march 2016

3.1.16
It can't be March already. I'm still writing 2015 half the time.


3.2.16
Will came home from school early on Monday saying he didn't feel good, and he's been home sick ever since. He doesn't seem to feel really bad, but he has a fever and sleeps a lot (he's also eating fine and doesn't have any other symptoms). Julie took him to the doctor yesterday and ruled out the flu or strep throat—he said it was just some virus that we'd have to let run its course.

The school has a policy that says students shouldn't come to school if they've had a fever above 100.4 in the past 24 hours, but we're hoping he can go back tomorrow—he had a slight fever of 99.7 when he woke up this morning, so if he can hold at that temperature, he should be fine to return to the classroom for the last day of classes this week.

I've mostly been staying home with him because my meeting schedule was relatively light this week and Julie had (as usual) lots of appointments that would have been difficult to reschedule, and because Will spends most of the day just lying on the couch, I've been able to get a lot done from home.

Also, in order to keep from having to run upstairs every time he wanted to ask me a question or needed something, I programmed an old iPad so that he could use it to FaceTime me on my computer downstairs. The first day alone he must have called me 15 times, sometimes with legitimate requests (he needed juice or something to eat), and sometimes just to call me (telling me he was headed to the potty or that he was going to read a book).

He's been pretty good though - although I had to cancel a couple of meetings, Julie was able to come home to let me get to my most important ones, and I'm pretty sure that I've gotten a lot more done this week than if I had been at the office dealing with all the distractions there. Still, we've got a big weekend coming up, so it would be good if he was back on his feet tomorrow so we could feel confident about taking him to all the activities we have planned.


3.3.16
A sequel to one of my favorite movies, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, has apparently been financed by Netflix and is now available to stream.

If this movie had been released as a traditional theatrical release, I have no doubt that I'd be planning the night in the first week of release when I could head out to see it (unless the reviews completely savaged it—I haven't checked those out yet), but there's something about it being released on Netflix that puts it far, far lower on the priority list even though it's theoretically much more convenient for me to watch it.

I have the same problem with a lot of the tv shows on Netflix - not just the original series that I'd like to watch like Daredevil, Sense8, Jessica Jones, and House of Cards—but also shows from other networks that I never got around to watching when they were being aired originally like Breaking Bad and Downton Abbey. There's just so much content that it's a little overwhelming knowing where to start.

It doesn't help that I've cut back on my tv time quite a bit, and when I am in the mood for something new, there are plenty of movies I've DVR'd from HBO, or shows like Gotham or the Walking Dead that I can't keep up with even though I place a priority on them (or other series that I haven't watched yet even though they've been in the DVR for months, like the BBC take on Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell or SciFi's The Expanse and Childhood's End).

I guess this a good problem to have—it's better than watching terrible tv or reruns of old shows I like—but it's going to take me so long to catch up, and there's so much new stuff coming all the time, that I'm afraid I'm going to be at best 6 months behind where most other people watching these shows are.


3.4.16
I watched the first episode of Netflix's Daredevil series, and although I'm not quite sure how into it I'm going to get (even though it was one of my favorite comic books when I was a teenager), it's definitely much better than the awful Daredevil movie with Ben Affleck. The casting is pretty solid (I'm intrigued by Vincent D'Onofrio as Kingpin), and although the tone is pretty dark, the art direction is pretty faithful to what I remember of the comic book as well.

A series format is probably a much better way to tell the stories of comic book superheroes anyway, especially ones that are more story driven and focus on a single character, since it gives you time to explore the characters in between the action set pieces—there isn't as much of a need to be constantly pushing the plot forward to the next conflict when you have 10 hours to tell a story as opposed to 2. But now that the relatively slow-paced origin episode is out of the way, I hope we move quickly into the season-long story arc.


3.7.16
I ran my first 5K since January last Saturday, and this one was my first trail run on the cross country course of a nearby middle school (the one where Will may eventually go if they don't do any redistricting in the next few years).

I haven't been running as consistently lately (cold weather, work schedule, etc.), so I wasn't expecting to be very fast, and I definitely wasn't—my time was about two minutes longer than my average time for my past few 5Ks. It also didn't help that I never really found my running rhythm on the trail—I found myself constantly scanning ahead for roots and debris rather than focusing on what I was doing from a running and breathing perspective. It also didn't help that the course was three laps around the same route, so it got a little boring by the end.

Julie and Will also came along to do the 1 mile run, and while Will still isn't that into running, he did finish and Julie said he only really wanted to slow down and walk on some of the bigger hills. I think we're just going to keep trying with him to see if he'll ever get to a point where he will actually run the whole mile (he definitely can do it—when I've been running with him, he's often pushing the limits of my speed and he's chattering the whole time—he never seems to get out of breath—he just gets bored), and then see if maybe he might want to run a 5K with us.


3.8.16
The morning race was just the start of a very busy day—we went home to rest for a little bit after we finished before heading out to a birthday party early in the afternoon, this one for the 10 year old son of Will's godparents Connie and Jeff. It was at a park out near Stone Mountain, and it was themed after The Amazing Race, so there was a big, elaborate scavenger hunt with activity stations that all the paired teams had to complete before they could cross the finish line.

Most of the kids were closer to the birthday boy's age than Will's, but there was one other kid his age, so they were paired up and were given easier versions of the challenges to do. I was manning one of the activity stations (a series of croquet gates that the teams had to hit a ball through), so Julie went with Will and his new friend to help them read the clues, etc.

For most of the race they were running far behind the other kids—even though their challenges were a little easier, they were just slower at running between them), but then all the big kids got stuck on the final challenge, and Will and the other boy caught up to them and passed them! Their reward: they each got a $25 gift card for a movie theater and they also got to choose first from the prize box.

There was a mix up at the start of the race where everyone went and did a balloon challenge when they were supposed to be doing an egg challenge, so after that all the clues to the next station had to be improvised on the fly, but it wasn't that big a deal—the kids still had to complete all the stations at some point, and they all seemed to be having a ball.

After the race was over and we were waiting for the pizza to be delivered (the delivery driver ended up being over an hour late and had to be given instructions over the phone more than once because he claimed he didn't have a GPS device), Will mixed it up pretty good with the older kids—he really doesn't have much fear socially, and can be as happy playing big brother to a three year old as he is running around with kids twice his age.

His social nature and talkativeness get him in trouble sometimes at school, and his ease in interacting with others means he often isn't as sensitive to people who struggle more in that area (even though he is generally a very empathetic person), but those are things we can help him develop (and that will develop naturally as he matures and becomes less focused on himself). But those are traits that are going to serve him so well in so many different areas of his life later on that, and they're just so key to who he is that it's hard for me to get too concerned about some of the short-term growing pains.


3.9.16
When we got back from the birthday party, Julie and I immediately started getting ready to head out to Will's schools annual auction fundraising event.

The auction itself is weird—it's a combination of online auctions that ended before the event, other online auctions that ended during the event, and a live auction that was supposed to start a couple of hours into the actual event. There were a few items we wanted to bid on, and a few others we wanted to keep an eye on to see if the bids would stay in our range, but we didn't really have any expectations other than that we wanted to spend a certain amount of money to support the school and we wanted to try to win an experience of some sort for Will (all of the teachers and administrators were offering experiences in the auction, like being principal for a day or hanging out with a certain teacher and doing something fun after school).

I had planned on having a little wine to help get through the evening and the heavy social demands (by my standards, anyway), but either I drank more than I thought or the wine was stronger than I'm used to, because about an hour and a half into it I felt drunker than I was expecting (Julie almost never drinks, and when she does it's limited to a glass of wine, so I didn't have to worry about driving us back home). So Julie had to handle all of the bidding responsibilities, because I didn't have the clearest judgment at that point.

We ended up winning an experience for Will (making pizza and watching a movie with his teacher, along with some of the other kindergarten teachers and other kids who won the same experiences with their teacher), a giraffe painting for Will, and a good deal the Julie found—a bunch of gift cards that we got for substantially less than the combined value to stores that we frequent.

I remember having a couple of good conversations: one with a lawyer who was the husband of someone Julie knew (although I can't remember if they were the parents of a classmate of Will's or another kindergartener) and one with the mom of one of Will's classmates who Julie has gotten to know a bit through birthday parties and such but who I had never gotten a chance to talk to before.

This second conversation was after I was well into my cups, so much so that Julie actually tried to prevent me from talking to her because she wanted me to make a good first impression. But they are a family that's really into nerdy/geeky pop culture stuff, especially Star Wars, and I've been wrestling with whether or not to take Will to see The Force Awakens before it leaves the theaters (he's seen the original trilogy—Episodes IV, V, and VI, and also Episode I), so I wanted to ask her 1) if she had taken Will's classmate to see it and 2) if so, how did he react.

It turns out that she had taken him, and although he did pretty well with it, he did have to leave and take a walk around outside with his dad during one of the more intense interactions between Rey and Kylo. But given that Will has done pretty well with the more intense scenes in the Star Wars films we have let him see, I think I've mostly decided that I want to take Will to see it. Now I just have to convince mommy....

The night was pretty fun, and I think it would have been fun even without my accidentally excessive intoxication. We ended up leaving just as the live auction was starting because 1) we had already spent our budget on the silent/online auction items and 2) even if we hadn't, most of the items in the live auction were bigger ticket and likely would have been beyond our price range anyway. Julie drove us home, of course, and I hpnestly don't remember much beyond that.


3.10.16
On Sunday we made our second attempt to attend a softball game to watch our new friend Amy (who is a friend and roommate of Will's beloved basketball player Shellie who came with Shellie when she had dinner at our house last month). The first game was on a cold, drizzly afternoon, and it ended apruptly when one of the players slipped on the grass and broke her ankle.

The weather was much nicer this afternoon, and the game lasted the full nine innings, which is pretty unusual for the Emory team (they have a rule that says if one of the teams is ahead by 8 or more after five innings, that's the end of the game, and Emory is often in that position). They were actually tied after the fourth inning, which meant that we got to see another quirky rule of college softball: if the game is tied after the seventh inning, each team starts their at bats in an inning with a runner on second to increase the chances of a run being scored and the tie being broken.

Each team scored in the eighth, which meant it was still tied going into the ninth, but Emory scored in the bottom of the ninth and that ended the game. Afterward Will hung around the gate next to the dugout waiting to talk to Amy, but while he was hanging out there, the coach, Penny, started chatting with him, and then I talked to her after Will found Amy and ran of with her. We talked a little bit about the program, the game, and her players, and after a few minutes she asked if Will wanted to be a bat boy sometime, which he would totally love. So we're going to try to make that happen.

Amy was very sweet as usual to Will: first she let him use her glove and threw the ball gently so he could catch it, then she had him practice throwing overhand to her (I was suprised at his distance and accuracy given that I haven't played much catch with him), and finally she found a little bat for him and pitched to him and let him run around some bases she had set up (he thought this last activity was great fun, especially as he had no respect for staying in the baselines and treated it as a game of tag instead).

I'm going to write to the coach before their next set of home games (which isn't until next week—they're away at the conference tournament all this week) to make sure she's really okay with him coming to be a bat boy, but I think she will be given that she offered it to him out of the blue. If we can work that out, I'm sure he'll be thrilled to sit in the dugout with the girls and feel like he's part of the game in some small way.


3.11.16
Today was a teacher workday at Will's school, and while Julie can normally watch him when these fall on a Friday, she had scheduled lunch with a coworker today, so she dropped him off at my work to have lunch with me while she went out.

At first he was insistent that having lunch with me at work meant actually having lunch in my office—his plan was to go get food somewhere and then come back to my office to eat. But I talked him out of that when he said he wanted to go to Rise-n-Dine and I told him they didn't do takeout there (which I think might actually be true).

A couple of my coworkers came along with us, but he didn't interact with them very much (which is pretty unusual for him) because he was very focused on his meal: two giant pancakes with nutella and bananas in the middle. I was a little hesitant to let him get a full order (they have a smaller size made with silver dollar pancakes), but he ate almost all of it, and certainly would have been asking for more if I'd made him get the smaller order.

After we finished lunch we headed back to my office to wait for mommy, and while he usually loves to run up and down the hall and chat with people, there were very few people in the building that day, so he hung out in my office and played with the phone (he likes to call people on the speakerphone now).


3.14.16
We did another race as a family on Saturday, this one a more traditional road race course that started and ended at Decatur High School. Once again, Will and Julie did the one mile while I did the 5K.

Competition really makes a big difference with Will—last week it was just he and Julie running for fun, but this time they ran with Abigail, one of his preschool classmates whose parents we've remained friends with (I go out for a drink or to see a movie every two or three weeks with Abigail's dad) and Will was far more motivated. Julie said he was running so fast at one point that she was struggling to keep up with him and that he ran the whole time except one small uphill section. I really hope we can get him reasonably into running—it would be fun to do 5Ks with him when he's a little bit older.

I didn't feel like I every really got into a groove with this race, but my time was my second fastest official 5K time ever, which made me feel a little better after my slower time on last week's trail race. It's still my goal to run a 5K in less than half an hour sometime this year, and I think my best shot is going to be a race that I ran last year which was relatively flat (especially for Atlanta)—the first time I ran it, I was almost two minutes faster than any course up until that point, and I think I'll be much faster this year.

I'm also signed up to do the Peachtree 10K this year, which I'm not really doing as a speed challenge but more to say I've done it (it's the iconic road race for Atlanta with tens of thousands of participants each year), and depending on how the season goes, I may also train for my other big running goal, running a half marathon.


3.15.16
We joined Nextdoor a few months ago, which has been both good and bad—good because we're more aware of things happening in the neighborhood, and bad because many of the things we've become more aware of are how petty and paranoid some of our neighbors are.

One of the side effects of this is that we've become hyper-aware of crime in our area (since people here seem to post about and/or call the police on everyone they see walking through the neighborhood they don't recognize) even though we've never had a problem with it on our street. Despite this, the crime postings about break-ins and theft on streets not too far from us made us a little paranoid about our current security setup (mostly an alarm system which we set religiously and motion-activated lights in the backyard) and we decided to upgrade a couple of things.

The first of these was cheap and easy—a motion-activated battery-powered LED floodlight that only cost $20 that we attached to the front corner of the house so if anyone comes close to the cars it will come on. It took about 5 minutes to install, and because it only comes on for 30 seconds at night when it detects motion, the batteries are supposed to last months with normal usage.

The second addition was more an investment in terms of both setup time and money. We really wanted to get a security camera for the front door, and while we intially considered a Ring (a smart doorbell with an embedded camera/microphone/speaker) we eventually settled on a Kuna, which puts those components in an outdoor light (and they just happened to have one that looks exactly like the like we already had at the front door.

This one had to be wired into the house, which turned out not to be too hard but which we were very cautious about because we haven't done much elecrical work before. But despite the wiring component and the fact that we had to use the supporting bracket from the old light instead of the one tha came with the Kuna (there was one screw that just would not come out of the brick for the old one), it didn't take too long to get it installed, and it only took another five minutes after that to set up an account and get it connected to our wireless network.

It's been working pretty well so far. It automatically turns the light on at dusk and off at dawn (and this is customizable as well through the app); it detects when someone is approaching the door and uploads the video from 30 seconds before the movement was detected and 30 seconds after the movement is over, and you can then download that video to your computer for long-term storage); it allows you to use a mobile app to see a live view at any time; and it also allows you to use the app to speak to someone at the door, manually turn the light on or off, and sound a very loud siren that your neighbors can definitely hear (as opposed to most internal alarm systems, which are loud inside your house but not necessarily something your neighbors could easily hear if they are inside their own houses.

The only thing that's not a great fit for our door is that you approach our front door from the side by using a sidewalk connected to the driveway, so it usually doesn't detect someone until they are already at the door—if people were approaching directly in front of our door, it would detect them as soon as they entered our property so we would be notified there was someone coming well before they actually got to the door.

We haven't actually had anyone unexpected show up at the door yet, either while we're home or while we're at work, but the video quality is pretty high, and it's pretty consistent about recognizing there's someone at the door and sending us notifications. I'm pretty pleased with this purchase, and depending on how we feel about it after another month or so, we might add another one in the backyard for added coverage.


3.16.16
On a whim, I went to see Deadpool again last night at a late showing, and it was just as good as when I saw it the first time. I still can't really reconcile the fact that Ryan Reynolds is in a great movie and one of the main reasons it's great is because of his performance (it helps that Deadpool wears a mask for most of the movie), but there you have it. I might even go see this one again before it leaves the theaters.


3.17.16
Over the weekend, I emailed the softball coach to see if I could take her up on her offer to let Will be a batboy for one of the upcoming home games, and she said yes, so I picked him up from school as soon as it let out yesterday and we headed over to the Emory softball field for the second game of a doubleheader.

The coach and the team were very welcoming, giving him the smallest helmet they had and letting him run out to pick up the discarded bats in between batters. The coach also took several pictures of/with him and posted them to her personal Twitter page (with my permission):



We were there a pretty long time—they were only halfway through the first game when we arrived, and the second game went pretty long as well, so Will was in the dugout for over three hours. I came prepared with snacks and a bottle of water, but he was clearly exhausted by the time we headed home, although he said he wanted to come back the next day for their next set of home games.


3.18.16
For his second day as bat boy, I picked him up from school a little bit later since he had art club that day, but we still made it in time to see the end of the first game and all of the second game. This time Coach Penny involved him even more in the game, letting him come out to the team huddle in between innings and the post-game talk with the team. Amy also carried him out when they did high-fives with the other team at the end of the game, which he seemed to enjoy quite a bit, and I also go to meet a new friend, Raygan, who hung out with him in the dugout and taught him a new fist bump handshake.

During the game I got to hang out with our basketball player friend Shellie, who was there to cheer on her roommate Amy. We chatted while we watched the game, and I got to learn a little bit more about her family, her boyfriend, and her post-college goals. She's only a junior, so we have another year before she leaves Emory, but Will already gets teary-eyed when he talks about her leaving, and I know we're going to miss her as well. But it's going to be a lot of fun cheering her on during her senior year when she's the captain of the team.

We made tentative plans to go see The Force Awakens and have dinner on Saturday—she's a big Star Wars fan and I thought that would make Will's first viewing of the movie even more special. We'll see if that pans out—I know she has a busy schedule, and Will also has a couple of things going on on Saturday afternoon—but it would be cool if we could make that work.


3.21.16
Our plans on Saturday were to go to the first home softball game of the afternoon (it was senior day and the last scheduled home games of the season) before heading to a birthday party for one of Will's classmates, and to follow that by having Shellie join us for a viewing of The Force Awakens and dinner afterwards.

Because of anticpated inclement weather, they canceled the softball games (we're hoping they will reschedule—it would be awesome if Will could be bat boy one more time before next year), but we still stuck to the birthday party, movie, and dinner plans. We were going to try to surprise Will about Shellie coming with us—I had mentioned to him once that Shellie might come with us, but when he asked me about it the day before I told him she wasn't going to be able to make it—and while he was definitely happy to see her sitting in the car when I pulled up to get him and Julie from the birthday party, Julie told me later than she had told him there was going to be a surprise at the movies and he said to her: "I know what it is. Shellie's coming with us." So I guess it wasn't that much of a surprise after all.

Will did pretty well with the movie. Given how much he lives in imaginationland, he's always been pretty good about being able to separate movies and tv from the real world, and he has a strong sense of what's a story and what's not even though he can get totally engrossed in visual stories. There are some pretty intense parts in The Force Awakens, and though he did as some questions about those scenes, it didn't seem to have any negative effect afterwards—whenever we asked him what he thought of the movie, it was always about how much he loved BB8 and R2.

For dinner we ate at Burger Fi in Emory Point, a favorite of Will's that we hadn't been to in a while, followed by dessert at Yogli Mogli in the Village. It was a really fun evening for all of us—Will loved jabbering to Shellie, and we enjoyed getting to know her a little bit better. She seems to genuinely enjoy hanging out with Will (she has a niece and a nephew back home who are close to his age), so we might see if she can take a couple of babysitting shifts with him before she leaves for the summer.


3.22.16
Easter is really, really early this year, so I was kind of unprepared for Palm Sunday. Our church in Decatur does a gathering prior to the service at the other end of Decatur's main street and walks down to the church, and Will did pretty well with it last year, so we did it again this year.

Last year seemed more organized, but the casual planning vibe is part of what appeals to me about the Episcopal church anyway, so even though the systems part of me is always a little critical of lack of planning (they forgot to bring the palms, for instance, and the photocopied sheet music for singing hymns), it was really no big deal. Will unsurprisingly went up to the person with the incense thurible and started asking questions about it, and after engaging with them for a few minutes, they let him be the "boat boy", meaning he got to carry the brass container that holds the extra incense and also got to stand with the clergy during the outdoor ceremony where the palms were blessed before we proceeded to the nave.

He continually amazes me with his ability to so easily and naturally connect with people, and so many of the experiences he has had over the past couple of years and that he has created for our family come as a result of his outgoing personality and his genuine curiosity about other people and the world around him. Without that, we wouldn't have gotten to know Shellie, he wouldn't have been a bat boy at the softball games, etc., all things that I think he's going to remember for the rest of his life. I'm so excited to see him continue to develop this as he grows—I can only imagine where this will take him and what kinds of new experiences he'll create for himself as he grows older and more confident.


3.23.16
On Sunday afternoon Will had his first soccer game of the season, and there's definitely been a big improvement since last season. Julie told me this after watching his previous practice (which I wasn't able to attend), but I saw it clearly during the game. Instead of being constantly distracted, having to be dragged into the game, and not really focusing on the ball when he was on the field, he was eagerly volunteering to go first, he really stayed near the ball, and several times he even got in the scrum and was fighting for the ball (last year he was always on the periphery away from the action).

He still has a lot to work on, but he seems to enjoy it a lot more than he has before, and he also seems to be gaining enough confidence in his skills that he's now interested in actively developing them and wanting to score goals, etc. I don't much care if it's specifically soccer or not, but I do want him to be regularly engaged with some sort of organized physcial activity, and so much the better if it's a team sport, so I'm hoping this transformation will continue this season and he'll ask us to do soccer again instead of us more or less telling him that he's going to do it.

After the game, we met Julie's aunt and uncle for dinner at Bojangle's. They winter in Florida (they live in Chicago) and were on their way back home after spending several weeks at their beach condo. Traffic kept them from getting to town until 7:30, so we couldn't spend a lot of time with them since Will had school the next day and we needed to get him to bed, but it's always great to see them—this uncle is the brother of Julie's dad who has the personality that is closest to Julie's dad, and I feel like Will getting to know him is as close as he's going to get to knowing what kind of grandfather Julie's dad would have been to him (her father passed away a couple of months before Will was born, so Will never got to meet him even though I think Will gets a lot of his big personality and love of people from Julie's dad).


3.24.16
I've been on another nostalgia trip when it comes to my reading these days, revisiting a series of books that I devoured when I was in my early teens but which I haven't read once since then. It's a sci fi series by writer Harry Harrison about a thief/government agent from the distant future who calls himself the Stainless Steel Rat, and I have now purchased six of the titles for the Kindle (I'm only about halfway through them at this point).

They're still pretty entertaining reads, but they are very dated in the sense that the portrayal of women in particular has both a 1960s sensibility (think early Bond films) and also has a very adolescent point of view that isn't rooted in any relationship with or understanding of real, actual women, but which seems completely plausible to a 14 year old male who's never kissed a girl.

Although the books are very readable, the plots strain credulity (even given the normal strain you allow for sci fi books), and it's also pretty clear that the protagonist is a total sociopath—a likable, mostly harmless sociopath (he doesn't believe in killing, only wants to rob large corporations who are ripping off their customers, etc.), but a sociopath nonetheless.

And remember, these stories are presented from his point of view, and as is typical with a sociopath, this character tends to gloss over bad acts that would make him look bad, even though in the real world he actually does a lot of damage to his victims physically and emotionally, feeling no remorse about assaulting anyone who gets in the way of his plan and generally mocking everyone else around him because they aren't as smart as him (although "not as smart" could often translate to "not as willing to forego societal norms for the sake of their own greed and ego).

I know I'm overthining this—they are meant to be fun, juvenile books, and I can still enjoy them from that context. But I feel a lot less admiration for this character than I did back when I was a kid and was a lot more self-centered and self-important than I (hopefully) am now. But I'm definitely going to need a palate cleanser of some good solid non-fiction after I finish this series—just as I could have lived on fast food for weeks on end as a teenager but probably couldn't do more than a couple of meals in a row now, I have a much lower capacity at this point in my life for books of lower nutritional content.


3.25.16
I impulsively decided to go see 10 Cloverfield Lane at a late showing last night (the movie started at 10:40 and I made the decision to go around 10:15), and seeing it in a sparsely populated theater very late at night was a good way to enhance the vibe of the film.

I sort of liked the first Cloverfield, but seeing/liking/understanding the first Cloverfield was completely unnecessary for viewing this film, which exists in the same universe as the other movie but which isn't connected to the first film in terms of location or characters. If not for the title, you'd have no idea that there was even a remote possibility that the two films were connected until the completely bonkers final 20 minutes, which breaks completely free of the framework set up for the majority of the movie, which is more of a tense psychological thriller than an alien invasion movie.

John Goodman gives one of the finest performances of his career, but he does so in a way that most people will probably think that he actually did a bad job. The reason for this is that his character's intonations and facial expressions are mostly flat and emotionless (although they are peppered with outbursts of anger), but I believe this is because the character has Asperger's Syndrome, which is on the autism spectrum.

They never specifically state this in the film (and indeed, someone with that affliction at the age of this character would not have been diagnosed as a child and would have stood a good chance of not being diagnosed as an adult if they mostly kept cut off from social contact as this character seems to have), but there are a lot of signs in addition to the lack of emotion and the sudden bursts of anger when he is misunderstood or realizes he's being mocked: he's an engineer (a lot of Asperger's people are highly intelligent and are very organized and detail-oriented with tasks, so fields like engineering or comptuer science are good fits for them), he's been devastated by his divorce, which also separated him from his only daughter, and he clearly struggles to understand situations that most people would have no trouble with (such as the other characters' embarrassment at having to take a shower with him standing in the room, even though they are separated from him by an opaque shower curtain and several feet of space).

Due to some of his actions and responses to emotional stimuli, it would be tempting (and easier) to read him as a sociopath, but while he clearly doesn't process emotions the same way a typical human would and he also tries to manipulate people and situations in a very emotionless manner, he struggles to comprehend emotions in a way that a sociopath would not, and he also clearly has emotions himself—he feels the loss of his daughter deeply, even though his coping response is highly inappropriate.

Again, taken in this context—that the character has a mental disorder somewhere on the autism spectrum—Goodman's performance is pretty briliiant. It's as accurate as Hoffman's portrayal in Rain Man, but it's much more nuanced and subtle, especially because the filmmakers never explain that Goodman's character has a specific mental disorder—it's up to Goodman to give us all that information through his performance.


3.28.16
In the space of about 24 hours between Saturday morning and Sunday morning, Will went to four separate Easter egg hunts.

The first was the annual egg hunt at the Callanwolde Fine Arts Center, which used to be the mansion and grounds for one of the Candler family members. We went to this one a couple of years ago and Will had a pretty good time, and we decied to go again this year after the parents of one of his neighborhood buddies told us they were planning to go. It's always ridiculously crowded, which I can only take so much of, but we got lucky in one respect: the only official parking was at a church across the street, and when we arrived we grabbed one of the last three spots.

We did some activities like little carnival games and a cake walk before the actual egg hunt, and Will had a ball, but I was pretty disappointed with the egg hunt itself—not because of the organizers or anything like that, but because of the parents. The egg hunts are broken up by age group, and there are way more eggs than kids, so if everyone had just chilled out and lets their kids go when the emcee says go, everyone would have gotten a nice little basketfull of eggs. Instead, the parents got competitively involved in multiple ways, and it was pretty disgusting to watch.

Our egg hunt was second, but instead of starting at the appointed time, they ended up starting about ten minutes early, because as soon as the previous one was done, the parents started putting pressure on the organizers to start the next one. After a few minutes, the main organizer looked like she was going to comply, announcing to everyone who had altready gathered for it that it would start in five minutes, but that no one should step onto the line until after she said to start, and that it should only be kids—no parents coming to help out, film their kids, etc.

So of course many parents immediately ignored all of this, not only sending their kids out to collect eggs before she signaled the start (and remember, we were already starting about ten minutes early), but also accompanying their children and helping them pick up eggs. We did what we were supposed to, and Will still got plenty of eggs even though he was pretty unfocused about it, running around from area to area instead of picking up all the ones immediately around him (which further demonstrates how unnecessary all of the parental nonsense was), but his friends weren't so lucky—they showed up at the appointed time, and the egg hunt was already over.

Luckily, the older child was in the next egg hunt, and the organizers let Will's friend join in that one, but some kids weren't so lucky—as we were exiting the event about half an hour after the egg hunts had concluded (the final one for the oldest kids also started way earlier than scheduled), we passed several families receiving apologies from the organizers that their kids had not been able to participate in any of the egg hunts or get any eggs despite being at the right place when they were supposed to start. And all of that unhappiness was the direct result of pushy, competitive parents who have to always have their kid be the best, get the most, and get it sooner than anyone else. Again: disgusting.

Will was completely oblivious to all this and he had a great time, but fortunately his other egg hunts were much lower key. That same afternoon we went over to another friend's house and had an egg dying party followed by an egg hunt and dinner with several friends from his soccer team, followed by the egg hunt at the house the next morning after the Easter Bunny visited, capped off by a final egg hunt after the early church service.

Will had a great time with all the activities, but I think I'm going to be okay if we never do four egg hunts again in one weekend.


3.29.16
When we first came to Atlanta, the church we joined had a sunrise Easter service outdoors on the Decatur Square, but for some reason they stopped doing it last year and it didn't appear this year either, so we went to the earlier Easter service at our church instead.

Last year they held this downstairs in the chapel, but it was overflowing with people and they didn't have enough seats, so this year they just held it in the nave. I don't think it was quite as crowded this year anyway, but it was a little hard to tell because the nave is so much bigger than the chapel.

We got home from church around 11 in the morning (there was a breakfast after our service, followed by Will's final Easter egg hunt of the weekend), and the rest of the day was pretty low key. We all took naps at some point, and Julie and I did some chores, but after such a busy Saturday and an active Sunday morning, we didn't feel like doing much else. It was a pretty good weekend overall, and it was nice to finish it with a relaxed Sunday afternoon before we had to go back to work and school.


3.30.16
Big day at work today: we're releasing our RD decisions later this afternoon, which is where we admit the bulk of the first year class for next year. It's hard to believe that this is my third year doing this for my current institution; it feels like I just got here, and not at all like I'm about to enter my fourth year of service. Which is a good thing, I think.


3.31.16
Because I need to burn off some excess vacation (I'm at my cap, and I've been taking a day of vacation each month for the past couple of months just to keep from having it go to waste) and because the month after decision release is really the only time of the year when my team has time to take a breath, I'm planning to take as much of the next week off as possible, so I probably won't be writing again until the second week of April.

I'm sure you'll all find a way to live without my posts for that amount of time, especially given how sporadically I'm able to update the site these days.

2017
december 2016
november 2016
october 2016
september 2016
august 2016
july 2016
june 2016
may 2016
april 2016
march 2016
february 2016
january 2016
2015
2014
2013
2012
2011
2010
2009
2008
2007
2006
2005
2004
2003
2002
2001
2000

main
daily links
people
cd collection
library
bio