03/2020

Monday, March 02, 2020

Weekend Wrap-up

Porch work continued on Friday, with all of the railings and screens fully installed. There's probably 1-2 more days of work left before we can have raucous porch parties. On Friday night, we had broiled salmon with a new marinade and watched the movie, Lady Bird, after Maia went to bed.

Saturday was too cold to count as the weekend, so hopefully we get a refund sometime soon. We had a delicious lunch with the Chous at Ariake in Reston. Maia liked tempura, but was more fixated on some new Splat the Cat books she'd never seen before.

In the evening, Rebecca and Maia made play-dough for the first time. Our dinner consisted of diverse leftovers from several recent outings.

I passed the Microsoft Azure Fundamentals exam on Sunday. After 7 AWS cloud certifications, it felt like I was giving Microsoft a participation trophy by deigning to consider their cloud offerings. In the evening, Tammy came over for a dinner of London Broil, carrots, and mashed potatoes, which unintentionally approximated a St. Patricks Day meal.

How was your weekend?

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Wednesday, March 04, 2020

Construction Day: Screen Porch, Part II of II

Continued from Part I

The porch is complete!

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Friday, March 06, 2020

Maia Battle Report: Year 2 Month 8

Maia is now 32 months old and 26.6 pounds of joie de vivre. She regularly talks about herself as if she is the Original Bunny that she carries everywhere, like "Bunny wants to go to the payground". If Maia doesn't want to eat vegetables, sometimes Bunny does, providing a useful loophole in the logic. Bunnies are her obsession, and I have drawn far more bunnies in the past three months than anyone should.

Maia understands cycles like days of the week and the sun and the moon. She likes to consider things in order and regularly asks what comes "after" whatever I just said. She is in the "what" phase of annoying questions which sometimes feels like she wants to ask "why" but doesn't know any of the other Five W Words. She can consistently get Alexa to play "The Goodnight Song", "Let It Go", "Under the Sea", and "Bunny Foo Foo" (except the one time Foo Fighters played instead).

A couple nights per week, we'll watch 15 - 30 minutes of TV together, usually Mr. Roger's (her current favourite), Sesame Street, or Superwings. When she plays with her stuffed animals, she has no problem pretending and has even taken to reciting dialog from the perspective of the animals. On Wednesday, I bemoaned the lack of horses in our pasture. She said, "Maybe Flower Bunny will dress up like a horse" and proceeded to call that animal "Flower Horse" for the rest of the day.

Maia's naps have been replaced with quiet time in her nursery. She seems to enjoy the downtime which also gives us a chance to recharge between our morning-to-evening childcare handoff. She sleeps 12 hours per night, although a few times recently, she's woken up around 2 AM and talked to herself for about an hour before going back to sleep.

All is well on the parent front. We're looking forward to warmer weather to increase the amount of outdoor time we can have (especially in our new screen porch)!

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Monday, March 09, 2020

Stuff in My Drawers Day: Bunnies

A small subset of the bunnies I have been conscripted to draw.

"Maia, what should I draw next? It doesn't have to be a bunny."

"No, it gonna be a bunny."

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Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Counterpart, Season One:
This spy thriller featuring J.K. Simmons as two different versions of himself has sci-fi elements, but leans more into character development than world-building. It has some interesting ideas and great performances, but feels very slow between the interesting parts. My brain was sometimes removed from the flow of the story by having to figure out which version of each character I was seeing in each scene -- the show could have taken some pointers from Awake to differentiate scenes better. Overall, I appreciated the character development of the principals, but worry that the story itself is not moving anywhere very quickly. Season Two will be a "watch if nothing better is on" show for me. Free on Amazon Prime.

Final Grade: B-

Superstore, Season Two:
Superstore continues to be a zero-investment comedy that's perfect to close out the evening. Characters are still pretty one-dimensional, but the show has the right balance between heart and absurdity.

Final Grade: B

Yesterday (PG-13):
The movie depicts an amateur musician who one day wakes up in a world where no one else remembers The Beatles. With a focus on the ensuing hilarity rather than how it all happened, it's able to tell a nice, intimate story with a satisfying conclusion.

Final Grade: B

Game of Thrones, Eighth Season:
The strongest part of this final season is the fact that all of the main characters are finally together and acting off of each other. The show no longer needs to spend five seconds on a single character before compulsively jumping to another continent. Otherwise, the season feels pretty weak overall -- plenty of plot holes, actions that are poorly telegraphed with the audience no longer privy to characters' thoughts, and incredibly dim lights. Everything feels rushed, as if the writers were just tired of the show and wanted to move on as quickly as possible.

Final Grade: C+

If you haven't watched Game of Thrones yet, here is a visual recap of the final season. See what you've missed so you can skip it and move on to something better:

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Friday, March 13, 2020

Chad Darnell's 12 of 12

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

4:43 AM: Showered and ready for work.
5:31 AM: Rare day in the office.
9:00 AM: Effective social distancing.
11:26 AM: Maia and Nolan come home from "Just for 2s" class.
11:44 AM: Premature Easter Egg Hunt.
12:10 PM: Orange Chicken from Costco for lunch.
1:40 PM: Running and watching Better Call Saul, Season Four.
2:35 PM: Playing Elder Scrolls Online during Maia's quiet time.
4:01 PM: "Bunny went on a trip to Rhode Island."
4:42 PM: Playing "Little Bunny Foo Foo" by yelling the lyrics into the recorder.
6:04 PM: Following a dinner of pizza from Joe's Pizzaria, many bunnies coalesce.
7:04 PM: Special baking soda bath for itchy allergies.

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Monday, March 16, 2020

List Day: 8 COVID-19 Impacts in our Life

  1. The line to get into Costco wrapped around the building last Friday (with an orderly queue enforced by two Loudoun County Sheriffs), preventing me from stocking up on corned beef and Guinness.

  2. We ordered meals from our favourite local pizza place (Joe's Pizzaria) on two days in a row.

  3. Rebecca did a 90 minute yoga class through her studio from the basement, streamed online over Facebook Live.

  4. I did a 7 AM grocery run at Safeway on Sunday to find shortages in fresh greens, eggs, milk, and cleaning supplies. It was quiet, other than the ruckus over the stocker who had just run over his foot with a giant pallet of water and was awaiting an ambulance.

  5. We cleaned our doorknobs, keys, wallets, and computers yesterday. Maia said, "Daddy likes to clean things!", which is true even outside of pandemics.

  6. Rebecca's work is still in session while my division is on Work-At-Home duty (I've been home since Thursday night). Maia's "Just for 2s" school is now cancelled until Loundoun County Public School is back in session.

  7. Maia has not seen her grandparents in over a week.

  8. We switched our upcoming B&B vacation in the Shenandoah to an isolated cabin so we could take Maia with us and keep her away from the grandparent babysitters.

Are you still alive?

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Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Time-lapsed Blogography Day: Twenty Years Ago Today

Twenty years ago today, on March 18, 2000, I attended an underwhelming brass master class at George Mason University.

It was the final weekend of Tech's spring break and I was at home for an in-person intern interview at FGM (where I learned that they had already hired me and just wanted to chat) and a periodic "give up Ethernet for Lent" penance where I was forced to use my parents' 56KB dialup for a week.

On this Saturday, I drove to Mason for a master class put on by the two trumpeters from the Canadian Brass (Romm and Lindemann at the time, if my memory still serves). In my subsequent journal entry, I wrote that the class "was interesting, but not particularly helpful. More of a public interest type of class". I had hoped for some solid trumpet performance tips and ended up with random people asking "who came up with the idea to wear sneakers on stage?" It was essentially a Reddit Ask-Me-Anything before its time.

In fact, the only memorable aspects of the afternoon were bumping into a blind trumpeter I knew from high school (colloquially, not physically) and chatting with a cute senior flute player from Mason before the master class began.

The next day, I packed up my desktop computer and giant monitor, picked up Anna and Rick (a.k.a "Gold Medal") and made the 4 hour trip back to Tech.

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Friday, March 20, 2020

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Costello Music by The Fratellis:
I don't know how I missed the debut album from this Scottish rock band, especially since Chelsea Dagger was one of my jams in 2011. Each song is a catchy, high energy germ with a little storytelling woven in.

Final Grade: B+

How to Destroy a Tech Startup in Three Easy Steps by Lawrence Krubner and Natalie Sidner:
First up in my self-quarantine reading queue, this book tells of a lead developer's experience at a NYC startup. Like Dan Lyon's Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble (which I gave a B), Krubner paints a great picture of toxic management and software development personalities which will feel exaggerated until you stumble across that one you've actually encountered yourself in the wild. Tech jargon is kept to a minimum and well-explained for non-developers, and software developers may experience a sympathetic rise in blood pressure during some of the more true-to-life scenes.

Final Grade: B+

Better Call Saul, S4:
This season was very "good" in the way that "good" is understood by cinephiles, but it did not noticeably move the story far beyond what had already come before. The entire thing felt a little low energy and sometimes Jimmy McGill seemed like a B-story in his own show. The backstory behind Gustavo Fring's empire is still the most boring part to me -- I would rather see more of Jimmy's exploits than spend 8 episodes digging a hole in the ground. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: B-

Lady Bird (R):
This was a perfectly pleasant coming-of-age story that didn't really stick with me after it was over. With snappy dialogue and believable characters, it's a good movie for nights when nothing else is on. Free on Amazon Prime.

Final Grade: B

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Monday, March 23, 2020

Weekend Wrap-up

This weekend, we took our self-isolation zone south to Sperryville for a two night stay in a private cottage. What was originally going to be a parent getaway planned weeks ago evolved into a family vacation in the face of the world going viral. We took all necessary precautions along the way: no stops to pee, one person on sterile take-out duty throughout the weekend, and only interacting with the innkeepers when handing off a growler for take-out beers.

The weather was wonderful Friday evening and we enjoyed a beer flight that was 9 for 9 in "beers I would drink again" on our private porch. Maia and Rebecca walked along and in the Thornton River until they fell in. Rebecca was more startled than Maia, who spent the rest of the weekend talking about how "mommy lost her sunglasses in the pond" but it's okay because "mommy has lots of sunglasses". For dinner, we had take-out pizza and then Maia took 3 hours to fall asleep in the exciting new cottage.

Rebecca went hiking at Buck Hollow early Saturday while Maia and I stayed home and practiced sleeping in each bed in the cottage. The innkeepers delivered two breakfast omelets made with smoky cheddar cheese and goat cheese and Maia ate all of the kiwi.

After breakfast, we drove into Shenandoah National Park to find it overwhelmed with visitors taking advantage of "No Entry Fees". It was pretty difficult to find a place to get out and hike responsibly distanced but we eventually made it to Skyland Lodge and Furnace Springs Trail. By the time we left the park at 1 PM, the overlooks were beginning to fill up like someone had advertised fall foliage months too early. It was definitely not a scene full of people taking COVID-19 seriously, although we can't impartially judge since we were there ourselves. "You aren't in traffic, you ARE traffic!" as the saying goes.

Maia's favorite part of the trip was when I made Annie's mac and cheese for lunch and all of the pasta was shaped like bunnies. After nap/quiet time, we picked up a lamb sandwich with a side of "balls of fire" from another nearby restaurant we used to get burgers at. The "balls of fire", fried balls of jalapeno macaroni and cheese the size of a stress ball, were serious business and even Rebecca couldn't finish one.

We drove home on Sunday after a breakfast of Eggs Hopkins: eggs over easy, prosciutto, and spinach drizzled over crunchy toast.

How was your weekend?

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Wednesday, March 25, 2020

List Day: 8 Ways We've Passed the Time During COVID-19

  1. I've run 1 - 2 miles each day while watching Better Call Saul and iZombie.

  2. Rebecca and Maia have gone to the park many times, but often seem to run into our parent friends with the same idea.

  3. I've gotten hooked on playing Elder Scrolls Online, after trying World of Warcraft again and getting bored almost immediately. I also have Borderlands 3 in my queue but the first 20 minutes felt identical to the previous 2 games so I haven't gotten any further yet. I'm looking at Half-Life: Alyx but am unsure whether I want to lug my computer downstairs for VR all of the time.

  4. Rebecca and I have played a lot of the 2-player board game, Patchwork, on loan from Larry and Janice.
  1. I'm wrapping up work on the 20th anniversary re-release of Augmented Fourth (April 1).

  2. Maia has only watched 30 minutes of television during the entire quarantine, because she's so happy doing other things.

  3. Yesterday, I finished adding the penultimate Wars of Light and Shadows book into the Paravia Wiki, closing out a task that started 13 years ago.

  4. On Monday, I finished the cartoons for the 6th issue of the Uri Tech Primer, on open-source software.

How are you keeping busy and/or sane?

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Friday, March 27, 2020

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Patchwork:
This is another 2-player game with as much replayability as Lost Cities or Apotheca -- you spend buttons to buy different Tetris shapes to cover your quilt board. Game rules are very simple and setup is quick. There's tons of strategic depth although there are just enough variables that it makes it hard to tell if you're actually winning until the final score comes down. All of our games so far have been decided within a few points of each other.

Final Grade: B

Recover by Lenka:
This is a 20 minute EP of covers, pleasant enough other than the five and a half minute rendition of Bob Dylan's Mr. Tambourine Man in which she sings "Hey Mr. Tambourine Man" at least 80 times on the same pitches.

Final Grade: B

Sleeping with Other People (R):
The skeleton of this movie is predictable -- a romantic comedy featuring flawed leads who are better with each other. What saves it from banality is the supporting cast of familiar faces (including Adam Scott, Natasha Lyonne and two of the leads from i'm sorry) and the easy laughs they induce.

Final Grade: B

Matinee by Jack Penate:
The debut album of another musician I liked a lot in 2008 then forgot about -- Matinee has a catchy bounce and infectious songs. It reminds me a little of The Hives.

Final Grade: B+

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Monday, March 30, 2020

End-of-the-Month Highlights Day

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

  • Events
    • Earned my first Microsoft Azure cert on S 3/1. Had London Broil for dinner with Tammy in the evening.

    • Voted in the primary on T 3/3.

    • Dad-daughter dinner at Marumen on W 3/4, followed by free S'mores at Cascades Overlook.

    • Had the Uri grandparents over for steak dinner on F 3/6.

    • Visited Larry and Janice and kids in Rockville on S 3/7.

    • Family dinner at Burton's on S 3/8.

    • First dinner on our screen porch on M 3/9.

    • Started self-quarantine on H 3/12. Numerous delivery / take-out meals and family dinners on the screen porch through the end of the month.

    • Relocated our self-isolation zone to Sperryville for two nights, F 3/20 - S 3/22. Had delicious microbrews and take-out dinners. Hiked the Furnace Springs Trail with Maia.

    • Had a virtual game night with Anna, Ben, Larry, and Janice on F 3/27.

    • Had a virtual game night with Sara, Karl, and Michelle on S 3/28.

  • Projects
    • Screen porch completed on T 3/3.

    • Pushed out another minor release of Sparkour on S 3/7.

    • Did our taxes on S 3/8.

    • Finished the Paravia Wiki after 13 years on T 3/24.

  • Consumerism
    • Playing Elder Scrolls Online.

    • No amazing shows this month.

    • No great new music, although I'm enjoying revisiting the bands I liked a decade ago to see what I've missed.

March's Final Grade: B-, Self-quarantine is weird, but I got a lot done this month and have spent lots of valuable time together with Maia.

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