31 May 2011

Memorial Weekend '11

A quick run-down of the highlights from a fantastic weekend:
  • Although our day in the park tradition got scrapped due to rain, a rainy forecast and a rainy night before, we made the most of our get together at Farragut.  Some delicious salads, grilling and desserts.  A fun summer reading discussion around the lunch table.  A walk around town & frisbee tossing after the day turned out to be quite nice.
  • The rain-out was definitely bittersweet, because although we didn't have all our usual fun in the park, it also meant that both other brothers would be home to help with the big project that homebase had in mind.  We disconnected her cable and then installed a digitalHD antenna on her house, ran coax cable from it, into the basement and back up into her living room.  This was NOT something I was eager to attempt to think through or carry out on my own.  But, with our combined brains, we got it all done successfully with only a quick run to Shen for a bigger (monster) drill bit.  And the picture quality was fantastic!  She's pulling in over a dozen channels, great quality, and not paying a dime!  Tempting.  And we were rewarded for a job well done, by getting to watch the last 30 minutes of the Champions League final!  Barcelona rightly won.  They play an almost unbeatable style of football and are the deserved kings of European soccer for the second year in a row.
  • homebase & I went for a drive Saturday night and went through the Riverton Wildlife Refuge.  This is a place that I remember going to a lot growing up.  Sitting in the back of our station wagon, looking through binoculars for birds of all sorts.  I haven't been back there for probably 15 years and it was fun to check it out.  We didn't see a ton of species this time, but it was still a great time.  I had to make a trip to Half-price Books and pick up a copy of Peterson's Field Guide to Birds of Eastern and Central North America.  Now I can start checking off my 'life list'!  We did see Great Blue Herons, cat birds, a kingfisher, a yellow warbler, 3 deer, 2 raccoons, Canada geese, robins, goldfinches, and red-winged blackbirds, as well as a very disturbing sight of a bird that had tried to fly into the hole on a birdhouse, gotten stuck, died, and then had swollen up and was still there.  GROSS!
  • Sunday morning, I got the chance to go to mass at St. Benedict's in Nebraska City and see the parish that homebase has been high on for a while now.  Physically a small church but pretty and I liked the priest's homily and his energetic delivery.  He is very tech savvy and his example of tech use in school and collaborative learning are great!
  • On the way back to Des Moines, I listened to a 'This American Life' podcast (#432, "Know When to Hold Them").  T.A.L. has been pretty spotty it seems lately, but there was a ten-minute piece (Act #1, "Is this war or is this hearts?") in this one that I just loved.  I actually went back listened to it again when I finished the podcast.  It starts at the ten minute mark and tells about a son who has lost his faith and now seeks to 'save' others from being fooled by debating and poking factual holes in all their scripture stories.  If you've got 10 minutes, I thought it was pretty worthwhile.  
  • A fun grill out provided a chance to see the Holtgrewe's new house and catch up with friends (as well as eat delicious food and get owned in baggo.)  Very nice place!  I love how nice sitting on a patio with friends can be.  
  • I kicked off the actual Memorial Day with an 8 mile run with Nicole, both of us sporting our red, white and blue.  Beautiful morning to run.  Nice breeze, great sun, not too hot.  Followed that up with burgers on the Jethro's patio, a little time in the garden to stake up my tomatoes, a little Bourne Identity time indoors when it was really warm and them cooking a great meal.  I'd seen Bobby Flay fire-roast some poblanos to top his steak on TV that morning and thought I'd try the same.  So we had rib-eyes, marinated with garlic, EVOO, Italian parsley & jalapeno.  Asparagus on the grill.  And then pureed those poblanos with just a little of the reserved marinade.  I LOVED the relish.  It reminded me a little of chimichurri sauce, which I am a huge fan of.  A walk up the street for some ice cream at Snookie's sealed off a pretty great weekend. 

27 May 2011

Champions League Final Preview

Saturday, 1:45 at Wembley Stadium, London.
Manchester United vs. Barcelona
Should be a cracker of a match and I can't wait.  It is on Fox Sports this year which may making viewing difficult as I'll be home over the long weekend, but I'll have to hunt down a place that is showing it. 
Check out the videos released by both teams this week to build up the pre-match hype.

26 May 2011

Mice Races!

I love rural Iowa...and may need to take a trip to Danville and bet on the mice.

25 May 2011

Keeping Catholic students Catholic Through College

"Helping Catholic Students Remain Catholic in a Setting of Nietzsche and Beer Pong"
This NY Times article highlights a few fresh ideas on helping college students keep their faith as a meaningful piece through the major life changes that happen in those 4 or so years.  It is difficult challenge and one that I started thinking about when reading "Rediscovering Catholicism".  As the student in the article states, “I can’t imagine shirking my faith, but how do you keep it important around all the chaos of med school? How do I become a meaningful member of a new parish? How do I allow the kind of experiences I’ve had here to continue?”  Those are serious, valid questions and a bigger question is, what can the church do to help students find those answers.  You shouldn't have to do it on your own.  We are 'companions on the journey' after all.

24 May 2011

Sudanese Return for Dau Jok

"Dau Jok's Message of Hope for Sudan" - Although I didn't ever have this student when I taught there, this story is still pretty fantastic.  The beginning chapters of it (growing up in a war-torn area, loss of family, brutal hardship, emigration, difficulty adjusting to a completely new world, etc) are not unique in the diverse student population of our district, but the attitude, the determination, the goal-setting, the value given to education, and the follow-thru is much more rare.  But that feeling of being called to give back, to return and make improvements, to help others...that is what warms the heart & soul.
Looking forward to his blogging while in Africa.

23 May 2011

New Phone!

So Friday morning I started my day working at the downtown Starbucks and enjoying their comfy chairs (along with their oatmeal and chai).  After an hour I went and made my school visit and when I left, got in my Jeep and started to head back to the office, I reached for my phone to check for messages or missed calls.  That was when I realized it wasn't in my pocket, or cupholder, or jacket, or backpack.  So I went back to Starbucks and felt around in the cushions and looked around the floor and asked at the front desk.  Zero.  I didn't see any other alternatives so I wrote it off and continued with my work day.  I had people call it a few times throughout the day but no answer.  And so Saturday came and I figured if someone had found it, they would've called someone in my contacts and I'd have heard from them by now, so off to the US Cellular store I went and they called around and found a used phone for me.  It is actually the same model that I tried out last summer but didn't like due to a weak signal and slow touch screen interface.  But in a couple days of using my new Samsung Messenger, I haven't had any problems. 
Sunday afternoon my friend Haley called and told me I needed to go to Centro and pick up my phone.  :(  Turns out they called her Friday afternoon and she didn't listen to her messages until Sunday.  Oh well, now I've got one as a back-up in case of future mishaps.  Funny how life works sometimes!

18 May 2011

Kickstarter Total Success

caboose and I were just talking about this exact scenario. 
I blogged about these sweet watches back in November when they were blowing up on Kickstarter (raising a million dollars in a month).  It looks like 40,000 orders (of which 76% of buyers said they were going to buy a nano to fit the watch...how is that for the tail wagging the dog!) caught the eye of Apple.  The watches will now be sold in all their North American stores.  Chalk that up as a big win.

Queen Arrives on Visit to Ireland

A notable visit.  First of all, it is the first time that the head of the British monarchy has ever set foot in the Republic of Ireland.  When QEII's grandfather visited over in 100 years ago in 1911, Ireland was still part of the British Empire.  Secondly, there is a clear message of reconciliation in the sites she is including on her tour.  Croake Park Stadium.  National War Memorial Gardens.  The Garden of Remembrance.  Dublin Castle.  She's also visiting some less-historically sensitive spots, like the Guinness Brewery, the Rock of Cashel and some equestrian stables.  Security measures are beyond maximum, exceeding what was done for the Pope's visit in 1979 and President Clinton in 1990. 
That everyone remembers that this now is not merely about hopes for the future but it is a way of establishing what has already been consolidated; that certain things have ended and that includes centuries of strife but there's no point in forgetting them.  She isn't just coming to shake hands with some babies and kiss people, she is going to go to those places, it is going to be recognised that there have been difficulties; those difficulties have ended, we must celebrate that....~ COLM TOIBIN

Also in Irish news, Obama has travel plans to the Emerald Isle next week and Moneygall, the village of his ancestors, is excited!  I love that the pub can hold 290 and the town's population is 300.  It sounds like "Waking Ned Devine".

15 May 2011

"Another side of Cristiano Ronaldo"

Cristiano is one of my least favorite soccer players.  His whining, diving, complaining and pretty much constant pretty-boy, baby attitude earn him a spot on my most disliked team.
BUT, this little video clip shows him clearing a ball off the fall of a fan in the front row in the 19th minute.  He goes back over to him at the end of the game and gives the guy a jersey.  Nice job, CR7!

14 May 2011

Guinness & Bailey's Cupcakes

I saw two different recipes for these cupcakes within a couple days of each other a month or so ago and bookmarked them as a fun baking project after Lent was over.  Last night, I thought the perfect way to unwind after a long and busy week would be a little baking. 
In my opinion, the cupcakes cooked up nicely and tasted delicious.  Moist, richly chocolate.  But almost zero Guinness flavor.  And the frosting I was never sold on from the beginning.  It never had the creamy texture of a good buttercream frosting.  And the Bailey's in it, while a good idea, was way too strong of a flavor. If there was any Guinness flavor at all in the cupcake, you still wouldn't have tasted it over the frosting.  So, they are very tasty chocolate cupcakes, but not living up to what I was hoping for. 
I took a few pictures of them but couldn't get one that looked good enough to post.  Sorry.  

Sailor's Knot Bracelet

I like the braided look of these types of bracelets and I really love that one in the picture that looks like it is made out of strips of material.  Actually though, it is not braided, as there is only one piece of string. It is a type of Turk's Head knot.  I've always been fascinated by knots and wished I knew how to tie better ones.  I tried my hand at tying one of these and this picture shows how my second one turned out.  The first one was too big and didn't look good.  I think I'm getting the hang of it. Now to add a second and third row, and improved on finished a row off.  I had to try a couple websites to get a tutorial and pictures that I could follow.  If I get better, you may receive one this summer!

09 May 2011

Garden Project: 2011

One of the exciting possibilities with our new domicile is a nice backyard and as soon as I saw it, I was thinking about having a garden this summer.  I have done some container plants with mixed results in past years but this time I wanted the full thing.  There was an article in Grow magazine about raised beds, which is just a wooded box that you fill with soil so the earth level is higher than the surrounding ground.  The plans seemed simple enough and so, with homebase in tow, off to Home Depot we went. 
True to my indecisive self, it was tough making some of the decisions and weighing all the options, but in the end I went forward with a plan to make my bed half of the size of the one in the magazine.  4'x4'.  I would've liked a bigger one, but before laying out that kind of money I wanted to have a season to see how this went.  Cedar boards were pricier but recommended for their characteristics of repelling rot as well as insects.  And the soil is a mix of top soil and Miracle-Gro Garden soil. 
It went together easily enough and pulling up the sod wasn't bad since it was only 16 sq ft.  I planted a Bell Star tomato, two Juliet tomatoes, a North Star red pepper, a Black Hungarian pepper, a cilantro, a basil and two short rows of beets (one Detroit red and one a yellow variety).  In containers I added another cilantro and a basil and some marigolds (my old favorites!) 
I gave them their first watering out of my new watering can last night and now the watching begins!
 Putting the Jeep to use
Who’s ready to work?
Assembled & dug the ground up.
 Potting soil & top soil are added
 Everything's planted!  Finished product.

04 May 2011

Web Round-up 5/4/11

I realize that there are a ridiculous amount of links in this post, but that is what happens when you fall behind in your posting and you bookmark a lot of cool things to share but keep putting it off.  And I realize that many of you will not click through the links, and that is OK.  I figure putting them all in one post has a couple positives, if you aren't going to click thru and check any of them out, then this way you only have 1 post to skip over instead of several.  And, with many of link from a wide range of topics, I'm hoping that you may find at least 1 thing that sounds interesting and worth checking out.  Either way...here we go!
  • I may not have gotten out of bed for the wedding but am I such a sucker for this type of thing?  Blue bloods, country clubs, and now, "rah's."  It's like even though I consciencely don't want anything to do with them, I still want to know about what they value, their clothes, their books, etc.  Which is why I'm going to give a listen to Sarge Pokes and give T.S. Eliot's The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock a read.  
  • As Title IX gets ready to celebrate 40 years, this NY Times story "College Teams, Relying on Deception, Undermine Gender Equity" takes a look at some disturbing practices that run contrary to the legislation's intent. I love women's sports and fully support them, but agree that football is just so large (both in participation numbers, and in expenses & revenues) that it throws some comparisons out of whack.  
  • You have got to check out this infographic.  It blew my mind.  I was aware there was distortion on most maps but I still had a hard time wrapping my mind around these facts about the true size of Africa.
  • This photographer, Matt Luton of dvafoto, wrote a sort of tribute piece to Chris Hondros. Chris was an Pultizer-nominated photojournalist who was killed while on assignment in Libya.  Chris's picture that Matt shared is what caught my eye and got me reading the article.  I love photography, but I can't really fathom being in these types of situations and seeing these scenes, let alone capturing them on film so vividly.  Now, if you clicked through and checked out that mind-blower of a photo, do not fail to click this link and read a soul-enriching follow-up story.
  • Ajax FC of Amersterdam, one of my favorite soccer teams, features in this new adidas commercial.  A few of their stars happen upon some friends playing a little footie in the park and a friendly game ensues.  Happy times!

Correspondants Dinner

This is seriously the funniest stuff I've watched in a long time...
Seth Meyers.   Barack Obama.
Sensational writing, there are some serious zingers in there! (that Matt Damon one...SNAP!)

Graduates Already?!

When I started teaching, the very first students I interacted with were my homeroom, fifteen or so incoming freshmen.  It was orientation and was a day or two before school actually started.  It was a diverse bunch of squirrely kids fresh from middle school.  Since I was a traveling teacher that year, we held our homeroom in the cafeteria...along with three other homerooms.  Not the ideal setting, but we made it work.  And, over the course of the year, we made our relationships work.  I tried to use the 15 minutes we had together each day to help draw them out, engage them in conversation, get them talking about themselves and their interests and eventually they started to step out of their circles a little and even get to know each other a little (although boys and girls still stayed pretty separate).  And I was so green at that point, that I learned a lot from them also. 
Those same kids (most of them) are preparing for graduation in a couple weeks.  So this morning I went back and visited their homeroom, bringing donuts of course.  It was fun to see how they've changed & matured, hear their post-HS plans and just get a nice dose of student life again.  Two of them were on the 4x100 team that not only won at Drake Relays but set a state record!  A nice opportunity to see those kids off that I started with almost 4 years ago.

03 May 2011

Drake Relays Half

First run of the year!  And, man, was it a doozy.  The route was hillier than expected.  I think I was envisioning some steep hills in miles 4-6 and some more in 8-9 but otherwise mostly flat.  In reality, those areas were definitely the hilliest, but it was rolling hills pretty much from mile 3 to mile 11.  And it took its toll on me.  I was REALLY hating life as mile 11 started.  It took some serious focusing to shush the "just stop running" voice in my head and tough it out.  I was lucky to have stoppable there to pull me along.  I think a Gu or something around mile 5 would've helped me out a ton because as soon as I hit the food line, my light headedness went away and I felt tons better.  So I didn't get a PR, missing my time from last year's Omaha Half by 80 seconds.  But I'm OK with that since this route had a much high difficulty and this race falls much earlier in the running season.  And in a fun celebrity sighting, I ran into Tim Dwight at the finish line.  He beat me by 4 minutes, but it was cool to see him there.  It made me think of the first time I saw him there, in 1994.  He ran the anchor leg for City High's 4x400 relay and he came from behind to just demolish the field.  We were walking out of the stadium and it was a moment that stopped you in your tracks. 
My 1:57:03 put me 405 of 598 males, 89 of 120 in M30...not great percentiles. :( In looking at the splits, compared to last year's race, it is interesting to see two completely different races with almost inverted trends.

Mile 1
9:29
Mile 2
8:39
Mile 3
8:22
Mile 4
8:11
Mile 5
8:41
Mile 6
9:00
Mile 7 & 8
17:48 (avg’s to 8:54 each)
Mile 9
8:54
Mile 10
8:56
Mile 11
9:11
Mile 12
9:10
Mile 13.1
10:17