F M A M J
    J A S O N D
    visitors since November 2003