06/2015

Monday, June 01, 2015

Weekend Wrap-up

Happy June! In 12 days, I will have been out of high school for 19 years, and in 17 days, Anna and Ben will have been married for 10 years. Time is passing like undigested corn, so hopefully you are content with where your life has been and is going.

On Friday evening, we went to Singh Thai at Lake Anne to eat noodles and people-watch. Local residents could be categorized by whether they owned a dog or had a kid, and both populations fit within the Venn diagram of people incapable of reading the sign that said "No Pets or Children in the Fountain".

I worked on a proposal on Saturday while Rebecca hiked the AT some more. In the evening, we went over to my parents' house to visit my sister and brood who were in town from Rhode Island, a state smaller than San Antonio (both in surface area and belt size). We learned that my dad dislikes geraniums because, as a child, the family ducks would nest underneath them and attack him if he strayed too close.

Nothing of import happened on Sunday. We sat through the third Hunger Games movie, unnecessarily split into two parts, and did laundry.

How was your weekend?

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Tuesday, June 02, 2015

New Words Day: Restrooms

adapting the English language for a rapidly evolving future

  1. stallcough: the polite, obligatory sound you make from inside of a stall to inform new arrivals that the restroom is not empty

  2. piloriphobia: the irrational fear that a Dyson Airblade hand dryer will suck your hands in and clamp down, trapping you in a pose of potential ridicule

  3. the dripping point: the maximum amount you can lean forward on an automatic flushing toilet before it believes you have stood up, resulting in a soaked undercarriage

  4. multi-ply: when the cleaning staff leaves a new roll of toilet paper atop the old one, doubling the effective thickness as both rolls dispense at the same time

  5. pigeonstall principle: the mathematical theorem which states that if there are n stalls and n - 1 are occupied, the next person to enter the restroom will leave rather than claim the last empty stall

  6. stalled technology: the rhythmic tapping of a mobile keyboard in an otherwise silent restroom which indicates that the owner still has a Blackberry

  7. unmasking the ghostwriter: the act of matching sounds or smells to an otherwise anonymous person in a stall, based on recognizable features below the stall door such as distinct shoes or a badge hanging from a belt loop

  8. handicap stall: an unusually large stall with an unusually high toilet in every restroom that reasserts the daily physical challenges that short people must endure

  9. wash Nazi: an automatic sink that shuts off ten seconds before you finish washing your hands

  10. Niagara tourist: someone who uses their phone for a voice call at the urinals

Share your own new words in the comments section!

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Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Memory Day: Twenty Years Ago Today

June 3, 1995 was a productive Saturday in the life of this junior. In the morning, I went down to the Alexandria DMV on Eisenhower Avenue to take the written test for my learner's permit (at the time, the age threshold was 15 and 9 months). I passed but got 4 of 35 questions wrong, and all of the questions I'd gotten wrong were about drugs and alcohol. I didn't study that section of the manual because I naively never expected to ever encounter drugs or alcohol in the world (then I went to Virginia Tech and became a music major).

After lunch, I created this poster for my upcoming end-of-the-year party, to be hung on the front door as guests arrived.

I had not actually had eleven annual parties, but I was finishing eleventh grade so that was close enough. While working on that poster, the mail arrived and I received my SAT scores:

This score was probably lower than it could have been. However, I was jaded, having taken some form of the SATs every year since the sixth grade as part of the "Talented and Gifted" program (probably called the "Wow, You Worked Really Hard At That!" program today), so I didn't put as much effort in as I should have. Also, I always liked to be the first person to finish tests, so I probably lost a cumulative 10% of credit across all tests in high school simply through careless mistakes and not reviewing the answers. However, I was excellent at analogies, as you can see from the detailed score breakdown.

BU : Analogies :: Ghengis Khan : Eurasia

In the evening, Jack W. and I went to the movie theatre in Bailey's Crossroad (where the Target is today) to see Die Hard With a Vengeance, which had been released just two weeks earlier. It was actually the first Die Hard movie I'd seen, and to this day, I've still never seen #2 or #5.

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Thursday, June 04, 2015

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Aziz Ansari: Live at Madison Square Garden:
This comedy special was not quite as good as his previous specials. It had some funny bits in the moment, but none that I can recollect now as I write this review. There was a lot of audience engagement stuff that was probably great in a live show, but just seems like filler when recorded. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: C+

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I:
Mockingjay was the most poorly written book in the series, and breaking it up into an unnecessary two-parter to close the movie trilogy does it no favours. There's minimal forward momentum here and an overabundance of distractingly famous actors in the various roles. It was nice to revisit Philip Seymour Hoffman one last time, but otherwise, this movie could have been compressed greatly without losing much.

Final Grade: C+

The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Season One:
I watched four whole episodes of this show but never got into it. It suffers from the same turn-off I had with 30 Rock -- the show tries too hard to be cleverly funny and uses characters and situations closer to fantasy than reality to set up humor. I inwardly cringed (which kind of feels like a cough without the recovery breath) during the autotuned opening credits, which felt both dated and forced, and never did find whatever else liked so much about it. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: Not Graded

Transparent, Season One:
The draw of this show is definitely Jeffrey Tambor in the main role as a transgendered father. Unfortunately, he's surrounded by three selfish, unsympathetic children who take up most of the running time. It all fits into the theme of the show, but it was hard for me to watch the random trials of the grown kids without anyone to root for. Also, one of them looks so much like Courteney Cox that my brain took me out of the action every time she doppleganged her way onscreen. A pleasant, quick season overall, though the piano soundtrack gets old pretty quickly. Free on Amazon Prime.

Final Grade: B-

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Friday, June 05, 2015

Stuff In My Drawers Day: Modern Poetry

This is an undated poetry excerpt, probably from primary school since I stopped using cursive writing as soon as I was allowed to.

I'm not sure why the rhyming scheme changes so dramatically between stanzas, so I'll presume that the second stanza was intended to be a hiphop spoken word break.

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Monday, June 08, 2015

Weekend Wrap-up

Friday: Grilled and ate delicious burgers with garlic aioli, sauteed mushrooms, and Colby Jack cheese, then sat on the couch with cats and a Devil's Backbone Azrael.

Saturday: Worked on a proposal while Rebecca hiked 16 miles on the AT. Took a lunch break to mow the lawn, and a dinner break to eat too much Domino's Pizza, then got right back to it.

Sunday: Emptied out the shed, converting the basement into a temporary shed-like storage area, so the decaying building can be demolished in the name of progress and Booty. Started playing Witcher 3 in earnest. Enjoyed the spring-like weather on the back porch and then watched an episode of Luther before retiring for the night.

How was your weekend?

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Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Random Chart Day: Where I Store My Music

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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Memory Day: Snapshots

This picture was taken ten years ago, on June 18, 2005, at Ingleside Vineyards near Colonial Beach. I'm in the back, rocking the short-sleeve dress shirt and pencil-thin black tie. None of these people had any children (that they were aware of) at this point in history.

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Thursday, June 11, 2015

First Impressions: The Witcher 3

There are no major spoilers in this review.

My previous experience with the Witcher series was inauspicious -- I bought Witcher 2 for cheap in a Steam Sale and got stuck about 20 minutes in on a bugged tutorial mission. I'm currently 11 hours into The Witcher 3, which is evidently the most impressive thing to ever come out of Poland (with 4 million copies sold in 2 weeks).

This is a heavily story-based role-playing game with real-time combat, skill trees, inventory, and the whole nine yards. The game is graphically impressive, even on my five year old computer and Gefore GTX 660 which can only go up to Medium detail without stuttering. Comparisons to Skyrim aren't very appropriate -- where Skyrim features a relatively shallow framework where you can do anything and invent your own fun, this game focuses heavily on story and the choices you make, with even the most throwaway sidequest having depth and a few plot twists here and there.

There's a fair bit of control complexity that requires some upfront online study (why don't people make game manuals anymore?) but combat is still possible if you opt to button-mash -- when in doubt, parry. The controls betray the game's cross-console roots (especially the stupid radial menus that every game has these days), but the PC key bindings are sufficiently responsive besides the usual problems with precise positioning of your character when you want to turn slightly but end up drunkenly moving two feet to the left.

So far, I'm having a lot of fun. The initial area is the right size for learning how to play without being too on-rails, and opens up dramatically a couple hours in. The game is incredibly polished with unmatched attention to detail, and has already had 4 patches full of bug fixes, addressed player concerns, and free DLC -- the development team has a reputation for really taking care of its players, and it shows.

Initial Grade: A

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Friday, June 12, 2015

Chad Darnell's 12 of 12

5:12 AM: Ready for work.
5:31 AM: Arriving at the office.
5:50 AM: Dawn over Reston.
9:36 AM: Every other Friday is free cream cheese day.
12:31 PM: Returning home to shed demolition.
1:34 PM: Lunchtime for cats.
2:11 PM: Lunchtime for humans, with a leftover sub from O'Faolains.
2:53 PM: Back to work on proposals.
4:00 PM: A quick Cat nap.
4:45 PM: Showing Booty how to move with the mouse.
6:38 PM: Shells and cheese for dinner.
7:24 PM: No shells for Booty.

tagged as 12 of 12 | permalink | 4 comments

Monday, June 15, 2015

Weekend Wrap-up

I worked on a proposal all weekend, which isn't the least bit interesting. So, why don't you all tell me what you did on your weekends instead?

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

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Shed Day

Work on a new shed has begun, with the haphazard construction from 2003 razed for a fresh new foundation. The old shed had been in place since I bought the house, and was only missing a pair of ruby slippers sticking out from underneath it to make it a perfect replica of something that might have landed there during a tornado.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Memory Day: Snapshots

This is a picture of my mom and sister, roughly around 1978. At the time, my parents were probably deciding whether to leave her in the hippo.

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Thursday, June 18, 2015

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (R):
A useless, pretentious movie. It's interesting to watch from a technical perspective to see the extended single-shot scenes (some lasting over 10 minutes), but otherwise it's about 15 minutes of amazing performances seared into an omelette of faux psychological drama with a grating soundtrack consisting mainly of a guy playing a jazz drum kit. This is one of those movies that your film buff friends will say is amazing, so be warned.

Final Grade: D+

The Shield, Season Seven:
This final season starts slow, taking a couple episodes to over-exposition the intricate plot layers, but thankfully recovers pretty quickly. The show goes off the rails from the standard formula, which leaves plenty of room for fun drama (similar to Harry Potter leaving Hogwarts, or the collapse of SD-6 on Alias), and the ending preserves the high quality of this show's seven season run.

Final Grade: B

Sons of Anarchy, Season Seven:
In spite of the fact that this entire final season is predicated on a contrived situation resulting from two characters' inability to communicate with their grown-up words, it remains intense and well-executed throughout. It ends in a satisfying way, although the final two seconds of poor CGI kind of reduce the emotional impact of the closing scene. On the downside, episodes are still 60 - 80 minutes long, which is just indulgently long (see also, Arrested Development, Season Four) and unnecessary. I would have preferred some tighter editing rather than several minutes of people walking down hallways or twenty minute musical montages every twenty-five minutes.

Final Grade: B

Future Crimes by Marc Goodman:
This non-fiction book provides a good look at the potential for crime, identity theft, and espionage resulting from the increasingly connected nature of our computers and phones. The most interesting parts of the book are the vignettes of recent crimes that might have been unexpected a few years earlier. Unfortunately, the author also feels like he needs to bash you over the head continuously with scare words and fear mongering, which gets tiresome almost immediately. It gets to the point where the basic reading pattern is to skim over several paragraphs proclaiming the end of the world, to get to the interesting technical details and crime stories. I'm about 70% of the way through the book and losing steam -- the incessant fear mongering is like a neverending air raid siren, and to date, the author never actually proposes any solutions to the problems he's laying out.

Final Grade: C

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Friday, June 19, 2015

Shed Day

Making progress on Thursday...

But then... rain delay!

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Monday, June 22, 2015

Weekend Wrap-up

After a day of humid shed building, we met up with friends at the annual Taste of Reston festival, including Kathy, Carolyn, and Carolyn's fiance, Luke. The food was as good as usual, although there wasn't quite as much variety this year -- especially in the seafood category (crab doesn't count because crab is dumb). It did rain as tradition requires, and there was a Dave Matthews cover band headlining, which must have matched perfectly against the average age of the festival goers.

On Saturday, Rebecca hiked some 16 miles on the AT while my dad and I created a shed door. In the evening, Rebecca and I met up for an early birthday evening in Leesburg, for a trip to Crooked Run Brewery. We ate dinner at a little place called Cajun Experience, which felt much like walking onto a set of Treme, right down to the power going out briefly during the crazy monsoons. We ordered various Cajun seafoody dishes which tasted amazing, but the progression of our enjoyment followed this timeline:

On Sunday, we took a DC trip and met up with Sam, Kristen, Returned Mike, and Annie at District Commons for brunch. Then, 4 of 6 of us went to the Kennedy Center to see Book of Mormon. It was an enjoyable diversion and worth the trip (full review coming at a later date). A half hour Metro ride later, and we were back home eating tacos and washing months of sweat off of Rebecca's hiking pack (as well as cat puke off the bedspread).

Happy Birthday Rebecca (and Brianne!)

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Shed Day

Friday...

Saturday...

Monday...

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Memory Day: Snapshots

This blurry mirror photo was taken in 1982 in one of the anchor stores at Springfield Mall (now renamed Springfield Town Center). We're almost twins!

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Thursday, June 25, 2015

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Robocop (2014) (PG-13):
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this remake of the 1987 classic. The remake manages to tell its own story while still hitting a few major story beats. Where the original was a satire of society cloaked in a violent action movie, this iteration focuses heavily on the moral questions raised by fusing humans with robots, and the mental conflict between being human and having an AI. It stands well on its own, and limits its callbacks to the original to a few quotable lines. Free on Amazon Prime.

Final Grade: B+

Derek, Final Episode:
The British love their Christmas Specials, and this extra hour-long episode permanently wraps up the series in a warm way. It suffers a little from the second season exit of Karl Pilkington, but otherwise goes out strong. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: B

Mr. Robot, Pilot Episode:
The pilot episode of this new USA show hits all of the right marks, and leaves an intriguing setting that I would enjoy exploring in future episodes. It feels a little too like Fight Club sometimes, and Christian Slater just acts like Christian Slater, but otherwise, the characters are interesting. This may also be one of the few shows that gets its technobabble and computer screens right -- it's hard to make computer hacking exciting without someone yelling "Enhance!" while zooming in on Google Maps, but Mr. Robot pulls it off. Free on Amazon Prime.

Final Grade: B+

The Book of Mormon:
We saw this show at the Kennedy Center last week and thoroughly enjoyed it. It's highly profane, has a definite vein of South Park running through it, and will keep you laughing, although it's probably not a show you need to watch more than once. The cast and the pit orchestra were both universally strong, although the overwhelming wall of sound often prevented me from picking up the nuances of the book. It's easy to hear the lines that elicit laughs, but less so to understand the chorus.

Final Grade: B+

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Friday, June 26, 2015

Stuff In My Drawers Day

I sketched this cartoon in April 1992, as a requirement for my Art merit badge.

Apparently this Scout troop was comprised solely of really ugly kids with really oblong heads. Also, they are all group-thinking about lunch -- lunch is not raining on them.

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Monday, June 29, 2015

Weekend Wrap-up

Amidst the usual weekend shenanigans of Rebecca hiking the AT and me working on a proposal, we had a rare Poker Night to celebrate Anna and Ben being in town briefly.

After dinner at Mellow Mushroom (where the food was delicious as usual although our waiter had a sweaty, manic thing going on), we had a poker game with Larry, Returned Mike, and Annie, while Sydney the cat got reacquainted with the youngest Ahlbin (the rest were off at grandma's house).

Mike ultimately won the game, followed by Ben, and then Larry. Everyone else was out pretty quickly and spent the rest of the evening eating birthday cake and chocolate eclairs.

How was your weekend?

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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

End-of-the-Month Highlights Day

New photos have been added to the Life, 2015 album, although they are mostly shed-related.

  • Events
    • Met Kathy for drinks at Red Robin on 6/4.

    • Had a between-rainstorms dinner at O'Faolain's on 6/11.

    • Went to Taste of Reston with Kathy, Carolyn, and Luke on 6/19.

    • Went to Crooked Run and then ate all of the salt at Cajun Experience on 6/20.

    • Saw Book of Mormon with Mike and Annie on 6/21.

    • Met Anna and Ben for dinner at Mellow Mushroom on 6/27.

    • Lost in Poker on 6/27.

    • Celebrated Kathy's birthday at World of Beer and M&S Grill on 6/29.

  • Projects
    • Built a shed with my dad.

    • Worked on a lot of proposal stuff while Rebecca hiked everywhere.

  • Consumerism
    • Enjoyed finishing Derek, Sons of Anarchy and The Shield, as well as the first season of Luther.

    • Enjoyed new albums from Lenka, Muse, and The Darkness (reviews coming).

    • Played Witcher 3 and Hearthstone.

    • Bought a new Kindle to replace my 5-years-old one. It should be arriving tonight.

June's Final Grade: B-, Fun punctuated the month like exclamation points, but a fairly poor work-to-life balance dampened the weekends.

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