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9.16.16
Will got his first report card yesterday, and he did so great—he got an A in all the subjects with letter grades, he got a P in all the Pass/Fail subjects, and he got an S (the highest rank) in all of his behavior/conduct evaluations. I couldn't be more proud of him, especially because I know how hard he's worked to get better at his behavior in class and his focus on academics.

He's really embraced doing his homework this year (I think it's ridiculous to have any homework before at least fourth grade, but he usually knocks his out in aftercare these days instead of turning it into a half hour or more screaming/crying battle at home), and thanks to a lot more positive feedback from his first grade teacher—who is strict and very organized but also takes the time to note when the kids do something good—he's also improved a lot on the talking/focus issues that dogged him most of last year with his previous teacher.

We don't want to put too much pressure on him academically at this point, so we don't make a big deal about grades as long as he's trying and doing his best to learn the material, but he seems to have really decided that he wants to do well this year—he cried when he missed one answer on one of his weekly spelling tests and got a 90 instead of his typical 100.

I'm definitely very proud of him, and I would love it if he continued to get these marks, but I have a feeling if he slips he's going to be much harder on himself than we will be. But he does seem to genuinely enjoy both the academic and the social parts of school this year, so hopefully he'll continue to do well without stressing himself out too much.


9.15.16
UGA played their second game against unranked Nicholls State, and although they once again came away with the win, they did everything in their power to screw it up. They only won by two points, and the outcome of the game was in doubt until the very end. As I've said many times before, this team is always entertaining, but man do they make you want to pull your hair out sometimes (and always several times a game).

The positives were that rookie quarterback Jacob Eason and third year receiver Isiah McKenzie seem like they're developing some real chemisty which should nicely balance the punishing run game with Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, and the defense showed some flashes of brilliance that show what they could become if they could stay focused and consistent for the entire game.

Next week is an away game at Missouri, and it will also be their first SEC game. We might find out who this team really is during that game: you have to believe that they'll need to be hitting on all cylinders to beat an SEC foe (even a currently unranked one) in their house, and if they can come away with a dominating performance, they could set the tone for themselves going into the tougest part of their schedule.


9.14.16
The Ravens played their first game of the season on Sunday, and although it wasn't a decisive win—13-7—it was still a win, and it was the kind of game that they lost all too often last year.

The defense, which had some serious problems last year, was especially strong, only allowing 160 total yards for the Bills, and you could see glimmers of an emerging pass offense, which we'll need in order to take advantage of teams who are playing us expecting us to run a lot (which we undoubtedly will as long as we're not too far behind)—new free agent receiver Mike Wallace caught a long pass from Flacco and ran it in for a 66 yard touchdown, and Breshad Perriman, our first round pick from 2015 who missed all of his first season with an ACL sprain that later turned out to be a small tear, also caught a 35 yard pass. All in all, Flacco completed passes to ten different targets, showing how many potential outlets he has.

This is the first they've won the first game of the season since their 2012 Super Bowl season, and although there's still a long way to go before we get to that point, all of our injured starters from last year were on the field and making plays, and our free agents and rookies were also making contributions. There were still plenty of mistakes that shouldn't have been made, including some that could have turned the game around if Buffalo had been able to take advantage, but unlike most of last season, the defense was able to keep containment and limit the damage.

This team is one that you always have to take one game at a time, but with a much more favorable schedule in terms of both quality of the competition and location/start time (all of our games through November 6 take place at 1:00 p.m. Eastern, we only have one game that's not played in the Eastern time zone, and we only have three games that aren't at 1:00, compared to last year when four of our first five games took place on the west coast), they could really go on a run during the first half of the season and put themselves in a position to compete for a playoff spot despite a second half to their season that looks much tougher than the first (at least at this point in the season based on last year's records).

Next week is an away game in Cleveland, a team that we regularly beat but almost never beat easily. This will be a real test for this team: it's a game that they can't lose if they want to have a shot at the playoffs and potentially the AFC North crown.


9.13.16
We were supposed to meet our friends Connie and Jeff and their son Noah at Ponce City Market to have dinner before heading out to the BeltLine to watch the Lantern Parade at 7, but they were a little late getting there and the place was a lot more crowded than we expected.

In addition, Connie thought she lost her wedding and engagement rings somewhere in the food hall, so she and Jeff were frantically searching for those (she later found them at home on her bathroom sink without ever remembering that she took them off, which she almost never does). So Julie and I handled the kids and waited in lines at separate places until one of us got close to the front and then picked up food for everyone in the group.

Julie's line was shorter, so as soon as she got to the ordering station, I bailed on my line and went to find a table, and luckily found a big one upstairs with exactly as many seats as we needed. Julie showed up with the food 10 minutes later, and Connie and Jeff shortly after that, so all in all things worked out pretty well—it's always chaos and long lines at Ponce City Market, but we could have had a much worse outcome given how crowded it was (weekend evening plus a big event directly adjacent to the market).

After dinner we went out to the BeltLine and again got lucky—we found a place on the stairs where the kids could see everything and we could stand behind them and see as well. The parade was probably about halfway over when we first started watching, and we stayed for about an hour before we decided that it was after 10 and we didn't really want to put any more time on the parking meter.

Will had a great time watching, and he seemed interested in participating, so given the very fluid nature of the event (as long as you have a lantern, you can join in whenever you want on the parade route, and you can also leave anytime you want—and I have a feeling the lanterns-only rule gets signficantly relaxed towards the end of the parade), we might get a couple of lanterns next year and do half the route or something (it starts at Krog Street Market, follows the BeltLine up past Ponce City Market and then ends when the paved portion of the Eastside BeltLine currently ends below Piedmont Park).

It was a really fun evening despite some of the early hiccups, and I'm glad Connie and Jeff reminded us of it a couple of days beforehand—usually we end up seeing posters for it the week after it takes place and have always regretted not having it on the calendar.


9.12.16
We had another busy weekend, especially on Saturday. The morning started out with a race down near the Georgia Dome that ended with you running through the same tunnel that the Atlanta Falcons players run through when they are taking the field at the beginning of the game, and then all the post-race stuff was just on the field, so you could walk around wherever you wanted, take pictures, etc.

I ran the 5K and finished about 15 minutes before Julie and Will finished the one mile (they started about 45 minutes after I did), so I kept my eye on the big video board to see if I could take a video of Will crossing the finish line (they had a camera feed of the finish line that they were broadcasting). Luckily he was wearing a rainbow tie dye t-shirt, so he was pretty easy to pick out in the crowd of people emerging from the tunnel, so I got a great video of him (including his excited reaction when he saw himself on the giant video screen right after he crossed the finish line).

Later that day Julie took Will to see the organ in Spivey Hall at Clayton State University. They got to hear a short concert from the organist but also got a behind-the-scenes tour from the electrical engineer who keeps the thing running, who Will was completely fascinated with. The guy liked Will so much that he gave him one of the buttons from the organ (obviously not one right from the organ, but a spare one).

We had a little bit of downtime when they got home before we headed out for our evening adventure: dinner at Ponce City Market and watching the annual Lantern Parade on the BeltLine.


9.9.16
UGA got rid of longtime coach Mark Richt and hired Alabama defensive coordinator (and former UGA player) Kirby Smart in the offseason in hopes of becoming more disciplined with a stronger identity, but on Saturday's game against UNC in the Georgia Dome, they looked like the same team I've been watching for the past few seasons since I moved to Atlanta.

They ended up winning by riding star running back Nick Chubb for over 200 yards and two touchdowns, but the lead went back and forth all game, they had several moments where they lost their way offensively and defensively (most notably with their quarterback situation—they seemed to switch almost every series between top national prospect and freshman Jacob Eason and veteran player and senior Greyson Lambert), and the win was in doubt until the very end. A very typical Georgia game, but not what I think Smart was hoping for for his first game on a national stage with this team.

UGA always gets tons of talent, but they never seem to be able to leverage it to create consistency—I've very rarely seen them get an easy win, even when they're playing a team that isn't ranked and who is on their schedule just so they can have a dominating win. Smart was supposed to bring some of that near-pro Alabama approach to the team, and while it's just been one game so far, and while I acknowledge that it may take a couple of years for his approach to be felt top to bottom in this organization, there is little evidence that anything he's done since being hired late last year has influenced the culture and character of the team.

They're always exciting to watch, but not always in a good way, and that same inconsistency crossed with (sometimes accidental) brilliance was on dispaly in the win over UNC. It will be interesting to see how their week 2 game against an unranked Nicholls State.


9.8.16
On Monday, the official holiday, we took it easy in the morning before joining a couple of other families for an afternoon swim at Emory's outdoor pool located on a satellite campus. We joined for the summer, and Monday was the last day we could use the pass.

It's remarkable how much Will has progressed with swimming this summer, especially given that we've only had two or three lessons—it's just been regular exposure to a pool (especially my sister's pool), more confidence from Will, and something just clicking and him realizing he doesn't need floaties anymore.

For this visit, we even went into the very deep diving end of the pool (because they woudn't let him practice diving in the four foot section of the pool), but he spent a lot of time playing in the smaller pool with his friends.

After the pool, we all went home and got changed before heading over to one of the other family's houses for dinner. Their little girl was in pre-K with Will and played soccer with him for a few seasons, but I've gotten to know the dad pretty well, so hopefully we'll keep up the relationship even though Will and their daughter go to different schools now and don't have any activities in common. They served make-it-yourself tacos and pie for dessert. Will was as usual the ringleader of games with the other kids, but they all seemed to have a pretty good time together (two little girls that are Will's age and the younger brother of one of the girls).


9.7.16
On Sunday afternoon, we took Will to his first Cub Scout meeting. Our den leader is the mother of a boy who was in Will's class last year, and we've gotten to know her pretty well. She's the right amount of creative/playful and strict, so we feel good about how she'll run things for Will's den. It's about twelve boys total (including her son, of course), and surprisingly everyone showed up for the kickoff meeting even though it was a holiday weekend.

It took a little while for them to warm up to one another—most of them knew at least one other person in the den, but no one knew all of the others—but she had some good games and get-to-know-you cooperative exercises for them to do together, and pretty soon they were playing just as you would imagine a dozen first grade boys would. They learned the basic Cub Scout rules, did a scavenger hunt, and practiced for a short skit they're going to do at the big pack meeting later this week, and then had some regular goof off time in the backyard.

I have mixed feelings about him doing Cub Scouts—I was made to do it as a boy, and while I didn'ty typically hate it, it wasn't really my thing either, and my father could never really participate with me in it because he was living a couple of hours away at that point (although he did get really into the Pinewood Derby carmaking, pretty much designing and decorating the cars himself, although there was one year when he let me pick the paint color). Most I remember one year when I must have been around 10 or so when my birthday coincided with the big annual jamboree weekend, so I spent that day camping and doing outdoorsy stuff (again, not really my thing) with a bunch of people I barely knew instead of having cake and presents and a party with my friends and family. So that didn't really endear me to the Scounts either.

If this were five or ten years ago, I don't think we'd be doing Scouts—I was pretty disappointed that it took them so long as an organization to let women and gay men officially be part of their organization and to let openly gay boys be part of the Scouts, but they seem to have finally joined the 21st century. There are still some things in their handbook and rules that are exclusionary, particularly around religion, but Will seems to be really enjoying it, and there are some good lessons and skills he can learn, so for now I'm content to let him participate, especially given the den leader we have.


9.6.16
We spent the Saturday of the holiday weekend the way we usually do: walking to Decatur to check out the annual book festival, where they close down the main downtown street and have book sellers, presses, and authors hawking their wares.

It seems like it gets a little smaller each year, but Will had a great time. He got another festival t-shirt that he got to help screen print himself (same setup they had last year), and he got his usual lunch-in-a-hat from one of the food vendors (it's grilled cheese, chips, and a drink, with the food coming in a colorful plastic hat that he wears for about two minutes and then promptly puts into his closet once we get home). It's great to do these things now that he can walk the whole way and back himself without complaining—we still play little games with him to keep him motivated, but he's really pretty good about keeping up and not complaining, even when it's hot.

We met one of my college roommates, Jonathan, and his family down there—they live in Decatur, and even though he and I have gotten together every two or three months since we moved to Atlanta for a beer or a movie, I had never met his kids, and I hadn't seen his wife for 25 years (she also went to our college and they were dating when we were seniors).

I went with Jonathan and his family to see a speaker named John Willis, an astrobiologist who recently published a book about his field called All These Worlds Are Yours: The Scientific Search for Alien Life (the title taken, of course, from 2010, one of the most underrated sci fi films of all time). Most of his talk focused on the search for evidence of simple forms of life on other planets, particularly those within our own solar system because that's what most astrobiologists spend their time on, but he did talk a little about SETI and the search for intelligent life. The book seemed like a survey meant to introduce the main areas of inquiry and techniques to the layman, so some of it I already felt pretty familiar with, but he was a good speaker, and I might pick this one up the next time I'm in the mood for some science-oriented non-fiction.

Will fell asleep for two hours after we walked back home and then stayed up late, unable to go back to sleep after dinner and his normal bedtime routine, but no matter—it was the first day of a three day weekend, and he could afford to get off schedule a little bit.


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