Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Non-Self Improvement Day

Learning Spanish has been on my to-do list for many years now but I never progressed beyond CD #1: El Alfabeto, and each additional day that passes by without any real progress further increases the odds that I'll just never get around to it. That's okay, because I never get around to plenty of things, and there's not enough time in the day to waste worrying about the things I haven't done.

Since I'm not getting any younger at this point, it would probably be easier to change the world around me, such that my four years of high school French would be worth something, rather than have to do any real work at self improvement by learning a new second language. Here then, is my five-year plan:

Evil Plan

  1. Picture Quebec. As evinced by the dearth of natural disasters in Quebec's history, I cannot rely on the weather to destabilize that area. I'll be dead before climate change impacts anyone up there, and the biggest earthquakes they ever see are rated as "Can cause damage of varying severity to poorly constructed buildings. At most, none to slight damage to all other buildings. Felt by everyone. Casualties range from none to a few." The Quebecois even weathered the maple syrup heist with aplomb, so I will have to try something more subversive.

  2. I'll begin by seeding a program that emigrates Texans decrying socialism and universal health care to the greater Montreal area. Through shifty corporations, I'll encourage them to start petitioning the government of their new home to make English the official language. This will enrage the French-speaking populace, who already have to deal with this type of thing on an annual basis.

  3. With the Texans out of Texas, it will be ripe for the taking by the hard-working Spanish-speaking folks in my area. I'll set up some kind of Homestead Act for land in Texas (but with fewer crying Indians involved), along with a legal path to citizenship for NoVA residents who accept.

  4. Meanwhile, I'll promote Herndon as the preferred destination for the Quebecois, with Friday Night Live billed as the Southern comparator to Montreal's festival season, and all of the locals warm and inviting of Canadians and their funny, colourful money.

  5. The convergence of these steps will result in a circular flow of immigrants between NoVA, Texas, and Quebec (clockwise above the equator), with no one the wiser that it was orchestrated (except for the last two readers of this website). Within five years, area signs will include French translations and I will be pleasantly conversing in French with my next-door neighbours, justifying those 720 days of introductory French. Fromage!

Backup Plan

  1. Brianne moves back to Virginia.

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Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Memory Day: Snapshots

July 1992

The Rotational Sparkler Theorem: The fun factor of sparklers is inversely proportional to the number of camera lenses and filters your dad owns and wants to try out. "KEEP SPINNING!"

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Thursday, July 03, 2014

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Russell Peters: Notorious:
This stand-up session starts strong with some fun racial jokes, but he has trouble maintaining the momentum of his shtick. Eventually, it seems like he just gives up and starts making fun of audience members, which is never as funny as stand-up comics think it is. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: C

Aziz Ansari: Buried Alive:
Another good stand-up special from Aziz -- I think I liked this one the most of the three, but there was nothing incredible standing out in my memory. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: B+

Pioneer Pet Stainless Steel Fountain Raindrop Design:
This constantly running water fountain is exactly what I was looking for -- it's easy to clean, runs quietly, and is interesting enough to make our cats drink more water as part of their daily routine.

Final Grade: A

Crown Majestic (Diamond Series V2R) Automatic Pet Feeder:
I tried out this automatic pet feeder to increase our agility at planning short getaways and reducing the amount of cat vomit we return home to (from dumping two days of food in a one day bowl). It's too expensive, overarchitected, loses its schedule memory every time you unplug it, has a useless voice recording system to soothe your cats, and sounds like the gates of Hell when it goes off in the middle of the night. In spite of its many flaws though, it works for the one task that counts -- Booty is unable to steal any food from it or tip it over, even after scratching at it all night long. If you need a pet feeder for a Booty, this is passable. If you need one for a cat that's a little less food-crazy, any cheaper model will probably do.

Final Grade: B-

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Friday, July 04, 2014

Independence Day

Happy 4th! Here is a picture of where I spent the 4th ten years ago (Colonial Beach at Anna's parents' house). We're going back tomorrow to recreate the photo exactly, except that 50% of the people live in other states now.

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Monday, July 07, 2014

Weekend Wrap-up

The holiday weekend was crosshatched with three separate gatherings, which is about two too many for introverts in spite of the fun times. On Friday night, we went out to visit Rebecca's Loudoun clan for the true Fourth, eating fried chicken and picked okra, while watching kids setting off fireworks far too close to the tree line.

On Saturday, we carpooled down to Colonial Beach with Anna and daughters, catching up on recent news and listening to the Frozen soundtrack (but only twice). Although it wasn't a full force gathering with all 17 grandkids, it was good to see Becca, Jason, and their newish family, since we hadn't seen them since their wedding in 2011.

On Sunday, Rebecca went hiking in Harpers Ferry with a visiting Emily, and then visited a peculiar winery along the way, advertised as a "wine cave". Meanwhile, I went to the Cranes for an impromptu barbeque, where other Brian and David failed to convince me that Guardians of the Galaxy was a movie worth looking forward to.

How was your weekend?

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Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Device Activity Day

Last used yesterday...

Last used four days ago...

Last used two weeks ago...

Last used over six months ago...

Last used over a year ago...

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Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Memory Day: Snapshots

This picture was taken 29 years ago this month, in July 1985. We were digging a hole at Calvert Cliffs, MD, and just barely tolerating the photographic interruption. Luckily for you, the photographer was persistent!

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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Pulses by Karmin:
Karmin's first claim to fame three years ago was this Chris Brown song, featuring an amazing rapid fire cover of Busta Rhymes, and they've dwelled happily in their pop covering niche ever since. Pulses is their first album of original songs, and although it was not well-received by critics, it's exactly what you would expect -- the most salient features of today's radio hits rolled into pleasant aural wraps. There is nothing on this album that is daring or groundbreaking, but it's well-constructed and fun to listen to.

Final Grade: B

Les Appareuses Trompences by Boulevard des Airs:
This is the second album from the French band we saw in the Quebec Summer Festival back in 2012. It has a good mix of styles, with some heavy reliance of reggaeton, but still not as much trumpet as I would like. I enjoyed listening to this album a lot, although some of that might just be nostalgia from our Canadian festival experiences. Also, Google Translate unhelpfully tells me that the English title is "The Appareuses Trompences".

Final Grade: B+

Honeywell Whole Room Air Circulator Floor/Table Fan, HT-908:
Small, quiet, forceful, and keeps the mosquitoes away from my legs while I'm on the deck, kind of like a pet bullfrog.

Final Grade: B

I picked this game up because I enjoyed the developer's first game, Bastion. It has a definite style and was obviously crafted with love, but it never grabbed me in the first hour of play. Like Bastion, it drops you into the game without explanation or backstory, allowing you to learn the controls and get into the story as you go. However, this approach doesn't work for me, as it gives me no sense of setting or narrative and I always feel like I'm missing some gameplay mechanic when learning it on my own. Not everyone minds reading a game manual before firing up a game for the first time.

Final Grade: Not Graded

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Friday, July 11, 2014

Random Chart Day: 2014 Exercise Stats (First Half)

  • Total Treadmill Sessions: 116 in 182 days

  • Speed Range: 2.5 MPH - 10 MPH

  • Incline Range: 1% - 6%

  • Weight Range: 124 - 128 pounds

  • Total Hours on Treadmill: 79 hours 40 minutes

  • Total Distance on Treadmill: 302.5 miles

  • Total Treadmill Oilings: 2

  • Total Accidents: 1

  • Most Popular Exercise Days (Most - Least): Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Sunday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday

  • Shows Consumed: That 70s Show, My Name Is Earl, Newsroom, Archer, The Following, West Wing, Awake, Person of Interest

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Monday, July 14, 2014

Chad Darnell's 12 of 12

6:59 AM: Showered and ready for the day.
7:22 AM: Home from Safeway with necessary breakfast ingredients
8:03 AM: Breakfast with Rebecca and Amber.
10:52 AM: On the beach at Lake Barcroft. (Classy lakes have "Lake" as the prefix).
11:05 AM: Rebceca goes kayaking.
12:55 PM: Taking a nap at Rebecca's parents' house, with Ruthie.
2:41 PM: Visiting the nephews at my parents' house.
3:15 PM: Taking pictures of pool time, so the nephews can write Memory Day: Snapshots posts in 25 years.
5:12 PM: Pizza Hut pan pizza for dinner.
7:37 PM: Gelato in Reston Town Center.
8:00 PM: Jackass Flats performing in Reston Town Center, amidst teeming masses of humanity.
9:32 PM: Finally home on the couch, finishing Derek, Season Two.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Order Archaeology Day

Browsing through my old Amazon order history is like peeling back the layers of ash over Vesuvius. You can see which phases of my life I was in at any given time, based on the orders I had placed.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Memory Day: Snapshots

Two years ago today, on July 16, 2012, we were on our Canadian adventure. On this particular day, we went to the Bio Dome, a giant indoor habitat full of capybaras and puffins, as well as the wine bar, BU. In the evening, we inserted ourselves into the Illuminated Crowd sculpture across the street from McGill University, and then closed out the evening at the Laughs Festival surrounded by men dressed as giant horses.

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Captain Phillips (PG-13):
I ended up liking this movie more than expected -- it had plenty of back-and-forth cat-and-mouse action, where I was expecting some kind of talky hostage movie. The movie runs a little long, but is entertaining throughout. We were occasionally distracted from the intensity by the fact that the orange lifeboat in the second half resembles a dinosaur head, as if we were about to get on Jurassic Park: The Ride.

Final Grade: B-

Derek, Season Two:
I gave the first season a rare A, but unfortunately the second season is nowhere near as good. Hurt by the departure of the actor playing Dougie, the show spends too much time with Derek's crass friend, Kev. It still has its pleasant moments, but has lost the magic. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: B-

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons:
I took a brief stroll through my neglected Steam library yesterday and found this indie game (time played: 22 minutes). It's an adventure/puzzle game with an unfortunate redundant title. There's no text or dialogue in the game other than Sims-like gibberish, which makes it hard to get invested in the story. The control scheme is also irritating because you control both brothers onscreen with different keys on the left and right side of the keyboard. This takes some getting used to, but is fine until the "right" brother ends up on the left side of the screen and your brain explodes.

Final Grade: Not Graded

Battle Worlds: Kronos:
I purchased this game last year in the seven second span where I thought I might like turn-based strategy games (I do the same with JRPGs every five years or so). Like Witcher 2, the first tutorial was buggy to the point that it couldn't be completed, so I gave up altogether. (time played: 22 minutes as well)

Final Grade: Not Graded

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Friday, July 18, 2014

Hearthstone Day

I'm still playing Hearthstone on a near-daily basis -- mostly Casual games to do the daily quests. I seem to have the most success with Paladin and Druid, and haven't touched the Arena in months.

On the left is my primary Paladin deck, which I've cobbled together from scratch over time. It's not really a Rush deck or a Control deck, but offers a strong mid-game presence. It requires some lucky starting hands (Consecration) to beat Murloc Rush decks, but otherwise seems to be a solid jack-of-all-trades bag of tricks that relies on a minimum of Paladin spells.

The two legendary cards, Leeroy Jenkins and Tirion Fordring, actually came out of won card packs -- I have yet to actually craft any legendary cards on my own.

Are you still playing? What are your favourite heroes to play?

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Monday, July 21, 2014

Zone Updates In Progress

I'll be working on some infrastructure updates to the URI! Zone this week, so updates may be sporadic. Be back soon!

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Zone Updates in Progress

Phase One is complete. Moving on to Phase Two. No Francie clones are involved.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Zone Updates Complete

I'm finished giving the URI! Zone code base a much needed refactoring. All code, no matter the source, grows uglier over time -- even if you haven't touched it at all. I cleared out a bunch of detritus from the days when it was written in PHP, and the even-earlier days when it used Netscape 3.0 Gold JavaScript to dynamically write every page.

All of the pages listing my musical compositions are now database-driven. I should have done this a long time ago, since I'm no longer composing anything new, and spent a good 4 hours every new release trying to edit the 80 static HTML pages that made up the Music section.

I also modified the directory structure of News Post images from /yymm/dd.jpg to yy/mm/dd.jpg. The explanation will only be interesting to nerds: After 14 years of 12 months each, the first approach resulted in an images directory containing over 160 subdirectories that had to be loaded by the FTP client every time I wanted to upload something. The new approach ensures that no directory will ever have more than 12 subdirectories to list.

There are a few cosmetic changes to the layout (check out that classy header), but most readers should be unaffected by my work, other than to marvel at my brazen modification of the production database while the site was running. The bulk of my readership uses a feed reader like Feedly anyhow, so updating the look and feel might be wasted effort, not unlike primetime TV commercials in my household. However, the tuning under the hood should keep the lights on for another few years -- at least long enough to hit TWENTY YEARS in August 2016. I won't be going anywhere before then, and neither should you!

If anything seems broken, and the issue doesn't go away after hard refreshing the page, please let me know.

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Joyful Rebellion by K-OS:
This is an older album by K-OS (whose name I just recently realized should be pronounced as "Chaos" and not "Kay Oh Ess" because I am quick on the trigger). Where Yes! had a few strong tunes and some weird, experimental stuff, this album is more consistent throughout with more songs like the single, Crabbuckit.

Final Grade: B

head or heart by Christina Perri:
Christina Perri has a wonderful voice, but her first album had a few strikes against it -- mainly the fact that she often approached Ewan MacGregor levels of beltiness and the fact that I have to hear Jar of Hearts followed immediately by A Fine Frenzy's Almost Lover every time I go into Safeway. However, I enjoyed this new album a lot, in spite of the fact that every song title starts with a pretentious lowercase letter. Like a new age parent, she keeps the belt in check, and puts out perfectly pleasant pop performances like be my forever.

Final Grade: B+

I posted my first impressions about a month ago. Since then, I've leveled a Medic, Spellslinger, and Esper to 15, and then took the Esper to 35 in PvP battlegrounds. I have three new thoughts to add:

  • The UI is barely functional and could use a ton of polish. Basic web accessibility isn't followed. For example, to list something on the auction house, you click in the price field, hit Backspace for each digit in the suggested price and then retype the entire new price. You can't just change the Gold denomination independently, and you can't use Tab to move between fields.
  • In spite of the many tutorials, most concepts and feature are poorly explained. Forum and website reading are essential.
  • Questing is as boring as WoW unless you slow down and take the time to read the flavor text.
  • PvP is fun but very chaotic, which reduces the level of skill needed. Premades are a necessity.
Overall, this is an MMO that I'll probably play for another month, just for the PvP battleground experience. I see no incentive to level up in PvE. The game is definitely charming though, and I wouldn't dismiss it for good after cancelling my subscription. I would definitely keep my eye on it and try it again after a few more content patches.

Final Grade: B-

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Friday, July 25, 2014

Are You Ready for the Silver Line?

A sneak peek at the Twitter Feed of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority

Jul 26 12:00 PM
The #silverline is open for business! Come on out for the ride of your life!
Jul 26 12:08 PM
We're experiencing unusually high popularity, and apologize for any temporary delays around Rosslyn.
Jul 26 12:14 PM
We're aware of the broken escalators at Spring Hill and are working hard to get them fixed. Please use the elevator.
Jul 26 12:21 PM
To accommodate this unexpected surge in #silverline popularity, we're temporarily increasing Blue Line wait times to 35 minutes. #rushplusplus
Jul 26 12:25 PM
@saynotosilverline Gray and Silver are the same in web colors #cccccc #notfalseadvertising #notthegrayline
Jul 26 12:27 PM
Oops! The new #silverline SmarTrip cards are adding funds, not deducting them. Please trade yours in to a station manager at your next stop.
Jul 26 12:32 PM
We're aware that some cars do not yet have doors, and have added this to Bechtel's honey-do list. Please move to the center of the train.
Jul 26 12:45 PM
@DCSenatorAide Actually the new restrooms are just for the grand opening. We'll lock them up tomorrow. #socleanforareason
Jul 26 12:49 PM
@wmata Great rollout of the #silverline! Smooth trip all the way to Largo Town Center. Beautiful work! Kudos to your boss!
Jul 26 12:56 PM
Elevator broken in Spring Hill. For handicap access, please transfer to Vienna then use MetroAccess. Allow 4 hours.
Jul 26 1:02 PM
@UNCChick Greensboro refers to the street in Tyson's, not the city. We're sorry that you expected differently.
Jul 26 1:08 PM
To accommodate this unexpected surge in #silverline popularity, we're temporarily increasing Blue Line wait times by 45 minutes. #rushplusplusplus
Jul 26 1:09 PM
@HyblaValleyIsNotAlexandria Cumulative. So total wait time is 80 minutes. Just for today though!
Jul 26 1:25 PM
To show that we still care about our Blue Line customers, we're increasing your service by 800%! #momentum
Jul 26 1:27 PM
@unsuckdcmetro Instead of 1 eight-car train every 80 minutes we'll send 1 one-car train every 10 minutes.
Jul 26 1:28 PM
@HyblaValleyIsNotAlexandria The math is sound.
Jul 26 1:34 PM
@wmata Return trip was very fast. #silverline should be a coaster at Cedar Point!!
Jul 26 1:44 PM
Escalators in McLean temporarily stairs. Sorry for the convenience. #ripMitch
Jul 26 2:18 PM
@OldTownFloodGod Sorry, but the #silverline won't go to Dulles Airport for 8 more years. You can take the shuttle bus from Wiehle.
Jul 26 2:30 PM
To accommodate this unexpected surge in #silverline popularity, we're permanently ending the VA Blue Line at Arlington Cemetery.
Jul 26 2:32 PM
@BarCrawls4Yolo Arlington Cemetery may be dull today, but a terminus there will be a catalyst for development and smart growth. #thenextclarendon
Jul 26 2:34 PM
@wmata What a smart, creative solution to capacity and growth concerns! Glad that you guys always listen to your riders!
Jul 26 2:45 PM
@OldTownFloodGod Sorry you missed your flight.
Jul 26 3:00 PM
It's official. The #silverline is a hit!

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Monday, July 28, 2014

Weekend Wrap-up

We did not attend the grand opening of the Silver Line, so we weren't a part of the gleeful crowd calling it a "win for America". However, I was tickled to learn that an escalator had actually broken down at the McLean station as I had predicted on Friday.

Instead, we opened our weekend with a trip to Target for sundry goods, like a new travel crate for my car trunk to replace the one that finally cracked open after fourteen years of Costco goods transportation, and a new swimsuit to replace the high school era suit that constantly collected sand to chafe my legs. In the afternoon, we drove down to Fairfax for the housewarming party of Joe & Katie, who now own a classic Chantilly-layout home with a salmon-coloured family room.

From the housewarming barbeque, we went to Jack and Kristy's in Arlington to celebrate Johnny's 4th birthday and catch up with Jack's whole family. There were far fewer kids than expected, although I then learned that the kid event had been in the morning, and they had essentially been entertaining all day as a marathon sport.

On the way home, we stopped at Lake Anne for a walk around the lake. I tried to convince Rebecca that the Lake Anne high rise would be the seedy ghetto in a movie about a dystopian Reston future -- just use CGI to add some smog and graffiti, and then erase the top few floors as if there were a meth lab explosion and you're all set (starring Kurt Russell).

Sunday was laundry and Orphan Black day, followed by a mini FSU-reunion at Kathy's house with Mark and Marta, who I had not seen since I left Tallahassee in April 2003. We ate fajitas and talked about babies and band music, but mostly babies.

How was your weekend?

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

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Random Chart Day: Washing Machine Timer Conversion Chart

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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Memory Day: Snapshots

Two years ago today, on July 30, 2012, we were in the Outer Banks with the Smiths. The tiny house, At Last, was cozy but completely lacking in Wi-Fi. Luckily, we were able to leech free Wi-fi from the hotel across the street, which I had stayed at as a child, ending the existential crisis of not having email at the beach.

Here, Mallory was telling Rebecca that there was ice cream all over the front of her shirt.

tagged as memories | permalink | 5 comments

Thursday, July 31, 2014

End-of-the-Month Highlights Day

New photos have been added to the Life, 2014 album.

  • Events
    • Celebrated the 4th in Taylorstown and Colonial Beach.

    • Made buffalo meatballs for a Crane barbeque on 7/6.

    • Went back to Mokomandy for high-cost, high-deliciousness tapas on 7/9.

    • Spent 12 of 12 with both ends of the family.

    • Mysteriously injured the muscles around my left lung, preventing me from coughing hard for two weeks.

    • Went to a housewarming for Joe and Katie, and a birthday party at Jack and Kristy's, then reconvened with FSU grads on 7/27.

  • Projects
    • Rewrote the custom framework that drives the URI! Zone, mostly so I can be a snob about other people's Wordpress troubles.

    • Grilled meats at least twice a week every week for dinner.

  • Consumerism
    • Tore through Orphan Black, Season Two as well as Derek, Season Two. Started watching Jericho on the treadmill.

    • Currently listening to new albums by K-OS and Christina Perri.

    • Playing Hearthstone and Wildstar, but gradually getting the itch to look for a new game.

July's Final Grade: B+, hot and humid, with plenty of socializing

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