Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Weekend Wrap-up

I'm not exactly sure how it's already September, but it does mean that I'm one year closer to retiring on an island paradise. Our weekend was pretty relaxing for a Labor Day Weekend, without the usual chain of barbeques across the area to attend.

On Saturday, Annie stopped by in the afternoon, and we drank organic beers on the back porch. In the evening, we went to the Ahlbins for dinner and a Hearthstone tournament, before which Ella tried to convince us that it would be in our best interests to sleep over so she could eat breakfast with us in the morning.

On Sunday, we went hiking at Riverbend Park, north of Great Falls. It's like Great Falls Park with 80% fewer people and no falls, but we were able to do a nice five mile hike in the stifling heat and humidity. We returned home in the evening for showers, Domino's pizza, and episodes of The Shield.

I extravagantly took Labor Day off because I have over 200 hours of leave saved up and am nowhere near depletion. While Rebecca went to work to perambulate the elderly, I did some beach trip planning, puttered around the house, played Skyrim, and started Sons of Anarchy while running on the treadmill. Dinner was brown sugar steaks and salads, grilled to perfection in the window between thunderstorms.

How was your weekend?

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Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Time-lapsed Blogography Day

  • 21 years ago today, in 1993, I threw an End-of-Summer / Early Birthday Party to celebrate my 14th birthday with my friends, Aaron, Michael, Kwan, Cheryl, Michelle, Jennie, and Nancy.

  • 20 years ago today, in 1994, we went to the annual pool party at the Herbert's (a coworker of my Dad's). I had to hang out with the son, John, who was super into sports (I was not).

  • 18 years ago today, in 1996, my high school friends were college freshmen and learning how to email.

  • Date: Tue, 03 Sep 96 13:05:56 EDT
    From: ben seggerson <BENSEGG@VM.SC.EDU>

    hello i'm just learning how to do this so i thought i would write to you again, just out of curiousity why the hell do you have a home page? dude you are soooooooooooo cccccccccccrrrrrrrrrrrrraaaaaaaaaaaazzzzy. i am having the time of my life and i am being kind of good. so there my room is beautiful my roommate is pretty cool.

  • 15 years ago today, in 1999, Chris Li was in town in Blacksburg (had he taken a semester off?) and I went to dinner at Macado's with him.

  • 13 years ago today, in 2001, I sat in my apartment playing Diablo 2 because Florida State actually observed Labor Day, and I didn't really know anybody to hang out with yet.

  • 12 years ago today, in 2002, I was proofreading a Warcraft 3 battle report, The Warcraft Report, which is now slightly broken, but working just enough to read in its entirety if you have a slow day at work today.

  • 9 years ago today, in 2005, I recoated the driveway and came in 4th place at Poker Night, losing to a Full House.

  • 8 years ago today, in 2006, I was hitting on a teacher on match.com. However, my endgame woman was still 5 months away!

  • Date: Sun, 3 Sep 2006 18:20:26 -0500
    From: <customercare@match.com>
    This is a copy of your message sent to BonnyWeeLass@talkmatch.com

    I've added you to my list and my own IM is boyllama. Good luck with your first day of classes!


    tagged as memories | permalink | 1 comment

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Perfect Contradiction by Paloma Faith:
The 70s soul orchestrations on this album are very fun, but the songs as wholes are kind of forgettable. I can't listen to Mouth to Mouth without picturing the scene from Wario Ware: Smooth Moves with the disco kittens. Overall, this is better than her second album, but has nothing as catchy as Upside Down.

Final Grade: B-

Damages, Season One:
This is a Machiavellian thriller starring Glenn Close as a power-hungry lawyer manipulating all of her associates. It employs the overused narrative device of flashing back and forth between a murder and the events leading up to that murder, but somehow manages to connect the dots in an unexpected way that made it work for me -- usually I find this approach to be the poor man's excuse for reusing film footage. The other main character, played by Rose Byrne, is an empty plot cipher that never becomes interesting, but the twists and turns of the story are strong on their own. Glenn Close is as good as you'd expect, but the surprise stand-out is Zeljko Ivanek as a tragic Southern lawyer -- he definitely deserved his Emmy for this role. Free on Amazon Prime.

Final Grade: B

Peak Organic Beer Sampler Pack:
I picked up this sampler pack on a whim at Costco last week because it was a dollar cheaper than the Sam Adams pack (plus, Sam Adams seems to be on an abbreviated year, where every season is one and a half months long, resulting in the release of Christmas beers in September).

  • Pale Ale: A middle-of-the-road, forgettable pale ale.
  • IPA: A decent brew, if you enjoy the bitterness of IPAs (probably a good beach beer).
  • Summer Session Ale: Much more bitter than expected, as if it was just a half-finished batch of IPA. Nothing to recommend it.
  • Nut Brown Ale: This was the redeeming feature of the pack, with a great malty taste.
Final Grade: C+, organic doesn't equate to good

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Friday, September 05, 2014

Recipe Day: Bagel Toast

This is a "recipe" the way that Nickelback is a "band" -- it's more of a Hint from Heloise on what to do when your bagels go stale faster than you can eat them.

Simply cut your bagel into thirds rather than halves, starting with the bottom slice and then splitting the top two thirds with a bread knife. If the bagel is uneven, rotate so that the thinnest side is up, to prevent wedge-shaped pieces.

Toast the thirds in a toaster oven for the same amount of time you would toast halves and then spread liberally with cream cheese. There are multiple benefits to this approach:

  • Most of the tiresome, chewy parts are now close enough to a surface to come out crispy.
  • There's more surface area to spread cream cheese.
  • You'll spend less time tearing and chewing and more time freebasing cream cheese.

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Monday, September 08, 2014

Beach Day

Waking up to Sam Edwards' Breakfast Sandwich Bar.

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Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Heard in a Game of Taboo

"Hippie shoes."
"Chucks! Chuck Taylors!"
"The full name..."
"Charles Taylors!"

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Beach Day

Two days of thunderstorms leads to big waves and rip tides.

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Telestrations Day

Original Phrase to Draw: "Breathing through a reed underwater, hiding from the Viet Cong."

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Friday, September 12, 2014

Chad Darnell's 12 of 12

8:05 AM: Soft-boiled eggs on the stove.
9:10 AM: Morning walk on the beach.
10:00 AM: Showered and ready for... work?
10:14 AM: Catching up with Mike Catania's Kilimanjaro exploits on Facebook.
10:57 AM: Hanging around the pool with Rebecca and Annie.
11:59 AM: Reading on the Kindle in the hot tub.
12:09 PM: Choosing lunch from a variety of leftovers.
1:29 PM: Teaching Annie how to play Hearthstone.
3:45 PM: Playing Hearthstone.
5:50 PM: Prepping for dinner.
8:30 PM: Early beach birthday party.
9:45 PM: Poolside dance party.

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Monday, September 15, 2014

Birth Day

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

OBX Travelogue, Part I of II

  • F 9/5
    • Dropped the "kids" off at my parents' house.
    • Packed bags and shovels.
    • Ate all of the food to prevent spoilage.

  • S 9/6
    • Picked up Marv in Springfield.
    • Experienced the dreaded "bridge traffic" for the first time, since we didn't leave at the break of dawn.
    • Rode up and down in the elevator several times.
    • Made tacos for dinner.
    • Scratched my face during pool horseplay (not recommended for children).

  • S 9/7
    • Ate bacon.
    • Visited the beach in between rainstorms.
    • Dug a hole on the beach.
    • Read The Racketeer by John Grisham.
    • Zach made pulled pork sandwiches for dinner.

  • M 9/8
    • Ate more bacon.
    • Ran 2 miles on the beach.
    • Stayed indoors playing games during the rain.
    • Annie arrived.

  • T 9/9
    • Ate more bacon.
    • The Edwardses departed.
    • Read Sycamore Row by John Grisham (jury duty research).
    • Enjoyed post-thunderstorm giant waves on the beach.
    • Went to the Outer Banks Brewing Station for dinner.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

OBX Travelogue, Part II of II

  • W 9/10
    • Ate more bacon.
    • Played Telestrations until the markers ran dry.
    • Annie made Chinese sausage with shrimp-fried rice for dinner.
    • Introduced the concept of "shell shots".
  • H 9/11
    • Ate more bacon.
    • Sallie departed.
    • Dug a hole on the beach.
    • Got Marv addicted to Hearthstone.
    • Taje and Michael made chicken satay for dinner.
    • Played Imaginiff with custom cards.
  • F 9/12
    • Ate more bacon.
    • Read Sorcerer's Legacy by Janny Wurts.
    • Got Annie addicted to Hearthstone.
    • Ate crabs for dinner.
    • Had an early birthday party.
  • S 9/13
    • Drove home, picking up the cats along the way.
    • Picked a cornucopia of ripe tomatoes from our garden.
    • Fell asleep to episodes of The Shield.
  • S 9/14
    • Rewatched District 9 and School of Rock.
    • Early birthday dinner out at Ford's Fish Shack. Lobster tail is good but overrrated.
  • M 9/15
    • Did NOT have jury duty.
    • Started playing South Park: The Stick of Truth.
    • Birthday steaks.
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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Sons of Anarchy, Season One:
This series about a gun-running motorcycle club is good but unrelentingly grim. It sometimes plays out like The Sopranos in a different context, and is heavy on violence and power plays with only muted comedy. The weakest part of the show are the "lessons learned" narrations read from a book at the end of almost every episode. Regardless, it's a promising start for a series, and the second season continues to improve. Free on Amazon Prime.

Final Grade: B-

The Racketeer by John Grisham:
This book rigidly adheres to the Grisham template for law-related page-turners, but adds nothing new to the mix. If you're on a beach vacation, you will continue reading to see how it all turns out, but all of his books from the 20th century are much better.

Final Grade: C-

Sycamore Row: A Jake Brigance Novel by John Grisham:
Although billed as a sequel to Grisham's first and most acclaimed book, A Time to Kill, it's less a sequel and more a new story that happens to be set in the same world. This one held my interest throughout and the characterizations felt much deeper -- however, that's probably a placebo effect from the fact that the characters are mostly familiar faces from a book I've read several times. It's one of his stronger books since The Brethren.

Final Grade: B

Live from Chicago by Hannibal Burress:
There are definitely some funny jokes on this album, but the delivery occasionally needs some polish -- the hazards of taping a live album. I enjoyed it more the second time, when I could make out more words amidst the mumbling.

Final Grade: B-

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Friday, September 19, 2014

Random Chart Day

I have spent 50% of the last 3 days in the office.

Even 35-year-olds can still pull an occasional 25 hours without sleep.

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Monday, September 22, 2014

Weekend Wrap-up

  • Friday
    • Took an evening walk through the common grounds in our neighbourhood. Saw 1 deer.
    • Ate Cornish game hen for dinner and watched Amazon Pilots all evening.
  • Saturday
    • Did a Costco run for toilet paper and pork loins.
    • Stayed in while Rebecca went out to dish with Amanda. Downloaded Assassin's Creed IV because it was in a Steam Sale, but have not yet played it.
  • Sunday
    • Drove Rebecca's car to my parents' house to check on a potential oil leak with the right array of tools.
    • Caught up on Hearthstone daily quests.
    • Went to dinner at Ted's Bulletin with Rebecca's parents. Nice ambience but everything was seasoned with the taste of char (the blackened crust from searing, not the Zerg homeworld or Rebecca's step-mom).

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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

HIGI Day: Computer Programming

"How I Got Into..." my habits and pastimes

  • Fall 1986: My parents purchase Zork I for our monochrome 8086. I spent every evening after first grade classes playing the game, occasionally getting stuck.

  • 1987: I decide to get into the game-writing business, and write my first text adventure in the arcane programming language called "WordPerfect 4.2". My parents patiently explain that writing the transcript of a game session in a word processor isn't sufficient for an actual game.

  • 1987: My parents introduce me to the version of GW-BASIC bundled with MS-DOS 3.2 and how it can be used to write games. Every subsequent birthday for many years would include one of those books full of programs that you could type into the computer.

  • 1987 - 1990: I wrote a trilogy of bad text adventures, Zendof, The Sword of Tholin, and Perils of Replocian, in GW-BASIC, featuring puzzles lifted from other Infocom games and Invisiclues hintbooks printed on a dot matrix printer.

  • 1994: At the request of Jack Wilmer, to bug his little sister, Julie, I learned how to code MS-DOS Batch files. After he installed my file, the computer would insult her every time she tried to play Eco-Quest: The Search for Cetus.

  • 1996: My parents encourage me to have a sensible backup major because music won't make any money, so I go to Virginia Tech with a double major in Music and CS.

  • 1996: My first programming class is in C++, and one of the assignments asks us to process shipping packages with three possible attributes (like overnight, extra bulky, and insured). My solution of assigning each attribute the numbers 1, 2, and 4, and then being able to tell which attributes are set based on the range 0-7 is called out in class as being "quite clever" by the Irish professor -- apparently I also invented binary addition.

  • 1997 - 1999: All subsequent programming classes are in Java 1.3, because it's a hip technology. No one is good at teaching object-oriented programming yet, so we spend a lot of class time in group projects creating triangles and squares on a canvas. That assclown, Shane, borrows my Java book at the end of the semester and then never returns it, denying me $4 in sellback profit.

  • 1999 - 2000: I write a real text adventure called Augmented Fourth in the Inform 6 language, which has more square braces and semicolons than the emoticons in an AOL IM convo.

  • 2000: I grow disillusioned with the personalities in my CS classes and decide to go to grad school for music.

  • 2002: After two summers of interning at a company with a minimum of CS personalities, I decide to stop my music education and go into computer programming full time.

  • 2003: I plunge into computer programming full-time, doing mostly Java work.

  • 2009 - 2011: My work morphs from 100% programming into a mulatto blend of programming, data standards, and translating programmers' thoughts for manager consumption.

  • 2010: I become an open-source developer as an outlet for the lack of programming I do at work. Programming is obviously in my BLOOD.

  • 2012: I spend a year doing zero programming while being a tech lead on a dangerously political government data standard where 10% of the work has technical acumen and the other 90% is dodging political sniping. I spend an exorbitant amount of time in an edit war on its Wikipedia page, where the standard's detractors try to change the verb tenses to past tense in order to convince the brass that the standard is obviously dead ("Wikipedia says so.")

  • 2013: The standard actually does die, and I go back to my mulatto-blend job.

  • Today: I have been at the same company since I started interning there in 2000. I'm currently responsible for the transition of a legacy WebLogic JavaEE enterprise service to open-source technologies, which is exactly what I was doing in 2006. I supplement this dearth of interesting work with lots of online coursework, new languages, and continued open-source development. I have not composed a song longer than one minute in length since December 2011.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Memory Day: Snapshots

This picture was taken fifteen years ago today, on September 24, 1999. After a stellar performance of Scarabus during the Friday afternoon Brass Master Class, accompanied by Joetta Peterson, I drove to Jason Chrisley's house in Pulaski for dinner steaks and trampoline time. Also present were Philip, Mike Robb, Shac, Liz, Kelley, and Kelley's ex-girlfriend, Melody. Doobie did not attend, but he was there for the RV party five days later.

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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Night Work by Scissor Sisters:
Another collection of catchy, dancebeat-y songs from the Scissor Sisters. It's not too stylistically different from the later album, Magic Hour, but is equally as fun.

Final Grade: B+

The Shocking Miss Emerald by Caro Emerald:
Caro Emerald doesn't stray far from the "jazz vocals over modern beats" template that made her first album so great, but this collection of songs is just as good as the originals -- it's more expansion pack than sequel.

Final Grade: B+

Sorcerer's Legacy by Janny Wurts:
This was Janny Wurts' first book (published in 1981). I had never read it before because it was out of print, but it was finally released on the Kindle. Like her other works, this story is set against standard fantasy tropes with her unique special flavour added in -- strong female protagonists, and plots with more unfolding depth than breadth. Since it's a standalone book without endless sequels, the story is fast-paced and builds up a conflict whose resolution cannot be easily guessed ahead of time. I was a little disappointed in the final outcome, but can easily see the starting germs that eventually led to Wars of Light and Shadow, my favourite fantasy series that everyone else finds boring.

Final Grade: B

Sons of Anarchy, Season Two:
The second season of this show is a major improvement over the first. With all of the characters and settings established, the writers begin to mix the pieces together in interesting ways. The overarching plotline is solid, and kept me hooked for the whole season. Free on Amazon Prime.

Final Grade: B+

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Friday, September 26, 2014

List Day: 25 Things About Google Apps That Annoy Me

  • General
    1. The Grid icon adds a useless extra click when accessing common tools like the Calendar.
    2. Google Plus was a good idea until they forced integration across all of the other tools. I'm glad they're letting it die now.
    3. Every workflow is oriented around the way Google WANTS you to do something, not the way you NEED do it.
  • GCalendar
    1. Google assumes that every event is going to be mappable.
  • GChat
    1. Contacts can only be grouped by "All" or "Most Popular". There's no way to have custom groups.
    2. Contacts are permanently sorted by first letter, and half our company is listed with last name first.
  • GDocs
    1. When you click on a change in the Revision History, the document doesn't scroll down to that change.
    2. Translation between Google formats and Microsoft formats is still laughably awful.
    3. Comments lose attribution when converted to Word.
    4. It takes two clicks just to see the page count.
  • GMail
    1. Deleting an email in a conversation deletes the entire conversation.
    2. I have never found an archived email I was looking for on page one of search results.
    3. Having labels also represent folders is a confusing mental model.
    4. When there are multiple new emails in a conversation, it's easy to miss the older ones.
    5. "Reply to All" often bugs out and refuses to open a draft window.
    6. Creating filters is more tedious than simply deleting the messages.
  • GDrive
    1. The client software causes catastrophic sync errors as soon as you use it on more than one computer regularly.
    2. When I drag something, it's because I want to copy and paste a filename, and NEVER because I want to move it!
    3. Every third or fourth visit, GDrive goes into weird, flashy mode where the page endlessly refreshes until Firefox runs out of memory.
    4. I NEVER want Google to attempt to render a file when I click on it. Just let me download it.
    5. It takes four clicks to download a file.
    6. It takes several seconds for Google to render a file past page one, even if you just opened it a few minutes ago. How about some caching?
    7. GDrive is always syncing your changes whether you like it or not. There is no "commit" option.
    8. Version Control is useless. It takes four clicks to manage revisions when not using the buggy GDrive client.
    9. It is super easy to completely overwrite a file and its history by accident.

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Monday, September 29, 2014

Weekend Wrap-up

On Friday, I arranged a Civil War song called Tenting Tonight for my dad's brass quintet. I still remember all brass ranges, although it's telling that my Finale music template has a 2002 copyright date in its footer.

On Saturday, Rebecca left town for a beach weekend in Ocean City with her estrogen-equipped friends, while I disassembled the office to clean Booty's inaccessible cat vomit off of the wall behind my giant desk. This was a success and the room no longer smells like a dog.

While the desk was in pieces, I decided to rearrange the room and rebuilt the desk in its mirror shape in the opposite corner. This has multiple benefits:

  • My feet are no longer over a cold vent, while my computer's vent will no longer rapidly overheat because it faces a wall.
  • I am no longer in front of the window, so I'm not in my neighbour's line of sight, and I won't be blinded by the winter sun all season long.
  • The router is 8 feet closer to the center of the house, so more Wifi for all.
  • By getting rid of the hutch over the desk, Booty will never have the opportunity to vomit from above again, and I can buy 50 inch monitors without being constrained by whether they fit under a hutch.
  • I have traditionally composed with my left hand, so switching the music keyboard to the other side might lead to some undiscovered melodies and harmonies.

In the evening, I went to Anna and Ben's and taught them how to play Gloom.

Nothing happened on Sunday besides some useless online lectures and some Hearthstone. How was your weekend?

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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

End-of-the-Month Highlights Day

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

  • Events
    • Hiked in Riverbend Park and Great Falls on 9/1.

    • Had a successful Beach Week in Kill Devil Hills from 9/6 - 9/13.

    • Turned 35, and am now closer to 40 than 30.

    • Ate dinner with Rebecca's parents on 9/21.

    • Played Gloom with Anna and Ben on 9/27.

  • Projects
    • Worked on more proposals, and also had some long overnighters to support a software deployment.

    • Started an online class in "Usable Security", which is about as soft-skills as it sounds.

    • Arranged a brass quintet tune.

    • Rearranged the office.

  • Consumerism
    • Enjoyed watching Sons of Anarchy's first two seasons and Damages: Season One, and eager to start the third season of Person of Interest this week.

    • Played Hearthstone and South Park: The Stick of Truth.

    • Enjoyed new music from the Scissor Sisters and Caro Emerald, and looking forward to the new Dirt Poor Robins release today.

September's Final Grade: B+

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