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Archive for January, 2011

Boy, is it sure arctic cold outside! My dog has become a wiener popsicle.

It’s been hovering below the 20’s (Farenheit of course) here in DC the past few days, although today it is a balmy 37° F.

In honor of this bitter and pointless cold, what I am reliant on to survive? Indeed, read:

…piping hot mochas (while seated as far away from the coffee shop entrance as possible. Read: avoiding blasts of frigid air).

…my huge and warm Seattle Sounders FC scarf (it’s pretty too).

…draft beer (obvious).

…my rocking red Washington Nationals beanie.

…hot toddies.

…my blue 12th Man Seattle Seahawks gloves (lovingly sent to me because I am a non-living in Seattle Season Ticket Holder).

…thick black socks (holes not included).

…my Washington Nationals scarf (for covering my face on boldly, bitter bike rides).

…central heating (for a nice 70° F cocoon of warmth).

…my Columbia winter jacket (combined with all of the above clothing accessories, and suddenly I am a force to reckoned with – or avoided).

…warmed up and savory Dangerously Delicious Pies.

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Wretched Winter Weather Warrior

We all need distractions. So when the Capital Bikeshare program announced their Winter Weather Warrior contest, I threw my name into the hat (snow beanie?) like nearly 800 other distracted souls. Grand Prize = free membership for 3 years + 2 free memberships to give away + other stuff.

The winner is the person that has the stamina to make the most bike rides in January and February. In the brittle cold. In the snow. In the freezing temperatures. In the blizzards and snow storms. That January and February.

My goal is to win. Even though I was going to miss the first five days of prime bike riding time, I felt confident I could compete against anyone.

Now, after seeing the standings through January 9, I have certainly underestimated the lengths to which the distracted are willing to go to win. The leader has 69 rides in nine days. I have 7. What sort of cheating is this? I need to learn this method…

No doubt I need to modify my goal to a simple top 10 finish or something possible (and no prize – sniff), but let’s see how it goes. There are still 50 more days to go.

My progress report (includes double counts on ‘extreme weather’ days):

  • January 9, 2011 = 7 rides (Tied for Rank #32 – tied with 41 others) (Only 235 people ahead of me)

Updates made after January 19th

  • January 16, 2011 = 34 rides (Tied for Rank #20 – tie with 1 other) (Only 33 people ahead of me)
  • January 23, 2011 = 81 rides (Rank #13 – straight up) (Leader has 267 rides. Like really?)
  • January 30, 2011 = 113 rides (Rank #11) (Leader = 357 rides)
  • February 6, 2011 = 151 rides (Rank #12) (Leader = 464 rides)
  • Februray 13, 2011 = 199 rides (Rank #10) (Leader = 607 rides)

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If I had a dime for every time I vowed to never put another tequila shot anywhere near my lips, I’d have enough for one more round of shots. Tequila is evil. It should not be consumed. Ever.

 

Computers have enabled people to make more mistakes faster than almost any invention in history, with the possible exception of tequila and handguns.Mitch Ratcliffe

Start every day off with a smile and get it over with. – W.C. Fields

Actually, it only takes one drink to get me loaded. Trouble is, I can’t remember if it’s the thirteenth or fourteenth.George Burns

Women like silent men. They think they are listening.Marcel Achard

One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor.George Carlin

 

Bonus quote:

No way!Me (every time someone offers me tequila, swiftly followed by me drinking it anyway)

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Last year I made some bold predications on things I would do. This year I give you more of the same.

In 2011, I predict that I will…

…travel to Croatia.

…take in the national pasttime at four new major league baseball stadiums.

…hang around in a hammock.

…go scuba diving.

…start using Twitter.

…go river rafting.

…make things happen.

…read more books.

…run, walk, bike and hike more.

…be the one your mother warned you about.

 

Let’s look at how I fared last year:

In 2010, I predict that I will…

…explore more of this city that is DC. Result: I saw a bit, especially restaurants, but not as much as I wanted to.

…challenge nature head-on in at least 10 day hikes. Result: No, I only did six hikes.

 …cheer the USA soccer team on to World Cup victory. Result: I cheered USA on, but they didn’t win it all. There’s always 2014.

…notice the small things. Result: If noticing the size of my brain counts, then I succeeded.

…feast on hot dogs and beer at four new major league baseball stadiums.  Result: Success, I went to five new stadiums.

…play a team sport. Result: Yes, I played flag football for the UW alumni team.

…leap screaming from an airplane (then deploy parachute). Result: No, didn’t happen. But I did go paragliding…

…play with puppies. Result: Of course and it was cute.

…excel at being a Grade A smartass.  Result: Push. I was only a Grade B smartass.

…travel to Colombia.  Result: Yes, in fact I went twice.

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This post concludes my best of 2010 reviews.

In my infinite wisdom and absolute humbleness, I managed to read a bustle full of books in 2010 (don’t ask how I got my hands on a bustle). Here is my take on the best of the lot. In fact, I highly recommend you read all of these books. Or not. Either way, you’ll be okay.

If you have any books that you recommend, let me know and I’ll consider putting them on my ‘to read list’. Or not.

5. Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard (Chip Heath and Dan Heath, 2010) – a very practical and easy to engage set of tips on how to effect change, especially within an organization. It has a myriad of a good examples and vignettes that make it seem entertaining while being completely useful.

4. The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey (Candice Millard, 2006) – After his failed bid at a 3rd term as President, Teddy wanted to escape to explore and discover new and uncharted territory in the Amazon, by being the first to travel down the length of the River of Doubt. He almost met his end.

3. Dune (Frank Herbert, 1965) – I’ve been occasionally catching up on the classics of  the Science Fiction genre, and thought it was about time to visit Dune

2. The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon (David Grann, 2010) – a fascinating look at the author’s research into the famous explorer Percy Harrison Fawcett and his fatal journey to find the city of El Dorado, which Fawcett called Z. His party went missing and their fate was unknown. Does the author discover what happened? Does he find the true fate of El Dorado? You know you want to find out.

1. The Passage (Justin Cronin, 2010) – a new take on the vampire mythology, that is parts terrifying and post apocalyptic as the world is overrun by a new kind of vampire. Not the elegant or refined versions we’ve come to know, but a savage, almost invincible kind. It is two major stories, one today that starts the tragedy and one 100 years in the future of how humanity has adapted to survive and live in the new world. It is a novel you won’t put down until you fall asleep from exhaustion. I hear it is the first of a planned trilogy.

May the words be with you.

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Welcome to the beginning of another annual Christmas letter. This is like the fifth in a row. Sorry about that. There is still time to avoid any unnecessary reading of said letter. Point your curser to the ‘X’ button above, click it firmly and then go do something productive.

Still here? Hmmm, your choice…so take a load off, get comfortable (although I encourage you to leave your clothes on unless you have a webcam), grab some coffee (or tea if you’re British or confused), put on your reading glasses, and let the year 2010 flash briefly before your eyes.

I’ve decided this time you need to feel real emotion while reading this letter. I’ve set my sights as high as possible, so I’ve picked boredom. It’s the best chance you have at any intense and meaningful emotion. This letter has been treated accordingly. Wit? Excised. Rollercoasters of adventure? Simplified. Flourishes of indelible insight? Clarified. Word choice? Focused. Overall length? Increased. If you do not feel real, abject and soul-crushing boredom, then I have failed you. I apologize in advance.

Boring or more boring, let’s crack open this nut of a year and pick at the contents until we find something worth chewing on. Spit out the shell, we don’t need you choking while you wallow in boredom.

Cities – I found myself, as Alice in Wonderland might have, in many strange and mysterious rabbit holes throughout 2010. A cornucopia of cities had the pleasure of my presence. Such metropolitans as: Amsterdam, Nairobi, New York, Johannesburg, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Cape Town, Medellin, Taganga, Las Vegas, Tijuana, Tacoma and Portland. What went down in all these cities? Remember, this is the boring letter, so you may never know.

Snow – 2010 saw record snowfall in the D.C. area. As the locals affectionately dubbed it, Snowmageddon came in February and snowed the city under 20 inches (amounts may vary) of pristine, white snow (colors may vary). It was good enough for snowball fights, snowmen, tackle football in the snow, shutting down the city for days, overdressing for trips to the local pub, and the trapped, frustrated feeling one gets when your car completely disappears. Luckily I don’t own a car. Hahahahaha. I also went skiing in the powdery snow of Pacific Northwest.

Water – I spent an unhealthy amount of time in water in 2010. Whether it was taking hot showers after playing in the snow, spelunking through a maze of caves carved by a tributary of the Rio Claro, scuba diving with sting rays along the reefs of northern Colombia, river rafting down the Rio Claro, sailing the Potomac and Anacostia rivers, boating through Milwaukee via the canals and river, taking the river taxi down the Chicago river, wading in cool streams while hiking, taking cold showers, riding swiftly through the vast Amsterdam canal system, watching the Christmas light/water fountain/musical spectacle (Los Alumbrados) in Medellin, or singing in the Pacific Northwest rain (off-key), I was moist about 22.44%* of the year.

Air – I also spent my fair share of time in the air. Whether it was paragliding (parapente) over Medellin, flying all over the world in 34 flight segments (e.g. 34 take offs and 34 landings), extracting my head from the clouds on numerous occasions, or simply gulping down my share of the atmosphere, I was high about 30.76%* of the year.

Giraffes – Minding my own business, while jogging near the retreat center we were staying at in Kenya, I found myself surrounded by 14 wild giraffes. They were all looking at me expectantly. What was my next move? Run? Hide? So I simply sat down and watched them cross the road. Boring. I was not kicked in the head (by them at least) nor battered by a swinging neck (witty comment excised). The next day we went on a safari to Nairobi National Park and saw many more giraffes, including two practically on top of our van. Eventually they bolted when our allotment of photo ops was exhausted.

Meat – I am not a vegetarian, but I can appreciate eating less meat overall should you so desire. However, if you do have the opportunity to travel to exotic places, you should by no means limit what you are willing to try. Many cultures are meat obsessed and I found myself in the thick of such obsession. Whether it’s the epic bandeja paisa dish in Colombia (including sausages, ground beef, and the not-to-be-missed chicharrón), an all-you-can-eat bonanza at the Nairobi restaurant Carnivore (including ostrich and alligator), sancocho (a soup with vast chunks of meat displacing all else), chicken mole in Mexico, burgers of all shapes and sizes (including the In N Out burger animal-style), fish soup on the beaches of Taganga, foot-long hot dogs during a baseball game, a blue crab feast on the Eastern Shore (Chesapeake Bay), bratwurst in Milwaukee, Italian beef sandwiches in Chicago (fully dunked in beef gravy), street tacos, and much else, I failed to convert to a vegetarian.

Wineries – Whether it was a day trip to four wineries in Northern Virginia, or a day trip to three wineries in the Stellenbosch region of South Africa (near Cape Town), I kept my sipping muscles busy with a (word deleted) of epic wine tastings and cheese offerings. I cannot express how beautiful and relaxing it is to explore the countryside and wineries. So I won’t.

Breweries – In my lifelong quest to consume the adult-friendly liquid of hops, barley, water and yeast, I toured and loitered in many breweries in 2010. Whether it was the Heineken Brouwery Experience (Amsterdam), Miller Brewing Company (Milwaukee), Brooklyn Brewery (New York), Goose Island Brewing Company (Chicago), Sprecher Brewery (Milwaukee) for a beer/cheese pairing, or any of the other half dozen or so brewpubs I acquainted myself with, 2010 was a banner year for beer. Much like all previous years ever, dating back to 1994.

Flag Football – I started playing flag football in Washington, D.C. as part of a University of Washington Alumni team, along with alumni from 51 other universities. Our coach quit three days before our first weekend of play, so I opened my mouth to ask ‘now what?’ and became the ‘point of contact’ for our games. This of course morphed into me as the new ‘coach’ for the whole season. Word of advice: Don’t ask questions. Luckily this was the UW’s expansion season, so hopefully I can be acquitted of our less than stellar season.

Road trips – Whether it was driving down to Tijuana, Mexico from LA; or driving around Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota; or taking a detour down to Portland, Oregon while in Washington state; or taking the bus from D.C. to New York a couple times; or being a back-seat driver along the coast of South Africa, I spent loads of time in vehicles listening to music, taking in the sights, or getting tickets for not seeing that stupid toll booth.

Bicycles – I haven’t been on a bike in awhile, but in 2010 Washington, D.C. started a Capital Ride Share program that lets you use bikes from dozens of stations around the city. I have taken full advantage of these Radio Flyer Wagon Red, 3-speed, adjustable seat bikes. If you almost get run-over by a red blur while crossing the street, it wasn’t me. I would have definitely (word deleted) you. I also rented a bicycle for a day in Amsterdam. I zipped along the bike lanes and cobble streets, past the medieval style buildings and canals, until my (word clarified to ‘seat’) asked for a break. Then I rode some more.

Hammocks – After liberally slipping uninvited into multiple hammocks in 2010, I finally bought my very own. (You can too: www.colorcloudhammocks.com. If you say ‘Jeremy sent you’ nothing will happen.) I spent at least 5.14%* of my time being lazy in one.

Cape of Good Hope, South Africa – If you’re interested in the wildlife or the scenery, a road trip down the coast of South Africa is not to be missed. If you want nature, you can visit the beach filled with jackass penguins braying like donkeys and mating, you can narrowly avoid running over the ballistic baboons, or you can scamper up the cliffs of the Cape while avoiding stepping on the fuzzy rock hyraxes. You can also expect stunning vistas, (phrase deleted), lighthouses at the end of the world, and sand between your toes.

Lollapalooza (Chicago) – Surprisingly, this is the first time I made to it this annual music festival. I should have gone to one way back in the 1990’s when it first started. Oh well. This new incarnation restarted about 6 years ago and the 2010 version saw over 150 bands playing over three days. I went to two of the days. My main goal was to see Soundgarden – and they rocked! I also saw such bands as Green Day, Phoenix, The National, Mumford & Sons, and many more.

Music – Not usually one to intentionally send you away, but I put together some boring music lists on my blog:  A 2010 Music Retrospective

Movies – Might as well stay away to look at the list of best movies too: 11 Best Movies of 2010 (and 5 worst)

Baseball – My quest to see a game in all Major League baseball stadiums continued in earnest. I visited five new stadiums with no fanfare. Chicago (Cubs and White Sox), Milwaukee, Minneapolis and New York (Yankees) all failed to roll-out the red carpet for me. I also got no love as I watched the Washington Nationals play a bunch of times, including the Major League debut of rookie pitching sensation, Stephen Strasburg. He destroyed the competition with a record 14 strikeouts. Then he got injured later in the season, had surgery, and is out for all of 2011. Sad. The nachos at Nationals stadium, however, were not sad.

Television – Plenty of good TV shows in 2010. Fringe had a great year. Dexter ruled. Community got funnier then anything else. And The Daily Show and The Colbert Report brought us wit and an insane Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear in D.C. attended by 249,999 people + me. 

Books – The best books I read were: The Lost City of Z by David Grann and The Passage by Justin Cronin.

Medellin, Colombia – I managed to storm Colombia twice in 2010. Once for a wedding where I acted surprised as the best man and once for the (phrase deleted). I spent most of my time in Medellin, avoiding drug cartels and the FARC. Aside from visiting Pablo Escobar’s hacienda (three hours away), sauntering around the city and shopping malls, climbing El Peñol, giving wedding speeches, being lazy in hammocks, eating all the food feverishly, playing as part of an impromptu band, and other things you might have read about above, I dare say I should really go back soon.

This is the end of the Christmas letter. Did it make you long to watch paint dry? Did it drop you into a deep pit of boredom? You’re welcome.

* Figure painstakingly calculated by picking a random number and typing it.

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