Note From Jon


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Google, you have failed me

Two years ago, when I started this blog, I made a bet. I made a dollar bet with Darren that by the time I needed more than the 1 GB of photo storage that Picassa offered at that time, Google would have upped the limit (after all my GMail limit has gone from about 2.5 GB to 7+ GB in that time). And yet here we are over two years later and I have the following message at the bottom of my Picassa account:
 You are currently using 1022 MB (99.84%) of your 1024 MB.

That's pretty much Game Over, and it means that the next time I want to post photos on here I will owe Darren a dollar, and the far more costly admission that he was right and I was wrong (actually he has a pretty good track record of winning these bets--the initial cost of the Playstation 3, whether there was one or two TV "seasons" per year--actually if the current fall and spring trend for shows like Heroes continues I may be right after all on that one). 

What that means is that unless I decide to pay up (or the hand of Google reaches in and saves me in the final two megabytes) you may be about to enjoy the final post on this blog. And let's be honest that's probably better than continuing this fade-out process anyway. I clearly have been spending my time elsewhere, and I might as well just admit it. If I was giving this blog the time it deserved, I would have been railing against the DC parking policy that requires me to register with the DC DMV every six months to prove that I am NOT a DC resident, or bemoaning the loss of some of my favorite ways to enjoy summer outdoors in DC--R.I.P. HBO's Screen on the Green and The Shakespeare Free-for-All at Carter Barron (no free indoor Shakespeare in the fall does not count). Heck, I even forgot our blogiversary this year. No, I haven't been a good blogfriend at all lately. You deserve better. 

And so let's part as friends, with two short slideshows of great traditions that we've documented before, Gold Cup and Bike to Work Day.
Virginia Gold Cup 2009

Bike to Work Day 2009

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Roadtripping to Cheerwine Country

Clearly just admitting my blogging problem has not helped to solve it, so for at least one more post I'll be embracing the double slideshow format. Today's double-header consists of a last minute road trip to Charleston, SC over President's Day weekend followed by last weekend's visit to Shenandoah celebrating Jeff M's birthday, which included my first trips to Stony Man Mountain and Luray Caverns.
Charleston, SC Road Trip

Stony Man and Luray for Jeff's Birthday

Notes to Jon:
  • The food in Charleston was as good as I remembered. We had lunch at Magnolia's where I enjoyed the Shrimp and Grits and especially the House Made Potato Chips which I still remembered from my previous Charleston trip years ago. We also ate at 82 Queen which was equally fantastic and had the greatest sorbet I have ever tasted, order the Pear Sorbet for dessert if you are there.
  • In Charleston we found signs for Elizabeth, Ann, Pitt, Mary, and Jo(h)n Streets, and a Biggs Restaurant. There is even an intersection of Elizabeth and Jo(h)n St. but the Elizabeth sign is missing from that corner. I expect it to be fixed by the time we return to Charleston for a beach trip, possibly to the Pelican House. 
  • Thanks to Brian who took several of the photos which I appropriated for the slideshow (basically any photo I am in and the ones inside the house are his).
  • Connecting the two trips was my current drink of choice, Cheerwine, the cherry soft drink from NC which was available in Charleston as well as at a gas station in Luray. I took full advantage to restock my depleted supply. 

Thursday, February 12, 2009

At the Rink

Clearly I am shirking my blogging responsibilities in 2009. I’ve been procrastinating posting a couple of slideshows in the hopes that I would actually write something up about them. That hasn’t worked too well. Admitting that I have a problem is the first step. Recruiting guest bloggers may be the second. For now we’ll just have to settle for the captions in the slideshows…

DC Roller Derby

Harper's Ferry Hike

I do have to make two quick notes:

  • Get to the Roller Derby early (like 45 minutes before the match starts) and grab your food and drinks. The line to get through security stretched from the DC Armory back to the metro… and the concessions lines were even worse, hopefully they’ll have more security and concessions personnel next time.
  • As for the Harper’s Ferry hike… we never did find the trailhead despite walking past where it was supposed to be once and driving past it twice. I assume that it may actually be the path directly out of the parking lot (despite the guidebook saying 0.3 miles up the road).  

Sunday, January 25, 2009


Since I live just over the river from D.C. and was obviously pleased with the outcome of the election, it was pretty much a given that I'd be out with the masses last Tuesday. Thanks to Sara—and her cousin who mailed the tickets, and my Dad who waited at the house for them to arrive—Mimsi and I actually got to watch from the Silver ticketed area (once we finally found the security gate!).

It was the perfect culmination of a thrilling weekend (well, election campaign, or even lifetime for some) which kicked off with a dry run of maneuvering around the mall amongst the throngs, to see the star-studded lineup of the "We Are One" concert, and continued on Monday with an Education Equality rally, which for me contained the equivalent star power of the concert since I've been hearing and reading about all of these education policymakers. 

Apparently blogging more was not in my New Year's resolutions (or "decisions that just happen to be made in January", as one of my volleyball teammate's would say) but you can at least enjoy the photos.

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