Christmas is Finally Over

Okay, Christmas was over a month ago, but yesterday I had my final Christmas celebration of the season. My girlfriend and I went to her grandmother's house yesterday for dinner and to open presents. This was originally scheduled for January 2, but because of all of the nasty weather on New Year's Day, it was postponed until yesterday. It was a good day and now I have a gift card for Target that I have to spend. Now I just have to figure out what to buy. I thought about using it for necessities, but I really think I should buy something I'll enjoy instead, as it is a gift.

This morning I decided that I really need to get back to exercising. My pants seem a little tight. They're not too bad, but if I lost a few more pounds, I think they'd fit a lot better. I have managed get my weight back down to its pre-Christmas level. I only need to lose 11 more pounds to reach my goal of weighing under 200 pounds. It would be a lot easier if the weather outside were nice enough for me to go for a bike ride. I could always buy a trainer for my bike so I could ride it inside, but I have been trying to cut back on my spending. Well soon enough I'll be able to go out on my bike. I guess I should take advantage of this bad weather to get my bike tuned up.



The Des Moines Register has released the overnight towns for this year's RAGBRAI. We'll be traveling across the northern part of the state this year, starting in Le Mars, the home of Blue Bunny Ice Cream. Yum. On Sunday we'll be riding to Sheldon which has a population of just under 5000. With around 10,000 cyclists staying the night, we'll more than triple their population for the evening. Then on Monday we'll be going to Estherville. We stayed there overnight a couple of years ago. Actually, some of my fellow cyclists and I went to the house of a relative in southern Minnesota for the night, but we did stop there. Tuesday night we'll be in Algona, followed by Northwood on Wednesday, Cresco on Thursday, and West Union on Friday. We'll be ending the ride on Saturday in Guttenberg.

I really hope that I can make it on the entire ride this year, but as I've said earlier, I may not be able to if I start a new job this summer. Hopefully I'll be able to make it on the last three days however. That will make for a pretty difficult ride the last day or two as northeast Iowa is pretty hilly near the Mississippi River, and I won't have several days of 60-plus-mile rides to get ready for the hills. If I would be able to do the entire ride, it would be much easier as the first several days will be fairly flat. Well, if I can't do the whole ride this year, there's always next year.

Just a reminder everyone, the registration deadline is April 1. That's no joke!


Tax Breaks for the Young

Iowa Senate Republican Co-President Jeff Lamberti of Ankeny has proposed eliminating state income tax for Iowans younger than 30 years of age. The reason for this tax break is to keep young college graduates from leaving the state upon graduating from college, thus ending, or at least slowing, the "brain drain" that Iowa is experiencing. According to the article in today's Des Moines Register, this would save the average 20-something (or younger) about $600 in state income taxes. Would an extra $600--that's $50 a month--really keep a young person from moving out of Iowa? I think that many of the young people who leave the state do so because of opportunities or more exciting things that they can do elsewhere.

I left the state when I graduated from UNI in 1997. I moved to the Houston area to be a high school math teacher. Had I not had a really horrible experience when I was there (that's a story for another time), I would probably still be teaching in Texas. An extra $600 a year certainly would not have kept me in Iowa. I did return to Iowa, but the reason was to be back closer to my family, not for any possible monetary incentive. In fact, now that I have been back in Iowa for almost six years, I keep thinking of leaving again. I don't need to see my family all the time, although it is nice to be able to see my close friends. The job that I interviewed for, and think I will get, is to be located in Iowa City, although the job could be located in Austin, Texas. Personally, I wouldn't mind moving back to Texas, but my girlfriend doesn't really think she would want to move there. She wouldn't mind living in Las Vegas however. Now if I could only find a job that I would want to do there and that I am qualified for--something besides teaching--I'd be all for it.



I was talking to my dad on the phone this evening and he got his email about registering for RAGBRAI XXXIII. I can't believe that the time is approaching to get the registration sent in. The deadline is just over two months away. For those of you who are reading this and don't know about RAGBRAI, it is the Des Moines Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa that takes place during the last full week of July each summer.

I have ridden my bike on the ride for the past five years, but unfortunately I may not be able to participate this year. If I get the job for which I have interviewed and hope to get an offer, I would not be able to use any of my vacation time during my first three months of work. As I wouldn't be starting the job until mid June, I wouldn't be able to use my vacation until mid September. While I won't be able to bargain for any extra vacation time, perhaps I could get them to let me take my vacation earlier than they usually do. If that fails, I will have five personal days for the remainder of the calendar year. Perhaps they would let me use a couple of those so I could spend three days on RAGBRAI this year. Well, if I don't get the job, this is all moot. I'll still be able to spend the entire week riding my bike around 500 across the state, camping each night in the sweltering heat and humidity of late July. Although I must say, the weather was quite nice last summer.

Haiku Solutions

Here are the solution's to the haiku from Sunday morning. Homercles got most of them correct.

#1 The Terminator
#2 E.T.
#3 Down with Love
#4 The Abyss
#5 Star Trek: The Motion Picture


Answers and More Movies in Other Words

Here are the answers to yesterday's Movies in Seven Words. Ana and Homercles got most of them correct.

1. Ed Wood
2. Star Wars: Return of the Jedi
3. Moulin Rouge
4. Glory - which my girlfriend and I watched on DVD last night.
5. Clerks
6. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
7. Office Space
8. Amadeus
9. Free Enterprise - a movie about two sci-fi fans who produce movies. One of them falls in love. Also in this movie, William Shatner pitches to them a film idea - a musical version of "Julius Caesar." A must see for the sci-fi fan.
10. Spaceballs

Now for something somewhat different. Instead of the description of a movie in seven words, I have decided to write some haiku describing movies. Can you identify the films?

The man is naked
Leather jacket, sunglasses
He's contraception

Foreign botanist
Likes candy and drinking beer
Say "hello" Gredo

Woman writes a book
Obi-Wan is a swinger
But they fall in love

First drilling for oil
Then searching for submarine
What things lie beneath?

A distant traveler
In search of his creator
Causes destruction


Movies in Seven Words

Copying Homercles, who copied someone else, I am presenting here some of my favorite movies described with seven words, no more, no less. These are probably too easy, especially if you really know me. How many of these can you name?

1. A bad director befriends a movie icon.
2. Teddy bears massacre the strong white men.
3. Spectacular musical is written for true love.
4. Black men fight former oppressors and lose.
5. Two slackers annoy people, complain all day.
6. Superman seeks vengeance for his dead wife.
7. Man does crappy job, doesn't get fired.
8. Poisoning one's nemesis leads to the asylum.
9. Love leads to exchange of action figures.
10. Man and his dog save the planet.

What Kind of 60s Person Am I?

Thanks to Kris, I found a quiz to determine what kind of "sixties person" I am. Quite frankly, I am surprised by the results. I would have thought I'd be a square. Well, at least I'm not a hippie.

You are a Folkie. Good for you.

What kind of Sixties Person are you?
brought to you by Quizilla



I got a mailing from Best Buy today advertising broadband telephone service. It's something that I have thought about for a while now, but switching from a technology that I have been using most of my life to something relatively new is somewhat scary. I am fairly comfortable using the telephone as I have it now. I am a bit nervous about switching to an Internet-based phone service. For one, if the power goes out or if my Internet connection goes down, I would be unable to use my phone line. Of course, I would still have my cell phone in the event of either of those two situations. This brings me to another issue, getting rid of the phone line altogether. I know several people who do not have a land-line phone. My sister is one of those people. She seems to get by just fine without a standard telephone line. Once again, I just feel more comfortable with a regular telephone. I'll probably just keep the status quo. I'm not one who lives for change. However, if anyone reading this has any experience with broadband phone service or living with a cell phone only, I'd be interested in reading what you have to say about it.


Back to School

Yesterday was the first day of the second semester of the school year. I wish I could say that the school year were half over, but that won't be true until today is over. Anyway, I enjoy the beginning of a semester. It's a fresh start for the students as far as their grade goes. However, for those students who I had first semester, they still have to live with the impression that I have of them. Now I try not to pass judgment on any student and despite what one of my students said the other day, I do not "hate" any of them. Of course as a human being there are students who get on my nerves. This semester I decided to make a change to my grading. Part, a very small part, of their grade will be for participation, which includes bringing their materials to class, especially their textbooks. I don't see what's so hard about that, but yesterday only about half of my students actually brought their books to class. So, what I am doing is giving each student 100 points, this will amount to a small percentage of the total number of points they receive. Each time they don't bring their books, I'll be deducting five points from them. I also decided that if a student is participating in class in a way which is disruptive to others, then they will also lose some points. I had one student yesterday who apparently wanted to test that and I must say that he is already missing a few of those 100 points.


Happy MLK Day

I hope everyone is having a happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Since I have the day off from work, I have been somewhat productive around the house today. I tried out my new Shop-Vac to sweep the concrete floors of my basement. I also cleaned the furnace filter and washed the shower curtain. As I didn't have to work today, I also went out to lunch. I only went to Burger King, but it was still going out, none the less. While I was in the drive through line, I thought about the poor employees who had to work at the drive through windows. With temperatures around 0 degrees, it would not be fun working in those positions. In the years that I worked at a fast food restaurant, I only worked at one with a drive through window in the summer, so I didn't have to deal with such cold weathers. Actually, I did work at such a restaurant during winter break when I was in college on winter, but it wasn't this cold.

Thinking about working in such cold makes me glad about one decision I made while I was in college. During one summer, I considered taking a semester off from school to figure out what exactly I wanted to major in. I spoke about this to the manager of the Hardee's restaurant I worked at during the summer and she talked me out of it. She told me that she had done, or rather had intended to do, the same thing. However, the semester off turned into two semesters, then three, and so on. She never went back to finish her degree.

The manager who I worked for during the school year when I was in college. Told me once that if teaching didn't work out, I would make a good restaurant manager. A couple years ago when teaching didn't seem to be working out too well for me, I even sent in my resume for a management position with a quick service restaurant. While I may have made a good restaurant manager, I don't think this is a career path that I really ever wanted to take. I noticed that the manager who I worked for while I was at UNI left the business as soon as she could. All the time that I worked there, she was going to school to do something else, which I presume she is now doing.


Darth Tater

According to the caption that accompanied this photo on Yahoo!, Hasbro is coming out with a Darth Vader version of Mr. Potato Head next month. Maybe I'll get one for Valentine's Day.


My Nerd Score

I really thought I'd be more of a nerd than Homercles, but the results are in:

I am nerdier than 54% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

If I'm only "lightly nerdy," there must be something wrong with the quiz. There really should have been some questions about Star Wars or Star Trek. I guess one item slightly touched on Star Trek.

While I was at it, I also found my Weird Quotient:

What is your weird quotient? Click to find out!

With this score, 62% of the test-takers are more weird than I am.


Things are Looking Up

Things are looking up for my job situation. I emailed my contact at the company with which I interviewed before Christmas to find out where they were at in the hiring process. I got a reply within a few hours indicating that the human resources person and the person who would be my supervisor had been talking about me the last couple of days and that they are going to begin checking into my background and checking my references. I should know more later this week or next week.


Ice Ice Baby

Here's a warning for you. I'm about to bitch about the weather again. Because of freezing rain and ice, school has been cancelled yet again! It's bad enough that this is the fourth time in two weeks that we have had to cancel classes, but to make matters worse, today was supposed to be the first day of semester exams. Yesterday, in anticipation that we may have school cancelled due to the weather, an announcement was made that if there were to be no school today, then all of the semester tests would be taken on Thursday. I asked another teacher who is a department head why we couldn't just take Wednesday's semester tests on Tuesday, the next scheduled day of school after Thursday. Apparently it's because we need grades done by that morning before school to determine athletic eligibility. Now I thought that the primary goal of school was to educate, not to train athletes. A school district that is adjacent to the one for which I work, is moving their tests from today to Tuesday. I don't know why we can't do the same. I guess that sports take precedence over students being able to perform adequately on exams. I don't know how I would have done on my final exams in high school if I had to take all six or seven of them in a single day.

Each day of school that we have missed has to be made up. I guess that this is the first time in three or so years that there have been multiple cancellations of school, so it hasn't been an issue in recent years. However, I am wondering why this school district does not make any of the days we miss for three-day weekends into days that can be used for making up missed days. I'd much rather be back in school on Martin Luther King Jr. Day or Good Friday, both of which we have off as vacation. This is the first school district that I have worked for that gets Martin Luther King Day off, and in the other school district for which I have worked, Good Friday has only been a vacation day if it was at the same time as spring break. Oh well, I guess that there is little point complaining about this as the school district probably won't change it's mind about these issues, especially the prospect of having school on Martin Luther King's Birthday. Now school won't get out until June 8, making my last day of work for the school year June 9.


Show Tickets

I just finished buying three tickets for a show in Las Vegas. My girlfriend and I are going there on vacation in March, and I decided that I would really like to see a decent show when we are there, so I went ahead and splurged for the good seats. The third ticket, by the way, is for a friend of mine who lives in Vegas. She promises that she'll be able to pay me for it by the time we get there.

We are going to go see Zumanity at the New York, New York Hotel & Casino. Zumanity is a Cirque du Soleil production which is billed as being "a provocative exhibition of human sensuality, arousal and eroticism." Ana, my friend in Vegas, strongly recommended the show. I think that is because she wanted to see it herself. She has seen another Cirque du Soleil show in Vegas, and it was great. What's funny is that last night she mentioned that we should go see this show, then today I read a report by Mike Straka on FOXNews.com in which he says that Zumanity is an "amazing experience." He continues to describe the show by writing, "picture the most beautiful bodies you've ever seen doing the most incredible dances, acrobatics and high-flying stunts you've ever seen." I guess in nine weeks I'll see if the show lives up to the hype. Now I only hope that there isn't a problem with us getting to Las Vegas on time.

Education Issues in Today's News

I found the following news stories that were in some way related to education that I thought I'd share with you all.

First is one about standardized tests from CNN.com. This summer I was working for a company which produces standardized tests. One of the things that we had to look out for was for test items to be fair for all those taking the test. Sometimes when I hear people speaking about biases found on standardized tests, they begin to complain about it as if it isn't something that we should really be that worried about. However may problems with tests are quite valid. The article that I linked to above is about a problem with items on the Maryland School Assessment test. The items have students match words with similar sounds. That doesn't really sound like much of a problem for most students, but it became an issue when deaf students were required to answer the questions. How is someone who can't hear supposed to know if two words have similar sounds? Furthermore, why would they even need to know that information. Now if all students are going to be required to take the same test, the items should be fair for every student.

The second news story that I saw this afternoon is just ridiculous. Apparently, the Buena Regional School District was going to allow Fox to film The Simple Life at a middle school. They were going to have Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie serve as substitute teachers and cafeteria monitors at the middle school. Who in their right mind would think that this was remotely appropriate, especially for her to work with middle school students? Paris Hilton is hardly known for being of high moral character, not that teachers should be held to a higher standard than anyone else, but I can bet that if I were in a well-publicized sex video, I would be relieved of my position. According to the article, of the 374 parents who returned the permission slips for the program, only 34 objected to it. I would have thought that more would have objected. Anyway, the school board decided not to allow the show to take place at their school because the production company needed a commitment right away, and they weren't prepared to do that.


Busy Weekend

I had a pretty busy weekend, which is why I haven't blogged since Thursday. Friday after school I went to Iowa City for another job interview. I had actually interviewed with this company last spring, but I didn't get the job. The job sounds alright, but I don't know if the pay is going to be enough for me to leave my current position. It pays more than my teaching job, but not much more. At least I don't have to worry about that decision unless I am offered the position.

On Saturday I helped out at the wrestling tournament at the school that I used to teach at near Iowa City. I really enjoy helping out there. It's nice to see my former students, although I don't always recognize them right away as this is the third year I have been teaching somewhere other than there. It's especially tough to put a name with a face when it comes to the students I had my last year there when they were in seventh or eighth grade. Some of them look so different now.

Yesterday my girlfriend and I went to see Ocean's Twelve. It wasn't an awful movie, but there were moments when I was wondering if anything was going to happen. It just seemed so slow at some points. I enjoyed it for the most part, but I don't think it's a movie that I'll be adding to my movie collection. It was nowhere as good as Ocean's Eleven.


Oh Great, Another Day Off

As much as I love having a snow day and getting to stay home, I would much rather be at work today, especially as this is the third day that school was cancelled this week and final exams are Wednesday and Thursday of next week. I would have been fine with my schedule for reviewing for the final exam if we had been at school today, but now I'll have to figure something else out. Besides, I'd much rather have the days off in June, when it's nice outside, then in January. Hopefully the weather and road conditions are fine tomorrow afternoon so I can make it to my job interview in Iowa City.



For the second time this week, school has been cancelled due to the weather. We have a lot of snow outside. Due to both of these cancellations, the last day of class for my school district is going to be pushed back to Monday, June 6, which makes my last day of work Tuesday, June 7. Hopefully these cancellations don't keep happening because if they do, it will push back even further the date at which I can start a new job, if I should get one. On that note, I have a job interview after work on Friday for a job which would be similar to the one which I interviewed for two weeks ago.

I suppose I should get started on clearing the snow. Unfortunately my snow blower is not working! Damn.


School Delay!

I could have slept in a couple of extra hours if only I had checked out the school delays when my alarm clock went off this morning, but I didn't think to look until after I took my shower and got dressed. It was then that I learned that I have a two hour delay this morning. I guess it is a little foggy, and that causes the roads to be a bit icy at these temperatures. Well now I have some extra time to get work done before school.


A Snow Day Without the Bad Weather

I know some others in Iowa were less fortunate that I was, but the ice completely missed us today in Waterloo. However, in anticipation of the bad weather that never arrived, the Waterloo School District cancelled school today. This kind of worked out well for me. I had been sick with a cold the past couple of days, and I still wasn't feeling all that great this morning. Had I called in sick to work, I would have needed to go to the doctor to get a note, since this was to be the first day back at school after vacation and my school district doesn't trust its employees to only call in sick when they truly are sick, especially at the beginning or end of a vacation. It looks like we'll be getting some bad weather tomorrow night, with four to six inches of snow projected. But who knows, these winter weather systems can change so much from what is predicted. Just look at what we got today. Nothing!


My Dead Pool Picks

As promised, here's the list of people who I entered into the Dead Pool. The number in parentheses is the total number of participants, including myself, who picked that person.

  1. Pope John Paul II (88)
  2. Dick Clark (36)
  3. Walter Cronkite (25)
  4. Rosa Parks (24)
  5. Dick Cheney (18)
  6. James Doohan (16)
  7. Michael Moore (14)
  8. Queen Elizabeth II (10)
  9. Muhammad Ali (8)
  10. Andy Dick (4)
  11. Ray Bradbury (2)
  12. Dennis Rodman (2)
  13. Ghazi al-Yawer (2)
  14. David Prowse (1)
  15. Willard Scott (1)

I have no idea how these picks will do for me. Only time will tell.

Let It Snow

When my girlfriend and I left the Mall of America last night, the weather outside was frightful. A mix of snow and sleet was coming down, making the drive back to my sister's house in Woodbury a bit more difficult. It took longer to get back than it did to get to the mall, but we made it to her house safely. The three of us then had dinner at Don Pablo's, a Mexican restaurant. ¡Su alimento era excelente! Their food was excelent!

We returned to my sister's house where we played a board game that she had bought when she was in London a few weeks ago, The Great Game of Britain. It was quite fun. Once her boyfriend showed up, we also played a game of Simpson's Clue and Trivial Pursuit.

Our plans for today however have changed. Originally we were going to go to my girlfriend's grandmother's house to finish our Christmas celebrations, however with the roads as bad as they were last night, we are going to postpone that. Instead, we are going to go to my aunt and uncle's house in Cottage Grove, Minnesota, for breakfast and to see my uncle from North Carolina before we proceed home.


Happy New Year!

I hope everyone is feeling well this morning. I probably drank a little too much, but since I wasn't driving anywhere, I didn't see a problem with that. Right now I am at my sister's house in Woodbury, Minnesota, a suburb of Saint Paul. I'm glad that we came up here. It gave me a chance to see, not only my sister, but a cousin of mine and her husband whom I don't see too often. Later today my girlfriend and I are going to visit some other relatives, including my uncle who lives in North Carolina who is here visiting over the holiday weekend. Before that however, we are going to go to the Mall of America.