09/2019

Monday, September 02, 2019

Review Day: First Impressions

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Mosquito Joe's:
After years of ravenous tiger mosquitoes and occasional attempts to self-spray the backyard that resulted in my fingertips smelling like chemicals for lingering days, we decided to try out a commercial spraying service. We paid for 3 applications (every 3 weeks) but were not suitably impressed. Any hard data in reduction in bites was confused by rain storms (one started 15 minutes after they sprayed) and the fact that it was too hot to be outside much this summer anyhow. The first two applications were very thorough, but on the 3rd visit, only one of the pair of sprayers showed up, and I'm pretty sure he skipped an entire side of the house.

At the end of the day, Maia still got multiple bites every time we briefly went out to water the plants, so the benefit was not worth the price.

First Impression: We cancelled after 3 visits, even though additional spraying sessions might have continued to improve the situation.

Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance:
This 10-episode prequel to the 80s movie, The Dark Crystal is visually and aurally impressive, yet I only made it about 40 minutes into the first episode. While I really want to like it, it feels expositionally clumsy (and I'm also not 8 years old anymore).

First Impression: Stalled, but I will definitely watch more to see if it improves.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses:
I've enjoyed this turn-based combat video game series since I discovered the GameCube edition. It's always a mixed bag in execution, but the core combat game is addictive and challenging. I bought the latest iteration for the Switch as soon as it stopped being out of stock everywhere (no, Dulles Gamestop, I will not place an order with you and "have it delivered sometime in the next month").

I'm about 3 hours into it right now and I'm pretty sure I've only fought about 2 battles. The rest of the time has been spent running around a castle full of one dimensional NPCs and essentially playing Harry Potter Relationship Simulator. "Oh you like eating fish too? Let's be friends!"

First Impression: A turn-based combat game without much turn-based combat -- I may not have the patience to see if it improves.

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Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Maia Battle Report: Year 2 Month 2

Maia is still alive, hovering near 23 pounds and 33". We've started a height wall in our hallway where we can mark her height at different intervals, protected by a thin layer of clear gloss for the day when she inevitably starts drawing all over it like I did in my childhood.

She speaks in surprisingly complete sentences, except when she gets too exciting about desiring something and babbles "IwantIwantIwantIwant!" without ever telling us what she wants. I have been keeping track of her sentence lengths, and 5-6 words is about average. She's never said a 7 word sentence, but her first 8 word sentence was the appropriate and truthful, "I got a big poop in my pants!". It was the size of a small peach.

On August 25, she pulled the magnetic M off of our fridge and said, "M for Maia!". She has also shown hints of "singing", namely the first words to Happy Birthday and the Welcome Song. In the car, she knows that red means stop, green means go, you go on a circle to get on the highway, and the highway is for driving fast.

Yesterday was her first day of "Just for 2s" class, a 1.5 hour session at the Sterling Community Center. She enjoyed the class without qualms, only crying briefly when she had to come inside from the playground. She was very proud of her school attendance when we picked her up, proclaiming "I went to school!" and that her friend had "cried a little".

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Friday, September 06, 2019

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Season Four:
The final season is uniformly mediocre. It takes about 7 episodes (of 17) before they finally recapture the spirit of the show, then immediately kill any good will by recasting a major role with a completely new actor. The original actor left in Season Two, and the story would have been just as strong without the callback. The show muddles towards something of a non-ending in the finale, although the live concert of several songs tacked on the end was pretty fun. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: C-

Carnival by Bryce Vine:
This is a modestly catchy album that's a little more mellow and a little less fun than his debut, and as equally mellow as his second album.

Final Grade: B-

The Good Place, Season Three:
This season was the weakest of the three so far. It felt a little like the plot was treading water a bit (the complete opposite of Season Two). That said, the jokes are still funny and it's over very quickly.

Final Grade: B-

The 100, Season Six:
The sixth season of this sci-fi show tries to be a clean slate, but the new stories often feel like obvious permutations of stories told previously. The clean slate idea is also held back a bit by all of the backstabbing and ill will amongst the main characters -- there are far too many scenes of characters apologizing for previous seasons' actions or accusing someone of betrayal. The weakest aspect of this season is how much of it takes place in what is essentially an extended dream sequence -- every show that tries to be deep with a dream sequence is wasting my time. Also, the finale was dull and mostly there to set up the next season. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: C

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Monday, September 09, 2019

Bad Book Day

We regularly get hand-me-downs through the ad hoc donation pipelines that magically spring up when you have a child. While this works wonderfully for clothes (I'm pretty sure we've never bought Maia a new outfit ever), it's less effective for books. The books that get donated by our friends tend to be the worst of the worst, like Rebecca's favourite about a pig that practices surfing on a surfboard on the beach and then magically surfs in the ocean and goes home satisfied.

One of the worst offenders in my opinion is the "first reader" series for Pete the Cat. There are more of these books than there are Family Circus paperbacks and they possess comparable literary qualities. Take, for example, Pete the Cat and the Surprise Teacher.

There are major spoilers ahead.

Pete's mom subs his class and spends the entire day taking them to the wrong classrooms. At the end of the day, they thank her with a giant sign covered in construction paper cat heads. So essentially, an awesome day in Pete's mind is the day he discovers that his mom is a literal moron.

Why would the school system hire someone who can't tell the difference between the playground and the cafeteria? Perhaps the titular "suprise" is that Pete's mom was able to get her teaching license in the first place without knowing how to read. Or maybe receiving the thank you sign is supposed to be more of a Godfather callback and the students are subtly telling her to get a new vocation using decapitated cat heads in a threatening way.

The worst of the worst (so far) is Pete the Cat Play Ball!, a book that can't even get the grammar in its title correct.

This book consists of over 30 pages of Pete playing a baseball game and doing absolutely everything possible except successfully hitting the ball. His team wins in the end, thanks to teammates that aren't content with mediocrity. There are two takeaway life lessons in this book: (1) associate with more successful coworkers to share in their glory without lifting a finger and (2) baseball is boring.

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Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Memory Day: Snapshots

This picture was taken 20 years ago today, on September 11, 1999.

The Marching Virginians had been relegated to the end zone to make more room for paid seats as Michael Vick performed various somersaults to get the Hokies to the National Championships. This particular game was on Band Parents' Day, where part of the halftime show involves spelling out "MOM" or (if we wanted to mix it up a little) "WOW" on the field. My parents attended annually, resulting in endless packets of real photographs with negatives developed at their local Costco.

The team beat University of Alabama at Birmingham 31 - 10 after which I returned to my room in East Ambler Johnston to eat a Hokie Express chicken sandwich and play Starcraft.

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Friday, September 13, 2019

Chad Darnell's 12 of 12

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

6:32 AM: Showered and ready for work.
6:49 AM: Breakfast.
7:11 AM: At work in the main home office (versus the satellite home office in the basement).
8:43 AM: Good morning!
11:51 AM: Sub for lunch.
12:57 PM: Home from "school" and ready for lunch.
1:12 PM: Staging supplies for an away game Poker Weekend.
1:48 PM: Running on the treadmill and finally getting around to watching the third season of Stranger Things.
4:28 PM: Post-nap strawberries.
5:26 PM: Heat relief at the mall.
5:45 PM: She ate my entire biscuit.
6:29 PM: "Maia wash!"

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Monday, September 16, 2019

Just After Birth Day

Aren't you glad there's a space in the middle of today's post title?

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Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Poker Wrap-up

This past weekend, we rented a sprawling manor in Clifton to celebrate my 40th birthday.

We had a simple dinner of pizza followed by the BUrld Poker Championship, where 11 people competed for the chance to win while eating atomic wings and chocolate-covered bacon. With an odd number of players, I instituted a rule where I automatically made it into the Finals (happy birthday to me!)

As is tradition, chocolate pie came out when 3 people were left in Finals.

The next day, Rebecca and I spent a quiet day in Clifton, doing some hiking, reading, hot tubbing, and having dinner at the Main Street Pub.

On Monday, we picked up Maia at the grandparents' house and took her home. She was excited about being back home, and even more excited that there was a birthday in the offing. She put party hats on most of her larger stuffed animals and then blew out my candles.

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Friday, September 20, 2019

List Day: 10 Pieces of Sound Advice from a 40-Year-Old

  1. Work just enough for financial security and a little side pot. Do a little overtime early in your career to understand what it's like and "prove yourself", but don't fall into the trap of thinking that working more is ever necessary. With that in mind...

  2. Base your career around something that you enjoy enough, are reasonably good at, and pays a decent amount. The triangle is critical. By reducing the time and increasing the money involved in your job, you can do what you love on the side. Doing something you love for a living will make you hate it.

  3. If you enter a craft brewery that brews more than 2 sours or 3 IPAs, leave and find a better one.

  4. Do things (like cleaning the house) in small, regular increments. It is far easier to maintain a mostly clean house than it is to Marie Kondo the hell out of it in one giant explosion of productivity. This also applies to waistline maintenance.

  5. The most efficient time to go to Costco is 20 minutes before opening on a Tuesday.

  6. Eat everything anytime you want to. You'll be fine. Except...

  7. Always skip coleslaw. It's awful. If you go through many years of coleslaw hatred and consider trying coleslaw again in case your opinion has changed, you will be wrong.

  8. Have a mix of both interactive and passive hobbies and entertainment options (like video games and TV). This will allow you to tailor your free time to your energy level and make you feel less useless in your downtime.

  9. If you're watching a Netflix Original show and Episode 7 inexplicably goes off on a tangent into a random origin story of one of the characters, you can skip it without any impact on your enjoyment of the overall plot.

  10. Don't accept traffic. Travel in off hours and minimize your commute. You will never get back those hours spent in your car, and no podcast is that good.

tagged as lists | permalink | 3 comments

Monday, September 23, 2019

Invention Day: IoT Mouse Trap

The latest idea from the BU skunkworks is an Internet-of-Things-enabled mouse trap.

My mouse trap would allow you to avoid the unpleasant situation where the trap has sprung in a low-traffic area (like the basement crawlspace) during the hottest days of the month. As you search out the source of Death's miasma two weeks too late, you discover a bloated mouse corpse that has already begun to become one with the concrete floor. You jostle the trap while scooping everything up for sealed disposal and the corpse gently pops open to reveal literal scores of adult maggots, like the worst surprise birthday stripper in a cake ever.

Technology has progressed too far to accept that this situation still occurs.

The IoT Mouse Trap will send an SMS notification to your cell phone as soon as the trap has sprung. Complex machine learning algorithms will include a probability score in the text for MOUSE / NOT MOUSE to avoid false positives from chaotic sprickets and toddler fingers. The trap will also integrate with existing Amazon Ring cameras so the data can be abused by local police forces whenever someone breaks into the neighborhood Cheese Shop.

As a stretch goal, the IoT Mouse Trap will come equipped with tiny motors and be able to communicate with other IoT Mouse Traps to subtly move towards a potential mouse based on motion sensors. The result will be similar to the velociraptor pack hunting scenes from Jurassic Park.

Support my Kickstarter today!

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Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Memory Day: Snapshots

Continuing my Band Parents' Day theme, this picture was taken 21 years ago today, on September 25, 1998.

I was in Marcy's rank this year. To my right is my future roommate, Kelley "Casper" Corbett, who was assigned the nickname by section leaders who went a little overboard with the number of random nicknames sprinkled across the trumpet section that year. (Kelley's nickname was given because he was super-white like the eponymous ghost).

We're all in dance block formation in this picture although I can't remember if this was a dance to Crosstown Traffic or Zoot Suit Riot. (The latter dance was quickly rewritten in the last 24 hours before the halftime show -- no one could "rock step" because rock stepping is dumb).

After practice this day, I went to the "Pizza Inn" for dinner with my parents (a restaurant with cleanliness levels slightly below a Cici's after lunch rush). The following day, we spelled MOM and DAD on the field yet again and the football team beat the Pittsburgh Panthers 27-7.

tagged as memories | permalink | 1 comment

Friday, September 27, 2019

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Black Mirror, Season Five:
This short, three-episode season consists of great standalone episodes with strong stories, but they all lack the inherent dread that is a part of Black Mirror's DNA. Technology is more of an incidental feature of the setting rather than the looming pitfall. Once these episodes are over, there isn't much that will keep you thinking of them after the fact. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: B-

hip-hop is good by e-dubble:
I find myself constantly impressed with the hip-hop output of e-dubble. He managed to create a unique style and voice without every song sounding exactly the same. Alive 'Til I Die is a good example from this album.

Final Grade: B

Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, Season One:
I'm glad I powered through after my weak first impression -- this series is exactly what a Dark Crystal prequel should be in this modern age. The story arc is solid, the CGI is used very sparingly, and the lore ties into the original movie. The first episode is definitely the weakest and you also have to get over the fact that you're watching puppets (a weird criticism for a puppet show, obviously). Once my brain got into the right mindset, I enjoyed a story with a perfect mix of nostalgia, creativity, and humor. Rebecca enjoyed it too! Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: B+

The Crystal Calls: The Making of the Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance:
This is a pretty interesting documentary, although the first half is more fluffy human interest than technical reveal. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: B

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Monday, September 30, 2019

End-of-the-Month Highlights Day

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

  • Events
    • Had the Jacksons and son over for London Broil on S 9/1.

    • Rebecca and Maia went out to Front Royal for cousin Sammy's birthday party while I stayed home to work on M 9/2.

    • Maia started "Just for 2s" class at the community center on T 9/3. BU-Maia dinner at Miller's in the evening.

    • Visit to the Uri grandparents on H 9/5.

    • Dinner at Mike and Ghazaley's on F 9/6.

    • Morning at Claude Moore Park with Chih, Sena, and Nolan on S 9/7. Dinner at Calypso on Lake Anne in the evening.

    • Dad-daughter dinner at Fireworks Pizza on T 9/10.

    • Family dinner at Fireworks Pizza (again) on F 9/13.

    • 40th Birthday Poker Night in a rental house in Clifton on S 9/14.

    • Relaxing Maia-free day in Clifton on S 9/15, with dinner at Main Street Pub.

    • Dad-daughter dinner at The V on H 9/19.

    • Family dinner at Cafesano on F 9/20.

    • Maia and I go for a nature walk at Sugarland Run while Rebecca works on S 9/21. Family sushi for dinner.

    • Rebecca and Maia went to the Mosaic Farmer's Market with Andrea and Amelia on S 9/22. Flank steak for dinner with Tammy in the evening.

    • Family dinner at Bungalow Lakehouse after yoga on M 9/23.

    • Visit from the Uri grandparents on W 9/25.

    • Rebecca and Maia went on a church retreat with the grandparents while BU had a staycation, H 9/26 - M 9/30.

  • Projects
    • Released Issue 01 of "The Uri Tech Primer" at work on F 9/13.

  • Consumerism
    • Moved on from playing Grim Dawn and now trying out the Director's Cut edition of Bard's Tale IV.

    • Enjoyed watching the third season of Stranger Things.

    • No new music of note this month.

September's Final Grade: A, turning 40 is great!

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