Thursday, February 26, 2009


I haven’t been to Boston since last fall, so I was excited to travel there on Wednesday morning, even though I’d just gotten back from Europe on Monday. I had a work meeting during the day, and then met up with my friend Amanda for a while. I had dinner at one of my favorite Boston restaurants – Vinny T’s – with Craig and Carvey. Then I flew back this morning. Short, but fun. Now I need to get back to school work.

Another World

The trip to Europe was really great, and also very different from other trips I’d taken. It was one of my first international trips for a conference, and it involved moving almost every day and visiting people I hadn’t seen in years. The conference was really cool and interesting, I love seeing new places, and it was amazing to meet with old friends. It was a very fast paced trip, without much time built in for just lounging around and sightseeing. I’m not sure I would do anything differently if I did it again – but I wish I had more time!

Another interesting aspect of this trip was that it felt like a completely different world. I didn’t have time to check or read email, I didn’t do normal school work or work-work. I was with all different people, but still people I was friends with, and I had different responsibilities than I do at home. It’s interesting how much if felt like a completely different environment, even though it was just a week. And now I’m back home and within days, back to my normal schedule of classes, work, and (local) travel.

Goodbye, Europe

Monday was our last day in Europe. When we woke up, we gave Diana a call and went to meet up with her to run a few last-minute errands. We went grocery shopping – stocking up on German chocolate and candy. Then Diana took us to a “rindswurst” place by her house, which she said is always crowded with people (which it was even when we went, even though it’s just a small butcher shop outside the main part of the city – must be very good food.) We had a cup of broth soup, a piece of bread, and a beef sausage with mustard. The food was great – a very nice last meal before heading to the airport.

Diana came back with us to the hotel to hang out and help us pack, and joined us on the trip to the airport. We said our goodbyes and headed back to the USA.

Thanks to the magic of time zones, we were back in DC three hours after we’d left Frankfurt – just in time to set down our stuff and go to bed.

Freiberg to Frankfurt

Completing our loop, we headed back to Frankfurt – our final stop before flying back to the states. We got into Frankfurt hauptbahnhof (main train station) at about 11am, and our friends Cordula and Neils were waiting for us. Cordula is the sister of the first German exchange student my family hosted in Minnesota. Neils is her husband, who I had heard about but never actually met until today. They live in Goettingen, but had come to Frankfurt for the day to see us. The four of us (Jeff, Cordula, Neils, and me) then met up with Sabrina and Jesse. Sabrina is Cordula’s sister, who stayed with us in Minnesota, and Jesse is her girlfriend. They’re living in a town somewhat near Frankfurt, and had also come in just to visit us.
The six of us wandered around the city, though the weather wasn’t spectacular. There was actually a Carnival parade going on. Lots of crazy floats throwing German candy, and many more of those adult marching bands.
We had lunch at a steak place, were the food was good, and we could all chat together. It’d been four years since I’d seen Cordula, more since I’d seen Sabrina, and I’d never met Neils or Jesse, so there was a lot to catch up on.

After lunch we walked around a bit more and stopped for a cup of coffee (Germany has real coffee – not just espresso!). In the late afternoon, they all headed out, since they had long drives to get home.

Jeff and I walked around for a while longer after that, but since it was Sunday, almost everything was closed. We met up with Diana and her boyfriend, Marco, later in the evening. We were going to stay with Diana, but since her boyfriend was consulting for a nearby hotel, he was able to arrange a nice room there instead. It was very nice of them to do that – and nice for Jeff and I to have a little space to collect our things and re-pack before flying home.

Diana and Marco had thought we might be interested in a more traditional German experience, especially Jeff, who had never been to Frankfurt. So they took us to “Adolf Wagner’s.” It’s an apfelwein (apple wine) maker and restaurant. The tables are family style – with long benches so lots of people sit together. We ended up sitting with about four older German people, who had begun their apple-wine drinking before we arrived.
It was sooo much fun! Since it was carnival, the place was all decorated, and there were old folk songs playing. All the German people were singing along. We had come for the apfelwein and atmosphere, but decided to stay for dinner, since they had such a wide variety of traditional German food. I ordered some kind of pork (it looked kind of like a giant, thick piece of bacon) with fried onions, sauerkraut and potatoes. It tasted incredible. Jeff had slices of beef and potatoes with gruene sauce (green sauce), which is a specialty in Frankfurt. His food was also very tasty. So much so, that I have resolved to try to cook a German meal at my house sometime soon. Diana and Marco got us one of the Adolf Wagner pitchers (bebeln) to take home, and Jeff and I bought a couple bottles of apfelwein, so we’ll be all set for our German night in the USA.
After Adolf Wagners, Marco and Diana took us on a drive through Alt Sachsen Platz (Old Saxony Place). It is a part of town with small pedestrian cobble-stone walkways lined with lots of tiny pubs. It was a really cute area. Now the pubs are all different nationalities – German, Spanish, Turkish, Asian, etc., but before it used to be all traditional German places.
From there, we headed to a more trendy bar, where we relaxed and chatted into the night. Diana and I had been lucky to live near each other a number of times – she lived with my family during the high school exchange, and I lived with hers. I visited her a second time a year later, staying with her family again. While I was in college, Diana moved to a town just north of Boston, working as an oper (nanny), so I was able to see her fairly often then, too. It was great to see her again and chat about what we’re both doing now.

Strasbourg to Freiburg

On Saturday, we started the last leg of our trip. We caught a train from Strasbourg to Freiberg, where Christoph and Jakob were waiting. We went back to Christoph’s house, saw his neighborhood, and took a walk through the park back to town.
Freiberg is a really nice city – home to one of the oldest universities in the world and to many famous philosophers and other academics. It has a really nice mix of impressive traditional buildings and trendy new stores.
We stopped for a doener at what Christoph told us was the best doener place in Fienberg. I actually practiced my German a bit – ordering for Jeff and myself. Re-fueled, we headed out for more wandering around Freiberg. It was actually the beginning of Carnival, so there were tons of random people in the street, dressed in costumes. One of my favorite was two guys dressed as chairs – they had somehow taken all the stuffing out of two fluffy living room chairs so that they could wear them. And they had a mechanism built in so they could sit down and then they just looked like a chair with a head coming out of the back rest.

There were also lots of bands playing. Jeff and I were confused, because it wasn’t like high school marching bands – it was all adults. They all had matching costumes and marching-band like instruments – drums, tubas, trumpets, etc. Apparently these adult bands are common in Germany and often organize themselves specifically for Carnival.
We climbed up the big mountain/hill in Freiberg, and had a really nice view of the city. Though a bit treacherous with the snow and ice, we were able to make it up and back. (Though we cheated a bit by taking an elevator part of the way up.)
Freiberg is right on the edge of the Black Forest, so you can see it on the surrounding mountains and hills as you’re walking around. Christoph offered to take us to a small town in the Black Forest near a lake, but since it was getting dark, we thought we might not be able to see much. That’s on the top of my list for next time, though.

Anyway, all this Black Forest-seeing made us crave Black Forest Cake, or “Schwarzwald Kirsch Tarte.” Christoph found us a cute café where we were able to buy the last piece they had left. Combined with a warm cup of tea, it was the perfect thing to do after climbing down a snowy mountain/hill.

After cake, we headed back to Christoph’s house, where we all hung out for a while and then cooked dinner together. We had a great recipe of Christoph’s for pasta with mozzarella, tomatoes, and spices. Then we spent the rest of the night chatting away – catching up after four years of not seeing each other.

Last Day in Strasbourg

Friday was the last day of the conference, the day I presented, and our last full day in Strasbourg.

The morning session of the conference went well. There were a lot of presentations on Space Situational Awareness, given from different perspectives. Lunch was very nice again, though this time I was a bit distracted, running through my presentation in my head.

I was the third presenter after lunch. I think it went well – I didn’t rush through my slides, and I remembered to say the things I meant to. It seemed to go quickly, especially because the presenters before me had taken more than their allotted 15 minutes, and I had taken slightly less. However, on Friday afternoon, I don’t think people are too upset if you take a bit less than the time allowed. People asked me questions afterward and asked for my slides, so it did seem like there was interest in the presentation. I was very happy to finally be done and able to relax a bit.

After a long day at the conference and the stress of presenting, I decided to take a much needed nap in the evening. I woke up in time to eat some of Halit’s awesome dinner and head over to Pol, Raycho, and James’ apartment to visit with friends. Later in the evening we met up with all the ISU students at “The Living Room” and spent the last night partying together in France.

The Conference Continues

On Thursday, Jeff and I spent a couple hours in the morning walking around Strasbourg. It was a bit chilly, but I wanted to make sure I saw the city. It has lots of pedestrian walk-ways, so it’s perfect for wandering around. The architecture mostly looks like the traditional German style – with the large wood beams visible on the outside. This area has changed ownership from French to German multiple times.
We visited the cathedral, which is famous because it has one spire instead of two. I heard a story that this was basically due to a lack of funding, rather than unique architectural planning, but I suppose it must be a mix.

After our quick walk around the city, I headed back to the conference to learn more about space security. The afternoon presentations were mostly about military use of space. There was a talk about Space Weaponization - the original presenter couldn't make it, so a person from the United States National Security Space Office talked instead, and made the news (well, Space News) for some of his comments. There was also a talk about Operationally Responsive Space - the idea by the U.S. DoD of making smaller, simpler satellites that can be built and launched really quickly when needed.

The conference on Thursday was followed by a concert and dinner in town. The concert was held at the church of St. Thomas, where Mozart had played, and praised the organ there.

The dinner was at a nice restaurant nearby and featured traditional food of the area. The appetizer was what I called a ‘fish cake,’ though I’m sure the name is much nicer in France. It was pure of three types of fish arranged into layers and cut like a slice of cake. The main course was chicken royal with some milk dumplings, and the dessert was a very good cake with cream cheese. We also had the chance to try Alsatian wine, made in the area.

ISU Conference: Space for a Safe and Secure World

Wednesday was the first day of the ISU conference that I had come to Europe to attend. I started to learn my way around town, taking the streetcar out to the ISU campus (though I mostly just followed Doha, Halit, and Hugo). The lectures were interesting – the first morning focused on a variety of international perspectives on security. There were talkes by the NASA innovation office, the ESA development office, and from the University of Japan, among others. We had a very nice catered lunch of French food, and then continued on with the presentations in the afternoon.
The aftenoon sessions focused on space for civil security. For example, talking about how satellites can be used to track packages and large shipping containers to ensure security. There was also a presentation looking at how satellites can be used to aid the understanding of diseases and how they spread.

The normal conference precedings ended around 6pm and were followed by a reception and poster session. It was a nice chance to talk to some colleagues and meet some new people. There were a few posters I found interesting, particularly looking at space activities in developing nations, an area in which I have recently become very interested.

We had dinner at home – thanks to Hugo who cooked for Jeff and me. Then we headed out to “Mosquito,” a bar the ISU students go to often. It’s actually a Spanish bar, and lots of visiting students go to it – it even has an Erasmus party on Mondays. (Erasmus is the inter-European student exchange program.) We went from there to the living room, another student hang out. Jeff and I retired a bit early, knowing we still had a busy week.

Toulouse to Strasbourg

Tuesday morning Pol, Jeff, and I said goodbye to Laurent and headed off for the second part of our trip to Strasbourg. This time it was going to be a nine hour drive, but we started pretty early and had time to stop a few times.

Our first stop was in Montpellier, where we had a café and a croissant – a good French start to the day. We didn’t stay long, but you could see that the old part of the city was really beautiful – lots of narrow cobblestone pathways to explore.
Our next stop was in Lyon, and even gray, drizzly weather couldn’t hide what a nice city it is. Two large rivers meet in Lyon, so there are lots of bridges to walk over and views of the city. There are cute pedestrian streets, where we walked around and bought our lunch – baguette sandwiches and a fruit tart for me.
It had a huge basilica up on a cliff above the city. We drove up, and the size of the place up close is amazing. The views of the city, though somewhat shrouded in fog, where still very impressive.

We wanted to stop in Avignon, but the exit from the highway was closed, and without a map, we thought getting off at another exit and trying to find our way on back roads might not be the best idea.

We did make one more stop, in Beaune, a small town with a nice little downtown area. It’s famous for having some kind of beautiful old town square, but it was dark and the map we found was very confusing (possibly because it was in French), so we never actually found that – an adventure left for another day.

We arrived in Strasbourg at about 10:30pm at night, Pol dropped Jeff and I (very happy to get out of the car at this point) at Hugo, Doha, and Halit’s apartment, where we’d be staying the next few days. Pol was staying with James, Raycho, and the other Pol. Lucky for Jeff and I, Hugo and Halit were awake and in the kitchen, so we had a nice chat and a snack of meat, cheese, and tea before bed.

Barcelona to Toulouse

On Monday morning it was time to start our European road trip. On day one (of two) we were headed to Toulouse, which is only about four hours from Barcelona. We stopped on the way in Carcassonne, which is a French town with a huge medieval castle. It’s actually where the Robin Hood movie (with Kevin Cosner) was filmed.
We had lunch there, which was a bit of a challenge since none of us spoke French, the menu was in French, and the waiter only spoke French. It worked out for everyone, though, and we enjoyed our lunch.
We got to Toulouse around 5pm and met up with Laurent as he was getting off work. We went to his house first, and then went walking around the city. We saw cobblestone paths with little stores, a river with large historic buildings, and a beautiful sunset.
I was a bit hungry, but since Laurent said 7pm was the wrong time of day for eating a crepe (my first idea for a French snack), we stopped in a wine café called Zin Zolin. It was a really cute little place with just a few tables. We had red wine and a plate of assorted meats and pates. We had Laurent there to explain exactly what everything was, and I was brave and tried all the various things – everything was very good.
We joked that Jeff and I had already traveled by plane, train, bus, and car, and to add to this, we rented bicycles for a short ride across the city back to Laurent’s house. And if that wasn’t enough, Laurent had planned for us to have dinner in a fancy restaurant that’s actually a boat on the river, so in two days we’d covered pretty much every form of transportation.

Dinner was incredible. We had a full meal with an appetizer, main course, and dessert – each trying a different type of traditional French food. I started mussels in a cream sauce topped with flaky pastry. My main dish was duck – a food that was particularly famous for that area. And for dessert I had an white and dark chocolate mouse. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it. It was a great way to end our day in Toulouse.

Strasbourg to Barcelona

On Sunday, February 15th, Jeff and I continued our trip around Europe. Thanks to the help of Heather, Hans, and others the night before, we were able to successfully navigate the train station and get on a train to Baden-Baden. Due to the way the train schedules worked out, we got there really early, and ended up spending a couple hours in a cute coffee shop in the station, which happened to have free internet. (Jeff and I took advantage of the downtime to book tickets to Peru, a trip we have been planning for a while but hadn’t had a chance to finalize. We’re headed there March 13-22).
Eventually we caught the bus to the tiny Karlsberg-Baden Airpark, where we caught our Ryanair flight to Barcelona. Our plan was to fly to Barcelona and drive back to Strasbourg, and interestingly, since Ryanair is so cheap, and gas in Europe is so expensive, the flight was actually the cheaper part of that trip.

We arrive in Barcelona-Girona Airport, which isn’t really in Barcelona at all – it’s just Girona, which is an hour north of Barcelona. Luckily, I was already aware of Ryanair’s tricky labeling, so there was no surprise. Pol, our friend from the summer who lives in Barcelona, was there to pick us up.

Back at Pol’s house we had lunch almost immediately. His grandma had cooked a bunch of Spanish food, including a bunch of different appetizers (shrimp, croquettes, etc.) and an amazing Paella. Everything was amazing. After that we spent a couple hours relaxing at Pol’s house – still a bit jet-lagged after being in Europe only 2 days.
Around 7pm, we went to an area near Sagrada Familia, which is a couple blocks from Pol’s house, and met up with friends.
There were a lot of the people we’d met over the summer: Jeff’s roommates, Victor and Alberto, and Victor’s girlfriend, Jenna (who’s from Minnesota!), Anna, who was the lifeguard at the pool I went to all the time in the summer, Pol, Pol’s friend from school, Andrea, from ISU, and oddly enough my friend Janet and her boyfriend, Dan. Janet lives in San Francisco and was in Barcelona for three days, one of which just happened to overlap with the one night Jeff and I were there. It was really fun to see everybody and catch up on events over the past six months – it seemed to go by very quickly!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentines Day in France (and Germany)

Jeff and I arrived in Europe today. We flew into Frankfurt, bought train tickets for later that day, and then met up with our friend Diana.
We wandered Frankfurt a bit - it was chilly, but also sunny, so everything was very pretty. The three of us went for lunch, and I had an amazing combination of potato soup and mint tea that was perfect for getting warmed up.

In the afternoon we caught a train to Strasbourg, which allowed us to have a quick power-nap.

Our friends met us in the train station in Strasbourg, and helped us find the apartment where we'd be staying (which belongs to some other friends who happen to be out of town at the moment). We hung out, ate candy hearts, and they helped us navigate the French and German languages to figure out how to get to the airport tomorrow. (We fly to Barcelona in the morning.)

Now Jeff and I are hanging out alone in the apartment, eating sandwiches from the grocery store and cooking a frozen pizza. A bit jet lagged, but having a very nice Valentine's Day.


Ok, I keep meaning to write, and jotting myself little notes about what blogs to write, but there's been no time, so here is a short blurb on each of the things I wish I had more time to write about...

FAA Commercial Transportation Conference - I went last week, Feb. 5-6, and it was interesting. I learned about what commercial space activities are going on - companies building rockets, hotels in space, etc. Very cool.

Matt Carvey - In an awesome semi-surprise visit, Matt Carvey spent last weekend with Jeff and I in Washington, DC. It was fun to hang out and catch up - we had a very nerdy weekend, which brings me to my next point...

Math Counts, Star Trek, and Pizza - That pretty much sums up Saturday, Feb. 7th. Jeff, Carvey and I volunteered to help run a mathcounts competition - where middle schoolers come to school early on Saturday to take math tests (voluntarily!). Actually, Jeff and I both did it when we were younger, too. After that we headed back to our apartment where we had a pizza and Star Trek party for the rest of the evening. Can't get too much of Captain Picard.

Outliers - We had our book club meeting for February, and talked about the book 'Outliers' by Malcolm Gladwell (who also wrote 'Blink' and 'The Tipping Point'). It was a really interesting book, and spurred tons of conversation, on everything from flying planes to the education system. I could write tons more on this topic if I had time, but basically, I just recommend you read it.

KenKen - Is awesome. It's a new game the New York Times is now carrying. It's similar to Soduku but with a bit more algebra and logic involved. Super addicting.

Ethics of Humanitarian Invention - When is it legitimate to go to war, or militarily intervene, in a country due to humanitarian issues (rather than in self-defense)? That was the question for my most recent Monday ethics class. We looked at Kosovo, Afganistan, Myanmar, and other examples - all very interesting. We also talked about the legitamacy and ethical implications of the military taking part in development projects as part of anti-insurgency.

Ok... that's my abbreviated two-week summary.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

American Competitiveness

I'm trying to start a trend of writing a bit more about my lectures. Today I had a class focusing on Globalization and American Competitiveness. It basically looked at how America could be losing its lead in the international community, and how this should be addressed.

There have been some funding increases made by Congress, increasing R&D in the United States. However, many economists suggest there need to be more creative changes in the way we organize our institutions (government, education, industry, and their interactions) to foster innovation and growth.

The idea is that the United States is not the least expensive place to make things, so our competitive advantage lies in producing new and innovative items. If the United States doesn't continue to grow and change, we will lose our lead in the international community.

However, there really isn't much consensus (as far as I can tell) on exactly what the United States (or other nations) need to do to foster this growth. Definitely an interesting question to ponder.

Just War Theory

On Monday evening, I went to my "Ethics in International Affairs" class. We were discussing "Just War Theory" which examines whether or not there can be a 'just' reason for going to war, and if so, what is a just method of fighting a war. Just War Theory actually has its origins in the early Catholic Church, where leaders contemplated and wrote on the topic. It was a very interesting class, so I thought I'd give a summary here.

As a quick overview- Just War Theory lies in the middle of two extreme philosophical views on war - Militarism, which suggests that war should be an accepted part of our society and can be beneficial, and Pacifism, which states that war is always bad (morally unacceptable), and there is never an acceptable reason to engage in war. (Another interesting theory is "Realism" which suggests that countries are just going to do whatever is in their own best interest, regardless of philosophical issues of good and bad.)

Back to Just War Theory...

The first issue deals with whether or not a war can be just - under what conditions would it be ok to enter into war? Current Just War theory includes six main items in this topic.
1. Just Cause - You must be redressing a wrong or saving life.
2. Legitimate Authority - War can only be waged by governments or recognized political authorities (interpretation of this varies, particularly due to the issue of civil war.)
3. Right Intention - In addition to having a good reason (just cause) for going to war, you must have right intentions - you need to be correcting a wrong, not trying to gain territory or money, for example.
4. Probability of Success - You need to have a good chance of winning without using disproportionate measures. (i.e. If you're probably going to lose, or you need to bomb huge areas to win, since you can't fight conventionally, you shouldn't go to war.)
5. Last Resort - You have to have tried every other peaceful option unless the options are clearly not practical.
6. Proportionality - The benefits of waging the war have to outweigh the costs (evils or harms).

Waging a "Just War"
The other part of this theory is how to act "justly" when waging war. It has three main components.
1. Distinction - You have to make a distinction between civilians and combatants, and acts of war should be carried out towards combatants.
2. Proportionality - If civilian casualties are going to take place, they must be small in comparison to the military benefits of taking action.
3. Military Necessity - All actions should be taken only for military necessity, you cannot knowingly attack civilian/non-military targets.

I don't think I'll make any normative statements regarding this theory. Since I was just introduced to it, I'm still in the mode of just thinking it's interesting, rather than whether it's right or wrong (which seems to depend a lot on your view being theoretical vs. practical in my opinion).

There was a definition I learned in connection with this issue that I found interesting. You often hear countries referred to as 'nations' or 'states' or 'nation-states'. It turns out these terms aren't really interchangeable (though they're often used interchangeably). A nation refers to a 'people' - including ethnicity, culture, and similar things that link a group together. A 'state' on the other hand, refers to the government - the political grouping. So in cases, such as in Africa or the Middle East, where political lines were drawn somewhat arbitrarily grouping different peoples, you can have a 'state' which includes multiple 'nations' - a 'multinational state'. If the political grouping was drawn to incorporate a particular group of people, in France, for example, you would have a nation-state.

Superbowl Party!

On Sunday, Jeff and I hosted a superbowl party. We had all the necessary ingredients: HDTV, DVR, friends, and lots and lots of food.

Emma, Beth, Eric, Jaisha, Julie, and Inhan all came over to enjoy the game. Though nobody was a diehard fan of either team, we were all routing for the Cardinals, who were the underdogs. (Also, the Steelers beat the Ravens in the playoffs, so Jeff was pretty upset with them.)
The game was exciting though, with the Steelers intercepting a pass and making a 100 yard return for a touchdown (making Superbowl history), and then with a huge comeback by the Cardinals (they were down 13 points and then took the lead in the fourth quarter - also a first in Superbowl history). Sadly, it wasn't enough to win, as the Steelers had a pretty amazing catch in the last couple minutes, giving them a touchdown to take back the lead.

And as for the commercials, overall, I wasn't that impressed. However, the Star Trek movie looks like it will be awesome (Sylar is the new Spock!). The Doritos crystal ball commercial was pretty funny, but could have been a bit shorter, and the Pepsi McGruber commercial was pretty funny. Otherwise, there was a lot of slap-stick humor, which isn't really my style.

New York City

After a few weeks of being back in DC (with occasional work trips), starting classes, and doing work, Jeff and I decided to spend a weekend in New York City.

The trip actually originated because I had planned to visit my friend, Pooja, in New York sometime this past Fall. I hadn't seen her since she took a 6-month trip to Africa, and in addition to general catching up, she and I wanted to coordinate future plans for our engINdia organization. I was planning on heading to NYC as soon as I had a free weekend. Unfortunately, this mysterious "free weekend" never materialized. So in the new year I resolved to set a date to visit, even if I was busy and ended up sitting in Pooja's apartment doing work.

So, the last weekend in January, Jeff and I drove to Pooja's apartment in Jersey City. We got there pretty late, so we just ordered Indian food and watched The Office. (Not a bad way to spend a Friday night, in my opinion.)

On Saturday, true to my prediction, I did end up sitting in Pooja's apartment doing work. But it was still a fun morning, and I had some of Pooja's awesome homemade chai and oatmeal with blueberries.

Then, Saturday evening, we headed into the city. Jeff and I first went for a visit with his grandparents, who live in the NYU neighborhood. It was nice to see them, especially since we usually only get to see them at holidays and big family events.

For dinner, Jeff and I met up with Pooja and our friend Rahul, who also lives in the city. We had Moroccan food at Cafe Mogador in the St. Mark's area. The food was very good, and the neighborhood was really cute.

Afterwards, Pooja and Rahul led Jeff and I on a trendy tour of NYC night life, visiting The Central Bar, Cibar (which played Modest Mouse!), and a number of others. Making our one weekend out a true New York City experience, we didn't head back to Jersey City until 4am.

I would love to live in New York at some point - the city is always so alive, the subway is open 24 hours, and there's so many things to do. It's really one of those places that feels like the center of the world.

I <3 my G1

After years of sporting a pink razr, I went out to the T-Mobile store and got myself a fancy new G1 phone.

Since it's a google phone, it's really well integrated with all the google applications - gmail, google maps, etc. All my contacts on my phone are the same as my gmail contacts - convenient because all my data stays synced together.

It's my first 'smart phone' - able to get email, GPS, maps, and internet in addition to all the normal phone capabilities. And it's on the 3G network, so the internet is pretty fast.

Now, when someone asks a question, like "What was John Updike's last book?", instead of shrugging, I can pull out my phone and within seconds, answer "The Widows of Eastwick." (Which is the sequel to his 1984 book, "The Witches of Eastwick.") When Jeff and I were driving, and he wondered what city we were passing by, I was able to have my phone locate us on the map, and tell him that the city off to our left was Newark.