08/2020

Monday, August 03, 2020

New Edition Day

The URI! Zone is 24 years old this month! There have been 4403 blog posts and 8853 comments since the beginning of recorded history. I haven't touched the code under the hood at all this year although I've learned a few new web tricks from my side gig that I may end up implementing here if I ever get bored.

Blogging is all but dead these days, as you can tell from this graph of visitors over the years:

That said, I'll still be here churning out tasty tripe for the last few brave souls from the Web 2.0 cohort every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday into eternity. Thank you for continuing to take time out of your day to visit!

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Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Beach Day

Our beach trip last week was a great success in spite of the lack of Olympics to watch. We drove down in 7 hours on Sunday the 26th, a task made more logistically difficult with fewer public restrooms open. 100% of observed people at the Fredericksburg rest stop wore masks, and this decreased to 75% around Hampton Roads and 50% in North Carolina. Maia had her first Happy Meal outside of Richmond, eaten in the shade of a tree near the restaurant.

After extra quarantine time upfront, we merged our bubble with the Smiths for the week, which meant we got to have normal interactions like "too many people in the tiny kitchen" and many esoteric Kickstarter board games. The house was a perfect size for us, and featured a private pool and a short stumble to the beach. This was my first time in Duck, which I would have liked more if the boardwalk had been accessible.

Maia loved the ocean, digging, and the pool, but also wanted to stay inside like a computer science major much of the time. She especially enjoyed playing with the Smith kids and said two things of note during the week: "We have a big family now!" and "I want it to be like this all the time!"

Apart from brief trips to pickup dinner at Coastal Cravings and late week groceries at Wee Winks, we stayed isolated the entire week thanks to Instacart deliveries. We went to the beach almost daily but it was a little too crowded for my tastes. We were among the few groups that wore masks along the beach access, and many people wandering down the beach walked wherever they wanted (until I dug a 12 foot trench that forced them seaward). We definitely took advantage of the beach on Saturday when most of the people were leaving / arriving.

On our last day, there was a mandatory evacuation warning for Hatteras Island to the south. So not only did we make the impossible beach trip successfully without the county reclosing for COVID-19, but we also narrowly avoided a hurricane during our stay! We drove back on Sunday the 2nd and made it in a record 5.5 hours, after which I mowed 3 bags of rampant crabgrass in the awful heat to avoid mowing after Isaias blesses us with his rain.

Beach time is different with kids. I read one half of a book rather than six, did no running on the beach (one evening masked walk that was still too crowded to be restful), and learned nothing new. Still, it was nice to be in a different location for a while, and I feel rested and relaxed as I dive into August.

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Friday, August 07, 2020

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Middleditch and Schwartz, Season One:
3 hour-long episodes of improv comedy from these two actors (Richard Hendricks from Silicon Valley and Jean Ralphio from Parks and Rec) is just about right. The first two are great while the quality of the third drops a bit, but there are some great belly laughs to be found. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: B+

Superstore, Season Three:
We zoomed through this season quickly and enjoyed it. Everyone is still essentially a caricature, but each one is used sparingly enough that no one turns into a "Cam" of Modern Family.

Final Grade: B

Here We Stand by the Fratellis:
Less memorable than the other Fratelli albums I've been bingeing recently but's a nice aural bridge between their "T-shirt store commercial" songs of their debut album and the more mature stuff later on.

Final Grade: B

Lovebirds (R):
This movie features a couple fallen out of romance and on the verge of breaking up when they find themselves framed in the middle of a murder scene. Lots of topical jokes and easy to watch, although the first 15 minutes or so tries way too hard to be funny before it finds a good rhythm. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: B

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Monday, August 10, 2020

Weekend Wrap-up

things Amber and I did while Rebecca and Maia spent the weekend at the Smiths in post-beach quarantine

Friday

  • Wrapped up work and spent 6 hours on my web development side gig.
  • Attended a virtual work happy hour celebrating another $500M proposal win.
  • Had shells and cheese for dinner.

Saturday

  • Had breakfast and did the entire crossword without interruption for an hour.
  • Spent 8 hours doing web development.
  • Cleaned the house and steam cleaned the sticky toddler zones.
  • Ran 1.5 miles on the treadmill while rewatching Twelve Monkeys, Season Two.
  • Had a Big Mac meal for dinner.
  • Doused the yard in malathion in an ongoing war against mosquitoes.

Sunday

  • Weeded all of the garden beds, which were getting overrun with crabgrass.
  • Spent 4 hours doing web development.
  • Dusted off the Oculus Rift and downloaded Asgard's Wrath.
  • Took a nap on the couch with Amber
  • Learned how to play a Frozen-themed Candyland when the ladies returned home

How was your weekend?

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Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Chad Darnell's 12 of 12

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

6:05 AM: Showered and ready for the day.
6:16 AM: Breakfast.
7:59 AM: Drafting a proposal response.
8:17 AM: Relocated to the satellite office (with ensuite kitchen) where my conference call won't wake anyone up.
9:10 AM: Good morning!
11:07 AM: Coloring in states.
1:41 PM: Surprise! Your AC drain pan is clogged and has been overflowing into the basement carpets for at least a day!
4:52 PM: Making a galette for dinner.
5:46 PM: Dinner time during thunderstorm #1.
6:16 PM: Maia took this picture.
6:44 PM: Maia wants to do her own 12 of 12.
7:15 PM: Enthralled with Frozen 2 during thunderstorm #3.

tagged as 12 of 12 | permalink | 2 comments

Friday, August 14, 2020

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey:
While the book in isolation is just good, not amazing, it really serves to highlight how strong the TV adaptation, The Expanse is. (The book maps to the first one and a half seasons of the show). I had a greater appreciation for the new side characters and plot events from the show that seamlessly fit into the original story. Worth a read if you like the show, but give it some distance so you don't have the show fresh in your mind.

Final Grade: B-

Angry Cyclist by the Proclaimers:
Amazon Music finally tricked me into a 3-month trial of Music Unlimited with its app popup ads so I've been going down the rabbit hole of looking up bands I used to listen to and seeing what they're up to. The only song this band was ever known for stateside was "I Would Walk 500 Miles". This recent album is full of lush harmonies, forgettable lyrics, and a crooning style that makes every song warmer.

Final Grade: B

Who Killed the Zutons by the Zutons:
This is the 2004 debut album of the group that wrote "Valerie", the song that led to the collaboration between Mark Ronson and Amy Winehouse. It's full of fun, raw Brit-rock that makes me want to dig the other album I own out of its CD folio.

Final Grade: B+

Eurovision: The Story of Fire Saga (PG-13):
We tapped out of this movie after a half hour. It wasn't awful, but it did have a wildly varying tone that couldn't decide whether it's an earnest comedy or absurd parody. You know what you're going to get when you start a movie like this, but that doesn't excuse its two hour running time. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: Not Graded

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Monday, August 17, 2020

Release Day

Introducing the new and improved Official Website of Janny Wurts!

Janny is the creator of the Wars of Light and Shadow series as well as the co-author of the Empire Trilogy with Raymond E. Feist. Her website had lingered in the aughts, as previous website administrators naturally moved on to other things in life. Having corresponded with her over the past 13 years as I built the Wiki for her main book series and in search of another quarantine project, I volunteered to help her modernize the site.

The key requirements upfront: simplify navigation (sites that have been around for over 20 years, like my own, tend to build up a lot of content warrens), make it work on phones, and give equal emphasis to Janny's writing and artwork. I kept the content, burned down the old code, and started over from the ashes.

My key takeaway from the work, which started in late June, is that web development is so much easier today than it was even 5 years ago. Where once I would have spent time thinking up workarounds for every single web browser, I can now find fully-working examples of tailorable code snippets all over the Internet to do things using web standards that (mostly) work everywhere!

tagged as website, programming | permalink | 1 comment

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Maia's First Stories

Here are two works of art created by Maia and Rebecca, along with stories that Maia dictated about them to Rebecca.

The Beach

There are dolphins at the beach. Maia, Mommy, and Daddy are looking out at the ocean. The sand is dry.

Here are the bunnies looking out at the purple ocean. There is a big purple wave coming! Some of the sand fell on the bunny's head. The bunny got a sunburn. There is a rain cloud. But the bunnies have an umbrella! The Big Umbrella! It's hard when you're tall, because when the bunnies grow tall, they don't quite fit under the umbrella. The End.

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Friday, August 21, 2020

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Live at Brooklyn Steel by Mika:
Mika's most recent album is a live collection of older songs. It has great sound mixing -- the audience sound is toned back just enough that you get the live feel without losing the main performance. Mika also sounds just as good as he does on his studio albums.

Final Grade: B+

Ocean's 13 (PG-13):
I watched this movie over 3 treadmill sessions and remember very little about it. It has minimal characterization, minimal heisting, minimal payoff, and minimal reason to care about any of it. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: D

Elder Scrolls Online:
I first reviewed ESO back in 2015. It was a fun, non-addicting game that I enjoyed playing until Fallout 4 came out and distracted me. I picked it up again just as the pandemic was revving up and played it consistently for 3-4 more months. The game has seen regular improvements and has so much solo-friendly content that I hadn't even finished the last 3 or 4 most recent expansion packs by the time I stopped in June. ESO definitely fills a lot of the "boredom" criticisms I discovered when I tried WoW again, and is a game that I'd definitely return to some day when nothing better is out. The only downside is the relative confusion of figuring out where to begin -- with so many new expansions and NPCs that try to channel you towards the newest stuff, the underlying story can be hard to follow without helpful "story order" lists on forums.

Final Grade: B+

Hamilton:
I love the experience of watching a triple-A musical from the comfort of my couch. You can see individual faces, get a little more kinetic energy from moving cameras, and turn on subtitles for all the lines that get swallowed by poor sound mixing.

As for Hamilton itself, I thought it was a great musical though maybe not worth selling your children to get tickets for. The through-composed songs reprise regularly throughout the musical, connecting things together very effectively. Staging is fairly simple, but the dancing ensemble keeps the background interesting. All performances were strong although Thomas Jefferson and King George clearly stole the show. The only fault I found was the speaking voices of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr -- both used whiny, raspy tones that scraped against my brain like an infected safety pin. As soon as either one started singing, my brain was much happier. Free on Disney+.

Final Grade: A

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Monday, August 24, 2020

Maia's 12 of 12

After explaining to Maia that I take 12 pictures of my day on the 12th of every month, she decided that she, too, wanted to participate. We gave her a camera, showed her how to push the button, and sent her off into the world. Here is a subset of the 74 pictures she took over the course of the next 32 minutes.

Also at one point, the camera definitely got toggled into video mode:

Other posts in this series: Part I | Part II

tagged as 12 of 12 | permalink | 1 comment

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Time-lapsed Blogography Day: Twenty-Four Years Ago Today

Twenty-four years ago today, on August 26, 1996, it was my first day of classes as an undergrad at Virginia Tech. I started with 9 AM Music Theory, taught by Dr. Bachelder, my trumpet professor, followed up immediately with sight-singing taught by Dave McKee. That was it for my entire day until "Introduction to Programming in C" at 2 PM, marching band at 5 PM, and a major-wide meeting of all Computer Science freshman at 7 PM that I wrote was "a huge waste of time".

Looking back at who I was at that time, an unassuming short person who didn't like making small talk, who walked emphatically from point A to point B with maximum efficiency and the typical CS major's hunch to my general posture, I probably would have loved doing all of my coursework virtually. This is reinforced by a journal entry from two nights before where I wrote, "I skipped a band party so I could finish up my Honors essay" (This was also a huge waste of time because I ended up dropping out of the Honors program soon after because it was "a huge waste of time").

That said, I'm glad I'm not starting my college experience in front of a Zoom chat and hope that kids today are opting out for a year whenever possible.

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Friday, August 28, 2020

Stuff in My Drawers Day: Kid Art

Now that Maia (at 3 years and 1 month old) is getting enough manual dexterity to create images of questionable artistic value, I thought I would see how my own artwork from a similar age looked.

I drew this first image on the back of some dot matrix printer paper at the age of 2 years and 9 months. Hopefully it was not drawn on the topic of gun violence.

At 3 years and 7 months, my line work had greatly improved. This is apparently a microscopic fantasy world where the sun is a benevolent paramecium and chimneys double as rocket launchpads.

tagged as media | permalink | 1 comment

Monday, August 31, 2020

End-of-the-Month Highlights Day

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

  • Events
    • Drove home from the Outer Banks on S 8/2.

    • Rebecca and Maia went to the Smith's house for a two-night getaway on F 8/7 while I stayed home and talked to no one.

    • The Smith girls came over for a visit on H 8/13.

    • Came in 25th in a virtual work poker tournament on H 8/20.

    • Porch visit with Rebecca's parents on S 8/22.

    • Porch visit with my parents on H 8/27.

    • Caught up with Jack on the porch on S 8/29.

  • Projects

  • Consumerism
    • Did our first ever grocery pre-order and pick-up at Giant on M 8/3 after the smashing success we had at the beach.

    • Started playing on the Oculus Rift again, in spite of the failure of its right headphone. Playing Beat Saber and Asgard's Wrath.

    • Enjoyed watching Hamilton this month.

    • No new music of note this month.

August's Final Grade: B, Made it through the second longest month of the year!

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