june 2017

Despite all the problems with having our car get hit and being rendered undrivable two days before we were supposed to leave for our vacation, the week at the beach was pretty fun. We rented a car to replace our damaged one on Friday (hopefully the insurance company for the other driver will cover it, but we had to do what we had to do) and left on Saturday as scheduled. Our first night was pretty typical: a trip to the grocery store to get supplies for the week and then dinner out, this time at a little build-your-own burrito place that we ate at last year called Java Burrito.

We've never gone during Memorial Day week before, so I didn't know if the beach would be more crowded than we're used to on Sunday and Monday, but it wasn't too bad. On Sunday we went to the beach in the morning and Will quickly made friends with an 11 year old girl from Ohio named Kaylee whose family coincidentally ended up being in the condo right next to us.

For lunch I made what would end up becoming our regular choice for the week: ham and turkey on whole wheat bread with a thin veneer of cream cheese (a trick we got from our Austrian friends). We read and rested in the afternoon, and ended up making several aborted attempts at dinner before finding a place that wasn't too crowded. A cajun place that we fell in love with a couple of years ago and a New Southern place we found last year both had ridiculously long lines, so we ended up at Bullies, a barbecue place we also tried for the first time last year.

After dinner we went out to the beach to look for ghost crabs, and we found a couple including one that Will named Crabbie and that Will was convinced we saw a couple more times that week. He developed a real soft spot for crabs this trip—in addition to the ghost crabs, we would also see some hermit crabs and even a couple of blue crabs, and he has now declared that he will never eat crabs again and that we can't either. This from a boy born in Baltimore.

Monday was a pretty standard beach day for us, and the holiday crowds again weren't too bad. Morning at the beach, lunch back at the condo, Will and Julie at the pool while I went running, and then dinner at one of our favorite local places called Annie O's that we didn't get to visit last year because it was closed for renovations.

The menu had a few new things on it, but all of our favorites were still there, along with the addition of a banana pudding dessert that was served in a mason jar with whipped cream that tiny chunks of white chocolate incorporated into it. I'm not a big dessert guy, but that was so good—we had a couple of other banana puddings that week as well, but they were all put to shame by that one.

We went out looking for crabs again after dinner, this time joined by our neighbor Kaylee. We saw a couple of ghost crabs, but also stood in the surf while minnows nibbled at our feet and dug up a few creatures in the sand that I grew up calling sand fleas because Kaylee had never seen them before. Before heading up, we also lit a few megasized sparklers that we'd found at the grocery store. A relaxing day and a good night.

Tuesday was pretty much a prototypical Hilton Head vacation day for us: beach in the morning, lunch at the condo, nap, a trip to the pool, and dinner. This time we ate at Chow Daddy's, the New Southern place that had been too crowded on Sunday night. After the banana pudding at Annie O's, I couldn't resist trying their version, but it was nowhere near as good as Annie O's.

On Wednesday, we changed it up a bit. In the morning we went on a dolphin cruise and were joined by some of our neighbors who were also in Hilton Head that week and whose son Ross Will recently declared his "infinity best friend". We saw a ton of dolphins, and also saw them doing what our guide told us was a behavior that was unique to Hilton Head dolphins: they chased a group of fish into the shallows near the shore, then slapped their tails violently in the water, stunning the fish and allowing the dolphins to eat them without having to chase them down. It was pretty cool.

We stayed with Ross and his family for the afternoon, heading over to the gated Sea Pines community for lunch at the Salty Dog, where we let Will, Ross, and Ross' little brother all sit at a table by themselves while the parents sat at a grown up table. After lunch, we let the boys play on the large playground near the harbor to blow off some energy, and then we climbed up to the top of the lighthouse (where we ran into our neighbor Kaylee, who was heading down as we were heading up). It was starting to rain when we came down, so we got some ice cream and waited under an overhang while we waited for the showers to move on.

We said goodbye to Ross and his family and headed back to the condo to rest for a bit before dinner. We ended up going to the cajun place called Kenny B's that had been one of the restaurants that was too crowded on Sunday. Will loves it because they are big UGA fans and they serve all the kids meals in dog bowls, but we got him to try a real meal by asking them to serve our hush puppies in a dog bowl. I got the crawfish etoufee, which is one of my favorite cajun dishes generally, and their version is my second favorite (behind an actual New Orleans restaurant in the French Quarter).

Thursday we changed up our routine a little bit, heading to the pool in the morning and then taking Will out for a special treat after lunch and a short nap: a round of mini golf at his favorite mini golf place, a pirate themed one not too far from our condo. He's been in golf club the last two years, and while he's definitely getting better at putting, he still doesn't putt correctly, and it takes a lot of effort for me not to ruin a fun, relaxing afternoon by turning it into a golf lesson. But I resisted, and Will had a ball as usual.

It was only about 4:30 when we finished, so I decided to try a new restaurant that is notorious for long lines, no parking, and no reservations, figuring that it couldn't be that bad if we got over there before 5. And while it wasn't as bad as it would get by the time we left, there was still a wait—it was a good 25 minutes between when we put our name in and when we got a table.

The restaurant is called Low Country Backyard, and the outside seating for the restaurant (where we ended up) is actually set up like it's someone's backyard. While we waited for our food (our waitress told us it took forever for food to come out, and she wasn't lying), Will went over and played some games they had set up near the fence, including the ring hook game that he somehow mastered—we saw him successfuly swing the ring onto the hook three times.

I don't remember specifically what I got—I tried one of their Double Dew drinks, which is a bottle of Mountain Dew with a hefty dose of moonshine mixed in—but Julie and I got two dishes and shared, and I know I liked the one she had better. After dinner I again went for the banana pudding, but as good as the rest of the meal had been, the dessert still paled in comparison to the Annie O's version.

Since we finished dinner relatively early (it was still pretty light out), we decided to go out to the beach and fly Will's new kite. It was a yellow squid, but we got it because he loves jellyfish and this was the closest thing we could find to a jellyfish kite, and he was none the wiser. Another good day, and our first trying a new restaurant—we've got so many favorites at Hilton Head that we really don't have time to visit them all every year.

Friday was our last real day at the beach, but it was cloudy with occasional rain in the morning, so instead of our normal beach routine, we walked down to the south end of the island where there's a small jetty with lots of creatures living in and around it. We found tons of hermit crabs, saw a couple of blue crabs hanging out in a muddy tidal pool, and dug up some tiny mollusks and watched them tunnel back down into the sand when we put them back in the surf.

The weather had cleared by the afternoon, so we went sat on the beach and went swimming in the ocean. For dinner, we returned to Kenny B's (the cajun place) and went to Coligny Plaza to get a couple of souvenirs for Will from a little shell shop that we've visited every year we've come here. It was a pretty good week overall, despite the complications from the car accident that happened right before we left.

We drove home on Saturday, passing through Macon at the same time they were holding services for Greg Allman, and spent the rest of the weekend unpacking, returning our beach rental car and picking up another one, and trying to get ready to get back to our workweek routines.

It was our 21st anniversary last Thursday, and although we were planning to celebrate over the weekend while Will is away with my sister, I surprised Julie on our actual anniversary by getting a babysitter and taking her out for a nice dinner.

We went to Gunshow, which we've heard a lot about but never been too. It's a restaurant owned by Kevin Gillespie, a former Top Chef contestant and owner of several other restaurants around Atlanta. The name references Gillepie's childhood memories of going to gun shows with his father, which were some of the few times they had a chance to bond and spend one on one time, and it has a pretty unique concept: it's upscale small plate versions of comfort food that are served dim sum style.

Each chef in the kitchen works on a specific dish or set of dishes on a given night, and when they complete a couple of servings, they walk around to table where diners have completed their previous course(s) and tell them about the dish. If the diners want to try the dish, he gives it to them and marks that they have received that dish on a card on the table. At the end of the night, you hand the card in to cashier and you get a total for everything you tried. They also have a rolling cocktail cart where the house cocktails are made right in front of you.

Most of the dishes we tried were pretty good, but the protein-heavy dishes (like the beef short rib) seemed more worth the price. Each dish had enough food that we each got to try a few bites, and overall we probably ended up tasting around seven or eight dishes, including the amazing banana pudding dessert.

It would be a fun restaurant to take Will to for his first more gourmet experience, especially if we sat on the stools that look into the open kitchen like the seats at a sushi bar. But give how expensive it was, I'd want to make sure he was really primed to appreciate and get the most out of his experience.

Just before we left for the beach, I finally watched the movie 24 Hour Party People, which chronicles the rise and fall of Factory Records and its associated club, the Hacienda, through the eyes of television personality and cultural impresario Tony Wilson, the man who was more or less the captain of that pirate ship of an organization. Even without the strong connection to the music of Joy Division and New Order, the two bands at the heart of the Factory story, I would have found this a charming, entertaining film, but the fact that it gave us some behind the scenes looks at these artists made it all the more appealing to me.

On the heels of watching that movie (and seriously, you should watch it right now, especially if you have any affection for the Manchester music scene from the early 80s to the early 90s), I bought Peter Hook's Substance: Inside New Order, his tell all memoir of his years with the band (he also has separate books about Joy Division and the Hacienda, and there are some overlaps that get covered in more than one book).

The writing is very patchy—you can tell there was no ghostwriter for this one—but it also feels very sincere an honest. Hooky, as almost everyone refers to him (including Peter Hook himself), was the bassist for the band for nearly the entirity of the group's existence, and was also the bassist for Joy Division, whose three remaning members formed New Order after their singer committed suicide. He shares in detail (sometimes too much detail) the minutiae of life with the band: setlists from pretty much every gig they ever played; recaps of the recording sessions for their songs, including technical, political, and artistic blow-by-blows; details of every release from the band, including the inscriptions on the outgroove of the vinyl copies; and song-by-song reviews of each album.

All of these lists and catalogs are interspersed among a more traditional rock narrative that gives us all the juicy bits of being in a rock band: sex, drugs, and occasionally rock and roll. He doesn't hesistate to detail the bad behavior of his bandmates, but neither does he pull any punches about himself—when it comes to overconsumption, bad behavior, and just generally being a poor bandmate and human being to be around at the height of the band's fame and success, Hooky often comes out looking the worst. And he also makes sure to compliment his bandmates, particulary lead singer and guitarist Bernard Sumner (who he hilariously refers to as Barney throughout) for their actual songwriting and live performance chops.

A worthwhile, if scattershot, read, especially if you have any connection to the music of New Order or the overall Factory Records story (without the success of Joy Division and New Order, its unlikely that the record company would have made it five years, and the Hacienda would never have existed at all). Hooky's unvarnished look at himself, his band, and the music industry in general is refreshing in an era where rock biographies/memoirs are often so thoroughly vetted and influenced by the band that they often come across as whitewashed resumes whose intention is to serve as retroactive PR statements.

Since Bernard Sumner receives so much criticism from Peter Hook in his book on New Order, I thought it only fair to read Sumner's competing memoir, Chapter and Verse: New Order, Joy Division and Me (shame on an English author forgoing the Oxford comma).

This book is much more highly polished in terms of the revelations about bad behavior, ascribing most of the philandering, drug use, and general unpleasantness to Peter Hook, while seeming to at best deflect any questions about Sumner's own indiscretions and overconsumption, if not outright deny them. Although there are some interesting bits that are additive to Peter Hook's book, the best part of reading the two back-to-back is seeing the same anecdotes recounted through different eyes and different agendas. In almost every case, Sumner thinks he's making himself look better, but because you don't really believe him, he actually ends up coming off as worse, because at least Peter Hook has the guts to take responsibility for his mistakes and bad choices.

It seems like this one was produced sans ghostwriter as well, and although in Hooky's text it ends up working—the overflow of detail and honesty makes up for the fact that it's a very patchwork piece of literature—here it only serves to underscore that a professional writer or a strong-minded editor could have made this book worlds better.

Sumner often repeats himself, writing pages of what he thinks is incisive, insightful commentary that ends up repeating the same "insights" the he covered in an earlier chapter, or sometimes even within the same chapter. His voice is also simpering and insincere—he never admits to making any mistakes, and strikes a baffled I-have-no-clue-why-Hooky-didn't-like-me tone that doesn't ring at all true—if I believe anything about their professional and personal relationship, it's that each of them knew exactly what their problems were and didn't have trouble expressing it (although often in non-verbal form).

I wouldn't really recommend this book, even if you're a New Order fan. Peter Hook tells a more complete story and has far more detail, and it's also simply a more entertaining read. You do get some extension of the narrative—Peter Hook left the band in 2010, and they've produced a new album and toured extensively in the meantime—but that's more like an epilogue than a critical part of the narrative, since it's clear their most important creative years were in the 80s, and most of what they've done since reforming in the early 2000s (and post Hooky's departure) are nostalgia tours.

For Will's Christmas present this year, my sister told him she would let him stay over at her house and take him somewhere fun for a day trip, and it made sense for her to do this on the weekend closest to our anniversary. So we dropped him off with her on Friday night and didn't see him again until Sunday afternoon. He had a great time—he stayed overnight with her on Friday and then they went to Stone Mountain on both Saturday AND Sunday, staying in a hotel on the property on Saturday night.

It was the first time that we've ever been at home without Will since he was born. We've gone on a couple of trips together without him while grandparents stayed at our house to watch him, but this was our first time having a weekend in front of us that didn't revolve around Will and his many and varied activities, giving us a tiny preview of what our lives might look like a decade from now.

So what did we do? Cleaned up the house and went to Ikea and Michaels to get frames and picture framing material to hang up the tons of art that we've accumulated over the years but never found time to hang since we moved to Atlanta. Granted, it was prompted by a visit to an art festival about 45 minutes away where Julie surprisingly agreed to spend $400 on three pieces from the same artist, but overall it was a pretty homebody-ish weekend.

Our one outing besides the art-related ones was another surprise for Julie—I got tickets to a Cinebistro showing of Wonder Woman on Satuday night. Both of us really liked the movie, even though Julie's not a big superhero movie person and I have very little faith left that anything in Zack Snyder's DC cinematic universe will ever be decent. Granted, he didn't direct this one, but he was the producer, and it borrowed heavily from his stylistic and visual palettes.

It was a little longer than it strictly needed to be, but the writing, the pacing, and the acting were much better than any previous modern DC movie, and Gal Gadot was just as riveting in all of her scenes in this film as she was during her brief appearances in Batman v Superman (which were the only bright spots in an otherwise completely pointless movie). I'm looking forward to the sequel, and I'm mildly optimistic that she might even be able to salvage Justice League, especially now that Snyder has recused himself from directorial duties due to family issues.

So: here's how things turned out with our car accident. As soon as we got back from the beach, we set up an appointment with Geico to have their adjuster come out and look at our car. After she did her assesment, she produced a report for whatever body shop we wanted to take it to, arranged for a tow truck to come and take it there, and cut us a check that we could sign over to the body shop upon completion of the work. In addition, she fully reimbursed us for the week-long rental we had to get in order to take our beach vacation (the accident happened two days before we were supposed to leave) and got us another rental, paid for directly by Geico, to cover us until we got our car back.

The car is still in the shop, so we're not completely done with the process yet, but after we got the adjuster out to look at the car and convinced her to reimburse us for the beach car rental, it's been a surprisingly smooth process. We've never had to use a body shop in Atlanta, so we triagulated around Angie's List, Yelp, and Nextdoor recommendations, so we'll see how that turns out. But hopefully we'll get our car back by the end of next week, none the worse for the wear and without us having to spend anything out of pocket.

When we got back from the beach, we also had another situation to deal with with one of our cats. A few months back Junie, our oldest cat, started losing weight, peeing outside the litter box, and becoming frantic about eating, acting like she was constantly in a state of starvation. When we took her to the vet, they diagnosed her with tumor on her thyroid gland, the treatment for which is to give her a radioactive iodine pill that kills the tumor (and only the tumor) and restores her thyroid to normal functioning.

In order to administer this treatment, you have to take your cat to a special facility for a few days, where they are isolated because they actually becoming radioactive themselves after taking the pill. We picked up Junie the Friday before last after this treatment, but she's still isolated within the house—she's still radioactive enough that we have to keep her locked in a bathroom away from Will and the other cats, and even Julie and I are only allowed to spend at most half an hour with her a day.

She still seems really anxious and frantic about food, but hopefully that's just because she's still freaked out about being locked up by herself with very little contact and because her body is still adjusting to the changes (the treatment doesn't work 3% of the time, necessitating a second treatment). I hate leaving her in there—she yowls and yowls when she's not sleeping, and she's desperate for both food and attention during the few minutes we get to spend with her every day—but hopefully this treatment worked and she'll return to the normal household soon with no more tumor.

Last Friday I had a pretty unique work assignment: spend a few hours at the governor's mansion representing my institution while the governor held a reception for all the high school valedictorians and their families.

It was actually three sessions—Friday night for metro area students, Saturday morning for the southern part of the state, and Saturday afternoon for the northern part of the state. I told the guy from our office who was organizing our participation that I could work any or all shifts, since I didn't really have anything on the calendar, but I didn't expect to be called up—usually lots of people volunteer for the fun stuff. But I guess no one else wanted to give up their Friday evening, so I ended up with that timeslot.

I'd never been to the governor's mansion before, and I was surprised to see it was actually in town, nestled amongst other multimillion dollar mansions near one of the up and coming areas that's seen a lot of growth in the past few years. I drove up to the gate, gave my name to the state troopers on guard there, and was waved around to the parking lot behind the tennis courts.

A student from my institution was also representing us, but I brought all the stuff to get our table set up so she just had to show up. They also didn't have enough tables for all the schools, so we shared with UGA. There was a lot of standing around waiting for the event to start, then they let us go upstairs to the back patio where there were refreshments and where the governor gave a short speech. Then it was back downstairs to our table to wait for all the students and parents to get through the line to get their pictures taken with the governor and first lady.

I'm not really sure why all the colleges and universities needed to have folks there—all of these students had already chosen what college they were going to, so the best you could hope for was one of your matriculants to pass by your table while waiting in line for their turn with the governor (UGA got a bunch of those, and we got zero, at least on my shift). I mean, it's a cool event, and we're sort of obligated to have a presence there if the governor wants us to attend, but it didn't really accomplish anything except that—being physically present and keeping the governor happy.

Still, it was fun to see the mansion and wander around the grounds a little before things really got started up. I'm glad to have had the experience once, but if I go again next year, it will just be because no one else volunteered.

On Saturday morning, we headed over to Stone Mountain to meet the rest of Will's Cub Scout den for a hike up to the top. Getting there was pretty easy, but the parking was a nightmare—we drove around for 20 minutes before finding space in an overflow lot that was about a ten minute walk from the meeting location at the start of the trail that goes up the mountain. I thought maybe there was an event like a 5K or something, but apparently there are a lot of exercise clubs and walking groups that converge on Stone Mountain every Saturday morning for walks, runs, and hikes.

I think I probably did this when I was a little kid, but we haven't done this since moving to Atlanta, which means it was also Will's first time climbing to the top (although he has been up in the gondola a few times). The hike wasn't too bad even though it was incredibly hot and muggy. A good number of kids and siblings showed up, so we had a decent group. It took maybe half an hour or 45 minutes to get to the top, and we let the kids run around up there for a little bit before we started back down.

I started chatting with a friend of our den leader when we were at the top—he was into sci fi and gaming, and we ended up chatting about everything from the impending robot/AI overthrow of humanity and what policies and changes in the law might be effective in reducing gun violence (we agreed this was a good goal, but had very different points of view about how to accomplish it). It was an unexpected but very pleasant way to spend the journey down—hopefully we'll be able to hang out again sometime through our mutual friend.

Saturday evening I went to my first Atlanta United game since late May. I was out of town for the Memorial Day game, and this was their first June home game. It was against Columbus, and it was a pretty solid win for ATL.

Both teams had a score within the first 25 minutes, but Atlanta came on strong towards the end, scoring the go-ahead goal with about 25 minutes left in the game, and icing it with a third goal with only a couple of minutes left. As always, the crowd was ridiculously into it—even if I was already a dyed in the wool soccer fan, these games would be a much different experience if the stadium wasn't packed every game with enthusiastic fans.

We kept it pretty low key for Father's Day. In the morning we went out to a South American coffee shop that I've grown very fond of (they have a signature latte that is loaded up with ginger and cinammon) for a brunch meal of shared plates of coxinhas, empanadas, croquettes, and mini cuban sandwiches (one of Will's favorites).

Cars 3 came out over the weekend, and although it is far and away my least favorite Pixar franchise (I count Planes as part of the Cars universe as well), Will loves the other two, so a couple of weeks earlier I had gotten tickets to see it at Phipps Plaza as a surprise, forgetting that it was Father's Day. So that's what we did in the afternoon. It might be marginally better than the James Bond-referencing second film, but not by a lot, and that might be because it hit a lot of the same notes as the first Cars movie (I don't think they could have put 1 and 3 out back to back without being acccused of being lazy and plagiarizing themselves).

It was a busy weekend, so it was nice to have a pretty relaxed day on Sunday, just hanging out with Will and Julie and not having any responsibilities.

Julie and Will just got back yesterday from a five day trip to visit her mom in North Carolina, so I'm just coming off a nice quiet weekend alone. I didn't do a ton—caught up on the Netflix Daredevil series, read, played some video games—but I did go out with friends on Thursday night to hang out for a bit.

I also went to another Atlanta United game on Saturday evening, this time against the Colorado team. It was a pretty messy match—the Rapids were VERY handsy/pushy/trippy, and didn't earn nearly enough yellow or red cards for their behavior—but it was probably the most thrilling game I've been to so far.

Atlanta had a lot of good shots in the first half, but couldn't put one in, and then when they finally scored with about 25 minutes left in the game, they couldn't add to their lead. And the referees seemed determine to have this one at least end in a tie, extending the game by five minutes and then continuing to extend that five minutes until Colorado got a corner kick that very nearly went in for a score (the refs were booed and surrounded by security as they were walking off the field, the first time I've seen that happen at an Atlanta United game). The final score was 1-0, marking the fourth home win in a row for the team, but given how many chances they had to score, it would have left a very bitter taste if they had come away with a tie or a loss.

After the game I hung out for a few minutes with a friend who I hadn't seen for probably 25 years. We have many mutual friends in Atlanta, and she's a huge soccer fan, so she had brought her kids to see the United game and visit with friends for a long weekend. That was a nice little bonus to see her after the game for a little bit.

I recently finished All the Birds in the Sky, a novel from Charlie Jane Anders that was almost universally praised in both sci fi and fantasy circles last year. The story centers on two characters who meet each other as children, one of whom goes on to attend a Hogwart's-like school for witches and the other of whom goes on to be a tech genius working on ways to either save the planet or relocate a sizable portion of the population to a new planet in case the ecosystem collapses.

I like this premise, but Anders seemed like she was still figuring out longform fiction (this is her first proper, nationally published novel). The characters weren't as sharply drawn as they could have been (although she did a better job with the witch than the techie), the plot had a lot of MacGuffins (and yet still didn't hold very many surprises), and overall it felt like the author was still feeling her way around constructing a longer work of fiction.

It was still a worthwhiile and pretty enjoyable read, but it wasn't quite as good as I was expecting given the near-unanimous praise from the critics. I'm very curious to see how Anders' career progresses—this was a great start for a wider audience, and I'm hoping she'll give us something else to experience before too long.

It's one of the saddest times of year: both Veep and Silicon Valley have ended, and we won't get more new episodes until next spring sometime.

These are still two of the sharpest, best written comedy shows on television these days, but compared to previous seasons, this year wasn't as strong. With Veep, there were two problems: first, the situation in DC is so absurd these days that it makes even the most extreme lunatic characters on this show seem grounded, intelligent, reasonable, and competent, which certainly makes them less funny.

Second, the stakes were pretty low this season: figuring out where to put your presidential library just doesn't have the same sort of tension and import as, you know, winning a presidential campaign. The characters were also scattered among too many different branching storylines and locations. In the best seasons, all of these characters had to work in the same office and their worlds were all directly connected to Julia Louis-Dreyfus' Selina Meyer and all of her neuroses.

It looks like they might be bringing everyone back together next season, or at least collapsing a couple of the separate plotlines, which I think will help with the repartee and chemistry tremendously.

Silicon Valley's season suffered not because it put characters into new situations and separated them from one another, but rather because there was very little new that happened—almost every plot twist or sudden change in forture felt like an echo of a more impactful event from one of the previous three seasons. T.J. Miller, who announced that this was his last season on the show, alluded to this as one of the reasons he wasn't as invested in making time for continuing to do the show as his star has ascended in other areas, and it's a valid criticism.

I'm not really sure how to fix this one, especially given the format they've set where every episode has to end with its own mini-cliffhanger, leaving very little room for slower growing character/story arcs. The main characters were very good as quirky stereotypes of startup techies, but now that the focus is more on the actual characters rather than the Silicon Valley culture at large, they need a little more depth. We still don't really know much about these characters and their motivations—who they are and why they are the way they are. We can predict their reactions based on past behavior, but we still don't really have any insights as to what's going on internally.

The ratings had a huge dropoff this season that can't simply be explained by the lack of innovation in the storytelling. Their first and last episodes tend to be the most watched episodes of a season, but the season 4 premiere was less than half of both the season 3 premiere and the season 3 closer. I have to think that Game of Thrones being delayed until July (Veep, Silicon Valley, and Game of Thrones usually started their seasons simulatneously and all aired on the same night) had a big impact here, which isn't great news for the show going forward. If having GoT as a lead in is that important for retaining their audience, then things aren't likely to improve in the future, both because the final season of GoT might not be ready when the next season of Silicon Valley is set to air, and because even if it does, it will be the final season, so there won't be that lead in after next year.

It's still a really funny show, and I'm looking forward to next season even without Miller (maybe him leaving will give the writers an opportunity to bring in some new personalities). It's a terrific parody, but at some point it has to move beyond making fun of the closed society it's making fun of or it's going to continue in this endless loop of ups and downs that ultimately have the characters end up in the same place they started.

My mom is coming this weekend to spend Independence Day with us and to watch Will next week so we don't have to find a camp to put him in for three days. It will actually be a pretty quiet week compared to most years—because Will's birthday is the second week of July, we usually have at least a few out of town family members visiting for the holiday and/or his birthday, but this year it will just be my mom.

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