The URI! Zone - 04/2011
or maybe "of III", depending on schedules, popularity, verbosity, and line breaks
Our trip to Arkansas started off inauspiciously with a power outage during our designated packing period. Unlike people living in the PEPCO fiefdom, power outages are rare in our neighbourhood because of the combination of Dominion Power and underground power lines. We made the best of a bad scene by lighting enough candles to make our home look like the nerve center of an up and coming cult and eating in with take-out from Boston Market (quarter dark, with mashed potatoes and gravy, and macaroni and cheese).
We drove to Dulles Airport the next morning (because a three day stay in the economy lot is still cheaper than the overpriced airport cab monopoly with the illogically abbreviated website, washfly.com, which doesn't make me think of ground transportation in the least bit). Security was painless, as it always is at Dulles before 7 AM, and after skillfully ignoring the temptation of a 500 pound Chipotle spicy burrito for breakfast (really, who eats it that early?) we made it to our gate with time to spare.
After a brief layover in Atlanta with a greasy Southern breakfast, we arrived to the mild climate of Little Rock, Arkansas, where we joined up with a few other out-of-towners and ended up with a brand new Nissan for our rental car. We had a brief adventure searching for drink supplies in the last wet county before a veritable alcohol desert, and then hit the road to the sound of country songs from the 90s, and radio advertisements for Camouflage Caps ("so no one can see what you're thinking!").
In just under two hours, we had passed Toad Suck Park and arrived at Mt. Nebo, Arkansas, where the wedding was to be held. We had rented a private cabin for 6 on the very top of the mountain, and were greeted by a wonderful view from our screened-in porch. We were right on the rim of the mountaintop, so a steep decline lurked just out of range (topographically speaking -- this is not foreshadowing).
To Be Continued...Democrat chastised for saying 'uterus' on House floor
Friday night in Arkansas was an early night, with an informal Southern Barbeque on the edge of a cliff, overlooking the scenic lake at Dardanelle, and the not-quite-as-scenic nuclear power plant puffing steam clouds of serenity into the night sky. Rebecca got to catch up with all of her college friends (who are used to traveling long distances since they all went to school in Iowa). After a day of travel and dodging the large herds of deer on the mountaintop, no one in our cabin made it past 11 PM for any wild partying.
The next morning, we decided to hike the trail that stretched for four miles around the edge of Mt. Nebo, appropriately named The Rim Trail. Hiking on a rim is definitely the way to go, because it's mostly flat and there's always a nice view off to one side. Later in the day, we also did a waterfall hike that was quite short but forced us nearly straight down the side of the mountain, and then back up again.
The feature event of the weekend was the wedding of Baylis and Richie, which took place at 4 PM on Sunset Point, a promontory that curiously faced southwest (Arkansans probably subscribe to the magnetic north). The ceremony was short and sweet, with no accidental trips over the rim, and the reception took place in an old wooden pavilion on yet another cliffside. A large number of Richie's family was able to make it up from El Salvador, so toast-time became a game of "how many sentences can I get through in Spanish before I turn the mike over to the translator". The translator won.
Following a light brunch the next morning, we returned to Little Rock around midday and had lunch at The Flying Saucer, a bratwurst place on the Arkansas River. I had a roast beef sandwich with Guinness au jus dipping sauce while we enjoyed the pleasant 70 degree temperatures, and then found out that almost every flight out of Little Rock was delayed. Our 5:26 departure crept forward in thirty minute increments until it finally came to rest at 7:55. This pushed our arrival time in Atlanta after 10, and made us miss our connection back to the fake South of Virginia. This must be a regular occurrence now, because you can now claim meal and hotel vouchers through automatic scanning booths throughout the terminal, probably so you don't have the opportunity to yell at anyone.
We arranged for kitty-care through Anna, and then spent the night (a total of 5 hours) at a decaying Country Suites, only to get back up at 5 in the morning to catch the next connection to Dulles. We didn't even have time to use up all the money on our food vouchers, since $12 in greasy eggs and bacon probably wouldn't have made for a comfortable plane trip. I tempted fate anyhow with my $5 "bacon omelette combo", which consisted of a lattice of tightly-woven bacon wrapped in egg product with tater tots on the side.
We got back to Dulles without further drama and were home by 11 AM on Monday. Now it's time to plan the next trip, which will be Sam and Kristen's wedding in May!Teen suspended for outing porn star school secretary
Please contact your representative today with these BU-tiful suggestions.Elderly woman cuts all Internet access to Georgia
Even by 1983, you can tell that I was thrilled with the possibility of taking "just one more" picture -- waves of enthusiasm are rolling off of me like ball bearings on the last level of Marble Madness.
The Radio Flyer wagon was the transportation method of choice for trips where we'd be gung ho at the start, but probably run out of steam by the halfway point and ask to be carried. On more than one occasion, we'd take the Holmes Run bike path down to the Magruder's at Foxchase to buy groceries that didn't quite fit into the Saturday morning speed runs my dad performed. We would leave the wagon tied to a post outside like they might have done if Magruder's were in the Old West, but this practice ended when we came outside and found another family stealing our wagon because they thought it had been abandoned.Blind gamer plays Zelda by ear
In honor of 4/11, and because I didn't do anything noteworthy over the weekend to write about, today is a day where you get to ask questions I'd be likely to answer in the Comments section. Question categories can range the gamut from things about me, night habits of Booty and Amber, or just plain trivia questions that have stumped you for generations (the house is at the North Pole). I will take to most interesting questions and answer them on Friday, unless there aren't any (in which case no one wins a free iPod and I will make up my own questions).
Chances of winning a free iPod do not improve by submitting questions.Woman uses staph infection on arm to rob shop
5:36 AM: Up extra early this morning because Booty was being obnoxious.
5:47 AM: Amber guards our thriving basil plants.
6:02 AM: Obligatory artistic shot of the One Way sign at my exit.
7:04 AM: Working hard.
7:28 AM: A dark and dreary day, although my spider plant is multiplying like a nines table.
11:04 AM: Popeyes for lunch.
1:21 PM: Working from home in the afternoon.
3:36 PM: Trying to get back into the third season of Heroes which majorly sucks.
4:45 PM: Rebecca gets home from work.
5:16 PM: Relaxing with some Warcraft. The stand on my monitor broke, so now it just leans against the base.
6:23 PM: Buffalo Chicken Tacos at Don Pablo's.
7:24 PM: Watching Booty get fresh with my wife.
See more 12 of 12ers at Chad's site!Sorting algorithms as dances
or The Evolution of Good Storytelling
December 1983 (4 years old)
One day I got up to watch TV and I watched Scooby Doo and I watcht Scooby Doo at 7:00 PM and at 800 PM I got my clothes on and ate my breakfast then I turned on the TV when Mom woke up and she put on her clothest on and we got on to the car and drove to the market and brought some milk then we drove home.
When telling a story about your day, always use mind-bending Memento-style chronology devices to increase interest, such as turning on the TV both before and after you watch it, and waking up at night. Also, bring your own milk to the store, and make your story more declarative by adding extra periods.
April 1984 (4 years old)
One day I woke up when I was a baby I was too. But no bottle untell I was fed. The next day I plaied the next day. The End.
This is a fine example of a "memoir", since it tells the story of youth and long distant memories and not what I did the day before. The days of the week are itemized in the left margin, as if the original intent of this biography was to provide daily updates about my life (the first blog™) before it turned into a memoir.
April 1986 (6 years old)
My spring vacation story
On Saturday I went to the Eggsplotion. Then we went to the playground, and colored are eggs, hid them, and hunted them. Then I went to eat dinner. Afterwards we cleared the table, after that I went to bed.
Conjunctions are a more advanced type of period.
The next day, it was Easter. We ate breakfast. Them, we went to the arbiretem. We went in the garden, We went home, and played. We played egg hunt. Then ate dinner. After that we cleared the table. And went to bed.
Establish a pattern of normalcy, so the day of the shark attack really stands out.
The next day Ellen had to work on her stupid prawject. Well I played. It was fun! We went to eat lunch. Then played again, ate dinner, and went to bed.
Ha ha, I didn't have a project.
Next day. We went to are babysitter and played all day, came home, ate dinner, and went to bed.
Next day. My sister went to a g.s. hike from st. Andrews church to fort word. We had to go to are babysitter again; after that we packed up.
Leave it to those industrious Girl Scouts to fight obesity by taking a 0.9 mile hike.
Friday. We drove away to Petersburg Battlefield. It was crazy! We stayed in Days Inn.
The battlefield was off the hook. The Days Inn combined the luxury of home with the comfort of a battlefield.
(Sat.) We went to lots of places then went home.
As I get older and early memories fragment into false impressions, this will probably be the level of detail I apply to every single trip I took as a kid.
Sun. We didn't do anything.
Get ready for the shark attack.
Mon. We went to a freind's house and saw the great wall of britains. And had grilled hotdogs for lunch. We played, made a fort, went home.
I'm not sure why we were watching a movie about Hadrian's Wall, but at least we had hot dogs. I guess we were safe from sharks this time around, but what about in the sequel??Live missile found in bathroom wall
There are no spoilers in these reviews.
Weeds, Season Six:
The sixth season of Weeds is told in the form of a road trip. This injects some freshness and interesting side characters into the mix, but backfires by showing just how boring and used up the main characters have become. There are occasional moments worth laughing about, but overall, the show has just become an excuse to insert gratuitous nudity and sex. Of course, there's nothing wrong with this, but it's not enough to carry the show.
Final Grade: C-
Designing With the Mind in Mind by Jeff Johnson:
User interface books are a dime a dozen, and many of them, like the one used in my undergraduate Design of Information class are uniformly awful. This book manages to be concise and unrepetitive while also offering basic psychological and physiological reasons for various codified rules, which gives it more depth than your average UI book. None of the information here is new, and the book is a little pricey ($50 list), but it's a good refresher/shelf-reference book for UI design.
Final Grade: B
Have you asked me a question yet?China bans references to time travel
the natural sequel to Questions Day
"What kind of bear is best?" - Doobie
The Asiatic Black Bear, because it is black yet also yellow, and looks like a really awful Halloween costume. Plus, beets do grow in China.
"If you were a Veggie Tales character, which would you be and why?" - Ex-Roomie
Qwerty the desktop computer. Vegetables suck.
"Will your new kitchen have automatic stainless steel cat food dispensers?" - Mom
Nope, but it will have a lazy susan, a drawer that hides a trash can, and zero tiles with apples on them. In fact, this kitchen may be too fancy for cats -- they can eat in the laundry room from now on.
"Who will be the next celebrity to have a gigantic public meltdown?" - Evil Mike
I think Charlie Sheen should have another one. That's what you'd call "bi-winning".
"Why pick Alliance over Horde?" - Evil Mike
Better flight paths.
"Where is a good place to go for Korean BBQ?" - Evil Mike
There aren't any places in the U.S. yet where it's acceptable to eat Koreans yet.
"What would a combination of a pug, turtle and eagle look like?" - Evil Mike
It would look ugly, because of the pug DNA.
"We all know BU, but when can we expect JU(nior)? " - Evil Mike
Not in the next two years, yet sooner than the next twenty.Canada politician wants to torpedo Sheen's smoking
Describe the context behind this photograph, taken last Friday.
Extrapolating from this moment in the past:
What else can you learn?Meat discovered in meatless magazines
There are no spoilers in this review.
I was slow to the party in discovering the original Portal, but it's one of the few games I would wholeheartedly recommend to ANY gamer. The review I gave it in 2009 was:
The highly logical, entertaining puzzle game is wrapped in sardonic narration that ultimately reveals a crafty little storyline around the entire experience. It will only take a few hours to beat, but it's worth the time of anyone who likes puzzles and doesn't get dizzy in first-person games.
Portal 2 came out yesterday, and I downloaded it off of Steam for the high price of $49 -- like the various Blizzard franchises, I had enough confidence in the reputation of the Portal series to pay the full price. I'm currently in Chapter 4 and am enjoying it just as much as the original.
Puzzle-wise, gameplay is very similar to the original, with a few new features such as lasers that can be reflected in different directions, and floating bridges that can go through one portal and out another. It takes no time at all to get back in the proper mindset for the puzzles. Although there are a few basic puzzles up front, the tutorial phase is definitely shorter, so new players will definitely want to play the first game (both for learning AND story purposes).
The atmosphere of the game is top-notch, with tons of little flourishes and details. The game takes place a long time after the first, and the decay of the previously sterile, clean environment is done very well (although this makes it a little harder to determine the goal of any particular puzzle, since the visual noise is increased).
The story and voice acting to date is also great, and I've laughed aloud several times since I've started (and a computer game that can actually make me laugh is rare).
Bottom Line: It's a little pricey for what will probably be a shorter-length game experience, but it looks as if this will be a perfect case of quality over quantity. Definitely recommended.Italian Butcher Arrested for Selling Decade-Old Meat
I'm not taking about the later seasons featuring Verne Troyer hiding in a locker to help kids cheat on their tests -- I want the early seasons with the original cast: the actress playing a choir director who couldn't conduct, the principal who thought Shostakovich played hockey, and the "smell this shoe" parent. With all of the other shovelware out on DVD, how is this series still not available?
Malcolm in the Middle
While it's true that every child actor on this show hit puberty comically early after the first season, that didn't lessen my enjoyment of this show. I've watched the first season too many times, but the later seasons ran into music licensing issues with They Might Be Giants and will probably never see the light of day.
It doesn't count as "released" if each season is selling for exorbitant prices to milk fans. $40 for an 8-episode Season One? 2014 will be the 25th anniversary of this show, so maybe there'll be a Complete Box Set to commemorate the occasion.
The Wonder Years
There should be no argument about this one -- Fred Savage and Danica McKellar!
I know this show's already out on DVD, but next month you can get the complete series in a TOOLBOX for $11 a season. That's my idea of a bargain.
What TV shows are you missing that haven't been immortalized on DVDs?Language at risk of dying out
Note the popularity convergence of Alias, Chompy, and Doobie in 2007. This leads to a hypothetical entry for the next Questions Day: What would a combination of Doobie, Chompy, and Jennifer Garner look like?Burger King launches the Meat Monster in Japan
The weekend opened on Friday night with Shells and Cheese and a viewing of Black Swan, movie that got progressively weirder as it went on. This was our first experiment with Amazon On Demand, and although the 480p download was a little blurry on a 1080p display, it was no worse than an analog TV show, and good enough for the convenience factor.
On Saturday, I managed to mow the lawn between thunderstorms, and also worked a bit on DDMSence. In the evening, we had a random get-together which turned into an Easter-themed free-for-all, complete with eggs in both the dyed and hidden varieties. There were also homemade margaritas, which didn't quite fit into the Easter theme.
We met up with the Loudoun third of Rebecca's family for Easter Sunday in Leesburg, and then returned home for lunch. Afterwards, I updated my Warsong Gulch guide, started reading Into the Plex by Steven Levy, and finished Portal 2. In the evening, my parents came over for birthday burgers, and our famous Swiss and Mushroom Burgers made a reappearance, this time with thyme!Bed Intruder Internet star arrested for pot
Part I of IV
This Friday marks the 10th Anniversary of my undergraduate recital, and seeing as how my daily updates are starved for content more often than any given page of eHow.com, I thought I would spend the next few days doing an indulgent Behind-the-Scenes, Where-Are-They-Now, Blu-ray-Edition-With-Deleted-Scenes retrospective on the whole affair.
My recital was one of the few instances in life where I actually displayed qualities that could be mistaken for ambition, which is why I like to pull it out of the closet every few years and parade it around like a six-year-old son who just won a Halleys Comet trivia championship.
By the numbers, The URI! Recital involved 24 musicians, 3 stage hands, 9 original compositions, 15 minutes of the Arutunian concerto, 8 months of planning, 2.5 hours of performance (with two intermissions), a 17 page program and a budget of about $350. It also instilled in me the critical career skills which I still rely upon today, notably, the ability to use Photoshop for funny pictures, and the ability to buy gift certificates on Amazon.com (musicians work for cheap when they don't have a degree yet).
Although bits and pieces of the recital recordings have appeared on this site in the past, I'll be posting full-length MP3s of some of my favourite songs this week. The first one is Vanishing Point:
Featuring 3 trumpets, 3 horns, 3 trombones, 2 tubas, and 2 percussionists, my goal here was to treat a brass ensemble as a sectioned jazz ensemble and show that an unwieldy ensemble full of muddy brass instruments can swing surprisingly well. Here are a few other fragmented thoughts about this piece:
♠ The chord progression here is based on the song, Bernie's Tune.
♠ Philip Barbie performed the trumpet solos here, because I'm not a fan of improvisation and I knew he wouldn't do anything retarded.
♠ The decision to write a jazz piece for brass was actually very in line with my education: jazz was my go-to language for boring writing assignments, and when a composition professor would want me to compose another sonata or do something with more wrong notes, I would always fall back on jazz as a passive-aggressive way to bring the assignment back into the realm of "music people might actually want to listen to". I also have a three movement jazz sonata and a three movement jazz suite for brass quintets in my repertoire.
♠ The only reason there are two tubas is so that one can always be breathing. Walking bass lines require oxygen.
♠ Towards the middle of the piece, the original horn line (396KB MP3) required a lot more finger-flexing, and was rewritten the night before the performance to be less difficult. Even with the new line, a beat goes missing somewhere in the performance, and the drummer ends up on 1 and 3 for a few bars instead of 2 and 4.
♠ I didn't want a guitar mucking up the works, and the stage was too small to roll out the piano, so chord innards were provided by a vibraphone player. This gave it a unique sound, but still ended up a little too muddy for my liking.
♠ This was one of the pieces I conducted -- even though jazz ensembles generally don't need conducting, I was worried that the piece would just get slower and slower without me, and I would have to come out of the wings with a cowbell and start yelling, Chip McNeill style.
To be continued tomorrow...Gang tattoo leads to murder conviction
Part II of IV
Promotional concerns for the URI! Recital took on as much importance as musical ones, since you can even make a musicologist's recital sound good if you advertise it with enough verve. The poster in yesterday's post was created with the help of Paige, who took fifty pictures of me in various poses which I then Photoshopped together. Since this was one of my first photo-editing outings, my original idea of showing a huge trumpet choir on stage was nixed when the shadows became too difficult to manipulate.
The first promotional poster went up in August before the recital, and a new one came out each month, like a comic book for music nerds. I used the posters to learn all about Photoshop, although I still probably don't do things the easiest or correct way. By the end, posters had simulated flames and crazy effects, and had there been another two months to go, I'm pretty sure the next posters would have required 3D glasses.
The programs were even more ostentatious -- rather than the standard department template with a back cover calendar advertising the upcoming sackbut concert and an advertisement for incredibly useful music fraternities, my program spanned 20 pages, contained excerpts and explanations of the music, and even ended with an order form where you could buy URI! Recital refrigerator magnets. Thankfully, no one ordered anything, since I hadn't actually made any. And while all of the other music majors were at home for spring break, making enough money at Subway to cover their final meals at Owens, I was holed up in a conference room, sorting Kinkos copies and binding them all together with one of those plastic binding machines.
Today's musical download is Loneliness, a song for voice, trumpet, and piano. For quite some time, my vocal specialty was deeply depressing songs beyond the reach of copyright law, and this 1911 poem fit the bill perfectly.
♠ I love both the vocal and piano lines in this song. The trumpet part flat out fails -- I would rewrite it today for a less voluminous sound like an English Horn, but this piece was a commission for a trumpet/voice recital, so the best I could do was to not use the trumpet for the last third of the song. Even in the recording, you can tell that it overpowers the other parts.
♠ Also, if you write a trumpet part with quintuplets, your trumpet player is going to be all over the place on the recording. Damnit Shac!
♠ This piece had the misfortune of bonus exposure when I was at Florida State for grad school. During one of their composition professor searches where they eventually hired Dr. Callender, the faculty asked composers to bring in an "older work with obvious deficiencies" so it could be evaluated one-on-one with the candidates, and the faculty could see their teaching styles. This one-on-one morphed into a giant congregation of faculty and grad students, where they ended up ONLY using Loneliness because it "had some great obvious problems in it". As such, we got to hear it on loop for about two hours while various traveling composers tried to win a new job by pointing out its faults.
To be continued tomorrow...Austrian authorities reveal find of buried treasure
Part III of IV
By far, the poster with the most longevity and popularity was the Asian Invasion poster, which still hangs in my office at work. The creation of this poster required me to expand my massive collection of Dave Matthews and Canadian Brass CDs with my first and last Beatles purchase ($8.99 in the bargain bin at the Christiansburg Walmart).
After reshuffling the flowers to spell URI! and a trumpet, I splattered the background with friends and professors from high school and beyond. You can even see the plastic cow we put on Jason Chrisley's birthday cake on the left side below Mike Robb. This poster, and all of the rest from the complete series found a second life in Tallahassee where I used them to decorate the cinderblock walls of Parkwood Apartments. There's not a lot else you can do with cinderblocks.
Besides designing posters, crafting intricate stagehand charts and graphs, and making sure that Kelley got to rehearsal on time, I also tried to be involved in every piece on the program. Although it was a composition recital, I figured that it would be more over the top if I conducted four songs, turned pages on anything with a piano, and performed at least one song on my trumpet.
Although I had played trumpet since the fifth grade, I was never more serious than an average performer. Music was a member of The Arts where it didn't matter if you had painted all of your leaves brown because that's how they look with Red-Green color blindness, and it was only happenstance that I rolled off of the trumpet shelf and onto the composing shelf. I haven't yet decided if The Arts in this metaphor are a particle board bookcase at a yard sale or the Antarctic region under the CFC hole, but either should suffice for your mind's eye.
Despite my continuing preference for "playing" over "practicing", I did manage to buckle down and practice heavily for the one trumpet piece I performed on the Recital -- that behemoth of Romanticism excesses, the Arutunian Concerto.
♠ The section in the excerpt actually turned out very well, and showed that I was a possible contender for any future Music Decathlon. The introduction got off to a rough start, after I sent the sixth note of the piece through an unexpected puberty, but I recovered nicely.
♠ As a trumpet player, my forte was always understanding and interpreting the phrasing, language, and intent of the written score. Those other intangibles like pitch, tone, and practicing more than 2 hours a day were always tossed in the backseat.
♠ I chose the Arutunian because it was long enough to show that I was seriously putting forth an effort. This is in direct contrast to my Junior Year Convocation performance where I performed a piece called Scherzo that was 1:41 in length.
♠ As the piece cranked past minute 12, I began to realize that I had indeed given this performance my all -- so much so, that I had no endurance left for the final two minutes of the piece which involved a free form trumpet-alone section of progressively higher high notes. As I tumbled off of the shelf into this cadenza (here, the shelf is made of ice), I could immediately sense that every trumpet player in the room knew I didn't have enough gas to make it to the end. Thankfully, an on-the-spot reinterpretation of the rests and melodic lines coupled with notes an octave lower allowed me to get all the way to the end with most of my dignity intact.
To be concluded tomorrow...Walmart Could Easily Pay Its Workers $12 An Hour
Part IV of IV
Can you believe that it's already the end of April 2011, or that ten years have passed since I was an undergrad? It's very true that time flies like a banana, when thrown by a monkey. Once the recital had ended, there was nothing else to do but lounge around waiting for grad school to start (This was helped by the fact that I was only taking a bare minimum of 12 credits in that last semester, and I didn't even attend the sole non-music course once I'd established an A). It was also during this period that I started looking for the next big project and turned this website into a blog.
The final piece on the recital, not including the obligatory encore march, was a three movement work called Olio. It featured a completely separate core of trumpet players, including the famous Jason Mirick and nearly as famous Dr. Allen Bachelder (subbing for the rock star, Andrew Simmons) since all of the earlier trumpet players were out at Top of the Stairs drinking after second intermission.
♠ Olio was one of the first commissions that actual saw a live performance (in my sophomore year), and I was in that dangerous composer phase where I expected that every performer was as good as the ones in my head. As composers mature, they begin to realize that the players in their heads could kick any real player's ass at Festival, and the complexity of their music softens sufficiently. Some composers never realize this and have to pay to get their music performed.
♠ The second movement of this piece was based around a Bb vamp with quartal chords (quards). I had to get creative with the sustained bass line and breathing, because no one had invented a tuba that converted carbon dioxide into oxygen yet.
♠ The genesis of this piece was a percussion recital, so there's random percussion stuff all over -- this is intentional and not an attempt to use every single drum patch on the MIDI keyboard. The vibraphone solo in this movement never came out correctly.
♠ I had not yet been exposed to Les Miserables when I wrote the oboe solo here. Apparently, there are only so many ways you can rearrange notes in music.
♠ Musicians have a much more difficult time playing "four notes in the space of three" than they do playing "three notes in the space of two". Based on my previous research with quintuplets, I would suggest that introductory music theory course include lessons on counting higher than 3.Unfollowed: How a (Possible) Social Network Spy Came Undone
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