Last Work Day of the Year

Today was my last day of work for the year. I'm taking my last vacation day tomorrow since we can't carry our vacation days over to the next year. Tomorrow I am meeting Homercles for lunch. I can't wait for the Chicken on the Stick! I've spent much of this evening ripping my CDs into iTunes so I can listen to them on my iPod. Tonight I've focused mainly on my classical CDs. I think I'm about halfway through all of my CDs and I already have 8.76 GB in music.


Call the Courier

As a former resident of Waterloo, Iowa, I routinely visit the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier website. One of my favorite columns in the paper to read is the "Call the Courier" column. Call the Courier gives readers the opportunity to call the paper and ask questions that are supposedly of general interest to residents of the Waterloo-Cedar Falls area. Many of the questions are from people who are either too lazy or too stupid to do a little simple research on their own. Most of the rest of the questions are actually thinly veiled attacks on local government officials, the school district, or other governmental entities. I do admit, there are occasionally some good questions. Sometimes the people who write the answers do so with a bit of a sarcastic tone. I really liked the answer they gave one of their callers today. The caller asked, "Who would I address my resume to for a reporting position?" Naturally, either being lazy or unable to do any research for one's self are traits most newspapers look for when hiring reporters. The answer from the paper was, "If you need to use Call the Courier to find that out, you're too lazy to be working here."



Mel spent much of her morning changing her name with the credit card companies and with others with whom she does business. I'm just glad that I don't have to bother with this tradition. One of the places she called to get her name changed was our mortgage company. They are sending us the paperwork we need. Then we'll have to send it back with $100 to process the paperwork! One hundred dollars seems to me to be an outrageously high amount of money to change her name on the deed and on other relevant paperwork. We knew there'd be a fee. Our original lender estimated that it would be about $50. Apparently she was a little low in her estimate. I fail to understand why it should cost so much to complete some paperwork.


It's Christmas!

No, I’m not going to write about the so-called “War on Christmas” which some people think is going on. Quite frankly I find the whole argument ridiculous. People have been saying “happy holidays” for years and I’m sure that even when I was in elementary school in the 70s, we had “winter break” not “Christmas break.” What I am going to write about is the beginning of my many Christmas celebrations this year. Today, Mel and I are going to her grandmother’s house for a Christmas celebration. We don’t even have all of the wedding presents put away yet and we’ll be getting even more today. At least, thanks to drawing names as for whom to buy presents for, we each just get one thing. Then tomorrow afternoon, Mel’s friend from Ohio will be visiting. That should be fun.

Friday at work my department had its holiday party. We went bowling, which was a lot of fun. All of the math content specialists, including me, kind of kept to ourselves. Most of the other people in our specific area were unable to attend. They claimed to have too much work to get done. I guess that makes us one of three things:

1. People who like to have fun,
2. Very efficient in getting our work done, or
3. A bunch of slackers.

Personally, I’ll vote for numbers 1 and 2. Anyway, I bowled a 134 my first game and my scores went downhill from there. I took bowling in college as part of my Personal Wellness class, so I thought I should do better but I guess I didn’t remember enough of the skills I learned in the class to become a more skillful bowler. I didn’t even break 100 in two of the five games.

Mel and I had some fun last night. My friend Bill and his son came over. Bill needed to return to me a DVD that he had borrowed, Star Wars Clone Wars Volume 1. They stayed a while and we played UNO Attack. That was fun. I hadn’t seen Bill in a while. He was in our wedding, but I haven’t had the chance to really hang out with him otherwise in a couple months.

Well, I suppose I should finish getting ready to go to Mel’s grandmother’s house. Merry Christmas!


Six Months

I can't believe that it has been six months since my father passed away. It seems like it was just a few weeks ago when I answered the telephone to here my mother screaming incoherently. These months slipped away so quickly. Starting the new job and preparing for the wedding probably helped to fill the time. This Christmas will be rough, as well as December 23, which would have been my parents' 38th anniversary. I'm sure we'll all get through this, then things should get easier over time.

Christmas Shopping

It may be the most wonderful time of the year, but it's the worst time of the year to be out shopping! Mel and I went shopping for Christmas presents yesterday. Thank goodness for the Target gift cards we got for our wedding. They really helped to cut down on what we spent, but we still spent a considerable amount of money at the other places we shopped. With Mel's extended family, we draw names for people to give presents to. That means that between the two of us and both of her parents' sides of the family, we only need four presents. I think that we need to propose to do the same with Mel's immediate family as we currently have to get presents for six people, not including the three children with a fourth one on the way by next Christmas. My mother does all of the gift buying for her side of the family and we don't exchange presents on my dad's side of the family. In fact, we don't really even get together. Some of us may get together in January when my uncle who lives in North Carolina is visiting, but it isn't really a formal Christmas get-together.


I'm Glad I'm Not Teaching Anymore

For some reason, while reading the newspaper last night, I was suddenly glad that I am no longer teaching. At that time, it occurred to me that I was actually able to spend the evening reading the paper instead of grading students’ papers or preparing lesson plans. Sure, there are things that I miss from teaching although most of them are not reasons to go back to teaching. I miss being able to get home from work around 3:15, although getting home just after 5:00 isn’t really that bad considering that once I am home, I don’t have to work until the next morning (aside from chores at home). I will miss the week of vacation between Christmas and New Year’s Day, but if I still had the entire week off, I’d just waste it by sitting at home watching TV all day. I do miss working with the kids who enjoy learning. That’s really the only aspect of teaching that I do miss, other than the work schedule.


We're Married!

Last Saturday, my Mel and I got married! The ceremony went off without a hitch. Well that's not entirely true. Mel and I did end up getting hitched. The reception was a lot of fun. We won't be going on a honeymoon for at least a few months due to Mel's and my vacation schedules. The marriage certificate arrived in the mail today so now it's official. Tomorrow Mel gets to begin the process of changing her name. I wouldn't have had a problem if she had decided to keep her maiden name; it does seem like quite a hassle to change it. However, having the same name is nice and it will probably make things a lot simpler in the long run.


It's Here!

Wow, that was fast! Monday morning my iPod was in China and at 9:31 yesterday morning it was sitting on my front step awaiting my arrival home from work. I've played with it a little, but with Mel's and my wedding this Saturday, I don't think I'll have much time to try it out until next week. This also means there won't be much blogging from me for the next few days. I may write some more tonight or tomorrow morning, but that will probably be it until next week.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


I Ordered It!

I ordered my iPod last night. I had been thinking about it for about a month and I finally decided to go ahead and do it. I ordered the black iPod nano and I am having it engraved with the nickname that my Advanced Computer Programming class gave me last year - Darth Eilers. It should ship within three days and then within another week, it should be here!


Dinner with Homercles

Mel had her bachelorette party yesterday afternoon and evening in Waterloo, so I spent much of my afternoon straightening up the garage. Later, Homercles stopped by and we went to dinner at a great Mexican restaurant in town, Fiesta del Sol. Despite the fact that we live less than half a mile apart from each other, we don’t get together too often. I guess it’s probably because we both live very busy lives. Perhaps we can get together again for lunch when he’s off from work for winter break. I’m taking a day of vacation that week and I would love to get together at our favorite Chinese buffet. So Homercles, if you’re reading this, try to keep December 30 free for lunch.



For about the past month I have been thinking about buying an iPod for myself. I got some money for my birthday last month and I am being told that I should spend it on something fun for myself. For many people, making a purchase like this would be no problem, but I have a real issue with spending a lot of money. I want to make sure that it is exactly what I want before spending the money on it. I think I have finally decided on the iPod nano. I kind of wanted one of iPods that also plays video, but I decided that the nano will better fit my anticipated uses. I plan on taking it with me as I go jogging and I am worried about the hard drive skipping. The nano doesn't have a hard drive, so that's not an issue. Now I just need to decide on a color and accessories such as a case. I have heard that these things are notorious for scratching easily, and I would like for it to continue to look nice.


The Leaf Fairy

I got a phone call from my mother about half an hour ago. She asked me if I had gone to her house this weekend to pick up leaves in her yard. I had picked up some on Friday when I was there, but she knew that. My mom had gone to visit my sister in the Twin Cities this weekend and when she got back yesterday, she discovered that the leaves in her yard had been picked up! It was windy this weekend, but she has a high privacy fence around the back yard, so the leaves couldn't have all blown out of the yard, besides it was way too clean. Perhaps some people from her church picked them up, or maybe it was my aunt and uncle who live in the area.

All I know is I sure didn't do it. I spent much of the weekend preparing to paint and painting the bathroom. I got it done last night. I finish cleaning the room and I need to put all of the towel bars back up tonight.



This weekend I am finally getting around to painting the main bathroom in our house. It has a floral wallpaper that neither Mel or I really cared for. We bought the paint a couple months ago, but I haven't gotten around to getting the paining done. Before I could paint, I needed to remove the wallpaper. It has been a real pain in the ass getting it down! I've already made two trips to TrueValue to get supplies, and I am about to return again. At least it's just around the corner from my house.

Mel has said that she doesn't like wallpaper, and I am beginning to agree with her. I had planned on getting the wallpaper down early this morning, priming the wall, and then getting the first coat of paint on the wall by early afternoon. Hopefully I'll at least be able to get the priming done this afternoon. I'd like to finish the whole job today since we are going out of town tomorrow, but I don't see that happening.


The Website

Last night I began working on updating my personal website. My goal is to have it all updated by December 1. As I haven't changed it in a while, it may take that long. Besides, the updated website will not just be my personal website, but the website of my wife (as of November 26) and myself.

One of the problems I'm having with revising my website is deciding what I want it to look like. I spent a good hour last night thinking about fonts and colors. I also had to get a better paint program that I had on my computer. Fortunately I found a freeware one that seems to be doing the job. It's called Ultimate Paint. I haven't had any problems with it yet. Hopefully it does the job.

Once I figured out the general style for the website, I had to think about content. I think I may take the approach that "less is more." Previously I have included a lot of information on my website that probably wasn't much interest to anyone but myself. Ok, the whole site is probably like that, but who wants a list of websites I like. If they wanted to see them, they could find them their selves.

Well, if I want to get the site done, I better get back to work on it.


Math Lesson

Hi everyone! It's been nearly a month since I last posted, hopefully it won't be as long before I post again. Anyway, the reason I am writing today is to give a little math lesson. I just got done watching a story on a local news station about the upcoming city council election in Cedar Rapids and the way the person they were interviewing, the county auditor I believe, defines a majority really annoys me. She said that the winner of the election needs fifty percent of the votes, plus one. Well that would be correct if an even number of votes are cast, but what if an odd number of votes are cast? Let's say that 99 votes are cast. Fifty percent of 99 votes is 49.5 votes. Adding one to that means that the winner needs to receive 50.5 votes. Since a candidate can't receive half of a vote, that means that a candidate would need to receive 51 votes to win, but this is not correct. A majority is simply more than fifty percent! So the winner would only need to receive 50 votes if 99 votes were cast. That would give him or her a majority with fifty and five-ninths percent of the total number of votes. At least she didn't say that the winner needs to receive fifty-one percent of the votes to win.


Back Again

Last night I got home from my third business trip to the Twin Cities in three weeks. It should be my last business trip for a while and I am glad of that. It can be pretty stressful being away from home. Now that I am home, I wish I could spend some time with Mel, but she has to work in the evenings this week. It's almost as if I were still away for work, not being able to see her. Next week should be back to normal.


Checking IDs

The past few weeks have been very busy for me. I had a wedding to attend a few Saturdays ago, then the next day I was off to Minneapolis for work. I've had to spend three days per week in the Twin Cities for the last two weeks for work and I get to go yet again this afternoon. Fortunately this should be the last trip there for a while. Between the two trips Mel and I went to her hometown for a bridal shower.

With all of this traveling for work, my diet has taken quite a hit. I have managed not to gain too many pounds. I'm still slightly lighter than where I was when I began the diet a few weeks ago. Thursday, once I am back from my latest trip to Minnesota, I will more strictly monitor what I eat once again.

Last night Mel and I decided to go to a movie since we hadn't seen one in a while. We saw A History of Violence. It was a good movie, although the end left me wanting a bit more. This was probably the first R-rated movie we had gone to in the theaters for quite some time. It was also the first R-rated movie that I have ever been carded before seeing. I've been old enough to attend R-rated movies for almost half of my life now as I am turning 33 later this month. I suppose I should take it as a complement that the person selling me the ticket wanted to make sure I was 17, but it's not like I was buying cigarettes or alcohol where there would be legal implications if I were allowed to see the movie if I were too young. It wasn't really a big deal though, I just found it somewhat amusing.

Anyway, after the movie, Mel and I went to Chili's for dinner. As we pulled into the parking lot we saw a stretch limo and several teenagers all dressed up. We then realized that there must of been a homecoming dance that evening. We were still seated pretty quickly. While we were waiting for out food, Mel noticed that a girl at the table behind me had a beer! Now this girl was obviously not 21. Perhaps the people at Chili's should take a cue from the people at the theater and ID people regardless of how old the appear.



My first week on Weight Watchers was a success. I lost 7 pounds! Of course, part of that was probably because I ate quite a bit at a buffet the day before I began the diet last week, but it’s still pretty good. Now I only have 18 more pounds to lose to reach my goal of 200 pounds. Following the diet wasn’t too difficult the first week, but I think it will become harder the next few weeks because I have to take a few business trips to the Twin Cities in the upcoming weeks. It’s a lot harder to eat healthfully when dining out than it is to do so at home. Hopefully my weight loss won’t slow down too much in the next few weeks.

This weekend I had the chance to hang out with my friend Bill. I hadn’t seen him for quite some time. He has a nine-year-old son who is usually with him whenever we get together, but he wasn’t along today. It was nice to have some time for just the adults. After running a couple of errands that I needed to get done, Bill and I went downtown and played some pool and darts. As Homercles can attest, I’m not that great at pool, and my skills at darts are lacking some, but we still had a great time. I hope I get the chance to hang out with Bill more often than once every couple of months.

Sunday was an exciting day for me. Okay, exciting is probably a bit of an exaggeration, but something fun happened to me. One of my hobbies is tracking where my money travels using the website Where’s George? Well on Sunday I had a one dollar bill turn up outside the United States for the first time. Three years and eleven days after I first entered the one dollar bill, it turned up in Ramstein, Germany! I wonder if that bill will be reentered.


A Plan

Last summer I went on a diet and lost 33 pounds. I managed to keep the weight off until May when I started gaining weight back. I’d like to get my weight back down, but until now I haven’t really had any plan for how to do that. I’ve found that I have been eating too much when I am at work. Most days I end up buying some candy from the vending machine – usually some Chewy Runts. That candy is quite tasty. Sometimes I’ll even buy some Zingers after lunch. Well, in order to lose some weight, Mel and I are both doing on a diet. I think that the most important of a diet is simply having a plan. By knowing what I am to eat, it’s a lot easier to follow a diet. So, yesterday morning, Mel and I both started using Weight Watchers to lose weight. It’s worked for her in the past, so I hope it will work for me as well. Yesterday morning my weight was 225 pounds. I’d like to get down to 200 pounds or lower. That would be ideal for my height. I really think this diet plan will work.


Wedding Planning and the Autopsy

Yesterday Mel and I ordered both the flowers for the wedding and the cake for the reception. We also ended up buying some candles for the reception. We had been having a hard time finding exactly what we wanted. We needed unscented candles because a member of the wedding party is allergic to scented ones, and we wanted them in purple and green. It has been almost impossible to find colored unscented candles, but yesterday we hit the jackpot! We probably bought around forty candles at Hobby Lobby and they were on sale for 50% off! We don’t have quite enough candle holders for them, but we have a couple of months to find the rest of what we need.

I also had a chance to ready my father’s autopsy report yesterday. It really wasn’t that hard to read as it was written in such a matter-of-fact scientific manner. It confirmed that he died from a heart attack due to partially blocked arteries. What was interesting to find out was that he had previously had a heart attack. My mother did not know that either and possibly neither did my dad. I suppose it could have been something very minor that he didn’t attribute to a heart attack. Also, I learned that his heart was quite large. It weighed 600 grams, compared to the average weight of 350 grams. I’m not sure what the cause of this is, but I will be sure to mention it to my doctor the next time I go in for a routine physical, which Mel wants me to do soon.



Tomorrow I am going to begin carpooling to work. I have several coworkers who live within a mile or so from my house, so with gas prices as they are, it would be silly not to carpool. Not only will it be better for my wallet, but it will also be better for the environment. We would have begun carpooling today, but my coworker has to leave early this afternoon. When I taught in Riverside, Iowa, a few years ago, I carpooled to work. I don’t mind doing it, but there are some definite disadvantages. For one, we both have to arrive at and leave from work at the same time. If one of us should be caught in a meeting at the end of the day, both of us are stuck at work. Also, there’s the issue of what radio station, if any, to listen to. When I carpooled to work in Riverside, I became much more acquainted with the Backstreet Boys and N*Sync than I really wanted to. I like to listen to “Morning Edition” on NPR on my way to work and “All Things Considered” on the way home. Perhaps she’ll have similar tastes in radio listening. Finally, I sometimes run errands on my way home from work. Carpooling will make this more difficult. However, considering that it will not cost nearly $36 to fill my Saturn with gas, these are things that I am willing to sacrifice.

Now a brief report about the cat: I took Ike to the vet yesterday morning. He has a urinary tract infection and is obese. We have put him on a measured amount of dietary cat food and have to give him an antibiotic twice a day. Hopefully this helps him out.


Working from Home

I'm going to take advantage of another aspect of my job in which it differs from teaching. This morning, I am going to work from home. As you may know, we've been having problems with our cat recently. I called a vet yesterday to make an appointment and the earliest time I could get the cat in was at 9:30 this morning. So this morning, I'll be working from home until I take Ike to the vet. After that, I will take off for Iowa City for work.


Here Fishy Fishy

About a month and a half ago, Mel and I set up an aquarium in our home. We started with a pair of black mollies. After a few weeks, we began to add some more fish – two silver dollar mollies, two pink kissing gouramis, two marigold wag swordtails, and a plecostomus. Our male swordtail died a couple of weeks ago. We have been trying to replace him, but the pet store hasn’t had one when we’ve been it. On Wednesday night, we decided to add six neon tetras. Yesterday when I got home from work, I only saw four of them in the fish tank. After some looking around, I saw one stuck in the intake of the filter. Upon removing its carcass from the water, I noticed that its tail was missing. I guess the other fish were trying to make a snack of him. We haven’t been able to find any sign of the other missing fish. This morning, Mel looked in the aquarium and only spotted two of the neon tetras swimming in the aquarium. The body of one was in the filter once again. The other remains missing. If this pattern continues, the neon tetras will be gone tomorrow morning. At least they were relatively inexpensive.


Back to School Time!

It's that time of the year again. Children and teachers are headed back to school. For the first time in seven years, I am not part of the whole back-to-school ritual. I really didn't think I would miss it one bit, but I do a little. If I had kept teaching in Waterloo, I'd be back to work now and my first day of school would be this coming Monday. I know that what I am doing now is better for me as I frequently got quite stressed while teaching. I feel much better now than I did before. I seem to be happier now for the most part as well. My current job also has better pay and benefits which will come in handy whenever Mel and I decide to start a family. Nonetheless, I am going to miss some of the aspects of teaching, and I don't just mean the vacations. When I had a group of students who seemed to enjoy learning and who actually tried, teaching was fun. It was students like those who made teaching a great profession.


Movie and Church

This weekend wasn't too busy for Mel and me. We didn't do a who lot on Saturday, hanging around the house most of the day. In the afternoon we decided to go see a movie. Mel wanted to see Skeleton Key so that's what we went to see. It wasn't something that I particularly wanted to go to, but Mel wanted to and I wanted to make her happy. As is usually the case when we go to these horror movies, I don't really want to see them, but I usually enjoy them anyway. This one was pretty good. It was the ending that made it good. I definitely didn't see it coming.

Yesterday morning we went to church. Except for the baptism, the two weddings, and the funeral we were at this summer, we haven't gone to church since moving to Cedar Rapids in June. We went to church we are getting married at in Waterloo. We had to meet with the pastor and the most convenient time we could come up with was after church. The meeting wasn't as painful as I thought it would be. I really had no idea what to expect, but I thought he'd be asking us a lot of personal questions. It wasn't that bad. He seemed like a pretty nice guy. We have to go back in about a month or so to see him again, then we'll be all ready to get married.

Now I have another problem. Our cat had been peeing on the carpet in two different places in the basement. Well, I thought he had stopped, but about ten minutes ago, he peed on the video tape rack while I was watching! I guess we had better take him to the vet to see if there is a problem that we can fix easily. I hope we can stop this behavior, because we can't allow it to continue


Exercise Routine

This morning I began a new exercise routine. For the past few weeks, Mel has been getting up around 5:15 to go work out at Curves. So this morning, I got up at 5:30 to work out on the Bowflex that we have. Tomorrow I plan on going for a walk or jog when I get up. I really have to do something. At the beginning of last summer I weighed 243 pounds. Through dieting and exercise, I got my weight down to 210 pounds by mid-October. I managed to keep my weight within a five pounds of 210 until the beginning of May. Now I'm back up to anywhere between 220 and 227 pounds when I weigh in on Sundays. I would really like to get back down to at most 210 pounds. What I would really like to do is to get my weight down to 200 pounds or less. I should be able to do it. All it will take is some determination.


The Weekend

On Saturday Mel and I went to Waterloo. She got herself another tattoo. It looks pretty cool. I’m actually considering getting one as well, but I don’t know if I can go through with it. While she was getting her tattoo, I tried to figure out the books from my dad’s business. It was so frustrating. I just could not figure everything out. Fortunately, a family friend of my parents who used to own a business is going to be visiting my mom this week. Hopefully he can help her figure it all out.

The rest of the weekend wasn’t too exciting. I finished painting the foyer of our house red. I need to touch up a little with white paint, but first I need to find a tall ladder. We also returned one of our fish to the pet store today. I found it dead at the bottom of the aquarium yesterday morning when I was exchanging some water. We didn’t replace it yet since there was something wrong with our water sample. The ammonia level was at lethal levels for fish. Now the rest of our fish were doing just fine, but just to be safe, we are waiting to replace the fish until we take in another water sample.


Sweet Corn Festival

Mel and I went to the St. Jude’s Sweet Corn Festival last night. We didn’t do much while we were there. Basically we just ate dinner and had some funnel cakes. We really should have split one funnel cake as they were so big. Our dinner didn’t include sweet corn, the food of honor of the festival. Mel is supposed to avoid corn as much as possible as it has been determined that she’s allergic to it. I, on the other hand, am free to eat as much corn as I want but out of consideration for my lovely fiancée, I abstained from corn at the sweet corn festival. Well actually, I just didn’t want any. I enjoy sweet corn, but it’s not a food that I really crave all that much. Living in Iowa, it almost sounds blasphemous to admit that. However, I really could go without eating corn on the cob too often. There are other vegetables that I prefer.

Before we left for St. Jude’s last night, I wondered if I would run into any of my former students there. I taught sixth grade for one year on the west side of Cedar Rapids a few years ago, and it was likely that some of my former students would be there. I only saw two students of mine. One of them saw and recognized me. I recognized him as well, but I could not remember his name. His appearance had changed significantly from the end of sixth grade to the end of eighth. I recognized one other student there as well. Since leaving teaching, I have only run into three of my former students now.

On that note however, my fiancée ran into a former student of mine at work. One day at work, one of Mel’s coworkers was wearing a sweatshirt from a school that I taught at for three years. And she mentioned that her fiancé used to teach there. After identifying who I was, she found out that I had had her coworker as a student. The student confessed to Mel that she and the rest of the class thought I would never get married. I guess they thought I was a bit too geeky to ever find the right woman.


I Love My Job

I am really enjoying my new job! There are moments when I am working that my new job gets a bit boring, but most of the time it is genuinely interesting. For the past several weeks, I have spent most of my time at work reading, revising, and editing math test items. That may sound boring to many of you, but I truly enjoy doing math. Recently, I have begun working on assembling test items to make a test. This has been really challenging. It can be difficult to get a test to fit all of the parameters that need to be addressed, but it is a great mental exercise. When I decided to leave teaching, I thought that I may miss it, and I will probably miss some aspects of teaching, but I am quite certain that I made the correct decision. Not only am I making more money and have better benefits, but for the most part, I don't have work to take home most nights and I don't have to deal with unruly children who don't care to learn.



I’ve been worried about my mother lately. I have been coping fairly well with the death of my father in June. Understandably, my mother has been having some difficulties. Yesterday afternoon, she called because she was having a tough day. I wasn’t home, but she spoke with my fiancée for quite some time. She’s been having difficulties selling the minivan which she doesn’t need and that she would like to get rid of so she can stop making payments on it. She’s been trying to sell it for over a month now without much success. She also feels so exhausted. She is finding that taking care of the garden and the lawn takes up quite a bit of time that she would rather spend doing other things. She looked at a condo this weekend, but it didn’t seem to fit her needs, besides she has a lot of work to do on her house before she can sell it.

This weekend, Mel and I are going to Waterloo. Hopefully I can help my mother get some things taken care of around the house that she needs to get done. She wants to get the inventory from my dad’s business sold, so she can get the money for it, and to help clean up the place. I hope I can help with that.

Well, I better be off to bed as I have a dentist appointment at 6:00 tomorrow morning.


I'm Back

It’s been nearly a month since I have written anything in my blog. I wish I could say it’s been because I have been so busy with work lately, but that wouldn’t be entirely true. Oh, I’ve been busy at work, but when I get home, I just haven’t taken the time to write.

I was out of town for a week in July. I rode by bike on my sixth RAGBRAI. I wish I could say that I rode the entire thing, but I skipped one day. Sunday night as we were camping in Sheldon, a big storm came through. During the strong winds, my tent began to collapse in on me, so right when the rain began to intensify I fled my tent for the relative safety of our team bus. Of course, when I left the tent, I was no longer in it to hold it down and it quickly started to blow away. Fortunately there was a fence right next to it, so it didn’t go very far. Everything in the tent however was soaked. I didn’t ride my bike on Monday so I would have a chance to dry out my things. I did ride my bike the rest of the way across the state though. After my father passed away in June, I thought about not riding on RAGBRAI as it was something that the two of us did together the past five years, but I decided that it was something that I needed to do. My dad had bought a new bike in March, so I decided to ride it on RAGBRAI instead of my own bike. It is a really nice bike. Perhaps it helped to make the ride easier.

Friday evening, Mel and I went out to dinner with our good friend Homercles. We went to the Irish Democrat Pub & Grille in Cedar Rapids. I had only been there once before, but it was good then, so I thought we should try it again. It didn’t disappoint. The food was terrific. The only problem was that we had quite a wait, but it was worth it.

This past weekend, Mel and I went to the wedding of a friend on Saturday. Then on Sunday we drove to Ankeny for Mel’s nephew’s baptism. We had a really busy weekend. I am looking forward to a weekend where we don’t have to go anywhere. Unfortunately this won’t be the weekend. This Saturday we will be going to Waterloo so Mel can offer support to a friend of hers who is planning on getting a tattoo. Mel is thinking that she is going to get another one herself as well. That’s fine with me. The tattoos she has are tasteful and this one should be too. I keep thinking about getting a tattoo as well, but I don’t think I would ever actually go through with it.

Now that I have returned to the world of blogging, I hope to keep it up.



I've been pretty busy this week, so this is the first time I've had a chance to post anything. Mel and I had a fun trip to Omaha last weekend. We went to the zoo on Saturday. On Sunday we did some shopping and drove around Council Bluffs. One place we stopped was at the Squirrel Cage Jail. All of the cells of the jail are located in a three-story cylinder with only one point of access per floor. The jailer used a crank to rotate the cells so they could all access the door. The jail was built in 1885 and closed in the 1960s. On the Fourth, we went to the fireworks in Cedar Rapids with some friends of our from North Liberty. They were pretty cool, but it made for a long night since I had to be at work at 8:00 the next morning.

I've been home alone the past couple of days. Mel went to her sister's house in Ankeny to help with a garage sale and to spend some time with her niece and nephews. She should be returning within an hour or so. Thursday night, I took Homercles out to dinner for his birthday which was yesterday. Several years ago we started the tradition of taking each other out to dinner for our birthdays. It gives us a chance to get together and to eat out. We also went to see War of the Worlds. It was a good movie, but there was one part that made Homercles and I feel a bit cheated.

I was able to get out for a bike ride today. I rode a little over 22 miles. I would have continued further, but my rear tire was not properly inflated so I was worried about damaging the wheel. Also, I just didn't feel safe taking tight corners. The rear of my bike was skidding because of the low pressure. I've been worried about getting in good enough shape for RAGBRAI, but I think I will manage just fine.

Tonight Mel and I are going to meet my mother and my grandparents for dinner. This is the weekend that the American Legion has their steak fry in my grandparents' town. It should be a good dinner. Hopefully the guys grilling the steaks cook them properly. They aren't very consistent when it comes to how well done they cook them.


Road Trip

I got back from my business trip late Wednesday night. I have to say that traveling for business isn't going to be too bad. Hopefully I don't have to do it too often though. It is really nice to be able to go to my own home when I am done working. One good thing about traveling though, as long as I am going to the Twin Cities area, is that it will give me a chance to visit my sister. She lives in a suburb of Saint Paul, so as long as our schedules allow it, I'll be able to see her.

This weekend, my fiancee and I are going on a trip to Omaha. We're leaving once I get home from work. We are planning on going to the Henry Doorly Zoo and doing some shopping. I've been to the zoo a few times. I don't remember when I was there last, but it was probably around twenty years ago. My grandparents used to live in Council Bluffs and I did my student teaching there, so I also plan on giving Mel a tour of the places I know in Council Bluffs. I'm not sure how exciting that will be, but we'll probably end the tour at one of the casinos there.


My New Job

After today, I think that I am going to enjoy my new job. The meeting I had today was somewhat fun. I also learned quite a bit about what it is that I will be doing in my new job. There is so much that I can't say about my job due to confidentiality agreements, but trust me, the test writing industry can be quite interesting. The only problem with work today was that it was a long day. We started getting ready around 7:30 this morning and we didn't get done until around 5:30. It was nice to go out to eat with my new coworkers on the company's dime as well. Tomorrow night I am going to meet my sister for dinner. The only problem that I foresee with having an expense account for business travel diners is that it's going to make losing weight a little more difficult. I had planned on going to the hotel fitness center tonight to work out, but I didn't make it down there. Perhaps I'll try that tomorrow night.


New Experiences

As I write this blog entry, I am sitting in my hotel room in Bloomington, Minnesota. I am on my first business trip for my new job and as I sit in this hotel room, I can't help but think that there is no way I would have a room like this paid for me if I were still teaching. It's nice working for a company that can put me up in a hotel like this.

The drive up here was pretty uneventful. I left Waterloo around 7:00 this evening. I had been there helping my mother out with writing thank you notes for all of the flowers and memorials that we received for my father's funeral. It wasn't until I got to Bloomington that I began to worry. The exit that MapQuest gave me for the hotel was closed. The detour was well marked, up to a point. I ended up driving around in a big circle, delaying my arrival to the hotel by about twenty minutes, but I eventually found it.

Tomorrow I have my first work meeting with clients. There will be someone with much more experience with the company who will take the lead. I hope to learn a lot from this experience. I actually think that this meeting may be somewhat fun. I hope I am not disappointed.

I guess I had better finish my $1.25 can of Diet Pepsi so I can get some sleep.


A New Beginning

Monday was an important day in my life. First of all, I was returning to work after burying my father. Secondly, my fiancée and I were finally moved into our house on a full-time basis. Finally, I started my new career in test development. My first day of work wasn’t all that interesting. I filled out some paperwork and my mentor at work introduced me to a lot of people. I’ve never been too good at remembering names, so I have already forgotten most of them. Thankfully we all have to wear identification with our names on it while we are at work. That should help me learn some of the names. I do remember the names of my mentor, my cubical mate, and that of those who are my supervisors. It helps that I worked there last summer.

Next week I get to take my first business trip. I’ll be in the Twin Cities at the beginning of the week. It’s nice that I don’t have to be gone for the entire week. Also, since my sister lives in the Cities, we’re planning on getting together for dinner one night while I’m there. I’m not sure really what to expect from this trip. Of course I know the basics of what we’ll be doing, but I have no idea exactly what is going to happen. I guess my experiences of last week have shown me that one never knows what lies ahead. It sounds like I may have quite a bit of work to do in the evenings after meeting with those we are meeting with. Hopefully I still have time though to relax some each evening. Well I’d better finish getting ready for work now.


Saying Goodbye

Today I am beginning my new job in test development. I was supposed to begin last Monday, but events of the past week have shown me that despite the best of plans, one never knows what’s going to happen.

Around 4:00 in the afternoon on Sunday, June 12, I received a frantic phone call from my mother. She was screaming, “Help! Help!” into the phone and I also thought I heard her say, “He’s dead!” but I couldn’t tell for certain. I was afraid that she has been in a car accident and was in a ditch somewhere. It was then that a man took the phone from her and, after asking who I was, informed me that my father had passed away. I was in complete shock! He had turned 60 just six days before that and, while he did take medication for his blood pressure, he was fairly healthy. For goodness sake, he had ridden his bike on the last 14 or 15 RAGBRAIs! As soon as I got off the phone, my fiancée Mel asked what was going on. She was no doubt scared by my tone of voice and by the look on my face. When I told her, she couldn’t believe it. We threw a bunch of clothes into some bags and headed out from our home in Cedar Rapids to my parents’ house in Waterloo.

During what had to be the longest ride in my life, I called my uncle in Chicago, to give him the bad news. He had a hard time as well believing that his father was dead. He took care of calling others. When we arrived at the house, one of the pastors from church was there with Mom. A few hours later, my sister arrived from the Twin Cities, being driven by my cousin’s husband, John. People kept dropping in all evening. I don’t think anyone in the house slept well that night. Mom couldn’t sleep in her own bed as that was where she found my father after his apparent unexpected heart attack.

On Monday, Mel, my sister, my mother, her sister, and I went to the funeral home to make the arrangements. I thought is would be more difficult, but the hardest part of the three hours that we spent there was being left alone in the room with the caskets. It was then that my mother, my sister, and I finally broke down. We did get through that however.

I thought that I did pretty well on Monday, but I Tuesday, I was just a mess! I just couldn’t keep it together. My mother, on the other hand, did much better. My father, a retired music educator, was well known in the Waterloo/Cedar Falls area, as well as in certain circles throughout the state of Iowa as he was in so many organizations; I think we counted 22 organizations when were trying to figure out what to include in the obituary. Because of this, the Waterloo Courier ran an article about him. It included quotes from many music teachers in the area. However, both the article and the death notice had an incorrect time for Thursday’s funeral. We eventually got it corrected.

The visitation Wednesday evening was a lot easier than I thought it would be. The only real difficult time was when we first arrived and we saw my father lying there in the casket. One of the things that made the evening go fairly easily that I was constantly talking to people. We didn’t count all of the names in the guest registry, but there had to be close to 400 people who showed up.

Thursday morning’s funeral was quite beautiful. In the almost-full church, a string quartet made up from local musicians performed. The church choir, with a few ringers from other choirs sang. The part that really got to me though was the performance of the bell choir. My dad had directed the bell choir the past year. Instead of having someone conduct, they draped the director’s stand in black and placed a baton on it. The pastor had a very beautiful sermon that was quite uplifting. The funeral procession on the way to the cemetery was quite long. It was really good to see how many people loved and cared about my father.

The rest of the week was time to get to work. My dad had recently started painting the house. He had just one short wall done, as well as the shed. So, since we had numerous family members there, we used the free labor to get the house painted. We got primer and one coat of paint on most of the house. My mom may see about getting people from church to help out with the remainder of the painting. I may be able to help out next weekend. I’ll probably have to go up there to help my mother with thank you notes for the flowers and memorial gifts we received. We spend an hour opening cards Saturday night and we were only half done.

It’s time for me to finish getting ready for work. Life has to go on, and from realizing how active my father was in life and since we never do know just how much time we have left, I don’t want to waste one minute of it!


No More of This for Me

I'm glad I won't have to deal with things like this anymore. Toward the bottom of the linked article is a story titled "Mom Does Daughter's Detention." Danielle Pelletier, a 39-year-old mother in Maine served her daughter's detention for her. It seems that the daughter was assigned a detention due to an unexcused absence. The mother pulled her daughter out of school half an hour early for a hair-styling appointment! The mother felt she should the serve the detention as she was the one who made her daughter miss school, and she doesn't think the policy is fair. She said, "The whole point of this is this shouldn't be happening. I should be able to come to school and take [my daughter] out when I need to." Excuse me, but she needed to take her daughter out of school for a hair-styling appointment? Perhaps that's when it was convenient for her do have the appointment, but it hardly sounds like a need to me. The school's administrators defended themselves by stating what state law allows for reasons for excused absences -- personal illness, medical appointments, religious holiday observance, family emergencies, and pre-approved personal or educational purposes.

It's All Over

At 1:00 this afternoon, I left school for the last time. I got my grades all sent and I cleaned my belongings out of my classroom, at least those that I wanted to keep. I had one student who was supposed to come in to take her final exam this morning. She had been suspended the last week and a half of school for fighting. I saw her in the building, but she never stopped by my room to take the exam. Oh well, I guess she'll get to take the exam next year when she retakes the second semester of Algebra 1.

Now I have three days before I start my new job. My fiancee and I are going to meet a friend of her for dinner at Fazoli's. I better try to get something healthy to eat since I've gained several pounds in the period of time that we've been staying with my parents. I'm not sure if it's because my parents cook more food or if the food isn't as healthy as what we often cook. Of course, it could be from all the candy that I've eaten in the car on trips between Waterloo and Cedar Rapids every weekend. Another reason that I'm watching what I'm eating for dinner is that I'm meeting Homercles for lunch tomorrow at a buffet. I plan on eating quite a bit then. This weekend my fiancee and I have a wedding to go to, then I am really going to start watching what I eat again. At least I'm still at least 20 pounds lighter than I was at the beginning of last summer.

In addition to watching what I'm eating, I'm going to get back into exercising regularly. I just got off the phone with the bike shop where I took my bike for a tune up and it is done. So on Sunday I hope to go out for a lengthy bike ride. It will be my first bike ride of the year, and it's none too soon as RAGBRAI begins six weeks from Sunday. Hopefully the weather is nice on Sunday, but I may still go out for a bike ride if it's just raining lightly. I'll probably end up riding in the rain on RAGBRAI anyway.


That's All, Folks

The school year has now come to an end, and so has my teaching career, at least for now. I still have one day left of work tomorrow, but there really isn't all that much that I'll have to do. I do have to check one final exam which, with the assistance of the Scantron machine, will only take a few seconds. I am kind of sad that it's over, but I am looking forward to my new career. I will definitely enjoy making about 20% more money than I make now.

Almost Done

Today is the last day of school for students, with them being dismissed at 11:00. It should be a really easy day as we only have three class periods for semester tests, and one of the periods is when I would be having AP Calculus if I had any remaining students (they all graduated last weekend). The two classes with which I had the most difficulty were both yesterday. In fact, they were the only classes that I really had any problems with. The two classes I have today are the Algebra 1 class which I have that is best-behaved and has the best grades, and Advanced Computer Programming. I feel like I kind of short changed the computer programming students as this class covers the C++ programming language. I had absolutely no knowledge about C++ before the semester began, so I wasn't able to teach it as well as I would have liked to. I am going to miss the computer class though. We seemed to have a special relationship. Some of the students even had a nickname for me, Darth (last name), as I, as well as some of the students in the class, are big fans of Star Wars. At first it felt a bit strange when they called me that, but now everyone in the class uses that name, even those who couldn't distinguish a light saber from a bat'leth.

With today being the last day of school, I am getting a bit sad. While I am glad to be finished with my poorly-behaved algebra classes, I am going to miss some things about teaching, mostly the students who love to learn. Yesterday however, I remembered one more thing that I will definitely not miss about teaching -- the lack of air conditioning! If I ever decide to return to teaching, I am definitely going to find a school that has air conditioning. Well, that wouldn't be too big of a deciding factor, but it would be nice to be able to teach in relative comfort and to not have students complaining all day long about how hot it is. What do they expect me to do about it? I can't control the weather.


Quote of the Day

In explaining what K'nex are to a six-year-old boy, an older boy said, "They're like Legos, but they're K'nex." That explains it entirely!

Welcome to the Neighborhood

Last night Mel and I went shopping to buy some flowers for our garden. When we got back in the evening, one of our neighbors was walking by and we got into a conversation with her. Meanwhile, the neighbor across the street invited us over for a beer. Not being one to pass up a free drink, we went over and had a nice conversation for a couple of hours last night over some beers. It was really nice to get to know a few of our neighbors.

The neighbor across the street is single and he has two sons, one of whom was home last night. The other neighbors we were hanging out with live around the corner from us. They live across the street from our next door neighbor, who is the father of the woman of the couple. They have a son who just turned six yesterday and they invited us over this evening for his birthday party. This seems like a very nice neighborhood that we moved in to. In the year and a half that I lived in my house in Waterloo, I spoke with the neighbors a few times but I never really got to know them.


Movie Week?

Apparently I missed the memo at school. From what I've been hearing from my students, this week must be the week to show non-curriculum-related movies. I know I mentioned last week that a certain other teacher was showing movies, but it has seemed to reach an epidemic level now. I've learned that a biology class has been watching The Incredibles and a Spanish class has been watching Pirates of the Caribbean, in English no less. I walked by a foods class today and I heard Finding Nemo coming from that room. I've also heard that Spaceballs and Jurassic Park have been shown at school this week. What really ticks me off about this is that I get caught for not making my AP Calculus students work the week between when they took the AP exam and the date that the seniors finished school. At least I wasn't showing a movie that has no place being shown in class! Quite frankly, it's teachers who aren't teaching, but rather showing non-educational movies, who make teaching more difficult this time of the year. Students think that they should be able to relax and do nothing at the end of the school year. Anyway, I give up! I think I am going to show a movie to my computer programming class next week. At least the movie that I plan on showing, Tron, is marginally related to the curriculum.

Old Acquaintances

Yesterday morning at work I ran into someone with whom I went to high school. She was a senior when I was either a freshman or a sophomore, so we didn't go to high school together for too long, but it was nice to see her. Heather, the person who I ran into, was subbing for an English teacher at school yesterday. I had actually seen her at school last fall when she was subbing for another English teacher, but she hadn't done any substitute teaching since then. Heather and I were both in orchestra together in high school, then years later, when I was working at the Hardee's on the University of Northern Iowa campus, she got a job there. It was nice catching up with an acquaintance who I hadn't seen in a while, especially since I actually had news to share (the new job, moving, getting married,...).


New DVD Day

Home MoviesAfter work today I drove over to Best Buy to purchase a new DVD release, which I am watching as I type this. I bought Home Movies Season Two. If you haven't seen the program, it is about a third grader named Brendon who makes home movies with his friends Melissa and Jason. I'm not sure exactly what it is that I like about the program. Perhaps it's the odd story lines or maybe it's the sarcastic, smart humor, but I really like this show. It's part of the Cartoon Network's Adult Swim, but I just can't stay up until 1:00 in the morning to watch it. I was surprised to see that the second season was coming out on DVD so soon after the first season. I was afraid that sales of the first season wouldn't be enough to justify releasing the second season.

This evening my fiancee and I, as well as my mother, went to my aunt and uncle's house in Hudson for dinner. My cousin, his wife, and their eighteen-month-old son are here on vacation for a few weeks from Germany where they live. It was good to see them once again as I only get to see them at Christmas and perhaps one other time during the year. We had a really good, big turkey dinner. It almost felt like Thanksgiving. Fortunately, I exercised some restraint and did not stuff myself.


Oh My God!

Thanks to Homercles, I took the "Which Revenge of the Sith Character are you?" quiz. Why did I end up being C-3PO?

Which Revenge of the Sith Character are you?
created with QuizFarm.com


How Sinful I Am

I just found this quiz thanks to my friend Ana. I'm really scared about how insightful the comment at the end is.

Your Deadly Sins

Sloth: 60%

Gluttony: 40%

Greed: 40%

Wrath: 20%

Envy: 0%

Lust: 0%

Pride: 0%

Chance You'll Go to Hell: 23%

You will die with your hand down your underwear, watching Star Trek.


The Weekend's Here!

The weekend is finally here, and it's going to be a busy one. First though, I have to say that school went much better today. I really enjoys having an extra free period. Since the seniors are done with school, and all of the students in my AP Calculus class were seniors, I now have a class period, other than my planning period, with no students. To top it all off, I actually get to stay in my own classroom during this period. That helped me to get a lot of work done today.

This weekend is going to be very busy. My fiancee, Mel, and I have a few graduation parties to go to. At least they are all in the Cedar Rapids area. We have one tomorrow night for Mel's cousin. Her graduation is tonight, but I don't think we'll be able to make it to the ceremony. Mel's coworkers are throwing her a going-away party after she gets off work today. So, I don't know when we'll make it to C.R. After tomorrow's graduation party, Mel's parents are going to stop by to see our house since they haven't seen it yet. Then we're planning on meeting some friends for dinner.

We have a graduation party for two people to go two on Sunday. They are for children of a friend of Mel. One of them is graduating from college and the other from high school. On top of all of this, I want to finish painting the master bathroom in our house and put together the cabinet we bought for that same bathroom.


Eight Days To Go

Now that school has ended today, there are just eight days left of the school year and after this afternoon, I feel that it is eight days too many! I really do not like my seventh period class. There are just too many disruptive students in that class. I have called parents, sent them to the office, and written office referrals, but these students just keep screwing around in class. I have to say that this class really helped me in my decision to leave teaching. There are really three main students in the class who are the most disruptive. At this point, one of them has absolutely no chance of getting a passing grade for the semester. It is really too bad that he has to still come to class. Things would be much better if he would just be removed from class. Another of these three students is right on the F/D- border. His current grade is about 59.8% with 60% needed to pass. Since I round the final grades to the nearest whole percent, he is passing, but barely. I would think that be seeing that he is barely passing, he would be inclined to pay attention. In order to pass the class, he needs to get at least 60% on his final exam. If he gets 59% on the test, he'll fail the class and get to take it over again next year. The other student is currently getting a C and will pass the class for sure. Perhaps it's because I was a good student in school that I find it hard to understand why some students would not want to try to learn as much as they can. Perhaps it is best that I am leaving teaching. I guess I just don't have what it takes to motivate some students.

End of the Year

Today is the last day of school for seniors where I teach. I am really looking forward to their departure. Once the seniors are done, I will have an extra class period for planning, grading, and doing other administrative tasks at work as I have one class that is entirely seniors. Also, I won't have to find something to fill the time with them to make it look like I am still teaching the class. The class that I am talking about is an Advanced Placement class. The students in the class took the AP exam a couple of weeks ago, so they feel that they should be done. Personally, I feel that way too. I suppose I could have taught more after the exam, but they were all burned out on calculus by this time. Besides, I was told by other AP teachers at my school that once the students take the exam, they usually don't do much of anything. For a while I wasn't doing anything in this class after their exam, but last week my principal spoke with me. It seems that she found out that my students were playing cards and just talking. She told me that I had to continue teaching them until the end of the year. I had no problem with this directive. So, I resumed teaching my AP Calculus class.

Now, after talking with my calculus students, I feel that I am being singled out for some reason. They are telling me that in another of their AP classes, they are watching a Star Wars movie. I can't figure out how this is remotely related to the content of the class in question. While I know that this happens frequently, showing a movie of this type to a group, that has no relevance to the curriculum, violates copyright laws. To make me even more upset about this is that the students tell me that the movie they are watching is Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith! This means that the teacher is not only showing a movie that has nothing to do with his or her class, but that he or she is showing a pirated movie! I imagine that if this teacher gets caught, there will be hell to pay. So today, I will continue to show The Standard Deviants: Calculus Part 2. While most of the class isn't paying attention, I am at least showing something relevant to my curriculum!

For all other students, there are nine days of school remaining. We were supposed to be finished on June 2, but we have four snow days to make up. While they were nice at the time, I am really regretting having those weather-related cancellations. If we ended school on time, I would have a whole week off before I start my new job. As it is now, I'll just have a three-day weekend. I would have pushed back my start date, but as I was offered the position in January of February, they already waited a while for me to begin. Besides, if I waited another week to begin, I'd have one less week of getting paid from two jobs.

Yesterday afternoon we had our final faculty meeting of the school year. Much of it was spent talking about technology improvements for next year. I guess our student information system isn't adequate, so the school district is going to look into a web-based application to allow teachers and others to access necessary student information more easily. This will probably also allow parents to access student grades online throughout the school year. They won't have to wait until the end of a grading period anymore. I think that this will be a big benefit for parents, students, and teachers. This will really aid with parent communication. This is actually something that I would like to be involved in implementing. Of course I am leaving teaching, so I will not be a part of this. I know I will miss some aspects of teaching, so the end of this school year is somewhat bittersweet, but I'm sure I will enjoy my new career. Besides, there isn't anything keeping me from returning to teaching in the future if I should decide to do so.


More Revenge of the Sith Comments

I have a couple more comments about Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith that I forgot to make in my entry earlier this morning. Homercles made a reference to George Lucas's politics and the comments that Episode III has been perceived by some to be a "thinly-veiled parable of the Bush administration." Having heard this comment prior to seeing the movie, I can see where some people may feel this way. I don't know if I would have noticed this however if I had not heard these comments prior to seeing the movie though. Oh heck, yes I would have, but only because I can't stand President Bush. That does cause me to see some things through biased eyes.

Another, non-political, comment that I have about Revenge of the Sith is that while the lightsaber may be "an elegant weapon for a more civilized age," it is really quite good at removing any appendages that may be causing one trouble. I don't know how elegant it is to cut off someone's hands, arms, legs, or whatever other body part one may want to remove, but the lightsaber certainly does the trick.

Opening Night

Last night my fiancée and I got in line at around 9:30 to see Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith. We only had to stand in line for about half an hour before we were seated in the theater. That was nice, because it would have been a bit tiring to have to stand in line for another two hours. Instead, we got to sit in the theater for two hours watching the same advertising on the screen repeat itself dozens of times. Besides watching advertisements and movie trivia for two hours, we were kept entertained by a couple of audience members who asked several Star Wars trivia questions. I got one correct and won a fantastic prize! It was a sticker with an image of Obi-Wan and Anakin fighting. Whoopee! This is part of the reason that I wanted to go to a midnight showing of Star Wars on opening night. You don’t see things like this happen at any other time. Eventually that did get old however. The original people asking trivia questions were interesting, as were some of the people shouting out bogus replies, but when some kid started asking questions, people kind of get fed up with the trivia.

Just after midnight, the theater lights began to dim, and we were “treated” to twenty minutes of commercials and previews. I really don’t mind the trailers for upcoming movies, but I didn’t pay eight dollars a ticket to watch commercials for Coca-Cola or to see Wayne Brady tell me how to diet healthfully. Around 12:20, the movie finally began.

It started out pretty good. George Lucas definitely didn’t waste any time getting right into the action, but I felt that there was just way too much humor in the first twenty minutes of the show. My fiancée didn’t think it was over done, but I could have done with fewer comedic moments courtesy of R2-D2 and an assortment of other droids.

As the movie progressed, it got much better. The comedy went away entirely, and the darker side of Star Wars finally came out. There were some moments that were truly disturbing. I could have done without some of the implied violence. Thankfully Lucas decided not to show the complete extent of the attacks on the Jedi.

I feel that Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith really tied the two trilogies together. The events leading up to the “birth” of Darth Vader was awesome and the movie did have quite a few terrific battle scenes. I think I may end up seeing it a few more times while it is in theaters. My mother would like to see it and so would Homercles.


Living at "Home"

Staying at my parents' house, I'm finding it hard to find time to write much in my blog. Overall, I have to say that things are going well. It's nice having a place to stay in Waterloo so I don't have to drive 60 miles to work every day. What's even better is having dinners cooked for both me and my fiancee most nights and not having to pay any rent. I've also been able to watch Jeopardy! more regularly than I had been recently. My parents watch it during dinner every night. One thing that is driving me a bit crazy is my mother's obsession with politics! Fortunately I get up before anyone else in the house, other than my fiancee, but she leaves for work about an hour before I wake up. When my mom wakes up in the morning, she turns the TV on to C-SPAN, and she turns the volume up pretty high so she can hear it when she's getting ready for work. Also, she tapes Crossfire on CNN which I usually end up seeing the beginning of since she watches it immediately after finishing Jeopardy!. I have to say that it is not one of my favorite programs to watch although I do find the beginning segment, the one in which each of the hosts introduces a topic to talk about for about a minute and a half, interesting sometimes. I find it most enjoyable when Robert Novak ends up looking like a jackass, which in my opinion is quite often.

This weekend is not going to be so good. My fiancee has to work both Saturday and Sunday, so she is staying in Waterloo for the weekend. I am still going to our Cedar Rapids house tomorrow morning however as the cable guy is coming to hook up the digital cable and the high-speed internet. It will be nice to have television to watch once again on the weekends. We've been limited to just watching things that we have on DVD for the past few weekends. Also, I have to check on the cat. My good friend Homercles has been feeding him a couple of times during the week while we've been gone, but the cat does not like strangers, so I will have to comfort him, reassuring him that we'll be back. I just hope the cat isn't too traumatized from being left home alone all week.

Tonight is the two-hour series finale of Star Trek: Enterprise. At first I wasn't too impressed with the program, but lately it has been getting better. I kind of wish that it could hang on for just one more season, but alas, tonight is the end. Of course, I could always get them on DVD as season one was just released. It would be a lot less expensive than it was to buy all seven seasons of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine as there are far fewer episodes of Enterprise. I think I'll probably pass on that however.

Well, I had better be off to work. I have just 17 more days of school after today. There are 18 more days, but I'm taking a personal day on Thursday. I hope everyone has a lucky Friday the thirteenth!


Happy Mother's Day

I had a nice lunch with my parents, my fiancee, an aunt, uncle, cousin, and my grandparents today. I hadn't seen my grandparents in quite a while, so it was good to see them. This Mother's Day begins the second week that my fiancee and I will be staying at my parents' house. The first week went by just fine. It was kind of nice not having to cook at all during the week. We now have five more weeks of this living arrangement. I really can't wait until we are able to stay in our new house full time. It's just so hard to get the unpacking done as well as fixing up the house when we are only there on the weekends.

Now I have just 22 days of school remaining, and the last day of school can not come fast enough. I have enjoyed teaching at times, but I am just so tired of the students who do absolutely nothing! When I was in school, I truly had a love of learning. Perhaps I was just strange in that sense. It's the students who enjoy learning who do make teaching a great job.


Where I Should Live

American Cities That Best Fit You:

70% Austin

70% Honolulu

65% Denver

60% Portland

55% Atlanta

I just got done taking this quiz on which American cities best fit me. I indicated that I would like to live somewhere where it's sunny and warm. There were several other qualities that I indicated that I'd like as well. Anyway, what is really ironic about the cities that came up is that the new job that I am going to begin next month could have been located in Austin, Texas, instead of Iowa City. Now I actually did consider Austin as a place to move to after I interviewed for this job, but my fiancee has indicated that she doesn't want to live in Texas. She says she went to Texas once, but she didn't like it. I actually lived in Texas once as well -- in the Houston area -- and I couldn't move back fact enough, but the reasons for my moving back have absolutely nothing to do with the state as a whole. Besides, Texas is a very large state. Austin is probably very different from either Houston, or Dallas, where my fiancee visited. Maybe some day, if we get tired of the cold, snowy Iowa winters, we'll move somewhere warmer.

Currently my housing situation is rather interesting. I am closing on the sale of my house this Friday, so we moved everything out of the house this weekend. Since I am still working in Waterloo, and my fiancee is still working in Charles City, we are staying at my parents' house in Waterloo until the end of the school year. Now we've only been here one night so far, but as far as I'm concerned everything is going fine so far. I haven't heard any major complaints from my fiancee. I'm sure she doesn't particularly care for staying at my parents' house for over a month, except for the weekends, which we'll still be spending at our new house in Cedar Rapids. Hopefully my parents don't drive us to crazy.



I know I've said it before, but now I am finally confident that my house is sold. Yesterday afternoon my realtor stopped by my house to put the "sold" sign on the realty sign in my front yard. The final contingency, securing financing, has been released. Apparently the buyers of my house had some difficulty securing financing, but they've finally been approved. They were supposed to release all of the contingencies by last Friday, so I was getting a bit nervous. This weekend, my fiancee and I will be moving the rest of our belongings from the house and we'll finish up cleaning next week before closing on the sale on Friday of next week.


29 Days

There are now 29 days remaining in the school year. That means not only is the school year soon coming to a close, but so is my career as a teacher. Ever since I was offered a position with a test development company, I have been looking forward to being done with teaching. I am just so tired of dealing with disrespectful students. Today however, I began to have second thoughts about leaving my profession of seven and a half years. There are a lot of things that I will miss about teaching. Sure, I’m going to miss getting to go home from work before 4:00 every day and having my summers off. I’d be lying if I said that these weren’t great benefits of teaching. They are not the only reasons that I became a teacher though. In fact, they were really small considerations. I am going to really miss working with young adults who genuinely enjoy learning or who at least give it some effort. I think that I’ll enjoy my new job. Instead of trying to motivate students who don’t want to be motivated, I’ll be able to sit down and actually do mathematics. I think that this new job will all me to use my skills to help students in a different way. Instead of teaching them directly, I’ll be indirectly guiding what it is that they learn. While I think that I am going to miss teaching some of the time, especially during the summer and between the hours of 4:00 and 5:00 in the afternoon, it’s not as if I am completely closing the door on teaching. If I find after a few years that I don’t like my new job, I can always try to return to the classroom.

Sales Pitch

Sunday night when my fiancée and I returned to our Waterloo home from Cedar Rapids, she got a phone call informing her that we had won several prizes including a two-night, three-day stay at a resort hotel, a $200 gift certificate, and a free photo sitting. We had registered with this company when we attended a bridal show in March. Now, to get the prize we only had to go to a meeting at a local hotel. They told us to be sure to have room to try some foods. Not only were we going to win all these fabulous prizes, but we would be fed as well.

Now I recognized this for what is was right away. I was sure that they were going to try to sell us something, and that they did. We, along with three other couples, sat through an hour and a half long sales pitch for Royal Prestige cookware. After informing us how the cookware we have in our cupboards is going to kill us – one thing he told us was that Teflon releases poisonous gasses at high temperatures and that aluminum from aluminum pans gets into our food and then when we eat it, it doesn’t leave our bodies – he showed us their line of “Health Systems” cookware. This cookware is made of surgical grade stainless steel. He also cooked some chicken and vegetables for us. They turned out great with little effort. These looked great pieces of cookware, but when he showed us the low price of slightly over $1800 for the seven-piece set, we decided to pass. Now this set of cookware has a 50-year warranty. He told us how we would save money by not having to replace our inexpensive cookware when it wears out, since this will last a lifetime, but that didn’t convince us.


I Haven't Done a Quiz in a While

Your Linguistic Profile:

80% General American English

10% Upper Midwestern

5% Dixie

5% Yankee

0% Midwestern

I've Got My Star Wars Tickets!

I just got done buying tickets for my fiancée and myself to see Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith at midnight the night of Wednesday, May 18! I had been talking to a friend of mine earlier this evening and he told me that one of the theaters in Cedar Rapids was already selling tickets for the midnight showing, so I went to their website where I was directed to Fandango.com to buy tickets. There was a one dollar service charge per ticket, but at least I know now that I will have tickets for the show. I don’t have to worry about waiting in line for several hours to get them. We’ll still have to get there a fair amount of time ahead of time in order to get good seats though.

I went to the midnight showing opening night when Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones came out and it was a lot of fun. It was more fun than it would have been to see it at another time. One thing that I am doing differently this time is taking the next day off from work. I put in a request for a personal day for May 19 at the beginning of the school year as personal days are hard to get toward the end of the year.


The Weekend's Almost Here

I can’t wait until after work today! Mel and I will be heading back to our Cedar Rapids house. That means we’ll be busy spending the weekend unpacking and possibly painting some more rooms in the house. Of course, that also means that we’ll be spending some money. One problem about moving into a new house that I have noticed is that it costs more than one anticipates. There are often things to do, like buying furniture, paint, cleaning supplies, and eating out more than usual. At lease I won’t have a house payment to make in May. That should help free up some money for these extra supplies.


Two Houses

I now own two houses! Actually, one of them is owned by both my fiancée and me, so perhaps I should say that I owe one and a half houses. On Thursday, we closed on the house we were buying in Cedar Rapids, and on Friday, the moving company we hired delivered most of our belongings. Now we have a house full of boxes and a mostly empty house in Waterloo. While Mel spent most of Friday unpacking boxes, I spent the day painting. All of the walls of the new house are white, with the exception of a couple of rooms that have wallpaper and most of that wallpaper will be coming down in the near future as we don’t like it. It was tough coming back to Waterloo yesterday afternoon. We really did not want to leave our new house. I can’t wait until Friday, when we get to go back to the new house. Of course that means that we will be working on more painting and unpacking, but we’ll be at our new, and better, house.


Packing Continues

Ok, so my absence from blogging didn’t last very long. I have a few minutes to write before I go off to work. I found out from my realtor last night that everything is going well with the sale of my house. The buyers have completed any inspections that they will be doing, and all of the legal documents, such as the title abstract, have been requested by the buyers’ attorney. Meanwhile packing continues. All day Sunday was packing up the basement and most of the upstairs. Last night, I finished packing up the basement, except for disassembling the computer, and then packed up all of the clothes. Tonight we tackle the garage. I don’t think it should be too bad. There are a lot of my fiancée’s things in the garage which are still in boxes from when she moved in. Well, I had better be off to work.


I Shall Return

I'll be back, probably next week. With all of the packing that I am going to be doing the remainder of this week, as well as moving into a new house, I probably won't have much time for blogging this week. I will return when I can however, so don't despair.

I Want to Sleep!

I don’t get to sleep in at all this weekend. Yesterday morning I had to go to work at my usual time to administer the ACT test to 18 high school students. That really wasn’t all too interesting, but it was pretty easy. While giving the test, I was not supposed to do any reading, other than the instructions, so I could keep an eye on the test takers. Midway through the morning, I was thinking to myself, “Why did I give up my morning to do this? It is so boring.” I’ll probably be thinking differently in a couple weeks though when my paycheck from ACT arrives. It will be nice having a little extra spending money right now since my fiancée and I are moving most of our belongings into our new house on Thursday.

When I got home from work, I had to get started on packing. However I didn’t have all evening to do that. Mel and I had tickets to see “Miss Saigon” at the Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center on the University of Northern Iowa campus. It was a good show. It had been a while since I had seen a musical. We both had a good time, even if I was getting tired by intermission.

Now I am up early once again because the bell choir is performing at church this morning, and as I am in the bell choir, I kind of have to be there. This will however be my last performance with the bell choir since Mel and I may be spending weekends after today at our new house in Cedar Rapids working on getting it painted and on unpacking. I’ll miss playing in the bell choir, but it will be nice to not have to worry about Wednesday night rehearsals any more.


Sold! Again!

My house has been sold! Again! Of course this sale is pending an inspection and the buyers securing financing. They are going to look at it again this afternoon with their realtor. Then they will decide if they actually want to go ahead with an inspection or not. I hope they don’t. I don’t want them to be scared off by some minor defects that may exist. Also, I don’t think I can afford to fix anything that they may find.

In other news, my fiancée has a preliminary job interview today. It’s with a company which will soon begin operations in Cedar Rapids. I hope she is able to get a job there so we can get moved to Cedar Rapids as soon as possible after taking possession of the house. I really don’t want to be living here while most of our furniture and belongings are in our new house. Of course, the daily commute from Cedar Rapids to Waterloo isn’t going to be cheap considering current gas prices. Fortunately, I have a fuel-efficient car.


Goodbye Jasper

Yesterday afternoon, after both my fiancée and I had gotten home from work, Jasper the cat did it again; he sprayed the wall and carpet by one of the heat registers. It seems that since we started him on his medication, his peeing on the carpet has only gotten worse. We would have loved to try the medicine longer, but we really need to get the house sold, and a urine-smelling living room is not a feature that most home buyers are looking for. So yesterday afternoon, I had to take Jasper to the humane society. Hopefully he’ll be able to find a nice home where he won’t have this problem. I didn’t like doing it, but it didn’t bother me too much until I walked out of the building from dropping him off. It was then that losing the cat really got to me. I had to call my insurance agent to discuss the insurance for the new house to keep my mind off of what I had just done. I’m doing fine today, although I do miss Jasper. The other cat, Ike, doesn’t seem to mind his friend missing. When Jasper spent a few days at the vet several weeks ago, Ike really liked being the only cat in the house. Hopefully he does alright without Jasper.


Now Who's Out of Touch?

It seems that Republican legislators, many of whom supported the law allowing federal courts to hear arguments regarding Terri Schiavo and the removal of her feeding tube, are upset at the judicial system for not ruling the way they wanted them to. Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) has lambasted the judges involved in this case for not interpreting the Terri Schiavo law the way that Congress intended for it to be interpreted. I was under the impression that it is the judicial branch of government whose job it is to interpret laws, not the job of the legislative branch of government. If Congress dictates to the courts how exactly to interpret laws, we might as well get rid of the judiciary altogether. Santorum is of course now calling these judges “activist” judges. This seems to be the term that conservatives like to throw around when courts do not rule in their favor, especially when their rulings do not seem to follow the beliefs of a large portion of Americans. In this case, however, it seems to be these Republican legislators who are out of touch with what the American people believe. A FOX News poll taken yesterday shows that 54% of Americans feel that removing Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube was an act of mercy, not an act of murder. Only about one third of those polled feel that way. Even looking at just Republicans, a majority of those polled, 61%, do not feel that removing the feeding tube is murder. Hopefully this case will encourage people to make sure their wishes on the matter of what measures should be taken to sustain their lives are in writing and very clear, so that we do not have a situation like this happen again.

Let's Sell This House!

The finale of William Shatner’s Invasion Iowa airs tonight on Spike TV, appropriately on April Fool’s Day. I haven’t yet watched last night’s episode since I had parent-teacher conferences that I had to work at until 8:30, but I did tape it.

I did get some news about my house yesterday. My realtor brought a contractor over to write an estimate on what it will cost to fix the radon problem that I have. The estimate was better than I thought it would be. On the high end, it should cost about $1,100, which is still a lot of money. With that expense, I probably won’t be earning any money on the sale of my house, unless I get an offer for my full asking price, but that’s alright. Right now I just want to get this house sold!


Shats, Not Hats

The last couple of days I have been watching Invasion Iowa on Spike TV. This is the TV show in which William Shatner tricks the residents of Riverside, Iowa, that he is making a movie. In reality, there is no movie being made. I didn’t think the first episode, shown on March 29, was that interesting. My fiancée was watching it with me for the first half hour. However, at that point, she had had enough of it and went into another room to read. Last night’s episode was much better. While it’s fun watching these people being fooled, what I really like about the program is the fact that I know a couple of the people in the show as I used to teach at the high school in Riverside. One of the locals playing a punk was a student of mine. I am looking forward to seeing how this show progresses tonight and tomorrow night.

Back to the topic of my house, Jasper the cat is still having problems with urinating where he shouldn’t be doing so. We were about to take him to the animal shelter to get rid of him last night, but first we called the vet to see how long it should take for the medication we are giving him to have its desired effect. He said it could take four to six weeks, so Jasper got a reprieve from being sent away.

My house still hasn’t sold, and there hasn’t been any activity this week. We should be having an open house on Sunday. Maybe that will generate some additional interest. Meanwhile, we are going to go ahead with the purchase of the house in Cedar Rapids. We close on that sale two weeks from today. I’m a little nervous, to say the least, about the possibility of having two houses to make payments on at the same time. However, once we move our stuff out in two weeks, we’ll be able to get the carpet professionally cleaned and we won’t have to worry about Jasper peeing on it anymore.

This afternoon and tonight, as well as tomorrow, I have parent-teacher conferences to attend. Normally I don’t care for conferences. Sure, it’s nice to talk with the parents of some of my students, but too often I don’t know what to day besides what their child’s grade is. This time however is different as this is the last time in the foreseeable future that I will be at a school conference, at least from the teacher’s side of the desk.


Busy, Busy, Busy

I have been so busy getting back to work this week to do any blogging. In addition to being busy, I have been really worried about my house selling. If we want out of the contract to buy the house we want in Cedar Rapids, we have to let the seller know by April 1. To make matters worse, there has been no activity that I know of regarding my house this week. I have been unable to call my realtor as he had a personal tragedy this week. I feel really badly for him, but it makes me feel bad about myself that I am so concerned with my problems in his time of grief.

We have considered going through with the house purchase even if this house isn’t sold. Mel has enough money left over from her tax refund to cover a little over one month’s payment and when I start my new job in June, I’ll still be getting paid from teaching through August, so I will have two and a half months in which I am getting almost double my current income. Also, I am getting a signing bonus for my new job, part of which we are using to hire a moving company. We should be just fine as long as the house sells by August, and Mel finds a job since we’ll have this extra money. However, I really don’t want to use it for that purpose. Most of the extra money I’ll be spending on payments on my current house will just be lost, as such a small percentage of it goes towards the principal.

Anyway, one of my fiancée’s cats has had a problem with peeing on the carpet in the living room. Before we left for vacation, the vet gave us a device that looks similar to a scented-oil plug in that emits an odor that only the cats can smell. It’s supposed to keep them from marking on the walls and carpet. It worked while we were gone and for a couple days once we returned, but the cat has returned to doing his thing. Now we have anti-anxiety medication that we are giving the cat. It is not easy to give a pill to a cat! After two failed attempts, we decided to crush up the pill, put it in water, and then inject it into his mouth with a syringe. Hopefully he’s getting enough of the medication for it to do some good. We haven’t had any problems with him since we got back from vacation with the exception of the one time I previously mentioned, so maybe he’s getting better.


What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas

I may write a little about my vacation to Las Vegas a little later, but for now the saying is true. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Overall, I had a fairly enjoyable vacation. It would have been even better if I hadn’t constantly been worrying about the sale of my house.

When I left for vacation, I had received an offer for my house and the prospective buyer had accepted my counter offer pending an inspection. Well, it turned out that there were several problems with the house according to his inspector. A lot of what he complained about would be expected in a house that is nearly 50 years old! It seems like this guy wants a perfect, brand new house for under $100,000! Well, nearly a week after the offer, the offer was withdrawn as I would not give in to all of his demands.

On Friday I learned about another offer. Since I was out of the area, we were countering based on what I told my realtor verbally over the phone. I was not about to get anything signed. Well, we seemed to reach an agreement, but they wanted a night to think it over. After sleeping on it, the new prospective buyer backed out. Damn it!

Now, my fiancée and I have an offer pending on a house in Cedar Rapids. We have already started the loan processing and title search which will cost us money even if we don’t go through with the purchase. Plus, we also had an inspection done on the house. Incidentally, it wasn’t perfect, but we weren’t expecting a perfect house. We now have less than two weeks before we have to let the seller know if we will be unable to complete the purchase. I really hope an offer comes in on my house soon. I just want to get rid of it now!


Have a Great Week!

I just thought I'd let you all know that I probably won't be writing any new blog entries until the end of next weekend. Tomorrow, my fiancee and I are going to a wedding show in Ames. Her brother and sister-in-law live there, so we'll be staying the night in Ames. Then on Sunday we have a birthday party in Ankeny for her nephew. After that we head to the Twin Cities where we'll be spending the night at my sister's house before leaving for Las Vegas on Monday morning. We return to Minneapolis Friday night, but then my sister has an orchestra concert on Saturday, so we'll be staying for that. I hope everyone has a great week!


Counter Offer

My realtor called me back this morning informing me that he had received a counter offer from the seller of the house we want to buy. He agreed to most of the offer. In fact, the counter offer was pretty much what our realtor thought he would come back with. We accepted the offer this afternoon. On April 14, my fiancee and I will own a house in Cedar Rapids!


I'm So Excited!

My fiancee and I went back to Cedar Rapids to check out the house we really liked yesterday once again. After we looked through it with our real estate agent, we decided to write an offer for it! I think we were being a bit too greedy in what we asked for in our offer, but our agent thought the offer sounded pretty good. It leaves room for the seller to counter, and for us to still be happy with his counter offer. We should know by tomorrow night if he accepts our offer or not. I can't wait! Now I'll probably have a hard time getting to sleep tonight.

Napoleon Who?

This weekend my fiancee and I rented and watched Napoleon Dynamite and personally I would like to know what the big deal is all about! It was funny at times, but I was bored most of the time for the first half an hour of the film. I guess I just don't get it. Neither does my fiancee.

Yesterday we looked at some open houses in Cedar Rapids since we have to be out of our current house by April 15. We found one that we both really liked. It even comes with a stove and refrigerator that are practically new. The oven hasn't even been used. Upon opening the oven, I noticed that the owner's manual and the broiler rack were both still attached to a rack with plastic straps! The guy selling it is a single man who lived there about one year before his employer relocated him. He's really motivated to sell, asking less than what he paid for it. That does make me worry a little. We will definitely have the house inspected to look for any potential problems. However, we are planning on making an offer on it tonight.