28 March 2006

Australia Tourism

I was reading the Wall Street Journal today (wow, did you hear that name get dropped?) in the bathroom stall and there was an article about Australia's new tourism campaign. Unfortunately, I can't link to it since they charge for their online version. Mainly, it talked about this new campaign they are rolling out. It is "So Where the Bloody Hell Are You?" It's supposed to be go along with the idea that Aussies are personable, frank and unassuming. It is also supposed to be something more memorable than the new campaigns of some Asian countries, like "Malaysia, Truely Asia.", "Wow. Phillipines.", "Incredibly India" and other such sedatives.
On one hand, I am all for doing something different and new. I love something that bucks the norm and trys a unconventional method. On the other hand, I feel that this is just another example of how our society continues to accept more and more offensiveness as the norm. Desparate Housewives, the language used in prime-time comedy, language allowed in songs and by dj's, etc. It won't be too long until we open up the National Geographic and see "New Zealand...Get Your Ass Down Here!"

Summer Movies

Here's the lineup for the Movies in the Park in Grant Park in Chicago. High quality selections! Much more exciting than last year's. Getting down to one of these movie nights was always on my list to do, but, sadly, I procrastinated away my opportunities. Hopefully this summer!!! If not, there is always this impressive collection here in Des Moines. Anyone else notice the difference between the fun collection of classic film packed with big stars and the lame collection of 80's and 90's cheesey comedy? (Fletch excluded) Hopefully the summer session of Des Moines movies improves.

27 March 2006

Skylines

Since my internet time at work has been severely limited, I don't do much posting of fun, meaningless news and websites. I am stuck doing more fun, meaningless thoughts of my own.
But here is one that I say today that I thought I'd pass on. The top 15 skylines in the world. as determined by some random person. I think Kuala Lumpur should've been much higher. The NYC picture is too dense and not enough variety. Singapore's is nice. I like the water. I also wondered that several of the Asian ones looked a little (or a lot..see Toyko) touched up. Also, the top 7 all feature water prominently.

Home Improvement II

I don't know if there is a more powerful sedatitive/sleeping agent than to come in from working in the cold outside and being chilled to the bone, getting full on hot pizza, then watching a sporting event on TV while under a blanket on the sofa. That combination succeeded in knocking out Kate, Eron and myself on Friday.
After deciphering the most-complicated instruction document ever, we successfully assembled, hung, powered, and connected a new garage door opener. To be honest, I would have estimated our possibility of completing the project and having it work smoothly and correctly to be less than 50%. Amazingly, when it came time to press the opener button (think Clark Griswold..."Joy to World....") the door smoothly and without problem went up and after a second press, came back down. Incredible. Noah toughed it out in the cold garage with us the entire time, wrapped up in his blanket, reading Ranger Rick, building structures out of random objects and providing a running narrative and string of questions for Eron.
I also wanted to note, that just before bedtime, Noah gave me his blanket (the fleece one with dinosaurs) and said that I could sleep with it if I wanted to. A generous man. I took him up on his offer and it was a great sleep.
Stay tuned to find out what the next home project will be...

26 March 2006

March Madness (continued)

Congrats to Mom for winning the family pool. I find it incredible that Noah is the only person to have picking a single final four team! Here's to hoping that his beloved Florida Gators win it all. He wasn't just picking a random team, he loves those Gators. He was talking to me about when they played Iowa in football and Nebraska in baseball. So congrats to him too.
I can't ever remember being out of the pool by the round of 8. Unbelievable. I think they said on the TV today that this is the first time since 1980 that no #1 seeded teams have made the final four. I love that George Mason made it. And the more I watch LSU, the more I like them. There have been so many high-excitement, heart-stopping games this year! Great entertainment.

22 March 2006

Colbert on Chicago

No wonder I like Steven Colbert so much. On tonight's show, he stated that he had lived in Chicago for 11 years. He was commenting on the news that Jennifer Aniston is rumored to be moving to Chicago (to be with Vince Vaughn.) He advised her to go to Weiner Circle or Demon Dogs or somewhere to bulk up, stating that she was not ready for the Chicago winters. To quote, "The winters there will f#ck you up".

21 March 2006

The Bar Keepers Friend is a cleaning machine!

After doing the dishes tonight, I decided to try out the Bar Keepers Friend cleaning product that mom had gotten for me to clean my good pans with. My Sur Le Table and All-Clad pans have a shiny stainless steel finish that can discolor or get heat marks, etc. This product was purported to do the trick. I got out a rag and applied some to the first pan (already wet, as instructed). It wiped away any marks or stain like they were nothing. I was so excited I did all my good pans and they now look better than they did when they came out of the box! Most amazingly, I have a Calphalon pan that I've had for eight years or so and for the last five at least, it has had a weird off-color, yellowish, shiny ring around the inside. Like something was cooked in it too long and let to sit for an extended period. I've tried many times to scrub it away with scrubbees and mucho elbow grease but to no avail. The Bar Keepers Friend was not intimidated. It started taking it off as soon as it made its acquaintence. It took two or three applications and quite a bit of scrubbing, but my pan looks perfect now. Thank you Bar Keepers Friend!

March Madness '06

So after two rounds of March Madness, I find that I am leading the pack in the family pool. Not by much, but just enough. I picked 11 of the remaining 16, unfortunately I did have Iowa going through to the final 8 and North Carolina going to the final 4! On the postive side, I was successful in prognosticating the two upsets each by Wichita State and Georgetown. I'm ready for Thursday to get here! Any votes for top moments so far or best upset? I'm gonna say Bradley.

Green Risotto with Dried Tomatoes

Yum! This is the second risotto I've made. Both have been out of the wonderful rice cookbook Mom got me for Christmas a couple years ago. The first one with saffron and asparagus is still tops, but this one I made Sunday night was very tasty also. It has a bunch of spinach in it, along with sun-dried tomatoes and pecorino romano cheese. Yum Yum. Risotto is such a comfort food. The flavors are SO rich and full and decadent. I wish I could've sent you all a little helping.

St. Patrick's Day / Home Improvement

St. Patricks was a great day (after recovering from a splitting headache in the morning and ignoring the heart-breaking last second Hawkeye loss). Leaving work at 11 (without taking vacation), a sunny day for a drive home, an afternoon of listening to my brother & friends play music at the Emerald Isle, getting to experience an MOQ Fish Fry (great tator tots!) and finishing it with a fun night at the Brazen Head with the Turfmen. Something about putting on all my green just puts me in a special happy mood. Now that I think about it, does anyone have any pictures from any part of that day?
The next day dawned on our home improvement project of the weekend. Wallpaper removal and painting. The first half of this project, the scraping off of wallpaper took much longer than expected, like eight hours. We had four people going and were using a special hot spray solution but it was still highly labor intensive. When we did finally finish, there was spackling needed, glue bits to wash off and then sanding. Luckily we had Subways delivered by Kate for lunch and then some wonderful corned beef, swiss on rye sandwiches for dinner to help fuel our fires. Two coats of primer later we were on the sofa "watching paint dry", actually watching the 24-hour real estate channel while waiting for the paint to dry. Around 11 we decided we were all beat and it would be best to go to bed and tackle it in the morning.
Sunday we sprang into action, recharged by a night's rest and McDonald's breakfast sandwiches. We applied the first coat of pale yellow paint in probably 20 minutes. Two rollers and two trimmers makes it go fast. Many hands make light work. At this point, Dara and I decided that it would be best for us to head back to Iowa since it was snowing heavily already and more was forecast. After a quick chapter of Danny, The Champion of the World, read aloud, we hit the road. It was quite a blizzard...for about 30 minutes. By the time we hit Underwood, it had completely stopped. Anyways, I here they were able to put on the last coat, do all the touch-up and all the clean up. I look forward to seeing it all finished! Thanks all for a fun weekend, when's the next project???

15 March 2006

Mascots Mania!

I found this pdf with all the Iowa high schools listed beside their mascots and conference a few days ago and I moved it into an Excel spreadsheet so I could work with the data a little. I'll send the spreadsheet via email. I came up with the following analysis. (Yes, my job is exciting.)
Predictably, the most common mascot was the Tigers, with 19 schools choosing that. I was surprised by the popularity of Indian mascots, Braves [2], Chickasaws, Chiefs, Indians [12], Savages, Blackhawks [2], Scarlets, Mohawks [3] and Warriors [18]. Obviously the NCAA's actions haven't had too much of an impact here yet. We have quite a creative variety of the hawk as a mascot, appropriately since this is the Hawkeye state. The variations include, Hawks [14], E-hawks, Go-Hawks, WaHawks, Warhawks, Red Hawks, Golden Hawks, J-Hawks [3], Little Hawks, Hawkeyes, Tigher Hawks and Blackhawks [2]. There were a couple schools that had different mascots for the boys and girls team (not just "Lady..." or "....ettes"). My favorites included the Blue Demons and Lady Dees of Albia, the Comets and Belles of West Liberty, the Indians and Arrows of Wapello, the Indians and Maidens of Pocahontas, and the Trojans and Women of Troy of Iowa City West (Go Abba!). I found it interesting that Sibley-Ocheyedan needed to differentiate the Lady Generals from the Generals and that Council Bluffs, St. Albert boys are Falcons but girls are Saintes. The most original would have to go to the Stormin' Pointers of Center Point-Urbana, the Scattergood Crew of the Scattergood Friends School, the Polar Bears of DM North and the Burlington Notre Dame Nikes. The strangest is the Orabs of Sheldon (a contraction of Orange and Black) or the Midgets of Estherville-Lincoln Central. (why?)
Some fun possible matchups could include Generals vs Admirals, Maroons vs Scarlets, Comets vs Stars, Saints vs Devils (or Demons), Cowboys vs Indians, Irish vs Dutch, Danes vs Norse, or the Midgets vs Titans.

And of course there is only one Admirals.
Now, here is the challenge to each of you. In addition to your wonderful comments on this posting, please submit your COMPLETELY original mascot idea.

Girls State Basketball (part 2)

Mom & I zipped down to the Girls State championship games last Saturday and watched a GREAT 3A game between Norwalk and Ballard. It was very exciting and well-played by both teams. Ballard had the lead for the first half but Norwalk came out and in the third quarter, hit SIX three-pointers (5 by the All-Tournament captain Hannah Noel) to get themselves back in the game and take the lead. We were sitting on the Ballard side so we had to contain our whoops of joy but it was fun to watch! Norwalk gets most of its big guns back for next game, so watch out! The next game was the 4A matchup between Des Moines Roosevelt and Cedar Rapids Washington. This game was quite a contrast from the previous one. The 3A game had been a pleasure to watch, good ball movement, working the ball in, kicking out, team play, team defense, good shooting, nice post play. The 4A game was probably the most physical girls game I've seen. They would pass a couple times and then drive the hoop, even if their was nowhere to go. They'd get hacked or force a shot. Not nearly as fun to watch. But I was happy that a Des Moines public city school won the title, first time since 1979, I think!
Now I won't go into how much I don't care for the Wells Fargo arena or the experience there. I've already done that. But I do want to talk about Sawyer Brown. They came out and did a four song set in between games and what was wierd was, despite being able to have the macarena blaringly loud, I couldn't really make out Sawyer Brown's vocals. The All-State Drill team (all 225+ of them) performed to the last two number and they did a great job. I think Carla Offenburger had a good review of it here. (courtesy of Mom).
One of the cooler things of the night was talking to the two sets of couples on either side of us. One pair were forty's-ish and from Pleasantville, just there to enjoy the game. The other pair were probably 60's-ish and from Atlantic, again, just there to enjoy the games. They were very fun to talk to and loved asking Mom about Shenandoah people, etc. That's what Iowa is about, I think.

Fight, Fight, Fight for Iowa...

It was very fun to watch the Hawks win the conference tournament last Sunday, putting together three wins against solid teams. They are looking sharp heading into the NCAA tournament! I think their 3 seed is generous, I was expecting a 4, but I'll take it. How for to pick them in the brackets??? I'm working on my brackets today and I have A LOT of question marks.
And hopefully, Steve Alford will take the Indiana job and Iowa can get some one new in there.

13 March 2006

Natalie F'ing Portman

This SNL digital clip is hilarious. Natalie Portman is my queen. She is uber cool and I can't wait to see "V for Vendetta".

10 March 2006

Tie Knots

One fashion trend that I've been seeing more and more of is men tying their ties with these ridiculously large (wide and tall) knots. I've seen in on sportscasters and in some store windows. I CAN'T STAND IT. I was happy to see that at least Steven Colbert is still tying his tie properly.
Has anyone else witnessed these knots on steroids?

Declaring intent...

I've always wondered why a player would want to declare their intent so early. It is a cool story about this talented young athlete. It reminded me of Jeff Horner of Mason City, now playing his last few games at Iowa. He declared when he was either an 8th-grader or a freshman. Think of the recruiting visits you are passing up! I guess they are seeking some stability and peace of mind. Pretty incredible to think about a free ticket to college.

Girls State Basketball

We went down to the Girls State Basketball tournnament last night and watched the 3A semifinals. It had been a couple years since I'd been to the the tournament and I was very happy to make it down there. Also, this is the first year it is being held in the new Wells Fargo Arena instead of Veterans Memorial Auditorium.
Our tickets were $8, pretty resonable for two games. We found some decent seats on the Cedar Rapids Xavier side to watch them battle with the Norwalk Warriors. This game was a great contest. Both teams played very well and there were some great individual performances as well. Jennifer Potts for Xavier really led her team and kept them in it. Kelsey Cermack for Norwalk was a force. She's a six-footer and could post up or shoot from outside. In a great match, Xavier was always right there and fought hard but their 3-pointer at the buzzer to tie got blocked. In the second match, unranked Harlan tried to chop down the #1 and undefeated Ballard. The Harlan team was scrappy and didn't back down from a Ballard team with several girls around 6'. They made a run to go into the locker room for half trailing by only a point. The second half they couldn't match the inside force and when they would start to double down on those big girls, they'd kick it out of a three. Ballard's consistency helped them to pull away and win by twelve or so. So it is Ballard and Norwalk for the 3A title on Saturday, but the game I'd love to go to (instead of studying for a Saturday AM test) is Treynor versus Manila IKM for the 1A championship tonight. Those small schools have the most fun, the most magic. The whole town comes and this is the biggest event all year for them.
Also, worthy of mention are the two dance teams that performed at the halftimes. Cascade and Davenport Assumption put on some wonderful routines. Cascade came out in white wigs, white-face, and these awesomely intense silk jackets/kimono things that were teal and purple. and they had on knee-length pants, white tights and black shoes. Their routine was to "Amadeus" and was probably one of the best dance routines I've ever seen a high school team do. Assumption followed and I wasn't really impressed. But they more than made up for it in the next halftime when they did a very cool, hip-hop routine and Cascade did another excellent performance called "Shhh!". Great entertainment. There are some very talented, dedicated dancers in our great state.
Now, I need to share my thoughts and first impressions with the new Wells Fargo Arena. Most people know that I am very fond of Vets and it held many fun memories for me. They are still using the ticket office at the entrance of Vets and as I was there I was thinking about, going to State in '92 and all the hoopla and fun that went with that, getting in to the Aplington game for 54 seconds, getting a rebound and missing two free throws, coming up to watch games all the years since, the times when St. Patrick's has fallen during the Boys tournament and one kid shaved all his hair off except for a shamrock on top of his head, the frantic fun of the Wrestling tournament, seeing every event that came through Vets while I worked there in college (Shriner's Circus, Motocross, Monster Trucks, Car Shows, Home & Garden shows, Boat & RV show), working the basketball tournament and after everyone had left we would get out on the floor and play pickup. So, I had a lot of fun there. But I don't think that is why I was so negative on the new place. It just takes too much away from the game. During everytime out, there is some crazy silly music blaring, so you can't hear the cheerleaders. And the cheesy graphics and chicken dance, ooga-chakka, and macarena get old QUICK. They don't let the game be the sole focus. In Vets, the fans in the bleachers were closer to the action and the cheering was intense! In the Xavier game, during a timeout with 8 seconds left, they are playing some stupid 'choose a mouse' race video graphic. That is when the cheerleaders are supposed to be whipping their fans into a frenzy for the last ticks of the clock. Instead, everyone is standing still, gaping up at a jumbotron. And the advertising!!! Holy cow. There is advertising EVERYWHERE, even piped into the speakers in the bathroom, so I can hear about Wells Blue Bunny while I using the urinal. There are lights and video boards going 360 degrees around the upper level.
It is a nice, shiny new facility and the seats are comfy and it will be great for other things, but I miss the cozy intensity and gymnsaium-feel of the Barn.

09 March 2006

Money Pit (continued)

The never-ending saga that is my apartment building continued this week when I came home from work to find the driveway roped off behind caution tape. This follows several instances of having our water turned off, a non-working shower one morning, new plumbing being put in throught the whole place, and having to deal with the noise and mess of renovation of the other three apartments. After I parked on the street, the landlord came over and explained that the garage, and therefore the apartment above it that they have been renovating, had sunk six inches over time so they were going to have to 'prop it up'. I contained my laughter and nodded my head knowingly, with a surprised/interested raise of the eyebrows. So, he continued, the garages would be off limits for the next few weeks. There is one detached garage on the property and he would be making that available to either Dara or myself, we could fight it out. Since March was the last month I was going to be leasing a garage anyways, I said Dara could have it. The landlord then said that they would be using this opportunity to reseed the driveway (that's not a phrase you hear too often) with 'high-traffic' grass. The sod they laid down last fall had pretty much turned to a marshy quagmire with the rain the last couple weeks. That grass would take five weeks to take hold. I'm giving it 50/50 odds of making it.
So I've been parking on the street again lately and loving it. I don't have to mess with getting out of my car to open and close the garage door. Nor do I have to watch out for the low-lying end of the door track inside the garage, which conveniently hangs at forehead height and about a foot away when you step out of your vehicle. There's been frost on the windshield the last couple days, but it has been that great amount and temperature where you can just give it a few squirts of washer fluid and it's all clear. I love that! Plus, I'm saving a few $$$.

DeLay won't be DeNied

Tom DeLay won his Texas primary this week by 62%. I guess the indeitment, investigation for money laundering, and involvement with Jack Abramoff didn't have much impact on his constituents. After watching the Enron documentary and now seeing this, I question the morality of our society. I like to think that those immoral people are the small minority of our population, but even so, why would a majority of Republican voters choose to hopefully continue with this black-eye as their representative? The only solace is that NPR said that the Democratic opposition he will face in November is the best funded in the nation.

07 March 2006

OSCAR Recap

I enjoyed them as always but here are the few critical comments I have to make, I didn't think the red carpet coverage was very good this year. Maybe I wasn't watching the right channel or I wasn't watching at the right time, but they didn't seem to get many of the leading ladies. Usually there are so many different ladies and dresses that I can't keep track of them all. Here are the ones that stood out to me. Keira Knightley (add in the British accent and that is a quite a package.) Zhang Ziyi was beautiful but her dress didn't seem quite dressy enough. Reese Whitherspoon (not quite spectacular, but still very nice). Jessica Alba is too skinny. Naomi Watts's shredded, gauzy gown grew on me. She wore it well. And what's up with pockets? They were the surprise of the night, like three different people had them. What the heck was Charlize thinking with that bow? I loved the color of the dress, but that bow was as big as her head! She usually is impeccable, but I have to question that one. Felicity Huffman's dress was not cool or flattering, its crazy neckline and wierd mesh side vents gave it a futuristic costume look. I didn't care for Salma Hayek's dress either. The two straps over one shoulder gave her an odd, off-balance look. (sorry I'm too lazy and internet-deprived to link to pictures of the dresses this year. Also, you don't really notice how drastically different the tuxes are until you see them all in a row. I was watching the E! recap the next night and it was cool to see all the different lapel shapes and sizes, different materials, collars and ties. Larry McMurtray must have not got the memo.
Secondly, there was a long stretch there just after the midway point of the show where it really slowed down. It seemed like they went for like 45 minutes or so where they didn't give out any awards. But then when they started with the awards again, they tore through those last 3 or 4.
I think that I won the ballot-guessing contest. I guessed 12 out of 24 correctly, including Director, Picture, Actor, Actress and Song! (How could you not pick "It's Hard out Here for a Pimp"?) I like Reese's and Phillip Seymour Hoffman's speeches. And I thought the guy who won for Tsotsi did a good job with his speech.
And a thank you to E & K & kids for making the trek out and back on a Sunday. It was a fun day! I had a great time at the museum with the kids, sharing thoughts on each piece. I love the creativity of kids' minds. And they really were into the whole Oscar party idea, checking off bingo sheets, asking questions, filling out ballots and cutting out the masks Dara had found & printed.
Finally, I think "March of the Peppers" is the winner of the Oscar food award. Both for taste and for cleverness. Congrats!

03 March 2006

Day Tripper

I spent the day in Columbus on Thursday for a department meeting. It was a meeting set up to provide better communication and knowledge between work groups about who does what and what is getting worked on. It actually was a well planned, interesting and useful meeting of just the right length of time. And only one ice-breaker/team-building activity, which was actually fairly fun. (learned one person had been to a nudist colony.....too much information! and learned that my director has done Curling, which we discussed over lunch) The cuisine was better than average and free (herb & breadcrumb encrusted whitefish with a side of pasta with a light pesto, accompanied by stir-fried yellow squash, zucchini, and peppers.) Plenty of free snack food and drinks. Plus we got to take the corporate shuttle in and out so we didn't have to mess with the security or waiting around in the airport. I got to the airport at 7, left at 7:40 and with the hour time change, the meeting started at 11 and adjourned at 3:30. After gaining that hour back, I was home at 5. Pretty slick!

High School Basketball…

To fulfull one of the project requirements of my class, I had to go out and observe adolescents in a public environment. Of course, you have to partner up to do it, everything's got to be done in groups, which I hate. I decided to go to a high school basketball game and take notes on the kids in the crowd. Luckily, my partner was very cool and we had a good time watching the game and some of adolescents too. I hadn't been to a regular season high school basketball game in three or four years and I had forgotten how much fun they are. I has definitely whet my appetite for March Madness and the State basketball tournaments.
It was an interesting match-up, racially mixed, city-school versus all white, new suburb school. Waukee probably had double the crowd size and it was at Roosevelt. The Roosevelt Roughriders did some cool pre-game chants and warmed up to Ray Charles and some other rap songs. Waukee's student section, despite being twice the size of Roosevelt's, stood for the whole game but didn't have much pep or enthusiasm. Roosevelt's student body really got into it, which was easy to do since they took control of the game early on and were sitting pretty at half-time. My favorite cheer was, "You wear purple." Their student crowd leader (there's always one) was pretty funny and ended up getting kicked out by his principal and a cop. I didn't think he was too out of line, but I guess he came out a little to far onto the court and that was that. About midway through the third quarter Waukee found their stride and took complete control of the game. From that point on, Roosevelt's offense was nonexistent and Waukee was hitting everything. They turned their 39-22 half-time deficiet into a 63-52 win. The Waukee student section woke up and all of a sudden became wildly spirited and decided they could cheer too and erupted in "We wear purple" when they had the game in hand. It was amazing to see the shift on the floor and in the stands.
#50 for Roosevelt (Edin Suljic) was an stud, 18 points, 10 rebounds, at least 5 blocks. Too bad they couldn't get him involved at the end.
And the game only took one hour and ten minutes!