november 2019

11.1.19
We were worried that Halloween was going to be rained out this year, but we got lucky—even though it had been raining all day, the rain let up about 5:00 and although it was still cold, we were able to head out for a couple of hours of trick or treating with Will.

As is her habit, my sister wanted to come with us as well, but there was a problem: she had surgery on her knee a few weeks ago and she still can't walk that far or that fast. But Carrie always finds a way to do what she wants, so she came up with a solution: she and her husband towed their golf cart (which they use to drive around their neighborhood to visit friends) all the way to Atlanta, and she drove that around, following Will as we walked.

Will had fun riding around in it every now and then, but he was really good about walking most of the time and limiting his golf cart time. He went as a bioluminescent spider this year: the spider was his idea, Julie made that costume, and I suggested purple LED lights to turn him into a glowing spider.

He had a major haul as usual. I learned my lesson from last year, so while he took a little blue jack o'lantern to collect candy with, I brought a big vinyl grocery bag that he could periodically empty his candy into. When we got home, I weighed it before he ate any of it: over seven pounds of candy collected.

It was a pretty fun night, and I'm glad my sister was able to come. I don't know how many more years he'll want to do this, but I'm hoping he'll be a late abandoned of trick or treating and that we'll be seeing him in fun costumes for at least a few more years.

Here are our pumpkins for this year:


11.4.19
Busy, busy, weekend, and long entry because I'm leaving tomorrow for a conference that will keep me out of town until Friday afternoon.

I had a college fair on Saturday, and although I was only supposed to work a couple of hours (from 12-2:30), I got an email from the other person who was supposed to be there that he was having car trouble. So I took the entire shift from 9:30-2:30, and I also had to take all the extra materials back to the office once the fair was over. The fair wrapped up a little bit early, but I still didn't get home until after 3.

By the time I got there, our weekend visitors were in town: Julie's aunt and uncle from Chicago, who stop by on their drives between Chicago and Florida (where they have a condo that they spend a few months at per year). Her uncle is the older brother of her father, and he reminds us her father in so many ways. Will never got to know his grandfather on that side of the family—he heartbreakingly passed away a few months before Will was born, so he knew Will was coming but never got to meet him—so this is the closest Will can come to experiencing what it would have been like to hang out with his grandfather.

We went out to dinner at a cajun restaurant we've been wanting to try, but there was a really long wait, so we went to hang out in a nearby Starbucks while we waited. It was mostly worth it—all the food was really good, and I especially liked my crawfish etoufee, the dish I always try first at a new cajun restaurant. We'll definitely be going back, but probably on a weeknight when there hopefully won't be as much of a wait.

They had to leave on Sunday, but we met up with them one more time for brunch. It's always good to see them, and we especially appreciated that they stayed longer this trip so they could spend more time with Will.

Now for football. Let's start with UGA, who faced the second of their three big regular season games against ranked teams this season (the first was Notre Dame in September, and the third will be in November at Auburn). This was the annual Cocktail Party game against Florida, which is hosted at a neutral site in Jacksonville, and this year the Gators have also been very good (going into the game, they were actually ranked higher than UGA—Florida was ranked 6 while Georgia was ranked 8 after their unexpected double overtime loss in Athens against unranked South Carolina).

It was a pretty low-scoring game, but UGA never trailed, and although they gave up two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, they were sandwiched around a Georgia touchdown that gave them the points they need to come away with a 24-17 win. This was a huge game because it gives them a tiebreaker edge for the SEC East title—if both teams win out, UGA will end up winning the division and going to the SEC championship game.

As for the Ravens...well, they were coming off a bye week and they had a home game, but they were playing one of two undefeated teams in the NFL, the Super Bowl defending champion New England Patriots, who have, from a statistical standpoint, the best defense in the NFL this year in additional to their consistently reliable offense. The Ravens had won three in row, including a decisive road win against playoff contending Seattle, but this was a game that most pundits picked for New England.

But man, were the pundits wrong. The Ravens dominated from their first possession, scoring a touchdown and then adding a field goal by the end of the first quarter. The Ravens never trailed, but things certainly tightened up in the second quarter: while the offense scored another touchdown early on, a muffed punt led to a New England recovery that resulted in a touchdown, and that was compounded by a fumble recovered by New England that led to a field goal. Going into the half, the score was 17-13 Baltimore, with the Patriots getting the ball to start the third quarter.

It looked like this might turn into one of New England's classic comebacks as Brady marched the offense methodically downfield, but then, with the ball at the 30 yard line, the Ravens defense stripped the ball from Julian Edelman, recovered the fumble, and ran it back 70 yards for a touchdown. It was pretty much over after that: even though the Patriots would score on their next possession to pull within 4, the Ravens dominated the fourth quarter, adding two more touchdowns (one of which came after an interception by the defense) and dominating time of possession. Final score 37-20 Baltimore (with half of New England's points coming off of turnovers that gave the Patriots great field position).

I became a true believer in Lamar Jackson and this team after they beat Seattle (after being cautiously optimistic based on his 6-1 performance after he took over as the starter midway through last season), but if they can stay focused after this win, this could turn into a really special season. Even if they lose against the tougher matchups still remaining on their schedule (namely the Texans and the 49ers), they should still win the division, and now that they defense seems to be gelling, they could go deep into the playoffs and could be a legitimate Super Bowl contender.


11.11.19
My conference in DC last week was pretty good, although I was annoyed at my room—weird placement in an older section of the hotel that faced out onto a loading dock and two condo buildings (one of which was doing major construction on an outdoor patio, which meant it was pretty hard to concentrate when I would take a break from the conference during the day to get a little work done in my room).

The highlights of the trip were non-conference-related, however. Dinner and drinks with a colleague from Drexel who I hadn't seen since May 2018, and dinner with one of my college professors, who is now retired and living in DC while doing research at the Folger Shakespeare Library. The dinner with my colleague was at a restaurant near the hotel, but the dinner with my professor, Gail, was truly special: she got us reservations at one of chef Jose Andres restaurants, Jaleo.

Gail had been there several times before, and she recommended one of the tasting menus, which was amazing. It was a mix of traditional Spanish tapas-style dishes with modern, molecular gastronomy-influenced takes on Spanish cuisine. I don't remember all of it, but I do remember a spoon of gelatinized olives (which made an explosion of salt and umami that reminded me of the Black Truffle Explosion at the Aviary in Chicago); mussels; hangar steak; thinly sliced iberico sausage on rustic bread; salmon tartare and trout roe served in a tiny cony made of a spring roll wrapper; and spinach with pine nuts, raisins, and apples.

We were there for a couple of hours and had some great conversations, including me asking her more about the Folger Library. I read a book about the creation of the collection and the library itself a few months ago and was curious about a visit when she shared with me that the library was going to be closing for renovations in January and would remain closed to the public and to outside researchers (like her) for over three years. These renovations would fundamentally alter the character of the building, and it would cease to adhere to the vision of its founders, Emily and Henry Folger.

Given that, I really wanted to see if I could make a visit on this trip, so Gail gave me the name of one of the full time librarians who has helped her with her research. I reached out to her the next morning, asking if there might be any way I could get a tour of the reading room and the vault, which are not accessible during the docent-led tours they offer every day. I knew it was a long shot, but I've also learned from being around Will that the answer is definitely no if you don't even ask.

The librarian who Gail put me in touch with wasn't available anytime during my visit (during the renovations, all of the materials in the library will be moved offsite to a secret location, so the staff is frantically getting everything ready for that process), but luckily one of her colleagues was, so I made an appointment for first thing Friday morning.

The librarian who met with me was named was Michele, and she had only been with the library for less than a year, but she was so gracious and accommodating. Our first stop was the reading room, which is normally only open to registered scholars, but I got to spend a generous amount of time there taking in the quiet and the beauty. It's decorated in the Elizabethan style with lots of dark wood paneling, but this was accented with some white spaces and lots of light streaming in through custom-designed stained glass windows. It had a very regal, austere air, but it was simultaneously filled with light and space.

After that we headed down to the restricted areas in the basement known as the Vault where normally only the librarians are allowed. She walked me through the stacks with different elements of the collection, and we spent quite a bit of time in the area of her speciality, small printed books that were contemporaneous with the earliest Shakespeare publications.

Overall I was able to spend about 90 minutes exploring areas that most folks don't get to see, and it was a real pleasure to be able to experience the Library in its current form (which is very close to how it was when it was officially opened by Emily Folger in 1932 (two years after her husband Henry's death). I also got interested in a forger that Michele had done research on—he's not related to Shakespeare, but instead he forged documents purporting to be from George Washington (Michele previously worked at Mount Vernon, where part of her job was to determine the authenticity of the documents in that collection).

The whole experience was one of those rare confluence of circumstances that I don't experience that often anymore—I happened to read about the founding of the library earlier this year, I happened to have a conference in DC, and I happened to have dinner with a researcher at the Library who clued me in that this would be my last chance to enter the building for at least two years and my last chance to see it in its original form ever.


11.12.19
I got back home on Friday night and spent a lot of Saturday relaxing before we drove up to Lake Lanier late in the afternoon for a 5K. It's called Lanier Under the Lights, and we did it for the first time last year. The course is set up along a route in developing neighborhoods near Lake Lanier that become a drive-through Christmas lights display for the holidays, but instead of driving through the lights, the race lets you run by all the displays a couple of weeks before it officially opens.

Will loved it so much last year, so we had to do it again. I hadn't been able to train very much for it, and I remember being miserable running it last year—lots of hills and very cold—but I actually really enjoyed it this year. The cold was a lot more manageable (I wore more layers, which helped), and the course wasn't nearly as punishing as I remember it (although there were plenty of hills still). After the race, we drove back to Atlanta and got take out from Hattie B.'s for dinner.

UGA played what was designed to be a gimme game between games against two ranked opponents, taking on unranked Missouri in Athens. They won handily at 27-0, but it wasn't an offensive blowout. Next week they take on Auburn, who always play a tough game against them, and a win there could both clinch the SEC East and guarantee a trip to the SEC title game and continue to build their case that they deserve to be in the playoff discussion despite their one embarrassing loss to South Carolina. In college football it seems like every single game can determine the outcome of your season when your goal is one of the four playoff spots, but this is really true of next week's game.

The Ravens, meanwhile, rolled right over divisional rival Cincinnati 49-13, and the game wasn't even as close as that score. This is their only soft game this month—all the other games have been/will be against teams with winning records and playoff aspirations (New England, Houston, LA Rams, and San Francisco). They can't afford to let up—even though they are clearly the class of the AFC North this year, the Browns have the talent and the weak schedule to make a late-season push, and Pittsburgh, despite their depleted talent, have the grit and very weak schedule that could give them a shot too.

Even if they were securely in control of the AFC North, however, they're still fighting for seeding in the playoffs—right now they have the second seed behind New England, but if the Patriots stumble (and with their crappy offense and relatively weak schedule so far, there's a real chance this could happen when they face some tougher teams), they could grab the number one seed in the AFC, meaning a bye week AND home field advantage through the AFC championship game.


11.13.19
After an acrimonious split between bassist Peter Hook and the rest of New Order in the early 2000s, he's been touring with his own band, the Light, playing Joy Division and New Order songs from the period when he was an active contributor to New Order. I missed him last time he came through Atlanta last year, but I got tickets to go see him with my friend Steve last night.

Last time he played the greatest hits from both bands, but this set was dedicated to the last two New Order albums he was involved with, Technique and Republic. Those are easily my least favorite records from the original New Order—I haven't listened to Technique more than 15 or 20 times despite owning it since its release date in 1989, and I still don't own Republic.

These are also two of the worst records for Peter Hook to do covers of—not only are they very electronic, with some songs barely needing his unique bass lines, but since he also becomes the singer with Peter Hook and the Light, he was terrible at trying to approximate Bernard Sumner's voice, especially since those records are the ones where Sumner started to understand pitch and key as a vocalist and actually started to sing. So the first two thirds of the set were pretty hard to get through. There are songs on those records that reach back to a more classic New Order sound, and those were okay, but overall it felt pretty flat and lifeless (despite Peter Hook's manic energy).

The final third of the concert was great, however—this is where he covered 10 songs from Joy Division and from the pre-Technique New Order catalog. Peter Hook does a great job of sounding like Ian Curtis, and he sounded a lot better mimicking Bernard Sumner when Sumner was still developing as a vocalist. (For those of you who don't know the history of Joy Division/New Order, New Order was formed out of the ashes of Joy Division with lead singer Ian Curtis committed suicide right before the band was supposed to go abroad for their first American tour. They didn't want to try out a new singer, so Hook and Sumner both took stabs at singing, with Sumner eventually winning out as the band's lead vocalist, but even that wasn't set in stone until their second record under the New Order name).

Here's the setlist:

Technique

  1. Fine Time
  2. All the Way
  3. Love Less
  4. Round & Round
  5. Guilty Partner
  6. Run
  7. Mr. Disco
  8. Vanishing Point
  9. Dream Attack

    Republic

  10. Regret
  11. World
  12. Ruined in a Day
  13. Spooky
  14. Everyone Everywhere
  15. Young Offender
  16. Liar
  17. Chemical
  18. Times Change
  19. Special
  20. Avalanche

    Encore

  21. Disorder
  22. Warsaw
  23. Interzone
  24. Transmission
  25. Ceremony
  26. World in Motion
  27. Bizarre Love Triangle
  28. True Faith
  29. Temptation
  30. Love Will Tear Us Apart

I would definitely go see him again just based on the encore tracks alone, but it would be great if next time he did something like covering a full Joy Division record followed by something earlier in New Order's history like Low Life or Brotherhood.


11.14.19
The night after the Peter Hook concert, Will, Julie, and I went to Eddie's Attic to see a Robyn Hitchcock solo acoustic show (I had purchased a table, and the person who filled out our foursome was coincidentally Christine, the wife of Steve who I had gone to the Peter Hook concert the night before).

Will and I got there super early, and we had the second choice of tables, so we got one at the front of the stage next to the wall on the left. He played a nice mix of songs from across his career, from the Soft Boys to his most recent 2017 album. He also played a few covers from Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd, and John Lennon, the last two on the piano to close the show. Here's the setlist:

    1. Only the Stones Remain
    2. No, I Don't Remember Guildford
    3. Queen of Eyes
    4. 1970 in Aspic
    5. 1974
    6. Cathedral
    7. Be Still
    8. Sunday Never Comes
    9. So You Think You're in Love
    10. Chinese Bones
    11. Old Man Weather
    12. San Francisco Patrol
    13. Underground Sun
    14. Just Like a Woman (Bob Dylan cover) (with Emma Swift)
    15. Queen Elvis (with Emma Swift)
    16. A Globe of Frogs
    17. Astronomy Domine (Pink Floyd cover)
    18. God (John Lennon cover)

He impressed with his signature rambling stories between songs—I don't remember all of them, but the one thread that persisted between a few songs was a story about his cat Tubby (his real cat, and very deserving of his name) delivering hair gel to Bryan Ferry's butler on the other side of the world.

It was a great show, and I was tempted to stay for the 10:00 second show (our show started at 7:00, but I decided that after two shows in two weeknights, I should head home instead. I also decided not to go see either of the other two concerts in town last night after the Hitchcock show ended, Dinosaur Jr. or the Cloud Nothings/Cursive double bill. I don't know why so many acts piled up on this one night, but Hitchcock is the show I would have chosen to go to out of all of those even though it's the one I was aware of first.

He lives in Nashville currently and seems to make trips down to the Atlanta area once or twice a year. I hope he continues this pattern—I would love to have him regularly part of not only my musical outings, but Will's as well.


11.15.19
Will has been counting down the days to the launch of Disney+ since I told him we were subscribed to it a few months ago, and he was so excited when November 12 finally came that he treated it like Christmas: he woke up at 5:20 a.m., downloaded the Disney+ app on his iPad, and spent half an hour exploring before we made him take a quick nap before getting back up for school.

I got a really good deal on it—$4 per month for a 3 year subscription—and while I'm looking forward to catching up on some Marvel content and the new Star Wars live-action series The Mandalorian, I've been more focused on the release next month of the final movie in the Star Wars trio of trilogies that focuses on the Skywalkers, The Rise of Skywalker. While I was looking around for first-weekend tickets, trying to find a theater that was showing a mini-marathon of the three newest movies, I instead found an actual marathon that will show all nine. On impulse, I bought two tickets.

Four years ago, when The Force Awakens came out, I did a 7 movie marathon with my friend Jeff, and I swore I'd never do something like that again. But here I am four years later adding two more films to the marathon, and Jeff is once again going with me. It's a pretty tight schedule: we start with a screening of The Phantom Menace at 8 p.m. on a Wednesday night and we end with a 5:00 p.m. early preview showing of The Rise of Skywalker on Thursday. All told, the entire sequence will take less than 24 hours.

They give about 20 minutes between each film, just enough time to refill drinks and use the restroom, but I think I'll get through it okay. I fully intend to sleep through most of Episode II and Episode III, and if I'm still drifting off during A New Hope (which starts around 4:00 a.m.), that will be okay too—I've seen that thing well over 50 times in my life at this point. The theater is also in one of those outdoor mall concept retail spaces, so if Jeff and I need a break, we can always pop out for bit to go get a real meal at one of the nearby restaurants.

The real goal is to make sure that I'm awake and engaged for that final stretch of The Force Awakens to The Rise of Skywalker, which will begin around 11:30 a.m. and end around 7:30 p.m. I know I said this last time, but I can't ever anticipate doing this again—Disney doesn't have plans to extend the story (at least with cinematic releases) of the Skywalkers beyond this ninth film, and this is the culmination of a 42 year journey that started for me when I was 6 years old and saw Star Wars for the first time.


11.18.19
It feels like we spent the entire weekend over at the Agnes Scott campus in Decatur. It started on Friday night when we went to the first local game of the Emory women's basketball team, which was supposed to be a home game on the Emory campus. But when we showed up there, the court was set up for volleyball because the volleyball team (which won the D3 national championship last year) had made it to the playoffs again and Emory had been selected to host the regional tournament. So the basketball games had been moved to nearby Agnes Scott. We quickly made our way over there and only missed a few minutes of the game.

On Saturday we were back for a completely different reason: Will was one of five students selected at his music school to give a formal recital that was judged and graded as part of a music teacher's associate event. He had to memorize two songs, play the scales associated with those pieces, and be ready to sight read a new piece. He did a really great job, getting the highest marks from his judge. It wasn't a formal competition, but it's meant to give younger players with promise a chance to experience a formal judged competition in a lower stakes environment. He worked really hard on his pieces, and he did such a great job.

On Sunday afternoon we were back for another Emory basketball game, which we got home from around 4. After that Will got his practicing done and I watched the Ravens while Julie and Will went out to dinner with her mom.


11.19.19
Yesterday was my mom's birthday, so we drove out to meet her, my sister, and my brother in law at a place called The Diner at Webb Gin, which we'd never been to before but which was about halfway between my sister and us and looked to have a big enough menu that everyone could find something they liked.

I told my sister we probably wouldn't be able to leave until around 6, and with rush hour traffic we might not be there until 7 or later, but when I texted her to let her when we left the house, she said they were already at the restaurant. As expected, it took us over an hour to get out there, so they had been sitting having appetizers and drinks while they waited for us.

Everyone seemed to enjoy the food, but the portions were huge, so everyone also had a box to take home. Gabby opened her presents at the end—she would love anything Will got her, but he really thought about what he wanted to get her and went out shopping for her. He also made her a card, which was probably her favorite thing.

She's slowly getting better at walking, but she's a long way from being truly independent again. Her most recent surgery was on her left shoulder back in August, and she's scheduled to have her other shoulder done next month, to be followed by a knee surgery sometime early next year (probably in February or March). And all of this, of course, is on the heels of multiple surgeries on her hip/leg after she fell and broke her leg about two years ago.

At that point the doctors will have addressed all of the issues with her various joints that have been identified as major problems, but I still don't know if she'll ever really come back from these issues over the past 2+ years and be able to walk around and drive herself places. I'm hoping for the best, and she's definitely working hard with her exercises and rehab, but she's got such a long way to go.


11.20.19
UGA and the Ravens both faced major tests over the weekend in their respective quests to reach the postseason, and both passed with flying colors. UGA kicked things off on Saturday with an away game against 12th ranked Auburn. After Florida's win earlier in the day, UGA had to win in order to clinch the SEC East and punch their ticket for the SEC title game in Atlanta against LSU.

It was a close game, but Georgia played disciplined football and scored a touchdown in each of the first three quarters while the defense held Auburn scoreless. They took at 21-0 lead into the fourth quarter, and while Auburn rallied to score two touchdowns early in the fourth quarter, the UGA defense pulled themselves back together and kept Auburn from any further scores.

The 21-14 score was an accurate representation of how well-matched these teams were on both sides of the ball, it's just the distribution was lopsided. But the Bulldogs have now clinched the SEC East and will play in the title game, where they likely need a win to keep their playoff chances alive (and where a win against the presumably-still-lossless LSU Tigers will guarantee a trip to the playoffs).

The Ravens, meanwhile, played the Texans in Baltimore, in what was predicted to be a high scoring shootout that Baltimore was expected to win by a single score. But it wasn't that at all—while Baltimore's offense went crazy as expected, scoring 41 points, the Ravens defense held Houston scoreless for three quarters before allowing a garbage time touchdown after the game was already decided and Baltimore's star quarterback Lamar Jackson had been pulled from the game.

It was an impressive win—their sixth straight—but they've still got a tough stretch of games in front of them, with an away game against the Rams, a home game against the 49ers (who might be the best team in the NFC this year), and an away game against the surprisingly resurgent Bills. And although I expect that at least a couple of those games will prove challenging for them, I just can't see anyone stopping Baltimore if the team continues to fire on all cylinders in all three phases of the game (offense, defense, and special teams).

It's such a great time to be a Ravens fan—this team is genuinely fun to watch, and their confidence is growing with each successive victory. I can legitimately see them ending with a 13-3 or even 14-2 record at the end of this season (they are 8-2 right now), and if New England stumbles at all, they could end up with the number one seed in the AFC in the postseason. And although they've been deadly both on the road and at home this season, trust me, you do not want to face the Ravens in Baltimore in January.


11.21.19
They have an arts recognition competition at Will's school every year, and he usually enters one or two things. In the past it has been photographs and stories, and he's always won at at least the school level (and occasionally the district level), but this year he decided to do something different: he's started writing his own music, so he decided to enter one of the two pieces that he's finished so far.

It's really a pretty amazing piece for his fist attempt at writing something, with some nice little passages and good use of dynamic contrast in a couple of places (when I heard him practicing it while he was writing it, I thought it was a new piece he was learning from his music school). While I would be happy for him to be a casual musician who has playing an instrument as part of his life forever, it would bring me real joy if he continued to engage with writing and performing for others.

The school-level ceremony was earlier this week, and not surprisingly Will won first place in the music category. He was so, so proud, and I'm not going to be surprised if he wins at the district and even the state level. Not many kids enter music pieces, and not many kids his age are going to submit something that refined and complex.


11.22.19
In order to not lose vacation accrual in December, I need to take three days off next week, meaning I'll have a whole week off for Thanksgiving. I'll probably still end up working some—I don't really have any other plans, and family doesn't get into town until Wednesday—but I do intend to relax and hopefully catch up on some shows like The Walking Dead and The Mandalorian.

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