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.

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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+

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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.

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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.

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