30 March 2010

GDP '10

Just wanted to say a quick note about the Cashes Rivers performance last weekend. I lucky enough to be on the list (second year in a row) so was able to enjoy this event for free. First, the negative news: the venue was not really great. They had to move it out of Hotel Fort Des Moines due to construction, but choosing AllPlay or InPlay or whatever was not good. The Scion stage felt like I was at either a high school dance or a wedding reception...or a corporate seminar event. The other stage sort of fit the act that was playing when I popped my head in. It was like you were in someone's basement or a storage area. Second negative, both ATM's were out of business and no one seemed to be worried about fixing the situation. Luckily, there was a big positive, the performance!! I thought Cashes Rivers sounded great, I liked the set list, I liked the 4 teenaged horn players that came on for a song, I thought that one fewer guitar made for a cleaner, more accessible sound and I loved the stand-up bass. A good set for sure. I took some pix too. Unfortunately, due to the 10K the next morning I didn't feel like I could stay around and listen to Maxilla Blue or watching the Floor Spiders.


“Every once in a while a moment comes where you have a chance to vindicate all those best hopes that you had about yourself, about this country, where you have a chance to make good on those promises that you made...And this is the time to make true on that promise. We are not bound to win, but we are bound to be true. We are not bound to succeed, but we are bound to let whatever light we have shine.” - Pres. Barack Obama
After I was directed to a great article by Paul Krugman by SNG's blog post, I was going to write a full post about health care and the ensuing fallout, but got distracted. This quote was too good not to share though. I read these few sentences and I feel a closeness with his sentiment; with waiting to vindicate and make good on all your best hopes for yourself.
Well done sir.

28 March 2010

Friendly Sons of St. Patrick 10K

I ran my first 10K today and have to say that I think it went fairly well. I set a generous goal of finishing under an hour, which we cleared with no problems. The Friendly Sons of St. Patrick (are there non-Friendly Sons out there?) stage a 5K/10K that starts at one of my favorite bars, Sully's, and winds along Grand, Railroad and thru the neighborhoods of West Des Moines. The route wasn't exactly exciting but there were some people out along the way to cheer and encourage; I got multiple comments on my argyle socks and picked up a half-dozen high-fives from kids standing on the curb. After running solo on Saturday, it was a very nice change to run with someone. It's a nice bonus to have Nic to chit-chat with, comment on random things or people that we run by and help keep the pace and morale up. And it is definitely fun to have a whole group of people running to hang out with before and after. The route had a lot of inclines in miles 3 and 4 which was not very fun, but the nice long downhill over the last mile was much appreciated.
Official time was 55:11, but my watch time was 54:52. Splits: Mile 1- 10:08, Mile 2-8:34, Mile 3- 8:48, Mile 4- 8:58, Mile 5- 8:27, Mile 6- 8:25, Last .2- 1:29. Finished 198 of 381, 140 of 204 males, 44 of 64 males 30-39.
My muscles are a bit sore now, but it feels good. Thinking that running Dam to Dam will be like running today's course twice, is a bit daunting though. Better get to sticking with a training plan.

27 March 2010

Celtic FC Update

Most/all readers probably don't care about this, but I'm blogging it anyways. My favorite soccer club, Celtic FC, has had a bit of a clunker of a season. They went out early in the Champions League, couldn't advance out of a less-than-impressive group in the Europa League and now sit 10 points back (with 2 games in hand) from arch-rival Rangers, so they won't be winning the Scottish League either. Blah. Their first-year manager, Tony Mowbray, stepped down last week after a horrifically embarrassing 4-0 thrashing by St. Mirren. So, Neil Lennon (former fan favorite) is now the interim manager and he kicked off his time there with a 3-1 win. The club also was able to bring in Robbie Keane (one of my favorite players...Ireland captain, has a couple of my favorite tattoos and a great post-goal celebration) on loan and he has been scorching the nets, 11 goals in 11 games. Unfortunately, he has been adamant that he will be returning to Tottenham next season. The board have got to bring in some higher-caliber defenders and strengthen the squad if the Hoops are to right their ship.

PS22 Chorus

I know I have mentioned that I loved their version of "One Day", but I just wanted to share how much I am in love with everything they do! I'm super thankful to Leslie for calling these guys to my attention over winter break. There are just so many great things about them. First, their instructor. He seems like the coolest guy ever. He seems passionate and to be enjoying what he's doing. He smiles and laughs with his kids (I firmly believe not enough teachers do this). He has an American Idol type competition that is great to watch. Second, their music. They do fun popular songs and their arrangements are great. Third, the popularity aspect. These kids are celeb favorites. Ashton Kutcher is constantly tweeting about them and they seem to have a steady stream of amazing people coming in to work with them. That's got to be super cool for those kids. I love seeing the behind the scenes stuff like when they are working with Passion Pit or Celtic Women. Lastly, the kids. They are amazing. I'm not able to critique their vocal skills, but I'm blown away by how engaged, energized, and focused in on what is going on they are in the videos. They are singing, swaying, raising up their hands, closing their eyes and feeling what they are singing. The soloists are superb. As one of the Celtic Women says, they have "a lot of joy for the music".
I'm always excited when I see that he's posted something new on their blog. And I've got some of their songs on my iPod now. The video for "You Raise Me Up" gets me a little choked every time I watch it.

Rebuild Haiti 5K

Due to flooding, the 5K that was supposed to be at Gray's Lake (my fave running place) had to be moved out to Copper Creek Park. All the profits from the Rebuild Haiti 5K went to food & aid for the citizens of Haiti and it was organized and strongly supported by Dowling Catholic folks. Coupled with the small size of the run, it made it a fun, feel-good, small community type event. It was a little cooler, 42 degrees, than expected, and windy and overcast. But at least it wasn't raining! I decided going into it that I was going to try and push myself more, especially in the opening mile, which I usually take pretty easy. The course looped around a little lake and then had an out & back on a bike trail I used to ride all the time. Not really the most exciting course, but there were lots of people out having a good time with it. Lots of high school cross-country runners breezing along at the front for sure. With about a half mile left I passed a 15 year old kid and half a minute later he kicked it up and passed me back, so we stuck together as we closed in on the finish. The last 100 yards or so ended up with us in a lung-busting sprint for the finish. He kept speeding up so I had to keep matching him!! I didn't want to get punked by a kid half my age. It was a fun finish and, yes, I held him off and beat him at the tape. My lungs & heart were wondering what the heck I was thinking, but I lived through it. Although I just missed my goal time of breaking 25:00, I was pretty happy with my 25:25 time. Gotta rest up now for tomorrow's 10K.

23 March 2010


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Last week, someone left that comment on a blog post of mine from a couple years ago. I thought it was so nonsensical and ridiculous that it was actually pretty funny. I'm not sure what the benefit of doing those random text comments is, but I am definitely now considering a dangerous railcar...or a copy machine. I'm not sure. But as long as the behavior rope proves famous and the lightweight moons are available, I'm in.

22 March 2010

Shamrock Shuffle

After hearing all about when I lived there, I ran my first Shamrock Shuffle on Sunday. It is an 8K race that is in its 35th year of sending runners around the downtown Chicago area. Although 36,000 people signed-up, the cool/cold overcast weather kept a few people at home and 25,559 people finished the race. Needless to say, that is about 20-some thousand more than any other race I've been in. (This picture may give you an idea of how many people that is. I am at the VERY top of that pic) It's a lot of people and the atmosphere was great; lots of green, lots of people cheering on runners, music was played at each mile marker, two Gatorade/water stations along the way (I did not realize how difficult it is to drink out of a paper cup while running). The route was fantastic too, starting out in Grant Park, heading north under Wacker Drive, crossing the Chicago River, cutting across the Near North area and back south across the river before following the river and Wacker around through the West Loop, crossing the river twice again, before coming back to finish in Grant Park. There were a few times where it got a little tight with so many runners, but overall I thought it was a great race. There was so much going on to distract you the miles flew by and the temperate, although cold before and after the race, was perfect once you were running. And it was great to have someone to check it all out with. The timing system was pretty nice too, emailing you all your information including mile splits.
We ran it in 49:00. Which put me 12,545 out of 25,559 overall, 7,573 out of 11,516 males, and 1,714 out of 2,487 in my M30-34 division. Mile splits: 1-10:01, 2-10:09, 3-10:16, 4-9:41, Last .97 mile-8:53. (yes, I "stole" this picture from the official race photographer's page, but it was such an awful picture of me I didn't feel too bad about it.)

Spring Break '10

Man, spring break is just fantastic. It comes at just the right time of the school year. Winter is done, we've knocked off a good chunk of the second semester and are starting to get those intermittent gorgeous days that make us think of sun, patios, outdoor activities and tans.
I had a great break that pretty much consisted of me getting a lot of random things done during a week that was book-ended by two fun trips. I started the break off with a trip to Iowa City; hanging out with the relatives there, shopping the ped mall, devouring some Oasis falafel, and most importantly catching up with my cousin and hearing and seeing all about her Peace Corps experience and her tour of southern Africa after she finished in Cameroon. Uganda, Conga, South Africa, Rwanda, Tanzania...it all looked amazing.
During the week I just tried to get as much done as I could, as you can see from my break "to-do" list picture. I spent some time at a car dealership, looking into trading in my car, but that hasn't worked out. Never the less, I did get a lot done and also finished my book and was able to catch up with two good friends to watch some March Madness. Celebrating St. Patrick's day was fun and somehow school work never made it on that list, which I am actually ok with. It was nice not to think about it for a while and focus on other things. And school went just fine today regardless.
I finished my break with a great trip to Chicago with Nic. We had superb weather on Friday for the drive out and walking around Millennium Park & Navy Pier to pick up our race packets. Saturday, unfortunately, the weather took a major turn for the worse. It was to be our big day of dominating the shops on Michigan Ave and we were greeted by 30 degree weather, winds, and a sleet/snow mix. (this pic doesn't do it justice.) Not very appealing but we didn't let it bring us down and went on with our retail recreation. We hit a few stores I've never been to before, The North Face, Lulumon, a better Urban Outfitters, Penguin, and also saw a Burton store that might be worth checking out sometime. Nicole found her purchase right at the beginning of the day, then showed admirable restraint the rest of the day, while I waited until later in the day before selecting my purchases. We were able to catch mass at Holy Name (with a gorgeous ceiling) before making it back to the room in time to see UNI pull off a massive upset of Kansas. (couldn't have picked a better team to get dumped out early) Sunday morning was the Shamrock Shuffle, but I'll get to that in another post. We had some great food at a couple places I hadn't been before (sushi at Ra, burgers at Jake Melnick's, pasta at Vivare) and it was a good trip and perfect way to close out break.
How long til summer vacation???

16 March 2010

Can We Meet in the Middle?

I don't do much political posting because it is not my strongest area and I also feel that those who are in tune with the political scene have pretty firmly entrenched views and aren't receptive to other, differing views and those who are not in tune with the scene don't care enough to read about it. That being said, I wanted to share two things I've come across recently.
First, a discussion I heard on NPR a week or so ago that talked about why it has become so hard to get anything accomplished in Washington. I can't recall who was being interviewed but they focused on two points that I do recall. One, the campaigns to win your party's nomination through the primaries or caucuses has become increasingly competitive and cutthroat. (Not sure what reasoning he gave for this). So just to win and be on your party's ticket, candidates have to adopt and defend increasingly disperate or extreme platforms. So by the time we have a Democrat vs a Republican, they are so diametrically opposed, finding any common ground will be major work and involved major concessions by them. Which brings us to his second point; with the ever-growing numbers of (and clout of) political blogs and the multiple news networks with wonks spewing forth 24/7, any politician who shows signs of openness to concessions or working with the other party is instantaneously raked over the coals on the TV, internet, radio, etc. So politicians are afraid to make any motions that might deviate from their campaign promises (which were unrealistic & unachievable without concessions from the other party).
The second thing is a NY Times article that SNG blogged about and I read & enjoyed it. It focuses on Obama's performance thus far and the public's view of it, depending on which party you belong to. The last paragraph is great...
In a sensible country, people would see Obama as a president trying to define a modern brand of moderate progressivism. In a sensible country, Obama would be able to clearly define this project without fear of offending the people he needs to get legislation passed. But we don’t live in that country. We live in a country in which many people live in information cocoons in which they only talk to members of their own party and read blogs of their own sect. They come away with perceptions fundamentally at odds with reality, fundamentally misunderstanding the man in the Oval Office.
Hhhhhhh, I have no idea how this situation gets remedied, but I felt like sharing (or venting).

14 March 2010

Gaga's (Verizon) "Telephone" video

Lady Gaga's newest video debuted last week. It is for her song "Telephone" with Beyoncé. It is 9 minutes long, a running stream of product placement, and probably not safe for work. But it is pretty fantastic. Her outfits, from the smoking cigarette butt sunglasses to the hair telephone to the stars and stripes outfit that makes want to be a better American, they are all trés fab.
I may have to find a younger audience-friendly version of it to use in business class. The video and the story around it are perfect marketing talking points. The blatant shots of brand names and products such as Diet Coke, Miracle Whip, Polaroid, WonderBread, and Verizon (some paid for and some not) don't even attempt to blend in and many of them are in some way related to the Gaga empire. How it was debuted is also interesting; her choice of E! for the debut instead of MTV and the online video is on VEVO which you reach after a click through from YouTube. 4 million hits on the YouTube page in the first 24 hours (close to 13 million now) and the traffic for the video crashed VEVO's site. You can check out Gaga's comments to E! on the video here, and a couple other articles here and here.
I'll leave you with one of the stand-up routines of Demetri Martin. At around 5:50, he graphs the respective interestingness of different pillow fight match-ups. Pillow vs pillow is determined to be "crazy awesome".
Gaga may be a bit crazy, but it is crazy awesome in my book.

Google Knows

Man, those Silicon Valley people are smart...and intuitive. I just wrote this big email and when I went to send it, Gmail gave me a "No Attachment" pop-up that said, "You typed "I've included" in your message, but did not attach any files. Did you want to?"
Even though I didn't need to attach anything, it was still a pretty thoughtful little warning. Is there anything these guys can't do?

11 March 2010

New Music!!

Flipping through the new issue of Rolling Stone and checking out their Spring Music Preview has got me excited for some of the things slated to come out soon. Here's a few of the main reasons, from most interested to least...

M.I.A. - (tbd) June - I love the first single and can't wait for more.
Maroon 5 -(tbd) June - I'm not afraid to say I'm a fan and I like what I've read about this new one.
Jack Johnson (To The Sea) June - I love everything by this guy. I wanna live his life pretty much.
Ra Ra Riot - (tbd) summer - I'm hoping to see these guys live too hopefully.
Broken Bells - March - James Mercer of Shins and Danger Mouse. Listening now and liking it.
Coheed & Cambria (Year of the Black Rainbow) April - I am wanting to read the Amory Wars and hear/read this new album.
New Pornographers - (Together) May -
3OH!3 (Streets of Gold) June - Hopefully there is a jam or two on here for the summer.
Christina Aguilera - (Bionic) spring - I love her voice and am hoping there's some good stuff on this.
Broken Social Scene (Forgiveness Rock Record) May - even though I don't know their music, I love Emily Haines' voice and if you add in Feist, it's gotta be good, right?
Court Yard Hounds -(self-titled) May - it's the sisters of Dixie Chicks without Natalie Maines. And I'm curious to hear it.
Band of Horses (Infinite Arms) May- I know one song of theirs and love it, would like to hear more.
MGMT - (Congratulations) April - heard the first single and was definitely not impressed

09 March 2010

World Cup 101

The countdown has definitely begun for the World Cup this summer. I've already added all the games to my calendar. Sadly, I'll be teaching summer school so I'll have to miss the two morning games (6 and 9:30) each day. Well, maybe I can watch the first half of the 6 am game. But at least I'll be free to watch the 1:30 pm game each day. For those of you who haven't penciled it in yet, the opening round (pool play) starts on June 11 and runs through June 25. Then the knock-out rounds begin.
ESPN Soccernet is also counting down the days. In fact, they started on 101 days out and are running a piece each day until it starts. (World Cup 101). There are some good ones and it's a good way to build up your knowledge or just get a refresher. A couple faves so far...The top 50 players in this year's Cup, the worst jerseys, and the best jerseys (I want that Zaire jersey!).

08 March 2010

Stretching the Weekend

What a fun, long weekend! It is amazing how long a weekend can seem when you don't have a lot planned or aren't going anywhere. Don't get me wrong, I love making trips home or to Omaha or anywhere really, but they definitely make the weekend shorter. I didn't have much on the calendar this weekend and each day proved to be fun and productive. Friday I went to the St. John's fish fry with caboose, Nic & Les. I'd been there before and their fish is pretty tasty, but the wait to get a second plate was ridiculous. I'm hoping there was fryer problems or something because that can't be the norm. After that, it was nice to come home, put on sweat and get under a blanket and watch Inglorious Basterds.
Saturday morning I set the alarm so I could make it to the early spin class, which is always a great way to start a day. Although I wasn't blown away by the class, the music or the instructor, I still got a great workout and treated my car to a wash and vacuum on the way home...which of course meant that it would them start raining and continue all day. Oh well, at least the inside still looks nice. Running errands, afternoon mass, and then finishing the day off by making falafel (great as always), a cauliflower recipe out of Madhur Jaffrey's book (blah.), and chimichurri (not bad for my first time and winging it). We watched East take on Linn-Mar in the girls 4A championship game. I was pulling for East, but they came up just short in this one, unfortunately.
Sunday was a lot of cleaning and getting ready for our Oscar event. Nic and Les put together swag bags that included cd's of music from some of the nominated films this year, Jared & Stacey provided the food...and it was super fabulous. Bruschetta, bacon-wrapped asparagus, potato/bacon puffs, and mini-cheesecakes. I gave up sweets/treats for Lent and I don't usually go for the Sunday dispensation, but I definitely did last night. I lost count how many cheesecakes I enjoyed. We had a red carpet, a photo backdrop areas, and trophy for the most correct ballot (well done Nic) and champagne. We even rearranged our furniture, which never happens! It's always fun to get dressed up and even more fun when it is to hang out with good people. A set of the first batch of pix are on my flickr.

03 March 2010

Iron Maiden

I had three kids with Iron Maiden tops on in one study hall earlier this week. I thought that was pretty surprising. I didn't know that anyone listened to Iron Maiden anymore. (I consulted wikipedia to find that they are still a functioning band, although have released only 1 album in the past 6 years) Later that same morning I had another student in a different class with an Iron Maiden hoodie on and lastly, I passed yet another kid with a IM shirt on in the hall. Five kids in one morning! I'm not sure if that is a massive coincidence or what that says about the student population where I teach but it was pretty crazy.

01 March 2010

New Header

I didn't get a chance to go over this one with my sensei, but it wasn't as difficult as the last one either. This one was more photo editing instead of graphic creation. Mainly it was a chance for me to play around with Filters. I can't remember what all I used and I don't know if there's a place to look to find out. Lens Flare, colored pencil, and some Hue/Saturation. The 45-degree angled stripes and type were a fun addition. The original photo is here.

Iowa Girls State Basketball

The tournament starts today! I signed up for text message updates of scores at halftime and completion of each game so I could keep up with things down at Wells Fargo Arena. If you are looking for more info, check out: The Registers main tournament page (with their map of teams), the final standings, and 5 players to watch. I'll be cheering for Prince of Peace in 1A, ?? in 2A, Bishop Heelan in 3A, and DM East in 4A. I've written before about how much I love the high school tournaments, so I won't go into it again, suffice it to say that I am hoping to making it down there a watch a game or two.
Edit: For live scores and stats: Go Here.