28 December 2006

Amaryllis Emergency


I got home from work last night and when I entered my kitchen my heart skipped a beat when I saw the amaryllis that had been growing in my window laying on the floor with dirt scattered everwhere. The worst part was the main stalk was broken. Not clean in half but there was an inch or so crack. It was a very macabre scene. It took me a few moments to figure out what had happened. It was in a bowl perched on the window ledge. It was a little precarious, but it was balanced OK so I wasn't worried about it. As the flower really took off growing, though, it must gotten just enough off balance to fall. I provided as much flower first aid as I could. I swept up the dirt and got it all back in the pot, and added some water. Then I got out some masking tape (I couldn't find any duct tape) and taped up the stalk in a type of cast, to provide some stability. Then I made a little noose to go around the bulb at the top of the plant and I tied that to the top of the window. This took a lot of the weight and stress off the plant and kept it from falling over. I am keeping my fingers crossed. It was so close to blooming! I just want the buds to pop and I'll be happy.

27 December 2006

2006 Roscommon to Imogene Recap

Another year of blogging has passed. 310 posts, down from 361 in 2005. Here is a sampling of 45 posts from Year II of Roscommon to Imogene. They are not an encapsulation of my year, nor are they the best posts, they are just ones that made me smile as I re-read them. I'd love to hear what your favorite thing you read on this blog was this year.

Oprah Unleashed, Adidas Superstar 35th Anniversary, Dick Button, Like James Frey going thru withdrawal...except real!, Bode DQ'd, 5 Bladed Razors, Coffeeshop studies, Girls State BB, Mascots Mania, St. Patricks Day Home Improvement, March Madness, Home Improvement II, Australia Tourism, High Jump over Lunch?, Illegal Immigration, Beastie's Tax Reform, Blood Donation, Simple Pleasures, Guerilla Gardening, Bike to Work Week, From the Mouths of Babes, College World Series, People are Funny, World Cup Withdrawal, Die Rise and Go, What Fossil Fuel Shortage?, Iowa State Fair, Vacation to Praire du Chien?, Balloonists!, There are Good Days, Tuna Casserole, My Kind of Town, Free Hugs, Legos, Happy Birthday, Teacher Man, Of Mice and Men, Lucky Boys Confusion, Welcome to My Classroom, Make a Pineapple, Taco Dip Demise, It's Beginning to Look alot like Christmas, Reach Out, Wusthof Knife Class, Last Class for now.

2006 Book List

My reading this year was severely limited by class, textbook reading, paper writing, classroom observations and work, especially when compared to my list from 2005 or 2004. I hope to get back into reading for pleasure now that my coursework is behind me. So here is a list of what I did manage to read this year, not all of it was good but I had so little this year, I just included everything. I didn't really think the Cash bio or Obama's first book were great reads. I did include two texts since they were reads that I enjoyed. So compile and share what you read that was good!

1. Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything
by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner
2. Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure
by Sarah Macdonald
3. Teacher Man: A memior (audiobook)
by Frank McCourt
4. blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking (audiobook)
by Malcolm Gladwell
5. Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance
by Barack Obama
6. Cash: The Autobiography
by Johnny Cash
7. Classroom Instruction That Works: Research Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement
by Robert J. Marzano, Debra Pickering, Jane E. Pollock
8. Action Research: A Guide for the Teacher Researcher
by Geoffrey Mills

22 December 2006

Ginger's Ale House wins again!

For the fourth straight year Ginger's Ale House in Chicago has won USsoccer.com's award for Best Soccer Bar. I had many great times at Ginger's, from Saturday mornings watching Premiership games, to afternoons watching Euro2004, to an incredible afternoon in May when I squeezed in to watch Liverpool come back from 0-3 down to beat AC Milan in penalty kicks. A great place to watch some soccer, meet people from around the world, listen to the sweet brogues on the ladies behind the bar and enjoy a great shepherd's pie. Ginger's will always have my vote.

21 December 2006

Vatican Football? Guess Not.

When Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone talked to the press about the Vatican fielding a football team, the news spread like wildfire. Unfortunately, he came out today with a clarifying statement that it would not be feasible at this time and was not really being considered, it was just something he was theorizing about. I thought it sounded like fun! I'm sure those seminarians would love a break and an opportunity to get out on the pitch.

Fog Foils Fliers & FA Football


The London fog has grounded hundreds of flights and all the travellers have eaten up all the food in the airports as they wait for their flights. Not only that but the fog caused the postponement of the quarterfinal Carling Cup match between Arsenal and Liverpool. Check out the photos on the Arsenal site. It doesn't look horribly thick but when you put 22 guys out there running around, it might've gotten a bit dicey and I'm sure the keepers wouldn't have had too much fun. Also, I'm guessing it would've been impossible to televised which may have been their ultimate motivation.

20 December 2006

Santa at the Mall

I was out at the mall last night and as I was walking around, I got to the end of the mall where Santa's photo area is set up. I'd seen him on Sunday when I was there with homebase. Last night, though, the line was probably three times as long as it was on Sunday afternoon, which I thought was pretty odd, since it was a Tuesday night. Then I looked closer and saw that Santa had a black puppy on his lap as the camera was snapping away. I looked at the people waiting next in line and they had a large yellow dog on a leash. The enormity and oddity of the situation began to dawn on me and a scanned the probably 60-80 people waiting in line and saw that they all had canines waiting to be photographed with Santa. Presumably these pictures will be made into Christmas cards to be sent out to friends and family of the owners (I'm assuming that the pet's friends and family don't care about such things). Some of these dogs will not leave much room for Santa in the picture. There was a greyhound that was probably 4 or 5 feet tall and there was a huge dog with massive thick white shag hair. There was also a small pug that the only had dressed up in a fur-lined leopard-print jacket.
It definitely made the trip to the mall worth it.

Volunteer Network emails

ME:
Hello,
I have completed 50 hours of volunteering at a local high school. I do see & understand from the guidelines document that that time is not eligible for volunteer grants. I am wondering if it counts towards the time off award. The guidelines document states that time off awards are not given for time volunteered at your child's school. I do not have children. Does this time count toward a time off award?
Thank you.

"THE MAN":
Jacob,
You are correct in that schools do not count towards time off rewards. Unfortunately, the XXXXXX Foundation does not provide grants to K-12 public or private schools.

ME:
Can you provide any reasons why XXXXXX does not provide grants to K-12 schools? Or why volunteering at a school does not count but playing with dogs and cats does?
I consider myself an advocate for education and am puzzled by this stance by my company.
Any information you can provide would be appreciated.
Thanks.

"THE MAN":
Jacob-
It is part of the policy set forth by the XXXXXX Foundation. I will pass your comments on to the appropriate people. Thanks.

18 December 2006

17 December 2006

Dakota Fanning....Girl Scout

From Time magazine's interview with the 12 year old actress:
Time: Do you have much time for Girl Scouts these days?
Fanning: Last year my sister and I sold 750 boxes of Girl Scout cookies, so we were pretty excited about that. At $4 a box, baby, it was, like, $3,000. We did it door-to-door in Los Angeles in my aunt's neighborhood. It's getting to be that time of year again, so my sister and I will be out there soon. People didn't really notice it was us last year. When I knocked on one door, one person said, "Who is it?" I said, "Girl Scouts." They said, "We're not home." I didn't push it-I was like, no Thin Mints for you!

15 December 2006

Wii users are breaking loose

Nintendo is having recall 3.2 million wrist straps on the stick-like controller for their new Wii system. Evidently the strap is apt to break when users get "carried away". I thought the spin put on the PR from the recall was interesting. They are publicizing as the users are having some much fun that they are getting crazy. I also didn't know that Nintendo purposely didn't try to market itself as a competitor to the Xbox or Playstation, relying on their unique new controller and games that will have the users swing it like a racket or sword or golf club. So realistic! The next thing will be to have kids actually swing an actual tennis racket or golf club and hit a real ball. That will blow their minds!

Huskers vs Cardinal in Volleyball Championship

Nebraska advanced to Saturday's NCAA volleyball championship match against Stanford in "the most electrifying national semifinal in NCAA history". I'm not sure what the Omaha World-Herald used to measure the electricity, but I'm sure it was validated with the NCAA statisticians. They did set an attendance record with their 17,013 spectators at the Qwest Center, so maybe they based it on that.
The Huskers haven't won a title since 2000, despite being the #1 seed the past three years. They may have a tough turning that around against Stanford, who easily crushed defending national champions Washington in three straight, 30-12, 30-25, 30-15.

12 December 2006

Incredigoal

Matt Taylor scores a cracker of a strike over the weekend for Portsmouth as they beat Everton. This will definitely be up for goal of the year. Ridiculous.

NPR Listeners' Top 10 Albums of '06

I listened to the NPR "All Songs Considered" Top CD's of 2006, as voted by the listeners last week. I get it in podcast form and it is easily the most enjoyable hour and a half of that show all year long. Last year was the first time I'd had the opportunity to listen to it. And last year, I faired a bit better in knowing and liking the CD's on the list. This year's list only held two or three that I knew and liked. You can check out the list and NPR's comment as well as listen to sample songs off each album on NPR's page. Here is their list, with my limited comments.

10 ~ Regina Spector - Boys and Girls in America : I liked the samples but haven't heard any more than that.
9 ~ Tom Waits - Orphans : Not a fan.
8 ~ Jenny Lewis & the Watson Twins - Rabbit Fur Coat : This is the only CD on the list that I have. I like it quite a bit. Relaxing and a bit Southerny.
7 ~ Cat Power - The Greatest : I've heard some of this record and I like it. Soulful and rich.
6 ~ JoAnna Newsom - Ys : I've heard some clips of this one and it is not something I'd choose to put on.
5 ~ TV on the Radio - Return to Cookie Mountain : Quite a bit of buzz on this one, but I haven't heard anything. I'd like to check them out.
4 ~ M. Ward - Post War : Not to excited about what I heard.
3 ~ Bob Dylan - Modern Times : Not a fan of Dylan.
2 ~ Neko Case - Fox Confessor Brings the Flood : I'd really like to listen to this one. I saw that it was for sale at Starbucks.
1 ~ The Decemberists - The Crane Wife : They had a CD that was #5 on last year's list. Lots of good buzz around these guys and I've been told to check them out more than once. I will try and do so before next year.

08 December 2006

Gun Ownership Mandatory?

Man, there are some idiots in the world. How did this guy ever think he could get this passed?
A councilman on the city council of Cherry Tree, Pennsylvania proposed a city ordinance that would mandate every household have a firearm and ammunition and someone who knows how to use them. He was the only member who was interested in the motion and it did not pass. His quote was that it would send a message that, "if you want to break into a home in Cherry Tree, you might not like the consequences."

Blood Diamond

I've seen some of the previews for "Blood Diamond" recently and so when I saw this article on cnn.com, it caught my eye. The diamond industry is a little wary of the effects of the movie on their highly-important holiday season. The movie deals with the trade of 'conflict diamonds' or 'war diamonds', which supposedly make up a very small percentage of the trade and most of the main reputable dealer (De Beers, Jewelers of America) have sworn to not deal in those diamonds. Here's what the UN had to say about conflict diamonds and the wikipedia article has some more recent info as well as other media references to conflict diamonds (Kanye West & Lupe Fiasco "Diamonds of the Sierra Leone".)
On a lighter note, this movie is one that I would like to see over the holiday break. Other possibilities are We Are Marshall, Bobby, The Holiday, The Nativity Story, Borat, The Pursuit of Happyness, The Good Shepherd, The Good German.

05 December 2006

"You mustn't give your heart to a wild thing"



The dress worn by Holly Golighty (Audrey Hepburn) in Breakfast at Tiffany's for $922,299 at auction at Christie's in London. That's a pretty big stack of pounds sterling for the Givenchy garment, seven times the expected amount, but who can blame the bidders? She did get an Oscar nomination for it, after all.


(sidenote: Tiffany's opened its doors on a Sunday for the first time since the 19th century for the film.)

Last Class....for now

Last night I attended my last session of class. I am now finished with classes for the teacher education program. It feels good. I was whooping and hollering for a few blocks after I got in my car for the drive home. Now, it is by far the end of my work. I still have a take-home final to complete and all my student teaching, and a short weekly seminar during the student teaching, and I still have to pick up another science class to fulfill a state requirement. In fact, I have to drive back down to campus tonight for a panel discussion of students that are finishing their student teaching experience. So there is still a lot ahead of me, but I am finished with all the coursework for the education program... And ready to live (mostly) care free for the next few weeks. Who wants to celebrate?!
It's really been a lot of work. Even though it was only one night a week (except in the summer when it was two) it commanded quite a bit of time in my schedule. Working full-time, taking six credit hours of class at a time, completing observations/practicums, working on papers and projects, documenting it all and compiling my competency portfolio (which now fills a 3" binder) led to a few moments over the course of the year when my stress level reached its high point and I didn't know how I'd get it all done. But, one by one the assignments did get written and turned in and the classes were passed (with a 4.0!)
I can't believe I'm finished with all the courses. I remember sitting on my couch in my apartment in Chicago on a cold November afternoon. Papers and forms strewn beside me and on the floor as I talked to the advisor at Simpson on the phone. Getting an idea towards which endorsements I could get, what classes I still needed, and what the timeframe would be like. My life had changed when I agreed to trade in my role at the front desk of the YMCA for a job as a camp counselor. That started a chain of events that led to before-school programs, after-school programs, teaching art classes, teaching sports classes and loving my job more than I ever knew was possible. I'd scoured and evaluated Chicago's many programs for alternative teacher certification and then found that Simpson had just started their own program. It was fast and did not have any of the limitations and requirements of many of the others. The only drawback was that the program started in January. I just remember looking at my notes after I got off the phone and thinking that I wouldn't be teaching until the fall of 2007, which at that time, seemed like an eternity... It's gone by like the turn of a page and I'm sure that student teaching will as well.

04 December 2006

Iowa vs. Texas in the Alamo Bowl

It's official. Iowa (6-6) will be playing the Texas Longhorns (9-3) in the Alamo Bowl on December 30. Both teams were stumbling at the end of the season, but with the month of rest/preparation, anything can happen. The question is......Who to cheer for?

(side note: I will be preparing the Bowl Picks sheet for sending out this week, so begin your research, prognosticating, voodoo, divining or coin-flipping.)

Hawkeye vs Cyclone Wrestling

What a meet! When Iowa and Iowa State meet up it is always a high-emotion affair. Yesterday's match up was no different. They started with the premier match-up of the day at 165. Mark Perry, ranked #2, defeated Travis Paulson, ranked #4, in sudden death overtime. That really ignited the nearly-14,000 strong and started a big day for the Hawkeyes. The intensity, which I had not seen much of when the Hawks wrestled UNI, was definitely up a notch or two. And not by the athletes alone. The coaches stormed out onto the mat after that first match and were trading some heated words. Three Olympic gold medalists between the two squads, Dan Gable, Tom Brands and Cale Sanderson, and they were all wanting to make sure their point was heard. Other highlight matches were Dan Erekson upsetting Kurt Backes at 197 and the big time win by highly-touted freshman Ryan Morningstar over the #1 wrestler at 157, Trent Paulson. What a way to start out your Iowa career. So the Hawks ended up getting victory by a score of 24-6. It was a lot of fun to watch and I hope they continue to improve as the season progresses.

30 November 2006

Wusthof Knife Class

Stoppable made the journey across the rapidly chilling plains of western Iowa yesterday so we could go to a knife skills class at Kitchen Collage. It was my early birthday present to him and he was a good sport to drive out for it. The class featured Wusthof cutlery and was presented by a Wusthof company representative out of Chicago. It was two hours but it flew by and I couldn't believe our time was up when it was over. There were ten or so workstations and we got to do a fair amount of hands-on chopping, slicing, dicing, chiffonading, and mincing with several different styles and lengths of knives. Here are my top tips gained from the session:

1. You can tell if a knife is sharp or dull by looking at it! Turn the knife so the cutting edge is facing you. If there is a reflection along the edge, it has lost its sharpness. A sharpened blade won't catch a reflection. (p.s. knives need sharpened every 2-4 weeks and need a new edge put on them (professionally) every couple years (it only costs like $3 a knife!)
2. Proper sharpening technique using a sharpening steel. Hold knife @ 20 degree angle against the steel, slide it towards you and down. Alternate sides, 3-6 on each.
3. Stop items from sliding on your counter. Place a damp paper towel between your counter and your cutting board/pan/etc and it will hold it from slipping away from you.
4. Serrated knives do not need to be sharpened. Their teeth are in the recessed part of the edge, not on the leading edge. So it will hit the cutting board and stop, keeping the teeth away from the hard surface.
5. Proper cutting technique. The 3 step rocking motion (back, down, forward) seems so easy and fluid, I can't believe I haven't learned it before! I can't wait to practice.
6. The knives with the "hollow grind" are nice! It allows for air to get between the blade and the sliced food, so there is less sticking to the knife and supposedly thinner slices.
7. The pinch grip. I had no idea I was holding the knife incorrectly, and although the pinch grip feels good, it will take some practice to break the habit of my old grip.
8. No dishwasher for my good knives. It doesn't harm the blade, but it can cause your handle to harden and crack.
9. I have a new appreciation for my chef's knife. I may start to reach for it first, instead of my santoku.
10. In carving a bird, completely carve off the breast, then slice it. This allow you to slice it in the opposite direction than if you were carving slices with still on the bird. The slices are more uniform and it is much easier.

We also received a paring knife to take home with us! Overall, I would say the class was well-worth it and I appreciate stoppable making the drive to enjoy his birthday gift!

28 November 2006

CPS mails out Social Security info

Chicago Public Schools sent out a mailing that mistakenly included the names, addresses, and social security numbers of 1,740 former employees. I was less than impressed with their follow-up statements. They are sharing the blame with the print contractor, All Printing & Graphics Inc, that did the mailing, saying that the 125 page spreadsheet was only provided from them to use as a mailing list.
1. Social Security info would not be needed by the print shop for them to create their mailing list. Name and address would be enough. Social Security info should be kept encrypted and never given to an 3rd party.
2. They say they are not sure how many people were sent the documents. How can they not figure out how many copies were printed and mailed? Wasn't the print shop planning on billing CPS for the copies? I'm sure they keep track of that. Didn't they have to pay postage on each mailing?
3. Now they are asking for those that receive the mailing to return it via USPS or destroy it. Putting that list back in the mail would be yet another security concern.
4. They are "exploring the possibility" of paying for the $30 fee each individual will have to pay if they want to put a freeze on their credit information. I would be LIVID! How can they not step up and say "Of course we will pay those fees incurred by these teachers by our careless mistakes." I would break it down like this, "Well, you can reimburse me for the $30 now, OR I can sue you for all the damages and fees incurred when my identity is stolen."
5. The teachers union has been on CPS for a couple years, trying to get them to remove social security info from all mailings. New software is planned to roll out in March that will allow for this. Bet they wished they would've gotten it out just a little sooner.
6. I'm guessing that print contract might be up for grabs at renegotiation time.

Check out Sun-Times version or the Trib version of the story. Oddly, nothing on the CPS website.

Reach Out

I met a large number of great kids while I was working at the Y. Funny kids, smart kids, athletic kids, kids that spoke different languages, loud kids and quiet kids. There was one kid in particular who probably made the biggest impression on me. Her life story was a tough one. One that made you shake your head in disbelief and empathy. A quick temper, a lot of attitude, and a sharp tongue (understatement) meant she was often a behavior challenge. She was one kid that other counselors dreaded having in their group, and with good reason. She would steamroll right through their behavior management attempts. I always volunteered for her to be in mine. We developed a level of respect. I didn't hold her to a different set of rules, nor did I change my expectations of her. I tried to help her understand the choices she had in choosing her reactions to a situation. I saw her as my 'project' kid. I was putting in a little extra work with her, hoping that it might start to offset some of the other shortcomings in her life.
Anyways, she ended up getting asked not to come back due to a couple behavior situations and I moved away. I sent her a short Christmas card last year, just to say that I hoped she enjoyed and did well in her new school and that I hoped she remembered to consider the choices in tough situations. I never heard anything back, which I expected, since I didn't even know if I sent it to the right address. But, I have always tried to say a prayer now and then for her, hoping that she'd make good choices and that life might smile on her now and then.
So, I get home from class last night, completely stressed. Two weeks left of class and an incredible amount of work to think about. A crazy busy week to get through. A smelly pile of dishes in the sink. I grab the stack of mail and pull out the over sized Christmas card and glance at the return address, written in a young teen's script in purple marker. I was floored and totally shocked. Not only had she gotten it but it'd made enough impact for her to remember to reply a year later. It made my night, my week and my whole Advent season.

27 November 2006

Peace Christmas Wreath Causes Fight

I thought this article about a lady (and former president of her homeowners association) in Colorado who was going to be getting a $25 fine each day that she refused to take down her Christmas wreath. The reason? It has the peace sign inside the wreath. And the subdivision's homeowners association has a policy that "will not allow signs, flags etc. that can be considered divisive." So peace is divisive? This is not a sign stating that Bush is an idiot, or to bring the troops home now, or a Democratic/Republican election sign. It is a peace symbol. Who can argue against encouraging more peace in the world?
Peace on Earth. Goodwill toward men.

25 November 2006

It's Beginning to Look Alot Like Christmas

Tonight I had a few friends over for a little Xmas decorating party. Rosemary Clooney and some of her friends came over while I put up multiple strings of lights and other miscellaenous holiday decorations. I have never been as happy with the finished product of my Christmas'ed apartment as I am this year. It really looks nice. I've got my tree up, with ornaments and lights, my wreath of white lights, flashing/chasing lights going around in the kitchen, my holiday candle burning and tinsel up on the mantel. I also put out the Christmas sampler that I quilted when I was 11 years old. Thanks for the lessons Mom!
Adding this to the marathon shopping session yesterday, I definitely feel ready for the holiday season. It's been a few years since homebase and I have really done it up on the day after Thanksgiving like we did yesterday. Up at 5:00 AM, beginning shopping at 6:30, seeing the sunrise as we left Target, having a very productive day at Oakview, enjoying the best pizza in Omaha (Lansky's) at stoppable & schulerin's, and seeing the sun go down on our way home.
It was a wonderful holiday with my family and I'm counting the days til Christmas!

22 November 2006

Audacious Purse-snatcher

Talk about going for a tough mark! It sounds like Barbara Bush, one of the twin 24-year old daughters of the President, had her purse stolen while in Argentina. How'd you like to be that Secret Service agent? oops. There is quite a few "no comments" in the story, which is not surprising.

21 November 2006

A Historic Win for Celtic FC


Celtic FC achieved a massive victory over Manchester United in their Champions League match today. In addition to the thrill of a win over one of the world's biggest clubs, Celtic's success means they will top their group and advance to the knockout Round of 16 of the tournament for the first time in the club's history.
This matchup, dubbed the Battle of Britian, pitted the current top-ranked team in the Scottish League against the top-ranked team in the English Premiership. The tight match was broken open by a masterful free-kick from Shinsuke Nakamura in the 81st minute. The glorious night at Parkhead was preserved when Artur Boruc, Celtic's goalkeeper, saved a penalty kick in the 90th minute.
I'll be hunting for the video of the goal on YouTube tomorrow.

Rollin' on...crates?

I just got word that one of my ex-roomies in Chicago had all four tires jacked last night. While the boulevard is very picturesque and nice, you don't have to go too far off it to find some less attractive areas in my old neighborhood. My rear driver's side window can testify to this, since it was broken out to facilitate the removal of my car stereo while I was there. Her car was in their 'off-street' parking spot, though! And it's not like she was rolling on some sweet 20" rims. I got a hilarious (for me, not for her) picture of what it all looked like this morning. The thieves didn't even have the common courtesy (or maybe resources) to put it up on cinder blocks. The car is balanced on two milk crates.
I told her that she should just go down to Maxwell Street Market on Sunday and her tires + wheels will be there. She'll be able to buy them back for a nice price, I'm sure.

17 November 2006

Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé!

Mars Cafe, one of my favorite local spots, threw a small fete last night to celebrate Beaujolais Nouveau Day. The 3rd Thursday in November, as mandated by the French government, is the day when Beaujolais Nouveau wine can be released. It is a wine that ferments quickly and has a short shelf life, so the custom is to consume it around the holidays. You may wonder, as I did, if the wine can not be released before midnight on Thursday, how is it possible for us to be consuming it that evening? Well, it turns out the government allows the wine to be shipped up to 6 days before that so it can be available for enjoying on the big day.
It was a fun little event to check out, with French cheeses and baguettes. Then I zipped home to enjoy The Office. I love that show!

16 November 2006

Vatican meetings on priest celibacy

The Pope called for meetings to discuss the celibacy of priests and priests that have been married. The outcome of those meetings is pretty much, 'no change'. "The value of the choice of priestly celibacy, according to Catholic tradition, has been reaffirmed." I couldnt' find the actual statement released by the Vatican, unfortunately.
I did find this encyclical from1967 and this other document though.
Which leads me to two questions...
1. Why don't major news agencies provide links to their source documents in their articles?
2. Why is it so hard to find anything on the Vatican site?

15 November 2006

Taco Dip Demise

On my walk from the parking lot into the office this morning, I came upon the scene of an accident that must have only happened minutes before I arrived. No, not a traffic accident, this was much more harmless and humorous. Right in front of the double doors to the skywalk there was an exploded taco dip. Some kind soul must have been bringing it in for their department's 'food day'. And as they reached to open the door, the 9" x 13" pan slipped out out of their hands or arms. Due to the weight of the dip (beans, sour cream and salsa) it didn't splatter too much, in fact it was still in the shape of the pan, with the broken crags of pyrex glass poking up through. What did scatter, however, were the dry toppings. Lettuce, tomatoes, olives and shredded cheese expanded the crime zone by a good yard or so. It made it nearly impossible to get through the door without stepping on some piece of the mexican treat or its pan.
I really wanted to snap a photo of this incident because the visual was just too good. I actually reached for my phone and flipped it open before realizing that not only would I seem like a callous jerk for taking a picture of someone else's misfortune, if I were to break stride and stop to snap the photo, I would probably be trampled from behind by all they other drones doing their morning march to work.

13 November 2006

Special Soccer Story

Jay DeMerit's story sounds like a movie script. Even if you're not into soccer, you might find it heart-warming. I especially liked the part about his buddy and how happy he was for his friend.

10 November 2006

Star Poetry Located!!!

Some of you may remember back in May of '05, I explained that I was looking for a certain poem that I read one time on the bus in Chicago. I enjoyed it, and wanted to try and find it again, but didn't remember the title or author. And I challenged anyone else to find it as well. We were all unsuccessful at that time. But today, I cracked the code. I've been checking out Wikiquote a little the last couple days and I was looking through the categories and thought I'd check and see if they had my mystery poem. I looked for Astrology, but saw that they listed 'Astronomy' instead. Although the poem wasn't there, it made something click in my head and I wondered if I had been searching using the wrong term previously. So I googled 'astronomy poetry'. The first link listed my poem as its first poem. I was correct that it was by a notable poet! :) I will now share it with you...

WHEN I HEARD THE LEARN'D ASTRONOMER

When I heard the learn'd astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired, and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander'd off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look'd up in perfect silence at the stars.
- Walt Whitman, 1865

08 November 2006

Smoking Ban in Des Moines?

I feel that this is a "it's not if, but when" situation. This article from the DM Register shows that even bar owners are accepting that a ban will probably happen and that it might not have the big impact on business that opponents warn of. Smoking bans in all public workplaces are going to happen and I'm hoping for sooner rather than later. I'm sure the bar owner in the article who was told his lungs looked like he'd smoked for 20 years, even he's never smoked feels the same way.
The city parking council is meeting next week to discuss banning smoking in the city parking ramps. They are a congregation spot for smokers who can't smoke on their employer's property. I would agree that their huddles are pretty stinky. They aren't helping Des Moines image any either when seen by out of towners.

Rumsfeld Steps Down

The cries for this action have been getting louder and larger in number lately. Today the Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld stepped down. CNN's article states that Bush will be appointing Robert Gates, former chief of the CIA and current Texas A & M president, to fill the vacancy.
I think that a new person in there can not be a bad thing. A new set of eyes looking at the situation and making decisions may be just what we need.

Britney & Kevin

It's official. Britney filed divorce papers asking for no spousal support (no surprise there) but full custody of both children. And then she went ice skating at Rockefeller Plaza.

Sadie Hawkins Day

OK all you single ladies out there, now's your chance. This Saturday is Sadie Hawkins Day. The holiday originated in a Lil' Abner comic strip in 1937 and involves the reversal of the cultural 'boy asks girl' standard. Girls get out there and ask a boy! (Coincidentally, I'm free this weekend.)

06 November 2006

"That's how you make a pineapple"

I was reading up on all the weekend's goings-on in the soccer world this morning and came across this article on ESPN's Soccernet. I love learning about unique phrases or different uses of a word in different cultures. Here is the excerpt of the article that I enjoyed:
The reason behind Madrid's recent improvement had been bandied about in the press as the result of a new 'piña' (pineapple) formed among the group. This refers to a situation in which team-mates in any sport form a huddle or a ruck of mutual solidarity, one which carries them to the eventual triumphs that talent alone cannot guarantee...The word 'piña' is quite common in Spanish sports-speak, and last week was no exception. Funnily enough, Raúl claimed that it had come about partly as a result of the team's new Friday afternoon routine, after training finishes. 'We get together at the training ground, have a drink together and eat some tapas. That's how you make a pineapple.' Funny that. I always thought they grew on trees.

I think that this idea/metaphor of a piña or pineapple should be brought into wider usage here in the States. I think it could be used in the workplace ("Our sales team really needs to find their pineapple."), in the classroom ("Pineapple time! Get into groups and work through these probelms."), and in athletics ("Your selfish play is ruining the pineapple we've grown here!")

Flickr

I wanted to call your attention to the new addition to the sidebar area of my blog. I have added an "In My Lens" piece, which is a link to my Flickr page. Flickr is a photo-sharing website where you can upload and categorize photos. With the arrival of my new camera, a Canon Powershot SD600, I thought I'd try it out and see if it is an easy way to share any cool images I capture. There isn't much out there yet, but give it time. Also, once you go into my Flickr page, you can click on a picture to get more detail and options with it. The button "All Sizes" in the middle above the image will allow you to see larger versions of the picture. You can also comment on pictures if you so choose. I thought it was cool that the camera records all the details about what the settings used to take that particular photo were. Click on More Properties on the right side to see what I mean. Enjoy.

03 November 2006

Welcome to My Classroom



Please find a seat and get out your book and a pen or a pencil.
This is an assignment we had to do, to draw up how we would arrange our classroom. We were given 20 or so requirements that had to be included. I used Microsoft Visio to draw this diagram up. It was pretty fun! I included a plant at the front of the room just for fun. Oh, and if you brought an apple you can place it on my desk.

30 October 2006

Free Hugs

A friend sent this link to me. I checked out the video on YouTube and loved it. Its been hugely popular and even appeared on Good Morning America. This Wikipedia article tells a little about how the video came to be. I think I may have to get a shirt to support the cause. I love that they provide a 'how-to' for hugging, just in case!
"Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around."
- Leo Buscaglia

Jack-o-Lantern


It took longer to select this pint-sized pumpkin (notice the can of refrieds beside it for scale) than it did to carve and scoop it out.

27 October 2006

Aisle 5 : Sneak Peak @ the Art Center

Last night I got caboose to go with me to check out a sneak peak of Aisle 5, the new exhibit at the Des Moines Art Center. I had secured a pair of tickets to the event through work and was excited to check it out. We went over after work and it was really a rocking gala. There was a live band, Public Property, pumping out some fine reggae-ish music, free hors d'oevres and free drink tickets. After a short presentation, and several visits to the food table, we made our way throught the exhibit. It isn't a large collection, but there were several interesting pieces. The exhibit centers on 'finding art in the everyday and the everyday in art'. Using common household items in different ways to create something uniquely uncommon. My favorite piece was by Tara Donovan. It was a wall covered in clear drinking straws. They were all perfectly stacked so the viewer was looking at the open end of the straw. The surface of the wall was uneven, resembling a topographical model. It was a VERY cool effect. At first glance I thought the wall had been painted to look like hills. Hard to explain but cool to see.
It was a fun time and even better since it was free!

26 October 2006

Smokey (and other live mascots)

I saw this article on CNN.com about Smokey getting a little nippy with an Alabama player that fell on him during pre-game warmups. Smokey is a sharp looking dog, I have to say, and I'm not even a dog lover! Which led me to search for a list of other top live mascots. You can check them out here and here. Of the mascots listed, my vote for most impressive would have to go to Ralphie. That thing is huge and it really gets going! I'd like to see the war eagle at Auburn sometime or the bears at Baylor.
I think that a hawk would be lots of fun Iowa games. Or Nebraska could get a, um, real person to husk corn. (Might be better than that inflatable baby guy with the hat on crooked.)

Principal Gives Wedgie

This story was just too crazy not to share. School administrators should have enough sense and professionalism to understand that wedgies are not acceptable occurrences in their school, let alone being given by them. (I wonder who decided to put a picture of some whitey-tighties with the story. An obvious attempt to lure in a few more readers! Oh, and you can "click to enlarge image" in case you really want to check out those undies.) A more detailed account and additional quotes can be found here in the Livingston Enterprise.

25 October 2006

CNN 'Left or Right' Poll


In reply to Stoppable's request to go out and do CNN's poll that gives a quick indication of your standing on a handful of key issues, here's my results. I couldn't put the graphic into his comments so I made my own post out of it. I came out about where I thought I would. Not far left but definitely leaning in that direction.
I liked that there was only two options for each question. It made it hard to answer a couple of the questions. I had difficulty choosing without being able to get more info or qualify my choice. I thought it was nice to just have to say, "Favor" or "Oppose".

23 October 2006

Legos!

Last Friday, I hit the interstate and zoomed over to Omaha. I arrived just in time to join stoppable for the after-school pick-up of Emily and NTW. Stoppable surprised everyone by announce that we were headed to Dave & Buster's. Car racing, basketball shooting, skeeball throwing, boxing, and military warfare games were well enjoyed by everyone. We hit Taste of Thailand for dinner and I had some wonderful Southern Noodles, flat noodles with chicken and potatoes in a thick yellow curry sauce. And they were HOT. Very very nice. After putting the kids down, I couldn't seem to pull myself away from the Lego creation I had started while playing with NTW earlier. So for the next hour and a half or so, stoppable and I played Legos. I hadn't really had a building session in years and years. It was great. As requested by NTW, I put together the parrot according to the instruction booklet he had provided. After that, I kept going and did the crab and the ant. I also completed my original starfighter ship. Meanwhile, stoppable formulated an all-red moon-speeder, completed with flag and red pilot. Which lead me to recall and share that his creations always looked like a real plan that you might see on a Lego box, while my creations usually tended to look more like a brick with wings and wheels. I wonder what that tells about our brain patterns. I wish I had snapped a couple pics of them on the cameraphone to post. Regardless, it was very fun. We finished the night by making a cream of cauliflower soup, which was good and I liked the lightness of it. I think we were right in reducing the amount of sour cream.
Saturday and Sunday were spent down home, eating, watching some good college football games (Texas over Nebraska in the last minute, sorry schulerin! and Notre Dame over UCLA in the last minute), playing Pit, Boggle and Ping-Pong, reading magazines and a little Orschelin's shopping! I love my new mittens/gloves! Thanks to all for a fun birthday celebrating weekend.

Kevin Tillman Speaks Out

My readers know that I respect the story behind Pat Tillman (and his brother Kevin) very much. I posted a couple things regarding it last July. His brother had been silent until now. An article in the Sun-Times lead me to check out this article he authored on truthdig.com. It is a stong & passionate questioning of our government. Whether you agree or not, it is definitely worth clicking over there and reading.

20 October 2006

Live Music!

Back to back nights of live music! Yippee! I saw towncrier on my birthday and they put on a good show. They are all excited for their CD release show coming up and they put on a good set.
And then last night, I checked out Steph Taylor at the Mars Cafe. I had gotten a bulletin on myspace on her and thought it would be fun to check out some new music and I saw that she played piano, which I love so I was eager to give it a listen. She rocked! She started out on the piano for just over half her set and then switched to guitar. Her website described her piano style as slightly percussive and I think that is a good description. Her voice was great and it was a fun night. caboose and I each got a CD and had a chance to chat with Steph after the show. Seems like a cool girl and definitely a good show.
Sidenote: I mentioned to caboose that she attended Berklee School of Music and he said that that is where John Mayer studied, so I checked out their website and this alumni page. Pretty impressive!

19 October 2006

iPod peak + Invisible cloak

Two tantilizing technology tales transcribed to trip your trigger.

Info on the next generation of iPod (out in December).
and
An invisibility cloak has been created!

Stingray Attack!

First Steve Irwin, now this! An 81 year old boater is in critical condition after a stingray leaps into his boat and fired its barb into his chest. Incredible!

18 October 2006

Responsibility

My friend is the head soccer coach at Simpson College and I stopped by his office last night to see if he was around, hoping to share my enthusiasm about Celtic FC's big win yesterday. He wasn't in, so I just checked out his bulletin board to check on the Storm's recent progress. The only non-soccer article on the board caught my eye and I like it so much I wanted to share it. It is about the kicker for UNI after he missed a tough kick at the end of their football game against Iowa State. His kick would've won them the game and secured a big upset. He accepted all responsibility and apologize to everyone, fans, players, coaches, etc. Now, being a kicker is a thankless job. You are always the goat if a kick is missed and when you make the kicks, it is seen as the expected result. A no-win for them, plus I can't say they are always accepted by the rest of the team. Anyways, I admired this young man's character. In contrast, on NPR this morning, this slimeball is continuing with redirecting the blame.

Happy Birthday

So, yes, today I celebrate my arrival into this world thirty years ago. It really isn't the crisis that everyone/society seems to make it out to be. I am alright with it. It doesn't change who I am or what I about. It just changes the number I enter on the exercise machines. And I may fall in a different demographic now (30-39 instead of 20-29). Other than that, not much is different. I still am thanking God for each day when I wake up. I still have three loads of laundry waiting for my attention. I still have a spectacular circle of family and friends to be thankful for.
I'm actually looking forward to 30. 30 will see me quit my job! 30 will see me receive my teaching certificate. 30 will see me taking a big vacation (the first in a while!). 30 will start a new, exciting career that I am passionate about. 30 may see me buying a home. 30 will bring a spring break, summer vacation and long christmas break! 30 will hopefully see me ride my first RAGBRAI.
So there is lots to look forward to in the coming year. Thanks and much love to all who helped me get here.
As for what I'm doing to celebrate my fun day... It's only 8:00 and I've already had 2 bday calls and 1 bday text and I had a gift and a cupcake in my cube when I arrived at work. I am wearing a new shirt purchased on sale at the Gap. I am heading downstairs to treat myself to a NAKED juice and a doughnut (how's that for an ironic pairing). I am being treated to lunch at the Manhattan Deli by a friend here at work. caboose is taking me to dinner at Hickory Park and then we will be capping the night with a Towncrier show. Like I said, I have great people in my life.

Jackie Warnstadt, Iowa Teacher of the Year

Tuesday evening, I made the now fully automatic trek down to Indianola to listen to the current Iowa Department of Education Teacher of the Year. The room's capacity was 104 and it was probably close to it. I'd estimate at least 90 people there and probably less than 20 of them were male. It was not a lecture around theory, pedagogy, instruction methods or classroom technology. It was simply a woman who has spent the majority of her life educating young people and sharing her love of doing so. Jacqueline Warnstadt is the 4th grade teacher at Leeds Elementary in Souix City and has been teaching for 43 years. She has a strong belief and appreciate for the public education system and she shared the tale of how she came to teach and a few of her experiences along the way. She also spoke about tips for future educators as they deliberate joining the teaching ranks. Her advice centered around these items:
Be certain this is what you want to do.
Don't be negative about professional development.
Marry well. This doesn't mean marry for money. It means marry someone who understands your passion and commitment to the vocation. (Her husband is a former Iowa Teacher of the Year!)
Work and play well with other. You relationships with your co-workers are important, and those with the secratary and custodian are vitally so.
The majority of the talk, though, was about her own experiences with schools and teaching. Growing up she lived in 34 different homes and attended 14 schools. She was engaged at 16 and started teaching in South Dakota (not a big move from Sioux City) since they only required a two-year certificate. It was 1967 and she was making $3200 ($200 above the food stamp cutoff). She soon moved back to Iowa, getting a $4000 jump in salary. She's taught at several different schools around Sioux City, including a year at a one-room school house and time as a Title I teacher. Her son was in the Gulf War, was a state representative and is now a state senator. She says teachers must be active and be heard by their government. It is our responsibility.
My two quotes from the night were:
"Teaching is the noblest professtion there is."
"Public schools are the greatest equalizer this nation has."

17 October 2006

Bindi, the Jungle Girl

In what was originally supposed to be a father-daughter show, the late Steve Irwin's daughter Bindi will now star in the show on the Discovery channel. I love her quote at the end, pretty great for an 8 year old.

16 October 2006

Obama - TIME cover boy!

My readers are all well-aware of my admiration & excitement regarding Barack Obama. It was born while I lived in his state of Illinois and just continues to grow. He is on the cover of the upcoming TIME magazine and you can read the article online. They only part I questioned was when the author stated that Obama's first memior "may be the best-written memoir ever produced by an American politician". I have struggled to get into it and didn't find the writing style to be very page-turning.
One thing I love about Obama is his demeanor and outlook. He does not come off as a know-it-all who views problems with party blinders on. He talks about situations and issues as an intelligent American citizen and talks about what government can do to make improvements. Unlike many politicians, he is someone that I would love to sit down with over tea/coffee.
Two quotes that I don't like and don't agree with:

"He's working a very dangerous high-wire act," Shelby Steele told me. "He's got to keep on pleasing white folks without offending black folks, and vice versa."
--I think that is innaccurate and belitting of all his work. I would hope that he is worried about more than pleasing 'white folks' and offending 'black folks'.

"You have to convey strength," he said, "and it's hard to do that when you're giving on-the-other-hand answers."
--I think there may be a little truth to this, but I think that overall, this idea that being able to consider and weigh two sides of an issue is a testament of weakness is wrong. Some people don't want to think about 'possibilities' and 'options' and 'opposing views', they just want a leader who thinks about one thing and is inflexible in consider options on how to get there. I say bring on more thought, debate and consideration of opportunity costs.

A New Computer!

Well, it isn't here yet, but I ordered a new machine on Saturday. And not a moment too soon. Sunday I rebooted my machine seven or eight times and received an interesting message of "Operating System Not Found." Hopefully it will last the two weeks until my new one arrives. I stuck with HP, but switched from desktop to a laptop. And taking the advice of several friends, I made a last minute change and selected the 14" widescreen instead of the 15.4" widescreen. For pretty much the same price, I figured smaller is better. You can look at it here, but I did several upgrades, including selecting the AMD Turion(TM) 64 X2 Mobile TL-50 (1.60GHz/256KB), FREE Upgrade to 14.1" WXGA BrightView Widescreen, 1.0GB DDR2 SDRAM (2x512MB), and FREE Upgrade from 60 GB 5400 RPM to 80 GB 5400 RPM. Oh, and I threw in an HP printer all-in-one for $19.99 after rebates. Not sure if I really needed it, but I thought for twenty bucks, why pass it up! Yes, it is going to be a gleaming powerful new computing force. I can't wait! It will nice to have a computer that has more storage than my iPod. My old machine, an HP Pavilion desktop had a 13 gig hard drive and a 466 mHz processor. I bought it seven years ago and it has served me well over the years, made many moves with me and earned its retirement. The new guy's shipping date is supposed to be 10/23. Happy Birthday to me!
I'm now looking for options for disposing/donating/recycling my old machine. Any ideas?

World Food Fair

Well, it was a great weekend. Although our cold streak continued, at least it was sunny (until Sunday, that is). Friday night, I made Hot Pork Curry with Pumpkin, with a butternut squash that I picked up at a roadside pumpkin patch on the way to Iowa City last weekend. It was the first taste of the dish for caboose and les. I think they both enjoyed it. The curry had a great warmth to it. We also watched 'V for Vendetta' while we enjoyed the meal. I'd seen it already, but was eager to watch it again. I really like the movie. I think it is an intelligent look at society and government and stirs up some thoughts. I know stoppable enjoyed it as well when he viewed it and caboose had a lot of praise for it after it was over. Saturday brought the arrival of homebase. Caboose joined in and we hit the Farmer's Market downtown, munching some kettlecorn and sipping hot drinks while we perused the wares. Around 11:00, we headed across the river to East Village to check out the World Food Fair. I was very excited to get to see the Isisserettes again. I think they are the best! The didn't disappoint and we got to listen & watch them for forty minutes or so. The food boothes were then descended upon by us. I selected beef vindaloo, which was delic. Homebase had some fried rice. I also had a samosa which was disappointing. A chicken kabob, with fried plantains and a great sauce for dipping (thick, smokey and very hot) from the Cookry (an African restaraunt in the Drake neighborhood) rounded out the sampling. After taking in a few songs by Gan Bua we weren't hooked so we went and checked out Gong Fu. It is a fun and cool tea house in the East Village area. We admired their wide assortment of teapots and then selected a couple teas to purchase.
After that we headed out to the mall, in search of the product (RED) items we'd seen online and on Oprah the day before. homebase was lucky enough to claim the last inspi(red) t-shirt they had in the store! she also treated us all to RED pins to support the cause. caboose & I found some great undershirts that will come in handy this winter (or right now in our chilly apartment). Saturday evening found us relaxing and enjoying a nice cheese, cracker, fruit and veggie tray while watching "In Good Company" and sampling our new teas.
Sunday morning was mass at St. Ambrose (love that church!) followed by breakfast at Drake Diner. We were able to sit and watch all the runners go by on 25th Street for the marathon as we enjoyed Santa Fe grits and blueberry pancakes! It was a great opportunity for people watching. Most of the rest of the day was spent at the library, working on a paper.
Thanks for making the drive up, homebase, it was a good time!

Bill Murray - party crasher

This story is great! Bill Murray, after golfing St. Andrew's in Scotland, mets a Scandanavian co-ed at the bar who invites him to a house party. He accepts, goes, has a great time, including washing dishes so people can have glasses to drink from. I know not all of you enjoyed "Lost in Translation", but I loved it. And this is pretty close to it!

13 October 2006

(RED)

Bono and Oprah hit Michigan Ave to film a piece that will air on her show today. Penelope Cruz and Christy Turlington were there as well. They were out checking the visibility of the products that are part of the new (RED) campaign. I read about it a month or so ago in Rolling Stone and thought it sounded great. People are going to spend money on clothes, iPods, etc anyways. If someone (aka Bono) can get corporations to agree to market a 'special' line and give a portion of the proceeds to charity, that will make a much bigger number than asking people for donations.
The special edition iPod is very cool. The primary red is noticably different than the metallicy, flourescent other colors. And those new nano's are SO small! Also, I love love love the idea of a (Red) iTunes gift card. Mainly because I think it is the best gift for a music lover who you don't know what to get for. Plus, it doesn't limit the Red campaign to new iPod buyers.
The GAP has some cool stuff for the line. I think the girls stuff is a bit more stylish than the guys, but what's new? I think they missed the boat by not having a stocking hat.
My favorite thing is the (RED) manifesto. Check it out! The blog is also pretty cool. The Oprah shows sounds like a good one, if only I had the afternoon off! Shop (Red) this holiday season, readers!

11 October 2006

Teacher Man

Well, it may not have been like Frank McCourt's book and there weren't any "O Captain, My Captain" moments, but it was very exciting and very fun. It was so rewarding to finally be in front of a class after sitting and observing for the last 36 periods, and studying about it for the past 10 months and thinking about it for the past 18. Two sections of Computer Applications were treated to a lesson from me today. The class is required and is mainly freshman. The lesson was pretty simple and straightforward. There's only so much you can do when you are given a review lesson over Excel basics. But I got a little creative with having the students take turns reading the step-by-step instruction aloud and completing them on the computer hooked to the projector. It was fun to be walking around the classroom, answering questions, giving praise, offering suggestions, checking for understanding. The second bunch is a little rowdy (they caused some havoc for the sub last week) but they were alright for me. My prof was observing that second section, so I'm glad it went well. He was complimentary afterwards in his evaluation. But the real evaluation is from the students.....and I received a strong round of applause at the end of my lesson. This is what I was seeking when I decided to teach. It is what I should tell skeptic naysayers who ask why I would want to teach. "When I finish my work, people applaud." LOL. I am aware that it was just because I was a new teacher, but it was a great beginning!

09 October 2006

Of Mice and Men

In addition to the weekend's fun of Iowa Homecoming parade, getting to hang out with Anne, apple picking at Wilson's Orchard, a meal at the Ronnenburg, stopping at a roadside pumpkin patch, a little shopping at the Williamsburg outlet mall, multiple games of Gobblet!, and a wedding, I joined the club of happy owners of the Eureka Optima vacuum cleaner. At $59, I think it is a great value and I love the bagless, see-thru cup. I vacuumed the apartment on Sunday and got rid of cobwebs and I could not believe the amount of stuff in the cup and the amount of dirt in the filter. I took it outside and as I was tapping it out against the sidewalk the dirt just kept coming and coming. The place looks great now!
The other source of excitement was the deployment of mousetraps around our apartment. As some readers may remember this is not my first interaction with these rodents in this building. You can read about the first go-round with them here. This time around, caboose selected two of a new style and two of the standard variety. Peanut butter was the bait of choice and since caboose had located the mousehole in my room, we placed one trap right by there. I turned off my lights to go to bed at 10:38. At 11:01, I was awoke by the rattling of a mouse in the trap. caboose had heard it as well and came in and we discussed the situation as we tried to figure out what course of action to take. The mouse was obviously still alive. We could wait for it to die or just go for it and get it out now. We agreed that it could be a while before the mouse expired, so we sucked it up and got tongs and a plastic bag. We came back in, turned on the lights and checked out our victim. I reached back into the corner and grabbed the trap with the tongs and picked it up. The mouse's head was firmly stuck in the trap but the stupid new-fangled trap didn't have enough force to kill it. I tossed it in the bag that caboose was holding and he ran it out to the trash. After he came back in, we both agree that we felt sad about the whole deal. Hopefully that is the end of the mice. I am going to take homebase's advice and stuff steel wool in the hole and tape it over.

05 October 2006

Lucky Boys Confusion

I had seen the news that Lucky Boys Confusion was going on an indefinite hiatus on their MySpace page and caboose & I discussed it the other night. It would definitely be a BIG downer if they would end up calling it quits. I read caboose's blog on it and was motivated to share my own LBC background and favorites. Fred Astaire was the first thing I heard from them. Following further advice from caboose, and since I was dating a girl in Chicago, I bought their CD "Throwing the Game" used from Amazon. I loved it. "City Lights", "Do You Miss Me (Killians)", "One to the Right", such good stuff. I moved to Chicago (not because of the CD, but it didn't hurt any either). I saw my first Lucky Boys Confusion show pretty much by chance. A group of us had gotten out from an early outdoor show and were in the same neighborhood where I knew LBC were playing at the Double Door. So we went over to see if we could catch part of their show, since they had already been playing for an hour, we got in free and were able to rock out for the last few numbers and an encore. They had the crowd amped. My next viewing was even more memorable. It was just myself and ellen ellen and after getting some food and drinks at Cubby Bear, I went to take some cash out of the ATM before we grabbed a cab to Double Door for an LBC show. The ATM had other ideas though. It kept saying "ERROR OCCURRED" and I was getting frustrated. We decided to just get a cab and ellen ellen paid for it and I would hit up an ATM when we got there. So we did, and I did, but that ATM also wouldn't process my card, but this time the message was much more clear, "INSUFFICIENT FUNDS". Aaagggh! As I spiralled into a finance-cause depression, my mind was going a million miles an hour. I had been so sure I had a small cushion in there, but it seems I had been a bit off. It was one of my lowest points of my Chicago period. Not many things would've been able to pull me out of that funk, but viewing LBC from the small balcony room, with drinks provided by ellen ellen, and my mood started to improve about halfway through the show. By the end of the night, I was back to my optimistic, positive-minded self, thanks in no small-part to the musical stylings of LBC.
The next show I saw was a birthday surprise. I was completely fooled, thinking that we were going to an art show right until we pulled into the parking lot of the House of Blues. What an awesome venue and what am awesome show. I had purchased and been loving their new CD "Commitment" and the boys really laid it down that night. "Mr. Wilmington", "Atari", "Hey Driver", "Ordinary" Great time.
My last LBC show was at Gabe's Oasis on one of the coldest night of last winter. It is also where I scored a free small tshirt that was gifted to NTW. Yet another great show. Lots of good times with LBC. Their music always puts me in a good mood. And that is a wonderful thing.

04 October 2006

Chili Dog!!!


I thawed the wonderful chili given to me by stoppable and stopped by the grocery store on the way home to pick up some extra plump hot dogs (on sale for $0.99) and buns. I toasted the buns, heated up the chili, boiled the hot dogs, diced some onions, got out a selection of hot sauces, added some shredded cheese and caboose, les, and myself had a chili dog feast while watching the season premier of LOST. I remembered to split my hot dog on the second one and that made it even better. They were delicious, so good in fact, that they stopped the younger two from going to Jimmy John's and enticed them to stay and dine with me! Thanks for the yummy chili, stoppable!

03 October 2006

No News is Good News

The recent run of depressing, sickening and tragic news stories has just been too much. I don't even like listening to NPR anymore! Three school shooting incidents in one week is horribly scary and ridiculous. President Bush is planning a conference next week on the matter, "to help communities prevent violence and deal with its aftermath." After being in and around many schools growing up, doing observations and working in Chicago, I have seen that there is a lot of room for improvement in school security. The frustrating thing is that I don't think it would require a lot of resources or money to make them.

My prayers go out to the families of those involved in the school shootings.

St. Louis

What a fun fun fun weekend! Even the 7 hour drive was fun! We did SO much in our time there; Botantical Gardens w/Chihuly exhibit, Phil's BBQ, Science Center w/sports exhibit, a Hawkeye game, late-night custard feeding, mass at the Basilica, and getting to see Abba play on Sunday afternoon. Even though the Colonials came up short, she rocked and had a great game. I hadn't seen her play since high school so it was wonderful to get a chance to cheer her on (complete with foam hats, kazoos, signs, and chants) at a college match. I was even able to get most of my homework done on the drive hom! It was a long weekend but so fun to spend it with great family. Thanks for a great time everyone!

29 September 2006

CPS focusing on teacher selection

I thought this article on training administrators on how to select and keep high quality educators was right on. It is such an important and difficult to task. And it is so tough to undo. If a poor teacher is hired it is pretty difficult to get rid of them. Hopefully the training is worthwhile and the openings can be successfully filled with top canidates (perhaps this candidate!).

Corn Chowder and an Obolon

After work yesterday I went for an invigorating skate around Grey's Lake (6 miles in 32 minutes). It was perfect weather for shorts and a long-sleeve t-shirt over my short-sleeve t-shirt. Very nice. And I wore my iPod this time so I had my music to accompany me around the lake. Feeling much better after my exercise, I went home to start cooking dinner. I had gotten all the ingredients for a Corn Chowder soup last weekend, but then hadn't had time to make it, so I wanted to try it before I left for this weekend and all the stuff went bad. I cut corn off the cob, cubed potatoes, diced green peppers and onions. It was an easy soup to make and it didn't take overly long. caboose & I agreed that fewer green peppers would improve it, and maybe a few more potatoes. Overall, I thought it was quite nice, though. I like chowders and this one was yummy on a cool night. It didn't make a whole lot, though. I would double the recipe next time. While cooking, I enjoyed a Obolon Lager beer. It is one of four beers I picked up a month ago in Chicago at Miska's. I thought this one was really remarkable. It was Ukrainian, with a great copper color and was a tad cloudy. Great flavor and finish. Highly recommended.

25 September 2006

Life is Strange

I read this narrative on my favorite newsblog, Gapers Block. I marveled at the bizarre facts of the story but I really loved the contrastingly warm description of the relationship between the author and his girlfriend and the one between the author and his father. Good stuff.

Soccer Injuries

I saw this headline "Scrotum injury ends Chinese teenager's season" on soccernet.com and morbidly had to read the story. Then, of course, I had to share it. That club seems to be cursed with shocking injuries. If I was playing for them, I'd think of putting in for a transfer.

Black Bean, Chipotle Chili and Rice Soup

I created my first soup of the season on Saturday. It was such a fun production! I found a recipe that sounded delicious and also would provide the right amount of prep work. So, after my 8:30 class, I took my cookbook into Hy-Vee and gathered all the necessary ingredients and then headed back home to begin putting it all together. But first, I have to create the proper environment for serious cooking, music selected and turned on, shades & blinds up, windows & doors open, apron on, tall glass of ice water chilling. Carrots, celery, onion, jalepenos, red pepper, garlic, tomatoes were all prepared and combined. I even got to use my mini food processor to puree the chipotle chilis. After assembling, I let it simmer for several hours before adding the cooked rice at the end and making the cilantro cream garnish. Finally getting to taste it after hours of smelling it, I found it to be very tasty, although probably a bit too heat. I mis-read the amount of jalepeno to put in. It called for 2 tablespoons and I put in 2 peppers (probably 4 tablespoons). So it was a spicy dish, but I loved it. And, I was very happy to see that caboose, not a fan of excess heat, fearlessly fixed himself a bowl and agreed that it was quite good. loiltes also enjoyed a bowl that evening. I put the rest in ziplock bags for enjoying at a later date. And I took one for tasting the next day in Omaha.
Sunday dawned a beautiful day and I was on the road by 8 and enjoyed a very fun day with the Omaha clan, and homebase, who came up to join in the fun. It was a great day and perfect for some backyard soccer after a incredibly tasty lunch of Spicy Pork Curry with Pumpkin (one of my most favorite dishes). Browsing Sur La Table was nice and sharing a tea and a slice of cheesecake at Barnes & Noble with homebase before heading home was a great wind to wind down my weekend. It was a fun one, kicked off with enjoying some German beers at Oktoberfest with caboose and concluded with a Bollywood flick while enjoying leftover tuna casserole.

22 September 2006

Top 50

I meant to do this on the 1 year birthday of shamROCK, my iPod, but I forgot. This is the Top 50 most played songs. You can definitely see there were a few CD's that I listened to a lot. I did have to repopulate my library after the mistaken wipe of the iPod so this is not for a full year, but what the heck...

1. Marching Bands of Manhattan - Death Cab for Cutie
2. Everything is Alright - Motion City Soundtrack
3. Brothers on a Hotel Bed - Death Cab for Cutie
4. Somewhere Over the Rainbow - IZ
5. Gold Mine Gutted - Bright Eyes
6. I Want a Pony - Candypants
7. Dishy - Candypants
8. What About Everything? - Carbon Leaf
9. F-Stop Blues - Jack Johnson
10. Bingo - MIA
11. You Wouldn't Like Me - Tegan & Sara
12. Walking With a Ghost - Tegan & Sara
13. The Talkin' Song Repair Blues - Alan Jackson
14. Photobooth - Death Cab for Cutie
15. Cool - Gwen Stefani
16. Wordplay - Jason Mraz
17. Nerdy Boys - Candypants
18. Beautiful - Christina Aguilera
19. I Will Follow You Into the Dark - Death Cab for Cutie
20. Summer Skin - Death Cab for Cutie
21. Sugar, We're Goin' Down
22. Taylor - Jack Johnson
23. Speak Slow - Tegan & Sara
24. Don't Tread On Me - 311
25. Arc of Time - Bright Eyes
26. Land Locked Blues - Bright Eyes
27. Oh - Ciara
28. A Pirate Looks At Forty - Jack Johnson
29. Gone - Jack Johnson
30. Symbol in My Driveway - Jack Johnson
31. Be Still My Heart - Postal Service
32. I Know, I Know, I Know - Tegan & Sara
33. The Denial Twist - White Stripes
34. Speak Easy - 311
35. Take It Easy (Love Nothing) - Bright Eyes
36. What Sarah Said - Death Cab for Cutie
37. Devil's Dance Floor - Flogging Molly
38. Love You From the Top - Lucky Boys Confusion
39. Radiation Vibe - Hem
40. Aint' No Sunshine - Bill Withers
41. Sunshowers - MIA
42. Such Great Heights - Postal Service
43. New Slang - The Shins
44. The Professor - Damien Rice
45. Chop 'Em Down - Matisyahu
46. Hands Down - Dashboard Confessional
47. Cocaine Blues - Johnny Cash
48. Hold On - Lovehammers
49. Hey Driver - Lucky Boys Confusion
50. Wrong Turn - Jack Johnson

Anyone else care to share what's tops on their Most Played? It doesn't have to be from an iPod, just what you listen to the most, your comfort music. Obviously, I'm a big fan of Death Cab for Cutie, Jack Johnson, Postal Service, Tegan & Sara and Bright Eyes.

Tuna Casserole

After reading a comment from schulerin on stoppable's blog that mentioned tuna casserole, I instantly knew that I wanted to make that for dinner. I hadn't made tuna casserole, or any casserole for that matter, since we last had cool weather, so probably ~7 or 8 months. I knew I had a bag of wide noodles and several cans of tuna, so I stopped by the local grocer's to pick up the few remaining needs. On my way to the grocery store, I had checked in with homebase and with stoppable to run my idea of replacing the peas in the recipe with broccoli by them. I was surprised that it was met with a cool and unenthusiastic response by both respected culinary minds. It made me second guess my idea and consider augmenting the broccoli with some other ingredient, but in the end, I stuck to my guns and went with just the green trees. It was an enjoyable cooking episode. I had cleaned the kitchen just the day before so everything was washed, scrubbed, wiped down and gleaming. I had two dozen eggs in my frig so I hard boiled 1 dozen of them. The two hard boiled eggs are one ingredient that I often leave out, just because it adds ~15-20 minutes to your prep. But this worked out great because now I have a portable breakfast to grab in the mornings. I shredded a brick of sharp cheddar cheese and added some shredded Romano that I had left over. I put it all together and put it in the oven and then topped it with some crushed tortilla chips for the last 5 minutes of cooking. I have to say that it was probably the best tuna casserole I've ever made. I loved the broccoli in there, because I put it in frozen so it heated in the oven but it still had a little snap to it.
It is very nice to have other people to share my creations with. ellen ellen was always very good about complimenting and critiquing my food and I wouldn't enjoy cooking for myself as much, so it is great to have caboose & loiltes to share with. Oh, and I enjoyed a Polish brew, Lezajsk while in the kitchen. Very nice.

20 September 2006

My Kind of Town

So I took a little trip to the Windy City last weekend and it was just what the doctor ordered. I took off at noon on Friday and enjoyed a beautiful afternoon drive. I love those half days at work. You have enough time to get a large portion of your work done and then you get to jet out while everyone else has to stay another four hours! Plus I like that afternoon drive (although I tend to battle the afternoon sun-induced sleepiness). As you can listen to in my audiopost, I saw on stoppable's link to des moines gasprices that there was gas to be had for $2.01 in Altoona, so I stopped there and filled my tank, and got a quart of oil, a jug of windshield wash fluid and a car wash. So I had an apple and a fruit leather but I was holding off on my full lunch until I got to Iowa City and my much anticipated falafel w/hummus & Mediterranean salad pita. I put some hot chimmichurri on it and it was divine. I munched and listened to the audiobook "blink" that I had heard about from stoppable, homebase and Steve. I really enjoyed the first 4 or so CD's. The last couple CD's on the drive home seemed to bog down a bit. So I made good time across the plains of western Illinois and until I got to the I-55 exit. Of the milestones along the IA-Chicago drive this is a big one for me. 1. Iowa City, 2. The I-80 truck stop (the world's largest), 3. The Mississippi river, 4. Getting off I-80 onto I-55, 5. The first sighting of the Sears Tower. So, I come around the cloverleaf and am instantly brought to a complete stop. Not a good sign as I'm still 44 miles from Chicago. I proceed to spend the next hour and 15 minutes creeping forward 9 or 10 miles. Thank goodness I had stoppable and homebase to chat with. Once I finally got up to see the overturned semi that was the culprit of the logjam, it was only a couple minutes and I was back to the expected 75 mph rate of speed. From there on in, traffic was better than expected and I made it with no further difficulty.
After some difficulty in selecting a food venue to hit, my former roomies and I decided on Flattop Grill. I've been there several times and it has never let me down. Actually, I think ellen ellen took stoppable & schulerin & I there on my first weekend out in Chicago. Anyways, it was great food, great conversation and a nice night. We turned in early that night in preparation for a big Saturday.
Saturday kicked off with a visit from the cable guy, installing high-speed internet for them, which ended up taking the better part of an hour. After that entertainment, it was over a friend's for a Iowa vs Iowa State/Birthday party. They had a great spread of food, veggie tray, chips and queso, cookies, chili, cake and cupcakes. Now, I rarely am impressed with other people's chili and I'm pretty proud of my own, but Pete's chili was very delectable. I came to the decision (during my second bowl) that I need to improve my own recipe. The cupcakes were from Sweet Mandy B's, which I had not been to before and everyone insisted I partake of one (actually they wanted me to try one of yellow cake and one of chocolate, but I couldn't do it.) It was a pretty darn good cupcake. So, the get-together was fun and, needless to say/rub-in to the Cyclone fans, the Hawkeyes put on an impressive second half performance to ensure a victory. The rest of the afternoon was spent back at the apartment, shaking my head at Notre Dame's lackluster display and sampling some other high quality college football matchups (the end of the LSU - Auburn was superb). When evening rolled around, we all cleaned up and headed out to the Guinness & Oyster Fest. Not really much exciting to check out, so we hit the food tents for our dinner. Chips and guac from Adobo Grill, fried cheese curds w/ranch and the oddest Philly cheese steak I've ever had. It had some a different type of steak in it and the cheese was a dollup of nacho cheese! We enjoyed a few Guinnesses and met up with the rest of our ensemble and then worked our way to the front of the crowd to enjoy a concert by the Lovehammers. I hadn't seen them perform since the previous summer so I was very excited to hear how they've progressed & changed after the INXS: RockStar show. They put on a really great show, complete with a cover of "Ring of Fire". I was able to meet up with a friend of mine from the Y and we all exited the fest to a local watering hole for more catching up and good times. It was a super fun night.
I was on the road by 7:45 the next morning and finished my audiobook on the way. Thanks to all friends involved for a good weekend.