june 2011

Too soon for June. Also: too hot.

Since we've been having a lot of company recently and I'm too disorganized/lazy to clean off the kitchen table (which typically serves as one of the many storage locations for my stuff), we've been having dinner outside on the deck for many nights the past couple of weeks. We have a bad habit of eating dinner in front of the tv (it's really the only time we watch tv other than when we're exercising), one that we know we'll have to break once we start having meals with Will, so maybe this summer is a time to start eating outside and away from the tv a little more frequently even when we don't have guests.

We won't be able to do that when the weather is bad, of course, and it will be too cold come October or so, but still, it could be a way to change our habits so that when we have to eat indoors, the kitchen table becomes a much more appropriate place to have our meals. Of course, that's going to require me to find a more permanent place to put all my stuff that lives there now, and that's a whole other issue...

This is my parents' last full day with us—they're driving back to North Carolina tomorrow morning—so they're going to come into Baltimore with Julie and Will for lunch today. I'm hoping work will be slow enough that I can take off early and we can go do some other activity, but knowing how chaotic work has been recently, I'm not holding my breath on that.

Today is supposed to be my first Monday at home alone with Will in three weeks, but instead of being able to relax and focus on him, I've got lots of other stuff to do/pay attention to. A friend who was in town for a conference and who stayed with us last night needs to be run to the airport, we have the handyman from last week coming back to finish up his work in the morning, a plumber is coming in the afternoon to take a look at a leak in the downstairs shower, and I've also got two conference calls for work and a few other work-related tasks that have to be done today.

Also: he started crawling last Friday, so no more leaving him in the family room with a pile of his toys and knowing that he'll still be there happily playing by himself while I go into the study for half an hour. We've got the baby gates up and Julie has secured the light sockets, but we should still probably keep an eye on him for the first couple of weeks to see what other kinds of stuff he finds to get into.

This is Will's first day back in daycare since May 12, and we're hoping he does okay. He's always done pretty well there, and he's very adaptable, but after weeks of being fawned over by grandparents, I hope the relative lack of attention at daycare doesn't bother him (not that she doesn't pay attention to him—I think he might be her favorite kid of the current crop of attendees—but she does have other kids to look after, meals to prepare, diapers to change, etc., and she won't be able to dote on him like his grandparents do). I don't think it will—he's very independent, and I actually think he starts to chafe a little bit when he doesn't get some time each day to do his own thing.

Today is Julie and my 15th wedding anniversary, and the 23rd anniversary of our first date. To celebrate, we're going to let Will have his normal day in daycare and take off work so we can have lunch, see a movie, and maybe do something else fun before we go pick him up at the end of the day.

The movie we're going to see is the new X-Men, which I'm pretty excited about—although the trilogy started by Bryan Singer's original X-Men movie ended pretty weakly, I still have a real affection for that universe, and I'd love to see it rebooted properly (although what I'd really love to see is it become a television series—20+ hour-long episodes a season for a few years are really the only way to tell the stories of those characters in the way they deserve). And yes, Julie is a huge fan of the X-Men, too—the movie was her choice.

X-Men: First Class was actually a pretty good movie. The casting was pretty good (although I hate hate hate Rose Byrne as Moira MacTaggart, and I usually don't care for January Jones, but since we're supposed to dislike her here, her inherently unlikability worked in her favor), and the overall pace and plot were solid. There were a few clunky lines/scenes, but those were balanced by some really solid dialogue in other places. And Kevin Bacon was surprisingly good—I mean, he's turned into a reliably solid actor, but he stood out in this one among a bunch of up and coming young actors.

This being a comic book franchise reboot, the creators set up a sequel (or two—it seems like they always like to plan for trilogies these days), but hopefully this set of movies will fare better than the original X-Men movie trilogy, which started out very strong and then got weaker and weaker (I barely remember the third one, but I know I didn't much enjoy it). I'd actually consider seeing X-Men: First Class again in the theaters, but I know if we have a chance to see a movie again anytime soon, I'm probably going to want to see Super 8 instead.

Things are about to get really weird at work. My boss has been there for 10 years (he hired me, so he's the only boss I've ever known here), and he's become so prominent in his field during that time that I've been worried about losing him to another institution for the last five years. But now I'm guessing it's really going to happen sometime in the next year, and maybe even as soon as the end of this summer.

Over the last two years, after a new president came in, virtually everyone in a major leadership position left or retired—except my boss and my boss's boss. I thought we might be immune to all the change because we've done a really good job over the years, and especially the last two, so I figured maybe they'd leave well enough alone.

But now it appears that my boss's boss's job is being eliminated sometime in the next year, and it also appears that my boss's role will be significantly scaled back in the new order of things. And, since he's well-known in the field and will be actively courted by other schools who want to increase his responsibilities instead of reduce them, I'm almost positive he'll leave this summer, and I'm close to 100% certain he'll find a new home by next year if he doesn't leave before our next cycle starts (this is not based on anything he's told me, but he's a smart man, and a smart man would look for better opportunities elsewhere).

I'm not going to start looking for another job right away or anything—we're pretty settled here, I like a lot of my coworkers and I like the mission of the office I work for—but things will definitely be different without these two guys around. I'm willing to give whoever they hire to replace them a year to see how I get along with them, and there are some other possibilities for me to move elsewhere within the institution even before any of these changes happen. And I guess there's always the off-chance that my boss could stay and my world wouldn't change much at all. But I wouldn't bet on that at this point.

I don't care about pro basketball at all, but it warms my heart a little bit that LeBron James didn't get the championship ring he fled Cleveland to chase after.

Stumbled on Sofia Coppola's Marie Antionette on IFC or Sundance or something, and man, is it awful. It will make you dislike Kirsten Dunst even more than you do already, and if you're a Sofia Coppola fan, it might make you reconsider that stance. It was aimless, slow, pointless, and boring, and those are the nicer things I can say about it.

Jason Schwartzman's (also a member of the Coppola clan) portrayal of Louis XVI provided an early (and brief) bright spot, hitting a very subtle comic note as a prince who was more interested in hunting trips and locksmithing than he was in having sex with his wife (their unconsummated marriage took up the first third or more of the film). And there were sequences that were reminescent of Terrence Malick's natural interludes that are a hallmark of his work, but those kinds of scenes are much better interspersed among more action-oriented set pieces like the Roanoke settlers carving out a piece of America among the natives or soldiers trying to take an island in WWII than they do in a film whose general pace is already excruciatingly slow.

I also occasionally appreciated the scattering of modern rock gems among the period chamber music (the Cure, New Order, the Stokes, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and Gang of Four all make appearances), but it made you wince more often than it made you smile (I think that trick was far more successful in A Knight's Tale, which is billed as a comedy/action movie, but which is actually a more successful period drama than Marie Antionette is despite all its pretensions).

Anyway. Dreadful movie. I wouldn't waste any more time on it than you've already spent reading this entry.

In 2009, BBC America started airing episodes of a show called The Inbetweeners, a comedy about a group of four teenage males in high school. It was without a doubt the funniest thing I've seen in a long time, and I knew it would never get an American remake because you'd have to water it down so much for American television that it wouldn't be the same show.

BBC America aired 12 episodes straight, which made up the first two six-episode seasons of the show, and I figured I'd see more within a year or so. Then it got to be a year after the last episode aired on BBC America with no word of more shows coming, and I gave up on getting anymore.

But then just last week I saw an ad for the next season, the first episode of which airs this Saturday. I've also now done a little research on Wikipedia, and it turns out that this new season will be the show's last, although the series will wrap up with a feature film and a couple of special extended episodes to close out the storylines. Wikipedia also tells me that I'm sadly mistaken about an American version—MTV has apparently ordered 12 episodes of an American version, which I'm bound to watch but highly likely to be disappointed by (I'm sure MTV will try their damnedest to match the raunch, but there's no way they'll match the wit).

I'm going to rewatch the original 12 episodes this week in preparation for the return of the show, something I've thus far held off doing because I was afraid they wouldn't be as brilliant as I remembered. It's bittersweet knowing that the show will end (the British are much better about cutting things off before they get stale—the show is loved by the audience and critics alike, which in America would mean it would be made until it couldn't make any more money), but I'm excited to have some new episodes to watch.

Baltimore has a growing gourmet food truck scene, and I've wanted to try a few of them out for a while. There are at least three that make a weekly stop near the campus where I work, but two of them come on Monday, when I'm at home with Will. However, a couple of weeks ago I discovered a third one, the Gypsy Queen Cafe, and that one comes by on Wednesdays, when I'm usually in the office.

The first couple of weeks I had other obligations—meetings, staff luncheons, etc.—so I couldn't seek out the truck, but things finally worked out yesterday, and I headed down to find it. I'd heard good things about the truffle sliders, fish tacos, and their famous cones, where they put everything from mac and cheese to crab cakes in a waffle cone and serve it with their "bacon bling", a mix of bacon, sauteed onions, and barbecue sauce that they use as a topping for several dishes. Their menu changes constantly, however, so I didn't know for sure what I'd find.

I ended up going with the truffle sliders, three mini-hamburgers served with white truffle oil butter, and man, they were decadent but they were so good. As rich as their menu tends to be, I don't think I'd want to eat there every week, but I can see myself seeking them out once a month (I might try the fish tacos next time, which seems a little healthier—maybe I'd go more frequently if I could find some healthier options to balance out the other stuff).

Unfortunately, I won't be able to find them near campus again for the rest of the summer. There was mounting tension between city street food regulators and the food truck operators, which weren't what the city had in mind when it created its regulations, and there was some danger of all the new food trucks being shut down. But then the mayor got involved and created new food truck zones, including a few spots outside City Hall, and the Gypsy Queen was given a spot in the City Hall zone on Wednesdays for the duration of the summer. So they won't be making a weekly trip near where I work again until the fall.

Hopefully I'll also be able to try a couple of the other ones (I think there are two that spend a day each week about a five minute drive from where I work), but I'm definitely going back to the Gypsy Queen when they return to their regular schedule.

Yesterday was my boss's last day in the office for about ten days, and since my last day before we go on vacation is three days after he gets back, that means I'll only see him for those three days between now and the middle of July.

If this were a somewhat normal year, that might be okay—we've got plenty of things to do, and he doesn't need to be involved in our day-to-day work—but given the amount of turmoil and uncertainty that has been caused with the recent news that my boss's boss is being removed and replaced with two new people (leading me to have serious concerns about my boss being here as well), that's a long time to not be in regular contact with him. This is not going to be a fun summer.

My first Father's Day as an actual father was pretty low-key. We went out for breakfast, took a nap, had some ice cream cake, and called my own father and grandfather to wish them happy Father's Day as well. We used my new iPad 2 from work to make a FaceTime call to my dad, and that was pretty cool—we were able to prop it up with the new magnetic cover and put it on the floor so my parents could get a ground-level view of Will crawling towards the camera.

Julie and Will got me a pen holder for my desk at work that had a picture of them both from Easter, and a tasteful Ravens license plate frame (I've been looking for a way to appropriately signal my Ravens fandom for a while, and a license plate frame seems to be obvious enough without being tacky). We also took Will to bacl to the park to play on the swings (Saturday was his first visit and his first time ever in a swing).

Once Will figured out crawling, it didn't take long before it became second nature to him. It used to be that when I needed to do some work on Mondays when I'm home with him, I could sit him down with some of his toys in the living room, and even though he would roll around on the floor and end up a few feet away from where he began, he was perfectly happy playing in essentially the same place for an hour or so.

But now the toys don't hold his interest that long: he wants to move and explore, and you have to keep a much closer eye on him. To give him that ability to move around without having to have me hover over him, I used closed doors, baby gates, and artfully placed chairs to create a safe zone between the living room and his nursery, which are the only two rooms that have been baby-proofed at this point.

He had a great time crawling from his pile of toys and books in the nursery to his pile of toys and books in the living room and back again, chasing after the cats whenever they happened to wander across his path on their way to one of the forbidden zones that he couldn't get to. I'm not sure how long I'll be able to use the strategy—once he learns to stand and walk, I'm assuming the chairs and closed doors will no longer be effective barriers—but for now, it allows him the freedom to move around a bit while giving me a chance to catch up on email and phone calls.

Back in March when the NFL lockout began, I figured there would be a few weeks of posturing while the two sides hammered out an agreement behind the scenes, but that we'd have a new agreement in place well before training camp was set to begin. However, the Ravens just announced that, because of the lack of a deal, even if they do have a training camp, it will no longer be at the tradtional site at McDaniel College that allows the public to attend, but rather at the Ravens' private training facility in Owings Mills, which couldn't host the public even if the team wanted to.

I'm not sure what the NFL didn't learn from their own most recent labor fiasco in the 80s, or the MLB strike in 1994-1995 that cost the sport a World Series and officially handed the NFL the crown as America's sport, or the NFL strike a couple of years later that knocked them back into secondary status (where they still firmly reside) just as they were reaching a tipping point in American popular culture.

The NFL thinks that the fans will come back just as strong even if they cancel a season or two, or even if they use replacement players, and while the sport won't go away, a labor dispute is the quickest way to turn even hardcore fans against a sport and make it take a revenue and mindshare hit that will take years to recover from (or from which it will never fully recover).

But I think the players and the owners (but especially the owners) are too arrogant to really believe this, and I'm actually starting to doubt that we'll have a season this year. Which would suck in multiple ways, but especially because football is really the only sport I follow closely now, and it's definitely the focus of most everyone in the city of Baltimore from August to January.

In the summer in my office, Thursdays are like Fridays. But Fridays are nothing like Saturdays—I guess it's like Friday Part II.

On a related note, I'm working on Saturday, so even Saturday won't seem like a Saturday this week.

I finished watching Ricky Gervais' The Invention of Lying earlier this week, and it was not good. The premise is that Gervais' character, Mark Bellison, lives in a world where people do not know how to lie until he accidentally tells one and then realizes he can make up lies about all sorts of things because everyone else thinks that whatever someone says is true.

There are a couple of funny moments early on the film, but it quickly devolves into a series of weird, pointless vignettes, like Mark making up a god and his commandments, and Mark creating sensational historical events that never happened (he's employed as a writer for television, and because this society does not have any deception, this job consists of writing faithful historical texts which are then read on camera by a narrator). Jennifer Garner is wasted as a pretty airhead who Mark is in love with despite any redeeming qualities other than her looks, as is Rob Lowe, whose comedic talents are evident to anyone who has watched Parks and Recreation this season.

The story concludes with a trite fairytale ending that's about as terrible as you could imagine. I'm still a fan of Gervais, but happy endings are the bread and butter of the Hollywood machine, and that's not really his thing. It's possible that at one point the script for this movie would have lived up to its early potential, but there's no way for Gervais to make something for an American mass audience without sacrificing his uniquely British take on the world.

This is going to be a long week, but it will end with some time off for the holiday. I don't think I've been looking forward to being away from the office for a few days this much in a long time...

Will started running a slight fever on Sunday night, and although it had gone down by the morning, I decided to stay home with him on Monday anyway just in case. And even though he's been eating and playing and sleeping normally, sure enough, the fever came back in the afternoon, so it's a good thing I didn't take him to daycare.

He was only running about a degree higher than he should have been, and his behavior and mood were normal, so we weren't too worried, and fortunately the fever had abated by this morning. Julie thinks it might be teething that caused it, which would also make sense because he's been a bit of a grouch the last couple of days.

In addition to my IT group, I started managing another team in our office earlier this year when their longtime manager took a job at another institution, and today we're going to do a little offsite retreat for them to talk about how the last cycle went and what improvements we need to make for the next one.

Not sure how it's going to go, and it's taking me away from a lot of stuff I need to get done at work before the holiday (this week is also the end of our fiscal year, so there's some paperwork I have to get finished before Friday), but it will be nice to get out of the office for a bit and have lunch on the company dime.

This week has been crazy busy, but I think I wrapped up everything pressing at work before the holiday. Taking tomorrow off, and I don't plan to check my work email for the next five days.

december 2011
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