The URI! Zone - 01/2007

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

2007: The Year of the Mealworm

The new year kicked off to an underwhelming start yesterday with a pasty swatch of lingering fog and rain showers. I spent New Year's Eve at home working aided by an on-sale case of Guinness from the yuppy Costco (15 for $17) and a back-on-air UPOP pumping out only the worst in European pop music. The week before I was a veritable hibernating bear (if bears were actually capable of writing code without syntax errors), only leaving my telecommuting den to meet up with the family in Alexandria or restock on the necessities of life (Totino's Clasic Pepperoni Pizzas). This left little time for personal hygiene as can be seen in the rather shaggy portrait on the left. If only I'd had some Doritos, I could have littered crumbs across my chest and been any one of several CS majors from my youth.

My big present this year was a massive 46" TV with a surround sound system on which I watched the sixth season of the Sopranos during my power-breaks. I was also able to see, up close and personally, Virginia Tech's patented second half playbook where they squandered a 21-3 lead to lose 31-21 -- I'm sure the wide screen was to blame for magnifying all the errors and penalties they encountered on the field (that or the massive OD on Chick-fila commercials).

Despite my previous naysaying, I also managed to snag a Nintendo Wii in a ridiculously overpriced GameStop bundle a week before Christmas. I hadn't planned on it, but the opportunity was there for about twenty minutes before they went out of stock again, meaning I didn't have to wait in lines or travel anywhere at all. The yuppy, it's in my blood. I haven't even had much time to play with it, but it's been worth it so far.

Besides these highlights, my holiday was quite low-key. I took care of the Kathy's gay kitties for a week, learned the Spring Web Flow framework, had a pint or two or three of Guinness, and continued in my valiant efforts to keep the DoD missiles from rebooting over Kansas. This is the last month of crunch time at work, so I'll probably end up taking a holiday week in February. In the meantime, life continues at its frenetically languid pace: eat, work, sleep, repeat, and occasionally rinse.

In order to avoid offending religious fundamentalists, our National Park Service is under orders to suspend its belief in geology
100 interesting facts falsely labelled as being relevant to last year
The piddler on the roof

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

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

List Day: New Year's Resolutions

  1. Become a syndicated talk show host who only interviews the scrubs that get rejected from all the other talk shows.
  2. Save a small child from a runaway cement mixer with bad rear-left brakes.
  3. Participate in at least one foreign military coup and become the head of state in the subsequent puppet government, directly involved in the day to day suppression of human rights, and lefts.
  4. Write the Great Asian-American Novel and sell the TV-movie rights to NBC for their new Must-See-TV on Thursday nights.
  5. Climb Mount Everest without any oxygen gear or shoes.
  6. Simultaneously date between four and seven women while marrying at least two, without entering the state boundaries of Utah.
  7. 1024x768, or maybe 1600x1200
  8. Invent a sport, get it added to the Summer Olympics, and become the first athlete to gold medal in it.
  9. Be a double-nominee for Academy Awards in Sound Mixing and Documentary Feature for my work on Deaf Boy With No Ears in a Soundproof Dungeon of the Heart.
  10. Learn every dialect of the Chinese language and display my linguistic prowess on the Mandarin version of Jeopardy!.
  11. Vandalize at least fourteen Wikipedia entries with slightly satirical information that could quite possibly be mistaken for the truth.
  12. Genetically engineer the perfect pet, using DNA strains from a Maine Coon, a Labrador, a bumblebee, and Chewbacca.
  13. Write a country song using only a Csus9 chord and the phrase "boot-lickin' dogie vittles".
  14. Discover the lost continent of Atlantis in Lake Huron.
  15. Eat lots of bacon.

At least I have about as much of a chance to keep my resolutions as you do yours!

Happy Birthday Lisa Johnson!

Parasite makes men dumb and women hot
Creepy paintings removed from hospital
I didn't notice the mistake as my son is usually good with computers

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Thursday, January 04, 2007

Memory Day: The Secret Society of Safety Patrols

The elementary school Safety Patrol program is a hands-on extracurricular activity designed to teach our budding citizens-students about the inefficiency of bureaucracy and the futility of law enforcement and positive change. Each member of the Safety Patrol is given an appallingly orange belt, no doubt stamped out of a much larger, yet still appallingly orange skin of vinyl, probably left over from the previous year's reupholstering of the school buses. The clasps are too loose for the skinny kids who break the curve on the body fat test (and too tight for the chubby buggers of Today's America) while the shoulder harness is pocked with pin marks from students incapable of affixing their badge at the proper height. Armed with this belt and a Cliff Notes book of school rules, the patrols are sent out on one of two dangerous assignments.

The drones of the organization end up in school hallways, given the power to yell "WALK!" but unable to reprimand students who don't, like a particularly zany game of Red Light Green Light. These drones often burn out quickly on being a patrol and probably end up highly sought in high school by unscruplous military recruiters in need of cannon fodder. Those that pass this initial round of hallway abuse get promoted to the assignment of standing at intersections to escort kids across the street. This is a choice assignment, not because it requires responsibility and diligence, but because you get out of school early every day so you can get to your street corner before the cattle call.

Street corner Safety Patrols actually have the easiest job in the world, because they always play second fiddle to an adult crossing guard in a uniform that actually reflects light. (The reflective properties of the Safety Patrol belt are minimal after years of use, but you can roll it up tightly into a sling and then smack someone across the head with the aforementioned badge). Evidently, most school systems would much rather trust their childrens' lives to the 60-year-old retiree than the sixth-grader who can barely remember to carry the 1. So, the Safety Patrol sits on the corner, his job to keep students from running into the street while the REAL crossing guard stops traffic and escorts the tykes across.

If they really want to break your spirit, they will assign you as a patrol at a completely useless intersection. You can always tell this is the case because the site is not deemed important enough to have a real crossing guard. In my first year as a stalwart Safety Patrol, I got the T intersection next to a forest, which meant there was just a single crosswalk of interest. The crosswalk spanned a dead end street, so no cars ever drove by, but it didn't matter anyhow since no one ever walked this way. The reason? There was another elementary school three blocks over, and this street was the dividing line between school districts. The only people that would ever cross my street went to the other school!

Because this was such a dangerous and crucial outpost of Safety Patroldom, they even assigned two of us to stand there, rain or shine, waiting for kids to cross who never came. Like all good little bureaucrats, we made up a game instead which involved kicking piles of raked leaves against a chain link fence in high winds, to see how much of the fence we could cover before the wind died down again. This game was also the cause of all the demerits I racked up that year, given out by the power-hungry Captain.

Yes, the Safety Patrols have Captains, and Lieutenants and Sergeants, even though the kids holding those offices couldn't even spell those terms. The Captains were always one boy and one girl (take that sexism), generally the students who would end up voted "Most Likely to Intern for a Representative as a Stepping Stone to the White House" in high school. Their job description was to maintain efficiency within the unit, though their actual job involved handing out demerits to underlings who hung their badges wrong or wore their belts with a twist in the fabric instead of neatly starched as God intended.

Kicking leaves against a fence is worth one demerit. Two the second time you do it. The life lesson I walked away with was this: Your boss can't fire you for insubordination if your boss' boss thinks you are a-okay.

Happy Birthday Jon Kula!

Cooper, 21, who was the yellow piece, continually provided wrong answers, resulting in over intoxication.
Overweight woman traps tour group in a cave
FAA blames UFO on weather

tagged as memories | permalink | 5 comments

Friday, January 05, 2007

Friday Fragments

the culmination of 230 years of American Independence

♣ Yesterday afternoon, Philip sent me a picture of his developing progeny, little Malibu Barbie. With his offspring and Anna's sharing a due date, I'm sure March will be a rather busy month for cigar makers. It won't be long before we find out that the Kelley is the proud daddy of triplets. Wouldn't that be a scary start to the new year?

♣ Looking back, 2006 was overall a good year -- not too dramatic and not too dull, which is perfect for a status-quo maintainer such as myself. If there's one lesson I learned from 2006, it's that you cannot listen to the theme song from Picture Pages without getting it hopelessly stuck in your head. Go ahead, you know you want to . I bet it's stuck in your head now after just thinking about it.

♣ Before the new year, I did my usually yearly clean up of my MP3 collection, which has now grown to 1185 songs and 82 hours. This is probably much less than many folks out there, but my collection is unique because I actually listen to every single song pretty regularly. I'm one of those people that constantly has some form of music playing -- even at the office there's a barely audible stream of music leaking out of the crappy work-issue speakers, so I get through the entire repertoire in about a week and a half.

♣ My collection is ridiculously eclectic. If there were ever a contest that involved finding songs with particular characteristics, like "a song like I Feel Good that begins with a female scream" or one that ends with a car honk, I would be the supreme winner of the universe.

♣ On my block, there's a particular car full of day laborers that always pulls up to the neighbour's house at six in the morning and honks to get the guy out of the house. Generally the guy moves very deliberately, as if navigating a laser field in a museum safe, so the car will honk three or four times before anyone actually comes out. This is my new pet peeve. Can't you take the four seconds to get out of the car, bang on the door, and get back in? If I weren't already awake and heading for work, I'd probably be more livid about it. As it stands, I'm only slightly annoyed by this habit.

♣ I have never worn a habit, though one summer in college I quit my PEPCO job and got to write "none" on an employment form. That turned out to be quite the enjoyable summer, since it was too late to look for another job with any resolve, so I stayed home, wrote my amazingly literary murder mystery , played lots of computer games, and limited my purchases to very small or cheap things.

♣ I've made a flurry of small but cumulatively expensive purchases in the past week. True to "razor and razor blades" form, all of my fancy schmancy gadgets and tools from Christmastime require just one more add-on or adapter to have full functionality. I'm now on the list for two additional Wii controllers (sans Nunchucks since they are rare like Ytterbium), a USB Wi-Fi adapter for the Wii's online playing capabilities, an XM tuner to connect to my new receiver (which wasn't enough since XM loves to force purchases upon you), and an antenna for over-the-air HD signals.

♣ I'm happy about the last one though, because if it works out I'll get the big networks for free and I'll finally break my inertia and cancel my Comcast cable account (Comcast bought Adelphia by the way). This will save me $600 a year and the only downside is that I won't get ESPN for VT games. $600 vs. football. To some people that might be a difficult decision. NOT SO FOR ME.

♣ This weekend, the plan is to have the BCS games on in the background while I continue to chug along with work. I thought it might be slowing down, but a rabid snare of avian flu contaminated one of my coworkers all week and now I have to step into the breach and plug the dike with my finger. I might also get some Poker in on Saturday night, but only if I win.

♣ Tomorrow is Hilda Dundon's birthday. Happy Birthday! Have a great weekend, everyone!

Teen has a veritable party in his underpants
Mob burns down local jerk's house
She's a lying two-faced cow

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Monday, January 08, 2007

Pearls of Wisdom from Yearbooks of Yore

7th Grade, 1991

Sadly, I was!

8th Grade, 1992

The sweets guy is the one that brings candy to class. This note would be completely unremarkable, were it not for these happenings a decade later .

8th Grade, 1992

"You impudent little freak" was a catchphrase for a very very short period of time in 1992 -- was it from SNL or something? "Bammafied bamma" lasted much longer.

9th Grade, 1993

The obligatory inside joke that no one else will ever get. I read this for probably the first time since it was written and the old levity of the joke immediately washed over me like an incoming tide of horseshoe crabs and industrial foam. We had a particularly white-bread band director and we were playing one of those uselessly trendy band arrangements where either Swearingen or Curnow try to be hip, and she remarked "This sounds like one of those songs you kids would be playing on your ghetto boxes". Every single day for the remainder of the year, someone would call out from the back of the room, "What's a ghetto box?" You had to be there.

10th Grade, 1994

Yes, my nickname in high school was The Urinator. I wore it like the badge of honour that it was.

10th Grade, 1994

The obligatory "Why the hell did you ask me to sign your yearbook since I am way more popular than you and ignore you in said English class" note.

11th Grade, 1995

The correct response is either the Japanese ellipsis (...) or a capital WTF. Either is appropriate.

11th Grade, 1995

I was very short in high school, but I've grown by leaps and bounds since then.

12th Grade, 1996

I wrote a song called Bubba's Fried Chicken Stand for the jazz band. And, every other entry in this yearbook mentioned crew or boats or cockswines.

12th Grade, 1996

See? Growth.
Oiled prisoner escapes from prison
Self-cleaning underwear goes weeks without washing (but will then eat your genitals and take over the world)
It's a battle not written in stone

tagged as memories | permalink | 3 comments

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Look, Listen, Learn Day

LOOK at Amber doing the Lemur Dance (3MB WMV). Who needs expensive toys? Certainly not I.

LISTEN to Lily Allen singing LDN (400KB MP3). I don't know why this is such a catchy tune -- probably its singsong patter and the fact that British accents are sexy.

LEARN that, according to zoologists, a tiger's scent markings smell like buttered popcorn.

LOOK at Mike's brand new website, The Chompblog , which is far more techy than my own. Composer to computee in just over two years -- he calls it the bank because "that's where the money is".

LISTEN to Lady Sovereign singing the diametric twin of LDN: Love Me Or Hate Me (500KB MP3). The guttersnipe accents and general unpleasantness of the electronica gave this song enough of an edge to keep my attention.

LEARN that, according to the FBI, 74% of threats against federal workers are directed at IRS employees.

LOOK at the gay Brothers Katomatzov as they catch a mouse (4MB WMV). Who needs expensive toys? Certainly not I.

LISTEN to the first section of my work in progress (500KB MP3), based on a melody by Anna. There's no introduction yet -- I've gone through three and discarded them all so far. The parts in the recording have probably survived long enough to be permanentwill probably stick around permanent. Also, I hate making MIDI drum set tracks.

LEARN that the original Guinness Brewery in Dublin has a 6000-year lease.

Keep People Out of Wash
For those unpleasant days, the heated steel canopy helps to take the edge off Mother Nature
Smallest state seeks new owner

tagged as media | permalink | 4 comments

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Audience Participation Day

The CMMI Level 14 Process I go through to pick my daily topics is highly robust and flexible, a guaranteed plus in this age of fitness blogs and fly-by-night-nude-celebrity blogs. The process begins four weeks in advance of the publication date, as I sit down at my easel and sketch out a few ideas (not unlike a skilled professional cartoonist). Then I take three weeks and five days off for a sabbatical (again, not unlike a professional cartoonist or music performance professor).

With the deadline looming, I skim the four sources of the apocalypse: the Washington Post, my little pad of ideas I jot down in the car, Uncle John's Bathroom Reader, and CNN.com. I take the best four ideas and erect small popsicle stick signs using my best fourth-grade diorama skills, and then plant the signs in the litter box overnight.

When I wake up the next morning, I assign a point value to each area of the litter box that a cat has pooped or peed on. Generally poop gets more points than pee, unless the clumped pee litter is in a particularly unusual shape, like a flattened C or a tetrahedron. The quarter of the box that gets the most points obviously reveals that Booty and Amber enjoyed the idea planted there the most, so that becomes the idea that you read about the next day. From my mind to the web page, enhanced by bowel movements and Science Diet Light, you get only the finest ideas.

Recently however, the editors have refused to poop in the litter box on three of four nights. Either the selection of ideas is slowly reaching the lowest common denominator like American movies, or I need to add more fiber to the cat food. Regardless, this is where you, the loyal reader comes into the story. On December 1, 2006 , I promised that you'd be able to dictate the course of the URI! Zone and now it's time to step up to the plate. Simply tell me what I should write about in today's comments sections (or send me an e-mail if you are shy, bashful, or generally a dwarf). The best four suggestions will come together in a single week of nonstop guest topics that will get old faster than those Who Wants To Be A Millionaire marathons but not quite as fast as American Idol. The winners of this contest will split 100% of the profits from my Google ads for the month of February.

Have at it!

Passing the buck, New Yorker style
O'Reilly, Colbert to appear on each other's shows
Baker's Dozen injured in fight

tagged as you speak | permalink | 11 comments

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Capsule Review Day

Little Miss Sunshine
This is the latest independent film that no one's ever heard of but everyone talks about. It's the story of a dysfunctional family's road trip to California so their daughter can enter the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant. It manages to be sentimental without sappiness and has the rare virtue of having a child actor who can act without being annoying. The movie reeled me in and the closing sequence was perfect, although the highly touted alternate endings were useless. There's a reason they weren't the main endings -- so leave them on the cutting room floor.

Final Opinion: 3 of 4 stars. Child beauty pageants are creepy.

Wii Sports
This freebie demo game comes with the Wii Console and has very scaled back versions of tennis, baseball, golf, bowling, and boxing which allows players to have fun using the new controllers. Because it's a freebie, the seams quickly become apparent since all the games aren't quite fleshed out enough to be really good, but they do show off how good a Wii game could be a year down the line when people know how to develop for them. In a nutshell, tennis is fun with four players, baseball is stupid (in the game too), golf is a neat gimmick the first time through, bowling feels very right, but makes it really easy to score big, and boxing is addictive (although it sometimes overloads if you make too many fast movements and your toon just stands there taking punches).

Final Opinion: B-, but it's bundled with the Console, so B+.

The Sopranos, Season Six Part One
In the grand tradition of chronologically handicapped titles comes the latest season of the Sopranos (see also, Ultima 7: Part 2: The Serpent Isle). The episodes are still engrossing, but about as pointless as the previous season. The first two seasons were really driven by the story arcs, and ever since then the episodes have evolved into mere character studies. I enjoy watching them, but I'd enjoy them more if there were any forward motion.

Final Opinion: three thumbs up out of four thumbs and a pinky

Dreamgirls
It's the black Chicago meets Ray. Starting strong and ending too late, the movie's mildly entertaining. Ironically, there are too many songs in it, and none of the songs are more than mediocre -- I couldn't remember a single melody walking out of the theatre. The problem with gospel-influenced genres is that every single song ends up in shrieking vocal acrobatics. This is effective in one song, but gets old when Jennifer Hudson has Spasmodic Muppet Syndrome for two straight hours. Some attempts at drama were groan-worthy, especially the arranged take on "We Are Family".

Final Opinion: Average. Great costumes.

Turning guns into sex
Introducing the desktop fabricator
Tampon used to smuggle scalpel

tagged as reviews | permalink | 2 comments

Friday, January 12, 2007

Chad Darnell's 12 of 12

5:14 AM: When half asleep and taking a picture over your head, make sure to get the lens cap out of the way.

5:29 AM: You can't really tell from this shot, but I am wearing a sombrero on the mirror.

5:36 AM: The new Catkins Diet requires that you pretend to feed your felines twice a day until they get thin.

5:42 AM: This is one of those annoying stop lights that automatically stops the main road so all the yuppies in their cul de sac community can get out as quickly as possible. Crossing the road is one of said yuppies.

5:52 AM: No one else is in the office yet. At least there's not a cubicle in sight -- everyone gets an office here.

8:25 AM: Working hard.

11:47 AM: Friday afternoon tradition of stopping at Popeyes for lunch. You know you go to a fast-food restaurant too much when they start ringing up your exact order before you even get to the cashier.

1:14 PM: Telecommuting after lunch, from the perspective of a fly on the wall.

4:42 PM: Bonus Picture "Something New" -- fiddling with my new antenna, trying to get free over-the-air HDTV so I can cancel the wallet-leech that is Comcast. It's Comcastic!

5:52 PM: Freshly shorn and ready for mischief.

7:12 PM: Other people eating lots of my cookies.

9:45 PM: Playing games while waiting for the late pizza guy who may have been an axe-murderer.

11:58 PM: Returning home just in time for the end of the day.

See more 12 of 12's at Chad's site !

Happy Birthday Anna's Dad tomorrow!

Monster bunnies for North Korea
I reckon that whale was sorry
Condoms don't belong in school, and neither does Al Gore

tagged as 12 of 12 | permalink | 7 comments

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Memory Day: The School Nurse

The school nurse at my elementary school was the archetype upon which every future stereotypical school nurse was ever founded. Picture a stark white lady in her early seventies named Beverly (or maybe it was Virginia), wearing white orthopedic shoes and a purple sweater with hair in a ridiculously tight bun the colour of polar bears in a blizzard.

Her job was to treat the neverending parade of kids complaining of stomach aches who occasionally threw up in the halls or the ones who nearly killed themselves on the last remaining Lawsuit Playground in the United States. She also had a cardboard box full of abandoned shorts that you could sift through if it was gym day and you'd forgotten to wear a pair under your pants. As previously mentioned, I never needed this last-ditch stop, having earned the highly coveted "PE Shorts Award" .

When something ails you in college, you're either pregnant or you have mono. The patient-physician relationship in elementary school follows the same basic philosophy, in that every ailment of the mind and body can be cured with a good old-fashioned ice pack. As luck would have it, you happen to be in the presence of the grand master ice pack maker of all time, a profession I did with pride for three long years, since it got me out of morning day care. (For yuppies in the audience, morning day care is when your parents go to work earlier than school starts and they don't trust you not to burn down the house in their absence. I would have too -- fire is cool).

You start out with a basic paper towel. Not the fashionable kind you see on TV getting soaked in vodka but still able to support the weight of a small child, but the dirty-brown industrial kind that comes in rectangles that you have to fold out yourself to make a square (fashionable paper towels provide square functionality out of the box). Take two ice cubes out of the freezer tray and place them lengthwise on the paper towel, then roll them up like a taquito (if you're Mexican) or a joint (if you're a music major). Fold the ends over to keep the ice from slipping out, then wrap a rubber band around it to keep the ends from coming free. Finally place the whole contraption inside a cheap sandwich bag -- the kind that doesn't zip shut with the flap that you have to fold over. Voilà (or viola, if you're Brianne) you have an ice pack!

Every morning, I would make twenty ice packs and refill the ice cube trays, and by every evening they'd all be gone. Skinned knee? Have an ice pack! ADHD? Ice pack. Frostbite? The school nurse never dealt with any of those cases in our mild clime, but I'm 99% certain I know what her treatment would be.

Thief couldn't flee with all that BOOTY
Tubby tabby reunited
Woman dies in Wee for Wii contest

tagged as memories | permalink | 2 comments

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

List Day: Ten New Ways to Deal with the War in Iraq

  1. Film a complicated dramatization of victory, similar to the supposedly fraudulent moon landing videos from the 1960s, and then post them on YouTube (THE source for news in 2007). Once it has been widely disseminated, quietly withdraw the troops.

  2. Buyout Rand McNally and Google Earth, adjusting the latitude and longitude of Iraq by 15 degrees, making future troop deployments arrive somewhere in the Indian Ocean. Bank on American laziness and expect them to go home without trying to locate the real Iraq.

  3. Continue to distract the American public with paparazzi photographs of Britney Spears in various states of pantylessness until such a time that a better solution can be found.

  4. Claim the country as a United State territory and deport anyone without naturalization paperwork or a birth certificate to Iran, (then invade Iran next year).

  5. Launch a Sunni-Redneck foreign exchange program to transplant refugees from the war-torn region with unemployed residents of Alabama and Mississippi, quelling the civil unrest.

  6. Tell President Ahmadinejad of Iran that Kim Il Jong called him fat, and tell Kim Il Jong that Iraq has luxury items imported from the U.S. Watch the Axis of Evil destroy themselves without our intervention and then claim the victor as a country of serfs in our futile system.

  7. Drop siege tanks on their cliffs and burrow lurkers in their base to deny them resources.

  8. Outsource all the menial jobs to Iraq, simultaneously ending Iraqi unemployment and American immigration woes.

  9. Hold an elite USO show for the Iraqi people, including Carrot Top, Pauly Shore, Gilbert Gottfried, Bjork, and Dick Cheney, to show them the virtues of being a good Westerner.

  10. Keep the country in a perpetual state of unrest, providing newspapers with one more "slow news day" story to go with "gas prices rising", "it's getting hotter", "traffic getting worse", "politicians corrupt" and "Montgomery County scared of sex ed".

Happy Birthday Robin Langridge!

Lost' creators: We know where we're going
Orville comes back from the dead
Minority Report UI comes to life

tagged as lists | permalink | 4 comments

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Time-Lapsed Blogography Day

BU at 15 data points

January 18, 1992: I spent the day, and the rest of the weekend at Camp Big Mac in Markham, Virginia with the Boy Scout Troop. Camp Big Mac was a step down from our usual camping spot because it was a desolate snowy mountain in the frigid wastes of Shenandoah Valley, but it was also a step up because it had a dining cabin with a wood stove.

January 18, 1993: Today was the final Board of Review for my Eagle Scout reward. "Why are you only 13?" was the most asked question, edging out "Why are you so Asian?" and "Why are you so short?"

January 18, 1994: I stayed home from school today, and the entire week as well, for what passes as a snowstorm in northern Virginia.

January 18, 1995: Today was a pretty good day. My calves were sore from the lightweight workout yesterday. In civ, I went to the library to work on a seminar which I didn't do very much on. We watched a dull movie during third period. At stage band, I did another good solo. ___ wasn't at school because of she got rear-ended by a school bus yesterday. There was a track meeting at 3 and then a short workout of 3 200's. ____ said that ____ had worn a "booby-hugging" shirt today but I didn't see her.

January 18, 1996: It was quite foggy this morning. In music theory, we had a simple assignment and a free period. In english, we finished the Macbeth recitations. ____'s grandmother died yesterday and she started crying during her recitation. After that we started reading Othello and I got to play all the spare miscellaneous parts. In band, Mr. Dill made the new girl 3rd chair flute and all the other flutes looked pissed. After school there was a lightweight meeting with Mr. Cannon that I went to and then I arranged the National Anthem for pep band. We got 8 more MB of memory in the mail. It'll speed up my games and music stuff alot.

January 18, 1997: Today was the Bandquet, a not-so-clever play on the words Band and Banquet, where the ugly marching band frat boys make fun of the ugly marching band sorority girls then try to go home with them afterwards.

January 18, 1998: This weekend was spent doing mostly homepage stuff. Last night was the Band Banquet but I didn't go. I did get Outstanding Rank Member again though. This morning, I was up early to do my mandatory two hours over at the "Math Emporium", the big computer lab out at the mall. Just a few minutes ago, some guy called, apparently from a radio station on campus and I won $25 for answering a trivia question about VA Tech. I probably cheated because I was looking at the Tech homepage at the time. Oh well; it's free money.

January 18, 1999: The first day of classes went pretty well. The first two are pretty dull but the music course has some interesting people in it. I did go to all of them and practice though; I'm off to a good start! I had my symphony band audition this afternoon which went fairly well.

January 18, 2000: The year is going pretty normally. I've gone to all my classes and been generally productive, although there really isn't much reason to be yet. I sat with Liz in boring MIDI class and later we talked for a while online while searching for poetry for some songs I'm writing for her.

January 18, 2001: I made it into Brass Ensemble, 5th chair but I only play on one song at the moment. Anna and I went over to Kelley and Pip's apartment with Shac where we hung out and played some Blitz. They were all drinking because Kelley had just passed his recital hearing.

January 18, 2002: Another slow day in which I didn't feel like doing much productive work. Pedagogy was a waste of time and I spent the rest of the day in. I also got an offer from FGM to come work for them again this summer. I guess it's a good sign when they call you up five months early.

January 18, 2003: Looking back and looking ahead, I will probably never become actively involved in Scouting again. While the whole process of camping and earning merit badges has a lot to offer to kids, it's counterbalanced by the extreme closemindedness of the organization when it comes to issues like religion and sexual orientation. All of the benefits of Scouting can also be acheived outside of its umbrella with a little extra work.

January 18, 2004: Trapped inside by the freezing rain, I have valiantly added new pictures to the URI! Pictures and Cat Pictures pages in the Photos section. Here's a video of Kitty high on catnip.

January 18, 2005: Today was the birth of the URI! Zone Name That Tune contest! I'll have to do that again sometime, if I can think of more accessible genres of music to exploit. Maybe "Grade IV Songs of the District Festivals"?

January 18, 2006: So should my friends ever drag me out to a ski resort, I will probably be the wise, bearded, professor-looking guy camped in front of the fireplace with books and hot chocolate with snow bunnies on each arm, watching cold people fall on their asses through the thick double-paned windows.

Hi-tech poker cheats jailed
Nintendo Superfan
Michael Vick keeps his pot in a secret compartment

tagged as memories | permalink | 0 comments

Friday, January 19, 2007

Friday Fragments

it's like chess but with a more powerful king

♣ Today is the last day of my ridiculously extended work weeks, and I plan to celebrate by having Popeyes for lunch and then going home for some imported liquors and ho's. Sure I do that every Friday, but this time it will be special.

♣ I've been working so hard that I've forgotten how to not work. To put it in perspective, there's been eleven weeks since the beginning of November, which anyone who passed algebra or owns a Texas Instruments calculator can translate into 440 regular work hours. My hours for that period as of yesterday evening were hovering around 700. I probably worked more than your Verbal SAT score.

♣ When I first took the SATs, I only got a 980. It was a shocking discovery when I found the scores in a file cabinet last month, but then I noted by the date that I was in seventh grade at the time, and it was part of some city-wide program designed to lower the self-esteem of high school students who scored worse than a bunch of "Talented and Gifted" munchkins, descending upon the testing centers in swarms.

♣ T.A.G. classes were such a joke in public schools. The level of learning in those classes matched what the normal level should have been, which meant that the most remedial classes were probably still learning how to pin notes to their sweaters as late as eighth grade. The mere act of writing "spicy hott" on your medium salsa will not make you regret eating it at three in the morning when you have to poop.

♣ I don't understand peoples' fixations with progressively hotter sauces. Does stopping for milk, celery, and ranch dip every two minutes to prevent your tongue from spontaneously combusting really make chicken wings taste that much better?

♣ I could demolish a plate of fifty wings right about now. Who wants to go out for wings? Just cut out of work and I'll meet you off the Toll Road.

♣ I've noticed that sit-down restaurant portions continue to get bigger and bigger while fast-food and store-bought servings are shrinking along a square root curve. The medium pizzas from Pizza Hut are now the size of a slightly-oversized Aerobie disc. This is not good for unhealthy tastiness.

♣ Aerobies were such crappy frisbees. Sure they worked well and even a two-time-offender thief from the Middle East could throw them in a straight line, but there was never a big enough field to contain it. You either had to underpower your throws, completely wasting its potential, or spend half the time picking through the underbrush and climbing power lines to get it back.

♣ Oh, and that bend up to turn right and bend down to turn left business? It never worked. Total right-wing propoganda.

♣ Have a great weekend!

Exploding meters, parking vigilantes and a suspicious silence
An escaped chimpanzee raided a kitchen cupboard and did a little cleaning with a toilet brush before sedatives knocked her out on top of a refrigerator.
Redheads heading for extinction

tagged as fragments | permalink | 5 comments

Monday, January 22, 2007

Snow Day

Northern Virginia received its first seasonal allotment of snow yesterday -- just enough to look pretty and completely snarl the morning commute for thousands of real-world application-impaired drivers who skipped the lesson on the coefficient of friction of ice versus water. It'll probably be all gone by midday but depending on the "wintry mix" I may have already decided to sleep in and work from home today, since I am writing this from the past because my time machine was a success.

Despite the extended work schedule I've been on, I've still managed to get six to seven hours of sleep each night, but I tend to wake up in that state where you're immediately aware that you didn't have a restful sleep. This is the state where you can close your eyes on the way to work and feel tiny stings under your eyelids, like someone gently sprinkled a fine layer of fireplace ash in your eyeballs while you slept. It's coupled with dreams that run for so long that they start making sense and having their own internal logic, with later events tying back into earlier ones. I don't think the brain was meant to have contiguous dream sequences like that -- it's like someone made you watch the entire Lord of the Rings overdubbed by an Indian in Spanish in one sitting.

Last weekend, I wanted to sleep in a bit to tune my biological clock, but Booty kept running around meowing for breakfast and trying to find all the irritating sounds that would get me out of bed. Because I was particularly tired, this went on for about twenty minutes before I heard a --click-- and then all was silent. I peeked out from under the covers to see that Amber had shut the door with Booty outside it. I high-fived her and we went to sleep for another hour or so. I always knew Amber was slightly Rainmanesque, but it's nice to know that she has some marketable skills. If she ever has to work for a living because of the recession, at least she can get steady employment in the hotel industry manning the front doors.

Dramatic Reenactment: Amber Shuts the Door (3 MB WMV)
Booty gets payback the next day (950KB WMV)

Press Corps regrets using Stephen Colbert
Diary of a goof-off: No work, no pay
Bush quotes most notable of 2006 expert says

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

First Annual Impromptu Weekday Virginia Tech Poker Night (without Doobie)

Kelley and Shac were in town yesterday, auditioning for the chance to play at Foggy Bottom when they open up the Metro stations to street musicians, and they convinced me to hold a mid-week Poker Night instead of writing an update for today.

  1. Shac
  2. BU
  3. Rosie
  4. Chris
  5. Kelley
  6. Jason

Happy Birthday Katie Meskil!

Wii use can cause weight loss
Tallahassee man thinks ducks die if you shoot them in the leg
Web of cyber lies leads to murder

permalink | 2 comments

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Filterless Kills Faster

Our office has had a Web Filter installed for a few months now, ostensibly to protect the network from an influx of spyware and adware. I would argue that opening an attachment from Big Jim Gilgamesh labeled RESPECT_MY_PENAL_CODE.scr raises questions about your credentials for working at a tech company, but I guess they've taken the $10,000 strategy of "better safe than sorry".

Part of the Web Filter's spyware protection comes from its content filter, which blocks sites that are known to be launchpads for viruses, scams, and miniature spy cameras in BLINK tags. This works well in theory, but doesn't quite pan out in practice. As I reported before, I can no longer read Dooce at work because the filter has flagged it as Porn. I'm presuming this comes from the front page banner she had a few months back that said "This Website Sux Sweaty Goat Balls", but then that makes me curious as to what kind of porn the guy in charge of the content filter tends to watch. Sure, sweaty goat balls are tantilizing, but that doesn't mean they're pornographic.

Another casualty of the filter is The Superficial which is flagged as Adult. I tried to reverse engineer the rules for distinguishing between Adult content and Porn content, and could only come up with "Porn involves children under the age of 5, while Adult involves one to many from the set of Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, and Tara Reid". At the same time, the blog in my sidebar that has daily discussions of bizarre Japanese porn and getting Kanchoed breezes through the filter without complaint.

Just yesterday I followed a link from a forum post and was greeted with a brand new exciting category:

This could quite possibly be the best category ever, and is definitely one I will aspire to. I believe I'm off to a great start because of my recent posts with the keywords, porn, children, "booby-hugging", and doobie (the last two might even be a compound phrase). Hopefully my site will be needlessly censored for the good of mankind before I know it.

DeNiro voted most shameless
Fake CIA Agent scams $22M
Same Old Song, but With a Different Meaning

tagged as random | permalink | 1 comment

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Review Day -- Wario Ware: Smooth Moves

Overview
This is, without a doubt, the craziest game I have ever played. Sure, Milon's Secret Castle had a boy in pajamas with an umbrella shooting bubbles at dragons, and Freddy Pharkas, Frontier Pharmacist required you to collect a horse's fart in a paper bag, but neither one can hold a candle to the latest game in the Wario Ware series. The developers were obviously in an altered state of mind when they created this.

Gameplay
By now, everyone is familiar with the concept of the "mini-game", a small simple contest that forms the basis for games like Mario Party, or add optional fun things to do in games like Zelda. Wario Ware takes this concept one step further by introducing "micro-games". Every micro-game lasts five seconds or less, and generally involves a very simple combination of timing and movement. The game is played with the main Wii Remote (although you can unlock some extra games that use the Nunchuck attachment at the end), and every micro-game requires you to hold the Remote in a different way. The goals are varied: you might be hitting a white guy with a baseball bat in one game and putting an alarm clock through a cheese grater in the next.

In Story Mode, all of the forms are taught through a series of nonsensical storylines about discoing cats and cheerleaders. Micro-games are thrown at you with progressive difficulty and speed until you reach a final boss level which requires you to master the latest form. Because words don't do it justice, I've included a gameplay video so you can see exactly how a thirteen-level story might play out. The second video is the cinematic that shows when you successfully beat the Story of Jimmy P:

Gameplay Video (3 MB WMV)
Story Mode Cinematic: Jimmy P and the Disco Cats (5 MB WMV)

Once you've beating the Story Mode (and it won't take longer than a couple hours), you unlock a hot-seat multiplayer mode, several standalone mini-games, and Endless Mode, where you replay a Story and the pace gets faster and faster until you collapse in a heap on the floor. New micro-games appear from time to time, and the goals increase in difficulty as well.

Graphics and Sound
Sometimes the graphics are crap, but it's intentional. The hyperkinetic pastiche of doodles, 3D renderings, and clip art are part of what gives this game its tone. The music and sound are perfect.

Fun Factor / Replayability
The Story Mode game is over very quickly, but its purpose is really just to show you how to play. The real replayability comes in Endless Mode or Multiplayer Mode. Because the moves are so easy and so ridiculous, this is a game you can pick up for a few minutes at a time. It's also simple enough that anyone can jump right in, even if they don't know how to play. The instructions for every micro-game are always one or two words, and the motions are almost always intuitive. Occasionally you'll run into problems where the Remote moves out of the detection field of your TV and you'll lose a game trying to make it reappear, but this is a problem with the Wii control system in general, and not this specific game.

Bottom Line
Definitely worth the $50 price tag, even moreso if you entertain a lot. Even just a rental to get through Story Mode will make for a very enjoyable afternoon. I tend to cringe when movie and book reviews call something "hilarious" (especially when the ad copy is written by the same company that made the movie) because humour is so subjective. In this case, I can honestly say that I found this game to be both fun and hilarious.

A perfect heist gone wrong
New fame for the putting parakeet
Juror sips vodka throughout trial

tagged as reviews, games | permalink | 5 comments

Friday, January 26, 2007

Friday Fragments

the 67th edition, a must-have for collectors

♣ Last night I started moving furniture and books out of the office in preparation for next month's plan to renovate. I'm going to do the usual fresh carpet and paint plan that turned my three bedrooms into "airy bits of heaven on earth". A season of Extreme Makeover: BU's Home Edition is infinitely better than the ABC variety -- who needs Ty Pennington when you have BU with Hammer?

♣ The Hammer is one of the few Zelda set-pieces not present (yet) in the latest Wii edition, Twilight Princess. I'm about halfway through it now and it's definitely classic Zelda -- 50% frustratingly annoying and 50% inspired. For every puzzly "Aha!" moment or "Hey that's pretty swell" concept, there are an equal number of "Collect nine million gnats" minigames and "don't run so fast or you'll jump off the narrow cliff AGAIN" moments. You'd think they would learn what DOESN'T work after eight million sequels, but there's still an annoying helper fairy that giggles in your Wiimote at the frequency of rising bile. The reason Wiimotes are flying through TV screens isn't Wii Baseball -- it's Midna.

♣ My Wii Component Cable finally came in the mail, meaning I can run at 480p instead of 480i (the Wii doesn't support HD but it does offer progressive scan). The difference when you load games is immediately apparent, and textures are crystal clear and sharp with the new cable. It's like the difference between watching a football game stone sober or under the influence of Forty Friday except that the stone sober version is strangely more fun.

♣ It's almost too clear on some games, since you can suddenly see compression artifacts that are usually hidden by the low output of a normal TV. As a visual aid, here is our own Jason Chrisley to show the difference between an image that's only slightly compressed and an image that's fully compressed.

'ey man! When you look on the left side, that's me. That's me in HD lookin' hot, 'cause I got the best TV. That's not coo' on the right side, man, 'cause it's blocky as shee-it! I gotta get me some of that progressive scan -- I look good. Don't I look good? I look good.

♣ For the later generation of URI! Zone readers, Jason Chrisley was a Poh-laski native at Virginia Tech who would entice us out to his parents' lake house property with prime cuts of steak from their franchise of butcher shops and gas stations. We would while away the hours jumping on the trampoline, fishing, or paddle-boating on the lake. Despite the fifteen mile commute from Tech, it was the venue of choice for those long weekday nights when no one wanted to go to class the next day. I made out with a girl in the middle of the winter on the dock surrounded by a full moon and two feet of snow. It was key.

♣ Speaking of keys, Diebold was, up until yesterday, selling keys to unlock their super-duper protected voting machines -- and if you couldn't get a key, you could always take the screenshot and file a key blank down yourself . I plan on mass producing the keys for '08 election so I can win the presidency by a landslide.

♣ Happy Birthday to Bob Shrimp and Jaime Williams on Saturday, and Jack Wilmer on Sunday! Have a great weekend!

Wet the sponge first
A married woman who was having an affair with a fellow skydiver plunged to her death after her love rival and best friend tampered with her parachute.
Welcome to the Biden Talk Show

tagged as fragments | permalink | 4 comments

Monday, January 29, 2007

Plan Day

The BU Fiscal Year got off to a late start, which I blame wholly on work -- a convenient scapegoat which I also blame for sore wrists and the resurgence of polio in third world countries. Because of this, I didn't get around to making my plan for the year until just this past week. I always have a plan, for a BU without a plan is like a crossword puzzle without a vowel.

Ever since I got out of the perpetual adolescence of higher education, I've tried to create an overarching storyline to my years in the real world. It's against my nature to have long term goals that I could fill in on one of those "Where do you see yourself in five years?" surveys, but looking ahead a year or so gives me the feeling that I know where I'm going, while still enjoying my blissful ignorance in the present day. Here's what I've come up with so far for 2007:

  • January: Get the damn HD over-the-air signal working and cancel my Comcast account.

  • February: Install laminate flooring in my foyer. Paint and recarpet my home office -- the room where I spend most of my time. Paint and recarpet the upstairs hallway which is currently a patchwork mix of antique white and glossy white paint layered back to 1978.

  • March: Paint and recarpet the living room / front stairwell. Paint the kitchen. Finally get around to writing a will. Whoever sucks up the most will get my house.

  • April: Install laminate flooring in the kitchen. Redo the upstairs bathrooms. At this point, the entire upstairs floor will be stamped with the look-of-BU and ready for use in entertaining friends and the seduction of nubiles.

  • May: Give a Lunchtime Seminar at work. I'm thinking about doing one on the resurgence of television soundtracks, specifically using the music of Michael Giacchino in LOST and Alias. First though, I have to make sure there's enough "interesting-to-laymen" material to fill an hour.

  • June - August: This summer I plan on getting a certification or two, or three. Our company just joined some program called Skillsoft that offers online courses in many areas. I can do online courses in my sleep -- this should be a good way to beef up the resumé. If that doesn't pan out, I'll just continue down the Java Certification track and get another one of those. Last week, a coworker came to me "because I was one of the Java go-to guys". I told him that was just because all the others had quit.

  • September- October: It will be time to recarpet and repaint the basement romper room and maybe redo the floor in the attached bathroom. Once this is done, every room in the house will have received the BU-treatment and I will be out of house-related projects, ending a three-year odyssey. That is, until something breaks, like the fuse in my heater did last Friday, sending the upstairs rooms into a frigid tailspin of temperate tragedy.

  • November: November is the Month of Holiday Dinners. I can't mess with tradition so there will be no other projects this month.

  • December: December is either my month off or my month of overtime, depending on the phase of the moon and whether "YEAR mod 2 == 0". So, no projects here either.

Besides these big projects, I also plan on hosting Poker Night twice a month with rotating rosters of rookies, composing regularly, and using the recumbent bike for 30 minutes a day at least five times a week. So far I'm on target, except for last week's Poker Night which most people had to bail on. I think they got scared when they saw I had gotten second place last Tuesday.

What do YOU plan on doing this year? Share with me as a kindergartner shares a Tonka truck.

Happy Birthday Jaood and Chris Booher!

Boy's screaming kills chickens
Tiny horse a big help
Iguana's stubborn erection to get the chop

tagged as lists, day-to-day | permalink | 5 comments

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Fun Screenshots Day

Some people argue that community colleges are unfairly maligned as providers of sub-par educations. This line from my server visitor logs might convince you otherwise... or not.



Black Snake Moan, starring Samuel L. Jackson and Jason Chrisley, in theatres near you in February 2007

Note the left paw thumb claw -- a sign that it's time for the clippers.

(that's you!)

Happy Birthday Connelly Murphy and Tim Crowley!

Virginia School Fires Butt-Print Art Teacher
Eagle lugging deer head causes blackout
Python eats eleven dogs

tagged as media | permalink | 0 comments

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Ambition Day

I have no ambitions.

With that concise statement, I just dropped off the dating radars of millions of single women whose profiles reveal that they're looking for smart, funny, confident guys with long-term goals and ambitions. That's no big loss though, because those same profiles probably continue with a variant on the phrase "someone who loves to go out and party but can also just stay home on the couch and watch a movie". I actually tried this, and quickly deduced that it's physically impossible to do both at the same time without bringing the couch with you, and Bungalow Billiards frowns on B.Y.O.C. even more than the movie theatre frowns on smuggled foodstuffs. Therefore, all those women are dreaming the Impossible Dream without so much as a Golden Helmet of Mambrino to keep them company. But I digress.

Ambition is a huge measuring stick in today's society (and since I am slight of height, you can tell that I have no great love of measuring sticks), to the point where a lack of ambition is generally called apathy instead of equilibrium. People always want to know what future holds, and the company you work for is always in a tizzy to record your career goals and help you meet them. Perhaps it's because my life is a sitcom rather than a serial but ambition is just not my cup of tea. As a child, ambitions and aspirations are a great hypothetical way to give you an initial direction in life, but too many people fall into the trap of blindly following them like a tracked go-kart at a theme park where they don't trust you to drive in a straight line. They're more like guidelines, really.

Once you are a grown and functioning member of society, personal growth does not have to equate with becoming the President or getting another diploma. Not everyone has to save the world or cure cancer. In my own case, I've worked hard to create a comfortable sphere of existence surrounded by interesting people and enjoyable experiences. Why would I strive for "something more" unless what I already have isn't good enough? I prefer to wing it -- I maintain the status quo until it doesn't work anymore. If I find something I want to learn more about, I'll learn it. If I want to remain in a technical field instead of becoming a manager, I'll do so (unless there's an obscene amount of money involved -- ambitious people may be silly, but rich people are cool). I would even argue that the reason I'm good at what I do is because I'm perfectly happy doing it.

That's not to say I endorse lack of ambition as a distraction from your unhappiness -- just that people shouldn't judge your life lower because you're happy the way you are. There's a simple litmus test to determine where the line falls between apathy and equilibrium: if you have watched the complete anthology of Trading Spaces to cover up an emptiness in your life that you're not doing anything to fill, then maybe a little dose of ambition would get your life kick-started in the proper direction.

If, however, nothing in this life makes you happier than vegetating on the couch with a bowl of cheddar popcorn and Paige Davis, then I salute you.

Underwear tossing a deal-breaker for opera star
I was a cybercrook for the FBI
Casino voids $102k reward

tagged as random, deep thoughts | permalink | 7 comments

 

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