Monday, March 01, 2010

Goodbye Day

I will be attending concerts and bumming around Puerto Rico this week, so regular updates will resume next Tuesday the 9th. I'll try to post the occasional picture while on the island, but if you get too bored, feel free to check out some of my favourite posts from the past five years.

Anna will be housesitting for us throughout the week to prevent you from stealing things, but if you would like to join her for a New Super Mario Brothers / Soul Caliber championship of the world, give her a call.

Have a good week!

Australia gets all the best cruises
Ohio officers get drunk on purpose
Tribes show best camels at beauty pageant

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Tuesday, March 02, 2010


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Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Playa Lucia, on the southeastern coast of Puerto Rico

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Thursday, March 04, 2010

The view from our balcony at the Casa Cubuy Eco Lodge, in El Yunque National Rainforest

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Friday, March 05, 2010

I has a hat.

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Monday, March 08, 2010

Translation: If you plan on falling, please do so with pizazz!

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Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Mojitos are delicious.

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

List Day: Eight Puerto Rico Experiences

  1. Wandering along Playa Lucia, and watching a dirty, old, pervert surreptitiously repositioning his car so he could watch the white chick in the swimsuit.

  2. Driving past signs for a Ferreteria and learning, with some dismay, that it is a hardware store, and not a place where you can have ferret for lunch.

  3. Driving back to our hotel near Yabucoa after dark on Highway 3, a G-string width road that wends around a mountain wherever there happened to be space to lay some pavement, and swerving around a grimy, staggering man stumbling up the road against the flow of traffic.

  4. Seeing kids riding a horse bareback along the beach.

  5. Seeing a million cats at one of the forts in Old San Juan, only to discover the "neuter and release" shelter situated at the foot of the fort.

  6. Getting lost in a town called Florida on the south side of El Yunque, and wishing that the roads had names.

  7. Hiking down the landslide-prone road in El Yunque and watching a jail work detail take meticulous care of a half-mile stretch of road that's closed to the public.

  8. Going on a kayak ride in Fajardo to see a bay full of glowing crap and having a shrimp jump in my pants.

What did you do while I was gone?

Leviathans may battle in the remote depths
Break dancer charged with ruining hardwood floors
The Rise and Fall of a Female Captain Bligh

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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Review Day: Muse in Concert

Before flitting off to Puerto Rico on our $230 direct flights out of Dulles last week, we went to the Muse concert at the Patriot Center with Ben (of Ben and Anna). Here are my thoughts on that concert.

Because we were unsure about what it would take to get a good standing spot in General Admission, we lined up in the cold around 5:30 for the 8:00 concert (others had arrived at 9 AM). This put us about halfway back in the line, and we ended up getting good spots about 6 rows back from the front for the cost of frozen toes and three hours of being bored. Since Muse spent most of their concert on giant pedestals in the sky, being in the very front would have been overkill (and horrible on the neck). Sixth row was a good spot for my first concert, but in the future, I'd probably go for a nice seat and show up five minutes before 8. It was also nice to see almost everyone in the crowd (even those with seats) standing, dancing, and participating throughout the concert.

The Silversun Pickups opened and played loud music with a wash of identical timbres and no dynamic shape. If you were to record their music and look at the waveform, it would resemble a tapeworm. I tried to get into them but the lead singer's voice really irritated the snot out of me -- he consistently sounded like a slightly put-upon Smurf in a production of RENT.

The theatrics of the Muse portion of the concert were ridiculously over-the-top, from laser light shows to giant crowd balloons painted like eyeballs, but it matched the bombastic nature of their music which they seem to take proud ownership of whenever anyone compares them to Queen. SSPU performed on a very tiny stage dwarfed by three giant skyscraper props. For Muse, the props became giant screens alternating between shots of the band and artistic eye candy to go with the songs, and Muse descended out of the innards of the props (much to the relief of the ticketholders who had seats behind them). In at least one song, the drums were hooked up to various window lights on the skyscrapers.

Muse played for two full hours, using a set list of 17 songs and 3 or 4 impromptu interludes. The songs were weighted towards their most recent stuff, which was expected, and their musicality was just as effortless and polished as what you hear on the albums. Two of the things I dislike about live performances (bad singing and sloppy technique) were nowhere to be found, and it's amazing to hear GOOD live falsetto. I also like how "clean" the drums sounded -- SSPU could have learned that there are more instruments available than the crash cymbal. The band closed with Unnatural Selection which is almost as good of a finisher as Knights of Cydonia, and then came back for an encore of four more songs (using Cydonia as the final finale).

Final Grade: A+, especially when the tickets were $55 and I didn't have to listen to U2

Washington Post concert review
WeLoveDC concert review
Unnatural Selection on YouTube

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Friday, March 12, 2010

Chad Darnell's 12 of 12

6:07 AM: This is probably why I wake up every morning with my legs in uncomfortable positions.

6:18 AM: Showered and ready for work.

6:22 AM: Waking up to the rain is never fun, but at least it's light out in the morning again.

6:39 AM: Arriving in the parking lot at work, listening to Radio One.

8:27 AM: No sign of sunshine from the office.

11:19 AM: After a quick trip to the post office, I'm home for a warm bowl of clam chowder and the paper.

11:32 AM: Discovering via e-mail that there isn't room for me at the 2 PM meeting, freeing up my afternoon and saving me a 50-mile round-trip to Skyline.

1:17 PM: Working from home.

4:45 PM: I had planned to clean out the shed for springtime this afternoon, but with the rain continuing, I settled for a good stiff vacuuming.

5:23 PM: Playing the DS Fire Emblem game which, like all games in the series, has an expectedly nonsensical title like "Radiant Path of Radiance".

6:25 PM: You know the drill -- if I'm not eating Shells and Cheese on the 12th, I'm eating a Totino's pizza. I'm also watching the 5th season of Weeds.

9:16 PM: Rebecca's home!

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

Consequences of an airport kiss
Convicted serial killer won on The Dating Game
Driver lacked razor-sharp focus

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Monday, March 15, 2010

Weekend Wrap-up

This weekend was pleasantly boring, between the rain and work, but I can't complain, having spent the previous weekend neutering cats in San Juan. My Friday was well-documented in 12 of 12, and ended with an impromptu gathering of friends for tea but not crumpets around 10 PM.

I spent Saturday morning doing work of the paid variety, and then the rest of the day working on a personal project which I'll unveil in the coming months. It will probably be completely useless to my entire readership here, but flashy for other nerds. I even made a website for it, since every successful project is required to have a catchy name and a website, even if it doesn't exist in any usable form.

On Sunday, we celebrated the changing of the clocks by sleeping until 11 AM and then spent the afternoon in rainy Fairfax. We attended an open house at the home of one of Rebecca's friends until 5, and then stopped by Fairfax Honda to test drive one of the new 2010 Civics with a salesman who loved Hondas only slightly less than Apple products. March is "narrow down the car choices" month, followed by April, which is "burgle the dealership of the selected car" month.

We finished the evening out with homemade fajitas, which were delicious but made the house smell like fajitas this morning when I woke up.

Jesus appears in a frying pan
Giant meat-eating plants prefer to eat tree shrew poo
Air Canada learns that hockey trumps flying

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Museday Tuesday

As part of this feature, which I started in 2007, I compose a very brief work (under 30 seconds) inspired by a randomly generated title from an online word generator. The composition can be for any instrumentation, and could even be a purely synthesized realization that might not be possible to perform in the real world.

I work on the excerpt continuously for an hour and then post whatever I've managed to complete, even if it's a poorly constructed slum of a song supported by a foundation of droning double stops and abused tubas.

Corrugated: (adj.) Wrinkled, furrowed, ridged.

My Composition (0:30 MP3)

This excerpt is for a very simple combination of strings, percussion, and a synthesizer. I started out with a "rain on a corrugated roof" motif mixed with a little metric ambiguity and then found the beat.

Wichita man pays crack dealer with Monopoly money
Airborne bears to catch bin Laden
Swiss designer creates dinosaur dung watch

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Green Media Day

Pictures from our recent trip from Puerto Rico, as well as older pictures from snOMG can now be found on the Photos page.

We did not get a picture of the ramshackle bar in Fajardo (a city which sounds unfortunately close to "hard on") which was named "DRINKERS Irish Pub" and adorned with a Spanish leprechaun, but it would have been appropriate for today's holiday.

One of these days, I'll get around to writing more about Puerto Rico, but this week is a little busy!

Briton is recognised as world's first officially genderless person
New Jersey mom aspires to be the world's fattest woman
Man used penis to assault female police officer

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Review Day

There are no spoilers in these reviews.

24, Season Seven:
The seventh season of 24 is EASILY the best season to date, surpassing both the fourth and fifth seasons which had previously been the high points. A new setting (DC), fresh perspective, and new characters that aren't all petty office backstabbers kept me watching to the end. The last four episodes are mostly unnecessary, and the finale kind of peters out, but this season is eminently watchable (in spite of geographic inconsistencies like the scuba tunnels crisscrossing DC, or the Metro station in "the Adams Morgan district"). Although we've seen much of it before, this season somehow manages to feel fresh (see also, Will Smith) without simply making the explosions bigger and the casualty rates higher.

Final Grade: A-

Zombieland is a short, light-hearted zombie flick written as a road trip movie. The movie drags a little in the middle third, and overuses floating screen text more than Fringe, but it's funny, pleasant to watch, and over quickly. However, I did learn from this movie that Jesse Eisenberg is incapable of starring in a movie without evoking an uncontrollable urge to fast forward through all his scenes (see also, Adventureland).

Final Grade: B-

Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon:
This game plays almost identically to the 2005 Fire Emblem game for the GameCube, which is not a bad thing in the least. Turn-based strategy games are perfectly suited for handhelds, and this game makes it easier to play for a few minutes at a time. Normal mode is easy (and only challenging if you like to keep every character alive), and Hard mode is ridiculously hard. I still find myself picking this game up for another round, even though I've already beaten it. There's nothing new at all here, and the music and graphics are "fine", but those aspects aren't usually why you'd be playing a turn-based strategy game.

Final Grade: A-

Nurse' Union: Care does not include sex
Dentist used paper clips in root canal
Vegans turning against each other

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Friday, March 19, 2010

Friday Fragments

quivering with anticipation like Jello

♠ Things I did instead of writing a Fragments column:

  • Worked on my super secret project yesterday afternoon.
  • Had the enchilada sampler at Tortilla Factory for dinner last night.
  • Watched an episode of Fringe, which we're tepidly trying to get into again.
  • Got a full eight hours of sleep.
  • Went down to Bailey's Crossroad for emergency work support this morning.
Black people must leave, NJ Walmart announcer says
Medieval child's brain to unlock human thought processes
Scientists hide gold with 3D invisibility cloak

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Monday, March 22, 2010

Weekend Wrap-up

I spent the vast majority of Friday night and Saturday working on my secret project, and reached my first milestone. At this point, all the features are there but you can't really do anything with it (see also, wireless laptops in Montana). I'll probably go public tomorrow, which has the added bonus of using up a Tuesday post, since I didn't get a chance to write any Museday excerpts this weekend.

On Saturday night, we drove to the home of one of Rebecca's coworkers for a late St. Patrick's Day party. It was even closer than Arlington, a surprising concept since the party took place in Maryland. We ate snacks on green napkins and watched an endless montage of artistically bad music videos that accompany the text on Karaoke CDs.

Sunday opened with a giant sesame seed bagel with cream cheese, since toasted sesame seeds have a very appetizing smell (even if they just digest like corn in the long run). In the afternoon, we did some more test driving at a dealership in Tysons. We encountered the least effective salesman of all time and she will not be getting any of our yuppy money for her lack of efforts.

We then drove to Lake Anne in Reston to admire all of the shops and restaurants that have closed down since our last visit, and picked up some Boston Market for dinner on the way home.

Happy Spring!

Boy Scout executive details 'perversion files' during testimony in Portland trial
NYC cops sorry for pounding couple's door 50 times
Burglar logs into MySpace on store computer

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Señor Skip Day

I've been busy readying my super secret project for release in the face of positive early feedback, so I'm skipping today's update and taking tomorrow off to get it done. To date, it's taken up over 200 hours of my free time since the beginning of the year (and has sometimes felt like a second job), so it will be nice to have something tangible for people to play with. Check back tomorrow afternoon for some sort of announcement!

Unfortunately, it will not be useful to most of the people who read the URI! Zone, but it will be very cool even if you don't know why (see also, me as a college sophomore in my Members Only jacket).

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

(In-Hold-Out) Release Day

DDMSence (pronounced "dee-dee-em-Essence") is the result of three months' worth of unpaid work, and the prime reason why I don't hang out with you anymore (besides the foul odor you call a deodorant). It is an open source Java library (released under the LGPL license) which supports the . A complete technical write-up of the library can be found at the DDMSence website.

For the uninitiated, DDMS is not what girl gamers experience once a month during their tabletop games -- it is a specification which defines a consistent set of "card catalog" details for any resource you might want to make available or discoverable. If everything has a common set of metadata, ordered in a common format, search engines can support this discovery, even if it has no idea how to handle the resource itself. So, you could add a seven pound leg of lamb to a collection of non-fiction books, and as long as they are described in the same way in the card catalog, people will still be able to find your leg of lamb and eat it.

DDMS is written in XML (which is like an anally pedantic set of HTML tags), and my new library converts this XML format into Java objects, essentially allowing DDMS to be easily used in any Java-based environment.

If you have no intention of working for the Department of Defense at any point in your life because of your meth habit, or that hitchhiker you ran over last summer, just know that this is going to be bigger than Booty's homepage, and will probably make me a household name in my house.

UK library receives 45-year-overdue book
Sex shops with movies are not cinemas
Alaska teens' pizza heist brings out SWAT team

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Project Recap Day

It feels good to have carried a project all the way to a phase where it can be considered "done". I'm always on the lookout for new projects to do, like last summer when I toyed with writing interactive fiction again or December, when I thought I'd finally sit down and learn the Ruby programming language. Most of the projects I start with voracious verve trickle away long before anything tangible is completed.

Among other abandoned projects in my orphaned concepts folder: at least six cancelled games (2 in BASIC, and 3 in Netscape-era JavaScript), 4 chat rooms written in C and CGI (the boring kind, not the Avatar kind), one of which only worked when two people were in it, an endless number of musical compositions, and an ear training program called Auricle.

Back in January, I was searching for a project to do during the cold, snowbound months, and settled on migrating my photo albums to Picasa. I soon realized that it would be much easier than I expected, and started working on DDMSence even while the photo album transition was going on. I wanted a project that would be useful, had a finite problem area to solve, and was a mix of new material to learn and old technologies I already knew.

I have no problems giving up on side projects when they're no longer fun, and I came close a couple times, but soldiered through, even reading about XML in Puerto Rico while lying on the beach. The work finally reached a critical mass of about 80% a couple weeks ago, and I've been doing nothing but that ever since. I'm a decent multitasker, but when I'm really invested in something, I tend to do that one thing to the exclusion of everything else until it's complete -- this is why it's pointless for me to buy new books that just get read in a single day, and why I can watch a whole season of Prison Break in one weekend.

Now that this project has been "released", I'll still work on it regularly for enhancements and bug-fixing, but I can go back to devoting a little more time to this website and personal grooming. I may open the weekend with some outdoors time (cleaning the shed, my car, and weeding the planter boxes) mixed with indoor time (watching Weeds, working on the Paravia Wiki, and writing Musedays).

Speaking of projects, Katie Morton has redesigned her blog as a lifestyle blog, with tips on organization, getting things done, and eating Doritos. Take a look!

GameCrush: Pay to play--with girls
Child vampire hunters sparked comic crackdown
Man flu is no myth

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Friday, March 26, 2010

Friday Fragments

less weekend rain, more weekend grain

♠ On Wednesday night, we had a late dinner at a little Lebanese restaurant in Sterling's excuse for a clock tower shopping center called Sahara. It was fairly inexpensive and tasty -- I'm finding that saffron rice is slowly approaching the "like" levels of my usual rice proclivity: a bowl of soy sauce topped with medium-grained white rice. We would definitely go back again.

♠ I started using Yelp to review things at the end of last year, but stopped before too long after reading about all the seedy extortion they're involved in. I'm currently trying to find a successful business model for the URI! Zone that involves extortion, but unfortunately all the embarassing photos of the people I know are already widely distributed.

♠ Contrary to expectations, the URI! Zone does have a sound business model in place: it involves spending $250 a year on hosting and domain registration, and then giving another $20 a year to my mom for winning caption contests.

♠ It's been a while since I had a contest here, so perhaps one will materialize in April. I can't think of any innovative Name That Tune ideas though, so maybe I'll have to have a contest where you identify the tune based on a video of the visualization in Windows Media Player.

♠ Despite having both Windows Media Player and iTunes around, I continue to use a ten-year-old version of WinAMP (v2.7) to play all of my MP3s. I also run AIM 5.1, which is the last version compatible with the free version of DeadAIM for tabbed windows. I hear the newest version has tabbed windows built-in, but no one likes change unless they're a parking meter.

♠ Plans for the weekend used to include vacuuming all the dead spiders out of the shed, weeding, and washing my car, but with the onslaught of party-pooping precipitation, I'll probably just stay in and read the backs of cereal boxes. Someday, I will host poker again, since apparently that fled with the marriage.

♠ Have a great weekend!

Dog in squad car attacks ordered to canine classes
Wisconsin college to save money on all the users still printing their emails
I check the breasts of my workers on my own

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Monday, March 29, 2010

Weekend Wrap-up

On Friday night, I spent the entire evening reading a sixty page document called "XML Data Encoding Specification for Information Security Marking Metadata" for pleasure, after eating a Totino's pizza and vacuuming the house.

After that rollercoaster ride of excitement, the rest of the weekend was pretty low-key. Saturday opened with a trip to Costco for critical steak supplies and the chance to walk past Fans Blowing Heat. In the afternoon, I did some work better suited for an electrician and assembled a new-old bed frame in our guest room. We decided to have an impromptu Game Night on Saturday with Rebecca's work people, and ended up playing multiple rounds of Catchphrase and Balderdash before all the married people got tired and had to go home.

On Sunday morning, I got up early and implemented "security rollup" in my project, which isn't half as interesting or sugary as a fruit rollup, but has more enterprise applications than one. Following Shells and Cheese time at lunch, DVD time, and My Sister is Having a Baby time, we ended up at Foster's Grille in Herndon for dinner. They make a very satisfying charburger which I can still taste a little bit as I type this.

Overall, it wasn't the busiest of weekends, but with 5 of the 8 weekend days in April already booked, I'm sure we'll appreciate the downtime soon!

Russian roulette wedding speech goes badly
Father shoots daughter's boyfriend after catching them in the act
Channels showed porn, not his comedy

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Museday Tuesday

As part of this feature, which I started in 2007, I compose a very brief work (under 30 seconds) inspired by a randomly generated title from an online word generator. The composition can be for any instrumentation, and could even be a purely synthesized realization that might not be possible to perform in the real world.

I work on the excerpt continuously for an hour and then post whatever I've managed to complete, even if it's a poorly constructed slum of a song supported by a foundation of droning double stops and abused tubas.

Sylvan: (adj.) consisting of or abounding in woods or trees; wooded; woody

My Composition (0:30 MP3)

As tempting as it was to write a song about a woody, I stuck with the adjective-approach and crafted this little orchestral fanfare. The original idea started with nothing but clarinets, but I had to swap out the bass line after the MIDI bass clarinet refused to perform at the same tempo as the rest of the ensemble. I did not expect a synthesizer to so closely emulate the real world.

Historic sex toys sold for 3,600 pounds at Essex auction
Man tries to revive dead opossum
Man Tells Police He Ripped Through Meat To Save Chubby Girls

tagged as museday | permalink | 4 comments

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Memory Day: A Decade Ago

"Five million, two hundred fifty-eight thousand, eight hundred and eighty minutes" is long in both the temporal and literal senses -- it would not have made a catchy lyric for any plays about AIDS, but it does accurately represent how long it's been since my fourth year at Virginia Tech. I'm not even any taller today than I was back then, unless height can be measured in circumference.

March 31, 2000 was the day after the VT Brass Ensemble concert, which featured too many trumpets, and four songs about cats. My parents were in town for the concert, which was followed by a parentless Delta Mu meeting at Andy's apartment in Foxridge, where a really shy girl named Paige was implanted into the circle of friends for the first time. (Paige now works as a spy for the State Department, traveling to Spain and Russia under the alias of Michaela Vaughn).

April 1, 2000 was the original release date for Augmented Fourth, which I've already devoted far too much News space to, but which I like to pat myself on the back about as one of the few other massive projects I ever carried to fruition. Based on my low success rate, Fruition is probably a town just over the border from Motivation, and definitely requires an unexpired passport to visit. (Like an annal bookend, DDMSence v1.0.0 will be released tomorrow, exactly ten years after Augmented Fourth).

On the academic side, I was still pursuing the double major at a stately pace (think Iowa, not New Jersey) starting with a morning session of Conducting II (which also suffered from an overabundance of trumpets). On the tech side, I was taking a course on 3D Computer Graphics, which advertised itself as a learning experience in OpenGL but ultimately turned into endless permutations of the phrase, "If the point is on the other side of the wall, you don't have to draw it!" I could have self-taught the material by filling a notebook with the words "viewport" and "pixel" and illustrating it with rhombuses.

My other major class of the day was "Intermediate MIDI Applications", where we learned that MIDI was going to take the music world by storm very soon, or as Jack Bauer would say, within the decade!

Life gets exciting when you get old
Man doesn't quite get the concept of Prison Break
Other man doesn't quite get the concept of Prison Break

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