29 March 2007

It's all in how you read it...

So I'm sitting here, checking these review sheets that I came up with and used in my class today. We're going over contract law and towards the end of the assignment there is a question that read something like this: "Tara and Victor had a deal. Each week, Victor cleans Tara's house. In return, Tara pays Victor $50. For the past few weeks however, Victor missed a few things. One week he forgot to clean the oven; the next week he forgot to dust in the living room. Tara wasn't happy and deducted $10 from his fee." The questions the students had to answer were:
1. Was there a valid contract?
2. What should be done to fix the situation?

It took me three or four papers to realize why I wasn't understanding their answers. Most answered correctly that there indeed was a valid contract. The answer I was expecting for the second one was something along the lines of 'make the contract more specific' or 'list the jobs Victor has to do'. Instead of thinking only about contract law, my kids drew from their life experiences and stated "Victor should make sure everything is clean since he is being paid to clean the house" or "Victor should do the work expected of him."
I laughed at myself for not seeing that that was the much more logical answer.
I think I am going to love this job.

27 March 2007

Stormont Agreement in Northern Ireland

I don't have the time to fully expound on this topic, but I wanted to make sure I posted it. Last week Northern Ireland held elections and will be starting a representative assembly at Stormont in Belfast, beginning on May 8. This article gives a good brief history of Northern Ireland government. I was in Ireland when the Good Friday Agreement was passed, creating the first Stormont Assembly in 1998. It was an amazing and historic time to be there and have the opportunity to talk to not only different political and religious leaders but also to normal citizens and get a feeling of the people on the legislation.
This most recent agreement comes as a major about-face for the DUP's Ian Paisley, who has repeatedly and clearly stated that he would never sit down with Sinn Fein. But as part of the St. Andrew's Agreement, Sinn Fein agreed to support the new Police Service of Northern Ireland, and the DUP agreed to work toward a power sharing government. Rev. Paisley has held firm with his new direction, despite some notable defections from the party due to his willingness to meet with Sinn Fein.
Sinn Fein's statement.

100 Pictures

I have posted my 100th picture on my Flickr page. I have really enjoyed having a place to share my photos and would love to hear some feedback. If you could skim through the pictures and vote for your favorite(s) in the comments section. I know that I can probably only expect 5 or so comments, but for all those random readers that stumble on this blog, it would be great if you would leave your vote as well.

26 March 2007

Deer Gone Wild

FYI...I almost hit a deer tonight. In the parking lot of the YMCA! I was driving to work and had just turned in the driveway and it is about half a block long and goes over a little stream. I was sort of spacing off and already scouting for a parking spot when four deer zipped up out of the creek, across the road and back down on the other side probably ten feet in front of my car. It was so crazy, almost surreal. It made me think for a second before I realized and accepted what had just happened.

25 March 2007

March Madness

Not wanting to gloat, but just wanted to make note that I picked all four teams that have made it to the Final Four. I'm not sure I've ever done that before.

Kid Logic

With all the hours on the road that my spring break brought with it, I had lots of opportunities to listen to podcasts and music. I subscribe to This American Life from NPR. I get one a week but I only listen to them when I am on a long drive. I'd stockpiled seven of them on my iPod and got through them all over the course of the week. (As well as several ESPN Soccernet podcasts and a couple Dublin radio Off the Ball soccer shows). I highly recommend This American Life to anyone looking for a nice weekly story hour. I shared my favorite, "Fiasco", with stoppable already. Some shows are better than others, but it does a great job of bringing some interesting/funny/insightful facets of ordinary people to light.
I thought I'd try to share one moment that was particularly powerful. It was from "Kid Logic" and in one piece of dialogue a father is trying to explain about Jesus to his four-year old daughter. It was Christmas time and she was surprised and shocked to learn that the man on the crucifix was that same Jesus as the baby in the manger. She wanted to know why he was killed. The father explained that Jesus taught that everyone should be loved and treated with kindness, etc and that that idea scared some people so they killed him. The daughter thought about that a few moments and then seemed to accept his answer and moved on.
A few months later it was Martin Luther King day and the dad had taken the day off from work to spend it with his daughter, who did not have school. As they were eating lunch a clip of the "I Have a Dream" speech came on. The daughter asked who that person was and the father explained that he was actually the reason that she was out of school. That it was a celebration of the day he had been born. She asked why we celebrate his birthday and he explained that he had been a minister and had thought that everyone deserved kindness and equal rights. The daughter was silent for a moment while processing the father's words. Then she asked, "Did they kill him too?"
I actually rewound it and listened to that part agree. It gave me goosebumps! I probably didn't retell it very well and I'm sure it doesn't have the power as hearing the father tell it, but it was good and I wanted to share.
If you are wanting to check out This American Life, you can subscribe for free on iTunes, or buy any past episode on audible.com or check your local NPR listings to find out when it airs. Oh, and the premier episode of the TV version aired on March 22.

21 March 2007

Relaxing A.M.

I think one of the things I miss the most when I am away, is cooking in my kitchen. It is a very calming, enjoyable time. This morning I woke up, read for 15 minutes in bed, showered, then turned on some Sinatra and made a wonderful egg scramble with mushrooms, olives, chorizo and cheese. After enjoying my breakfast I sat by the kitchen window and had the sounds of a thunderstorm to serenade me as I sipped a cup of tea and read my book. Very nice.

20 March 2007

Spring Break!

So I'm on spring break this week. Bear with me through the lull in postings. Spent the first half in Chicago and looking forward to a few days back home to finish up the break.
I got the chance to see Gaelic Storm at the House of Blues which was a great treat. The House of Blues is such a fun and visually appealing venue to begin with. And then to get to see Gaelic Storm for the first time and they put on a very fun show. They played some traditional Irish songs "Leaving of Liverpool" and "Courting in the Kitchen" in addition to the songs off of the "Bring Yer Wellies" album that homebase shared with me. They played a long set, continuing it til just past midnight...long enough to raise a toast to ringing in St. Patrick's Day. Musically it was a very stimulating show. The violinist, the drummer and the piper/flutist were all spectacular and the vocalist was so entertaining. I was really hoping to have a chance to shoot some fun pictures in a cool venue, but I was disappointed to learn that the House of Blues does not allow cameras. I had to check my camera at the door. :(
I also checked out the downtown St. Patrick's Day parade, which was long and boring. Not nearly as much fun as the Southside parades I'd seen. I also had the chance to spend a morning at the Art Institute, just wandering through the rooms and exploring with no purpose or schedule. They had an exhibit entitled, Cezanne to Picasso, that focused on the life and work of the art dealer Ambroise Vollard. The exhibit was interesting, but I enjoyed the permanent collection more than anything else. I followed that up with some Michigan Avenue shopping. No purchases despite seeing a very cool hoodie at Urban Outfitters and a unbelievably cool track jacket and awesome pair of shelltoes at the adidas Originals store. Dinner at El Nandu capped off a very nice day.

13 March 2007

2006 Human Rights Reports

These reports on human rights in countries (not counties as the website mistakenly points out...proofread fellas, spellcheck doesn't catch everything) are pretty cool. LOTS of information. I would've liked to see some charts & graphs. And maybe an "At a Glance" sidebar with a letter grade or a score out of 10 at the top of each page. I haven't had much of a chance to explore this, but just wanted to share.

11 March 2007

Iron Chef: Spinach

What a fun time this weekend, even despite the unexpected early departure of the Omaha clan. We had Iron Chef at my Kitchen Stadium and the mystery ingredient was spinach! Participants came prepared and my refrigerator was exploding with the leafy greens. It was great having a theme to our cooking creations and we all took part in the rating process upon completion.
Leading off, we started with two entries from homebase; the first being Portabello Mushrooms w/spinach and manchengo made on the grill and the other being a pre-prepared Spinach Bread. I made my first offering which was a Spinach Artichoke Dip, which was later determined to be 'flop of the day'. I completely agreed with that title and in retrospect I am not sure why I even decided to make it, since I am not a big fan of artichoke dips. No worries, though, since the dishes kept coming. caboose presented the critic's choice of the day, a Spinach Bacon Quiche. After a bit of shopping we returned to enjoy homebase's Spinach Pie, which I loved, and stoppable's Chicken Florentine which enjoyed scintillating scores among the kids and came in a close second overall. It was a great time.
For evening entertainment, homebase and I headed to the Varsity theater for Miss Potter. The Varsity is my favorite theater in the city. I love that that it is independently-owned. I love that it gets foreign films, documentaries, and art-house-type films. I love that the theater is long and low, not seated at a steep incline like those new theaters. I love that the seat are broken-in, or broken-down, depending on the seat, and the armrests are so worn in they are permanently reflect the impression of thousands of elbows.
This afternoon, I made the other recipe I wanted to contribute to the spinachfest. Spinach Parmesan Orzo. It was simple and it turned out very nicely. Caboose and I both rated it highly (4.5). I hope to share it with everyone at the next gathering.

09 March 2007

Spring has Sprung?

Two events for yesterday made it feel like spring (besides the warmer weather). First, since it was warm and sunny, I decided that it would be a great night to begin the grilling season. I made hamburgers on the grill with tomato, onion, and cheese, all on a toasted bun. Wonderful. Caboose and I sided them with baked beans and baked Lay's chips. The other event came at 1:51 AM when I was awoke by a Harley at the intersection outside my window, revving his engine while he waited at a red light and then peeling out. Ah, the joys of spring and living down the street from a biker hangout bar.

06 March 2007

Coulter Continues

We are all aware by now of Ann Coulter's remark about John Edwards' sexuality. I chose not to merit her ignorance with any coverage on my blog. But then I read what was said about it last night on, of course, Fox News' Hannity & Colmes. Coulter stated that the word "isn't offensive to gays, it has nothing to do with gays. It's a schoolyard taunt."
Ugh, it makes me sick to my stomach. Everyone here in the schoolyard is working so that it won't be a taunt any more. Iowa governor Chet Culver just signed a bill yesterday that bans bullying and requires all schools to have a written anti-bullying and harassment including sexual orientation policy. As we work to get schools and a society that is more tolerant and open, we have to deal with people like Coulter fighting us every step of the way.

04 March 2007

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

I watched this 1939 patriotic classic tonight. I'd forgotten how good it was! I also thought it was odd that Jimmy Stewart's character has "Auld Lang Syne" sung to him in this movie, just like in "It's a Wonderful Life". Some of the trivia on imdb was just as impressive;
  • In 1942, when a ban on American films was imposed in German-occupied France, the title theaters chose Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) for their last movie before the ban went into effect. One Paris theater reportedly screened the film nonstop for thirty days prior to the ban.
  • One of the real senators from Montana walked out of the screening he attended in disgust.
  • They never mention what state Mr. Smith is from at any point in the movie.
  • Ranked #5 on the American Film Institute's 100 Most Inspiring Movies of All Time
  • Bitterly denounced by Washington insiders angry at its allegations of corruption, yet banned by fascist states in Europe who were afraid it showed that democracy works.
My favorite quotes:
You see, boys forget what their country means by just reading The Land of the Free in history books. Then they get to be men they forget even more. Liberty's too precious a thing to be buried in books, Miss Saunders. Men should hold it up in front of them every single day of their lives and say: I'm free to think and to speak. My ancestors couldn't, I can, and my children will. Boys ought to grow up remembering that.

I wouldn't give you two cents for all your fancy rules if, behind them, they didn't have a little bit of plain, ordinary, everyday kindness and a little looking out for the other fella, too.

There's no place out there for graft, or greed, or lies, or compromise with human liberties. And, uh, if that's what the grownups have done with this world that was given to them, then we'd better get those boys' camps started fast and see what the kids can do.

03 March 2007

Book It!...Bad?

This Susan Linn and the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood are complete jack-asses. They are attacking the Book It! program because it encourage poor nutrition habits. I can't see how rewarding children with one personal pan pizza a month is irresponsible or poor nutrition. I'm guessing Ms. Linn indulges in one meal a month that is does not uphold the Food Pyramid's rules. This article in the Sun-Times shares some of their views. And it education motivation-guru Alfie Kohn is right by her side, explaining how we are ruining children's internal motivation to read if we reward them with a pizza for reading books. They won't read for the pleasure of reading, they'll read for the pleasure of pizza. I say, regardless, kids who were not reading, are now reading...to the tune of 22 million kids a year and 200 million pizzas since the program's inception in 1985.

02 March 2007

Snow Day


"Snow day....school's closed and I can't wait; to go outside and I just might, get into a snowball fight!"

An early out yesterday enabled me to spend the afternoon at my favorite study spot, Grounds for Celebration, which kicked us out when they decided to close early at 6:00. I then walked next door and picked up a couple pizza's from my favorite Bosnian-run pizza place. As I got ready for bed, I speculated about the possibility of having a snow day on Friday, but I didn't think it would happen. So when I got up at 6:30 this morning and checked the internet and I was surprised and thrilled to see that a snow day had been declared. I promptly went back to bed for a few more winks. But after about an hour my excitement and eagerness to start my assualt on my 'to do' list overcame me. I put on my snowpants, snowboots, eskimo hat and snow gloves. I grabbed the shovel and attacked the untouched snow banks. I spent the next 45 minutes scooping our walk and paths to the cars and assisting a girl who backed into a drift and got stuck. It was a pretty decent work out since the snow was not light powder, but sloppy wet stuff. So then I came back inside and shed my layers and made a special treat for myself, Irish steel cut oatmeal. It is a working man's breakfast and I reasoned that I had earned it. After breakfast I started cleaning. Once I start cleaning, it seems like I just pick up speed. I really got after it today. I vacuumed, scrubbed the shower, cleaned the bathroom and toilet (yuck), did the dishes, and washed and dried four loads of laundry. And after I dropped and shattered a glass of cranberry juice, I figured I need to mop but then decided to scrub the kitchen floor instead. It hadn't been done since we moved in and, boy, did it need it. It was quite a tiring task but it looks so good now. I had been looking forward to going downtown and having lunch at Pablo's, but after driving downtown, meeting caboose and walking to Pablo's, I was heartbroken to see his gate pulled shut. We ended up at Burger King. But the Big Fish turned out to be better than I expected and we had some good convo so it wasn't a wasted trip. I grabbed a few groceries on the way home and then watched Babel while folding my mountain of laundry (fresh sheets!). For dinner, I whipped together a yummy tuna casserole to share with caboose and loiltes. Our entertainment for the evening was cancelled so here's to hoping that it let's up tomorrow!

01 March 2007

Iditarod

Saturday begins the 35th Iditarod and this will be the first time ever that I take an interest and follow the progress of it. That is because among the mushers will be Shenandoah native Matt Anderson. Check out his website, Iditarod Iowan, and wish him well on the 1,140 mile trek to Nome.