january 2009

I took a long break from posting, but not from work—even though I was planning to take all of last week off, I ended up working more than half a week's worth of hours, and I'll be working more overtime this week to get all of our online application imports done (our deadline for Regular Decision was January 1). But work aside, it definitely wasn't a boring break—more details to come in the next few days.

So in the last month, various members of my immediate family have suffered from, in order of least to most scary: bronchitis, a urinary tract infection, a fall that resulted in broken facial bones, ovarian cysts, and cancer. Two were hospitalized for days, and everyone else had at least one visit to the doctor's office, and all remain on medication for their ailments. Most of this happened in the last ten days—when we went visiting for Christmas, there was only one of these individuals who had been diagnosed and who was receiving treatment.

Fortunately everyone seems to be on the mend, although some certainly have longer roads ahead of them than others. Hopefully we got all our major health incidents out of the way at the end of 2008 and we can collectively have a much healthier 2009.

Having an iPhone in North Carolina is like having an iPod Touch that costs more and drains its battery in a few hours whether you are using it or not (and I'm not even talking about a 3G iPhone, which must be even worse). It must be something about the type of network, but the phone is constantly talking to the towers, and the reception is pretty terrible too. At Julie's parents, I couldn't get a signal anywhere in their house (or really anywhere in their town, even though it's got the largest population in the county), but if I drove five miles outside of town where there's nothing but farms and the chickens seriously outnumber the humans, I got five bars. And at my grandfather's house, which is smack in the middle of one of Raleigh's most desirable old neighborhoods, I could only get a very weak signal in certain spots in the house.

I'm not terribly impressed with the network in Baltimore, but if I had spent hundreds of dollars on an iPhone in North Carolina and got the kind of reception and battery performance that I saw there during my visit (and it seems to have gotten worse since last year), I think I'd be figuring out how to get in on one of the various class action suits that have been filed against Apple and AT&T. Or else I'd have just exchanged the iPhone for an iPod Touch and a basic phone from one of the other carriers.

Finally, after nearly seven months to the day since one of my employees left for another position, I have hired someone to fill the vacant spot on my team. It will be a couple of months before she's up to speed and can really take her fair share of the workload, but just knowing that my work life will become considerably less stressful by spring makes the winter so much easier to bear.

For Christmas this year, I didn't really ask for anything besides money to put towards a new computer, but I got a few nice actual gifts too. My sister gave me a Sigg water bottle, which I've been meaning to purchase for myself for the past couple of years; my dad gave Julie and I a GPS navigation unit for the car, which makes trips, especially long distance trips, a lot more entertaining; and some friends of ours gave us a plush murloc that yells "rawgrlgrlgrlgrlgrrgle" when you press a button on his tongue. I also got some toys, gift certificates to Atomic POP and the record store, a nice sweater, and a few other assorted goodies (not to mention a good amount of cash to put towards a new computer). A very nice haul all told.

I don't want to jinx it, but I'm getting really excited about the Ravens. I made a point to watch every game of theirs I could this year, and while I've missed a few, I feel like I have a much better feel for the team than I have in years past (for the past two or three years, our raiding group for World of Warcraft ran on Sundays starting at 3, so I'd usually only get to watch about half the game if I got to watch anything at all). It's going to be a tough, tough game against the Steelers on Sunday, especially since this will be their 18th straight week with no byes and Pittsburgh has beaten them twice already this season, but it's hard not to get your hopes up given the way they've bounced back this year from a disastrous 5-11 in 2007, all while breaking in a new head coach and a rookie quarterback.

I can't believe that it's only been a week and a half since I got back to work after the holidays and I'm already in desperate need of a three day weekend. Luckily, I'll get in a few days, but then there's that long nasty stretch between the end of January and the end of May where there are no scheduled days off...

Last year, Google switched its favicon (the little icon that appears in the search bar or the tab title box when you load a Google page) from an uppercase G in a multicolored box to a lowercase purpleish g on a transparent background and caused quite a stir in the design/branding community, mostly because there was no official word about the change from Google.

Now they've done it again, this time keeping the lowercase but hinting at the g shape as a white element on a field of red, yellow, green, and blue. Of the three, i think I like the second one best, but there's nothing that special about it and it didn't really tie into their primary logo (which remained unchanged) very well. The new one is probably the worst; the colors help it tie into the main logo better, but it kinda feels like the Google design folks were trying to rip off the Windows logo, and really, why would anyone want to do that?

Here's how dedicated the city of Baltimore is to its beloved Ravens: normally, the bug (the little icon in the lower right hand corner) for our local ABC station is yellow and black. But of course, those are the team colors for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who the Ravens are playing this weekend for the AFC championship and a trip to the Super Bowl. So they've changed the icon to purple and black, the Ravens team colors, instead.

And even though I'm not a diehard Ravens fan, I have made an effort to watch all of their games this year, and I'm excited enough about their playoff prospects that I ordered a replica jersey of Ed Reed, my favorite player (when I took my brother to see them play Cleveland a few years ago for his birthday, we were sitting in one of the end zones behind the marching band and saw him catch an interception at the back of the end zone on our side of the field and run it 108 yards for a touchdown), which I'll wear for the first time when they play the Steelers on Sunday. It's going to be a nasty, brutal game in the freezing cold, and no matter who wins, I doubt either side is expecting a blowout.

Note to the Orioles, who have sucked for over a decade now: all you have to do is start winning again, and I guarantee this city will sell out every home game once again. It would be nice to see that logo turn orange and black next October.

I kind of ran out of television series to watch on Netflix for a while, so I started working my way through some big movies that I didn't catch in the theater. I didn't really expect them to be very good—I'm talking about movies like the second Fantastic Four movie, Transformers, Spider-Man 3—and they pretty much matched my low expectations.

But I did re-watch Undeclared, the second brilliant, unfairly canceled series from Judd Apatow (the other was Freaks and Geeks), who wised up after that and started making the movies for which he's now so well known (and which made him ridiculously rich), and I just started watching Generation Kill, the HBO miniseries about the invasion of Iraq from the creator of The Wire. And now I've got the fourth season of Battlestar Galactica to look forward to, which I'll watch on Netflix and then finish watching on DVR (the final ten episodes start airing tonight on Sci Fi), and a some higher quality movies (There Will Be Blood, Burn After Reading, Darjeeling Limited, No Country for Old Men) in the queue after that. And then there's shows like Dexter and the John Adams miniseries, so hopefully I've got plenty of Netflix content to keep me busy for a while.

It's finally over, although the fallout from this administration will be with us for years, maybe decades. Of course, it could have been over four years ago if some of you had been paying a little bit more attention, but I'm trying not to dwell on that. Forward.

Day one. Let's see what he can do...

So we can eat peanut butter from the jar, but we can't eat anything else with peanut butter in it. Do I have that right?

I've been working from home the past couple of days so I can focus on reading applications, but I just don't seem to get very far. Part of the reason for this is because I still have to check in at the office, and I often find myself spending several hours dealing with stuff there that I was only anticipating spending an hour or so on (which sort of negates the purpose of working at home, which is to escape from the many distractions and interruptions that make it almost impossible to read files in the office).

The other reason is because, while the new document management system is a lot more efficient and a better solution for our office in many ways, as a reader, I'm really having a hard time adjusting my process to read everything online on a computer screen. There are many elements of the process that are faster, but reading the essays strains my eyes a lot more, and it's so easy to do something out of sequence or forget to press the save button. I'm working out a new process which will hopefully make me less prone to mistakes (and every counselor has told me that it definitely gets easier and more fluid the more files you read), but for now it's still a real struggle.

The temperatures for the last month or so have been bitter cold, but we've had absolutely no precipitation. It looks like there's at least a possibility of that this week, and with the daytime highs staying under 30 for the next few days, if we get any, it should bring us some snow. Hopefully the amounts will be enough to give us at least one snow day, but Hopkins is famous for staying open even when everyone else has shut down operations, so it's going to have to be a pretty serious amount for us to officially get the day off.

Words and phrases I like the British spelling and/or version of better (with the American version in parentheses):

grey (gray)
theatre (theater)
ready, steady, go (ready, set, go)
colour (color)
on holiday (on vacation)
take away (take out, as in food)
git (idiot, jerk, etc.)
pinch (steal)

There are a bunch more, but those are the ones that leap immediately to mind. Grey is the most important one, and the only one I consistently use in my own writing no matter what the context is; when I see names of colors spelled out, the color of the word in my mind matches the color that it spells out, except in the case of gray. Gray has a nasty brownish-red hue to it, while grey acutally looks grey.

Half day today, and that's only because everyone else is opening late and because even the administrators who only live half a mile from campus can't drive their cars because the side streets are still covered in sheets of ice. I will be working the afternoon from home, of course.

I tell you what, any doctor who implants enough fetuses during an in-vitro procedure to create octuplets ought to have his or her medical license taken away. Medicine, especially reproductive medicine where all of the children's lives and the mother's life can be put in serious jeopardy by such poor decision-making, shouldn't be a Guiness World Records-style contest of one-upmanship.

January came and went way too fast, and February is a short month that will be gone before I know it too. And I've got lots to finish by March, including some big tasks that I've been putting off for weeks or months now, and I just need to buckle down and get them finished. I've got a month to leave 2008 behind and move into the new year.
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