30 December 2010

End of Year 2010: Books

My book list this year is a bit disappointing for me.  It is quite a bit shorter than last year and it is lacking in quality also.  There were some great ones in there, just not as many of them.  Next year I think I'll try and write a few sentences of my thoughts when I finish each book.  Then I'll be able to share them all at the end of the year.  For this year at least, I'll have to be content with breaking them into three categories...

EXCEEDS: 
Tattoos on the Heart by Greg Boyle
The Power of Boundless Compassion
The Power of Half by Kevin & Hannah Salwen
One Family's Decision to Stop Taking and Start Giving Back
Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder
Healing the World:  The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer
Three Weeks With My Brother by Nicholas Sparks
How Starbucks Saved My Life by Micheal Gates Gill
A Son of Privilege Learns to Live Like Everyone Else
Love is a Mixtape by Rob Sheffield
Life and Loss, One Song at a Time 
How the Soldier Repairs the Gramophone by Saša Stanišic 
Brilliant Orange by David Winner
The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Football
A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
The End of Poverty by Jeffrey Sachs  (I'm only 1/3 done but I'm loving it.)
Economic Possibilities for Our Time

ACHIEVES:
Moon River and Me by Andy Williams
A Memoir
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
My Losing Season by Pat Conroy
A Memoir
The Christmas Tree by Julie Salamon 
29 Gifts by Cami Walker
How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life
The Balkan Express by Slavenka Drakulić
Fragments From the Other Side of the War 
Rough Guide: Costa Rica
The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom
Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof & Sheryl WuDunn
Turning Oppression Into Opportunity For Women Worldwide

DOES NOT MEET: 
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
Choosing Civility by P.M. Forni
The 25 Rules of Considerate Conduct

Past Lists:  2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004.

Year-End Listmania

If you need any help in compiling your 'best of' lists, here are a few lists that I checked out the past few weeks...

Paste Magazine: 50 Best Albums
Pitchfork: 100 Best Tracks
You Ain't No Picasso: Top 50 Songs and Top Songs
Pretty Much Amazing: Top 40 Albums and Songs
Stereogum: Top 50 Albums
Grammy Nominees
All Things Go: Top Albums 
Rob Sheffield: Albums Songs (I love the way this guy writes)


and a little non-music fun...
TIME's Top 10 of everything lists
"Quotes", "Underreported Stories",  "Nonfiction Books" are all good, but you've got to watch some of the clips on the "Political Gaffes" list for some good laughs.

29 December 2010

Reading Aloud at Christmas









Hawks Win

Just a quick note of celebration.  Even though I fell asleep sometime around the start of the 4th quarter, the Hawkeyes earned a great upset win last night.  In a game where both defenses were highly touted, Iowa ran over Missouri and Missouri passed at will all over Iowa.  I'm thrilled they came in and played solid and got a win.  Hopefully that will erase some of the frustration of those end of the season 4th quarter losses.  And the off-field distractions. 
Sidenote:  After eleven bowl games here are current standings in the bowl challenge:
middleson - 8, em - 7, kt/stoppable/NTW - 6, the brig/caboose/homebase - 4

Military Spending

I've always smiled when I've seen this bumper sticker.  While less witty, this Nicholas Kristof article is a more well-written, insightful and guiding persuasive commentary along the same lines. 

Christmas

Just a quick recap on the wonderful time spent back home for Christmas.  The forecasted snow never appeared so there would be no cancelled mass or snowed-in situations like last year.  Which is OK by me.  homebase and I hit up Whole Foods on the 23rd, and I think we went a little overboard on the cheeses this year but they were fantastic...such great stuff at that store.  I've been put in charge of coming up with some sort of cheese diary, so we can know next year which to get and which to avoid, so we'll see what I come up with for that.  But the Christmas buffet was super delic and the rating of cheeses added some extra fun.  And a new addition to the Christmas fun, we read "The Christmas Tree" aloud, passing the book around so everyone got a chance to read.  It took about and hour and a half and I think that everyone really enjoyed it.  It was very nice to hear each person's style and voice, especially the kids.  There was lots of game playing, ping-pong matches, and always a little something cooking.  We all closed out the day by watching "It's a Wonderful Life" and I think only three of us made it through without falling asleep.  There was just lots of good together time and it was great.
Day after, homebase and I left the house ~3 in search of "King's Speech" and on our third attempt at the second theater, got our tickets, and really enjoyed it.  Fantastic movie.  And we were able to zip into the Barnes and Nobles next door in the last 15 minutes before it closed and grab a couple hot drinks for the drive home. 
I know this post is a little scattered, but there were just a lot of fun, relaxing experiences...like a fantastic 5 mile run on Christmas Eve morning.  There was just about an inch of snow, just enough to see my tracks.  I went out by our old house, saw lots of nature, and had an excellent run.  And I was able to stop in and see a good friend from high school and spend some time catching up and having some good laughs.
It was a wonderful, warm, relaxing holiday.  I am so lucky to have a fantastic family.  And I shouldn't have eaten so many sweets. 

23 December 2010

ESPN: Roll Tide

Man, ESPN is blowin' up 'Bama this season.  They started the season off with that great behind the scenes look at two-a-days and now this great commercial.  The great part is only a few parts of it are probably exaggerations.

22 December 2010

Santa in Iowa

I am not a fan of the Des Moines Register website, but there is one column that I always try to make a point of reading.  Rekha Basu.   Her son was a senior when I was doing my first year of teaching and that is when I first started reading her column.  She spoke at graduation that year.  I don't always like or agree with her views (although I usually do), but I think it is quality writing with solid thought and feeling behind it.
In the spirit of the season, take a few moments out of your hurried day to read "Yes, Virginia, There's a Santa Right Here in Iowa."
Merry Christmas.

No Diving for Messi

In the face of the ridiculous and disgusting diving that takes place sometimes in soccer, this video warms the heart.  Messi, the best player on the planet, stays on his feet, despite there being plenty of contact, fighting to get free and get by the defender instead of taking the easy way out and flopping.  Enjoy.
[from Soccerblog.com]

21 December 2010

Web Roundup

A run-down of a few interesting things that have caught my eye while sailing on the web...
  • "Sarah Palin is Wrong about John F. Kennedy, religion, and politics" from the Washington Post.  Written by JFK's niece, I thought it was a good piece about the role of faith in politics.
  • "Why Attackers Can't Take Down Amazon."  I thought this gave a brief, comprehendable insight into how Amazon has set up its business & its web platform.  And I like seeing those loser 'Anonymous' hacks run into a challenge too big for them.
  • "The Gifts of Hope." Nicholas Kristof on the NY Times.  I've been searching the web for exactly the types of things he highlights in his article.  Great stuff.  I didn't get my ideas put into practice this year, but people can look forward to some very different Christmas gifts from me next year!
  • And lastly, a website that is in the same vein as Texts From Last Night and FML.  TotalFratMove.  I have no love for Greeks and this is a sometimes humorous look at some reasons why not.  Definitely focusing on the old money, Southern, right-wing blue-blood stereotypes, the comments are hit and miss but the names of the people submitting them are pretty witty. 

19 December 2010

DADT Repeal Passes

Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight gives an inside look at how, why and from where the bill to repeal picked up the bipartisan support needed to pass and head to the White House.

Bowl Season

Yesterday kicked off the college football bowl season and with it, the annual family bowl challenge.  Here's a few insights after compiling all our picks:
  • There was only one game that all eight of us were in agreement on.  Miami of Ohio beating Middle Tennessee State.
  • There were a few "one man stands alone" picks. 
    • The brig was the only one to pick UTEP over BYU (sorry, brig!)
    • caboose is the only one to pick Northwestern over Texas Tech
    • I'm the only one picking Mississippi State over Michigan
    • The brig also picked Connecticut over Oklahoma
    • And only me picked Texas A&M over LSU
  •  Games of note:
    • stoppable and emily are the only two to pick all 3 service academies to win.
    • caboose and kt picked against Iowa.
    • caboose, NTW, emily & stoppable all picked against Nebraska.
    • NTW and kt picked against Notre Dame.
    • NTW and the brig were the only two to pick Oregon in the championship game.

16 December 2010

Bob Feller [1918-2010]

The NY Times writes about the legendary Iowa pitcher and the Des Moines Register has a page set up with lots of photos, interviews, and stories. Despite not being much a baseball fan or historian, it is impossible not to be impressed with what Bob Feller achieved.

Taken to the Cleaners?

$39 for 6 pairs of pants.  I didn't ask for dry cleaning so I'm assuming they were just laundered and pressed.  Is this a ridiculous price?  It seems like a lot to me.  I go to Beaver Cleaners (insert crude joke here).
Does anyone have a recommendation for a good, affordable cleaners in Des Moines? 

14 December 2010

Open Courseware

And to follow up those learning culture/well-being posts from last week...
It is great to remember that although the price of a degree continues to inflate, there is SO much higher education material available to anyone...for free!  There are thousands of courses from hundreds of institutions.  And I'm not talking about University of Phoenix or Vitterbo!!  How about MITYaleNotre DameJohns HopkinsUC Berkley?
Too confusing to go online and hunt around for all that?  Then just go to iTunes.  Apple has iTunes U set up so you can browse one site and find offerings from great schools like Stanford, Oxford, Duke and Cornell.
I'd hate to be a hypocrite so I am planning on trying out a course or two next year.
Here's a few titles that caught my eye already, let me know if anyone's interested.  We could have some study sessions!
Catholic Social Teaching (Notre Dame)
Intro to Catholic Moral Theology (Notre Dame)
Intro to Peace Studies (Notre Dame)
Economics of Education (MIT)
Foundations of Development Policy (MIT)
Listening to Music (Yale)
Digital Typography (MIT)
Spanish I (MIT)
Bestsellers: The Memoir (MIT)

13 December 2010

The New Big 10

The Big10 unveiled its new logo, along with the names for the two divisions of teams and some of the conference awards that will be given out.  Check out all the variations of the logos on the Big 10's website.  And they offer their full explanation here.  "Its contemporary collegiate lettering includes an embedded numeral "10" in the word "BIG," which allows fans to see "BIG" and "10" in a single word. Memorable and distinctive, the new logo evolved from the previous logo's use of negative space and is built on the conference's iconic name, without reference to the number of member institutions.  The new logo also provides the flexibility of multiple versions which can be used horizontally, vertically and within new media...We think the new logo is fun and has something for everyone."
Personally, I am lukewarm on it.  I think the font is good and I like that the number 10 was incorporated.  I'm not excited about the color.  It seems kinda of hospital-ish and sterile, but I suppose that is what they were going for so it didn't use any of the member teams colors.  And I don't think I like how the blue square around "ten" makes a thick line between the words, but the white text is open on the ends of the 'T' and 'N'.
Overall, not bad, but I don't think it is as classic & witty as the current logo.  I love that embedded "11"!

12 December 2010

Feeling Good

Here's a few things to get your insides warmed up...
  • Let's start with a little music.  I love the song "Feeling Good."  I was only familiar with the Nina Simone version until I got the Micheal Buble version from Nicole.  Great stuff.
  • Now that you've enjoyed that, how about a little story of strangers stepping forward to support a girl who had been told that who she was was not ok?  I saw the story on TWLOHA and then clicked through to read more on cnn and on the girl's mom's blog.  How great that her school is now having a "Proud to Be Me Day"!!!
  • Follow that with a story of a hard-luck homeless man doing the tough, but right thing when a large amount of money falls in his lap...and is rewarded for it.  I love the quote from one of his friends at the end of the story, "Thanks, man.  You made us all look good."
  • And we'll finish with a mantra you can take with you.  This motto was on a placard on FDR's Oval Office desk and I came across it today and wanted to share.  Read it, think about it and take it with you.  "Let Unconquerable Gladness Dwell."

It's Cold Outside

I think we topped out around twelve degrees today.  Pretty chilly, but we only got a couple inches of snow and the sun's out!  So, although it forced the postponement of our family winter game weekend, it could be worse. My family likes to go and isn't afraid to make a drive if there is fun to be had, but the roads were treacherous and the winds made it pretty awful last night (which is why they closed parts of I-29 and I-80).  So, even though it was a bummer, we made the right decision to call things off.
Since then, I've been trying to enjoy and use all the indoor time this weekend. 
  • Cooking / Eating  
    • Shepherd's Pie - May be the best winter storm food ever.  Leave your thoughts/suggestions in the comments.
    • French Dip sandwiches in the crockpot.  Made the apartment smell delicious.
    • Cranberry-walnut bread baking.  This hasn't happened yet but is planned for tonight.
    • Roasted red pepper & Italian sausage risotto.  Fun to make, tasty, but I thought it could benefit from another flavor.  Maybe some basil or more/stronger cheese.
  • TV Watching
    • "MacGruber".  This was a caboose Netflix selection...and it was the worst thing I've watched since..."Lovely Bones".
    • Got to watch some great Christmas movies..."Love Actually" and "The Holiday".  
    • Heisman trophy presentation.  No surprises there, Cam Newton was in a whole different category this season.  Then watched a '30 for 30' on SMU's problems with pay-to-play infractions in the 80's.  Did anyone else think it was odd scheduling to show that directly following the Heisman after all that's gone on with Cam this fall?
    • Playing a good amount of FIFA10 Soccer with caboose.  We've got Celtic FC flying pretty high this season.
  • Get out whenever possible
    • I did get to take the Jeep out to get its feet wet in the first snow & ice we've seen this year for a couple trips.  YMCA, Chinese food, some coffeeshop time, church, big gulp trips, etc.

09 December 2010

DJK

I don't want to waste a lot of time on this, but it is pretty huge news for Iowa fans. 
It's just a disappointment that an individual who has come up such a tough road to succeed in such a huge way (only player to lead the team in catches for four consecutive years, all-time leader in catches and receiving yards) can make decisions that will negatively impact his future when he's so close to making it.  He's definite been a bit of a question mark or an enigma and it will be interesting to hear how it all pans out for him.  He was a lock to be drafted next spring and now??? 
[And in reading on him I saw that he went to Cardinal Mooney HS in Ohio.  It was mentioned on GameDay a couple weeks ago.  It's the alma mater of the Pelini brothers, the Stoops brothers, and the DeBartelo's that own the 49ers.]

07 December 2010

Promote a Learning Culture

"10+ Ways to Promote a Learning Culture in Your School"

Encouraging and developing a learning culture is critical so when that small spark ignites in a student, it is caught in welcoming tinder and can grow into a flame that will stick around.  Students are very observant and aware of the attitudes and actions of the staff.  If they see and hear that their teachers are still learning, trying new thing, exploring, interested & excited to add to their skill sets, then they will be more apt to do the same.  This is even more needed in those students that may not be seeing that type of activity and attitude in the other adults in their lives. 
Even though I linked the story above, I'm pasting a very abbreviated version of the bulletpoints along with a few of my own comments.  And I don't think this applies only to schools!  
  1. Fill your school(s) with learners.While interviewing prospective employees, ask them to  “Tell me about something that you have learned lately.” “What are you seeking to learn more about right now?”  Also ask how they learned it. To what degree and with what proficiency are they utilizing networks. 
  2. Open your faculty meetings with something that you’ve just learned – and how you learned it.  It does not have to be about school, instruction, education managements, or the latest theories of learning.    Our tech director would do this at tech meetings, it took 5-10 minutes and I loved it.  A great opener. 
  3. Make frequent mention of your Twitter stream, RSS reader, specific blogs you read.  Again, this should not be limited to job specific topics.  I feel that this is huge.  I made a point of sharing mine at the last PD session I gave.  There is SO much great information out there, we need to be tapping into it.
  4. Share links to specific TED talks or other mini-lectures by interesting and smart people.  Then share and ask for reactions during faculty meetings, in the halls, or during casual conversations with employees and parents.  The follow-up is a key part on this.  If you are going to send out a talk or video, ask me about it later.  It will make for much better conversation than 'how's the weather/basketball team/ready for break?' the next time we cross paths.
  5. Include in the daily announcements, something new and interesting (Did you know that a California power utility has just gotten permission to sell electricity from outer space?)
  6. Ask students in the halls what they’ve just learned and how they learned it, and if they would mind writing something up about it for the school web site.  I love any chance to start a conversation with a student, unrelated to the current subject but focused on learning, self-improvement, etc.  I always try to comment on what they're reading if they have a book sitting out in view, or bring up an school paper article they wrote or were quoted in, etc. 
  7. Plant around the school and especially in the library curious questions that might spark a desire in learners. We have a captive audience so we should use all the available wall space we can.  
  8. Ask teachers and other staff to write reports on their latest vacation, sharing what they learned – and publish them on the school web site.  I don't know about the school website, but we should be sharing life experiences whenever it would be interesting/relevant.  And we definitely should be doing a better job of highlighting individuals that are doing cool, good things.
  9. Ask teachers to devote one of their classroom bulletin boards to what they are learning, related or unrelated to the classroom.  Love it
  10. Talk about the role of research in learning and encourage learners and teachers to engage in independent research on topics of personal interest.  Persuade some to submit, for the school web site, multimedia reports about what they’ve learned and how they learned it..
  11. Learn what the parents of your students are passionately learning about, and ask them to report (text, video, Skype conversation, or in person to be recorded).  This would be good to hear more about what is being talked about at home.  Not certain how best to open up these lines of communication.
  12. Plant a mystery in your school with hidden clues that require further research on the part of learners.  I read another blog that talked about putting up QR codes in hallways just to see if students would scan them or ask what they are.
  13. Find ways to be playful at your school — and perhaps feel less grown-up.  Yes please.  Make it a more enjoyable place, not crazy, not inappropriate, but yes, more fun.  Let kids know you enjoy your job.

05 December 2010

Irish are National Champions

I just happened to see that NCAA Women's Soccer final was on this morning and it paired Notre Dame (ranked #7) with Stanford (#1).  It was a good match to watch (not always the case for women's soccer) with both teams going off the woodwork in the first half and the Irish getting the lone goal in the second half.  They have a stellar group of freshmen on the Irish team from Texas that have been playing club soccer together since 6th grade.  ND beat four teams ranked higher than them en route to the title, but the coach stated after the game, "I don't want people to think this was an upset today.  I think throughout the tournament we were the best team in the country, and I hope we get credit for that."  It is the third national championship ('04, '95) for the Irish, who've been to the final four the last five years straight.

TED Talk: Nic Marks

"The Happy Planet Index."  caboose, homebase and I watched this presentation together while we were home for Thanksgiving.  He is a statstician and presents on a topic he has worked on extensively at the New Economics Foundation (whose motto is "Economics as if people and the planet mattered).  The proper way to measure and compare economies, countries and eras in history are always a topic of discussion in economics.  GDP and GDP per capita are the most commonly sited metrics, but there are lots of article out there about devising a "Happiness Quotient", that try and measure the overall happiness of a population instead of just how much measurable goods and services they can produce.  Mr. Marks includes also data on effecient use of the planet's resources. 
He boils things down to his "Five Ways to Well-Being" and I really liked these.  Nothing really revolutionary, but I completely agree with each of them.  And I'm going to try and improve a little in each of the areas:
  • CONNECT - "With the people around you. With family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. At home, work, school or in your local community. Think of these as the cornerstones of your life and invest time in developing them. Building these connections will support and enrich you every day."
  • BE ACTIVE - "Go for a walk or run. Step outside. Cycle. Play a game. Garden. Dance. Exercising makes you feel good. Most importantly, discover a physical activity you enjoy and that suits your level of mobility and fitness."
  • TAKE NOTICE - "Be curious. Catch sight of the beautiful. Remark on the unusual. Notice the changing seasons. Savour the moment, whether you are walking to work, eating lunch or talking to friends. Be aware of the world around you and what you are feeling. Reflecting on your experiences will help you appreciate what matters to you."
  • KEEP LEARNING - "Try something new. Rediscover an old interest. Sign up for that course. Take on a different responsibility at work. Fix a bike. Learn to play an instrument or how to cook your favourite food. Set a challenge you will enjoy achieving. Learning new things will make you more confident as well as being fun."
  • GIVE- "Do something nice for a friend, or a stranger. Thank someone. Smile. Volunteer your time. Join a community group. Look out, as well as in. Seeing yourself, and your happiness, linked to the wider community can be incredibly rewarding and creates connections with the people around you."

No Room At the Inn

Saturday started off cold and windy, with windchills in the single digits.  Perfect weather for a 4 mile trail run, I guess!  The route was very run, along the river and weaving through the woods.  I've decided that I really like trail runs and will be looking for more of them to do next year.  Nic and I did this one in 33 minutes and change, not really pushing the pace, just enjoying ourselves and the last mile or so we followed a dad and his 9 year old daughter.  She was a beast and he did a great job of encouraging & supporting without pushing.  
Afterwards, we went downtown and checked out the "No Room at the Inn" exhibit at the Diocese of Des Moines.  They had a display of 300+ nativity sets that I thought would be cool to see.  And it was; it had a huge variety.  From big to very small, African, Asian, South American, and from pretty much every material you could think of and a few you wouldn't expect (rolled newspaper, butter carving by the Iowa State Fair lady, etc).  Check out some pictures on my flickr.  The most creepy/hilarious award goes to this nativity scene depicted with cats.  Not sure how that one got the OK to be included.  Two or three families donated probably 90% of them and as we were checking them out, a guy who turned out to be one of the donors sidles up beside me and leans in and says, "The guy in the crib is Jesus."  To which I just bust out laughing, I love that dry humor.

02 December 2010

High School Logos

Last weekend, the NY Times ran an article titled "Colleges Tell High Schools Logos Are Off-limits".  I've always loved learning and comparing all the different logos and mascots of high schools.  (See this post).  I have never been a fan of high schools using a college's logo mainly just because of the lack of individuality.  I like a unique identity that is developed and spread and recognizable as that school, not possibly mistaken for some university of the other side of the country.  Also, if colleges start to try and squash this problem I'm not sure how you determine where to stop because the problem is widespread.  Do only the popular high schools with successful teams or strong web-presences get punished?  Some people argue that a huge D-I university shouldn't worry about a tiny Class A school in rural Iowa using their logos, but if they allow it, they are opening the flood-gates for anyone to come along and use it.  They've spent huge sums to create, market and protect their image, and regardless of the size of the infringement, they have to be strict with it.  In most of the stories I've seen the college is flexible in the phasing out of the old logo.  Sidenote:  how fun would that be to design the logo and come up with the merchandising and marketing plan for a school!?!
This isn't an exhaustive list but after I came across this website of Iowa high school helmets and I couldn't stop and had to add a few more:
Waukee - used the Wisconsin style "W" (until Wisconsin made them alter it in '06)
Urbandale - uses the Miami style "U"
Dowling Catholic - uses the Notre Dame Fighting Irish leprechaun
Hoover - uses the style and font of the Nebraska "Huskers" for their "Huskies"
Carlisle, Humboldt, and CR Kennedy - use the Kansas State Wildcat logo
West Bend Mallard - uses the Michigan Wolverine helmet design
Graettinger/Terril - uses the Georgia Tech logo 
Newton - uses the Arizona Cardinals logo
Muscantine and Waukon - use the Florida State logo
Decorah/North Winnishiek - use the Minnesota Vikings logo
Gilbert - uses the Georgia logo
Aplington-Parkersburg - uses the Atlanta Falcons logo
Northeast Goose Lake - uses the Nortwestern logo
Iowa City, City High - uses the Iowa tiger hawk logo
(This article shares that Iowa sends roughly a dozen letters a year to schools regarding logo infringement.)

World Cup Announcement

FIFA announced this morning which countries were the winners in the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup championships.
RUSSIA AND QATAR.  
Now, I'm all for developing the global game and spreading the wealth around.  Look how well things went in South Africa!  But, seriously...Qatar!  Their national team is ranked 114th in the world.  The bidding process (like pretty much everything FIFA does) was scrutinized after allegations of kickbacks and bribing of voters came out. 
The USA misses out with their bid in for the 2022 event.  This will be the first time the World Cup has been held in Eastern Europe as well as the Middle East.  And it means at least 20 years will pass between Western European hosted Cups.
You can watch the full final presentation for Russia and Qatar and make your own mind up.  They are a half-hour long each so I'll have to wait until I get home to see if they make me feel any better.
[found this column by Nate Silver about the announcement.  Good analysis.]

01 December 2010

Turkey-Induced Slowdown?

Whew, it has been a while!!  Here's what's been up...
  • Black Friday.  A great day as always.  I'm not overly materialistic but I do like shopping and this is honestly one of my favorite days of the year.  Getting up super early.  Driving to Omaha listening to Christmas music for the first time.  Target, seeing what everyone else is putting in their carts.  The Mall, checking out all the fun deals and markdowns (50% everything in the store at GAP this year!).  Starbucks breaks.  A fun lunch get together with the stoppable and family.  Afternoon relaxing at the bookstore.  Bringing all the packages in at night and recapping what all we got.  Putting up the tree and decorations.  This year was great and caboose came along too for a fun change.  
  • Driving back to DSM while listening to the Iowa game.  I love having a game on during that 2 hour drive.  Unfortunately the Hawkeyes continue their new trend of total letdowns in the 4th quarter.  BUT Notre Dame continued its recent trend of surprising people by beating USC for the first time in 9 years.  Go Irish!!!  If you didn't see the highlights, the ending was pretty heart-stopping.  I loved these two quotes after the game, "'We had the luck of the Irish and God on our side on that one.'' WR Michael Floyd.  And from the DB who slipped on that key play, "I'm glad I said my prayers."
  • Monday, caboose's bday!!  Woo hoo!  For the pizza party, I made a fruit pizza and when I called homebase, she had just came across this recipe and it turned out great.  I was super happy with it.  Pictures in flickr. There was a Thai peanut chicken pizza, a bleu buffalo chicken pizza and a pepperoni mozzarella pizza.  Well done everyone, those were some tasty pies!
  • Tuesday was my last day in the classroom.  I definitely was not a fan of how the whole situation was handled and it is never easy teaching someone else's classes, but I undoubtedly enjoyed being back at the school I taught in my first year.  It was fun to be back working with students and in that high school environment.  So it was a little happy but also a little sad when the teacher returned and has now taken over her classes.  It was a good two-month reminder that I enjoy being in the classroom.
  • The last couple episodes of GLEE seem to have reminded me of the first season and are more of what I liked about the show.  Good stuff lately.  The full album #4 came out yesterday and I can't wait to start listening to it!  I've given the Christmas album a few listens and "We Need a Little Christmas" is a lot of fun and Rachel singing "O Holy Night" is pretty fantastic.  
  • The Victoria's Secret Fashion Show!  Yes, the angels are incredible but also it is such a fun production, I look forward to it every year.  It looks like such a fun party!  I want to go!

25 November 2010

Thanksgiving '10

Due to the way the calendar fell this year, our district did not have school on Wednesday before Thanksgiving, so break officially started on Tuesday afternoon!  So early!  caboose was off and so was stoppable and all his family.  Actually, only homebase had to work and she had an early out.  So this all allowed us to make the trip home by mid-afternoon and enjoy Thanksgiving Eve together, something that rarely happens.  Ping-pong games, crafting, reading, games and cooking kept everyone busy and entertained. 
For the Turkey Trot at 8 this morning, it was 16 degrees, but thankfully no wind and the sun was shining.  We used the same route as last year and gained another runner, kt, and a couple walkers too!  I came up with this logo in the hopes of making shirts for everyone, but my printer guy didn't email me back in time and I ran out of time.  So..next year!! :)  And, per usual, I had a fun idea in my head but what I put together in Illustrator didn't do it justice.  Leslie not only answered tons of my questions, reviewed and provided feedback helping me along, but when I ran out of gas at the very end and just wanted to throw the thing away, she stepped in and worked her magic and transformed my design that I was luke-warm on to something that was totally great and still embodied what I was going for.  Thanks Les!!!
The big meal was a delicious feast and the turkey, which usually isn't my favorite dish was especially moist and tasty this year...superb.  Alton's brussel sprout dish, Giada's stuffing, pureed squash, the best mashed potatoes ever, Bobby Flay's cranberry-mango sauce, and fresh baked rolls.  This year, as always, so much to be thankful for, without a doubt.  A family that is the best thing in my life.  Amazing, caring friends - not just topical or social friends but real friends who are great people and make my life more colorful and enjoyable.  My physical health.  A good paying job in a field that I am passionate about.  And that's just the tip of the iceberg. 
Time to sift through the Black Friday ads and drawn up our game plan for tomorrow morning.  Can't wait!

24 November 2010

Wednesday Morning

A few thoughts from yesterday...
  • I am very happy with how GLEE handled the bullying situation. It is such an important topic with all the sad events that have been in the news lately.  After the threat was made a week ago, I figured they were laying the stage for a message to be sent this week and I was happy with what they did with it.  And it was also nice that they were realistic about it too.  An explusion wouldn't stand up in most schools so it was good to show that also.  I thought it was a fantastic episode all around.  
  • I don't understand the concept or appeal of take and bake pizza.  While it was still quite tasty, what are you gaining?  And it is priced just like a normal pizza. 
  • Is there anything better than listening and talking about music with friends?  Maybe only if you add in the fun of getting an uncensored look at someone's iTunes library.  Good times.
  • Holiday break #1 is here!!!  5 days off.

22 November 2010

Free Samples!

To celebrate and enjoy the new Girl Talk album, "All Day", even more, here is a fun way to listen to it.  This website shows you where the samples come from and how/when they are layered.  It's also helpful if you hear that little synth line and can't place what song it is...
All Day Samples
And, in case you want more, here's the same thing for his previous album, Feed the Animals:
Feed the Animals Samples

Monday News

What better way to start a (very short) week than with a little browsing of the newspaper.  Here's a trifecta of NY Times articles that I enjoyed in over the weekend:
  • "A Business Creator Sees Big Returns from Social Media"  - stoppable passed this one on to me and it is a condensed interview with Eric Lefkofsky.  I wasn't familiar with the other successes they talk about, but if you aren't signed up for Groupon yet, you should be.
  • "In Rare Cases, Pope Justifies Use of Condoms" - Granted he was talking about a very tiny number of circumstances when it might be allowable, but even to have that conversion and make that concession is pretty big news.   
  • "Teaching for America" - This is not about the Teach for America organization.   Instead it is about the changes that are needed in the teaching industry.  Some cool, exciting ideas in there:  a teaching academy, like a West Point for education.  An R&D center for strategies and best practices.  Demanding more from parents.  Incentives to recruit the more of the graduates in the top 30% of their class.  Contracts that offer higher pay if higher standards are achieved.

19 November 2010

Recap of My Week Online

 Just wanted to put some things out there that I came across recently and had in my bookmarks to share but probably aren't worth a post by themselves.
  • The Onion takes a fun poke at the pretenion of Pitchfork:  "Pitchfork Give Music 6.8"
  • Cool clothing company/movement: Locally Grown Clothing.  Some nice designs and it started out as a booth at the Downtown Farmers Market.  Click on the Women's section and see a former student doing some modeling!
  • Saw a TV commercial about this charity and was so intrigued, I had to check out their website.  Catholic Tuition Organization.  You get a bottomline Iowa tax credit  for 65% of your donation and get to claim it as a chartiable donation on your Federal returns if you itemize.  They are a scholarship tuition organization whose purpose is "provide tuition assistance to families whose children attend Iowa accredited non-public schools and whose income falls at or below three hundred percent of the poverty rate."
  •  "Pledge to Give Away Fortunes Stirs Debate", a recent NY Times article, takes a questioning, if not critical, look at The Giving Pledge, "commitment by 40 of the wealthiest Americans to give away at least half of their fortunes, about $600 billion."  $600 BILLION.  That is a big number.  As much as I hate people who have to criticize everything, there are some valid and interesting points in the article.  A lot of what these people are doing with their money, I wouldn't really consider, "giving it to charity."  If it is going to fund political 501 groups that make attack ads, that really isn't philanthropy.  Since the article doesn't get into specifics about who is giving to which organizations, take a look at The Giving Pledge website for more info.

18 November 2010

Nano Watches

These watches are b-eautiful.  And super cool.  If I had or planned on buying a Nano, I would sign up for one of these in an instant. 

17 November 2010

Treat Yourself...(And Someone Else!)

Buy One, Get One on Holiday drinks at Starbucks.  Tomorrow through Sunday, from 2-5.

It Gets Better

Unless you've been under a (technological) rock for the past month or so, you have at least heard about the "It Gets Better" project.  People, both famous and normal, gay and straight, have taken a few moments to record a statement sharing their encouragement and support for youth that are having to endure harassment for their sexual orientation.  As we grow up, people often fall into the habit of thinking and telling kids how great they have it.  And it's true that it is nice to be able to look back on days without the financial worries and obligations of adulthood or without the responsibilities of a 40+ hour a week job.  But I think people too quickly forget the challenges of adolescence and, when experienced through the emotional mindset of a teen, how monumental and critical everything can seem.  Working in schools has given me ample opportunity to see and remember just how hard it is to be a teen.  Emotional turmoil, hormonal rollercoasters, self-image insecurities, cliques, pressure to do well in school (but not too well so you aren't ostracized) peer pressure towards alcohol, drugs, sex & mischief, and above all, the incredible ruthlessness of kids. 
You can check out the project and the videos here.  The video of Joel Burns will take your breath away...while the Ke$ha one will probably leave you a little underwhelmed.  And I also liked the uniqueness of this cartoon-version.  Many of the videos direct struggling teens to contact The Trevor Project, an outreach & assistance hotline/chat/website. 

16 November 2010

AA.com

While I don't work in 'user experience', I have worked in workflow & website layout, and let's face it, I spend a LOT of time on the internet, so I always find this type of stuff interesting.  This designer, after using the American Airlines website, wrote a letter on his blog to AA.com and he also came up with a mock-up for an improved website.  He got a response from a member of the user experience design team.  And, finally, there was this follow-up
AAmazing.
[sidenote: I checked out one of his design links and ended up at The League of Moveable Type.  Open-source good-looking fonts. Check 'em out.]

15 November 2010

Trader Joe's

Made the obligatory visit to the newly-opened Trader Joe's on Sunday with homebase.  My verdict remains the same as it was when I went to one while living in Chicago.  Good, but not even close to being in the same class as Whole Foods.

24 Hours in Texas

A bulleted synopsis of my weekend excursion down south...
  • Flying standby is always an adventure.  Our 3:10 flight out was postponed, then canceled (which is pretty much the worst-case scenario for standby).  The next flight was postponed, repeatedly.  There was talk of an option routing us through Chicago.  (If I'm going to Chicago...I'm going to stay there.)  But, really, we lucked out and got on the delayed flight at 6:30. 
  • After landing we sat on the tarmac for ~40 minutes.  Waiting for a gate to open up and then waiting for some 'rampers' to get the plane in front of us to its gate so we could move.  Frustrating.
  • Friday night was pretty low key (since we got in at ~9:30).  Found some food (Esparza's!) and turned in early.  
  • stoppable & I were running the Spirit run 5k, a benefit for the Richardson school district.  Each of the four high schools was to provide the 'spirit' along its section of the route.  Running conditions were chilly and windy and the route was pretty bland, although the middle mile and a half through a park was nice.  I definitely could have gone for more spirit.  I am a big fan of high school spirit.  Pep rallies, drum lines, marching bands, cheerleaders, fight songs, cheering student sections, dressing up in your colors, painted faces, step squads, dance teams, pom poms...I LOVE that stuff.  I loved it when I was in HS, I love it now that I work in schools.  So maybe I was hoping for too much.  On a positive note, at least the last school was the best school so I was left with a good image in my head.  At the end of the race, each runner gets to vote for the most spirited school.  The Berkner Rams got my vote.  As far as the running went, I set a new PR and was very happy with it, even though we tailed off a bit in mile 3 and I wouldn't have made it without stoppable pushing me along. [mile 1- 7:01, mile 2- 7:04, mile 3- 7:21, Total: 22:07, 28 of 191 overall, 3 of 8 M30-34]
  • We went for a fun brunch then spent the rest of the day relaxing, watching college football, having a few drinks, trying out the new hot tub.  College football continues to confuse this year.  How can Texas play so poorly and are they ever going to snap out of it?  What got into Notre Dame?  They played fantastic to thump Utah.  Their first win over a ranked opponent since '06.  What is it with Northwestern?  I hate that school!  I would never wish injury upon a player, but since he did end up rupturing his Achilles, couldn't he just have done it a play or two earlier?  Where was the Iowa defense?  Can Cam Newton be stopped?  He & Auburn seem to be doing a good job of staying focused and tuning out all the craziness surrounding him right now.  Wisconsin, 82 points...is that really necessary?  It was great to lounge with my brothers (when caboose wasn't sleeping) and watch some good games.
  • I was able to get on the last plane out on Saturday night and unfortunately that meant caboose had to wait til Sunday morning.  Before you speculate that I bullied him out of the last seat or took it for being the older one, I will inform you that it goes by who checks in first...I beat him by ~30 seconds.  Plus he was very gracious and understanding.
So, less than 24 hours, but it was fun to hang out with my brothers, see my dad, get a good run in and get out of town for a day.

14 November 2010

A New Car!!

Not even planning to buy anything I went to test drive a Jeep Grand Cherokee last Thursday after work, four hours later I was driving it home.  I'd seen it on craig's list and the dealership had dropped the sticker price $1000 a few days before so I thought I'd check it out.  I liked it a lot when I drove it, they gave me within $200 of what I hoped to get out of my car, and I got the price I wanted.  It felt great to not waver on my offer, and watch it work.  I have to give credit to stoppable, he has taught a few principles of negotation to me and they paid off.  The salesman actually complimented me later on about driving a hard-bargain. 
I have loved the Grand Cherokee's since I was in high school, but this is the first non-car I've had.  It will take some time to get used to, but I am loving it so far.  Lots of fun things to try out.  The only negatives are I don't think it will fit in the garage so it will be back to scraping windshields for me this winter, and I'll miss my sunroof.  It was a big decision and I'm glad to finally pull the trigger on it.

09 November 2010

Desperate Times...Desperate Measures

I ate my yogurt with a business card this morning. 

I like to think that Bear Grylls would be proud.

08 November 2010

Heathrow Flashmob...Welcome Home

I never get tired of watching these.  Check it out.

07 November 2010

RCC Run the Woods

I hadn't ran any race on my own until Saturday and I was signed up for my first trail run.  Driving out to Earlham, I didn't really have any clue what to expect and as I made my way off of I-80, onto pavement, then gravel roads, then into Goldner Woods Park, I got more and more excited.  First off it was a sunny, bright and crisp day.  A little chilly and more than a tad windy at the start, I wore a stocking hat (which I had to take off after the first mile), but it was great by the end.  The scenery was fantastic, woods, pasture, hills, water...rural Iowa in all its glory.  There was probably around 120 runners as we lined up to hear the organizer/rancher give us some last minute tips and then, with a blast of his shotgun, we were off.  The first 1-1.5 miles was gentle hills running across the open pastures (had to keep an eye out for fresh cow pies), then it was into the woods for the rest of the race.  That's when the hills started for serious.  And they didn't stop.  The last mile had a lot of stream crossings but I was able to keep my shoes dry jumping across on boulders.  A steep, long ascent brought you to the finish line but not before deciding to go over or under a massive tree trunk across the path (I chose over)...a tough way to finish but overall a great experience.  I did the four miles in 36:51 and I was happy with it and my lungs hurt afterward.  AND, the one negative I was hesitant about when signing up was that there was no shirt.  Or so I thought.  When I got there and got my race number, they asked my size and I got the last adult large.  adidas long-sleeve climacool shirts!!  White with black stripes on the arms, a very nice surprise.  Next year I hope to bring some more runners and stick around for the beef stew, chin-up challenge and brownies. 

05 November 2010

Election Recap

I don't care to spend too much time talking or thinking about the election results, but I thought I'd share a few articles I enjoyed.  And to say that I'm floored that Terry Branstand is our governor again.  He governed from when I was 7 until I graduated from college.  Yikes.
  • "The Day After the Day After" This one gave me a few smiles...which were much needed.  I haven't read this woman's column before but she's got a fun, informal take on politicians, sorta like a Jon Stewart.
  • "Ouster of Iowa Judges Send Signal to Bench" I think the vote on this topic is pretty fascinating.  How it broke down across the different parts of the state and how it reflects our states attitude overall.  The three justices barely were voted to keep their seats in Polk county!  If that is the case, then you knew they wouldn't stand a chance in most of the rest of the state. SNG's has some good thoughts on his blog that I enjoyed.  It is really a historic happening for them to be shown the door (as in it has never happened before in Iowa.).

03 November 2010

Waiting for Superman

I don't know about Superman, but I'd been waiting for this documentary to start showing here ever since I first saw the trailer for it.  Anytime a top-notch director (same guy that did 'Inconvenient Truth') makes a film about your occupation, I think it is a good idea to go watch it.  This has definitely been a controvesial movie and the unions especially have been up in arms about it.  On opening night here they had a panel discussion after the film with our superintendant of schools present.  My teacher friends that were in attendance that night were NOT impressed with her handling of the quesions posed to her.  Her eagerness to gloss over the problems of our district had one of my friends still steaming the next morning when I talked to her.
Anyways...the movie is a great conversation starter and thought provoker.  It shines a harsh light on some very unattractive facets of public education. And, yes, unions, tenure, and in some cases, teachers, take the brunt of it.  I felt that there were a lot of fingers pointed and guilt passed but not a lot of solutions suggested.  (Although TIME felt differently).  Education is such a massive problem, far-reaching in its impact, hard to pin down the factors of success, emotionally sensitive, and funding that comes from a constantly-changing myriad of sources...so I think everyone knows that reform will be tough and not instantaneous, but I would've liked to see more focus on that.  I also wanted to hear more about how attract higher-quality undergrads to consider teaching as a profession, how to train and prepare them more effectively, and how to evaluate them usefully.
It is an emotional film and I totally enjoyed going and recommend it highly. 
We were handed to pieces of paper when we bought our tickets.  One was a full-size sheet of paper printed front and back by the DMEA and ISEA decrying the myths that we were paying to witness, all the great things the unions have been responsible for and what we can do to help.  The other was a gift card for $15 to use at DonorsChoose.org (a website that matches teachers in need of supplies/technology with people who want to donate) that was funded by Omidyar Network, who I hadn't heard of, but is a philanthropic investment firm.  I had to browse around a while but found a good fit for my card.  A high poverty high school classroom in San Fransisco, CA who has a program for students that want to be educators.  They are using children's books to teach economic principles to K-5.

Overheard

"My grandma cried when T.I. went to jail."

01 November 2010

It's Not a Referendum

I liked this NY Times article by Nicholas Kristof too much not to share it.  "Give Obama a Break."  Some things to think about as you make your mind up for tomorrow.

30 October 2010

VOTE

"It is inexcusable for any Democrat or progressive right now to stand on the sidelines in this midterm election.  There may have been complaints about us not having gotten certain things done, not fast enough, making certain legislative compromises.  But right now, we've got a choice between a Republican Party that has moved to the right of George Bush and is looking to lock in the same policies that got us into these disasters in the first place, versus an administration that, with some admitted warts, has been the most successful administration in a generation in moving progressive agendas forward...We have to get folks off the sidelines.  People need to shake off this lethargy, people need to buck up.  Bringing about change is hard - that's what I said during the campaign.  It has been hard, and we've got some lumps to show for it.  But if people now want to take their ball and go home, that tells me folks weren't serious in the first place.  If you are serious, now's exactly the time that people have to step up.
- President Barack Obama
from his interview with "Rolling Stone"

28 October 2010

Michigan Asst. Attorney General

I came upon this link on Facebook as it was being shared by a few former students.  After I read the synopsis I had to watch the interview with Anderson Cooper.  This is bizarre and disturbing.  And if you watch the follow up (3 minutes) it sheds a bit more light on perhaps why this guy hasn't been fired yet. 
I strongly urge you to watch the video.  There has been a rash of incidents involving harassment of students lately, both gay and straight. Cyberbullying is a very real threat and one that needs to be addressed (and, as a technology educator, I must say prevention needs to be taught, repeatedly and at different age levels).  And while it is completely understandable that we may not all have the same views on sexual orientation, it is not acceptable to harass, bully, threaten, slander or libel others.
A little follow-up, in the month since these video clips, Shirvell has been banned from the UofM (his alma mater) campus (for which he is threatening to sue the university), condemned by the Ann Arbor City Council, the Michigan governor called for his firing, he was put on paid personal leave from his job and threatened with a protection order by Armstrong, whom the athletes of Michigan have publicly came out in support of.

The Streets

I was skimming down a music blog that Les had linked to this week, I came across a post about The Streets and it took me back!  I don't even recall how, but I became a big fan of Mike Skinner, who is actually 'The Streets' back in 2002 (man, that sounds like so long ago!) on his first cd "Original Pirate Material".  If you are unfamiliar I suggest checking out "Let's Push Things Forward" and "Stay Positive". Three years later he put out "A Grand Don't Come For Free" and it really got me.  It is totally a concept album and needs to be listened to front to back straight through.  It tells a story of a guy and his relationship with a girl, from beginning to end and it is pretty fantastic.  No song from it is as good on its own out of context, but "Dry Your Eyes" is pretty good, but sad.  (sidenote: there is a version with Chris Martin singing the chorus that didn't make the album).  I totally skipped his next cd and now it looks like he's getting ready to drop a new album.  The first single is "Trust Me" and is decent.

27 October 2010

Glee in GQ

If you are a Glee fan you surely haven't missed the photo spread in GQ involving Lea Michele, Dianna Agron and Cory Montieth.  (Rachel, Quinn and Finn)  If you haven't, check it out here.  Be warned that it is a bit racy, as is not uncommon for pictures in men's magazines.  Although all of them are in their mid-twenties, since they play high-schoolers and appeared in a loose adaptation of their characters' costume style, it has caused a little controversy.  Dianna posted her response on her blog and I appreciated the candor of it.
Did anyone watch the 'Rocky Horror' episode last night?  I liked it, even though, they sometimes give up some storyline to achieve more entertainment in those themed episodes.  Either way, the costuming and the big "Time Warp" finish were massively fab.

25 October 2010

New Header (penguin!)

This was originally a Photoshop project I wanted to try out to create an anaglyph.  What's that?  Oh, an anaglyph is one of those images with red & blue layers that have a slightly different point of perspective.  I wasn't thrilled with my turnout, so I just kept messing around with it until I had something that I liked...even though it was not really anything like I was hoping for.  I'd like to try the anaglyph tutorial again sometime and see if I can get it to work out better.  Until then, I thought I'd change up my header since I'd had the same one since like February.  Thanks, as always, to Les for the psd help; your final critique can go in the comments. :)  Super bonus points to anyone who can name the building that inspired my text style on this.  (For those that didn't grow up near Shen (hint), there is another building on Beaver with the same signage.)

94-6

[thanks to homebase for passing this on]
Yep, that was the score of Nishnabotna's final regular season game.  Our coach was playing his alma mater and it sounds like the Trojans weren't able to stop...pretty much anything.  Fourth highest point total in 8-man history.  Good luck against Glidden-Ralston!

New Naked flavor

A Naked juice has been one of my favorite morning treats ever since I lived in Chicago.  I was at the store over the weekend and saw they had a new flavor on display.  It is another veggie option.  I'd tried their "Orange Carrot" back in the spring and it didn't make my favorite flavor list so I haven't had it since.  But I'm up for giving anything a try once, so I picked up a "Berry Veggie Machine" and brought it to work this morning.  It is a powerful drink.  Intense flavor, vibrantly deep red color and very thick.  It is similar, (but better) than V8's fusions.  Two servings of vegatables in a bottle.  Not sure I'll try it again, not because I don't like it, but just because I like some of the other fruit flavors much more.  Give it a try if you are veggie deficient!

23 October 2010

HS FB Playoffs

The high school regular season came to a close last night and the playoff pairings have been announced.  I used to think it was only in 4A that teams with losing records could make the playoffs but I looked through the list and it is present in all the classes.  Nine teams with a losing record qualified for the playoffs in 4A.  Sometimes though, in smaller classes if you lose one game there's a possibility you won't make the playoffs!  Anyways, the first  round pairings have been announced and, although I'm busy that first night, if anyone is up for checking out a second round game, let me know!  Glad to see Nishnabotna made the playoffs and good luck to them against Glidden-Ralston.  Final rankings are here.  There are some great teams out there.  Dowling Catholic, Iowa City High and three others are still undefeated in 4A.  Harlan and S.C. Heelan sit #1 and #2 in 3A.  Les's alma mater, South Central Calhoun is undeated and #4 in 2A (Iowa City Regina is #1). CB St. Albert & Aplington-Parkersburg in 1A. Madrid looking dominant in A.  Sidenote: a Catholic school is #1 or #2 in every class except 8-man.

22 October 2010

Training Videos

Friday afternoon.  Going through some of the junk left in our office that had been piled into an unused bookcase.  Found this excellent training video cassette.  Even if it is circa 1989, amazed that video instruction is needed on this topic.  Contact me if you'd like to rent it.

20 October 2010

Christ Our Life Conference

If you saw the billboards around town, the Christ Our Life conference was held last weekend and since homebase was going to be in town, we decided to check it out (at least the Sunday part of it).  And I'm glad we did!  I feel like we are the control value on our own spirituality.  If we don't seek out growth & new motivation, it is our own fault.  We can't just sit around and complain about the lack of quality sermons (I'm guilty of this often) if we don't try to find something better...a different church now and then, online resources, renewal groups, books, etc. 
We heard three speakers in the morning and listened to some great music.  The music director for the conference was a co-worker from my last school so that was fun to see too. 
The first speaker was Fr. Rick Wendell, a priest who had quite a backstory but I really didn't get into his talk too much.  The next two speakers were superb though.  Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow is one of the 10 finalist for the CNN: Heroes award and hearing his life story was amazing and inspiring.  If you care at all, click the link and read the story or find a video of him telling his story, as I would not do it full justice.  In one sentence, he has started an organization seeking to fight poverty through nutrition and education by providing a meal at school for 400,000+ kids that wouldn't have it otherwise.  Vote for him if you feel like it.  The last speaker was Matthew Kelly.  He definitely had the shine and charisma of a professional speaker, but not so much so that you were turned off by it.  His message about faith, what we do with it and how we develop it really hit home.  I had ran into a good friend of mine, who I didn't even know was Catholic, before the session and he had read Kelly's book, Rediscovering Catholicism, and really got a lot out of it.  You can get it for free (just pay S&H) on his website, which I did.  His website is still is beta so there is some empty areas, but it looks to be good when it's fully up and running.  The day was wrapped up with mass led by Cardinal Arinze, complete with 50 Knights of Columbus in full regalia. 
A good time and I'm glad I went. 

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Most guys would be thrilled for an afternoon at the ballpark, even more so if it is a championship series game.  If they have a great girl to escort them, that's like a dream come true at this point.  Ben Gibbard throws it in our faces yet again as he and Zooey Deschanel take it up a notch and each perform an on-field acapella number.  Nice.

19 October 2010

Off to the Barber Shop

Friday afternoon and my manager said to take off early. Music to my ears.  So when I headed out to lunch, I didn't look back.  Instead, after enjoying a nice carnitas burrito, I headed to the Roosevelt Barber.  I'd been on the lookout for a good barber shop and the look and location of this place were just right.
As I walked in, it was like a time warp to my childhood.  I haven't been to a true barber shop in a good 20 years but the sounds of clippers and scissors, smells of lotions, shaving cream, and faintly of tobacco took me back in an instant to Broderson's shop in Shenandoah.  I took it as a good sign that the three chairs were all occupied and there were a couple guys waiting even though it was mid-afternoon.  I waited my turn and then got called over when a chair opened up.  There were a couple of older barbers and a young, Asian female barber which is who I got.  When you go to a salon to get a cut, I think they feel like they need to chat you up, make small talk, trade gossip, etc.  At the barber shop I was asked what I wanted to do with my hair and that was the extent of the conversation until she was finished and asked, "Are you trying to grow a beard or just haven't shaved for a while?"  I loved her frankness.  And I loved not having to chat about everything under the sun when really I was wishing they would focus on their clippers hovering by my ear.  I don't think she even needed her scissors once and the fade she gave me was high and tight, just like I wanted it.  A straight razor, hot shaving foam and that scraping feeling on the back of my neck totally were the icing on the cake of the experience.  She blew me off with the high pressure air hose, wiped me down with a hot towel and when I paid it was $15, about half as much as my usual salon place.  I walked out of there feeling like a new man.

18 October 2010

XXXIV

What a great birthday!  A incredible list of blessings came my way today and the whole weekend really.
  • Got to teach in the morning, ran into some good teacher friends and a favorite student from three years ago.
  • Treated myself to a doughnut from the wonderful Donut Hut.  
  • Lunch at Pablo's.
  • Slid into a parking spot for lunch where someone had left me 18 minutes on the meter.
  • A decorated cube and some mini-cheesecakes at work.
  • Bday texts, voicemails, wall messages and emails.
  • Tried out a new restaurant, Red Rossa, for dinner. Tasty pizza & an Italian beer (for which I was carded).
  • Monday is buy two pizzas, get a third free night so I've got lunch for a couple days too!
  • A great deal on a fleece at Scheel's (after a lot of back and forth and back and forth and back regarding a few pairs of shoes. Uggs, Clarks, adidas...sizes that didn't fit, no shoes in my size, not the right shoes for me, do I really need them? Final answer....not at this moment.)  And a patient and helpful shopping partner to keep me sane and focused through it all.
  • Daytrotter's featured artist was Tegan & Sara.
  • A pair of wonderfully thoughtful gifts from my friends that had been to the adidas store in Vegas and kept me in mind.
  • Wins from Iowa, Notre Dame and Texas.
  • I got to cook in my kitchen with my family, one of my favorite things to do.
  • Celebrated my bday with my family, who made the drive over.
  • Was able to watch caboose rock a great show and bid him fair well as he leaves for a tour through Dixie.
  • I made a little DIY project for a lap board to use with my laptop.  I had wanted to make something for it since it gets so hot and isn't fun to have on my lap, but wasn't sure how to do it.  Then I saw some at Barnes and Nobles that made me realize I could make one from scraps we had around the apartment. 
  • Went to the Christ our Life conference with homebase and heard some great speakers and celebrated mass with a cardinal. (more on this tomorrow)
  • I get to sleep in a bit tomorrow (or go for a run before work) due to an all-day training that starts a bit later.

15 October 2010

It's Good to Be Missed

A friend sent me this message this week and it made my week.  I know students say nice things when they see me, but you never known what they say when you aren't around:
And a wonderful sidenote, I attended this friend's wedding, escorted by nic, last weekend and it was a fantastic event.  My first outdoor wedding, picture perfect weather, beautiful roses at Greenwood Park, fun reception setting at West End Architectural Salvage, great friends to catch up with and dance the night away alongside.  And she still had time to send me that message! 

Let's be frank...

This email showed up in my inbox this morning.  I get a lot of emails from Barack and his team (not directly from the man himself, but you never know) urging, motivation, pleading with me to go out and knock on doors, make phone calls, vote for this or that, generally just trying to get me to make a difference politically.  And all of those emails, I'm sure, include an opportunity for me to make a difference financially also.  (Not sure, I rarely open them).  Today's email made me smile by its total directness.  "Let's not kid each other.  You're getting this email for one reason..."

13 October 2010

ESPN: 30 for 30

I am probably way behind the crowd on this since they started a year ago but earlier this week I watched my first ESPN: 30 for 30 movie.  This is a series they are making of 30 documentaries to celebrate 30 years of broadcasts.  When I blogged about a couple other ESPN shows a month ago holt had mentioned how good the 30 for 30 on MJ was so it was in the back of my mind to try and catch a few of these.  "The Two Escobars" was about the Columbian soccer team and its rise in the world rankings and also in notoriety and suspicion.  It also followed Pablo Escobar, his power and influences in the country and with the national team.  For those that aren't familiar with the whole story, I'll stop there, but it was very good.  And then I saw the preview for the upcoming premiere of "Once Brothers" and I knew I had to watch it.  I love learning about the Yugoslavian Wars and the Balkan region so as soon as I heard the storyline I was hooked.  I blocked off Tuesday night on my calendar and also made a delicious fall meal to go with it (Pork with Pumpkin...SOOOO good).  This should tell you how excited I was...I passed up watching GLEE for it!  And I wasn't disappointed.  It follows the lives of the group of stars that were very close and took the Yugoslavian national basketball team to be world champions and then narrated how the pressures and feelings affected their relationships once Yugoslavia began to be torn apart.  Great stuff.
I've looked around a little this morning and they have a full schedule of airings and you can get some of them on Netflix if you don't have cable.  They can also be purchased on iTunes.  I'll definitely be watching more.  Thanks, holt, for a great tip.

12 October 2010

Google Leads The Way

Two big stories in the last week and Google is taking the drivers' seat on both of them, albeit one more literally than the other.
  • "Smarter Than You Think" gives us a peak at self-piloting cars being developed by Google.  This is something that people have talked about for years and, unlike the flying car, seems totally achievable.  And when you take a moment to think of the far-reaching indirect influences this could cause, it is truely amazing.
  • "Wind Power Line Wins Backing" informs of Google and New York financial firm Good Energies ponying up for the majority stake in a $5 billion project to lay the power lines to bring the 6,000+ megawatts that could be generated by off-coast wind farms. 
caboose and I were talking about these & wondering why it seems like Google is the only company willing to take on these types of transformative, audacious projects?  Maybe they are one of the few that care enough?  Have the right mix of people in their steering committees?  Have more revenue than they know what to do with?  Whatever it is, I'm thrilled they are taking it on. 
"There are those that look at things the way they are and ask why...I dream of things that never were and ask, why not?" - RFK

11 October 2010

Yoga Puppies

While wrapping up a very productive trip to the mall with caboose, we walked by the calendar kiosk and this gem of a cover caught my eye.  The hilarity and ridiculousness of the idea is great, but then to think that someone would want to a calendar of these pictures to greet them all year long was just too much.  Needless to say caboose and I had some great laughs over it and I thought I'd share.  Enjoy.  You can also check out the equally wonderful 'Yoga Kittens' at this website!

08 October 2010

Nobel Peace Prize

Lui Xiaobo was given the Nobel Peace prize this week and after reading this NY Times article about him, I definitely took a moment to be thankful for the respect of human rights where I live.  It is hard to imagine living where an event such as the Nobel prizes could be effectively erased from media coverage as if they never happened.  This man is in jail now and will probably not know for quite a while that his efforts have been recognized and garnered him this accolade.
[sidenote: If you have some time to spend, check out the Nobel Prize's site and its educational games.  The Conflict Map is pretty cool also.]

06 October 2010

"Are These Jeans Too Tight?"

I love a good pair of jeans, but since I firmly adhere to a $50 ceiling for my denim purchases, I don't think this event would be for me. But it sure sounds nice!

Recommendations...And Affirmations

I love it when a student asks me if I will write a recommendation for them.
1) It gives me a chance to say positive and flattering things that, even though they are true, don't always get said otherwise.
2) I believe in leading by example and I think it is good for them to see what a well-written letter looks like.
3) Students, -no, scratch that, EVERYONE, loves to hear someone praise and highlight their strengths.
4) As teachers, we hope to not just impart knowledge but light a fire in students to be life-long learners and advocates for themselves. Having them come ask for a recommendation is a glimpse of that starting to happen.
5) Often it is a student that I don't have in class anymore, that is coming back to ask me for this document. So it gives me a chance to see and hear how they are doing, what they are up to, and reconnect. And it's nice to know you weren't forgotten after they left your classroom!

I have a couple of requests for recommendations last week and this morning I got around to filling out one of them online. This student was one of my favorites from my first year; a real gem. She's applying to study abroad and the recommendation process is all online & there is a box that she had to fill out who the person is she asked for a recommendation and why she asked them. I'm pasting her comment below because it completely made my day, week and month.