Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Since Jeff and I are lucky enough to live in downtown Washington, DC, we thought we'd take advantage of our location and see the presidential inauguration in person.

We sat warm in our apartment, watching CNN and doing work, until we saw the president get in his car to head to the capital. Then we headed out to join the millions of others at the mall.

It was a bit of a challenge to walk there - lots of streets were closed off. There were hardly any cars, but lots of people selling Obama-themed items. There were the things you'd expect - Obama T-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, and buttons. But then there were more unique items - Obama earrings (just his face), Obama book marks, and even Obama air fresheners (that was my favorite).

And of course, there were lots of people. First, lots of people trying to make their way to the National Mall.

Then there were lots and lots of people at the mall. We ended up near the Washington Monument, where we were able to watch President Obama get sworn in and make his inauguration speech. It was pretty amazing to see it happen among the millions of people gathered to watch.

It was a challenge to get back to our apartment - with millions of people leaving the mall at the same time, the steets were super-crowded. You could only shuffle slowly out in whichever direction the crowd decided to go. After about half a mile, it cleared up.

We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening warm in out apartment.

Santa Fe - Day 3

Sunday was our last full day in Santa Fe, so we decided to go on a driving tour and see a bit more of New Mexico. We decided to drive North to Taos.

To get there, we took the "high road", which goes up through the mountains. The scenery was beautiful. It started out as red-rock desert.

Before long it had morphed into snowy, pin-covered mountains.

We stopped at a chapel on the way there, which is famous, though we didn't quite get the full story of why.

We went to Taos Pueblo - an Indian reservation with adobe houses. It was very cool to see these houses - just like in my elementary school social studies book!

Then we drove to find the Rio Grande Canyon. As we were driving along, the ground looked very flat, and it seemed very unlikely that there would be any impressive land formations. Then, among this flat landscape, there was suddenly a 360 foot deep crack in the Earth, with a river at the bottom.

The town of Taos was very cute, with lots of stores selling items from local artisans. We ended up having dinner there, which was very nice.

The whole weekend was very fun - we talked about everything from obesity to relationships, personal finance to issues the middle east, conflict diamonds to climbing mountains. The weekend with Neera and Janet is always fun and interesting - I'm already excited for next year!

Santa Fe - Day 2

On the second day in Santa Fe, Neera, Janet, and I got up early (well, 8:30am) and went to the free yoga lesson offered at Bishop's Lodge. Then we went into town for brunch - I had a green chile cheeseburger - so good!

Next it was time for relaxing. We had read about a spa in the New York Times called 10,000 Waves. It has outdoor hot-tubs facing the snow-covered mountains. We got there early, so we drank tea, shopped, and tried out the relaxation room. Then, we spent 45 minutes or so relaxing in out hot tub.

In the afternoon we headed back to town to see the Loretto Chapel and the Miraculous Staircase. With no visible supports or central pole, it's apparently a mystery of construction. (Though, not surprisingly, snopes informs me that this claim is false.)

We got dressed up and had a fancy dinner at La Casa Sena - the food was great!

Santa Fe - Day 1

This past weekend I went on my third annual weekend trip with Neera and Janet. Since we graduated college and moved to different parts of the country, we try to find one weekend a year to get away and hang out together. It's always lots of fun - seeing a new city and having lots of uninterrupted time to chat with good friends.

This year we decided to go to Santa Fe, New Mexico. We got a good deal on Bishop's Lodge Resort (through top 20 deals - check it out if you haven't already). We had a nice room with a balcony and a fireplace.

We were each coming from different cities (Chicago, Dallas, and Washington, DC) but booked flights that would land in Albuquerque within 10 minutes of each other. Unbelievably, it actually worked, and we all arrived on time - with nobody waiting more than a couple minutes for the others.

We drove to Santa Fe and went downtown to grab some food. We ate Southwestern food almost every day - lots of red and green chiles and tostada chips. Our first meal was at Ore House on the plaza.

Then it turned out that Friday night was free museum night from 5-8pm. We first went to the Georgia O'Keefe museum. She's a famous artist who painted lots of flowers, southwestern scenes, and abstracts. We also went to the New Mexico Museum of Art and the Palace of the Governors.

We had a really great dinner at a restaurant on the Plaza called "The Shed". It included a green chile burrito and red chile enchilada with corn tortilla. Yum.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Logan's Run & The Visitor

Logan’s Run
I watched Logan’s Run last night. It’s a classic movie that is about humans in the future. Everyone lives in an enclosed bubble ecosystem. Society is well off and everyone is happy, but no one is allowed to live past 30 years old. Sometimes people try to run away instead of getting killed, but they are caught by “sandmen,” which are kind of like policemen. The main character, Logan (who is a sandman) runs away, and tries to escape the bubble society (I don’t think I’m giving too much away, since the title of the movie is Logan’s Run…). The movie was ok, and had some awesome futurey-computer sounds randomly interspersed. It also had cool future technology, like the ability to wirelessly send messages to each other on large phone-like machines (though the screens showing the messages were black with green type). This movie is spoofed fairly often, so it was entertaining to see the original.

The Visitor
While we were in Arizona, we watched the movie “The Visitor”. It’s about a college professor, generally unhappy with his life and work, who goes back to his NYC apartment (after many months of being away) to find that it’s inhabited by illegal immigrants. He be-friends the people living there (which I expected to be really odd in the movie, but was actually done well). Then one of the immigrants runs into trouble (with immigration control), and I guess that’s all I’ll say so I don’t give away too much. The movie was cute and pretty good, but not great. I wasn’t particularly invested in the characters, and there were a few situations I found implausible. Also, when I read other reviews, I kept hearing that it dealt with serious current issues regarding immigration. I’d say that’s false. In fact, I’d say it dealt with no actual issues, and provides no actual information, other than maybe the face that it sucks to be an illegal immigrant. It doesn’t talk about why some people are allowed into the U.S. and some aren’t. It doesn’t deal with what people can do if they aren’t let it. It doesn’t deal with the numbers of illegal immigrants and the large variety of reasons they come. It doesn’t talk about how they deal with work, taxes, or any other issues. That’s fine – it’s a movie, not a report, but it’s good to know what to expect.

Bless You, Mr. Rosewater

I recently read Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, by Kurt Vonnegut. I usually love Vonnegut (Slaughterhouse Five and Cat’s Cradle were both amazing), but I didn’t think this book was quite as good. It was funny, but not laugh out loud funny. It was interesting, but not wildly creative. It makes you think, but not on the kind of scale of the other two books I mentioned. So, I’d say this book is still worth reading, but it still scores last place in the hierarchy of Vonnegut books I’v-read.

Family Trip to Arizona

After Christmas, my family headed to Arizona for a week-long family vacation. There were eight of us there, including: Mom, Dad, Brian, Emily (Brian’s finance), Me, Jeff, Katie, and Tom (Katie’s boyfriend). We stayed in a rented house about 30 minutes outside Tuscon, and had a nice view of the mountains.

It was pretty relaxing – we usually slept in, and I spent a good amount of time sitting around the house reading. Brian barbequed almost every day we were there, and we had a few family game nights. Emily taught us rummy, and I re-realized my love for the game Catch Phrase, which resulted in some classic clues and guesses, such as:

Me: When you dry up a raisin, it turns into this…
Mom: Prune
*Which was the right word, even though my clue made no sense.

Katie: Oh man, I don’t know, I’m not sure how to give clues for this word…
Me: Well, say something! What does it sound like?
Katie: It sounds like orange.
Me: What?!? That’s the one word that nothing rhymes with!
*The word was actually orient, which I guess does sound like orange… kind of.

Me: It’s in French. It means finished!
Mom: Finale?
Me: Uh, no, um, (time runs out)
*Me, realizing too late that ‘fin’ was probably the thing on a fish, not the ending slide of an artsy French film.

Jeff: In Mexico, you celebrate a quincinera… You know, a celebration like that?
Tom: ?
*Jeff, trying to give a clue for Sweet Sixteen in the most complicated way possible. (As opposed to something like, “opposite of sour; number after fifteen.”

Tom: It’s something you might do with your hair in the morning. If you’re feeling really ambitious.
Girls: ?
*Tom, trying to get us to guess “braid” – an apparently “ambitious” hair-do.

We also did a bit of sight-seeing. On one of our first days we went out to Saguaro National Park, which is full of Saguaro cacti (those are the ones with the 90 degree arms you think of when you think of cacti). We went from there to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, which is oddly named. It’s not really a museum, it’s more like a zoo. And it’s not like a normal zoo, it’s more like you’re just in the desert – there are no walls enclosing the space, just an entrance with parking lots and then lots of walking trails around the dessert. Some animals are just roaming, since it is the desert, and others are in cages that fit it well with the surroundings, so you don’t really notice them until you’re right in that area. We saw a show where they had a bunch of hawks