09/2020

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

Time-lapsed Blogography Day: Twenty Six Years Ago Today

Twenty-six years ago today, on September 2, 1994, I had just finished writing my magnum opus, Maverin: A Murder Mystery.

With minor assistance from my dad and the photocopiers at USDA, I had printed out multiple copies of the 120-page novel and distributed it to all of my friends, most of whom were featured characters in the story.

The story was supremely trite, equal parts inspired by Gordon Korman, John Grisham, and the computer game, Colonel's Bequest. There were multiple people with limps, too many characters with a secret, and all sorts of other murder mystery tropes. The events took place on a manor near Hahns Peak, Colorado, simply because I opened up a map once and pointed at a city.

My dad offered harsh realism as advice on getting it published: "I'll buy you this book full of publisher info and you can pay to send your manuscript out to as many as you want, but you'll probably spend a lot more of your money than you'll ever make and it may never get published anyhow." Since that seemed like more work that I'd care to deal with, the vaguely-formed dream of being a famous teen author ended quietly and I soon moved on to other more interesting pursuits, like writing music.

tagged as memories | permalink | 1 comment

Friday, September 04, 2020

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

We Need Medicine by The Fratellis:
A solid Fratellis album exactly halfway between the earlier T-shirt shop music and the more mature recent stuff. Seven Nights Seven Days is a pretty good representative track.

Final Grade: B

Codenames Duet:
Rebecca and I started playing this game after a summer too chock full of Patchwork. Two players work together to guess target words on a board (uncovering spies) without accidentally picking the assassins or hitting innocent bystanders. The first couple games will stretch your mind in odd directions, but it's pretty fun once you're in the groove. Plenty of replayability -- we usually play 3 or 4 games in an hour.

Final Grade: B+

Dead Horse, Alaska (Onyx, Red, and Gold) by Dirt Poor Robins:
The latest "musical story" album from Dirt Poor Robins came out on 3 sequential, colored EPs. The whole thing is dense, somber, and low on hooks. I've listened to it 4 or 5 times now but it's not really fun to listen to and I struggled to stay focused. Maybe in a dark theater with no distractions, it'd be worth a listen.

Final Grade: C

You Look Like a Thing and I Love You by Janelle Shane:
This book on machine learning (from the author of the AI Weirdness blog in the sidebar) overlaps a little bit with Hello World: Being Human in the Age of Algorithms but goes a little deeper into the technical side of ML. It's a quick read but overloaded with cartoons and examples of ML making silly mistakes, which are less interesting as the number of examples increase (the content is much more enjoyable in blog format). If you'd like to learn about ML with a focus on real-world impacts, read the other book instead.

Final Grade: C+

tagged as reviews | permalink | 0 comments

Monday, September 07, 2020

Maia Battle Report: Year 3 Month 2

By week and by month seem like too short of a period to keep writing these Battle Reports, but I feel like I should check in occasionally to make sure that the miscellaneous quirks of our daughter are not forgotten.

Maia is now 2 months beyond the age of 3, has reached the age where she clearly has a short-term and long-term memory and is mostly capable of communicating with us. On Friday, she reminded Rebecca to bring cash in the car because the apple-picking farm didn't accept credit cards. She finds it easy to express herself, repeating stock phrases like "I'm so excited!" that she's heard elsewhere. She'll also say, "I love you too!" if you start.

Maia still loves dresses. We've moved all of her daily wear dresses (most of which came from Ghazaleh) down a level in the closet so she can reach them. She regularly changes out of her PJs at bedtime to wear a dress instead. Usually, she'll put one on normally and then another around her waist to make a double layer. The fancy dresses stay up high in the closet but they still get used and dirtied within each week.

She either sleeps very well or she doesn't. Naps are mostly out, but she'll often sleep undisturbed from 8 PM to 8 AM, After waking up, she'll play with her Duplos for a bit and then start knocking on the door (which still has a child-proof cap on the knob) and asking us if we want to build a snowman.

Maia had a great time at the beach last month, but she mostly enjoyed having "big girl friends" in the form of the Smiths' daughters. As we drove away, she pointed at a windsock with the American flag on it and said, "I see an American jellyfish!". She's usually easy to understand now although she rarely pronounces the 2nd consonant in a word -- this is especially difficult with "crowds", "clouds", and "cows", all of which come up in daily conversation.

For a brief period, she would hop on the couch and say, "Mommy, I'm HERE." when she wanted to watch Frozen for the 8,000,000th time but that thankfully didn't last. She hasn't watched Superwings in ages, but will watch chunks of the Frozen saga 20 minutes per day or watch Rebecca die a lot in Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker on the Nintendo Switch.

She easily counts to about 12 and can play cursory games involving dice or dominos. She got a Frozen-themed version of Chutes and Ladders from the Smiths which she loves to play with us or by herself during her naptime.

This past weekend, I moved my home office into the basement to take advantage of the quieter, larger space. When we asked Maia if she wanted to move her bedroom into the now-empty office, she thought for a minute and said no because "my toys are in my closet and you can't move the closet". The empty room is now her "kitchen" and comes complete with a "no clean up" rule which means that I don't have to ruin my back picking up toys in there.

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

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

Stuff in My Drawers Day: Bunnies, Part II

Even more pandemic bunny drawing requests from Maia

Other posts in this series: Part I | Part II | Part III

tagged as media | permalink | 1 comment

Friday, September 11, 2020

Review Day: Family and Foes by Susan Quilty

There are no major spoilers for either of the first two books in this review.

Family and Foes is Book Two of the YA Fantasy series, The Psychic Traveler Society. The story centers on a fifteen-year-old protagonist with typical adolescent woes whose recurring daydreams lead her to a secret society and the possibility of other worlds.

The ending of Book 1 left the main characters in a setting filled with plenty of untapped world-building potential and unresolved conflicts. It felt more like an interim stop than a terminus, so it would have been safe and predictable to pick up right where we left off. Instead, Susan Quilty succeeds at delivering something more ambitious and risky, shifting the focus to another locale that simultaneously scales out the series universe and deepens our understanding of the Psychic Traveler Society at the center of it.

While taking the action elsewhere may disappoint fans invested in the strife on Terra-V, this allows the author to explore a lot of different ideas and avoid getting locked into a pure YA Fantasy plot. Themes from Quilty's first book, Insistence of Memory, emerge periodically, reinforcing the main character's inner turmoil about what she's told to believe by people in authority.

There's a perfect balance between the mundane challenges that Amanda Jones faces in high school and the more fantastic elements. The author does a good job writing a teenager who's not always likeable but reacts with believable internal consistency. Tension in each half of her compartmentalized life bleeds across the boundary despite Amanda's best efforts and keeps the real world scenes relevant -- I never felt like I was skimming through them just to "get back to the good part".

Book 2 was a fun journey but I'm looking forward to Amanda Jones having more agency and control of her fate in future sequels. The fact that she's an impetuous teenager is a critical foundation of her growing maturity, but it also leads to scenes where the plot is happening around her rather than as a direct result of her intentions and actions. I hope that Book 3 will allow the other characters to stop reacting to what she might become and start experiencing what she's actually capable of.

Final Grade: B

tagged as reviews | permalink | 0 comments

Monday, September 14, 2020

Chad Darnell's 12 of 12

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

7:58 AM: Showered and ready for the day.
8:22 AM: Bagel and smoked salmon for breakfast on our mountain deck.
8:44 AM: She believes she can fly.
9:41 AM: Playing Othello for the first time. "You're trying to make sandwiches and turn the lunch meat into bread."
10:39 AM: Hike around Lake Laura with our vacation quarantine pod.
11:35 AM: "Tired of walking" after 0.5 miles.
1:05 PM: View of lunch from the video game nook.
5:34 PM: 7 Wonders and Colouring while I make dinner.
5:41 PM: Broiled filet mignon with a Worchestershire marinade, mushrooms, and hot dogs for kids. Paired with a 2014 tempranillo.
6:38 PM: Blowing COVID everywhere.
7:08 PM: Birthday group shot.
7:13 PM: Presents!

tagged as 12 of 12 | permalink | 2 comments

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Birth Day

permalink | 1 comment

Friday, September 18, 2020

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

His Dark Materials, Season One:
This is a solid adaptation of Book 1, The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman. (I enjoyed the first two books but thought that the 3rd was an imploded mess, not unlike the 3rd Hunger Games book). Great performances and decent CGI keep the story moving, and even Rebecca liked it. The only flaw in the structure of the story was introducing a character from Book 2 early on to get their scenes out of the way -- while it makes sense not to have to backtrack in the next season, nothing truly happened in any of that character's scenes.

Final Grade: B

Seven Mirrors by Drapht:
A fine but forgettable Australian hip-hop album. Good hooks that fall apart if you listen more closely to them, like an entire song where the chorus is just "I'm feeling bad, bad, bad" repeated ad nauseum. Also, the trend of putting skits on hip-hop albums between songs needs to stop.

Final Grade: B-

Get Duked! (R):
This movie is like Hunt for the Wilderpeople mashed up with Get Out and it's as awesome as that sounds. The needle stays strictly on the comedy side vs. horror, and the tone remains pleasant with plenty of bro-mance. A particular scene when an aspiring rapper stumbles across a small farming community is perfectly storyboarded. Free on Amazon Prime.

Final Grade: A

3%, Season Four:
The final season of 3% ends the story well enough while giving most of the characters plenty of space for denouement. A few characters flip-flop just for the sake of plot, which is disappointing because earlier seasons did so well at avoiding this classic flaw that always happens in The 100. The final episode is way too long and feels a little tacked on, but the ending doesn't stray very far from the conceit of what came before. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: B-

tagged as reviews | permalink | 0 comments

Monday, September 21, 2020

Recipe Day: Crispy Broiled Shrimp

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb thawed, peeled, deveined, legless shrimp
  • 1/8 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • 1 tablespoon shredded or grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
  • lemon juice

Directions

  1. Place shrimp on a foil-lined broiler pan at room temperature. Coat with melted butter, breadcrumbs, cheese, and parsley.
  2. Set broiler to HIGH and broil shrimp about 4 inches from the heating element for 4 minutes. Shrimp are ready when no longer translucent.
  3. Spritz with lemon juice and serve!

I like how quickly and evenly shrimp turn out in the toaster oven -- you can quick thaw frozen shrimp about 15 minutes beforehand and have lunch, dinner, or a snack ready in minutes. Maia immediately inhaled 4 shrimp the first time I made this, so you know it's good.

tagged as recipes | permalink | 1 comment

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Time-lapsed Blogography Day: Fifteen Years Ago Today

Fifteen years ago today, on September 23, 2005, I took my first trip back to Tallahassee since my grad school career ended in 2003.

Following an extended delay in Atlanta due to a broken plane, I arrived in Tallahassee and had dinner at the classiest of restaurants, Applebee's, with Mike and Kathy. We then went to Mike's apartment at 222 Lake Ella Drive because Kathy wanted to teach us a new board game, Settlers of Catan. (Got any sheep?)

I only kept 2 pictures from my brief weekend trip -- one of Chompy (the dog), who was surprisingly fit, and one of Kathy's real-adult-looking apartment, where I spent the night to avoid getting diseases from Mike's futon.

The last time I hung out with Mike in person was July 2019, and I saw Kathy just last Monday the 14th! In contrast, I haven't seen Evil Mike since before the pandemic, and Doobie since 2006.

tagged as memories | permalink | 3 comments

Friday, September 25, 2020

Review Day: Draigon Weather by Paige L. Christie

There are no major spoilers in this review.

Draigon Weather is Book One of the four-book series, Legacies of Arnan, by Paige L. Christie. The story takes place in a land where rare visits from giant Draigons can cause droughts, fires, and unpredictable weather. The fearful populace have learned that the sacrifice of a woman will appease a Draigon for at least a generation. This setup allows the author to expertly turn the "damsel in distress" trope on its ear.

While the plot spans decades, the heart of the story centers on two childhood friends, Leiel and Cleod, and how a singular traumatic event sets them on very different paths. The two points-of-view are equally enjoyable and serve to develop the characters towards a reunion that I found very powerful and rewarding. This is much more than a simple coming-of-age story: it features strong, competent characters that truly grow over the course of the book, which I found refreshing after so many books where immature characters only grow up by leaving a string of failures and mistakes in their wakes.

"There are no beginnings. There are only starting places in the middle of longer tales."

The book bounces back and forth in time rather violently upfront, but soon settles into a rhythm where several consecutive chapters stay in the same period. I was surprised by how effective the splintered timeline was. Generally, techniques like this fail to excite because too much emphasis is on concealing or overhyping the key event that separates past from future (see almost any J.J. Abrams-directed show that jumps back 24 hours). Here, the time jumps succeed not because of cheap tricks or late-game reveals, but because I was wholly invested in the characters and wanted to explore every inch of their stories, even when already telegraphed several chapters earlier.

I enjoyed the generally uplifting tone of the story and its themes. The characters struggle and face tragic circumstances, but there is always a maudlin thread of hope running through the proceedings. Relationships with supporting characters (like Kilras and Torrin) aren't given a short shrift -- if anything, they left me wanting to read more about them. Even minor characters who behave despicably are developed enough to have a reason for their depravity.

All of these aspects serve to make Draigon Weather a very strong start to the series (I immediately purchased Book 2, Wing Wind, after finishing). Read this for its well-developed characters worth rooting for, its direct, powerful prose, and its ability to erase the line between history, backstory, and the parts of the story you're "supposed" to care about.

Final Grade: B+

tagged as reviews | permalink | 0 comments

Monday, September 28, 2020

Quarantine Data Day

Today we're on Day 200 of self-quarantine, having spent 54.8% of the year away from gross people.

I think we have adapted quite well, adjusting socially to have one family at a time for dinner on our screen porch or doing activities that mostly involve the forest. We've taken two vacations (complete with pre- and post- quarantines) as a pod, taking advantage of the available rental stock on VRBO and other sites.

We've switched almost exclusively to grocery pre-order and pickup, although I still make a weekly early morning trip to Safeway for their soft, soft bagels and Coke Zero (surprisingly, there is still a Coke Zero shortage because production has switched to basic Coke to avoid any shortages of that grossness). I also hit Costco maybe once every two months for meats, but even that is more nice-to-have than anything.

Maia did not start Preschool this year, but she gets about 20 minutes of Khan Academy Kids time on the iPad every day and just learned about rhyming. She also kicks ass at those Washington Post Magazine puzzles where you have to spot all the differences between two photographs -- Waldo isn't going to stand a chance some day.

Rebecca and Maia have been planting tons of composted stuff this year, from volunteer tomatoes to peach trees, avocado pits, and 12 tiny squirrels. Our fig tree is out of control, engulfing the sidewalk by our driveway like a leafy octopus.

How is your 2020 going?

tagged as data | permalink | 1 comment

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

End-of-the-Month Highlights Day

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

  • Events
    • Rebecca and Maia went apple-picking with the Smiths in Markham on F 9/4.

    • Spent my birthday weekend in a mountain cabin in Basye, VA with the Smiths, F 9/11 - M 9/14. Rebecca and Maia stayed on for another 3 nights with her parents, M 9/14 - H 9/17. I came back for the last night.

    • Screen porch visit with my parents on F 9/25.

    • Rebecca and Maia went to Lake Barcroft with her parents on S 9/26.

  • Projects
    • Relocated my home office to the basement on S 9/5.

    • Took on a side gig of proofreading an e-book trilogy.

  • Consumerism
    • Enjoyed watching Get Duked! and reading Draigon Weather this month. No new music of note.

    • Started playing Paper Mario: Origami King, which has a tedious battle system but which moves slowly enough that Maia can enjoy watching.

September's Final Grade: B, still alive at 41

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

 

You are currently viewing a monthly archive, so the posts are in chronological order with the oldest at the top. On the front page, the newest post is at the top. The entire URI! Zone is © 1996 - 2020 by Brian Uri!. Please see the About page for further information.

Jump to Top
Jump to the Front Page


September 2020
SMTWHFS
12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
27282930
BIRTHDAYS
BLOGLOG
10/15
09/11
06/15

OLD POSTS
Old News Years J F M A M J
J A S O N D
J F M A M J
J A S O N D
J F M A M J
J A S O N D
J F M A M J
J A S O N D
J F M A M J
J A S O N D
J F M A M J
J A S O N D
J F M A M J
J A S O N D
J F M A M J
J A S O N D
J F M A M J
J A S O N D
J F M A M J
J A S O N D
J F M A M J
J A S O N D
J F M A M J
J A S O N D
J F M A M J
J A S O N D
J F M A M J
J A S O N D
J F M A M J
J A S O N D
J F M A M J
J A S O N D
J F M A M J
J A S O N D
J F M A M J
J A S O N D
J F M A M J
J A S O N D
J F M A M J
J A S O N D
visitors since November 2003