The URI! Zone - 07/2011
We're off to Lake Norman, North Carolina, this weekend for the wedding of Amanda and Frank, so updates will resume sometime next week, probably Tuesday, since I don't own any of those crazy accessories that will get an Internet connection on the highway. I am awful at hands-free website updating anyways.
Enjoy your long weekend! Or if you don't have one, go on strike and make a principled stand to get one! Or if you're a replaceable cog, fashion a fake you out of straw, wax, and lard, leave it in your cubicle, and take the day off anyhow! Ingenuity is the American way.Koreqan noodle maker in hot water
Tom Petty to Michele Bachmann: Quit Playing 'American Girl'
USDA promotes food segregation
Hot Dog Day
Obviously, the burgeoning Asian-American community in Charlotte has never heard of Chun King chow mein (966KB MP3).July Fourth marked by parades, hot dogs
What's inside the bun?
Following my Kurt-Russell-inspired escape from Charlotte, a city which is impossibly more humid than D.C., I spent ten hours yesterday coding and releasing DDMSence 1.10.0, and then another two hours driving to, and winning, a volleyball game.
I'll try to write up a Charlotte travelogue tomorrow, although if I get too lazy, it's Review Day for the lot of you.Clowns terrorize neighbourhood children
BPA-exposed mice are undesirable to females
Woman catches toddler after ten story fall
In an effort to avoid traffic, I left for Charlotte on Friday night around 8 PM, carpooling with Emily and Evil Brian. Rebecca had been tooling around on a road trip for the past few days, so it was just the three of us driving down I-81. The trip wasn't as horrendous as past trips, because I-81 has finally entered the twentieth century with a 70 MPH speed limit. I took the wheel at Exit 222, and a giant box of Sweettarts coupled with every single song the Beach Boys have ever written got us safely to the hotel at Lake Norman at exactly 2:22 AM. It was one of those extended stay places with a kitchen, and our room looked exactly like the one I stayed at in New Jersey for Kathy's wedding five years ago.
We oozed out of bed at too early an hour the next morning, solely to hit the full breakfast buffet featuring waffles and overcooked sausage patties. Afterwards, we donned our swimsuits and went to a pre-wedding party at Amanda's parents' house right on the edge of the lake. The water was unseasonably warm for swimming and noodling, most likely because of the nuclear power plant happily gurgling just out of view from our inlet, but also because of the high 90 temperatures and associated humidity.
After a short nap in the afternoon, we returned to the scene of the noodling for a rehearsal dinner, this time dressed in finery not fishery. The meal was an open bar, supported by roast beef and shrimp, and there was a dearth of mosquitoes, even those with five eyes or eleven legs.
On Sunday morning, we met up with Rebecca's childhood friend, Catherine Hicks, and her boyfriend at one of the many parks dotting the lakeside. The first four rules on our parking stubs were permutations of "stay out of the water" which was a shame with the heat index almost out of bounds. We did some very mild hiking on the trails and then collapsed in a heap near the only area with a slow breeze.
In the afternoon, we just happened to bump into Jack and Kristy of Arlington fame for ice cream. Apparently everyone who's anyone has parents with a massive house on Lake Norman, and though we never find time to hang out while living 20 miles apart, we had better luck 400 miles from home.
The wedding took place at the Peninsula Club, a radioactive golf course on the east shore of the lake with a wine list more pricey than any single kidney I might sell. The wedding was outside overlooking the greens and inversely proportional in length to the humidity.
The reception was held onsite and featured a first dance to a song with lyrics written by the groom, giant hunks of rare meat paired with gumbo, a second open bar, and Rebecca's disappointment at finding the Macarena on the Do Not Play List. The after party bled back to the hotel after we learned that all of the restaurants and bars were closed on a Sunday night, and we watched an infomercial for 24 Hours of Booty to end a successful weekend.
We arrived home around 5 PM on Monday night and found the cats still alive, thanks to the assistance of our across-the-street neighbour and camel-like humps of fat.Sexual activity tracked by FitBit shows up in Google
How abominabell could this school get?
Fox News Twitter Account Hacked, Claims Obama Killed
Stuff in My Drawers Day
I found this photo on an old camera card that had never been uploaded to the computer while doing some Post-Spring Cleaning yesterday.
This was taken during a lively game of darts at a Labor Day party in September 2004, almost seven years ago -- in the days before there were babies everywhere and milk chocolate coloured basements. The furniture still consisted of toss-outs from Anna's grandparents, and there was still a high school ego shelf (which is now filled with our surplus of old books).
Also at this party were Jason and Rosie (and Jason was sitting on the couch watching a football game), as well as Flip-Flop and Doug Linden. I'd forgotten that the latter two had even been to my house before.Causeway refuses to relinquish 'world's longest bridge' title to China
Cookiecutter Shark 'Scooped' Out Swimmer's Flesh
Rhesus Monkeys Appear to Have a Form of Self-Awareness Not Previously Attributed to Them
Random Vignette Day
In 1988, there was a cheesy tourism ad about Epcot Center that regularly aired at all hours, but especially during the Wonderful World of Disney show on Sunday nights. The commercial ended with a zoom-out shot of Mickey Mouse waving from the very top of Epcot Center.
My sister, who was 3 years wiser at the time, once asked hypothetically, "Wouldn't it be funny if he fell?" And I, as an impressionable 8 year old, had to agree -- watching a giant anthropomorphized mouse roll off of a giant golf ball did seem pretty funny.
After the next Sunday dinner when the dishes had been washed and my parents were settling in to watch 60 Minutes, the ad came on again, and I decided to parrot my older sister's wisdom, "Wouldn't it be funny if he fell?"
Instead of agreement from my parents, I got a stern lecture about the fact that there was a real person in the mouse suit who would be seriously injured if that really happened, along with disgust that I would have such a callous outlook on his well-being.
Later that night, my sister laughed at me because I had gotten in trouble and she hadn't.Banana at large after attacking gorilla
Millions of jellyfish invade nuclear reactors
Guards bag prisoner in suitcase escape
Chad Darnell's 12 of 12
5:32 AM: Up a little earlier than normal.
5:49 AM: Introspectively mirrored post-shower.
5:51 AM: Rebecca is up early as well, on the morning shift.
6:05 AM: Taking the elevator up, because too much stair-climbing is bad for your aerobic health.
6:29 AM: There may be an explosion in the Oracle building, or it's just a case of highly reflective windows.
11:23 AM: Heading down the stairs for lunch.
11:49 AM: Popeyes and predictable news for lunch.
12:20 PM: Telecommuting from the laptop this afternoon, since the desktop monitor died again.
4:45 PM: Booty watches as I clean up her vomit.
6:31 PM: Tonight is a Guinness night.
6:45 PM: Tonight is also a Seafood Sampler night.
7:14 PM: The Robin himself is out and about, greeting dinner patrons.
See more 12 of 12ers at Chad's site!Owl leaves quite an impression
Ice cream truck driver fined for loud music
Doctored Boston fireworks images draw flak
Paint Selection Day
It's time to decide which paint colors are worthy enough to exist in the same house as PUFFIN BAY GREY, Nougat, Windjammer Blue, Milk Chocolate, and whatever the name of that girly blue in my guest bedroom is called.Warrant for S.F. woman accused of bilking renters
Wi-Fi Hacking Neighbor From Hell Sentenced to 18 Years
How do you know when an elephant goes on vacation?
There are no spoilers in these reviews.
XSLT 2.0 and XPath 2.0 Programmer's Reference by Michael Kay:
This is the definitive reference tome for XSLT and XPath. Though it is comprehensive, it's not good for learning, and will put you to sleep if you approach it in a cover-to-cover way. The information is definitely thorough and solid, although it seems like the author plugs his own open source libraries quite a lot -- I feel like there's no real need to plug your solution so much if it's the ONLY one out there that does the job. The book gets bonus points for being hardcover and over 1000 pages, because you get a flexor workout as you carry it around the house, intending to read it.
Final Grade: B
Source Code (PG-13):
This movie is like Groundhog Day mixed with 24: mumbo-jumbo pseudoscience allows researchers to relive the last 8 minutes before a bomb explodes on a train, in hopes of identifying the bomber and preventing another attack. It's good throw-away entertainment, but tries to be a little deeper than it actually is. I'd recommend it if you can stop puzzling out a movie once the credits roll -- otherwise the plot holes will drive you crazy.
Final Grade: B-
The Clean Coder: A Code of Conduct for Professional Programmers by Robert C. Martin:
This book is not about showering. Instead, it's a set of anecdotes and war stories about Bob Martin's evolution as a programmer and the key tenets he thinks programmers should follow for computer science to be a true engineering field. It's an interesting read that's over quickly, and I'd recommend it at a 6 or 7 dollar price point for the Kindle, but the current price is over $17. I only picked it up because I was at that information conference last month and needed something besides networking to fill in the downtimes. Plus, I am a yuppy.
Final Grade: C+
Adjustment Bureau (PG-13):
I was surprisingly satisfied by this movie -- I figured it would be some kind of poor man's Inception, but it really stands apart and gets you caring about the protagonists. Be warned that it's less a sci-fi movie and more a romance with sci-fi elements.
Final Grade: A-
Woman: Hair search by TSA discriminatory
Dim burglars fall through Big Lots ceiling
List Day: Likes
Two-headed snake wows Ukranians
Robbery victim found naked in street after robber struck by truck
Search engines change how memory works
Random Chart Day
|BU's Job Advice For Rich People||BU's Job Advice For Poor People|
Lost U.S. love letter delivered 53 years late
Girls urged to strip in support of Putin
As part of this feature, which I started in 2007, I compose a very brief work (under 30 seconds) inspired by a randomly generated title from an online word generator or suggested by a reader. The composition can be for any instrumentation, and could even be a purely synthesized realization that might not be possible to perform in the real world.
I work on the excerpt continuously for an hour and then post whatever I've managed to complete, even if it could be the hit single from Glenn Gould Plays Tatu.
Superannuated: (adj.) Retired because of age or infirmity.My Composition (0:30 MP3)
This excerpt is written for a string quartet with miscellaneous accompaniment, and almost takes on the vibe of a drinking song. This transition was unexpected when I started writing.On the lookout for ultracool brown dwarves
Man says blood center rejected him because he appeared gay
Men just want to be cuddled
Stuff (No Longer) In My Drawers Day
I finally got down to business on the oft-delayed task of cleaning out the crawlspace under the stairs, with the reasoning that we'll have kids in the next twenty years or so and we have a huge shortage of bedrooms, so the youngest will probably have to channel Harry Potter for living space.
This time around, I actually designated things for the nearest garbage bin, including the millions, if not billions, of old computer games, manuals, and game box trinkets that I kept around purely for useless nostalgia -- although it's tough to throw them out, am I ever actually going to buy a computer with a 5 1/4" floppy drive to play them again?
This is all that is left of my my nearly-British empire of Legos. I specialized in town construction with a minor in pirates, so it's a wonder I didn't go into urban planning or Somalia.
I guess this educational toy worked -- or at the very least, got me the A in that Electrical Engineering crossover class with the box full of wires. Your career in chemistry can begin when you open the box twenty-five years later to find that there are still 6 AA batteries in various states of decomposition.
When I started running out of shelf space on the two designated game shelves in my parents' house as a kid, I started consolidating some of the packaging. For most games, I tore off the front cover which doubled as the manual, although I kept the Zork trilogy intact for some reason. Maybe I thought they'd be worth something someday, even though Cindy the cat peed on all the maps.
"Time" and "America's Past" were easily the best Carmen Sandiego games because the clues actually mapped directly to text in the reference books. In contrast, trying to using the Fodor guidebook in "Where in Europe Is Carmen Sandiego?" required you to read an entire section and understand it. Reading comprehension does not belong in educational software!
Here's a smattering of disks that were thrown out. I was probably the only person in the world who bought the game, Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist.
This puzzle game was maddeningly difficult and impossible to solve without also buying the $14.95 hint book (excellent business model, by the way). Many of the puzzles had to be done by brute force. One "fill-in-the-blank" puzzle actually required you to cheat by moving the cursor to a hidden part of the screen where the answer was. Very meta.
This is only half of the clutter I sorted through -- stay tuned for future insights into my trash!Popular Kauai swimming hole gains deadly reputation
Thieves steal 21 tons of mustard and ketchup
Live mannequins in Milan shop window anger union
There are no major spoilers in these reviews.
The Office, Season Five:
The first half of this season was so-so, with silly devices to keep geographically remote characters still involved in the the plot. The Super Bowl episode started strong with Dwight's fire drill (and I watched 2:45 - 2:52 at least twenty times, laughing every time) but then got weird and petered out, as The Office does when any given episode is longer than twenty minutes. The last half of the season is much better, probably because shifts in the plot allow the action to play out in new situations.
Final Grade: B
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (R):
The Millenium Trilogy is a peculiar set of books because it's alternately meandering and page-turning (not unlike me when I'm assisting on a traveling piano recital). I theorized once that you really need to be a fast reader to not give up on the books before they start getting good, and the sheer number of characters in the first one is a little daunting. The movie solves a lot of these problems -- it's a perfect distillation of the text into screen time, maintaining the intent of the movie without being a slave to every detail. The problem with this, though, is that once you trim away many of the Byzantine details of the mystery, it's not much of a mystery anymore. I enjoyed watching this, although having to read the subtitles kept me distracted from any cinematography.
Final Grade: B-
The Girl Who Played With Fire (R):
The litmus test for this movie in my head was how they would handle the 900 pages in the book where the main character walked around IKEA buying things, and again, the movie is a good summation of the reason behind that scene. This movie was a little better than the previous, because the main plot was more relevant to the main characters. It occasionally suffered from the "too many old similar-looking white guy characters that they don't trouble to name" syndrome, although most of them return in the third movie, giving you time to figure out why they're important.
Final Grade: B
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (R):
The second movie ends in a cliffhanger, and you really need to watch this back-to-back to appreciate it (unlike Kill Bill which could be best appreciated by watching zero parts of it). The action in this one is a little more abstract, and the last half is a courtroom drama, but it does a good job of tying everything together and giving relevance to the brief scenes from the earlier movie that seemed out of place on their own.
Final Grade: B
Wearing a leopard is the new thing in India
50 Noted Americanisms
End-of-the-Month Media Day
New pictures have been added to the Life, 2011 album, documenting our travels in June and July. Remember that you can use the 'N' and 'P' keys to cycle through the pictures once you have opened one. I realize it isn't the true end-of-the-month yet, but Beach Week starts soon, so web updates might devolve into a series of picture posts showing how much fun I'm having while you're trapped in a sandless world, and the best way to start a week of pictures is with more pictures.
Also in just over a week's time, The URI! Zone will have reached a complete DECADE of blog posts, and 15 total years of existence, so I may have to do something memorable like give away $10,000 or let the domain name expire.
I've been feeling rather chatty and hoping to restore this blog to its former glory recently, but only when I'm in no position to actually write an update -- as soon as I get home and sit down at a computer, any urge to write and edit a solid update diminishes like the odds of LOST finishing as strongly as it started. I like to take solace in my list of favourite posts though, and hopefully those will inspire me to continue writing here until my future kids are old enough to be embarrassed by it.
Have a great weekend and week!The case of the double-headed gold coins
Hotel snore controls aim to banish sleepless nights
Bride's och aye, the poo!
Breakfast this morning was bacon-chocolate-chip pancakes with a side of bacon and mimosas.
Still at the Beach Day
I am still at the beach today, but destined to return on Sunday. To date, I've read three 500 page books and started a fourth, although one was really boring so I skipped most of the essays it contained. I haven't done much on the computer, because the Internet connection is DSL, and I can almost get a faster download speed than 0.8 MB/sec via telepathy. I did do the owner a favour by encrypting their open WiFi hotspot to match the settings they thought they had, based on the index card on their fridge -- this is why you always want to rent your beach house to a computer scientist.
If you hadn't heard, Anna and Ben had their third child, Kathryn Joy Ahlbin, on July 25. Since the middle naming scheme is to use words like Faith, Grace, and Joy, we can only hope that they will continue having babies until they run out of positive words and have to dip into less desirable names like Sloth and Greed. Congratulations!
What have you been up to this week?
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