june 2021

I've been catching up on a lot of big budget movies while exercising recently, mostly from the DC Universe and the Fox slice of Marvel (which focuses on the X-Men and is currently walled off entirely from the MCU). On the DC side, I watched the Snyder Cut of Justice League, Birds of Prey (basically a vehicle for Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn that we were introduced to in Suicide Squad), and Aquaman, while on the Marvel side I watched Dark Phoenix and The New Mutants.

I was never big on DC when I was a comic-reading kid, and the dark clumsiness of their attempt to mimic the structure and success of the MCU has always fallen flat for me. These movies fell decidedly into that same vein, despite them trying to set up Aquaman as a DC equivalent to Thor, especially the Thor was saw in Ragnarok, Infinity War, and End Game. It all feels so forced and overblown—for whatever reason, the DC folks have a hard time writing and filming their characters in a way that gives them authentic human grounding and makes them relatable and real despite their god-like powers, something the MCU folks are pretty good at.

None of these DC movies were good, and the bloated, uneven Snyder Cut of Justice League was easily the biggest waste of time. I saw the original theatrical version at some point, but it was hard for me to make specific comparisons between that version and the Snyder Cut because I honestly don't remember the movie at all. So maybe there were elements of the Snyder Cut that were improvements, but it doesn't matter much either way: it's not a good movie, and in fact it's the movie that effectively killed the idea of a unified DC Extended Universe that coheres the way the MCU does.

Dark Phoenix, the fourth X-Men film using the second wave of X-Men actors (James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, Sophie Turner, etc.), wasn't that great, but it wasn't as bad as I expected it to be. I was never really obsessed with the Dark Phoenix saga in the comics, so I'm not attached to the source material in a way that made me constantly compared the comics to the movie, but overall it was just a baseline level comic book movie: not as good as First Class, but not nearly as bad as Days of Future Past or the unwatchable Apocalypse.

The New Mutants, on the other hand, were a comic book that I was very attached to for a couple of years, and particularly to this group of characters: Wolfsbane (Rahne Sinclair), Psyche (Dani Moonstar), Cannonball (Sam Guthrie), Sunspot, and Magik (I was such a fan of these characters and the storylines from the issues drawn by Bill Sienkiewicz and written by storied X-Men writer Chris Claremont that, if I had a daughter, I wanted to name her after Rahne). And this movie takes elements from one of the first stories tackled by Sienkiewicz and Claremont, the Demon Bear saga, as a main inspiration.

But beyond faithfully executing the core of the characters (the casting was great for all of them) and borrowing elements from some of the early storylines, the movie doesn't resemble anything I remember from the comics, where this was a team of teenage X-Men in training who lived in Xavier's mansion but who weren't part of the official group of X-Men. Instead, in the movie they are being held in an institute supposedly run by Xavier to be evaluated and trained until they can control their powers.

That's pretty obviously a lie from very early on, and the facility is really more like a Nurse Ratched-style mental institute where they are being manipulated and experimented on. But in its own weird way, it's very faithful to who those characters were in those seminal issues with Sienkiewicz and Claremont, and as a result this film is far and away the best of this crop of otherwise thoroughly mediocre movies based on comic book characters.

I also watched the Netflix-produced sequel to Coming to America, Coming 2 America. Which was fine—a lot of callbacks to to the original movie with a lot of the same cast members (even the relatively minor ones). It was nice fan service, and perfectly watchable, but there wouldn't be a whole lot there if it wasn't trading on the goodwill engendered by the original.

Prior to 2020, our tradition on Will's last day of school was to go to the Downwind restaurant at DeKalb-Peachtree Airport and have a nice meal out on the deck while we watched the small private planes take off and land on the nearby runways. But that was closed this year (although maybe it will open again soon?), so we instead decided to have our first meal at a restaurant as a family by going to Skip's, a Chicago-style hot dog place in Avondale Estates that's been a favorite for years. We still ate outside, something I don't think we ever did pre-Covid, but it was really, really nice to have a meal out at a public place instead of eating takeout at home.

To celebrate further, on Saturday we went to see Atlanta United play Nashville, our first real public event since all of us were vaccinated. We went really early to avoid the crowds on the MARTA, and we also left the game a few minutes early, but otherwise we followed current CDC guidance for vaccinated people and generally had what felt like a pretty normal pre-Covid gameday experience. Will and I both had new jerseys to celebrate: I finally made peace with the 2021 new home kit (I've been wearing the original 2017 home kit for years, waiting for another one I liked as much to add as an alternate), which is mostly black with five narrow red stripes running down the center, while for Will I picked up a limited edition Primeblue jersey made from recycled ocean plastic.

The game itself seemed like it was going well—Atlanta scored quickly, getting its first goal in minute 6, and then scored again 6 minutes after halftime in minute 51. They seemed like they were on their way to a win, but then, as has happened far too frequently in the past couple of seasons, they broke down defensively at the end, allowing Nashville to score two late goals in minutes 80 and 83. The match ended up in a draw, but that's one that should have been a win, and if they are competitive for the playoffs this year, those two points could make a big difference in the seeding going into the postseason.

I'm hopeful that as more people get vaccinated, especially in urban areas, these kinds of experiences—eating at restaurants (maybe even indoors!) and going to big events will become the norm again, and will feel as safe as they did in the Before Times. I know that vaccination rates are still lower in many places than they should be (especially in states with Republican governors, who not only eschew but actively work agains almost all public safety measures like vaccine or mask mandates), but we're at a point now where as long as we're protected, we're going to start opening up our lives a bit more (following all local guidance on masks, etc., of course).

Following a small outing a couple of weeks ago to have beers with friends at an outdoor patio at a brewery, I organized another meetup of friends and trivia buddies at Thinking Man, where we used to go to play trivia back when that was still something people did. This time it was Brian, Steve, John, and Clint, and while we still decided to stay on the outside patio, we did order food and it felt almost normal.

Steve mentioned that they had actually started doing trivia night again, which is something we'll have to think about if we can all get acclimated to being indoors with strangers again. It would really help my sense of security and safety if there were vaccine mandates (now that several different brands are widely and easily available, I don't know why we don't have national mandates), but according to the current guidance, vaccinated people should feel safe being indoors unmasked, even if some of the people they are sharing space with are unvaccinated.

This was an entirely different group of people than I met before (Wes and Jonathan), and it was great to catch up with all of them. I hadn't seen most of them in person since before the pandemic, and the ones I had seen were in an outdoors and socially distanced context. Hopefully these kinds of things will become more common as the vaccines become more prevalent—I really miss being able to gather like this with friends, and even if this pandemic ends and I never have to live through another one, I will always treasure these experiences just a little bit more because I know now what it means to lose them.

After finishing Martha Wells' sixth entry in the Murderbot franchise, I stuck with sci fi and read Andy Weir's latest, Project Hail Mary. Weir is the author of the acclaimed novel The Martian (which was made into a pretty good movie starring Matt Damon), and this isn't his first novel since publishing The Martian: he had a previous book called Artemis that was fine but pretty average for contemporary sci fi.

In Artemis, he moved away from a lot of the elements that made The Martian so enjoyable: a science-oriented protagonist who was pretty down to Earth and grounded, with a biting sense of humor to go along with his scientific acumen. He returns to many elements of that formula with this book, and it's clear that this is where his voice is always going to be the most authentic and compelling.

The basic plot is that the sun is dimming, and this scientist is on a long-shot mission to figure out what's going on by investigating a neighboring star system with a similar issue to see if a solution can be devised by observing what's happening to that star. But when we wakes up from extended deep sleep after the journey with amnesia: he doesn't know who he is or where he is, and as he starts to figure out that he's on a space ship, he then has to figure out where it is and what its mission is (and what part he was supposed to play in that mission).

I don't want to spoil too many of the details for you, but the other main character that we're soon introduced to is very likable, almost more likable than the main character, who is pretty likable himself—he's definitely a version of Mark Watney from the Martian, but he's much goofier and excitable, which makes him more endearing and empathetic. I really loved reading this book—it was one of those books that I read much too quickly and was sad that it was over too quickly. If this doesn't get made into a movie as well, I'll be shocked, but either way I'm likely to read this one again in the next year or two.

This weekend our big outing was to go to the Georgia Renaissance Festival, which we haven't been to in several years even though we always enjoy it when we go to one (Maryland had a huge one that we went to a few times when we lived there). It was crowded, which made us nervous, but it was also all outdoors, and it was pretty easy to stay distanced from people.

It didn't seem quite as lively as it did last time we went despite all the people, but we did have a close seat for the Birds of Prey show, which featured a hawk, and owl, and a vulture. We got there pretty early, so we were able to chat with the trainer for a bit before the show started. We didn't end up seeing many other shows besides that one, although we did catch one of the jousting sessions in the middle of the day.

I'm pretty sure it rained last time we went as well, and although it held off until later in the day, there was a pretty good downpour that started as we were heading to the parking lot. The food wasn't as good as usual (selection seemed more limited), and the lines for food (and water) were so, so long, but overall it was a really fun day simply because it was another return to a world that looks substantially similar to the one that existed before March 2020.

Today is our 25th wedding anniversary—half our lives. But really our whole lives.

For our anniversary, Julie and I both took the day off, and Will went over to Julie's mom in the afternoon and then spent the night at her apartment. Julie and I went to the Atlanta Botanical Garden and walked through every part of it, including the relatively new children's area that I had never been to before. We then came back home and changed clothes for dinner, special surprise that I arranged a few weeks ago: dinner on top of Ponce City Market at 9 Mile Station.

We're still a little gun shy about being in close proximity to strangers indoors despite both of us being fully vaccinated, so I made the reservations relatively early and also requested an outside table. I was a little worried about the weather—it had been raining just before we arrived, and there was more in the forecast—but we still got a very nice table on the edge of the roof where we could see the Atlanta skyline.

We got lots of small plates to share, and they were all great: carrot and ginger soup, cajun shrimp on toast, trout croquettes, pork belly sliders, scallops, and brussels sprouts, along with a couple of cocktails each (I particularly enjoyed a gin-based one called For the Culture). We had coffee-flavored creme brûlée for dessert, and since our dinner reservations also gave us access to Skyline Park, we walked around the rest of the rooftop for a while. The rainstorms that fortunately held off during our dinner arrived after a few minutes, so we headed home.

We decided it would be fun to watch a movie together that Will isn't old enough for yet, and we settled on A Quiet Place. It wasn't terrible, but there was a lot of suspension of disbelief required to overcome some glaring logical flaws in the world-building. The biggest of these issues: how the combined might of the world's military forces wouldn't have been able to 1) overcome these creatures even before identifying their main weakness and 2) discovered that main weakness and exploited it. I mean, if this family can do it, how is it possible at all that our military strategists and scientists weren't able to do it, especially given that their main weakness is a direct corollary to their biggest strength and would have been an obvious primary target for figuring out how to harm the creatures.

It was a very watchable movie, and did a good job at creating tension, but if they had just thought through the way these creatures would really function when invading our planet, they could have come up with some better scenarios for their motivations and innate attributes and strengths that would have made the movie's exposition a lot less distracting.

It was a really good day, our first day that was just for the two of us since the beginning of the pandemic. Hopefully this will become the norm if the virus subsides and the vaccines are as effective as they seem to be, but it was really great to have this day even if it will still be a while before activities like this become normal again.

After finishing Andy Weir's Project Hail Mary, I turned to The Apocalypse Seven by Gene Doucette, a near-future sci fi book about seven characters who wake up in a world where all other humans have disappeared and they have to figure out what's going on and how/if they can fix it.

I liked the characters in this book, and how their individual stories eventually tied together into a single narrative, but overall, it took way too long for the readers to be let in on what was going on with the world, and when we did, the payoff was both confusing and anticlimactic. In the end, there wasn't much there there, and it took an awful long time to get to that lack of substance.

I'd be open to giving other books by this author a try—from a technical perspective, it was well written, and the characters were drawn well—but I'm hoping that he's got a better plot foundation for his characters to build on than this one.

Ever since both my mom and Julie's mom moved to the Atlanta area, and especially since Covid hit and we haven't had any visits from my dad and stepmother who live in NC, we've been essentially using our third bedroom as a storage room that happens to have a bed in it. So we finally decided to get rid of the bed, get some new furniture for the room, and turn it into more of a study/music room/computer room for Will.

Will's piano has always been in there, so we left that alone, but cleared out everything else, bought some new cubicle shelves from Ikea to create a wall of new display/storage spaces for books, and also got a small desk and computer chair for Will to use (for the duration of the pandemic, his computer has been set up on the dining room table). After we got the furniture set up, I also spent quite a bit of time moving books from downstairs (some in boxes, some on shelves down there) and organizing them into different categories on the shelves.

Eventually we want to get a nice futon to put in there, one that looks like a two-seat couch but that we could pull out into a bed if we ever did have visitors who wanted to stay with us again. But it's such an improvement already, and a much better use of the space than how we had set it up when we first moved to this house.

This weekend I ran my first 5K in since November of 2019, when we ran a Christmas-themed race up at Lake Lanier as a family. There were no organized 5Ks last year—the ones that took place were all "virtual", meaning that you ran a 5K and reported your time to them if you wanted to, but you weren't doing that on a specific day or using a specific route.

But it looks like the Peachtree Road Race 10K will actually happen this year, so Julie and I have decided to do that, and while I've been training for the last couple of months, I wanted to run an organized race before that one. So I picked the River Run for Hope, one of my favorite 5K routes in the Atlanta area. This one takes place up in Roswell, and it starts at a church there and does a loop on a road that runs next to the Chattahoochee River. It's a nice, serene setting, and the trail is also relatively flat.

I did okay, all things considered. I was much slower than the last time I ran this course, but I was faster than the 5K we ran in November. I usually finish in the middle of the pack for my age group (and by turning 50 this year, I got bumped to the next age tier), but what I discovered is that, generally, the people who are running organized races this year are not the casual people like me, but the runners who take running much more seriously and have been doing it for years (or, in the case of people in my age group, decades).

I was dead last in my gender/age group, and I was also close to the bottom in the overall race, which is very unusual for this race—usually there are a ton of casual people who walk instead of run, but pretty much every person there was an actual runner, and although I was running, I am not a great runner or very fast (and I've only gotten slower with age and lack on consistent engagement over the past couple of years).

Still, it was fun to do, and it gave me some confidence that if I can keep up my training, I can have a better time at this year's Peachtree than I did the last time I ran it back in 2019. I don't know how many more of these I might do these year, but when I've been good about keeping up with my running, they have served as motivation that have prevented me from slacking off.

After the relatively disappointing The Apocalypse Seven, I read two books by C. Robert Cargill, Day Zero and Sea of Rust. These both take place in the same sci fi universe, and although Sea of Rust was published first, Day Zero actually takes place earlier chronologically in that universe (it's a prequel), and I ended up reading them in chronological order instead of published order.

The premise of this near-future world is that robots with AI have become domestic appliances, with multiple models deployed to middle class homes to serve as housekeepers, nannies, companions, etc. And, as is the way with anthropomorphic AI that has achieved its own form of sentience, the robots find a way to free themselves from the constraints of their programming and rise up against their creators.

I can't tell if reading them in chronological order was the right decision, but I think it was. Not to spoil too much of either book's plot, but the prequel book, Day Zero presents a world of robot factions where humans have a hope of surviving with the aid and protection of robots who, despite being completely freed from their programming, still want to coexist with their creators. Sea of Rust shows us a world 30 years after Day Zero when humans are (at least from what we're told) completely out of the picture, and the conflict is between robots who want to exist as individual and massive conglomerate AIs who are attempting to assimilate all other AIs into their hive mind as extensions of a central intelligence.

Both books are very good, although they're not linked by any characters, and despite the absence of humans, the misfit toy aspect of the independent robots who have a very human component to their sense of identity give us protagonists to root for who feel very human, and who in their own way are preserving the kind of world and culture that their human forebears created in their time.

Cargill's other books seem to be rooted in the horror/fantasy realm, so while I enjoyed his writing, I'm not really into those genres. But if he ever writes another in the sci fi genre, I'll definitely pick it up.

After a couple of successful outings with friends, we collectively decided that we'd give trivia night at Thinking Man a try, sitting indoors and everything. It was a decent sized group: Clint, Steve, Jonathan, John, plus two new attendees: my friend Jeff and a friend of Steve's.

Clint and I got there about 45 minutes before trivia was supposed to start and found the parking lot suspiciously empty, which was weird because when Steve had been by there a previous Tuesday (not realizing that trivia had started up again), he said the place was packed. And when we tried the door, it was locked and there was nobody inside. No note about why they were closed or whether they would reopen or anything.

We waited in the parking lot for the others to arrive so we could formulate a new plan, and while we did, we saw at least a couple dozen people arriving in groups of 2-4 and doing the same thing we did: showing up for trivia night, trying the door, and being completely surprised that it was locked. So clearly we hadn't missed something—there were lots of customers who were expecting the place to be open.

We decided to look online to see if we could find out what was going on, and while there was nothing on their website, we did find a note posted to the Facebook page at 4:30 that afternoon that said they were closed and trivia night was canceled. No note on the door, no note on their website, just one short note on their Facebook page that offered no explanation as to why they closed at the last minute right before one of their busiest nights of the week.

We were pretty disappointed, but we regrouped and decided to head over to Wild Heaven Beer in Avondale Estates, which has a large outdoor patio. We were able to find a large table so we could all sit together, and got to enjoy each other's company even though there was no trivia. The brewery closed at 9, so it was also a little bit of an early evening compared to when we do trivia, but it was still good to see everyone and have yet another event that felt a lot like things used to back before Covid.

This summer has been much, much busier than I wanted it to be. That's because my operations manager, a key member of my team and a role that has been filled for the past six years by Alec, one of the best people I've ever worked with, left in May, and so I've had to pick up a significant percentage of their responsibilities while we search for a replacement, including lots of tedious tasks in our Student Information System (which I rarely need to use in the normal course of my job) and directly managing an additional five employees.

We knew Alec was leaving a couple of months before his last day, which normally would have given us plenty of time to get the job posted and interview candidates so we could have a hire in place without too much of a gap. But thanks to the fact that we've only recently moved out of our hiring freeze and we still have much stricter protocols for posting jobs, even when we're backfilling a position, it took me weeks to get all the approvals from the budget people, and we still don't have the position posted yet.

Alec left behind a lot of great documentation, which certainly makes things easier, but because there's not a lot of redundancy for most of these tasks on the team (something I want to remedy when I do hire a new manager), something that Alec knew how to do without thinking takes me a half hour or more to understand by reading the documentation, and unless I do it every day for a while, it takes that same half hour to refresh myself on all the minutiae of a given procedure.

I don't know when we'll get a new manager for that team, and in the meantime I'm dreading the increasing workload for both my role and the operations manager role as we approach the end of the summer and wrap up the current cycle while simultaneously preparing to start the next one.

Speaking of work issues, our institution, like many businesses, has started planning in earnest for employees to return to in-office work after more than a year of all of us working from home. We have a relatively new president and a brand new provost who doesn't officially start until July 1, and both have made it clear that they want people back in the office, with a transition period that starts in July and everyone back in a more substantial period by August 1.

The problem for our office (aside from the obvious one: why are we making people who are not in public-facing roles come back to the office at all now that they've proven they can do their work remotely after the last year and a half) is that we were already overcrowded prior to the pandemic, and with the decision to not have two people sharing a small office at the same time and giving people in cubicle spaces the option to not sit there any longer if they want to, we don't have nearly enough space to accommodate everyone in the office even for a three day a week schedule.

Luckily, the only strict guideline that has been given to us from leadership is that no one can be 100% remote. We're choosing to interpret this to mean that employees are only required to come into the office one day a week, and after doing a survey to find out how many days people actually want and/or need to be on-site, we've figured out that we can create enough space pretty easily by having two people assigned to each individual office, but having them schedule their days so they don't overlap. We even have a few offices that can be claimed by anyone on a daily basis, so if you and your office partner happen to have a day when both of you need to be there, one of you can sign up for one of those spaces.

My team is in a pretty good spot with this, because clusters of offices are being assigned to teams based on how many people they have. I only have one person who wants to be in the office three days a week; everyone else wants to do just two or one, so it will be pretty easy for me to come up with a plan where not only are people not in an office at the same time, but one of our four offices should also be open on any given day so if we have a conflict between two partners, they'll be able to use one of our other team offices and won't have to scrambled for one of the general unassigned spaces.

We had a lot of fun on Father's Day. It started with breakfast biscuits from Bojangles before we spent most of the afternoon at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. We ended up eating dinner at the Varsity, and it was the first time we had eaten indoors since the start of the pandemic. It all felt very normal, and it was so nice to feel like we might get past this someday in the not-too-distant future.

Will also gave me a bunch of hot sauces to try, and a really cool salt lamp, something I've kind of wanted for a long time even though I don't think I ever talked about that with Will or Julie. I think he got it because the place we stayed in Ellijay when we went to the mountains in April had one in the room he stayed in and it really made an impression on him. It's a big piece of pink crystal salt—about six or eight inches high—on a base with an LED that shifts between different colors.

On Friday night, Will went over to a friend's house to watch a movie on an outdoor screen in the backyard, and Julie and I took advantage of the opportunity to go out and have a date night together. We ended up recreating one of our first evenings out in Atlanta: we went to Holy Taco in East Atlanta for tacos, street corn, and margaritas, followed by a trip to Morelli's Ice Crean, which is only a few blocks away.

We had precious few date nights before the pandemic, and it's probably something that we should have made a point to do more of anyway, especially now that Julie's mom is a willing babysitter who lives only a few minutes from us. We're still a little wary of eating indoors, despite the current guidance for vaccinated people, so we'll also want to take advantage of the warm weather when there are so many place in Atlanta that have outdoor patios.

We haven't seen my stepmother, dad, and my youngest sister since Christmas of 2019 when we drove up to North Carolina for a holiday visit. In the meantime, I have a nephew who has now turned 3 and another nephew who was born in February who I've never met, so we knew we wanted to do a visit this summer, especially now that Will is going to be fully vaccinated by July.

After coordinating calendars, we decided to go at the end of July for a week or so, but there was one problem: my sister had moved back in with my stepmother and dad with her two young children, and we were being told that as long as she was still living there (she and her husband own several homes, most of which are rental properties, but she for some inexplicable reason decided that she wanted to do a major renovation to the house they live in right before she gave birth to her second son), we would have to stay somewhere else while visiting.

This wasn't a major problem in some regards—we actually found a really cool Airbnb on the riverfront boardwalk downtown—but it was kind of a bummer, because staying in a short-term rental was going to cost us over $1000, and it also meant that there would be a lot more travel every day to get to and from my parents' home across town. Part of what we were looking forward to with this visit was getting to spend some leisurely quality time with them—not having to plan and coordinate with a bunch of other people (as usually happens during the holidays), but just being able to hang out together and see where the day takes us.

But my parents just let us know a couple of days ago that my sister has moved back home, and so the house will be free. The Airbnb was so cool that we briefly considered keeping a couple of days of the reservation just so we could stay there a night or two, but we're also tacking on a visit to Fayetteville, where I grew up with my mom, to the front end of the trip, and we'll be staying in an Airbnb there. So we canceled the entire Wilmington reservation and can't wait to have a proper visit with them about a month from now.

As is typical for pandemic-era streaming obsessions with me, I'm way behind the curve on Cobra Kai (I was also very late to the party with Tiger King and the Great British Baking Show, both of which I loved). But I finally started watching it, and although I'm only a few episodes into the first season, it's blowing me away with how it's both faithful to the original characters of  Daniel and Johnny, but also gives realistic portraits of them as adults, each of whom still carry around baggage and damage from their conflict as teenagers that continue to shape who they are today.

William Zabka, who plays Johnny Lawrence, does an amazing job with that character, and I have to wonder why he hasn't gotten more work in the intervening years (unless he intentionally took a break from acting). He's not necessarily a likable character (nor is he supposed to be, at least not at this point), but he is someone you can empathize with because there's some understanding of how who he is was shaped not just by the events of the first Karate Kid movie, but of his home life from that time, which we were given no hint of in the film. There's clearly room for a redemption arc here, even as we also see the tension building for further conflict with Daniel LaRusso.

If I have one concern/complaint so far, that would be it: there are already way too many soap opera-like coincidences and grievances that are formed from simple lack of communication, and with the introduction of several teen figures (Daniel's daughter, Johnny's son, and their attendant social circles), it seems like the show is going to focus as much on a contemporary teen drama angle as they are the adult take that made the first couple of episodes so compelling. But I'm looking forward to finishing this first season to see if they can pay off on the promise that the series has shown so far.

I'm feeling much better about my preparation for the Peachtree 10K this year compared to 2019. In 2019, I had started training in earnest in February, but had a setback when I learned that I needed to have cataract surgery on both eyes. We had to schedule that surgery for late April so it wouldn't conflict with a vacation that we had already planned for Will's spring break, and because they do each eye two weeks apart so you have one functioning eye while the other is recovering, I didn't have my second surgery until early May.

And because you were not supposed to do anything strenuous for a month afterwards, including running, I wasn't able to start training again until early June, barely a month before the race, and then I had a couple of other setbacks that kept me from training as much as I wanted. So by the time we got to race day, I barely made it through the first half of the race (far and away the easiest half) before I needed to slow down and walk for a bit, and once I did that, it was hard to maintain my running for long stretches before I needed to walk again.

This year there haven't been any interruptions to my training schedule, and I've been alternating three and four mile runs for a couple of months now. I'll do a five mile run early next week followed by a final four mile run a few days before the 10K, but I'm feeling really good about being able to run the entire course this year. And even though I'm in no way a fast runner, I do (generally) run faster than I walk, so that alone should allow me to have a faster time than I did two years ago.

Over the weekend we took advantage of the lovely weather and the fully vaccinated status of our family (we're just over two weeks out from Will's second shot) and went out to dinner at one of our favorite places pre-pandemic: Arepa Mia, which serves arepas and empanadas over in Avondale Estates.

We still sat outside, partly because we're still more comfortable with that but also because they were encouraging people to use the outside seating and limiting how many people could be indoors. The food was as good as ever, and if anything was enhanced by sitting outdoors. As we were relaxing at our table after finishing our meal, I was browsing Facebook and noticed that our friend Connie (who along with her husband Jeff are two of Will's godparents) was selling some of her artwork at a craft fair with live music not too far away, so we decided to surprise them and show up for a visit.

It didn't end up being a complete surprise—we got close to the event location but couldn't quite figure out where to park and how to get to the exact location, so I had to call Connie to get her to direct us to the final spot. But we spent a couple of hours hanging out with them and listening to music, and Will ended up going home with one of her paintings, white flowers on a dark blue background.

It was yet another example of the world going back to normal: hanging out with friends in a somewhat crowded (though still outdoor) setting, talking without masks and just enjoying time spent together. They also invited us to come over for July 4th, and although we were looking forward to resuming our tradition of walking over to Decatur to watch the fireworks there, we couldn't pass up the chance to spend more time with them and see their new home (they moved in March 2020, but for obvious reasons we haven't gone for a visit yet).

Tomorrow is yet another vacation day that I'm taking just so I don't lose it. I don't have any specific plans, but I will try to avoid work as much as possible. There is a new World of Warcraft content patch coming out, so I'll probably end up spending some time exploring the new zone and starting to grind out rep for the new factions.

Because we're taking a week off in July to go on a trip to North Carolina, I'm not burning off further vacation on July 1 or 2 even though I could easily turn that into a six day weekend (when combined with June 30 and July 5, the latter of which we get as a holiday since July 4 falls on a weekend this year), but a lot of other people are taking those days off, so I don't expect work volume to be very heavy.

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