A Royall Juggle

Archive for the ‘Response Blog Posts’ Category

It might seem a bit shallow to end my blog this semester with a post about boy bands, but I couldn’t resist responding to the big news. My two favorite boy bands, Backstreet Boys (BSB) and New Kids on the Block (NKOTB) are teaming up on one stage for a tour in 2011 that will be a 20 something’s dream come true. The two groups made the announcement that they will be joining forces on Ryan Seacrest’s radio show on November 8th and the excitement has been buzzing through celebrity blogs ever since.

I was only about four when NKOTB were in their prime – I had the sleeping bag, the giant pins, the Barbie dolls and the video and cassette tapes. My sister and her friends introduced me to the band, but I was “too young” to join them at the concert (I had to settle for Chuck E. Cheese’s instead). My parents promised me and my friends that they’d take us to the next concert so we made puffy paint poster signs to prep for the big day. Unfortunately, the band split up and that “big day” didn’t come until 20 years later. I went to the NKOTB reunion tour when they came to the Verizon Center and it was worth the wait – hearing Joey sing “Please Don’t Go Girl” still had the same affect on me as it did in grade school and I came home wearing a fluorescent “You Got the Right Stuff” t-shirt with two giant pins attached.

Although I continued dancing around to my NKOTB greatest hits CD, I added another boy band to the mix in middle school, the infamous Backstreet Boys. This time I was “old enough” to actually go to a concert so my dad took me and my friends to their Millennium tour as a birthday present one year. I didn’t want the fun to stop so I kept going back for more – I went to five more BSB concerts over the course of just a few years. I have many fond memories that come back to me every time I hear their songs like cruising with the windows rolled down on my way to volleyball practices with my friend Stef, and waking up early to stand in line and master the lottery drawings at our local Ticketmaster sales office (that was before you could buy concert tickets online and trust me, making fun of the chaotic crying fans in line was much more fun than hitting the “refresh” button on a computer screen).

My Backstreet Boys close encounter at Clarendon Ballroom

Similar to NKOTB, some of the Backstreet Boys tried a short-lived solo career, but they kept their promise “as long as there is music, we’ll be coming back again” and so did we. My friend Stef visited me in DC a few years ago so that we could relive our carefree high school days when the Backstreet Boys came to Clarendon Ballroom to promote their comeback CD, Never Gone. It was quite a change from the huge coliseums we were used to, but we were ecstatic to be in arms reach of them right next to the stage (my boyfriend joked that they’ll be performing at the local Burger King next… boy was he wrong). Since then, I’ve seen them perform at Wolftrap and have shared my passion for their music by singing my own rendition of “Larger than Life” at my favorite karaoke bar, RockIt Grill.

Given my past history, I jumped out of my office chair when I heard the news that the two bands were uniting as NKOTBSB in 2011. They sure do know their fans well – I’ve already signed up for the email alerts and have been following them on Twitter. Their first hyped-up performance on the American Music Awards seemed a bit forced, but I’ll definitely be buying tickets to their DC show when they go on sale this Friday. I think some members of NSYNC are feeling  a little left out :).

Kate’s tweet about crowdsourcing weather research grabbed my attention so I decided to delve deeper into the topic. I’ve been fascinated with extreme weather, more specifically tornadoes, since I was young and am still usually the first to know about the latest warnings wherever I am.  Looking back, I think my fear and fascination began during an eventful day at the babysitter’s house. I remember watching the Weather Channel report a tornado warning for our area and ducking in a hallway in the middle of the house with all the other kids. We stayed there and prayed for what seemed to be an extremely long time. Although a tornado didn’t hit the house I was in, the event definitely had an impact on me. Since then, I’ve had a few more close encounters; a tornado hit a neighborhood nearby my house, I’ve been stuck in a traffic jam during a hurricane evacuation with tornadoes touching down way too close for comfort, and experienced some nasty storms during my summers as a lifeguard. Some of my friends tell me I missed my calling as a weather girl :). I also love watching TV specials and films about tornadoes; Night of the Twisters or Twister anyone?

I think the lack of control and predictability is what intrigues me the most and also contributes to my extreme paranoia. You typically have enough time to prepare, pack up your stuff and get out-of-town when there is a flood, blizzard or hurricane warning. But a tornado can come with little to no warning, destroying everything in its path along the way. The article Kate shared examines the UK project, weatherathome.net – a part of the world’s largest climate forecasting experiment, climateprediction.net, which is performing research to determine how climate change will affect local weather patterns and extreme weather conditions over time. The experts behind the project at the University of Oxford have decided to crowdsource part of the project to anyone who has a computer and Internet connection. They are doing this by providing a module that can be downloaded and ran while your computer is idle. Crowdsourcing data analysis for this project is not only environmentally friendly (you’re recycling spare capacity on your computer), but it also enables powerful research and results that the project leaders couldn’t obtain on their own.

“With the help of the public, we can run the model many more times than we could possibly do even with a supercomputer, so we can literally count one-in-100-year weather events to see how climate change is affecting weather risks,” said Dr Myles Allen, head of the climate dynamics group at the University of Oxford and principal investigator for climateprediction.net.

This is a great example of lowering the Coasean floor — the point below which the transaction costs of a particular type of activity, no matter how valuable to someone, are too high for a standard institutional form to pursue. Clay Shirky discusses this theory in detail in Chapter Two of Here Comes Everybody. Before people had the ability to download this robust data analysis module and send the data they collect back to the climateprediction.net project, this research simply couldn’t be done. But now thanks to technology and the ability to crowdsource part of the research, significant strides are being made to improve regional weather predictions. Thankfully, downloading a module and sending back the data you collect is a little less risky than chasing tornadoes, but collectively, it could be just as impactful.

If this research helps uncover some of the mystery behind extreme weather events, maybe my fear of tornadoes will be alleviated. Things always seem to be a little less terrifying when you understand them better. Just for fun, here’s the classic 90’s country video by Tracy Lawrence, “Texas Tornado.”

After reading one of Ashley’s fun posts about Trader Joe’s coming to Clarendon, I began to notice a trend in Arlington – lots of new restaurants have been posting “opening soon” signs in windows. I’ve lived and worked in Arlington, VA for about four years now and I’ve never seen so many new businesses opening in such a short time frame. I guess it’s a positive sign for our local economy. Within a few blocks of where I live in Ballston, Rustico  and Pizza Autentica just opened, and Buzz Bakery and Sweet Green are coming very soon (I’ve been on the lookout for a while as I could use a change of scenery for my weekend homework outings – I think Panera is tired of me setting up shop there J). And within blocks of where I work in Crystal City, there is a Jimmy John’s and Buffalo Wild Wings aka BDubs opening soon (a great excuse for me to plan another work happy hour!).

Despite all of these exciting new business openings, the one that beats them all… Chick-fil-A coming to Crystal City – now my favorite fried chicken and sweet tea combo (it’s a tight race with Bojangles’ but that’s for another blog post) will now be within a few blocks of where I live AND work! My co-workers are probably tired of hearing me talk about it because the sign first appeared in July, but the wait is almost over – it opens November 18th (picture taken this Monday during my stroll at lunch).

Ashley is great example of a brand advocate for Trader Joe’s – she’s even willing to sacrifice her time circling around for a parking spot in Clarendon to get two buck chuck (although her post says three buck chuck – I guess a price increase was inevitable). And I am without a doubt a brand advocate for Chick-fil-A. I recently became a “Chick-fil-A Insider” and discovered their “First 100” Event – the first 100 people through the door of their grand opening have a chance to win a free Chick-fil-A combo every week for a year (52 free meals!). Given that I reward myself for getting through each work week with Chick-fil-A on Friday or Saturday, winning this event could put lots of money back in my pocket. Unfortunately, you have to spend 24 hours in line at the store to qualify (only bathroom breaks allowed!) and I don’t think my boss will go for “I’m just going to work OUTSIDE the office today so I don’t lose my place in line at Chick-fil-A.” I already tried to save a little on weekly cravings – I buy a Chick-fil-A calendar as a gift for myself at Christmas time and use the coupons throughout the year.

It may seem a little obsessive how much I love good chicken biscuits and sweet tea, but who doesn’t like a little “Chicken Fried?”

My love is not just for the food, it’s also a little piece of home – comfort food if you will. I grew up in Danville, VA, a small southern “city” right on the border of North Carolina and although it may not seem too far from here, it’s a completely different world. I always thought I’d end up further south after graduation – my dream was to live in a house on Lake Norman right outside Charlotte, NC. But I moved to Arlington for a job, met a great guy, and now I’m not sure when or if I’ll leave. It’s taken me quite a while to adjust to city life although I don’t think I’ll ever consider myself a “city girl.” I miss a lot about living in the country and I get home sick every now and then, similar to what Kate talks about in her post about New York.  I may not be able to see the stars every night before I go to sleep, play with my favorite pug and eat momma’s casseroles when I wake up in the morning, or even watch the Cowboys play (the better word is “lose” if we’re talking about this season) every Sunday with my dad and sister, but Chick-fil-A is a little piece of home that I can get every day of the week in Arlington (except for Sunday of course). This guy does an excellent job expressing my love for the place in song…

Once I’m out of the DC traffic, I really enjoy driving home, it’s my time to reflect and catch up with old friends on the phone. The Chick-fil-A in Charlottesville, VA is the midway point on my road trips back to Danville. I stop there every time I pass and as soon as I arrive, I magically revert back to a southern state of mind. I leave all the stress from my city life behind and I feel free again.

I’m looking forward to heading to North Carolina for Thanksgiving soon to spend time with family and see my sister in her final weeks of her first pregnancy, but until then I’ll plan to do my grocery shopping on Sundays at Trader Joe’s along with Ashley and will do my best not to eat at Chick-fil-A every other day of the week.


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