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!