05/2011

Monday, May 02, 2011

Weekend Wrap-up

I stayed in on Friday night while Rebecca went out to a friend's Royal Wedding party. I didn't watch any weddings, although I DO plan on ordering an awesome tafetta headpiece resembling an abstract groundhog with tentacles and wearing it to any formal events in my future.

Saturday was a work day -- I worked a bit on DDMSence, sanded a wall, discovered that my remaining supply of Nougat paint had finally dried up into a paint discus, and picked out a replacement grill for the 7-year-old one in my backyard. For dinner, we went to the Nippon Japanese restaurant in Herndon, continuing our trend of liking restaurants with so few diners inside that they're probably in difficult financial straits. This worked out well for us, because they kept sending us free appetizers and sushi and asking us to come back soon.

The music inside the restaurant was a typical trendy XM-style station, heavy on Japanese dance beats, but at one point during the evening, a song came on where the chorus was "I'm going to f*ck you tonight" repeated continuously over a dance beat. Apparently no one else in the restaurant could speak English, because no one batted an eye. The sushi was delicious though.

On Sunday, we had pancakes for breakfast, set up the badminton net, and grilled steaks for a late lunch. When it started to rain, we moved indoors and watched WarGames on Amazon Video on Demand, starring a pre-Ferris Matthew Broderick. For dinner, I whipped up an impromptu batch of Egg Drop Soup, making use of Rob Kelley's patented slurry techniques. For future reference, you don't need to use extra salt if you're mimicking chicken stock with boullion cubes. There's a fine line between Sodi-yum and Sodi-yuck.

Brown recluse spiders moving north
Wal-Mart shoppers running out of money
Woman fined $300 for ex-lax cookie prank

tagged as day-to-day | permalink | 1 comment

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

List Day: Upcoming Milestones

  • Sam & Kristen's Wedding in Richmond.
  • Rebecca goes to Peru for two weeks.
  • URI! Kitchen Remodeling, starring BU and his dad.
  • Job Change from Technical Lead to XML Information Engineer (still at FGM)
  • BU finally releases DDMSence 1.8.0 eventually, even though he hasn't had enough uninterrupted time to devote to it.
  • Rebecca turns 28.
  • Frank & Amanda's Wedding somewhere in the North Carolinan heartlands.
  • OBX Week in Corolla at the "Sea Prize".
  • Weekend Camping in the Maryland Wilderness
  • Rebecca goes back to school.
  • BU has birthday steaks.
The Naughty Word list of MK9
I accept you. You accept me. And that's the way it will be.
Not all young Australian men want more sex?

tagged as lists | permalink | 1 comment

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Osama Analogy (Osamanalogy) Day

reaping the benefits of Google search trends while the reaping is good

The news that Osama bin Laden was finally killed in a military raid in Pakistan is not unlike the series finale to LOST -- more punchline than epic wrap-up, it lends itself to a brief, satisfied moment of closure before gnawing doubts creep in to highlight the lingering unresolved questions and sense of futility and waste surrounding the entire venture.

In the beginning, a compelling case for action unifies everyone with a fervor to see things through to the end. People are energized and sharing their thoughts around the watercooler constantly. Around Season Three, plot holes start to creep in with annoying regularity, and you get the sense that there really isn't a master plan, almost as if the writers have attended the Robert Jordan school of treading plot water.

Season Four brings incredularity. Why can't anyone find this place? We have satellites pointed all over the world and I can see my house online.

By the time you hit Season Five, everyone's just tired of the whole affair and wants it to be done. However, at this point you realize that you've invested so much in reading forums and purchasing the overpriced DVD sets that it's hard to abandon all of your efforts to date. Plus, the writers have dug themselves so far into a hatch that there's no clean exit from the debacle.

When the end finally comes, late at night after most people have gone to bed, it doesn't solve anything, it doesn't fix anything, and no one has come back to life. You realize that if you had directed all of that time and energy to something more worthwhile, you might be a much better person today. You still can't help but think, "Thank God it's over!" though.

Google Reviews for Osama's Hideout
Starlet Found Mummified in Beverly Hills Mansion One Year After Death
Eurovision guides reprinted due to mistakes

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Thursday, May 05, 2011

Review Day

There are no spoilers in these reviews.

In the Plex by Steven Levy:
I enjoy Levy's articles in WIRED and his previous book, Hackers so I picked up the Kindle edition of this book, even though I was a little Googled out after reading The Google Way. This book is better in every way -- it's less of a theoretical explanation for profit and success, and more a history / behind-the-scenes look at everything Google has done. The chatty, easy-to-read quality of Levy's prose makes it an easy read, and the fact that the book is organized by "types of inventions" rather than a continuous timeline does a nice job of tying everything together. I never got bored reading this book, although less technical folks might not get quite as much out of it as I did.

Final Grade: A-

Heroes, Season Three:
This season was awful, and only survived the F zone because it started to improve towards the end. The season has no clear focus and mainly involves the heroes running in circles, gaining powers, losing powers, or acting in ways completely outside of their predefined characters. Anytime a plot rears its head, it probably came straight from one of the plots already done in The 4400, and in a much more amateurish way. The last five episodes are actually pretty good, but it's too little, too late.

Final Grade: D+

Black Swan:
As a Darren Aronofsky movie, I expected some level of weirdness or artistic freedom here, but the movie managed to be weird without really resonating with me. Other than the fact that Mila Kunis and Natalie Portman are the stars, there's nothing here that would make me watch it again. If you like weird, psychological movies, you'll probably find something to enjoy here, but it wasn't my thing.

Final Grade: C+

Office, Season Four:
This is the writer's strike season, so the number of episodes is greatly pared down (at normal prices, of course). There are also more "super-size" episodes that are doubled in length. The problem with super-sized Office episodes is that the show is best taken in small doses. Twenty minutes is the perfect amount of time for a fresh, funny plot -- any longer than that and it just becomes apparent how irritating some of the characters are.

Final Grade: B-

Why Wood Pulp Makes Ice Cream Creamier
Bin Laden Aides Are Said to Have Bought Bulk Orders of Pepsi, Coke
German mayor rescues man trapped in women's prison

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Friday, May 06, 2011

Friday Fragments

a dramatically fluctuating wavelength of awesome

♠ Our basement is currently filled to the brim with the detritus of human consumerism, since our Naughty Alder cabinets arrived on Wednesday afternoon and are currently crashing rent-free next to the stainless steel appliances, including a dishwasher which will replace the current anemic appliance which could be more aptly described as a dishdampener. It doesn't actually clean the plates anymore -- it just soaks them thoroughly and heats them to a temperature incapable of aiding in water evaporation.

♠ On the porch is the new Weber Spirit grill with cast iron cooktop, which replaces the 7-year-old Char Broil special which survived with only 2 burners for the past 6.5 years and dripped grease all over the deck. Mike (of Mike and Chompy) also owns this grill, and I've heard that when people in New Hampshire own something, it's definitely top quality.

♠ We grilled steaks on Wednesday night to break in the grill, and both came out perfectly, with a minimum of oversight -- this grill resembles what I would want my employees to be like if I had the patience to own a business.

♠ Speaking of work, I am ending my 7-year stint on the Metadata Registry and moving into a role that bridges the Department of Defense, Intelligence Community, and others, and was described to me as "listening to highly technical people describe what they want, and translating it into non-technical jargon to get things done". There won't be any Java development here, but it's good career experience and will keep me from getting pigeonholed, and anyone who has ever taken Discrete Mathematics knows that pigeonholing is lame.

♠ Plans for the weekend include a stop to see my visiting sister and nephew this evening, followed by a few hours of work over the weekend to wrap up some old job stuff before moving on to the new job. Beyond that, the weekend looks pretty light, so perhaps we'll take an overnight trip to Maui or have an impromptu grilling party.

♠ Have a great weekend!

Fed up with Phoenix, Tucson talks secession from Arizona
Excuse me, but aren't we brothers?
"Home Alone" house for sale for $2.4 million

tagged as fragments | permalink | 1 comment

Monday, May 09, 2011

Questions Day

Because the last Questions Day was such a hit, it's time for another one! Question categories can range the gamut from things about me, the types of home appliances I might recommend, or just plain trivia questions that have stumped you for generations (the bicycles are a deck of cards). I will take to most interesting questions and answer them on Friday.

I realize that the literary content of this post is fairly low, but the payoff is an Answers Day on Friday, and sometimes in life, you have to wade through a few miles of manure to kill that cow for steaks.

Could Crows Have Helped Bring Down Bin Laden?
Tiny robots reveal why we share
Japanese lab invents Internet kissing

tagged as you speak | permalink | 5 comments

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Other Corners Day

Many pictures of my home have ended up posted here, but they all seem to be taken from the same angles. Here are four random views of corners you might not have seen before.


This is the surreal corner of my home office. The iron is here, because the laundry room is cold and dusted with kitty litter. I bought the eye chart on Amazon for $7, and use it to refocus my eyes every few hours while working on the computer.


This is the wedding wall in the guest bedroom, containing trinkets from every wedding I've ever attended. There are pictures on the bed because we've been meaning to hang them up but haven't quite gotten around to it yet.


This is the bookcase in the family room, and contains a hodge podge of books I rarely ever reread on the left side. The right side is Rebecca's side, which she uses more for keeping track of miscellaneous junk rather than for books.


This is the highly organized wall of the basement storage room, containing everything you need to maintain or raze a home. Because I live next to a forest, I never need the outdoor garbage bags, but they're great for decorating walls in a Halloween party.

Swedish insect shoots larvae into your eyes
NY studio plus-sizes the pleasures of yoga
One Professor's Attempt to Explain Every Joke Ever

tagged as random | permalink | 3 comments

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Memory Day: Snapshots


You might conclude that 1983 was the maximum saturation point for pictures if you didn't know how many bushels were created in the subsequent fifteen years. When I was young, my hand were always filled with either a bucket, a shovel, or a stick. My shirt is not actually inside-out -- it's one of those intentionally stylish affairs that goes well with the plaid.

Deaf men stabbed after sign language mistaken for gang signs
Religious paper apologizes for erasing Clinton
Gene Simmons faced cyberattack by Gig Harbor man

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Thursday, May 12, 2011

Chad Darnell's 12 of 12


6:08 AM: Fresh from the shower.

6:23 AM: Getting to work, the homebound way.

7:41 AM: Breakfast with Booty, after dropping my car off for inspection and emissions.

8:44 AM: Working in spite of Amber.

10:09 AM: In Rebecca's car, enroute to collect the Accord.

10:17 AM: Inspected and good for another year.

12:45 PM: Working with Booty, after a lunch of Shells and Cheese.

2:29 PM: Working on DDMSence 1.8.0.

6:45 PM: Playing World of Warcraft, in spite of Booty.

7:21 PM: Preparing for Steak Night.

7:48 PM: Grilling and reading.

8:15 PM: Steak Night!

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

Let quantum physics officiate your wedding
Japanese bra carries message of encouragement
Buried alive! How not to have fun on a Florida beach

tagged as 12 of 12 | permalink | 1 comment

Friday, May 13, 2011

Answers Day

the thrilling conclusion to Questions Day

"How often do you rearrange your living room, and is it just to get a new vantage of things and keep thing fresh or because you think the setup works better?" - Evil Mike

The living room actually hasn't been rearranged for about two years now, and has only been in two basic configurations since my 2004 Rearrange My Living Room contest. The main hurdle in my urge to rearrange is that as televisions get wider, the number of places where they can be in the room without blocking a window decreases. The alternate configuration, which puts the TV against the inner wall is nicer looking, but puts the couch so far away that you have to turn the volume all the way up to hear anything, and then it echoes like my parents' house when they're watching CNN in the morning.

"If you could be shrunk down to the size of a cell and injected into someone like that guy in the movie Innerspace, who would you want to be injected into?" - Steven

It would have to be someone who exercises regularly enough to not have clogged arteries, because I sit in enough traffic in the real world. They should also have done a wide variety of recreational drugs, so all of the bizarre mutations floating around in there would look cool in my tourist snapshots.

"If you had to rank them what would be your top 5 loved/favorite video games?" - Evil Mike

In no particular order:

  • World of Warcraft
  • Ultima VI
  • Doom II
  • Monkey Island II: LeChuck's Revenge
  • Sam & Max Hit the Road

"What is the source of your avatar 'Cattlebruiser': (1) an anagram of 'Battlecruiser', (2) a play on 'Bulls-hitter', or (3) something even worse?" - Mom

I came up with this Starcraft handle one evening in 1998, when everyone was sitting around in a chat channel instead of playing the game (This has since become the recommended way to succeed at ANY online game). The origin is a reversal of the first letters on the game unit, Battle Cruiser. Since my online handle at the time was ~Squiggy~, it was not hard to convince myself to upgrade to a better one.

"If you didn't have to work (or really report to anyone other than maybe your wife), where would you live and what would you do with (to?) yourself to occupy your days?" - Doobie

I would live in a place with direct access to a beach, pool, and Internet. I would spend the first two months doing nothing but playing video games until I got sick of them and got it out of my system. After that, I would probably be just as productive as I am today, perhaps with slightly more composing and slightly less coding. I might even get around to finishing my replacement for MacGamut and Practica Musica.

"When will Mike (of Mike and Chompy) update his website again with tales of adventure?" - Evil Mike

Mike is so busy failing his students or dating his coworkers (both of which are allowed -- it's the reverse that is frowned upon) that he'll probably never update redzeppelin.org ever again. He would probably have to clone himself, but that can't happen anytime soon since he doesn't understand how the body works at a cellular level.

"If you undergo gene therapy how many genes do you have to change in order to get the end result? All of them? One of them? I honestly do not understand how this works." - Chompy (the dog)

Unfortunately, we're out of time today, but this question will be given its own Day sometime next week, on a very special update of the URI! Zone.

Imaginary Marching Band: Sensor-equipped glove mimics real-world instruments
Newt Gingrich's Amazon reviews
BOOM! Goes the Dynamite Under Facebook's Google Smear Campaign

tagged as you speak | permalink | 5 comments

Monday, May 16, 2011

Weekend Wrap-up

Other than the release of DDMSence 1.8.0, which adds support for mutable builders, and has seen a surprising initial surge of downloads from China (OMG SPIES.), the main event this weekend was the marriage of Sam & Kristen Edwards, at a working train station in downtown Richmond.

Afterwards, we helped to Optimus Prime the room from a ceremony layout to a heavy hors d'oeuvre layout, a task made more difficult by the fact that the tables couldn't be dragged across the floor in such a historic setting. This rule would have made more sense had the tables been made of such fine materials as plywood or helium, but not so much in our granite, cast iron, and chunks of sumo wrestler reality. We did get help from a local employee who observed the heavy lifting from afar and shouted, "NO DRAGGING!" whenever we got within an inch of the floor -- that person would probably not be very good at Taboo because of too many false positives.

The next morning, we had breakfast at a local, organic restaurant called Cafe Gutenberg, where we learned that organic food apparently takes three times as long to prepare. An hour and a half later, we were back out on the street with full stomachs, and closed out our Richmond trip with a tour of the Edgar Allen Poe museum. This eclectic set of exhibits included a painting with a sign which stated, "This painting has POE signed in the lower righthand corner. We don't know if Edgar Allen Poe ever painted anything, so this might be painted by him. Or it might not. Peace."

Now that we're back up north, it's time for Rebecca to pack for her trip to Peru, while I get ready for a week of cabinet installations with my Dad!

Court: No right to resist illegal cop entry into home
Tweeting celebrities risk boring fans
Donkeys Take Over From DSL as Syria Shuts Down Internet

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Answers Day, Part II

"If you undergo gene therapy how many genes do you have to change in order to get the end result? All of them? One of them? I honestly do not understand how this works." - Chompy (the dog)

The gene is the basic unit of heredity, and your genes contain specific sequences of instructions for creating the various proteins required to live. If a particular set of genes in your body is defective, either because you bought them at a yard sale or your mother was your sister, you end up with a genetic disorder. Gene therapy is the process of introducing fit genes that have been working out into your body, in the hopes that they replace defective genes, repair them, or counteract their effects.

The case below is taken directly from the mixed-up files of the National Institute of Health, and should provide an easy-to-follow example of how gene therapy works:

  • The test subject is a twenty-eight-year-old male living in West Chester, Pennsylvania. Because of HIPAA concerns, we will call him "Gene".

  • "Gene" is a second-generation immigrant. His mother was born in Beers and his father came from Gouda, and the pair left the Netherlands in 1976. "Gene" was born shortly after.

  • For all intents and purposes, "Gene" should be DUTCH. However, a rare genetic disorder has turned "Gene" into a DOUCHE, and as such, he is unable to function well in everyday society.

  • "Gene" participates in a clinical study, where scientists extract some of the DOUCHE and put it in a cup. They can study the DOUCHE to see what it has in common with the DUTCH, and create a special set of instructions that will specifically target the defective genes and try to correct the shortcomings. We call these repair instructions NIEUW DUTCH, or more colloquially, New York City.

  • Scientists then engineer a virus that cannot reproduce on its own, but is hardy enough to deliver New York City into the heart of DOUCHEland without triggering a response from the immune system. The virus here does not do any work other than delivery -- it is just a reliable, braindead carrier, comparable to UPS 2-Day Service.

  • "Gene" is injected with a dose of New York City. The hope is that the repair instructions will convert every DOUCHE into DUTCH. In other forms of gene therapy, New York City would simply reproduce faster than DOUCHE, until the DOUCHE is minimized, or New York City might just generate ANTI-DOUCHE in counterbalance. The end result in all successful cases is that the genetic disorder is corrected or minimized.

  • The open issue in all of these approaches is that it takes a lot of hard work and repeat applications to deDOUCHE something. A single injection, if it even works at all, cannot immediately fix every set of defective genes. "Gene" could wake up tomorrow and be just as DOUCHEy as ever, or his immune system could recognize that he has always inherently been a DOUCHE and completely reject the foreigners and their meddling ways. Even worse, the problem could be exacerbated, and "Gene" could end up a prime example of DOUCHÉ.

Any questions?

Keeping eyes on the fries
Funding arrives for floating path on River Thames
Twitter's new comedy genre

tagged as you speak | permalink | 1 comment

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Kitchen Remodeling Day

(775KB GIF)

Lazy Cakes: A Sleepytime Snack Elicits Public-Health Outrage
Fields of watermelon burst in China farm fiasco
Leaking house dials 911

tagged as day-to-day | permalink | 1 comment

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Kitchen Remodeling Day, Part II

(669KB GIF)

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Friday, May 20, 2011

Kitchen Remodeling Day, Part III

(599KB GIF)

The good stuff starts on Day Four.

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Monday, May 23, 2011

Kitchen Remodeling Day, Part IV

(606KB GIF)

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Kitchen Remodeling Day, Part V

(539KB GIF)

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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Kitchen Status Day

The kitchen is looking good at the moment, although there's no longer enough daily progress to warrant a high-tech slideshow. We actually got most of the heavy stuff finished by Sunday, and then I promptly got sick and was out of commission for the next two days.

The new solid-state countertop is an off-white "Vanilla Ice" and should be ready in three weeks, according to the contractor who came by yesterday to finalize the measurements. We'll put in a temporary countertop in the meantime, so we don't have accidents whenever we try to set our drinks down.

Also, Shells and Cheese doesn't taste any better when cooked on a stainless steel oven.

Our brains may be wired for negative gossip
German insurer Munich Re held orgy for salesmen
$2M Michigan lottery winner defends use of food stamps

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

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Review Day

There are no spoilers in these reviews.

Portal 2:
All of the thoughts from my Portal 2: First Impressions post are still accurate -- this was a great game and much longer than expected. There's a few issues with pacing in the middle third of the game and some of the plot twists are blatantly telegraphed, but I laughed a lot and never hit a puzzle that I couldn't eventually beat after taking a break. This is a game that's very good in short doses -- if you try to play it all the way through in one sitting, it might get a little tedious.

Final Grade: A-

the internet is a playground by David Thorne:
The new publishing paradigm is to find someone funny on the Internet and give him a book deal -- this is a collection of humorous exchanges and essays from 27bslash6.com mixed with a few new ones. The best ones, like Missing Missy, are already available online, but this collection is a nice coffee table book. This is another book that works best if you take breaks -- if you read more than a couple stories at a time, they all start to sound the same, but taken in isolation, they're sure to elicit a laugh.

Final Grade: B+

Weber Spirit E-310:
After seven years of heavy use, the flames on my old grill were more yellow than blue (not unlike a toilet bowl after the two thousand and first flush), and grilling steaks required a mix of cover acrobatics and witchcraft to accomplish. So far, all three steaks cooked on the new grill have come out perfectly, using just my basic timings, and the cast iron grille makes me feel like I belong to that elite group who likes old food on their new food (see also, pizza stones). The burners are lengthwise, so it wastes a little more propane when you're grilling small amounts, but it heats up quickly and cooks very evenly.

Final Grade: A-

Firefox 4:
I don't really have a problem with Firefox 4, other than the fact that the default UI must have been designed by the guy who thought that mouse gestures would be the next Big Thing. Out of the box, my beefs are:

  1. Merging the stop/refresh button and placing it to the right of the URL bar: I normally use keyboard shortcuts, but for the rare occasions where I click, I now have to drag the mouse a good 800 pixels between the Forward/Back buttons and the Stop/Refresh button.
  2. Moving the bookmarks menu to the far right: Maybe this is great on your 640x480 XP machine, but it's ostracized on any normal resolution.
  3. Eliminating the status bar: Converting the "loading webpage" messages into a POPUP that constantly resizes as the text changes and grabs your eye could be the worst usability idea ever. The Status-4-Evar add-on puts it back, but that forces you to install software with a lame name, which is win for exactly no one.
  4. Tabs On Top: Unless there's some sort of sexual innuendo here that I'm oblivious to, putting the tab bar above all of the menus and buttons is completely unintuitive -- it implies that "Firefox" is "inside a tab", when the traditional UI for every tabbed application out there is "an application containing tabs".

All of these "improvements" are easy to reset, but it really doesn't give me much faith in the Firefox design team. I hear they want to do away with the URL bar completely next -- it's time to start my second career as a phisher.

Final Grade: B-

Besides Noise, Vuvuzelas May Spread Airborne Germs
Best Illusions of the Year
Trucker a human balloon after falling on air hose

tagged as reviews | permalink | 2 comments

Friday, May 27, 2011

Peru Day

Rebecca says hi. I'm 30% sure this isn't a green screen. She might just be in Newport News at a bar.

China used prisoners for free gold farming
First cloned cat turns ten
Disney withdraws Seal Team Six bid

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

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

End-of-the-Month Media Day

New pictures have been added to the Life, 2011 album. You can also see pictures from Rebecca's Peru trip .

Horse herpes forces rodeo queens onto sticks
Man with no name but 12 IDs flees airport
CDC: How to survive a zombie apocalypse

tagged as media | permalink | 0 comments

 

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