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Archive for January, 2012

Let’s lead off our exploration of truth with a little nugget from Stephen Colbert ‘I can’t prove it, but I can say it.

Quotes!

Speak the truth, but leave immediately afterward. – Slovenian Proverb

Believe those who are seeking truth, doubt those who find it. – Andre Gide

Most truths are so naked that people feel sorry for them and cover them up, at least a little bit. – Edward R. Murrow

It is always good policy to tell the truth unless of course you are an exceptionally good liar. – Jerome K. Jerome

When a thing is funny, search it for a hidden truth. – George Bernard Shaw

Bonus!

If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything. – Mark Twain

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In 2012, I predict that I will…

…go skydiving.

…cook more.

…go to five new major league baseball stadiums.

…go hiking at least 10 times.

…watch The Wire (TV show).

…explore more (like visit a new country or National Park).

…write more.

…go kayaking.

…finish watching the American Film Institute’s Top 100 Movies.

…play volleyball.

…witness the end of the world (the Mayan 2012 version).

Let’s look at how I fared from my 2011 list:

Success rate: 6/10

…travel to Croatia. Nope, didn’t make it. Should have gone.

…take in the national pastime at four new major league baseball stadiums. Ahhh, sadly I went to just one new stadium, the Angels Stadium in Anaheim.

…hang around in a hammock. Quite. Maybe too much.

…go scuba diving. I don’t have a good track record so far…didn’t do this either.

…start using Twitter. YES! Finally, something I did. I started both work and personal Twitter feeds.

…go river rafting. YES!  I got wet white water rafting on the Mae Tang River near Chiang Mai, Thailand.

…make things happen. Sure, why not? Who’s going to fact check…

…read more books. Yes, I read many, many books.

…run, walk, bike and hike more. Yes, yes, yes and no. I started running. I walked. And I biked a lot. I only managed three hikes.

…be the one your mother warned you about. I was too good. Your mother probably liked me.

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My goal this past year was to read more books than previous years.

I succeeded. In honor of my complete success, I share the best eight books I read in 2011, instead of a mere five. Those extra three are free. You’re welcome.

8. The Snowman (Jo Nesbø, 2011) – I’ve started reading these mysteries from Norway. The protaganist, Harry Hole, hunts a serial killer. So far all of the books I’ve read in this series are good, but this is the best one.

7. The Opposable Mind: How Successful Leaders Win Through Integrative Thinking (Roger Martin, 2007) – Something you must read.

6. Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II (Mitchell Zuckoff, 2011) – Entertaining and worthy of your time, but lacks the real drama and suspense of another WWII tale (see #2).

5. First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently (Marcus Buckingham & Curt Coffman, 1999) – If you are not prone to reading, break your rule and start reading this.

4. Out of Captivity: Surviving 1,967 Days in the Colombian Jungle (Marc Gonsalves, Keith Stansell, and Tom Howes, 2010) – The unbelievable story, as told by each of the three survivors, of persevering over five years as prisoners of the FARC.

3. The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins, 2010) – Now being made into a movie, this is the first in a trilogy about a future where children get forced to compete in a gladiator style death match. Only one can survive.

2. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption (Laura Hillenbrand, 2010) – Simply an amazing story about an Olympic runner turned airman, whose plane crashes on a routine mission over the Pacific Ocean. Stranded for 47 days on a life raft, only to fall into the hands of the Japanese and held as a prisoner of war for over two years. Talk about the worst luck. Epic.

1. A Game of Thrones (Fire and Ice Series Book 1) (George R.R. Martin, 1996) – With all the hubbub from the new HBO TV series Game of Thrones, I thought it prudent to start reading this epic series (now five tomes strong). Brilliant. Deep. HUGE cast of characters. I’ve gotten through the first three novels. They’re only between 900-1200 pages each. Light reading for sure. Start reading and never sleep again.

May you participate in zero book burnings in 2012. Even if the world ends.

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Take a gander at some photos from the Oregon side of the Columbia.

A view from the cabin

The Cabin

The Deck

More shots from the deck

Ridgeline view

Duck hunting?

No ducks...

Probably scared away

Duck prints? Hmmmm

Nope! Beaver

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2011 was probably my record low in total movies watched. I staggered around enough to see 53 movies.  One of my 2011 goals was to read more. I succeeded, but at the expense of movies. Some of the good movies I saw this year were released in late 2010, so the list probably reads a little like last year’s Oscar race.

Best

11. Cowboys & Aliens – James Bond and Indiana Jones fight invading aliens! Better than expected.

10. The Secret in Their Eyes – Murder mystery from Argentina. The rest is a secret.

9. Limitless – I just want to take that mind-expanding drug. Maybe I’ll stop forgetting things. What was I saying?

8. Hall Pass – A decent year for comedies. This was among the better options. And who doesn’t hit Applebee’s to pick up women?

7. Cave of Forgotten Dreams – A fascinating look at the Chauvet caves in France. where the oldest known cave paintings are found. Werner Herzog gets in there, which is off-limits to all of us peons, shows the paintings in all their glory and adds in a bit of philosophizing for effect. 

6. X-Men: First Class – An epic load of comic book adaptions hit the big screen in 2011. The ones I saw were all serviceable (thankfully I missed The Green Hornet). The origin story of Magneto and Professor X was the best one, over such tent poles as Capitan America, The Green Lantern and Thor. Thor was a close second.

5. 127 Hours – Watching someone go through the mental process of deciding to cut off his hand to survive is disturbing. A cautionary tale for all adventure seekers.

4. Crazy, Stupid, Love. – An exploration of what it means to be in love. Heartbreak, joy, redemption.

3. The Fighter – Mark Wahlberg – good. Christian Bale – great.

2. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – The Hollywood version with Daniel Craig and Mara Rooney. Remaking foreign language films is always a dicey proposition, because most of the time, why bother? But this is still a great story, and the remake is well done. My only complaint was the opening credits. Why the weird black, stylized James Bond-like sequence that didn’t have any relevance to the movie?

1. The King’s Speech – This won the 2010 Best Picture, but I didn’t see it until 2011. You already know it was good. If you didn’t see it, you probably thought Alvin & the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked should have been on this list.

Worst

5. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides – Complicated and pointless. And boring. Even hot mermaids couldn’t lure me under this sea. 

4. The Black Swan – What is this? Awful.

3. Winter’s Bone – Winter can keep its bone, thank you very much.

2. Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader – As a kid, this was my favorite book from the Chronicles of Narnia. Now watching the crisp, unreal visuals of the ship, the wooden acting, and the zero moments where I cared about any of the characters, I want to punch someone…

1. Sucker Punch – My eyeballs still need a scrubbing after watching this stupid turd squish before my eyes.

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2011 saw the opening of many new restaurants in the Capital Hill area. Ramen. Burgers. Shawarmas. Cajun. Pho. Pretentious drinks. And much more. Below I rank the new ones I visited throughout the year.

My continuing goal is to eat at all the restaurants on or near Capital Hill. I define this as anything south of H St NE, west of 15th NE/SE, north of I St SE, and east of 1st St NE/SE. This is a big area, and includes such destinations as Barracks Row (8th St SE between D and I Sts), Eastern Market (7th St SE between Pennsylvania Ave and Independence Ave), the Atlas District (H St NE between 9th and 15th Sts) and much more.

Check out the map here: Capital Hill and Surrounding Areas.

Obviously the task doesn’t get easier when new places keep opening left and right. 2012 is already shaping up to be a big year as well. On the horizon: Boundary Road, Sweet Charleston’s, Sol Mexican Grill and much, much more.

Location key: (H) = H St NE, (A) = The Atlas District, (B) = Barrack’s Row, (C) = Capital Hill other, (E) = Eastern Market, (U) = Union Station

19. Khan’s BBQ (H) – The food is fine as a Mongolian BBQ stir-fry, but I don’t like the set-up nor the atmosphere.

18. DC3 (B) – Now serving trendy hot dog concoctions. I probably wouldn’t order the same dog again and I wasn’t enamored with the other options.

17. Inspire Bar-B-Q (H) – Good pulled-pork BBQ and sides courtesy of Groupon. I think the space is too small, even for a walk-up counter, and the staff was friendly but apparently still learning what to do. Will try again.

16. Church & State (A) – I’m not a big fan of pretentious drinks (e.g. those that cost more than $12) and that is about all you can get here. If you want to take a date for a drink before having dinner in the Atlas District, this is your place. It is small and intimate.

15. Red Palace (A) – Combines the old Red & Black and Palace of Wonders into one venue with a decent size concert venue upstairs.

14. Pho Bar & Grille (A) – Really good dumplings and decent pho (based on my limited experience with pho), but they can’t figure out how to serve people. The first time I went, it must certainly rank as one of the most annoying ordering experiences ever.

13. Bojangles (U) – Good fried chicken!

12. Marvelous Pizza (H) – A new late night pizza joint on H St. You can also order egg rolls with your slice.

11. Shawafel (A) – Good shawarmas. Didn’t have the falafel.

10. Impala Tacos (A) – Tacos served in the winter at the Philadelphia Water Ice counter (since it’s closed for the season, why not serve tacos?). I hear they are developing a permanent place for this on H street.

9. Bullfeathers of Capital Hill (C) – This place completely remodeled and is nice space and good food.

8. Tru Orleans (H) –  A New Orleans themed restaurant. Have the catfish reuben and Hurricane slushies.

7. Smith Commons (A) – Three levels with couches and patios. A nice place for a drink upstairs. The one time I ate there, the fish and chips were not what you might expect but still not bad. 

6. Chipotle (U) – The old lunch stand-by. Meat and beans and cheese rolled up in a tortilla. When they have the A team serving, the line zips along.

5. Pound the Hill (E) – A new coffee shop near Eastern Market. They make their mochas with Nutella…mmmm.

4. The Big Board (H) – A small bar a mere two blocks from my house that serves good burgers (try the Chicago Fire) that tries to sell its beers by giving discounts (shown on The Board) to the most popular selling options. Not sure that the concept works yet and they need to get better beer.

3. Senart’s Oyster and Chop House (B) – Didn’t have the oysters. A nice looking building and interior. The menu was a bit pricey, but the Beer Battered Cod Sandwich was the right price.

2. The Queen Vic (A) – Styled as a British pub, it has good, traditional British fare (have the Sunday roast!) and is a fine place to watch a game with a pint of cider in hand.

1. Toki Underground (A) – Excellent ramen noodles and tasty dumplings in a small kitschy space filled with anime figurines and skateboards for footrests. It only seats 20 people at a time, so it seems to always be busy.

Bonus: Biergarten Haus Roof Deck (A) – Though Biergarten Haus is not new in 2011, expanding the capacity of the already largest restaurant in the area by 1/3, it makes for a formidable beer swilling and German food noshing destination.

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