july 2014

A couple of weekends ago, we took Will to visit my mom in Myrtle Beach for a few days. She was originally planning to visit us in May and then come to Atlanta again for his birthday, but she fell and twisted her knee badly in April and won't even be able to put weight on it until sometime this month, much less complete here PT and be able to drive herself around, so we found a time when we could spend a long weekend with her.

Will had a ball, of course—not only did he get to hang out with Gabby (his name for my mom), but he got to sleep in a big boy bed in the same room as Julie and me, feed the turtles that live in the pond behind my mom's house, and have an early birthday party with my mom, her brother (my uncle), and my uncle's wife (yes, technically she's my aunt, but this is his second wife, and even though they've been together for a long time, she's only a few years older than me and it's weird for me to think of her as an aunt).

This last event was a surprise to him—we told him we were just going swimming in the pool (and we were), but they had set up a cake and some presents for him in the clubhouse, so when we walked through on the way to the pool they were able to catch him off guard. He really, really wasn't expecting it—I've never seem him clam up like that around people he already knows. But he warmed up pretty quickly and had a great time opening his gifts, having some ice cream cake, and then spending a couple of hours in the pool with us before thunderstorms forced us from the water.

We didn't get a chance to go to the beach—I've been having some trouble with my left foot for the last month or so, and my mom is in a wheelchair—but we did go to a little boardwalk on an inlet where we had lunch and walked out on a pier. Will enjoyed that immensely—he loved our trip to Hilton Head last year, but other than that, he has no memories of the ocean (even though he went a couple of other times before last year), so it's all pretty novel to him.

The drive is a little long (although my stamina for long drives is very limited compared to even ten years ago), but the last hour getting to Myrtle Beach and then the first hour (or two) escaping from Myrtle Beach are brutal. It's interstate the whole way to Atlanta except for that stretch, and that part of the trip goes through so many small towns and built up areas that it's basically traffic lights the whole way. It took us more than an hour on the way in, and on Sunday, when we were part of an exodus of people leaving the beach after the weekend, it took us more than two hours.

But the trip was well worth it—both my mom and Will needed some quality one-on-one time with each other, and it was nice for us to spend a little time with my uncle as well, who we hadn't seen in a couple of years. Now that my sister has also moved to the Atlanta area, I won't be surprised if my mom moves here at some point, but in the meantime, that's not a bad trip as long as you can avoid the heavy travel times.

My business trip the following week up to Hartford, CT, didn't go too badly. The other person from my office who was attending is one of my longtime friends (we worked together years and years ago, back in the 90s, and he has mostly been working for me for the past four years), so it was nice to have a conference buddy for the social events.

The trip out was a nightmare—for the first time since I've been flying out of Atlanta, all of the parking lots that are within walking distance of the terminal were completely full, and the combination of my not knowing how to get to the satellite lots that are serviced by buses; the construction taking place on the roads around the airport; and an extremely heavy volume of traffic meant that by the time I was on the shuttle and heading for the terminal, I only had about an hour left before my flight would be boarding.

Luckily I got into a very fast line for the first part of the security check (where they look at your driver's license and boarding pass), and then I also got shunted to a side screening area for the next part, so a process that normally takes about 35 minutes was over in about 15. I was feeling pretty good about the way the day was going until I got to my gate and saw that, once again, my flight had been delayed (making it four in a row for Delta flights this year).

When the gate agent came on to give us an update, she said "Get comfortable, because we're going to be here a while." Given my recent experiences with Delta, where some delay is almost to be expected, I assumed that meant that we could be delayed a couple of hours or more, and that we might even be in danger of being canceled, but it was only an hour, and we were able to make up some time in flight, so I got to my hotel room only about half an hour after I was expecting to.

The flight back was on time, breaking Delta's streak, and I was back home in time to say goodnight to Will. I'm not well-suited to travel, especially when it involves constant flight cancelations and delays, and I was hoping that this might be my last time in an airport until the fall, but we've just now started to talk about a site visit to a peer institution in August, so I'm starting to think I have at least a couple more trips that I'll have to do before next year.

The conference itself was good (but not great), but I did do something really cool while I was there: I got to have dinner with a friend who I hadn't seen since we were juniors in high school 26 years ago.

This was a pretty spontaneous meeting: I forgot how close everything is in New England, so it didn't occur to me that Hartford, CT, could be right around the corner from Massachusetts, where he lives, until after I arrived and started to look at where I was staying on Google Maps. I couldn't remember exactly what city he lived in, but given Hartford's location, I figured it couldn't be more than an hour or so away, so I wrote to him my first night in town to see 1) if he was close enough to drive to where I was and 2) if he was free for dinner the following night.

It turns out that he was, so he showed up at my hotel around 7:00 p.m. and we walked to a local restaurant for dinner and drinks. We started with the most awkward moment imaginable: he had told me what he was wearing, and also told me that he looked different 26 years later (don't we all?), but when he stopped me in the lobby of the hotel and shook my hand, I didn't recognize him at all.

See, I was at another conference about a month before this one where I met a ton of people, and many of those people were also at this conference, so I'd already had several of these experiences where someone would call my name and come over to talk to me while I frantically searched my memory (or took a furtive glance at their badge) for their name and institution. And since my hotel was one of the preferred ones for the conference, many of the people at the conference were staying there, so when he stopped me and I didn't know who he was, I just assumed he was another conference attendee who I had met at some other conference.

It was really great to see him again, and it was like we hadn't skipped a beat despite not seeing each other for two and a half decades and only conversing via email for the last 10 years or so (although much of that correspondence happened in the first couple of years after we got back in touch). We have a strange history: we really only knew each other for a single year, our junior year in high school (which was our first year at NCSSM), but we became fast friends during that time, to the point where we were planning to room together for our senior year.

But then he decided to return to his home high school for his senior year for reasons that I understand now but which I totally did not at the time, and although things didn't end badly, they didn't exactly end well, and we didn't speak again for a long, long time. The next time I even attempted to reach out to him was when I was visiting my friend Regan at Yale; I remembered that he had gone to Yale as well, so I looked him up in the student directory and stopped by his room. He wasn't there, so I left a note hoping we could at least have coffee or something while I was there, but he never called me while I was there or afterward, so I assumed that was that.

Then out of the blue about a decade a later, he sent me the very briefest of emails, having located me god knows how and deciding to reach out to me god knows why. The subject line was "Remember me?", and the complete text was: "NCSSM. Left after just one year. That seemed to piss you off then, so we didn't speak again. Until now."

This email seemed to be proactively defensive and just a touch hostile, but this sort of fit with what I remembered about his approach to things when he wasn't feeling like he had steady footing, so I ignored the impulse to respond in an equally puzzling manner (or not to respond at all) and wrote him a nice long email that made it clear that I would welcome the chance to restart our friendship, and from there we started a regular correspondence.

Anyway. Scott wrote back almost immediately that his house was, in fact, only about 25 minutes from hotel despite being in an entirely different state, and so we made plans to meet up the next night. We talked for about three hours, catching up on the briefest details of each other's lives during the 26 years since we'd last seen each other, and getting through that part of the conversation quickly enough that he was able to spend some time talking about what had led him to his current line of work and also a non-profit that he'd founded that had just that afternoon received $1.5 million in funding, and I was able to ramble at length about string theory and the books I've been reading and the music I've been listening to.

It was over far too quickly, and I really hope that my work takes me back up that way before too long or that his work brings him down to Atlanta. But no matter how long it is before the opportunity presents itself for us to hang out again, I'm almost certain that it won't be another 26 years.

It was very illuminating to read Slaughterhouse-5 again—it may be the best known of his works, but like all the others I've re-read recently, I forgotten so much of it. The only parts I remembered were the parts specifically set in WWII, and even more specifically the parts about working in a syrup factory and being in Dresden when it was firebombed.

I remembered nothing about the main character being unstuck in time and bopping from one period in his life to another, nor about his captivity in a zoo on an alien planet—if you had asked me before I read it, I probably would have made an argument that it was his more realistic book, the one that had the most stable timeline and one that conformed most closely to traditional literary norms of story progression, when in fact it might be his most disjointed (Sirens of Titan would be a strong contender for that title as well).

As usual, it was a pretty quick read, and I'm always tempted to go back and immediatley re-read the books one more time. But I think that would be a mistake—part of what makes these books so compellingly readable to me is rediscovering all the things I'd forgotten, and reconnecting a little bit with my teenage self who was so enthralled by these books all those years ago, and I think if I were to start digging into them too deeply, the flaws would become more apparent, and they would be a little less enchanting to me. And I'm thoroughly enjoying being charmed by these stories anew.

After finishing Slaughterhouse-5, I had my choice of three books that I had purchased at the same time: China Mieville's The City and the City, Neal Stephenson's The Confusion (the second volume of the Baroque Cycle trilogy), and David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas (the first and the last coming recently recommended by a friend).

I chose The City and the City, and I've now finished that book as well. The conceit is an interesting one: that there are two cities that occupy the same physical space but which are legally separate countries, and the citizens of one cit have to train themselves to "unsee" the citizens, buildings, traffic, etc., of the other city even when their next door neighbor lives in the other city, or when they are passing citizens of the other city on the street.

At its heart, though, it's a detective story, but one in which the nuances of these dual cities and they mysterious force called Breach that mediates unauthorized interactions between them come into play when a woman is murdered in one city and her body dumped in the other, requiring our main character, a detective in one city, to travel to the other city to complete his investigation.

Although I generally liked it, I had a few problems with this book. The first was that I never really grew to like the main character (in my mind he was similar to the Italian detective who crosses Hannibal Lector in the movie Hannibal, even though something tells me that the detective in the book was supposed to be younger than the detctive in the movie).

It was also one of those books that ran out of steam at the end: once the mysteries of these two cities and their relationship to each other and to Breach had been explained, the motives behind the murder (which orginally seemed to point to a mythical third city embedded within the first two) were surprisingly pedestrian, and I couldn't help but wonder if it wouldn't have been more productive to at least leave the possibility of a third unseen city as a possibility, even if the author wasn't planning to write any further stories in this world. The best books in the world leave you with unanswered questions, and have the potential to leave you with new questions each time you read them, but this one wraps things up so neatly that a mean critic could summarize it as an extended Law & Order episode set in an extremely unusual world.

Still, I'm intrigued enough by the writing and the ideas to give Mieville another try someday. But first I have to work through those other two books, which will probably keep me busy for at least another month.

On Sunday I woke up and felt like there was something in my eye, but I didn't think much of it—the day before we had gone for a walk in the woods with Will, and a branch had hit me in the face, so I thought maybe that had caused some minor irritation. On Monday, however, it had gotten much, much worse, and although I was able to go to work, my eye was swollen almost to the point of being shut and it was leaking fluid in a fairly alarming way.

The next morning it was blazing red and mucus-y, to the point where I felt like I needed to see a doctor immediately (which is a pretty big deal, since I usually take the give-it-a-few-days-and-see-if-it-goes-away approach to dealing with medical issues. My doctor's office luckily had a slot for 10:30, and it only took the doctor about five minutes to conclude that I had conjunctivitis, more commonly known as pink eye.

I have no idea where I could have picked this up, but it's become pretty clear from the progression of symptoms that I have the viral kind, which is pretty contagious, and my physician also told me that I was the sixth case he had seen in the past two days (even my orhtopedist, who I saw that afternoon for an appointment that had been scheduled a week before—and yes, I think two doctor's appointments in one day is a clear sign that you are no longer a young person—told me that he had had pink eye the week before).

My sister used to get this with some frequency when we were kids, but I never caught it from her or anyone else, so this is a new experience for me. Once I got some eye drops, the eye part wasn't so bad (just disgusting to look at), but since it was the viral kind, it also came with flu-like symptoms like fever, lack of appetite, headache, sore throat, etc., and those have been much more problematic in terms of being able to put in a full day's work (I've been working from home so as hopefully spare my colleagues, but there's still too much that needs to be done right now for me to check out entirely).

This disease can apparently last up to a couple of weeks, and I don't think mine is going to clear up before the end of this week, but I sure hope it fades by the weekend—not only do I need to be back in the office next week, but Will's birthday party is on Saturday, and I'd hate to miss that (and also hate for Julie to have to handle all the logistics solo).

Four years ago today, the best baby in the world was born, and this morning at 7:59 a.m. he turned into the best four year old in the world (for someone who has always shown signs of his father's OCD inclinations, I'm sure that 7:59 time will bother him just like it does me—just one more minute and it could have been a round number!).

He is like any kid his age in terms of tantrums, stubborness, etc., but he's also one of the sweetest, kindest people I've ever known no matter what their age—his sensitivity to the emotions of those around him (children and adults) is sometimes astonishing. He loves music and he loves making pictures and he loves animals and he loves people—everyone is his friend, and he never misses a chance to start a conversation, whether it's on the playground or in the grocery store.

We are truly blessed to have him in our lives—I can't imagine a more perfect child for us. He does seem more like a little boy now than a toddler, and part of that makes me sad, but I also can't wait to see who he becomes. He is so loved and so loving, and every day we get to spend with him is joyous.

I was hoping to return to work today, but my pink eye is still going strong (although it is getting better), so it will be conference calls and emails for me today. I'm sure my coworkers appreciate my restraint, but I really want to get back to the office soon.

It's been over a week now since a lot of my family came into town for July 4 and Will's birthday celebration, but I haven't written about it yet. So that's what I'm going to do now.

My parents arrived on Wednesday, more than a day before anyone else (they almost didn't make it, though—they live on the NC coast and had to do some last-minute prep for Tropical Storm Arthur, which was projected to turn into a hurricane and make landfall near them within 48 hours), so they hung out with Will on Thursday while we were at work and everyone else was in transit.

You'd think this would be no big deal for my sister who just moved to Georgia, but she decided to spend the early part of the week to drive to North Carolina to help out a relative who is dealing with the death of his mother and pick up some of my grandfather's furniture to bring back to her new home in Georgia, so she didn't back into town until very late Thursday and we didn't see her until Friday.

My brother who was driving from Toledo with a group of five other assorted relations (his girlfriend, his girlfriend's daughter, his girlfriend's daughter's boyfriend, his girlfriend's daughter's 10 month old baby, and his girlfriend's daugher's half sister) got in late Thursday evening, but they were understandably exhausted from their 12 hour plus trip, so we also didn't see them until Friday. So Thursday was actually pretty quiet and calm (except for the late night trip Julie and I made to the grocery store after Will went to bed (my parents were staying with us, so they stayed home with him) when we realized that we had no food in the house and we had possibly as many as 16 people who we'd have to feed lunch and dinner to the next day).

Friday, however, was not. I started off the morning with an early trip to Krispy Kreme to pick up two dozen doughnuts: one for Will, Julie, and my parents, and one for my brother and his crew. They had rented a house on Airbnb, and it wasn't too far from Krispy Kreme, so I thought that would be a nice way to welcome them to Atlanta and thank them for making the long drive during their vacation to see us and help celebrate Will's birthday.

By sometime around lunch, my brother's group of six came over, so we had deli sandwiches and chips for lunch, and then just hung out. My sister arrived later in the afternoon with two of her local friends, at which point we had 15 people in the house including Will and my brother's girlfriend's grandson.

This was the first time we'd had that many people over, and we were surprisingly not cramped: our couch holds five or six people comforably, more people were able to sit inside on the four barstools or at the dining room table (our dining room and living room is one long extended space that also has an open connection to the kitchen), and we also had space for about 10 people on our screen porch (a table with six chairs and a sitting area with two more chairs and a two person couch). People distributed themselves pretty evenly into these different areas, and it never felt like the house was as bursting at the seems as it actually was.

I started preparations for dinner shortly after my sister and her friends arrived, planning to have it ready by six so we'd have time to get to whatever fireworks people wanted to go to, using one of my favorite grilling tricks (although I was sans grill, so I did this all on the stove): take a disposable roasting pan, fill it with a mix of sauerkraut, grilled onions, and grilled peppers, a little bit of butter, and a few bottles of beer. Then cook off a bunch of sausages, and as they get finished, dunk them in the beer bath with the onions, peppers, and sauerkraut. This not only keeps them hot and juicy for a long time, it also adds some extra flavor.

Everyone was done eating around seven, so we started to figure out where we might want to go see some fireworks. Julie and I suggested walking to the fireworks show in downtown Decatur (about a 25 minute walk), but that didn't work for everyone. My brother's group was still tired from their long drive the day before, so they decided to head back to their rental house and hope that someone in that neighborhood would set some off in one of the parks.

So that left my parents, my sister and her husband, and their two friends. We all agreed on Decatur, but my sister's group didn't feel like walking, and I didn't feel like dealing with the potential parking issues, so we agreed to each get their our own way and meet up once we got there. As it turned out there were no issues with parking, but I'm still glad we walked—it was a beautiful night with temperatures well below normal for that time of year in Atlanta.

We met up with my sister and her friends a couple of blocks from the square, which is where most people watch the fireworks from. When we got there, it was pretty clear there was no space at all left on the square, but on the way there, we had seen a parking deck that was apparently allowing people to go to the top level to see the show that had a direct view of the parking garage where the fireworks were actually being launched from, so we all agreed to meet there in a few minutes after Julie, Will, and I went to see some of Will's school friends who had set up blankets on the square hours earlier.

When we got to the top of the parking deck, I thought we had hit the jackpot: it was just as perfect a view of where the fireworks were being set off as I thought it would be, and it wasn't crowded at all, especially given that we were probably less than half an hour from darkness at that point. So we walked around to look for the others, but we couldn't find them. As it turned out, the three flights of stairs to get to the top deck was too daunting for them (a couple members of the group have health issues), so they had found some space on a sidewalk that offered a clear view of the sky as well.

We wanted to see the show with them if we could, but Will had already gotten settled in and was fascinated with a consumer-level (but still pretty expensive looking) drone helicopter that was being controlled by someone else on our parking deck, and the view from up there was just great, so we really didn't want to leave and go down to the street. We looked around to see if the garage had any elevators that they might be able to use to get up to the top without over-exerting themselves, but we couldn't find any, so we decided to meet up with them after the fireworks were over.

The show was pretty awesome, and I really think the view we had was better than the one that the people on the square had—there was a reasonably tall office building between the square and the parking deck where the fireworks were being set off, and some of them were relativley low to the ground and I don't believe were fully viewable from any point on the square. The drone also continued to provide entertainment for Will, making a couple of trips up and down during the display.

We found my sister and my parents about ten minutes after the show ended, and we said our goodbyes to my sister and her friends and then started our walk back to our house with my parents. It was a very busy, very hectic day, but in the end it wasn't all that stressful, and it had a great ending. I think that's how we're going to do fireworks in Atlanta from now on.

And that drone? It was taking video of the show from high above, as we suspected, and they even edited down to three minutes and posted it online a couple of days after the event. Here's the video (we were sitting about 30 feet behind where the drone took off from:

On the Saturday after July 4, we did Will's family birthday party (as opposed to his friends birthday party, which came a week later). Everyone who had been over at our house the day before minus my sister's two friends came over again, and we had a lunch of Chik-Fil-A before we opened presents and had cupcakes from Endulge Cupcake Boutique.

One of the nice things about Will and gifts (at least so far—I'm sure this will change someday) is that he doesn't really ask for anything specific, and he gets so excited about everything he gets—a beach towel with his name on it drew just as many oohs and ahs from him as the DVD and soundtrack for Frozen, a movie that he (like every other child in America between the ages of 3 and 7) has been obsessed with. He also got a snowman plush toy from Frozen, a soccer net and ball, an interactive minion toy from Despicable Me (a movie which, at that point, we hadn't seen, but was his immediate first choice at our next family pizza and movie night).

We went out to dinner as a group that night to Golden Corral, one of the few restaurants at which we would not automatically be the largest party, and then we said goodbye my brother and his group, who had to leave town very early the next morning. My parents stayed with us one more night and then we went out to lunch with them and my sister and brother in law before they started their long drive back home.

All in all it was a pretty good weekend despite the logistical challenges of coordinating the activities of such a large group of people. It was nice to have a quiet house again on Sunday afternoon, but as hard as it is for me to play the host—I'm an introvert at heart—my son the extrovert loves having people around, and having so many come to celebrate his birthday was as good a present as any of the gifts he got.

As much as we like to claim that Will is not spoiled, the number of birthday parties he had this year kind of got out of hand (which is pretty much how it's always been for his birthdays). He had his first birthday party with my mom, my uncle, and my uncle's wife when we went to spend a weekend with her because her knee injury was going to prevent her from coming to Atlanta to celebrate his birthday with the rest of the family.

Then he had the big family birthday part with my dad and stepmother, my sister and her husband, and my brother and his girlfriend's clan, and then on his actual birthday, they had a little celebration in his classroom where they gave out mini cupcakes and showed pictures to the class from every year of his life (the parents normally attend that, but Julie had to do that one solo due to my conjunctivitis).

After school on his birthday we went to a bike store to buy him his first two-wheel bike (just in time for Bike Day at school the next day), and then took him out to dinner on his birthday and had a brownie sunday with a candle on it at the restaurant. If we count the school party and his birthday dinner and bike, that brings us up to four distinct birthday celebrations, with the biggest one yet to come: on Saturday afternoon we hosted about 20 kids at a place called Glow Galaxy, an indoor space with various bouncy houses and inflatable slides that is lit with blacklight so that everything glows in the dark.

Julie had taken him there for another of his friend's parties about six weeks before his birthday, and he had such a great time that Julie immediately booked it for his party. And just like before, he had an amazing time, despite being completely exhausted by the end of it (in addition to his party at the end of the day, he had also had a swimming lesson in the morning and then gone to a friend's birthday party, and he did not take a nap). We didn't do any presents at that party—instead we asked each kid to bring a new book, and at the end of the party everyone took a different book home—but a couple of people brought him presents anway, so he had a couple to open when we got home.

So there you go: five birthday parties and lord only knows how many presents, including a brand new bike. But he's not spoiled.

Today Amazon officially introduced its Kindle Unlimited service, which is sort of like a Spotify for books: for a flat fee of $10 per month, you get access to all the books on the service whenever you want and however often you want to read them.

I've been reading a lot more recently, but the books I pick tend to be longer works that take me a couple of weeks to read, so even if I was comfortable with what is essentially a no-ownership streaming model, I still don't think it would make sense for me: in order to make it worth it, I would have to read at least three books a month (really four, since I typically also read a free book through the Kindle Lending Library each month as well), and I just don't think I'd be able to sustain that pace.

Plus I have a feeling that a lot of the books I would want to read aren't available through this service (none of the books I've purchased this year seem to be on Kindle Unlimited), so I'd likely end up still buying a lot of titles anyway. I know the whole notion of "ownership" essentially disappears when it comes to digital content, but at this point, buying digital editions of the books I want to read makes more sense for me than this monthly pay for access model.

Julie and I don't go out without Will very much—we still haven't found a babysitter for him (and we honestly haven't tried that hard)—but on Saturday his school had a Parents' Night Out where we could drop him off at 6 and pick him up at 10, so we paid our $25 and had a few hours to spend out of the house without him.

By the time we made the decision to do this, all the restaurants that we've been wanting to try were booked up, so we headed to Sobban Korean Southern Diner, which is just down the street from his school. It's usually packed, no matter what night it is, but we got there early enough that we were able to get seated immediately (albeit at a community table on the patio). I've only been here once or twice, and Julie a couple times more than me, but it's always got intersting stuff on the menu, and if our pickly little four year old was a little more open to foods beyond peanut butter sandwiches, grilled cheese, and chicken nuggets, we'd probably eat there a lot more often and bring him along.

We ordered the dumplings (which had a much fancier name and came in a sort of hockey puck shape, but they were essentially dumplings) for our appetizer, and then Julie got the vegetarian bibimbop and I got the shrimp and rice grits, and we split kimchi miso kale as a side. My shrimp and rice grits was pretty amazing—I'm not sure what rice grits are, but it was kind of a rice porridge with small pieces of bacon, a little shredded cheese, and some sort of citrus flavor. That might not sound all that appetizing, but trust me, it was really good.

I'm usually not big on sitting at communal tables, even though most people in Atlanta are perfectly nice, but this was a pretty good experience. I struck up a conversation with our immediate neighbors when Julie went to the restroom, and we finished our meal having a nice conversation with them about the city and complaining about Morrissey's most recent concert cancelation in Atlanta (he's canceled dates four times in the past three years).

After dinner we headed off to see the new X-Men movie (which isn't so new anymore since it came out back in May). I was pleased that for once a superhero movie wasn't overloaded with action sequences and instead focused a lot more on character interactions, but at the end of it I came away wishing there had been a real signature set piece somewhere in there, and also getting the feeling that one of the prime goals of the movie was to get virtually every X-Men character who has appeared on film since the franchise kicked off back in 2000 back on the screen for at least a few seconds. Still, out of the five X-Men movies (and the two Wolverine spin off movies), I'd probably rank this as the third best, behind the first X-Men movie and the recent First Class franchise reboot.

When we picked up Will right before 10, he was WIRED, still bouncing off the walls and jabbering excitedly. They watched Frozen, which he's still pretty obsessed with, and he made lots of new friends (none of the kids from his class were there, but he makes friends faster than anyone I've ever seen). He had a lot of trouble going to sleep even though it had been a full day for him (swimming lesson, trip to the museum and a movie, and then hanging out at school while we were on our date), but eventually he settled down. It was a pretty good night for us, too—we really should find a babysitter so we can do this more than three or four times a year.

This year we're not planning on taking a vacation until the end of August again, but this will likely be the last year we can do that: next year Will will be in kindergarten, and the public schools in our county get back in session at the beginning of August.

I think the somewhat deserted feeling of Hilton Head the week before Labor Day—it's pretty close to the "local summer" that we had in September in the seaside town where I did a lot of my growing up—but this year, the summer has simultaneously felt endless and already over, and I desperately need a vacation. The fact that most of my coworkers have already takenn theirs and are coming back in August refreshed and ready to get back to work on our next admission cycle is just making things worse—I'm dragging because I've had no real break since Christmas, and they're full of energy and ready to dig in anew to projects that I have yet to take a break from.

We'll have to get a feel for the rental situation all over again if we decide to keep going back to Hilton Head, since I'm sure there's a lot less availability in June and July than there is at the end of August, but I think it will really help my attitude about work if I have a decent vacation earlier in the season.

The storylines on Deadliest Catch this season are feeling really, really forced, specifically Elliott going to rehab and Sig's daughter coming on board the Northwestern for one of their opilio trips. (If I were capable of saying that a showing about boats and fishing had jumped the shark without being guitly of an unbearably bad pun, I would.) But I still can't stop watching it.

Last after Will was in bed and we had dinner, I decided to out to see a late movie, something I did pretty regularly my first year in Atlanta but which I haven't done in a while.

I chose to see Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, the sequel to 2011's Rise of the Planet of the Apes that takes place about 10 years after the final events of the first movie (does it seem like these two titles should have been reversed to anyone else?) when a the same experimental virus that gave the apes in the first movie has morphed into a toxic disease that kills 499 of every 500 humans who catch it.

The supersmart apes have established their own colony in the California wilderness, and they have come to believe that humans have been completely wiped out, until a few stumble into their midst trying to repair a dam to start generating electricity again. A series of fits and starts in human/ape relations eventually leads to war between the two groups, exposing the basic moral of the movie: power hungry assholes with guns, be they ape or human, ruin everything for everyone else.

The story isn't bad, aside from the mile-wide plot holes that you just have to ignore for movies like this—it might be a more engaging movie than the movie that preceded it—but the most remarkable thing about the film is how it would have been impossible to make it even 10 years ago—that's how far motion capture and CGI tech have come in the past decade.

You very rarely notice that the apes aren't real, and aside from the final major fight sequence where it's hard to tell exactly which ape you should be rooting for, the performances on the ape/CGI side are very believable and occasionally genuinely emotional. Andy Serkis, he who gave live to the computer-generated Gollum and King King in Peter Jackson's movies, is getting a lot of praise from critics for his performance as Caesar, the ape protagonist, but an even stronger performance might have come from Tony Kebbell, the actor behind asshole ape Koba.

On the human side, I was pleased to see Gary Oldman as part of the cast, but he's mostly wasted here—it's a throwaway performance of a character who isn't given a lot of depth, so I at least hope he was paid handsomely for it. Keri Russell also has a major role, but as with most of her movie roles, she doesn't make much of an impression.

The ending of the first movie, which was a risky reboot of the franchise, didn't obviously set up a sequel (although it left the door open for one), and that's one advantage that film had over this one: it's clear that another sequel is coming, and that there will not likely be a 10 year gap between the storylines (and in fact the studio committed to a third film with the same director who made Dawn before the movie was even released).

A side note that has nothing to do with this particular movie, but which I've seen often enough in these late night solo movie outings that it's clear that this has become the norm for some people: every time I go to one of these films, which I usually see on a Tuesday or Wednesday night and which typically start after 10 and end well after midnight, I never fail to see at least a couple of families (last night there were three) who have brought at least one child under the age of 8. Not only are the movies I see at this time of night rated at least PG-13, but the previews that run before them are also pretty violent.

Combine the actual content on the screen with the fact that these kids are out on a school night (I know there's no school right now, but what I saw last night is consistent with what I see during the school year) and are likely going to be wiped out for school the next day, and I can't help but think that this borders on child abuse. It would be one thing if they were 11 or 12, right at the edge of the movie guidelines, but there are some sequences that have to be truly frightening and somewhat incomprehensible for kids that are 4 to 7 years old.

As the father of a 4 year old who plans to expose him to art forms of all sorts, including movies, I can say that I wouldn't even dream of taking my son to a movie like this until he was at least 10, and that's only if I had confidence that he was emotionally and intellectually ready to deal with the violence (which is highly unlikely). But even if I felt like he was ready to see a movie like this at that age (and keep in mind that all four children I saw in the theater last night were well below that age; the oldest was probably no more than 7), I would never, ever take him to see it so that he wasn't getting home until 1:00 a.m. when he had school the next day.

Sometime in the last couple of months (likely back in May on a trip to DC where I did a lot of walking in my work shoes, shoes that probably should have been replaced six months earlier), I somehow injured my left foot, to the point where, on bad days, I could barely put any pressure on it because the pain was so bad.

It would get better after a couple of days, and then I would return to my exercise routine of running on the treadmill, only to have it flare up again the next day and last for one or two days. So then I started waiting longer between workouts and even moved from running to walking on the treadmill, but the same thing would happen every time: no matter how long I took off between workouts or how gently I tried to use it, the injury, whatever it was, would make itself apparent the following day and more or less incapacitate me for a day or two.

I finally made an appointment with a sports medicine doctor earlier this month to try and get this resolved. And although I was still taking it easy on the foot, from the day I made the appointment until the day of the actual appointment about a week later, my foot felt better than it had since I had first injured it, and it was feeling pretty good when I met with the doctor. Still, there was some pain when he pressed on certain parts of my foot, and he thought it was an inflamed tendon (WebMD tells me this is probably extensor tendinitis, although the doctor just used the words inflamed tendon) and prescribed physical therapy.

It was another week before I could get a physical therapy appointment, so I continued to take it easy on the foot, and when I showed up for my appointment, I still hadn't had any significant pain in about two weeks. The two physical therapists spent a lot of time examining my foot and looking at how I walked when I was barefoot, and ended up prescribing some off-the-shelf orthotic inserts for my running shoes and a series of nine daily exercises that would stretch out my foot before exercise and strengthen the problem area.

I went out and got the orthotics that night, and the next day I walked on the treadmill and didn't have any pain the next time. Before my next PT appointment, I walked three more times on the treadmill, increasing the duration and intensity each time, and I also walked to work and back one day (another activity I'd been avoiding), and I never had any pain the next day.

So I was feeling pretty good when I showed up for PT this week on Wednesday afternoon, and instead of just doing the stretching and strengthening exercises they had given me the week before, we did a lot of pretty intense exercises design to make me focus on balance. We were feeling so good about how things were going that they cleared me to try running before next week's appointment, and I thought I was finally going to put this behind me.

Nothing hurt during the session or for the rest of the night, but when I woke up the next morning, I was back again unable to put any real weight on it, which was incredibly frustrating and disappointing. I was hoping if I rested it on Thursday it would be feeling somewhat back to normal by today, but if anything it's even worse today. That's the incredibly frustrating thing about this injury: I don't get feedback from my body in real time about whatever it is I'm doing that causes the injury. Everything is always fine the day of, but then the next morning I wake up and it's clear that something re-aggravated it.

Unless my foot feels close to 100% by the end of the weekend, I'm going to avoid running this week (hopefully I'll still at least be able to do a couple of walking sessions) and wait for next week's PT appointment to see if we can avoid exercises that put an undue amount of pressure on that side of my foot (which likely means no balancing exercises for now).

I would like for this injury to get 100% healed, but in the meantime, I need to have it so that I don't reinjure it to the point where it interferes with basic daily activities (like being able to walk from the parking garage to my office), and where it hopefully will allow me to do at least moderate cardio exercise. This is where I was prior to my second PT appointment, and it's clear that the second, more aggressive session was too much for my foot (although to be fair, there's no way the physcial therapists or I could have known that at the time—it had been three weeks since I'd had a flare up, and nothing they were asking me to do hurt at the time).

I have been very diligent about establishing a regular exercise routine since last October, and it's driving me crazy to have that disrupted for the last two and a half months while waiting for whatever this is to heal. I hate running, but I miss running—I miss how I feel when I finish a run, and I miss the results I see on the scale when I'm able to run three times a week. I just want to get this figured out so I can have some kind of routine again.

Will had another full weekend: swimming lession on Saturday morning, followed immediately by a trip to the park where there was a festival hosted by the county. There was lots of free stuff, and he go to sit in various municipal vehicles, including a police car, a fire truck, and the bomb squad truck (complete with robot!).

On Sunday we went to church and stayed for the party afterward—it was the last service for our organist, who is leaving in August to take a two year internship position at a cathedral in England. Will has made a habit of walking up to the organ during the postlude every Sunday and helping Mr. Joseph turn the organ off after he was done playing, and we're hoping that his replacement will be as accomodating.

After that Will went immediately to a birthday party at the pool where he takes his swim lessons and stayed there for nearly three hours. By the time he got home, we had made plans to have dinner with my sister and brother-in-law, and he was so exhausted from his afternoon of swimming that he was still asleep when they arrived around 6.

He was cranky when we got him up until we let him pick dinner, and he chose his favorite restaurant, T. Mac in Decatur. It's his favorite not because of the food, but because of the video game room that he hangs out in while waiting for the food to arrive. As an extra bonus, Uncle Tim gave him a few dollars to spend playing games, which we never do, and "Uncle" Carrie (he thinks it's hilarious to call my sister "uncle") went into the game room to play with him.

After dinner we walked down to an ice cream store, and by the time we got back home it was after 9:00. Even though he was tired, he still took a couple of hours to wind down to sleep, he was so wired from all the day's activities. He was in a pretty good mood this morning, though, and none the worse for the wear missing out on an extra hour or two of sleep.

Weird week this week: Monday was my boss' first day back in the office in over three weeks; today is an all day consoritum meeting with other higher ed admission professionals from around Atlanta; Wednesday is a long series of meetings broken up by a trip to physical therapy during my lunch hour; and Thursday is an all day leadership retreat.

Friday is the only day that I'm scheduled to be in the office all day and not have meetings eating up all my time, so I'm guessing that's the only chance I'm going to get to do any real work. You'd think that doing something different and non-routine every day would make the week go by faster, but in my experience it's just the opposite.

It wasn't until Sunday that I could even sort of walk on my left foot after injuring it at physical therapy last week, and it wasn't until Tuesday that it felt solid enough to work out on it again. Before the PT took me back several steps, the plan had been to try running on it this week for the first time since mid-June, but that wasn't to be.

I head back to physical therapy today, and with no negative effects after yesterday's workout walking on the treadmill, I'm hoping they'll just take it easy on my so we don't risk reinjuring it. I see the doctor again next Friday, so I'd like to just maintain where we've gotten now, and if things continue to go well try one run before I go for that visit.

This is very, very frustrating though—by the time I go back to my orthopaedist, it will have been nearly three months since the injury occurred, and although with the daily stretching exercises and shoe inserts that I've started using we seem to be a decent equilibrium where I can exercise without reinjuring it, it doesn't really seem to be getting better, and it's pretty clear that neither the physical therapists nor the doctor have a clear idea of what's going on and how to fix it.

All day leadership retreat today. They tend to make these short days—starting at 10 and wrapping up by 3 or 4—but they can feel so, so long.

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