august 2017

8.1.17
Julie has again taken off the last week before school starts again, reprising her "mommy camp" from last year. She and Will spent yesterday at one of Will's favorite places, Legoland, in the morning, and then went to the Emory outdoor pool in the afternoon.

Today they're headed to a science camp that's about an hour drive, and then tomorrow they'll do the school orientation, where Will will get to see his classroom and find out who his teacher for the year will be. I'm joining them on Thursday for a trip to Six Flags, which Will earned a free ticket to through a reading program in his school district, and then Friday, when I will leave town for a trip to a friend's wedding celebration, there will be a final as-yet-undetermined outing (Will is trying to choose between several options).

It's nice that Julie has been able to do this with him every year, and it works out well because our school district goes back to school a week later than many of the school districts around Atlanta, so a lot of the kid-friendly activities they do aren't nearly as crowded as they are the rest of the summer.


8.2.17
Game of Thrones is killing it this season—I feel like there have been very few scenes (or even sentences) that haven't been crucial for moving towards the end we know is coming. Part of this is the same thing that made last season so great—the show has moved beyond the books, so every scene is new content rather than a rehash of a scene or episode from the books.

But this year is even more intense than last season—now that the series has been given an endpoint (next year's season of seven episodes will be the last), there's a real urgency to the show, and not only does every scene feel vital, every episode ends with a major revelation/cliffhanger that in previous years might have been reserved for a season finale. I've rarely gone back and rewatched Game of Thrones episodes within a week of watching them for the first time, but this season it feels like you have to do that just to keep up because so much is being thrown at you that it's easy to miss the nuance and importance of so many of the scenes.

I think knowing that we are now watching the final 15 episodes of a show and characters that we have spent years of our life with also makes us regular viewers savor it all a bit more—as eager as we are to see the narrative concluded, we also realize that there won't be another show that's made so well and hits such a large segment of an increasingly diversified television audience for a long time. There aren't many shows out there at this point in the media landscape that so many people watch at the same time, and it's woven its way into the fabric of our pop culture hive mind in a way that few shows have been able to since the end of the four channel network television era.


8.7.17
Last Thursday, Julie and I both took the day off to take Will to Six Flags, which we also did last year the week before school started (although thankfully it was a bit cooler than last year). We go there right at 10:30 when the park opened, and Will wasted no time in getting to the rides he wanted to do the most.

We went on all his favorites from last year—the haunted mansion, the old timey car racetrack, the log flume, and the giant swings—but I also convinced him to try a rollercoaster that he was too small to ride last year that had three loops on the track. He's been talking about wanting to ride a rollercoaster that goes upside down for a couple of years now, but he's always been too short, so I thought he would be excited. Curiously, though, as he's gotten older, he's gotten a bit more cautious, so even though he's still pretty adventurous and unafraid, I do see more moments of anxiety or fear when it comes to big new things.

That definitely happened in this case—he started to have a mini freakout as the ride started to make its way up the first hill (which really wasn't that big), and he was still kind of freaking out during the ride itself, but it was over pretty quickly and he started to recover his confidence and talk about how it wasn't that bad as the day went on. I couldn't convince him to ride it again, though, and even though he got onto another similar coaster a little later in the day, he also decided to get off before it left the boarding area, so he and Julie waited for me to ride it.

Although I love rollercoasters now, I never would have ridden on one with loops when I was his age, and it wasn't really until high school that I started to warm up to those kinds of coasters and then to really appreciate and enjoy them. So he's still way ahead of the game as far as I'm concerned, and I'm sure that he'll get more comfortable with them as he gets a little more mature.

There was one new ride there that they were in the process of building last year—a 4D superhero-themed ride where you got to shoot bad guys and rack up points while helping the Justice League. That was the longest line we waited in the entire day, but it was pretty worth it—Will had a ball and it was nice to be in some air conditioning (both for the ride itself and for much of the waiting in line).

We unintentionally ended the day the same way we did last year: riding on the train that circles the park and has two stops that take you to one side or the other. Last year we got on the train for its very last trip of the day just before the park was closing, but this year we decided to use it to get to the other side of the park around 5:00 (the park closes at 7:30). As we were riding, it started to rain, so we just decided to stay on the train until the rain stopped.

But eventually it was coming down so hard that they even stopped the train from running (all of the other rides had been shut down a little bit earlier), and it became clear that because of the time of day (it was close to 6:00 by then) and the fact that it didn't look like the rain was going to let up anytime soon, none of the rides were going to reopen that day. So we walked to the parking lot in a light drizzle in between major downpours (the radar on the weather app helped with that). Will was a little bummed out, but we let him get a toy from the store on the way out of the park, and they helped ease the pain.


8.8.17
A very close friend of mine from high school celebrated his wedding last weekend, and I decided to drive up to NC to participate in the festivities. He actually got married up in New York in his wife's hometown on July 1, but this was a big party for all of their local friends to toast their union.

He and his wife are bar owners (they bought the bar just under two years ago), and they've made a point of bringing a lot of music acts to the bar and revitalizing its reputation as a live music venue. Their bar wasn't big enough for the party, and I had never been there (I've only been to the Triangle area once since they bought it), but as I was driving in to my hotel on Highway 54, I saw the sign for their establishment and decided to pull in and see if there were there.

They were, so I hung out for a few minutes with them and met some of their other out-of-town friends who happened to be there as well. They wrote down the name of the place they'd be having dinner/haning out in later that evening, so I went to check into my hotel with tentative plans to meet up with them later.

I also had vague plans to meet up with another friend from high school who lives in the area for drinks later in the evening, but by the time I got to my hotel and got checked in, I was hit with a wave of exhaustion, so I didn't end up going to meet anyone. Instead I walked around Carrboro a little bit, got something to eat, and then headed back to my room to get to bed early.

It was kind of a lame way to spend that first night of the weekend, but man, I don't think I've slept so long or so soundly in ages. I had a big day the next day—not only was there Kirk's party, which I expected to be at for at least five or six hours, but I also had a friend coming down from Richmond on Saturday morning—and a long night's sleep combined with a pretty leisurely Saturday morning waiting for my friend to get into town meant I had all the energy I'd need to get through the rest of a very long (but very amazing) day.


8.9.17
Around 11 a.m. on Saturday morning, my friend Tom arrived from Richmond, and we ended up spending the afternoon over in Raleigh at the North Carolina Museum of Art.

I hadn't been to the museum in many, many years (certainly not since Will was born, but probably for many years before that as well), but they have a Georgia O'Keeffe that I'm particularly fond of, and I also have great nostalgia for the museum building itself, as it's the first proper art museum that I ever remember visiting.

It has changed A LOT since the last time I was there. There's a giant new building that now houses their entire permanent collection, which has grown significantly since the last time I was there. It unforunately looks like a big temporary steel shed from the outside even though it's actually made of glass and inside it's all white walls and hardwood floors with huge ceilings and lots of muted natural light like you would expect from an art museum.

The original building is still there, but now it is home to temporary/traveling exhibits, and there wasn't much to see there when we went—they were getting the larger spaces ready for the fall season's exhibits, but there were two photography shows downstairs (including an excellent series by writer Eudora Welty) and an installation above the central staircase that was pretty cool—hundreds of mechnical butterfiles suspended from the ceiling that collectively looked like a fighter jet with its exhaust trail. Each butterfly was also hooked to a power source in the ceiling, and a computer program would randomly have them flap their wings, so the whole suspended sculpture was constantly shifting and flickering.

I forgot that they had some lovely Impressionist pieces, including a few Monets that were my first exposure to that artist and which I'd completley forgotten about. There was also a painting by an artist whose name I've now forgotten and I can't find on the museum web site (Google image search is proving to be of no help either) that features birds in flight over a landscape, as if you're looking down from the birds' point of view that I've always loved—it was made before we actually had midair photographs of what landscape looks like from above, so the aerial view was entirely from the artist's imagination

Tom and I were both quite taken with a painting by Frederick Carl Frieseke of two ladies sitting in a garden under an umbrella. It was just such a weird painting—the supposed subject is the author's wife (one of the women in the painting) and her irritation at having her afternoon of reading interruped, but it's clear that the giant sun parasol is the real star of the canvas.

It dominates a full quarter of the painting, and the distorted perspective is way off—even allowing for an odd angle, the shaft is clearly not straight and the umbrella itself is cramped and not drawn correctly on the upper edge. It's like the artist painted it without regard to either perspectival accuracy and without knowing what else would go around it, and then ignored the former and just put a scene with a largely blue-green palette (in contrast to the umbrella's wild oranges and reds) to fill up the rest of the canvas and give a background to the parasol. It was pretty wonderful.

Their 20th century collection had expanded quite a bit from what I remember, including a Hans Hoffman that I hated even though I love that artist, a huge piece by Anselm Kiefer that Tom spent quite a bit of time explaining to me, and a Gerhard Richter painting that I liked quite a bit. Unfotunately my beloved O'Keeffe was not on display—some of the newer galleries were being rehung, and that particular piece was with the curators.

After we spent an hour or two in the museum buildings, we went on the extensive art trail around the museum, which was also new since the last time I was there. We ended up walking across a pedestrian bridge that goes over the interstate that I'd driven under many times but never knew how to get to on foot, and then we circled back around to the parking lot and headed back to Chapel Hill.


8.10.17
It was around 4:30 by the time we got back to Carrboro and walked over to the Cat's Cradle, where my friend Kirk was having his party to celebrate his recent marriage to Jody. The party was officially supposed to start at 5 or 5:30, but there wasn't any setup left to do when we go there, so Tom and I walked up to Franklin Street and got a bowl of noodles for lunch/dinner (we hadn't had anything to eat all day).

The way Kirk's party worked was that the back room of the Cat's Cradle had it's bar open (not free, but open for business) and the local bands who were playing the celebration played on that stage, while the main room of the Cat's Cradle was where the potluck buffet was set up. The live music started around 5:45, and each band would play 30 minutes or so and then there'd be a 20 minute break while they got their gear offstage and the next band got set up.

The bands were mostly local bands that played a lot of classic rock covers and rock/blues originals, all of whom were regular performers at Kirk and Jody's bar, the Kraken. You could wander in and listen to the bands or sit outside on the deck and chat with people, which is what Tom and I mostly did after watching the first three or four bands. I didn't get to spend a ton of time with Kirk because he was the man of the hour and there were at least 100 people who stopped by over the course of the night, but I met some new folks who were good current friends with the couple and also got to spend a lot of time with another friend from high school, Marc, who still lives in Carrboro area and hangs out a lot with Kirk.

Around 1:00 everyone started to drift back to their hotels or homes, and we were headed back to ours, but then one of Marc's friends convinced us to come with her for a final drink at a social club a couple of blocks away. We found a big table on the patio out back and were soon joined by two more of Marc's friends, and then a few minutes later by Kirk and Jody themselves, who had also decided to come out for one last drink before heading to their hotel.

We left around 2:30, and since Jody and Kirk were also staying over in the same hotel as Tom and me, we walked with them and said our goodbyes in the elevator. It was a really great evening, one that I'll remember for a long, long time—I just wish I still lived close enough to Kirk where I could see him more often than once every year or two.


8.11.17
I usually really look forward to HBO's Hard Knocks, a documentary series where they follow an NFL team through training camp, lagging a week or so behind actual events. The quality of the show can vary greatly depending on the drama on the team and what the team allows them to show, and so far this year looks to be one of the worst.

You know how watching the Olympics used to be about actually watching the events, but how over the last couple of decades it has turned into a treacly series of soft-focus athlete bios occasionally intercut with those athletes actually participating in their sports? That what this season feels like so far. They spent far too much time profiling the players outside of the training camp, and we didn't really get any raw, uncensored conversations from the film rooms or the practice field.

The team they're covering this year is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and it's clear that the team wants to use this as a way to make a bigger star out of its second year quarterback Jameis Winston, who was their first round draft pick a year ago after winning both the Heisman and a national championship a Florida three years ago.

When the show is great, it's because you feel like you're getting a relatively uncensored look at the interpersonal drama and organizational dysfunction of a team (although it's still pretty tightly controlled). This is so bland and boring that it feels almost scripted, but scripted by a writing team whose goal is to either make you fall asleep or quickly change the channel.

We'll see if it gets any better as the season progresses—they often do a lot of scene-setting and character introduction in the first couple of episodes—but there don't seem to be any big characters who are making it onto film, and the coaching staff to a person seems as dull and unremarkable as a bag of rocks. Whether that's because the team wants them portrayed that way or because that's how they really aren't doesn't actually matter in the end—whatever the reason, it doesn't make for good television.


8.14.17
There are two things that have happened in my life that I play over and over again in my head with a sense of dread and panic, even though both of them turned out okay.

The first was when I was playing golf with some friends from work on a public course close to our office. When we were waiting to tee off about midway through the front nine, we noticed an object on the course, and then noticed the foursome in front of us seeming to aim at it. After we teed off and got close to it, we realized it was a turtle that had crawled onto the course from a nearby creek.

I was concerned that other golfers might hit him accidentally or on purpose, and seriously injure him, so I went over to pick him up and carry him back to the creek. But as I did so, lifting him gently using the back half of his shell, his whipped his head out of his shell and tried to bite me, as fast as a snake strike. He was a snapping turtle, and he nearly took off my thumb. It was just dumb luck that my digits were just beyond his read.

The second scene I replay over and over in my head is when we were driving down to my parents' house in North Carolina from Maryland. We were skipping the beltline around DC and instead taking some of the smaller highways east of the city, some of which had stretches with lots of strip malls and stoplights.

It was raining that day, and we were on one of those stretches with lots of stoplights. As we were approaching an intersection, the light turned yellow and the car in front of me started to accelerate to get through it, and I followed suit. But then suddenly he slammed on his brakes, and I was going to fast to stop without hitting him. But instinctually—and there's really no other way to say it, because it wasn't a conscious decision—I veered to the left of the car and ended up in between that car and a pickup truck that was in the left turn lane for that light, with only inches to spare on either side.

That could have so easily been a major accident, either plowing into the car in front of me or hitting both the car and the pickup truck, and even though I eneded up hitting neither vehicle and we continued on our way, it's just absolute blind luck and reflexive skill that kept us from getting into an accident where there quite likely would have been severe injury and which probably would have totaled our car.

Now I have a third thing to replay in my head over and over. On Saturday night Will and I were at a minor league baseball game with my sister and her husband (Julie was at a work function, so she couldn't join us), sitting on the first base side just on the edge of the outfield. Usually when a foul ball is hit to that area of the stands, it's one of those high, slow ones where you can see it coming and have a chance to catch it with your bare hands. But still, I was watching the batters carefully, because Will defnitely was not.

Will was leaning his head on my sister's arm (he was to the right of me, and she was to the right of him) when suddenly my sister flinched, and then a baseball dropped into Will's lap. I had been watching the batter and hadn't seen it coming, it came off the bat so fast and at such a weird angle. I don't think anyone in the section saw it coming.

It hit my sister just below her shoulder, in about as good a spot as you can get hit. She had an enormous black bruise there for several days afterward, but otherwise was unhurt. Again, everything turned out fine, but that ball had to have been inches from Will's head, and with the speed it was going, if it had hit him in the head, it could have caused serious damage or maybe even killed him.

He was luckily completely unaware of this, but it scared me and my sister to death, and I can't stop thinking about how close we came to having a very terrible night.


8.15.17
Other than the terrifying near-miss with the foul ball, the baseball game was great fun. It was at the Gwinnett Braves, who have a great stadium that feels pretty new, and we were going with a big group to watch one of my sister's friend's daughters perform in a pregame marching band thing.

The giveaway was a baseball-shaped soft lunchbox, and it was also the mascot's ninth birthday, and to celebrate a lot of other mascots from around Atlanta were also present and taking pictures with kids. In addition, our ticket gave us each a Gwinnett Braves hat, so Will came away with a lot of fun swag (including, of course, in infamous foul ball, which he absolutely loved).

After a couple of innings, I took Will to play in the kids zone and then get some dinner. We got sausages (I also let Will get an orange soda as a special treat), and just as we were heading back to our seats to eat them, it started raining, so we found a table under shelter to stand and eat our dinner at.

The rain got stronger, and soon they rolled the tarp onto the infield. My sister and her friends decided to leave and go get dinner rather than wait it out, but Will really, really wanted to stay, so we waited about 45 minutes and then the game started back up. He loved watching them rolling the tarp back up, and we both enjoyed the rainbow that appeared in the sky shortly after play resumed.

The Braves were ahead by a good bit, so i was lobbying to leave around the seventh inning (when the game would normally have been over if not for the rain delay), but again, Will was lobbying hard to stay. So we stayed and sang "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" together and watched until the very end to see the Braves victory.

Afterwards they had a pretty awesome fireworks display—I had pretty low expectations, but they were pretty elaborate and lasted for about 10 minutes. Will loved every minute of it, and was so excited by the evening's events that he didn't fall asleep on the way home despite it being well past his bedtime.


8.16.17
We didn't do a whole lot on Sunday, but we did continue our new tradition of walking to dinner, this time choosing to walk to Lucky's in Emory Village. As an added bit of fun, we stopped on the way and picked up one of Will's buddies from first grade last year, a girl named Evie whose father I've also become friends with. Her younger sister Annika also joined us.

Will hasn't gotten to see Evie much recently because she now goes to a different school, and they had a lot of fun together on the walk to and from the restaurant, and Will also got to introduce her to his favorite food in the world, fried dill pickles. Before we walked back, we also had a stop at the cookie store, where Evie and her sister got ice cream and Will got a cookie with mini M&Ms. It was a nice night, and it was fun to include another family in our walk.


8.17.17
I just finished reading The One Device, which is a history of the iPhone. It got pretty good reviews, but I wasn't that impressed—it seems like the author couldn't get enough first-hand witnesses to/participants in the creation of the iPhone to make a whole book, so he started supplementing it with other bits of investigative journalism, such as visiting the mines where a lot of the rare minerals used in the iPhone and the Chinese factories where iPhones are assembled.

These chapters weren't too bad, but what I didn't like was that the writer spent a lot of time trying to hang the working conditions in these areas solely on Apple and the iPhone, when in fact almost every bit of modern technology (including the tens of billions of smartphones made by Apple's competitors) uses these same rare elements sourced from the same mines and assembled in the same factories used to assemble iPhones.

There were also a good number of chapters that tried to debunk the revolutionary nature of the iPhone by investigating the history of multitouch, the scratch-resistant glass used in the iPhone screen, and the fast but low power consumption chips that are used in many mobile devices today (including the iPhone and the iPad). It was interesting to learn more about these histories, but what got old was the author's subtext: no technology in the iPhone was genuinely new, so the device is less of a radical leap forward in technology than we've been led to believe.

To me, he proved the opposite of that: if you look at the state of the art in these technologies prior to Apple and the iPhone, it's clear that all of them took significant leaps forward due to Apple directly or due to Apple's influence/insistence on new materials and processors to create the hardware for its devices. Without Apple, something like multitouch still might be confined to near future science fiction stories, because they made it work more smoothly and elegantly than ever before, taking years of research by dedicated teams to do so).

Yes, lots of people, including many outside Apple, had a hand in the long history of various technologies that are crucial to the iPhone, and other material and hardware manufacturers also had significant roles to play, but without Apple's vision, it might have been another decade before we had a device that approached the functionality and interface of the original iPhone, to say nothing of the much more advanced versions that are on the market today, a decade later.

I really wanted more of the behind-the-scenes with the people who actually created the device, and although there are some folks who were able to speak candidly and on the record about their experience on the team, this still has an unauthorized biography sort of feel—there's really nothing from the leaders on the project, and no sense of the strategy in developing the iPhone from the executive levels of Apple.

It's a decent book about the contemporary landscape of technology development and manufacturing, but if there is ultimately going to be One Book that tells the full story of the One Device, this isn't that—but it will likely end up feeding some of the paragraphs and footnotes in that book if it ever gets written).


8.18.17
My mom is out at my sister's house watching her dogs for her while she's out of town (my sister only trusts one petsitter in her area, so whenever that sitter is unavailable she begs my mom to make the six hour drive to stay with her dogs when she's away), but yesterday, as a surprise, she made the 45 minute drive to Atlanta and went with me to pick up Will from school.

She came into school with me and hid while he walked down the hall toward me, but he caught site of her as he was jabbering about his day and stopped midsentence to exclaim "Gabby!". She hung out with him and played games while we waited for Julie to get home from work, and then we all went out to dinner at Arepa Mia, one of our favorite Decatur restaurants that just moved to a new location down the road in Avondale.

My mom had to leave soon after we got back from dinner, but she's supposed to be here for at least a week, so hopefully we'll get to see her a couple more times before she heads back to Myrtle Beach. Will loves hanging out with her, and since she's the only grandparent close enough to visit on a regular basis, we want to make sure to take advantage when she's in the area.


8.21.17
Our weekend was about as busy as I've come to expect with our very socially active seven year old, starting with our typical take out dinner and movie night at home on Friday. We're started a new policy when it comes to picking the food and movie: each week we will rotate who gets to be the decider about the movie and the food, with one person picking the flim and one picking what we have for dinner. The third person will then get to decide where we go when we walk to dinner on Saturday or Sunday night, and we'll rotate the next week. This not only helps Will learn about cooperation and compromise, but it also means we'll get to eat more than pizza on Friday nights.

Saturday we went out to my sister's house to spend the afternoon with my mom. We arrived around 1 and brought lunch with us, and Will wolfed down his food so he could get in the pool as quickly as possible. My sister's pool is great in the summertime until around 4-5 p.m., when the trees cast their shadows over the pool and the water starts to feel cold. Will and I were in the pool pretty much the entire time, and we spent a good bit of it playing a game where we would race each other to a toy that we would throw to the other side of the pool. It's harder to get him to actually swim now that he's just tall enough to hop around the pool on his tippy toes and keep his head above water, but that game forced him to swim or else he'd never beat me.

Sunday was the start of Sunday school at church, and then we had a quiet afternoon before walking to an Irish pub in Decatur for dinner. Will got pizza despite my cajoling him to try something different, but I did get him to taste several bites of my shepherd's pie, which he seemed to like.


8.22.17
Yesterday we picked up Will early from school so we could watch the eclipse with him, and my mom also drove over from my sister's so she could watch it with us too. Once everyone was at the house, Julie drove them up to the campus where I worked and we staked out a bench on the plaza outside my building. We were out there just after 1, before too many other people were starting to watch, but even that early you could see the moon starting to obscure a sliver of the sun when you put your eclipse glasses on.

We stayed until the peak in our area, around 2:35 p.m., and enjoyed seeing the crescent-shaped shadows created by the light filtering through the trees on the perimeter of the plaza. We had 97% coverage in Atlanta, which was weird on two fronts: first, how eerily dim the light got during the moments when coverage was highest, including a drop in temperature, and second, how bright the sun still is even with only 3% of it showing.

You might wonder why, being so close to areas in the path of totality (there were several options that were within a 2-3 hour drive), we didn't make a day of it and see the full eclipse. I'm hoping I don't second guess this decision later, but my reasoning was that there will be another total eclipse in seven years, and it Will is really into it, we will definitely take a family trip to see that one when he can better appreciate it. If there wasn't going to be another total eclipse for 20 or 30 years, I think we would have done more to fully experience this one, but it was still a really cool experience, and hopefully one that we'll experience in full in a few years.


8.23.17
I've gone from really enjoyed the first few episodes of Game of Thrones this season (after loving last season) to now feeling like we're on a roller coaster that's running off the tracks.

It's cool to see how much gets packed into each episode, but I'm definitely feeling like the showrunners and writers are realizing that they just don't have enough show hours left to tell the story the want to tell properly, like a painter running out of canvas, so they're just cramming stuff in left and right without any regard to timelines and character development (or fidelty to characters that have already been developed).

They still have one king-sized episode left this season to right the ship, but I'm getting increasingly concerned it will be more of the same. Even if they reveal that some characters are true to the personalities and skills that we know from past seasons (like Arya, who was a fan favorite before but has been utterly unidentifiable the past couple of episodes), it's still going to come across as clumsy and ham-handed in comparison to the slowly unfolding arcs that sometimes spanned multiple seasons.


8.24.17
I just finished reading Old Records Never Die: One Man's Quest for His Vinyl and His Past by a writer named Eric Spitznagel. It has an interesting premise: a guy who collected most of his music on vinyl in the 80s but who sold it all off throughout the 90s tries to go back and restore as much of his collection as possible, not just by buying copies of the records he owned, but by finding the actual records that used to belong to him.

His reasoning is that he still lives in the same geographic region as he did growing up, and the records probably didn't travel too far outside that region's vinyl collecting scene. He focuses on a few specific albums, ones that would be identifiable by either something unique written on the sleeve or a by a distinctive pattern of scratches on the record itself, things that he could use to identify them as his records with great certainty.

I really, really wanted to like this book, and I'm probably about as square in his target demographic as you can get. He's about my age, and most of my memories of what I was listening to and what I was experiencing musically via pop culture are similar, and I'm a sucker of quixotic nostalgic impulses. But this was too much midlife crisis memoir and not enough about the records themselves; a better writer (or, more to the point, a more forceful editor) would have realized this didn't need to be its own book and written it as a longform piece for a magazine, where it might not have seemed quite so self-indulgent and irrelevant to anyone except the writer.

This book would have benefitted greatly from an approach that I took some issue with in the last book I read, The One Device, which is about the history of the iPhone. One way to cut the overly sentimental and personal chapters (all of them, in the book that actually exists) would have been to interleave them with chapters about the history of vinyl: when and how it came to be came to be the dominant format for music, when it started to decline, how it came back, and how today's specialty vinyl difffers from records made in past decades when the format was at its peak. He references some of these things obliquely, but it always quickly returns to his own very narrowly focused story of himself.

He somehow got Wilco's Jeff Tweedy to write the forward (his day job seems to be as some sort of entertainment writer/interviewer based in Chicago, so I guess that makes some sense), and that was far and away the best part of the book. I just can't recommend this to anyone, even if you feel like you are a kindred spirit with this writer and grew up in the same era he did.


8.25.17
Even though I've been exercising regularly (at least half an hour of exercise and burning through my Move calorie target every single day this year so far), I've gotten out of the habit of running. Running is the most intense workout I do, and when I was doing it regularly (three times a week), I was also at my best in terms of losing weight and keeping it off.

The last time I ran on any kind of regular basis was over the winter when I joined the gym at my institution and would run on the indoor track there in the evenings when it was too cold and too dark to run my neighborhood routes. I let my membership lapse when we got to the spring, thinking that I would just continue to run by returning to my neighborhood routes, but it never became a part of my routine, and before this week it had been at least a month since I'd run (and probably closer to two months).

So I've joined the gym again, and will use the outdoor track for training until it gets cold enough to move inside (which probably won't be at least until November). I hate the idea of not training in the neighborhood, because most of the 5Ks in Atlanta take place on hilly routes similar to streets near my house, but at this point, I need to focus on a routine that will simply get me running again and allow me to build up the muscles in my legs.

So the first 5K I will do as my re-dedication to running will be one that fits this training regimen: the Mayor's 5K on the 5th Runway, where the race actually takes place on one of the runways at the Atlanta airport. I've done this once before, in its inaugural year two years ago (I missed last year's race because I was ill), and it was the closest thing I've had to a transformative experience on a run.

It's not until the end of September, so I've got a few weeks to get back into decent shape, and hopefully at that point I'll also feel good enough about my running to resume the occasional neighborhood route in preparation for running a couple more traditional 5Ks (Julie and I have done the Thanksgiving one the past couple of years, and there was a fun evening one in December that we did last year that would be fun to do again). But right now I just need to get back on track with running regularly, whatever the format, and using that as a vital tool in reducing and maintaining my weight.


8.28.17
Normally on Friday nights we get takeout and watch a movie together at home, but last Friday we had a special surprise for Will: we told him we weren't going to be able to have movie night because we had errands to run, but when he went into his room to get his shoes on, my sister was waiting there for him, ready to whisk him away for an overnight stay at her house.

Even better: when he went to get in her car, he opened to door to find my mom sitting inside, after believing that she had headed back to her house earlier in the week. They went out to dinner at Steak and Shake, then proceeded to my sister's house where they watched one of the new Smurfs movies. And he got to sleep in the top bunk of the bunk beds in one of their guest rooms, which he loved.

On Saturday he said goodbye to my mom because she had to head back to her house, but he got an afternoon pool party with my sister and brother in law. At some point in the afternoon, they also went to visit friends who had a henhouse, so Will got to hold some chicks and even a full grown chicken.

We met my sister at one of her friends' houses near Lilburn around 7 Saturday evening, and as soon as I saw Will I knew he was going to lose it soon. He needs his sleep, and not only had he been up until after 11 on Friday, he also got up early and had a full day on Saturday.

We let him run around the house and play with the other kids for a few minutes (the family was hosting a big party, so there were tons of folks there), but we didn't even make it to the car before he burst out in tears over some perceived slight or injustice. But he was really just exhausted, so we got him home and got him into bed as fast as we could.


8.29.17
On Sunday we went to church in the morning and then headed over to Grant Park for the Summer Shade Festival, which had music performances, art vendors, and food trucks spread all across the park. Grant Park is where the zoo is as well, but the bulk of the festival took place on the opposite side of the park from the zoo.

We got pretty lucky with parking—the lot there was completely full, and there were tons of people like us patrolling and looking for drivers leaving, but we only had to drive around about five minutes before we found a spot pretty close to the festival entrance.

Will got his lunch at a mac and cheese food truck, going for the buffalo mac and cheese with chicken, hot sauce, and bleu cheese crumbles. Julie got some vegetarian noodles from another truck, and we all sat in the grass together to listen to one of the bands.

We'd never been to this festival before, but it was HUGE. I couldn't believe how many art vendors there were, and there were at least two music stages, separated by a 15 minute walk through the park past all the vendors. Will started seeing stuff he wanted to get almost immediately, so we told him we'd walk through and look at everything and then talk about whether there was one things that we might buy.

In the end, we narrowed it down to a t-shirt with a robot on it that the artist printed on a hand-crank press in front of you and a painting of a robot by another artist. I really wanted the painting, so we ended up getting both. The painting was actually the third in a triptych, but the artist is local, so we might end up getting the other two at some point (they were original paintings, but he seems to make multiple copies of each picture).

It was pretty warm out, and we could tell Will was running out of gas after a few hours, so we headed back to the car around 4, stopping at the Atlanta United booth on the way, where Will spun the prize wheel and won an Atlanta United flag. It was a fun day—we'll definitely have to do that festival again next year.


8.30.17
Alright. The Game of Thrones season finale was both bonkers and almost entirely predictable—nearly every big reveal had been guessed at based on clues from previous episodes. And I don't go digging around for spoilers and fan theories, so if they were predictable to me, then I know they were likely known by the vast majority of the people who are into the show enough that they have to watch new episodes the same night they air.

They didn't fully recover from the out of control feeling that has been building for the past few episodes as they tried to cram more and more into a limited number of minutes to get the show positioned for its final season next year, but it was an episode with a bit slower pacing that allowed the charcter interactions and stories to feel a little less rushed.

But some of the plot elements were handled very clumsily (Littlefinger is the biggest example of this), and in general it still felt like many of the main characters were just a shell of the personalities that we grew to love over the previous six seasons. And there is still SO much to do to wrap up the final season, especially given that it will also only be seven episodes like this season.

Honestly, if HBO had known what a huge hit this show was going to be, they could have easily stretched this to a dozen or more seasons instead of the eight we'll end up with. There are rumors of one or two spinoffs that will keep us in this universe, but the Song of Ice and Fire proper will wrap up next year one way or the other.

I'm lookind forward to seeing how it all gets resolved, especially because I have lost all faith that George R.R. Martin will ever finish writing his version of the series (I'm not even convinced he'll ever finish the next book, which he's been working on for six years already with no release date in sight). But I hope they find a way to control the pacing so it doesn't feel so hurried and reckless—after a long, slow burn to build to the events of this season, it's like the tempo tripled and the show became something almost entirely different from what it's been for the first six seasons.


8.31.17
Earlier this week Will's classroom hosted their first parent night, where we got to see his classroom, meet his teacher, and learn a little bit about her teaching style and curriculum. We got our neighbor Gracelyn to come watch Will for a couple of hours while we went, and then walked over to school once we'd gotten him settled in with dinner.

This is by far the youngest teacher we've had at this school—she's only been teaching for three or four years, and she has a lot of energy. She seems a lot more nurturing than Will's previous teachers, which is a better fit for his personality, but she's also strict when she needs to be, which is also good for Will. He seems to really like her, and she's definitely putting a lot of thought into her communications with parents, which is also a bit of a positive change compared to previous years.

Will never seems to keep his best friends in his class from year to year—they always end up in new classrooms—but he was acquaintances with enough kids that he settled in quickly and is now developing a new set of best friends. He has had a really good experience so far with this school, which I attribute equally to the overall school culture, the overall community/parent involvement, and his own personality. It's nice not to have that be one of our worries as a parent—he really enjoys school and also does pretty well with the academic side.

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