05/2018

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Time-lapsed Blogography Day: Twenty-Two Years Ago Today

22 years ago today was Thursday, May 2, 1996. It was an incredibly long day, starting at 4:30 AM when I woke up to drive to morning crew practice -- as the important races got closer, our super-competitive coaches would practice both before and after school to maximize the time spent on the water. In this case, morning practice was a bust because a rower named Ernesto decided he was sick and didn't show up. When situations like this occurred, all of the other rowers had to use the indoor rowing machines while I sat in the window of the boathouse watching the tide come in.

The school day was pretty lackadaisical, at the tail end where AP tests are coming up but all of the seniors have already gotten into colleges. At least two of my classes that day featured movie showings.

In the evening was the opening night of the TC Williams production of Fiddler on the Roof. I was in the pit playing first trumpet and we had actual rental pit scores instead of dumbed down high school arrangements, covered in years of nearly erased cryptic markings like "play this down a minor third because the singer can't go that high". We somehow managed to pull it all off with a hodge podge batch of high school musicians and a drama club where most of the members were not singers. (We did carry on the tradition, started with the Broadway Cast Recording, of giving the song "Now I Have Everything" to one of the non-singer for maximum audience discomfort).

After a successful opening night, I went home at 11 PM to get some sleep before the entire cycle repeated the next day!

Here's a cast picture from the production. None of the pit is actually in this picture because we got tired of waiting around for the drama folks to stop doing weird drama things and left immediately after the last show.

tagged as memories | permalink | 0 comments

Friday, May 04, 2018

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Sneaky Pete, Season Two:
I really enjoyed season one of this show, and the first half of the second season was both fun and funny as the characters deal with the fallout of their choices from the last season. However, the back half of the season is something of a muddle, with too many moving parts and unclear character motivations. It essentially just sputters to a conclusion. Free on Amazon Prime.

Final Grade: B-

Better Call Saul, Season Three:
This show has finally found its stride and was engaging and watchable all the way through. Even some of the artistic choices and extended montages that I would have found incredibly dull in Breaking Bad worked well here. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: A-

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri:
This movie was written and directed like a Coens Brothers movie that I actually had interest in watching. Rebecca remarked that Frances McDormand's character was her spirit animal. The movie ends fairly open-endedly, but leaves enough clues to mull over after the fact that you can decide for yourself how things will play out.

Final Grade: A-

Kevin James: Never Don't Give Up:
This clean comedy special starts out fairly strong but then builds up to an audience interaction bit that kills any momentum and ends on a chuckle. Had the bits been reorganized so the interactions were towards the beginning, it would have been a better end-to-end show. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: C+

tagged as reviews | permalink | 1 comment

Monday, May 07, 2018

List Day: You're Old and I'm Not

  • It has been 1 year since I bought an Oculus Rift (and 10 months since I last turned it on).

  • It has been 2 years since we climbed up a 14,000 ft mountain in Colorado.

  • It has been 3 years since my dad and I built a shed in the backyard.

  • It has been 4 years since Rebecca got her first smartphone, the iPhone 5C.

  • It has been 5 years since Rebecca became an officially licensed Physical Therapist Assistant.

  • It has been 6 years since we saw Cirque du Soleil under a seedy overpass in Quebec City.

  • It has been 7 years since we hit our max wedding trips per year limit (Baylis & Richie, Sam & Kristen, Amanda & Frank, Emily & Brian, Becca & Jason).

  • It has been 8 years since we saw Muse in concert and resolved to buy old people seats for future concerts.

  • It has been 9 years since we got married.

  • It has been 10 years since Mike (of Mike and Chompy) first moved to DC. Ancient prophecy states that he will move here a total of 3 times in his lifetime.

  • It has been 11 years since Anna had her first kid (and less than 1 year since the most recent).

  • It has been 12 years since I started doing 12 of 12.

  • It has been 13 years since Kathy lived in the basement for a summer.

  • It has been 14 years since I bought a house in Sterling.

  • It has been 15 years since I got a Masters in Music Composition (and 15 years since I last pulled it out of the envelope it was mailed in to look at it).

tagged as lists | permalink | 3 comments

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Time-lapsed Blogography Day: Eighteen Years Ago Today

Eighteen years ago today was May 9, 2000, one of the final days in my fourth year at Virginia Tech. I was living with Kelley in East AJ, had already finished exams, and was just waiting to head back home for the summer (for my first internship at FGM).

On this day, Paige and I went hiking at Mountain Lake, whose only claim to fame was the fact that Dirty Dancing was filmed there. I'm not sure if this particular lake even exists anymore as most reports suggest that all the water drained out through a crack in the lake bed and down into China.

We hiked 3 of the trails over a course of about 5 hours, although much of that was spent sitting on giant rocks and admiring the view of the witch trees. Here are a couple pictures I took with my nearly-a-megapixel digital camera.

In the afternoon, I had lunch in the dorm room, played Starcraft with Kelley (co-op vs. the computer), and did a little trumpet playing on the loading dock much to the chagrin of the people in dorms directly across the street.

tagged as memories | permalink | 1 comment

Friday, May 11, 2018

Maia Week #44 Battle Report

Maia is now 10.126 months old and still right around 16 pounds. We need to fatten her up soon as her preferred brand and size of diapers just doubled in price while the next size up remains the same (no doubt some strange Amazon algorithm that has deduced we have a never-growing baby). The photo blocks we bought only have one "4" on the 12 faces, which is why there is a Pinterest-quality 4 added to one of the blocks.

Maia is rapidly accumulating new skills along an exponential curve, to the point where we started a list on the whiteboard to capture anything new. She plays the game where she'll hand you something and then expect it back, although she's something of an Indian giver half the time. She also turns the pages at the appropriate breaks during story time and occasionally skips all of the boring character development to get to the last page. Just last Tuesday, she pulled herself up on the diaper changing station and started interacting with stuff on the second shelf -- this milestone means that the height level of chaos has increased slightly all throughout the house. She supported herself for about 10 minutes before sitting, but cannot just stand on her own.

We still take daily walks in the park although more and more I'll just sit her in the grass and let her explore at her own pace. She's started crawling through the grass like an army soldier, following me around a six foot radius while I steer her clear of goose poop and overprotective mama geese.

Rebecca and I are divided on first words. I believe that just before Maia's 10 month birthday she said both "CAT" and "KITTY" in succession when pursuing Amber down the hall. Rebecca does not concur. Maia is also pretty close to saying "DADA", but that's a Novice level word and probably does not count.

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

Monday, May 14, 2018

Chad Darnell's 12 of 12

12 pictures of your day on the 12th of every month

7:07 AM: Waking up in the guest room, where a sick person can cough all night with impunity.
7:36 AM: Early morning gaming while no one else is stirring in the house.
9:05 AM: Showered and ready for the day.
9:12 AM: Good morning!
9:32 AM: Breakfast of champions.
10:22 AM: Cleaning the deck for barbeque season.
10:50 AM: The professional leaf inspector helps to weed the flower beds.
12:57 PM: Rebecca's homemade minestrone soup for lunch.
1:14 PM: Back from the farmer's market and ready to eat.
3:11 PM: Refusing to nap during Rebecca's nap.
7:58 PM: Dinner from Siam Spice.
8:35 PM: Ending with a game of Forbidden Island while Maia plays with cupcakes (not pictured).

tagged as 12 of 12 | permalink | 0 comments

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Storm Day

There's no real update today because I spent yesterday recovering from the devastation of the almost-tornado-based lightning surge that decimated my computer zone. Maia helped figure out what needed replacement.

Internet was out for 19 hours and we had power brownouts for 3 hours on Tuesday morning. The $200 router, already weakened by a spilled Belgian beer in February, gave its last gasp and needed to be replaced. Also, the $200 Geforce GTX 960 peculiarly failed as well though I have no idea how it got surged but nothing around it died. It is now replaced with a Geforce GTX 1050 Ti.

Update: The laser printer also died.

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

Friday, May 18, 2018

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Under Stars by Amy MacDonald:
This is a pleasant album full of forgettable cliched lyrics. No album has topped her first, This is the Life, but some of the more annoying bits of her interim albums are polished away here.

Final Grade: B-

Wild Pendulum by Trashcan Sinatras:
There are no amazing songs on this album, but it's like spending an afternoon with an old friend. The group has perfected the "chilling in a meadow" approach to songwriting and still sound great for a band that's 32 years old.

Final Grade: B

Different Days by the Charlatans UK:
I really liked Modern Nature but this follow-on album isn't nearly as good. The songs are a bit repetitive, especially the one that sounds like a remix of itself with the same two lines of lyrics that could easily have been expanded to be less irritating.

Final Grade: C+

Beta Male by Kumail Nanjiani:
This is a funny collection of mildly dirty, story-driven stand-up from the creator of The Big Sick (one joke will be familiar from the movie). There were a few unpolished edges in the live performance, but it kept us entertained during an I-95 South delay caused by a 6 car pile-up followed by an exploded manure truck.

Final Grade: B

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Monday, May 21, 2018

Weekend Wrap-up

On Saturday morning, I dipped my toe back into the world of cloud certifications by passing the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner exam with a 970/1000. This is the beginner cloud cert so it would have been embarassing had I not passed, but I wanted to start easy before renewing all of the actually hard ones.

In the afternoon, we had a barbeque of PTAs (Katie and Hannah) and neighbours (James and Patty, and Aaron and Vanessa) where I grilled my seasoned steaks recipe. It finally stopped raining midday, but was still too damp to do anything outside during the BBQ. Maia enjoyed playing with 3 other kids (2, 1, and newish) and the plastic kitchen we inherited from Kathy was a hit.

On Sunday, we tried hiking to Bear's Den on the Appalachian Trail. While we did make it, we faced flooded trails, overzealous poison ivy, and thick, pasty, humidity. Rebecca carried Maia in her crazy kid backpack while I gingerly traversed the mudslides to minimize getting dirty.

In the afternoon, we gorged on BBQ leftovers and stayed in the nice air-conditioned house watching Game of Thrones, the new John Mulaney special, and playing Forbidden Island.

How was your weekend?

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

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Stuff In My Drawers Day: PEPCO

It's intern season at my current company, and it's pretty impressive how much effort has gone into giving them something interesting and useful to do. For example, one intern is doing data mining of publicly available open-source data to extract intelligence that our company can use. I'm reminded of my first internship at PEPCO which I previously wrote about. While other computer science majors were writing Makefiles or learning UNIX Scripting, I was retyping handwritten invoices and delivering mail.

Here is an article from the PEPCO newsletter about my internship, where I was clearly more politically lenient on the position than it warranted.

"Program a database and create interfaces" translates into "make badly embossed graphics in Paint Shop Pro and drag and drop them onto a Lotus Notes website template, then upload hundreds of pages of manually scanned (non-OCR) plant procedures to a fileserver".

tagged as memories | permalink | 2 comments

Friday, May 25, 2018

Review Day: Forbidden Island

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Forbidden Island is our latest attempt at finding a two-player game we can play together that isn't just the cripple version of a game for more people. It's designed for 2 - 4 players to play cooperatively and feels well-done at both ends of the range.

Players start on a randomly organized island of 24 tiles and, with limited inventory, must collect enough treasure cards to attain the 4 plastic treasures. Once the team has all of the treasures, they must reach the helicopter landing pad to fly away together. The gimmick of the game is that random parts of the island sink after every turn, at a rate that gradually increases over time (and like the real world, flooded properties are more susceptible to future floods). You can use an action on your turn to "shore up" a nearby tile, but tiles that flood twice without any shoring up are permanently removed from the island.

Each member of the team has a random occupation, like the Engineer who can shore up 2 tiles per turn, or the Messenger who can trade treasure cards to anyone on the island without standing right next to them. The game is spent strategizing, moving, trading, and shoring up while hoping that the dreaded "Waters Rise!" card isn't drawn to accelerate the flood rate.

In our games, we've won more than we've lost, but it's been pretty close at the Novice and Normal difficulty levels (we're about ready to increase the challenge next time we play). The relatively small number of unique card types make it easy to keep track of what's going on while the many random variables make each game feel fresh without introducing any scenarios that just feel impossible (random impossibility is the worst). Overall, we definitely enjoy this game and plan to play it again very soon!

Final Grade: A

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Monday, May 28, 2018

Overwatch Retirement Day

I reached level 1201 in Overwatch last week, which got me a useless gold portrait border and a good point at which to stop playing the game so obsessively for a while. Overwatch has always been fun (and it's the only game I ever played contiguously for over 2 years) but like Hearthstone before it, it got to a point where I was mostly playing it because it was familiar, fit into the baby-nap-sized holes in my schedule, and I didn't have to think too hard about it. Recently, queue times are getting longer, the community is getting grumpier, and I'm not improving nearly as much as I want to. I'll still play a game now and again, but it will no longer be the default thing to do whenever free time exists.

To mark this occasion, here are the last few Junkrat Play of the Game videos I had sitting on my hard drive which prove that Junkrat is clearly the best character in the game.

Next up to fill the Overwatch-shaped gap in my life: dive further into Divinity: Original Sin 2 (a game with actual progression and a storyline) and reacquire all of my AWS certifications that expired while I was working for that startup last year!

tagged as games | permalink | 1 comment

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

End-of-the-Month Highlights Day

New photos have been added to the Life, 2018 album. Google Photos sucks.

  • Events
    • Spent the weekend with Anna and family in Fredericksburg on F 5/4 - S 5/5.

    • Took a solo dad date to Miller's for dinner on S 5/6.

    • Rebecca got sick and Maia got to visit Aunt Carol on H 5/10.

    • Brian caught Rebecca's sickness on F 5/11.

    • Weeded the gardens and got dinner delivered from Siam Spice on S 5/12.

    • Had a Mother's Day afternoon with Rebecca at Copperwood Tavern while her parents watched Maia on S 5/13.

    • Lightning struck everything during a crazy storm, frying a router, a graphcis card, and a printer on M 5/14.

    • Rebecca's parents watched Maia while Rebecca went to yoga and Brian studied for an exam on F 5/18.

    • Passed an exam and had a neighbour barbeque on S 5/19.

    • Went hiking after a week of rain at Bear's Den on S 5/20.

    • My dad installed a 3x3 concrete square to alleviate flooding by the house on F 5/25. Rebecca and Maia went to Elizabeth's for a cousin's birthday dinner while Brian ate greasy food at Miller's.

    • Walked around Lake Anne during a thunderstorm on S 5/26.

    • Rebecca and visited Emily in Arlington while Brian did open-source work at home on S 5/27.

    • Brian's parents visited Maia in the morning and Rebecca and Maia went to see Annie in the afternoon on M 5/28.

  • Projects
    • Passed my AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner exam on S 5/19.

    • Updated Sparkour for the new version of Apache Spark on S 5/27.

  • Consumerism
    • Retired from Overwatch at level 1201 and started playing Divinity: Original Sin 2 in earnest.

    • No notable new music this month.

    • Actually enjoyed the 7th season of Game of Thrones and just started 3%, Season Two.

May's Final Grade: B, Other than the one bout of sickness, it was a good month. Nice to get outside again!

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

 

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