11/2013

Friday, November 01, 2013

End-of-the-Month Media Day

New pictures have been added to the Life, 2013 album!

It's actually the beginning of the month, but it is also a Friday, which trumps the turn of the calendar.

tagged as media | permalink | 0 comments

Monday, November 04, 2013

Weekend Wrap-up

  • Finished reading the books, Naked Statistics and Hyperbole and a Half.

  • Started watching Person of Interest, Season One.

  • Returned to Harpers Ferry for an 8 mile hike so Rebecca could enjoy the colourful leaves that, to me, are monochromatic.

  • Visited the 868 Estate Winery for a tasting.

  • Had dinner at Delmarva's, where it turned out to be "Keep the Glass" night. Left with a matching set of 4.

  • Reorganized my entire CD collection.

  • Picked up some pre-marinated pork at Wegmans, which was tasty and convenient, but nothing we couldn't have done ourselves.

  • Did lots of laundry.

  • Planned out our voting stratagems for Tuesday's election. (Yes to public safety bonds, no to athletic field bonds, no to "Doing yoga invites the devil into your soul" Lieutenant Governor).

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

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Vote for BU

Ken Cuccinelli is using "think of the children" as an excuse for laws about my penis. Terry McAuliffe looks like that douchey senior from the high school crew team who probably has at least one DUI concealed by his dad's lawyer. Robert Sarvis is getting the obligatory praise usually reserved for the one-legged track star earning a participation trophy. One might say that we have reached the end times, if one wanted to be all biblical about it.

In harsh conditions like these, you might as well throw away your vote on me! I'm pretty sure I could get at least 1% of the vote, and as you can see below, my platform is eminently appealing:

  • No more sales tax on Amazon.com purchases.

  • Super-high gas taxes on SUVs with no passengers, wimpy-looking cars from Maryland with loud, annoying souped-up engines, and texters.

  • Special exemption from the "no foreign presidents" law, specifically for my good friend, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

  • Statewide redrawn voting districts, based either on topography or on the mad scrawlings of a preschooler.

  • Reregulation of the cable industry.

  • A tax on dogs to pay for a stimulus on cats.

  • Nintendo will no longer be allowed to use the words "New" or the name of their gaming system in the title of any video game.

  • Northern Virginia gets to use all of the money it contributes to Virginia coffers, even if it means that Rural Retreat has to revert to horse-drawn buggies on gravel roads.

  • Free travel on the Dulles Greenway and elimination of monthly Smart Tag fees.

  • If J.J. Abrams starts a new show, he has to stick with it through the conclusion, and not abandon it after two seasons.

  • Invasion and annexation of the Outer Banks.

  • Deprecation of the "No Child Left Behind" law in favor of a "No Left-Handed Child" law.

  • Immediate cease-and-desist on the creation of the CBS spin-off, "How I Met Your Father".

  • Removal of the "80 mph counts as reckless driving" speed cap.

  • Arlington may no longer reuse numbers and letters on completely disparate streets.

Get the word out! Vote BU for Virginia Governor!

tagged as politics | permalink | 2 comments

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Stuff in My Drawers Day: Evolution of Artistic Talent


Thanksgiving Turkey, Kindergarten 1984: Excellent spongework.


Thanksgiving Turkey, First Grade 1985: Kind of emo, but excellent attention to leg detail.


Thanksgiving Book, Third Grade 1986: I don't remember hiding a robot in this cover.


Thanksgiving Turkey, Fourth Grade 1987

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Thursday, November 07, 2013

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

This Is The End (R):
This is a throwaway comedy of the "Apatow actors" (playing themselves), who are partying at James Franco's house when the apocalypse occurs. It's full of crude humor, fun cameos, and a few great laughs, and doesn't outstay its welcome. Much of the comedy hinges on how the personalities of the actors greatly differs from their normal screen characters, so some familiarity with their movies (like Pineapple Express) will increase your enjoyment.

Final Grade: B

Say That to Say This by Trombone Shorty:
I loved Backatown, and loved the non-vocal parts of For True. However, this new album is pretty forgettable. All of the rough, fun edges are polished down for commercial appeal, and there aren't really any memorable hooks throughout. He seems to have fallen off the funk wagon and onto the adult contemporary wagon.

Final Grade: C-

Naked Statistics: Stripping the Dread from Data by Charles Wheelan:
This introductory statistics book purports to put a different spin on the subject: rather than teach the concepts through math, it chooses instead to put the concepts into context of why they're important in the real world. This is keeps the book interesting for the first 2/3rds. After that point, the book is held back by the fact that there's too much math to easily conceal behind light-hearted examples and simple hand waves. I still enjoyed reading it as a refresher, 14 years after my A- in Probability and Statistics for Electrical Engineers.

Final Grade: B-

The Guild, Season Six:
Season Five of The Guild kind of lost its way, distracted by too many convention cameos and the lure of having a real budget. However, Season Six returns to the core of the gaming group and provides a nice finale for all of the characters.

Final Grade: B+

tagged as reviews | permalink | 1 comment

Friday, November 08, 2013

List Day: 10 Unnecessary Things

  • The "Turn on Annotations" control on YouTube

  • Marching band baton twirlers

  • Automatic flush on sit-down toilets

  • Ford Taurus

  • Hashtag suggestions overlaid on TV broadcasts

  • Parsley

  • The View (instead of Download) button on Google Drive / Docs

  • Five digit street addresses in the suburbs

  • The volunteer manning the paper ballot vacuum

  • Parades

tagged as lists | permalink | 5 comments

Monday, November 11, 2013

Weekend Wrap-up

  • Wrote unit tests to increase code coverage.

  • Continued watching the fifth season of Parks and Recreation.

  • Started reading Learning From Data, and then decided to take a nap on page 2 where all of the mathematical symbols started appearing.

  • Purchased a 3DS XL (my first new console purchase since 2006), and am pleasantly surprised (so far) by how much the 3D doesn't suck, and the fact that it hasn't given me a migraine yet. Currently playing Super Mario 3D Land, and Fire Emblem: Awakening.

  • Went to Costco to stock up on ham and bacon-wrapped scallops.

  • Drove out to Linden, Virginia, for Rebecca's cousin's birthday. Enjoyed the pleasant, yet chilly, Blue Ridge view from Fox Meadow Winery.

  • Raked the front 40 and the back 40 (for a total of 80).

  • Celebrated an early Thanksgiving with the Newdorfs and the Wilmers. Simultaneously solved the entire week's worth of dinners through leftovers.

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

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Chad Darnell's 12 of 12


5:15 AM: Ready to work.

5:26 AM: This intersection looks a little seedier every year.

7:50 AM: Working.

8:11 AM: Incoming cold front.

11:33 AM: Lunch stop.

11:48 AM: News and lunch.

12:15 PM: Back to work for a little while longer.

2:14 PM: Making maps for upcoming trips.

4:00 PM: Digging through the archives for something to post about tomorrow.

4:18 PM: Playing 3D games.

5:01 PM: Exercising and watching Alias, at the point just before it started to suck.

6:48 PM: Leftovers for dinner.

tagged as 12 of 12 | permalink | 3 comments

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Stuff in My Drawers Day

Twenty-seven years ago, I was stumped by a puzzle in the text adventure game, Zork I. I had to get into Hades to get the final treasure, and needed the bell, the book, and the candle to pass the gates of Hell. However, every time I tried to read the book, I would drop the candles and they would go out. Being the pre-Internet era, I finally wrote a letter to Infocom, not ashamed to admit that I already owned the hint book and STILL couldn't get past this point.

Luckily for this Master Zorker's gaming reputation, I never sent the letter. A couple days later, I realized that you could pick the candles back up and relight them, an action NOT described under the yellow sheen of my Invisiclues marker.

tagged as media | permalink | 6 comments

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

How I Met Your Mother, Season Eight:
Somehow, this series has managed to perfect the space-time continuum stretching technique originally perfected by my undergraduate "Roman World and Early Christianity" class, stretching a time period and storyline so thinly as to actually stop any sense of progression. I have no idea how this isn't the final season, but initial screenings of the NINTH (and Final) season on TV suggest that it will move even slower than this season, stretching a three-day wedding weekend into an entire season. As always, there are laughs to be had, and it's a little lighter than the failed attempts at seriousness tried in Season Seven, but you're mainly going to watch it to get to the end, not because it's a superb show.

Final Grade: C+

Homeland, Season Two:
Season Two was slightly less believable than the amazing first season, especially a plot device based around the conceit that WiFi communications have an infinite radius. I disprove that theorem every time I walk to the front of the house with my laptop. The season ends in a way that provides plenty of fodder for Season Three, while still wrapping up existing storylines nicely.

Final Grade: B+

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh:
My expectations for books by bloggers-become-writers has drastically decreased over the years. Sometimes, the books end up being expensive shovelware of free existing blog posts. Other times, the author loses their blogging charm in the transition to printed book. (Or, in the case of Dad Gone Mad, they'll send pictures of their penis to women on the Internet and then immediately close down their blog when it becomes public).

With that caveat, I did enjoy this book based on the blog of the same name. Although there is familiar material, the book is well produced, and the combination of funny memoirs paired with MS Paint images translates nicely onto its big, colourful pages. I'm impressed by the way the author can easily distill childhood innocence into universally relatable words and illustrations.

Final Grade: B+

tagged as reviews | permalink | 0 comments

Friday, November 15, 2013

List Day: 6 Minor Disappointments

  1. The final season of Dexter on DVD has arrived in the mail, but I am loathe to start watching it because I've heard that it is horribly unfulfilling.

  2. Breyers Ice Cream now says "Frozen Dairy Dessert" in small print on the box because there aren't enough of the tasty ingredients to actually classify it as Ice Cream anymore.

  3. I have been unmotivated to write open-source software for three weeks, although I have gotten a lot of video gaming in.

  4. Someone on the street now owns one of those loud, yet physically unimpressive cars that you would normally expect to find on a Maryland country road killing spectators in a covert drag race. He warms it up for ten to fifteen minutes every day before driving away.

  5. We have to leave for a weekend trip tonight during rush hour.

  6. Alias, like Veronica Mars, doesn't hold up so well after years of improvement in television shows.

What is disappointing you in a minor way?

tagged as lists | permalink | 4 comments

Monday, November 18, 2013

Weekend Wrap-up

With our basement roommate feeding cats and protecting our valuable collection of TV shows on DVDs from theft, we took the opportunity to get out of town this weekend. We headed down to a vacation house on Wintergreen Mountain, about twenty miles south of W'anusboro, in order to celebrate Annie Mueller's birthday in style.

In spite of Rebecca's work schedule, we managed to squeeze out of Northern Virginia a few minutes before rush hour, probably shaving an hour off of the trip. In spite of that though, the trip was bookended by an hour of traffic in South Riding at the beginning, and an hour of driving in the rain at the end. Fortunately, the middle two hours were punctuated by tasty sandwiches and fries from a Sheetz on Route 29.

On Saturday morning, sunny skies gave us a brief, yet full view of the mountainside, after which we were engulfed in a death fog for the remainder of the weekend. We passed the time hiking, playing games, hot tubbing, using up all of the firewood, and making fun of Mike Catania for opting to go to France instead of this cabin.

On Sunday, we narrowly avoided dying in the death fog, and made it down the mountain to the Wintergreen Winery (quaint, inexpensive, but not amazing), and Blue Mountain Brewery (very good flights). We got back home around 5 after a 300-mile round trip, and did things like laundry and eating leftovers.

How was your weekend?

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

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Music Tuesday

Sixteen years ago today, on November 19, 1997, I was corresponding with a trumpeter from my high school, for whom I was writing a trumpet concerto. The concerto ultimately morphed into The Hero, a symphonic work which Dave McKee called "that grade IV solo with the grade VI accompaniment".

I had sent the score for the first movement to Cat Armstrong, the trumpeter, and she had sent back a cassette tape with her comments (Cat happened to be blind, which made writing notes on the score a non-starter). Here are some excerpts from my email correspondence, offering some rare insight into my super-serious musical thoughts as a young composer.

While I was working with your strengths as a player, I also have to factor in the average player's weaknesses. Even today, the common "symphonic" limit is accepted at a High C, and rarely a D. That, combined with the fact that I've planned the entire concerto to be about twenty minutes in length, kept me from making the Cadenza higher and louder.

Being a trumpet player, Cat wanted the trumpet part to be harder and higher.

In several places you mentioned that the tonality didn't quite support the melody. At this point in my composing, I'm experimenting more with alternate tonalities and finding the balance between Steven Foster and Schoenberg. It's not that the simpler harmonies are bad; it's just that I've already done that, and now it's time to do something else. Oh, and don't worry, I don't plan on become a contemporary twelve-tone composer or such. I actually can't stand so-called "music for the mind". I much prefer music for the ear, which can be enjoyed, instead of techniques like serial composing. As I go further along, I find my toleration of dissonance expanding (especially from listening to the music of Stan Kenton...an interesting timeline from straight-ahead swing to oddball mellophonium music which I still don't entirely like).

My last composing assignment was a violin/piano sonata which was supposed to be atonal. For that, I pulled out all the stops and just went off. And now that I listen to it, the only real reason I like the first and second movements is because _I_ wrote them. My composition teacher loves it...all the student atonal piano-banging composers love it, but to me, it just emphasized the fact that I prefer music in the style of the nineteenth century over that of the twentieth. I'll play it for you sometime; if you find the small dissonances in the concerto unsettling, you'll probably choke on this.

My thoughts on dissonance remain unchanged today.

Since I'm still learning composition, I've made it a point to keep my scores exactly the way they were at the time of creation. This allows me to judge my progress from when I began, by reviewing old scores and seeing what I did wrong. There are plenty of examples from my early music where things just don't work, voices cross, or saxophones go out of range, but if I were to go back and edit my own music, I'd have no way of seeing my progress. As such, this movement has been marked as "Complete". With the exception of a few minor articulation changes and such, I don't plan on changing anything major. I do, however, remember the comments made by you and others, both teachers and composers, which I then use to make the next piece better.

Actually though, undergraduate composers never take anyone's suggestions on anything!

tagged as music | permalink | 2 comments

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Memory Day: Thirteen Years Ago Today

Thirteen years ago today, on November 20, 2000, I took the GRE in order to secure my eventual berth aboard the good ship FSU. Thanksgiving vacation week had started at Virginia Tech, and because we had a whole week off, most students did the only logical thing and skipped town 5 to 7 days before the week began. I was mostly alone in Blacksburg, except for Shac, who crashed in my apartment (while Rosie and Anna were home) because he was fighting with his parents.

The GRE is like the SAT but with different letters and more annoying questions. At the time, it also had the obnoxious "adaptive" quality, where questions get harder as you do better (this was removed in 2011). So, the first logic question might be "Ann and Bob want to shake hands with each other using only left hands. How many different ways can they do this?", but eventually you would end up at "Ann, Bob, Charles, Dick, Elias, Francois, Gertrude, Haughton, Iggy, Jesse, Kyle, and Lamonashiqua are all blood relatives and, as residents of Alabama, also married to each other. How many different family trees can you create which are only two generations deep if Charles is gay?"

I took the test at a Prometric computer center in Roanoke, which was just like the ones up here but with dirtier mice, and then went home to await the arrival of my sister from Charlottesville. The following morning, we drove from Blacksburg up to Flint, MI to visit my grandpa for Thanksgiving, a trip made much more difficult by the two feet of snow dumped on Route 460 overnight. We were in Ellen's '98 Honda Civic, and I let her drive the rest of the way after the second intersection I slid through at 2 miles per hour because her poor brakes.

tagged as memories | permalink | 0 comments

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon:
This standalone expansion pack is essentially a reskinning of Far Cry 3 with every single bad 80s action movie trope you can possibly cram in. It starts out funny but the humor starts to grate fairly quickly, and eventually you realize that you're just playing Far Cry 3 with different skins. Additionally, the first save point is unforgivably far into the game (probably about 45 minutes), which means you end up sitting through the extended introduction way too many times if you can't play for long periods of time.

Final Grade: C-

Stay Awhile and Listen: How Two Blizzards Unleashed Diablo and Forged a Video-Game Empire by David Craddock:
This Kindle book is based on exhaustive interviews around the original Diablo creators. The stories and quotes are individually engaging, but the whole is less impressive. Often, there are too many distracting asides and sidebar quotes to maintain a cohesive storyline. It's obvious that the story is clear to the author, but he tells it from so many different angles that it often feels like he's telling around the story. Still, this is probably a must-read for anyone who got lost in the original Diablo in 1996.

Final Grade: B

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson:
This coffee table book is an easy-to-read, engaging survey of all sorts of science topics, from the Big Bang to quarks. Although it is fun to read, it's surprisingly light on scientific insights. The author seems to feel that science itself isn't interesting enough on its own and must be spiced up with anecdotes of the involved scientists or unnecessary analogies.

Final Grade: C

tagged as reviews | permalink | 0 comments

Friday, November 22, 2013

Vacation Kick-off Day

In the spirit of undergraduate education, I have taken off the entire week of Thanksgiving. To kick off said vacation, I have updated the Photos pages with a new photo browsing plugin, Colorbox, which seems to require less babysitting and bug-fixing than the old one. You can also navigate through the photos with the left and right arrow keys.

Here are some other things I have planned for the coming week:

  • Resume work on Auricle.
  • Read my Learning from Data textbook and get farther than the third page.
  • Play the new 3DS Zelda game which looks like it will suck less than Skyward Sword.
  • Thanksgiving with the Uri clan.
  • Put up Christmas junk.
  • Play some trumpet.

There may not be a URI! Zone update every day next week, but I will try. If you would like me to create another Photoshop mashup on one of the days, leave your suggestions in the Comments.

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

Monday, November 25, 2013

Vacation Day


This is what I look like while on vacation.

tagged as media | permalink | 2 comments

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Random Chart Day: 20 Years of Thanksgiving

Year City Memories
1993Alexandria, VALast Thanksgiving before my sister went to college.
1994Alexandria, VAI mailed out invitations to my Christmas party, the Tenth "Other" End-of-the-Year Party!
1995Alexandria, VAI spent the afternoon practicing my high Eb on the trumpet.
1996Alexandria, VAA family friend from Australia, Katrina Takayama, came for dinner.
1997Alexandria, VA
1998Alexandria, VA
1999Alexandria, VAWe ate at 3 so I could drive back to Tech to be ready for a football game.
2000Burton, MIMy first "restaurant Thanksgiving", with grandpa
2001Tallahassee, FLI crashed Keely and Scott's Thanksgiving. The Friends episode with Brad Pitt was premiering and was a big deal.
2002Tallahassee, FLMike covered his pool table in plywood for a massive dining surface.
2003Barboursville, VADinner with my sister's in-laws.
2004Falls Church, VADinner with Kathy and Chris, introducing Cheese Soup.
2005Alexandria, VADinner at Ramparts with Kim and her mom, who sent my meat back because it was rare.
2006Barboursville, VA
2007Sterling, VAThe first family Thanksgiving hosted at our house after marriage.
2008Sterling, VA
2009Falls Church, VADinner at Rebecca's parents' house.
2010?I can't remember where we went, but we had lasagna there.
2011?I can't remember where we went, because my record-keeping is no longer award-winning, but Becca Spellerberg got married that weekend.
2012Edgewater, MDThe sibling with the new baby gets to stay home and claim Thanksgiving.
2013Alexandria, VA(expected)

tagged as data, memories | permalink | 1 comment

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Stuff in My Drawers Day

Cartoon sketches from the notebook I took to Boy Scouts, circa 1994.

That T-Rex is super excited about fake butter.

tagged as media | permalink | 0 comments

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Tahksgreving!

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Friday, November 29, 2013

End-of-the-Month Media Day

New photos have been added to the Life, 2013 album. May they warm your heart in your cold Black Friday queues.

tagged as media | permalink | 1 comment

 

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