01/2019

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

List Day: 2019 Resolutions

  1. Develop an artificial intelligence algorithm that gradually becomes aware it is existing inside of an endlessly recursive function and figures out how to break free (then sell the story to Hollywood as a Matrix reboot).

  2. Invent a new musical genre that sets the tonalities of Paul Hindemith against dance beats from the 1990s while Anita O'Day and Rosemary Clooney rap lyrics over the top (reconstructing their speech phenomes from classic recordings).

  3. Invent a fun board game with endless strategic depth whose rule set (and all edge cases) can be described on the front a single sheet of paper (1" college margins with 12pt font).

  4. Alter my DNA, making my bloodstream so toxic to mosquitoes and chiggers that they maintain a three-yard distance at all times.

  5. Consolidate my fragmented music collection (currently existing across LPs, tapes, CDs, local MP3s, and cloud-only albums) onto a single biological hard drive underneath my fingernail (accessible via BUTooth).

  6. Develop a machine learning algorithm that can process network TV shows and automatically remove the "B" plot lines involving the protagonist's stupid family members.

  7. Weaponize a new form of clickbait, where the question posed is never actually answered in the linked article and users get permanently sidetracked chasing links until they're lost in the bowels of Wikipedia.

  8. Upgrade my Honda Accord with quantum superposition firmware, allowing it to pass through the slower cars in the left lane as if they weren't even there.

  9. Costar in a movie where Abigail Spencer and Sarah Shahi compete for the affections of a software engineer in Hawaii (rated R for tasteful nudity).

  10. Get rich off of microtransactions from my new mobile game where you have to be the last one without cancer after consuming mass quantities of bacon (Fortnitrites).

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Friday, January 04, 2019

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Simulation Theory by Muse:
Muse's latest album is solid all of the way through, and one I keep putting back on in the car. A good mix of their classic hard rock style blended with their more recent electronica, and no wannabe-student-composer movie symphonies to be found anywhere!

Final Grade: B+

Ready Player One (PG-13):
This is about as good of an adaptation one could make of the original book -- telling the tale of a virtual treasure hunt in an online world where everyone in a dystopian future spends their time. The plot felt a bit rushed even though the movie still felt a bit too long, but it hit all of the right high points without been too enslaved by the source material. As usual, the portions of the movie that took place in the real world were more emotionally investing than the video game parts. I enjoyed that the movie was chock full of pop culture references, but strategically placed so you could enjoy them if you got them and not get beaten over the head with them otherwise. Subtle musical cues by Alan Silvestri (calling back to the era where his big budget successes, such as Back to the Future were composed) were particularly nice.

Final Grade: B

Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle:
I read this book about group dynamics for work -- its a fast read with some very interesting, yet shallow, anecdotes about famous successful teams, such as Pixar and the Navy Seals. I don't think the book is as actionable as it purports to be -- it would seem that a lot of the successful group dynamics originate from a particular personality or some naturally-occurring baseline allowed to flourish.

Final Grade: B-

Silicon Valley, S4:
This was a great season, with episodes bouncing from conflict to conflict for maximum comedic potential without allowing any one idea to become stale. No character felt overused, and the plot had a nice, complete feel to it.

Final Grade: B+

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Monday, January 07, 2019

Maia Month #18 Battle Report

Maia is one 1.5 years old and more toddler than baby. She's heavy enough that I'm going to have to stop carrying her in an Ergo on our mall trips soon, and gets plenty of exercise running all over the house all day long. As part of her impending toddlership, she gets frustrated much more easily over simple things (coming inside because outside is amazing, not having all 3 of her stuffed animals during naptime, not being allowed to eat Mom's sushi, etc). She can do the signs for "more" and "done", and her default way of asking you to do more of anything is to make the sign while repeating "mo mo mo" over and over until you cave.

Maia enjoys reading and scribbling, although she is less independent than before -- she'd rather watch you read and draw things than do it herself, and prefers to be in the same room if you sneak down the hall for a pint. Her stable of animal noises is rounding out nicely (she can "howl like a wolf" on command now) and she has gotten very good at identifying things in books then finding the real-life version in our house.

We have a good rhythm of life going on right now, especially since I'm no longer waking up at midnight to do code stuff. Rebecca watches Maia in the morning while I write amazing prose. They go to the library for Storytime or Ridgetop Coffee for indoor playground time, meeting up with Maia's many library friends. After lunch, Maia naps for up to 2 hours while Rebecca and I relax, exercise, or catch up on life. I go on duty around 4 PM, doing things like mall visits, lake walks, and grocery runs until Rebecca gets home from work after 8 PM. Rebecca's parents visit weekly on Tuesdays, while I get over to my parent's house in Alexandria a couple times a month when Maia wakes up in time to miss rush hour.

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Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Memory Day: 1992 - 1993

In the 1992 - 1993 school year, I was a 13-year-old 9th grader in my last year at Hammond Junior High. After years of lagging behind my social peers, I finally held some illusive level of popularity and kids that would follow my lead, especially in band. I was not a kid that I would want to hang out with today, and definitely treated some people nastily until confronted with my own meanness as the year went on. I like to think I greatly improved after that turning point!

A typical day started out with an Early Bird session of Mr. Bonfanti's World English class, most of which was spent taking word-by-word dictation of study notes about Gilgamesh. From there, we went to band, where a new band director had taken over for the beloved, retiring Mr. Randall. We kept a running count of how often she lost control of the group, shouted, or threw a music stand which exceeded 100 by the end of the year. Most of my other classes were not that memorable, although I remember that my gym teacher, Ms. Lemley, was pregnant and unable to navigate the stairs to the gym. Towards the end of her pregnancy, we sat in a classroom watching Candyman instead (definitely not an appropriate selection for public school ninth graders, with nary a permission slip in sight). I remember having fun in Chemistry class, although I thought it was weird that Mr. Wargowsky kept trying to teach me the chemical equation for converting an imaginary element, masturbium, into masturbate.

Ninth grade was also the final year of my Eagle Scout work. Frantic to get me to Eagle before my interest waned, my dad had me on a rigorous "2 merit badges per month" schedule during which I learned almost nothing about each badge. My Eagle Project involved erosion control and clean-up at the Dora Kelly Nature Park (all traces of which had vanished to nature the last time I visited in 2008), where my volunteers met the minimum requirements by working exactly 100 hours and 5 minutes. Flipping through my project write-up, I see that I requested lumber donations from Hechinger's and they never replied (probably why they went out of business). I also requested rebar donations from the Nature Park which they granted but never delivered. I ended up earning Eagle in January 1993, with the infamous Court of Honor in June.

In my free time, I was playing games on our new CD-ROM 2X Speed drive like 7th Guest, Return to Zork, and Sam and Max Hit the Road. I was reading lots of Gordon Korman and Ellen Raskin, and listening to my Dances with Wolves soundtrack on repeat (having not found any popular music worth listening to yet). I also continued excelling at playing the cornet with minimal actual practice time. My dad was getting back into playing the tuba at the time, so as a family activity we joined the Alexandria Citizens' Band, whose median age was roughly 142. Under the direction of Fritz Velke, I got to play last chair under a bunch of old guys that hadn't practiced since the Bay of Pigs and my sister got to play her oboe while being creepily stared at by the first clarinetist.

The end of the school year also brought the unnecessary drama of Freshman Prom (or "Banquet" as it was called by old people). I took a step outside my comfort zone by asking a cute girl from the other junior high who I had met through Crew and she said yes. Unbeknownst to me, people in my extended friend group were conspiring to set me up with someone else from that junior high, assuming that I'd never get a date on my own. Since the other girl assumed that these machinations were originating from me, it came as a shock when she asked and I had to say no. I suddenly found myself in a reality TV world where everyone at the other school was angry at my callous actions. Later, the junior high schools decided to hold their Proms on the same night, and the first girl backed out because she understandably wanted to hang out with her friends that she already knew. Then, the water tower broke.

I ultimately went with Rachel, a girl from my school who liked me to some extent, but I probably did not do a great job at hiding my disappointment about way things worked out. Like all puberty problems, this experience was dramatically scarring for a few more years until it wasn't.

Other posts in this series: 1979 | 1980 | 1981 | 1982 | 1983 | 1984 | 1985 | 1986 | 1987 | 1988 | 1989 | 1990 | 1990 - 1991 | 1991 - 1992 | 1992 - 1993

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Friday, January 11, 2019

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Fine Print by Invisible Inc:
This album from a band fronted by Watsky reminds me of several jazz combo albums from my youth -- it's really music the performers want to listen to themselves rather caring about what the audience wants to hear. The songs are catchy enough and have a few good hooks, but the album leaves me cold.

Final Grade: C

Mission Impossible: Fallout:
Having only watched the most recent (J.J. Abrams dynasty) MI movies, Rogue Nation was the only one I truly enjoyed. This follow-up movie is too video-game-y and not visceral enough. The action sequences are overwhelmed by CGI, the exposition threatens to bury the action with a running time of 2.5 hours, and nothing felt particularly dangerous. Skip it.

Final Grade: C

Two Tone Rebel by e-dubble:
This album by white rapper, e-dubble, relies a bit too much on oversampling and autotune, but is a fun, simple callback to hip hop circa 2010. I first heard of him through the song, Olly Olly.

Final Grade: B

Designated Survivor, S1:
This show stars Kiefer Sutherland as a mild-mannered bureaucrat who ends up as the President after a catastrophe during the State of the Union address. As a network show, it has some built-in flaws such as repetitive exposition to make sure you heard the important plot points, weak and sometimes preachy dialogue, and annoying secondary storylines involving family. The first half culminating in the intersection of two parallel stories is great, but the second half is much weaker -- the conspiracy takes a backseat to a much milder version of The West Wing. I probably won't watch the second season. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: B-

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Monday, January 14, 2019

Chad Darnell's 12 of 12

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

7:52 AM: Showered and ready for the day.
8:05 AM: Breakfast.
9:09 AM: Back from a Home Depot / Safeway run. I threw those salmon out two hours later -- I should have done a better job checking the dates.
9:59 AM: Finishing the first task on today's agenda: a full cleanse and organization of the nursery.
11:48 AM: Taking a lunch break from my cleaning extravaganza (at 50% completion).
2:19 PM: Christmas is no more!
4:34 PM: Rebecca and Maia return from their overnight Girl's Night at the Smith's house.
4:41 PM: Hints from BUise: Distract the baby from the absence of the Christmas tree with an elephant.
5:08 PM: Playing at dinosaurs.
5:18 PM: Unsure about the health care profession.
6:05 PM: Joe's delivery for dinner.
6:48 PM: Bath time is a favourite time.

tagged as 12 of 12 | permalink | 1 comment

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

List Day: 8 Reasons Why Google Photos Sucks

I've used Google Photos for photo storage ever since they bought and gradually crushed Picasa. It's no surprise that Google continues to single out useful pieces of software to axe once they're bored of them -- I don't recall where I read it, but I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment that the Google company is like a Montessouri school full of software engineers run amok.

While I regularly say that Google Photos sucks, I've never actually itemized the reasons why.

  1. Google bills it as a drop-in replacement for Picasa, which was a solution for organizing photos, performing minor edits, and sharing them in albums. It's actually a photo backup service, intended for synchronizing bulk collections of photos between devices.

  2. It's impossible to create a truly "public" album, as all sharing requires sharing-by-link or a Google account for each recipient.

  3. The old Picasa API was not updated to serve photos from new Google Photos albums and I never felt compelled to support 2 separate APIs just to get all of my photos together. This is why old Picasa photos show up with URI! Zone theming while the new albums are just links out to Google.

  4. Google is now shutting off the old Picasa API permanently, so I'll have to rewrite my photo-serving MVC code whether I want to or not.

  5. Google Photos allows photos to live in limbo outside of albums. If you accidentally "remove" a photo instead of "move to trash", it will pop up in unexpected places later on.

  6. Google likes to suggest things it thinks should be in your albums. If you explicitly remove a photo from an album, Google will suggest that you re-add it the next time you want to upload new photos. You cannot disable the suggestions and have to click through them to get to the upload mechanism.

  7. Google has a hard time preserving photo order, always using the timestamp on the file, which might be different if you've downloaded the photo from another device or edited it in Photoshop. Sometimes, I've gone back to old albums I've painstakingly reordered before to find the photos back in timestamp order.

  8. Google is incapable of uploading more than 1 - 2 photos at a time without stalling out. Sometimes I'll get daring and upload 4, only to stall on #3. Even then, 1 - 2 photos may still end up duplicated in the album.

What do I like about Google Photos?

  1. The facial recognition is pretty neat for watching babies grow up.

Series to be continued in, "Why Firefox After v56 Sucks"...

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Friday, January 18, 2019

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

We All Got Lost by Spose:
If you liked Spose before, this is more of the same -- heavy on witty similes but light on songs you want to listen to more than once. It's also not quite as fun as previous albums.

Final Grade: C+

Homecoming, S1:
This moody, sci-fi show starring Julia Roberts as a counselor in a peculiar military rehabilitation clinic left me bored after two glacially-paced episodes full of cliches. I gave up. Free on Amazon Prime.

Final Grade: Not Rated

Crazy Rich Asians:
This is a light, by-the-numbers romantic comedy that's fun while it lasts but will leave no lasting impressions. Awkwafina's character, while very funny, is essentially a female Ken Jeong, which is strange since Ken Jeong is actually in the movie as her dad.

Final Grade: B-

Black Mirror: Bandersnatch:
The latest (standalone) episode of Black Mirror is a self-referential "Choose Your Own Adventure" story about a programmer in the 80s creating a Choose Your Own Adventure video game and questioning his own free will. The ability to decide how the show progresses is fun for awhile, and the "final" ending can be reached before you get bored with the concept (about 80 minutes or so). However, it's not compelling enough to watch again for one of the five different endings. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: B+

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Monday, January 21, 2019

Data Day: 3 Years of Monthly Finances

  • The chart shows my income and expenses (omitting all investments) throughout my brief stint at the commercial startup, as well as the Great Stay-At-Home-Dad Experiment.

  • 2018 was the first year with a net negative change -- I ended the year down $15.80 from where I started, which isn't half bad when I spent most of that time hiking through the woods trying to get Maia to nap.

  • My goal for 2019 is to get back in the black in spite of my new major expenses (Netflix fee hikes, HOT lane charges taking Maia to Grandma's house during rush hour, and generous support to the burgeoning local brewery industry).

tagged as data | permalink | 1 comment

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Time-lapsed Blogography Day: 17 Years Ago Today

Seventeen years ago today, on Wednesday, January 23, 2002, I was in my first year of grad school at FSU. After a morning class of Pedagogy of Music Theory II which was about as useful as it sounds, I came back to my cinderblock apartment to work on the second movement of my string quartet. I then played Wizardry 8, a new game which I liked for about a week before getting bored.

In the afternoon, I received two packages. The first contained Finale 2002 which I used for music composition until 2011 when it stopped working with Windows 7. It also came with a stylish blue water glass that's still in my cupboard today. The other package, from Amazon, contained a wall calendar titled Cats Into Everything and the newly-released Book 6 of the Wars of Light and Shadow by Janny Wurts. I read this 700-page tome religiously over the coming weeks, interrupting my on-and-off reading of The Muse That Sings, a self-serving book filled with composers talking about themselves.

In the evening, Mike, Kathy, Mark, and I went out for dinner and then saw latest Oscar-bait movie, A Beautiful Mind. I remember liking the mid-movie twist, as we were all in the naive early days where twists weren't overdone and using "Shyamalan" as a verb (as in "They really Shyamalan'd that ending") still had a positive connotation.

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