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8.18.16
Last night Julie and I went out to the CineBistro in Atlanta to watch the new Star Trek movie. We got Amy, the softball player from Emory, to come over and babysit Will and we headed out as soon as Julie got home from work so we could grab dinner at the theater (you have to be there half an hour before the show starts if you want to order food).

Julie had a fig and brie flatbread appetizer, I got the wagyu beef sliders appetizer, and then we split the crispy brussels sprouts and cauliflower and a bowl of popcorn. My sliders weren't too bad, Julie really liked her flatbread, and the brussels sprouts were some of the best I've had (it's shocking how many places don't know how to properly crisp brussels sprouts, even ones that are billed as crispy).

I saw the movie a couple of weeks ago with a friend, and it wasn't too bad on the second viewing. The parts with Bones and Spock as a duo away from the rest of the crew were fantastic, and I wish Scotty had had a little more screen time (I wonder if, because the actor who plays Scotty was also one of the film's writers, he cut down on his scenes so as not to seem to self-serving to the rest of the cast), but it held up pretty well in my second viewing. The big twist isn't really that surprising or necessary, and the motivations of the villain still aren't very clear, but it was an enjoyable, watchable action flick that just happened to be set in the Star Trek universe.


8.17.16
I haven't been watching the Olympics this year at all, which is weird. Normally I, like most people, tune in and watch all sorts of sports that I wouldn't otherwise watching, and I care about the medal count, etc., but this year I don't think I've watched more than two minutes at a time as I've been idly flipping through channels.

I'm not quite sure why this is, although some of it could have to do with all the horrendous stories not only about the conditions in Rio and how the Olympics is highly likely to further worsen the political and economic problems in Brazil, and how this is a story that has been repeated over and over with Olympic host cities for years (Rio may end up being worse than Athens in 2004).

The rampant doping scandals don't help either, especially given the cowardice of the IOC in dealing with the Russian athletes, hundreds of whom still ended up competing despite overwhelming evidence that the entire Russian contigent has been participating in a state-supported doping program for years.

I have learned some interesting stuff about the technical aspects of the games from reading many of the dozens of articles related to the Olympics that are published as the games are going on. The most interesting fact: they are perfectly capable of timing swimmers down to the thousandth of a second, thereby eliminating the many ties that happen in that sport, but the allowable tolerances in the construction of swimming pools is a couple of order of magnitudes higher than what could be measured in a thousandth of a second, which would unfairly advantage those swimmers who happened to get the lanes that were a fraction of an inch shorter than the others. Hence the intentional decision to limit measurements to hundreths of a second—because of the variance in lane lengths, this allows two evenly matched swimmers who are swimming in lanes that are slightly different in length to acheive the same time.

But as for the games themselves, I just haven't been engaged. Maybe that will happen next time, or maybe I'm just done with them. We'll see in 2018.


8.16.16
I am a big fan of the Wachowskis in theory. Like everyone, I loved the Matrix, and although Revolutions was not a great way to end what could have been one of the best sci fi trilogies ever, I thought Reloaded was underrated and didn't get a fair shake just because expectations were so high.

V for Vendetta and Cloud Atlas are films that I can watch over and over again, even though most people have nothing but scorn for Cloud Atlas even (and sometimes especially) if they liked the book, even though I can't imagine a better film adaptation of such a complicated narrative architecture. But I admit that I've never seen Speed Racer because I couldn't even watch the trailer for 30 seconds, and although I still have it in my queue, I've never found the time to watch their Netflix series Sense8.

Their latest film, Jupiter Ascending, started airing on HBO recently, and I really, really wanted to like it: a hard sci fi movie mixing a complex alien society with present-day Earth, it had potential to create another franchise for them if it had been good.

As usual, there were no shortage of marquee actors who wanted to work with them (the little-seen Cloud Atlas featured Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon, and Hugh Grant along with Wachowskis stalwart Hugo Weaving) on the film, and major roles were played by Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum, Sean Bean, and Eddie Redmayne, but it didn't really help, because the story—and often the dialogue itself—just wasn't worth listening to. It also doesn't help that I'm not a huge fan of Tatum or Kunis (although Tatum was better than I expected), but I don't think even my favorite actors could have saved this movie.

It was a visual spectacle, which is something all Wachowski films have in common, and there were certainly moments that were memorable, but all in all, the plot was too full of holes (even for sci fi), and I never felt like there was a real emotional connection between any of the characters, even the ones whose strong emotional connections were supposed to be driving the story. All in all a disappointment, especially because of the missed opportunity to extend the world they built into a franchise of multiple sequels.


8.15.16
This weekend was fairly quite for once—no trips, no parties, no guests—we just did whatever we felt like and for me especially that wasn't a whole lot.

On Friday night Julie had a goodbye party for someone from work, so Will and I went out to get hotdogs at a place called Skip's that supposed to serve Chicago-style dogs. They had the poppy seed buns, and the franks themselves had a nice snap to the casing, but there was something about the interior that texturally didn't feel quite right to me. I also ordered a chili cheese dog with onions, and the chili was not your standard hot dog chili—instead, it was a bland brown mostly made up of beans. But Will loved his, and overall it wasn't too bad, so we'll probably give it another try sometime.

The one errand we tried to run was to get Will his main birthday present from us, a new bike. He's far too big for his old one now (which we got when he turned four), and he's at that awkward stage where he's a little too big for the 16 inch wheels but not quite big enough for a 20 inch bike. Plus, he still needs training wheels, and there are a limited number of 20 inch bikes that can accomodate them since you can't install them if the bike has gears on it.

We went to the same store where we got his bike before, and there was one that looked like it would fit the bill. But while we were hovering over it and waiting for our salesman to return with the training wheels we needed to buy to go with the bike, another salesman came over and let another customer look at it. When he returned, our salesman just kind of stood there and didn't say that we were looking at the bike first, and of course, the other kid an his dad ending up wanting to buy it, so their salesman claimed it because he actually had his hands on it. To add further insult, they even took the training wheels that our salesman had brought out for us! And again, with no commentary or action from our salesman, who then tried to sell us a different bike that wasn't nearly as good a fit for Will as the one we had been looking at.

So we left that store (and I'm not sure if we'll ever go back now) and headed for another one in downtown Decatur, knowing a bit more about what we wanted. They didn't have a lot in stock, but we found one in the catalog that looked like a good fit for Will, and they said they could have it ordered and in the store the next week. Only when he looked on the computer to put in the order, the salesman told us that the company was completely out of stock on the 2016 models and the 2017 models wouldn't be landed in the country for another two months. Another strikeout.

After those two poor experiences, we did further research online, and we think we've found a good option at REI that will hopefully stay in stock until next weekend when we can take a trip out there to try it out. Will wasn't disappointed about this at all, however—part of the deal with getting a new bike is trading in or selling his old one, and he's so attached to it (even though he hasn't been able to ride it in months) that he was more focused on losing that bike than getting a new one. Funny, funny boy.


8.12.16
Will is finishing his first week as a first grader today, and so far it has gone pretty well. His teacher has a reputation of being a bit strict, but that's not necessarily a bad thing for Will, who tends to get easily distracted and who in turn becomes a distraction to others when he can't rein in his talking. But she also seems to be very consistent and communicative, which is something he also really needs.

It's going to be an interesting year at the school. This is the first full year of operation in a brand new facility (they moved the students to this building in late November last year after spending the first few months in a temporary home), and not only do they have a new principal (the other one moved on to a bigger role in another school district), but they are also coping with an influx of about 250 students from another school district that is overcrowding and sending a lot of their students to other schools while they build new capacity for their growing population.

So not only will these students have to deal with the stress of riding the bus for 2-3 miles in Atlanta morning rush hour traffic, which is particulary bad in the Clifton corridor because of all the employees heading to Emory Hospital, Emory University, and the CDC, but they're school lives and their home lives will be disconnected in a way that doesn't often happen in Atlanta, where there are so many neighborhood schools that allow kids to go to school where they live and attend classes with the students they know from their neighborhood. Add on top of this the fact that many of them are ESL students (and there were almost no ESL students in this school last year), and there are some signficant challenges ahead.

But I have no doubt that we will make the best of it as a community, and that all the new students will be welcomed and supported by the families and the staff. About half of Will's class is students who went to school with him last year and half are the students being brought in from the other school, so we'll get to see up close how well the integration is going and do our part to have a good outcome.


8.11.16
I went to see Star Trek Beyond last week, and I think it might be my favorite of the films set in J.J. Abrams rebooted universe. The original reboot was good, but it had so much old mythology hanging over it and spent so much time finding ways to erase that mythology that it can still be a little ponderous. The second one was everything that was terrible about the original magnified by ten, with the added burden of trying to redo the most memorable film in the entire Star Trek canon and failing miserably.

This one (the first not directed by Abrams although he remains the producer) didn't spend an undo amount of time going back to revisit the universe that Abrams wiped out in the first one and bring us an alternate story from an alternate timeline. Instead, we get the crew of the Enterprise on the five year mission that was documented in the original television series, and if I'm not mistaken, it's cleverly set far enough into that five year mission that it's taking place after the show was canceled—in other words, even if this was the same universe (which it's not), this still would have been outside the tv/film canon, because that period of the Enterprise's history was never produced due to the premature canceling of the show.

The villain isn't particularly memorable—another typical Star Trek baddie who wants to destroy the human race for reasons of vengeance that are revealed as the story unspools—but the visuals are great, especially of the gigantic Yorktown space station, and there are some nice action set pieces (and a great callback to the Beastie Boys' "Sabotage" which was featured prominently in the opening segment of the first reboot).

It still had moments of heavier-than-necessary melodrama, but overall it was a lot more fun than the previous two, likely owing to the screenplay being cowritten by Simon Pegg (who stars as this universe's version of Scotty, but who has written and starred in comedies like Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz). They also explore non-traditional crew pairings that work really well, like Uhura and Sulu, Kirk and Chekov, and most notably, Bones and Spock, and introduce a major non-crew role fairly seemlessly into the story, which adds a little variety simply because we don't know what to expect from her.

I'm curious to see if it holds up after repeat viewings, and I'll likely get a chance to figure that out relatively soon—my wife also wants to see the movie (I went with a couple of guy friends late one weeknight after all of our respective kids were in bed), so we might have a date night sometime in the next week so she can see it before it leaves theaters.


8.10.16
My mom was still staying out at my sister's on this past weekend, so for the third week in a row we headed out on Saturday afternoon to go swimming and hang out with my mom. Will continues to improve with his swimming; he hasn't used his floaties at all in the past month and we didn't even bring them with us this time.

After we finished swimming, we went out to dinner at a Mellow Mushroom about halfway between our house and my sister's, and that's where we said goodbye to my mom, who hadn't been home in a month at that point. She rested on Sunday, then worked up the stamina to muscle through her pain and make the six hour drive home so she could make a Tuesday appointment with her local doctor.

I'm worried about what this might actually be because, despite what seems like half a dozen CT scans, x-rays, and MRIs at this point, she seems to get a different diagnosis and treatment plan from each doctor she sees. The physical therapy that my sister's doctor had her doing helped in terms of her mobility, but she said it didn't help with the pain much at all, and for now her doctor is telling her not to move around too much and not recommending physical therapy until they have a chance to do yet another MRI for comparison purposes.

As much as she likes visiting her children and grandchild, I know she's happy to be back in her own home, and her brother and his wife live near her to help out if she needs them. I hope she gets this figured out soon—she's pretty tough, but a month straight of pretty intense back pain is going to start having longer term effects if they can't find some way to relieve her symptoms soon.


8.9.16
Our long domestic nightmare is over. The part needed to repair our hot water heater finally arrived on Friday morning, and although we had to wait until around 7 that evening for the repairman arrive and fix it (which took him about ten minutes), we finally had hot water back.

I'd like not to do that again any time soon. I'm still not the best person to be around in the mornings, but I guarantee you I'm much more tolerable after a hot shower than I was after a week of taking cold ones.


8.8.16
I'm as tired of writing about the saga with the hot water heater as I'm sure you are of reading about it, but it's over now, so I just wanted to fill you in on the conclusion. The part did indeed arrive on Friday morning, and we were able to make an appointment to have the repair performed sometime between 2-5 Friday afternoon.

But 5:00 came and went with no call from the company, so I called them to make sure we were still on. They told us that the repairman was on the way and would be there in another half hour. That didn't happen, either, but he did show up around 7, and by 7:30 the repair was complete and our water was starting to heat back up.

I managed to wait until around 8:30 before taking a shower—I wanted to make sure it was good and hot, even though the repairman said it would only take about 45 minutes to fully heat the water. It was such a relief to have hot water back—that was the longest in my life that I've gone without taking a hot shower, and I didn't realize how much difference it makes in your attitude for the day. I'm still not pleasant in the mornings, but I'm much more tolerable than I was those last couple of days while we were waiting for the part to be delivered.


8.5.16
Yesterday Julie and I both took the day completely off to do one final fun day together as a family this summer before Will goes back to school: we took him for his inaugural visit to a real amusement park, Six Flags Over Georgia.

At some point last year they had a book reading challenge at school, and anyone who did the challenge got a certificate with a tear-off portion that gave them entry to Six Flags. Will has been talking about it all summer, and while we always intended to take him, it wasn't until a week or so ago that we realized that time was running out to use it (you can't use it on the weekends, and we weren't going to take him out of school for a day to do it).

We got there around 11, and I figured with the oppressive heat and the constant walking that we'd have lunch before 1 and be on our way home no later than 3—Will's never had great stamina in hot weather, and he's far too big for us to carry around any more, so the duration of outings like this is completely contingent on his willpower and desire to keep walking and doing things.

But boy was I wrong: we were there until the park closed at 7, and there wasn't one complaint about the heat or the walking all day except when we were walking to and from the parking lot. And he would have stayed later if he could have—the train that runs around the park was the last thing we did, and we were on it for the final circuit of the day. We rode everything that he could ride at least twice (except for the really big wooden roller coaster, which he didn't like because it rattled you around too much), including a flying swings ride that when 240 feet in the air. He is absolutely fearless about this stuff, and he was very disappointed that he wasn't yet tall enough to ride the roller coasters that went upside down.

We hadn't been to this particular Six Flags park before either, and it wasn't too bad. Out of solidarity with Will, I didn't ride any of the coasters he couldn't ride either, so I don't have a review of most of the stuff in the park, but even though it was brutally hot (we bought an infinite refills cup for $16 for the three of us to share, and I can tell you for sure that they lost money on us—it felt like we refilled every half hour to stay hydrated, and Will still only needed to use the bathroom twice in eight hours), it was a fun day, mostly because Will was having so much fun.

I was disappointed that two of the major attractions were closed (the skyline gondola thing and the lazy river tubing ride), but we did just about every ride in the park that Will was big enough for (except for the stuff that was clearly for really little kids), and we more than got our money's worth with the tickets as well. I know we'll be going back at some point, and hopefully by then Will will have grown those last couple of inches that he needs to go on about half of the coasters that were off limits to him this time.


8.4.16
So: the hot water heater. The repair company called me back on Tuesday morning tell me that they had been unable to locate the part anywhere in Atlanta (which is strange, because it's a five year old water heater from a major manufacturer), so they called the manufacturer directly to order a replacement part, and since the hot water heater was still under warranty, the part would be free but it would be shipped directly to us. We were supposed to wait for the part to arrive—no later than Thursday, but possibly as soon as Tuesday—and then call them to schedule the repair.

Because I didn't have a tracking number or anything, I called the manufacturer (GE) directly to find out what was going on, and they confirmed that as of Tuesday afternoon, the order had been processed and would ship out that day and I could call back the next morning to get a tracking number. So I did that...and was told the exact same thing: the part had not been processed the day before (Tuesday), but it was being processed today (Wednesday) and would ship out via overnight shipping so it would still hopefully get there by Thursday.

And what was I told when I called today to get a tracking number and a delivery date so I could schedule the repairman? THE EXACT SAME THING: the part was being processed today (Thursday) and would ship out overnight shipping for delivery tomorrow (Friday). Which was, to say the least, a little frustrating, especially given how many cold showers Julie and I have had to endure this week.

Fortunately, when I called back tonight after 6, they actually did have a tracking number for me, and the FedEx site said that not only was it scheduled for delivery tomorrow, but that it was supposed to be delivered by 10:30 a.m., which means there's still a chance we could get this all fixed up by tomorrow. Fingers crossed, because I don't know how much more cold water to start my day I can take. I'm a fairly surly person first thing in the morning anyway, but after a few days of cold showers, I'm verging on becoming a monster.


8.3.16
We decided not to put Will into camp this final week before school, and each of us is taking a couple of days off to hang out with him. Tuesday was one of my days, and although I had to work in the morning and the early afternoon (allowing him to binge on Phineas and Ferb, his current favorite show) I did take him out for a special suprise before the end of the day: mini golf.

We went to a pirate-themed course outside the perimeter that we've been to a few times before, and he loved it just as much as he always has. And he's actually getting better, even though he's very inconsistent about getting into a stance and lining up the putter correctly—he even beat me on two or three holes. And there was almost no one else on the course, so we felt like we had the whole place to ourselves.

It started to rain just as we were finishing up, which worked out perfectly (I actually got a hole in one on the final hole even though I was rushing to finish so we could get out of the rain that was rapidly increasing in intensity). When we got home, I wanted Will to have some play time in his room so I could finish up some work stuff, and when I came up to check on him 45 minutes later, he was dead asleep on his bed, and he didn't move a muscle until Julie got home close to 7. That's always a sign of a good day for him, so we fixed him a quick dinner and let him go back to sleep after a truncated bedtime routine.


8.2.16
My mom is still trying to figure out what's going on with the pain in her back, and she's still out at my sister's house, so on Saturday we all went out to spend the afternoon swimming in her pool before having dinner together. Will's swimming is getting better every time we go out there—he swam without his floaties for the first time earlier this summer, and this past weekend he got really good at putting his head underwater while swimming and only lifting it up to take a quick breath.

For dinner, Will helped my mom and my sister make fried chicken while I took a nap in a rocking chair on the front porch. Will and I are both the same when it comes to the water—we get in the pool as soon as we get there and we don't get out until we're forced to (except to use the bathroom of course), even if we're there for several hours. The difference is that after a few hours of swimming, Will still has the energy to hop right into the kitchen and help out with dinner while I'm completely exhausted.

After dinner as we were getting ready to leave, we noticed a strange car had pulled into my sister's driveway and a man I didn't recognize was pacing around while talking on his cell phone. My brother-in-law went out to talk to him, and it turns out that he was the husband of my sister's neighbor and they had just separated the week before. The wife had taken out a restraining order and the man chose to interpret it very literally—since he wasn't allowed on the property, he figured he would just park at the closest house (my sister's) and yell across the yard at his wife.

Which wasn't super smart. She immediatley called the police, who showed up and parked at the bottom of my sister's driveway, blocking the husband's car in—and also blocking us in. And then Mr. Genius really kicked into high gear: when the cop pulled a taser on him in order to arrest him for violating the restraining order, he took off into the woods, and the cop chased after him, leaving us blocked in with no idea when the chase would end and the cop would come back to move his car.

When it became clear that this was going to be an extended pursuit, we decided to drive our car across the lawn to the neighbor's driveway and get down to the street that way (my sister has a very steep yard with trees and a pretty deep drainage ditch at the bottom in between her lawn and the road, so the driveway really is pretty much the only way to get out). So we got out without too much trouble, and now we have a pretty unusual story to remember the afternoon by.


8.1.16
When I got in the shower on Saturday morning, I noticed that the water did not get as hot as usual, and it also got cooler as the shower went on. I asked Julie if she was running the dishwasher, clothes washer, etc., but she wasn't, so when I went down to investigate the hot water heater, I discovered that the pilot light had gone out.

I followed the instructions on the side and attempted to relight it, and while I could get it to light, as soon as I tried to switch it from lighting mode to on mode, the pilot would go out again, no matter how long I let it burn in pilot mode. Some YouTube videos led me to believe that something was wrong with the thermocouple, and that while I could probably repair it myself if I had the right part, it would void the warranty and I would be better off letting a professional do it.

On Sunday we called a service we had used before and scheduled an appointment for first thing this morning hoping it would not be a big deal to fix (the person who made the appointment also surmised that it was the thermocouple and had me text them a picture with the model and serial number so they could make sure to have the right parts on the truck).

The repairman showed up right at 9, and it only took him about 10 minutes to decide that it was indeed the thermocouple, but he didn't have the parts on the truck. He left, telling us that he would call us back when they had located the part he needed so he could come back and do the repair, but we didn't hear from him or the company the rest of the day, which I assume means they're having trouble locating the part.

I assume we're going to get a new timeline/appointment tomorrow morning, but in the meantime, I'm on my second cold shower, and let me tell you that for people used to hot showers, there are few less pleasant experiences to have to incoporate into your daily routine. But hopefully it's very temporary and everything will be back to normal by tomorrow.


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