26 October 2009

Founding a New Program

I loved this DM Register article about the brand new football (and volleyball & cross-country) program at Meskwaki Settlement school. The pride, hope and enthusiasm in the article are a refreshing reminder of what high school sports were for me and can be for other kids. At the school I teach, our team has not had any success and the morale is awful. I hate to hear the other kids making fun of their own team and the players seem like they'd rather not have to wear their jerseys on Friday. That sentiment really makes me sad; in high school there was no better feeling than slipping on my jersey on Friday morning. I loved reading the freshman's quote in the story, "It's an honor to wear the uniform." I also thought it was cool that there were a few kids who switched schools to be a part of the inaugural year at Meskwaki.

25 October 2009

Kitchen Creations

Here's what I put together in the kitchen this weekend...

I unwound on Friday night with a Sam Adams, some good music and put together a Thai chicken curry out of my favorite cookbook, "Rick & Lanie". It was super tasty and rich.

Saturday I made a broccoli & cheese soup during the football games. It was super easy. It wasn't super-cheesy like most broccoli & cheese soups, it was more like a puree'd veggie soup which just enough cheese (Laughing Cow! how easy is that!) to make it smooth & creamy.

And Sunday I made a borscht. The inclusion of the beets will probably turn a few people off, but I liked it. The sour cream really finishes it right.

Man's Search For Meaning

I used a little of the time at the sleepout last night to finish Viktor Frankl's "Man's Search For Meaning". I don't usually write about the books I'm reading, but I thought I'd share a few bits from this one. It isn't a long book and is a pretty quick read, but the last 30 or so pages were so packed with insight and thought, that I found myself re-reading a lot and I couldn't process more than a few pages at a time. The author is a Holocaust (Auschwitz) survivor and psychologist and writes this work by tying together his experiences with psychological insights. I recommend this one. A few of my favorite lines...

"The truth-that love is the ultimate and highest goal to which man can aspire...The salvation of man is through love and in love."

"No man should judge unless he asks himself in absolute honesty whether in a similar situation he might not have done the same."

"Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way."

"It is a peculiarity of man that he can only live by looking to the future...and this is his salvation in the most difficult moments of his existence"

"We need to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life - daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct."

"The immediate influence of behavior is always more effective than that of words."

"Human kindness can be found in all groups, even those which as a whole it would be easy to condemn...we must not try to simplify matters by saying that these men were angels and those were devils."

"There are two races of men in this world, but only these two - the "race" of the decent man and the "race" of the indecent man. Both are found everywhere; they penetrate into all groups of society. No group consists entirely of decent or indecent people."

"No one has the right to do wrong, not even if wrong has been done to him."

Reggie's Sleepout 2009

I thought we were going to be blessed with great weather for Reggie's Sleepout yesterday. It was sunny and warm during the day, but when I left my house (a little later than planned, I had to stay and watch Notre Dame pull out a sweet victory) to head over to Drake, it was lightly sprinkling and cloudy. :( But once I got there it was great to see, and remember, that less-than optimal weather does not impact the energy level or enthusiasm of teenagers. Sure they weren't thrilled it was raining, but they were so happy to be sleeping out, in charge of building their shelter and taking in as much of the planned entertainment as possible, they didn't lose a second moping around. Iowa Youth Homeless Center does an amazing job with the event. So much going on, DJ's, live music, acapella groups, poker, movies, places to stay warm & dry, places to run and play catch, cool t-shirts, and tons of super-helpful volunteers. This is only the fourth installment of this annual event and the turnout is huge (over 1,000 people nearly filling the football field). I didn't stay all night but I definitely am planning to next year. I checked out some of the shelter designs and got some ideas and I'll start gathering cardboard and donations earlier too. So family and friends, this is my heads-up to you that I'll be pushing for you all to join me down there next year. The more, the merrier! I put a few pix on my flickr. And the Register gave it some coverage today too. And Rekha Basu addressed the issue as well.

24 October 2009

Under-17? We'll Check Your Wrist

Yes, it is another soccer story. Sorry for three in a row, but this one might appeal to those who don't care about the sport. I knew there was a problem with verifying ages of athletes from countries where birth records are poorly maintained or not kept at all. It has come up in the Little League World Series and even in this past Olympics, with the Chinese women's gymnastics squad. But I didn't realize it was such a big problem. According to the article, they estimate that 35% of the players in the last U-17 World Cup were actually too old to compete! But the age-cheating isn't really what is most interesting to me in this. FIFA is planning to use an MRI scan of players wrists to verify their age. Now, I don't have any medical background but I'd never heard of looking at how much the bones had fused in the wrist to determine age. Amazing stuff!

22 October 2009

Top 50 World Cup Moments

Pretty sure most of my readers won't be interested in this, but I liked it too much not to share. The top 50 moments in World Cup history. Even though I think it is a tad British-heavy (it's from the Telegraph), it is still a lot of fun to peruse and has video clips to go with most of the moments. I appreciate that not all of the moments are of goals. There is so much other spectacle and drama that goes with the Cup. I love fundamentals in any sport, so I completely loved seeing Johan Cruyff unveil his turn and completely break his defenders ankles. You gotta watch that one (#4). It is now one of the critical skills to learn in ball-control. (get Brig started learning & perfecting it, stoppable.)

20 October 2009

South Africa or Bust

Qualification for the World Cup next summer is coming down to the final games. Many teams have already locked up a spot in South Africa while a few other are on the verge. In Europe all the winners of the 8 pools automatically qualified while the second-place finishers now have to play each other and the winners get to go. Ireland was one of those teams in the #2 spot. In the draw yesterday they were paired up with France, the highest ranked team they could possibly face. So they have a mighty task ahead on November 14th and 18th, but they are up for it. They've tied Italy (winners of the last Cup) twice in qualifying and are playing well right now. I'm looking forward to cheering them on!

18 October 2009

Why so absent???

It is a bad sign you are bored when you check your own blog. Like I'm just hoping someone left a comment or there's some new updates when I look at my blogroll, because we all know that I am not putting up anything new or interesting lately. So, in the absence of a post about something insightful, original or thought-kindling, I offer you a short run down of what I've been up to lately. That way it counts both as a new post as well as offers some excuses for my lack of writing.
  • Parent-teacher conferences. Wednesday night and Thursday was filled with meeting parents of students and filling them in on how the first six or seven weeks have gone with their child in my classroom. Here is how it breaks down: let's say I have ~140 students this semester. I made 42 parent contacts over the 12 hours I was available. That's about 30%, which isn't very high, but isn't completely horrible. But of those 42 contacts, I would say 80-90% of them have an A or a B and are not a behavior problem. So those are so short conferences. Chit-chatting is not one of my strong traits, so I pretty much give them the facts, explain what we've been doing & are going to do and ask if they have any questions. I shouldn't complain because there were a few parents this time that I was very happy they came in and we got to talk. Hopefully we lit a few fires under some kids.
  • The traditional post-conferences teacher de-stressing night. I was able to meet up with both groups of teachers, my current school and then later caught up with some good friends from my old school. Good times.
  • Getting some shirts ordered. We were a little late getting serious about making some team t-shirts for indoor volleyball this year. Three weeks in and we're just getting them ordered, but the design that Leslie came up with is great so I'm excited.

  • Some early birthday fun, sushi & drinks (& almost a movie) with good friends. caboose & I decided that Zen sushi sounded great for an early dinner on Friday night and fellow HKP's, Leslie & Nicole, joined us, making everyone at the place more than a little envious. Dinner was fun, the sushi was good (although not sure about the spinach topping on my roll), and the highlight was getting to feed a piece to Leslie with my chopsticks. It would've been a great photo op, but since no one had a camera, I offer you this picture instead. It looked something like this except neither of us are blond, I don't look quite as creepy as that guy, she didn't look nearly as into it as that girl and we were both laughing like crazy. Drinks at the Lift followed so, even thought we didn't make it to "Where the Wild Things Are", it was a fun time.
  • A pretty good overall day of college football. Iowa comes from behind on the road to rack up win #7, Texas persists to also come from behind in a game with 8 turnovers and made ridiculously long by penalties, injuries and reviews, and Notre Dame, although they couldn't pull off another week of 4th quarter heroics, not only did they not get blown out like many thought, they had a couple chances to tie the game in the closing seconds. The luck of the Irish can't work everytime but I'm still proud of them.
  • Checking out the new ownership at the Emerald Isle. Tasty food, improved beer selection, better hours, and plans for lots more improvements it looks like. Hooray for small town businesses!
  • A cheesecake flop. homebase and I decided to bake a cheesecake together for my birthday, so we found an Alton Brown recipe and went to work. Unfortunately, the finished product was not really what we were looking for. In fact, it was a flop. The cake didn't harden up much and it was a disaster. Cheesecake is probably my favorite dessert so I will not be deterred. New recipe, another day.
  • Great weather. A little gift from God and mother nature on my bday. Sun, cloudless skies, and 65 degrees. I was able to go for a run with stoppable and the brig, testing out the turkey trot route, and a nice walk later with stoppable and homebase, tossing the football along the way and walking out to the old farm.
So that's what I've been up to, and I've got tomorrow off to be with homebase as she goes for some medical work, so yet another short week of work for me!

13 October 2009

More Online Games

I thought I'd share a couple more online games. Neither of these are nearly as cool as Auditorium, but these are the two most popular games that my students like to jump on to and play with an free moment in class when I'm not watching (and sometimes when I am.) As with most video games, I suck at both of them. Cubefield. World's Hardest Game.

Reggie's Sleepout

When a student I had last year approached me in the hall and asked me to sponsor a group of kids that wanted to take part in Reggie's Sleepout, there were a few reasons I said yes.
One - Youth homelessness is something that I hadn't really thought about much before this year, but have become aware of the need for these services and how critical they can be to a teen on the run or without a home.
Two - When I made out my list of goals for this year, one of them was to get more involved with the student community & extra-curricular things.
Three - It's hard for me to say no to reasonable questions asked politely by a good student. :)
So, if you are free on the 24th and want to sleep out on Drake's football field, let me know and you are welcome to join in the fun. A big goal of this is to raise awareness, so, if you want, go read Reggie's story and become aware of the organizations working to help this situation. Or if you want to support the cause financially, you can go to my page and donate, even a dollar or two will help!

12 October 2009

Fastest Concert Ever

Based on how much we liked "Fireflies", caboose bought tickets to the Owl City show at People's last week. It was an all ages show and I don't think I've ever seen that place that full. For being that full, though, the crowd was not very energetic. Which is too bad, because they were fun to see and I liked the girl playing the keyboard & adding vocals (Breanne Duren). Unfortunately, we got there a little later than planned. Complimenting that fact, they played a very short set. Let's just say that when we got back to the car, the clock said 8:45. I know it was a school night, but seriously!

07 October 2009

The power of context

I'm always trying to incorporate current event news articles into my class to make (what freshmen/sophomores see as) boring material more relevant and interesting. I also like to try and expand their knowledge of world geography. So when I used this article about finding an alternate way to measure quality of life/happiness other than GDP per capita, I included a question on the handout that read:
"The country of Bhutan is mentioned in the article. Where is it located?"
When I started checking the answers, most answered correctly, saying
"In the Himalayas" or "In Asia."
Then I read one kid's that said,
"In the third paragraph."
I thought he was being funny so I put a smiley face by it and said, "I meant on the globe." As I read the rest of the responses, though, he wasn't alone. I had a handful or so that answered that question the same way, thinking I literally wanted to know where at in the article the word Bhutan was. I'll have to be careful with my wording in the future.

06 October 2009

Iowa vs Penn State (Part II)

As if that awesome upset on the football field in Happy Valley a couple weeks ago wasn't enough, the ladies on the Hawkeye volleyball team took a set off of the Nittany Lions this week. While losing a match, 3-1, may not sound like much of an achievement, but you need to understand that Penn State is #1 in the nation, defending national champs and had a streak of not losing a regular-season set dating back to November 24, 2007. That's 141 sets. Nice job Hawks!

05 October 2009

Pick Up the Phone

I missed posting anything during Suicide Prevention month (September), but wanted to share this awareness video.

04 October 2009


caboose & I checked out the new smashburger this afternoon on our way home from running some errands. I'll keep my review brief. It was a decently tasty burger that was totally overpriced. $5.99 for a 1/3 lb mushroom swiss burger. I would've been happier with a $3 burger from B-Bop's. Plus the fries, which had a nice dusting of thyme but were ridiculously too greasy, were an extra $2!! No more smashburger for me.

01 October 2009

Commercial Shout-Out

Another commercial that I liked too much not to share. I saw it a couple weeks ago while watching the US Open and got to see it a few times. Then I forgot about it until it came across my screen tonight. It's simple, sweet, creative and unique. All things that I like.

Eid Mubarak

Since I have a Chicago area code on my cell phone number, that is where all my wrong number calls come from and a with the diversity of that city, it wasn't completely unheard of when I got a text message a couple weeks ago that said:
"Eid Mubarak! Wishing you and your family much respect and good will. Hope to catch up soon."
The first time I got the message, I disregarded it and forgot about it. But then the same message was resent to me a couple days later. I remembered that Eid had something to do with a Muslim holiday and so then I was thinking about it and how wonderful it can be to get a thoughtful message around a holiday from someone unexpected. I told what had happened to caboose and he agreed that I should text them back. It totally felt like the right thing to do as I replied, "Thank you very much for the kind wishes. Unfortunately you have the wrong number." Within a minute my phone beeped and showed their response, "U r very kind to reply. Thank you so much. I forgot the area code was 708, not 773. Many thanks." It made me feel good the rest of the night knowing that someone was going to be getting their message of good will. Eid Mubarak to all.