Thursday, May 26, 2005

Cancelled My Gym Membership

I had an ephiphany last weekend and realized that I needed to cancel my gym membership. As much as I value keeping healthy and have even been known to enjoy my time at the gym, it just wasn't fitting my needs. I want to enjoy being outdoors as much as possible while it's nice. I want to attend yoga classes regularly at Flow Yoga. These three desires pull me in conflicting directions and I end up satisfying none of them fully. On top of that, pool season begins this weekend, providing another opportunity for pleasant exercise.

A particular area of interest of mine is "the built environmnent" and how it contributes to or creates obstacles to health. Clearly, physical activity is important; but one should be able to meet these needs without signing a gym contract. I live in an urban environment. I walk everywhere. I don't own a car. A formal gym membership shouldn't be a requirement for my lifestyle. The challenge then is for me to incorporate physical activity into my day-to-day life to an even greater extent; take the stairs more often, maybe purchase a jump rope or some barbells for home use, get my pedometor up and running, play frisbee more, bike more, do more yoga, etc.

I think there is a common misconception (perpetuated by the health club industry) that exercise is something that needs to be done through a formal gym membership. In fact, this way of thinking may lead people to rationalize not exercising except when they are at the gym (saying exercise is something that I'll do at the gym so I don't need to take the stairs or do anything else) If one can move beyond this perception of the gym, perhaps one can more readily incorporate exercise into his/her day-to-day lifestyle.

So, I cancelled my gym membership yesterday. In addition, I remembered the free workout room at my office building and took a second look. There is some good basic equipment there if I decide I need it. In addition, it seems like the perfect venue for me to implement my jumprope plan. I discussed this with Kendra today, and she confirmed that if I want to jump rope I shouldn't do it on cement and grass isn't so good either. This workout room looks like the perfect place. Maybe at the end of pool season...

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Community Dissent Rocks Ceremony

Mrs. Smith of 14 Logan Circle created quite a stir when she chimed in from the audience, "I've lived on Logan Circle for 75 years. I'm 86 years old." She was then invited to take a bow. She seized the opportunity to step up to the microphone, "I remember when they constructed the park the first time. Why does the park need to be so big? They took away our sidewalks to build the park. Nobody ever listens to me. Are the dogs just going to keep running everthing?" It was a moment of community excitement at the park, smoothed over by one of the Board of Directors of the LCCA.

Councilmember Jack Evans gave the keynote address. There I am on the bench. There were a number of speakers and we learned about the history of the park and General Logan. If the speakers are to be believed General Logan and his wife initiated what eventually became Memorial Day. May 22, 2005 was officially designated "Logan Circle Day" in DC by a unanimous vote of the DC City Council.

Logan Circle Park Rededication Ceremony

Today I popped over to Logan Circle for the Logan Circle Park Rededication Ceremony. The Logan Circle Community Association (LCCA) has done a lot of work over the past few months to restore (reclaim) the park. I remember, when I moved into the neighborhood 4 years ago, I hoped that the park would be a place where I could relax, have a picnic, read a book or toss a frisbee on a nice afternoon. Unfortunately, at that time it really wasn't. The park was home to a large number of homeless people and there was a lot of drinking and a fair amount of litter. Now the benches have been replaced and there are big plans for people to make regular use of the park for community picnics and eventually "jazz in the park." I think we finally have our neighborhood park. Today was a beautiful day to enjoy it!

A perfect Saturday in the City – Logan Circle to Georgetown then back again and up to Columbia Heights.

The planets were aligned perfectly for an idyllic Saturday in the city. Serge and I decided to meet for Brunch at the Tabard Inn, just three blocks West on N Street from where I live. We enjoyed a mimosa and tart on their garden patio. I highly recommend the Tabard Inn for brunch (or breakfast) if you are ever in the neighborhood. The weather today was just perfect, around 70 degrees with a light breeze. We walked to the post office and then over to Dupont Circle where I picked up the Ecco sandals that I was having resoled. (These are sandals that I purchased in Germany in 1994!) Anyway, the weather was so lovely, it was clear a walk to Georgetown was in order.

Frisbee in hand, we continued down P street, across the P Street bridge. There we stopped to enjoy the park and toss the Frisbee a bit (a rare treat). In order to avoid the tourist mayhem that is M Street we continued down the more residential P Street to Wisconsin Ave, admiring Georgetown row houses along the way. Approaching Wisconsin Ave, it became clear that it was the perfect time to check out the (relatively) new Isee Icy Natural Ice Cream shop. Isee Icy is an Argentine ice cream shop; Serge wanted to see if they do the classic Argentine chocolate dipped cones (his personal favorite) with lemon ice cream. Well, they don’t dip their ice cream but they did have an incredibly delicious Dulce de Leche flavor which Serge chose for his waffle cone. I chose yellow peach ice cream in a cup. Yummy! Argentine ice cream is like Italian Gelato. It may, in fact, be gelato. I will have to do a little research to confirm this.

After finishing our ice creams we wandered down toward M street, poking around in a couple shops along the way (antiques, fancy pet gear, used books, and more). I was finally able to check out the new knitting shop, Stich DC, that opened up just south of M street. (Who would have thought a knitting shop would open in Georgetown?) They have some very nice yarns, indeed! I learned that there are several knitting guilds in DC including a few within just a few blocks of my apartment, including Sparky’s Cafe. So, when I take up knitting, I know where to go! After the knitting shop, it was time to walk home.

Later in the evening, Serge and I took the bus up 14th street to Columbia Heights to catch DJ Shinypants at Wonderland. She was in peak form and kept our feet moving and our minds grooving until way past our bedtime. It really was a fabulous day all the way around!

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Chocolate, Zucchini, and Oven-Roasted Ratatouille

It's time for me to point out one of the links I have listed here to the right that I think many of you have ignored--The Chocolate & Zucchini blog! I stumbled upon this blog last year sometime. I was doing some sort of unrelated google search and somehow this site came up. If you are familiar with the chocolate and zucchini bread that I occasionally bake, you realize how I was struck by this particular coincidence. I might have chosen this very name for a blog of my own! Anyway, I enjoy this blog because reading it is like taking a food tour of France! It takes me back to the year I spent in France over 10 years ago. Over the years I've developed quite a food obsession myself, so, I particularly love to read about different recipes and food discoveries in France. I was perusing this blog in late-April and I noticed the post on oven-roasted ratatouille. It just so happens that I had also recently baked my first oven-roasted ratatouille (on April 3)! Quelle coincidence!! I will say that I did find this method of cooking ratatouille to be particularly tasty and I don't think I will go back (to the stove-top method). The flavors just blended together so nicely.

Ratatouille is sort of a funny dish and many people don’t like it just on its own. An old friend of mine told me how when he was a kid his Mom used to make it and he and his siblings renamed the dish in protest calling it “Rotten weeds.” Others lumps it into the category of “mushy” dishes that they'd rather not eat. On April 3, when I made it, I prepared a Roasted Garlic and White Bean Salad to go with it and we had fresh Strawberry Shortcake for dessert. I was quite satisfied with the meal (although it was a lot of work).

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Miss Manners, Please Rescue DC!!

Last night, I had the pleasure of seeing Judith Martin (aka Miss Manners) at a book signing at Politics and Prose in NW DC. I’ve been a huge fan ever since my roommate in college received a copy of Miss Manners Rescues Civilization as a gift. As I explained to Miss Manners yesterday, I really wanted to get a copy of that book myself, but as a college student on a budget, I couldn’t buy it. And yes it is true that, in traveling across country, I did meet up with and discuss the book in depth with a Sociologist (also a huge Miss Manners fan) in Minnesota. Miss Manners was at Politics and Prose to do a book signing for her “freshly updated” book Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior.

Etiquette is a set of rules to guide social interactions (e.g. What is the proper way to extend/accept an invitation?). What I particularly like about Miss Manners’ writing is that she clearly demonstrates the logic behind the “rules.” These aren’t arbitrary social rules established to cramp our sense of personal liberty; they serve a purpose by contributing to the smooth functioning of our society. In addition, her writing is clever, witty in a Jane Austen sort of way, and very precise. I appreciate that. I see her writing as an exercise in logical reasoning applied to the social environment. By the way, did you realize that she lives in Mt. Pleasant (Washington, DC)?

Anyway, at Politics and Prose, she spoke for about 20 minutes, took questions, and then signed books. A couple things she said were quite interesting: 1) She made the observation that in politics people seem to vote for the candidate with the worse manners—forgetting that we have a cooperative form of government—then they are surprised when the person they elect is not able to govern. If you don’t have “diplomatic skills” (aka good manners), you probably won’t do well in politics. I found this particularly interesting because it differs somewhat with the conventional wisdom that “people are voting for people that they want to have a beer with.” 2) In addition, she settled the dispute, once and for all, that it is rude to “reply all” to an e-mail for the purpose of correcting the sender. In fact, it is generally rude to correct anyone ever! In the case of needing to make a factual correction the right way to do it is NOT to chime in with, “that’s not true,” “you idiot,” or similar. Rather, one should say, “Oh, are you sure? I heard x,y,z. from q,r,s.” Issuing this response “reply all” would not be acceptable either, one must allow the person who made the mistake a face saving opportunity.

I hear all the time from friends and colleagues that they’ve felt insulted or mistreated in some way in certain of their social interactions. They’re not sure if what they’ve experienced was rudeness or maybe they have a different understanding of what is proper so they want to bounce it off someone else. That’s where Miss Manners steps in. There ARE standards for extending and accepting (or rejecting) invitations, giving and receiving gifts, communicating with friends, talking about money, etc. A universal understanding of these standards helps facilitate and build strong relationships. Currently, many people seem to be stumbling along, making up rules as they go along. Clearly, things have slipped quite a bit! However, for me to list here specific behaviors I’ve encountered where someone was slighted would actually be as rude if not ruder than the original behavior! I will have to vent any grievances on my other other blog where people’s identities can be protected a little better.

In the mean time, I’m very pleased that I now have a personalized signed copy of Miss Manners’ latest book. I will keep it on the shelf next to my signed Liz Phair set list.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Just married...

Congratulations to Jennifer and Jeff King, married yesterday in St. Michaels, MD.