july 2009

So my brother lives in Ohio now, which I still haven't really wrapped my head around. He's been living in Baltimore for the past five years or so, during which time I've gotten to know him a lot better (we're 8 1/2 years apart, and he lived in a different city when we were growing up). But about a year ago, he started calling and IMing a girl he met in World of Warcraft, and then they met in person last September and have met up in real life once or twice a month since then. By December he was talking about moving out to her city in Ohio when his lease was up, and he ended up doing just that—his lease ended June 30, and by June 25 his stuff was packed into a U-Haul and he was on his way to her apartment, which she shares with her two teenage daughters.

It's a big step for him—he's never lived with someone he was having a romantic relationship with, and he's very much the kind of person who needs his own space and alone time (like me), which might be hard to get in an apartment where he doesn't have a room of his own and which is home to two teenage girls with active social lives. I hope it all turns out well for him, but it will be interesting to see how he handles some of the challenges of his new relationship/living situation.

I'm not intending to work more than four days a week this entire month. Tomorrow we have off for Independence Day, next week I have a flex day coming, and the week after that is Artscape, and I'll be taking off that Friday (the first official day of the festival) and the following Monday (to rest up after three long days of selling). Depending on now my vacation situation is looking (I'm nearing my maximum carryover amount), I might end up taking another couple of days here and there too.

We only had one guest for July 4 this year, so I splurged and got New York strip steaks instead of the usual hamburgers and bratwurst. I also served homemade pineapple salsa and tortilla chips, roasted potatoes, bacon-wrapped grilled corn, sauteed mushrooms, and freshly made Rice Krispie treats.

We also went to Pennsylvania on Friday to buy some heavier duty fireworks than you can get in Maryland. Next year I'll know to go earlier—there was a line out the door and we had to wait about half an hour before we could get into the store. Part of the holdup was that you had to show them out-of-state ID (Pennsylvania residents weren't even allowed in the store) and sign a document saying that you would not set off anything you had purchased in Pennsylvania (which, viewed another way, was basically a statement that you intended to violate the law in another state), but given the number of people there, it really didn't take too long.

We bought a relatively modest combo pack with some standard fare (roman candles, bottle rockets, firecrackers, etc.), and a view tube and battery fireworks that were actually pretty impressive. For the past few years we have eschewed the big displays nearby (although over the years we've seen the shows in Baltimore, Columbia, and DC) and instead enjoyed our neighbors' more-elaborate-than-you-would-think displays. There's one guy who is clearly still the king, but he gets more competition each year, and his two primary rivals also seem to up their game every year. I'm not sure if I'll ever get to the point of setting off the big shells (or rather, I don't know if I'll ever convince Julie to let me do that), but I would like to focus on the bigger packages next year and skip the little bottle rockets, etc.

But it was a relaxed, quiet evening, and the weather couldn't have been more perfect. The whole summer should be filled with three day weekends that are capped off by explosions in the sky.

My Kozik painting shipped from Chicago today and should get to me sometime this week. I was half-planning to take a flex day tomorrow, but I think I'll wait and use it on the delivery date instead. I'm still not sure exactly where to hang it—the study, which houses the toy collection, is the obvious place, but there's not really much wallspace left in there—but I'm very eager to add this to my Kozik pieces.

Painting arrives today! I have a couple of shelves worth of prints, posters, paintings, and drawings that I keep meaning to get framed so I can hang them up, but this one is not getting tucked away. I've cleared away a bit of space on a wall next to my desk by taking down a clock, and if my guess about it's size is correct, it should fit just about perfectly. Very excited to own this piece, and even more excited to have it displayed alongside the art toys that got me into Kozik in the first place.

Today should be interesting. At 9:00, I have a visitor from Notre Dame who is an old colleague of one of my deans coming for an all day visit to look at our document management system, which will probably take up the first six hours of my day. Somewhere in the middle of that (I'll likely drop my guest off with another team lead for half an hour or so), I've got a meeting with a dean, and then a conference call at 3:30 that will likely last until the end of the day. And somewhere in there (probably while I'm on the conference call), I have two email campaigns to send out that have to go out today.

This summer is definitely less stressful than last summer, when we were beginning the implementation of our document management system, but it's still busy.

A week from today is the start of Artscape 2009, which we were again invited to participate in. I've printed the smaller 4x6 images that Julie uses to make the notecards, and over the next couple of days I'll print the big 8x10s that are our main moneymakers. I still have a decent amount of stock from Spring Fair, but I'll probably still end up printing 25-30 photos to make sure we have plenty of backups of the more popular ones.

It seems like it came on really fast this year—we prepped for a lot longer last year—but we have a much better idea of what to expect, and I'm actually not that stressed about it. I just hope we make some profit—I'm a little concerned with the economy being the way it is, but my price points are relatively low for this festival, and if we can keep the weather as nice as it's been the past couple of weeks, the crowds should be plenty big. This festival is known for taking place on one of the hottest weekends of the summer, but the current forecast doesn't look too bad, so I've got my fingers crossed that we'll get pleasant temperatures this year.

I'd like to add a few new prints to what I'm offering at Artscape this year, but I really haven't taken that many pictures that I feel are saleable in the last year (I really haven't taken that many pictures period). I've printed three pictures from our Las Vegas/Grand Canyon trip last September, and I might include a couple of those, and there's also a photo of a spray painted anarchy symbol on a rusted bridge near where I live. But the new print I really like is a shot from last summer, an alleyway in Baltimore that's yellow from the street lights with a peek of blue sky in between the buildings (it was late in the day, but the sun hadn't gone all the way down yet). It's usually a special kind of person that likes my architectural shots, but I hope I can sell at least one copy of this over the weekend.

Finished watching Entourage season 5 on DVD from Netflix earlier this week. It's a pretty lightweight show, but it's entertaining enough I guess (I mean, I've watched five seasons of it on DVD, so there's something appealing about it). Compared to other shows showing Hollywood behind the scenes, like Curb Your Enthusiasm or especially The Larry Sanders Show, it's not that complex and doesn't really seem to have a point.

It probably would have been a lot more interesting if the actor playing the show's main movie star character had actually turned into a legitimate movie star, but since the beginning of the show, he's had mostly small parts in small movies (although if he had turned into a real star, what are the odds he would have continued to do the show?). If the show had been the catalyst that transformed him into a real star, you could have had a lot more is-this-real-or-is-this-scripted type plots that you saw on Larry David's and Gary Shandling's shows.

I haven't had a friend request on Facebook in quite some time. I'm pretty okay with that.

The weather is still looking pretty good for Artscape this weekend. They're predicting high 80s for tomorrow afternoon, but Saturday and Sunday are supposed to be in the low 80s (and even high 80s is way better than the high 90s we had each day last year). Hopefully this will mean bigger crowds and better sales. I'd be happy selling what we did last year, but if we happen to make more than that, I'm not going to complain.

I won't be posting directly to this site until next Tuesday (I'm taking Monday off to recover), but I will be posting Twitter updates and posting photos to Flickr, both of which will show up on the front page of this site. Wish me luck and stop by to say hello if you're in the area.

Artscape couldn't have gone better: mild weather, huge crowds, and great sales. It's still an exhausting weekend, though—I might take another day off later this week to get fully recovered.

Dodd flew back into town on Monday night so he could attend his office's annual meeting where they discuss goals for the next year, and it was the first time we'd seen him since he moved to Ohio last month. I picked him up at the airport around 7:30 and we went out to eat at Chili's (their new appetizer/two entrees/dessert for $20 special is a real deal). We sat outside on the patio, and it was almost too cold, which is unbelievable for July around here.

The next day we dropped him off at the light rail station near where Julie works so he could ride down to his office and then met up with him after work, where we had just enough time for a quick stop into Atomic Books (they have an awesome new sign, and I showed Rachel an image of the Kozik painting I bought on my iPhone) and dinner at Golden West before taking him back to the airport.

Aside from not seeing him on Independence Day, it's not unlikely that we wouldn't have seen him in person since the end of June even if he was still living here, and it's still hard to wrap my head around the idea that he now lives hundreds of miles away. I'm hopeful that he'll be able to keep coming out here for work purposes fairly frequently—I'm sure it won't be the same as having him live 15 minutes away, but it will be a lot easier to keep up with what's going on in his life if we get to see him face to face every few weeks.

So a couple of days after I posted that it had been a while since I had gotten a new Facebook friend request, I got one.

From my mom.

There have been tons of articles in the past few months about parents sending friend requests, but in my universe, this was one of those will-never-happen-to-me situations, because my mom is pretty technologically inept, doesn't use the internet for much but shopping and email (and a lot of her emails are of the forward-this-to-ten-other-people type), and she has never been remotely interested in social networking or anything like that.

I don't post anything weird on Facebook (I actually use Twitter to update my Facebook status, so anyone who knows about this web site can already see all of my Facebook status updates because they are identical to the Twitter updates in the column on the right side of the main page of this site), but I just don't like the idea of crossing the streams, so to speak. I keep my Facebook friends pretty much limited to actual friends—some current friends, some from college, some from high school—but no coworkers, business contacts, or any of that stuff. And I like it that way.

I still don't know why Facebook didn't anticipate this issue (or at least act on it once it started happening frequently enough for a multitude of news stories to be written about it) and create flags that you could assign to contacts (friend, family, coworker, etc.) and then have the ability to attach those flags to your posts so that you could create compartments where some people would see everything you posted and some would only see what you posted for that category, and they'd never know the difference.

In practical terms, this is a much bigger issue for someone who posts photos of themselves drunk at parties or who recounts their young adult escapades than it is for me, but it's still an issue that Facebook should have provided functionality to handle. We know from computing history that it's not always the best company, OS, or service that ends up being dominant; someone reaches a critical mass at the right time, and they become very difficult to unseat even if there are better options on the market.

Facebook seems like it's becoming pretty solidly the dominant social networking platform (although that could change; two years ago people thought MySpace was going to be king forever), and but it doesn't really seem interested in growing with the needs of its user base, introducing only minimal improvements (their last major update was essentially an attempt to make your main Facebook page look and act more like Twitter). And as surprised as I am that Facebook hasn't implemented some sort of compartmentalization option, I'm even more suprised that no challenger has offered that feature, because with our work, friend, and family lives becoming more and more intertwined on Facebook, this ability seems like just the thing that might let another service break into the market in a big way (it would also give Facebook strong motivation to finally implement this themselves).

I still haven't friended my mom, although I probably will. It's more of a principle kind of thing at this point than a real concern that she'll read something that I don't want her to; I reveal a lot more personal stuff on this site (which I think she is aware of but doesn't read at all) than I do on Facebook. Plus I'm guessing she'll get pretty bored with posting updates and reading other people's walls pretty quickly; I'm willing to bet that the only reason she's on Facebook is because of her circle of younger, hipper friends or because of my sister who lives near her and who has recently become enamored of Facebook herself.

Taking the day off today. I caught some sort of bug at Artscape that made the last day pretty miserable, and it's been dragging me down all week. I have a little vacation to burn, and nothing in particular it needs to be spent on (although if I don't spend some soon, I'll start to lose it), so this seems as good a time to take a little of it as any.

Our 15 year old diabetic cat, Bear, has been feeling under the weather for the past couple of weeks, and on Saturday Julie finally decided to take him to the vet. They ran a bunch of tests, but there wasn't anything obviously wrong with him other than that he was dehydrated (his blood sugar was out of whack, too, but it's hard to tell if that's a side effect of something else or if it's the cause), so they sent us home with a kit that allowed us to give him fluids subcutaneously (since he gets two insulin shots a day, he's used to needles and we're used to poking him) and told us to monitor him closely.

Nothing has really changed—he doesn't seem any better or any worse, and although I'm sure the fluids have helped, I think he's still a bit dehydrated—so we're going to take him back again today to see if an x-ray will show anything abnormal (they checked his kidneys and his thyroid among other things on Saturday). He eats, although not as much as before, he goes the litter regularly, and he purrs when you pet him or pick him up, but he's very lethargic and spends most of the day hiding in dark corners downstairs where it's cool. Hopefully today they'll figure out what's wrong with him—even if it's not good news, it will still be better to know what's going on so we can take care of him appropriately.

I don't think Bear is going to make it. We took him to the vet again last night and they took x-rays, but they still couldn't find anything and he's still deteriorating. Given his incredibly weakened state and the fact that he hasn't really had much to eat or drink (we've been giving him fluids so he doesn't get dehydrated), he still does a lot of things on his own—going to the litter, coming to the food bowls when it's feeding time (even though he doesn't really eat), and purring when you pet him. But I don't know how much longer his body is going to hold out, so we're just going to make him comfortable and spend as much time with him as we can.

I got The Wrestler through Netflix last week, and while it was certainly worth watching, but I'm not sure it deserved as much critical attention as it got, and I'm certainly not convinced that Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei deserved Oscar nods for their performances, especially because it seemed like half the movie was just shots of the backs of their heads as they were walking around.

I also got 3:10 to Yuma (I've been trying to go back and watch as much of Christian Bale's work as I can), and again, I'm glad I saw it, but I don't know what the point was, and it was hard to buy some of the setups. Russell Crowe had a very strong performance, but I couldn't buy into the mastermind/genius aspect of his character like the writers probably wanted me to.

Next up are a couple of documentaries, but I'm getting a little tired of those—they tend to hang around longer than the fictional material—so I might bump a few of those off my queue (or at least knock them down a few slots).

Bear died around 3 a.m. this morning. He had been very lethargic all day and hadn't really eaten anything, but he still purred when you would pet him and he didn't seem to be in any pain. Still, it was clear that he wasn't going to recover, and we probably would have taken him to be put to sleep tonight if he hadn't passed on his own.

He had diabetes from when he was only two or three years old, and had been close to death on a couple of occasions, mostly because we had a vet with no real experience with diabetic cats who gave us bad advice about how to keep him regulated. He was a fighter and very tough when it came to situations like that, but otherwise he was the sweetest, most gentle animal I've ever had. He was much loved and I miss him terribly.

We're running out of space in the yard to bury our pets—my iguana is buried in the side flower bed, Wednesday is buried a few feet away in the same bed, Smoltz is on the same side of the house underneath two lilac trees, and Julie's iguana is near the toolshed with her climbling log used as her grave marker—so we're going to have Bear cremated. We wanted to bury him with Smoltz, and we figured that being able to scatter his ashes around Smoltz's resting place or bury the box of ashes nearby would work better than trying to dig another full-sized hole there.

It's not like Bear was especially active the last couple of months, but the house feels really empty without him. He never really warmed up to Junie, but she loved him, and at dinnertime the two of them were always together, singing for their supper. Spot was the first cat we got in Charlottesville, where we acquired Smoltz, Bear, and Wednesday, and now he's the last one standing. He doesn't have any significant health issues—he developed a thyroid problem in the last year or two that we have to give him pills for—but then again, Bear seemed like he was holding steady until a few weeks ago. I guess at this age there's just no telling.

december 2009
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