september 2011

I've been in training all this week. It's an online course, and I wasn't sure what to expect—I would have much preferred to do this training in person, but that would have required a weeklong trip to Cleveland, and the only two times they offer in-person training between now and the end of the years was the week after their big conference in September (and since I was originally planning to be at that conference, I didn't want to be away from home for two weeks straight) and during the holiday season, which is never a good time to be away from home for a week if you can help it.

The training has been better than I expected, though, and oddly enough, doing raids in World of Warcraft probably made it a better experience for me. I don't talk in raids, although I listen in over Ventrilo, and I communicate with the group by typing in the chat window. This was very similar—the course was conducted over Adobe Connect, and our instructor had a headset while the rest of us communicated with her by typing in the chat window. If I hadn't done this sort of thing before, it might have been a little disconcerting, and it likely would have taken me longer to get into the flow of the course. But because of Warcraft, it was a very familiar-feeling experience for me.

Training finishes up today, and I think I've absorbed the material pretty well, but it's been so long since I've taken a test on anything that I'm a bit nervous.

That should be over by lunchtime, though, and then we've got the holiday weekend to look forward to. We don't have any specific plans, but there are a lot of little chores we need to take care of—my mom is coming to see Will next weekend and we don't want to have to do all of our prep for her visit during the work week.

On Saturday, we decided to take Will down to the Davidson football game at Georgetown. Davidson hosts alumni events in DC fairly often, but we've never gone to one, and in addition to taking Will to a football game, we were motivated by the reception before the game with the new college president. I haven't kept up with Davidson happenings too much, but we've always thought about moving back to North Carolina at some point, and Davidson is certainly a place I could be happy working if I decided to stay in the admissions/higher ed world, and if that's even a remote possibility, making some connections on campus isn't a bad idea.

But really, the main point was to take will to see a game, since he tends to love big, noisy events like that. We don't really have any Davidson gear—I have a hat that I use for yardwork, and Julie has a couple of old t-shirts—so we ordered some night new shirts online, including one for Will. It's unfortunate that the Davidson colors are black and red, because I don't really care for red that much, but Julie and I got black apparel and put Will in a red polo shirt.

At the pregame reception, Will ate a slice of watermelon while we talked to one of our old professors who had come up for the game, and then he started to lose it a bit because he hadn't really had a nap since the morning. He was tearing around on all fours, with occasional pauses to sit and clap like a little crazy person. We got him to calm down long enough to let him scribble with a crayon at the kids' table (his first drawing!) and put a removable tattoo on his leg, but otherwise he didn't stay still much.

The game didn't start until 6:00, and we weren't sure if Will would make it that long, so we didn't buy our tickets in advance. This turned out to be an excellent decision, because it was bleacher seating with no assigned seats, but the will-call line for people who had already paid for their tickets online was 20 minutes long. So we just paid cash and walked up to find our seats.

The visitor section wasn't completely full, but there were a lot more people there than there were at the pregame reception, most wearing Davidson colors. After some initial shock when they starting the song before the kickoff to get the crowd and the players amped up, Will loved every minute of it. He spent the whole first quarter kicking his legs and laughing and clapping. Also, since Georgetown is apparently in the approach path for airplanes landing at National, he got to watch as several big planes crossed right overhead, something he had never seen before.

Just after the second quarter started, his lack of a nap started to show, and we decided it was time to get him home before he had a complete meltdown. Once we got on the road, he was asleep within a few minutes, and he stayed asleep for ride home. I was kind of hoping his first football game would be a Ravens game, but this was a pretty good day for him.

On the drive into work this morning, I was going over all the stuff I had to do today, and after realizing just how much was on my list, I consoled myself with the thought that "Well, at least it's Thursday." So the good news is, I have an extra day to get all that stuff done, but the bad news is that I suddenly found myself a day farther from the weekend than I thought I was.

Dear rain,

Please stop.


the entire Mid-Atlantic region

P.S.—Seriously. These two hour commutes are getting old. I know a lot of that is because Baltimore drivers, who are already not fantastic, turn especially stupid when water is falling out of the sky, but I don't know anyone who hasn't had to take at least one detour on their drive to work because a road was flooded over.

On September 11, 2001, my post consisted of nothing more than an elipses, because really, what could you sa? It has been my tradition since then on the anniversary of that day to repost that same elipses with a link back to my original post, and to change the color scheme of the site to something more somber and toned down, all greys but with a shock of red for the links.

In real life, I've also treated this day as a somber day of remembrance, choosing not to indulge in entertainment like going to movies or going out to dinner, and generally trying to spend the day quietly. I didn't even like to schedule meetings at work on September 11; it just seemed tacky. And although I didn't participate in public displays of grief by attending one of the many events on campus set up to remember the tragedy, I grieved in my own way, and I never treated the day like just another day.

This year's anniversary, the 10th, happens to coincide with the first Sunday of the new NFL season. I never cared much for football when I was younger, but after living and working in Baltimore for over a decade, I've been converted to a football fan generally and a Ravens fan specifically. So I have my rituals around gameday, and they don't have much in common with the way I've approached anniversaries of September 11. Even the general notion of watching a sporting contest, where I allow myself to get immersed in the competition and ignore the real world for a few hours, doesn't fit well with the idea of setting aside the day to reflect on the events of 9.11 and the fallout from them that is still very present in our culture.

But this Sunday, perhaps it's time to move on, to end the formal period of grief. I'm still going to remember what happened on 9.11, both on this site and in my daily life, and that day will never really be in the past for everyone who lived through it, but to put too high a wall around it separates it from reality and gives it a mystical power that was likely one of the intentions of the terrorists who attacked us. There could hardly be a more fitting denial of their power than to participate in the communal act of watching our national sport as it begins a new season, cheering for my team and being able to forget, just for a little while, about the evil lurking out in the world.


Yesterday was a good day to be a Ravens fan. No, wait, let me amend that—it was a fucking GREAT day to be a Ravens fan. I don't know what more we could have hoped for in a matchup against the hated Steelers. The Ravens forced as many turnovers as points the Steelers were allowed to score (7), including two interceptions by Ed Reed, and the offensive game looked on point despite questions about the offensive line coming out of the the preseason.

If they keep up this level of play for the whole season, there's no reason not to expect them to end up back in the playoffs. I know that's a long ways away, and anything can happen in the course of an NFL season, but if yesterday is any indication of how things are going to go for the Ravens, the fans have a lot to look forward to.

I tried out another food truck last Friday, this time Souper Freaks, which specializes in soups (although they also offer sandwiches). Two of my coworkers went with me, and we ended up trying three different soups: I got a cup of a spicy fish soup with a french name that I can't remember/pronounce, along with a swiss cheese on whole wheat grilled cheese, one person got the broccoli and potato soup, and the other got a spicy caribbean squash soup.

Mine was pretty good—it wasn't too spicy (although I like spice) and it had a nice flavor. Together, the soup and the grilled cheese were about the same as the grilled bacon cheese and tomato sandwich I got from the grilled cheese truck a few weeks ago, and the soup truck's grilled cheese was actually cheesier. The person who got the spicy squash soup really liked hers, too (that was my second choice—I'll probably try that next time if it's still on the menu), but the guy who got the broccoli and potato didn't really care for his. He was expecting a chunkier soup, and this was more of a puree, plus he said it didn't have very much flavor.

This is another truck I'll be revisiting, but I'm still waiting anxiously for the Gypsy Queen's return—they said they'd start coming back to the university at the end of the summer, but here we are halfway through September and no visits yet.

Consultants visiting the office today! Yay...

My rate of buying art toys has slowed down a lot in the last year and a half, partly because of budget adjustments due to having a child and partly because there just hasn't been as much good stuff coming out. But recently Huck Gee released several 8 and 3 inch dunnys with a Japanese theme that compliment some other rare figures of his I've managed to acquire. I was really looking forward to these, and despite heavy demand, I was able to pick up everything I wanted.

But when they started to arrive, I had no place to display them. See, up until now, I've been housing my collections in Detolfs, clear glass cabinets from Ikea that have a wood base and a wood top but which are otherwise almost all glass. They're great for showing off my different sets of figures, and almost everyone who gets into art toys uses them because they're available everywhere and they provide an incredible amount of display space for only about $70.

Or they were available everywhere until sometime early this year, when they suddenly disappeared from Ikeas everywhere. After months of waiting for them to come back in stock (everything I bought since Will was born was still sitting in boxes, waiting to be unpacked), I actually wrote to Ikea customer service, and they insisted that they weren't being discontinued, they were just having trouble with their supplier and we could expect them in stock by the end of June (this was in May). But June came and went with no sign of Detolfs in my local Ikea, so I started to do research to see if they were in stock anywhere. Other collectors had also tried emailing Ikea, and the company was still insisting that they would restock them soon and not to worry.

I was dubious after months and months of waiting, but then in August, they started showing up on the Ikea site as in stock for purchase online and in the inventory of the west coast stores. I figured it would only be a week or two until we got them in stock on the east coast, so I held off ordering them online because the shipping costs were so steep.

That turned out to be a mistake, because one day they stopped being available online, then they stopped showing up as in stock anywhere, and then they disappeared from the Ikea site altogether. This was about when I started to make plans for the new Huck figures, so I started to look around to see if Ikea had anything else that I could substitute for the Detolfs, but there was really nothing comparable, especially for the price. But even though there weren't great alternatives, after all the figures arrived and I still had no place to display them (along with everything else I had bought in the previous year), I decided just to make a trip to Ikea and buy the best thing I could find that wasn't outlandishly priced.

To my surprise, the day before we were scheduled to go, a new item showed up in the Ikea online store: brush steel shelves that were the exact same dimensions as the Detolfs. They didn't have glass on them, but at that point I just needed display space; I could move all the larger figures (which are easier to dust) to the open shelves and keep all the small figures protected in my three glass cases. And in addition to fitting perfectly in the spot I'd held for my Detolfs, they were also a bit cheaper than Detolfs.

So we went and picked up three of them (as many I could fit in the study, where I keep all this stuff), which was enough space to fit everything I'd bought in the last 15-18 months and still have about a display case worth of space for future purchases. I'm not completely happy with the solution—if I had known that the Detolfs were going to disappear forever, I would have just picked up three more and installed them as I needed space. But at least these are obviously made to stand alongside Detolfs, they're cheap, and they give me more than enough space for the forseeable future.

Things are just so weird at work. I've been bracing myself for the coming cycle for months, preparing for what I believe will be the toughest year I'm likely to ever work at this institution, but it seems like every week brings a new twist that makes it look just a little bit worse than I thought it would be the week before. I'm honestly not sure how much more bad news can pile up, but I also don't know when the instability is going to end and we'll be able to focus on our jobs without constant distractions and changes in direction.

The Ravens loss to the Titans yesterday wasn't an ugly loss, but for the entire second half, it never really felt like they had a chance—in fact, it felt like their offense didn't even take the field after halftime. The ridiculous win over the Steelers last week helps soften the blow of losing this game, and certainly it's better to be 1-1 than 0-2, but I was hoping that by the time they got to their fifth week bye (I hate early bye weeks), they would be at least 3-1, which seemed pretty doable after the first week victory.

There's still a chance of this, but the Jets game in week four likely won't be a cakewalk, which makes next week's game against St. Louis a must-win if they want to go into their week off at least 2-2. Hopefully St. Louis will be as terrible as it seems like they'll be after their first week performance, but the Ravens need to keep their focus and get back some of their mojo from the Steelers game if they want to have a chance of a winning record after facing the Jets.

So I figured out why the author didn't cover some of what I considered to be crucial to the story of the zombie war in World War Z: because he covered it in the first two books that I wasn't aware of until after I read World War Z. So those are ordered now...

The last post from anyone I'm following on Google+ is from August 29, and that's after I added even more people to my circles after Google+ helpfully suggested that I should do that if I wanted more posts to appear in my feed. And now that Facebook has copied most of the cool stuff from Google+ and is adding new features that Google+ doesn't have (yet), it really seems like this is turning from a promising competitor to Facebook into yet another failed experiment in social networking from Google.

Google+ recently ended the closed, invite-only phase, so anyone can sign up now, but I'm not sure if that's going to be enough to shift the momentum. They might have a chance if people got in the habit of using an app or service to dual-post to Google+ and Facebook like a lot of folks have do with Twitter and Facebook (or triple-post to all three at once) and something later drove people away from Facebook, but it's going to be hard to get people to switch to a new service, especially now that its most unique features and main selling points have been aped by Facebook just as the Google+ is finally moving from private club to public space.

Software demo for the provost today, along with the multitude of vice provosts (including the CIO). My system admin and I have given so many of these things that we can practically do them in our sleep, but the provost invested a decent chunk of change into an implementation for his office based solely on word of mouth about what we'd done in other offices, so I'm a little more nervous about this one. I expect it will go well, but you can never predict how a new software system will be received by executives.

This is a critical weekend for the Braves. With only six games left in the season, they are leading the wild card race by only two games, and St. Louis, the team that's closest to them, has been on a tear this month. Just three weeks ago, the Braves had an 8 game lead, which seemed almost insurmountable, but now they're fighting to hang on.

The Braves still have the advantage, but it's not going to come easy: the final three games of the season are against the Phillies, the best team in baseball and longtime divisional rivals who would love nothing more than to knock Atlanta out of postseason contention. If the Braves sweep the Nationals and St. Louis loses at least two of their games this weekend, Atlanta can face off against Philadelphia with their postseason berth guaranteed; if the Braves lose a game or two and St. Louis wins more than one, then there will be a lot more drama in that last series.

The Braves will be playing at home for those final three games, where the've been much harder to beat this season, but still, I'd rather that those games didn't count for anything. The Phillies are not a team you want to face in a must-win situation.

Also: the Ravens are playing St. Louis on Sunday, and they badly need to demonstrate that their week 1 demolition of the Steelers wasn't a fluke after a lackluster performance at Tennessee in week 2. So in either sport, St. Louis is the team I'm rooting against this weekend.

The Ravens crushed the Rams in a snoozer of a game where they scored 21 points in the first quarter (three touchdown passes to rookie receiver Torrey Smith), but the Braves didn't do as well over the weekend. On Friday they won and St. Louis lost, putting the Braves' three games up and making their magic number 3 (meaning that every time the Braves win, the number goes down by one, and every time the Cardinals lose, the number goes down by one until it hits zero, which guarantees a postseason appearance).

But on both Saturday and Sunday, the Braves lost and St. Louis won, meaning that now Atlanta has more pressure to beat the Phils and to hope that the Cardinals struggle against Houston, who just happen to be the worst team in baseball this year. Their destiny is still technically in their control—if they sweep Philadelphia, the Cardinals can't catch them even if they win their remaining three games—but I'd be much less tense if they won the first game against the Phillies and St. Louis lost their first against the Astros.

The Braves are killing me, losing their first game at home against Philadelphia. Luckily for them, Houston (the worst team in baseball) managed to beat St. Louis in extra innings, which means that Atlanta's magic number is down to two and they are still one game up in the wild card race, but a win last night would have put them in a position to lock up a postseason birth with a win tonight. That's still possible, but only with another St. Louis loss and a Braves win.

And that's exactly what I'm hoping for. While it's exciting to have it come down to the last game of the season, the second-to-last game of the season will do just fine, thank you very much.

Oh, Atlanta...a loss last night combined with a St. Louis win means that, with one game left in the season, the Braves and the Cardinals are tied for the wild card. So if one wins tonight and one loses, the winning team goes to the playoffs. If they both lose or both win, then there will be a one game tiebreaker played in St. Louis on Thursday.

I guess this makes for good drama, but I'd be more excited if I was on the underdog side of this, and not on the side of a team that let what was once a nine game lead be reduced to nothing in the course of a month; I'd have rather saved the drama for the postseason itself.

Bah. Bah, I say. That was a terrible end to a terrible month for the Braves. It's just too bad it had to also be the end of what was otherwise a pretty good season for them.

Having so much work to do that you end up working most nights and weekends makes Fridays somehow count for less. And I think this is really just the beginning. I'm not looking forward to the upcoming cycle one bit.

december 2011
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