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4.16.15
It's been interesting being Will's soccer coach so far. I'm co-coaching with another dad who is Austrian and therefore much more experienced with and interested in soccer, so I mostly let him take the lead and just help run the drills and make sure to put a new ball in play when one goes out of bounds, but me being Will's dad seems to have absolutely no effect on his behavior when he's messing and not paying attention.

One of the great things about this season's team is that it's made up exclusively of classmates from his preschool—seven of them are currently in the same classroom and the other one was in a classroom with several of them (including Will) last year. And one of the not-so-great things about the team is that it's made up exclusively of classmates from preschool. The kids quickly go into school mode, playing games, goofing around, etc., and Will is especially bad because two of his best friends are on the team, and none of the three of them are really that into soccer (it's the first time for two of them, and none of the three seem especially athletically gifted).

We've got an interesting mix: two girls who are playing for the first time and have very good instincts although they're still a little tentative; three boys (Will and his buddies) and one girl who are generally uninterested; two boys who are very good and highly competitive (they've played multiple seasons at this point). The teams only play three players at a time, so our strategy has been to put one of the competitive boys, one of the engaged girls, and one of the unengaged kids on the field at the same time.

With the random rotations (kids will just run off the field if they get tired, and you rotate in whoever wants to go next unless it's an official rotation), we sometimes end up with the two competitive boys and one of the engaged girls on the field at the same time, and we tend to do a lot of scoring then. Our worst situation is when Will and his two buddies are on the field at the same time (or really, when any two of the three are playing at the same time), because then the game becomes very secondary and the other team basically has free run of the field.

It's been fun though, which is all it's supposed to be at this stage. I do wish he'd pay a little more attention, because I would like him to really engage with a team sport to see if it's something he would want to continue as he gets older. We'll see—the other coach said his son didn't really start to engage with it until his third season, and he's very into it now, so we'll probably do another session in the fall to see if anything clicks.


4.15.15
My mom's visit was pretty good—she stayed with us through Monday morning and watched Will by herself on Friday and Saturday nights while Julie and I went out, and she got to come with us to church and soccer on Sunday (normally we wouldn't have gone to church when we had guests, but our former organist, who Will LOVES, was making a visit to the congregation for the first time since he left to do a residency at Blackburn Cathedral in England about a year ago).

There was also a trip to the Fernbank Museum of Natural History (mostly solo with my mom), a swimming lesson, a dinner out with my sister and brother-in-law, and a walk down the street to see them doing a location shoot in our neighborhood for a movie called Table 19. Will was genuinely tuckered out—he usually doesn't take afternoon naps anymore (although we do encourage an hour or two of quiet time in his room on weekend afternoons), but he zonked out for a couple of hours between lunch and soccer, which I don't remember him doing in months.


4.14.15
I didn't have a lot of hope for the Braves after they traded away most of what should have been the middle of their lineup in the offseason, including fan favorite Jason Heyward, and then traded their superstar closer Craig Kimbrel the day before the season opened (he was part of a package deal that allowed them to unload an albatross of a contract in BJ Upton), and of course there's still plenty of time for their season to turn out terribly. But the first week has been pretty good for the team with a 6-1 record, best in the NL and second best in MLB.

I'm not sure what the strategy by the brass is at this point: to unload contracts so they can sign a couple of star free agents prior to the team moving into its new stadium two years from now (which is very different than the way the team has been run since Ted Turner was no longer the owner), or simply dumping salary for the purpose of putting more of that money into the pockets of the corporation that owns them now.

Unless it's the former, I'm really starting to lose faith that this franchise will ever make a serious run in the postseason again given that you really do need some superstars, especially on the offensive side, to be able to get anywhere near the World Series. You can't just keep developing talent and then letting them get away as soon as they get expensive and expect to win many titles, even if they can make it to the postseason every now and then with that philosophy—despite nine postseason appearances since 2000, they have only made it past the wild card game or the divisional series ONCE, and they won only a single game in the league championship series the one year they made it past the divisional round.


4.13.15
Apple Watch preorders started last week, and although I set the alarm and woke up at midnight Pacific (3 a.m. my time) in time to get one of the preorders that would have been delivered in the first week or so after they become available, I decided against it.

Mainly this is because the configuration I want—the silver aluminum sport with a black sport band—isn't one of the default configurations, and I wasn't quite prepared to pay an extra $50 for the band when that addtional cost would have gotten me within $100 of the stainless steel version. So I'm probably going to make an appointment to try a couple on, make sure that the black sport band will match the silver sport version, and then wait a few months to get some real-world reports from the millions of people that will be wearing them over the next couple of months.


4.10.15
My mom arrived yesterday, and she'll be staying with us to spend time with Will through next Monday. Will loves all of his grandparents—he talks for days about seeing them whenever we're going to see them or they come to see us—but there's something he really loves about visits from Gabby. As soon as she gets here, we may as well not even exist, and when we leave for the evening (as we will tonight and tomorrow to go out to concerts), he practically shoos us out the door so he can get back to hanging out with her.


4.9.15
It was also Easter this weekend, which proved to be another busy day for us. In the morning we went to the 8 a.m. service at our church (we've been attending the sunrise service that they hold in downtown Decatur, but this year they didn't do that for some reason) and then came back home for Will to open his Easter basket and look for hidden eggs.

At noon we went over to the house of a family we've gotten to know through Will's school—Will and their son Anton were in the same classroom together for a year, and they also played soccer together last fall (and again this spring). They are from Austria, and will be headed back there early this summer, but we've been spending increasingly more time with them over the past few months, and they invited us over to share a traditional Austrian Easter meal with them: ham with a mixture of whipped cream and horseradish; Russian eggs (basically deviled eggs), and an Austrian sweet bread (not sweetbreads, but a sweet-tasting loaf of bread).

After lunch, the father (who is my co-coach for soccer this season) distracted the kids while the mom and the nanny went outside to hide Easter treats for the kids in the Austrian style: they made little nests of Easter grass in several places in a little park in the apartment complex with the name of each kid on the nest and a little gift in each nest (with several nests for each of the kids), and then let the kids loose in the park to find their nests and put their gifts into their baskets. Will had a really great time with that—we might have to think about continuing that one in our backyard next year.

We ended up staying at their place much longer than we expected—we didn't leave until after six, and took a nice long walk in the afternoon before we left. It was a really fun day, and a fun weekend, but so busy that I felt like I needed a day off before returning to work.


4.8.15
It was my 44th birthday on Saturday, and as a surprise Julie arranged for us to have dinner at a Japanese steakhouse with my sister Carrie and her husband Tim. We haven't been to one of these in two or three years—we took Will when he was probably two, and although he loved it at the time, he had no memory of it.

I usually just want to hang around and do nothing on my birthday, especially if it falls on a weekend, but the weather was so nice that I wanted to get out of the house. So I packed a picnic lunch and we headed out to Sweetwater Creek State Park, a place we'd been to once before with the family of one of Will's classmates. Will was sort of dragging along, not really wanting to hike, until we made a game out of the trail markers: Julie and I pretended that we couldn't see the red marks on the trees and didn't know where to go, so he had to run ahead and find the next one so we could follow him.

This worked until we got pretty far up the trail, and then we stopped for lunch next to the river (we saw a snake sunning itself on the first rock we were going to sit on, so we moved down to the next one several yards farther downstream) before walking up to the waterfall overlook. On the way back, Will was starting to flag again, so I made a modification to the game: whoever touched the tree with the red mark on it first got a point, and whoever had the most points when we got back to the parking lot won the game. That perked him right up, and he was running most of the way back.

Overall it was a great day—we got the fun of spending a gorgeous day outside, and then of having a very nice dinner with family. After dinner we came back to the house for cupcakes, which as a perfect ending.


4.7.15
Blerg. I generally like it when some team in the ACC wins the national championship, because I still cling to the belief that this is the best conference for basketball in the NCAA despite the extreme expansion of the last few years and the general high level of talent at big programs across the country, but as a lifelong UNC fan, Duke is the one team I'd rather not see in that position.

So I couldn't quite bring myself to root for Wisconsin, but neither can it be said that I wanted Duke to win. All in all, I would have been fine with Kentucky going all the way, not only because it would have been historically interesting to have a perfect season in the modern era, but because it likely would have made Calipari's one-and-done philosophy (which is recently shared by Duke's Krzyzewski) even more prevalent, which would likely push us that much closer to a new philosophy around the free labor pool of student athletes, who recieve no compensation while generating billions in revenue (with much of that going to their coaches).


4.6.15
My grandfather, who died in February, would have been 95 today. We all miss him so very much, especially because I think most of my immediate family would have tried to be with him today to mark the occasion.


4.4.15
I usually don't do posts on Saturday, but today is my 44th birthday, and I couldn't pass up the change to mark my 44th year of existence completing on 4/4.


4.3.15
So, a week ago today we got a new car. Specifically, we leased a Nissan Leaf for two years to try out an electric vehicle and to replace my aging, 11 year old, 180,000 mile Saturn that is on its last legs.

A couple of months ago our plan was to drive the Saturn into the ground, but a few factors led us to the decision to get a new car before the Saturn was absolutely spent. First was the safety of the Saturn: even though I probably drive it fewer than 50 miles a week, mostly around town, I do spend a lot of that time with Will in the car, and there are some things we need to do to make it safe, like replace the horn/airbag circuitry in the steering wheel ($800) and get new tires ($300). When we started looking at how we might better spend that $1100, and combining it with the $500 we'll likely get from a car wholesaler (like CarMax), the Leaf started to look awfully attractive.

We've had several friends and acquaintances buy or lease a Leaf in the past few months, and they have been universally happy with it as a second car in a city like Atlanta. When we asked what they were paying per month for the lease and started to do the math, it almost became a no-brainer.

See, Georgia has one of the most generous subsidies in the country for electric vehicles, offering a $5000 tax credit for purchasing or leasing one. When you combine this with the $7500 federal subsidy (which goes straight to the dealer and comes off the price of the car), plus our employer subsidy, here's how it worked out for us: $290 per month for a two year lease with no money down, or a total cost of $6960. Subtract the $5000 tax credit from Georgia, and and then the minimum of $1100 for repairs on the Saturn, and we're left with an outlay of new cash of only $860 across two years, or only about $36 per month.

Start figuring that the Leaf will likely save us about $20 a month in fuel costs (less than $20 for the electricity versus about $40 for gas), and the fact that we will have no maintenance costs for the life of the lease (no oil changes required for an EV, and the first maintenance checkup isn't due for 7500 miles, and that one's free; the first one we pay for isn't until 15,000 miles, and I don't expect us to reach that mark during our lease period), and we're coming pretty close to getting to drive this car for two years for essentially no cost other than what we were going to have to pay to fix the Saturn anyway.

This will give us a chance to try out an EV for a relatively short period to see if we want to invest in one for the long term, and by the time we would need to turn this one in, I expect that the market will have a lot more entry-level choices with much longer ranges than our version of the Leaf (it gets about 100 miles on a full charge, but I expect that by 2017 there will be several cars at this price point, including a new version of the Leaf, that top out at over twice that). And in the meantime, it's really nice to have a car that I feel safe driving around with Will in the back.


4.2.15
It used to be that, in the world I work in, April and May were fairly calm months, a way to ease into the slower summer months after six months of hard work to enroll a class. But now the schedule is packed with on and off campus recruiting and yield events, travel, conferences, and other assorted tasks. And while the summers continue to be fairly low-speed for the rest of the office, it's always been a pretty busy time for my teams as we work to prepare all our systems and processes for the next cycle.

So April and May were really our only opportunities for any kind of slowdown, and now those months are gone as well. I'm getting a little worried about burnout—not only my own, but that of my team's, because we do work really hard, with lots of evening and weekend hours, and we already worked a longer active work year than most of our colleagues. And although we're pretty good at letting people create a good work/life balance by offering flex schedules, the opportunity to work at home one or two days a week, etc. without at least some downtime on the schedule, I don't know how long I'll be able to retain good people when/if they get an offer that doesn't require them to give as much of themselves for as much of the year as we now are.


4.1.15
I just missed my weight loss goal for last month by a pound, and I can tell already that these last 15-20 pounds I'm trying to lose are going to be the most difficult of this process; I'm not going to be surprised if each five pound increment will take twice as long as the one before it, meaning it might not be until the end of summer that I'm able to hit my target weight. I'm still going to aim for a pound a week, which I was able to maintain for the first fifteen months (on average—I certainly had my good months and my bad months), but I'm becoming more realistic about how much harder these last few pounds are going to be compared to the first twenty.

Given that, I don't think I'm going to be able to wait until I've reached my final target weight before I'm forced to buy some new clothes. I've been keeping up with my work pants, and I don't think I'm going to go down to the next size even if I lose another fiften pounds, and I feel like I'm not going to get below a medium for polo/golf shirts (which tend to be cut more generously) or a large for t-shirts (especially with the shrinkage after washing), so I can go ahead an stock up on those. But dress clothes are another matter—I was really hoping to go in and get measured and fitted once I reached my final weight so they would fit as well as possible.

But I'm not sure if I'll be able to wait another three months or more, especially with the work conferences, etc., that I have on the schedule, so I might just have to bite the bullet and get at least one sport coat, accepting the possibility that it might not fit perfectly with additional weight loss. I think I'll still have to wait to get new suits, but I need at least one jacket that I can pair with a dress shirt and a tie for work purposes.


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