30 September 2007

A Day in the Park

What a fun weekend! After putting the finishing touches on a fun homecoming week at school with a parade and pep rally (a little short on pep), caboose and I loaded up the car and headed for home. When we arrived homebase had some hot & delicious french dip sandwiches waiting for us. Then we walked down to the field and, after a little persuasive talk from caboose, we went in and checked out the homecoming action. I am happy to say that what I saw was pleasantly surprising. They had drawn a decent crowd, there was a good amount of kids on the sidelines, we had new, nice looking uniforms and helmet decals (although I will continue to be very anti-'teams using black as part of their uniform color if that is not one of their actual colors') and the band sounded as good as I can remember, ever. So maybe the ol' alma mater is not fading away as quickly as I'd thought. It was good to see lots of the friendly, familiar faces and I've got so many great memories there, that I always enjoy checking it out.
The next day we all had a rendez-vous planned with stoppable and the kids in the Nebraska City park. Despite high winds, we successfully got our charcoal going and had a very nice grilled lunch. The playing & games & contest & eating & relaxing & talking & throwing the football continued off and on for several hours. Some people (caboose & emily) chose to catch a little nap in the car. It was just such pleasant weather and so relaxing we just kept hanging out! Around 5 we moved the party down the road to a wonderful little privately-owned coffee shop and enjoyed some caffeine drinks, along with trivia questions/charade-type acting/humming of tunes. When finally left there, our stomachs had started to grow a little hungry so we ended our play-day with pizza at Godfathers. What a great day, spent with a great family. Check out lots of pictures from it in flickr.

27 September 2007


The last two nights I've been able to check out some of the extra-curricular stuff that helps makes a school the social experience that it is. Two nights ago I stopped back at school after working at the Y and watched the powder-puff game. I've never been to one before and I always wanted to be a part of one, but was never able to, since my HS never organized it. I'm not exactly sure what I was expecting, but the intensity and physicality of the competition took me by surprise. After seeing a girl flying out-of-bounds after a solid shove, I started to wonder why they were wearing flags. I was a little worried that someone might get hurt, but things got a little more under control and it was enjoyable to watch. I think I only saw 1 completed pass in the hour or so I was there. Definitely a running-oriented offense.
Tonight, after some encouragement by some students, I checked out a fundraiser for the drama dept. It was held at an outdoor ampitheather in a park and the weather was awesomely autumnly beautiful. There were a lot of good performances (songs, dances, monologues, skits, mimes, etc). A few students came by and chatted and persuaded me to visit the bake sale table, where I scored some scotcheroo's and some caramel brownies (one of my favorites!). It was very pleasant to be relaxing outside, watching kids perform, and not worrying about what I'm going to be doing tomorrow for once.

Fortune Cookie

I talked caboose into trying out a local chinese eatery that I'd been interested in sampling for quite a while. We will not be returning. Good chinese take-out is difficult to find. The search continues. It was the worst Kung Pao Chicken I've ever had. The sauce was very pale and clear with almost no flavor. The best part of the meal was the fortune cookie, and I am not a big fan of fortune cookies, so that should tell you something. Upon cracking the hard cookie shell and extracting the paper slip with my fortune:
"Your efforts in a critical area will soon be rewarded."
Sounds good to me!

The Learning Curve Continues...

There's so many stories at school, when I sit down to blog I can't pull out any particular one that stands out. My days are 7 periods of learning, listening, answering multiple questions at the same time, organizing papers/folders/books, shushing kids, giving stern looks, laughing, smiling, hoping to see improvement, being surprised when I do see improvement, eating school lunch (salads usually), panicing when I look at the clock and see there's ten minutes left in the period and I've done everything I had planned, constantly repeating myself, deciding (about twenty times a day) whether it's worth the time and effort to say something to a random student in the hall using inappropriate language or using their cell phone, relentlessly telling students to get their work turned in, making copies, checking papers, realizing that some kids don't want to learn, emailing parents, collapsing when the final bell rings.
Things have definitely improved as the week have gone by. I've been able to get to know some of the students, attend some activities to see them in situations outside of the classroom. My lesson planning has been streamlined and I'm constantly learning what works and what doesn't and trying to adjust accordingly. I enjoy what I do a little more each day.

25 September 2007

Gay-free Iran?

I've been so busy lately, I've definitely been slacking on keeping up with the news. I did get the chance to hear a short clip of Iran's Ahmadinejad speaking at Columbia University in NYC. His answer drew plenty of laughs and boo's. I'll let you watch it to fully enjoy.

23 September 2007

Bent Spear

caboose mentioned something to me recently about a US aircraft flying across the country while unknowingly carrying live nuclear warheads. This Washington Post article provides the incredible details of the bumbling. caboose and I were discussing it further and it led us to check out the term 'Bent Spear' and find its actual meaning and learned other variants for a nuclear accident, including Dull Sword, Broken Arrow, Faded Giant and Empty Quiver. We also enjoyed, in a scary way, this CNN page with a listing of some of the nuclear accidents over the past four decades. Click the link in the "Interactive Feature" section, then browse by decade. Pretty incredible.

Professional Development, Penguins & Parades

No kids on Friday and, boy, was that nice! Not that I don't like the kids, but having one less day to prepare for was super. Plus the professional development seminar was back at the H.S. that I student taught at so I had the chance to catch up with my old mentor teacher and other friends there. The speaker, Mark Prensky, was ok. He had some good points and basically said a lot of the same things that were covered in a great article in Time magazine back in December. And it got a little long. 45 minutes to an hour should've been his limit, when he pushed it to an hour and 45 minutes, he was just repeating himself at that point. His focus is changing how we try and teach these kids that are raised on digital interaction. My two questions for him would be:
1) How are we going to go about changing our teaching methods to embrace all this digital technology when most classrooms don't have computers in them? And the computer to student ratio is not even close to what it should be?
2) If the standard lecture-based instruction is so boring and unengaging to students, then why do you use that type of instruction for your two hour presentation? To use the words you say student think about teachers, "You made a powerpoint...big deal." Instead of talking about how amazing your educational games can be, why don't you show us? Why don't you let us learn it for ourselves, as you say students want to do? You know why? Because sometimes lecturing is the best way to communicate information. And because there aren't computers available for every person there. And because not everyone wants to teach themselves the material you are trying to get us to learn. So don't be hypocritical, if your teaching methods are truely great and you believe it is what we should be doing, then implement them in your own instruction.

Friday night I was able to catch up with three friends who went through the masters program with me and we were able to share experiences about how our years have started. Many frustrations were aired, stressed vented and laughed shared. It was some much needed decompression and there's always reassurance in hearing that others are going through the same things you are. I then went and met up with caboose to enjoy some live music, courtesy of Steph Taylor. She put on a good show and I was able to enjoy some of the best chai in Des Moines.
Saturday I got a bag of candy and walked with the Obama people in the Beaverdale Fall Parade. Seeing the excitement and happiness on all the kids' faces as I distributed my candy and Dum-Dums was worth it. But once my candy ran out, it was less enjoyable, so I bailed as the parade went by my apartment and just watched the rest of the parade go by. And I got my picture taken with the penguin mascot of Perkins Elementary! You can't pass up a chance to get your picture with your favorite animal, can you? It was a gorgeous day and I was able to check out the Isiserettes performing (top notch, as always), watch some sk8r kids testing out some boxes and rails set up in the street, and sample some jambalaya (tasty, but overpriced). And it gave me something fun to photograph, so check out the new pix in Flickr.

20 September 2007

Jewelry Rejuventation

The celtic cross necklace that I picked up in Long Grove this summer had tarnished extensively and so I emailed the good folks at the Irish Boutique and they told me of a polishing/cleaning cloth that they could send me for free and also of a cleaning liquid that they sold in their shop. I told them to send me the cloth and then I'd see if I needed the liquid. They ended up sending me both at no charge. I was so excited when I saw what the package was when I got home from work that I opened it right up and put it to work. I also had a claddaugh ring that was super-tarnished that I was hoping it might have an effect on. I've included some before & after pictures so you can see the top notch results. I was very happy with it and I'll be sending the Irish Boutique a thank you. [Side note: after reading about tarnishing on sterling silver, I found out the reason why it smelled like rotten eggs when I put the two pieces into the cleaner. It was actually removing sulfur from the metal.]

19 September 2007

Eventful Day

We had an assembly today with a pretty serious message. It was trying to get kids thinking about the choices they will have to make about alcohol and driving. Before taking my homeroom kids through it, we had a little 'pre-game' chat about behavior expectations [ok, yes, I did offer the reward of donuts on Monday if they showed exemplary behavior. I'm sure Alfie Kohn would have been disappointed.] and I have to say that I was very pleased with how they did. You could almost say proud. And the best part was seeing one student, who has been one of the bigger challenges, not only behaving superbly but also shushing two other students!
One of the few good 'takeaways' that I got from my first mentoring seminar was to be sure to celebrate, or at least, recognize the successes in your first year. It is a extremely tough, long, disheartening and stressful year, so you have got to be sure to take some satisfaction from the successes, no matter how small. So I'm trying to do that more.
I also showed my first video today. Being a traveling teacher, 'borrowing' five other teachers' classrooms, makes it a little trickier, but now that I've got the technology figured out in all the different rooms, I think it will be a nice addition to the curriculum. The kids seemed to like the change of pace. Plus, it was a nice break for me to not have to instruction the full period!

16 September 2007

Keep Choppin'

I've been loving the return of college football the past couple of weekends (despite the Hawkeye's flop this weekend and the stomach-turning debacle that is called the Notre Dame offense). So I was watching some of the games and also sort of thinking about my job and the daunting workload. Then I started thinking about Rutgers and the cool piece ESPN did on them for Gameday last season about the coach and how the players and completely bought into a saying he had delivered in an attempt to instill a mindset of perseverance and overcoming difficult situations. Keep choppin'. The NY Times have a nice article on how pervasive and adaptable the saying and mentality are. And that's just what I've gotta do. Things are tough? Kids aren't on task? No classroom? A mountain of papers to check? Endless units and chapters of new material to preview and pull into lesson plans? Don't get overwhelmed and try to think about tackling it all at once. If you do, it'll eat you up. Just get to chopping.

14 September 2007


I, like most people, have always enjoyed the feeling of freedom, release and carefree joy that come on a Friday afternoon. But as much as I enjoyed it when working at the cube farm, it doesn't even come close to the relief and giddiness felt as I succeed in reaching the culmination of another week in the education industry. Making it to the final bell on Friday afternoon should not be taken lightly, as I found out this afternoon. As I was sitting in my office, replying to parents' emails and getting ready to leave, another teacher came by and asked if I had heard that the teacher just down the hall from me had gone. I didn't know what he was talking about and he said, "Yep, turned in her resignation." Then it hit me that he was talking about the teacher who was probably my closest friend there. The realization took most of the Friday wind out of my sails. We had gotten to know each other when we did our student teaching at the same high school, in classrooms right next to each other last spring. Then we both landed jobs at the same school and my office ended up being right next to her room. I was stunned and saddened that she won't be there anymore. I don't know yet if she left to pursue a non-education position or if she just decided that this wasn't the right place for her. Regardless, I wish her the best. My hallway will be a little less jovial and pleasant now.

13 September 2007

Supply Delivery

Woo hoo! The purchases bought with my dept's annual budget arrived today. My department head dropped off my share this afternoon. Check it out! Exciting. (Pencil not included, I stole it from a student) I better be sure to make that box of paper clips last me the whole year.
The extra of amusement is that I actually had asked for overhead markers. :)
Second bit of amusement - how funny that 'trombone' is the French word for 'paperclip'!

12 September 2007

Still lots of juice in the batteries...

I worried for the first time tonight about a client having a heart attack on me while I am giving them wellness coaching. I went down to the front desk to meet them and was a little surprised that it was a guy who was at least 75 or 80. His wife had gone through the session the day before and now he was here to get oriented and checked out. I quickly learned that this guy still had plenty of gumption and was not going to have any problem with the workout. He got right down into the machines and went after it! I had to slow him down a couple times! Just goes to show there's no age limitations to enjoying the Y, and you can't judge a book by the cover.

Sooner-'Horns Tangle

Here's a little sample of the strength of feelings regarding the Oklahoma - Texas rivalry. You gotta read the link, I couldn't (and don't want to) try and put it in my own words. I'll just say that to call the guy's actions "good-natured ribbing" is simply not believable in any context.

11 September 2007

Dentist Demand

I was scheduled for a dentist appointment today, a routine check-up, but since I was required to go to a stupid mentoring meeting, I had to call to cancel. So I called over my lunch hour and said I wasn't going to be able to make it. The receptionist asked if I'd like to reschedule, I said sure. When asked what worked best for me, I stated probably a Tuesday or Thursday. She said how about Sept. 27 @ 1:15. I apologized and said I should've included that I would not be able to do anything before 3:15. I heard pages turning...and turning and then she said, "Hold on, I've got to get the book for '08." I think my jaw actually dropped a little at that. She came back, thanked me for holding and then there was more page turning. Finally she delivers the news, "March 18?" I actually laughed out loud and said, "Are you serious?" She didn't respond. So I merely said, "I have no idea if that will work or not, but put me down I guess." I figured, why not? If I didn't, I figured I'd be looking at 2009!

10 September 2007

Pizza Again!

I walked next door to the coffeeshop after I got done with my prep work tonight and ordered a large mushroom pizza to go from my favorite pizza shop, Beaverdale Pizza. It was only $7.99 and it made me realize that I don't think I've had pizza since last winter. Does anyone else not feel like pizza in the summer? It just seems like such a cold weather food. Oh, and it was delic!

09 September 2007

Used Books

I've been a fan of the 'Buy This Used' option on Amazon for quite a while and have had some success selling some things via the same method in the past. But I didn't have much luck selling the texts I used for my education classes. So when caboose brought back a bunch of his old texts and listed them, I thought it couldn't hurt to list mine again as well. After all, it doesn't cost anything. (Amazon takes a cut when you sell it, but it is free to list.) I was very happy by my good fortune in selling four books for $130! I had listed those same books 6-9 months earlier with no result. It's all about the timing, I guess. So not only do I have a few more dollars in my account, but someone else out there (in Maine, Arizona, New York and Georgia) was able to buy a book for cheaper than they could in the bookstore AND I no longer have to worry about that book taking up space on my shelf!

Can't trust Spellcheck

Funniest typo I saw while checking papers this weekend: pheasants, instead of peasants. :)

08 September 2007

It's legit!

Even though I was sure everything was in order, it's always reassuring to get that physical evidence that you've met all the criteria. (p.s. did you know that criterion is the singular form of criteria?)

06 September 2007

iPod News

The new iPod nano was unveiled yesterday (plays videos and its a fun new shape), along with next version of the iPod classic. I was just thinking the other day that they hadn't updated the full iPod in a while. The full size iPod now comes in 80 or 160 gb sizes and the interface has several new looks, bells and whistles (figuratively speaking) and still starts at a reasonable $249. Apple also has a new joint marketing scheme brewing with Starbucks (lol!). Now when you hear something playing as you are sipping your overpriced caffeine drink, you can pull it up on your iPhone or iPod touch (pretty much the iPhone without the phone part) and see what it is, what else they've been playing and, of course, buy it. They sure do stay on the cutting edge, don't they! Also, there were price drops on the shuffle (from $99 to $79) and on the iPhone (from $599 to $399). Some angry folks are complaining about the huge price drop on the iPhone and Jobs is saying he'll send them a check for half the difference to those that ran right out and bought one at the high price.

I'm old!!!

I was smacked in the face at school today with a sharp display of a generation gap. I was talking about the command or centrally-planned economic systems and the former Soviet Union is the example used by the textbook. They had a little “Case Study” on how Russia was doing with the transition from a command economy to more free enterprise economy since the dissolving of the USSR. I was enjoying the topic since I thought it was more relevant and ‘fresh’ compared to some of the economic principles we usually talk about and I think the students were a bit more interested in it than usual. So then, even though I wasn’t sure on the exact year and I figured it would be close to when they were born, I asked if any of them remembered anything about the fall of the Berlin Wall or the dissolving of the Soviet Union. Blank stares. They had seen video clips but both events happened before they could speak. [The wall came down in 1989 and the Soviet Union completely disbanded by 1991. Check out some cool video here and here.] Wow, it only took me 10 days to become that teacher who asks, “Do you guys remember where you were we landed on the moon?” Yikes. So then I had to laugh at myself a little. And I shared about my love for the Olympics and how the U.S. vs. U.S.S.R. used to be like the rivalry to end all rivalries, intense national pride, medal counts being watched by millions, the Cold War acted out on a basketball floor, etc. They all got a kick out of it and now will at least be able to make the connection when trying to remember an example of a command system- “Oh yeah, the Soviet Union & that teacher going on about the Olympics!”

04 September 2007

Labor Day & Bon Voyage, Abba!

To say I was ready for a weekend after my first full week as a teacher would be a massive understatement. It was a great couple of days, decompressing and catching up with family. It was fun to have everyone in town and staying at my place on Friday night. A nice meal at El Rodeo with homebase and caboose before the arrival of the Omaha gang. I was able to enjoy a few games of chess with NTW and stoppable (NTW didn't get the response from the crowd that he was hoping for when he announced that he beat me, but it was legit, I was not paying attention and he played two good games). An early morning departure got us on our way and allowed us to arrive in Iowa City by 8:15 and just in time for breaking up into cooking teams and shopping the Farmers Market for ingredients. Some of us followed that up with a trip out to Wilson's Orchard, beautiful weather and some delicious honeycrisp and Song of September apples. The standard entertainments filled up the afternoon (Prairie Lights, Iowa Book & Supply, Active Endeavors, Java House, Iowa football watching) with the addition of fun & games at the hotel pool. The lineup of food that we all produced for dinner was spectacular. My personal favorites were the Korean beef kabobs, the beets & chevre, and the potatoes & okra. It was all delic and preparing it all with everyone in the kitchen was a very fun time.
Sunday was a nice time with even more family there, playing games & learning a little about where Abba will be living for the next couple years. It was a great relaxed couple of days that allowed for plenty of time to talk with my cousins who I hadn't seen in quite a while and also have a chance to talk with Abba. I'm very excited for her and I will be praying that it all goes well for her and that she just has an ideal experience with the Peace Corps in Cameroon. She's very couragous to do this and I'm proud of her. I also wish her and Anne both the best as they prepare for the GRE's and LSAT's. Good luck!! Capping off a fun trip, I was able to talk about school, lesson planning, curriculum and classroom management issues with Connie for a hour or so. It is invaluable to be able to here from people with such experience. I know the items I took away will improve my teaching and my experience. Thanks!! And when we got back to town, homebase and I went out and enjoy a little sushi, which was a big hit with homebase.
Unfortunately, Monday morning I had to suffer through a bit of a headache in the morning. After a little purging and a nap, I was feeling better and able to tackle some of the mountain of things I needed to do for school. And quicker than I can believe, it was time to start a new week! Yikes, where does the time go!?!

03 September 2007

Happy 2nd Birthday, iPod!

shamROCK, my iPod, turned two over the weekend. I looked back at the blog posts of the day I got it and also of its first birthday. It still is one of the first things I grab as I head out the door whether it is for a bike ride, a workout, a long drive in the car, to get groceries or to do some work at the coffee shop. I now have 2,891 songs (up 503 songs from last year) and still growing, I've got 6.5 gb left to fill up! So bring on the new music suggestions. I did borrow some Miles Davis from Connie this weekend and Abba supplied me with a copy of the Once soundtrack which I can't wait to listen to, and homebase is raving about the new duet version of "In the Ghetto" with Elvis and Lisa Marie Presley.

Here's my current Top 50 Most Played Songs: (along with their gain/loss from last year.)
1. Bingo - M.I.A. (+9)
2. Walking With a Ghost - Tegan & Sara (+10)
3. Marching Bands of Manhattan - Death Cab for Cutie (-2)
4. I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor - Artic Monkeys
Hot Shot
5. Hands Down - Dashboard Confessional (+41)
6. Somewhere over the Rainbow - IZ (-2)
7. Numb/Encore - Linkin Park + Jay Z
8. Gold Mine Gutted - Bright Eyes (-3)
9. Summer Skin - Death Cab for Cutie (+11)
10. Grace of God Go I - Flogging Molly
11. F-Stop Blues - Jack Johnson (-2)
12. New Slang - The Shins (+31)
13. You Wouldn't Like Me - Tegan & Sara (-2)
14. Dishy - Candypants (-7)
15. Nerdy Boys - Candypants (+2)
16. Devil's Dance Floor - Flogging Molly (+21)
17. Jesus Walks - Kanye West
18. Hold On - Lovehammers (+30)
19. Love You From the Top - Lucky Boys Confusion (+19)
20. Chop 'em Down - Matisyahu (+25)
21. Everything is Alright - Motion City Soundtrack (-19)
22. Such Great Heights - Postal Service (+20)
23. Nothing Better - Postal Service
24. Kissing the Lipless - The Shins
25. The Denial Twist - The White Stripes (+8)
26. I Want a Pony - Candypants (-20)
27. What About Everything? - Carbonleaf (-19)
28. The Professor - Damien Rice (+16)
29. Brothers on a Hotel Bed - Death Cab for Cutie (-26)
30. Sugar, We're Goin' Down - Fall Out Boy (-9)
31. Radiation Vibe - Hem (+8)
32. Baba O'Reilly - Jordis Unga
33. WP - Matisyahu
34. Be Still My Heart - Postal Service (-3)
35. Speak Easy - 311 (-1)
36. Ain't No Sunshine - Bill Withers (+4)
37. Banquet - Bloc Party
38. Take It Easy (Love Nothing) - Bright Eyes (-4)
39. Mushaboom - Bright Eyes
40. The Recluse - Cursive
41. Photobooth - Death Cab for Cutie (-27)
42. Good Love - John Mayer
43. Sunshowers - M.I.A. (-2)
44. Fire of Heaven/Altar of Earth - Matisyahu
45. I Know I Know I Know - Tegan & Sara (-13)
46. Don't Tread on Me - 311 (-22)
47. Another Travelin' Song - Bright Eyes
48. Oh - Ciara (-21)
49. The Blower's Daughter - Damien Rice
50. The Wild Rover - Dropkick Murphy's