30 June 2008

Milk Jug Redone

I got one of these new design milk jugs a while back when I picked up some milk at Costco. I thought it was great and it makes total sense. More stackable, fits in your door better, is more environmental. And there are some major savings in packing & transporting. No need for crates anymore! I can't recall if I struggled with pouring out of the new shape or not. If I did, I'm sure it is just a matter of my body's muscle-memory being used to one shape when pouring milk. It'll just be a little retraining. We've got to continue rethinking our old products and practices as our world evolves and changes.

29 June 2008

Euro Final

The final game of the Euro 2008 Championships was yesterday...and Spain soundly outplayed Germany for nearly the entire game. They created a nice goal, Fernando Torres just out-hustling Philipp Lahm and Jens Lehman to the ball and gracefully flicking the ball over the keeper and into the sidenetting. The NY Times has a colorful, and tasty, review of the game and its importance to a country that has gone 44 years without a major tournament win, despite having one of the best domestic leagues in the world.
Check out this link to see what one blogger felt were the top 5 goals of the tournament. I would probably have added Spain's first goal against Russia. But the 5 shown are all top-quality stuff. Lots of fun watching the games over the past few weeks, now only a little over a month before the Olympics start!

28 June 2008

"More Than A Dream"

I recently finished reading "More Than A Dream" by G.R. Kearney. It details the evolution of a new private school in Chicago, Cristo Rey Jesuit H.S., from the spark of an idea to a mission statement and business plan to the recruiting of students, opening of their doors to graduation and beyond. I thought the book did a good job of highlighting the transition from what they started as (a small core group of experienced educators and administrators who wanted to create a new type of school with a different curriculum built for small classes with a tight-knit family-feel) to what they ended up being after compromises to increase the number of students were made to enable the school to bring in enough money to stay open. Class sizes had increased greatly, curriculum was not as dynamic or experiential as it had been, idealistic courses had made way for typical standards and less-experienced teachers were hired and a volunteer teacher program was started. The author also makes sure to share how the Cristo Rey plan became a template that could be, and was, franchised out to other areas that were interested in using the information they'd collected and starting their own school. It is a great idea. The students go to classes four days a week and report to a job on their fifth day. So five students together work one full-time position. It not only provides revenue to the school but provides invaluable experiences to the students. They get to see what life is like outside of their neighborhood. They see jobs other than just those they are familiar with. They build relationships with adults and start to build self-confidence and think about going to college.

Here are a couple things I wrote down, wanting to learn a bit more about...
  • Several of the people involved with starting the new school had been involved with Fe y Alegría schools in South America. This little article talks about why teachers enjoy teacher in Fe y Alegria schools.
  • Nativity schools were mentioned throughout the book. These schools are showing up with more and more regularity in America. You can read more about that movement here or here.
  • They talk about using the Ignatian pedagogical paradigm when developing their curriculum. It consists of the student's learning following three main steps; experience, reflection, action, and then evaluation over it all. The link gives a solid, concise and useful description of the paradigm.
  • There were two books that I wrote down as I was reading because I wanted to find out what they were all about and maybe read them myself. The first one is Paulo Freire's "Pedagogy of the Oppressed".
  • The second one I am looking forward to reading. It is "Breaking Ranks: Changing an American Institution" written by the National Association of Principals. It is a collection of key points that must be adopted and implemented to improve our education system and make it relevent in today's society.
  • There is a phrase that the author mentions is common among the Jesuits, "What are you doing for the kingdom?" The way it comes up in the book, it almost takes you by surprise. It's a simple question and, as shown in the book, we can be running from job to obligation to problem to whatever the next thing on our calendar is, but it is good to pause and ask ourselves that question and see what we come up with as our answer. A quick search of that phrase turned up these three interesting blogs. One, Two, Three.

27 June 2008

Steve Nash's Charity Soccer Pick-up

I love this kind of unique, never to be seen again, event where professional athletes showing they love to compete & enjoy doing so. Like that video of Zidane showing up at an indoor game and shredding everyone just for fun. Steve Nash set up this game to benefit his organization which works for health in kids. I love hearing how it got organized; it sounds like he just picked up his phone and started calling people. He ended up with two squads, Team Nash (featuring himself and two other Phoenix Suns, Raja Bell and Leandro Barbosa, along with world-class French striker Thierry Henry, Englishmen Steve McNamana & Robbie Fowler) pitted against Team Reyna (former US captain Claudio Reyna, Jason Kidd, Baron Davis of the Golden State Warriors, Chelsea's Salomon Kalou, US's Jozy Altidore & Gregg Berhalter, and Juan Pablo Angel). They all showed in khaki shorts and team t-shirts, some of the NBA guys sporting basketball shoes and went at it in Chinatown in NYC. I like Reyna's comment, "The boys were out late last night so you knew that was going to happen." There's some video footage at this site as well as write-ups from ESPN and NY Times. It sounds like ESPN might be doing a Behind the Lines piece on this, if so, I can't wait!

26 June 2008

Citizens Unite!

I saw this write-up in the weekly "what's going on in Des Moines" email and I found it creative, expressive, and hilarious. I will definitely be celebrating on July 1; bring on the clean air!

Monday, June 3o, 6-9:00PM

Smokes For Free
The legendary Blues on Grand is going SMOKE-FREE a day early on Monday, June 30th. From 6:00pm until 9:00pm everyone SMOKES FOR FREE. The Blues on Grand Cigarette Girls will distribute free cigarettes to everyone (twenty-one and over).

In honor of Iowa’s statewide smoking ban, music will be provided by DJ Serge (pronounced sehr gā) playing your favorite Soviet Union standards. There also will be specials on Stoli and Smirnoff Ice. At 9:00pm, Blues on Grand will officially go non-smoking and have a flag raising ceremony that truly represents the direction our government is heading.

Blues on Grand sends out a special invitation to all Democratic Senators, Representatives, Governor Culver AND Mrs. Culver and the rest of the Politburo (their papers must be in order however) in appreciation for them looking out for us.

What's on the Menu?

I wasn't happy with how little cooking/eating I'd been doing at home lately so I decided to start writing up a weekly menu. This is something we used to do all the time growing up and something that stoppable and his family do now as well. So last week I sat down looked through some recipes and made out a menu for four days, leaving one day for leftovers and then made up a grocery list. I followed that up by not cooking anything on that menu that week. Partly due to a midweek trip back home to do some painting and odd jobs, but mainly do to my laziness. This week I've done much better. I made an egg salad with cilantro, celery and jalapeno that was very tasty. And yesterday I made some chicken tikka kebabs with a nice yoghurt, cilantro, lime sauce from a Whole Foods recipe. They turned out pretty nice. Check out the pix on my flickr and we'll see what else I fit in this week! I'm open to suggestions for other good summer cooking ideas.

24 June 2008

Advocating for Service Work Among the Ivies

This NY Times article obviously goes right along with what I was talking about a few weeks ago. It is reassuring to know that schools are aware, and concerned about the trends of post-graduate employment choices being made by their students. I like what the Amhert president said, "We’re in the business of graduating people who will make the world better in some way. That’s what justifies the expense of the education.” It is that expense of education that is leading to more and more schools to offer grants and loan forgiveness to those committing to service work careers. I also like this quote from the recent Harvard grad, "A lot of students have been asking the question: ‘We came to Harvard as freshmen to change the world, and we’re leaving to become investment bankers — why is this?' ” Well said.

Behind the Scenes with Barack

I thought this video clip of Obama talking with his staff at their Chicago headquarters was a fun look at a less formal speech of what he wants to do. I also love the obvious importance he gives his victory in Iowa. Its nice to see that he values and recognizes the significance of it.

23 June 2008


You know those phrases, terms and sayings that workplace people love to use in their meetings and their communications that just grate on your nerves? I have been out of the cube environment for a while now so I can't compile a very comprehensive list of my own pet peeves, but this list the BBC put together as submitted by its readers is pretty hilarious. They're mostly British, obviously, so some of them are new to me, but overall it is good stuff. 'Going forward' and 'let's touch base on that offline' and 'low-hanging fruit' are three that rang very true for me. My favorite reader comment was Tim from Durban, "I once had a boss who said, 'You can't have your cake and eat it, so you have to step up to the plate and face the music.' It was in that moment I knew I had to resign before somebody got badly hurt by a pencil." I have totally been in those meetings.

[credits & thanks to homebase for passing this on to me. Great to reminisce and laugh about it!]

18 June 2008

Tim Russert [1950-2008]

Instead of trying (and probably failing) to say what I thought about the loss of Tim Russert, I'll just link to video of his son Luke, speaking at his funeral. I only watched Meet the Press a handful of times, but I was impressed everytime I did. And I thouroughly enjoyed Tim's book, "Big Russ and Me."
(thanks to homebase for passing on the link to the video)

17 June 2008


I was inspired by caboose to use the poll feature on my blog. I've never really had anything I wanted to poll, but with Euro 2008 monopolizing my attention I thought I'd try it out for fun. I've also wondered if there'd even be enough readers to vote to make it interesting. I don't have many commentors but judging by my site statistics, there are quite a few pairs of eyes that find their way to my blog (probably by mistake) each day. So hopefully a few of them might take the time to click the button by their favorite team/nation. If you want info, I'd suggest ESPN's Soccernet or the UEFA site. Or just vote on which nationality's food you prefer. The quaterfinals start on Thursday and the Sweden or Russia question will be decided by the winner in Wednesday's match.

16 June 2008

Personalization..A look back

Now that the year is over, I thought I'd take a look back over the past 10 months and reflect. That's what they teach you in education classes, constant reflection. Relationships and personalization. Two ideas that make up a big part of teaching, or at least they are a major catalyst that enables and intensifies the rest of the learning process. You can set aside a few minutes a day to sit with a particular group of students with no education expectations and call that personalization, or you can go out and witness students outside of your classroom. It is so great to see a student who is average, or less than that, in your class excelling in and enjoying some other activity or endeavor. It will change how you view and relate to that individual. And, more importantly, it will change how that individual views and relates to you. I have seen some amazing things this year and without them, the year would've been much less enjoyable.
I made it to football games, the powder-puff game, a volleyball game, boys and girls basketball (another trip to State for the girls!), a drama fundraiser in the park, a wrestling meet, boys swim meets, girls soccer matches, enjoyed my first synchronized swimming exhibition, tennis meets, chaperoned Winter Formal, chaperoned spring dance, chaperoned Prom (loved it), sponsored the Ping-Pong club, founded & sponsored the Recycling club, sponsored the baseball club, supervised the dodgeball tournament, organized a group to go see a famous speaker on a Saturday, was amazed by the show choir show, attended the spring play, attended several choral concerts, was wow'ed by two fashion shows, met parents at conferences, watched step & dance teams, and even though I only made it to less than half of the receptions I was invited to, that still constituted quite a few. By the end of the year, it was common knowledge among the seniors that I was a solid bet if you were in need of a faculty member to sponsor or supervise something. I may not have stayed forever at all those events, but I don't think there were any that I was not happy to be at. Kids are incredibly talented and it is great to see them show it off. Combine all of that with the bittersweet pleasure of residing close to your school, which means seeing students everywhere; at the grocery store (doesn't matter which of 3 I go to), at the coffee shops, at church, at the video store, at the gas stations, at restaurants, at the mall, etc. I think I have personalized and I know it has aided my teaching...and I know that I enjoyed it.

Euro 2008 Update

Just a brief update on Euro 2008...I've been able to catch some good games and some great goals. I got to see Croatia pull a sweet upset of Germany. I was treated to a Dutch deconstruction of the French, 4-1. I'll hold off on linking to some of the best goals until the tournment is finished. The third and final round of group stage games is going on now so some of the games are less than exciting since some teams are already assured of advancing or going home.
The Austrian coach was talking to the press before their big match against Germany. He told them, "We are not wetting our pants because we are playing Germany, we know they have problems and we know some are injured and they are not playing that well. They are not as good as they were in 2006 and we have home advantage, we think we have a good chance." So that was the headline on ESPN Soccernet today. "Austria not wetting pants" I laughed out loud. I'm sure the Austria team equipment manager was relieved to read that.

12 June 2008


Earlier this week, when I was downtown driving to my aforementioned lunch at Pablo's with caboose, I had my windows down and was approaching an intersection when someone on the sidewalk hollered, "Can you jump my car?" I glanced over to see a little old Toyota stuck in the driveway, coming out of an parking lot at a retirement building and a middle-aged woman standing beside it and looking a bit distressed. I pulled over, backed up and popped my hood. She had jumper cables out and ready to go, and without much trouble at all we had her on her way. So I felt good about that. She thanked me and said if she was ever my nurse she'd treat me like a king.
A couple days later I went to the airport to give a friend a ride home. I parked and cleaned up a few things in my car since there'd be someone else sitting in it and popped the trunk to make room for the luggage. As I went back there to organize my trunk, I checked my pockets to make sure I wasn't leaving anything (phone, money clip, keys) and had that feeling of dread and disgust when I didn't feel my keys. Peering back into my car revealed that, yep, my keys were still in the car and my doors were indeed locked. Possible fixes to and ramifications of the situation were flying through my mind when I remember that I had popped the trunk. I vaguely remember there being emergency releases that allow the back seat to fold down. I went back there and, thankfully, I was right. It wasn't easy and it involved getting completely into my trunk and since there was a bunch of stuff on my back seat it took quite a bit of finagling, but in the end I was able to reach through and unlock the back door and then go around and get my keys. I laughed about it afterwards but these two incidents happened so close together and both were car-related, I couldn't help but think that a little karma was involved.

11 June 2008

Bike It!

Saw this tidbit in a bicycling magazine and thought I'd share...
"In the Netherlands 25% of all trips are taken by bicycle. Denmark: 20%, Germany: 14%, Switzerland: 10%. In the U.S., the number is less than 1%."
- World Transportation Policy & Procedure
It would help to know just what they defined a 'trip' as, but I think it is a pretty telling statistic regardless. Some might argue that our country is much larger and less densley populated that those it's compared to but I don't think they are talking about switching to bikes for the family vacation to Disney. I think they're talking about biking to work, to church, to the coffeeshop, or to the grocery store. This statistic is the inverse of two other related stats where the U.S. leads the way, obesity and gasoline consumption.

09 June 2008

Tomato Danger?

I hadn't even heard anything about this most recent scare of some food-borne disease until caboose & I visited Jimmy John's this evening and were informed they were not serving tomatoes. caboose didn't care since he asked for no tomatoes anyways, and I didn't care either once I'd decided to substitute cucumber slices. Delicious.
Oh, and on a great food-related side note...I returned to Pablo's today for the first time since spring break. It was amazing. Never fails to disappoint and never seems to get old. And after all those school lunches, it really tasted incredible.
Oh, and another food-related side note...I enjoyed my first ever Tropical Sno this afternoon. I've heard a lot of hype about these shaved ice treats and the seasonal shacks that vend them. My students were aghast when they heard I'd never had one and insisted I go. Today I made my maiden voyage down the street and ordered the Pirate (Very Berry & Passion Fruit), courtesy of my friend. She had the Moose (Watermelon & Strawberry-Banana). I can say that it completely lived up to the hype. I will be going back this summer...probably often.

Euro 2008

Despite having not been able to catch any games so far, a problem that I hope to rectify tomorrow, I am enjoying reading up on the action going on in the Euro2008 tournament. (It's like the World Cup, except only for 16 European teams that qualified.) My favorite team for the tournament, Netherlands, had a big win today over Italy. They are in probably the toughest group and their 3-0 win is a great start to things. Total Football.
I hope to watch Spain take on Russia tomorrow at 11:00. Tune into ESPN2 if you're interested, or if you're in the Des Moines area, gimme a call, I'll be out watching it somewhere over a long lunch since I don't have ESPN.

06 June 2008


I love happy stories and if they involve soccer, even better. I read this article in today's NY Times and had to share. It sort of follows the story in the movie "Goal", except for real. It is unbelievable the turns that life can take on one small decision. Plus this kid now has a supercool nickname!

05 June 2008

The Finals

I watched Game 1 of the Lakers vs Celtics matchup for the NBA Finals last night. I am not a fan of the NBA and never watch it during the regular season. But this is just such a classic matchup that I am going to have to tune in and and watch. And it didn't fail to live up to its billing. When I was younger, I used to be a big fan of the NBA. And before the Bulls dominated the 90's and before I admired the 'Bad Boy' Detroit Piston teams, I cheered for the Celtics. So last night, just as I did twenty years ago, I was cheering the Celtics and hoping that they'd beat the L.A. Gone from Boston are McHale, Bird, Ainge, and my favorite, Parrish. Nor does L.A. have Magic, Kareem, Worthy, or Green, but the cast of stars in this series is still pretty impressive. Kobe, KG, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce. There was no parquet floor (Boston has moved to a new arena) but drama was not in short supply. Paul Pierce went down with a knee injury and was carried to the locker room by two teammates. He returned a few minutes later and the place went crazy. And they went even more crazy when he checked in and started raining three's. So the Celtics take a 1-0 lead and I'm hooked.

The Democratic Nominee

Obama has met and exceeded the necessary number of delegates. It sounds like Hillary is going to concede on Saturday and endorse Barack. It's been a lengthy road to get to this point but I am confident that Democrats will come back together and support their candidate. I'm also excited to find out who he will name as his running mate.
It was over a year ago when I went to Ames and heard him speak. I was worried about the direction of our country and his words moved me to volunteer with a political campaign for the first time in my life. Phone calls, door knocking, walking in a parade, grilling food at an event on the Fourth of July, driving in his motorcade, caucusing, celebrating his victory. It has been a long process, but it's been so worth it. I'm happy and proud and am looking forward to the fall election.

Last Day!!

Cue Alice Cooper's "School's Out For Summer"...
After some incredibly long days at school with no seniors, and therefor not much to do, we are officially done and summer vacation has begun. We kicked it off with a big golf outing yesterday. I signed up to play, regardless of the fact that I've played golf once in the past six or so years. And it was not pretty. My foursome (actually a fivesome) was very fun and there was no pressure or tension when I wiffed on my first tee shot. None of us were spectacular and no one had a monopoly on ridiculously bad shots. But I improved as the day went on, and that's what's important, right? It was a fun time and I enjoyed it, so maybe it won't years before I go out again.
It was a great time to relax, enjoy the weather (until hole 16 when a storm came through and forced us off the course) and have some laughs with co-workers, some of whom from other departments that you may not get the chance to talk to much.
So, now that vacation has begun, let's see what it may hold...
I slept in today, woke up with no alarm, which was great. Did a couple loads of laundry. Did the dishes. Picked up my room, which was a mess. Played some scrabbulous with homebase. Met teachers for chinese buffet. Made sun tea. Messed around online and I've got volleyball to look forward to tonight. Pretty easy day and very laidback, but I am gonna need more to do for the rest of the summer.
I do have some 'to do' ideas...
  • lots of bike riding
  • getting in shape (goes with the first item)
  • get caboose to play tennis with me once a week
  • start watching my Netflix movies again
  • get back to cooking more
  • see about taking Spanish as adult ed again
  • put together and plan my Master's project so I can do it in the fall
  • get my new classroom cleaned, organized and set up
  • develop curriculum & lesson plans for the three new classes I'm going to be teaching
  • trips! Seattle, Chicago, Dallas, Madison, Omaha, Kansas City, back home (of course) planned so far.
  • read
  • make it Pablo's for lunch multiple times.
  • (thx to funseeker for the reminder) improve on the drums
That's all I've got for now, but I'm open to suggestions...

02 June 2008

Ask What You Can Do

"But I also began to realize that I wasn’t just helping other people. Through service, I found a community that embraced me; citizenship that was meaningful; the direction I’d been seeking. Through service, I discovered how my own improbable story fit into the larger story of America.

Each of you will have the chance to make your own discovery in the years to come. And I say “chance” because you won’t have to take it. There’s no community service requirement in the real world; no one forcing you to care. You can take your diploma, walk off this stage, and chase only after the big house and the nice suits and all the other things that our money culture says you should by. You can choose to narrow your concerns and live your life in a way that tries to keep your story separate from America’s.

But I hope you don’t. Not because you have an obligation to those who are less fortunate, though you do have that obligation. Not because you have a debt to all those who helped you get here, though you do have that debt.

It’s because you have an obligation to yourself. Because our individual salvation depends on collective salvation. Because thinking only about yourself, fulfilling your immediate wants and needs, betrays a poverty of ambition. Because it’s only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you realize your true potential and discover the role you’ll play in writing the next great chapter in America’s story."

Senator Obama made his speech at Wesleyan University's commencement a missive to those young graduates, and to all Americans to contemplate the importance of doing service. This is one of my favorite topics and something I hope to incorporate more into my curriculum. His comments closely match many of my feelings on the topic. I really enjoyed his speech. Read it here or watch it here. You can also read this Op-Ed piece criticizing Obama's speech for its omission of military as he lists possible service vocations. "He felt no need to remind students of a different kind of public service — one that entails more risks than community organizing. He felt no need to tell the graduating seniors in the lovely groves of Middletown that they should be grateful to their peers who were far away facing dangers on behalf of their country." Two points - 1) Yes, military service entails more risks than community organizing, but is our military improving conditions for homeless, or working to end poverty, or increasing literacy, or creating jobs? Also, in the last decade our military has not earned a very glowing light for young minds to aspire to be a part of. 2) Telling the graduates that they should be thanking their peers serving in the armed forces doesn't seem to really fit with the idea of the speech. Yes, we all should be grateful for their service, but it was incongruous with the topic at hand.
He also questions whether the $12,000 that Obama was paid as an organizer was really that little. [Adjusted for inflation it would be equal to $23,957.96 today] I don't think Obama's point was that it was a ridiculously small salary. I think he says it more as a comparison to what his classmates were earning; showing what the opportunity costs were of his decision. Also Mr. Kristol, the columnist, fails to ever mention that the topic of the speech was actually one that had been chosen by Ted Kennedy, not by Senator Obama. Just wanted to provide a little of the contrary view as well. I loved it and hope to find an mp3 of the speech...

"And so, should you take the path of service, should you choose to take up one of these causes as your own, know that you’ll experience frustrations and failures. Even your successes will be marked by imperfections and unintended consequences. I guarantee you, there will certainly be times when friends or family urge you to pursue more sensible endeavors with more tangible rewards. And there will be times when you are tempted to take their advice. But I hope you’ll remember, during those times of doubt and frustration, that there is nothing naïve about your impulse to change this world. Because all it takes is one act of service – one blow against injustice – to send forth that tiny ripple of hope that Robert Kennedy spoke of."

Tightening the (Gucci) Belt

I thought this article from the NY Times was a good indication of the effects of the economic downtown on the rich. It also provides a look at lucrative spending habits that defy logic and spin the head of a value-minded individual such as me. The article does a good job of showing that there are sectors coming out ahead in this difficult time, which is a big theme I highlight in my class; there are economic winners and losers in every situation.

01 June 2008

Crime and Punishment II

Adding on to that last post, here are a few of my favorite lines from the novel...

"The darker the night-the brighter the stars, the deeper the grief-the closer is God."

"in order to get to know anyone, it is necessary to approach them cautiously and by stages."

"I do believe you'd let a man beat you up just for the satisfaction of doing him a favor."

"Pain and suffering are inevitable for persons of broad awareness and depth of heart."

"Everyone has a duty to spread education and propaganda, and the more bluntly the better if you ask me. I might implant an idea, a seed. From the seed something real might grow."

"Be of great heart, and fear less."

"In the light of failure, everything appears stupid."

Crime and Punishment

So I finally finished Crime and Punishment, after starting it back in mid-March. It was a good story, enjoyable and and pretty easy read. It just was long. Plus, just as the book was getting a bit wordy and ponderous, school was getting very hectic so I was stalled out for quite a while. But I'm done now and the finish made me happy I stuck it out.
I kept a list of words that I wasn't positivite on their definitions so I could look them up at some point (haven't done it yet). And since I love lists, I thought I'd share this one in case anyone was interested. Or in case any english/lit teachers are Googleing "Crime and Punishment" "vocabulary words" and happen across this page (I can provide page numbers if desired). The definitions are in the comments section:
sang froid

This goes right along with the Free Rice website that I've been enjoying lately. I added a banner for it in my sidebar if you want to check it out. Find out your vocab level and help battle world hunger.