november 2010

Here were our pumpkins for this Halloween:

Mine is on the left, Julie's is on the right. We got the pumpkins this year from a pumpkin patch we went to on Saturday as part of a Hopkins alumni event. There were farm animals to look at, a corn maze, a hayride, etc. I look forward to taking Will to this kind of stuff when he's a little older, but let's face it, this was more for the parents than it was for him (although he seemed to enjoy it).

And speaking of things that are more for the parents (mom) than it is for him:

My mom bought this costume for him several weeks back, and he just about grew out of it before Halloween. People kept thinking he was a girl, probably because of the pink cow mouth and the tights, but he was awfully cute in it. The picture is from a local craft market they hold once a month that we went to on Sunday afternoon; he also had to wear it while we answered the door that night.

As for trick-or-treaters, our count this year went back up to 79, which has been about our average for the last several years (not counting last year when rain kept people inside).

First day back at the office in over a week, and Will's first day at daycare. This is going to be a long week...

Will seemed to do okay in his first day at daycare yesterday. Our provider said he slept for two two-hour stretches and ate a reasonable amount, and seemed very interested in the other children. There was minimal fussiness, which I don't expect every day, but it was probably good for Julie that he didn't spend the whole day crying and not eating.

This routine is going to be a grind—I'm guessing that my 40 minute commute is now going to regularly be an hour and a half to two hours—but it's only three days a week, and I only have to do it in the morning. Still, it's a real drag to get up an hour earlier than normal and get to work at the same time or later than usual.

Finished the latest season of Mad Men, and I'm not quite sure what to think. I generally liked it, but it didn't really live up to the promise of the first couple of episodes, and the final episode was just bizarre.

I've always felt like the theme they introduce at the beginning of each season doesn't really get fully explored until the following season, so maybe that will be the case here, and next season will be the one where we really see Don get energized about saving his company. There were a couple of moments where he showed some life, but generally he was more passive than he needed to be given the financial status of the new firm, and that final episode really upended a lot of what the season had been building to, and not in a way that was surprising or unexpected in a good way.

Slate runs a TV Club series for each season of certain shows, including Friday Night Lights and Mad Men (here's where the commentary on season 4 starts), and honestly, part of the reason I watch Mad Men now is so I can read the commentary from those writers. They add a lot of nice insights to the show and delineate themes that I feel but can't quite enunciate in the same way that they do.

But that's part of this show's problem: sometimes it takes outside commentary to bring depth to the plots and characters, when they should really be able to speak for themselves. Yes, I like the subtlety in the writing and the unspoken aspects of the actors' performances, but there are times when the plot and character development seems a bit too obtuse, to the point where it can feel random or cliched. The TV Club writers can help fill in some of these gaps and give each episode more purpose and a more unified sense of direction, but if the show was really doing its job, an engaged, thoughtful viewer like me shouldn't be as excited about reading commentary on the show as I am watching the show itself.

Will's baptism is this weekend, and people are starting to arrive this afternoon for the event, but I've still got to go to work. I'm hoping to take half a day of vacation so I can get back home by early afternoon, but I've got some big meetings to get through first.

It was a hectic weekend, but things went reasonably well for Will's baptism. My mom, my grandfather (who is one of the people Will is named for), and his wife came up together on Friday afternoon, and Julie's mom also drove up then. Friday night my dad got into town with my stepmother and my sister Tori, and then my sister Carrie and her husband flew in on Saturday morning. My brother Dodd drove from Toledo on Saturday and got in around 3 or 4, and finally Julie's uncle and aunt from Chicago arrived just in time for dinner at 6:00.

Logistically, it was kind of a mess—no one stayed with us until Saturday night, when Julie's roommate from college who is one of Will's godparents and who lives out of town stayed in the guest bedroom, but fitting that many people into our relatively small house was a challenge. Meals were also tricky given that my grandfather eats relatively early and that we had such a large group. So we broke up into groups for lunch on Saturday, and had dinner at a local place fairly early on Saturday night.

Sunday we were pulled over because we had one brake light out on the way to the church, and even though I told the officer we were on the way to my son's baptism, there were three adults dressed in church clothes in the car with a baby, and there was a christening gown hanging up in the back seat, he took his sweet time, taking my license and registration and giving me a fix-it ticket after about 15 minutes. Being pulled over for something like that is annoying enough, but what really irked me was that this was a state patrolman who pulled me over in the little downtown area where we live (and we have our own police force)—what he was doing patrolling there is beyond me.

The ceremony went pretty well, although as is his custom, Will got bored after the first few minutes and needed to be walked around most of the service. Luckily, the baptism was fairly early into the service, and not only was he well-behaved until then, he actually fell asleep in my arms when we went to stand at the front of the church for his baptism. That didn't last, though—when the preacher took him, he stirred awake, but he went into full howl mode when the water hit his head.

After church, we all went to a buffet brunch at a local place where we had reservations, and I did my best to avoid looking at the tvs in the bar that were showing the Ravens game. We had room to ourselves, so even though we were seated at two long tables, we had enough room to move around so that everyone got to see each other.

It was a very hectic weekend, and Julie and Will and I were all exhausted by Sunday night, but it's great that he has so many people in his life who care so much about him and who made long trips to be with him on this special occasion.

I have meetings today at 9, 10, 10:30, 11, 12, and 2, and I won't be surprised if the 11 meeting goes all the way to 12 and the 12 meeting goes all the way until 1:30, when I'll have to get to my car and drive to another campus for my 2, which I'm expecting to last at least an hour. Tuesdays are always my worst days for meetings, but this is about as bad as it's ever been.

Will turns four months old today, and it's also my brother's birthday. So really nothing more to post today than noting these two events for the record.

Ugh. Some nasty bug going around. I started feeling it on Tuesday night, and it's not really any better today. I wasn't expecting to miss two days of work this week...

Another tough loss for the Ravens, just like all their losses this season. It was a slow game for them until the fourth quarter, which they entered down 13-0, but then they bounced back with three touchdowns, and with just over a minute to go, they had a 21-20 lead with the Falcons starting on their own 20 yard line. But the defense couldn't stop Atlanta, and in that one minute the Falcons were able to add another touchdown to win the game.

True, that final drive by Atlanta was aided by two outrageously bad calls by the ref (including the touchdown play that ignored some very obvious pushing off by the receiver who made the touchdown), but the refs wouldn't have even had a chance to make those bad calls if the defense has stopped Atlanta earlier in the drive. And they had their opportunities with third down and long, but just like the rest of the game, the defense couldn't shut down Matt Ryan.

The Ravens are still playing pretty great—at 6-3, they're tied for the division lead and have one of the best records in the AFC, and they have an excellent chance at making the playoffs. The problem, of course, is that two of their three losses have come at the hands of other teams with great records that they are likely to encounter during a playoff run, and they've got to find a way to win more games against teams like that (although in their defense, I will note that they have beaten the Jets and the Steelers this season, two other teams that currently have records as good as or better than the Ravens).

We had a nice relaxing weekend for once—I think that's the first time since Will's been born that we didn't have someone visiting or a long list of chores/errands we had to run. We all enjoyed the downtime, and hopefully we'll get some more over the next couple of weeks, as we're not intending to travel or host anyone for Thanksgiving this year.

Things are still really hectic at work, but they've been that way for so long now that I don't really get worked up about it anymore—I just do as much as I can do and try to leave it all in the office at the end of the day.

I don't know why I continue to watch Entourage. It's usually reasonably entertaining, but season 6 (which I'm currently finishing up on Netflix) isn't all that interesting and it's almost entirely pointless, even by the standards of this series. It's hard for me to believe that they've already made a season 7 and are planning a season 8 given how weak season 6 has been; season 5 probably should have been the end of this show.

Our oldest car, which I've bought 14 years ago this month, has had two things go wrong with it in the past week that have required a call to AAA, both times when Will was in the car with either Julie or I. It's been a good car, but we knew we'd need to buy a new vehicle sometime before the holidays, and I think we're getting some pretty clear signals that the time has come.

Weird. I had no idea that the guy who created Wonder Woman also invented the polygraph machine.

Looking forward to a normal Ravens weekend for the first time in weeks—three weeks ago was their bye week and they didn't play, the week after that was Will's baptism, and while I did get to watch the game before seeing the score somewhere, it was late at night I was pretty exhausted, and then last week they played on Thursday night (again, I got to watch it, but it was at night when I had to go to work the next morning). This week should be a standard issue 1:00 on Sunday game that I can go through my normal routine with.

We have a new car now. More on the process we went through to get it later, but because of the increasing lack of reliability of my 14 year old Saturn with over 220,000 miles on it, and because we need something bigger than a compact sedan to haul Will and his stuff around for longer trips, we decided it was finally time to retire our oldest car (the first car I ever bought for myself, which I bought right after I got my first tech job in 1996) and get something with a little more space.

We ended up with a Toyota RAV-4 after looking at that model, the Toyota Highlander, the Hynudai Santa Fe, and the Ford Edge, and rejecting the others for various reasons (the Highlander felt really huge; the Santa Fe is at the end of a model year and will be in very short supply until January, and the Edge felt much smaller than we expected). It's got tons of space compared to our other cars, it's got a lot of nice features, and it drives pretty much like a car instead of an SUV (it's built on the same platform as the Toyota Camry), which was important for Julie (I learned how to drive on a 1980s era Suburban, so I can drive pretty much anything, but it is nice not to have to really readjust your driving style when switching vehicles).

I think Julie's going to be the primary driver on days when we both go into work—she has fewer miles to go and is less likely to get caught in traffic, and that will help keep miles off the car and reduce our spending on gas—but we'll use it for errands with Will and certainly for long trips.

This will be the first time in a long time—possibly ever—that I have not spent some part of the Thanksgiving holiday with my father. The location has changed in the past decade—we've hosted at our house five or six times, and once the family was down in Florida for my sister's wedding, and a few times it has returned to my father and stepmother's house—but this year, we felt like it was too much to travel for Thanksgiving with all the traveling we'll be doing at Christmas, and my father's schedule didn't allow him to come up here.

My parents divorced when I was very young, and Thanksgiving was always my dad's holiday with my sister and me. Sure, we saw him over the Christmas holidays too, but never until a couple of days after Christmas, and especially once my brother and sister with his new wife came along, Christmas felt long over by the time we arrived. We celebrated Thanksgiving as a family, with my stepmother and her mother (often at her mother's house, who always had activities for us kids because she was a first grade teacher), and it created the kind of memories that you expect holidays with family to create.

We need the break, though, and Will won't know the difference this year anyway (although Julie is insistent that we purchase a high chair before Thursday so he can sit at the table with us when we have our scaled-back Thanksgiving dinner). Tomorrow neither of us is going to work, and we're dropping Will off a daycare for a few hours in the morning so we can run some errands and keep another Thanksgiving family tradition of seeing a movie (the new Harry Potter in this case), and while the rest of the week will feel like a holiday, I don't really expect it to feel like Thanksgiving.

Last Wednesday we took the morning off of work and put Will in daycare for half a day so we could go see part 1 of the final Harry Potter movie, The Deathly Hallows. I was trying my hardest to believe the studio and director when they said that they movie was broken into two parts not for financial reasons but because they needed that much time to fully tell the story, but after seeing it, I don't know how anyone can believe that. If this wasn't a blatant cash-grab, then I don't know what is.

My main complaint with it is my main complaint about the book, too: we spent far too long watching Harry, Hermione, and Ron wander around remote parts of England aimlessly, living out of a tent and wondering what they should do next. It killed the action-packed momentum of the early part of the book, and it really kills the movie. And I find it very suspicious that, given the far more interesting subplots and detours in some of the heftier middle books of the series, it's now, when the studio execs are realizing they're at the end of a franchise the likes of which they're probably never going to see again in their careers, that they decide it's time to stick more faithfully to the intricacies of Rowling's book.

As far as details like the cinematography, the effects, the characters, etc., it's as good as any movie in the series (except for Alfonso Cuaron's magical entry, The Prisoner of Azkaban), and if you've seen all the others and you're planning to see the final one next summer, you should probably see this one. But I'm not planning to see it again.

For Thanksgiving, we kept it pretty low key. I made an herb-crusted turkey breast and a couple of vegetable sides and Julie made her sweet potato casserole. We didn't eat until the early evening, and I honestly don't remember what else we did that day, which means we probably slept in, napped when Will napped, and just hung out with him.

We ate earlier than we usually do so Will could sit in his brand new high chair with us, although he was just an observer this year—we're probably going to hold off on any kind of solid food until around six months or so. He tolerated it pretty well, even though today's high chairs have the same complex system of straps and clasps that keep babies firmly planted in their car seats.

The rest of the weekend is kind of a blur, too, although I do remember going to church on Sunday and watching the Ravens in the afternoon. I missed seeing the family that I typically spend Thanksgiving with, but I also enjoyed having a nice bit of down time before the next few busy weeks at work where we'll be finalizing the Early Decision class, followed by a busy Christmas travel schedule.



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