Fifteen years ago today, on April 2, 1999, I was a junior in college. It was the first "shorts weather" day of the year, which I enjoyed as I walked from the room in East AJ I shared with Nathan Egge to McBryde Hall for my Operating Systems project demo. Though I had only made a 78% on the midterm exam, my practical skills surpassed my conceptual skills and I walked out of this demo with a 110%, leading to an A for the semester (foreshadowing my future reputation for excellence).
In the evening, I drove out to Lynchburg College with Jen Graves to see yet another concert featuring Arturo Sandoval backed by the VT jazz band. I'm not sure why we were so pressed to see Arturo that we all drove two hours into the wilderness, especially since Arturo had played on our own campus not four months earlier.
After the concert, I had a late night dinner at Shoney's with Jen, Rosie, Kelley, Shac, Andrew Simmons, Jason Chrisley, and Jason Mirick before driving all of the way back to Blacksburg and turning in around 2 AM. 2 AM was (and still is) a super late night for me.
There are no major spoilers in these reviews.
Veronica Mars (PG-13):
Since this movie was birthed on Kickstarter by fans of the old TV show, it's clear from the opening moments that it's for fans only -- new viewers will not find enough to appreciate in the series of neverending cameos, callbacks, and continuity. The movie plays out like an extended TV episode, brimming with familiar actors and staying open-ended enough for future expansion. It had been a few years since I watched the show, but I was mostly able to recall all of the characters that kept showing up -- the ones that I didn't recognize didn't impact my enjoyment. The "case" being solved during the movie is good enough, but you'll probably want to watch it just to spend more time with your favorite characters.
Final Grade: B+
Newsroom, Season One:
This is a show about a news program that decides to stop pandering to the audience and only report the facts. The show relies upon a sea of flawed, human characters and witty banter as it walks through notable news events of the past few years. At times, it's almost as emotionally manipulative as the media it skewers, and it's not quite clear whether this is an intentional, ironic choice or not. Overall, the season kept me amused for ten episodes, and I would watch more, but I wouldn't stand in line in the rain for it.
Final Grade: B
La Roux by La Roux:
This is a CD of electronic dance music featuring a female vocalist. I really liked Tigerlily and Bulletproof, but the rest of the songs are forgettable. I felt like most of the songs featured too many timbres in her higher octave, which was annoyingly thin and reedy, like an unsure oboist in concert band.
Final Grade: C+
Yes! by K-OS:
A catchy hip-hop album by the Crabbuckit guy. Some songs are more successful than others, and his experimental stuff falls kind of flat.
Final Grade: B-
Some Asians are naturally camouflaged against floral prints.
Raw but amalgamated footage of what Booty and Amber did during our extended weekend at the Greenbrier Resort.
It only took us 9 months to finally use the gift card I had received for "10 years of not quitting" from my work. The Greenbrier Resort is not a place we'd ever stay on our own volition, but having a $1000 gift card in hand was a great way to experience the place without constantly worrying about the cost.
We drove down on Thursday via I-81, which looks just like it did a decade ago but with four times as many long-haul trucks. We took a brief stop in Staunton for lunch and a wine tasting at the Ox-Eye Vineyards in the Wharf District. I had envisioned stevedores and paddleboats, but apparently the Wharf District consisted of an old creek mostly paved over. Staunton was nice though -- we might go back someday.
For our first afternoon in grandeur, we took tea and biscuits in the main dining room. Although mindful of the constant dress code, we put minimal effort into being classy, and I wore my khaki pants that were three sizes too large, last worn as an ear training instructor at Florida State. We then had happy hour in the casino bar and used up our "free" casino cash being thoroughly befuddled by the newest in slot machine technology. Gone are the days where you pull a lever and line up some cherries -- every machine had multiple play modes and win patterns, to the point where only career slot-grandmothers could ever understand them. For dinner, we ate Italian food at The Forum, followed up with a tiramisu the size of a pug.
On Friday, we went hiking in the Allegheny Mountains. The private trails were very well-fashioned, if poorly mapped, and we continued to stumble across super rich homes higher up the mountain. In the afternoon, Rebecca had a full sulphur spring and spa / massage treatment followed by more tea and crumpets. We had delicious coffee stouts at happy hour in another hotel lounge, and then split a gigantic pizza back at The Forum. In the evening, we watched a free showing of Gravity in the classic theatre.
We went out for another hike through the shale barrens on Saturday and then returned to swim in the gigantic indoor pool in the afternoon. We then had an early dinner in the casino bar and spent the evening wandering through all of the ridiculously decorated halls, beset by floral prints on all sides.
On Sunday morning, we took a tour of the secret nuclear bunker designed to hide Congress during the Cold War. It was hit-or-miss, with a blend of interesting exhibits and facts interspersed with "there used to be a door here but it's covered up now" tour guiding.
In spite of being able to charge things to the room and the automatic 20% service charge on everything, we only ended up spending $1210 for the entire weekend, which became $210 after applying the gift card. The facilities felt a little dated, but the service was impeccable. Overall, it was a fun, lavish experience although there's no reason for us to ever go back.
On the drive home, we stopped at Blue Mountain Brewery for lunch, and then braved the scads of drivers on Route 29 to get back to Sterling around 5 PM. Yesterday (Monday), we had a recovery day, doing nothing but playing Hearthstone and watching American Hustle.
Twenty years ago today, on April 9, 1994, I was the sophomore coxswain for the Men's 3rd 8 on the crew team. The 3rd 8 rowers were not good enough to be in one of the first 16 slots. However, our crew team was so big that we also had a 4th 8 and a 5th 8, so we were spared the ignominy of being the worst boat. Only in Alexandria could you put together a crew team with 40 guys on it.
After waking up at 5:30 AM, my parents dropped me off at the high school before departing with my sister for the day to visit UVa (where my sister would be attending in the Fall). The team piled into school buses and went down to the Occoquan Reservoir, where we screwed the riggings onto our boat and went for a run. At 10:15, we finally headed out on the water for our race.
High from our second place win (which was about two places higher than we normally did), we were greeted at the docks by the Women's 3rd 8 in unitards. After derigging the boat, the rowers walked out to the finish line to watch other races, while I did my antisocial thing of getting back on the bus and programming calculator games. Although the races were over by 2, we didn't leave for another hour because the bus driver had decided to walk off for a smoke and no one could find her.
I made it home before my parents, but learned that the hidden spare key no longer worked on the door, so I had to wait out on the back porch for a couple more hours until they returned from Charlottesville. For dinner, we ate lamb and rice which, according to my journal, "tasted mildly okay".
Happy Birthday to my Mom, the second longest, contiguous visitor to this website after my dad!
Still To Do:
Six years ago today, on April 16, 2008, we had just returned from Europe, where we adopted a French poodle named Pierre from Carcasonne. He was not welcome in Collioure, but traveled with us for the rest of the trip. He ate well and watched Full House in Catalan in our Barcelona hotel room.
After we arrived back in the States, Pierre found his forever home, living with Ella in Manassas!
There are no major spoilers in these reviews.
This is probably one of the more stressful movies you'll see this year. We saw it at the Greenbrier, which means that the screen was slightly bigger than watching in the living room, but more like a high school assembly than a true movie theater showing. I enjoyed how self-contained and spartan it was, especially in the context of the fact that most of the movie is CGI. They overused the suspenseful music -- possibly to counter the fact that there is no noise in space -- but I felt like silence might even have been a better tension-builder in many places. Rebecca did not like this movie.
Final Grade: B+
American Hustle (R):
This was an enjoyable character-driven film starring Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, and Amy Adam's cleavage. It plays like a heist film, except that it's very easy to follow. After a fairly slow start, it kept my interest all of the way to the end.
Final Grade: B+
Diablo III: Reaper of Souls:
All of the thoughts I recorded in my First Impressions post last month still hold true. I'm still regularly playing this game and having a ton of fun exploding things for loot. There's a surprising amount of replayable content for an expansion pack, and all of the original problems with Diablo III have been resolved in positive ways. At this point, the primary (but minor) annoyance is just the UI -- I wish that skill assignment were easier, tooltips were more exact, and it were easier to compare gear in intelligent ways.
Final Grade: A
Conair GMT10CSB Cordless/Rechargeable Beard and Mustache Trimmer :
This trimmer is serviceable for its primary task, but has too many oddball adjustment settings that sometimes slip out of place. There's barely enough charge for 3 - 4 trimmings, which means it spends a lot of time plugged in. This adds to the clutter if your bathroom counter surface is already small.
Final Grade: C
I'm not a great Hearthstone player, although I have won every game that I didn't lose. Here are some beginner tips and tricks to get you started.
Also, someone in this household has been playing too many murloc cards.
What did you eat this weekend?
Now that I have over a decade of financial history to mine, I will be posting occasional charts and trends. Data is fun.
Eighteen years ago today, on April 23, 1996, I was a senior in high school. My first stop after driving to school was the homeroom of one of my crushes, to thoughtfully drop off some physics notes for bonus nice points. I don't know how kids today stalk their crushes (probably a GPS app), but back then, knowledge of a girl's homeroom was painstakingly gained through hall wandering and triangulation. Probably fifty percent of a teenager's brainwaves were dedicated to learning locker locations, travel paths between classes, and phone numbers.
I didn't go too any of my morning classes, because the jazz band took a field trip to Hammond Middle School for a double-feature assembly. I played a few good improvised solos for the youngsters, who were also impressed by the original composition, Bubba's Fried Chicken Stand.
We got back to school during fourth period, but naturally we had to take fifth period off to catch up on lunch. Since we also had seventh period concert band off because of our super strenuous assemblies, I breezed through a boring class of Calculus with Mr. Kokonis and then headed down to the boathouse early for crew, spending about an hour sitting in my car listening to a tape of Doc Severinsen and the Tonight Show Band.
The Potomac River was the roughest it had ever been in my crew career that day, with whitecaps and the wind blowing from the southeast at 29 knots. I knew the exact speed, because there used to be a weather/boating phone number you could call from your rotary phone to get Potomac weather conditions. It was always voiced by a meteorologist who seemed pissed off to get stuck with forecast recording duty yet incapable of reading more than two words at a time, not unlike a drill sergeant with a brain tumor. "WIND SOUTH. TEN KNOTS. USE CARE. ON THE WAT. ER."
Because the water was so bad, my rowers just worked on the ergs while I surreptitiously observed the girls doing their workouts on the other side of the exercise room.
I got home around 4 PM that day to learn that I had won the $1000 Band Booster scholarship (not a big surprise since my name was on all of the plaques in all of the hallways everywhere), which bookended nicely with the $1000 Computer Science scholarship I had won the day before from Tech. Today, those amounts would probably buy a meal at the high-end athletes-only dining hall.
Later on, there was almost drama when I learned that I had to attend the scholarship awards ceremony in order to get it, in spite of the fact that it conflicted with the world premiere of The Admiral's Overture. The powers that be did not see any irony in denying me for a music scholarship because I was busy doing music, and I had to flurry between events like politician to get all of the moneys.
I just finished a free 10-week online course in "Designing and Executing Information Security Strategies". It was something of a soft-skills course, with emphasis on analysis and argument over right answers. Here are my thoughts about Coursera, based on my first class.
What I Liked
What I Disliked
Overall, I found Coursera to be worthwhile for "personal growth" types of learning activities, but lacking in the rigor that would prove you had actually learned something. If I were to see a Coursera course on a resume, I would give the interviewee the benefit of the doubt that he or she had taken the course, but wouldn't assume that they knew the subject matter. I'm starting a course in Functional Programming with Scala this weekend, which I'm hoping will be a better fit, since there are right and wrong answers, and thus no peer review.
Final Grade: B-, good for personal growth but not certification
It's time to brag!
What is something you've been proud of recently that hasn't been properly noticed by the people in your real world life? Post in the comments section for maximum adulation and we can all pat each other on the back!
If you have done nothing you are proud of recently, post something impressive you plan to do in the coming year, besides not dying!
I've had a lingering cold outstaying its welcome since last Wednesday, so I really wasn't up to much this weekend besides napping and gaming. We did get out to Delmarva's for dinner on Saturday, where we sat on the patio and heard the distant strains of a Red Hot Chili Peppers / Muse cover band. After dinner, we were unsuccessful in locating the band on foot, but we did get to keep our Starr Hill glasses from the dinner promotion.
On Sunday, we went out to Linden for belated Easter time with Rebecca's Loudoun third of the family.
Very little else happened, although we finished season one of Orphan Black and Rebecca beat Ben at Hearthstone in spite of Deathwing (thanks, Hex!)
How was your weekend?
Did you ace the last quiz about me? Try round two! Hover your mouse over the right column to see the correct answers.
What sit-down restaurant food was I obsessed with from 2003 - 2005?
What was the name of the first fantasy world I created on paper?
Which movie had I not seen by the age of 10?
Which of my dad's habits did I never inherit?
Which school have I never visited in person?
How did my pet chameleons die?
Which subject have I taken a paid class in?
What level of clutter do I find acceptable?
What movie/TV plot device am I sick of?
What is the most annoying thing about my Honda Accord?
New photos have been added to the Life, 2014 album.
April's Final Grade: B, very quiet, but satisfying
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