april 2005

The Anaheim Angels have changed their named to the Los Angeles Angels? Ugh. When did this happen?

Once again, the South Park boys produced an episode that was so topical that it was almost prescient (it was centered around the Schiavo debacle), and as usual, they nailed both sides hard. But for once, they hammered the conservatives a little harder (and deservedly so). And they somehow also managed to make the just-released Sony PSP an integral plot point. These guys are freaking geniuses; I don't know how they can continue to churn out these brilliant scripts week after week.

There is nothing better in the world than having your birthday coincide with Opening Day, and having tickets to a major league game. Happy birthday to me!

As a pre-emptive birthday celebration, Julie arranged for a surprise lunch on Saturday with Dodd, Alisa, Jean, and Jean's husband Jason. We went to Niwana, where I had my favorite dish, the chicken don buri, and then went back to campus for a small party with an ice cream birthday cake from Maggie Moo's. There were also Spongebob party favors and hats, which everyone wore without complaint. Dodd also told me that for my birthday, he was going to treat Julie and me to the Braves-Nationals game on Memorial Day in DC. Very cool.

I'm not real big on birthday celebrations, but it was nice to get together with a few friends and hang out and enjoy some good food for a few hours. So, thanks everyone who came, and thanks for all my more distant friends who called/emailed.

Go Heels! You never make it easy, but man, it just makes the victories that much sweeter. Happy birthday to me again!

Thanks to illness and baseball, this will be my fifth consecutive half-day at work. What sucks is, I'm pretty sure that because I've had so much to do and I have been so desperate to get out of there, I've actually done more work most of these days than I would have if I had gone in for a full day.

Good game yesterday—after Matos belted a two-run homer in the second, there wasn't a moment when the O's didn't feel in control. Sammy got a couple of hits (although it's obvious he's still learning how to play the wall out in right field), Tejada was his usual reliable self, and the pitching staff was outstanding, with the starter Rodrigo Lopez going six scoreless innings followed by three scoreless innings from the bullpen.

It was a little chilly in the shade, especially with the relentless wind, but it was practically balmy compared to the past two years (one of which featured a snow shower that halted play for 15 minutes). There were a couple of cackling Bawlmer hens behind us, but they left so many times for alternating bathroom/beer/food breaks that they were pretty easy to ignore. It's so easy to be optimistic about the season when the O's play like they did yesterday, even though I know their pitching will likely falter before too long. But still, a great way to spend a birthday.

Happy birthday, granddad. I hope if I live to be 85, I can stay as lively and active as you have.

I'm going away for a bit, visiting my mom in Florida. I make it a point never to post when I'm on vacation, so the next time you hear from me will be at least a week from now. Hope the weather stays nice for you guys up here—despite my general dislike of Florida, it will be nice to have some warm weather for a week.

The first day back at work after a vacation sucks. Ergo, yesterday sucked.

Our trip was pretty good, a lot more relaxing than I had anticipated, thanks in large part to the many hours I spent swimming and getting sunburned in the pool at my mom's new house. I'll write more about it later, but for now I'm just going to showcase the photos that I would have posted if I had had access to the site while I was away but which are now considered archive photos (which means they never had their day in the sun on the front page of the site:

Wait. I was wrong about that first day back at work thing. No. Every day at work sucks these days.

I really like a lot of the things about this job, but I feel like I've spent way too much time recently sitting in meetings arguing with people who want our business process to be exactly the same as it was ten years ago, or re-configuring and re-implementing the same crappy enterprise-wide software package every few months when the vendor delivers a new build, only every time I do it I have to go through more and more bureaucratic change control procedures and I have fewer resources than I did the time before. I think what would really make the IT people at Hopkins happy was if we just stopped using the system altogether: no users = no problems.

See, because they'd rather spend their time telling their user base how we can't use basic pieces of functionality that simply don't work as advertised rather than hold the fucking vendor accountable, because the maker of the software has not only been acquired by other companies five times in the last three years, meaning that their management and goals are constantly changing, but they also offshore all the programming to India, where the programmers have no clue about the business processes of a large American university. Hell, they don't even know how to put together a reasonably efficient database model or backend architecture, how could I expect them to understand enough about a specific group of demanding customers to create an interface that actually makes sense?

Anyway. This was meant to be a post about going to see the Braves play the Marlins last Thursday in Florida, but it was a really bad fucking day at work yesterday and I don't reckon today will be much better. So the Florida stories will have to wait until I'm a little calmer.

Simply because I have done it the last three years on this blog, I would like to note for the record that I mowed the lawn for the first time this year on April 17, which by pure coincidence happens to be the same day I mowed it on last year (I swear, I don't check back on my previous entries until after I mow for the first time). This, along with the start of baseball season, more or less marks the beginning of spring on my personal calendar, and even though I sometimes grow tired of this weekly chore, I'm looking forward to the arrival of the warmer months.

So last week we were given 4 great seats to last night's Tigers-O's game (section 22), along with two parking passes. Since it was against the Tigers, I immediately thought of Epiphany, who is a huge Detroit fan and who I've never met in person, and his roommate Fool, who we haven't hung out with nearly enough recently. By Sunday, we had made arrangements to give them the tickets on Monday and meet up with them at the game.

But Sunday night going into Monday morning, I came down with something, and it was clear to me by noon that I wasn't going to make it to the game. We were able to give away our two tickets to a work friend of Julie's whose son and husband are big baseball fans, but I was very disappointed about not only missing the game, but also missing a chance to hang out with Ephiphany and Fool (missing the 13-3 drubbing by the Tigers is another story; I watched a bit on television and it was one of those games where it was clear who was going to win as early as the second inning).

What really sucks: we also have tickets to tonight's game from our partial season ticket plan, and I'm not really feeling any better, so I don't think I'll be attending this evening, either.

For both Episdoe I and Episode II, I always enjoyed going to the toy store when the new action figures were released (usually about a month befor the movie) and buying up a ton. They were both a way to get a preview of the upcoming movie and a way to reconnect with my childhood, of which Star Wars action figures were a big part. I've actually been really impressed with the quality and the detail of the figures from the last two movies, as well as the abundance of different characters (and even the repeated characters had outfits/accessories that were substantially different than the figures of that character that had been released before).

I wasn't quite as amped to see the new product this time, but when we made a trip to Target last week to pick up a baby shower gift, I couldn't resist taking a trip to the toy section to check out the new figures. I wasn't planning to buy very many, but I wanted to at least pick up a couple of the more interesting ones. The quantity didn't turn out to be an issue, however; in general, the new figures were very poorly modeled compared to their counterparts from the first two films, plus there were virtually no new figures—they were all more or less identical remakes of figures that were issued for the last movie, Attack of the Clones. Dooku was the same, Anakin was the same, the Emperor was the same, Obi Wan was the same, all the Jedi were the same. In the end, the only figures of any real interest to me were the droids, since those were pretty much the only new models introduced with this series of figures. I ended up gettting one of the dark metallic blue battle droids, General Grievous (a robot trained to fight Jedi with their own weapons, lightsabers, who was featured prominently in a Clone Wars spin-off series on the Cartoon Network), General Grievous' robot bodyguard, and my lone human, Count Dooku (who I selected mostly because my existing figure for him doesn't stand up very well). I may go back and look at the figures more closely and pick up any Jedi that I don't already have, but most of the ones on display were ones that I had earlier, identical models of.

Oh, and the new packaging sucks, too, breaking from nearly 30 years of tradition in Star Wars figure packaging and using instead a large plastic bubble with cheesy slogans slapped across the right side, phrases like "Four Lightsaber Attack!" and "Firing Arm-Blaster!" (the phrases were worse on the figures I didn't buy, but I can't remember any of them right now). It's a real shame that they couldn't finish out the figures for the final Star Wars movie using packaging linked to the packaging they've done for all the previous figure series, going all the way back to the original figures in 1977.

Okay, there. I'm done now.

God I wish today was Friday.

One week from today, Seadragon and I will be setting up shop at the Hopkins Spring Fair to sell some of our photos. You might remember she was supposed to appear with me at the Pigtown Festival last fall, but due to other commitments, she wasn't able to make it so I flew solo.In addition to our photos, I'll also be selling handmade notebooks and journals made by a coworker of mine who does bookbinding on the side.

So I'm asking for your help once again: I've already selected a good number of photos to display and sell at the fair, but I'd love it if some of you would look through my archives; if see any images that strike your fancy, please drop me a line with your suggestions.

It seems like forever since we took a trip down to Florida to visit my mom, but it was really just two weeks ago. I've been meaning to write about it since I got back, but for some reason I just haven't gotten around to it. I was going to break it up into a separate entry for each day, but I don't think I have the energy for that at this point, so I'm just going to give you the highlights and spread them out over a couple of entries.

For starters, I spend a lot of time in my mom's pool. A lot. I would say that for at least two hours a day each day we were there, I was in the pool, swimming, or floating and looking at the sky, or hanging on the edge and watching the turf wars that errupted in the colony of lizards who live in the tropical foliage of my mom's backyard. That's probably my strongest memory of this trip: being in the water in her backyard, with the sun in a clear sky, surrounded by a wall of green.

We flew in on a Wednesday night, and got in so late that we just headed straight for bed. We had talked about seeing a Marlins game, so the next day I checked to see if they were in town, and not only were they playing at home, they were playing the Braves (my favorite team). The Marlins were finishing out a three game series with the Braves, which meant that we had to go that day or we wouldn't be able to see them. My mom had planned to make cornish game hens for dinner that night, but because game time would have interfered with that, she made them for lunch instead, and they were a perfect meal after a couple of hours of swimming.

The Marlins stadium kind of sucked—it was out in the middle of nowhere with no vendors outside the stadium, the rows were a litle too narrow, and even though we go the second-most expensive seats in the house, we still felt like we were miles away from the field compared to Camden Yards. But the game was really good, very competitive with two great starting pitchers (Burnett for the Marlins and Hudson making his debut for the Braves). The Braves won, which is always nice because I don't get to see them play live that often.

We again went to bed pretty much as soon as we got home, both because we were tired after a long day of swimming and a nice evening at the ballpark, and because we had plans to meet up with my sister the next day and head down to Coral Castle. But more on that tomorrow.

We had dinner with Tom last night, the first time I've seen him in a while. He's working an office job at UVA while he figures out what he wants to do next with his art stuff, but he scheduled these days off before he started the job as a little reward vacation for himself after not only starting his first 9-5 job in a few years, but also moving for the first time in a while.

He met us after work and we went out for dinner and coffee before we headed home and he headed back to Baltimore to catch Superwolf at the Ottobar. It was good to see him, but I was just so exhausted from work (I've put in a good number of hours over the past two weekends, plus I had an excruciatingly long meeting about our stupid database yesterday) and from preparing for Spring Fair on Friday that I don't think I was very good company. After we finish our trip to New Orleans and Iowa in a couple of weeks )we're going to a business conference and Tori's graduation, respectively), I think I'm going to take a couple of months off from traveling; I've just been doing too much of that recently. But hopefully after a little downtime I'll feel like taking a few days to visit Tom down in Charlottesville, and we can have a nice long visit where I'm not stressed out from work and incoherent from lack of sleep.

Why does everyone want to schedule meetings with me from 1-2 in the afternoon? That's when I eat lunch, you bastards. Leave me the fuck alone.

Here's a small sample of how things have been for me at work recently: in a couple of weeks, I am going to a users group conference where people from all the other admissions offices who have implemented the same database product that we have are going to get together, talk about our concerns with the product, and make some unified recommendations for what the developers should be working on to make the product better and more useful for their customers. In addition to several people like me who work for particular offices within the university, Hopkins is also sending some of the people on the implementation team who work for the university-wide IT group.

When these IT people, who I have a fairly oppositional relationship with at this point (as do most people in my position; they tend to forget that the "S" in the last letter of their acryonym stands for "support"; they think they should be allowed to tell us how to use the product, rather than finding out what we need the product to do and making it happen) found out that I had added a couple of items to the conference agenda, they sent me an email asking me to come and meet three of them at their satellite campus to discuss the agenda items. Now since I have been talking about these issues in emails, phone calls, and personal conversations for the past three years, I translated their meeting request to mean, "We want you to come meet with us on our turf so we can gang up on you and tell you what we want you to say about these issues."

My response was basically a fuck-you in polite business-speak, saying that they should be well aware of what I'm going to say already, and that if they don't have any new developments from the vendor regarding these issues, then it would be a waste of all our time to meet. They received my response within 15 minutes of me receiving their request on Tuesday afternoon. Their reply back to me more than 24 hours later: dead silence. So I guess I don't have to go meet with them today.

This is just the latest in a series of such requests, which seem more designed to distract me from the real issues that our office is facing with regards to this product and prevent me from focusing on the many other responsibilities of my job not related to this product than to help with the ongoing dialogue. I'm usually pretty patient about this kind of nonsense, but for the last month it has been non-stop, and I'm getting pretty fucking tired of it.

It's the start of Spring Fair today, so if you're around Hopkins anytime between noon and six (or 10-6 on Saturday and Sunday), drop by the booth where Seadragon and I will be selling our photos. I'd love it if you just wanted to come by and say hello, but hey, if you want to drop piles of cash on the table in exchange for some high-quality matted photos, I'm not going to turn you away.
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