may 2004

Another Tori postcard, this the second in her "I don't mean to be rude, but..." series:

The text:

I don't mean to be insulting, but your house is really quite a shithole. I got this postcard in a Vienna coffeeshop. Watch out! Caffeine! And a large Austrian barista! Oh, and happy birthday, you big monkey. Lots of love, Tori.

The reference to my birthday, which was almost a month ago, should tell you how far behind I am in posting these things. But I haven't gotten one from her in a couple of weeks, and I only have two left, so maybe I'll get caught up by the time she sends me another one.

Last night was the final night of my Art of the Middle Ages class at the Walters. In some ways, this semester really flew by—I feel like I'm just getting to know the people in the class and the professor—but in other ways, it seemed to go on longer than any other class I've had in the MLA program. This is the only class so far where there were nights that I just didn't feel like going. But I think it's more than just this class, because in the end, I'm glad I did it and I would do it again. I think maybe I'm just getting a little burned out from the extra stress of having class all the time. I still enjoy the program, but I'm absolutely looking forward to having a couple of months off before I start my summer class.

One cool thing happened last night, though: while taking a bathroom break in between presentations (wine and champagne were served to relax everyone for the final class), I ran into Will, the curator of rare books who taught my book class last spring. He mentioned to me that they're trying to start up an internship program to help them catalog their vast collection of books, and had me in mind to kick the program off. I'm really excited about this; I was going to ask Will to be my thesis advisor when I got to my final semester, and working with him on an internship will give me access to the rare book room at the Walters and keep me on Will's radar so that it will be easier to approach him about doing an independent study and/or having him as my advisor. So I wouldn't be surprised if ended up taking about half of my MLA courses at the Walters, but that's okay with me, especially if most of that time will be spent working the manuscripts room.

Yesterday, for the first time this season, I was in first place in The Reef, the fantasy baseball league that I run which includes many friends and family members who visit this site. My dad's team, the aaardvarks (so named because he thought the draft the first year would be done in alphabetical order), are a perenniel pain in the ass, because even though he doesn't make any moves during the season—not even rotating pitchers on and off the bench on the days they're pitching or replacing players who go on the DL—he always seems to have a perfect draft, and he usually hangs around in the top three for most of the season before his lack of pitching stats (strikeouts, wins, and saves are cumulative, and without taking the time every few days to arrange your lineup to take advantage of the once-every-five-days nature of a pitcher's schedule, he usually ends up with the lowest score in each of those categories) catches up to him.

This April found the aaardvarks in fine form; they dominated, staying solidly in first place for most of the month with scores of 90+ of a maximum 120 points. More frustrating for the rest of us, if he had just started the pitchers on his bench the way everyone else who plays does, he would have easily had a score in the triple digits and been ahead of the second place team by 30 or more points.

But it looks like his inattention to his pitchers is finally hurting him, and thanks to a day when I had several players with good days while most of the league had a day off, I was finally able to push my score up to 86, 3 points ahead of the aaardvarks. I don't expect this to last—I have had a string of several good days in a row and the aaardvarks have had a serious dry spell—but it was nice to see my name at the top of the standings again. It has been well over a year since the last time that happened (after winning the league the first year, I finished in last place last year), and although I don't think I'll hang onto it for very long, I'm optimistic that I'll be in the hunt this season barring any major injuries.

The longest I have kept any job has been just under three years. My first job after grad school was working for a law publishing company in Charlottesville, first as a temp, and a few months later as a full-time employee. Even though I liked what I was doing there, the pay was crap, and it wasn't likely to get much better without a law degree, so I told myself that I wouldn't stay there any longer than three years, which is how long it was going to take Julie to finish her Ph.D. at UVA. Thanks to a chance meeting at a wedding, however, I was given an opportunity to pursue a career that I was really interested in and get paid a reasonable salary, and I only ended up spending a year and a half at that job before leaving for something better.

I left the publishing firm to work for Sycamore Associates, who hired me to do multimedia work, including web and CD-ROM design and programming. This was back before the internet bubble burst (in fact, it was back before there was a bubble at all), and I liked it so much there that I genuinely believed I could spend my career with them. They were small, family-oriented, and had some incredibly talented and nice people on the staff (in fact, that's where I met Sam, CS Jeff, Dave, and Ryan, all of whom I still count among my friends even though I stopped working at Sycamore five years ago). I stayed at Sycamore for just under three years; the only reason I left is because it was becoming increasingly difficult to work for my immediate supervisor, who tended to micromanage and who wasn't good with people, and because the bubble was starting to form and there was a lot more money to be made elsewhere.

That's what led me to CO2, which was my dream job. Even while I was still working there and things were going great—we were getting tons of lucrative contracts from big name clients, we were hiring more staff, etc. —I knew it wouldn't last forever. And it didn't: the tech downturn coincided with the divorce of one of the senior partners, which two events combined to force the company out of business in September, 2001, a little over two years after I joined.

I have just passed my two year anniversary at my current job, and although I'm pretty happy here, I have definitely been focusing on tasks that I'm not that interested in, mainly implementing and re-implementing a new web-based data management system that will eventually be used by every major office on campus. But I am in a good place here, and I feel like I have more control over my career than I have in any previous job. So it's not like I've been looking around for other jobs or anything, but the other day someone passed along to me that the Walters had a job opening that I was qualified for. I took a look out of curiosity, and I was surprised at how excited I got about the prospect of leaving here and going to work for the Walters. I don't know if that's because I'm more unhappy here that I've allowed myself to realize, or because after my two classes at the museum I've fallen in love with the Walters in a way that blinds me to all the downsides of going to work for them. I spent half an afternoon daydreaming about applying for the job; I even called one of my contacts on the inside to get more information about the position (he told me not to apply unless I'm profoundly unhappy with my current job, and I think he would probably be really happy if I did want to come to work there).

I don't think I'll actually apply, and even if I did, I don't believe they could offer me the kind of salary and job security that I would be looking for. But I hadn't expected to be interested at all.

We're leaving tomorrow morning to drive to Durham for Dodd's graduation from Duke, and then coming back Sunday afternoon to pack for our week in Colorado. Since we leave at 6:30 a.m. Monday for that trip, I won't likely have time to post here again, but before I leave I will put up all the pictures I already have on tap for next week. But other than that, don't expect any new content from me for about ten days—no updates here, no new links, nothing. So wish me well, enjoy my photos, and check out some of the blogs I link to on the left (like my newest addition, I Spy Gemini).

I'm back, home safe from Colorado but exhausted. It was a good trip, but I'm too tired to even begin to tell you about it right now. Stay tuned.

I know, I know, I should be posting about my recent travels. But I'm still recovering from those travels, my body clock is still synchronized to a different time zone, and I'm too tired to start organizing all my thoughts about our last week and a half in North Carolina and Colorado. I'll start tomorrow, I promise. In the meantime, enjoy my sister's final postcard in the "I don't mean to be rude" series:

What the hell are you looking at?

The text:

I'm only telling you this because you're my friend and I respect you. Because, ever since you got that big promotion at work, everyone's been talking about how your ego has swelled to amazing proportions. Have you noticed any changes lately?

Does your postman think I'm strange yet? Tons of love, Tori

Our postman is in fact a postwoman, and she doesn't wear an official US Postal Service uniform, which makes me uncomfortable for some reason. But yes, I'm sure she thinks you're incredibly weird, and us as well, thanks to your unending flow of bizarre postcards. Keep 'em coming.

The cicadas are here, and boy, are they disgusting. They're still all slow and sleepy, their wings still too soft to fly with, their voices silent for now. But in several spots around Baltimore, they are emerging by the thousands, and the translucent amber husks of their nymph shells cling to tree trunks, fences, and long blades of grass. They are all but invisible now unless you're looking for them, but soon the air will be filled with their black bodies and red eyes, filled with swarms of clumsy, nearly-blind insects looking for once chance to mate before they die. I'm kind of fascinated by the whole thing, but I'm still not really looking forward to it, as I have a feeling that the novelty will wear off very quickly and the six weeks that they are with us will feel like six months by the time it's over. But still, they only come out once every seventeen years, and who knows where I'll be next time Brood X makes an appearance? I should take advantage of this opportunity while I can, if only so I can say I lived through it someday.

Got home late again after Julie and I picked up our friend Leila who was in DC for a conference and took her up to Baltimore to see Alisa sing. Dodd joined us, too, and we went out for a quick dinner a great little indian restaurant (who also helpfully printed out directions to the venue from the internet while we enjoyed our meal). I'll probably write more about this later, but right now I'm exhausted and I still have a couple of other things to take care of before I turn in. Tomorrow should be an easy day, though: we have a 9 a.m. meeting to celebrate all of the birthdays and graduations that have happened in the office since March, we have a 10 a.m. tour of a new building on campus, and at 11 a.m. we leave for lunch at the harbor, after which we get the rest of the day off. So it doesn't really matter if I show up for work half-asleep; there won't be any time to do any actual work anyway.

I guess before I tell you about Colorado, I should tell you about going to North Carolina the weekend before to attend my brother Dodd's graduation from Duke. We briefly considered driving down on Friday night after work, since Dodd and my parents were already going to be there (Dodd left on Thursday, my parents on Friday morning), but on Thursday we realized that we still had way too much to do to get ready for our Colorado trip and we would need to leave on Saturday morning and use the extra time to finish shopping, packing, and otherwise preparing for our trip out west (we had a 6:30 a.m. flight out of BWI the day after Dodd's graduation, so we wouldn't have any time after we got back from Durham to do anything).

We got a late start on Saturday, but that was okay, because the only event scheduled for that day was the baccalaureate, which Julie and I didn't really want to attend anyway, especially because there weren't enough tickets for the actual event in Duke Chapel and we would have been relegated to watching a video feed from a nearby auditorium, and really, is there any worse day to be on a pleasant spring day in North Carolina than watching a video feed indoors? By the time we arrived at Duke, the ceremony was over, so we checked into the hotel room that dad had reserved for us and just rested for a while before dinner. We went to a place called George's Garage that had once been a Wellspring grocery store when I was a student at NCSSM fifteen(!) years ago. Dinner was pretty good, and ended with us all exchanging various presents: we gave dad his birthday present (a Hopkins t-shirt and baseball cap), I got my birthday present from dad and Rachel (a framed needlepoint that Rachel had made for me), dad and Rachel gave Dodd his graduation present (a new wallet filled with money; we gave him his graduation present, a GameCube with Madden 2004, back in December when he actually finished up his classwork), and we gave Rachel her mother's day present (a nice assortment of Godiva chocolates).

Dodd was off to something called the beer tents, which is apparently an outdoor kegger for the graduates sponsored by the administration that is tradition at Duke, while all of us oldies went back to the hotel and got some much-needed rest. The ceremony wasn't until 10 a.m. Sunday morning, which gave us plenty of time the next day to have breakfast with dad and Rachel before heading over to the stadium where graduation was being held.

It was unseasonably warm, even for NC in May, and the white paint of the stadium reflected the sunlight back at the audience and created a kind of parabolic dish that captured and ampliflied the heat of the sun. I guess that would be a good thing normally, since the stadium was built to host football games in the fall, but in the early summer it was unbearable. Every now and then a slight breeze would drift through the stadium, but there was no cloud cover and the sun seemed to get more intense as the morning wore on, turning the event into an endurance test for the participants and the audience.

The speaker was Madeleine Albright, who I thought was pretty good, even though she gave more or less a stock graduation speech with very few political insights (as a former secretary of state, one who didn't work for an administration who made up excuses for a war that they were already planning before they'd even "won" the election, I had hoped she might discuss the current difficulties in Iraq). Interestingly, Dodd, who is a thoughtless republican (meaning that he just believes whatever it is the party tells him to believe, without putting any real thought or effort into understanding or being able to defend those positions), thought she was too political, although the only thing I remember her saying that was even remotely politcal was something like needing to find a balance in our foreign policy between isolationism and acting completely independently of the UN and all the other sovreign nations of the world, which was so deferentially phrased as to be almost benign.

Anyway. Most of her speech talked about the unique educational environment that the graduates had at an institution like Duke, how they would all have this common experience to look back on for the rest of their lives, and how the rigors of their classes would prepare them for the rigors of the working world and the challenges their generation would face. But it struck me that Dodd hadn't really had this experience and wasn't really part of his class at Duke the way most other members of it were. See, he was originally supposed to graduate back in 2002, so most of the people he knew as a freshman and sophomore had graduated long ago; after being placed on academic suspension his final semester at Duke, his academic life in the intervening years has been a series of fits and stops, living at home for a while before returning to take a couple of classes here and there (including summer courses) before finally finishing up his coursework last December.

I've written about this before, in a post that sparked a row with Tori that lasted a couple of months, but I still feel the same way today: Dodd and Tori just haven't had a normal college experience (Dodd because of his delayed graduation and his near-annual attendance of summer school to make up for missing credits), and so I don't think college will have the same incubatory effect on them, where they went in more or less an embryo and came out a relatively fully-formed adult, ready for life. Tori is having a great time, and I'm sure that her year in europe will have the same life-changing effect on her that it has on most people (especially because she's really taking fullest advantage of it, constantly traveling and meeting new people), but when she graduates from Iowa next May, she will have gone through a four-year college career without ever having spent two consecutive years in the same place (Chicago, then Iowa, then Austria, then Iowa again), and I certainly don't think she has been challenged by her coursework in Iowa in the way she would have been challenged had she chosen to stay at Chicago. Dodd, on the other hand, got a little too much of the bonding part of college with his frat brothers, and not enough of the academic passion that could have put him in a position to pursue almost any career he wanted. I think in part that's because he chose a major that he had almost no real interest in (public policy) simply because he thought it would look good on his resume for law school. He eventually proved that he could do good work when he wanted to, delivering his first set of decent grades at Duke during his last semester, but if he had managed to find a major that spark his interest during his freshman or sophomore year, he could have had a very productive academic career at Duke that would have made us post-graduate path a little more clear for him.

But I think everything will turn out fine for both of them. Dodd is living in Baltimore now and working at Hopkins, so I've gotten the chance to spend more time with him than ever before our lives, and it's been great to see several previously unknown aspects of his personality slowly emerge. Tori's having a great time in Austria and Iowa, and although her college experience will not be as structured and self-contained as mine was, neither will her life, and her open-ended flitting through higher education is much more appropriate for the kind of person she is becoming, an adventurer who doesn't like to stay in one place too long.

So I guess what I'm trying to say is, congratulations Dodd. You've got your degree now, and it doesn't matter how long it took you, you earned it and you should be proud of yourself.

We had yesterday off because for some reason Hopkins always likes to hold commencement on a Thursday and they force all of the Homewood employees to take one of their floating holidays so they can use our parking spaces for parents and other guests, and since most of the office decided to take Friday as well and get a jump start on their summer vacations, today should be pretty quiet. I have a 10 a.m. meeting with my director, but I think he'll disappear for good around lunchtime, and since I'm not ready to start our summer projects yet, I bet it's going to be a fairly non-productive day. I imagine I can make lunch last for a couple of hours, and I can probably blow another hour taking pictures of cicadas around campus, but by 3 p.m. I expect to be one of only a handful of people still at the office, and probably the only one who will even consider doing any more work before going home. Julie's gone to visit her parents for the weekend, leaving me to play bachelor, so I'm hoping to get caught up on my Colorado entries and start sifting through the hundreds of pictures I took while we were out there, as well as return some phone calls and emails I've been trying to get to for the past couple of weeks. Should be a nice, relaxing weekend, and a lazy Friday at work will be a good way to kick it off.

Colorado was great. I could go into detail on everything we did there, but to lessen your boredom as much as possible, I'll just single out a couple of our activities for explication and give you a brief rundown on the rest. We were exhausted on Monday, our first day there, because we had to get up and get ready to leave for our 6:30 a.m. flight at around 3:30 and I only got around 3 hours of sleep beforehand (after spending early Sunday in Durham at Dodd's graduation, we didn't get home until 8 that night, and I hadn't packed at all). We didn't get into Colorado Springs until 11:30 a.m. MDT, and we couldn't check into our hotel until 2, which with the time meant that we didn't get a chance to take a nap until more than 12 hours after we had gotten up. We did find a really great vietnamese place near our hotel where we were able to kill some time having lunch (it was so good, in fact, that we went back there for dinner that night and then again later in the week).

We were desperately thirsty the whole time we were out there, but especially the first 24 hours. The air was so dry that it just sucked all the moisture right out of you; I must have drunk three to four times as much water as I normally do (and I drink a lot of water at work, so that's no small amount) and I was still dying of thirst. It got better as the week went on, but we never got completely used to it and we always had a big bottle of water handy.

Another surprise was that our rental car did not have a tape player. I had brought my iPod and my car cassette adapter along for the trip knowing we'd be doing a lot of driving, and it was a pretty big disappointment to discover that I wasn't going to be able to use it. But after a nap, I remembered about the iTrip add on, an adaptor that lets your iPod broadcast on an FM frequency so you can play your songs in any car with an FM radio, and we headed over to CompUSA pick one up. However, as I opened the box and prepared to hook it up, I noticed that there was a lengthy set of instructions...and a software installation CD.


I figured it would just be plug and play, and I didn't have a laptop with me, so the iPod was pretty much useless. I really started to panic when I realized that I had brought along another new iPod gadget that I hadn't bothered to take out of the box yet, a media reader that I was planning to use to transfer photos from my camera's CF card to the iPod so I could have virtually unlimited photo storage capacity, but luckily it was completely plug and play, and I had no trouble whatsoever moving photos from my full CF card to the iPod's hard drive.

I knew I couldn't go a whole week listening to crappy radio stations or nothing at all, so we stopped a local independent record store so I could pick up a few discs to tide me over. I was so tired that I couldn't remember anything really interesting that I wanted to buy, so I settled on David Byrne's latest, the reissue of Echo and the Bunnymen's first album, a cheap import single from Radiohead, and a split EP featuring Bright Eyes and Britt Daniels of Spoon. I got pretty tired of listening to all of those by the end of the week (especially becuse I had hoped to spend most of the week listening to some great new releases from Loretta Lynn and Magnetic Fields), but it was better than nothing.

Let's see...I was going to tell you what we did, right? How about I save that for tomorrow since this is already a pretty long entry.

Tuesday, our second day in Colorado, we spent almost the entire day at Royal Gorge, the main attraction of which is a suspension bridge that hangs 1000 feet above the gorge. I initially balked at the $20 per person ticket price, but it turned out to be well worth it. In addition to the bridge itself, they also had an aerial tram that crossed over the gorge, an incline railway that took you down to the bottom of the gorge, and a zoo with buffalo and wapati (some sort of mountain elk things, from the looks of them). They were also surprisingly reasonable with their food costs—Julie and I shared a huge sub sandwich, two drinks, and a bag of chips for less than $10.

Wednesday we did the Cog Railway up to the top of Pike's Peak, which was pretty cool except that it was fogged in at the top, so we didn't get to see the views the mountain is famous for (although on the way up it was clear enough for us to see the view that inspired Katherine Lee Bates to write "America the Beautiful"). The only thing that bugged me about the trip, other than the fact that we couldn't see anything but fog above the timberline, was that they didn't turn the train around at the top, so you got the same views going down that you had going up.

There were a bunch of warnings about altitude sickness from the thin air at 14,000 feet on the tickets and brochures for the Cog Railway, and man, they weren't kidding. When they let us off at the top, the fifty yard walk from the bathrooms to the gift shop/snack bar left me completely winded. I was taking in huge gulps of air and I just couldn't catch my breath; I was like a fish out of water, trying desperately to pull in oxygen that just wasn't there. I was feeling pretty dizzy, too, so I didn't want to move to fast for fear that I would lose my balance on the still-icy ground at the top of the mountain. It was like being drunk and just having run a 10k race. Extremely disconcerting. I talked to some of the staff at the snack bar and asked them how they adjusted to it, and they told me that it takes them about three weeks before they can spend a full day at the top of the mountain without any severe side effects, and that for the first week they have headaches pretty much all day until they return to the comparitively oxygen rich atmosphere of Colorado Springs (which itself sits at 6000 feet above sea level).

After we got back from Pike's Peak, we drove up to Denver to meet Jeff and Connie (the couple getting married) along with Jeff's brother Mark and his wife Brenda. We had tickets for a Rockies game, but it couldn't have been more than half an hour from when we got there that they announced that the game was being postponed because of rain (which was only falling at a light drizzle; they've played in much worse in Baltimore), and we weren't going to be able to come back the next day to see it. We walked around the stadium for a while, but it sucked that we didn't get to watch a game; I would have loved to have added Coors Field to my list of stadiums I've seen a major league baseball game in (along with the now-demolished Atlanta-Fulton Country stadium, the also-recently-demolished Veteran's Stadium in Philadelphia, Wrigley Field in Chicago, PNC Park in Pittsburgh, and of course Camden Yards right here in Baltimore).

To try and get some mileage out of the $10 per car we had paid for parking, we walked a few blocks down to a mexican place called Wahoo's whose speciality was fish tacos. Alisa was raving about these a few weeks ago (fish tacos in general, not this particular restaurant, of course), and although I'm not a big fan of fish usually, I decided to give them a try, especially after Connie also gave them a ringing endorsement. They were outstanding; I especially liked how they replaced the shredded lettuce that they put on the chicken and beef tacos with shredded cabbage for the fish, which was a much better match flavor- and consistency-wise. After dinner we went to a Coldstone Creamery, and again based on recommendations from Connie and Jeff (Jeff is a big ice cream aficionado), we tried the cake batter flavor with a couple of chocolate mix-ins. It was really, really good for the first few bites, but it was almost too rich. Still, I'd get it again.

Tomorrow: our adventures on the plains.

Thursday was the only day we had left before we had to start doing wedding stuff, and although Julie wanted to do a few more of the normal tourist things like the Garden of the Gods (which we mananged to see later) and the Air Force Academy, but ever since I had seen the landscape when we were flying in, I had been determined to spend at least half a day just driving east from Colorado Springs. See, I just assumed that everything in Colorado was in the mountains, when in truth, Denver and Colorado Springs lie to the east of where the mountains start, so they're actually on the plains still, even though they're well above sea level.

Flying in was amazing: nothing but farms and cattle grazing land for hundreds of miles, flat open spaces with no trees and very little evidence of humans aside from the beautifully geometric squares and circles of tilled, watered, and fertilized soil growing crops, and then suddenly these enormous mountains erupt from the ground, towering about the plains below. There's no buildup, none of the rolling hills of the piedmont that gradually build up the landscape between the coastal plain and the mountains like we're used to back on the east coast, just flat, flat, flat forever and out of nowhere a sudden upward thrusting of rock. Colorado and Denver both share this landscape, nestled at the foot of the Rockies, but on relatively flat ground themselves (especially the further east from them you go).

I've been fascinated by the wide open space of the American west since I read about Georgia O'Keeffe's obsession with it in her biography by Roxana Robinson (O'Keeffe would spend her winters painting in the southwest, away from her cultured New York life; she called it, simply and perfectly, the Faraway). A series of books on geology by John McPhee, compiled into a volume called "Annals of the Former World", also fueled my desire to see the huge expanse of open ground in the middle of our nation, and since our rental car had unlimited mileage, I figured this was my chance (although I should get to see more of the plains when I drive Tori out to Iowa this summer).

Julie wasn't necessarily enthusiastic about this idea, but I convinced her to at least go up to I-70, which runs east out of Denver and is the same interstate the we take into work everyday. It took us a good hour and a half of driving on two-lane roads to get to the interstate, but it hardly mattered; twenty minutes from the city limits of Colorado Springs and we were already in the middle of nowhere, able to drive as fast as we wanted and only very infrequently coming across other vehicles.

We figured we'd drive on I-70 for fifteen or twenty miles and then get back on another two-lane road to start the drive back to Colorado Springs. On the map, Julie noticed a marker for an attraction called the Tower Museum, so we got off at that exit to have a look. It was very, very strange, a long, low house that was punctuated at the back by a fifty foot tower with four floors. There were only two other cars in the parking lot, and neither of them looked like they had been used in a very long time; both were filled with old but still intact glass bottles, and one had a set of animal antlers attached to the roof.

We walked up to the door, making our way through tables full of old bottles, rocks, and other assorted items made of glass and metal and stone. It wasn't raining, but it was very damp, and a grey mist amplified the feeling of isolation (I don't think I've ever been half a mile from an interstate on the east coast and felt like I was in the middle of nowhere). The main door wasn't open, and there was a sign saying to go around to the other side of the house and knock if you wanted to go into the museum, but there was no one and nothing else around and we were getting a little creeped out. We were deciding whether we wanted to just leave or go find the other door when a tiny dog appeared and started yapping at us. Shortly after that, the door to the museum opened and a clean-shaven old man in jeans, a denim jacket, and a trucker's hat ushered us in.

More soon...

Please join me in welcoming Scott and Stephanie's new son into the world:

He was delivered via c-section on Monday, and he's a bit premature and will have to spend some time in the NICU, but Scott says that there don't appear to be any major problems, and mom (who I assume is the woman on the right; I've never met her) is doing fine as well. Congratulations, guys.

I know I need to finish up the story of our visit to the Tower Museum in Colorado so I can get on with telling you about Connie and Jeff's wedding, going to see Ryan last week during his recovery from a tumble over a 55 foot waterfall, and a few other things I've had on tap but haven't had time to publish yet. But I've haven't been sleeping well recently, and ever since I got back from Colorado and went back to work in our god-awful disease factory of a building, I've had a slight but nagging head cold that just makes me a more tired when I don't get enough sleep. This weekend will hopefully give me enough time to get these posts finished up for next week, but probably not until Sunday.

That's because today and tomorrow we're attending various ceremonies and events for the dedication of the WWII memorial in DC. We're standing in for my grandfather, a veteran who served in africa and europe and who was also lived through the attack at Pearl Harbor. He really wanted to attend—he gave money towards the construction of the memorial as soon as they were organized enough to accept donations—but he just didn't physically feel up to it, and so he asked us to take his passes and record as much of it as we could for him. One of the passes says "Honoree" on it, and I'm going to be very self-conscious about having one of those when I'm seated next to actual veterans on Saturday, but I should be able to conceal it behind another badge so it won't be too obvious. I'm not that excited about going—I don't like crowds and I don't like ceremonies—but I would do anything for my granddad, and I know this will mean a lot to him.

The resiliency of the Atlanta Braves is just incredible. Given all the losses they had during the offseason and the injuries they've endured so far this year, it wouldn't be surprising if they were already out of the running, even this early in the season. But instead, they've battled through all kinds of adversities, and are currently within shooting distance of two of the toughest teams in baseball, the Phillies and the Marlins.

They lost several veteran players during the offseason, including their most veteran pitcher, Greg Maddux (a sure hall of famer who can still be counted on for at least 15 wins), and three of their most important offensive starters, third baseman Vinny Castilla, outfielder Gary Sheffield, and catcher Javy Lopez (who combined for 104 homeruns and 317 RBI for the Braves last year). And they weren't replaced with big-ticket free agents, either; the only significant offseason pickup was J.D. Drew, a once-promising young star whose career has been plagued with injuries and who has bounced around between several teams over the last few years. Instead, to replace those lost players, the Braves called up youngsters from the farm system.

These young players, none of whom were really considered future stars (only one of them was listed in Baseball America's annual list of the top 100 minor league prospects, and that was Adam LaRoche, a first basemen who got hurt last weekend and now joins the lengthy list of Braves players who have spent time on the DL this year), have really stepped up, keeping the Braves in the hunt and proving that they belong in the major leagues. At the end of April, it seemed like this team just might be able to hold their own against the 2003 world champion Marlins and an impressive-on-paper Phillies team that finally seemed ready to make a run at the title after a decade-long postseason drought.

But then the injuries started, decimating both the pitching staff and the offensive unit. Pitcher Paul Byrd is out for at least three months and could miss the entire season, while Horacio Ramirez, who was on the cusp of his breakout season, was recently placed on the DL with shoulder tendonitis which will cause him to miss at least two weeks. And it's been even worse for the hitters: Chipper Jones, J.D. Drew, Julio France, Marcus Giles, Adam LaRoche, Rafael Furcal (all of whom are regular starters) and Eli Marrero have all missed significant time due to injuries, and many are still not playing regularly (yesterday, the first baseman, second baseman, left fielder, and starting pitcher were all recent call-ups from Richmond, and shortstop Furcal was making one of his first starts in weeks after seeing limited duty because of a hand injury).

If this was any other team that was looking to keep their postseason streak going, the ownership probably would have taken steps by now to bring in some veteran replacements through trades, but Time-Warner's lack of involvement with the team and their desire for cost-cutting in every part of their organization means that the Braves have had to make due with whoever they can pull out of the farm system. So despite their 12 straight division titles and their reputation as a rich, superstar-laden club, the Braves should really be considered a scrappy upstart this year, with only two veteran stars (Chipper Jones and Andruw Jones, both of whom came up through the Braves farm system) surrounded by a crew of young players with a lot of upside or veterans whose best days are behind them but who can still play solid baseball.

By all rights, Atlanta shouldn't even be considered a contender this year (most teams would be using phrases like "a rebuilding year with a lineup like this), but they're five games behind the Marlins and are definitely still in the hunt. If they can stay in contention through July, I have to believe that the injuries will stop and that management will be motivated to pick up at least one big bat and one frontline starter for the postseason run. I'm still bracing for them not to make the playoffs for the first time since they started their unprecedented run in 1991, but it's clear that they haven't given up hope despite all the challenges they've faced, and neither will I.
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