february 2012

The calendar may say February, but it sure doesn't feel like it. We've had plenty of precipitation this year, but almost no snow—an icing event a week or so ago and then a dusting the day before Halloween.

We've also had plenty of bitter cold snaps, but they just don't seem to intersect with the precipitation—it seems like we've had several instances this season where it was in the 20s and dry the first half of the week and then in the 50s and rainy the second half.

We're planning to go skiing in West Virginia in a few weeks, and I've been a little too scared about what I might find to check the conditions on the mountain. I know they must have gotten some snow, and I also know that whenever it's cold they can make snow like crazy, but we haven't been in a couple of years and it would be nice to have a good couple of days.

There seem to be two things that Punxsutawney Phil can predict. If he sees his shadow, it means six more weeks of winter; if he doesn't, it means an early spring. But I can't find any definition of what early spring means: does it mean that it comes sooner than six weeks, so five weeks of winter would count as an accurate guess, or that there is some predetermined length of time (three weeks? four? immediately?) when spring has to start for his guess to be correct?

And then I guess you get into the whole question of how you define the beginning of spring anyway, but that's a little too far afield for idle questions related to the weather predictions of a small woodland creature.

Diabo III closed beta invite! I was kind of ignoring all of the pre-release information on this game so it would be somewhat of a surprise the first time I played it after release, but I don't see how I can not take advantage of an opportunity like this.

For the second year in a row, I found myself rooting against the team that beat my team in the championship game rather than rooting for my team directly. And although there was some small pleasure in seeing the team that beat my team get beat themselves in the big game, it was nowhere near as pleasurable as it would have been to simply see the Ravens in the Super Bowl, win or lose. Next year...

I had six meetings yesterday that took up literally all but 10 minutes of my time in the office (that 10 minutes is when I ate my lunch, a protein bar from a stash I keep in my desk for days like yesterday). Tomorrow I'm in meetings from 9:30 to 4 (although one of those is a lunch meeting, so at least I'll get to eat). Today, though, I only have a half hour conference call scheduled and a brief meeting with a vendor, so maybe I'll actually be able to get some work done.

The Diablo III beta is disappointingly only the first half of the first chapter of the story, and even taking my time exploring and getting reacquainted with the interface and controls, it only took me about three hours to play through all of the available content. It was fun to play in that world again, and although I don't think it's going to be as much of a disappointment as Starcraft II, I very much got the sense that, like SC2, D3 was going to be like D2 with upgraded graphics.

Still, I was addicted to D2 for years, so that's not necessarily a bad thing. But it's hard to see how going back to that kind of play is going to take the place of World of Warcraft, the MMO I've been playing for years. I play less than I used to, but there are still some compelling experiences in that game, and I certainly have a great community of friends to share it with.

Today was supposed to be a day I could dedicate to reading files. I knew I wasn't going to be able to do it at home, but as of Monday I only had one half hour meeting scheduled, so I thought I'd be able to get a decent amount done in the office. Of course now I have four meetings and I have to work on a one-page write-up for a critical meeting tomorrow (that I just found out about this morning, and my chances of getting any reading done are just about zero.

Today is Julie's birthday, and although I had planned to take the day off to spend with her and Will, yesterday afternoon I was scheduled into a meeting with all the university budget officers to convince them to invest in the document management system that I've implemented in several offices over the past few years.

I guess I'm grateful for the opportunity to get this project in front of the people who hold the purse strings, but I'm not optimistic about the outcome—it's a tough budget year in most areas of the institution, and there's no mandate pushing us to go paperless. There are some offices, like mine, where there was a clear savings by moving to a document managment system, but for many offices, the cost savings will be less clear and it will be more about overall efficiency by having everyone on a single platform for managing their documents. That's not an insignificant thing, and it's something that we'll surely do at some point, but I'm just not sure I can convince anyone that now is the time with all the competition for budget dollars this cycle.

We're still going to try to make a day of it, though—I'm only scheduled to be in the room for 15 minutes, so Julie and Will will come with me, we'll take Will around to visit my coworkers, and then after my time with the budget folks we'll go out to lunch somewhere in Baltimore.

I usually have a really hard time buying Julie a gift for her birthday or Christmas, because she doesn't really have any hobbies and she's not a big fan of traditional girlie stuff like perfume or jewelry. This year, though, I found something great: a custom-made necklace from Anna Bee Jewelry (someone at work who I have weekly meetings with had a piece from her, and that's where I found out about her).

I got Will's initial and birthstone put on the smaller square, and his date of birth on the rectangular piece, and Julie loves it—I think it might be the only piece of jewelry that I've ever gotten her (aside from her engagement and wedding ring) that she'll wear all the time. Even better: on the morning of her birthday, I got the present out of its hiding place and gave it to Will to take to her, and he happily ran over and gave it to his mommy.

I was so proud of myself for getting a great gift that I kind of forgot to plan a nice dinner and cake, so we had takeout sushi (you can never go wrong with that) and stopped by Coldstone Creamery to pick up some ice cream sandwiches made with chocolate chip cookies. Aside from my annoying trip into work (my fifteen minutes ended up taking over an hour, but that's just because the agenda item before mine ran way long), I think it was a pretty good day for her.

I was one of the many, many fans who found the first half of season 2 of The Walking Dead way too slow, with too much dialogue and not enough action, movement, and tension. It had its moments here and there—Darryl's lone adventure in the woods that ended with him staggering back to camp and getting shot by one of his comrades, Shane's medicine-hunting outing that ended in Otis' death—but overall, it was very static and wordy.

The creators promised that the second half would be fast-paced and filled with action, so I was really looking forward to the premiere episode, which picked up immediately after the last episode of the first season with the climax at the barn of walkers. Sadly, it was just as much of a disappointment as the whole second season so far—after the potential momentum from the climax of the last episode, the new episode basically died on the vine. Sure, the encounter with the Philly refugees was great, but it was too short and gave us only a small taste of what we had been promised. And the Laurie cliffhanger...well, that just felt really stupid and forced.

I'm going to keep watching to see if it gets better, but if it doesn't pick up (and if they don't get off the goddamned farm), I can see a lot of people abandoning the show en route to season 3.

When your wife is hard to buy for and her birthday is February 10, that makes Valentine's Day extra tough, because you have to come up with two special days back to back. I think I did pretty good this year, though. I nailed the birthday with a custom-made necklace and sushi for dinner, and yesterday I sent Julie a dozen chocolate-dipped strawberries at work and then surprised her with a takeout dinner from one of her favorite restaurants that we hadn't been to in a while.

Will's godparents volunteered to keep him for the evening so we could go out, but we gave up fighting the crowds on Valentine's a long time ago, and I still don't think we're quite ready to leave him alone with anyone beside his grandparents. I mean, we know in our heads that he would be fine, especially with his godparents, but there's still a mental barrier that we just can't get past. Someday soon. Maybe.

I'm spending my first day at home reading files in about a month, which is one of the reasons I'm so far behind—in past years, I've been able to reserve two days a week for reading, but this year I've been lucky to get one and my average since the start of January is probably less than half a day a week.

At this point, I have all the files I'm going to get, so instead of selecting a batch of 80 or so and coding them (normalizing the GPA and tracking special categories that we use in our selection process) before reading and decisioning that same batch, I've decided just to finish coding everything so that when I finish, I can go on a marathon of reading (nights and weekends, of course, since I'm all booked up during the day and we're supposed to go skiing for a few days next week).

All of the first reads are supposed to be done by March 1, but even if we move that back a week (which isn't uncommon), I'd still have to press hard to get all my stuff read by the deadline. It's going to be a miserable next couple of weeks, but given the extreme workload I've had at work since my dean left in December, I don't know what else I could have done to avoid this situation other than simply not reading files this year.

I've already spent a lot of time complaining about how many files I have to read in the next two weeks, so let me just say this: it's going to be a long, boring, exhausting weekend. And that's the optimistic outlook.

I haven't heard a lot of complaining online about the recent Twitter redesign that put the ads on the left and the content from your feed on the right, so I'll complain about it here: it's stupid, it makes the page feel off-center, and it's still not going to make me look at the ads any more than I did previously. And I'm almost 100% sure that Facebook is going to do it now that Twitter has done it (although Timeline hasn't been rolled out to my account yet, so I don't know exactly how ads are placed within that design scheme).

Also, it seems as if certain sponsored links (read: ads) can now be displayed directly in your feed even if you don't follow the Twitter account that generated the post. DO. NOT. LIKE.

I do like how external media like photos can now be displayed directly within your feed, but that's about the only thing I like about the new design. It's not user-centric at all, and one thing that they will eventually learn is that if your design is aimed at making your advertisers happy instead of your users, your users will simply migrate to another platform.

These days, I'm happy if I have fewer than three meetings on my calendar. I don't think I'm going to be happy today.

We spent the last few days last week on a trip up to Snowshoe to see my dad and stepmom. Just like last year, the conditions were terrible while we were there, so we didn't end up skiing, but Will had a great time visiting his grandparents. And during the brief periods when there was snow, Will had a great time running around outside in it—he seemed oblivious to the cold, which bodes well for getting him into ski school in a couple of years.

The weather the past two years has been very odd—when I was a kid, the end of February was pretty much the only time when you were guaranteed to have great snow at Snowshoe, and it's hard for me to believe that two years in a row it's been well above freezing with rain when we've been up there. We still had a good time, but it would be nice to actually ski a bit during our annual trip to a ski resort.

After we got home on Saturday afternoon, I took the rest of the night off before resuming my file reads on Sunday. I also only had one meeting yesterday that I was able to hand off to one of my employees, so I spent yesterday reading files all day, too, and finally got to the point where I couldn't read files anymore.

I have about 200 left, and if the deadline were still Thursday, there'd be no way for me to get all of those completed, but luckily I found out last week that the deadline has been extended to next week. So if I can take tonight, all day Wednesday, Thursday night, Friday afternoon and evening, Saturday afternoon, and all day Sunday, I ought to have just enough time to finish.

The other problem I'm facing, though, is that my admit percentage is much higher than our target for the first pass at the files—I've already used up about two thirds of my admits and I'm not quite halfway through my files. I can probably get away with being a little over the target, because my region tends to have a higher percentage of really outstanding students and I tend to only get the best applicants from schools because the students who don't have a prayer get enough good advice from their guidance counselors that they never send us an application. But even with that extra leeway, I still have way too many admits, and I've been harsher than I've ever been.

If I have some extra time on Sunday when I finish, I'm going to go back and review my admits for outliers within that more limited pool to see if there is anyone else I can drop down, because I'm not really involved in the next round of reviews and I'd rather pick who stays and who goes from the files I was originally responsible for, rather than letting someone who's going to have a more cursory review decide to boot a kid I liked a lot and keep one that I was not as enthusiastic about. But in order to do that, I need to finish early, and I'm just not sure about that part given how slow I've been so far.

Leap Day should be a global holiday. And we should move it to a different time of year.

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