Trick or Treat

Today, of course, is Halloween. Being a nice guy, I had candy to give out to the trick-or-treaters who came by. Most of them were quite polite, saying "thank you" after I had given them some candy. There was one kid who wanted a specific kind of candy from the selection I was offering, so I let him take his own candy. Much to my astonishment, he took three pieces of candy! I thought that was pretty rude. Most of the trick-or-treaters seemed pretty young. There weren't too many teenagers who came to my house, not that I have any problem with teens trick-or-treating. What did amaze me though was the number of kids who just held out their bags, not even bothering to say, "Trick or treat."

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.


Silly Cat

I have spent the past hour or so sitting on my living room couch watching TV while doing some work I brought home from my job today. As I have been working on this, the cat has been keeping himself busy playing with his toys, mostly plastic balls with bells in them and a plastic bag. He has also been running around the living room then inexplicably back and forth down the hall. He's staring at me at the moment. I think I will get out the laser pointer to see if he follows the laser point around.


Making Good Use of the Extra Hour

I am making good use of the extra hour today resulting from the end of Daylight Saving Time. I have been painting the baby's room. The top half of the walls, Pooh Bear Yellow, are not done with both coats. I am about to start my painting of the bottom half of the walls, Tinker Bell, a shade of green. I also mowed the lawn for the last time this year this afternoon and I pulled out the flowers and the bulbs that need to go in for the winter. Today is the last day that our neighborhood Dairy Queen is open for the year, so I also stopped by there for one last Blizzard until they reopen in February. Their being closed should help if I ever get back on a weight-loss plan.


At the Movies

Mel and I just saw Saw III. The movie was alright, but it didn't particularly thrill me. I admit that I am not much of a fan of horror movies, so maybe that was my problem. I do go to these kinds of movies on occasion though because my wife really likes them and she did humor me by watching Zoolander with me on DVD. She refuses to watch it again, but that's beside the point. I have liked some of the horror movies that we have gone to together. I did like the first two Saw movies better than this one. There are some other horror or thriller movies that we saw together that I liked as well, but I can't think of any particular titles at this point. Perhaps I can get her to go see Casino Royale, the new James Bond film, with me when it comes out even though she's not a big James Bond fan.


What's Going on With My iPod?

Half of the first ten songs I heard today on my iPod were songs by Weird Al Yankovic. I suppose I do have quite a few of his songs in my iTunes library, but I was certainly surprised to hear that many songs by him this morning.


Preparing the Baby's Room

I took the day off from work today. Mel has today and tomorrow off since she has to work this weekend, and I had two vacation days remaining to use before the end of the year, so I thought today would be as good a day as any. I had thought about taking tomorrow off, but I have a meeting I really should go to, and Mel has to get up early, so I wouldn't have really been able to sleep in all that well. Anyway, Mel and I took advantage of our days off from work to get paint and things to decorate the baby's room. We got a couple of colors of Behr paints from Home Depot. The colors we chose, Tinker Bell (green) and Pooh Bear Yellow, are from Behr's Disney Color collection. We also got a Winnie the Pooh border and wall stickers from Menards. I guess I know what I'll be doing tonight and this weekend.

Bye Bye CSI?

It looks like Mediacom customers in Cedar Rapids may lose their ability to watch KGAN, the local CBS affiliate, on December 1 if an agreement isn't reached before then between Mediacom and the Sinclair Broadcast Group. Of course, people could always try to get a signal with an antenna, but that isn't always that great. I guess I can be glad that I don't have to worry about that for now as we switched from Mediacom to DirecTV this past spring.

Hospital Tour Number 2

Last night, Mel and I took a tour of Saint Luke's Hospital's Women's and Children's Health center. The birth suites were very nice and they have a very extensive NICU. It's quite larger than the birth center at Mercy Hospital. After visiting both hospitals, I think we are going to go with Saint Luke's. Even before visiting the two hospitals, I was leaning towards Saint Luke's as I was born there. Besides, both my mother and grandmother think the food is better at Saint Luke's than it is at Mercy. In the end, the decision is Mel's, as she's the one who will be making full use of their services, being the one who actually has to give birth.


Political Survey

I just received a phone call that was a political survey about candidates for Iowa House District 37, Art Staed and Andy Anderson. The interesting part of this phone call is that I live in house district 38, not 37. I guess the results of this survey may be a little less than accurate.

A Nice and Busy Saturday

Mel and I went to Waterloo yesterday morning so that she and my mother could go to the craft show at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls. While they were at the craft show, I went to several of the store that we don't have in Cedar Rapids to browse. I really liked going to University Book and Supply to look at the UNI clothing and other items they have. I almost bought myself a new sweatshirt with some of the money I got for my birthday, but first, I think I need to work on cleaning out and organizing my closet. It is quite a mess right now and more clothing will just make it worse. I should get rid of some of the things I never wear before acquiring more clothing.

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.


Birthday Presents!

I had a good birthday yesterday, although work seemed to drag on and on in the afternoon. Before going out to dinner last night, I opened my birthday presents from Mel. One of them was an Interactive Yoda toy. I think I need to find a new way to display my Yoda collection though, as the shelves I am using are getting quite full. This Yoda speaks with a vocabulary of more than 450 words and he can train one in the use of a lightsaber (which is included). I may have to take this one out of its package so I can play with it.

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.


Happy Birthday to Me!

Today is my thirty-fourth birthday. I would have liked to take today off from work, but the other people in the office who work on the same project I work on are already out, so I really should be there. That's really no problem, although I do need to find time between now and the end of the year to take my last two vacation days. Tonight Mel and I are going to dinner at Biaggi's. I have only eaten there once; that was four years ago. My parents and I went there for my birthday then.

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!"


Checking Out the Hospital

Mel and I went to Mercy Hospital tonight to take a tour of their birthing center. This was our first of two hospital tours that we'll be taking. We are going to check out Saint Luke's Hospital next week. I have to say that Mercy Birthplace was very nice. The nurse who gave us the tour was very nice, and they didn't seem too busy. The room was nice and spacious. It looked fairly comfortable considering that its primary purpose is for giving birth. The nurse told us that we would have a dedicated nurse just for us while in labor. The nurse to patient ratio of postpartum care was very nice too. We'll have to see how next week's tour goes before picking a hospital, but Mercy Hospital would be a fine place for us to use.


New Responsibilities at Work

I had a conversation over the phone with my manager at work this week. It looks like I am going to be the content lead on an upcoming project at work. For just about a year now, I have been a co-lead on a project with another of my coworkers. We took over when it was realized that the person who was in charge of the project had too much on her plate at work. That included some additional responsibilities, but being the sole lead on a project is even more of an advancement. Hopefully this means that I will soon lose the "associate" part of my job title which essentially means that I don't have as much experience as others who do what I do. I think everyone starts with "associate" attached to their title though where I work. Getting that little "promotion" should mean an increase in pay, although I don't believe it is a very large raise. However, more money is always better!


An Eerie Political Ad

Iowa first congressional district candidate Mike Whalen has ad on TV now that attacks his opponent Bruce Braley for being a trial lawyer. Apparently the reason why people in Iowa can't find baby doctors (never mind that we had no problem finding one) is that Bruce Braley is suing them all out of business. Anyway, I find this ad to be a bit eerie. The narrator of the ad sounds just like the guy that does the voice-over work on the program Forensic Files on CourTV. I think it's that program, but it could be some other crime show on cable. So, when I hear this commercial, it seems even more ominous since when I usually hear him on TV, he's talking about someone being murdered! Well, there are just three weeks left in this round of political ads. Then in a few more months, we'll be getting the beginning of the presidential caucus commercials on TV. Man, I love being in Iowa, home of the first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses.

Visit to the Baby Doctor

Mel had another appointment with the obstetrician today. The appointment didn't last very long, but we got to hear the baby's heartbeat! It was pretty fast--about 150 beats per minute. But the doctor said that was normal.


Lonely Week at Work

This is going to be a lonely week at work. Our cubicles at work are divided into groups of four. Last week, the person who's cubicle is adjacent to mine moved to a new cubicle and this week, the person across from me diagonally is on vacation. To top it all of, the fourth person in my section has been out of the office for a few months now. So for this week, I am the only person in my group of four cubicles. Fortunately there are a lot of other people at work this week who I socialize with, so I at least have someone to eat lunch with. I guess this week I'll have a lot fewer distractions and should be able to get a lot more work done.


Baby Shopping

No, I didn't go shopping for a baby. Today, Mel and I went shopping for some items for the new baby which should be here in less than six months! K's Merchandise in Cedar Rapids is closing, so we went there to check out what they had. One of the things we were looking for was a crib. They had some that we liked, but we decided to look a bit more before buying one. One thing that we did buy was a car seat with a stroller. It's one that comes with a base that stays in the car and we should be able to get an extra base for our other vehicle. We just need to snap the seat into it. We would have waited to get it, but they only had one left in stock and we really liked the one we saw there. I really want to get to painting and decorating the baby's room, but we haven't picked out any specific paint colors yet. We do have a few colors that we are choosing between though.


Alone for the Evening

Mel went out with some of the girls from work this evening. They are going to dinner at Texas Roadhouse and then they are going to the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders hockey game. I was planning on getting together with some friends later to play pool and darts, but those plans fell through as Captain Creative isn't feeling too well. So, I think I'll just stay home and watch TV tonight. I did get dinner from Hardee's a while ago and I have been watching Office Space. I think I may spend some time working on Mel's and my personal web site while having a few beers. I haven't updated the web site in quite a while, except for adding a guestbook a couple of months ago.


Why Young People Move From Iowa

A recent commercial in Jum Nussle's campaign for Iowa governor states that young people leave the state because of the high taxes in Iowa. I suppose that may be true for some people, but I think a lot of the young people who leave Iowa do so for other reasons.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Friday the Thirteenth

Well, today is Friday the thirteenth, but I had no bad luck in my day. Work wasn't too bad. I had plenty to work on throughout the day, and the tasks I had to work on provided enough variety to keep the day from becoming boring and monotonous. Nevertheless, I am glad that the weekend is finally here, and I don't think I have anything planned for the weekend, so I should be able to relax a bit. I will do some yard work and work around the house this weekend, but I don't think we are going anywhere this weekend. Having schedules to visit people out of town can make the weekend stressful, but there's none of that this weekend.

Emergency Response

Yesterday morning at work I spent about four hours being trained to become a member of my company's emergency response team. We received training in CPR, use of an AED, and some first aid. It had been a while since I had received CPR training; it was my senior year in high school. The CPR training did not just include training on CPR for adults, but also for children and infants. I was hoping for this. While I do want to help people at work who need it, I also want to be prepared for emergencies at home as well.



When I left for work this morning I was a bit surprised to see snow on the ground. It was only a light dusting of snow on the grass, but it was snow nonetheless. To top it all off, there were light snow flurries while I was driving down the interstate to work. Now I really need to get the snowblower into the shop to get fixed!


Mr. Negative

I am someone who tends to worry a lot. I don't know why, but it seems like I am often looking at what can go wrong in a given situation. Take today for an example. My manager at work is in the office for a few days this week. He works in our Texas location, so I don't see him too often. He scheduled individual meetings with all of us who he manages while he's in town. While I know that everyone is meeting with him and that it's just a chance to see what's going on, I worry about the meeting. For some reason, I'm afraid of all of the things that could go wrong when meeting with my manager. Oh, I am certain that things will go just fine. When I had a manager who was in the same office as me, we had a biweekly half-hour meeting. Nevertheless, I can not wait for this meeting to be over with this afternoon.


Chet Culver and IPERS

Some people I know have a problem with Chet Culver's position regarding IPERS. He has previously made a suggestion for investing up to three percent of IPERS funds in new Iowa companies. His opponent and those supporting him have said that this is a risky endeavor, even pointing out in a commercial several new companies that have failed. The thing is that no policy needs to be changed in order to do this. Apparently, a portion of IPERS funds have been invested in venture capital for twenty years now. The only change is that Chet Culver would want to give more preference toward companies starting in Iowa instead of elsewhere. This could help Iowa's economy by helping to create new jobs here in Iowa. As someone who has money in IPERS, although I admit that I as I am no longer a public employee, I am no longer making contributions to IPERS, I don't think this is as dangerous as Jim Nussle and his supporters would have you believe.


Happy Columbus Day!

I hope everyone out there in the blogosphere had a happy Columbus Day, or Thanksgiving Day if you are Canadian. Oh, and for the Japanese, happy Health and Sports Day.


Star Trek DirecTV Commercial

I saw this commercial the other night and I found it amusing. I knew it was only a matter of days before I would find it on YouTube.

This Weekend

I had a pretty busy weekend. Yesterday, Mel and I went to Waterloo for the birthday party of the six-year-old son of a friend of hers. It was a nice party. We spent a couple hours at their house, watched her son open presents, and then had some cake.

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.


Star Trek Meets Monty Python

This video I found on YouTube is hilarious! It combines footage from Star Trek with the
of "Knights of the Round Table" song from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Check it out.


Thank Goodness Tomorrow Is Friday!

I am so glad tomorrow is Friday. This has seemed like a very long week for some reason. I am so glad the weekend is almost here. Except for a few minutes before I fall asleep, I haven't seen Mel since Sunday. This has been the one in four weeks that she has to work until 11:30 P.M. Thankfully, she's going to work a little earlier tomorrow so she will be getting home from work before I go to bed. This weekend is pretty busy though. On Saturday we have the birthday party for the son of a friend of Mel's to go to. Then in the evening, I am getting together with some friends for Captain Creative's birthday celebration.

Just One Month to Go

I'm glad we have just over one month until Election Day on November 7. I am getting so sick of the political ads on TV. So few of them seem to be positive ads about a candidate. They are almost exclusively attack ads. And would someone please tell me why the ads against Bruce Braley use the word "liberal" as if it were a dirty word? And oh my goodness, Bruce Braley is a "peace candidate." The horror!


What Day Is It?

Ok, something must be wrong with my mind. When I got home from work today, I was sure that tomorrow was garbage day. Our garbage is picked up on Friday, not Thursday, so apparently I can't keep my days straight. This is the second week in a row when I thought the week should be over before it was. So, when I spoke with Mel on the phone tonight - she's at work - I said something about taking out the garbage. She then asked me why I took out the garbage tonight already since it's only Wednesday. Needless to say, I felt pretty ridiculous then. So, I quickly brought the garbage, recycling, and yard waste back from the curb, hoping that none of the neighbors had seen what their crazy neighbor had done.


More Stuff for eBay

In cleaning out the closet in our basement, I have found more things to sell on eBay. I haven't taken the time to get them ready yet, but I have quite a few Star Wars and Star Trek magazines that I am going to try to sell. From looking at completed auctions on eBay, it looks like they have a fair chance of selling. I also have quite a few old Star Trek calendars that also seem to be selling. I also have several comic books that I may try to sell. With all of this stuff, I may be pretty busy with eBay for the next few weeks.

Gas Prices

Gas prices in Cedar Rapids have finally dipped below $2 per gallon. On our drive home from work yesterday the price for a gallon of gas had dipped to $1.999. Now if the price would just keep falling, say to maybe around $1.50. Oh I know that's unlikely to happen, but it would be nice. If gas prices continue to fall, maybe I can stop car pooling to work as much. I do like the benefits of sharing a ride - I put fewer miles on my car, I spend less on gas, and I save gas - but I also like the freedom of being able to go in early or stay late if I need to. Also, I can then listen to what I want to on the radio without bothering others. I'm pretty sure I'll be continuing to car pool for a while though as it does save money. But sometimes, it's nice to drive alone.


A Funny SNL Sketch? You Tell Me.

The new season of Saturday Night Live debuted on Saturday night. Now I, as well as many others, am of the opinion that Saturday Night Live just hasn't been that funny in recent years. However, I did find this one sketch poking fun of the TSA to be funny. I was actually laughing out loud. Now I should have turned off the TV after that, because the rest of the show pretty much sucked. Anyway, I'd like to know if anyone else actually thinks this is funny.

Trip to Waterloo

Mel and I visited my mother last night in Waterloo. We drove up there because my mother had a few things she needed done in the house that she could not do on her own and I'm guessing that she's tired of having her brother-in-law come over whenever there is something that needs to be done. Basically, I just had to help her move a couple of dressers upstairs and remove a birds nest that was on the outside her condo. We had a nice visit and had a good dinner at Beck's in Waterloo.

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.)


Being a Nosy Neighbor

I just got back home from checking out my neighbor's house. A for-sale sign went up in their yard of a house across the street from us a few weeks ago, just days after one went up at the house next door to ours. The next door neighbor's house sold within the wekend, but the house across the street is still for sale. I decided to check out the open house to see what their house is like. It is priced significantly higher than what our house is valued at and what the next-door neighbor's house sold for. I have to say that the house is beautifully decorated. The Realtor, who recognized me as a neighbor, told me that the owner finished painting the day the house went on the market. Apparently, they are wanting to move because they are expecting a second child and would like to move to a neighborhood with more young children. I told the Realtor that we too were expecting a child, so there would be some more children in the neighborhood soon enough.

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.