Yet Another Monday

Well it’s Monday again, and two Mondays (and about four hours) from now my fiancĂ©e Mel and I will be starting our five-day vacation in Las Vegas! I just need to make it through these two weeks. This weekend I worked on some of the test items that I have to have finished by Wednesday and I have eight more to write. I shouldn’t have much problem getting them done, but it will take much of my free time to get it done. Then I’ll have around a week before I have to make the revisions, which I need to complete before my vacation.

Mel and I went to Cedar Rapids on Saturday to look at a few houses. The first one we looked at was great. If she had a job lined up already and if it looked like my house were about to sell, we’d seriously consider making an offer on it, but for now we’ll wait a little longer. The second house we looked at was a double-wide mobile home manufactured in 1979. In 1988 it was relocated to a permanent foundation on nearly half an acre of land. The basement of the house was very nice, but that’s about all I can say that is good about it. The walls in the upstairs were hollow! It didn’t seem to be very well constructed. Finally, we saw the house that we had wanted to see a few weeks ago, but its keys were missing. Well, we could have waited a bit longer. There was nothing special about the house and the basement was laid out really strangely.

After looking at houses, we met my friend Melissa and her fiancĂ© Chris for dinner at Carlos O’Kelley’s. We got there a bit earlier that planned, but with a 45-minute wait for a table things worked out quite well. Melissa and Chris arrived about five minutes after we were seated.

Yesterday we went TV shopping. Mel had a three-year-old RCA TV that just quite working last week. We decided to get a new one instead of getting the old one repaired. We ended up getting a Phillips 27-inch TV. Unfortunately we neglected to measure if it would fit the space in the entertainment center; it didn’t. We made some modifications to the entertainment center to get it to fit. It is quite a nice TV.

Last night, since nothing else was on TV, we ended up watching Showgirls on VH1. If you have ever seen the uncut version of this movie, you may wonder how it could ever be made suitable for television. All it takes are cutting a few scenes, a few words, and a lot of computer generated brassieres. They do detract slightly from the film, especially since what they were covering was about the only positive aspect of seeing Showgirls. Anyway, I best be off to work. I still have to get some quizzes graded from Wednesday of last week.


Now I Know Where I'll Spend Eternity

The Dante's Inferno Test has banished you to the Third Level of Hell!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Moderate
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Low
Level 2 (Lustful)High
Level 3 (Gluttonous)Very High
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Low
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)Moderate
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Very Low
Level 7 (Violent)Low
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)Low
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Low

Take the Dante Inferno Hell Test


Work, Work, Work

I feel like I've been working myself to death lately. Mainly this is because I still have 16 test items that I need to have written before I go to bed next Tuesday night. I should be able to manage this if I write two items a night until then with four items per day on Saturday and Sunday. Also, today I replied to the person who reviews my items that I'll be available to write more once this assignment is completed next month. I don't know why I said that I'd do it. I have been pretty busy with work lately, and I need to make a few minor improvements to my house to help it sell. I haven't had the time to do it since I've spent a lot of time on these test items. Also, I have to help my fiancee with wedding planning. Maybe I'll write back and say that I can't do any extra items for now. However, I don't want my future employer to think that I can't handle the work. I guess I'll figure something out. If I had a shorter assignment, it would be a lot easier. Writing 40 items in a little under a month is pretty difficult.


23 Items to Go

I've been working at getting some test items written for my future employer. After working a little this weekend, I now have 23 items left to write. Writing a test item sounds easy enough, but it can be quite difficult. I can't really go into the details due to a confidentiality agreement, but I've practically been pulling my hair out in frustration over nine more multiple-choice questions that I need to write. The items are due next Wednesday, so I have to average two or three a day to get them done on time. That would be a lot easier to do if I didn't have to leave the house every single night to let a real estate agent show it to someone. That can be really inconvenient, but I do want the house to sell.


I'm Still Alive

It's been a while since I have posted anything here. I just wanted to let everyone know that I am still around. I have just been terribly busy this week. First, my fiancee and I went to Cedar Rapids on Tuesday to check out a few more houses. We only actually went into one, and it was quite promising. It was in a nice, quiet neighborhood. It had really nice built-in drawers and cupboards in the hall and in the bedroom closets. The only real drawbacks with the house was that there was a smoky smell in the living room, the color of the kitchen carpet wasn't the most appealing, and the house only had a 60-amp fuse box. The insurance company that I have requires that I have 100 amps of electrical service. I had to upgrade my current house to 100 amps from 60, and it wasn't cheap, but it wasn't so expensive as to completely rule out the house. Also, there was only one bathroom, but I think there may have been connections in the basement to allow a bathroom to be added without much difficulty. The basement of the house was completely unfinished. That isn't entirely a bad thing. There was plenty of room upstairs for now, and if I were to finish the basement, I would be able to do it how I wanted it done. This house was much better than the next one we went to. We didn't even go inside it. It looked alright from the street, but the "Danger. Black mold present," sign up in the window scared us away.

The rest of the week I have been revising some test questions that I have written for my new employer; the one for which I will begin working in June. I've also had to leave the house quite a bit the last couple of days, making it hard to get this work done. Thursday evening we had someone come by to view the house, so we went shopping. Yesterday someone came by shortly after I got home from work, so we made ourselves scarce. Someone else came by unexpectedly around 5:00, when we were getting ready to order some pizza. Another Realtor is coming by to show the house in about half an hour, so I better be going.


Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day everyone! This evening, my fiancee and I went to the Ground Round for dinner. We decided to go there because it's where we first met.

Damn It

We have removed the house strongly considering from consideration. Reading the property disclosure there was comment that the road that the house is on was going to undergo improvements to improve traffic flow. Our Realtor looked into this for us, and it turns out that the street is going to be widened from two lanes to five! I really don't want to live on such a heavily traveled street, especially if I had a family to raise there. I don't think I'd be comfortable having them play in the front yard with that kind of traffic. Well, tomorrow we are going to get the chance to see the house we wanted to see this weekend.

Walking Down Memory Lane

Yesterday my fiancee and I ended up driving back to Cedar Rapids. We wanted to go through our two top choices again since they were both having open houses. Of the two, we definitely have a favorite and we decided that the other house just wouldn't work, despite everything we liked about it. We still have one more house that we feel that we must see. Unfortunately, our Realtor was unable to acquire a key for the property. The person who is listing the property never called him back. Today he's going to call the company through which it's listed. We hope to see it tomorrow. My fiancee and I both have a really good feeling about the house. I like the neighborhood that it is in as it's located about three-tenths of a mile from the house in which I grew up.

Speaking of the house where I grew up, it's also for sale! No my fiancee had already nixed the idea of buying that house. For one, it's too small. Also, it only has one bathroom and we'd really like at least one and a half. Personally, I think she just thinks it would be a bit creepy living in the house in which I spent nearly the first 17 years of my life. Well, we drove by it, and they had an open house yesterday, so we just had to take a look. I must say that I agree with her. We will not be buying the house. It is way to tiny! I can't believe how small my bedroom was, let alone the living room and kitchen! I had not seen the inside of this house since October 1989, the month in which I turned 17. Parts of it looked very different. One of the owners since I lived there completely remodeled the basement, removing a wall and moving another one. I liked the basement, but that would not be enough to get us to buy the house. It sure didn't show well. The owner has been renting it out, and it doesn't look all that great.


I May Not Know Lyrics...

...but I know titles and artists. Following Homercles, I took this quiz on 80's song lyrics, and I did not do too well.

In my defense, my family didn't have cable TV until I was in high school, so I didn't get to watch much MTV.

Looking at Houses

Yesterday my fiancee, my mother, and I drove down to Cedar Rapids to check out some houses that are for sale. We looked at a total of five homes. The very first one we checked out was gorgeous, even though it didn't have a full basement. We almost could have stopped our search right there, but we continued. The second house we looked at was also pretty good, although I wasn't as impressed with it as with the first one. One benefit that it did have over the first house though was that it wasn't on a busy street like the first house was. However, while inside the house, I couldn't really hear the noise of passing traffic. The next house we looked at needed quite a bit of work, and thus we crossed it off our list.

We then traveled to the opposite side of town where the keys were missing from the next house we wanted to see. We are planning on returning today, if our Realtor can arrange for us to get in. We then saw two other houses. The next one was nice, but the bedrooms are too small and we have a king sized water bed that we need to fit in it. The last house we saw was very nice. After measuring the bedroom, we think the water bed would fit, but it would only leave about 15 inches on either side. The room is long enough though. So right now, we are between the first and last of the houses we looked at. The prices are within $2000. One of them is 2.5 miles further from my future job, but it's mostly interstate miles. We don't want to make a decision too quickly, but we would hate to lose out on one of these houses if we think it's the one we want.


Getting Married

It's official, I'm getting married! After dinner tonight, my now fiancee and I went shopping for a ring. I had meant to propose on Valentine's Day next week, but it came up earlier this week. So, we decided to go together to buy the ring. I wouldn't have had a clue about what to get, so it really worked out best this way. I don't have any more information yet as to the date. Maybe I can talk her into getting married when we are in Las Vegas next month. I'm sure she wants a wedding closer to home though.


Anyone Looking for a House?

As of 5:30 yesterday afternoon, my house in Waterloo is for sale. I've only lived here since September 2003, but as I have indicated earlier, I have recently been offered a job in Iowa City which I have accepted. I have no desire to rent out a house here while buying a new one in the Iowa City or Cedar Rapids areas, so it has to go. Besides, I don't think I would qualify for an additional mortgage. I was pleasantly surprised about how much my Realtor thought I should ask. It's amazing how much real estate can appreciate in under two years. Now I just hope my house sells without too much problem, but just not too fast. My new job doesn't start until mid June. Of course, if I find a house in Cedar Rapids, rather than Iowa City, I can commute to Waterloo from there until the end of the school year.


Long Wait

Yesterday morning, when I was telling students how to factor a trinomial for what had to be the thousandth time in the past three weeks, I was thinking about how I can't wait until June when I begin my new career in the test-writing industry. I am really excited about this, but I am a bit nervous too. One thing I am worried about is whether or not my girlfriend will be able to get find a job that she enjoys. She doesn't really like her current job though. I would like her to be able to get a job that she actually wants to do however.

I found out this morning that I have been approved to take the week of RAGBRAI off from work. It will take all of my personal days for the remainder of the year and my two employee designated holidays, but it's worth it. Besides, I will still have five vacation days to use, which I won't be able to use until September.


House Shopping

This morning my girlfriend and I met a few friends in Cedar Rapids for lunch. Since we were going to be there, I thought that we should check out a few open houses in the area since we are planning on moving in that general direction. As I posted a couple of days ago, I will be starting a new job in Iowa City this June. I can get quite a bit more house for my money in Cedar Rapids than I could in Iowa City, and the drive isn't too bad. Now, if my girlfriend manages to find a job in Iowa City, then we would obviously move there, but she is also looking in Cedar Rapids.

We went to five open houses this afternoon. Three of them were homes that we could see ourselves living in, but we are still planning on checking out a few more. There is one in particular that I found online tonight that we would like to check out. One things that concerns me though is that the asking price of the house is less than its assessed value. While the city assessor's web site does not give the name of the deed holder, it does give the address, which for this property ended up being in Minneapolis. Doing a reverse address search online I discovered that there is a credit union that is at the address of the deed holder, although the suite number wasn't exactly the same. Perhaps the credit union foreclosed on the home and now they are trying to get what they can out of it. Anyway, we hope to check out the house soon.

Tomorrow I am going to call a real estate agent in Waterloo to see about getting my house listed. I just hope that it doesn't sell too soon, or if it does, that the buyers can wait to take possession until June, although we could move out sooner if necessary. Well, I have to get to work writing test items. I got an assignment a couple of weeks ago from the company for which I will be working beginning this summer. It wouldn't look good if I don't get my contract work done on time considering that I'll be an employee of theirs in a few months.

Phone Service

I really take my phone service for granted which is why I found the story about a Louisiana town finally getting telephone service to be fascinating. The hamlet of Mink, Louisiana, was finally connected to telephone service this week. My favorite quote in the article has got to be, '"We started in early 1970 trying to get a phone,' Bolton said. 'We'd talk to the phone company but they'd never call back.'" Well, how could they call back? You didn't have a phone. At a cost of over $700,000 to get the town connected, the cost will be subsidized by all telephone service users in the state. Now I have to wonder how long it will be before they start getting calls from telemarketers.


More Shatner News

Invasion Iowa, the TV series in which William Shatner tricks the Iowa town of Riverside into thinking that he is going to film a movie there is set to air late March on Spike TV. I, for one, was quite excited when I learned that William Shatner would be shooting a movie in the town where I once worked. I was a teacher at the high school in Riverside (actually, it's a few miles south of town) for three years, and I thought it would be cool to see a movie set in locales with which I was familiar. Instead, I'll get to see the townspeople of Riverside, many of whom I know, be fooled by Shatner. While Spike TV says that this show won't insult the residents of Riverside or Iowans in general, I think I will reserve judgment until I see the actual program. I have seen other Spike TV "reality" shows, and they can be entertaining, but they can also be cruel to their intended targets.

Taxes Done & Shatner Sings

I got my taxes done this morning. I was pleasantly surprised by the effect that owning my own home and having a mortgage payment on the size of my refunds. Now I'll have some extra spending money for my trip to Las Vegas next month.

After doing my taxes this morning, I went out to do a little shopping and to wash my car. Unfortunately, the car wash at the service station where I can get a free wash was not working. I'll have to check back tomorrow. While I was out driving, I was listening to William Shatner's new CD, Has Been. I only listened to the first three tracks before turning to "Car Talk" on NPR, but I must say that from what I heard, the CD is pretty good. At first it was somewhat silly, hearing Shatner doing his spoken word renditions of songs, but it really started to grow on me. I was a bit apprehensive at first about buying it, but now that I have started to listen to it, I am happy that I made the purchase.


"Enterprise" Cancelled

UPN has cancelled Star Trek: Enterprise after four seasons on the network. I wasn't too impressed with it when it was first aired, but I would have liked to see it go one more season as it has been getting better recently. I like to watch it when I remember to, but Friday night at 7:00 just isn't a good time for me to sit down and watch TV. I do tape it when I'm not home, but sometimes it's hard to find the time to watch it. I still haven't seen last week's episode. After it finishes this season's run in May, there will be no new "Star Trek" episodes on TV for the first time since 1987. At least I still have the first season of the original Star Trek series on DVD, and I plan on getting the rest. Also I have DVDs of the entire run of Deep Space Nine. In my opinion, those are the best two "Star Trek" series.


I just couldn't get a good night's sleep last night. I think that perhaps anxiety from the fact that I am going to be changing careers in a few months could be to blame. I am excited about my new job opportunity, but I am nervous about it too. For the past seven years or so I have been a math teacher. Beginning in mid-June, I will no longer be able to call myself a teacher. I will be sitting at a desk in a cubicle, working from 8:00 to 5:00. This will be the end of my getting off of work at 3:00. I guess I'll have to deal with not being able to watch "Judge Judy" every afternoon. In a way, I'll still be doing a job similar to what I do now. I'll still be helping students to learn, although not directly. By being someone who is creating the tests that students will be taking in school, I will be still be affecting their education.

Now I get to break the news to my department head. She was really hoping I'd stay. No one else in the math department where I teach particularly wants to teach the AP Calculus course. Maybe whoever they hire to replace me will want to teach it. I've enjoyed teaching calculus, although it is a lot of work. It's one class for which I have to do all of the homework assignments that I assign my students. For algebra, I don't have to do that. I could do the algebra in my sleep. In fact, I had a dream last night about factoring; seriously, I did. Yes, I know, that's sick.

I have one more comment that is completely unrelated to the rest of this post. On the news it seems that there is a story coming up about violent video games such as Grand Theft Auto. In the lead into the story at the commercial, the reporter said that many parents are getting fed up with these games, but free speech advocates say there is no legal way to keep them out of the hands of kids. Sure there is! The story is about localities passing laws prohibiting the sale of such games to kids. While that may not work, there is a way to keep them out of the hands of kids. Parents need to take the responsibility and not allow such games in their homes if they wish. I know that's easier said than done, but whoever said being a parent was easy.


Job Offer!

I got a job offer today! It's for a job in Iowa City at the company for which I worked this summer. I really think that I will be happier doing this job than I am in my current teaching job. Also, the pay is 36% more than what I currently earn teaching. Sure, I will lose my summer vacation, but if I'm not working at a summer job, summer vacation consists largely of boredom and watching TV. Now I need to call my Realtor friend in Iowa City to see about buying a house!


Comments on the State of the Union Address

I have just a few comments on the President's State of the Union Address. First of all, let me preface this by saying that I do not disagree with President Bush on every issue. I for one don't see why having private accounts for Social Security would necessarily be a bad thing. Of course it would require a lot of money to get things started, but after that, what would be the problem? I didn't agree with our reasoning for going to war in Iraq. I thought it was to remove Saddam Hussein from power because of his weapons of mass destruction which ended up not existing. However I don't think it is a bad thing that he has been captured. It's great that Iraqis got to vote earlier this week. That is great.

I do have a few problems with some positions of President Bush though. First of all, the President spoke about "protecting marriage."

Because marriage is a sacred institution and the foundation of society, it should not be re-defined by activist judges. For the good of families, children, and society, I support a constitutional amendment to protect the institution of marriage.

Of course what he is talking about by protecting the institution of marriage is to outlaw gay marriage. I know I have spoken about this before, but I don't see how allowing to people of the same gender to make a legal commitment of love to each other jeopardizes anyone else's marriage. If he truly wants to protect marriage, wouldn't he want to ban divorce as well? That would seem to me to strengthen marriage.

My next issue with the President's speech was when he continued to talk about "impartial justice."

Because courts must always deliver impartial justice, judges have a duty to faithfully interpret the law, not legislate from the bench. As president, I have a constitutional responsibility to nominate men and women who understand the role of courts in our democracy, and are well qualified to serve on the bench -- and I have done so.

What he was talking about here was what have been referred to as activist judges. It seems to me that what the President was saying was that judges must all interpret the law the way he thinks it should be interpreted. If a judge has a different interpretation, he or she must be an activist judge.

Another topic that the President spoke about was financial responsibility:

America's prosperity requires restraining the spending appetite of the federal government. I welcome the bipartisan enthusiasm for spending discipline. So next week I will send you a budget that holds the growth of discretionary spending below inflation, makes tax relief permanent, and stays on track to cut the deficit in half by 2009. My budget substantially reduces or eliminates more than 150 government programs that are not getting results, or duplicate current efforts, or do not fulfill essential priorities. The principle here is clear: a taxpayer dollar must be spent wisely, or not at all.

President Bush says that "America's prosperity requires restraining the spending appetite of the federal government." I thought that is was fairly under control before George W. Bush took power in 2001. Since he became President, spending grew out of control. Yes, it's mainly due to the war on terror, part of which was justified. However, while increasing federal spending dramatically, he also cut taxes! I don't like paying taxes more than anyone else, but when you cut taxes and increase spending at the same time, it seems to me that the deficit is bound to grow. I also agree that redundant and ineffective government programs should not continue to receive taxpayer money, but I must wonder what is going to happen to the unemployment rate when the employees of those 150 government programs he mentions are discontinued.

I have no doubt that the country will manage to make its way through the next 3 years, 11 months, and 18 days. I just hope that the Democratic Party gets itself together and regains much of the support that it has lost in recent years.

Tip for Mobile Meth Lab Operators

Don't fall asleep in your car containing a methamphetamine lab, especially when you are at an intersection in front of the county jail! That's exactly what Kirk Alan Marvel did. Around 4:00 this morning, Black Hawk County sheriff's deputies noticed a car stopped at a stop light at an intersection in front of the county jail. When the car stayed in its place through multiple cycles of the stop light, they decided to check it out. Upon approaching the car they smelled ether. On further investigation, they found other elements required for making meth in his car. I guess they didn't have far to take him when they arrested him, being in front of the jail.

Incidentally, the two "Related Advertising Links" that appeared on the web page that the news story was on when I read it were for Crystal Meth Treatment and Executive Recovery Help, a drug and alcohol treatment program aimed at executives.

Gotta Get Me Some Duff Beer

If you're going to try to defraud someone on eBay, don't use your real contact information. A woman in Australia put three cases of Duff beer up for auction on eBay. The problem is that she didn't have the beer that she was trying to sell. Apparently Duff beer was produced and sold in Australia for a few years until the creators of "The Simpsons" and Twentieth Century Fox ordered stopped it as it.

Pierre Pierce, Sexual Assault?

I guess if you get away with a sexual assault once, you think you can just have your way with a woman whenever you want. It seems that besides being investigated for burglary in West Des Moines, he now possible faces sexual assault charges. He may be the Hawkeye's leading scorer, but I don't think they need him if this is the kind of behavior he is prone to. But hey, what do I know? I wasn't there. Who am I to judge?

Pierre Pierce has been permanently dismissed from the University of Iowa basketball team.


Let's Try This Again

I had an awful day yesterday in my calculus class. I began teaching the new lesson, then I just completely forgot what I was saying, so I started over from the beginning. Then when I introduced a formula, the linearization function, L(x) = f(a) + f'(a)(x - a), I wrote a minus sign instead of a plus sign in the function, completely changing what I was supposed to do. As if that weren't bad enough, I then made not one, but two simple algebraic errors which of course kept me from showing that the equation did what I told my students it would do. Oh, and at the very end of class, when giving another equation, I said that x could not equal zero when I meant to say that it had to be close to zero. Hopefully I didn't mess any of my students up too much. Wish me luck. Today I get to repair all of the damage I did yesterday.