My niece was graduating college, which turned into a whole week away from the office. I could have rushed back to put in an appearance on Dec. 21, but I'm not that dumb, so I hung out in the DC area for a few days. I saw plays and movies, I had dinner with Justin Landon of Staffer's Musings, and another dinner with a young writer I met at WorldCon whom I think has some potential. I walked, at least 80 miles over the week away from the office, including my first ever walk along the Custis Trail that parallels I-66 and the Orange Line in suburban Virginia. I visited the Hole in the Wall bookstore for the first time in many many years, a wonderful little used book store in Falls Church, and discovered that when I used to go there more often I had been taking a walking route from the Metro that was half again as long as it needed to be. I had lunch with a high school friend in Baltimore on the way down, on the way back I stopped in Philadelphia to buy a ridiculous amount of yummy stuff from Chocolates by Mueller in the Reading Terminal Market and had lunch across the hall at Down Home Diner with my first full-time employee Steve Mancino. I wasn't sure with all the busy-ness and walking if I'd hold to my Christmas Eve ritual of visiting the Unos and Barnes & Noble in Bayside, then walking thru Bayside admiring Christmas lights, but I didn't know what else to do on Christmas Eve, so that's what I did. And I got nice Christmas Eve treats of little cake balls from a bakery in Bayside and Italian pastries at D'Aquila. I don't actually like Italian pastries all that much, but it's become part of the tradition that the one time during the year I'll buy a cannoli will be at D'Aquila on Christmas Eve. You can see the changes in New York City, though, both D'Aquila and Durso's pasta shop that I walk by on the way to the Unos don't do the business they did five or ten years ago on the holiday, and I think that's because a lot of their customers have moved away. The other thing I did that weekend was read an actual book for pleasure, a non-fiction title called Three and Out, about the icky three years that Rich Rodriguez spent as head coach of the Michigan Wolverines football team. It was very even-handed to everyone, but I didn't like the idea of hiring a Michigan outsider when Rodriguez came on board, and at the end of the day the book doesn't do anything to make it seem like it was ever a very good idea. Maybe not his fault for taking the job, but it was an icky three years.
The three days in the office between Christmas and New Year's weren't especially fun. A lot of bookkeeping and year-end tidying up, and there's more of that to do the balance of this week so we can get information to the accountant to prep our 1099 forms.
I ended up cocooning for New Year's weekend. After a too-late night at the office Friday I went to the synagogue just to say hi to people even though I knew I'd be getting there after the service itself. Saturday I just kind of bopped around the neighborhood, visited the gym and this and that, but it wasn't a really good day because the neighbor on one side of me got home drunk at 2:40 in the morning and decided he was going to have a wee hours dance rave in his apartment. And then when he was done, the neighbor on the other side was playing music. Not that loud, really, it's no louder than the sound of the cars driving by on the street outside, and a lot of times even if it will wake me up when he starts I can get back to bed, but not after I was up since 2:40 in the morning with two hours of sleep because of the dance rave party next door. I just wasn't up to very much on Saturday, strangely enough. In the real world, zombies don't have much energy.
And I didn't do much on Sunday, either. It was just that kind of weekend. I read two manuscripts for work and I played too much Carcassonne and Boggle on my iPad, and I started in on the new Vorkosigan novel by Lois McMaster Bujold. I decided to write blog posts, instead of thinking about blog posts I really would like to write. After admiring the huge box of Ghirardelli chocolate brownie mix which other people have made and which are tasty, I decided to buy a box for myself and made a batch on Sunday to bring to my New Year's Eve party Monday night. I watched In the Kitchen with Dave on QVC.
Monday I finally roused myself to go into Manhattan for New Year's Eve. I headed to a movie theatre at around 6 where everything I wanted to see was sold out, so I went to the gym, which was closing at 8, then I walked downtown to a New Year's party hosted by a friend from the synagogue. I'm usually the youngest person at the party by around ten years, but I enjoy the company of most of the people who usually attend. I left at around 11:30 and the timing of my walk was just off, I got to 40th St. and 5th Ave at midnight when my hope had been to be at 42nd St. Still, close enough to feel like I was part of the revelry without being there.
Tuesday, New Year's, the Outback Bowl, Michigan Wolverines vs. South Carolina Gamecocks.
The three years under Rich Rodriquez were really dismal. Losing to teams Michigan should beat, not just the good teams. Promising starts against bad early season gimme teams followed by awful finishes against real competition. 2011 was the first under Brady Hoke and Michigan did surprisingly well. This year Michigan was 8-4 going into its bowl. Alabama blew Michigan off the field, only halfway into the season was it clear that losing to Notre Dame wasn't a disgrace, nor losing to Nebraska except that Wisconsin clobbered Nebraska in the Big Ten championship. Losing to Ohio State always hurts. And just to say, I'm not morally relative, things are good or bad and bad things aren't made good because your guy does them, so forget about all the other rivalry stuff but considering the NCAA violations Jim Tressel oversaw during his tenure at OSU, I don't think honoring him during the game and the fans giving him a hero's welcome is the right message to send. But the main thing this year was that Michigan pretty much beat all the teams it should beat and which it wasn't when Rodriguez was coaching, and most of the losses were to top teams in the country. Michigan should beat the top teams in the country, that's what we expect and are accustomed to, but still and all the football program is in a way better place now than three years ago. And this was kind of borne out by the Outback Bowl. We lost, which we shouldn't have, but we played way better against the Gamecocks than a lot of people might have expected, the play-calling by Brady Hoke was aggressive, if there'd just been one big play less by the Gamecocks or if there hadn't been that one fumble. I feel OK here, if you're losing a lot of very close games where the margin is one play that could have gone some different way, it doesn't take that much change in fortune to be winning those games.
After the game I headed into Manhattan, got some help at Bloomingdale's to find the perfect shirt and tie to go with the nice suit I'd treated myself to. I hadn't shopped at Bloomingdale's in years, but I think I'll visit more often if I decide I need more suit-type substances any time soon. They had helpful staff, and good selection, and things not as cramped as at Saks. But I don't buy suits very often. Then I put in more time at the gym, and then went to Whym to celebrate the New Year with a Smoreswich, a signature desert of theirs.
You might notice I keep talking about going to the gym. Sadly, I'm at that age where it's harder and harder to keep from gaining weight, and I don't think I'm blowing up but I feel like I'm all to close to where I might start to. 20 years ago I could eat an entire Entenmann's cake with no ill effects, now if I tried that sort of thing without putting in a lot of effort the waistline would show it.
And then Wednesday, the real world returns. I did do a Costco run with Peter Brett and his vehicle, so I could get some heavier things. And I just baked more brownies to serve at my next games night, I may have to try and stay awake a while longer yet while they cool so I can cut them and put them into a good container to stay fresh. Then again, I have work to do, and it's always a good idea to get a good night's sleep.