5.29.2006

Going to the Lake

This afternoon, Mel and I went to Lake Macbride. We thought we could use a little sun, and with temperatures in the nineties, we felt going to the lake would be a fun thing to do. We sat on the beach and swam in the lake for a couple of hours before returning home.

I have been spending my evening painting the basement. There are only a few walls to paint. The rest have wood paneling. Right now I am waiting for the paint on a couple of walls to dry so I can complete the second coat. Then I'll be done.

The William Shatner DVD Club

I tried to come up with a catchy title for this entry, but I couldn't, so I'll just proceed with this title. Anyway, I received an email the other day prompting me to join the William Shatner DVD Club. Apparently acting and breeding horses isn't enough for the 75-year-old actor, he now has his very own DVD club. Every month a different science fiction DVD is mailed to club members. Now these aren't just any sci fi DVDs, they are movies that have been personally selected by William Shatner himself (along with an expert team of film critics and programming professionals from such organizations as the Sci-Fi channel). Now with this help in picking the movies, I wonder how long it will take to get his movie directorial debut, the now classic movie, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. Well, I think I will be able to resist joining this DVD club as I really prefer to pick movies for myself, or at least have trusted friends recommend movies for me.

5.28.2006

Poseidon

Mel and I went to see Poseidon this afternoon. It was the first time we have gone to a movie since February. We both enjoyed the movie. We saw a made-for-TV remake of The Poseidon Adventure a few months ago on TV. Then this movie came out. I wonder why there has been so much desire to remake this movie right now. Anyway, knowing what the movie was about, nothing came as too much of a surprise. However, the overall idea of the movie, a cruise ship tips over and people try to get to the bottom which is now the top too escape, left the writer with a lot of options when writing this remake. There was a lot of intense action which was what I was expecting from the movie. The added bonus of seeing Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas performing in a low cut dress was not expected, but fine just the same.

Moving My Mom

Yesterday, Mel and I went to Waterloo to help my mom get moved into her condo. We moved a lot of the larger items that were left in the house. She'll have to get the remaining, smaller items by tomorrow as the street she's moving on to is going to be closed for repairs. It was tough moving her belongings out of the house that she has lived in for the past several years. I took one last stroll through the garden that my dad created and maintained. With the garden there, it's almost like my father is still there, but my mom needs to move on. She needs a place that is smaller and won't require as much effort to maintain. Now that she's living in a condo, she won't have to worry about the yard work which caused her so much added stress last summer and fall. She also won't have to deal with snow removal. She's really going to like her condo, and I like it too. It's a new beginning for her. Besides, we'll always have the photos of the garden to remind us of that work.

5.27.2006

The UNI Hardee's

Posting this week's photo of the week has caused me to think about my days of working at the Hardee's in the Maucker union on the campus of the University of Northern Iowa. For most of the time I was a student at UNI, I worked at that Hardee's. There was a semester or two when I was fed up with it that I did not work there, but I kept going back. I don't know what it was about that place, but I had some good times working there. The thing that I think kept drawing me back was the people I worked with. Being a fast food restaurant we had a pretty high rate of turnover, and I'm sure having college students for employees didn't help, but there were quite a few employees who remained the same during the five years I was a student on the UNI campus.

A lot of people really disliked Julie, the manager, and at times, I have to say that I thought she could be a lot nicer, but overall, I enjoyed working with her. I wonder what she is up to. She had hoped to get a job at the Mayo Clinic when she finished up a program at UNI. When the UNI Hardee's location closed at the end of the 1999-2000 school year, she had the opportunity to finish up. Another person I worked with there who I liked working with was Mike. I think he is working for the dining services at UNI now.

Working at the UNI Hardee's during the summer was fairly fun. It wasn't too busy, except for when there was a summer orientation group on campus, and the hours weren't too bad. Because it wasn't too busy, we would sometimes watch an episode of Star Trek on the VCR in the office. Once the episode was over, Mike, Julie, and I would take the quiz from the Star Trek Quiz Book that I had. That was a lot of fun.

I was going to put a photo of the UNI Hardee's with this entry, but I can't find one. I am sure I took a photo of it at some time, but I can't locate it in my photo albums. If I find it this weekend, I'll probably add it to this post.

Baking Biscuits

This week's photo of the week is of me taking biscuits out of the oven at the Hardee's in Maucker Union on the University of Northern Iowa campus in July 1998. I worked at that Hardee's restaurant most of the time I was a student at UNI. I also worked there the summer between my teaching jobs in Rosenberg, Texas, and Norfolk, Nebraska. That's when this photo was taken.

5.22.2006

One More Day

I have just one more day of work in the Twin Cities, then it is back to Cedar Rapids. I have been up here since last Tuesday and I really can't wait to get home! Of course, once I get back, I'll have a lot of work to get done from my meetings the past two weeks.

5.21.2006

I Need to Get on My Bike!

RAGBRAI is just over two months away and I do not feel that I am ready for it! This summer's RAGBRAI is supposed to be one of the more difficult ones, so I need to get in shape. I have been riding on my bike a few times so far this spring, but with the weather being colder lately and with being in Minnesota for work for much of the past two weeks, I haven't had a chance to do much riding. I really hope that I can get out on my bike once I get home Wednesday.

Saturday in Saint Paul

Mel's and my tickets for the Body Worlds exhibit were for 12:30 this afternoon, so we needed something to do to fill the time before then. After eating breakfast, we decided to go to the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory in Saint Paul. We mostly checked out the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory at t he park, but we did check out the primate exhibit at the zoo before leaving for the Science Museum.

The Body Worlds exhibit at the Science Museum on Minnesota was amazing! Some of the items they had on exhibit were the bones of the middle ear. I knew they were the smallest bones in the human body, but seeing just how small they actually are was fascinating. We spent almost two hours wandering through the exhibit. The bodies that they had to show the circulatory system were really neat to look at. They had replaced the blood in the bodies with a dyed plastic, once the plastic had hardened, they removed all of the tissue surrounding it, leaving just red plastic where the blood vessels had been. They also had a body that had been cut in half longitudinally. That too was really cool. They had a man posed playing basketball to show off the muscles of the body. The entire exhibit was awesome. If you get the chance to see it, I would definitely recommend it!

After visiting the museum, we went to Hastings to visit my grandmother. I didn't recognize her at first since she had recently gotten a perm. She actually looked pretty good. We visited with her for about an hour and a half. After that, we went to Bloomington to the Mall of America. We wandered around the mall for a while before returning to Roseville for dinner and to return to the hotel.

5.20.2006

Celebrity Sighting

Ok, so I haven't actually seen them, but I have heard rumors that there are some celebrities in my hotel, the Roseville Radisson. Nick Lachey (Jessica Simpson's ex-husband) and James Blunt are supposedly staying in my hotel. Now I have to say that if I saw either of these two, I do not think I would have recognized either of them. So maybe I did see them. Anyway, they are likely gone by now since they performed in a concert in Minneapolis on May 18.

Walter Koenig

In the summer of 1998, I went to the Wizard World comic book show in Chicago with Captain Creative. There I got an autographed photo from actor Walter Koenig, Chekov from Star Trek and Bester from Babylon 5.

5.19.2006

End of the Work Week

Today ended out three days of meetings this week. I am sticking around in the Twin Cities though as I have an additional one-day meeting on Monday. Mel is coming up for the weekend, in fact, she should be here in about half an hour or so, so I should have a good time this weekend.

To celebrate the end of our three-day meeting, two of my coworkers and I went to BCT City Tavern in Roseville, Minnesota, for dinner. We just had some drinks and appetizers. I guess we did order a full rack of ribs to share as well. We ended up spending a little over $100 for the three of us. Thank goodness for the expense account! While there, we played the Buzztime trivia game on the restaurant's TV. That was a lot of fun. Maria, one of my coworkers who was along, had never played before. She started out slowly, but she soon caught on and had a good time. We stayed at the restaurant for a couple of hours before returning to the hotel.

Tomorrow, Mel and I are going to the Body Worlds exhibit at the Science Museum of Minnesota. The exhibit features over 200 authentic human specimens, including 20 or so full human bodies. The body fluids and fats have been replaced with reactive plastics in order to preserve them. I'll be sure to report back this weekend on the exhibit.

5.18.2006

Tibetan Food and More

Traveling to the Twin Cities for work gives me the opportunity to try foods that I have never tried before. Tonight, two coworkers and I went to a Tibetan restaurant in Minneapolis. I have to say that the food was fantastic! Each of us had a different entree and we each sampled each other's food. It was a great dinner. I think we may have to go back there again to try more foods.

Last night, I drove to Cottage Grove for dinner at my aunt and uncle's house. My uncle who lives in North Carolina was visiting. I hadn't seen him since June, so it was nice to see him as well as my other relatives who were there.

Scary Phone Call

I had turned off the TV in my hotel room a few minutes earlier and had started going to sleep when my cell phone rang at around midnight. That is kind of scary. Why would someone be calling me at midnight unless there was something wrong? It was my wife. She was looking for the charger for her cell phone and she could not find it. She suspected that I took both of our cell phone charges with me to Minnesota. Her phone was completely dead and she's driving up to see me this weekend, so she really wanted to have a cell phone. I agree that it would definitely come in handy, especially if she gets lost in Minneapolis. I found both of the chargers in my suitcase. After determining that it would cost more than a replacement charger for me to FedEx them overnight to Cedar Rapids, we decided that she should just buy a new one tomorrow. Then we will at least have a spare.

5.16.2006

SPAM, SPAM, Museum, and SPAM

I'm back in the Twin Cities for another business trip. On our drive up, my coworker and I made a detour to Austin, Minnesota, the home of Hormel. There we visited the SPAM Museum. The people at the SPAM Museum were very friendly, beginning with the security guard who came out of her guard shack to greet us as we drove up. As soon as we entered the museum, an employee greeted us and showed us a huge wall of SPAM containing over 3,000 cans of SPAM! In the photo to the left, I am standing next to the SPAM mascot, SPAMMY.

We viewed a short film about SPAM which included some footage of a women's quartet, the SPAMETTES, that sings songs about the venerable luncheon meat. The movie also showed a six-year-old who won a contest creating a recipe for chili cheese SPAM dogs. They didn't look too bad.

The museum showed us the history of SPAM, from its prevalence in meals of soldiers during World War II up through the Monty Python SPAM sketch. We saw a few other films, including one about the Hormel Girls, a group of women who traveled the country promoting SPAM and other Hormel products.

After stopping at the SPAM gift shop, we were getting hungry as it was 3:00 and we hadn't had lunch yet. We went to a diner across the street from the museum where they had a supplementary SPAM menu. My coworker ordered the deep fried SPAM strips while I had the Western SPAM Sandwich which included SPAM, saut├ęd onions and peppers, cheese, and barbecue sauce. These SPAM entrees were pretty good. We then continued on our way to Roseville, Minnesota, were we will be for the next seven days!

5.13.2006

Cutting the Cable

A little later this morning, I need to find the Mediacom office so I can turn in our digital cable box. Since moving to Cedar Rapids, we have had cable service through Mediacom for just about one year. During that time we had a promotional price. The amount of money that we would have been spending on cable TV and internet would have jumped up quite a bit tomorrow. After some consideration, we decided to make the switch to satellite television and DSL. We got a deal through Qwest, our local phone company, to get DIRECTV, DSL, and phone service with unlimited long distance for a less than we would be paying once our cable rates would have increased. With the DIRECTV we got a DVR receiver which is really nice. The DSL connection is a little slower than the cable internet connection that we did have, but it’s nothing we can’t live with. It will also be nice to be getting all of these services with one bill. That will make paying bills a bit easier.

Changes at Work

Yesterday we had an all-staff meeting at work and we learned that there will be some big changes coming up in the next month. First of all, my manager is moving to a different position within the company. I am fine with that. I have liked having her as my manager, but I have had good interactions with the person who will now become my manager. One thing that I will have to get used to is that my new manager is in our Austin, Texas, office. It will be a little different having my manager working at a different location, but I really only talk to my manager once every two weeks right now. I do not see this as much of a problem. Also, I have heard that my new manager is more open to having employees work from home. I don't know if that is true, but if I could work things out to work from home a couple days a week, I could resume driving to work on my own instead of carpooling, and I would still save some money on gas.

Another, even bigger, change is that a large portion of our staff will be moving to a different location. I am a bit jealous that it isn't my group that is moving. The new location is about 5 miles away in Coralville in a building that had been completely gutted and remodeled about a year ago. It would have been nice being in a newer facility, but we will manage.

5.12.2006

The Geo Metro

For a few years, I drove a 1991 Geo Metro. In this photo from October 25, 1996, I am leaning on my Metro which is parked in front of the house where Captain Creative lived at the time. While there wasn't much to the Geo Metro, this car did serve me well while I owned it. With gas prices as they are right now, I could really use a car with the fuel economy of the Metro. This photo is also a reminder of the power of suggestion that Captain Creative holds over me as I am wearing the Star Trek: Voyager hat that he suggested I get.

5.11.2006

Last Day

Today is the last day of my meetings in the Twin Cities. I am really hoping that we finish early enough that we can get home at a somewhat reasonable hour tonight, like around 10:00. If it's going to be much later than that, we'll probably get a hotel room somewhere along the route home so we are not driving all night. I do enjoy traveling for work, but the best part is returning home.

5.09.2006

California Testing

According to a story on CNN.com, a California judge may stop the state from requiring high school seniors to pass an exit exam in order to graduate. Attorneys are claiming that the test discriminates against the poor. Despite the fact that I work in the testing industry, I am not making a judgment as to whether requiring a certain score on this test to graduate from high school is a good idea or not, but I do not think that the claim that the test discriminates against the poor is accurate. I am not denying that poorer students are likely performing worse than other students, but is it really the test that is discriminating? The article states that "kids who attend schools in large cities are far more likely to be taught by teachers who are not qualified or credentialed." It seems to me that it is not the test which is discriminating against these students, but rather that the education they are receiving is not adequate. If these students were taught by teachers who were as qualified as those in other schools, would the students do better on the test? Maybe they would not do as well as other students, but being taught my fully-qualified teachers would likely help these students to learn better, and therefore perform better on the exit exam.

Dinner and a Swim

Today was my first of three days of meeting this week in Minnesota. I felt that the meeting went fairly well. For dinner tonight, my coworker and I went to P.F. Chang's. I had never been to one before. The food was good and the portions were more reasonably sized than out dinner last night. If we had ended dinner there, everything would have been fine, but we then decided to go to the Cheesecake Factory for dessert. I had a slice of German chocolate cheesecake. Yum! To help burn off the calories, I decided to go down to the pool for a swim a little bit ago. After swimming for about fifteen minutes or so, I started thinking that maybe swimming alone in the hotel pool with no one around was not a good idea for safety reasons. So I got out of the pool and returned to my room. Tomorrow if I decide to go swimming, I'll try to go much earlier so there might be others around. Or possibly, I will work out in the exercise room instead.

5.08.2006

Credit Card Security

I had something slightly embarrassing happen to me this evening. My coworker and I arrived in the Twin Cities this evening and we went out to dinner. I was going to pay for dinner tonight, so I gave the waitress the credit card that I intended on using my business trip. A few moments later the waitress returned and informed me that my card had been declined. I kind of felt like I was in an American Express commercial. I gave her a different card to pay for the dinner. I just got off the phone with the credit card company. Apparently the card did not scan correctly which triggered something indicating that the card may not be valid. This stopped all access to my account. I got things straightened out, but it is nice to know that my credit card company is constantly scrutinizing my account for signs of fraud.

Another Business Trip

In a few hours I'll be off to Minnesota for a few days for another business trip. I do enjoy getting away from the office for a few days, even if I'm still working. However, I will miss Mel while I am gone. On this trip, I am taking a teddy bear that Mel made for me at the Build-a-Bear Workshop in the Coral Ridge Mall. It has a audio recording of her telling me that she loves me. It's really sweet. She gave it to me for Saint Patrick's Day. Well, I decided to get one for her. So the last time she worked second shift, I stopped at the Build-a-Bear Workshop on my way home from work to make one for her. I just put it on our bed, so when she gets home from work, she'll see it there. Hopefully it can keep her company while I am away.

5.07.2006

Wedding Reception

Mel and I went to the Dubuque Greyhound Park and Casino last night for the wedding reception of one of my best friends. He got married last month in Shanghai. We had a good time. I had only met his wife once before. That was at my father's funeral last summer, so it was good to see her under much better circumstances. They showed a PowerPoint presentation that explained how they met, their first date in Paris, where she was a student, and then showing parts of the wedding ceremony in China. It was very interesting seeing what a Chinese wedding is like. One aspect that I found particularly interesting is that the bride's and groom's attendants have to be "pure" which in this case simply means never married. Apparently it used to be more restrictive, but finding virgins for wedding attendants has become difficult in recent times. None of Brad's candidates who could go to China for the wedding were eligible, so a best man was provided. The guy they picked looked really thrilled in the photos. I wonder if he makes his living as a professional best man.

5.06.2006

Political Advertising

Driving down a major street near my home, I have seen numerous signs for a candidate for the state senate. I realize that the primary election is being held next month, but I think it is a little too early for some of these signs. If this candidate had an opponent in the primary election, I would see his advertising as making some sense, but the candidate whose signs I see up and down the street is running unopposed for his spot on the ballot in the general election this November. What's worse is that the signs do not even indicate what the person is running for. At least with the flyer I received today at my house, the candidate had the good sense to indicate what she was running for. I suppose that getting one's name out early may help to get votes later on, but is still damn annoying.

Seis de Mayo

Today is the sixth of May, but yesterday was Cinco de Mayo, which of course is the Mexican holiday celebrating the victory over the French in the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. And like all good Americans, my wife, a coworker of hers, and I headed out to Carlos O'Kelly's in Marion for dinner. After all, what could be more Mexican than that. After waiting an hour (I guess we weren't the only people who thought we should be celebrating this holiday which has absolutely nothing to do with us or our culture) we were seated. I am glad to say that our experience at this Carlos O'Kelly's was much better this time than it had been on our previous two visits. Of course, I ate way too much. I really should have had a smaller entree since I am traveling to Minnesota for work next week and therefore will be eating almost every night of the week. In addition to that, we have a wedding reception to go to tonight for a friend of mine who got married last month in China. But anyway, I never let the fact that a holiday is not relevant to me personally stop me from celebrating.

5.05.2006

Halloween

On October 31, 1992, my friend Captain Creative (as he is now known) had a party at his house. For some reason I am wearing a witch's hat while playing a keyboard. I really don't have much else to say about this photo perhaps the good captain will have something to add in the comments.

5.02.2006

Mowing the Lawn

When I was a teenager, I really hated mowing the lawn. Nowadays, I actually enjoy mowing. I think my problem with the chore when I was younger was that I had other things that I would rather have been doing than pushing a piece of machinery around the yard in the hot sun. Now I view mowing the lawn as a chance to get a little exercise and some fresh air, well as fresh as the air can be while it is being filled with pollutants from the lawnmower's engine. Plus, mowing my lawn helps to develop a sense of pride in making my home look nice to my neighbors and other passersby. Unlike my neighbor across the street though, I am not mowing every other day!

A Day Without Immigrants?

Personally, I didn't notice much of a difference yesterday during the supposed day without immigrants. Apparently the immigrants who work where I do didn't get the memo as they were all present, at least those who I see during my daily routine. We have several Hispanic immigrants who do custodial work. They were all there. On Mondays, Hy-Vee serves Chinese food in our cafeteria. The immigrants from Asia who serve the food were there. And yesterday was the first day of work for our new employee from Canada. She was at work as well. Now I do not know the legal status of the immigrants who work where I do, but I assume that they are in the country legally. Personally, I am all for immigration, if it is done legally. I do not understand why people who are in this country illegally feel that they should have the same rights as those who went about coming to the United States the proper way. That said, while I do not agree with their point of view, I do agree that they have the right to stage a boycott to get their point across. What I find interesting is that President Bush does not agree with boycotts. I wonder what he would prefer to see, violent riots as were seen in France a couple months ago perhaps?