Monday, March 02, 2015

Weekend Wrap-up

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

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

List Day: Recent Purchases

Date Purchase Reason
2/26 Internet It's comcastic.
2/27 Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Meal Post-All-Nighter breakfast craving
2/28 Blackened Sea Scallops Doing our taxes made us hungry for seafood.
3/1 Propane Refill We grill three times a week for dinner and it sucks when you run out mid-steak.
3/1 Broom The broom that came with me from Centreville (2004) could no longer perform.
3/1 Toilet Seat The white coating scraped away in one spot on the rim of the old seat, leaving a dark smudge that looks like either mold or poop from far away. Visitors might judge us.
3/1 100W Incandescent Bulbs CFLs are overrated.
3/1 New drain screens Long-haired residents necessitate a healthy supply of expensive drain cleaner or inexpensive drain screens.
3/2 State of the Art by Hilltop Hoods Haven't listened to new music in a month.

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Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Memory Day: Poker

Nine years ago today, I had the first Texas Hold'em Game of the 2006 series. Poker was just starting to gain in popularity in my "circles" (which I invented before Google+), so this tournament was nothing like the highly organized games of later years. I originally expected this to be an eight-person game so someone must have dropped out at the last minute, probably Eric B.

2006 would ultimate end up being a 6-game series in which I never ranked higher than second place, as evinced by the game record I kept on the whiteboard all year long. To rectify this, I have reranked everyone who played in this historic first game in order of the last time I saw them.

I win!

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Thursday, March 05, 2015

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Lilyhammer, Season Two:
This season lost a little freshness compared to the first, but remains as charming and understated. I would have liked to have seen more of Torgeir's story about remaining relevant and appreciated, as it didn't really go anywhere. Also, the final episode of the season was one long homage to The Sopranos -- unnecessary, awesome for fans, but probably worthless to anyone who didn't watch the show it was respecting. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: B

Justified, Season Five:
The plot this season wasn't as tight as previous plots -- the new family of Crowes was fun but not as menacing as the Crowders or any other nemeses featured previously. Momentum also slowed down every time the story switched over to Ava's storyline in a women's prison. With Orange is the New Black having already exhausted the setting, Justified had nothing to add. On the other hand, the dialogue continues to crackle, and it's worth watching the show just to enjoy the banter between Raylan and Boyd, plot be damned. Free on Amazon Prime.

Final Grade: B

Bosch, Season One:
This police drama from Amazon Studios is based on a series of crime books that I've never read and features a great performance from Titus Welliver, also known as "The Man in Black when LOST was starting to suck" and "the human representation of Sam the Eagle from The Muppet Show". The show itself is well-acted and entertaining, if a bit slow-paced. It's more successful at police-y stuff, and comes off as a bad The Wire clone when it tries to tackle anything related to politics. Overall, it wasn't amazing, but I'm really glad that Amazon is trying new things. Free on Amazon Prime.

Final Grade: B-

The Other Size of Zero by Elizabeth and the Catapult:
I got this album at the same time as Like It Never Happened, and it was overshadowed by the more outspoken tunes on that album. However, the core of this album contains some solid coffeehouse pop songs weighed down by a few weightless tunes that last forever without going anywhere.

Final Grade: B

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Friday, March 06, 2015

Snow Day

We survived in Sterling with about 8 inches of snow. I drove Rebecca to work so she could walk home like an Eskimo in the afternoon. I also shoveled around 2 PM, only to have my work completely erased, before shoveling again around 4:30.

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

Monday, March 09, 2015

Weekend Wrap-up

We got away for an early spring road trip this weekend, leaving the cats at home with the dry food auto-feeder from which Booty spends the entire weekend finagling one pellet of food per hour. Our destination was Hopkins Ordinary, and bed & breakfast in Sperryville, Virginia. We got there around 9 on Friday night, full of Subway, and enjoyed a complimentary pint of beer from the Aleworks in the basement before calling it a night.

On Saturday, we got up for a healthy, organic breakfast accompanied by classic, organic jazz combo music. With the unexpected snow storm just two days earlier, our plans to hike Old Rag were abandoned, in favor of a more snow-amenable hike at White Oak Canyon. Another couple at the B&B were planning this same adventure, but we never saw them for the rest of the day after breakfast, so they must have gone elsewhere (worried about hiking awkwardly ahead or behind us all day long).

The hike was a bit messy, with pristine snow on the way up and a slushy Slip'n'Slide on the way back down as temperatures climbed up to 50. There were a few unexpected stream fordings required, but thankfully I was wearing rain boots so I wouldn't have to complain about wet feet (given the choice between footwear built for hiking or dry feet, I will choose dry feet every time, even at the expense of my calf muscles).

On the way back, we passed an alert collared dog in the middle of a country road who begrudgingly went to the shoulder as we passed, only to walk back out into the middle of the road afterwards. Curiosity aroused by this behavior, I watched him in the rear-view mirror and found that he was playing crossing guard for an orange cat. The two rejoined on the other side of the road and disappeared into the brush -- it was very Incredible Journey-esque.

In the afternoon, we visited Ducard Vineyards, which had good reds and forgettable whites, and the Hopkins Ordinary Aleworks, a microbrewery run by our B&B hosts. Unlike the peculiar "dandelion wine" served at a previous B&B, this microbrewery was the real deal, with an excellent variety of beers, including an IPA, a brown, a saison, a rye, and a blonde. Each was memorable, and the flight was just as good, if not better, than the many budding breweries in Loudoun County.

We ate dinner at Thornton River Grille, a surprisingly expensive little restaurant in Sperryville which had the saving grace of being across the street from our beds. I ate the duck, which was a mistake, because the duck is never as good as you hope it will be.

On Sunday, we meandered back northward, stopping for sandwiches at 24 Crowes, and a wine tasting at Rappahannock Cellars, and then came home to do laundry. Rebecca did kitchen-yoga while I studied for my upcoming AWS certification exam, and then we finally started the third season of House of Cards.

How was your weekend?

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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Sydney Day

We are temporarily a three-cat household once again, as Anna and Ben explode their pets across the globe like dandelion petals until they can reconvene in a new location that isn't around the corner from murder central in Manassas. Three cats is about one and a half cats more than you should generally have (one cat to keep you company and half a cat to feed the one cat), so we'll see how this grand experiment works out.

Sydney last lived here ten years ago, having previously moved out with Anna on June 30, 2005. Since then, she's lived with dogs, ferrets, and small children, so obviously she has the street smarts to become the alpha cat in our house of pampered quiet-time push-overs. Booty and Amber are not quite sure what to make of El Diablo hiding in the basement, but hopefully everyone will get along and recreate heartwarming scenes like this one soon.

tagged as cats | permalink | 3 comments

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Memory Day: Snapshots

This picture was taken thirty years ago in June 1985. My sister is on the left, and my kindergarten-girlfriend, Gina Moore, is in the middle. The lush greenery and chain link fence provide clues that this was taken in our backyard, near the typical 1980s playground set that would get covered in slugs and spider webs every morning.

tagged as memories | permalink | 2 comments

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Chad Darnell's 12 of 12

5:15 AM: Getting ready for work.
6:25 AM: Writing proposal content.
9:29 AM: Deploying cloud applications.
10:14 AM: Home early to a disapproving Booty.
11:23 AM: Washing the winter salt off of my car.
11:37 AM: Lunchtime.
11:52 AM: Checking on cat number #3, who has moved upstairs from behind the dryer to under the couch.
2:37 PM: Booty proofreads and judges my proposal content.
5:34 PM: Running on the treadmill with The IT Crowd.
6:48 PM: Sunset over Herndon.
8:00 PM: Burgers at the counter at The Counter.
8:49 PM: Winding down with House of Cards.

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Friday, March 13, 2015

Cloud Day

I passed the Amazon Web Services Certified Developer - Associate exam on Tuesday morning, which gives me the right to use this logo image in any non-obscene contexts, and the right to end any and all conversations by asking, "Well why don't you put it in the cloud?". I got an 81%, and although the actually passing grade seems to be a close-held secret based on fuzzy math and fuzzier peaches, the general consensus seems to be that it's somewhere around 65%.

Altogether, it took about a month of regular after-work study to train for the exam, and the questions were surprisingly applicable to real world knowledge (not just variations on memorizing arbitrary numbers or trick questions). Of course, I can't reveal the actual questions, as they're under NDA, and Amazon would probably punish me by revoking my Prime free shipping.

Next up on my agenda is to take the Certified Solutions Architect - Associate exam, because apparently there's a 40% overlap in the materials for the two, so I might as well take it while it's fresh in my mind. For laymen, Solutions Architects are the ones who tell everyone what to do from their ivory towers, while Developers are the ones actually getting their hands dirty trying to implement the impossible dreams of the architects.

tagged as programming | permalink | 5 comments

Monday, March 16, 2015

Weekend Wrap-up

We had a St. Patrick's Day party on Saturday night, which also ended up being a de facto Pi Day party with two dessert pie contributions. Both Kathy and Returned Mike were present and pool was played, eliciting comparisons to parties of yore from the Tallahassee days.

On Sunday, Rebecca went on a 12 mile hike to bulk up for her summer adventure in the Alps, while I stayed home, and occasionally relaxed. The rest of the time, I spent working on proposals.

How was your weekend?

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

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Cat Day

I'm busy writing about all of the things we can put in the cloud today, so here is a picture of Cat #3 to tide you over until tomorrow.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Stuff in My Drawers Day: Convocation

It was seventeen years ago yesterday that I performed the first movement of The Hero, a four-movement, 21-minute symphonic work for a wind ensemble of 20 people. Not feeling up to the task of making friends with 20 musicians, I did the next best thing and created a piano reduction of the score and then hired an accompanist.

Had I thought ahead further, I would have hired an accompanist with 20 fingers, not 10 -- one finger for each member of the wind ensemble to address the fact that nearly every note from the score ended up in the reduction. It wasn't a reduction so much as a stave clogging, similar to the effect you see on I-95 towards Kings Dominion every Saturday morning.

Here is an excerpt (605KB MP3), from the performance (recorded on cassette tape in our state of the art recording lab). I really should have paid Pam Trent more money.

I also should have made the first movement about two minutes shorter, as I seem to have a track record of getting very tired whenever a song ends with an extended cadenza (see also, the Arutunian on my recital).

tagged as music | permalink | 2 comments

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Modern Family, Season Two:
The second season continues to amuse without a drop in quality. The character of Cam gets a little tiresome by the end, but not enough so that it hurts our enthusiasm for watching.

Final Grade: B+

Trouble in Paradise by La Roux:
This collection of songs is completely unmemorable, not unlike my single viewing ever of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It's a pleasant palette of pop electronica, but takes no chances and has nothing as catchy as Tigerlily or Bulletproof.

Final Grade: C-

The IT Crowd, Season One:
This British comedy about the IT department in a big company is a pleasant treadmill-worthy show. It improves in the second season, although it tends to rely a bit too much on absurdist or fantasy humor. Rebecca was done with it after the IT geeks discovered a goth living in the basement of the building. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: B

Displacement by Lucy Knisley:
Rebecca recommended this graphic novel about a young twenty-something taking her aging grandparents (one with dementa) on a cruise. It's about as heavy as it sounds, though the tone is buoyed by the cute cartoons and a short running length.

Final Grade: B-

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Friday, March 20, 2015

No Update Today

Writing more about clouds. What are you doing this weekend?

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Monday, March 23, 2015

Weekend Wrap-up

Although the first half of the weekend was buried under the weight of proposal work, I did manage to tear away in time to salvage it. On Saturday night, we went over to Joe & Katie's for gender-segregated gathering where all of the women were knitting, sewing, and scrapbooking, while all of the men were playing frisbee, grilling chicken, and playing video games.

On Sunday morning, we drove out to Sky Meadows State Park for a hike described on some online sites as "hiking through the Alps but in Virginia". Virginia State Parks is really on their game with trail maintenance and signage, with accurate mileage markings and enough trail benches satisfy the Eagle Scout requirements for an entire troop of Boy Scouts. I hiked until about the 10 mile marker, while Rebecca was slightly harder-corer and did another circuit up a steep hill, bringing her to 11.75 miles.

In the evening, we had dinner at American Tap Room in Reston Town Center with Returned Mike and Annie. As an apropos appetizer, we had the steak and cheese egg rolls, which could easily be the most American mashup you could make. For dinner I tried, for the first time, fried chicken and waffles. I remain unconvinced that this is a necessary food pairing.

How was your weekend?

tagged as day-to-day | permalink | 1 comment

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Spring Break Day

I decided to take the rest of this week off from work to restore some life-work equilibrium. Here are the things I expect to accomplish in the next 6 days.

  • Take the Amazon Web Services Certified Solutions Architect exam.

  • Get my safety and emissions inspection complete for my Accord, which is only driven 6000 miles per year.

  • Do my annual Spring Cleaning and Organization on our Hanford Homestead.

  • Migrate DDMSence to a new project hosting site, now that Google Code has added to the reasons why you shouldn't depend on Google applications for long-term purposes.

  • Learn how to cook tapas at a cooking class with Kathy.

  • Pick up all the winter storm sticks in the backyard.

  • Start researching things for our summer trip to Switzerland.

As motivation, if I don't complete at least 71% of these tasks, I will give a random reader a $5 gift certificate to Amazon.com. Let's get started!

tagged as lists, day-to-day | permalink | 4 comments

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Spring Break Status Update

Things I Did on Tuesday:

  • Shredded a year's worth of archived files

  • Organized the upstairs closets and drawers

  • Studied Amazon Web Services

  • Got my car inspected

  • Watched the first 3 episodes of Community, Season 6 (free on Yahoo, if you can stomach the horrible video player)

  • Dodged the VDOT crews needlessly repaving our neighbourhood and bought groceries at Safeway

  • Did a cost-benefit analysis of moving the URI! Zone INTO THE CLOUD

Also, twenty one years ago today (in 1994), I purchased Ultima 8, one of the first recorded examples of a game series run into the ground as the result of a buyout from Electronic Arts. This game would grind the family 486 into a pile of smoking circuits and continue to disappoint the gamer in me, for all of the reasons logically laid out in this 30 minute rant-review.

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Spring Break Status Update

Thirteen years ago today (in 2002), Returned Mike, Kathy, and I took a midday trip to Marsh Sands Beach, where Chompy practiced running away continuously until we buried her. Behind her is the LL Bean backpack I wore through high school, which later took Rebecca all of the way through PT school, and still hangs whole in the closet today.

Things I Did on Wednesday:

  • Passed the AWS Solutions Architect exam with a less impressive, yet functional 77%

  • Picked up all of the winter detritus in the mud pit I call a yard, helped slightly by the results of a game played by Anna's kids two weeks ago called "Drop Sticks In This Puddle"

  • Had Domino's for a lunch of luxury

  • Resecured the molding around our sliding closet doors, which suffers from our superhuman strength when we slide them open with unstoppable force

  • Changed the air filter in the HVAC

  • Cleared out a backlog of Hearthstone quests

  • Took a 1.5 hour nap with Booty then ran 3 miles on the treadmill while watching Lie to Me

  • Went to a Cookology class with Kathy, and made tomato polenta, prosciutto-wrapped pears, and chocolate melty truffles. Learned that Rebecca is pro-level for wrapping things in proscuitto.

tagged as lists, day-to-day | permalink | 1 comment

Friday, March 27, 2015

Cloud Migration Day

I started the week in search of an alternative hosting site for my open-source projects, now that Google Code is joining Google Reader in the steaming pile of great projects getting unceremoniously dumped because Google has never understood its user base. As I evaluated my options, I realized that it might be an opportune time to migrate my entire fiefdom into the Amazon Web Services cloud instead. Here are some of my justifications:

  • It's hard to find a good, free Subversion host anymore. Though I've used Bitbucket and Git at work before, I find that the added complexity is unnecessary for my projects with a grand total of 1 developer(s).

  • I love my web host of 7 years, Kattare, but it would also be nice to get more hands-on experience with AWS, now that I've got two AWS certificates generating money in the bank.

  • I don't mind tinkering and rolling my own solutions. The URI! Zone was hosted on my college dorm room Pentium from 1996 to 2000.

  • When things explode, I like the idea of being able to fix them on my own timeline. The 24-hour Bitbucket outage last month was a destroyer of productivity. (Ironically, my current web host went out for 2 hours right in the middle of my research for this post).

  • The URI! Zone is not a mission-critical application, except during the hours when Doobie and Evil Mike are bored at work. Also, it has a very small audience, with daily visits in the double digits. Cloud failover and scalability are not a big deal to me, but they'd be nice to have in my back pocket if there were a sudden surge in popularity, due to my April plans to blog about nothing but Justin Bieber.

  • Moving to the cloud would give me a lot of flexibility to quickly spin up new project sites (and tear them back down after I inevitably get bored with them -- see also, Auricle, Bugler, NoHunters, Team Turtle, Plinky's Tactics for Warsong Gulch, and Anna Had a Baby: Part I).

  • It would also be nice to have a household backup strategy that didn't involve buying successively larger USB sticks every year.

Here's a systems diagram of the resultant cloud architecture that I'm envisioning:

Here's a cost comparison for my various requirements, showing how they are fulfilled today, how they would be set up in the initial cloud migration (assuming Reserved annual pricing), and how much costs might increase if I scaled up. My monthly cost would immediately increase from $20 to $30, which feels reasonable for the function and flexibility I would get.

The scaled cost ($60) is less palatable -- but the only reason I would need to bump up to that level would be for JIRA, which has been known to consume all available memory and small children in our work installations. I would probably consider outsourcing JIRA before I ever reached that level.

Have you had any experiences or horror stories adopting AWS? Would I be making a mistake by moving into the cloud? Share your thoughts in the comments section!

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Monday, March 30, 2015

Weekend Wrap-up

I spent much of Friday and Saturday doing cloudy things, including the creation of this colourful diagram, the migration of all of my open-source projects out of Google Code, and research into server hardening techniques (servers could take a lesson from Safeway bagels, which start to harden as soon as you scan them in the checkout line). On Friday night, we grilled swiss-n-mushroom burgers and started the first chapter of the Tales from the Borderlands episodic game series. On Saturday, Rebecca was in and out throughout the day, taking her friends to yoga class and seeing an environmental movie about oyster farming in DC.

On Sunday, we went on a 5.5 hour, 14 mile hike along the Appalachian Trail between Weverton Cliffs and Gathland State Park. Although the weather report promised temperatures in the 50s, it actually struggled to get above freezing all morning long, until about 1 PM when everything around is suddenly thawed into a muddy vichyssoise of slippery traction.

After the hike, we stopped by Crooked Run Brewery and Fire Works Pizza for an early dinner, did laundry, and then fell asleep on the couch during the Jon Favreau movie, Chef.

How was your weekend?

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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

End-of-the-Month Highlights Day

New photos have been added to the Life, 2015 album.

  • Events
    • It snowed massively on H 3/5.

    • We went on a weekend getaway to Sperryville on F 3/6, just in time for Daylight Savings Time.

    • Sydney the cat moved in temporarily on M 3/9.

    • We had a St. Patrick's Day / Pi day party on S 3/14.

    • Went to Joe & Katie's for Crafts Night on S 3/21.

    • Hiked 10 miles in Sky Meadows Park on S 3/22, then had dinner in Reston Town Center.

    • Took an impromptu Spring Break staycation from T 3/24 - F 3/27.

    • Went to a cooking class where my truffles came out like poo pellets on W 3/25.

    • Went hiking on South Mountain on S 3/29, followed by a Crooked Run flight and Fire Works pizza.

  • Projects
    • Opened the month with an out-of-control software deployment at work.

    • Passed the AWS Developer certification on T 3/10.

    • Surged to write a proposal response about clouds.

    • Passed the AWS Architect certification on W 3/25.

    • Cleaned and organized the entire house.

    • Started moving the URI! Zone INTO THE CLOUD.

  • Consumerism
    • Watched recent seasons of House of Cards, Lie to Me, and The IT Crowd.

    • Enjoyed another Hilltop Hoods album and a related Pandora station.

    • Bought round-trip plane tickets to Geneva, Switzerland for a summer trip.

    • Continued to play Hearthstone and Far Cry 4.

March's Final Grade: C+, a little too much work on the work-life balance seesaw will pay off in laziness credits during the coming months

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


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