Thursday, July 29, 2010

Rain, Rain, Go Away

Summer weather in DC is not a lot of fun. It's really hot and really humid. It's been storming fairly often lately, and when it does rain, it doesn't even bring the temperature down or make it less humid - it stops raining, and its just as gross out as it was before.

Anyway, today after work, Jeff and I met up with other DC-space people for a roof-deck party at AGI (a space company). Shortly after we got there, it started to sprinkle, and then it started to pour. We were standing along a wall that was offering some protection from the rain, but everything else was getting drenched.

Two of the caterers stood out in the rain holding a piece of plastic over the food to try to keep it dry. Very dedicated.

In this picture, you can see people running from the bar when it started to really pour.

Eventually, the wind changed and the wall was not helping keep people dry, so everyone squeezed into the hallway inside. Jeff and I ended up next to an astronaut (one of the ones who had just got back from space, and had been at the Congressional reception yesterday), and had a nice chat with him.

Within about 15 minutes, the rain stopped, and the skies were blue and sunny, so everyone went back outside.

Jeff and I didn't stay long - we are headed to Las Vegas tomorrow for Jeff's MIT Pi Reunion, so we thought we'd better start packing and getting ready!

DC Food & Drink Tour

Wednesday was a big day. It was the last day that Neera was going to be in DC, so we spent a lot of time hanging out.

First, we met for lunch at Bread and Brew, which is a little place a couple blocks from my house. I'd never been there before, but I really liked it! They do pizza, soups, salads, and sandwiches. The lunch combo (half sourp or salad, and a half sandwich) is only $7.50, which is less than the fast-food salad place I've been going to lately. Neera and I had the ricotta and spinach pizza and the house salad, and both were really good. Downstairs in the restaurant there is a full bar with a bunch of fun beers on tap. I tried an "Arrogant Bastard," which is darker than what I normally drink, but was really nice.

After work, I went with Tommy and Brendan to the Rayburn House Office building for a reception for the Space Shuttle Crew that just returned recently (STS-132). The shuttle crews do a day or two in DC, talking to various congress-people, and then are accessible to the public in the afternoon at this reception. We ran into other DC space people there and just chatted with everyone. There were also a bunch of kids at the event, which was really cute - lots of them were getting autographs from the astronauts. There was a pre-teen boy there that had a Hawaiian-style shirt covered in shuttles, and I noticed that he had the Doctor Who Sonic Screwdriver App on his phone. I told him that I had the same app, and then we talked about how awesome Doctor Who is and how David Tennent was the best doctor ever. Cute.

After the NASA reception, I walked over to Art and Soul, which is near capitol hill. (If you've been watching Top Chef, the chef from Art and Soul was recently on as a guest judge.) I met up with Emma, Beth, Neera, Jeff, and Stephanie. Art and Soul has $6 cocktails during happy hour, which is a great deal, since they're usually about $12. They also have a number of fun food items on their bar menu. We tried the fried green tomatoes, olives, and sweet potato fries. I especially liked the calamari - it was pretty spicy - there were jalapeƱos fried in with the squid. Overall, I thought this place was pretty good, and the happy hour is definitely a great way to get to try things without spending a lot of money.

After Art and Soul, Neera and I started our whirlwind tour of DC food and drink. We had originally planned to grab a bite to eat and then see a movie, but then we decided that we so rarely get to hang out with just the two of us that it'd be more fun to just chat. We ended up doing a whirlwind tour of DC food and drink, in which we visited a bunch of different DC neighborhoods. Our first stop had been Art and Soul in capitol hill, and from there we moved on to Penn Quarter.

Tapas: A Taste of Spain in AmericaPenn Quarter: So, we first went to Jaleo, which is one of Jose Andres' restaurants, specializing in Spanish tapas. I've eaten here a few times before, and I know I like it, but I forgot just how amazing it is. The spinach with pine-nuts dish is unbelievable. We also had the white sangria, which is made with cava, and is a perfect summer drink - very, very tasty. For desert we had the flan, which I don't normally like, but at Jaleo was great.

U Street: After Jaleo, Neera and I went up to The Gibson, which is the little speak-easy place at 14th and U St. The drinks were very good (of course), and it's just a really nice place to sit and chat, since it never gets too crowded.

Dupont: Our next stop was Cafe Citron, which is my go-to dance spot. I'd never been their on a Wednesday, so we thought we'd check it out. It's definitely less busy, but it was still a lot of fun. They have good music, and people there are always friendly.

After that, we headed back to to my house - it actually wasn't that late, but then we ended up and talking a bit more. Then Neera caught a bus at 7am this morning, so I was didn't get all that much sleep - it was a really fun night, though!

Countdown to Zero

Countdown to ZeroOn Tuesday, after work, Neera, Jeff and I joined Stephanie and Beth for a special showing of the new movie "Countdown to Zero."

Countdown to Zero is a documentary about nuclear weapons. It builds off a speech that President Kennedy gave that said, "Every man, woman and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest of threads, capable of being cut at any moment by accident, or miscalculation, or by madness." The movie then goes through the details of how a nuclear weapon could be set-off due to accidents or an act of terrorism. I studied nuclear weapon policy a bit last fall in my security policy class, but I think if you've never studied the topic, it would be very shocking to learn about the close-calls and accidents that have happened related to nuclear weapons. They also do a good job of explaining the various incidents of people stealing highly enriched uranium. Overall, I'd definitely recommend checking this movie out - it's well made and interesting.

After the movie there was a reception at a place called Zola - their private room was just over the Spy Museum, which was pretty cool. We had some nice wine and cheese and chatted with friends.

From there, Stephanie, Beth, and I went to Ping Pong Dim Sum, where I had the lychee and roses martini - one of my favorite drinks in DC. Afterwards, Stephanie and I were having a hard time getting a cab, so we decided to take a bicycle-taxi. It was actually really nice - it was not too hot out (for once), so it was fun to have a bit more time outside. Our bike-driver was a kid named Bryant who had just finished the "bike and build" trip, which is a cross-country bike ride organized by Habitat for Humanity.

True Blood

True Blood: The Complete First Season (HBO Series)Up until now, the vampire craze has mostly passed me by, but I've had lots of friends recommend True Blood, so I thought I'd check it out.

First off, the concept of the show is much more interesting than I had thought. The concept is that someone in Japan invented synthetic blood, and now vampires all over the world can "come out of the coffin" and live in society openly. There are issues with vampire rights debated on local TV. The show all takes place in a small town in Louisiana. A vampire comes to town, and people are varying levels of accepting. The main character, Sookie Stackhouse, falls in love with this vampire, and gets pulled into all sorts of vampire-related issues.

The show is actually pretty interesting and creative. It engaged me enough that I watched the entire series (up through the middle of Season 3 - which is in progress now) over a four-day period.

In fact, my friend Neera came to visit for a few days, and when she arrived on Monday, I was just finishing up Season 2. It turned out that she's a big fan of the show, but hadn't seen any of season 3, so we watched all five of the season 3 episodes that night after work. :)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Low Car Diet

Last summer, Jeff and I did a thing called the Zip car 'Low Car Diet.' The idea is that you try not to drive your car for a month - instead you walk, bike, take public transit, or use zip car. To make it easier, they provide you with money on a metro card, a bike-sharing membership, and a zip car membership (at least that's how it was in DC). They have the program in Boston, Chicago, New York, London, Atlanta, Toronto, and a bunch of others.

If you're interested in trying it, go to this link to sign up. And make sure you mention my name - if you get picked, both of us will get extra zip car cash!

You can find more about the program here:

Carribbean Cruise!

Jeff and I have been planning on taking a vacation in August, but we haven't been able to decide what to do. But a coupld days ago, we found a great deal on an awesome cruise!

The cruise is on Celebrity Cruise lines, on the Celebrity Solstice ship. It leaves August 15th, and goes for 7 days.

Here's the itinerary:
Day 1 - Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
Day2 - At Sea
Day 3 - George Town, Grand Cayman
Day 4 - Cozumel, Mexico
Day 5 - Costa Maya, Mexico
Day 6 - Roatan (Isla Roatan), Bay Islands, Honduras
Day 7 - At Sea
Day 8 - Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

So Excited!

H Street Adventure

On Saturday, Jeff and I, along with Kris, Emma, Beth, Jaisha, and Al decided to head over to the H Street NE Corridor (also known as the Atlas District). It's in a strange part of town - there doesn't seem to be much else that far NE, and there are no metro stops nearby, which makes it hard to get to. However, it has a bunch of restaurants and bars that I hear about all the time, so we decided to check it out.

The plan was to have dinner at Biergarten Haus - a German restaurant with a big patio. However, it had been a record-setting high temperature that day, and even at 7:30pm, it was still in the high 90s. So patio didn't sound so good. And then we found out that the air conditioning was broken - so inside was actually worse than outside. Rather than get all sweaty during dinner (we saw some other people decide to brave the patio, and this was definitely the result), we decided to head elsewhere.

Our next stop was H Street Country Club. We put our name on the waiting list (45 minutes) and had appetizers and drinks in the downstairs bar. I thought their sangria was pretty good, though nobody else liked it - it's not very sweet. Al ordered a queso dip, which turned out to actually just be melted cheese - like mozerella - so that when it started to cool, it was impossible to dip. Jeff's quesadilla was really good. Anyway, we waited about an hour, checked on our reservation, waited a bit more, and then gave up on having dinner there - some people had to get back home.

So instead, we walked down to Taylor - a sandwich shop that is supposed to be one of the best in the city. Jeff and I had a chicken cutlet sub with goat cheese, pesto, and tomatoes - not bad. We also tried the fried risotto balls, which were unique, and very rich.

After dinner, Al, Jaisha, Kris, and Emma had to head home, but Beth, Jeff and I planned to stay. The plan had been to do a bit of bar hopping and see different places. The problem was, the heat was so bad that everytime you walked out of a building it felt like someone was blasting hot air at you - and you'd be sweating if you walked more than a block or so.

So Jeff, Beth, and I gave up on the H Street plan, and took a cab to Gallery Place. We stopped at Co Co Sala - which is a bar and restaurant that specialize in chocolate things. I had the cocohito - a mohito made with chocolate vodka and garnished with chocolate flakes. Yum.

At this point, it was after 11pm, and still more than 90 degrees outside. So our next stop was the good, old, climate-controlled movie theater. We saw Salt. It was ok. I read a review about it being really bad, so I think I was a little biased. It's very action-y.

U.S. Space Policy, Italian Embassy, Russia House, and Cafe Citron

Looking back on it, I had a very multi-cultural experience last Thursday. During the day, I continued some work I've been doing on comparing the House and Senate authorization bills for NASA's budget (this is exciting stuff in the policy world!), and in the afternoon, I helped run an event about the U.S. National Space Policy that was put on by the Space Foundation.

The event ended with a short reception, and it was nice to get to chat with people. Sadly, Tommy and I still had work to finish up, so we went from the reception back to the office.

From the office, we headed to the Italian Embassy for an event they were having celebrating the COSMO-Skymed program (a project their space agency is working on). The reception was nice - lots of champagne and some good food. I hung out with Tommy, Jaisha, Stephanie, and Tommy's friend Carlos. One thing I love about space policy receptions is that it almost feels like someone is just hosting a party for me and my friends - since these are the people I who I get together with outside of work anyway. Of course, we do network and meet other people in the space community, but that's fun too.

After the event at the embassy ended, we decided to go to Russia House, a bar in Dupont Circle. I'd never been there before, but I liked it. There was a guy playing the electric violin, which was very cool. Also, the vodka martinis were nice.

To round off the night, we went over to Cafe Salsa, which is just a few blocks from Russia House, for a bit of dancing. I think Cafe Citron has become my go-to bar for Thursday night dancing - they always seem to have good music and lots of people (but not too crowded).

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Happy Hour @ Founding Farmers

Last Tuesday, Jeff and I met up for Happy Hour with friends at Founding Farmers. Tommy, Eric, Lindsey, and Stephanie all stopped by. I'd never been to Founding Farmers, though it's fairly close to my work and to GWU, and I've been really wanting to try it.

The drink menu is very extensive - it's another of the 'craft cocktail' bars in DC. I really like trying drinks that are different and creative. The two drinks I tried were:

The Stork Club: With the repeal of Prohibition, the Stork Club was opened in 1929 by former “bootlegger” Sherman Billingsley. Let’s raise our hands in celebration, cheers! (Plymouth Gin, Cointreau noir, lime juice, orange juice and a dash of Angostura Bitters.)

Farmer’s Fizz: A delicious blend of Plymouth Gin, St. Germain Elderflower liqueur, and sparkling brut Prosecco–celebrate any occasion with this fantastic variation on the champagne cocktail.

The food is also very good - particularly the flat bread. The flat bread is sort of like bruscetta - it's served cold on multiple pieces of bread. The Salami, Ricotta, & Hand-made Pesto was my favorite. The popcorn - which is only $2 - was surprisingly good as well. The popcorn of the day was flavored with Old Bay, and was so tasty!

Sunday, July 18, 2010


This evening, Jeff and I met up with friends (Stephanie, Beth, Emma, & Kris), and tried out a restaurant that just opened in our neighborhood. The restaurant, Estadio, is owned by the same people that own Proof, another DC restaurant we really like. Estadio has Spanish tapas. Considering that all but one of us at the table had spent a summer living in Spain, you’d imagine we’d be tough critics. However, we all really liked the restaurant. We ordered lots of different things to try. The selection of cheeses was very good. The tortilla (Spanish omelette) was a little bit spicy, which I really liked. The patatas bravas were well-done and authentic. The pan con tomate was good – particularly with the jamon and manchego. The halibut was nice, as were the mussels. The scallion dish was one of my favorites. The menu also has a section with bite-sized items – the jamon-wrapped fig was very good.

Their drink menu is almost as extensive as their food menu. They have some interesting cocktails, though I didn’t have a chance to try them. One thing I did really like was the selection of wine by the glass. They had options available for between $3 and $5 – very affordable!

Last Day in Minnesota!

Saturday was our last full day in Minnesota. We started the day pretty early - Jeff, my mom, and I left around 8:30am to drive out to Eau Claire, Wisconsin. We had brunch at my Uncle David and Aunt Natalie's house. Brunch was great - they went all out - so there were belgian waffles, egg and potato bake, sausages, english muffins, and lots of fruit. Mackenzie, Drew, Asami, Mamie and Grandpa Ray were all there, too. It was really nice to be able to see everybody before we headed back to DC.

After brunch, Jeff and I went with my Mom out to Maple Grove, to see the official inspection of the house that my parents are interested in. We drew plans and did a bunch of measurements. We took tons of pictures. Here's one of the kitchen, which gives a good sense of how light and pretty the house is in general.

After the inspection, we grabbed a quick dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings. I've decided that hot barbeque and medium are the best two flavors.

From there, it was off to the theater. We went to Marcus Cinema in Oakdale, which is where I used to work when I was in high school. It's had a lot of different construction done since we were there - there is a mini-restaurant and a big 'ultrascreen.'

The Sorcerer's ApprenticeWe saw "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" with Nick Cage. It was fun - about what you'd expect from a Disney movie based on one song from Fantasia. :)

A Bit of British Television... and Dr. Horrible... Again

Jeeves & Wooster: The Complete SeriesOn Friday evening, we went to Annette's apartment to hang out with her. We ordered pizza and decided to check out some British humor. We watched an episode of Jeeves & Wooster - it's a TV show about a rich young man (Wooster) and his 'valet' (Jeeves). Wooster is played by Hugh Laurie (from House!) and Jeeves is Stephen Frye. Unfortunately, the episode we watched was just not funny. We had to stretch to imagine exactly what anyone would find funny about this. Has anyone else seen this show - are we missing something?

A Bit of Fry and Laurie - The Complete Collection... Every Bit!After that, we watched an episode of 'A Bit of Frye and Laurie,' which is kind of like a Saturday Night Live-type show staring only Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie. It was also very British-humor-y, but I liked it pretty well.

The IT Crowd: The Complete Second SeasonFinally, we watched a few episodes of IT Crowd. This is the British sitcom about a few people who work in the IT department of a company. All of the episodes we watched were really funny. Although, actually, I think  one of the funniest thing is the menus on the DVD. The intro is a spoof of the "All Your Base Are Belong to Us" video game intro, and then the menu screen looks exactly like the Mortal Combat video game menu screen. Awesome.

Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along BlogOh, and we watched Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog... again. :)

Minneapolis Sight-Seeing

After the movie on Thursday, Jeff and I stayed with Paul, who lives in Uptown Minneapolis. This was really convenient, because we could work from there for the morning, before heading into the city at lunch time.

My cousin, Drew, and his girlfriend, Asami (who was visiting from Japan) were in the city for the day. Drew wanted to show Asami around the Twin Cities. However, he lives in Eau Claire, WI, so he's not especially familiar with the cities, so he asked me to think of a sight-seeing plan.

We met up for lunch at Brit's Pub - I really like it because it's unique and has a really cool view of Minneapolis. Jeff and I had the 'Cricket Club' sandwich, which was really good! I think Drew and Asami liked the place as well.

From there, Drew, Asami, and I walked through Loring Park and over the bridge to the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, while Jeff brought the car around.

Drew had shown Asami pictures of the Cherry and the Spoon online - it's a some-what iconic image of Minneapolis. So it was fun to walk around and see it in person.

After the sculpture garden, which was located right by the old Guthrie Theater, we headed to the new Guthrie Theater. The new Guthrie is a cool, really modern-looking building right on the Mississippi River. The windows are all different colors, so we got this crazy yellow-tinged image of the Stone Arch Bridge over the Mississippi. (That's the same bridge where I stood to take pictures on the photo safari earlier in the week.)

Next we drove past the Metrodome. It was pretty crazy to see the 'Twins' sign pulled off - the outline of the letters are still visible.

We went back to Nicollet Avenue in downtown Minneapolis and went through the IDS tower to get into the skyway system. Minneapolis is almost entirely connected by skyways - so you don't need to walk outside in the winter - there are about eight miles of skyways. We visited the Foshay Tower - one of the oldest skyscrapers in Minneapolis - and went up to the top to enjoy the view.

After a bit more walking in the skyways, and a quick look at Target Field (the new home of the Twins), we decided to leave Minneapolis and make a quick trip to St. Paul. Our first stop was at the capitol building. It was under construction, but still very cool.

From there, we went to the Cathedral, and did a quick look around inside, before ending the tour and heading home!


Inception (Music From The Motion Picture)Thursday late-night, Jeff and I met up with Paul, Mike, Zach, and Kevin to go see the midnight show of Inception. We actually saw it at the Minnesota Zoo IMAX, which I'd never been to before. I like the movie a lot - the concept is really cool, and some of the scenes are just really interesting. I love how the projections start to stare at the person who doesn't belong. I also really liked that they structured the movie in such a way that you need to figure out what's going on and how everything works as it goes along, rather than just explaining it outright. However, this also means you really need to pay attention, and it is definitely somewhat confusing at times. (It kind of reminded me of Momento in this way.) Though I liked it overall, I thought it was missing a little weight - I didn't think the movie helped you connect with the characters very closely - maybe because you don't know exactly what's going on for a decent amount of the movie. Still definitely worth seeing - maybe even worth seeing twice.

Enjoying the Weather

One thing Jeff and I were acutely aware of while we were in Minnesota was how amazing the weather was - especially compared to DC. In Minnesota almost everyday has been sunny, usually with weather in the mid-70's. (In DC, it's consistently been in the 90's and humid.) So, as our time in Minnesota was starting to wind down, we wanted to make sure to enjoy the day.

We took a lunch break from work on Thursday to meet up with my mom and some of her co-workers. We went to Maynards, which is a restaurant right on Lake Minnetonka. We sat out on the patio, which is a beautiful spot. The food was good, though I thought the pesto flat bread Jeff and I shared was a bit oily. Still a very nice lunch.

When we got back to our house, Jeff and I decided to spend the afternoon doing work out on the patio behind my house. It was a perfect time to be outside. One of the most relaxing and pleasant afternoons of the whole trip.

For dinner, Jeff and I and my parents ordered a bunch of food from Outback Steakhouse. They have great appetizers - bloomin' onion, aussie fries, kookaburra wings, etc. 

Dairy Queen and other summer fun...

After the photo tour, Jeff and I stayed at Brian and Emily's house and did work there in the morning. In the evening, we took Bri & Em to the airport (they're headed to NYC to visit Katie and Tom). Emily, Jeff, and I made a pit-stop at Dairy Queen on the way - a mandatory summer activity I can now check off my list.

After dropping off Brian and Emily at the airport, Jeff and I brought their pug, Hazel, to my Grandma John's house. It was nice to sit and chat with my grandma for a while. We were talking about my parent's house-hunting and she told us that when they had bought the house she lives in now, it cost $13,500, and the monthly payment was about $120. Pretty crazy.

In the evening, we hung out with my mom at our house. Jeff and I ordered Chinese from a place near my house that my parent's have never tried - Bambu. The food was really good, and Jeff was somehow able to get a massive soup to-go - when he poured it into a bowl at home, he had to use a big plastic mixing bowl. They also had good cream-cheese wantons, and that's really my main criteria. Then we spent the evening watching the last few episodes of this season of Doctor Who with my mom.

Minneapolis Photo Safari

After work on Tuesday, Jeff and I went to dinner in St. Anthony Falls with my parents and Brian and Emily. We ate at Tugg's Tavern, which has a patio overlooking the Mississippi River and the Minneapolis skyline. They have daily specials, and the Tuesday special was a Tuggburger - it's a half-pound fresh lean ground beef stuffed with sauteed jalapenos, sweet onion and cream cheese. So good! We also had cheese curds for an appetizer - it was like being at the State Fair!

After dinner, Emily and I headed to the 3rd Street Bridge to meet up with our Minneapolis Nights Photo Safari tour. (Emily and I found out about the tour because there was a special on Living Social.) She and I both recently purchased digital SLR cameras, and it was great to get the opportunity to practice using them.

We walked along the St. Anthony Falls path along the river and saw lots of really cool city-scapes. They helped us practice different settings, and offered suggestions on taking low-light and night photos. Now I really need to go out and buy a tripod of my own.

W.A. Frost

On Monday night, Jeff and I went out to dinner with my parents at W.A. Frost. This is a cool restaurant downtown that has a beautiful patio. They had a really nice prix fixe meal, so we all did that - I had gnocci, salmon, and a creme brulee, and Jeff had mussels, chicken from a local farm, and panna cotta. Everything was great!

World Cup Weekend - Sunday

Jeff and I started the day early on Sunday. My parents are selling our house (where I've lived since I was about five years old!) and so they're searching for a new place. Jeff and I decided to go house-hunting with them. We toured a bunch of houses, and they found one they really liked.

Around lunchtime, Brian and Emily picked us up and we headed to the Twin Cities to see the World Cup Final with Spain vs. Netherlands. We thought about going to Brit's Pub again, but we were running a little late, and when we got there, we saw a line out the door. Even though the game had already started, these crazy people were just waiting in line outside!

We decided to give up on that and go to another sports bar down the street. So we watched the game from 'News Room' (which was strikingly similar to 'Front Page' in DC.) The game was really fun to watch - and even went into extra time. And in the end, Spain won! Yay!

After the game, Jeff and I went with Paul (who had met up with us at the game) to meet up with friends at Good Earth in Roseville. Paul, Rachel, Carey, and I used to hang out together all the time in high school, so we try to get together when we're all home. Carey lives in New York now, and I'm in DC, and Rachel has a baby, so it can be a challenge to organize a time that works for everyone.

After dinner at Good Earth, we headed over to Rachel's house. She has two tiny dogs and a baby boy (Ari), so there was plenty to keep everyone entertained. :) We also watched some Futurama, and had coffee and ice cream.