2011 is really a “did that actually happen??” kind of year. most things have been good things that happened. january was my breakup (that was pretty much the big bad thing that’s happened all year, i’ll revisit how i feel about that in a subsequent post), but most of everything else has been good:
in which i have dinner with the president of umbc
i received this email from school that president hrabowski, the president of umbc, wanted me to attend a dinner with him. apparently he regularly has students for a group dinner so he can hear their concerns and so on, and i wasn’t about to turn down a free meal. i told my boss about it and she misheard me as saying that i was going to have dinner with the president of NBC and got all excited – that became a running joke at work over the next few months as i kept being invited to more and more prestigious events. it was a nice dinner, nothing fancy, just a catered dinner on campus with about 20 or 30 other people, but it was neat to be able to bend the ear of one of such a great educator for a few hours.
then a few weeks later…
in which i have dinner with the ambassador of iceland at his house / embassy
for the past several years, bruno_boy and i have been running our music review website radio krud; it started out as a site where we’d upload mp3s of dubious legality and basically say “hey, here’s a song we thought was cool, you might like it too, download it and don’t tell the record labels that we put it up here”. well, pretty soon the record labels caught on, but rather than take umbrage at our mp3 postings, they started to send us promo cds that we started to review. we wouldn’t ever really give anyone bad reviews, we just would only post things that we enjoyed.
one day, we got this email invitation to have lunch with the icelandic ambassador. naturally, we thought it was a scam or spam or both:
From: Missy Lewis
Date: February 17, 2011 6:05:29 PM EST
Subject: Invitation to luncheon with the Ambassador of Iceland, February 24
Please join us for a private luncheon with the Ambassador of Iceland at his personal residence. Enjoy Icelandic cuisine prepared by Chef Viktor and live music by For a Minor Reflection. See below for details.
The Ambassador of Iceland, Hjálmar W. Hannesson cordially invites you to a luncheon at his residence to celebrate the Taste of Iceland Week in Washington.
February 24th at 12:30 pm.
2443 Kalorama Road N.W.
Washington, DC 20008
Inventive and artful cuisine made from fresh Icelandic ingredients will be served up by Chef Viktor Örn Andrésson from Lava restaurant in Iceland (www.bluelagoon.com/Dining/LAVA-Restaurant).
An acoustic set will be performed by For A Minor Reflection. www.myspace.com/foraminorreflection
R.S.V.P. prior to February 22nd
after some research we found that this was a legitimate event, so we rsvp’d and i took the day off from work and we went over. it was a nice place, looked like a mini-mansion (the ambassador’s residence is actually the embassy since it’s one of the few properties that the country owns outside of iceland, and i believe the only property they own in the united states).
we went inside, signed the guestbook, and a man came over to us, introduced himself, and handed us a business card. crap! we knew we forgot something. i mumbled something about how our music review site was “so independent we don’t need business cards.” next the ambassador came over; he wasn’t like “i’m ambassador so-and-so”, but he was real nice and said “hi, i’m so-and-so, this is my house.” i looked all around and said “wow! nice place you got here!” (very smooth). dave and i then had a chance to mingle with the other guests. you’d think that for an event like this that there’d be a lot of people there, but no, it was maybe 15 or so people there in the ambassador’s house altogether, and the whole time dave and i kept thinking to ourselves “what are WE doing HERE?” we talked with the band that was there from iceland on tour (“for a minor reflection”), the lady who invited us, some old lady with a miniature dog she carried around in her purse, a man from AARP magazine, and two guys from the travel channel. at one point while dave was talking with the lady who invited us i heard him say “yeah, we’re not sure why we’re here” and i wanted to clobber him since that’s NOT what you want to tell someone, but he recovered by saying we usually are invited to concerts and stuff like that. the lady who invited us also asked us where our “offices” were (offices! plural! afterwards, dave said “WHY would she think that someone who goes by the name ‘rival dave’ have offices??” it became a running joke that our offices were his apartment and my basement bedroom.), and people saw our “Radio KRUD” nametags we got at the front door and said “oh! radio krud! you’re from a radio station?” and we had to explain that no, we’re not a radio station.
at one point lunch was served, and nobody wanted to be the first person to venture into the dining room. i figured i had better take charge so i marched right on in and started serving myself at the buffet. the two guys from the travel channel observed that i knew what i was doing and i said that someone had to lead the group. icelandic food was surprisingly tasty, i wouldn’t mind having more again some other time. soon after lunch then the band performed, and it was a little weird to be sitting there taking photos and video of the band playing with the ambassador right there; at one point he got up and left the room, and came back with his camera to take photos too. then we did an interview with the band which later turned into dave’s review. we found out that the leader of the band (the conan o’brien lookalike in the photos below) is actually the brother of the bassist in the band sigur rós.
as we were leaving, i glanced at the table of nametags of people who didn’t show up, and it had people from national geographic and all sorts of other prestigious publications. dave also started wondering why it was that they invited us, this “penny-ante blog”, so he started searching our website to see if there was some mention on there before of icelandic music. the only thing he could find was one of our first posts, written by me, in which i said how i don’t like björk because she puts me to sleep. so there you have it, i say i hate björk and it gets us lunch with the ambassador. go figure. that evening we met up with the band to see them perform in arlington but it didn’t go so well; they were missing some of their equipment because there was some miscommunication with the venue about setup, and the electrical equipment they did have with them they couldn’t use because they needed a voltage adaptor. still, we thought it was a good performance even if the band thought it wasn’t and their manager left halfway through because he was upset at how much of a catastrophe it was.
here’s the band with the ambassador:
and here’s the band while dave interviews them:
then in april…
in which i meet united nations secretary general ban ki moon and actress mandy moore
for the past few years i’ve been assisting these photojournalists here in dc; it started out as an internship with the instructor from my photojournalism class, and now they treat me as pretty much a
member of their organization. it’s about 12 or 13 photographers, about 4 or 5 of them are in the dc area, and the rest are scattered all around the world. well, one day, i got this email invitation from daniel cima, one of the dc photographers who does a lot of work with the red cross:
i wasn’t sure if it was a “hey, you guys are invited” email, or a “hey, look what i’ve been up to” kind of email, so i figured that i’d try to rsvp and see if i got in because why would daniel need his own invitation? i emailed the contact address, but i didn’t hear anything back, so i figured that i’d go up to new york that day and see if they let me in.
i took amtrak up early in the morning, wandered around the city all day (mostly in the museum of modern art and central park), and made my way over to the united nations. they asked me my name and said “yes! you’re on the guest list” and waved me in. so, i was hanging out in the united nations headquarters, getting my hors d’oeuvre on and drinking a free beer and getting my picture taken with “mr. mosquito”:
i was also browsing the portraits on display of different people who had done a lot to raise money and awareness of malaria prevention. at one point i saw this really tall guy come in and i thought “hm, he looks like a basketball player”, and then i remembered the portrait of him i saw in the exhibit – i didn’t think before then that some of the people in the portraits would be attending.
after secretary general moon’s speech he was escorted through the crowd. i had an opportunity to reach out, shake his hand and tell him that his speech was very inspiring. then, later on, i was chatting with singer/actress mandy moore about her work with malaria awareness (i was able to brag “the photographer who took the photos of prevention techniques? i’m his ASSISTANT!”), and one of daniel’s friends who was there jumped out of nowhere and asked if we’d like our photo taken together. why not? 🙂
daniel was pleased that i was one of the few people he knew who was able to attend (i didn’t tell him beforehand in case i wasn’t able to get in), and i went back home on amtrak that evening.
at the end of june / early july i moved out of the house and into my own apartment. i’m upstairs from bruno_boy, so it’s as if this condo building is now radio krud worldwide HQ. the building is only 8 units, and he’s in unit 1 downstairs and i’m in unit 7 upstairs. i’m actually renting from his cousin – she owns this unit, and she moved up to canada and got a tenant for 6 months. well, the tenant wasn’t a very good tenant (people think she might have been a prostitute with all the guys she brought by at all hours, smoked inside, was loud, owes back rent, etc.), so dave’s cousin didn’t renew the lease and put a call out for anybody who might know someone who needed a place to live. i got word from dave, and now i’m in here with a 6-month lease that goes month-to-month afterwards in case i end up finding a job somewhere else, but i like it here. the neighborhood is a little low-rent, and there’s the usual trappings of city life (peoples’ cars getting broken into, maybe an apartment getting broken into here or there), but it’s not as bad as it could be, and it’s 1 mile from each of two different metro stations, and there’s a bus stop right on the corner. it takes me just as long to get to my office now as it did when i was at home, but my mileage is cut in half (it’s all delays due to traffic lights now). it was just remodeled a few years ago, and so it’s got new appliances, washer/dryer in unit, jacuzzi jets in the bathtub, and so on.
a few days later we took amtrak and went to my cousin danny’s wedding up in boston. hooray! i still need to edit my photos from that, but dad’s photos are online. it was a very hippie-ish wedding; both he and his wife changed their last names (his was greenbaum, hers was chipperfield, theirs is now greenfield). talked with my uncle (who’s a very rock-and-roll kind of guy) and he said how my cousin gave him a joint as a wedding gift with a bow on it that read “danny and chip, 2011”, bahahaha.
later in july was my cousin brendan’s wedding. hooray! this one was in northern virginia. that marked the end of 3 weddings in about 5 weeks. i still need to edit my photos from that too, but here’s my dad’s as well. weird thing about this wedding, the bride’s sister looked a lot like zooey deschanel.
then just a few weeks ago at the beginning of august…
in which i win a trip with 149 other people to be guests of nasa at kennedy space center and meet bill nye the science guy
for most (if not all) of their current launches, nasa now organizes tweetup events where they invite usually 150 people to tour the facilities and attend lectures and presentations about the launch so they can tell their friends and raise awareness about nasa’s current operations. i was lucky enough to be selected to visit kennedy space center in florida to see the launch
of the juno satellite to jupiter, the first launch since the retirement of the space shuttle.
i flew down to florida on my birthday (august 3) and ended up staying in a group house. most people stayed in hotels, but there were two houses (one with 9 or so people, and mine with 6) that we organized and actually ended up paying less for than a hotel for the time we were there. about 30 of the attendees met up that evening for a group dinner at this restaurant called dixie crossroads, and it was a nice dinner (and i’m not just saying that because i won a juno mission poster there – we received a poster from the restaurant staff, and the organizer figured that it’d be best to give it to whoever had the next birthday, and since mine was that day i won the poster).
the next day we registered and got our badges and drove on to the space center grounds. we were all in an air-conditioned tent with plenty of power outlets and a wi-fi connection, and soon we began to hear from all sorts of bigwigs:
– the deputy director of interplanetary science at nasa
– the chief scientists and investigators for the juno mission
– the project manager
– the program manager
after lunch, we were rounded up in buses and given a behind-the-scenes tour. we first saw GRAIL, the next mission to be launched in early september, which will send two satellites to the moon to study it (it turns out that we don’t know what’s at the center of the moon – is it a molten core like earth? that’s what these satellites will find out). we drove past a red light that said “STOP ON RED: TOXIC HAZARD”. probably not the safest thing to do! we were waved on by someone official. we got to go into the observation room for the united launch alliance launch control room (the one place we were explicitly told not to take photos – probably because of ITAR concerns we suspected – but otherwise we had free use of our cameras). this photo was taken in the lobby. we got to see the atlas v rocket up close, the juno rocket all ready to go from not so far away, the space shuttle’s launchpad, the road the crawler goes on to take the rockets to the space shuttle’s launchpad, and we got to go INSIDE the vehicle assembly building (that giant building they, you know, assemble the space vehicles in). while we were in there, our tour guide said “c’mon over and i’ll show you the shuttle!” and we got to see the space shuttle discovery up close, maybe 15-20′ away.
the next day we had more lectures and presentations:
– buzz aldrin’s son andy (who is now a head guy at united launch alliance)
– the chief scientist of nasa
– the chief administrator of nasa, charlie bolden (he gave a FANTASTIC talk)
– people from nasa’s jet propulsion lab discussing details about the satellite and their other public-awareness projects
– one of the people in charge of procurement at nasa (he told us, “my job is to buy the rockets”)
– the chief engineer for the cameras on the juno satellite
– bill nye the science guy
we saw the rocket launch (my first ever rocket launch) after some delays… first there were some issues with equipment on the ground, and then they had to delay because a boat got into the restricted waters near the launch site. but when it finally went up, it was AWESOME.
one of the girls in the house i was in was visiting from norway (there were several foreign nationals at this tweetup – someone from finland, some people from spain, and most of the rest were from canada), so i took a photo of her for an article about her in her local paper, so now i’ve been internationally published.
the jet propulsion lab people did a raffle (i won a caution sign that says “ROVER XING” with a silhouette of a mars rover on it), and while we were doing the raffle we got to pass around a sample of aerogel. in all the photos i have of people holding it, they all have the same confused look on their face. well, air weighs 1.2 mg / cc, and aerogel weighs only 1.9 mg / cc, so you can see it in your hand and you can barely feel it, but at the same time you couldn’t feel that it was there.
afterwards on friday we went to “endless bbq”, a barbecue party thrown by some people who attended these tweetups before (some who had worked in the space program too), so i spent most of that time swimming around in the pool and hanging out and drinking and eating. good times!
as part of our tweetup swag, we r
eceived free tickets to the kennedy space center’s visitor complex, so i went there with a group of people on saturday and sunday. most of the exhibits were pretty cool – my favorites were a simulation of a shuttle launch that tipped you on your back for liftoff and used some weird hydraulic effects to make you feel like you were weightless, and a recreation of the apollo 7 liftoff as seen in mission control that used lighting and sound effects to make it feel like the saturn v rocket was actually taking off right behind you.
i still need to caption my photos, but they’re all uploaded here.
and that’s what i’ve been up to the last several months. i hope to be writing in here a lot more often now. i’ve been told by some people that i’ve changed somewhat in the last several months, and i think it’s probably due to stress – i haven’t been using this journal to write and vent and get my feelings out, and i think keeping it in has been affecting me. besides, i miss writing in here. 🙂