april 2013

I'm a little disappointed in myself—the first time in my life that going to a game on Opening Day and going to a Braves home game simultaneously was possible, I didn't make that happen. But they are off to a roaring start, and I'm excited to be able to watch an entire season where it's possible for me to see every game on television (though I know I won't) and root for them as a citizen of their hometown.

I imagine that everyone who cares even remotely about The Walking Dead has finished watching season 3 by now, so I don't think I need to post a spoilers notice. But I guess that's what I'm doing, just in case.

This season really lived up to its early promise in its final few episodes, and it is easily the best season yet. The last two episodes wrapped up the storylines of two characters who have been part of the show from the beginning, and did so in pretty satisfactory ways. Merle got a chance to show that he did have some good in him without betraying his fundamentally flawed and dangerous nature—it was his own realization that he was incapable of being anything other than who he was that gave him willpower to sacrifice himself in a spectacular fashion. It allowed the audience to be able care for him more than was ever possible before, and also shut down any future return where his noble deed could be undone by his capricious nature.

I have never liked Andrea, but I have grown to especially dislike her the past couple of seasons, first for her alignment with Shane despite the obviousness of his hearlessness and his increasingly aggressive posture towards Rick, and more recently for literally getting into bed with the Governor. In the end she was given a chance to explain her motivations in a way that made me feel more empathy for her than I have in a long while, but also took her out of the picture. It was a good note for her to end on, because at the end instead of hoping the writers would have the good sense to off her, I was the teensiest bit sad to see her go.

Both characters had to be finished off in the presence of their closest allies (Merle by his brother Daryl and Andrea with Michonne in the room), which heightened the emotional intensity and set up both Daryl and Michonne for being the primary aggressors in what will presumably be some final showdown with the Governor next season.

That was really my only somewhat major complaint: the Governor feels like a character whose story has played out, but he was allowed to live and slink off with a few of his hardcore followers. I would just have soon as finished off his storyline this season as well, but really that's a fairly minor complaint given the overall strength of this season. The only other problem I have with how season 3 ended is that we're not going to get the first episodes of season 4 until October.

The Easter Bunny brought Will a chocolate bunny as one of his Easter basket suprises, and we've been using it as a motivator all week: every time he does something that we normally reward him with an M&M for doing (like using the potty or taking his antibiotics without a fuss), we're instead letting him take a chomp off the bunny. As of now, the bunny is minus one tail and his ears are down to stubs, but I think he's still got a couple weeks worth of motivating left in him.

It's my birthday today, and Will is home sick with a fever, so Julie and I are trading shifts at the office to tend to him and still make our most important appointments. So I don't think there will be a lot of celebrating tonight, but Julie has hinted that she has something in store for this weekend.

The weather is finally supposed to get nice this weekend, and I can't wait. What's the point in moving from Baltimore to Atlanta if it's still cold, rainy, and miserable the first week of April? I think this year is an anamoly—it's usually much warmer and more spring-like here by now—and I'm ready for us to get past this winter.

To celebrate my birthday, Julie and Will took me to a Braves games yesterday, including buying parking so I wouldn't have to stress about that. Since it normally takes about 20 minutes to get down to the Braves stadium with no traffic, I thought leaving an hour and a half before the game would give us plenty of time to get to our seats before the first pitch, but traffic was worse than I've ever seen it (even on game day), and we missed the first inning.

But that turned out to be okay, becuase Will only has so many innings in him (even when being distracted by all the noise and people and snacking opportunities) and with our late arrival we were barely able to make it through the sixth inning...which is when the Braves rallied and took a lead that they would carry through the end of the game.

I'm looking forward to going to games with him when he's older and we'll actually be able to make it through the entire game, but it's still a lot of fun to take him now. And I guess it's something of a positive that we always beat the crowds out of the park and we can get back home without sitting in traffic for an hour.

If Syracuse had won on Saturday, I would have won the only NCAA pool that I entered this year that had a buy-in, but one other person in the league picked Michigan to win that game, and I didn't have enough points from the earlier rounds to overcome that gap (we both picked Louisville to win).

The organizer of this pool typically has second place get some share of the winnings and third place get their entry fee back, so I still might have won some money—I had a second entry as well, and so it all depends on whether the payout for second place is more than two entry fees. I did mediocre to terrible in my other, for-fun-only pools, but I didn't come in last in any of them, and I did manage to beat the Duke fan in my office even though for the office bracket I had Carolina going pretty deep.

One of the things I really love about Apple's Time Machine functionality on Mac OS X is the ease of transitioning to a new computer. Having a backup of my entire machine is good for many reasons, but the way they've structured the setup for a new machine is that, if you have a Time Machine backup disc, you can ask your new computer to restore not just your files from your previous computer, but also your applications, your accounts, and your settings and prefences.

Since they introduced Time Machine, moving to a new machine has been relatively simple and quick, and at the end of the experience, you really can just sit down and start using your new machine the same way you used your old one—everything is in its right place, and it's a very seemless upgrade experience (as opposed to the pre-Time Machine process, which meant connect the two computers to manually move your files across, having to reinstall all your applications, and redo all your settings by hand).

I was looking foward to the same kind of experience yesterday when my new Apple machine arrived, but as I was getting the new machine set up, I noticed that it did not have any Firewire ports on the back (Firewire is the high speed data transfer protocol that was designed by Apple and which I have been using for connecting my external hard drives for years). Instead, it only had USB ports and two Thunderbolt ports, Apple's newest high speed data transfer system. Okay, I thought, my external hard drive is clearly not going to have a Thunderbolt port, but I should still be able to connect it via USB.

I found the right cable, hooked the drive up to the Mac, and told the setup program to transfer my data from a Time Machine drive. and then...nothing. The program spun and spun, telling me it was looking for an appropriate drive. So I did some research (on Julie's machine) and discovered that for Time Machine restores, a Thunderbolt or Firewire connection is required, and further research showed that there was a converter that I could plug into the back of my new Mac and essentially create a Firewire port out of the Thunderbolt port.

Okay, I thought, it's annoying that I have to drive all the way out to an Apple Store and pay $30 for this adapter, but at least I'm not going to have to copy files manually and reinstall everything. So as soon as Julie got home from work, I ran out to the closest Apple store and picked up the connector, expecting that I could get the process started before dinner and have my new machine ready to use by the time dinner was over. So I hooked the drive up to the machine using Firewire 800 on the drive side and the Firewire to Thunderbolt adapter on the Mac side and told the setup program to restore from a Time Machine backup. And...nothing. It spun just like it did before, telling me it couldn't locate an appropriate drive.

At this point my only choice, aside from engaging in the manual process of reinstalling everything, was to hook my old machine up to my new machine using a direct Ethernet connection and have the new machine restore all my applications, settings, and files from my previous machine. Even though that should have given me the same result as restoring from the Time Machine drive, since I had backed up the old machine to that drive immediately before shutting it down, I wasn't completely sure it would work the same since I had never done it. And it was slower. And I shouldn't have had to do it in the first place because I had a Time Machine backup drive.

I started this process before dinner, and although it didn't finish until after midnight, I was at least able to go to sleep knowing that the transfer was successful. Today I did further checking, and it the Ethernet transfer seems to have worked just like a restore from my Time Machine drive.

This was my least pleasant machine transition since Time Machine was introduced, and even though I can still use my old Time Machine drive for backups using the Firewire to Thunderbolt adapter, I still might need to invest in a new drive with Thunderbolt ports in case I need to do another full restore (hopefully I won't need that capability for years until I get my next Mac, but if the new machine were to fail catastrophically, restoring from my Time Machine backup will be my only option to recover all my files, applications, and settings once I have recycled my old machine down to Julie).

I know Apple is very aggressive about being the first to drop what it considers to be old technologies (case in point: the new iMacs also don't include any sort of optical drive, even as an option), and the iMacs did have one release cycle where Apple overlapped Firewire and Thunderbolt ports, but it still seems hasty. After all, Firewire is an Apple technology, and it's been around in some form for 15 years, so a lot of peripherals that Apple owners might have purchased have a Firewire port. It would be less significant if Time Machine restores could be done using USB, but since it's limited to either Firewire or Thunderbolt, and there are going to be a lot of people like me who have a Time Machine external drive with no Thunderbolt port, it would have made sense to include Firewire for one more iteration. Or to at least have had the Firewire to Thunderbolt adapter work in these situations.

The pollen here is ridiculous this week. Before I pull out of the driveway in the morning, I activate my windshield wipers (without water) and clear off the layer of greenish-yellow dust that has settled overnight, and then I watch it stream off the car in my rearview mirror as I drive down the street. If you spend too long outside, you can actually feel it starting to coat your skin. It's disgusting. We had occasional bouts of serious pollen in Maryland, but nothing like this.

It's supposed to rain tonight, though, so hopefully that will wash a lot of it away and also keep the amount in the air under control for th next couple of days. There are very few downsides to living in a metro area with so many trees, but this is definitely one of them.

This has a been a bloody long week. I've been miserable all week because of the pollen, in tons of meetings, and distracted by last minute tasks that people could have told us about weeks and weeks ago to the point where taking care of those has kept me from getting any work done on the stuff that I had planned to do this week. Glad it's over, and glad that we don't have any official plans this weekend, either. There's work to be done in the house and around the yard, but I'm hopefully I can get some rest and have a relatively relaxed and unstructured weekend.

Still haven't watched any of the new season of Mad Men. Last year I also didn't watch it for the first several weeks, which turned out okay, because then I could burn through a bunch of them at once and not lose some of the threads they develop week to week that are more subtle.

The headlines for the reviews I've seen seem to indicate that Don is going back to being a cad. I wouldn't really mind that.

Julie's aunt and uncle for Chicago were passing through town last night, so we had them over to the house for a couple of hours and then went out to dinner with them. We went to Community Q because it's close and Will loves it, and we sat outside at Will's insistence. This turned out to be a good choice, because Julie didn't get home until 7:30 and so it was already past his normal bedtime when we were having dinner, and he was a little bit wired. Overall he was well behaved, but he was very squirmy and occasionally loud in a way that would have been much more problematic inside.

I hope that we'll continue to see them on a somewhat regular basis—of all her uncles, Bobby is the one who is most like her father in appearance and termperment, and so when he comes to visit, it's almost like Will is getting to spend some time with the grandfather that he'll never know personally (and one of the people for whom he is named). I know he and Will would have been thick as thieves—I think Will gets a lot of his big personality, talkativeness, and friendliness from his grandfather—and it's a shame they'll never know each other, but at least there are parts of his grandfather that Will can get to know through other family members.

Our Maryland state tax refund came back lower than we were told it was going to be by the firm that did our taxes for us this year, so we called them to see what had happened. As it turned out, they made a mistake in filling out the forms, and the lower amount was the proper amount.

Julie usually does our taxes herself because our filing is usually pretty straightforward (as these things go), but this year we decided to let professionals do them because of all that happened—selling a house, buying another house, leaving jobs in one state and starting new ones in a different one, etc.—hoping that there wouldn't be any blunders like this. So it would have been nice if, as an apology for screwing up, they had at least refunded a little of their fee. They didn't, though, and so if we ever feel the need to let someone do our taxes again, I have a feeling we won't be repeat customers of that firm.

My sister is getting married this weekend, so no more work (and no more blog entries) until Tuesday. I have a poor track record at recent large family gatherings; here's hoping that this one will be reasonably pleasant and that I won't start losing my mind in the first 24 hours.

I'll write more about my sister's wedding later, but I'm not mentally fit to process it all now after the activities over the weekend.

I'm not sure which was worse: spending a whole vacation day driving, or knowing that at the end of that drive was two solid days of meeting after meeting after meeting. I'm beginning to believe that I didn't miss any meetings at all after being out for two days: people just looked at my calendar and jammed anything that normally would have been scheduled for Friday or Monday into any open slot on Tuesday and Wednesday.

I feel like I haven't had a day off in more than two weeks, and it was a very intense two weeks. I technically took vacation last Friday and Monday, but, after a long, long week at work last week, I spent all day Friday driving, spent Saturday and Sunday doing family stuff related to my sister's wedding on Saturday, spent all day Monday driving to get back to Atlanta, and then I've had a very, very meeting-heavy week at work since I got back.

Today isn't really going to be a reprieve to that even though I won't technically be going into the office—I'm spending the day out at our sister campus before hustling back to Atlanta for a montly enterprise imaging committee meeting from 3:30-5:00. Tomorrow promises to be somewhat normal—only three scheduled meetings—but since I've gotten very little done the rest of the week, there are a bunch of little tasks that I need to wrap up before the weekend. And we're also supposed

Right across the street from my office are three relatively new and youth-oriented lunch spots: a Chipotle (of course), a pizza place whose name I can't remember that has a hipster vibe and which I'm highly suspicious is a stealth franchise kind of place, and a Zoe's Kitchen, which is definitely a franchise place that serves healthy Mediterranean fare. But when I first visited Atlanta when I was considering a job here, there was only Falafel King.

Falafel King has a lot working against it: it's in a strange little building that isn't all that invitiing, and it's called Falafel King even though it gives equal billing to its sushi menu, and even though I'm a fan of both falafel and sushi, I cannot ever imagine wanting them at the same time or thinking that any place that does both would be any good at either. So I resisted going for a long time even though it's right across the street and I don't have a regular lunchtime spot (and I often forget to bring lunch from home).

But a couple of weeks ago, I finally stopped in to give it a try after reading positive review after positive review on Yelp and getting personal endorsements from my coworkers, several of whom have been going since they were students. And man, am I kicking myself for waiting for so long: it's amazing and relatively cheap.

I haven't gone out to lunch anywhere else (except for business lunches) since I first ate there, and I'm not sure when that's going to change. I've still only tried the chicken shawarma and the falafel sandwiches, so I can't speak for the quality of the sushi, but the sushi I've seen served while I'm waiting for my order looks good, and I see tons of asian students eating there, which is always a good sign with asian food.

For my regular order, I've settled into the mixed sandwich, which is a best of both worlds scenario: the top half is chicken shawarma, and the bottom half is two falafel balls. This is all stuff into a thick, soft whole wheat pita with lettuce, diced cucumbers, and diced tomatos, which is topped with a white cucumber sauce. Possibly the best part of the sandwich, however, is the side sauce: a orangeish-pink concoction that tastes like Japanese sushi mayonnaise mixed with sriracha.

It's very, very cramped inside, and since they make everything fresh (including not slicing the meat for your chicken shawarma until they are making your sandwich), it can be a decently long wait even when it looks like there's no line (the other day I thought I was the only person waiting and there were actually five people ahead of me still waiting for their food who had either chosen to wait outside or who were seated at one of the few tables inside), but it's totally worth it. There may be days when my schedule doesn't allow me the luxury of a 20 minute wait for lunch, but I'm hoping those will be few and far between now that we're almost at the end of the school year. Because I'm totally addicted at this point, and I'm going to need a regular fix.

I think Mad Men needs to cool it with the two hour season premieres. I just finished this season's after four nights of attempts and now I'm too exhausted with the series to want to watch another for at least a week.

April's gone before it even really got here. Summer hasn't even started yet and it's going to be over in the blink of an eye. Hopefully we'll at least find a few days for vacation here and there.

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