30 July 2008

Scrabble


I've been playing scrabble against homebase probably 4 or 5 times a week this summer and have really been enjoying it. We play directly on the scrabulous website fortunately, so yesterday's news that facebook has taken down their scrabulous application didn't affect us (other than an increase of traffic on the website). I heard on npr that the National Scrabble championships were finishing up yesterday as well, so I decided to go out and see what the champion's board looked like. I thought it was interesting how many of the triple letter and triple word squares they left open. Other than that...what's a gox?

29 July 2008

Beatrice's Goat


I am unfamiliar with this children's book, Beatrice's Goat, but was made aware of the incredibly heart-warming ensuing storyline thru a new economics blog I'm checking out. The NY Times op/ed article tells the story.

MASH


I had a new beverage last night at the coffee shop and I really liked it. It's called MASH and the flavor I had was grapefruit citrus zing. There are three other flavors out there to try as well. As the side of the bottle will tell you, it's not juice (only 1%), it's not an energy drink, and it's not pop. What it is...is delicious. I will be on the look out for more places to carry this. Great for the summer.

Happy Meat Night '08

A few new faces and a few new meat delights made this year's HMN a delightful and delectable night. We were lucky to score some pretty nice weather, not as hot as years past, which is good because there was no kiddie pool to cool off in this time. :) The supply of meat dishes was more controlled and spread out into a steady trickle of new offerings. Rocky Mountain oysters were a new addition this year, which I was eager to try. I actually liked them quite a bit. I was envisioning something much tougher & grizzlier; like a gizzard or something. Frog legs were also new, but those I did not care for so much. Two of the newcomers made my top 3 of the night list. Hagen & Cherie, first-timers themselves, made a massive amount of Ćevapčići. It was very tasty and very well received. My other favorite newcomer was the chicken legs done on the grill by Adam. I didn't catch how he did them, only something about jalapeno salt rub, and a chipotle sauce. Rounding out my top three would probably have to be either the NY strip or the pork chops. Lots of other deliciousness, smoked oysters, shrimp, kefta kebabs (not as good as '06, I need to change it up for next year), meatballs, smoked pork loin, gizzards, and bacon-wrapped scallops.
The fireworks were especially fun this year. It was a very lively display that included a couple close calls, a spirited exchange with the neighbor across the fence, and many hoots of appreciation (and a couple of fear).
Check out the pictures from the night on my flickr.

26 July 2008

Anarchy in Sports

I saw two disturbing clips this week of players in different sports that let the competition get the best of them. First, there was this footage from the WNBA. The Detroit Shock and the L.A. Sparks were playing the after a tough foul and then a tangle on the ensuing free throw, tempers were lost and the players were scrapping all over. One player injured her knee trying to keep players separated and one assistant coach, Rick Mahorn (formerly a Detroit Piston 'Bad Boy') pushed Lisa Leslie back while separating her and she fell backwards. Other players assumed that he pushed her down and one of his own players runs up and punches him in the back and another one shoves him in the front. He kept his senses the whole time and displayed remarkable composure.
The other clip was from a minor league baseball game between the Dayton Dragons and the Peoria Chiefs. After a couple hit batters and a hard slide into second the managers get into a yelling match, a push is delivered, benches clear, bedlam follows. They most insane part is the Peoria pitcher comes running into the picture, not to push or punch anyone, nor to break anyone up. He decides to use his best weapon and he fires a fastball into the opposing team's dugout, which is directly in front of him. Unfortunately, the lack of control he showed while beaning those batters earlier popped up again and that pitch meant for the dugout went a little high and dropped a fan in the stands. It hit the 44 year-old fan in the head, knocked him out and, subsequently he had to go to the hospital. The 21 year-old player is now charged with assault. This article tells the story well.

24 July 2008

Cookie Flop

I was bored last night so decided to bake some cookies. I hadn't baked in a while and although I used to be pretty good at cookies & other sweet treats, I think I have lost my touch. The last couple times I've attempted, the end result has been far from what I envisioned. Chocolate-chip cookies were the challenge last night and they came out looking just pathetic. I'll post a picture later. Part of the problem is my oven cooks hotter than it says it does. I need to get a thermometer to calibrate it. Also, I sprayed the cookie sheets with PAM, something I never do. I'm wondering if that contributed to the pancake flat cookies I ended up with. I'm going to find a new recipe and go for it again next week.

23 July 2008

War Criminal Captured After Double Life

The story of Radovan Karadzic, the former leader of Bosnia's Serb population, had been a fugitive for the last 13 years since he was indicted for the horrendous crimes at Srebrenica. The NY Times provides some interesting details to this story.

21 July 2008

AP Hullaballoo

I thought this article was particularly timely since I just got back from an AP conference. A high school in California (Trabuco Hills) is having the scores from all their AP tests administered in May throw out. The high school in Mission Viejo in the OC has been found to have many major violations in their administering practices and 10 students have admitted to cheating on tests (including macro!). The other 375 test takers are preparing to put up quite a fight to get their scores reinstated, but there looks to be more investigation needed as there might be more than 10 cheaters. Retaking the exams in August would be difficult but I don't see the College Board, who runs the AP, backing down on this one.

Seattle

Five days and six nights in Seattle; that's the longest vacation I've had in quite a while and also the farthest west I've been by a long ways. The Advanced Placement Annual Conference was what brought me out there and I tacked on a couple extra days at the start (a good thing to remember: tack on days at the beginning, not the end. At the end you are ready to come home) to have a little fun. Since I wasn't too keen on paying the $185/day rate at the hotel where I was staying during the conference, I did a little looking (not much really) and found the Green Tortoise Hostel. It was $30/day for a bed in a 6-person room and since I was only in the room when I was sleeping it worked out perfectly...well, not entirely perfect. There wasn't any A/C and it was pretty warm that first night, but the second night had cooled off a lot. The Tortoise is a well-run, clean place with a ton of amenities and I'd recommend it to anyone looking for affordable accommodations. The location can not be beat. The front door was less than a stone's throw from Pike Place Market. So I got in on Monday and checked-in and went to grab a bite. I found Kell's, an Irish restaurant/bar in the city guide that Connie had thoughtfully provided to me. Although the guide said there was live Irish music every night, the place was very dead, but the food was pretty tasty. I had a corned beef pasty & an order of their beets & bleu cheese appetizer. Both were good, I rarely order beets but they sounded great and really hit the spot. True to their write-up, an old guy got up and played guitar and sang towards the end of my meal, kinda like Willie Nelson, with an Irish song thrown in now and then. The next morning, after a cold shower to cool my body temperature down after my cooker night, I was over walking around and checking out the Pike Place Market before it opened. It was great to see the fishermen stacking their displays & packing the ice in; a great contrast to the crowds later in the day. I thought it'd be great fun to buy a fish and send it to someone, but then later in the day I saw a guy buy one of the whole salmon and after enjoying the acrobatic throwing & catching & packing of it, I overheard the fisherman tell the buyer, "That'll be $340." (~18 lbs @ $17.99/lb) So I decided against doing that, especially since overnight shipping would add another $100. Next time maybe. :) Instead, I picked out a great peach for breakfast ($1.70) and enjoyed every juice-packed bite. Peaches are my favorite fruit but they are only worthwhile for such a short window. This one was top-shelf. I also had a raspberry bear claw that was much less noteworthy. Spent the morning checking out the booths and shops at and around the Market and chose the Athenian for lunch. It was also in my guide and is a little place right in the Market and was used in 'Sleepless in Seattle'. I got seated in a swell little booth with a great view. I ordered a Spire Washington Apple Cider which was sweet, crisp and refreshing, along with an oyster shooter, which is just that, a little cup like a shot glass with tomato juice & horseradish and a fresh oyster in it. Delic. I had the fish & chips for lunch and they were perfect. I walked off lunch on my way to Pioneer Square in the afternoon and explored Elliot Bay Book Company, a mighty fine bookstore. The weather was gorgeous, as it was every day I was there, so I sat outside at the park and read a bit, worked on a crossword and listen to some music while working my way through a half-pound of Ranier cherries. Amazingly good. On my way back to the hostel I happened across the Pike Place Brewery and stopped in to sample their creations. The Kilt-Lifter was a pretty nice coppery ale and their I.P.A., while not remarkable, was palatable. I was hoping to check out Wild Ginger, after a emphatic recommendation from Connie, but upon arriving there, the wait was too long and I wasn't dressy enough to be comfortable there, so I walked around the corner and had some tasty, and startlingly fast Thai curry. I capped the night by checking out the fourth installment in the Indiana Jones series.
Wednesday brought another peach breakfast, then relaxed with the NY Times, a Fage yougurt and some chai. Then I hiked over towards the Space Needle (cool to see, but no interest in going up. After Chicago, I don't think it'd be as impressive) and experienced the Experience Music Project. It is a cool museum with one main exhibit documenting the evolution of the Seattle music scene from the '20's to present and the other exhibit focusing on favorite son Jimi Hendrix. I thoroughly enjoyed it all and spent nearly 4 hours there. I actually sent a text to caboose while I was there, asking him to put together a Hendrix primer for me to expand on my basic knowledge & appreciation of the legend. It was kindly waiting for me when I got home. (Thanks!) A falafel sandwich and a little shopping later, it was time for me to get checked into my hotel for the conference. The Sheraton was great! I compared rooms with two other teachers I was out there with and my room came out on top, losing points only for having a crappy view. The bed was plush, great comforter, pillows and incredibly cushy mattress. I wanted to take it with me when I left. Wednesday and Thursday night we didn't need to worry about dinner because the conference had receptions with free hors d'oeuvre and drinks. It was a good chance to hang out, catch up with the teachers I was with and also meet some fun, interesting people from around the country. We did hit up two up-scale eateries on Friday & Saturday. Friday we went to Cafe Campagne, where I had some nice fish (not my favorite meal, but when in Seattle...) and the next night we went to Pink Door. It is this cool, hard-to-find place where I had the best pasta of my life. It was lasagna but unlike any I've had before. I was still thinking about it hours later. I tried to find a picture of it online, since it was the only time I didn't have my camera with me and it was the best tasting and looking food I had the whole week.
The conference itself was good. Some good sessions and a couple dogs, but that's how conferences go. I went to some good ones focusing on overseas teaching opportunities, web technology & how to utilize it in the classroom, and free markets. I got some good resources and am eager to think about how I can incorporate some of it in my lessons. They also had three key speakers, but I only made it to two. Howard Gardner, Harvard grad professor, gave a decent talk about multiple intelligences but I wish he would've spoke more about the last two (respectful & ethical) and less on the first three. It was good though and was entertaining too. Linda Darling-Hammon, Stanford professor, gave a spirited and interesting talk on the challenges facing education currently.
A great trip with a good mix of professional development and personal enjoyment. And I also got the chance to fly with Alaska Airlines and they are top notch! Well done, Alaskans. Check out all the pix in this flickr set.

20 July 2008

Home again, Home again, hippity-Hop...

Back from the Pacific Northwest. Great trip but still happy to be back. I'll put together a blog & upload photos (I didn't really take very many) tomorrow. Off to unpack...

14 July 2008

Seattle

I'm leaving today for a week of vacationing and conferencing in Seattle. A couple days on my own to start with and I've got a nice list of things I'm excited to go and check out, followed by a few days of AP Annual Conference. I'm optimistically looking forward to the sessions & hoping they've got some good speakers. Since I'm not taking my laptop, my blogging activity will be determined by the availability of a computer with internet access at the hotel. If I don't get a chance, then I'll see ya in a week with lots of stories & pictures to share.

13 July 2008

Live Music

After not getting to see too much live music for several months, the last week has been a welcome change. First, caboose & I went to the second day of the 80/35 Music Festival. We heard some good music & had a good time enjoying the amazing weather. It was reassuring see a good turnout. Hopefully this will lead to more & bigger events like this. Then, on Thursday, after a very hot & sweaty volleyball match, caboose & I went downtown to check out Vanessa Carlton at the Simon Estes amphitheater. She played a short set but it was very enjoyable. She commented between songs about how relaxing & nice the venue was. The weather again was idyllic, the music was great and I had a ton of students come up and say hi and see what I was up to. Finally, on Friday we checked out Stephen's Green at the Brazenhead in Omaha. We didn't know anything about them, other than they had played with Ronan Tynan, but I'm always up for checking out some live Irish music. Unfortunately, this one didn't really meet with what we were hoping for, plus the seating & sound left something to be desired. But, the food was very tasty and the company was good, so it was still a fun night.

Comfort Food

After getting back last night, I didn't feel like going out so I did one of my favorite ways to spend a weekend evening/night. I got a couple recipes, got groceries (caboose went with me and he is really improving his grocery smarts), got a couple new beers, turned on the music and did some cooking. I made the All-Beef Meatloaf that I first saw on America's Test Kitchen and subsequent made in our meatloaf throwdown. This meatloaf is really top-notch and the glaze is great. Along with the main course, I decided to pair something I'd seen in a Whole Foods magazine. I looked around online for a recipe for it but came up with nothing, so I improvised and made up my own. All I knew was it was mashed potatoes combined with mashed peas and featuring fresh mint as well. I (mostly) peeled, quartered & boiled 7 or so russet potatoes, opened a can of peas, and chopped up some fresh mint. Once the potatoes were down I whipped them with the peas, some salt & pepper and the mint. Then I added a couple tablespoons of butter, maybe a 1/2 cup of cream, and about the same of milk. Caboose and I really enjoyed them. The picture isn't that impressive but they had great flavor. I will definitely be making them again.

Car Swap!

Eight years ago I got a new car, a one-year old 1999 Olds Intrigue. I was just out of college, had my first job and my first post-college apartment. It had 13,000 miles on it when I got it. Over the ensuing years we would travel a lot together. I don't have any idea how many trips from Des Moines to Farragut or Des Moines to Omaha it has made. It's gone to Iowa City a lot, Chicago a couple dozen times, and Notre Dame a couple times. I put two stereos in it (one got stolen in Chicago), replaced the battery a couple times and was in a couple small accidents as well in Chicago. A rock chip gained while following a truck on 235 six years ago spread to a sizable crack but for some reason I always put off fixing it. Last week, I made the move and put in a new windshield (I got a great deal, using a tip from a friend). The car now has 148,000 miles and even though I think it's got at least another 30,000 left, I decided to seize a good opportunity to trade up. I bought stoppable's car as he was ending his lease and since he needed a car for the work commute, he bought mine. So at least my car will stay in the family. I now have a very nice 2005 Honda Accord. Notable firsts: leather seats and a sunroof! It's a stick so that will take some getting used to. I haven't had a manual transmission car since high school plus it will effect my cell phone usage. I'm a big fan of calling while driving. Despite a few sad moments on the drive back to Des Moines, I'm sure my new car will quickly become part of my life and we'll get along beautifully. Hopefully stoppable will enjoy his time with my old car as well.

10 July 2008

Annoying Co-workers

A Reader's Comment list from the NY Times, asking for annoying co-workers habits.
There's some good ones on there. Since I've moved on from the corporate world, my shoulder-to-shoulder interaction with co-workers has dropped to very little, which is great. Some annoyances that still haven't been forgotten...
  • Relentless negativity & complaining
  • people eating food out of the frig that isn't theirs
  • people leaving food in the frig forever
  • fingernail clipping....drives me crazy!
  • people who want get sidetracked about a somewhat related topic in a meeting, holding up everyone else who wants to keep going...10 minutes later they use that annoying phrase, "We can take this up off-line" NO KIDDING!
  • conference call participants who are not in a 'meeting friendly' environment...like they have kids or pets in the same room with them, sharing their audible interjections with everyone on the call
  • The biggest annoyance from my teaching experience has been people who, when they are in a meeting, do exactly those things that they complain about students doing, don't turn their phone to vibrate, talk while a speaker/presenter is talking, are more worried about making a funny comment than getting anything out of the meeting

Missile Photo Touch-up?

I thought this sequence of events outlined in the NY Times today was pretty interesting. Yesterday's media headline story about Iran's missile test was everywhere. This story tells how, for a short period of time, there was a picture showing four missiles going up. It was around long enough to get picked up by a French news service and then by several major U.S. papers (including the NY Times). Now the 'original' is back being circulated and we are left to wonder about who did the Photoshopping and why.

09 July 2008

Fast Claps

Just wanted to share this entertaining video of the Guinness Book of World Record-holder for fastest clapping. 721 claps in 1 minute. Pretty good.

08 July 2008

Anne Braden

I put the Flobot's "Handlebars" in my sidebar a couple weeks ago after caboose had me listen to it. I ended up buying the whole album recently for $7.99 on iTunes. Definitely a great purchase. I saw that caboose had a blog post on his site about some of his favorite lyrics and I wanted to do the same and share another song from that album that has really blown me away.
"Anne Braden" is a song about a civil rights activist and her actions and beliefs that were really unsettling at the time to many Southerners. I looked around online and read a bit about her. "In the Rev. Martin Luther King’s 1963 “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” he singled out only five white southerners whose support for the emerging civil rights movement was unquestionable. Anne Braden was among that group." Check out a good story on her in this women's history highlight piece. Or her Wiki page. The song is powerful and well-written and also samples actual audio of Ms. Braden speaking. Give it a listen here.

07 July 2008

Red or White?

A package was sitting outside my door today when I came back after lunch. There are very few simple pleasures that provide more happiness to me than a new pair of shoes. I love everything about them; the box, the tissue paper around them, the smell, lacing them up just right. A special surprise was waiting for me inside the box, an alternate set of laces! Ever since my tenure at Finish Line, I've admired a set of different laces. They really make a shoe pop. Plus I had to push 'multiples' so much it got to be pretty ingrained to grab a pair of laces and show them with whatever shoes were being tried on. Now the tough decision of which color of laces to rock with these new shoes...So I'm soliciting opinions. Check out the pictures below and leave your pick in the Comments section. Thanks!

05 July 2008

Breakfast Buddy

This morning I was in the middle of cooking a simple little breakfast of scrambled eggs on corn tortillas with a little sauce from the chilaquiles I made early in the week when I noticed a small, furry friend sitting not more than 10 feet outside my big kitchen windows. A rabbit sat unmoving, observing my preparations. We regarded each other for a few moments and then I proceeded with assembling my meal. Throughout the entire episode of making and eating my breakfast, he watched. His only movement was some periodic nose-twitching and ear adjusting, from V like the antenna named after him, to straight up, to swept back. Finally, once I finished my food and put my dish in the sink, he began his breakfast, scooting an inch or two this way and that, nibbling on grass and clover leaves. I gave him a nod to bid him good day and left him to his meal.

03 July 2008

Columbian Hostages Freed

One nice thing about having the summer off is I was home eating lunch yesterday and happened to be watching CNN's live coverage of the rescue operation and subsequent comments by Ms. Ingrid Betancourt. I have to admit that I knew nothing of this situation beforehand. But the operation carried out by the Columbian army, which Betancourt praised repeatedly, sounded amazingly audacious. She'd been in captivity since 2002, and three American military contractors had been hostages since 2003. It's really an amazing story and I've put her autobiography, "Until Death Do Us Part: My Struggle to Reclaim Columbia" on my book list.

01 July 2008

Becoming a Better Teacher...


While browsing some education blogs, I found this little sign and liked it. I've said several of these points before so I definitely agree with where its author is coming from...