april 2011

4.1.11
I wish this was an April Fool's joke, but sadly, it is not: PajamaJeans. One of their taglines is "So amazingly comfortable you'll want to sleep in them!" THAT'S BECAUSE THEY'RE FREAKING PAJAMAS.

I'd also like to note that their size chart STARTS at size 4, and in the PajamaJeans world, that equals an Extra Small. And no, you don't want to know what their version of 3XL is.

Is this really what we've come to, America? Well, when we have Larry the Cable Guy hosting a show on the History Channel, I'm afraid the answer is yes. Also, there's this: Kitty Wigs.


4.4.11
40 today. Funny, I don't feel a day over 37.


4.5.11
There was a momentary pause for breath once our letters went out last week, but now we're as busy as ever and I don't know when it's going to stop. I sent out 18 (18!) email campaigns yesterday, and who know how many dozens more will go out in the next couple of weeks as we try to attract admitted students to our yield events and prospective applicants for next year to our recruitment events.

It used to be that once you got to April 1, you felt like you had accomplished something and you could take a mental break for a couple of weeks to recuperate, but it's just turning into one big, long grind. I definitely need to take some time off this summer, and for more than just a long weekend.


4.6.11
Netflix sent me the first two discs for the last season of The Tudors months ago, but my purchase and watching of the complete Larry Sanders Show got me off track from Netflix viewing for a while, but I finally started back up a few weeks ago. The Tudors for me was a show that started out strong, but gradually lost its edge as each season seemed to repeat the same plots of the former, and Henry VIII's character didn't get any more complex and certainly not any more likable. So I wasn't expecting a whole lot from this last season.

But I was pleasantly surprised: not only did we have a nice diversion with a few episodes dedicated to a war abroad, getting the king out of his court, the acting from Jonathan Rhys Meyers (who I've been mostly unimpressed with in this series) showed surprising depth and subtlely as the king aged. It did kind of fizzle out in the last episode, but overall this was a nice final season rebound for a series that really seemed to lose its way in seasons 3 and 4.


4.7.11
Thursday...even though I had five days where I didn't come into the office starting last Thursday through this past Monday, it still feels like I've been at work for ten days straight. The days are so long...


4.8.11
Based on the reviews, I was expecting Iron Man 2 to be kind of meh. And that's exactly what it was. There was way too little of the villain, way too many pointless secondary plots, and the magic of the first movie, which revitalized Robert Downey Jr.'s career and gave us the first compelling superhero flick since the first X-Men movie, was almost entirely absent. I don't know if I'll even bother to halfheartedly watch this one again when it inevitably gets run a thousand times on FX.


4.11.11
The daily photo from today is one of my favorites from our trip to the abandoned Henryton Hospital a few weeks ago. I don't know if I'll ever print it and try to sell it—I have no idea what kind of appeal it might have to other people—but it's the closest I've ever come to an abstract photograph that makes me feel the same way a Rothko painting does.


4.12.11
There are few things more irritating than devices that require three AAA batteries, especially if you use rechargables, which must be charged in pairs. Even numbers, people, even numbers.


4.13.11
Julie's going down to North Carolina for a few days to help her mom recover from shoulder surgery, so it's just me and Will until Sunday. This will be the first time either of us has been away from him for more than a day since he was born, and I'm sure it will be hard for her because it would be hard for me.

We considered having her take him with her down there, especially because his grandmother certainly wouldn't have minded seeing him even though she likely wouldn't be able to hold him or play with him very much, but we decided it was better for him to stay in familiar surroundings and keep his routines, and we also didn't know how much help Julie's mom would need and Julie didn't want to have to choose between taking care of him and taking care of her.

We did buy the latest Mac OS and a webcam for Julie's mom so Julie can install Facetime on her Mac Mini while she's down there, which will let Julie see Will during the trip and also let Julie's mom see him after Julie comes back home. Not as good as actually seeing him, of course, but better than just hearing him on the phone. Plus it should save me from having to email a ton of photos and videos of him each day Julie is gone.


4.14.11
This year, instead of doing three separate one-day open house recruiting events for admitted students, we're hosting two two-day programs that include an overnight visit for all attendees in addition to our traditional open house activities like tours, lunch, panels with faculty and financial aid, etc. I was skeptical as to whether genuinely undecided students would devote two days of their time to come visit us, especially because they're presumably also visiting at least a couple of other schools they've been accepted to, but our registration numbers for the first event (which kicked off yesterday) have been very strong.

The rain yesterday wasn't as problematic as it could have been because yesterday was just the check-in day, and we didn't have a lot of activities planned for the visitors during the day. Today looks to be much nicer, and this is when they will be walking around campus, so we might have gotten lucky.

The really interesting thing will be to compare yield numbers from these events from our events in previous years. These events required considerably more money, time, and volunteers, and even if they are a success, if they aren't markedly more successful than our traditional events, I don't know if it's really worthwhile to continue them.


4.15.11
Last Sunday we went to see PEEPshow, an annual art contest in Westminster where people make things out of that Easter basket mainstay, marshmallow Peeps. We didn't really know what to expect, and it was a little overwhelming. I thought there might be one room with a couple dozen Peep-based pieces, but there were four rooms stuffed to the gills with over 200 works of art.

It was funny to see how many repeats (or in the parlance of the show, where the Peep name had to be incorporated into every title, rePeeps) of the same idea there were: we saw at least three of Justin Bieber (Justing Peeper), Angry Birds (Angry Peeps), Pirates of the Caribbean (Peeprates of the Caribbean), the Leaning Tower of Pisa (the Leaning Tower of Peepsa), Todd Heap (Todd Peep), and, for some strange reason, the little minions from Despicable Me (Despeepable Me).

My favorites were the mosaics, particularly a take on Van Gogh's Starry Night and a portrait of Jesus titled Sweet Jesus. You could buy votes and vote for your favorites, so we bought 25 and spread them around, although we put at least five in the boxes of those two entries.

I had no idea this thing even existed before this year, but it's apparently been going on since 2008, and we'll definitely be goin back next year. Carroll County can be a pretty dull place, and I want to encourage this kind of quirky, oddball behavior whenever possible.


4.18.11
Not sure what to make of Will Ferrell on The Office. I think he might be a good short-term replacement to help ease with the transition away from Steve Carrell, but based on his first episdoe, his character is too much like a blend of his generic clueless dad/husband from dozens of SNL skits and the more tame elements of Ron Burgundy. Plus it's hard to look at him and think of him as anyone other than Will Ferrell, and Will Ferrell's star power is several orders of magnitude higher in wattage than the rest of the ensemble cast of the show.

A new permanent boss is either going to signal the beginning of the end of the show or give it new life that might keep it going for another few seasons, and I think if Ferrell is that boss, it might be the former. I hope they do bring in some new blood and not just promote Jim or Dwight, but it's got to be the right fit or it's just not going to work.


4.19.11
Last week's Survivor episode was easily the most boring of what has been an incredibly dull season so far, and it might have been the most boring episode ever. Two eliminations and absolutely zero drama. No one is willing to make a move against Rob, and he knows it, so his crew is just picking off the outsiders one by one with no discussion, no backstabbing, no plotting against one another, etc.

He's got them all convinced that they will be the two people (out of five) who are going to the finals with him, and they all seem content to ride his coattails to a second or third place finish. And by the time the two he's actually loyal to are revealed, it will be too late for the rest of them to do anything about it, and he'll just pick off the non-finalists one by one the same way he's picking off the outsiders now.

Note to producers: whether he wins this season or not, NEVER EVER put Rob on another Survivor series again. We're done with him, and he's killing your show.


4.20.11
On Sunday, we took Will to the Hopkins Spring Fair, which was the first event where I sold my photos and which, until Julie's pregnancy last year, we had been vendors at every year since. We decided not to sell photos this year with Will still being so young, but I'm hopeful that in the next year or two he'll be old enought to bring along and we can do the event again.

Originally I was just going to take Will by myself since Julie was supposed to be in North Carolina to help her mother out for a few days after shoulder surgery, but on Saturday night she made the decision to leave very early on Sunday morning so she could go with us. She got home around 11:30 that morning, and we were able to leave the house pretty soon after that.

We met up with some friends from work, had lunch, saw an art exhibition, and looked around at all the arts and crafts booths. That portion of the fair continues to decline; my first year at Hopkins, there were dozens of vendors, easily over a hundred and maybe more, spread across two or three quads. Now it's restricted to one half of the main quad in front of the library, and there are fewer and fewer vendors who show up every year.

Granted, Saturday was completely rained out, and the high winds may have forced some vendors to pack up and leave with no plans to return on Sunday, but even still, there were probably at least a dozen fewer vendors when we went on Sunday than I can remember being there last time we went two years ago. There was still enough variety to make it worth the trip, especially with the food and all the other activities at the fair, but they've got to do something to make the event more attractive to vendors or else that part of the fair is going to vanish.


4.21.11
Before we visited Spring Fair proper, we went to see an art exhibit by a Hopkins senior whose work I had seen at a student exhibition at Spring Fair back in 2008, and who I eventually purchased two pieces from. I had looked for her work at the same group's exhibition the following year, but she didn't have any pieces in it.

I knew she was a senior this year, and I had already planned to track her down to give her a graduation gift, but then I saw a notice in the university's daily announcements about her exhibition on Sunday, and that's when I decided to combine a visit to her exhibit with a trip to Spring Fair (she was hosting a reception for the exhibit at 1:00 Sunday afternoon).

The new works were black and white ink drawings of animals, mostly aquatic (although there was a flying squirrel). I was particularly taken with a sketch of two blue footed boobies; it was the only one that wasn't completely monochromatic because she used some blue ink for the feet and highlights around the eyes. There was also a memorable sketch of a turtle lying on his back who was using his head to turn himself over, which resonated with me because Will has recently learned that same trick.

The exhibit only runs for a week, and I don't know if she has any plans for her sketches, but I'm hoping she might let me have a couple of them (or sell them to me cheap, or trade them to me for some of my photographic prints). I don't really know her—other than the contact we had three years ago when I was purchasing the earlier works and the conversation we had at this exhibit, I've never spoken to her. But I really like the style of her art, and I'm a big fan of people who find the time for serious creative outlets even though it's not the main focus of their studies/life, and I hope she continues to make art for the rest of her life.


4.22.11
It's Will's 9 month checkup today, and it's hard to believe he's that old already. I remember when we took him in for his very first checkup after we got home from the hospital, and there was a couple with their 9 month old in the waiting room, and I couldn't imagine Will getting that big in nine months. And now I can't imagine him being as small as he was then.

Julie's pretty convinced that there won't be any shots this visit, so we're looking forward to a pretty easy visit. He's always done okay with shots, but obviously, no shots is better than shots.


4.25.11
Mowed the lawn for the first time this year yesterday. I normally do it closer to the middle of April, and it needed it then this year, but the lawn mower was in the shop and I didn't get it back until last Friday.


4.25.11
On Friday morning we took Will to the town Easter egg hunt, which for kids his age through 3 was really so much of a hunt as a gather-your-quota-on-an-open-patch-of-grass. He couldn't really hunt them, of course, but we did hold him while he picked up two off the ground, and he carried those around by himself.

That afternoon was his 9 month checkup, and that went pretty well. No shots, and everything looked normal. He even clapped for the first time while we were in the office! And Friday was just the start of a big weekend for him...


4.26.11
Saturday was a very busy day for Will (and for us). We originally planned to attend a midday Easter egg hunt that was supposedly going to have 18,000 eggs, but that was called off due to the weather. Before we knew that, however, we got a call from Will's godparents, Jeff and Connie, wondering if they could join us because the egg hunt they had been planning to go to near them had been canceled. We told them we'd meet them at the site, and it was only after we got there that we saw a cardboard sign saying the event had been postponed until the following week (and we only saw that after driving around the entire park and seeing it flapping in the wind near the exit).

But Jeff and Connie (and their son Noah and Connie's mom) were already on the way, so we waited for them and then went out to lunch with them at a local barbecue place. By the time we were done with that, Will was seriously sleepy, and we needed him to get some rest because we were planning on keeping him out late that night.


4.27.11
After my first acceptance into Artscape, I got on several art and art show-related mailing lists, one of which was for School 33, which, like Artscape, is also sponsored by the Baltimore Office of Promotion & the Arts. School 33 provides small studios and gallery shows for local artists, and is meant to make it easier for Baltimore-based artists to make and show their work. Every year they have a big fundraiser called Lotta Art, which is an art lottery where you can buy an art ticket and then when your number is randomly drawn from the bowl, you get to pick whichever piece you want from among the pieces that haven't already been spoken for.

This was my third year donating a work to this show, but the other two years I was unable to attend the actual event (contributing artists get two free guest tickets to attend the event, but don't get an art ticket to take home a piece of art). This year, however, I decided that I wanted to go, and that I wanted to bring Will with us. The event started at 6:00, but the actually lottery didn't start until 7:30, which is when he's usually in bed. Julie initially wanted to just take him to the preview and then leave before the event started, but since artists were allowed to trade in one of their guest tickets for a discount on an art ticket, I really wanted to buy an art ticket and take home a piece of art.

She reluctantly agreed, but even I knew that he likely wasn't going to make it until 9:00 (when the lottery typically ends) without a major breakdown, so we had a contingency plan of writing down the ID numbers for the works we were interested in and then giving that to one of the event organizers to choose for us in case we had to get Will home before our number was called. We ended up getting very lucky, though – not only was our number among the first 20 or so called, our first choice piece, a small painting of an owl that would fit perfectly in Will's nursery, was also still available. So we were able to get the painting we wanted the most, get it wrapped up during the first break, and start heading home with Will shortly after 8 before he got overwhelmed.

It was a fun night, and I'd like to do it again next year if we can, but I know we're not likely to get as lucky as we did this time, and I'll have to feel good about keeping Will out until 9 if we want to bring him along again.


4.28.11
On Sunday, we went to the earliest Easter service at our church (7 a.m.), and then went out to breakfast at Bob Evans before the crowds hit. Then we napped, helped Will sort through his Easter basket, did yardwork, and got ready for dinner at the home of one of Julie's friends from work. It was a busy day that capped off a busy weekend, and I was happy to have Monday at home with Will to let him get reset before we had to take him back to daycare on Tuesday.


4.29.11
The premiere episode of the latest season of South Park was half a decent Cartman episode and half a terribly realized criticism of Apple and its legions of fans (it heavily leveraged a Human Centipede reference if that helps you understand how bad it was). The Apple/Steve Jobs has kind of been done to death at this point, especially on animated shows (the Simpsons and Futurama both have done full episodes lampooning the company and its eccentric leader), and maybe that's why South Park's angle of attack felt so forced.

Still, this is one of the best shows going in recent years, and I'm sure they'll have a few episodes that become instant classics.

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