december 2022

My dad and stepmother came down with my youngest sister and my two nephews for Thanksgiving, arriving on Wednesday. In order to make things a little less stressful, we decided to actually have Thanksgiving dinner on Friday so we could relax a little on Thursday before going to see the Garden Lights at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens that evening when most people were at home in a post-feast haze.

My other sister, the one who lives in Georgia, also brought my mom over from Loganville, so we had a pretty big crowd of 11 people total: Julie, Will, and me; my dad, stepmother, my youngest sister, and her two sons; and my other sister, her husband, and my mom.

The lights were great as always, although I didn't notice too many changes from the previous year. Julie, Will, and I have gone to this event every year since we moved to Atlanta, and it has gradually expanded over the years so that now, even if they don't add or change very much, it's still a great experience. Some years we've gone around Thanksgiving, some years closer to Christmas, and some years after New Year's, but we've never missed it, and I hope we never will.

I was pretty much sidelined for the rest of my family's visit after doing the Garden Lights. The next day when we were supposed to drive out to my sister's for Thanksgiving dinner, I wasn't feeling well, so I stayed at home. I didn't really feel any better on Saturday or Sunday, so while everyone else did things like take my nephews to the Fernbank Museum, I just stayed in bed, hoping to start feeling better and also not wanting to get anyone else sick.

We will see the North Carolina contingent again soon—we haven't finalized our plans, but we'll go up there for a few days either before or after Christmas. But between now and then, I have to focus on wrapping up my year-end work tasks, especially QuestBridge and ED1 decision release.

I've been playing World of Warcraft since a couple of weeks after its release in 2004, and the week after Thanksgiving, they released the ninth expansion to the game, Dragonflight. I finally put my extra vacation days to good use—instead of burning a couple at the end of the month just to keep my accrual going, I was able to time my November days to the release of the expansion so I could immerse myself in the new content and the leveling experience for a couple of days.

The last expansion, Shadowlands, was very hit and miss, and while I found things to enjoy about it, I would definitely say that it had the most drudgery of any xpac I can remember. The game has only been out for about a week now, but so far, I find this storyline, the structure, and some of the new game mechanics more compelling than Shadowlands.

The reason I still play the game goes back to the social component—I've been raiding twice a week with the same group of people for the last eight years, and that group is an offshoot of a larger group of people who I've been raiding with since the beginning. But I do like to play solo sometimes, so the single-player questlines are also pretty important. I won't know how Dragonflight holds up in that regard over its ~2 year lifetime until we're a few patches in, but the first batch of new content is a welcome change from Shadowlands.

The Smile, the new band from Radiohead's Thom Yorke and Johnny Greenwood (with Sons of Kmet member Tom Skinner on drums), played Atlanta on Sunday, and I was lucky enough to find a reasonably-priced ticket at the last minute.

I thought about buying a ticket when they first went on sale, but I hadn't heard the album yet and I didn't think it would sell out so quickly. But all the tickets were gone within minutes, and then after I decided I wanted to go and started watching the resale market, I never saw a ticket lower than $200, more than twice the face value and much more than I was willing to pay.

But then I was serendipitously talking to my friend Tom on the phone, and he was talking about how great they were when he saw them in late November in DC. So I did yet another check of the resale sites, and miraculously found a single ticket for essentially face value, which I snapped up immediately.

It's hard for me to overstate how amazing the performance was. I liked the album pretty well, but seeing these songs performed live, with all of their complexity and nuance recreated in a live setting, added new emotional depth to them. They also previewed several unreleased songs, which were each at least as good as anything on the debut record, giving me hope that not only will we get a worthy follow album, but we'll also get it sooner than later.

Radiohead might never release another record or tour again, but as much as I'd like to hear new music from them and experience them in concert again, I could make my peace with the band dissolving if instead we'll get regular releases and frequent touring from the Smile. Next time they come through, there will be no hesitation on getting tickets.

I recently finished watching AMC's Interview with the Vampire miniseries, and even though 1) I'm not that into vampire stories and 2) much of the series recreates the same events from the movie starring Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt, this is a really worthwhile and watchable show.

The casting, sets, etc., are incredible, but it's really the updated framing that gives the series some novelty compared to previous versions of this story. Instead of recreating the time period of the original novel, where Louis gives an interview to reporter Daniel Molloy in 1973 New Orleans, this series is set in 2022. The 1973 interview and events still happened in this universe, but Louis is now secretly living as an extremely wealthy, highly protected person in Dubai, and he summons Molloy there for a follow up interview.

So the show not only recounts the primary story of the novel, which tells of how Louis originally became a vampire, but also gives a new perspective on the 1973 events, and takes us into new territory as Louis shares what his life has looked like in the 50 years since he and Molloy had their last encounter, and also opens up the universe for more storytelling in a potential future season.

Highly recommended, and again, this is coming from someone who doesn't generally go for vampire stuff. An impeccable creation that stands shoulder to shoulder with the best prestige television from the past decade.

We waited a bit longer than we usually do to get our Christmas tree this year, and as a result, the trees they had left were not as tall as what we usually get (we've been buying our trees from a local church in Decatur every year since moving to Atlanta).

So we made the best of it: we bought the best-looking tree that they had left, and then went to Home Depot to pick up a couple of cinder blocks we could use as a platform to make it taller and take up more space in the window we put it in front of.

We still wish we would have been able to celebrate this Christmas back in our rebuilt home, but that's nowhere close to happening. So we'll make it work in the rental house for one more season.

We still haven't really returned to going out to restaurants, etc., since the pandemic, but with the recent boosters and the lower likelihood of Covid occurring in our part of Atlanta, where most everyone is vaccinated and also reasonably cautious about testing, etc., we've been taking our first steps back towards normalcy. For the first time in a very long time, I met up with my friend Steve at a bar where we sat indoors the entire time.

Steve is less cautious than me—he had Covid over the summer, and has also been keeping up with his boosters, so he's felt like he's had some immunity for the last few months. But when we've met up for a drink since then, the weather has been nice enough that we wanted to sit outside anyway, so there wasn't any question about the safety of being indoors with strangers.

I'm hoping that as I begin to feel more confident about being around people indoors again, we can restart the Tuesday night trivia group that we used to do fairly regularly. That's something that I have really missed, not only playing trivia itself, but also getting to hang out with all those friends.

I finally finished watching the most recent season of The Great British Baking Show, and it was...fine. Just fine.

It's still a mostly enjoyable watch that I dole out slowly during my lunch hour on the days I'm working from home (I only watch one segment of an episode at a time, so a single episode essentially lasts for an entire workweek). But it's nothing like the earliest seasons, whose finalists and winners I still mostly remember. I can almost guarantee you that I won't remember anything about this season two months from now.

This year I went to 22 different concert events and saw 25 artists total, which essentially double my previous number of concerts attended for a given year in my entire life. I really missed live music when the pandemic happened, but I don't think I realized quite how much until things got back to normal.

In previous years, I might have skipped some shows thinking that I'd just catch the performer the next time they came through town, but the pandemic highlighted that there's not always a next time, or that next time might not happen as soon as you think it will. So in some ways, I'm not surprised that I spent so much time and money on live shows in the first full year where artists were back on the road.

The lack of touring from artists during that year and a half was also probably a factor—many groups make a significant portion of their income from touring and merch sales, so there were probably more shows for me to choose from as everyone rushed back to the road to make up for the lower income during the prime part of the pandemic.

It will be interesting to see if this trend continues next year, both in terms of my willingness to go to this many events and the number of bands playing shows in my area. But even if I go back to a more normal number of 10 or so shows a year, I don't think I'll ever take concerts for granted ever again.

We had a successful ED1 decision release last night, and I'm basically taking the rest of the year off. Between the extended winter break that my institution now gives us and the extra vacation days I need to use up, I'll be able to cover the next two and a half weeks, returning to work on Jan 3.

We're probably going to visit my dad and stepmother in NC next week, coming back to Atlanta no later than Dec 23, but other than that, I expect this to be a pretty low-key break where I can recharge my batteries and catch up on some personal projects.

september 2022
august 2022
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may 2022
april 2022
march 2022
february 2022
january 2022

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