04/2015

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Memory Day: First Day in London

This horribly overexposed photo (unless I used to be white), was taken seven years ago today, on April 1, 2008. We had just arrived in London for our big European Vacation, and spent most of the evening walking everywhere around Trafalgar Square. By the time we were hungry, it was 9 PM and too late for most places to still be serving food (the polar opposite of what we discovered in Spain).

We ended up in the nonsensically-named "Lord Moon of the Mall" pub, where the food was bland and the Coors Light was just slightly cheaper than Guinness. I ate a cottage pie with my obligatory Guinness, and Rebecca had a sausage mash with a Festival Sampler Ale that was "nutty and good". The mash was too heavy for hippie Rebecca though, so we returned to the Jubilee Bed and Breakfast so she could sleep it off.

I remember all of this because of the notes in my official world traveler Moleskine notebook, seen on the table next to the malt vinegar. It's filled with shorthand, cryptic notes because I didn't want to spend more time writing than experiencing, and now I understand very little of it.

tagged as memories | permalink | 2 comments

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Lie to Me, Season Three:
This final, abbreviated season (cancelled by FOX, of course) has a different, more serious edge to its tone, but remains watchable as a treadmill show. The characterizations don't always work, and it sometimes feels like the writers were trying to channel House a little too closely. Free on Amazon Prime.

Final Grade: B-

Chef (R):
This movie about a chef who starts a food truck is a meandering plot thread containing cameos of everyone Jon Favreau has ever worked with. It takes a long time to get moving (the food truck pictured in the cover art doesn't even make an appearance for the first half of the movie), has a pleasant end-game, and then quietly peters out. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: C+

House of Cards, Season Three:
This season was just as over-the-top and soap-opera-ridiculous as the second season, but I found myself enjoying it much more. The season explores the idea that Frank Underwood actually loses power, the higher he climbs, and maintains its brooding, cynical energy. The only jarring misplay is the abrupt throwaway of Benito Martinez's steadily developing storyline, probably done so he could go work on another show. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: B

State of the Art by Hilltop Hoods:
This album has a full plate of uniquely interesting songs, although it's a bit less polished around the edges and more full of swearing. The final track, Nosebleed Section, is one of several worth listening to.

Final Grade: B

tagged as reviews | permalink | 0 comments

Friday, April 03, 2015

Cloud Update

Update: As of 3:15 PM, the URI! Zone is now IN THE CLOUD! Let me know if you run into any issues.

I'm actually very close to finishing up this cloud migration, as shown in my plan below (after step 7, the URI! Zone will officially be floating through the stratosphere with little fluffy wings akin to a Windows 3.1 flying toaster screensaver).

I reduced some of the server costs by opting to not roll my own JIRA installation, and used the savings to invest in a site-wide SSL certificate. This will give you a +1 to trusting me, and also pave the way for The URI! Store, where I'll sell llamas and llama paraphernalia over HTTPS.

I'm hoping to finish up tonight to bring the site good luck, because there are thunderstorms in the local forecast, and the cloud is more tangible when it's raining. The actual switch-flipping point from old to new should be seamless, but seamless things never truly are, so apologies in advance if there's a bit of downtime!

tagged as website | permalink | 2 comments

Monday, April 06, 2015

Weekend Wrap-up

On Friday night, we used up one of our annual DC trips to visit Annie, eat pecan-covered salmon, and dye Easter eggs. One of the future-facing dye kits contained a tie-dye feature resembling an iron maiden for eggs, but the level of effort to tie-dye a single egg far outweighed the pasty, muddled colours that resulted -- for dedicated hippies only.

On Saturday, Rebecca went on a giant 14.6 mile hike, this time with a backpack and load comparable to what she'd have in France. Meanwhile, I stayed home to put the finishing touches on moving this website INTO THE CLOUD and wore clothing comparable to what I'd wear slacking off around the house (roughly 0.8 pounds of gear). In the evening, we got carryout from Joe's Pizzaria and had a low-key night at home.

Sunday was Easter, and we drove out to Linden for an afternoon with Rebecca's cousin, Elizabeth, and the associated family. Rebecca's uncle is now into maple syrup tapping, so our new task is to tag any maple trees in our woods for next winter. We got home around 7 after some grocery shopping and a rare speed-trap-free drive down I-66.

How was your weekend?

tagged as day-to-day | permalink | 0 comments

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Cloud Finale

I finished the final steps of the migration to the cloud last night -- importing five years worth of DDMSence issues into JIRA Cloud and updating all of the links. The whole move to AWS and related services was much less painful than expected, and helped by the wealth of available documentation that AWS provides.

The final setup looks something like this:

  • I had a mail server running for a couple days, but I tore it out after seeing how much of a pain it would be to deal with spam.
  • I got a free license to JIRA Cloud from Atlassian since DDMSence is an open-source project, saving me $120 per year.
  • Server load is even less than expected and I've never gone over 10% CPU utilization yet. I'm not going to need to scale up the servers anytime soon, saving even more money. The load only spikes when I deploy a new update (with Amazon CodeDeploy), or around 5 AM when all of the zombie botnets in AWS start indexing all of my pages.

I'm expecting the final monthly cost, including the SSL certificate, to be around $32. All in all, this was a fun, painless migration that acted as a good homework assignment to keep my AWS skills from immediately flying out of my head. If nothing has blown up by the end of the month, I'll be cancelling my Kattare account and living in the clouds for good!

Next up on my agenda is to make the site more mobile-friendly. Google is changing their ranking algorithms to bump up sites that treat you like a near-sighted AARP member through giant fonts, brain-dead iconography, and hamstrung functionality, so I'll finally have to jump on the "Responsive UI" bandwagon. I've done just enough now to pass Google's mobile test, but want to continue fine-tuning it as time permits.

tagged as website | permalink | 0 comments

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Memory Day: Snapshots

This picture was taken seven years ago today, on April 8, 2008. This is the front window of a tiny bookshop in the town of Carcassonne, France, providing a time capsule of the hottest modern technologies through the For Dummies book series. (I did not purchase Le Poker pour Les Nuls).

This bookshop was right down the street from an Internet Cafe full of keylogger-laden desktop computers. Since I did not yet own a netbook or an ultrabook (and still don't own a smartphone), my Internet time was limited to whenever we were near a cafe.

When I arrived in Carcassonne, I asked the hotel desk clerk where I could find un ordinateur pour l'email and she directed me to the Seabird Cafe. After roaming the block for several minutes and not finding it, I finally realized that she was saying cybercafe with a heavy French accent.

tagged as memories | permalink | 1 comment

Thursday, April 09, 2015

First Impressions: Amazon Echo

I received my early edition of the Echo, Amazon's voice-activated assistant, in the mail yesterday. I had signed up for an invitation several months ago, and purchased it on a whim in February for the following reasons:

  • I'm rarely ever on the cutting edge of technology, mainly because the cutting edge tends to have a disproportionate dullness for cost vs. utility.
  • I was curious to see if the Echo could truly become a central hub for daily activities as envisioned, or if the novelty would wear off immediately like an above-ground pool.
  • The $99 price point for Prime members was much more palatable than the full $199 price point, and is right about the point where I wouldn't feel guilty if it ended up sitting on the shelf gathering dust after the novelty has worn off (see also, Rebecca's Kindle Fire) or got pushed off of the kitchen ledge by a fat cat.

Setup of the Echo is painless, and even more streamlined than setting up a Fitbit. You must have WiFi available and Amazon assumes you'll have a smartphone for its (optional) Echo app, but thankfully there's a web-browser version for desktop dinosaurs like myself.

After 5 minutes of setup and voice training, the Echo sits there unassumingly waiting for a command. This is the point where you'll try all of the voice commands listed on the cheat sheet for lack of better ideas (like "Tell me a joke" or "Set a timer for 1 minute"). Voice recognition is impressive (less so when there's enough erratic ambient noise, like Rebecca clearing the dinner dishes) and works even ten feet away without any need to raise your voice. The integration of information lookup (like "How many ounces in a cup?" or "Wikipedia: Abraham Lincoln") is well-done although nothing that Siri hasn't done before.

Over the course of the night, the Echo batted about 0.7 for correctly understanding what we were saying and then responding in the correct context (you can see a history of your commands in the app and provide feedback about accuracy):

  • What is malbec? "Mulberry is a city in Polk County, Florida."
  • How do you spell Onomatopoeia? "Onomatopoeia is spelled: O. N. O. M. A. T. O. P. O. E. I. A."
  • What's the weather? (gave me the weather forecast for Sterling)
  • Play some dinner music. "Playing the Classic Rock Dinner Music playlist from Prime."
  • Play Car Talk. "Playing The Best of Car Talk podcast via TuneIn."
  • Play my Mark Ronson Pandora station. "Playing your Mark Ronson station on Pandora."
  • Like this. "Saving your rating on Pandora."

The Echo is much better at being a voice-activated music player, with direct access and control over your Pandora stations, Amazon Cloud stations, and free Amazon Prime Music. You can pick from your existing stations, create new ones, browse your music, or just ask the Echo to search for any artists or genres it knows about in Prime Music. I appreciated the sound quality from the Echo's hefty speaker, which wasn't as good as patching my laptop through an HDMI receiver, but was much better (and more convenient) than the over-treble associated with playing from a laptop alone. The Echo also has access to tons of radio stations and podcasts, and correctly streamed WAMU after I said "Play NPR". One downside to Pandora integration is that you can't skip the ads -- on my computers, I haven't heard an ad in years thanks to AdBlock.

It should also be noted that voice input is sent INTO THE CLOUD for command processing. Although you have to use a predefined wake word to activate the microphone (hopefully you don't have family members named Alexa or Amazon) and the device lights up when it's listening, there will always be a slight ick factor about knowing that your "bidness" is out in the world, and a potential for hacking or abuse down the road. This doesn't really bother me, as my fourteen years of daily blogging have already eliminated any possibility that I could run for public office without the added scandalous knowledge that Booty and I have long conversations about cat stuff. However, you should be aware of privacy concerns before you buy.

First Impression: A promising piece of tech, mostly for its musical potential. I'm still on the fence about whether it will remain impressive after the novelty has worn off.

tagged as reviews | permalink | 2 comments

Friday, April 10, 2015

Freberg Day

Stan Freberg, known for his satirical comedy records and funny advertisements, passed away on Tuesday at the age of 88. Freberg takes much of the blame for how my sense of humour "turned out", as evinced by the double digit numbers of CDs I started collecting in high school after finding an LP of Stan Freberg Presents the United States of America on my parents' shelf.

Freberg was writing music and voicing cartoon characters as recently as last year although his later material, such as a 1998 song comparing Monica Lewinsky, Tara Lapinski, and Ted Kacsynski, was not as strong as his stuff from the 60s.

To give you a laugh on this rainy Friday, here are a few of my favourite Freberg recordings:

  • This commercial for Chun King Chow Mein will convince you to eat it every night of the week. (1:00 MP3, 475KB)
  • Great Pretender mocks banal musical accompaniments through a character that reappears in several of Freberg's satires, the subversive jazz pianist. (3:22 MP3, 1.5 MB)
  • Round, Round World, from his magnum opus musical on American history tells the tale of Christopher Columbus and King Ferdinand of Spain as they set sail for Miami. (5:35 MP3, 2.5 MB)

tagged as music | permalink | 1 comment

Monday, April 13, 2015

Chad Darnell's 12 of 12

6:10 AM: Up early sorting pictures from Saturday's "High Tea - 6 Mile Hike - Dogfish Head" adventure.
8:45 AM: Ready for a low-key day.
9:03 AM: Paying some bills.
9:21 AM: Late breakfast of eggs and toast.
10:39 AM: Treadmilling with The 100.
12:49 PM: Making the new Costco-alternative to Velveeta Shells and Cheese. Mixing cheese from a powder is so 1992.
1:40 PM: Rebecca packs for an afternoon bike ride, which happens past a brewery.
4:07 PM: Starting on my new post-cloud-migration project, teaching about THE CLOUD.
4:30 PM: Laundry time.
5:55 PM: Trying out a new game, Pillars of Eternity.
7:04 PM: Chipotle for dinner.
8:00 PM: Watching Sherlock before bedtime.

tagged as 12 of 12 | permalink | 3 comments

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

List Day: Updates

  • Sydney, the temporary third cat who moved in last month is super chill now, and wanders around the house doing strategic somersaults that will result in her butt landing on your feet.

  • The software deployment that was tried and aborted last year and then tried again in March is humming along smoothly now that we identified the memory leak that only occurs with an enterprise level of simultaneous users.

  • My company won the proposal that I worked on nonstop for ten days in March, so I'll be starting on a new full-time project in the next few weeks. Clouds will be involved.

  • I'm also going to be teaching a four-week course on Amazon Web Services to people in my division in May and June.

  • All three of my sites (this one, DDMSence, and Stone Band) are now mobile-friendly and will not get destroyed by Google's updated search algorithm at the end of this month. You can see this in action from a non-mobile browser by slowly dragging the width of your browser window from bigger to smaller.

  • Tonight is Steak Night.

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

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Memory Day: Snapshots

I took this picture in June 1983 at the age of 3, as you can tell from the low-earth perspective. My dad was always impressed at how steady and well-composed the shot came out, given the fact that the camera probably weighed as much as I did. However, the photographed subjects do not look very patient with the whole process.

Update: My dad says that this was at one of the James River Plantations (possibly the Shirley Plantation).

tagged as memories | permalink | 2 comments

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

The Book of Postfix by Ralf Hildebrandt and Patrick Koetter:
I purchased this as a PDF book when I was setting up my short-lived cloud mail server, after getting annoyed with the vast number of online tutorials that threw out a bunch of settings to change without actually explaining what those settings did. This book has a nice, consumable format, using one chapter to explain a concept and a follow-on chapter to provide common usage patterns. You are unlikely to be in its target audience, but it was just what I needed at the time.

Final Grade: B+

The 100, Season One:
If you can get through the obligatory CW show tropes (unnecessarily hot teenagers in various love polygons looking longingly at each other), this science fiction show finds its footing very quickly and actually becomes rather smartly written. I was hooked by about the fourth episode, and enjoyed the unexpected plot developments within this LOST meets Firefly meets Battlestar Galactica Without Annoying Cylon Sex Dream Sequences show. The main character is pretty unsympathetic and wooden (and the main love triangle is worthless), but the supporting cast (including Desmond from LOST and Sierra from Dollhouse) more than makes up for it. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: B+

The IT Crowd, Season Two, Three, and Four:
The remaining 18 episodes of this show are hit-or-miss, with a continuing reliance on absurdity as a primary laugh generator. However, it's always charming and a few hilarious episodes such as "Are We Not Men?" in Season Three are well worth the price of admission. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: B-

Sherlock, Season One:
This is a very well-done show, and a neat modern take on the subject matter. However, you need the attention span to be able to focus throughout each of the 3 ninety minute episodes. If you're like me, and married someone who consistently falls asleep at the 44 minute mark (which is perfect for primetime dramas on DVD), and then watch each episode at a rate of 1 per week, you'll find yourself losing the momentum and forgetting the rapid-fire details form the previous sections. As Evil Mike said a while back, treat it like a miniseries of movies rather than a show, and try to watch an episode in its entirety. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: B+

tagged as reviews | permalink | 0 comments

Friday, April 17, 2015

Questions Day

It's time for another Questions Day. Ask anything you want, be it about myself, the world, or something you don't understand. I'll answer all of your questions next Tuesday!

tagged as you speak | permalink | 2 comments

Monday, April 20, 2015

Weekend Wrap-up

We kicked off the weekend with a pleasant night on the porch at Old Ox Brewery, with giant sandwiches from Pittsburgh Rick's food truck (tasty but a little too much tasteless cabbage filler) and a flight of local beer. Behind Rebecca in this picture is a band of local roller derby teammates -- we only discovered this because one of them gave us a flyer for their upcoming match against the Beltway Brawlers (or maybe it was Capital Punishment).

On Saturday, Rebecca went on a 9 mile hike down the Bull Run - Occoquan Trail while I went to Costco and worked on AWS training slides. In the afternoon, we had lunch with Rebecca's parents and the Wright family at Clydes of Tysons, which also happened to be hosting two bat mitzvahs and some Ferrari Club that was taking up all of the parking spaces. Food was okay, but the service was slower than the plot in the show, Bloodline, with our food arriving a full hour after we got there. In the evening on Saturday, we sat on the back porch eating salads (and bonus hot dogs for me) and enjoying the hot weather pre-mosquito.

On Sunday, Rebecca went back to Bull Run - Occoquan to simulate her multiday hike in the Alps (14 miles this time) while I continued to work on training slides at home. In the evening, we drove all of the way out to the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, for the senior composition recital of Rebecca's cousin, Luke, who is diligently doing his part to add some much-needed undergraduate tonal music to the world's repertoire.

How was your weekend?

tagged as day-to-day | permalink | 0 comments

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Answers Day

The sequel to Questions Day

"Do you ever regret your career choice? If you could start another career, what would it be? For instance, I once had a job offer to sing in a nightclub after I auditioned at a radio station many years ago; I chose instead to work in IT for the US Government. I don't exactly regret my choice, but sometimes I think about the road not taken'." - Mom

I'm 100% satisfied with the career I ended up in. I'm good at what I do, and my job grants me the flexibility and stability to pursue any sorts of ridiculous enrichment projects I want in my spare time. My career also evolves at a manageable but continuous pace so there's always something new to learn. I knew in grad school that I would not have thrived in music academia, and have no regrets about dropping out of music school after the master's degree. Looking back even further to primary education dreams:

  • Artist: I'm colourblind! This was always a non-starter.
  • Archaeologist: Seems dirty, and there are no good dinosaurs left to discover.
  • Biotechnologist: I don't think I ever truly wanted to be this. I think my dad just kept saying it in hopes that I would subliminally do it.

"Will do a Review Day except with your friends? We are (mostly, I think) tough enough to withstand your grades and excoriating commentary." - Mike (and Ghost Chompy)

Mike:

  • CON: Makes typos like leaving the word "you" out of the first sentence in the question.
  • PRO: Composes normal music.
  • PRO: Makes the effort to keep in touch.
  • CON: Moved away.
  • PRO: Moved back.
  • CON: Chose to live in DC upon moving back.
  • PRO: Travels to the suburbs to hang out.
  • CON: Will probably move back to the West Coast and return to being a vegan hippie weirdo.
  • PRO: Tells funny stories like getting a bloody nose on OSHA day
  • CON: Utterly dismissive of anyone or anything he doesn't like
  • PRO: Embraces being the asshole in the group so you don't have to
  • PRO: Plays nerd boardgames and computer games.
  • CON: Never watches movies.
  • PRO: Stays in good shape and continues to self-improve.
  • CON: Is somehow able to flourish without a 9-to-5 job while you're at work.
  • PRO: Can probably recite the tax code for every state in the Union.
  • PRO: Has a blog.
  • CON: Stopped updating the blog.
  • PRO: Runs a coupon site full of wicked deals.
  • CON: Coupon site never has any deals for stuff I want.
  • PRO: Gave us an excuse to visit Chompy.
  • CON: Chompy is a ghost.

Final Grade: B+

People who liked Mike also liked Kathy, Alex, and Mark.

tagged as you speak | permalink | 7 comments

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Memory Day: Snapshots

This picture was taken 21 years ago in 1994, my junior year of high school. This was the T.C. Williams jazz band, and we swung about as well as the majority-share of white guys in the ensemble would suggest. One of these guys is now in a reggae band in Richmond, while another is in jail for soliciting minors. I am wearing a clip-on tie as I normally did back then for formal situations. I talk to zero of these people today, although (as is the custom) two are silent Facebook friends.

This picture will never get recreated for a "Where are they now?" Internet meme, because T.C. Williams was torn down a few years ago and rebuilt in the adjacent vacant lot. I doubt that Staci Bradley, whoever that might have been, made the cut to be migrated to the new facility.

tagged as memories | permalink | 1 comment

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Review Day: Far Cry 4

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

In my review of Far Cry 3 a year and a half ago, I stated that the game earned a lot of good will from how fun it was to play, in spite of a host of flaws and annoyances. That game threw everything at you, amped up to 11, with the things that worked heavily outweighing the more forgettable features.

Far Cry 4 is essentially a reskinned version of the previous game, and is a prime example of taking excess to extremes. It may take place during a modern civil war in southeast Asia instead of a modern civil war on a Caribbean island, but the underlying framework of wandering around an open world shooting things and blowing other things up will be exactly as you remembered it, both the good and the bad.

The biggest flaw is that there's simply too much to do, but not enough depth in any activity to result in meaningful gameplay. Within a gaming session, you might conquer an enemy fortress, craft upgrades for your loot bags, hunt snow leopards, protect villagers from honey badgers, learn skills that turn enemy takedowns into Quick Time Events, explore Tibetan caves, hang glide off mountain summits, disarm bombs, hijack supply convoys, craft syringes to boost combat skills, escort trucks through enemy fire, experiment with illegal drugs for the local stoners, find rare pelts for the village fashion designer, climb a radio tower, engage in timed races in various vehicles, or fight through a dream sequence involving a magical tiger in order to fly through the air and spin a prayer wheel.

Any perceived depth is a mirage, as you end up repeating these activities many, many times. It might be cool to see the emergent behavior of a lion stalking a herd of deer the first time, but the randomness loses its allure when an eagle soars out of the sky to attack you for the tenth time in an hour. Completionists (like myself) will hit a bout of gaming fatigue about 50% of the way through. The game would have been immensely better if they had pared down the scope of features, and refined a few of the best ones.

Oh, and a tip for your first playthrough: Don't buy the "Wingsuit" that lets you soar off a mountainside and deploy a parachute. You'll inadvertently deploy it while jumping down very small hills (don't all former WoW players jump to get everywhere?) and die from a 1 foot drop because the game expects you to deploy your parachute before touching the ground. My character died more often from fall damage than Princess Rosella in King's Quest IV.

Graphically, the series continues to excel, although I finally reached the point where I had to turn down my settings to keep the framerate responsive. The snowy mountain valley locale is well-realized, and driving around the countryside is great for a free vacation in your mind. The story is passably good enough to tie it all together, and the villain is fun and well-characterized (although the protagonist has the personality of a soup ladle). There are choices to be made during the course of the plot, but they didn't really have any major effect on the outcome. Unfortunately, the developers did nothing to correct the "unskippable ten minute cutscene" syndrome from the previous game.

UPlay, the social gaming service required to run this, is still unnecessary and stupid, and always will be.

The bottom line is that this is one of those games you wait to buy until it's under $20 in a Steam Sale. You'll get a solid, enjoyable 20 hours of entertainment out of it, and will not feel guilty in the least bit about never completing the last 30 - 40 hours of it.

Final Grade: B-

tagged as reviews | permalink | 0 comments

Friday, April 24, 2015

List Day: Shows in My TV Queue

Shows I'm Anxiously Awaiting DVDs or Free Viewing Of

  • Orphan Black, S3
  • Parks and Recreation, S7
  • Better Call Saul, S1

Shows I Will Watch Upon Release While Bored Just to See How Things Turn Out

  • Game of Thrones, S4
  • Sons of Anarchy, S7

Shows I'm Currently Watching

  • Lilyhammer, S3
  • Halt and Catch Fire, S1
  • Sherlock, S2
  • Modern Family, S3

Shows I Was Watching But Gave Up On Because Yahoo Screen Is a Horrible Media Player

  • Community, S6

Shows I've Already Seen but Plan to Rewatch Someday Soon

  • The Wire, S1 - 5
  • Person of Interest, S3
  • Orphan Black, S1 - 2
  • The Office, S9

Shows I've Already Seen Too Many Times and Probably Won't Ever Watch Again

  • Alias
  • Prison Break
  • LOST
  • Veronica Mars
  • 24

tagged as lists | permalink | 2 comments

Monday, April 27, 2015

Weekend Wrap-up

On Friday night, Rebecca and Annie had Girls Night, during which they turned the living room into a lady cave, ate Thai food, and watched the HBO show, Girls, in which all of the main characters are girls and whine about life for 30 minutes at a time. I retreated to the man cave and continued work on the 200 training slides for my upcoming AWS training class.

Saturday was a lazy day with minimal external travels, but it prepared us for Sunday when we woke up at 6 AM and drove out to Sperryville to hike Old Rag.

We arrived at Old Rag around 8 AM to find surprisingly few other people there (maybe 4 other cars) and enjoyed a nice 9-mile hike in solitude, with sandwiches at the top. Unfortunately, Rebecca is too in-shape after her continuous training and felt like Old Rag was a cakewalk compared to our previous visits. She seriously contemplated hiking up nearby Robertson Mountain, whose trail goes straight up to a point 5 feet higher than Old Rag, but instead, we went to Narmada Winery and ate samosas instead.

In the evening, I grilled gouda-burgers and we continued watching Halt and Catch Fire before retiring early to rest up for the week to come.

How was your weekend?

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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

List Day: 5 Random Observations

  • I never thought I'd see the day where the number of pithy motivational slogans in my LinkedIn feed would outnumber the number on Facebook. This must be what managers are doing all day long.

  • Auto-flushing sit-down toilets need more engineering work. Either you perch timidly hoping that it doesn't flush in the midst of your business, or it fails to flush on Friday night, leaving a mellifluence of odours and rapidly evolved cultures of bacterias (some with a spoken language) on Monday morning.

  • Google is about to permanently retire the old version of Google Maps, replacing it with a newer one that's slower, unintuitive, and has less features I need and more features I hate. I've had the classic version bookmarked ever since they started forcing traffic to the new one, and when that link stops working, I may even switch over to Bing Maps, which works for all of my use cases. I guess it's time for a technology pendulum swing.

  • There are little stone pillars decorating all of the entrance roads to Herndon, and every week it seems like a new flourish is added, like the date of incorporation or a faux stone tapestry. I'm guessing someone is playing with "use or lose" budget surpluses, on the magnitude of a few bucks a month.

  • They could save a lot of money on the White House Correspondents' Dinner if they'd just forgo the actual dinner and post the transcript of all of the jokes online. That's the only part that anyone cares about.

tagged as lists | permalink | 5 comments

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Recital Day

Today is the 14th anniversary of my undergraduate recital starring Doobie and Dr. Allen Bachelder.

To give you some idea of how anal-rententive my concert planning activities were, here is one of the seven set changes from the special guide I printed out for the stagehands.

tagged as media | permalink | 0 comments

Thursday, April 30, 2015

End-of-the-Month Highlights Day

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

  • Events
    • Went to Annie's to tie-dye Easter eggs on F 4/3.

    • Went to Elizabeth's for Easter on S 4/5.

    • Met up with Mike for dinner at The Counter on M 4/6.

    • Got a fraud alert on my debit card on W 4/8 (first time ever, at a Walgreen's in Greensville, SC) and got a new card.

    • Went to High Tea and hiked Sky Meadows with the Ambrognes, followed by burgers at Dogfish Head in Chantilly on S 4/11.

    • Lingered at Old Ox Brewery for a pleasant Friday night on F 4/17.

    • Ate a long lunch with Rebecca's parents and the Wrights on S 4/18.

    • Went to Luke Link's Senior Composition Recital on S 4/19.

    • Hiked Old Rag in record time on S 4/26.

  • Projects
    • Finished moving the URI! Zone INTO THE CLOUD.

    • Made all of my websites mobile-friendly.

    • Created 204 training slides and 95 sample quiz questions on Amazon Web Services for work.

  • Consumerism
    • Enjoyed seasons of The 100, Sherlock, and Halt and Catch Fire.

    • Bought an Amazon Echo, and still use it for music.

    • Bought cheap eyeglasses through Zenni for the first time after my backup pair of normal, expensive glasses imploded in a screw incident.

    • No new music this month.

    • Continued to play Hearthstone and Far Cry 4. Started dabbling in Pillars of Eternity.

April's Final Grade: B, a productive month with regular social outings and mostly pleasant weather

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