Note From Jon


Monday, December 29, 2008

Plenty of Play(s)!

No matter how I choose to interpret my New Year's resolution, 2008 was wildly successful. So successful in fact that I'm not entirely sure what I should resolve for 2009. Between reading Crossworld, Wordplay, a visit to Stamford—former home of the American Crossword Championship, and my Christmas gift subscription to the Times crossword archive, I am tempted to resolve to submit a crossword to the Times. But I've still got a couple of days to finalize my resolution (and having two punny ones last year worked out quite well so maybe I'll double down). Do I need to have some cross words with someone (or rather let them have some with me?)... yeah maybe.

While our circle of friends didn't formally continue our tradition of swapping mix CDs, I did receive the fantastic ABCD 2008 (A.B.'s CD of course), and I will once again post my own year's soundtrack to accompany the photo slideshow above (or for the resourceful—and bored—to create your own copy of my CD). One of the few things that got worse this year was my internet access at work—they blocked NPR's Discover Songs—but I still found plenty of new music listening to KEXPlorer. As a result I decided to include only songs which were released here in 2008. I believe I succeeded—with one exception that I couldn't pass up.
  1. My Year In Lists by Los Campesinos! - A fun, poppy Welsh (despite the name) band that easily had the most appropriate song for starting a Year's Best Music List.
  2. Journey of the Featherless by Cloud Cult - My band and album of the year for 2008. They score bonus points for being great live, having two artists doing realtime paintings during the show, and printing all of their CD materials in a sustainable manner. They also offer great advice if you happen to be flying anywhere: "If you ask a goose a question he never shuts up".
  3. Too Drunk to Dream by The Magnetic Fields - Another phenomenal band that I didn't discover until this year. Their 69 Love Songs is a true classic, and this pick from their Distortion album helps inject some humor to this list (and irony, since I don't drink). In addition their concert was truly magnetic for my friends as we saw AB, Melissa and Chad, and Jon Wye (who makes great belts!). One final thing that makes them great? They wrote the only song I know of about my city, Washington D.C.
  4. Old Old Fashioned by Frightened Rabbit - Serious contender to take my album of the year from Cloud Cult. I'm psyched (that's relatively Old Old Fashioned slang now) for their show next month... except that it is the night before inauguration and getting to and from the show could be an adventure.
  5. I Love the Unknown by Eef Barzelay - Made the honorable mention list last year and released a great new album in 2008 with this track as a bonus from the movie Rocket Science. The chorus was stuck in my head at various times throughout the year and particularly memorably during my Century ride as I passed mile markers 70, 80, 90 and 100 for the first time ever.
  6. Inni Mer Syngur Vitleysingur by Sigor Ros - While I didn't take my Recession Vacation to Iceland like I considered, I did find the new more-upbeat-than-usual album from these Icelanders.
  7. Jocasta by Noah and the Whale - Perhaps it's because the vocals reminded me of another favorite band I found this year: Neutral Milk Hotel (they haven't made new music in a decade so I'm not including them but you should listen anyway if you don't know them)
  8. Lolita by Throw Me the Statue - One of two overlaps between the ABCD and my list. Some of their songs have a hint of The Postal Service to them, which as you'll see I am clearly craving.
  9. North by North by Faded Paper Figures - I found these guys in the last few weeks and their songs remind me even more of The Postal Service. Why oh why is there not a follow-up yet!?!
  10. Oxford Comma by Vampire Weekend - Overhyped? Perhaps, but it's a fun album nonetheless and this song was wonderfully influential in my life this year.
  11. Oh My Heart by James - The best show of 2008 (even sweeter since I'd waited 14 years to see them again). Between Flight of the Conchords, The Magnetic Fields, Bishop Allen, Cloud Cult, and James all of my concert dreams came true in 2008. The only problem is that I couldn't pick a song from their album. Frankly, I'm not a huge fan of any songs on this album... but amazingly I loved those same songs live. So this song is mostly here as a placeholder and I recommend catching them on tour instead.
  12. Now by Mates of State - I thought I'd remember this band mostly from the sadly humorous experience we had losing the tickets to their concert in November, but as I reviewed some of my favorite music this year I found I loved several of their songs (without realizing it was them). I'll be much more ready to hear them when they come back around... and much more vigilant about the tickets!
  13. Little Boxes by Persephone's Bees - Supposedly there was a Mates of State recording of Little Boxes from this year but I couldn't find it, but while searching I found this version... in Russian! One of many versions recorded for one of my favorite shows I found in 2008—Weeds—when I heard them say Krasnaya (Red) I knew I had to include this version... even if it was from 2007.
  14. Vanished by Crystal Castles - The second overlap with the ABCD marks the second half of my list where I am including individual songs I enjoyed this year without necessarily getting into the band.
  15. Taking the Farm by The War on Drugs - And someone accused an Arcade Fire song I played last year of sounding like Springsteen...
  16. More Bad Times by The Presidents of the United States of America - Yes, I guess they are the same ones who made Peaches and Lump so long ago but I really like this new one... especially because it's a cover from the under-rated Ed's Redeeming Qualities.
  17. First Sight by These United States - A local band I need to investigate further... especially since they also remind me a little of The Postal Service
  18. Say Hey (I Love You) by Michael Franti and Spearhead - Just a damn happy song by a favorite of mine from Def Poetry Jam.
  19. Sax Rohmer #1 by The Mountain Goats - With all the new music I've heard, these guys have one of the few sounds that I can always pick out.
  20. Tree Hugger by Antsy Pants - Can you tell I had a sickeningly sweet upbeat year? Get used to it (and check out the video link for the song)
  21. Write it all Down for You by Elliott Brood - One of the very few non-electronica songs to get a positive comment from Darren so it's got to have something going for it.
  22. Lost Coastlines by Okkervil River - Not much to say except I can't believe they actually started their show on time at 8pm... causing me to miss most of my favorite song: The President's Dead from last year's list.
  23. Where You Belong by Kael Alden - So I found this song while researching Faded Paper Figures. This was a side project for one of their day jobs for a Lexus commercial, but I really liked it so I'm closing out the list with this last favorite song I found in 2008.
Here's to 2009 finding some way to surpass 2008 :-)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

White Elephant leads to Airing of (rhymes with) Grievances

Let me just state that there was NOT an official theme to this year's White Elephant gift exchange (in fact a look at last year's photos should show things weren't any more risque than usual). It is possible the profusion of penis gifts was the result of the many happy couples (some of whom met at our parties) passing them along to the many eligible ladies in attendance—perhaps as a not so subtle way of letting Darren and I know that the matchmaking reputation of our parties will diminish significantly if we can't get more single guys out! While several have fled to the West Coast, we've still got a few locals who just failed to show up. However, as I think the photos will attest, no one's enjoyment was significantly diminished.

Special Thanks to:
  • Diana for reprising her role as the Cookie Baking Goddess, slaving away in our tiny kitchen to provide hours of decorating fun and desserty goodness (we're working on a new kitchen for you for next year).
  • Sara for taking Jan Louis' role as honorary Cuban and provider of rice and bean sides for everyone (and for cleaning up afterward... even without a Porcupine scrub brush)
  • Everyone who brought food, decorated, or helped with all of the endless tasks that come up during a party (and for keeping the regifting tradition alive for so many past favorites)
When it comes to posting photos online, I try to err on the side of... humor, so if you are uncomfortable with any of the photos of you on here please do let me know and I will be happy to take them down without harassing you... much :-) You can also find additional photos (and a few which I borrowed for narrative purposes) from Carmel and Brooke, or by friending Mary, Denise, or Linny on Facebook.

White Elephant stats and awards:
  • 43 Participants (though Darren's numbering may have thrown off the official count :-) )
  • Running time: Just about 2 hours
  • Gifts stolen the maximum number of times: ABs CDs, the Cookbooks and Apron, and I feel like the Ice Cream maker was stolen 3 times but I can only remember 2.
  • Regifts from White Elephants past:
  • Four Years: Joanna and Pete's Smiley Clock (a record)
  • Three Years: Sarah's Oklahoma guidebook with Candy Panties, Diana's photos of past owners (now in album form), Carmel's Personal Jesus
  • Two Years: Snow Job (after a year hiatus I believe), CharAnn's Boy Band CD (in the Lost and Found gift), Darren's Twin Peaks (which he finished watching just in time!)
  • Best Wrapped Gift: Sara for the "Cucumber" Pokey, though runners up to Ehren's Trader Joe wrapping and Candice's White Elephant logo.
  • Best Gift Combination: Perhaps the "Cucumber" Pokey as well, or Carmel's "How to Find the Love of your Life" book and Jesus, but I'll go with the Joy of French Cooking books and the Apron.
  • Best Gift for Photo Blackmail: The Cucumber Pokey could sweep these but I'm spreading the wealth. Sorry Kristin :-) Enjoy the Bachelorette Party Baking Tray
  • Most Illegal Gift: Ehren's Lost and Found Cellphone. Hopefully it has a SIM card to swap out.
  • Best Cookie Decorating: Candice's gingerbread Shark.
  • Best Beer Decorating: Candice's six-pack of ReinBeer.
  • Winner of this year's Lost and Found gift: Elizabeth (how did I not let her know ahead of time which one it was!?!). She got bowls, a jacket belt, a Papa John's pizza case, a Boy Bands CD, and a sippy cup, but lost most of the "good" stuff to Kevin who had left a bag of clothes and schwag with Darren after their duathlon this summer.
  • And the 2008 Gift of the Year: I still can't decide between the "Cucumber" Pokey and Candice's Holiday Sweater, so I'm taking bribes.
Notes for year 6 (should one or both of us still be in the house next year):
  • For about 50 people the 9 chickens cut into 8 pieces was about right, as was 12 cups of rice, the black bean recipe serving 20, 9 sides of Yucca may have been about right, but we should get more than the 9 sides of Plantains.
  • Santa stayed on the roof this year (through the party at least), but he needs his own timer.
  • The backyard circuit is the same as the one along the back of the house so run the front left off of the Santa circuit.
  • Don't have Darren set up the numbers (alternately it could be a fun new tradition to leave out 20-25 and have two 43s and 44s)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Feliz Navidad

In keeping with the Spanish theme (and Darren's 1/4 hispanic heritage) there was really only one option for this year's "Manly Craft Project". You see ever since we spent all afternoon putting out Christmas decorations five years ago only to have our neighbors out do us by simply tossing out two giant inflatables, the holiday competition has been on. While our neighbors proved no match for us, we have continued the tradition of adding some new holiday flair each year. The first couple of years it was always a new inflatable, but those became so common that it was time to create something unique. The result was last year's custom crafted Festivus Pole. In solidarity with Darren's hispanic brethren this year it was clear we needed a giant Feliz Navidad sign!

While it is looking increasingly likely that our time in this house may be drawing to a close, I'll make some notes to guide future owners who may wish to carry on the tradition...
Notes to Jon:
  • We need one more timer for the outlet upstairs which runs the rooftop Santa

  • The back circuit is getting overloaded but the outlet by Santa is separate so run some of the power to the front off of that

  • The 3M adhesive clips don't stick in cold weather and take an hour to fasten so find a day in early fall to put a bunch of them around the windows

  • The additional rebar that the Festivus Pole attaches to (or the tension that Jeff put on the rebar inside the pole) has fixed last year's problem of a spinning pole

Thursday, December 18, 2008


It was an improbable run—especially considering we still don't know how we ended up making the playoffs—but after four years in the league 60-Finger Sanchez won the volleyball championship... and we have the t-shirts to prove it!

We entered last week's match and saw that we were tied for fourth (the last playoff spot) with one other team. Our matchup was against the 3rd Place Buddha Pat while the other team faced off against a 2-19 team. We figured we needed to go 3-0. We went 0-3. And yet miraculously we had an email from Sportsplex the next day announcing that we'd made the playoffs. We can only assume the other team forfeited their 10pm games and we'd won the head to head matchup to break the tie.

In the semi-finals we faced off against the 1st place Block Heads. Thanks to the best all around team play we've had, we managed to win the first two matches to advance to the championship game (where we'd lost last season). Our opponents in the finals? Buddha Pat. The team we'd gone 0-3 against the week before. We lost the first game in a close contest, then opened the second game strong on a 10-3 run. But they called time out and rallied all the way back to lead 19-16. We fought back to win the second game and even the match at 1-1 to force a tie-breaking game to 15. It was back and forth to 10-10 and then they broke it open to get a 14-11 match point. We managed to win a long rally to get the serve back and close the gap to 14-12. Despite the pressure of a single fault ending our season, Sara served four straight points for us to take the decisive match 16-14... and to claim our first t-shirts. Did the mention the t-shirts :-)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Painting the White House Green and Red

Our holiday decorations will be unveiled shortly, but in the mean time I did get a chance to tour another local house making a noble attempt to spread holiday cheer (despite the glaring absence of a Festivus Pole). Hopefully this post won't hinder my chances at serving as holiday consultant for the '09 Obama decorations (I was careful to avoid molesting the portrait of Hillary).

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Somewhere "Hoh River" the Rainbow...

For my birthday this year I was given—in addition to a Blue Virginia(!)a trip to Washington (the State)! I can neither confirm nor deny whether this gift may have been in any way related to a job interview my girlfriend had at the same time in Seattle :-p This was my first trip to the Emerald City (or the Pacific Northwest in general) and it definitely lived up to its nickname: While the first days were greyscale (although only outside) this was soon replaced by blue skies and a trip following the not-quite-yellow-brick highway 101 around the Olympic Peninsula—ultimately winding up at the end-of-the-rainbow (literally).

Thanks to Lonely Planet studying on the airplane flight and my relentless travel pace—which I hopefully managed to moderate fairly well—we packed in much of what we wanted to do over the four day trip. The highlight for me was our day driving the Olympic Peninsula and visiting the Hoh National Rainforest (thanks to Jeff for the suggestion) and it earned its own slideshow (so at least skip to the bottom if you don’t feel like reading). I won’t detail every moment as I did for Russia or West Africa but here were some things I learned from the trip:

  • Lowell’s in the Pike Place Market has a great view over the Sound on the third floor and good, cheap food to boot. Also at the market, Beecher’s handmade cheese is delicious.
  • Try to see Frank Gehry’s E.M.P. building in sunlight (which is also probably a good time to visit the Space Needle next door)
  • The Seattle Art Museum (SAM) is free on the first Thursday of the month and is open until 9pm. Highlights included the Aboriginal artwork of Emily Kame Kngwarreye and helping some scavenger hunters track down the title of Katharina Fritsch’s Mann und Maus
  • Lola’s in the Hotel Andra offers delicious cinnamon donut holes with Mascarpone cheese
  • One of the best tips we got was to call 206-553-3000 (Seattle Metro) and tell them where you were and where you wanted to go and they would tell you what buses to take and when to catch them. We used this all the time to get around the city on the public buses. The buses also get you downtown from door 00 of Sea-Tac airport for $1.50.
  • We loved the Argosy Locks Cruise (my birthday present within a birthday present), which takes you from the Seattle Waterfront up the Puget Sound, through the Hiram Chittenden Locks and into Lake Union (right past the floating house from Sleepless in Seattle)
  • On the cruise our guide Aaron taught us that the Columbia building has one of the nicest women’s restrooms in the world with each stall looking out the glass window onto the city below (it’s the tallest building in town so nobody should be able to see in… theoretically). He also told us that when it came time to film a scene at Tom Hanks’ floating house it uncharacteristically failed to rain so they had to use a fireboat to create fake rain (supposedly, while the paid extras were dressed for the fake weather, you can see some locals in the scene dressed to enjoy the sun)
  • Fremont was my favorite neighborhood with its host of fanciful sculptures including a giant troll under an overpass literally holding a VW Beetle. It’s also home to the Fremont Bridge which I read about in the Lonely Planet. Apparently it was originally painted an uninspiring green but when they went to repaint the bridge it got a primer coat of orange. Some people liked it so much that they just left the orange. Of course some other people dis-liked it so much that when it came time to repaint again they had a vote (and didn’t put orange on the ballot). Blue won. But those orange-lovers were not so easily dissuaded and added orange highlights to the blue bridge. The result turned out to be a happy compromise and they’ve painted this pattern each time since (although Elizabeth and I agreed when we passed under it on the locks cruise that it is due for another repainting)
  • We do better at trivia on the East Coast. We tried our hand at the Monkey Pub’s Friday night pub quiz and finished next to last. I guess these folks are serious since they charge $3 per person and the emcee stopped midway through trivia to break up a table of 6 people (there’s a limit of 4 per team). Still we learned some interesting facts including that while Obama will be the 44th President there have only been 42 different presidents before him—thanks to Grover Cleveland’s non-consecutive terms as both the 22nd and 24th presidents. Also, we are terrible at obscure TV theme songs. We couldn’t pick out “Double-Dare” and I misremembered that the Bloodhound Gang were part of the Electric Company—should have put 3-2-1 Contact.
  • If you are looking for a (long) day trip outside of Seattle head to the Hoh River Rainforest. While the clear-cut trees in some sections of the drive are saddening, there are plenty of spectacular views (Lake Crescent in particular) and the actual Rainforest is like no place I’ve ever seen before. It’s certainly the closest I ever expect to be to an elk. Try to go when the days are longer so you can enjoy the views of the Pacific Ocean on the ride home (it’s a powerful feeling standing there even in the dark).
  • We met the ranger at the visitor center, Jon Preston, who wrote a great essay in the book on sale there Fast Moving River: Images and Essays from the Hoh River
  • Enjoy the Hoh River Slide Show which inspired the blog title (hey, it’s my blog so I’ll have punny titles if I want to. According to the vampires in True Blood, puns were once considered the highest form of humor—since replaced by Darrenisms)

Thanks to my family, AB, Jeffrey, Cam, and Laura for all the great suggestions, and of course to Elizabeth for a lovely birthday week.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Blue Virginia

Thank you everyone. This really was the perfect birthday present :-)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Fire it up! Ready to go!

Historic. That was definitely the feeling at Obama's last rally before election day, and I'm so grateful that, despite the late start and traffic, my mom, sister, and I got to be there. From beaming to "Beautiful Day" before the show, to seeing a stranger walk over and hug my mom after the speech, I am filled with Hope. From now on I'll hopefully think of Manassas as the place I first heard President Obama speak (instead of as the home of Lorena Bobbit). And if someone from Centreville can have some love for Manassas, then you know we may really be on to something here...

So from one voice from Greenwood, South Carolina to the entire world:

Fire it up!

Ready to go!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Tour the Grape Life

Despite the shouts of the crowd, I was not the Fruit of the Loom guy in the Leesburg Halloween Parade. I was “Chardonnay”, the bunch of green grapes, promoting Virginia Wine Adventures, the wine touring company started by Darren’s sister Deidra. In addition to playing the critical designated driver role, Deidra’s company provides gourmet lunches and knowledgeable guides of the Virginia wineries that you visit on the tours. While I didn’t do as well promoting the company as my compatriot “Merlot” did (according to him), I definitely had fun and like to think I warmed up the crowd for Darren’s—I mean Merlot’s—pitch that followed. I couldn’t get over how excited the kids were to get a “High Four”—our giant white cartoon gloves only have four fingers—from an over-sized bunch of grapes. That was definitely the highlight of the experience for me, although Merlot and I doing the Do-Si-Do dance with our lovely wine bottle girlfriends was definitely up there… as was literally running several hundred yards to close down the gap that had formed between the floats as we got carried away high-fouring the crowd (try to imagine a man running up the street, balloon-sized grapes bouncing all over the place, and giant white cartoon hands flailing wildly—you can see why the “Fruit of the Loom” comment was made quite a bit!).

Here are some Notes to Jon (well actually to Deidra) for next year’s parade:

  • Keep a wine bottle with each grape bunch to cut down on the Fruit of the Loom confusion.
  • Have one person giving out candy on each side of the street to make sure the candy lasts all the way to the end of the parade—the kids at the end looked like they were ready to riot after all the floats were out of candy by that point.
  • More giant white hands. Those were great and really engaged the crowd when we were over interacting with the kids.
  • Purple and green afro wigs for the grapes, and corresponding light-up sunglasses.
  • Try to get behind other floats with walkers. We were all behind driving floats which led to the huge gaps when we tried to walk and interact with the crowd.
  • Go early to Idle Park and bring chairs to relax and tailgate while waiting for the parade to get under way.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Now THAT's a Better Bag!

They're back! My blog post about the demise of the Whole Foods retro bags looks like it was thankfully premature. Not only did Whole Foods return to my favorite style of reusable bags after nearly a year, they actually improved them! While retaining the look and feel of the original retro bags, the new Better Banana bag is made of 100% recycled materials. The cool new black background is also a welcome change from the perky Apple "Better" bag that caused me to launch into this subject in the first place. The new look got favorable comments from both the men and women in my focus group—by which I mean my friends who were over when I got home and found the bag that Jeffrey had brought me. While the color is different, the great graphic design is back, and the size of the bag (and most importantly, the straps) exactly match the previous retro bags. For me the long stretchy straps are the key because they stay firmly planted on my shoulder, and are long enough to turn the bag into a backpack—as I jokingly did while getting lined up for my Century bike ride, and then found I needed to do when I had a bag of clothes to bike across town last week.

See the new bag really would have matched my black and yellow bike kit for the ride! Alright, that's getting carried away and I'm even scaring myself now for noticing that, but thanks to Jeffrey for bringing me the new bag, and thanks to my favorite reusable bag designer "Anonymous" for designing these great bags (and posting comments about them here!), and to Whole Foods for continuing to provide the best line of reusable bags!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Retaining Joel

I generally try to avoid business trips, but I figured heading to San Diego would give me a good chance to handicap the odds on when Joel will move back east. It's still a tough call. From the scenery and activity standpoint he may never be back. However, his foray with foster dog Fiona (who's not a bad dog... once she gets over her fear of water and relieving herself outdoors) made it clear just how hard it will be to replace Reagan. I think an over/under of a year is still about right.

Note to Jon:
  • The Jamba Juice at the Chula Vista Center has a $1 deal on a delicious hot Parmesan Pretzel with the purchase of a smoothie. Ever since my Whole Foods got rid of Jamba Juice I've been craving some and made up for that all week in San Diego.
  • If Joel asks if you can jump up on a retaining wall in his backyard (and mentions that he can)... don't try it, at least not in flip-flops. Ouch.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Side-view Century

Usually when a biker gets hit by a car, the biker takes more damage than the car. Thankfully, I was the rare exception to that in my head-on collision with a pick-up truck about 40 miles into my Century ride. I’d like to think I was just that determined to finish the 100 miles, but it probably had more to do with getting hit by the one part of the truck which would give way before my arm did—the side mirror.

Even before the collision it was an eventful morning. No more than five miles in I discovered the flaw in my plan to pre-hydrate for the race. I felt the call of nature and had another 22 miles until the sanctioned rest stop. The problem is this area is not populated enough to have a gas station or restaurant I could pop into, but populated enough to have fences and houses discouraging me from stopping just anywhere. By mile 13 I knew there was no way I was making it all the way to the rest stop and my standards for a bathroom had diminished considerably—from isolated woodland to anywhere without a fence. I was seriously considering Tour-de-France-style (i.e. while riding) but figured I wasn’t skilled enough to stay on the bike let alone avoid pissing off the neighbors (or on myself). So you can imagine my joy when I found a ten foot gap in the fence above a dry culvert with a few trees beyond. I practically leapt off my bike and ran to the first tree. I was safe. And then I looked up. Directly above my “urinal” was a wriggling mass of bees. But by now I was… committed. And vulnerable. As the first bee flew from the tree and landed on me I prayed that my yellow and black jersey would convince it that I was a friend. My disguise worked as the other bees left me alone. By the end I felt so comfortable with my new friends I decided to document them. What I hadn’t anticipated was… the camera flash. Needless to say I ran back to the bike even faster than I had run from it.

After that everything was perfect until the fateful curve I took at 11:00. As the truck and I approached the curve on Meyerstown Road I could see that he was turning farther and farther into my lane. At first I assumed he was just taking a tight turn and I hugged the right side of my lane. By now he was entirely in my lane and I assumed he was trying to scare me (I’ve heard bikers aren’t well loved in these parts). But when he didn’t veer off I was sure he was trying to run me down. Before I had a chance to abandon the road altogether and careen into the fence, there was a thunderous (to me anyway) smash as the side mirror exploded off of my arm and shattered on the road. Somehow I managed to keep a grip on my bike and coast to a stop. Apparently the driver hadn’t noticed me biking towards him, and it did seem from his reaction that he was oblivious rather than malicious. I was shaken up but otherwise uninjured and after a discussion with the driver I cruised to the next rest stop powered mostly by adrenaline. I’m sure the mirror-less driver and I were both considerably more vigilant after that.

Thankfully the second fifty miles started with seeing my family at the midway point and were mostly memorable for the bucolic scenery, the delicious food served at the rest stops, and my amazement that I felt as strong at mile 85 as I had at mile 45, despite having never ridden more than 65 miles. I even sprinted the last two miles in an effort to finish in under 6 hours and 30 minutes on the bike (I did succeed even though my bike computer kept counting an additional two seconds once I had stopped!). Despite the close calls described above it was a fantastic experience that I would recommend to anyone and when combined with all the post-ride celebrations it was one of the best days of my life. Thank you to everyone who supported me in accomplishing this (specifically the Potomac Peddlers Touring Club for putting this Historic Back Roads Century on, Darren for inspiration, my family for support, Mimsi for many of these photos, and of course my post-ride masseuse—I am not even sore today!).

PPTC Historic Back Roads Century at EveryTrail

Map created by EveryTrail:GPS Geotagging

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Quarterbacks for sale

Well the air conditioning was certainly better for this year's Fantasy Football auction, but with Doug earning his new team name, Too Cheap For WiFi, I actually had better internet access last year drafting from the Dakar airport. It's possible my brain wasn't acclimatized to the colder air because I kept drafting quarterbacks that I felt were undervalued... and ended up with seven of them on my roster (you can start two). Hey, I was burned a couple years back when Aaron Brooks and Jake Plummer—who both lost their jobs a few weeks into the season—were my starting QBs. I am already working the trades.

The auction ended in record time this year so I had Sunday evening free and decided to fully devote the day to Fantasy Football by downloading my friends' new documentary on the subject called 10 Yards. My college buddies Hunter and Josh are documentary filmmakers who you may remember from their excellent movie 10 MPH about riding a segway across the country. If you haven't seen either of these films you can download or stream them from For the next couple of days 10 Yards is free to download and as a bonus, registering for OurStage through their link will provide $2 for Hunter and Josh to continue their film-making careers.

Last year's team—African Safari—had the best record in the regular season but managed to finish just out of the money in fourth place. We'll see if this year's team—likely to be named Seven QBs—can fare better:

Remaining Salary Cap: 3000
Total Salary Used: 997000
QB Carson Palmer (Traded to Flea as part of the Lynch Package)
$90 000
QB Kurt Warner
$11 000
RB Joseph Addai
$320 000
RB Larry Johnson (Traded to Flea as part of the Lynch Package)
$205 000
WR Andre Johnson
$180 000
WR Anquan Boldin
$56 000
TE Kellen Winslow (Finally gave up on him and grabbed Tashard Choice)
$30 000
K Mason Crosby (Dropped for Tony Scheffler's second signing on my team)
$1 000
Defense/Special Teams Seahawks (Dropped for TE John Carlson after week 6)
$1 000
QB Matt Schaub
$16 000
QB David Garrard (Dropped for cap space to fill my 4 empty roster spots)
$12 000
QB John Kitna (Dropped for WR Devin Hester after week 6)
$9 000
QB Jake Delhomme (Dropped for the Saints Defense... who play the Lions championship weekend)
$11 000
QB Matt Leinart (Traded to Flea as part of the Lynch Package)
$1 000
WR Roddy White
$16 000
RB Ronnie Brown
$36 000
RB Kolby Smith (Traded to Flea as part of the Lynch Package)
$1 000
RB Dominic Rhodes
$1 000

----- Added -----
$300,000 RB Marshawn Lynch (Acquired for Palmer, LJ, Kolby Smith and Leinart)
Week 3
$6,000 TE Tony Scheffler (Free Agent, shocked he was available considering
his 2 TDs last week and the potent Denver passing game)
(Dropped Week 5 after he sprouted crutches from a groin injury)
$3,000 RB Fred Jackson (Acquired as a Voodoo Doll, he is killing
Lynch's production by stealing receptions. Outscored Lynch 17 to 13 last week)
Week 4
$1,000 Def Tampa Bay (Seahawks on bye and TB has been better so far anyway,
although it's starting too look like I might rather have gotten my second choice of Eagles
Defense last week instead of Tony Scheffler)
$1,000 WR Bobby Engram (Lost out on all RBs better than Fred Jackson so I grabbed Engram,
and will be starting BOTH Bills RBs this weekend. Ouch.)
(Dropped week 7 for Kevin Curtis)
Week 5
$6,000 RB Kevin Smith (Beat Swag's bid of 5k, I figured 6k is a good investment in a RB getting regular carries, even if it is for the Lions)
Week 6
$2,000 WR Devin Hester (Injured himself after amassing a whopping 4 points for me... which still was more than Engram who I would have started in his place) (Dropped week 7 for David Akers)
$1,000 TE John Carlson (Insurance against Elephantitis Winslow--now supposedly a staph infection--thankfully I didn't need to start him)
$1,000 K David Akers (Bye week fill-in for Crosby, of course now I don't know which one to keep) (Dropped to pick Crosby back up when I realized he was the #1 kicker in the league... and that the Eagles had completely fallen apart)
$3,000 WR Kevin Curtis (With Winslow down I needed more TE options)
$1,000 TE Tony Scheffler (Back for his second stint)
$1,000 QB Matt Leinart (with Schaub out and Delhomme unproductive, I am getting nervous about having my season undone by a Warner injury... plus I felt my team name required more QBs)
$2,000 TE Kevin Boss (dropped Scheffler yet again in my quest to get production from the one position I hadn't thought would be a problem) (Upgraded to sudden TE stud John Carlson)
$2,000 TE Tony Scheffler (third time's the charm?)
$2,000 TE John Carlson (Loves Seneca Wallace)
$32,000 RB Tashard Choice (Wish I'd started him against the Giants)
$2,000 D Saints (In case I can't resist their matchup against the winless Lions)

In honor of Josh and Hunters' film 10 yards, I'm going track my fantasy season on here this year. I'll try to give a status on Monday mornings and then update with the final result later in each week. I'll also be tracking how the Carson Palmer/Larry Johnson for Marshawn Lynch trade is looking each week...

"How many QBs do I have?" 2008 Results

Week 1: Monday morning: Things are looking good for a 1-0 start. I hold a 110-50 lead over "And Larry" (there's another team called Chuck). "And Larry" has both running backs in the early Monday Night game left to go (Adrian Peterson and Ryan Grant) but unless they go Willie Parker and Michael Turner (combined for over 350 yards and 5 TDs yesterday) on me, it shouldn't be an issue. He also has the Raiders defense while I have the Packers kicker Mason Crosby.
Trade update: Palmer scored a grand total of 2 points for Flea. LJ had 9. Despite resting most of the 4th quarter, Lynch had 18 for me by himself. Winner so far: Me!
How many QBs do I have?: 5 (Kitna, Warner, Delhomme, Schaub, Garrard), down from the 7 I drafted now that Palmer and Leinart are gone.
Result: Win 117-72. Puts me in third place after week 1.
Next up: A match-up against "Whack-ass", current league leader and owner of the suddenly formidable RB duo of Willie Parker and Michael Turner.

Week 2: Monday Morning: Currently beating former #1 "Whack-Ass" 166-101. The effort was solid all around (with every player chipping in at least ten points) but it was the 3 TDs from Warner to Boldin that have me looking at first or second place after week 2. Barring a 65-point outburst from Dallas kicker Nick Folk tonight, I'll be 2-0 and the only drama is whether Donovan McNabb scores 31 points (about 3 TDs and 300 yards passing) for "Chuck" to prevent me from taking first place. Some other notes from this week:

  • In week one, "Whack-Ass"es running backs (Turner and Parker) combined for 66 points. In week two (against me) they combined for 15. Thank you scheduling gods.
  • Hurricane Ike tore the roof off Reliant Stadium forcing the Texans and Ravens to have their bye week unexpectedly moved to this week. Hardly the most significant result of the storm but this actually helped me because two of my receivers shared a bye week... now if I can get my RB bye week conflicts resolved without a natural disaster.
  • At one point (before the Warner/Boldin show combined for 70 points) I thought my week hinged on a series of plays in the Indy/Minnesota game. "Whack-Ass" had Peyton and Wayne. Peyton threw a long pass to Anthony Gonzalez... who lateraled to Reggie Wayne who scored a TD (Equaling 2 TDs for "Whack-Ass"). But the play was challenged and Wayne was ruled down at the 1 yard line. After Peyton was stuffed several times they finally handed the ball to my RB Addai who scored... perhaps. That play was also challenged but the TD stood so it ended up being a 3 TD swing in my favor.
Trade update: Larry Johnson is out on passing downs and quoted as saying he doesn't see a future with the Chiefs. He scored 2 points yesterday. Palmer scored 1. Lynch scored 13 for me (and Kitna who was in for my empty Palmer spot scored 17). Wow does this trade look good for me through two weeks. Amazingly it may look even better for Flea who has since traded Palmer (and Jerry Porter and Todd Heap) for Trent Edwards, Santonio Holmes, Jason Witten. After yesterdays games this trade looks absurd.
How many QBs do I have?: Still 5, though one is likly to go this week as I clear some cap space.
Result: Win 168-115. 2-0 and in 1st place with a 7 point lead over "Chuck"
Next Up: A match-up between the top two teams in the league. I wish I'd played "Chuck" this week as I'd have beaten him 168-167. While the other half of this dynamic duo "And Larry" is busy making Flea competitive again (by taking Carson Palmer off his hands for the #1 TE, a WR2, and a potential QB upgrade in Trent Edwards), "Chuck" has a QB duo in Donovan McNabb and Jay Cutler who look every bit as imposing as my opponents RBs Turner and Parker looked coming into this week. It will be a tough match-up and most likely comes down to whether New Orleans can keep Brandon Marshall out of the endzone... gulp.

Week 3: Monday Morning: Chuck put things out of reach this week so the Monday night game didn't matter.
Trade Update: I don't have the exact scores but Lynch had his best game yet with 2TDs and Larry Johnson and Palmer were better than past weeks but neither did anything to indicate this wasn't a great trade for me. Unless things change I'll probably declare this a win and stop tracking it.
How Many QBs do I have?: Down to 4, and only Warner is looking solid. Kitna and Schaub may lose their jobs if they don't turn it around in the next couple of weeks and Delhomme hasn't played well yet.
Result: Loss 139-112. 2-1 now and in 4th place. Actually I am glad he won by quite a bit because the strangest result in the NFL this week was my backup RB Ronnie Brown scoring 5 TDs against the Pats... on my bench. Thankfully I would have lost even if I started Brown over Addai so it wasn't a coaching decision (of course if I started him over Kitna, or started him over Addai and Roddy White over Andre Johnson... oh well, at least it looks like Brown may be able to help by the end of the season)
Next Up: 5th place team "Hey Rookie!" who may be tough since I am down a second QB and RB and starting Delhomme and Fred Jackson in their places. Basically I need a down week from Drew Brees and Reggie Bush and I have a good chance (as long as Buffalo scores on the ground with either of my RBs and not through the air to his Lee Evans)

Week 4: Monday Morning: I was busy.
Trade Update: My first loss regarding this trade. Larry Johnson went off and outscored Lynch by himself (Carson Palmer was injured and didn't play). I don't feel too bad though because LJ was on Flea's bench.
How Many QBs Do I Have?: Same 4, and Schaub and Delhomme finally put in good performances.
Result: Win 137-114. 3-1 overall and back in third place. My free agent acquisition of the Tampa Defense and garbage time points from Warner and Boldin won this one for me. Now only Chuck remains undefeated (after beating up on his winless lover's team "And Larry").
Next Up: Flea! The head-to-head matchup with my trade partner. Here's hoping that Larry Johnson got his good game out of the way last week... and that the Cardinals don't give up 6 TDs to Flea's Trent Edwards the way they did to Brett Favre!

Week 5: Monday Morning: I've still got a chance, but I'd have to give the edge to Flea. I have a 15 point lead 118-103 (but I lose a tie) and he has WR Lance Moore going for the Saints tonight. In a points-per-reception league like ours, 15 points is a pretty average WR performance, but if they keep him out of the end zone and under 100 yards I can hold on. A win would put me in 2nd place due to the previously-undefeated Chuck's (embarrassing) loss to Whack-Ass. The only more embarrassing loss this week was Swag's 65 point effort against the formerly winless "And Larry".
Trade Update: In the head-to-head matchup, Lynch disappointed with only 9 points for me. However, Flea started Larry Johnson against me instead of Clinton Portis (and his 23 points). Larry Johnson rushed 7 times for 2 yards (and zero points). Here's what Rotoworld had to say about him today: "Hope you sold high on Larry Johnson! Has their ever been a bigger one game comedown that doesn't include an injury than 198 yards to two? ". Since the 9 point swap would mean I'd already lost to Flea, I will credit the trade with putting me in a position to win.
How many QBs do I have?: Four. But only 2 that finished games on Sunday. Warner seems to be my only reliable starter at the moment, although Delhomme had another solid effort.
Result: Win 118-111. Both the Redskins and I sit at 4-1 now. The trade (and Flea's decision to start Larry Johnson) proved critical in this victory. I'm in second place overall, 10 points behind Whack-Ass who knocked off Chuck... and did quite a bit of bragging about it (actually offering himself up as a paid Fantasy Football consultant). Still he did lose a game 168 to 115. Who was that to again?
Next Up: McCray (3-2) brings Rodgers and Romo to challenge me, but I'll finally be starting Wildcat Ronnie Brown so I'm feeling pretty good, as long as McGahee and Ryan Grant don't choose this week to break out of their season long slumps.

Week 6: Monday Morning: Trailing 145 to 153. Everything hinges on how big Kellen Winslow's balls are. Literally. My tight end was hospitalized from Thursday-Sunday with nuts the size of grapefruits. He's in my starting line-up and my only chance at getting those 8 points back, but he's got less than a 25% chance of playing. I suppose I should have some perspective and just be grateful that I don't have a job where people are blogging about the size of my testicles.
Result: No Winslow = No Win. I fell to 4-2 and into second place despite having the second highest score of the week. Of some consolation is that I have the highest powered offense in the league with 797 points for so I'll likely continue to win any tie-breakers.
Next Up: Doug's (1-5) team which should be an easy win on paper but he has the potential with Tomlinson and Eli Manning capable of big weeks at any time.

Week 7: Monday Morning: Leading 121-91. I'm taking solace in the Red Sox failed ALCS comeback with another fantasy win (assuming Denver kicker Matt Prater doesn't have the greatest fantasy game ever by a kicker and score 30 points against me).
Trade Update: Larry Johnson was suspended this week and apparently beat on another woman at a night club so he may well be completely done in KC. Palmer is also out with an arm injury which doesn't have a clear timetable. Lynch hasn't taken the next step up like I'd hoped but he's been consistent and the trade is looking critical to my success right now.
How many QBs do I have?: Three. Kitna was placed on IR last week (supposedly for his balky back but mainly because the winless Lions want to go in a new direction) so I am now down to a fairly standard number of QBs on my roster. I may need to petition for a new team name soon. At least Warner and Schaub both seem to have solidified themselves as every week starters for me.
Result: Win 119-92. Now 5-2 overall. Not sure where they subtracted my two points but glad I didn't need them. Thanks to a strong Monday night effort by "Chuck" and a ridiculously lucky tie by "Whack-Ass" I remain in 3rd place despite maintaining my lead in total points scored. Most importantly I have worked my way through all of my major byes and aside from potential issues my biggest problem going forward may be deciding who to bench between Kurt Warner, Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson, Anquan Boldin, and Roddy White (this week it looks like Boldin, until he shows he can take a hit again)
Next up: My rematch with Flea whose team has come on strong lately thanks to Kyle Orton, his trade for Jason Witten, and three top 5 RBs in Barber, Portis, and the surprising Matt Forte (who thankfully has a bye this week). Hopefully Marshawn Lynch uses this week to seek his revenge against his former owner who thought so little of him that he traded him for LJ and Palmer.

Week 8: Monday Morning: Won 153-104. Currently high-scorer for this week despite having Boldin on the bench. With "Chuck" and "Whack Ass" facing each other I am guaranteed to move into second place now (likely behind "Whack Ass"). And I swept the season series against Flea. Next week I have to bench one of Warner, Schaub, Andre Johnson, Boldin, or Roddy White. This week they all scored between 25-31 points.
How many QBs do I have?: Three, and likely to remain that way from here on out unless I make a trade.
Result: Win 153-104. 6-2 and in second place behind Whack-Ass. I've noticed my record keeps matching the Redskins.
Next up: A rematch with Chuck who handed me my first defeat in week three.

Week 9: Monday Morning: Won 126-99. It was a team effort with everyone going into double digits except for Schaub and Lynch who both left their games with injuries. My team also played solid defense, managing to hold Steven Jackson and Brandon Marshall to uncharacteristically bad weeks (combined 5 points). This win will put me in first place over Whack-Ass if Willie Parker scores less than 28 points tonight.
How many QBs do I have?: Three, although Schaub sprained his knee so technically only two healthy ones. Looks like I may start all three of my star WRs this week instead of two QBs.
Result: Win. 7-2 and in first place.

Week 10: Monday Morning: The bad news is that I am trailing Whack-Ass 148-88. The good news is that I have my two strongest players Warner and Boldin going tonight along with the Cardinals Defense. Still a 60 point deficit is tough to overcome.
How many QBs do I have?: Three, but at this point I am really only using Warner. It took seven selections but I may have selected the league MVP with one of them.
Result: WIN! 155-148. Now 8-2 and still in first place. Despite the Cardinals only scoring 3 TDs, my team gets credited with 5 since Warner hooked up with Boldin two more times. They combined for 61 points and the win for me. Of course it helps that Whack-Ass decided to leave Peyton Manning on his bench. Thanks for that. I've now swept the season series against Whack-Ass who earlier in the season was offering his consulting services to the league—when he only had one loss (against me).
Next Up: My matchup with Swag and his host of Redskins (Campbell, Moss, and Cooley). Warner has now moved into the fantasy points lead and will win me $25 if he finishes the regular season that way.

Week 11: Monday Morning: I'm trailing Swag 111-106... but I've still got Lynch and Winslow going tonight. If they can't combine for 5 points I don't deserve to win and will consider this a gift to Swag who will be recovering from a root canal... and if I win he probably won't even notice the additional pain.
Result: Win 148-111. 9-2 overall. Lynch had his best game of the season with 100+ yards rushing and 10(!) receptions. Winslow came back to earth after his breakout week 10 performance. Overall I'm in first place and will likely win any tie-breakers with over 120 total points over the next highest team (strangely that team is ranked 6th). Warner still leads the league in fantasy points and his biggest competition looks like it could actually be Boldin despite him missing two weeks.
Next Up: The less dynamic of the "Chuck" "And Larry" duo who I last played in week 1. A win there should clinch a playoff spot for me.

Week 12: Monday Morning: Leading 139-77 with Mason Crosby going tonight vs. Greg Jennings and Jeremy Shockey. Unless Jennings and Shockey are throwing TDs to each other (tough to do since they are on opposite teams) I think the lead is pretty safe. It was a solid effort across the board with only Kellen Winslow failing to produce. Warner only had 18 points but should maintain his league points lead.
How Many QBs do I have?: Back up to 4 with the re-addition of Leinart as Warner insurance. All 4 QBs on my roster are from the original 7 I drafted.
Result: Win 142-111. 10-2 overall and clinched a playoff spot.
Do I own the Fantasy MVP?: One of the things out league does is award bonus money for having the highest scoring player for a week, highest scoring team for a week, and highest scoring player for the season. I'm not looking too good for the first too but Kurt Warner is currently the leading point scorer for the season. He has a one point lead over Drew Brees and a slighter bigger lead over Philip Rivers. Over the next couple of weeks I'll track whether he holds on and wins the prize money for me.
Next up: "Too Cheap to Pay for the Keg" who lost last year (thus requiring him to buy the keg for this year's auction) and failed to fulfill his keg-buying duty. At 1-11 he looks set to have a chance to redeem himself next year... or to repeat his team name.

Week 13: Monday Morning: Leading 87-76. Clearly my team took advantage of the pressure being off and rested this week. This is my worst performance yet, somehow I may still wind up with a win thanks to "Too Cheap to pay for the Keg" clearly aiming to repeat as the last place team. All I have to do to hold on tonight is not have Andre Johnson (#11 overall) get outscored by Marcedes Lewis (#211 overall) by more than 10 points. It should be easy... of course this game shouldn't be this close either. A win will guarantee me first place in the regular season and the top seed in the playoffs (in which case I can't imagine how few points my team will score next week when there is even less to play for).
How Many QBs do I have?: Still 4, although I may be lobbying to become team "How many times I have I resigned Tony Scheffler?" (3 times so far).
Result: Win 107-79. 11-2 overall and clinched #1 seed in the playoffs which start week 15.
Do I own the Fantasy MVP?: So far. Despite a mediocre performance (for him) of 21 points, Warner gained on all three of his closest competitors: Drew Brees, Philip Rivers and (sadly) my own Anquan Boldin. It all comes down to this week, and basically it will be determined by whether Brees (who I happen to be facing head to head) outscores Warner by more than 4 points. Technically Warner could still lose if he is outscored by Aaron Rodgers by 17 points.
Next up: "Hey Rookie" who's fighting an uphill battle for a playoff spot. He needs to beat me and have "Whack Ass" lose. Frankly I am rooting for "Whack Ass" whose team currently looks far less imposing than "Hey Rookie's"

Week 14: Result: Ouch. Lost 134-94. While I still end the regular season #1, with the best record at 11-3 and the most total points at 1841, because "Whack-Ass" lost his way out of the playoffs entirely by going 0-3 the past few weeks and losing this week by 1 point... I now have a rematch against the team that just crushed me by 40 points. Well, here is my chance for immediate redemption at least. If this loss wasn't enough motivation, his QB Drew Brees also managed to edge out Kurt Warner for season MVP by 2 points and steal the $50 bonus that should have been mine. My team—RBs especially—was asleep this week and resulted in my team scoring the least of any team in the league, so we clearly have something to prove, and it starts by holding Drew Brees to under ten points tonight!

Playoff Semi-Finals: Friday Morning: We get an early update to this game with my opponent "Hey Rookie" starting league MVP (bitter!) Drew Brees and dangerous PPR RB Reggie Bush against me in the Thursday night matchup. Total damage 23 points. I'll take it! Perhaps more importantly it is looking like Addai will be out for Sunday's game, which might seem like bad news for me except that it means I can start Dominic Rhodes against the Detroit Lions (23 rushing TDs given up this season!), and not worry about split carries. Of course I'm not sure what it says about my team that here I am in the playoffs and I'm planning to bench 630K (Lynch and Addai) of my million dollar salary cap!
Monday Morning: It's looking like I picked the right week to lose to "Hey Rookie" last week (when it didn't count). This week I've got a 134-107 lead thanks to Rhodes' as-advertised performance against the Lions and Andre Johnson's timely 200+ yard outburst. This is good because otherwise I'd probably be kicking myself for starting Ronnie Brown's 8 points over far better performances from Tashard Choice, Kevin Smith, Marshawn Lynch, and even Marshawn Lynch's backup Fred Jackson! Now barring a half-dozen 50 yard field goals from Phil Dawson tonight or the Philly Defense outscoring Donovan McNabb by 30 points, things are set up for the finals next week between myself and #2 ranked Team Chuck.
Result: No miraculous kicking for Phil Dawson on Monday so I won 134-110 and am guaranteed to at least make my money back ($100 entry and $200 for 2nd place or $500 for first place). I face Chuck in the finals, who I split my season series with. I've got some lineup calls to make. Do I bench Warner or Boldin because of weather and the fact that Arizona has already clinched? Do I bench Andre Johnson against shutdown corner Nnamdi Asamougha? Tampa D or Saints D (against Detroit)? And which two RBs to pick from: Lynch, Addai, Rhodes, Tashard Choice, and K Smith (I am eliminating Ronnie Brown from consideration).

Playoff Finals: Ugh. I hit a season low (by nearly 20 points) of 77 points, while Chuck fell one short of the season high of 176 points. Normally, as coach I would step up and say that it starts with me, that I made the wrong calls, benched the wrong players, didn't make the right trade or free agent move... but I lost by nearly 100 points. If I'd have been able to start all 18 players on my roster I would have lost. I was smart enough to bench my team MVPs Kurt Warner and Anquan Boldin and to start waiver pickup Tashard Choice. But frankly none of that mattered. I'm pretty sure it was the largest margin of victory all season and likely in playoff history. I got crushed and there is nothing to do but collect the $100 that I did win as 2nd place and settle in for the Fantasy offseason. After two years in a row finishing in first place in the regular season and with the most points but then losing in the playoffs I am going to rally for bonus awards in those categories. Thanks to Hunter and Josh for the inspiration with their movie 10Yards, maybe I should go back and study it some more for next year, this was still my best finish yet in this league.

Monday, August 25, 2008

“And I would bike 100 miles”

Well that’s the plan anyway, and I am now officially registered for my first Century ride on September 21st. My training has consisted of biking to work (20 miles round-trip) 2-3 times a week since May and then doing increasingly longer rides with the Potomac Pedalers each weekend for the past month. Below is a map I will update with my training rides and then finally the Century itself:

Century Training Rides at EveryTrail
Map created by EveryTrail:GPS Geotagging

Even without riding it yet, the Century has been worth it simply because it got me biking to work (well the Century and Darren showing me the direct route). If you live close enough you should definitely try biking to work, and if you don’t live close enough… move! Humor me for a moment with my bike-to-work spiel:

  • No gas: In addition to the monetary and environmental savings, there’s just a rush you get arriving at work knowing that the trip was completely on your own power

  • No traffic: It takes me 10 minutes longer to bike each way than it does to drive, and few things uplift the soul more than biking across the 14th St. bridge next to a line of stopped cars

  • Free exercise: Since it only takes 20 minutes longer to bike I get a 20 mile workout in 20 minutes

  • Time outdoors: Even with most of my commute in an urban setting, I still get a couple of miles along the Potomac with views of all the monuments

And the three most common arguments against biking debunked:

  • “I live too far”: You can always pick a parking lot that is close enough to bike from and drive your bike there and still get most of the benefits

  • “I’d get to work all sweaty”: If you have a shower at work then you are pretty much out of excuses, but even if you don’t, as long as you can keep a change of clothes at work, some deodorant, and a towel to wipe down with, sweat’s not a problem

  • “What if it rains?”: If it’s raining on the way to work, wear rain gear, don’t bike that day, or think of it as extra sweat you wipe down before changing at work. If you get caught in the rain on the way home… well it’s the way home, who cares? If you do care then you can take your bike on metro (outside of rush hour) or put it on the front of a bus, or worst case leave it locked up at work and taxi home

Most importantly though, wear a helmet. As you can see from our photo from the Safety is Sexy blog, “You’d look hotter in a helmet” anyway.

Notes to Jon:
  • Hunter’s Head Tavern in Upperville, VA is a great post-ride or date spot with covered outdoor seating and delicious (and reasonably priced) organic meals with ingredients from the owner’s farm.

  • There’s a dog on Box Factory Rd near Berryville that loves to chase bikes. It’s unnerving but, at least in our experience yesterday, he was more interested in chasing than attacking. I believe the Century goes along this route so hopefully he won’t be in an attacking mood on the 21st (or at least all the faster riders will have tired him out for me!)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Of BBQs, Bags and Boyfriends

This is how Natalie showed up to my most recent BBQ. If you read the Better Bag post, or are otherwise familiar with my ridiculous obsession with collecting the Whole Foods retro bags, you will appreciate what a perfect and unexpected gift this was. This bag is out of print and was only available in Ohio and yet in her infinite resourcefulness (I can neither confirm nor deny whether she simply emailed Whole Foods!) Natalie managed to get me a brand new Buckeyes bag.

All I got her was a boyfriend: the bag was presented to me on the same porch where Natalie met her boyfriend Matt at our BBQ just over a year ago. I like to think of it as a magical matchmaking porch since I just returned from Ohio where our good friends Jamie and Kevin—who met on that same porch four years ago—were married. And thanks to Natalie, I was able to spend the whole weekend celebrating the wedding rather than stalking Ohio Whole Foods stores trying to trade for a Buckeyes bag :-) Thank you Natalie!

I'll soon update this with a slideshow of photos from that BBQ and the wedding

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Darren Decrees

The future of America is at stake. While I jokingly endorse Colbert/Stewart ’08 and seriously endorse Obama/(preferably Richardson or Warner), I suppose it is only fair to let you all know that in the end it won’t matter because the Revolution is coming. See most of you probably think of Darren as my fun-(and-bike)-loving friend (who quite often takes humorous liberties with the English language). But what you don’t realize is that for some years now he has been developing the decrees that he will issue once he becomes our benevolent dictator. After his recent dream vision that Castro was his great uncle, we should assume that the time for the reign of Darren is drawing nigh. While his rise to power is inevitable, in the spirit of the campaign season and as a gesture of his benevolence he is presenting his platform:

Decree #1: There shall be a new Department of Servings. Restaurant portions and supermarket serving sizes will be reconciled to a reasonable moderate size. In addition, the size of a serving shall be printed on menus alongside the prices.

Decree #2: Women’s pants’ sizes shall henceforth be designated with length, hip, and waist measurements.

Decree #3: No church shall sponsor a sports team (Darren doesn’t believe God should take any one team’s side in sporting competitions).

Decree #4: Mondays shall now be a day off of work. However, unlike weekends (which Darren believes should be reserved exclusively for leisure activities like biking), Monday is a day to do chores at home, or volunteer. You may choose to go to work instead but you must pay a fine which is donated to charity. The “chores at home” option will be enforced by random home inspections on Tuesdays, violators will be shot—or fined the same amount as those who went to work.

Decree #5: As evidence of Darren’s benevolent nature and responsiveness to his subjects, he has accepted the petition put forth by Sara requesting a new definition for a condiment: A condiment shall be a food topping that can be squeezable. (This has the added benefit of eliminating salt and other spices from consideration, which Darren declares are not condiments).

Decree #6: Tom Collins shall be the official summertime porch drink of the kingdom. Supermarkets shall be required to stock Tom Collins Mix (so that it isn’t so rare that Darren must purchase three bottles when he suddenly finds it on a trip to Assateague after weeks of fruitless searching…)

Decree #7: All Olympic broadcasts shall be required to display the title of the current event at all times (so that when watching on the Royal Tivo, there is no confusion about whether Darren is watching an event final or a preliminary race that can be safely viewed at two times speed)

Decree #8: The Facebook "Friend" Decree: If you see a Facebook friend in public you are required to go over and say hello, otherwise they must be stricken from your friends' list. Let this be your guide when deciding whether to friend or accept a friend request from someone.

Decree #9: No private company shall be permitted to make a profit operating a toll road or a traffic violation camera. All revenue from traffic cameras will go towards education or road improvements in the county where the camera is located.

Decree #10: The sweeping smart growth mandates will be unveiled at the proper time, but for now let it be known that all culs-de-sac and pipe stems are forbidden. (The building in Ballston which is blocking our HDTV reception is also in serious jeopardy).

Decree #11: All Olympic medals shall be made entirely of the metal they represent. (Chairman Darren does not approve of the "white jade" medals being pawned off on our gold medalists. Gold is valuable and we have the trade deficit to think about!)

Stay tuned for updates on what our future holds as Darren documents his campaign platform, rides a socialist revolution into power, enjoys the Divine Right of Kings, and rules as our benevolent dictator…

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Don't Push Buttons on Turtles' Bellies

Next year could be interesting. So far I’ve about doubled my attendance at Fringe shows each year of the festival, from three to five to ten. The madness will have to end though as I’m on pace to see all hundred or so shows by 2011… unless the festival keeps growing—not unlike Telly the Turtle in Prototype 373-G. Telly began as a tiny turtle transported in a leftover Lo Mein box… and ended the play as a stage-filling Tortuga bent on world domination. That’s basically what my Fringe experience was like this year…

It started out all fun and innocent with the funtastic I Like Nuts! (the musical) and Love in the Time of GPS in Ball & Chain. Then somewhere between Through the Looking Glass and Power House: The Disco Energy Dance Along Show things got a little strange—just like when the protagonist in Prototype 373-G, Belly, finds a button on Telly the turtle’s tummy (you know the button that unleashes the evil—and hilarious—space turtle Shiggles, and gives him mind-control powers over Belly... who then becomes an interesting “Tube of Flesh” to pave the way for total-tortuga-domination, by readying her apartment for her insemination at the hands tail (I think) of Shiggles; He likes to munch on leafy greens during coitus, so in preparation Belly’s apartment is soon filled with plants, giant bowls of salad etc.… and an ever expanding Telly the turtle who Shiggles will eventually inhabit.) So yeah, it’s sort of like by going to Power House I unknowingly pushed a button that triggered me to become obsessed with Fringe shows and they took over my life this weekend (though hopefully without all of the insemination and turtle-takeover parallels). Well, something possessed me to see six more shows from Friday to Sunday.

Suddenly everything about my life related to Fringe, thanks to the next show I saw: Tales of Doomed Love. Tales and the next show Children of Medea each had links to the story of Medea, as did Argonautika from a few months ago. Tales also retold part of the Oresteia which I saw recently by Constellation Theatre… with the actress from Tales. Finally, Tales had the story of Tristan and Isolde which I was relieved to have no connection to… until it was the topic of a lecture I heard on Saturday! Tales definitely wins the award for most connections, but I wasn’t in love with the show. I found it most compelling when both actors were interacting to tell a story… unfortunately that only happened in one of the five tales.

The connections weren’t finished after Tales though, they kept going with Children of Medea which was the best (if not fringiest) piece that I have ever seen at Fringe. Among those connections:

  • Recurring scenes set in Wonderland (just like Sunday’s Through the Looking Glass), including a memorable scene where Alice meets the March Hare…a character I played in High School
  • I saw my favorite Fringe shows alone since Darren had opted out of both Nuts and Children of Medea… and would do so again the next day with another favorite, Gilgamesh (no protest by me since I’d picked up the trend and knew it would be good!)
  • Darren and I always check our programs for artists whose credits include our favorite TV show, The Wire. Since it was filmed in Baltimore nearly every show we see includes someone (although no one we ever recognize). Medea did not. However, in the audience for Medea was none other than Delaney Williams who plays McNaulty’s boss Sergeant Jay in all five seasons of The Wire. Now I knew Darren would be pissed he hadn’t stayed!

Friday’s final show Lebensraum was good, and the fact I don’t have more to say about it is not a reflection on Lebensraum but rather just how amazing four other shows I saw this weekend were. Children of Medea was the first of the four and was the clear winner for me… until I saw the next three. Now it’s all muddled again. Gilgamesh for example is exactly what I go to the Fringe festival hoping to see: An ensemble show like my high school theatre teacher Mr. Maiden used to take to the one-act competitions. I loved the rhythms the ensemble pounded out during the fight sequence, the interactions between the actors and the projected shadows, and learning about lacunae (gaps in a manuscript such as the epic of Gilgamesh… or detail about Lebensraum and Power House in this blog post).

Sunday broke the curse and I closed the Fringe out with two more fantastic shows… this time with Darren in attendance! We saw back-to-back shows at the Source Theatre: Prototype 373-G and Born Normal. In addition to having the best costumes of any Fringe show (and just about any other show I can think of) Prototype also included a reference to some of my favorite books growing up: The Choose Your Own Adventure series. The characters had a game of taking turns reading the adventures to each other and swapping when one’s choice led to death… unless they died on the very first decision which would trigger the controversial “Too Young To Die” rule!

  • If you decide to read more about Prototype 373-G, turn to page 1.
  • If you decide to read more about Born Normal, turn to the next page.

If I thought I was all laughed out after Prototype 373-G (and I should have been) I was quite wrong. There were still some connections to be revealed as well such as:

  • Both shows featured new kinds (well names at least) of cancer: Ass cancer in Prototype and Wing cancer in Born Normal.
  • Sitting down in Prototype 373-G I joked with Darren about whether there were any Wire cast members in THAT audience (he was, as expected, bitter to have missed Delany Williams on Friday). I turned around jokingly to scan the audience… and of course, Mr. Williams was once again in attendance!
  • Not only that but between shows we went to St. Ex where we met a chatty drunk woman who was there with her gay husband and his gay friends (no typos in there, just a unique woman). And while she was not at all interested in theatre (making snoring noises each time we discussed shows with a Fringe volunteer who we also met at the bar) her friends did seem to know Delaney Williams who came in for drinks as well!
  • The connections also led to a new friendship with Fringe volunteer Elizabeth at the bar who: gave us our tickets at Prototype, had been in the audience of Children of Medea with me, also had tickets to Born Normal, and is moving just down the street in September.

Oh yeah, I was talking about Born Normal; In which most of the characters are not born normal:

  • There’s the mother with wings
  • The older sister who can heal animals—provided they a) died of natural causes and b) are under 18 pounds, leading to such lines as “I’ve got a stack of parakeets in the corner I’ve been meaning to get to”
  • Younger brother Martin who’s born able to talk and therefore able to answer his mother’s question about his gender: “While I lack the manual dexterity to fully investigate the matter, I believe I am a boy”
  • And Sunshine… whose name might be a bit too “on the nose” as the mother would say since it is just a burning glow within swaddling clothes

And then there is daughter Jane who actually is born normal. It’s hard to say if I was more impressed with the cast’s acting which was, along with Medea’s Sue Jin Song and Prototype’s Hugh Nees, the most impressive of the festival (well my 10 show sampling of the festival), or the script which was written by Stephen Spotswood who is an MFA candidate at Catholic University. I will definitely be on the lookout for more work by all of them, although with 12 shows in 10 days (including Not the Messiah! at Wolf Trap and my sister Mimsi's terrific turn as Frog in Frog and Toad) I am officially going to take a break from theatre… for at least a week.

Notes to Jon:

  • If I hope to get to 20 shows next year I will need them to add shows back on Monday and Tuesday nights, which they took away this year (my biggest disappointment with the festival)
  • Supposedly my Fringe button is good for discounts at local eateries all year long and not just all festival long (I’ll let you know when I test that)
  • I walked up and purchased tickets to all three shows on Friday (despite rave reviews for Children of Medea) and Gilgamesh on Saturday night, but found many times that I wished I could have changed the tickets that I had already allocated from my 10-ticket passes. So my lesson for next year is to risk the sell outs and allocate the tickets from the passes on the day of the show (and frankly after I’ve read some reviews).
  • If I’m ever pulled on stage at the end of Power House, refuse to dance until they try “Contingency Plan 10” on me (aka seducing the dancer into continuing to produce energy). Other than "Contingency Plan 10", the highlight of the show was the Dharma-initiative-esque video in the beginning explaining how they now breed humans who can dance longer so as to generate energy… from the seismic energy produced by the feet, thermodynamic energy from body heat, and hydroelectric energy from collecting sweat (lovely)
  • Drama is harder to pull off than comedy (probably because it requires the audience to be fully invested) but Berlin in Ball & Chain and Children of Medea nailed it
  • Great comedy is still a hell of a lot of fun to go see and I Like Nuts, Love in the Time of GPS in Ball & Chain, Prototype 373-G, and Born Normal were all exceptional comedies
  • I’ll never think of the March Hare the same again after Children of Medea. My portrayal in high school was G Rated. Whereas Sue Jin Song’s NC-17 March Hare sung “You put the right ear in, you pull the right ear out… you put both ears in” etc. Quite the naughty hare.
  • Medea also contained other favorite scenes about expectations on children, where “Alice” has a nightmare in Wonderland about the SAT and is running across a giant scantron trying not to be sucked into the reader, and how parents named their children Yale, Princeton, and Harvard… and their fourth kid Bob. Sue Jin Song was at her strongest when switching into the character of Julie Ann, who was her family’s “Bob”.
  • I wish Darren got to see Gilgamesh, because it was like the theatre we did in high school, but also because it included the story of Shhh… or how The Flood was sent because humans talked so loud they woke the gods.

  • Most of the embedded photos are from the Fringe's official Photo blog and clicking on them will link to the photo blog for that play.
  • Go see any show with costumes done by the Crafts Action League. It’s tough for costumes to steal a show as good as Prototype 373-G but they nearly did: from the green dresses Belly wore, to the green underwear everyone wore, to the pull off shirt-pants-and-tie worn over identical shirt, pants, and tie, to the leafy green costumes of the ensemble in one scene, and most importantly to the turtle costumes of Shiggles and the ever expanding Telly—who at the very end got to be nearly as big as this blog entry… somebody get the water