april 2015

4.1.15
I just missed my weight loss goal for last month by a pound, and I can tell already that these last 15-20 pounds I'm trying to lose are going to be the most difficult of this process; I'm not going to be surprised if each five pound increment will take twice as long as the one before it, meaning it might not be until the end of summer that I'm able to hit my target weight. I'm still going to aim for a pound a week, which I was able to maintain for the first fifteen months (on average—I certainly had my good months and my bad months), but I'm becoming more realistic about how much harder these last few pounds are going to be compared to the first twenty.

Given that, I don't think I'm going to be able to wait until I've reached my final target weight before I'm forced to buy some new clothes. I've been keeping up with my work pants, and I don't think I'm going to go down to the next size even if I lose another fiften pounds, and I feel like I'm not going to get below a medium for polo/golf shirts (which tend to be cut more generously) or a large for t-shirts (especially with the shrinkage after washing), so I can go ahead an stock up on those. But dress clothes are another matter—I was really hoping to go in and get measured and fitted once I reached my final weight so they would fit as well as possible.

But I'm not sure if I'll be able to wait another three months or more, especially with the work conferences, etc., that I have on the schedule, so I might just have to bite the bullet and get at least one sport coat, accepting the possibility that it might not fit perfectly with additional weight loss. I think I'll still have to wait to get new suits, but I need at least one jacket that I can pair with a dress shirt and a tie for work purposes.


4.2.15
It used to be that, in the world I work in, April and May were fairly calm months, a way to ease into the slower summer months after six months of hard work to enroll a class. But now the schedule is packed with on and off campus recruiting and yield events, travel, conferences, and other assorted tasks. And while the summers continue to be fairly low-speed for the rest of the office, it's always been a pretty busy time for my teams as we work to prepare all our systems and processes for the next cycle.

So April and May were really our only opportunities for any kind of slowdown, and now those months are gone as well. I'm getting a little worried about burnout—not only my own, but that of my team's, because we do work really hard, with lots of evening and weekend hours, and we already worked a longer active work year than most of our colleagues. And although we're pretty good at letting people create a good work/life balance by offering flex schedules, the opportunity to work at home one or two days a week, etc. without at least some downtime on the schedule, I don't know how long I'll be able to retain good people when/if they get an offer that doesn't require them to give as much of themselves for as much of the year as we now are.


4.3.15
So, a week ago today we got a new car. Specifically, we leased a Nissan Leaf for two years to try out an electric vehicle and to replace my aging, 11 year old, 180,000 mile Saturn that is on its last legs.

A couple of months ago our plan was to drive the Saturn into the ground, but a few factors led us to the decision to get a new car before the Saturn was absolutely spent. First was the safety of the Saturn: even though I probably drive it fewer than 50 miles a week, mostly around town, I do spend a lot of that time with Will in the car, and there are some things we need to do to make it safe, like replace the horn/airbag circuitry in the steering wheel ($800) and get new tires ($300). When we started looking at how we might better spend that $1100, and combining it with the $500 we'll likely get from a car wholesaler (like CarMax), the Leaf started to look awfully attractive.

We've had several friends and acquaintances buy or lease a Leaf in the past few months, and they have been universally happy with it as a second car in a city like Atlanta. When we asked what they were paying per month for the lease and started to do the math, it almost became a no-brainer.

See, Georgia has one of the most generous subsidies in the country for electric vehicles, offering a $5000 tax credit for purchasing or leasing one. When you combine this with the $7500 federal subsidy (which goes straight to the dealer and comes off the price of the car), plus our employer subsidy, here's how it worked out for us: $290 per month for a two year lease with no money down, or a total cost of $6960. Subtract the $5000 tax credit from Georgia, and and then the minimum of $1100 for repairs on the Saturn, and we're left with an outlay of new cash of only $860 across two years, or only about $36 per month.

Start figuring that the Leaf will likely save us about $20 a month in fuel costs (less than $20 for the electricity versus about $40 for gas), and the fact that we will have no maintenance costs for the life of the lease (no oil changes required for an EV, and the first maintenance checkup isn't due for 7500 miles, and that one's free; the first one we pay for isn't until 15,000 miles, and I don't expect us to reach that mark during our lease period), and we're coming pretty close to getting to drive this car for two years for essentially no cost other than what we were going to have to pay to fix the Saturn anyway.

This will give us a chance to try out an EV for a relatively short period to see if we want to invest in one for the long term, and by the time we would need to turn this one in, I expect that the market will have a lot more entry-level choices with much longer ranges than our version of the Leaf (it gets about 100 miles on a full charge, but I expect that by 2017 there will be several cars at this price point, including a new version of the Leaf, that top out at over twice that). And in the meantime, it's really nice to have a car that I feel safe driving around with Will in the back.


4.4.15
I usually don't do posts on Saturday, but today is my 44th birthday, and I couldn't pass up the change to mark my 44th year of existence completing on 4/4.


4.6.15
My grandfather, who died in February, would have been 95 today. We all miss him so very much, especially because I think most of my immediate family would have tried to be with him today to mark the occasion.


4.7.15
Blerg. I generally like it when some team in the ACC wins the national championship, because I still cling to the belief that this is the best conference for basketball in the NCAA despite the extreme expansion of the last few years and the general high level of talent at big programs across the country, but as a lifelong UNC fan, Duke is the one team I'd rather not see in that position.

So I couldn't quite bring myself to root for Wisconsin, but neither can it be said that I wanted Duke to win. All in all, I would have been fine with Kentucky going all the way, not only because it would have been historically interesting to have a perfect season in the modern era, but because it likely would have made Calipari's one-and-done philosophy (which is recently shared by Duke's Krzyzewski) even more prevalent, which would likely push us that much closer to a new philosophy around the free labor pool of student athletes, who recieve no compensation while generating billions in revenue (with much of that going to their coaches).


4.8.15
It was my 44th birthday on Saturday, and as a surprise Julie arranged for us to have dinner at a Japanese steakhouse with my sister Carrie and her husband Tim. We haven't been to one of these in two or three years—we took Will when he was probably two, and although he loved it at the time, he had no memory of it.

I usually just want to hang around and do nothing on my birthday, especially if it falls on a weekend, but the weather was so nice that I wanted to get out of the house. So I packed a picnic lunch and we headed out to Sweetwater Creek State Park, a place we'd been to once before with the family of one of Will's classmates. Will was sort of dragging along, not really wanting to hike, until we made a game out of the trail markers: Julie and I pretended that we couldn't see the red marks on the trees and didn't know where to go, so he had to run ahead and find the next one so we could follow him.

This worked until we got pretty far up the trail, and then we stopped for lunch next to the river (we saw a snake sunning itself on the first rock we were going to sit on, so we moved down to the next one several yards farther downstream) before walking up to the waterfall overlook. On the way back, Will was starting to flag again, so I made a modification to the game: whoever touched the tree with the red mark on it first got a point, and whoever had the most points when we got back to the parking lot won the game. That perked him right up, and he was running most of the way back.

Overall it was a great day—we got the fun of spending a gorgeous day outside, and then of having a very nice dinner with family. After dinner we came back to the house for cupcakes, which as a perfect ending.


4.9.15
It was also Easter this weekend, which proved to be another busy day for us. In the morning we went to the 8 a.m. service at our church (we've been attending the sunrise service that they hold in downtown Decatur, but this year they didn't do that for some reason) and then came back home for Will to open his Easter basket and look for hidden eggs.

At noon we went over to the house of a family we've gotten to know through Will's school—Will and their son Anton were in the same classroom together for a year, and they also played soccer together last fall (and again this spring). They are from Austria, and will be headed back there early this summer, but we've been spending increasingly more time with them over the past few months, and they invited us over to share a traditional Austrian Easter meal with them: ham with a mixture of whipped cream and horseradish; Russian eggs (basically deviled eggs), and an Austrian sweet bread (not sweetbreads, but a sweet-tasting loaf of bread).

After lunch, the father (who is my co-coach for soccer this season) distracted the kids while the mom and the nanny went outside to hide Easter treats for the kids in the Austrian style: they made little nests of Easter grass in several places in a little park in the apartment complex with the name of each kid on the nest and a little gift in each nest (with several nests for each of the kids), and then let the kids loose in the park to find their nests and put their gifts into their baskets. Will had a really great time with that—we might have to think about continuing that one in our backyard next year.

We ended up staying at their place much longer than we expected—we didn't leave until after six, and took a nice long walk in the afternoon before we left. It was a really fun day, and a fun weekend, but so busy that I felt like I needed a day off before returning to work.


4.10.15
My mom arrived yesterday, and she'll be staying with us to spend time with Will through next Monday. Will loves all of his grandparents—he talks for days about seeing them whenever we're going to see them or they come to see us—but there's something he really loves about visits from Gabby. As soon as she gets here, we may as well not even exist, and when we leave for the evening (as we will tonight and tomorrow to go out to concerts), he practically shoos us out the door so he can get back to hanging out with her.


4.13.15
Apple Watch preorders started last week, and although I set the alarm and woke up at midnight Pacific (3 a.m. my time) in time to get one of the preorders that would have been delivered in the first week or so after they become available, I decided against it.

Mainly this is because the configuration I want—the silver aluminum sport with a black sport band—isn't one of the default configurations, and I wasn't quite prepared to pay an extra $50 for the band when that addtional cost would have gotten me within $100 of the stainless steel version. So I'm probably going to make an appointment to try a couple on, make sure that the black sport band will match the silver sport version, and then wait a few months to get some real-world reports from the millions of people that will be wearing them over the next couple of months.


4.14.15
I didn't have a lot of hope for the Braves after they traded away most of what should have been the middle of their lineup in the offseason, including fan favorite Jason Heyward, and then traded their superstar closer Craig Kimbrel the day before the season opened (he was part of a package deal that allowed them to unload an albatross of a contract in BJ Upton), and of course there's still plenty of time for their season to turn out terribly. But the first week has been pretty good for the team with a 6-1 record, best in the NL and second best in MLB.

I'm not sure what the strategy by the brass is at this point: to unload contracts so they can sign a couple of star free agents prior to the team moving into its new stadium two years from now (which is very different than the way the team has been run since Ted Turner was no longer the owner), or simply dumping salary for the purpose of putting more of that money into the pockets of the corporation that owns them now.

Unless it's the former, I'm really starting to lose faith that this franchise will ever make a serious run in the postseason again given that you really do need some superstars, especially on the offensive side, to be able to get anywhere near the World Series. You can't just keep developing talent and then letting them get away as soon as they get expensive and expect to win many titles, even if they can make it to the postseason every now and then with that philosophy—despite nine postseason appearances since 2000, they have only made it past the wild card game or the divisional series ONCE, and they won only a single game in the league championship series the one year they made it past the divisional round.


4.15.15
My mom's visit was pretty good—she stayed with us through Monday morning and watched Will by herself on Friday and Saturday nights while Julie and I went out, and she got to come with us to church and soccer on Sunday (normally we wouldn't have gone to church when we had guests, but our former organist, who Will LOVES, was making a visit to the congregation for the first time since he left to do a residency at Blackburn Cathedral in England about a year ago).

There was also a trip to the Fernbank Museum of Natural History (mostly solo with my mom), a swimming lesson, a dinner out with my sister and brother-in-law, and a walk down the street to see them doing a location shoot in our neighborhood for a movie called Table 19. Will was genuinely tuckered out—he usually doesn't take afternoon naps anymore (although we do encourage an hour or two of quiet time in his room on weekend afternoons), but he zonked out for a couple of hours between lunch and soccer, which I don't remember him doing in months.


4.16.15
It's been interesting being Will's soccer coach so far. I'm co-coaching with another dad who is Austrian and therefore much more experienced with and interested in soccer, so I mostly let him take the lead and just help run the drills and make sure to put a new ball in play when one goes out of bounds, but me being Will's dad seems to have absolutely no effect on his behavior when he's messing and not paying attention.

One of the great things about this season's team is that it's made up exclusively of classmates from his preschool—seven of them are currently in the same classroom and the other one was in a classroom with several of them (including Will) last year. And one of the not-so-great things about the team is that it's made up exclusively of classmates from preschool. The kids quickly go into school mode, playing games, goofing around, etc., and Will is especially bad because two of his best friends are on the team, and none of the three of them are really that into soccer (it's the first time for two of them, and none of the three seem especially athletically gifted).

We've got an interesting mix: two girls who are playing for the first time and have very good instincts although they're still a little tentative; three boys (Will and his buddies) and one girl who are generally uninterested; two boys who are very good and highly competitive (they've played multiple seasons at this point). The teams only play three players at a time, so our strategy has been to put one of the competitive boys, one of the engaged girls, and one of the unengaged kids on the field at the same time.

With the random rotations (kids will just run off the field if they get tired, and you rotate in whoever wants to go next unless it's an official rotation), we sometimes end up with the two competitive boys and one of the engaged girls on the field at the same time, and we tend to do a lot of scoring then. Our worst situation is when Will and his two buddies are on the field at the same time (or really, when any two of the three are playing at the same time), because then the game becomes very secondary and the other team basically has free run of the field.

It's been fun though, which is all it's supposed to be at this stage. I do wish he'd pay a little more attention, because I would like him to really engage with a team sport to see if it's something he would want to continue as he gets older. We'll see—the other coach said his son didn't really start to engage with it until his third season, and he's very into it now, so we'll probably do another session in the fall to see if anything clicks.


4.21.15
Over the weekend we drove to my dad's home in North Carolina to celebrate his 70th birthday, the first time we have been to visit him and my stepmother since my sister got married two years ago (they've been to see us in Atlanta several times, we just haven't been back to Wilmington since then).

And it wasn't just us: my sister who also lives in Georgia and my brother who lives in Ohio also drove in for the weekend (joining my other sister who still lives in Wilmington), marking only the third time in the past five years that all four of us have been together at the same time (the other two times were Will's first birthday and my sister's aforementioned wedding).

Despite spending most of the day driving on Friday and Monday and having a pretty busy schedule all weekend, I had a lot of fun. Shortly after we arrived on Friday, we did a big family photo session that was my siblings' and my gift to dad, followed by a cookout with hot dogs and hamburgers for dinner.

On Saturday morning my brother, my dad, Will, and I went golfing and played six holes even though it was raining pretty steadily (which was a good thing in that in kept other golfers off the course—with my rusty play and Will serving as a distraction for my dad, we were moving pretty slowly), and then we joined the rest of the family for lunch at our favorite Wilmington place, Salt Works.

Saturday night was a surprise party for my dad, which wasn't really a surprise to him but which I know he appreciated anyway. Will was really good given that he was the only kid there and it was otherwise a bunch of boring grown ups standing around talking (although I did take a walk outside with him for about 30 minutes, during which time he talked one of the caddies into letting him ride in a golf cart down into the garage where all of the carts were housed). He even got up and took the microphone to lead the crowd in singing happy birthday to my dad, which was completely adorable.

On Sunday my dad made his famous waffles before my brother and sister had to get on the road, and on Sunday afternoon we tried to take Will out on the boat (it ended up being a short trip because the engine was overheating—my dad probably needed to get a new water pump) before going to a burrito place for dinner with my sister and her husband.


4.22.15
I somehow forgot to write about this until now, but this year I was lucky enough to go to the Masters for the first (and possibly only) time in my life.

See, I have a colleague at work who is from Augusta and whose family is pretty prominent there, and his grandfather owned 8 tickets to the Masters when he was alive. Typically you aren't allowed to pass these on (so I'm given to understand), but because he owned so many and was so well known, they let him pass ownership of two of the tickets to a relative with the understanding that each of the four grandchildren would have access to the passes for one day of the tournament each year.

My coworker doesn't always use them—his brother who still lives in town typically uses them to impress clients—but he felt like going this year, and asked if I'd like to join him. I of course said yes—I didn't know if I'd ever get the chance to go to the Masters given the cost, so I couldn't turn down a chance to go for free. Plus it was great to have someone who was so familiar with the event that he could guide me around and show me all of the cool spots to sit and watch a few groups come through.

We went on the first day of the tournament, and it was amazingly beautiful—the television shots don't even begin to do it justice. We set up for a while at Amen Corner, watching the first few groups of the day come through, before then winding our around the course, stopping a couple of times for snacks. We also visiting the gift shop so I could load up with Masters merchandise: a shirt and a couple of hats for me, a shirt and hat for my dad for this birthday, a hat for my brother, assorted small mementos for a coworker whose husband does international travel and wanted some small tokens to hand out to clients, and a few other things like a sleeve of golf balls and a golf bag towel. These items weren't cheap, but I don't think they were any more expensive than team gear for a major sports franchise, despite how exclusive the Masters merch is (they only sell it at the course from what I've been told).

A secret about the Masters: despite the high cost for the tickets, especially if you're getting them through StubHub or another reseller, they don't actually gouge you on everything. I paid for all of our food and drinks for the day, which between us was four sandwiches, four drinks, a bag of chips, a candy bar, and a couple of bottles of water, and the total cost was $13.50, which is what you'd pay for any two of those items at a normal sporting event like a football game or a baseball game. The parking was also free, even though no one who can afford the tickets would bat an eye at paying $20 or more for daily parking right next to the course.

Towards the middle of the afternoon we found ourselves at the green for the first hole and despite to post up for a while to see Tiger Woods come through (he was in the second to last group of the day, and was about three groups from teeing off at that point). In an incredible stroke of luck, the next group to come through included the golfer who would become the big story and the winner of this year's tournament, Jordan Spieth. We got to see him play his first hole in what would become a historic weekend, and also got to see Tiger have a rocky start to a miserable weekend—his first shot went into the pine straw in the trees and he missed a makable putt that would have given him a bogey, so he started the weekend with a +2 and almost threw one of his patented tantrums with his club.

It was a fantastic experience, one that I would gladly repeat again if my coworker ever offered, and one that would be really fun to do with my dad and Will when Will is a bit older and could appreciate it (especially if he turns out to like playing golf). But even if I never get to go again, it's a day that I'll remember for the rest of my life—the golf equivalent of the Super Bowl or the World Series.


4.23.15
We're so busy these days I don't even have time to write about how busy we are...


4.24.15
So the Georgia legistlature finally did what they've been threatening to do for the last couple of years: they modified the generous subsidy for buying or leasing an electric vehicle, one of our big motivations for the Nissan Leaf that we leased last month. In fact, they did more than just modify it: they eliminated it entirely and replaced it with an annual tax on electric vehicles that can charitably be described as punitive. Georgia instantly went from the most friendly state for electric vehicles to the least friendly, and for no real reason.

I understand the desire to modify the generous $5000 subsidy for leases or purchases, but it would have made more sense to scale it back over a number of years, reduce it instantly to a lower number, or reduce it for leases versus purchases, but to eliminate it overnight leaves the car dealers in the state who sell electric vehicles, especially the ones in Atlanta where most of them are sold, in a real bind, as they have likely based their orders for the next several months on purchasing trends that were in part driven by the state subsidy.

And even worse is the new annual tax: $200 a year for each electric vehicle you own. The rationale behind this is that the gasoline tax is effectively a road use tax because the revenue is ostensibly used to support new roads and road maintenance and improvements, and EV owners are not paying anything into that pot. But $200 a year is far more than is paid by most drivers of gas-powered cars, even the worst of the worst SUVs with terrible gas mileage who commute long distances each day.

If they wanted to institute a fair tax, they would have looked at how many miles the average EV owner drives in their car each year (and I guarantee you it's far less than your average driver), and then charged the equivalent of what a driver with a reasonably fuel-efficient gas vehicle (let's be generous and say a car that gets 40 mpg) would contribute to the gas tax each year.

But they weren't trying to be fair—they were just being nasty and punitive to score some sort of political point that I don't fully comprehend. We'll still have to pay this tax for two years, but we will get the benefit of the state subsidy because we bought our car before they changed the law, so we'll still come out pretty well financially with this lease. But unless they reinstate some form of the subsidy and/or reduce the tax to a fairer number, we may not be able to buy or lease another EV in two years even if we really like this car. And that's a real shame—it's sad to see this state, which has so few progressive traits at this point in time, go from being forward-thinking (for once) to being regressive to the point of absurdity.


4.27.15
So: I think I'm ready to run a 5K now. I've been running on a treadmill for the last year and a half, and I've gone from a point where I couldn't run for more than four minutes without needing at least 90 seconds of walking to get my breath back to being able to run for 33 minutes straight (I limit my indoor workouts to 35 minutes and use a minute on each end for a warm up and cooldown walk).

I'd never tried running outdoors on real terrain, partially because the neighborhood around our house is very, very hilly, and I didn't know how well my treadmill running skills would translate. But when we were visiting my dad for his birthday last weekend, I decided to give running around his neighborhood a try because he lives on the coast where the ground is very, very flat—if there was anyplace where running on the road was going to be as close as possible to running on a treadmill, his neighborhood was it.

I ran for 40 minutes and was able to keep up a pretty good pace—when I mapped it after returning home, it turned out to be more than the 3.1 miles you have to run for a 5K. Taking that as a positive sign that I might be able to do this on more challenging terrain, I mapped out a route around my neighborhood that was too extreme in terms of ups and downs but which definitely still had its ups and downs and gave it a try one afternoon.

The result: a 40 minute run with no breaks for walking, despite some very slow running on the final uphill parts. I did it again a few days later, and now feel confident enough to try an actual 5K (although one that is labeled for beginners that will hopefully be even flatter than my neighborhood route).

So on Saturday I'm hoping to do my first real 5K, just to prove to myself that I can, and then maybe another one a couple of weeks later. I may find that I don't need to keep doing real ones after that (unless it's to support a cause I care about or something like that), that I'll be perfectly happy to run my neighborhood routes 3 times a week without needing the motivation of staying in shape for races, but I want to do it at least a couple of times just to show that I can.


4.28.15
Oh Baltimore...dear, old, dirty Baltimore. I love you and I still miss you, but I can't really say I'm sorry I left.

I know you'll get past this crisis, whether it takes a couple of days or a couple weeks, but it's still hard for me to imagine how you're going to start fixing all the problems that led to this, from the lack of community, the routine abuses by the police, and the corruptiong and inaction by your elected officials. Your problems aren't unique in our nation, but you are among the more severe examples of our major cities, and there's so much suffering and poverty that remains invisible to those in the rest of the nation except when it boils over on nights last night.

That's not to say that the individuals who were doing the rioting, burning, and looting don't bear personal responsibility for their actions, but this city is set up for failure, and in a large context, this sort of thing was somewhat inevitable without real change and real leadership in the city. Most of the people who live in that city—I still have many friends there—care deeply about that place, and they are working to make their little corner of it better everyday, but without a vision, a plan, and a commitment for positive change from the local government and the business community, there's no way for improvement to happen on a large scale.

The eyes of the media world and a heavy police presence will likely stabilize the patient for the short term, but she's going to need long-term rehabilitation and possibly radical surgery to truly get healthy again. And I'm not sure there's anyone on the medical staff who's been properly trained...


4.29.15
We found out yesterday that Will's new school is going to be officially delayed in its opening, which means he's going to have to take a bus to a disused middle school a few miles from here instead of starting kindergarten at a brand new facility only three blocks from our house.

This is something that anyone with even cursory experience with construction projects could have told you from looking at it six months ago, but in their monthly meetings with parents, the schools has (up until yesterday) been insistent that construction was proceeding on schedule and that the school was going to be ready for teachers in July and students in August. Now they're telling us that the teachers will be able to start setting up classrooms in October and that they will transition the students to the school right after Thanksgiving (which seems a little stupid to me—why not just wait until after the New Year, since they'll only be in school about three weeks between Thanksgiving and the Christmas holidays?).

It won't end up being that big a deal, and I know he's going to love riding the bus for those few months (although it does greatly complicate picking him up after school since his temporary facility is in the opposite direction of our house from my work), but it is disappointing that, despite constant concern from the parents, the school basically lied about the state of the project, only fessing up when it was clear that there was no way they were going to finish on time.

They had some ridiculous story about how a boulder buried in the ground cost them 62 days of time, and how the recent rains also slowed work on the project, but 1) the boulder would have had to have been cleared over a year ago before they started building anything, so they've known about this supposed 62 day delay for quite some time and 2) it hasn't rained any more this year than it did last year (if anything, it has rained less this year), so if you didn't build this into your project schedule, that's really your fault.

I guess I should be happy that they're telling us now instead of in July, but again, you can just walk by the construction site and instantly know that this building is not three months away from completion (I even think they're lying about the new completion date of September, and that they are desperately hoping to keep the current move-in schedule of teachers in October and students in November), so they really couldn't lie about it any longer. Not a great way to start a relationship with our new public school administrators, but I hope this will just be a minor bump in the road and that Will will still have the great experience at this school that lives up to the many positive experiences I've heard about from friends and neighbors.


4.30.15
So, I was scheduled to be at a conference in Baltimore next week, but because of the unrest and protests there over the past few days, they have decided to move it from Baltimore to somewhere out in the middle of nowhere on the Eastern Shore. So now, instead of being in downtown Baltimore and in close proximity to former friends (I had plans to see people in the evening every night I was in town), I'm going to be two hours from the city at a golf resort without the time or the equipement to actually play any golf.

I guess I understand why they did it—many of the conference attendees only know Baltimore from The Wire and the recent riots and protests, and they were telling the organization that they just didn't feel comfortable attending the conference with the uncertainty about when the city would get back to normal, but it is pretty disappointing for me personally that I'll be going back to Maryland for the first time since I left and I won't really get to see anyone or any place familiar.

I am hoping to see a friend in DC before I leave, and there's always a possibility that the stars could align for me to get in at least a brief visit with a friend from Richmond or one of my Baltimore friends, but other than that, this is just going to be another lonely conference, especially because no one else from my institution is attending. And it's the first of three over the next six weeks, and despite fitting in a week of vacation in the middle of all the travel, I'm going to be very happy when I get back to Atlanta after that final trip.

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