Posts from November, 2007

The quick brown fox jumped over the good, but lazy Parker family.

Photos: Colonial Williamsburg

Sunday, 25 November 2007


IMG_7465, originally uploaded by [ecpark].





musings: christmas extravaganza

Saturday, 24 November 2007



it’s the weekend after thanksgiving, which means it’s the official start of the “get-evan-prepped-for-christmas” season. you laugh, but i have found that after 30+ years of christmases (christmi? christmasuses?) i have developed a pre-christmas routine that boarders on obsessive.

first, we have the music. i’m currently sitting on 600+ christmas songs (from 30+ christmas albums) which means i can listen non-stop for about a day and a half without repeating the same version of a song. my itunes currently features 18 versions of silent night (my favorite is a classical russian folk recording) and if you ever want to have a conversation about the definitive recording of “o holy night” then i am your man (my vote is for the new orleans benefit version featured on studio 60 last year).

but mostly, we have the movies. and television. and cartoons. it all started about a decade ago when i noticed that the more christmas “stuff” i watched, the more likely i was to have a good christmas. this has now officially spiraled out of control, and has resulted in me watching about 20 dvds worth of goodies each holiday during November and December. actually, i have taken to throwing a “christmas cartoon extravaganza” each year to help spread the love (or share the burden, as it were).

my checklist for this year has 50+ items on it. while i certainly won’t get through more than about half of what you see here, i’ve documented the whole list so i don’t have to keep recreating it every year. if by some strange miracle i have forgotten something worth seeing, please mock my omission in the comments.

Best Christmas Cartoons & Best Christmas Specials

this selction include christmas cartoons (rankin-bass!) and several live action specials including various muppets. also included are television show episodes worth re-watching during the holidays, especially aaron sorkin productions (who has a knack for christmas that i wish he could spin into the other 364 days of his work each year).

A Charlie Brown Christmas
A Chipmunk Christmas
A Special Sesame Street Christmas
Emmett Otter’s Jug Band Christmas
Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends (“Christmas Special”)
Frosty Returns
Frosty the Snowman
Frosty’s Winter Wonderland
Grandma Got Runover By a Reindeer
Holidaze: The Christmas That Almost Didn’t Happen
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
It’s Christmas Time Again, Charlie Brown
John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together
Little Drummer Boy
M*A*S*H (“Death Takes a Holiday”)
Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey
Olive, the Other Reindeer
Pee-wee’s Playhouse (“Christmas Special”)
Robbie the Reindeer
Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
Rudolph’s Shiny New Year
Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town
Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (“The Christmas Show”)
‘Twas the Night Before Christmas
The Life And Adventures Of Santa Claus
The West Wing (“In Excelsis Deo”)
The West Wing (“Noël”)
The West Wing (“Holy Night”)
The Year Without a Santa Claus

Best Christmas Movies

some are good (miracle on 34th), some are bad (santa conquers the martians) but anything is fair game (die hard) if it happens at christmas.

About a Boy
A Christmas Carol
A Christmas Story
Bad Santa
Christmas in Connecticut
Christmas Vacation (National Lampoon’s)
Christmas with the Kranks
Die Hard
Die Hard 2: Die Harder
Ernest Saves Christmas
Holiday Inn
Home Alone
It’s a Wonderful Life
Love Actually
Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
Miracle on 34th Street (1994)
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians
Santa vs. Snowman
Saturday Night Live Christmas
The Muppet Christmas Carol
The Nightmare Before Christmas
The Polar Express
The Ref
The Santa Clause
The Santa Clause 2
Trapped in Paradise
White Christmas

again, if i have forgotten something worth seeing, please share.

Photos: Virginia Air & Space Museum

Friday, 23 November 2007


IMG_7415, originally uploaded by [ecpark].





photos: virginia zoo

Wednesday, 21 November 2007


IMG_8045, originally uploaded by [ecpark].
Explore the Photo Set:
Virginia Zoo, Norfolk, Virginia.





taylor twellman is a twit

Sunday, 18 November 2007

· · ·

1118071406, originally uploaded by [ecpark].
the championship match of major league soccer returned to D.C.’s RFK Stadium again this year. unfortunately, after having the best record during the regular season, D.C. United flamed out in the first round of the playoffs and blew the chance to play for the cup on their home turf.

instead, we watched the lady sparkler’s hometown team (the houston dynamo) hand the new england revolution (employer of the twit mentioned above) their fourth cup defeat in the last six years. you can guess our allegiances (have i mentioned he’s a twit?) and i can safely say that we were in a small, small minority of people cheering for houston as they sent the revolution to the bad side of the record books.

now, not everybody cares about fútbol/soccer, but focus for a moment on the futility factor here: 4 championship appearances, no wins. only two professional teams share this dubious honor (the buffalo bills and the minnesota vikings, both of the NFL, both 0-4 in the superbowl). hockey has only one team that comes close (st. louis blues, 0-3) and basketball/baseball can only muster a few 0-2 teams (utah jazz, phoenix suns, new jersey nets, san diego padres).

the amazing thing is that major league soccer is just a decade old. imagine what their futility mark could be like with another 30 years of championships to lose. how would you like to be part of a franchise like that? i meant to ask some of the 30,000+ Revolution fans as they were leaving the stadium grounds, but …

back to the twit. i’m normally not one to shower the hate on people, but it’s even worse that i can’t figure out why i loathe him so. part of it could his gawd awful kick medic commercials i have to watch every weekend on fox soccer channel. part of it could be that no matter how good he is for his club (83 goals in 145 appearances, or 57%) he is equally bad for his country (6 goals in 28 appearances, or 21%). or it could just be because he wears his shirts two sizes too small.

regardless, houston won their second straight (the only team other than D.C. to do that) and twinkle-toed twellman and the revs lost … all is right with the world.

Explore the Photo Set:
MLS Cup 2007, Washington, D.C.

website: comments

Saturday, 17 November 2007

In what is sure to be a freak storm never to be repeated again, I had three people complain to me that the blog didn’t accept comments. Here is what was *easily* my favorite complaint:

I have thoughts and opinions. I need to be able to express them on your blog.

Frankly, I had comments turned off because I assumed that no one actually read my ramblings, or cared to comment if they did. However, after about 15 minutes of hard labour, you, the adoring public, can now comment to your hearts content.

(cue the sound of crickets chirping)

wedding: “green” weddings for the washingtonian

Thursday, 15 November 2007

· · ·

so, the Washingtonian magazine is doing a “green” edition of their magazine this January, and have been looking to talk to a bride and groom about their “green” wedding.

a friend of mine is the director of media relations here at the conservancy, and he suggested that the reporter talk to me. to make a long story short, the call is scheduled for tomorrow morning at 10am.

needless to say this, quite rightly, got me to thinking about whether our wedding was actually “green” or not. and by “thinking”, i mean “obsessing”. i’m pleased to report that, after about 24 hours of concerted panicking, i am pretty certain we actually didn’t do a half bad job putting together something that closely resembles a green wedding (which is a bold statement considering how caveat-laden i usually am).

my first concern was the defining the term “green wedding”. we didn’t really start off trying to be “green” so much as we were trying to be thoughtful about reducing our wedding’s drain on ourselves and those around us. obviously, this meant we were looking for simple things we could do that would reduce our wedding’s strain on the planet as well. my second concern was that, in my head, the term “green wedding” was essentially synonymous with “hemp wedding dress” which i knew wasn’t going to fly (i didn’t even ask).

in an odd stroke of coincidence, the month after the lady sparkler and i got engaged, the conservancy posted something about the simple things you can do to have a green wedding. reading this yeilded my first thoughts that a "green" wedding might be possible (or, more important, practical).

looking back at the list now, we actually did quite a bit to reduce our wedding’s footprint:

  • central: we threw the wedding in downtown d.c. which — besides being home for us and most of our friends — was also decidedly central for most of our families (who hailed from Oregon, Texas, Virginia, and New England).
  • walkable: the whole weekend happened within four blocks of the church, including the hotel, the bachelor party, the rehearsal dinner, the reception and the after-party. once people arrived, they could opt out of transportation for the rest of the weekend.
  • organic favors: for wedding favors, instead of the usual rock with our name painted on it, we gave out organic “endangered species” chocolate and planted 35 trees in a national forest on behalf of our guests. (also, it goes without saying, but we used animal-friendly blowing-bubbles instead of having guests throw rice or birdseed.)
  • locally-grown: we tried to use local businesses as much as possible (more on that below), and the reception site we used (15RIA) billed themselves as “using a bounty of local fresh products.”
  • virtual: besides trying to reduce the amount of paper we used in our invitations (limited inserts, no inner envelope), we saved a few trees by doing an email save-the-date and by using a wedding blog to keep people updated about the weekend details.
  • eco-honeymoon: while the first half of our trip was at a resort with locally-grown/organic-friendly food, the second half of our trip was more legitimately eco-friendly at one of Belize’s oldest eco-lodges. we wanted to be sensitive, but we weren’t willing to honeymoon in a tent in our backyard.
  • green registry: we (ahem) "strongly encouraged" our guests to make a gift to MercyCorps instead of the more traditional registry gifts, and about 1/3 of them actually did it. obviously MercyCorps isn’t an environmental organization, but poverty is one of the largest barriers to effective conservation. (we also were given an acre of rainforest through the Conservancy and a pig through Heifer!)
  • offset everything else: we absolutely weren’t willing to uninvite people who had to use carbon-based fuels to get here (or make them watch on a web cam), so we offset everyone’s flights to and from our wedding — including our own flights to and from Belize. (the sum of everything, for the record, turned out to be around 18,000 lbs of CO2.)

so, with all that, why am i hesitating about whether it was a green wedding or not? well, we have a couple of open items …

  • the hemp dress: while our tuxes were rented (it’s best to share tux resources with hundreds of other grooms and groomsmen) and the bridesmaids picked out their own dresses (this increases the chance they might be worn again, however slightly) we didn’t even consider going down the path of the organic wedding dress. there was just too much wrapped up in our (er, her) vision of the perfect dress to add this layer of complexity.
  • the rings: the lady sparkler got a diamond (and loves it however guiltily), and i got a gold ring (silver is less toxic for the environment). neither of them were used or recycled. we had a devil of a time trying to offset the rings (we tried, but couldn’t find anyone who would even approximate what would be required) so this one is destined to remain an open issue.
  • the cake: we tried so hard to use local merchants, but every cake place we tried within the district didn’t pass our admittedly lofty standards (yes, including Cake Love which was dry and over-hyped). so we ended up using a place in (God-forbid) Herndon. not two months after we “sold out to the ‘burbs”, we found an equally fantastic bakery in DC’s Mount Pleasant neighborhood, and we will be definitely using them for all our baking needs in the future.

… but all of this, to some extent, misses the point. we were looking for simple ways to reduce our footprint, and (to be honest) we as a society just might be a couple years away from “eco-wedding dresses” and “environmentally sensitive engagement rings” being an option for mainstream-ers like us. that, and we just had bad timing with the bakery.

not that i am EVER going to have another wedding (ever, EVER!) but i’m happy to leave those three items open for future, er, motivation.

married for:

0y, 1m, 9d

hike: roosevelt island, washington, dc

Saturday, 10 November 2007

· ·

IMG_7889, originally uploaded by [ecpark].
the lady sparkler and i set out at about 1 pm for the great western woods, but after 30 blocks of remarkably abysmal traffic, we were still in D.C. at 2:30 pm. so, we regrouped and walked around roosevelt island, a national park in the potomac between rosslyn and georgetown.

Travel: Atlanta, Georgia

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

· ·

ECPA20071105_0880, originally uploaded by [ecpark].
I went down to Georgia on Monday and Tuesday, for a donor metrics conference hosted by the American Cancer Society. I was on the ground for less than 36 hours, so didn’t have much time to get out … but I walked around Centennial Olympic Park for a few minutes Monday evening.

It was quite lovely, but I can see why there was so much criticism about the 1996 Altanta Olympics for being so horrifically commercial. Everything in the park — and I mean everything — had a corporate sponsor on it: bricks, plaques, buildings, statues, etc. I can’t imagine what it would have been like when lined with 100s of booths representing a patheon of corporations preying on the American consumer culture.

Hike: The Remains of the Foliage

Sunday, 4 November 2007

· ·

IMG_7860, originally uploaded by [ecpark].
We completely missed peak foliage this year, because of the whole wedding/honeymoon thing … so on our first real weekend back, we headed out in search of what was left of the leafs to peep.

First thing we learned was to not trust state tourism department’s web sites. It makes sense with hindsight, but both Virginia and Maryland seem to have incentive to be less then honest about the status of the foliage in their respective purviews. In their “foliage reports,” they used words like “spectacular” and “peak” that roughly translated to “intermittent” and “you should have visited two weeks ago.”

The only people who seemed to have a clue about what was going on was The Weather Channel, which has a forecast map showing the state of the foliage on the ground. This turned out to be the most correct, largely because it said that vast majority of the country is, in fact, “past peak”.

In search of what was left, we drove out to Elk Neck State Park in Maryland, which is situated right on the northern tip of the Chesapeake Bay. The drive in had some widespread (but muted) foliage, but there wasn’t anything — and I mean anything — once we go into the park itself. From there, we headed 20 miles west of Baltimore to Morgan Run Natural Environment Area. While the drive in wasn’t as pretty as in the far northeast of the state, the hiking was great.

From all reports, this just isn’t going to be a good year for foliage. I found a great write-up on what makes for good foliage, and we just didn’t have the wet growing season and dry, sunny fall needed for anything other than muted, muddy leaf peeping.