31 December 2009

Fave Music of 2009

OK, to help refresh myself and put my arms around what things brought enjoyment to my ears this year, here is my year-end wrap up. Some favorite albums (some new in 2009, some just new to me in 2009), favorite singles, etc:

Albums:

1. Lady GaGa ~ The Fame Monster
  • Just an EP, but if NPR can have a 4-song album in their top 5, why can't I? Everything on it is 3-star or better (other than that remix I deleted). She is crazy...crazy awesome. That opening to Bad Romance is sick.
  • Check out: Speechless, Bad Romance
2. GLEE ~ Vol. 1
  • Yes, I love the show, and the music is the main reason why so it's no surprise that it's on my list. The mix of pop tunes and show tunes is perfect; it keeps you from getting to tired of either. And, although Rachel Berry is amazing, the whole mix of voices is super too. Can't wait for the dvd to come out and next season to start!
  • Check out: Alone, Don't Stop Believin', Defying Gravity
3. Owl City ~ Ocean Eyes
  • I will admit that even though I loved Fireflies when I first heard it, I was pretty surprised at the overall quality of the whole CD. Yes, it is cliche-packed and pretty cheesy in parts, but it's such a fun, happy ride that I don't mind a bit. Still sad that caboose & I missed over half of their concert.
  • Check out: The Saltwater Room, Vanilla Twilight, Fireflies
4. Taylor Swift - Fearless
  • Man, she just keeps getting better. I loved her last album. I love watching live concert videos on YouTube and seeing her cover fun songs and I love how cool she seems.
  • Check out: Love Story, You Belong With Me, The Way I Loved You
5. GLEE ~ Vol. 2
  • Yep, more from the show choir kids of McKinley High.
  • Check out: Endless Love, Crush, True Colors
6. Passion Pit ~ Manners
  • caboose was plugging these guys everytime we were in the car together, usually driving to the Sands for volleyball. And despite not being a huge fan in the beginning, I eventually wised up and got the whole album and enjoyed it. Also, got the chance to see them at Lolla and they blew socks off. Fun sidenote: Leslie clued me in on this awesome blog of a elementary choir in NYC and they are the kids that sing on the Passion Pit album! Check out PS22 Chorus.
  • Check out: Little Secrets, The Reeling, Sleepyhead
7. Black Eyed Peas - The E.N.D.
  • I don't even have the whole album, but I am comfortable putting it on here due to the strength of its singles. will.i.am & crew have putting together a party track down to a science.
  • Check out: Boom Boom Pow, I Gotta Feeling, Meet Me Halfway
8. La Roux ~ In For the Kill
  • I think I saw this girl on an Irish music blog I read. Checked her out on a whim and loved what I heard.
  • Check out: Bulletproof, In For the Kill
9. Michael Buble ~ Crazy in Love
  • I'd appreciated his voice in a few different songs, but this was the first time I'd sat down and listened to a whole CD. I was really happy with the song choices for this. Nicole thoughtfully passed this one on to me, rightly suspecting that I would like it.
  • Check out: Haven't Met You Yet, All of Me, Some Kind of Wonderful
10. The Hood Internet ~ Mixtape Vol. 4
  • Right or wrong, I compare all mash-ups to Girl Talk. I don't expect them to be better than him, but I want them to be in the same league. Hood Internet usually is. Plus, if I play this in my classroom before or after school (selectively), I earn a little credibility with my students.
  • Check out: The whole thing. It's a free download. The Outro is beast though.
11. Bat For Lashes - Two Suns
  • Another artists I was forunate enought to see at Lolla. Pakistani-born, Britain-raised, her music is not really like anything else in my library...in a good way.
  • Check out: Daniel, Glass, Pearl's Dream
Late to the game on (loved 'em even though they didn't come out this year):

Wicked ~ Original Broadway Recording
Adele ~ 19
Lady GaGa ~ The Fame
Ra Ra Riot ~ The Rhumb Line
Kings of Leon ~ Only By the Night
The Killers ~ Day & Age
Colbie Caillat - Coco

Top Singles not mentioned above, every one of these is worth $1.29 on iTunes:
  1. Drop It Low - Ester Dean - "Make the booty go, boom ba ba boom ba boom ba boom boom." This song is perfect, so many different great pieces to it. Turn it up, shred your speakers, and drop it low.
  2. Charlie Darwin - The Low Anthem - "The water's all around us." I don't really worry what the listen are on about, I just let the sound wash over me.
  3. One Day - Matisyahu - "Sometimes I lay under the moon and thank God I'm breathing. Then I pray, 'Don't take me soon, cuz I am hear for a reason."" So positive, so uplifting. Makes me feel anything is possible, and I can start by doing more than I'm doing right now. Glad they're using it for marketing the Winter Olympics.
  4. Party in the USA - Miley - "Noddin' my head like yeah"...and believe me, I was.
  5. Chillin' - Wale featuring Lady GaGa - "I got Phil Knight talkin' 'bout "how you got them?"" GaGa's hook is purrfect and Wale's rhymes make me laugh.
Honorable Mention:
I Told You So - Carrie Underwood & Randy Travis
Down - Jay Sean
She Wolf - Shakira
Single Ladies (Put a ring on it) - Beyonce
Empire State of Mind - Jay-Z & Alicia Keyes
Run This Town - Jay-Z & Rihianna & Kanye
Coin Operated Boy - Dresden Dolls
Young Folks - Peter Bjorn & John
In Color - Jamey Johnson
Family Reunion - Kid Sister
Starry Eyed (jakwod remix) - Ellie Goulding
Oh, What a World - Rufus Wainwright


Past lists: 2008, 2007, 2005

Fave Posts of the 2009

As I've done in past years, I like to go back and skim through all the posts of the year. It's a fun thing to reflect and remember all the goings on of the year. Lots can happen in 365 days. Here's my list of 'good' posts.

Penguin goes to school, What's good, Better than 'What's Up', Ash Wednesday, It's a Sub!, 25 Things, Shoe project, Land of the Cul de Sac, Snappy Comeback, Chicago in 26 hours, Txting typos, St. Patrick's Warm-up, Jane Eyre, Best Sports Books, Do you know where your soul is?, Darth Vader, Floor planner, 2 sentence thoughts, David vs Goliath, Fremont County biking, Shawn Reigns, Pie #1, 3 day weekend, Sorta project, Wing adventure, Michael Collins, What's good II, Photo chain, Say real things, HMN '09, Chick pea salad, MN, 6-on-6, Chicago #2, 80/35, 5K, Goodbye Summer, Quotes, Welchans Open '09, Booze Cruise/Lolla, Excuses, Reach Out, Fall Fest, Football Saturday, iPod Turns 4, Book Sale, Man's Search for Meaning, Reggie's Sleepout II, Why so absent, Reggie's sleepout, Eid Mubarak, Turkey break, Glee, The Prophet, Selling lesson plans, Rent weekend, Game weekend, Limoncello, Snow days, Validation, Break-up hallway,

26 December 2009

Healthcare: Obama & T-Pain

Everything is funnier when auto-tuned. First Taylor Swift, now Obama. Check out the video.

25 December 2009

24 December 2009

The Weather Outside Is Frightful

Well, we are in the midst of some intense winter weather here in SWI. For the first time that I can ever remember, Christmas mass has been canceled, which is a big bummer for several reasons. One, I had a fun new outfit I was looking forward to busting out. Two, I love the chance to see all the familiar faces of old friends, relatives, and neighbors at Christmas mass. You see people you haven't seen in months (probably since the year before) and everyone is dressed up and in a great mood. Three, I love getting dressed up and going to mass with my whole family. It always leaves me feeling peaceful and grateful. Lastly, I love the opportunity to reflect on the culmination of the advent season and ponder a while on the state of my own faith and what I need to focus on in the coming year.
Instead, stoppable and his family had to peel out of here earlier than planned today due to an impending ice store, so we had an early present opening and Christmas meal. Now, homebase, caboose and I are just hanging out and listening to the wind howl outside. Since there is no mass, we are going to watch the Pope do his thing in Rome later. I think I'm going to put my outfit on to watch him just for fun. It wouldn't feel right to watch him as I sit in sweatpants.
We've had coloring time, crosswords, Scrabble, ping-pong, book time, watched White Christmas and I think we still have a lot of indoor time yet to come. At least it has given me time to work on my blog a bit. I was planning on a full overhaul as I've done in year's past, but after messing around with two new templates, I decided it was too much work. So I'm sticking with what I've got and I just changed up the color scheme and fonts a bit. I'm including a picture of what it used to look like in case you didn't notice a difference.

17 December 2009

Break-up Hallway

My classroom is way down a long hallway, which usually is nice because it keep most of the drama, loudness and hall wanderers far away. Unfortunately, a by-product of this seclusion, lately at least, is that it seems to be a good place for relationship breakups. I've seen a few hallways breakups in my short teaching career (one on the first day of school this year, how's that for a welcome back!) but this week, I had to witness two girls weeping in almost the exact same spot, one on Monday and one today. Sadly, I know and like both of the students. One of which, is one of my faves and a girl I just think is great. I'm terrible at knowing something helpful to say without sounding too cliched and also without getting into the details of their breakup. Luckily, both times the girl was already being consoled, once by a friend, the other by my neighboring teacher. 'Tis the season I guess. Hope they kept their gift receipts.

15 December 2009

Limoncello













I happened to catch Alton Brown's Good Eats last week just before heading to the grocery store and he did a quick piece on making limoncello. It looked so easy and he acted like it was so good. So, while I was at the store, I picked up a bottle of Smirnoff 100 proof (Alton said it needed to be the stronger version) and a pile of lemons. After zesting them while watching TV, I put it together to sit for 10 days. After all that wait, I could barely wait to make the simple syrup and freeze it tonight. So when I poured a couple drinks for caboose and I, the expectations were high. Sadly, they were not met. In fact, it tasted pretty much like it sounds like it would. You are sipping 100 proof vodka that tastes like it was distilled in a the world's biggest lemon grove. It was quickly determined that we would not be able to sip this booze, so we will now be looking for recipes for drinks that would work well with lemon vodka.

14 December 2009

"Paul Samuelson Dies at 94"

I didn't know much about Paul Samuelson other than he was a Nobel-winning economist. This article from the NY Times does a good job of providing some scope as to his impact on the economics field.

Game Weekend!


Our family's annual game weekend was this past weekend and it went off without a hitch, undeterred by a rough week of weather. Without going into too much detail, we had people coming in from Farragut, Omaha and Iowa City to enjoy games, foods of all kinds, ice skating, shopping and just a nice relaxed time of conversation and hanging out before the business of the holidays and winter break commence. It was great to have such a fun event to clean up our apartment for and get it decorated and looking nice. caboose's presence was definitely missed, although it did free up a bed for others to use! :)
And Sunday I was lucky enough to talk Nic & Lez into taking in a showing of "Brothers." I was really excited to see it. That I desire Natalie Portman is no secret, and add to that Jake Gyllenhaal, and Tobey McGuire and it sounds pretty enticing. I don't want to ruin the movie for any readers, so I'll just summarize by saying I really liked it but that it is an emotional marathon and we were all a bit shell-shocked when the lights came on. Lightening the mood afterward, the biggest and most amazing box of holiday baking treats was given to me for caboose and I from these wonderful friends. The box was hand decorated and the contents were so fun, varied and delicious that I had to take a picture to remember it by.
A great weekend of family and friends. Happy holidays, indeed.

10 December 2009

Validation


A lot of teachers, when asked why they went into teaching, say something along the lines of "I want to help people" or "I like working with kids" or "I loved school and wanted to help others feel that too." But sometimes, when you get bogged down in the day-to-day routine and challenges of teaching, you don't always feel like you are filling those goals. You rarely get the chance to hear or see if your actions and efforts make a difference. So, a little validation can go a long ways. Anyone who's talked to me about teaching has probably heard about the challenges of one of my favorite students over the past couple years. Her situation has changed a bunch and she's at a new school and sounds very happy & healthy. I had to share this comment that was made because it made my month.

What to do, what to do, what to do...

Early out on Tuesday due to impending "Storm of the Century" (actual quote from local weatherman)...GREAT! We get to count the day of teaching, we still see all our classes and we get out early. Perfect. The rest of the day is spent checking papers, messing around online, watching "Pretty in Pink" and waiting to see if we would have a snow day on Wednesday.
Which we did! Woo hoo! I'm all for a snow day to break up the routine. And, considering we got ~15" of snow dumped on us, it was definitely necessary. Travel by automobile was not a possibility and when I bundled up and walked up to the coffee shop, I realized they weren't braving the weather either. :( Actually everything was closed, except for the hardware store and Back Country. So caboose & I stopped into the hardware store to wander around, warm up and get a couple pops (I think we have a caffiene addiction). The rest of the day was filled in with giving the kitchen a good cleaning, making a tasty tater tot casserole using up lots of stuff from the freezer and pantry, working on crosswords, watching some movies, baking some very nice chocolate chocolate-chip cookies with pecans, getting upset when I saw that we would have another snow day Thursday, and cheering back up with the season finale of GLEE.
Today, the sun is shining and the temperature finally climbed above zero. I've spent the whole morning at the coffeeshop. I had to get out of the house for a while. Activities today include Scrabble against homebase, lunch with a friend, laundry, working on a semester-end survey, showering, and listening to Vol. 2 of Glee music which I purchased yesterday (good thing the iTunes store never closes).
Bring on school tomorrow! Plus it will be Friday, ha!

07 December 2009

"Hope is Real"

There's a good article in the current issue of Rolling Stone about Jamie Tworkowski, founder of To Write Love On Her Arms. You can check it out here. I enjoyed it and thought it did a good job of presenting the movement for what it is. It is incredible the momentum it has achieved. I think it shows that everyone wants to be listened to, everyone wants to know someone is invested in or at least interested in how they are feeling, everyone wants to be loved. And some people have been deprived of that or are starving more for it in than others.
"Industrial-strength empathy..." I like that.

06 December 2009

Broken Back

Not the mountain.
I saw this going across the ticker last night as I was watching Texas do just enough to beat Nebraska and it sounded crazy enough that I had to go see the video. This guy broke two vertabrae when he hit the deck after a missed dunk. And he's only gonna be out 2 weeks!?!? Ouch.

World Cup Draw

The draw for next summer's World Cup took place on Friday, so you can check out who pulled the easy groups and who got stuck in the 'Group of Death'. Soccernet has a nice concise break down of all 32 teams. Only 186 days til the fun begins. I am REALLY looking forward to next summer. Also on Friday, adidas unveiled the new ball that would be used in South Africa, the jabulani. Sort of funny side note, during the rehearsal for the draw, Charlize Theron who is from South Africa and did the pulling of names from the hat, announced, "Ireland" when she drew France's name. :)

04 December 2009

Talk to the Moose

Although their holiday commercial with adults was good, the Gap's new holiday commercial with singing, dancing kids is top notch and I can't get their little song out of my head. The girl at 0:21 is my favorite part of it all.

Baby, It's Cold Outside

A few signs that cold weather is here and winter is just around the corner...
  • I parked my car in the garage last night for the first time since probably last February or March. With no garage door opener (other than my hands) it is a bit of added inconvenience, but it is pretty nice to get in the car in the morning and not have the seat be freezing and not need to scrape the windows.
  • Yesterday I started my winter morning ritual. After I get out of bed, I put my clothes for the day on the radiator before grabbing my towel and heading to shower and get ready. That way, by the time I come back to put them on, they are toasty warm. Sorta like Kramer in that Seinfeld episode where he puts his clothes in the oven, except safer.
  • I had to get out the long underwear. I haven't given in and worn it yet, but the window by my desk in my classroom is so drafty, it may not be long before I do.
  • Christmas music has moved into steady rotation on my iPod and at the apartment. I look forward all year long to the morning of Black Friday so I can put on the Christmas albums for the first time as homebase and I head to the malls. (there's some Christmas sentiment for ya!)

01 December 2009

Fighting Irish Coaching Change

So Charlie Wies is out, and will be taking a hefty buyout payment with him. I'm not sure what I feel about it. Whether or not it was the right move, I think it was the inevitable move. I like the guy, I think he's a good coach, and I love how he connects with the players and epathizes with them. It's not just about X's and O's with him. He had a quote after the Stanford game that I thought was good about how there was a group of 22 and 23 year olds that had lost their last 6 games by less than a touchdown and they were hurting. And, he's a straight talker. He stated when he came in"You are what you are, folks, and right now you're a 6-5 football team. And guess what? That's just not good enough. That's not good enough for you, and it's certainly not going to be good enough for me." They are now a 6-6 football team and he said before the Stanford game that it would be hard for them to keep him. "If they decide to make a change, I'd have to say I'd have a tough time arguing with that. If they decide to make a change, I'd have a tough time arguing that because 6-5 is not good enough."
So now the buzz is all about who will be the next challenger to step in and take over the reins for the Irish. I'll just sit back and wait for the announcement. All those close losses were hard to take this year but their offensive stars were fun to watch and I just hope they all come back next year.
The best thing I've read about all of this is a wonderful quote from star receiver Golden Tate yesterday:
"When I signed up for Notre Dame, I knew what I was signing up for, I was signing up to be a student-athlete, not an athlete. I was coming into this program to earn a degree. As a recruit, you must understand it's not all about football. It's more than that. It's going to class. It's becoming a man or a woman of character. That's what makes it tough for Notre Dame to choose student-athletes. We want people to represent this college the way it's supposed to be represented: High character, great morals. At the end of the day, it's about the education you receive; the tradition we have."