may 2013

5.1.13
I've watched three episodes of NBC's Hannibal, and I'm still a bit undecided. The casting of Mads Mikkelsen as Hannibal is spot on, but the actor who plays Will Graham is a bit overwrought (although the writing doesn't leave him a lot of room to be otherwise). I like Morpheus as Jack Crawford in a way that I didn't like him as head of the CSI lab a few seasons ago (although I've long since stopped watching CSI regularly), but the female supporting characters don't seem to be there for much of anything other than keeping the show from being a depressing, dark sausagefest.

And then there's the serial-killer-of-the-week problem, which becomes especially problematic if you expect them all to be as artful and complicated as Hannibal himself. Even on Dexter, they quickly had to move to a format where there was one or two primary killers per season for Dexter to track, with a few minor targets thrown in to keep things interesting (and many of these minor ones weren't even what most of us would think of as serial killers—they were simply bad people who had killed more than one person).

Plus, the one serial killer they are making the center of this initial season (I mean aside from Hannibal himself) just isn't that interesting a killer, and I'm already kind of bored with the did-she-or-did-she-not-help-her-dad subplot around his daughter. I think the show wants me to care about this girl, Will Graham, and their complicated relationship, but so far, I don't really care about any of them.

This show feels like NBC's attempt to craft a show that might show up on A&E or one of the premium networks, and the positive qualities—some strong actors who are watchable even when the writing doesn't quite meet their talent level, solid art design, and a good feel for mood, plus the willingness to push the boundaries of what can be shown on network television—could give it the ability to stick around for a while if everyone can find their rhythm before the first season (or half season, or however long this is going to run this spring). But that's still questionable, because I'm guessing that, as expensive as this show likely is, it needs to have huge ratings to justify its continued existence, and so far the reaction from the public seems only fair to middling.


5.2.13
My sister's wedding weekend was a bit exhausting, as any long weekend that includes two full days of driving and most of the remaining waking hours spent with throngs of family, but it was pretty fun, too. We got to Wilmington late Friday afternoon, checked into our hotel, and then immediately headed to the rehearsal dinner at a bed and breakfast downtown. The food was not memorable, but the company was—it was the first time the whole family, including my dad's sister's family, had been together since my other sister's wedding almost seven years ago, and it was the first time many of them had ever met Will.

The wedding itself was supposed to be at 11:30 Saturday morning at an old family property outside of town that my youngest sister (the one who was getting married) has been working on trying to bring back to life for the past three years. It was supposed to be an outdoor wedding, but it was blustery and a bit drizzle-y, so the ceremony ended up being inside the catering tent that had been set up for the reception. My sister, who seemed particularly unorganized the entire weekend—her standard "things will just come together naturally" attitude towards planning doesn't really work for something as complex as an outdoor wedding with 150 guests—was more than half an hour late, but one of the things she obviously invested significant time in was the program for the wedding, which kept me pretty entertained while waiting for the ceremony to start:

So You're Sitting Through a Wedding
A Brief Guide on What to Expect,
and How Not to Fall Asleep

FAQs

Why am I here?
There are three possible scenarios: Probably you were invited or you were dragged along by someone who was invited and neither of you could come up with an excuse for not attending. Next time may I suggest such surefire excuses as: smallpox; bubonic plague; or some other rat-related disaster.

The third reason why you may be here is that you are a wedding crasher. In which case I have a question for you: Do you really have nothing better to do with a Saturday afternoon?

No, why am I here here? What's my purpose in life?
That's a good question, and luckily for you there will be plenty of time to ponder that during the impending nuptials. It will make you look like you're paying attention.

So what's the deal with these nuptials?
Well if you've been paying attention, Andy and Tori are getting married. The pastor will say all the things he is legally obligated to say, and other things he is not legally obligated to say, and then pronounce them husband and wife. There will also be some readings somewhere in there, and some music. Just like every other wedding you've ever been to except a little bit more non-traditional.

Will there be an exchange of rings?
Um, well, you see, not really...so about that, the ring situation. Choose one or more from the following list of excuses:

  • The bride and groom kind of never got around to it.

  • The bride and groom decided they didn't really need rings because that's the kind of people they are.

  • Smallpox.

There was a brief discussion of using Ring Pops instead but someone (the groom) rained on that parade. Luckily for him the bride is not one to hold a grudge and has totally, completely forgotten all about it and will never bring it up again. But I mean, Ring Pops! Come on!

Well that's a shame because the bride's nephew would have been a very adorable ring-bearer.
I know, but feel free to go ahead and admire his adorable-ness. He'll be the one with blond hair and cheeks you'll want to pinch. Please do not actually pinch his cheeks, I've heard toddlers do not like that.

What if I start to get bored?
Here's a Sudoku for you to do:

     
     
    8
  2 8
3    
    1
  7  
    8
    4
  4  
  8  
5   7
     
7 5 6
     
7   6
  4  
  1  
9    
8    
  2  
8    
    9
5 4  
6    
     
     

This is too hard.
What's the matter? Can't you count to nine?

What about the reception? Is there anything non-traditional about that?
Yes. Three things, mainly:

  • There will be no throwing of rice/birdseed/confetti/petals/etc. at the couple as they because the couple is not leaving. They plan to stay and party very late, later than anyone else perhaps, and then camp out. So please, do not throw things at the bride and groom at any point tonight even though I know you will want to.

  • There will not be the "clink your glass with silverware to get the couple to kiss" thing as both the glassware and the silverware are plastic. Instead there will be a cowbell on one of the tables and you must publicly embarrass yourself by standing up and ringing a cowbell in front of strangers. But maybe as the night wears on you'll get really into it and people will shout "More cowbell!" at you.

  • More Cowbell!

There were four or five non-traditional readings during the wedding—song lyrics, short stories, funny essays, etc. The only one I recognized (and therefore the only one I remember) was the lyrics to the Magnetic Fields' song "The Book of Love", which is one of my favorite tracks from that band.

The ceremony was shorter than a typical church ceremony would have been, but not by much. And then it was on to the reception...


5.3.13
As was to be expected based on the wedding ceremony itself, the reception was also pretty low-key and a tad bit less organized than would have been optimal. Once the guests got up from the seats from which they watched the vows in search of food and drink, the chairs were quickly reappropriated for the banquet tables that had been set up on the other side of the tent, and people began to make their way to the open bar or to the buffet line.

I took some time to walk around with Will outside, where the weather was getting slightly nicer—less breezy, no rain, and the barest hint of the sun every few minutes. I would never really warm up or stop being overcast, but it was far more pleasant than the forecasters had said it was going to be the day before. Will and I also took some time to wander around the first floor of the house that my sister has been trying to restore—even though it's not fit for human habitation by a long shot, it's still much cleaner than it was a few years ago, and my sister wanted her guests to see the fruits of her labor.

Will had had a short nap in the car on the way to the wedding, but by around 4:00, he was pretty wiped out despite the extra burst of energy he got from being around lots of people and from the live music, so we headed back to the hotel for a collective nap. When we all started to rouse a couple of hours later, we talked to my brother and my parents and formulated a plan for the immediate family (except for the bride, of course) to meet back at my parents' house for a low-key dinner of delivery pizza.

We weren't leaving until Monday, but most everyone else left Sunday, so we saw them all off one by one, having lunch at our favorite hot dog restaurant with my other sister and her husband and then going out to dinner with my parents at a great burrito place. It was a somewhat quiet and relaxing day (at least for me—Will and I crashed in the guest bedroom for an afternoon nap and everyone else snuck off to the wedding site to do cleanup while we were sleeping). We left pretty early the next morning and got back into town before rush hour got started, and tried to wrap our heads around going back into work the next day.


5.6.13
I finished the Bill Bryson book A Short History of Nearly Everything, and although it picked up from the slow middle bit, it never got as entertaining as the first third. Still, I would recommend it, especially to someone relatively unexposed to the history of science (or to scientific theories themselves). A smart 13 year old would be about perfect as someone who would learn the most from it, but I would guess that many adults who are interested in science but haven't been anywhere near a science class in a decade or two (like me) would get a good bit out of it too.

After that I read Simon Winchester's The Map That Changed the World about William Smith, the man who founded English geology (and some would argue geology itself) and who also made the first detailed, large-scale map of an entire country's geological strata, which made the science much easier to understand to the serious student and the diletante alike. Winchester also wrote a history of the making of the Oxford English Dictionary called The Meaning of Everything which I quite enjoyed, and although I didn't enjoy this one quite as much, it was still well worthwhile. His storytelling is entertaining without bringing too much of his own voice into the text, and he almost always manages to weave together disparate elements that other historians might struggle with.

I've now become somewhat obsessed with getting a copy of this map after reading the book, but it's hard to find. To my dismay it only seems to be available in the US through the web site of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists—and it's on backorder. The British Geological Survey also sells it through their site, but with the shipping and currency conversion it would cost me almost $60 (compared to $28 if the US site had it in stock). And I'm not quite that desperate—yet.


5.7.13
Off to a conference tomorrow for the rest of the week, so no more posts until I get back. The conference is in DC, and I'm likely going to spend at least one evening visiting a friend in Baltimore. I get in early enough tomorrow that I could potentially head up to my old office before people leave for the day, but I'm undecided about how weird that would be. It's been almost a year, but I still have a lot of unresolved feelings about that place even though I still like (and keep in touch with) several of my former colleagues.


5.13.13
Today was graduation day at my institution, and while they didn't want workers who weren't essential for graduation coming to campus and taking up parking spots, neither did they want to give us the day off. So those of us who can work from home do, and those of us who cannot are more or less forced to take a vacation day.

My previous institution also held its graduation ceremony on a weekday and needed all the parking spaces it could get, but it was handled a bit differently: instead of giving us the typical two floating holidays per year in addition to our accrued vacation leave, that university only gave those of us who worked on the main campus a single floating holiday and forced us to use the other one on graduation day (which usually fell on the Thursday before Memorial Day, meaning that if you took a single day of vacation leave on Friday, you could have a five day weekend to kick off the summer).

I suppose people here could also use a floating holiday instead of a vacation day, but the way it's phrased is very odd: we really, really, really don't want you to come to campus, but you don't have the day off, either. So figure something out.


5.14.13
I've caught up on all the Mad Men episodes from the new season that have aired so far, and I'm still not sold that it's going to be a great season, but at least it's become more watchable after the interminable 2 hour premiere. They haven't really done anything with most of the women in Don's life—his daughter, his ex-wife, and his current wife (although Megan has gotten the most attention/character development)—but his work wife, Peggy, has certainly gotten a lot of screen time and great new storylines.

That is, until the merger—now she's back under Don's wing/thumb and the great new manager who hired her away from SCDP is in danger of getting sucked down into a macho contest with Don that he's bound to lose. I loved Peggy being truly out on her own, forging her path without Don to guide her or hold her back, depending on his mood, and I'm afraid now that she's back in the same office, she's still going to be subject to his whims, despite her elevated title.

Even though there have been some interesting plots/developments, overall the season has seemed a little flat and lifeless. I couldn't pinpoint why until I was in the midst of appreciating one of Sterling's always sterling scenes and I realized that they just haven't had very much of him this season. They have used him sparingly since the demise of Sterling Cooper two or three seasons ago, but there's always been enough of him that his unique perspective has always been present. This year, though, it feels like he has one scene an episode, whereas Don's descent into adultery and his manipulation of his mistress (and her husband) has gotten far too much screen time.

I'll be curious to see where we go from here—Don's affair is apparently at an end, the merger is in full effect, and at some point they have to pick up the loose threads from last season with Don's daughter and ex-wife. It could still be a brilliant season, but it's also equally likely to be a dud—halfway through and it's still too early to tell.


5.15.13
Stay away from GeoGuessr. You won't be able to stop playing until you start to see enough repeat images that it becomes a game of memory rather than a game of using contextual clues to identify a particular spot on the globe.


5.16.13
So tonight is it: the end of The Office. There was a stretch of about five years when I didn't think there was a better half hour comedy on television (the first couple of seasons of 30 Rock notwithstanding). It has obviously gone downhill since the departure of Michael Scott, and that's not just because of the loss of Steve Carrell's seminal character—I think he sense that the show was running out of steam and got out before it became completely lifeless.

This last season hasn't been too bad, and they've done a nice job of explaining how all this documentary footage that we've been watching for the past nine years actually works in the world that these characters inhabit. They've also returned to the great balance they had in the early years between broad comedy and truly personal, emotional moments that gave the series its heart, and they've spent enough time with most of the secondary characters that they aren't going to end the show feeling superfluous.

The tension between Jim and Pam feels a little forced—all these years with minor bumps in the road but overall a realistic portrayal of a very special but very ordinary relationship suddenly thrown into chaos from Jim working some extra hours and spending a few nights a week in Philly. We lurched from harmony to marriage counseling very quickly, and then equally quickly back to harmony, in such a way that it felt artificial, a way to give Jim and Pam a final meaningful, dramatic storyline to end the show.

Season 8 is pretty close to being an unmitigated disaster, and most of the seasons after season 5 have a few weak episodes scattered amongst some pretty strong ones, but overall this has been a great show, and although I suspect the finale will be light on genuine laughs and a little heavy on the treacle, that's okay—they've earned it.


5.17.13
Today is the annual staff celebration day at my office where most employees get to leave their desks around 11, enjoy food and activities until 2 or 3, and then head home for the day. But today is also the day that our final report is due to a major survey, so I'm spending the morning tidying up those numbers and hoping that I'll have a chance to at least get out there before everything ends.

I appreciate the events like this that my new institution holds on a somewhat regular basis. My previous university had an annual staff picnic, but the whole thing seemed designed to discourage attendance: it was held at one of our more remote campuses, it happened from 2-4 on a weekday (neither lunch time nor dinner time), your office wasn't required to give you time off to attend, and you had to pay a fee if you wanted to attend (including a separate fee for your spouse and each child if you wanted to bring them). In ten years at that school, I never went once.

But here there's a free event for the entire staff, another for our division, and another for our office, and everyone genuinely seems to look forward to them. I've been much more wiling to go to social events sponsored by my office in this new job, and I think that says a lot about the difference in cultures between this institution and my former workplace.


5.20.13
My friend Regan was the person who really got me into me to Flannery O'Connor. I'm sure that I'd read at least a few of her stories in a high school English class at some point, but it was Regan who really locked me in, getting me to not only read Flannery's full body of fiction, but also her essays and her letters. (Her correspondence is wonderfully collected in The Habit of Being, a book that Regan gave me and which I read every couple of years while I was in my 20s. When I spent six months studying in England, I read The Habit of Being for what was likely the third time alongside my classroom assignment of Dante's Divine Comedy, and I found myself missing the South and my southern accent so much that I think my accent actually became more pronounced while abroad.)

Regan and I have had a strong connection since we met in high school (I have known her slightly longer than I have known my wife, who I started dating at the end of our junior year), and even though we have been separated by several hundred miles ever since going off to college and then moving into our lives beyond school, in many ways our friendship in recent years was stronger than it has ever been. My move to Atlanta last year was prompted by other, more practical factors, but I can't say I was unhappy that Regan was only going to be an hour away in Athens, and that I would be able to see her every week or so instead of every year or so.

She guided me around Atlanta in my early days here, and my initial impressions of the city were formed largely through her eyes—she even took me out when I was in town for preliminary discussions with my eventual employer months before we moved here. And when I got to town and was on my own for a week while Julie and Will were still in transit, she helped me get settled into our new rental and get further acclimated to the city. I felt very adrift that first week—I was starting a new job, sleeping on the floor of an unfamiliar house, and missing my wife and son. Six months prior I had been living in the same house I had lived in for 13 years and working at the same place I had worked for a decade, and I thought that this would be my life for the forseeable future. And suddenly everything changed and the world was off its axis. Having Regan nearby and able to provide some sort of anchor for me those first few days and weeks meant a lot to me—I was a bit bewildered and disoriented and just being able to see her and talk to her made things seem more normal.

This was the beginning of months of growing our friendship in ways that just weren't possible over emails, letters, and occasional phone calls (and occasional, infrequent actual visits)—even though we've always been very close, conducting a long-distance friendship is a different experience than the kind of friendship you can create with regular personal contact. We saw movies together, went out to dinner, she did things with my family, we would bump into her at other social gatherings, we went to concerts, etc.—the kinds of things you can do with local friends, the small, daily interactions that we hadn't had the opportunity to experience together since high school. It was blissful, and it certainly helped ease the transition from our former life to this new one in Atlanta.

Because of our mutual love of Flannery O'Connor, one of the things Regan and I were planning to do was visit Andalusia, Flannery's family dairy farm where she wrote many of her stories and novels. It's located near Milledgeville, GA, where Flannery grew up, and it's about two hours from Atlanta. The goings-on at the farm were a constant topic in Flannery's letters, and once you've read The Habit of Being, it becomes a real place—I feel like I've already been there many times over. We had originally planned to take this trip before the summer was over, but as the fall came on and I realized that I was overcommitted to travel for work and trying to manage the move from our rental place to our new house, I suggested in an email that we postpone it: "Still trying to figure out how we're going to fit Andalusia in before January, and I'm starting to think this might turn into a spring trip." Her reply: "Andalusia in the spring will be lovely."

Regan was going through a situation at work remarkably similar to what I went through at my previous institution in terms of a whole new leadership team coming in and her not feeling entirely comfortable with the new direction. I thought little of it because she seemed so settled and otherwise happy where she was, but it became a more frequent topic of conversation when we were together, until finally, during a dinner in Athens in December, she revealed to me that she wasn't optimistic that anything would change for the better and that she was considering a job offer she had received that would take her to the other side of the country.

Even the possibility of this gave me a pretty big jolt—I had been Atlanta just about six months at that point, and I was just beginning to get used to the idea of Regan as a regular, normal part of my daily life. A couple of weeks went by, and we saw each other once more for a trip to an art museum, but I almost didn't want to know what was happening with the new job possibility—ignorance and denial were my preferred coping strategies. And then one day the week before Christmas I got a short email from her: she was taking the job on the west coast.

I know that good things don't last, and that someday one of us would get pulled away from the Atlanta area for a new job or a family obligation or some other major life change. But I thought we would have a couple of years at least, maybe five or even ten if we were really lucky. I never imagined that our time together would be so short-lived, and that six months after I arrived she would be departing.

I'm not a huge Hemingway fan, though I do appreciate his brevity and the straightforward power of his storytelling. But I've loved The Sun Also Rises from the first time I read it—not for the Hemingway hallmarks of drinking and sex and displays of machoism that involve the killing of animals (those are the reasons I generally don't like Hemingway), but for its ability to capture the ennui of the exiled—in this case, characters who are exiled from both their home countries and from other human beings. I have an especial fondness for the last line, which might be the best closing line in all of 20th century American literature: "Isn't it pretty to think so?"

That line is one of the few I've ever read that can encapsulate a whole novel with just six words. It doesn't merely serve as the coda for the book, or reinforce the meaning and message of the story, or sum up the complex relationship between Jake and Brett (although it does all of those things)—it IS the story. It's poetry from a writer who rarely indulges in such, and the fact that it's such an anomaly may be why it's the one line from Hemingway I will always remember. It captures all the longing for things that might have been but will never be, the missed connections, the existential solitude that is the singular truth of our lives.

Regan has been gone for just over three months now, and although Atlanta has become my home in the year since I relocated here, so many of my initial explorative forays into the city were done with her guidance and in her presence that I have a perpetual feeling of something missing from the world since she moved away. Everywhere I go there are hints of her ghost; she will likely haunt my version of the city for many years to come. And not just because of the things we did and the places we went together; it's also the places we talked about going to, and the things we planned on doing. Those are just dreams now, some so vivid that they are like memories I never had but can still recall. But dreams nonetheless.

Andalusia in the spring will be lovely.

Isn't it pretty to think so?


5.21.13
Since it's been out for a few weeks now and Star Trek is going to be attracting the huge crowds this weekend, I decided to finally see Iron Man 3 with a friend at a late evening show on Saturday night.

It's funny to me that Iron Man has become Marvel's signature movie franchise given what a relatively minor character in the comic book universe (at least when I was reading comics in my teens), but that may be precisely one of the reasons that the franchise is able to adapt itself better to the movie world than some other, bigger names: because it doesn't have the same weight of expectations from comic fans.

I loved the original Iron Man movie, thought Iron Man 2 was a bloated mess, and thought The Avengers (which I consider to be Iron man 2.5—that movie would not have been what it was without the centrality of the Iron Man character) was right below the original Iron Man. Iron Man 3 is much better than Iron Man 2, but not as good as The Avengers or the original, in large part because they spend way too much monkeying around with dozens of iterations of the suit that can do pretty much whatever you want.

I'm sure it was a blast to orchestrate that final sequence with a bunch of empty, semi-autonomous suits, but it wasn't a lot of fun to watch because, after the first time one swoops in to save the day, each additional use of that trick diminishes it (and the filmmakers use this trick A LOT, and they don't just occur in that final sequence, so I don't think I'm really spoiling anything here). It's kind of like in Mission Impossible 2 with the overuse of the masks and people pretending to be other people: the first time it was a bit of a shock, but by the end of the movie it was a joke—it was almost a shock when someone WAS who they were supposed to be.

Still, it was a pretty enjoyable summer action movie—I don't regret seeing it one bit, and I'll certainly watch it again when it shows up on television in the next couple of years.


5.22.13
I'm a good way through the Steve Jobs biography, and it's a pretty good book. I've been an Apple/Mac fan for a long time now, so I know a lot of the folklore around him, but it's fun to read through some of the more extreme examples of his personality quirks again, and also to get a little more balanced perspective from those who worked with him most closely (and who saw his bad side up close, but who still have some very positive things to say about him).

The second-oddest thing that I didn't already know about him that I've discovered by reading this book is the Jobs seriously dated Joan Baez for a number of years.

The oddest thing? His sister (who he didn't know about or meet until he was in his 30s) is a novelist named Mona Simpson, who is married to Richard Appel, a writer for The Simpsons. And Appel named Homer's mother, Mona Simpson, after his wife.

Also, it's funny little coincidence that Mona Simpson's husband's last name is Appel, a homophone of Apple, the global brand founded by her brother.


5.23.13
I just watched Rushmore again for the first time in years, and even though there are tons of funny moments in that film, the one bit of dialogue that always gets me is probably one of the stupidest. The scene is a post-opening night celebratory dinner in which the object of Max's affection has brought an unexpected, casual date—a doctor friend who is completely unprepared for Max's hostility:

Max: I like your nurse's uniform, guy.
Dr. Peter Flynn: These are OR scrubs.
Max: Oh, are they?

It's a stupid pun, that's not nearly as well written as the rest of the scene, but it's cutting and juvenile in a way that only 16 year old smartasses can be, and Jason Schwartzman's delivery just kills me.

Also, I rescind my previous comments about Rushmore being Wes Anderson's second-best movie. Every time I start to think that, I'm just going to watch it again to remember exactly why nothing else he's yet made tops this movie.


5.24.13
I've read enough books on my Kindle now that I'm starting to get very strong opinions about things Amazon could do better, most of them software-related. Tops on my list: adjust the completion percentage and time left in the text to reflect the last page of the real content, not including the notes, bibilography, an index, citations, footnotes, etc.

Time and time again I think I've still got a long way left in a book that I'm enjoying and it suddenly comes to an end. With the Steve Jobs biography, the most egregious example so far, when I reached the last page, Kindle was telling me I still had two hours and 47 minutes of reading left and was only 77% of the way through the text.

And it's not like they don't know which page is the last page of real content, because as soon as you get to that page, a message pops up asking you to rate the book and share that you've finished it with your social networks. Even if that's not the default, they could easily make it an option to key the completion percentage and time remaining off the final page.

That was one of my big concerns about moving to ebooks—that I would lose many of the visceral ways of interacting with a text that a book provides. Amazon attempted to deal with the loss of context in terms of how much you had left in a book by including these two metrics, but by not adjusting it for these extra bits of info that are often at the end of books, especially nonfiction books, it makes this data almost completely useless. (I realize that these pages would exist in a physical book, too, but with a physical book, I would typically leaf through it to get a sense of how much was the actual text and how much was extra stuff.)

Overall I'm still pretty happy with my decision to move to the Kindle for almost all of my reading, and I'm certainly reading a lot more than I did before I bought the device, but there are some things that wouldn't be a big deal to change or offer as an option that would make a big difference in the reading experience.


5.28.13
I happened to tune into the Indy 500 on Sunday when there were about 15 laps left, so I decided to watch to the end. I've never been a big racing fan of any stripe (although my sister is nuts for NASCAR), so I wasn't expecting much, but I was expecting an actual competition during the final laps, something approaching drama before the checkered flag was waved.

Instead, I was treated to a sports rules travesty akin to ending the World Cup with a shootout or the Super Bowl with an overtime field goal with only one team having had a chance to touch the ball (the former of which is still possible, and the latter of which was possible up until two seasons ago): the final two laps being driven under a yellow flag with no passing and no lead changes possible. Instead of a thriling photo finish with cars going over 200 mph, we got the entire field cruising slowly behind the race car, with the winner essentially getting two bonus victory laps before he'd even officially won the race. They call this "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing", but with a finish like that, it was anything but.

I know there are special concerns with racing that aren't present in other sports, that you can't just tack on two extra laps because some cars may have had enough gas or tire rubber to make it those final two laps but not make it four. But instead of the ridiculousness I saw on Sunday they could institute a rule that if there is a yellow caution flag in the last five laps (or seven, or ten, or whatever makes sense), all cars allowed to return to the pits for a full tank of gas and a new set of tires before returning to the track in the proper order and getting in a couple of laps behind the pace car to get back in the groove before finishing the race with an actual competition

I was never likely to become a fan of this sport, but if the biggest, most dramatic race in the sport can end this way, I can guarantee that I'll never turn into one.


5.29.13
Will's school is out this week (the only time they're closed the whole year), so Julie and I are arranging our work schedules as best we can so that each of us gets to spend some time in the office and then we're trying to do as much work as we can from home. Today will be my only full day in the office (although I'll get the morning on Friday), and I feel like I really have to get a whole week's worth of work done on this one day even though I'm also working at night and during Will's naps to get my hours in.

This is probably the worst week his school could have chosen for their annual holiday, as I have more reports, project plans, and configuration documents due by June 1 than I thought possible. I honestly don't know how I'm going to get it all done.


5.30.13
When we left Maryland almost a year ago (this Sunday will be the anniversary of when I drove from Baltimore to Atlanta in 10 hours with all three cats in the car, stopping only once for gas and a bottle of water), we got rid of (or planned to retire) most of our furniture. We left our outdoor table table, our kitchen table and chairs, our entertainment center, Julie's desk, and assorted smaller tables and lamps behind, and planned to replace our couch as soon as we bought a house (we stayed in a rental for the first six months).

We've slowly been adding pieces back, including a much nicer couch and kitchen table than we've ever owned (the old couch was retired to the more informal second den downstairs where I also keep my office), along with new pieces for the television and the entryway that are much more low key than what we've owned previously. And while we still don't have a patio set, we did finally buy a furniture set for the screen porch, an area that has had tons of potential but which, until this point, we've mostly used as a storage area.

There's a loveseat, two chairs, and a coffee table, and while we still need to add a table and chairs for dining (it's a huge screen porch), it already feels like a much different space, and one that I think we're going to be using a lot more than we have up to this point. I'm loving this house more and more the longer we live here, especially now that the summer is here and the extensive foliage makes you feel like you're living on an isolated planet of green whenever you're looking out into the backyard.


5.31.13
I can end my workday today having gotten everything done that I need to get done, but that's in large part because the deadlines on three of my projects were extended another 1-2 weeks. Still, I've made a lot of progress this week, and I headed home for the weekend not feeling compelled to spend all day Saturday and Sunday feverishly writing reports.

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