30 May 2007

Kindness & Goodwill

I don't know if I appreciate it more as I get older or if I encounter it less so it stands out more when I do, but random acts of kindness and thoughtfulness are one of the best things in the world. Yesterday I received two. First, when I was parallel parking my car downtown at a meter, the guy behind was pulling out. He pulled alongside my car and said, "Hey! There's 32 minutes still on my meter if you want it." So I reversed into his spot and sent him a prayer of thanks. Then, later when I was at the laundromat, I was working on my laptop with my headphones in and, unbeknownest to me, it started to rain...hard. A lady came up to me and said, "It's raining, in case your windows are down." And they were, so I made a dash out to close them. People like that make the difference. Thanks to all those out there extending that kindness.

Chicago / Memorial Day / Teacher Celebration

What a fun weekend!! First, a quick roadtrip to the Windy City. Left Friday morning with caboose and his college roomie, and arrived in Chicago in the early afternoon. We checked out the shopping on Belmont and then hit a thrift store where I got two short-sleeve collared shirts for $1.50. Beat that! We grabbed some food & drinks at the Village Tap in Roscoe Village. They had a diverse selection of beers on tap that I had not had before. Unfortunately, we came back to find a boot on our car. I never got booted while I lived there, and now they get me. Putting it behind me as quickly as possible (can't dwell on the unchangeable or the negative), we zipped over to Logan Square to park and take the train down to the House of Blues. The show was Lucky Boys Confusion and it was an excellent show. I haven't spent a whole show in the pit like that, or sweat that much at a show in many years. It was a great time. Those guys always put on a quality show. And I was able to show off Arturo's tacos to the guys when we stopped on our walk home for a quick round of tacos. The next morning, the requisiste breakfast at Cozy Corner got us right for the drive home.
Sunday brought optimal weather for a day at the park. We had Famous Dave's BBQ meat, veggies, fruit and cake. Games (quote matchup, soccer, blokus) were enjoyed, as was lounging in the sun. It was really a great time and the congratulations & gifts made it even more wonderful! Thanks to everyone for coming into town, for their support and for being so great. After everyone else left, homebase stuck around and we walked down to check out Beaverdale Books, which, even though it was almost an hour past its closing time, was opened up for us and we had a great time reviewing their selections. It's a great shop and their books are well-picked. Caboose then joined us for a walk to Snookie's Malt Shop and enjoying some ice cream treats outdoors. Not ready to stop, homebase and I checked out the new Gateway Market and then headed to the theater for Shrek the Third. Monday, we started it with a great walk around Gray's Lake. She headed home after that and I spent the rest of my Memorial Day relaxing, reading and cooking.

26 May 2007

Hope for the Future

With company visiting on Saturday night, Iwent back to Aryana, an new local Afghani restaurant. While we were there, two young girls, probably eleven or twelve years old, came in and sat down at a table near to ours. The restaurant is a small, intimitate operation where one guy does everything for all the tables. He came to their table and took their drink orders; both girls asked for a Sprite. Later, they each ordered this entrees and when the proprietor returned with their food, they were inquisitive and asked which was which. It was such a fun scene, these two young friends, no parents, choosing this tiny ethnic spot to have their girls' night out. And they behaved so well, mature and polite. They did get a case of the uncontrollable giggles towards the end, but that's pretty harmless. When they paid on their way out, the owner asked how their food was and they both said that they enjoyed and thought the naan especially was tasty. They thanked him several times and then remembered at the last moment to leave a tip. One friend whispered to the other, "You don't have any more dollars?" "No! I've got change though!" She proceed to add the contents of her change purse to the tip on the table and they made their way out. The two girls (and their parents) should be complimented on their respectful behavior.
Oh, and our food was excellent as well. My favorite dish is still the cauliflower with rice, but it was all yummy.

22 May 2007

All Songs Considered: Ben Gibbard

I just finished listening to the All Songs Considered podcast of Ben Gibbard's live show from the 930 club in Washington, D.C. All Songs Considered can often times have too many obscure artists and I often find myself skipping through it. But then every once in a while something comes along from then that reminds me why I stay subscribed to it. This was superb. Ben Gibbard is the lead singer for Postal Service and Death Cab for Cutie, two of my most favorite bands. He's doing a solo tour and he played a mix of grooves from both bands along with a few covers (including Nirvana's "All Apologies" on the piano). I highly recommend it.

Great Western Trail


Yesterday I had a meeting downtown and so I packed my bike up so as soon as I was finished I could hit the bike trail. I decided to check out the Great Western Trail. It runs from Water Works Park out to Martensdale. I was in the saddle by 10:00 and had my iPod strapped to the handlebars to provide the aural accompaniment. I was amazed by the amount and variety of nature I encountered. I felt motivated by the highly informational birdwatchers we encountered in Texas, who let us know that the specimen we were scrutinizing could not be the bee hummingbird, as it is only found in Cuba, in fact it was a hummingbird moth. So here is a list of what I saw: robins, red-winged blackbirds, a pigeon, a red-tailed hawk, cardinals, a bluejay, two baltimore orioles, goldfinches (oddly, only females although now I'm wondering if they were housefinches), an indigo bunting, and one bird that I didn't know with a black head and white breast. I was quite excited about the orioles and the indigo bunting. I actually braked and attempted to photograph them, with no luck. I also saw four deer, all of which were either right on the path or munching directly off to the side. One deer I braked to a halt not more than five yards from. She looked up from her lunch and regarded me a little, then turned and walked into the woods. I wanted to get a picture because I was so close it would've been amazing, but the deer was not up for it. I also saw a snake in the path, sunning itself. It wasn't a big one, but the brown body and brown squarish spots had me wondering what it was. After first panic and thinking it might've been a prairie rattlesnake, I now think it was either a bullsnake or a kingsnake. So it was an eventful ride to be sure. The trail was great, 16.5 miles and I took a ten minute rest at the city park in Martensdale and then hopped back on to do the 16.5 miles back. I took 1:15 each direction and at 33 miles, is my longest ride. My legs were pretty tired yesterday but I'm ready to go today! Stay tuned for the Big Creek Trail in the coming days.

21 May 2007

The Big D, and I do mean Dallas

I spent Saturday and Sunday on a weekend visit with my two brothers to my dad's place. Flying standby is always a dicey adventure but we all got down there on our original flights and only stoppable got bumped on the way back. He made it on the next flight out, so we all were back at a reasonable time on Sunday. After landing, rendez-vous'ing, and changing we made our grabbed some breakfast and then headed into Dallas to check out The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza. The museum is actually housed on the sixth floor of the building that was formerly the Texas School Book Depository. I didn't know what level of curation to expect from the museum but it really turned out to be a well-done exhibit and a wealth of information. They provided the right amount of background info, yet did a good job of keeping the focus of the exhibit on the assassination and the aftermath following it. They really had collected and presented an impressive amount of information. They had the video footage from all six networks that were filming the transfer of Lee Harvey Oswald, when he was shot and killed by Jack Ruby. After seeing the Zapruder footage and the movie JFK and all the pictures of Dealey Plaza, to actually be there and look out the window from the Depository and see just how close it was to the motorcade route. And then to stand behind the fence on the grassy knoll, it definitely shrinks the scope of it down. We spent a couple good hours in and around the museum and it was a highlight of the trip. There was a stand on the grassy knoll outside the museum, selling booklets of information that was not included in the museum's exhibit and focusing on facts that were explained by the Warren Commission, so stoppable and I split one to check out.
Overall, the exhibit was very thought provoking, but also depressing and, when the assassinations of RFK and MLK which were covered topically at the end, disheartening. I selected a small "Kennedy for President" pin for my bag as a small tribute. I also just changed the wallpaper on my laptop to the photo found at this link.
After the museum, we heading to Grapevine's Main Street Days. We checked out the street festival, including a demonstration by the ECHO lumberjack guys. I always like seeing that competition on ESPN so it was fun to see some ax throwing, log chopping, cookie cutting and log rolling in person. Festival food was in abundance and I was able to sample a corn dog, some steak on a stake, and some funnel cake. We finished the night off talking and hanging out with some pilot friends of my dad's.
Sunday consisted of dropping caboose of to catch the early flight home (he didn't want to relive his last standby experience), catching a little breakfast (some delicious migas at Denny's) and going to a nice walk through the park and by the lake. Following that was the culinary highlight of the trip...North Main BBQ. I ate there last time I was down and the memory of it hasn't faded so I was set on making a return visit. It didn't fail to live up to expectations. Sausage, pulled pork, ribs, chicken, brisket, beans, a very nice slaw, pickled okra and iced tea. With our bellies full, we made our way home to get changed and get to the airport. I got on my flight and we beat our estimated flight time of 1 hour 33 minutes when we made wheels down in Des Moines at 1:31. A good time and a fun way to pass the weekend.

15 May 2007

Mother's Day Weekend

A full day of activities were on the slate for Saturday, so I got on the road early, although not as early as I had hoped since I forgot my money until I stopped to get gas and had to come back to my apartment. After that it was a smooth ride out, listening to several soccer podcasts and some new music (The Chorus soundtrack). I got to Omaha just in time to jump in the car and head to NTW's soccer match. Due to the Brig playing at the same time, our cheering party had to split up. I got to see Brig play the week before so I chose to support NTW this time. It was a beautiful day and it was fun to see NTW and his pals battle it out. They had to ironman it since they didn't have any substitutes and it was a hot day. NTW was a hustler in the game and was also eager to pass out post-game treats since it was his week to bring them. I took some photos of the man in action, so check them out in flickr. After the game and a quick clean up, we went to the graduation reception of a cousin of mine and enjoyed some good food and some time with cousins, aunts & uncles. Of course, I had to pay a visit to Whole Foods; homebase and I picked up a few choice items to enjoy. A fun grill-out gave us all a chance to refuel and relax for a bit before capping the night off with a wonderful event, Emily's dance recital. This was actually my first dance recital that I could think of and I was impressed. In addition to the skilled and energetic dancers of all ages from toddler to high school/college, fun and diverse assortment of outfits, and a nice air-conditioned auditorium, it was the smooth and flawless organization of the whole event that really stood out. Emily performed three pieces, highlighting her tumbling/acro, tap and ballet skills. Her excitement and energy was barely containable.
I headed down home after the recital and the omaha gang came down the next day and we all enjoyed a Mother's Day full of fun, food and various household projects. And, I found two big school lockers being tossed out at my high school so with the help of homebase and stoppable and a red wagon, I was able to glean two of them and am storing them in homebase's garage until I can clean them up and buy a house to put them in. I'd been wanting lockers like that for a while now, so I was so happy to score a couple for free.
Finally, I drove back on Monday morning able to reflect on a fun weekend and listening to a couple episodes of This American Life. A great weekend with my great family.

11 May 2007

Motorcade!

As the picture below can attest, I was part of the motorcade responsible for transporting the Senator and his entourage last night. He landed at the airport ("wheels down" if you are in the know) at just before six, but I was there an hour before and got the chance to some of the prep going in to his visit. As everyone knows, he was granted Secret Service protection last week, so that made this visit even more exciting. I was the only civilian driver in the motorcade and I have to say it is pretty sweet when a light changes to yellow and you have lights and sirens come on in front and behind you and you just get to motor on through. It's quite a trip! As I drove home at the end of the night, I missed that escort.
What really stood out to me throughout the night was the overwhelming amount of thinking that goes into a simple campaign stop. Advance teams, site teams, Secret Service, local police, venue security, trip directors, campaign press secretaries, state press secretaries, volunteers. I was driving a vanful (yes, in a motorcade of troopers and black suburbans, I got to drive a tan minivan) of staffers so I got to hear the amount and depth of groupthink going into each decision along the way. I couldn't go into the event (at my alma mater) due to my motorcade responsibilities so I got the chance to chat with the advance team coordinator, a young Yale student. He was tasked with the job of stocking the Senator's room, and Snapple green tea citrus fusion was the drink of choice, so I'm on a mission today to find some and give it a try.
And to cap the night of fun off, I got a personal thank you and handshake (and photo) with the Senator. It was an incredibly fun and unique behind-the-scenes look at campaign life and logistics.

10 May 2007

The Audacity of Hoping for a Photo






















Running mates? Not this time. Story to follow...

Encyclopedia of Life

I have blogged about TEDtalks in the past and how cool I think that organization is. I got an email that they are driving a new project called the Encyclopedia of Life. Follow this link and watch the videa. It's two minutes long and is worth it. It looks like an amazing website and I think we need more of these free, educational resources available. I like that you can tailor the information level from novice to expert. I think NTW should be involved with this project.

09 May 2007

Water in the basement

A phone call at 3:30 am from homebase began a wild few days. I made an early morning trip home on Sunday to join her and stoppable in extracting the last of the stuff that had been residing in the basement. There was 11 inches of water to slosh through and water was still jetting in through the walls. A nine-hour power outage made sure the sump pump would not do its job, which led to the incredible amount of water backed up. Once the power came back on, the pump did a respectable job of catching up, and we were able to get the drain opened up. The water level is so high that the water continued to come in around the basement walls, but at a continually reduced rate, and the pump was able to keep up. Apart from the squee-geeing and moving of furniture, I was able to enjoy my time back home. Lunch buffet at the China Gate (delicious), running into a friend from high school and getting to catch up a bit, learning how to light the pilot light on a water heater, learning how the ball-float works in a basement drain, getting some health-insurance coverage for the next 3 months (to appease homebase), running into another high school friend, helping out homebase at her school and testing some kindergartners, working with the claims rep from my old employer, catching Superman 3 at the local theater, a great meal at the Mexican restaurant, driving gravel roads that I haven't been on since high school, remembering how much I enjoy the rural life.

Cubs take alcohol action

In the aftershock of last week's fatal accident involving St. Louis' pitcher, Josh Hancock, the Chicago Cubs have banned alcohol from the clubhouse, as well as from chartered flights back to Chicago. The idea is to not serve alcohol to the players when they will be very shortly getting in a vehicle. I think it is a bold move that sends a good, responsible message. The Cubs are not alone, they are following Baltimore and St. Louis.
It does seem to be a little bit of a knee-jerk reaction to an occurance that sounds like a personal problem of one player, not a wide-spread epidemic.

05 May 2007

Day Trippin' (Part 2)

Thursday I headed west for little day trip to the big O. Stoppable had started this day trip idea the week before and I thought that since I've dropped my class and had nothing better to do, why not hit the open road!? We had a lot of fun, shopping at Whole Foods (will Des Moines ever get one?), eating one of the best burgers ever at Cheeseburger in Paradise, shooting hoops in the backyard, and getting the chance to see the Brig's team do some damage on Our Lady of Lourdes. Oh, and there was some hilarity in the parking lot of Village Point, but the story really has to be told in person. I will summarize by saying that it involved a mistaken car identity, an occupant in said car, and stoppable aware of the events about to transpire the whole time. I stopped at the Barnes & Nobles in Council Bluffs on the way home for a panini and a hot tea to get warmed back up after the game. Lots of fun packed into a Thursday!

दक्षिणी मुर्घ & गुजेरती सेम


Chicken with Roasted Coriander in a Coconut Curry Sauce (Dakshini murgh) with Gujerati style Green Beans (Gujerati sem).
With no real plans last night, I pulled out Madhur Jaffrey's excellent cookbook and found a new recipe to try. I paired it with the green beans that I already had and needed to cook. The chicken curry was a lot of fun to prepare. I couldn't find the required coriander seed at my mediocre local grocer, so I took the opportunity to run down to the new Gateway Market that just opened in April. It looks like a decent option for specialty ingredients and there is a cafe attached to it, but it is a fraction of the size of a Whole Foods or even New Pioneer Co-op. But, it's better than nothing, I supposed. This is the first curry that I've made that did not include curry powder or curry paste. It was heavily spiced, though! Lots of roasted coriander, mustard seeds and peppercorns. It turned out beautifully and caboose was very complimentary. Noses were running and brows were prespiring, but it was definitely a hit.
And I'm trying out Blogger's transliteration Hindi tool. Since I don't know many Hindi words, I thought this would be a good post to use it on. ॐ

02 May 2007

Cheaters!!!

Two big stories of cheating this week from two esteemed institutions of higher education. 18 Air Force Academy cadets are out after sharing answers over the Internet and 34 Duke graduate students are facing discipline from the business school after collaborating on a take home test that was supposed to be done on your own.
Eyes on your own papers please!

Britney's Back

"She's back....She never left, but she's back" That quote is from the video clip of fans leaving the House of Blues in San Diego after Britney Spears' show. They waited up to three hours for it and paid $125. She performed four of her older songs and it lasted twenty minutes. Besides that, the comments were very positive (but what do you expect from the type of superfan that would shell out for a twenty minute show).

Add/Drop Date

Today marked the Add/Drop date for May Term. That is the date that you must drop your class by if you are going to do so, in order to get full refund and nothing on your transcript. I'd only gone to two days of Environmental Chemistry but I was definitely in over my head. Not having that college-level chemistry prerequisite made it very difficult to follow along. There was some interesting stuff, but I would need a more "consumer" level course. Or a class set up for non-majors. So, it looks like I'll be taking Intro to Geology later in the summer. Rocks, yippee! It was nice to be back on campus for May Term, though. Especially on Monday when it was 90+ degrees out. May Term is such a great time; taking a fun class in an area that you wouldn't usually venture into, done with class by noon, great weather, fun intramurals, unwinding and blowing off the stress from the first two semesters and counting down the 15 days of class until summer break. Obviously someone forgot to tell my professor about how that all is suppose to work. In my undergrad years, I took Vietnam in Film, Genealogy, Gender Role Development, and a Peace & Justice class in Ireland. Environmental Chemistry just doesn't fit in with that group.

01 May 2007

J-O-B

I met with HR today and got some things squared away and filled out some paperwork. I can now say that I have a job. It is great to get something locked up before summer gets here, now I can enjoy the summer without too much employment stress. I'll be teaching economics, an area that I have an "additional" endorsement in, as opposed to business, my major endorsement area, so that will take some getting used to. But it is in the district that I wanted to be in, and it is in a high school, so I'm happy. Only another four months without health insurance! :)
Thanks for everyones prayers, reassuring words, helpful advice along the way! Let the countdown to the first day of school begin. (115, by the way.)