Monday, December 02, 2013
Welcome to December 2013!
We celebrated Thanksgiving with my parents and my sister's family in Alexandria. Because Rebecca is the new face at work, she didn't get Friday off, so she went off to work while I stayed home writing code and playing Zelda.
On Saturday, we took a brief hike through Claude Moore Park, edged ever closer to the darkside of yuppyism by getting a Wegmans card (in order to buy crazy cheeses), played a round of Settlers of Catan while watching the new homeowners across the street dive into the suburban cult of Christmas lights. In the evening, I had a sub from Joe's Pizzaria and we finished the first season of Person of Interest.
On Sunday, we celebrated Thanksgiving with Rebecca's parents, opting for homemade Chinese food rather than anything American. How was your weekend?
Tuesday, December 03, 2013
A smattering of events from 2013
- I started "The Daily Hour" for self-improvement, which lasted about six months.
- I went to my first gaming convention, for Evil Mike's bachelor party.
- We tried swing dancing at the Dulles Hilton. Rock-stepping is dumb.
- Mike and Taje got married!
- We spent the Super Bowl at the Crane's.
- I learned how to program in Python.
- I learned how to play the blues in C on the electric bass.
- We went to the horrible Luma Theater of Light show at the Birchmere.
- We took a vacation weekend in Waynesboro, VA.
- I was sorely disappointed by the newest Starcraft sequel.
- We celebrated St. Patrick's Day with the Cranes and Easter with the Whitmers.
- I finally bought a new, expensive office chair, reducing back problems by a factor of 3.
- We started growing homemade tomatoes.
- I started writing open-source bug-tracking software, called Bugler.
- We had a Quatre de Mayo barbeque, which turned out to be one of two barbeques we would have this year.
- We went to Winchester for a Spellerberg reunion.
- Rebecca graduated from PTA school!
- We flew through the air on trapezes.
- We gained a new occupant in our basement.
- We met Brianne at the Hungarian Folk Festival and the world did not end. However, she fled the country immediately after she met us.
- We watched the fireworks at Lake Barcroft.
- Rebecca took her super-crazy PTA exam and passed with a super-crazy high score.
- We took a vacation weekend in Solomons, MD.
- Elisa visited and we went to wineries.
- The URI! Zone started its 18th year.
- We went camping in Greenbrier State Park.
- We went to a wedding at Early Mountain Winery.
- We did a blind wine taste test with the Smiths and Ahlbins, and learned that Rebecca likes the really expensive stuff.
- I gave up on Bugler and started Auricle.
- We hiked the Billy Goat Trail.
- We watched Miss Saigon at the Signature Theatre.
- I turned 34 and probably died.
- We had our Fall Barbeque and met some neighbours.
- We spent the government shutdown hiking around Harper's Ferry.
- We went to the Fall Festival at Doukenie Winery.
- We went to a pumpkin carving party at Katie and Joe's.
- We passed out candy at Max and Leigh Ann's.
- We returned to Harper's Ferry for more hiking fun.
- We traveled to Linden, VA for Elizabeth's birthday.
- We stayed in a posh cabin for Annie's birthday.
- We hosted only 1 Thanksgiving, involving 4 children.
- We had real Thanksgiving with my family.
How was 2013 for you?
Wednesday, December 04, 2013
Stuff in My Drawers Day
This is a Christmas Card I made for my parents in 1985.
On the inside is a folding picture that shows one thing when folded over, but transforms into something completely different when unfolded.
Santa is a child trafficker! Anyone want a baby in a carriage for Christmas?
Thursday, December 05, 2013
Review Day: Nintendo 3DS XL
My 3DS XL purchase was more a whim than a need -- there were no good computer games on the market at the time, and the 3DS had reached the maturity level where there were a ton of good games available. Plus, there are only so many trips to Popeyes you can spend your massive amounts of disposable wealth on. Previously, my only reason not to buy it was the worry that it would give me migraines all day long. Thankfully, this worry has not materialized in the least.
The 3DS is a surprisingly safe evolution of the DS Lite. Besides the 3D, nothing about it is disruptive technology. There's still a touch screen on the bottom with a stylus tucked away in a hidden sphincter. The circle movement key on the left feels comfortable and is responsive.
3D is achieved by displaying two separate images to the left and right eye. No special glasses or super-concentration is needed to see the effect, so even people who can't see those gibberish 3D mind images will be able to enjoy it. The effect can be increased or turned off with a slider control, which also helps to support different viewing distances. When 3D is enabled, you get an immediate sense of depth that really helps with immersion. And so far, (unlike every other gimmick Nintendo has introduced, like motion controls), it has not been needlessly abused in any of the games I've played.
I've been satisfied with all three starter games I picked up: Super Mario 3D Land, Fire Emblem: Awakening, and Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. (These games will get their own reviews on another day). I've been even more satisfied that the console isn't migraine-inducing, although every game tediously tells you to rest every 45 minutes or so. Battery power has been fine -- I've never gone more than about 5 hours without charging it, but it has never run out early.
In fact, there are only a few minor nitpicks that detract from the experience:
- The volume control is right underneath your left index finger leading to lots of accidental loudness. Also, the L and R shoulder buttons are a little far away if you have tiny hands.
- The fact that it's a handheld console doesn't automatically make it a travel console. It's pretty easy to maintain a good viewing angle and distance while sitting on the couch, but would be harder on the go. I can play turn-based games on the treadmill easily, but not action games.
Final Grade: A-
Friday, December 06, 2013
I spent all of yesterday debugging an 800-line Java method written by the previous team of government contractors, and there was no time to write anything for today. Instead, here is a quickie story I remembered while on Facebook this morning:
When I was a kid, I would wake up before my parents to squeeze in two hours of video games before school. I would even stage a bowl with a little milk and a few cheerios in the sink so it would look like I had already eaten breakfast (10 more minutes of video games!). This ruse worked for several months, until my detective of a dad noticed that there was no spoon in the dirty bowl, and innocently asked me how I had eaten my cereal.
Have a good weekend!
Monday, December 09, 2013
On Saturday evening, we took a rare trip into DC for a combination Halloween, Oktoberfest, Thanksgiving, Christmas party known as "Sausageween". We rode the Metro in, because parking was such a pain last time, and noted that some suburban graffiti artist had tagged all of the Metro signs with cryptic messages like "Reston-Wiehle" in silver paint.
As part of the party, we walked down to the Waterfront in Southwest to see a Christmas Lights boat parade. The high point was a T-Rex, animated in lights to appear as if he were skateboarding along the river. The low point was a monochromatic sailboat
with random strings of lights that resembled a corrupt graphics file from a Commodore 64 game.
On Sunday, we stayed in to avoid the wintry mix of this year's first winter event, "Edward Snowed In". We actually got a couple of good inches before everything iced over. In the evening, we ate a slow cooker corned beef and watched more of Person of Interest.
How was your snow?
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
2013 Favorites: Top 10 Posts and Reviews
Top 10 Posts from 2013
Top 10 Review Recommendations from 2013
- BU on selecting a musical instrument
- BU goes to Luma: Theatre of Light
- BU on the Silver Line
- BU makes delicious salmon
- BU on Star Things
- BU starts a startup
- BU on Heat
- BU on Bats
- BU on Designing Websites
- BU runs for governor
- Act Your Age by Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band
- Please Clap Your Hands by Bird and the Bee
- Dexter, Season Seven
- Bioshock Infinite
- Deleted Scenes from the Cutting Room Floor by Caro Emerald
- Miss Saigon
- Watermelon, Chicken, and Gritz by Nappy Roots
- Tomb Raider
- Breaking Bad: Season Five Part II
- Homeland, Season Two
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
2013 Favourites: Top 10 Songs First Heard in 2013
I know that my musical tastes generally don't align with that of most readers, but this is the one time of year that I try to push my favorites like a free sample to the street drug buffet. Give them a listen, on the off chance that you stumble upon something you like but never would have discovered on your own!
- Trombone Shorty - Buckjump:
The energy in this chart is irresistable.
- Bird and The Bee - Man:
I can't resist a good Bird and The Bee track, and the harpsichord in the background doesn't hurt.
- Outkast and Janelle Monae - Call the Law:
After I started listening to songs similar to Caro Emerald, this song popped up on Pandora.
- La Roux - Tigerlily:
The spoken word at the end is rather silly, but the rest of the song is pretty fun.
- Metric - Raw Sugar:
This is a different sound than I normally seek out, but I couldn't help giving it a Thumbs Up on Pandora.
- K-OS - Crabbuckit:
Just a fun, catchy song.
- Dirt Poor Robins - Nightingale:
The Dirt Poor Robins are filing the void of groups that perform every song as if it were The Most Profound Song Ever Written and I like the harmonies here. The video in the link has nothing to do with the song, but the only other copy on the Internet sounds like it was recorded while swimming in a fishbowl.
- Caro Emerald - Back It Up:
I like the mix of Swing sensibilities over a more modern beat. It's the style of Bitter:Sweet, but with more infectious rhythms.
- Nappy Roots - Sholiz:
Rebecca and I had some serious Nappy Roots love this year, after discovering them through their Mark Ronson collaborations.
- Paloma Faith - Upside Down:
I love unique-sounding voices that don't seem to match the visual image of the singer, like Gabriella Cilmi and Joss Stone. Throw it over an interesting arrangement and I'm sold.
- Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings - How Long Do I Have To Wait For You:
This song is pleasant enough, but the descending guitar line that sounds like someone is playing a cat is exceedingly catchy.
Previous Picks: 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012
Thursday, December 12, 2013
Chad Darnell's 12 of 12
: Up before Booty.
: Ready for work.
: The new meighbours are 32% more Christmas-y than the old.
: Working in Reston.
: view out the window during lunch.
: Coming home to Christmas presents (raw, yet-to-be-wrapped).
: Random gift from my dad: A plastic "Tiger Trumpet".
: Exercising while watching That 70s Show
: Relaxing on the couch with a Blue Mountain beer and a video game.
: Rebecca's home!
: Blackened Ahi Nachos at the V Eatery & Brewhouse.
: Fish n' Chips!
Friday, December 13, 2013
Twelve 12 of 12s
A montage of my amazingly interesting year.
: By the end of the year, the horse had been named Chauncy.
: Booty thinks that sitting on my stomach is Justified.
: Taco Night!
: Velveeta Shells and Cheese returned to the menu this year.
: The neighbours moved away.
: We used our back porch an awful lot this year.
: Still haven't gone to Greenbrier yet.
: Lost Cities and Pizza Night.
: These tomatoes were out of control!
: Tigers love cheese snacks.
: Is it sad that this is the newest technology in the household?
: Having December snow is nice.
Monday, December 16, 2013
- Executed a routine trip to Costco, in search of chicken breasts and cheap bagels.
- Played more of Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon, which is just as charming as his original ghost-hunting adventure on the GameCube.
- Enjoyed the highly visible, yet non-accumulating snowfall.
- Had some of Rebecca's PT circle over for carry-out Thai food from Pattaya Thai.
- Released DDMSence 2.2.0, which was mostly done in April but depends on files that must be cleared for Public Release -- an action whose duration apparently increases exponentially during sequestration.
- Rewatched the first Hunger Games movie as a refresher.
- Watched the second Hunger Games movie at the Alamo Drafthouse, an appealing venue with okay burgers, a good beer selection, and comfortable seats.
- Wandered the neighbourhood looking at Christmas lights.
Tuesday, December 17, 2013
Weird Search Day
or "How I Stumbled Upon the URI! Zone"
what happens to open beverages when someone farts in the room does it stick to the bevs
The ground truth is actually even more invasive. Should someone fart in a room, the fart molecules will expand to fill the empty space (not unlike the Big Bang). The kinetic energy of the molecules will allow them to permeate any liquid substances in the room, ensuring that your Pepsi becomes a Poopsi. Worse though, is that some high velocity farts (specifically those that sound like rent fabrics) can even break the epidermis and get into your bloodstream, bringing truth to your friends' observations that you're full of something. However, being in the same room, they are as well.
choose your own adventure catfighting
enema bags at shopper's drug mart
This takes "Recycle and Reuse" to a whole 'nother level.
swingers at reston town center clydes
Actually, it's the Ashburn Clyde's that has a reputation for swingers, but I wouldn't put it past Reston to have a scene all of its own.
Meanwhile, Google is singlehandedly spoiling the fun by encrypting searches by default...
Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Memory Day: Christmas Twenty Five Years Ago
I was 9 years old at Christmas time in 1988, and apparently still liked Garfield.
Watch to the end of the video for a special technology bonus.
Thursday, December 19, 2013
There are no major spoilers in these reviews.
To Do List (R):
This comedy about a graduating high school senior who makes a sex to do list has an overwhelming number of familiar actors onboard, but it never quite gets out of second gear. Aubrey Plaza is too typecast with her Parks and Rec character to be someone else, and the movie starts to drag around halfway through. There are a lot of fun moments built around 1990s nostalgia, but not enough to keep the movie afloat.
Final Grade: C-
Life in a Beautiful Light by Amy MacDonald:
Amy MacDonald's third album feels like a cookie cut-out of her second album. Neither was as great as her original album, This is The Life -- too much use of quavering voice and echoes to be enjoyable.
Final Grade: C-
Super Mario 3D Land:
This was the first game to come out for the 3DS in 2011, and it still plays well after two years. I was worried that it would be closer in spirit to Super Mario 64, but it actually plays like a polished hybrid of New Super Mario Brothers and Super Mario Galaxy. The camera accentuates the 3D depth, but generally provides a fixed view of a level, rather than being freely movable. This makes the game feel more like a classic Mario game that just happens to be 3D.
The first eight worlds are pretty easy, but beating them unlocks 8 special worlds that are based on the original maps but with enough unique twists to make them feel like new levels (there's nothing as annoying as a mirror image of the original level billed as new content). As the challenge increases, levels get more frustrating (especially levels that involve outrunning Shadow Mario), but the challenge is always doable and great in small doses.
Final Grade: B+
Person of Interest, Season One:
I picked up this series as a throwaway show I could watch on my own, that Rebecca would be unlikely to enjoy since it's kind of sci-fi'y and has a lot of technology and testosterone. However, she got hooked on it immediately, and we've enjoyed it together ever since. The show (starring Jim Caviezel and Michael Emerson from LOST) tells the tale of a billionaire software developer and a Special Ops soldier who save people based on the intel of an omnipotent surveillance machine (particularly topical in these days of NSA news stories).
The first season feels a little static, sometimes playing out like a straight cop procedural, but it's well acted and fun to watch (with plenty of choreographed fights and blow-ups). The show really switches from sitcom to serial in the second season, building organically from all of the threads introduced earlier on. Many fun guest appearances abound, including Amy Acker, actors from other J.J. Abrams shows, and the dad from Veronica Mars. Highly recommended -- I don't know why more people are not aware of the show!
Final Grade: A
Friday, December 20, 2013
Updates will resume on the day after Christmas. I'm on vacation!
Thursday, December 26, 2013
2013 in Review, Part I of III
based on Reuter's Photos of the Year
Old Pictures of the Year:
Friday, December 27, 2013
2013 in Review, Part II of III
based on Reuter's Photos of the Year
Old Pictures of the Year:
Monday, December 30, 2013
2013 in Review, Part III of III
based on Reuter's Photos of the Year
Old Pictures of the Year:
Tuesday, December 31, 2013
- F 12/20: Cleaned the house. Self-study in Hibernate and Spring. Started watching the final season of Burn Notice.
- S 12/21: Created a map of the Herndon Christmas Lights contest winners' homes, and walked around a yuppy neighbourhood, thoroughly unimpressed. Returned to Juniper Street in Sterling for the real deal.
- S 12/22: Met up with Annie and Marc at Dogfish Head in Seven Corners, and had a French Dip sandwich.
- M 12/23: Took Rebecca's car in for its annual inspection.
- T 12/24: Worked on Auricle. Went to evening services at Riverside Presby Church. Had slow cooker pork for dinner, which was horribly overcooked and drier than a silica gel zen garden.
- W 12/25: Spent Christmas with Rebecca's dad and gave Rebecca a FitBit One. Had Christmas steaks for dinner.
- H 12/26: Worked on Auricle. Finished the second season of Person of Interest. Made corned beef for dinner, which was far more successful than the pork.
- F 12/27: Worked on Auricle. Met up with the visiting Emily and Brian at Ozzie's. Realized that Fairfax is overcrowded and retarded, and went instead to Sakoontra to avoid a 50 minute wait.
- S 12/28: Went to Edgewater, Maryland to do the Uri Christmas at my sister's house. Had lamb, intent on completing my "meat for dinner" Bingo card.
- S 12/29: Did laundry and played Borderlands 2. Ate dinner at Zeitoon on Church Road, and was satisfied.
- M 12/30: Worked on Auricle. Went grocery shopping. Had pizza for dinner.
- T 12/31: Plans for tonight: grilled glazed salmon for dinner with New Years celebrated on London time, so Rebecca can go to bed and work a normal day tomorrow, while I sit around the house pretending to be unemployed for another 5 days.
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