january 2018

Christmas and New Year's weren't quite as hectic this year because we didn't travel, but since the timespan was so short (really only one week off, whereas typically it's almost two), we still kept plenty busy.

My mom was with us up until Christmas Eve, when she went to see Will in his Christmas pageant before I drove her out to my sister's house. We like to do Christmas morning with just the three of us, but then we head out to my sister's house for a bigger family present exchange and Christmas dinner.

We had a great Christmas morning together, doing our tradition of watching A Christmas Story and having country ham biscuits and a grits casserole with cheese, bacon, onions, and mushrooms. Will made out pretty good with presents from us—I ordered him an interactive science dinosaur toy months ago from a Kickstarter project that was guaranteed to be delivered before Christmas, so of course we were notified on December 23 that ours wouldn't be delivered until the day AFTER Christmas.

Will's been wanting an aquarium for a while now, so we already had in mind the size and model, and that's what we ended up doing as a substitute for the toy that wouldn't be there by Christmas. We got it that Saturday, and I set it up on Sunday night after Will went to bed right next to the couch in the main room where he's had his play kitchen set up for the past few years. That's on the other side of the room from the tree where the rest of the presents are, so it took him a few minute to move past the Santa pile and see it, and he was so excited.

We had to treat the water for three days, so we didn't go to pick out fish until later in the week, and he ended up getting four: two of one species and two of another so they could school together. Their names: Greenie (the flourescent green one), Followey (a blue one of the same species as Greenie who is always trailing behind Greenie), HIdey (an orange fish of another species who likes to hide), and Glubby (a yellow fish of the second species).

And he still got the other toy as well—it arrived on December 26, so he had a fun afternoon setting that up—connecting it to an app on the iPad, teaching it his name, and playing science quiz games with it. It's supposed to be one of those toys like Cozmo, which he got last year (and still plays with regularly), where the makers update it with new software that gives it new features. It was disappointing that it didn't get to us when it was supposed to, but it seems like a good toy nonetheless.

My sister's Christmas afternoon gathering was larger than usual—not only were we and my mom there, but my cousin from NC and his fiancee came down, along with some friends of my sister's that added five more to the group. Because it was so cold, you couldn't really go outside to escape the crowd, so I was getting a little bonkers with claustrophobia and crowds by the time we left, but it was a nice afternoon and a good meal.

Even though we stayed home for the holidays this year, there were still plenty of activities to keep us busy. Between Christmas and New Year's, we went to two Emory women's basketball games (one loss that should have been a win and one win that could have been a loss), tried out a new biscuit place that we saw featured on a Food Network show, and took Will to see Pixar's Coco (which we all enjoyed—great visuals and some nice themes about the strength of family/connections to go with the somewhat scary (especially for Will) themes of death and loss).

Will also had two playdates at our house—one with a girl from preschool and one with two sisters who live in the neighborhood—and we went to two parties. The first was on New Year's Eve at a neighbor's house, and while we had only intended to stay until around 9 or so, we got into conversations and Will was running around having a good time, so when we noticed it was already 11:15, we decided just to stay for the ball drop and let him stay up for it as well (we woke him up for it last year, but this was the first time he stayed awake all the way through the evening).

On New Year's Day we went over to see some friends (who we also met because their daughter went to school with Will for preschool) who host an annual chili party where there are usually four or five families, all with kids. We know a couple of them because they are also preschool buddies, but about half are their neighbors, so we get a chance to meet some new folks as well. Will made our contribution to the meal this year—he got a junior cookbook for Christmas and decided he wanted to make cookies, which actually turned out pretty good.

I headed back to work on Tuesday, but Will is out until tomorrow, so Julie took him up to Chattanooga yesterday to visit some friends who used to live in our neighborhood who moved back to California a couple of years ago (they still have family in Chattanooga), while today is all about getting him back on a normal schedule in preparation for his return to school.

It's annoying to me that the school holiday lasts two days longer than the actual holidays most people get for work, but one advantage is that when the kids come back, the staff only has to make it through two days before they get to the weekend and the students get another couple of days to reset from the holidays and get back to normal routines.

Going into the final game of the regular season, the Ravens had a 97% chance of going to the playoffs, either by winning at home against a team they shut out on the road to start the season or by one of two other teams losing (both of whom were projected to lose). Hell, with one mingue left in the game, their odds were even higher—they were ahead 27-24 and Cincinnati had a 4th and 12 and were not in field goal range.

And then: disaster.

The Bengals threw a 49 yard touchdown to take the lead 31-27, leaving the Ravens only 44 seconds to work downfield and try to get a touchdown. That didn't happen, of course, and since the other two teams they were competing with both won their games, we come to yet another wasted season where the Ravens didn't make the playoffs.

They've only been to the postseason once since they won the Super Bowl in 2012, and this was the third year in a row that they didn't make it past the regular season, only the second time in team history that that has happened. The first time it happened? When they were a brand new franchise and had a losing record for the first four years of their existence.

I'm trying to find the positives here: they finished with a winning record this year, their offense in the second half was way better than the first, and the defense looks to continue to be dominant next year with a ton of young talent. And in the longer view, this is a team that has given its fans two championships in its first 20 years of existence and has been in the hunt nearly every year since finding their rhythm as an organization in 2000 (there has only been one meaningless game since John Harbaugh became the coach in 2008, and that was in Week 17 of last year—every other game they've played has had playoff implications for them).

But after being in the driver's seat for the playoffs the last two years and losing at the last second to two different divisional rivals to get knocked out of the playoffs just as fans could taste victory, you have to wonder if there needs to be some meaningful change in the leadership.

The front office and the coaches talk about how they specifically engineer this team to 1) beat the other AFC North teams and 2) to prevent big plays, especially in the fourth quarter, but we've lost our shot at the postseason the past two years by being beat by a divisional rival on a big play after holding the lead with less than two minutes left in the game. Despite some great successes, especially on the defensive side of the ball, when you get beat doing the exact thing that you tell people you are building your team to do better than anyone else, what do you do next? Who owns that, and what does owning that failure actually mean?

I'll be back rooting for them next season, but I've got to take a break from the NFL for a while, especially if 1) the Falcons blow their playoff shot (which seems likely) and 2) if we have yet another AFC Championship game between the two teams I hate more than any others, the Patriots and the Steelers, which would guarantee that one of them ends up in the Super Bowl (which seems even more likely given the quality of the AFC this year).

At least Georgia made it past the first round of the playoffs by winning the Rose Bowl the day after the Ravens blew up their season, meaning they will play for the national championship next week against Alabama.

It was dicey for a while there—Oklahoma led UGA 31-17 at the half, and I wasn't sure if the Georgia defense would be able to slow down the Sooners or if the offense would find it's footing and start putting lots of points on the board. But the Bulldogs tied it up in the third quarter, and then the teams traded points back and fourth to end the fourth quarter in another tie which put them in overtime.

And not just one overtime: two overtimes. Both teams managed a field goal in first overtime, and the UGA was given a miracle when Oklahoma missed a chip shot field goal, which meant all Georgia had to do was score a field goal and they won. But on second down, Sony Michel ran it 27 yards for a touchdown, ended the game with a final score of 54-48, the highest total score in Rose Bowl history.

Next Monday they'll face an Alabama team in what should be an amazing game. The two teams didn't play each other this season, but the championship game is being played in Atlanta this year, where 70% of the town is UGA fans and the other 30% are Alabama fans, so both teams will have strong fan presences and will be playing very close to their respective homes.

Alabama has a potential advantage of having had an extra week of rest in December (they didn't play in the SEC Championship but made it into the playoffs anyway because the selection committee seems incapable of keeping them out of the final four), but the game is being played at the new Mercedes-Benz stadium, where the Bulldogs won the SEC Championship just a few short weeks ago, so they're more familiar with the field.

The game will definitely be a chess match—Alabama's strength is its defense, but UGA's coach, Kirby Smart, was Alabama's defensive coordinator for many years before taking the Georgia head coaching job two years ago, and he knows their schemes and their personnel incredibly well.

This morning there was an ever-so-slight chance of frozen rain early in the morning, so the school districts around Atlanta all canceled school for the entire day. My work sort of followed suit by making it a noon opening, but because there was no school and no aftercare for Will, I ended up working the whole day at home (as did many of my colleagues).

I still prefer for Atlanta to be overcautious given how quickly things can go wrong here, especially when they make the decision to start closing things in the middle of the day, but nothing at all happened: it was a cold day that gradually got a little bit warmer, and by the time the little bit of precipitation arrived, the air and ground were well above freezing and there were no issues with the roads.

As much as I hated to see UGA lose that championship game, I have to give credit to Georgia for giving us a great season, one that most fans couldn't have imagined when it started given some of their long-term issues. It all came together perfectly, and even though they lost on a miracle overtime play by Alabama, there is no doubt that the Bulldogs deserved to be in that game.

I do wonder how much that extra week off Alabama got in December ended mattering, especially as Georgia's defense started to tire. The Crimson Tide were the only team in the playoffs that not only did not win their conference championship, they didn't even play that week, meaning when all the other contenders were fighting for their lives in emotional, high stakes games, Alabama had more time both to recover from existing injuries and to not run the risk of new injuries because they didn't have to be on the field.

The Ravens didn't make it to the playoffs this year, so I'm half-heartedly rooting for the sixth seed Falcons since I tend to root for Atlanta teams if my primary team isn't in the postseason. They won this weekend, and will face the number one seed Eagles in Philadelphia next week. They have a chance in that game—Philly lost its star quarterback Carson Wentz at the end of the season, so Atlanta will be facing their journeyman backup Nick Foles—and if they can win that one, there's every chance of them going on another run. But really all I'm hoping for at this point is for neither Pittsburgh nor New England to be in the Super Bowl, which would take multiple upsets.

After finishing Andy Weir's Artemis, I went back to a pop culture history book in the form of Jann Wenner's semi-authorized biography from Joe Hagan titled Sticky Fingers: The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazine.

This dovetailed nicely with the Lou Reed biography I read a month or so ago, since they both deal with the same time period in rock history and have some of the same characters. The Rolling Stone story was taking place primarily on the west coast for the early part of the narrative, however, which provided a different point of view than the NYC-centered Reed book.

I don't think I really liked this book all that much, and I've homed in on two reason why: first, it's too much about Jann Wenner and not enough about Rolling Stone. I get that he's the center of the Rolling Stone universe, and to understand the origins of the magazine we have to understand his personality, his background, and his motivations.

But it seems like within the first decade of the magazine's existence, he had already checked out editorially and became more of a deranged mascot/figurehead who had very little to do with the day to day or week to week publication of the magazine, and although we get little glimpses of the writers and editors who were actually creating the content that defined the magazine, we don't get nearly enough of the story behind the story of seminal moments when the writing had a major cultural impact.

Second: I just don't like Jann Wenner enough. He's not any kind of special genius, but rather a charismatic figure who caught a cultural wave at just the right time and built himself an ego-flattering empire largely on the back of other people's hard work and energy. This is a story that we've seen all too frequently over the past few decades, and we're living in the midst of what might be the zenith of a terrible age—between all the paper fortunes made on Wall Street and in the tech sector, we're minting millionaires and billionaires with alarming frequency and speed, and every single one of them instantly thinks their good fortune and privilege makes them smarter and more deserving of having their opinions forced on others than anyone else.

Anyway. Whatever he might have done to birth Rolling Stone, it most certainly was not an original idea, nor is it one that would not have been brought forward by others had Jann Wenner never exisited. His real talent was in being a bon vivant, and once money was rolling in from the magazine, that's what Rolling Stone became to him: a way to finance his lifestyle of luxury and a way to ingratiate himself with the monied elite and the famous.

That's what's so disheartening about his story in the end: despite his unique beginnings, there's nothing terribly special about the way his life played out. It's a tale we've heard many times before, and one that, in an age where people like Mark Zuckerberg and Travis Kalanick are considered to be some of our smartest and most influential people, we're going to hear many times again. It just happens that instead of Facebook or Uber, Jann Wenner was attached to a magazine that was ostensibly about rock and roll and the counterculture movement, although its original intentions were quickly co-opted for the sake of profit once it was clear how much money it could generate, especially for its founder.

There is still a great book about Rolling Stone waiting to be written, but this isn't it. This is, however, probably the best book we're going to get about Jann Wenner, but I personally don't think it's worth reading.

Earlier this week when Julie got back from walking Will to school, she noticed that one of his fish (the yellow one named Glubby) was floating at the top of the tank. He had been fine that morning when Will had fed them, so it must have just been his time.

So we had two choices: replace this fish with an identical one before Will got home from school, or tell him that Glubby had died and let him process that. He takes losses very hard, and there will be plenty of opportunities for him to deal with fish deaths in the coming months and years (it was only an accident of timing that he didn't discover Glubby), so I lobbied for the covert replacement strategy in this case.

But Julie wanted to tell him, so she picked him up from school a little earlier than usual, told him about Glubby, and then went with him to get our water tested and to think about buying another fish. The water was fine, so the other fish weren't in any danger, and Will decided to replace Glubby with another fish who looks exactly the same and who is also named Glubby (not Glubby II or Glubby Jr., just Glubby).

He's sad about the original Glubby, who he hasn't buried yet—he's currently in a small box in the freezer awaiting Will's decision on his burial method—and during aftercare the next day Will drew a picture of a smiling Glubby and started crying when he showed it to me. But all in all he's dealing with it pretty well given how attached he gets to things, especially living things.

I know we've only had one full week of work since the end of the holidays, but I am ready for a three day weekend nonetheless. In addition to our heavy volume of work this time of year (we had a record number of applications—27,000—come in this cycle, and we only have a couple of months to read all of them), but I'm also working on a couple of longer range projects that are going to consume signifcant blocks of my time and resources over the next six to twelve months.

I might need to start taking long weekends anyway, even if I don't need them to recharge from more intense demands at work—I'm at my vacation cap, and with my service time I'm accruing enough time to take off one or two days a month just to stay below that cap. And since we don't have any big vacations coming up until at least April, I'll need to make sure to stay below the cap each month.

I actually need to take two days this month or my accrual on February 1 will put me over the cap, so I will probably end up taking the next two Fridays off. We actually have plans in Athens next Friday night, but because we'll have to wait for Will's school to get out before we can drop him off at my sister's I won't really be able to take advantage of a day out in Athens on my day off.

It was a reasonbly quiet weekend around the house with the three day weekend, but there were still some activities for Will: a piano lesson for Will on Saturday, church and a basketball game at Emory on Sunday (which Will's buddies Evie and Annika came along for), and a service project Monday morning.

But there was a lot of downtime too, which I really needed. I've been sleeping more than I usually do, and even still there are moments some days when I feel completely exhausted in the middle of the day. I have fairly minor hypothyroid, and when I went for a checkup recently my doctor decided to up my dosage, so hopefully it's just that and the higher dose will help. But having some time away from work stress is also good.

The good from the playoff games this weekend: the Steelers lost. At home.

The bad: the Patriots won, of course. So I guess I'm a Jaguars fan now? I really can't take another Super Bowl with the insufferable New England team and their insufferable tantrum-throwing, cheating pretty boy QB and their insufferable cut-off-sleeves wearing grouch of a coach.

I know that's probably what we're going to get, though. And in response I think I'm going to seriously considered not watching the game for the first time since the Bills were on their soul crushing streak of four appearances without a victory in the early 90s.

Well, they closed school early on Tuesday afternoon because of the threat of winter weather, but even though nothing happened until much later on in the evening, it did actually snow 2-3 inches around metro Atlanta. And because 1) they did absolutely no treatment of the roads and 2) it's not expected to get above freezing until sometime later today, not only were we out yesterday, we're out again today.

It was definitely the right decision, and my guess is that schools will be closed again tomorrow. Even if the sun comes out and the temperature gets above freezing this afternoon, the snow is only going to melt in the places where the sun can actually reach, and there are lots and lots of shady spots around the city due to the high number of trees and major roads that run through residential neighborhoods. Anything that's not completely melted off will refreeze again tonight, and it's not supposed to get above freezing tomorrow until the afternoon.

I still prefer that Atlanta be more conservative than not given their lack of expertise in road clearing and treatment and the general incompentency of the drivers in this city (they're polite and forgiving, so more pleasant than most cities, but they are still not great drivers, especially in poor conditions). But it does feel weird to shut down the city for days for a couple of inches of snow.

I recently finished Neal Stephenson's novel The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O, which he wrote in collaboration with Nicole Galland. D.O.D.O stands for Department of Diachronic Operations, a branch of the government that is formed after a scientist, an enterprising government agent, and a gifted linguist discover that witchcraft (practiced esclusively by female witches) actually existed up until 1851 and find a way to recreate the conditions under which it may be practiced again.

The basic premise is that witchcraft and technology are in conflict with one another, and that as our mastery of tech got better and better, the power of witchcraft waned until there was a moment when it could not longer be practiced. The scientific explanation for this is that witches depend on being able to intuitively manipulate quantum states to bring out different outcomes than would normally occur, and as technology started to measure and quantify more and more of the world, those quantum states collapsed to the point where there was only one outcome. Essentially the whole world is a box with Schroedinger's cat inside, and technology swung the lid wide open.

The book is an epistolary novel, and we start off with a journal from the linguist, Melisande, who, due to various plots and palace intrigues within the department, has ended up trapped in 1851, ten days before magic vanishes from the world. She is resigned to living the rest of her life in Victorian London, but she is writing this account in case it is discovered years from now by D.O.D.O. agents in the hope that her fate can be changed in a different timeline.

From there we progress to other forms of personal writing, from letters between an 18th century witch and her courtly benefactor; memos, emails, transcripts from videotaped sessions, and forum posts from the D.O.D.O. intranet/archives; and journal entries and correspondance from other characters, most prominently the wife of the scientist who discovered the tech that allowed magic to work again (and who is herself descended from witches).

I don't know who wrote which parts, but if I had to guess, I'd say that Stephenson wrote most of the stuff that talks about contemporary events, especially Mel's journal and all the intraoffice documents, and Galland wrote the pieces from historical characters and the contemporary witch. The epistolary style, especially when it involves so many different voices and points of view, lends itself well to a collaborative novel, and overall it worked pretty well (although I could have done with a lot less of the policy memoranda, etc., from the internal department documents—it was a slow and clumsly way to move things along, and it also reminded me of every office I've ever worked in, which doesn't satisfy the escaspist part of why I read).

The novel also follows a recent sci fi trend of mixing in fantasy/magic in a bid to appeal to both audiences, which I'm still not sure about. I've read several in the past couple of years—Arcadia, All the Birds in the Sky, Off to Be the Wizard, and the Alchemy Wars series—and while I've mostly enjoyed them, the best that I would put in this category would be Stehpenson's own masterwork Anathem. The difference between Anathem and all the rest isn't just that it's much more complex and much better written, it's that it doesn't feel like such a naked bid to merge to genres that are often inappropriately lumped together.

Overall I enjoyed the book, however—it was an interesting premise with a somewhat plausible scientific explanation, and until you get to the intraoffice infighting, the epistolary style doesn't really get in the way of the storytelling. Stephenson fans will probably rank this among his lessers works, but it's certainly a less daunting read than something like the Baroque Cycle or even Seveneves. In terms of pacing and action, it's got a lot more in common with Reamde or the action setpieces of the Cryptonomicon (but again, this book is much less complex).

Well, Will had a great week last week: a holiday on Monday, one day of school, three snow days, and a weekend with my sister. The timing worked really well for the snow and the weekend visit to his aunt's—they canceled school Friday because the roads in the morning were still treacherous, but by noon the temps were climbing into the 50s, and by the time we headed out of town (my sister lives out towards Athens, so we dropped Will off on the way to see a concert at the 40 Watt), it was so warm that there was no trace of snow on the roads anywhere.

Will went out for pizza on Friday, and then on Saturday they went to see Ferdinand, went to Dave & Buster's, and played indoor lunar minigolf (where everything is blacklit and it all looks like it's glowing). We picked him up on Sunday afternoon, and he was sad to leave—Carrie spoils him rotten, and he loves hanging out with her and Tim.

The main reason for Will staying with my sister over the weekend was so that we could go to a concert in Athens on Friday night (Elf Power/Robyn Hitchcock/Camper Van Beethoven), but once I knew she would keep him for the whole weekend, I also made reservations for dinner on Saturday night at a place called Marcel, an upscale French-influenced steakhouse with menu and decor callbacks to the time of prohibition and speakeasies.

I had heard about it from one of those best food shows on one of the food networks, where local culinary legend Alton Brown recommended it, specfically the Beef Wellington, where the steak is wrapped in prosciutto and then place on a bed of mushroom duxelle before being wrapped in the traditional pastry. I was planning to surprise Julie, but I really wanted to try this dish, and it 1) serves 2 and 2) has to be ordered 24 hours in advance, so I had to tell her before we went in order to get her go-ahead to order it.

It was much more lively than many of these upscale places are—pretty much every table was full, and it was relatively close quarters if you weren't in one of the booths that line the walls. Sometimes that dynamic can feel a little too intimate—you are consciously aware that everyword of your conversation can theoretically be overheard by the tables on either side of you—but I didn't really mind it in that place. It fit the vibe.

For appetizers, we ordered the Oysters Bienville and the bone marrow, while for salads I tried the Salad Marcel while Julie tried the bibb salad. I like the oysters better—it wasn't completely faithful to the classic dish, but it did have bacon—and, suprising both of us, Julie really liked the bone marrow. I had always wanted to try this, and while I did enjoy it, I'm not sure I would order it again—it was a little too gelatinous for me (although it worked really well as a spread for the crispy toast they served with it). But I have a feeling this will be an automatic order for Julie when we return (or if she sees it on the menu of any other steakhouse). The salads were okay, but nothing noteworthy (although I definitely enjoyed mine more than Julie did hers).

For our dinner sides to go with the Beef Wellington, we ordered the Pommes Dauphinoise (cheesy scalloped potatoes) on the recommendation of our server, and it was really, really rich. I would have liked to see a few more vegetable options—crispy roasted brussels sprouts or roasted broccoli would have been a nice compliment to the red meat—but most of the sides were carbs laden with cheese, butter, and cream.

As for the Beef Wellington itself: it was good, but not the blow-your-mind, best-of-all-time good that Alton Brown had promised. I think Julie's portion may have been better than mine, because my main complaint with my half was that there was so much mustard that had been rubbed on the steak that it overwhelmed the prosciutto and the mushrooms—all I could taste was mustard. But she didn't have the same complaint, and when I tasted hers the next day (they initially served us the center portion, and we were so full that we took home the ends and about half the potatoes), the mustard was much more subtle.

For dessert, we tried the creme brulee and the chocolate delice, a chocolate ice cream with black truffles, caramel, and sea salt. They were both perfectly serviceable, although Julie enjoyed the delice a bit more than I did.

The only other upscale steakhouse we've been to in Atlanta is Bones, an old school venue that has been around since the 70s (although the vibe feels a decade or two older than that). And I'm not sure I can really compare them at this point—Bones is classic in every way, and I remember my steak was perfect, whereas Marcel is clearly going for a more contemporary vibe. I like the atmosphere and the decor of Marcel better, but to compare them steak to steak, I think I'll need another visit to Marcel to try one of their unadorned classic cuts.

Ugh. Patriots and Eagles in the Super Bowl. If I can be considered to be rooting for anyone, of course it's Philadelphia, but that would be more to root against New England than to root for the Eagles. Both fanbases are toxic swamps of pigheaded morons who simultaneously believe that their team is the greatest in the world but who is also constantly in a rage that they haven't won more.

The only difference between them is that the Patriots have five rings in this century and the Eagles have never won a Super Bowl. Ever. (Although their terrible fans will point out that they won three national championships before the Super Bowl became the official championship game in 1967).

To paraphrase Wargames' WOPR supercomputer: A strange game. The only winning move is not to watch.

I've finally started watching the Walking Dead again (starting with the final episode from last season and continuing into the episodes for the latest half-season that started in October). It's more watchable than much of the last season, but that's primarily because of two things: 1) Rick is all action again, not the haggard, defeated person he was for much of season 7 and 2) the writers are playing a shell game with locations and timelines that constantly throws you off balance—it's really hard to get a sense of what action is happening when and even sometimes who is involved.

But there are major issues behind these elements, even if the show is much faster paced and a better viewing experience than it was a year ago. First, Rick is not alone in being a completely different character than he was last year—Morgan, Carol, Maggie, and Michonne are also significantly different characters than they were at the beginning of last season, and only Maggie and Morgan have somewhat plausible reasons for the change. The writers are counting on us seeing each season or half season as its own little universe and not remembering the details of what came before, but the inconsistencies in the ways some of these characters are written (and especially Rick, who remains the focal point of the show) show some cross between laziness and desperation. It's still a major hit show, but the ratings dropped of precipitously after the season 7 premiere, and they still haven't recovered.

The shell game with timelines and locations is annoying for the same reason—to tell the story in a more cohesive, linear fashion would expose it for the somewhat pedestrian storyline that it is. They've already dragged out the Negan/Saviors conflict for two full seasons, and although I haven't watched all the episodes in the first half of season 8, my guess is that it won't be wrapped up until the end of the season, meaing that we will have spent two and a half years as viewers (and 40 episodes) on this one storyline without anything substantial changing in terms of the path forward for this group and the human race as a whole.

I don't know. It's going to be hard for me to quit this show, just because I'm hoping they will eventually give us some sense of resolution, which I'm desperate for. But I'm increasingly dubious about the showrunners' intentions in that area, especially because there's no reason for them to wrap things up while the show is still doing well in the ratings—they're highly motivated to milk this cash cow for all it's worth, even at the expense of telling a good story.

I don't feel like there's an endgame or a real vision for where this show is heading past the end of the whichever season they're working on, and they owe the fans more than that at this point. I'd still much rather watch this group actively attacking their problems rather than in defeatist mode, but even when I like a particular episode, there's an emptiness underneath the action that's becoming too pervasive to ignore.

My vacation quota is full as of right now, so if I don't take two days of vacation before the end of the month, my February days won't accrue. So that's exactly what I'm doing today and Monday. I suspect I'll still spend a decent amount of time on work tasks, but I'm going to do my best to stay away from work email for the long weekend.

Friday was a big day for our family - my youngest sister gave birth to a son! He will go by Harvey, but his actual name is John Harvey, which means I'll be able to bond with him over our shared curse of having our parents choose our middle name as our primary name (although there is a benefit when getting a phone call and having the person ask for me by my first name - an immediate sign that this is a telemarketer).

He was delivered via c-section and was coincidentally the exact same weight as Will when he was born, to the ounce—8 pounds, 15 ounces, just one ounce shy of nine pounds. We're hoping we can go for a visit later this spring so we can meet him in person.

My sister and I have never been great about communicating via email, text, or phone, but I wanted to reach out to her on Friday just to say congratulations, so I decided to send her a quick text that she could look at whenever she wanted and choose to respond or not. To my surprise, she texted back immediately, so we had a short text conversation. Then, to my even greater surprise (shock might be a more appropriate description), my phone rang, and my sister was on the other end of the line.

It turns out she was restless and bored in the hospital room - our parents had left a couple of hours prior, her husband was asleep in the room, and Harvey was asleep in her arms. She was still feeling the effects of her spinal block from the surgery and hadn't been able to move much since then, and the nurses were coming at midnight to take her for a walk once the drugs wore off. We ended up chatting until then, about an hour and a half, which is the longest we've talked—on the phone or in person—in a very long time.

We used to be very close, but we've had some disagreements over the years, and our geographical distance from one another and our shared distaste for phone conversations has meant that we've never really been able to rebuild those bonds. I'm under no illusion that her having a child who is a cousin to my son will significantly change the depth or frequency of our interactions, but it was really nice to talk to her on Friday, and I have at least a little hope that we might interact a little more often as Harvey grows and we—especially Will—develop a relationship with him.

It was a typical weekend for Will, which means that it was really busy from my perspective, especially given that I seemed to be coming down with something.

Friday night was an Emory basketball game, and because it was alumni weekend, they gave away posters, foam fingers, and t-shirts which the team signed after the game (Will went through the line twice, once for a poster and for his t-shirt). All the girls knew who he was, and he was beaming when they wrote "We love Will" on his t-shirt. He also got his picture taken and posted to the college's Snapchat feed, which he was thrilled about.

Saturday morning was the Pinewood Derby, which is convenient because it's held at Will's school. His car did pretty poorly in terms of his race times, but it's always been more about the decorating for him, and he really enjoyed showing off his painting and sticker selection to his denmates.

Sunday was church followed by another Emory basketball game, and I was really not feeling well then, so Julie took him to both. At this game he got a mini basketball and another t-shirt (white this time; the Friday t-shirt was yellow). There are only two home games left this season, and I know Will is going to be sad when it's over (although they haven't done very well this year).

The final bit of Will news: when Julie took him out to dinner on Sunday night, he came back with one less tooth than we he left. The last time he lost a tooth, he left a note for the tooth fairy asking what she does with all the teeth, and this time she answered him: she "makes stuff with them". Will was really excited by this, but now I'm wondering: just what can you make with millions of tiny human teeth?

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