october 2015

I left for a conference on Wednesday of last week and returned on Friday night even though the conference technically lasted until Saturday night (and most people leave on Sunday morning because there are conference events that go through Saturday evening). I came home early because I realized only after I had signed up for both events that I had a 5K on Saturday morning that I needed to get back for.

This is probably the biggest annual conference in the undergraduate admission industry, but this was only my second time attending. I went three years ago when it was in Denver, and for me, and for the things I'm interested in for my career growth, every three or four years feels about right for this one. It's more focused on the counseling side of the industry, both high school and college admission counselors, and while it's useful to hear directly about some of the issues from that perspective, there is a lot of content that is repeated from other conferences I've been to, and a lot of the sessions are either thinly veiled advertisements for vendor services (this usually happens when a prominent dean or director gives a session with two or three vendor partners where ostensibly the session is about talking through some aspect of the process when it's really just telling you how that vendor would do it all for you) or just professional grandstanding/resume building that's more about the speaker than the topic (the really bad sessions are the ones where these two types are both in the same session).

I was less impressed with this conference than I was the one I went to a few years ago. The sessions descriptions seemed more misleading, and there were at least two that I went to that I got nothing out of, and two more that I was unable to attend because the organizers didn't accurately predict the size of the crowd and had to turn people away because the room was full.

At least it was in San Diego this year, a city I'd never been to, and one whose 78 degree and sunny weather was a nice change from the week plus of drizzle and cold we had in Atlanta (and which was still persisting when I returned to Atlanta). I spent my first afternoon after checking into my hotel doing a five mile run along the bayfront, and then had dinner and drinks with some colleagues. Thursday was all sessions followed by an evening spent watching the Ravens win their first game of the season, and Friday I had time for a couple of chats with some vendors I've worked with in the past and a session given by my boss before heading to the airport for the long flight home.

I don't do west coast trips very often, but I definitely don't like them—in addition to the length of the flights themselves, the time change on the way back is disconcerting—leaving at 1:45 local time but arriving back home at 9:00 makes it feel like you've wasted a whole day somehow.

So the Ravens finally won a game, although it was just as close as their three losses, and like their three losses could have gone either way. This wasn't so much a game that the Ravens won as one that the Steelers lost—if not for their kicker missing two field goals, the game would have been completely out of reach when Justin Tucker kicked a 52 yard field goal to tie the game with three seconds left, forcing overtime.

Overtime was just as messy and undisciplined as the rest of the game, but luck was on the Ravens side for once, and they were able to seal it with another field goal after each team had multiple possessions and failed to score. Still, if I had to pick one game to win all season, especially one where the other team should be extra-humiliated by the fact that we played horribly and they still lost, it would be our annual game in Pittsburgh against the Steelers.

Even though all of the Ravens' losses have been by fewer than six points, it's getting harder and harder, even as a Ravens fan, to argue that they could easily by 4-0 instead of 1-3—the lack of any consistent offense (it seems like we score in bunches in one half or the other, and are completely dead otherwise), the continued problems with the secondary, the lack of ability of the entire defense to stop the other team in the fourth quarter, and a spate of injuries to playmakers are all familiar refrains from the second half of last season, and those aren't going to get any better as this season goes on, especially if we continue to lose players to injury and have to replace them with barely-NFL-caliber free agents (the only free agents left at this point) or young, untested players.

Next week is a home game against Cleveland, where the Ravens have typically shined. A win in that one could at least give a glimmer of hope for this season, restoring the team's record to 2-3 and giving them a shot of being 3-4 coming out of their brutal seven game opening stretch that includes four away games on the west coast, but a loss here would be devastating and pretty much mean the end of the season from a playoff perspective.

The race I left my conference early to run this year was the Winship 5K, which benefits the cancer institute at Emory. I decided to make a team and run in memory of someone from our office who passed away earlier this year—she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in late September and died just after the new year after undergoing one round of chemotherapy. I'm not usually big on fundraising, but this woman was someone everyone in our office knew (she was an Emory alum and had worked in our office for the entire 33 years of her working life after graduating from the institution) and I thought it would be an appropriate tribute to her.

We raised nearly $1000, nearly twice my goal of $500, but unfortunately there was bad weather the morning of the race and they canceled it at the last minute. The money that we raised was still sent to Winship, of course, but actually running the race had some signficance, too, and I'm disappointed that we weren't able to do it. At some point I may run the route just to say I've done it, but even that won't be the same as running it with the other participants, especially since many of the runners are cancer survivors who received their treatment at Winship.

On Sunday afternoon we let Will take one of our cats to our church's pet blessing. I remember doing this when I was a kid, and Will loves animals, so we figured it would be fun experience for him.

We have three cats, but we decided to take our oldest, Sarge, who was an abandoned neighborhood cat we took in a few years ago. This wasn't because we thought he would like it more than the other cats, but because he seemed least likely to make a run for it and most likely to be able to deal with the chaos of lots of other people and pets.

Strangely enough, he was the only cat there, and he was about as well behaved as we had hoped. I was able to hold him on my lap for a good amount of the time, and he didn't freak out about all the dogs and new people (it probably helps that he's pretty much blind and deaf at this point). Will cuddled him for a few minutes too, but he was mostly running around seeing all the other animals and helping the minister pass out dog treats once the animals had been blessed.

Before we left Will insisted that we take Sarge into the church so he could see it (the blessing ceremony was held outside), which was pretty adorable.

Georgia didn't just lose to Alabama, they got stomped. It's not the end of their season by a long shot, but if they had been able to beat the Crimson Tide, they would have almost certainly been in the top 5 and been in control of their national title fate. Now they'll have to hope they can play near-perfect the rest of the way and end up in the SEC title game to have a shot at one of the four national championship playoff spots.

Ugh. I don't even want to recap the Ravens game from yesterday—it's just too depressing. Letting the Browns take you to overtime in your own stadium? Blowing two more fourth quarter leads? And then losing to them in overtime because your offense sucks as bad as your defense, which seems to get winded and give up around the middle of the third quarter in every single game?

This year's team just doesn't deserve to win, and I have a feeling the rest of the season is just going to be more misery piled on top of an already miserable season, which is on track to go down as the worst in franchise history (they've already set several franchise records—the team has never lost three games to open the season, and they've never been 1-4 before). The injuries aren't helping, but that's mostly out of the team's control. What's not out of their control, however, is the conditioning of the players who are on the field and the playcalling on both sides of the ball.

It's harder to get angry about the offensive performance, despite a long lull in each game where there's no real progress on that side of the ball—in three of their losses, the average number of points scored by Baltimore has been 29, and in each of those games the defense has blown at least one fourth quarter lead. With a defensive tradition as storied as the Ravens, and with the talent they have on the roster currently, 29 points should be about twice as many as you need to win the game, and in previous years it would have been unthinkable for the Ravens to be losing with a point total over 25.

No matter how this season turns out, there's little danger of GM Ozzie Newsome or head coach John Harbaugh losing their jobs—the games have been too close and the winning ways in previous seasons will allow for one season of terribleness—but defensive coordinator Dean Pees is another story. The defense is now suffering from the same issues that plagued it for much of last season—poor coverage schemes, lots of missed tackles, and way too many penalties—and the team just doesn't seem to have the killer instinct that the franchise is known for despite some great young talent. It certainly doesn't help that defensive leader Terrell Suggs is out for the season after getting injured in the first half of the first game, but you can't have your entire defense fall apart because you lose one player.

If this type of play continues, the fans are going to want someone's head, and Pees seems the most likely victim. And if you're at a point where you pretty much have to give up on this season, wouldn't it be better to make that change sooner than later so that you have a chance to battle-test your new coordinator before you offer him a permanent job? I'm guessing there are lots of hungry young coaches out there that would love to have an opportunity to bring this defense back to where it once was, and despite the history Pees has with the Ravens, it might be time to look elsewhere to revitalize what has become an almost laughable defense, especially in the secondary.

I was casting about for something lighter to read after finally finishing Alastair Reynold's Revelation Space series, and I finally settled on a couple of oldies that I haven't read in probably 20 years or more: Douglas Adams' Dirk Gentley novels.

I don't remember much about them at this point except that one was about Coleridge and time travel and one was about norse gods living among normal humans (and I don't immediately remember which one was which), but I want to read something funny and sci fi, and for that category the only writers I know of are Vonnegut and Adams.

I thought UGA could still be in contention for the SEC title if they could bounce back from the Alabama loss and win out the rest of their schedule, but losing to Tennessee makes that much harder to envision, especially given that they also lost star running back Nick Chubb for the rest of the season due to an injury suffered during that game. They could still make a run and take advantage of another team's stumbles, but they really can't afford to lose another game, especially in their conference.

Julie went out of town yesterday for a conference, so it's just me and Will for the next few days. The biggest change for me: getting up an hour earlier to get him through his morning routine and walk him to the bus stop.

He did pretty well with it today—we were actually the first ones at the bus stop even though we live farther than anyone else who goes to that bus stop. And since I was up anyway, and I can't do my normal run in the evening, since there's no one to watch Will with Julie out of town, I used the extra hour to get a four mile run in before I got ready for work.

I let him pick where he wanted to go out to dinner last night, and he surprisingly picked a new burger place in Emory Village that he went to with Julie one night last week. I had been there once before myself—I went there for lunch during the workweek and had the chili and sweet potato fries (the chili was okay—a little thinner than I like—but the sweet potato fries were great).

With Will, I decided to try one of their grilled chicken burgers, and it was NOT good. The chicken was not grilled (no grill marks or browning) and had a very weird texture, like it had been boiled and then reheated in a microwave. The service was also poor—even though the place was only about a third full and it looked like they had plenty of staff, it took us 15 minutes to place our order—after our initial waitress brought us our water, she said she'd be back in a couple of minutes to check on us and we never saw her again (well, that's not true—we saw her check every other table in her section at least three times while seeming to pointedly ignore us and my attempts to get her attention).

I was about ready to walk out when another waiter came over to help us, but the service combined with the poor food quality makes me question whether or not this restaurant is going to work its way into our regular rotation. I'm willing to give it one more try and this time I'll try an actual burger since that seems to be their specialty, but at this point I've only got one more bad experience in me before I'm ready to give up on them.

After dinner we walked down to the cookie store, where Will picked out a chocolate chip cookie on a stick that had been dipped in chocolate. Then it was off to get ready for bed before waking up to another very early morning start.

Morning prep was a little slower this morning, but we still got to the bus stop in plenty of time. For dinner last night, I again let Will pick (after half-heartedly and unsuccessfully trying to get him to go to a chinese place), and this time he chose the Q, a barbecue restaurant near us that has become one of our favorites. Will got his typical grilled cheese with a side of mac and cheese, but he was hungry—he usually only eat about half the sandwich and a couple of bites of mac and cheese, but he ate the whole sandwich (including the crusts, which he typically doesn't eat) and about half of his mac and cheese.

Usually we go to a nearby ice cream place for dessert after we visit the Q, and Will requested this per usual last night. This time, however, he as very specific: he was in the mood for an ice cream sandwich, and if they didn't have an ice cream sandwich, then he just wanted to go home and have an ice cream sandwich from the freezer.

So we go, and they do indeed have ice cream sandwiches: giant soft Oreo ice cream sandwiches. I show him the picture on the board, expecting him to get very excited about the possibilty of getting two giant cookies in addition to ice cream, but he pondered it silently for a few seconds and then said, "No, I don't want this kind of ice cream sandwich. Maybe another time."

So home we went.

Today is the 15th anniversary of this site. For those of you who may still read this semi-regularly, you'll notice that it's been going in fits and starts for the past few months; there's still a daily entry during the workweek, but there will be several days without any posts and then a flood of them all at once.

What's been happening is that, due to a weird schedule, I end up writing a draft of an entry each day, but if I'm not ready to post it, I save it and say I'm going to clean it up and post it the next day with that day's entry. And sometimes that pattern stretches on for a week. Or two.

I've got some strategies to work on this, but if another year goes by and I'm not able to figure this out, then maybe it will be time to hang this up. But I'm not ready to go that far quite yet.

I'm not even going to attempt to dissect that Ravens-49ers game. It was a bad game played by two bad teams, but one of those teams was clearly much worse than the other. The season is over now, no doubt about it. I just hope they can figure out how to fix the problems with the fourth quarter defense, the secondary, and the rash of injuries for 2016. The only potential bright spot in this nightmare of a season is that we might get a top 10 pick for the first time since 2008.

But Baltimore's 20th season looks like it's going to be a disaster of historical proportions, and there's a chance it could be worse than their inaugural season when they went 4-12, which is also the worst record in the team's history. Not exactly the way they wanted to celebrate the end of their second decade.

I still think it's more likely than not that J.J. Abrams is going to permanenty screw up a Star Wars franchise that hasn't had a genuine great move in over thirty years, but I'm also absolutely going to one of the Star Wars marathon showings, where they will play all of the previously released films in episodic (not release) order, culminating with a midnight showing of The Force Awakens.

And I don't even consider myself to be that big of a Star Wars nerd. But I bet I'm going to meet more than a few in the 15+ hours that I'll be stuck in a theater with them on December 17.

Back to the Future Day! Still no hoverboards and no flying cars, and after last night's game, it seems increasingly unlikely that the Cubbies will fulfill the 30 year old prediction of Back to the Future II that has them winning the World Series in 2015. But apparently self-lacing shoes are an actual thing now.

So last Saturday was a pretty busy one for me, starting with the most unique 5K I have run so far: it was the Mayor's 5K on the 5th Runway, where they actually shut down one of the runways at the world's busiest airport and let us run a race on it.

I was intrigued by this race when I first heard about it, but when I looked at the calendar, I saw that it took place when Julie was out of town and I'd have no one to watch Will, so I didn't sign up and didn't think too much more about it. But then my mom decided to come for a visit that same weekend, and I realized that she'd be getting in on Friday night, so she could hang out with Will in the morning while I went to the race.

Two things that are distinctive about this one (I mean besides the fact that we were on a runway at a major international airport): it was cold and it was early. The race started at 7 a.m., but because of the logistical issues involved in getting everyone out to the runway in a short period of time, they asked everyone to be there about an hour before the start of the race. Add to that the fact that they had limited parking and I decided to leave my house around 4:30 that morning.

I bundled up as best I could, but I didn't have any running leggings (a situation I have since rectified), so although I had a couple of layers on top, I still only had running shorts on the bottom, and it was in the mid-40s the entire time we were waiting to start the race and actually running it (it was still dark out when we began). They corralled us all in the airport fire station while they waited to move us out to the starting line, but that didn't provide much shelter from the cold and wind because they kept most of the bay doors open. And then we had to wait about 20 minutes out on the course before we could start, so I was pretty frozen by the time they let us start running.

But it was a great experience, and I would totatlly do it again. It was dark when we started, so we were running mostly by following the green and blue lights that lined the sides of the runway, but as we rounded the initial stretch on a taxiway and made our way onto the actual runway, the sun started to rise in front of us, and it was just so beautiful. Planes were landing on runways around us, the horizon was a rainbow bordered by deep blue on one side and deep black on the other, and it was so surreal and inspiring, I couldn't help but smile.

There is absolutely no way that course was a 5K, however—I finished in record time, and although I've noticed that I run faster when it's a flat course (duh) and when it's cold, not even the combination of those two factors could give me the time that I got, which was about six minutes faster than my previous best. I would love to believe that this was true, because one of my goals over the next year is to finish an official 5K in under 30 minutes (I typically fall somewhere between 34-36 minutes), and I finished well under that time, but I'm not going to count this one because I don't believe it was really the full distance.

So after getting up a 4:30, driving to the airport and running a 5K, and driving back home (including shuttles between the race and the parking lot that were about a 10 minute ride each way), I immediatley put on some yardwork clothes and headed over to a three hour community service activity sponsored by my alma mater with other alums from my school.

I didn't know anyone else there, but there are a ton of alums from my school who live in Atlanta, and it's always interesting to meet them and see what they do (a lot of them work for the same place I work, but it's so big that so far I've only encountered one other one in the normal course of my responsibilities). We spent from nine in the morning until noon working to clean up a homeless shelter for a big party they were having the following weekend—using bleach to spray mold off the vinyl siding, raking the yard, mowing the lawn, sweeping the walkways, etc.

It was a little exhausting after having gotten up so early for the 5K, but I really enjoyed it. The alumni chapter president for our city sets these up every three months or so, and I'll definitely do the next one if I can (they switch which organizations we do service for each event, and try to make it one where one of our alums is already involved with supporting it).

Most of the group walked down to a pizza place afterwards, but I had to head home—my mom had been watching Will all morning, but I needed to get him settled down for some afternoon quiet time before heading to pick up Julie from the airport later that afternoon.

It's been a couple of weeks, but I realize I never wrote about taking Will back to Corn Dawgs, a corn maze place we went to last year that he loved. We went on a Saturday with my sister Carrie and her husband Tim (just like last year), but it was cold and wet and pretty miserable, just like when we went to the North Georgia State Fair in September.

However, the upside was that, just like the state fair, almost no one else was there, so we could do anything without having to wait in line. We went on the hayride, did both of the corn mazes (they have stamps you have to collect at several stations around each maze, and Will is quite the little compulsive completionist), Will did a bouncy ride, played in the corn pit, climbed the hay bales, rode some ziplines, panned for rocks and gems, got his face painted, rode down a big slide on top of a hill several times, and did a tractor ride for kids two or three times (yes, they definitely have a full day's worth of activities there).

It was a fun day despite the weather, and we topped it off with dinner at Mellow Mushroom, which is becoming a favorite of Will's (and was defintely a favorite of my late grandfather, for whom Will is named). Will was clearly exhausted though—about five minutes after we got him in the car for the ride home, he fell right asleep and stayed that way until we got to the house.

After last night's game (another one decided by a single score, which has been the case with all of their games this season, win or lose), the Ravens are now 1-6. I thought worst case scenario we would come out of this brutal opening 7 game stretch with five away games (four on the west coast) and two home divisional games with a record of 3-4 at the very worst, leaving them in a position to still salvage a playoff bid, but that seems historically unlikely at this point (as in, it's never been done before).

I'm going to see them play in Baltimore for the first time in three years on Sunday, so I'm hoping my streak will continue and we'll double our win total for the season (I've never seen them lose a game when I've seen them play at home). But realistically, barring an unprecedented run during the second half of the season (which is much easier schedule-wise, with six more home games, a bye week, and playing largely against other teams with terrible records), this season is already over.

I was hoping that maybe UGA would give me something football-related to root for in light of Baltimore's disastrous season, but after dropping two of their last three against SEC opponents, they have dropped out of the top 25 in one poll and sit at the very bottom of the other.

And they play another away game against a ranked conference opponent this weekend; a loss here will definitely knock them out of the rankings, probably for the rest of the season, and even if they do well against Florida and bounce back a bit, a bid at a national championship is likely out of reach for this year.

These past couple of weeks have been brutal health-wise—last week I had some sort of virus that's been going around that left me congested, achey, and with a sore throat that made it difficult to talk, but I mostly soldiered on through that without missing too much time out of the office.

I was still trying to get over the last elements of that this week when I was hit with a nasty stomach virus that completely incapacitated me for a full day earlier this week and then kept me from being able to go into work today (although I was able to creep to my home office and at least contribute from there).

This couldn't have come at a worse time—not only am I traveling all next week, but we're also launching our new reading system on Monday. I'm trying to put a positive spin on this that I've really given my team a chance to take ownership of the final details of this project and bring us to a successful launch. I've given them the vision, the deadline, and the resources they need—that's what I'm supposed to do as a manager, and I just hope it's enough this time.

No more entries until sometime later in November—I'm on the road all next week, taking on a couple of days of mostly personal stuff (with a couple of vendor visits mixed in) with a three day conference that will keep me out of town from Sunday morning until Friday afternoon. It's going to be a long week, but that should be my last bit of travel for work until sometime next spring.

december 2015
november 2015
october 2015
september 2015
august 2015
july 2015
june 2015
may 2015
april 2015
march 2015
february 2015
january 2015

daily links
cd collection