july 2012

Like much of the east coast, we had record-setting heat on both Saturday and Sunday, so we mostly hung around the house. We spent some time on Sunday afternoon going to a couple of open houses, as much to get a feel for the neighborhoods as to look at the houses themselves, and while there are some good options out there in our price range, I don't think we've found The One yet. We still have to pick out an agent and do some planning about down payment and monthly payment, but I think by the middle of the month we'll be ready to go if the right house comes on the market.

And even though it was hot here, at least we had power (and therefore air conditioning). Our friends and neighbors in Maryland were not so lucky—they got hit with severe storms on Friday that knocked out power for millions ahead of the sweltering weekend. Looking at BGE's outage map, it appears highly likely that our neighborhood lost power on Friday and still doesn't have it back. And since it's such a small population and BGE is predicting that it will take though next weekend to restore power to all its customers, it's not inconceivable that they could be out of power for a full week.

Even though I'm sure the family that bought our house was eager to move in once the purchase was finalized, hopefully they still maintained the lease on their existing residence through the end of July—as miserable as it would have been to suffer through the weekend heat wave with no air conditioning, it would have been ten times more miserable if you had to move all your stuff that same weekend, especially with a pregnant wife and two young daughters in tow.

On Friday I made the critical error of commenting out loud about what a good sleeper Will is. So of course, three out of the next four nights he woke up crying in the middle of the night...

I'll take a day off any way I can get one, but as holidays go, one that falls dead in the middle of the week is about the worst because it's not easy to add to it before or after to make a long weekend.

We're not really sure what we're doing yet, but it looks like there are plenty of options to choose from. I'm mostly concerned about finding parking and navigating the crowds in a place that I don't know at all yet, so we might opt for something away from downtown Atlanta (I'm also not ready to brave MARTA on a high volume day like this).

There are a lot of choices on where to see fireworks around Atlanta, but because I'm not quite familiar enough with downtown to brave that experience with a two year old, I decided instead to head up to Roswell, where they had fireworks at the high school and a carnival with music, food, and games in the high school parking lot.

It turned out to be perfect for us. We got there around six and we were able to park at the high school (they closed the gates to new traffic at 6:30 or whenever the parking lot filled up, whichever came first). About half the lot was used for parking, and the other half for the entertainment setups. There were two bands scheduled to play, and once they started up, that's what we spent the majority of our time doing—Will is pretty into music, and when there's live music, the louder the better. We stood as close to the stage as we could (there were barriers that kept people around 30 feet away), and he danced and danced the whole time. The only time we weren't at the stage was when they took a break to set up the second band—then we went to get something to eat and run around on the high school track.

The second band finished playing as it was getting dark, and since we hadn't brought chairs like most people had and Will was fading fast, we headed back to the car, opened up the rear compartment and sat there to watch the fireworks. Last year we went to friends of my dad's in Wilmington, and although the fireworks were all ones that you could buy from a fireworks store, they were the top end of those kind, and they were set off about 50 yards away from us, so they were pretty impressive. Will was scared at first, but as he got used to them, he got pretty into them.

This year, however, from the very first one, he was happy and excited. One or two or three would go off, he'd clap and laugh like a crazy person, and then as soon as the light faded from the sky, he'd keep urgently repeating "More? More?" The show went on for about 25 minutes, and I'd say he behaved like this for at least 15 minutes of it.

Then he started to lose steam a bit, which wasn't surprising given that it was way past his bedtime and he had been overstimulated by the music and the crowds for the previous few hours. Luckily, as soon as the fireworks were over, we started up the car and headed out, and even though there were tons of people there (lots of people parked in other nearby locations or just walked) we were able to get on the roads much quicker than most, and we were back on the highway within 15 minutes. I thought Will would fall asleep in the car on the way home, but instead there was a steady stream of babble from the backseat with frequent interjections of "BOOM!" in reference to the fireworks.

It was a pretty good day, and although we want to try a lot of the different options for Independence Day in Atlanta (fireworks at Centennial Park, or Stone Mountain, or after a Braves game), I won't be surprised if we return here in future years as a lower key option.

It's Will's second birthday next week, but the family will be coming down to celebrate this weekend, including my mom, my sister and her husband, and my dad and stepmother. We don't really have a ton of room in our rental place, so no one will be staying with us and I'm guessing most of our meals and activities will also be away from the house, but we'll at least have a party with presents and cake on Saturday at our place.

All of our family visitors arrived in the Atlanta area on Friday, but not all of them in time for dinner, so it wasn't until the next morning that we saw everyone. They converged on our house just before lunch, and we left straightaway to have a meal at a nearby cafeteria. In addition to my mom, my dad and stepmother, and my sister and brother-in-law, we were also joined by my sister's friends from just outside Atlanta who she and my mom were staying with, which, including her husband, daughter, and niece, increased the party by four.

Eating out is always dicey with Will, but he was pretty good at this meal. He really took a liking to the daugher of my sister's friends, who is about 10 years old, and when he started to get fussy towards the end of lunch she came and kept him entertained. After lunch we all headed back to the house, and because of the limited amount of space we have inside, we moved the party to the backyard. It was pretty warm, but we set up underneath a tree in the shade and it was tolerable. Will took about half an hour to open his presents, and we didn't even give all of his to him—he had so many that we decided to save our gifts and a couple of other gifts that came in the mail from people who weren't at the party for his actual birthday.

After that we had his cake, and ice cream cake we ordered from a local gourmet ice cream place that we've frequented since arriving in Atlanta. They have custom flavors that change all the time like rosemary olive oil, salted caramel, and maple bacon brittle, but we stuck with relatively safe flavors for this kid-oriented event: Krispy Kremier (made to taste like classic Krispy Kreme glazed donuts) and chocolate chocolate chip. We moved back inside once the crowd thinned out a little, and by the time we got to dinner the group was down to just my dad and stepmother, so we ordered takeout from a local italian place after Will went to bed and had a relatively quiet evening meal.

We weren't sure what to do with everyone on Sunday since we couldn't host all of the family who had come for a visit in our house for an extended period, so I suggested that we consider the Georgia Aquarium. I wasn't sure how it would be received, because I didn't know if my sister and her husband would have any interest and I didn't know if the timeline would work for my mom, who was supposed to leave mid-afternoon, but to my surprise, the group quickly settled on this as a good option for an outing.

We left just before noon, and since we didn't see anything appropriate in the way of food on the route we took to get to the aquarium, we just decided to eat in the food court once we got there. Because I wasn't feeling great and didn't want any lunch, I walked Will around the aquarium while everyone else got their food (our first stop was his beloved beluga whales). And because it was prime lunch hour, the table my family found didn't have enough room for me, so I got Will into his high chair and then went to sit in the main viewing room for the big tank until they texted me that they were done eating. Despite the crowds and the constant movement of people in and out of that room, it's still a very peaceful place; the window is so large that you can look above the crowd and get lost in the schools of fish and giant rays and whale sharks.

After lunch we went to the touch tanks, which Will loved even though his arms were too short to actually touch anything, the coral reef area with the jellyfish tanks, and the two areas that I had already visited, the arctic area with the belugas and the enormous main tank. The afternoon was capped off with a return to the dolphin show that we'd seen on our first visit and which Will loved, although this time we had seats five rows back so we had a much better view of the dolphins. The dolphins are kind of secondary props in that show, but when you're sitting that close, they take on a much bigger role, and Will loved it just as much this time as he did when he first saw it a few weeks ago.

By the time we got home, it was after 5:00, and my sister and mom had to leave for dinner with some of my sister's friends, so we got Will ready for bed and had another takeout meal at home with my dad and stepmother. The next morning we had breakfast with them before they headed out, and then we saw my sister and brother-in-law for a few minutes early in the afternoon before they started their drive back down to Florida. It was great to see everyone, and it was especially great for them to see Will and him to see all of them. And since I'm taking most of this week off, I also didn't have to stress about getting back to work immediately after all this activity, which I think probably made the whole weekend a little less stressful for me than it might have been otherwise.

My friend Regan was in town on business on Monday, so a few hours after the last of my family left our house, she came over after work to have dinner with us. We went out to an Ethopian place, which we thought Will might like—lots of bread, everyone eating with their hands, and him getting to have the same food that the grown ups were eating—but he turned out to be not so interested in the food even though two of the things we ordered, Ethiopian takes on collard greens and chickpeas, were things that he has liked in other contexts. Luckily, Julie came prepared with a backup peanut butter sandwich and a banana, which got food in his belly and kept him reasonably entertained while the adults ate.

The meal was really excellent. I can't remember the names of all the dishes we shared, but one was a chickpea concoction with spices that made it orange that was slightly thinner than hummus, collard greens with garlic and citrus, a chicken dish with onions and green chilies, and a tomato and bread side dish. There were lots of other interesting things on the menu that we didn't try that looked good, too, but given how much I liked everything we ordered, I'm not sure what I'd be willing to sacrifice next time in order to try something new.

After dinner we went back for tiny portions of ice cream cake left over from Will's birthday party (Will was especially excited about this), and then Regan and I went out to see Wes Anderson's latest film, Moonrise Kingdom. I'm still absorbing it, but my initial reaction is that it's a middling Wes Anderson film. That still means it's pretty amazing, but it just doesn't top many of his others for me. It had several great scenes/lines of dialogue, but it's the first time I've seen one of his movies where there were moments that it felt more like a parody of a Wes Anderson movie. Even though his films are intentionally quirky and purposely draw attention to the frame of the medium (especially theatrical performances and sets), the characters have always felt very sincere and real to me, but in this movie there were several who felt emptier than they should have (especially Frances McDormand's Laura Bishop). I was also hoping for more of an impact from Bruce Willis and Ed Norton, two actors who can be great in the right roles, but these characters didn't do a lot for me.

The biggest problem for me, though, was that so much of the story focuses on the relationship between two young people (early teens) who are each other's first love while only hinting at the complexities of longer-term adult romantic entanglements (unlike Anderson's other works, which tend to explore the years-later aftermath of falling in love). In his past films, Anderson has simultaneously explored the innocence and power of the falling-in-love phase and the difficulties in sustaining that love over time in the face of distance, other romantic interests, and other obligations like school and a career, which gives the characters in those films a lot more depth and makes the stories resonate more.

In Moonrise Kingdom, while I was rooting for Sam and Suzy, I kept simultaneously thinking, "Even if they find a way to stay together, what happens in a year, in five years, in ten years?" Maybe other viewers are able to stay more in the moment and put that likely-painful future aside, but I couldn't. It's a personal weakness, but this film wasn't quite good enough to let me overcome it.

Just for fun, here's my current ranking of Wes Anderson movies. Bottle Rocket and Fantastic Mr. Fox aren't included because I haven't seen them yet.

The Royal Tenenbaums
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
The Darjeeling Limited
Moonrise Kingdom

I'm actually kind of surprised at that list now that I put it on paper. It took me a while to warm to The Royal Tenenbaums after Rushmore, because I was so in love with Rushmore that the different approach on Tenenbaums took some adjustment, but eventually the richness of the whole cast of characters and the complexity of their relationships made it more compelling than the more limited main characters in Rushmore (which I still think is Anderson's funniest movie).

The Life Aquatic could eventually end up in the top spot, but I had kind of a magical experience watching it for the first time, so much so that I haven't gone back and watched it again. So it's hard for me to evaluate it compared to the first two, which I've seen several times apiece. And I know a lot of Wes Anderson fans were turned off by The Darjeeling Limited, but I took to it instantly and have a real love for it after repeated viewings.

I guess a summary of this list would be that the top four are so close in terms of how much I love them that it's like an Olympic race where the difference between first and fourth is a few tenths of a second, while Moonrise Kingdom, at least for now, finished seconds behind the rest of the pack. All are world class, but the top four are clearly a higher caliber than number five.

On Tuesday, Will's actual birthday, we took him to Stone Mountain, mostly because he's obsessed with trains and they have a train you can ride around the mountain. We figured we'd do the train, the bird show (performing parrots and such), and take the gondola to the top of the mountain, and that would probably be enough for him for one day.

We got there around 11 and decided to get an annual pass because, like many of these attractions, if you go twice it's the same cost as an annual pass, and after that you start saving money with each successive visit. It took a little longer to get our tickets because of that, and we just missed the train (we saw it pull out of the station, which was exciting enough for Will). When we were leaving the station to look for something else to do while we waited for it to return, we ran into a park employee dressed in a train engineer's uniform with an acoustic guitar. Will is also fascinated with music and musical instruments, and he walked up to the man and pointed at his guitar saying "'Tar? 'Tar?".

The man asked how old he was, and when we told him that it was Will's second birthday, the man sang Happy Birthday to him (with guitar accompaniment), followed by the Alphabet Song (Will's longstanding favorite song) and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (which of course has the same tune as the Alphabet Song). After he was done singing, he even let Will strum the guitar for a minute, which Will thought was the greatest thing ever. After thanking him and saying goodbye, we started to walk away, and Will turned around and waved saying, "Bye bye music!"

When the train came back around, we got on board the closest car available (for some reason they weren't letting people onto the car directly behind the engine) and embarked on a 20 minute ride around the mountain, complete with lots of lots of rattling and train whistles. Will was in heaven the whole time. We finished just in time to make the bird show, which Will also loved—lots of lights, music, and animals. At the end, they let the kids come up and pet one of the birds, so we got a picture of him petting the bird while Julie held it.

He was starting to run out of steam a little, so we got some lunch so he could recharge a little. He still seemed tired after that, so we decided to take another ride on the train instead of going up to the top of the mountain, and after that train ride he was clearly finished for the day. We did pause on the way out to let him play in the water—they have something there every hour or so where they turn on a giant sprinkler and play In the Navy and let kids dance around in the water, and he pepped up for that (he's always loved standing out in the rain, and this was kind of like that, with music). He was so tired that he fell asleep on the car ride home.

A pretty good birthday celebration for him overall—visits from family and lots of presents over the weekend, and then a day spent riding trains with mommy and dada on his actual birthday.

I had a pretty positive experience at the movie theater where I went to see Moonrise Kingdom, so when I noticed the Ridley Scott's Prometheus was still playing there, I decided to go see a late night showing by myself. I'd read the mostly non-glowing reviews of the film, but I figured if it was going to make an impact on me, it would have the best chance of doing so if I saw it in all its glory on the big screen. And it's not like my tastes haven't disagreed strongly with critics before, so I was hopeful that it would be a movie worth watching.

I think this might have been only the second time in my life that I've been to a theater by myself. The first time was when I was out of work at the end of 2001 and I went to see the first Lord of the Rings movie. I had spent the previous few weeks re-reading Tolkien's series for the first time since junior high, and Julie didn't seem all that interested, so I decided to catch a morning matinee. It was a huge theater, and there were only a dozen or so of us there, and even though I was a little apprehensive about it (I'm not big on solo public excursions), I generally enjoyed the experience.

I think what gave me the nerve to try it again was a confluence of factors: first, movies in the theater are pretty much out of the picture for Julie and I until we get comfortable with the idea of a babysitter watching Will for the evening, and while Julie enjoys the movies, she's not as into pop culture as I am and her list of movies she'd like to see is usually pretty short. Second, I was already comfortable with the physical space of the theater complex and I was pretty sure that, several weeks into its run at 10:00 at night, there would be almost no one else at the Prometheus showing (I was right). Third, there's no way I'm waiting more than a week or two to see The Dark Knight Rises when it comes out later this week, and there's also no way that Julie is going to make a screening of that film our first babysitter-enabled outing, so this was a test run for a more claustrophobic full-theater experience when I go see The Dark Knight Rises solo sometime soon.

The movie itself was decent, but less impactful than I'd hoped. The visuals were great, but the tension in the film seemed very cartoon-y compared to the original Ridley Scott-helmed Alien film—I never once felt the primal fear creeping up the back of my skull that the original Alien can still inspire. Part of that was Michael Fassbender's android David, who hit all the right notes - shades of HAL from 2001 and both Haley Joel Osment's David and Jude Law's Joe from A.I.—but still somehow failed to gel as a character. The plot, when understandable, was reasonably predictable (I mean that in a bad way), and when it wasn't understandable, it seemed to be that way because it was setting up a sequel that would presumably answer some of the pointedly unanswered questions (this mystery-for-the-sake-of-mystery quality is one of the downsides of working with Lost's Damon Lindelof, and perhaps my ultimately unrequited devotion to that show is one of the reasons I had little tolerance for the same tricks in this movie).

There was additional weirdness at the theater that night, too, but I don't really think it affected my evaluation of the film. A little over an hour into the movie, the screen suddenly went dark, and when it stayed dark for a couple of minutes, someone went out to see what was going on. It turns out that thunderstorms in the area had knocked out power to the entire theater for a few seconds, and since all the films were digital copies stored on hard drives, they had to reboot the entire system to get the movies back.

They told everyone this would take about five minutes, but ten minutes later when no theaters had been restored, almost everyone in the building (and about two thirds of the 20 or so people that were watching Prometheus with me) got refunds and went home. I, however, decided to stick it out—I didn't want to come back at a later date and have to watch the first half of the movie again, and I didn't want to go online to read plot spoilers to find out the ending. It took a good deal longer to restore service than they originally told us—over half an hour - but the movie finally came back on, and even though we didn't have sound for the first ten minutes after we got the picture back, it was pretty easy to follow the plot developments during that time.

It was entertaining enough, but I didn't have the same emotional connection to Noomi Rapace's Elizabeth Shaw that I did to Sigourney Weaver's Ripley, and I didn't care about any of the other characters one single bit. It's an odd sort of picture summarize - there's nothing technically wrong with it, but it just didn't work for me.

Even though I had only seen one movie in the theater in the past year before last week (and that was relatively recent, an outing to see The Avengers with some friends in Maryland right before we moved), this week's entries are going to make it seem like I go out to the movies all the time because after seeing Prometheus on Wednesday, I drove to Athens to see Roman Holiday in a little community run theater called Cine with my friend Regan (who I went to see Moonrise Kingdom with on Monday). Granted, the main purpose of the trip was to see her, but walking to the theater and seeing Roman Holiday took up the majority of our evening.

Regan knows I can be a little squirrelly about new spaces, and so she wasn't sure if I'd like the theater, but I actually felt pretty comfortable in there. The experience of watching the film was cool, too—Roman Holiday was the kickoff to a summer film series, and one of the organizers gave a talk about the program and the theater before it began. It was reasonably crowded, but I didn't feel too cramped even though it was a pretty small theater, and the fact that we were allowed to bring drinks in from the bar certainly helped (I had a gin and tonic made with my personal favorite Hendrick's).

Roman Holiday is a 1953 romantic comedy with Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn about a British princess who goes AWOL in Rome and is guided around the city by a reporter who she doesn't know is a reporter. It was a pretty amusing artifact of its time, but I don't think there's any way this movie could get made today, even with big box office draws in the lead—I just don't think Hollywood is capable of giving us any sort of romance that doesn't end with the two main characters living happily ever after (which I realize is more a reflection of our tastes as Americans than it is with Hollywood's inability to make comedies that deal with relationships in a more complex way).

It was raining when we left the theater, but it wasn't too heavy, so we walked back to Regan's house without employing the lone umbrella she had in her purse—I think it would have been significantly more irritating to try to use the one-person umbrella to cover both of us than to just bear the raindrops—and then had a late dinner before I drove back to Atlanta.

One thing about Athens that I still don't have the hang of is entering and leaving. I check Google Maps and lay out a plan each time before I come, and every time I miss a turn or the road I'm on mysteriously turns into a different one and I end up getting lost and having to recover on the fly. I thought I had a foolproof way of getting back to the highway from Regan's house, but again, I somehow ended up on the wrong road, and then I ended up going the wrong way on the right road, and then suddenly I found myself still trying to get out of town half an hour after I left Regan. I don't know if this is a common problem or if this is specific to me, but I sure hope I solve this puzzle soon.

Last week I finally set aside time to do what must be done when one moves to a new state: go to the DMV and get a new driver's license.

Julie did this a few weeks ago, and her experience led me to believe there was some hope for an experience that was relatively speedy and not completely soul-crushing, because in Georgia, if you are moving from out of state and have a valid license from your previous state of residence, you can actually make an appointment. I was skeptical that this would make any difference, but Julie gave it a go, and even though they didn't get to her exactly at her appointment time, it was within a few minutes of when she was scheduled, and she was in and out in half an hour or so.

So I made an appointment at 10 a.m. at the same facility she used, got there 10 minutes early, and was flagged by the floor manager as a special case because I had an appointment and all the proper documentation, so I was initially optimistic that I wouldn't be spending the bulk of my morning there.

That optimism started to fade, however, as the minutes dragged on and I didn't get called. One of the workers came by to check documentation (in order to speed things up once people actually got to the window by eliminating people who didn't have the proper paperwork, which is actually a pretty good idea), and I explained that my paperwork had already been verified and that I was supposed to have an appointment at 10 (it was after 10:30 at that point). She wander away to check on my status, and came back about 10 minutes later with no updates for me. I went up to ask the person at the desk about my appointment, and she called over the floor manager who had originally flagged me as a special case, and he said I would be called "soon".

And I actually was, about five minutes later (50 minutes after my appointment time), but I don't think that would have happened if I hadn't gone up to see what was going on—I think they had forgotten about my appointment and I just would have been called in the natural order of things, which likely wouldn't have been until after noon at the rate they were going. Once I got to the counter, the process was pretty quick—aside from a little delay when they briefly lost my passport after scanning it, I was only there for about 15 minutes, and if they had actually called me up anywhere near my appointment time, I probably would have had an experience very similar to Julie's.

Of course, we're going to move to a permanent house sometime in the next few months, which will necessitate an address change and a new license, so we'll both be making a return trip and this time we won't be able to use the appointment option. I'm kind of dreading that, because it seems likely that even if our experience at the counter will only take five minutes, it will probably take us a couple of hours to get up to the counter. I think my strategy then will be to get there right when the doors open and hope there aren't too many other early risers.

Will has been a butterfly fan for a long time (he just calls them flies, while flies and most other bugs are called bees), so when Julie discovered a butterfly festival at a nearby nature preserve, it was pretty much a given that we were going to go.

They said there was limited parking on site and recommended going to a satellite lot and taking a shuttle bus to the center, but I decided to take a gamble and see if we could find a space somewhere on the grounds. And even though we got there just before noon when the crowds seemed to be peaking, we were able to locate a space back in the area normally reserved for bus parking.

It was hot as anything that day, which meant almost no walking for Will and a lot of carrying for me (he still hasn't adjusted to the Georgia heat), but it was still a pretty fun event. The highlight was a butterfly tent where you could hold out sponges soaked in Gatorade—the butterflies would land on them and you'd get to watch them up close for a minute while they fed. They brought in about 40 people at a time and gave you a full 10 minutes, so it was crowded and muddy and even hotter than outside, but Will thought it was great. It took about five minutes before I caught our first one, but we got to look at two or three up close before we left.

We had a snack up at the food vendor area and Will got to play with a huge butterfly parachute thing with all the other kids, and even though he got completely blindsided (accidentally) once by a kid about twice his size, he didn't want to leave. We went inside to escape the heat for a few minutes and get a butterfly painted on his arm (although it was so hot and there were so many people going in and out of the space that it wasn't really any cooler inside than out), and then we went down to a pavillion by the lake to see them release a few dozen butterflies. We also got to see a bald eagle in a large enclosure near the lake.

As is his habit when we have a big morning out, he fell asleep in the car on the way back home, but we drove around long enough looking at houses on the way home that he ended up with a decent afternoon nap. I know that he won't consciously remember all of these things, but I have to hope that somehow experiences like this are shaping him into the kind of curious, inquisitive child I hope he will be.

I drove to Athens last night to see Caddyshack at the same theater that was showing Roman Holiday last week. I hadn't seen it in a while, and it was more awesome than I remembered, and that was partially because it's been a really, really long time since I've seen the original theatrical release—usually I end up catching it on television where it's been edited according to 1987 television standards. Also: Mike Mills of R.E.M. was there in full tacky golf regalia, which was pretty cool.

We have officially chosen a real estate agent and started house hunting. We haven't seen anything that's blown us away yet, but we are getting a much better sense of neighborhoods, and learning very quickly that if it's too good to be true for the price/location, it ALWAYS is.

We don't have a pressing need to find our permanent home in the short term, but it would be nice to get that part of our transition settled, so I'm hoping we can find something suitable sooner than later. There's a house we're kind of interested in, and we're still investigating whether it could fulfill all our requirements, but whether we make an offer or not, I'm really stuck on the neighborhood it's in. There are still plenty of other neighborhoods I'm open to considering, but this one is close to work and close to Decatur. and is in the school district for my favorite non-Decatur public elementary school.

I had dinner last night with a friend from Chicago who I haven't seen in probably a couple of years. He used to work for one of those big investment firms that are getting so much scrutiny after the banking crisis of the last few years; now he works for the Fed. It's always entertaining to hear him talk about the world of finance, but this was the first time I'd seen him since he started his new job, and it was especially interesting to hear about his experiences as part of the governmental regulatory part of that world.

Julie and I took him out to dinner with Will to Farm Burger, which has quickly become our favorite kid-friendly restaurant in Decatur, and then Julie took Will home and he and I walked to the Square and had a couple of beers at a bar he'd researched (he has a fascination with those bars that serve an ungodly number of beers and have a lot of unusual beers on tap). The place was small and crowded, but we appropriated two barstools and found a spot to sit and talk for a while.

I haven't been here long enough to make new friends and have a genuine social circle here, but it does seem like there are a lot of nice connections like this that are keeping me feeling like I'm not completely without some sort of network of friends and acquaintances. In addition to my friend Regan who lives in Athens and who I've gotten to see every couple of weeks since we moved, I'm also meeting one of my college roommates (who I'm pretty sure I haven't seen since we graduated) later this week; he lives in Decatur and teaches at a local college, and assuming that we get along as well as we did 20 years ago, I'm hoping he might be a gateway to more people worth knowing in the community.

Today is day two of a three day marathon of meetings with consultants who slice and dice our data for us to identify trends, recap the previous year, etc. Day one was brutal; it's very easy to get lost in the data swamp and feel like you're learning something when, without a better understanding of the source data and the analysis methods, you might just be getting a set of statistics that may or may not be valid answers to the questions you're asking and may or not be useful for strategic planning.

Yesterday it was at our main campus, but today it's at a campus about 45 minutes outside of the city, one that I was supposed to visit last week before my trip got rescheduled because of construction. It will be nice to get to see that place and meet a few more of the staff members there, and since the data will be focused on that campus, today's data will provide some good instant comparisions between their process and ours, which should be incredibly valuable given that we're trying to align our processes more closely.

But I'm not really built for these intense all day meetings, and I expect I'll need to take at least a couple of breaks to go check email and let my brain absorb all the data we've been shown without simultaneously trying to stuff new information into it. Plus, after getting to see how and what the consultants present, it's clear to me that, while this process is helping get me up to speed on the recent history of the university, it would have been more productive to have sent us this data and a set of summary reports/recommendations a month ago and then let us drive the meeting topics based on our evaluation of the data.

Tuesday we saw data on one part of the university, Wednesday we saw data on another part of the university, and today we're seeing data on both parts of the university at the same time. I'm not really expecting to learn anything new...

While browsing Facebook last week, I noticed that one of my college roommates (who I haven't seen since graduation) had a job in the Atlanta area, so I messaged him and we set up a time to meet for a beer. I really had no clue how his life had unfolded in the intervening years, so I was curious to hear how long he had been in Atlanta, whether he was married, had kids, etc.

It turns out he has been living in Atlanta (specifically Decatur, which is our first choice of neighborhoods in our house search) pretty much since he left college, and that he had gotten married to the girl he had been dating during our senior year when we shared an apartment. And she was originally from Decatur herself, so they had a lot of strong roots in that community. We recapped the last 20 years of our lives, exchanged updates about mutual friends, and then slipped into the day-to-day conversations that friends who see each other often tend to have.

It was really great to be able to reconnect with him in that way—I've had a few experiences like that where I haven't seen someone for years and years, but after an hour together you've picked up right where you left off and it feels like it's only been days, and not years, since you last saw each other. I think we' both have pretty busy schedules, but I'm going to make sure that it will only be days between visits from now on—friends like this are rare, and I'm learning to be better about not taking for granted the physical proximity and using that as a constant excuse for not getting together.

Julie and I haven't been out for dinner without Will in a long time—we've only done it a couple of times since he was born, and that was when we had grandparents staying with us so they could watch him. But my friend Regan offered to watch him so we could go out, so we decided to take her up on it on Saturday.

We drove to her house in Athens so we could hang out with her and Will and get him acclimated before we went dinner, and he did really well with that part. It probably helped that he had met her a few times before, but I was still surprised how enthusiastically he explored her house and made himself right at home. We explained to him that mommy and dada were leaving for a little while that we'd be back soon, and he said bye bye and shut the door himself.

We had planned to try Last Resort, but since we didn't know exactly what time we'd get there we hadn't made reservations, and when they told us it would be a half hour wait, we decided to look elsewhere. We ended up at the National, where I'd had drinks with Regan a couple of times, and while they were booked up in the dining room, they did have tables outside, and we decided to sit at one of those. Even though it was hot outside, the sun wasn't direclty on us and it was actually a pretty nice dinner experience.

We didn't only talk about Will, although of course he came up—instead we mostly talked about the houses we've been looking at, trying to figure out if any of them are worth making an offer on. We're still early enough in the process where we think the perfect house could be listed any day now, and that if we just wait a little longer the right house will appear, but I think if we had already been searching for a couple of months, we might already be in a place where one of the houses we've already seen would hold stong appeal for us. So we'll see.

After dinner, we drove back to Regan's to find Will happily chattering away and half-heartedly eating the snacks that we'd brought. He was very excited about an ancient boombox that Regan had in her guest bedroom—tuning to different radio stations, turning the volume up and down, and pressing the buttons on the cassette players. She said he'd been in a good mood the whole time and that they'd taken a walk down to a nearby park, and I think overall he had a really good night.

I still don't think we're ready to leave him with a stranger, but we'll have no problems leaving him with Regan again while we have an evening out, and that's a pretty big step for us.

I had planned to see The Dark Knight Rises the morning after our Athens trip, but then I looked at the movie schedules and realized that even if I went to the earliest showing, I wouldn't get back home in time for us to visit both of the open houses that Julie wanted to see that day. So I asked which she would rather I do: go in the morning and possibly miss an open house or go right then so I could catch a 10:40 showing, and she chose the 10:40 option.

Overall I was a little disappointed in the movie. I'm one of those lunatics who will practially accost you talking about how The Dark Knight isn't just the best comic book movie ever made, it's one of the best movies of the last 20 years period, so I had pretty high expectations for this movie. But it moved very slowly, it revisited far too many of the ideas and themes of Christopher Nolan's first Batman film, Batman Begins, and most of the stunning setpieces had already been shown in the trailers, so they made much less of an impact that they would have otherwise. Plus I really don't like Anne Hathaway for reasons that I can't quite articulate, which made me a lot more critical of her character's importance in the plot structure. There were other issues too: Alfred's absence for a sizable chunk of the movie, the completely extraneous Bat plane, a main villain whose edge doesn't come close to Heath Ledger's Joker, and many others, the combined weight of which caused the film to sort of collapse in on itself.

That doesn't mean I'm not going to see it again to give it another chance—I love most of Nolan's work, and I especially love his work with Christian Bale, so I want to make sure that it won't grow on me. But I liked the first film a lot without having to think too hard about it, and I loved every second of The Dark Knight from the first sequence to the last, so if it was truly a great film, I don't think I'd have to try so hard to find reasons to like it.

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