Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog

I had an awesome lunch today. I was attending an all-day meeting of the NASA Advisory Council's Heliophysics Subcommittee (which was actually kind of fun and interesting, but not the main focus of this blog post). There is a group of Next Gen people (young professionals) at NASA that get together once a week for lunch, and today I was able to join them. Usually they have lunch on the roof, but today, they decided to have a 'movie lunch.' They played the movie in the Space Operations Center (SOC). The SOC is the cool high-tech looking room with giant screens where they coordinate operations with astronauts on the International Space Station. But instead, we had giant screens playing "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog." Awesome.

Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along BlogSo, about the movie. 'Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog' was created by Joss Weedon (same guy that did Firefly - also a great show). It stars Neil Patrick Harris (Doogie Howser) as Dr. Horrible and Nathan Fillion (Captain Mal on Firefly) as his nemesis, Captain Hammer. (Also, I justed noticed that it's kind of funny that Neil Patrick Harris plays a doctor in both of the shows I mentioned and Nathan Fillion plays a captain in both the shows I mentioned.) Dr. Horrible is odd and silly and I really enjoyed it. Definitely unique. I'd recommend checking it out! (And you can watch it for free on Hulu!)

U.S. National Space Policy Comparison

So, after the new National Space Policy was released yesterday, I was wondering how it compared to the past National Space Policy (put out by the Bush administration in 2006). So, I wrote up a document that compares the two, section by section. Then, yesterday, I shared that with my boss, and he really liked it, so we created a pdf and posted it on our website and shared it with people on our mailing lists.

After that, it took on a life of its own - people seemed to find it really useful and passed it around, so that now it seems like everyone has read it. I answered questions from a congressional staffer about it and received comments back from people from industry, academy, government, and even foreign space professionals! It's been so cool to see something I wrote actually be read by so many people! I guess that's my 15 minutes of (nerdy space-policy related) fame!

Here's the press release:

Space Foundation Releases Analysis Comparing 2010 U.S. National Space Policy with 2006

Colorado Springs, Colo. (June 29, 2010)
The Space Foundation has released a report comparing the newly announced 2010 U.S. National Space Policy with the previous 2006 National Space Policy. Prepared by Space Foundation research analyst Mariel John, the report details what is different about the new policy and what areas are similar. Read the report here.

The Space Foundation Research and Analysis function, based in the Washington, D.C., is the Foundation's think tank. It provides credible and authoritative information on civil, commercial, and national security space issues for policymakers, media, industry, academia, the financial community, and the public. The premier product of Research and Analysis is an annual report on the state of the space industry, The Space Report: The Authoritative Guide to Global Space Activity. The report provides a wide-ranging analysis of the space sector and its impact on the overall economy.

See more reports by the Space Foundation Research and Analysis team here, and order a copy of The Space Report 2010 here.

Monday, June 28, 2010

There's a new National Space Policy

A new United States National Space Policy was released today. The last one was released in 2006 by President Bush. The new policy has a very different tone and is very focused on international cooperation and sustainable use of space. In general, I really like it - it's very positive and exciting.

Fantastic Mr. Fox & Love in the Time of Cholera

These movies are really not similar or related in any way, except that I watched them both this past weekend. Oh, and that they're both based on books.

Fantastic Mr. FoxFantastic Mr. FoxThe Fantastic Mr. Fox is a Wes Anderson Movie (Royal Tenenbaums, Darjeeling Limited, etc.), and I usually really love his movies, so I thought I'd watch this one. And I liked this one too. It's just a good mix of funny and quirky and visually interesting. The whole movie is stop action. It roughly follows the Roald Dahl book by the same name (though I never read that book). It's about a fox that decides to steal from some farmers and they try to track him down, and all sort of mischief ensues as he tries to evade them. Fun but quirky is probably the best description. I'd recommend it.

Love in the Time of Cholera (Vintage International)Love in the Time of CholeraLove in the Time of Cholera is based on a book by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who is a wonderful writer. (He also wrote One Hundred Years of Solitude - great book!) His books often have a mix of reality-based character-driven story as well as fantasy or myth. Love in the Time of Cholera is about a man who falls in love with a girl at first sight and decides that he will marry her, and essentially waits his whole life for her to be available. He pledges fidelity to the woman, but he can't quite manage it, so he keeps a log of all the women he sleeps with while waiting for her, and it goes into the hundreds. The story is a bit odd, the characters are sometimes sympathetic, sometimes not, but it's interesting. Anyway, I read the book and enjoyed it and thought I'd check out the movie. As always, the movie was not as good as the book. Not sure if I'd recommend the movie or not, but I would recommend the book. 

Comprehensive Exams

I found out the other day that I passed both! Yay!

I'm officially done with my Political Analysis and Normative Analysis Comprehensive Exams...


Weekend Fun

I had a really fun weekend. (Though Jeff probably had the crazier weekend - he went skydiving! More on that later...)

The RoomAnyway, on Friday, I got together with Stephanie and some other friends at Buffalo Billiards for a few drinks and a game of pool. After that, to my astonishment I was able to convince Stephanie and Phil to see "The Room" at E Street Cinema at midnight. I believe I've posted about this previously, but "The Room" is the worst movie I've ever seen in my life (and this is true for most people, which is why it has this midnight cult following). It's just... awful. Not really even funny bad, just bad bad. I don't think it'd be watchable if you weren't in a theater full of people constantly shouting and (literally) throwing things at the screen. That said, it was awesome. We sat next to some people who had dressed up, and in general all the people and shouted comments were really funny. Also, we met up with my friend Tom (who I used to work with at the movie theater in Minnesota) and who is now the house manager at the E Street Cinema. Very cool!

On Saturday afternoon, I got together with friends to watch the US-Ghana World Cup match. Sadly that did not go so well for the U.S. We played well in the second half, but other than that, not so good. Ghana played very well the whole time. I guess of all the teams to lose to, you can at least kind of be happy for Ghana - they're the only African team left in the competition, so they're carrying the flag for the continent.

Doctor Who - The Complete Second SeriesAfter the game, Beth and I went back to my house, where Emma and Stephanie were already waiting (they had given up on the barely-air-conditioned sports bar). We spent the evening on one of my favorite activities - Doctor Who Marathon. :) We picked up where Stephanie and I had left off, halfway through season 2. Beth even stayed through a few episodes, even though scifi/fantasy is not really her thing. :) I think Stephanie and Emma are probably both hooked. We made it all the way through the season 2 finale - great episode!

Friday, June 25, 2010


Another show Jeff and I have started (and almost finished) is Treme. This show is made by the same people who made "The Wire," which is Jeff's favorite TV show, and arguably one of the best TV shows ever.

There are a number of actors from The Wire that are in Treme - Wendell Pierce (Bunk), Clarke Peters (Lester), John Goodman is also a main character. Other than that, wikipedia tells me that many of the characters were hired locally, which is cool (and similar to The Wire).

Treme is set in the Treme district in New Orleans shortly after Hurricane Katrina. Like The Wire, it follows a number of different characters whose lives sometimes intersect. There are the people who are moving back into their homes in the Treme, dealing with the destruction and rebuilding. There are a lot of poor musicians, looking for gigs. It follows a lawyer-professor husband-wife team that are active in the city. The one group conspicuously missing is the police, which is a bit strange, because every police officer on the show tends to be portrayed negatively and with no depth - very different than The Wire.

There is also a bit less of a story arc in this show - it's very character driven, but with no major obstacle that each character has to overcome - for the most part, it just follows them in the everyday ups and downs that they experience - though it stays . We're eight episodes in (there are only 10 in the season), and I like it so far.


Fringe: The Complete First SeasonAfter I finished with my exams, I finally had time to relax and watch a bit of TV. One of the shows I had been meaning to check out was Fringe. My brother recommended it, and when I saw Leonard Nimoy speak last spring he mentioned that he was in it and thought it was very good. It's done by J.J. Abrams - the same guy who did Lost and the most recent Star Trek movie. So there were lots of reasons to watch.

Fringe is similar to X-Files in a lot of ways - each episode the main characters (including FBI agents) investigate some mysterious super-natural seeming crime (spontaneous combustion, walking through walls, etc.), and there is some bigger controversy behind everything. However, there are some differences. The events are explained with pseudo- or "fringe" science, rather than by aliens or other things.

Fringe: The Complete Second SeasonOne of the main differences, however, is in the characters. There is Olivia Dunham - the reluctant FBI agent involved, but there are some "consultants" - Walter Bishop - a mad-scientist guy (who was in a mental hospital for the past 10 years) who used to do fringe science experiments for the government, and his son, Peter Bishop (who is played by Joshua Jackson), who is coerced into staying to keep an eye on his dad. I actually really like the characters - particularly the Joshua Jackson character.

When I first started watching the show, I didn't think it was that great - it was pretty formulaic and each episode was pretty self-contained, with very little time devoted to the long-term story. However, as the show went on, it began to spend more and more time developing the characters and going into the details of the overall conspiracy, which was great. By the second half of season 2, I was completely hooked. I'd definitely recommend checking it out! And I'm excited for Season 3 to start in the fall!

Boston - Day 4

On our last day in Boston, we slept in until the last minute before check-out - and in some cases, a bit longer ;). At 11am we had brunch at Sonsie - Beth and I split the eggs benedict (with salmon) and the mushroom and brie pizza. Both were great - I love the food there!

After Sonsie, we started to split up. Brian and Lindsey headed off with Lindsey's cousin (they were staying a few extra days). The rest of us headed to the Harvard Bridge to enjoy the view of Boston.

From there, Jeff and I decided to take relax on the esplanade for a while. It's amazing how quiet and peaceful it is so close to the city.

We met back up with Emma, Kris, Beth, Stephanie, and Arthur on Newbury Street before heading off to the airport! The trip went by very quickly, but it was sooo much fun!

Boston - Day 3

Saturday was our big Boston sight-seeing day. We started out by walking through Public Garden and Boston Common.

We picked up the freedom trail outside the State House, and followed it along Tremont Street, stopping at the Granary Burial yard. We departed the freedom trail a bit to visit Government Center and take the stairs to Fenuil Hall (the view is nicer in this direction...)

After about 20 minutes of shopping at Fenuil Hall and Quincy Market, we headed to Chinatown for lunch. We had dim sum at Hei La Moon. The food was great! For dim sum, people wheel around carts with all sorts of different foods on them, and you point to them, and they put them on your table and stamp your receipt with a mysterious Chinese symbol. It's basically impossible to figure out what any of the foods are or how much they cost, because nobody seems to speak English. Luckily, the food is all amazing. It seemed like we tried one of everything, and somehow it still only came to $8 per person at the end. Awesome.

After lunch we had a nice walk along the harbor. It was a beautiful sunny day.

The walk ended in the North End (the Italian district). Some of us got cannolis at Mike's Pastries (a must in my opinion).

Then we joined the rest of the group, who had made their way to Cafe Pompeii for drinks and a little more World Cup soccer.

From there, we made our way to the statue of Paul Revere and the Old North Church (one if by land, two if by sea).

Then it was back to the apartment to rest up a bit and prepare for our dinner party. We ordered a lot of Indian food from India Quality. (They were great about doing catering, even though it's not officially offered on our website - we just told them the number of people and the dishes we wanted, and they made the right amount. They even gave us a discount for ordering so much food, and delivered everything to our place.)

We wanted to have at least one night while we were in the city to get together with all our friends that were living in Boston. (Originally, we thought we'd have dinner at Vinny T's, which is great with big groups and changing reservation numbers, but *gasp* it closed! Which is crazy! I loved that place!) But Indian food dinner at our place ended up being great. Everyone came over around 7pm - I think at the end of the day there were more than 20 of us there!

As the sun started to set, we decided to show people our "patio" (i.e. roof accessible through a window). The views from there were beautiful!

Eventually, we decided to leave the house and head out to Hennessey's near Fenuil Hall. I really like Hennesseys - they have two floors, with a live band on each floor. In fact, I used to go so often that the bouncer still recognized me. :) All of the DC crowd made it out to the bar, along with Arthur's friend, Carvey, and Chris Bauers and his girlfriend. It was awesome to have a crazy fun last night with everyone. (And the band upstairs played Weezer! So fun!)

Not quite ready to go to bed, some of us made a late night trip to the esplanade to sit by the river, and then to our "patio" to sit and chat and enjoy the views.

Boston - Day 2

On Friday morning, we got ready with World Cup on in the background (Germany vs. Serbia - so many cards!), before heading out to a bar to watch the U.S-Slovenia game.

We went to Jacob Wirth's - a German pub in the theater district that I'd never been to before. They had free breakfast for the 10am games, so we thought it would be a good option. It was surprisingly crowded, given that it was 10am on a weekday. Apparently the bar was surprised, too, because we saw and employee come in with grocery bags full of eggs and orange juice to keep the breakfast going. The food was not bad - very tasty potato dish with peppers and onions. It was a great game to watch. At half-time we were down by two, and we figured we should probably get started with our sight-seeing, but while we were paying our bill, the U.S. scored again, so we were sucked back into the action and watched til the end.

After the game, we took the T out to Harvard Square and walked around there a bit. We saw Harvard Yard and the John Harvard Statue. From there we just went on a big loop around Harvard Campus, with a quick stop at Burdicks (best hot chocolate I've ever had... though it was too hot to buy one that day).

For lunch we went to Border Cafe - it is inexpensive Mexican food with huge portions. My vegetarian fajitas were great - they had broccoli and mushrooms and cauliflower and all sorts of other veggies.

After all that food, we were ready to walk it off, so we walked down Mass Ave from Harvard to MIT. It was a nice walk, which continued right into our tour of MIT. We saw the student center and Kresge Oval. We walked down the Infinite Corridor and saw Lobby 10 and Killian Court. We heard the reverberating benches (your voice bounces back at you from all angles). The tour ended at the Muddy Charles (a bar in Walker) where we had a happy hour meet-up with some MIT Space Policy people.

Our numbers slowly dwindled at happy hour (Emma and Kris headed off to catch a nap before dinner, then Brian and Lindsey left to do a bit of shopping at the Coop). Eventually we all met back up at the apartment, got ready, and headed to dinner.

Dinner Friday night was a Sel de la Terre. In addition to just being a great restaurant in general, one of my good friends from Minnesota, Chris, is a Sous Chef there. (We were in the same class in first grade and have been friends ever since.) He wasn't working that night, but he told us that he'd call ahead so they'd take care of us. The definitely did. The service was great, and we ordered a bunch of food that looked very good (lobster gnocci, lamb chops, etc.). However, before our first course came out, the waiter brought out a couple plates of appetizers - goat cheese, olives, and other little things to eat with the bread - courtesy of Chris, which was really nice. After that, they surprised us by bringing out a charcuterie plate. And then they brought a cheese plate. And then eight New England crab cakes! And finally, a bottle of wine. It was unbelievable - everything tasted amazing!

When the food we had ordered came, we didn't have lots of room left, but managed to do a pretty good job on it anyway (the lamb chop was soooo good). And after everything had been so good, it seemed like a good idea to at least look at the dessert plate. And then our waiter said he could make us an extra large version of the 'dessert for two' that includes samples of all their desserts. It was gone within about five minutes. This was definitely my favorite meal of the trip. (Thanks, Chris!!!)

After dinner, we went to the Top of the Hub. Stephanie and Arthur, who had flown in that night and arrived while we were still at dinner, were there waiting for us. We had a couple drinks at the bar, and enjoyed the views and live jazz band.

The Top of the Hub is the tallest building in Boston, so it was a nice place for everyone to get the chance to take in the city.

After drinks, we made a late-night stop at Shaws (the grocery store) to get breakfast foods, and then headed home.

Boston - Day 1

Last weekend Jeff and I went on a trip to Boston with a group of friends, and now I'm finally getting around to blogging about it! We've been talking about the trip for a year or so, and have been actually planning the trip for months - some of our friends had never been to Boston, so the plan was to get everybody together and show them around.

The trip started on Thursday evening. Jeff and I met up with our friends Brian and Lindsey at BWI airport (they were connecting from Ohio and just happened to wind up on the same flight!). At the same time, Emma, Kris, and Beth headed out from IAD airport. We magically arrived in Boston at almost exactly the same time (around 9pm).

We hopped into cabs and headed to out. We had rented a penthouse apartment on Beacon Street, less than a block from Boston Common/Public Garden so that we could all stay together in downtown Boston. The apartment was beautiful and had floor to ceiling windows in the living room with a panoramic view of the city. Pretty incredible. Upstairs there was also a spot where you could go out on the roof and enjoy views of the river and Cambridge. [As an aside, I think my future plan is to always rent a house or apartment when traveling with a group. It tends to be bigger and cheaper than a hotel, and you have access to a kitchen, which makes it possible to make coffee and breakfast in the morning and other meals if you want. Having a living room area is also really nice when hanging out with a group. And all staying together is nice so that everyone can kind of get up when they want in the morning and hang out together while still getting ready - instead of just having a meeting time in a hotel lobby or something.]

After setting our stuff down, we headed out for food. We walked a few blocks down Newbury Street and settled on 'Stephanie's on Newbury' for dinner. It's a bit pricey, but I really like the food there. The patio is really nice, though with a group of 7, there wasn't space, so we were inside. The Celtics were playing the final game of the playoffs against the Lakers, so we followed the score during dinner, and after dinner we hung out at the bar to watch the end of the game. Sadly, it didn't turn out well for Boston.

After that it was back to the house to get some sleep before our first big day of sight-seeing!