The URI! Zone - 02/2012

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Memory Day: Snapshots

This picture was taken during a Court of Honor ceremony with Boy Scout Troop 131 in 1990. The folks on either side of me were all of the Life and Eagle rank scouts in the troop, and we were probably doing some sort of circle-based oath-reciting. Although I haven't had to recite any of the Scout stuff in years, I can still remember that a Scout is supposed to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. To this day, I shower regularly, about 1.5 times per day.

US bars friends over Twitter joke
School bans fuzzy boots used to hide cell phones

tagged as memories, media | permalink | 4 comments

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Midnight in Paris (PG-13):
In this slightly-fantasy-based movie, a writer visits Paris with his unsympathetic future family and yearns to experience the city as it was at the turn of the century. It was pleasant enough, but if you don't like Owen Wilson, he'll annoy the pants off of you in this role. I don't really understand why this movie is up for a Best Picture Oscar, especially since the soundtrack consists of one song played over and over again. Rebecca liked it much more than I though.

Final Grade: C+

Songs for a Sinking Ship by April Smith:
Another Pandora recommendation, April Smith has a set of peppy rhythmic songs that are very fun to listen to. She has a strong, clear voice that occasionally veers towards beltiness, but is a fresh change of pace to the whispery singers I normally listen to.

Final Grade: B

Malcolm in the Middle, Season Five:
This season actually improved a bit over the fourth season, and didn't feel like an obligatory spin-out for syndication. A new baby is introduced in this season, but doesn't help or hurt the show at all.

Final Grade: B

Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors:
This story/puzzle game had an intriguing premise -- you are one of nine people who wake up in the midst of an abductor's crazy game, and have nine hours to solve puzzles and escape. The game has six different endings, each of which fleshes out a different facet of the story. Enjoyment of the game is hindered by massive walls of unskippable text, and the suspense of the story is diminished when characters go off on tangents to tell their favourite (seemingly unrelated) stories for fifteen minutes at a time. Somehow, my first playthrough ended up at the worst possible ending, which reveals absolutely nothing, has no resolution, and ends with TO BE CONTINUED. I started a second playthrough but found that every single tacked-on puzzle has to be redone just to get through the story, and I didn't have the patience to wade through it again, much less five more times. I finally looked up the entire story online, and was glad that I had not invested in a replay -- it had a level of ridiculousness that was not apparent on my first runthrough.

Final Grade: D+

tagged as reviews | permalink | 3 comments

Friday, February 03, 2012

Answers Day

the award-winning follow-on to Questions Day

How do you study for different types of certification? Is there a standard methodology you go by? Do you read books whenever you have a chance or do you set apart a pre-determined amount of time from the day?

Start by figuring out how you might cover the material in a college semester (a week per chapter plus a week at the end to review?) Then sign up for the exam immediately based on the schedule. From that point on, it doesn't matter how motivated or unmotivated you are, you have an immovable deadline. In all likelihood, you WON'T study regularly every day or every week, and the decision to just cram is there if you want it. Remember that certifications, like public schools, are not about retention -- they're about proving to an employer that you have learned something at some point in the past.

What do you listen to in order to relax?

I am never not relaxed.

If you ever had a job you just didn't like and something happened there that just made you decide you were done would you quit then and there, or would you still put in your two weeks? Would not having another job lined up already affect this decision? If you did stay those last two weeks would they still be productive at all?

When I started my third summer as "computer science intern" at PEPCO and learned that they still weren't planning on giving me a computer (after spending the first summer optimizing their snail mail sorting and the second summer optimizing their internal websites from someone else's computer) I quit with one day's notice. I then spent the rest of the summer not looking for jobs while biking through Old Town every day. I've been lucky to have had great jobs ever since.

I've found that high-achieving people not only do not consider themselves successful but in fact think they're doing markedly worse than their peers. How do you feel like you compare to your peers in terms of achievement? A graphic might be helpful in explaining it.

Having grown up in an era where people said "you're so smart" rather than "you must have worked really hard at that", I lack ambition in most areas of life. I forgo risk, and regularly engage in arenas where it's already highly likely that I'll succeed. The graphic below might be helpful in explaining.

Can you do a cartwheel?

I can. At one point in my life I could do much more than a mere cartwheel, namely any gymnastics move that didn't require going backwards, as shown in the movie below:

Entire village, minus one, wins the lottery
Jesus can continue to Occupy Montana

tagged as you speak | permalink | 5 comments

Monday, February 06, 2012

Weekend Wrap-up

My weekend was a blur of work, involving tasty terminology like "functional allocation", "acceptance criteria", "schema development", and "change requests". I came up briefly for air to eat a Big Mac and some Shells and Cheese, and to get some obligatory treadmill time to negate the Big Mac and Shells and Cheese.

On Sunday night, we went to the Crane's for the Super Bowl and the new fad of having a 10x10 betting grid based on the one's digit of each team's score. Through astute application of my math minor, I spread my risk across the board by treating it like a chess rook puzzle (how can you place 8 rooks on an empty chessboard so they can't kill each other) and managed to win $20 in the second quarter. Unfortunately, Rebecca and I had actually put in $22, so we came out behind. (Addition and subtraction are not stressed in a math minor).

How was your weekend?

New record set at Wing Bowl
FBI says compulsive "hoarder" stole thousands of classified documents

tagged as day-to-day | permalink | 3 comments

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

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 its a prime candidate for a William Hung Greatest Hits album.

Chariest: (adj.) The most cautious, careful, or wary.

My Composition (0:30 MP3)

I intentionally limited myself in this excerpt to piano, because I feel like I've overused a lot of other sounds in recent Musedays. This one started cautiously and then gradually built in intrigue until I hit the time limit. From the fade out, it would either be amazing or devolve into something we would have listened to during Sunday dinners growing up, but no one will ever know for sure.

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Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Memory Day: Snapshots

This picture dates back to 1983. The bruise on my forehead was not from parental abuse -- more likely I was under attack by earth tones. I am wearing a hand-me-down sweatshirt from my sister, featuring the panda from Shirt Tales, and apparently I didn't get the memo that kneepads get ironed on where the knees are. Thinking back, most of my pants had iron-on pads about halfway down my calves rather than the areas that actually frayed.

Congressman thought parody article on Planned Parenthood was real
New scented jeans smell like raspberries

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Thursday, February 09, 2012

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Better Off Ted, Season One:
This sitcom dates back a few years, and I remember occasionally catching it on TV and enjoying it, but never making time to seek it out. Ted is a manager at a scientific inventions company, Viridian Dynamics. It's a fun poke at corporate bureaucracy and doesn't require much investment, and is currently streaming freely (like pee) on Amazon Prime.

Final Grade: B+

Kitchen Confidential, Season One:
Rebecca was reading the book of the same title earlier this year, and I recalled this short-lived Bradley Cooper sitcom from the limbo period between movie stardom and Alias. Loosely based on the themes of the book, if not the plot, thirteen episodes of this show were filmed but only three ever aired. I'm not sure why -- this is just as fun as many of the shows I like, and much better than many others that still haven't been cancelled yet.

Final Grade: B

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (R):
We finally used our $25 movie gift card two weekends ago and were surprised to find that a veritable gold mine ($2) was left on the card after buying two tickets (we spent it on Sno-Caps). This American version of the story should be the definitive version of the story for anyone who hasn't already gone through the books or the Swedish movies. The meandering plot is stripped away to a bare skeleton and tightly compressed to the elements most translatable to the big screen. Although it loses much of the story complexity and puzzleness of the book, it also ditches the long troughs of boredom that designate the book as "for fastest readers only".

I liked this version better than the Swedish one (although subtitles also bore me). The pacing and intensity gradually increases as the main characters are introduced, and fast cuts between each of the character's storylines keeps you unsettled. I was a little irritated by Trent Reznor's ambient music, which triggered flashbacks to his awful Quake soundtrank in the 90s, but I was ultimately impressed with how the music organically tied everything together.

Although the movie was two hours and forty minutes long, it didn't start to drag until the epilogue section. This is an unfixable hole in the original plot, which throws another hundred pages of meandering intrigue after the real climax but requires that knowledge to start the second book in the series.

Final Grade: A

tagged as reviews | permalink | 1 comment

Friday, February 10, 2012

Work Day

I'm in a race against time and I'm barefoot.

Look, an update!

Why Best Buy is going out of business gradually
Why being sleepy and drunk are great for creativity

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Monday, February 13, 2012

Chad Darnell's 12 of 12


5:37 AM: Rise and shine!

5:52 AM: Showered and shaved.

6:00 AM: Buckling down to get some work done.

6:58 AM: Bagel and newspaper break near the front window.

7:45 AM: Booty sits right there when I work, but still cannot understand XML.

11:04 AM: Laundry folding break.

11:30 AM: The only solution to not eating bananas fast enough is to make banana muffins with the black ones.

2:25 PM: Taking a nap on the couch with Booty.

2:53 PM: Playing Rayman Origins with Booty.

3:32 PM: Exercising on the treadmill with Jack Bauer.

7:02 PM: Pizza for dinner with young Jack Bauer.

8:40 PM: Cats getting prematurely excited for dinner.
Zynga's Dream Zoo is pretty gay
Plainclothes policeman chases himself after being confused as a burglar

tagged as 12 of 12 | permalink | 2 comments

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Housiversary Day

Celebrating eight years of living in the same place! Who does that anymore?

As you can see below, the neighbourhood has really gone downhill, invaded by people with colour. Mostly orange.

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

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Memory Day: Snapshots

In the early years, we would go to an annual Christmas event sponsored by the adoption agency that bestowed the two-day shipping on my sister and I. Our parents would bring a couple gifts that they'd already planned to give on Christmas, and a Adoptosanta would give them to us as if they were his idea (Adoptosanta later faced an audit from the IRS).

As you can see from the expression on my face, I was not buying his routine, and did not think highly of what seems to be a Cabbage Patch Kids in the Senate Rotunda set. I must not have realized that my own gift was separate and coming soon -- this was probably the year I received the Transformer that was supposed to turn into a gun but was so poorly built that it just turned into a robot in the midst of a swan dive, resembling a mismatched lump of detritus not unlike one of those rope-and-bar mind puzzles that no one ever has the patience to finish.

This strategy didn't work when I taught ear-training
Icelanders avoid inbreeding through incest database

tagged as memories, media | permalink | 1 comment

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Vocabulary Thursday

Images from our most recent games of Scrabble. We are not proficient at getting seven-letter words.

tagged as random | permalink | 0 comments

Friday, February 17, 2012

List Day: The First Songs I Heard (Which Led to Buying an Album)

Food inspector deems bag lunch not healthy enough
DC man's NO TAGS vanity plates earn him $20,000 in tickets

tagged as lists, music | permalink | 1 comment

Monday, February 20, 2012

Presidents Day

Because it's Presidents Day and I'm still working a ton, here are some rare political thoughts:

  • It is impossible to create a scalable solution for any problem from the federal level. No matter how well-meaning or well-documented it is, there are too many points between the top and the bottom where the money gets leeched or the message gets altered.

  • It is impossible to change the country from the grass-roots level. However, this is the only level where you can have an impact. The most effective approach would be for normal people to ignore the federal circus and start improving their local burgs while the federal government gets out of the way of solutions that are working.

  • Society would be well served by a healthier dose of skepticism -- not for the views of others, but for the views you already have.

  • I don't understand how there can be a liberal elite involved in a media conspiracy. Didn't the liberals use up all of their money trying to pay for Socialism? And since none of that money trickled down to the bottom, doesn't that just make Old Money richer?

  • It's amazing how many people still believe that elected officials at the federal level are accountable to normal people in any way. We squabble over which party is better when the answer is neither. Both sides will say whatever it takes to get elected (which is fine because that's how the game is set up), and the country is now too large to effect meaningful change on any issue with the least bit of controversy.

  • Voting for an independent candidate at the federal level is still a waste of a vote, no matter how you slice it. If the horse race is rigged, you won't change the situation or "show them" by betting on a squirrel you saw in the parking lot.

  • The Internet is bad for politics because people get put on the defensive for anything that smells like controversy. It forces those seeking election to always focus on the near-term, at the expense of the future, not unlike hiring a consultant to write your software. It also makes it much easier to find people and news sources that already support your world view without challenge.

I vomited these out in about seven minutes this morning, so my apologies if any of them read like a kaleidoscope with one of the mirrors missing. I can follow up in the Comments section!

How Companies Learn Your Secrets
Piggyback Bandit banned in five states

tagged as politics | permalink | 4 comments

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Music Tuesday

This is a recording of my Solo and Ensemble performance as a freshman in 1993, in the days when "staccato" meant "as short as possible" with none of that "detached" subversiveness in the mix. "Missing a lot of notes" also meant "getting a Superior rating", because every young musician is a gem to be coddled.

tagged as music | permalink | 3 comments

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Memory Day: Snapshots

And the award for most awkward portrait pose goes to...

Kenyan chief uses Twitter to foil burglars
Hillary Clinton must not have gotten the white shirt memo

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Review Day

There are no spoilers in these reviews.

The Office, Season Seven:
This season was painful, almost as painful as the first. After hitting a high point around season four or so, season seven is pretty pointless. One thing that annoys me for no good reason in shows is when people make up random songs in a sitcom (Andy here or Marshall on HIMYM). This season was such a drag that when we got to the menu screen for an episode called "Andy's Play" the thought of listening to Andy singing crap actually kept me from watching any further for at least two months. I finally barreled through the rest of the season, which regained some focus towards the end but ultimately puttered out. Also, guest appearances by Will Ferrell did not help to get me on the Ferrell bandwagon.

Final Grade: D+

Bright Idea by Orson:
This is a UK pop group that I used to listen to back on XM radio. It's catchy, forgettable, and very short. A few songs remind be of the Zutons, but not enough to look for more albums.

Final Grade: B-

Ray Guns Are Not Just the Future by Bird and the Bee:
The original self-titled Bird and the Bee album I'd gotten for Christmas has continued to grow on me, especially the use of jazz harmonies and overdubbing, so I downloaded this one and ended up liking it even more. There's nothing amazing about any song on this album, but they're all irritatingly catchy, full of fat jazz harmonies and quirky, but tightly choreographed arrangements. Polite Dance Song is fairly indicative of the style.

Final Grade: A



tagged as reviews | permalink | 2 comments

Friday, February 24, 2012

Cat Picture Friday

Booty is a study aid. Look at all of that technology!

Amber turns into a shoe after midnight.

My work schedule should go back to normal after this coming week, resulting in a direct increase in words on this website!

Cops Trolled Driver?s License Database for Pic of Hot Colleague
The myth of the eight-hour sleep

tagged as media, cats | permalink | 2 comments

Monday, February 27, 2012

Weekend Wrap-up

I did not realize that "Total Editing Time" was one of the properties that Microsoft Word captured, and I probably would have preferred remaining in the dark about this particular measure.

When not writing tutorials showing Turkish bombers flying over a veterinary hospital in Atlanta, or running on the treadmill watching the really awful part of 24, Season One, involving amnesia, I was probably sleeping. However we did go to Don Pablo's on Saturday night for a very slow dinner and two-course carnitas (the tortillas came fifteen minutes later). We also watched the movie, Drive, which was interesting but not the type of movie I was expecting to watch. Ryan Gosling really looks like a less goofy version of Jason Segel.

We caught a little bit of the beginning of the Oscars on Sunday night while eating chicken bacon alfredo pizza, but it was unmemorable apart from Nick Nolte's lack of sobriety. The whole telecast sounded like we were listening to it from inside of a submarine, and I could barely hear Billy Crystal's song over the accompaniment. The Oscar for sound mixing did not go to the Academy's sound booth.

How was your weekend?

Maine's biggest lobster returned to the ocean
Calling Chicken Little: Clouds Getting Lower

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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

List Day: Upcoming Events

  • In a couple weeks, we're going back to Brightwood Farm to stay in an elegant A-frame cabin and feed goats.
  • St. Patrick's Day is fast approaching, which means that there will be Guinness everywhere!
  • My state inspection sticker expires in May, so it's time to upgrade my eleven-year-old Honda Accord. It's too bad that the newer Accords seem so huge and that all new cars have such a raised back window. Will we become a double Civic family? Stay tuned.

  • We're going on a foreign trip in July. It was originally going to be New Zealand, but that doesn't work out climatically, so it'll probably be Canada or the UK (places where we already speak at least one of the languages).

What's on your agenda?

tagged as lists | permalink | 6 comments

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Weird Search Day

or "How I Stumbled Upon the URI! Zone"

The number of weird searches has decreased in 2012, and it seems as if many people are using browsers that hide the search term by default. Since this is no good for the sake of comedy, I may have to vote against any privacy rules rolled out in the future.

  • why is milk cheaper at the leesburg virginia costco than at the winchester virginia costco
    According to data released by the USDA, the number of milk-giving cows which have calved has decreased in Maryland while holding steady in Virginia and West Virginia. This means that many cows have moved out of Maryland and converged upon the inner-Beltway area (sometimes called "black and white flight"). Leesburg, being closer to the cows, has cheaper milk. The graphic below provides a visual representation of this migration.

  • hokie bird porn
    There must be some strange "college mascot" porn fetish going on out in the world. I'm scared to actually confirm it.

  • tempo for treatment of clover mites
    Probably a waltz, because the heavy downbeat will squish more of them in a single attempt, while the lighter, fluffier upbeats will keep them guessing.

  • maynard ferguson cologne smell
    If this cologne exists, it smells of nosebleeds and poor tone quality.

  • according to zoologists what do a tiger's scent markings smell like
    According to this cat owner, who has successfully expelled a cat's anal glands on multiple occasions, they don't smell like buttered popcorn. (The measure of success based upon the expression of anal glands is not yet an ISO standard).

  • armadillo roadkill per year graphs
    The rate of armadillo homicides on US interstates has increased after a brief respite. (For people living in Fairfax County in search of a near-miss analogy, an armadillo is a kind of deer in Texas).

  • Introducing the iPhone gas stove
    Wyoming legislator David Miller introduces "doomsday" bill

    tagged as website, searches | permalink | 0 comments

     

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