09/2013

Monday, September 02, 2013

Answers Day, Part II of II

the sequel to Questions Day

i'm about to start broadening my cocktail portfolio (both drinking and making) - any good ones i should include? - Doobie

I've never really gotten into cocktails, because the sheer number of ingredients and effort you need to make something passably comparable to a bartender's concoction is daunting. This is also why I don't brew my own beer, make my own gaming computer, or do recipes from cookbooks with more than 8 ingredients. I like mojitos, but apparently they're a pain in the ass to create.

Where will you live when you retire? - KBS

Currently, my main criteria for a retirement spot would include:

  • Proximity to a beach, preferably with accessible hikes and random island cats wandering around like they own the place.
  • High speed Internet.
  • Proximity to stores and creature comforts, or reliable delivery services.
Our honeymoon condo is a viable spot, as long as Hawaii spends the next 40 years improving their Internet just for me. I'm thinking a really giant cable under the sea. Or space lasers.

Have you exercised your Greenbrier Resort award yet? and if so, did you see the secret Bunker? and if so, would you please review it on your blog? - Mom

Here is a flow chart of this question.

tagged as you speak | permalink | 1 comment

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Weekend Wrap-up

With no travel plans for the extended weekend, our time was mostly dedicated to low-key activities, like a lunch at Jackson's with Rebecca's parents on Saturday, and the third birthday party of Rebecca's cousin in Bethesda on Sunday.

I also started a new character in Skyrim, with my appetite whet from open worlding in Far Cry 3, and played it for longer than 5 levels, thanks to a new mod that let's you skip over the tedious four-hour tutorial-on-rails section.

On Monday, I officially demoted Bugler into my "unfinished projects" folder, to be replaced by Auricle, an aural skills application. I originally dabbled with this project back in 2003 but never got very far on it.

I decided to abandon Bugler, in spite of the 200 development hours I'd put in, because I had reached the point where I had learned everything useful I was going to learn from it. From the point where I was, the only conclusion I could see was a stable, minimalist product, written to show that I could do so, but used by no one.

The new project seems like it will be more useful and more fun, and also allows me to write programming posts for this blog while not boring the musicians in the audience. If there are any features you'd like to see in a web-based ear training tool, let me know!

tagged as programming, day-to-day | permalink | 2 comments

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Memory Day: Twenty Years Ago Today

Twenty years ago today, as a thirteen-year-old about to enter the 10th grade, I wrote my first ever journal entry. I would go on to maintain this journal at varying levels of diligence through 2005, but there is a charming naivete in this first year's entries.

*RECORD OF THOUGHTS AND EXPERIENCES. BRIAN URI *

September 4, 1993 6:10 pm Saturday

This is Brian Uri. I'm writing this file less to keep a record and more because I'm bored. In any case, I will probably forget about this file in a couple of weeks and not write anything else in it. By the way, the reason this file is disguised as a graphics data file is this: if my nosy sister, Ellen, looks through this junk, or my dad is sorting the hard drive and I put any personal info into this file (which I probably won't), they will be less likely to examine this file closely.

I screwed around with the date in the computer so these files look like they haven't been messed with since 1992. If anyone else is reading this, they are either nosy, experienced with DOS Edit, or fifty years have passed and I am a famous person (yeah right). I think that I'll use this file to record my thoughts (kind of like a diary) although I'm still undecided whether or not I should put the secret stuff in. I know a lot of stuff that is either embarrassing to me or other people. Some stuff could also get people into a lot of trouble. Oh well. If I continue to use this on a regular basis, I'll most likely end up leafing through these first few entries and laughing. My mom just made some nasty Tuna Helper junk for dinner so I have to go.

Like any teen with a secret journal, I was overly worried about it being discovered, which is why I named the file "GAME.CGA" and edited it with the MS-DOS text editor (this was before WordPerfect and password-protected files).

In defense of my mom's cooking, I would also like to point out that the very next entry opened with, "The Tuna Helper wasn't THAT bad. It was better than school food."

tagged as memories | permalink | 2 comments

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Weeds, Season Eight:
The final season of Weeds doesn't really add up to much, but it's a pleasant, obligatory way to end the series. The show was at its strongest in the first three seasons, but ends on a reasonably interesting plotline. The series finale episode takes a gratuitous left turn into settings from older seasons, purely to bring back some familiar faces, but it doesn't hurt anything by doing so.

Final Grade: C+

Daniel Tosh: Completely Serious:
This free comedy show on Netflix was forgettable. Tosh relies completely on outlandish shock humour, but his delivery is unrefined and a momentum-killer. There were a few laughs to be had, but not enough to warrant a recommendation.

Final Grade: D+

Cirque du Soleil: Quidam:
I got this show for Rebecca's birthday to be paired with our trip to the trapeze school. It evokes pleasant memories of our Canada trip, although the overuse of quick cuts in the camera shots reduces the intensity of the acrobatics. There are also far too many clowns, when we were more interested in the crazy, dangerous stuff. Still, it was a solid show with fun tricks and a decent score.

Final Grade: B

Cedar Rapids (R):
The cover of this movie does not do a good job of convincing anyone to watch it, and brings back memories of the time we stalled on watching The Office when we saw that the next episode focused exclusively on Andy in a musical. However, the movie itself is fun, surprisingly understated, and with a good batch of unexpected guest stars. It's not life-changing, but it's not as bad as the cover either.

Final Grade: B-

tagged as reviews | permalink | 0 comments

Friday, September 06, 2013

List Day: 5 Random Confessions

  • Until I recently looked it up on Wikipedia, I thought that the "stick" in "carrot and the stick" was the stick from which the carrot was dangling. I didn't realize that there was another stick smacking the donkey from behind while it walked towards the carrot in front. So, any time a book or movie had a line like "There's the carrot, now where's the stick?" I was completely puzzled as to what the stick would do that the carrot wasn't already doing.

  • Bullying is the latest teenage epidemic to gain some notoriety, but when I look back on my high school career, I cannot think of a single instance of bullying. I was never bullied, I never saw people bullied, and I never bullied anyone. Because of this, I probably don't appreciate the seriousness of bullying at all.

    This doesn't apply to middle school though -- everyone bullied everyone else in middle school because pre-teens are social monsters trying to survive.

  • I start restaurant tipping at an estimate of 20% but then round the change down so the total bill is a multiple of 25 cents. I deduct for unusually awful service. If there is a dude sitting in the bathroom with towels and cologne, I refuse to accept anything from him and may even leave with wet washed hands so I don't have to tip him.

  • After creating a grocery shopping list, I'll rewrite the entire thing in store order, so I can pick up items in the order that I encounter them in the store. I am a very efficient shopper.

  • When I was growing up, my dad hated driving me anywhere, so he would always try to offload me in other peoples' carpools (OPCs) without offering to drive himself. By tenth grade, it started to strain relationships with my friends' parents, so I used my savings to take the DASH bus home every day from summer classes while telling my parents that I was still in the carpool.

tagged as lists | permalink | 4 comments

Monday, September 09, 2013

Weekend Wrap-up

On Friday evening, after repairing a hole in the foundation of the house, I ate an entire Primo Italiano pizza while brushing the dust off of some music pedagogy books. I also rewatched Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, which retains its low budget charm.

On Saturday, we hiked two loops of the Billy Goat Trail on the Maryland side of Great Falls, bumping into an old coworker and also seeing how many people tripped over roots because they were busy looking at their phones. After seven miles of hiking, we stopped off at the Old Brogue in Great Falls for an early dinner and then closed out the evening with a Lost Cities championship.

On Sunday, I helped build a brick patio in exchange for pizza and wings. As with all outdoor home projects, the most tedious part was the prepping and leveling process -- once we got to the actual bricklaying, we were able to finish quite quickly.

Now it's time to kick off Birthday Week for my 34th birthday. How are you celebrating my life?

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

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Invention Day: Stick Figure Trolling

filling needs the world never knew it needed

Stick figure families are pretty ubiquitous in our area -- four to six cutesy cartoon figures decorating the lower left side of an SUV's back window (sometimes with names attached to aid hopeful pedophiles), directly across from the window stickers identifying the fifteen sports the kids play at Herndon High School.

Coming soon from my invention labs, using the profits from the Hood-Baby, will be a set of bonus stick figures that you can use to troll your family friends. The first prototype (concept art on the right) will be the Creepy Uncle. The next time you visit your stick figure loving friends, surreptitiously slap an uncle down next to the family and see how long it takes to notice.

Based on the expected success of Creepy Uncle, other varieties will be released, such as The Other Woman, Last Single Friend, and a special negative tint sticker that will let you "disappear" family members one by one over a month (or a single day if you are trying to convince your friends that they are living out the plot of Back to the Future).

Preorder your Creepy Uncle today!

tagged as inventions | permalink | 5 comments

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Memory Day: Snapshots

April 1983: I was the local muscle in these parts.

tagged as memories | permalink | 2 comments

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Chad Darnell's 12 of 12


6:22 AM: Getting a late start.

6:29 AM: Readying for work.

6:42 AM: No idea who approved this design.

7:59 AM: View from my office.

11:50 AM: The sign is understandable, but the double speed bump on each side of the crosswalk is excessive.

12:15 PM: Marie Callendar for lunch.

12:38 PM: Will be cute for food.

1:00 PM: Back to work.

3:15 PM: Checking on the tomatoes before thunderstorms.

3:31 PM: Treadmilling while watching Under the Dome.

4:45 PM: How am I still enjoying Skyrim?

8:45 PM: Leftovers night for dinner.

tagged as 12 of 12 | permalink | 1 comment

Friday, September 13, 2013

(Almost) Birth Day

tagged as day-to-day | permalink | 6 comments

Monday, September 16, 2013

Weekend Wrap-up

or "How I spent my 34th birthday"

  • Day off from work to read about ear training pedagogy and write code for Auricle on Friday.

  • Game Night with Anna and Rebecca, featuring corned beef and cabbage with tempranillo, Chuck, and Mario Kart Wii, also on Friday.

  • Miss Saigon at the Signature Theatre, with Rebecca, Annie, and my mom (review to follow on Thursday).

  • Saturday dinner at Lotus Grill followed by fake cake (or "fake") at my parents' house.

  • Brunch with the Cranes at Reston Town Center on Sunday.

  • Lost Cities with wine and cheese on the back porch.

  • Domino's pizza and wings with epsiodes of Awake and the last season of The Office on Sunday night.

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

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

List Day: 5 Games That Never Grabbed Me

  1. Okami ($19.99): You play a celestial wolf in a watercolour world that rights imbalances through Wii brush strokes and smashes jars for coins with wolf head butts. Got bored after the 2nd unskippable cutscene featuring a Zelda-like sprite comedically telling me how to play the game. Total Time Played: 39 minutes.

  2. Tales of Symphonia ($29.99): A typical Japanese Role-Playing Game with anime characters, random world battles, and a storyline that doesn't quite make sense. I always think I like JRPGs until I buy another one (see also, Dragon Warrior and Final Fantasy). Total Time Played: about 2 hours.

  3. Deus Ex: Human Revolution ($4.99): Tight controls, a shooter mixed with skill trees, and an intriguing introductory section, but I just stopped caring. I must just not like games set in the future that much. Total Time Played: 71 minutes.

  4. Deathspank ($14.99): A Diablo-like game written by the Monkey Island guy -- what could go wrong? Well, dialogue isn't as hilarious when you have to wait for the voice actors to finish speaking it, because your brain has already read the subtitles in milliseconds. And, trying to attack a chicken in fake-3D is as annoying as trying to jump across rocks in Ultima 8. Total Time Played: 86 minutes.

  5. The Swapper ($14.99): This is a fresh-looking puzzle game with a neat visual style, but after four or five rooms of turning lights on and off and positioning my character just right, I realized that I don't really like these kinds of puzzles anymore. Then I re-realized that I had already realized this when I bought Braid. Total Time Played: 58 minutes.

Cost of My Mistakes: $0.22 per minute.

tagged as lists, games | permalink | 2 comments

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Memory Day: Snapshots



Digging a mean hole, May 1981.

tagged as memories | permalink | 2 comments

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Review Day: Miss Saigon

as seen at the Signature Theatre

Of the Schonberg and Boublil musicals, I've always felt that Miss Saigon was the best holistic merging of story, music, and craft. Les Miserables, in spite of its role as a Broadway national treasure (sans Nic Cage), has a tiresome timbre problem and runs out of interesting orchestrations around the two-hour mark. Martin Guerre shared too much DNA with Les Mis to work on its own, and Pirate Queen was a completely forgettable cut-and-paste of measures from the other musicals. I hadn't seen a production of Miss Saigon since January 2004, and was eager to see how it has aged.

The weakest link in the show was the reduced-size orchestra. The musicians did their best, but were held back by jarring keyboard patches from the late 1980s, and not enough strings to really fill out the thick harmonic pads originally envisioned. The trumpeter may have been a puppy, given his overzealous excitement to play each high note as loudly as possible -- I could picture him sitting in the back of the pit thinking, "Ohmigod! I get to play high notes, yay! Here it comes, almost there! Isn't this fun?" BRAWWWP! "Yay there's another loud, high note in two bars! Rest in peace, Maynard! Hooray!"

I didn't care much for Ellen (either the character, the performance, or my sister). Although she was partly held back by the uselessness of the role in general, it didn't help that the first eight bars of her entrance were too low for the actress' range. She got better as the melody got higher, but then had the thankless job of killing the momentum in the second act with her signature solo. I've read that this has always been a tricky character to show as sympathetic, as evinced by the brand new song inserted in the second act, "Maybe". Unfortunately, it's worse than the previous "Now That I've Seen Her" (which was much better than the original "It's Her Or Me Now"), and shares nothing in common with any of the other songs in the book. The writers might as well accept that no one will ever see Ellen as a sympathetic character and leave the original music in.

With these nitpicks aside, the rest of the primary cast was strong across the board:

  • Thom Sesma as The Engineer was perfect, channeling bits of Jonathan Pryce while also carving out his own take on the role.
  • Diana Huey as Kim was also perfect, showing the full range of sadness-to-gladness, and somehow still having a voice after two and a half hours.
  • Gannon O'Brien as the really-lucky-understudy for Chris was much better than advertised. I actually thought his interpretation was very successful, and disagree with critics who said that he needed to be more of a manly man -- this is a Marine who sings fifty love songs in the first half alone. The Chris in My Mind is a whiny hipster.
  • Chris Sizemore as John was strong, but didn't have a lot to do.
  • Chris Mueller as Thuy was very satisfying in spite of his crazy hair. Some critics called his portrayal a caricature, which is unfair since the entire role is supposed to be a caricature.

Overall, the reimagining of Miss Saigon for the small stage at the Signature Theatre in Shirlington is successful, and no single flaw brings down the production. The more intimate sets, staging, and complete lack of helicopters, revolving stages, or flying chandeliers actually improves the show, allowing the leads to express themselves more subtly. When every member of the audience is less than 100 feet away, the need for overacting or big jazz hand motions is eliminated.

Final Grade: A-, definitely worth a watch before the end of its run (October 6)

tagged as reviews | permalink | 0 comments

Friday, September 20, 2013

List Day: 10 Most Used Electronics / Appliances

  1. Desktop Computer

  2. Laptop Computer

  3. TV / DVD Player

  4. Treadmill

  5. Kindle

  6. Toaster Oven

  7. Microwave

  8. Grill

  9. Beard Trimmer

  10. Cell Phone

tagged as lists | permalink | 0 comments

Monday, September 23, 2013

Weekend Wrap-up

To celebrate the turning of the seasons and make up for the fact that we never host stuff anymore, we had a Fall Barbeque on Sunday afternoon. Tired of dogs and burgers, I went high class in the grilling department and cooked up blackened chicken breasts and grilled tomatoes with mozzarella cheese. We even managed to get a few court neighbours to show up.

Because it was fall-themed, everyone showed up with Sam Adams sampler packs, which means we now have more beer than we know what to do with in our fridge (along with two prepped chicken breasts and six tomatoes). If you are hungry tonight and would like a plate of chicken with beer, please stop by.

Besides the Barbeque and preparations surrounding it, the rest of the weekend was low-key. I played some more Skyrim and started the new Tomb Raider game, which was on sale last weekend for $12, but got bored after the 50th "mash this button on your keyboard to pretend that you are actually interacting in this cutscene" event.

How was your weekend?

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

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

List Day: Currently...

  • Currently listening to... Watermelon, Chicken, and Gritz by Nappy Roots, and Say That To Say This by Trombone Shorty.

  • Currently reading... The New Kingmakers: How Developers Conquered the World by Stephen O'Grady and Teaching Approaches in Music Theory, Second Edition: An Overview of Pedagogical Philosophies by Michael R. Rogers.

  • Currently playing... Skyrim and Tomb Raider.

  • Currently composing... nothing.

  • Currently considering buying... a new badminton net that doesn't disintegrate after two weeks.

  • Currently coding... student accounts with varying privacy levels for Auricle.

  • Currently planning... whether to get away for our anniversary weekend in two weeks.

  • Currently writing... this post.

  • Currently watching... Awake, Season One, The Office, Season Nine, and treadmill-watching Under the Dome, Season One.

  • Currently anticipating... a week off next week for open-source development.

  • Currently exercising... about two hours per week.

  • Currently weighing... 124 pounds.

This update was sponsored in part by LiveJournal.

tagged as lists | permalink | 0 comments

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Time-lapsed Blogography Day

Twenty years ago today, on September 25, 1993, my family was on a Virginia road trip to visit college campuses for my sister's sake. This was the southeastern leg of college season, and in the space of about 18 hours, we visited Mary Washington, William and Mary, and VCU. We stayed overnight in a shady, cheap motel in Newport News, with the parents in one room and my sister and I across the hall underneath a happening motel party. After we beat on the ceiling, several burly guys came downstairs and told us (through the door) to mind our own business. On the way out of town, our college guidebook told us that we were near Christopher Newport College. Not realizing that it was a commuter school (and thus, a single building with a parking lot), we were already a mile past it after blinking and missing it, and thus, we were unimpressed.

Fifteen years ago today, on September 25, 1998, was the night before a VT-Pitt football game, and my parents were in town for Band Parents Day. We ate at "Pizza Inn" somewhere in Christiansburg because all of the closer restaurants were either too crowded or too expensive. I was unimpressed by the pizza.

Ten years ago today, on September 25, 2003, I worked an eight hour day (from 6 to 2) at FGM. I had a 10 AM meeting, and then spent the rest of the day doing documentation and researching how to integrate WebLogic 8.1 Portal Server with a content management system which was not impressive. After work, I walked my rent over to the office at The Elms in Centreville ($1135 for a two bedroom apartment). I always delivered my rent checks in person because of the cute woman that ran the rental office.

Five years ago today, on September 25, 2008, I announced the results of everyone's favourite Name That Tune contest, where all of the songs were playing at the same time. After work, I drove to Tysons and paid $131.25 to get Rebecca's engagement ring appraised, although she would not know of its existence for another 9 days.

One year ago today, on September 25, 2012, we had dinner at Sweetwater Tavern, as I was still trying to decide whether it was worth eating at or not. I remain unimpressed.

tagged as memories | permalink | 3 comments

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Watermelon, Chicken, and Gritz by Nappy Roots:
Apparently this album went platinum eleven years ago, but I'm only just now discovering it while diving deeper into the Mark Ronson rabbit hole. The album is full of catchy hooks, clever rhymes (probably the first time I've heard "ferocious" rhymed with "breakin' down bones like osteoporosis", and a healthy mix of different voices so it doesn't all start to sound the same. I especially enjoy the rapper that sounds like a cross between Bert (of Ernie & Bert) and Waluigi.

Final Grade: B+

Bongo Rock by Incredible Bongo Band:
I originally bought this because I enjoyed the bongo-driven arrangement of Apache, also known as "the song that Will Smith danced to in Fresh Prince". However, after two songs, you quickly realize that every bongo solo sounds pretty much like every other bongo solo, and putting together an entire album of arrangements around bongo solos is a pretty tedious affair. Buy a track and listen to it multiple times instead.

Final Grade: C-

Leverage, Season One:
This is a lightweight, charming show about grifters and thieves who only con bad guys, in a Dexter-meets-Alias kind of scenario. The show has a few light chuckles and is harmless fun. I wasn't invested enough in it by the end of the season to keep watching though, and its utility as a treadmill show was zero because there are no subtitles.

Final Grade: C

Orange Is the New Black (guest review by Rebecca):
My favorite Netflix discovery so far, Orange is by the creator of Weeds, but features more sympathetic characters. Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling) is a female, liberal arts graduate in her early 30s with a lovable fiancee (Jason Biggs). She has just been sentenced for transporting a suitcase of money when she was 22 for her then girlfriend, a drug trafficker. Ten years later, she has to pack up and do her time. She adapts to life in an all-female prison where power, sexuality, and social stratification are at the center. The prison inmates and staff are introduced as cut-outs of stereotypes, but are richly developed as the season goes on. When we learn that Chapman's female ex (played wonderfully by Laura Prepon from That '70s Show) is in the same prison with her, the plot thickens. The show is intense, but with delicious moments of comedy and joy. I heartily recommend that you walk, do not run, to your nearest Netfix-enabled device, and watch it. Oh, but do get ready for some steamy girl-on-girl sex scenes (but not quite as much sex as Game of Thrones).

Final Grade: A-

Orange Is the New Black (review by BU):
Rebecca binge-watched this series on her summer vacation, during a well deserved break after school and exams. I watched the first three episodes, and probably another half hour total of later episodes while passing through the room, but just didn't get into it. Either you need lady parts to really savor the show, or women's prison has been permanently destroyed as a viable TV show setting thanks to Prison Break: The Final Break. I can appreciate why everyone else likes it, but it just wasn't my thing.

Final Grade: Not Graded

tagged as reviews | permalink | 1 comment

Friday, September 27, 2013

End-of-the-Month Media Day

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

tagged as media | permalink | 0 comments

Monday, September 30, 2013

Weekend Wrap-up

On Saturday morning, we got up early to go hiking at Sugarloaf Mountain. The hike set itself apart from other hikes by its sin wave of summits, which put the highest summit within the first quarter mile, followed up regularly-spaced smaller peaks.

In the evening, we met up with Rebecca's cousin, Elizabeth, and had dinner at Mighty Mike's, where the basement-cousin, Abby, works. The bar/restaurant is a throwback to old Sterling, barely satisfying the intent of the Virginia restaurant smoking law with its million parts-per-million of smoke particles suspended in the air like poor special effects in a high school play. However, the food was good and the ambience was friendly, as long as you don't mind washing your clothes afterwards.

On Sunday, our friends, the Cranes, had a "gender reveal" party where the baker secretly put their baby in a cake so we could cut it open to see what color it was on the inside. As you can see from the visual aid, Rebecca guessed correctly that it would be a girl.

We then came home to close out the evening with some of the ninth season of The Office, which is surprisingly good and definitely has a "final season" feel to it.

I'm on vacation this week to work on Auricle, so blog updates may be sporadic, erratic, insipid, or all of the above.

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

 

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