28 November 2007

More Green News!

Heard something about this on the radio this morning...a wind turbine manufacturing plant is planning to move into one of the areas in Newton that was vacated when Maytag left. Yay!!

27 November 2007

Go Google!

More good news from Google. Leading the way, as always, this time pertaining to alternative energy. This is what we need to really push change, titans of industry leading the way and, hopefully, pulling us along.


"Go home!" That phrase can be heard multiple times every afternoon as the hall monitors work to exit all the students from the building. It's crazy, they may spend all day saying how much they hate the place, but when that final bell rings, we can't get some of them to leave!
I was working out and watching basketball practice in between my sets and I was sort of watching a student of mine who is not on the team but hung out at the practice the whole time. Helping put away balls, talking, walking around the gym, just sitting. It got me thinking. What if this idea of "home" that is so important to me, was not a place you looked forward to going? What if you preferred to not be there? What if anywhere was better than going home? What if there was no one there? What if you had to do everything to make it a home? What if the people who were there acted like they wish you weren't? It is a depressing chain of thoughts. Especially when I consider this particular student, who I see lots of potential in, but, as anyone could see, is in need of guidance, care, stability and discipline. And that's where I ended up. Maybe that is why she stays around the school so much. Maybe (hopefully) it is where she gets those needs met the most.

25 November 2007

Callahan Gets Dismissed

I don't think it will come as a surprise to many, but Nebraska fired their head coach, Bill Callahan over the weekend. ESPN showed some ugly statistics comparing Callahan's four years to the thirty years before them. His defense gave up 40+ points 10 times in four years, which had been done like 11 times in the thirty years before that. He had Nebraska's only two losing seasons since 1962. He lost three home games for the first time. "Callahan's four-year record was 27-22, with three of those wins coming against opponents in the division formerly known as I-AA. He was 15-18 against the Big 12, 0-7 against top 10 opponents and 3-10 against the Top 25. He was 0-17 in games in which the Huskers trailed at halftime." (cnnsi.com) Not the kind of numbers that will keep you at the helm of a program like Nebraska. Even though I am devoutly anti-Husker, it is more fun to dislike them when they are good, so I hope they get a quality coach this time around. I thought Tom Osborne's press conference was really good. You can check it out on YouTube in two parts (part 1, part 2).
A somewhat related interesting article about the rise of small college football in Nebraska and possible causes.


As I was driving back from a great Thanskgiving back home, a strange and disturbing thing occurred. I was on the interstate and was on the downward slope of a long, low hill, so I could see in front of me a ways. A couple of cars in front of me, I saw two good-sized deer shoot across the two lanes, just making it across. They were then in the grassy area in between the eastbound and westbound lanes of the interstate. One of the deer chose to keep sprinting and he slipped his way in between some traffic and made it to the far ditch safely. The other deer hesitated and apparently didn't like his odds continuing forward, so he turned around and start back towards me and my side of the interstate. I started braking but then he changed his mind again and did another 180 and took off to catch up with his partner. He was unable to elude the cars, though, and collided with the side of one. I didn't see whether he was able to hop up and scramble away or if the injuries sustained were more severe. I did say a quick prayer for the animal and the driver, though.

Road to South Africa

The qualifying groups for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa were picked yesterday. Ireland was drawn into a group with Italy, Montenegro, Bulgaria, and Cyprus. The winners of the all the groups advance to the actual finals in South Africa, while the runner-ups have to play each other, with the winners advancing and the losers staying home. The group doesn't look too bad with Italy being the only heavyweight and they aren't playing that well lately, but after considering some of Ireland's recent results, any opposition could cause problems. Seeing Cyprus in particular will make many people feel a little trepidation after past difficulties taking care of business against that nation. Hopefully, once the FAI select the new manager of the team, it will start them in the right direction! Even though it is over two years away, it's exciting to start the qualifying!

Staying at the YMCA

I like a lot of things about the YMCA and I thought this article about a man who's lived at the YMCA for over 50 years was pretty cool. It's nice when someone finds exactly where they feel at home.

Extra Special HS Football

Gapers Block mentioned this special report by the Chicago Tribune on Mooseheart football. It is a school outside of Aurora for children in need. The story runs the usual line of players battling adversity and striving to achieve their potential & beyond and wanting to leave their mark. But the added dynamic of what those kids have already had to overcome is compelling. Be sure to watch the video clip too. It is a nice interview with the quarterback. There is something very magical about high school football.

20 November 2007

Chapter Review Art!

This picture is from awhile ago, but I just ran across it again and wanted to share it. This is from one of my advanced classes. I divided up the sections of the chapter and put the students into small groups. They had to use their portion of the chalkboard to provide a summary of their respective pages. While most of the groups put up an outline or bullet points, this picture shows what one of the groups with an artist gift came up with. I love the merging of creative thinking while still providing strong examples of the economic ideas. This was to show the role of households in the circular flow of our economy. My favorite is the "I <3 utility" shirt. The goal of the household is to maximize their utility. :) So I had to snap a picture of this before I erased the board for the day.

Tegan & Sara: Video!

I found these video "chapters" that were designed to go along with Tegan & Sara's new cd "The Con." I've mentioned T&S before, they are twin sisters from Canada who put out some supergood music. I spent over an hour last night watching all the chapters. Once I started, I got hooked and couldn't stop. It's a fun look into how the recording and creation process goes for a band. And it is also just fun and entertaining. I recommend it for anyone into twins, Canadians, sisters, Chris Walla (he's a member of Death Cab for Cutie and helped produce "The Con"), Portland, or just good music in general.

Obama Visits Study Hall

I thought this was an interesting article telling about Obama's visit to a New Hampshire high school's study hall and talking to students. As always, I admire his honesty, candidness and ability to transform a personal experience into a valuable lesson. I love the way he can feel out a room and connect with it. I recently read an interview with George Clooney in Rolling Stone (I'm bringing it home for Thanksgiving so you all can read it :) and that is the the quality that he said he appreciates the most about Obama, his ability to read a room.

Sidenote: Less than 50 days til the Iowa caucus. It's fun to see Iowa in the headlines more and more often. And it's a dead heat among the top three Democrats, with Obama holding a narrow lead!

Onion on Darfur

Just the headline alone was enough to crack me up on this recent story in the Onion. "How Can We Raise Awareness in Darfur About How Much We Are Doing For Them?" The video piece that it goes with is funny, but the unexpected twist of the headline is great.

15 November 2007

The Onion takes aim at ND

The Onion had these two humorous articles regarding Notre Dame's struggles on the gridiron this season. "U.S. Military Wasting All Its Victories on Notre Dame" and "Notre Dame Football Team Having Worst Season Since Corinthians" Funny stuff.

14 November 2007

Crock-Pot Happiness

Today was crazy blustery, with a wind chill around freezing. In addition, I haven't been able to cook anywhere near as much as I used to and I really need my time in the kitchen as a stress reliever. So it was SO wonderful to come home from work this evening, coming in out of the cold and to be greeted when I opened the door by a wave of warmth (the heaters are working GOOD now!) and the delicious smell of a cooking meal. I had gotten up a little earlier this morning and chopped up some carrots, potatoes, onions, a green pepper and a couple bay leaves and put them into my brand new crock pot with a nice roast. homebase had been relentless in her sales pitch when we were at Target this weekend and it may turn out to be the best $19.99 I've spent in a while. The food was hot, savory and delicious. caboose even went back for seconds! I'll be looking around for some different ideas on what to cook up in the new addition to my kitchen!

13 November 2007

Budget Choices

This article from the Washington Post was disheartening to read. I don't pretend to be a Federal budget expert, but from the information in the article, it doesn't make me very happy. A veto for education, health care and other domestic spending, claiming 'too much pork' had been added on, yet signing to more (non-Middle East) military spending. I can't believe there isn't any pork in that military budget. This was the source of a lot of discussion on NPR this afternoon; how the cost of the war is becoming more and more of a major concern of the public. The war is estimated to cost the average family of four around $20,000.
Also, there is a new website available to those interested to researching what type of pork is being added to those bills and who is responsible for doing it. I'd love to poke around on that for a while. So of that earmarking just makes me sick.
Side story: In the rarely newsworthy world of bridge, the U.S. women's team has caused a publicity stir with an impromptu political display.

11 November 2007

Upgrade for the Firefly

This week the cycling shoes that I had ordered online arrived. [adidas girano's in black] And it worked out so I was able to take the Firefly down to Bike World to get the new pedals put on it to go with the shoes. I picked out the Shimano 105 spd-sl pedals. I was able to use the very thoughtful gift certificate from my birthday and the guys at Bike World also rewrapped the tape on my handlebars so it looks better than new. It was pretty brisk (like numb fingers and watering eyes) for a morning ride, even though it was probably not even a mile over there. I'm optimistically hoping for a couple of mild afternoons so I can take it out with the new components and test 'em out before the snow flies.

Test Kitchen!

homebase is an avid reader of the Ice Cream Ireland blog, and I check it on occasion. The author, Kieran Murphy, runs what looks like a very nice ice cream shop in Dingle, Ireland and the blog is packed with recipes, stories, anecdotes and lots of great photos. So when he asked for volunteers to 'test-kitchen' some of his recipes that he is considering including in his upcoming book, homebase was one of the first people to comment and enlist her support. And she quickly informed me that we would be doing some cooking when she visited this weekend. We made a trip to the grocery store after I got off work on Friday and after a little dinner, got to work in the kitchen.
First up, we made the Extreme Cocoa. We used Ghiradelli cocoa and it is a simple recipe but the end product was well received by the tasters. It was rich, velvety and intensely chocolate, but still very drinkable. The recipe made a nice amount; the six servings stated were probably right on, perfect to warm up a few friends or family after any outdoor winter activities. We were glad that we made the whipping cream, as we thought it really balanced things out nicely, plus it just looks so nice especially with the chocolate shavings we added.
Next, we worked on the Gourmet Chocolate Crust. Nestle's 60% dark chocolate is what we ended up using for this one. That, paired with butter was all that was called for, so again, the simplicity factor was very high which is nice when you want to try several recipes in a night. We had picked up some Breyer's Natural Vanilla ice cream earlier so we got out our small bowls and began applying the crust to the ice cream. Now, the old adage that too many cooks spoil the soup is just a wives' tale, isn't it?!? After the first sample was served, neither of us were perfectly content with it so we kept working at it, except with one of us scooping the ice cream and the other spooning the topping, neither of us thought the other person was doing their job exactly right so we had considerable 'sharing of advice' going on and someone may have considered rubbing someone's nose in the ice cream at one point. :) In the end we were laughing our heads off and we had a half dozen dishes of ice cream & topping on the counter, out of which I got maybe one decent picture. My opinion on this one (not sure if this feeling was shared by homebase) is that, to really be a 'crust' it would need to be just slightly thinner so it could pour easier and cover more of the ice cream before chilling into its shell. The flavor was great and it had no problem setting up just like it should, I just wanted it to spread a bit more before setting.
Lastly, we attempted the Strawberry & Sage ice cream. I would chalk this one up as a flop. The strawberries & sage are supposed to be cooked into a coulis, which I never felt got thick enough. It was very watery and when we folded it into the ice cream base, the watery coulis was too heavy so it just get separating. I did get a chance to sample it and it had good flavor and I think if it is sort of recombined when served it is still a nice dessert. The sage, even though there were only two leaves, definitely was tastable and I liked the combination of it with the strawberries. One last suggestion was noted by homebase, that it would be helpful to include an easy conversion for the metric measurements for those of us on the other side of the pond. More pictures can be found in my flickr.
Regardless, it was a very fun night spent in the kitchen, with some jazz on the stereo and caboose showing up towards the end to provide a third and unbiased opinion. I know for sure that these three will not be the end of our attempts at mimicking some of Ice Cream Ireland's wonderful treats.
[co-authored with homebase]

10 November 2007

Hawkeye Weekend Getaway

Just now getting around to documenting my trip last weekend. I was able to jet out of town "right" after work on Thursday since I had asked for Friday off. (I'm finding that, unlike at my cube farm job, it is impossible leave school when you plan to. There is always a student asking for make-up work, or copies to get made or attendance to log, etc.) I made the relatively quick drive to Iowa City where I met up with three good friends from college, two of which were former roommates. We were reuniting to see the Iowa Hawkeyes basketball team take on our alma mater in an exhibition game. It was kinda funny to think of our Division III school taking on the black & gold, even if it may be a rebuilding year with a new coach. The action of the hardwood was less than enthralling, but the seats were great (eighth row) and free and the company was top notch. It was great to have a night to catch up with everyone and relax, especially knowing that I didn't have to work the next day! The next morning did bring a super good start to my day. I was up before the sun, which is always a fun thing when you have a long drive planned. I swung by New Pioneer Co-op and picked up some favorite breakfast items, a chocolate-chip scone, a Naked juice, a Fage yogurt, and some tamarind almonds. It was a very nice drive to Chicago after that. Snacking off and on from my treats, watching the sun come up, listening to my podcasts (Soccernet, Off the Ball, This American Life) and thinking about my students who were stuck with a sub!
When I arrived in Chicago and had made my way to my old neighborhood, I parked & then headed back downtown with Amy to check out an exhibit called Sympathy for the Devil: Art & Rock & Roll since 1967, at the Museum of Contemporary Art. The exhibit was pretty out there and it reminded me why I usually prefer to go to the Art Institute. I didn't really know many of the bands that were involved. There were a lot from the emerging punk scenes and it was pretty out there. (There is one cool thing that I wish I would've seen before hand. They have put together a playlist for you to download to your iPod to listen to as you go through the exhibit from some of the bands that are covered.) Amy and I were undaunted, though, and stuck through all three floors of the exhibit and I'm glad we did because the fourth floor housed the highlights of the museum's permanent collection. There was a Warhol, a Basquiat, a Chuck Close, and then, to top off the mind-expanding visit, there was a room with two performance artists on the floor in a slow-motion make out session. It was pretty steamy stuff, but done in a smooth, fluid, ballet-like motion. I was almost embarrassed to be watching, but it was so crazy I couldn't stop! After all that culture, the materialism of Michigan Avenue's shops was calling our names so we grabbed a bite at Jake Melnick's and then hit up a few stores. For our evening outing, we were joined by Adriana & Dave and we hit up one of my most favorite Chicago eateries, Flat Top Grill. After a very fun meal, we went home with full bellies to relax, read magazines and just take it easy. The next morning we got our gameday supplies and apparel ready for the Iowa vs Northwestern game. We rode up to Evanston with some friends, one of whom happened to have grown up in Sidney, which is just a hilarious case of 'it's a small world'. Once we got there, parked and set up camp, I was able to appreciate our scenic viewpoint. You can check out my picture of it in flickr, but it probably doesn't do it justice. It was by far the best tailgating spot I've ever had. We were probably forty yards from the beach and the lake. And it was really pleasant weather so it made for very enjoyable tailgating, including some intense games of Bags. Cap it off with a come from behind Hawkeye victory and the day was one to be remembered. I made the drive home in time to stop by a going-away party back in Des Moines for a friend who is heading off for his second tour in Iraq, so it all worked out great. I packed in as much as I could and it was a stellar weekend.

07 November 2007

The Eagle is Grounded

It seems odd to me that the Air Force has decided to ground the entire fleet of F-15 Eagles after one in-flight structural failure. I think it makes sense to have them all checked over, but I would've thought they would already be doing that on a regular schedule. But I think closing the book on the career of this historic jet fighter seems like jumping the gun. Aren't we still flying A-10's, F-4's and F-5's, all of which were produced in the 70's or earlier?
Sidenote: It doesn't say that the $30million price tag of the F-15 was adjusted for inflation when they compare it to the $132 million cost of the new F-22. If you take inflation into account, the cost of F-15 in current dollars would be ~$103 million. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has a super slick inflation calculator, among other useful tidbits.

Baby Steps

As I was passing out a test today, I was reminding the class of my new way of handling those students that choose to start talking after they've finished their test. I give them one warning, then I just start deducting points from the test they just turned in. As I got the end of my statement, the student I was handing the tests to at that point said, "Man, you're learning to be a teacher....and it sucks!" I smiled.

Euro Mascots

I have a fondness for nicknames and mascots, as can be seen by a quick search of my past blogs. And I have a fondness for all things soccer/football related. Combining the two, though, is not a good idea in everyone's eyes. I thought this article from Soccernet was entertaining. I will say that I am a big fan of live animal mascots and not so much for dressed up people. But I do enjoy some of them (in particular, the ibis of Miami and Iowa's Herkey)!

05 November 2007

School Days Update

  • Students are funny sometimes. I was walking out of the building last week and one of my freshmen homeroom students was hanging out on the stoop. She said to me, "Mr. _, why you got on that little backpack?" (for the record, my backpack is of normal dimensions) I wasn't sure why she was asking so I just said, "To carry my books in." There was a short pause and then, "Oh", like it all made sense then. I bid her "have a good night" and that was that.
  • After the aforementioned success of the student who moved himself away from the distraction of his friends, two of those friends stopped by after school to pick up study guides, which is another step the trailblazing friend had done. On the one hand I like seeing that they recognize that these things have helped their friend do well, and they want to do well to. On the other hand, I wonder if they see the extra time and hard work that first friend did to turn around his scores. While the new seat and study guide helped, it was mainly due to focus and determination. We'll see what happens.
  • In observing and talking to students, I've seen some powerful examples of what a roller coaster of emotions high school and adolescent life can be. I've got a couple students who usually are out-going, happy, joking and while not top-level students, they always have something to offer. But every so often one or the other will come in and just space off, staring straight ahead, no smiles, and not talking to friends. When I ask them what's up or if everything's ok, they just shake their head. It's easier to fall into thinking that your class is the only thing on these kid's minds, but today's students have a lot of other things going on.
  • Last week I was writing on the white board when my cell phone rang. I usually switch it to vibrate during the day but had forgotten that day. The administration and teachers have been relentlessly and not always successfully fighting cell phone usage by students, so for mine to go off during class caused quite a stir. The second ring hadn't even started yet and students were sounding off and letting me have it. It definitely livened up the classroom a bit!
  • Discussion about labor, wages, wage discrimination, and inequality in pay between sexes and races led to some spirited and fun classes today. After looking at a chart showing the average salary for white males, white females, black males, black females, Hispanic males, Hispanic females, I asked the students to share why the inequality displayed was still possible after the Equal Pay Act, Civil Rights Act, and EEOC. After some good sharing about that, I then asked them, "What can YOU do to help change this chart?" When several students rightly brought up education, I asked the students if they knew the song "I Can" by Nas. (video/lyrics) Most of them had and as I helped them see the connection between the lyrics and what we were talking about, they laughed about their teacher talking about Nas in economics class. I call it making the material real and relevant.
  • The same material led to the most fun and inclusive in-class debate and discussion later in the day. Some comments about affirmative action got some students that aren't usually big talkers in class to share some of their thoughts. It was great to be able to let the students drive the discussion for once. And it's great for them to have to put their beliefs into a logical or persuasive statement, as well as, have to listen to their peers and then structure their response accordingly. Good life skills. I actually had several students ask if we could do a project or a formal debate on the topic!