Archive for February, 2007

#754

11:43 pm, Sunday, February 25th, 2007

Boy, I really need to update more often… Gotta build those blogging muscles before the 3rd annual IMBC begins in April.

Earlier this month Krunk helped me implement some JavaScript he wrote — now my sidebar is a little shorter because the “Illustriae” section is hidden by default. I tweaked his code very slightly to replace “show” and “hide” with fixed-width plus and minus signs. That Illustriae section is kinda new too. It’s a list of celebrities whose work I admire and like to keep tabs on. Since their projects aren’t likely to appeal to everyone who views this site, I figured I’d try to de-clutter things without requiring an extra page load to access the links. I’m very happy with the results. Thanks, Krunk!

Speaking of web site stuff, I finally got around to fixing my .htaccess file. Ever since I installed WordPress I’d been unable to view my site statistics. It wasn’t a big deal since I rarely looked at them anyway, but lately I’d been curious to see how a couple things were trending. A quick search of the DreamHost wiki showed me the fix, which was simpler than I’d expected. Now I can make cool charts like this one, which shows the total number of requests made during each hour of each day since October 2005:

Hourly Usage stats - Oct 05 to Feb 07

While I was messing with that stuff, it occurred to me that my 404 page was kind of bloated, so I revised it. Here’s the new version; it’s less than 10 KB.

I saw Pan’s Labyrinth Friday night. The reviews for it were extremely good — 96% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and consistent A and B grades on Yahoo! Movies. I wasn’t as impressed; I liked it, but only mildly. The violence/torture was a bit much for me and I found the subtitles a little too distracting (their presence wouldn’t have bothered me if the film didn’t have such pretty scenery and interesting visual effects). It surprised me that I was more engaged by the plight of the Spanish rebels than the girl’s fantasy adventures.

A couple neat YouTube videos:

Beatboxing flute Inspector Gadget remix — Pretty much what it sounds like. Around 1m:50s he segues into Axel F. Kind of neat; I didn’t realize flautists could beatbox while playing.

March of the Emperors — For some reason, in France the movie “March of the Penguins” is known as “March of the Emperors.” I don’t know why they changed the title; I suppose the latter version is a little more poetic. Or maybe they thought it was popular enough by then that people would already know the subject but not the particular species. Anyway, this commercial is about a funny misunderstanding that results from the unclear title.

I’ve been cooking more lately. Here are some pictures:

Brett's Fried Rice    Vegetarian Casserole with biscuit top    Salmon, seared scallops, mashed potatoes, and green beans

The first picture is of the fried rice Brett made this evening. The second is a vegetarian casserole I made. Halfway into preparing the sauce (a basic alfredo) I realized I didn’t have any spaghetti. The only pasta I could find was two boxes of lasagna. So I boiled up a bunch of that and cut it into strips on a cookie sheet with a pizza cutter. I mixed everything together with some frozen veggies (corn, peas, carrots, green beans, lima beans) and topped it with a thin layer of biscuit dough. I used an egg wash to make the topping shiny and dark. Best casserole I’ve ever made.

The last dish is salmon, green beans, mashed potatoes, and seared scallops in a basil-infused white wine cream sauce. The salmon was priced really cheap at the store — like $3.20 for the whole fillet (I have no idea why; might’ve been an error). I don’t like scallops, but Brett does and I thought that maybe if I cooked them myself I could make them more appetizing. Didn’t work — I still hate them. Everything else worked out very well though.

Brett’s mom and her friend Betsy came down from Spokane today and dropped off Brett’s trumpet and this really nice stereo system (I’ll take a picture of it soon; it makes the TV sound way better). She also took us to lunch at the Fireside Grille.

Well, that’s all I have for now.

Tree Citadel/Illusion

#753

2:17 am, Monday, February 19th, 2007

I forgot to mention that, before I flew to New York, some guy side-swiped the F-350 my parents lent me (for moving from Fed Way). He really messed it up — damaged both doors on the driver’s side, took out the custom side-view mirror. At least he had insurance and was honorable enough to leave a note. When he visited the house later I asked him how it happened and he said he just wasn’t paying attention. The street is plenty wide and almost all the snow had melted by then, so I’m thinking he was actually drunk or something like that. But who knows? Sucks for him — the repairs will probably run several thousand dollars.

Anyway, back to my New York trip: Hairspray was awesome. Paul Vogt and Jere Burns were hilarious as Edna and Wilbur Turnblad. I really liked the songs with the exception of a couple Motown-style ones. The anti-segregation message was a little trite, but I don’t think it got in the way of the entertainment.

After the show, my mom and I had a late dinner at Ruth’s Chris Steak House. Prior to that day, I had always said the best meal I ever ate was a dish I had in Trier, Germany: Nudeltopf mit Schweine medallion. But now that prestigious spot has been usurped by what I dined on that evening: a 16 oz. Buffalo ribeye (medium rare; topped with sweet butter), spinach, garlic mashed potatoes, and a perfect crème brûlée with fresh berries for dessert. The steak itself was beautful — cooked just right and completely free of even the tiniest bit of gristle, silver skin, or excess fat. I’d never eaten bison before, but it definitely agreed with me.

On Sunday we met Scott (the handler), Terri, Anders (Scott’s assistant), and Shawna (Anders’ girlfriend) at Rockefeller Center and had brunch at its famous Rainbow Room on the 65th floor. The food was very good. The only things I tried and didn’t like were caviar and what I think were stuffed grape leaves. Scott’s a pretty thin guy but we were all amazed how much he could pack away — he definitely got his money’s worth at the buffet. I think he made five or six trips. (I, sadly, could only manage three. But I contend that I had greater plate density.) The best item served, IMHO, was the beef — about a half-inch in from the surface of the roast it had the color and texture of raw meat. The thin gravy provided with it highlighted the best flavor elements without obscuring anything. The tiramisu was also awfully good.

Sunday night we saw Spamalot at the Shubert Theater. This was, by far, my favorite musical of the trip. I was expecting a moderately straightforward recreation of the movie, but I was jubilantly surprised. The only criticism I can think of for the entire show is that King Arthur (Jonathan Hadary) seemed slightly lethargic in his movement and gestures. But he made up for it with comic pomposity and a hilariously fake smile. Prince Herbert/Not-Dead Fred/etc. (Tom Deckman) was fantastic. What a variety of songs… I can’t even describe how thrilled I was with the whole production. That night we had sushi at Haru, just a couple blocks down Time Square. It was pretty good (maybe not quite as good as I Love Sushi, but still tasty). I had mango mochi for dessert.

On Monday we went to the Westminster Dog Show at Madison Square Gardens to see Scott show mom’s Smooth Fox Terrier, Ira. He didn’t place, but Terri’s Siberian Husky won Best of Breed. Later on we visited with Scott in the exhibitor’s area — talk about crowded!

Westminster Dog Show in NY, Madison Square Gardens, Feb 2007    Westminster 2007: Scott showing Ira

After that, we walked to the Empire State Building and had lunch at the Heartland Brewery on the 1st floor. Then we took an elevator up to the observation deck on the 86th (!) floor and hung out and took pictures. Here are some of mine:

Empire State Building entrance    Empire State Building observation deck 1    Empire State Building - Statue of Liberty in upper right

Empire State Building observation deck 3

Let’s see… what else? I think Monday night was when we had dinner at Wollensky’s Grill. It was supposed to be pretty upper class like Ruth’s Chris, but the food wasn’t nearly as good. They really like to char the outside of their steaks. Plus there were these two really annoying Texans sitting behind us; the worst was an insipid woman half in the bag who talked much too loudly and laughed like a howler monkey on meth. By the end of the meal we were both pretty sure she was having an adulterous affair with her dining companion (who, apparently, was also her boss).

Wicked (the last show we saw) was actually a bit of a letdown. I’m sure it had the highest budget of the three, but it was too traditional a musical for my taste. That is, they made heavy use of dramatic lighting, more modern styles of dance, and discordant music (clashy, Phillip Glass-ish kind of stuff, you know?). But the story was pretty interesting. I think they underestimated the audience’s deduction in a couple places though. (It’s a little vexing when a story decides to show you what you’ve already figured out or assumed.) I liked the “Popular” and “Defying Gravity” numbers.

We also saw the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, but those trips are pretty self-explanatory. Here are a few of my pictures from that day:

Statue of Liberty    Ellis Island    Battery park in NYC

Roast beef sandwich at Le Painne    Central Park monument    Ornate Building near Central Park in NYC

#752

3:50 pm, Saturday, February 10th, 2007

Well, I’m in New York, NY. It’s not as cold here as people said; aside from cold ears and cheeks, I’ve been pretty comfortable outside. The flight over wasn’t too bad. Apparently I hadn’t been on a plane in some time (2003?) — they now have television on little LCD touchscreens in the backs of the seats. Like, live television via satellite. And a bunch of movies (with rewind and pause controls), MP3s, simple video games, and flight statistics. I was really impressed… it’s a huge improvement over the pull-down screen and digital projector they used to have.

Interactive video on a Delta 757

The people at the airport were pretty pushy. Apparently some group of jackasses were coming back from a ski weekend and they had something like two dozen ski cases that clogged up the baggage carousel and whacked people when moved about.

This morning we had breakfast in the hotel cafe (Raffles). The food was much better than I expected, especially the curly fries. (Curly fries with breakfast instead of hash browns… is that a New York thing? I don’t know.) Then we walked east towards Time Square and did some window shopping (pic below). Then we entered the Macy’s megaplex, an adventure that took most of the day. I got some slacks, a suit jacket, and a couple shirts. This really nice clerk helped us find things and recommended styles and colors and so on — very helpful. The clothes look great and fit better than I thought they would. It’s too bad she couldn’t accept our tip.

Time Square - Feb 2007

Getting a taxi back to the Radisson was really hard. We eventually ran into a doorman on 5th Avenue who kindly offered to hail one for us.

Tonight we’re going to see Hairspray at the Neil Simon Theater at 8:00.

I have to finish a 6-10 page short story (for ENGL 251) and a 4-5 page essay (for 20th century lit.) by Thursday. Whee.

#751

12:32 pm, Monday, February 5th, 2007

Well, I’ve spoken to Hanwool and Jones and, amazingly, both still live.

Not much going on here. I got three hours of sleep last night because I kept putting off that “Analysis Response” paper for ENGL 251 and then realized it was more difficult than I’d expected. I’m sitting here between my morning and afternoon classes because it beats sitting on the metal bench in the Todd building, even though I have to make two bus trips. Tomorrow’s going to suck… I have to read fifty pages for my modern lit. class, then participate in a research study in the afternoon, then go back to school at 7:00 PM for a review for our first exam in MIS (which makes up about a third of our grade).

Almost all the snow has melted now. It got a lot warmer over the weekend… it’s 47° F outside right now, which is like 20 degrees higher than it was this time last Wednesday. On Saturday, Brett and I got haircuts at Elaine’s on Grand Avenue (we needed them pretty badly — I hadn’t been that shaggy in a long time). She did a really good job. The only downside was that we found out she charges an extra $10 for walk-ins (fortunately, I had an appointment and only paid $15; Brett had to pony up $25).

Last week sometime, Thursday I think, I drove to Office Depot in Moscow (Idaho) to get a desk chair. My last one, which I got at IKEA, was nice, but the tilt thingy broke like six months back and made it really uncomfortable to sit in (since you had to lean back the whole time or else fall forward suddenly). I’m psyched about the new one (a “black fabric task chair,” according to the box); the display model was very comfortable and sturdy. I haven’t put it together yet though, since I want to fix my desk before I do that. (The wheels broke when we were unloading it from the U-Haul trailer, so I need some bricks or something to set it up on.)

Well, almost time to take the bus back to WSU. I’m gonna check a few of my AnandTech threads before I go.

#750

9:44 pm, Thursday, February 1st, 2007

Three-quarters of the way to a thousand posts, woo.

We’re finally all done with Federal Way; last weekend we drove up in the F-350, got a U-Haul trailer (I had to buy a one-inch hitch ball — who knew they came in different sizes?), packed and loaded everything, and spent eight grueling hours cleaning every inch of our old apartment. The inspection went really well; the acting manager said we’d probably get back the maximum amount possible from our original deposit and my pet deposit. She actually said we were some of the cleanest tenants they’d ever had (a declaration my mom would definitely deem implausible).

During the trip we listened to the audiobook Don’t Know Much About History. It was good, but awfully short; only about three hours long. Opened with a great anecdote about what General Washington really said while crossing the Delaware. To wit:

“Shift that fat ass, Harry. But slowly, or you’ll swamp the damned boat.”

Then for a couple hours on the trip back, along that wonderfully exciting 133-mile stretch of road between Vantage and Colfax, Brett read aloud from Alan Alda’s biography, Never Have Your Dog Stuffed. What a book! Either Alda’s one of the most talented people alive today, or he hired one hell of a ghostwriter. Some of his descriptions are wonderfully poetic; we both found ourselves interrupting the narration a few times to point out a particularly nice line or phrase. And the stories are really interesting. I thought Augusten Burroughs et al. had soured me on memoirs involving mothers with mental disorders (after a short while, most autobiographers start sounding whiny and bitter talking about their imperfect parents), but Alda covers the subject better than anyone else I’ve read, expressing affection and understanding instead of tired resentment. I love how optimistic he is through everything. Ostensibly, he had a pretty traumatic childhood — polio, boarding schools, few friends, a crazy mother, a father who worked in a traveling burlesque show, etc. — but he comes across as genuinely grateful for the “unique opportunities” it afforded him.

Today I discovered a really cool trick you can do in Opera 9. I’m sure this is prominently featured in a help article somewhere, but I rarely read those, so it was new to me. Basically, you can add your own search commands to the address bar and it’s super easy. I’ve used the “g” and “a” searches a lot (for Google and Answers.com, resp. — you just type “g whatever” in the address bar and it googles that phrase. Very handy.), but I’ve been typing out “en.wikipedia.org” (or using the bookmark) like a schmuck whenever I wanted to look up something. Now all I have to do is type “w fermi’s paradox” and the Wikipedia page comes right up. Saves a lot of time, bandwidth, and typing. Here’s how you do it:

1. Go to the web site you want to search from.
2. Right click in the text box you normally type into and select “Create search…”
3. Enter a name for the search and a keyword (this is what you’ll type to do the search from the address bar).
4. Enjoy your increased productivity.

Isn’t that awesome?

With no Game-A-Lot to hang out at, I’ve started participating in the Google SketchUp 3D Challenges again. So far I’ve modeled a Chinese abacus and a thumbdrive (pics below).

Boy, this was a long post. Time to watch 30 Rock and work on my analysis paper for Creative Writing.

SketchUp model - Chinese abacus    SketchUp model - USB Thumbdrive