august 2007

8.1.07
I still want an iPhone—badly—but I think I've convinced myself to wait for the second generation model. So now I'm hoping that Apple releases that model in time for this year's holiday season. But if they don't, I hope they'll at least release a new version of the iPod based on the iPhone (touchscreen interface with optical, scratch resistance glass). If iPhone version 2 is going to take another year to make it to market, I think a new touchscreen iPod and a cheap new phone could hold me over until then.

8.2.07
Going to see The Simpsons Movie tonight, which will be our second movie in the last few weeks after not seeing a movie in the theater since March of 2006 (I think). And we're probably going to see the new Bourne movie the week after it comes out, too. I actually really like seeing movies in the theater, but I just can't stand the rude behavior of many of my fellow patrons. If going during the week produces better/smaller crowds, we might have to start doing this on a more regular basis again.

8.3.07
So: The Simpsons Movie. Not the Best. Movie. Ever. But it's pretty damn funny.

8.6.07
All I did this weekend was sit outside in the sweltering heat listening to music and drinking iced tea and lemonade before getting home late and sleeping for nine or ten hours and then doing it all over again. So I took the day off today to finish catching up on my sleep, do my laundry, and clear my head before going back to work tomorrow.

8.7.07
We had dinner with my mom down in Rockville last night—she was in town on business but was leaving before the weekend, and so this was really the only night we could see her. She's typically in town at least once a month to work on her company's program in DC, but she'll be giving up management of that office soon, so she might not be around as often in the near future.

We went to Tara Asia (a sister restaurant to Tara Thai) in the Rockville Town Center and we ordered way too much food—after a weekend of subsisting on festival food, Julie and I felt like we hadn't had a decent meal in several days. I don't think there's anything on the menu there that I wouldn't like, but probably best part of the meal was the special appetizer, which included marinated grilled beef, spicy julienned papaya salad, and sticky rice.

Afterwards we went to Ben & Jerry's next door, and while I wasn't initially planning to get anything, I couldn't resist once I saw that they had Coffee Coffee Buzz Buzz Buzz on the menu—it's one of my favorite flavors, and I haven't had it in years. Still, I was so full from dinner that I really just wanted a taste, so Julie and I split a small cup while my mom had a small waffle cone bowl of butter pecan.

Even though I had the day off on Monday, I was still pretty worn out from the weekend and I seriously considered not going into work today. But it's kind of silly to waste a vacation day for no particular reason like that. So I'm going in, but I'm desperately hoping that there won't be much going on.

8.8.07
We were supposed to go to an Orioles game last night, but since it's been nearly a weeks since we just came home and had a quiet evening together, we decided to exchange the tickets for a later date. Oh, and it was like a hundred thousand degrees outside, too, and I think we've both had quite enough of being out in the heat after the Virgin Music Festival last weekend.

8.9.07
I never watched the Sopranos because I refuse to pay any more for cable than I do already, but given the people I knew who liked it, I figured it was one of those shows that I would really like if I ever did get a chance to watch it. So I started tivoing the weekly episodes that A&E started running earlier this summer, and I have to say, I really do like it, although I'm already getting a little tired of Tony getting absurdly emotional about something trivial, and then taking his emotions out on a human being by beating or killing them. There are plenty of other great characters, though, and it's been fun getting back into a serious drama like this. It reminds me in tone and pacing of NYPD Blue—there are a lot of unspoken things that happen on the screen, and there are a lot of story arcs that carry across several episodes before reaching their climaxes.

I'm not sure what season I'm watching, but it feels like it's at least halfway through the series. And one episode a week really isn't enough, even though I watch most of them twice, so I'm seriously considering subscribing to Netflix for a couple of months just so I can work my way through the entire series.

8.10.07
It's not a labbit, but it's still unbelievably awesome: it's Smokey, the 12 inch tall cigarette smoking a cigarette. There's a mini version, too, and a filtered version that was sold in very limited quantities at this year's San Diego Comic Con. I'd like to pick those up eventually, but for now, I'm happy with this more widely available version from Kidrobot.

8.13.07
In some ways, this is the last week of summer for me: both my director and my dean are away for Maine vacations, and I don't really have a lot of pressing tasks to attend to. But starting next week, I've got a done to do, starting with finishing the RFP for our new document management system, going through the vendor selection and implementation process for that system (which should take us through next spring), moving into a new building in September, and, of course, doing all the work that my team has to do to prepare for the upcoming admissions cycle and then actually get through that cycle.

I haven't taken a vacation this summer at all, and I think I probably should have, but there were a lot of things that prevented us from going somewhere, and I don't think we'll be able to do much this fall, either. One of my coworkers is taking two weeks off at the end of August just to have some time away from work even though she's not leaving town, and Dodd even took a week off this summer during which he basically relaxed and read Harry Potter (and played World of Warcraft, of course). I'm loathe to use vacation for no particular purpose, but I do have quite a bit stored up, and I won't be using any until the holidays this year, so maybe it would be worth it to take two or three days off one week and have a nice long weekend.

8.14.07
You really only need one rule for a Family Guy drinking game: every time a joke goes on too long, drink.

8.15.07
If I was to suddenly become ridiculously wealthy, the first thing I'd do is find a barber who would come to my house every two weeks and cut my hair. I like my hair short, but I hate going to the barbershop, because you never know who's going to cut your hair, how long you're going to have to wait, etc. So I procrastinate and delay and put it off until my hair is so long that I want to take a razor and shave it all off before I finally take a Saturday afternoon to go to the barber and see what fate has in store for me this time. About half the time, it turns out okay, and I only have to wait five or ten minutes and I get one of the female Asian barbers who don't mess around when you them how short you want it. The other half of the time, I walk in right behind a family with four kids and a dad who needs his hair cut, too, and I end up with one of the old school barbers who think I don't know just how short a one and a half razor is and leave it much longer than I like it.

Anyway. That's the first thing I'd do if a billion dollars dropped out of the sky. Then I'd go out and buy me one of them $1000 labbit footstools.

8.16.07
The city of Balitmore is, quite literally, a hundred miles of bad road.

8.17.07
Dad and Rachel were passing through last night on their way up to West Point for some function related to one of Rachel's ancestors, a civil war general, so Julie and I met them for dinner in Columbia. Dodd joined us as well, and we all met at Noodles Corner, which is one of my favorite restaurants these days (they offer a variety of Asian noodle dishes, and while there are obvious Thai, Japanesee, Vietnamese, and Chinese influences, they don't adhere to the cuisine of a particular culture).

I was hoping that we could either get down to Wilmington to visit them sometime this summer or that they would be able to come up here for a long weekend, but it just didn't end up working out with everyone's schedules (we also tried to work out a few days up in Maine with Rachel's aunt, who has a summer home up there). But it was still good to see them, even if it was only a couple of hours for a meal, and we're also hoping to see them again on their way back home on Sunday.

8.20.07
We were able to spend a few more hours with dad and Rachel as they headed back home yesterday, meeting them in the afternoon for a movie and dinner. We saw the Bourne Supremacy, the third in the Bourne trilogy, which brings our total of movies this summer up to three (the other two were The Simpsons Movie and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix).

It was pretty good—Matt Damon continues to impress in this role—but the jittery camera work and action sequences that seemed to pile up one after the other left little room for character development. The movie walked a fine line between Bourne as a character who was searching for clues to his past (the dominant theme of the first two) and as a killing machine bent on revenge (yes, I know he tends to leave his victims unconscious rather than dead, but the vengeance factor is the important point). Once getting even becomes his main motivation, he changes from a victim to a perpetrator, and no matter how much the people he's after might deserve it, in order to keep sympathizing with him, we need to see him as a man who's trying to escape his past, not re-immersing himself in it in order to mete out justice to those who did him wrong. (Incidentally, revenge seems to be getting some major play these days on the big screen: two of the previews that preceded Supremacy were for The Brave One, about a woman who becomes a vigilante after her husband is killed and she is beaten by a group of thugs, and Death Sentence, starring Kevin Bacon as a father who decides to avenge his son's death after he is killed during a hold up.)

After the movie, we had dinner at one of the restaurants in the mall, which I don't think we'll visit again any time soon even though they had a nice selection of seasonal microbrews. It wasn't terrible, but the service was lousy and there was nothing really special about the menu.

After dinner, we said goodbye for the second time in four days. I'd like to think that we'll be able to find some time for a visit before the holidays, but looking at what I have on tap for the next few months at work, I know that's unlikely, and that the next time we'll see them will probably be Thanksgiving.

8.21.07
I just looked at my time card and was shocked to discover that I have over six weeks of vacation stored up, and no plans to spend any of it before the holidays (by which time I'll have accumulated another week and a half). Given how stressful I find the office these days for a variety of reasons (including some that would be unwise to speak of in this space), I could really use a vacation, but I honestly don't know if I will be able to take a significant chunk of time since, in addition to our normal maintenance and prep work for the upcoming admissions cycle, we're also moving to a new building, implementing a new document management system that will allow us to go paperless, and building a new custom application for our alumni interview process.

I don't know. Julie doesn't have nearly as much time as me because she's taken off time to visit her parents without me, so I don't know if she'd be able to afford a week off anyway. But I'm getting to the point where I might need to take one even if I don't go anywhere.

8.22.07
I'm supposed to get a new computer at work today, which will put the total number of machines in my cubicle at four desktops and two laptops (and my cubicle is not very big, even by cubicle standards). Two of the desktops are my older PC and Mac, while the other two, of course, are the new machines that replaced them this summer. I don't really use either of the laptops, although I have vague plans of getting one of them reformatted so I can use it to replace the ancient laptop I use for PC-specific tasks when I'm working at home.

The two older desktops will likely be repurposed into development machines—we really need to replace our PHP/MySQL development server, which right now is running on a terrible old laptop with a hard drive that spins and whirs like it's going to die at any second.

I hate the process of reinstalling all my crap, but it will be a little easier this time because I have a backup hard drive that I can just plug in to the new PC and copy over all my user-specific files. I'll still need to go through the normal install process for my programs that aren't part of the standard disk image for our office (all my Adobe programs, FTP, bulk emailer, etc.), but all in all, I'm expecting this transition to go a lot more smoothly than it has in the past.

8.23.07
Nice job, Orioles. Not only do you get soundly thrashed and allow the Rangers to score 30 runs in the first game of a doubleheader at home, you then go on to lose the second game 9-7. I'm not sure if there's been a more embarrassing moment in their recent long string of losing seasons, but it's not hard to understand why the Ravens have now become the team that the natives pour all their fan energy into.

8.24.07
We went on a tour of our new building for the first time yesterday, just about a month from when we're scheduled to move in, and although they've got a lot of work to do in the next four weeks to get it finished and ready for us to start using, there's no question that this is going to be a major upgrade for our office as a whole and for just about every individual who works for us.

My team is especially fortunate: we're going from sharing a single tiny, windowless office with three cubicles, no natural light, and very little airflow to an individual office with a window for me and a larger space with two huge windows that will be home to four cubicles. My two current staff members will each have their desk right next a window, and we're using another one as a meeting space, while a part time worker from another deparment will take the final space.

My own office with a window (a window that I can open if I want to), an office with its own climate control, an office where I should have enough natural light that I'll never have to turn on the overhead flourescent light. I've been waiting for this my entire working career, and I can't wait to get in there and actually have the ability to close my door and (gasp!) have a private conversation if I need to.

8.27.07
I've got a lot to do this week, but if I can get it all taken care of by Wednesday, I think I'm going to take Thursday and Friday off so I can have an extra long Labor Day weekend. I've finally gotten my new computers set up and gotten my desk back in some sort of reasonable order, so I should be able to get some actual work done today. If I can get my two biggest tasks out of the way today, I should be able to make Wednesday my last day this week. And once we get past this week, with all of our projects, the year end reporting, the move to the new building, and whatever else comes up that we have to deal with, the rest of the year will fly; it will be 2008 before you know it.

8.28.07
We had our live football draft on Sunday (a ten team leauge), and although I usually make out pretty well, I'm not so sure about this year. I was the tenth pick, which meant that I got two back-to-back picks every 18 picks, and I tended to cluster on one position each time. There were also four people who used the autodraft feature, meaning that the runs that sometimes develop during a live draft didn't happen as much (this is where people get panicky and start drafting a certain position because they feel like all the good players at that positon are being taken). Anyway, here's my team:

QB Jay Cutler
QB Eli Manning
QB Matt Schaub
RB Ronnie Brown
RB Laurence Maroney
RB Marion Barber
RB Brandon Jackson
WR Chris Chambers
WR Donald Driver
WR Lee Evans
WR Brandon Jones
TE Benjamin Watson
K Robbie Gould
DST Miami Dolphins

The starters are in bold; the others are my reserves that I'll only use if the starters get hurt or during the bye week for the starters, and I'll likely end up dumping a couple of those when better players emerge during the season. The order doesn't reflect the order of my picks; the starters are listed in order of their last name by position.

It's not a terrible lineup, but there are a lot of longshot bets in there. If they pan out, I could have a great season, but anyone who knows anything about football knows that rarely will a whole fantasy lineup of younger, less proven players pan out in a given year. All of my quaterbacks are relatively untested, and so is one of my starting running backs, one of my wide receivers, my tight end, and my kicker.

Normally I take a few risks during my draft (it paid off big the year I took Peyton Manning in the middle rounds in what was to become his breakout season; I won the league that year mostly on the strength of his performance), but I think I took a few too many this year—all in all I think I would have preferred one reliable (if not necessarily spectacular) quarterback, another established running back, and another wide receiver in place of my other reserve running back.

Part of this is complicated by our keeper system: each year, returning coaches can keep one of the players they took in rounds 12-14, provided that they did not drop that player from their roster the previous year. You can usually pick up some up-and-comers who might be high round picks the next year, meaning that next year you won't have to waste a high round pick on them and can focus your pick on another position. This year, I kept Marion Barber from round 14 last year, and used picks 12 and 13 to pick up rookie quarterback Matt Schaub and rookie wide receiver Brandon Jones. So I'm not necessarily counting on using them this year, but I'm more hoping that one of them will develop into a valuable starter by next year.

I don't think I'm going to get crushed even if I have to do some roster juggling, especially because the autodraft people mostly got screwed (take my brother, for example: he ended up with four average quarterbacks, two kickers, two defenses, and only two running backs). But I will have monster weeks where I win by a landslide, and other weeks where I score virtually no points. I just have to hope my matchups are favorable to give me more of the former and fewer of the latter.


8.29.07
Yesteryday my dad sent this YouTube clip of Miss Teen South Carolina answering a question during a pageant to me, so I'm sure that a lot of you have already seen it. But if you haven't, it's worth 51 seconds of your time, and if you have, I'm guessing you won't mind watching it again. Enjoy.

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