Monday, January 30, 2012

Monster Trucks and Relatives

“Want to go to Monster Jam?” was the IM I received from a co-worker at 5pm on Friday night. Upon further inquiry, I found out that the invitation was for 6pm that night at the company suite in the Verizon center. The most important part was the word “FREE.” My initial thought was “no, I should go home”, but then I remembered that I had absolutely NOTHING going on for the night. After realizing that, I jumped at the chance.

One metro trip into the city, and half a dozen tech support folks and I were piling our plates with free food and drinks in the company suite. Just as I was pouring the last of my jack and ginger, the trucks started revving their engines to life. I nearly dropped my drink in shock. It was really loud! Thank goodness someone had brought an extra pair of ear plugs, or I would still be deaf today!

The show was great. How can anyone not enjoy watching big trucks jump over or smash through old cars and vans?!

The rest of my weekend seemed pretty tame after all the excitement at the Verizon Center. I was up and moving early on Saturday, because some cousins were in town and everyone was going to visit grandma. We spent the whole day talking and helping distribute grandma’s jewelry, cookbooks, and photos among the family. I wondered if my grandma would be sad to see her things past out, but she seemed to be enjoying herself. She loves being the center of attention and deciding who gets to keep what. Lol

My favorite finds of the day were:
  • A hand-written notebook of my grandma’s favorite recipes.

  • All the pictures of my grandparents and family when they were younger.

  • My grandma’s wedding planning notebook – it was fascinating to see the difference between the 1940’s and today’s standard weddings!

It was a very memorable day, and I would not exchange it for the world. :) I have not had time to scan all the pictures I received, but I did get one scanned (see below). Wasn’t I cute?!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Why Lampposts?

So, you may or may not be wondering why my blog is called “At the Lamppost.” Does she really like lampposts? Did she get the idea from a book or movie? Is there a deeper meaning behind the name? The answer is “yes, all of the above.”

The existence of lampposts came into my life at the tender age of two. It started with my dad reading The Chronicles of Narnia as my bedtime stories. Even that young, I never wanted to stop reading and would always ask him to read another chapter. Adventures always seemed to start “at the lamppost” – whether it was a misbegotten fawn or a quest for the white stag who could grant wishes. The Narnia books made them magical, and I can never see them otherwise.

Lampposts were the first thing I started to climb, besides kitchen counters. You can also blame this on my dad, because he worked as an arborist and had me climbing at an early age. My lamppost-climbing stage did not last long though, and I quickly moved onto bigger things, like trees and rocks.

As I got older, lampposts were still magical. (yes, I still believe in magic and faeries. If you don’t you should watch the episode of Ghost Hunters in Ireland.) However, I began to appreciate them for their natural beauty as well. They make excellent backgrounds for pictures. See my blog title for an example. That picture was taken a little over a year ago. The dog in the picture is my dog, Vander.

Finally, lampposts even made an important appearance in the anime I watched. There are many significant lampposts in anime and manga. For example: in the theme song for Cowboy Bebop, any scene where someone is running down a sidewalk (there is always that repeating lamppost), and many Hayao Miyazaki movies. My all-time favorite appearance is in the movie Spirited Away, when Sen and her companions take the train to visit Zeniba.

Well, now you know the big secret about my blog title. Be sure to use this knowledge wisely, and mayhap you will start your own adventure at a lamppost… :)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Day at the Newseum

Standing tall on Pennsylvania Ave, the Newseum gives a unique impression the first time you see it. For me, it was the marble etching of the first amendment on the front of the building that caught my eye. The words sent a thrill of unlimited possibilities and pride through me. From that moment, I knew I had to explore the building from top to bottom. My opportunity came this past Sunday, when Dan and I decided to celebrate our first anniversary in DC.

Our day did not start warm and sunny, but our dogs’ faces were exactly that when we woke up.

Despite the cold, overcast weather, we arrived at the Newseum full of anticipation. We got our tickets, watched a quick video on how to navigate the museum (this was really helpful!), and started with an exhibit about the Berlin wall. The Berlin Wall exhibit was a powerful display of freedom verses repression, and we both reminisced about watching its fall on TV.

Because it would take a book to describe each exhibit that we saw, I will try to highlight a couple of our other favorites:

  • News History Gallery – We loved this gallery because we were able to look through hundreds of years of front page newspapers, which covered some of the most important or memorable events in history. Having the opportunity to see headlines about the Louisiana Purchase, Jesse James, the end of the Prohibition, and the first man on the moon was incredible!

  • G-men exhibit – This was defiantly one of Dan’s favorites. This exhibit began with gangsters and the FBI agents who brought them to justice and moved through recent and current events regarding terrorism. We were both surprised to see the actual cabin of the unabomber sitting in the middle of the exhibit.

  • First Amendment exhibit – I found this exhibit really interactive and valuable. It did an incredible job reminding me what our rights are and how we can easily forget their significance.

  • Press Freedom Map – I thought this was one of the coolest exhibits, probably because my job recently had me research how to create illustrative graphs. The Press Freedom Map was a giant map of the world, where each country was colored according to the score for how free that country’s press is. Red for not free; yellow for partially free; green for free. Seeing that the majority of the world was either red or yellow was rather disturbing. It was also enlightening to discover that the US is not the highest ranking country.

Needless to say, I highly recommend visiting the Newseum! For anyone who does not want to spend the full ticket price, you can find discounted tickets on Groupon from time to time, so keep your eyes open for them!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Four Vineyards and a Wedding

Last weekend, my boyfriend, Dan, and I met in Charlottesville, Virginia to attend a wedding for two very awesome people. I had visited Charlottesville once before and had been looking forward to visiting again. Apart from the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, my favorite aspect of the city and surrounding areas is the plethora of vineyards.

For those who are just getting to know me, I am a huge fan of visiting, supporting, and (of course) drinking at Virginia vineyards and wineries. I have only been wine hopping for two years and by no means consider myself an expert. However, I have learned my favorite varieties and how to appreciate the art and creativity of winemaking.

Our friends held their ceremony and reception at a vineyard just outside of Charlottesville called King Family Vineyard. The reception house was spacious and welcoming with rustic white barn doors and a big stone fireplace. Yeah!

The night was filled with fun music, delicious food and drinks, and the best of company. I think everyone in attendance would agree that the biggest hit was the tomato bisque soup that came in shot glasses topped with mini grilled cheese sandwiches. James and Dani – you guys get major points for having those at your wedding. Unfortunately, I did not get a picture of the tomato bisque shooters, but someone did get a shot of Dan and I dancing. LOL

The day after the wedding, the newlyweds decided to invite everyone from the wedding to join them on a wine tour of the countryside. We visited three vineyards that day: White Hall (their Touriga wine, which is made from a Sardinian grape, was delicious), Afton Mountain (Dan and I’s favorite), and Veritas (which had the best front porch ever!). Needless to say, the day was a smashing success. We had a blast relaxing and enjoying the wonderful company of old and new friends. We also stocked up on enough wine to last us a couple months. :)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Black Out!

While I have a million ideas of what I can post about today, I have decided to save them for later. Today, I am joining many other websites in the fight against two bills, SOPA and PIPA, which threaten free speech and innovation on the web. Check out the links below to find ways you can learn about and fight against SOPA and PIPA.



Thursday, January 12, 2012

Tariff Taxes Remove X-Men’s Human Rights

I do not know about you, but I have always been a huge fan of X-men. X-men was one of the reasons I woke up early on Saturday mornings while I was growing up. The plethora of colorful characters (including an adequate number of female characters) and exciting plots and adventures always had me mesmerized. In addition, who doesn’t wish they had developed a unique superpower when they turned 13?!

To anyone who has ever seen or read X-men, it is obvious that one of the biggest struggles for the X-men is to be accepted as humans. Knowing this, imagine my shock when my co-worker told me that the X-men had been classified as “mutants” and not “humans” by the US Government!

A podcast group called Radiolab produced a podcast discussing the discovery of an early 90’s court case in which Marvel (the creators of X-men, if you were unaware) sent two lawyers to convince the courts that the X-men were mutants and not humans. Why would they do that!?!

One word – Tariffs

Tariffs are special taxes put on goods that come into or go out of the US. In the case of the X-men, high tariffs were being placed on action figures coming in from oversees factories. Marvel lawyers learned that if the action figures were considered “toys” (anything that was not a human being) instead of “dolls” (anything representing a human being) the tariffs would be half the cost. How ironic that the creators of the X-men would be the first to reject their right to be human.

You can check out the whole story and results at Radiolab’s web site:

Now I am wondering what I should tell my future kids when they start watching their first X-men episodes. “Yeah, they might have been accepted as humans in their world, but the real world rejected them.” No, I do not think I could do that to them. I will wait until they are grown up.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Calendars 50-75% Off

On the week before or after New Years, my most exciting venture is scouring the local bookstore for the perfect calendar. For me, picking out next year’s calendar is a sacred quest. It is impossible for me to casually grab a calendar off the shelf and take it home. What if it is too common, or heaven forbid, I get bored of it halfway through the year?!

During the holidays, I worry about if my food will cook properly or if everyone will enjoy the presents I got them. However, a small part of me, deep down, is worried that my friends or relatives will forget how well they know me and give me a calendar as a gift. Can you imagine the horror of finding a calendar-sized present with your name on it? Perhaps not.

Here are some thing that I take into consideration when choosing a calendar:
- Is it boring or common?
- Do I like this enough to look at it all year long?
- Is there a good picture for my birthday month? (which is July)
- Will it show people something about who I am?
- Is it the same theme that I got last year? (different is better)
- Should I get a wall calendar, a desk calendar, or both?
- If I get both, will they complement each other?

This year, I opted to buy three calendars. One for my kitchen and two for my cubical at work. My kitchen calendar is a beautiful collection of pictures from England, Spain, Germany, and Italy – which I think will go very well with my other kitchen d├ęcor. My work calendars are a bit more whimsical. I bought them with the idea to get my creativity flowing and give people a laugh each day. After searching the racks of choices, I picked a fantasy-like wall calendar called “A Knock at the Door” and a desk calendar called “Wild Words from Wild Women”.

My search this year was a smashing success, and I love all of the calendars that I got, not to mention the fact that I got them all for 50% off. Huzzah!

Now to start planning for next year…