04/2019

Monday, April 01, 2019

List Day: Currently...

  • Currently listening to... Two Degrees by Illy.

  • Currently reading... Complex Enterprise Architecture by John D. McDowall.

  • Currently playing... no games in progress.

  • Currently composing... nothing in over 7 years aside from baby jingles.

  • Currently considering buying... a screened porch in the coming years to replace our aging deck.

  • Currently coding... minor script updates to support the next 3 years of AWS hosting for the URI! Zone.

  • Currently planning... to get the roof replaced in the next 2 months.

  • Currently learning... nothing new.

  • Currently watching... Sharp Objects and Secret City: Under the Eagle.

  • Currently anticipating... a restart of periodic poker games.

  • Currently exercising... about one and a half hours per week.

  • Currently weighing... 140 pounds.

This update was sponsored in part by LiveJournal.

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Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Memory Day: Snapshots

This picture was taken 11 years ago today, on April 3, 2008.

It was our last day in London and my right knee had just become painful to walk on after two full days of tourism. I strolled through the city lock-knee'd for the remainder of the trip and seriously considered purchasing an old man's cane at one point.

We started the day in search of the Theatre Museum, which we found had moved somewhere on the other side of the city. We abandoned our plans to visit and ended up in this outdoor market instead. This stroll was followed by a trip to the Transport Museum, and additional walking across almost every bridge over the Thames -- it felt like we were trying to solve some "longest path" math word problem.

In the evening, we had a quintessential dinner at Marquis of Wellington, where we ate giant pub burgers, drank London Pride beer, and listened to Morrissey bitch about his life on the radio.

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Friday, April 05, 2019

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

A Star is Born:
This is a predictable downer of a musical biopic that never paints outside of the lines and is barely worth watching for the good acting performances. There's a point early in the movie where I hoped it would diverge from the expected path and become a road trip movie featuring a bunch of drag queens cracking jokes on a tour bus, but it was not to be. They need people like me working on screenplays in Hollywood, because my version would definitely have won Best Picture.

Final Grade: C-

Hello World: Being Human in the Age of Algorithms by Hannah Fry:
Although written by a mathematician, this book offers a friendly introduction to machine learning and algorithms using common language and a compelling writing style that relies on interesting real-world anecdotes. Instead of focusing on the math and logic within any particular algorithm, it describes the impacts various algorithms have had on our lives. It gives a balanced assessment of the pros and cons of machine learning, and what potential lies on the horizon. The general theme is that the "magic" of algorithms can lead us to bestowing them with unwarranted trust and authority -- human oversight and transparency is critical to avoid a Black Mirror dystopian society.

Final Grade: B+

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze:
Another transplant from the abortive Wii U to the Switch, this is a polished, difficult platformer. I died many times in the first few worlds, probably because I'm no longer as good at console games as I was in my teen years. The game suffers a bit from controls that feel slow and imprecise and there are way too many collectibles drawing out the play time. Not a bad game, just not my favourite.

Final Grade: B-

Arrested Development, Season Five Part Two:
Skip it. The final 8 episodes are not very funny, have an over-reliance on old catchphrases, and stretch already thin plotlines to infinity. It also doesn't help that the show is still relying on some of the awful plots from Season Four when it would have been better to move on and forget them. Performances are generally obligatory or low energy, and every scene with Tobias' "new family" is awful. If you can't stand not knowing how everything turns out, just watch the final 45 minute episode which wraps everything up. This one episode could have been shown in lieu of the previous 15 Season Five episodes without any loss of plot continuity. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: D+

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Monday, April 08, 2019

Maia Month #21 Battle Report

Maia is now 21 months old and 22.4 pounds. She likes to live dangerously by climbing on things and can get into chairs and on beds with ease. She recently learned that she can move things (like stools and elephants) to reach higher places, and goes down the slide on her own volition now.

Maia has no particular favorite foods and there is a 50-50 chance that she will consume an entire meal like a black hole or leave it all on the plate and ask for "toast" instead. Staples include yogurt, cheese sticks, all the berry-based fruits, and a neverending Costco bag of Italian meatballs.

She regularly strings together two-word phrases that are mostly intelligible like "get on, put back, close gate", so it's probably time for her to start playing text adventure games from the 1980s. A few weeks ago, I tried to spell words under pictures of animals and Maia was able to differentiate between "cat" as a picture, and the word "cat" taken out of context. She also pointed to "pets" on a playground sign without help and said "pets", but that could be a huge coincidence.

This is a very fun age, as her periodic tantrums are very predictable (doesn't want to come inside from the yard, doesn't want to take off the Christmas pajamas even though it's 11 AM) and it's fascinating to watch her make associations between things and figure out the world.

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

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

The Nightmare We Know by Krista D. Ball:
The second book in the Dark Abyss of Our Sins trilogy drags unmercifully. The book is in need of a good editor to catch typos and tighten up the repetitive inner monologues -- plot events are often followed up with how different characters perceived those events, regardless of the fact that no one character's perception was different enough for a rehash. Exposition and character description suffers when the same information is conveyed slightly differently in two consecutive paragraphs (as if the writer was drafting both but forgot to delete one). After the great character development in Book One, everything felt like it was treading water here.

Final Grade: C

Secret City, Season One:
This Australian geopolitical thriller has shades of The Code in the way it does world-building and allows you to piece together relationships and plot events. There are a few weaknesses and awkward bouts of acting, but it's generally worth watching. Damon Herriman (Dewey Crowe from Justified) puts in a great performance as a a transgender signals analyst, proving that Walton Goggins doesn't have an exclusive on wearing womens' clothing. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: B

Incredibles 2 (PG):
I thought the original Incredibles was cute yet unmemorable, mainly notable for the fact that Michael Giacchino had graduated from TV music on Alias to the movies. It seems odd and a little unnecessary to follow up on an animated movie 14 years after the original. However, Incredibles 2 is pretty fun in a lightweight entertainment vein. I found it pleasant to watch while running on the treadmill, although I probably won't remember any of the plot details a month from now. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: B-

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyou:
This is the story of Theranos and how Elizabeth Holmes boldly fooled the world with her story of a new, almost magical blood testing device. The assortment of lies, narcissism, and employees abandoning ship snowballs through the first half of the book. Just when it starts getting tedious and you can't imagine how anyone might continue being fooled, everything unravels satisfyingly to the end.

Final Grade: B+

tagged as reviews | permalink | 2 comments

Friday, April 12, 2019

Chad Darnell's 12 of 12

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

6:28 AM: Showered and ready for the day.
6:40 AM: Breakfast.
7:04 AM: Working in the alternate basement office.
9:16 AM: Good morning!
9:45 AM: Breakfast for the ladies.
11:03 AM: After an errands run for chicken tenderloins and propane, giving the kitchen floor a deep cleanse.
11:55 AM: Running on the treadmill and rewatching Better Off Ted.
12:35 PM: Leftover pizza for lunch.
1:11 PM: Maia comes home from Forest Time at Algonkian Park.
3:15 PM: Playing Grim Dawn while Maia naps.
6:45 PM: Homemade chicken tenders for dinner.
7:10 PM: Maia does not like homemade chicken tenders.

tagged as 12 of 12 | permalink | 1 comment

Monday, April 15, 2019

Old Internet Friends Day

Towards the tail end of the URI! Zone's first decade of existence, Rachel from Australia was a regular visitor, often arguing for hours in the Comments section with Beavis, Kelley, and Tree about societal problems without any sort of understanding of the problems' unique American causes. I met her playing Warcraft III and lost track of her somewhere around 2006 with only a few sporadic emails since then.

Last week was Rachel's 37th birthday, so I did my usual one-way shout into the void to wish her a Happy Birthday, only to find that her email had finally expired from inactivity. It's a peculiar feeling to completely lose a connection to someone from your past, especially in this era where everyone is on five different personal and professional social media networks and crosspost what they had for breakfast on Twitter and Instagram.

Treating this as a warning shot, I dug into my old mail and chat archives for other people that featured heavily in my ancient online life before they become unreachable forever. I kept up with tons of people during the simple days of the World Wide Web, back when "making online friends" was unheard of, safe, and wholly unique (the rose-coloured world that predates my current impression of the Internet).

I was actually successful in finding several old friends from aged, incomplete information, without even resorting to reinstalling ICQ or AIM. Some are in the same towns, some have kids a plenty, and everyone is pushing 40 alarmingly fast. I didn't want to restart friendships so much as I just wanted say hello and share a moment -- even if our lives don't intersect anymore, it's comforting to know that they're still out there living in parallel when I'm not thinking about them (we're all NPCs in someone else's game).

Any friends from your past you haven't thought about in a while? Reach out and say hello today while the opportunity is still there!

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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Time-lapsed Blogography Day: 19 Years Ago Today

19 years ago today, on April 17, 2000, I was unusually productive. It was my fourth year of undergrad at Virginia Tech and there were only 2.5 weeks left in the school year. I started the day by working on my second (and ultimately aborted) text adventure game, Robin Caruso, still high off the success of Augmented Fourth which had finally been released 17 days earlier.

After a morning conducting class with Dr. Glazebrook, I had an early lunch at Shultz Dining Hall with the usual band of music misfits. I then went to Computer Graphics in McBryde (a disappointing class where we spent most of the time doing viewport math instead of actually writing OpenGL code).

Our high-tech MIDI class was cancelled this day, so I hung out at the couches for another hour before walking Nikki to work and then heading back to East AJ. I also learned which Foxridge apartment I'd be living in with Anna and Rosie in the fall.

In the evening, I volunteered to play trumpet at Marching Virginians drum major auditions, although I'm pretty sure that I was the only trumpet playing the notes written on the page at the right octave. Auditions were immediately followed by Jason and Dave's recital (I'm presuming Chrisley and Reynolds but I no longer remember for certain) where my accompanist page-turning skills were in high demand. In the aftermath, we gathered at Nikki's apartment for post-concert drinks.

tagged as memories | permalink | 2 comments

Friday, April 19, 2019

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Secret City, Season Two:
For an omniscient police state, people seem to get away with a lot. This season has a more realistic conspiracy to unravel, but suffers from unnaturally muted reactions and overly convenient character relationships. There are also about 5 too many white men to keep track of. I enjoyed piecing together the conspiracy here but felt like this was the weaker of the two seasons. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: B-

Two Degrees by Illy:
Illy is the pop-iest of Australian hip hop artists -- he's not a great rapper, but he writes good hooks and enables great collaborations with other artists. There are a few catchy tunes on this album but it's not amazing.

Final Grade: B-

Inside Black Mirror by Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones:
This book is a great coffee table companion to the series, Black Mirror, full of interesting commentary about the first four seasons from the creators, directors, and actors.

Final Grade: B+

Santa Clarita Diet, Season One:
I enjoyed this show more than I thought I would, mostly on the novelty of Timothy Olyphant in a comedic role and the fun dialogue. Drew Barrymore plays a housewife turned undead, and the shallow plots mostly consist of the clash between typical suburban life and the need to kill people to eat them. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: B

tagged as reviews | permalink | 2 comments

Monday, April 22, 2019

Picture Day

We had planned to host a toddler Egg Hunt on Saturday morning, but Rebecca unexpectedly got sick the night before. Instead, Maia and I joined the Uri grandparents at Lake Newport in Reston for a walk around the lakes. Here are some pictures my dad took on the hike.

Maia starts her public relations internship at Twitter:

Maia prepares to go belly-and-feet-first down the long slide:

On the Blue Trail in Reston:

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

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

List Day: Labelled Years

As an update to my last attempt, here are the years of my life with summary labels.

  • 1979: The Year I Was Born
  • 1980: The Year I Came to America
  • 1981: The Year I Lived Next Door to the Fishers
  • 1982: The Year I Was Naturalized
  • 1983: The Year Rosa Started Babysitting Us
  • 1984: The Year I Started Kindergarten
  • 1985: The Year I Started First Grade
  • 1986: The Year I Started Second Grade / Skipped a Grade
  • 1987: The Year I Started Fourth Grade
  • 1988: The Year I Started Fifth Grade / Was a Lunchtime Dungeon Master / Played the Cornet
  • 1989: The Year I Started Sixth Grade / Joined the Boy Scouts
  • 1990: The Year I Went to Nevada / Started Seventh Grade / Was the Only Trumpeter in Band
  • 1991: The Year I Started Eighth Grade
  • 1992: The Year I Got Glasses / Started Crew / Started Ninth Grade / Went to My First Dance
  • 1993: The Year I Got Eagle Scout / Started Tenth Grade / Started Indoor Track
  • 1994: The Year I Started Eleventh Grade / Got into Jazz
  • 1995: The Year I Started Twelfth Grade / Programmed Games on my TI-85 / Was Drum Major
  • 1996: The Year I Went to Tech and Moved in with Andy / Joined the Marching Band
  • 1997: The Year I Had Many Online Friends / Moved in with Beavis
  • 1998: The Year I Moved in with Nathan / Wrote Olio
  • 1999: The Year I Moved in with Kelley / Got Contacts and a New Hair Style / Went to the Sugar Bowl
  • 2000: The Year I Started Using Photoshop / Got an internship at FGM / Moved in with Rosie and Anna
  • 2001: The Year I Had a 5th Year Recital / Graduated from Tech / Moved to Florida
  • 2002: The Year I Was a Grad Student / Taught Music Classes
  • 2003: The Year I Defend My Masters Thesis / Lived in Centreville / Started full-time at FGM
  • 2004: The Year I Bought a House / Lived with Anna and sometimes Eric, Ben, or Kathy / Started playing World of Warcraft
  • 2005: The Year We Built a Sidewalk around the House / Anna Got Married
  • 2006: The Year I Went to the Bachelder Retirement Concert / Kathy Got Married
  • 2007: The Year I Met Rebecca / Dressed Up as Dick-in-a-Box for Halloween
  • 2008: The Year We Went to Europe the First Time / Got Engaged
  • 2009: The Year We Got Married / Went to Hawaii
  • 2010: The Year There Was a Massive Blizzard / We Went to the Puerto Rico, Spokane, Santa Cruz, and Emerald Isle / I Released DDMSence 1.0
  • 2011: The Year We Renovated the Kitchen / Went to Arkansas and Charlotte / I Started Playing Skyrim
  • 2012: The Year I Tried to Be a Semantic Ontologist / We Went to Quebec & Montreal / Rebecca Was in PT School
  • 2013: The Year Rebecca Became a PTA / We Started Hiking at Harpers Ferry
  • 2014: The Year We Went to the Greenbier / Vacationed in Seattle / Played D&D
  • 2015: The Year We Built a Shed / Went Back to Europe / Housed Sydney
  • 2016: The Year We Went to Colorado and Hiked a 14er / I Left Novetta
  • 2017: The Year Maia Was Born / Kitty and Booty Died / I Returned to Novetta
  • 2018: The Year We Went to LA for a Wedding / I Did Advent of Code

The value of labels is twofold:

  1. They provide a temporal anchor for organizing my memories, especially in the recent years where the skeleton of school grades is unavailable and everything blurs together.
  2. They act as episode titles when my life is picked up as a Netflix Original (1 year per 22 minute episode). Who would you like to portray you in my show?

tagged as lists, day-to-day | permalink | 6 comments

Friday, April 26, 2019

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Sharp Objects:
This HBO limited miniseries is a great adaptation of the original book by Gillian Flynn. It captures the brooding, memory-heavy feel of the main character perfectly. It's pretty much a downer all the way through though. The show leaves the ending much more ambiguous than the book, which wrapped everything up tightly.

Final Grade: B

The Player's Ball: A Genius, a Con Man, and the Secret History of the Internet's Rise by David Kushner:
While I enjoyed Masters of Doom by Kushner, I got bored quickly with Jacked. This new release tells the tale of the ever-escalating feud between the founder of match.com and the purveyor of sex.com in the late nineties and early aughts. This would be an awesome long-form article in The Atlantic, but struggles as a book. The high points of the story are interesting, but there's not quite enough tale to fit the length of the book, and the final third is desperately padded with repetitive language and reminders of earlier events.

Final Grade: C+

Santa Clarita Diet, Season Two:
Season Two improves upon Season One in all regards, with fun guest stars and a tangle of subplots that all come together in the end. The "constant edge of doom" feeling gets a little tiresome but the dialogue are performances are fun. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: B+

Kirkland Signature Soft & Chewy Granola Bars:
I switched to these Costco chocolate chip granola bars because the Quaker bars I had eaten since the 7th grade only came in bulk packs with 50% chocolate chip and 50% peanut butter. Reaching into that mystery box had a 50% chance of disappointing me (still a lower chance than watching a random episode of LOST, Season Three). The Kirkland bars taste great and somehow "fresher" than the Quaker bars but suffer from two flaws -- (1) the bars are so sticky that it's nearly impossible to extract from the wrapper without the bar falling apart and (2) they're so small that you need two to feel satisfied, so you spend more time dealing with sticky wrappers than eating and your fingers end up sticky as well.

Final Grade: B-

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Monday, April 29, 2019

End-of-the-Month Highlights Day

New photos have been added to the Life, 2019 album. Google Photos sucks.

  • Events
    • Went to Lake Anne for afternoon walks on W 4/3 and H 4/4, and bumped into our old neighbors, Casey & Amy.

    • Rebecca went on an overnight trip to Columbus on S 4/6. Maia and I went to Frying Pan Park and then had my parents over for a dinner of cilantro lime flank steak.

    • Had a solo dad dinner at The V while Maia and Rebecca ate Indian food with Car on S 4/7.

    • Family dinner date at Burton's on W 4/10.

    • Hit 15 full-time years at Novetta (adjusted for my brief intermission) on F 4/12.

    • Rebecca and Car took the bluebell hike at Bull Run on S 4/13. Maia caught a cold.

    • Rebecca got sick on S 4/20 so we cancelled our Egg Hunt. I took a walk through Reston with Maia and the grandparents instead, starting at Lake Newport.

    • Solo dad dinner at Miller's on S 4/21.

    • Family evening at Lake Anne / Calypso's on M 4/22.

    • Maia and I had quality time while Rebecca attended a weekend-long yoga clinic with Rolf Gates F 4/26 - S 4/28. We had dinner out at Miller's followed by a trip to the pet store on Friday. On Saturday, we visited the grandparents then had dinner at The V.

    • Went to visit the Whitmers in Taylorstown for a belated Easter on S 4/28, then had Car over for a salmon dinner.

  • Projects
    • Got the roof replaced on S 4/6.

    • Rebecca got super into puzzles after our March cabin trip, and we have done 5 puzzles since then. On S 4/20, we finished a 750 piece puzzle in one sitting.

    • Rearranged the home office for reduced glare on M 4/29.

  • Consumerism
    • Enjoyed watching Santa Clarita Diet (all 3 seasons) this month. No amazing new movies or music this month.

    • Playing Grim Dawn as a level 40ish Purifier at the moment (after several theorycrafting false starts).

    • Upgraded my phone to a Samsung S8. Got Rebecca a new laptop to replace her crappy 2014 HP on H 4/25 -- the 2nd generation Dell XPS 13.

April's Final Grade: A, Great weather, lots of time to spend on non-work things, and Maia is super cute.

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