april 2009

I was supposed to have the day off today. April Fools, me!

Every year, there's at least one schools that sends out a ton of admit emails to students who were actually waitlisted or denied. This year it was UC San Diego's turn: they accidentally sent an invitation to an admit-only event on campus to everyone in the applicant pool, including approximately 28,000 students who had received deny letters two weeks earlier.

I'm the one who sends out all of the decision emails for my office, and I live in mortal terror of making this kind of mistake. Even though the lists are provided to me by the operations team, and they've doublechecked those lists against the actual mailing packets before they give them to me, I still check and recheck every email before I send it out.

This year was worse than usual, because in addition to our normal decision emails, we also sent out notifications to four of our specialized programs and several rounds of invites to various admit-only events on campus and around the country, and each one of those communications was just another chance for me to make this kind of mistake.

But I've made it through another cycle without screwing up, so I guess I get to keep my job for another year. Yay me.

Staff picture today, although with all the rain predicted, I wonder if we'll be forced to move it inside the lobby instead of taking it outside in front of the building like we did last year. This is also the day when we're doing our end-of-cycle celebration lunch, which this year will consist of premade cold cut sandwiches, pasta or potato salad, and some cookies and brownies that we'll eat in the conference room.

The best staff luncheon I remember was my first year here, seven years ago. Then we waited until May when the weather was nice, left the office late in the morning to head down to a restaurant on the water, and enjoyed a great meal together before being given the rest of the afternoon off. Each year since then, the lunch has become less and less fancy, and it's no surprise that given the economic climate that this year's is the most bare bones of all. Hopefully we'll still get the afternoon off, but I'm not even 100% sure about that.

It was my birthday over the weekend, and we kept it pretty low key: lunch out with Dodd and then sushi at home for dinner. There some good toy releases coming in the next couple of months, so I'll save my various gift certificates/checks for those.

Last week when I was walking to the mailbox, there was a girl and her mom walking their dogs up the street. The girl was talking to everyone she saw, and as they came up to me, she said:

Girl: It's my birthday soon, I'm going to be four!
Me: Really? When is your birthday?
Girl: This saturday, I'm going to be four!
Me: It's my birthday on Saturday, too.
Girl: It's MY birthday, I'm going to be four!
Me: That's cool, we have the same birthday.
Girl's mom: Did you hear him honey, Saturday is his birthday, too.
Girl: It's my birthday soon, I'm going to be four!

I stopped by Atomic Books on Friday to get a preview of the second Vinylmore show and pick up a couple of Ninjatown microplushes from the second series, and while I was there I got a Babo uglydoll for her as a birthday gift. She hasn't come by again, at least not that I've seen, and when we were driving around the neighborhood on Saturday I didn't notice any indications of a party on our block, but I'll hang onto it for a few weeks just in case I see her and her mom out walking their dogs again.

Double-digit wins in every NCAA tournament game, early leads that no opponent was able to overcome, and solid performances from all the starters: UNC was clearly the best team in college basketball this year. Were they the best Carolina team in history? Quite probably. The best college team ever? I can't really answer that question since I'm not well-versed in college basketball history, but I'd have to guess that they'd at least be part of the conversation.

Anyway. Great season, great win. The only thing that would have made it better was meeting Duke in the finals of the ACC tournament and taking that title, too, but if gettting knocked out early meant that they were that much stronger and well-rested for the big dance, then so much the better.

To show how far baseball has dropped off my radar, I wasn't even aware that the Braves were playing in (and won) the official opening game of this season on Sunday night until the next morning. They are still my team, but honestly, I'm not even sure who the starters are this year—all I know is that we lost John Smoltz, my favorite player, during the offseason and that he's now playing for Boston. Blech.

Monday was the home opener for the Orioles, and it was the first time we weren't in attendance in years (they won as well, and against the Yankees, which is always nice). We considered it, but the team's official site would only let you buy tickets for opening day as part of a six game ticket plan, and we just couldn't convince ourselves to commit to that many games. I already have tickets to see the three Braves games in June—it will be the first time the Braves have played in Baltimore in four years, and although they make a few trips a year to the region now that the Nationals are in DC, I still like seeing them in what has essentially become my home ballpark - but I'm not sure if I'm interested enough in any of the other teams to make a point to buy an Orioles ticket this year (some of the promotions might draw us in, but one of the Braves games is floppy hat night, one of the most coveted giveaways of the season).

Part of my disinterest is that I just don't have the time to invest in watching the games, and it's also a lot more difficult to find Braves games than it was back when TBS aired 100-135 of them annually. If I could get behind the O's, I might be more willing to follow them on the regional sports cable station this summer, when I'm hoping to have more leisure time to devote to reading or baseball or whatever, but they've been so terrible for so long that I've become pretty jaded.

Since my boss is away to visit family with his kids on their spring break for the rest of this week, I would normally consider taking a day or two off to recuperate from the cycle (and also finish up my master's project, which I'd like to turn in by the beginning of next week), but I'm still crazy busy at work.

Usually after the letters go out I have a fallow period of 3-4 weeks, but it hasn't slowed down at all this year. In addition to sending out a ridiculous number of new email campaigns around our yield effort (normally, in addition to the decision letters, we send out invites to various events that bring our total number of bulk email messages up to around 10 or so; this year I've probably done 30 already and there are a few more yet to go out this week), there are also pressing web updates, the search imports for next year's class to configure and run, and . And we're under a bit of pressure to get all this done because we also have some big summer projects that we need to start on by June so that we're done by the end of August.

I expected last year to be very busy because I lost a team member right after the cycle ended and because of the massive document imaging project, but I was hoping this year would be a bit calmer. I'm afraid, however, that this might be the new normal for my team and me (especially me). I love where I work, I love who I work for, and I love the work I'm doing, but I need some downtime between the really busy times or I feel like my performance isn't up to my own standards. And it seems like, because we support multiple other teams who each have their own independent cycle where they are busy and need our attention, there just aren't any periods on the calendar that aren't someone's busy time.

I don't think I'm going to finish reading the Watchmen before it leaves the theaters. Oh well. I guess it's just another thing to add to my Netflix queue.

I'm behind on posting pictures for this month. I'm behind on so many things...

One of the reasons I'm dying for summer to get here is because that means months and months of cheap seedless watermelon. I got on a real watermelon kick last year; I'd put a bowl full of chunks in the freezer for a few minutes until they were just starting to ice up and then sprinkle them with sea salt. I went through a period where I had at least one bowl every day for weeks, and although I fortunately let go of the habit around the same time that watermelon started to get scarce, I've been craving it again for the past few weeks.

So you can imagine how happy I was when Julie brought home a small one from the grocery store this weekend. It wasn't quite as cheap as it is in the summer, but it was on sale and much cheaper than it's been in months. It's not quite as sweet as the ones we get in the summer, but it was delicious anyway; after I finished chopping it up and storing it in bags in the refrigerator, I immediately put a small bowl in the freezer to have as a late afternoon snack.

The rain that is forecast for today is not going to be good for us. It's the second of our three yield events for admitted students, which historically has the highest attendance, and although you'd hope that people wouldn't let grey skies and wet weather influence a decision as major as where they choose to go to college, it will almost certainly have a negative effect on at least a few kids. A lot of the days events take place indoors, but not the campus tours, which are attended by virtually everyone who comes, and the campus is one of our strongest selling points since we did major renovations to the walking paths and quads a few years ago.

We've been considering adding a third cat to the household for a few months now, but every time one of us gets serious about it, the other one wants to hold off, so we've never gotten close to pulling the trigger. However, over the weekend Julie found a brown tabby kitten whose face reminded us of Smoltz, our favorite cat who died a year and a half ago, and we went to the shelter after work yesterday afternoon intending to adopt him if he seemed like he would mesh with our current cats.

But when we go there, we found that he had just been adopted that afternoon. We spent some time playing with the other cats and kittens, but none of them really felt right, so we didn't start the adoption process on anyone (it's apparently fairly involved at that shelter, and used to involve home visits(!), but if we found the right cat there, we would take the time to go through it—although if it still involved the home visit, I'm not so sure we would; that's just a bit too much for adopting an animal in my book).

I don't think missing out on this cat will make us desperate to add another one quickly—we've waited a long time to find the right one—but I think we were both pretty disappointed when we found out someone else had taken him home.

Happy birthday, dad! You know this counts if I forget to call, right?

Out of the four people in my building who work in closest physical proximity to me, three of them have April birthdays, like me. So we all went out to lunch together yesterday to celebrate, bringing along the fourth person as well. We went to a local bar/restuarant across the street from Duff Goldman's Charm City Cakes shop (featured on the Food Network's Ace of Cakes) called the Dizz. The last time I went there was years ago for blogger meetup when it was called Dizzy Izzie's, but it's apparently undergone some renovations since then: it was still a bit cramped downstairs, but it seemed much brighter and cleaner, and they had taken the pool table out of the upstairs room to make more room for dining tables.

The food was pretty good and pretty cheap, and our little corner upstairs had a lot of natural light and was cozy enough for conversation without being cramped. I don't go out for lunch too often, and there are some other local places I like (especially if people don't mind driving—Hampden is only a couple minutes away by car), but this has definitely moved up in the rankings despite the goofy new name.

Mowed the lawn for the first time this season yesterday morning. It's a few days later than usual, but it probably could have used it the middle of last week. Yesterday was actually the first day in a couple of weeks when it was sunny and warm outside, though, so it was a good day to do it. Let's hope we can keep a little of that weather for our third and final admitted student yield event on tomorrow; the other two this year have been cold and rainy and miserable.

Fingers crossed for no rain today...

Tonight's episode of South Park is titled Fatbeard and is apparently about Cartman going to Somalia to become a pirate. There is very little chance that this won't be awesome.

Finally done with my graduate project. Turning it in this morning. This has been a very long journey, and I'm happy to be at the end.

Spring Fair starts today and runs all weekend. I'll be selling photos again this year, so if you're in the Baltimore area, stop by the Hopkins campus and say hello.

For once, Spring Fair wasn't overcast, cold, and occasionally rainy; instead, it was hot and sunny and miserable in an entirely different way. Can't we just have a nice spring weekend for once?

Overall, sales were pretty good—we sold our highest total number yet—but part of that was due to a man who bought six prints on Saturday (although we sold nine other prints that day as well). We only sold three on Sunday, which was less than I was expecting (our five on Friday was about average for that day), and I think part of that was due to the heat—the crowds were very small, and I don't think most people stayed as long as they normally would have or were really in the mood to shop.

A good weekend overall, though.

I wonder when the geniuses who run our facilities are going to decide it's hot enough to turn on the air conditioning. Or at the very least, decide to turn off the heat. I'm anticipating that it will be in the high 70s to low 80s in my office first thing this morning and that it will top out between 85-87. I'm staying for my morning meetings, but if it's that hot in our building again, I'm going to have to head home by midday.

Air conditioning was on yesterday! It still got relatively warm (around 77 or 78 according to the digital thermometer that I keep on my desk), but there was airflow and it felt cooler than that (and no matter what, 78 is better than the 84 that my coworker was reporting on Monday). Usually once they make this transition, they don't look back, so even with cooler temperatures predicted in the coming days, I think we're done with the heat being on in our building until October or November.

The mood on campus is getting me antsy. School's about to let out for the summer for the kids, and I could really use a three month sabbatical from work myself. This summer shouldn't be as hectic as last summer, but it's not going to be a slow time for my team either, especially compared to other teams in my office, some of whom have already entered summer slacker mode (you might as well give some folks time off from June 1 to September 1 for all the work they manage to do during those months).

I'm hoping a good vacation or two will alleviate my sense of just wanting to get out, and certainly our summer flex schedule (where I only take half an hour for lunch (pretty common for me anyway) and work a half hour later (also pretty common for me) and then get an extra day off every other week) will help the weeks feel shorter, but I'm really tired of grinding while everyone else is relaxing.

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