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 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!")


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.