The URI! Zone - 11/2011

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

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


Funded by the Iowa Tourism Board, this gift shop book tells the tale of a young monster's road trip to all of the biggest cities in the Hawkeye State.


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


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

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

Previous posts in this series:

  • January 26, 2009
  • June 6, 2009
  • Naked and drunk motorist crashes into 17 cars
    Polar bear threatens Canada's hallowed beaver
    Army's Vision of the Future: Mostly Doom, Some Idiocy

    tagged as lists, media | permalink | 0 comments

    Wednesday, November 02, 2011

    Memory Day: Snapshots

    If I recall correctly, this photo was taken during the period where I was an itinerant child priest. Here, I can be seen giving the evil eye to someone who crossed my path indiscriminately.

    Jack the Cat turns up at JFK
    Halloween black licorice could kill you
    Fed false logic, campus eats up a hoax and revolts

    tagged as memories, media | permalink | 2 comments

    Thursday, November 03, 2011

    Review Day

    There are no spoilers in these reviews.

    The Town (R):
    This Ben Affleck film is a heist movie where the heists actually take a backseat to the characters. I found it entertaining but not game-changing, probably because I have no sentimental tie to the town of Boston. This applies to pretty much any film where reviewers say "the setting is so well-done that it's one of the characters!"

    Final Grade: C+

    Home Improvement: 20th Anniversary Set:
    This complete boxed set comes in a toolbox that contains a functional tape measure. Cute, but of limited utility when I already own three. Although this was one of the few shows I watched religiously as a kid, I seem to have missed far more episodes than I caught. The show is at its strongest in the early years before the boys Hermioned their ways through puberty, and the last couple seasons are obligatory and derivative. However, it's a harmless, fun show to have on in the background, and the set is cost effective, at about $0.36 per episode.

    Final Grade: B

    Initiate's Trial by Janny Wurts:
    The Wars of Light and Shadows continues to be my favourite fantasy series of all time, to the point where I purchase the books simultaneously in multiple formats and am the sole contributor to the official Wiki for the series. This series is deep without feeling sprawling -- you may not need to remember the names of all five hundred cousins of the King, but you will constantly find that a passing remark or observation is unfolded in a later book, forcing you to completely reevaluate your perspectives. The onion-layered prose is thick but manageable, and rereads are always rewarding.

    Initiate's Trial is the first part of the two-part Arc IV, Sword of the Canon. It's a brisk read, with a different storytelling style than previous books. Although the book begins long after the end of Arc III, it covers a very short window of time, which adds to the immediacy and intensity of the story. This time gap provides some much needed freshness to the story, as many events have happened in the intervening time, and bits and pieces of this hidden history are dangled in the present day as bait for your continued reading.

    Specific to the Kindle, the world maps (a must for any fantasy series) are impossible to decipher in e-ink, but I know them by heart anyhow.

    You can read my complete review on Amazon.

    Final Grade: B+

    Fire at Magic Castle is no Halloween trick
    Snake in a cash machine
    Woman gets cold cash rather than cold cuts

    tagged as reviews | permalink | 0 comments

    Friday, November 04, 2011

    Friday Fragments

    the most exciting thing on the way to Baltimore is Scaggsville

    ♠ The volunteer midnight shifts have come to a close now that the 24/7 exercise of the software we inherited is over. Not that I know anything about the conditions that the previous developers worked under, but it seems like a reasonable requirement to expect that resetting someone's password should not require VPN access, a server command line, and a set of database scripts. It would have been nice if they had thrown fifty bucks at the problem and put a Reset Password feature on the website itself -- look, I can reset your password here with minimal development costs.

    ♠ Since only a handful of password requests came in at night, mostly from faraway countries like California, I spent much of my shifts wandering the tomb-silent halls of the building (silent but for the wide screen TVs blaring CNN all night long every 50 feet), burning kindling to keeping warm after the central heat shut off, and catching the occasional nap under the near-diurnal glow of fluorescent lights.

    ♠ I suddenly have a plethora of free time. Now that winter is approaching and the days are getting shorter and colder, I'll have to switch from summer activities (sitting at the computer) to winter activities (sitting at the computer with a space heater). Historically, this has been the season where I blow fifty bucks on a new role-playing game and hope that it keeps my attention (see also, World of Warcraft and Torchlight). Usually though, I get bored after a few days or weeks (see also, Dragon Age: Origins, Dragon Quest XI). Or, maybe the lesson learned is that I should avoid games with "Dragon" in the title.

    ♠ In the meantime I've been playing Terraria, which is far superior to Minecraft in the genre of "virtual hole digging and cave exploration", but these games are less about enjoying the experience and more about mindless relaxation and/or addiction. Like a Law and Order marathon or a minor in Mathematics, it's very easy to let something like this fill the downtime in my schedule, but I don't have much to show for it after the fact.

    ♠ Looking back at my Math minor, I can safely say that my retention level after eleven years away from the material is as close to zero as it could be without actually being zero (In Calculus terminology, that means that the limit is 0, but I learned that in high school). Drawing on my strong powers of recall, I can only remember something about pigeons in holes, the Math Emporium, and a shy professor who got hit by a car while biking to school and arrived at later lectures limping with bandages.

    ♠ Have a great weekend!

    Sabre-toothed squirrel fossil discovered
    Sperm Whales Really Do Learn From Each Other
    Eagles gang up on paraglider

    tagged as fragments | permalink | 3 comments

    Monday, November 07, 2011

    List Day: Nine Signs My Genetic Offspring Will Rule the World

    • I have never stayed in a hospital or had an operation.

    • I have never had a cavity or needed orthodontics.

    • My body is apparently capable of converting red meat, cheese, and bread into any of the necessary vitamins you would get from fruit or vegetables.

    • The whole "blond hair, blue eyes" master race concept never worked out, and global warming increases their susceptibility to sunburns.

    • I am small and consume fewer resources (see also, small furry mammals vs. dinosaurs).

    • I have never broken a bone.

    • I can maintain metabolism while exercising less than one day(s) per week.

    • As an Asian, I likely have a long dormant gene for understanding logogram-based languages. This will be a necessity when China takes over everything.

    • I have never died.

    A million-dollar mistake in German museum
    Accused Nigeria comic to get last laugh on drug cops
    HP Dreams of Internet Powered by Phone Chips (And Cow Chips)

    tagged as lists | permalink | 2 comments

    Tuesday, November 08, 2011

    Museday Tuesday

    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.


    Fusty: (adj.) having a stale smell; moldy; musty

    My Composition (0:30 MP3)

    For this excerpt, I envisioned a breathy, static feeling. It's written for flutey and mallety patches as well as an 80s computery patch called "Calculating..." that I stumbled across.

    Sacking Santa saves six-sixty
    Prince William County teens arrested for robbing trick-or-treaters
    DARPA asks for help securing defense networks

    tagged as museday | permalink | 2 comments

    Wednesday, November 09, 2011

    Chart Day: Steam Games

    The Steam Store allows you to easily stream games onto your computer (not unlike an Internet bladder without stones), but then shames you on the convenience by recording how much time you've wasted on each game. The fact that Terraria was the most recent purchase shows how addictive it was.

    Surprisingly, I actually beat 9 of these games. In my defense for the remainder, Might and Magic was discriminatory against the colorblind, Braid was just plain retarded, Puzzle Dimension got repetitive, I only downloaded Monkey Island for kicks, I nearly fell asleep during Death Spank, and I couldn't find a good server for Team Fortress 2.

    Polaroid: This time it's digital
    Fake weapons parts 'ticking time bomb'
    Arcade Improv: Humans Pretending to Be Videogames

    tagged as charts | permalink | 3 comments

    Thursday, November 10, 2011

    Review Day

    There are no spoilers in these reviews.

    The Wire, Season Five:
    The fifth and final season of The Wire goes out on a high note, tying every aspect of the previous seasons together (even the second season which, to date, has seemed more like a prologue to the third season). At times it feels a little more sensationally dramatic than previous seasons, but this works well since one of the season's themes is media sensationalism. I would definitely recommend the complete series without hesitation.

    Final Grade: A-

    Waltz for Koop by Koop:
    Koop Islands was a fun, quirky jazz CD with some fresh sounds. This album is its precursor and mainly features throwaway combo jazz that is unmemorable. The fact that the CD was over before I had finished lunch is also a major negative point against it.

    Final Grade: D+

    Terraria:
    I know I've talked about this plenty already, but figured I should have an official review for the game as well. Terraria is a mining/building sandbox game with a look and feel from the days of Super Nintendo. Although it's not three-dimensional, it's essentially Minecraft done right -- decent soundtrack, a sense of progression, and a vast catalog of craftable items. Scrolling through the list of crafts when you have a lot of ingredients can be mildly tedious, but I generally spent more time digging and fighting than crafting. I did not try multiplayer, but do appreciate the fact that you can transfer characters and items between worlds, and that your very expensive pickaxe doesn't degrade over time.

    Final Grade: B

    The Cage by Dirt Poor Robins:
    I first heard Love Again on Pandora. While the rest of the album is good, it is not in the same style as that song, which could be a disappointment. The Evanescence-tinged vocals are perfect for the serious "these are the most important songs you'll listen to in our lifetime" genre that Muse also subscribes to. Some songs are better than others, and some songs I deleted as soon as they got annoying.

    Final Grade: B-

    Stolen wedding album returned after 17 years
    Doctor turned serial killer in WW2 Paris

    tagged as reviews | permalink | 0 comments

    Friday, November 11, 2011

    One Day

    Because the general populace of the Internet seems to have powerful private pants parties whenever the date can be written with just one digit, here is a preemptive post for your satisfaction, containing more ones than the diatribe of an Internet troll who can't find the Shift key:

    1111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111
    1111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111
    1111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111
    1111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111
    1111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111

    Personally, I'm looking forward to 22/22/22 with much more enthusiasm, but causing that to happen will require a massive acceleration of the deceleration of the Earth's revolution over the next eleven years. This may seem like a Quixotic task, but my master plan is already in progress. Phase one was to fatten up the populace of Austin, Texas beyond previously known limits, and phase two will be to trigger another Ice Age, such that they all move down to the equator. Have faith in angular momentum.

    In addition, the news aggregation site for weird news stories that couldn't be found on Digg or Reddit finally went quiet after 16 years, so the daily news links may be reduced for a little while. If I have time, maybe I'll create a story submission tool so you can send me interesting stories.

    Have a great weekend!

    tagged as random | permalink | 1 comment

    Monday, November 14, 2011

    Chad Darnell's 12 of 12


    7:35 AM: Amber decides to wake Rebecca up.

    7:51 AM: Obligatory post-shower shot.

    8:04 AM: Breakfast in an exceptionally sunny kitchen.

    9:05 AM: Practicing the FIFO-queue approach to optimizing a Costco visit, showing up twenty minutes early, rolling through the doors as they open fifteen minutes early, and returning home just as the mobs arrive.

    9:56 AM: Following a grocery run.

    9:58 AM: The cats did not offer to assist with the groceries.

    10:15 AM: Playing Skyrim, one of the first games in a long time that's fun rather than addicting.

    11:36 AM: For particularly long gaming sessions, Booty likes to gain weight and then stimulate the blood flow in my legs with a lap dance.

    1:00 PM: Leftover ham for lunch.

    3:39 PM: Trying to convince Amber to go rake the yard. You can't tell that I just did this last Wednesday.

    4:30 PM: Rebecca arrives home from school and makes sure to get in a shot, so it doesn't look like I am single.

    7:57 PM: Big burgers at Red Robin.

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

    So is this highway robbery?
    Toilet maker flush with pride after biogas bike run
    Aerial drone counts birds for science

    tagged as 12 of 12 | permalink | 0 comments

    Tuesday, November 15, 2011

    Museday Tuesday

    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.


    Whelked: (adj.) ridged like the shell of a snail

    My Composition (0:30 MP3)

    This excerpt is written for guitar, bass, brass, and harpsichord, with a piccolo echoing a few lines. The "snail" concept didn't play much into my inspiration, although I immediately gravitated towards 7/8 time for some reason.

    Man calls 911 to fix broken iPhone
    Jeff Bezos Owns the Web in More Ways Than You Think

    tagged as museday | permalink | 0 comments

    Wednesday, November 16, 2011

    Quick Tips Day

    With the modern American's schedule packed tighter than a boneless sardine run through a FoodSaver, the savvy time manager needs to know when the warning labels on products truly point to dangerous situations and when they're just tacked on to avoid frivolous lawsuits. Here are a couple tips to help maximize your productivity.

    Tip #1: Preempt common cold conditions with a squirt of lotion
    That first morning you wake up with an unusually dry throat can be filled with dread, as you realize that a full-fledged cold is only hours away. No one has time for humidifiers and an endless swarm of cherry lozenges, but it is a little-known secret that Lubriderm is perfect for combating a dry throat (the throat is just skin, but on the inside!) Just squirt a fat dollop into your mouth and swallow. Plus, it's non-comedogenic, which either means that it won't clog your pores, or it's not very good at stand-up comedy.

    Tip #2: Save time and prevent wrinkles by ironing in your shirt
    You can spend hours trying to iron out the wrinkles in your dress shirt on an every day ironing board, but it's really a one-size-fits-all affair. The shape of an average ironing board is nothing like the shape of your shirt, so you'll waste time and energy shifting the shirt around every few seconds. A more logical person would realize that your torso is generally the perfect mold for the shape of your shirt. Simply put on your shirt first, and you can iron it with one hand while brushing your teeth or having a bowl of cereal with the other hand. The natural fit of your body will result in the most visible parts of the shirt looking the sharpest (your bulging pecs) while not wasting any time on the parts that no one will see anyhow, like the tails that get tucked into your pants.

    Woman dies from 15-year-old gunshot wound
    Mario's raccoon suit enrages PETA

    tagged as random | permalink | 4 comments

    Thursday, November 17, 2011

    Review Day

    There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

    The Mating Game by Bitter:Sweet:
    A few songs on this album were classily recommended to me by Pandora -- it consists of sultry female vocals set against strings and brass. Highlights include "The Mating Game" and "Dirty Laundry", but the entire album is pretty good. The timbres are evocative, and only one song, "Our Remains", sounds like it should be blaring over the loudspeakers at DSW.

    Final Grade: A-

    The Corner:
    This six-hour HBO miniseries is based on the book with the same name. On the bright side, this is one of the most solid book adaptations I've ever watched, and would definitely recommend watching it instead of reading the book (reading is for chumps). On the other hand, this is the documentary-style precursor of The Wire, so if you've watched that, you'll get deja vu here. It's especially noticeable and fourth-wall breaking when plotlines are reused or very familar actors play completely different roles.

    Final Grade: B-

    Dexter, Season Five:
    I think this is the first time that Dexter has stumbled from excellence, although I'll need to watch it again to be sure. I was very excited for this season after watching the official trailer (S4 spoilers!), which seemed to imply that the season would focus on Dexter's umbrella of suspicion related to the climactic moments of Season Four. However, the trailer is misdirection, and impact of that plotline is greatly diluted over the course of Season Five. There are some strong points, and it does get good towards the end, but too much of the season is spent aimlessly, and I felt like Dexter as a character took a backseat to his new guest star. I've always felt like this guest star was a distressingly bad actress, so perhaps it was my biases getting in the way, but when I'm watching Dexter, I care about the main characters already in play, not brand new ones. I'm also sick of the time-filler plotlines related to inter-office romances and marriages -- it's like they were channeling the second and third seasons of 24.

    Final Grade: C+

    Google Gets Literal: 'Verbatim' Searches Are Back
    Romanians use gift cards to turn donuts into dollars

    tagged as reviews | permalink | 4 comments

    Friday, November 18, 2011

    RPG Day

    If you enjoy fantasy computer games at all, you should definitely pick up Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. I sometimes end up disliking overhyped games -- I thought Half-Life was boring, and still feel that the best part of Dragon Age: Origins was the review that it spawned. However in this case, I can honestly say that Skyrim is the most fun I've had with a game in a long time.

    This is not a full review, but the game looks and sounds great -- that building you see on the rocky outcropping in the screenshot above can actually be traveled to, and there are actually people living inside. The world feels very alive, and occasionally leave me with a feeling of heady awe, similar to the very first days of World of Warcraft. I never played any of the earlier games in the Elder Scrolls series, but I feel that Skyrim is the spiritual grandchild of the Ultima series -- this is what Ultima 6 or 7 might have been with more powerful computers. The interface is kludgy (because it's designed for an XBox controller) but doesn't get in the way of my overall enjoyment.

    If you like role-playing games at all, you'll probably find many hours of enjoyment here. I expect that I'll play it all weekend while Rebecca tries out her new Kindle Fire, which is arriving today!

    Parents name son after Skyrim character, free games for life
    Skyrim Epic Rap

    tagged as games | permalink | 2 comments

    Monday, November 21, 2011

    List Day: Coaches' Poll of Delicious Breakfast Foods

    1. bacon
    2. sausage links
    3. hash browns
    4. buttermilk biscuits
    5. waffles
    6. French toast
    7. eggs over easy
    8. English muffins
    9. bagels
    10. pancakes
    11. omelettes
    12. home fries
    13. sausage patties
    14. scrambled eggs
    15. toast
    16. cereal
    17. doughnuts
    18. Pop-Tarts
    19. McGriddle
    20. oatmeal

    Had this been the BCS Standings for Delicious Breakfast Foods, the McGriddle would be ranked #1, since no one important actually eats those.

    Dirty Texting Banned By Pakistan Telecom Authority
    Giant mound of tires in South Carolina visible from space

    tagged as lists | permalink | 3 comments

    Tuesday, November 22, 2011

    Museday Voteday

    In spite of the new computer and Windows 7's horrible support for all things related to sound and MIDI, I actually managed to complete 18 Museday excerpts this year. As is tradition, I will now take one of these "quick draw" fragments and expand it into a longer work. Vote for the one I should extend using the Poll in the right sidebar and I'll post the extended work on December 20. Any snippet with the double-thumbs-up icon next to it is eligible for your vote (these are the ones that seem to have potential for expansion, and are not necessarily the best of the bunch). If you're new here, you can get the idea of what happens by listening to last year's mendacious Mendacious expansion. Even if your musical tastes only run the gamut between T-Pain and Chris Brown, give a listen to the potential excerpts and vote for the one that charms you the most!

    For added artistry, I have described each snippet with exactly seven words, which probably describe the excerpt more appropriately than the random title words that triggered their creation.

    Thickset: Transylvanian shopkeeper prices will bleed you dry.

    Usurious: Wasn't as steep when I started rolling.

    Trumpery: Anton the Piggy forages for some truffles.

    Plenteous: Chick Corea's later works aren't as good.

    Asunder: Can't put all genres in one song.

    Slinky: Oh lordy, isn't it a grand day?

    Coequal: They get things done down in Accounting.

    Superannuated: Pub songs, some years before Sweet Caroline.

    Iodized: Sydney Bristow has run out of costumes.

    Emollient: This camel takes forever to get anywhere.

    Mercurial: Had a nightmare that I forgot something.

    Leonine: This song really should have had trumpets.

    Jouncing: Pee before you drive the bumper cars.

    Scurfy: Why are all of the futures dystopian?

    Slouchy: Could dance recitals get any more depressing?

    Felonious: Fat, drunk monk shouldn't try to mambo.

    Fusty: Coasting the moors in my little dory.

    Whelked: Frogger and Kermit have a battle royale.

    You can also go back and listen to all of the historic Museday fragments:

    Darpa's New Tool for Diagnosing Disease? Semen
    Video: Kitten Wrestling
    Which Museday excerpt deserves a full composition?

    Iodized (2 votes, 50.0%)


    Jouncing (1 vote, 25.0%)


    Scurfy (0 votes, 0.0%)

    Slouchy (1 vote, 25.0%)


    tagged as museday | permalink | 3 comments

    Wednesday, November 23, 2011

    Memory Day: Snapshots

    As previously discussed, I was not good at wheeled sports, so it's only fitting that my best round of roller skating would take place on the grass in the backyard (and I'd still be holding on to my sister).

    881 pound tuna seized by feds
    Record-setting veggie-oil truck tops 155 mph

    tagged as media | permalink | 0 comments

    Monday, November 28, 2011

    Weekend Wrap-up

    The youngest of the five Spellerberg girls is now married, ending the family's virtual monopoly on weddings. More pictures are posted on Facebook, and better quality pictures will be posted on Picasa for End-of-the-Month Media day this week!

    Police charge man over suitcase of cash left in cafe
    UK burglar abuses "dumb" victim in apology letter

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

    Tuesday, November 29, 2011

    End-of-the-Month Media Day

    New photos have been added to the Life, 2011 album. Enjoy!

    Also, don't forget to vote for a Museday excerpt in the Poll on the right sidebar!

    tagged as media | permalink | 1 comment

    Wednesday, November 30, 2011

    Memory Day: Ten Years Ago...

    Ten years ago today was November 30, 2001. On this day in history, I completed work on my final project for my 16th Century Modal Counterpoint class, taught by the inexorable Dr. Evan Jones. Modal Counterpoint is one of the many completely useless skills that I generally omit from my resum? -- this skillset also includes an encyclopedic knowledge of the General MIDI patch numbers, troubleshooting repaint problems in Java Swing, and dancing "The Burro".

    For my assignment, I used "Deck the Halls" as my melodic line, coupled with the Technical font for maximum impact:

    Deck the Halls with Lamb of God (1:13 MP3)

    I also turned in a paper and did a presentation in History of Music Theory class. Here is the stunning conclusion from that paper:

      At this point in the treatise, Hauptmann has managed to fit all aspects of harmony and meter into Hegelian dialectics. This in itself would be a feat, but Hauptmann's goal is to show that the whole of music is subject to higher law, not just the individual aspects that make up music. To this end, he closes his treatise with a section on metrical harmony (equivalently labeled harmonic meter), which reapplies dialectics at a more abstract level. At this level, harmony and meter represent the unity and duality stages, and the combination of the two creates a restored unity. With metrical harmony, Hauptmann is able to explain harmonic phenomena that are dependent on metrical placement, such as suspensions, seventh chords, syncopation, and strong beat dissonances.

      Moritz Hauptmann succeeded in explaining music within the bounds of Hegelian dialectics, although some of his postulations are of questionable accuracy and merit. While some explanations make sense in the context of practical music, others are purely conceptual and without musical significance (such as the continuing connections between the triad and rhythm). As shown in his tangled description of four-timed meter, Hauptmann often had difficulty fitting music into neat categories, and sometimes seemed to explain his way around a problem, rather than through it. Other times, he temporarily contradicts an earlier theory in hopes of providing better reasoning for later ones. Although these problems prevent his treatise from having a significant theoretical influence in modern practice, Die Natur der Harmonik und der Metrik, is still important for its historical perspective and its suggestion that all aspects of music are connected at a higher abstract level.

    Here is the translation for the non-academics:

      This treatise was a waste of my time.

    Poop-throwing chimps provide hints of human origins
    Latest Twilight movie causes seizures in moviegoers

    tagged as memories, media | permalink | 8 comments

     

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