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.