31 December 2008


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

29 December 2008

Year-end Recap of Roscommon to Imogene

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

24 December 2008

2008 Book List

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

19 December 2008


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

My Favorite Music of 2008

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

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

First off, Albums:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other things that agreed with my ears this year:

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

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

17 December 2008

Heartland in the Cabinet

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

Person of the Year

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

15 December 2008

Today's Big Thing

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

14 December 2008

Game Weekend

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

12 December 2008

Why Students Fail

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

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

08 December 2008

How could I forget?

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

Mini Processor Paint Job

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

Micheal Stone Sentenced

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

Lamest Duck?

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

07 December 2008


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

A Sign?

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

From 10 to 60

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

Hawkeye Wrestling

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

05 December 2008

Dance, Dance

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

04 December 2008


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

03 December 2008

Vermont Catamounts Football

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

01 December 2008

Des Moines Top 10

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

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

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