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.

My Daddy was My Hero

I read this article on cnn.com this morning about the memorial service for Steve Irwin, Crocodile Hunter. It sounded like an amazing display of emotion and love for a national and international icon, who was also a good husband and father. I wasn't going to blog it, but then I read this article that homebase sent to me and I thought it was too good not to share. The changing photos of the beautiful little daughter are beautiful and sad. Crikey.

50' dive for $20

When I read the headline on cnn.com, I thought a guy had done a 50 foot jump on a $20 bet. The article turned out to tell an even more hilarious story. A 47 year-old had the wind blow a $20 bill out of his hand and over the edge, so he dove down to get it and was then fished out by the authorities. Oh, and he already had a broken collarbone.

19 September 2006

Willie's weed

Willie Nelson's chronic habit has earned him another police misdemeanor. The comments quoted from Johnny Knoxville are worth reading.

Smoking + ADHD

250% increased chance of having ADHD if exposed to pre-natal smoking. That's horrible. With the increases in diagnoses of ADHD, we can expect to hear more about what environmental factors are causing it.

(thanks to homebase for referring this article to me.)

Apple innovates

Apple continues to bolster its edge over the competition in the digital music/media arena. The iPod nano is now thinner, with a brighter screen and available in colors (to appease those people who were missing the old iPod mini colors) and in a new 8 GB size. The iPod shuffle is now ridiculously small (0.55 oz.) and is in the form of a fun little clip. The flagship iPod has had a price drop & is now $249 for the 30 gig version. The new iTunes 7.0 software is SO much improved over the old version! It was in serious need of an update and it definitely got one. The Cover Flow and Automatic Album Art pieces are very cool. Unfortunately, until I get my new computer I can only admire it on caboose's computer.

Government jumps on the YouTube train

Way to go, Gov't! The "internets" can be used by you too!

Cola Challenge

The United Way fundraising drive is one of two big charity events of the year at my company and it is currently fully underway. Lots of little fun activities, raffles, bake sales, jeans for $1, etc. One event that we had on my floor was a Cola Taste Challenge. You were given dixie cups of Coke, Pepsi, RC and generic and you had to decide which one was which. You could choose regular or diet to test with. On the entry form you also had to specify what your favorite cola was and then list which ones you thought you would be able to guess correctly. I invited caboose up to my floor and we took the challenge together. Since the event was put on by our actuarial department, you know they were gonna crunch some numbers once they got all the data in. Two four pages documents were emailed out today with the charts showing all sorts of different breakdowns. Gotta love those number-people!
Caboose correctly spotted Pepsi and RC while I only recognized Coke. Only 2 people out of 53 correctly got all four. It was fun, though, and we thought maybe we should try something similar at our next get together down in Farragut.

18 September 2006

Tasty Travel Trajectories

CNN.com has this short list of food-related fun sites and since homebase has checked out Mt. Horeb and several of us have seen the Corn Palace, I thought I'd post it. I think the Salt Museum would be interesting, but the ketchup slide at the Hamburger Festival would have to take the cake.

What's Popeye gonna do?

Don't eat any spinach! Hy-Vee was one of the three brands listed as being effected by the recall, so don't eat any bagged or fresh spinach for the time being. They even sent out a corporate-wide email this morning warning people about the spinach - E. coli dangers.

15 September 2006

this is an audio post - click to play

9/11 Tribute in Chicago


A couple days late, but I just saw this picture and thought it was nice and wanted to share.

Barack Obama's African Trip

The Chicago Tribune has this very nice piece on Obama's trip and some nice photos to go with it. I haven't had a chance to go through it all yet, but I wanted to post it so I didn't forget.

There are good days

Wednesday was not a good day. I'd let myself get stressed and depressed and worried a lot about things that are out of my control. After a good talk with homebase on Wednesday evening, Thursday turned out MUCH better.
The weather was just perfect and the sun and warmth finally reappearing after what seemed like a week of grey and overcast was simply fantastic. The day just went well; good meetings were I contributed productively, it was a jeans day, I had on my funky green and red adidas (you can't be too down wearing shoes that funky), the library had the book on CD that I wanted, and I split a Pablo's burrito with caboose for lunch.
But what really set the day apart was my time at Gray's Lake. I was walking down the stairs to the wellness center when a co-worker commented about how nice it was and mentioned Gray's Lake. I had planned on going there and either walking or maybe jogging (depending on how ambitious I felt) after a quick workout in the weight room. She mentioned rollerblading and I instantly knew that that is what I was in the mood for. My rollerblades were in my trunk and a fun skate around the lake would be perfect and a gorgeous day. So I did an intense 30 minute lift and then made the short drive to the lake (probably only 2 or 3 minutes.) When I got there and strapped on the skates I hadn't worn in probably a couple years and headed around the lake, my surroundings just sort of overwhelmed me and I had such a great time that before I'd even made one loop (2 miles) I knew I'd have to blog about it.
There was a 70 year old man in Key bib overalls walking three small white poodles. A guy walking the entire loop backwards. A Hispanic dad biking it, followed by his two 6 or 7 year old sons on their bikes, taunting and joking between them in Spanish. A group of older women in their sun hats and large dark glasses going slowly but enjoying the weather like everyone else. A mother and father with their young daughter, out for a walk after school. There were moms pushing strollers. Guys jogging with their dogs. Pairs of friends, both men and women, meeting for a post-work walk to burn off stress and share a bitch session. Two middle aged guys on the only boat on the lake, eating strawberries and fishing. Two young women in tank tops on lawn chairs placed on the very edge of the water getting a last tan of the season. A girl on a Big Wheel. One solitary goose on the whole lake. A dad with his two sons walking out on the dock with their fishing poles. Hardcore runners with their shirts off and zero body fat. There were people in love and people by themselves and people with friends. I could gaze out on the lake with its ripples on one side and on the other was the Des Moines River, moving slow and looking like hot chocolate. The warmth of the sun on my skin and the feeling of the breeze in my face, the steady metronome of my skates on the blacktop, "KKhhhhrrr, KKhhhrrrr, KKhhrrrrr, KKhhrrrr" helped me to relax and unwind the tensions of a tough week. And all of these scenes soaked in the rich liquidy bronze saturation of a September sun with not a cloud in the blue sky.
I was in such a high-flying mood, that I tore out the end-page from a book I had in my car and sat there and listened to the wind rustling through the leaves and I captured all the sensory stimuli before I forgot them. It was so wonderful to remember that life really is good and there is happiness out there. I hope you all were able to enjoy the weather and the outdoors.

14 September 2006

Cooking

Yesterday, caboose stated that he wanted to make the Layered Bean Dip to bring in to work for the 'food day'/tailgate party for the Iowa vs Iowa State game. So we went to Dahl's and I gave him a list of ingredients and he picked them out. Then, back at the apartment, I stood back and let him do the assembling. It was fun to me to help build his culinary knowledge. I think he was quite proud of the completed product and rightly so, it did look good! I hope that it is received well today by his co-workers. I didn't feel like putting in any effort to what I was going to bring in so I just grabbed a box of Chips Ahoy.

11 September 2006

9/11 : Five Years Later


This is the "Healing Field" that was visited. The picture does not give an accurate depiction of the scale of the display. The flags wrap completely around the building.

The Weekend

Dinner @ Chili's with caboose & les on Friday night followed by a viewing of Swingers (which has lots of break-up advice in it.) Saturday I came in to work for an hour or so and put together my portfolio and student teaching application, then went and walked around the Farmer's Market for a hour. I picked up a great autumn bouquet and some Indian corn in preparation for homebase's visit the next day. After that, I had a bachelor party that pretty much was comprised of football watching and catching up with some college friends. While Iowa kept us all shaking our heads before finally pulling out a victory in double OT, Notre Dame steamrolled Penn State. I was very thankful to have caboose as my getaway car, enabling me to separate from the bachelor party before they got completely rowdy. We went to Jimmy John's and then home to watch the end of the Texas-Ohio State game before falling asleep.
Sunday, homebase pulled her usual trick of being on your block when you call her to check her progess on the drive. :) She brought pastries from La Mie and then we went to mass at St. John's. It was very nice to have someone to go to mass with and then we went and got groceries which were much needed at the apartment. Caboose was up by then and we all went out to SuperTarget and got hoodies to fight the cold and rain, then on to the mall with a stop in Panera for hot soup on a cold grey day. Barnes and Noble browsing was followed by a drive through a local "Healing Field" with 2,998 flags, one for each victim of 9/11. I was a nice tribute and quite well trafficed. After that, we made short stop at the local yarn shop and then went back to the apartment and just sat around a talked and watched some tv and relaxes.
After homebase left to start her drive home, caboose and I finished watching Enemy of the State on tv (great movie!) and then watched Glory Road.
Great fun activities on a very rainy weekend.

08 September 2006

Full Moon

Did anyone check out the awesome full moon last night? I know homebase did, because she called me to make sure I checked it out. We were driving back from Barnes and Nobles at that time and the moon was like a fat orangey-yellow light bulb, sitting low in the sky and easily viewed in the front windshield. The brightness probably can't match viewing it from the country, but it was still quite impressive.
I browsed around and found this interesting info in the failsafe source of all information, The Farmers Almanac. The full moon in each month has a different name from the Native Americans. This site also had some good info as does Wikipedia.

06 September 2006

I didn't know a day lasted this long...

As most of my readers already have heard, ellen ellen informed me on Monday over the phone that we should cease seeing each other. Our relationship had never been without bumps, we had worked through three previous 'breaks', but I thought that we had made some major improvements after the most recent break and that things were better than they had been for probably a year or so. Evidently that feeling was not shared. To have someone choose the absence of your company over the presence of it is never a good feeling. To have that someone be someone you love deeply makes it nearly sickening. She was my closest friend.
The days and hours since then have been difficult. To have your envisioned future plans completely scrapped and replaced by a gigantic question mark leads to a lot of self-questioning, stress and uncertainty. I appreciate all the helpful words and kindness from you all. I know I need to let go and begin the process of healing and moving on, but right now it seems almost unthinkable. I know that this isn't the end of my life, but it is an end to a major part of it. I have to hope that each day it will hurt a little less and that someday in the future I will be able to have feelings for another person.
So expect a lot of phone calls from me because, like I said, I don't have many people here to talk to. I always have my incredible family, though. Thanks.

PC World's best sites you haven't heard of

PC World has put out a list of its 99 Best Website You Haven't Heard Of. I just did a quick cursory skimming of the sites and their descriptions and there looks to be some good ones. I will try and review further later in the week and post my favorites in the comments section.

05 September 2006

Clouded Judgement

I saw this story in the Des Moines Register and thought it was definitely blog-worthy. The girl was turning herself in on a drunk driving charge from July. After smelling alcohol, the cops breath-a-lyzed her and she blew 0.15 (legal limit is 0.08 or 0.10). Oops!

Moon phases

After checking out the moon with homebase over the Labor Day weekend and discussing the moon phases, I have added a little piece to the blog showing some handy moon info. I think it is a nice addition.
While I was at the website setting it up, I also tried out this page where you can estimate your typing speed. I tried it four times to get a more accurate read. My scores ranged from 55 to 72.

01 September 2006

Happy Birthday!

Today my iPod, shamROCK, turns one year old. It has a wonderful year for the two of us. It seems like only yesterday that I was picking it up from the FedEx building and taking it home, slipping it into its new iSock that its grandmother had knit for it. Now it has grown to 2388 songs and 62 photos. It is just over half of its capacity size. It has rebounded from its near-death experience earlier this year and it stronger than ever.
I will be sharing a list of my most played songs shortly...