06/2016

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Memory Day: Snapshots

This picture was taken at my Sterling housewarming party twelve years ago, on June 5, 2004.

The party featured all manner of friends from various walks of life, including Uris, FGM coworkers such as Jack, Tom, Eric, Tammy, Chris, and Joe C., long-lost high school friends like Aaron, Jennie, and Cheryl, and then about 100 of Anna's sisters and children.

I'm drinking a Miller Lite because no one had invented craft beer yet. The badminton net in the background was the first in an almost yearly series of cheap nets that always fell apart too soon (although the one I made myself is still going strong).

tagged as memories | permalink | 3 comments

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Humans, Season One:
This show takes place in a near-future where robotics have progressed far enough that the "synths" look exactly like real humans and are ubiquitous like Roombas. It has shades of both Ex Machina and Black Mirror and raises plenty of questions about sentience and robotic ethics. The plot is nicely paced and ends with sufficient closure while leaving enough space for the next season.

Final Grade: A

The Nice Guys (R):
If you liked Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, you'll enjoy this new detective / mismatched buddy movie from the same director. Set in the 1970s, the movie remains breezy and engrossing without ever getting more serious than it should be. The action starts to run together towards the end, but it was perfect for an Alamo date night.

Final Grade: B+

Windows 10:
Windows 10 is better than Vista and 8, but worse than XP and 7. It's got a rock solid core that does what it's supposed to do most of the time, hampered by an overwhelming number of annoyances. It essentially solves many problems from previous versions while introducing new problems in the traditional Microsoft way. For example, my print spooler no longer shuts down mysteriously every second day, but now my laptop resets projector settings every time I hook it up to the TV and has decided that it should lock itself whenever I step away for more than 2 minutes on battery power. It also reboots on its own time (in spite of what I configure), turns on and off at weird times throughout the night, and is loaded with useless instructions and workflows intended for tablets that have no relevance in a desktop world. I don't mind if you design an OS for both tablets and desktops, but telling me to "swipe up" on the very first lock screen during my very first startup is just poor UX.

There have been plenty of articles on the unsettling amount of telemetry built into the system (pretty much everything you do is reported back in some way to Microsoft, from searches to keystrokes), and Microsoft's increasingly stalker-like attempts to force you to upgrade that sometimes feel like monopolized malware. In the case of my dad's desktop, the upgrade bricked his hard drive by overwriting the boot sector with a new Windows partition.

The bottom line is that it sucks, but you'll probably have to get it anyways if you do anything that requires Windows.

Final Grade: C-

tagged as reviews | permalink | 3 comments

Friday, June 03, 2016

Fri Day

I didn't have the opportunity to write today's scheduled post (Why Amazon is Better Than Google) because my Comcast Internet went out for a full five hours yesterday. It doesn't seem like five hour outages should be happening in the year 2016, but it gave me ample time to reorganize the kitchen drawers and lie on the floor with Booty.

What are your plans for the weekend? I plan to learn about Apache Spark Streaming, go on a hike, visit with the visiting Edwardses, and go to a party of Rebecca's yoga people.

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

Monday, June 06, 2016

Weekend Wrap-up

On Saturday, we woke up early for another Raven Rocks hike. We started hiking early enough (7:30) that we were the first people up the mountain, but returned to a parking lot jam-packed with yuppy cars at various poorly optimized angles. It was like playing Tetris with the added ability to rotate pieces 21 degrees.

In the afternoon, we drove out to Arlington to see the visiting Edwardses and their two-month old, Owen, and then immediately followed that up with a party of Rebecca's yoga friends in Cascades. Yoga parties are an interesting anthropological occurrence, as they usually devolve into people demonstrating yoga poses by the halfway point.

On Sunday, I played some Overwatch with long-lost gaming friends and we also booked the last of our hotels for a summer Colorado trip. We had Chinese delivery for dinner and watched a couple episodes of the previous season of Game of Thrones, but it's not going anywhere quickly.

How was your weekend?

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

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

List Day: 8 Hair Facts

  1. I cut my own hair using a patented system of two mirrors at right angles, where one is on the front of a medicine cabinet and can be opened into an acute angle to show the back of my head.

  2. I have given myself 33 haircuts since July 4, 2014, which means I cut my hair every 21 - 24 days on average.

  3. Assuming barbershop rates and tips, I have saved about $600 by cutting my own hair in that time.

  4. I do not have any appreciable bed-head until about 14 days after a haircut.

  5. I cut the hair on the sides at 3/8", and the hair on top at 3/4" or 1" depending on the season. I do not know what the numeric codes of the attachments are so I can't tell myself to "give me a number 3 on the sides".

  6. I have between 1 and 4 grey hairs, but I can only see 1 of them myself.

  7. I donate the discarded hair to my toilet, and will continue doing so until such a time that short spiky hair is useful to a donation organization, possibly one for porcupines with cancer.

  8. There are currently so signs of baldness anywhere on my head.

tagged as lists | permalink | 2 comments

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Memory Day: Snapshots

This picture was taken 20 years ago today, on June 8, 1996.

I was attending Jack's Eagle Scout Court of Honor at some church in Old Town, Alexandria. Unlike Troop 131, where these ceremonies were unnecessarily overdone (mine featured bulk dinner rolls from Costco and more candles than an Amish power outage), Troop 135 ceremonies were a streamlined affair in the middle of a Saturday morning. In fact, two other scouts, Ben and Mark, both received their award at the same ceremony.

I was not looking at the camera in this particular shot, as I was too preoccupied worrying about everyone watching me as my dad took pictures of me with the entire cast of attendees. Teenage embarrassment!

tagged as memories | permalink | 1 comment

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Review Day: Overwatch

Over 7 million people purchased Overwatch globally in its first week of sales, which is comparable to everyone in the state of Washington playing at least 1 game. It's capturing a player base of unexpected people like Elon Musk while evoking moments where T-Pain expresses his love of gaming (language not safe for work). Even Rebecca tried a couple games against the AI as Winston, the gorilla scientist, and didn't have an awful time.

The game is essentially the same one it was when I reviewed in closed beta, and has not stumbled in the final polish stages at all. I've played steadily since release, and even reconnected with some old Starcraft friends who I hadn't been in a multiplayer game with since the late 90s.

The biggest negatives I see in other reviews are complaints about a lack of content, absence of progression, and purchasable loot boxes. None of these are as big a deal as they seem:

  • It's hard to understand how 12 maps and 21 heroes doesn't count for a variety of content, especially when picking a brand new hero you've never played before immediately refreshes things if your primary hero gets stale. And while Blizzard didn't include a single-player campaign, millions of trivial game modes, or an Ubisoft crafting system where you make a potion out of three tigers, quality is obviously emphasized over quantity throughout.

  • Some people have said that there is no sense of progression as you play, and want more unlockables, hero upgrades, or reasons to keep playing. In my mind, games with parts you can't play until you've unlocked them are the worst (remember Super Smash Brothers on the Wii where you had to play the single-player campaign over and over to get new heroes?), and getting better at the game and enjoying it are both solid reasons to keep playing. I constantly play "just one more game" because it's fun, not because I'm trying to grind up to some arbitrary experience level.

  • Some people have taken issue with the fact that you can pay real money to get a loot box full of random cosmetic upgrades, like new voice lines and character skins. These don't affect the gameplay at all and are just nice to have. If you don't want to buy them, you'll get a loot box for free every 6 - 8 games depending on how well you do.

The bottom line is that this is an enjoyable and accessible team shooter that just might be as addictive as a Diablo or a Warcraft to many game players. Make sure you buy it for PC because first-person shooting on consoles is uniformly awful.

Final Grade: A

Overwatch on the URI! Zone:

tagged as reviews, games | permalink | 2 comments

Friday, June 10, 2016

Stuff in My Drawers Day

A common elementary school assignment is to assign an adjective or noun that best describes you to each letter in your name. I did this one in September 1987 as a fresh-faced fourth grader.

I am definitely a Brother. So far so good.

I am Reliable, and you can tell that because I play golf.

I'm pretty sure that Improsable is not a real word, but it sounds like it means I am unswayed by impressive prose, so I'll keep it.

I am Agreeable, as evinced by my willingness to drive you across a river.

Finally, I am Neat, both in the 80s "cool" way and the traditional "vacuums the house weekly" way. The Spanish moss hanging off the letters foreshadows my eventual two year stint in Tallahassee.

tagged as media | permalink | 0 comments

Monday, June 13, 2016

Chad Darnell's 12 of 12

7:30 AM: Waking up to cats that expand to fill all negative space.
7:39 AM: Awake.
7:54 AM: Soft-boiled eggs for breakfast.
8:24 AM: Family relaxy time.
9:06 AM: Rebecca leaves for various yoga activities.
11:56 AM: Treadmill time while rewatching Chuck (which has not aged at all in the intervening years).
12:23 PM: Leftover pizza for lunch.
2:00 PM: Playing Overwatch with friends.
3:15 PM: Laundry.
4:45 PM: Back from a Safeway run.
8:01 PM: Taco Night on the back porch.
9:20 PM: Couch & TV time.

tagged as 12 of 12 | permalink | 1 comment

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Flag Day

Happy Flag Day!

As an eighth grader in 1992, I drew this design for my French teacher, Madame Gibbs, who needed something to put on the cover of the "World Potluck Dinner" program. This event was held at the school every year and consisted of different minorities bringing the most stereotypical food of their culture to share.

Of course, the programs were copied using an old-fashioned ditto machine, so the resultant program featured one and a half shades of blue, bleeding splotches, and less contrast than the darkly lit scenes in an episode of Game of Thrones.

tagged as media | permalink | 1 comment

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Memory Day: Snapshots

This picture was taken nine years ago today, on June 15, 2007.

Rebecca was working at the non-profit Books for America bookstore in Dupont Circle at the time, and I surprised her by showing up after work (in the pre-Silver Line days). We went to Jazz in the Garden with Marc, Baylis, Andy, Adnrea, Jessika, and forgotten others, and used two pitchers of overpriced sangria to dullen the pain of listening to avant-gard soprano saxophone duets.

Afterwards, our group of 10 ended up at a hole in the wall restaurant in Chinatown called (creatively) Chinatown Express where I ate shrimp lo mein and had this picture taken. This was in the phase where I heavily edited every photo in Photoshop with a series of custom filters. Nowadays, I allow my natural beauty to be its own testament.

tagged as memories | permalink | 1 comment

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Running on Air by Bliss n Eso:
Another album of Australian hip-hop with a wide variety of influencing styles in their beats. It has fewer stand-out singles than Circus in the Sky, but is still a fun listen. Late On Night is pretty representative of the album as a whole.

Final Grade: B

Game of Thrones, Season Five:
I haven't really liked any season of Game of Thrones as much as the first one and this one didn't change my mind. (I still watch because Rebecca likes it more than I do). The number of interesting plots thins (while I was glad that we didn't have to see more scenes of Bran possessing wolves, I was also disappointed that Arya's storyline turned into a biding time treadmill).

This season felt a lot like Star Wars in that most of the scenes involved people traveling somewhere and accidentally furthering the plot. There are a lot of big moments towards the end of the season, but without fail, every single one of them was poorly set up and lacked any emotional investment. That said, the traditional big battle beyond the Wall was well-done and gripping.

All of the scenes are too dark as well, which is probably an intentional design idea to save money for battle scenes by skimping on the sets. If your TV has the least bit of glare, you'll want to watch at night.

Final Grade: C-

Modern Nature by Charlatans UK:
This newer album by the Charlatans has a warm, mature frat-rock sound that reminds me of being in college. The arrangements are clean and pleasant on the ear. Trouble Understanding is a good representative track. Free on Amazon Prime.

Final Grade: B

Hannibal takes Edinburgh:
This is not a comedy special so much as a documentary on how stand-up routines evolve, based on a month-long Fringe festival in Edinburgh. It's very hit-or-miss with a minimal number of new jokes, and the first half is more interesting than the second. Hannibal is definitely a comic that is incredibly funny when tightly edited, but the dead air and self-laughs of his live performances kill the momentum. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: C-

tagged as reviews | permalink | 0 comments

Friday, June 17, 2016

Recipe Day: Slow-Cooker Bean Chili

This bean chili is a hit in the demographic of "people married to me". It's very simple to make and hard to screw up.

Statistics

  • Serves 8 - 10 normal people or 1 giant
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 8 - 9 hours

Ingredients

  • 1/2 chicken boullion cube
  • 1 envelope chili seasoning mix
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 can each: black beans, garbanzo beans, kidney beans, sweet kernel corn, tomato sauce, and "diced tomatoes and mild green chiles"
  • 8 oz dried lentils
  • sliced or shredded Smoked Gouda cheese (Provolone is also a good pick)

Steps

  • Mix boullion cube, chili seasoning, and water in slow cooker.
  • Pour black beans, garbanzo beans, kidney beans, and lentils into a colander. Rinse and drain.
  • Mix beans into slow cooker thoroughly. Cook on LOW setting for 8 - 9 hours.
  • As hunger eats away at your sanity, stir corn, tomato sauce, and tomatoes and chili into the slow cooker and cook for another 15 minutes.
  • Serve with a big dollop of cheese in a cute bowl.

Q: Why do the best bean chilis only use 239 beans?
A: Because one more would make it too farty.

tagged as recipes | permalink | 1 comment

Monday, June 20, 2016

Weekend Wrap-up

On Saturday, I did a big post-Spring cleaning of the upstairs rooms, relegating many things to the "give it away some day" storage area in the basement, including a photo printer that no longer prints correct colors and 8 million dollars worth of printer ink for it, an A/V receiver that I've had since college and now overloads and shuts down when you go over volume 28, outdated tech books, a laptop bag that has never been used, and much more. I also finally retired the Wii from or family room since the last game I purchased for it was probably the sleep-inducing Skyward Sword Zelda game in 2011.

In the evening, we had burgers at the Counter, not realizing that Taste of Reston was going on just down the street, and then met up with Rebecca's yoga posse at the Lake Anne Brewhouse.

On Sunday, Rebecca went on a hot hike along Bull Run, while I stayed home and did nothing productive. We had her parents over for a Rebecca's Birthday / Father's Day dinner of grilled salmon and brown rice. (My parents were up north visiting my sister in Rhode Island so they were not invited).

How was your weekend? What are you getting Rebecca for her birthday on Wednesday?

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

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

What's Next for the URI! Zone?

Observant calendar watchers might notice that the 20th birthday of the URI! Zone is creeping closer. Ten years ago, I laid out my plan for a trilogy as follows:

The first ten years of my site, 1996 - 2006, served to introduce the principal characters (Booty) and supporting cast (me and Doobie), while providing enough back story and trivia on everyone involved to keep my readers empathizing with the protagonists. The second part, 2006 - 2016, will document my struggles and conflicts up to the ripe age of 36, although I haven't yet picked a suitable title yet since The Empire Strikes Back was already taken. Finally, 2016 - 2026 will tie up all the mysteries and drama from the first two parts with salty dialogue and a moving musical score. I don't want to spoil anything, but at least one person who's going to die in Part II will come back to life in Part III.

I've maintained my 5-day-per-week update schedule over the past few years in spite of steadily declining readership, to the point where I'm mainly just keeping the lights on for a handful of people bored in their cubicles not yet ready to start working for the day. Looking ahead, here are some thoughts I've considered for the next decade of posts:

  • Drop down to 3 regularly scheduled posts per week in the most popular categories: what I've been up to recently, what I did as a cute Asian child, and reviews of all of the crap I purchase.

  • Eliminate scheduled posting and post more involved, narrative-style posts "whenever I feel like it" which would probably end up being once or twice per week.

  • Abandon it completely and leave it as a preserved fossil for future internet archaeologists (like Mike's blog).

As a member of the elite intellectual group that still reads blogs in 2016, what are your thoughts? Suggestions, votes, and alternatives welcomed!

tagged as website | permalink | 2 comments

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Memory Day: Snapshots

This picture was taken in June, 2008.

At the time, Rebecca was working for the nonprofit, Books for America, and was tricked into making her own birthday cake by her work buddies. Billed as a going away party, she arrived at Shakir's apartment to find a surprise birthday party instead.

Happy Birthday, Rebecca!

tagged as memories | permalink | 1 comment

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Vacation Day

I'm on leave for the rest of the week, so enjoy this old post about my first trip up Old Rag Mountain written 8 years ago today.

tagged as green (recycled) content | permalink | 0 comments

Monday, June 27, 2016

Weekend Wrap-up

On Saturday night, we went to Chris & Kathy's 40th Birthday Party, produced with all of the stops pulled out at the Bull Run Winery. We ate finger foods on sticks, sparred with overzealous waiters trying to steal our plates, and danced gracefully across the various Venn diagram circles of friends from various epochs of their lives.

On Sunday, Rebecca went hiking at Raven Rocks and blogged about it while I mowed the lawn and catnapped with Booty on the couch. In the evening, we ate leftovers (my new easy barbeque chicken recipe and Dominos pizza) and dabbled in season two of Halt and Catch Fire.

My time off continues, as I've decided to burn some extra leave and take the entire week off, continuing through the day after Independence Day. What should I do with my lavish leisure time while you're buried in staff meetings and TPS reports?

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

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Google+ Day

Happy 5th Birthday to Google+, the clear winner in the social media battle that made Facebook shut down its servers in a clear surrender almost immediately.

Jokes aside, I actually liked the concept of Google+ when it came out, and gave it a fair shot at grabbing my attention. However, once I got done making jokes about +1s and Circles, the bottom line was that there just wasn't enough of a network present to justify its continued use. The whole point of social media is to brag about how great your life is to all of the plebians who probably shop at Food Lion, and if no one is home, your message gets lost in the ether. After a half year or so, I returned to Facebook which boasted a larger network effect, even though they still fail to comprehend that I always want to see every news post from every friend in most recent order until I say otherwise.

Google's subsequent attempts to force-cultivate a network by integrating Google+ with every other service was really the final straw for me -- it felt like a rich kid's parents threw a birthday party at the petting zoo in hopes that everyone would show up and befriend their friendless offspring. Funnily enough, we still use Google+ at work, but it never caught on there either, even with a captive audience. I'm sure the phrase, "We had to block Google+ on the network because people were wasting too much personal time there", has never been uttered by a corporate IT administrator.

tagged as random | permalink | 1 comment

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Memory Day: Snapshots

This picture was taken 20 years ago, on June 13, 1996.

My grandfather and uncle were in town to celebrate my high school graduation, and my mom forced my dad from behind the camera for this single shot. The day was ridiculously hot, and I had an illegal contraband fanny pack under the robe containing a bottle of water, two rolls of Spree, and a deck of playing cards.

tagged as memories | permalink | 0 comments

Thursday, June 30, 2016

End-of-the-Month Highlights Day

New photos have been added to the Life, 2016 album.

  • Events
    • Went hiking at Raven Rocks on S 6/4. Visited with the visiting Edwardses in Arlington and then went to a yoga people party in Sterling.

    • Met with other neighbours at the across-the-street neighbour's moving away yard sale and made the traditional promises to have more block-wide events on S 6/11. Ate dinner on empty deck at Logan's Roadhouse after finding the new seafood restaurant nearby and deeming it a little too seedy looking.

    • Had burgers at The Counter and then went to the Lake Anne Brewhouse on S 6/18.

    • Had Rebecca's parents over for salmon on S 6/19.

    • Celebrated Rebecca's 33rd birthday with gifts and steaks.

    • Celebrated Kathy and Chris' 40th birthday at the Bull Run Winery on S 6/25.

    • Took an impromptu vacation from work, H 6/23 - T 7/5.

    • Planning to visit Anna in Fredericksburg today.

  • Projects
    • Wrapped up work on Year One of a project at work.

    • Did Spring Cleaning and got rid of many electronics.

    • Finished adding book three (of eight) to the Paravia Wiki.

    • Contributed a trivial patch to the Apache Spark OSS project and resumed working on Sparkour (which had stalled recently due to important Overwatch tasking).

  • Consumerism
    • Enjoyed watching Nice Guys and tolerated Game of Thrones, Season Five.

    • Reached level 127 in Overwatch by playing it far too often.

June's Final Grade: B+, nice weather, nice people, and minimal responsibilities.

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

 

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