Gambling at the Grocery Store

I see an Iowa House committee has approved a ban on the Iowa Lottery’s controversial TouchPlay machines. I agree that these machines, which seemed to just spring up everywhere overnight, may be a bit too prevalent. However, I don’t think a complete ban on the machines is necessary. Yes, it seems to be a bit much to see the machines at the grocery store or even at a convenience store, but when the machines are in places that minors do not have access to them, such as bars, I think they are fine. I have played the TouchPlay machines a few times. I actually won money from one once. It was in the bar area of a bowling alley. I think the machines are perfectly appropriate in an environment like that. One of the main complaints I have heard about these machines is children being exposed to them. This simply is not the case in bars. Sure, some bars which serve food allow accompanied minors in them, but in that case the children are with an adult who presumably would not let them use the machines. Besides, are other aspects of bars, such as the alcohol, any more appropriate for children? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see if the machines ultimately are banned or not.


Last night neither Mel nor I felt like cooking dinner. Besides, there wasn’t really anything in the house to eat except for some cans of Campbell’s Chunky soup. We decided to go out to dinner before buying groceries for the week. We ended up going to Carlos O’Kelly’s in Marion. We were seated immediately, but as soon as we were seated I was wondering how our dining environment would be. As we approached the table, there were two girls – about three years old – standing in the aisle between the booths. Their mothers were talking. We had been sitting a few minutes when our waitress asked us if we wanted to move to a different both. Not wanting to be rude, we said we were fine. We soon wished we had taken our waitress up on the offer.

I had assumed that the mothers of these girls had finished eating and that they’d be leaving soon. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The girls proceeded to walk up and down the aisle and even around the corner. One of their mothers kept having to get up to bring them back. They were constantly in the way of the waitresses. The other mother of the two girls spent the entire time talking to her friend, that is when her friend wasn’t answering one of the many cell phone calls that she received on her loudly ringing phone. I feel kind of bad, but as one of the girls approached the heated bins where the corn chips were kept, I didn’t say anything. I figured that if the girl touched the heated container and burned herself, she’d quickly learn that she shouldn’t have done that.

I could not believe how irresponsible these parents were. When I have children, I will not allow them to run free in a restaurant! If I have children who are not capable of sitting in their seats at a restaurant, I simply won’t take them. That will probably mean that we won’t be eating out much when we have young children, but there are other options such as finding a baby sitter or getting take-out. If this had been McDonald's or something like that, then I wouldn't have had as much of a problem with the behavior, but it wasn't!

Tonight, I fired up the grill for the first time in several months. I picked up the propane last night and grilled some chicken breasts for dinner tonight. The chicken tasted a lot better than it does when I cook it on the George Foreman grill. The cleanup is also a lot easer. The Foreman grill can be really hard to clean well, especially if I put anything on the meat. I intend on doing a lot of grilling this spring and throughout the summer.


Brokeback Mountain

Mel and I went to see Brokeback Mountain today. It was an interesting movie. I don't think it's one I need to see again, but it was good. I did feel a bit uncomfortable during the gay sex scene, but it was tastefully done. I don't really have much else to say about the movie, so I guess that's it for tonight.


It's Friday and I Get to See My Wife Again!

With Mel at work once again tonight, I was on my own for the evening. First I visited my grandfather in the hospital. He went in this morning and they are keeping him overnight, but he’s doing just fine. There’s nothing seriously wrong with him. After leaving the hospital, I went over to my friend Bill’s house for dinner. We also played a game of Mario Party on his Nintento Game Cube. That was quite a bit of fun even though I did not win. Now I am waiting for Mel to get home from work. I’m glad this work week is almost over for her. I haven’t really been able to spend much time with her in about a week. She had to work last weekend and she worked evenings all this week. By the time she’s gotten home from work all week, I’ve been quite tired. To see her, I have to stay up about an hour and half longer than I usually do, but at least it gives me a chance to see my honey for a few minutes before I go to sleep.


RAGBRAI, Here I Come!

I just completed my registration for this summer’s RAGBRAI and I have put the check in the mail. This will be the seventh straight summer that I ride my bike across Iowa with the Superior Hawgs. My sister is thinking about coming along for the ride. She rode RAGBRAI a few times, but it’s been around 16 or so years since then. I do not anticipate that this year’s RAGBRAI will be too tough. I think it will be fairly hilly the first day, but the rest of the week shouldn’t be all that bad. Of course, the weather could change that. Last year the temperatures were very mild all week. In fact, it was pretty damn cold some mornings. And except for the storm on Sunday night, which killed one rider, it didn’t really rain all that much.

The hard part for me with last year’s RAGBRAI was that it was my first RAGBRAI without my father. After he passed away in June, I considered not going on the ride, thinking it might be too difficult. I am glad I decided to do it though. It was an unusual summer though. Not only was my dad not there, but neither were two of our friends from Texas. One of them had been injured in a waterskiing accident and the other had some other obligations. They should both be back this summer, and we should have a great time.

The photo shows my dad and me in Elvira, the final pass through town on the last day of RAGBRAI XXXII in 2004. That was my dad's last RAGBRAI.


Bringing Work Home

When I left teaching, I didn’t realize that I’d still be bringing work home with me. I haven’t brought home nearly as much work as I did when I was teaching, but it’s still an extension of my work day. I guess I didn’t realize other professionals brought much work home. The work I have to do is fairly easy though. I probably shouldn’t go into detail about it for fear of disclosing trade secrets, but the work I have to do tonight – which I also did Saturday morning – can be a little fun. Nonetheless, it is still work. This work is for a project other than the one I spend most of my time on usually. It’s a nice change of pace from what I have been doing. I am really hoping that the way my main project is going is not typical of most. If it is, I don’t know how long I will last in this job as the changes in the requirements of the project just cause everyone involved to get a bit testy.

I know I have said in the past that I enjoy my new job and that I am glad that I don’t teach anymore. I do enjoy aspects of my job and there are definitely aspects of teaching that I don’t miss, but sometimes I wonder if I made the right decision in leaving teaching. There are a lot of things I miss about teaching. First and foremost is the sense of doing something that makes a positive difference in someone’s life. Oh, I am still involved in helping to educate youth, just not directly. Maybe these doubts come from the fact that the project I am working on is very stressful at the moment. This is precisely why I made a commitment to myself to give the job a couple of years before seriously considering leaving. Of course, the longer I stay in this job, the harder it will be to return to teaching. The pay cut I would have to take only increases each year. I do think though that I need to give this job a fair shot before seriously considering leaving.


Horrible Service!

My friend Bill came to Iowa City to meet me for lunch today. He picked me up from work at noon. Wanting to get lunch without too much of a wait, we went to a restaurant fairly close by – Bob’s Your Uncle on Dodge Street in Iowa City. It’s a sit-down restaurant, but I’ve gotten lunch pretty quickly there before. Well, they did not appear to be overly busy when we arrived and we were seated immediately. We had been sitting, deciding what to order, for over fifteen minutes and no one had come to take our order. They didn’t even bother to ask us what we wanted to drink! I don’t think I have ever had such bad service at a restaurant. At that point, we just got up and left. We ended up eating at Taste of China, which was quite good. Right now I am not sure if I will go to Bob’s Your Uncle to eat again.

What Muppet Am I?

You Are Scooter

Brainy and knowledgable, you are the perfect sidekick.
You're always willing to lend a helping hand.
In any big event or party, you're the one who keeps things going.
"15 seconds to showtime!"


11 Days in a Row

I don't have much to write about today, but I've been on a roll with ten straight days of posting to my blog, and I wanted to keep up the trend. So tonight, I'm just writing to provide a link to the Cafe Press store of my friend Bill.




When I backed my car out of the driveway earlier today to go buy groceries, I noticed a yellow splotch above my garage door. I realized that some asshole had egged my house! It was only one egg, but now I have to figure out how to clean the frozen egg yolk and albumen off of my house. If it was a bit warmer, I don’t think this would be as much of an issue, but it’s only 16 degrees Fahrenheit outside! I guess I’ll figure something out.

My Mom

I’m worried about my mother. She called me about an hour ago, crying. She has been having a rough few days. On Friday she got her new job description at work. She is feeling that she is being underutilized at work and her boss has taken away the more enjoyable aspects of her job and assigned them to the new, inexperienced person in the office. She’d love to quit her job and retire, but she doesn’t know if the widow’s benefit she’d get from Social Security would be enough for her.

She has also been obsessed with looking at condos. She really doesn’t know what she wants to do. She is sure that my sister does not want her to move. I really don’t know how I feel about this. I want what’s best for her, but I don’t know what that is, and I don’t think she does either. I really do not want her to make a decision that she is going to regret.

Then this morning, one of the last hymns sung at church was one that was sung at my father’s funeral. With the stress and other feelings she’s been having lately, this was the final straw. I just wish there was something I could do to help her. I guess by talking to her on the phone, I was able to help some.


Losing Weight

I really need to get back on track for losing some weight. I had been doing better at watching my weight earlier in the week, but with going out for dinner on Valentine's Day, Valentine's Day candy, going out for lunch yesterday, today, and tomorrow, and going out to dinner tomorrow night with Mel and her coworkers, this has not been a good week for me as far as dieting goes. I have managed to use the elliptical trainer three times so far this week however. That should help.


Snow Day!

This morning I awoke to learn that schools were canceling all over the area in which I live. Of course, I am no longer teaching, so that didn't mean that I didn't have to work. Fortunately, my employer lets us work from home occasionally if we need to, so I stayed home and worked out of my basement all day. A little after 10:00 this morning, I got a phone call from a friend of mine in the area. Being a teacher, he had the day off from work so he suggested that we get together for lunch. We ate at Cork 'n Fork Deli which, if you live in the Cedar Rapids area, I highly recommend! They make terrific burgers which they load with plenty of toppings. The steak fries are really good too. This was the third time I have eaten there since moving to Cedar Rapids. It's a place I'll definitely visit again.


Here Comes the Snow Again

I was sure to being home plenty of materials from work this afternoon in anticipation of not being able to make it to Iowa City for work tomorrow. There seems to be a big storm coming. And of course, as they do every time a snow storm is approaching, the local news talked to some people at a grocery store stocking up on provisions to make it through the whole day that they may be stuck at home. I just don't understand. I suppose some people just happen to need groceries, but I would imagine that except for people who go shopping every day for the next day's food, and I don't know anyone like that, people have at least a couple of days' food at home. A snow storm is not going to keep most people from going out for an extended period, especially if they live in a city. In fact, the roads will probably be in fairly good condition by early afternoon at the latest. I guess when a really huge snow storm finally hits, I'm screwed.


I'm sorry, last night while watching The Daily Show I discovered that I have been guilty in participating in the War on St. Valentine's Day. I forgot the true meaning of the season yesterday when I took the Saint out of Saint Valentine's Day. I do not want to offend anyone for this transgression, especially not Saint Valentine. I sincerely hope to avoid his fate. So in correcting the title of yesterday evening's entry, "Happy Saint Valentine's Day."


Happy Valentine's Day

Mel and I had a pretty laid back Valentine's Day. After I brought home a dozen roses, we exchanged presents and then went to the Olive Garden for dinner. We only had to wait about 50 minutes. We were told it would be 80 to 90 minutes when we got there, but they did a good job of helping people quickly. While we were waiting for a table, we ran into a friend of mine from junior high and high school, Travis. I hadn't seen him or his wife in quite some time. It was good to have a chance to catch up with him.


No Child Left Behind: The "Football" Version

Friday at work, we had someone give us a presentation on the No Chile Left Behind legislation. Many aspects of the law seem to have no basis in reality. For one, 100% of students are expected to be proficient at grade level by the 2012-2013 school year. This includes students with disabilities. Now I believe that everyone can have some degree of success, but to expect every student to perform at the same level is just asinine! An eighth grader with a serious brain injury for one, is extremely unlikely to be able to do what a typical eighth grader is expected to do.

In response to this, one of my coworkers sent this email out to us today:


1. All teams must make the state playoffs, and all will win the championship. If a team does not win the championship, they will be on probation until they are the champions, and coaches will be held accountable.

2. All kids will be expected to have the same football skills at the same time and in the same conditions. No exceptions will be made for interest in football, a desire to perform athletically, or genetic abilities or disabilities. ALL KIDS WILL PLAY FOOTBALL AT A PROFICIENT LEVEL.

3. Talented players will be asked to work out on their own without instruction. This is because the coaches will be using all their instructional time with the athletes who aren't interested in football, have limited athletic ability, or whose parents don't like football

4. Games will be played year round, but statistics will only be kept in the 4th, 8th and 11th games.

5. This will create a New Age of sports where every school is expected to have the same level of talent and all teams will reach the same minimal goals.

If no child gets ahead, then no child will be left behind.



I went to my local Hy-Vee store this morning to pick up some doughnuts for breakfast. The selection isn't as good as it was at the Hy-Vee I used to go to when I was living in Waterloo, but it will do. Anyway, while I was there, I ran into Homercles. I hadn't seen or heard from him in a while. I had been meaning to call him, but I just hadn't gotten around to it. We had a nice conversation and he insisted that we get together for dinner some time. That sounded good to me.

On another topic, I just got done with Mel's and my taxes. My goodness it sure got more complicated. Between getting married, selling a house, moving, buying a house, and having some self-employment income from writing test items, it was a little more involved than it had been previously for me. Even using TurboTax, it took several hours. At least it's done now. We just have to wait for our refunds to arrive.


A New Look

Well I did it. Last night I decided to make some major changes to the appearance of my blog. I've put a more recent photo of myself in my profile. The previous photo was actually taken when I was four years old. I am also including my real first name. As a teacher, I didn't want students to stumble upon my blog and know more about me that I wanted them to. Now that I am no longer teaching, it's not as much of an issue for me. With the new design are some new "features." I have started a photo of the week and a list of songs from my iPod. We'll see how long I keep up with updating those, but my intention is to do it every week, either Friday evening or Saturday morning. There may be some other changes too, but you will have to wait for those, since I haven't made any decisions regarding that yet.


I had an interesting experience happen to me last week when I was on my way to pick up my new car. This past summer, I got personalizes license plates for my car which read DAGOBAH. I decided to get these plates because I wanted to get something related to Star Wars, but I didn’t want something that everyone would recognize. I have a Yoda collection, so I considered getting YODA put on my license plates, but that would have been too recognizable to people who are not fans of Star Wars. I thought that only people who were at the very least somewhat interested in Star Wars would know what Dagobah was – the planet that Yoda lives on when he is found by Luke Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back. Maybe I picked something a little too uncommon.

Mel and I were stopped at a stoplight when I heard someone yelling at me from the car next to mine. I rolled down my window and the passenger of the car asked me what my license plate meant and how to pronounce it. I told him and even pronounced it a few times for him, but he couldn’t seem to get the pronunciation right. The last thing he said that he thought he’d name his next dog Dagobah, although he mispronounced it. While I thought I had picked a license plate that people wouldn’t understand, I never thought they’d ask me about it in the middle of the road!


The Doctor

I am getting a little annoyed with my doctor’s office. Towards the end of last year, I made an appointment to see a doctor for a routine physical. Mel wants to make sure that I see a doctor regularly to make sure I am healthy, especially considering my dad’s heart attack last summer. Anyway, I had an appointment to see a doctor on January 16. I had the day off for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, so it was the perfect time to make the appointment for. Well, that morning at around 8:00, I got a call from the doctor’s office informing me that he would be at the hospital all day, so they needed to reschedule my appointment. That did not bother me too much. I understand that things like that happen. Anyway, my rescheduled appointment was for 10:00 yesterday morning. At 8:00 I received another call informing me that they’d have to reschedule for the same reason. Now, I have an appointment in the latter half of March. If that appointment gets cancelled, I will be looking for a new doctor!

On another note, I am planning on adding a feature to my blog. At the urging of Sara from The Midwestern Position, I am going to start listing the first five songs I heard every Friday on my iPod in the sidebar of the window. And now that I bought a cable to connect my iPod to the stereo of my new car, I’ll be able to listen to it even more! I had actually been thinking about doing this, but I didn’t want to be accused of copying her. However, since she suggested it, I think I will go ahead and do it. I am also planning on making some other changes to the content and appearance of my blog. I am considering adding a photo of the week as well, but don’t count on that being here tonight. I may not get around to that until this weekend.


Tag, I'm It

Homercles has tagged me to answer some questions. Narrowing some of these down to just four is going to be difficult.

Four jobs I've had:
1) Hardee's shift leader
2) Computer lab attendant
3) Summer recreation program/day camp staff
4) Teacher

Four movies I can watch over and over:
1) Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
2) Office Space
3) Clerks
4) Zoolander (Yes, it's a stupid movie, but it's just so funny.)

Four places I've lived:
1) Rosenberg, Texas
2) Norfolk, Nebraska
3) Waterloo, Iowa
4) Coralville, Iowa

Four TV shows I love:
1) CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
2) Jeopardy!
4) Numb3rs

Four highly-touted shows I detest:
1) Survivor
2) Fear Factor
3) Desperate Housewives
4) The OC

Four books I'd recommend to anyone, anytime:
I'm going to pass on this one as I don't read much. I mean to read more, it's just that I'd rather watch TV.

Four places I've vacationed:
1) Las Vegas, Nevada
2) Orlando, Florida
3) Omaha, Nebraska
4) Saint Louis, Missouri

Four of my favorite dishes:
1) Two Flavor Chicken at Golden China in Waterloo, Iowa
2) Shrimp Primavera at Olive Garden
3) Mushroom and black olive pizza
4) Ribs and chicken strips at the Irish Democrat in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Four sites I visit daily:
1) Google (I do a lot of searching for things at work, mostly work related.)
2) Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier
3) CNN
4) Des Moines Register

Four places I'd rather be right now:
1) Las Vegas
2) Jamaica (I booked a vacation there today!)
3) Ireland

The Past Week

Monday night Mel and I went car shopping. We spent a few hours at the Saturn dealership where we ended up buying a 2006 Saturn VUE. This is the first brand new car that I have ever owned and I have to say that I really like it! We didn’t get to pick it up until Wednesday night but it was worth the wait.

Friday night Mel and I went to Cedar Falls to go out to dinner with Mel’s cousin for his twenty-first birthday. We went to Bourbon Street, a restaurant in downtown Cedar Falls. It is a great place to eat. I had the Cajun Kamikaze Tuna, which is a sashimi grade tuna grilled with Cajun spices. Yum!

We stayed at my mother’s house in Waterloo Friday night. On Saturday I looked at some condominiums with my mom while Mel was busy. Each one of the three condos we looked at had distinct advantages; however they each had their problems. One of them was really nice but it had too many steps. Another was brand new but it was too expensive. The third was perfect except for the fact that it was a second level condo with no way for my mom to have a small garden to enjoy outside. Maybe she’ll stay in her house for now. That would be just fine with me. I’m not sure I am ready for her to sell the house and move yet.

Last night Mel went out to eat with some coworkers. I visited my friend Bill for a while. On my way home from visiting Bill, I called Mel and she and her friends invited me to go out to a bar with them. I met them at Dublin City in downtown Cedar Rapids. I have to say that I felt pretty old there. It seemed like most of the patrons of the bar were in their low to mid twenties.