december 2011

One of the complicating factors in leaving Maryland for Thanksgiving was that the Ravens were playing on Thursday night on the NFL Network. I didn't have any doubts about my ability to see the game, since the NFL Network is typically part of the basic digital package which I know my dad has, so I was more concerned about not being able to have my routines and having to share game-watching space with the rest of the family.

However, when I got to Wilmington and my dad told me he didn't get the NFL Network, I started to do a little research, and it turns out that NO ONE who has Time Warner Cable anywhere in the country gets the NFL Network, because the network and the cable operator haven't been able to work out terms for carrying the network. At that point, I was a bit stymied, so I started looking around for ways to watch the game online somehow.

That was a no-go as well—DirecTV has the exlusive rights to broadcast the NFL outside of the normal national networks and local affiliates, and the only option they offered for watching online required $200 (way too much to watch a single game) and a PlayStation or Xbox (neither of which my dad has). The best I could come up with was listening to the game on an internet radio broadcast and watching the ESPN gamecast animation simultaneously. Not great, but better than waiting for ESPN to run highlights and scores on SportsCenter after the game was over.

I'm not normally the kind of guy who goes to sports bars to watch games, but I investigated and found a couple of places that were going to be airing the game. The problem was that I'm also not the kind of guy who goes to bars alone, and even though I really, really wanted to see the game, I didn't get the feeling that anyone else in my family wanted to join me, so I was getting resigned to my radio/gamecast solution. Just to be sure, about 45 minutes before the start of the game, I asked my dad if he was interested in coming out to a bar with me, and to my surprise, he was.

It turned out to be a great evening. Not only was it fun hanging out with my dad, but there was a table of four Ravens fans who were similarly trapped outside the home market for the holidays, and they were all wearing their jerseys and whooping it up for good plays (I was right along with them). The fact that the Ravens won was a nice bonus, but it would have been a memorable evening no matter what.

We drove back home from Thanksgiving on Saturday to try to avoid some of the holiday traffic, but on Friday we did some fun stuff with Will. In the afternoon we went out to Clarendon, the old house on the property of a rice plantation that my sister is trying to restore, and then went to lunch nearby. After lunch, we met up with a friend of Julie's and mine from high school who neither of us had seen in about 15 years. It was really great to see her again and catch up a little bit, but we had to trade off talking to her because Will was tearing around like crazy and one of us had to take Will duty.

That night we went to the holiday thing at Airlie Gardens, which we went to two years ago. The difference, of course, is that we didn't have Will then. There's a lot to walk around and see, so we decided to put him in his stroller, and he was pretty okay with that—it was relatively cold, and it was getting towards his bedtime. He loved all the lights—there were lots of wows (he's adorable when he says that—he whispers it with a tone of genuine awe) and oohs. There was also a big Lego display with a train and lots of random mixing of various Lego franchises—stormtroopers on the grounds of Hogwarts, and Indiana Jones near the monorail—but he loved the train and it was worth the 15 minute wait to get in to see it.

We left on Saturday morning, and even though we only had to make one stop just like we did on the way down, the traffic made the trip take longer, and he was definitely less tolerant of the trip on the way back. He didn't sleep at all, and there was lots and lots of fussiness. We were still back home in time for dinner, though, and then we had Sunday to get back into some kind of routine before going back to work on Monday.

Another solid Ravens game yesterday, and one that finally broke their weird habit this year of losing an on-paper easy game against a losing team on the road after a big emotional victory. They only have one game left with a team that currently has a winning record, and since they've beaten their primary division rivals, the Steelers, twice this season, all they have to do is tie Pittsburgh to secure the divisional crown.

Hopefully they'll win the division outright with a better record, but the Steelers have a relatively easy schedule as well (two games left against Cleveland, the team that Baltimore beat yesterday), and since the two teams are tied now, it wouldn't see a shock to see them both end up with the same record.

For no real reason, I think I've sent/recieved more texts in the past week than I have in the previous six months. The total still only comes to about 10, so that tells you how much I typically use my phone for texting.

I wonder, if you cut out all backstory/love interest crap from Michael Bay's Pearl Harbor movie, would it actually be a decent movie about the Japanese attack? Either way, it's time to revisit that subject and put together a decent film about it.

The major project that I've been working on for the past few years at work has been the implementation of a document management system, first for my office and then for other offices around campus. As the product has been introduced to more and more offices, my main system administrator, who knows more about the technical side of the system than anyone else at the university, has become increasingly valuable, especially because, despite my constant entreaties, we so far have no real redundancy for his skill set.

So I was pretty bummed when he got summoned for Baltimore City grand jury duty a couple of months ago, especially because of the city's bizarre, onerous service policy. Most grand juries require you to serve one day a week every week for some extended amount of time, like six months or a year, or a few consecutive days each month for a year. That's burdensome, but not ridiculously so. Baltimore City, however, requires grand jurors to serve all day every day for four months straight, meaning that if he was selected to serve, he would have left work on January 6 and we wouldn't have seen him again at all until May 14.

We did everything we could to convince the city that he was too valuable to lose for that long (luckily for him, our employer continues to pay you your full wages when you serve on a jury, so at least it wouldn't have hurt him financially), calling and writing letters. But the only feedback we got was that they would respond to our request for him to be excused sometime before the first day of service. In all likelihood, we were told in no uncertain terms, they would say no and we would have to wait for him to show up on the first day of service to see if he was selected to serve. So sometime on January 9 I would have gotten a call from him where he said "See you at work tomorrow" or "See you in May"—until then, we'd have no idea what the outcome would be.

Somewhat shockingly, though, the court got back to him yesterday and said that he was excused from service. I'd like to think that my letter to the court played some role, but knowing how the Baltimore City bureacracy works, it's just as likely that it was a clerical error as it was a reasonable response to our request. Either way, though, I'm glad I don't have to worry about losing him for four months, especially given how busy I expect we'll be with the document management stuff during that time.

Sad day today—it's the main goodbye party for my boss, whose last day is a week from today. I've worked for him for ten years—he's the only boss I've ever known at my current job, and he's the best boss I've ever had. I still haven't really processed that a week from next Monday, I'll never see him in our building again. I'd miss him and feel somewhat adrift even if he was leaving under normal circumstances, but the climate at work that led to his departure makes him leaving even worse, because there's just so much uncertainty there now.

I was asked if I wanted to say a few words at the party, and I didn't—I'll say what I need to say to him in private—but I hope we give him a good sendoff. He was a well-known and well-loved figure on campus, and I know I'm not the only one who wishes he wasn't leaving.

Yesterday's Ravens game was a little boring, but quite frankly, when you're playing on your home turf against a team that has yet to win a game this season, you expect it to be a little boring. Since the Ravens hadn't beaten the Colts in 10 years, it would have been nice to beat them at full power, but a win is a win, and with the special animosity that Baltimore fans have for the Indianpolis team, I'm sure there were plenty in the crowd who took great pleasure in the utter collapse of that team in Peyton Manning's absence.

I've watched the first few episodes of the revived Beavis and Butthead, and although it's pretty uneven, there hasn't been a show yet without at least one moment that just kills me. It's usually during the commentary, which has now expanded from just videos to all the reality shows that make up the staples of MTV's current programming roster—the storylines between the plots are typically pretty boring (although the first episode, where Beavis and Butthead try to transform themselves into werewolves and vampires to get chicks, was pretty hilarious, and got bonus points for mercilessly ripping on Twilight). And I have no idea how someone who wasn't around for the original episodes would view this show—part of what appeals to me at this point is the nostalgia.

I don't think I'm going to watch it religiously, but I'm going to keep DVRing it and eventually make my way through all the episodes, if only for that one inspired moment each segment.

I also finished up watching the last episode of the first half of the second season of AMC's The Walking Dead, and while I'm still compelled to watch, I'm less than thrilled with how this season played out. We spent way too much time in one place, way too much time talking, and way too much time on agonizingly slow character development.

I mean, I know from a practical standpoint that shifting locations all the time and hiring armies of zombies who all have to get serious makeup and costume treatment is expensive and time-consuming, but that's kind of the point of the show, right? 80% of this season was camping out on a farm and wandering through the woods—the action sequences were memorable mostly because there were so few of them and they were the only five minutes of each show that really got you pulled into the world temporarily lessened your irritation with the characters.

Still looking forward to rest of the season, though. I just hope they pick up the pace a little and think about making the group more mobile.

ED mail date. Usually I feel a big sense of relief when this day is over—we've typically admitted about 40% of our class, and even though the long slog of RD lies ahead, we typically get to relax a little bit for the holidays before we shift back into overdrive in January.

This year, however, I just feel kind of exhausted, without that sense of accomplishment. There's just so much work to do, and for the first time since I've been here, we're going to be doing it without the work of the dean who hired me, whose last day is tomorrow. Sad and tired and a little bit more sad.

Yesterday's ED mailing seemd to go okay, and today we have our annual holiday party. This will be the third year running that we've gone duckpin bowling, and although I'm usually not big on office fuctions, I actually look forward to this one. If not for the fact that this was my boss's last day at the university and that my team has endless months of work ahead of us and an uncertain reporting structure, I might actually be in a decent mood.

Another terrible road game by the Ravens. I (and Ravens fans everywhere) are going to become serious 49ers fans for a day, because that team beating Pittsburgh tonight might end up being the difference between a number one seed (and the attendant bye week and home field advantage) and a number fives seed.

Yes, it's great that the team has made the playoffs again, but this will be the fourth year straight, and they have yet to play a playoff game in Baltimore during that stretch. And based on the way they've played on the road this year, this is not a team I see going to the Super Bowl if they have to fight their way through three road games to get there.

Still not used to my boss not being in the building every day. Going to be even tougher to face that reality after the new year begins and we're in the thick of our application cycle.

Leaving tomorrow for a few days of visiting family in North Carolina, then back home for a few more days off. See you next year.

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