10/2012

Monday, October 01, 2012

Weekend Wrap-up

I spent the entire weekend moping around with a sore throat and low-grade fever, which is not unlike a fever that went to public school. Meanwhile, my sister had her second son on Friday. Nephew #2 is named William Aubrey Binder. The "Aubrey" is after my maternal grandfather, and the "Binder" is for the school supply of the same name. Congratulations!

Babies everywhere!

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

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Composing Spotlight: Labyrinth

Movement VIII. Determination Redux

Continuing the walkthrough of my Master's Thesis...

The eighth movement of this piece started on page 59 of the score, and having composed it from start to finish in order, I was sick of it. By now, it had been six months since the beginning, and I was back in Virginia for a 2002 winter break that was just slightly colder than a Tallahassee winter break.

The benefit of composing in order was that, by now, I knew exactly where the piece needed to go and what I wanted to say in the remaining measures. The poking and meandering of my composing process closely mirrored the exploratory approach of the protagonist in the labyrinth, which sounds more meta than it actually is, and will be useful when my music is adapted into a David Lynch movie.

For the first time, a key center is reused, as the material from movement II is restated. I intended this movement to feel like a lock-and-key, with all of the countermelodies working together to focus the melody. In Movement II and much of the early material, the melody was under constant pressure to winnow away to distraction. Here, each use of a countermelody pushes towards an inexorable conclusion of cacophony. The end of this movement becomes a blur of sound, with an acceptable range of phasing allowed between the poor musicians vamping on short, tight motives, and represents the completion of the labyrinth.

    Listen to the eighth movement (1:25 MP3)

Jump to Movement: I | II | III | IV | V | VI | VII | VIII | IX

tagged as music | permalink | 0 comments

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Anniversary Day

Three years ago...

And today!

The pond is slightly larger than it once was. And, the wine is more pricey.

tagged as day-to-day | permalink | 5 comments

Thursday, October 04, 2012

The Ladder of Opportunity

Fill in the blank with the name of a presidential candidate of your choosing, such that the cartoon accurately depicts your preconceived (yet totally correct and awesome) world view.

tagged as politics | permalink | 0 comments

Friday, October 05, 2012

Movie Day

In public school, I learned that you should always show a movie on Fridays. This pre-1982 home movie is probably why I have short hair today.

tagged as media | permalink | 4 comments

Monday, October 08, 2012

Columbus Day

Get off the Internet, go outside, and buy something for Mike's imminent birthday.

permalink | 1 comment

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Composing Spotlight: Labyrinth

Movement IX. Egress

Concluding the walkthrough of my Master's Thesis...

I enjoy ending pieces with lots of flash and finality, and intentionally went in the other direction to close out the final movement of Labyrinth. In this case, I started with the original melody from the first movement:

Like a devil-worshipping 60s band, I then flipped the notes around and played it backwards to create the closing melody:

In spite of the "falling through the movements" feeling I captured, and the meandering nature of the thematic content, the piece is actually very symmetrical, opening and closing in the same place, and allotting similar time slices to the beginning movements as the end movements. This high-level design isn't really noticeable to a listener, but hopefully makes the sum of the movements more satisfying.

    Listen to the ninth movement (0:58 MP3)

After three months of score editing and proofreading, I defended my thesis on 3/3/03 at 3 PM, although it was more of a rubber-stamping than a spirited debate. I then moved back to Virginia and put my music masters degee to work writing service-oriented architectures for the DoD.

Jump to Movement: I | II | III | IV | V | VI | VII | VIII | IX

tagged as music | permalink | 0 comments

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Memory Day: Ten Years Ago Today

October 10, 2002 was the first death knell for my adolescence-prolonging grad school career. It was on this date that I sent an email to the company that I had interned at for three summers to see about a full-time position:

(This is not a date I celebrate regularly with paid time off and a parade -- I just happened to be doing a search through every email I've ever written last night, and it turned out that this was the only email sent on the particular day).

My reasons for switching from music to computers were outlined in this post, but the gist of the matter was that I was, and still am, a lazy introvert (albeit an extremely efficient one), and the amount of non-composing-related work I would have to do throughout a composing career to sell myself was not very appetizing. I didn't want to have to write music for rent money or subscribe to the obituaries to find backwater colleges where the tenured composer had just croaked in hopes of fighting twenty other composers for a job. I especially didn't want to have to smile and nod through endless concerts of atonal contemporary music where everyone in the audience secretly knows that mainstream listeners will never take any of it seriously.

Once I'd gotten the offer from FGM (software developer level 2 of 6, at $58k), I put my Masters coursework on autopilot and spent the remaining months in Tallahassee working on my thesis, playing Scrabble with Mike and Kathy, and buying Booty. With ten years of perspective, it was definitely the correct choice!

tagged as memories | permalink | 3 comments

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

My Name Is Earl, Season 1:
This is an older sitcom about a petty criminal who decides to make up for all of the bad things he's done in his life. The "checking things off the list" approach lends itself well to individual episodes and the show sometimes has a surprising amount of feel-good in it for what's essentially a trailer-trash comedy. Free on Amazon Prime, and worth every penny.

Final Grade: B+

Kick-Ass (R):
This is a fun, different take on super-hero movies, featuring a normal guy that isn't very good at being a super-hero. It's unabashedly violent, and is notable for featuring the little girl from Hugo as a swearing, destructive sidekick, Hit-Girl, as well as a surprisingly low-key Nicholas Cage who isn't overacting about bees.

Final Grade: B

How I Met Your Mother, Season 7:
This show needs to end now. Season seven retreads plenty of old ground and has a few worthy laughs, but whenever it tries the Scrubs approach of injecting some seriousness, it just ends up with "depressing" instead. It doesn't help that so much of the future has been foreshadowed now that there is no reason to get emotionally invested in any particular new relationship between characters -- we've already been told that they don't work out.

Final Grade: C

2nd Law by Muse:
You can read my full review of this album over on Amazon.com. In a nutshell, it was disappointing. The music was spastically all over the place with less of a focus on thematic coherency and more focus on filling up the CD. There are a few decent tunes towards the beginning of the CD, but the last half is forgettable.

Final Grade: C+

tagged as reviews | permalink | 0 comments

Friday, October 12, 2012

Chad Darnell's 12 of 12


6:07 AM: Waking up to cats.

6:23 AM: Booty offers to help me work, but is really in it for the space heater.

8:19 AM: After breakfast, Rebecca gets started on her neverending studies.

9:13 AM: Booty offers me lumbar support, but is really in it for the warm seat.

10:45 AM: Traffic at 11 is pretty identical to traffic at 6.

10:55 AM: So early to Popeyes that they hadn't made any fries yet.

11:20 AM: Lunch at my desk.

3:58 PM: Driving home after meetings.

4:01 PM: This unwieldy sign is 0 for 2 at surviving wind storms. This is why they put it back up again.

4:30 PM: Treadmill time with Jack Bauer.

5:45 PM: Time for Torchlight 2.

8:45 PM: Safeway Pizza for dinner.

tagged as 12 of 12 | permalink | 0 comments

Monday, October 15, 2012

Random Cartoon Day

Following the conclusion of LOST, Harold Perrineau was fortunate to find continued acting work as the spokesman for a drill company.

tagged as random, media | permalink | 0 comments

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

List Day: 8 Musical Tropes That Need to Stop

  1. Synthesized Brass Samples: The only circumstances where you're allowed to substitute MIDI for brass instruments is if you're writing music for a cruise line commercial in the late 80s.

  2. Fade Outs: You shouldn't be allowed to release your song until it has a great ending. Wouldn't you be upset if your favourite book just faded out? If you're having trouble writing one great ending, write about twenty mediocre endings and stack them -- it worked for the Lord of the Rings movies.

  3. Autotune: I'll give a pass if you use autotune for it's intended purpose, because I don't want to listen to your awful off-pitch singing. However, is your song really going to be better if you sound like a robot? We should be wary anytime "robot" is the object in a sentence (for example, "Dance The Robot", "Watch a Movie About a Robot", or "Have a Physical Relationship With a Robot").

  4. Techno Farts: Why are all techno bass lines sampled with some variation on a duck fart? And because it's techno, the farts occur on both 1 and 3 AND 2 and 4. There are so many bass farts that I start getting a placebo smell effect -- either that or the people I'm around use the songs as cover for their bowel issues.

  5. Triple and Quadruple Stops: Triple stops are like growing fuzzy back hair on an otherwise sharp attack. If you can't hit all of the notes at the same time, don't fake it. You're playing a violin not a piano.

  6. 8-bit Video Game Samples: It's bad enough that you're an indie singing dude who managed to find mainstream popularity without any sense of pitch -- drop the ugly, retro Mega Man samples and autotune yourself instead.

  7. Hidden Tracks: Gee, thanks for turning your 28 minute CD into a 42 minute CD by adding 12 minutes of silence and a crappy studio outtake.

  8. Unaccompanied Solos for Monophonic Instruments: Hey Mr. Composer, go outside and make friends with some more musicians.

tagged as lists, music | permalink | 3 comments

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Stuff in My Drawers Day: Mail Edition

Thirteen years ago today was the day after the VT-Syracuse game which we won 62-0. It was also Homecoming, Alumni Day, and the Marching Virginians' 25th Anniversary celebration. I'm sure that Dave McKee just sent this email out in relief over the fact that we had exceeded extremely low expectations for behavior, and no one had died from acute alcohol poisoning while cameras were rolling.

Twelve years ago today was the day I finalized my list of music grad schools to apply to. I actually had to think for a few minutes to remember the schools -- the list included FSU, UT Austin, U Kentucky, Northern Illinois, U Maryland, and one of the Michigans.

Ten years ago today, I was a music grad student at FSU, but still receiving emails from my future place of employment. Jack was not yet a part of the Defense monarchy -- just a software engineer on a team.

Nine years ago today, I was receiving feedback on the domain name I should register for this website. www.urizone.net was the winner.

Eight years ago today, I was the Back-End Technical Lead on the Metadata Registry, which meant that I was an expert on all things related to the "back-end". I regularly wrote giant emails full of boring information (and still do today!).

Six years ago today, I was buying a video game for Anna's birthday, and working my way through Scrubs.

tagged as memories | permalink | 2 comments

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Seven Languages in Seven Weeks by Bruce Tate:
I picked up this programming language survey book in an attempt to work some software engineering back into my daily routine. It's a decent mix of code samples, directed explorations, and exercises for Ruby, Io, Prolog, Scala, Erlang, Clojure, and Haskell. There's not enough material to become fluent in any particular language, but that's not the point of a survey text. The most useful sections summarize the strengths and weaknesses of each language in the context of the other languages, and the least useful sections anthopomorphizes each language as a character from a famous movie, in a horribly failed attempt to add levity.

Final Grade: B-

Fallout:
I spent five minutes downloading this old game from Steam, twenty minutes troubleshooting the VGA rainbow graphics issue I hadn't encountered since owning a 386, thirty minutes figuring out the best way to allocate the starting stats, and two minutes fighting a rat. Sadly, I think this game has fallen into the "too old to be enjoyed" bucket along with NES games, black and white movies, and Dick Clark.

Final Grade: Ungraded

The Dictator (NR):
The problem with Sacha Baron Cohen movies is that you have to wade through an arbitrary, unnecessary plot structure to get to the one or two hilarious jokes in a sea of unfunny mediocrity. This movie was a little zippier than Borat, but I still would have rather watched the best parts (the ad-libbed conversations with his henchman, Nadal) as short Youtube clips.

Final Grade: C+

Homeland, Season One:
If there were a way to only get Showtime every Sunday and then cancel it on Monday, this show would make it worthwhile. It's a thriller about a POW who returns home after 8 years in captivity, and a CIA analyst who thinks he may have been turned by terrorists. The show relies much less on cheap tricks, explosions, and car chases, and more on pure character development and psychological suspense. Meanwhile in my rewatch of the 24 series, someone in CTU is refusing to follow orders because they don't like their boss and/or coworkers -- guess which season!

Final Grade: A

tagged as reviews | permalink | 12 comments

Friday, October 19, 2012

Mashup Day: Doogie Howsereen, M.D.

Have you ever been sifting through your extensive music collection in search of Halloween music and stumbled across the theme from the Halloween movies? Did you then lament the fact that no one had ever made a mashup combining it with the theme from Doogie Howser, M.D.? Happens to me all of the time.

This is why people with otherwise useless music degrees are an integral slipknot in the weave of today's society.


tagged as mock mock, music | permalink | 2 comments

Monday, October 22, 2012

Weekend Wrap-up

The town of Winchester and I recently got a divorce, so we are splitting custody of Rebecca for the rest of the year: I get her on the weekends, and she goes to her physical therapy clinic in Winch-town for the other five days. This was the first weekend back, so we engaged in mostly American pastimes, such as eating dinner at Red Robin, or eating dinner at Maggiano's, or sitting on the couch watching TV (Chuck, as recommended by Paige) with Booty.

We also started combining the bit parts of our Halloween costumes together to make sure we're prepared. I have a few simple rules for costume selection: It can't be so bulky that I don't fit anywhere, hands and mouth must be clear for devouring food and beverages, and it should be easy to use the bathroom. These rules also apply to my daily ensemble since I dress myself.

What are you going to be for Halloween?

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

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Survey of Jazz History

Between 1994 and 2002, jazz was the primary type of music I listened to. I was that annoying kid that had 90.1 FM blaring in the car until they ran out of money and stopped playing jazz before 11 PM. I own at least twelve CDs by the Stan Kenton Orchestra, and stayed home learning the chord changes to Eager Beaver while all of the other high school senior boys were searching for eager beavers of their own.

I lost some of my interest in college, after multiple semesters of failed jazz band auditions while watching some obliviously horrible trumpeters make the cut -- apparently Chip McNeill was not a fan of my mellow tones. He did, however, teach me one important lesson: always take courses taught by the jazz faculty, because they're never in town to have class. Numerous jazz arranging classes and studio labs became easy As on the transcript, and all I had to do was show up to find the cancellation note on the door (jazz musicians don't dig email).

This lesson stuck with me in grad school when, for some peculiar reason, I had to fulfill a Masters requirement with a survey level music appreciation class. I ended up in Jazz History II, a lecture course full of uninterested freshman that only met about 50% of the time because Leon Anderson was always touring.

Our final assignment was to listen to a CD of an improvised jazz solo and transcribe it to the best of our abilities. Curious to see if I could still follow the changes, I picked the fastest solo I had in my CD collection, Wynton Marsalis playing Well You Needn't with Herbie Hancock:

  • Listen (0:30 MP3)

I will always treasure the comments I received on my assignment:

When I resume my trumpeting career, and open at the Montreal Jazz Festival, the copy on my poster will read: "Internationally acclaimed trumpeter, Brian Uri!: It's like he knows what he's doing and he's pulling it off."

tagged as memories, music | permalink | 4 comments

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

12 of 12 Fallout

From the 12 of 12 archives, here are 11 occasions where I had Velveeta Shells and Cheese (a.k.a. 1200 calories in a pot) for lunch or dinner. This meal instantly became 50% healthier when I met Rebecca and she started eating half.

Fun Fact: I have not eaten Shells and Cheese at all since April 12, 2012. On the downside, this makes for one or two days a week where it's that much harder to come up with meal ideas.

tagged as 12 of 12 | permalink | 6 comments

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Review Day: Torchlight 2

There are no spoilers in this review.

I can't argue against the fact that I enjoyed the first 100 hours or so of Diablo 3, but ultimately, even rose-colored glasses of nostalgia couldn't conceal the lack of longevity in the game's design. The series went from "fast-paced clickfest to get better loot" in D2 to "increasingly difficult arcade game where you amass gold to buy the best loot at the Auction House" in D3. When loot itself is not the point, but only a means to get farther along in a nonsensical storyline, it's just not worth the grind. And, killing monsters to earn gold to trade for a weapon will never be as rewarding as finding that weapon in the course of the game -- if I wanted the former, I would go to the mall and play Skeeball for tickets.

Torchlight 2 is much closer to the game I hoped I'd get in Diablo 3, made by the original Diablo developers and featuring the sometimes-too-familiar music of Matt Uelmen. The formula is improved slightly (for example, a pet that can sell all of your trash loot so you never have to return to town), but the core gameplay is fun and familiar. Clicking always feels responsive, although there are sometimes pathing issues in very narrow areas of the map. Going against the example of recent Blizzard games (and most porn), you do not need to be connected to the Internet to play with yourself. For team play, both Internet and LAN options exist, but there are no closed servers or "Battle.net"-like functionality.

Environments are varied and colorful, with a cartoonish look that never takes itself too seriously. The story is merely a skeleton to hang loot upon, and it can be completely ignored -- it never bashes you over the head with butterfly witches, elementary plot twists, or really awful dialog. The loot has much more variety, and unique properties on your items make trade-offs much more thought-provoking than D3's "find the piece with your primary stat and sell the rest" approach.

Torchlight 2 reverts back to the old system of granting stat and skill points to allocate each time you level up. I never minded Diablo 3's no-penalty reassignment system, but have no problems with this system either. The skill trees are more like skill shelves: there aren't prerequisites, so you don't have to invest in useless low-level skills to unlock higher ones. The permanence of this system might lead you to planning paralysis though, if you are one of those gamers that plots out their build before starting the game. I definitely spent too much time theorycrafting characters on paper, but for me, it's fun.

It's true that I got my $60 of entertainment from Diablo 3, but I've already exceeded that amount with Torchlight 2, a $20 game. It won't change your life, but it's an engrossing loot-whoring game with a wide variety of character build possibilities. It's also perfect for the gamer that can only play in short bursts because they made the mistake of getting married, having kids, or committing to more tangible extracurricular activities -- you can pick it up, play for twenty minutes and be satisfied.

Final Grade: B+

tagged as reviews, games | permalink | 0 comments

Friday, October 26, 2012

Party in the (B)USA

We're open for murder business...

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

Monday, October 29, 2012

Halloween Media Day

Pictures from the Halloween Party have been added to the Life, 2012 album. The newest twist on the party pastiche was a game of chance where you popped a balloon and either won an Amazon.com gift card, or were put under an unfortunate curse for some duration of the party.

tagged as media | permalink | 5 comments

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hurricane Day

Remember back in high school when you would gamble on the likelihood of a snow day by not completing your homework the night before? Well, that's why I have nothing prepared for today's post. I've had belches stronger than this hurricane.

In other news, we have begun to use dirt as currency.

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

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Random Chart Day: How I Feel About Pigs In a Blanket

tagged as data | permalink | 0 comments

 

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