04/2020

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Augmented Fourth: 20th Anniversary Day

Twenty years ago today, on April 1, 2000, I released my text adventure game, Augmented Fourth. After an awful trumpet audition before King Goosen of Papoosen, you're cast into Orchestra Pit where you discover a peculiar community living in a dormant volcano.

Since everyone loves round-number anniversaries, I have released an updated version of the game today:

  • Updated cover art.
  • Added a 20th Anniversary Retrospective to the HELP system.
  • Updated one puzzle to reduce the amount of unnecessary NPC cruelty required to win.
  • Adjusted various room exits for better map geometry.
  • Added a few more gentle hints to various obtuse puzzles.
  • Fixed text parser disambiguation issues and minor bugs reported by recent players.
  • Cleaned up source code formatting.

You can sample the game online with Parchment. If you want to be able to save your progress, you'll need to download the game file and an interpreter to your computer.

Hope you enjoy it during your self-quarantine doldrums!

tagged as games | permalink | 0 comments

Friday, April 03, 2020

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

iZombie, Season Five:
The final season suffers from too many factions muddling the plot momentum. It also has the same problem as season four -- when your main character takes on a different personality every episode, any serious character development feels arbitrary and unearned. Watch this season for the many funny scenes with characters you've grown to like, and ignore the plot nonsense. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: B-

Discover by Lenka:
This is the sister EP of Recover, an unnecessary album full of covers. I've listened to Discover several times now and nothing has stood out -- it's very muted background music rather than something quirky or catchy.

Final Grade: C+

Brittany Runs a Marathon:
The plot of an overweight woman who gets into running seems like it's been done so much that there's no new ground to cover. While it doesn't go in an amazing new direction, it does earn its ending and qualifies as a decent quarantine feel-good movie. Free on Amazon Prime.

Final Grade: B

Jay and Silent Bob: Reboot (R):
An awful, cringeworthy movie. It reminded me of Ken Jeong's comedy special where he spent an hour reminding everyone that he was in The Hangover. The fact that Reboot's plot is identical to Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back is intended to be ironic and tongue-in-cheek but just comes across as unnecessary. While there are a few laughs, you really need to be a huge Kevin Smith movie trivia fan to get all of the cameos and inside jokes. I liked his movies 20 years ago but this movie squanders any of that nostalgic goodwill almost immediately. Free on Amazon Prime.

Final Grade: D

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Monday, April 06, 2020

Maia Battle Report: Year 2 Month 9

Maia is now 26.8 pounds and about 34" tall. This month, she gained the ability to use the toilet for all waste management needs and now wears underpants all day long instead of diapers. (With coronavirus keeping us at home, we figured now was a great time to practice, and she had it down pat after just a single day).

Self-quarantine has made this month very different for Maia. Just For 2s school is cancelled and she hasn't seen her best friend, Nolan, in over 3 weeks (other than a video chat). She seems to get that things have changed in some way but has no opinion one way or the other. The answers to her usual morning questions of "what day is it today?" and "what are we doing today?" have normalized into nothingness since every day is pretty much the same. She also does video chats with the grandparents but gets bored pretty quickly.

We have a routine of 2-3 nearby parks with accessible trails and neighborhood parking (since entrance gates are closed now) so Maia still gets regular outdoor time. She actually prefers being inside (building houses for bunnies) so it can be a chore to convince her to hit the park. All it takes to get her in the backyard, though, is the promise of bubbles.

Maia now picks Berenstain Bears books over all others, and will reenact sequences from the books, like hiding behind the curtain for "Stage Fright" and building a clubhouse for "No Girls Allowed". Surprisingly, we've watched very little TV other than Library Storytimes recorded by the Loudoun libraries.

Games that Maia enjoys include:

  • Grocery Store: where she fills a baby carriage with foam blocks representing foods ("this daddy's magic hat beer") and pushes them down the window seat / conveyor belt, then swipes her credit card.
  • Obstacle Course: invented by Rebecca to drain energy by running her around the basement and climbing on things.
  • Making Houses for Bunnies: Self-explanatory. She now has 7 named bunnies (like dwarves) after we discovered one more in a box of donated toys: Original, Flower, Purple, Grey, Fluffy, K'nuffle, and Peter.
  • Wearing All the Clothes: Layering up with 2 - 3 outfits covered by a pretty dress.

She only napped twice this month, but still does quiet time in the afternoons. She also gets up after we put her to bed at night and plays in her room for another solid hour before consenting to sleep. This has led to some late nights and early mornings (sometimes as little as 10 hours of sleep in a day) but hopefully that's just a phase brought on by COVID-19 boredom.

We are taking it one day at a time (because that's how time works) and hoping that we'll still get to go to the Outer Banks in July!

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

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

List Day: 10 Lesser Known Shows to Binge During Quarantine

There are no major spoilers in this post.

Are you tired of looking for new TV shows only to get recommendations for The Office and Stranger Things? Here are 10 of the best "off the beaten path" shows I've watched (in alphabetical order), all available in streaming format.

  1. American Vandal (2 seasons, 16 half-hour episodes, Netflix): A pitch-perfect satire of the true crime documentary genre, where filmmakers reconstruct the day that a mystery student drew dicks on all of the cars in the teacher's parking lot.

  2. Bodyguard (1 season, 6 hour-long episodes, Netflix): A British version of Homeland before that show ran out of ideas. It maintains a strong intensity and uneasiness that resolves in a satisfying, logical conclusion. Its success rests on the ability to depict realistic characters that don't just exposition-monologue their feelings for the audience -- everyone seems like a threat at various points, but the resolution is weighted towards character motivations not plot twists.

  3. Dark (2 seasons, 18 hour-long episodes, Netflix): A heavy, byzantine puzzle-box of a thriller to get lost in (try my spoiler-free reference sheets) that starts out as a thriller about missing children in a German town and quickly turns into something much more ambitious. It gives off a Twin Peaks meets Fortitude kind of vibe with a little Stranger Things mixed in. Best watched in the original German with English subtitles. The 3rd and final season should be out this summer.

  4. Detectorists (3 seasons, 19 half-hour episodes, Amazon Prime Video): A sentimental, maudlin show about two small-town metal detectorists hoping to find an archaeological motherlode. Good-natured and a great way to close out a long day. Last season requires a stupid Acorn TV trial to access.

  5. Humans (3 seasons, 18 hour-long episodes, Amazon Prime Video): This show was doing human-like robots with artificial intelligence long before Westworld sucked the air out of the room. It maintains intensity and likeable protagonists all the way through. Although it ends on a weak plot twist / cliffhanger in the last episode before cancellation, the rest of the show is fun to watch and raises interesting questions about sentience and robot ethics.

  6. Lovesick (3 seasons, 22 half-hour episodes, Netflix): Originally called Scrotal Recall, this show feels like a British How I Met Your Mother with actual heart and character progression. The 3rd season is pleasant but pointless.

  7. Russian Doll (1 season, 8 half-hour episodes, Netflix): A fairly high-concept series with some similarities to the movie, Groundhog Day. Equal parts funny, crass, deep, and unsettling, it occasionally overreaches but ends in a nice self-contained way. Natasha Lyonne is perfect in the main role.

  8. Orphan Black (5 seasons, 50 hour-long episodes, Amazon Prime Video): This thriller showcases the amazing acting talents of Tatiana Maslany as she simultaneously plays multiple main characters (and sometimes those main characters pretending to be each other). The series gets a little bogged down in sci-fi lore in the middle, but the entire arc is well-done. The first season alone is a taut miniseries if you don't want to commit to the whole thing.

  9. Safe (1 season, 8 hour-long episodes, Netflix): A daughter goes missing in a gated community full of weird neighbours. Once you get past Michael C. Hall's British accent, this miniseries thriller works more than it doesn't. There are some trite twists and inconsistencies, but I liked that you can actually solve the central mystery on your own.

  10. 3% (3 seasons, 26 hour-long episodes, Netflix): A dystopian show where 3% of the population compete to earn a spot in paradise. Visual effects and background actors feel a little low-budget, but its main characters have believable motivations and difficult choices to make. Best watched in the original Portuguese with English subtitles.

Let me know if you discover something you like!

tagged as reviews | permalink | 2 comments

Friday, April 10, 2020

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Everything is New by Jack Penate:
Another old album by Jack Penate with nice hooks. A little short, but a fun listen -- I enjoy the song, Let's All Die, an upbeat number with the lyrics, "Out of the womb and into the tomb".

Final Grade: B

Jackbox Party Pack 3:
From the makers of the old trivia game, You Don't Know Jack, this collection of party games is intended for people sitting around the living room, watching the game on TV and entering answers on their phones and tablets. We tried it out for our Virtual Game Nights over (the hyped and insecure) Zoom. One of the games can't be used because it assumes everyone's in the same room, but the rest are very fun with small groups. Game types include trivia-style, invent-a-phrase, and drawing.

Final Grade: B

Big Little Lies, Season Two:
This season was completely unnecessary, focusing on the fallout from the previous season's climactic events without covering much new ground. Acting remains great, especially the guest star turn of Meryl Streep, but it's pretty clear that there's nothing new to say about any of these characters. If you want to know what happens without wasting time, watch the first and the last episode.

Final Grade: C

Cabin in the Woods (R):
This is Joss Whedon's take on horror movies, and your enjoyment hinges on whether that statement excites or bores you. I enjoyed the twists, turns, and upending of tropes, and liked that it landed the ending pretty effectively. Free on Amazon Prime.

Final Grade: B

tagged as reviews | permalink | 1 comment

Monday, April 13, 2020

Chad Darnell's 12 of 12

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

7:40 AM: Showered and ready for Day 31 of self-quarantine.
7:49 AM: Tiny bagels from Giant for breakfast, because all of their other goods are actually in stock as opposed to Safeway.
8:06 AM: Sneaking in some ESO questing until she is risen.
9:13 AM: Good morning!
9:36 AM: Pancakes for breakfast.
9:55 AM: Virtual Easter service.
11:16 AM: Hunting for Easter eggs.
12:12 PM: Egg salad sandwiches for lunch.
12:31 PM: Preparing beer-marinated chicken breasts for dinner.
2:49 PM: Running and starting Money Heist, Part Four.
4:38 PM: Reading yet another Berenstain Bears book while Rebecca participates in a virtual book club.
6:46 PM: Dinner on the screen porch.

tagged as 12 of 12 | permalink | 1 comment

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

List Day: Currently...

  • Currently listening to... Eyes Wide, Tongue-Tied by The Fratellis.

  • Currently reading... Network Attacks and Exploitation by Matthew Monte.

  • Currently playing... Elder Scrolls Online.

  • Currently considering buying... some delivery for dinner.

  • Currently creating... a work training session on using Slack.

  • Currently planning... to digitize my CD collection.

  • Currently watching... Money Heist, Part Four and Undone, Season One.

  • Currently anticipating... the reopening of the Outer Banks in the summer so we don't lose our beach house money.

  • Currently exercising... about four hours per week.

  • Currently weighing... 139 pounds.

This update was sponsored in part by LiveJournal.

tagged as lists | permalink | 0 comments

Friday, April 17, 2020

Virtual Paint Day

On Day 35 of self-quarantine, we did a virtual painting date through Pinot's Palette. Rebecca picked up the canvases and paints from our local shop where we used to do paint dates in person. I jury-rigged an easel using scrap wood and dozens of zip ties.

Guess which one of us painted the Left and Right pictures!

tagged as media, day-to-day | permalink | 4 comments

Monday, April 20, 2020

39th Day

With each day of self-quarantine running together featurelessly like every scene in Gosford Park, I don't have anything new to talk about today.

Here is a video of Maia going head-first down a slide for the very first time, taken exactly 1 year ago today.

Here's Maia independently discovering that she can hold a book up by crossing her legs, taken on the sly during the two hours she sneaks out of bed to read the Berenstain Bears every night.

And here are Maia and Rebecca reading yet another Berenstain Bears book online through the Loudoun Library, taken last night. Maia is intentionally wearing three layers, two of which are dresses.

How is your quarantine going? What is your quaroutine? Are you thriving or surviving? Share in the comments section, or better yet, get a blog so I have something else to read!

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

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Time-lapsed Blogography Day: Half-Decades

Fifteen years ago, in April 2005, I remodeled the basement guest room to its current scheme: Pebble Beige on the walls and a dark red carpet with kitschy decorations and bedsheets from Target. I was heavily invested in the forth season of Alias (featuring Mia Maestro as Sydney's sister) and helping Anna pick out her wedding music while avoiding the "With Ocean Sounds" genre.

Ten years ago, in April 2010, I had just published my first open-source library, DDMSence. Rebecca got her new red Honda Civic which she still drives today. We took regular 3 mile forest runs in Claude Moore Park at dusk and there were no mosquitoes to be found.

Five years ago, in April 2015, I had moved the URI! Zone into THE CLOUD and was preparing a multi-week training course about THE CLOUD for my division at work. THE CLOUD. Rebecca was training for her European hike in the Alps and we would regularly do segmented hikes where she'd hike 10 miles on the AT while I'd drop out for a pint at a Harpers Ferry pub around the 4 mile mark.

This month, in April 2020, my biggest challenge is finding the mathematically shortest path through the grocery store when each aisle is a one-way street. We have made some tasty meals from scratch and also ordered copious take-out and delivery from local restaurants (including a brewery!).

tagged as memories | permalink | 0 comments

Friday, April 24, 2020

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Eyes Wide, Tongue-Tied by the Fratellis:
This is a great, less manic Fratellis album with a more mature sound. Each song brings something different to the table. I particularly like Imposters, a song with a catchy refrain -- for a few days after listening to it, I could hear Maia in her quiet/nap time singing "little by little by little" to herself in between bouts of "Let It Go".

Final Grade: A

Perks of Being a Wallflower (PG-13):
Another movie in the coming-of-age genre, this movie tells the story of a high school freshman who feels like no one notices him. While the character development and subsequent payoffs are well done, you definitely have to get past the distraction that this is a movie full of high school kids that really act like they're in college.

Final Grade: B-

Money Heist, Part 3 and Part 4:
Part 3 and 4 of "House of Paper" are the first parts made completely under the Netflix banner and they're actually much better than the originals. The show leans heavily into the relationships between the old and new characters and makes good use of flashbacks without falling into the LOST tattoo trap. The final four episodes of Part 4 are as intense as any action movie. The only downside to these new episodes is that the new heist is not yet finished. I was disappointed that Part 3 ended on a cliffhanger and even more so to find Part 4 ending with a "convenient dramatic pause" instead of a strong resolution.

Final Grade: B+ for Part 3, and A- for Part 4

tagged as reviews | permalink | 0 comments

Monday, April 27, 2020

List Day: 10 Pandemic Business Ideas

  1. Magic Pandemic Balls: Ask the Magic Pandemic Ball a question when you need trustworthy advice on adhering to competing local, state, and federal pandemic guidance.

  2. Peek Costco: Take all of those "watch an eagle raise a family" webcams abandoned since 1999 and point them at Costco entrances. Charge people for online access to the camera at their local store so they know when the lines are shortest.

  3. Flop Ten: Use an algorithm to unearth 10 awful TV shows that your streaming company really needs to recoup losses on, then advertise them on your homepage as "Top Ten in America Right Now!".

  4. NO U REVERSE: A smartphone app that allows you to reverse the direction of one-way arrows in grocery store aisles so they're more convenient. Engage in a $0.99 microtransaction bidding war when someone is on the other end of the aisle trying to do the same.

  5. The New Normal: Novelty protractors that show a right angle to be 91 degrees.

  6. Player Two Has Entered the Game: Hire from a pool of people who have recovered from coronavirus (and hopefully have some level of immunity built up) to do your shopping and other errands. It's like Uber with zombies.

  7. Eye Poppers: A real-time filter for Hangouts and Zoom that cuts out your pupils and repositions them so it looks like everyone is looking directly at the camera at all times.

  8. Open Woundz: Easy-to-apply, reusable cosmetics that make you appear to have gaping, bleeding wounds so people are more likely to respect your social radius.

  9. Krispy Kar: A portable deep fryer that plugs into the cigarette lighter of a car, allowing food delivery employees to finish cooking food in "the last mile" of the supply chain, avoiding the sadness of steamed sogginess.

  10. Flatten Your Curves: A health and weight-loss program where an online consultant (probably Marie Kondo) provides recipes that exploit the dregs of your pantry. You cannot get more groceries until you've eaten everything previously purchased, including that two-year-old congealed block of raisins.

tagged as lists, inventions | permalink | 1 comment

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

End-of-the-Month Highlights Day

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

  • Events
    • Virtual Game Night #3 with Mike, Annie, Sam, and Kristen on W 4/1.

    • Virtual Game Night #4 with Kathy, Chris, Anna, and kids on F 4/3.

    • Rebecca had a game night / happy hour with her coworkers on S 4/4.

    • Birthday Video Chat with the grandparents on F 4/10.

    • Dyed Easter eggs on S 4/11. Had Virtual Game Night #5 with Larry, Janice, Sara, and Karl in the evening.

    • Easter at home on S 4/12.

    • Did a virtual painting date through Pinot's Palette on H 4/16.

    • Video Chat with Mike, Annie, Sam, and Kristen on W 4/22.

    • Video Chat with the Ahlbins on S 4/26.

    • Myriad unrecorded dinners, deliveries, and early morning grocery runs throughout the month.

    • Video Chat with the grandparents on T 4/28.

  • Projects
    • Set up a bird feeder full of suet cakes in the backyard on W 4/8.

  • Consumerism
    • Enjoyed watching Money Heist this month.

    • Enjoyed music by Jack Penate, The Fratellis, and AJR this month.

    • Still playing Elder Scrolls Online exclusively.

April's Final Grade: C, "this is fine".

tagged as day-to-day | permalink | 0 comments

 

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