Sunday, January 30, 2011

Calea's Birthday in Baltimore

Yesterday Jeff and I drove out to Baltimore to hang out with our friends there and celebrate Calea's birthday. We met up with Tim and Rachel, Jen and Schleigh, Nick and Calea, and some of their friends. There was a long wait at the restaurant we wanted to try - and a line of people out the door. I put down our name, and it was an hour and a half wait. I asked the lady if she would take down my cell phone number and call me when a table was open, and she was really nice about it - so then we didn't have to stand outside in the cold, we just went for a quick drink down the street.

Around 9pm, we went back to Iggie's Pizza for dinner. It's a really cute little place, with really great pizza. We had one pizza with roasted duck, blue cheese, asparagus, red onions and mozzarella, and another with a bunch of vegetables and balsamic reduction. They both were really good! It's also BYOB, which is always fun - Jeff and I had brought some of his beer of the month club beers with us.

After dinner we went to Brewer's Art, a really cute little bar in the same neighborhood as Iggie's. I mostly drank the "resurrection" beer, which is their specialty, and is really good. The bar is in a basement, and the atmosphere is cool, though it can get a bit crowded. Also, the beer is really reasonably priced (less than $5 for a pint of their home-brewed beers).

Nick and Calea just got engaged, and Tim and Rachel and Jen and Schleigh both got married relatively recently, so it was really fun to talk about all sorts of wedding planning things. Now Rachel and Jen are already moving on to baby-planning stage. It's such a big life change, though I guess it is really likely that Jeff and I will start having kids within a few years, too (less than five, at least)? It definitely will be fun to be going through that stage of life the same time as your friends...

Other than weddings and babies, I spent a bunch of my night talking to a woman who is a teacher in a public school in Greenbelt - it was really interesting to hear her perspective on the education system, and on being a teacher in general.

SciFi Friday - Contact

This past Friday was SciFi Friday at work (one Friday each month we leave the office early, order pizza, and watch a scifi movie selected by one of the departments). It was also our intern, Elizabeth's last day in the office.

Contact [Blu-ray]The movie for January was Contact, which I remember seeing in the movie theater when I was in middle school, though I didn't remember much of the plot. I did remember a quote about the interesting thing about the static being "there were 18 hours of it." or something like that. (I remember the quote because I was in a math class where we'd work in small groups and present math solutions on an overhead projector, and Tara and Becca and I would always put scifi movie quotes on the bottom of the slides we prepared. And that was one of them.) The movie is ok - I forgot how much of it is set in DC - though the DC people in the movie definitely seem to be the bad guys.

I think Elizabeth had a good month at Space Foundation - she gave a presentation to go over what she'd done while she was there. It did seem like she learned a lot about policy and the budget process that she hadn't know before - it didn't make her decide to change her major from physics to policy - but I think it will be handy knowledge to have in the future. She also said that editing was a lot harder than she'd expected, which I agree with - it always amazes me how long and difficult the editing process is each year. Elizabeth's flight back to Boston was on Saturday. (I think she was excited to get back, since the house she was staying at in DC lost power on Wednesday during the storm, so she was without internet, hot water, and all of that.) It's fun to imagine her heading back to her freshman year at MIT - so many exciting things ahead of her!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Wedding Dreams are spreading...

I have wedding dreams pretty often - a lot of the time it's just mundane things, like continuing to do the same types of planning activities I'm doing during the day. I've also had lots of variations on the "Today is the wedding and we forgot X essential element." (Where X has been the food, the officiant, booking the location, or inviting people.) That dream usually ends either by me waking up or by someone saying that it isn't actually the wedding day yet, so maybe the best solution would be to just wait until the wedding day to have the wedding. Thanks.

In any case, I think it's pretty normal for me to have wedding dreams. And not too surprising that Jeff has them too. But I was surprised to find out the other day that one of my bridesmaids, Annette, has been having wedding-related dreams, too. (Maybe that means I'm going a little overboard in the frequency of my planning-update emails...)

Anyway, she had one dream where everyone in the wedding party had to get into tiny little wooden rowboats and float across a lake to some island where the reception was going to be.

And then she had another dream where we were getting the bridesmaid dresses tailored, and all of us girls went in and the tailor said to Annette, "Oh, we accidentally dyed yours blue, is that okay?" Apparently the dream Mariel was NOT happy about that, lol.

I love the fact that someone other than me is having crazy wedding dreams - I'm hoping it will make the actual wedding appear to go very smoothly (assuming I don't forget to order food and Annette doesn't show up in blue dress...)

Wedding Ceremony - Initial Thoughts

Since we have an officiant to start planning a ceremony with, Jeff and I finally took some time to write out some of our ideas about the wedding ceremony. We don't have any specifics yet, but here are some of the things we were thinking:

My family is Catholic (as am I), and that Jeff's family is Christian (on his mom's side) and Jewish (on his dad's side), though Jeff's immediate family celebrates holidays for both, he didn't attend any religious services while growing up. In our wedding, we're hoping to have a Christian ceremony, but one that is welcoming and inclusive for his Jewish relatives. We were thinking that it would be nice to incorporate some cultural Jewish traditions, such as the breaking of the glass, or perhaps have one of Jeff's relatives do a reading or song from the Jewish faith.

Jeff and I both have some musically-inclined friends and family, so it would be nice to incorporate music into the ceremony. In general, we're just hoping to have the ceremony be something that represents us well and allows us to reflect a bit and really experience the meaning and importance of the event.

That's about how far we've gotten so far - I'm sure we'll have lots more specifics to think through soon!

Our Officiant: Pastor Gwin Pratt

I'm really excited to say that Jeff and I have found an officiant for our wedding! We asked Paster Gwin Pratt, from St. Luke's Presbyterian Church in Wayzata, to officiate our ceremony, and he said he'd be honored to do so. Jeff and I both had a chance to meet Gwin over the holidays while we were in Minnesota. My sister-in-law, Emily, plays the piano for the services there, and she invited us along with her.

St. Luke's is a really welcoming church - it's not too big, so people recognize you as a guest and introduce themselves, which I think is really nice. They are also really open and accepting of all people. They are a progressive church that is "guided more by its commitment to peace, justice, and healing than by doctrines and dogmas." Since Jeff didn't grow up attending religious services regularly, this kind of open and more modern church is somewhat more comfortable to him than a more traditional church, where he's not familiar with all of the rituals and traditions. And it's also serious and gives you time during the service to reflect and think, which is something I really like.

Also, the service that we attended over the holidays just happened to be the one where Gwin and his wife were celebrating their 40 year anniversary - which was really nice.

We talked to Gwin a bit on the phone today, and he's planning to send us a sample of the wedding service that he did for his God daughter's wedding. But he also said he's happy to work with us to tailor our ceremony, which is perfect for us. Overall, I'm really, really excited - this is such a big, important piece of the wedding puzzle, it's great to have it figured out!

Apartment Update: Asbestos Found

Jeff got a call on January 14th from a woman with Borger Management.  They found one "structure" of asbestos in our apartment when they did testing, and so they were going to try to clean it the following week and retest. As of yesterday, they're still not done with the cleaning process, so no real news yet on whether we can get back in or get our stuff back.

The news makes me worry a bit about the things we did get out of the apartment already - computers, clothes, etc. - We washed all of the clothes - is that enough to get rid of asbestos?

TV Time: Buffy, the Dollhouse, and Being Human

I convinced my friend Annette to watch all of Battlestar Galactica, so in return, she got me to watch all of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (I think she still owes me, really, because BSG has 75 episodes total and Buffy has 144.) Anyway, I finally finished watching all of Buffy. And then I started watching Dollhouse - another Joss Whedon show (love him!), and I watched one episode of "Being Human" - a new SciFi channel show. I thought I'd write about each of them quickly now...

Buffy the Vampire Slayer - The Complete First Season (Slim Set)I thought Buffy was a fairly good show, though it changes a lot over the course of the series. The first season or so is very light and episodic - fighting robots and fish monsters and things like that. There is some overarching story, but it's not all that intense. By the last season, things are much darker. I'm not sure I would have gotten through it without the Andrew comic relief (which constantly had me laughing out loud) - he just makes such awesome geeky references that I swear only a few people would get.

<> Really the last couple of seasons are pretty dark - ever since Buffy died the second time. Buffy hates being alive, Willow is semi-evil and/or can't do any magic at all (which is boring), Dawn exists (and is soooo whiny), Giles is gone, Spike is cool but never happy, Xander and Anya split up, then the long, drawn out "some of us aren't going to make it" stuff... Made me miss the days when they were high school students battling fish-swim-team-monsters. In some ways it was a better show, because the characters and stories had more depth, but it was a little less happy-go-lucky/ fun to watch. 

<> I liked the finale pretty well. I liked how they brought back every character ever, basically, and I thought the "making every girl a slayer" was kind of sappy/awesome. I thought it was good that not everyone made it (Poor Anya, though! The scene where Xander is calling for her is really pretty sad!) (And poor Spike - finally redeemed himself, though) but that most of them did make it. I also really liked the very end where its just chatting, like "what do we do now?" Such a cool way to end the show. Oh, and I loved that Nathan Fillion was on the show - it's hilarious to me that Joss Wheden just works with the exact same people over and over. 

Dollhouse: Season OneJeff and I just started Dollhouse about a week ago, and we're already a couple episodes into the second season. The premise is that there is an organization (called 'the dollhouse') where people sign a contract to have their mind wiped. Then, the people in the dollhouse program them with a new personality, memories, etc. to fulfill client's requests - instead of hiring an actor to pretend to be your girlfriend, you're buying someone who really believes that she is your girlfriend. It's a good show - interesting, funny, with constant changes. There is a good overarching storyline, so it's not just about the client of the week. Sadly, it was canceled after the second season, so only about 25 episodes exist total.

Episode 1I watched "Being Human," while at the gym, because it's one of the only free TV shows on iTunes that looked halfway interesting, and I can play iPhone movies on the TV screen attached to the elliptical. The show is about a vampire, werewolf, and a ghost (all actors in their 20's) that decide to get a house together. The pilot was actually pretty funny and entertaining, which is rare for a pilot (I feel like they're usually awkward, because the actors haven't really figured out the characters yet).

Bridesmaid Dresses - the order is in!

Things are moving along, and wedding plans are getting more and more solid. As of Monday, all of the bridesmaids and female ushers have ordered their dresses! They arrive May 2nd! It's so great to be checking things off the planning list. :)

Brunch with Tara and Becca

Dr. Demento 20th Anniversary Collection: The Greatest Novelty Records Of All TimeWhen I was in Middle School, two of my best friends were Tara and Becca. The three of us had been taking advanced math classes together since about fourth grade (even though we went to different elementary schools, we had a morning program together that the school district put together). I remember working on lots of school projects with Becca - making videos about imaginary inventions and building balsa wood bridges. And Tara and I used to hang out constantly - I think I practically lived at her house for a couple years. We were both huge Star Trek fans, and SciFi fans in general. We listened to all the crazy songs on the Doctor Demento CD (and memorized them). We tried to convince our friends to perform the Star Trekin' song in the Middle School talent show, which (thankfully) they adamantly refused to do.

Now Becca lives outside the DC area (she hates the city, so doesn't come in often, and since I don't have a car, we don't see each other much), and Tara lives in Jersey City (right outside NYC). Tara was in DC for the weekend, so we all met up for brunch.

We went to Eli's Kosher Deli, which seemed like it could be a cute restaurant, and had a really nice, bright window seat (though it got really cold by the end of brunch). Unfortunately, the food was not great - the home fries were bland, as was the "West Coast Omelet." And maybe it's my fault for ordering Huevos Rancheros in a Jewish deli, but I was pretty disappointed when I got a place with two fried eggs sandwhich-ing a piece of American cheese, with a side of guacamole and sour creme and three folded up tortillas. Not so good.

Luckily, the conversation was better than the food. It was really fun to catch up with Tara and Becca, and learn what they're up to these days. 

Our Honeymoon: Around the World!

Most little girls dream about their weddings when they're young (or so I'm told), but the main thing I remember dreaming about is my honeymoon. Specifically, I remember being on the bus in seventh grade talking to my friend Sandra about all the possibilities - travel through Europe, rent a villa in Italy, etc. I always knew I wanted it to be something fun, exciting, and romantic.

Jeff and I love to travel, and we've been lucky enough to have taken a lot of really exciting trips together already - we backpacked around Europe; we've traveled in Ecuador and Peru; we've been to Korea, and lots more. Most trips have to be a week or less to fit into our work schedule, but we figured our honeymoon would be one of the few chances in our life that we could really take a significant amount of time and have an adventure.

So we're taking the month of June, and traveling around the world.

After the wedding, we'll have Monday and most of Tuesday to relax and get our things together. Then, on Tuesday, May 31st, in the evening, we'll get on a plane and head to Iceland. In Iceland we found an amazing deal on a really beautiful Hilton Hotel (50% off!), which seems like a great place to start out. We have two days in Iceland, and we're thinking we'll explore the city a bit and take a tour of the Golden Triangle (which covers some of Iceland's beautiful scenery).

On June 3rd, we'll fly to Copenhagen. We'll get there in the evening. We'll have most of the next day to wander around the city, and then at 7pm, we'll board our cruise ship - the Costa Luminosa.

The cruise starts on June 4th in the evening. Our first day will be at sea, and then we'll have daily stops in cities around the Baltic Sea: Tallinn, Estonia, St. Petersburg, Russia, Helsinki, Finland, Stockholm, Sweden. Then another day at sea, and we'll be back in Copenhagen. We're both excited for this trip, because we both really like cruises (so relaxing!) and all of the ports are cities neither one of us has ever visited (adventure!).

After returning to Copenhagen around 8am, we'll probably go almost directly to the train station and take a scenic train trip down to Freiburg, Germany, where my friend Christoph is getting married. We'll arrive in Freiburg at night on June 11th, and the next day is Christoph's wedding. We'll celebrate with him, and then on the 13th, we'll hop on a short flight to Istanbul.

We get into Istanbul on the evening of June 13th, and we're there for four nights - leaving on June 17th. We're thinking we'll explore Istanbul, have lots and lots of good Turkish food, and maybe go on a day trip somewhere nearby (we're open to suggestions!).

On the 17th, we fly out in the afternoon on a long flight to Bangkok, Thailand. In Bangkok we found another amazing deal - a hotel that's supposed to be one of the best in the world, but is having a deal so we could get a room for $150 a night. We won't be able to afford to eat at the restaurant there ($100+ per person, yikes!), but it should be a fun experience. Besides, I think Jeff's most excited to eat from the street carts in Thailand, where the food is supposed to be incredible. We're in Bangkok for two full days, though we may use one of those to take the train to Ayutthaya for the day.

On June 20th, early in the morning, we fly to Phuket - this is the lounging on a tropical beach portion of the honeymoon - something I definitely wanted to incorporate. Phuket is supposed to be beautiful, so I can't wait to see it! 

We're there until the evening of June 23rd, and then we have a bit of a tricky night. We get into the Bangkok airport at about 10pm, and fly out again the next morning at 5:30am. Rather than getting a hotel for only a couple of hours (we'd need to be back at the airport by 3:30am at the latest, plus travel time), I think we're going to just stay at the airport in between. At least we'll be able to sleep on our next flight.

At 5:30am on June 24th, we'll leave Bangkok and head for San Francisco. And, due to the magic of the international date line, we'll actually arrive in San Francisco on June 24th at 9:30am.

The main event in San Francisco is Janet's (one of my best friends and bridesmaids) wedding. Jeff and I will rent a car and head up to the mountains, where her wedding is going to be. Hopefully we'll get a good night's rest and adjust to the time change, and on Saturday, we'll celebrate her wedding.

We haven't booked anything after that, but the tentative plan is to head back to San Francisco and stay in a relaxing hotel in wine country for a few days to relax and enjoy the last few days of honeymoon.

Then, probably on Thursday, June 30th, we'll fly back to DC and be home again! That will give us a few days to get things together at home before celebrating the 4th of July weekend, and then starting back up at work!

Sooooo exciting!

Chef Jeff - the first few weeks

One of Jeff's New Year's Resolutions was to try to learn more about cooking. So, he's decided to try a bunch of new recipes - which is totally fine with me! Here are some of his first creations:

Mayan Couscous: It has couscous (of course) with cumin, garlic, black beans, corn, and onion, peppers and cilantro - very tasty! And good for lunch the next day!

Malaysian Quinoa: This has quinoa mixed with soy chunks, peanut butter, coconut, chile, green onion, and cilantro - also very good!

Bisara: This is a North African dish. It's mostly made up of green split peas, and is flavored with garlic, parsley, red chile pepper, paprika, and cumin. It looks sort of like green mush, but it tastes really good.

Lentils and Spinach: Not hard to guess what goes into this one. In addition to the lentils and spinach, it has onions, garlic, and cumin.

Vegan Split Pea Soup: Jeff made this hearty soup on the weekend when it was chilly out and we stayed in all day - perfect winter dish! It has onions, garlic, split peas, barley, carrots, celery, potatoes, parsley, basil, and thyme.

Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad: This was one of my favorite dishes so far. It's rice noodles topped with julienned carrots, chopped cucumber, chopped cabbage, chopped mint, unsalted peanuts, and a sauce made with lime juice, cilantro, fish sauce, and mint. Sooo good!

Vegetarian Bean Curry: This is what we had last night. It has lentils, arbanzo and kidney beans mixed with onion, garlic curry powder, ground cumin, crushed tomatoes, and raisins. I can't decide if I loved the raisins or didn't like them at all... but they were definitely an interesting addition.

Jeff's also been making pasta sauce from scratch (well, from canned tomatoes and other ingredients) - it's really tasty, and apparently much more healthy!

It's really fun to have lots of different, exciting dishes - left to my own devices, it's pretty much pasta or canned soup every day (though I do love those things!). Jeff's also really great at making sure everything is healthy - both in terms of having a good balance of vegetables and things and also being low in calories.

Ice Storm

A week ago we had an ice storm in DC, and everything looked like it was made out of crystal. It made for a very beautiful (if a bit cold and slippery) walk to work!

Our Wedding Cake: Scandinavian Strawberry Torte from Taste of Scandinavia

Jeff and I made a final decision and ordered our wedding cake! We decided to go with the Scandinavian Strawberry Torte from Taste of Scandinavia. The cake tasted really great, and it's really unique (plus, it's fun to get some of the Minnesota Nordic culture).  The cake has three layers of yellow sponge cake with one layer of chocolate mousse and whipped cream and one layer of raspberry jam and fresh sliced bananas and strawberries. It has a whipped cream frosting.

Here's what it would look like if you bought a regular-sized version.

Of course, ours will look like a wedding cake - we're going to have a four-layer round cake with yellow ribbon and a simple design, and possibly some fresh flowers - still need to work out all those details!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

John Logsdon Book Signing

John F. Kennedy and the Race to the Moon (Palgrave Studies in the History of Science and Technology)
John Logsdon, my professor from my Masters program and a well-known space policy expert, recently released his new book - John F. Kennedy and the Race to the Moon. Jeff and I went to the book signing event. Very cool!

Monday, January 24, 2011

DC Restaurant Week - Dinner at Zentan

Last week was Restaurant Week in DC. Jeff and I have been busy, but we did manage to go out for one dinner - with Kris and Emma and Stephanie and Arthur. We went to Zentan, which is conveniently quite close to our apartment.

I had their signature Singapore Slaw - which has 19 ingredients. It was pretty good, though I liked Jeff's Crudo platter even more (it was a selection of raw fish). Jeff and I shared the salmon and the tofu stir fry - both were pretty good. One of my favorite things was the hot chocolate cake with vanilla icecream - amazing!

Wedding Invitation Search: Top 5 Options

Jeff and I have been looking at wedding invitations, and I think we've got it down to the top five. We've been searching online instead of in stores, because it's a bit cheaper. We ordered samples, so we can see that the card stock and actual colors - they all look pretty good in real life.

Here are the options:

Second City Does Baltimore

Jeff and I recently spent the weekend in Baltimore - at his parents' house. We relaxed, got some work done, enjoyed appetizers and football, but the main activity was going to see "Second City Does Baltimore."

Second City is a comedy group in Chicago - they're famous for being one of the places where a lot of Saturday Night Live stars came from. They travel around to other cities, learn about the famous things, places, and histories, and then put together a comedy show about that city. 

It was fun to see the show about Baltimore, though I didn't really get all of the jokes. There were caricatures of neighborhoods, jokes about the past Mayors, and lots of other stuff. The funniest skit for me was called "The Wire: The Musical." How could that not be funny? The also did improv, which was pretty funny too.

It made me think I'd like to see a show like that about Minnesota - they haven't done one, as far as I know, but actually, listening to Garrison Keiller on Prairie Home Companion is pretty close. :)

Happy Hour at Topaz

On January 13th, we had our first Happy Hour of the year - the turnout was great - Jeff, Stephanie, Arthur, Kris, Emma, Beth W., Jaisha, Al, Beth F., Noelle - the whole crowd. We went to Topaz - a hotel lounge on N Street. The drinks were good - they had a bunch of zodiak-themed drinks (I went with Scorpio - yum!). We also tried empanadas, which were great. Beth had a tuna burger, which she said was really good too.

Every Thursday, Topaz has a free comedy show featuring ten local comedians. A group of us stayed after happy hour to see the show. I thought it was actually really good! Some comedians were funnier than others, but all of them had at least some funny jokes. I'd definitely consider going again in the future!

Reading Applications

I haven't written in over a week, and that's because I've been spending every spare minute working on a side job reviewing freshman applications at UMD. I was helping one of my professors select applicants for a program that she's running.

The whole process was really interesting - I can't write about any specifics, but in general, the applications varied from really incredible (multiple applications had me in tears) to extremely generic (e.g. Such and such sport has taught me everything I need to know about life and dedication and leadership. I got up early for practice... etc.)

One of the first things I did when I started the process was go back to my college application essays and read them. I actually remember staying up all night and writing a bunch of different possible essays.

One was about being really nerdy in Middle School (and loving it), and then realizing in High School that it wasn't necessary to be so pigeon-holed, and that I could broaden my interests and friends. Another one was about traveling to Germany, experiencing a new culture, and having an experience totally different than anything previous in my life. I wrote one about staying up really late at night so that I could go to school, go to work, and still have fun. One essay was about being the president of the National Honor Society and running my very first meeting on September 12, 2011. And another one was about adapting to living away from home for the first time (during a week-long swim camp). I wrote one about dealing with a friend who had attempted suicide. And there were more. In general, Re-reading my essays now, I thought they were pretty good.

But I still did write a bit about sports (in my short answer section): "My most important non-academic activity is swimming... Etc."

I think the essays are really your chance to show how aware you are of what's actually important in the world - what experiences have you had in your first 17 years that have really helped define who you're going to be in the future - in the real world.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Wedding To Do List Re-Group

Since Jeff and I got back in DC, we did a wedding to do list re-group - we went through all the things we need to do and tried to put together a plan of how we were going to do them. On the agenda for this month:

Select Officiant & Start planning the details of the ceremony
Make sure bridesmaids order their dresses
Register for Wedding Gifts
Finalize the reception menu
Think about ceremony and reception lighting and decoration
Order the wedding cake
Decide on groomsmen's formalwear
Finalize timing for wedding day
Select and order invitations
Set date, time and location for rehearsal dinner
Select and book our hotel rooms for wedding weekend
Book honeymoon travel plans
Purchase wedding rings

I've already booked the hotel rooms now, and we've put together a list of about 40 different restaurants that we need to contact about the rehearsal dinner, and we're really pretty close to deciding on a wedding cake. So lots and lots left to do, but we're working on it!


Jeff and I bought a Groupon a while ago for Hook - a seafood restaurant in Georgetown. It expires tomorrow, so we made reservations for dinner tonight. We rarely go to Georgetown, probably because there's so much to do near us and also because there's no metro over there (not that we usually take the metro other places, actually...). But it's a nice neighborhood with lots of fun stuff.

The food at Hook was good. The best thing, by far, were the green curried mussels - they had lemongrass, green apples, ginger, coconut milk, and they were served with fries and bread. If it wasn't such a nice restaurant, I probably would have licked the bowl. We also shared the scallops entree and the fish tacos. Both were pretty good, though not as amazing as the mussels. Overall, it's a good place, though it is a bit pricey - but still worth going back to!

Waiting for Superman

Waiting for "Superman"Yesterday, Jeff and I went to a free screening of the movie, "Waiting for Superman." It's about public education in the United States, and it was really interesting. It's clear that the movie couldn't capture the full complexity of the problem, but they provided a lot of facts about the situation, and the movie was really engaging. They also follow the lives of a handful of students and their parents navigating the system - these scenes are generally cute, sad, or both. It's incredible how aware the children are of how important education and a good school are for their future, and how devastating it is to realize it's literally a lottery that will determine whether they can go to a really successful charter school or if they'll have to attend the local public school, where 60% of the students drop out.

Some interesting statistics and data from the movie:
*In Illinois, where one in 57 doctors loses his medical license and one in 97 lawyers loses his law license, only one in 2,500 teachers loses his credentials, because of union rules.
*The film briefly visits a “rubber room” in New York City where idle teachers accused of misconduct wait months and sometimes years for hearings while drawing full salaries at an annual cost of $65 million.
*Eight years after Congress passed the No Child Left Behind act, with the goal of 100 percent proficiency in math and reading, most states hovered between 20 and 30 percent proficiency, and 70 percent of eighth graders could not read at grade level.

Overall, I really liked the movie, and I think the education system in the U.S. definitely needs more attention and more drastic action. Watch the trailer below, and then definitely check out this movie!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Ikea Trip!

Over the weekend Jeff and I made two trips to Ikea to make our apartment feel a little more like home. We bought a fair amount of new furniture, since it's going to be another month before we even know whether our stuff might be ok, plus some of the stuff was probably ready to be replaced anyway, and on top of that, the new apartment has a slightly different layout, so some of the old stuff wouldn't work.

We have a new kitchen table and chairs, a new kitchen sideboard table, a new desk, a new shelf/ TV table, and a new futon. We are hoping to get our other futon back eventually, and we have some wall decorating to do eventually, but it's definitely looking much more like home!

Battlestar Galactica Board Game

Battlestar GalacticaEric and Lindsey invited a group of us over on Saturday night for dinner and to play the new Battlestar Galactica board game that Eric got for Christmas. Kris and Emma gave Jeff and I a ride out to Burke, where their house is. We had a great lasagna dinner, and lots and lots of chocolate chip cookies that Lindsey had baked.

And we played the board game. I thought it was going to be a trivia game, but it's actually more of a strategy game. The rule book really is like a book, and the whole game took about six hours! But once we got the hang of it, it was really fun. Everybody is a character - you can move around the ship, attack cylon ships, and put other people in the brig (and lots more). The goal is for the humans to jump the ship eight times in order to get to Kobol. The goal of the cylon is to stop them (there are a few different ways to do this.) You get a loyalty card in the beginning of the game, so only you know if you're human or cylon, or a cylon sympathizer. If you're cylon, you can try to hide it and sabotage things from the inside - pretending to be part of the human team. Or you can announce that you're a cylon and go to the resurrection ship and cylon fleet, where you can launch outright attacks. And that's just the tip of the iceberg for how the game works...

When we played, I was really convinced that Emma was a cylon when we played, and I got Jeff to send her to the brig, but when she stayed in the brig for three rounds and didn't just go to the resurrection ship, I was pretty confused. Then it turned out that she actually was a human. Oops. (Her character was Gaius, so maybe I just felt like she couldn't be trusted...)

I'm hoping that we can play again soon (before we forget all the rules)!

Yelp’s Most Wanted Party

Since I write a lot of reviews on Yelp, I got invited to Yelp Elite, and now I get invited to Yelp parties around the city. Last week there was a "Yelp's Most Wanted Party." I brought Jeff with me, and we met up with Stephanie and Turner there. The event was at the Museum of Crime and Punishment (which explains the name of the party). It was a pretty good museum - lots of exhibits about famous criminals throughout time. Jeff and I spent the most time in the gangster section, because we waited in a long line there. But there was more modern info too, on hackers and electronic crimes, for example.

There were lots of good food and drinks. We had a bowl of Indian food from Merci - it's like the Indian Chipotle - you choose rice or naan, choose a meat, choose a type of sauce, and some additional veggies. It was really good! We also had some lasagna and a meatball from Carmine's - also very good!

We also got our picture taken at a picture booth set up by Onomonomedia (cool name, huh?). Fun stuff!

Back to Work

Last week I headed back to work after a couple weeks of being away. Everything's busy, as we're diving into more and more editing for The Space Report. One exciting change is that we got a new intern. She applied through the MIT externship program, which I had signed our office up for. I'm the person she reports to, so hopefully she's enjoying the job we've set up for her. She's never been in DC before, so it should be a really good opportunity to see the city. I'm sending her to lots of space-related events, which is a nice way for her to see different aspects of the space policy community. Other than that, she's helping with editing, and working on an independent research project.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

New Apartment!

Jeff and I finally moved into our new apartment - we're in a different unit in the same building. It's really similar to the other apartment, but the layout is slightly different.

Jeff's parents dropped some things off before we got here, and we had ordered an air mattress, so there are a few sparse furnishings, and some kitchen and bathroom essentials.

We're planning to go shopping for furniture soon. It's going to be a few weeks before we'll have access to our old stuff, and even then we don't know if it will be usable or if it will need expensive cleaning. Given that and the fact that the layout is a bit different, we've decided it's probably a good idea to get some new things to make this apartment feel a bit more like home.

Cake Tasting - Taste of Scandinavia

On Monday, Jeff and I went to our last wedding cake tasting. The appointment was at Taste of Scandinavia in Little Canada. The cakes were all pretty good, Scandinavia Strawberry Torte was our favorite - it has three layers of yellow sponge cake with one layer of chocolate mousse and whipped cream and one layer of raspberry jam and fresh sliced bananas. We're leaning towards ordering from Buttercream, but this is also a contender.

And lots of the cakes looked very pretty!

Another interesting thing about wedding cake shopping - it seems like prices are basically the same at all the different cake places - generally around $3 or $4 per slice. Sheet cake is generally cheaper, and places differ by how they divide amounts between the wedding cake and sheet cake, but still the prices at all three places we've visited have differed by less than about 10%.

Walter Charles John!

My first nephew, Walter Charles John, was born on January 2, 2011 at around 11:00pm, at 8 lbs. 2 oz.
My parents, Jeff, and I all went to the hospital after he was born, so I got to hold him just an hour or so after he was born. It was crazy to think that only about 24 hours earlier, we'd all had our game night, and Emily had been pointing to her tummy telling us that the baby was kicking!

We didn't stay too long the first night, just dropped off some baby gifts, took turns holding the baby, and talked to Brian and Emily for a bit. But then we went back to visit him the next day (My dad was working with kids after school, so this time it was just my mom, Jeff, and me). Jeff and I had a cake-tasting (which Emily was originally planning to come to), but since she couldn't make it, we brought her cake. We held the baby again - so little!

Jeff and I actually got to see the baby one more time before we flew back to DC (and it was really lucky we got to see him at all - he wasn't due to arrive until January 13th!). Brian and Emily had just brought Walter back home. We got to see him in his little car seat and hold him at his house - so adorable!

I'm definitely excited for our next trip to Minnesota so that we can see little Walter again. My grandparents, who live in Texas, have skyped with Walter, which is pretty cute.

It's so exciting to have the first baby in the family - it definitely changes things - it's the start of a new generation, so my brother, sister, and I are no longer "the kids." From now on, at every trip home, at every family holiday, there is the baby! And as time goes on, kids just start doing more things and having their own lives. So exciting!