Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Day 84/365 - New Year's Wii

I've never really liked big parties or crowds of strangers, so my New Year's Eve celebrations tend to just involve hanging out with family or close friends. Last year my friends Chris, Desiree and I ordered Thai food, played Yahtzee, listened to music, and watched the ball drop on tv. This year, we played Lego Batman on their Wii, Des made some yummy Venezuelan food for us, and we watched the ball drop on tv.

It bears little resemblance to the definition of "New Year's Eve fun" as put forth by movies and television, but I love it. Why spend the passing of the old year and the arrival of the new with a bunch of random strangers in a ballroom somewhere when you can be in a cozy living room with people you care about and who care about you? That's the way to start the new year off right.

(Taken with my Nikon Coolpix S200)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Day 83/365 - Next to Normal

Next to Normal is a musical with a bit of a convoluted development history. It opened in New York off-Broadway to reviews that were generally positive, albeit with some reservations. It was because of those reservations that the play migrated south for the winter to be retooled and restaged. It's currently being produced by Arena Stage at the Crystal City performance space that was pressed into service to tide them over until renovations are completed on their home theatre on DC's Southwest Waterfront.

I went to see it tonight even though I had misgivings about going. The play is about a dysfunctional family dealing with mental illness, so unlike most fare offered by theatres around the holidays, it's not exactly cheery and uplifting. Generally I'm opposed to paying to be depressed for two hours, but the reviews of the reworked show have been uniformly glowing and Ticketplace had half-price seats available and the theatre is literally a block from my apartment. So, I went.

As far as musicals about mental illness go, I think it's about as good as you're going to get. I don't know whether I could recommend it or not, but it definitely wasn't a waste of time or money. Despite the fact that I was predisposed to not liking it, I found the story very poignant, gripping, and compelling. The songs were serviceable but, with the exception of one that's refrain was 'I Miss the Mountains,' largely unremarkable (judging by the program none of the songs appear to have actual titles, which should be a tip-off as to how memorable they are). The performers were strong actors, but middling singers with thin, easily frayed voices. The orchestra was quite good. Arena's Crystal City performance space isn't terrible, but given that the seating area is pitched at a very shallow angle and the stage is rather low, you spend a good portion of the play watching the back of the person's head in front of you rather than the actors.

So, much like the critics who reviewed the play's first run in New York (who, unlike me, actually know what the hell they're talking about), I'd have to say that Next to Normal is good, with some reservations.

(Taken with my Nikon Coolpix S200)

Monday, December 29, 2008

Day 82/365 - Tourorists

Tourorist (toor-or-ist) noun - a particularly annoying tourist.

It was fairly warm out again today and given that hardly anyone was in the office (and especially given that I really didn't feel like doing any work), I went for a walk on the National Mall. Normally when I do that I just do a loop from the American Indian Museum down to the American History Museum. Today though I went all the way down to the Lincoln Memorial and back. Yep, not a whole lot of work got done today. Well, not by me anyhow.

There were loads of tourists out on the Mall. For the most part the tourists that come to Washington aren't too bad. Generally I only find them annoying when they're getting in the way -- such as when they stand on the left of the Metro escalators or when they come to a sudden stop at the top/bottom of escalator in order to get their bearings, meanwhile the escalator keeps moving and people start piling up behind them. I really hate that. That and when they let their obstreperous offspring treat the poles inside the Metro cars like jungle gyms.

I frequently wonder if the locals find me annoying when I go somewhere on a trip. I try to remember to avoid doing the sorts of things that would aggravate me, but I'm sure I slip sometimes and cause them to shake their heads and mutter under their breath about me like I do about our tourists.

(Taken with my Nikon Coolpix S200)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Twice on Sunday Bonus Photo(s) - Special Guest Host

The subject of this week's photo from my archives is Chewie, my friends' miniature Australian shepherd, as he looked last February at their Super Bowl party. And, as a special added bonus for this week's Twice on Sunday feature, we have a photo journal chronicling a day in the life of my friend Desiree -- Chewie's 'mom' and a lawyer turned professional dog walker. Take it away, Des!

"A Day in the Life of Desiree" Slideshow

(P.S. -- If you still haven't gotten your fill of doggie cuteness, the The Littlest Wookie link on the sidebar will take you to Chewie's blog)

(Taken with my Nikon D80)

Day 81/365 - Endangered Species

It's December 28th.

It's 70 degrees.

I'm wearing shorts.

I'll enjoy spring weather when it's actually spring. Right now, I want winter back.

Global warming sucks.

(Taken with my Nikon Coolpix S200)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Day 80/365 - Arty Smarty

The Phillips Collection is by far my favorite art museum in DC. It's one of the few museums or galleries I've been to that has it's own palpable personality, which probably comes from the fact that it's largely just one really rich guy's personal art collection that he turned into a museum. Plus it's housed in his former home (and the townhomes of his former neighbors). As the collection expanded, they bought the adjacent buildings, connected them all, and turned it into one really cool art salon. The Phillips Collection pre-dates both the National Gallery of Art in DC and the MOMA in NYC and focuses on the field of Modern Art as that term has varyingly been defined since the late 1800s.

The Phillips' most famous objet d'art is Renoir's Luncheon of the Boating Party, which now always makes me think of the movie 'Amelie.' My favorite works in the Phillips Collection though are Matisse's Studio, Quai St. Michel and Marjorie Phillips' Night Baseball. The Phillips has also hosted my favorite exhibit since I've been in DC, namely the Modigliani retrospective they did a few years back (although I also really like the National Gallery of Art's Edward Hopper exhibit and the Corcoran Gallery of Art's Modernism show).

So anyway, the reason the photo above is of me in front of a sign for the Phillips Collection is that I went there today. I'm a member now so I get in for free (well, not counting the membership dues that is). I really love going to art museums. It's always one of the factors I take into account when planning a vacation. Going to an art museum or gallery gives me a similar feeling to sitting beside the sea -- both settings provide me with a sense of peace, grace, majesty, mystery, and the presence of something bigger than myself. Plus contemplating art is a bit like Pop Rocks for the soul -- it wakes you up and lets you know there is more to life than just an endless string of mental factory-work.

My taste in art has certainly changed over time. Initially I didn't have any appreciation or understanding of art that was even remotely abstract. If it didn't look like it was supposed to look then I didn't like it. As I've gotten older though I've begun to appreciate art that doesn't just look like a form of photograph. I suppose it has something to do with coming to realize that few things are as they seem to be and that much of life is ambiguous and unclear. Despite that, though, I still really like 'calendar' artists such as Gustav Klimt and Norman Rockwell. I guess a bit of reassurance is always a welcome thing.

(Taken with my Nikon Coolpix S200)

Friday, December 26, 2008

Day 79/365 - Jour de Luxe

Today was a pretty self-indulgent day (so not that different really from all my other days). I hadn't done a photo walk in a while and it wasn't too terribly cold out today, so I decided to make a little outing to Bethesda, Maryland. I ambled about for a bit taking pictures of various things (including a mural that I really love and keep meaning to have my portrait taken in front of) and then I wandered over to Cafe Deluxe for lunch.

It's not really all that 'luxe', but it is pretty good. I sat in a booth and read a back-issue of Conde Nast Traveler while I ate a salad of mixed greens and goat cheese with a cup of roasted tomato soup, followed by a crab cake entree with a corn and asparagus medley on the side and washed down with three cups of coffee. After lunch, I headed to the arthouse movie theater at Bethesda Row to catch a showing of 'Slumdog Millionaire.'

It's an excellent movie and I loved it. It's very dramatic and romantic and powerful, and I came close to getting a bit 'misty' at the ending. It's been talked up for an Oscar and it's certainly deserving of that honor, unlike a lot of movie industry hype. It's directed by Danny Boyle, the same guy who made the movie 'Millions,' and it shares a lot of common thematic elements with that earlier film. Both films focused on a pair of brothers confronted by a threat from the criminal world and dealt with the idea that great money equals great success and great happiness.

I'm not sure whether that precept is true or not, but I wouldn't mind having the opportunity to find out for myself. Given that I was feeling particularly self-indulgent today, after the movie I swung by La Madeleine, a little bakery and cafe, and treated myself to a sacher torte and an Orangina. The torte wasn't quite as good as the ones they serve at the Hotel Sacher in Vienna, but it was still pretty darn good. It had been a while since I'd had an Orangina. I love the little beaker shaped bottles they come in. Drinking one always makes me feel a bit like a mad scientist quaffing some experimental potion.

Far as I know though I didn't turn invisible or morph into Mr. Hyde after drinking it.

(Taken with my Nikon D80)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Day 78/365 - Merry Christmas!

Here's this year's Christmas haul of gifts and cards from my family and friends basking in the glow of the tv Yule Log. My parents and my brother got me Starbucks gift cards (yay, more chai and gingersnap lattes for me!) and one of my sisters got me a set of funky martini glasses, margarita salt, and a cool bartending guide (yay, 1000 drink recipes to try out!). My present from my other sister will probably come next week. She's usually a little behind the curve in getting stuff ordered, but she always gets me cool stuff from my wish list.

I think my favorite Christmas present I've ever gotten was the Star Wars Death Star playset I got when I was a kid. It was awesome! It had a trash compactor with foam 'trash' that actually compacted (and that I later turned into spiked death trap for my Indiana Jones action figures), a moving elevator, and a blaster cannon that you could make blow up to simulate a hit from an attacking X-Wing fighter. It kicked ass.

I was always the first one up on Christmas day. One year I got up around 2:00 in the morning and was playing with the toys Santa left for me by flashlight so as to be sneaky and not wake anyone up. Didn't work. My parents heard me having fun and sent me back to bed and told me not to get up again until daylight. Spoilsports.

Merry Christmas to everyone, everywhere "and on Earth, peace -- goodwill toward men [and women]." I still think Linus says it better than anyone:

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Day 77/365 - 'Twas the Night Before Christmas...

...and I was nestled all snug in my bed, but it wasn't visions of sugarplums I saw -- it was the Christmas Story marathon on TBS instead!

Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a good night!

(Taken with my Nikon D80)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Day 76/365 - Tag, I'm It

For this week's self-portrait I decided to get in the Christmas spirit and shoot my reflection in one of the ornaments on the tree in the lobby of my apartment complex. Also, because I was tagged on Flickr by Picture Prefect, it's now my turn to reveal sixteen random facts about myself and this seemed like a good occasion to do so.

And so here they are:

1. I was once hoisted up into a helicopter that was hovering fifty feet above the deck of a ship at sea.
2. I used to have two earrings and a body piercing, but I quit wearing them about a year ago.
3. I took fencing and bowling classes for PE credit in college and sucked at both.
4. I love musicals.
5. I once had dinner at a restaurant one table over from Condoleeza Rice and totally eavesdropped on her conversations.
6. I've been through the Panama Canal.
7. My driver's license expired about eight years ago and I never bothered to get it renewed (obviously I don't drive).
8. I once chewed the same piece of blueberry Hubba Bubba bubblegum for three days straight (it turned white eventually).
9. I've skydived and bungee jumped, but social situations scare the hell outta me.
10. Until I was halfway through college, I thought the word 'pseudo' was pronounced 'puh-sway-do'
11. I sat three rows in front of Colin Powell for opening night of 'Mamma Mia' at the National Theatre and didn't realize it until I got up to leave at the end.
12. I'm terrified of dancing but secretly wish I knew how.
13. I used to write short stories for fun in high school and college but stopped (I still think up ideas for stories but never actually do anything with them).
14. I'm really good at building a fire (both fireplace and camp fire).
15. I once stepped on the end of a hoe and the handle swung up and whacked me in the face just like in cartoons and Three Stooges shorts and I wound up having to get stitches in my eyebrow.
16. I'm ridiculously over-organized (you have no idea how much time I put into compiling and revising this list).

(Taken with my Nikon D80)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Day 75/365 - Lunch at Central

I met my friend VerĂ³nica at Michel Richard's Central for lunch today. Both of us had been wanting to try out the food there for a while. It had been some time since we'd gotten together. She had been away at a really prestigious fellowship program at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, but now she's back in DC. We'd been trying to meet up for lunch for a couple weeks now but kept running into scheduling issues until today.

I'd been to Michel Richard's Citronelle once before and loved it, so I was really looking forward to dining at Central. Michel Richard is the top chef in DC and he's famous for his culinary masquerades. He'll make a dish that looks like it's one thing, and then you taste it and find out it's something else entirely. My favorite example of this is the lobster cole slaw at Citronelle. It looks just like regular cole slaw, but it's actually made with shredded lobster meat rather than shredded cabbage and it's ludicrously delicious.

Central is the casual counterpart to the more upscale Citronelle. It's a rather smallish space, but it doesn't feel cramped or crowded. It's well-appointed and has the perfect level of noisiness so you can talk without having to raise your voice, but still you don't feel as though the people at the table next to you are going to hear everything you say. And the food is like diamonds from heaven.

For my appetizer today I went with the mushroom risotto, only it wasn't really risotto. It was actually made with pasta pearls as opposed to arborio rice. It tasted like cheesy mushroom tapioca and it was heavenly, absolutely perfect on a cold day like today. Then for my entree I had the fried chicken, which actually was fried chicken. It wasn't like the standard conception of fried chicken, however. This was the fried chicken of the gods. The breading was very light and crisp and it was served over mashed potatoes with a mustard cream sauce and a small mixed green salad on the side. This was comfort food as Michelangelo would have made it had he been a chef rather than a painter.

VerĂ³nica opted for the French onion soup as a starter. They brought it out in a little pot and it was bubbling like a vat of magma. It was good, but extremely hot and somewhat difficult to eat. For her entree she ordered the lobster burger, which came with fries on the side. It was very yummy and the fries were perfectly done.

We were both too stuffed for dessert, but that's okay. Now I have an excuse to go back just for dessert and coffee.

(Taken with my Nikon Coolpix S200)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Twice on Sunday Bonus Photo - Merry Christmas

This week's bonus photo from my archives is a shot of a Christmas tree in the waiting room of the 30th Street train station in Philadelphia. I took this picture when I went up to Philly for the Army-Navy game in 2004. Merry Christmas!

(Taken with my old Canon PowerShot S400)

Day 74/365 - Nicholas, Patron Saint of Shopping Malls

It's kind of odd when you think about it that we erect shrines to a saint in shopping malls across the country once a year, yet it's done for almost entirely secular reasons. Poor Saint Nicholas -- stuck with cheesy temporary shrines and crying, snot-nosed, greedy little pilgrims. He definitely got the fuzzy end of the lollipop when it comes to the saint business.

I hadn't really thought of it much, but I do miss the excitement of going to the mall and sitting on Santa's lap and telling him what I want for Christmas. That was always a lot of fun as a kid. I'd pester my mom by asking her when we were going to see Santa and then I'd try to figure out what I wanted to ask for and then hope I didn't forget it when he asked me.

This is the atrium at the Pentagon City shopping mall in Arlington, VA. All my Christmas shopping has been done for a while now (gift cards as usual), but today I swung by the mall to grab lunch at Johnny Rockets and pick up an arm band for my iPod in the hopes that maybe that will motivate me to pry my slovenly butt up off the couch and go to the gym in my apartment complex. We'll see.

BTW, I really hate the way the Apple stores are set up. I hate the whole 'no check out line' and roving sales staff thing. When I go there it's just to grab an accessory. All I want to do is pay for it and go, but I'm stuck trolling about the store trying to find someone to take my money. Usually they are all chatting with an endless parade of clueless customers and I wind up ping ponging around trying to find one that is almost done answering questions.

I guess it's great if you actually do have questions, but when I just want to buy an armband or a case I don't need to ask any questions or get any explanations. 'Here's what I want, here's my money, bye'! I wish they had one sales person who was always in the same corner of the store instead of floating about and who was just there to ring things up and not to answer any questions. That would make me happy. It shouldn't be that hard to give someone your money. Bah, humbug!

(Taken with my Nikon Coolpix S200)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Day 73/365 - At the EagleBank Bowl

I'd never been to a college football bowl game before today. This morning, the Inaugural EagleBank Bowl was played at RFK Stadium in Washington, DC between Wake Forest and the U.S. Naval Academy. I bought my ticket for the game just as soon as Navy accepted the invitation to play.

I'd also never seen a football game at RFK and I hadn't been back to that stadium since the final home game of the Nationals' 2007 season. It hadn't changed much. As soon as you exited the Metro you still had to battle your way through the pushy hordes of ticket scalpers and hucksters selling knock-off hats and t-shirts that were crowding the sidewalk. That's definitely one thing I don't miss now that the Nats have moved to their new digs. The concession stands also ran out of hot dog buns at half-time, just like they always used to do during baseball games. That's another thing I don't miss.

The weather wasn't too bad at kick-off, but by half-time the temperature had dropped noticeably. The stadium was only about one-fourth full. There seemed to be fewer Wake Forest fans there, but they definitely went home happier than we Navy fans did. Navy lead 13-0 at one point, but the offense just never could get going all day and eventually the defense wore down and got picked apart by Wake Forest's passing game. The final score ended up being 29-19 in favor of Wake Forest.

Oh well, at least they beat Army this season. Go Navy!

(Taken with my Nikon D80)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Day 72/365 - Bright Lights, Big Screen

My favorite movie of all time is the Frank Capra Christmas classic It's a Wonderful Life. I've seen it about a zillion times before, but always on tv. I'd never seen it on the big screen in an actual movie theater until tonight. Just across the DC border in Silver Spring, Maryland is the AFI Silver Theatre -- an old art deco movie palace restored and operated by the American Film Institute. It's a lovely old structure with a gorgeous main auditorium and is an outstanding place to see a movie.

I met up with Erin M. in the theatre lobby. She planned this trip to the movies as an outing for the DC Social Group on Flickr, but through the process of attrition it wound up just being me and her there tonight. That was fine. We had a great time anyhow. She thinks it's the best movie ever made as well, so since it was just the two of us we didn't have to deal with any non-believing cinematic heathens pooh-poohing our adoration.

It was very cool to see it on the big screen. The lighting and shading seemed better and I noticed a lot of little details in many of the scenes that I had never noticed before when I watched it on tv -- like the skull and crossbones patches on all the boys stocking caps at the beginning, the little skull carving that was on Mr. Potter's desk, and the way Ernie the cop shot out one of the lights in the 'Potterville' sign when he was shooting at George during the 'alternate history' sequence.

Yes, it's maudlin; yes, it's simplistic; yes, it's far-fetched and full of logic holes -- but it makes me laugh a lot and cry a little and for that I love it. I love it.

(Taken with my Nikon Coolpix S200)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Day 71/365 - A Capitol Christmas

This is the Christmas tree that stands in front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC as mirrored in the waters of the reflecting pool. I set the self-timer on my camera and put it on the edge of the reflecting pool basin and let it do its thing in order to avoid winding up with a shaky, blurry shot. Wish I'd bothered first to make sure I had the camera straight. There were some people there with a tripod though and I was getting in the way of their shot so I tried to be quick about it.

Even though there's only one week left until Christmas Day I still haven't been able to muster up a lot of holiday spirit yet. Once you become an adult you kind of lose Christmas a little and I don't think you fully get it back again until you have kids. You can recapture a bit of it by going home for the holidays, but during those years where you don't go back and spend the day with your family, Christmas just winds up sort of empty feeling.

Tomorrow night though I'm going to see It's a Wonderful Life at the AFI Silver, a really cool art deco movie palace in Silver Spring, and I'm hoping that will help jump start my Christmas spirit. It's my favorite movie ever and I've never seen it in an actual theater before, so I'm pretty excited.

Remember, every time a bell rings an angel gets his (or her) wings.

(Taken with my Nikon Coolpix S200)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Day 70/365 - Lawyers on the Loose

Today was my office's holiday party. We had lunch at Tuscana West and then 'neglected' to go back to the office. Whoops! My six person section decided to go to the restaurant a bit early for a 'meeting' and a few aperitifs. That's how we roll.

It turned out to be a pretty good party. Because we work for the public rather than the private sector, we have to pay for our holiday parties ourselves. This one only cost us $27 each and the food was quite good. You have to get to these parties fairly early so that you can avoid being stuck sitting next to people you don't really want to spend two hours with. Made that mistake once.

Organizing these things is always a bit of a struggle. The tightwad old fuddy-duddy segment of our office never wants to pay much and won't go anywhere remotely non-mainstream. They were appalled the year we went to a Moroccan place and had to eat with our hands. Thankfully my boss finally stopped volunteering me for the party planning committee. Even when these parties are kind of lame they're still worth attending, though. I always just look at it as though I'm buying myself a half-day off. That makes it a bargain at just about any price.

(Taken with my Nikon Coolpix S200)

Day 69/365 - Colbie Caillat in Concert

Okay, I'll admit it -- I really like Colbie Caillat's CD Coco. Everyone has to have their own musical guilty pleasures and I've always had a weakness for treacly, over-emoted soft pop. If you haven't heard Colbie Caillat's music (which would be surprising given that her single 'Bubbly' got beaucoup airplay), she sounds sort of like a cross between Jack Johnson and Belinda Carlisle. Plus she's hot, and that doesn't hurt.

I have a CD player in my bathroom and I like to listen to it while I'm getting ready for work in the morning. So far my two favorite CDs for getting the morning started are Corinne Bailey Rae's eponymous CD and the aforementioned Coco. They're both really pleasant ways to ease into the day. It's tough to be grumpy in the morning after having heard either Corinne Bailey Rae's "Call Me When You Get This" or Colbie Caillat's "Tailor Made."

Anyhow, Colbie Caillat was live in concert tonight at the 9:30 Club in Washington, DC and I went. The shots I tried to take inside the club kept coming out blurry, so finally I just said 'screw it, I'll play around a bit and see what sort of cool effects I can get by slowly moving my camera in different directions while the shot exposes.' The intentionally blurry shots definitely came out much cooler than the unintentionally blurry ones. Turns out imagination can be a fairly effective camouflage for poor technique.

Getting back to the gig, I still really like Colbie Caillat's music but I feel sort of bad that I didn't especially enjoy her show tonight. Her voice was quite good and she seemed really nice, sweet, and earnest -- she was just a rather uninspiring performer. Her on-stage routine primarily involved walking slowly from one side of the stage to the other, with an occasion shoulder dip or shallow knee bend thrown in. Not exactly the most dynamic approach to showmanship. She reminded me of the animatronic robot actors at the old Hall of Presidents in Disneyland. Interestingly, the only times she really seemed to put any oomph into her performance was during a pair of covers -- Bob Marley's 'Turn Your Lights Down Low' and Roberta Flack's 'Killing Me Softly.'

Otherwise she was just sort of unremarkable. Still hot, though.

(Taken with my Nikon Coolpix S200)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Day 68/365 - Elevator Funhouse

I've been wanting to do a self-portrait in an elevator for a while now, but it always turned out that there was either someone in the elevator or I had the angle of my camera wrong and just wound up with a shoot of the elevator ceiling. I'd made a few attempts at this in the elevator at home and the one at work, but no joy. Then this morning in the elevator of my apartment building I finally got lucky -- I was the only one in the elevator and I actually managed to get myself in the picture. Bonus!

Previously I had given some thought to just riding up and down in the elevator until I got an empty one and I got the shot right, but that would've seemed like cheating. It was more fun to just keep trying until I finally got it right.

(Taken with my Nikon Coolpix S200)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Twice on Sunday Bonus Photo - Beauty Mark Triptych

This week's extra photo from my archives is actually three different treatments of the same photo. This mural of Marilyn Monroe is high on the side of a building in the Woodley Park section of DC. The graffiti isn't an offical part of the mural, but it does seem to go well with it. It is on the top edge of the wall of an adjoining building and is about 30 feet or so from the mural itself. For the top photo, I used the sepia effect in Picasa, for the middle one I used the glow effect in Picasa and for the bottom one I used the negative effect in an old version of Microsoft Photo Editor.

(Taken with my Nikon D80)

Day 67/365 - Pub-A-Dub-Grub

There's a sports pub a few blocks away from my apartment and it serves as my neighborhood hang-out. I go there at least once a week, usually on the weekends. I go to watch the Nats or Broncos games, and if there isn't a game on that I want to see then I just take my most recent issue of Entertainment Weekly with me and read that while I eat. Then when I'm done I always leave my magazine behind on the table and the waitresses take it and read it when things are slow.

Today it was a Broncos game. They were playing the Panthers and getting whupped. As usual, the defense sucked. They were down 27-10 midway through the third quarter when I gave up and went home. Oh well, at least I got to scarf down an order of crab dip and some buffalo chicken tenders with cole slaw, all washed down with Backdraft Brown on tap. On Sundays here they put sheets of plywood over the pool tables and turn them into communal dining tables. That's generally where I sit to watch the game. I pretty much have to go here to watch the Broncos play seeing as how all we get on tv in this area are the games of crappy east coast teams like the Jets, Dolphins, and Ravens. Bleaahh.

Given that I was born and raised in Missouri, I'm not sure how I wound up being a Broncos fan. I suspect I might have started rooting for them just to aggravate my big brother, who is a diehard Chiefs fan. Every season when the Broncos came to town he and I would go to the game and I'd cheer for Denver and he'd cheer for KC. Denver usually won back then so he'd threaten to make me move and sit somewhere else in the stadium or threaten to drive off and leave me stranded in the parking lot. Even now, if my team loses on Sunday he calls me to rub it in and if his team loses I do likewise.

Ahhh, there's nothing quite like brotherly love.

(Taken with my Nikon Coolpix S200)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Day 66/365 - Dinner at My Place

I invited my friends Desiree, Adriana, and Chris over to my place for dinner tonight, which meant I had to cook. I decided to go with a comfort food kind of menu, so I made meatloaf, mac and cheese, peas with mushrooms, tomato and herb bread, and chocolate cheesecake.

I was in the kitchen pretty much non-stop from 1:30 to 7:30. I'm not a very fast chef. The only dish I hadn't made before was the mac and cheese. It's made with penne and gruyere and turned out really good. I love this meatloaf recipe. It's not dry, crusty, and dense like my mom's meatloaf (sorry Ma). It's very light, moist, and flavorful. Even my brother, who hates meatloaf, loves it when I make this.

Everyone seemed to enjoy the meal. After we'd stuffed ourselves, I made a batch of chocolate martinis and we watched 'Wall-E" on DVD. If you haven't seen it yet, it's a great movie and it goes well with both chocolate martinis and chocolate cheesecake. But then again, what doesn't?

(Taken with my Nikon D80)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Day 65/365 - Goodbye, Bettie Page

Bettie Page died last night. She was the all-time pin-up queen and a perfect blend of girl next door and kinky minx. It was a shame her life didn't turn out to be as joyous as she always appeared to be in her pin-up photos.

These are a group of Bettie Page magnets I have on my refrigerator. Normally they're scattered across the surface of my fridge, holding up an array of photos and comic strips. Tonight they're drawn together in tribute to a beautiful but troubled woman who seemed the ideal embodiment of William Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience.

Good night Bettie, wherever you may be.

(Taken with my Nikon D80)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Day 64/365 - String of Pearls

I liked the way these raindrops looked clinging to the branches of the trees growing in the courtyard of my apartment complex, so I grabbed my camera and an umbrella and headed outdoors. It was the first time I'd been out of my apartment all day. I have an appeal response I have to file Monday, so I lugged a bunch of files home with me last night and spent today working at home.

There's nothing quite like practicing law on your couch in a pair of gym shorts and a t-shirt. I'm lucky in that my boss is really cool about letting me telecommute whenever I want. I always manage to get way more done at home than I would in the office. It's partly because of fewer interruptions, and I think partly because I feel less inclined to take a break at home. At work I'm almost always looking for an excuse to take a break.

It's been rainy and grey here for two days now, and yesterday it was uber-humid. It's been more like Spring in Washington state than the verge of Winter in Washington, DC. It's December -- it should be snowing rather than raining. You can't make a rain man or rain angels or have a rain ball fight. I want a white Christmas, not a wet Christmas.

(Taken with my Nikon D80)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Day 63/365 - Washington, DC: Nutjob Magnet

One of the downsides to living in the DC area is having to put up with the kooks and crazies that want to come here, get in the way, and air their idiotic viewpoints. Earlier this week it was the tinfoil hat crowd camped out on the steps of the Supreme Court trying to get it to entertain their conspiracy theory that the President-Elect isn't a natural born U.S. citizen. Now it appears that we have yet another demonstration of intellectually bankrupt ideological carpetbaggers coming to town.

They'll show up, mess up traffic, require the District to pay for a lot of police overtime, make themselves feel like they're doing something, accomplish nothing other than irking the people who live here, and then go back from whence they came. I guess this plague of angry crackpots is nothing new, though. This is the same city that played host to a Million Klan March back in the 1920s after all.

We get a few of these buffoon conventions each year and they're all ridiculous. The demonstrations, marches, etc. are never actually for anything. They just rail loudly and impotently against their personal Satan-of-choice: abortion rights, the Bush Administration, the World Bank/IMF, capitalism, and now the Federal Reserve. Apparently the Federal Reserve was the secret puppetmaster behind the invasion of Iraq, the financial sector bail-outs, and the 'inflation tax,' whatever the hell that might be.

Why stop there? Why not also blame the Fed for Hurricane Katrina, the Irish Potato Famine, the extinction of the dinosaurs, and the musical 'Cats' (now there's a crime against humanity). These yahoos aren't even original. They're basically just recycling the same 'evil bankers are controlling the world' arguments the White Supremacist wackos have been espousing for years with their 'Protocols of Zion' BS.

These migratory nutjobs do a disservice to the occasional worthwhile protests that do come to DC and invariably get lumped in with the limpwits. The First Amendment gives you the right to petition the government for redress of grievances. It does not give you the right to be an obnoxious twit who pointlessly aggravates your fellow citizens just to boost your sense of self-worth.

Next month the idiot brigade will spin the 'Big Wheel O' Stupidity' and pick a new cause celebre at which to shake their fists and gnash their teeth. I can hardly wait to see what it will be next. I nominate 'people who clip their nails on the Metro.' That's a scourge I could support eliminating.

(Taken with my Nokia 6133 cameraphone -- because I was stupid and forgot to take my S200 to work with me today)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Day 62/365 - Spoon Portrait

As you can probably tell by this shot, I didn't have much time at work today to think up a cool shot to take and now that I'm home I'm tired and I just want to read for a bit and then go to bed early. So that's how I wound up standing in my kitchen and shooting a picture of myself reflected in the back of a slotted spoon for this week's self-portrait. Ta da!

Why is it that your reflection on the back of a spoon is rightside up, but your reflection on the inside of a spoon is upside down?

(Taken with my Nikon Coolpix S200)

Monday, December 8, 2008

Day 61/365 - Office Away From Office

We have a Starbucks adjacent to my office building and when I need to really focus on something and blaze through my review of it, I take files down there and work. Today it was a grant announcement I'd promised to get reviewed and returned to the program office by COB. This is my favorite table. There were a couple kids sitting there when I entered, but by the time I got my chai they'd left and I was able to claim my usual spot.

I've always been one of those people who focus and concentrate better when there is stuff going on around them. I could never study in complete silence. My mind tends to start wandering if there isn't something going on in the background. Some people need absolute quiet in order to concentrate and others of us are just the opposite. In school I always had to have the radio or tv on when I was studying or doing homework and even now I listen to music in my office.

It seems counter-intuitive that you'd need noise and commotion in order to avoid distractions, but that's what works for me.

(Taken with my Nikon Coolpix S200)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Twice on Sunday Bonus Photo - Blood Orange Blossom

For this week's extra photo from my archives we have a shot I took of a flower I saw at the zoo in San Diego. I have no idea what sort of flower it is, but I think it looks cool. I like shooting flowers for some reason. They're kinda like prettier versions of Rubik's Cubes -- lots of colors and shapes going on. And they tend not to move much, which makes them easy to shoot.

(Taken with my Nikon D80)

Day 60/365 - At the BB&T Classic

Well they couldn't quite pull off the double dip this weekend. Navy's basketball team played Virginia Tech in the opening game of the BB&T Classic at the Verizon Center in Washington, DC. The temperature inside the Verizon Center was much more pleasant than that at Lincoln Financial Field yesterday, and the subway ride into DC was much quicker (and cheaper) than the Amtrak ride up to Philly.

My seat pretty much sucked, though. I was behind one of the baskets about fifty feet from the court, so I spent a lot of time watching the game on the jumbotron. On the plus side, however, I was right across the aisle from the Midshipmen seating section and they're always a fun and lively bunch. Plus the Navy cheerleaders were right behind the basket so even when the team was playing ugly I had something nice to watch.

Navy led at the half but wound up losing the game to Virginia Tech by a score of 79-70. Navy played hard, but not particularly smart, basketball. They kept playing physical defense even after it became obvious the refs were going to call a tight game and as a result they sent the Hokies to the free throw line far too many times. Also, the Mids were too reluctant to take shots as time wound down and just kept passing the ball around while the clock ticked their chances away. When you're down by ten points with less than four minutes to play in the game, it's not the time to be passive and unselfish. It's time to take things into your hands and be aggressive. Otherwise, you lose.

Oh well, at least I got to see one Navy victory this weekend. Next stop on the Navy Sports Express for me -- the EagleBank Bowl at RFK on December 20th. Go Navy!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Day 59/365 - Go Navy, Beat Army!

I took the train up to Philadelphia today to watch Navy's football team put a 34-0 whuppin' on Army in the 109th playing of the Army-Navy Game. This marks Navy's seventh straight victory over their arch-rival. I was actually worried that this might be the year Army took one from Navy. Army had been playing better this season and Navy had been up and down. I should've had more faith in the Midshipmen.

Unless you're a Navy fan like me, it probably wasn't a very interesting game given that Army never really even came that close to scoring. I thought it was great, though. The weather was cold but the end result made it all worth it.

Now if the Navy basketball team can just beat Virginia Tech tomorrow the weekend will be doubly awesome.

(Taken with my Nikon D80)

Friday, December 5, 2008

Day 58/365 - Flotsam & Jetsam

This is the shopping arcade at Union Station in Washington, DC. This, along with the Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building, is one of my favorite buildings in DC. Before they turned the train station into a mall and food court, this room used to be open at the ends and the trains used to pull into it like a carport. This is where passengers would board and disembark the trains that were taking them to or bringing them from the far reaches of the railroad.

I had to stop by Union Station after work today to pick up a train ticket. Tomorrow morning I'm day-tripping up to Philadelphia for the Army-Navy game (Go Navy, Beat Army!). I kinda wish they'd restore this part of the station back to its original use. The place where you catch trains now has all the dark, drab, concrete charm of an office building parking garage. Keleti train station in Budapest still uses the old carport style approach and I like it much better.

I really love train stations, airports too although they don't have quite the same sense of nostalgia and romance. I like getting there early before a trip and marinading in the excitement of going somewhere. It's just such a vital and vibrant place to be with people bustling to and fro like salmon swimming upstream, either rushing toward or pulling themselves away from someone they love.

(Taken with my Nikon Coolpix S200)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Day 57/365 - Decorations

These are the military sort of decorations rather than the Christmas kind. These are my ribbons, medals, and rating insignia from my time in the Navy. Only one of them is actually of any significance. The others are what's known in Naval parlance as 'geedunk' (i.e., junk food) awards.

Starting from the right, the red and yellow striped medal and corresponding ribbon is the National Defense Service Medal, known colloquially as a 'ketchup and mustard stain' or a 'Ronald McDonald medal.' You get it for happening to be in the military during a period of armed conflict, regardless of whether you actually participated in that conflict. I received this for being in the Navy during Operation Desert Storm, even though all I did during that conflict was just go through training.

The maroon medal and ribbon in the middle is the Good Conduct Medal, also known as the 'Good Cookie Medal.' You get it for completing four years of military service without ever getting caught doing anything particularly bad (i.e., not going before captain's mast or a court-martial).

The green and orange striped one on the left is the only one that counts. That's the Navy Achievement Medal (NAM). I got mine for various acts of service to my command during my four years aboard ship. I was actually shocked as hell to get it. It came in the mail a few months after I was honorably discharged. A Captain only gets to give out a few NAMs each year and so normally they just give them to sailors who are staying in the Navy because they count as a bonus point on the rating exams you have to take in order to get promoted to the next rank. Giving one to someone who is getting out of the military is pretty much unheard of so, to steal a British expression, I was 'well chuffed' when I got my NAM in the mail.

The patch at the far left is a Petty Officer's rating insignia, also known as a 'crow.' The two chevrons indicate the rank of Petty Officer Second Class, which I believe I may have mentioned before is equivalent to a sergeant. The symbol in between the eagle and the chevrons is an arrown and an oscilloscope (which was an early form of radar display) and denotes that I was an Operations Specialist.

The thin, curved patch above the rating insignia is called a UIC, which stands for 'Unit Identification Code' even though it's the name of my ship rather than an actual code. I was stationed aboard the USS Mississippi (CGN-40) during my four years in the Navy. The blue, white, and yellow ribbon with the two 'E' pins on it is a Battle E or Battle Effectivness award. You get it for belonging to a Naval command that scored highest in the year-long combat readiness/competency evaluation for that class of combatant.

And that's the sum total of my military decorations.

(Taken with my Nikon Coolpix S200)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Day 56/365 - Experiments in Bokeh

This may look like an old school Lite-Brite, but it's actually just an out of focus shot of a tree trunk that was wrapped in Christmas lights. I cranked up the shadow level in Picasa to strip out everything except the lights. This is a great time of year to play around with bokeh shots.

Usually I forget to try and bokeh a subject and then it strikes me after I'm reviewing the downloaded images that "dang, that might have looked cool as a bokeh shot." This shot is really too busy and crowded to make good bokeh, but I still kinda liked the way it came out.

Tonight the outdoor shopping area near my apartment was having an open house with free horse and carriage rides, giveaways, and a special Santa for animals to get their pictures taken with (although some little kids did wind up horning in on the Kris Kringle action as well). I met up there with my friends Chris, Desiree, and Adriana. Chris and Des brought their dog Chewie with them and dressed him up in his reindeer costume so he could get his picture taken with Santa.

Can't wait to see how that comes out. Hopefully Des and Chris will post the shot on Chewie's blog shortly.

(Taken with my Nikon D80)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Day 55/365 - Arrrhh!

This skull-and-crossbones is tattooed on my upper left arm. I got it done when I was in the Navy. I thought about getting a second tattoo on my right arm to balance things out, but I never got around to it. So now I'm lopsided.

I've wanted to be a pirate ever since I was small (although there was a period around the time that 'Star Wars' came out that I modified that slightly and wished I were a Corellian Space Pirate). My friends and I would play pirate all the time. I always got to be the captain, of course.

We used the jungle gym in their backyard as our pirate ship and got some old costume jewelry from my mom to serve as our loot, which we kept in a cardboard box we painted to resemble a treasure chest. We sailed that jungle gym all over the Caribbean, raided a thousand ships, and pillaged a hundred ports without ever leaving our neighborhood.

Years later when my youngest niece came along I got her into playing pirates (it beat the hell outta playing with Barbies) and she and I made treasure maps out of old paper sacks, spyglasses out of empty paper towel rolls, and a pirate ship out of my sister's couch and I resumed my career as the Scourge of the Seven Seas.

Now I need someone else to hurry up and have kids so I can go back to playing pirate. It's much preferable to playing lawyer. There are rich merchant ships prime for the plucking and wealthy port towns brimming with gold. Time to teach those scurvy dogs to once again fear the name of Captain Kevin.


(Taken with my Nikon D80)

Monday, December 1, 2008

Day 54/365 - It's Christmas Time, There's No Need to Be Afraid

These are the little Christmas trees in front of the U.S. Botanic Garden Conservatory at the base of Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. I spun my camera around on my finger while the shot was exposing just to see how it would turn out. I think it came out pretty cool.

Now that Thanksgiving has passed and December is here, it's no longer too early to start thinking about Christmas. Tonight 'How The Grinch Stole Christmas' (the excellent cartoon version, not the crappy movie version) is on tv and Wednesday they're going to be showing 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer' and for the first time ever it will be in HD. I'm pretty stoked about that.

While we're on the subject of Christmas, I'm prepared to argue ad infinitum that there are only three acceptable Rock & Roll Christmas carols -- "Do They Know It's Christmas" by Band Aid, "Rocking Around the Christmas Tree" by Brenda Lee, and "All I Want for Christmas Is You" by Mariah Carey (which is still one of the only songs that will get me to dancing in the shower whenever it comes on the radio).

(Taken with my Nikon Coolpix S200)

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Twice on Sunday Bonus Photo - Peek-a-Boo

This week's bonus photo from my archives is a shot I stumbled upon as I was leaving the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History one day. This little puppet on a popsicle stick thing was peeping out from the shadows in a groove on the base of one of the columns at the front of the building. I really liked the juxtaposition between the colorful, playful toy and the grave, grey formality of the column. It seemed to me like a good illustration of the double nature of DC -- the serious, workaholic, bureaucratic/wonky side and the fun, silly, arts-and-culture side.

(Taken with my Nikon D80)

Day 53/365 - Confessions of a Retro Boy

This is a replica of an old GE cathedral-style radio from the 1930s. My parents got this for me as a Christmas present years and years ago. I've loved big band jazz and old-time radio (or OTR as it's more familiarly known among we geeky collector types) programs ever since I was in high school. When everyone else at school was getting into Poison and Motley Crue I was discovering Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman -- music that was already old by the time my parents were my age. Even though I'm a self-confessed dance-phobe, I really wish I knew how to swing dance. That looks like fun.

It's a bit blasphemous to admit this, but I think I like OTR better than tv. Old radio programs are like tv shows without the pictures, kinda like the opposite of silent movies I guess. I think imagining the action going on in the program in your head even beats HD. There are many different genres of radio shows, but mostly I focus on collecting the adventure, spy, and detective programs (albeit with a few children's, western, science fiction, and horror programs thrown in as well). I have nearly 200 different programs comprising several thousand individual episodes in mp3 format in my collection. They're great to upload to my iPod and listen to at the pool or when I'm travelling. My favorite programs are probably Jungle Jim and Orson Welles' run on The Shadow.

This is probably my single-most nerdy area of activity. It doesn't get much geekier than collecting OTR. I don't just stop there, though. Noooooo. I also design album covers for each program I collect. I enjoy that almost as much I do listening to the programs themselves. Why settle for being simply nerdy when you can be absurdly nerdy?

BTW -- if your curiosity has been piqued, you can find a huge inventory of old radio programs available for free download from the Internet Archive.

(Taken with my Nikon D80)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Day 52/365 - At the Roller Derby

I went to my first ever roller derby tonight and had a great time. I had a suspicion I'd probably enjoy it; badass battlin' babes (on rollerskates yet) -- what's not to love? Plus the noms de guerre under which the women skate are awesome in their own right -- Skid Ho, Obitchuary, Condoleeza Slice, Camilla the Hun, and Crispi Ramahoochie to name but a few.

The amateur women's roller derby group in this area is called the DC Rollergirls and they put on about four matches a year. There are currently three teams that make up the DC Rollergirls -- the Cherry Blossom Bombshells, DC DemonCats, and Scare Force One. A former fourth team, the Secretaries of Hate, apparently folded earlier this year. This is the third season for the Rollergirls thus far and hopefully they'll stick around.

Tonight's match was held at the National Guard Armory and featured an exhibition between the Cherry Blossom Bombshells and a visiting side called the Northside Stranglers, who drew their members from various roller derby leagues in Pennsylvania and Maryland. Following that was the main event -- a matchup between Scare Force One and the DC DemonCats. Scare Force One came into the evening as champions of the past two seasons and holders of an undefeated record in league play. That all fell by the wayside tonight however as the DemonCats, cheered on by their mascot Beelzebubba, put a serious whuppin' on Scare Force One.

I unintentionally ended up wearing the DemonCats colors to the match tonight and once I noticed that fact I was pulling for them to win, so I was pretty pleased with the result. Plus the match gave me a great opportunity to work on my action and sports photography techniques. I used my flash for the exhibition bout and then when the batteries in it went kaput I switched to working on my panning technique with the second bout, so I got to polish up a couple different skillsets tonight.

There were loads of people there with cameras, including Erin from the DC Social group on Flickr. She and I both had a bit of lens envy over some of the set-ups people there had and we couldn't believe they would risk their uber-expensive lenses sitting right next to the track given the regularity with which the Rollergirls kept crashing and skidding into the first row of the crowd. I guess though that if you can afford camera equipment that pricey, then you can probably afford to replace it as well.

(Taken with my Nikon D80)

Friday, November 28, 2008

Day 51/365 - A Productive Day at the Office

If you have to be at work, the day after Thanksgiving is one of the most relaxing days of the year to be working -- hardly anyone is at the office and the few people who are generally don't feel like being bothered or bothersome. As a result, I spent today at work BS'ing with my friend and co-worker Chris (one of the two other people in my office who came to work today) and uploading, organizing, titling, describing, tagging, and geotagging the photos I took of the Thanksgiving Day parade and of New York City itself over the past two days.

The T1 connection we have at the office is much faster for uploading than the DSL connection I have at home, and that fact came in particularly handy given that I had just over 200 photos to upload. It took me most of the day to get my Flickr 'business' done, although I did have to waste thirty minutes at a meeting going over something I'd already explained. Seriously, who the hell schedules a meeting for the day after Thanksgiving? Communists.

It's silly for an office to even be open that day. It probably costs far more in utilities and security to keep buildings open on the Friday after Thanksgiving than any resulting productivity gain, especially given that most of the people who are at work aren't doing much that day. Or maybe that's just me.

(Taken with my Nikon Coolpix S200)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Day 50/365 - I Love a Parade!

And what a parade this was! Today I saw the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade live and in-person in New York City. I've watched and loved this parade on tv ever since I was a little kid. Watching it on Thanksgiving morning has always been a part of my Thanksgiving routine. For about five years I've been toying with the idea of going up to NYC to see the parade in-person, and this year I finally did it!

It was awesome! My favorite part of the parade has always been the balloons and they're even cooler up close than they are on tv. The weather really cooperated, too. It was cold, but not freezing cold and the sun was out and it wasn't windy. It was pretty crowded along the parade route, but I found a good viewing spot on Central Park West near 67th Street. I got there about 7:45 and there were already 4-5 rows of people lined up in front of me. The parade started at 9:00 and lasted just under two hours.

After it ended, I walked through Central Park and meandered around town for a bit taking pictures before it was time to head over to Oscar's at the Waldorf-Astoria for Thanksgiving lunch. I had pumpkin bisque, soft breadsticks, artisanal cheeses, sauteed asparagus and carrots in a honey mustard glaze, dressing, candied yams, turkey, bread pudding, pecan pie, and chocolate mousse cake. It was delicious, but I don't think anything beats a home-cooked meal for Thanksgiving, no matter how fancy the restaurant.

(Taken with my Nikon D80)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Day 49/365 - On Broadway

Okay, so the picture is technically from 44th Street and not Broadway, you get the idea.

This afternoon I ditched work early and took the train up to New York. I decided to stay at the Best Western at the South Street Seaport. It's a pretty cool area. I'm going to have to come back another day when I've got more time and shoot loads of pictures. It's old and weathered looking and there are some great views of the Brooklyn Bridge.

I grabbed dinner just around the corner from my hotel, at the Bridge Cafe. It rocked. It's just a small, unpretentious, neighborhood restaurant with excellent food. In that regard, it reminded me a bit of my favorite eating place in the world -- the aptly named Le Restaurant in the Montmartre section of Paris. I started with the mixed green salad with pears, bleu cheese, candied walnuts, and citrus vinaigrette paired with the pumpkin beer they had on tap. Then it was on to the lobster pot pie with a side order of mac and cheese, washed down with another glass of pumpkin beer. I'd missed lunch, but this dinner more than made up for it.

After dinner I headed to the St. James Theatre to see the musical 'Gypsy' featuring Patti LuPone. I had never seen this show, but I knew it was supposed to be a classic with a plum role for a mature, belt-it-out style female singer. I hadn't realized how many great songs it had in it. There were about four songs that were instantly recognizable as well-known standards. Now I need to order the soundtrack off Amazon.

The story chronicles the life of the famous burlesque queen Gypsy Rose Lee and her loopy, controlling, over-the-top stage mother. As with most family dramas it was a bit dark, but it was also quite funny and moving. I liked this play a lot. In addition to lucking out with my choice of a play to see, I got lucky with my seat as well. Normally I spring for a pricier seat in the orchestra section, but I'd been to the St. James before to see 'The Producers' so I knew there were good views to be had from the balcony. Because the theatre was only about two-thirds full, they closed off the balcony and let us cheapskates sit down on the mezzanine level. Bonus!

I had been planning on grabbing some cheesecake and coffee after the show, but I was still so stuffed from dinner that I just headed back to the hotel to crash. Not exactly de rigeur for the city that never sleeps, but I knew I had to get up early Thursday if I wanted to get a good spot from which to watch the parade.

(Taken with my Nikon Coolpix S200)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Day 48/365 - Checklist

Train tickets to/from NYC -- Check

Broadway show ticket -- Check

Hotel and restaurant reservations -- Check

Phone, iPod, and both cameras fully charged -- Check

Thermal underwear, sweater and rain poncho packed (just in case) -- Check

Weather forecast for Thursday -- 44 degrees and sunny, oh yeah!

Tomorrow afternoon I'm taking the train up to New York City so that on Thanksgiving day I can see the Macy's Parade live and in-person. I'm so excited I'm about to spontaneously combust!

(Taken with my Nikon D80)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Day 47/365 - Dead Tree Graveyard

This stack of files and papers is my current workload, a sizeable chunk of which has to be completed before COB on Wednesday -- and given that Wednesday will likely only be a half-day that means I have to have it done by the time I leave the office tomorrow. Yay, fun.

Included in this mound of woe are an appeal of a protest determination, two appeals of agency decisions to terminate grants, a new grant program announcement, a demand letter to a grant recipient that owes us some money back, three grant modifications, and the notice of award boilerplate for a new grant program. It's enough to make you wish there were marauding packs of wild paper shredders or woodchippers wandering the halls of my office building looking for files to devour. These people are seriously infringing upon my goofing off time. I demand my inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness, dammit!

Today I was able to get the agency response to the appeal of the protest determination filed and got the program announcement reviewed and kicked it back with comments. So that means tomorrow I have to draft and file a brief addressing three legal issues underlying one of the grant termination appeals, review the demand letter (through rain, sleet and snow -- b*tches better have our money), and finalize the settlement status reports for the two grant appeals.

We have no interest in settling either of these appeals, but the judge ordered us to conduct settlement negotiations so I'll listen to what the other side has to say and then file reports saying the negotiations failed and the agency is not inclined to settlement at this juncture. It's largely a pointless exercise, but given that opposing counsel in one of the cases has yet to respond to my email or voicemail, I can report that fact and hopefully score some brownie points with the judge. Every little bit helps.

(Taken with my Nikon Coolpix S200)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Twice on Sunday Bonus Photo - Pacific Sunset

Given that last week's bonus photo was of the sun rising over the Atlantic Ocean, in the interest of fairness I figured I'd use a shot of the sun setting over the Pacific Ocean for this week's picture from my archives. I took this photo at Mission Beach in San Diego, California when I went out there earlier this year to see the Nationals play the Padres (and lose).

Getting this shot was much easier than getting the sunrise shot in Florida. I didn't even have to get up early.

(Taken with my Nikon D80)

Day 46/365 - Lazy Sunday

This week's self-portrait is me being a lazy slug as I am most Sundays. I love lounging in this oversized armchair in my apartment and reading. Normally I sit completely sideways in it with my head on one armrest and my legs draped over the other, but I didn't figure that would photograph as well. In the winter I like to put my fireplace dvd in the player so then I can sit in this chair and read beside the fire blazing on my big screen.

I know -- I'm such a geek.

(Taken with my Nikon D80)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Day 45/365 - Pictures at an Exhibition

This afternoon I went over to Georgetown to check out the exhibits at the main FotoWeek DC gallery. There were some really amazing photos there. I saw some stuff that gave me some ideas I wanted to try. They had one cool exhibit that featured massive enlargements of photographer's contact sheets. That exhibit mentioned how, with the advent of digital photography, contact sheets are a bit of an endangered species. I still have some of my old contact sheets from my high school and college photography classes. I had been thinking about pitching them, but now I think maybe I'll hang onto them.

I was walking around the gallery today taking loads of photos of people looking at photos. At one point I think I got 'mistooken' for a working photographer. I was leaning over a railing taking shots of the lower gallery area and some girls that were coming up the stairs heard my camera going 'tchkuh, tchkuh, tchkuh' and got all excited because they thought they were going to end up in some artsy photographer's photo. One of them told the others to play it cool and just keep walking so it wouldn't mess up the picture.

Little did they know they were just going to wind up on my Flickr page rather than in a gallery. It's a sort of sad substitute for fame, but it beats nothing I suppose.

(With apologies to Mussorgsky's ghost for the theft of the title.)

(Taken with my Nikon D80)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Day 44/365 - The Temple of Ra

I could list a dozen things that are wrong with this shot, but none of that seems to matter because I love it anyway. I guess that's the nature of love, though -- it's irrational, impractical, exasperating, irrepressible, intoxicating, exhilarating, and a thousand other adjectives both converse and complementary. It's destined to make you whole and destined to break you apart. It's everything we want and everything we dread and... and it's love. In the end I guess that describes it better than anything -- love is love.

Apologies for the somewhat morose note to today's entry. That's what a bottle of wine on a cold Friday night will do to you, and I don't even like wine. Champagne yes, wine no. I took this shot while riding the escalator up from the Metro station next to my office this morning. I love (there's that word again) coming up out of this station. You start out in the dark deep underground and then you see the broad beams of morning sunlight streaming through those square openings high on the wall and then they strike your face and you feel their warmth on your cheeks and it's like a baptism and a rebirth all in one. And it's even better when the guy with the saxophone is playing at the top of the escalator.

The way the morning light pierces the openings in the wall always makes me think of ancient Egyptian temples and the way many of them were designed so that they would be swathed in shadows until at a certain time of day the sun would be at the perfect angle to shoot a ray of light into their darkened hearts that would then strike the innermost shrine, the holy of holies, and bathe it in a golden glow.

That in turn makes me think of the ancient Egyptian solar myth, wherein the sun god Ra descends into the underworld each night to travel on his barge through the caverns of darkness where he wages his eternal war with the evil serpent Apep before re-emerging above ground at dawn, and that then makes me think of my daily commute on the subway train that resembles both a barge and a serpent and that carries me through darkened tunnels before the escalator brings me back up to the surface and the benediction that is the light of day.

It's cold here today. I need to go back to Egypt. It's 80 degrees and sunny there.

(Taken with my Nikon Coolpix S200)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Day 43/365 - Big Coat Weather

I had to dig my overcoat out of the closet earlier this week and it doesn't look like I'll be putting it back any time soon. It hasn't been earmuff cold yet, but it's definitely been scarf and gloves cold in the mornings. Yesterday the temperature didn't poke its nose north of 40 degrees the whole day and tomorrow we're supposed to have flurries. Hopefully they'll last longer than the five minutes of flurries we had earlier in the week. If it's going to be cold, it might as well snow and be pretty as well.

It never actually gets that cold in this area. In the ten years I've been living here I think the temperature might have dropped into the single digits maybe 3 times and I don't think it has fallen below zero once. Usually the 20s are about as low as it gets here in wintertime. It gets much colder in Missouri where I grew up. Negative temperatures are fairly common there. Not to be gross, but sometimes it would be so cold that when I was waiting outside at the bus stop in the morning the snot in my nose would freeze up. If you've lived somewhere that gets really cold in winter, you know what I'm talking about.

Missouri regularly gets fairly heavy snowfall as well, unlike DC/NoVA. Not Buffalo or Green Bay heavy where the snow is measured in yards rather than inches, but it wasn't uncommon for us to get 10-12 inches of snow in a day when I was a kid. If DC gets half that then it's treated like a natural catastrophe of biblical proportions. Not that I'm complaining, mind you, because it means the Federal government shuts down and I get a free day off. Hopefully having a Chicago guy in the White House won't make it harder for the government to get snow days.

I need my free days off in wintertime. There are books to be read, old movies to be watched, and grilled cheese sammiches and tomato soup to be eaten.

(Taken with my Nikon D80)