My Week in Books, TV, and Movies 6/7/19

My first full week back home, but still an off week. My schedule has been odd. It’s just me and my daughter at home. We both fall asleep a lot earlier than normal. Not exactly a week conducive to movie watching. Plus, she is not exactly thrilled with the movie choices I have from the library. So, there was a lot of catching up on TV this week.

Movies – I feel like we watched a piece of an old movie on TV this week, but I can’t recall what that might have been.  Otherwise, for the reasons stated above, we did not watch a movie this week. I thought we would at least watch Always be my Maybe on Netflix, but I think she is waiting to watch that with one of her friends.

TV – This was a week of catching up on TV.  I’ve recorded and saved several shows for my daughter while she was at college. We have been catching up on those this week. This is when you find out which shows you really care about and which ones you will watch when they are the only options left. She finished the season of Survivor and caught up to me on Amazing Race(I’m still 4 episodes behind) and then we watched all of the Superstores we had recorded. Superstore is still one of the best comedies on TV and this season ended in a rather dramatic way. I can’t wait to see what happens next season. We also watched Beat Shazam(while I played along on the app) and America’s Got Talent(I missed both golden buzzers because I was asleep by the end of the show).

Books – I finished two books this week:

Dry by Neal Shusterman – After a long drought California is completely out of water. The story revolves around kids who go looking for their parents who disappeared while going to where the government was supposed to be handing out water. I really liked this one, as did my daughter. She audibly gasped at some parts of the book.

Gmorning, Gnight: Little Pep Talks for Me & You by Lin Manuel Miranda – Probably not meant to be read through in one sitting like I did it. Probably good to own and pick up when you need a pep talk. It was a really quick read.

On Deck – I don’t know if we will watch a movie this week. My wife comes home on Sunday, so that will increase the chance that someone will want to watch one of the movies I have, but only slightly. I do have Happy Death Day 2 You to watch alone. I keep forgetting about that. I hope to watch the first episode of NOS4A2 soon and the second season of Big Little Lies starts on Sunday. I made the mistake of showing my wife the trailer for Good Omens thinking it would lead to her saying it looked too weird and we should watch it without her. It did not work out that way and now we have to wait for her to be ready to watch it. I’m currently reading Educated by Tara Westover and listening to Sadie by Courtney Summers.


My Kingdom for some Sleep

I wrote a few days ago about my sleep schedule being off after my trip. Usually, this lasts a few days and then I get back on track and start waking up at a normal time. This has not happened this time. Part of the problem is that I’m not doing enough in the evening to stay awake until a normal time. I’m falling asleep on the couch every night while watching TV. I then wake up early the next day and because of that I’m tired that night and the cycle continues.

Last night was worse than usual. I woke up at 4am. That’s not unusual. It’s normal for one of the pets to make a noise and wake me up at odd times. What is unusual is my inability to go back to sleep. This time it was made worse by my brain going to work stuff and other stressful things while I was trying to go back to sleep. I dozed a little off and on until the dog wanted to go out way too early and that was it for me. I went back to bed, but I didn’t sleep again.

Another weird thing about last night – I’m positive I opened my bedroom window before I went to bed last night. I would swear to that in court. I don’t remember ever closing the bedroom window. When I woke up early this morning the window was closed. There are only two people in the house and I know my daughter would not have closed the window in my room in the middle of the night. I guess I must have closed it for some reason last night while still asleep enough to not remember doing it. Very odd.

I work until 1-9 today. I planned to do some cleaning during my morning off, but now I think I will just try to rest this morning so I’m not too tired at work tonight, Maybe working until 9 will keep me awake long enough to reset my clock. Maybe this is my life now and I just need to use the 4am time to read more.

Ten Positive Things About Tater

Last week Ritu shared her post in the  Ten Positive Things Challenge and I decided that it was something I should do. The challenge is to write ten positive things about yourself. I have already started a weekly thing of writing about good things that happened during the past week as I tend to focus on the negative. Thinking about ten good things about me personally seems like a good thing to do since, as much as I pretend otherwise, I tend to focus on the negatives about myself as well. So, let’s see if I can think of ten positive things about myself.

  1. I’m Hilarious – This is the one thing I say about myself that I actually believe. I am hilarious. Not funny enough to be a stand up comic or anything, but I’m pretty funny. It’s the reason people actually read what I post on Facebook.
  2. I’m Loyal – I stand by my friends and family. You would have to do something pretty terrible for me to stop being your friend. Even if I don’t see or talk to you on a regular basis anymore, I would still be there for you if you needed me.
  3. I Know How to Relax – This doesn’t seem like a big deal, but I know a lot of people who struggle with this one. They feel the need to be busy all the time and judge those who take time to relax and recharge. I have no trouble occasionally spending my day off reading and relaxing,
  4. I’m an Idea Guy – I’m pretty good with coming up with good ideas for various things. I’ve had several very successful programs at work, one for which I won an award because I can come up with a good idea here and there.
  5. I’m a Good Dad – I might be mediocre at everything else in life, but the one thing I know for sure is that I’m a good dad. It’s the job I have that is the most important and the one that I think I’ve succeeded at.
  6. I’m On Time – A lot of people don’t think this one matters, but I believe that being on time for things shows respect for others. If my departure time is solely up to me I will always be on time.
  7. I Take Good Pictures – Mainly of objects, not people, but I can take a good picture, especially considering I generally only use my phone. Can you tell I’m grasping for straws already?
  8. I Don’t Give Up – I keep getting to a point where I’ve been turned down for so many promotions that I say I’m done. I’m never trying again. Then another job opens and there I am trying again. Some might say that is a sign of insanity, but I choose to believe it is just me not giving up. Someday maybe someone in my organization will actually believe in me and hire me. Maybe I am insane.
  9. I Think for Myself – I don’t follow the crowd. I make up my own mind on things and have no problem having a different opinion than my friends and family. I’m not going to pretend to have the same opinion with someone just to make them like me. I want people to like me for who I am and if they can’t do that, then I guess we can’t be friends.
  10. I Can Go It Alone – I figured this one out a long time ago when I went to college. I can survive and get by without the support of anyone else. I’ve learned to be comfortable with doing things alone. I have no problem eating out alone with just me and my book. I’m going to a concert alone this month and might go to another alone in August. This is especially important now that my kids are older and away for most of the year.

That was hard. I had a lot of trouble coming up with ten good things about myself. I’m not comfortable saying good things about myself or even thinking good things about myself.


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A Change to My Schedule

I have several changes to my work schedule this week and I’ve driven someone to the airport twice over the last few days. That, however, is not the change I’m writing about.

The change in schedule comes from reverting back from an empty nest house to a house with a 19 year old living there. I had changed my habits for when I write, when I watch my alone shows and my reading to fit my new life of having multiple hours alone every night. I’m now back to coming home to someone already in the house.  This is not a bad thing. I like having my kid back at home for the summer. I will just have to adjust my life back to where it was before she went away to college.

I will have to try to write in the mornings before work again. I could write in the evening still, but I still feel weird writing with my family around. I don’t think they get the whole blog thing and I don’t want to have to tell them that I’m posting something on the blog. So, I will write during my alone times in the morning while the college kid is asleep.

I will struggle to find time to watch the shows I watch alone. I will have to watch in the morning or wait until she is at a friends house or asleep on the couch. We will have plenty of time to catch up on the shows we watch together. I have hours of TV on the DVR I’ve been saving to watch with her.

So, after today, my blog posts will go up in the mornings(or not at all if I sleep late) until such time that I am an empty nester again or until I get over writing when other people are around.

What’s Good in Tater Town 6/2/19

It’s been two weeks since I did one of these due to travel. I could cheat and only do ten things from my trip, but I think that would kind of defeat the purpose of these posts. So, I will condense the trip part and also find good in my week after we returned.

  1. My son made it home from work(he was housesitting while we were gone) before we left for the airport, so we had a chance to see him before we left.
  2. All of the travel parts of the trip went smoothly, Flights were on time. We made it to all of our gates with ease. No running through the airport this time. I slept more on the trip over than usual.
  3. I enjoyed every day in Baku. It was a nice change from the last two trips where I was bored a lot.
  4. Istanbul was fun and our trip to and from the airport worked out great. A 24-hour layover to see the city was a good idea.
  5. I came back to a week of three days at work, one day off, and then an event out of the branch on Saturday.
  6. Friday was a frustrating day, but at least at the end of the day we got my daughter’s car to the repair place and it will be in working order soon.
  7. Ryan Hamilton and the Harlequin Ghosts’ new album we released Friday.
  8. I had book club Friday night, so I got to spend time with friends.
  9. Saturday I spent the day outside at a local festival at the library table. I also got to eat tacos and dessert from the strawberry festival at the church next door.
  10. My son made it to Portland safely last night.

It was a good couple of weeks. Let’s hope this keeps up now that I’m back to regular life.

Early to Bed and Early to Rise

is getting annoying…

I’ve never been a late sleeper. For me, waking up at 8am is sleeping in. On my days off I’m still typically awake by around 7. I don’t mind that so much. It’s kind of nice to be awake early. To have my coffee and read the paper while it’s still quiet and before I feel like it’s time to get started doing things. However, since I’ve been back from Baku I’ve been waking up really early. I’ve generally been out of bed at 5:30am every day since we’ve returned. This means I’m really tired and ready to go to bed before 10 at night. It’s a vicious cycle with no end in sight.

It could have ended today. I had book club last night and didn’t get home until close to midnight. I did fall asleep at book club at one point, but I’m not sure if that is the waking up early or if book club people are just more boring these days. It’s a toss-up. Instead of getting to sleep a little, though, I had to set an alarm for 5:30am to drive my son to the airport and now I’m about to head to work. This means I will fall asleep watching a movie tonight(that’s nothing new) and go to bed early again. I will wake up early again tomorrow and the cycle continues.

I might be broken forever.

My Recent Movies, Books and TV 5/31/19

Over 20 hours on a plane over the last week or so means I had a lot of time to watch random movies and read a book. It also means less time watching non-movie TV. The only thing we found on TV in English while away that was not a movie was The Tonight Show. Usually, our trips overseas mean we watch random TV shows at night because they are what we can find in English, Not so this time.

Movies – I watched one movie on the trip over and then slept off and on. I watched one movie on the second leg. I watched three movies on the way home.

The Upside – I watched this one on the way over and dozed a lot during it. What I saw was decent. Kevin Hart plays Kevin Hart again. If you like him you will like the movie

On the Basis of Sex – Really well done and well acted. If you enjoy movies based on historical events you will enjoy this one.

Mary Poppins Returns – I don’t really remember the original, so I can’t compare this one to it, It was pleasant and fun. I liked the music and I’m a fan of Lin Manuel Miranda, so I enjoyed it. I don’t know if I would have watched it away from a plane environment.

The Kid Who Would Be King – This one was a lot better than I expected. I should have expected it to be good since it was written and directed by Joe Cornish. It is a fun, modern, kid version of the King Arthur story. I especially liked the kid who played Young Merlin. Patrick Stewart is adult Merlin.

A Simple Favor – Another one I liked a lot more than I expected. I like Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick, so I was predisposed to like this one anyway, but it was really good. I didn’t really expect the story to go the direction it did. That’s always a good thing.

TV – Nothing new to report on TV-wise, so I will use this space to complain about the cancellation of AP Bio. AP Bio is a really good, really funny show that got much better in the second season as it became more of an ensemble comedy. It was such a talented cast. Instead of giving it a chance with a more regular, non-midseason schedule NBC decided to cut it and try again with some new show that they will screw up by holding until mid-season and then having random weeks when it’s not on at all.

Books – I read two books over the past two weeks. One was a 700+ page fantasy book and the other was a YA novel about a family threatened by the cartels in Juarez.

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch – It took me a long time to get into this one, but that might have been because I was reading it while tired from traveling. Once I did get into it I really liked it. I liked it enough that I spent an entire three hour flight from Baku to Istanbul reading it and never even looked at my screen to see what movies were available. Lynch is like George RR Martin in that he is not afraid to kill off characters the reader might expect to be a larger part of the story. If you like epic fantasy, I would recommend this one. It also finishes the main story in the first book so you don’t necessarily need to keep reading past book one to finish the story.

Disappeared by Francisco Stork – A YA novel about siblings in Juarez, Mexico. Sara is a reporter who is investigating the disappearance of young girls, including her best friend. Her investigation makes her a target of the criminal network in the city. Her brother is dating a wealthy girl and is being lured into the criminal world by her family and their connections. I meant to just skim this one real quick to prepare to talk about it at a school on Monday, but I got sucked in fast and really read it.

On Deck – We have four movies on DVD because somehow every time I go away all of the movies I have requested from the library come all at once.  We have Fighting With My Family, The Mule, Vice and On the Basis of Sex. I have two more books I need to at least skim for my presentation on Monday. I hope to watch Good Omens on Amazon as soon as possible, but I have a lot of stuff I need to do this weekend.

Tater’s Updated Ranking of Conference Trips

My wife has a conference every year with representatives from multiple countries. Each year the conference is hosted by one of the member countries. I have been on seven of these trips with here. The recent trip to Baku, Azerbaijan was the latest of these trips. While in Baku we talked about how it compared to the other locations. Here are my updated rankings of the trips:

  1. Livingstone, Zambia – We stayed in a resort with access to Victoria Falls. Zebras, baboons, impala, and giraffes lived on the resort grounds. We went on a safari. I walked a cheetah and petted a lion. I’m not sure any other location will ever beat this.
  2. Helsinki, Finland – This was our first trip with her for the conference, Both kids were able to go. Helsinki is a very nice city with plenty to do. The hosts took me and the kids around to see the sites and on a lunch cruise while the meetings were happening. We spent time in the country after the meetings to travel around to see more places. It will probably always stay high because it was the first and it was the only one my son has attended.
  3. Seoul, South Korea – This one is a close one. Baku is really close to being in the third spot, but I think Seoul barely pulls out the win. The hotel was in a great location. We could walk to the market street for food and souvenirs. We could walk to the palace for sightseeing. There were beautiful temples in the area. We could take the subway to get to other parts of the city. We didn’t need hosts to take us around the city because we had so much right outside our door. The only downside was the social program at the end of the conference was underwhelming.
  4. Baku, Azerbaijan – You can go back and read my post from yesterday to see more about Baku. It was a fun city, very walkable. The hotel location was a nice waterfront area, The hosts were great, The social program was interesting with a great tour guide. I think Seoul barely wins because it was a little bit harder to get from the hotel to the traditional shopping in the historic area of the city. Plus it was hot and not a city where it is common for people to wear shorts.
  5. Santiago, Chile – The best airport experience. We were met at our gate and taken to a VIP customs area where we sat in comfortable chairs and ate cookies while the government got our bags and cleared us to enter the country, It was a nice city with plenty of stuff to walk to around the hotel. They did drive me around the first morning to make sure I saw the sites. The kids didn’t go, so I was able to spend my time worrying only about myself. It falls to this spot because it rained a lot while I was there and most of what I could easily do in the hotel area was eat and shop. I did enjoy the social program trip to a local winery.
  6. Manila, Philippines – This is now the country in charge of the entire group. They are the ones who set everything up and run the conference. They do a good job with it. We had a driver the entire time we were there. We got there a day early and drove us out of the city to see the sites in the countryside. The social program trip to a cultural park was interesting. The food was good and cheap.. The city was terrible. So much traffic it would take half an hour to drive from our hotel to the conference location. We could walk it in half the time but it was extremely hot and humid and the walk was not fun. The only things to walk to were malls. My daughter and I spent a lot of time reading in the hotel room after a morning of walking to various malls and stopping at small parks along the way. Maybe a smaller town in the country would have been a better location.
  7. Hyderabad, India – I was so excited to go to India. I really wanted to like it. I hated it. There was nothing to do around the hotel but walk across the street to a mall. Even that was difficult as there were barely any sidewalks. The hosts were not helpful We went from having drivers in cities where we didn’t need them to being told we should Uber if we wanted to leave the hotel area. I was not allowed to go to the dinner. This is the only location that excluded accompanying people from the dinner. They couldn’t tell us where to go shopping for traditional gifts even though there was a large market area we found on our own that was all traditional market. How would they not know this? We were not officially invited to the social program and told if we wanted to go we had to pay exra. It turned out they changed their mind and paid for us anyway. We were made to feel very unwelcome. The food made me sick. I tore open my arm on a tree branch while trying to walk around the area. It was a terrible trip.

Next year sis Bhutan. It will be difficult to go with her as Bhutan is very restrictive on access. She can go because she is a guest of the government, but anyone else would have to pay a lot for an official tour to be allowed in. Maybe the Bhutan hosts will be nice to me and make me an official guest as well. 2021 will be Kuwait, Qatar or Indonesia.

Tater Tours Istanbul

A bonus second trip report! We decided to do a 24-hour layover in Istanbul on the way home. The new airport is about an hour out of town, so it is a little more complicated to get to and from these days, We booked a car through the same company, Taxi2Airport, to and from and it worked out great. They even arrived 10 minutes before our requested time on the way out of town. Our hotel was in the Fatih District and within walking distance of the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia Museum. We were just in time Sunday night to tour the mosque and the tombs before they closed. We walked down to the water and did some shopping. We had dinner at an outside cafe where we all had tons of food for only $12 and then a really good chocolate cake at a local bakery.  We were in line Monday morning for the opening of Hagia Sophia and were able to see it before we had to leave for the airport. We ran into another couple from America doing the same thing we were doing. I also saw someone from the ticket line at Hagia Sophia at the airport later, so the 24 hour Istanbul layover seems to be a popular option. I wish we could have seen more of the city. I really liked what we were able to see in the short time we were there. It was obviously more of a nightlife city. Our hotel had a balcony that overlooked a street of shops and restaurants and it was active pretty late, but then empty when we headed out a little before nine the next morning. If you happen to fly Turkish Airlines anywhere, I would recommend this option. Also, speaking of the airline, I would recommend them as well. Our flights were all on time. The food was good. The entertainment options were extensive. They gave us a bag with slippers, socks, eye mask, toothbrush, and toothpaste. It was an overall good experience.


Tater’s Baku Trip Report

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from Baku, Azerbaijan.  Who goes to Azerbaijan? There has to be a reason for that, right? We were headed there due to my wife’s work conference. We go to places we would never go on our own. We departed Dulles 11PM Monday night on Turkish Airlines and after a 5-hour layover in Istanbul arrived in Baku at 1am Wednesday morning. My wife had work for the first three days. My daughter and I were on our own for a day(which we used mostly for rest) and then taken around to the sites the other two. The Azerbaijani’s were great hosts. They made sure we made it to the major sites and had a nice lunch and paid for it all. We were invited to all of the official events. They made an effort to make sure we had a good time while my wife was at work. A+ hosting and a nice change from last year when it was clear we weren’t really welcome.

Baku was a very nice city. It is very walkable. Our hotel was near the Caspian Sea and it was an easy walk over to the waterfront and its nice walkable park. We were able to walk along the water and then cross over to the historic old city area in less than half an hour. The old city area is a very nice historic area filled with sites, souvenir shopping, and food. You can spend hours there(and we did Saturday evening). The city is also very safe. You could find people strolling along the waterfront way past dark with no concern about crime. I never found an area that made me leery of my surroundings. I’m sure having hosts to make sure we went to the nice places helped with that.

On our excursion with our hosts, we were taken to the Haydar Aliyev Museum where we learned some Azerbaijani history and saw their classic car exhibit. We went to Atagash Fire Temple. We toured the Baku Carpet Museum. We were driven out to the beach area to experience the Baku beach resort life. We walked up to an overlook of the city that was also a memorial to Azerbaijanis who lost their lives in conflicts. On our social day with the entire group, we went to Gobustan National Park where we saw prehistoric carvings and then back to the city for lunch and a tour of old city. Our tour guide was excellent. One of the best I’ve ever had on a tour. The only disappointment was not being taken to see a mud volcano while at Gobustan. I would recommend a trip to Baku. It is a nice place that is not yet overrun by tourists.