09/2018

Monday, September 03, 2018

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That'll Improve and/or Ruin Everything by Kelly and Zach Weinersmith:
This book does a decent job of pairing interesting emerging technologies (like augmented reality, space elevators, and bioprinting) with straightforward explanations and cute cartoons. It starts to lose its luster when it gets too jokey, like the authors think the tech is too boring on its own and readers will lose interest unless there's a neverending selection of humor and bad analogies. These aspects actually reduced my interest in the material and I barely finished the book.

Final Grade: C+

AmazonBasics Laptop Backpack:
Everyone says Amazon is going to take over the world, but no one ever talks about how high quality the AmazonBasics line is for the price. This $24 laptop backpack is sturdily constructed with enough pockets and individual sections for the most organized nerd. I bought it when my Novetta swag tote bag started to wear out and am very happy with how rugged it is.

Final Grade: B+

AmazonBasics Wired Keyboard:
I dislike most "innovations" in keyboards over the last ten years, especially the stupid Dell keyboards at work that have swapped the orientation and position of the Insert / Delete / Home End / Page Up / Page Down area. This $15 keyboard keeps the basic layout intact for maximum muscle memory with only a few minimal additional buttons for those crazy millenials (no one really needs a button to open Windows Groove Media Player). This has been my primary keyboard for gaming and working since that tragic accident with a full tulip of Belgian beer on my keyboard and router back in February, and I like its low profile. I even purchased a second one to leave at work.

Final Grade: B+

Safe, Season One:
This limited miniseries thriller starring Michael C. Hall starts with such a promising build-up of kooky, suspicious characters that I was very worried it would all fall apart in the second act as these shows often do. It doesn't always work -- there are some trite twists and inconsistencies in character ages and times -- but it works more than it doesn't. What I appreciate most is that there is a very workmanlike setup to the main murder mystery that's actually solvable using the clues provided -- no deus ex machina in the last episode for the sake of being edgy that no one would have seen coming. Also, the miniseries definitively ends without a cliffhanger. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: B+

tagged as reviews | permalink | 1 comment

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Memory Day: Snapshots

This picture was taken about 4 years ago, on September 7, 2014.

This was the second day of our final trip to the Outer Banks (although we did not realize it at the time: 2015 was Europe, 2016 was Colorado, and 2017 was picturesque Sterling, VA, so we have yet to return).

This house had a pool, an elevator, and a quick walk across the road in Nags Head to the real beach. Among the common themes of the trip, I recall:

  • Both a horse's head mask and a unicorn's head mask showed up on this trip, giving most evening dinners an equine theme.

  • Recurring Mike (of Mike and Chompy) did not come, because he was hiking up (and then falling back down) Kilimanjaro. We Skyped him later in the week.

  • One night, people decided that shots would be better out of beach shells, leading to the invention of "Shell Shots". We still have the shells in our cabinet.

  • Everyone was obsessed with Hearthstone, so at least 40% of the trip involved people sitting around the massive dining room table logged into their computers.

tagged as memories | permalink | 0 comments

Friday, September 07, 2018

Maia Month #14 Battle Report

Maia is now 14 months old but still has not breached the 20 pounder glass ceiling. She is still cruising but not walking and has no problem going up and down stairs with minimal chance of self-inflicted falls. Her new favourite mode is "cranky", where the power of her ideas and wants and needs are muted by her inability to communicate in Shakespearean language resulting in the most annoying sound in history, the whine.

Maia is very good at mimicking now (she'll probably be a booby-trapped Dungeons and Dragons chest for Halloween) and will try to recreate the things you do around her. The other day, I peeked in on her solo nursery time to find her waving the window drape sashes against the drapes, because that's how we secure the drapes after nap time every day. She also put a set of pajamas on her head in a class clown act and got such a good reaction from the grandparents that she did it again several more times over the next days. I'm currently trying to teach her to lie quietly on my chest like Booty so I can take a nap (she has already mastered "RELAX" as a command to crash onto a pillow and say "Ahhhh").

Our days and weeks have fallen into a regular pattern, with trips to the air-conditioned abandoned mall to beat the humidity and rare walks around Lake Anne or Claude Moore when it's cooler. I try to entertain her and turn her into a better person on the first two days that Rebecca works and then merely try to survive on the third. We try to make sure that Rebecca can get to yoga a couple times a week for her sanity, and sometimes stop by at the end of the practice for a family dinner out. Next month, things should shift around yet again as I increase my work hours up to 30 while Rebecca drops to just about 12 hours per week. At that point, I will probably be classified as a SAHDINO, and Rebecca will have to learn to do Pinterest toddler crafts.

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

Monday, September 10, 2018

Beat Saber Day

Since the treadmill broke down, Beat Saber has been my regular cardio workout. Here are a few recent videos of some of the more challenging songs.

Can't Stop the Feeling by Justin Timberlake (Expert) (previously posted)

The Nights by Avicii (Expert)

Gangam Style by Psy (Expert)

Otter Pop featuring Hollis by Shawn Wasabi (Expert+)

New Rules by Dua Lipa (Expert+)

tagged as games | permalink | 1 comment

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Chad Darnell's 12 of 12

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

6:20 AM: Showered and ready for work.
7:03 AM: Working from home today.
8:34 AM: Good morning!
8:57 AM: Breakfast while reading Fear: Trump in the White House
9:14 AM: No pan is safe.
9:48 AM: Grilling premade dinners for our newly un-pregnant neighbours while also hurricane-proofing the deck.
11:21 AM: Working lunch.
12:06 PM: Reading with the grandparents.
1:06 PM: Naptime Beat Saber workout.
3:12 PM: Putting on my socks so we can go out.
4:14 PM: Swinging at Lake Anne.
7:51 PM: Lasagna for dinner.

tagged as 12 of 12 | permalink | 1 comment

Friday, September 14, 2018

(Almost) Birth Day

permalink | 2 comments

Monday, September 17, 2018

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

The Woman Who Smashed Codes by Jason Fagone:
This is a biography of Elizebeth Smith Friedman, one of the first cryptoanalysts in the early 20th century. It's rare that a person's life is as interesting throughout as Elizebeth's, leading the biography to be a more comprehensive look at her place in history rather than a set of vignettes separated by long time jumps. There are also great, shallow looks at the world events going on at the same time, revealing some interesting stories such as J. Edgar Hoover's concerted efforts to steal credit for her work for the FBI.

Final Grade: B+

Fear: Trump in the White House by Bob Woodward:
This is a fairly dry look at the Trump administration through the lens of various policy decisions (North Korea, trade agreements, DACA). The chapters meander along with abrupt transitions that make the content feel more like attention-deficit vignettes than an end-to-end narrative but also mimic how the administration lurched along in real life. The book does not paint a flattering portrait of Trump (depicting him as someone in way over his head who never actually expected to win, rather than an evil mastermind). It's sometimes clear who some of the deep background sources were, based on how sympathetically they're described in the text, and the way quotation marks are used on sourced dialogue but not on deep background dialogue can get confusing.

Final Grade: B-

The 100, Season Five:
The time jump freshens up the plot and perspectives nicely here, and the writers have finally gotten a little better at writing morally grey characters that change their minds for actual reasons (other than, "I'm a teenager in a love triangle"). The "main" main character, Clarke, is still generally unlikable and uninteresting but the rest of the plot and cast make up for it. I enjoyed this season although the shake-up in the finale may be one shake-up too far. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: B+

The Good Place, Season Two:
The tagline on the box, "How long can they keep this up?", was my thought after finishing the great first season of this show. The show continues to evolve beyond its original conceit, with the germ for an entire network show season compressed into just the first few episodes (the first episode of season two is the weakest for exactly this reason). This remains a warm, absurd show where the plot really just functions as a backdrop for great jokes about pop culture and human nature. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: B+

tagged as reviews | permalink | 3 comments

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Time-lapsed Blogography Day: Ten Years Ago Today

Ten years ago today was Friday, September 19, 2008.

Following an 8-hour day at work on the Metadata Registry v7.1 (6 AM - 2 PM), I drove out to Jack and Kristy's old house in south Arlington for game 11 of the 2008 poker championships. They had recently remodeled their kitchen, and Jack and received a weird (for the time) homebrewer's kit and was eager to give people samples. (It was just okay).

Rebecca (of Falls Church), Kathy & Chris (of Centreville), Recurring Mike (of Glover Park), and Yet Another Chris (of Arlington) also attended. Yet Another Chris was the first out, probably stemming from the bottle of Scotch accompanying him. Kathy ended up winning, a surprising result since she usually only came to eat chocolate pie. Kristy came in 2nd, and ultimately robbed Ben of the championship title because of loopholes in the confusing BCS-like rules for the championship (her reasonably good showing at just a couple games outweighed Ben's dismal 6th place finish in 1 of his 5 games). I blame Chris Smith for this since he suggested adjustments to my scoring system using MIT magic.

tagged as memories | permalink | 1 comment

Friday, September 21, 2018

List Day: 30 Words Maia Recognizes in Context

  • window

  • bird

  • cat

  • bunnies

  • Two-ty the ostrich

  • duck

  • shark

  • house

  • light

  • poop

  • bath

  • bookstore

  • tree

  • mall

  • car

  • feet

  • nose

  • ears

  • toes

  • mouth

  • hair

  • star

  • relax

  • headstand

  • water

  • milk

  • banana

  • peach

  • yogurt

  • cheerio

tagged as lists, offspring | permalink | 1 comment

Monday, September 24, 2018

Weekend Wrap-up

On Friday evening, we discovered a new brewery, Rocket Frog, less than 500 feet from our other local brewery, Crooked Run South. We had a good flight from a selection that was more than just IPAs (although there was 1 trendy sour on the menu), and ate wood-oven pizza from a food truck with an actual wood oven inside.

On Saturday, we went to the Fall Festival at our local park, Claude Moore. It was small-scale compared to something like the Arlington Festival, but had plenty of room to spread out and not feel like you would die should a mass panic ensue. Our across-the-street neighbour and his son met up with us there and shared baby snacks.

In the evening, we had dinner with Car and Ben, featuring too many grilled vegetables from the farmer's market and a comparison taste test between Virginia bourbon whiskey and Kentucky bourbon whiskey (the Virginia was smoother).

On Sunday, Rebecca and Maia went to Alexandria to visit Annie while I did tasks around the house like replacing surge protectors and tidying cables in velcro. I had dinner at Miller's in the evening, where it's slightly more annoying now that everyone is wearing a football jersey and cheering for the Seahawks.

How was your weekend?

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

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Memory Day: 1991 - 1992

In the 1991 - 1992 school year, I was a 12-year-old 8th grader. Still establishing my persona in the middle year of junior high, I was much quieter this year and often signed my name as "Brian the Bestest".

  • To fit a whopping 3 electives into my scheduled, I started the day with an early bird session of gym with Mr. Korns. No one ever used the aged gym showers (a holdover from when Hammond was a high school), so I'm sure we smelled nice for the rest of the day. I remember standing up to an angry classmate while waiting for the bell to ring. He told me, "get out of my face before I steal you", and I refused. The teacher broke it up before he actually punched, but we were cool after that.
  • The band under Mr. Randall was slightly bigger this year, and we constantly played music that was too hard for us. Not realizing it was too hard was probably the only reason we were successful at endless medleys from Camelot, Chorus Line, and other musicals from before our births.
  • I don't remember much about Algebra I or Mrs. Beasley. However, my friend, Ali, was in that class -- his mother once berated me for calling their house and asking "Is Ali there?" instead of "May I please speak to Ali?" then told me to try again and hung up.
  • I spent all of Mrs. Young's English class reading ahead in the reader (I read Leiningen Versus the Ants several times that year) and never knowing where we were in the discussions. As a result, I got punished with the most verbose of the 12 angry men when we read the play aloud in class.
  • I spent fourth period lunch reading alone in the back of the band room because all of my friends (Aaron, Sharif, Mike, Jennie, Michelle, etc.) had 5th period lunch and no one at my assigned 4th period table spoke English.
  • My second elective was French I. I was the kid constantly looking for ways to insult people in second languages, ably helped by Mrs. Gibbs who'd rather I say Tu ne sais rien properly than mangle it.
  • I ended up in a "normal" science class this year because of scheduling difficulties and always seemed to have a new table-mate interested in copying my answers.
  • I ended the day with two semesters of Art but cannot point to a single work of art from that era that would prove it was worth my time. We mainly just flirted with the 7th grade girls in the class while cutting things out for glittery collages.

Physically, I was still very tiny and not particularly athletic, other than an unusually high count for pull-ups and sit-n-reach. However, I started doing Crew in 8th grade simply because I got tired of people suggesting that I'd be a good coxswain. I steered a Senior 4 boat whose coxswain was on academic suspension and hated every minute of it, especially the long bus rides back across the city from the boathouse. Once, the bus driver said, "I'm late getting home so I'm gonna drop you off here", then left me on Duke Street next to Landmark Mall, a good 2 miles away from my house.

I also continued to do Boy Scouts and was already a Life Scout with far too many merit badges, gunning for Eagle. By the springtime of 1992, I had gotten my first pair of glasses and learned that you were supposed to be able to see the individual leaves in trees from far away. This was useless information, as I spent most of my free time playing games like Ultima: Underworld, Legend of Kyrandia, and our brand new Super Nintendo on screens 3 feet from my face. In the summertime, I went Boy Scout camp at Sinoquipe, built the first of several sheds with my dad, did a junior scout leadership camp for a week, and took art classes at the Torpedo Factory.

Other posts in this series: 1979 | 1980 | 1981 | 1982 | 1983 | 1984 | 1985 | 1986 | 1987 | 1988 | 1989 | 1990 | 1990 - 1991 | 1991 - 1992

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Friday, September 28, 2018

End-of-the-Month Highlights Day

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

  • Events
    • Rebecca taught her first yoga class at Inner Power Yoga on S 9/1, followed by a family dinner at Bungalow Lakehouse.

    • Went to the first birthday party of one of Maia's Library Storytime pals, George on S 9/2.

    • Rebecca took Maia to Baby PT Day at her NOVA program on W 9/5, followed by another visit to my work in the afternoon.

    • Had dinner from a food truck at Old Ox Brewery on F 9/7 and let Maia climb all over the cornhole station.

    • Had a dinner out at The V on S 9/9, where the food has greatly improved since the early days but the crowds are still minimal.

    • Took Maia out to visit Uncle Dave and Aunt Carol in Taylorstown on H 9/13.

    • The Ahlbins came up for a day visit on Felicity's birthday on F 9/14. Had a family date at Lake Anne with a walk and dinner at Monmartre.

    • Had a small barbeque with the Wilmers, Jacksons, and Tammy on S 9/15. Promptly caught a bug from Maia right afterwards.

    • I took a solo Dad dinner at Miller's on S 9/16 while Maia and Rebecca walked in nature and ate nature at Cava.

    • Rebecca and Maia met Jessika at Lake Anne on F 9/21. Had dinner from a pizza food truck at Rocket Frog Brewery that evening.

    • Went to the Claude Moore Fall Festival (complete with petting zoo) on S 9/22. Met Aaron and Jax there and pet some llamas. Had Car and Ben over for a dinner full of grilled veggies in the evening.

    • Rebecca and Maia went to visit Annie in Alexandria on S 9/23 and I had a french dip at Miller's.

    • Had family dinner in an empty Cafesano on M 9/24.

    • Went shopping for closet doors and then had Tammy over for porch burgers on F 9/28.

    • Saw Stu and Michelle of Berkeley at the Lake Anne Farmer's Market on S 9/29 and had brunch at Cafe Monmartre. Had dinner at Chuy's.

    • Michelle stayed the night on S 9/30 and we had a small yoga gathering to catch everyone up.

  • Projects
    • I made it to 39 years old.

    • I powerwashed a decade of mildew off our sidewalks and stoop on F 9/21.

    • Got a physical and flu shot on T 9/25.

  • Consumerism
    • Gave Super Mario Odyssey another chance this month while also slowly getting into Shadow of the Tomb Raider.

    • Enjoyed watching The 100, Season Five and The Good Place, Season Two this month.

    • No new music of note.

September's Final Grade: B+, A little chaotic, but fun visits and finally cooling temperatures.

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

 

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