november 2018

Halloween was pretty fun this year. Will, Evie, and Anika are all old enough now that we made pretty good progress through the neighborhood, so much so that when I weighed up Will's haul after we got home, he had collected TEN POUNDS of candy. Add that to the leftovers we had from our own bucket we left on the porch, and we're going to be flush with candy and chocolate for quite some time.

Anway, here's our pumpkins for this year:

I have now finished Death's End, the concluding book in Cixin Liu's Remembrance of Earth's Past trilogy, and I have to say I'm damn impressed with the whole saga. This novel introduces us to yet another main character, Cheng Xin, but Luo Ji, the main character from The Dark Forest, still has a strong presence and plays a pivotal role in a couple of plot points.

This is the weirdest and most expansive of the three novels, crossing centuries (and eventually eons) of time and walking us through things like three dimensional beings experiencing four dimensional space, what would happen if the entire population of Earth was forced to live in only in Australia, and the intriguing idea that maybe once the entire universe existed in the full 11 dimensions posited by string theory, and that the folding and curling of dimensions above 3 has been an intentional act by advanced civilizations in the ongoing dark forest fight for survival.

Despite the most advanced hard science concepts and the shifting between vastly different human societies, the story still holds together well because of our connection to Cheng Xin, the most human and relatable of the main protagonists yet. Without spoiling anything, Liu finds a way to create a somewhat hopeful ending for the novel despite the local and universal consequences of a collapsing dark forest universe.

Amazing trilogy, probably the best thing I've read in the sci fi realm since I tackled Neal Stephenson's Anathem. Liu's most recent is a standalone titled Ball Lightning, but I'm probably going to dip back into nonfiction for a bit before I jump into that one.

Will had a lot of hangout time with friends this weekend, but otherwise it was pretty quiet. The big highlight was walking to Decatur for dinner on Saturday night, where we were joined by Evie and Anika and their dad Clint. Clint hurt his knee and couldn't walk, so he drove and Julie and I walked the three kids to Mellow Mushroom.

We're entering that holiday period of the year where work and personal time are packed to the gills, and it will simultaneously fly by so quickly that it will be hard to take it all in and also seem to take forever. But we've got a lot of good stuff on deck, so I think we're going to end this year on a positive note.

Today was election day in Georgia, and both Julie and I took Will to vote with us (he likes the whole concept of voting, but he also really likes that our polling place is set up in his school library).

I'm trying to be optimistic in this current nightmare political climate, but I don't have high hopes that Abrams, an African-American state rep from Atlanta, has much chance of beating Brian Kemp, a Trump-supporting Republican who is also the current Secretary of State for Georgia in current governor Nathan Deal's administration.

That last bit is important, because one of the responsibilities of the Secretary of State is to oversee elections in the state. Not only has Kemp not recused himself from that part of his job since announcing his intention to run, but he's also systematically disenfranchised voters across the state, but most especially those who live in areas that traditionally vote for Democrats. He's done this by elminating polling places in counties with high African-American populations, removing voters from the rolls using a methodology that tends to disproportionately affect immigrants, Latinx, and African-Americans, and introducing new rules that make the barriers to voting and have your vote counted much higher.

As a result, nearly 1.5 million voters in this state will not be allowed to vote this year, with the estimates for Democrats versus Republicans affected typically in the 70/30 split range. It's a close race, and those inside the Atlanta bubble are incredibly optimistic, but I've spent nearly a week in the past month out in the rest of Georgia doing my school recruiting, and I didn't see a single Abrams sign during my hundreds of miles of travels outside the perimeter.

My neighbor Clint grew up in LaGrange, one of the areas I travel to, and he had this to say about politics in Georgia: if the Democrat doesn't have at least a 10 point lead in the polls, the Republican is going to win. As we saw in the last presidential election, that reality is more true than ever; the polling methodology simply doesn't accurately capture the number of Republican voters in rural areas, especially when they're being terrified into action by stories like the caravan.

Georgia may eventually turn blue—Atlanta and other progressive, densely populated areas of the state are growing, and the population in rural areas is on the decline. But I heard the same things from the Atlanta bubble four years ago about Jason Carter and Michelle Nunn: this was going to be the year the state turned blue. And those two candidates both had the advantages of 1) coming from political dynasties in the state and 2) being white, which still matters A LOT to voters in rural Georgia. As much as I like Abrams, I just don't think this is her year.

I know I'm way behind the curve on this one, but I finally started watching Black Mirror on Netflix last week. Netflix played the episodes for me in a screwy order—it started with season 1 but then jumped to season 3 and appears to be heading for season 3 next—but it doesn't really matter since these episodes are self-contained little worlds (although Black Museum episode seems to indicate that they are all taking place at different points in a contiguos near-future timeline).

It's a very bleak and dark series, but generally the explorations of the negative side of technology are thought-provoking, and the characters are engaging and compelling. There will be some episodes that I probably won't want to watch again, but some of the stronger ones like USS Callister, Hang the DJ, and Black Museum will be worth revisiting.

It generally lives up to the hype, though, so if you're looking for a technology-focused update to shows like The Twilight Zone or Amazing stories, you're probably going to like this show.

Last night was a fun evening: we went to City Winery to see Robyn Hitchcock (who Julie and I went to see in Athens earlier this year) with a group of nine people. The group included an eclectic mix of our Atlanta friends: a couple we got to know when their daughter was in Will's preschool class; the former boss of the husband of that couple (who I've gone to a few shows with before); one of my college roommates; a neighbor whose daughter is good friends with Will; the father of another preschool friend; and one of Julie's close friends (who is also Will's Cub Scout den mother).

Only a couple of other people were Robyn Hitchcock fans prior to the show, so it was my goal to have at least a couple more people on the bandwagon after the performance. Even though he was singing with a very shaky voice (he used the low register a lot more than he usually does, and he was drinking hot tea with honey), I think he won people in our group over.

Hitchcock is playing again tonight in Athens, and I'm seriously thinking of going. I don't think I have the logistical support to make that happen, but I just love seeing him perform, and I'd at least like to daydream about the possibility for a few moments longer before reality comes crashing down.

I recently finished Waiting to Derail: Ryan Adams and Whiskeytown, Alt-Counttry's Beautiful Wreck, a tour diary of sorts from Thomas O'Keefe, Whiskeytown's former tour manager through almost all of their all-to-brief existence. It's not your typical rock bio, because it doesn't cover any of the stuff that happened outside the tours (like writing, recording, etc.), but you still get a lot of insights into the personalities and personal lives of the band members.

It's a quick, entertaining read, but I think it's still a book that's for fans of either Ryan Adams or Whiskeytown. Despite some insights into the life and responsibilities of a professional tour manager, a general overview of the burgeoning alt-country/No Depression movement, and lots of insightful observations aboiut the artists he was responsible for, the story isn't broad enough for you to care if you don't have some already-fostered love for the band.

I have particular affection for the book because a lot of it takes place in the Triangle (Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill) in North Carolina, where I spent a lot of time as a teenager and in my early 20s shortly before Ryan Adams became a local (and then national and global) star, and it definitely captures the vibe of that time. It also reminded me just how many great songs are on those early Whiskeytown records, so I went back and spent some quality time with those albums.

On Saturday night we went up to Lake Lanier to run the Lanier Under the Lights 5K. I haven't run a 5K in about a year, but Will really wanted to do this one, so I've been back in training the past couple of months. I was slow—much slower than I was when I was really in shape a couple of years ago—but I finished. I thought maybe because it was near a lake it would be a relatively flat course, but it was one of the hilliest I've been on, both in terms of elevation changes and amount of time spent on an upward incline.

The reason Will wanted to do this one is because the course is through an area where they've set up a bunch of Christmas light displays. It's made to be driven through in a car, but a couple of weeks before they open it to car traffic, they run this 5K, so you get to see the display as you're running. Lots of people dress up in costumes (we improvised an elf costume for Will), and the three of us wore LED Christmas light necklaces while we ran. Will had a great time even though it was really cold and there were a lot of uphill parts.

When we got back to Atlanta we went to Community Q for dinner, still wearing our race numbers, Christmas lights, and our commemorative medals from the race, which Will thought was pretty cool. It's going to be tough to keep up the running routine with the holidays coming up, but I really want to keep this momentum going so I can feel more comfortable with doing more of these when we get back to warm weather next spring.

I was supposed to go to Atlanta United's semifinal home playoff game on Sunday afternoon, but I ended up spending the afternoon in the vet's office. Our oldest kitty, Junebug (Junie), has had some sort of weird on and off palsy issue over the past few weeks where he jaw will hang open, she'll drool a lot, and she sometimes will have trouble eating and drinking. When took her to the vet the first day it occurred, and they said they couldn't really precisely diagnose it, but as long as she could eat and drink, it would just have to be something she learned to live with.

Since then she's had good and bad days—mostly good—but on Sunday morning, it had gotten dramatically worse, and so Julie made another appointment for her as early in the afternoon as she could. I took her in around 2, and the vet, who was initially skeptical that there was anything different from her previous visit, immediately found a huge pocket of fluid from an access under her jaw. She immediately performed surgery to drain the access, cut away the dead skin, and put in a drainage tube, and told us to keep her isolated for a day.

The first 24 hours she looked awful as the pus continued to drain out, but since then she's been on the upswing and we're wondering if the beginnings of the access might be responsible for the whole slackjawed thing. Her mouth hasn't been droopy at all, and although there's a lot of scar tissue from where her skin was stitched back together under her jaw, she seems as normal as she has since the issue first occurred.

We'll take her back in sometime this week to get the tube removed and to make sure all the dead skin was cut away, but I'm hopeful that this was an odd, isolated issue that has now been identified and fixed and not a chronic neurological condition.

I've watched a decent chunk of Black Mirror episodes now—I'm only missing a few from season 2—and here are my favorite so far (not in ranked order):

San Junipero
USS Callister
Hang the DJ
Black Museum

Nosedive is the one I'm still iffy on, because I'm not sure if it's really that high-quality an episode in terms of the technology themes it tackles (it's a commentary on social media status run amuck). But I do not like Bryce Dallas Howard AT ALL, and I enjoyed hate-watching her character (which is kind of what I think Howard is like in real life) in this one the same way I liked hate-watching Kirsten Dunst's character in Melancholia. I don't know if I'll ever be able to watch that one again—it's painful to watch the slow-motion meltdown of the character's life even if you don't like her—and it's also a really long episode.

The other four are some of the most positive episodes, although you need to remember the Black Mirror context of positive. In this case it's (endings anonymized and scrambled to avoid spoilers) having your virtual self go though endless tortuous relationships so you can find a perfect match in the real world; having your virtual self escape to an infinitely large virtual reality and have a chance at charting its own life; getting revenge on a sadist; and getting euthanized in the real world so your mind can live forever in a virtual reality.

None of these are really happy endings in too many other contexts, but given the typical endings for this show, those are downright sunny outcomes compared to the fates most Black Mirror protagonists suffer.

We originally leased our Nissan Leaf for two years, then extended it for another year, then extended it for another six months. But Nissan contacted us a couple of months ago to say they either want the car back or we need to buy it, and I definitely still want to have an electric car as my primary everyday vehicle (you never have to change the oil, filters, etc., and I've only driven it just over 10,000 miles in three years, so I haven't had to take it in to get it serviced the entire time I've had it), so we spent some time on Saturday morning exploring out options.

These were our options going into it: buy our current leased Leaf; buy a new Leaf (the expanded range is a big plus - it would mean I could comfortably get to Athens and back without recharging); lease a new Leaf; but a new Bolt (Chevy's all-electric vehicle); or lease a new Bolt. We quickly ruled the Bolt out because it's a lot more expensive than the Leaf (probably because it has a bigger battery, giving it an even longer range, but that's not worth an extra $10K to me), so we went to a Nissan lot to check out a 2019 Leaf model.

In addition to the longer range, it's also slightly roomier, but otherwise it was pretty similar to the Leaf we leased back in 2015. We really wanted to lease one of those, but whereas the lease on our 2015 Leaf ran us just under $300 a month, a three year lease on the 2019 version would have been close to $500, and monthly payments for buying it in five years weren't a whole lot less than that. And that's more than what we want to pay for a car that, again, I'm likely only going to drive 15,000 miles in the next 5 years.

Right now we're likely going to buy our current car, but we don't like the arbitrary markup the dealership put on the markup (the rookie salesman unwisely let us hear the actual payoff amount when he was on the phone with Nissan central, and then his sales manager came back five minutes later with a payout amount to us that was about $2000 higher than that number), so Julie's looking into whether we can buy it directly without paying those dealership charges. We're also looking at leasing one of the 2018 models that are still on the lots, which have the increased ranged but which should have a monthly payment a lot closer to what we're paying now.

I'm not sure which of those we'll end up doing, but we've got to make a decision about this one way or the other. The most annoying part of this, of course, has been the salesperson side of it. While researching prices and local stock online, Julie and I gave our phone numbers and email addresses to two different dealerships, and then they also got our contact information when we went for a test drive, so each of us has been getting at least two phone calls and/or voicemails and at least three emails across the two dealerships every day. I appreciate the hustle they have to have in an ultracompetitive field, and I know they wouldn't be this aggressive if it didn't pay off for them more often than not, but man it's annoying.

I just finished a nonfiction science book called Losing the Nobel Prize: A Story of Cosmology, Ambition, and the Perils of Science's Highest Honor. It's by Brian Keating, a cosmologist who has spent his career looking for evidence of gravitational waves that are considered to be another key piece of evidence in confirming the Big Bang theory, particularly the rapid inflation aspect of that model.

The book has three major narrative thrusts: his own scientific career and a project he worked on that came close to winning a Nobel Prize; a history of the Nobel Prize and a criticism of its place in contemporary science (with suggestions on how it could be improved); and an overview of cosmology over the past century, with a particular focus on the search for cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB) and, following that discovery, the search for gravitation waves.

The cosmology primer is probably the strongest element of the book—as a scientist writing for lay audiences, he does a good job leading readers through a fairly complex topic. He's not quite on par with Stephen Hawking or Brian Greene, but he's close, and if he wasn't still so active in his own physics career, I'd love to see him tackle other science topics. And the parts about his own scientific career and the experiments he designed are also pretty engaging and informative—in these parts of the book, he has an easygoing tone with an endearing weakness for pop culture puns.

It's the third element of the book (which is ostensibly the main point of the book) that is the weakest. Some of his criticisms of the Nobel are warranted, but once you get the sour grapes context for that criticism (a project that he designed almost won the Nobel, but because of limits on how many people can be recognized by the Nobel committee is limited and others had taken over the day-to-day maintenance of the project, he would have been cut out of the recognition even if the experiment had been successful), his tone has a tendency to read as self-righteousness infused with self-pity. Not a good way for anyone to present themselves.

The good parts of the Nobel sections are an expansive discussion about and criticism of not just the Nobel and its influence on contemporary science, but how science itself is conducted in a modern context. Almost no major discovery can be made these days without the contributions of dozens or hundreds of scientists, and yet most of science's awards are still oriented around the conceit of a single genius making a discovery and having that discovery being quickly confirmed and having an immediate impact.

Overall it's a good read though, especially if you're into science, especially physics and cosmology. It's a shame he couldn't have made the sections on the Nobel feel a little less bitter, because there are some good ideas in there, and it is the titular focus of the book, but don't let that deter you from picking this one up.

There's a band that I'm a big fan of called Los Campesinos, and although they're still active, they only put out a new record every three years or so now, and they tour the US about as frequently. I've seen them twice before—once in DC at the Black Cat when I still lived up in Baltimore and once in Atlanta in the first six months after I moved down here.

They've toured the US twice since that Atlanta show, but both times they didn't come any farther south than DC. So when they announced that they were doing another short US tour to celebrate the 10th anniversary of their first two records (they both in the same calendar year), I wasn't surprised that DC was their last stop once again. But then I noticed that the show was on a Saturday, and I got it in my head that I could use some of my airline miles to pay for a ticket to go up and see them. I half-jokingly suggested this to a coworker who also likes them (he also used to live in Baltimore and was with me the first time I saw the band in DC), and he also got it in his head to see if he could make it work.

He surprisingly got permission, so I started looking around at best deals for the flights, and then I realized that the Ravens were playing in Baltimore the day after the concert. The Ravens were playing road games near Atlanta this year in Nashville and Charlotte (and also one in Atlanta that I'm going to take Will to see), and I knew I wanted to go to one of those, but I hadn't made any specific plans yet. So I decided to switch that to seeing a game in Baltimore on this trip instead. I checked with my friend to see if he might be interested in the game too (he's s football fan but not a Ravens fan), and he was able to make that work. So I found some good, relatively cheap seats behind the Ravens bench, booked the Hilton that has views of Camden Yards and M&T Bank Stadium, and got tickets for the Los Campesinos show.

That trip was last weekend, and aside from a mistake by the hotel, it was pretty amazing. We got into BWI around 10 in the morning, got our rental car, and headed down to the Greenbelt Metro station. We rode down to the National Mall and spent several hours in the relatively newly renovated modern/contemporary galleries, which I've only been to once since they reopened a couple of years ago. I'm totally in love with the Rothko room at the top, but there are a couple of pieces I remember from the old galleries that seem to have been put in storage as part of the renovation, and I do miss them.

A friend had recommended the Rachel Whiteread exhibit, so we made sure to stop by that. Her schtick is doing negative casts of things—rooms, chairs, doors—which has some really interesting effects. She started off using opaque plaster, and my two favorite pieces from the style were a whole room with a fireplace and doors, and then a series of library bookshelves. At some point, however, she switched to using clear (usually colored) resins, which added a whole other dimension to her projects. The doors and windows became much more interesting, but even something like a dollhouse, which would have been relatively uninteresting with plaster, became a really cool object. My favorite from the colored resin pieces were a series of negative space chair casts set up in orderly rows, looking like a crude otherworldly chess set.

We took a break midway through to go grab a late lunch at the Air and Space Museum, where I also visited my little moon rock. Once the museum closed, we took a roundabout path to get to Union Station and hung out there until it was time to head to the concert, grabbing another snack at Shake Shack while we waited.

The show was at the Black Cat, the same place we had seen them several years prior, and we got there around 8 and hung out on the benches on the right wall through the opening act. The lead singer for Los Campesinos wandered out to watch part of the set for the opening act, but not many people recognized him (I didn't, but my friend did and pointed him out to me). They came on around 9:30 and put on a great show. We actually stood up near the front with the kids for the first half of the show, but then it got too sweaty and drunky and pushy for my taste, so we moved to the back of the room for the rest of it. They wrapped up around 11:30, giving us just enough time to get back to the Metro for the last train back up to Greenbelt.

We got to the hotel close to 2, and this is where we had our one hiccup of the trip. I booked this trip MONTHS ago, using almost all of my Hilton guest points to get a discount on a ballpark view room. The last time I saw a Ravens game I did the same thing, and it was really cool to be able to wake up on gameday and look out on the stadium. I knew they would be heavily booked, so I debated going up to wait for a check in before we headed down to DC, but I also didn't want to lose all that museum time, so I called them to make sure that they knew we would be checking in late and to confirm that they would hold a ballpark view room for us. The front desk person said she had put a note on my reservation that would guarantee our room until 4 a.m., much later than we expected to get in.

We checked in and got our room with no problem, but when we got up to it, it was not a ballpark view. It was so late and we were so tired that I considered dealing with it in the morning, but I didn't want to have to change rooms (we were staying over on Sunday night and flying out Monday morning), so we went back down to the front desk, where they then informed me that they had given my original room away and that was the only room available. Which really sucked. I dealt with it the next day, but I'm not satisfied with the outcome (the restoration of a few of my Hilton points), so I'm going to 1) see if they actually restore any of my points and 2) call Hilton central next week whether or not they restored my points to get some additional compensation (which will likely come in the form of more points).

But we settled into our room, slept late, and woke up just in time to get showers and head to the game. It was in the 40s, but it wasn't windy, and it was a pretty comfortable gameday experience. Our longtime quarterback, Joe Flacco, was injured, so we got to see the debut of our first round draft pick and likely quarterback of the future Lamar Jackson. It was a close game, and you could definitely tell that Jackson still has a lot of rough edges to smooth down on his way to becoming the permanent starter, but the Ravens won the game. I still have yet to see the Ravens lose a game when I see them in person.

We went back to the hotel to change and then walked to Little Italy (about 20 minutes from the hotel) and had dinner at La Tavola, which I had never actually visited when I lived in Baltimore. I was trying to decide between a daily special of spaghetti with a spicy lamb tomato sauce or the dish they're best known for, Spaghetti Neri al Granchio (squid ink pasta with fresh crab meat), so our server suggested that I get a half order of each. I did that and also ordered a flight of three wines, and I'm glad I did. I had a wine to sip while waiting for dinner, and then a different wine for each of the dishes, both of which were delicious. But if I ever go back, I'm ordering the spaghetti neri, no question - it was amazing, and easily one of the top five pasta dishes I've ever had.

On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at Vaccaro's Italian Pastry Shop, another iconic spot I'd never been to. My friend wanted to stop and get their famous cannolis, so I ordered one of those as well with a coffee. I'd never had one before, and I haven't had a cannoli in general in a long time. I am glad I don't have access to these on a regular basis—they were huge and delicious, and I already know they would be a frequent treat if I still lived in the area. During our conversation over dessert, I also learned that my friend had never heard of Berger cookies, a Baltimore staple, despite living in the city for two years. That's like not knowing about Natty Bohs or Utz chips or crabs boiled with Old Bay—they're part of the culinary heritage of the city. But I'd never had a Vaccaro's cannoli, so I guess we were even.

We flew out the next morning and were back home in Atlanta by midday. It was a really fantastic trip, and I'm so glad I got to share the experience with such a good friend. Now just one day of work to get through before I get another few days off for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Thanksgiving was hectic but pretty enjoyable this year. We hosted again, and in addition to my dad and stepmother who drove down from North Carolina, we also had my mom, my sister and her husband, and then four of my sister's close friends who we've hung out with before: a husband and wife with their daughter and the wife's mother (who gets along pretty well with my mom). In total we had 12 people at the house on Thanksgiving day.

But before Thanksgiving itself, we had plans to go to the holiday lights at the Botanical Gardens, which we've gone to every year since we've lived here (I think—I can't remember for sure if we went that first year, but definitely every year since then). I had tickets for the three of us, my dad and stepmother, and my sister, brother-in-law, and my mom, but my mom ended up not feeling well at the last minute and decided not to come.

My sister and I were scrambling to find someone to use her ticket, and we both found someone at the same time—my sister got the daughter of her friends and I found one of Will's buddies—so I ended up buying an extra ticket so everyone could go. It was pretty amazing as usual, although one section was closed off for renovations and there wasn't much new to take its place. But still well worth it, even if you've been before.

I had been cooking all day getting the collards and the squash casserole done so all I had to do was warm them up while the turkey rested, and I had also made the brine for the turkey. When we got back from the holiday lights, I put the turkey in the brine where it had a good 10-12 hours before I prepped it for the oven later in the morning.

Julie, Will, and I got up early to go run the Thanksgiving 5K down near the old Braves stadium (now the football field for Georgia State). Julie and I have run this one a couple of times before, but this was Will's firs time (although he has run a race or two on that same general course). It was COLD, so we stayed in the car with the engine running and the heat on until just before the start of our wave. Will did a great job finishing, and he actually got so warm during the race that he took his jacket off midway through. Unlike when it was the Braves stadium, we actually got to finish by running through a tunnel onto the field.

By the time we actually get all the food prepared and start eating on Thanksgiving, I'm pretty exhausted, especially if we've done the early morning 5K, so I don't remember a whole lot from the rest of the afternoon other than being full and slightly intoxicated while we watched the afternoon football games. I went to sleep early that night and slept a long, long time.

My parents were staying until Monday (and staying with us through Sunday—on Sunday afternoon they went to stay with my sister so they'd be closer to home when they started their drive back on Monday), so we did stuff with them the next couple of days. Everyone was pretty tired on Friday, and we were pretty low key most of the day, but I surprisingly found a block of Wreck It Ralph 2 tickets at the fancy theater at Phipps Plaza, that's what we did on Friday night.

Saturday we walked to Decatur to do some local shopping, and Sunday Will and Julie went with my parents out to have lunch with my sister and her husband before they said goodbye (I had a soccer playoff game, so I wasn't able to go). It was a nice visit, and we might see them again soon if we end up being able to go up to North Carolina for Christmas.

I missed Atlanta United's first playoff game in the semifinal round because one of our cats needed to get emergency surgery, but luckily they made it through that series and made it to the Eastern Conference Championship. They were playing against the NY Red Bulls, and you could really look at this as the true championship game for the whole league—the Red Bulls and ATL UTD had the two best records in the league by far, and whoever wins the East will be a heavy favorite going into the title game no matter who ends up representing the West this year.

This was the opening game of the series, and it was a great win for Atlanta. They scored three goals and shut out NY, which is incredibly important in the playoffs because road goals count for double in the overall series scoring. That means NY will have to score at least three goals and also hold Atlanta to zero in the next game just to tie the series. They play that game tomorrow, and if Atlanta can hold on and win the series, they'll get the title game at home in Atlanta.

The Emory women's basketball season has started up again, and we went to their second home game on Tuesday. Their first game was earlier this month, and it was a heartbreaker—they fought back after being behind all game to tie the game and send it to overtime, but then completely collapsed in OT. They gave everything they had just to tie the game, and they didn't have anything left in the tank.

Since then they've won three road games and lost another—this one also in OT, in fact in double OT. It's always hard to judge the quality of the team based on their early, non-conference schedule, but there are some promising signs with the evolving gameplan and the growth of the returning players. The style is definitely shifting under the new coach, even though she was a player and an assistant coach for the previous coach—it's less physical and more focused on perimeter shots.

I'm not sure how well that will play out in conference games, where the teams tend to play a very physical style and also have bigger bodies on the court than we do. A couple of quick players who could get underneath the the basket could make a real difference against that style of play, but we don't really have too many players who can penetrate inside, even against similar or smaller teams.

I have a great time going to these games with Will, though, and he's actually starting to pay more attention to what's happening on the court instead of goofing around in the bleachers the whole time.

I haven't written much about my college and pro football teams (UGA and the Ravens respectively) recently, even though I've been following them intensely. So here's what's happened with their seasons so far.

UGA has had a terrific one, and even though they locked up the SEC East a few weeks ago, they've still been playing strong to maintain their college playoff rankings (although honestly, if they beat Alabama in the SEC title game, how could the committee not send them forward no matter what else is going on with their record?). Their season-defining (but hopefully not season-ending) game comes tomorrow in Atlanta in the SEC title game, playing the same team on the same field where they lost the national championship last January.

If they can get past Alabama (and there's a strong chance that no team, including the Bulldogs, will be able to do that this season), they have a real opportunity to make another run to the championship game. But even if they don't, what I like about UGA under Smart (as opposed to Richt) is that even with player turnover they seem built for the long haul, and I believe they will win a championship with Kirby at the helm sometime soon.

As for the Ravens...well, the last couple of games where rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson has started in place of the injured veteran Joe Flacco have been wins, but before that the season was going sharply downhill. After a 3-1 start, they then lost 4 of their next 5. The two recent wins put them back above .500 and technically in the playoff hunt, there are a ton of other teams with similar records.

Right now the Ravens hold tiebreakers and would be the second wildcard team if the playoffs started today, but Ravens fans have seen this story before and it doesn't end well: for the past three seasons, Baltimore has held its playoff destiny in its hands, and each time they have fallen short with a crushing last minute loss in either week 16 or week 17. I'm still rooting for them, but until I see a team capable of finishing a close race (either in a particular game or looking at the season overall), I have to temper my expectations just to maintain my sanity.

They are actually coming to Atlanta this weekend, however, for the first time since we moved down here, and so I'm going to take Will to his first Ravens (and first NFL) game. That experience alone will make it a great day, but it would be awfully nice for the Ravens to get a road win too.

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