31 March 2008

"So Says I"

Those that know me know that I love penguins above most other animals. I also happen to be very fond of The Shins; after all, as Natalie Portman says about them in Garden State, "You gotta listen to this one song. It'll change your life, I swear." So you can imagine how happy I was when I found this Shins video for "So Says I," starring animated penguins. It's seems to focus on communist societies, rebellion and capitalism. I'll leave the interpretation up to you...check it out on YouTube. There are some strong images of penguin-on-penguin violence, so be warned. My favorite part is the "Let Us Fly!" sign. :)

30 March 2008

Six-Word Memoirs

While walking home from the coffeeshop on Saturday, it was chilly and very blustery. I decided to pop in to the local bookstore that I don't visit very often. So I enjoyed a leisurely browse of their wares. They have a nice selection and their displays feature books that you might not see at Barnes & Nobles or Borders. One book caught my eye right before I left. It is one I had read about online. A favorite author of mine, Koren Zailckas, mentioned it and said that she had a submission in it. The book is called, "Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure". It is interesting to look through and I think it could be a very fun lesson for high school kids. I'm going to have to suggest it to my English teacher friends. So I've been trying to come up with my submission. You can check out the website & submit yours there, or just put it in the comments here! Koren's memoir was, "Me: fully reformed and halfway happy". Here's what I've got so far...

Teaching, learning; trying my best. Smiling.

Country raised, Chicago explored, family blessed.

31! How? Much more to come.

29 March 2008

Spread Your Wings & Fly

I took the firefly out for the first ride of the season this afternoon. I wasn't going to because it was pretty chilly and windy but it seemed to warm up a little in the afternoon, so I thought I'd give it a try. I think it was about 50 degrees but with the wind it felt pretty chilly. Luckily I had my adidas armwarmers! :) I had heard about a different trail in my neighborhood so I decided to head that way and check it out. It was a good trail, running along the river for a ways and snaking out through Johnston. I was able to spot several Canada geese (a couple only 10-15 yards from the trail), a few robins drinking from mud puddles, and two young boys running & playing in the woods with their two dogs. I could tell it was the first ride in quite a while, not only due to my tired legs and sore saddle, but also because I forgot my glasses and my helmet. Otherwise it was great to be outside and zipping along on the bike. 57 minutes, 13.88 miles, 14.5 average mph, windy.

Quote of the Day

"I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life;
I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well."
- Theodore Roosevelt

Raise Test Scores or Die!

homebase passed this article along to me. A principal at a Dallas school threatened to kill teachers if they did not raise their standardized test scores. That's some pressure! I don't think that is what most people have in mind when they are taking about holding teachers more accountable.

27 March 2008

Do You Love It?

I realized that I missed celebrating my 1,000th post. Bummer. This is post #1010. Woo hoo.

I have no idea why I clicked on the article "Fashion Statement" on the NY Times site. The subtitle said, "Marc Ecko advises reassessing what you’re doing and making sure you still love it at least once a month." I thought they were talking about what you are doing fashion-wise. That's why I clicked on it. I'm a sucker for those kinda articles. Instead it was a short little simple piece about this guy and how he struggled to find and pursue what his passion was. There is one paragraph in it that stood out to me as pretty sage advice and definitely worth documenting and sharing...

"Whatever you do in life, be passionate about it. At least once a month, if not every day, reassess what you’re doing and make sure you still love it. If you’re passionate about something others around you may see as a dead end, pave your own way. Be a trailblazer."

26 March 2008

Quote of the Day

"We cannot plant seeds with closed fists,
To sow we must open our hands."
- Adolfo Perez Esquivel

25 March 2008

Word of the Day

In the article that we discussed in class today, a certain word appeared. Schadenfreude. I had actually got it in my email a couple months ago as an actual Word of the Day from Merriam-Webster, but I couldn't remember what it meant. So we had to pull out the dictionary and look it up. We had a lot of fun with it in all my classes. It is borrowed from the German language and it is pretty enjoyable to say. Plus the best part is the meaning, "taking pleasure in someone else's pain." [I should've used it in my previous blog about bullying!] It is made up of the words schaden, meaning damage, and freude meaning joy. I told my students I'd give them credit if I heard them using it outside of class or if they used it in their English classes. No reports of it yet though. So, challenge yourself to use it tomorrow!

24 March 2008

March Madness Update

After the first two rounds of basketball games last weekend here's the standings in the family pool (in case people haven't looked yet.)

1. middleson
2. caboose
3. homebase
4. kt
5. stoppable
6. emily
7. the brig
8. NTW

Yes, I am on top, but I think the most key statistic at this point is the Possible Points Remaining and kt is leading there. I was pretty pleased with myself for picking the Siena upset, until I saw that NTW and the brig did too! NTW also called the Villanova, San Diego, and Western Kentucky into the Sweet 16 upsets! kt is the only entry to still have all of their final 4 teams alive. Bring on next weekend!


In a surprising coincidence, there is an article in the NY Times about a student that is chronically bullied on the same day that we passed out anti-bullying/harassment information at my school. I empathize pretty easily and I hate to see any cruelty toward others, but, looking back at today, I think I may have not used my opportunity to address this topic. Do I think there is probably more to the other side of the story that the article doesn't shed light on?, yes, probably. That doesn't change the fact that it still is a sad and discouraging story. Kids can be pretty harsh. I was reminded of that scene at the end of "A Few Good Men" where the two Marines that were on trial are discussing the verdict. One is explaining to the other, "We were supposed to fight for the people who couldn't fight for themselves. We were supposed to fight for Willie." I need to remember that, and not just in my classroom but in life too; I need to stand up for those that can't or won't fight for themselves.

22 March 2008

Recession Articles

Just thought I'd share these three articles that I am planning on bringing in to my classes for discussion next week. All deal with the recession and gaining a better understanding of it.
This first one, "Can't Grasp Credit Crisis? Join the Club" is a good general explanation of factors that have lead us to where we are now. Paul Krugman's article entitled "Partying Like It's 1929" draws some comparisons to 1929, 1930 and focuses on the banking system's role. The last one may be my favorite. "You Say Recession, I Say 'Reservations!'" does a good job of looking at both sides of the financial crisis. I like to stress that there are usually winners and losers in every situation. It's good to for students to be able to see and understand that.

Chess in the Classroom

This NY Times article highlights a program that Idaho is using where chess is used in the classroom, instead of as the typical after-school club. They are using the First Move program, developed by America's Foundation for Chess. It is designed to be used as an learning strategy in second and third grade classrooms, one hour a week. Check out their site for more details.

20 March 2008


New word for the day...heterochromia, specifically heterochromia iridis. That is the medical term for when someone has two different colored eyes. Not nearly as rare in animals as it is in humans, I read it in a magazine interview with Kate Bosworth. According to Wiki, other famous examples are Mila Kunis, Christopher Walken, Dan Akroyd and Jane Seymour. Oh, and Alexander the Great. I had trouble finding photographic proof of them online though.

Share the Road

Now that it is getting nice out, I thought I'd share this link I saw on a cycling mail list I get. It is interesting and a little funny. Ride & Drive Safe.

Spring Break

I've been enjoying my spring break so far and it is going WAY too fast. I flew (stand-by) out to Chicago on Friday and enjoyed a great afternoon at the Art Institute, checking out their new exhibit on Winslow Homer and Edward Hopper. My knowledge of both artists was pretty limited but I really enjoyed the exhibit. Since it was the weekend before St. Patrick's Day there were a lot of people downtown, especially on Saturday for the parade, which I chose not to attend. I did stop in to a tent on Block 37 where they had Irish music, dancing, food and gifts. I also got a fun shot of the fountains that had been dyed green. Friday night we went over to Amy's brother's place and played games (not totally impressed by the Wii) and enjoyed Malnati's pizza (super good, delicious crust!), before heading to the House of Blues for the Hammers show. We had a box to watch the show from which was a pretty nice treat. It was a good show and a great group of people to enjoy it with. It was fun to be a VIP for a night. Saturday brought a little sleeping in, followed by some shopping on Michigan Ave. I hit up all my favorite stores but nothing seemed to catch my eye. I did buy a belt at H&M that I'm still not sure if I'm going to be able to pull off or not. Either way, it was only $6. Dinner at Flat Top Grill and a couples shower for some friends that had a fun theme and involved bowling rounded out the night. It was a fun trip! I hadn't been to Chicago for a while and it was good to see friends and catch up. Since getting back in Iowa, I've journeyed back home, then to Omaha for some fun St. Patrick's Day fun, then back to Des Moines, then to Iowa City to get my taxes done (woo hoo!, I'm getting $$$) and have dinner with a friend (who happens to be my tax person), and finally back to Des Moines. I don't think I have any more trips for the last few days of the break, which will be nice to allow me to get caught up on some things before I head back to school!

19 March 2008

Obama's Speech on Race

I haven't had a chance to listen to it yet, but the first thing that caboose said to me when I got back yesterday was, "Have you heard Barack's speech yet?" And all this morning it has been all they talked about on NPR. There are already several opinion pieces on it written. You can check out the speech, entitled "A More Perfect Union" by transcript, mp3, or video. I grabbed the mp3 to listen to on my drive to Iowa City this afternoon. I can't wait to hear it!

18 March 2008

ESPN's salute to 5 Years in Iraq

Out of respect of the five year anniversary of the invasion of Iraq by the United States, ESPN had these two stories on their main page. Two high school quarterbacks who enlisted and sacraficed dearly. Start with this first story and then follow it up with the second one.
Let's pray for a swift, safe return for all our troops.
WARNING: Be prepared for deeply, infinitely tragic tales.

The Good Earth

This NY Times article takes a look at a new generation of city slickers who want to escape the urban jungle and get back in touch with the land. Check it out here. I love the opening line, "Their Carhartts are no longer ironic."

Rachael Ray Rocks

I thought the video clip that goes with this NY Times article was SUPER. I've always been a Rachael Ray fan, but I do agree with those that say that her shtick can get to be a bit much sometimes. I thought this look at her away from her show and her studio was fun. "Wow, I'm a whole person!" Good for her. She shows a little attitude with the interviewer's silly questions. Those 'cooler-than-you' music hipsters are ridiculous, and I'm sure there's an endless supply of them at SXSW.

March Madness

Despite having only seen no more than a handful (less than 5) games this entire season, I am very excited for March Madness this year. Part of it has to do with being on spring break, so I don't have to work on Thursday and Friday and I've got friends coming in from out of town to watch the games with. I've got the family bracket challenge set up and I'm also in a pool for faculty & students at my school. We'll see if my picks are any good, but regardless, it should be lots of viewing fun.

16 March 2008

ED in '08

Came across this short video stressing the importance of education and America's slippage in standings when compared to other countries. Check it out and keep education issues in mind when you head to the polls this fall.

11 March 2008

The Push-Up

I thought this article on the push-up was kinda interesting. I like the short street video that goes along with it. I checked out the calculator after doing as many as I could do in a row. I see now that if I had done one more it would've bumped me from "average" to "good". :(
One of my main goals for the summer is to get back in shape....I can't wait.

Ian Paisley to Step Down (Finally)

Ian Paisley has announced that he will be stepping down from his role as First Minister of Northern Ireland, as well as head of the DUP. You can read more on his beliefs and achievements on Wiki or his own page. Good riddance. Sadly, it sounds like he is being pushed out for finally relenting on his refusal to ever take part in a government that Sinn Fein was involved in.

10 March 2008

It's 3 a.m...

In case you haven't seen it all over the media today, there's been some ironic twists to the "3 AM phone call" commercial that the Clinton campaign used extensively in Texas. (see Obama's thoughts on the commercial here) It turns out that not only is the video in the commercial stock footage that the campaign purchased from Getty Images, but the little girl asleep in bed has now grown up, is turning 18 this spring and is an Obama supporter. And not just a supporter, but she's been campaigning for him for months, was a precinct captain and also was selected as a delegate. :) She states, "I think it would be really wonderful if me and Barack Obama could get together and make a nice counter ad."

09 March 2008

More Taylor Swift

OK, so Taylor was on my sidebar a while back and I've really been enjoying her stuff. So I thought I'd share these three video clips of her live shows. Now, first off it is is super cool that she wrote or co-wrote all 11 songs on her debut CD (at 17 years old), but it is also very fun to hear her do covers of Rihianna's "Umbrella", Eminem's "Lose Yourself" and Beyonce's "Irreplaceable." Love the fun and the versatility.

Iron Deficiency Anemia

So I found out (for the second time) that I am anemic on Friday. As a follow up to my visit to the doctor's office earlier in the week, they called regarding my blood work. He stated that I tested as anemic and it was due to a low iron count. So after discussing possible causes and courses of action, it looks like I'll be doing some iron pills for a while and see if that helps, and he said I should take a one-a-day multivitamin for the rest of my life. Yikes, I'm getting old. But it should help with the general lower level of energy and always being tired and worn out. This write up on iron-deficiency anemia listed one symptom that caught my eye, "a desire to eat peculiar substances such as dirt or ice." How can they compare eating dirt with eating ice? Now, I'm not eating dirt yet, but as my family & friends know, I am a HUGE fan of eating ice. Coincidence? homebase was helpful to pass along this list of iron-rich foods...looks like I should stock up on English muffins, liver, spinach, greens, pumpkin seeds and find some things to make with molasses.

06 March 2008

Beat that Thang

So now that we have a drum kit in our apartment, I've been able to rekindle the fondness I had for drums back when I was in band (circa 5th thru 8th grade). I was a saxophone player but I always was messing around with the percussion section whenever I got the chance. And when I lived in Chicago I got the chance to see bucket drummers and LOVED them. I found a couple videos on YouTube of a guy in NYC who is incredible. Check out this one (I love the audience in this one) or this one.

05 March 2008

Under the Weather

I got sent home from school yesterday with a temperate of 102.5, which had gone up to 103.5 by the time I got to see the doctor. Early diagnosis is something between bronchitis and walking pneumonia. I was in a bad way by the time I got my prescriptions and remedies and made it home. I think the fever was short-circuiting my brain. What a difference some drugs make. Four or five hours later the fever was down and I was feeling way better. Per doctor's instructions, I stayed home today to continue my recovery (plus there was a professional development workshop after school today). :)
Now, if only my computer could recover as quickly as I did...

Schmap Guides

I haven't done much exploring of the product that Schmap is offering, but regardless of that fact, I'm happy to say that they requested my permission for two of my photos that they'd seen on flickr. If you go to the Chicago guide and search out Ravinia or use this link and go mouse over Ravinia, look and see who has the first picture credit that pops up. Same thing for Omaha and the College World Series at this link. Good to know that people will be seeing a couple of my photos and also that someone saw them on flickr and liked them enough to include them.