april 2007

4.2.07
I think the only people who can possibly derive any joy from Mondays are people who are too rich or too poor to have to keep track of what day it is in the first place.

That said, I'm going to do my damnedest to spend as much time outside today as possible and enjoy my relatively empty schedule by taking some photos of the emerging spring.

4.3.07
It's weird—yesterday was opening day for most teams (including the Braves, who I root for, and the Orioles, whose games I attend because they're the team closest to me geographically), and I didn't really care all that much. In the past, I've usually taken the day off to watch the Braves first televised game, but yesterday I went to work as normal and just had the gamecast on in the background. I barely followed spring training, I don't really know who is on the roster for my teams yet, and I'm not doing my fantasy baseball league for the first time in several years.

We still bought our usual 13 game partial season ticket plan for the Orioles, and we'll be taking a half day next Monday to watch the Baltimore home opener at Camden Yards, but at this point I'm going as much for the spectacle surrounding a major league game as I am because of the game itself. Part of it could be the endless drudgery of watching the Braves make it the playoffs every year but never winning the World Series (in their unprecedented string of 14 straight divisional titles, which ended with a terrible season last year, they won the championship only once, way back in 1995) and the even more frustrating experience of watching the Orioles march through losing season after losing season (they haven't had a winning record since 1997).

I don't know. Maybe I'll start to feel more strongly as the season progresses, but for the first time in a long time, I feel very disconnected from the rhythms of the baseball world, which have been a part of my sense of the passing of time for the last 15 years. I'm hoping that seeing the games in person will help renew my love for the sport and make me remember why I loved it so much once, but this year I'm going into the season feeling differently than I have in a long time.

4.4.07
Today would have been a good day not to be at work. But unfortunately it was not to be.

4.5.07
Yesterday was my birthday, and as you might have guessed my original plan was to take the day off. But this time of year little issues just seem to pop up out of nowhere at work, and when I left on Tuesday I still had way too many things to do on my must-be-done-ASAP list to consider taking a day off.

I was in a pretty grouchy mood the night before, not just because I was going to have to go in, but also because Kidrobot screwed up my order and now it seems extremely likely that I'm going to have to look for an item on eBay instead of being able to order it directly from their site. Sometimes the prices on eBay aren't unreasonable—this item has gone for just a few dollars over retail before—but there have also been times when it's gone for nearly double retail, and there seems to be a shortage of them in the last couple of weeks.

But even though I had trouble sleeping, the day didn't go too badly—I came in about an hour late, and because I had so many things to do, the time passed very quickly until lunch, when Julie came over and took me out to lunch with my office friends Julie (another Julie) and Jean. I also left about half an hour early and took a nap before dinner, which was at the Melting Pot with Julie and Dodd.

I didn't really ask for anything specific for my birthday, but Julie got me a Hopkins hoodie, which I've been wanting for a while (hoodies have become my new preferred casual wear for cold weather—I already had two from UNC, an Orioles one, and an Iowa one). When we got back from dinner, I also had several messages from my parents and my other two siblings, but it was too late to return calls (if any of you are reading this, I'll call this weekend, and I appreciate the birthday wishes very much).

I was also able to get a ton of stuff done at work, so I'm taking my day off today instead. I have a feeling I'll still need to check in and do an hour or two of work, just because everyone is so panickly this time of year, but I should be able to have a pretty relaxing day at home otherwise.

4.6.07
Yesterday afternoon during my day off, I had plans to play World of Warcraft for a couple of hours (I haven't had a chance to play at all this week), but just as I was about to log on, the internet went out. So instead I fired up the GameCube and opened up the Lego Star Wars game that I got for Christmas but which I haven't played at all yet.

Let me tell you something, people: this game is just as awesome as it sounds. I've played it for about five hours total, and I can tell that I'm probably going to pick it up as a way to relax this weekend instead of World of Warcraft, which has gotten a little tedious since the expansion pack—a lot of the changes fundamentally altered the game in a way that has made it less enjoyable to play recently.

I'm not saying I'm close to giving up World of Warcraft—I'm sticking with my group to work through a few issues with the new content before I decide whether I want to do the content beyond that—but the times when I just feel like goofing off and having some fun, I think Lego Star Wars is going to be my choice.

4.9.07
Dodd came over for dinner on Saturday night, and then slept over so we could go to the sunrise Easter service together. Just like last year, we went out for breakfast afterwards, divied up Easter basket loot, and then napped for a few hours to make up for having to get up at 5:45 on a weekend morning.

I spent the rest of the afternoon returning my birthday phone calls from last week (dad and Rachel, Tori, Carrie, and mom) and printing some new photographs for Spring Fair later this week. The weather remained bitterly cold all weekend (it even snowed a bit Friday night and early Saturday morning), but I'm praying that the weather will warm up a bit and that we might actually have decent weather for selling on Friday and Saturday—we've been rained out the last two Spring Fair Saturdays, and although we recouped our money both years, I think we could make a real profit it we actually had weather that brought out the crowds.

I've still got to let the photos dry before I mat them and prepare them for sale, but I've got the rest of the week to do that. Right now I'm focused on opening day at Camden Yards tomorrow—the Orioles dropped their first three games against Minnesota and had a heartbreaking loss to the Yankees on Saturday (2 outs in the ninth, and the pitcher loads the bases with a hit, a walk, and a hit-by-pitch, and then gives up a grand slam to Alex Rodriguez on a 1-2 count), but they did take the other two weekend games against the Yankees in Yankee Stadium, so they're coming home with a little wind in their sails. Let's hope it translates to a few wins during their first week of Baltimore games.

4.10.07
I'm only actually going to be in the office for about two days this week, but it's just Tuesday and already I'm ready for the week to be over. It's not that I have too much to do, it's the opposite—until we find out what budget items have been approved for next year, there's really not a whole lot my team can do but respond to the little day-to-day requests and make general plans about how we're going to spend our summer depending on how the budget stuff shakes out. It's bad enough being trapped in our little windowless hole of an office normally, but at least we usually have a ton of work to distract us. Sitting in that office all day with not a whole lot to do, the time seems to pass unbelievably slowly.

4.11.07
We bought our typical 13 game mini-season ticket plan again this year, which also gave us the ability to buy opening day seats before they went on sale to the public. On the day we could do this, I called up the ticketing office, found four seats near our season ticket seats, and filed them away with our other tickets when they came in the mail a week later.

But when I got out the tickets again last week, I noticed something that I had missed earlier: the tickets weren't for opening day at all, but instead for a Yankees game on a Saturday at the end of September. So I called up the Orioles ticket office, assuming they had accidentally mailed me someone else's tickets, but when they reviewed their records, they found that the ticket rep who had sold them to me actually sold me those tickets, apparently forgetting to change the date of the ticket search from her previous caller.

So of course the seats that we originally thought we had weren't available, but they were able to find us some seats in the club section (the level that houses the luxury boxes) that were directly behind where our season ticket seats were, and even though they were an extra $10 per seat, it was worth it to have good seats for opening day.

I got four tickets because Dodd had already said that he could come to opening day, and I figured it wouldn't be that hard to find another friend or coworker to come with us. But as I started asking around, everyone had something to do that afternoon (it didn't help that our first open house for admitted students was two days later and almost everyone on the counseling and operations staffs were busy preparing for that), and when I still didn't have a taker at 11 a.m. that morning (the first pitch was scheduled for 3 p.m.), I was worried that the money I spent on the extra ticket was going to go to waste.

I had even resorted to emailing folks I knew who worked on or near campus, and luckily at around 11:30 one of those contacts responded and said he could take the ticket. It was a guy named Aaron who works for our online application vendor, and although I'd never worked with him on any projects, all of the folks who work there seem like good guys (they're all Hopkins grads, as is the owner of the company) and I was happy to know that they ticket wasn't going to go to waste.

I swear, I've never had so much trouble getting rid of a ticket in my life—almost everyone I asked was extremely interested, but for one reason or another couldn't rework their schedules to leave work a little early. I did kind of wait until the last minute—there were a few people who I knew were big baseball fans that I wanted to ask first, and it took me longer than I expected to get in touch with them—but still, I've never had trouble giving away tickets at the last minute before, especially for something like opening day.

4.12.07
Julie and I met Dodd outside the stadium around 1 p.m., and we all went to get lunch from our favorite street vendor before heading into Camden Yards. Normally, I like to sit in the bleacher seats and eat while watching batting practice, but Monday was pretty cold, so we ate in the indoor part of the club level before getting a beer and heading to our seats.

Aaron, who I had given the extra ticket to, showed up a few minutes before game time. I didn't really know him that well before the game, but it turns out he's a Braves fan too, so we talked about trying to catch them when they play the Nationals sometime. He was a pretty nice guy, and I get the feeling he and his coworkers would be fun to hang out with, so hopefully I can join them for a few games sometime this year.

The game itself was perfect for the home opener. Promising but inconsistent starter Daniel Cabrera went nearly eight innings and left with a 6-1 lead, and the bullpen was able to mop things up for a final score of 6-2. There were two innings where the Orioles scored more than one run, and they were comfortably ahead after a four run fourth. The temperature wasn't too bad, the crowd was in a good mood, and the O's won—you really can't ask for more from an early spring game in Baltimore.

4.13.07
I'm selling photos at Spring Fair again this weekend, starting today. Wish me luck.

4.16.07
As usual, Spring Fair had one of its three days completely rained out (this year it was Sunday, the last two years it has been Saturday), but we still did pretty well. I sold more photos on both Friday and Saturday than I sold total last year, and if not for a massive buy from the engineering department of seven of my photos the first year I did Spring Fair, this would have been my best year of sales so far. I was also pleased that a lot of the new photos that I was trying out sold well—I think I could have had more sales if I had printed extra copies of a few of the more popular ones.

Friday was pretty cold and gloomy, and the wind made it seem even colder and gloomier. But as long as it doesn't rain, you're guaranteed pretty decent crowds because of all the students, faculty, and staff who come out during their long Friday lunch hours or after their morning classes to check everything out. Most of our sales were between noon and 3, and we were again fortunately enough to be positioned along the corridor between the classroom and administrative buildings and the food vendors, which means that everyone going from one to the other walked past our tent.

My coworker Scott spent most of the day with us, because he couldn't go back to our office. Apparently a mouse or something had died in the wall the day before, so when he opened up the door on Friday morning, it smelled terrible. When they called facilities to deal with it, all they did was come and spray a sickly sweet chemical that was supposed to neutralize the odor, but becase our office has no ventilation, all that did was make it so that you smelled a dead animal and a flowery chemical odor mixed together.

Saturday started out just like Friday minus the wind, but by noon it had was a beautiful early spring day, and it stayed that way til around 3:30. Dodd came out around lunchtime to hang out and help me close up for the day because Julie had to leave early to go to a charity event for one of her coworkers. We sold a good number before she left, and because the weather started to turn around 3:30 or so, I thought that might be the last of our sales, but by the time we closed up at 5:00, we had sold the same amount again and equaled our sales from Friday.

Closing early kind of sucked, because a lot of people will browse around and come buy stuff when they're ready to leave, so if you close up early and/or the weather drives the crowd away early, you miss out on a lot of sales. I think I picked up a few sales from people who had the good sense to leave early before the rain started, but I probably missed a few more from people who were caught off guard and were still in the midst of shopping and exploring when the weather turned.

And even though Sunday was a complete wash, it was still a good weekend, and I didn't mind having a day off afterwards to get a little rest and take care of some chores. I'm still not sure if I'm going to do any more festivals this year (I applied to Artscape, and I'll definitely do that if I get accepted), but I'm pleased with how Spring Fair went and how my newer photos were received, so the chances are pretty good that I'll do at least one more.

4.17.07
Today is our second of three open house events to try to convince the kids we admitted to actually enroll. What this means for me is that everyone's going to be out working on that stuff all day (I do my part by helping with registration, but that's finished by 9:30 at the latest) and no one's going to bother me with anything. This is usually a good time to kind of regroup and start making plans for our summer projects, but this year that's all on hold until we figure out which of our budget requests the university is going to approve. So I guess that means that I'm going to have a fairly relaxing day today.

4.18.07
I have a bunch of backlogged, half-finished entries that I could sit down and work on for half an hour and have ready to post. But instead, many times I just sit in front of my computer procrasinating about the in-development entries and trying to think of something I could write about that would only take five or ten minutes instead of thirty.

And of course, I often spend longer than half an hour trying to come up with something short, meaning that I spend more time coming up with something of lesser quality just because I'd rather screw around for a half an hour hoping that something quick comes to me rather than spend what I know will be half an hour finishing an entry on something that I've already come up with.

Which is exactly what happened today...

4.19.07
If anyone's got an extra thousand dollars lying around, 11 a.m. this morning would be the perfect time to blow it on your favorite person with a labbit obsession.

4.20.07
I am ready for spring. This warm weather the forecasters are talking about had better show up, starting today.

4.23.07
For the historical record: I mowed the lawn on Sunday for the first time this year. It actually could have used it a couple of weeks ago, but with the unseasonably cold weather around Easter and us spending last weekend at Spring Fair (and Sunday being completely soaked with rain), I didn't get a chance to do it until yesterday.

4.23.07
We've seen three Orioles games this season, and they've won every single one. It's still very early in the season, but the team has won four straight and eight of their last nine, and it's hard not to be optimistic this time of year no matter who you root for. Tejada is really the only hitter who is consistently getting hits, and he's not doing it with men on base that often, but they're still finding a way to score runs. The starting pitchers are also off to a good start, going deep enough into the game to give the bullpen a chance, and they're all at that point in their careers where they've been in the bigs for a little while and they could turn the corner and turn into consistent major league winners (having Leo Mazzone coaching you doesn't hurt, either).

Oddly enough, the Orioles had the exact same record, 11-7, at the same point last season, and it was the beginning of a quick decline that saw them drop below .500 by the second week of May and never get anywhere close to a winning record again. Hopefully they won't repeat that slide again this year, especially because they're winning even though their bats haven't really woken up yet.

The Braves are also doing well—they swept the Mets over the weekend, with Smoltz beating Glavine for the second time this season on Sunday, and they're in first place in the NL East. Last season ended terribly for them, but honestly, it feels like a fluke—they were hit with tons of bad luck the two seasons before that, and they still ended up with the divisional title at the end of each year.

After more than a decade since the Braves' last World Series win and eight years since the last time they made it to the World Series despite fourteen straight trips to the postseason, it's hard to get too excited about their prospects to become world champions. But it's exciting to see them playing well to start the season, especially against their divisional rivals, who they'll also finish out the last few weeks of the season with.

4.24.07
It's our final open house today, and they finally roped me into helping out at a couple of stations: registration in the morning, and handing out lunch passes in the early afternoon. I don't actually mind helping, esepecially at registration, but I also don't like being told what to do as if I don't have other stuff to work on. As it happens, I don't actually have much else to work on this week, so I think I'm going to stick around and see the speakers, etc., since I always like to see what kind of messages we're sending to people who we're trying to convince to make an investment of a couple hundred thousand dollars in our university.

4.25.07
More wisdom from the World of Warcraft forums:

Nothing is foolproof to a sufficiently talented fool.

I always loved the German word for foolproof: idiotensicher. Literal meaning: safe from idiots.

In So Long and Thanks for All the Fish, Douglas Adams gives us the character Wonko, who lives in an inside-out house that he sees as an asylum to hold the rest of the world. His reason for believing that everyone else belongs in the mad house: the fact that society "had so far lost its head as to need to include a set of detailed instructions for use in a packet of toothpicks."

When I was younger and more naive, I used to think there were things in the world that were safe from the idiots, but after spending enormous amounts of time around some terrifically talented fools, I don't believe that anymore.

I used to think that Wonko was a bit of humorous hyperbole, but man, you spend long enough around people that you're pretty sure actually do need instructions on how to use toothpicks, and you start to think that Wonko wasn't quite so mad after all.

I think I might be on one too many committees at work...


4.26.07
I heard from my friend Sam yesterday, who is doing his second stint in Africa with his wife, Miranda. She originally went over six or seven years ago (before they were married) to serve in the Peace Corps in Malawi (now made famous as the nation that gave Madonna an adopted child). A few months later, after a three week trip to visit her, Sam quit his job, sold all his stuff, and followed her to another continent, living off of his savings and doing multimedia contract work for the Peace Corps for the duration of Miranda's Peace Corps committment.

This time, they're both serving in the Peace Corps in Kenya—I think they started this tour in January 2006—and they're likely doing far more worthwhile things with their time on any given day than I do in a month. If you want to see what they're up to firsthand, check out the blog they're keeping of their experiences. Great storytelling there, and some nice photography, too.

4.27.07
I am now the happy owner of a 10" glow in the dark labbit. It took a long time to find one, and I probably paid more than most people would think was reasonable or even sane, but I love it. I fucking love it.

4.30.07
I got rejected from Artscape again this year, but I did a little better than last year—I actually got onto the waitlist, so there's still a slim chance that I could be in the show. Of course, working in college admissions at an extremely selective university, I'm aware of just how much of a longshot getting in from the waitlist is, but I guess it was better to know that I was very close to making the cut as opposed to just being flat-out rejected.

I really like selling my photos at Spring Fair, but I have a hard time getting motivated about other festivals that aren't quite as convenient for me. There are a couple of other ones coming up this summer that I'm thinking about doing—one on Sundays in the inner harbor, and another in Columbia—and I think doing more shows would raise my visibility in the arts community in Baltimore and possibly help my chances for Artscape next year. But I'm just not sure I have it in me to do all the prep and spend several weekends of my time to do them.
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