28 August 2008

DNC

"People the world over have always been more impressed by the power of our example than by the example of power."
- Former President Bill Clinton,
from last night's speech at the DNC.

Sofa

A couple weeks ago, just before I started back to school, I made an over and back trip to Iowa City with homebase to pick up some furniture that my aunt and uncle were getting rid of as they moved into a new house. I hadn't seen the furniture in a couple years but I remembered it being nice and knew they hadn't used it much. We picked up a U-Haul there and loaded it all up. My apartment is not a huge place and I knew we might have some issues getting it all to fit in, but we took it all anyways. After getting back home and waking caboose up to help unload, we surveyed the situation. The new sofa is great. It's long and comfortable and looks great. We kept a glass-topped coffee table and a big overstuffed chair that takes up a lot of room but is super-comfy. We also found a place for a short little loveseat thing and a new lamp. So we have a couple pieces that we will try to sell and hopefully cover our moving expenses and our old sofa we just put out on the street corner, hoping the trash people would take it away. Well, they didn't. So it sat there for a week or so, got rained on and mowed around. Then one morning I noticed that some resourceful person had taken just the seat cushions from it. At least part of it is being reused. So finally on Tuesday I gave in and bought a large-item sticker at the grocery store so they would take it away. I came home ready and eager to slap that neon pink tag on the old couch and be done with it. I got out of my car and saw that the couch had been taken away that day. So, now I've got a $5 large-item sticker ready to go if anything else needs gotten rid of.

26 August 2008

LPGA to exclude non-English speakers

I hate seeing news stories like this. It seems like a step in the wrong direction. We should be encouraging globalization and diversification. Instead the LPGA seems to be focused on keeping the strings to the purse solidly in America. I understand their concern with lost revenues at pro-am events, but I just think that it could be handled economically. If a player who doesn't speak english can't offer part of the 'social' aspect at those type of events, then make it financially relevant for them to learn to. Or pair them up with fans who speak that same language in a minority outreach program.

Medal Count Analysis

As I blogged back during the winter Olympics, I am not a fan of the 'medal count'. I think it is contrary to what the point of the Games is. And, as with a majority of statistics, it is not an accurate or fair representation of achievement. As the WSJ points out in their article, there are several other ways the public could measure achievement. They also have a nice interactive map that you can check out to check out the different possible rankings.
Some of what I do love about the Games can be summarized in this WSJ article. It's great and made me feel good.

25 August 2008

Fair Play

I thought this WSJ article was a great way to wind up my Olympic experience. This International Fair Play Committee is constantly on the look out for competitors who exhibit the enviably qualities of fairness, decency and kindness in the melee of frenzied competition. I'm glad they are still finding examples of it. Check out their linked page for a few more examples. Unfortunately, the organization's own webpage doesn't have any interesting stories.

24 August 2008

Rebooting Obama

"Rebooting Obama", a decent opinion piece from the NY Times on how Obama needs to re-tool his campaign focus to maximize his advantages this fall. I agreed with many of the points made about both candidates and just wanted to share.

23 August 2008

There is a war going on for your mind

Made the trek to Omaha last night with caboose for the Flobots show. We were very excited for this and I was really hoping their live show could live up to our expectations. It was at a great small venue, The Waiting Room, and their opener was a fun two-man hip-hop act from California, People Beneath the Stairs. They were good and got the crowd hyped and ready for the Flobots. After a short break, the Flobots came on and proceeded to tear the place down. It was the best show I've seen since M.I.A. in Chicago. The crowd was amazing, so much energy and participation. And the band was everything I'd hoped they'd be and more. It was one of those concerts that when they play their last song, you can't believe it's over. The Flobots are all about encouraging people to stand up, take interest and responsibility and do something about the direction our country is headed in. They have set up a non-profit which has a website called Fight With Tools, (check the 'Wake Up' link) where music fans can come together to communicate and put their feelings into action and "live the lyrics" as Johnny 5 says.
Other things to check out....
My pictures from the show
My video from the show closer "Rise"
The video for Handlebars
The video for Rise
weareamerica.org

22 August 2008

Anxiety

As the summer wound down and this week creeped along, through seminars and teacher work days, the first day of students moved towards me like a glacier, slowly but unstoppable and a little frightening. Yesterday (Thursday) was the first day for students and by Tuesday night I was getting a little nervous and stressed about kicking the year off and on Wednesday night I had a considerable amount of anxiety I was struggling with. Thursday morning the thought of going to the restroom to throw up crossed my mind a couple times. Funnily, a couple hours later after I had gotten through two classes, I was feeling so good about things that I couldn't stop smiling. Amazing how great it feels to just do it and get back into the groove.
It did get me thinking about how anxious & stressed I get when facing big changes (new job, moving, a big purchase, etc). It's really incredible (and a little crazy!) But after talking to other people and other teachers, I realize that I'm not alone, which is good to hear. And then I read a really nice post I wrote last year before my first day, man, I was so positive and charged up! It helped to read it and I am glad to have the first two days behind me. They've gone well (besides two hours without power this morning) and it will get better as we get into the curriculum next week.

20 August 2008

Olympic Story

I read this story about how NBC has been downsizing their little bio pieces that they always do for the Olympics. I was a little sad about that. Those 'behind the scenes' look at the athletes are one of my favorite things about the games. They make these superhero athletes more human. And then I read this story and thought, where was this story (and this match) on the prime time coverage? I could've done with one less prelim heat of swimming races to see this.

19 August 2008

Disturbing Dream

Last night I awoke in the middle of the night after having one of the more disturbing dreams I've remembered in recent years. Much more disturbing (and less pleasant) than this other one I blogged about. No, in this one I was watching (not sure if I was there or just watching it on tv) the Jonas Brothers come tearing out full speed on stage in a yellow Hummer. They then lost control and drove flying off the stage and into the crowd of screaming (formerly for joy, now in fear & pain) pre-teens and their parents. And that's all I remember. But it's enough; three things I hate; the Jonas Brothers, Hummers and senseless violence.

17 August 2008

Farmers Market


I had a great time shopping at the downtown Farmer's Market yesterday. I don't make it down there very often but the people watching can be fun, you usually run into someone you know and if you actually know what you are going to cook in advance, you can pick up lots of great local produce. I got tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet corn, green beans, and beets. I am excited to cook them all up! It's an added motivation for me to cook meals before they go bad. I also picked up a basil plant, something I've wanted for a long time. I've got it potted and sitting in the window in my kitchen. It'll be great to be able to pull a few leaves off it whenever I need them.

16 August 2008

Centathalon

I saw this commerical for the new season of the Office and had to share it. Dwight is always amazing and his ideas for the centathalon are great. Can't wait for the new season to wait what happens with Jim and Pam!

15 August 2008

Olympic Playlists

Since I love the Olympics and I also love finding out what other people are listening to, I did a little hunting around this afternoon to find out what some of our Olympians have in their ears. Here are three notable ones....
Shawn Johnson
Lolo Jones
Micheal Phelps

13 August 2008

What's Good?

A small gathering of things I've been relishing lately...
  • Hyde Park - This is the 'room' where homebase & I meet to play our daily game of scrabulous. She's been on a winning streak lately, but win or lose they are always fun and provide a chance to chat a little as well. With the school year getting ready to start up again, we'll probably have to scale back on our games, but they've been the source of a lot of fun this summer.
  • Evening runs at Gray's Lake - Ok, so it was only one, but my run Tuesday night was the best run I've had...ever. I did my two laps (~4 miles) with a good pace and instead of feeling near-death at the end like usual, I honestly felt like I could do another lap. It might have been due to the beautiful weather, nice sunset and fun people watching.
  • Chocolate-chip cookies - I took a second attempt at making cookies and decided to use the recipe on the bag of Nestle's chips. They turned out so nice I was able to share them without embarrassment.
  • the Olympics - although, like usual, I have been a little frustrated with lack of coverage of non-American dominated events (badminton, judo, soccer, handball, wrestling, rowing, table tennis, fencing), I have seen lots of great stuff, like the story on Oksana (i love that name) Chusovitina, and can't wait for individual gymnastics tonight.
  • setting my classroom up - this has been a frustrating, draw out process but now that it is starting to come together, it is fun to think I'll have a teaching space all my own this year and can do with it what I want!
  • looking forward to the Flobots show in Omaha on next Friday! - just bought tickets.
  • the "Chinese 101" bit on the Today each morning - I love listening (and repeating back to) Al Roker. Gong Xi! (congratulations!) and jiayou (the official cheer of the Olympics, check out more here and here)
  • our new Horrific Killer Panda shirts! - we finished screen printing all the shirts for our sand volleyball team and will be debuting them tonight!

12 August 2008

"If I weren't a tailor..."

This is a short little article from the NY Times about a Holocaust survivor and his wife and the way their lives are now. I'm not even sure why I'm sharing it. It's so brief that I wasn't sure that the author had finished it, but the brevity doesn't cover up the overwhelming experiences that life dealt Mr. Adler. I like the simple earnestness & purpose that he's found in living his life.

09 August 2008

Paris for President

homebase told me about this hilarious reply to McCain's ridiculous tv ad that said Obama is the world's biggest super star, while showing pictures of Britney and Paris. I, unlike most, do not despise Hilton, so I really enjoyed this little video. Check it out. And CNN has there coverage of it here. The best part is her energy policy plan.

Erin Gruwell & the Opening Ceremonies

A friend & coworker just got back from attending the Freedom Writers Workshop in California and she sent out a notice that Erin Gruwell, the author of Freedom Writers Diary and subject of the Freedom Writers movie, would be in Omaha speaking on Friday. I didn't have anything going on so decided to make the drive. I'm so glad I did! I got to the Embassy Suites twenty minutes before I was told she was speaking and it is a big conference hall and the sign in front said "Millard School Year Kickoff 8:00-12:00". I pondered that for a minute and just then my friend came in with her family and introduced us all and then she introduced us to Erin herself. She was at the book signing table, but since everyone was still in the hall, we had her to ourselves for ~10-15 minutes. It was very cool to hear about some of what goes on at the workshops. She's a very real, unassuming, bubbly individual. The Millard group then took a break and everyone poured out and we went in and picked out some great seats at the very front. I also was surprised to run into a h.s. friend who worked for Millard. She was rather surprised to see me at their district kickoff event. :) Erin gave a nice talk; sharing some of her experiences and asking teachers to, instead of teaching to the test, "teach to the kid." I liked how she ended it, telling teachers that when their students come in and sit down on the first day, to see them, actually see them and listen to them and try to connect to them.
So that special morning was followed by a great lunch with family at Pepperjack's and then a great, but too short, time at their pool. We played catch, had races, threw kids and just had a super fun time. After a big lunch, some sun and frolicking in the pool, I knew I'd need a big iced chai for the drive home. I hit some nasty bottleneck traffic around Atlantic, but it was so gorgeous outside, I couldn't let it get my down. Windows down, wind blowing through, sun shining and singing loud while driving is one of my most carefree & enjoyable things in life.
Once I got back I met up with friends to watch the opening ceremonies. I thought that they were very entertaining and well-done. Some of the past ones have been kooky or slow or uneventful, but I thought these were very good. Incredible fireworks, I really liked the part with the people inside columns and they were rising and falling like water and making different shapes, the huge LED carpet thing was great too. Now bring on the games!!

07 August 2008

Splish, Splash

On Tuesday, after working in my classroom all morning and my frustration level was creeping higher, the perfect antidote presented itself. A good friend was nannying and was going to the pool with the kid she was watching. I will admit freely that I've been looking forward to a trip to the pool pretty much all summer. So I met them there, at Holiday Park. I'd never been but it was a nice place, complete with slides, boards, kid play area with gigantic bucket. So I tried out the slides, swam around and generally just had a sweet time. I don't know if I've been to a water park type place since I quit working at the YMCA. It reminded me of those weekly field trips to a water park somewhere in the 'burbs. Loading up a school bus, playing games, learning jokes, etc on the way there and then just having a super good time for the next few hours. I love just standing in the middle of it all and listening to the water splashing, the screams and laughs of kids, the (occasional) tweet of a lifeguard's whistle, the slap of feet on the pool deck. And then the bus ride home, no air conditioning, all the windows open and the noise of traffic, wind and the road putting most of the campers (and a few counselors) to sleep. And I LOVE the smell of chlorine. So, despite a slightly awkward running into a student who was lifeguarding, it was a super fun treat to get to the pool before the summer was over.

06 August 2008

I Love the Whole World...part 2

Saw this live, expanded version of their commercial song on YouTube today and wanted to share with all my fellow Discovery Channel fans.

04 August 2008

"I am a golden god!!!"

One 4th of July, while living in Chicago, I ascended to the rooftop for some fireworks watching. I was suprised to find that there was a small group of folks watching a movie up there that they were projecting on a sheet they'd hung up. Ever since I've thought that was a fun idea, so I decided to try to do something like that this summer. caboose and I evolved the idea into a small themed-party. 'Almost Famous' was decided upon as the featured film, so 70's was the theme of the night. I love that movie, but hadn't seen it in a couple years, so it was very fun to watch it again in such a fun way. Any chance to dress up makes me happy, so I was excited to put together my outfit. caboose & I checked out Atomic Garage in Valley Junction and they really had a lot of great stuff, some rental and some for purchase. We had a great time checking it all out and making our selections. I got this amazing pair of sorta-patchwork bell-bottom jeans and a brown polyester shirt and paired them with my best attempt at sideburns & handlebar mustache. caboose was channeling Lennon and selected an green Army fatigue shirt and granny glasses. We invited some friends over, made some food (including a jell-o mold and a pitcher of Tang), purchased some Schlitz & Hamm's beer and set up the projector to show the movie on the side of the garage. Weather-wise, we lucked out. It'd be super hot during the day but it cooled off nicely after the sun went down and between some yard spray, citronella candles and cups of mouthwash, we kept the mosquitoes away. It was a small, but fun crowd and the movie al fresco was great, something I definitely hope to do again.

Education Article

A friend & former cohort passed this NY Times article on to me. It talks about the research presented in a recent book, "The Race Between Education and Technology". The book sounds interesting and the article focuses on the role of early education and its impact on our nation's economic well-being. [Best two lines: "By 5, it is possible to predict, with depressing accuracy, who will complete high school and college and who won’t." and "Boosting educational attainment at the bottom is more promising than trying to reorganize the global economy."] The article closes with a paragraph or two about the presidential candidates and how their education plans stack up in light of the research presented. This goes well with something else I was just reading. There is a great chapter on human capital in 'Naked Economics' that I just read. It does a great job of look at the importance of improving the level of human capital, as well as its impact on poverty, unemployment, earnings, etc.

02 August 2008

The Incline

I love stuff like this. I've always held top-level athletes in high regard, not because they are millionaires and earn their salary playing a game, but more because they spend their time pushing their bodies to the limit and finding ways to extend that limit. This article talks about this intimidating trail up part of Pike's Peak, right by the Olympic training center. And for all the brand new technology and computer-devised training regiments, some athletes find the challenge of the Incline to be the most raw and rewarding.
(also cool that the Olypian in the photo is former Hawkeye wrestler Doug Schwab)

01 August 2008

Prof. Obama

Oddly, I saw both of these articles on the same day. Both focus on Obama's time as a law professor at the University of Chicago. Both were interesting and I loved that one article linked to a pdf of the actual tests he gave for his finals in '97 and '01. (How'd those get out!?) Article 1, Article 2.

Queen Rania on YouTube

In a NY Times article that I subsequently can't find, I was directed Queen Rania of Jordan's YouTube channel. I knew that she is an amazing person doing lots of good work. (Yes, I realize that is an incredibly empty statment. Her book is on my list to read.) I did not know her efforts reached onto YouTube. She's using comedians and regular people to shine light on the gaps we need to be bridging in racism, understanding, acceptance and global awareness. I've only checked out the "Don't Call Me That" video so far, but it was good and I'll be checking out more soon. (My favorite, "Are you Islamabad?....Yes, I am the capital of Pakistan.")