06/2020

Monday, June 01, 2020

List Day: Screen Porch Features and Configurations

  • Elevated table fronts window to basement, allowing pass-through of food trays and drinks without having to open heavy doors one-handedly.

  • Plastic, lightweight chairs allow for quick rearranging based on where the sun is during the day (rollup shade for potent sunset sun still in shipping limbo somewhere between here and Georgia).

  • Minimal permanent furniture allows for easy conversion to summer yoga studio.

  • Small plastic bin for easy access to paper plates and plastic silverware rather than a permanent garishly wicker cabinet.

  • Overhead fan has 3 settings and a seasonal switch that goes from suck to blow.

  • Pleasant view of forest and bird feeder.

  • Third folding table for carryout food allows for a safe-distance visit with friends and family, where we play games like "Spit on Someone From 8 Feet Away" and "What Else Can You Lick In Here?".

tagged as lists | permalink | 1 comment

Wednesday, June 03, 2020

List Day: 10 Children's Books You've Never Read


An instructional text for young readers, reminding them that everyone occasionally gets constipated -- it's perfectly natural and nothing to be ashamed of. Light-hearted pictures illustrate the various ways to combat a backed up drainpipe, from bran muffins to enemas.


Gently normalizes the lifestyle of a single mother and her daughter as they flee from state to state, avoiding unsympathetic judges, and the custody rights of a deadbeat father.


A cautionary tale of a puppy's encounter with childhood obesity, from playing too many video games and watching Blue's Clues.


This picture book describes one child's farewall to our sun as it transitions to a red dwarf star and eventually goes out, abandoning the Earth to eternal darkness and chaos.


The heartwarming tale of a little puppy who dreams of someday becoming a member of the LAPD K9 Unit.


A cautionary tale of daddy's sexuality set against the backdrop of the Renaissance, when daddy is accosted by a charming dandy at the local tavern.


A clever retelling of the classic Ugly Duckling tale, in which the ugly duckling's siblings post cruel remarks on her Myspace page for their own amusement until she commits suicide.


A delightfully subversive right-wing tale of a little steam engine re-equipped with the latest in Green solar panels that fails to make it over the biggest hill in the land after the sun goes down and it starts to snow.


An early introduction to the concepts of water conservation, concluding with a whimsical comparison of toilet tank cleansing products.

This unauthorized biography traces the early years of the Grey's Anatomy star from her humble beginnings as a simple Swiss farmer's daughter.

tagged as green (recycled) content, lists | permalink | 1 comment

Friday, June 05, 2020

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

QIAYA Selfie Light Ring:
This inexpensive ring light clips onto your laptop screen and adds just enough fill light to improve the clarity of your image on video calls -- useful when you're in dim surroundings or have a bright window behind you. It's also surprisingly useful for doing jigsaw puzzles at night. On the downside, charge runs down fairly quickly and 2 of the 3 intensity settings will only be useful when I start my Makeup channel on Youtube.

Final Grade: B

In Your Own Sweet Time by the Fratellis:
I'm working my way through all of this band's albums during quarantine. This is another strong one, but without any songs that immediately jump out at me as the best ones.

Final Grade: B+

Money Heist: The Phenomenon:
This documentary about Money Heist goes beyond the typical adulatory victory lap with some fun behind-the-scenes exploration and bloopers. Definitely watch after you've finished all 4 seasons as it's not timid with spoilery images. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: B+

Dead to Me, Season Two:
Season two is as good as the first, and does an amazing job weaving different tones and moods cohesively. I've never seen a show that can transition from rage to despondency to light comedy without feeling like a jumbled mess like this one can. There is some setup for a Season Three towards the end, but I'd honestly be happy if the story ends right here. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: A

tagged as reviews | permalink | 1 comment

Monday, June 08, 2020

Maia Battle Report: Year 2 Month 11

Maia is now just 1 month away from being 3 years old. Weighing in at 27 pounds and standing 33" tall, she's still comfortably fitting into her two-year-old clothes.

She has a huge vocabulary and understands moderately complex concepts (last month she saw a spider web and asked, "What do spiders use to make the webs?") but still does not pronounce the 2nd consonant in a pair of consonants (we often mishear "cows" vs. "clouds"). She's said a few clever things so far, but nothing worth retelling (the setup would be longer than the punchline in each case). After a recent trip to the forest, she remembered something she had seen and her face lit up as she said, "WE SAW SOME DEER!" -- she acted more like a kindergartner than a 2-year-old then. She's also very empathetic, and will ask Rebecca how her food tastes or ask to set aside something to send to one of her friends.

Quarantine continues to drag on, but Maia has been able to see her best friend, Nolan, twice in supervised outdoor visits. She's over video chats but will wave at whoever's on the chat before disappearing into the next room. It recently got warm enough to set up the kiddie pool on the screen porch, which is an amazing way to burn a few hours in the morning or afternoon. Indoors, she's an expert at any search-and-find activity, to the point where I'm considering buying her a Where's Waldo? book. Dress-up is a new craze, with a box full of Halloween cast-offs. She spent this weekend as Sister Bear Minnie Mouse.

On TV, she likes watching Super Wings, Daniel Tiger, and short segments of Disney movies like Cars and Moana (especially the 30 minute "Coronation Day" sequence in Let It Go that hits all of the most familiar songs). She's still young enough that she would rather rewatch things already seen than try to follow the plot of a movie all the way through. Everything gets reenacted at bedtime. Last night, she yelled, "I am Moana!!" over and over.

I just asked Maia what she wants to do after she turns 3 next month, and she said, "I will put on my dog hat." Everyone should have such life ambitions.

tagged as offspring | permalink | 1 comment

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Memory Day: Snapshots

This picture was taken 1 year ago today, on June 10, 2019.

We were at Cascades Overlook and Maia was getting her first introduction to Abbott's Frozen Custard, Rebecca's favourite frozen custard store. Since then, Maia has developed her own sweet tooth sensibilities. She enjoys the occasional Flav-or-ice, ice cream sandwich, or Famous Amos cookie, and (of course) loves chocolate milk any time.

We miss going to the Overlook with its uncrowded splash pads and live music. The last time we were there was a dad-daughter dinner at Marumen on March 4, followed by Free S'Mores Night where everyone freely shared wooden marshmallow sticks without the least worry of viral contamination.

tagged as memories | permalink | 3 comments

Friday, June 12, 2020

Chad Darnell's 12 of 12

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

6:44 AM: Ready to travel in a contiguous unidirectional line through Giant on Day 92.
7:34 AM: Showered and ready for work.
7:59 AM: Arrived in the office.
8:31 AM: Release day.
9:52 AM: Maia got up late today. Also, she was a piggy when she went to bed and is now a bear.
11:39 AM: Working lunch.
12:58 PM: Running and watching the fourth season of The Expanse.
1:32 PM: Home from curbside pickup at the Sterling Library.
4:07 PM: Time to get up from "quiet time"! Note the next costume change.
5:11 PM: Basement olympics.
5:58 PM: Chinese food for dinner in the shade of our new sunset blinds.
7:00 PM: First sortie of the summer against the mosquitoes that suddenly birthed after yesterday's storms.

tagged as 12 of 12 | permalink | 1 comment

Monday, June 15, 2020

List Day: COVID-19 Cause and Effect

  • We used to use paper towels for everything...
    It became undesirable to shop at Costco for a couple months...
    Our paper towel supply ran low...
    We were forced to purchase name-brand paper towels in the grocery store whenever they weren't sold out...
    We found that these paper towels don't have the option to tear at 1/2 size so they're overkill for double duty as napkins...
    We bought napkins so we don't waste full-size paper towels...
    We bought weighted napkin trays so they don't blow away on our screen porch...
    We are now a napkin family.

  • I used to get enormous, fresh-baked bagels for breakfast at Safeway twice a week...
    During the early days of quarantine, Safeway was regularly out of stock on everything...
    I started shopping at the slightly-further Giant...
    Giant only sells tiny bagels in bags of 6 (2 of which will go moldy or get too hard to eat)...
    I am now hungry for lunch at 10:45 AM rather than 12:00 PM and snack more frequently throughout the day.

  • Our house used to be quiet in the mornings...
    Rebecca installed a birdfeeder in the backyard as a new activity to spice up endless toddler mornings...
    We now have all sorts of squirrels, grackles, catbirds, blue jays, cardinals, robins, and downy woodpeckers hanging out in our yard...
    A downy woodpecker taps on our drainpipe right outside Maia's window in the morning between 6 and 7:30 AM...
    I now stick my head out the window every morning between 6 and 7:30 AM like the caricature of an angry old man, waving the woodpecker away so Maia remains sleeping.

tagged as lists | permalink | 1 comment

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Memory Day: Snapshots

This picture was taken 15 years ago, on June 17, 2005.

We were at Ingleside Vineyards in King George, VA for Ben and Anna's wedding, and gathered here for this former college roommate picture (myself, Anna, and Rosie). I'm sporting the stylish "short sleeve formal shirt" look because I enjoy looking like a 12-year-old valet.

The five of us have not all been in a room together since February 15, 2014, when Anna had 50% few kids.

tagged as memories | permalink | 0 comments

Friday, June 19, 2020

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Toy Story 4:
This is a pleasant, unnecessary segment of the Toy Story story that doesn't tread a whole lot of new ground. In order to invent some reason for existing, the movie undoes some of the work that went into making Toy Story 3 a "perfect" ending for the series. Treat it like a straight-to-VHS one-off and you'll be able to enjoy it, especially with key roles filled by Tony Hale and Key & Peele.

Final Grade: B-

Expanse, S3:
Season Three has a weird flow to it -- the first half feels like "the rest" of Season Two, and the last half (following a jarring time jump in the narrative) is really rushed with new settings and newly introduced characters. I liked it well enough, but it did a lot more telling instead of showing. Anytime a character gives a multi-minute exposition dump based on things seen in a vision, I felt like they were over budget and needed to stretch their funds as long as possible. Free on Amazon Prime.

Final Grade: B-

Hunt for the Wilderpeople (PG-13):
This is a mismatched buddy comedy from the director of What We Do In the Shadows, the mockumentary about vampries. It has a different pacing to it and manages to be fun and charming without getting sappy or oversentimental.

Final Grade: B+

Medical Police, Season One:
Parody is a really difficult tone to get right and this show does not succeed. I gave it three episodes but saw no reason to continue -- there were a few brief chuckles connected by lengthy segments of forgettable setup. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: Not graded

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Monday, June 22, 2020

Weekend Wrap-up

For Rebecca's birthday weekend, we went back to Weather Lea Farm in Lovettsville, VA.

Very little had changed since our last visit, and we were greeted by Mimi the dog and Castor the cat (the latter of which walked into our cottage like a boss).

It was supposed to thunderstorm all weekend long, but we somehow managed to avoid every single one and had a cloudy, pleasant weekend wandering the grounds, feeding horses, sheep, and llamas.

During one of the almost-storms, Rebecca and Maia went down to the pond to watch it sprinkle while the sun shined. Maia insisted on bringing her umbrella everywhere, just in case.

We got curbside pickup from Market Table Bistro one night, and made our own food for the rest of the meals.

We returned home on Saturday afternoon and had a Wegmans sushi dinner on the back porch.

On Sunday, we stayed home for lawn mowing and Rebecca's various Zoom social visits, then had steaks for dinner on the porch.

Today is Rebecca's birthday! Happy birthday! (and to Brianne as well!)

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

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Looking Ahead to Beach Day

One of the few activities that hasn't received a surprise evisceration from pandemics is our upcoming Outer Banks beach trip with the Smith family.

This trip celebrates 8 years since our last beach trip together and boasts several firsts:

  • First beach house directly on the beach, with no road to cross.
  • First beach trip with Maia, who knows that "the ocean is loud", and gets her own room with bunk beds in it.
  • First house in Duck, a town that's equally as "fresh off the bridge" as Kitty Hawk, but feels slightly classier.
  • First beach trip with masks at the ready for trips to Walmart and Food Lion and a very low chance of eating inside a restaurant.

We picked the week of the Olympics so we could make fun of whoever the new Michael Phelps is these days. Now that Olympics are totally just postponed and not cancelled in the least bit, we'll have to find another way to entertain ourselves. Any suggestions?

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

Friday, June 26, 2020

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

The Expanse, Season Four:
The new season produced by Amazon shows continuity in the transfer from SyFy other than a few awkward fadeouts. The story is more intimate with good sources of character tension although most of the new female characters feel interchangeable. The final episode feels a little rushed and tacked on, especially the end of the storyline for one of the semi-main characters. Free on Amazon Prime.

Final Grade: B-

Joker (R):
Not everything needs an origin story. This movie is an extended, uncomfortable voyeurism of a descent into mental illness. While I appreciated the harsh, grainy 80s style of the production, I struggled to take Joaquin Phoenix seriously because he looks too much like Ty Burrell from Modern Family here. Phoenix also runs more in this movie than any given Tom Cruise movie.

Final Grade: C

Luther, Season Five:
This detective series continues to excel at matching macabre crime with intense personal drama. The background story here felt too convoluted, or maybe I just watched Season Four too long ago. By the end, I struggled to understand the main characters' unspoken motivations, which lessened my enjoyment of the finale. Free on Amazon Prime.

Final Grade: B-

Borderlands 3:
After a bad first impression of this game, I gave it another shot and found nothing to draw me in. The game starts identically to Borderlands 1 and 2, and features writing that tries so hard to be edgy that's it's just awful. The story beats you over the head with how clever the dialogue is supposed to be and the UI makes it tedious to tackle the primary motivation of the game -- the acquisition of bigger and better guns. I gave up after about 3 hours -- I'd rather play Borderlands 2 again.

Final Grade: Not Graded

tagged as reviews | permalink | 1 comment

Monday, June 29, 2020

End-of-the-Month Highlights Day

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

  • Events
    • Took the day off to watch Maia so Rebecca could take the day off and go hiking on H 6/4.

    • Sprayed the yard for mosquitoes on F 6/12.

    • Rebecca went hiking again on S 6/13.

    • Screen porch visit with my parents on S 6/14.

    • Two nights at Weather Lea Farms in Lovettsville, H 6/18 - S 6/20.

    • Rebecca turned 37 on M 6/22.

    • Screen porch visit with my parents on H 6/25.

    • Family picnic dinner at Algonkian on F 6/26.

    • Maia and Rebecca had a picnic dinner with Tammy and Zoe on S 6/27.

    • Backyard dinner with the Smiths on S 6/28.

    • Watched Maia while Rebecca hiked Raven Rocks again on T 6/30.

  • Projects
    • Volunteered for a side gig in web hosting and website modernization.

    • Installed sunset blinds on our screen porch on H 6/11.

  • Consumerism
    • Enjoyed watching Hunt for the Wilderpeople and excited to start Dark, Season Three.

    • No new music this month.

    • Less Elder Scrolls Online this month as I start freshening up my web development skills again.

June's Final Grade: B, as good as it could have been

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

 

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