Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Who needs ecards

JibJab Sendables are my new love.

Hopefully i'll have some good things to blog about after the holidays. Right now i just have a ridiculous amount of work to get done (wish me luck).

Saturday, November 10, 2007


...that was a long post. So long that i think i broke Blogger, it won't let me go back and edit it to fix some problems.

Thursday, November 08, 2007


October 5

Arrive in Frankfurt around 9 pm. Was nice that their customs goes a thousand times faster than at Heathrow, probably helped by the late hour.

The fun started immediately at the Alamo rental counter. The rental agent, upon pulling up my reservation apologized that they no longer had any midsized cars available with GPS. "No midsized," I though, "didn't I reserve a compact car?". As she is finishing the paperwork she notes my look of confusion and informs me that the car isn't that big. She assures me that the VW Touran is a nice car, and that it is nice and new. So through all this my apprehension was growing, I had never heard of a Touran and just pictured driving some giant SUV though narrow old town streets and not being able to park anywhere. So I was less than happy to put eyes on my rental minivan (I didn't even know Volkswagen made a minivan).

After finally getting in the car, I quickly realized that a European 6-speed is clutched completely differently than an American Toyota 5 speed. Not to mention the ridiculous push down and slide to the left reverse requirements.

I got on the road, and immediately realized that my ten minute perusal of the European road rules and street sign meanings was not nearly long enough. But i managed to get on the highway with only minimum confusion, and managed not to go the wrong way up any on-ramps or anything.

I, of course, had to live out the stereotypical Autobahn experience. So I scanned through the radio stations and found some good techno music to blast as I cruised along at 160 km/h (about 100 mph). Not quite the same as the sports cars you see in the movies, but I saw plenty of those blowing by me like I was going 40. My favorite part of driving in Germany has to be that it is illegal to pass on the right on the highway, can even loose your license for it. The drivers are very courteous and allow for you to merge and move over to let you pass, such a welcome change from Washington DC.

I traveled for three hours to get to Bad Neuenahr / Ahrweiler, where i was staying with Marcus, Megan, and his parents. It was about 1am when i finally got there, I was very lucky that the GPS navigation (navigation, but no maps, which kinda sucked) was able to get me there. Huge thanks to my parents for giving me a handful of Euros, and even some change for the trip. This was very important because I was staying in a timeshare type rental apartment, not a hotel. This place locks the front door at 10pm, so I didn't know how to get in. I began wondering around town looking for a phone booth, encountering many drunk teens on the way. I found out why there were so many drunks when I found the town festival was just wrapping up for the night, but there was a phone booth right next to the festival and near the train station. I had the phone number for Marcus's room so I gave him a wakeup call and got let into my room. The room was nice, with a bathroom easily as large as my London hotel room. The TV in the room was also about as old as I am.

October 6

The first full day in Germany. We started the day by walking around Ahrweiler, the next town over from Bad Neuenahr. The city still has its original encircling wall from the middle ages, even though it was somewhat reconstructed after World War II. It was a nice little town.

After Ahrweiler we left and drove through some wine country, mostly Rieslings apparently, on the way to Nurburg. Nurburg was a nice little town with both a ruined castle and a Formula 1 race track, an interesting dichotomy seeing the race track from the top of the castle tower. After wondering around the castle we went back down the hill to grab some lunch at the Schnitzelhaus, where they have a different Schnitzel for each letter of the alphabet. Nothing like delicious, extremely unhealthy German food. This was only the first of many greasy fatty meals, I still don't know how German people aren't all morbidly obese, probably because they eat a lot of foreign food and very little authentic German cuisine.

Spent the rest of the evening just wondering around the town festival. I had to quit calling it a carnival because in German carnival has a specific meaning of only The Carnival at the end of Lent. Had my first of many Kolsh beers back at the hotel that night.

October 7

Today we hit up the mineral springs that make Bad Neuenahr a popular tourist destination for the older types. Didn't taste as bad as Marcus's dad said it would, but at least now I'm ten years younger...

After that we took the train into Koln (Ameri
canized to Cologne). We hit up up the Dom cathedral. Took the 500 some stairs to the top and got to check out an amazing view. Got some nice pictures, even saw the finish line for a local marathon. We also took the tour of the lower levels of the cathedral, which was a museum full of religious relics.

After the Dom we went next door to the German-Roman
museum. This museum was built after digging for a subway line discovered a large Roman mosaic tile floor. So they decided to relocate the line and build a museum around the floor. It was pretty interesting.

We followed up the German-Roman museum by heading down the river to the Lindt chocolate museum. Nice to have some delicious chocolate that was manufactured that very day and at the height of freshness.

After the museums we went to the Sion Brewery. Had some of their deliciouss Kolsch beers and enjoyed one of the largest sausages I have ever seen. I still can't believe I ate the whole thing.

October 8

Started the morning by hitting the train to Koln once again. This time we just wandered around the shopping district watching Megan spend money. I bought a nice jacket there, but all of it's buttons fell out within a few weeks (I still haven't gotten around to getting them reattached). Koln has a wonderful pedestrian zone full of shops and department stores, apparently it is something to behold during the Christmas shopping season. Discovering that the latest trend is to use walking sticks (like ski poles) when just going around town. This evening we ate at the Fruh Kolsch brewery, and even bought a case of their glasses to give out as souvenirs (12 glasses were only 11 euros, cheapest souvenirs yet).

Of course the highlight of the day had to be the Spaghetti Eis (spaghetti ice cream). It is by far my favorite German speciality dessert, all the ice cream parlors here have it. They make it by having a pile of vanilla ice cream in tendrils that look like spaghetti, covered in a strawberry sauce that looks like tomato sauce and sprinkled with chunks of white chocolate that look like grated Parmesan cheese, all around a core of whipped cream. I like it, I like it a lot.

One thing I learned shopping in Koln was that German people have some sort of mental block when it comes to forming/standing in lines. At first Marcus thought it was funny, then it just became frustrating as more and more people kept cutting into the checkout line in front of me at the department store. I had thought his dad was joking when he made a comment about it, but turns out it is true.

On the way back to Bad Neuenahr we had an hour layover so we decided to check out a local bar in Remagen. It was an eclectic atmosphere. It was an old time type of bar that looked like it had been there for at least a hundred years, however they had a DJ playing techno music and flashing light strips. Still it was a nice place to have a few drinks and kill some time, we later went back to the town festival. Getting a few nights into the festival and the c
rowd is starting to have some fun, got to see a few teenagers falling down drunk and another getting put in an ambulance. Another enjoyable day in Germany comes to an end.

October 9

Today we went on a drive down the Rhine river. We first checked out the Marksburg Castle. Took a nice tour, couldn't understand the guide since all in German, but they gave out good fliers with an English tour. This is the only authentic Rhine castle remaining. Apparently all the others are reconstructed from ruins and tend to be heavily influenced by fairy tales and other fantasy stuff.

The highlight of the tour was the fa
ntastic river views up and down the Rhine. If only it hadn't been so foggy I'm sure the views would have been even more amazing. I also enjoyed the luxury bathroom just off of the main dining hall. The bathroom was built into an indoor balcony that hung over the outer wall of the castle and consisted of a bench with a toilet seat. The seat opening over a hole through the floor that would dump any refuse over the side of the castle. I just hope there weren't any paths that wandered under that balcony. There was a cool path that ran off into the woods near the castle. Apparently you can go on a hike through all the historic sites along the Rhine, that would be something fun to try on some future trip with nicer weather.

After this we decided we were going to go a little further down the river to the Lorelei and see where the mystical maidens lured ships to there doom. Unfortunately this side trip showed the limits of map free GPS navigation. We wound through many country roads on the way there, but the last road into the town nearest the Lorelei was closed. We later found out that the signs we saw were for a detour and to indicate local traffic only. We tried to be local traffic, but turned around once the road got narrow and we feared an inability to pull a U-turn with my minivan.

After abandoning the side trip we went back into Bad Neuenahr to catch the final night of the festival. This night we met up with Marcus's parents and had a few drinks. I even one some money in the slot machine (just about every bar I went to in europe had at least one slot machine, crazy). We ate our fill of crepes and potato pancakes, rode the rides and watched the finishing fireworks. The rides were all a lot of fun. We met some nice German kids that wouldn't believe we were Americans because Marcus could speak decent German. The only problem was that I lost my room key on one of the upside down flipping rides and had to spend my last night in Bad Neuenahr sleeping on the couch in Marcus and Megan's room.

October 10

Slept in a little late on the couch (drank way too much at the previous nights festival), and upon waking was able to get a replacement key from Marcus's dad to get in my room and pack up for my trip to Hann Munden.

The trip to Hann Munden took much longer than I thought it would, lots of construction traffic and stuff, so it was over 3 hours to get there. It was nice to see Torsten and his family, Leonard and Wibke. His son loved the Hot Wheels i bought him as a gift, and he and his wife enjoyed the Jelly Belly assorted set i got them as a random piece of Americana.

We walked all around town for a bit and had a nice dinner and a few beers at a local brewery in the basement of the old Rathause (town hall). Really wished i had planned for more than a day in Hann Munden. But now I have a reason to visit again.

My favorite, completely German, thing
in their house was the water carbonator (white appliance in the middle). When they want a drink of water they fill up a bottle from the tap and hook it into the machine which carbonates it so that it is suitable for consumption (for them at least).

October 11

Return trip time. This can be summed up with a big huge UGH! The day started out foggy, but the drive to Frankfurt airport was much faster than i thought it would be. Frankfurt airport itself was so time consuming. The long check-in line, followed by the security line, followed by a passport line, all to get into the terminal, then ANOTHER security line to get into the gate. Then waiting at the gate with no food and little drink/snack selections. I was still there two hours early and tried to get on an earlier flight to make sure I had plenty of time for my Heathrow connection (I must be psychic), but they said i would have to pay for an entire ticket to do so. So i settled in to wait the two hours for my flight, which would be come three and a half hours due to the heavy fog causing rippling delays all day. Finally I got on my flight for the quick trip over to Heathrow.

This is where the day turns downhill. Heathrow, how do I hate thee, let me count the ways. First there is the complete and utter zoo of insanity at the connections security line. Second was a half hour wait just to get into the area where the security line was. Thirdly was the 45 minute wait in the security line (only two of the four lines were open, WTF). The fourth hatred was the following 20 minute line to catch the shuttle to the terminal for my flight, followed by a fifth annoyance in the form of a 20 min wait at the airline checkin desk for Virgin Atlantic.

After all this it was already boarding time for my flight, and the desk staff informed me it was too lat to check in. They also said they can't put me on another flight for free since it was Lufthunsa's fault that I missed my connection. So I once again made my way through the connections security line, another hour, and at the checkin desk for Lufthunsa I am informed that there are too many people trying to reschedule so I had to go to the main ticketing desks at the main terminal. So now I get the pleasure of the 15 minute line for passport control followed by a 20 minute walk between terminals to find that all the Lufthansa ticketing people have gone home and only the customer service counter, with it's two employees, is still open.

This line is the best yet, an hour and a half wait. This wait is followed by the information that i will not be able to fly out that day, as I've now been in Heathrow airport for seven hours and
there are no openings left. The next Virgin Atlantic flight I can get on is two the next afternoon, but fortunatally there are European passenger rights, so the airline has to put me up in a hotel. So I get to spend one more night in London, at the Heathrow Park Inn, a nice four star hotel nearby with complimentary dinner and breakfast. (I lost count, but i think there are at least a dozen reasons why i hate Heathrow airport.

I met some nice people in the last line and we all had dinner together at the hotel. So i got to learn a lot from the search engine optimizer and electron beam venture capitalist from Boston, and the academic from Germany. In
addition I got to have one more good British beer to finish out my trip.

The hotel was nice. The late night TV even has the same "Sweep and Mop" informercial as in america, only dubbed in German. I still don't understand the infatuation with the late night call in word games. You rarely see anyone win, but they were available in three diffrent languages at the hotel, English, German, and I think Arabic (check it out yourself). I even got to amuse my self with the hotel's automatic window blinds and half dozen different lights to play with.

The following day was uneventful. Got up plenty early, which was good since i had some ticket confusion. Luckily the ticket confusion was fixed within half an hour or I just might have lost it, i was definately at the end of my patience. Finally, after only an hour and a half of ticket and security lines i was on my way home, where the passport line at Dulles was one of the shortest lines I had in my entire trip.

Overall Trip Locations (so much left to see)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Traveling Good Times

Destination London!

Oct 2-3.

Very glad to have spent the extra 40 dollars for a Virgin Atlantic flight. The huge variety of on-demand programming was amazing. My flight was from 7pm to 7am, so i should have been sleeping, but instead i watched Fantastic 4: Silver Surfer, two episodes of Doctor Who, and a couple episodes of Flight of the Concords (must see if you never have before). Arrived in Heathrow a few hours early, so still dark and no sight of anything but fog. I though I would walk forever through the endless herding and underground tunnels, but finally made it through customs and got my first sight of the city from the train to Paddington.

Oct 3.

Was able to drop off my luggage at the hotel (couldn't check in until the afternoon) and started out sightseeing. First stop. The British Museum.

The British Museum was awesome. It is the most amazing collection of Egyptian, Middle Eastern, and Ancient Greek artifacts I've seen at a museum. The wing dedicated to the Parthenon marbles was especially impressive. I was glad to have dedicated several hours here as this was my favorite museum I visited.

After a short Underground trip I went to visit St. Paul's Cathedral, and a mere 400 some steps later i was at one of the more impressive views of London. You were able to walk around the circumference of the highest tower of the cathedral and see all aspects of the city, impressive even with the fog.

Following the views i took a stroll across the Millennium Bridge and walked eastward along the South Thames River Walk. This brought me past the reconstructed Shakespeare Theater (didn't feel like attending a show solo), the HMS Belfast, City Hall, and many views of the city and its bridges, ending at Tower Bridge, where I crossed over to the Tower of London.

I enjoyed the Tower of London. The guided tour helped a lot, but included many obscure references to the history of royalty that you need an English upbringing to understand. Still it was interesting to see the Crown Jewels (even if they aren't as fancy as you would think) and the first castle built in London. I was lucky to make it there and see everything before closing time. There are many good stories there, but you'll just have to check it out for yourself (or borrow my guide book). This area also had a piece of the Roman era London wall and a plaque honoring the neighborhoods people, including William Penn (which i thought was pretty cool).

I finished my night at a little pub down the road from my hotel. It was a little divey, but I now have an idea what football hooligans are like. It was quite a ruckus soccer watching crowd for a Wednesday night, but fun nonetheless. I managed to stay up until past 10, which did wonders for helping my system adjust, but i still slept till noon the next day, missing out on some sightseeing.

My hotel was soo tiny. It was a converted rowhouse. The bathroom appeared to be modular, made entirely of plastic and raised a foot off the floor (to allow room for plumbing i assume). The bathroom in my parents RV is larger, I think. But for the affordable price of $120 a night, what could i expect (note the sarcasm)!

Oct 4

Started the day with a quiet walk through Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park. The Albert Memorial was quite impressive. The gold statue really shined as the sun finally came out to make the touring that much more pleasant. After the Albert Memorial (I think he was Queen Victoria's husband) I ventured through the park and stopped briefly at the very crowded Serpentine Gallery. I only stepped in to use the restroom, ans the art didn't look like my kind of thing. My kind of thing was outside where they have a tea house. According to the guidebook, they find an amature architect to design and build a tea house for the season that is an artistic and architectural work. It was a neat little structure, but nothing too special. I then ventured through the gardens to see the Serpentine lake and Princess Diana's memorial. Hers was a unique memorial, essentially a circular stream on a hillside meant to be enjoyed by the people, subtle yet impressive.

I then walked across the city stopping to check out Buckingham Palace. This was a bit underwhelming, I didn't even get to see any of the standard palace guards with their big hats, only a handful of cops inside the fence, no idea why... I then walked by Big Ben and the houses of Parliment on my way to Westminster Abbey.

I think Westminster Abbey was my favorite part of the London trip. The audio tour was a must, otherwise you miss much of the history that is associated with the beauty of the place. If you are ever there, make sure you take the audio tour of the Abbey if you have even a passing interest in English history (especially the era around Queen Elizabeth, which has some interesting twists laid out in the abbey). I got an added treat since I came in the middle of the week. Tues through Thurs you can even go into the cloister attached to the abbey where the offices and residences of the higher officials are and even see where the school and housing for the choir boys is (I found the idea of children living in a church kinda disturbing, but that's just me).

After the abbey tour I made my way north to Trafalger Square, with a brief stop off to try and see 10 Downing Street. Unfortunately you can't even get as close as you can to the White House. Trafalger Square was impressive, and contains the National Gallery, somewhere I will have to check out in subsequent visits. Stopped off for a quick lunch (was surprised at how quickly I eat when I'm by myself).

I later went for a walk through the Soho neighborhood. I loved the mix of shops where every street had something different to offer. Even the alleys had numerous shops to provide entertainment.

In the evening i took the Jack the Ripper walking tour. It was pretty interesting, even saw one or two locations that are still the same as at the time. Almost too much information, but was still an interesting way to spend the night.

Went to another bar near my hotel this evening. Only had a few hours to chill, though, since the bars in London have an 11pm last call. I finally got to try some warm beer, it is actually the exception rather than the rule in London, and it wasn't bad. They like some interesting drinks there, like an energy drink mixed with a shot of port wine, and four different varieties of Aftershock that i didn't know existed (black, white, red and green, ugh). Also the bartender looked dumbfounded when I asked if they had any Hefewisen, apparently that is an American and Bavarian terminology.

Oct 5

A little more walking around the city was enjoyable. Glad to see that London's Chinatown, while being larger than DCs, still had a large Irish bar right in the middle. I planned this day's walking around having lunch at St. Martin in the Field basement, but they were closed for renovations. I later hit up the London Dungeon, which was more of a funhouse than a museum and would have been more fun with a group. Still i learned a good bit and had some fun there. I left there and went straight to the airport, feeling like I saw as much of the city as i could have.

Random London stuff

Being the mass transit junkie that I am, i enjoyed my trips on the London Underground. It was amazing how far the system extended. It is almost like seeing DC's future with ads plastering every surface in an effort to raise money. Cool that the window's open, but definitely miss the A/C when running slow through the tunnels. I also appreciated their faster escalators and frequent train service. But make sure to mind the gap ;-).

Noticed that Europeans are not nearly as appreciative of personal space like Americans are (they are willing to stand RIGHT behind you in lines and on trains and elevators). But they are not nearly as courteous either, everyone looked at me like I was crazy for offering up my seat to an older woman on the train.

Nice that London was also smoke free. Even cooler that it was ok to take your drinks outside. So the inside of the bar is empty while everyone stands in the street smoking and drinking.

I feel like i walked pretty much everywhere around the city. To prove it I mapped it all out with google:

Paddington to the British Museum

St. Paul's, to Thames River walk, to Tower of London

Walking around on the second day

Also, my Flickr account has all the pics of everything I've talked about here, so check it out.

That's it for London, next stop Deutschland!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Tri Two

I competed in my second sprint distance triathlon this past weekend, and surprisingly i really enjoyed myself. Still not sure why, but i had a smile on my face for much of the race.

The most challenging part was the swim, of course. But it was challenging for more reasons than just the fact that I'm a horrible swimmer. The swim was in a bay on the Potomac River, but was relocated within the area due to excessive Hydrilla in the area. The swim was supposed to take place by running down a boat ramp into the water, but from the boat ramps, all you could see was the yellow/green of plant life clogging up the water. So instead we swam a bit down the shore and had to jump off a dock to start the race in the water. Unfortunatly, upon jumping in, it was immediately clear that this area was also thick with hydrilla, but a foot or two down from the surface. As we tread water awaiting the start, the plants were constantly entangling arms and legs below the surface. This entanglement continued throughout the swim as tendrils of leaves would wrap your arms, legs, and occasionally face in the thickest areas. All this led to my swim time actually being a minute worse than my previous race.

The bike was pretty straightforward. I enjoyed passing people on mountain bikes on nearly every uphill of the course. Some of the climbs were rather extreme, but the following descents more than made up for these struggles. I did well on the bike and set a faster pace than my past races. The run was interesting. The race site said that it was a simple out and back run, but this was not the case. The out part was there, but just after the turn-around the course took a turn into the woods. The entire second half was a shady run down gravel drives, dirt paths, and park access roads. This was a fun end to the race and kept the midday sun from being too much of a nuisance.

That is it for the triathlon season, but I can't wait for next year. I'm going to set my goal of being able to handle an olympic distance by the NYC tri, so got to keep training!

Monday, August 27, 2007


As much as i love the metro, and am always extolling its virtues, i must say that it has let me down once a gain. My 30-40 min commute home from work today involved 2 hours to go from King St. to Braddock Rd (1 STOP!!!). Luckily i was able to get the roomie to give me a ride home once my train finally unloaded, which occured after 40 mins at king st., an hour outside the airport, and 20 mins on the way back from airport to braddock.

Last night the metro had power problems and had to close a few stations for a few hours. But they said it was an isolated incident and would investigate further. Big suprise, it all happened again today. Every train that approached the airport lost power, but they didn't stop running trains for two hours, after 4 trains ahead of mine were taken out of service! Now that i have vented i can get something to eat and try and relax tonight. I need to save some anger for work this week, they love to screw me over...

Crazy Summer

must say it was one crazy summer. Between Tim's wedding, with ridiculous debauchery, Tucker's many going-away happy hours and parties, the Virgin festival weekend, and Heather's birthday, it is no suprise that i haven't done squat at work or found the time to write in my lame blog. Check out my flickr site, the photos speak enough for the fun times.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

San Diego

I was in San Diego about a month back, but didn't get around to writing anything here. But for myself, and anyone else who goes i have to share the good and bad of my trip.

  • the weather, always nice and pleasant

  • the Gas Lamp district, and especially the Strip Club Steak Place. I had never really cooked a steak before, but this restaurant provides the steak, the seasonings, and you get to go to town on the grill. It was fun and delicious, not to mention the speciality martini menu (i personally like the Kahlua and Baileys, with powdered chocolate).

  • La Jolla, beautiful little town. Had a blast sea kayaking there.

  • Pacific Beach, another good town. Had a nice bar district on Garnet Ave., where i must mention Bub's Dive, which just happened to be the local Steelers and VA Tech bar for any fans out there. Also Pacific Beach had an awesome bar called the Lahaina Beach House right on the beach. Nothing like watching sunset while sipping pitchers of Blue Moon.

  • the zoo is a great way to spend the day, but i recommend the bus ride to get a feel for where everything is and save yourself backtracking up and down the big hills.

  • all in all, it is everything i imagined it to be


  • the parking, don't drive anywhere because even if the traffic is light there will be no parking when you get there.

  • nothing else, this place rocks

Hopefully more of my friends will have to go here for work and i can visit them :-).

Friday, July 06, 2007

4th July

Had a nice laid back fourth. Quiet cookout with only 5 attendees. Being in the American University neighborhood saved us from the worst of the sever thunderstorms that caused an evac of the mall a few hours before the fireworks, which i'm sure sucked for everyone who camped out all day for good spots. We then watched the fireworks from a downtown office building roof, thanks to a friends place of work. As when i did that last year, the mechanical towers on the buildings blocked the bottom most explosions. I need to find someone who works right on the mall sometime, and next year need to remember a boom box so i can hear the music the fireworks are set to. I did get to try out the "Fireworks" setting on my new camera, but it really needs a tripod to work well. Overall it was a laid back, easy going fourth, and not nearly as crazy as it could have been considering i wasn't going to work the next day...

Scavenging for Charity

Finally, I wasn't out of town during a D.C. SMASHED event, and boy am i glad. I had a ridiculous amount of fun. My team was me, the roomie, and his girlfriend, friends, and co-workers (kinda stunk that most of the team was his peeps instead of mine). In case you don't know, SMASHED stands for the Society for Mature Adults Seeking to Help, Educate, and Donate. The last saturday of June was the scene of their most recent escapades. This was the DC SMASHED Amazing Race Scavenger Hunt.

My team decided to go with a theme from the movie Waiting, and called ourselves "Push The Fish". We dressed up in aprons, with quotes from the movie written thereon, and wore nametags for our favorite characters. The theme went over decently well, at least with those that had seen the movie, and we were lucky to have accomplished it on such short notice. We spent the night before watching the movie twice through to get quotes and decorating our aprons.

The weather was beautiful for the event. My only complaint was that the organizer said we could only turn in 25 items at each of the three checkpoints, when in actuality we were only allowed 25 points of items. This was frustrating in the end since we wasted time collecting more than 100 points worth of items that we could never turn in.

More fun, was the tasks we needed to compete in. There were eight to choose from, and we managed to do four in the time, even doing four was difficult and required running from dupont to farragut to logan circle. We used squirt guns to shoot cups off of our teammate's head and passed around a greased up water balloon without our hands. My favorite task was in Farragut Square, where the team had to pitch a tent, then go inside while I pretended to be an attacking bear, and then take down the tent as quickly as possible. I really enjoyed the confused looks on the tourists as we did these tasks and ran down the streets. We also had some fun at a jousting task, where the roomie took a nice hit to the face from a roll of wrapping paper (hard to describe, so check out the before and after shots below).

Of course it wasn't all just racing around, we also had to by the task judges shots and beers to earn their respect and discretionary bonus points, because what is a race without a few drinks along the way ;-).

The race wasn't all fun, we also provided a public service, which is the driving source behind the SMASHED group. Their goal is not just to hang out and have a few drinks, but to raise money for charity along the way. So the 10 dollar entry free paid by all 300+ people (in 45 odd teams) all went to a charity that is associated with the Sierra Club that takes urban children out on wilderness excursions. And as an added bonus the Front Page bar provided 10 free kegs of beer (in Dos Equis and Heine Light form) as an after party for all the competitors. The beer companies were also sponsors of the event and had their own team competing and handing out bonus material.

So in the end, the day was Amazing fun and i can't wait for their next event! This time i'm going to try and get everyone i know to participate.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


Am in the process of getting all my photos transferred over. I like Flickr thus far, sucks to have to pay 25 bucks a year for the necessary storage, upload, and access levels. I really think the mapping tool is neat and i can't wait to go through all my old albums and organize and mark up the map (should keep me busy for a couple weeks :-D). My new photo link is http://www.flickr.com/photos/studentlohn/.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Battle Cry!

Can't believe if forgot to share our OBX wakeup-call-cum-battle-cry. Especially stirring when played at high volume through the full house speaker system to the point where it was echoing back from neighboring houses intimidating our water balloon fight foes. It somehow only became mildly annoying, even though we were constantly playing or imitating it...

R.I.P. Yahoo! Photos

The writing is on the wall, Yahoo! Photos is soon to be no more. My account is currently in transition to Flickr, once the transition is complete, I'll have the new link provided and be able to post some pics to my last couple blog entries. My trusty Yahoo photo account will be missed, but hopefully the added functionality of Flickr will be worth the hassle of setting up a new site. I'll let you all know how the transition goes. Too bad i couldn't switch to Picasa albums through google, but i just have way too many photos going back through the years...


OBX, or the Outer Banks of North Carolina for the uninitiated, week has come and gone again this year.

This year our house was a little farther north, in Corolla, NC (here is the satellite image), and getting there is quite a pain. It was a little worse than anticipated due to a late departure of 10 am, instead of 7 as planned. This resulted in traffic for most of the drive (almost 2 hours just to get to Richmond), causing an optimally 5 1/2 hour drive to take 8 1/2 hours (the return trip only took 6 hours). The house was amazing and large, which is good since we did have 14 people staying there, there were enough beds/air mattresses to go around, but two of the rooms did sleep 4 each and the inevitable snoring and bathroom breaks ensured none of these folks got the best nights sleep. We were much closer to the beach this year. I made it out to the beach on 3 of the days, one better than last year. I managed to successfully limit my midday exposure and return relatively sunburn free. The weather was beautiful (coolest day was 80, warmest was mid 90s) and it only rained on Wednesday, which gave everyone's skin a mid week break from the sun.

We ate pretty well, i steered clear of the fresh crabs on Sunday, but the seemed to go down well with the crab eaters of the group. And of course my meatloaf went down well as always (had to make three this year)! It is funny that the only time i cook is when I'm on vacation...

My new SingStar karaoke games got quite the workout with two full evenings of singing. The only game more popular was the "13 cards" or "beach" card game, which was played for much of the week. This card game is of Vietnamese origin, and the girls didn't even know what you would call it in English (hence the made up name). It is a very enjoyable and addictive 4 player card game (with some similarities to Asshole and Hearts, but rules all its own).

The pool was a popular place as always and the seemingly endless hours of pool volleyball were fun. Even with my possibly broken nose, and other peoples likely sun poisoning it was still my favorite place to hang. I can't get enough of swimming, too bad the week gave me swimmers ear, so no pool for a little while.

A new aspect this year was the three-man water balloon slingshot. We got in a fun-filled, two day, three house water balloon fight that consumed 500 balloons from our house alone. We first launched at the "hilljacks", a name we borrowed from the house's log, which seems to be synonymous with hillbilly or redneck as shown by the Urban Dictionary definition that is linked. The "Hill-jack" house was a bunch of drunken kids that had just graduated high school and spent their first couple days yelling constantly, it was very satisfying to land a few water balloons on their deck. After witnessing our raging battle, a third house off to the side launched an attack at both of our houses. The third house was a family with a bunch of kids that kept taunting us, making it all the more fulfilling when we hit a few of their people.

Overall it was a fun week of sun, sand, pool, and water balloons, accented by frozen daiquiris and chilled Coronas. Can't wait for next year.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Loss and Love of the last month

I must say, the last month has been pretty eventful. No bored moments to be filled by blogging.

My grandfather passed this past month. He had a great 98 years and for that the family is greatful, but it never is really enough is it...

It was good to see the whole family, since this only seems to happen at weddings and funerals, and with me being the only unmarried one, doesn't look like there will be many wedding get togethers anytime soon. I'm glad to see that my neice and nephew are still adorable at ages 3 and 1 respectively, and so are all my cousins kids. After spending so many days around young ones it took me a while to get comfortable droping F-bombs in causual conversation around friends. I guess that means I'm safe to be around children, and won't warp their minds too much.

In between trying to get caught up with work and caught up on sleep, i've still managed to make some new friends and hang out with the old ones. I've caught the awsome Mr. Greenjeans twice at the Clarendon Ballroom in the last month. And done several happy hours. This past week involved a wonderful, as usual, trip to Ellas, where the best bartender in the city hooked us up as always with some fantastic Sangria and pizza, after that my night devolved into a blur of Oya, Zenga, Dan's Cafe, Chief Ikes Momba Room, and Rocket (i spent so much time walking and metroing that i didn't even have time to drink that much). My one wish for this particular night was that the metro hadn't been delayed close to 30 minutes for the last night of the train, getting home at 4am stinks.

Finally, the best event of the last few weeks would definately be the Wedding of Merrick and Gerald this past weekend. She is one of the most genuinely sweet people I know and I'm glad she had an unending smile on her face the entire day. The wedding was nice, the reception better, and the loacation and the band awsome. Loved the mansion in Rockville and any band that can pull of a sing-along-able cover of any Journey song :-) (my only minor complaint on the wedding would be the stampede of flower girls, couldn't we have shown a little grace and patience ladies). It was like old times, with most of the old Smithsonian intern crowd hanging out. Makes me miss those crazy times at Rock bottom ;-). Well enough :-) ing and ;-) ing, i've got some work to get done so i can go to the beach all next week! OBX I CAN'T WAIT!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

BDay Week

What a week for a birthday. I had some horrible problems with allergies, that kept me on the couch for the better party of three days, but once i pushed through those i had a wonderful time out with my friends at Rock Bottom to celebrate my birthday. But just a few days later things kicked up a notch with the Chiluau.

The Chiluau had its birth a few years ago in the chili cookoff blowoff bash (a party started in protest of the exorbitant ticked costs of the DC101 chili cookoff), which was then combined with the Hawaiian Luau party (when its host got all responsible and bought a condo), and thus birth was given to the Chiluau.

This year we had five patios and two houses involved and the greatly expanded guest list provided a wonderful time for all, and more than made up for the homeowners association crackdown that occurred last year which banned us from utilizing our parking spaces for party overflow. But as the pictures show, we had enough room for everyone and plenty of fun. Its been a great week, and i do not look forward to getting back to work on monday.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Yeah, Exercise!

In all my reckless insanity I competed in my first triathlon this past sunday. It was a beautiful sunny day at lake anna, air temps well into the 70s, but the water was a chilly 56 degrees.

I was one of the few people that found the water temp refreshing. This is primarily because i'm an awful swimmer and it is a lot of work for me, which results in me getting hot and bothered. Then my hot and bothered self enjoys the chilly water splashing on my face. I even once pulled down the neck of my wetsuit to let it fill with some chilling water. I finished very slowly (at least 12 mins behind most of my age group), but at least i finished, which is saying something since i've only been training for 3 months or so.

The bike was much more fun, and i was more in my element. I was disappointed that no matter how hard i tried, i was constantly being passed by a steady stream of people (to the point that i began to wonder if i was going to be the last to finish). I was amazed at how friendly the other racers were, constantly offering encouragement and support as they zoomed past. The encouragement was especially helpful on the run, which started with a quarter-mile long uphill (the initial 20ft a very discouraging and steep start). Since the run was an out and back course the people just starting out on the run were constantly encouraged by the people nearing their finish. I found this all surprising and thought people would be too focused on their individual performance to care about anything else, but i guess that only applies to the people who finished more than an hour before i did.

Overall, it was a fantastic experience and i'll probably sign up for one or two other short sprint tris before the summer is over, if i can fit training into my busy vacation schedule that is...

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Flowers on Trees

Of course, the day after I go off on a tourist rant i end up taking a half day at work to go check out the cherry blossoms. So this past monday i decided to take a little bike ride to avoid traffic (car and metro) and get some exercise at the same time. I took a leasiurely route, as you can see by this map. I took the bike trail down to the river. I had never before been out on Rosevelt island, so i took a side trip out there, and did a little jogging around the island. It is so cool to see such landscaping free area of land in the heart of the city, great views of Georgetown from the ped bridge. It is so cool that the large stone monument on the island is only accessed via dirt paths and wilderness trails. I then rode the bike down to the tidal basin and locked it up while i walked around and observed the tourists almost as much as the trees. It is amazing to just watch every person who walks down a path stopping to take the exact same picture over and over. I discovered that the FDR memorial isn't nearly as spectacular during the day as at night. So in closing i recommend that everyone check out Rosevelt Island by day and FDR memorial by night. The Jefferson monument is, of course, as spectacular and crowded as it always it.

In hindsight i'm very glad i took in monday afternoon and its 80 degree temp when the temperature was down in the thirties with snow by the weekend...

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Argh! Tourist season!

All the trouble begins with a few flowers on a few trees. The type of thing you can see in most cities around spring time. However DC apparently has magical cherry trees unlike anything, anywhere, ever! They have the magical power to make people stop in the middle of the sidewalk and stare aimlessly. They have the power to make a Saturday afternoon on the metro seem like the orange line during rush hour after a train malfunction. They can even make people think that they can just park their gigantic stroller right in front of the train door and not aggravate everyone trying to get on and off. These trees are amazing in their power, they can pull in bumpkins and classy foreign tourists alike. Of course, even i cant resist their power for ever, i may have escaped the kite festival this year, but i am sure my camera and i will be down there eventually taking the same pictures i take every year, those trees are just too darn pretty...

Ad Perversion? you decide...

This was a billboard from my Seattle trip. You may feel it is just an innocent thing, but between the phrase and the imagery i just feel dirty for some reason. At the very least it should provide all with a new catch phrase when describing meals.

Proper usage example: "...so then i opened my snack hole and had a delightful time..."

It will be the lingo sweeping the nation!

Noah takes a photo of himself every day for 6 years.

while i'm on a youTube kick i thought i should share one of my all time favorite vids for anyone who doesn't spend enought time goofing on the internet :-)

Snow Show, Saint, Stroll

I started the weekend with a journey into the upper reaches of NW into the land of American University. As always, the traffic was horrible since it was a Friday night, and it took twice as long to get there as it should have. I was so glad i wasn't driving for a change.

Once we found the campus we had to find the Bender "Arena". Unfortunately this "arena" would be more accurately described as a gymnasium. I've seen high schools with bigger gyms. We were there for the Snow Patrol concert (with guests OK Go and Silversun Pickups). Nothing like the cozy club atmosphere i had for the last Snow Patrol concert i went to (two years ago). Instead it was in a gym with pull out bleachers, and lazy bums sitting down for the entire show. The only concessions were the Poweraid and Snickers bars being sold by the crew team. In the future i may pass on concerts at this venue.
All that aside, it was still a decent show. OK Go didn't get up on treadmills or anything, but i thought they had some really interesting slo-mo type videos during some of their songs. Snow Patrol seemed to play better this time (probably because they couldn't get drunk before this show). They even had audience participation for their song "set fire to the third bar" since the duet singer, Martha Wainwright, was busy on her own album and couldn't tour with them. They invited some girl up from the audience to do the song with them, and she did such an awesome job i wondered if she was a plant. Its a pretty good song, and i should have a posting of the youtube video by the time you read this.

After the show, we called it a night. Saturday night then involved a trip out to one of my favorite U St. haunts, cafe St. Ex. I had a total blast, even though i succumbed to the temptation of the SoCo and Lime shots and drank/spent way more than i had originally intended (the story of most of my weekends...).

I woke up early on sunday and was fired up to enjoy the beautiful weather, and retrieve my credit card from the bar (i had to leave in a hurry the night before or may not have been able to share my cab home). The manager was as thankful for my bill as i was to get my card back, never a good sign. I then decided to be ambitious and walk home enjoying the beautiful weather. I even did a little shopping in Georgetown and got my first sunburn of the season. My triathlete peer pressure group had a cookout that night and it was overall about as laid back and relaxing a sunday as one could hope for.

Video that made OK Go famous

Set Fire to the Third Bar by Snow Patrol

Monday, March 19, 2007

St. Patrick's Day

Thanks go out to all my friends who stuck with me from SW, to NE, NW, and finally home to Arlington. You all made it a night i wish i could remember better :-).

Seattle Rains

I must say, i have a love-hate relationship with Jet Blue. I love the fact that they have direct tv, so i don't need to bring as much entertainment with me, but i hate the fact that you have plenty of time to watch this tv while sitting at the gate for over half an hour waiting to take off. I flew out to seattle, via boston, and nearly every leg of the trip had some plane troubles (cancelled then replacement plane, hour delay, improperly loaded luggage causing delay, gate assignment problems causing delay on landing...). They really need to get their act together or just have really low prices to make it worth the hassle.

Seattle was nice, once you got used to the constant light rain that is usual this time of year. Went out to a divey college bar on friday night, where i totally should have won at darts, and then walked around the University of Washingtons campus with the midnight tour.

Saturday was spent in relax/recovery mode, we then went to the Bodies exhibit downtown. I found it highly informative and interesting, but i'm sure some people would find looking at preserved bodies a little disturbing. My random facts i took from it: Baby's pot bellies are made up primarily of their liver; the liver is the only organ made up of only one type of cell; people, especially pregnant women, can get tumors in their body that are made up of hair, teeth, and skin (in places they don't belong, and the grossest thing in the exhibit).

Sunday we went out the Redhook Brewery and took a tour, with free samples aplenty. The Blond and the Blackhook porter were my favorites. I liked the Blackhook so much that i got a Blackhook float for desert, which was suprisingly delicious (Blackhook pint with two scoops of Blackhook flavored ice cream). Finished Sunday night with a red-eye flight home that made me completely non-productive at work for the next 3 days.

Thursday, March 08, 2007


I have a disturbing run-in with a DDOLMFN (Disgustingly Dirty and Overly-Long Male Finger Nails = DDOLMFN, reading all the lemony snicket books slowly makes one become obsessed with acronyms) on the Metro this week.

There i was minding my own business, holding on the the upright pole and reading the Express on my way to work, when at the Clarendon station disaster strikes. As the train gives the usual jerk as part of pulling out of the station I feel a rough scratch on the back of my hand.

Upon looking for the source i see that the suited, and seemingly well groomed, man next to me has reached out for the bar without taking his eyes off of his newspaper. In this blind grab he has scraped his thumb nail against the back of my hand, and to my repulsion, it was one of the most disgusting nails i have ever seen. It was longer than most women's and where it grew away from the finger, instead of the clean white you would expect, was a black mess tapering up through grey and finally a cleanish white toward the tip (so at least i wasn't assaulted by the worst part :-/). Rarely have i seen such a sorry excuse for nail hygiene.

I was so shocked that i uttered an audible "Ugh!" which was heard by another guy standing near me. He saw what i was looking at and gave me a "better you than me" look. I really think metro should introduce hygiene police to enforce common-sense levels of personal grooming and deodorant use...

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Airport Wi Fi

I must give mad props to Boise Airport for being one of the only airports with free public wifi (Vegas being the only other one i know). I find it interesting that many other airports charge widely varying feels ($5-$20), guess the market is still too new to have set a standard. But it seems some scammers try to take advantage of desperate people by offering a computer-to-computer network connection and calling it a free public wifi. It worries me that they might be installing malicious software on anyones computer that optimistically tries to connect to such a network before noticing it isn't a broadcast type connection. That is why i'll be updating all my firewall software when i get home just to be safe. Apparently when I've been traveling for two days straight i become delerious and have trouble spotting such obvious attempts to attack my computer.

Fantastic February

Dear Feb,

When first we met, the jungle party was but a pleasant hangover. I must thank my neighbors for pulling it off for another year in a row. The night was fabulous, except for my lost keys. I must tell you to avoid that situation, it is really expensive to get the locks changed...

It feels as if I barely knew you, and now you are gone again. We had some good times, though. I'll not soon forget our trip up to northeast PA, where i showed Camelback who is boss on my new skis. The early morning ride may not have been all that grand, but the trip that followed was well worth it. If only i could have stayed awake for all the festivities, but that is the price you must sometimes pay to the party gods.

We got along well with the party gods a few weeks later with first that icy trip out to Dave & Busters (no grown adult should ever have so many tickets), followed immediately by that crazy Vegas bachelors party. None of the stereotypical Vegas debauchery, but fun regardless. No need for strippers when you have TONS of alcohol and friends with no issues against misbehaving in public. Boff '07 will be forever engraved in my memories, not so much for the event itself, but for the lexicographical humor we derived from it. I thank everyone i was there with for providing endless entertainment. Even when completely embarrassed at breakfast i was still laughing inside, and the stories will last for weeks to come. I'll always know to beware of irritating the little old ladies in elevators...

I must say the return from Vegas was less than awesome. Our pilot, thinking it slush, drove the plane into a mountain of ice and got the plane stuck on the tarmac for over an hour. At that time, they got buses onto the runway, offloaded us out the back (the only time having a seat back there helped), and drove us to the terminal. At which point i had another hour wait for my luggage and a miserable cab ride home. Instead of the time to pack and get 8 hrs sleep i was hoping for i had to take all dirty laundry to Boise with me and only go on 6 hours sleep, after several sleepless nights in Vegas (its no wonder i got sick as a dog while in transit).

Finally, Feb, we had a good time in Boise, didn't we. I'm sorry i got horribly ill with that massive cold, but that is what comes from spending two days traveling in planes after Vegas has destroyed your immune system. The layover trip to the Mall of America was a huge disappointment. It isn't even that big, and the amusement park looked lame. I couldn't believe they had so much trouble filling the storefronts that they had to have two american eagles, and 4 caribou coffees, among other repeat stores. The western mountain skiing kicked my ass as usual, but was satisfying as well. I had fun, panting my way down the hills with my diminished lung capacity from the cold/flu and altitude issues. Someday i hope to be fit enough to keep up with my Idaho friend and maybe even kick his ass on a slope or two (at least if he is snowboarding ...).

That appears to be all Feb, i hope you had as much fun as i did. I'll try to write more often now that I'm staying at home for at least a whole week. I've included some pics of all our adventures together for you to check out.

Yours Truly,