july 2018

I got back from my work trips last week on Friday night, and despite how hectic the week was, I had a surprisingly pleasant final flight from Chicago. Not only did we pull away from the gate earlier than scheduled, we also made good time in the air and got an early gate in Atlanta, so I got home around the time we were originally scheduled to arrive. I've never, ever had that happen before, and it was a nice way to end four days of travel to two different cities.

We mostly relaxed over the weekend—I had an Atlanta United game on Saturday night, and on Sunday we went over to my mom's new house out near my sister to help her do some unpacking, install new showerheads, and take her to lunch. I'm glad this is going to be a quiet, short week—not only do we get Wednesday off for the holiday, but a lot of people in my office are out most or all of the week, so there's not a whole lot on the calendar. I kind of need a less busy week to get caught up after all my trips over the past couple of months.

So where did I go last week? My first trip was a one-day trip to NYC on Tuesday, where I flew out in the morning, had an afternoon meeting, and then flew back that evening. I don't normally do that kind of thing, and I don't think I'll do it again unless I have to—I was offered the choice to fly in the night before and stay in a hotel on Monday night, and that's absolutely what I'll do if this situation comes up again.

Because I didn't get a lot of sleep the night before and I got up to get ready for the airport around 5, my exhaustion leant a surreal, dreamlike quality to the whole day. I've only been to NYC twice before, both times when I was in college, and both times with guides who either lived in the city or lived close enough to it that they visited it all the time. I've never actually flown into one of the New York airports before, but this time I flew into LaGuardia, took a taxi into Manhattan where my meeting was to be held, and then a few hours later took a taxi back to LaGuardia for the flight home.

My meeting was at the Algonquin Hotel, which is famous for hosting the Algonquin Round Table literary/arts discussion group in the 20s. I got there a couple of hours before my meeting, and it was a gorgeous day, so I walked a few blocks to Bryant Park and found a shady spot to peoplewatch all the office workers taking their lunch break. The entire green space—in other words, the "park" part of the park—was fenced off and you couldn't walk on it, so everyone was sitting on chairs directly adjacent to the grass. I get why they had to do this—with as many people as I saw there on a random Tuesday, it would have taken less than a week for the crowds to completely destroy the lawn and leave nothing but dirt and trash behind—but it was still a little weird to be in a park where the green space was more of a museum piece than an actual interactive element.

My meeting went okay, and given my exhaustion level, I did as well as could be expected. But I know if I had come in the night before, I could have nailed it. There's not a lot of point in dwelling at length on could-have-beens, but I'm still a little mad at myself for not giving myself a better chance to do as well as I could have done.

As soon as the meeting was over, I grabbed a taxi and headed back to the airport to catch my flight home. I was hoping to get some sleep on the plane, but the jackass next to me was watching movies on his phone and kept elbowing me whenever something funny/surprising/dramatic happened (I was totally on my side of the armrest—he was absolutely encroaching on my space), which meant I was getting poked in the ribs about every 90 seconds. I tried elbowing him back a few times, and that would lengthen the amount of time I could go poke-free to about five minutes, but then he'd start doing it again. Because again, he was a thoughtless jackass. It was a pretty miserable end to a pretty miserable day.

I didn't have much time to recover from my NYC trip, because the next day I was off to Chicago for three days for a conference. I slept in a little bit—my flight didn't leave until noon—but I was still pretty tired when I checked into my hotel room (which had an absolutely amazing view—we were down south, a little bit below Soldier Field, and my room was looking towards the lake and downtown skyline).

I did not relax in my hotel room for long, however—instead, I took the L into the city to meet some Chicago friends for dinner and drinks. I've known Brad and Sarah for years and years—we actually met online playing a videogame, and that's also how Brad and Sarah met each other, which led to a real-life relationship (they were both based in Chicago before they met in the game) and marriage. We were joined by Brad's son from his first marriage, Ryan, and his wife Kimi.

This is definitely a foodie crowd—Brad has always been a student of the Chicago food scene, and Ryan is actually a chef at one of the better known new restaurants on the scene—so we didn't just meet any old place. They had me come to The Loyalist, which is the downstairs bar for the more upscale Smyth, but the Loyalist, despite its casual neighborhood hipster trappings, was still a pretty sophisticated place.

I was lucky enough to be there on the night when the special of the day was their so-called "secret" burger, which used to be an off-menu item that is now offered semi-regularly as a special. It includes a wonderfully unctuous mushroom aioli with bone marrow, and it was so incredibly delicioius. We have some good burger places in Atlanta, but this beat anything I've had here hands down.

We had a few drinks with dinner, so we were a little buzzed when we headed over to Ryan and Kimi's apartment to sit on their rooftop deck and have a couple more beers. Their view of the Chicago skyline was even better than the one from my hotel, and I hated to leave it when they closed it down at 10. But we weren't ready to call it a night, so we went back down to the apartment to have another drink or two and play trivia games on the Xbox.

It was an incredibly fun evening that I will remember for a long, long time, but I didn't have to wait until my next trip to Chicago to see Sarah and Brad again. I met them again on Thursday night, this time taking the L to a Peruvian restaurant called Tanta. We were joined by one of Sarah's coworkers, and although it took a while to get a table, I had a good time hanging out at the bar because they had Allagash White on tap (it's all over Chicago, but it's pretty hard to find in Atlanta).

Something I didn't know about Peruvian food: there's quite a strong Asian influence due to the immigrant population that arrived a few generations ago, and although the ceviches were great, my favorite dish was undoubtedly a spicy fried rice packed with vegetables and pork. We finished off the evening with a trip to a rooftop bar at a nearby hotel, and I had to say my goodbyes for real this time when Sarah and Brad dropped me off at my hotel on their way home. It's always fantastic to see them—they are such amazing hosts in an incredible city—and I'm hoping we can get them to make a trip down to Atlanta before too long.

The conference itself was fine—most of the sessions were decent, and it was a good venue (the lakeside pavillion at McCormick Place). I was on a panel on Friday morning during the last slot for concurrent sessions, and although that's usually a kiss of death for attendance because so many people are already on their way to the airport, we actually had about 300 people in the room, and they were pretty engaged—the moderator had canned questions ready for us in case the audience wasn't feeling interactive, but we had great topics from the audience the entire session, and many folks stayed around to chat with us after the session was over.

All in all a pretty good trip, and a good way to wash away the weirdness of my trip to NYC earlier in the week. I have always loved visiting Chicago—I don't think I've ever had a bad trip to that city—but seeing Sarah and Brad always makes it ten times better than it would be otherwise.

For Independence Day, we once again went to downtown Decatur, setting up our chairs in a little parking lot behind a printing firm that gives a pretty good view of the fireworks. But about half an hour before the fireworks were supposed to start, clouds started gathering and we could hear thunder rumbling in the distance. As we got closer and closer to the start of the fireworks, things grew more ominous, but they started the fireworks anyway.

About ten minutes in, the sky opened up and it was a downpour for about 15 minutes. I had anticipated that this might happen, so I had scouted out a couple of covered doorways in nearby businesses, and as soon as the first raindrops started to fall, we made a run for one of them.

Even though it was less than 100 feet away, there were other people sitting closer to it, so by the time we got there, there was just enough space left for the three of us to squeeze in. The fireworks continued despite the rain, and some other adults let Will go to the front so he could still see them. When the rain died down, we set up our chairs in the parking lot to finish watching the show.

It was a very stop-and-start kind of experience after the rain stopped—there were two or three sequences that felt almost like a finale, but didn't quite have the intensity, and after the last of these, an occasionally firework or three would go up every minute or two, but there wasn't really a sequence or pattern. My best guess is the the rain caused some misfires and they were going back one by one to see if they could get them to go off.

This continued for another 20 minutes or so after the last big coordinated set of fireworks. After that, we walked home and I tried to wrap my head around going into work the next day. You know, in Spain, when they have a holiday midweek, they go ahead and take the whole week off. Just sayin'...

It's Will's birthday tomorrow, and a surprise treat, I made reservations for the three of us Saturday night at Two Urban Licks, and semi-upscale restaurant on the BeltLine that Julie and I went to a few months ago. He's pretty open to new food experiences, so we figured it was about time to take him somewhere a little nicer to see if we could bring him along for more of those kinds of experiences.

The first time we went, we drove and used the valet service, which was a nightmare. So this time we parked at Ponce City Market and walked down the BeltLine to get to there. We tried a lot of little plates so he could try different things: calamari, hush puppies, house-made cheddarwurst, pork belly, and scallops. He tried and liked almost all of the food, but his favorite was his drink: we let him get a Shirley Temple and that made him feel all grown up.

Will turns 8 today, which is totally unbelievable. There are moments when I look at him and still see the 4 year old kid who was the seed for what he's become now, and there are other moments when I see the possibilities of what he could become as he grows. I love who he is when he's at his best—empathetic, funny, weird, loving, and happy—and I love that he's so easily able to connect with other people and share his gifts.

Will's going to have his real birthday party in a couple of weeks at a laser tag place, but we still wanted to celebrate his actual birthday yesterday. Julie went out and got him donuts as a surprise in the morning, and then he also took some cupcakes to his camp to celebrate there. We also started off the morning by revealing our big gift to him: a multiday trip to Disney World! He's been asking for this for the last couple of years, so this October we're going to take him on his first trip there over his fall break.

After camp/work, we met my mother, sister, and brother-in-law at Will's favorite restaurant in Decatur, Taco Mac. Or rather, his favorite before this visit: his nickname for Taco Mac is the Game Place because they have a little room for kids in the back with a couple of video games and a claw machine. But when he ran off to go spend some of his aunt's dollars there this time, he found that the games had been removed and now it was designated as the waiting area for people picking up take out orders. So that was a real bummer.

Will took magic club at school last year from a local magician named Ken Scott, and it just so happened that he was giving a performance at the Decatur library the night of Will's birthday, so we had sent out an invitation to a lot of Will's friends to see if they wanted to join us. And a pretty good number did, including his buddy Charlotte who he met at camp a few weeks ago. The kids all loved the show, and afterwards a couple of the families (including Charlotte's) joined us for ice cream at Butter and Cream just down the block from the library.

To end the day, we let him open the presents that had been mailed to him and those that my sister and mother brought with them. He had a great day, and with his friend birthday party later this month and his trip to Disney this fall, he'll have two more chances to celebrate.

We've been searching for a while for a sport that Will enjoys, and we may have finally found it in swimming. He has always loved the water, but it was hard to get him to the pool reguarly, and even though we like his swim instructor (a member of the Emory men's swim team), the lessons were too sporadic for him to make a lot of progress. But there was a two-month swim league offered by Emory (the coach is one of the assistants for the women's swim team—which this year won their 9th straight national championship—and several of his assistants are swimmers from that team), and it was low-key enough that we decided to give it a try and see how Will took to it.

The only qualification was that you could swim across the pool without any help, and even though he only knew one stroke and was pretty slow, he could at least do that. Practices were held several times a week, but they only asked that you attend at least two of them if you wanted to swim in the meets. After a month of practices, the meets started and ran for five or six weeks every Tuesday night.

Will's skill level was such that he had to practice with the next age group down (even though he'd have to race in his own age group), but that didn't really bother him. He just loved being in the water. We tried to take him to three practices a week, but he would have gone to all of them if he could have—he never once complained about having to go to practice, he always wanted to stay and swim some more for a few minutes after practice, and he was disappointed whenever we couldn't make a practice.

He was definitely one of the slower swimmers in his age group at the meets, but we saw tremendous improvement as the summer went on, especially in the backstroke, which he only started learning at the swim team practices a few weeks earlier. And for the first time, I could see his pride in being part of a team: there's a neighborhood pool with a long waiting list that we've been thinking about joining, but after his team had a meet against them, he actively lobbied against us joining (even though it will be years before we get off the waitlist) because they weren't his team.

It's really the perfect sport for him in terms of the mix of activity/focus and socializing/non-sports stuff. They sit around for blocks of 30-45 minutes between their heats, during which time he's just goofing around with his teammates in his age group. Then there's a few minutes of getting to the blocks and less than a minute of actual swimming before you get to go back and hang out again. He loves the swimming part, but he loves the hanging out part almost as much.

There's a fall league as well that we're thinking about doing, although the schedule is more of a challenge during the school year. But we'll definitely be doing this again next year, and continuing his one-on-one lessons in the meantime.

So: my mom has moved to Georgia.

My sister moved here a few years ago (she's about 45 minutes outside of Atlanta), and since then we've been thinking about moving her closer to us, especially as she's started to deal with more health issues. She only lived 5-6 hours away in Myrtle Beach, which was close enough that she could visit us or vice versa a few times a year, but not close enough that either I or my sister could be there on short notice or be there for extended periods to help her out when she needed extra care.

She was living in a condo owned by her brother (who also lives in Myrtle Beach and who became her primary support when she needed help), and since he's getting closer to full retirement, he's starting to divest himself of extra responsibilities, of which the condo was one. He let her know a few months ago, and we started to explore serious options for her in Georgia at that point.

I really wanted to look for something in the city, some kind of 55+ community that had internal social events and transportation for residents. My mom is a very extroverted, social person, and I wanted her to be somewhere where she could make friends and would have access to a variety of activities around the city where she could also meet people. She also can't drive currently (she broke her leg last fall, and when that didn't heal as expected, she had to have her hip replaced in April) and I don't know when she'll be able to drive again, but if she was in the city, Uber would be able to get her around town so she wouldn't be tethered to a shuttle schedule.

And that's another thing: as she recovers from her most recent issues and she has to consider future medical crises, Atlanta has a much wider and stronger array of medical facilities and treatment options than you're going to get that far outside the city. No one likes to think about that stuff, but the fact is that this is more than likely going to be a major consideration for the remainder of my mom's life.

My sister, however, wanted to move her into more of a traditional house outside of town, closer to her and out where things are more affordable, and because my sister does a lot of managing of my mother's finances and has outsize influence on her decisionmaking, that's what ended up happening. So my mom is in a three bedroom house in a tiny suburb in a commuter community where she doesn't know anyone, can't get around to get to know anyone, and really can't even easily exit her house (there are stairs at the front and back doors, and although she's doing PT and getting stronger, she still can't take a step without a walker).

If this was going to be a short term thing, that might be okay. But it's definitely not, because one of the other things that happened with this house is that my mother unpacked a bunch of furniture, books, and nicknacks from a storage unit where they had been housed for almost a decade because they wouldn't fit in her two bedroom condo. So at a time in her life when my mom should be seriously engaged in downsizing, there was a perfect opportunity—I mean, if you haven't needed or used something in years and years, that's a pretty good sign that it's no longer vital for your day to day existence. But instead, all of that stuff is now filling up every corner of her new house, and I know if I try to get her to think about moving into the city where she'll have more social opportunities, the first thing she'll do is insist that the place be at least as big as her current house. And there's no way she can afford that much space in a safe neighborhood inside the perimeter.

Still, it's good having her close, and knowing that my sister can get to her pretty immediately and we're not too far away either. I don't expect we'll see her much more often that we usually see my sister—a couple of times a month typically—but that's still going to be way more time for her to spend with Will than a 3-4 visits per year.

It was a pretty quiet weekend. Will had a party for his swim team on Saturday, and Sunday was church, but we didn't do a whole lot else. We walked to Decatur and ended up at Farm Burger for dinner, and were lucky enough to run into some friends we hadn't seen in a while (they also have a son named William, and he and Will were classmates for a couple of years in preschool).

We all sat at one of the big tables together for dinner and then walked over to the toy park so the kids could play after dinner (William has a younger sister). They're really a little too old for that place now—it's much more geared for toddlers—but they had a fun time anyway. We stayed until it was starting to get dark, and then walked home in the dusk. It was a good evening, and we're hoping we'll get to see them again at Will's laser tag birthday party in a couple of weeks.

HBO's been running Justice League for the past couple of weeks, so I recorded it and finally got around to watching it this week. I've never been a fan of the DC universe—even when I was a kid who spent all his allowance at the comic shop every week, I was always way more into Marvel—and I haven't like any of the films in the official DCEU except for Wonder Woman (even though I have unfortunately seen all of them, although I've been smart enough to only pay for a couple of them during their theatrical runs).

But you know what? This film wasn't half bad. I mean, it helped that I had very low expectations, but it also helped that, by finally having a hit with Wonder Woman, they also got a chance to see what worked and what didn't, and they made some appropriate adjustments. I mean, yes, Ben Affleck is still awful as Batman, and the movie version of the Flash is clearly a ripoff of the version of Peter Parker/Spider-Man from the last two Avengers movies. And they were overly reliant on Wonder Woman, knowing that she's the most popular character, and the whole cube thing is another ripoff from the Avengers, echoing the infinity stones.

Still. It was watchable, it had some funny moments, it did a decent job of introducing some new characters. So take that as my ringing endorsement: if you can watch it for free and you don't have very high expectations, it might not feel like a complete waste of two hours. Now where's my kickback from DC for that glowing blog review?

Speaking of the awfulness of Ben Affleck: I haven't really liked him in any movie I've seen him in, and I've seen him in far movies that I would care to admit. But the one film I think he did a good job in? Gone Girl.

I was talking to a friend about this anomaly—he agreed with me, and we were trying to figure out why we thought that was a good performance. We came up with two theories: first, he has a pretty miserable time in that movie, and it's kind of fun to see Affleck having a miserable time, even if it's just pretend (I had the same reaction to seeing Kirsten Dunst in Lars von Trier's Melancholia, where you end up rooting for the rogue planet to collide with the Earth and destroy it just so you can rid of that character).

Second, it's because even though terrible things happen to him, his character is also a giant asshole—exactly the kind of dimwitted, selfish asshole that I imagine Affleck to be in real life. Instead of trying to play a good guy, which I'm incapable of believing that Affleck is in real life, he's playing someone that I can (and do) imagine him as. So his performance is automatically more believable.

And it's this second aspect that I think is the key, because he plays plenty of other characters who are miserable (The Accountant and Batman are the ones that leap immediatley to mind), and I hate him in those movies because he's trying to be a good guy despite his miserable existence.

So there you have it: if you want me to like Affleck in a movie, have him play to type and make him an insufferable moron jackass. You're welcome.

I recently completed reading the Machineries of Empire trilogy by Yoon-Ha Lee, which consists of Ninefox Gambit, Raven Stratagem, and the just-published Revenant Gun. I've been waiting for over a year to read these books, because once I know something's going to be a multipart series, I won't start reading it until all the books in the series have been published, and unfortunately it ended up being only partially worth the wait.

This trilogy suffers from the same problem that a lot of surprise hits that are expanded into a series suffer from: the first book is great, the second book is just as good or better, and the third book is a slog that doesn't add anything signifcant to the story or character arcs. The first book has, of course, a lot of world building in it, and that's always fun, especially with a writer as imaginative as Lee.

The basic premise is that, by forcing whole worlds to adhere to a calendar of special observances and behaviors, you can alter the nature of spacetime in order to create exotic effects and technology that wouldn't work otherwise. Some of these innovations include extending life, faster than light space travel, and devastating weapons. Ninefox Gambit introduces us to a character who has been kept alive for centuries and is occasionally brought back to inhabit someone else's body so he can consult on military strategy, but who is kept seriously handicapped in that body because he also wants to take down the entire calendrical system that enables all of this tech.

The second book is just as intriguing, as the remnants of this ancient warrior live on in the body he inhabited in the first book, and she takes on his mission to take down the entire system. It veers off in some interesting directions, and she becomes just a different but just as compelling character as she was in the first book when she was sharing her mind with the spectral general.

The third book is where it all falls disappointingly apart. I really don't have a lot of positive things to say about this final part of the trilogy—everything that happens in that book could have been neatly sewn up at the end of the second book if the author had wanted it to be, so by the end of it we're essentially where we thought we were at the end of the second book. It's a real shame that this series didn't have a stronger, more compelling ending, because the first two books were some of the better sci fi that's been publsihed in the past few years.

So we've know since last spring (like, spring 2017) that we were soon going to run out of office space and we weren't going to get anymore, so we had to come up with a plan to wring more space out of our existing offices. The solution was pretty obvious: add a few more cubicles to our open floor plan space, reclaim a student room for staff, and choose some staff members to share the biggest offices. We didn't really have any other options, so figuring out a solution shouldn't have been that hard.

And while those things were always the backbone of the plan, the execution required actually assigning people to those new spaces. Who was going to sit in the new cubicles? Who was going to share offices? Where were the people with the larger offices that were now going to be shared spaces going to be moved to, and where would those displaced people need to sit now? And that's the part where we got stuck.

I feel like it's something that I could have done in an afternoon and reached a pretty equitable solution in terms of seniority, title, and team affiliation, but our leadership group in the office spent over a year talking about it and coming up with different models—I must have seen at least ten different "final" plans before we got to the actual final plan.

And we have one now, and it has been officially announced to the staff, but it was a much harder road to get there than it should have been. And it was almost a completely terrible outcome for most people in the office: the penultimate plan was heavily tilted towards accomodating one particular team, and all the pain was shuttled off to the other teams.

I had to push back hard against that one—it really may have been the worst of all the proposals I saw—but fortunately, my boss heard my concerns and went and produced a brand new, very equitable plan in only a couple of hours. It might have actually been the best solution I saw, and it was at least as good as any of the other ones I liked.

Now come the actual moves, which will be a whole other headache given that it involves buying some new furniture and then going through a coordinated two to three day process of shuffling more than half the staff out of their current spaces into a new one. But we have a solid plan now, and sometimes you have to be thankful that you've at least taken that first step.

The big activity this weekend was a Sunday afternoon trip to Mercedes-Benz stadium, where the Atlanta United and the Falcons play. The Boy Scouts were having a special Scout day where you got to go on the field and play games and also take a behind-the-scenes stadium tour.

After finishing The Machineries of Empire trilogy from Yoon-Ha Lee, I was looking through the list of books I've read on my Kindle and rediscovered David Thorne, a graphic designer who got into the writing game by publishing a blog about his humorous and combative emails with people. He turned that into a series of books, some of which reproduced content from the blog but which always included some new stuff as well.

It turns out that he's published three books since the last time I read him: That's Not How You Wash a Squirrel; Wrap It In A Bit of Cheese Like You're Tricking The Dog; and The Ducks In The Bathroom Are Not Mine. They are quick reads, and I plowed through the first two (I'm going to save the third for a rainy day when I'm stumped on what to read next).

The funny emails are still part of these collections, but they interweave with some much more serious essays, adding either context or breaking up the heaviness of the narratives that surround them. He's really turned from more of a sarcastic humor writer to an incredibly gifted essayist. He still uses humor in his serious essays, but instead of squabbling coworkers, he's covering things like a neighbor killing a squirrel he'd brefriended, his complicated relationship with his father and his son, and the suicide of a coworker.

Heavy, heavy stuff compared to his earlier books where you would see him hilariously send back poorly photoshopped pictures or garishly colored designs when people asked him to do something for free. His writing and his subject matter have matured, and underneath the antisocial, whip-smart person he portrays himself as, he finally allows us to see someone who is also empathetic, loyal, and as achingly aware of his own faults as he is of others.

I was looking for something light and humorous based on his previous works, and I don't know if I would have chosen to read these when I did if I had known how tough some of the subject matter was going to be. But they are great books, and going foward I know what I'm in store for: insightful, intelligent writing with acerbic sarcasm and an unflinching examination of himself and the people around him.

HBO is running the second Kingsman movie, The Golden Circle, and I finally got around to watching a DVR'd copy of it a few days ago.

I liked the first Kingsman pretty well—it was a nice, campy antidote to the super-serious Bond that we've been saddled with since Daniel Craig took over the role (and that version of Bond was stolen from the Jason Bourne series, which reimagined the modern spy trope). The action setpieces were thrilling to watch, and focusing on a group of young spies in training was a nice change of pace from the typical take on a veteran spy acting more or less on his own.

The Golden Circle is more of the same, with Julianne Moore serving as the main over-the-top villain (replacing Samuel L. Jackson's baddie in the first film). All of the big stars on the cast (Jeff Bridges and Halle Berry are also featured in minor roles) have a great time chewing up the scenery and generally acting as if their only prior experience was on a Mexican soap opera, but it fits the tone of the series, and they're clearly having a great time.

But overall I didn't like this sequel as much as I liked the first. It was trying too hard to top the previous film, and it lost the emotional core that made that film more than just an excuse to do a lot of really cool fights. The introduction of the American counterparts to the Kingsman, the Statesman, didn't help much either—every one of those characters was a walking joke a caricature of the worst stereotypes of white American males in the Trump era.

However, given the animosity towards our country around the world right now, this was probably intentional, and the fact that this movie grossed three times as much in the EU as the US lends creedence to the theory that this was a not-so-veiled criticism of our current status on the global stage.

One major plus for me though: guest star Elton John, who played a version of himself that had been captured by the villain purely to serve as her personal entertainer. They leverage his 70s campiness to great effect, giving him some great lines and even a fight sequence. But it works when you take a personality like Elton John's and amp it up for pure comedy; when the whole movie is like that with every single character, it's hard not to get fatigued by the end of it.

I finally snuck out to the theater earlier this week for a late night showing of Deadpool 2, and although I'm sure it will be available for streaming very soon, I'm glad I saw it on the big screen. I loved the first one, but I've heard mixed reviews of the second one from people who liked the original. The main theme from the detractors was that it was too derivative of the original and was trying too hard to top itself and didn't bring a lot new to the table in terms of character development, etc.

I mean I guess if you were being nitpicky, you could find a way to make those statements true. But for me, it was just as good as the original and had enough new flavors that it didn't feel like a weak copy. I don't have much to quibble with here—if you loved the first movie, I don't see any reason why you won't love this one just as much.

I won't even go into plot points, storylines, etc.—it's enough to just say that it's the same breath of fresh air in the superhero movie industrial complex that the original was, especially coming in the same summer as the complex, dark, and busy Infinity War (which I liked more than I thought I would, but which still had a massive amount of stuff crammed into its run time.)

It was Will's last week of camp this week, and like last summer, he wanted to end with circus camp, a camp where they learn about everything from magic to aerial acrobatics to gymnastics. The camp culminates with a performance where every kid gets to perform a particular trick that they've been practicing.

Last year he did an aerial thing called the Spanish web, and this year he went for another aerial trick—the triple trapeze. This is a trapeze where there are three people on it at once, and one of the other people he performed with was his friend Zachary, which he was especially excited about. They don't go swinging across from a platform or anything—they're about seven feet off the ground, and they do various tricks like hanging upside down or climbing up the rope a little—but given that he's expressed some fear of heights (I was terrified of heights when I was his age), it's impressive that he's choosing to do this instead of magic, which he's also very into.

There's one more week before school starts, and Julie's going to do fun stuff with him every day (I'll join them on Thursday). I can't believe this summer is almost over and he'll be going back to school soon.

On Saturday we had Will's birthday party for his friends, and this year he chose a laser tag place that he went to for another party earlier this year (that's sort of a trend with him—he goes to a party somewhere and loves it and wants to do it for his party). We had just the right amount of kids come—it was around a dozen including siblings—and the grown ups could play with the kids too.

We didn't have the arena exclusively however, and it was kind of annoying playing matches where the parents in our group were trying to give the kids a fighting chance but these teens were not only ganging up and backing us into corners and repeatedly scoring points off us, but they were doing it to the kids too. But Will and his friends didn't seem to notice/mind, so I tried to let it go. I get supercompetitive about things and have an innate rage at unfair play, which is why I generally try to avoid doing game-type things with people I don't know (where I can at least dull my competitive edge for the sake of harmony).

He wanted a nature theme for his cake, and the closest one the grocery store had was of a lake with a man fishing that was meant for a retirment party. But it was perfect for Will, especially after he decorated it with trees and other nature things. Instead of presents, he asked his friends to bring donations for Java Cats, a cat cafe here in Atlanta that Will loves to go to.

Julie started her week of "mommy camp" yesterday by taking Will to the Center for Puppetry Arts, and that continues today with a trip to Stone Mountain. He loves his weekly camps during the summer, but getting to do a different cool thing every day with Julie is one of his favorite traditions, and a good way to have one last blast before heading back to school.

So that's it: the summer is offcially over. Tomorrow Will's school has its open house where we will find out who his teacher and classmates are, and then he starts back officially next Monday. I traveled too much in May and June, but overall it's been a pretty good summer for all of us, and it was nice to have a relatively quiet July.

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