Sunday, October 31, 2010

Doctor Who Christmas Special

The other day, I was trying to think of a SciFi movie that was also a Christmas movie. Nothing jumped to mind, so I googled it. I didn't have much luck finding a Christmas-SciFi cross-over, but I did come across these articles about the Doctor Who Christmas Special, coming out in a few months. Apparently, it's going to be "the most Christmassy [Doctor Who] Christmas special." Yay!

The article I found had even more to say:

'This year's Christmas special will be Doctor Who's clever twist on the much loved A Christmas Carol.'

'Moffat clearly had a jolly time writing it: "Oh, we're going for broke with this one. It's all your favorite Christmas movies at once, in an hour, with monsters. And the Doctor. And a honeymoon. And ... oh, you'll see. I've honestly never been so excited about writing anything. I was laughing madly as I typed along to Christmas songs in April. My neighbors loved it so much they all moved away and set up a website demanding my execution. But I'm fairly sure they did it ironically!"'

I know it's Halloween today, but I'm already excited for Christmas!

Wedding Photographers

Jeff and I spent about three hours today paging through about 40 different photographers' websites. We've narrowed down our list to a few photographers that we really like. Feel free to check out their websites and let us know who you think is the best!

Studio 360 -
Vada Photography -
Noah Wolf -
Live and Love Studios -
La Vie Photography -
Clewel Photography -

Wedding Videographers

Jeff and I have narrowed down the list of videographers that we're considering. Feel free to take a look and let us know what you think - which one is your favorite?

United Video -
Capture -
Forever Film Studios -
Digital Art House -
Limited Edition Products -
Sunset Blue Productions -
Emotion Media -
Northern Lights -
Pheonix Memories -

Wedding Bands

Jeff and I are continuing our wedding band search. Two of our top choices at the moment are R Factor and Synergy, which have both been rated very highly on Minnesota Bride.

My family has been traveling around listening to bands, and they've seen both of these groups perform live. It's awesome that they're able to check out the bands - it makes such a difference to be able to actually see them!

Happy Halloween!

We went out for Halloween on Saturday night, which was October 30th. Katie, Tom, Jeff and I got dressed up and met up with Kris, Emma, and Jaisha, and a couple of their friends.

Jeff and I dressed up as a 1950's couple, Katie was Hermione from Harry Potter, Tom dressed up as Jeff in college, Kris and Emma were Bill and Sookie from True Blood, and Jaisha was a Star Trek character with a light saber.

We hung out for a while at Kris and Emma's apartment (they live just a few blocks from Jeff and me now!), and then stopped by Stoney's Pub. There were some good costumes there, including some people dressed up as contestants from Double Dare. We used to have a Double-Dare board game, which I loved!

From there, we headed to Policy, where we spent the rest of the night dancing!

Rally to Restore Sanity

My sister and her boyfriend came down from New York City, along with many other people traveling into DC, and we headed down to the National Mall on Saturday for the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear.

It was really crowded down on the mall - I've seen estimates that there were about 215,000 people were there. The show was pretty good, though it was long, and a bit hard to see and hear. One of the funniest parts of the whole event was just watching all the different signs!

After the rally was over, we went to our friend Al's for a bit, and watched the traffic jam from his roof deck. Then we headed to Cafe Atlantico for dinner with Jeff's dad and some family friends. The food was great - I especially loved the ceviche. And the warm chocolate cake was one of the best desserts I've had in a long time!

Adam's Visit and Happy Hour @ The Mighty Pint

Last week, my friend Adam came to visit DC for a few days. He got in on Monday and came to stay with Jeff and me. I was pretty busy with work and school, but I was able to hang out at least a bit, which was fun.

On Wednesday, Adam and I met up with Stephanie for lunch - even though it was a very quick lunch close-by, we somehow got caught in a downpour, and Adam was soaked by the time we got home (I brought an umbrella!). Then he got a lecture from someone in my building on dryer etiquette (apparently you can't use the empty dryer unless all the washers are also empty.)

On Thursday, Adam joined us for our weekly Happy Hour. This week we went to the Mighty Pint - they had great deals - $3 draft beers, $1 pizza slices, and $2 tater tots. Lots of people were able to make it this week - Beth, Stephanie, Phil, Tommy, Ryan and his wife, and Al. And, Adam brought his new girlfriend, so we all got to meet her briefly.

After that, a few of us had dinner at Scion in Dupont Circle - it is a nice little restaurant, and the entrees were really reasonably priced. I shared a turkey and apple panini with Jeff - very tasty. Overall, great night!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Wedding Dress Shopping - NYC

On Saturday, Katie and I went wedding dress shopping. It's the first time I've seriously gone wedding dress shopping and tried on different things. I had no idea what I wanted, so I tried on dresses with all sorts of silhouettes, fabrics, and looks. Katie and I went to Macy's, then Designer Loft, and then Gabriela's. I especially liked some of the dresses at Designer Loft and Gabriela's. It was really fun overall - very crazy to see yourself all dressed up in a wedding dress. I think I have a better idea of what I like now, and I have a few dresses that really could be the one!

I actually took a bunch of pictures, but I don't want to post them, since Jeff is one of my main readers. :) If you'd like to see them, let me know!

New York Weekend

This weekend, Jeff and I headed to New York City to visit Katie and Tom. We got in Friday evening and met Katie and Tom at Craftbar in the Flatiron district. It was Katie's birthday, so Jeff and I wanted to take her and Tom out. The food was great - we shared cheese, polenta, mushroom bruscetta, and olives, and then Katie and I shared mussels. We shared an apple crumble dessert - not quite birthday cake, but close enough!

When Katie was in Paris and London in August, I gave her some money to shop for me. She got a whole bunch of clothes. I wore one of the shirts and the fall jacket on Saturday! So cute!

On Saturday, Katie and I spent the whole day wedding dress shopping - that will get its own post. :)

Sunday, Katie, Tom, Jeff, and I met up with Jeff's grandparents for lunch, which was really nice. Afterwards, we stopped up in their apartment, and Jeff's grandma gave me an amethyst necklace that one of Sidney's relatives had given her when they were in Isreal just after their wedding. It's really beautiful!

Wedding Band, Photographer, and Videographer

Last week I spent a lot of my free time working on wedding planning. The main things we're looking into right now are the wedding band, photographer, and videographer. It's really tough to find each of these three things. Even just the initial search is tough - ideally you'd like to have referrals and suggestions, or at least some detailed rating information. I've been relying on Minnesota Bride and for some starting lists, both of which work fairly well.  Also, the prices vary quite a bit, there are lots of differences with exactly what is included (especially for photographers and videographers), and it's really time consuming to look through all of the portfolios. 

We're still in the search phase now - just making lists of all the possibilities along with their prices and what's included in the package, but I'll have updates soon when we start making decisions!

Night Out

The week before last was really busy - it seemed like there was something going on every evening.

Monday started out well - I have class until pretty late, so I usually get home until about 8pm, and I went out to the gym after that.

Tuesday, Jeff picked me up right after class in College Park, and we met up with his parents for dinner. We went to a place called Langerman's in Baltimore. It's relatively new. The food was really good - Jeff and I shared shrimp and grits, which was great. We also had butternut squash ravioli, but it had red sauce on it - it was good, but I think the red sauce made it hard to be able to taste the butternut squash.

Wednesday, we had the kickoff for The Space Report, which is the major annual product that we produce at work every year. After the kickoff we went out for a happy hour with the team.

Thursday, I went out to dinner with Stephanie, Emma, Beth, and John Logsdon. We tried a place called Galileo III, which is supposed to have great Italian food. We had the five-course pre-fixe meal. The food was pretty good, though some things were better than others. The butter and sage ravioli was the best dish I had.

Friday, we had SciFi Friday at work. Once a month we watch a scifi movie as a group, chosen by a different department. This week was "Star Wars: Return of the Jedi." I hosted at my apartment. It's been a while since I've watched it, so it was fun to see. After everybody left, Jeff and I kept the scifi movie theme going - we watched 12 Monkeys, which is one of my favorites. And then, for reasons that escape me, I agreed to go see "The Room" (again!) with a group of friends. We went to Rocket Bar first, and then headed across to the theater. This is the third time I've seen it, and it's still one of the worst movies I have ever seen.

Saturday, there was "Space Oktoberfest," which is an Oktoberfest party put on by Arianespace (a European launcher) and DLR (the German Space Agency). It was really cool - they had pretzels, and bratwurst that they flew in from Wisconsin, and had a big heated tent set up in the back yard. After Space Oktoberfest, Jeff and I went with Stephanie and Beth over to Emma and Kris' house. Emma and Kris just moved into a new apartment a few blocks away from Jeff and me - they were having a combined housewarming and birthday party for Kris. We hung out at their place and then tried a new club called Josephine. It was a great time!

Baltimore Weekend and Apartment Update

A couple weekends ago, Jeff and I went to Baltimore for a bonfire with his friends. Tim and Rachel had just gotten back from their honeymoon and Jen and Jeff Schleigh had everyone over. We had a really good time - smores and champagne. It was nice to see everyone again - we haven't seen most of them since Tim and Rachel's wedding.

We stayed at Jeff's house that night. His mom was out of town, but we went out to brunch with his dad the next morning at a little diner near by.

On the way home from Baltimore, Jeff and I stopped at Target for a few things, and we decided to buy new pillows for the apartment - we've been needing them for a while, and it really makes a difference. Here are some pictures of the apartment's new look!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Happy Hour - Dupont Italian Kitchen

Last Thursday we all met up for Happy Hour at Dupont Italian Kitchen - Jeff & I, Beth, Emma, Stephanie, Al, Beth F., Tommy, and my new co-worker Ryan and his wife.

Dupont Italian Kitchen was pretty good - we had some appetizers - fried ravioli, bruschetta, and hummus. Everything was pretty good, though it was a bit expensive.

After happy hour, we headed to Mackey's for the Twin's game, but that didn't turn out too well... Maybe we'll do better in New York?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Save the Dates

Wedding planning is progressing fairly well. I was hoping to order the save-the-date magnets before or just after we got to Prague, but that was a little impractical. This morning, we finally made the final decision and ordered them. If you're too impatient to wait for the mail, here's what they'll look like:

We ordered from magnet street, which was pretty easy to use, but does seem to have glitches sometimes, which makes me nervous. Hopefully everything goes according to plan and the save the dates show up at my apartment in about two weeks. (Then Jeff and I will send them out.)

Now we need to make sure we have all of our addresses and emails right, so we can mail them when they come in!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Prague – Day 10 – Friday, October 1

I was a bit tired Friday morning, but I started out by getting all of my papers and things in order and laid out, before leaving for the last day of the conference. This time I had a full day of only needing to listen, without having any presentations of my own. I went to an interesting plenary on the Czech Space Program. One of the speakers – Dr. Bares - told a cool story about another of the panelists (a well-known Czech scientist). The scientist had written an article about a discovery related to black holes. Dr. Barnes was a high school student and he brought it into school and showed it to others. Then the school master called him to the office and said that he would be thrown out of school for political action. Dr. Barnes didn’t understand why astronomy was political, so his school master explained. The article said that an American scientist had discovered something which disproved a Russian scientist, but American scientists only work on nuclear bombs to destroy our socialist paradise, while Russian scientists do work to better all of mankind. So Dr. Bares wrote to the scientist who had written the article, thinking that nothing would happen. But the scientist spoke out to defend him, despite the political danger to himself.

At lunch time, I met up with a friend and we headed into downtown Prague to walk around a bit and grab lunch, since it’s my last day here. We saw some more of the old town area.

We had a great coffee and snack in the cafe in the Municipal house. There was a string trio playing, and the coffee was great. It's a beautiful building.

In the evening, we met up with friends at a bar called "The Pub," where every table has its own tap.

From there, we went to the a place that bills itself as "the biggest club in central Europe." It was pretty big - there were five floors with different types of music. One of the dance floors had a disco floor.

I headed back to the hotel just in time to shower, change, and leave for the airport. Definitely took advantage of every last minute in Prague!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Prague – Day 9 – Thursday, September 30

Thursday was my last day of presentations at IAC, but I had two to give. So I spent a lot of the morning re-reading my papers and going through the presentations so that it would be fresh in my mind. Then, over lunch, Jeff and I went on a little walk around the area near our hotel. It’s actually a cool part of town – where the historic Prague was started. There is a big fortress, with beautiful views from the edge of the city from the edge of the stone walls. There was also a cool church in the middle of the fortress, with a very ornate graveyard.

In the afternoon, I went to more panel talks, and then headed to the session that I was presenting in. I gave two presentations. One based on a white paper I wrote for the Space Foundation on Disease Early Warning, and another I did as part of my work at the University of Maryland focused on U.S. policy on climate change monitoring via satellite. I think the presentations went really well – people asked questions, and they came and talked to me after the session ended.

I had finished giving all four of my presentations, but I had one more speaking opportunity. The Space Foundation had decided to co-host one of the Young Professional Receptions, and since I was the only one there from my company (Steve left Thursday during the day), I was the one to give the welcome and give a brief description of our company. Even though this was only a 30 second talk, I think I was more nervous than in my four long talks, just because it’s not something I usually do. (And the representatives from the other sponsors were senior VPs…) It went well, though, and the reception was nice.

Afterwards we went out with some friends to a restaurant downtown. For some reason we chose a French restaurant, but I was pretty full from the hors d’eurves at the reception, so I just had soup. After dinner, Jeff and I headed to Cross Club to meet up with Lewis, Stephanie, Jeffrey, and David. Cross Club is pretty crazy – it’s a bar/club that is decorated with an industrial style. There are a bunch of moving pieces – in the area we were sitting, all of the tables had a twisting crankshaft above them. It’s a pretty cool-looking place. We got a bit hungry as it got late, and there was a little grill in the club, so we got fries and cheese. I thought it would be cheese on the fries, but really it was a big piece of fried cheese, and also fries. But it was pretty good. Jeffrey (not my Jeff) and David had burgers – they had olives and corn as toppings… interesting.

Jeff, Jeffrey, and I took a tram home – we were getting skeptical that it would ever come, because we waited quite a while. But it did come, and then we rode it for 25 stops until we got back to our hotel. (Nice job, Jeff, on understanding the tram system!)

We got home pretty late, and Jeff had a 7am flight out of Prague, so he didn’t sleep at all before he left. Hopefully that will mean he had a really easy time falling asleep on the plane. I’ll be headed out on the same flights, but exactly 24 hours later!

Prague – Day 8 – Wednesday, September 29

On Wednesday, I presented at the conference again. This time I had a morning presentation, focused on the global space economy section of The Space Report. The session was on all sorts of efforts to quantify the space economy, and was very interesting. People seemed to like my presentation, and The Space Report was mentioned in three of the first four presentations in the session (one of which was mine).

There was also an ISU reception, so we saw all of our ISU friends and had some hors d’eurves. After this, my plan was to stop back at the room for an hour and then head out to the Young Professionals Party, which was at a club near the hotel. Despite my good intentions, once I got back to my room and started to relax, I never make it back out. Instead, Jeff and I relaxed in the room and caught a few more episodes of “How I Met Your Mother” before falling asleep.

Prague – Day 7- Tuesday, September 28

The main event of the conference this day for me was my first presentation – I was the last to present in the one of the last sessions, but it seemed to go smoothly. The paper was on Space Applications for International Development.

After the sessions were over, I headed to the young professional reception for some snacks and drinks. Then I went out with Steve, Stephanie, Julia, Lewis, and Ashley. We went to Wenceles Square, and then just wandered down the street until we saw a Czech restaurant that looked good and had space for us. Jeff and I shared Goulash. I also tried a mixed drink that Lewis suggested (he had studied aboard in Prague), it was some kind of cinnamon-like liqueor mixed with tonic. It tasted very Christmas-y.

After dinner, we headed back to the model train bar that Jeff and I had gone to before. This time we were able to get pictures. The first round made it to our table with no problem, but the second round we added had trouble with one of the corners, and our train overturned, dumping all of our beers. Sad, though I have to say it was pretty exciting.

Prague – Day 6 – Monday, September 27

Monday was the first day of IAC, and it was busy right from the beginning. There was a cool opening ceremonies presentation, including some folk music and folk dancing – both with children and adults. There was a fun song where the band played while dancing around with the rest of the group, and then they’d play in different ways – laying down, with one arm hooked under their leg, or off-key – it was really cute. There was also a great contemporary violinist, a medieval choir, and the Prague Children’s Choir. The children’s choir sang songs from different countries – the U.S. song was “Michael Rowed His Boat Ashore.” There was also a performance of "black light" theater.

The only bad thing about the opening ceremonies was that it ran long, so I didn’t actually have time to grab lunch before heading to the afternoon full of presentations. My boss, Steve, is here also, so I met up with him in the afternoon to check out the sessions.

After the sessions ended, there was an opening reception. The reception was a lot of fun – there was a fair amount of food and some drinks. I sat with some friends and chatted.

After that it was back to the room to try to do at least a little bit of school work, since its almost impossible to get normal tasks done during the conference week.

Prague – Day 5 – Sunday, September 26

Sunday was my day off between conferences. Originally, Jeff and I had planned to rent a car and go on a driving tour around the countryside near Prague. But, it was pretty cold and rainy out, so it didn’t seem very appealing. Also, due to a combination of lack of sleep and delayed jet lag, I slept until 2pm. So, we decided that we’d just spend the day relaxing, lounging around, and getting our things organized before starting a new week of conferences. We had a great pizza lunch (from Einstein pizza), and enjoyed finally going through my email. We walked by the tower near Andy's house - some very interesting art...

In the evening, we went over to the Corinthia Towers – the hotel next to the Congress Center where we’d be staying during the International Astronautical Congress (IAC). We stopped by the young professionals welcome reception, but other than that, decided to have an early night.

Prague – Day 4 – Saturday, September 25

Saturday was the last day of the Space Generation Congress. At the end of the day, I presented the work that my working group had been developing over the past few days. We had looked at issues related to satellite remote sensing and climate change, which is the same topic I’m planning to look at for my dissertation.

After the Congress ended, I headed back to Andy’s place. I was hoping to take a nap, but since the Congress ran a little late, the trains were running on a slower, Saturday schedule, and I missed my tram stop, I ended up only having about 15 minutes to set down my things and get ready to go.

There was an official closing night dinner at the Space Generation Congress, held in a very nice banquet room at the Charles University. The speaker for the evening was NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden. His talk was good, and it seemed like he must be really enjoying the dinner, because he stayed until after 11pm talking with the delegates.

After dinner ended, most of the SGC delegates headed to a club in the Old Town area of Prague. I’m not sure what the name of the club was, but it was a pretty strange experience. There were a whole bunch of different rooms, but most of the group was on the lowest floor, which was like a cave. There was a room for sitting and chatting, a dance floor (though they really over-did it with the fog machine), and then a room with women dancing on the bar… which was pretty odd. The smokiness of the clubs in Prague bothers me a bit – I haven’t had to deal with smoke for a long time since it’s been outlawed in most bars in the U.S. Overall, though, it was fun to have a night out with everyone to celebrate the end of the congress.

Prague – Day 3 – Friday, September 24

When we came to Prague, we had only booked one night at the Residence Tynska, and we figured we decide what to do next after we got here. We decided we were going to stay in Old Town Prague, and we liked the place we were staying. So we booked another night. We would have booked the whole weekend, but it was already booked for Friday and Saturday night.

Around the same time, we got an email from a guy named Andy. Andy is a friend of Ulrich, who is one of Jeff’s co-workers. Jeff had mentioned to his boss that we were headed to Prague, his boss had mentioned it to Ulrich, and Ulrich had sent an email to Andy. Anyway, Andy sent us an email that said he lives in Kizny, a close-in suburb of Prague (a little more than a mile from our Residence), and has plenty of room, and would be happy to have us stay. The timing was perfect, so Jeff and I wrote Andy and said we’d love to stay at his place for Friday and Saturday night.

So, after the SGC activities for that day, I met up with Jeff and we headed out to Andy’s house. It was a really nice two-bedroom apartment, so there really was plenty of space. We decided to all go and grab dinner together.

So, two years ago, in Summer 2008, I lived in Barcelona and did the International Space University summer program. Food was provided, but rather than coordinate everyone going to the same place, they would provide these tickets that could be used at restaurants. Then we’d all search for ‘Ticket Restaurants’ to use our tickets. Anyway, I found out from Andy that they have the same thing in Prague – almost every restaurant is a ticket restaurant. In Prague, offices can choose to either have a cafeteria or to provide employees with tickets so that they can get food at local places, and most places choose to give employees tickets. (Andy says that when he first got paid and saw all these food tickets, he was worried he was getting paid in food stamps.) The tickets are worth 100 krowns (about $5), so almost every pub or restaurant sells lunch for 100 krowns or less.

After dinner, Jeff, Andy, and I met up with Ariane and Clay. Ariane runs the SGC that I was attending, and Clay was one of the speakers – they’re both colleagues that I’ve met with previously in DC and at other conferences. We had a beer in the Old Town Square, and later made our way down to Wenceles Square, where Andy brought us to a bar that has model trains all over the place. Your order your beers from the waiter, and then they come to your table on a model train that stops right on your table.

An interesting aside – Clay bet that no one at the table could list all 50 U.S. states within five minutes. Jeff took the challenge, but only got to 49 (he missed West Virginia!). Apparently, people almost always think they’ll be able to beat the challenge, but almost no one ever does.

Prague – Day 2 – Thursday, September 23

The second day in Prague was the first day of the Space Generation Congress, a conference that I was attending. The SGC is a conference and workshop particularly for young professionals and students, and has attendees from all over the world.

The Congress was held at the Charles University near the Prague Castle, which was close enough to our residence to walk. I took a really nice path through the Old Town Square and across the Charles Bridge to get to the Charles University. It was still misty in the morning, so the views were really cool.

After the SGC activities were over for the day, I met up with Jeff, and we walked up lots and lots of squares to the castle. We enjoyed the views of Prague and walked around the grounds of the castle.

In the evening, I met back up with the SGC group for the opening night dinner. We went to a restaurant in the old town area called Kolkovna. We had goose, red cabbage, and dumplings, which is very typical Czech food. Everything was very good. After dinner we headed out to a bar/club called La Mafia, which was also a pretty fun place.