01/2020

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

The Tens: Decade Highlights

  • 2010: Conceived and released my first open-source library, DDMSence. Saw Muse in concert. Rebecca bought her current car. Visited Puerto Rico, Spokane, San Francisco, Emerald Isle, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. Rebecca stopped selling custom T-Shirts. I played Minecraft.

  • 2011: We visited Arkansas and the Outer Banks. Rebecca went to Peru and started Physical Therapy school. We overhauled our entire kitchen. I played Skyrim.

  • 2012: I worked on government data standards and bought a treadmill. I bought my current car. We visited Quebec and Montreal. I played Diablo 3.

  • 2013: Rebecca graduated from PT school and went trapezing. We didn't go anywhere huge, but continued our spree of Bed & Breakfasts across Virginia and Maryland.

  • 2014: Rebecca got her first iPhone. We visited Greenbrier Resort, French Creek State Park, the Outer Banks, and Seattle. We played Dungeons and Dragons for the first time.

  • 2015: We had dual flus. I got into THE CLOUD. I built a shed with my dad. We went to Munich, Grindelwald, Montreux, and Geneva, after Rebecca hiked around Mt. Chamonix with her sculpted arm muscles.

  • 2016: Got my first smartphone. Conceived and released my second open-source project, Sparkour. We visited Pittsburgh and Colorado. I played lots of Overwatch. I left my company for the commercial world.

  • 2017: I overworked for a startup. I bought an Oculus Rift. Maia was born! I became a stay-at-home dad, then a work-whenever-I-want-dad at my old company.

  • 2018: We visited LA and Rhode Island, as well as random rental houses around Virginia mountains. I got hooked on Advent of Code. Maia survived!

  • 2019: Continued visiting random rentals for brief weekends. We got a new roof. I turned 40. We returned to Montreal for our 10th wedding anniversary. I did Advent of Code again. Maia survived!

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Friday, January 03, 2020

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Easter is Cancelled by The Darkness:
This is another solid release from The Darkness, which has sailed past its early novelty hype and drug issues to be a consistent hard rock band. There's a good mix of styles here, all unified by the voice of the lead singer.

Final Grade: B+

Star Wars Episode 8: The Last Jedi:
I enjoyed Episode 7 on a popcorn level and finally got around to watching this one. It felt interminable while I watched it, with no real plot line and nothing to recommend it. An entire subplot of this movie involved in a failed mission that has no bearing on the overall plot. There's too much blatantly obvious CGI (which shouldn't even be happening in 2019). It's clear that the writers had no faith in their story because they interject a sly self-aware wisecrack every 5 seconds that's funny at the expense of cheapening the overall narrative. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: D+

Chicken Sandwich:
I finally got a chance to try this mystical sandwich, at a mall Popeyes with very little through traffic. It's just a sandwich, not significantly better than Chick-fila. The chicken is breaded with the signature Popeyes crispiness, but the unique taste is overwhelmed by mayonnaise. Having two pickles on the sandwich is kind of nice.

Final Grade: C

Billy on the Street:
This bizarre comedy show involves Billy Eichner running through the streets of New York, challenging passerby to quiz games and random challenges. You will like the first episode as much as you like Billy Eichner, and then each one you watch within the same 24 hours slightly less. It's great when you need a show that delivers laughs while requiring zero brain activity at the end of the night, but it quickly overstays its welcome and is definitely not binge material. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: B-

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Monday, January 06, 2020

Maia Battle Report: Year 2 Month 6

Maia has made it halfway to 5! She's 25.4 pounds, 33" tall, and speaks in full sentences most of the time. She has mostly reformed since the cataclysm of Daylight Savings Time, but still refuses to nap (opting for 2 hours of "quiet time" instead). Full-fledged tantrums are a rarity now, or maybe we're just much better at redirection.

Maia's favorite toys at the moment are a Vet Clinic she got for Christmas from the grandparents (superceding the Original Vet Clinic from her 2nd birthday), a necklace kit filled with rubber Disney princesses, and a never-ending array of new and hand-me-down 12-piece puzzles which she can do on her own as long as the pieces snap together cleanly. She will offer us things (like bits of food) if she feels like we're being left out. She has a broad selection of sentences to cycle through:

  • "I need something in my hand!" (when hungry)
  • "What shall we do, daddy?" (when bored)
  • "What are you doing, daddy?" (when there is a silence longer than 4 seconds)

She recently learned how to properly use "so much" (money) vs. "so many" (bunnies), and can count to 12 when not distracted. She burns through "Look and Find" books by memorizing where all of the "Where's Waldo" MacGuffins are and immediately pointing at them as soon as we turn the page. She also demonstrates her mature neurons with interesting observations:

  • "That's the boundless night." (looking up at the sky)
  • "That tree touches the sky!"
  • "This is a half moon."
  • "I will get mac and cheese and applesauce and a brown cup" (going to Miller's for the first time in over a month)
  • "Mommy, probably wants this." (pointing at the Miller's signature appetizer consisting of a foot-high stack of fried doughnut holes)

She has recently become aware of our Amazon Echo and spends much of her "nap" trying to get it to play the song we put her to bed with. On December 27, she finally succeeded. Since Alexa keeps a log of the voice commands it recognizes (along with the secret details of our boring life, no doubt), we were able to preserve it for posterity:

She hasn't been able to activate it since, although yesterday I heard, "Alexa, repeat. Repeat. REPEAT. RE-PETE THE CAT!!"

We still don't do much TV watching -- a few nights of Charlie Brown Christmas or Frosty the Snowman when the weather is dreadful and there's nothing else to do. She recently learned to bounce, kick, and sometimes catch balls, and is able to recognize some alphabet letters in isolation. Sometimes, I let her write a story about her friends in Microsoft Word, which consists of the first letters of her friends' names (A, N, and M for Maia) held down for 3-4 pages.

Her dislikes include eating healthy food, washing her hands, and getting in her car seat in less than 10 minutes.

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

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

List Day: 10 Things to Appreciate in the Next Decade

  1. Being able to describe the era briefly as "the twenties" in casual conversation and never having to say "the aughts" or "the teens" again.

  2. Our new screen porch. No bugs allowed!

  3. A new satellite work location just down the road in Herndon, eliminating the need to drive in Tysons.

  4. The full payoff of our mortgage (between 1.5 - 4.5 years away, depending on how much money we throw at it).

  5. Between 1 and 3 new Presidents.

  6. Upbeat party themes based on 100-year anniversaries, such as Prohibition, the Russian Famine, the Rise of Mussolini, and the Great Depression.

  7. Maia reaching the age where she can play real (board and video) games with us.

  8. The grand opening of the Silver Line, Phase II, followed by 1 - 2 productive years of operation before major concrete repairs are needed.

  9. Continued evolution of virtual reality technologies.

  10. Maia's 12th Birthday followed by my 50th.

tagged as lists | permalink | 1 comment

Friday, January 10, 2020

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Irishman:
Martin Scorcese's three and a half hour mob movie is a meandering mess that feels like a vanity project through and through. There are parts that show some of the greatness of Goodfellas, but at the end, it's impossible to understand why this story was worth telling. The movie only has energy in the sections with Al Pacino's character -- when he's not there, it drags as much as The Last Jedi. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: C

Killing Eve, Season Two:
The first season of this show was quirky and fun, but the second is just more of the same. The most interesting aspect (the relationship between the two leads) is not focused on enough, with the writers spending more time in a procedural / cop show vibe instead.

Final Grade: C

Jack Ryan, Season Two:
I thought that Season One of this John Krasinski vehicle was a poor man's Homeland. Season Two is at least 50% worse. There are some really great action scenes in the first episode, but the rest of the show is a dull plod in search of great action scenes. The villains are one-dimensional and any plot twists are obvious and telegraphed from the beginning. Any scene involving "Uber the riverboat pilot" had me tuning out immediately. The most interesting thing about this season is the number of Russian troll farm trolls spamming its review section with diatribes about the evils of socialism -- while socialism may be imperfect in the real world, it really has no correlation to anything that happens in this fictional season. Free on Amazon Prime.

Final Grade: C-

Red Dead Redemption 2 (PC):
In sequence, here are the strikes I recorded against this game, which some have called the greatest open world game ever created:

  1. Required a 120GB download.
  2. Required me to make an account in a proprietary game launcher (Rockstar Social Club). Game launchers are this generation's BonzaiBuddy.
  3. Had so few permutations of my typical usernames in their Social Club that I ended up with something like buriburiburiburi174892.
  4. Required me to captcha and refill out an entire form every time my username was rejected. A multi-step captcha too -- selecting all images of traffic lights from about 12 images.
  5. Requires about 5 minutes of loading screens on every run.
  6. Has a multi-hour tutorial in which you can't run, most of which is spent on a horse following someone slowly and listening to them talk.
  7. Has NO manual save during the tutorial, meaning that if you quit expecting an autosave, you start all the way back at the beginning.
  8. Has too many controls that they only remind you of once, so you end up punching your horse instead of mounting it.

I stopped playing after 90 minutes (plus 30 minutes of loading screens) and still hadn't finished the tutorial chapters yet. The game is quite pretty, but incredibly slow-paced. In my glory days, I might have liked it. However, I'll never get far enough to appreciate it in modern times when I can only play in 20 minute spurts and there are so many other things vying for my attention.

Final Grade: Not Rated

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Monday, January 13, 2020

Chad Darnell's 12 of 12

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

7:32 AM: Showered and ready for the day.
7:44 AM: Bagel for breakfast.
9:14 AM: Waiting for Maia to wake up.
9:32 AM: Good morning!
9:59 AM: Rebecca brings home bonus McDonald's after yoga.
11:48 AM: At Briarpatch Park after a cancelled pool party (Maia was devastated that the pool was closed for maintenance -- it was like the Wally World scene at the end of the movie, Vacation).
1:42 PM: Lunchtime smoothies.
2:28 PM: Running on the treadmill and watching the second season of Good Girls.
4:34 PM: Clearly, today's nap involved between 0 and 0.0001 seconds of sleeping.
5:07 PM: Maia wants a picture of her and mommy on the big, cozy bed.
6:11 PM: Solo dad dinner at Burton's.
7:33 PM: Brushing teeth for bedtime.

This is the first 12 of 12 where I've only used my phone to take pictures. Honestly, it's not noticeably worse than the stone-aged camera!

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Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Memory Day: Snapshots

This picture was taken ten years ago, on January 9, 2010.

We were dressed up for the CustomInk company party, held at the State Theater in Falls Church on the one night of the year when the Legwarmers weren't performing there. The party consisted of good food, free drinks, and a swirling maelstrom of 22-year-olds that were super-hyped to be selling T-shirts over the phone while being assessed on minute-to-minute productivity metrics.

Everyone was very friendly, and we left with many promises to keep hanging out with new friends, most of whom we never saw again. 8 months later, Rebecca left the T-shirt job to officially begin the transition towards Physical Therapy!

tagged as memories | permalink | 2 comments

Friday, January 17, 2020

Review Day: Local Grocery Stores

SafewayGiantWegmans
Organization BEST: A logical progression of goods with cold stuff at the end. WORST: The same items can be found in multiple locations, some of which you might never discover because the store is too big.
Navigation BEST: Wide aisles with room to maneuver around the distracted and the obese. WORST: Every aisle has room for 1.5 carts across, and there are 10 carts pushed by soccer moms at all times.
Experience WORST: Dirty aisles with Christina Perri's "Jar of Hearts" on repeat over the sound system and no one ever at the customer service desk. BEST: Friendly cashiers and a pleasant shopping experience.
Distance BEST: 1.1 miles away in the same neighbourhood. WORST: 3.4 miles into Ashburn and requires a death-defying merge at 28.
Selection WORST: Staples regularly out of stock. BEST: A wide variety of choices and good inventory control.
Produce WORST: Section often resembles the aftermath of a food fight. BEST: High ratio of good-looking fruits and vegetables.
Meat & Seafood WORST: I've had to throw out suspect meats several times. Fish is sometimes four days old. BEST: Huge variety of packaged and fresh choices.
Store-Baked Bagels BEST: They don't understand what a bagel is, so they bake them light and fluffy like a croissant. Delicious! WORST: You can't even get a sesame bagel here.
Hot Foods WORST: Never gotten a rotisserie chicken here that wasn't a wasted husk of dried splinters. BEST: Multi-ethnic hot bar, but there are so many great to-cook options that we never eat here.
Beer WORST: Every week, there's one fewer brewery represented. Plenty of Yuengling and 40s. BEST: Huge selection of Virginia and other craft breweries.
Cumulative Scores +3 -5 = -2 +3 -2 = 1 +4 -3 = 1

tagged as reviews | permalink | 3 comments

Monday, January 20, 2020

Weekend Wrap-up

Happy MLK Day!

We had a cold, quiet weekend, starting on Friday with a family dinner of homemade ramen with udon noodles and shaved ribeye.

Saturday kicked off with an impressive inch of snow that decreased in impressiveness throughout the day. We stayed inside doing warm things, like mother-daughter yoga and finishing a 500-piece puzzle involving cats in less than 90 minutes.

In the afternoon, we braved the freezing rain to get some interesting beers from Total Wine (mostly trippels with a few IPAs and scotch ales mixed in) and had a family dinner at Miller's. The manager there now knows Maia and I, and always stops by the table to reminisce about the times his daughter was Maia's age and not a difficult-to-handle 14-year-old.

We closed out the evening with a poker game. From 1st to last: Evil Mike (who is welcome to renegotiate his name anytime), Mike, Kathy, Ghazaley, Rebecca, and BU. I like to think that I went out first to keep the game moving for people with deadlines.

On Sunday morning, Rebecca went to yoga while Maia enjoyed her new gift of a round kids' table from Kathy. She set up all of her bunnies around it and then pretended to call up her best friend, Nolan, so he could come over and sit there with here.

We spent the rest of the day inside to avoid the cold. I reread Illusion of Thieves in anticipation of the 2nd book's release in couple weeks. In the afternoon, Rebecca and Maia went off to Ghazaley's house while I stayed home and played Fallout 4 and ate some wings from Joe's Pizzaria. The weekend ended with the great movie, Parasite.

How was your weekend?

tagged as day-to-day | permalink | 2 comments

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

List Day: My 6 Worst Bulk Purchases

  1. 12 Fresh Bagels: A dozen soft, fresh bagels may seem like a wonderful deal, but you're guaranteed to lose half to mold before you have a chance to eat them at a regular pace.

  2. 6-Pack of Aluminum Foil: I use tin foil for everything, from lining pans to reheating leftovers in the toaster oven, so this seemed like a worthwhile purchase. Six years later, I still had four rolls left.

  3. 300 Butterfly Clips: Unless you're a professor making hard-copy packets for a bunch of college students, these will sit in your drawer for years until you throw them out yourself.

  4. 200 Styrofoam Bowls: These are great for easy-cleanup of all those soups you make for your big dinner parties... which is essentially just Cheese Soup... which you make once a year at Thanksgiving... and which you haven't made since 2012.

  5. 1 Bottle of Excedrin Migraine: You may have the perception that you get a lot of migraines, but you're not likely to have 500 before the pills expire. If you do, you should probably see a doctor.

  6. 500 Blank CD-Rs: "I'm gonna burn so many music CDs! What's an iPod?"

tagged as lists | permalink | 3 comments

Friday, January 24, 2020

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

John Mulaney and the Sack Lunch Bunch:
This comedy special functions simultaneously as a parody of, and heartwarming homage to childrens' shows from the 1980s, like Electric Company, Today's Special, Pinwheel, and Sesame Street. It accurately captures the inherent weirdness of the format while being so earnest in its execution that you can't help but to enjoy the ride. The guest stars and musical numbers are equally effective, with the final surprise guest star (as "Mr. Music") clearly giving 110% and having the time of his life. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: A

Late Night Feelings by Mark Ronson:
I was hugely disappointed when Mark Ronson finally reached mainstream audiences with Uptown Funk, only to put it on an album full of aural boredom (Uptown Special). This new album is even worse -- a dozen identical low-energy songs with depressing lyrics that flow from one to the next with no sharp edges. We listened to it several times in the car and in the kitchen and our most common recurring thought was, "Oh, this CD's still playing?".

Final Grade: F

Ronny Chieng: Asian Comedian Destroys America!:
Ronny Chieng's newest comedy special feels like it covers a lot of familar ground but it's funny enough to have on in the background while working on a puzzle. I'll admit that I have minimal recollection of any particular joke two weeks after watching it. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: B-

Parasite:
This movie by the director of Okja, Bong Joon-Ho, features a sly family in poverty that cons its way into jobs working for an upper-class family. The first half is a pleasant, meandering thread that gradually builds up the tension and leads into an unpredictable denouement. The movie didn't quite stick the landing with its extended epilogue, but I still enjoyed it from start to finish.

Final Grade: B+

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Monday, January 27, 2020

Weekend Wrap-up

On Friday evening, I whipped up a batch of boil'n'bake ribs for dinner. paired with a nice Belgian tripel. After Maia's bedtime, we continued the dirge-like progress through the last season of Game of Thrones.

On Saturday morning, Car came over to do yoga with Rebecca in the basement while Maia acted as foreman, ordering me around in the construction of a house for her bunnies. Midday, we drove to the Uri grandparents' house where Maia was excited for an overnight stay. From there, Rebecca and I went to the MGM at National Harbor for the annual company holiday party. While the room was slightly more swank than usual (the shower was central to the layout with frosted glass walls on three sides), it was much less light-proof and noise-proof than a typical Hampton Inn. We waded through the odd ducks that hang out at casinos on Saturday afternoons and watched bad cable TV until it was time to party.

750 people showed up this year. Compared to last year, food was slightly more forgettable, music was a better volume, and every run across the ballroom was a typical gauntlet of people you want to talk to but doing so would increase the amount of time it takes you to get to your original destination. We started a table of people from the original company, FGM, and tried to figure out how many of us were left. After winning nothing in the raffle, we stuck around for tasty desserts at 11 then crashed in our room.

On Sunday, we returned to Alexandria to find that Maia had gotten a fever overnight and was oscillating between feeling miserable and her usual happy self. She was also taken with a new Frozen doll that played "Let It Go" over and over -- I wisely decided to enforce the movie's lore, which states that Princess Elsa lives at grandma's house and doesn't come home with us.

Maia took a long nap (#4 for 2020) in the afternoon and awoke with another fever. 3.75 mL of ibuprofen later, she felt better enough to make some valentines for her friends and watch two episodes of Superwings.

How was your weekend?

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

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Time-lapsed Blogography Day: Twenty Years Ago Today

Twenty years ago today, on January 29, 2000, I was in my fourth year at Virginia Tech. It snowed off and on all day long so I spent most of the day in my room in East Ambler Johnston. I did step out for lunch with Shac, Liz, and Liz's best friend, Kathryn, who was visiting and deciding whether to transfer in as a music education major.

The 29th was also the day I finally finished writing the endgame of Augmented Fourth. I posted endless troubleshooting requests to the rec.arts.int-fiction newsgroup in the days before Stack Overflow trying to solve my final coding issues:

From: buri@SPAM.vt.edu (Brian Uri!)
Subject: [Inform] Object Replacement
Date: 27 Jan 2000 00:00:00 GMT
Organization: Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia, USA
Newsgroups: rec.arts.int-fiction

Hi,
I'm implementing a bomb in a room. When the bomb explodes, all the furniture in the room is replaced by a single rubbish object. The general code I'm using is:
################################
Room Lab "Lab"
[...]
has ~blownUp;

RoomObj Furniture "furniture"
[...]
has scenery,
found_in Lab;

RoomObj Table "table"
[...]
has scenery,
found_in Lab;

RoomObj Rubbish "rubbish"
[...]
has scenery;

InvObj Bomb "bomb"
[...]
daemon [;
[...]
  if (self.timer == 0 && self in Lab && player notin Lab) {
    give Lab blownUp;
    remove Furniture;
    remove Table;
    while (child(Lab) ~= nothing)
      remove child(Lab);
    move Rubbish to Lab;
    "^In the distance you hear an explosion. ";
    StopDaemon(self);
  }
];
################################

When I run this code, the rubbish is moved correctly and the bomb blows up. The room description changes, but Furniture and Table are still in the room! Evidently "remove" does not work correctly in this situation.

What am I doing wrong? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

I ultimately got the help I needed to detonate the bomb successfully (and now I'm probably on some kind of TSA list for this post). The next day, I solicited beta testers for two months of strenuous testing before the game was finally released on April 1.

To bookend this achievement, I'll be releasing a 20th anniversary edition exactly twenty years later, on April 1, 2020. Stay tuned!

tagged as memories | permalink | 1 comment

Friday, January 31, 2020

End-of-the-Month Highlights Day

New photos have been added to the Life, 2020 album.

  • Events
    • Dad-daughter dinner at Miller's on H 1/2.

    • Dinner at the Shrimp Lover with the Winters from across the street on S 1/4.

    • Holiday gathering of the Links and Whitmers in Taylorstown on S 1/5.

    • Made ramen for dinner with Marc on M 1/6.

    • It snowed just enough to build a 3-foot snowman on T 1/7.

    • Family dinner at Beer Bourbon Burgers on W 1/8.

    • Rebecca and Maia taught Lil Yogis class on S 1/11, followed by a pizza party at our house with Sena, Chih, and Nolan, and Mike, Aya, Lincoln, and Leo.

    • Went to the playground with several Forest School friends after finding that the Claude Moore pool was closed for maintenance on S 1/12. Had a solo dad dinner at Burton's while Rebecca and Maia explored Reston Town Center.

    • Visit to the Uri grandparents with Maia on W 1/15.

    • Family dinner at Miller's on S 1/18 followed by Poker Night.

    • Dad-daughter dinner at Fireworks Pizza on H 1/23.

    • Company holiday party at the MGM Resort on S 1/25 while Maia had an overnight visit to the grandparents' house.

    • Went to a new dentist, right down the street, on M 1/27.

    • Dad-daughter dinner at Miller's on W 1/29.

    • Toured Maia's potential preschool on H 1/30.

    • Visiting the Ahlbins in Fredericksburg on F 1/31.

  • Projects
    • Booked a beach house for the Olympics in July.

    • Got HOA approval for our screen porch.

  • Consumerism
    • Dabbled in Fallout 4 until it became a pointless grind cycle again. Resubscribed for a month of World of Warcraft after reading a book on its development and feeling nostalgic.

    • Enjoyed watching Parasite and Good Girls, Season Two this month.

    • No new music this month.

January's Final Grade: B, Too cold without enough snow, but easy and pleasant.

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