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)