I had a pretty good Christmas with my and Mel's families, although I do have some presents that I need to return. I got not two, but three copies of the same book. It was on my Amazon.com wish list, but two of the people who bought it for me bought it at Barnes & Noble bookstores. The third person bought it at Amazon.com. We just need to find one of the receipts so I can return two of the copies to Barnes & Noble.
After leaving the U.S. Cellular store, I decided to check out Westdale Mall since it was across the street. Walking through the mall brought back memories of the times my friends Bill and Brad would take the bus to the mall on weekends when we were in junior high school. It was really quite sad. While going to the mall brought back these memories, it was disheartening seeing how empty Westdale Mall is now. I didn't count the vacant stores, but I would hazard to guess that the mall is over half empty. Across town, Lindale Mall seems to be doing quite well, but Westdale Mall seems to be languishing.
Later, I drove to Woodbury to visit my sister who lives here. Together, we went to visit my grandmother. We spent a few hours visiting with her in her apartment. We also did some shopping; I need to find some Christmas presents for Mel still. We also had dinner with my cousin Meg and her husband Jon, who also live in the Twin Cities. Later on we returned to their house to play some games.
Today, I need to finish up some work, but I think I will be heading back to the Mall of America to finish my Christmas shopping.
Today, Mel and I went to see the new James Bond movie, Casino Royale. I really enjoyed the movie. I’m not sure what it was about it, but it seemed more like a classic Bond movie than some of the more recent ones, and I think that Daniel Craig did a very good job playing James Bond.
After the movie, and a trip to Best Buy to fill some time and to get a storage rack for our plethora CDs, we went to dinner at Texas Roadhouse. I really like the food there, and it is usually worth the wait. Fortunately we had called ahead when we were leaving Best Buy. By the time we got the Texas Roadhouse, the wait for a table was between ninety and one hundred minutes! We had to wait about forty-five minutes once we got there, but that wasn’t too bad.
This weekend is going pretty well. We even got most of our Christmas shopping done online tonight.
Starting with this Friday, my Friday ten iPod songs are going to come from my holiday music collection. I'm not trying to be politically correct by calling it holiday music instead of Christmas music; I'm just trying to me accurate. I believe I may have one Hanukkah song in the collection, so "Christmas" music wouldn't be entirely accurate. That would be Adam Sandler's "Hanukkah Song."
After doing a little shopping, I stopped by my friend Bill's apartment. I spent a couple hours there playing the game "Worms" on his PlayStation with him and his friend Jason. That was a fun game. I might look into whether or not it is available for PC. Eventually I had to leave Bill's place so I could get the grocery shopping done.
This second photo shows the baby's legs. This is the photo which led to the conclusion that the baby will be a girl.
Also, in organizing the basement a bit today, I finally got around to hanging up the autographed photos that I have. That is helping to make the basement look nicer. Now I just need to figure out where to hang the Mr. Spock Heineken ad that I have! I do have a few other things to hang on the walls, but I have a spot already picked out for them.
You may recall that I painted the nursery for our baby a couple weekends ago. Well, this morning I replaced all of the outlets and cover plates. The outlets that were there had been painted with the wall's previous color and I didn't want to paint them, so I replaced them all with nice new white outlets. Besides, some of the outlets in this house, haven't worked very well. The plugs fall out of some of them. Now I just need to hang a Winnie the Pooh wallpaper border around the room. I have never hung wallpaper or wallpaper border before, so I hope it isn't too hard. Maybe I will get around to doing that tomorrow.
On a similar note, President Bush today said that Donald Rumsfeld's resignation from his position as defense secretary was actually in the works before the election, even though Bush had recently said that he planned on Rumsfeld staying in that role through the end of his term in 2009. Today he said that he "didn't want to inject a major decision about this war in the final days of a campaign." That sounds like a bunch of bullshit. Bush had been campaigning hard for Republican candidates for ten days before the election. I am sure he hoped for Republicans to maintain control in the legislative branch, and if thought this would have helped to win the election, he would have done it beforehand.
Today, my in-laws came to visit. It was nice seeing them and they hadn't been to our house in a while. We went out to lunch with them to Ruby Tuesday. It was our first visit there. The food was good, but I thought that Red Robin had a much more variety in the burgers on their menu. We may end up going to Ruby Tuesday again. It probably would not be my first choice for a casual dining restaurant, but the food was still good.
This reminded me of a time in high school when my homeroom teacher, Mr. Weld, said that he thought I looked like Skippy on the TV show Family Ties. I didn't take that as a complement then, and I still don't, although I don't have any hard feelings about that comment.
The law that Steve King refers to is Chapter 1.18 of the Iowa Code. The law does state that English is the language of government of Iowa. Stating:
Except as otherwise provided for in subsections 4 and 5, the English language shall be the language of government in Iowa. All official documents, regulations, orders, transactions, proceedings, programs, meetings, publications, or actions taken or issued, which are conducted or regulated by, or on behalf of, or representing the state and all of its political subdivisions shall be in the English languageNow, if King would read subsection 4, he would see:
Now, as the Constitution of the State of Iowa states that
4. This section shall not apply to:
h. Any language usage required by or necessary to secure the rights guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America or the Constitution of the State of Iowa.
[e]very citizen of the United States of the age of twenty-one years, who shall have been a resident of this state for such period of time as shall be provided by law and of the county in which he claims his vote for such period of time as shall be provided by law, shall be entitled to vote at all elections which are now or hereafter may be authorized by lawit seems to me that voting is a constitutional right, and therefore the English-only requirement does not apply. And while Congressman King may have written the law, it is not his job to interpret it!
Thirty-seven trick-or-treaters came by the house tonight. Being the math geek that I am, I kept track of when they all came by and created this histogram to show my data. Now I will have a record of the number of children who stopped by this year when I need to decide how much candy to get for next year's Halloween.
After the craft show, it was too early to eat dinner, so we went back to my mom's house where we watched the movie Hoodwinked. It is an animated film about the story behind Little Red Riding Hood. My mom had gotten it from Netfilx after my sister recommended it to her. I thought it was a really good movie and I would recommend it to almost anyone.
The three of us went to the Other Place on University Avenue for dinner. Mel really loves there pizza. She claims that she has never had better pizza than theirs. I admit that it is quite good. Mel and I each ordered our own individual pizzas - sausage and extra cheese for Mel and BBQ chicken for me - while my mom had lasagna. It was all very good.
After we got back to Cedar Rapids, I went over to a friend's house where we played a friendly game of cards. I must admit that I really don't know all that much about the ins and outs of playing Texas Hold 'Em, but I did pretty good for a while. Even though I was not the winner in the end, it was a fun game. We will need to do that again.
She also got me the new "Weird Al" Yankovic CD, Straight Outta Lynwood. I had heard some songs from the CD a couple of weeks ago, but this was the first chance I had to really listen to the CD. In my opinion, this is Weird Al's best CD is a while. His last one was alright, but I didn't think it matched some of his earlier works. The first track on this CD, "White & Nerdy," is great. I do have to say that much of the song reminds me of myself, except for the programming parts as that is not my forte. The CD continues with "Pancreas" which serves to show just how white and nerdy Weird Al truly is. I have to say that almost every song on this CD is great! "Confessions Part III" is hilarious, as is "Weasel Stomping Day." The latter is probably Mel's favorite track on the CD. We were listening to the CD on our way to and on our way back home from Biaggi's, so we haven't finished it yet. We were in the middle of "Trapped in the Drive-Thru," a parody of R. Kelly's "Trapped in the Closet," but the song is really funny as far as we have heard it.
Besides these two presents, Mel also got me some candy. I was pretty excited about that, probably too much so for a thirty-four-year-old man, but she got me some really good candy - Twizlers Twerpz and dark chocolate M&Ms.
Dinner at Biaggi's was really good. It really filled me up, but I still had room for Dairy Queen ice cream cake when we got home.
Listening to the news this morning, I found out that I share my birthday with Snoop Dogg. He also turns 34 today. So I guess I should say, "Happy birthday to us!"
- Iowa is boring! I have lived other places, some more interesting than others, and I have to say that compared to some other places, there really isn't a whole lot to do in Iowa. Sure, Iowa's a great place to raise a family. If it wasn't, I think I'd want to leave the state, but this isn't a big concern for a lot of young people.
- Many of these young people have lived in Iowa most of their lives. It's only natural that many of them would want to get away from the places they have spent their entire lives and experience more of the world.
- Some of the places these young people move to may have lower taxes, but the cost of living there is not much less, in fact in some of the places, it higher. One of the places that the commercial shows as a destination for young people leaving the state is Minneapolis. That's not exactly an inexpensive place to live. And many people leave Iowa for Chicago. I'm sure the cost of living there is much cheaper. Sure.
Now I suppose that there may be somewhat of a lack of jobs in some areas because of the way Iowa structures its income taxes. Having federal income tax deductiblity on the taxes lowers taxable income but does have the effect of making the tax rate seem high. But in the past few years, the state has actively campaigned to get people to move back to Iowa, and some people do. If there were no jobs, would these people be coming back? While I don't like paying taxes any more than the next guy, it wouldn't get be to move from Iowa.
In the evening, I got together with Captain Creative, the good captain's son, Homercles, Jason, and Scott, another friend of ours, to celebrate Captain Creative's birthday which was earlier in the week. We had dinner at the new Red Robin restaurant in town. They have pretty good burgers, and their selection is quite extensive. I had the Santa Fe burger which contains a Poblano pepper, guacamole, sautéed onions, crisp tortilla strips, and Ancho mayo on an onion bun.
After dinner all of us except for Homercles and Captain Creative's son headed off to Riverside to visit the new Riverside Casino. It was fun. I didn't gamble all that much money. The casino was really nice. The atmosphere was a lot better than at the Mesqwaki Casino in Tama. The space was a lot more open and it wasn't too smoky. There was a nice fountain on top of the bar area in the center of the casino. They also had a lounge act, which wasn't that great, but it was something to listen to. They had more table games than the Meskwaki casino but I didn't think the variety of slot machines was that great. Maybe that's because they only had four of the one slot machine I really enjoy, Wheel of Fortune. Also, I didn't see any that had progressive jackpots. There may have been some, but I didn't see them. I also had a hard time finding any nickle slot machines. I eventually found them. I did think that they had way too many penny slots.
When we left to head home, we stopped at the convenience store near between the casino and Highway 218. There I ran into some students I had taught when I was teaching at Highland Junior/Senior High School in Riverside. The cashier and another employee were students I taught my first year at Highland in 1999 when they were freshmen. There were a couple more students of mine getting cash from the ATM. They were seventh graders when I taught them my last year at Highland. Now they are seniors in high school. I thought that it was somewhat likely that I'd run into former students of mine when I was there. I'm just glad that none of them were the cocktail waitresses in the skimpy outfits at the casino. That may have been a bit awkward.
This morning, Mel and I went to the church that we have been attending the past several weeks. After the service, there we met with someone about becoming members. We got a tour of the building and got a lot of information about the church. It seems like a very nice place.
After eating lunch, Mel and I went to Iowa City and Coralville to shop for maternity clothes for Mel. Our shopping trip was successful.
Being in Waterloo for the evening made me think of some of the things that I like better about the Waterloo/Cedar Falls area better than about Cedar Rapids. Now when my family moved to Waterloo at the beginning of my senior year of high school, there was absolutely nothing positive that I could see in my new hometown, but having lived there for nearly two years recently, I discovered that the Cedar Valley has a lot to offer. One thing I miss is the restaurants. Oh sure, there are plenty of places to eat here in Cedar Rapids, but I miss a lot of the locally owned restaurants in Waterloo and Cedar Falls. I'm sure there are some really good locally owned restaurants here, but I just haven't found them yet. Also, the bike trail system in the Cedar Valley is fantastic. The trails in Cedar Rapids are adequate, but kind of boring. There just aren't that many paved trails here. Of course, there are things I like better about Cedar Rapids as well, but a lot of that is based on childhood memories from when I grew up here. Maybe we should just move someplace completely different. Las Vegas comes to mind.
(Just kidding Mel and Anna. I don't plan on moving anywhere anytime soon.)
I spoke with the Realtor for a little while, while I was there, she told me about my next-door neighbor and her selling her house. The Realtor told me that the lady is crazy! She allegedly threatened her husband with a gun. I had heard this from another neighbor, so I'd believe it. She told me that the reason that house sold so fast was that someone in the neighborhood bought it for a child of theirs and his or her spouse. She thinks that the couple may be expecting a child as well. If this is true, it would be great because our child would have someone in the neighborhood about his or her age to play with. And if the neighbor across the street ends up staying, there will be yet another child our child's age.
This first video is of their song "One For the Road."
And this second song is called "Curvy Girls."
- It has to be a truck.
- It has to be a Dodge.
- It must be black.
Well, she test drove a couple of trucks. One of them was a black Dodge Dakota and the other was a silver Dodge Ram 1500. She like the feel of the Ram much better, and it was roomier inside. While the Ram was more expensive than the Dakota, there was a better cash-back offer on the Ram, so they ended up being about the same price. So for the first time in quite a while, Mel will be driving a truck that is not black. Personally, I like the silver color better. I think it won't show dirt as well and it does look nice.
When we got the Ram home, we just managed to squeeze it into the garage with about three-quarters of an inch clearance between the top of the truck and the garage door. Today we need to clean out the garage so it fits better lengthwise.
Mel and I had planned on getting together with her for dinner some time this week. I hadn't heard from her since she got into town at the beginning of the week, so I called her and left a message for her to call me. Well, last night she gave me a call and I could tell right away that things were not going well. Her mother's doctors initially thought they could remove the cancer surgically, but they then determined that was not possible, so they were going to try chemotherapy instead. She was to begin chemo yesterday, but the doctors realized then that the cancer was too far along to respond to chemo, so it seems like they are out of options. It seems that all they can do now is try to make her comfortable.
I would like to think that I can relate to what my friend is going through since I lost my father about fifteen months ago, but I don't think I can. Her situation is just so different from mine. When my father had his heart attack is was sudden and unexpected. There was a lot of initial shock, but then we had to deal with the fact that he was gone. In my friend's case, her mother is still here and all her family can do is wait. Despite my father's passing, I can not begin to understand how my friend must be feeling right now. I just hope she and her family can find a way to cope with what is happening with them. Of course, I'll be here to offer any support I can.
When we got to the hotel we were disappointed to find that the pool was closed for repairs. What was especially disappointing about this was that I booked the hotel on Travelocity. They have a commercial where they warn some people that the hotel pool at the hotel they have booked has been closed. Now where was that damn gnome to let us know our pool was out of service. Anyway, we survived the weekend without the pool.
On Friday we went to the Kansas City Zoo. Going to the zoo on a weekday after Labor Day had the advantage of making the zoo a lot less crowded. There just weren't that many people around. However, because it was less busy, many of the food service areas were not open. I think there were only two places in the zoo where we could get food. We had a good time looking at the animals. The Kansas City Zoo is nice, but personally I like the Omaha Zoo better.
On Saturday we went to the thirtieth annual Kansas City Renaissance Festival in Bonner Springs. This was the main reason we chose to go to Kansas City for a vacation. We had a lot of fun wandering around the grounds all day. We had considered going to the Twin Cities to the renaissance festival up there, but we chose Kansas City instead so Mel could see a band she likes, the Jolly Rogers. The photo below shows her with the band.
The only photo we took of me on this trip was with the SPAM Mobile which was parked outside the gates to the ren fest. What was really ironic was that I was wearing the SPAM T-shirt that I had purchased at the SPAM Museum in Austin, Minnesota, this past spring. This is one of three SPAM Mobiles that roam the United States promoting SPAM (the luncheon meat, not the junk email). People all over the festival were commenting on my shirt, many of them singing Monty Python's SPAM song.