march 2015

Busy weekend, but fun for Will. On Saturday, his friend Anton came over and the families walked to the Fernbank Science Center, which is right across the street from where Will's elementary school will be next year, before coming back to our house for lunch. Then in the afternoon Gabby, Carrie, and Tim came to town to watch the last women's basketball game of the season with us (still no Swoop—the Emory mascot has been MIA from the women's games for a good year and a half now) and we said goodbye to Gabby for a few weeks—we've seen a lot of my mom recently, and Will is always sad to see her go.

Sunday was more of our normal routines, including Will and I cooking dinner together. This week Will decided he wanted to try sloppy joes, which he loved (I think they've probably had some version of this at school, and that always helps when trying new foods. We also made roasted broccoli and sweet potato fries. He ate a fry or two, but the rule is that we don't get dessert unless we try at least one bite of everything on our plate, and there were 15 minutes of rending of clothes and gnashing of teeth to eat a micron-sized floret. But eventually he ate it, although he made gagging noises about it for about five minutes after he swallowed it, so he got his treat after dinner.

It's been a crazy couple of weeks with my mother visiting, going to my Raleigh for my grandfather's funeral, and trying to get back to a normal work and school routine, but hopefully this week will be pretty uneventful.

My foot injury from last year has reoccured, which is a little frustrating. My trips to the sports medicine guy last year didn't really solve the issue, but he did eventually conclude that it wasn't a stress fracture (which was my biggest concern) and I also got some shoe inserts on the advice of my physical therapist that have really helped.

I'm not sure what triggered it again after so many months. Due to travel and illness, I've been a little out of my exercise routines for the past few weeks, so I haven't been running as often, but I just had a standard run on the treadmill and the next morning it was visibly swollen and very hard to put pressure on.

I'll probably lay off the exercise for a week and then ramp up to running by walking for a week or two. That seemed to work last time, but it's very irritating to have this injury come back out of nowhere after not really being a factor in my exercise routines since last August, especially with the warm weather (and hopefully a lot more outdoor activity) returning in the next few weeks.

I don't really watch anything remotely billed as a sitcom, but I decided to DVR the new Will Forte/Kristen Schaal show The Last Man on Earth, mostly because the premise—that all of humanity was quickly killed off by a virus, leaving Forte's Phil alone on the planet—was off-kilter enough for a primetime network show that I figured it would prove itself to be really good or really bad very quickly.

They aired the first two episodes back to back, and so far it's pretty enjoyable. It might have been fun if they had Forte on his own for more than one episode, and they might have made Kristin Schaal a little too grating to start with (is it at all realistic to think that someone who believed they were alone on the planet's first instinct upon finally finding another human being would be to correct his grammar?), but it's not a bad beginning.

And although they seem to have quickly settled down in a stable location, running the risk of turning this into just another domestic comedy, with the world they've set up, it's going to be very easy for them to change locations on a whim or, in a main plot driver for zombie shows, simply have new people show up to change the mix.

I don't know how this show will look after 10 episodes, or if it has a chance of being renewed after that, but I'm going to record and watch just in case—this is the first half hour comedy since Steve Carrell left the office that I've even been remotely interested in (or, as Schaal's Carol would insist, in which I've even been remotely interested).

If we were still living in Baltimore, we wouldn't even be thinking of springtime yet—I was there the year it snowed on Opening Day for the Orioles, and those April games were definitely expected to be cold weather affairs. And although it's unusual for this time of year, our old town just got another 10 inches of snow after an already snowy season, so winter is not over for them by a long shot. But living in Atlanta, I'm ready for spring NOW.

It feels like this winter has lasted forever, and I can't remember the last time I felt warm when I was outside, no matter how many layers I had on. It's supposed to be in the upper 60 this weekend, and although I'm sure it will still be a few weeks before that's the norm, it can't come soon enough for me—I've now gotten so unused to cold temperatures that I'd take 95 over 55 any day.

So, soccer is supposed to start on Sunday, but we just got the team list today, and our team has no coach yet (and we didn't get the email, even though Julie was getting emails from the Y a couple of weeks ago—one of our friends whose son is also on the team had to forward it to us).

This is pretty par for the course for this organization—they just don't seem to really have their act together, and are forever promising more than they can deliver (I tried to have my email address added to the listserv several times last season, and was never successful, so Julie had to forward any soccer-related emails to me). I mean, it's not important that it be organized like a professional sport for a rec league for four and five year olds, but it would be nice if you could have more than a couple of days warning about the schedule, the location, etc.

Luckily Will's entire team is made up of school friends—apparently one of the other moms in the class wanted her daughter to play and knew Will was playing, so she requested that her daughter be on Will's team and told all the other parents to do the same thing. So we ended up with eight friends from school—seven from his current class and one from his class last year (and the same boy that he played soccer with in the fall).

We're still figuring out the coaching issue—the dad of the boy we played with last season is from Austria and is an avid player himself, but he'll be gone for work for a couple of weekends, so he's looking for at least one other parent to fill in. It might be me as long as the weekends that he'll be gone are not alson ones where I'll be gone. I'm not really fit to be a soccer coach at any level beyond this one (I last played in a loose intramural dorm/hall league my freshman year of college, and I didn't play in high school except as part of PE), but I think I can handle running them through dribbling and shooting drills for 15 minutes before the start of each game for a couple of Sundays.

Yet another busy weekend centered around activities for Will. It started on Saturday with a morning trip to Stone Summit Atlanta, a gigantic rock wall climbing facility, for a birthday party for his friend Anton. They have an enormous climbing wall that you see as soon as you walk in the front door, but they have a smaller area upstairs for kids, and that's where we headed. They could play on a dinosaur-shaped climbing structure, do tradtional climbs (secured by ropes), or do climbs with ropes that had tension that helped pull the kids up and also let them drift down gently when they let go of the wall.

Will has never shown any fear of heights, and he didn't here, either. At his highest, he was probably 20-25 feet of the ground and being spurred on by his friend Erica climbing even higher—she apparently goes wall climbing there on a regular basis, so she was an old pro. After about three hours of climbing, everyone decamped to a Fellini's Pizza for lunch.

Will had a great time, but we were one of the first families to leave, because we had to get Will back home to get ready for swimming—on Saturday afternoon he started semi-private swim lessions (sharing with his friend Erica) with an Emory student who is on the swim team. He had a ball here too—he really, really loves the water, the point where I'm starting to feel badly that we haven't spent more time near lakes and pools so he could really start to learn to swim (when we ask him what's the favorite of all the activities he's ever done, he always says swimming). But swimming is a pretty big thing here, and I think he'll be old enough to join a swim team next year, so as long as we keep him in lessons until he actually knows how to swim, he should be able to spend as much time in the water as he wants.

To round out the weekend activities, we had soccer practice on Sunday afternoon, with Anton's dad, me and Erica's mom all pitching in to coach since our team wasn't assigned one. Will was definitely more into the game than he was last year (his first season), but he still had a tendency to lose track of the ball and wander off from the action.

But the team is made up entirely of his friends from school, so hopefully he'll engage more, especially if most of them are really into it. The only potential problem with this is that his best friend Zachary is also on the team, and those two together tend to reinforce each other's acting out and not listening tendencies. Don't get me wrong, he's a great kid, and we're glad that he and Will are such good buddies, but on the soccer field, they were much more interested in playing their school games than they were in running drills or playing soccer.

Last night I went out for a drink with Jonathan, one of my roommates from college who happens to live only a couple of miles from me now. Even though we live so close and we always have a good time when we hang out, family and work keep us from keeping our promise to see each other at least once every month or two—I've been here for close to three years now, and I think this was probably only the fifth time we've managed to align our schedules.

It was good, as always, to have a beer and chat with him for a few hours—we exchange music and book recommendations (he recommended Cloud Atlas and The City and the City to me last time we chatted last summer, and I pushed Waxahatchee on him, as I do to everyone these days), talk about family, etc., and there's surprisingly little reminiscing for the old days.

We are really going to try to get together again soon—he has some extra passes for the Atlanta Film Festival, so we're going to try to catch a few documentaries (he teaches film production and is currently working on his own documentary) and he's going to see if he can free up an evening to come see Waxahatchee at the Drunken Unicorn when they play in April. So I have high hopes, but I also know our history, so I won't be surprised if, six months from now, we see each other again and wonder where the last six months went.

I got an iPad at work when I first started this job, an iPad 2, and I've been kind of wanting a new one since they introduced the Air a year or so ago, but it will officially be three years old this June, so I went ahead and got an iPad Air 2 because 1) any purchase in the next six months is going to be on the same budget year anyway and 2) they aren't likely to refresh the Air with a new model until next fall at the earliest.

I think this is four iPad models removed from when I got one in 2012, so I guess I should have expected it to feel very different than the one I had, but there have been similar advancements in keyboard/covers as well, so compared to my old setup, the new one weighs about half a pound less and is much, much thinner—getting used to the feel when I'm carrying it was like transitioning from the iPhone 4 to the iPhone 5, which felt so light the first time I picked it up that I almost launched it across the room.

The only problem now is that Apple just introduced a new MacBook that's only slightly larger than an iPad Air 2 and weighs only about 100 grams more than my iPad and keyboard together but which contains a fully functional laptop instead of a tablet. A tablet is fine for what I use it for—doing email on the road, taking notes in meetings, etc.—but if I could have a real computer for essentially the same weight and size, why wouldn't I do that? Something to futher ponder after the next budget year rolls around...

I went to lunch with one of the other dads in Will's class yesterday—he's a professor at Emory who only works a few minutes from my office, and we had a good conversation last summer at Will's birthday. As with my friend Jonathan, who I wrote about meeting up with earlier this week, we've been meaning to get together since September, and we just now found time on the calendar.

It was a nice talk—it was a lot of introductory stuff (how did you get to Atlanta, what do you do at the institution, etc.), but it was a good conversation, and I hope we'll be able to do it again soon, especially because once the end of the school year hits, vacations will start to hit, plus he generally goes over to Indonesia for several weeks every year as part of his research.

When I was younger, I used to always wait to be asked to hang out by other people, assuming that if they were interested in getting to know me, they would reach out. But I've learned as I've gotten older that most people won't do that even if they are interested, and since there are plenty of easy ways out if you don't actually want to have lunch or coffee with me and but you don't want to hurt my feelings, I'm much more likely to make the suggestion and do a couple of rounds of follow up (assuming that if they consistently beg off after 2-3 tries, they're really not interested).

I'm still an introvert at heart, but I've gotten much more comfortable in my own skin around new people, and even though I don't need a huge circle of friends, there's always room for one more.

Pi day tomorrow! This one's supposed to be special (at least in the American date notation) because you'll be able to go 10 digits deep (instead of the normal 3 you get with 3.14) at 9:26:53, something that won't happen for another hundred years. Or until 15 years after we reset the calendar after some world-shattering event of our own making. Whichever comes first.

This weekend was slightly less filled with Will-related events than the past couple, but it was still pretty busy: Saturday was his swimming lesson in the afternoon and his school auction in the evening, and Sunday was Sunday school, soccer, and a friend's birthday party.

Julie and I left the school auction early to run some errands—there wasn't a lot in the donated items for the silent auction part of the event that we were interested in bidding on, and the live auction featuring artwork from each classroom wasn't that compelling for our classroom this year (although, as per tradition at this school, we teamed up with several other families to increase the pot for the winning bid, but we didn't actually need to be there—one of the other families could do the group bidding for us).

I needed to pick up some shorts for coaching soccer—the weather was so warm and wonderful on Sunday—and Julie needed to pick up a present for the birthday party, but while we was looking around Toys R Us, we found these things called Lego Junior

Another unintended (although temporary) side effect of my weight loss over the last year and a half: I don't have anything green to wear today. Nothing I owned when I started this process fits anymore, but I'm also not to my desired final weight yet, so I've only been buying minimal clothes to get by until I can get to my final goal and restock my wardrobe fully.

That means I have two pairs of pants, four shirts for work, a couple of pairs of shorts, and a couple of polos, and I do laundry a lot more often than I used to. I was really hoping I'd be down to my final weight by April, but I can tell that these last 15-20 pounds are going to be tougher than the last 15-20 pounds, so it might not be until early summer.

But hopefully when I get in the 10 pound range of my final goal, things like polos and pants will fit into that range, so I can at least restock the more casual part of my closet. The suits, sport jackets, and dress shirts are going to wait until I've really hit my goal—I don't want to buy them 10 pounds early and then wish they fit just a little better for the next five years, because I'm planning to go in and get measured to find out what my actual sizes are before I buy anything.

It's actually starting to feel like spring, and I can't wait—the warm weather of summer can't get here soon enough for me, but I'll happily accept the 70s that constitute typically spring temperatures around here in the meantime.

I don't know if this might also be another side effect of my weight loss—feeling cold all the time—but I know a few other people that moved here from the northeast or the mid atlantic who report the same phenomenon—weather that would have barely warranted a windbreaker is now cause to break out the winter coats and gloves.

My mom and sister lived in Ft. Lauderdale for a long time, and when we would meet them for our family Christmas gathering in North Carolina, I typically felt like the weather was balmy compared to Baltimore, while they looked like they were gearing up for an arctic expedition. I used to make fun of them for this, but I totally get it now.

One week til we release our biggest batch of decisions. Work doesn't really stop for my group at that point—we're implementing a new system for processing and reading next year and our most intense period of work on that implementation will take place from April to July—but at least overall the office can pause to take a bit of breather before we start up our activities to recruit next year's class.

I finally watched the first episode of the second half of season 5 of Walking Dead, and it didn't do a whole lot to make me want to watch more. I thought they were going to do something to address the lack of any sense of forward progress with the narrative (or at least give us an idea of what forward progress might look like) with Michonne becoming insistent that they get off the road and Rick agreeing to go to DC, but that didn't really seem to go anywhere. I mean, I guess it still could, and that these conversations were a setup for the rest of the season, but despite that hint of something new and different, we quickly returned to a normal pattern for the show.

I had three major problems with this episode (spoilers ahead, although I have to believe I'm one of the few longtime fans who is just getting around to watching this now), and the first is: how in the world could Tyreese let his guard down enough to let that happen? He knew there were walkers in the house, and he knew he hadn't cleared any rooms except the one he was in and the room where they first came into the house, and he knew that he was essentially backed into a corner (and let's just ignore another obvious question, which is, how could a walker sneak up on him in such a small space given that they have no ability to intentionally sneak up on anyone?)?

I mean, you don't live very long in the Walking Dead universe by letting your guard down in situations that you know are dangerous. I suppose you could see this as some sort of death-by-walker suicide, that he had given up hope and was putting himself in a situation where he knew he would die, but that becomes harder to convince yourself of given the ferocity with which he fights for life once he is attacked.

The next big issue: how in the world did they make it all the way to Richmond, VA, from wherever they were in Georgia in just over two weeks? Based on what we've seen so far, where sometimes it takes several days to go only a few miles because of the constant obstacles and encounters with either walkers or hostile humans, it's hard to believe that they just up and went over 500 miles from home without incident in that amount of time.

I mean, Eugene and Abraham have been trying to get from Houston to DC for presumably most of the time that Rick woke up from his coma and we entered the post-outbreak world (according to some estimates, this happened 60 days after the outbreak, and the show is now at approximately 520 days), and in all that time they only barely managed to make it to the Atlanta area. Is it really conceivable that the group just up and decided to go to Richmond, only a couple of hundred miles less than the distance from Houston to Atlanta, in just a couple of weeks? And without anything show-worthy happening (although that could be addressed in flashbacks, etc.)?

Finally, we have to return to the race problem with the show. Although they've gotten better about this over the course of the show (for a while, a black person would not survive for more than an episdoe or two, and there were no permanent black members of the group, and then it went to a single member who would be almost instantaneously offed when a new black person joined the group), it's still a problem for the show, and the death of Tyreese just as Noah has become a part of the group reinforces that trope—even though Michonne and Sasha remain with the group, it's still like the quota for black members of the group has simply been upped from one to three, and once you go over that number, someone has to die).

I should have a little more faith in the show's creators at this point—seasons 3 and 4 were overall amazing, and this season could still turn around and become just as good depending on the rest of this half season. But there's definitely been a bit of staleness that has set in, and there have been a few too many episodes lately that have seemed unnecessary—in fact, the whole Grady subplot was unnecessary, as all it really did in the end was subtract Beth in order to add Noah. It's time for something new, and I'm desperately hoping that's what we'll get over the final 7 episodes of this season.

If more college basketball games were like the UNC-Arkansas game on Saturday, I'd probably watch a lot more college basketball. An amazing performance by both teams, and if Arkansas had been able to hit a few more of its early shots, it would have been a lot closer than the final score. Hotly contested and uptempo the entire way—that's how I remember the games being played growing up, and this game reminded me of how rare it is to see them these days.

My mom was in town taking care of my sister's dogs for a few days, so she came to spend Sunday and Monday with us before she headed back home. We were hoping she'd get to see one of Will's soccer games, but it was rained out, so they just played in the house together on Sunday afternoon before we headed out to dinner at our favorite barbecue place (with a trip to Krispy Kreme for dessert).

Will stayed home from school with her on Monday, and then he helped me make her pigs in a blanket with roasted brussels sprounts and baked beans for dinner. I really enjoy having him cook with me—he gets on a little stool and stand next to me, moving the stool around the kitchen as I change stations, and even though he often zones out when I'm doing the prep work like chopping the vegetables, he gets really engaged whenever we're mixing stuff together or cooking it on the stove.

Cooking is something I've enjoyed for a long time myself, so I'm hoping his interest continues to grow as he gets older—I would love it if this became a bonding activity for us for years to come.

I'm getting very tempted by the Apple Watch, and it's not helping that other fitness trackers that track heartrate (one of which I want to upgrade to from my current step tracker) aren't significantly less than the Apple Watch.

Still, I haven't owned and worn a watch since I was in my teens, and then it was a cheap Swatch, although I have been wearing my current fitness tracker for over a year pretty regularly. It's going to be hard to come up with the pretzellian logic necessary to justify purchasing a watch for that much when I've gotten by for more than two decades without one, especially because I'm not someone who compulsively checks Twitter and sends and receives texts all day.

But my birthday is coming up, so I'm considering preordering one and then making an appointment to try it on at an Apple Store—that way if I don't like it, I can easily cancel my order before it ships, but if I do, I won't have to wait for weeks or months as the supply chain gets into equilibrium with demand.

It's our big decision release today for Regular Decision students. Normally this is cause for a big celebration and pause to catch our breaths for a few weeks before we start working on our process for next year, but with the implementation of a major new system looming, that's not going to happen this year. Maybe a week or two of relative downtime, and then we're jumping right into building out a new system for processing and reading files.

This hasn't been an easy year on my team, and I really wish I could give them more time to regroup, but we have a tight timeline for this new system—if we don't have working demos of all the pieces by the June timeframe, we're going to have to hold off for another cycle and use our existing systems for another year. Yes, they work, but they're not as agile and adaptable as we need them to be, and my team ends up spending way too much time on pure maintenance issues instead of improving our process.

Even though they've worked very hard the last six months and I know it's going to be exhausting to immediately roll into a new development cycle, my hope is that once we get through this, a lot of the tasks that we spent a lot of time on each year even though they didn't move us forward in an appreciable way will disappear, not only making our next cycle less intense, but also paving the way for future years where we don't have to be in go mode all the time.

We'll see—I've implemented enough systems to know that year one almost never goes as planned, but we've already been using this system for other parts of our work for the last year or so, and I've been amazed at how much it does with much less need for development and maintenance than previous systems I've used.

UNC felt like one of those teams that could have gone on a run and taken the whole tournament this year, but alas, it was not to be. If they had gone farther, and if at some point someone defeats Kentucky, I would had a good chance to win my office pool (which in this office is strictly for fun—no money involved, unlike every other place I've ever worked)—all but one other person had Kentucky, and even if UNC hadn't won it all, as long as they lasted one round longer than Kentucky, there would have been very little chance of someone else catching up.

My bracket is always very ACC-heavy (and core 8 ACC, not the multiheaded monster it has become over the past decade), so I did pretty well the first weekend, and would have done even better if UVA had advanced to the sweet 16. I nearly had an all-ACC Final Four, but I hate Duke so much, and even when I believe they have a good chance of making it to the Final Four, I usually have they ousted no later than the Elite Eight.

It's still been a pretty good tournament, though, but I'm growing concerned that Duke might be the only ACC team to make it out of this weekend, which will be be bad for my bracket and leave me with a dilemma: can I root for the only ACC team left over other teams, or am I better off rooting for an undefeated season from Kentucky (who I also hate)?

Another super-busy weekend for Will: an Easter egg hunt at Fernbank Museum of Natural History on Saturday morning, lunch with Julie's aunt and uncle at Pallokaville (they are snowbirds who were passing through Atlanta on their way back to Chicago after a three month visit to their place in Florida), and a birthday party at a bowling alley (a first for Will; he loved it) on Saturday afternoon, followed by the Palm Sunday service on Sunday morning (including a 20 minute walk through downtown Decatur before the service proper) and soccer in the afternoon.

This is usually the time of year when things start to slow down a bit, personally and professionally, but I don't think that's going to be the case this year. In addition to implementing a major new system at work, which I've written about previously, I'm also going to be away from home a lot—as a result of either personal trips or conferences for work, I'm anticipating being out of the office for at least a couple of days a week every other week between mid-April and the beginning of July.

I find quiet weekends spent hanging around the house napping and reading rare enough these days, but I don't think I can even conceive of one appearing until sometime late this summer. But at least we're taking our vacation early this summer, which will help—we can't do our normal end-of-summer trip to the beach this year because Will will be in kindergarten, so we've moved that up to early June.

Alright, so I'm two episodes from the end of this season of Walking Dead, the one that ends with (spoiler) Carol insisting that Rick is going to have to kill the husband of the woman who Rick obviously has a crush on because he's a wife and child beater (despite apparently also being the only doctor left in Alexandria).

I don't know how this is going to end up, but seeing what usually happens to people in this show who deserve to die—they die—I'm not optimistic that Rick is going to ignore Carol's directive, despite the fact that 1) Carol, despite being a badass, is also clearly insane in a way that is significantly more sociopathic than the others (we've got a little Governor brewing in her) and 2) she has come to view killing someone as the easiest way to deal with them as a problem, even if the current situation doesn't call for it (killing Karen and David in the sick ward of the prison being the best example).

I think her massively frightening conversation with the little boy who caught her stealing guns from the armory, the one where she threatened to kidnap him in the dead of night and leave him tied up to a tree surrounded by ravenous walkers (which was not, I think, an idle threat) was meant to set up Rick's choice here by reminding us just how coldblooded and quick to kill she has become. Rick's infatuation with the wife will likely further cloud his judgment, since he clearly has wolf eyes for the woman.

I hope this is not how it turns out—I know that this season is meant to explore whether or not the group we're rooting for could be so stripped of their humanity by life in zombieland that they become incapable of returning to a somewhat normal society—whether or not they could become another group of Terminus predators who take advantage of a weaker, less-hardened group.

But again, I'm not optimistic that we won't get to this conclusion, mostly because once someone has proven to be an absolute dickhead, they get offed in pretty short order (see the gruesome death in this same episode of Deanna's son Aiden), and also because it's nearly unbelievable that people could be nearly two years into the zombie apocalypse and be this clueless about what the world has become.

december 2015
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january 2015

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