07/2019

Monday, July 01, 2019

List Day: 5 Things I Want to Do (But Will Probably Never Get Around to Doing)

  1. Record an original composition: It would be neat to someday get a professional recording of one of my undergraduate or graduate compositions (especially my Master's Thesis). At the end of the day, though, I can hear them all perfectly well in my head, and there are much less self-indulgent things to spend thousands of dollars on.

  2. Write a new composition: I haven't written any new music in over 7 years. I'd kind of like to see what interesting ideas have accumulated like untreated bedbugs, but this would also mean remembering the ranges of unnecessary woodwind instruments and pulling the electronic keyboard out of the closet.

  3. Make a board game: Someday I'd like to create a game that's easy to learn (one page of rules, front and back), requires minimal setup /cleanup (does not have 8 million tokens to distribute), and has surprising strategic depth. On the other hand, I'd much rather play a fun game than use that same time to invent one.

  4. Digitize my music collection: I would really like to end the fragmentation of my music collection (which has only gotten worse in the past four years). Besides the manual effort required to rip over 500 CDs, I'm also deterred by knowing that I need an easy mechanism to play any song, promote the songs I enjoy more, and suppress the awful ones throughout my house and car (If I ever create open-source software to do this, I'll call it "Personal Echo Chamber").

  5. Unnecessarily upgrade the URI! Zone: It's been over a decade since I wrote a custom content management system in Java to run this site. Other than a little mobile-friendliness, the innards of the website have remained unchanged for eons. I would like to move this site into the next generation of rendering technologies at some point, but am held back by a general feeling of dislike for the modern Javascript ecosystem.

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Wednesday, July 03, 2019

Memory Day: Snapshots

This picture was taken 8 years ago today, on July 3, 2011.

We were at the wedding of Amanda and Frank in Charlotte, North Carolina and in awe of the rare combination of high 90 degree temperatures and coalescing humidity that has now become our daily reality in 2019.

I don't remember a lot about this wedding, other than I really liked the beef, there was sweat everywhere, and Rebecca was disappointed to find that Amanda had put Macarena on the Do Not Play list.

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Friday, July 05, 2019

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

12 Monkeys, Season Three:
This season kicks off with an incredibly ambitious first episode that clearly embraces the difficulty of gaining new viewers and doesn't look back. Every episode feels like a season finale, to the point where I finished this whole (10 episode) run in just a few days. This show also features a crazy character (the Brad Pitt role from the movie) that perfectly walks the fine line between really funny and annoying.

Final Grade: A

Flowers in the Pavement by Bliss n ESO:
This is the first album of my favourite Australian hip-hop band, released in 2004. It has a few "first-time rapper" flaws, like songs that greatly outstay their welcome with innumerable choruses and a preoccupation with describing all of the sex they're having, but it's buoyed by strong production values and interesting beats -- this is probably the only rap album that remixes Peer Gynt and the Nutcracker Suite behind their vocals.

Final Grade: B

Sneaky Pete, Season Three:
This season is better than the second but worse than the first. It throws a lot of balls into the air in the earlier episodes and drops most of them by the end. It's also hampered by a production move to California, which requires the primary cast members to have story reasons to make the cross-country trip. Pleasant enough, but by the end, I was only watching it to see how things turned out. The show was canceled after this season, and the finale wraps up sufficiently to not leave much hanging. Free on Amazon Prime.

Final Grade: C+

Superstore, Season One:
This lightweight comedy starring America Ferrera and the love child of BJ Novak and Robert Downey Jr. is harmless, mostly funny, and requires no long-term investment. In tone and execution, it reminded us of Outsourced.

Final Grade: B

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Monday, July 08, 2019

Maia Year 2 Battle Report

We've made it two whole years!

Maia is now 32" tall and 22.4 pounds (she was carrying her favourite bunny when she stepped on the scale, but also had a helium balloon, so it probably balances out). This past month, she has balanced on the razor edge of constant whining, just as likely to teeter left into giggles or right into tantrums. Everything important (like brushing teeth) still gets done, but takes 30% longer with the added rounds of "no no no!" and the fleeing and the stalling.

Her favourite things this month have included little backpacks, dresses, sandals, splashpads, and riding in the grocery store cart. She enjoys helping Rebecca water plants outdoors and ate her first homegrown cherry tomato just the other day. She identifies as a Berenstain Bear (Sister Bear) and recognizes that I am Papa Bear and Rebecca is Mama Bear. (Brother Bear varies between her bunny and Amber the cat).

Maia had her first big sickness this past week. She woke up early with a fever that came and went over the course of a few days. On the first day, she lay down on the floor and stayed still -- something that normally only happens when she's unconscious. We brushed off the old Ergo in the closet and hefted that 22 pound child around the house while she recovered, and she was happy to be transported like royalty. Since then, her sleep schedule has become ridiculous, with 14 hours of night sleep and 2 - 4 hour naps each day. We're not sure if this is the new normal or just after effects of the sickness.

For Maia's actual birthday, we had a party with the grandparents and a few others (4/5ths of the Gillis family was in town from Oklahoma, and our neighbours came as well). Maia was very excited in the days leading up to it, and forced us to read The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Birthday ad nauseum. We even practiced blowing out candles in advance, so she was well prepared for the actual event.

Happy Birthday to Maia!

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Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

12 Monkeys, Season Four:
This show continues to have a great balance of humour and drama in its final season and it brings back several favourite side characters in ways that feel earned and fun. The uber-villain of the show (who was finally revealed at the end of the previous season) is irritating in a one-note kind of way, but otherwise this is an amazing wrap-up to the story. The last 3 episodes frame a perfect ending that I didn't see coming, although they are as self-indulgently long as the end of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. After it was all over, I was able to see clear tie-backs to events in Season One -- the vast majority of potential plot holes are cleanly wrapped up. This is easily the best sci-fi show I've watched in quite some time!

Final Grade: A

Professional Rapper by Lil Dicky:
This album has a lot of great "funny-type" rap songs that are a lot of fun on initial playthroughs then get progressively less interesting each subsequent time. The title song is the best of the bunch.

Final Grade: B-

Bo Burnham: Make Happy:
I turned this comedy special off once before because it's more one-man show than pure stand-up (and that wasn't what I wanted at the time). Giving it another chance, I enjoyed the off-kilter mix of weird, uncomfortable humour and self-deprecation. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: B

Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble by Dan Lyons:
This tale of a tech journalist who joins a software startup in his fifties is equal parts fish-out-of-water tale and an exploration of insane startup culture. It chugs along at an entertaining pace and branches out into deeper issues of ageism and Silicon Valley economy once the basic narrative starts getting stale. I enjoyed it well enough, but found that the most intriguing part was the Epilogue where he briefly described failed attempts to prevent the book from getting published -- I wish there had been more to this end of the tale.

Final Grade: B

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Friday, July 12, 2019

Chad Darnell's 12 of 12

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

6:04 AM: Showered and ready for work.
7:26 AM: Developing some training materials for work.
8:11 AM: Breakfast.
9:33 AM: Breakfast for the gals.
11:32 AM: Running on the treadmill and finishing the first season of Dark.
12:16 PM: Annie's Shells and Cheese for lunch.
1:22 PM: Post-forest bath to remove all the sunscreen.
2:14 PM: Kicking naptime off with some Grim Dawn.
4:27 PM: Too busy practicing evacuation routines to nap today.
5:00 PM: Evening snacks.
6:16 PM: Dinner from Joe's Pizzaria.
6:59 PM: Assisting with mojito mixology.

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Monday, July 15, 2019

Weekend Wrap-up

On Friday evening, the continuing hotness (regularly 100 degrees on our sunny porch in the evening) convinced us to stay in and have Joe's Pizzaria for dinner. Maia did not nap this day, which is why she has a 1000-yard stare in the picture below.

On Saturday morning, Rebecca and Maia drove to Arlington to visit with Ben, Andrea, and their daughter Amelia while I stayed home and did things like put air in Rebecca's car's tires. In the evening, we went to Cascades Overlook for dinner. We returned to the new ramen place (Marumen), this time making sure to avoid the giant rice bowls that are about 80% rice. The pork buns and sushi rolls were good, but the fried tofu had too much volume to be tasty on the insides. After dinner, we participated in Maia's favourite activity, "eating Mommy's ice cream" at Abbott's.

On Sunday, we went to the baptism of Janie Gillis in Arlington, followed by a brunch at the Fort Belvoir Officers' Club. The event was only marred by a 36 minute wait at the visitors' gate (sadly, my DoD ID expired in 2016 and I've never had a reason to get a new one). After we finally got inside, we enjoyed a delicious meal of breakfast and lunch foods portmanteaued onto single plates.

In the evening, Car and Ben came over for a Friend Dinner of Appalachian yak steaks (which taste pretty close to beef) and gnocchi.

How was your weekend?

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Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Memory Day: Snapshots

These pictures were taken 7 years ago today, on July 17, 2012, in Montreal.

After a dinner of a burger (for me) and a salad (for Rebecca) at J'm la frite (which roughly translates as "I love fried stuff"), we walked into the downtown area to see what crazy festival was going on this night. The area reminded us greatly of Adams Morgan, and there was nothing excessively crazy happening, other than a giant labyrinth made out of fake hedges set up in the middle of the street. Inside, actors dressed like extras from The Burbs engaged in creepy performance art (speaking French) and got in our personal space as we navigated.

One older lady, dressed as either a hobo or an oracle frantically pulled Rebecca into a dead end, but instead of losing her kidney she gained a tiny plastic flower wrapped in aluminum foil.

At the exit, we were thanked for our visit and each given a travel-sized bottle of Pert Plus.

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Friday, July 19, 2019

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

3%, Season Three:
The third season of this Brazilian dystopian show is held back a little by a low budget and distractingly poor background actors, but there's a fun progression to the story in these 8 episodes if you can just go along with the broad strokes. The departure of a particular actor is disappointing at first, but doesn't harm the story as much as I initially thought it would. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: B+

Song of the Beast by Carol Berg:
This standalone fantasy novel about a musician who was imprisoned and tortured for years without explanation and suddenly released is a satisfying one-and-done. It employs a few shifts in first-person perspective without oversharing, effectively building up to final reveals, and also uses dragons in a reasonably non-tropey kind of way.

Final Grade: B

My Grandmas Basement by Jarren Benton:
This hip-hop album is a mixed bag, bouncing between overly earnest tracks backed by poor MIDI trumpets and vulgar shock tracks that are so over-the-top as to be funny. Don't Act is a fairly representative track.

Final Grade: B-

Dark, Season One:
This is a heavy, byzantine puzzle-box of a thriller to get lost in, and get lost you will -- the show (in German with English subtitles) opens without hand-holding by introducing several generations of multiple families (played by amazingly accurate doppelganger actors in the different eras). It gives off a Twin Peaks meets Fortitude kind of vibe with a little Stranger Things mixed in.

The story starts as a mystery about missing children and evolves into something else that's clearly broadcast in the first episode -- this show isn't trying to trick the audience, it just wants to see if you can keep up with the tightly-plotted web. There are lots of dialogue-less, brooding scenes which I would normally hate, but which gave my brain time to remember who I was looking at and how they were related at any given time. Other than the repetitive boilerplate "creepy" music and an ending that's more pause point than wrap-up, my investment in watching this show totally paid off. Free on Netflix (and the second season just came out).

Final Grade: A-

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Monday, July 22, 2019

Weekend Wrap-up

Since the best thing to do in a heat wave is drive farther south, we picked this weekend to head to urban heat bubble known as Richmond. Mike and Annie flew in from Vegas early on Friday and we all piled into the trusty Accord to brave the I-95 S vacation traffic. We arrived at the Sam and Kristen's house a little after noon, following a brief visit to the Virginia Welcome Center / Rest Stop so Maia could get out of the car seat a bit (70ish minutes seems to be her threshold before requiring outside entertainment).

On Friday evening, we grilled some burgers and stayed close to home. Maia got the experience of being the middle child between Owen (3) and Brooklyn (almost 1), and enjoyed jumping on the air mattress the most. She also picked at the faux button depression on the air mattress and said "Corduroy found button in mattress".

Since Saturday was the hottest day of the heat wave, we tried to spend as much time outside as possible. Maia ran her first sprinkler and ate two popsicles, while we tried to fit 5 adults into 4 adults worth of shade. In the evening, we secured a babysitter willing to watch all three kids and went to the Scott's Addition part of Richmond. This area was a textbook example of a gentrifying onion -- grimy on the outside but full of white hipsters in Ubers in the middle. We walked from The Hof to Verdant for beers and then had an excellent, affordably priced dinner at Tazza Kitchen (I got the rare flat iron steak which everyone else believed to be too rare for human consumption). We closed out the night at The Circuit, a self-serve bar / 80s arcade, where Annie beat everyone at Skeeball with a 330.

On Sunday, we beat the return traffic and made it back up to Alexandria around noon. We dropped Mike and Annie off at Annie's mom's apartment, which ended up being Maia's favourite part of the trip since it is filled with Christmas trinkets all year round. We then returned to Sterling and stayed in for the rest of the day to recover, while listening to the loud yet underperforming thunderstorms pass through the area.

How was your weekend?

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Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Time-lapsed Blogography Day

BU at multiple data points

  • 27 years ago today, on July 24, 1992, I was packing for a week-long trip to Hershey Park with my friend, James Houck. We stayed in a pop-up camper during the week, and the main thing I brought was my Super Nintendo so we could play A Link to The Past when not at the park.

  • 25 years ago today, on July 24, 1994, I purchased the CD-ROM edition of Betrayal at Krondor, a computer game based on Raymond Feist's Magician series.
  • 24 years ago today, on July 24, 1995, I was at Governor's School. We had a master class with some notable but long forgotten jazz musician who worked through Satin Doll with us but never got further than 4 bars before stopping to critique our poor progress. This poor progress was due to the fact that we had just received the piece and were sightreading, while he presumed that we had been working on it all month long.

  • 23 years ago today, on July 24, 1996, I was doing my first internship at PEPCO and chatting online in the Inn of the Weary Traveler RPG chatroom with a Canadian acquaintance, Judy, who I was unable to relocate in my recent round of outreach.

  • 18 years ago today, on July 24, 2001, I went over to Anna's house to hang out with her family, as well as Ben's family. After going to the pool, we played board games all afternoon long then had McDonald's for dinner.

  • 15 years ago today, on July 24, 2004, I worked on converting a central bookshelf in my basement into a bar.

  • 8 years ago today, on July 24, 2011, we had just arrived in the Outer Banks with Brian & Page, Alice, and Annie. Amanda & Frank and Emily & Brian arrived later.
  • 4 years ago today, on July 24, 2015, we were touring Biergartens in Munich.
  • 3 years ago today, on July 24, 2016, we had dinner at The V and started the second season of Fargo.

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Friday, July 26, 2019

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Humans, Season Three:
The third season of this show about human-like robots juggles several interesting ideas but suffers from a few poor side plots (especially one that seems like a mystical wild goose chase). The build up to the climax was great, although the final cliffhanger to set up the 4th season was pretty weak. I'm glad the show was cancelled after this season. Free on Amazon Prime.

Final Grade: B-

Ralph Breaks the Internet:
I liked this sequel to Wreck-it Ralph more than I thought I would. The representation of the Internet in cartoon form is fun, and the film is worth the price of admission just for the various scenes involving all of the Disney princesses. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: B+

Wednesday by Chris Webby:
This hip-hop album is squarely in the "white hipster" genre, similar to Spose. I enjoyed the rhymes, but the album felt a little on the long side and the rapper's vocal timbre is tiresome to listen to in large doses. Rookie of the Year is a representative track.

Final Grade: B-

Canon PowerShot SX620 HS:
I got this camera for the rare occasions when I want to take a slightly better-than-average photo while understanding that I'll never want to carry around a DSLR. I'm not impressed by the image quality so far -- for my current life where I'm not printing many shots, phone cameras have sufficiently improved to meet my needs.

Final Grade: C+

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Monday, July 29, 2019

Weekend Wrap-up

We spent the weekend in Pennsylvania in the tiny town of Mill Run.

We drove 180 miles north with Maia on Friday in a reasonably non-annoying trip through Maryland, only stopping twice (once at a rest stop with a playground that Maia completely dissed and once at a Subway in Cumberland). We arrived at a fun farmhouse in the middle of a working farm with cows and friendly dogs. Our friends, Sayak and Elisa, drove in from Columbus, OH shortly after. That evening, we had pasta and salad on the wrap-around porch while watching the lingering fog from an afternoon thunderstorm.

On Saturday, we walked all over Ohiopyle State Park. Maia liked the waterfall and riding in Rebecca's toddler backpack (which she finally fits in). We had lunch at Brenda's Family Restaurant next to our rental house which was forgettable. In the afternoon (following a grocery run to the cleanest Walmart Supercenter in the world) we grilled shrimp and sausage and then took a walk around the farm to look at cows. After Maia went to bed, everyone else played Wingspan, a game that made me think of Cones of Dunshire featuring some delicious-looking miniatures.

Rebecca and Sayak woke up early for a 4 mile hike at Bear's Run Nature Preserve on Sunday. We spent the morning on the wrap-around porch leisurely reading and enjoying the mountain breezes. Even Maia was pretty chill about being in one place for once, playing with a school bus toy and pretending to be a tea kettle. In the afternoon, I went on Maia nap duty while the others took a tour of the Frank Lloyd Wright house, Fallingwater. We had grilled salmon and s'mores for dinner, accompanied by one of the giant German shepherds, Zeus, and ended the night with a game of poker (Sayak won).

On Monday morning, we went our separate ways and ended up back in hot Virginia around 2 PM, just in time for Maia's nap.

How was your weekend?

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Wednesday, July 31, 2019

End-of-the-Month Highlights Day

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

  • Events
    • Maia got another fever overnight going into July on M 7/1.

    • Father-daughter dinner date at Miller's on T 7/2 (kids eat free).

    • Independence Day in Taylorstown amidst the thunderstorms on H 7/4, followed by fireworks-watching from our front porch.

    • Maia's second birthday party on S 7/6, followed by a mini birthday with Mike and Ghazaleh in the evening. The kiddie pool popped during a freak thunderstorm.

    • Had Hannah over for dinner on S 7/8.

    • Family dinner at Fireworks Pizza on M 7/8.

    • Father-daughter dinner date at Miller's on T 7/9.

    • Visit to the Uri grandparents on W 7/10.

    • Maia and Rebecca visited Andrea and Amelia, followed by a family dinner date at Marumen on S 7/13.

    • Went to Janie Gillis' baptism and a brunch at the Fort Belvoir's Officer's Club on S 7/14. Had Car and Ben over for a dinner of Appalachian Yak Steaks that night.

    • Spent the weekend with Mike, Annie, and the Edwardses F 7/19 - S 7/21.

    • Family dinner out at Chuy's on H 7/25.

    • Spent the weekend in Mill Run, PA with Elisa and Sayak, F 7/26 - M 7/29.

    • Father-daughter dinner date at Miller's on W 7/31.

    • My mom had some health issues in the last week of the month that led to a hospital stay, but is doing better now!

  • Projects
    • After years of enduring the growing swarms, we finally tried out a mosquito spraying service on T 7/2 and W 7/24 with short-lived results.

  • Consumerism
    • Was completely blown away by how good Dark was on Netflix.

    • Still playing Grim Dawn in my free time, but considering purchasing Fire Emblem: Three Houses next.

    • No new movies or music of note this month.

July's Final Grade: B, Lots of fun non-work activities, but a little draining to be on the go all of the time.

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