30 December 2011

Eagle Extravaganza!!

Wednesday I witness a birding sight unlike anything before.  On a tip from Nicole and WHO-TV, we headed out to Fisher Lake in Johnston.  It really is a very shallow pond but it is near the Des Moines River and Saylorville Lake and that may be what has drawn this flock of bald eagles to the trees around it.  I wasn't even sure if we'd be able to find the place, yet the dozen or so cars pulled off the side of the road and people with massive telephoto lenses made it pretty easy to know that we had found the right spot.  There were eagles in the air, eagles in the shallow water, and eagles in the trees.  I counted 17 in one tree.  I estimated ~25 total eagles while we were there.  (I think there are 19 in this picture)  Some juvenile (they don't get their white heads and tails until ~5 years old) and some adult (male & female have the same plumage but the females are ~25% larger).  It was such a nice day out too, we used my binoculars and tried to snap a few photos (what I would give for a better zoom!) and spent about a half hour just watching them swoop around, switch spots, and go from tree to lake, take a lap in the air and come back to roost.  I don't know if they are here to nest or just passing through but if you have some free time I suggest heading out there to check it out.

Listen Up, AMC!

After visiting the movie theater twice over break (and hopefully once more this weekend) I thought this article from Roger Ebert encapsulated some sentiments that are 1) dead on and 2) things that should be common sense, regarding why movie ticket sales are slumping.
I went before noon both times so ticket prices were not a concern (plus homebase paid for me) but $8 for a large popcorn?!?!  And the large popcorn is the size of a laundry hamper! And $7.50 for a large pop that probably costs them under a quarter?  No thanks.  I don't feel bad for sneaking in treats now.
That is one of the reasons the Varsity remains my favorite place to see a film.  Diverse movie selections, cheap refreshments, homemade caramel corn to buy in a Zip-lock baggie.  

29 December 2011

Graduate.

I am way behind on blogging.  So I'll start with this story and start getting caught up.
In mid-July I got an email from my professor and the entire body of the email read as follows...

"Congrats, Jake
My Hahn  and Steve Rose agree that your paper deserves a passing grade for ed. 573.  Please see our comments.  They will help you with further writing efforts."

Well, that was fantastic to read.  Not quite a flattering or exciting as I'd hoped for, especially since I thought my 23 page paper was pretty good, and since I'd had that professor for many of my grad classes, earning straight A's in all of them, but really it is just nice to be finished so whatever.
One of the items on my 2011 checklist "Finish my Masters project."  Check.  It's been a long time since I got the coursework portion done back in 2006 and even longer since I was accepted into the program in '05!  But I did finish and wrap it all up this year.  I got the pay increase (whoo hoo!) and put a cap on it all, literally, a couple weeks ago during the graduate studies hooding ceremony.  I skipped the regular commencement, but it was nice to have a little formal celebration of a lot of hours, trips to Indianola, papers, reflections, etc.  And a meal at Macaroni Grill was the perfect place, since my family and I toasted my undergrad celebration there too!
Thanks to family and friends for support and encouragement along the way!!

25 December 2011

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas all.  From my family to yours.

24 December 2011

A GOOD Year

Here are a few fun year-in-review type things from GOOD magazine. 

The GOOD 100: I love ____ is the new _____ statements.  They are so simple and as easy to decide if you agree, disagree or don't understand.  There were a few things from this list that I had to research further.  Bring on 2012.
The Year in Infographics:  I am a sucker for infographics.  Even though I've never made one, I went to a session at the last conference I was at that shared how to use them in a classroom setting, just so I can learn more about them.  This collection isn't their best stuff, in my opinion, but it still has some good stuff. The school lunch/prison lunch one is depressing, while the money buys happiness (experiential vs material) has me thinking about my spending in 2012.  You can check out their infographics page to see all of them for the year and pick your favorite.  
The Year in Awesome People:  My favorite of the bunch.  Everyday folks deciding to do the right thing or the extraordinary thing...two things which some times are one and the same.  Perfect reading for Christmas Eve. 

20 December 2011

More on Stephen Bloom

I have refrained from commenting on the Stephen Bloom uproar going on around the state the past week or so.  (SNG gathered some of the good ones on his blog.) I read his article and, obviously, disagreed with some of his "reflections" but whatever.  And I read his book, "Postville", back in 2004 and actually enjoyed it quite a bit.  It made the top of my book list that year!  But I liked it because it was a focused look at a rural community with an older population and the culture clashes they had as they dealt with the Lubavich Jewish slaughterhouses growing in their community. 
Anyways...this piece from today's DM Register is the best reply to Bloom that I've seen yet.  Ken Fuson had me laughing at a couple parts of it.  Enjoy.

19 December 2011

Tripe

I tried tripe for the first time tonight. 
As anyone in my family will tell ya, I am not one for letting anything go to waste simply because I don't like it.  Tonight, I just couldn't do it.  caboose and I ate at Tacos Andreas, our favorite taqueria, and I ordered three tacos (1 steak, 1 tongue, 1 tripe) and a gordita.  (Yes I was a glutton.)  I have had the toungue taco many times and it is great.  But I haven't had the tripe or the cheek and I saw them both tempting me on the menu so I thought, what the heck.
The first problem was when it came...it actually looked like what it is.  [I remember seeing it for the first time in the grocery by my place in Chicago.  It terrified me.]  I took a piece of the meat and tossed it down the hatch to try it out.  The consistency of it is what got me.  It is very mushy/fatty/mealy.  Undaunted I garnished with some of their fabulous hot sauce and took a big bite of taco.  That bite went down, but even before I'd finished I knew that it would be my last bite of tripe for the night.
At least I can say I've had it.  Now, on to the cheeks!

13 December 2011

Dam to Dam Gets a New Route

The Dam to Dam race is under new leadership this coming year and they are already announcing some of the changes.  A new race route that will allow it to finish in the Gateway West campus is the big news.  More room for post-race socializing, as well as getting to use Nationwide's parking ramps.  I was very happy to see that the route will now cross the river on the new Center St. bridge.  And the shirts will be technical shirts, a much needed upgrade from the towel-like shirts from last year. 
Can't wait!

12 December 2011

Cedric Delsaux: "Dark Lens"

Stoppable sent this link out this morning and it is the coolest thing I have seen in ages.  Cedric Delsaux is a French photographer and this "Dark Lens" series synthsizes gritty, deserted urban landscapes (France & Dubai) with Star Wars characters and machines.  They are completely fantastic.
One of the interesting things is that some of these photos look like they could've come straight from one of the movie sets.  And the movies had that fantastic quality that they were cool and new but at the same time, were still realistic enough that you could recognize some things are that would've fit in our world.  It is that blurring of lines between the actual world and a galaxy far, far away that the movies as well as these photos do some magically.
I love the soul-chilling power in some of these shots.  It echoes that feeling you get when watching the movies and you see an Imperial starship glide ghostly overhead or Vader slow-walking towards you, lightsaber drawn.
“I still remember how blown away I was by its visual power, but more important was the feeling of the absolute freedom, creative extravagance even, hundreds of ships, creatures, parallel worlds, a complete cosmogony...I felt the ‘Star Wars’ characters were allowing me to render the reality of our world in more ways than any so-called objective shot ever could. Expressing reality through fiction could actually be my photographic credo.”
The NYTimes articleThe NYTimes slideshowThe full slideshow on his website.
My personal favorite five:
  • The Falcon's Hiding Place
  • Vader Surveys the New Construction
  • Imperial Guard on Rooftop
  • Foggy AT-AT over Interstate
  • The Buick
  • Honorable Mention: X-Wing Accident

08 December 2011

Goats & Bees

A year ago during winter break I read an article, and I can't recall all the particulars now so I'll probably ruin the story, but it was about a woman who had a husband who was a youth hockey coach.  She learned that there were some kids that couldn't afford all the gear so she bought it for them and gave it to them for Christmas.  She liked doing it so every year she would save her change and buy gifts for local kids in need.  This was also about the time that I was finishing reading "The Power of Half" (fantastic) and homebase and I talked about doing something different for Christmas.  So she found a Ace Hardware bucket and we started the fund.  It grew over the year from pocket change, a few bills, money from redeeming cans, etc.
When we were all back home over Thanksgiving, we dumped it out on the floor and started counting.  (Yes, I realize the bank will do this for you for free but we wanted to know!  And it is more meaningful doing it by hand.)  We totaled it all up and found out we had $293.  So then we pulled up the Oxfam, Heifer and Catholic Relief Services websites, everyone gathered around and we started shopping!  Our group reached a decision and it we are the joyful donors of a tribe of goats and some honey bees!  The goat video is fun.  I'd like to be there for the redistribution! I think it'd be a ball.
Can't wait to see what we can get next year!
Also, sticking with that theme of appreciating the random fortune that has put us where we have all that we need, homebase sent me this link to Sanjay Gupta speaking about what he's witnessed and experienced in his travels. Well worth the four minutes to click on it.

06 December 2011

Music Lessons with John Mayer

Even though I give caboose a lot of guff about his man-crush for this guy, I can't deny that I am a fan of John Mayer.  I didn't know that he had written a small monthly column for Esquire back in 2007 but after caboose told me about it, I searched for them and read through all of them tonight (my favorite being this one).  I love writing from an expert, who knows the topic inside and out, but still retains an ability to reflect on it, communicate their thoughts to the average person, and also shine a light on things that we wouldn't have known or been able to discover on our own.  The most recent Rolling Stone has an article on the top 100 guitarists and for the top 10 individuals, they each have a synopsis written by a contemporary world-level guitarist.  It was these articles that got caboose and I talking about music writing. 
Perhaps partly due to the fact that I am such a poor writer when it comes to expressing my thought about music, I definitely enjoyed both of these magazines articles.  Check them out and see if you agree.

05 December 2011

Chicago Trip!

I put the one personal day I get per year to good use last weekend and made a quick getaway to Chicago. Leaving town on Thursday after work let us make it Iowa City in time for a fantastic meal prepared by Connie. Arugula & avocado salad. Pumpkin gratin. Portobello mushrooms stuffed with sun-dried tomatoes. Roasted butternut squash. All recipes were from her new "Plenty" cookbook and were delic.  I didn't waste any time in going to bed because I knew that homebase would want to get a early jump on things the next morning.
We were in the car by 4:45 AM and heading out of town and pointing it towards Chicago, listening to Frank Sinatra crooning Christmas carols.  And, while the drive across Illinois wasn't bad, hitting Chicago at 8 in the morning is not good.  So we had to battle some grid-lock but we were still able to make it to Rick Bayless's newest restaurant, Xoco, by 9.  Xoco has more of a diner/takeaway place vibe.  You queue up, order at the counter, can see the grills and wood-fired oven while waiting in line, pay, take a number and find a seat.  Don't let the unassuming, casual setup fool you...the food was fantastic.  I chose the chilaquiles, which I'd tried my hand at making out of his "Mexico One Meal at a Time" book and homebase chose the breakfast torta.  I was sad my stomach wasn't big enough to add an empanada to my order because they looked great.  We also had to try an order of churros and a hot chocolate for each of us, classic for mom, almendrado for me.  Everything thing was out of sight.  I didn't think I was a fan of churros but these were so much lighter, crispier and hotter that I couldn't stop munching!  Plus they came with chocolate sauce for dipping so how can you go wrong?  The hot chocolates were exactly what I needed on a chilly day, plus getting up at 4:30 tends to make me needy for caffeine and these provided it.  My chilaquiles were outstanding...completely fabulous. I would love to go back and check out their lunch/dinner menus.
Fully fueled and ready to stretch our legs we commenced shopping.  A few standards...adidas performance, adidas originals, North Face and a few new spots...Loyola bookstore, Notre Dame bookstore, and a LEGO store than is now in Water Tower where we had a ton of fun.  The best thing was this dad there with his young (maybe ~3-4) daughter, filling up a mix & match bucket.  They were both having a great time and he was very willing to help us out with our questions.  He shared that he was a very proud father that day because she hadn't wanted to go to the neighboring American Girl Store and wanted to look at LEGO's instead.  It warms the heart, doesn't it!
Around two we headed over to meet my uncle who recently moved back to the Chicagoland area.   We met at Christkindlmarket, which is a German market festival place that goes on every year in the Loop from Thanksgiving to Christmas.  Tons of ornament shopping, traditional crafts, food, drinks, etc.  I'd been a few times before (once on a blisteringly cold day with stoppable) but it was a whole new kind of fun to go through it with homebase and my uncle.  My uncle loves having a good time and enjoying all life has to offer and in addition he lived in Germany at two different points in his life so he was a great guide to see it all with. A brat, potato pancakes, hot mulled wine made for a nice snack to warm up with.
That evening, my uncle took us out to Pita Pita for dinner.  It was a place that he said was authentic, and since he just got back from 12 years in Saudi Arabia, I figured he knew what he was talking about, and he definitely did.  Lamb and chicken shawarma, hummus, babaghanoush, kibbeh, cucumbers & yogurt, lentil soup, bread, dolmas, olives, the food was never ending and I did my best to take it all in.  Once he found out that place was BYOB, he ran next door and added a couple bottles of wine to the table.  We capped it all with two flavors of baklava and despite being near the bursting point, I managed to enjoy both.  Fun conversation, stories from abroad, and a colorful waiter made for a delightful evening.
Saturday morning's itinerary had IKEA and the Irish shop at Long Grove in store for us.  Both stops were great and, through the thoughtfulness of my uncle, we were able to pick up Potbelly's sandwiches (one of my FAVES) for the drive home.  The journey home wasn't bad at all as homebase kept me entertained with flashcards and games on my iPad.
A few pictures below and more on my flickr and homebase's flickr.









01 December 2011

White Deer?

The picture of this "white deer" is super creepy. I would freak out if I saw one of these things while I was driving at night.  Contrary to my first thought, they are not albino.  Albinos are more rare and lack the ability to create pigment.  These deer are genetic mutations and have some, although very little, pigmentation, especially in their eyes.  

28 November 2011

Goal!

A little goal treat to start off everyone's week. This is fantastic. The player sees the opening as soon as he gets the ball and has to get his footing right before he can unleash a venon-filled 60 yard scorcher that grazes in off the underside of the bar. The goal itself is magnificent but when you factor in that it came in stoppage time and was a game-winner...that goal will be talked about for years in Spain.

26 November 2011

Texas / Texas A&M

Even though I wasn't able to watch it since I was back home, I was happy to see the Longhorns squeak out a victory in a wild finish (a TD, missed 2pt conversion, and a FG in the last 1:48) to what may be the last episode for quite a while in this legendary rivalry.  These two schools have faced off 118 times, third-most in all of Division 1 of college football
Sports Illustrated had an article that I thought was very good about how the rivalry played a significant role in who both of the two schools are. 

22 November 2011

Muppets Meets Conchords

I am anxiously waiting for the new Muppets film to come out tomorrow and hopefully I get a chance to see it this week.  [random sidenote that went through my head when I looked at that website: how fun would it be to be a graphic designer/web developer for Disney]  The NY Times ran an article on Sunday about one of the people who submitted music and was chosen to write songs for the movie.  Bret McKenzie from Flight of the Conchords!  Turns out the producer of the Muppets movie is also a co-creator of Conchords and asked Bret to submit a few things.  There are some interesting insights to the Disney mystique and production machine. 

21 November 2011

Becks: Champion Again

My admiration/man-crush for Beckham has been well documented so it was no surprise that I tuned in last night to watch the championship game for the MLS season.  LA Galaxy vs Houston Dynamo.  Not something I usually care about but with all the talk of Beckham moving on after this game since his five year contract is up, I thought I'd better check it out.  Plus the Galaxy signed Robbie Keane a few months ago so double the reason to watch.  The Galaxy scored midway through the second half and that's how it finished, 1-0.  Beckham on the top pedestal of yet another league.  This article sums up things nicely about where Beckham's been and where he's going.

Dubstep Beatbox Busker

"If you have never heard dubstep...do not leave now."
That intro statement is so great and when the bass wobble kicks in @1:15 it takes it to another level. 
Plus he thanks the two little girls that pitch in some change.

20 November 2011

Wicked

Nicole and I took in Wicked at the Civic Center on Friday and despite it being the second time seeing it, it was still a great time.  She chose the pre-show dinner location of Sbrocco (#27 on the recent central Iowa top 100) and we picked a few things off their 'social plates' menu for sampling. 
  • Pan seared New Bedford scallops/ cauliflower puree/ caramelized Maui onions/ watercress/ apple cider syrup
  • Smoked Chilean seabass/ creamed leeks/ pickled pearl onions/ fig syrup 
  • Cheese plate with Manchego (Spain), Frommage d'Affinoise (French), Carr Valley Benedictine (US), and Mobay (US). 
I though the visual presentation & plating could've been better.  And the scallops were not anything remarkable.  But I did like the sea bass.  The cheese plate was fun, a good mix of soft & firm, strong and mild cheeses.  There were some Marcona almonds on the plate also as well as some peppered Turkish apricots which were the surprise gem of the night for me.
The play was great.  The music is so fabulous you can't help but enjoy it.  We did agree that the girl playing Glinda didn't really have the caliber of pipes that were necessary.  Oh well, just means I'll have to listen to Kristen Chenowith and Idina Mendzel doing it justice on my iPod. :)
Capping the night off with a couple martinis at the Lift and it was a fun Friday evening!

17 November 2011

Sunday NY Times

As I mentioned in my recap when I came back from Philadelphia, while I was there I was talked into signing up for a subscription to the NY Times.  This was right after they had instituted their paywall and I thought I'd try it out and see how many articles I read per month and I could always cancel later.  I haven't cancelled yet and, although I haven't really kept track, my monthly article count is usually somewhere in the 30's but has dipped severely recently.  But what has been interesting is that the home delivery of the Sunday Times, which was a requirement to get the good deal, has been great.  When I'm around all weekend, I love picking up the paper on the way in once I get back from church and flipping through the sections as I make and enjoy my breakfast.  It's no wonder that people have enjoyed doing that for so long.  And it's a shame that the Register is such a pale imitation of what it used to be back in its glory days. 
In last Sunday's paper I found the following three articles very enjoyable and thought I'd share...but my week's been super busy so you're not getting them til now...
  1. "Ideas for cutting military spending" - This is a letter to the editor that was sparked by this article about an interview with Leon Panetta.  I hadn't read the original article but, after digesting the letter to the editor, I went back and checked it out.  The really amazing thing is the credibility and quality of the authors that submitted responses - senior fellows, asst secretary of defense, professors, etc.  This, in addition to the fact that they make the cuts sound so commonsense and doable.  Very different from the dialogue we get when listening to politicians views on them.
  2. "I'll have the red: hot sauce, island by island" - I LOVE a good hot sauce.  My favorite for the last 10 years or so has been El Yucateco's Kutbil-Ik.  Discovered at my lunch spot, Pablo's, it is fiery, earthy and fantastic.  My other favorite taqueria, Tacos Andreas, offers three bowls of sauces with your meal, a red and green and a yellow/brown.  And they are all heavenly.  So this article about trying out all the homemade pepper sauces across the Caribbean sounded that a dream vacation.  Stoppable would be my ideal partner for this, as that guy can handle about any heat level and he gets the credit for initiating my hot sauce education.  He also just made his own pepper sauce which I can't wait to try.
  3. "A town creates its own department store" - Having spent some time teaching business and entrepreneurship classes, this article caught my eye and, by the end, also captured my imagination.  It is such a timely story, with the Occupy Wall Street movement happening and the push-back against behemoth banks this is the perfect fairytale.  Citizens band together and create their own, co-operative department store.  Keep Wal-Mart out of town, protect mom & pop stores, develop the civic & community responsibilities of the townsfolk, shared sacrafice for the collective good, keep shoppers in town instead of traveling to mega-malls, revitalize a vacant storefront.  Oh my gosh, be still my heart!  Don't get me started.  This is exactly the type of project that I could leave my job for. 

14 November 2011

App Developer

Check out this guy from a local TEDx event, talking about app development.
...and in case that wasn't exciting enough to get you to click thru, he is a sixth grader.

12 November 2011

ND fashion makeover

More Irish news, this time out of South Bend instead of Ireland.
Notre Dame has announced that they signed an agreement with adidas to have a one-off game each season at a neutral location and they will unveil some non-traditional uniforms and helmets for that game.  I am an out-spoken fan of tradition.  So I have great respect and apprecation for teams like Penn State, LSU, Iowa, USC, Georgia, etc.  They have a classic look and they stick with it.  I don't mind team's having fun and taking one game to sport a modern, different look.  Nike has done some cool things for teams like Georgia, West Virginia, TCU, etc.  But you need to stick with what works.
So even though I'm not sure I'll be a fan of what Notre Dame is wearing later today (white cleats?, green jerseys, green facemasks?, and that shamrock is TOO big), I am ok with them trying it out...and then retiring it for the year.  I saw a couple interviews with Notre Dame players before the Michigan game where they got to wear the throwback jerseys and helmets and I think doing fun things like this does matter to players.  They see Oregon, Maryland, Oklahoma State, etc doing wild things and wearing sick uniforms and they want to do something different too.

11 November 2011

Ireland Puts in Work

Massive win for the Irish today.
They have a two game playoff with Estonia to see which team gets to take part in the Euro2012 tournament. [Euro is a tournament for the national teams of the European region held every 4 years, opposite the World Cup.]  This afternoon the Irish went to Estonia and came away with a 4-0 victory.  Two goals by the veteran Robbie Keane, most prolific scorer in Ireland's history and the other two goals by a couple of fresh faces.  Since the winner of the playoff is determined on the aggregate score, they would have to screw up epically to not advance.  The return leg is next Tuesday in Dublin. 

10 November 2011

Taking a Personal Day

There are few better ways to spend a restorative personal day than back at home in southwest Iowa. 
My Jeep has needed new tires for a while and the guy running the only garage/gas station in Farragut does a good job with finding tires that are on sale or running a rebate so I had him get me four new shoes for the Jeep.  (Switched from Goodyear Wranglers to Cooper Discoverys and they look great!)
After wrapping up my last training on Wednesday, I stopped at home to change, grabbed a pop and hit the road, making it home just at the sky went black.  Even though I was only home for not quite 24 hours, homebase and I packed a lot of fun in.
  • A delicious meal of chorizo con papas and guac from the Rick & Lanie book, one of my faves.
  • Watched some of the CMA's, which led to me downloading some new songs.  I really feeling Miranda Lambert lately!  It was nice that her and her husband, Blake Shelton, won female and male vocalists of the year.  And that T-Swizzle won entertainer of the year.
  • Spent some time working on helping put some clarity to the financial side of homebase's last few years of teaching.  It may not sound like fun but I love creating spreadsheets, so it was enjoyable for me.
  • Things get started early on the farm (or really anywhere when homebase is involved).  I was up at 6:30 and making homemade doughnuts shortly after.  We had some mixed results.  The last batch were pretty tasty I thought.  This was a practice run for Thanksgiving.  I'm excited to try a yeast dough and see if that makes them better.  
  • Dropped off the Jeep to get new treads, stopped for a pop at Marty's Mart where the window proudly proclaims, "Biscuits & Gravy, all day, everyday" and we went to do some birding at the Riverton Wildlife Refuge.  Lots of hunters out, yet we still encountered some fun species.  I was able to check off the pie-billed grebe and the American coot.  Although it was very brisk out, it was a gorgeous morning.  
  • Made homemade noodles which later went into the chicken and noodle soup and they were fantastic.  I am definitely going to make these noodles a few more times during the winter.  So simple but so great!
  • Enjoyed a game of Scrabble while watching "How to Steal a Million."  It is one of my favorite Audrey Hepburn movies and I happened to have it from Netflix so I brought it down home with me.  Audrey is at the peak of her hotness.  Her hair and makeup are perfect and would look just as impressive today and the Givenchy outfits are amazing.
  • I headed back after a nice walk, enjoying the sun, and got back in time to watch Spy Game, one of my favorites.  And homebase sent me back with an amaryllis for the holiday season so I can't wait to plant it and track its growth!

07 November 2011

Ginkgo Stink

Some hard-hitting journalism today...
As anyone who has one of these gingko trees on their property, or close to it, or walks by sometimes, knows the gingko tree drops a fruit that as it breaks down smells strongly and very similarly to....well, puke.  Like the world's biggest pile of puke.  I thought I'd research a little to see why it smelled, "it stinks because the pulp contains butyric acid, a chemical found in various amounts within vomit, feces, parmesan cheese, and rancid butter."  That is some pungent company.  Unknown fact: the nut (different from the female fruit?) has long been gathered and eaten in parts of Asia.
This article (from Iowa City) highlights some of the problems these trees have and are causing for city planners.  It also covers a question that came up as I was reading these articles.  I did not know there were female and male trees.  Or that a male could become a female.  Wild stuff.  They really do create a mess, though.  On a big tree the fruit cover a big area and turn into a slippery pulp that covers the sidewalk.  There are quite a few around my neighborhoods and the bottom of my running shoes stinks.  I had to spray them down with 409 before putting them into my closet.  

03 November 2011

In the News...

Three news articles that caught my eye recently...
  • I don't get into the whole intense discussion and nit-picking about coaching decisions and such.  But I did read this article and I loved the Iowa AD's quote at the end, "You can have a whole discussion about what the marketplace is, isn’t, what it should be, or what it shouldn’t be. That’s a separate discussion. Do we have the person that best fits Iowa? We have somebody who has taken us to a very high level competitively, someone who graduates student-athletes at a level that’s among the top in the country, somebody that I trust as he brings in young people and develops them as people. Yes, we’re getting the bang for our buck.”
  • Although I have no interest in NFL games, this article did lure me in.  Tim Tebow always seems to cause strong feelings and conversations, but I think mimicking or making fun of someone's spiritual actions or the strength of their convictions just goes to show the shallowness of that person.
  • And we'll finish with a local story...I'll admit that I clicked on this link mainly to read the details of a child endangerment story and to see if I knew the teen involved.  And as lamentable and depressing as the details of the story are, the teen's actions and decisions impressed me and I tip my hat to him.  Rider Pride!

01 November 2011

And on the 32nd day, he rested...

Just a little recap on my 31 in 31 challenge.  I made it through the month with complete success.  I didn't regret a single run and there were only two or three that weren't totally pleasant.  My splits improved as the month went on.  I shed some unnecessary pounds.  Thanks to a dry month, I never had to run in rain or snow.  A complete, illustrated breakdown of the data will have to wait, but a few raw numbers:  108 total miles (my avg run was 3.5 miles), 15 and a half hours of running time.  Temps ranged from 84 to 35 degrees.  As a prize, I treated myself to this cool bracelet from Starbucks (also a boost to the jobs situation)!
So I took tonight off and relaxed, but I will definitely be running more often than I had been.

31 October 2011

Kickers. :(

I definitely caught up on my college football on Saturday.  I hadn't seen College Gameday for a few weeks and was able to start things off right with that.  It seemed like a lot of close games and lots of kicker-dominated action.  Iowa misses two field goals (one of them off the goal post) and loses by a point.  Illinois misses a game ending field goal (off the goal post) that would've put the game into overtime, so Penn State wins and gets Joe Paterno his record-setting 409th win.  Wisconsin, incredibly, found a way to give up a game-losing TD catch in the endzone for the second week in a row.  Stanford and USC needed 3 overtimes to sort things out. Vanderbilt missed a FG to take Arkansas to OT (among other foibles). [sidenote: This cheap shot by Arkansas' Marquel Wade on a punt returner, after they had called for a fair catch, is awful.  Two silver linings though - the coach's behavior on both sides.  The Vanderbilt coach is intense and takes no chances in a brawl by getting his players off the field and calmed down. {side-sidenote: I have no problem with a coach grabbing a player's facemask to get a player to focus}.  And the Arkansas position coach, although no one seemed to reprimand him much when he first came off, despite that hit being in excusable, the player was still yapping on the sidelines minutes later and his ejection was delivered, the assistant didn't hesitate to collar him and forcibly help him to the locker room.]
Texas and Notre Dame both cruised to easy wins, but the most entertaining thing I watched the whole day was the Arsenal - Chelsea soccer match.  I used my projector and pulled up ESPN3 and had a fantastic big-screen.  I only caught the last 20 minutes but it was fabulous.  You can watch the full replay here, if you get ESPN3.  Or check out the highlights here.  Great win for the Gunners.

28 October 2011

Very Brief History of the Emoticon

Here's a short history on the evolution of the emoticon via Mashable. 
Interesting that in the hundreds of years of typed information, the emoticon didn't really occur until written online messages needed an emotional clarify-er. 
I did notice that students a couple years ago started switching their smilies around from :) to (:.
Also, I see a lot of slang text that use the Q button when they are typing a G, in lowercase.  It only works with certain fonts...q  q q - all Q's, but can pass for a G. 

25 October 2011

New Header

I reached that familiar place in projects where I am just tired of working on it and I am nearing the end of my limited knowledge and I just want to be done.  So I am uploading my latest header.  It is an adaptation of this tutorial by Zeno Santos.  It was done entirely other than the finishing in Illustrator, which was a big challenge for me.  I did a lot of stuff I've never done before.  Not sure how much of it sunk in, but it was a good time.  I would like to do a few more of the steps like adding a stroke to each of the letters and I actually want to scrap all the clouds, but it would be a lot of work so I think it's gonna stay as is for a while.

Vatican: "I see you #OWS"

I thought these were some interesting and reassuring comments out of the Vatican.  Highlighting similarities between Catholic social teachings, the release by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and the basic tenants behind the Occupy Wall Street movements, the Vatican elicited a varied range of responses.  While not explicitly supporting it, I did like that they gave a nod to the need for financial controls and action on the worsening inequality of wealth. 

24 October 2011

Welcome to Hoopington

I ran on the treadmill for the first time in years last week.  It is really a terrible thing and does running a real disservice.  I only lasted 2.25 miles then I threw in the towel.  There is no sense fighting it to do something that is monotonous and boring when the activity is actually something that you really enjoy doing if it outside. 
The silver lining of my treadmill torture was being able to read a magazine while running.  I cam across this article in Sports Illustrated and, despite having nearly zero interest in the NBA, this article really intrigued me.  I love hearing these stories of players getting back to their roots and ballin' with regular dudes, in pickup games, calling their own fouls, deals with ratty gyms, etc.  And this kids passion is pretty fun to read about.  "Sooo where is everyone hooping today?"  It also illustrates another very cool impact of technology and social media.

23 October 2011

Penguin Stowaway!

I randomly came across this picture online today and had to check out if it was for real and where this "Table Mountain National Park" is at.  Turns out it is on the tip of South Africa, south of Capetown and they have a penguin population of 29 colonies of African penguin that they are working on protecting and restoring.  So it looks like there are 2600 penguins waiting to greet me down there... I just have to be sure to check under my car when leaving for any hiding sneakers.

17 October 2011

Fall Mixtape: Fall Into Something Good

1. By Your Hand - Los Campesinos!
2. Did It Again - Shakira w/Kid Cudi
3. Naked Love - Grouplove
4. I'm a Goner - Matt & Kim, Andew WK, Soulja Boy
5. Como Soy - Ceci Bastida (JV Remix)
6. Haunted Heart - Little Hurricane
7. Bumper - Cults
8. Valerie - Amy Winehouse
9. Why I Love You - Kanye & Jay-Z
10. Words I Never Say - Lupe Fiasco
11. Cuckoo - Lissie
12. Tell Her No - Tennis
13. Diet Mt. Dew - Lana Del Rey
14. Give It Up To Me - Shakira w/Lil Wayne
15. Turn Me On - David Guetta w/Nicki Minaj
16. Rolling In the Deep - Jorge & Alexa Narvaez
17. I Know the Truth - Pretty Lights

Holla if interested!!

31 in 31

Halfway there and I'm still going at 100%.  17 runs in 17 days so far, and really there's only been one time when I really didn't feel like running (after a 12 hour day during conferences).  But even on that day, afterwards I was happy I ran.  There never is a run that you regret going on.  A few quick notes on the running so far:
  • Short runs.  I've become familiar with the short run.  Lots of 2.5-3.5 mile runs.  Up to this point all my routes were 4 or 5 miles, so the shorter ones have been a change.  It's been nice to just be able to squeeze a run in when I've got a free 30 minutes instead of scheduling my day around it.
  • New routes.  Squeezing a run in means runs throwing on the shoes, grabbing the watch and running out the back door instead of driving somewhere to run on my favorite route.  So I've been forced to put together some new routes and it has been GREAT! 
  • Gathering data.  I love spreadsheets and I've been logging my minutes, miles, temperatures, routes, partners, and I can't wait to make some charts at the end of the month.
  • Solo runs.  A majority of my runs have been solo this month which is a big change from my usual running schedule.  I love having good running partners, but it has been a fun change to roll solo some.  
  • A new running partner.  My rosary ring.  I found out that my short 2.7 mile route is just about the perfect length for a rosary.  And the prayers in the rosary are a great running mantra. 

14 October 2011

Rihanna

Esquire has chosen her as their sexiest woman alive for this year.
They will get no arguments from me.  Their photoshoot is good but I've seen much better photos of her.  The interview is a nice, brief synopsis of where she's come from.  I love her, love her music, love her hair, love her island accent, love pretty much everything about her.  I don't love her high-waisted shorts but otherwise, she can do no wrong.  Check out this page to see 50 of her hairstyles...and ain't a one of them bad, messy, big, short, curly, spikey, mohawk, red, black, brown.
You can check out their "Other sexiest women" here.  Nice to see Beyonce and Mila on there.  As I think about this, I may have to assemble my own list...stay tuned.
[Gotta love having the day off! I'm so productive!]

10 "Worst" Songs of the 80's?

Saw a link to this Rolling Stone list (composed by reader votes) on a music blog this morning.  I think that some of these are very enjoyable but probably have been drilled into everyone's ears for too long...and they are VERY 80's.  Nevertheless, I like a majority of them and I did listen to several on the list this morning, including #1.  Enjoy.

13 October 2011

Dogs Helping Dogs

I saw that Jorge (of Jorge & Alexa) posted this video so I had to check it out.  The first part is a little confusing to me because it looks like the first dog is hit by multiple vehicles.  Either way, the second dog is the hero of the day and they all live to run wild and poop in random yards another day.

12 October 2011

Nurse's Office

I stopped into the nurse's office at one of my elementary schools this morning and while I was there (probably 15 minutes), she had 4 or 5 different students come in.  She was unfazed by everything and always kind and helpful.  Which is why I went out of my way to help her with some items that I usually would've just explained to someone and left them to do on their own. 
The best customer she had though, was this little second grade boy.  He was escorted by a classmate and he carried in front of him the trashcan from his classroom.  He hadn't made it very far in the door when I shared, "I just puked on the rug in my classroom."  He didn't say it like he was asking for sympathy, nor was he boastful.  He chirped it out there no different than "I brought my lunch today" or "My shoes are red."  He then clarified "I puked and it came out of me like this..." and he illustrated the direct line that the puke took out of his mouth, very straight, sort of projectile vomit-like.  This little story-teller was just getting warmed-up, "I puked up my strawberry milk.  And my pancakes.  I had pancakes for breakfast.  I puked up my breakfast.  It was red."  It was pretty much a constant stream of commentary from this guy for the remainder of the time I was there, covering his thoughts on his teacher, the friend who brought him down, the shirt he wore that day, the puke that he had on his hand, his familiarity with the iPad, the bloody tooth he'd had the week before and several other riveting topics. 
He was a pleasant as can be but I'm not sure how his teacher contains his verbal skills in the classroom.

10 October 2011

Monoprice.com

I have been sort of wanting a car charger for my iPod/iPad for a while now but didn't really feel the need to pay $25 or whatever for one.  Then j-rod happened to tell me about this fantastic website for audio/video cables and accessories, monoprice.com.  I went out there, chose what I wanted from 2 or 3 different ones and WITH SHIPPING, I paid $3.04.  Incredible savings.  Thanks j-rod!

"Men have become tools of their tools"

I thought this was a nice breath of fresh air amidst all the craziness surrounding the apple event last week.  When you read tech blogs and people act like iPhone 4s or 5 is the most important thing in the world or when the Android/Apple comment wars get going, it is nice to counter all that with an article such as this one.  "Why I Dumped My iPhone and I'm Not Going Back."
I totally agree with many of his points.  For many in that generation, it is impossible to proceed with life if you can't check your phone.  If you forget your phone it is grounds for a complete melt-down and you must now rearrange your day to go home and get it because life without it is not an option.  I could go on (and I did actually.  I just deleted out the next three sentences because I didn't want to sound too preachy.) but instead I'll just point out that I like his Walden reference and that I am going to save this article for re-reading.

07 October 2011

Every Damn Day

31 runs in 31 days.
I saw this tshirt from Nike on this great tumblr feed, and I didn't think about it much when I saw it, but for some reason it popped back into my head a few days later.  That led to this resolution, I am going to run everyday for the next month.  I have been in need of some sort of running goal or something to work towards for quite a while now.  I haven't ran any  races since Dam to Dam and without that, my running schedule becomes rather flexible (not in a good way) and less of a priority.  So, instead of signing up for a half or something, this will be my new motivation.  It's great because running more often and more consistently are areas I've always struggled with.  31 days.  No days off.  At least two miles every day.  This isn't about building speed or endurance or anything, just getting out and running.  No excuses.  I'm hoping to find some ways to get in a few in the mornings before work maybe and hopefully this increase in calorie burning will help shave off a few unneeded pounds.  Along with this I am going to post everyday, some sort of motivational item.  A quote, a picture, a link, a video, etc.  There are lots of interesting tumblrs out there that are set up for this exact reason (fitspo) so I will be pulling from them probably. 
[I wrote this the last week of September but held off on posting it until I saw how the first week went.  I got up this morning and got a short pre-dawn run in so I am 7 for 7 so far!  More updates to come.]

06 October 2011

"Where Children Sleep"

James Mollison is a photographer whose recent project is now being released as a book entitled "Where Children Sleep."  His two-image compilations show the child along with their sleeping space.  The article recommends to view them in full screen mode and I second that idea.  The larger images and more detail are great and the full screen takes away any other distractions, drawing your focus to the faces and the bedrooms.

05 October 2011

Super Bass

I loved the original and then today I saw this acapella cover version posted on Facebook by a former student.  The rapping part was a little unsettling (luckily she doesn't sound like she knows what she's saying part of the time), but the chorus is a pretty fantastic showcase of her pipes.  While I was watching that one, I saw this version where Taylor Swift covered it in her LA concert and was joined on stage by Nicki herself. 
[And unrelated but still enjoyable and maybe the best of all of them, I saw this video where Jason Mraz joined Taylor for "I'm Yours"]

04 October 2011

Education News

Five education articles recently in the news.  I'm guessing most readers won't read most of them, but I think they are worthwhile and too good to let pass by.

The letter from DMPS superintendant Nancy Sebring ran in the DM Register this week.  And although she cites the Washington Post rankings that I've said before I'm not a fan of, I still think it is well-written piece and necessary to help the average person understand the changing student population and how the metrics in NCLB work.  The Register never misses a chance to publish anything negative about DMPS so it's nice to get some positive words in there too.

Gov. Branstand has unveiled a new education plan, "One Unshakeable Vision: World-class Schools for Iowa".  Although the costs that go along with it have not been detailed yet, you can check out the 18 page outline here.  I like the items regarding teacher prep.  A centralized, state-wide teacher recruiting site, raising the minimum entrance GPA to 3.0, creating a teacher scholarship program, etc. And the proposed changes to pay, contract-length, tiered system with more time alotted for coaching/mentoring by high-quality teachers.  increased pay for working in high-poverty and high-need subjects, all sound promising.  I did see that "locally determined performance-based elements" was snuck in there, so we'll have to see what that means exactly.

Tagging on to that teacher scholarship theme, this article about the end of the North Carolina Teacher Fellow Program, where exemplary applicants receive full-tuition scholarship in return for a four year commitment to teaching in a public school.  Two stats jump off the page in that article.  73% retention of teachers from that program after five years.  (Compared to 7% for Teach for America)  And amazingly, 60% of the fellows that started 20 years ago are still in public education.

Jose Vilson, a math-teacher from NY, shares four lessons that educators can imitate from Jay-Z's career


This Nicholas Kristof article was passed on to me from my brother and its tale of education, love, and hope in the Kibera slum of Nairobi (the same area as in the "On the Way to War" book I just read) is truly inspiring.

28 September 2011

Garden Update

Even though we've had quite a few cool days and some nights with frost advisories, my tomatoes just keep rolling on.  I picked this entire bowlful this afternoon and there are still tons left on the vine! 

26 September 2011

Messi es enorme! (and so are Turkish women!)

You don't need to speak Spanish to enjoy this video clip.  The short write-up in English, the boy's face and Messi's actions are enough to communicate what transpired.  Enjoy.
And a bonus soccer story for ya...
I LOVED this story out of Turkey.  One of Turkey's biggest clubs had received a two match penalty, which usually means playing without any fans in the stadium, but as a result of a new rule change, they made the match open to women and children only.  Free tickets, and 41,000 took them up on it.  And it sounds like it was a win-win result because the players loved it too.  The pictures and the video are great. 

All-time Fave Hawkeyes

I swiped this post topic after enjoying SH's post about who her all-time favorite Hawkeyes were.  This is tougher than I thought it would be.  I've been a Hawk fan since I was brought into the world at University Hospital on a home football weekend by a young U of I education major.  The Hawkeyes lost that weekend and went 5-6 that year, which actually was one of the best years of those two decades of bleak times for the Iowa program.  Luckily that all turned around with Hayden Fry and the glory days of the 80's.  Do I choose some of those star players from my first memories of cheering them on (Matt Hughes, Chuck Hartlieb, Nick Bell, and my first Iowa FB memory...Ronnie Harmon)?  Or more recent players who I've watched more closely and remember more clearly?  And weighing favorites from different sports is tough so with no exact science to it, here are a two or three from football, basketball and wrestling...
  • Tim Dwight - ('94-'97) He was a year older than me and I was able to see him put on one of the most stunning performances ever when he took his City High 4x400 team from behind to a wide victory at the State track meet.  After than I followed his Iowa career closely.  He was electric to watch.  Punt returns, receiving, and of course this hit on punt cover against Arizona.  He seemed like Superman at the time...actually, he still does. 
  • Tavian Banks - ('94-'97) I was there for his 314 yard game against Tulsa his senior year.  I had bought tickets off a scalper and they were in the third row one of the end zones.  Closest I've ever been.  Fantastic.  I also had an "Iowa Football #22" white baseball hat that I LOVED in college. 
  • Tyler Sash ('08-'10) I was sad the day he declared he was leaving before his senior year for the NFL.
  • Honorable Mentions:  Matt Hughes (LB '95-'98), Chuck Hartlieb (QB '87-'88), Nick Bell (RB '88-'90)
  • Tom Brands ('89-'92) There was an speaker that came to my school when I was in junior high. I don't even remember who it was, some sort of motivational thing and afterward there were posters and stuff for sale.  I bought a poster that had Tom and Terry running up the stairs in Carver-Hawkeye.  Another poster there has a quote from Alexander Karelin "I train harder every day of my life than they have ever trained a single day in theirs" that I really liked, so I wrote that on the bottom of the Brands poster in Sharpie.  I still have the poster.  And I'm thrilled that this guy is leading the Iowa program.
  • Dan Gable - He started it all for Iowa and his exploits are legendary.  Plus you still get to listen to him whenever you watch Iowa wrestle on IPTV.
  • Joe Williams ('95-'98) I had a friend who was statistician for the wrestling team while Joe was there so we actually crossed paths a couple times.  The guy was a specimen. 
  • Matt Anderson ('00-'03)  A friend from back home, this guy was a beast in HS and although he didn't have the kind of success as the others listed here, he was a three-year letterwinner and placed in the Big 10's, and he made it very fun to follow the squad in those years.
  • Honorable Mention: The 1995 Iowa squad (McIlravy, McGuinness, Ironside) This was the first time I'd seen college wrestling.  The national championships were at Carver-Hawkeye, I was a senior in HS, walked over to the arena, bought a ticket super cheap and went in to witness one of the sessions.  Incredible.  
  • BJ Armstrong ('85-'89)
  • Andre Woolridge ('95-'97)
  • Honorable mention: Chris Kingsbury ('93-'96), Roy Marble ('85-'89) Reggie Evans ('01-'02)

Trying Out the New Binoculars

No birder worth their salt can be without a pair of decent binoculars, so I decided to research the options, come to a decision and take the plunge.  After a lot of internet reading and trying out several pairs, I made my pick, the Nikon Monarch ATB 8x42.  And I bought them on the last day of a $50 mail in rebate!  They are super fantastic.  homebase came into town on Friday, and after a fun Friday night of Moneyball and Zombie Burger, we went out Saturday morning to do a little birding around Saylorville Lake.  I had found this great resource and it listed some good areas around the lake and without having to go to far, it sounded like it was just what we were looking for.  The area around the visitor's center is really nice and they have some trails that look promising.  It is a spot that I will definitely be coming back to.  We did see some fun things, an owl, a few kildeer, a Canada goose, Franklin's gull, either Herring gulls or Ring-billed gulls, Eastern kingbird, Great Blue Heron, along with the commoners (cardinal, bluejay, robin).  I can't wait to take the binoculars to a game and try them out there.  And we followed up our (very chilly) outing with breakfast at La Mie so it was definitely a great morning.

21 September 2011

Parking Jackpot

Twice in the same week - parking at a meter downtown, get out with my dollar of quarters ready only to find over an hour of paid time still on there!  Good times.  And it's only Wednesday!

20 September 2011

Speaking in Tongues

This Time article, "Slow Down! Why Some Languages Sound So Fast", about the how the speed of different languages compare blew my mind with the added part of their analysis that weighed how much information was transmitted in each syllable. 
And I give it an extra thumbs up because I love articles about a topic that is pretty unknown to me (but is still interesting), that is presented in a easy to understand manner and is short.

17 September 2011

We Don't Need No Cats.

We need more dogs. 
I saw this video over lunch last week.  It had made ESPN's top 10, but forgot to blog about it until I saw it again last night.  I love his drawl, the not-quite clear meaning of his analogy, and the energy & seriousness with which he tells his story. 

14 September 2011

Unlucky

This saga was too bizarre to go unshared.  I left for lunch today and decided to head to Pablo's downtown.
  • I realized even before I left the building that I forgot my phone on my desk.  Not a big deal since I won't need it.  Didn't even break my stride and headed out into the perfect sunny cool weather.
  • The Jeep had given me a "low tire pressure" warning this morning so I thought I'd stop at QT and air up all 4 tires on the way to eat.  Pull off and pull up to the air pump..."Out of Order. Sorry for the Inconvenience."  hhhhh.  Fine, I'll just hit up a different QT on the way back to work.
  • Park in my regular spot and hop out to plug the meter.  First quarter dropped in....nothing.  Grrrr.  As if the city isn't charging enough already! ($1.25 for an hour!!)  Whatever, finish plugging it and stepped to the skywalk.
  • No cash in the wallet and Pablo's is a cash-only bodega.  So I swing by the ATM that I always hit.  "Out of Order."  Seriously! Ok, well, I know there is another one only a little bit in the other direction.
  • Wait for the lady in front of me to finish taking out her money at the Bank of America ATM.  I step up and it doesn't seem to want to suck up my card.  I jiggle it around, in and out, finally it takes it.  THREE DOLLAR additional charge! Holy moley.  I don't care at this point.  That burrito will be worth it.  $60 in cash please.  Transaction approved, it spits my card back out...or tries to.  The card is stuck.  And its still too far in for me to pull it out.  After about a minute of it just spinning and trying to eject it, it eats the card back up.  "Card retained for security. Contact customer service."  Did that just happen?!
  • Now I'm getting a little steamed.  I'm gonna call this 800 number on the ATM and get this figured out...err, wait.  No phone.  Aaagh.  Take a picture of the phone number with my iPad and walk off.  And sadly have to walk past Pablo's. 
  • And I have to leave almost all of those minutes that I just overpaid for on the meter.  (You're welcome, stranger!)
  • I've still got a credit card and am quickly losing my appetite so I settle for a QT hot dog.  I park beside the air pump (functional this time!) and air up both of my passenger side tires.  Yep, that rear one was ~5 psi under.  I hop in to turn around to air up the driver side tires and I'm in the middle of my three point turn when some other dude who's been waiting (and to be fair, probably doesn't realize I was wanting to be a responsible vehicle owner and air up all 4 tires) zips in behind me to start airing up.  :(
  • Get my food, arrive back at work, call BofA and turns out they destroy all retained cards every night.  Cool.  Call my bank, they are very helpful and are sending me a new card.  So no cash and no debit for the rest of the week.  
I'm chalking this up as an unlucky lunch and hoping that that string of events has run its course.

"Not all those who wander are lost"

I've never been a fan of this semi-popular bumper-sticker slogan.  Not because I disagreed with it but more just because I didn't really see the point of a statement that was so...hippie.
Anyways, I just learned this week that this saying is actually from a very popular book, and that has explained its popularity to me a little better.  I am wondering if it is a generational thing or if most people knew where this is from and I was just very slow.
Put your answers/guesses in the comments and I'll unveil the truth later today (or you can just look it up online after you've commented.)

12 September 2011

From Teachers to Parents, With Love

Ron Clark writes a letter to tell parents, "What teachers really want to tell parents" that is worthwhile reading if you are in education, have children or care about the direction of, and key factors in, the our country's schools.

Invitations

Forgetting my iPad last week, I was left with only the new issue of Juice to read as I dined at Pablos'.  In the spot where there is usually the latest issue in Tim Paluch's on-going "I'm actually from a much bigger, cooler city, but I sure love Des Moines because it lets me have all these quirky, endearing stories about being a first-time home-owner and dog parent" there was something different.  "The power of an invitation" by Andrea Otteman.  It showed thought, insight, feelings, and overall I thought it was probably the best thing I've read in Juice...maybe ever.  Friend silos are a part of getting older and moving through different phases of your life, but I agree that, when you are able to break them down, it is a good thing.  And, yes, some people will say no when they are asked, but you know what...some people will say yes too.  And they will be thrilled that they were asked.
This summer a friend (from the TEC/church/Dowling silo) contacted me out of the blue and asked me if I wanted to fill in on his slow-pitch softball team.  That is something I haven't done since those summers during high school and college when my buddies and I played in the league back at Imogene that had teams called "Pepsi", "Pioneer", "Farragut Ag", "Co-op", and "Earl May's".  One pitcher was a farmer, well past 50, always wearing his Key overalls on the mound.  Great times.  But overall, my baseball/softball experience isn't very extensive.  I can hold my own at the plate, but I dread playing the outfield.  Reluctantly, I gave in to his persuasion ("We won't have enough people for a team without you!") and agreed to dig my glove out.  And you know what?  I had a ball.  The team was a handful of people from his old workplace, a few Dowling friends, and a couple of his softball friends that he'd played with on other teams.  So everyone had a similar level of awkwardness of not knowing people which actually made it fun.  And, actually, we won the league and tournament, no big deal. :)
So, I was the grateful recipient of an invitation and hope to pass that on whenever I can.

11 September 2011

Football & Shadow Puppets

Yesterday was a rough day of football.  The Hawkeyes losing in triple OT to ISU was terrible.  At least I enjoyed some great food, bags, throwing the pigskin around and shared a lot of laughs with friends while watching it.  I also was able to try out Paula Deen's pumpkin bars and Marcelo Valladolid's potato & poblano gratin.  Both turned out well!  The real heartbreaker for me was seeing Notre Dame fall victim to their own mistakes and turnovers again in "an instant classic" and, after three touchdowns & lead changes in the last 1:30, the Irish were left with their second defeat of the year.  Awful. 
On that note, I came across this video today and appreciated its attempt to cheer me up.

09 September 2011

Lunchtime

Overheard as I walked by our break room today.  The backstory is that our email server had been up and down all morning and pretty much driving us crazy and Robert is the man in charge of it all:

Co-worker:  "Robert, what's the story with our email?"

Robert:  "I'm cooking my lunch."

07 September 2011

"What Men Think About Fashion"

A poorly guarded secret is that I enjoy a good fashion magazine, InStyle in particular.  homebase has been known to buy one for me on occasion.  It's the simple pleasures in life...and a mom that doesn't fret when her son has as much interest in the new fall fashions as she does. :) 
So there is a feed on my Flipboard app that is called FlipStyle and I skim it now and then.  There are some interesting and funny articles in there and one titled "What Men Think About Fashion" from Marie Claire caught my eye and gave me a few chuckles as a went through it.  A couple comments echoed my own thoughts exactly.  I appreciate the practicality that these male commentators view the runway outfits with.  Like, "I never understood this. Don't women understand we are attracted to women? We don't want them to dress like us."  But my favorite is, "Super-high pants will never be appreciated by a straight man."  Amen, brother.

05 September 2011

Fear the Turtle

I wrapped up the opening college football weekend (which I can summarize here - Hawkeyes rolled, weather was crazy across the Midwest, Wisconsin looks tough, enjoyed watching LSU take it to Oregon, the Auburn finish was unreal, the Notre Dame first half was a brutal example of shooting ones-self in the foot) by watching the Miami vs Maryland game tonight.  Hooray for Monday Night Football that is not the NFL!  I grilled up some nice burgers & topped them with some fresh guacamole and paired them with mashed sweet potatoes.  Sliced peaches and ice cream for dessert.  A great finish to a great weekend.  Anyway, I digress, back to the Miami game.  As I turned it on I was shocked to see the get up that the Maryland players were wearing.  Under Armor has them in some crazy half & half helmets and it turns out it is part of their new uniform line that includes 3 different helmets and dozens of jersey and pants combinations.  The half & half outfit includes arm sleeves, gloves and wildly jazzy shoes.  The team warmed up in their white uni's and helmets and then, unbeknownst to them, when they came back in locker room pre-game, their surprise uniforms were there waiting.  (I wonder if there were any "Do we have to?" comments)  There are a few cool combinations in there but I am too much of a fan of classic uniforms to appreciate these much.  Check out the full line here.  Lastly, there was a commercial for University of Maryland during the game and it featured their slogan (which I was unaware of), "Fear the Turtle".  Love it.
[Edit. stoppable just illuminated me to the fact that Under Armor is owned by a Maryland alum.]

02 September 2011

Checking In with the 2011 Checklist

See live contagiously's recent post on checking their progress on their spring goals reminded me that I should probably do the same since we are 2/3's of the way through with 2011.  After all, if there is no accountability then there is no action...
So my post from January 13 listed the following as my checklist for the year...

Travel abroad for another volunteer vacation - This did not happen.  I instead focused on my masters thesis, but I am planning on something big for next year.
Ride RAGBRAI, (if not travelling abroad) - This also did not happen.  This was the last week of July and I had a wedding in KC, and car repair issues and I had definitely not put in the training miles, but more on that below.
Do a 2 day ride on the Raccoon River Trail to Jefferson & back (if not doing RAGBRAI) - I really wanted to do this but couldn't fit it in my schedule for my short 4 weeks of vacation.  It is still at the top of my biking adventure list.  If I get a crazy hair, maybe I can squeeze it in on a fall weekend.
Complete my Masters project - Done, completed, finished, passed.  I can't even tell you how good it feels.  And it'll feel even better in a couple months when I get the pay increase!
Have a Chicago weekend by Megabus - Kicked around some dates and checked into it a few times but this has fallen through the cracks so far.  May get to cross it off later in the year for a Chicago kristkindlmarkt family get-together.
Daily Mass twice a month - I did really well on this until about May and have slipped a little but now that I'm back working again, I will get back at it.  I love popping in to the little St. Anne's side chapel at St. Ambrose downtown for a quick 25 minute mass and focused homily before walking over to Pablo's for a quick burrito!
Ride at least 300 miles on my bike - Two times in the saddle.  One for 10 miles.  One for 45 miles.  Not good. 
Run at least 500 miles - I stopped keeping a log of my miles after July 1.  At that point I had 259 miles, so I was ahead of pace for my goal.  I have dropped off since then mainly since I don't have a long race to train for, plus that week or two of ridiculous heat in July broke up my routine.  I am looking forward to adding a longer weekend run (or ride) back into my routine.
Play some basketball, tennis and golf outside this summer - Check. Check. And check.  And I've enjoyed all of it. 
Read more books than last year - Hmm.  22 books on last year's list, I'm at 17 currently.  So I'm a book or two ahead of the pace.  I have been on a dry spell the last month or two, and am ready to jump into something good.
Volunteer locally once a month - Hawthorne House counts right?  I'm working on nailing down a recurring time this fall at one of a couple different organizations.
Wear a tie once a week - I did this and enjoyed it all year until it started getting hot and then I ditched.  It adds a fun variation to the work fashion routine so I'll be ready to kickstart this again once the temps drop a little.
Take a free online course - I signed up for a JFK one through iTunes and it turned out to not really be what I was looking for.  Getting a formalized Spanish study plan is my new priority.
Go to a state I haven't been to before - I had been to Pennsylvania before, but never actually set foot outside the airport, so my June trip to Philly counts. I didn't get to do much touristy/historical stuff, but the city looks neat and the trip and conference were fun.
Buy a suit & get it tailored (along with my current one) - I'd love to do this one, but until there is a reason, I'll probably hold off on splashing the cash for it.
Find a new place to live - Success!  Not only a new place, but a better, quieter, bigger, more private, cheaper place with better parking and a better landlord and still in my favorite neighborhood!
Get a dog, if find a new place - Not sure where this goal came from.  I know caboose had mentioned it a lot, but, oddly, neither of us has brought it up since we moved. 
Bring my lunch at least 2 times a week - Gradual improvement through the start of the year until the end of the school year when it completely flopped.  But I am back and better than ever so far this fall.  Three and four times a week eating lunch at home has been the norm and I'm loving it!  And so is my bank account!
Design & print a t-shirt - I suppose the Irish Setters shirt would count.  But really, my design projects have been sparse lately.  With the return of the school year (and cooler temps ahead) I hope there will be more coffee shop evenings so I can get creative and come up with something. 

So, overall, not bad!!  And it helps to see that there are some areas that require a rededicating.