11/2018

Friday, November 02, 2018

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

I've noticed that my grading has gotten slightly harder since Maia was born. Time is money, friend!

Art of Doubt by Metric:
In their latest album, Metric moves away from the padded electronica sound of Pagans in Vegas and back to a more garage rock sound. The songs are still fun, but a bit more repetitive, and nothing stands up as a catchy hit.

Final Grade: B-

Greatest Showman (PG):
The success of a musical effort like this really depends on the actors investing in their roles 110%. Led by Hugh Jackman, the energy level remains high throughout. The opening montage is the weakest part, and the overarching movie doesn't leave you with much to hang your hat on in the end, but this is about as successful a movie as you can come up with, within the constraints of the format and the PG rating. It reminds me of something I would have wanted to watch on VHS in grade school on a sick day.

Final Grade: B-

Sinner, Season One:
I enjoyed the pilot of this top-rated show about a woman who unequivocally commits murder in front of many witnesses without any clear motive. While I appreciated the style, it seemed like it would be relentlessly grim and involve religion and child abuse in some way, so I decided to devote my limited free time to collecting a bunch of harmless cartoon moons in Super Mario Odyssey instead.

Final Grade: Not Rated

Fargo, Season Three:
Fargo continues its successful blend of high-quality cinematography, mysticism, and Midwestern charm, and Ewan MacGregor managed to avoid being a distraction in his double role as twin brothers. This was my least favourite season of the three so far, but I would still take all three to the hypothetical castaway island with nothing but a DVD player.

Final Grade: A-

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Monday, November 05, 2018

Weekend Wrap-up

This weekend, we returned to Deer Haven, a getaway cabin in Edinburg, VA, with our friends, Car and Ben. We made it up the steep mountain road just ahead of a monsoon that lingered overnight on Friday.

The cabin was surprisingly baby-resistant without much effort, and Maia enjoyed taking a few solo steps and climbing the stairs. She also enjoyed reading books with Rebecca.

On Saturday, we had pork shoulder tacos, cookies, chips n' queso, and shells n' cheese, followed by s'mores in the fireplace.

On Sunday night, we had chickpea chicken something-or-other, and also managed to set off the smoke detector with our fire (somehow Maia slept through it).

We did not manage to finish the puzzle this year (brought from home to avoid the puzzles with missing pieces at the cabin) because the whole top half was grey and blue and not particularly fun. Maia learned how to play 104-pickup though.

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Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Maia Month #16 Battle Report

Maia has made it to 16 months with no loss of limbs or traumatic experiences (apart from getting her chin zipped into her jacket at the cabin). Her favourite food is hummus of any variety, with or without substantial food to spread it on. She knows and can recite the sounds that many animals make, although her favourite is the goat (followed by the fish). Other animals in her repertoire include cats, dogs, cows, chickens, and owls.

Maia walks up to 10 steps at a time before falling to the floor again, but still uses crawling as the most expedient form of traveling. Weekly Tuesday visits from Rebecca's parents and almost-weekly trips to my parent's house (when I can wake Maia before rush hour) are regular parts of her life, and Rebecca also takes her to library storytime, where she plays with all of her boy friends. We lucked out with the weather last week so she got one final week of afternoons at Lake Anne and various playgrounds. The mall visits resume in earnest this week (and she's thrilled with the Christmas decorations oozing out of every mall orifice).

Maia has achieved a new level of engagement this past week, and she's now much better at self-play and just hanging out with adults. We sometimes put her in her nursery down the hall with all the side doors closed and she'll sit there reading her books for 20 - 30 minutes before coming out to find us. I believe we're raising an introvert correctly!

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Friday, November 09, 2018

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

American Vandal, Season Two:
I figured it would be hard to follow up the "Who Drew the Dicks?" mystery of Season One, but Season Two opens with an unfortunate laxative incident at a preppy private school and seeks to determine who the "Turd Burglar" is in the style of a crime documentary. This season is actually better than the first, and has a satisfying ending that actually raises relevant questions about society. It's more than just turds all the way down.

Final Grade: A

Unguilded by Jane Glatt:
Magic of Thieves made me hesitant to continue reading the Secrets and Spells anthology, but I'm glad I did. Unguilded shares a few of the broad story strokes of the previous story but weaves them together much more effectively. The protagonist is one worth rooting for and the magic system is just different enough from the norm to be intriguing. A few of the villains are rather moustache-twirly, but I enjoyed the world-building and resolution. I added the sequels to my reading list based on the strength of this story.

Final Grade: B

Shake the Spirit by Elle King:
Elle King's second album is good, though a little more swear-y. Her voice is also super-over-sampled throughout as if she sang too close to an awful microphone or just required 800 filters to correct something about her voice. I still prefer the 1st album but this one isn't bad.

Final Grade: B-

Mage's Tale (Oculus Rift):
This is an innovative dungeon-crawler by the team that rebooted The Bard's Tale. It has an initial wow/fun factor as you hurl fireballs and maneuver through a dungeon with a sarcastic imp helping you, but this wears off somewhat quickly. The interface is totally motion-based (for example, the Save / Load / Options menu is navigated by grabbing the "Save" potion and drinking it) which is "neat" for about 5 minutes and then just gets in the way of years of established UX design principles. I ran out of steam about 4 hours in, not helped by the very long load times.

Final Grade: C

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Monday, November 12, 2018

Chad Darnell's 12 of 12

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

6:08 AM: Showered and ready for work.
6:24 AM: Setting up in the satellite home office to mitigate the risk of hungry, loud cats waking up sleeping babies.
8:13 AM: Encroaching wildlife and sad pinwheel.
9:00 AM: Breakfast and the news.
9:58 AM: Back to work in the regular upstairs office.
10:08 AM: Our mime has learned to help clean up by throwing trash away. She has also learned that you can make more trash by tearing up tissues. She is still working on understanding that you cannot make trash by tearing up lift-the-tab books.
12:24 PM: Working lunch (Mexican). There may be more queso than strictly necessary.
3:13 PM: 12 minutes of Zelda between the end of my conference call and the awakening of Maia from her nap.
4:05 PM: Reflections in a mall decoration.
5:36 PM: Self-driven story time on the big rocky chair.
6:48 PM: Baked salmon and broccoli for dinner.
7:24 PM: Giddy and tired.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Memory Day: Snapshots

This picture was taken almost ten years ago today, on November 15, 2008.

This was the first of 3 hosted Thanksgiving Dinners (two for friends and one for family), back in the days when I was still expending way too much effort making fresh cheese soup, eating Totino's pizzas for dinner, and playing Mario Kart with FSU people on a weekly-ish basis.

In order of when I last saw these people, from most recent to least: BU, Rebecca, Michael, Jessika, Marc, Sam, Annie, Mike. Surprisingly though, I have seen them all in 2018.

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Friday, November 16, 2018

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Bodyguard, Season One:
This show is like a British version of Homeland, Season One (before that show spun out into tedium). In just 6 hour-long episodes, it maintains a strong intensity and uneasiness that resolves in a satisfying, logical conclusion. Its success rests on the ability to depict realistic characters that don't just exposition-monologue their feelings for the audience -- everyone seems like a threat at various points in the show, but the resolution is weighted towards character motivations rather than cheap plot obfuscation devices (unlike Westworld, Season One's vague timeline approach to storytelling). Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: A

Wax by KT Tunstall:
The follow-up to the similarly designed KIN album, this is a pleasant collection of rock charts. None have gotten stuck in my head yet, but I'm not disappointed by the album.

Final Grade: B

ASUS RT-AC68U:
I haven't had much luck with routers this year. After using the rock-solid Linksys EA7500 for several years, it died in May's lightning storm. I bought the exact same router as a replacement and it somehow managed to slow all of Internet speeds to 1 MB down / 5 MB up. It wasn't until last month that I finally got around to finding the root cause. This time, I replaced it with the ASUS router which kicked speeds back up to 70 MB down / 5 MB up with minimal configuration. The router's UI is really nice and offers good visualizations of all devices on the network and options for bandwidth prioritization. Still going strong a month later!

Final Grade: B+

Killing Eve, Season One:
This BBC show offers a fresh spin on the tired spy genre (it felt more like less muted version of Amazon's The Patriot, whose second season was just released and sits in my queue). The cat-and-mouse between assassin and intelligence service takes a backseat to quirky characters. This is one of those shows that can quickly switch from dark violence to absurd humour while still retaining its watchability. I didn't care for the conclusion much, but it sets up the next season passably.

Final Grade: B+

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Monday, November 19, 2018

A Day in the Life (of Maia)

  • 9:00 AM (+/- 1 hour): Maia wakes up in her low-budget-Pottery-Barn nursery and makes alien noises until one of us comes in. We draw back the blackout curtains, raise the blinds, change a diaper, and put on the day's outfit, drawn from way too many friend donations.

  • 9:15 AM: Rebecca gives Maia breakfast, usually a little boob followed by some oatmeal, bananas, and other fruit. After breakfast, Maia roams around between the nursery and the living room, reading books or playing with toys.

  • 11:00 AM: Rebecca and Maia go to Storytime at the library.

  • 12:30 PM: Maia eats a lunch of hummus, boiled carrots, and other sundry goods that Rebecca has cooked on a whim.

  • 1:30 PM: Maia goes down for her 1 nap of the day.

  • 3:30 PM (+/- 30 minutes): Maia wakes up and gets a quick snack of a banana or a yogurt. Rebecca goes off to work.

  • 4:00 PM: Maia and Brian head to the mall sharing a medium Chick-fila Waffle Fries and looking for deals.

  • 5:30 PM: Maia gets a dinner of pureed beef, leftovers from lunch, and any random things off Brian's plate.

  • 6:00 PM: By this point, Maia is usually bored with the upstairs, so we head to the basement for the discovery of "brand new" toys.

  • 8:00 PM: Rebecca gets home from work and Maia teeters on the edge of tiredness.

  • 9:00 PM: After a brief bit of milk, Maia gets a bedtime story and goes down for the night.

  • Rinse and repeat.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2018

12 of 12 Fallout

Here's what I looked like on November 12, every year for the past 12 years.

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Thursday, November 22, 2018

Thanksgiving Day

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Monday, November 26, 2018

Treadmill Rehabilitation Day

In January 2012, I bought a treadmill for the basement because running in the real world is incredibly boring, everyone is watching you, and at some point, you have to run all of the way back home. For over 5 years, the treadmill played a key part in my exercise routine as well as my "watch shows that are good enough to watch while running but not worth devoting precious single-tasking time to enjoying" routine.

After running over 500 miles per year, the treadmill eventually started to decay. The ball bearings in the rear roller wore down and started rattling as I ran, giving off a virtual reality feeling of exercising on a rickety pirate ship. Its unnecessarily loud beeper, which activates whenever you change the speed or incline, or start, stop, or pause, was also a huge detractor from exercising while Maia was directly upstairs sleeping. Because it was harder for us to get Maia to sleep than it was for me to lose weight, I slowly stopped using it. By summer 2018, it was folded up in the corner of the basement destined for the junk hauler.

Recently, I decided that I would give the treadmill one last shot before abandoning it. As all good engineers might do, I started by unscrewing anything that could be unscrewed until I reached the inner sanctum of the circuit board. I located the beeper and unsoldered it from the circuit board, rendering the treadmill immediately mute. Next, I removed 5 years of dust bunnies from the motor and scrubbed down the treads with silicon oil (which is much more expensive than it should be). Finally, I replaced the rear rotor with a $150 part which was still much cheaper than buying a brand new treadmill.

I now have a ninja-silent treadmill that makes no noise other than the panther-like tread of my jogging gait. It is deadly like a Prius, in that it might trip me at 5 miles per hour if I forget that it no longer makes noise. My current plan is to resume treadmilling on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with a bonus bout on Sundays if I'm not already booked solid. We shall see how I do!

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Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Stuff in My Drawers Day: Christmas List

This is my joint birthday/Christmas wish list from 1990. Because of my September birthday and horribly delayed video game development cycles, half of the things I'd ask for for my birthday wouldn't actually come out in time. I hedged my bets by making my list a living document and adding/removing on the fly.

  • I didn't like Castlevania 3 much once I had it -- it was too hard to jump and I always fell down to the bottom of vertical game levels.

  • Hero's Quest 2 (later Quest for Glory to avoid trademark issues with the classic board game) was a great game featuring an impenetrable maze in the first town as a form of copy protection. (I did not win the contest to get a free copy).

  • King's Quest 5 was horrible, full of tiny, glimmering items to pick up that you couldn't go back to get when you needed them 8 hours later. Also, it featured a talking owl named Cedric who mainly just said, "If you're going in there, I'm waiting out here."

  • I definitely wanted an AdLib sound card for that great tinny MIDI music.

  • Gordon Korman remains my favourite tween author, although I stopped reading anything he wrote after about 2001.

  • I did get a bugle, and played it less than 100 times over its lifespan.

  • Clearly, my dad added Fake dog turd and BO Juice to my list.

  • I actually had that golf puzzle framed and hanging in my bedroom for many years. It currently sits in the downstairs basement with all of the other remnants of my childhood bedroom that were collapsed to make room for Maia's nursery.

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Friday, November 30, 2018

End-of-the-Month Highlights Day

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

  • Events
    • Maia and I met up with Michael and Sachin at Mellow Mushroom for Happy Hour on H 11/1.

    • Went back to Deer Haven in Edinburg, VA with Car and Ben F 11/2 - M 11/5. Followed up with a family dinner at Cafesano on M 11/5.

    • Voted for liberty on T 11/6.

    • Visited my parents with Maia while Rebecca went to an all-day symposium on F 11/9.

    • Did some raking and had a family dinner at Red Robin on S 11/10. Rebecca taught anatomy to advanced yoga teacher trainees.

    • Had our first snow event with about 2 inches on H 11/15.

    • Went to Fredericksburg for lunch with Catherine at Eileen's on F 11/16. Spent the night at Anna and Ben's and came home on S 11/17.

    • Went to Taylorstown for Thanksgiving with the Whitmers on H 11/22.

    • Put up the Christmas tree on F 11/23 and discovered that we have mice in the crawlspace.

    • De-moused the crawlspace on S 11/24, then went to the Smiths for Thanksgiving leftovers and Game Night (Jackbox).

    • Took a family walk around Old Town Herndon and had dinner at Mediterranean Breeze on S 11/25.

    • Maia visited her Uri grandparents on H 11/29.

  • Projects
    • Refurbished my decrepit treadmill (and de-soldered the annoyingly loud beeper from its circuit board), in hopes of many more years of moderate jogging to stave off bacon-based heart attacks.

    • Went on a light pollution war against blue LEDs in my home office with electrical tape.

  • Consumerism
    • Got a massive and massively quiet new fridge on M 11/26.

    • Finally beat Zelda: Breath of the Wild and reinstalled Fallout 4.

    • Enjoyed the new Muse album, Simulation Theory, this month.

    • Enjoying a slow rewatch of Person of Interest as well as Patriot, Season Two and Silicon Valley, Season Four.

November's Final Grade: B, Solid, fun month in spite of the lackluster weather.

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