30 April 2010

Good? Morning! (TGIF)

"The network is down this morning. Also, check your deposits because we've heard reports of people not getting their paychecks."

That's the announcement over the P.A. before school started this morning...great way to start the day.

28 April 2010

Top Concerts List

Something I saw on facebook awhile back got me thinking about the best concerts I've been to so far in my life. I was making the drive back home to Farragut a day or two later and started to pull together a list of the most memorable shows. As best I can remember, Los Lobos @ Austin, TX was my first exposure to real live music. I don't remember how old I was (homebase, any ideas? maybe 4th or 5th grade?) but we were visiting an aunt and went down to a summer outdoor festival-type thing to hear them play. They were riding high on their "La Bamba" fame at that point and I thought I was pretty cool getting to see them.
I don't recall going to any concerts in high school until my senior year when I was allowed to go for an overnight visit to Creighton and stoppable and I went to see Violent Femmes @ the CU baseball field. And with that my live music appreciation began. So here's a list of the best shows I've seen, as in order as I can get...
  • Flobots @ Waiting Room, Omaha (pic 1, 2, 3)
  • Girl Talk @ Peoples, Des Moines (pic 1, 2)
  • M.I.A. @ Aragon Ballroom, Chicago (pic 1, 2)
  • Lollapalooza (Vampire Weekend, The Killers, Bat for Lashes), Chicago (pic 1, 2)
  • Warped Tour (Blink 182, 311, New Found Glory, Sum 41), Apple River, WI
  • Matisyahu @ Westfair, Council Bluffs
  • Tegan & Sara @ Sokol Hall, Omaha (pic 1, 2)
  • Lucky Boys Confusion @ House of Blues, Chicago
  • Country Music Fest (George Strait, Dixie Chicks, Tim McGraw), Ames, IA
  • 311 @ Supertoad, Des Moines OR 311 @ Westfair, Council Bluffs
  • Santigold @ Peoples, Des Moines (pic 1, 2)
  • Carbon Leaf @ Martyr's, Chicago
  • Shania Twain @ Westfair, Council Bluffs (so good that I totalled my car afterwards!)
  • Gaelic Storm @ House of Blues, Chicago - on St. Patrick's Eve
  • Cheiftains @ Civic Center, Des Moines

25 April 2010

Made a Mexican Meal!

I hadn't made much new or exciting in the kitchen lately, and I thought that a night of cooking a meal and staying in sounded perfect, so I got out the cook books and found a nice combo of dishes. From Rick Bayless' "Mexico One Meal at a Time", I chose Pork loin in Tomatillo sauce and I paired it with a great recipe for black beans with mango that I got from Connie (although she denies any knowledge of it) and the Mexican rice recipe from the family cook book. I hadn't made any of the dishes before so there was some learning and trial and error in the creation, but I had a good time with it. All three dishes turned out well, although the loin was a little dry. I was especially happy with the black beans and the rice living up to how I had imagined them. I also tried out Bayless's recipe for margaritas and they actually were pretty good for a non-mix drink, although they did live up to his billing as "strong!"
Hopefully I'll be getting back into cooking some new things now, especially with the Farmers' Market starting next weekend!


(That's the acronym used in accounting for Last In-First Out.)
Saw this NY Times article and thought it was quite timely, in addition to presenting a very valid argument. NYC is laying off 8,500 employees, which is a staggering number and, while I agree that to base these cuts on performance, instead of strictly on seniority, would be a massive amount of work and open up the door to possible favoritism in the process, I feel that there needs to be more & better ways implemented to assess the performance of teachers. The industry is too important to let it depend solely on how many years you've been around.
(Also, I just want to make clear that my opinions on this matter have been in place since before I started teaching, so they are not just a reaction to my recent events.)
Also on the subject of cuts, Les passed on this funny video/PSA featuring Megan Fox and Brian Austin Green about the teacher cuts in California. Totally worth watching.

24 April 2010

The Good and the Bad

Global Youth Service Day was yesterday and my school had organized a big event to take part in it. The Governor's office sent a representative to our school to deliver an official proclimation to kick off the day. I was on the planning team for our STARS day and the group of students we had helping with the organizing were fantastic. It was a really great experience to get to spend some time with them. We had close to 70 sophomores who split up and went out into the community to volunteer. We had a great mix of opportunities; a senior center, animal rescue place, food pantry, elementary school, day care, a park and Special Olympics soccer. My group went to the DMARC Food Pantry and we had a great morning of sorting & packaging food and personal items. The director of the pantry was great and explained a lot of how the food pantry system works throughout the metro, as well as the importance of filling the nutritional needs (not just the bellies) of her clients. We had news cameras and interviews coming by to check us out. [Can't find the video online yet, I'm still looking] One of the teachers involved sent out an email afterward stating, "Honestly, I think it is one of the best days I have experienced here at Hoover. The kids were great and the organization paid off. Overall a great event" Often things don't live up to how you've envisioned them so it's nice to have something really succeed after you've put a lot of time into it.
Unfortunately, after that great morning at school, probably the best day of the year for me, I got to hear the ill-fated words "I need to talk to you in my office" from my principal. So I made the news twice in one day! Pretty impressive. So if you believe in the power of prayer and wouldn't mind adding an intention for some clarity, direction and good fortune for me, I would be appreciate it!

19 April 2010

"A Church Mary Can Love"

While I don't agree with everything he says (actually it would be odd if that were the case with any writer), I usually make a point to read Nicholas Kristof's column in the NY Times. I'm also in the middle of his book "Half the Sky" right now, and enjoying it. His article from Sunday entitle, "A Church Mary Can Love" is worth looking at. It's short and provides a great reminder to Catholics that although our church seems to be continually getting negative publicity (often rightly so, although there is a lot of sensationalizing I think), we need to remember that there are lots good things being done. I like the part about the 'old boys network' and his last couple paragraphs are key.

18 April 2010

Abbey Trails

Made the journey home this weekend for my fifth race this year (and my third state). I'd wanted to make it down to Conception Abbey in Conception, MO for their 5k for a couple years now and with my new found fondness for running, I made it happen this year. stoppable came down to run it as well, and homebase is a seasoned veteran. It was a brisk morning; ~50 degrees for the 9 am start and the route was little hilly and there was some wind on the out & back course. The best part of the pre-race instructions that were mostly impossible to understand (why is that a constant at all races?) was "the State Patrol wasn't able to make it here this morning but we're going ahead so be careful out there..." Great, and of course a semi came barreling along as song as we got onto the main road. Hilarious. We set a pretty good pace from the start and kept it through the race. Crossing the line at the same time, we both set new PR's with our 24:12 time. Splits: mile one 7:49, mile two 7:55, last 3.1 8:28. homebase did the 2-mile walk and they have you guess your finish time and the prizes go to who can come closest to their actual time. When the awards were passed out, stoppable & I were shocked to hear we tied for third and homebase picked up first place (her second time as champion) by coming in just two seconds off her time. So medals for all and it was a fun trip!

Classroom DIY

I have an atypical classroom in that it is a huge room that is divided (sorta) by a row of cabinets into two normal sized rooms. And since I have 24 (soon to be 28) computers to fit in around my room, it can make using the already limited board space I have rather difficult. So I thought it would be ideal to put the un-utilized faces of some of those cabinets to use. Over spring break I picked up some chalkboard paint from the hardware store, along with a roller, a pan and some sandpaper. The guy working there hadn't ever used the stuff before but he recommended a roller to me and I was on my way. It was a very quick project actually. A quick roughing up of the glossy surface, wipe it down and then put on coat #1. Came back the next morning and laid on coat #2. It turned out pretty good. I do wish the surface finished a bit smoother, but I don't know if that is because I didn't have the perfect brush or if that is just how the paint turns out. And it really needs to be erased with a wet cloth instead of an eraser. Other than that it works (as you can see in the photo). It hasn't been put to much educational use yet but the kids seem to like it.

16 April 2010

Cell phone lifespan...

Without knowing this particular student, the story loses much of its humor, but as she was standing by my desk, waiting for me to write out a pass for her she makes this comment out of the blue in a kind, slightly scolding tone of voice,
"You should upgrade."
It took me a half-sec to realize just what aspect of my life she was referring to. She was eyeballing my cellphone sitting on my computer. The Motorola Slvr is a brick of a phone. It is indestructible. I don't know how long I've had it...but it's been a while. This is the third student comment about the antiquity of my phone in the last week. Adding to that, the charging connection on my has not been working very well lately, and the main button popped off a while ago, so I actually pulled up US Cellular's website today and took a look at what they have to offer for phones. They've never been the best with offering fantastic phones, but really, who am I kidding, I wouldn't buy anything expensive or flashy anyways. It definitely cuts down on your options if you do not want to pay for an additional web/data monthly package, which most of the new phones require. I did see an LG and a Motorola that caught my eye, so I'll have to make my way to the US Cellular store next week and check into upgrading.

14 April 2010

Fight fire with...laughter?

I LOVE this type of thing.
Now, most sane people realize that Westboro Baptist Church and Fred Phelps are insane and ridiculous at best and demented, hateful bigots at worst. But instead of trying to out-hate them and trying to punch them out, scream at them or whatever, I think this group's counter protest is perfect. Draw loads of attention and make people laugh at them. This is turning the other cheek at its best. I would've loved to make a sign and go out with them. Sorta like this story from a while back.


Finally the wait is over. Glee is back on!!! I'd be anxiously awaiting the return of the McKinley High kids for their 9 new episodes this spring. I had a few people over to share in the fun and we all dressed up a bit as well. Check out the pix in flickr, we had pretty much the whole gang! My snippet thoughts on the premier -
  • Puck & Quinn didn't have much time in this episode at all. They definitely got sacrificed for the two main relationship stories...
  • Will & Emma - I was glad Emma put the brakes on this a bit, I didn't want them to rush into anything and it will make for more interesting season if they have to work at developing it. (And secretly, I was glad to see that Terri made an appearance as well).
  • Idina Menzel - Yay. Very glad to see her and I was WAY surprised about the make-out session with Schue! Can't wait til she starts singing.
  • Santana + Brittany - Santana is super hot and Brittany's one-liners ("dolphins are just gay sharks", "there was a mouse in mine", "it's a male duck" and "i think the duck is in the hat") are great. When I saw the two of them going after Finn, I was doubly entertained and entranced.
  • Johnathan Groff (who was Lea Michele's co-star from Spring Awakening, and one of her best friends) was good and that triangle of he, Rachel and Finn will be very fun to watch.
  • I thought the music was pretty good. I wasn't totally blown away, but I re-listened to the songs today during my planning period and they are growing on me for sure.
I was also excited for the food I was making for the night, but I ended up a bit let down. I made three things from Jamie Oliver's book and I quickly remembered why I initially didn't like his recipes. Ambiguity. I also felt like some of his amounts are a ways off and I had to change them around. The burgers turned out fine, but the 'fat chips' were not great. I'd much rather have the parmesan potatoes that homebase used to make. The chick pea salad was good. I don't like a lot of feta cheese so I'd probably cut back on that and between the feta, the onion and the serrano pepper, it had some heat. But it was tasty. Luckily, my wonderful guests brought yummy chips and dips and cupcakes.
Can't wait for the all-Madonna episode next week!!!

12 April 2010

Food!! (and the rest of the weekend...)

Just wanted to share about the good, new food that came across my plate this weekend.

First, luckily enough El Bait Shop was swamped with bike riders when we drove by thinking about lunch on Saturday, so we ended up on the Southside and caboose mentioned a Mexican place he'd been to once before. So we stopped at Rancho Alegre (Indianola Ave & SE 14th) and boy, am I glad that we did. In one meal it became my favorite Mexican place in the city. It is much more like Arturo's in Chicago (one of my all-time favorite places). An authentic taqueria where every dish doesn't get doused with cheese sauce. I had three tacos (carne asada, pastor y lengua) and they were so fresh tasting and delic. They bring you a couple sauces to use also, a tomatillo one and a mole-style one and both were fantastic. I guess their burritos are huge too so will have to try that on my next visit.
Then, for a classy meal before prom, Nic and I tried out Sam & Gabe's. It comes in at #7 on the Top 100 restaruants in Des Moines list and neither of us had ever been. The food was very tasty, although I ordered the cannelloni and that isn't something I usually get, it was good. Our server was a quirky guy who provided some color to the evening. Plus the bartender guessed my age at 24 while we were waiting for our table (I think he was fishing for a bigger tip) so that made the evening extra nice. Prom was enjoyable, even though I don't have that many seniors this year. It's still fun to just check out the dresses and tuxes, seeing what they kids are dancing to and see who shows up after having a little bit of the sauce. Plus I enjoy getting the chance to dress up too! We cleaned up pretty good! I'll post some pix on flickr shortly.
Sunday evening, I was flipping through the Jamie Oliver book I have, getting some food ideas for my upcoming Glee gala (stay tuned to hear how that turns out) and I came across his "5 minute meals" section. Since I was starving, I thought it'd be a perfect chance to try one out. I picked the Chicken Goujons & Noodles and they were very easy (ginger, chili, green onions, chicken breast, egg noodles, honey, soy, 5-spice) and, while I don't think I met Jamie's 5 minute goal, it was quick and I loved the result. I've got enough stuff to make it again this week and I eager to try it (and back off a bit on the 5-spice, too cinnamony for me). It also made me realize the stir-fry pan I was using sucked (hand me down Calphalon). I think you really need to go with non-stick for good stir-frying.
To off-set all this eating I completed my longest run ever on Saturday morning! 8.5 miles on an improvised route through Water Works Park, by Ashworth Pool and through the SOG neighborhood. I had a nice 7.5 mile flat course mapped out but the main road through Water Works was under construction so we had to turn north and run through the disc golf course and then just wing it from there. I was thrilled with how the run went and I think I'm building up some strength/endurance in my legs. We did it in 1hr20, so around a 9:20 pace. Now I just need to work on getting more runs in. 3 times a week is the goal.
Lastly, a fun find at the grocery store. Hy-Vee Thirst Splash, Fruit Punch flavor. It is their version of Crystal Light and it is a great sugar-free drink that I can suck down in the summer in place of Kool-Aid. Check it out.

11 April 2010

New Shoes!

With all this running I've been doing, I decided my running shoes needed replaced. They've been good to me and I loved 'em but it's definitely time for new. So while hitting up the mall, I saw these sweet Marathon 10's and they were on sale at Finish Line, so it must've been meant to be. caboose had picked up a pair in the white/black colorway a few months ago and was very satisfied. I wasn't too sure about them as a serious running shoe but they were too fun & colorful to pass up. They are SUPER light and practically the entire upper is mesh so they breathe amazingly. Ten ounces of bliss. I took them out for a night run a few days ago and loved them. I am still looking for another pair of running shoes to share the training load as a get ready for Dam to Dam, but these were a great find. And they got lots of compliments the first time I wore them to school.

08 April 2010

Jaime Escalante

I heard on NPR last week that Jaime Escalante had passed away. I have loved "Stand and Deliver," the movie based on his success at L.A.'s Garfield High School as an AP teacher long before I ever wanted to teach. There are so many good parts! (I'll break your neck like a toothpick) And once I decided that the classroom was where my future was headed, I made a point to rewatch it and appreciate it all over again. "You have to like to teach. You have to like to deal with the kids. You have to have respect." I love this short clip of him talking about teaching and how it is about continually improving and evolving your skills. "Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. But does lose your cool." I like to listen to him and feel my teaching soul get a dose of 'ganas', the flame of my passion getting stoked a bit.

05 April 2010

The Power of Print

I saw this ad in the Rolling Stone that came yesterday (the one with the hot picture of Rachel and the rest of the Glee cast on the cover) and I thought the info was interesting. It is a joint marketing push by some major magazines to remind people about the power of magazines and highlight that they are not a dieing medium. But due to my new apprecation of typography, even more than the numbers they offered, I liked their little logo. It's the word "magazines" made up of letters from some major titles, using each one's unique typeface. I could correctly identify most of them, but couldn't place the second 'A',the 'I' or 'N'. Give it a try...

Matthew 16:5-12

Sadly, I've never been one to really spend a lot of time reading out of the Bible. I love a good passage and keeping it with me to take strength from, but I haven't sat down and read through many pages. One of my Lenten obligations was to spent more time each day thinking & listening to God, so I thought some Bible reading would be a good thing. So over the 40 days, I read the Gospel of Matthew, and I really enjoyed it. It is very interesting to read through all the footnotes about the similarities and irregulatrites between the different gospels and hear the backstory of different things. About half-way through, I came across this passage, which seriously had me laughing and I had to text my brothers to tell them to go read it. The exasperation in Jesus' words just caught me as wonderfully human and funny. Plus, being a teacher, I can appreciate His frustration with slow learners.

5And the disciples came to the other side of the sea, but they had forgotten to bring any bread. And Jesus said to them, "Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees." They began to discuss this among themselves, saying, "He said that because we did not bring any bread." But Jesus, aware of this, said, " You men of little faith, why do you discuss among yourselves that you have no bread?"Do you not yet understand or remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets full you picked up? Or the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many large baskets full you picked up? How is it that you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread? But beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees." Then they understood that He did not say to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

04 April 2010

The Road Ends Here

I'm excited to cheer on Butler tomorrow night in the championship game. They have definitely been the story of this March Madness.
My bracket this year fared worse than any in recent memory. For the second year in a row, I had no teams in the Final Four. And I finished dead last. I need to get things turned around next year! It was a crazy tournament for sure, and stoppable's West Virginia pick was the only correct Final Four team by any of our brackets! Yikes.
So congratulations to stoppable for coming out on top and picking up his first basketball title since I began keeping records. Well done.

Final standings:
1. stoppable
2. homebase
3. caboose
4. emily
5. the brig
6. NTW
7. middleson

Past years:
2009 (homebase), 2008 (caboose), 2007 (middleson), 2006 (homebase), 2005 (middleson)

01 April 2010

85 Degrees

April's Fools Day!!! No really, it IS 85 and gorgeously sunny outside today. What a gift today is! It feels so good to walk down the sidewalk and let that sun radiate on me. And to know that the long-underwear, heavy coats, stocking hats, ice scrapers, and such are put away for another year. I went down to Gray's Lake yesterday for a run with Nicole and it was great to see everyone busting out of their winter prisons and enjoying the weather, and each other!
And not a single April Fool's joke was played on me today at school. Either the kids are lazy or unimaginative, but I'm not complaining.
I'll leave you with two videos I saw today that put a smile on my face...
This guy wins crappy dad award for the day.
And this girl's cover is amazing and may be my next music crush.