11/2015

Monday, November 02, 2015

Weekend Wrap-up

Happy November!

Our weekend was pleasant across the board. On Saturday, we kicked off the transition from the fun part of Fall to the cold part of Fall by raking the backyard. Based on historical data, this was raking #1 of 3 or 4. In the afternoon, we made various squash-based side dishes (one with spaghetti squash and basil, and another with butternut squash and brown sugar) for a Halloween potluck at the Lowry's. Not a single person was dressed up in a costume for this event, which is probably more noble than a sea of Donald Trumps.

On Sunday, we completed our yearly benefits enrollment and confirmed for the millionth year running that Novetta has better benefits than all of the other companies in the world. It's almost a shame that I don't actually go to the doctor for anything, given my amazing mutt genes and bacon-based diet that combine in support of my physical robustness.

In the evening, we had a dinner cheese, beans, meats, and tortillas in different permutations at Don Pablo's followed by an early bedtime in honor of Daylight Savings Time.

How was your weekend?

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Tuesday, November 03, 2015

List Day: Ranked Freshman Classes, Fall '96 - Spring '97

From worst to best, ranked on real-world usefulness, number of times I fell asleep, and nineteen years of perspective...

  1. HUM - Roman World and Early Christianity: The type of class you have to take to be considered an Honors student. (Also, why I decided not to be an Honors student the following semester).

  2. MATH - Intro to Discrete Math: Less salacious than the title would imply.

  3. MATH - Elementary Linear Algebra: Three-man projects with the third guy never showing up.

  4. CS - Intro to Computer Science: Binary addition is fun for about four days.

  5. CS - Operating Systems Tools: Unremarkable, other than this scandal.

  6. MUS - Trumpet Lessons: The sun shining through Dr. Bachelder's venetian blinds triggered migraines abou 10% of the time.

  7. SOC - Intro to Sociology: Lifelong tips to manipulate everyone.

  8. MUS - Theory / Harmony: Partwriting is boring but Dr. Bachelder is not.

  9. MUS - Symphony Band: 50% new compositions by Mark Camphouse and 50% oboe sectional.

  10. MUS - Marching Band: Fun until it got cold.

  11. MUS - Sightsinging: Also known as "Let's sing things for 30 minutes with a bunch of people from marching band, including Dave McKee"

  12. CS - Intro to Data Structures: Arrays are like fruit.

  13. CS - Intro to Programming in C: I was good at it, and this was the semester in which I didn't overwrite my boot partition with a bad pointer.

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Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Memory Day: Snapshots

This picture of my sister and I was taken in the fall of 1982. My sister, in her finest Joe Theismann apparel, has a bandage on her neck from the repair of a bronchial cleft cyst (according to my dad, the historian). The picture isn't out of focus -- that's how 1982 really looked!

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Thursday, November 05, 2015

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

The Girl in the Spider's Web by David Lagercrantz:
The fourth book in "The Girl With a Prepositional Phrase series by Stieg Larrson" is a faithful posthumous continuation by a different author. It's actually a little too faithful, as it tries so hard to be like the previous books that it repeats many of the flaws: too many supporting characters, extended descriptive monologues, and plot progression through the dialogue of one character telling a story about another character. There's nothing as egregious as the infamous twenty page section on Lisbeth decorating her apartment with furniture from Ikea, but the plot struggles hard to push forward. A few great page turning sections, but otherwise forgettable.

Final Grade: C

Layer Cake:
This movie in the "British heist" genre is very easy to follow and stars a pre-Bond Daniel Craig. Stylistically, it reminds me of Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels but with more substance and less flash for the sake of flash. I had to turn to the Internet to understand the last five seconds of the ending, but liked it much more after knowing what was going on.

Final Grade: B

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn:
Gillian Flynn's first book tells of a city reporter returning to her Midwestern home town and unhealthy family dynamics while investigating the murder of some children. Like Gone Girl the writing is exquisite, with turns of phrases you'd wish you'd come up with yourself. The plot and characters aren't quite as good though, and the logistics of the crime seem suspect after the fact.

Final Grade: B-

iZombie, Season One:
The hardest part about enjoying this series is getting past the premise: the main character gets turned into a zombie and works in the morgue for a steady supply of brains, while solving crimes based on visions she receives from the brains of murder victims. It's surprisingly good, although it sometimes tries a little too hard to be like the creator's previous show, Veronica Mars. The supporting characters, especially David Anders, make the show shine, and the plot builds logically and intelligently to a great season finale. I hate zombie-themed things as much as vampire-themed things, but liked this show.

Final Grade: B+

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Friday, November 06, 2015

Stuff in My Drawers Day

I sketched this doodle of my dad watching TV at the age of 9, on November 12, 1988. The couch was one of the uglier, more uncomfortable iterations in a long succession of couches stretching back to the beginning of time. In the background near the stairs, you can see the laundry my mom had just finished folding.

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Monday, November 09, 2015

Weekend Wrap-up

  • Cleaned the house and did a load of laundry.

  • Finished development on a work project task to migrate from MongoDB to PostgreSQL.

  • Played Elder Scrolls Online.

  • Took a 40 minute nap with a chest cat.

  • Went to Costco for vast quantities of apples and yogurt.

  • Made beans and rice burritos after Early Thanksgiving Dinner plans got postponed.

  • Played the co-op Hearthstone brawl with Rebecca.

  • Ran on the treadmill to new episodes of The 100.

  • Performed Raking #2 of 3, as evinced by these blisters.

  • Finished adding all of the plot points from the third book in the series to the Paravia Wiki.

  • Pretended to be a physical therapy patient so Rebecca could practice her techniques for measuring range of motion.

  • Mixed in episodes of Person of Interest and You're the Worst.

How was your weekend?

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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Random Chart Day: Things That Affect My Steak Consumption

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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Time-lapsed Blogography Day

BU at multiple data points

  • 22 years ago today, on November 11, 1993, I worked on my Weather merit badge and my science fair project, A Study in the Composition of Regional Surface Water. (It had no chance against current FCC CIO David Bray's project, which used computers to model the spread of oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico and won $3000).

  • 21 years ago today, on November 11, 1994, I had an optometrist appointment (with the same optometrist I use now) and then bought the computer game, Under a Killing Moon: A Tex Murphy Adventure. It had full-motion video and came on 4 CDs.

  • 20 years ago today, on November 11, 1995, it was Senior Band Day, and my mom came out on the football field. There was a thunderstorm after halftime, so we all went home early. I spent the evening printing scores for the Indiana University Music Competition on our HP LaserJet 4, which forced you to reinsert the paper back into the tray to print on two sides and jammed with more regularity than the meters in my compositions. I did not win the competition, probably because colleges hate tonality.

  • 16 years ago today, on November 11, 1999, I was at Philip's house, celebrating Kelley's birthday with Doobie, Kara, Shac, Nikki, Liz, and John Schurman. We watched a reality show called Greed and listened to Doobie being entertaining.
  • 14 years ago today, on November 11, 2001, I went to a bad senior trumpet recital at FSU and wrote a scathingly polite review.

tagged as memories | permalink | 2 comments

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Red Oaks, Season One:
This Amazon original series features a young college guy with a summer job at a country club, and falls squarely in the "coming of age in the 1980s" genre. The pilot episode had mild promise, but the first season never really builds on that foundation. Plots wend their way to nowhere and individual episodes often have minimal shape or thrust. Every character and plot line is an 80s movie archetype, but beyond checking them off a list, the show doesn't offer anything new. The supporting characters are more sympathetic than the mains, and the show jumps the shark about halfway through in a traditional 80s "body swap" scenario. Rebecca hates when fantasy trods on her realism. Free on Amazon Prime.

Final Grade: D+

Sherlock, Season Three:
The third season of Sherlock is very tonally different than its predecessors. The mysterious cases take a back seat (or even get relegated to the trunk of the metaphorical car) to the characters and the amusing antics they get up to. This makes the show more amusing and easier to watch without missing details, but it's definitely not the same show it originally sold itself as. Within that caveat, I enjoyed its meandering ways but felt that the third episode's attempt to tie everything together was pretty weak. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: B-

Sneaky Pete, Pilot Episode:
This pilot stars the actor who played Phoebe's brother, Frank, from Friends, and tells the story of a con man who cons his way into a rural family and helps out with their bail bond business. The strongest aspects of the pilot were the performances of the actors, including Margo Martindale and Bryan Cranston. However, the format of the pilot felt very "episode of the week", like something you might find on CBS (and in fact, the show was originally on CBS before getting dumped and picked up by Amazon Studios). I'll definitely watch the first season (it was greenlit in September), but might not stick around if the serial story is overshadowed by the weekly cases. Free on Amazon Prime.

Final Grade: B+

Mad Dogs, Pilot Episode:
This is another Amazon pilot that got picked up for a full season, and is a remake of a like-named show that I never watched. The cast (including Michael Imperioli and Steve Zahn as stereotypical Steve Zahn) is fun and the pilot does a good job of building an undercurrent of menace, but it didn't necessarily make me want to see how everything turns out in future episodes. Watch if you like the "super serious thriller" genre but be warned that it feels like a slightly faster Bloodlines. Free on Amazon Prime

Final Grade: B-

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Friday, November 13, 2015

Chad Darnell's 12 of 12

5:06 AM: Ready for a long day's work.
5:29 AM: Arriving in the office.
7:00 AM: Working on boring proposal things.
8:19 AM: Clouds over Reston.
12:11 PM: Lunch in Springfield.
12:44 PM: Arrived early for the all-afternoon proposal meeting.
5:06 PM: Taking back country routes through fake Alexandria.
5:30 PM: Visiting my parents.
6:11 PM: Stealing dinner from the mini Costco in the basement.
8:07 PM: Arrived home after an hour on 495. "3 RT LNS BLKD"
8:18 PM: Rebecca's home!
8:30 PM: Downloading the memory card.

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Monday, November 16, 2015

Weekend Wrap-up

Much of the weekend was taken up with proposal work, but we did manage to get away for the afternoon on Saturday and take a hike up to Raven Rocks on the West Virginia border. The weather was a little brisk, and the denuded trees gave us the benefit of great vistas throughout the hike, at the expense of ankle chaos in the slippery leaves all over the trail.

We stopped in Purcellville to try out a couple new breweries. The first, Adroit Theory, was a nanobrewery that had a rapidly rotating inventory of beers you drink like an adult rather than a college student. We had heard that their beers were "weird", but found them to be pretty good across the board.

After those samples, we went to Belly Love Brewery down the road for a shared flight and some pork belly tacos. The beers were good, and more normal fare, while the tacos were forgettable and overcharred. We closed out the evening at an ice cream shop across the street, which featured the warmest and coziest table area of any ice cream shop, making it the perfect place to warm up while eating cold stuff.

How was your weekend?

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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Questions Day

It's time for another Questions Day. Want to get a second opinion on something? Ask anything you want, be it about myself, Thanksgiving, or something you don't understand. Need some recommendations? I'll answer all of your questions next Tuesday!

tagged as you speak | permalink | 4 comments

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Memory Day: Snapshots

This picture was taken in December 1977, so I did not exist yet.

The Uri family, sans me, was out in Fairfax County picking up a live Christmas tree for the season, wearing their best Starbucks cup costumes. The general lifecycle for live Christmas trees in the early years was three weeks in the living room in a giant metal bucket of water, followed by an anemic year or two planted in the backyard before dying off.

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Thursday, November 19, 2015

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Canon PowerShot ELPH 340 HS:
This camera is the embodiment of compromise. I've learned by this point, that I'd rather have a crappy camera that's actually small enough to take everywhere than a slightly nicer one that's too cumbersome and gets left at home. After eventually breaking all of the other cameras in the house by dropping them (I don't use the Wiimote strap either), I picked up this $215 model mostly for hikes and 12 of 12s. Auto settings and anything with a flash results in a decent and sometimes good picture. However, image stabilization is not good enough to do anything without a flash unless you're using a tripod. You can see from the non-flash pictures in my 12 of 12s that the results aren't the greatest. Still, I do take it everywhere, so I end up with more pictures overall.

Final Grade: C-

Quick Fix Blackout Pleated Paper Shade by Redi Shade:
Our TV has more glare than an angry goth and it's often hard to watch TV in the middle of the day, forcing us to do something that's actually productive instead. These thick paper curtains are the perfect augmentation to our curtains that don't quite block all of the sunlight. You simply cut them to the width of the window and stick them in the frame. The adhesive is quite sticky, and there are plastic clips to keep it neat when not covering the window. They're an innocuous, inexpensive solution and perfect if you don't want to consider something more long-term.

Final Grade: B+

You're the Worst, Season One:
This is a raunchy comedy (in the same vein as Scrotal Recall and Catastrophe) that has more laughs but not quite as much heart as those other shows. With one exception (Edgar), the main characters are awful people. Although they show signs of self-improvement, not much progress is made in the first season. With only 10 episodes, the show is funny enough to burn through, but doesn't change the landscape of modern television in any way.

Final Grade: B-

The 100, Season Two:
The second season of this teen LOST clone is hit or miss, with a few great storylines and surprises pulled down by poor show logistics. The biggest problem is that the CW teen drama angle adds nothing and starts to impede on what could be a great sci-fi concept after a while. It takes a while to get the story moving, as the show writers make the mistake of splitting many characters up into isolated stories. This leads to lots of scenes where people are just running around so they can show up in the next scene, as well as boring storylines that you'll want to fast forward through (The chancellor running through the desert on a faith pilgrimage). It's hard to tell that the cast is beautiful, because they spend most of the time muddy and getting beaten up. In spite of these flaws, the show kept me intrigued through the whole 16 episode run and I enjoyed it as much as the first season. President Dante Wallace was a particularly good new character.

Final Grade: B

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Friday, November 20, 2015

List Day: Plans for Thanksgiving Break

  • Hang blackout curtains for maximum daylight TV time.

  • Reseal the drafty cracks in the basement patio door.

  • Spend no more than 2 hours per day on work proposal stuff.

  • Figure out how to apply page caching in MediaWiki.

  • Have a rescheduled Thanksgiving dinner with the Ahlbins.

  • Host real Thanksgiving with all of the parents.

  • Meet Returned Mike for dinner in Reston Town Center.

  • Try out Elder Scrolls Online with my new Nvidia GTX 960 graphics card.

  • Plan a Christmas party.

  • Finish Christmas shopping.

  • Get some new Christmas decorations.

  • Exercise Booty.

tagged as lists | permalink | 2 comments

Monday, November 23, 2015

Weekend Wrap-up

This Saturday, we had the Ahlbin clan over for an early Thanksgiving dinner of ham, stuffing, butternut squash, pasta salad, rolls, and gravy. Afterwards, we played Hearthstone (Rebecca lost to Anna in spite of, or maybe because of, extra help from the kids). We also played Clue, made interesting by the extra Candlestick printed in the card deck.

On Sunday, I crafted boring Excel charts tracking cost difference between service offerings and then ate tons of leftover ham.

How was your weekend?

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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Answers Day

The sequel to Questions Day

"What are some fun 2-player specific board games/card games that people might not know about? " - Evil Mike

  • Lost Cities: Best balance of easy-to-learn and deep-to-play.
  • Khet 2.0: Good if you like geometry puzzles.
  • Jaipur: Slightly tedious setup but easy to learn and play.
  • Morels: Still unsure on strategies for this one, but it's fun and different.

"Follow-up: What is a good way of getting your spouse to play said games instead of The Sims 3/4?" - Evil Mike

  • Put all her Sims in a swimming pool and build a wall around it.
  • Sabotage her computer.
  • Pay her $15 per game.

"Who is going to be the next VT football head coach?" - Doobie

  • Jason Mirick

"Is there any truth to the rumor that the WHO "bacon = cancer" news a few weeks back made bacon taste way better?" - Doobie

Learning that bacon causes cancer is probably the best thing that could happen. Fewer people eating it, so more for me, and too many piggies, so the price goes down.

" What advice do you think Future You At 50 would give current you?" - Returned Mike

  • Don't run on a treadmill at 10 miles per hour in shoes with long laces.
  • Don't chew so fast.
  • Don't bleach the shower wearing good clothes.
  • Don't feed more than half a can of wet food to Amber in one sitting.

tagged as you speak | permalink | 1 comment

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Memory Day: Snapshots

This picture was taken 30 years ago, on Christmas Day in 1985.

Zooming in on the recently unwrapped presents reveals an "Alpha Jet" model, a Transformer, and a giant box of Construx.

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Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving Day

Updates will resume on Monday. Have a great weekend!

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Monday, November 30, 2015

End-of-the-Month Highlights Day

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

  • Events
    • Had a birthday dinner for Annie at Bar Taco on 11/2.

    • Had our first power outage in years on 11/4, with a minor aftershock power outage the next morning. Ate Subway instead of Asian fusion pork chops.

    • Hiked at Raven Rocks and did a brewery circuit in Purcellville on 11/14.

    • Had early Thanksgiving with the Ahlbins on 11/21.

    • Had on-time Thanksgiving with the parents on 11/26.

    • Went hiking at Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship on 11/27, followed by Crooked Run and a Los Tios dinner.

    • Closed out the long weekend with pizza at Mellow Mushroom on 11/29.

  • Projects
    • Installed blackout curtains in the living room.

    • Worked on a proposal all month that entailed rush hour trips to the Springfield office.

    • Took a week off for Thanksgiving but did not actually use any leave, thanks to said proposal.

  • Consumerism
    • Enjoyed seasons of The 100 and You're the Worst. Currently, and unexpectedly, enjoying Jessica Jones on Netflix.

    • Playing Elder Scrolls Online (a level 40 and a level 12 toon) when not proposal writing.

    • No noteworthy new books or music this month.

November's Final Grade: C+, Rainy and busy with work.

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