31 December 2008


So, yes, I did give in and read the Twilight series, much to the chagrin of my Harry Potter loving family. I will probably eventually give in and read that series too at some point...just not right now. I wasn't amazed by the Twilight books, but the story line was interesting enough to get me to read all four books. The endings of the middle two books didn't live up to what I was hoping for. But, I will say that I liked Breaking Dawn, the last book, quite a bit.
I'm not going to go into a more detailed review about what I didn't like about Bella's character and to a lesser extent Jacob's. A friend of mine had a spot-on review of the series on their blog. And then I saw this link today and it got me to laugh several times so I thought I'd share this script for Twilight the movie if it was 10 times shorter and 100 times more honest.

29 December 2008

Year-end Recap of Roscommon to Imogene

As I try to do at the end of every year, I have given my blog a little facelift. I got a new template and am using widgets for all my sidebar stuff instead of just html. I also switched to a three column template instead my old two-column. I like that it shortens up the vertical length of the sidebar and brings some of my stuff closer to the top of the page. And after messing with it quite a bit (and I'm not done yet) I like the new look for my reading/watching/picturing/listening info. I know there are a couple pieces of Spanish that I need to get taken out. Let me know if you have any other problems with anything.
And here is my summary of some of my favorite blog posts of the year. I realize this is mainly for myself, but I like the chance to re-read everything I wrote the whole year and let the memories flood back...
Hambone, Freshmen Basketball, Random Thoughts, How to judge a book, Umbrella, Obama Victory, Poorly Phrased, Schadenfreude, Show Me the Way, Dodgeball, Aloha, Parts of Speech, ACT, Hat Trick, Worthwhile, Worthwhile II, Build Up Don't Tear Down, Perspective, Management-speak, Personalization, Car Karma, HMN, Seattle, Car Swap, Breakfast Buddy, Sofa, Anxiety, Bad Dream, What's Good?, Gruwell & Opening Ceremonies, Splish Splash, Almost Famous, School Daze, Humble Pie, BBQ & Pumpkins, This I Believe, Homecoming Week, 68 & Sunny, Indian Summer Part 2, Why Students Fail, Misheard, Des Moines Top 10.

24 December 2008

2008 Book List

Here's a little recap of what I read this year and what I thought of it. Not exactly in order but I took a shot at it...

More Than a Dream
- G.R. Kearney
"How one school's vision is changing the world"
I really enjoyed this inside look at the effort and planning needing to start a new Jesuit school in Chicago, get & keep funding, develop curriculum, create a new 'work' idea, select a faculty, keep it all going and formalize the whole ideal so the Cristo Rey schools can be franchised out. Read my review HERE.

Crime & Punishment - Dostoyevsky
"in order to get to know anyone, it is necessary to approach them cautiously and by stages."
That's the same way I made my way through this book. It was good and I'm glad to have read it. Check my previous posts on my
favorite quotes from the book and vocab I didn't know.

The End of America
-Naomi Wolf
"A letter of warning to a young patriot"
This book shines a light on our freedoms and the gradual decaying of them that has been going on. It makes some very interesting comparisons and, while maybe a bit over-the-top in places, educates a new generation of patriots to be vigilant and aware of their rights.

Animal Farm - Orwell
This was a re-read, but it'd been several years since my first time through it. I took it with me to Seattle and it was a great traveling read. It followed up 'The End of America' very nicely!

Naked Economics - Wheelan (half-done)
"Undressing the dismal science"
I only made it halfway through this one this summer before I was enticed to move on to a different book, but it is very good. I've really come to enjoy economics and this book is humorous, interesting and very educational. Great explanations and no graphs, no formulas.

This I Believe - edited by Allison and Gediman
"Personal philosophies of remarkable men and women"
This was a good compilation of personal statements that were the perfect length for reading aloud and sharing. Some were definitely better than others, and I marked them in the table of contents so I can return to them again later without trudging through the boring ones.

A Long Way Gone
- Ishmael Beah
"Memoirs of a boy soldier"
Although a few parts of the story seemed to drag on, the overall story is incredible. Awful, gut-wrenching and so far from my own teen experiences it was hard to fathom. I've had several students who were refugees from Sierre Leone, so it was educational for me to learn a bit more.

Me Talk Pretty One Day - David Sedaris
It's extra fun to read his stories after hearing him speak. It adds an extra layer of enjoyment to it. This is a great collection of hilarious tales.

When You Are Engulfed in Flames - David Sedaris
This one took a while to get going for me. He's a bit older and I didn't get into the stories as much, until the end. The last third of the book or so was all about his experiences in Japan and quitting smoking. That was the best part in my opinion.

The Killing of Robert F. Kennedy - Moldea
"An investigation of motive, means and opportunity"
Thorough and dense, it wasn't a fast read, but it was very informational and filled in a lot of holes in what I knew about this tragedy.

The Twilight Series (Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, Breaking Dawn) - Stephanie Meyer
I haven't finished book four yet, so I can't speak about the whole series since I don't know how it all will finally play out (if it ever does). I will have to write a more detailed review once I finish. It's been a fun, fast read but one whose writing and Bella's character left me frustrated at times.

For a look at past Reading Lists: 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004

19 December 2008


I saw this great NY Times article yesterday but didn't have time to fully read and appreciate it 'til today (thanks to the snow day! what a great way to start winter break!). "Butter Holds the Secret to Cookies that Sing" is a fairly presumptuous and cumbersome title, and I had definitely heard that butter was critically important to baking, but I didn't really think about it in detail until after reading this. There is lots of good information. I've listed a few of the gems I gleaned from it below, but my favorite quote was the very last line in the article. “I can tell a margarine cookie as soon as I bite into it...And then I put it right down.” I think it sounds like someone I know...
  • For mixing and creaming, butter should be about 65 degrees: cold to the touch but warm enough to spread. Just three degrees warmer, at 68 degrees, it begins to melt.
  • Warm butter can be rechilled and refrozen, but once the butterfat gets warm, the emulsion breaks, never to return.
  • Butter should be creamed — beaten to soften it and to incorporate air — for at least three minutes. When you cream butter, you’re not just waiting for it to get soft, you’re beating air bubbles into it. When sugar is added, it makes more air pockets.
  • The best way to get frozen or refrigerated butter ready for creaming is to cut it into chunks. (Never use a microwave: it will melt it, even though it will look solid.) When the butter is still cold, but takes the imprint of a finger when gently pressed, it is ready to be creamed.When using a stand mixer, attach the paddle blade, and never go above medium speed, or the butter will heat up.
  • Baking soda and baking powder can’t make air bubbles, they only expand the ones that are already there.

My Favorite Music of 2008

As far as music goes, this is probably my favorite time of the year. Not because of the unrestrained appreciation of Christmas music (which is great), but because of all the year-end "Best of" lists. I love the chance to read about and listen to new things, see where my favorites ranked on others lists and put together a brief summary of my year of listening.
I love the NPR All Songs Considered "The Year in Music" list. Their annual podcast is an hour or so of listening heaven for me. And be sure to check out their listeners favorites too. I usually align more closely with the listeners than with Bob Boilen and his crew of critics. Their elitist, cooler-than-thou attitudes can get to be hilariously irrating at times, but I never tire of listening.
Rolling Stone has their list of Top 50 Albums and Top 50 Songs to peruse as well. "Beard rock" seems to be the buzz term of the year. I've read it numerous times already from multiple sources. After looking over the lists and giving some listens, I'm most interested in Fleet Foxes, Taylor Swift's new album and Ra Ra Riot. In addition, I still have the Racounteurs, and the Black Keys albums to investigate, thanks to caboose.

I don't listen to enough complete albums to really come up with a legit top 10, so I'm just putting together a list of "Music Favorites of 2008'

First off, Albums:

1. Girltalk - "Feed the Animals"
I don't think it is possible to turn this non-stop party on and not get excited and wanna shimmy or shake something. Pay whatever you want and download it. You won't regret this mash-up. There are so many hilarious pairings of different artists and genres (like Metallica meets "Lip Gloss"), you can't wait to see what he's gonna put together next. I've got tickets to see him live in January!

2. Vampire Weekend - "Vampire Weekend"
This album is FULL of infectious sunny preppy songs that will have you singing along and feeling like you are putting on your loafers and heading to a clam bake. I love this record. Sadly, the only song I don't like is the one that Rolling Stone chose to highlight.

3. Santogold - "Santogold"
Big, grimey, static beats & sounds make you wanna head out to some small dark club or basement party and get sweaty. Her lifted, brassy vocals cut through all of it and pack a punch. There are a couple of remixes that are killer stuff.

4. She & Him - "Vol. 1"
I'm a sucker for strong female vocals and this first album from Zoey Deschanel and M. Ward definitely is the bee's knees for me.

5 Juno - soundtrack
This is such a fun mix of quirky funny things from Kimya Dawson and the Moldy Peaches, alongside a fun collection of eclectic other tracks. All lot of good stuff on this one and not a one that I had heard of before.

6. Coldplay - "Viva la Vida"
I only heard two songs and up to this point have been anti-Coldplay. I was convert on the strength of those two tracks. Check out the title track and "Violet Hill" and see if you aren't impressed. The songs are massive sounding and the lyrics are great.

* Flobots - "Fight With Tools" (released in late '07, but I didn't hear it til this year)
SO good and SO timely. When I listen to this, I think about this Year of Obama and what we achieved and it gives me goosebumps.

* Yelle - "Pop Up" (another late '07 release, a French import)
I took three years of French and can't understand a single phrase. I was turned on to this artist by a student last year and, boy, she was right on. Fun fun stuff. It was one of a handful of songs I brought in to my classroom this year for students to use in their movies. There was a lot of skepticism when they found out it was in French, but by the end of the week, I was hearing it used in movies right and left. Broadening horizons, one song at a time. :)

Other things that agreed with my ears this year:

caboose's Jimi Hendrix primer
After checking out the exhibit while in Seattle, caboose expanded my Hendrix knowledge and I loved it.
Esau Mwamwaya & Radioclit - "The Very Best"
This is a mixtape and it is a free download. The guy is from Malawi and this is worth checking out.
Atoms - Cashes Rivers
Great song and the new version is great. That solo riff is beast, caboose! The whole EP "The Trees Will Clap For Us" is quality stuff. Nice work.
Only a Song - Ben Sollee & Jim James
Another great one that makes me think about change and Obama. Quality lyrics.
Sweet Potato - Sia
Sweetly sung lyrics and a great little song.
Portland, Oregon - Loretta Lynn & Jack White
Wow, GREAT song. Despite the 1:30 intro, which I usually can't stand, this one draws me in everytime and makes me want to order a sloe gin fizz (my first!). Thanks for the tip Sarah.
Acid Tongue - Jenny Lewis
Just the single. The rest of the album failed to impress.
A Form to Accommodate the Mess - Everything Absent Or Distorted (A Love Story)
Just got this one, but I can tell I am gonna like it.
Stuff Like That There - Kelly Clarkson

Read about this perforance she did on American Idol in Rolling Stone or something so I had to go find it on YouTube...and then convert it and get it on my iPod for repeat listening. Serious pipes and fun boogie-woogie soong.
You, Me and the Bourgeoisie - The Submarines
The only time I've ever been digging a song before it appeared in an iPod commercial and blew up.
Hip-hop Saved My Life - Lupe Fiasco
It's such a story-telling song and so positive and catchy.
It's a Hit - Rilo Kiley
Great song, still unsure about the rest of the album.

17 December 2008

Heartland in the Cabinet

Two big appointments with Midwest connections this week to Obama's administration. Arne Duncan, CEO of Chicago Public Schools for the last seven years, will be the secretary of education and former Governor of Iowa, Tom Vilsack, will be the secretary of agriculture. Yay for the Midwest!

Person of the Year

While it is not a surprise, it is still very cool. President-elect Obama is TIME magazine's person of the year. I haven't read the main article yet, or seen the actual magazine, but I'll definitely be picking one up when I do see it. One other article in that same issue that I did read, and was very good, was one written by Barack's brother-in-law. It's got some great insight into Obama's on-court persona. My favorite quote is this, "What does Barack's game say about the man, about the way he's going to lead this country through these very trying times? Well, he's competitive yet inclusive. He's unselfish, which, where I come from, is the greatest compliment you can give both a player and a leader. And he's consistent."

15 December 2008

Today's Big Thing

I learned of this website through a music blog I read. They were impressed (and rightly so) with this great video of a totally acoustic and unplugged perfomance by Lykke Li and Bon Iver. Definitely worth watching, even if you don't like or know those two artists. Then I clicked over to see the Entertainment Big Thing and totally loved this 2 minute video of 40 Inspirational movie speeches masterfully edited together. It's funny and inspirational and great to see how many of the movies you recognize. I watched it twice and counted something in the low 20's.

14 December 2008

Game Weekend

We had a wonderful time hosting our annual game weekend. Check out the set of pictures. More to come when I get a sec. Thanks for everyone who made the drive and participated!

12 December 2008

Why Students Fail

Reason #1 - They are not prepared to succeed. I am giving a test in my first block today. Out of fourteen students present (the absenteeism problem we'll leave for another blog), six asked for a pencil when I handed out the test. How can you succeed if you go to class with no pen or paper?

Reason #2 - Apathy & Attitude. Too many students are have either resigned themselves to poor performance or don't care about doing well. Before the test I give them a few minutes with the book for last minute cramming. I realize this isn't a great learning strategy, but I do whatever I can to boost their grades. After they close up their books and before I pass out the tests and ask if anyone has any questions on anything. I'll re-explain or answer any question. Free answers!... No one says a word. Now, if I've already said, "You need to know the types of credit," and you don't know them, why not say, "Hey what are the three types of credit again?" Nope. Nothing. Some of these kids have already failed in their minds before the test is even passed out.

08 December 2008

How could I forget?

So we're about half-way through the last block of the day today and I've got a room full of freshmen working on random computer projects. I'm making my rounds, answering questions, helping kids, commenting on work, etc. This one girl is trying to finish up her movie and is asking how to put music on it and so I'm answering her questions as she asks them, rapidfire style. She is skimming down the list of mp3's we've got in a folder for kids to use and she sees the song by Taylor Swift and asks, "Hey, What's Our Song?" I reply, "Aww, I didn't know we had a song, Jarixa!" It took a half a second for them to catch it, but it got quite a few laughs and hoots. :)

Mini Processor Paint Job

My appliances must have yellowed from sitting on the counter in the sunlight for so long, or maybe my eyes are just now more finely attuned to the discoloring. Either way, the garish yellow on my mini processor looked like it needed some fixin' after seeing how well my blender turned out. I got a little more daring with this one but I'm still pretty happy with the results. You can see a couple more views in my flickr

Micheal Stone Sentenced

Sixteen years isn't nearly long enough for this warped and hateful individual. Yet another reason why we just need time to pass and a new generation to come along. And although reconciliation is difficult after living through the worst of the Troubles, behavior like this is a reminder why we need to push forward with making amends.
Michael Stone is the individual behind the Milltown Cemetery attack. The only reason he was out of prison was due to the clemency portion of the Good Friday Peace Accords. While I had read about this event before, I hadn't followed it up and read about the preceding (Operation Flavius in Gibraltar) and following events (Corporals Killings).

Lamest Duck?

I browsed through these photos from the NY Daily News on the 'W' era and had to share. Some of them are pretty hilarious. My favorites are 11, 17 and 25.

07 December 2008


I am not an avid follower of German football, but I read and pay attention to know the four or five teams that usually position themselves at the top of the table and play in the Champions League and UEFA Cup. This year I hadn't checked on the Bundesliga (the top flight for German clubs) at all, so when I was driving home from school last Friday, I was happy to hear a piece on NPR's Marketplace about this upstart team, Hoffenheim, that had not only earned promotion to the Bundesliga this season, but was at the top of the standings after 16 games! This is a team from a town of ~3500 people. They are playing Munich, Berlin, Frankfurt, Cologne, and Stuttgart. A billionaire who played for the team in the 1950's, and now is co-owner of global software giant SAP, has funded this makeover and is building a 30,000 seat stadium for the team. I like that his attention has been well-thought and not focused on immediate, and usually brief success. He talks about moral principles and has developed an attacking style of football in a league not known for that. I couldn't find a link to the NPR story, but I'll add it later if I can find it.

A Sign?

What does it mean when, after putting off your work for an hour or so while you read & browse online, you pick up your pen to start to actually accomplish something and in the first sentence you write, your pen runs out of ink? I mean completely out.
Maybe these papers didn't need to be graded. :)

From 10 to 60

I found this story while browsing blogs the other day. Using the same model and no digital alterations, the pictures attempt to change her look from age 10, to 20, 30, 40, 50 and 60. It's pretty convincing!

Hawkeye Wrestling

In case you missed the live coverage on IPTV last night, the Hawkeyes held court in front of the largest crowd to ever watch a college wrestling dual. A match up pitting #1 (IA) versus #2 (ISU), the final team score was 20-15, so one match going the other way would've meant a loss instead of a win. In particular, the last second upset of former #2, Nick Gallic by #3 Alex Tsirtsis was critical. And by last second, I mean last second. Tsirtsis scored a reversal with the clock showing :01 to win. Amazing.

05 December 2008

Dance, Dance

This story was on the front page of the Register today and I thought any time public schools are featured prominently in the news and get some positive press, it is definitely worth sharing. Not only that but the dance team sponsor is a great individual and I am thrilled to see her getting some deserved respect for her efforts. She's definitely adept at building the relationships that came make such a difference at any school but especially in an urban one. And lastly, seeing a nice quote by one of my favorite students about her progression and growth was especially satisfying and heartwarming. Congrats to all.

04 December 2008


We were working on an activity where the students were going out to college's websites and finding information on different majors, tuition, entrance requirments, etc. One student was asking about what major it would be if she was interested in being a probation officer because her brother was one. I gave my, "Wow, your brother is one!" response to show interest. She quickly corrected me, "No, my brother has one!" Oops. The kids all got a kick out of that.

03 December 2008

Vermont Catamounts Football

This story was in the NY Times this morning and I thought it was a great narrative of hard-work and vision. I can't fathom how much work is involved with starting up a football program like that and getting it all going with recruiting, games, equipment, referees, insurance, schedules, coaches, trainers, fields, practices, uniforms, tickets, transportation, etc. A big tip of the hat to the young student-athlete who undertook it all and saw it through to fulfillment.

01 December 2008

Des Moines Top 10

I saw an article in Juice that made me think of writing this particular post, plus I'm just a big fan of lists, so it sounded like a good idea. This is my top ten things about Des Moines...

1. Pablo's
2. The Varsity Theater
3. The Isiserettes
4. Gray's Lake
5. High School State Tournaments (wrestling, boys & girls basketball, track)
6. The Skywalk
7. All the bike trails (especially the Great Western and Neil Smith trails)
8. Polk Boulevard
9. The Sands

Honorable Mentions: St. John's Basilica, noon mass @ St. Ambrose Cathedral, Scented Vinyl show @ Mars Cafe, holiday performers in the Kaleidoscope, Downtown Farmer's Market ,Des Moines Art Festival, the commute/traffic, 80/35 Music Festival, Drake Relays, State Fair, Disc Golf (Grand View and Waterworks)

26 November 2008


I recently installed Foxmarks on my laptop and on my school computer. It is a free little application that sync's up your bookmarks, so you always have up to date bookmarks/favorites where ever you go. I do a lot of sending a link to a page or a website to myself so I can pull it up at school and use it in class. Now, I just bookmark it and it is there waiting for me when I boot up at school. Slick!

25 November 2008

Blenders & Mason Jars

I was looking around online for ideas on how to customize your paint job on your blender (I didn't find anything) and I happened across an article about using a mason jar to screw into your blender's base instead of your pitcher (or carafe as most sites called it). I am pretty excited about this because I think it would be very easy (and no dishes) to throw a few things into a jar, blend it, rinse off the chopping blades and walk out the door in the morning with a nice smoothie. Can't wait to try it.

24 November 2008

National Day of Listening

I saw this post on Fischbowl and followed their link to NPR's StoryCorps site. They have designated the day after Thanksgiving as the National Day of Listening and are encouraging everyone to seek out relatives and friends and listen to their stories. And a bonus would be to capture that story and share it. I've discussed doing something like this with homebase before. I think it would be an incredibly cool thing to record some conversations with Doc or Uncle Ed, etc. Maybe everyone (kids too!) can come to Thanksgiving with a story to share and I'll think about how to record them.

23 November 2008

What Happy People Don't Do

"Although people who describe themselves as happy enjoy watching television, it turns out to be the single activity they engage in less often than unhappy people"

Now, one needs to keep the causation/correlation difference in mind when reading the article, but this NY Times article is pretty interesting. It seems to make sense to me. One more reason to turn off the telly and go do something.

Blender Make-over

My blender which I've had for probably close to a decade had developed a sad, and rather unappetizing, case of yellowing on its white plastic case. Yesterday, as I was washing it, the idea of painting it popped into my head. A couple of hours later...voila! Good as new. I might try out adding some flair to it, polka-dots or stripes or flames (like Alton Brown's mixer) or something. For now, it looks like a shiny red fire hydrant, and I love it.

21 November 2008

Social Networking

We had the best discussion we've had this year in my first block class this morning. A topic that never fails to get kids talking...myspace & facebook. The NY Times ran this article about a study about the time kids spend on these sites. It talks about the techonological and literacy benefits they gain. There were a lot of students sharing opinions, agreeing and disagreeing with parts of the article. And we had one student who didn't use either site, so it was good to hear him share his view. I had them read the first 5 reader's comments also to hear some differing opinions. I wanted to offer extra credit if they would submit their own comment, but unfortunately, they had ceased accepting comments. Otherwise, it was a great way to start the day!

20 November 2008

Everyone's a Critic

This NY Times story about a 12-year old food critic and his solo visit to a nearby newly-opened restaurant in his neighborhood is very enjoyable. The scene sounded pretty entertaining as I pictured it in my head. I loved the people at the next table buying his a mousse and the kitchen sending out a soup. I thought of all the stress involved in a visit by a critic (like in Ratatouille) coupled with that critic being twelve. Good stuff.

18 November 2008

Onion Headlines

I was feeling a little sapped of energy after school today so i clicked on the Onion before i left school. I haven't read it for weeks and it didn't fail to provide some levity to my day. There was a headline that made me laugh out loud so i had to share it and some others....

History Doomed To Repeat Itself, Reports Man Who Just Dropped Food On Pants

Supreme Court Upholds Bill Of Rights In 5-4 Decision

A Question of Judgement

This article about an email sent by a school board member was in the Des Moines Register today. I will refrain from making any public comments about it on this blog, but thought it was definitely worthy of sharing.

17 November 2008

Wireless Power?

A few years ago stoppable and I were talking on the phone and after discussing and laying out some now forgotten, but at the time ingeniously wonderful idea, stoppable stated that all he needed to do know was to figure out how to deliver electricity wirelessly. At the time (and still currently) that seemed like a pretty hard to fathom idea. Then today I saw this passage in a story on an education blog I read...
"The smart phone could send power to the camera wirelessly and relay the camera's video feed by cell phone network to another person, a TV studio or a computer."

Wiki provides further info.

Math Musing?

[ed. note - I had to change the title because I felt it gave too big of a hint]
I was looking up information on Sin-é, the now-defunct, Irish-owned, music venue in NYC when I ran across this mnemonic device that bought back a flood of memories. Not enough memories to recall what it was used for or meant. I'll throw it out there and see if anyone remembers what it stands for.

14 November 2008


I was browsing for some good quotes to add to my quote wall, which I will have to take a picture of to share) and came across this one. It made me smile.
"Forgive your enemies, but never forget their names."
Anyone know or what to take a guess as to who said it?
[I'll post the answer in comments tomorrow.]

12 November 2008

Dr. Google

Google's power and applicability never seems to end! This article about Google using their search results (how many people are searching for the term "flu") to come up with data on flu outbreaks. They are working with the CDC to validate their findings. Super cool.

Pick Your Cabinet

Fun little interactive page on the NY Times today. You can pick your cabinet, or learn more about the front-runners as well as see who readers are liking the most for each position.

Veteran's Day

Even though I'm a day late, I read this article about John McCain on Jay Leno last night and I thought it was nice that Leno, at the end of the show, asked if McCain had a good story for Veteran's Day. I thought the story was worth sharing. You can read it here.

10 November 2008

I didn't get the memo...

"Why didn't you tell me you were going to wear your blue tie with your navy blazer?!!?"

09 November 2008


And you thought the Obama posts would be done after the election! Ha. The website of the President-elect is change.gov. How cool is that?? I love it. It's not a bad website and there are some neat things on their. The Obama Administration's (how cool does that sound!) hopes for Service and Education both caught my eye. You can learn what areas are included in an Administration. He encourages people to 'be the change' and submit their ideas! They are also looking for people to share their stories of the campaign and election in their American Moments section. And, finally, you can apply for a (non-career) job!

07 November 2008


Perfectly reflecting the volatility of Iowa weather, four days after having some incredible weather, we now have snow. The high for tomorrow is 38 degrees. Hello winter, I wasn't expecting you so soon. Tailgating for the Iowa vs Penn State game should be fun and frigid! At least it is an 2:30 kickoff!

05 November 2008

04 November 2008

Vote for Hope

Probably too late to catch anyone who hasn't voted yet, but this video was too good not to share. Got to MC Yogi's website and watch the video and download the track for free if you like it. I can't tell you how excited I am for the returns tonight.

03 November 2008

Speak with your ballot

Shock and awe/ful thing to make somebody think
That they have to choose pushing for peace or supporting the troops
And either you’re weak or you’ll use brute force/feed the truth
The truth is we say not as we do

But who needs to see what we’ve done?
Who needs please when we’ve got guns?
Who needs keys when we’ve got clubs?
Who needs peace when we’ve gone above
But beyond where we should have gone?
- Jack Johnson
"Sleep Through the Static"

This song came up on shuffle tonight as I was checking papers. It made me think for a minute and also made me happy I've voted. I'd be remiss if I did not take a second to remind everyone to get out and vote tomorrow. The weather is gonna be beautiful so go cast your ballot and celebrate our democracy.

Indian Summer (part 2)

Yeah, that run around Gray's Lake? Awesome. It was packed. All the parking lots were full and I had to park on the street but the weather, scenery, people watching and relaxation were worth it.

02 November 2008

Indian Summer

I am loving this weather. I sat outside on the patio at Palmer's and enjoyed a sun-soaked lunch with Sarah on Saturday...on November 1! Today it is 74 and I'm leaving to go for a run around Gray's Lake. If there is anything that can cheer me up after all three of my teams (Iowa, Notre Dame, Texas) losing in heartbreakers yesterday and now with it getting dark earlier cuz of Daylight Savings time, it might be this amazing weather! Forget the papers to be graded, Get out and enjoy it!

01 November 2008


I stayed in for Halloween last night. Didn't get any trick or treaters, but I didn't expect any either. I was really looking forward to a relaxing night of cooking something new and maybe a movie. I found a recipe for a risotto which sounded great with the two steaks I had. It is the Roasted Beet Risotto from The Amazing World of Rice cookbook. It took a couple stops to get all the necessary ingredients but putting it all together was a lot of fun. The risotto has red wine and beets (obviously) in it and the finished product was an wonderful deep red color. Very visually pleasing and the flavor didn't disappoint either. I'll have to make it sometime when the family all gets together.

31 October 2008

Humble Pie

Checking tests in my classroom after school today, a couple students working on their movie projects, laughing and talking. I've got my iPod in one ear. One of the students comes over to my desk to get seconds on the Halloween candy I brought in. "Is that your iPod?" Now, I love talking music and never hesitate to share music tips, but more often than not, the tastes of the urban 14 year old don't match with mine. So I pass it over to him with the caveat, and I tell myself not to presume anything, so instead of saying, "You probably won't like anything on there," I just hand it over. He starts scrolling through my artists, after noting, "You got this thing in Mexican?" I confirmed that it was indeed in Spanish. I hear the artists clicking by for a while and then this guy says, "Man I've never seen so many songs.........that are lame." I busted out laughing. Luckily I made back some credibility when he came across, D4L, UGK, Kanye, Lupe Fiasco, Juelz Santana, T-Pain and DMX. He got to the end and handed it back and said that it wasn't bad. Whew, music taste validation from a freshman. :) Then he asked if he can use my songs in his movie.

29 October 2008

BBQ & Pumpkins

Last night, I came home thinking of having a panini night, but caboose quickly talked me into going out for dinner. We couldn't think of someplace to go so we just headed out in a direction that we hoped would take us to some delectable dinner. We found ourselves just south of Drake when I remembered the little BBQ place I've driven by a bunch but never been to, so we parked and went into this Woody's Smoke Shack, this tiny little place with 4 or 5 small tables and a row of seating along one wall. It was spotless and had a great feeling to it. Wood paneling, wood floors, you order at the counter with Pop, decent prices, quick service from Ma and BBQ awards lining the wall. The food was delic and we both agreed we needed to have a return visit to try a few more things on the menu. We had the brisket and the pulled pork sandwiches with cheesey potatoes, mac & cheez, and cole slaw and there was free cornbread at the door. We are looking forward to the wings, ribs and greens.
After we got home, we had some friends over for a little pumpkin carving get-together. For me it took a while to come up with something to carve. I always struggle with the creatition part of carving. And I think I usually end up with roughly the same face. I wanted to carve a penguin in it but I wasn't confident enough in my freehand skills. So I went with my usuall scary face and then I broke three of four teeth out when I was trying to remove my cutout pieces from the mouth. The other pumpkins turned out very nice though. And just in time for Halloween!

Live Music

After not seeing much live music for quite a while, I've had a great run of shows this last month or so. A mindblowing Flobots show in Omaha. A surprise Public Property show on the ped mall in Iowa City. A subpar Lucky Boys Confusion show (I never thought I'd say that). A superb Tegan & Sara show at Sokol. Another great Flobots show in Des Moines, not as good as Omaha but still fun. A very enjoyable and cozy Cashes Rivers show at Mars Cafe. And 3OH!3 and Girltalk are scheduled to come to Des Moines too! Woo hoo!

Kissing Babies

I saw this site on Gapers Block today. How funny that someone would have the interest or time to put together a whole picture blog dedicated to Obama's photos with kids.

27 October 2008

Windy Weekend

What a windy weekend!!! We, along with 22,000 others, were without power yesterday afternoon due to winds that reached 70 mph. We decided to go grab a late lunch since we didn't have any power, but when we got to Jimmy John's, we were aghast to see that the whole Drake neighborhood was also in the dark (figuratively). So we redirected and went to the JJ's on Merle Hay, crisis averted. Afterward, Sarah and I went out to an orchard/pumpkin patch by Adel and picked some pumpkins to carve later this week. What better place to be in a windstorm than on top of a hill in the country! The customer service left a little to be desired and we later saw that we could've gotten a better price buying them at the grocery store, but it was a great sunny day to be outside and going for a nice fall drive.
We started the weekend off cold & rainy, so we stayed in and made the perfect culinary antidote to the weather, Pork with Pumpkin. That dish just can't be beat. We watch, The Departed and had a nice night. Saturday we got lots of cleaning done around the apartment. It was very sunny and nice out and we ended up going up to Ames to tailgate. Once I got past my inherent aversion to the place, I actually had a fun time. It was perfect late-season tailgating weather. We also baked and decorated some very average sugar cookies. Several items made it a less than ideal situation. 1- I found out that I didn't have any Halloween cookie cutters and couldn't find any good ones at several stops (besides some small ones at Target for $1, which I did get). 2- The cookies were too small and therefore got too dried out while baking. Not terrible but not great. 3- I think I may need to switch from using the Mrs. Hayes recipe to the Amish sugar cookies one. I really like the more-cakey type cookie. 4- Our frosting job is hilariously poor. We did make some nice orange and purple frosting, though! (I'll post pix soon.) 5- And to top it off, my chai from the Starbucks in Target was watered down and crappy. :(

"Is that a real question?"

Election day can not come soon enough. I love this clip of Biden's response to a reporter's question about how Obama is a Marxist. I think he's getting tired of answering the same questions.

26 October 2008

Ohio State QB

Ohio State is one of the teams I always enjoy cheering against but I saw this article in the NY Times about their quarterback, Todd Boeckman. He had a good junior year last season and his senior season is being spent...on the bench. The Buckeyes landed one of the top recruits in the nation and this new freshman QB is getting most of the playing time. I thought the article does a really nice job of highlighting a self-less team player who actually believes in the good of the team. And it is really reassuring to hear that his teammates take note of his character and behavior and respect and appreciate it.

24 October 2008

Republican Fashion in the News Again

I let the whole first story about Palin's wardrobe go by without a comment. Mainly because I felt that, if the Republican party wanted to, or felt they needed to, drop $76,000 in one stop at Neiman Marcus and $150k since she was named VP pick, to get her ready for the constant microscope of the press, that's their decision and I don't really have any problems with it. After all, I'm sure the other candidates are not shopping at Goodwill. I did see this article about the suits that Obama has been sporting (American made, $1500 a pop). I do think that kind of excess, and financial irresponsibility is a bit of a reflection of the Republican party. I also think it takes a lot of the credibility out of her Wal-Mart supporting, hockey mom, gee-shucks image. Anyways, I saw this new piece of election fashion trivia today, that Palin's stylist is earning more than McCain's foreign policy advisor, and I just thought I had to post on it, rolling both stories together into a post about one more topic that shouldn't have any impact on the election process but will take up an inordinate amount of media time and space.

Harkin - Reed Debate

I heard a mention of this story about comments made by Republican challenger Christopher Reed about incumbent Democrat Senator Tom Harkin this morning on my way in to school and wasn't sure what they were talking about. I looked in the Register and the moderator had posted this article. It brought a couple thoughts to mind. First, it is this kind of accusatory, character-trashing, and just ridiculous stretching of the truth that I am very sick of at this point in the election season. The word 'treason' was used by the moderator. I don't care what office is being contested, if treason is mentioned, there had better be some seriously hard evidence. Naomi Wolf had a great passage in her book "End of America" about the use of the term 'treason'. Secondly, I will have to YouTube the clip tonight to watch Harkin's immediate response, but I really liked his verbal reposte after the cameras were off. “you’re a nice young man and I thought you had a political future ahead of you but that just ended your political career right there.”

22 October 2008

Life List

I am a big fan of lists and I think life 'to-do' lists, in particular, are especially cool & interesting. I put together a started mine a few years ago but hadn't looked at it in quite a while. I saw an article that mentioned John Goddard's life list of 127 goals that he composed when he was 15. You can check it here and also take note of the 109 goals that have been checked off. Lou Holtz made a list of 107 goals when he lost his job as assistant coach at South Carolina in 1966. I haven't been able to find the full list yet, though.
My preliminary list is as follows:

attain fluency in another language
learn piano
travel extensively
save someone's life
attend & experience a World Cup tournament
attend & experience an Olympic Games
attend a game at Celtic Park, Glasgow, Scotland
live abroad for at least a year
plan & organize a large event
write a book
pay for someone to go to college
see & pray with the Pope
give a pile of money to charity (set up a endowment)

21 October 2008

A Different Perspective

I found this piece of descriptive writing through Gapers Block and liked it too much not to pass it on. The description alone is great, even if it didn't involve the Obamas. A different sort of scene then what we've grown used to over the past year.

19 October 2008

This I Believe

I just finished reading 'This I Believe." It is a great compilation of the personal belief statements collected by NPR's series, both recent ones and stories from the first time the series was introduced in the 1950's. The brief (2 or 3 pages) statements were perfect for reading aloud, which provided an extra level of enjoyment. I've talked with a friend of mine about using this in the classroom; she teaches English so it lends itself well to her area, but I was thinking that it would be fun to collaborate my technology classes with hers and have my students work on putting the passages in some sort of power point, picture story or movie. It could be very cool.
One of the appendixes lays out some helpful guidance in how to write your own 'This I Believe.' I think that would be a very fun family get-together event. We could all write them and then have a reading at one of the holidays. I think it sounds like a lot of fun and great self-reflection...but then I read one of these and they are so descriptive and concise and enlightening it is a little imposing. For example, one of passage I liked...
"It is only when they and I are blinded by tribal and denominational narrowness that we insist upon our differences and can recognize goodness only in the robes of our own crowd. Man is a great enough creature and a great enough enigma to deserve both our pride and our compassion, and engage our fullest sense of mystery. I shall certainly never do as much with my life as I want to, and I shall sometimes fail miserably to live up to my conscience, whose word I do not distrust even when I can't obey it. But I am terribly glad to be alive; and when I have wit enough to think about it, terribly proud to be a man and an American, with all the rights and privledges that those words connote; and most of all I am humble before the responisibities that are also mine. For no right comes without a responisiblity, and being born luckier than most of the world's millions, I am also born more obligated." - Wallace Stegner

Stat Attack

I came across this amazing website several weeks ago and enjoyed their presentation of a massive amount of data. FiveThirtyEight.com I particularly like looking at their 'scenario analysis' where you can see the probability of many different events that might happen on election day, like, what's the odds of Barack losing OH and FL but still winning the election? 60.85%

Presidential endorsements...

For the first time in its history, the Chicago Tribune is endorsing the Democratic party's candidate. Their editorial explains why...
And I thought this write-up in the LA Times about Colin Powell's endorsement and statement on Islamophobia was very good.

15 October 2008


A slow night at parent-teacher conferences + an oddly easy Wednesday NY Times crossword =

13 October 2008

Krugman Wins Nobel Prize

Paul Krugman, NY Times columnist and Priceton professor, was announced as the winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics today. I like how candid he is about whether or not he expected the call notifying him that he had won. Also, how amazing would that be to get into his class at Princeton?! I can't read his column or hear his name without thinking about what an enjoyable and rewarding experience I had last year, going to hear him speak with a group of students.

Saints Announced

The Pope announced four new saints yesterday. One of them was the first ever Indian woman to be canonized. Read more about her story here.

12 October 2008

Nike Commercials

I saw a new (to me) Nike commercial during the Texas - Oklahoma game yesterday. Sidenote: what a game! great performances by two top-notch teams and Texas showed some serious character. I was loving it. Check out the commercial, called "Leave Nothing." It's pretty great. And it reminded me of this other Nike commercial that they showed during Euro 2008 this summer that I really liked. "Take it to the Next Level" It shows, from the first-person camera perspective, a player playing for a smaller club team, then getting picked up by Arsenal and playing against Manchester United, then playing Inter and Barcelona in the Champions League and finally playing for the Netherlands against Portugal. Great Stuff.
And lastly, in response to caboose's piano on fire video...Cesc Fabregas does a little fire trick of his own. I love that his name and number are on the back of the firesuit. :)

10 October 2008

Free-fall, Adjustment, Panic or Correction?

Seven straight days of triple digit declines in the Dow. That has never happened before. The Dow has fallen 25% in October. It is a time when you hope people who need the money from their investments soon have made wise, careful decisions. It'd be horrible to lose 25% of your retirement account if you had to start drawing on it soon.

09 October 2008

Happy Belated B-day, iPod!!

We made it through the terrible two's and shamROCK is now three years old. I'm still so thankful for it. I know we shouldn't fixate on material things but it really makes such a difference in my life! Without my music I am not as normally wonderful and fun to be with as I usually am. :) August was actually the birthday but I forgot to do this annual post then and just remembered it today driving home from school. shamROCK is carrying 3,598 songs now and is holding up well. Here's to three more years! So here is my current Top 25 (I shortened it from 50) list by most plays, with the change noted from last year's list...
1- Bingo - M.I.A. (no change)
2- What About Everything? - Carbon Leaf (+25)
3- Marching Bands of Manhattan - Death Cab for Cutie (no change)
4- Grace of God Go I - Flogging Molly (+6)
5- Ain't No Sunshine - Bill Withers (+31)
6- Take It Easy (Love Nothing) - Bright Eyes (+32) greatest gainer
7- Hands Down - Dashboard Confessional (-2)
8- Hold On - Lovehammers (+12)
9- WP - Matisyahu (+22)
10- Nothing Better - Postal Service (+13)
11- Ain't No Reason - Brett Dennen hot shot!
12- Gold Mine Gutted - Bright Eyes (-4)
13- Mushaboom - Bright Eyes (+26)
14- Dishy - Candypants (no change)
15- The Professor - Damien Rice (+13)
16- Photobooth - Death Cab for Cutie (+25)
17- Sugar, We're Goin' Down - Fall Out Boy (+13)
18- F-stop Blues - Jack Johnson (-7)
19- Baba O'Riley - Jordis Unga (+13)
20- Jesus Walks - Kanye West (-3)
21- Everything is Alright - Motion City Soundtrack (no change)
22- Be Still My Heart - Postal Service (+22)
23- Walking With a Ghost - Tegan & Sara (-21)
24- I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor - Artic Monkeys (-20)
25- Feeling This - Blink 182

Homecoming Week

It is homecoming week here at school; one of my favorite parts of the high school calendar. It really always has been. I haven't always loved dressing up as much as I do now. When I was in high school, I wasn't gung-ho about coming up with an outfit for some of the theme days we had. I always liked color day, where each grade got a color to wear, seniors always getting black. My favorite without a doubt was Friday, Blue & White day. My friends and I would get decked out head to toes in blue and white, painting faces, wearing bandanas, whatever we could think of. The dressing up this week hasn't been as intense as I was hoping for. I wore my Iowa t-shirt for Rivalry day (what's that even mean?), and loved getting to wear flannel pants, house-shoes and a long-sleeve t-shirt all day for PJ day. Yesterday I matched outfits with a couple other teachers in my hallway for Twin day and today I'm rocking caboose's Ireland jersey for Sport day. I'm hoping to put something fun together for Spirit day tomorrow.
Some of the most fun when I was in high school came from all the other activities going on that week like painting the streets, soaping the main street business' windows, making floats and being in the parade, coming up with a class skit, decorating the class spirit wall, competing as a class in the Anything Goes contest, seeing who won the best dressed awards for each day, voting on the homecoming king & queen, going to the bonfire, finding a date for the dance, having a girl ask to wear your jersey, ending the school day Friday with a great pep rally. And then there is still the game itself (critical to get a win, otherwise the dance afterwards will be a big downer)!
Even though there hasn't been much going on here this week, I've been making sure I get as much enjoyment out of it as I can.

07 October 2008

Penguin Influx

Man, yet another reason to take a trip to Brazil!

06 October 2008


I let a fellow teacher come in and use the computers in my classroom during my planning period today. It was a nutrition or foods class or something. She had them working on a diet planning website where they have to put together daily meal plans that would help them satisfy all the requirements for the daily nutritional intake numbers. They'd been at it for a little while and I was just sitting at my desk, inputting grades (since they are due today). They were adding foods and asking a question here and there when I hear a student ask in a quietly serious voice, "How do you spell forty ounce?" Beside the poor nutritional aspects of malt liquor, the fact that this was a class of freshmen made it even more inappropriate.

02 October 2008

Mascot Unveiling!!

Last Friday, I went to the homecoming game for the school at was at last year. Their football team isn't too great, as illustrated by the 31-7 deficiet they found themselves in at halftime, but it was a great time. I got to catch up with some teachers and also saw a half-dozen or so students I had last year who had graduated and were back for homecoming. It was nice to have them come over and say hi and share a little about how their college experience is starting off. And at halftime, I was able to witness the unveiling of their new mascot. I wish they had a full body picture of this guy cause he is tall! 13 feet, and the head alone is six feet tall. The best part is the people went nuts for him! And one of my former students was inside him too. :)

68 and Sunny

I was sitting in my backyard after school today and reading my book and the weather was so great I just had to blog a little about it. It was that temperate where you can wear a tshirt and jeans and be comfortable but if it were a degree or two cooler or if the wind was any stronger you would need a hoodie. And that autumn sun is so great. There'd be a breeze and you'd get chilly and just when you think, if this keeps up, I'll put on my jacket, the breeze dies and instantly that low sun warms you and that warmth gives you tingles down your spine or raises the hairs on your neck. Looking up the sun looks an orangey-crimson through your closed eyelids and your cheekbones feel like solar panels. And you can just sit there and let yourself be warmed by sun for a while...until a few gusts of cool air catch your exposed skin and chill you back down momentarily, only briefly though and then the warming starts all over again. The contrasting temperatures are keeping your nerve endings working overtime. The joys of fall.


I have been loving the honeycrisp apple this week! I have had them before, but might have forgotten a bit just good they are. A friend mentioned them last week and then the next morning I saw a stand selling them at the Farmer's Market. I spent my entire ten dollars on a bag of them and they are delic! Very crisp and crunchy, but not painfully so. SO sweet and fresh. Just taking one out of the frig in the morning puts me in a good mood, and then when I devour it later I get to appreciate it even more. I hope you all can find some while they are in season!

01 October 2008

Buy Low...

Few people have a track record of buying low and searching out value in investments like Warren Buffet. The idiom, 'Buy Low, Sell High' definitely applies now. He's seen a good buying opportunity and dropped $5 billion for preferred stock in GE and $3 billion for preferred stock in Goldman Sachs. I'll definitely have to bring this up in class when we talk about moving opposite of the market.

30 September 2008

Scrabulous = Lexulous

So I tried to play a little Scrabulous with homebase tonight but we ran into a snag. The site was routing to GoDaddy.com and it looked like the name was for sale. After a bit of hunting for news online (and finding nothing), I did what I should've done first and searched the last 24 hours of blog posts and found the answer. Sounds like Hasbro, after getting it off of facebook a few months ago, have now succeeded in making the Indian brothers who own it change the name. Wierd that there was no build up to this in the news like there was for the facebook decision. They have got a new site at Lexulous.com. Your login and password are still the same and they still have your ratings...and there is still a Hyde Park room to play in. :)

29 September 2008

Red Letter Day

Biggest point drop ever by the Dow today (777 points). Third largest drop by percentage since the Depression. So much for retiring early. :) I don't think I'll even open my 401k statement when it comes.

28 September 2008

Our Erring Economy

I've held off on posting anything about the proposed bailout plan because I just felt that there wasn't really much I could add to the mountain of coverage it was already getting. And, I probably still can't, but at least I feel a little more educated about the situation. I've been trying to read some varied opinions of the plan and other alternative options.
My thoughts, and feelings, are similar to this NY Times article. It is easy to understand, makes some great points, and asks some sound questions. I might try to bring this one into the classroom for discussion. Actually since I have younger kids this year, there isn't much spirited discussion so I will probably just assign it with 5-10 reflection questions at the end. There was another one I was going to post, titled something like, "It's OK to be angry, but agree that we need to act." I thought that was a good summary as well.
These are definitely monumental and historic times. The magnitude and far-reaching implications are hard for us laypeople to fathom (well, hard for me at least) but hopefully Paulson and Bernacke have got it right.

27 September 2008

Cubbie Samaritan

I loved both parts of this story from the Sun-Times. I love the 65 year-old daughter taking her 90 year-old mom to a game at Wrigley and treasuring the image of her glowing and taking it all in. And of course I love the part about the tall stranger coming to their aid in a time of need. Our media doesn't spotlight the positive stories enough, so I definitely wanted to share this one.

24 September 2008

In the News Today...

Several things caught my eye this morning as I browsed the news headlines and several of them were more interesting than Lindsay Lohan and Clay Aiken both coming out.
  • It sounds like Lance Armstrong has a team to ride with on his return from retirement. Of course, the lead rider on that team is not pleased.
  • Transparency International released their corruption rankings and I'm looking forward to taking some time later and looking at all the data, maps and charts. Nigeria and Great Britian had differing reactions to the news.
  • A nice article in today's Des Moines Register about a water bottle made from corn with part of the production happening in Clarinda. The finished product has been adopted and is being sold at the House of Representatives cafeteria. I'm still against buying water whenever possible, but it seems like a step in the right direction. I also still think that charging a 5 cent deposit on them, like they do for soda, would greatly increase that pathetic 22% recycling rate.

22 September 2008

Palin Email Hacker

This article paints a fairly humorous picture. Underclassmen (and underage) partiers, drowning their woes after receiving a whooping from the Gators, freaking out when Federal authorities show up at the apartment party they are at just after midnight. Talk about a buzz kill. And it is a Tennessee state representative's son to top it off.

21 September 2008

Collider...part 2

It's gotta be frustrating to be these scientists who after waiting to get the thing built and getting a ton of hype, now are going to be down for repairs for a couple months (can't just call a local electrician, I guess). On a positive note, when that "large amount of helium" was leaked, the conversations there had to sound pretty funny.

The Muppets

I'm always amazed by the power and far-reaching influence of the Disney conglomerate. This NY Times article takes a look at what has happened to the Muppets brand and what Disney is planning to do to resurrect it. I think it'd be very fun and interesting to be on the team in charge of figuring out how to make over this band of characters that started in 1976 and make them a part of this new generation of kids who, as the article points out, don't know who Kermit is. And you've got to finish it up by watching the "Stars and Stripes Forever" video.

19 September 2008

Vocab Pick-up Lines

You may have noticed or checked out 'The Fischbowl' blog on my blog roll. I am a reader and a fan. They have lots of interesting, fun education ideas on there and are often technology-based. I've been trying to formulate how a class blog could be most effectively used in my courses, so I clicked through on a link from there today to an english class's blog and this post caught my eye "SAT vocab pick-up lines". There are some pretty fun ones on there. I'll put my favorites in the comments section.

Fun Times at ND

I thought this article gave some good insight into how things are going at South Bend. Last week's romp over Michigan was so fun to watch, it's easy to see that they are having fun too. And I have to say that Golden Tate may be the best name for an Irish player that I've heard in awhile. Hopefully the wins keep coming, starting with Michigan State tomorrow.

16 September 2008

Smile...People Notice

In my last period of the day, a class entirely made of freshmen, I was going around and helping kids with their projects and overhead one of the countless conversations I hear each day. The girl's comments to the boy sitting next to her made me smile and she noticed and said, "You smile a lot." The boy added, "Yeah, and you laugh a lot too...You must like our class." That comment did make me laugh. I told them they were growing on me. The girl didn't know what that meant so I explained it.
I don't know if other teachers are not fans of laughing and smiling, but I enjoy doing both. Maybe I'm not stern enough in my classroom, but I've plenty of time to get more serious. I like enjoying my time with my students and I think it improves the learning environment I offer them.

15 September 2008

Question for the Teacher

Tonight while I was online for a bit, a former student IM'd me. After a couple small talk-type comments, he says, "Can I ask you a question?" This immediately makes me tense up a bit. Rarely is that followed by something good. But, I say "Sure" and was totally relieved when he says, "Do you think I'd make a good teacher?" It made me a little bit proud of what I do. And happy that my opinion was desired. We had a good short discussion about what I thought and what I advised him to do to help his decision. Then he and I went on our way. Fun (and rewarding) to think that my teaching or my words might influence or guide someone's future or have some sort of lasting impact.

ESPY skit

A friend sent this to me and I got some laughs out of it. Justin Timberlake's skit at the ESPY's. Since I don't have ESPN, it is new to me! The Brett Favre part is my fave.

14 September 2008

Til the Walls and Rafters Ring

The big interstate game was yesterday and I thought I was going to have to find a bar to hang out it in all morning to see the game but Sarah said that it was on regular Mediacom and, lo and behold, it was! Even though the signal was a little choppy at times due to it being routed through Houston and their hurricane problems. I was very happy to find out that we'd be able to watch it from the comfort of my living room. So I had to make a run to the grocery store to get some supplies. It was a fun scene there. Everyone was sporting their colors and getting snacks. I loaded up on stuff to make a pretty nice veggie tray, some drinks, nachoes, and also stuff to put in the crockpot for french dip sandwiches for dinner. By the time I finished it probably would've been cheaper to just go to a bar to watch, but it wouldn't have been nearly as fun or comfy. A couple friends came over and helped balance out the Iowa/Iowa State ratio. The game itself wasn't that exciting, but the end result was very pleasing. Go Hawks! And building on that, Notre Dame put on a great performance and pounded Michigan in the pouring rain. Klaussen and the O-line look much improved from last year.
Today the weather really feels like fall and football. 60 degrees, slightly overcast, blustery. Pefect for jeans and a hoodie. Very nice!

11 September 2008

Spare Me The Phony Outrage...

I liked the sound of this article. I like the emotion he gives off and the basic battle for civil liberties that he spotlights. After reading "The End of America" earlier this summer, this verbal salvo hits the spot. I watched a clip of part of his speech on YouTube but will have to look for the whole thing. He does a good job with the latest fabrication from the Republicans; a TV spot so made up that it is laughable and it also continues their trend of using media against copyright laws. (CBS even had YouTube remove the commercial from their site.)

10 September 2008

Learn to Draw...

We used to have several of these kind of books when I was growing up. Learn to draw animals, learn to draw cartoons, etc. We also had lots of Ed Emberly books, which I loved. So when I came across this little animal drawing lesson using the Paint program that comes standard with Windows, I was excited to use it in the freshmen technology seminar class I'm teaching. It is a nice site that has short tutorials to teach the kids how to use a few tools and then shows them a project to get them to use it. We did the tiling project yesterday and today the kids tried their hands at drawing mice, cats, horses, chickens and seahorses. It was a lot of fun to watch. While I continue to be amazed (and disgusted) by how little it takes to make some kids get frustrated and give up, it was still a fun lesson. And an overwhelming majority of them enjoyed it. Tomorrow we will start the bilingual picture book project. I've modified it a bit to be more in-depth (or at least last longer). I am also posting this link to the lessons because I thought the stoppable's kids might enjoy checking it out.

Large Hadron Collider

As homebase called attention to this morning, everyone (including Google) is intrigued (some might say scared) by the news around the LHC in Geneva. I have never had much of a head for science so I haven't read too much on what the possibilities are with this machine or what they are hoping to prove/disprove/learn, but the scope of the undertaking and the power of it are interesting nonetheless. But I did check out the website and it has a nice, 60-second summary of the tool and its intent, as well as a fun intereresting facts page. (I love the refrigeration comparison. :) I might read up a bit more as time allows. Until then, I don't plan on worrying about a black hole busting loose and consuming us all because...what's the point? If it happens, there's nothing I can do to stop it, so I might as well go on about my business.

Apple Updates

I'm not sure why I was looking forward to this year's installement of the September update of the iPod line. I'm not in the market for a new iPod and unfortunately can't afford to double my cell phone bill to make the iPhone worthwhile. Thankfully, shamROCK, my sweet little green-wrapped 20 GB, non-video capable iPod is still working well. And that is despite a couple drops along the last 4 years. But, when I do get ready to get a new one, Apple will be sure to have some amazing new stuff. The Touch and the iPhone are pretty amazing. I actually followed the live blogging of the release event yesterday and there is some cool things. New bold colors for nanos and shuffles. New shape and screen functionality for the nano. Elimination of one size of iPod classic (only 120 GB for $249 now). And, most relevent to me, the introduction of iTunes 8. I've already downloaded and installed but haven't had a chance to play with it much. I am very excited to try out the 'Genius' tool, where it will build a playlist of 25-100 suggested similar songs to whatever you choose. Oh, and they had a live performance of Jack Johnson!!!
Well, done Steve Jobs & co.

09 September 2008

Cooking Thai

I thought this headline about the President of Thailand's cooking corruption was too odd to pass up. Sounds like he used to host a cooking show and received payment a few times for doing so while he was president, which is against some of that country's anti-corruption laws. An odd story indeed, but it was a little look into how differently countries can work, especially when they were talking about nominating the same guy to succeed himself, if the courts throw him out of office. Economic and governmental stability are critical to a country thriving, which is something we tried to look at last year in class. A good example here.

05 September 2008

Ask Permission!

Van Halen
Jackson Browne
John Mellancamp
What do they all have in common? They've all asked the GOP to stop using their music in ads and at events. They were never contacted for permission and have said, if asked, they would not have given it. They'd better stick with Daddy Yankee (who was called a sell-out by Fat Joe)!

04 September 2008

Fact Check

I felt I had to share this link. I love fact checks, on anybody, but especially when it is on a Republican's speech....

A Day in the Park

I was so happy to make it back home for a night and then spend a sunny Saturday in the park on Labor Day weekend. Grilling and playing in the Nebraska City park is always a fun time and the weather really worked out for us this year. Good food on a charcoal grill, lots of throwing the football with brothers, neices and nephew, swinging, and hanging on jungle gyms. It was a nice time to catch up with family and relax a bit. Check out some fun pix in my flickr.

School Daze

I haven't been blogging much about how my year's started off. So here's a quick summary.
  • It is nice to have air conditioning. I do not miss teaching and having sweat run down your back. I miss having an excuse to wear shorts, but I'll give that up for the A/C. It wasn't anywhere near as hot this year anyways. Plus we've had a great cool snap this week, so I've had the window open.
  • I've got a classroom. It removes a lot of stress from your day to not have to run from room to room and carry everything with you. I don't have to worry about different technology in different rooms or logging onto different computers. And I've got supplies for projects at the ready when I need them.
  • I miss my seniors. I am working mostly with freshmen and sophomores this year and, man, is there a difference. I have a whole new appreciation for the maturity, respect and intelligence of my students last year. Freshmen are so squirrely and goofy, they are struggling to shake off the middle school and figure out high school.
  • Teaching a technology-based class is difficult when your network goes down three days in a row (it went down today too, but at least not until school was out). Gotta think fast when you have 30 freshmen sitting at computers who can not get online, save anything, print anything, or open their keyboarding program. 'Let's go outside and take pictures with the digital camera!'
  • Teaching all new classes so it's like I am a first-year teacher again. I'll be trying to pull in some lessons from econ last year whenever possible.
  • Block scheduling does make for less stress. So I've been enjoying that. Even though I really miss my AP classes, it is nice to not spend every evening/night at the coffee shop working on lessons.
  • We had our first assembly last Friday. A pep rally! Nothing like the ones from my HS days and actually worse than the ones at my school last year. Poor organization, horrible audio, pathetic spirit, and not enough band or cheerleaders. Oh, and the football coach didn't even want to speak!

02 September 2008

Creative Ad

I was looking for some examples of advertisements to use in marketing class and came across this one. It caught my eye first off because it is for adidas. Then I saw her neck. I spent a couple seconds thinking about how it looked like three stripes (the adidas logo) before I realized they are supposed to be gills. Cool...and a little creepy.


Google is releasing its new web browser, called 'Chrome', today. I'm excited to download it and see what those creative folks have come up with! I'm a pretty big fan of Firefox (who just released a new version recently) but I'm willing to check out Chrome and see what its got. Anything that competes against Microsoft, I'm willing to give a chance.