10/2018

Monday, October 01, 2018

Weekend Wrap-up

On Friday evening, we went shopping for bifold closet doors to replace the set that's been wobbly and broken for nearly two years. Later, we enjoyed the first cool evening of the year by grilling burgers with Tammy on the back porch. Even the mosquitoes were reasonably calm.

On Saturday morning, we met up with Jonathan, Michelle (previously of Reston), and Stu at the Lake Anne Farmer's Market. Michelle and Stu were in town for a wedding, having moved to Berkeley last summer. Rebecca and Maia ate nitro ice cream and then we all had brunch at Cafe Monmartre. In the evening, we had dinner on the patio at Chuy's and then let Maia enjoy the "greens" at Cascades Overlook.

On Sunday, I mowed the portion of the lawn that wasn't the consistency of jello, and did some optimization of storage spaces in the house. In the evening, Michelle stayed with us to be close to Dulles for her return flight and we had a little gathering of her old yoga friends.

How was your weekend?

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Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Ninth Anniversary Day

As anniversaries pass, and senility robs us of our wedding memories, we'll always have the photographic evidence to fall back on.

Other posts in this series: 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016 | 2017 | 2018

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Friday, October 05, 2018

(Re-)Review Day: Super Mario Odyssey

I first gave this game a C- after playing for several hours and not finding much to draw me back to it. After 6 months without turning on the Switch, I recently dusted it off and gave it another shot. One key difference between my original abandoned attempt and now is that I can play for longer periods (sometimes an hour at a time) and on a big TV screen rather than the portable screen. Back at Christmas time, I was squeezing in games while Maia barely napped for 10 - 20 minutes at a time (just narrowly long enough to get through the interminable load screens and reminders to use motion controls) while walking around quiet corners of the house.

I appreciate this game much more on the big screen, but it's still hindered by flaws that grow more apparent as the series progresses:

  • Moon fatigue is real -- there are too many moons to collect. Many are just sitting out in the open as if the designers were saying "This is the laziest possible way we could think of to draw the game out longer". There are 999 moons, over a hundred of which are simply bought in stores and require boring coin farming to afford. I would have preferred a total in the 100 - 200 range, where each one is uniquely challenging and provides some satisfaction and achievement.

  • The camera has greatly regressed, resulting in more missed jumps or deaths caused by poor camera angles than mistakes. Super Mario Galaxy was the high point for 3D camera work that never got in the way and made 3D jumping puzzles as minimally frustrating as possible.

  • Mario now has too many different moves, whose controls are poorly explained and often interfere with each other. Precision movement can be a huge frustration when different moves (especially the not-so-optional "optional" motion controls) interact incorrectly. Some designer seriously thought that binding "jump" to "shake the controller" was a brilliant idea.

Super Mario Odyssey misses the mark on the right level of frustration to build into a game. Maybe in middle school when there was nothing else to do, I would have loved the challenge of dying 20 times on a single moon (mostly from "helpful" camera movement, random control issues, lava, or horribly controlled vehicles) but I just don't have time for that anymore. Nowadays, I want to win a game because I'm good at it, not die a lot because of random elements outside my control.

On the positive side, there is a solid amount of varied game content (filler moons notwithstanding), you can finally skip cutscenes, and the soundtrack is great (similar to Galaxy's, the one I own the CD for). In spite of its flaws, I did play this game for about 50 hours and got to about 809 moons before moving on, so it definitely does something right. I guess that just makes me more disappointed that it could have been so much better with a few different design choices.

Final Grade: B-, engaging and by no means a BAD game, but too much frustration and tedium involved

The 57 moons I skipped (because foot-racing takes too long to retry over and over, and no one wants to fight through the horrible boss fights again)

  • Cascade Kingdom: Master Cup
  • Wooded Kingdom: Master Cup
  • Lake Kingdom: Master Cup
  • Lost Kingdom: Regular Cup
  • Lost Kingdom: Master Cup
  • Metro Kingdom: Jump Rope Genius
  • Metro Kingdom: Regular Cup
  • Metro Kingdom: RC Car Champ
  • Metro Kingdom: Metro Kingdom Master Cup
  • Snow Kingdom: Snowline Circuit Class S
  • Snow Kingdom: Dashing Over Cold Water!
  • Snow Kingdom: Dashing Above and Beyond!
  • Snow Kingdom: Master Cup
  • Snow Kingdom: Iceburn Circuit Class A
  • Snow Kingdom: Iceburn Circuit Class S
  • Seaside Kingdom: Beach Volleyball: Hero of the Beach!
  • Seaside Kingdom: Regular Cup
  • Seaside Kingdom: Master Cup
  • Luncheon Kingdom: Regular Cup
  • Luncheon Kingdom: Master Cup
  • Bowser's Kingdom: Regular Cup
  • Bowser's Kingdom: Master Cup
  • Moon Kingdom: Master Cup
  • Mushroom Kingdom: All 6 Boss Re-Fights and 3 Achievement Moons
  • Dark Side: All 24 Moons, because the world starts with a Boss Re-Fight that I don't want to go through again
  • Darker Side: Final Moon because the controls keep knocking me into the lava

tagged as reviews, games | permalink | 1 comment

Monday, October 08, 2018

Maia Month #15 Battle Report

Maia is now 1 year 3 months old. Though not noticeably heavier, she's a little more gangly -- able to climb up onto unexpected surfaces or reach things on shelves. It's also clearly easier to transfer the car seat between cars and carry her out, rather than load her up in the car seat in the house and try to carry the whole mass together.

Maia has started standing in brief doses (first real attempt was on 9/24/18) and eats all sorts of solid foods in spite of having just 4 - 5 teeth. She will eat hummus for days, along with boiled carrots, egg and cheese, bananas, yogurts, lentils, and bits of restaurant meals. She takes one far-too-short nap that averages just under 2 hours each day, but also consents to lying in her crib for an eventual sound sleep from 9:30 PM to 9 PMish every night.

My life is cruising along at this point in Maia's life. Raising a baby is not unlike starting a campfire. Initially, you expend tons of energy getting the kindling just right and teasing the right amount of oxygen into place. You brave smoke inhalation to coax the fire into a sustainable roar and try not to add damp wood that will smoke or do anything to accidentally snuff the fire out. After it's burning steadily, you can add some firewood every so often and let it take care of itself.

In baby terms, you spend all of year one doing precise measurements of food, tracking the amounts of sleep or lack thereof, and overthink each potential dimension of what it will take to get your kid into a cheap state school in 18 years. After year one, you can toss a new log on the baby every so often and trust that it will continue thriving without overthinking things too much.

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

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Jack Ryan, Season One:
This is a well-constructed, if extremely generic, addition to the military/terrorist genre. In spite of a few unique sparks, it retreads ground already covered by better shows like Homeland without much new to say. John Krasinki mostly overcomes his typecasting as Jim from The Office, but might be the most boring protagonist to base a story around. Wendell Pierce from The Wire is woefully underused. Free on Amazon Prime.

Final Grade: C+

iZombie, Season Four:
Following the big setting shake-up at the end of the third season, this season goes about where you'd expect it to go. It's always fun to watch, although a few character developments used to drive the plot forward strain credulity -- a weird thing for me to say about a show where zombies exist. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: B-

Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson:
The second book by The Bloggess (whose blog I haven't read in several years now) retains the same absurdist humor that made her blog so fun, although the style gets old in big doses. Luckily, this book is more a series of essays than a through-composed narrative, so there's no harm in reading it in small chunks.

Final Grade: B

Mount Ninji and da Nice Time Kid by Die Antwoord:
I often drop songs I like on Pandora into my Amazon MP3 cart and then purchase the albums for new music exposure. I don't remember how this South African rap group ended up in my cart, but it was completely unexpected. The album offers a unique mashup of 90s dance music, Tim Burton, performance art, and way too much swearing, as if Judd Apatow was banned from Hollywood and forced to make Adult Swim cartoons. I'm glad I listened to it once, but will probably never listen to it again. Banana Brain is one of the more popular tracks on the album.

Final Grade: C

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Friday, October 12, 2018

Chad Darnell's 12 of 12

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

6:12 AM: Showered and ready for work.
7:12 AM: Working from home.
10:05 AM: Breakfast for babies.
10:14 AM: Breakfast for me.
10:37 AM: Waving goodbye on the way to the library.
1:21 PM: Chimichangas for lunch while troubleshooting my dog-slow Linksys router.
2:40 PM: Nap interrupted by poop.
3:06 PM: Helping Rebecca sort through old boxes of junk.
3:48 PM: It's Fall! Also, Maia is making an alien shadow puppet.
6:24 PM: Dinner at Poke Bowl.
6:45 PM: Meeting bunnies at the pet store.
9:09 PM: Elisa is here from Columbus!

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Monday, October 15, 2018

List Day: 30 Old Facebook Status Messages

I found these status messages from 2011 - 2016 while scrolling through my Activity Log on Facebook, long forgotten since I regularly hide old posts from my Timeline. It is left as an exercise to figure out the month and year they were posted.

  1. You shouldn't be allowed to write a Top 40s song called "Trumpets" and then use synthesizers from the 1980s to represent said trumpets.

  2. Asking me if my parents are home is not a good way to start your door-to-door sales pitch.

  3. If Microsoft Word's "Bullets and Numbering" controls made real bullets, not even the shooter would be safe.

  4. "Casual" is a peculiar name for a dryer setting. Is it reserved for the clothes one might wear out to Chili's?

  5. I call dibs on wrapping all of the rectangular presents with well-defined edges.

  6. Calling it now: The first major DC snowstorm will be dubbed "Edward Snowed In".

  7. "Pressing 4 to send a fax instead of leaving a voicemail sounds like a delightful idea," said no Verizon subscriber ever.

  8. The Y2K bug is more subtle and insidious than expected -- Costco started selling nativity scenes and light-up snowmen today.

  9. Jeff Bezos only purchased The Washington Post to improve Amazon's shipping infrastructure -- the paper's delivery drivers were found to be 88% more accurate than LASERSHIP.

  10. "This Maynard Ferguson album would be greatly improved with more Maynard on it," said no one ever.

  11. There's no reason to keep funding the arts now that we've invented Autotune and MIDI.

  12. The faulty fluorescent light in the men's room has slowed its flickering down from "you deserve some epilepsy today" to "you might be in a slasher film".

  13. Your "I ♥ My Exchange Student" bumper sticker crosses the line of paternal pride into creepiness.

  14. My porch light isn't off because I'm a registered offender -- it's off because I want to eat all of the candy myself in peace, in a dark room at the back of the house. #jumptoconclusionsmat

  15. Facebook has become an apocalyptic wasteland of dogs and babies dressed as stuff!

  16. So is Sandy a boy or a girl?

  17. Candy consumer is a more rewarding role than candy distributor.

  18. There should be a "NEVER, NOW STOP ASKING" option when the gas pump asks if you want a car wash today.

  19. Of course I have an "Earth, Wind, and Fire" Pandora station. You DON'T?

  20. Theme from Halloween + Theme from Doogie Howser, M.D. = Sadly overlooked mashup potential.

  21. Raddatz should conclude this debate with a Bachelor-style Rose Ceremony.

  22. If you clowns had voted for me four years ago, you'd be getting a much better show right now.

  23. Disapprove all you want. Steak fat is DELICIOUS.

  24. "I hope that clicking on this headline will take me to a video of a local news broadcast instead of a written article," said no one ever.

  25. Morgan Freeman is easily the hardest-working athlete in these Olympics.

  26. Why do all of the male Olympic swimmers look like Chris Klein?

  27. Pop & Lock is just a conspiracy to legitimize mimes in modern culture.

  28. No Internet or phone at home, and no stoplights on the Parkway. It's like the apocalypse but with Chick-fila for lunch.

  29. The new "Facebook Timeline" would be cooler if you could customize your page with assorted rainbow colors, fonts, and animations. And maybe an embedded music player that starts streaming Nickelback as soon as you load a page.

  30. Brian Uri is looking for friends via the Tools You May Know tool.

tagged as lists | permalink | 3 comments

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Review Day: Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker (Switch)

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker was originally released for Nintendo's failed Wii U console. I'm torn on all the effort going into these ports -- while it's nice to play some fun games that never gained widespread appeal beyond the 4 people that actually bought the old console, I'd much rather have more original content designed specifically for the newer console.

Captain Toad is a charming puzzle game where you maneuver a pacifist Toad (who can't jump because of his heavy backpack) through 64 self-contained 3D puzzle boxes to collect gems and stars. Porting of the controls from the Wii U (which had a touchscreen in your lap to go with the big action on the TV screen) is pretty awkward in some places, and the portable version of the Switch controls are definitely more comfortable than the big-screen controls. Even then, there are many cases where you have to control 3 things simultaneously (Toad movement, camera movement, and touching parts of the screen) within the human limitation of having only 2 hands. It is also hard to touch the middle of the screen in portable mode unless your fingers can already span one and a half octaves.

Each puzzle world takes just a few minutes to complete and features binary puzzle switches, enemies to avoid, and secrets found by rotating the 3D camera. There's really not much challenge until the last 10 levels of the game -- most of the time you eventually win just by playing long enough and trying different permutations of switches and buttons. There are also a few arcade sequences that feel completely out of place for a leisurely puzzle game, simply because Nintendo has a passion for making levels where your character is out of control near pools of lava.

There's less than 10 hours of gameplay here if you ignore the awful "go back into each level and touch the hidden Toad graffiti" option that prolongs without any worthwhile reward. However, the worlds are cute and well-designed (especially the bonus levels featuring worlds from Super Mario Odyssey, designed specifically for this port). I think a pre-teen gamer would have the most fun with this one, especially if you can find it on sale.

Final Grade: B-, pleasant while it lasts but marred by awkward controls and minimal challenge

tagged as reviews, games | permalink | 1 comment

Friday, October 19, 2018

Weird Search Day

or "How I Stumbled Upon the URI! Zone"

  • rasputin sex tuba
    Let's pretend that the user didn't just misspell the word "tube". More likely, this is some adventurous sex position popularized by Grigori Rasputin involving his apocryphal giant penis.

  • vintage rottweiller figurines with signature on bottom

    Historians say that the artist went into politics after being rejected from art school twice.

  • hole "dig deeply"
    This sounds like the eHow Wiki instructions for digging a hole.
    1. Locate a plot of ground where you suspect there may be a concealed hole.
    2. With your shovel, dig deeply to remove excess dirt until you can see a hole.

  • images of woman atacked by syphillis

  • sexual intercourse illustrated
    I bet this magazine has a killer swimsuit edition.

tagged as website, searches | permalink | 1 comment

Monday, October 22, 2018

Stuff in My Drawers Day: Trophies

The next casualty in my war on clutter is my cabinet full of high school and college era trophies. For posterity, they will be preserved in the digital ether for many years to come.

Here are my 9th, 10th, and 11th grade music trophies, including the Director's Award for Band, Outstanding Sophomore at Band Camp, Outstanding Musicianship, Section Leader, and Outstanding Contribution as a Junior.

Next up are my senior year band trophies from my time as the drum major. I actually got two Drum Major trophies, because the band director forgot that he already gave me one after Band Camp. In the middle is the John Philip Sousa Award.

I got the Most Valuable Athlete Award in my senior year as a crew coxswain, which legitimately pissed off all of the real athletes. This was also paired with the Benjamin G. Minor award -- if an award is ever named after me, I hope it's in a cooler category than "highest GPA".

I got Outstanding Rank Member in the Marching Virginians for four straight years even though I never talked to anyone during the first two years. People were impressed that I had all of the music and drill memorized, which is not hard at all if you play the same music every year and aren't drinking at all.

I briefly awarded all of my trophies to Maia for outstanding babyship before transferring them out to the trash bin.

tagged as memories | permalink | 1 comment

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Memory Day: 10 Years Ago Today

On Friday, October 24, 2008, we had the biggest of our memorable Halloween parties, featuring two Sarah Palins, three pirates, and Vu, in town briefly from San Francisco. 39 people showed up, a mix of all of Anna's friends that just had kids and Rebecca's friends that were still kids.

At the time of this party, Rebecca was working at Customink, so of course we gave out Hanes Beefy T-Shirts with the party logo as costume contest prizes. This was also the first year we experimented with putting cheap tablecloths down all over the basement which made cleaning up after Beer Pong a smashing success. Less of a smashing success was the majority remains of the 64 pack of cheap Miller Lite that always seemed to get left behind after Beer Pong ended.

tagged as memories | permalink | 0 comments

Friday, October 26, 2018

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Magic of Thieves by C. Greenwood:
The second book in the Secrets and Spells anthology is a pretty big letdown after The Gallant. Though billed as Book 1 of 6 in a series, it barely contains enough plot or character development for a full story and feels more like a Prologue. I grew irritated with the main character fairly quickly -- although I realize that it might be a style choice to narrate in a juvenile manner to match the character (first-person perspective), it just felt wooden and unnecessarily episodic (I had the same feeling about Fitz sometimes in the Farseer Trilogy). Events simply meander randomly along until a big conflict, at which point the main character decides to change and suddenly the book is over. The book was an easy read, but did not pique my curiosity enough to ever pick up the next in the series.

Final Grade: C-

Night Circus by Bryce Vine:
Bryce Vine's first EP, Lazy Fair, was my favorite album of YOLO Pop in 2017. This follow-up EP is still fun, but lacks the same cohesive, rambunctious spirit.

Final Grade: B

Heaven Before All Hell Breaks Loose by Plan B:
Boring soul music, nothing like The Defamation Of Strickland Banks.

Final Grade: C

Modern Family, Season Eight:
This was one of the better recent seasons of the show, which sagged in season 3 - 5 as Modern CAMily. The weakest link continues to be giving too much air time to unfunny toddlers (Cam included), but we burned through the whole season very quickly.

Final Grade: B

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Monday, October 29, 2018

Data Day: BU's Halloween Costumes

tagged as data, media | permalink | 1 comment

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

End-of-the-Month Highlights Day

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

  • Events
    • Celebrated our 9th Wedding Anniversary on W 10/3 with leftovers and a bottle of black pumpkin stout.

    • Rebecca and Maia went to visit Andrea, Ben, and Amelia on F 10/5, while I worked and then had dinner at Miller's.

    • We went to SterlingFest on S 10/6 so Maia could enjoy her second petting zoo experience. In the evening, my parents babysat while Rebecca and I had an Anniversary Date at Port City Brewing and Fat City Kitchen.

    • Maia had her 15 month check-up and still didn't crack the 20-pounder ceiling on T 10/9.

    • Elisa came to town to visit F 10/12 - S 10/14. The weekend included bird-watching in Claude Moore, dinner at Singh Thai in Lake Anne Plaza, and a homemade spaghetti dinner on the last night.

    • Took Maia to Frying Pan Park for the first times on T 10/16 and W 10/17.

    • Had a family dinner at Mellow Mushroom on F 10/19.

    • Took my parents on a tour of Lake Anne on S 10/20, followed by slow-cooked apple pork for dinner.

    • Had a solo dad dinner at Miller's, marred by the annoying Cowboys - Redskins game, on S 10/21.

    • Had a warm, friendly dinner at the Shrimp Lover on F 10/26.

    • Had Ray and Cristina over for dinner and National Parks Monopoly on S 10/27.

    • Had a solo dad dinner at the V on S 10/28.

    • No plans for Halloween this year.

  • Projects
    • Went up to 30 hours per week at work this month.

    • Continued to purge excess stuff and optimize storage space around the house.

    • Digitized all of my old calendars so I can be on the Supreme Court some day.

  • Consumerism
    • Identified my Linksys EA7500 router as the bottleneck on my slow Internet over the past few months and upgraded to the ASUS RT-AC68U.

    • Mixed gaming time amongst Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, and Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

    • Enjoyed watching Fargo, Season Three, American Vandal, Season Two, Bodyguard, Season One and Killing Eve, Season One this month.

    • No new music this month.

October's Final Grade: B, Cooler weather brings more variety to potential baby activities, but this was an unusually long-feeling month

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