02/2013

Friday, February 01, 2013

The Daily Hour

The Daily Hour experiment continues with only 3 days skipped in the month of January (all blamed on Evil Mike's various wedding activities). I have not yet tired of any activities yet, so the basic categories I've selected from remain the same. However, I will probably get around to learning some new computer languages in the near future.

The chart on the right shows how I've spent my time so far. I've made progress in each area and learned a few lessons along the way.

  • Wikipedia: My daily reading of the featured Wikipedia article is occasionally enlightening, but more often boring. People seem to enjoy creating long, tedious articles for trivia tidbits that could be explained more clearly in a single sentence or on the back of a Trivial Pursuit card. Also, Wikipedia articles about single episodes of TV shows are dumb.

  • Paravia: I have successfully broken the inertia of my year of inactivity on this wiki exercise.

  • Organization: I have sorted several files, cleaned up tons of junk on my computer, and cleaned out that top shelf full of wine bags in the dining room.

  • Exercise: There are no episodes of 24 left, so that must mean I'm permanently done exercising. However, Rebecca does not approve of this interpretation, so I'm now rewatching the less sucky epsiodes of Community.

  • E. Bass: I'm trying to relearn the exercises I can already play, but without open strings. It seems pedagogically poor to introduce open strings up front if you're just going to instruct me to stop using them ten pages later, right? Right?

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Monday, February 04, 2013

Weekend Wrap-up

It snowed all weekend long in Sterling, but the total accumulation still ended up being zero -- a level of payoff not experienced since I last watched the complete LOST series. In between the flurries, I put in some voluntary overtime, getting a particularly persnickety project building on a continuous integration server and writing data access objects.

I also hit Costco on Saturday morning to secure a box of bacon-wrapped beef tenderloins with Gorgonzola cheese. In the afternoon, I fixed a rattling damper vent in the depths of my ducts, using only a piece of carpet stapled to a leftover piece of molding and my dad's snake-like spy camera.

For dinner on Saturday night, we tried something new: the Euro Bistro in Herndon. An Asian-owned restaurant selling German and Austrian food would seem out of place in any other city, but the food was actually quite good, if a little pricey. (Once a restaurant's entree prices start tickling the dank underbelly of $20, they fall into the "special occasions" bucket). It was also surprisingly packed at 8:30 PM and featured an accordion player.

On Sunday, I developed some Spring controllers and started a new Borderlands 2 character for the heck of it. In the evening, we baked our box of bacon-and-cheese-encased beef and headed to a Super Bowl party at the Crane's. We did not win any money in the Final Digit Bingo game, although we managed to crack open our final roll of year 2000 Sacagawea dollars (of 4 rolls gifted by my parents at 2000 Christmastime) to use as bet money. It should only take another five years to use up the remainder, since "legal tender" doesn't necessarily mean that "people like accepting them".

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

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

List Day: 5 Random Confessions

  • I have an irrational fear of getting towed and will never risk parking in a dubious towing location. I have never actually been towed.

  • I was initially underwhelmed at the poetry reading during the Inauguration ceremonies. Then, I realized that he hadn't actually started yet and that his introductory paragraph was poem-length. I was still underwhelmed after the real poem.

  • Browsing through a bookstore is a 100% guaranteed method for making me need a #2 bathroom break. I don't know what I'll do when Barnes and Noble goes out of business.

  • To this day, I don't know, or care enough to know, how an Employee Stock Ownership Plan works. I was in one for ten years, and then they shut it down when the company was purchased, so I no longer need to know. That's called knowledge efficiency, not laziness!

  • When I read the newspaper, I always skip stories about theatre arts, any country in the Middle East we haven't recently invaded, Putin, baseball, or Maryland.

What would you like to confess?

tagged as lists | permalink | 3 comments

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Stuff In My Drawers Day

If we're being completely honest, there were probably signs as early as kindergarten that I would not make it as a professional artist.

And, third grade was the nadirial zenith of my poetry career. The rhyming scheme in this award-winning sample is known as ABCDEF.

tagged as memories | permalink | 4 comments

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Questions Day

I don't have anything new to review today. While I rectify this shameful situation by ordering things on Amazon, you should ask me some questions. Whether it's trivia, recommendations, hypotheticals, or higher education, I'll pick the best ones and answer them next week.

If you can't think of any questions, then just take your favorite quote and put a question mark at the end of it.

tagged as you speak | permalink | 9 comments

Friday, February 08, 2013

Game Day: Settlers of Catan, Two Player Variant

Rebecca and I enjoy playing Settlers of Catan in spite of its ten hour setup time. The problem with this game is that it's really geared for four players. With just two, the pace is sluggish and there isn't much interaction between players, but whenever you have four, you never get to play the original game because everyone shows up with all of the expansion packs that let you ride dolphins or what have you.

To increase our enjoyment of the two-player version, we have invented and refined this variant on the standard gameplay. The changes make two-player games much more interesting and competitive, while still being close enough to real thing so you can remember how to play with the real rules when you go to your regional Settlers championships.

During Setup:

  • Before shuffling the tiles, take the Desert tile and one Sheep tile and turn them over to show the watery backside. Lay them out according to the normal setup rules. This will leave two ponds on your island.
  • Deal out the numbered/lettered pogs normally. The only change is that the 2 and the 12 pogs both end up on the same tile. Rolling either a 2 or a 12 will now get you this resource.

During the Game:

  • Increase the robber card threshold to 9.
  • On your turn, you roll twice in a row to get resources.
  • If you roll the Robber twice in the same turn, the second Robber is ignored.

By playing with these rules, we've found that we're more likely to build near each other or compete for road space, and we're not consistently overloaded with sheep. Enjoy!

tagged as games | permalink | 1 comment

Monday, February 11, 2013

Weekend Wrap-up

Here is a round from a game of Telestrations, played on Saturday night with the Ahlbins and the Smiths. The game is like a round-robin Pictionary / Telephone hybrid.

Yum!

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

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Chad Darnell's 12 of 12


5:32 AM: Alarm clock math.

5:44 AM: Showered for work.

5:58 AM: Since we're no longer the majority tenant, I now work in the BECHTEL building.

6:47 AM: Coding.

12:59 PM: Someone with an identical car parks next to me every day. Twins!

1:15 PM: Welcomed home by cats.

1:27 PM: Turkey and deer sausage sandwich with mustard and onions.

2:10 PM: Working from home with Booty.

4:12 PM: My current nemesis is string rattle.

5:30 PM: With no more episodes of 24 to run to, I'm rewatching the non-bad episodes of Community.

6:34 PM: Chicken fingers for dinner.

7:30 PM: Watching Justified with a belly Booty.

tagged as 12 of 12 | permalink | 3 comments

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Time-lapsed Blogography Day

On February 13, 1996, I was a high school senior at the awards ceremony for writing this short story in the Reflections Contest. With 2nd Place in the bag, I got to shake the hand of Alexandria Councilman Bill Cleveland. This might have been a big deal at some point, but I feel like I was shaking this guy's hand every other week with all of the crappy awards I kept winning throughout my childhood.

On February 13, 2002, I went to the theaters with Kathy to watch Gosford Park. Luckily, our friendship survived.

On February 13, 2003, all of my ear-training students descended upon me en masse to ask for letters of recommendation which would snag them a spot in the high-tech music dorm. Of course, all of the letters were due on the 17th, because musicians don't care about planning ahead.

On February 13, 2004, I had been a home-o(wner) for exactly 1 day. I took off work and spent the day scrubbing the crayon off the basement walls while listening to a Tower of Power anthology CD set. I guess this means that I've lived in Sterling for 9 years today!

On February 13, 2007, Rebecca fired a warning shot across the bow of my online dating profile. I then tantalized her with the pun in this post which eventually led to our first date at Chili's over President's Day weekend. I guess this means that I've known Rebecca for 6 years today!

tagged as memories | permalink | 5 comments

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Alice in Wonderland (PG):
Rebecca actually liked this movie more than I did, and the whole time I was watching it, the only word that came to mind was "obligatory". I guess when you have Tim Burton try to apply his weirdness to a franchise that's already inherently weird, the weirdness cancels out. The graphics and style are vivid and well-done, of course, but they never exceed expectations. I did enjoy the animation of the Cheshire Cat, but it was annoying to turn up the volume every time Johnny Depp mumbled through his lines while being EXCITINGLY FRESH AND ZANY. A couple related dance sequences near the end also broke the fourth wall down completely.

Final Grade: C

Celeste and Jesse Forever (R):
This was a pleasant, believable romantic comedy about a couple several years into marriage. It doesn't rely on villanous characters or contrived happy endings, and was a nice way to spend a movie night last weekend.

Final Grade: B

Justified, Season One:
This show about a U.S. Marshal in present-day Kentucky was not something I would have normally picked up on my own, but apparently my parents are getting better at recommending shows to me (in spite of the fact that they keep trying to sell me on Upstairs, Downstairs). The tone of the show is low-key but never boring, and after a diet of so many increasingly gratuitous Showtime and HBO shows, it has an understated charm that I really enjoyed. Well-acted, good story arcs, and a good guest appearance by the actor who played Tom Friendly the Other in LOST make this show worth watching. I hope that Robert Knepper (T-Bag from Prison Break) shows up somewhere in a future season.

Final Grade: B+

tagged as reviews | permalink | 5 comments

Friday, February 15, 2013

Answers Day

the sequel to Questions Day

If you had to choose only one video game (either console or PC) to play the rest of your life, what would it be and why? - Katie Lucas

I would want a game without much of a start or finish, like a game from this list of mindless addictions. If I could find a way to play it again without getting migraines, I would pick Minecraft. Second choice would probably be Doom 2. If my pick ever got too boring, I would go over to your house and play your obvious pick, Donkey Konga.

Why do you like the color blue so much? Oh wait, I just read about eye physiology - is it because of your color blindness? How many (out of 3) of your cones work? And which ones? - B

Because of my red-green colorblindness, blue is the only part of the spectrum where I have complete confidence in what I'm seeing. I once painted some leaves in Art I in tenth grade, and the teacher asked why all the leaves were dead. She then had to mix the colors for leaves for all future nature pictures. I don't know anything about the cones, so I'm going to posit that my snow and sugar cones are working, but my waffles are effed.

Here is a post I wrote ten years ago about how I see those weird colorblind test charts. Below is a picture of what I see when I watch the Muppet Show.

If you were asked to design a new Monopoly token, what would it be? - Mom

The requirements of a good token are:

  • Tall enough to be picked up easily.
  • Flat enough to fit well between two fingers.
  • Stable enough to not fall over when someone hits the board.

Therefore, it is scientifically accurate to say that the best token would be a giraffe with a really long neck that has just finished drinking out of the watering pool, so its legs are still splayed about but its head is up in the air.

What would be your ideal super power (individual power, "omniscient all-powerful godly superman multi abilities" does not count as one)? - Evil Mike

Stopping Time.

Do you ever harbor escapism fantasies and, if so, where do you think you might like to escape to? - Chompy (the dog)

I'm happy where I am. Were I to escape, it would be somewhere beachy where physical isolation is counterbalanced by online connections. Which brings us to...

if you won the lottery and got to take home $75M after taxes, how would you spend it? - Doobie

We actually had a discussion similar to this at Eggspectation a few months back. First, I would put together a studio orchestra and record all of my compositions -- musicians these days work for pennies on the dollar. Next, I would move to Hawaii and support a beach bum lifestyle where my highest monthly expenditure would be the highest speed Internet service possible. After twenty years, I would still have about $70 million left, which I would donate to worthy and not-so-worthy causes with the caveat that I get to dictate exactly how the money is spent. For example, renovating the turf in the UVA stadium but stamping VT all over it, or forcing people to compete in a reality show for scholarship money. When I died, none of my future kids would get more than $100,000 each because people born into money are usually lame.

tagged as you speak | permalink | 2 comments

Monday, February 18, 2013

Weekend Wrap-up

  • On Friday afternoon, we went out to lunch with one of my coworkers. I learned that "2" on the Taste of the World spiciness scale is more like a "9" in base BU.

  • I cleaned out several files in the file cabinet, including a complete set of weekly Convocation programs from the VT Music Department from 1996 - 2001. I only kept the ones with my name in them, because they might be worth something some day.

  • On the electric bass, I can play the bass line from the Super Mario Brothers 2 overland theme in C major.

  • I'm learning the Python programming language from a book written for college freshmen. It's actually refreshing to find a book that ties the language to computer science fundamentals, rather than having 20 pages of syntax and 500 pages of copy-pasted library references stolen from the Internet.

  • I had a swiss-shroom burger at Red Robin on Saturday night.

  • Rebecca is currently learning about a variety of genetic diseases that PTs often encounter. Since we share the office, I heard "Thank goodness you don't have [disease]!" every hour.

  • I made several under-the-hood changes to the URI! Zone on Saturday, upgrading to Spring 3.2 from 2.0, and making it easier for me to track down old posts.

  • I finally got tired of Borderlands 2 and am half-heartedly playing Skyrim again. Any PC game recommendations?

  • We watched There's Something About Mary over steaks last night, and found that it's held up very well for being 14 years old now. I was not a fan of the Extended Version, but then again, I don't think I've ever watched an extended or director's cut version of a comedy and thought it was better than the original. Those failed jokes were cut for a reason.

tagged as lists | permalink | 0 comments

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

List Day: Software Versions

I miss the halcyon days when software updates were only 1 MB, Adobe Flash did not need to update every five minutes, and Java didn't come bundled with the Ask toolbar (because real net savants only use BonziBuddy). I tend to get stuck on the last version before the first version that sucked, and never go back to see if more recent versions are better.

  • I'm still using AIM 5.1 from grad school, because it was the last version that also worked with DeadAIM 3.2.1 to put all my IMs in tabs. I only use IM for work now anyhow.

  • I'm using Windows 7 because it came pre-installed, and I like it more than Vista but less than XP. I hate that they changed "Backspace" to "previous folder" rather than "up one directory level" back in the Vista days, and still haven't gotten used to it.

  • I still use NoteTab Light 6.2 for text editing, even though it crashes on large files. I started using it for all of my dangerous PHP and Javascript website editing before Eclipse existed, and stuck with it because it remembered the last directory you saved things in, and had a shortcut for MAKING EVERYTHING UPPERCASE. This is a useful shortcut for HTML editing and being dramatic.

  • I finally bought a copy of Photoshop CS4 after using old versions of my Dad's software for many years. I find it no better than Photoshop 7, and dislike that it installs all of its cousin products like a secret tenant.

  • I still use WinAMP 2.7 from college, when its tagline was "WinAMP, it really kicks the llama's ass!", because its Random All function works exactly how I want it to.

  • I use Word 2010 after giving OpenOffice an honest chance for four years. The latter is good enough for grandma's recipes, but horrible when you collaboratively work on documents with other Word users. Surprisingly, I finally got off of WordPerfect sometime around 2009.

  • I'm on Firefox 18.0.2, in spite of its ridiculous versioning cycle, solely for AdBlock and Firebug.

  • I bought Finale 2011 and hate it, but no earlier versions work with Windows 7. Finale 2011 does nothing better than Finale 2002 except add a bunch of poorly-designed garbage to distract from how bad your music sounds.

Any software I should consider upgrading? Has something finally got better? Should I be using something different? Let me know in the Comments section!

tagged as lists | permalink | 3 comments

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Memory Day: Snapshots

This picture was taken eighteen years ago today, on February 20, 1995. I was a junior in the marching band and we were marching in the George Washington Day Parade in Old Town Alexandria. In addition to the ludicrous design of the uniforms as you see them here, each coat also had a cape that hung from just one shoulder, like it was designed by Superman if he only flew to his right.

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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Review Day

There are no spoilers in these reviews.

Think Python by Allen B. Downey:
This is the book I'm using to learn Python. It's written for a beginning CS major and is well below my level, but is pretty good pedagogically and does as much (if not more) to teach CS fundamentals as it does Python. The part I like, and the reason I picked it, is the inclusion of exercises to try at home. More programming books should include these.

Final Grade: B+

Grow Up and Blow Away by Metric:
This album walks the fine line between weird and catchy, and often pops up on my "Bird and the Bee" Pandora station. I enjoyed about half of the songs, but the whole thing is not even 40 minutes long. The only short thing associated with an album is the Asian listening to it.

Final Grade: B-

Gamers at Work by Morgan Ramsey:
This book is a collection of interviews of prominent people who started their own computer game companies. It has the same problems as Coders at Work: most people aren't really interesting enough to sustain an entire meandering chapter. I would have preferred to see the interviews distilled and compressed to just the interesting parts. The book also focuses more on the entrepreneurial aspect of starting a company rather than the design of games, and I would have enjoyed the latter more.

Final Grade: C-

Cougar Town, Season Three:
This was the final, abbreviated season of the show before ABC cancelled it and TBS picked it up. It's pleasant and has plenty of laughs, often feeling like a version of Scrubs/Friends without any pathos or serious drama. Fun enough as a throwaway show.

Final Grade: B

tagged as reviews | permalink | 0 comments

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Daily Hour

I've made a little change to my Daily Hour project, because I am not a slave to routine. (The only things I'm a slave to are DVD players that can hold more than one disc, and sometimes the Irish Beer Sampler pack at Costco). Since the beginning of last week, I've dropped the 10 minutes devoted to reading the featured Wikipedia article of the day. More often than not, it's an innately boring, if well-annotated, article about extinct birds or coin currency, because apparently you can only have great citations on something if its body of research is forever finite.

Instead, I do three activities for 20 minutes each, or exercise for 40 and throw in a side order of one activity. Learning Python is going well, and putting me in the mood to do other programming-related tasks. I'm also working slightly more this month, which makes me more inclined to run on the treadmill instead of doing more brain-work. Yesterday evening, I shrank to 120 pounds, which means that soon I'll be able to seesaw successfully with high-school coxswains, but not in a creepy way.

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Monday, February 25, 2013

Weekend Wrap-up: Luma Theater of Light

In lieu of the usual holiday party at a local hotel bar, my company did something a little different on Saturday night, apparently stressed out that they would have to top the awesome Air and Space Museum gala they held last summer. The evening's entertainment was "Luma Theater" at the Strathmore in Bethesda, with our free tickets normally running over $30.

The show was disappointing, starting from the forty minutes we sat on the road outside the venue while Obama's motorcade departed from the previous event, denying us the mingling and libation time that would have greatly improved the Luma portion of the evening. After arriving in our free seats at the back of the theater, we became inured to a two hour show involving people dressed in black, juggling with flashlights.

Were I visiting Busch Gardens on a sweltering summer day, I might step into a cool, air-conditioned building for temporary relief, and something like Luma might be a show I would enjoy seeing for all of ten minutes before returning to the queues for the Big, Bad Wolf. However, it never creeps beyond the "Well, that's nice" phase and certainly doesn't succeed as the main attraction. Rebecca's initial hopes that it would be kind of like Cirque du Soleil were irrevocably dashed.

Really, there's only so many minutes you can watch people dancing around wearing glow-sticks before you realize that the only gimmick is the absence of overhead lights, a phenomenon that occurs nightly in the natural world. It wasn't even very skillful -- the Luma Theater of Light had not claimed elemental mastery over Sound, and we heard the telltale clattering of juggling pins dropping to the floor on four separate occasions in a single skit. Performers were not quite in sync while dancing to popular tracks from Caribbean Tunes (with Ocean Sounds), and after the part where they asked everyone to pull out their cellphones to add to the light, most of the audience kept them out to check email for the rest of the show. A five minute monologue listing the different kinds of lights was reminiscent of Bubba Gump's shrimp.

By the time intermission came around, we had been watching for thirty minutes too long, with another forty-five minute section after the break. The high point of the show was when it ended and they threw beach balls into the audience, but even MUSE did that better at the Patriot Center.

As the performance was wending its way into overkill, I came up with some alternate titles that might have been better than "Theater of Light":

  • IMAX Presents: Tapeworms!
  • The Show After The Show that Obama Went To
  • Live Action Windows Media Player
  • Herndon High School Spring Play
  • Cirque du Soleil Sans Acrobatics or Contortionists
  • Screensavers of the 1990s
  • Puma Theater of Fright (assuming that they replace all of the glow sticks with vicious cougars)

Final Grade: D. Skip it unless you can get in for free, or they incorporate my idea about pumas (Creative Commons Attribution licensed).

tagged as mock mock, reviews, day-to-day | permalink | 4 comments

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Weird Habit Day

Last year, I revealed that the "Carnival of Venice" starts playing in my head without fail every night before I go to bed, not unlike an accelerated performance schedule of the Legwarmers at the State Theater. However, it's not the only one. Another such song that pops into my head without hesitation is a pep band song I wrote in 1997 called "Giblets".

I've never even actually heard this song performed by a band that wasn't brought to you by the Roland Sound Canvas, so I don't know how it has such lasting power.

When I'm running around a track and my mind starts to wander, inevitably "Little Boy Sweet" from the movie Vacation will creep into my brain. I watched that movie many times before the age of 8, but never again until just last year.

I don't see any connection between the various songs, but maybe if I play them all at the same time, the door to a treasure trove will open up. Or, my brain will explode.

tagged as random | permalink | 0 comments

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Memory Day: Thirteen Years Ago Today

On February 27, 2000, Shac and Kelley had a student recital in an interminable line of student recitals. Using my newly discovered Photoshop skills, I provided them with a set of incredibly pretentious recital posters, including one which just called it "The Recital".

I probably turned pages for accompanist, Jim Bryant, on this recital, as that was my go-to way to get better at reading piano scores and learning not to write block chords with 11 notes in my own piano parts. I also performed anonymously in Intrada by Otto Ketting.

Intrada was one of those weird solo pieces where the composer believes that people want to sit through a trumpet player talking to himself with dissonance for several minutes. Shac "improved" the piece by narrating a poem over the top of Kelley's performance, and then had me perform the last couple bars from the Green Room for an artistic fading-away effect. Quality theatrics!

tagged as memories | permalink | 2 comments

Thursday, February 28, 2013

End-of-the-Month Media Day

New photos have been added to the new Life, 2013 album. Enjoy!

tagged as media | permalink | 0 comments

 

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